NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020
We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them. Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now. https://preview.redd.it/rs90lt6ckf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3ddfc8945862472b52b5ef8c69076acde904c44c
1. Arizona Cardinals
Why they can win the division: Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other. Why they could finish last again: Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league. Bottom line: I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020. https://preview.redd.it/anrr9erfkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=5655b4452baff2691a0e060e8d70918d58801a4c
2. Detroit Lions
Why they can win the division: Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough. Why they could finish last again: Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive. Bottom line: I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark. https://preview.redd.it/7ivo914ikf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=d029ddd274b78e78f5bc932d00086b8c697a466e
3. Miami Dolphins
Why they can win the division: When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game. Why they could finish last again: As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams. Bottom line: As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here. https://preview.redd.it/nme3explkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3998c6026125c1b9b48438e3fc9afaf9601b116e
4. Los Angeles Chargers
Why they can win the division: First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room. Why they could finish last again: I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy. Bottom line: In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division. https://preview.redd.it/rywropjokf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=ed77a7303af810b862abb2100c4f0b86841a2d38
5. Washington Redskins
Why they can win the division: These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game. Why they could finish last again: Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you. Bottom line: These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently. https://preview.redd.it/szpawv9rkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=62ca5fe882d8155d83eb3328e9bf1f1681a17384
6. Jacksonville Jaguars
Why they can win the division: I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November. Why they could finish last again: I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period. Bottom line: The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now. https://preview.redd.it/5myv276vkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=7fb25f47d0759e9b5a07876ea01787898c6cc817
7. Carolina Panthers
Why they can win the division: Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7. Why they could finish last again: Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season. Bottom line: The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center. https://preview.redd.it/y7agj2n2lf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=221af0a1f689d3b19d5e250fac0b58a35877edad
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Why they can win the division: We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates. Why they could finish last again: As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year. Bottom line: I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air. If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/06/16/nfl-teams-most-likely-to-go-from-worst-to-first-in-2020/ You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9kCcuPobNU
[Tales From the Terran Republic] More Fallout—Caw and Karashel Attack the Locus!
Our two favorite councilors do a stupid, get in a fight, and generally be... well... themselves... The rest of this series can be found here *** “Oh my little wiggly jellybean!” a distressed looking baleel exclaimed. “I’ve been so worried! I’ve tried and tried to get through but...” “Calm down, mom,” Karashel said into the microphone of her incredible new desktop (courtesy of the Xx), “I’m fine.” “The whole capital is on fire!” her mom cried. “The news isn’t saying much but on those sites you told me about... Fighting in the streets? Orbital strikes? Did we… did we actually...” “Yeah, we did,” Karashel said grimly. “I’m not supposed to talk about it yet but there are over fifty thousand humans dead in the city alone… Nothing justifies what they did in response but still...” The pupils of her mother’s eyes fully dilated. “What did they do?” she asked in horror. “I don’t have all the details, but the humans have some sort of new ‘terror weapon’, something horrible that they used on the vulxeen homeworld. It’s killed… oh mom you don’t even want to know how many are dead or how they died. It’s awful.” “They could use it on the capital!” her mom squealed. “Come home! Come home right now!” “I can’t,” Karashel replied. “Just quit that silly job,” her mom said imploringly. “You can get a job anywhere!” “You don’t understand,” Karashel replied, “I can’t. There’s a blockade right now. Nothing is going in or out of the capital. They don’t want the humans sneaking in one of those… things and they don’t want any of the human warriors still here escaping. But don’t worry, I’m perfectly safe!” “Human warriors? Terror weapons?” her mother cried. “How can you possibly be safe?” “I’m staying at a friend’s embassy,” Karashel said proudly. “This place can take a hit from one of their fusion bombs!” “THEY HAVE FUSION BOMBS?!?!?” Karashel winced. She shouldn’t have said that. “Don’t worry! I’m safe in here!” “Oh, Jellybean! You can’t possibly be safe!” “Don’t tell anyone,” Karashel said as she leaned in close to the mic and started to whisper, “The embassy that I’m in, it belongs to-” “THOSE... SIBLINGFUCKERS!!!” an enraged screech echoed down the hall. “IF THEY THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH THIS...” “Mom, I gotta go,” Karashel said looking at the door. “Something is up.” “Jellybean!” her mom cried. “Wai-” Karashel switched off the transmission and quickly scooted out into the hall as the breaking of glass could be heard from Caw’s office. She cautiously poked her head into the room as Caw pulled out a rather wicked looking carbine from a smashed bookcase and was slamming a black oblong object onto it. “Caw?” “What?” he asked in annoyance as an amber light glowed briefly on the side of the weapon. “What’s going on?” she asked nervously. Caw was many things, excitable, intolerant, pedantic, but one thing he wasn’t was violent, at least she thought he wasn’t. “Robbery! Plunder! Violation!” he yelled as he started to storm out of his office. “And if they think I’m going to just sit here and let them do it they have another thing coming!” he yelled as he shoved his way past her. “Wait!” Karashel asked desperately undulating after him. “Where are you going?” “The Locus!” he shouted. “But there are humans in there!” “I don’t give a FUCK!” he screamed steadily leaving her behind. “Can I come with you?” she shouted. Caw stopped and turned around, looking at her in astonishment. “Have you lost your mind? There are humans in there!” “You don’t care, why should I?” she yelled catching up to him. “Because I’m an Xx!” he exclaimed. “If the humans are smart enough not to wish to anger the kalent they will almost certainly extend me the same courtesy. You are a baleel. No offense but they could slow roast you over open coals and nothing of consequence would be the result!” “I’m still a councilor!” she replied. “They can use me as another hostage or something!” “Compared to who they are holding at gunpoint, you are of absolutely no consequence!” “Yeah, we suck,” she snapped. “but I still want to go!” “By the ancient gardeners why?” “Because I want to talk to them!” she replied. “I’m getting nothing but wormshit from official channels! I want to understand what’s happening and why? Who better to ask than human warriors!” Caw looked at her in amazement. So great was her hunger for knowledge she was willing to risk her very life! That was so… Romantic! It was something right out of dramas, out of ancient history! How could he say no? “Well, more than one person has died because of Xvakk’Keen, the knowledge madness,” he chuckled, “but few do it with such style! You can die from this, you know.” “Possible, but not likely,” she replied. “one thing is certain though. I won’t get another chance like this!” “Ok,” he replied with a shrug, “I’ll try to protect you with my Xxness but no guarantees.” “Wasn’t asking for one!” she giggled nervously. This was insane… exhilarating, but insane. “Well what are you waiting for?” Caw grinned. “Let’s go!” *** Caw sprinted down the hall, hissing in exasperation as he had to stop every few dozen yards as Karashel “ran” after him. “Can’t you go any faster?” he shrieked. “If I could I would!” An Xx, pushing a hover cart laden with boxes of data crystals, walked around a corner. Caw lunged forward and seized his cart. With a single jerk, he slid all of the boxes off, scattering thousands of crystals across the floor. The other Xx shrieked and screamed in an alien tongue. Karashel didn’t know the exact wording but from Caw’s grin, it wasn’t nice. “Get on!” he yelled. Karashel flopped onto the cart and started wiggling herself onto it. Caw, his patience finally gone, grabbed her, rather inappropriately, and threw her onto the floating cart. She squealed in surprise as she tried to grip the cart as Caw tore off at a breakneck pace, scattering Xx and other races as he threatened to plow right over them. She laughed insanely. This was fun. She started making siren noises as Caw laughed, despite his rage. “Woo Ooo… Wooo Ooooo...” she shrieked as Caw sprinted through the sprawling building. A rather elaborately dressed Xx and a group of what were clearly guards were waiting for them at the exit. “Woooo Oooooooooooo...” Karashel slowly tapered off into silence as Caw came to a halt directly in front of the lead Xx. “What the FUCK do you think you are doing?!?!” the well dressed Xx yelled. “Stopping a crime, ambassador!” Caw yelled. “You can’t be serious, Caw!” “As serious as a blocked bowel!” “Crime?” “One of the Eel Lords is in The Locus right now! There is only ONE THING that would have one of them here!” “...” “Now get the FUCK out of my way, Kawk!” “Fuck it,” the ambassador said and started to walk away. “Shouldn’t we help him?” one of the guards asked. “Nah,” The ambassador said as he walked away. “It’s just one eel and a few humans. Caw is enough. Don’t reveal what that weapon does if you can help it,” he called out over his shoulder as he returned to his office. He had a drama to finish watching. Caw sprinted to his waiting grav-car, Karashel in tow. *** Karashel squeezed her eyes shut as Caw, switching his grav-car to manual, careened through the capital with breakneck speed. “By the progenitors themselves,” Caw screeched. “If they have touched so much as ONE THING I will snatch that glowing tally-wacker right off of his scaly head and SODOMIZE HIM WITH IT!!!” Kalent don’t glow... Karashel thought to herself trying not to lose her rice balls as the grav-car turned on its side and she felt her stomachs being shoved down into her foot. “What are they stealing?” “Things priceless beyond measure! Things that belong to all of us, not just to those sanctimonious sperm breathers!” “Eeeeeee!” Karashel screamed as they plummeted for what felt like forever. Then, throwing her forward into the restraint webbing that had mysteriously appeared, the vehicle slammed to a halt. She carefully opened one eye and saw Caw retracting the window. Standing there was a Federation trooper. “What?!?” Caw snapped impatiently. “You can’t proceed any farther, sir,” the trooper said calmly. “This is a combat zone.” “Really?” Caw said in his best patronizing tone. “Is that why there are all these soldiers and tanks? Wow! I would have never guessed. Now get the FUCK out of my way!” “Sir,” the trooper said pointing his weapon at Caw, “get out of the car, now.” “Boy,” Caw said glaring at him. “Do you know who I am?” “No, and I don’t care. Get out of the car!” “I am Caw Itsheesh, the councilor for the Xx. If you think you have a problem now, fuck with me. Then you will know what a problem really is! Now I’m driving through this barricade. Shoot me if you want.” “Sir!” the trooper yelled as Caw hit the accelerator. The air around the car glowed as bolts from the guards’ blasters struck the vehicle’s shields. “They actually shot at us!” Caw laughed as he quickly turned a corner to get out of the line of fire. “Maybe I should get a diplomatic transciever after all!” He looked over at Karashel who had wiggled out of the restraint web and was cowering on the floor board. “Relax, they can’t get through these shields with those toys! They would need… One of those!” Caw yelled as he hit the brakes as a strange curvy… thing… floated down in front of them.” Caw retracted the window again and leaned out of his ride. “Get out of my way, eel!” he shouted. “I’m councilor-” “I am perfectly aware of your identity, Xx!” a loud voice said. ”Go away.” “I will most certainly not!” Caw yelled at the craft. “I am going to The Locus and you will not stop me!” ”The situation is delicate. We do not need an Xx, especially you, further complicating matters.” “Barring me from the archives is a direct violation of the accord!” Caw shouted. “Are you telling me that the accord has been broken? If so, there is no reason for the Xx to remain sitting on this spoiled egg you call the Federation! If I leave I’m taking ALL of our toys and we are going HOME!” The strange craft hovered there in silence for what seemed like forever. ”Proceed but be warned. If you cause harm to our lord, it will not go well for the pathetic Xx!” “Try it, you prickless bastards!” Caw yelled as the craft floated back up into the sky. *** Hands tied behind her, Tawnie, glared at the kalent with pure hate as she sat against the wall with one of the Forsaken soldiers standing over her. Colonel Laurent rubbed his bruised eye. For a little slip of a civilian, that girl was a fighter. It took four of them, and one of her boots to his face, to stop her from attacking their hostage. Thank God she snatched a sabergun instead of an AK. The AK’s safety was a lot simpler to figure out than the control interlock on what she grabbed. “I am so very sorry for what the Federation did,” the sarcophagus said with a regretful tone. “Fuck you!” Tawnie hissed as she spat at him, causing his attendants to leap between the two. “Children, please,” the abyssal lord said calmly, “Human spittle is not dangerous to us.” “You better fucking kill me!” Tawnie yelled at the kalent. “Because when I get out of here you’re dead! All of you are fucking DEAD!!!” “Tawnie,” the colonel said still rubbing his eye, “you will get your chance to kill soon enough, I promise. For now, please calm down.” “Calm down?!?” Tawnie shrieked. “They killed my family!… They killed my MOM!” “And we will avenge her,” Colonel Laurent said calmly. “How?” Tawnie yelled. “I think...” The colonel said turning to the kalent. “I think it’s time for you to leave.” “Yeah,” Tawnie hissed. “Let’s fucking do this!” “The archives!” the sarcophagus said in alarm. “You can’t! We had an agreement!” “The situation has changed,” the colonel said with a grim smile. “You need to go, now.” “Sir?” a voice said over the colonel’s communicator. “We have a situation.” *** “What the hell?” the colonel muttered in French as two figures were brought into the room, an Xx and … what the hell is that thing? “What are you doing here?” the colonel asked. “I’m Caw Itsheesh, councilor for the Xx,” Caw said confidently. “And I’m Karashel, councilor for the Baleel,” Karashel added cheerfully. “Hi!” “I didn’t ask who you were,” Colonel Laurent snapped. “I asked what the fuck are you doing here!” “I’m investigating a crime against all species!” Caw said in a loud confident voice. “Well then I suggest going to the human enclave!” the colonel replied with an icy voice. “If you want your crime, you will find it there!” “And we shall, believe me, we shall!” Caw shouted in reply. “We are outraged by the events of today, the crimes committed by the Federation, and your kind, are unforgivable!” “Our kind?” Tawnie screamed from the corner of the room. “Our kind?!?” she yelled as she struggled to her feet, only to be firmly sat back down by the human standing beside her. “Get off me!” she yelled at him as she bit his hand. The soldier just smiled. Teeth don’t do much against combat gloves. “But today I am addressing the crimes perpetrated by them!” Caw shouted as he pointed at the black sarcophagus. “Thieves! Vandals! Looters!” “We have far greater concerns,” the sarcophagus said gravely. “the humans are going to destroy everything down there… everything.” “W-what,” Caw gasped in horror. “You can’t!” “We have the capacity,” the colonel replied. “Shouldn’t be that difficult.” “What’s down there… It’s priceless!… Beyond priceless!… Please!” Caw begged. “More priceless than fifty thousand lives?” the colonel asked. “They must be avenged.” “They were!” Caw screeched. “What?” the colonel asked. “Oh dear,” the sarcophagus said in a rather shaken voice. “Yes, Colonel, Jessica Morgan exacted a terrible price for their lives. She unleashed what can only be described as hell itself upon the Vulxeen homeworld. They will be avenged several times over before the death ceases.” The colonel shrugged and turned to Tawnie. “Tawnie, if we untie you do you promise to behave yourself and get that lift operational?” “Fuck yeah I do!” she said with a malicious smile. “As long as I get to see it burn.” Colonel Laurent nodded to her warden who proceeded to pull her to her feet and cut her restraints. She grabbed her tools and sprinted towards the exit, pausing only to flip off the xenos as she left. “Look,” Caw said imploringly, “Colonel was it? What is down there are treasures for all people, all species, things that-” “If it’s for all of us,” the colonel said cutting him off, “then why are we just now finding out about it?” Yeah, Karashel thought as she looked suspiciously at her friend. What are you hiding, Caw? “It’s… complicated...” Caw said cautiously. “Is it?” the colonel smiled. “Well it won’t be for long.” “If you do this,” the sarcophagus said evenly, “It will be war.” “It will be war anyway,” the colonel replied. “Do you honestly expect me to believe that the kalent, and the Xx won’t get involved anyway? It was a fucking kalent that suggested our genocide in the first place!” “What she suggested was far from what transpired, Colonel,” the abyssal lord replied from within his sarcophagus. “You have already struck one of the races behind the travesty that befell your people.” “One that you, both of you,” the colonel said glancing over at Caw, “idly sat back and watched.” “I didn’t know anything about it!” Caw screeched angrily. “You can be assured that we WOULD NOT have just sat idly by had we known!” “I didn’t know about it,” Karashel added trying to help. “It wasn’t announced in the council or anything. For the record we are really angry about it too!… not that it matters much...” “I beseech you,” Caw said his voice shaking, “please don’t do this!… Not this… The kalent does speak the truth, though. If you destroy what is down there, the Xx will never forgive you as well.” The colonel kept his countenance grim but he was becoming increasingly concerned. Two “elder races”… “Hey,” Karashel said with a friendly, if a bit disgusting looking smile. “Maybe… maybe we could work something out?” “Quiet,” Caw hissed. “This is beyond you, Kara.” “I might not be some big “elder race”,” Karashel said puffing herself up to her full somewhat slimy height. “But I’ve been studying humans! And from reading their history I know two important things. When they are angry begging for mercy doesn’t work.” She then flicked her eyestalks over to the kalent. “And neither do threats. Humans don’t give a fuck when they are like this.” She undulated towards the colonel. “So, why don’t we make a deal,” she said in a friendly voice. “You have them by the, as you call them, ‘short and curlies’.” The colonel laughed. “So, give them a tug,” she said in a friendly voice. The colonel smiled at the slug-like creature. It had offered him an out, God bless the thing. “So what would you suggest, Kara was it?” “Karashel, but Kara is cool.” she replied. “Well first of all why don’t we go see what all the fuss is about?” She looked back at Caw with a wicked smile. “I mean, these treasures are for ‘all of us’ right?” If looks could kill… *** The lift went down for a good minute before it came to a stop. The doors opened into a wide hallway, wide enough for small vehicles to drive down it. “Ok, we’re here,” Caw said as the group left the elevator. “The data center is this way.” “Yeah,” Karashel said, “That’s nice and all but what’s down that hall over there, the one you are trying very hard not to look at?” Caw glared at her. “Let’s go that way!” Karashel said brightly and started scooching along. I’m going to shoot her, Caw thought darkly, Just as soon as I get my gun back... The hallway ended at a large doorway. “If you don’t mind,” the colonel said gesturing at the door. Caw, cursing under his breath, entered a code into the keypad mounted in the wall. A door as thick as the entrance to a bank vault silently started to open. The lights switched on, illuminating huge chamber filled with row after row of books, scrolls, stone and clay tablets… statues… And some cases that were completely obscured. The colonel let out a low whistle as he looked around. “A museum?” he asked. “A repository of priceless manuscripts and artifacts”, the sarcophagus answered. “Artifacts of what?” He smiled as he caught Caw glancing over at whatever was in that black box behind him. “Um...” Caw said uncomfortably, “Items collected from the various races of the Federation, things from their early history.” “Annnnnd?” Karashel asked impishly. “And ‘other stuff’...” Caw mumbled. “My Xx friend here is quite correct in his accusations,” the sarcophagus said. “We intended to remove certain items for safekeeping. We felt they were no longer safe here. Our current situation is proof of that. Even you must agree, Caw Itsheesh.” “Tell me about this ‘other stuff’,” the colonel said examining a most unusual statue. It unnerved him. Caw sighed. “There are species, civilizations, far more ancient than even the kalent,” he said, “Here is where their artifacts are stored, their writings, everything we could find is in stored here. This… This is why we joined the Federation. To gain access… to this.” “And why didn’t I know about this place?” Karashel asked, just a bit angry. “You?” Caw scoffed. “You haven’t even scratched the surface of the archives you can reach! Until a few days ago you didn’t even try. What good would this do for you? You can’t even begin to understand what is in here! If you reached a point where this would be of use then you would have been made aware of it, not that it would ever, ever happen to a society so devolved as yours!” “Well fuck you too.” Karashel replied. “Maybe if we knew such things existed then maybe more races would be inclined to seek your precious knowledge.” she replied nastily. “You don’t even begin to understand how foolish you are sounding right now!” Caw sneered. “And you don’t have the slightest idea how much of a condescending prick you are being at the moment! Do you know why we are so ‘devolved’? You shitheads fucking hobbled most of us out of the gate, do you know that?” “What are you talking about?” “Culture shock, motherfucker!” Karashel snapped. “I’ve looked at my history too!” she said advancing on her “friend”. “Blindsided by you ‘siblingfuckers’ before we were even close to being ready! Completely overwhelmed, swallowed up by a galaxy a million times bigger than anything we expected. Slapped around by the vulxeen and the morash, and a dozen other races while you, and you,” she said pointing at the kalent, “just sat there letting it happen!” Her body started quivering. “And why? Why?” she said starting to yell. “Pure ‘devolved’ colonialism! A fucking land grab! God forbid the Empire, who takes care of its subjects get to us first! We just got swallowed up! Could the Xx have survived that? Or the almighty kalent? You were free to develop on your own, at your own pace, figure out things for yourself, and when you did enter the galaxy as a whole you did so fully established, able to stand on your own, protect yourself on your own!” She turned on Caw undulating towards him angrily. “And you have the fucking nerve to look down at us?” she demanded. “How long did it take you to develop your precious ‘post scarcity society’ huh? How many thousand years, how many hundred thousand years did it take? How many years did you spend just as fucking filthy as us? Did you go from where we were at first contact to your oh so perfect enlightened state in one-hundred and eighty-three years? Did you do it in two hundred and eighty-three, three hundred, four?” Caw flinched. “Yeah, that’s what I fucking thought!” Karashel snapped. “Damn,” the colonel muttered. “I’m just going to look around a little while you guys sort things out,” he said with a smile as he started walking around looking at the strange and weird objects. “But we didn’t have the archives!” Caw shot back. “So fucking what?” Karashel replied. “Technological and societal progress are two entirely different fucking things. You can’t expect a society to just magically change just because they have some fancy new toys, you… asshole. We got grabbed and hurled right into the deep-end of this fucked up galaxy, free to ‘chart our own destiny’ right to the fucking bottom!… Fuck you! Our civilization survived, intact! So did all the rest of us lowly little dirty undeserving worms! Until you get hit with something like we did, you can’t say shit to me!” “You tell them,” the colonel smiled as he admired the most alien thing he had even seen in his life, an obelisk, floating on its side in a long crystal case. “Amazing,” he muttered and then he froze. There on the obelisk, was a very familiar symbol, an eight-rayed chaos star… with an… eye?… in the middle. The rays weren’t straight though, they were curved making a spiral and those weren’t arrows on the ends… They looked like… hands! Fear gripped him as he started to look at the other symbols more closely. He hadn’t been this afraid since his first battle, so many years ago. He felt his mind “falling” into that obelisk… there was something in there! He wrenched his gaze away from it and staggered back. Pale and sweating, he walked back to the entrance. He sensed the creature in the sarcophagus looking at him. “So now you understand?” it asked quietly as Caw and Karashel continued to yell at each other. “I understand that you really don’t want to lose what’s in here,” he replied. “I have a proposal,” the abyssal lord said quietly, “How would you like to survive, not just you, your men as well. I can make that happen.” “Yeah, only to stab us in the back once we are safely away from your little treasure trove.” “You little boneless slimeball!” Caw yelled. “You judgmental feathered poo-ball!” Karashel snapped. “I personally believe that the Forsaken are here to stay,” the ancient fish replied. “The Federation isn’t going to win, at least not completely. How would you like to be their envoy to the kalent? Your men can be your staff. You join me on my ship and we return to our home system. We will prepare an embassy for you there where we can ensure mutual non-aggression.” “I thought nobody returned from your homeworld.” the colonel replied quietly, their conversation completely overshadowed by the raging argument next to them. It was starting to get ugly. “They don’t,” the abyssal lord replied. “It will be a one way trip for you and your movements will be very restricted.” “Sounds like prison. Hard pass.” “Perhaps,” the creature replied, “but it will be a most pleasant incarceration. Our guests are quite happy and it will be a far better fate for you and your men than your current one.” “How can you say that?” Caw yelled. “The two situations are completely different! You are comparing a rock with a rock lizard!” “Really?” Karashel yelled back, “Consider the rise of organized labor in twentieth-century America...” “Oh here we go with the twentieth century again!” Caw exclaimed. “I wanted you to glance over it as a cautionary tale, not make a fucking religion out of it...” “Why don’t you address my point instead of bitching about it… bitch!” The colonel looked at the black sarcophagus with a shrewd look in his eye. “Here’s the deal,” he said after a few moments. “I go with you. My men get the option between staying with me or evacuation.” “Evacuation?” “Yes,” the colonel smiled. “A fleet of transports, completely unarmed, will be allowed into this system. We will then evacuate everyone who wishes to leave, everyone. While that happens I, and a few very well armed and well equipped soldiers will remain here, to ensure the Federation’s good behavior. If anything goes wrong, we start blowing shit up. Once they leave, me and my men will go with you. You can execute us at that point if you want or you can take advantage of the opportunity to start a dialogue with the General, something that you really want to do.” “I cannot make promises for the Federation, Colonel.” “Bullshit,” the colonel replied. “That’s my deal. Make it happen or hope you took good pictures.” The sarcophagus sat there silently for a moment. “Listen, you little shit,” Caw yelled, “You can claim ‘culture shock’ all you want but does not excuse-” “It isn’t a fucking excuse, shithead!” Karashel shouted, “It’s an explanation!” “What’s the difference?” “What’s the difference?!? Listen here, pillow stuffing...” The sarcophagus moved towards the colonel. “Alright, we will make it happen,” the creature said. “It will take some time, but we do have pull, perhaps not as much as you believe, but we can exert pressure.” “No problem, gives us more time to set the charges,” the colonel smiled. *** An hour later Karashel and Caw were still going at it. “And you leave the aat out of this!” Caw yelled. “Why?” Karashel replied. “Just because they are your little pets makes them immune to your pathetic rating scale? How is their ‘post scarcity’ coming along?” “That is completely unfair!” “My point exactly!” “Gah! That’s ‘wormshit’ and you know it!” “Ok, how are they when it comes to other societal factors, hmm? Public welfare doesn’t require literacy! How about universal suffrage? You mentioned kings, where does feudalism rank in your little grade book?” “They are still developing!” Caw said defensively. “At their age, your people were likely still figuring out how to rub sticks together!” “Why would we… nevermind!” Karashel gurgled, the yelling wearing out her voice box. “You love to compare us to you but compared to you we aren’t that much more advanced than your little aat buddies are we?… Or are you not as technologically advanced as you claim to be?” “SCREEEEEEEE” Caw screeched. “You are without a doubt the most arrogant presumptuous sanctimonious little turd I have ever met!” “Quit complimenting me and answer the fucking question!” Karashel said spitting up a little bit of phlegm. “Where. Do. We. Compare. To. You. Relative. To. The. Aat? Are we closer to them or are we closer to you?” Caw just stood there and fumed. “Thought so,” Karashel said triumphantly. “You give them a pass and shower them with cuddles and kisses only because they have tech that you want. I bet if we had things that you wanted you would be much more forgiving of our little shortcomings as well, us ‘still developing’ and all.” “If you developed as much native technology as they have, sure, we would be much more ‘forgiving’” Caw replied, “But you haven’t done shit and the aat had even more of your ‘culture shock’ than you did.” “Wormshit,” Karashel snapped back. “The aat are protected by their bulletproof minds! They are so far behind most of it went clear over their heads… and they have been protected by you since you found out about all of their goodies! Nobody is going to fuck with them!” “But they were the targets of the injustices you cry about before that!” Caw replied with a sneer. “And they came out of it the winners, unlike the baleel. If you want to try to pull in another race in a pathetic excuse to distract, do take care not to use one that completely outclasses you in every single way!” “Listen here you piece of...” “It is done,” the abyssal lord said, “The Federation has agreed to an evacuation of the capital in exchange for you sparing the contents of this room.” “If you are intending to fuck us on this you do realize that you will have to deal with whatever the General considers worse than what she has already deployed as well as what I do here, yes?” “If the Federation ‘fucks’ you they have us to deal with as well.” The colonel gestured to one of his people “Sir?” “Get me a connection from here to the hyperspace relays. I need to speak with the General.” “How can you not see the complete lack of validity your argument holds?” Caw screeched. “If it is so invalid, prove it! All I hear is screeching and insults!” “I can’t disprove a ghost! Your argument is indeed valid,” Caw screeched, “if your presumptions were true. You have yet to prove a single one of them!” “Oh, really...” “Should we tell them that we are done here?” the sarcophagus asked. “Nah,” the colonel said with a smile. “We got plenty of time and I want to see where this goes.” “Indeed,” the sarcophagus replied. “It is most gratifying to see an Xx get it’s rectum stretched over its head like this. What is that creature?” “I think it’s a baleel?” “Interesting...” *** “Ok,” Karashel gasped. “I will agree to forestall this ‘discussion’ until I ‘acquire knowledge’ concerning some of your points and verify some of your less asinine statements.” “Yes… yes… We are going around in circles,” Caw sighed in complete exhaustion, “And we are running out of new combinations of slurs. I will also investigate some of your outlandish statements.” As the anger and the baleel equivalent of adrenaline faded she started to realize what she did, what she said. Oh Creators what have I done? “So...” Karashel asked looking down at the ground, “are we still friends?” “What?” Caw looked at her raising his crest in confusion. “That is the absolute dumbest question you have ever asked, and that’s saying something. Of course we are! I haven’t had that much fun in ages!” “That was fun?” Karashel asked in shock. “Well,” Caw replied with a smile, “Wasn’t it?” “...” Karashel looked him with a combination of shock and horror. “By the Creators themselves, it was… Void take me it was...” she gasped. “Now we both retreat, gather fresh information, and then do this again!” Caw said happily. “You have chosen a most intriguing position, an invalid and doomed position, but an intriguing one. I look forward to the fresh thoughts this Xvakk’Lok, knowledge battle will create!” “And I look forward to kicking your ass!… Not that I have feet...” “I hope you will accept your defeat with the same amount of grace as the foolish confidence with which you approach it!” “Oh bite me.” “Bite you?” “It’s a human term.” “You two kiss and make up yet?” the colonel asked. “We are taking a break to reinforce our positions,” Caw replied, smoothing his feathers. “You do realize the exact circumstances in which you two decided to have your spirited debate?” the sarcophagus asked. “The extreme gravity? The potentially dire circumstances?” “Silly me,” Caw replied. “I was so engrossed in teaching my silly little sidekick a lesson that you were the only one who had to make concessions. Don’t worry, if you had gotten in over your head, I would have come to the rescue.” “...” The colonel snickered. “However, the fish is right. This is a rather unique situation,” Caw said to Karashel. “Since we are here there are some things I would absolutely love to show you...”
The Dreadfleet: Because All Campaign Settings Need Vampire Pirates
EDIT: Yes, I should have put "Vampirates" in the title, and I apologize for not doing so. Bells pounded in Jerome’s ears as the inky black void spilled over the city of Sable, a plane of pure darkness that covered the sun. Last week the Sable dockyards had been a distant dream, but despite all odds there had been a captain desperate enough, or perhaps stupid enough, to put him on the crew of The Sunset. It’s funny how quickly dreams become nightmares. Jerome stumbled through the crowd, a mess of veteran sailors and guardsmen moving with poise and purpose only to have their efforts thwarted by the chaotic panic of the civilians and merchants who were thoroughly unprepared for the day's events. That is not to say that Jerome was prepared, but at least his mad scramble had direction. The Sunset stood out among the rest of the ships at port. To some, her earthy red hull and deep blue sails would make her seem ostentatious, but to anyone who knew ships and had been aboard, it was clear that there were few ships finer. Getting on that ship would mean heading straight into the maw of the death that was approaching Sable, but he could think of no other place he would want to be right then. Not out of bravery, mind you, but out of a simple need for direction. Once he was on board, he would know what to do. He was on the pier, at the gangplank, and- CRACK The Sunset split, her reinforced wooden hull resisting the cannonfire as much as water resists a stone. The ship collapsed, bending inwards at the point that the cannon had torn her asunder. And as it did, Jerome saw for the first and last time the red sails and black hulls ofthe Dreadfleet, as Breachwater bay began to burn.
Vampires and the ocean don’t typically mix, for some fairly obvious reasons. If vampires are weak to running water and the sun, then getting on a ship is probably the worst thing they could do. But c’mon, vampires are cool, pirates are cool, and if you can make an easy portmanteau of something then it’s meant to be, so let’s talk about Vampirates. The Dreadfleet embodies vampirism, moving with great speed and purpose until it finds its target, before swooping in to drain their victims of life and property. They are cruelty, they are power, they are violence for violence’s sake. If you’re looking for a morally grey antagonist, this is not the group for you. In this post, I will give some background on the Dreadfleet and it’s goals/methods, a summary of the Dreadfleet’s hierarchy and leadership, and provide some ideas and suggestions on potential plot hooks and ways to integrate the Dreadfleet into your game.
In my game, the Dreadfleet operates primarily within Breachwater bay, a region which borders three different nations. The Dreadfleet thrives in this zone, with no nation having complete jurisdiction over the waters and one of the three nations being only tenuously at peace with the other two. On the western and eastern sides of the bay, smaller fishing villages and medium trading ports make prime targets for raids, and in the north, the city of Sable and it’s dockyards are an enticing target. Sable’s dockyards are also the primary dockyards of one of the nations in the Breachwater bay, which further disincentivizes the other nations from taking action against the Dreadfleet as they act as a check on Sable’s ability to mobilize any large number of ships quickly and safely. The point is, the Dreadfleet operates best in places which are simultaneously rich in potential targets, while also providing ways for the Dreadfleet to avoid all out warfare with any nation. The Dreadfleet is powerful, but without dedicated dockyards protracted conflict does not suit them. They also do operate better in places with little sun, but that isn’t necessary. Each ship is crewed by at least one channeler of magic who can cover the sky with darkness so as to prevent the whole “burning up” problem.
Captain Calistra had manned the walls of Sable for twenty years. She’d seen pirate raids, city riots, and even an attempted invasion. Each time, she’d stood in the face of overwhelming odds holding on to two things: the familiar worn leather grip of her mother's blue steel longsword, and the comfort of the fact that the oncoming threat could effectively be warded off if she stabbed it enough times, even if she might die trying to reach “enough”. But today, her grip was slippery with perspiration and fear, and she found herself doubting that her sword would ever again be anything more than a beacon saying “kill me first”, and then perhaps a trophy on a wall. But she had manned the walls for twenty years, and she wouldn’t abandon her post now. In truth, as honorable as her choice to stay might seem, it wouldn’t do anybody much good. The first things the Dreadfleet had targeted were the wall’s cannons, and they’d made quick work of them. Why they’d stopped firing on the city, Calistra couldn’t say, but she doubted it was out of pity. She’d heard the stories, and she knew that when the sky turned black and the cannons fired, there were two choices: run, or die. She supposed she’d gone with die. She watched the last friendly ship descend into the depths, as the first of the red sailed abominations approached the docks. Her soldiers - she’d finally made them worthy of that word, though it had taken a while - stood behind her, bows at the ready. Where was that priest she’d sent Azerforth for? She didn’t know if it would help, but she was fairly certain mundane arrows wouldn’t do much good here and it couldn’t hurt to have some divine aid. Her men knew how to fend off pirates, but they might as well be carrying sticks against these creatures. Of the squads on the wall, her men were the best prepared for this sort of fight, if only- Five seconds after the first of the pirates touched ground, she realized her men could have bows blessed by Pelor himself, and they wouldn’t stand a chance. This wasn’t a pirate raid, easily warded off by superior discipline and strategy. These were soldiers, and they fought as such. The city guards were the amateurs, breaking immediately upon contact with their foe. There was no hope. The Dreadfleet are pirates in that they use ships to raid and steal. But the term pirate evokes a sense of chaos, an image of charging barbarians. This is very much to the Dreadfleet’s advantage. Few expect the ruthless discipline of their warriors, and in most cases anyone attempting to fight off a raid finds themselves quickly in a mad retreat. This is a big part of the Dreadfleet strategy - overwhelm, but overwhelm carefully. They do not break rank, forgoing any looting until all semblance of resistance is crushed. Because of this, they rarely use cannons on any shore targets besides other cannons, preferring to preserve as much potential wealth as possible. They rely heavily on the ability of their soldiers to take on any defensive fortifications they might find in their way. Their basic and most common troops are vampires of assorted races, usually on the weaker side (as vampires go), armed with spears and shields and well trained in raiding tactics. They are usually accompanied by spellcasters who mainly focus on combating opposing spellcasters, but can be useful for taking down larger structures and helping ground troops break through the line if the enemy manages to organize an effective defense. More elite troops do join in, often skipping formation and moving behind the enemy lines by themselves. When at sea, they have to be more careful. If their ship goes down and they hit the water, they’re in trouble - running water hurts them and keeps them from being reborn. As such, instead of having a large fleet, the fleet is somewhat small, but each ship is a powerhouse, able to withstand a lot of cannonfire before needing to be abandoned.
Jerome fought down the vomit rising in his throat. His vision was slowly returning to him, as were his other senses. His ears rang, the air smelled of fire and blood, and every part of him hurt. Something was running down the side of his face, blood probably. He tried to touch it, but his arms weren’t working. Why weren’t they working? Why couldn’t he feel them? Were they… gone? But no, feeling was starting to come back to them, and the source of his immobility became clear - his wrists were bound. As his vision crystalized, he took in his surroundings. He was lined up with an assortment of sailors, guards, and civilians, ranging from heavily bruised to a few minutes from death. He couldn’t quite gauge where he was, but it wasn’t good. Something drew his attention. One of the Dreadfleet ships had tied onto the docks, right where the Sunset had been. Someone was walking down the docks, towards Jerome and the rest of the prisoners. He strained to get a look, as much as he could from his position, but he was saved the trouble. The soldiers - and they were soldiers, not pirates - all dropped to their knees, averting their eyes, as did most of the prisoners. But Jerome couldn’t look away. She was beautiful and terrifying, horrible and perfect. Long black hair framed a pale elven face, blood red eyes, and a smile that sent Jerome alternating between terror and awe. She glided across the docks, her gown, all red lace and silk billowing behind her. A voice spoke from behind her. “Attend! Her Majesty, Sunwalker, Mistress of the Sea, Heiress of Blood, Servant to one and master of all, Vanessa Boqorra, Commander of the Dreadfleet, Captain of the Crimson Flood, through whose will you live, at whom’s whims you serve, and by whose wish you shall die.” The Dreadfleet’s command structure is very strict, ensuring obedience and order in all matters. At the top of things is the Commander, who controls the entire fleet. Immediately after that are the Bloodless Three, the Dreadfleet’s admirals, who each control one third of the fleet. Each ship has a captain and first mate, and a number of other ranks for infantry and crew. Commander Vanessa Boqorra, Captain of the Crimson Flood Vanessa Boqorra is a chaotic evil elven captain, who commands the Dreadfleet from the Crimson Flood, a terrifying dreadnought of immense size. Her stoic demeanor shrouds a woman of passion and malice who revels in the power she can wield over others. Once a renowned military Captain, her desire for power led to her eventual undeath, and from there she built the Dreadfleet. In mechanical terms, I suggest running her as an NPC of appropriate CR, but with some Warlock levels to round her out. She is a formidable foe, and should not be underestimated. She will be difficult to fight alone, and with her crew at her side it would take a high level party to confront her directly. Admiral Gore Throatripper, First Mate of the Crimson Flood Gore Throatripper is a lawful evil goliath who serves as first mate to Vanessa, advising her and taking her place if she is unavailable or uninterested. He is violent and brutal, but he is not reckless. A cunning strategist and powerful warrior, his devotion to Vanessa is unmatched. If you were to give Gore any PC levels, I would suggest Barbarian, flavored to emphasize his rage as intense focus in battle. The Bloodless Three These Admirals serve directly under Vanessa, and take an oath to drink no blood that is not taken in battle. Admiral Thaska Stonesmite, Captain of the Stained Stone Thaska Stonesmite is a lawful evil gorgon and captain of the Stained Stone. She worships Vanessa as a religious figure, and is the only Admiral Vanessa trusts absolutely. Pious and strict, her crew serves her absolutely, out of respect and fear. She is known for petrifying her enemies in battle, and keeping them as trophies that she will periodically restore to drink from, before petrifying them again. Mechanically, I would use a gorgon statblock, update it to match the desired CR, and include some paladin levels, specifically the Conquest oath. In combat, she trusts in her crew to assist her while she will go for whoever she sees as the greatest threat, using her stony gaze and divine magic to destroy whoever gets in her way. Admiral Woghar Bonebane, Captain of the Riding Night Woghar Bonebane is a neutral evil orc and captain of the Riding Night. Prior to being turned, he was a druid who’s circle exiled him. In his mind, might makes right, and he is the ultimate predator. Anybody he can defeat, he will. His crew is the most chaotic of the Dreadfleet, but it is by no means without order. He also keeps a variety of wild beasts and monsters in his ship that he likes to release in battle. Mechanically, I would run Woghar as a vampire with moon druid levels, and lean into the whole “vampires can shapeshift” thing. In combat, he will try and fight by himself if he thinks he can, but if he’s outnumbered and outmatched, he won’t be afraid to bring in his crew/beasts. Admiral Calora Bloodrender, Captain of the Silent Shriek Calora Bloodrender is a chaotic evil halfling and captain of the Silent Shriek. She cares for little more than causing suffering. Sadistic and merciless, she disdains conventional ship to ship combat, preferring to board enemy ships and kill the crew with blades and fangs rather than using cannons. I would run Calora as a vampire with rogue/shadow monk levels, having her move through shadows and taking out enemies one by one. She won’t get into a fight she can’t win if she can help it, and though by no means a coward, is the most cautious of the admirals.
Calistra’s body ached. They’d reversed her petrification a few minutes ago, but her body still felt as stiff as stone. She’d failed. Her squad was gone, all of them killed or turned to stone. There was nothing she could have done, of course. But it still hurt. She’d been dragged in front of the other prisoners, along with a number of other officers of the guard and ship captains. The woman walked down the line, looking all of the officers up and down as she passed by. Vanessa, she reminded herself, her mind refusing to stop fighting even when her body had. She needed to remember the name. Vanessa. They hadn’t searched her very well. When the fleet had arrived, the first thing Calistra had done was find a piece of wood and make a stake. Vanessa. That’s her name. Vanessa. She was getting closer, only a few steps away. Part of Calistra knew she was about to die, but the part of her that cared about things hadn’t woken up yet, and she’d made her decision. When the woman - Vanessa - stepped in front of her, Calistra moved on instinct. Her body screamed out in protest, but thirty years of combat had taught her how to ignore such things. She twisted, throwing her body backwards to rock her off of her knees and spinning into a strong stance. The stake was in her hand. She swung aiming for the woman’s - Vanessa’s - left breast, for the heart. And, to her utter shock, she felt the unmistakable resistance of flesh give way to her makeshift weapon. The Dreadfleet’s goals are for the most part, up to you. Vanessa is always seeking power, which can be fit into your world however you see fit. Perhaps she is seeking an artifact your players have, or she wants to take over a nation. Maybe she wants the favor of a god or other powerful creature, and will serve that entity. She is selfish, but her goal isn’t to be the most powerful, just to be powerful. As she achieves greater and greater power, the natural conclusion will eventually be to become the most powerful being, but that is more of a side effect rather than the specific goal. But she is also cruel, and hateful, as are her admirals. As such, she invented a particularly devastating punishment for those she deems worthy of her ire.
The Half Curse
Jerome was in awe. The woman, some captain of the Sable guard, stood face to face with that flawless monster. And she had attacked her. Driven a stake into her chest. How had she gotten free of her bindings? For a few seconds, nobody moved. Vanessa, whose face could have been mistaken for a mask for all it moved up to this point, showed open awe. She staggered backwards, clutching at her chest, clawing at the wooden stake the woman had buried in her. Two of her soldiers moved forward and grabbed the woman, throwing her to the ground and placing a blade at her throat. Nobody spoke. Had… had she killed her? The large goliath that had accompanied Vanessa had moved up to her, obstructing Jerome’s view. That was how you killed one of these things, right? Jerome hadn’t heard Vanessa speak yet, but it was so much more than he was expecting. Her voice was oil, spilling over his body, filling his pores, drowning him in a thick syrup of fear and love. ”There was a time when such a bold move would have elicited respect from me. But gone are the days when foolish men and brave women are subject to my heart's desire. No. Now I see you for what you are. An idiot, one who probably thinks she’s doing what’s best for her city, or some drivel like that. Luckily, I have just the lesson for someone like you”. She emerged from behind the goliath, and stepped forward, the hole in the bodice of her dress exposing skin, apparently unmarred by the stake. ”They call what I am a curse. They are fools. Yes, I have been given an unholy thirst, but I have also been given the capacity to fulfill that thirst. You will not be so lucky. First, I will make you watch me and my army turn, drain, or kill every living creature in this city, and then I will let you go, with a parting gift. Pain, with no relief. As I do these things, I need you to remember: everything I do to your friends, family, neighbors, the people you protected, I do it because of what you did.” A while back, Vanessa discovered that the process of turning a mortal into a vampire, if left unfinished at the right point, had a unique effect. The thirst for blood is the first thing to enter into a new vampire, and if done precisely, it can be the only thing. Essentially, by halting the process before it is finished, a vampire can imbue a victim with the thirst for blood, but without the ability to sate that thirst and without any physical need for blood. They won’t die, they will merely feel a growing, gnawing hunger that never goes away. It is the ultimate curse, and one of Vanessa’s preferred methods of torture. She has been known to raid villages, kill everybody above a certain age, and then perform this ritual on everybody else, and then let them free into the world. Suicide and insanity await most of her victims.
Below are a couple example plot hooks that can work for a range of different levels of play
Lower Level Play
At this level, confronting the Dreadfleet directly spells disaster. Even without facing Vanessa or any of her Admirals, the Dreadfleet soldiers are all quite dangerous and would be unreasonable as enemies for PCs. As such, quest hooks at this level are more “Dreadfleet adjacent” than anything. A Taste for Blood The players hear about a savage killer on the loose, whose victims are always found completely drained of blood. Some suspect a vampire, though most call that nonsense. Upon investigating, the players find that it is not a vampire, but a mortal human. If they investigate the details, they will discover that the killer was a victim of Vanessa’s half curse, and has been drinking the blood of his victims in the hope that it will alleviate his pain. The Cursed This is sort of an alternative to the first suggestion, where instead of finding a murderer, they find someone who is begging for help. A victim of the half curse, they are miserable, and worry that if they can’t find relief soon they will have to take their own life or risk hurting others. It’s up to you whether or not there is a cure, but having a sympathetic victim of the curse can be a good way to set up the Dreadfleet as an enemy later on down the line.
Mid level play
At this point, direct confrontations with the Dreadfleet, Vanessa especially, would be very dangerous, but the players are strong enough for indirect confrontations or direct confrontations with lower ranked members of the Dreadfleet, and even one of the admirals depending on how you build their stats. The Vampires Prize The players get wind of a powerful artifact, perhaps something that can control the weather. The problem is - they know Vanessa wants it too. They have to get there fast, and claim the artifact before she can, and hopefully fast enough to get out with it alive. An Unholy Vendetta One of the Dreadfleet’s admirals has been on a raiding spree, pillaging village after village. The players are asked to protect the village that is seemingly the next target, and must prepare defenses. It’s up to you how hard this is, and whether or not it’s one of the admirals raiding or maybe just a captain with a smaller ship.
High level play
At this point, all bets are off, and the players have reached the point where they can most likely have access to the resources for a direct confrontation with the Dreadfleet. Blood in the Water The ruler of a coastal city has noticed that the Dreadfleet has become more and more aggressive, and worries that their city is the next target. They task the players with leading/taking part in a naval expedition to destroy the Dreadfleet once and for all. This would be a tough one to run, with naval battles and all that, but it could be quite interesting to do. I would recommend setting this up as not just being a single huge naval encounter, but as a few smaller battles against fleets led by the admirals, with the last one being against Vanessa and her fleet. The Queen Ascends Vanessa has found it: ultimate power. Through some source, the players hear that Vanessa has found a path to godhood (anything can substitute for godhood, lichdom, epic level magic, etc. All that matters is she’s found power). They have to figure out what she’s doing, and thwart her.
Wow, that was a lot. This is my first time doing one of these, and it took a lot out of me. I apologize for any clumsiness, I haven’t done anything like this before and I didn’t really know what to expect. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or criticism, please let me know. Happy Pride!
Nehru Let Tibet Fall And Insulted FM Cariappa When The Field Marshal Pointed Out The Chinese Threat In 1948
From: http://www.indiandefencereview.com/spotlights/indian-army-the-blunted-sword/2/ The vast tableland of Tibet abuts the Himalayan wall for most of its length. With bases in Tibet, a detemined enemy can infiltrate into India through the Himalayan passes. For ages Tibet had been a friendly neighbour with whom India had cultural and trade relations. During the British regime, the Indian Government had acquired special interests in Tibet. It ran Tibet’s postal and telegraph services besides running a mission at Lhasa, military posts at Gyantse and Yatung and several rest-houses on the Kalimpong-Lhasa road. Pilgrims and traders could travel freely between the two countries. With China too, India’s relations had been good. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the Kuomintang leader, was on friendly terms with leaders of the Indian National Congress and had paid a visit to India during the Second World War. However, when the People’s Republic of China was inaugurated, the Indian Government was quick to grasp the realities of the situation and India was one of the first countries to recognize the new regime. The invasion of Tibet, therefore, came as a rude shock to the Indian Government. Chinese maps, which had till then been a minor irritant, now assumed a sinister significance. A protest note to Peking had no effect and was virtually rejected. A dispassionate appraisal of the Indian Government’s policy towards China after the latter’s entry into Tibet shows a duality. The threat to India’s security was obvious. However, while fears and reservations were expressed in private, a facade of brotherly friendliness was outwardly maintained in the hope that this tactic would not unnecessarily provoke the Chinese, who had already humbled the mighty USA in Korea. In his book Witness to an Era, Frank Moraes has stated that when India sent the first cultural delegation to China in 1952, it was led by Prime Minister Nehru’s sister, Mrs V.L. Pandit. Moraes was also a member of the delegation and Nehru briefed it in detail: “Never forget that the basic challenge in South-East Asia is between India and China. That challenge runs along the spine of Asia. Therefore, in your talks with the Chinese keep it in mind. Never let the Chinese patronize you”. B.N. Mullik, Director of Intelligence during this period, is more specific. He says: “When in 1952, in the early stages of our advent into the field of foreign intelligence we had asked his [Nehru’s] advice about our targets, he had clearly visualized that the two enemies whom India would have to confront would be Pakistan, which would utilize Pan-Islamism in its support, and China, which would use international communism for its ends, and had fixed these to be our main targets in the foreign field. . . . He counselled us not to be led away by the open professions of the Government in these matters, but to judge everything in India’s interests and seek his advice whenever there was conflict”. The Chinese too played the same game but did it more astutely. While acting the big brother, they prepared themselves militarily for the attainment of their national aims. The Chinese leadership had a grand design: the establishment of China’s hegemony over South-East Asia, so as to fill the power vacuum created by the British withdrawal. They went about their task with thoroughness and made each move at the time of their choosing, while allaying India’s apprehensions. For example, in September 1951, the Chinese Premier, Chou En-lai, told India’s ambassador that China intended in every way to safeguard India’s interests in Tibet and that ‘there was no territorial dispute or controversy between India and China’.11 In September 1952, the two Governments signed an agreement regarding retention of the Indian Mission at Lhasa, which was converted into a Consulate General. In return, the Indian Government agreed to the opening of the Chinese Consulate General at Bombay. But conditions had changed in Tibet after the Chinese occupation and the agreement did not bring much relief to scholars, pilgrims and traders who attempted, according to the time-honoured custom, to enter Tibet. They suffered many frustrations. After lengthy discussions, another pact called an Agreement for Trade and Cultural Intercourse was signed between India and China on 29 April 1954. The Panchsheel, or the Five Principles,12 which was to govern future relations between the two countries, formed the preamble to this agreement. Some time before the negotiations began, the Indian Government gave wide publicity to its intention to relinquish its extra-territorial rights in Tibet inherited from the British regime. A day after the agreement was signed, it made a gift of its postal, telegraph, telephone and rest-house facilities to China. In China as well as India, the agreement was hailed as a great step towards peaceful co-existence. Panchsheel was acclaimed as an ideal basis for relationship between nations and Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai became a popular slogan. Surprisingly, the Indian Government made no effort to settle the question of Chinese maps during the negotiations preceding the agreement. In return for all that India surrendered to the Chinese, they could have been brought round to making a declaration in this regard, accepting existing treaties and customary borders. The Indian leadership missed this opportunity. On the other hand, the Indian Government went out of its way to appease the Chinese. During the British regime, the Government of India had recognized only the suzerainty of China over Tibet. The new agreement referred to Tibet as a ‘region of China’. The boundary issue did, however, come up for discussion at the negotiations. This was in respect of Himalayan passes on the Uttar Pradesh-Tibet border. After some discussions, both sides agreed to incorporate the following words in the agreement: ‘Traders and pilgrims of both countries may travel through the following passes. . . (1) Shipki Pass, (2) Mana Pass, (3) Niti Pass, (4) Kungribingri Pass, (5) Darma Pass and (6) Lipu Lekh Pass’. This was taken to be an indirect recognition that these were border passes. Strangely, it was in this sector that the first border dispute arose. Bara Hoti is a small trading post, a few kilometres South of the Niti Pass. On 17 July 1954, the Chinese Government sent a protest note to India regarding the presence of Indian troops at Bara Hoti. When talks on this question began, the Chinese persisted in claiming that this place lay North of the pass. Despite Panchsheel this dispute never came to be settled. The agreement was not fulfilled in respect of the trade agency at Gartok. Difficulties were always put in the way and no permanent agency was ever established there. The Indian consulate at Kashgar was obliged to close down after the Chinese Government moved to exclude all foreign interests from Sinkiang. What were the Indian Army’s reactions to the events in Tibet? Retired civilian officials who held important posts in the post-Independence period have, in their writings, blamed the Army leadership for the happenings of 1962. S.S. Khera, who was the Cabinet Secretary during the crucial years, has said: “The Army Chiefs did not appear to have become alive early enough to the threat from the North. Their whole training and mental make-up seemed to shun the possibility of a campaign along the Himalayan heights and on the Tibet border. . . . The Army Chiefs did not consider it a feasible proposition at all even to envisage an armed conflict with the Chinese. They seemed unable to escape the conditioning they had had under the British regime in India. . . . Inhibited in this way, not unnaturally, the Army Chiefs were reluctant to extend their activities to meet the threat across Tibet”.13 Why did the Service Chiefs not oppose all this? These are very serious charges. If true, they would condemn the Army Chiefs of the time in the eyes of posterity. Fortunately, they are not true and it is most surprising that a senior official of the Government should make such sweeping statements, which bear no relationship to facts. The reality was entirely different. First, the British were well aware of the danger from the North. That was why they sent a military expedition to Tibet in 1904 and made it a buffer state, although, at that time, the danger was not from China, but from Czarist Russia. The Defence Services Staff College at Wellington is an institution where middle-rank officers of the three Services learn the mechanics of war. At the time of the Chinese invasion of Tibet a distinguished British soldier, Major General Lentaigne, was the Commandant of the Staff College. Brigadier Dalvi, who was a student at the College, recalls Lentaigne’s reaction when the news of the invasion came through. He was so perturbed that he walked into the main hall, interrupted the lecturer and proceeded to denounce our leaders for their shortsightedness and inaction, in the face of the Chinese action. Speaking purely as a soldier and a strategist, he said that India’s back-door had been opened and the Himalayas had become the boundary with a large, powerful and expansionist China. He dwelt on the vulnerability of our Eastern regions due to the concentration of industry and sources of raw materials and said that these would be within range of bombers operating from bases in Tibet.14 According to Dalvi, some weeks after this incident a very senior official’ of the External Affairs Ministry came to give the students of the Staff College a talk on Sino-Tibetan relations. He tried to ‘justify the [Government’s] policy of allowing China to subjugate Tibet’. I asked General Cariappa in 1979 as to what his reaction was to the Chinese occupation of Tibet; he was, after all, the Army Chief at the time. He stated that after partition Indian troops were withdrawn from the Eastern frontier area and all airfields and Army camps were closed down. The Assam Rifles, who were at that time under the Government of Assam, were responsible for the security of this area. Early in January1951, Cariappa received an urgent message from the Assam Government that large bodies of Chinese troops were operating around Rima, a place North of Walong in the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and was asked if the Army could do something to stop any threat to Indian territory. The only thing that Cariappa could think of was to drop some paratroopers in the threatened area. The drop consisted of two officers and a platoon of men, including one officer and two men from the Engineers. Three Dakotas flew the party to the dropping zone near Walong and, after operating for about three weeks in the area, the paratroopers trekked back to Sadiya. The parachute action had its effect and the threat of Chinese intrusion into Indian territory was removed for the time being. However, taking a long-term view of Chinese presence on the Northern borders, Cariappa appreciated that they might create trouble on the McMahon Line, the boundary between NEFA and Tibet. He felt that the remedy was to place NEFA and the Assam Rifles under the Army for the purpose of defence. His intention was to stabilize the McMahon Line in the same way as the British had done in the case of the Durand Line on the North-West Frontier. He wanted to establish posts all along the boundary and garrison them with the Assam Rifles. At the same time, he wanted to open up the wartime airfields, roads and military camps right up to the Chinese border. Accordingly, he took the matter to the Defence Minister, who told him to discuss it with the Prime Minister.The next day, Cariappa was called up by Pandit Nehru. Major General Daulat Singh was then officiating as Chief of the General Staff. Cariappa took him along. Cariappa outlined his plan for NEFA to the Prime Minister. Having listened to him, Nehru asked for the reason for all these measures. When Cariappa mentioned that the Chinese might have designs against this region, Nehru flared up, thumped hard on the table and said: “It is not the business of the Commander-in-Chief to tell the Prime Minister who is going to attack us where. In fact the Chinese will defend our Eastern frontier. You mind only Kashmir and Pakistan”. Cariappa walked out of the Prime Minister’s office, very disappointed. Prime Minister Nehru could brush aside the Army Chief’s advice. But there was a man in his Government whose advice he could not ignore. He was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister. Unfortunately, he died in December 1950. Had Patel lived a few more years, India might have been spared the ignominy of 1962. A month before his death, on 7 November 1950, he wrote a long letter to Nehru, giving a masterly exposition of the threat that India faced on account of Tibet’s invasion and recommended certain measures to meet it. He said that the attitude of the Chinese Government was unfriendly and its policy expansionist. He further said that the invasion of Tibet would bring the Chinese Army to the gates of India and throw into the melting pot all past frontier settlements with Tibet. He pointed out that the Himalayan passes offered several ingress routes and that the population in most of the border regions bore affinity to the Tibetans – factors which the Chinese would exploit to achieve their ambitions. In his advice to the Prime Minister, he stressed the following:
Urgent need to formulate a defence strategy.
Appraisal of the strength of the armed forces and, if necessary, reconsideration of the retrenchment plans for the Army.
Long-term co-ordination of defence needs, such as an assured supply of arms, ammunition and equipment.
Improvement of communications in the border regions, including rail, road, air and radio.
Policing of border posts, and building of an intelligence network in the threatened regions.15
According to Mullik (My Years with Nehru – The Chinese Betrayal), Patel’s letter was circulated to the ministries concerned. Later, a small committee was formed to visit NEFA and recommend places near the frontier where the Assam Rifles would be deployed. At the same time, another committee was formed under the chairmanship of Major General Himmatsinghji, Deputy Minister for Defence. It had representatives from the Army,16 the Air Force, the Ministries of Home, External Affairs and Communications and from the Intelligence Bureau. The Government also sanctioned the Indo-Tibet Border Force for manning the checkposts on the frontier less the Norh-East. The Himmatsinghji Committee submitted its recommendations in two parts: on the Sikkim, Bhutan, NEFA and Burma border in April 1951, and on the Ladakh, Himachal, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh border in September that year. The committee’s recommendations included the reorganization and redeployment of the military forces in the area, some increase in the infantry and supponing arms, the development of certain airfields and the setting up of a radar network on the Eastern frontier. The committee also recommended considerable increase in the Assam Rifles and other armed police units for larger concentrations at vulnerable points, from which effective patrolling could be regularly undertaken. So far as intelligence was concerned, it recommended the abolition of the military intelligence organization in the field and its amalgamation with the Intelligence Bureau, the reorganization of the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureaus at Calcutta and Shillong and the formation of an Intelligence Corps. The Committee also recommended the extension of civil administration into the interior of tribal areas along the borders and the establishment of a cadre of Frontier Service officers. The Committee brought to light grave shortcomings in the security of India’s borders and in the administration of regions that lay close to them. According to Mullik, the Cabinet accepted all its recommendations and told the departments concered to implement them. This was where the hitch came. Many factors affected the implementation: paucity of funds, difficult terrain and the absence of a sense of urgency. The last factor was the main reason for the state of unpreparedness in 1962. This is evident from the fact that the Border Roads Organization was set up only in 1960, nine years after the committee had sent in its recommendations, though the building of roads in the strategic regions should have received top priority. In the early fifties, NEFA and Aksai Chin must have seemed far away to those sitting in New Delhi. The net result of the labours of the Committee, in so far as the immediate future was concerned, was an increase in the strength of the Assam Rifles, besides the growth in the importance of the Intelligence Bureau. A beginning was also made towards the extension of civil administration in NEFA, but nothing tangible was done for preparing the Army for the defence of the border. On the other hand, contrary to Patel’s advice, the retrenchment plan for the Army, formulated earlier, was put through, and about 50,000 men were sent home in 1951. This rundown was to some extent compensated by the integration of the state forces. In 1953, the Indian Army comprised between 325,000 and 350,000 officers and men of all categories, organized into seven divisions (4, 5, 10, 19, 26 and 27 Infantry Divisions, and 1 Armoured Division), two independent brigades (2 Armoured and 50 Para), administrative Headquarters, depots and installations. In the autumn of 1953, there were reports of Chinese activity in the area inhabited by the Tagins, about a day’s march beyond Daporijo, in NEFA. When an Assam Rifles patrol was sent to investigate, some 300 of the tribesmen attacked its camp in the night. They killed 26 of the party, including the officer in command and a civil official who accompanied him. The remaining 72 men of the party were taken away as hostages, together with all the weapons of the patrol. To rescue the hostages, the Assam Rifles were ordered to mount an operation, with Daporijo as base. However, this place had no landing ground at the time and despatch of troops by land would have taken weeks. By then the hostages would, in all probability, have been massacred. A landing ground was, therefore, quickly built at Daporijo by dropping about a company-strength of paratroopers (infantry and engineers) on 4 November. The action against the Tagins was thereafter taken in hand. Incidents like this and the one at Walong should have spurred the Indian Government to hasten its preparations for a possible showdown with the Chinese. But it was then busy with the negotiations that brought about the 1954 Agreement. According to Mullik, Nehru’s suspicions regarding Chinese intentions were aroused on account of their attitude during these negotiations and within a few months of its signing he ordered that frontier posts should be set up. Obviously, the recommendations of the Himmatsinghji Committee in this regard had not been implemented till then. Things moved slowly during the ‘Lotus Decade’. It is interesting to note that the Indian Government wanted to sign an agreement for 25 years, but the Chinese limited it to eight years. The Army carried on with its routine existence from day to day on the premise that it had only to worry about defence against Pakistan. To save money for the country’s development, the Army was told to economize on expenditure. All sorts of ways of saving money for the Government were thought up. The Director of one of the services at Army Headquarters went so far as to dismantle and dispose of a factory that manufactured jerricans. He brought about a sizeable saving by issuing petrol and kerosene oil to units in bulk, in 200-litre barrels or from kerbside pumps, instead of jerricans. For this he was publicly praised by the Finance Minister. However, the result of this short-sighted economy was that in the 1962 operations in NEFA, there were no jerricans for dropping supplies of kerosene oil to the troops operating on the snow-clad Himalayan slopes. The Air Force had perforce to drop this commodity in 200-litre barrels and the jawans were expected to carry them up and down mountain slopes to their bunkers. Such instances could be multiplied ad nauseum. Saving on defence became a fetish in India during this period. The Government went so far as to impose a cut in the men’s rations. The Army was told to make do with what equipment it had and to improvise for what it did not have. In fact improvisation became a routine in the Army. Among the lower echelons, it came to be known facetiously as doing things on Jai Hind basis. Even the annual manoeuvres were largely run on Jai Hind basis. An officer who served with the prestigious 1 Armoured Division for three years (1956–59) says: “All our vehicles were of Second World War vintage and had seen hard service. The progress of the Divisional column was marked by broken-down vehicles and by the time you reached your destination one-third of the vehicles had been written off. . . .I remember how a column of 40 bridging vehicles was represented by a single lorry flying a chequered flag. When a bridge was required to be “constructed”, this vehicle was given priority and it used to roar grandly down the road, bypassing all the vehicles on the convoy. What a farce! . . . A minefield was represented by two tapes laid on the ground and we used to carry out a mimicry of clearing mines, which were not there. Sometimes, even this was not done; if it would take eight hours to clear a lane, this time was merely added on paper, and the exercise continued”.17 A glaring example of the myopia among the policy-makers of the time was the move of Headquarters Eastern Command from Ranchi to Lucknow. NEFA was, and still is, a part of this Command’s responsibility. At a time when the threat to this region had become apparent, it would have made sense if this Headquarters had been moved further East, so as to be nearer the possible scene of operations. It was instead moved further West, perhaps because of the availability at Lucknow of better accommodation and other amenities for officers. Nearness to Delhi may have been another consideration. After Cariappa, the first decade of Independence saw two more Army Chiefs, not counting Thimayya who took over in May 1957. Cariappa was succeeded by General Rajendrasinhji. Scion of a princely family of Kathiawar, he was commissioned after graduation from Sandhurst. While serving with 2 Lancers in the Second World War, he earned praise for his part in the hard-fought action at Meikili against Rommel’s Panzers. His gallantry brought him the first DSO to be won by a Sandhurst-trained Indian. To the high office of C—in—C he brought a princely dignity, sincerity and a sense of fair-play. Quiet by nature, he did not have Cariappa’ s swank or his messianic zeal. His tenure lasted a little less than two years. His successor, Shrinagesh, was an infantry soldier from the Kumaon Regiment. It is interesting to note that the first three Chiefs did not have much difference in the matter of age or seniority. In fact, Cariappa was younger than his successor. Both Shrinagesh and Rajendrasinhji received their education in the United Kingdom. Shrinagesh served in Burma during the Second World War though he did not see much action. A good speaker and administrator, he held many gubernatorial posts after retirement from the Army in May 1957. All that can be said of the tenure of these two Chiefs is that, like good soldiers, they carried out the policies of the Government of the day. They did all they thought was good for the Army, within the financial limits imposed by the Government. Regimental traditions were preserved; so were officers’ messes, with their sacrosanct customs, except that the health of the Head of State was drunk in plain water instead of port or sherry. The morale of the troops was excellent. Good discipline was insisted upon and maintained. So were good turnout and drill. Hindi words of command were introduced. They sounded as impressive, and produced as good results, as the English commands that many generations of Indian soldiers had become used to. Behind the facade of peacetime ceremonials and nicely kept messes, however, there was a certain hollowness. Appearances came to mean a good deal more than reality. The official history of the Regiment of Artillery has an interesting incident of this period. Some British officers had come to attend a regimental reunion and were taken round the Artillery establishments in the Nasik-Deolali area. ‘When they looked in at the expensive carpet and curtains in a Commandant’s office, one of them was overheard remarking in an aside – “Very nice, but will it fight?”18 Initiative was discouraged instead of being encouraged. It is normal military practice to study the organization and tactics of other armies and especially those of a possible enemy. During the early fifties, when Nehru heard that a pamphlet on the Chinese Army was being prepared at Army Headquarters, he at once had it stopped.19 While war clouds were gathering for India on her Northern borders, there were other developments that affected her security environment adversely. The growth of communist power in Europe and Asia led the United States and her allies to adopt a strategy of containment. The formation of the (NATO) in 1949 had been the first step in this direction. But this, organization, comprising a combined force from signatory nations, was meant chiefly for the defence of Westren Europe. During the mid-fifties the containment was extended to West Asia and South-East. Two organizations were created for this purpose. Like NATO both were sponsored by the USA. The (SEATO) had as its members Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and the USA. The (CENTO) consisted of Britian, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and the USA. Membership of these organizations gave Pakistan modern weapons and equipment in return for bases on her soil. India too was invited to join these alliance, but refused: such a step would have compromised the policy of non-alignement. With American equipment for Pakistan’s armed forces, the balance of military power on the Indian sub-continent began to change. The Indian Government decided at this stage that it was not going to be drawn into an arms race with Pakistan. But to prepare the people for a struggle against external aggression, a citizens’ Army was created. Initially called the National Volunteer Force, it later came to be known as the Lok Sahayak Sena. The Government planned to train 500,000 citizens over a period of five years. Training camps were set up at various places, chiefly in the Punjab and Army instructors were posted to help train the volunteers. Somehow the idea failed to catch the public imagination and the scheme was later abandoned after a good deal of money had been wasted. It was perhaps American aid that made the Pakistans more aggressive in 1956. They created incidents, may be to test Indian reaction. Early that year their troops occupied Chhad Bet, in the Rann of Kutch and opened fire on an Indian patrol that was sent to investgate. The Indian brigade at Ahmedabad took prompt action and forced the Pakistanis to quit. Their attack at Hussainiwala was more serious. At this border-post, on the Sutlej River, near Ferozepur, both India and Pakistan had some troops. On the night of 18/19 March, Pakistani troops made a sudden attack on the Indian position, held by 4 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. The attack was beaten back and the Pakistanis were dislodged from the area they had occupied. During the fighting, Lance Naik Sunder Singh showed great presence of mind and courage of the hightest order in silencing an enemy maching gun. His bravery won him the Ashoka Chakra class 1.20 There were provocative incidents on the East Pakistan border also. Such occurrences only increased the tensions between the two countries. Some attempts had been made after the signing of the Nehru-Liaquat Pact to bring about a rapprochement. But every time the negotiations came to a dead-end on the question of Kashmir. Pakistan wanted the settlement on her own terms. Besides the tension with Pakistan and the difficulties with the Chinese, the Indian Government had a revolt on its hands in the Eastern region. The Nagas had been restive for quite some time. By 1954, they were in open revolt. The civil authorities failed to cope with the situation and in 1956 the Army was ordered to deal with it. The insurgency in the region later became a complex affair, involving not only local politics but also covert foreign aid to the insurgents. How the Indian Army tackled the insurgency is the subject of another chapter but the commitment there, as also the build-up in Pakistan, brought a small increase in the strength of the Indian Army.
Top Ten Greatest Male Players in Challenge History - No. 4 - C.T. Tamburello
Honorable Mentions - Abram, Dan S., Jamie, Mike M., Theo V., Turbo, Wes No. 10 - Alton Williams (Real World: Las Vegas) No. 9 - Mark Long (Road Rules: USA - The First Adventure) No. 8 - Darrell Taylor (Road Rules: Campus Crawl) No. 7 - Derrick Kosinski (Road Rules: X-Treme) No. 6 - Kenny Santucci (Fresh Meat) No. 5 - Evan Starkman (Fresh Meat) No. 4 - C.T. Tamburello (Real World: Paris)
C.T. carrying the Johnny Bananas backpack is the greatest highlight ever recorded in Challenge history.
Before the backpack moment, we hadn’t seen C.T. in three years. He was rumored to be forever banned after almost killing Adam King on the Duel II. On Cutthroat, when T.J. announced the heavy hitters twist and C.T. came walking out the dark, challenge fans all around the world were not prepared for what they were about to witness. C.T. was finally let out of his cage and Johnny Bananas became absolute prey.
If there were ever to be a logo for the Challenge, a visual image of the C.T.-Bananas backpack moment would be it. Picture this: Replace the Jerry West silhouette in the red and blue NBA logo with a white silhouette of C.T. mid power-walk and Bananas in the back of him imitating a backpack. Then, replace “NBA” with “MTV”. Now, you got your MTV Challenge logo. C.T. being at the front and center of a hypothetical challenge sports logo makes perfect sense considering C.T.’s athletic performances changed the landscape of the Challenge from a regular game show to the series becoming known as America’s Fifth Sport.
C.T. is the Peyton Manning of the Challenge.
Peyton Manning is the greatest regular-season quarterback in the history of the NFL. C.T. is the greatest regular-season competitor in the history of the Challenge.
Peyton Manning only has two Superbowls (and won his second one in his final season in the NFL, while being a shell of his former self). C.T. has three championships (and won his final one while being in his worst physical shape ever).
Both, Peyton Manning and C.T.’s regular-season career numbers lead you to believe that they should have had twice as much championships than what they currently have. However, their own blunders (C.T.’s boneheaded mistakes and gassing out right before the finish line on the Exes 2 final = Peyton’s choking) throughout their careers hold them back from reaching extreme success in the post-season.
To continue this comparison, Johnny Bananas is Tom Brady (6 championships). C.T. is the more natural athlete and talented challenger between him and Bananas, but Bananas has had the better legacy (Peyton’s the more talented QB between him and Brady, but Brady accomplished a greater legacy).
C.T. has seven of the greatest regular season competitive performances that didn’t result in championships.
The Inferno: In C.T.’s rookie debut, the higher end competition consisted of Abram, Darrell, Mike Mizanin, Shane and Timmy. C.T. won 4 life shields. C.T. led all the males in life shields and actually won more life shields than the higher end competition as one whole collective (Darrell, Mike Mizanin, and Timmy each won one life shield, totaling up to 3). C.T. was the best performer of the season as a rookie. He made the final challenge, but his Real World team lost to Road Rules in a close race.
Inferno II: C.T. was the life shield king. He racked up 6 life shields this season in one of the most competitive male casts to ever be assembled in Challenge history. C.T. led the season in life shields again, Landon came in 2nd with four, Mike in 3rd with three, and Derrick came in 4th with two. C.T. made the final, but he and the final remaining Bad Asses got blown out the water in a triathlon.
The Duel: C.T. won three missions and landed in the top 2 seven times. In C.T.’s third season, he was the second best competitor behind Evan, who won six missions (but half of them were due to having the superior partner in Jodi in comparison to C.T. having Diem). Despite being a top 2 performer, C.T. got disqualified against Brad in the final male duel and didn’t make it into the post-season.
Gauntlet III: C.T. was co-captain of one of the most dominant regular season teams ever, the G3 Veterans. C.T. was either the best or second best athlete on the team (along with Evan, the other team captain). C.T.’s performance in Piñata Pit (which I delve into later) proved what a freak of nature of a competitor C.T. was.
Rivals: C.T. managed to win two missions and landed in the top three overall six times with an average partner (Adam). Rivals C.T. was the scariest. The whole season was based around J.E.K. and friends trying to take him out, because he was such a force to be reckoned with. C.T. lost right before the final because of Adam’s performance in the T-Bone elimination.
Exes: C.T. and Diem won two out of eight missions, only second to Bananas and Camila’s three. C.T. and Diem made the final, but got second place. C.T. and Diem had the lead the whole final, but C.T. collapsed moments before the finish line.
Dirty Thirty: C.T. was competing in his 11th season and still putting up the best scoring numbers in one of the toughest male casts ever assembled. C.T. won 6 missions. That’s the most out of all males on Dirty Thirty (Not a single other player won 5, Hunter won 4, Nelson and Leroy won 3, and the rest have 2 or less). C.T. made the final on D30, but got third place because his gas tank can’t keep up with the other two finalists.
C.T.’s ATG Physical Strength, Aggression, and Athleticism is the most lethal combination in Challenge history.
If the Challenge were to ever have a Madden-esque video game, C.T.’s player rating regarding his athleticism and strength would look something like: STR: 99. SPE: 99. AGI: 99. A prime C.T. was a cheat code. The Bananas Backpack moment attests to this. Below are some other missions and eliminations where C.T.’s strength and athleticism proved to us he was of a different breed.
In Piñata Pit (G3), players from both teams had to jump in a mud pit, retrieve a ball, and return it to the starting line. The mission was played in rounds. Each round, there were fewer balls than there were players. Players were getting eliminated round-by-round. The game of Piñata Pit came down to the two best players on each team, Veteran C.T. and Rookie Derek McCray. You’re probably reading this wondering who Derek McCray is. I don’t blame you. Let me give you some background information on him. The moment Derek M. first stepped into the Challenge, he was immediately viewed as a competition threat, even with no performance log to back for it. Derek M. came into the Gauntlet 3 with instant respect, based off the fact that he had been recruited by more than 200 colleges for his football talent. Considering Piñata Pit contained all the aspects of a game of football: running, tackling, stripping a ball away from an opponent, and taking it to the end zone, the average betting man would’ve bet on Derek to score and win it for the Rookies. Challenge fans, however, knew to bet differently. When the final round went underway, Derek reached the ball first, but C.T. was inches behind Derek as he gained possession of the ball. C.T. then proceeded to slam him to the ground effortlessly and Derek literally yelped as he was getting manhandled. C.T, with what looks like half an effort, popped the ball out of Derek’s arms and took it back to the end zone to win it for the Veterans. In Piñata Pit, C.T. basically took the manhood out of a Division 1 athlete.
In the T-Bone elimination (Rivals), C.T.’s “Choo! Choo!” train almost killed Johnny and Tyler. It’s the biggest near death experience in Challenge history. I have a theory: We haven’t seen C.T. in a physical combat elimination ever since for good reason. I’m positive that’s a calculated decision by the Challenge Gods, not one that’s left up to chance.
C.T. faced off against Leroy in Wrecking Wall (FA), an elimination where both players had to punch through a 30-foot dry wall to make holes to climb up until they were able to reach the bell at the top. First player to ring the bell won. Leroy is an elimination beast; he’s won 8 career eliminations because of his physical strength and athleticism alone. He was no match for C.T. though. Anyone who watched the Duel 2, knows C.T.’s punching power is nothing to be played with. His punching power knocked out a whole wall on that season.
In the Flying Leap mission (Duel), players, one at a time, had to jump back and forth from one end of a platform to another that was suspended from a crane 20 feet above water. Numerous flags were hanging from poles located on both sides of the platform. Players had to grab as many flags as possible within a three-minute time limit; Whoever collected the most flags won. C.T. won Flying Leap with flying colors. He was the only male to not land on his body when jumping or not use any running momentum to assist his jumping sequences. C.T. instead showed us his athletic prowess, by setting his feet, loading his hips, exploding and jumping across, landing on his feet every time. Everyone on the sidelines watched in awe. C.T. made it look like a walk in the park.
C.T.’s All-Time Great Intelligence.
C.T. is the perfect two-way player. He not only has the brawn, but he has the brain as well. His long history of solving puzzles makes him an ATG intelligent male player. Below are some of C.T.’s greatest moments in which he had to put his brain to work.
C.T. eliminated Evan in Ascender (Duel), an elimination game in which players had to climb up a rope, pull a handle at the top of the rope, to release a basket containing puzzle pieces. The players then had to climb back down the rope to assemble a tiling puzzle similar to a tangram. C.T versus Evan was the second last male elimination on the original Duel. Up to that point, Evan was the clear #1 best competitor of the season and C.T. was the second. The two best players were going mano a mano. Evan got raddled under the stage lights (got caught trying to cheat), and the brain of the cold blooded killer, C.T. solved the tangram with ease.
In the Rivals 2 final, C.T. completed the puzzle checkpoint in a flash that Johnny/Frank fell behind in. Upon seeing the puzzle, C.T. straightaway figured it out because the puzzle was one that he played when he was hungover at a breakfast country club.
In the Final Redemption Challenge on D30, players had to read a code that provided a combination to a lock that contained puzzle pieces. The first two players to retrieve and complete their puzzle would return to the game, while the rest were eliminated. C.T.’s competition in this challenge was Dario, Jordan, Leroy, and Bananas. C.T. was the first male to successfully figure out the code and complete his puzzle, and re-entered the game as a result.
C.T. eliminated Darrell in Knot So Fast (Invasion). It was the last champions elimination of the season. The grandest stage of them all was set and the two all-time great champions had to rely on their strategical intelligence to win this one. Darrell put up a good fighting effort in trying to undo C.T.’s knot, but it looked like a physically impossible task. It actually was. According to Darrell on Challenge Mania, C.T.’s knots were so tight that production had to cut them off with machetes after the elimination was over. C.T. broke the Knot So Fast elimination. That’s how intelligent C.T.’s strategy was. The elimination win versus Darrell gave C.T. a spot in the finals, where he faced off against underdogs Cory and Nelson, who were fifteen years younger and in the athletic prime of their lives. In the final challenge, C.T. still managed to acquire his second season win and proved to the rest of the Challenge world that the underdogs were no match for the champion of champions.
C.T. has the All-Time Greatest Eating Abilities.
Eating is such an important trait to have in the challenge. It’s often identified as the most difficult portion of the final challenge each season. Players hate it. We’ve actually seen players quit in the final before because they couldn’t stomach eating disgusting things. We’ve seen C.T. devour all types of disgusting things without looking fazed in the slightest, that makes you question whether or not he has taste buds.
Remember the pickled fish soup in the Rivals 2 final? C.T. drank his like he was chugging a beer, while everyone around him was vomiting all over the place. Wes couldn’t bother to even taste his drink, so C.T. chugged it down for him.
In the Exes 2 final, C.T. ate the deer head and sheep blood as if it was everyday dinner. When he finished his plate, C.T. decided to go for seconds and helped Diem finish up her plate as well.
C.T.’s eating abilities are inhumane. Not only is C.T. known for downing disgusting foods in final challenges as if it were nothing, but he’s also known for winning regular season competitions where you had to eat a ridiculous amount of food (Toss Your Cookies v. Shane, eating the entire birthday cake on Race to the Altar in Exes).
C.T.’s first championship and third championships (Rivals II and WOTWII) were social-political clinics.
C.T. played his first eight seasons without winning the big one. It wasn’t until Rivals II, his ninth season, where he finally got his first challenge gold medal. As usual, C.T. crushed it on the field, but off the field, in the Challenge house, he played one of the best political-social games I had ever seen. On Rivals II, the opposite sex had control over the votes on male elimination days. C.T. was wooing all the girls, and they thought they were going to be apart of the next love big story on the Challenge. C.T. was never voted in because at least one player within four of the female teams had a fling with C.T. or were falling heads over heel for him on Rivals 2 (Anastasia, Cooke, Diem, and Nany).
On War of the Worlds II, C.T. was a member of the U.K. Team. He was apart of Cara’s Cult/The Royal Family. The physical shape C.T. was in this season was his worst ever, so him not ever being considered for elimination by his own team is mind blogging. C.T.’s social game was on a whole another level this season. My favorite C.T. moment on WOTWII is when he turncoats on Cara’s Cult right before the final and saves Tori from elimination to strengthen U.K.’s team for the final. C.T.’s political-social finesse on WOTWII rightfully earned him his third championship.
C.T.’s social-political skill, in general, deserves more recognition. Every time I hear people talk about C.T.’s eliteness, people only bring up the competition juggernaut and not the social-political mightiness he’s established over the course of his sixteen season career.
C.T. has only done three less seasons than Johnny Bananas, but he’s been in 11 less eliminations. Other than the first Rivals, I don’t recall there being a time where he wasn’t at the top of social structures. He has a whole catalogue of seasons where he was either pulling strings from the top or aligning with the biggest playmakers that were ones doing the pulling (i.e: Inferno 2 – CT was in a four person alliance with Derrick/Brad/Darrell where there duties were to not nominate each other in the inferno selections; The Duel – CT/Evan/Derrick/Brad each were paired with the best athletic girls and controlled the chain selections; Exes 2 – in an alliance with Mark/Robin, Johnny/Camila, and DunbaPaula that ran the game till the very end).
C.T. made history twice on Invasion and War of the Worlds II.
C.T. won his second championship 22 seasons after his rookie season. He debuted on the original Inferno, which took place in 2004, and won Invasion of the Champions in 2017. That’s a span of 13 years. C.T.’s Invasion win broke the previous record of the longest span between a rookie debut and championship win, that was held by Johnny Bananas. J.B. won his sixth championship 16 seasons after his rookie season. He debuted on the original Duel, which aired in 2006, and won Rivals 3 in 2016 (a 10 year span).
C.T.’s new breaking record was broken again by none other than C.T, just a few seasons later. C.T. won War of the Worlds 2, which took place 27 seasons after the Inferno, and 15 years later.
C.T.’s Overall Assessment.
If you read up until this point, I’m guessing a lot of you probably refuse to agree with my opinion of C.T. being the fourth greatest male challenger ever. Here’s my argument: C.T. is the greatest Challenge talent ever, but he doesn’t have the greatest legacy. Like mentioned earlier, he’s the Peyton Manning of the Challenge and I don’t consider Peyton Manning the #1 G.O.A.T. of Football (Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, and Tom Brady fit that bill better). In my eyes, Bananas, Jordan, and Landon are those three guys. The combination of their talent, winning percentage, and accomplishments fair just slightly better than C.T’s.
C.T. has just three championships in a sixteen season career. The rest of my top three have won just as much in a lot lesser time (Jordan, Landon) or doubled his wins in the same type of lengthy career (Bananas). C.T.’s temper and poor decision making tossed three years of his absolute prime down the drain (Inferno III, Gauntlet III, Duel II) and his inability to perform in the clutch tossed another year (Exes). That’s five seasons where the ultimate competitor, C.T., missed out on championships.
On the Inferno III, C.T. is cast on the Bad Asses; He was the best player on the cast, but he gets sent home the first night in South Africa because he punches Davis. C.T. would’ve been a lock for the final this season, he threw another potential championship out the window.
In the Gauntlet 3 final challenge, Big Easy cost C.T. and all the other final remaining veterans a championship win. You’re probably confused as to how this is C.T.’s fault, but he actually had a major hand in letting Big Easy ride to the final. If you go back to the first gauntlet deliberation where Johnny got sent in against Evan, Johnny plead to the rest of the Veteran males that Big Easy should have to go in, because he was going to lose them a final. C.T., who was the leader of the team, didn’t buy into Johnny’s plea; He had personal dislike towards Johnny and his reason for not throwing Big Easy in was because he loved partying with him. What’s the logic in that? C.T., the whole season was preaching about “trimming the fat” (getting rid of the girls on their team) and never worrying about Easy once was a horrific example of how to play a winning game. Prime C.T. was always finding a way to be the author of his own demise.
On the Duel 2, C.T. went into cannibalism mode. C.T. would’ve legitimately smashed Adam’s head and ate Adam’s head if it wasn’t for like thirty cast and production crew members successfully capturing him (and then tranquilizing him and putting him in his cage). There’s no guaranteeing C.T. would’ve won the D2, since the top crop of males this season was stacked. But this is an absolute peak C.T. we’re talking about, who’s in contention for the best men’s competitor all-time, so a championship victory is never out of the question.
In the Exes final, C.T./Diem lead the whole way until the final run up the mountain. Right before the finish line, C.T.’s tank ran out of gas (mirroring Peyton’s ability to choke in the playoffs) and he delayed winning his first championship for even longer.
C.T.’s competitive abilities (ATG physical strength, aggression, athleticism, intelligence, and eating) and his championship success in his career’s second half are sufficient enough to get him into the Challenge Mount Rushmore, but the four seasons he tossed down the drain in the first half of his career are a little too detrimental to have him in the top trinity. I think about it like this: Would I consider drafting Prime C.T. (Inferno - Free Agents) as my first pick when constructing a team in an-all time draft? Nope. He, was easily #1 in terms of competitive talent, but he was a complete hothead with bad decision making and only won one championship in ten seasons. Would I consider drafting Dadbod C.T. (Invasion - Total Madness) number one? Not at all. He’s won two championships in six seasons, with a phenomenal social-political game, but his competitive abilities are half of what they were before. Every version of C.T. comes with a small albatross that keeps him from having top three legacy.
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