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25 Jan 2006

Scramble for the Ball: All the Things We Said

by Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal

"The thing about preseason picks is no one remembers them one week after the season starts. It's like draft review columns. It would be interesting to see in Week 8 or so how these predictions hold up." -- Commenter Johonny on the Football Outsiders 2005 Predictions

Al: Sorry we're late, Johonny. Like the man with the extra "o" said, most prognosticators make wild-ass guesses in August and September and the general public never hears about them again, unless one of those random predictions turns out to be correct and the prognosticator makes sure to point out his genius. Sure, at Football Outsiders we could do the same and point out how our editor-in-chief Aaron Schatz won King Kaufman's yearly predictions contest, and if you had chosen the 12 teams with the highest percentage chance of being "Super Bowl contenders" in Pro Football Prospectus 2005, you would have finished second in King's contest ahead of everyone but Aaron.

But that's not how we roll. We're going to take advantage of this dead week in football land after the Conference Championships have been played and dissected and before the Super Bowl hype really begins to look back at the predictions the Outsiders staff made in the pre-season, as well as some prognostication Vivek and myself did during the course of the season. It won't just be the predictions that came true that we'll be highlighting. No, if someone was dumb enough to predict that the Minnesota Vikings would win the Super Bowl and that "Culpepper will make Nate Burleson and Troy Williamson 1,000 yard receivers," we'll make sure the entire world knows how bad that person is at predicting what will happen on a football field. Right Viv?

Vivek: You leave the Vikings out of it, and I'll do the same with your picking the Redskins in 2004. Hindsight is always 20/20. After revisiting our predictions, I saw that both of us misfired on a few things as badly as Mike Vanderjagt's right foot.

Just like that NFL Network commercial that pokes fun at fans' preseason comments -- "The Bears aren't winning more than three games" and "Chad Johnson? Never heard of him"-- Al and I get to look back at the 2005 forecasts from the Outsiders. While a lot right were on the money, plenty (including from yours truly) were on par with the NFL Network commercial. The sad thing is that the NFL commercial was trying to be funny. I was trying to be the Nostradamus of the NFL.

Al: First, we'll tackle the official 2005 Football Outsiders Season Predictions, which were unveiled just before Week 1. Starting with the AFC, we were all smart enough to pick New England and Indianapolis to win their respective divisions. Aaron was the most accurate AFC prognosticator, correctly picking all four division winners and one wild card team. Of course, he also predicted that "with just a little improvement on both sides of the ball, [the Texans] would snag a wild card with an easier schedule than better teams from the other divisions," so we won't all slap his back that hard. Assistant editor Tim Gerheim notched the craziness up to 11 when he said they were "the second-best team in the AFC South" and would make the playoffs for the first time in history.

(Ed. note: Hey now, I was right about the schedule ... just pretend that where I wrote "Houston" I instead wrote "Jacksonville.")

Ned, Russell, Tim, Vivek, and myself were only able to guess one more correct AFC playoff team in addition to the Patriots and the Colts. Many of us were duped into thinking that the Ravens would be a playoff contender. Michael David Smith wrote that "When I look at the Patriots and Colts, I actually like them better than the Ravens, but I just feel like the Ravens are a team that might be better at the end of the year." Five of us picked them to win the AFC North.

Vivek: Maybe it was the fact that I caught a lot of WFAN while on certain parts of the Capital Beltway, but I thought that everyone was high on the Jets. Looking back, most of the Outsiders were pretty cautious about Chad Pennington's shoulder too.

And now on to more of fun part -- the good, the bad, and the ugly about what we wrote (heavily weighted to the bad and the ugly, of course.) I'll continue the trip down memory lane with myself and my love affair with the Chiefs.

"The Kansas City front office finally realized that two straight years with a terrible defense under different coordinators meant that the personnel needed to change. Kendrell Bell and Derrick Johnson are much welcome additions, and opposing quarterbacks will not be able to be as daring anymore with Patrick Surtain and Sammy Knight."

The Chiefs showed improvement in defensive DVOA, moving from 28th to 12th this year, but still failed to keep opponents from reaching the end zone and moving up and down the field. The "upgraded" secondary ranked 20th in pass defense DVOA and Kendrell Bell was a bust and could be on his third team in three years in 2006.

Al: Unlike our relative success in the AFC, none of us had any clue about the NFC. Aaron once again predicted the most playoff teams, tying with myself, MDS, and Ned Macey with a whopping three correct predictions. Vivek was in the basement, only guessing correctly that Carolina would make the post-season. Everyone loved the Eagles, who were the Football Outsiders' unanimous pick to win the NFC East and the consensus Super Bowl champion.

I was the only person to have the Bears in the playoffs, let alone as NFC North division champion. I was also one of three geniuses to think that the Cardinals would be there with them. At least I didn't predict that "JJ Arrington will be the offensive rookie of the year as well."

Vivek: So Al, how was that Rose Bowl between Louisville and Boston College? Sorry, I needed to throw something back at you. (Speaking of, Tim actually got the Rose Bowl right: Texas over USC.)

I'll give credit where credit is due, though. Al did write: "Coaches that won't be on the sidelines in 2006 [with the same teams]: Jim Haslett, Mike Tice, Mike Sherman, Steve Mariucci."

And like he mentioned, Al was the first person to saddle up for the Chicago Bandwagon: "That leaves Chicago with a solid defense and multi-faceted running attack. If Kyle Orton doesn't screw up royally, which is a big if, there's no reason the Bears can't win the division."

And as history has illustrated, DVOA does not lie. The system picked eight of the 12 playoff teams this year, and that number could have been higher had not the Eagles been decimated by injuries.

We just need to figure out how to include the "Millen Factor" when calculating DVOA.

Al: The 2005 Season Predictions weren't the first attempt at predictions for the 2005 season that ran on FootballOutsiders.com. Back in July, Vivek and I started to look at the over/under lines for total wins for all 32 teams. We ran the discussion over four columns, one each for the West, East, North, and South divisions. I did fairly well overall, finishing with a record of 19-12-1. Vivek, on the other hand, ended up with a losing record at 13-18-1, including an incredibly awful record of 1-6-1 in the Western divisions.

Vivek: Being an East Coast guy, I always had a problem with the left coast swings. I blew it with the Seahawks and the Rams. St. Louis' offseason moves (Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley) did nothing to improve the defense, which finished 29th in DVOA. As for the Seahawks, I was accurate about the team having a lot of close games on the schedule, but they came out 6-1 in games decided by less than a touchdown.

What a difference a season made for the Broncos. During the summer, we were both killing Denver's front office for transforming the team into the Brown-cos. Maybe it was the thin air, but whatever it was, Gerard Warren, Courtney Brown, Ebenezer Ekuban, and Michael Myers found a new life in Denver. Warren suddenly went from being dubbed uncoachable and lazy to a player that showed effort on every play. Courtney Brown found his health and Ekuban and Myers produced with playing time.

Al: To be fair, it's not like I nailed all of my West predictions on the head either. Speaking of Oakland, I wrote: "I don't think anyone expects this team to only put up 320 points on offense like they did last season." Of course they scored thirty fewer points despite adding Randy Moss and Lamont Jordan. I also predicted that "fourth round pick Craphonso Thorpe should develop into Kansas City's number two receiver by midseason." Thorpe spent the entire year on the Kansas City practice squad. In my defense, I didn't really think Thorpe would contribute much to Kansas City this season. I just wanted to work "Craphonso" into the column.

We didn't leave our awful predictions at the door of the regular season, however. Vivek and I took two other opportunities to revisit our playoff predictions during the season. Scramble for the Ball: Your Home for Four Sets of Bad Predictions.

We first revisited things after Week 4, where I ran as fast as I could away from the Seattle bandwagon. "I've lost all faith in the Seahawks in the NFC West. There's no reason to think they'll win a game on the road this year." Genius. Somehow, after four weeks of games had been played, I made my preseason predictions slightly worse, taking the division champion Seahawks out of my playoff picture, but adding in the Giants as a wild card team.

Vivek actually improved his NFC guesses by switching out the Cardinals in favor of Tampa Bay. We both ended up with the same AFC predictions, correctly replacing Baltimore with Pittsburgh at the top of the AFC North, but both stubbornly leaving the Broncos out of the playoff picture. He also was an early jumper onto the Washington bandwagon, stating "If Brunell can stay healthy and the Falcons' passing attack never gets going, the Redskins are next in line for a playoff spot in the weak NFC." It took a while to happen, but a healthy Brunell at the end of the season combined with the collapse of Atlanta allowed Washington to live up to their promise, becoming a very hot pick for the NFC representative to Super Bowl XLI.

Al: Just after Thanksgiving, we made some more guesses about the playoff picture once again, drawing upon the world of professional wrestling to express our feelings on the potential post-season participants.

Usually the reaction of Football Outsiders and FOXSports.com readers to the latest edition of Scramble for the Ball is a collective yawn. For that column, however, we received the most diverse reaction to a piece in the long, storied history of Scramble. One reader called it "possibly the most bizarre thing I've read today." Two others praised it as "the best Scramble ever," and for having the "best collection of links in an article ever." Others, however, were not as eager to dish out the praise. One commenter stated that "at least now I don't ever have to read anything you write about football because I now know that you two probably played more dungeons and dragons than you have football." Another reader stated that he "always thought Scramble was a little mediocre," "but I really feel like I learned absolutely nothing from this article save the name of Ric Flair's finishing move."

Vivek: Dungeons and Dragons? We're not that bad. Now fantasy XFL and fantasy golf, that's another question.

I'll admit it. This has to be the greatest stretch for amusement in the history of sports journalism (I use that term loosely), but Al and I got a kick out of it. It took me this long to finally believe in the Seahawks and Bears, but I eventually did come around.

Al: It's amazing how bad these predictions could have been with so little time left before the actual playoffs began. I couldn't have been more wrong about Washington and Kansas City's chances at the end of the season: "After blowing their game on Sunday against San Diego, the Redskins have no chance of sniffing the playoffs." "It's not unrealistic to think the Chiefs could lose out and actually finish with a losing record." Of course, there weren't two hotter teams at the end of the season than the Redskins and Chiefs.

I did get some NFC South predictions right, however: "Cadillac Williams wins the offensive rookie of the year award after he puts up big numbers with three games against New Orleans and Atlanta." Williams had 327 rushing yards, averaging 4.36 yards per carry, in those three games en route to winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award with 47 out of 50 votes. I also noted that "the Falcons get to face three of the top six run defenses in the league in four of their last five games. Atlanta needs to win three of their last five to get into the tiebreaker mix, but with the strength of their team neutralized I don't see it happening." In Atlanta's four games against Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Chicago, the Falcons went 0-4, averaging only 103 yards on the ground. Insert line about the sun and a dog's rear end here.

Scramble for the Ball Mailbag

Dave: A fantasy football question, with perhaps some bearing on DVOA. In a 16 team lifetime keeper league where the format is 1 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, and 1 flex, we can keep any 2 players with no restrictions. I have Tiki Barber, Rudi Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck and Antonio Gates. I'm planning on moving Hasselbeck for nominal consideration (a late draft pick), but my real dilemma lies with which 2 of Tiki, Rudi and Gates to keep.

I'm pretty sure I can move Tiki (or Rudi) for a decent draft pick (hoping to move up in the first round to a top three pick plus a later pick like a 4th rounder), whereas I could not get anything but a late pick for Gates. That being said, I'm wondering if this is one of those situations where the market is grossly undervaluing a commodity? Gates is so much better than any other TE that I value him quite highly. That, along with the age of Tiki, makes me think I should move Tiki, despite the fact that people are calling me insane for even thinking about that. Your thoughts?

Al: Tiki's value will never be higher than it is right now. You're not crazy for moving him, especially if you can turn it into a top three draft pick. Barber should still be productive next year, but expecting him to put up another 2000-yard season at age 31 is crazy. Based on some early projections, we expect Johnson to be just as good, if not better, than Barber from a fantasy standpoint next season. I agree that if you can get a good deal for Barber, Gates and Johnson are the way you should go.

Doug: I am the commissioner of a keeper league. I am new to your website, and I think your DVOA rankings are great. What rules do you guys have in the FF leagues you play in and/or what do you think are the most realistic rules you could have for a fantasy league.

Vivek: Realistic or fair for fantasy leagues? I have a different answer for each. In terms of a fantasy, I'll just paste in the keeper-related rules for a system that I for a change have no problems with. The basic premise is that you can keep up to six players, but cannot stock up on the early picks. This promotes parity and forces players to think hard about mid and late round picks.

  1. You can keep a maximum of 6 players.
  2. Up to 3 of your keepers can be players chosen in rounds 1-5. These are known as “high-rounders.�
  3. Up to 2 more of your keepers can be players drafted from rounds 6-10. These
    are known as “mid-rounders.�
  4. If you keep six players, at least one must have been chosen in the 11th round or
    later, or was claimed as a free agent. “These are known as low-rounders.�
  5. Fewer than 3 high-rounders can be kept and replaced with mid or low rounders. Similarly, fewer than 2 mid-rounders can be kept and replaced by low-rounders.
  6. Fewer than 6 players may be kept. Slots not being kept may be exchanged for corresponding draft picks. See the “Draft� section for details.
  7. A player acquired in a trade retains the round status that he had with
    his original team.
  8. Any player claimed who was drafted, released, and claimed as a free agent becomes a low-rounder, regardless of where he was originally picked.
  9. Keepers are determined a week before the draft. They become “ranked� for placements in “rounds� for the following year's draft. For instance, the 3 high-rounders correspond to rounds 1-3 in the next year's draft. Mid-rounders correspond to rounds 4-5. The Low-rounder is round six. So, when that year's draft begins, the first round is actually “round 7� for keeper purposes.

For a realistic league, as much as I dislike this for a fantasy format, it would have to be one that has low roster turnover and some sort of salary cap.

Al: You could also go to an auction format for your draft, which really seems to lend itself well to keeper leagues. Each year you wish to keep a player, you add a certain dollar amount to that player's salary for the next season. You can also set some time limit as to how long you can keep a player. For example, let's say you have a league with a $160 salary cap and 16-man rosters. You can allow up to six keepers every year, but you have to add $5 to the player's salary the next season, and you can only keep a player for two years past the original season he was drafted or picked up from the waiver wire. This will reward teams who get lucky and/or draft well by grabbing someone like Larry Johnson for little money, while not keeping players out of the player pool for so long that other teams won't ever have a chance at having him on their teams.

Another draft format that I like, is somewhat similar to the one Vivek mentioned. Instead of a set number of keepers per draft position, however, you lose a draft pick a number of rounds, typically three, earlier than where the player was picked if you wish to keep this player. So, if you grabbed someone you wanted to keep in the fifth round, you could do it, but you'd lose your second round pick the next year. It makes the players drafted in the first three rounds unkeepable, which allows for top players to be available in the draft each year, and also alters overall draft strategy.

Fantasy Playoff League Results

Al: Tim is still running away with this. Jason and Aaron are the only ones with somewhat realistic shots at catching him. Jason has five players still alive, including Shaun Alexander. If Jerome Bettis doesn't do anything in the Super Bowl while Matt Hasselbeck connects with Darrell Jackson for a couple of touchdowns, Aaron could jump ahead and win. My team is still awful.

JASON Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Tot VIVEK Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Tot NED Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Tot
QB Manning, NYG -3 0 0 -3 Plummer, Den 0 11 7 18 Manning, IND 0 20 0 20
RB Alexander, SEA 0 -2 25 23 James, IND 0 11 0 11 Johnson, CIN 12 0 0 12
RB Anderson, DEN 0 19 10 29 Foster, CAR 15 5 0 20 Dillon, NE 5 5 0 10
WR Smith, DEN 0 15 6 21 Galloway, TB 6 0 0 6 Moss, WAS 2 16 0 18
WR Ward, PIT 7 6 11 24 Branch, NE 3 15 0 18 Engram, SEA 0 1 3 4
WR Jurevicius, SEA 0 3 0 3 Houshmandzadeh, CIN 8 0 0 8 Smith, JAC 3 0 0 3
TE Stevens, SEA 0 1 12 13 Clark, IND 0 14 0 14 Miller, PIT 1 12 3 16
K Brown, SEA 0 8 10 18 Vinatieri, NE 4 8 0 12 Elam, DEN 0 12 5 17
DEF New England 16 1 0 17 Chicago 0 -1 0 -1 New York Giants 1 0 0 1
20 51 74 145 36 63 7 106 24 66 11 101
AARON Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Tot AL Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Tot TIM Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Tot
QB Hasselbeck, SEA 0 22 20 42 Palmer, CIN 3 0 0 3 Brady, NE 22 17 0 39
RB Barber, NYG 6 0 0 6 Jones, CHI 0 11 0 11 Williams, TB 3 0 0 3
RB Bell, DEN 0 1 5 6 Portis, WAS 11 5 0 16 Bettis, PIT 11 8 9 28
WR Wayne, IND 0 11 0 11 Harrison, IND 0 5 0 5 Smith, CAR 21 35 9 65
WR Jackson, SEA 0 20 13 33 Johnson, CIN 5 0 0 5 Muhammad, CHI 0 5 0 5
WR Toomer, NYG 3 0 0 3 Burress, NYG 0 0 0 0 Lelie, DEN 0 5 12 17
TE Watson, NE 15 0 0 15 Shockey, NYG 5 0 0 5 Cooley, WAS 1 8 0 9
K Vanderjagt, IND 0 4 0 4 Feely, NYG 0 0 0 0 Gould, CHI 0 3 0 3
DEF Seattle 0 3 8 11 Indianapolis 0 3 0 3 Denver 0 9 -2 7
24 61 46 131 24 24 0 48 58 90 28 176

The leading "Best of the Rest" team belongs to Geoff, who has 177 points. Yes, that's more than any of the FO staffers. This is what happens when a sixth seed makes the Super Bowl. Since the top "Best of the Rest" teams all have the same Steelers, Geoff wins the "Best of the Rest" competition unless one of these three things happens:

1) Antwaan Randle El scores -7 points.
2) The Pittsburgh D goes for -21 points (Yes, that means Seattle would have to score 147 points).
3) (Presumably as part of the same game) D.J. Hackett scores 71 points.

Best Bets

Al: No Best Bets this week. We're saving them up for next week as we unveil the Third Annual Super Bowl Prop-Bet Extravaganza.

Posted by: scramble on 25 Jan 2006

48 comments, Last at 30 Jan 2006, 1:32am by Willsy


by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 10:38pm

I still can't believe I picked the Ravens for the Super Bowl. And my idiotic justification of somehow thinking they were going to go even though I didn't think they were as good as the Colts or Patriots makes no sense. Predicting the NFL season is damn hard.

by thad (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 10:48pm

I probably should have said this more often, but the articles from all the football outsiders were really good this year.
Thanks for all the hard work!

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 10:59pm

I would've had a great BotR team if I had realized Aaron picked Amani Toomer sooner :/. That and actually not picking Toomer.

by Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 11:11pm

I love Scramble. The weekly Keep Choppin' Wood award is a highlight of my Wednesday.

by kachunk (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 11:14pm

You guys were really down on Ben at the beginning of the season. I don't remember what I thought at the time (I didn't write it down like you guys), so I can't criticize you for it, but he sure didn't regress this year.

by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 11:37pm

Mental note: next time, don't pick Brandon "Worthless, Even At The Goal Line" Jacobs for your BOTR team. Especially when you have to go and choose the right six seed to go on a tear.

Oh well, I'll content myself with (probably) beating all the FO staffers.

by Bill (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 11:40pm


You're at 156, 21 points behind Geoff. The only receiver you could've picked who would put you ahead is Cedrick Wilson.

by JC (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 11:48pm

This is an absolutely terrific article and link to 19 weeks ago. I'm very impressed with the writers ability t prognasticate. Aaron actually came pretty close. The best is the comments! Some nailed it, some came close, and others (like I would have been) were way off. The funniest ones (of course this is all hindsight) were the "Philly is gonna win the super bowl", "the Texans are gonna go 9-7" (sorry Aaron - maybe you didn't want me to point that out), and Baltimore would be an AFC force. Really good ones were the Hawks predictions. Good defense of the Redskins by some of their fans.

by michael (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:50am

speaking of post-season pre-season reviews - is there going to be a look back at the KUBIAK ratings that were published in PFP? And if so, will said review be posted here, or in PFP2006? Obviously, some things in there were a bit off, regardless of season ending injuries, but i think it would be fantastic if the expectations were compared to the reality - in the name of improving the prediictions for next year.. and in the name of me not drafting anybody named Jones in round one.

by Ruben (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:59am

Of course, he also predicted that “with just a little improvement on both sides of the ball, [the Texans] would snag a wild card

Am I only one of a few who isn't ready to sell on the Texans yet? I have never even been to Houston, so I have no ties to the team, but they were 8-8 last season, and have suffered many bad breaks, among them:

Boselli, their #1 pick in the expansion draft and designated bodyguard for Carr, ended his career in training camp before the team played a single snap;

They've never had an offensive line since (I still say the Madden commercial from 2003 draft day, with all the Texan lineman removed from the film, was among the best marketing gags ever);

One of their top-two offensive weapons going into the second season, Bennie Joppru, has never even played in a regular season game due to injury (they've moved on with another, better TE, but lost a season without him);

D. Davis has lacked the maturity and skill to throw a good pass block (though I don't blame him too much; I would be hesitant to block all 4 pass rushers at once, too);

and their defense has been mediocre-to-ok, but they've also spent a lot of time on the field, thanks to the offensive shortages mentioned above.

I'm not trying to be an apologist for the team, or their missteps in the past few years, but I don't think it was too far-fetched to call them a decent shot at a Wild Card spot going into this season, or at least to finish 2nd in their division. Many bad breaks led them to the top of the future-GM-career-ending Reggie Bush #1 pick, but it wasn't that easy to predict.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:16am

156? Nifty. And no, no way in Hell I'd pick Cedrick Wilson.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:35am

To follow that up, Go Heath Miller and a shootout! :D

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:59am

The funniest thing about the bad predictions is that they each take a similar turn:

Jets: injury-decimated offense
Eagles: injury-decimated offense
Baltimore: offense didn't improve
Detroit: offense didn't improve

I don't really even consider Jacksonville that bad a prediction - Tennessee's prediction is forewarned ("don't know how to deal with this many losses on defense" - lo and behold, defense fell much farther than expected), and if you assume Tennessee and Houston will be bad, suddenly Jacksonville's predicted number of wins would probably jump to 10-11.

In my mind, the real big whiff is Houston: what happened this year? Yah, the offensive line is bad, but it was bad last year, too, and Carr wasn't horrendous like this year.

by admin :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 2:39am

I do want to write a series looking back at the first year of KUBIAK and what we can learn for year two. I'm not sure when I'm going to get to it ... could be next week, could be later in February or March.

by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 2:41am

Needless to say, the predictions here were a lot more accurate than in most of the mainstream publications, who offered up a rehash of the 2004 playoff field, only with the Vikings doing better thanks to their new "chemistry."

I did reasonably well with my predictions. I had New England, Indy, Cincinnati and Kansas City winning the AFC divisions, but then whiffed badly on my wild cards (Jets and Bills). In the NFC I had Philly, Detroit (yikes!), Carolina and Seattle winning their divisions, with Tampa Bay and Dallas grabbing the wild cards. Not bad, not stellar.

by Dave (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:17am

Well, this year the FO guys did better than I did (I liked NE, Cinci, Indy, and San Diego in the AFC, with the Chiefs and Jets as wild cards -- not too bad, but I had the Eagles, Panthers, Packers, and Cardnials in the NFC, with the Seahawks and Vikings as wild cards). And I can only plead homerism in the cases of Green Bay and San Diego.

by David (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:18am

...correctly replacing Baltimore with Pittsburgh at the top of the AFC North...

Huh? Remind me who hosted that wild-card game?

by Vash (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:46am

10: Houston has decent skill players, but its lines are pathetic, which means it needs to completely, successfully overhaul a unit of nine players to improve. And since they haven't figured out who those nine players are, it's unlikely they will.

Philly predictions are completely excusable, as losing your #1 QB (one of the best), #1 WR (one of the best), HB, and kicker (one of the best) for long periods is not something that can really be predicted.

by Kal (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:05am

Yeah, why can't DVOA predict sports hernias? It's clearly flawed.

I just...I look back at the seasons last year and this year, and I keep wondering how Baltimore was picked for anything. I mean, y'all thought that Cinci and Palmer would make improvements, right? And while Pitt might degrade, did you think they'd become a non-playoff team after a 15-1 season and not losing personnel in any appreciable way? I'm not saying I'd do better or that anyone would do better, but reading back on the picks Baltimore is the one that just strikes me as excessively odd.

by Craigo (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:25am

Kal, I believe these picks were made right after the preseason. I don't know if you remember, but the entire City of Pittsburgh was seizing up over how badly Ben played during those meaningless games. He really did look lost then, so many months ago.

I'm with you on Baltimore, though. Every year it's "Boller finally has the weapons he needs." It's never "Kyle freaking Boller is the quarterback." I bet my Dad 20 bucks that they would be in last place in AFCN. He's refusing to pay up because they tied Cleveland in the wins column.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:36am

Well my predictions abou week 3 or 4 were NE/IND/PIT/SD/CIN/JAC in that order

and SEA/PHI/TB/CHI/NYG/DAL in that order

So I didn't do too badly although I missed badly on DEN(stupid MIA game) as I thought KC would be 7th man in AFC.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 11:14am

In case you were unsure, I have to say that one of the things I enjoy best about your site is you allow and encourage feedback. Other sites don't have open postings. Thank you for doing this.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 11:40am

My guess for what happened to Houston is they fired the offensive coordinator about 4 weeks into the season and replaced him with the O-line coach. I think that move sabotaged any chance they had of recovering from the 0-4 start. However, there's no reason to pay attention to me, cause I played more dungeons and dragons than football.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 11:58am

I'm casting Magic Missile at your CB.

by ToxikFetus (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:06pm

Re: 19

I'm not sure if anyone actually expected to see Philly's #1 WR make it through the season. But on the upside, we got to see the following Philly related items this season:

1. A linebacker kicking an extra point.
2. Drew "What have you done for your client besides getting him fired" Rosenhaus
3. Mike McMahon singlehandedly destroying many fantasy football seasons by giving 20+ points to the Seattle D.
4. A postseason that could be enjoyed without an impending sense of doom.

by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:21pm


Ah, but my CB already has a shield spell in place, which negates your magic missile. Now my LB makes a grapple check against your QB.

Anime, D&D and the geekiest NFL site around... yeah, that's my life.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:32pm

I’m with you on Baltimore, though. Every year it’s “Boller finally has the weapons he needs.� It’s never “Kyle freaking Boller is the quarterback.�

Boller's average, though. The big problem with Baltimore this year was that they lost Boller for a few games (Wright was worse), but far more importantly, Jamal Lewis sucked. Sucked a lot. It's not entirely his offensive line, either, as his backup was doing noticeably better.

I doubt there'll ever be enough data for "incarceration during the offseason" but I'd bet that if there was, it'd look like coming back off a really bad injury.

Boller's not good enough to carry the team to, say, a 12-win season, but with a RB that can do better than 8 carries for 17 yards, or 10 carries for nine yards (against the Titans!), they probably would've pulled out 9 wins last season.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:33pm

ToxikFetus: You're also forgetting the "HOLY CRAP HE BLOCKED IT AND IS RUNNING BACK FOR A TD!" San Diego game. Weirdest... turnaround... ever.

2. Drew “What have you done for your client besides getting him fired� Rosenhaus

Now that you mention it, the entire disaster of the Eagles' 2005 season might just be worth it just for that comment alone.

by HLF (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:43pm

At least the new FO server has more hit points than the last one...

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:46pm

Man, I wish you guys lived in Chicago... our football/D&D group needs people :/.

by admin :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:58pm

You people keep making your Dungeons and Dragons references, and I'll keep making my far less geeky indie rock references. Um, okay, those are actually equally as geeky, aren't they...

by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 12:59pm

I'll look you up next time I'm in the area, and bring my Gridiron cards too.

by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:05pm

Actually, Gridiron was prescient about one thing... (link on name)

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 2:28pm


While I agree with you on Boller vs. Wright, I thought that the Chester Taylor shibboleth had been put to rest.

When Taylor was given enough opportunities to amass a decent (not exclusively third down) sample, he sucked, too. Not to mention disappearing in the middle of the season for undefined personal reasons, which led to the Ravens suspending him for a game. What killed the Ravens' offense for almost all of the season was an offensive line where the talent was aging and the youth was not particularly talented. That's the sort of thing it's hard to get a read on in the preseason, where combinations are continually changing.

Whether they can fix that (Charles from New Orleans?) is the real question of the offseason.

by pcs (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 2:59pm

Not only did Tim peg the Rose Bowl, he predicted LHC was going to go 8-8. In my book, that more than makes up for the irrational exuberance on the Texans.

Now, if only Palmer had been wearing his +3 knee brace in his melee round with the Lawful Evil Kimo von Oelhoffen (talk about your D&D names).

by michael (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:10pm

It's called "welcome to the OC, beeyotch!" In this case, OC standing for "offensive co-ordinator." The last two games of the season said a lot. When Carr was allowed to call his own plays in the first half, the Texans put up 19 and 24 points. When Joe Pendry took over at half time, the team proceeded to go goose-egg and nada.

Carr isn't the problem.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:14pm

Pat #28:

You’re also forgetting the “HOLY CRAP HE BLOCKED IT AND IS RUNNING BACK FOR A TD!� San Diego game. Weirdest… turnaround… ever.

And to think I was sitting there on my couch, getting angrier and angrier at the turn of events in the game, and I looked over at my wife after they flubbed 4th and 1 and said, "The only way we'll win now is if we block the Field Goal and run it back for ... hey, hey they blocked it! we've got the ball! he's going to score! we're going to win! I can't believe this!"

I have to put that blocked field goal, Akers winning the Raiders game with one leg, Ryan Moats 3 touchdown runs, Westbrooks TD against the Packers, Owens last great Eagles moment - the 91 yard TD run in Denver past Bailey, watching Roy Williams and Aaron Glenn be toasted twice by Moss for the loss, watching Bledsoe throw the game away in Seattle, and Ron Dayne running loose in the Dallas secondary, as the most exciting Eagles fan moments of the year. And yes, Dallas still sucks!

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:55pm

pcs: I'm not sure that would've helped, von Oelhoffen obviously got a natural-20 crit on his bull rush.

(Okay, I'll stop)

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:13pm

Man, I wish you guys lived in Chicago… our football/D&D group needs people :/.

Hey, not my fault you left Ohio before I got here.

On a more positive side, Chicago is one of my possible future destinations.

by Björn (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:55pm

Out of curiosity, is there going to be a list posted of the BOTR teams after the super bowl?

by Falco (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 6:18pm

On the keeper league stuff, my league switched to an auction keeper league, and I think it has been a lot of fun.

Salaries are carried over, and a bonus is added for the next year. But rather than a set number, the bonus is determined sort of like value-based drafting value. The market sets the amount of raise. For example, in our 10-team league, the 15th highest scoring QB is the baseline at QB, and for every 20 fantasy pts scored over that baseline, a QB's salary goes up $1 for the next year. I drafted Carson Palmer his rookie year for $1, kept him for $1 last year, and was able to keep him $1 coming into this season since he had not done anything yet. However, next year, he will cost me $10 (which was still looking sweet until the injury). LJ went for $9, more than many starting RB's and WR's at our auction, but proved to be worth it, and will go up to a bargain at $22. Another huge year will push him closer to $40 and closer to free agency or eating up most of that owner's cap.

The positive of the auction/bonus system is people are rewarded for good/lucky drafting, but big name players are not tied up forever, and there is some strategy other than "which 2 should I keep." It is more like being a GM, taking gambles on young unproven and cheap players, so you more money to spend in free agency elsewhere. Also, nothing better than this real occurrence: "Coles for $8" . . . dead silence. . . "good luck, could have had him for $2"

by Parker (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 6:52pm

If I loudly declared before the beginning of my Auction Draft that "LaDanian isn't going to do jack this year and the person that takes him is an idiot", does that count as a bad prediction? Does it matter that I was a little drunk and had (apparently) misapplied the theory laid out in Aaron's 2004 article 'Ricky Williams is Screwed' as it pertained to Mr. Tomlinson?

Do I get any bonus points for correctly predicting, after reading the D&D reference in the above article, that someone would make a Magic Missile joke before the day was over? (#24)

by Parker (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 6:55pm

While I'm emptying my head....Is is weird that everytime I click the 'Say It' button I feel a compulsion to say 'Don't Spray It'?

by deuce (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 1:44am

Re 43: That depends, are you drunk again?

by CinFan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 9:14am

Your Kimo Komment was hilarious! I still say that, although Lord von Oelhoffen did not diliberately go after Carson Skywalkers knee, there ought to at least have been a flag thrown for the way that he drove his shoulder into the knee and then pulled at the ankles. At that moment he definately knew what he was doing to our hero's knee.

by dbt (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 6:25pm

In defense of the mainstream guys, Dr. Z ran a column wherein he ripped his own predictions and several others in the middle of the season. I wanna say it was right after the Bears beat Carolina.... nope, it was the week before.

Even as a Bears fan, I like the guy. I don't really hold predictions against people, they're just entertainment not personal insults.

Click my name for the link

by NF (not verified) :: Sun, 01/29/2006 - 5:55am

25: I am most thankful for #4. I almost forgot what it was like to have no intense interest in who won any of the games.

Re 37:

And then there was the worse continuous 6 minutes in the last 5 years of Eagles history outside of the postseason, from the "Watch the screen! Watch the screen!" moment in which Dallas knew the Eagles would run a screen, the eagles obliged, and didn't get a TD, resulting in the less than two TD lead, followed by the Dallas Cowboys getting a TD, McNabb throwing an interception on the second play from scrimmage on the next drive, and then getting injured while trying to tackle Roy Williams. He actually played one horrible series, then the eagles punted, the defense worked, and the Eagles got the ball back in under 2 minutes with McMahon under center. The drive culminates in Akers missing a 50-yard field goal, and then I knew that we had blown an opporutnity to retake the East by beating Dallas then New York Giants, and I wouldn't admit it, but I knew already McNabb was done for the season, and we weren't making the playoffs.

But the Chargers game was awesome. I missed the other two AFC West comebacks, but I heard those were good too.

by Willsy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2006 - 1:32am

The best site on the Internet and your columns are fantastic to read.
Keep up the great work and I look forward to more fun next season.