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Notre Dame and Baylor entered the one-loss group in what is shaping up to be an extremely tight race for playoff consideration.

12 Nov 2005

FO on FOX: Midseason Projections

by Aaron Schatz

The midseason projection article itself can be found here on FOXSports.com.

The actual commentary on the teams is not as in-depth as the last two years, but that's because more commentary is coming next week in a series of articles for the New York Sun by Mike, Mike, Ned, and myself. We'll republish those here a few days later.

One final note. We want our readers to be able to discuss these projections. We know there is a good chance that we will have to shut the comments down at some point because of the Atlanta people. They have posted on their message boards to come to FO and post repeatedly about how Atlanta rulllezzzz or some such nonsense. They don't want to let you talk about Indianapolis or Miami or Denver or Seattle or anyone else. Atlanta fans can rant all they want in that unreadable 600-post thread, we're not going to delete any of it. But last night we had to delete a dozen comments from the "non-Atlanta" thread because the Atlanta fans have no respect for fans of the other 31 teams.

We ask that everybody be patient with us while we deal with this problem. We understand the request to go to a registration system; people have to understand that we can't just snap our fingers and create all the programming and redesign for something like that.

Late note: Enough with the e-mails and comments from the Atlanta people claiming that they are getting "under my skin." No, you're not. You can send me all the mean e-mail you want, I don't care. I'm annoyed because the readers of this site think you are a bunch of schmucks and I like for my readers to be happy.

* * * * *

Here are the actual DVOA projections (posted 6pm EST). These numbers represent the projection for how teams will play in Weeks 10-17, not what DVOA will look like for the entire season. The ranks given for offense, defense, and special teams list the projected second half rank followed by the current weighted DVOA rank. For example, Denver projects to have the best offense in the NFL for the next eight weeks, but they are currently ranked third.


  TEAM PROJECT
DVOA
RANK
NOW
W-L PROJECT
OFFENSE
RANK
PROJ/NOW
PROJECT
DEFENSE
RANK
PROJ/NOW
PROJECT
SPEC TM
RANK
PROJ/NOW
1 IND 35.2% 1 14-2 25.7% 3/4 -14.1% 3/5 -4.6% 32/31
2 SEA 31.2% 3 12-4 27.0% 2/1 -5.7% 9/18 -1.5% 23/22
3 CAR 28.9% 12 12-4 10.9% 8/14 -18.6% 1/12 -0.5% 20/17
4 DEN 24.8% 6 11-5 28.6% 1/3 1.0% 15/9 -2.8% 27/26
5 KC 23.5% 11 10-6 17.7% 6/8 -4.8% 11/17 1.1% 12/10
6 PIT 22.6% 9 11-5 10.2% 9/13 -12.4% 5/4 0.0% 16/21
7 SD 19.0% 5 9-7 20.9% 5/2 2.2% 19/19 0.3% 14/13
8 JAC 17.2% 7 11-5 3.8% 14/18 -13.5% 4/1 -0.1% 17/15
9 CIN 16.2% 2 12-4 17.1% 7/5 1.1% 16/7 0.2% 15/19
10 DAL 12.5% 8 9-7 -5.4% 19/15 -16.2% 2/3 1.7% 7/9
11 NYG 11.3% 4 10-6 3.1% 15/9 1.4% 17/13 9.7% 1/1
12 WAS 7.7% 10 9-7 0.7% 16/11 -10.2% 7/6 -3.2% 28/27
13 NE 7.3% 15 9-7 23.6% 4/6 17.1% 30/29 0.7% 13/14
14 BUF 4.1% 24 6-10 -5.0% 18/28 -1.3% 13/24 7.8% 2/2
15 TB 2.8% 20 9-7 -8.0% 22/26 -11.6% 6/11 -0.7% 22/16
16 OAK -3.8% 14 6-10 5.7% 12/7 8.8% 24/20 -0.7% 21/20
  TEAM PROJECT
DVOA
RANK
NOW
W-L PROJECT
OFFENSE
RANK
PROJ/NOW
PROJECT
DEFENSE
RANK
PROJ/NOW
PROJECT
SPEC TM
RANK
PROJ/NOW
17 MIA -3.8% 17 7-9 -13.5% 29/24 -5.5% 10/10 4.2% 3/5
18 CHI -6.7% 13 9-7 -19.2% 30/25 -9.9% 8/2 2.5% 6/7
19 ATL -8.2% 16 10-6 3.8% 13/10 11.6% 26/26 -0.4% 19/25
20 BAL -8.6% 19 5-11 -11.7% 26/22 -1.4% 12/14 1.7% 8/12
21 TEN -8.6% 23 5-11 -6.6% 21/21 3.5% 22/27 1.6% 10/6
22 MIN -9.2% 26 7-9 7.5% 10/19 14.8% 28/28 -1.9% 25/24
23 PHI -11.8% 18 7-9 -8.4% 23/12 -0.1% 14/16 -3.5% 31/32
24 GB -12.8% 21 5-11 6.6% 11/16 16.1% 29/21 -3.3% 29/28
25 DET -15.2% 27 6-10 -9.5% 24/29 2.5% 20/8 -3.3% 30/30
26 NYJ -16.8% 28 5-11 -11.8% 27/30 4.6% 23/15 -0.4% 18/23
27 NO -17.8% 30 5-11 -13.4% 28/23 1.7% 18/22 -2.8% 26/29
28 STL -18.9% 25 8-8 -4.0% 17/17 13.2% 27/30 -1.8% 24/18
29 HOU -20.5% 31 4-12 -5.4% 20/27 18.2% 31/32 3.2% 5/3
30 CLE -20.9% 22 6-10 -11.2% 25/20 11.1% 25/25 1.3% 11/11
31 ARI -31.1% 29 4-12 -29.3% 31/31 3.5% 21/23 1.6% 9/8
32 SF -54.3% 32 3-13 -36.4% 32/32 21.5% 32/31 3.6% 4/4

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 12 Nov 2005

87 comments, Last at 23 Aug 2006, 11:35pm by brandon treat

Comments

1
by Sean (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:09pm

Basically, it's incumbent upon the regular posters to ignore the Atlanta posters and hope they lose interest and go elsewhere. Just don't engage.

2
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:28pm

Thanks for answering my Carolina question in the other thread.

The Panthers have improved in the second half the last two years and are expected to do it again. Is there a reason why this seems to be happening so regularly with one team?

3
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:29pm

#1:

Well, ignore the trolls at least. Just Another Falcons Fan, for instance, has been nothing but reasonable and intelligent in his posts here (even the first few). To use a horrible and meaningless cliche, let's not throw out the babies with the bathwater. (Also, perhaps they'll be mollified at least a bit by a projection that puts them in the playoffs.)

About the projection for the Giants: I've noticed in the past few weeks the offense and special teams DVOA slip a few points: the offense was in the top 5 for a while, and the special teams was over 20 at one point- it makes sense that it would be projected to "regress to the mean", with a freakish two return TDs in Week 1. (I'd like at some point to see the week-by week numbers, to see just how stable this performance is.)

However, I think our biggest reason for hope is actually the defense, which started out horribly but has clawed its way into the top half. What does the projection say about the defense continuing to improve or decline? (DVOA-wise, of course; the tougher second-half schedule would seem to preclude more 120-yard stuffings like we pulled off in the past two weeks) On balance, I think 10-6 makes sense.

A DPAR question I've been nursing for a while: DPAR has Shockey near the top of the league, Manning in the middle, and Plaxico quite low for a #1 reciever. However, Burress is still getting a lot of attention, and from what I've seen of the games, the DPAR seems to be missing something. Shockey seems a bit high, as he makes some good catches but drops a lot of passes, and in my subjective opinion Burress is actually doing a lot for Manning, catching a lot of tough-to-get passes (either misthrown or into coverage). I suspect that because of these tough conditions, his YAC suffers, lowering his DPAR, while by making them, he's propping up a still-mediocre Eli. Thus, Plaxico's numbers suffer for the sake of Eli, and DPAR becomes a hazy proposition. Does this make sense?

4
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:34pm

Also, I remember that there was a post somewhere in that 600-post morass (not going to try and find it now, I think it was in the low 400s) that posited that Atlanta might have sustainably better fumble recovery rates on offense because, with the QB as a runner and not getting out of the way, they have an extra person to field loose balls. It seemed like an intruiging possibility, and one that might be measurable (are fumble recovery rates when the QB is scrambling consistently different? It should be possible to see.)

Just wanted to salvage of the few thoughts worth salvaging from that trainwreck.

5
by LTA (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:35pm

Anyone else remember all the praise heaped on Duane Starks when the Pats first got him? The thinking went, "Well, the Pats traded for him, so he must be a great player weighed down by that horrible Cardinals team! Steal of the offseason!" Ummm, no. This is one of those rare situations where the Cardinals actually fleeced the Pats, perhaps an even greater sign of the apocalypse than Russell and Vinny both Edelsteining FSU over Virginia a few weeks back.

6
by PerlStalker (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:39pm

I agree with the comments about the AFC West. I could easily see Denver and SD figting for the division title in the last game of the season.

7
by thad (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:42pm

re 5
I definately thought that was a great pickup. I live in DC so i saw him play a lot with thr Ravens. I was always impressed with Starks and McCallister. I never really saw him with the Cardinals but man I never thought it would go so poorly with the Pats

8
by Countertorque (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:45pm

It's so weird to see someone list the Steelers as a team with a strong TE.

9
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:55pm

Does anyone have thoughts on why Starks was so bad? My own opinion is that he's a player who always relied heavily on pure speed, and at age 31 he just doesn't have it anymore. I didn't think very highly of him the couple of times I saw him with the Cardinals, but I have to admit that when the Patriots signed him, I just assumed I was wrong in my assessment because the Patriots had such a great track record.

10
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 4:01pm

Perhaps SD passes better before 3rd down because they can play fake to LDT?

It will be interesting to watch the spoilers (Miami, Cleveland, )

I wouldn't consider Vikings over Rams an upset... are they really so far apart?

Will the Colts rest their starters if hey clinch early and are undefeated?

Thanks for all the work that goes into these stats and articles... maybe you should post preseason predictions article again?

11
by Sean (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 4:21pm

A few random notes on the predictions-

-I'm a bit surprised to see Dallas come out third (albeit a close third) in the NFC East race. They've looked like the most complete and dangerous team out of the four, and if they can somehow stabilize at kicker-a big if-I would lean towards their winning the NFC altogether.

-Count me among those who don't believe the Giants are that good. It's not a knock on Eli, who has been a bit erratic but more than good enough when it counts. Rather, that defense is just too big a matchup problem. The linebackers are terrible, and the secondary isn't that good, either.

12
by admin :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 4:28pm

Aaron here. I really am going to try to get up a mailbag to answer some of the many questions posed here and in e-mails. I'll talk about this in the mailbag, but we hit a tipping point in the last couple weeks where I simply can't respond to everything anymore, or even most things. I hate not answering e-mails but I'm stuck at this point.

Quickly on Plaxico, remember that the ratings for receivers take into account incompletes and I think that it is likely Plaxico has a low catch percentage because teams are paying such close attention to him, not that teams are mistakenly paying close attention to him due to his low catch percentage. As we've said before, even our stats which attempt to adjust for context have to be seen in context. It's this kind of thing that makes the dominant number one receivers like Steve Smith (and last year Joe Horn and Muhsin Muhammad) that much more impressive.

I actually did start looking into that fumble/scrambling QB question but may wait on answering it until the Atlanta people go away and we can look at it like adults.

13
by JonL (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 5:03pm

Nice article, but I have one minor quibble: the goat entrails I used before the season did, in fact, accurately predict the NFC East as it stands now.

14
by Vince (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 5:05pm

One quick note about the "Atlanta fans" who ruined the last thread: Really, it's two guys (unless it's multiple people sharing a nickname, which is possible). But Atlanta fans like JAFF and myself are, well, cool.

15
by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 5:07pm

The reason Starks and a buttload of other players have been released by the Cardinals under Green is constant injuries and poor work ethic. This would be apparent if "...he must be a great player weighed down by that horrible Cardinals team!" weren't the prevailing attitude.

Constant injuries and a lackadaisical attitude developed from 8 straight years of having a "players coach" in the form of Tobin and McGinnis. Veterans didn't appreciate actually having to work for their starting jobs when Green came in and a bunch of chronically injured guys who were always given their jobs by a friendly coaching staff suddenly had to fight for their jobs and most didn't like it. Let's see. Dexter Jackson, Duane Starks, Pete Kendall, LJ Shelton, and Raynoch Thompson off the top of my head. Vanden Bosch had a hard work ethic but he was always injured and the Cards had spent a lot of money on the DE position so he had to be let go. Note the one guy with the work ethic is now producing somewhere else, what are the rest doing? Sucking or injured.

Green needs to purge the roster from the old coaching staff and instill his work ethic and conditioning. Which is why the prediction of the Cardinals leap forward was too early.

16
by Mike Singleton (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 5:13pm

While it's nice to know that Atlanta is not projected to win its division, the fact that they are projected to end their ridiculous streak of never having consecutive winning seasons saddens me. It is one of the few great streaks in sports and even more impressive than the Bucs inability to return kickoffs for touchdowns, especially when you consider they have had good success in individual seasons.

17
by admin :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 5:46pm

Ah, Vince, you didn't see the stuff we deleted last night. But you are correct, you and JAFF are cool. And it's not like we have anything against the Falcons themselves -- it's really hard to have anything against Warrick Dunn given that he's probably the biggest mensch in the entire NFL.

18
by B (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 6:07pm

Jerry P: I have lots of respect for Green as a coach, but I've always thought of him as a "Player's Coach." I'm glad to hear he's getting rid of the poor work-ethic players, though, but it's a long road to recovery.

19
by noahpoah (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 6:30pm

...it’s really hard to have anything against Warrick Dunn given that he’s probably the biggest mensch in the entire NFL.

Oh, so now you hate the Steelers? I thought Hines Ward was Mr. Hard Working Nice Guy.

Unfortunately, ChrisFromNJ (#3), the bad ATL fans will probably not be mollified by a projection that puts them in the playoffs as a wildcard (the horror!). Especially since so many of the complaints in the thread-that-should-not-have-been were concerned with MV's unquantifiable, unmeasurable effect on the game.

Given this and the fact that he has given Carolina fits the last few times they've played, I can see some of the ATL trolls being very upset by this new slight at the hands of the FootballOutsiders' evil statistical projection system.

Aaron, nice column, as usual. Now that I've been reading FO for so long, it's kind of amazing to think how unsophisticated much football analysis is. I don't know that I've ever heard anyone other than a footballoutsider discuss a statistic as an indicator of second-half (or season-to-season) decline/improvement.

A technical question: maybe I missed it in the write-up on FOXSports, but did you run multiple 'trials' for the mid-season projections? That's what you did for the pre-season projections, right? Just curious about the mechanics of making mid-season picks based on DVOA...

20
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 6:40pm

The Panthers have improved in the second half the last two years and are expected to do it again. Is there a reason why this seems to be happening so regularly with one team?

one thing I noticed when Belichick was coaching the Browns was that they ALWAYS did much better in the first halves of seasons, then collapsed.

In the 5 years he was there the team was 23-17 in the first halves and 13-27 in the second halves.

I figgered this must have something to do with coaching style, tiring the team out, etc.

Guess what--it was ENTIRELY an illusion created by strength of schedule. Every year, purely by coincidence, the team played a MUCH tougher schedule in the second 8 games.

21
by Sean (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 6:55pm

Re 14- Duly noted. There were only one or two posters in particular that I was making reference to. No need for me to smear all Falcons fans with the same brush.

While I'm sure that there are no indicators that the Jets performance is going to get any better, I'm not totally sold on it. This is not to say that Brooks Bollinger gets my pulse racing, because he most certainly does not. Rather, I think there is a decent chance that the play of the offensive line improves over the second half of the season, and it was the OL play that really precipitated the entire collapse of the team. Adrian Jones had an uneven start to the season, but he's settling down at LT and has been sold the last few games. Fabini has been playing hurt, so he's either going to heal up or not, but at the very least, he at least has protection from the tight end now. Kendall had a disaster of a first game at center against Atlanta, but figures to get better with more reps. Last week was the first time that the Jets had the same five starters in back-to-back games, and it coincided with the offense's best performance of the season. I'm not predicting that the Jets will definitely improve- they lost Chris Baker, who has been a terrific blocker, and they seem to be adding 2-3 players to IR every week- but if they do improve, it will probably be a result of a stabilized OL that opens up the run game and allows the Jets to attack vertically a little more. It wouldn't surprise me if Curtis Martin had a sharp upward trend on his production over the second half of the season.

On the other hand, I'm sitting here watching Matt Leinart and wondering if maybe the Jets shouldn't have fan appreciation day where guys from the stands get to fill out the OL from here on out...

22
by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 7:00pm

Well, the problem with Duane Starks is that he was never really that good. He was an okay number 2 CB for the Ravens, than was bad for the Cardinals for a couple of years, and now has been horrible for the Pats.

It's a lot easier to look good when just about every other starting defensive player is pro-bowl caliber. Everything was set up perfectly for Starks to suceed in Baltimore, and he was an OK cornerback. Once he slowed down a little, and didn't have the same supporting cast, it became more obvious he just isn't that good.

23
by Just Another Falcon Fan (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 7:22pm

Oh, lord, my ears are burning! I don't think anyone has ever called me "cool" before.

Anyhow, I can't argue with the NFC South projection. Essentially, it boils down to whether or not Dehomme to Smith can be shut down and whether Vick dons his Panther-proof jersey for those two games.

It's the NFC East that I would quibble about. My gut tells me that none of the non-Philly teams are really that good and I wouldn't be surprised to see Philly hang around somehow. Beating Dallas and Washington at home and sweeping the Giants doesn't seem out of the question.

If Griese hadn't gone down, I would be tempted to say that there would be 3 playoff teams from the NFC South.

24
by Aaron (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 7:23pm

Re: 19, no, no multiple trials on this one. With less time, I simply used the mean projections.

25
by Kevin Pelton (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 7:35pm

Ah, I love Seahawks history.

All the numbers are favorable, and still I know I'm not alone in sitting here nervously and waiting for everything to collapse in a horrible fashion. One of the papers even had a feature about it the other day.

26
by Mike Singleton (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 8:01pm

You know, there's something that really bothers me about the whole "The Panthers can't beat Vick" thing. Yes, the Falcons owned the Panthers in 2002 more than I would like to remember, but since then Vick has not been very good in his wins over them. We all remember his run on 4th and goal but how quickly we forget his two intereptions in Panther territory and his fumble on the same scoring series that was recovered by Michael Jenkins for a 7 yard gain. In 2003 and 2004 the Falcons won overtime games against the Panthers due to interceptions thrown by Delhomme in the extra period. In both games, Vick had costly turnovers that allowed the Panthers back in the game. In 2003 it was his ill-advised deep pass when the Falcons only needed a few yards for the game winning FG. It was picked off and the Falcons needed OT to win. In 2004 it was Vick's fumble that was returned by Peppers for the score, and as I mentioned before, Vick tried to give it away with two interceptions in Panther territory and a fumble late in the game as well.

Simply put, the Falcons have owned the Panthers since 2002, but the fact that Carolina lone win since then came when Vick did not play does not mean that Vick has owned the Panthers.

27
by JonL (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 8:13pm

A few questions, one related to this article and one not (and I apologize if it seems like thread hijack)...

The comments in the article for the Giants say that they can't keep up their level of special teams play, but what about Buffalo? Most of their ST value seems to come from their kickoff returns. Is that sustainable (or projected to be sustainable)?

Also, from the game previews, does anyone else see a parallel between the Steve Smith situation (and possibly Moss in Washington) and baseball pitching 6-7 years or so ago? By that I mean, smallish pitchers who didn't throw 97 mph but made a lot of outs were undervalued, but that's changed as teams are looking at different statistics. If there is a parallel, what would be some things teams need to look for in properly valuing receivers? DPAR and DVOA, sure, but what else? Catch %? Is there any evidence that teams are ignoring certian aspects of the position?

28
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 8:38pm

JonL, you raise a really interesting point. I don't know a lot about how baseball players are valued, but I generally think in all sports there are certain traits that scouts put too much emphasis on, and therefore good athletes who don't have those traits can be good bargains. I think it's probably true of height for both quarterbacks and receivers (and probably much more so in basketball). It might be true of linebackers, too. I remember hearing a lot of people say Zach Thomas and Chris Spielman were too short to play in the NFL, even though I see no reason that a linebacker needs to be tall. This is just a guess, but I think receivers who get a lot of yards after the catch in college might do it in the NFL, too. That's certainly the case for Smith.

29
by B (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 8:41pm

The Giants special teams projection is based on the idea that if they continue to play at this level, they would have the highest special teams total in 7 years. That, plus the fact that special teams tend to decline in the second half of the season, with increased weather effects becoming a problem. But the Giants special teams comes mostly from kick/punt returns, and I don't know if those decline as much as fieldgoal/kicks do. I'd like to see the breakdown of the Bills return totals from last year and compare it to the giants return totals so far this year. That might give us an indication of what will happen to the Giants.

30
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 8:59pm

So, DVOA projects the Steelers as the #6 seed in the AFC? Awesome! That means the Steelers make the superbowl, since they never lose on the road! :)

31
by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 9:03pm

B: Which is why I'm confused with PIT's ST rating going UP. Are we just going to assume that the kickoffs are going to get better? Because that really is a concern, and with the winter plus Heinz field, it's weird to see that projected. Perhaps they just severely underperformed in the first half. I can't think right now, I caught a pass with my face in my team's loss in the leage semifinal. :/

32
by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 9:06pm

#30: either second or third, depending on how quickly the goat dies, since they and DEN finish with the same record, and SEA and CAR happen to be in the not-AFC. Don't break out the champagne just yet.

33
by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 9:11pm

Yeah, yeah, I can't read. I get it. Nevermind. I'm blaming my head.

34
by tunesmith (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 10:11pm

I wonder if someone smarter than me can opine about if Denver actually matches up better with Indianapolis this year, based on DVOA stats. Still seems pretty darn possible that Denver could visit them again.

35
by MJK (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 10:23pm

I've been throwing around my theories about why Starks has apparently sucked so much this year on a couple of recent message boards, so apologies if you've heard me say this before.

I see essentially three reasons:

1). As somone else alluded, he is a player that relied on his speed. Not only is he aging, but he has been playing hurt the whole season. Remember, he's appeared on the injury reports in most games, but has still started because he was the healthiest corner (after Asante Samuel, but you need two corners) left on the roster after Chad Scott and Randal Gay got injured. I would imagine that playing corner is sufficiently challenging enough so that if an injury takes away your best physical ability (i.e. speed), it's really hard to learn to adjust your play style to still be decent in a few weeks. I.e. a Starks who is pysically at 80% is only able to play corner at 40%, if that makes sense.

2). As someone else mentioned, the surrounding talent has been lacking. The Pats have had problems across the board--no pass rush (due to Seymour's injury and not having someone to spell Wilfork), an OLB with a broken hand that impairs his rushing ability, ILB's that can't seem to tackle or be in the correct position, no healthy backup corners to spell the starters, and rotating rookies at strong safety. I doubt even a Champ Bailey or a younger Ty Law would excel on the Pats defense this year (although the would be an improvement...)

3). I've come to this conclusion more and more. Starks is the wrong type of corner for the Pats defensive style. They rely on having physical corners to bump the recievers off their routes, not speed corners to cover them tight unmolested. Gay and Law and Samuel and even Earthwind Moreland would play up close and mess with the reciever most of the time, but Starks alwyas seems to leave an eight yard cushion and then get burned by a crossing route.

36
by MJK (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 10:30pm

This is purely my subjective opion, but for what it's worth, I think Denver has had the singularly bad luck of not matching up well against Indy the past few years, even when they do field a better rounded and hence apparently better complete team. I've only watched a few pieces of Denver and Indy games this year (plus the full games when they played the Pats), but it seems like Devner's pass offense relies on Plummer's scrambling ability to buy time while the recievers run crossing routes in the middle of the field to get open. In the run game, the Denver RB's rely on making the correct cutback and outrunning the linebackers, assisted by the cut blocking of their line. But Indy's defense is built around agressive rushing lineman and fast linebackers, which seem to me to exactly counter Denver's offensive strengths. On the other side of the ball, Denver's defense seems to be aggressive, but I think Manning and co excel against aggressive defenses. So my gut says that Denver won't beat Indy again this year. Of course, I kind of like denver so I'm hoping they do.

37
by PerlStalker (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 10:54pm

Yeah, but the same Denver team the got their head handed to them in the playoffs two years ago, beat the tar out of Indy a few weeks before when Clinton Portis scored 5 TDs or something stupid like that. They completely shut down Indy in that game. Of course, they completely collapsed in the playoffs. I don't think Denver could compete with Indy this year, but if it gets into a shootout, Denver gets their head handed to them again. Then again, I said the same thing before the Pats game too. *shrug*

38
by PerlStalker (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 11:11pm

That should be "I think Denver could compete" not "I don't think..." Then again, perhaps I just Don't Think. ;-)

39
by JonL (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 11:16pm

MDS:

forgive my ignorance, but is YAC a stat that is more likely to carry over from college to the pros? It seems to me that gaining yards after the catch relies on things out of the receiver's control, like downfield blocking or the other defenders' position on the field. Then again, I could be wrong, because it certainly does take some ability to not get tackled.

One potential problem with catch %, as I see it, is that there are times when a ball isn't catchable because of how it's thrown. Would a better stat be [balls caught/chances - "uncatchable balls"]? (another way of stating this would be [catches/catches + drops + passes defended (defined as either batted away or INT)])

I realize that FO gives a caveat to catch % that dropped balls aren't identified in available play by plays, but it seems like something that could be recorded by anyone watching tape of the game, including (and especially) the teams themselves.

40
by Michael David Smith :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 12:36am

That's just my hunch about YAC carrying over. I also have a hunch that players like Smith, who are good kick returners, are also good at running after the catch. But again, I know of no definitive stats that would prove it.

41
by B (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 1:01am

My thoughts on Denver vs Indy is that stopping Indy's offense has little to do with how good your corners are. Thier receivers are good enough and Manning is smart enough that as long as Manning has time to throw, he'll find the open guy. The secret to beating the Colts is you need to get pressure on Manning early. That's how the Patriots were able to do it last year, and that's why Denver brought in the Browns D-Line. My observations of Denver's front 4 is they're good, but they tire out towards the end of the game. So if Denver's offense can stay on the field for long periods of time and the defense can pressure Manning, they should be able to win.

42
by ian (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 2:07am

Re: #25 Oh yeah, I think personally I've subconsciously decided that they are only for real if they make it to 9-2. If they win out against everyone but Indy and the Giants, I'll have a hard time not thinking they are the Same o'l Seahawks and expect them to lose their first playoff game.

As I read that, it seems absurd - I mean I just said that unless my team finishes the season 14-2, I expect them to lose the first game in the playoffs, which they might actually be hosting, after the bye, having finished the regular season with the NFL's nuber one offense and/or the NFL rushing leader. Absurd, but completely true.

I guess if anyone who isn't a Seahawks fan wants to understand what not winning a playoff game for 21 years but not being really bad, just mediocre - always being a game or two from .500 ball - just needs to read that last paragraph.

43
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 2:08am

The two keys to controlling the Colts offense are to keep the stretch handoff in check and to play physical with their WRs to throw off timing.

The stretch handoff is and has been the bread and butter of the Colts Offense for years. Peyton Manning lives off of the play action from it. Since its a play-action that takes longer then a simple turn around and drop back, it allows the WRs to get further downfield. The Patriots traditionally have beaten Manning by shutting down Edge on the stretch hand-off, pulling back in zone, and letting Manning grow frustrated as nothing was happening.

Manning is tough to pressure and he has good WRs. However, he DOES get frustrated and the wear of playing with a bad defense for so long is evident. I think thats the biggest difference between this years and last years Manning - This years Manning realizes that if they don't score on every series, its not the end of the world. Last years seemed to think that he had to carry the team and if he failed to score consistantly, they were done for (Which was mostly true.)

This years Colts is a much more solid one then last years. Sure Manning isn't gonig to pass for 40+ TDs this year, but the team also isn't being put into the situation where they'll need 40+ TDs to make the playoffs.

44
by Zach (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:39am

Boy ian I feel you about the Seahawks. I mean, I know it might be worse to have been consistantly bad over the last 10 years, but there's nothing worse in sports than mediocrity. You're never bad enough to get the top talent in the draft, but you're never good enough to do anything.

The pain of Seattle fans (not just Seahawks fans) may not get the attention of, say, Philly fans, but boy we've seen a lot of disappointment over the years.

45
by J-Diddy (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 4:30am

re:#21 (and I think the guys in the stands would outperform the Jets o-line)

You gave me a great idea on how to sell some extra tickets in Arizona *or any market that can't sell out their home games*

Since it would be against NFL rules to have a guy out of the stands actually "suit up" with the team. What if the team had a drawing at halftime, and one lucky fan got to sit on the sidelines and actually call the first play of the second half (a la Charlie Weis with the kids dying wish).

Tell me this wouldn't sell a few extra tickets. Heck, I would go just for the chance to say I did something like that... and I have never been to an NFL game live.

46
by DMP (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 5:16am

#44 Zach:
Try being a Lions fan, have your team be mediocre for a decade, then being handed to guy who was going to learn on the job, finally implode and get those high draft picks, only to have them all crap out in one way or another with the continued lack of direction and organization built around them, and face the prospect of going for another round of rebuilding with the previous build never built. Meanwhile Cincy has gone from good to bad to good, Tampa won a Super Bowl, and Seattle spearheaded a musical revolution.

#3 ChrisFromNJ:
I agree with you that Plax being 6'5" gives Eli an excellent bail-out option. But it seems to me that a lot of times Plax ends up having to make difficult catches because he is not exactly where he needs to be. He is not very quick changing directions, and I think this always gave him trouble making his breaks, adjusting to throws, etc. So he ends up having to catch the ball in sorts of weird angles because he can't turn his body fast enough, making many crazy catches (but one wouldn't call them "sweet" because of his lack of grace), but also dropping or not getting to a bunch of playable balls. So I don't think DVOA lies on this one. This was always my feeling about him since my days at MSU watching him play there. So I don't say this to rag on him, the man has a lifetime pass from me for his 255 yards against Michigan in '99 (the two UM QBs that afternoon: Tom Brady and everyone's darling, Drew Henson).

I think this might go to the discussion of smaller WRs too. Maybe we are seeing that smaller WRs that are quicker at changing directions, getting open, catching higher % of what is thrown their way, running crisper routes than some of the lumbering (relatively speaking) man-giants like Plax, Reggie Williams, and Mike Williams.

47
by putnamp (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 8:01am

Guys, I didn't realize there were this many Seattle fans actually reading this site, but what I decided to do long ago was to just pretend that the Seahawks were playing somewhere else, and they actually shipped in a new team this year.

The policy has been to not talk about homefield advantage, or playoff games, or next week's game - just talk about the games that have been played, or the schedule, or other non-consequential stuff that won't jinx this thing. I'm up for revising the policy of course, but I just wanted to let you know where I'm at with this one...

48
by clonmullin (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 9:26am

Whilst I feel for Detroit & Seattle fans ye know nothing of pain .... here in Ireland we have our own National brand of football and my team ( county ) is viewed as a premier team. It's just they haven't won the Championship since 1928 - now THAT'S pain

49
by burnplant (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 1:10pm

Another quiet Seattle fan here.

I find myself saying, "okay, if they win this week, that'll really prove something" every week! And I don't know when it will stop, but it's probably that I won't get jazzed until a playoff win.

Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying the season, but that playoff win is always hanging out there...

50
by james (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 1:59pm

Seattle Fans,

Don't worry about jinxing yourself. Quietly Seattle is playing the best ball this side of Indy and are listed at 20 to 1 to win the superbowl right now. Yes I took that bet.

Also, every dumb ex player on tv/radio has "no respect" for what Seattle is doing. They aren't listed in anyone's top 3 that I've heard/seen. Instead every talking head says Carolina/Dallas/Atlanta in some order.

The Giants and Seattle are getting no respect and they way they are playing ball right now they seem destined to play in the NFC championship.

51
by tom (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:13pm

I think the Giants are doing ok for respect, to be honest. I keep seeing pundits talking about the possibility of a Manning-Manning Superbowl, though usually adding the caveat of 'of course, any talk of that may be premature' straight before or after. I think that if the NFC East didn't have so much else going on in it, then they'd be right up there in terms of media attention. I do agree that Seattle's being overlooked, though...

52
by Mike Singleton (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:19pm

Eli Manning doesn't impress me. The Giants haven't been very good on the road and with 9 home games they could easily win the East. I don't think they'll finish with a good enough record to earn a bye though, and the first team they play on the road in the playoffs should knock them out.

Eli might be getting better but he isn't anywhere near the level some people are putting him at. His team is scoring a lot of points but how much of that is really him?

53
by Kevin Pelton (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 10:43pm

What a fun meeting of the Seahawks Support Group.

I'm not much for debating who has it worse, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more neurotic group of NFL fans than those in Seattle. After Alexander's TD with a little over a minute left, I started thinking maybe he should have just gone done so the Hawks could kneel out the game, because what if St. Louis scored a TD and got the onside kick and ... .

I'm already worrying about the 49ers.

54
by mshray63 (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 11:05pm

Wow, like Putnamp I had no idea we had that many 'Hawks fans around here. I had posted several days ago, based solely on the remaining schedule & the DVOA of the teams at the time that we could potentially see an awful lot of "Super Bowl Preview" hype from CBS on Christmas Eve when the Colts. But I felt compelled to add I myself didn't expect a Super Bowl berth & am prepared to be happy with just a single playoff win.

55
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 12:47am

#37 Even worse, if I remember correctly, it was Quentin Griffin that torched the Colts that game. History, shmistory. (Of course a Colts fan would say that after last Monday night.) Each year teams are different, and I don't believe that just because teams have historically done well versus certain other teams, that it will carry over. Seattle turned the tables on St. Louis this year, and Carolina will do the same to Atlanta. There's no reason Denver couldn't beat Indy. Denver is a good team and the Colts still have holes on D and Special (Ed) Teams.

56
by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 1:07am

Excuse me while I very quietly thump my chest:

I just asked a random number generator what the order of finish would be in this horrible division. Its answer was:

1. CHI
2. MIN
3. DET
4. GB

I’m guessing that will do better than just about 50% of all y’all’s prognostications, professional or otherwise.
:: TomC — 6/15/2005 @ 1:58 pm

I have the best random number generator in the world!

(Click my name if you think I'm lying).

57
by Joon (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 1:10am

Re: #55

i'm not sure whether it was griffin that torched the colts, but portis's 5 TD game that year came against the chiefs, so you may be right. but, wasn't indy resting their regulars when they met in week 16 or 17? so nobody was particularly convinced when denver thumped them.

on an unrelated note, it looks like the giants' special teams rating is about to come crashing down to earth. what a crazy way to lose--the opponents generate zero offense but score TDs on a punt, kickoff and interception return.

58
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 1:46am

#57 Doing a quick search, I found this article. It mentions that it was indeed Griffin that ran all over Indy. I don't see a mention of Indy resting starters...nor do I remember that happening. (But I could be wrong.)

Bold prediction: the Fox playoff previews this year will be MUCH better than this one from 2003.

59
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 3:19am

Probably not the place to say it, but I have never rooted so hard for Green Bay in my life as I did today. Justice is rarely so poetic.

60
by Flux (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 3:36am

As Sean said in #59.... that outta shut up some of those dirty bird fans, eh?

61
by Chris Owen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 4:01am

Also a nice prediction on Eli's interceptions.

62
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 4:42am

Re #34: Denver basically designated Lenny Walls to be released last week. That's all you need to know. I think it's abundantly clear that they match up much better against Indy this season when their biggest weakness the last two times (depth in the secondary) has now become such a strength that they can release a guy midseason who opened the seasons as a starter.

I actually think Denver has had a lot of horrible luck against Indy in the playoffs. Denver absolutely humiliated Indy in the regular season two years ago, holding a 3:1 time of possession advantage and holding Indy to the lowest offensive output since Manning was a rookie. HOWEVER, during that game, they lost Nick Ferguson (their safety) for the season, and Kelly Herndon (their CB) broke his hand. When they went into Indy for round two, they just didn't have the horses in the secondary to hold up. Again, last season, going into Indy for the playoffs, they had two CBs lost for the season in Middlebrooks and Walls, and Indy exploited the quarter-turned-nickle CB mercilessly. It also hurt having Trevor Pryce out and no pass-rush. Denver's Defense is a lot better suited for Indy this season, with great depth in the secondary (especially with Bailey coming back), and even more importantly (as NE has demonstrated), great depth and the ability to create pressure with just the D-line. Those Browns will probably be the biggest difference in a Denver/Indy matchup.

Re #36: Actually, aggressive defensive lines and LBs play RIGHT into Denver's hands on offense. Plummer is the second best play-action QB in the entire NFL, behind only Manning. Aggressive defenses swallow his fakes whole and are so far out of position that they're just begging to get gashed. Remember, the only teams that have ever made Quentin Griffin look good are Kansas City (aggressive defense under Gunther Cunningham) and Indy.

Re #37: I think Denver could handle a shootout with Indy. Denver doesn't turn the ball over, and is one of the elite offenses in the NFL (DVOA projects them to #1 over the last half of the season). With Indy, against solid offenses, every drive either ends in a score or a turnover, and Denver just doesn't turn it over much this season.

Re #41: You think they tire out quickly? That's a surprising conclusion to reach. I feel exactly the opposite- Denver's D-line is the freshest in the entire league. Why? They have an 8-man rotation. The 8th man in the rotation was actually perhaps the most solid starter on the entire line last season (Marco Coleman). Denver actually implemented a system against Philly where no defensive lineman played more than 4 consecutive snaps for the entire game. I think it's starting to become apparent now, as other lines tire out while Denver's stays fresh, and I think the difference will get even more pronounced in a couple of weeks when the rest of the league starts running on fumes but Denver's RBs and DLs are all nice and fresh.

Re #57: Two seasons ago, Indy was NOT resting their starters. They were EXTREMELY motivated that game, since they were actually playing for a first-round bye (Indy, KC, and NE were in a dogfight for the two byes). And Denver went in and HUMILIATED them. Indy had about 150 yards of total offense, half of which came on a single completion to Marvin Harrison. I don't think they had a single drive with more than 1 first down the entire game. Their only points came off of an INT return on the first snap of the game. Denver held the ball for 45 minutes to Indy's 15. It was total domination, and EVERYONE was picking Denver to beat Indy again in the playoffs because of it. Also, after that game, people began comparing Quentin Griffin to Barry Sanders. I think we can safely conclude that all such comparisons were a trifle premature.

LAST season, they met in week 17, and Indy rested their starters since the game meant nothing to them and they would be playing Denver the very next week. They basically used the game as a free scouting report on Denver, since Denver had to play their hardest because they needed the win to make the playoffs.

63
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 4:47am

P.S. How about some props for the projections? They predict that NYG can't keep up this torrid special teams pace- NY gives up a punt and kick return for TDs. The projections predict a decline in the NFC East as a whole and Washington loses, too. The projections say Minnesota and Green Bay will win more in the second half, and both start it early with upset wins. The projections say Atlanta really isn't that good, over the loud objections of Atlanta's fans, and sure enough, the Falcons drop one against the woeful 1-7 Green Bay Packers. The projections refuse to jump off of the Tampa Bay bandwagon, and the Bucs beat a quality opponent. Seattle and Carolina prove themselves the class of the NFC, just like the projections say. Basically, every single NFC prediction was validated this week. It's a bit early to be heaping TOO much praise, since 7 weeks remain, but they're certainly off to a very good start.

64
by Meat Lockyard (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 7:58am

Atlanta lost to Green Bay today, in a game DVOA projected to be closer than a casual football fan might have expected. I doubt whether the Atlanta fan silliness will continue this week.

65
by Joon (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 10:27am

Re: #62

thanks for clearing that up. yeah, i must have been confusing their 2003 game with their meeting last season.

66
by Sammy3469 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 11:09am

It was striking just how bad the Giants special teams was in general (i.e. it wasn't just the TDs). Morton had one nice return, but besides that they missed a FG, Pounder was average, and their KO distance was pathetic (Robinson caught his TD on the 14).

At least the game was more exciting than the sleep inducing Jets-Panthers game. The Jets are bad-really bad.

67
by Stagger Lee (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 11:34am

The Jets were down by a touchdown and only 1 touchdown going into the half... not exactly "sleep" inducing. End of game stats were also rather close --but 5 consecutive turnovers will kill you every time. I knew Bollinger would struggle, but I think that game showed us how poor the NFC really is -the Panthers should have dominated. But Steve Smith was held in check, Davis's numbers really were no better than Curtis Martin's... actually, the game was close until the 4th quarter when the Jets self destructed.

68
by Drew (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 11:56am

Re 57 and 58

I was at that game. I got to go to one game all year, and it ended up being that one. Anyway, the Colts were not resting their starters; they just got badly outplayed. It was extremely demoralizing as a Colt fan.

69
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 12:04pm

Re 62: My analysis on Denver's line tiring out is based on the observation that their defensive struggles late in the Philly & New England games, where they had trouble stopping those offense, and it seemed to be caused by a lack of pass rush. Admitedly I haven't been watching any other Denver games too closely, so who knows if my observation is correct or not.

70
by james (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 12:04pm

Guys,

Denver seems destined to be this year's annual unstoppable regular season team with no chance of winning the superbowl.

These guys just aren't making any mistakes. It's plummer so of course that will change. With so many quarterbacks who are better than him in the AFC they don't stand a chance. Right now, you would have to rank him at least 3rd even if you are the most die hard Broncos fan in the world.

On the other hand, in the NFC every qb is shaky. It'd be hard to count any team out because of their qb. I say the best defense wins, which right now seems to be in Seattle or Dallas.

71
by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 12:38pm

james, I'm not sure I follow the logic in that post. On the face of it, you appear to be saying that the team with the best QB in the conference will make it to the Super Bowl, unless every QB in the conference sucks, in which case the team with the best defense will make it.

And one of the two best defenses in the NFC is in Seattle? WTF?

72
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 12:54pm

Re: Starks (way back up there)

I thought MJK's description was pretty good. I also remember reading somewhere a quote from (I thought) an anonymous team insider (BAL or ARI) that Starks got injured at some point and was never as good after that, reverting to a less physical style of play and attempting to rely on speed alone. So as MJK mentioned, that's a mismatch for the Pats and as others have mentioned, speed deteriorates with age.

Re: Projections

So, if I get this straight, the AFC projections are Indy, Cinci, Denver, and the Pats (at 9-7!), while the two wildcard teams are Pittsburgh and Jax (both at 11-5). It's been awhile in the AFC since both wildcard teams were 2 games better than the worst division leader. As Keanu Reeves would say: "whoa."

73
by Dave Glass (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 3:35pm

re: 63

Yes, the system sure pegged the Giants pretty well this weekend. Regression to the mean can be a mean SOB.

74
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 4:55pm

The projection for the team I watch the most, the Vikings, seems pretty good (before yesterday's upset of the Giants, I had their best-case scenario at 7-9), although if their defense's component parts continue to meld better on the road, they have a chance to to improve on that.

The Vikings have been lousy road team for a long, long, time, with the exception of two places, Green Bay and Detroit. Even when Green Bay has had good teams, and Minnesota less good teams, the Vikings have been very competitive at Lambeau, and have won a lot of games in Detroit. Given that the only other remaining road game for the Vikings is on Christmas day (I have a hunch that road teams with a full week to prepare do better than the norm on holiday weeks), against a very bad offensive team, the Ravens, and the Vikings are a much better team offensively at home, a mistake-reduced, Johnson-QBed Minnesota team might do better than expected, given the only projected greatly superior team they play at home is Pittsburgh.

The upshot is that I think that their last game of the year, when the Bears come to the Metrodome, has a reasonable chance to be meaningful, which would be a lot of fun. Given the the Bears are projected at 9-7, and the Vikings at 7-9, this seems a non-fantastic hope. It could come down to the tiebreakers.

Geez, I'll go to great mental lengths to stay interersted, won't I?

75
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 5:15pm

Re #65: Not a problem. Four meetings in just over a year will do that.

Re #69: I felt like Denver was still getting a decent push against New England late, Brady was just eating it alive. Against Philly, Denver's pass-rush problems had nothing to do with the defensive front and everything to do with Philly max-protecting. For a while, it was 9 men blocking 7 blitzers, and then Denver backed off the blitzes and it was 7 men blocking 4 rushers. Not much pressure, no, but they were playing so well that they forced the offense to alter its philosophy and pull off receivers to try and neutralize the D-line.

Good defensive line play isn't always just shown in pressures and sacks and incompletions, but also in how they force the offense to change what it's doing. Denver's D-line clearly changed Philly's offensive gameplan in that game.

Re #70: This season, there are 3 AFC QBs rated higher than Plummer, according to DVOA. Last season, there were 6. The season before, there were 2. The only QB that has been rated higher than Plummer every year since he came to Denver was Peyton Manning. Plummer is +25 in TDs to INTs since coming to Denver.

That said, I have no problem saying he's only the third or fourth best QB in the entire AFC. Of course, of the 3 QBs better than Plummer (Palmer, Manning, Brady), none have as potent of a ground game or as potent of a defense. And none of the 3 are projected to have the best offense in the entire NFL at the end of the season.

And who says the best QBs always win? Pittsburgh made the AFC Championship last season with Big Ben, a rookie, playing like a rookie.

Your claims are absolutely absurd. Denver has one of the top 5 QBs in the entire NFL, and suddenly he's not good enough to win a playoff game?

As for him not making mistakes, and those mistakes being inevitable... you realize that he's not just on a little streak here, right? He just set the FRANCHISE RECORD for most attempts without a turnover. With Collins falling off the map, he's got the best INT percentage in the entire NFL. And it's not a new thing- in 2003, he had 3 INTs in his first game as a Bronco and 5 the rest of the season.

Jake Plummer played poorly in Arizona due to poor surrounding talent. Nobody is arguing this. Just look at what he's done in Denver, though. When the talent is around him, Plummer is one of the 5 best QBs in the entire NFL.

76
by Cubs Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 5:59pm

Whilst I feel for Detroit & Seattle fans ye know nothing of pain …. here in Ireland we have our own National brand of football and my team ( county ) is viewed as a premier team. It’s just they haven’t won the Championship since 1928 - now THAT’S pain.

(shakes head) Amateurs.

77
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 6:57pm

When the talent is around him, Plummer is one of the 5 best QBs in the entire NFL.

While I think that Plummer is having his finest season (by far), I think that (1.)such a statement can be argued of at least 1/3 the QBs in the league (I'm thinking Delhomme, Collins, Hasselback, Eli, Carr, Favre, Bledsoe, Brees, Green, Culpepper, Pennington, McNair, Bulger, McNabb) and (2.) Taking the "When the talent is around him" qualifier out, there's no way, I don't think, one can place Jake in the top 5.

78
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 7:30pm

Since DVOA has been computed (1998), 30 teams have had OFF DVOA of 15%+. All but four made the playoffs (2002 Chiefs, 2004 Chiefs, 1999 Raiders, and 2003 Vikings....no playoffs).

Here, it is projected 7 teams will have an OFF DVOA of 15%+, 5 of those teams are projected to make the playoffs.

First, it indicates an above average year of great offenses.

Second, if you want to make the playoffs, have a great offense.

79
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 7:33pm

ps...

Oddly, KC is projected to have an OFF DVOA of 15%+, but will miss the playoffs...just like in '02 and '04.

80
by jswindle (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 7:58pm

RE-75: Bravo, Kibbles.

Apparently, everyone who doesn't bother actually watching the games have the exact same opinion of Jake: it's only a matter of time. Granted, I don't think it's possible for him to continue at this rate, but he has definitely changed his playing style enough to ensure a solid quarterbacking experience for the rest of the year. This isn't just luck, you can see it in every decision he makes. He's not forcing passes into double-coverage, he's throwing balls away, he's actually scrambling again!

I think it's amusing that everyone keeps subscribing to the same media ramblings that were said at the beginning of the season. Has this site taught you nothing?!? Don't believe the hype. The talking-heads in the studios regurgitate the same theories every year. It's the same case for Seattle...Oh, they have to choke in the playoffs because that's what they always do. If the Patriots have taught us anything these last four years, it's that teams and players can buck a trend at any time. It's foolish to always assume the opposite.

81
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 8:05pm

Re #77: By "the talent", I mean an aging but reliable veteran WR, a young and inconsistant but talented WR, a couple of decent TEs, a great running game, and an offensive line known more for run-blocking than pass-blocking. I'm not saying "Surround Plummer with one of the 5 best offensive casts in the entire NFL and he's a top 5 QB", I'm saying "Surround Plummer with an above average offense and defense and he's a top 5 QB". I don't think the other QBs you listed can make that claim. Heck, Hasselback has MUCH better surrounding offensive talent (Engram, the first down machine. Shaun Alexander. Darrell Jackson. Walter Jones, the best LT in the entire game, leading a very good offensive line). He's currently one place behind Plummer, finished last season one place behind Plummer, and would have finished one place behind Plummer in 2003 if Plummer had played the whole season (Jake was 6th in DVOA, Matt was 7th). From the rest of the list, the only guy who has shown he's on a level with Plummer without one of the three best WRs in the entire NFL is McNabb, in his pre-Owens days.

What I'm saying is if you take Jake Plummer and surround him with average talent in a system designed to play to his strengths, and compare him to every other QB in the NFL with average talent in a system designed to maximize their strengths, I'd say he's one of the 5 best in the NFL. Manning, Brady, and McNabb I put ahead of him without question. After that, I don't think there's a single QB who is inarguably better than Jake the Snake. Culpepper would have been if he hadn't played like a fraud without Moss. Trent Green, possibly, though I'd like to see what he could do without the best O-line in the NFL. Brett Favre? Maybe 5 years ago. Collins? Better offensive talent, worse offensive numbers. Palmer? Possibly, although he really only has 10 good games that we're judging him off of, and he has more talent around him than Plummer- and Cincinatti's offense has been worse than Denver's despite more opportunities off of turnovers and better offensive talent. Big Ben? Doesn't even throw the ball 20 times a game. McNair? Sure, 3 years ago. Bulger? Again, better surrounding talent, worse DVOAs. Delhomme? I'm actually a big fan, so I'll let him in the discussion. Eli? He has even less going for him than Palmer.

So yes, let me put it this way- if every single QB was exactly as good as he is right now, and 28 years old, and every single NFL franchise was starting over from scratch, then yes, I think Plummer would be a top-5 QB, behind Manning, Brady, and McNabb and in a group with Delhomme/Green/Palmer.

82
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 8:19pm

So ... the Lions' offense will improve slightly (after cutting Rogers?), the defense will go down the tubes, and the special teams will continue to be fetid.

(throws up in mouth)

And the reasons I have why this won't happen are ... um ...

Yeah.

But in a sense, we do have it a little better than Seahawks fans. We've been to a conference championship game more recently. Then again, they've actually played three playoff games in one season. We've never done that.

I think it's interesting to see how many of the top projected teams have average or below-average special teams. Is this just because the Eagles have struggles overall and on ST this season? (looks) Guess not. It seems like in every other season, at least a couple of top-5 teams have good ST. This season, it's only the Giants, and they're projected to fall.

83
by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 9:01pm

Kibbles,
wow, you really know Denver and you made some excellent points.
I certainly do not wtch them as often as you. I was wondering something,
In the playoffs last year it seemed Denver blitzed a lot and just got wailed on.
so a) do they stll blitz a lot?
b) are they any good at it?
c) I never think of Denver as a big blitzing team during the year but i see maybe 6 games, are they in general a big blitzing team?
thanks.

84
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 4:41am

Re #83: Denver blitzed Manning last season because they HAD to. Manning's offensive line is one of the best in the league. He's nearly impossible to take down (he was the least sacked QB in the NFL last season, and he's the least sacked QB this season, as well). In addition, Denver's D-line last season was a definite weak link. It couldn't create ANY consistant pressure all season. Reggie Hayward had around 10 sacks, and 3 of them came against a Tennessee team so injury-riddled they couldn't even activate 45 players for that game. The rest of the line was just lost. Normally, Trevor Pryce commands double teams and frees up the rest of the line to make plays. With Pryce out all season, offenses wouldn't double-team anyone, since they could negate everyone one-on-one. Denver was FORCED to blitz, because otherwise QBs would sit back in the pocket for days and just methodically pick them apart. This season, I don't think Denver has to blitz. Everyone cracked jokes about Denver acquiring the Cleveland Browns, but it was clear the whole time that Denver's D-line had been upgraded tremendously. Why was it so clear? Well, last season, Marco Coleman was clearly the second best DL on the team. This season, he's the #8 man in the rotation and has been inactive almost every single week this season. Trevor Pryce is back, Gerard Warren, Courtney Brown, Michael Myers, Ebenezer Ekuban, and John Engelberger were all acquired, and Demetrin Veil has finally emerged as a starter-caliber player. They haven't been getting a ton of sacks, but if you ask anyone in the league who has been watching them, they have been creating TREMENDOUS pressure. Trevor Pryce and Gerard Warren, in particular, have been insanely disruptive. There are times when they will BOTH command double-teams. I remember a play against Kansas City where the Broncos lined Pryce and Warren up at DT and Brown up at DE, and the Chiefs double-teamed all 3 of them, leaving 7 guys blocking 4. Of course, none of them got anywhere near Trent Green, but they didn't have to. Just by being on the field lined up like that, they changed the play. Suddenly, Green only had 3 men running routes against 7 men in coverage.

As to whether the Broncos are a blitzing team... for the past two seasons, they have been out of necessity. Again, they needed to blitz to create pressure, and with the fastest LB trio in the NFL, they had a lot of weapons to bring. D.J. Williams and Al Wilson were both true terrors as blitzers in college, and Ian Gold has been a playmaker since day 1 in the NFL. This season, they opened up against Miami and the first half against SD with a lot of "Zone Blitzes", which really aren't blitzes at all. They're when the defense tries to get cute. A lineman will rush the QB, while a DL will drop back into coverage, so you're still only bringing 4 guys. It's designed to confuse offenses, but the downside is it leaves DEs and DTs in coverage, which is a mismatch against anyone. Since the second half against SD, Denver's changed it's MO and is now a flat-out blitzing team. A HEAVY blitzing team. Sometimes the gameplan will call for a basic 4-man passrush, and they won't blitz much, but when they blitz, they really bring it. To be honest, they're possibly the biggest blitzing team in the NFL outside of the state of Pennsylvania. And at times they've made a case for being a bigger blitzing team than even Pittsburgh or Philly. Against Philadelphia, for instance, Denver opened up the game by calling a 9-man blitz for the first 3 snaps (all incompletions). That's not a typo. They blitzed NINE defenders (4 DLs, 3 LBs, and 2 members of the secondary, be they CBs or Safeties). Three times. I'd never seen ONE 9-man blitz, let alone 3 in a row. And they harrassed McNabb into 0 completions on 14 attempts, with an INT for good measure.

A lot of the reason why they build such huge leads in the first place is the blitz. Opposing QBs take FOREVER to find a rhythm against Denver because they rarely have more than 2 seconds to throw. They open with a lot of incompletions. Then, once they start to get into a groove, it's easier to burn a Denver secondary with no help forthcoming. Washington put up good offensive numbers against Denver by max-protecting and then running 2-man routes. Philly took it a step further, keeping back 8 and only running 1-man routes at times during their comeback. Denver responded by stopping the blitz, just rushing 4, and keeping 7 guys back to cover that one man running a route, and Denver quickly pulled away again.

So anyway, if you're looking for the short answers...

a) Yes, they still blitz a lot, but by choice instead of by necessity, which makes it more effective.
b) Yes, they're incredibly good at it- and even more, they're good at getting a passrush even when they DON'T blitz, which means other teams can't just plan for the blitz and neutralize it.
c) Yes, they're possibly the biggest-blitzing team in the entire NFL, which partially explains why they open up such huge leads early and have to hold on sometimes late.
d) To answer your unasked question, I seriously doubt they blitz Manning if they meet in the playoffs. Manning has a habit of eating the blitz alive, and Denver has the horses on the defensive line to create pressure without it.

85
by NikkiG (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 4:25pm

In regards to the indy-denver possiblity I think you are completely underestimating the Colts. Yes, the Colts have embarrassed the Broncos the past two years, and the main reason being is PREPARATION!! Manning prepares mentally like no other QB in the league and it shows.

86
by Topas (not verified) :: Wed, 11/16/2005 - 4:30pm

Wow. Just read your projections. I am a Buffalo fan and enjoy your positive projection, a big incrase on offense and defense. However I do not think that will happen, especially considering their remaining schedule. I know DVOA adjusts for strength of schedule, but I think it still fares better in terms of DVOA and generall to win against bad teams then to lose to good teams. On what assumtions do you base your projections?
*Sorry probably that is also written in the text, did not read everything*

87
by brandon treat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/23/2006 - 11:35pm

I think dallas is going to do a lot better this year even with there tough up comeing season. They dont have as meny rookies starting and we have T.O. although there are alot of what if i think it will all work out