"Last team with the ball wins" is a cliche, but sometimes cliches are the best way to get across the central narrative of an important game. If you like great quarterback play, you have to watch the NFC Championship Game.
26 Nov 2008
by Ben Riley and Vince Verhei
This week, we give thanks that Scramble is immune from the predictive pressures that our readers expect of DVOA and DYAR as we look back at our preseason Over/Under predictions. Who looks to be cashing in on their AFC and NFC picks as we head into the final quarter of the season? The success or failure of some picks is still in doubt, so there is no final leaderboard at the end. We'll run one at the end of the season to see who really won and lost.
Team: Baltimore Ravens.
Vince then: "We'll start off with a cakewalk ... The schedule's a toughie, with the AFC South and NFC East ahead, but it looks like a down year for the AFC North, so I'm going with the Over."
Vince now: Anyway, this cake is great. It's so delicious and moist.
Ben then: "The danger here is that the team will abandon Troy Smith after he gets sacked 15 times in Houston in Week 2 just so they can evaluate Joe Flacco and His Incredible Tools, but I think I can live with that risk." (Over.)
Ben now: Clearly I meant to say that the danger was that the Ravens would stick with Troy Smith instead of evaluating Joe Flacco and His Incredible Tools! (Hey, at least I got the over part right.)
Team: Buffalo Bills.
Vince then: "I look at this team and a schedule with Oakland, St. Louis, Kansas City, San Francisco, and Miami twice, and I can't help but think Over."
Vince now: I look at the next four games -- San Francisco, Miami, New England at home; Denver and the Jets on the road -- and can't help but think this is going to come down to the wire.
Ben then: Concerns about Jason Peters, Trent Edwards and Dick Jauron led me to predict the Bills would go 7-9.
Ben now: You know, I still have concerns about Peters, Edwards and Jauron. I really can't figure out if this is a good team or not.
Team: Cincinnati Bengals.
Vince then: "Hooray! The circus! ... This was not a particularly good team to begin with, and with all the chaos, it's easy to pick the Under."
Vince now: The Ryan Fitzpatrick Show is not the circus. At 8.0 yards per completion, it's more like bingo, and a rather dull bingo game at that.
Ben then: "I think this team could surprise people this year" before predicting a 9-7 finish, although with caveat that "they could almost as easily go 5-11."
Ben now: Although I wish I could blame Ryan Fitzpatrick for this misfire, the reality is that Carson Palmer looked like garbage too. This team won't even finish with five wins. Pathetic.
Team: Cleveland Browns.
Vince then: "Cleveland's advance [in 2007] was due entirely to its offense and a rebuilt line that produced career years for Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson. Anderson, in particular, is likely to come crashing back down to Earth."
Vince now: Anderson has been benched, Edwards should join him, the Browns are terrible, and I'm on a roll.
Ben then: After boldly stating that "Derek Anderson is no Aaron Brooks," I boldly claimed that "Anderson's the real deal, the Browns are back, and even though we're going to have to deal with the national nightmare that is Drew Carey, this team is going to the playoffs."
Ben now: Vince was right: Derek Anderson is Aaron Brooks. On the other hand, at least we haven't had to deal with the Drew Carey scenario.
Team: Denver Broncos.
Vince then: "Our projection system has the Broncos at 8.7 wins, but my gut tells me otherwise. I'm going Under."
Vince now: The Broncos could hit the Under and still get into the playoffs. Personally, I think that would be great.
Ben then: Correctly identified Jay Cutler as a good quarterback and the defense as having serious problems; incorrectly slammed Brandon Marshall as a head case; predicted Broncos would go under.
Ben now: Jay Cutler led my fantasy team to the first seed in our league's playoffs, but the Broncos just lost to the Raiders at home. Folks, don't let your defenses grow up to be made of Seahawks cast-offs.
Team: Houston Texans.
Vince then: "I'm thinking this team is still a year away from real contention and taking the Under."
Vince now: Make your plans for 2009, Texans fans!
Ben then: "Steve Slaton should be on everyone's fantasy radar."
Ben now: True story: I traded Steve Slaton for Darren McFadden in Week 5, and my fantasy running backs presently consist of Steven Jackson, Earnest Graham and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. That soft white noise you hear is me weeping into my pillow.
Team: Indianapolis Colts.
Vince then: "Like everyone in Indiana, I'm crossing my fingers and taking the Over."
Vince now: The Colts could still win 12 games and hit the over. All they have to do is beat Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville, and then Tennessee in a Week 17 game that probably won't matter to the Titans.
Ben then: Dithers around with a joke about bursa sacs before mistakenly claiming that locals are referring to the new Colts' stadium as "The Lube."
Ben now: The Colts have at least two wins they shouldn't have, and they still aren't going to get to 12 wins to make the over. So there.
Team: Jacksonville Jaguars.
Vince then: "The more I think about this, the more obvious it seems that Jacksonville is going Over 10 wins."
Vince now: Obvious! It was obvious, I tell you!
Ben then: "Remember the preseason in 2006, when anyone and everyone picked the Carolina Panthers to win the Super Bowl, and then the Panthers proceeded to go 8-8 and miss the playoffs? I'm not saying things are that bad, but there's way too much hype around this team." (Under.)
Ben now: I blame Maurice Jones-Drew, who has become the modern day Corey Dillon, good for three monster games per season and complete obscurity for the other 13 games.
Team: Kansas City Chiefs.
Vince then: "I think five wins really is the best-case scenario for Herm and the gang. Under."
Vince now: I think three wins really is the best-case scenario for Herm and the gang.
Ben then: Turned it over to Herm Edwards before predicting the Chiefs would go over 5.5 wins.
Ben now: Tempting to rely on the Herm Edwards crutch again, but there's only so many times you can type "Uh, HELLO?" without feeling guilty.
Team: Miami Dolphins.
Vince then: "I call this a strong contender to pick number one overall again, and I call this Under."
Vince now: OK, so they've already gone over. Let's see how they do now without the offensive juggernaut that is Greg Camarillo.
Ben then: "The Dolphins might win against the Raiders, Rams, and Chiefs, and maybe they split with Buffalo. That gets us to four wins, which not coincidentally is the same number of gin and tonics I've consumed this afternoon."
Ben now: I blame my drinking problem for missing this prediction.
Team: New England Patriots.
Vince then: "I think New England will get back to the Super Bowl, so I have no problem taking the Over here."
Vince now: I could still be half-right here. You never know.
Ben then: Promotes usual anti-Patriots diatribe in illusory attempt to convince "FO haters" that site does not have pro-Patriots bias.
Ben now: Somehow, I find myself rooting for Matt Cassel. Nightmare.
Team: New York Jets.
Vince then: "Put it all together, and I see a team sneaking Over the projection and competing for a playoff spot late into December."
Vince now: They still play the 49ers and Seahawks. They're not sneaking over the projection, they're barreling through it, hollering with guns ablaze.
Ben then: Makes obligatory "Favre is just having fun out there!" joke before predicting the Jets to go over eight wins.
Ben now: I've been working for two weeks on a massive lawsuit involving eighth graders, and whether they should be forced to learn algebra in California. I misspell "eight" and "eighth" at least 60 times per day. I mention this only because it may explain why I called James Harrison "Jerome" last week, and I'm still feeling a little bashful.
Team: Oakland Raiders.
Vince then: "It's a few spectacular talents surrounded by several dozen replaceable players, in a chaotic setting. That spells Under."
Vince now: Can they get four wins against Kansas City, San Diego, New England, Houston, and Tampa Bay to hit the over? No, actually, they can't.
Ben then: "Rookie quarterback + semi-lame duck head coach + possible alien life form that is Al Davis = less than six wins."
Ben now: The logic seems sound, but how did they win last week?
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers.
Vince then: "The 2005 Steelers team that won the Super Bowl would struggle to win 9 games in this schedule; the 2008 Steelers won't come close. Under, under, under."
Vince now: Well, they're going over, but I would like to note that their next four games are New England, Dallas, Baltimore, and Tennessee, before finishing with Cleveland. So expect a lot of hand-wringing when the Steelers don't get a first-round bye.
Ben then: After rattling off all the reasons I thought the Steelers would be good, I nonetheless predicted them to go under 9.0 wins.
Ben now: It's possible, just possible, that my prediction was clouded by dark memories of the 2005 Super Bowl.
Team: San Diego Chargers.
Vince then: "Every game on the slate looks winnable, so it's easy here to take the Over."
Vince now: It turns out that while all of those games looked winnable, a lot of them were also loseable.
Ben then: Predicted 13 wins and claimed the team had no flaws other than the coaching staff.
Ben now: Upon further reflection, that's a pretty big flaw.
Team: Tennessee Titans.
Vince then: "Their presence in perhaps the NFL's toughest division seals their fate and dooms them to Under status."
Vince now: Sometimes, it's funny that I get paid to write about football.
Ben then: Despite gushing over Chris Johnson in Peter King-to-Brett Favre-like fashion, I rip the receiving corps and predict that the Titans will finish with less than eight wins.
Ben now: With back-to-back fantasy performances of less than 10 points, let's just say I'm no longer sending C.J. bottles of Hennessey with special notes attached.
Team: Arizona Cardinals.
Vince then: "Year after year, season after season, there's always somebody out there saying the Cardinals will finally return to the playoffs. Well, no more. Everyone has given up ... You know what? I've given up too. Under."
Vince now: Just when I gave up on the Cardinals, they came through, like they were trying to torment me. Reminds me of some women I've known.
Ben then: After stating that "I expect this is the year the Cardinals will break out," I go on to praise for Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, and Tim Hightower.
Ben now: Hopefully this offsets my Bengals prediction somewhat.
Team: Atlanta Falcons.
Vince then: "I think Matt Ryan will avoid mistakes. I like the playmaking trio of Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood, and Roddy White. And the offensive line should be more stable than last season. Still, there's that defense, and the schedule includes more Green Bays, San Diegos, and Minnesotas than Detroit and Oaklands. Yes, I'm really taking the Under here."
Vince now: I still question their defense, but they're much better on both sides of the ball than they have any right to be.
Ben then: "With Roddy White and Matt Ryan playing the role of a poor man's Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson, respectively, the offense should be surprisingly potent."
Ben now: Little did I know this would be a disservice to Ryan and White.
Team: Carolina Panthers.
Vince then: "I see very few unwinnable games for Carolina. I like the Over."
Vince now: They've already gone over, but are fighting for their playoff lives. They'd better hope any unwinnable games are behind them.
Ben then: "Not only do I think the Panthers are a lock for the Over, I think they win the NFC South and seriously contend for a Super Bowl berth. Provided John Fox doesn't have plastic surgery, of course."
Ben now: In a sign that I may have written my prediction column under the influence, I have no idea what the plastic surgery joke is about. Literally, no idea.
Team: Chicago Bears.
Vince then: "So that's the Chicago offense: Orton passing to Brandon Lloyd and Marty Booker, or handing off to Adrian Peterson (no, the other one). Can that attack win eight games that include Minnesota and Green Bay twice each, plus the entire AFC South? No. No, it can't. Under."
Vince now: Kyle Orton, Real NFL Quarterback, remains the biggest surprise of the 2008 season.
Ben then: "Seriously, the idea this team can win eight games is a joke, even if the offense is actually throwing to (former cornerback) Devin Hester or handing off to (unimpressive rookie) Matt Forte. Load up on bratwurst and the Under."
Ben now: By unimpressive rookie Matt Forte, I meant "really impressive multidimensional rookie" Matt Forte.
Team: Dallas Cowboys.
Vince then: "It takes a good team to top 10.5 wins. This is a very good team. Over."
Vince now: This may be a very good team, but they still play the Giants, Ravens, and Steelers. They're not winning 11 games.
Ben then: After ripping on Wade Phillips, I made yet another tired Jessica Simpson joke before predicting the Cowboys to go over 12 wins.
Ben now: I'm out of Jessica jokes and have nothing left to say about this team.
Team: Detroit Lions.
Vince then: "What? You can't be serious. 6.5 wins? Do the preseason victories over Cincinnati and Buffalo count? How the hell else are the Lions going to top six wins?"
Vince now: They're not.
Ben then: Nothing better than an entire paragraph based on Kid Rock lyrics.
Ben now: As always, I'm in it to win it like Yzerman, could drink about 15 Heinekens. Speaking of 15, that's how many losses the Lions will have this year.
Team: Green Bay Packers.
Vince then: "A talented team plus an easy schedule makes for an easy Over."
Vince now: I've got to learn to be more ambiguous in my writing. "Could," "possibly," "perhaps" -- these are words I need to use more often.
Ben then: A drunken digression against Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Winston Churchill, Christopher Columbus and Brett Favre for some reason leads me to take the over.
Ben now: I'm just having fun out there! Oh wait, I made that joke earlier.
Team: Minnesota Vikings.
Vince then: "... I'm sticking to my guns, and sticking to the Over."
Vince now: The Detroit game on December 7 will get them to seven wins. Can they find two more among Chicago, Atlanta, Arizona, and the Giants?
Ben then: "The Vikings are a little overhyped -- think of them as the Jaguars of the NFC -- and I don't think Tarvaris Jackson is a viable starting quarterback."
Ben now: It took a couple of weeks, but eventually Brad Childress agreed with me.
Team: New Orleans Saints.
Vince then: "I'm not comfortable with the Saints. I think they could be really good, or really bad. Most likely, they'll fall somewhere in the middle, and just short of this projection. Under."
Vince now: They've been really good AND really bad, but should still finish short of that projection.
Ben then: Picked the over despite the scheduling black hole the Saints just emerged from.
Ben now: This summer, I made the mistake of ordering a Hurricane on Bourbon Street at 4 a.m. Did you know you can get food poisoning from Slushee-like substances? In New Orleans you can.
Team: New York Giants.
Vince then: "I think the improvement Eli Manning showed in the playoffs may be real and not a four-game hot streak, but he could find himself throwing three touchdowns in losing efforts several times this season. Under."
Vince now: In the Giants' only loss, Eli Manning threw just one touchdown. So I was wrong about that too.
Ben then: Picked the under despite equating the Giants' defensive line to a Corvette ZR-1, even after the losses of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.
Ben now: Hey, even Vegas pegged the over/under line at 8.5 -- no one thought they'd be this good.
Team: Philadelphia Eagles, 5-5-1.
Vince then: "Much like the home purchased by Tom Hanks and Shelley Long in that underrated classic The Money Pit, the Eagles are a beautiful house on a shaky foundation that could give way at any time ... I see a team going Over. All bets are off, however, come 2009."
Vince now: Much like the U.S. real estate market, it was only a question of when, not if, the Eagles would collapse.
Ben then: "As for the Eagles, our projection system continually wants to have sex with them, so I'll go with the Over too."
Ben now: Our projection system has contracted an STD (or should I say computer virus?) and is currently undergoing treatment.
Team: San Francisco 49ers.
Vince then: "This, folks, is an Under team if ever I saw one."
Vince now: I see the Bills, Jets, Dolphins, and Redskins on the schedule, and I still see an Under team.
Ben then: Bad idea to rely on Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson, J.T. O'Sullivan, and Mike Martz to revitalize the offense.
Ben now: Still a bad idea, although it's fun to have a head coach in the NFL who likes to strip for motivational purposes.
Team: Seattle Seahawks.
Vince then: "I just can't see any reason not to take the Over."
Vince now: I hate 2008.
Ben then: I expressed concern that "Matt Hasselbeck did not play in the last three preseason games due to a mysterious back ailment, thus depriving him of the opportunity to build chemistry with new starting wide receivers Logan Flotsam and Jordan Jetsam," but nonetheless picked the over.
Ben now: Amazingly, Logan Flotsam and Jordan Jetsam gave way to Billy McNobody, Keary Craphands, and the return of Koren Drinkingbuddy. What a season.
Team: St. Louis Rams.
Vince then: "Later games against the 49ers, Dolphins and Falcons could push the Rams up to five wins, maybe even six, but certainly not seven. Under."
Vince now: Those games against Miami and Atlanta are still on the schedule, and they look significantly less winnable now.
Ben then: "Last time I checked Scott Linehan remained the head coach, so I take the Under and a healthy dose of sodium amytal."
Ben now: Did you ever do the Kenosha, Vince? I never did. (This joke will make sense to exactly four people who read this column.)
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Vince then: "Still, with no division rival looking particularly dominant, the NFC South looks ripe for the taking ... I'm good with the Over here."
Vince now: After three games against divisional foes, the Bucs close with the Chargers and Raiders. A first-round bye may be likely.
Ben then: "Gregg Easterbrook may believe in football gods, but I'm an atheist, and I think this team is just talented enough to win nine games before making yet another first-round playoff exit."
Ben now: Wait, here comes my second straight week of using a TMQ-based "Ye gods!" joke. Ye gods, I think my prediction regarding the Bucs will come true! Stop me before I binge drink again!
Team: Washington Redskins.
Vince then: "Has everyone forgotten that this was a playoff team last year? And it wasn't a schedule fluke -- their 7.9% DVOA ranked 12th in the league ... Over and out."
Vince now: At least I was right about one team in this division.
Ben then: Predicted the Redskins would end up with the first pick in the NFL draft.
Ben now: Vince, they tried to warn me of my evil ways, but I couldn't hear what they had to say. So yes, I was wrong -- I realize now that I was wrong.
|Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.|
Although Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb seem to vie for the trophy almost every week, we here at Scramble headquarters are breaking the mold in order to give the award to Surry County, Virginia, prosecutor Gerald Poindexter, who somehow managed to fail to indict Michael Vick on six charges of killing dogs, even after Vick admitted to federal authorities that he'd personally participated in killing dogs prior to Poindexter seeking the indictment. Impressive work, counselor -- keep choppin' justice.
Leading 24-21 on the first drive of the second half, Saints coach Sean Payton had a fourth-and-1 at his own 45. Payton kept his offense on the field, and Pierre Thomas gained four yards and a first down. The Saints went on to score on a touchdown pass to Billy Miller. Mid-game fourth down conversion attempts are somewhat common, though, and it takes more than that to win a Colbert Award. Take, for example, the trickery the Saints attempted in the third quarter. Up by 17 and within shot of a field-goal attempt that would boost the lead to three touchdowns, Payton called for a double-pass, with Lance Moore lobbing a ball to Thomas, which was picked off by Aaron Rouse. We can question the wisdom of the call -- why would you ever want Moore passing instead of Drew Brees? -- but it was undeniably ballsy.
QB: Donovan McNabb put up a -4 this week to "lead" all quarterbacks, but it was not the Eagles who saw two quarterbacks go into negative numbers -- it was the Browns, who saw both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson finish at -2. (For the record, Kevin Kolb finished right at 0.)
RB: Sammy Morris and Frank Gore take the stage here. Each player scored a 2.
WR: Eddie Royal and Kevin Curtis take the stage HERE. Each player scored a 1.
K: Matt Prater and Josh Scobee each missed a pair of field goals, and each scored a 0.
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