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11 Aug 2005

2005 Over-Unders: South Divisions

by Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal

We wrap up the pre-season tour of the NFL with the South. For the rest of the league's over/unders, visit the East, West and North. Lines come from VegasInsider.com.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

O/U: 11
2004 Record: 12-4
2005 Home Opponents: JAC, CLE, STL, HOU, PIT, TEN, SD, ARI
2005 Road Opponents: BAL, TEN, SF, HOU, NE, CIN, JAC, SEA

Al: I like this team for another 12 wins. Road games against Baltimore, New England, and Seattle will be tough. At home, there's no one on the schedule this team shouldn't beat. On offense, yeah, they're good on offense. No one mentions the Colt line as one of the best in the league, yet last year they were #1 in adjusted line yards and #2 in adjusted sack rate. They were just as good in 2003, finishing #7 in adjusted line yards and #2 in adjusted sack rate. The losses of tight end Marcus Pollard and guard Rick DeMulling won't be enough to stop this team from having one of the best offenses in football yet again.

The big question for the Colts, as always, is their defense. The only thing the Indianapolis defense did well last season is rush the passer. Everywhere else they were below average, especially at linebacker. Only the Rams, Chiefs, and Packers were worse at defending passes to running backs. The Colts were also below average at stopping runs of ten yards or more. With so much money invested in skill position players on offense, it's understandable that the Colts didn't go out and sign one of the available free agent linebackers. Whether that is the correct allocation of their resources, however, still remains to be seen.

Even if the defense doesn't improve, however, the Colts should get to twelve wins against this schedule on their offense alone. OVER.

Vivek: The Colts thought that they had improved their defense enough last year, and you can make that argument. The team increased its sack totals from 31 to 45 and went from +10 to an NFL high +19 turnover differential. That still didn't stop teams from racking up close to 360 yards of total offense per game against Indy.

To bulk up the defense, the team drafted two physical cornerbacks in Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden with its first picks in April. Neither will immediately start, but should push Nick Harper and Donald Strickland soon and form the core of a more consistent secondary. One thing in the Colts' favor is that they face a relatively favorable schedule of opposing QBs – those QBs might be efficient, but there won't be as many 350-yard passing days as there were last season.

The offense should once again score at will (except up in Foxboro). That Manning guy should be pretty good too and has one more year of Edgerrin James. The offensive line is the best in the league, having yielded only 14 sacks last year. I wonder if center Jeff Saturday turns around to Manning every play and pulls a "Manu the Slender" from Necessary Roughness? "They will never touch you, Mr. Manning," OVER.

Jacksonville Jaguars

O/U: 8.5
2004 Record: 9-7
2005 Home Opponents: SEA, DEN, CIN, HOU, BAL, IND, SF, TEN
2005 Road Opponents: IND, NYJ, PIT, STL, TEN, ARI, CLE, HOU

Al: This team is going to struggle to put points on the board this year. Last year, the offense was below average across the board and they've done little this year to improve. Fred Taylor returned to his old injury prone self last year. Only this time, when he was healthy enough to play, he wasn't effective, finishing with a negative DVOA. (explanation) Behind Taylor is the disappointing LaBrandon Toefield and fourth round pick Alvin Pearman. Jimmy Smith will likely take at the very least a slight step back from his successful 2004 campaign as Jacksonville looks for him to yet again carry the passing attack at the age of 36. Jacksonville has been trying to find an heir apparent to Smith, but it doesn't look like they have one on their roster, or at least one who will perform at a Smith-like level this year. Reggie Williams was a disappointment as a first round pick last season. Troy Edwards has never lived up to the promise he showed as a rookie in Pittsburgh six years ago. Will Matt Jones be able to develop into a wide receiver good enough to be worthy of his first round draft status? Maybe, but odds are it won't be this season.

Jacksonville's defense was the team's strength last season, but I'd expect them to decline a bit this year. The Jaguars aren't very deep at cornerback after letting go of starter Dewayne Washington. Jacksonville's schedule, especially early in the year, is filled with teams that will have no qualms about throwing the ball 40-50 times a game to pick on this glaring weakness. Jack Del Rio is going to need to do more than place an axe and a tree stump in the locker room to inspire this team to a winning record this year. UNDER.

Vivek: While digging for some factoids for this column, I found one amazing stat. The Jaguars have not scored 30 points in a game since 2001, a span of 50 games, and with essentially the same team returning from last year, that dry spell will continue. Everyone knows about Byron Leftwitch as a competitor and talent, but the team has failed to set him up with viable targets, as Al discussed above, and the team would have been better going with Mark Clayton or Roddy White instead of Matt Jones. Jack Del Rio cannot guarantee that Leftwitch will be able to hand the ball off to Fred Taylor 250 times as Taylor is coming off knee surgery. A durable, yet not spectacular offensive line will have to do a better job of creating holes for whoever is carrying the ball for Jacksonville. If not, those Jacksonville television blackouts will continue because of the lack of excitement. UNDER.

Houston Texans

O/U: 7.5
2004 Record: 7-9
2005 Home Opponents: PIT, TEN, IND, CLE, KC, STL, ARI, JAC
2005 Road Opponents: BUF, CIN, SEA, JAC, IND, BAL, TEN, SF

Al: Is this the year Houston finally has a winning record? They've improved consistently across the board in their three years of existence. 2004 saw their first season with a positive DVOA on offense and a negative DVOA on defense. If not for the franchise's first poor performance on special teams, the Texans might have finally had a positive overall DVOA.

One thing that hasn't improved over the three years of the Texan franchise, however, is the terrible offensive line. David Carr has been sacked 140 times over the past three years, the most in the NFL over that time span despite missing four games in 2003. The line has never finished above #25 in adjusted sack rate. You would think that providing increased protection for the young franchise quarterback would be Houston's primary offseason goal. But it wasn't. According to the Texans' depth chart, they'll be returning the same five starters on the line that allowed Carr to be sacked 49 times last season. The only notable addition to the line is Victor Riley, listed as the team's second string left tackle. Riley comes over from New Orleans, where he was second in the league in false start penalties and missed the block that lead to Aaron Brooks' infamous pass to nowhere.

The defensive line hasn't been much better for the Texans. They made the 2004 All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team as the defensive line that hurt their team the most in the 2004 season. Last year the Texan line couldn't stop the run or rush the quarterback. Houston is going to need a huge contribution from rookie Travis Johnson if they hope to improve their woeful defensive line performance from a year ago.

This team doesn't have the players at the point of attack to reach the .500 mark. UNDER.

Vivek: We've been waiting for the trio of David Carr, Andre Johnson, and Domanick Davis to turn into the next Manning-Harrison-James, but that isn't happening. With Davis's durability questions, third round pick Vernand Morency could share the load during the season.

The league's tackling dummy, defenses have sacked Carr on average three times per game since he's been in the league. (Maybe he'll be a bit more nimble with his new haircut.) The Texans made a strong push for Orlando Pace in the offseason to keep Carr off the ground, but that was arguably just a negotiating ploy on the part of Pace. So the porous offensive line returns, leaving Carr to fend for himself.

The Texans' defense was inconsistent in 2004 (no touchdowns allowed for 3+ games last year along with six games yielding 27 or more points), but the team let go of defensive linemen Jamie Sharper and Jay Foreman, cornerback Aaron Glenn, and strong safety Eric Brown. The team will need significant contributions from new starters Travis Johnson (defensive tackle), Morlon Greenwood (linebacker), and Kailee Wong (linebacker).

In their first three seasons, the Texans have gone from four to five to seven wins, but this year the trend of increasing win totals will end. UNDER.

Tennessee Titans

O/U: 7
2004 Record: 5-11
2005 Home Opponents: BAL, IND, CIN, OAK, JAC, SF, HOU, SEA
2005 Road Opponents: PIT, STL, HOU, ARI, CLE, IND, MIA, JAC

Al: This team is a mess. How the line is this high, I don't know. It will be interesting to see how Norm Chow's offense translates to the NFL game, but even if it's a rousing success, this team isn't getting eight wins. They start the season with games at home against the Ravens and Colts and at Pittsburgh and St. Louis. That's 0-4 right there. Even with a nice schedule to finish the year, this team will still likely have to win 67% of their games over the last 12 weeks of the season. I just can't see them doing it.

At running back you have the injury prone Chris Brown, or the overrated Travis Henry. At wide receiver, there's Drew Bennett and, yeah, that Drew Bennett guy. Defensive coordinator and FOO (Friend of the Outsiders) Jim Schwartz will be spending most of the season trying to figure out which of his young defensive players can be effective. By the time he figures it out, it may be too late for the Titans to finish 2005 with a winning record.

I expect Tennessee to be a big sleeper team heading into 2006, but getting there won't be pretty. UNDER.

Vivek: Bad luck? The end of an era? Selling your soul to the salary cap devil? Whatever the reason, five straight years of averaging 11 wins dating back to the 1999 season came to a screeching halt last year when Steve McNair finally broke down, and this offseason dashed any hopes of a happy tune in Music City. The only ones who stand to improve in 2005 are the publishers of the media guide and programs, because everyone in Tennessee will need one to recognize those on the field.

Gone from last year's squad are defensive ends Kevin Carter and Carlos Hall, cornerbacks Andre Dyson and Samari Rolle, running backs Robert Holcombe and Antowain Smith, offensive tackle Fred Miller, and wide receiver Derrick Mason, among others.

Regardless of Norm Chow, this team will struggle, and I think Al is being generous by calling this a potential sleeper team. Steve McNair tossed around the idea of retirement last year, and even though he took a half season off last year, the frustration from injury and a lack of production may grow. If McNair has a shot at returning to his pre-2004 form, he will have to get increased production from Drew Bennett and a healthy season from Chris Brown. The odds of that happening are as low as the odds of the Titans winning more than seven games. UNDER.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

O/U: 9.5
2004 Record: 11-5
2005 Home Opponents: PHI, MIN, NE, NYJ, GB, TB, NO, CAR
2005 Road Opponents: SEA, GB, NO, MIA, DET, CAR, CHI, TB

Al: We don't need any more Michael Vick bashing on this site. There will be plenty of time for that once the season starts and he's going 12-for-35 but getting raves for a 45-yard scamper up the sideline to pull Atlanta within a touchdown late in a fourth quarter. I'm writing this while watching "Michael Vick's Top Plays" on SportsCenter. There was one pass out of the five highlights shown. This isn't college football. In the NFL, quarterbacks are expected to complete the forward pass more than 56% of the time.

Atlanta finished with 11 wins, three more than their Pythagorean Record (explanation) would suggest they should have won. Since the AFL-NFL merger, only eight teams have been "luckier" than Atlanta in 2004. One was last year's Pittsburgh Steelers. The other seven teams saw their winning percentage decrease by an average of .119 the next season. If Atlanta drops by that much, you end up with nine wins. UNDER.

Vivek: Jim Mora Jr. has quite a conundrum. Michael Vick is a better passer outside of the pocket, but is a step away from a season-ending injury when he gets on the run. Still, there is a reason that the NFL has put the Falcons on national television for five games this upcoming season. Despite all the hype around Vick, the weight of the Falcons' season lies on the legs of its version of Thunder and Lightning, Warrick Dunn and TJ Duckett. The two combined for more than 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground last year.

If the running game fails to get going, the Falcons will struggle. It is safe to say now that Peerless Price is a bust and will not be the number one receiver that the team envisioned when they signed him to a hefty contract in 2003. The Falcons' lack of confidence in Price is evident by the fact that they drafted receivers in the first round of each of the past two drafts, Michael Jenkins and Roddy White. None of the Falcons' receivers should be expected to top 1,000 yards, so the gameplan will be to run the ball and play solid defense.

Despite the cap casualties of Ed Jasper and Travis Hall, the Atlanta front four will be one of the strongest in the league with Rod Coleman and Patrick Kerney on the left side. Former Raven Ed Hartwell joins Keith Brooking in the linebacking corps to anchor a very quick unit.

I'll give Vick the benefit of the doubt with another year of learning under his belt and take the OVER.

Carolina Panthers

O/U: 9
2004 Record: 7-9
2005 Home Opponents: NO, NE, GB, MIN, NYJ, ATL, TB, DAL
2005 Road Opponents: MIA, ARI, DET, TB, CHI, BUF, NO, ATL

Al: Nine wins is a bit higher than I'd like. I've been on the Panther bandwagon since it was just me and John Fox's relatives on board. I see this year's Panthers team as having a lot of similarities to the 2003 Patriots. Both teams are coming off of a season that many looked at as a step back from the season before because of a drop in wins. But in reality, the 2004 Panthers were better than the team that came before it, even though they won 4 fewer games than the 2003 squad. Just as the 2002 Patriots were an improvement on the 2001 team that stunned the world with their shocking Super Bowl victory. Carolina has seen a steady DVOA improvement throughout the John Fox era. Carolina had a DVOA of -16.6% in 2002, -5.1% in 2003, and 4.2% in 2004.

The loss of Muhsin Muhammad will hurt the Panthers' passing attack, but a full season of Steve Smith and the emerging Keary Colbert should make up for it. Mike Wahle is a huge addition to the offensive line and should help whoever ends up getting most of the carries have a successful season running with the ball. An almost inevitable improvement on defense on third downs will pay huge dividends for the Panthers, as it has for other teams that have come before.

Nine wins is a lot. More than I'd probably feel comfortable placing actual money on. But I like the Panthers to take the division, so I have to go OVER.

Vivek: In a year that nobody wanted to grab the last NFC playoff spot, the Panthers came back from a 1-7 start to be the team that the Super Bowl contenders wanted to miss out on the postseason. The offense lost Muhsin Muhammad to Chicago, but gets back Steve Smith who essentially lost the entire 2004 season to a broken leg. Jake Delhomme has quietly developed into one of the best quarterbacks and now has former Packer Mike Wahle protecting him. Wahle will move over to left guard to provide much needed help to the running game, which will drive fantasy owners nuts.

Most fantasy gurus suggest drafting a running back's understudy to protect against injury, but how about the entire depth chart? DeShaun Foster will most likely open the season as the starter, but Nick Goings was the leading rusher last year and a recuperating Stephen Davis is only one year removed from a 1,444 season. The darkhorse in the group is rookie T.J. Duckett-clone Eric Shelton. Regardless of the starter, the ground game should improve on its 98 yards per game from 2004.

The names on offense might not intimidate opposing teams, but the defense sure can. With all apologies to Jevon Kearse, Julius Peppers is the true "Freak" in the league. What other defensive end can lineup as a wide receiver? Combine him with one of the best defensive tackles in the league (Kris Jenkins), Pro Bowler Dan Morgan and the top two pickoff men in the NFC (Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas) and you have the makings for a potential shutdown defense. The Panthers will be one of the final four teams in the NFC this year. OVER.

New Orleans Saints

O/U: 7.5
2004 Record: 8-8
2005 Home Opponents: NYG, BUF, ATL, MIA, CHI, TB, CAR, DET
2005 Road Opponents: CAR, MIN, GB, STL, NE, NYJ, ATL, TB

Al: Meet the new Saints, same as the old Saints. The mediocre team that we've seen in the Superdome these past few seasons is back to flirt with .500 once again. The same average quarterback is behind center. The same overrated running back will be carrying the ball. Joe Horn will be 33 and is more likely to take a step backwards than to maintain his peak performance from a year ago. Donte' Stallworth hasn't developed into a legitimate #2 receiver in his first three seasons.

The defense was unspectacular in 2004 and hasn't made any additions that look like they'll lead to a big improvement in 2005. New Orleans is the most vulnerable at the linebacker spot. The Saints added no one of note to arguably their weakest position on defense. The Saints were in the bottom half of the league in defending passes against running backs and tight ends last season. Once opposing running backs made it past the defensive line, also a weakness in 2004, they had no problems getting through the second tier of defenders. New Orleans was in the bottom half of the league in percentage of runs allowed that went for ten yards or more.

A very tempting over, just because New Orleans has managed to pull out eight wins the last two seasons. But the Saints need to take a step backwards at some point. UNDER.

Vivek: New Orleans was another team in the division that made a late push for the playoffs, winning its last four games and missing the playoffs by a tiebreaker.

With all the calls for Aaron Brooks' starting job, it is hard to believe that he has started 69 straight games. Dante Stallworth finally stayed healthy for a season and provided n effective compliment to Joe Horn. Deuce McAllister had one of the most disappointing 1,000-yard seasons but should bounce back to his regular form now that his ankle is healthy. The defense, however, has been mostly responsible for four straight seasons looking in at the playoffs, and this year won't be any different. Al already outlined the defensive shortcomings of this team, so I won't beat a dead horse. UNDER.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

O/U: 8
2004 Record: 5-11
2005 Home Opponents: BUF, DET, MIA, CAR, WAS, CHI, ATL, NO
2005 Road Opponents: MIN, GB, NYJ, SF, ATL, NO, CAR, NE

Al: Tampa's underperformed their Pythagorean record by at least one win for the past two seasons. This has happened 45 times since the AFL-NFL merger. Those 45 teams improved by 2.5 wins on average in year three. Even if that happens in Tampa, they still don't hit the ridiculously high eight-win over/under.

The offensive line is still a mess. So much that the Bucaneers have actually brought back Todd Steussie after cutting him just two weeks ago. The vaunted Tampa defense had its worst ever DVOA ranking in 2004. With an aging linebacker corps, there's not much reason to expect Tampa's defense to move back into elite status.

Tampa has what looks to be a pretty tough road schedule. Although I'm not particularly high on Green Bay or Minnesota, they'll both be tough teams to beat in their own stadium. The only pushover on the schedule is San Francisco.

With this road schedule, and a couple of holes that haven't been adequately filled, nine wins seems like a stretch. UNDER.

Vivek: At first glance, this Bucs team appears to have a shot at topping .500 on the year. But as Al mentioned, the tough road schedule kills that chance. Last year's team was plagued by turnovers, 18 interceptions and 18 fumbles. Running back Michael Pittman (6 fumbles in 13 games) will have fewer opportunities to cough up the ball as a third-down runner behind first round pick Carnell Williams. Tampa Bay has finished in the bottom third in the league for rushing during Gruden's tenure. Williams is a smooth, smart runner who can find the holes and will need the carry the offensive load as Jon Gruden's offense lacks talent around him.

Brian Griese opens the season as the starter, but we all know his track record in leading teams to success. If Griese falters, Gruden will not have anywhere to really turn to. Chris Simms, forever in Gruden's doghouse, and Browns castaway Luke McCown are the next two quarterbacks on the roster. In Griese's defense, he will not have gamebreaking targets to throw to. Michael Clayton is looking to build on his rookie 1,193 receiving yards season, but the rest of the supporting cast includes Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard and tight end Anthony Becht, who could never consistently catch the ball in the Meadowlands.

Tampa's defense on paper is solid, but with an aging unit, it could hit the wall suddenly. Call it a gut feeling, but with its age and 2004 DVOA ranking, I think the defense will let the team down. UNDER.

Posted by: scramble on 11 Aug 2005

48 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2010, 3:19am by uggs outlet

Comments

1
by MadPenguin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 9:11am

Very interesting. I have Carolina as my super bowl pick. Risky I know. But who in the NFC is really the cream?
Of course if I was Atlanta, I'd put both Shaub and Vick on the field just to confuse defenses. Hike to one, pass to the other, use one for blocking. Heh.

2
by Eric (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 10:41am

Won't the Colt's +19 turnover differential regress back towards the NFL standard? One of your arguments against the Jaguars is that their defense will likely regress, but you don't seem to take into account that TO differentials tend to also regress... Except for WR and RB, I don't see quality depth in the Colts (they are even more vulnerable than the Pats if their QB gets injured.)... I see a large variance in the Colt's record, depending on health and defensive improvments, and say they will go UNDER.

Re: Jacksonville
I don't see how letting go of Dewayne Wahington is a negative... Jacksonville made a large change in their offense by switching coordinators. We will see if the change in philosophy results in better numbers... Defense made a major upgrade in DE by getting healthy and by signing Reggie Hayward. As long as they don't break a leg against Denver, the pass rush should be significantly improved... I see another 9-7 team competing for the playoffs.

3
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 11:26am

Seriously, what do people have against QBs who can run? The Falcons win with Vick because the guy makes plays, notwithstanding his lack of consistency.

Last year on the ESPN site they had a poll asking who would you want to be your QB if your team was facing 4th and goal from the 8 and it was the final play of the game. Most of the pundits named Manning, but I said I'd take Vick, McNabb or Culpepper because of their ability to improvise. Just over a week later, Vick ran for a TD on 4th and goal from the 12 to send a key division game against Carolina into OT (the Falcons won)

The prejudice against running QBs is so pervasive that even Paul Zimmerman wrote on the SI website (regarding Vick) "seriously, since when have any scrambling QBs ever won the Superbowl". I'm not sure if he was kidding or not, but I was able to at least think of Montana, Young, Elway, MacMahon, Staubach. And, of course, Steve McNair and Fran Tarkenton were good enough to get to Superbowls, if not win them.

4
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 11:41am

I don't have anything against QBs who can run, I just don't think QBs who can't throw have much value in the NFL.

5
by TheWedge (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 11:45am

Re: 3&4
I was going to write a long and witty response about how Vick can't throw (for example the game vs. the Cardinals last season) but B said it much better.

6
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 11:57am

Re 4 and 5: and yet somehow the Falcons have struggled to a 24-12-1 record when Vick plays. Wow, they must have the greatest coaching, defense and special teams in the league to make up for a QB who apparently doesn't "have much value in the NFL."

7
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 12:17pm

That's correct, the Falcon's 24-12 record has more to do with defense and the running game than it does with the passing game, just like Trent Dilfer's success with the Ravens.

8
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 12:51pm

Well, I guess the Falcons will be highly flattered by your comparison to the 2000 Ravens team!
So, why has Atlanta gone 3-12 the last 3 seasons when Vick hasn't started? That seems like a pretty poor record for a team with a record-setting defense.

9
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 1:06pm

In 2002, the Falcons had a good offense (including the passing game) and an average defense. They went 9-6-1 and Vick looked like a star, even winning a playoff game in Green Bay. Then Vick got injured, the offense fell apart (no suprise there, turns out Doug Johnson wasn't any good) and the defense fell apart too. In 2004 the Falcons had a lousy passing game (30th in DVOA) a great rushing game (3rd in DVOA) and an average defense. They went 11-5 and were the second best team in the NFC. I mistakenly said thier success in '04 was due to thier rushing and defense. What I should have said is thier success in '04 was due to their rushing game and the overall lousiness of the NFC (Eagles Excluded).
Vick was a good QB in 2002, and he deserves credit for that, but it doesn't excuse his poor passing play in 2004.

10
by random (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 1:50pm

I think aaron is going to have to move the "is vick a legit passer" argument next to the Brady-Manning thread.

The bottom line is that the falcons won't address vick's passing stats head on until they have a 5 or 6 win season with vick as the starter for all 16 games. Vick also will not address it until the team starts losing as well.

11
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 1:51pm

Well, let's give Vick more than one season in this offense and see what happens.
Also, you can't praise the Falcons running game without praising Vick, who accounted for a lot of those yards. My postings haven't been trying to say that Vick is a great passer, rather that he is a good player who seems to be able to do what it takes to get his team wins most of the time.

12
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 2:41pm

I agree that Vick does what his team need to win, in this case, not much. Vick's rushing yards are nothing short of extrodinary, I never said anything differently. However, when you add up the value provided by his legs to the value taken away by his arm, you get Josh McCown. Of course, I still think that had Josh McCown been the starter all year for the Cardinals, they would have won the NFC West.

13
by crc (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 3:37pm

not to mention luck. as stated above the falcons finished with far more wins than their Pythagorean Record suggested they should have (they only outscored opponents by 3 points). Like the 03 panthers the falcons won most of their close games (6-1 in games decided by 4 pts or less, losing in week 17 w/o vick to seattle 26-28). This year atlanta's schedule could be their downfall, opening against philly, seattle, buffalo, minn, and new england (in that order) and no longer getting to play san fran or arizona.

14
by Aaron (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 4:38pm

The reason why the "Is Vick a Good Quarterback" argument doesn't get its own thread is that it doesn't take over other threads. The Manning-Brady thing was starting to take over, you know, discussions of the NFC North and whatnot. At least this is in fact a place to discuss the NFC South.

15
by fyo (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 5:08pm

#2, Eric: Won’t the Colt’s +19 turnover differential regress back towards the NFL standard? One of your arguments against the Jaguars is that their defense will likely regress, but you don’t seem to take into account that TO differentials tend to also regress...

You've clearly misunderstood something. Fumble *recovery* is mostly a matter of luck and thus the ratio of fumbles recovered to fumbles should tend towards 50% (both for own fumbles and opp fumbles).

On the other hand, if a team is extremely good at CAUSING fumbles and don't fumble much themselves, they should get a positive turnover differential. That's just a matter of doing the math: bignumber*0.5 - smallnumber*0.5 > 0.

All that ignores interceptions, of course.

16
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 5:19pm

Interceptions, like causing fumbles, are mostly not random. Naturally, both depend on your opponents, but I would still expect the Colts to have a positive TO differential, as long as Manning stays healthy. And I expect he will stay healthy cause it's hard to get injured when you don't get touched. Also doesn't have second place in the QB-only "Ironman" competition?

17
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 5:57pm

Sorry, didn't originally intend to monopolize this, but there've been some interesting comments.

Re #13: good observation about Atlanta's schedule, although it's always tough to know how the schedule will play out.
Last year I looked at the Colts opening 4 games (at NewEng, at Tenn, Green Bay, at Jax) and thought: these guys could be anything from 4-0 to 0-4 after 4 weeks, who knows?

Regarding luck, I think teams that have QBs that can make plays in the 4th quarter tend to be "luckier" than other teams (ie. Vick's late 58 yard run versus Arizona, on an otherwise tough day; his two 4th quarter TD passes against San Diego to win by a point; the aforementioned TD run on 4th and 12 versus Carolina. You can describe these plays as luck if you want, but I credit the players.)

Re: #9 and the lousiness of the NFC. Undoubtedly true, but it's worth pointing out that Atlanta were 3-1 versus the AFC West, including wins against the two playoff teams Denver and San Diego.

18
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 6:05pm

It's also worth noting that Vick's mighty offense scored a whopping 10 points against KC.

19
by Eric (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 6:40pm

Re: 16

Link to an earlier Outsider Rambling that discusses this in detail. Comment #26 expresses my view.

"In fact, my numbers showed that if one team had an abnormally high or low TO ratio in a given year, they would move towards the mean more quickly than other teams (good teams with a high TO ratio would become far more mediocre than good teams with a low or negative TO ratio)."

I see no reason to believe that the Colts will have a +10 fumble turnover differential again. If you can find some stats that suggest that a pass rush or sacks equal more fumbles, than please present them.

I think Manning will still have an amazing INT/pass ratio. I think it is optimistic to think that the Colts secondary will be able to average more than an interception per game. I see the Colts ending with a respectable +7 differential.

20
by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 7:11pm

Re: #17 and luck

I don't think Vick was "lucky" to get a 58 yard run late in the game - that's pretty clearly amazing athletic skill. However, if you're trying to predict future performance, it seems unlikely that you are going to be able to consistently rely on things like that, but maybe you can with Vick. It will be interesting to see if Vick-led teams are able to consistently out-perform their Expected Wins and Pythagorean rating - if the Falcons again over-perform this year I think that would be an indicator that you're right.

Re #19

I don't have the Prospectus in front of me right now, but fumbles occur on something like 1 in 11 sacks and only 1 in 70-something regular plays. So, yes, there are statistics that show that a pass rush and sacks tend to produce more fumbles. Sack-produced fumbles are also really bad fumbles - they are behind the line of scrimmage and often times the player with the best chance to grab it is a defensive player.

21
by Larry (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 7:23pm

#19:

I believe the piece on sacks in the book makes the claim that a sack is 4x more likely to be a fumble than any other play, which does in fact predict the Colts will continue to loosen many more footballs on defense than they drop on the carpet themselves.

22
by Vince (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 9:01pm

It’s also worth noting that Vick’s mighty offense scored a whopping 10 points against KC.

7 of those points came on an Allen Rossum punt return. Vick's offense scored three points.

That was the same day the Chiefs scored 8 touchdowns rushing. It was not a pretty game.

23
by Vince (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 9:17pm

Atlanta's expected win percentage, by pythag, was .504, or 8.07 wins in 16 games.

If you throw out the KC game, they're pythag jumps to .580, which would 9.28 wins in 16 games.

I don't know whether the KC game skewed the results and made Atlanta look worse than they really were, or exposed Atlanta for being as mediocre as they really were. I just think it's interesting that the one blowout loss cost them ONE AND A QUARTER expected wins.

24
by apocalipstick (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 1:47am

Re #22
Speak for yourself. As a Chiefs fan, I found it blissful.

25
by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 10:23am

If some people think that making one crazy huge play makes up for 8-10 mediocre or bad plays as long as he gets the W, then that's fine. Whatever floats your boat. But I have a question. Vick's won a lot of games with his legs. I can think of several off the top of my head. But how many games has he won in the end of the 4th quarter with his arm? And I don't mean setting up for a field goal. I mean team needs a touchdown to win or send it to overtime. I'm not saying he hasn't done it, but if he has I'd love to hear about it because I can't seem to think of any.

26
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 1:02pm

Naturally as a Houston fan I'm going to take issue with Al and Vivek's negative assessments of the Texans' prospects for the season. But let's start out with the factual corrections:

The team will need significant contributions from new starters Travis Johnson (defensive tackle), Morlon Greenwood (linebacker), and Kailee Wong (linebacker).

Johnson is not down to start - the 2004 D-line of Walker, Payne and Smith will return, hopefully free of the various niggles which plagued it last season. He will however play as a DT in nickel packages, and will hopefully contribute additional pressure in that context, as well as adding depth to the rotation.

Wong was already a starter, but you may be alluding to his move from OLB to ILB. The new starter across from Jason Babin as likely to be Antwaan Peek, an athletically awesome pass-rush specialist whose discipline may be an issue.

but the team let go of . . . strong safety Eric Brown

Brown had long since been benched in favour of second-day rookie Glenn Earl.

Overall, the defense has replaced Sharper, Foreman (who played poorly last year) and Glenn (whose age was starting to tell) with Peek, Greenwood and (probably) Buchanon and added Johnson to the D-line rotation. Overall, I would expect the result (coupled with the development it seems reasonable to expect from Babin, Dunta Robinson and Earl) to be a slight decline in run defense coupled with an improvement in pass defense (improved pass-rush and younger, more athletic linebackers; progression of two second-year starters in the secondary) for little net difference except in the age, which is now considerably younger.

The offense, meanwhile, returns every starter from last season, with the addition of a credible backup at running back in Morency. Of those returning starters, 7 have played three seasons or less in the league (all five skill position players, plus LT Seth Wand and LG Chester Pitts). Some progression from at least some of these guys seems plausible, and as Wand (poor technique) and Pitts (penalised with staggering frequency) have been the biggest problems in pass-blocking, this might be quite valuable. In any case, more time for all these youngsters to bed down and learn the blocking schemes should help, while the emergence of Armstrong and Gaffney as legitimate #2 and 3 receivers should allow for a more varied passing game, including more quick drops and short passes to keep Carr out of trouble.

The biggest improvement for Houston in 2005, however, should come in special teams, as PFP rightly notes. K Kris Brown and P Chad Stanley were both injured and performing well below their normal levels last year; both have since had surgery and made full recoveries. Moreover, there is every chance that either Buchanon or 4th round rookie WR Robert Mathis will make a substantial improvement to the return game.

Given that this is in all a young team, which has seen little personnel turnover in the off-season and has a league average sort of schedule, and that I believe I'm right in saying that 3rd down performance on both sides of the ball was poor last year in comparison to 1st and 2nd, I'm going to go with both KUBIAK and whoever wrote the blurb in PFP and against both of you in predicting a season somewhere in the 8-8 to 10-6 range for the Texans.

27
by Aaron (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 1:20pm

Just to make clear, KUBIAK is the individual player projection system, not the team win projection system. Tim Gerheim wrote the essay in PFP about the Texans. We're all about multiple viewpoints around here, part of why we put bylines on the book essays.

Oh, and there was one game Vick won with passing, the San Diego game in Week 6.

28
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 1:36pm

Before anyone else says anything, I realise on re-reading that I may sound unrealistically high on Peek. He is a devastating force on the blitz, but there's a reason he's had so little playing time to date, and it's that "discipline may be an issue" is an understatement of similar proportions to "Ted Washington is not an Olympic-standard sprinter". The guy makes far too many mental mistakes because all he really wants to do is get into the backfield and nail the QB.

29
by Eric (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 2:22pm

Re: 21

Why do you assume that the Colts will cause as many sacks this year? I can understand that offensively, the Colts have few sacks due to players and schemes, but defensive performance is not as predictable.

I still stand by my original assessment, which is that 1-2 of the Colt's games last year were decided in part by the +17 TO differential. Barring other changes, a decline in this differential will decrease the wins, the Colts will have 10 wins, and they will make the UNDER

30
by Tim (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 2:37pm

I'm glad there are websites out there like this where you can talk about anything. Lost in the previews of all training camps and the pathetic and ridiculous saga over the biggest -itch to ever suit up in a uniform, no one has paid any attention to my Panthers! They made some great offseason acquisitions and have pretty good depth since everyone played last year it seems. I believe they are the best team in the NFC and will win the Super Bowl this season!

31
by andy (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 4:31pm

Tim, feel safe in the knowledge that the Panthers are Super Bowl bound. The rest of their division is dross and the tea leaves say....exactly the same for the Colts. These ain't cheap tea leaves.

I'm now going on Google to find out who Ron Mexico is. Go Browns.

32
by andy (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 5:06pm

Just put "Ron Mexico" into google to find out what the in joke is all about.

Very, very funny.

33
by Sid (not verified) :: Sat, 08/13/2005 - 11:27pm

I like the UNDER on Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Atlanta. Someday I should really lay actual money on this stuff, because some of the lines scream "EASY MONEY!"

I do think Brian Griese is underrated, but I'm not going to wager the Bucs will win more than 8 games.

34
by Jeb Makula (not verified) :: Sun, 08/14/2005 - 1:39am

Ah, but the lines that scream "EASY MONEY" are the ones that you want to bet the opposite way on.

35
by Vince (not verified) :: Sun, 08/14/2005 - 2:50pm

RE: #25:
http://www.atlantafalcons.com/multimedia/article.jsp?id=5151

Vick threw a game-winner at home against New Orleans. He also threw crucial late touchdowns against Tampa Bay (at home) and San Diego, and two against Denver.

36
by Vince (not verified) :: Sun, 08/14/2005 - 3:14pm

I'm not sure why late field goals aren't considered clutch if they put the team ahead (Vick has led his team to tyng/go-ahead FGs three times), but Vick has thrown two fourth quarter touchdowns that tied the game or put Atlanta ahead:

2002, week 15 against Seattle
2004, week 12 against New Orleans

He's also scored go-ahead/tying 4th quarter touchdown runs three or four times.

37
by Paul (not verified) :: Sun, 08/14/2005 - 10:57pm

from http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/3832438

Midway's Blitz: The League, which isn't officially sanctioned by the NFL because the league claims it features too much gratuitous violence, includes a team called the Redhawks (that looks like the Falcons) and has ("Ron") "Mexico" as its quarterback.

38
by mm (not verified) :: Sun, 08/14/2005 - 11:21pm

Re: #23

If you throw out that one game you have .580 over 15 games, not 16; .580 over 15 games is 8.7 wins (we'll add 0 for that sixteenth game against the chiefs), not terribly different than the 8.07 projected from the 16 game calculation.

Most (all?) teams' worst game will cost it more than 1 projected win. Just like their best game will add to it more than 1 win. But then, shouldn't they count for more? Which game is more likely decided by luck: a 35-10 game or a 24-23 game? Luck can decide 35-10 games (several players all at once have uncharacteriscally good or bad games), but I'd think a much smaller percentage of those games are decided by such luck. (It may be lucky that team A scored 25 more than team B, but it wasn't lucky that team A beat team B).

Unless there were serious injuries to several starters, I don't think you can throw out games. Statistical analyses work better when more games are added in.

At least, if you want to throw out the worst game your team played, make sure to throw out the best game they played as well. (Of course, if you do that for every team in the league, you will likely find out that projected league wins won't exactly equal projected losses.)

39
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:49pm

RE: 34

I have a different outlook than most. My Easy Money ones usually go my way. :)

40
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:52pm

RE: 3

A QB's ability to run is very hampered within the red zone.
I don't have any problem with QBs that have mobility, like McNabb or Plummer. I do have a problem with QBs who can run, but aren't intelligent, are unable to read defenses, and are inaccurate, like Mr. Mexico.

41
by alex (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:10pm

re: 36

I had forgotten about that saints game last season. I never said setting up for a field goal wasn't clutch. I just don't think it's as clutch since you have about a 30 yard margin of error to work with. Also there's less pressure because ultimately it's the kicker's foot that decides the game. Like in that Seattle game yeah Vick set up Feely for the winner of overtime, but Feely blew it, and the game tying touchdown of Vick's doesn't really matter as much where it counts the most.

42
by Ferg (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:13pm

Re: 40

I do have a problem with QBs who can run, but aren’t intelligent, are unable to read defenses, and are inaccurate, like Mr. Mexico.

I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but Ronnie M. seemed to be reasonably accurate and reasonably good at reading defenses in 2002. So I don't think it's quite fair to say that he's just not smart enough to play QB.

I wonder if the injury in 2003 just ruined his footwork and mechanics, like he maybe lost all the muscle memory while rehabbing.

43
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:32am

In the midst of moving out to Portland, Oregon right now so I've been away (I suppose it was too much to hope that FO might put everything on hold until I got to a computer again), but I've got Indy-Carolina as my early Super Bowl pick. I am expecting Tampa Bay to surprise with a full year of Brian Griese (assuming he can stay healthy.) I think the Texans could surprise, but that's a pretty good line...I think New Orleans collapses this year (even moreso than normal.) For me it's a three-horse race in the NFC South - it'll be a lot tighter than last year...didn't Carolina sustain a league-leading number of injuries in 2004? I don't expect anyone to seriously challenge Indy in any way and I think that defense will take a huge step forward. I, for one, think they're doing the right thing in keeping that offense together at the expense of their defense, only because they have so many young guys on defense who probably haven't reached their full potential yet. Okay, that's rambling enough.

44
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 1:14pm

Oh, and while I remember, the "all five" skill position players is not a typo or brain haemorrhage - most teams do indeed start 6 players in the skill positions, but the Texans have Offensive End Mark Bruener instead. Skill and Bruener are not words normally found in the same sentence.

45
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:29pm

A QB’s ability to run is very hampered within the red zone.

I'm not sure I agree with that. A scrambling QB will always make defenses play closer to the line, which means that they will be spread more - which means that receivers will have more room.

Now, if you mean "a scrambling QB who can't pass is hampered in the red zone", I'd probably agree, because passing lanes become very tight. But I think #3's point was that a scrambling QB's ability to improvise - that is, to force the defense to change to suit him, rather than waiting for the offense to do it - is extremely helpful in the red zone, and I think I'd agree.

46
by Edwin Edwards (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 1:53pm

Wow! A different opinion on the Saints. The local media is in their annual love spasm over the team. Even a 34-15 pasting by the Seahawks is leading everyone here to say that the Saints will turn it on when it counts. You mean the Saints might suck? Maybe I can run for governor from jail this time.

47
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 2:42pm

The reason why the “Is Vick a Good Quarterback� argument doesn’t get its own thread is that it doesn’t take over other threads. -- Aaron

If he only knew.....

48
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