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22 Jul 2005

2005 Over-Unders: West Divisions

by Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal

Al: The first column to ever run on this website that wasn't written by Aaron was the inaugural edition of Scramble for the Ball, where Ian Dembsky and I went through the over/under lines for all 32 teams going into the 2003 season. Last year, in between Ian's departure and Vivek's arrival as Scramble co-writer, Aaron and I went through the over/unders again. This time we split the over/under discussion into four different columns after realizing that no one in their right minds would read through an analysis of all thirty-two teams in one sitting. Now, with Vivek ready for his second year of Scrambling, we're back for the Third Annual Scramble for the Ball Over/Under Extravaganza. Without further Apu, we'll start out with the two western divisions this week and work our way back across the country over the next three columns, starting with the NFC West. Lines come from VegasInsider.com.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers

O/U: 4.5 wins
2004 Record: 2-14
2005 Home Opponents: STL, DAL, IND, TB, NYG, SEA, ARI, HOU
2005 Away Opponents: PHI, ARI, WAS, CHI, TEN, SEA, JAC, STL

Al: In the premiere edition of Scramble for the Ball two years ago, I asked myself, in print no less, "Can I really lay money on a team of professional football players winning four games or less this season?" The answer was yes, as I correctly predicted the 2003 Cardinals would finish the year with fewer than five wins.

The question now is whether the 2005 49ers will be better than the 2003 Cardinals. You have to expect them to be better than the 2004 49ers, just because they can't get much worse. Only once since the AFL-NFL merger has a team won two games or less in one year and finished the next year with fewer wins: The 1982 Baltimore Colts were winless in a shortened season after managing only two victories in 1981. So we can pencil the Niners in for at least two victories. We'll give them victories over Arizona and Houston at home.

Are there three more wins on the San Francisco schedule? I'm not sure I see them. San Francisco has the toughest home schedule in their division despite finishing with the worst record in the NFL last year. The 49ers improved their offensive line by signing Jonas Jennings and drafting David Baas, but have they improved anywhere else on the field? Joe Nedney should be an upgrade at kicker, but it's not like the 49ers were losing too many games last year on missed field goals. Are Marques Douglas and a full season of Julius Peterson enough to turn the worst defense in the league into something respectable? Nope. UNDER.

Vivek: So you have Alex Smith throwing to whom? Let's run down the 49er depth chart at wide receiver -- Brandon Lloyd, Arnaz Battle, Johnnie Morton, P.J. Fleck. If you can honestly say that you've heard of P.J. Fleck and know the dish on him, well more power to you. It is going to be a long learning process for #1 overall pick Smith. (Side note: the team has no expectations and a cerebral rookie, so they absolutely should start Smith from game one. Can Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, or Cody Pickett do any better?) Former Buffalo offensive lineman Jonas Jennings joined the Niners, but the team lost its best offensive tackle to Detroit: Kyle Kosier.

It is a rough report when your tight end (Eric Johnson) is the only bright spot on the offense. Kevan Barlow was supposed to be the breakout fantasy player of 2004, but all he did was cause his owners headaches. His low point of the season was when former coach Dennis Erickson sat him in favor of Maurice Hicks against the Redskins.

San Fran is setting themselves up for a great pick in the 2006 draft. D'Brickashaw Ferguson or DeAngelo Williams anyone?

Four and a half games seem generous. I'm going with Al's pick here and will take the UNDER.

Al: D'Brickashaw? I thought I'd heard some great first names on NFL players, but if this guy gets drafted next year he moves right to the top of my list.

Arizona Cardinals

O/U: 7 wins
2004 Record: 6-10
2005 Home Opponents: STL, SF, CAR, TEN, SEA, JAC, WAS, PHI
2005 Away Opponents: NYG, SEA, DAL, DET, STL, SF, HOU, IND

Al: Arizona should have won the NFC West last season. I've been arguing for a while that if you put a mediocre QB behind center for the Cardinals in 2004 they would have run away with the division title. So what did Arizona do in the off-season? They added a mediocre quarterback in Kurt Warner. They also had what appears on paper to be a great draft, adding a starting running back and cornerback as well as depth in the secondary and at linebacker.

With this improved Cardinal team comes a pretty nice schedule. Before Week 16, Arizona only plays one team that finished 2004 with a positive DVOA (Carolina). Those last two games against Philadelphia and Indianapolis look daunting, but neither of those teams has played a meaningful game that late in the season in a few years. By the time Arizona gets to Indianapolis, Peyton will likely have his annual playoff loss in New England locked up and it will be Sorgi time all over again.

Barring injuries, the Cardinals should be able to fall into an 8-8 record, and I wouldn't be surprised if they found themselves with double digit wins for the first time since 1976. OVER.

Vivek: Put a mediocre QB behind center, and yes, they can win the division. But what about a mediocre QB behind a mediocre offensive line (Leonard & Co.)? Warner will not be on the ground as much as he was in the Meadowlands, but he is going to have to do a lot to guide this team to the playoffs. A full season of Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Bryant Johnson will help, but that talented trio does not feature any real burners that can get open very quickly. They will have to use their bodies across the middle as Warner escapes the rush.

The rest of the offense will revolve around my dark horse pick for offensive rookie of the year -- J.J. Arrington. Arrington has supposedly looked good in workouts, especially with receiving skills that will let him say on the field in third down situations.

Despite all the focus on the offense, I believe that the defense will guide this team to more than seven wins. The 2004 squad was in the middle of the pack in DVOA last year and added cornerback Antrel Rolle and end Chike Okeafor. OVER

Seattle Seahawks

O/U: 8.5 wins
2004 Record: 9-7
2005 Home Opponents: ATL, ARI, HOU, DAL, STL, NYG, SF, IND
2005 Away Opponents: JAC, WAS, STL, ARI, SF, PHI, TEN, GB

Al: Random pre-season prediction: Walter Jones suffers a season ending injury during training camp. After missing it because of contract disputes for the past few seasons, you just know something bad is going to happen now that he's actually practicing in the summertime.

If Matt Hasselbeck and Bobby Engram can stay healthy all season, there's no reason this won't be the top offense in the NFC. I love the additions of Joe Jurvicius and Jerome Pathon to replace the departed Koren Robinson. Robinson showed flashes of greatness at times, but dropped way too many passes and was a real distraction.

Seattle's offense wasn't the problem last year, though, it was their terrible defense. The Seahawks allowed over 20 points in 12 of their last 14 games in 2004, including their playoff loss to St. Louis. The additions of some new blood in the secondary should help Seattle keep down opponent scoring enough to win most of their games.

Looking at Seattle's schedule, 4-4 on the road looks like a real possibility. They'd only need to win five at home to get to nine wins. Seems like a pretty solid OVER.

Vivek: Flashback to the NFC Wild Card Game in Seattle last year. The Seahawks are driving, down by seven with 27 seconds left. Matt Hasselbeck fires a pass to Bobby Engram in the end zone that proceeds to pull the wide receiver equivalent of Bill Buckner and lets the pass go right through his hands. That scenario, as Al pointed out, was all too familiar to Seattle last season. Engram and Pathon are sure-handed, but I'm not sure that they will put the team over the top. Darrell Jackson still drops too many passes to move into a higher tier of NFL wideouts.

The addition of defensive backs Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon should help and avoid the scenes of Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis sprinting to the end zone. That should outweigh the loss of last year's team interception leader Ken Lucas.

There are a lot of toss-up games on Seattle's schedule this year and the Cardinals are no walkover anymore. I see a .500 record, so give me the UNDER.

St. Louis Rams

O/U: 9 wins
2004 Record: 8-8
2005 Home Opponents: TEN, SEA, NO, JAC, ARI, WAS, PHI, SF
2005 Away Opponents: SF, ARI, NYG, IND, SEA, HOU, MIN, DAL

Al: I hate this line. On the one hand, I think St. Louis did a lot to improve their defense in the off-season. On the other hand, ten wins seems like one win too many for this team. The offensive line has more questions going into this season than in any season in recent memory. Marc Bulger keeps improving, but is still erratic. This team was terrible away from St. Louis last year, and there is just one too many scare games on that road schedule for me to go over. Plus, I can't stand Mike Martz. I would never lay money on this either way, but forced to pick I'll go UNDER.

Vivek: Ten wins seems pretty attainable for the Rams. You know exactly what you will get from the offense and, as Al mentioned, the defense has improved greatly. Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley are instant upgrades from the group that could not tackle last season. The defense cannot do any worse than they did last year in the takeaway department (only 15, which resulted in a league low -24 turnover differential). Factor in a maturing Jimmy Kennedy and emerging Anthony Hargrove, and the Rams should be able to do enough to let the offense win the games. For that, I'll take the OVER.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

O/U: 8.5 wins
2004 record: 10-6
2005 Home Opponents: SD, KC, WAS, NE, PHI, NYJ, BAL, OAK
2005 Away Opponents: MIA, JAC, NYG, OAK, DAL, KC, BUF, SD

Vivek: The Denver Browns (sic) did not impress me with their off-season moves, most notably the addition of four defensive linemen. Regardless of Ian Gold's presence and stud sophomore D.J. Williams, the weight of the defense will rely on the lineman -- Gerald Warren, Courtney Brown, Michael Myers, Ebenezer Ekuban and Trevor Pryce (returning from surgery) --who are a step below their counterparts from last year. As our FO partner Mike Tanier wrote in a recent Strategy Minicamp, the ideal defensive tackle needs to be able to split the offensive lineman, and this unit lacks the agility to do so on a consistent basis.

People have been tagging Tatum Bell and Ashley Lelie for breakout seasons on the other side of the ball, but again, I see this as more potential versus reality. Lelie had a nice 2004 season (54 catches for 1084 yards), but a breakdown of each game shows that he only caught more than four balls once and only topped 70 receiving yards once. Bell might be a fantasy star for the closing stretch of the season, but Mike Shanahan might be enticed to throw Mike Anderson, Quentin Griffin, and Maurice Clarett into the mix early on. Worst case, the Broncos always have Al's favorite player. Al's favorite player. (Scroll Down to Lesson 3).

The best off-season pickup may be Todd Sauerbrun, and we will all have to wait and see how many 60-yard punts will be in Invesco Field next year.

I have already been pretty harsh on a team that does have a lot of talent, but the clinching factor for my pick is the competition from their division rivals. This team can easily go 2-4 in the division, and out of division games against Indianapolis, New England, Philadelphia and the Jets do not give them a walk in the part the rest of the way. UNDER

Al: I can't in good conscience say that a team that voluntarily signed Ron Dayne to a contract will have a winning record. In all seriousness, though, this team took a step back this year. I still don't understand why you would try to improve upon the #5 defense according to DVOA by adding the Cleveland Browns defensive line. The AFC West got the short straw on the schedule this year by drawing the AFC East as their intra-conference, non-division opponents. I'm with you Viv. UNDER all the way.

Oakland Raiders

O/U: 8 wins
2004 record: 5-11
2005 Home Opponents: KC, DAL, SD, BUF, DEN, MIA, CLE, NYG
2005 Away Opponents: NE, PHI, TEN, KC, WAS, SD, NYJ, DEN

Al: I don't think anyone expects this team to only put up 320 points on offense like they did last season. The big questions remain on defense, where only one AFC team allowed more points or had a lower DVOA in 2004. I'm not sure I see enough of an improvement on that side of the ball to say the Raiders will finish with a winning record. Warren Sapp and Ted Washington are both still there and both still old. Oakland was second to last in the NFL in pass defense DVOA and looks to be even worse this year. The linebacking corps will be hurt by the departure of Napoleon Harris, who departed in the Randy Moss trade. With the departure of the law firm of Buchanan and Buchanon and the addition of a pair of rookies, the Oakland secondary would be a shoo-in for the honor for being the worst in the league if not for the presence of Charles Woodson. UNDER.

Vivek: I don't care what problems Randy Moss might have -- attitude, showboating, poor sportsmanship, bad hair day -- this Raiders offense is a horror for defensive coordinators with him. This could be the NFL equivalent of the Fun n' Gun with Moss on one side, Porter on the other and Ronald Curry and Doug Gabriel thrown in there as well. Kerry Collins might be the most knocked in-demand quarterback out there in the fantasy world. Remember that he piled up three straight years of 3600+ yards in New York without a true star receiver (apologies to Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Tiki Barber, and Jeremy Shockey).

Balance out the aerial attack with LaMont Jordan, and you have all the makings of a potent offense. What will help Jordan the most is the fact that he does not need to carry the entire offense on his 5'10" frame, and not even the entire running game. Despite his workhorse mentality and desire to validate his contract, Norv Turner will make sure to use Zack Crockett in short yardage situations.

I love the offensive line, anchored by Robert Gallery, Jake Grove, and Barry Sims, one of the most underrated linemen in the conference. He was supposed to be a fill-in until Gallery was ready to take over the left tackle spot but wound up starting every game there last year.

The best defense is a good offense? Ok, the saying is flip-flopped, but it might be true in this case. The Raiders are going to hold onto the ball a lot on offense, allowing the defense to rest more. The coaching staff will also abandon the 3-4 and revert back to the 4-3, becoming more of an opportunistic unit -- utilizing the blitz and putting players back into their natural positions. This will be enough to keep the team in games. If you couldn't tell, I'm taking the OVER.

Kansas City Chiefs

O/U: 9.5
2004 record: 7-9
2005 Home Opponents: NYJ, PHI, WAS, OAK, NE, DEN, SD, CIN
2005 Away Opponents: OAK, DEN, MIA, SD, BUF, HOU, DAL, NYG

Vivek: That half game in the line is a blessing for me and is the clincher for the pick. Gunther Cunningham burned me last year and despite the additions of Derrick Johnson, Patrick Surtain, and Kendrell Bell, this defense still will not put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and will not plug the gaps in the line. This team was shutout in the sack category four times last season, and recorded only one sack in another three games -- the 40 overall sacks for the year is a misleading statistic.

The lack of burners to go downfield will allow defenses to shorten the field and hone in on Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez. Sammie Parker and Eddie Kennison do not make up a very imposing 1-2 combo at the wire receiver spots. They need to hope that FredEx does more than create over-the-top sound bytes for the sports talk programs. UNDER.

Al: I have to disagree with you on this one, Viv. This team should have won at least nine games last year. Kansas City finished with two fewer wins than their points scored and points allowed would indicate they should have. When a team underperforms its Pythagorean record by that much, it tends to bounce upwards the next season. When you look at 16-game seasons since the schedule was lengthened in 1978 (so, not counting 1982 and 1987), teams that have underperformed their Pythagorean record by at least two games in one year have seen their win totals increase by an average of 1.78 wins the next season.

There's no reason this over/under line should be a half game higher than San Diego's, but with Kansas City's improved defense, ten wins is very realistic. If they could add a healthy Ty Law, the Chiefs would move from one of the worst secondaries in the league to possibly the best in their division. The offensive line is still one of the best in football. Priest Holmes will show signs of aging, but with Larry Johnson, Tony Richardson and Robert Holcombe, the Chiefs have one of the deepest backfields in the league. Gonzo and Eddie Kennison are good for about 1000 yards apiece. Fourth round pick Craphonso Thorpe should develop into Kansas City's number two receiver by midseason, and secure his place in the pantheon of amazing first names. Craphonso? How can you do that to a child? OVER.

San Diego Chargers

O/U: 9 wins
2004 record: 12-4
2005 Home Opponents: DAL, NYG, PIT, KC, BUF, OAK, MIA, DEN
2005 Away Opponents: DEN, NE, OAK, PHI, NYJ, WAS, IND, KC

Vivek: Last year's 12-4 record will be hard to match, but a playoff push and ten wins is within reach for the defending AFC West champs. This team did not have any major losses (Doug Flutie and Tim Dwight) and had a steal in the draft with Shawne Merriman. The 12th overall pick could have been a top five pick in terms of immediate impact and true ability. He adds to an anemic pass rush, but one that was still one of the most improved overall defenses from 2003 to 2004.

The offense will still revolve around LaDainian Tomlinson, who will approach 2000 total yards once again. LT, Brees, and Antonio Gates are in their prime now, and a full season of Keenan McCardell and a seasoned Eric Parker make this a very balanced offensive unit. I might also be the only Darren Sproles fan out of the FO-ers. I'm always rooting for the little guy, and he could be the Joe McEwing of the NFL -- a super utility man, returning kicks, catching the ball out of the backfield, taking some end-arounds and the occasional handoffs in lieu of Jesse Chatman.

The Chargers will hit the OVER but just barely.

Al: The Joe McEwing of the NFL? Does that mean he'll eventually find his way onto the roster of my favorite team and end up starting half the season despite being one of the worst players in the sport? No, I'm not a bitter Mets fan.

I talked up Merriman a lot this off-season, but the biggest addition to the Charger defense through this year's draft may be defensive tackle Luis Castillo from Northwestern. He'll add some needed depth and flexibility to an already solid defensive line. Plus he tested positive for steroids, so you can expect him to be able to push opposing offensive linemen out of his way.

There are still big question marks in the defensive backfield. Quentin "15-yard penalty" Jammer is still San Diego's number one cornerback. The Chargers' road schedule is filled with teams that will have no problem throwing successfully against San Diego's secondary. Nevertheless, I don't see any reason this team should be three games worse than it was last year. The offense is intact and the defense should be improved, even if only slightly, by the additions of the two rookies. Have to agree with you, Viv, and go OVER.

Next week: The AFC and NFC East.

Posted by: scramble on 22 Jul 2005

56 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2010, 3:12am by uggs outlet

Comments

1
by Bill (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 1:17am

Craphonso just has to be something where his parents didn't realize it until like four weeks later, when someone was finally not afraid/too drunk to avoid offending them and said "CRAPHONSO????" and his parents thought for a second and concurrently shook their heads in shame.

Or it's a boy named sue sorta situation.

2
by Israel (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 4:03am

Maybe Mr and Mrs Thorpe come from an obscure country where "craphonso" means "lotus bud" or "glowing sunrise" or something.

3
by PerlStalker (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 10:20am

Prince John: You changed your name to Latrine? What was it before?
Latrine: Crap House.

:-)

4
by Theo (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 10:36am

Uhm... excuse me.
Where do the over/under numbers come from?

5
by Al (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 11:05am

D'oh. Forgot to mention that. The odds are from vegasinsider.com. Click my name for the full list.

6
by noahpoah (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 11:40am

Craphonso vs. D'Brickashaw in a fight to the death!

After years of ridicule at the hands of their cruel peers, Craphonso and D'Brickashaw are eager to slake their thirst for blood!

Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime pay-per-view event.

Brought to you by Vince McMahon.

Oh, and how does it work when a line is an integer (9 wins, e.g., the Chargers)? If they win exactly nine games, niether the over nor the under bet wins? Also, what happens in the case of a tie? Does it count as a half game, thus making any over/under bet on a line with a .5 worthless?

7
by Al (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 11:43am

You're wagering just on the number of wins, so ties would hurt you just as much as a loss.

You're right about the integers. You're wagering on whether the wins will be either above or below the number. If it matches the number exactly, either way you've lost.

8
by Aaron (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 12:10pm

Actually, with most books at least, you push if you hit the number correctly. I bet the Ravens under 9 last year and got my money back.

9
by Harris (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 12:19pm

Free Shockmain Davis!

My brother is a teacher in D.C. He had a student whose name was the unspellable sound his mother made at his birth, so it's something like, "Raagralahshingg."

With those receivers, I have to think the Raiders are going long early and often. Why does Viv think they'll hold onto the ball and protect the defense? They're not designed to be a ball-control offense.

10
by JasonK (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 12:58pm

I find it interesting that the average number of projected wins per team is more than 8 (about 8.2, assuming I didn't screw up the calculator-punching). Obviously, this is unsustainable-- gamblers could simply make equivalent "under" bets on every team, knowing that they'd come out ahead. Bookies aren't stupid, so why are they doing this?

My guess is that they're considering injuries. I'd imagine that the "all under" bet wouldn't work well because the effects of major injuries makes underperforming more concentrated than overperforming. That is, it's more likely that a team ends up significantly under (like 4-5 wins less than predicted) because theirs stars all get hurt than significantly over because of emerging talent and luck.

11
by Al (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 1:05pm

No, you didn't add incorrectly. The odds average out to 8.21875 wins per team. There are 7 extra wins overall. It's influenced my picks slightly. When I'm torn about a team, like St. Louis, the extra wins have pushed me to lean more towards the under.

12
by T. Diddy (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 1:08pm

Also, as Dr. Z points out in the linked article, you don't get the same odds on every team (or even for the over vs. the under for each individual team). The casinos give good odds on bets they won't think happen, to get people to bet that way, and vice versa.

13
by T. Diddy (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 1:10pm

My comment got rejected because I used a six-letter word beginning with "C", I think. So let's try again without that word.

The [oddsmakers] also don't give the same odds on over-under bets for every team, or even for over vs. under for the same team, as explained in the linked Dr. Z article. They want people to bet on what they consider unlikely scenarios, and avoid betting on what they consider likely.

14
by Teddy (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 2:17pm

How much is KC's pythag thrown off by that 56-10 razing of Atlanta? The size of that win seems like a pretty big outlier--the team outscored its opponents by 48, and 46 of those came in one game.

Obviously a team's biggest win will always have a disproportinate effect on the PF/PA differential, but 46/48 seems out of whack.

15
by Zac (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 4:28pm

Teddy, yeah, I've heard that mentioned before about football. If KC squeaks by Atlanta by a score of 11-10, their projected win total basically changes from 9 wins down to 8 wins. As such, I don't know how useful the Pythagorean Win Theorem is for football, when they only play 16 games. 162 games in baseball is a little different.

16
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 4:57pm

Well, use something more complicated than just the pythagorean guess: estimated wins. Estimated wins is based on DVOA, which is based on play-by-play info, which gives you a huge amount more statistics.

Buffalo, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay were the big underperformers last year - TB by 3.0 (3.2) Buffalo by 2.6 (2.6) wins and Kansas City by 2.5 (2.4) wins. Numbers in parentheses are from estimated wins adjusted by schedule strength (so probably more correct). Pittsburgh and Atlanta were the big overperformers, of course, by 3.1 (2.9) wins and 2.9 (3.1) wins.

So the same thing still holds true when you use a metric that isn't quite as biased by single games.

17
by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 5:33pm

Estimated wins are a fun one to look at; as you'll see if you get the book we have a box at the start of each team chapter that shows several of its most important stats, including estimated wins. Here's how Aaron describes estimated wins:

an estimate of wins based on a formula that combines DVOA ratings in offense, defense, and special teams, as well as red zone defense, offense and defense in the second half of close games, offense in the first quarter, and variance

18
by NELPHONIOUS OF pENNEFIELDE (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 5:42pm

Thorpe carries with it a certain sportsminded pedigree,so why combine it a pedestrian footspeed first name like Jim.
Now if that first name went with something like MLB twosacker with last name sounding like Grizzolonik-proceed to the Theoretical physics table at the job fair.

19
by Vince (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 6:08pm

A blowout win will skew all "predicted win" stats. In fact, the butt kicking should affect Pythag and EW in very similar ways.

The Atl-KC game was over at halftime. KC continued to murderize Atlanta for the entire second half. With each play, KC's EW and Pythag (and DVOA, for that matter) went up a little bit, while their real world win total went up exactly zero.

20
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 6:26pm

Yes, but KC's EW and DVOA increases weren't affected as much because Atlanta was such a mediocre team last year. Also how a team plays during a blowout has little effect on the Estimated wins, except for red zone performances.

21
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 6:29pm

In "Freakonomics" they do an analysis of the odd names some people give their kids and how it affects hiring. In the book they relate the story of a girl named Temptress, who was brought in to court on some sort of salacious charges (I don't think it said precisely what). When the judge heard the 15-year old girl's name, he pulled her mother aside and said, "why did you name her that?" "I thought the name of that girl on the Cosby show was pretty." "That's Tempest." "I know. I found that out later." "Do you know what her name means?" "Yes. I found that out later too." The judge thought perhaps her name had an influence on how she turned out.

22
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 7:14pm

"By the time Arizona gets to Indianapolis, Peyton will likely have his annual playoff loss in New England locked up"

Eat it. Seriously. Just shut up. I think I'm gonna have an aneurism just THINKING about the playoffs last year. Or the year before when the word "interference" was apparently unknown for the tenure of a whole game.

23
by Sean D. (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 7:31pm

Once again the ever-realistic San Diegan must make a comment on his Chargers. I find such optimistic predictions for the Chargers to be a little disconcerting to say the least. My biggest worry (and something that never gets mentioned in any preview of the team) is that the injury bug will come around. Last year pretty much no one got hurt. I think the major injuries were Hardwick (a couple of games, and Ball filled in well), Sammy Davis (that's just addition by subtraction folks), Dingle (easily replaceable), and Caldwell (McCardell was a gift from the football gods). Anyway, other than those a Brees concussion here, a gimpy LT groin there, and the annual Tim Dwight injury the team was very lucky. Can that really happen again? I have dreams of Gates leaping for a pass and breaking an arm or blowing out a knee. The defense looking lost because Edwards misses some games. RBs running wild because Jamal Williams gets hurt. Now, before anyone accuses me of Cubs fan syndrome, my point is that something like this will probably happen and so I would think with the Chargers the under bet is safer because of where they came from, how lucky they were last year and how many tough teams they play. In my dreams the team doesn't collapse back to its old Leafy ways, but it does end up 8-8.

24
by Jim A (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 7:37pm

Re: average over/under wins greater than 8. Another similar thing is if you look at the gambling odds of each team winning the Super Bowl, they add up to greater than 100%.

I think the bookies know that people who bet on futures are typically casual fans who tend to overvalue their favorite team.

25
by Terry (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 7:57pm

I talked up Merriman a lot this off-season, but the biggest addition to the Charger defense through this year’s draft may be defensive tackle Luis Castillo from Northwestern. He tested positive for steroids, so you can expect him to be able to push opposing offensive linemen out of his way.

I <3 FO. Anyways, I'm not buying the "Raiders will hold on to the ball more" either. Norv Turner has a reputation for employing a 'vertical passing attack'. And since this season he'll be armed with big-armed Collins throwing the ball to Moss, Porter, Curry, and Gabriel, you've got to wonder how long they'll retain possession-- either they'll score, or Collins will throw a pick; for his career, Collins has thrown 154 INTs versus 153 TDs, and if we throw out the 2000 season, it's 141 INTs to 131 TDs.

I know (the non-injured) Randy almost always wins jumpballs, but still...

26
by fyo (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 10:35pm

> The best defense is a good offense? Ok, the saying is flip-flopped

No it isn't. The saying is exactly that: The best defense is a good offense.

Maybe it's been perveted by the "defense wins super bowls" crapola... Not sure how to prove this... well, google says I'm right by a margin of around 6:1 ;-)

27
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 11:47pm

I think that saying comes from soccer, the best offense is a good defense.

Adding up to more than 8: the house takes a cut, right? So even if that does give under the edge, then you may come out just beyond breaking even, not a big deal.

Raiders offence: all the pieces, even a decent fullback, hope it turns out well for them :)
The thing about sustaining drives, is that even on third down you have to guard Randy Moss deep. This can help open it up underneath. Like, Randy and Curry deep, then that makes space for Porter over the middle or something. More third downs = longer drives.

28
by Moses (not verified) :: Sat, 07/23/2005 - 11:16am

Regarding Post 2:

From a baby names site:

"Meaning of the name Craphonso:

All baby names have meanings, even the name Craphonso. Some name meanings come from thousands of years ago, some are more recent, and some names may have meanings in multiple origins. Below you will find the name meanings for the name Craphonso for each origin.

African-American meaning of the boys name Craphonso:

* variation of Alphonso "

Man, just name him Alphonso...

29
by Jen (not verified) :: Sat, 07/23/2005 - 1:21pm

I believe Craphonso was named by his dad who couldn't decide on Craig or Alphonso. He decided to combine the two. There was an article in the local paper about it.

30
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Sat, 07/23/2005 - 2:18pm

I believe Craphonso was named by his dad who couldn’t decide on Craig or Alphonso. He decided to combine the two.

I think Alphraig would have been a better choice

31
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Sat, 07/23/2005 - 4:06pm

30: lol

32
by Richard (not verified) :: Sat, 07/23/2005 - 5:54pm

Re: 24. I work as an odds compiler for a betting company in the U.K. and we price up a soccer match with an overround of 11-12% For a market like the coming season's Superbowl winner, with so many potential outcomes, we would bet to anything up to 140%. Perhaps the best value is to be had through person to person betting exchanges, although I am not sure if they are accessible from the US. (Type 'betting exchange' into a search engine for more details)

33
by David Siebecker (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 12:12am

I'm familiar with, "The best defense is a good office" as quoted from the Dr. Demento Skit "Tae Kwan Leap". According to the skit it was originally said by Mel, the cook on Alice. I'm sure that in reality it is entirely sport dependent.

34
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 1:33am

Re 33 and offense/defense quote
I think the exprssion actually goes back to Prussian military strategy under Fredrick the great and German tactics in WWI, but I may be wrong.

re 22 Even Peyton doesn't cry this much.

35
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 3:11am

If you can honestly say that you’ve heard of P.J. Fleck and know the dish on him, well more power to you.

What the heck does this have to do with anything? I'd like to see anyone name 4 different #4 WRs from any team in the league. The only one I can think of is Jerry Rice, and that's only because he plays for the team I follow, and because he was one of the most publicised offseason moves, and even he will be competing for the #3 rather than being a true #4 reciever.

If you're knocking the Niners because their #4 WR is an absolute unknown, then I think you're going to have to make the bold prediction that no team in the league will finish over .500.

the ideal defensive tackle needs to be able to split the offensive lineman, and this unit lacks the agility to do so on a consistent basis.
I disagree with this. Gerard Warren had a very solid rookie season playing a very active attacking style of defense, but a new defensive scheme had him playing a lot more 2-gap responsibilities, and he suddenly got labeled a bust. Let's see how he does in an attacking role again before saying he can't do it.

And Vivek... honestly... taking the over on the Raiders, but the under on the Broncos? Denver had the #5 defense, and is swapping Herndon with Walls (upgrade, if he stays healthy), Spragan with Gold (HUGE upgrade), and Pope with Warren/Myers (another big upgrade), Marco Coleman with Ekuban/Brown (Big upgrade- Ekuban played great last season, and Brown is unstoppable when healthy), and Hayward with Pryce (Big upgrade again). Basically, they're going to have 6 new defensive starters, and 5 of them will be big upgrades (Kennedy to Ferguson being the one step down). Unless you count the addition by subtraction of jettisoning Buchanon, Buchanon, and Harris, Oakland's defense looks to be WORSE than last year... so basically you're banking on the presence of Randy Moss to get Oakland 4 more wins all by his lonesome. I hate to break it to you, but Minnesota had plenty of mediocre years from more talented teams than this Oakland squad.

Oakland and St. Louis are the two most tempting bets I see on the board. I'd take the under and run on both of them. St. Louis was TERRIBLE last season, but they still seem to be coasting on their 1999-2001 reputation.

36
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 10:23am

I also think that the Rams under is the best bet in the West. With Estimated Wins at 5.4 and Pythag Wins at 6.1 they have no place to go but down.

37
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 11:28am

A blowout win will skew all “predicted win� stats. In fact, the butt kicking should affect Pythag and EW in very similar ways.

I don't agree. A blowout win affects a pythagorean projection quite significantly because the number of points a team scores is extremely variable from game to game. See also Atlanta, for instance - which goes from scoring 40 to scoring 0 the next game.

So Kansas City (which scored 483 points or so last season) scored over 12% of their points that game, and that game contributed almost all of the point differential of the season. Ditto with Atlanta. So that game contributes a tremendous weight to the Pythagorean projection, which you can easily see if you remove it.

But the same statement is not true about DVOA. Besides, and here's the kicker: you lose points in Estimated Wins if you're variable (if you're a good team: if you're a bad team, you should gain them). So outliers are partially corrected for already.

It's easy enough to tell. Maybe someone can email Aaron and ask him to compute Estimated Wins for KC and Atlanta removing that game? Honestly, I doubt it's going to change that much. KC moved from a DVOA of 5.6% to 21% after the Atlanta game, which is huge, but they finished just about dead split between the two at 12.1%, and with a pretty wide variance (15.7%). Atlanta went from 7.2% to -5.3%, and finished at -2.9%+/-28.3%, so again, that game wasn't too much of an outlier for them, either.

38
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 11:42am

I also think that the Rams under is the best bet in the West. With Estimated Wins at 5.4 and Pythag Wins at 6.1 they have no place to go but down.

I agree, but I'm not sure I'd bet on it. It hinges mainly on a few things.

1) Can Seattle figure out how to beat St. Louis?
2) Can Kurt Warner still play?
3) Can at least 2 of NYG/WAS/DAL improve?

If the answer to any of these is "yes", I'd say the Rams will hit the under. If they're all "no", then I think they can hit at least 9 wins just with these games plus SF, SF, TEN, and a 50/50 shot at NO.

The remaining 5 games on the schedule are MIN, PHI, HOU, JAC, IND, which I'd pencil in for 5 losses right away.

39
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 1:05pm

I'm curious about all the high expectations for Arizona this year. Isn't this the only team that managed to find a way to lose to the 49ers last year (twice!!)? I'm not much of a Denny Green fan and his premature commitment to McCown last year and his subsequent premature abandonment didn't do much to change my mind.

They're going to have to convince me the hard way.

40
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 2:46pm

Green knows how to get a few years of usefulness out of washed up QBs (See Cunningham, Randall) and they were a quality QB away from winning thier division last year.
One out of three ain't bad, right Pat?

41
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 3:36pm

Hey, if Arizona takes 2 from the Rams, I don't see them hitting 10 on that schedule. If Arizona had split with the Rams last year, the Rams would've been out of the playoffs, where they deserved to be. New Orleans would've been in, which isn't much of an improvement, but it is an improvement.

The 2004 Rams still by far hold the "worst team to win a playoff game" award. 8-8 for that team last year was a miracle.

42
by Ray (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 3:45pm

RE: #33

Boot to the head.

43
by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:05pm

Weren't the Rams 8-8 with the worst turnover rate in the league (-24 or something silly like that). And aren't turnovers one of those things that seem to vary from year to year (I think I saw an article about that on this site, or maybe it was the other way round, hmmmm).

Anyway, if you take an 8-8 team with (-24) turnovers and move that turnover number to zero or in the positive, wouldn't you end up with something substantially better than 8-8?

Of course, you could say that about any team. But it seems to me that teams with big numbers in that turnover metric, whether positive or negative, probably had a large part of their seasons success or failure hang on that number, which is, as mentioned before, pretty variable.

Just wondering. Any thoughts?

44
by Todd S (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:17pm

#33 and #42

A tear of joy just ran down my cheek knowing that I'm not the only person who thought of that reference.

45
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:22pm

you could (as Casey liked to say) look it up (so I did)

last year, boh Al and Aaron went 17-13-2 in their over/under predictions (giving a push as a tie rather than a loss)

they differed on 10 of the picks, but split those equally right/wriong

the biggest gaffe by both was going Tenn over 10

46
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:25pm

turnover fluxation: Interceptions are pretty constant from year to year, fumbles are random. Well, fumbles are constant, but who recovers them is random. This is what happend to the Bears in 2001. They recovered a crazy-high precentage of fumbles both on offense and defense and ended up going 13-3. Next year they recovered a normal number of fumbles and thier record plummeted.

47
by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:41pm

RE #46

Right. Here's another. Now before we start I'll grant that there were other things that changed for San Diego between 02 and 04, but just go with it.

San Diego -

2002: +3 turnover rate, 8-8 record
2003: -11 turnover rate, 4-12 record
2004: +15 turnover rate, 12-4 record

My point again being that if the Rams better their (-24) turnover rate (and odds are that they will through sheer luck) then that could/should have a huge effect on their W/L.

48
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:44pm

I was beaten by #46. I would just like to point out that, when Lovie Smith was in town, they were turnover MACHINES. Bulger coughed the ball up at every opportunity and they STILL wound up with a ridiculous turnover ratio. Last year, so long Lovie, so long turnovers. I don't know why they'd change all of a sudden this season.

Also, while defensive turnovers may vary, some guys just cough it up every chance they get, and Marc Bulger is one of those guys.

49
by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:06pm

Kibbles, that's kind of the point. I'm with you that once Lovie left there appeared to be a difference in the defense, but when you ask 'why would it suddenly change' the answer is because there is little evidence that defensive turnovers hold steady from year to year. So after the Rams poor season, there is reason to believe that their turnover numbers would move more toward the norm rather than stay at the edges.

50
by Ned (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 8:21pm

Marc Bulger: 523 passes, 18 turnovers
Tom Brady: 499 passes, 17 turnovers

He also didn't turn the ball over in 2002. He was really bad in 2003, but like Culpepper, he can improve. Bulger's continued improvement and the fact that the special teams can't be worse (can they) are two of the things the Rams have going for them.

51
by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:35pm

Rams turnover diff and record -

2002: -19 TOs 7-9 record
2003: +11 TOs 12-4 record
2004: -24 TOs 8-8 record

52
by Parker (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 9:35am

Sorry, 2003 TOs shoudl be +7 , not 11.

Also, sorry for not having much of a point.

53
by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 11:39am

Wow imagine when Thorpe's younger brother emerges:

Mom: Wow you had a great receiving day today, you played like Crap!
Brother: Thanks

54
by dead meadow (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2005 - 8:41pm

I think the best line out of the lot this year is the over on Kansas City at 8.5 games (at www.bluesq.com). The actual odds offered are not that great (4/6) but I think with the improvements on D that they made, they look one of the favourites for the AFC with Indy, the Pats and the Ravens.

55
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 2:31pm

Well, the Rams were -14 in takeaways (exactly 50/50 on fumbles). Third worst in the NFC. So they did improve their differential from 2004, yet went 6-10.

56
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