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22 Aug 2007

Scramble for the Ball: 2007 AFC Over-Unders

by Bill Barnwell

SCRAMBLE FOR THE BALL SPONSOR
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This week's Scramble for the Ball takes a look at the over/under lines for all 16 AFC teams. Of course, the projected wins for all 32 teams are listed in this year's Pro Football Prospectus, but since you've already got a copy for yourself and one for Grandma, it would be no fun to just abide by the book. I'll be explaining my choices and disagreements with the system where relevant.

Analyzing the over-under lines has been a Scramble tradition since the column started in 2003. Last year, I was able to get 17 out of 32 right, doing much better in the NFC than in the AFC. The big miss, of course, was Baltimore; my former co-writer Ian Dembsky was the proud recipient of a purple Ed Reed jersey at our yearly fantasy baseball draft as a result. It may or may not be a coincidence that, this year, I won't have a co-writer to lose a bet to. The only actual bet that I placed last year while I was in Vegas was on the Chargers at +/- 9.5 -- which, fortunately, worked out well.

Ah, the first line of the year is always a sweet sound. Allow me to explain how the line works to those of you uninitiated. A line of +/- 9.5, like the Chargers' line from last year, allows you to place one of two bets: the Over, which would be a bet that the Chargers would win 10 or more games, or the Under, which would be a bet that the Chargers would win 9 or less. If the Chargers went 9-6-1, the bet would be a tie and the money would return. At sports books, the odds are usually tilted one way or another depending upon the action being received by the casino; for example, the Ravens line at 9.5 currently is at -135 for the Over bet, but +105 for the Under bet. That means that you'd have to bet $135 to win $100 (as well as your $135 back) on the Over, but you'd only have to bet $100 to win $105 (plus your $100 back) on the Under. It also means the casino is seeing more action on the Over. For the purposes of this article, we'll just be picking the over/under without any allowance for what the current betting lines are. The over/unders for each team come from our sponsor, Doc's Sports Odds.

So, what do I think of the Ravens? Well...

Baltimore Ravens (+/- 9.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 9.0 Wins

The Ravens were my biggest miss last year -- mainly because, since they were Jason Whitlock's sleeper pick to go to the Super Bowl, it seemed like a good idea to run in the other direction. While their defense was expected to be great and was, their offense went from being a plodding mediocrity to actual competence (15th in the league); that and some good special teams will get you into the playoffs.

The biggest concern about the Ravens going into training camp was the loss of RT Tony Pashos, off to Jacksonville. The Ravens will likely replace him with former second-round pick Adam Terry, who served as a reserve lineman last year. Now, a much bigger concern on the line has developed, with All-World LT Jonathan Ogden still on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a painful turf toe injury. While Ogden will likely not miss time, turf toe is an injury that lingers and will likely affect his play for the entire season. While Ogden is still a left tackle that about 30 of the league's 32 teams would rather have than their own, a little bit of degradation in his play is to be expected. There's lots of depth at offensive line for the Ravens, but no one able to step in and replace the mammoth Ogden.

On the defensive side, the loss of Adalius Thomas would be a bigger blow until you remember, well, that this is the Ravens, pretty much a defensive factory and probably one of the five best drafting teams in football. Jarret Johnson will take over for Thomas on the strong side and he's the kind of nonstop player that can make plays behind an excellent defensive line like the Ravens'.

So why, then, am I going with the Under? Age and regression, particularly on the offense. Almost every one of the Ravens' stars are past their prime: Steve McNair, Ogden, Derrick Mason, Ray Lewis -- even Chris McAlister (30) and Ed Reed (29) are getting up there in years. The odds of McNair staying healthy for a full season again are markedly slim, and it's hard to endorse Kyle Boller at this point. Furthermore, the Ravens' offense was 17th in the league on first down, 22nd in the league on second down, but sixth on third down; that's primed for a regression to the mean.

Buffalo Bills (+/- 6 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 6.2 Wins

You see how similar these projection lines are and, for a second, you really want to go behind the curtain and see what Vegas has cooked up underneath it all. I wonder who their system is named after. HANRATTY? RHOME? Oh well. The biggest thing for the Bills, regardless of their team's skill level, is the fact that they'll be facing what we project as the most difficult schedule in football. For reference, the team with that honor in 2005 was the Chargers, who went 9-7 sandwiched between 12- and 14-win seasons with the same roster. In 2006 it was the Broncos, who went from 13-3 to 9-7. This puts a significant damper on any enthusiasm I may have had for the Bills.

And, the thing is, there's not really a whole lot to like here. You'd like to trust Marv Levy as a personnel evaluator, and Donte Whitmer appears to be a potential star at safety, but John McCargo missed almost the whole season, the Takeo Spikes trade ended up being pretty much for nothing, and they have to replace the core of their defense in Spikes, London Fletcher-Baker, and Nate Clements. Fortunately, they replaced one of the NFL's best corners ... with one of its worst, in Jason Webster. He'll keep the position warm for Ashton Youboty, mainly because of the fires that will be raging on Webster's side of the field. Bringing in talented new offensive linemen helps, but our research in this year's annual shows that offensive lines that stick together get better. It's going to be a long year in Buffalo. Under.

Cincinnati Bengals (+/- 9.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 8.7 Wins

The best news about the Bengals' hopes for this upcoming season actually came this week, as left tackle Levi Jones finally got back on the field after off-season surgery on his left knee. Jones is the Bengals' best offensive lineman and the most irreplacable, especially after the departures of Eric Steinbach and Rich Braham on the interior. The old backups, Andrew Whitworth and Eric Ghiaciuc, are now the starters, which creates holes behind them. If Jones can't go, the Bengals could move Whitworth to left tackle and start Stacy Andrews at guard; Andrews is, of course, the brother of All-Pro Eagles left guard Shawn Andrews.

I'm slightly more sanguine than our projection system on the Bengals defense because I really do think Marvin Lewis is a good teacher. With that in mind, he's refreshed the secondary with new talent at cornerback, where Tory James was way past his prime and Deltha O'Neal had regressed. Johnathan Joseph was fantastic in run support last season, and had a very solid success rate (53%, 36th in the league) for a rookie corner; meanwhile, the Bengals spent a first-round pick on Michigan corner Leon Hall. Big Ten first-round defensive backs this decade have been a mixed bag; while Nate Clements is a star, and Donte Whitner looks to be an excellent safety for years to come, Chris Gamble, Marlin Jackson, Willie Middlebrooks, Jamar Fletcher, and Ahmed Plummer are a mix of washouts, retirees, and fringe defensive backs. The other move the Bengals made was to bring in LB Ed Hartwell, who was a star in Baltimore but failed to make an impact due to injury in Atlanta. While Hartwell initially played on the weak side in preseason, he's been moved back into the middle, and if he beats out Ahmad Brooks for the middle linebacker spot, he might steady what's been a disappointing defense. With an average schedule and a healthy Carson Palmer for a full season, I'm going to ignore the projection system and go with the Over.

Cleveland Browns (+/- 6.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 7.6 Wins

Here's a projection I agree with. While I did mention in the Bills section that offensive lines that stick together tend to improve, and that the Browns spent their first-round pick on left tackle Joe Thomas and signed guard Eric Steinbach away from Cincinnati, the line was so dire last year (31st in the NFL) that bringing in replacements can only help. A full season with center Hank Fraley and/or the possible return to health of former All-Pro center LeCharles Bentley also bodes well for what was a line in shambles.

The other somewhat hidden factor that should bounce back for the Browns this season? Injuries, particularly on the defensive side. The Browns, as a whole, were more hurt in 2006 than any team has been in the six years we've tracked injuries. A likely regression to the mean on those injuries would result in a healthy, deep team. There's a serious success story brewing here, and a real chance to make money. Over.

Denver Broncos (+/- 9.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 8.7 Wins

Remember when I was saying how hard the Broncos' schedule was last year? Well, this time around, it's 29th in the league. That's a huge boon to the Broncos right there, regardless of their own performance. Another factor affecting them was their weird third down tendencies; while the offense was significantly worse on third down than could be expected, the defense was actually a good amount better. Both those should balance out and be more consistent this season.

The two biggest things for this upcoming Broncos season are intertwined: The development of Jay Cutler at quarterback, and the health of Matt Lepsis at left tackle. Cutler was slightly better than Jake Plummer on the whole last year, but Cutler also didn't have the benefit of playing behind Lepsis. The Broncos offense struggled to account for Lepsis' departure; while they were second in the league at running behind left end in 2004 and 2005, they were 30th last year. Every metric we have for the offensive line shows them going from an elite line to an average-or-worse one last year. With George Foster and Cooper Carlisle gone, the Broncos will also have to revamp the right side of their line while hoping Lepsis returns to form. He's already struggled with a balky groin in preseason, but I'm willing to give the Denver offensive line and Mike Shanahan the benefit of the doubt. I'll go with the Over.

Houston Texans (+/- 6.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 6.0 Wins

Our hope last year (in the sense that we at Football Outsiders, as kind human beings, don't like to see young quarterbacks or really any players get mauled and fail to have a career) was that the Texans' offensive line would improve following the arrival of Gary Kubiak, who had been the beneficiary of excellent line play in Denver. Unfortunately, our patron saint didn't bring his offensive line with him, and the line actually got worse. While a good amount of the blame can be given to the now-departed David Carr, the line wasn't doing him any favors, either. Bringing in Jordan Black from the Chiefs is a move designed to tread water with the idea that LT Charles Spencer might one day return from his broken leg, but it doesn't seem likely anytime soon. Ephraim Salaam, who appears to be favored to Black as the starter at left tackle, inspires little in the way of hope.

With that in mind, the Texans might be a passable team if they'd hit on any of their first-round picks dedicated to improving their defensive line, but only Mario Williams appears to be a keeper at this point. The Texans used their first-round pick this year on defensive tackle Amobi Okoye to replace 2005 first-round pick Travis Johnson, and talk around the league now is that Okoye may have been more of a combine wonder than an actual football player. Either way, at 20, Okoye still has a good amount of developing to do. Poor middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans is surrounded by flotsam, and cornerback Dunta Robinson, jetsam. Outside linebacker Jason Babin has failed to develop altogether, and the result is about half a defense. The good players on this team and the fans of Houston deserve better, but it's hard to see where better is coming from. Under.

Indianapolis Colts (+/- 10.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 8.9 Wins

Well, that is a pretty big gap -- just as big as the Browns' gap, and I stuck with the book there, so I'll do the same here and say Under, for a variety of reasons. The Colts have a difficult schedule (sixth in the league), having to play against the tougher AFC West as opposed to the weaker AFC East in 2006. They've already lost Anthony McFarland, their best run stopper, and they weren't exactly good against the run to begin with. That makes five defensive starters they'll need to replace. Even if you have the same opinion of Cato June that most of us at Football Outsiders did, Freddy Keiaho is still markedly inexperienced and will need to get his feet under him.

The hope is that Bob Sanders will stay healthy in 2007, but he's yet to make it through an NFL season without being injured, and because of his small frame and style of play, that's likely to continue. With each giant contract the Colts hand out, their depth gets worse and worse, and as the Redskins have shown, that's not exactly a framework for success. You can expect the offense to be fantastic, but I don't think it keeps the team up at its familiar level this year. Under.

Jacksonville Jaguars (+/- 9.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 11.8 Wins

The big shocker of the year when the numbers came out was how much our projection system liked the Jaguars. There are myriad reasons for the projection, but the biggest might be the Jaguars schedule, which is ranked 28th in the league for its lack of difficulty. Playing the declining AFC West and mediocre NFC South is a boon to the hopes of Jaguars fans. They have a boatload of young offensive talent, and replaced the weak link on their offense, right tackle Maurice Williams, with the Ravens' excellent Tony Pashos. Their stud defensive tackles, Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, are in their prime, and the Jaguars replaced the weak link on their defense, safety Deon Grant, with first-round pick Reggie Nelson.

They also have a pretty good quarterback, although Jack Del Rio seems determined to disparage him most opportunities he gets. Byron Leftwich enjoys the benefit of an excellent running game, a consistent offensive line, and history: the average quarterback makes it to his first Pro Bowl at 27, Leftwich's current age. The only thing he needs is some support from a coaching staff which has neglected to give him any over the past couple of seasons. The dalliances with David Garrard are over, and Del Rio knows his job depends on this season. Expect him to stick with Leftwich following a quick start (the benefits of playing Tennessee and Atlanta), and the Jaguars to be the surprise team of the year. Over.

Kansas City Chiefs (+/- 7.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 5.2 Wins

I think we can fit a couple more people on the Chiefs-for-last-place bandwagon if anyone's interested. There are so many negative things here -- if you've read our site for any period of time, you're familiar with what we think about Larry Johnson's upcoming season, and if you've read The Week In Quotes for that same period of time, you know about Herman Edwards. The Chiefs' skill position stars are old, their vaunted offensive line is in tatters, defensive end Jared Allen is suspended for the first two weeks of the season, and the secondary is aging and relying more on reputation than current skill. But hey, we've got Brodie Croyle! Under.

Miami Dolphins (+/- 7.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 5.6 Wins

The Dolphins have the second-hardest schedule in football, and they spent their first-round pick on a kick returner. They've got another new quarterback, another revamped offensive line, and their defense is holding up the mighty wrecking ball that is time for as long as they possibly can. There's just not evidence that the real problems with this team are being addressed in any way that will make them competitive for the 2007 season, and with that in mind, it's really difficult to support their potential for winning eight games.

Is it possible that they could exceed this projection? Sure. Trent Green could throw for 3,500 yards because of Cam Cameron's offensive guru-osity, Chris Chambers could finally break out, Ronnie Brown could stay healthy and run for 1,500 yards behind a Hudson Houck miracle of an offensive line, Jason Taylor could remain the best defensive player in football, Matt Roth could turn into Adewale Ogunleye 2.0 across from him, Channing Crowder could drop back into pass support without making anyone on the defensive staff cry, and Will Allen could turn into Sam Madison in his prime at age 29. All that is possible, but it's not likely. This is a mediocre team with very little upside, and with that in mind, you have to take the Under.

New England Patriots (+/- 11.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 12.1 Wins

I have to admit, I'm a little cautious about this. The Patriots have the best projection in the book, the one with a 77 percent chance of winning 11 or more games. In 2005, Philadelphia had a similar projection, and they crashed under injuries and Terrell Owens. In 2006, Seattle was the team with the best projection, and they also didn't match it. Should Tom Brady take out insurance? Nah.

The difference between the Seahawks and the Patriots is the depth of the latter. While an injury to Brady would be catastrophic, it's hard to say that there's any one player whose loss the Patriots would really be unable to recover from. Even Richard Seymour, as good as he is, could be replaced by a combination of Jarvis Green and Mike Wright. If you believe Asante Samuel will eventually return, like I do, there's even more of a reason to get behind this team as the Super Bowl favorite. Then again, if Brady gets hurt, Randy Moss raises brouhahas, and the Patriots go 6-10, well, I won't forget to say I told you so. Over.

New York Jets (+/- 8 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 8.8 Wins

It's my own personal experience covering the Jets last year, combined with their schedule (fourth-hardest in football) that makes me say Under on this one. I wrote at length in the Jets essay why their defense was very lucky last year, and with the holdout of cornerback Darrelle Revis and the continued lack of a real nose tackle in their 3-4 scheme, I still believe that the Jets defense will be closer to its 26th overall ranking (by DVOA) than its sixth overall ranking (by points scored) in 2007. The Jets offense and defense were both much better on third down than they were on first and second, which is also likely to disappear.

There are reasons to think the Jets will improve in some spots: running back Thomas Jones is a huge upgrade on Kevan Barlow, and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold are further developing into the core of the Jets' offensive line. Unfortunately, there are as many negative indicators as there are positive ones. The likely departure of guard Pete Kendall leaves the Jets without a player who was arguably their best offensive lineman last year, and while Chad Pennington made it through 16 games for the first time in his NFL career last year, it's unlikely he'll be able to repeat the feat in 2007. As I wrote in the book, I think the Jets will be more talented and play better than they did in 2006, but they'll still perform worse. Under.

Oakland Raiders (+/- 5.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 6.5 Wins

It's so difficult to analyze the Raiders because of the paucity of things we actually can know and trust about them. Can we really tell how good anyone was under Art Shell? Who will be starting at the skill positions? How long will they last before they get replaced? Is Lane Kiffin actually a competent coach? Will JaMarcus Russell ever sign? (Note that Peter King said in his column this week that the fact that Russell doesn't want to play for the Raiders is, "...the biggest open secret in the league right now.") We can say with some certainty the defense will be good, and that most offenses that are 31st or 32nd in the league across the board tend to get better the next year. With that in mind, I'll follow the projection system and say Over.

Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason’s wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+/- 9.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 9.1 Wins

Clearly, the projection system has an idea of what the line is and wants to steer me towards the Over. I'll follow it, and here's why: I think Ben Roethlisberger is the Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback we saw in his first two seasons, not the injured quarterback who was struggling with his confidence all year. I think Santonio Holmes is a number-one receiver as soon as this year if he sees enough of the ball. I think Alan Faneca's contract year will have him mauling people to earn a big salary as opposed to moping and playing the string out. I think Lawrence Timmons will make an impact as soon as this year -- remember, these are the Steelers, they don't miss on draft picks -- and that Mike Tomlin will build Ike Taylor's confidence up to the point where he's a corner of some regard again. I hope, on the other hand, that Jeff Reed keeps his pants on all year long, both on and off the field. I can't be so sure about the last one.

San Diego Chargers (+/- 11.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 8.6 Wins

It should be noted that while the mean projection for the Chargers' season is 8.6 wins, they're given only an 18% chance of winning 11 games or more, which is why I feel pretty confident about sticking with the Under. The book's essay details most of the Football Outsiders' thoughts on Norv Turner, and I tend to concur. Furthermore, the Chargers were very lucky when it came to injury last year, as they were the fifth-healthiest team in football in 2006. That's likely to change in 2007, and if those injuries happen to be to Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers, Marcus McNeill, or Jamal Williams, serious holes could develop that the Chargers would really struggle to fill.

On defense, the Chargers will have to replace the excellent Donnie Edwards and while there are several candidates to fill the role, none have really stood out as of yet. The secondary would really benefit if Antonio Cromartie developed into a top-flight cornerback. Otherwise it's merely average, and exploitable by the league's better passing attacks and teams who can handle the Chargers pass rush. Oh, and Norv Turner is their coach. Someone thought this was a good idea?

Tennessee Titans (+/- 6.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 6.9 Wins

The one thing that I don't think the projection system is really accounting for is the effect of losing Pac-Man Jones for the whole season, and how much that truly hurts the Titans defense from top to bottom. Jones is a lot of things, but an excellent cornerback was one of them, and while Nick Harper has a ring, he's no Pac-Man. If Cortland Finnegan can push Reynaldo Hill out of the starting lineup, that would improve things further.

There are other negative indicators as well. The Titans were better on third down than on first and second, they have a tough schedule (eighth in the league), and they have question marks at running back and wide receiver. Getting back Albert Haynesworth for a full season helps, but there's just too many variables pointing towards a regression. Under.

Fantasy Mailbag

Jason: 16-team league, pretty standard scoring; I have the fifth pick. My worst nightmare has come true and the first four off the board are Tomlinson, Jackson, Gore, and Addai. I'm scared to death of Johnson. What do I do? Parker? Westbrook? Yikes.

Well, yes, I would avoid Johnson like the plague, but that goes without saying. I'd go with Westbrook. The Eagles are one of the two or three smartest franchises in football, so they know how to use him without overworking him. He's injury-prone because of his size, but he's pretty likely to see 250 valuable touches and score ten or eleven touchdowns. I'm willing to hear arguments for Parker or even Laurence Maroney or Rudi Johnson (with the idea that someone has to get those Chris Henry touches and touchdowns), but I think Westbrook is your best bet here.

(Other) Jason:I am in an auction league with a generic scoring system kind of like the one described in Pro Football Prospectus 2007. The main and huge difference is running backs do not get a point for receptions, causing wide receivers and the elite tight ends (mainly Gates) to become very valuable. For example, according to the Fantasy Football Prospectus Projections, in our league LaDainian Tomlinson would get you a total of 269 fantasy points, while Marvin Harrison would get you 257 fantasy points. Now I understand that there is much more depth with wide receivers and less with running backs, therefore, making the running backs value a little higher, but technically, not that much higher.

This is my second year in this auction so I know how much gets spent on each position. For example, 59 percent of all the money in the draft gets spent on running backs, 27 percent on wide receivers, and so on. These guys in the auction do not realize how valuable the receivers and Gates become because running backs do not get a point for a reception. So basically, my question is, how would you handle this? I am trying to figure out what the correct strategy would be. Last year, I took Gates and good wideouts and got stuck with Droughns and Mike Bell as my running backs. Overall, these backs get way overpaid for and I know it, but should I go with the flow and overpay also, just not by a lot, or should I go with my strategy like last year? What would you do?

To be honest, Jason, I think you might be overstating the value of wide receivers relative to running backs and underestimating the scarcity of running backs in your system. I'm not sure exactly how your scoring system works, as I was unable to connect the point systems you gave me with our projections for Harrison and Tomlinson, but if receivers get a point and running backs do not, and running backs are similar to wide receivers in value across the board, scarcity and variability becomes a huge factor, I think bigger than you're accounting for. Namely, many more wide receivers are likely to gain points each week as opposed to running backs. I agree that you might be able to hold off on grossly overpaying for the star backs, but you should really leave the draft with better than Reuben Droughns and Mike Bell this time around. I would recommend trying to get at least one stud back (in the top 6-8 range, perhaps), and using the money saved on the second back across your wideouts and tight ends. Furthermore, if you scan the waiver wire each week (keeping in mind the defensive splits essay I wrote in this year's book), I'm willing to bet you'll be able to find wide receivers who can outperform your opponent's worst starter each week. I don't think you'll be able to do the same at running back.

Next week, Scramble returns with the NFC over/unders! How many words can I get into a Giants preview without cursing? The over/under is ... in the single-digits.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 22 Aug 2007

75 comments, Last at 05 Sep 2007, 6:40pm by Easy Like Sunday Morning

Comments

1
by bgrimm420 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 6:15pm

Why is the AFC West called tough for the Colts but declining for the Jags?

2
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 6:20pm

their offense went from being a plodding mediocrity to actual competence (15th in the league)

isn't 15th in the league almost exactly mediocre?
KC under 7.5 is money in the bank

3
by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 6:38pm

1 - Sorry - that should have been "tougher".

4
by Scharty Mottenheimer (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 6:39pm

"Hello, this is Houngen Zannou, voodoo priest for hire."

"Hello, Mr. Zannou, this is Marty Schottenheimer."

"Ah, yes, Coach Schottenheimer, I remember you from last time."

"I suppose you heard about my situation with the Chargers. I'd like you to place the same curse on them you did with the Redskins. I'll double your fee if you can make them hire someone really awful."

"I'll see what I can do sir."

5
by elhondo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 6:45pm

#1 - I think he meant that it was tougher in 2006, but declining this year.

6
by 420Iknowwhatthatis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 6:48pm

Yeah, that AFC west has two good teams and two bad ones. That means that the Colts should go 2-2 against them. I suppose that is not as good as an expected 3-1 vs. the Patriots and the rest of the AFC East.

7
by footballprofessor (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 7:00pm

aaaaaahhh....it just makes me tingle when i hear people talk about regression to the mean. mostly because when I talk about it people poop their pants, but when an FO staffer talks about it it's like magic.

but still, funniest freaking cartoon ever. period. end of sentence.

8
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 7:49pm

Haven't read the column yet but the cartoon rocks. I particularly like the use of "Hagar the Horrible".

9
by BillWallace (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 8:40pm

Non-sequitor clown as Norv Turner made me laugh really hard. Great comic.

10
by MDZ (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 9:02pm

So playing the Pats and Ravens instead of playing the Steelers and Bills is the difference between the 6th and 28th ranked schedules in the league? Or are the Jags projected to be that much better than the Colts so that the head to head games skew it further? That seems like a big disparity for 2 (or 4) different opponents.

11
by jebmak (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 10:01pm

I just can't beleive that the Colts have a really tough schedule and the Jags have such an easy one. Granted, the system projects the Jags as better than the Colts, but still, they have 12 games the same, and two vs each other.

12
by dbt (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 11:15pm

#9: his name is zippy the pinhead.

13
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 11:16pm

#10: Actually, when you put it that way, I kinda agree. I can definitely see the Colts losing to the Ravens and Patriots, and the Jaguars beating both the Steelers and the Bills. Couple that with the possibility of the Jags sweeping the Colts, and that's a possibility for a 4-game swing due to the schedule.

Still a big difference, sure. And I have to say I wouldn't bet on the Colts in a million years. 10.5 as an over/under is high, and the Colts were way, way, way, way too good on third down last year, but... I don't think the Colts will get through the playoff gauntlet again, but 11-13 wins is where I'd put them.

14
by Brian (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 11:17pm

Good on you for linking to last year's picks. Not everyone has the guts to do that.

15
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2007 - 11:54pm

I think everyone, including Bill, is overreacting to the schedule strength issue. Before the season begins, the DVOA projections are very flat, so there is not much difference between the various schedules. Additionally, the difference between a hard schedule and an easy schedule is not really all that much. That explains how two teams with the same division could have such dramatically different schedule projections.

Indy projected 2007 average opponent: 2.5%
Jax projected 2007 average opponent: -3.1%
Difference: 5.6%

2006 actual 6th-hardest schedule (Clev): 3.4%
2006 actual 28th-hardest schedule (Ariz): -5.1.
Difference: 8.5%

So you see, as the season actually plays out and reality assert itself, things will separate somewhat. It's also quite likely that Indy's and Jax's schedules will end up being not so far off, especially if the teams themselves have similar DVOA.

16
by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 12:05am

To me the Chargers were the most surprising team in terms of difference between Vegas and PFP. They are due for a let down, but is Norv Turner as bad as the article says?

As far as KC, they have a good defense and special teams along with a good coach. I have always found that when public opinion is so heavily leaning one way, but Vegas odds do not adjust that Vegas is usually right.

17
by MDZ (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 12:31am

#13
I agree that the Colts were absurd on 3rd down last year, however they were also excellent on 1st and 2nd down so I don't know if the regression will be that drastic. My understanding is that it's a bad sign if a team is bad or mediocre on first or second down and good on 3rd down. That said, they won't post a 71 DVOA on third downs again, but the defense could very well improve. If they were a mediocre or good defense, then I'd buy the argument of them getting worse with all the roster turnover. However when a historically bad defense has a lot of roster turnover, there's no way to accurately predict how they'll turn out. It's not going to be a good defense, but the question is what degree of poor will they be. The one thing that I saw from the playoff run last year is that a team with a great offense and awful defense can beat a team with a great defense and a mediocre offense. The Pats got worn out in the AFC Championship, and I still see no way that the Chargers lose to the Colts. The Colts definitely got lucky with the matchups, but pretty much every super bowl champion has.

18
by are-tee (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 12:34am

"I think the Jets will ... play better than they did in 2006, but they’ll still perform worse."

Please explain the difference between "play" and "perform".

I think you meant to say play(or perform) better, but lose more games.

19
by MilkmanDanimal (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 12:42am

Someone needs to arrange for Norv Turner to always have an NFL head coaching job. Norv Turner = Comedy Gold.

This has to be an impossibly hard year to predict the Raiders. They've got a QB who went from wondrously great to "well, Tavaris Jackson looks pretty good in comparison" over the course of a few years, Aaron Brooks is now hopefully the victim of a restraining order that keeps him at least 200 feet from a football field, and they finally wheeled off the mannequin of Art Shell and hired Monte Kiffin's great-grandson as coach.

20
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 1:07am

Re: 16

I'm sorry, did you say KC has a good defense? They were 18th in defensive DVOA last year and used their 1st round pick on a WR. They haven't added a defensive player of note except Donnie Edwards, who is 34.

I'm also not sure they have a good coach. Herm seems to me almost perfectly average, balanced between good and bad. He may be slightly above average, but there's no way he's in the top 3rd of the league.

21
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:38am

I was considering getting all "raiderjoe" on Bill's ass about the Colts and Jags, but couldn't muster the spirit or the grammar.

I think the 3rd down issue is a fallacy--look at their historic 3rd down performance and throw in 1st and 2nd downs as well. They might fall off considerably, and still lead the league in 3rd down efficiency.

Most important position on the field: QB. Colts have Manning and Jags have a gentleman who is famous for being carried down field to win a game when he couldn't otherwise walk. In college. Like, years ago.

In 2006 Indy had 2 or 3 last minute wins that were pretty much according to plan (give Manning the ball with 90 seconds left and the game on the line) and one last second loss that was a bit flukey (4th longest FG in history). Maybe that gets reversed this season. That puts them at 11-5. I say they split with Jax in the head-to-head and tie for the division lead with 11 wins. Tie breaker? Who knows? Tends to favor point differential and big offense, no?

Now the Colts don't match up particularly well with Jax, but rounding the PFP numbers, I cannot fathom Indy winning 9 and Jax winning 12 without colossal injury problems for one, and a realignment of celestial bodies for the other.

I think the NE projection is spot on, but can't quite take the SD projection--despite the coaching changes which I am sure will wreak havoc--they have to win at least 10. Steelers and Cincy are a complete mystery to me, and Baltimore, despite looking almost like world beaters in 2006, do have those age, brittleness, and "were they for real last year?" issues.

#15 McNabb BGA, not sure where you are getting your SOS numbers, so I'll ask what would the ranking differential (in 2006 actuals) be if the projected opponent DVOAs panned out for Indy and Jax? By that I mean, if Indy has a 2.5 SOS DVOA, where would that rank among last year's actuals, and if Jax has a
-3.1%, where would that rank on last year's lists? My guess is rather than being 6th and 28th, it would correspond to something akin to 8th and 20th? Still a big diff, but just 12 places apart instead of 22.

22
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:46am

I generally agree with my fellow Colts fan, but I'm scared to death of Jacksonville.

Jacksonville goes 11-5, Indianapolis goes 10-6.

23
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 4:33am

The gentleman playing QB for the Jags is the happy owner of a new ankle which allows him to actually and efficiently walk and move in the pocket.
Add this to the monster running game (remember the 370+ game ?), the physical D, the comeback of G.Jones, M.Peterson, Stroud, Hayward, etc and the departure of David Carr from the Texans and the Jags can go 5-1 in the division and win the main tie-breaker.
:o)

Concerning the Titans and their high third-down success, can it be the result of their scrambler ? I mean, 3rd down are generally passing down and VY was more free to break a run on these down, or to benefit from extra attention from teh defense and to have open receivers. Can it be compare to the rookie season of Hookie ? Will the D adapt to this ?

24
by Chad Gerson (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 4:43am

This has been mentioned before but bears repeating: The Colts face the "tough" AFC West, but the Jags face the "declining" AFC West. I'm pretty sure they'll be playing the same AFC West. In fact, they're playing the same schedule except for two games.

No offense but I think you are way too optimistic about the Jags being able to finally become consistent. Every year they are a popular pick for the "surprise team," and every year they fall short of that expectation. I'll believe it when I see it. They'll probably split the 2 games with the Colts.

As for the Colts, don't they deserve just a little benefit of the doubt? Yes, regression to the mean is a statistical reality, but it does not necessarily happen from one season to the next. It can take years or even a decade. The Colts' offense should play at about the same level it did last year, and could even be better. The defense... well, let's just hope that in their case regression to the mean DOES work from season to season. :) Either way, it'll be enough to win at least 11 games and the division. The playoffs are anybody's guess.

When the Colts win the division I'll be back to say I told you so!! Viva Indy!

25
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 5:07am

We have a good chance of winning the division because the Texans are crap and the Titans had a trainwreck offseason.

But our defense is bad. Bad, bad, bad. Bad enough that Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 269 yards on only 28 carries. Think about that. Now consider that we've lost two DTs, yet another LB, and two CBs. Admittedly, I think any Colts defender not named Sanders or Freeney is pretty expendable, but that sheer turnover sucks. I'm not saying Montae Reagor is indispensable, but I'm saying that getting his replacement up to speed puts a lot of strain on an already thin defense.

When the 2001 Colts allowed over 30 points per game and ranked second-to-last in the league in defensive DVOA, they went 6-10. I think Manning is so absurdly good at this point that he could probably pull off a winning season even with that supporting cast now. I'm prepared for the possibility that the defense will rank 30th or worse, and we'll see just how much that offense can carry the team.

26
by hector (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 6:06am

Wow, does that KC line look inflated. Get it now, kids, because methinks that number is coming down (perhaps significantly) over the next couple of weeks.

27
by iapetus (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 6:46am

#21: I feel obliged to correct your description of Leftwich - in fact he was carried down field to lose a game when he couldn't otherwise walk. Obviously that's not quite as impressive, but it was a valiant attempt at a comeback anyway for a man with a broken leg.

It's odd you can't imagine those results without massive injury problems for one team and a realignment of celestial bodies for the other, because that's exactly what happened last year. Unless you're banking on exactly the same happening again (and it's not likely, is it?) at least some sort of swing is to be expected.

#24: Going 12-4 in 2005, fourth in the league, doesn't count as delivering on being the surprise team? The playoff appearance was an embarassment, but the regular season results were pretty respectable, most would suggest.

28
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 10:58am

I see the Jags winning the division, and Indy winning 9-10 for second. Houston may well get 3rd. Once Vince Young's ligaments leap from his body and the Colts offense simply cannot get on the field it will all become clear.

29
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 11:12am

Seems to me that an awful lot of expectation for improvement in Jacksonville is being placed on the shoulders of a fellow who at this time last year, was regarded as the weakest link on a problematic offnesive line that led you to pick the Under for Baltimore.

Just because Pashos was better than you thought -- and whether it was his improvement or the new blocking scheme the Ravens used is still open to question -- doesn't mean he's ready to step up to the level you want him to this year.

It sounds a little like over-compensation, especially since Leftwich still doesn't have a reliable reciever to catch whatever he throws in the brief window of time Pashos' weak protection will give him.

30
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 11:13am

So, in the Gil Thorp comic, is Cathy supposed to be Eli, or am I reading it wrong? I see that Hagar is supposed to be a Viking.

31
by DangerGnat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 11:16am

Why is the AFC West "tough" when they're playing the Colts and "declining" when they're playing the Jags? Just asking for a little consistency here, guys. And speaking of consistency, the Jags have a tendency to play down to their competition. I doubt that will change .. I'll take the under.

32
by MDZ (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 11:22am

#29
The whole keepaway thing works both ways. Last year they were incredibly efficient long possesion offense, and in the playoffs they dominated time of possession. Saying the Colts offense simply can't get on the field is a little shortsighted. Indy's offense will give the defense plenty of rest.

33
by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 11:52am

Tough/declining guys - I did mention in the comments that it should've read as "tougher". It is tougher than the AFC East was last year, but it's still a declining division.

Schedule guys - our schedule projections have been pretty accurate flags for teams in the past couple of years. I see the point about the schedules' being more similar this year. If it was the only factor separating the two, I wouldn't put the Colts below the Jaguars in that division, but I think it's a combination of a whole bunch of things in addition to the schedule.

#18 - That's probably a better way of putting it.

#23 - I was actually thinking about that, to be honest, and I wouldn't be surprised if that helped some. I still think it's likely to regress closer to the average of their first and second down performance, if not all the way.

#24 - I don't know. They haven't been projected by a model I generally believe in to be the surprise pick and this year they have, and I'm not sure whose "popular" pick they have been. As for regression to the mean happening over a few years as opposed to one, that could also apply to some of the greater aspects of the Colts offense as opposed to the ones you'd like not to regress to the mean, as well. I'll happily welcome you back if the Colts win the division and I won't even bother you if you're wrong.

#29 - Please point out to me where I said the offensive line for Baltimore led me to pick the Under. I would also imagine Mulitalo would've been considered a weak link on that line before Pashos. Pashos also had a really good year. Player evaluations aren't fluid.

As for a "reliable" receiver, well, there's one way for a receiver to become "reliable" and that's to get lots of throws, at which point he becomes "reliable" and gets all kinds of other adjectives tossed upon him. Using the same argument, I could say that Steve McNair doesn't have a "reliable" wideout because Derrick Mason is "old" and Mark Clayton is "unproven" with only a half season of performance. That's not reality, since I think Mason's solid and Clayton's a breakout star this year if McNair's arm holds up. It's just a lazy way of describing players.

34
by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 11:55am

There's a David Garrard joke in the last frame of that cartoon.

35
by morganja (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 1:08pm

Hey a little off-topic. Last year I recorded all the Panther games, playoffs and other interesting games to hard disk. I'm thinking about getting the NFL Ticket and direct TV for the High Definition this year. Does anyone have any pointers on recording high definition to hard disk from direct tv or have recommendations for a HD video capture card? I'm currently using the Hauppauge. I want to see the 19-0 season that raiderjoe is forcasting in all is detail.

36
by Nathan S (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 1:39pm

Uh.... The Jets' Darrel Revis signed his contract on the 15th of August.

Do you mean that the holdout will affect his play this year?

37
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 1:43pm

#6: Yes, the AFC West has two good teams and two bad ones. But for the Colts, that might be mitigated by the fact that for whatever reason, they seem to have the Broncos' number. Or is Dre' Bly supposed to make THAT big a difference?

38
by MDZ (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 2:20pm

That's brave saying the two good teams in the AFC West are the Chargers and Broncos. I'd watch your back for a bit, Raiderjoe can't be pleased with your assessment.

39
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 2:22pm

#35 - To be fair, raiderjoe did not predict a 19-0 season for the Raiders. I think he is predicting for the Colts to upset them at home.

40
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 2:41pm

Bill, As always, I love that you respond. And it's not McNair's arm I'm worried about, so much as a rib, his sternum, a bone spur on his spleen....

iapetus,

The only 2006 celestial alignment for Indy occurred when NE beat SD in the playoffs. Otherwise, the year BEFORE--2005--was supposed to be their celestial alignment year--HFA, the big game in a dome, 14-2 record. 2006 was actually their regression to the mean season as a team. And losing their top 2 DTs to injury/illness was a pretty big blow. They lost #3 to free agency in the offseason and added Booger mid-season, a capable new #1 DT for them. Plus they had Sanders out for 12 games. And Stokeley and Clark on offense. Clark's injury coincided with their late-season swoon. Injuries hit Indy in areas of both strength and weakness.

41
by Ian (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 2:41pm

I love my Ed Reed jersey!
By the way, there's no way the Colts aren't hitting the over this season. Steelers Over, Chiefs Under and Colts Over are my favorite 3 picks, in that order.

42
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 3:28pm

37: Well, Manning's method for dissecting the Broncos defense has been to throw to the guy not covered by Bailey. Having that guy covered by Bly should help the Broncos. and the Colts defense usually has trouble stopping the Broncos running attack. I don't think that game is a sure-win for the Colts.

43
by Oldcat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 4:52pm

#40 - If you believe in patterns:

2004 Steelers had "stars align" regular season, fail in playoffs.

2005 Indy has "stars align" regular season, fails in playoffs. Steelers have "stars align" post season, win SB.

2006 SD has "stars align" regular season, fails in playoffs. Indy has "stars align" playoffs, wins SB.

So does this mean Norv and SD play poorly this year, get hot in playoffs and win it all?

44
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 5:50pm

43: Uhhh, no.

45
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 7:19pm

iapetus,

The Jags going 12-4 in 2005 was not as impressive as you think. Most people will (subjectively) tell you that the Jags were not nearly that good, and they are borne out (objectively) by the DVOA ranking of 10th, not 4th, and playing against only the 25th hardest schedule in the league.

In fact, the Jags only improved in DVOA by 4 slots from 2004 to 2005 (14th to 10th), so that doesn't count as much of a surprise in real performance (as opposed to record).

46
by OMO (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 7:34pm

Hold on a second...

The projection system loves the Jags and now Byron Leftwich has become a "pretty good quarterback"?

The same guy who was brutally creamed on this site last year by everyone outside of Mrs. Leftwich?

The same guy with the one-thousand one, one-thousand two windup and horrible release point? The same guy with the for crap accuracy and the questionable (at best) decision making at the slightest hint of a pass rush?

This of course is saying nothing of his paper mache "durability", nor his career best DVOA in 2005 where he was ranked 9th (all while throwing for a 57.9% completion percentage).

Look...the projection system loves the Jags...that's cool...but don't insult our intelligence by inventing justifications for it…maybe the Jags win 15 games…and Leftwich starts channeling Otto Graham but you, me and everyone else would be blown away if a guy with career DVOAs rankings of 24th, 18th, 9th and 29th gets to sniff the astro turf in Hawaii instead of another year of mediocre performance.

47
by Reverendum (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 8:26pm

I think it bears mentioning in response to the some of the points made here about strength of schedule and the like and whatnot... the football season is only 16 games.

Blowing two games (or having 2 games tougher than, say, another team does) is the difference between 10-6 and 8-8.

Think about how much you think of the difference between 10-6 and 8-8.

48
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 10:00pm

The only projection I really disagree with is the Chargers one. I think firing Marty was monumentally stupid and will be proven disastrous in the medium/long term, but this year they'll be fine. I think the Bill Callahan 2002 Raiders and the Barry Switzer Cowboys and to a lesser extent the Mike Martz Rams showed that really talented teams can coach themselves for a year or two before the wheels fall off. I think the Chargers are second favourites behind the Patriots and I'm a Raiders fan.

49
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Thu, 08/23/2007 - 10:46pm

re6

Good teams are Raiders and Chargers. bad teams are Chiefs and Broncos.

Ciefs- bad all over- coach, players, degense

Broncos- bad Qb, bad defense except for conerbacks

Raiders good all over and coaching staff is now good

Chargers- good players, bad coach

50
by Bronco Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 12:46am

49: But man, 2-14. Really?

51
by Bill Barnwell :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 1:02am

OMO,

Please point out my (or "this site's") "brutal creamings" of Byron Leftwich last year. If the guy had some confidence behind him, he'd be a perfectly fine quarterback and when those guys are on teams that win 13 games, they go to the Pro Bowl. We're not inventing justifications.

52
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 1:12am

re50
Bronco Jeff,

Broncos will be better than 2-14, maybe like 7-9.
I predict:
Raiders 10-6
Chargers 10-6 (Raiders win division by sweeping Chargers)
Broncos 7-9
Chiefs 3-13

53
by mean (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 6:33am

Anybody got a link where I can find the complete list of over/unders for both conferences?

54
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 2:40pm

I believe OMO may have been a little over the top regarding Leftwich and the brutal creamings most likely came at the fingers of the posters and not FO personnel (I really do not know), but his point about durability and decision-making is a valid one.

This is a guy who got injured trying to pick up a fumble and run with it inches behind the line instead of falling on it. Now you may well get battered when you fall on the ball, but not a knee injury like Byron took as he was mangled on the tackle. And he took his frustrations out on the opponent's DL coach (the aftermath here and elsewhere revealed that John Teerlink, Indy's DL coach, had been reprimanded for overly-rough tactics by the NFL in 2000+/- but nothing since and Indy's opposing QBs do not suffer any greater injury rate than anybody else.).

I like that Byron's Fiery, but there is a reason there was a big QB controversy there last year. Leftwich was partly to blame, Del Rio was, and Garrard's previous decent numbers in fill-in duty were as well. I'll believe that he can lead them to the promised land when I see it. Maybe not even then. He seems to be quite inconsistent--he'll have a game with a 100 rating, then a 60. Another 100, then a 65.

55
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 3:13pm

42: We wont have to wait long to see the battle between the Broncos DB's vs. Manning & Co. They are playing the 4th week of the season. It should be a great match-up. Is it too early to get hyped for a game in week 4? I think not!

56
by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 4:58pm

3 examples, none authored by me...using the FO search feature:

“I’m going to agree with #6 and the unnamed Jags officials - Leftwich isn’t that good. Every time I see him play, I see a QB who’s innacurate and has no idea what “touch� is. His career completion percent is only 58.7, and the only season where he had a decent TD:INT ration was 2005. His DPAR that year was a modest 43.2, right along side that of Drew Bledsoe. If the Jags had any passing game whatsoever, they’d be a Super Bowl contender (and would’ve crushed Indy in their earlier meeting, and wouldn’t have lost to the Texans twice). He’d be an upgrade in Minnesota or Cleveland, but if the Jags end up going for Damon Huard, Matt Schaub, Chris Simms, etc… I really wouldn’t blame them. “

“The FO game-charting has likely traced Leftwich’s injury problems to a tendency not to throw the ball until just before he gets hit. According to the gamebook for the Washington-Jacksonville game where Leftwich originally got the injury, he was hit 7 times in addition to 4 sacks. Against Houston, he was hit 5 times and sacked once. “

“I really don’t know what people see in Byron Leftwich. He was playing well below replacement level and never did anything to “trick� fans along the lines of an amazing clutch performance or Super Bowl victory. He’s a mediocre guy who’s never done anything remarkable in the league, and the Jags would be smart to let somebody else make the mistake of overpaying him. Draft a young guy to develop and hope the defense can keep that garbage attack in the game.�

Bill...your reply is quite frankly worse IMO than your original justification...especially for a site that prides itself on statistical analysis and related justifications rather than talking head sports media clichés like:

"If the guy had some confidence behind him, he’d be a perfectly fine quarterback"

A) When did confidence affect a Quarterback's ability to throw a mechanically-sound pass in an accurate manner consistently? I doubt when Mr. Leftwich is the process of under/overthrowing another receiver his brain is contemplating the “confidence level� of his coaching staff.

B) And exactly when did you get the insight into Mr. Leftwich's psyche to be able to tie his inaccuracy, questionable decision making and inconsistent performance to a lack of "confidence"?

C) The Jags drafted Lefwich and I’m sure they were very “high� on him at one point…but it’s obvious that now they are not. Wouldn’t it make sense that the lack of confidence was earned from his mediocre performance vs. the lack of confidence causing the mediocre performance? Why would the coaching staff “invent� a lack of confidence on their #1 QB unless it was deserved?

And to be clear...I am very ok with the (for example) "I don't know why the projection system says "X" (e.g., the Rams example)...my post is 100% directed at your article...not the projection system.

57
by Bill Barnwell (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 5:40pm

Apologies - I'm not logged in at this computer, so no red font. Less authoritative.

OMO,

Thanks for pointing out the criticisms people at FO have made of Leftwich. I don't think I would call that "brutal creamings" because when I think of that term, I would say that's more the way we treat Chris Chambers or DeShaun Foster, where pretty much everyone thinks he's stinky. A good portion of the FO crew, in our discussions, actually like Leftwich. Some of us don't, but we don't have a hive mind. I tend to lean towards the "He's pretty good" side.

We do pride ourselves on statistical analysis at FO, but Scramble is the least stat-based column on the site and has been since Day One. It's the closest thing we have to a traditional column (albeit one based primarily around fantasy) and although I certainly take the projection system into account as to how I view things, as Aaron points out in his XP about the Bucs today, that doesn't always mean we or I agree with it.

As for the confidence issue, no, I'm not a psychic. I am a human being, though, and I'm well-aware of what it's like to be fully supported in something as opposed to having a coach who's threatening to pull you out of the lineup or a boss who's threatening to fire you. Does that account for his mechanical issues? I can't say, but I certainly think confidence has a good amount to do with how a quarterback plays, which could then effect his mechanics. For example, when it comes to things like trusting himself to let his receivers do the work; it's entirely reasonable to postulate that Leftwich, wanting to impress the coaching staff, tries to make throws he shouldn't and ends up forcing balls into places that no one can get to. That's my opinion, not a justification. If you disagree, that's fine, but to say that I need to enter his brain like it's some sort of Herman's Head situation is kinda silly, and that I have to understand his psyche is also impossible and a fallacy; I can taste good food without being a chef. I can observe Leftwich and attempt to understand why things are happening.

With regards to the coaching staff and front office inventing a reason, I think the complicating factor was their belief that Garrard was a good quarterback as well, evidenced by his extension. Players are human. They have confidence issues when their management doesn't back them. The "invented" reason was that they were perpetually waiting to give Garrard a shot. Garrard's performance in the role makes me doubt their ability to scout and observe quarterback play.

58
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 8:57pm

#46 and 56 Omo, those were excellent posts. Since when was Byron " Pretty good"? The guy has spent 15 of his last 21 games injured.

Byron is a " game manager". How much " reading defense" is possibly involved in either dropping back and instantly throwing a ball to a RB in the flats to pick up low risk YAC yards, or a no read jump ball to a 6'5 receiver? Your poster Brian has his own QB rating counts " air yards" which is passing yards minus YAC yards.

Byron has the worst mechanics I've ever seen, and they are so bad they they get him hurt. Byron holds onto the ball way to long which causes hits/ injuries. Not only does he hold onto the ball too long, but he has this windmill wind up that is in effect a slow release. He's hit his hand on DTs helmets because of that funky release and that's not good.

The scouting report around the league is to give Byron Pressure right in his face ( A or B gap). Two years ago he hit his hand on a helmet because he holds onto the ball way to long, and his 12-4 Jags got spanked in foxborro largly because BB pressured Byron in his face and he folded like a lawn chair.

Besides the 2 minutue drill where defenses back up and run these prevent defenses, I don't see Byron make very many reads. He has a huge percentage of predetermined dump offs, or jump balls to those giant receivers. His mechanics and thinking are too slow to ever run an offense like Brees in New Orleans or Manning in Indy.

The whole logic behind starting David Garrard, is that if your going to run this boring, conservatve offense with dump offs and jump balls, you might as well run that offense with a more athletic guy who can also run.

If the Jags hope to win a SB, they would do it in the mold of the 2000 Ravens, with a stingy defense that forces opponents into mistakes, and a QB who doesn't make mistakes. They want would want to run that boring conservative offense, but have Leftwhich/Garrard be that Trent Dilfer.

I liked reading your material, but going 17-15 on last years season win totals only shows you how good Vegas is at setting lines, and how " any given sunday"...

59
by reggienelsonjoe (not verified) :: Fri, 08/24/2007 - 11:41pm

Chris,

Apologies if I am thinking you are somebody else, but I was just wondering if there were any black quarterbacks you did like?

--

"The whole logic behind starting David Garrard, is that if your going to run this boring, conservatve offense with dump offs and jump balls, you might as well run that offense with a more athletic guy who can also run."

Garrad may be athletic, but he gets sacked about as much as Leftwich does (!) and his mistakes are more costly. Byron may or may not have the ability to carry the team (let's give him that chance this season). Garrard doesn't. Look at the implosion at Tennessee. Leftwich has, at times, flashed the ability to read defenses and carry the team. What he hasn't had is much receiving talent outside of Jimmy Smith (a Cleveland cast-off is #1 on the depth chart !?) and he hasn't stayed healthy.

The health isn't an excuse. But Shaun Alexander has had two injury-filled years in a row, and nobody is suggesting that suddenly he lacks the ability to run the ball. If Leftwich can stay healthy, then we can judge him on his production. If he can't stay healthy, then you can deem him somebody who can't stay healthy.

60
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 08/25/2007 - 12:09am

I never said I liked Garrard, I was just stating the logic behind starting him. Garrard had 3 turnovers for touchdowns in the Jags/Titans games resulting in his offense giving up 21 points that day.

I am not saying that Leftwhich lost his ability to throw or anything like that, I am saying that holding onto the ball too long, and having a long/delayed windup are risky and put Byron more at risk for injury.

61
by OMO (not verified) :: Sat, 08/25/2007 - 3:46pm

"Less authoritative"

Bill, don't short change yourself...you are well enough authoritative with or without that red font. :)

All fair replies and I guess Byron will be one to watch this season, I think a fair statement for the Jags is: how Byron goes, so do the Jags.

I think their defense is good, but not Ravens-ish enough as Chris pointed out, to carry them to 12 wins.

I also do agree that confidence has something to do with almost any athletic performance (thus, I don't disagree with your comments, just the amount they impact Leftwich's performance, based on my past observations compared to other factors), I've never played QB at the college or Pro level but I'm sure it doesn't help your cause at all to know that you've not been able to get it done on your coach's eyes...however I would rank it a very distant third behind Leftwich's accuracy/mechanics and decision making...blah, blah, blah...point made from both sides.

"Garrard’s performance in the role makes me doubt their ability to scout and observe quarterback play"

And that comment, I can't agree with more. Having seen Garrard in action for a few years due to Byron's propensity for injury...why they (Del Rio?) saw him as an upgrade I have no idea. Different issues, but similar performance with even worse decision making, IMO.

And for those of you scoring at home...Chris and I agree on something.

And as Red Foxx used to say on Sanford and Son.."it's the big one Elizabeth, I'm coming for you, oh Lord, it's the big one..."

62
by Advo (not verified) :: Sat, 08/25/2007 - 6:03pm

Why was Deon Grant the weak link of the Jaguars defense? He's played well for the Seahawks at strong safety (not free) in the preseason.

63
by stan (not verified) :: Sat, 08/25/2007 - 7:20pm

59,

Agile scramblers tend to get sacked a lot. Because of their scrambling ability, they tend to hold the ball longer and try to make something happen with their legs rather than just throw the ball away. Accordingly, they will have more sacks and more fumbles than you might expect.

By the way, this also inflates their passer ratings and public acclaim. While a sack and a risked fumble are much worse for the team than an incomplete pass, they are better for the passer rating.

Foolish fans and idiot writers give the QB all the credit for his running yardage and blame the O-line for the negative yardage piled up on sacks (and fail to realize what a drive killer sacks can be). But they are often related. If the running QB didn't try to make so many plays with his legs, he wouldn't get sacked as often. (Note -- with certain QBs it is sound strategy to encourage them to scramble. My point is just that the negatives from scrambling need to be balanced with the positives in evaluating the QB's actual contribution.)

64
by stan (not verified) :: Sat, 08/25/2007 - 7:29pm

I also agree completely that Leftwich is the biggest weakness on the Jag team. They lose games they shouldn't because of his inconsistency.

I've noted before that he is the worst QB I have ever seen at running the two minute drill. He just wastes time in bunches.

We've all seen games b/w the Colts and Jags where Jax has been clearly superior in the O-line, at RB, and on defense (line, LBs and DBs). The difference in the games often came down to Manning's ability to fit the ball into a very tight space in a very short amount of time vs. Leftwich's inability to hit an open receiver when he has all day to throw.

Jax is one of the teams that always seems to find a way to lose some games they have no business losing. Over the last few years, the Colts have won a ton of games despite being outplayed at almost every position on the field.

The question for the Colts is how long can they continue to pull rabbits out of the hat and win games where they are outmanned and outplayed at so many positions.

65
by Bill Barnwell :: Sat, 08/25/2007 - 9:50pm

OMO,

Fair enough. Hopefully, Leftwich gets 16 games this year so we can find out.

66
by Sid (not verified) :: Sat, 08/25/2007 - 11:00pm

I've been on the Chiefs sucking bandwagon since the end of last season. I think they're almost a lock to finish in the bottom half of the division and to have a losing record. I love the UNDER on them.

67
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 08/26/2007 - 2:04pm

OMO- I think it says something that we so strongly agree on Leftwhich.

Stan- Good points, David Carr is an excellent example. The Houston line got all the blame for the sacks, but Carr held onto the ball too long, and is actually a pretty quick guy. Carr is not the only reason for all the sacks, but Carrs is more responsible for the sacks than he gets credit for.

The Colts also winning more games than their expected or Pathagaras ( spelling) win total is also a testament of Manning giving them value at the margin.

68
by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Sun, 08/26/2007 - 2:59pm

To Stan's point, truly great QBs significantly raise the win total of their teams. Manning is a combination of a talented pocket passer with an innovative and opportunistic offensive coordinator. (Dan Marino meets Don Coryel).

Manning means by far more to his team's success than any team in the NFL. Historically, the only QBs I think have even come close to him were Elway(1984-93) and Marino(1983-93).

69
by JoshuaPerry (not verified) :: Sun, 08/26/2007 - 4:23pm

What is about Byron Leftwich that makes people think he can be a competent QB? Granted he's got a better shot than Kyle Boller, but he routinely overthrows short receivers or underthrows tall ones. Jax has used many picks on WRs, so if Leftwich was the answer, wouldn't it stand to reason he'd make at least one of them look good?

70
by Timmy (not verified) :: Sun, 08/26/2007 - 9:14pm

The Bills had the most difficult schedule in the league last year and pulled off 7 wins with losses to the Chargers and Colts of fewer than 3 points each. I don't see how the difficulty of schedule this year will automatically impact them downward from last year as you seem to assume.

Instead of the Chargers and Colts they get to play the Ravens and Bengals. Those are easier games IMO. TKO barely played at all last year, and Poz is already equivalent to Fletcher. Clements is a loss, but in the D-system the Bills are playing CB play isn't the primary indicator of a quality defense.

This is an easy over.

71
by asg (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 1:58pm

Fun article, made even better by the cartoon, which was hands-down the best one ever.

72
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 08/31/2007 - 6:27pm

Bill:

Sounds like the Jags don't agree with you about Leftwich. He's getting released.

73
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 08/31/2007 - 7:55pm

Looks like Omo and I have some crow to serve.

74
by fracguru (not verified) :: Tue, 09/04/2007 - 10:52am

As a Texans fan, I am taking the over this year. A few reasons:

1. Matt Schaub looks like the real deal. He has shown poise and good decision making ability.

2. Ahman Green still has gas in the tank and should vastly improve the running game. He ran well against the Dallas #1's and showed good burst.

3. Jacoby Jones is a playmaker. He will become the #2 receiver shortly and will be a major pickup on FF waiver wires across the land, especially in leagues that give return TDs to the returner.

4. Check the payoffs on the over/under in Vegas. -170 for the over, +130 for the under. Are they all Texan fans betting the over? Or is there 'smart money' being bet?

The D-line is still a question, no doubt, as is the secondary. The linebacker corps is improved (not as bad as the 'flotsam' comment would lead you to think).

If the D-line can start getting some pressure and the O-line and Green work to get the running game going, the Texans should win 7-8 games. They are at least fun to watch now and are no longer the train wreck of two years ago.

75
by Easy Like Sunday Morning (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:40pm

As a Steelers fan, I take issue with the last panel of the cartoon. Najeh Davenport made the team!