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24 Aug 2006

Scramble for the Ball: NFC Over-Unders Part II

by Bill Barnwell and Ian Dembsky

Bill: This week, we conclude our look at the Over/Under lines for NFL teams by focusing on the NFC's better half. Among the eight teams included are the Buccaneers, Ian's favorite team, and the Giants, my own. It's with this in mind that I should throw out a bit of a reminder to those newer readers I've seen in the comment threads who aren't familiar with the Scramble for the Ball series: There are many, many articles on this site that involve excellent objective analysis, mounds of research, and careful study. Scramble for the Ball is not any of those things, although we certainly reserve the right to use them. Scramble's an almost entirely opinion-based column, especially when it comes to the topic of gambling, like we've been discussing for the last month. Ian is more inclined to use his gut when gambling. I am more inclined to use data, as my gut has steered me toward Josh "There's been a little complication with my complication" Beckett the last two years in fantasy baseball in as many leagues as possible. That, however, is a painful and irrelevant digression.

Ian: Isn't it Josh "Gopherball" Beckett? Anyways, good point about the column. My writings are indeed based more on my gut feel than the numbers. Of course, my gut instinct has led me to winning my picks pool the past several years, winning most of my fantasy leagues, and (perhaps most importantly) last season's Loser League title. I even went 17-0 my junior year of high school when predicting my "Lock of the Week" against the spread. I wasn't a gambler back then, but it turns out one of my friends was, and made quite a bit of money based on my recommendations.

Enough of that; on to the last installment in this Over/Under series...

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (o/u 8.0)

Bill: I should really leave most of this to Ian since this is his team, but I will say simply that I think New Orleans and Atlanta are going to win more games, and Carolina isn't giving up much ground. Those wins have to come from somewhere. Under.

Ian: Ah, my beloved Bucs. The jersey names have gone from Testaverde to Dunn to K. Johnson and now to C. Williams, but the love remains the same. How to predict my own team? Should I be honest in that I think they're headed for the over, or go for the always-reliable "reverse jinx" and predict a three-win season? What the heck, I'll go with the truth. This is a 10-win team.

Tampa Bay has an excellent ground game, led by last season's Rookie of the Year Cadillac Williams. As long as he can avoid foot problems, the Tampa rushing attack will remain strong. They also have one of the league's better backups in Michael Pittman. The entire offensive line returns from last season, while being helped by their two top draft picks and some free agent acquisitions. Chris Simms looked solid starting last season and should improve. Galloway should return to earth a bit, but Michael Clayton can't possibly be as bad as he was last year. Alex Smith had the kind of rookie season that points toward a solid, productive career. This is an offense that's going places, by ground and by air.

The defense continues to be among the league's better ones, lead still by All-Pro Derrick Brooks. He may not have the sideline-to-sideline burst he had in his younger days, but he's still a leader and about as sure a tackler as you'll find. Simeon Rice has developed his all around game to help with the run. Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly are great against both the pass and the run. Booger McFarland and Chris Hovan form a great interior defensive line. As long as Monte Kiffin is in charge, this is a defense that will keep its opponents in check.

You like New Orleans and Atlanta, but I don't see them threatening the Bucs. Tampa's solid all over the field, and their on their way to a season with Over eight wins.

Philadelphia Eagles (o/u 8.5)

Bill: This line seems awfully low for a team that was just subject to Murphy's Law last season. Then again, there's a reason the dozens of Leroy Sportsbooks didn't become the Barnwell House of Sports Booking while I was in Vegas. I'm going to go against Vegas and say this is a mortal lock for Over though, for several reasons. The Eagles schedule is a weak one -- 23rd in the NFL. They've strengthened the offensive line, and if Donovan McNabb has all day to throw, it won't matter if he's got Todd Benzinger and Reggie Theus instead of Pinkston and Brown for wide receivers, he's going to find people. Finally, you remember the whole Super Bowl loser's curse: going back to 2000, teams who lose in the Super Bowl average a shade over 6 wins a season the year after? Well, in the second year after their Super Bowl defeat, those teams win an average of 9.5 games.

Ian: The NFC East looks to be very competitive this season. All four teams are ranked in the top half of the NFC, with Philadelphia the lowest of the four. That makes sense. The Giants have a maturing Eli, the Redskins had a great season last year and seem to be adding more talent than they're losing, and Dallas has Parcells and T.O. Philly lost Owens, and hasn't done much to replace him in the lineup. So, gamblers are likely to believe more in the Eagles' divisional foes. You can take advantage.

I'm not about to compare Donovan McNabb to Tom Brady in the general sense, but McNabb possesses the Brady-like quality of simply getting the ball to the open man. He's got an accurate throw, and he's good at spreading the ball around between wideouts, tight ends and running backs. He also is good about running when the opportunity presents itself to keep the chains moving. With a healthy McNabb at quarterback, as long as he doesn't have a prima donna receiver bitching him out on the sidelines, the Eagles are going to be in good shape to win a lot of games.

This division will be a tight one; no team is likely to dominate their NFC East foes. The Eagles will rebound from last season to regain their status as a perennial playoff contender. Nine wins should be attainable, I'm also going Over.

Bill: On a side note, the man famous for setting up Vegas odds in the eighties and nineties has a fine, fine product for sale on eBay. I know there has to be one reader out there who has one of these things. Or one column co-writer.

Chicago Bears (o/u 9.0)

Bill: In 2005, the NFL's schedulemakers blessed the Bears with the third-easiest schedule in football. This led to an 11 win season and a playoff birth. Well, this year, the schedule-makers decided to get their revenge and show the Bears that they can't just rely on an easy schedule to rack up wins by ... giving them the easiest schedule in football?!? This isn't how the scheduling's supposed to work. Regardless, Bears' opponents are projected to have an average DVOA of -9.6 percent over the course of the season, the lowest such number in the league. Thanks, NFC North.

I wrote in the Packers section of last week's column that I thought the Bears would regress to the mean; but the schedule will mitigate some of the drop. I'm worried about team chemistry here, though -- the team's best offensive player and probably best defensive player both want new contracts and have been expressing their frustration pretty vociferously. Lance Briggs even got demoted to the second string for a couple of days so Leon Joe could start instead. When I hear the name Leon Joe, it makes me think of Glass Joe and that puts me in a good mood. Let's say Over because of the offensive improvement combined with the weak schedule, with a side prop bet that the Bears will win more games than Rex Grossman will start. I know the words "prop bet" just made Ian's ears perk up.

Ian: I once went through a phase where I'd bet that a given hockey player wouldn't score a goal that night. Sure, I had to lay money, but I think I was 10-for-10 on those bets before walking away ahead. Did I mention that if Steve McNair leads the NFL in touchdown passes I win $1,000? Yup, I love prop bets.

Bill: You are really pinning your hopes on the Ravens passing attack this season. You are a brave, brave man Ian.

Ian: Oh, right, the Bears. In a division where Brett Favre, Brad Johnson and Jon Kitna are your opposing quarterbacks, defense can definitely win you games. Thankfully, the Bears have an excellent defense, built on speed, speed, and more speed. You're not going to run away from Bears tacklers. They're agile, they tackle well, and they're the kind of players that swarm to the ball, never giving up on a play. The offense still has a ways to go to impress me, though Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson should do a good job of motivating each other to stay at the top of their game. Muhsin Muhammad can still make plays. This offense should make enough of them to help this Bears team make the Over.

Bill: Another quick side note: don't ever make a prop bet that involves Shaquille O'Neal making free throws. If you do, don't watch him miss free throws while you are playing $2/$5 NL Hold'Em and downing Corona's at the Rio. This is a bad idea.

New York Giants (o/u 9.0)

Bill: Oh, how it pains me to write this. The Giants are as Under as under can be for me. I have faith in precisely three Giants players: David Tyree, Antonio Pierce, and Tim Carter, and the only faith I have in Tim Carter is that he's going to get hurt and miss ten weeks of the season after Sam Rosen talks about his explosiveness and breakout potential earlier in the game. So, suffice to say, not much faith at all.

Offensively, the Giants have all kinds of warning signs. Eli Manning regressed as 2005 went on, and he still makes multiple throws a game where he looks like a seven-year-old playing Madden, throwing off his back foot without rhyme or reason to no one in particular. And yes, I play Madden against seven-year-olds frequently. I have self-esteem issues. Plaxico Burress, whose connection with Manning was so strong in the early going, was mailing in games like they were proofs of purchase. There are already rumors that this year will be his last in New York. Amani Toomer has less left than Pete Shelley. Tiki Barber's workload is pointing to a performance drop starting right about ... now. On the bright side, Chris Snee's glands haven't acted up recently.

Defensively, the Giants swapped out Will Allen for Sam Madison, which would've been great for the 2000 Super Bowl (if only we'd had Allen then), but not so worthwhile now. Will Demps will be replacing Brent Alexander, but the Giants needed a good coverage safety, not a run-stopper. Demps is too similar to Gibril Wilson for their pairing to work effectively. And yes, the Giants did shell out the big bucks for Redskins #56 (sadly, that's the last time I can make that joke), moving him to the strong side. Arrington was good in coverage last year according to our Game Charting project, but he had the best rushing yards against of any linebacker in the NFL.

I also know that the Giants lost Kendrick Clancy this offseason but, well, I'm a little skeptical of his impact. I know that his stop rate was really high last year -- #2 in the league -- but it seems very odd that he would have gone from being a reserve to one of the best tackles in the league. When you combine this with the fact that Fred Robbins was #1 in the league alongside him, this seems like some sort of schematic issue that's throwing off the system -- like the Dolphins' Damien McIntosh last year at LT.

Ian: I see that one of us went the "reverse jinx" route. Things aren't that bad. Eli Manning is making the kind of bad throws a young player makes? Really? That's a terrible sign, since he's already a seven-year veteran. Oh, wait, he's still in just his third season in the league. Plaxico Burress taking plays off comes with the package; you take the bad with the good. Hey, if he's headed to free agency, he's exactly the kind of guy that will go crazy trying to earn his next paycheck.

The running game is still top-notch; even more so now that Brandon Jacobs has emerged as one of the best short-yardage backs in the league. Not so good for Tiki Barber's fantasy value, but great when in the red zone and forcing opposing defenses to choose among covering Burress out wide, Jacobs up the middle, or Shockey in the back of the end zone.

The Giants defense starts with its defensive line, which is a great one. Michael Strahan and Osi Unemyiora are an excellent tandem of pass-rushing defensive ends. First round draft pick Mathias Kiwanuka looks like the real deal. Being able to rest defensive ends without losing much in field presence is a luxury many teams would love to have.

LaVar Arrington may never be quite 100% this season, and the secondary isn't a standout group, but the Giants are talented enough that I think they're headed to the playoffs as a wild card. They're also headed for the Over.

Washington Redskins (o/u 9.0)

Bill: Question: Do the Redskins succeed because of the way they do things, or in spite of them?

In defense of the former, the Redskins do some very smart things. They pay top dollar for coaches, which is one of the reasons Al Saunders made his way to the East Coast. In much the same way that John Burkett and Chris Hammond owed some of their money from free agency to Leo Mazzone, Chris Cooley is about to be indebted to Saunders. With Cooley's recent comments that his big day against Dallas last year cost one of his fantasy teams a playoff victory, commissioner Inspector 2-2 may want to watch some of the trades going on between the two in the Redskins' Locker Room league this year.

Speaking of the greatest man in the history of the entire NFL, Clinton Portis is hurt. Already. Portis' response was to criticize the NFL for having four preseason games, saying "Knowing I'm going to carry the ball 350 times, you want to avoid as much wear and tear as possible." This struck me as a little strange; it's not as if Joe Gibbs couldn't have held Portis out for a couple of games if Portis felt so strongly about it. Regardless, the injury brings the "in spite of" camp's voices to the forefront.

The Redskins have no depth. Zero-none-whatsoever. And please, take the reminders of the Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd acquisitions to "Give me a Breaksville" (video missing); Randle El's a great punt returner, and an utterly fantastic quarterback, but he's not a good receiver. Last year, he was below replacement-level. Lloyd's career high catch percentage is 48 percent; that's simply not NFL-caliber. Santana Moss blows away Lloyd as a deep threat, and he caught 63 percent of the passes thrown to him last year. What the Redskins needed was a possession receiver to create space for Moss; the Panthers needed the same thing and got Keyshawn Johnson, who fits the bill perfectly. They can use Cooley in that spot, but Saunders has promised to deploy Cooley in a variety of different roles, and even if they do, it doesn't mean the answer at WR is Randle El or Lloyd.

Going back to Portis, though, his injury is the first of several that should reveal the blight behind the Redskins' starting 22; even if they are smart enough to give Rock Cartwright the, well, rock, it's hard to imagine him being as good as Portis for that many carries. Other positions, particularly the offensive line and defensive front seven, are worse. Finally, Shawn Springs was the best corner against the pass in football last year. He's 32 and will be out 3-6 weeks because of a torn ab. See, that's why you shouldn't do situps, kids. If you don't have abs to tear, you don't get hurt. Under.

Ian: I don't have much to add here, though I do want to point out that Ladell Betts is a more-than-capable replacement for Portis. The ‘Skins also just picked up T.J. Duckett, who should help move the pile while keeping Portis fresh. I don't think the running game is Washington's problem.

Their problem is that Mark Brunell's excellent season last year was much more Mirage than Oasis. I simply don't see him repeating those numbers. Call it gut feel, but it won't be long until Jason Campbell time. I also see the rest of the division leaving the ‘Skins in the dust. Heavy Under.

Dallas Cowboys (o/u 9.5)

Bill: Has anyone in NFL history had an year as bad as Rob Pettiti? I should rephrase that -- has anyone had a year that was acknowledged as bad as often during a season as Rob Pettiti? The only person that comes to mind is Mike Rumph in his rookie season, and he hasn't been up to much. It seemed like he was responsible for everything from the price of oil to Ashlee Simpson in 2005, and he somehow managed to avoid being asked to cab it up in the offseason; of course, the Cowboys did sign two right tackles to take his place. Marc Colombo, the oft-injured former Bear, is apparently beating out Jason Fabini for that spot. If Colombo can just step s'ways (sic) and continue to be fit and working again, he could be a real nifty cheap addition to this offensive line. That being said, even if Colombo does settle in and Torrin Tucker improves, Drew Bledsoe's sack count will still be in the neighborhood of infinity.

The Cowboys defense is going to make or break them this season, though. While Jason Ferguson's play was more akin to Blob 59 last season, moving to the 3-4 might revitalize him some. What the Cowboys have done the last few years, though, is buy all the hybrid defensive linemen and linebackers they could see behind the counter. DeMarcus Ware, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, and Bobby Carpenter are powder kegs on the outside, capable of ending a drive at any time. I like them more than the Umenyiora-Strahan-Arrington troika, to be honest. I'll bet my $500 bottle of wine on the Cowboys going Over. I'm pretty sure I just made a new enemy.

Ian: Everyone who knows me knows that how much I dislike Drew Bledsoe. He's only as good as the rest of the team. If the line is blocking, the running game is clicking, and the receivers are catching passes, Drew can have monster games. When things go poorly though, he can look downright ugly. No one's perfected the "deer in headlights" look in the face of an unblocked rusher like Drew Bledsoe.

Good thing for Drew, though, this is a talented offense. The offensive line may not be great, but they have a terrific group of skill position players, led by Julius Jones and Terrell Owens. Terry Glenn has officially attached his NFL career to the juvenation machine, and Jason Witten is among the league's best receiving tight ends. Drew will likely be an above-average fantasy quarterback thanks to the talent around him, though I'd still never want him quarterbacking my team.

Parcells is doing his best to build a defense he can be proud of, and it's a pretty solid unit. Unfortunately, Dallas is in one of the tougher divisions in football, and when Bledsoe is bad, he's really bad. It will be a good season for Dallas, but the offensive and defensive lines don't impress me enough to predict more than nine wins for the ‘Boys. I'm going Under.

Carolina Panthers (o/u 10.0)

Bill: My gut immediately tells me under here, simply because of the dramatic level of hype that's been coming the Panthers way. When you throw in Steve Smith's regression to the mean (come on, no one could be as good as he was in the playoffs last year, right?), the Panthers' continued fascination with DeShaun Foster, Mike Rucker hitting 32, and the loss of Will Witherspoon, I see the Panthers being humbled this year. Under.

Ian: I hate Carolina. With division re-alignment, Tampa was poised to be the perennial division winner of the NFC South, with Atlanta and Carolina fighting it out for second, and the 'Aints living in the basement. That was, of course, a pipe dream, and all of a sudden the Panthers are there at the top. They're a tremendously well-coached, tremendously talented team. Jake Delhomme can quarterback my team anytime; he's got the talent to deliver the ball and the swagger to get things done under duress.

Adding Keyshawn Johnson will be huge for this team. The Panthers were an 11-5 team last season with one big glaring hole; Keary Colbert never quite panned out at the second wide receiver slot. They've filled that hole, added a talented insurance policy for DeShaun Foster named DeAngelo Williams, and John Fox is still their coach. I expect they'll split the season series with Tampa, and both teams will make the Over.

Seattle Seahawks (o/u 10.5)

Bill: Remember when I mentioned the Super Bowl Loser's Curse before? No team's won more than seven games the year after they lost in the Super Bowl this entire decade. Seattle's going to be the first. The NFL, maybe making up for some of the officiating issues in the Super Bowl, gave the Seahawks the third-easiest schedule in football. Pro Football Prospectus 2006 projects the Seahawks to have an 83 percent chance of winning 11+ games. 83 percent! I can't argue with that. Over.

Ian: You would think this is a no-brainer, right? I'm not so sure. I've done my best to avoid harping on "strength of schedule," since things change so rapidly in the NFL. I don't think their schedule will be as easy as PFP says it will be. I think Arizona will be much improved, and may take both games from the Seahawks. The following matchups will be tough tests: NYG, @CHI, @KC, @DEN, SD, @TB. The loss of Steve Hutchinson will make things slightly tougher on the run game, though probably not all that much. Darrell Jackson has chronic knee troubles. Nate Burleson was a huge disappointment last season in Minnesota, and shouldn't be viewed as much more than a decent number two wideout. He's certainly not an upgrade over Joe Jurevicius. Jerramy Stevens is out for six weeks with a torn meniscus in his left knee. The injuries and question marks are adding up, which makes it tough to predict 11 wins, especially in the face of the Super Bowl Loser Curse. I can't imagine they'll win fewer than eight games, but I can certainly imagine they'll win fewer than 11. I'm going Under.

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

The Michael Vick Problem

Bill: Last week's Scramble comment thread brought up some talk about Michael Vick and how the Falcons' improvement is predicated upon Michael Vick's improvement as a passer, notably in his completion percentage. My thought was to take a look and see if completion percentage exhibited a significant effect on the win-loss records of teams. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to run a real long study, and while I was trying to think of how to analyze this, I was reminded of a quick study Bill James conducted in one of the Baseball Abstracts.

The methodology, which I am stealing for this column, is this: take x groups of players with extremely similar stats, except for one stat, which is wildly different. In this case, the stat will obviously be completion percentage. Then, compare the results of the two players' teams.

The initial pool of quarterbacks I worked with included all quarterback seasons after 1982 (not wanting to pro-rate stats for the strike since I was a little rushed for time and because of the shift in passing completion percentage as time has worn on in football) where a quarterback had attempted over 400 passes. This yielded 357 candidates.

After I started compiling my first 20 groups of quarterbacks, I found that, almost invariably, the quarterback with the high completion percentage would be a quarterback who played years after the quarterback with the low completion percentage. This is because, well, league-wide completion percentage has been increasing as time has worn on.

Year Comp. % Year Comp. %
83 58.90% 95 58.74%
84 59.42% 96 58.54%
85 56.91% 97 56.68%
86 56.24% 98 58.15%
87 56.88% 99 58.80%
88 55.94% 00 59.12%
89 56.97% 01 59.84%
90 57.14% 02 60.31%
91 58.28% 03 60.55%
92 59.97% 04 60.97%
93 58.92% 05 60.39%
94 61.07%

As a result, I needed to do a little bit of work -- my (again, quick and dirty) way of doing this was to subtract the completion percentage of the quarterback from the league average, to get a somewhat relative percentage. This more accurately fit the concept of what we're looking for: quarterbacks whose completion percentage isn't up to snuff versus those whose percentage is.

Again, I found twenty groups of quarterbacks who fit the criteria. While I won't list them all and their statistics, I'll certainly make them available if anyone is interested. A sample comparison:

LName FName Year Tm G Cmp Att Cmp % Adj Yds Yds/Att TD Int Team Wins
Danielson Gary 1984 Det 15 252 410 61.46% 2.04% 3076 7.50 17 15 4.5
Miller Chris 1991 Atl 15 220 413 53.27% -5.01% 3103 7.51 26 18 10

Bet no one was expecting me to bring Gary Danielson into the discussion. As you can see, Danielson's adjusted completion percentage was over seven points higher than Chris Miller's. This was, in fact, the weakest split that I allowed in the study; the highest adjusted split, measuring (the accurate) Rich Gannon's 2002 versus Phil Simms' 1984, was 13.09%!

Let's just say, well, I was surprised by the results.

Team Wins Completion % Adj. Comp% Battle Wins
High % 7.875 62.72% 3.62% 11
Low % 7.925 52.98% -5.90% 9

You're reading that right -- the quarterbacks with the lower completion percentage actually averaged more wins than the quarterbacks with the higher percentage, despite the higher percentage quarterbacks winning eleven of twenty "battles."

This immediately led me to thinking that a data point was skewing the results, and sure enough, I'd managed to include Jeff George's one-win season with the '91 Colts, where he managed to complete 60.21% (+1.93%) of his passes, versus Gus Frerotte's '05 with the Dolphins, where he could only manage a 52.02% (-8.37%) completion percentage. Sure enough, if you remove the Frerotte/George comparison from the group, you end up with the following results

Team Wins Completion % Adj. Comp% Battle Wins
High % 8.237 62.85% 3.71% 11
Low % 7.868 53.03% -5.78% 8

Obviously, with one comparison affecting the data so dramatically, this could really use a larger sample. Again, if anyone wants to see the data with all twenty comparisons, please let me know and I'd be happy to share.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell and Ian Dembsky on 24 Aug 2006

68 comments, Last at 04 Sep 2006, 8:12pm by MES in shoulderpads


by Theo (not verified) :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 9:02pm


* Final Score
* Total Points Scored
* Point Difference

That's 1 thing. Not 3.

by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 10:14pm

The 91 colts had a great completion percentage but their yards per attempt was just awful. 4.5 net y/pass, which stinks.
George threw for 6.0 yards a pass and Frerotte threw for 6.2 but George was sacked 57 times.
I definately think their is something to be learned here but at the same time I think yards per attemp is a much more valuble stat.

by calig23 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 10:26pm

Todd Benzinger

Got to love the late 80's/early 90's crappy baseball player reference.

by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 10:31pm

I thought it was Josh "Blastoff" Beckett.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 10:42pm

No Torrin Tucker on the Cowboys anymore.

by Vince (not verified) :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 10:47pm

I'd be stunned if comp% in and of itself proved to be a strong indicator of winning, all else being equal. It may be that comp% is a strong indicator of FUTURE success, but in analyzing PAST success, I suspect it's negligible.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 10:51pm

And Carpenter's been playing mostly INSIDE.

And if the line isn't blocking and the receivers aren't catching passes, no QB is going to have a good game. I'm fine with Bledsoe criticism but this site usually backs things up with substance.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 11:10pm

I’m fine with Bledsoe criticism but this site usually backs things up with substance.

You... do realize the only comment about Carpenter was a compliment, right?

Basically, you're criticizing the guy who predicted your team would do better than the line?

by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 11:36pm

I’m fine with Bledsoe criticism but this site usually backs things up with substance.

Please read the first paragraph of this piece.

by Tony (not verified) :: Thu, 08/24/2006 - 11:57pm

I coulda swore I won the Loser League. I have the Ryan Leaf jersey to prove it!

by thad (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 12:16am

You know Pat its the constant shots at Bledsoe that just get on my nerves.
he is not immoble, he is not a statue and his sack count will not approach infinity.
To read the comments on this site you would think he was in a wheelchair.
I am not saying he is great, I am not saying he doesn't have noticable faults.
He is not Brady, yeah I get it, I have seen him play too, enough allready.

by D.A. (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 12:19am

We're not surprised that few people know much about the team here in Egypt. Burleson looks like the player he was 2 seasons ago, there are 3 quality players who can take over for hutch, and the starting TE from 2004, Itula Mili, returns from a colon illness (not an athletically debilitating injury like a torn knee muscle).

When all the starters (except Stevens) are back by early regular season from injuries due to the long Super Bowl run, the weakness of the Seahawks will still be the secondary - basically the same players, plus the return of starting FS Ken Hamlin, that got the team to the big game.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 12:29am

Ugh... even in preseason I can't wait until the whistle blows and teams start to play.

Isn't it true that teams that make playoff runs generally get lucky with injuries... and some teams tank because of injuries... and then there's the whole "rookie who steps in and performs way above expectation" factor... as well as the "we didn't think team X is going to be that good"... or "Chad Morton Tecmo Bowl kickoff returns to win the games"...

That's why I love watching the NFL. If I wanted to watch an NFL season unfold to everyone's expectations, I'd just go out and buy Madden and then watch every regular season game.

Here are my one line "come back next February" predications.

Tampa Bay - Sold on Simms... Monte Kiffon must've bottled up Cortez' youth elixer and given it to his players, because their defense is getting up in age, yet still performing. Over.

Philadelphia - If McNabb is injured it's 2005 again... except he's gutting it out (again). I wonder if their defense will be able keep the other teams from scoring too many points. If their defense lapses, I don't know how their o will be explosive enough to win. Under.

Bears - Week 9 will start seeing articles, "What happened to Chicago's defense?"... under.

Giants - I think their offense will be able to score points and compensate for a weak defense. Beware the devastating injury bug. Over.

Redskins - I'm a homer and I'm buying the hype, buying the hype, buying the hype, buying the hype, buying the hype... until Week 9 and Brunell injures his leg. Campbell will be better than expected (and its better he comes in sooner). Finally we'll see the offensive explosion promised under Spurrier. Over, but bounced out in Wild Card round.

Dallas - TerrellOwensBillParcellsTerrellOwensBillParcellsDrewBledsoeBillParcellsTerrellOwensTerrellOwensTerrellOwensTerrellOwens.
Dallas fans have a love-hate relationship with Team One... over.

Carolina - Drew Carter benefits most from Keyshawn Johson's appearance... Deangelo Williams has promising rookie year. Stout defense, over.

Seattle - Same as last year, dang-nabut... over, but I hope Carolina beats them to the SuperBowl.

Carolina and Seattles are the safest picks. No clue who the NFC Central surprise will be... comments are for recreational purposes only.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 12:32am

One more thing to look forward this season. In addition to beating up on each other, the NFC East teams play the NFC south. Not only will this mess with DVOA again, but it should provide for some great football...

by darius (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 12:56am

"No one’s perfected the “deer in headlights� look in the face of an unblocked rusher like Drew Bledsoe."

That's only because Rob Johnson always had his back to the rush.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 1:11am

Philadelphia - If McNabb is injured it’s 2005 again… except he’s gutting it out (again).

Why does "McNabb could get injured!" even pop up here? If any team loses their QB, their season goes down the toilet.

Just because he got injured last year doesn't mean he will this year.

If their defense lapses, I don’t know how their o will be explosive enough to win.

True. But I doubt it will, especially given the defensive line depth now. Keep in mind - they solely improved on defense, and they were already the 14th ranked defense last year, and 10th ranked in weighted DVOA. Couple that with an offense that has to be better (McNabb is not McMahon), and they can't be anything but better than last year.

My main reason for an "over" pick on Philly: if they had gone 3-3 in the division, they would've beaten this o/u last year. They'll get two wins from Dallas (Philly's strength? Defensive line. Dallas's weakness? Offensive line.) and at least one in the other four games in the division.

SF, GB, NO, TEN, HOU are very likely wins. Add the 3-3 above, and they need one win versus TB / CAR / JAX / IND / ATL. I think that's a decent bet.

You do realize you picked 3 out of the 4 teams in the NFC East to hit the over. That's 10 wins each - minimum - for the Giants, Redskins, and Dallas. That's a tall order when you're not playing the NFC West. Even if the teams go 6-0 against the Eagles, that still means they're going at least 24-12 against the rest of the league.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 1:13am

he is not immoble, he is not a statue and his sack count will not approach infinity.

If you plotted his sack count last year as a trend over the season, it would've. :)

by Len (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 1:25am

Giants: Barber will hit the proverbial wall this year, much like Curtis Martin did last year. The historical trend toward 30+ RBs is too strong to ignore. Without Barber, the pressure will be on Manning, who is inaccurate, and his malcontent WR corps will blow up. The losing will begin and the team will implode under Coughlin. Result will be way UNDER.

by moloch g (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 2:47am

ill stake my reputation on the statement that the new york football giants will reach the nfc championship game.and the mafia will buy the 9ers seven wins.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 3:16am

I think all the NFC East teams will finish with between 8-10 wins... maybe I just picked Philly to be on the bottom to get your goose.

McNabb and Brunell both missed time with injuries, and McNabb had the broken foot 2 years ago... I know he normally toughs it through, but just like any QB he gets hit. Even if Bledsoe is a statue, he has at least started 16 games the past 4 seasons.

Because all 4 teams have good defenses, it's not hard to anticipate 2 QBs going down for some period of time.

by Doug Farrar :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 3:42am

With the Giants, I always wonder if Roethlisberger has spoiled us for young quarterbacks forever, or if Eli really is as overrated as I think. Six of one, I guess.

Re: Seattle - Burleson was a disappointment last season, but that entire offense was a mess and he was dealing with injuries. He's a good #2. Fair assessment. I'm really worried about Jackson. The Seahawks are saying all the right things, but this is starting to officially suck.

I don't know where the concept of "three players who can replace Hutch" comes from - he is, flat-out, the best guard in the league. Womack is injury-prone, Spencer has never played guard in the NFL before, and Sims is a promising rookie who has looked good in the preseason. I'm not the world's foremost expert on replacement value, but that ain't it. They're going to take a hit on that side.

I hate when a team just scares the crap out of me and I can’t explain it. Hello, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

by putnamp (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 3:56am

I think Arizona will be much improved, and may take both games from the Seahawks.

I don't see how that statement gets made without any supporting statements whatsoever - and to even make it the support would need to be very compelling, I think.

by Alan Faneca (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 4:20am

Hutch is flat-out the best guard in the league? Really?

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 5:11am

Arizona might be improved, but judging from what they've shown in pre-season, not where it counts. The Offensive Line.

I'll also take this opportunity to share a likely common observation from the NE game. On Dillon's 4 yard TD run, where they resorted to tackling him by the face mask, failing anyway, on the loose (but inconsequentially so) ball in the endzone, the Cardinal defender tried to keep it from rolling out of the endzone. It's the kind of thing the Cardinals see a lot of, and once again were completely helpless to stop even though they knew exactly what was coming. It's hard to imagine them doing much better than 6-10 if they're still going to be the team from last year.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 6:25am

23: Sure, you're pretty good, but I'm not sure you're of Hutchinson's caliber. After all, when your teams met in the Superbowl, it's not like you did anything of note.

Maybe if you pulled on a counter play and threw a key block that pancaked LeRoy Hill and allowed Willie Parker to run for a 75 yard game-clinching touchdown, then you'd be able to talk about yourself as an elite guard.

by bowman (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 10:34am

"Has anyone in NFL history had an year as bad as Rob Pettiti? I should rephrase that — has anyone had a year that was acknowledged as bad as often during a season as Rob Pettiti?"

Mike Tanier apparently didn't think Pettiti was entirely bad last year...

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 10:54am

McNabb and Brunell both missed time with injuries, and McNabb had the broken foot 2 years ago…

Um. No? McNabb had a damaged rib three years ago in one game, and the main problem there wasn't the fact that the injury occurred, but that it occurred during a game.

Two years ago he was entirely healthy.

Brunell's significantly older than McNabb. That's why I'd put his injury risk higher.

by james (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 10:59am

NFC east
Washington- all of the offenses are good(i.e better than average) and they have the best defense. If all of the offenses are good then it stands to reason that the best defense will win this division out.

Minnesota has to have the edge here, Chicago should get the wild card.

Dont have time to finish my thoughts so ill be back to cause more trouble later

by Doug Farrar :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 11:31am

Hmmm. I'll have to go back and see where I've ever downgraded Faneca from "elite" status. Especially in the FOX O-line article, when I specifically cited his excellence.

by Chad Pennington (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 11:38am

"Just because he got injured last year doesn’t mean he will this year."

Damn right.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 12:15pm


I was watching that, if an offensive player fumbles the ball into the endzone and it goes out of bounds, isnt it a touchback?

I was like "what the heck is he doing?"

by Bill Barnwell :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 1:16pm

Mike Tanier apparently didn’t think Pettiti was entirely bad last year…

What does that guy know?

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 1:41pm

Pat - What does it matter that Carpenter was mentioned in a positive context? I'm not a Falcons fan! And I love FO. But when there are errors - Tucker was signed away by the Bucs months ago, Carpenter moved to the inside - then that throws the ethos of at least this column into question - and compels me to not bother reading about the other teams about which I know less.

Bill - Fair enough. But being substantial isn't always a matter of complex stats and in-depth analysis. Even general commentary could reasonably be expected to be better than "If the line is blocking . . . and the receivers are catching passes, Drew can have monster games." I think it's fair to criticize a cliched (and, worse, tautological) statement such as that. I don't mean it to be personal, and I'm sure Ian is smarter about football than I am. But a fumble is a fumble.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 1:52pm

Doug: I agree wholeheartedly with your point regarding rookie QBs. I'm ecstatic that Roethlisberger has turned out so well, but I think he's lead pretty much everyone to be ridiculously quick and unrealistic when evaluating young quarterbacks.

by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 2:18pm

You can knock Drew Bledsoe all you want, but any criticism of Pete Shelley is heretical! Whether or not he has much left is immaterial--play Singles Going Steady or A Different Kind of Tension all the way through and tell me that he doesn't get a free pass for the rest of his life.

by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 3:53pm

Am I the only one out there who thinks the NFC East will look something like Philly 11-13 wins, nobody else more than 7?

by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 3:59pm

RE: 21

'I hate when a team just scares the crap out of me and I can’t explain it. Hello, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.'

Just for clarification, are you saying that your gut is telling you the Bucs will be better than people think or worse? My gut (a sizable one) has been telling me they will be very good this year. I'm hoping someone else agrees.

by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 4:35pm

#37, I have thought for a couple months that they could be this year's Seahawks - the team for whom everything comes together. I know Simms is young, I know the defense is getting older, and I know the NFC South (well, at least Carolina) is supposed to be very tough...but it's just one of those Spidey Sense things. Nothing substantive behind it, really.

by Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 4:57pm

I agree with your thoughts on Bledsoe. He is a fine placeholder, but holds the ball too long and is not able to win the games by himself. For some reason I have a greater preference for Trent Dilfer, although I suspect Bledsoe's skill are superior.

For Mike Vick, I think we need to remember that he does bring more to the table than just completion percentage or yards per pass. If the situation is 3rd-and-8 there is a SERIOUS threat that he will break a run for the distance needed. Does DVOA consider running as a good option for quarterbacks?

I have heard that a number of GM's would most prefer having Vick as their quarterback (his exciting play can certainly sell tickets). However, I think I would prefer Peyton Manning, Brady, Palmer, Hassleback, or McNabb.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 5:16pm

Tom #36:

No, you aren't the only one. But I think at least one other team will pull out 10 wins, as did Dallas in 03 and Giants in 02.

by putnamp (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 6:59pm

Hey, really - Arizona beating Seattle in not one but both games this year? Nobody's going to throw a flag on that call? We're all okay with this? Can somebody please explain why this is a plausible outcome? I'm dying here..

by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 7:38pm

#41 - Based on the preseason loss to New England, Dennis Green will be employing a new strategy - he will be activating five additional offensive linemen to line up behind the five he's already got. The eleventh offensive player will be Matt Leinart, based on his ability to outgain all Cardinal running backs combined on just one drive. Leinart will run for over 500 yards and six touchdowns in two narrow victories over the Seahawks, whose defense will be either too shocked, or too incapacitated with laughter, to stop him.

Other than that, I've got nothin'.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 08/25/2006 - 9:52pm

# 41 Yes, different teams, yes everything else, but Seattle beat Arizona 37-12 and 33-19. Actually, I looked up Green vs. Holmgren across both their careers from Vikings/Packers to Cards/Seahawks. (Their teams never met during the two years it would have been Vikings/Seahawks.) I expected to find Holmgren had dominated the series, but Green has a 10-8 series lead. The Cards played the Seahawks tough in 2004, losing 25-17 and winning 24-21. While I still find a Cards sweep to be unlikely, I wouldn't be totally surprised.

by Bill Barnwell :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 12:23am

I can assure you I was not insulting Pete Shelley but merely referencing Nothing Left.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 1:21am

putnamp #41:

While I doubt the Cardinals prediction, I don't believe the Seahawks will do as well this year, and they may very well lose to the Cardinals on the road, because they appear too complacent, while the Cardinals are improving.

Seattle's offseason from my East-Coast bias perspective has been dominated by headlines of spite and silliness - fooling themselves into believing they lost the Super Bowl over officiating instead of from their own poor play, the idiotic Burleson acquisition after losing Hutchinson, and a weak draft.

by Jake (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 1:44am

#45: Idiotic Burleson acquisition? Given that only around $15 million of his contract is guaranteed, I'm not seeing the idiocy.

I also think the loss of Hutchinson has been overblown. Plug any left guard in next to Walter Jones and he'll look pretty good.

The Seahawks also acquired Julian Peterson in the offseason, right? Is that going to have any effect on the team's defense?

And I can only hope that this draft proves as week as last year's.

by putnamp (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 1:52am

Seattle's offseason reaction to losing out on Hutchinson was to sign Peterson. Burleson was an easy sign - Minnesota wanted a 2nd round pick for him, so they just signed him and gave up a 3rd instead. The idiocy was on Minnesota's behalf, I think - asking far too much for him.

Regardless, every year people seem to overestimate the Cardinals grossly. It's like dropping 50 bucks on 50:1 odds - the odds are slim because it isn't going to happen, but you bet on it anyway in the hopes of a huge payoff. Yeah, they might beat the Seahawks at home. But this just sounds like someone trying to go with the long-shot so they look smart if it goes right, and nobody will think twice if they're wrong.

Do you HONESTLY believe Arizona will take 2? Or do you just want it to happen?

by Steve Sandvik (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 5:11am

#45--I have no idea why anyone would call the Burleson acquisition idiotic. He's been, in the past, a pretty damn good #2 receiver, which is the position he's penciled in to play (assuming D Jackson stays healthy, of course), and that allows Engram to go back to being the possession guy he was in 2004, when FO had him as pretty much the receiver you wanted on your team, no matter what. They didn't pay him 47 million, they just made up a bunch of cute clauses which meant that Minnesota would have to pay him the exact same amount that Seattle would have had to pay Hutchinson to retain him. From out *here*, where we actually get the news on the Seahawks on a regular basis, they look pretty focused--believe it or not, they didn't even bite the heads off any officials when they came to training camp for their annual rules session. I know that probably didn't make the news back there where you guys have advanced technology like cable and indoor plumbing and that newfangled intarweb thang. Remember that sensationalism sells, and don't assume that what you hear about a non-local team is anything approaching the whole story. I know you mentioned that it was a biased perspective, but then you based all your statements on it, which means either you don't think it's that biased, or you don't care. Either way, you don't have anywhere near the whole story, and you're misdescribing some of the parts you *do* have.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 5:56am

Steve, putnamp, and Jake:

Yes, idiotic Burleson acquisition. Because (1) it was done in a fit of spiteful idiocy, (2) Burleson only has one good year to his name - 2004, when Duante Culpepper was going nuts statistically and Burleson was benefitting from all manner of rolled coverages to Randy Moss, who nonetheless was injured enough to not really be effective as a passing option except in the endzone, and (3) Burleson doesn't play guard or in the Secondary, which is what Seattle really needed and still needs (pending game evaluation of the rookies drafted). Drafting a rookie WR would probably have gotten as much production as giving up a draft pick for Burleson would, and at a much cheaper cost. If Seattle really wanted to improve, it would have pulled the stunt it did with Burleson on CB Rod Hood of the Eagles, who would make an excellent corner to replace whoever is the weakest link out there (Herndon or Babineaux), as well as weakening some of the Seahawks competition for returning to the Super Bowl. But Holmgren wouldn't do that to his friend Reid.

As to Peterson, theoretically by the numbers, he makes Seattle pretty much the same against the pass that they were with Sharper, but weaker against the run.

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 9:02am

Andrew, you could do well to read up on the Burleson trade. The Seahawks were going to look for him probably in any event after Jurevicious left. Why? Prototypical West Coast reciever. Hometown hero. Price was right. After the "poison pill" stupidity, the Seahawks tried to do a normal straight up deal. The Vikings got greedy and wanted Seattle's 2nd round pick instead. So to make a point, the Seahawks turned right around and crafted their own, more absurd poison pill, because clearly the Vikings were being, for lack of a better word, ass-clowns. Even so, Holmgren objected to the tactic, even in retort.

If you look at Seattle's passing defense, the glaring weakness is against TE, no surprise since they faced some of the leagues best last year. Who'd they pick up, a line backer talented enough to play saftey, and they get Hamlin back. When playing true to form, Hamlin is a pro-bowl contender.

Given the number of back-breaking plays Babineaux turned in as the nickle corner and special teamer last year, it seems unlikely the Seahawks would be willing to part with him.

Sharper lost his job to LeRoy Hill and a knee infection. It's also worth noting that both Rod Woodson, and Marshall Faulk considered the free-agency acquisition of Peterson to be the defensive coup. When it comes to grading run stopping defenders, I think Faulk knows where of he speaks.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 1:25pm

If you look at Seattle’s passing defense, the glaring weakness is against TE,

According to DVOA, it was against #1 WRs.

Jimmy Smith blew them up in Week 1, Torry Holt in Week 5, and some guy named Ward might've been the Super Bowl MVP against them, plus others.

by vincent (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 8:55pm

Can someone show me exactly where the Redskins are thin?

The common argument seems to be that their roster is stacked with UDFAs and scrub free agents and that simply isn't true. They do not have a lot of thier own draft picks, but I heard today that they have something like 20 guys on their roster that were picked in the first two rounds, including 11 first rounders. What are the actual numbers? How many scub UDFAs do the skins have compared to other teams? I read in the prospectus that they load up on undrafted players each year to fill their roster. This year, many of their recent draft picks will not be good enough to make the team, and it will be a minor coup if a single 07 CFA makes the 53 man roster...

Most people will say that the skins have a thin o-line, because they don't have experienced backups. Yeah, it's possible that they aren't deep at o-line, but who is? Top to bottom, I like their group better than Seattle, Dallas and Carolina.

Where else are they thin? CB? Behind Springs and Rogers they have Rumph and Kenny Wright who have both started in the league. That's more than can be said for many recent NE secondarys that turned out to be "deep".

My take:

You can't tell whether or not a team is deep until you see its backups play. Also, depth is a function of good coaching and I'd put my money on the Skins' staff to coax a solid performance out of any back-ups that are pressed into action.

by james (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 1:26am

This is how I see it my friends

NFC East- Since everyone has a good offense the best defense should pull this division out. Edge Washington

NFC North- Minnesota is highly underrted with a veteran superbowl winning qb, 2 all pro olineman, and an accomplished offensive mind at the helm. Chicago has a bullseye on its back. Look for them to possibly get the wild card if not miss the playoffs entirely.

NFC south
Carolina has way way way too much offense for the rest of the division. Tampa Bay on the strength of their defense could possibly see the wild card.

NFC west
The only playoff team in this division is Seattle. Period. The other teams wont be ready to make the jump until next year. Arizona comes in second. I bet they cant wait until 07.

As far playoff seeding goes I see it as

with wild cards going to TB and Chi because I see the NFC East feasting on each other.

by Bill Barnwell :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 3:31am

#52 - You are correct in that good coaching will certainly help the Redskins' depth.

That being said, the fact that Mike Rumph started in this league isn't a sign of quality. He started for the worst team in ten years and was so bad that they got rid of him. Springs is 33 and had a career year last year. Rogers appears to be a very good cornerback, which he should continue to be.

by Another Jake (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 4:17am

Andrew, glad to see you've moved beyond your usual Bryant Gumbel-level analysis of the Seahawks. Oh, wait. Nevermind.

by Josh (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 5:28am

I have my doubts regarding the Seahawks. The reason--the Madden Curse! That's basically it, but no one can deny the power of the Madden Curse.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 7:00pm

Where else are they thin? CB?

Defensive line. Tackle the most, by far, but the age at end is a little disturbing too.

Redskins have the oldest starting defensive line in their division - by far - and one of the oldest in the NFL. They've got a 6-year starter, 7-year starter, 8-year starter, and 11-year starter. While this is partly a good thing (experience) it's also partly a bad thing (injuries). As an example, the two defensive tackles haven't started a full season in their entire careers. The two tackles behind them are a former undrafted free agent, and a journeyman league veteran.

So that's offensive line, defensive line, and debatably the secondary where they've got little depth. I think it's fair to say they have essentially no depth.

That’s more than can be said for many recent NE secondarys that turned out to be “deep�.

None of the NE secondaries really turned out to be deep. The teams just turned out to be good enough to win in spite of them.

You can’t tell whether or not a team is deep until you see its backups play.

Um - they do play in the preseason. So far it's not like the Redskins defensive backups are ripping it up.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 7:23pm

Just for what it's worth, here are my NFC preseason predictions.

NFC East - Not nearly as good or as close as people think it will be. Tiki Barber is the lynchpin of the Giants offense, and I expect that a modest decline will hurt them across the board. Washington and Dallas both have worse offenses than they think they do. Philadelphia is the only team with 10 wins or more.

1. Philadelphia
2. Dallas
3. Washington
4. New York

NFC South - Carolina isn't as good as some people think, but it has no big weaknesses. The other teams have weaknesses abound. While Tampa Bay has rising stars in Simms and Cadillac, the rest of the team is far too old for this to be a Superbowl-now sort of team. Derrick Brooks and Simeon Rice can't carry them forever. Atlanta, I suspect, will surprise some people. One key signing was Grady Jackson, who's big and fat and still pretty good at stopping the run. Reggie Bush will make some great runs in garbage time.

1. Carolina
2. Atlanta
3. Tampa Bay
4. New Orleans

NFC North - Teams with top defenses tend to regress the following year. I don't believe it will happen in Chicago. They returned all the starters, and even shored up the secondary, whereas in most cases the top defense gets raided in free agency. Most importantly, though, they brought in a real quarterback in free agency. Detroit and Green Bay, I expect, will both be unimpressive but not awful. Minnesota is the one that just looks like a disaster waiting to happen. Brad Johnson is 38, and the receivers are awful. Not one of them has even reached 700 yards in the past three years.

1. Chicago
2. Detroit
3. Green Bay
4. Minnesota

NFC West - I don't think these rankings need much explaining. San Francisco over St Louis because I think Alex Smith may show some signs of life, and Frank Gore will be downright impressive. While I have Arizona in second, they may be behind Seattle by six wins. I think that when Edge rushes for 3.6 yards a carry this season, people will begin to reconsider whether JJ Arrington was a "bust."

1. Seattle
2. Arizona
3. San Francisco
4. St Louis

by vincent (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 11:51pm


Ok, so the defensive line is old. How again does that equate to being thin? When you consider that almost all of their d-linemen play at both end and tackle, I think they'd have the flexibility to withstand injury there. Backups include Wynn at end (a solid vet) Killings a decent plugger, and Demetric Evans who prior to re-signing with the Skins was cited by many as a rising talent by many analysts. Out of two 06 draft picks at Takle, one will earn the 9th roster spot. It's not the deepest d-line in the NFL, but it is a deeper group than the line they've put out the past two seasons -- seasons where they have thrived, and seasons where they suffered injuries. Consult any of the stats on this site which rate the Redskins d-line in a much more accurate light than most analysts who thumb their nose at the group due to the lack of an "impact pass rusher"

Also, I'm not going to argue with your assertion that you can evaluate a team's depth in preseason other than to say that there is a big difference between a backup or two playing with a group of starters and 11 backups.

My point is that people are quick to assume that the Redskins lack of recent draft picks equates to a lack of depth. I believe that this is simply buying into conventional wisdom and I'd expect more from a site that supposedly evaluates issues based on fact. What bears analyzing is the fact that the Redksins have essentially operated indepent of the salary cap. After five years of analyzing the"patriots way" and watching 31 other NFL teams follow suit in lock step it's interesting to see a team go about its business differently. Who know if the Redskins are going to be sucessful, but this site seems to evaluate things based on how simmilar a team is to the Patriots rather than by evaluating a team's moves on their own merits.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 12:10am

Ok, so the defensive line is old. How again does that equate to being thin?

Because 1) injury frequency increases with age. Older defensive line means you need more depth than normal, and 2) performance decreases with age, sometimes precipitously so. A 10-year veteran who looks good in preseason can suddenly find himself heavily limited later in the season by all of those aches and pains which used to go away before, but don't now.

Backups include Wynn at end (a solid vet)

An 11-year vet! Not every Redskins veteran will play until 40, and unfortunately, when you rely on vets for backup, eventually you get burned like Philly did last year when you try to use them for one more year than they had in them.

Killings a decent plugger

Killings has been through 4 teams in his NFL career. Last year was the first serious game time he'd seen in 5 years. That's not a proven backup. He only saw serious game time in 3 games last year. And hey, the only game he started, LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 184 yards, and the Redskins lost.

Consult any of the stats on this site which rate the Redskins d-line

The Redskins starting defensive line is great, and it likely got better this year. But it had several bad games last year when Griffin went down, and the number of those games that happen are just going to increase.

Poor depth != bad. It just means that they had better hope for good injury luck to stay good.

I always feel bad whenever I criticize the Redskins defensive line, because it's not bad. It's just risky. I would've said that Philly's defensive line - specifically, their ends - weren't terrible in 2005. Kalu was a "solid vet" - who ended up being probably one of the largest causes of one of the biggest pass defense collapse in history.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 12:20am

Backups include Wynn at end (a solid vet)

An 11-year vet!

10, not 11, sorry.

But Wynn and Evans are the two backups that I would criticize the least on the Redskins. A 10-year vet is exactly what you want as a backup defensive end. The issue that I have is that they have an 11-year DE starting on the other side, and Evans is still very much an unknown quantity. If he was called a "rising talent", it was likely by Washington media more than anyone else. Evans has started 11 games, and only had a sack in 1 of them.

Like I said before, though, "tackle the most, by far" - but having 2 of the 4 DEs that'll end up on your roster as 10 and 11 year vets is a little worrying. Depth at tackle is just nonexistent, though.

by vincent (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 12:42am


Evans had three sacks last year - not bad for a scrub. I was referring to ESPN who in their capsule on him during free agency pointed out that he was a rising talent. I believe it was Len P who I believe gave him positive feedback based under the assumption that he would not be a Redskin in 06.

I hear you about the tackles, but compare what they have to the Giants, Cowboys or any other team that hadn't just invested multipe first round picks on the position and It's hard to make the case that they are significantly thiner.

What is the definition of "depth" anyway? Sometimes I think the Skins would be better regarded if they elevated a few UDFAs to the first string, allowing the former starters to take the place with the second string. Kind of what Philly is doing with Derek Hagen to continue appearing "deep." Combine that with "building through the draft," not addressing areas of need, and letting star free agents walk and you have the wonky blueprint to NFL success. It's beyond criticism baby.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 1:06am

Evans had three sacks last year - not bad for a scrub.

No, absolutely. They did all come when he was being rotated in, though - like I said, 1 game with sacks in 11 games started. It's entirely possible that he works best when offensive lines are preparing for someone else. That's good for a guy who's going to add to your rotation, but not if you're worried about a guy going down.

I believe it was Len P who I believe gave him positive feedback based under the assumption that he would not be a Redskin in 06.

If it's Pasquerelli, I'd have to say that it was very likely astroturfing by Evans's agent. He's had some success with the Redskins, but I doubt there was much demand for him. I don't mean to be critical about it, it's just that Pasquerelli's been known to do that, and Evans doesn't really have the resume to support it.

I hear you about the tackles, but compare what they have to the Giants

Heh. Perhaps what you don't realize is that I think that the Giants defensive line depth is only slightly worse than the Redskins - mitigated by the fact that they've got better talent at end, but exacerbated by the fact that they don't have any proven talent at defensive tackle.

Sometimes I think the Skins would be better regarded if they elevated a few UDFAs to the first string, allowing the former starters to take the place with the second string.

Depth is having a player who's either 1) performed well as a starter previously - preferably relatively recently, or 2) someone who's performed very well as a backup.

You pretty much need both 1) and 2) - not in a single player, but you do need both. The Redskins have that at end (Wynn is the 1), Evans the 2)), but the fact that one of their defensive ends is an 11-year veteran means that you'd really like a younger guy for the 1).

If Daniels went down, Evans would be an unknown at defensive end (like I said, 11 games, 1 game with any sacks), and you'd have to wonder how long Wynn would hold up. That's not such a bad situation - not as bad as the one at tackle - but it doesn't give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

For comparison at end, Philly's got two middle-aged veterans, a former first-round pick who's been injured/out for most of his career, a standout 2nd year player, and a journeyman veteran. The Redskins get an advantage there because Wynn's more proven than any of the Eagles backups, but Philly gets an advantage with youth and potential upside - in other words, Philly and Washington's end situation is about even right now, but Philly has the potential to have fantastic depth by the end of the season if Cole and McDougle both progress.

(Obviously Philly is just freaking stacked at DT, so I won't mention that.)

or any other team that hadn’t just invested multipe first round picks on the position

You don't need to invest multiple first round picks every year. But when you've got a defensive line as old as the Redskins have, it would've been prudent to replace, say, Ryan Boschetti, with a first or second round pick, and very likely add a 4th or 5th round draft pick to push Evans/Wynn.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 10:26am

James #53:

As far playoff seeding goes I see it as Car Sea Min Was with wild cards going to TB and Chi because I see the NFC East feasting on each other.

Almost assuredly, that isn't going to happen - i.e. just one new NFC team in the playoffs. Here's the number of new NFC teams in the playoffs ever year from 1994 onwards with the onset of the Salary Cap and Free Agency - 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 5, 3, 3, 2, 4, 2, 5.

The smart money says there will be 2-4, possibly even 5 new NFC playoff teams this year.

My guess on who won't be back this year? Giants, Redskins, and the Bucs or Panthers. Most likely replaced by the Cowboys, Falcons, and Eagles.

by Brian J. (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 12:39am

Just for the halibut, my predictions:

NFC East: Eli takes a step forward to be the second-best QB in the division, and has better help on both sides of the ball than Philly. Washington will be crippled by injuries, and Dallas is already sinking into the Maelstrom.

NFC North: Avoid this division's games unless in need of sleep. Chicago may not just have the division's (and league's) best D, but its best O as well. Minnesota has enough to finish second, and Detroit gets enough random goodness from its receivers to nip GB for third.

NFC South: This is 3/4 of a good division. Carolina is strong on both sides of the ball. Atlanta will have enough Vick moments and running to counteract an improved but still poor defense. Tampa is a little too old to make the playoffs, and NO will exceed expectations by playing 16 games.

NFC West: Seattle probably won't lose a game in this division. St. Louis may be a micron better than Arizona, or not. San Francisco would finish fourth in the SEC East.

Playoffs: Atlanta upsets the Giants and Philly loses at Carolina wild-card weekend. Seattle smacks Atlanta, while Chicago freezes out Carolina again. Da Bears then win in Seattle to go to the Super Bowl.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 10:09am

while Chicago freezes out Carolina again.

Again? You... do realize that Chicago lost to Carolina last year in the playoffs, right?

I'm just making sure I haven't been transported to bizarro-world where the Bears decided to cover Steve Smith.

by Brock (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 6:18pm

Barring major injuries, the Seahawks should be able to win 11 games.

They go 5-1 vs the NFC West with a loss in Arizona.

They go 3-1 vs the NFC North with a loss in Chicago.

They beat the Raiders at home.

They would need to win 2 of the 5 remaining games: NYG, SD, at TB, at Den, at KC. All of these games could be tough, but the Seahawks should be able to win 2 or 3 of them.

If the Seahawks sweep the Cardinals OR beat Bears, then they would only have to win 1 of those games. If the Seahawks sweep the Cardinals AND beat Bears, they could lose all 5 of those games and still win 11 games.

by MES in shoulderpads (not verified) :: Mon, 09/04/2006 - 8:12pm

In my area, at various times, repetition of the same old arguments gets put away, until gramme Friday. I'm choc-stock with this rubbish.

Just remember...a figure walks behind you (-uh)