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29 Aug 2007

Scramble for the Ball: 2007 NFC Over-Unders

by Bill Barnwell

Attention Football Outsiders Readers: Get a free week of winning NFL picks from Doc’s Sports Handicapping Service. You will receive the same picks Doc’s paying members receive from all 5 handicappers on their “Advisory Board” and there is absolutely NO OBLIGATION what so ever for this offer. Call 1-866-238-6696 or email service@docsports.com with “Free Football Outsider” in the subject line.

Note: Bill Barnwell picked his AFC over/unders in last week's Scramble.

Arizona Cardinals (+/- 7.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 6.0 Wins

The Cardinals have certainly made progress. Their biggest concern at the moment is that Matt Leinart's blind side is going to be protected by fifth-overall pick Levi Brown, and unless he's the second coming of Marcus McNeill, we can expect Brown to struggle before settling in. (Remember, Leinart is left-handed, so his blind side is protected by the right tackle, not the left tackle.) New regimes also usually take a year to find the players they like and construct a roster fitting their systems and needs. If everything goes right, like it did with Eric Mangini and the Jets, the Cardinals could make a surprise playoff run. It's more likely that Ken Whisenhunt and the Cardinals will need a year before they get to that point. Under.

Atlanta Falcons (No Line)

PFP 2007 Projection: 7.6 Wins

The Falcons' line has been taken off the board in the aftermath of the Michael Vick situation. Let's judge their potential performance against the FO projection instead. While the projection system doesn't think the Falcons will lose much by replacing Vick with Joey Harrington, the system does not feel the utter depression that sets in when you're relying on Joey Harrington each week. The bigger problem is Bobby Petrino, who just doesn't profile to me as someone who's going to be a successful pro coach. He's revamping the Falcons offensive line, and if that means no holes open up for Jerious Norwood, it's going to be a long year in Atlanta. Under (the projected 7.6 wins).

Carolina Panthers (+/- 9.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 8.9 Wins

One of the strongest positive and negative indicators we have in our projection system is performance on third down vis-a-vis performance on first and second down. Carolina's offensive DVOA on first down was a respectable 0.3%, and on second down, a downright good 7.5%. On third down, though? Carolina's offensive DVOA was a whopping -34.5%, worst in the league. This is a dramatic sign that Carolina's likely to improve on their offensive performance of a year ago. Unfortunately, there aren't many other signs offensively that would also point towards an uptick. The real boon would be if the Panthers offensive line could stay healthier than last year. I am going to go with the book (ever so slightly) and select Under for the Panthers.

Chicago Bears (+/- 10.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 8.3 Wins

Here's one of the teams where I have to disagree with the projection system. The Bears have too much talent and are too consistently great on defense to regress this much. If Tommie Harris goes down again, then yes, the Bears will be in trouble. I don't think that's enough of a possibility for me to swing a bet with the book on the Under, though -- there are so many good things with the team (the acqusition of Adam Archuleta, who was superb in St. Louis in this system, the consistent offensive line, the quiet development of Mark Bradley as a potential starting receiver if he could stay healthy) that I'm willing to give Rex Grossman the benefit of the doubt and promote him on his strange developmental curve to "somewhat consistent competency" this year. This team also has the third-easiest schedule in the NFL this year. Over.

Dallas Cowboys (+/- 9.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 6.4 Wins

There are several reasons why the Cowboys were given such a weak projection by our system. First and foremost is their performance offensively on third down, which far surpassed the Cowboys' work on first and second down. They were, by our measures, the healthiest team in football last year and one of the healthiest since we've started tracking injuries, which (especially with such an old team) is not likely to reoccur. They have a difficult schedule, fifth-hardest in football. Furthermore, they also withered as the year went along -- the defense was fourth in the league through Week 11, but then the worst in football following that; in those final six games, as measured against his previous six, Tony Romo's completion percentage went from 69% to 60%, and his net yards per pass from 8.6 to 6.5. The projection system gives them only a 17% chance of winning nine or more games, and there's nowhere near enough evidence here for me to argue against it. Under.

Detroit Lions (+/- 6.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 7.1 Wins

You remember how, year after year, people predicted the NL East would be won by someone besides the Atlanta Braves? And year after year, the Atlanta Braves would win the NL East? Eventually, people got to a point where they started predicting the Braves by default, not even bothering to try and convince themselves that they would fall off their throne. The Lions are like that, but the exact opposite. Under.

Green Bay Packers (+/- 7.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 9.5 Wins

Green Bay is one of our breakout picks this year, and that's even despite a league-best third down defense that's likely to decline this season. First-round pick Justin Harrell has the best pedigree a first-round pick not named Johnathan Sullivan can have: SEC defensive tackle. The offensive line is melding, Donald Driver is fully healthy and Ruvell Martin has looked good enough in camp to push Greg Jennings. Don't worry about the unsettled running back spot. If there's a hole, the Packers will be able to find a back who can push through it. Your surprise playoff team of the year. Over.

Minnesota Vikings (+/- 6.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 7.5 Wins

Tarvaris Jackson was better in 2006 than Alex Smith was in 2005. That's the nicest thing we can probably say about Jackson, Brad Childress's project who may end up being usurped if Kelly Holcomb can learn the offense quickly. Essentially, the Vikings are a team easily separated by halves; they have half of a great offense, half of a great offensive line, half of a great defense and half of a great defensive line. With the excellent Antoine Winfield declining with age, the lack of an outside pass rush (despite spending first-round picks on Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James) looms as the Vikings' bugaboo whether or not Jackson exceeds expectations. The PFP mean projection is somewhat based on schedule, but I think this team will struggle even against bad opponents. Under.

New Orleans Saints (+/- 9.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 7.4 Wins

Third down performance enters into the equation both offensively and defensively in projecting the Saints' performance. Their offense was far better on third down than would be expected; meanwhile, their defense was atrocious on third down after being average on first and second down. We know that skill position players normally take two to three years to develop, which is why Saints fans can be excited about the possibilities of Devery Henderson (number one in WR DVOA) and Reggie Bush's development this year, along with the possibilities surrounding Marques Colston. Unfortunately, we can't say the same for first-round pick Robert Meachem, who has yet to get his act together and left some observers second-guessing his selection. Then again, the Saints did find Colston in the seventh round, so maybe they deserve the benefit of the doubt on wide receivers for a year or two. With all that being said, the Saints' lack of depth up front is likely to hurt them, especially since Hollis Thomas isn't going to turn in another Pro Bowl year at defensive tackle. Oh, if Johnathan Sullivan could only feel full. The Saints will exceed their projection, but I don't think they're going to hit ten wins. Under.

New York Giants (+/- 8 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 7.0 Wins

I'm going to try and talk about this in a somewhat objective manner. The Giants have many issues. They play the third-most difficult schedule in football. Their best offensive player retired and their best defensive player has been strongly considering it. Their most important player has seen his development stagnate. His blind side is going to be protected by the Giants' former backup guard. Their corners are alternately old, injured, mediocre or inexperienced. They have two strong safeties, one of whom will need to play free safety. Oh, and they have a lame-duck coach who no-one believes in. Deliver us Jake Long, please. Under with extreme prejudice.

Philadelphia Eagles (+/- 9.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 11.0 Wins

It's been really fascinating to see the feedback of mainstream fans to the release of Jeremiah Trotter. Most seem to accept that the Reid/Banner administration know what they're doing by now, albeit while wishing that Trotter had stuck around. Some resort to the ad hominem "REID DOESN'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON WITH HIS OWN FAMILY HE CAN'T RUN A TEAM!!!" attack. Others complain that veterans don't get enough respect, and finally, say that the braintrust doesn't know how to operate a team, as evidenced by the fact that they don't have any wide receivers. Expect Reggie Brown to make that sentence null and void this season, and expect the Eagles to press on just fine without Trotter. With the deepest lines on either side of the ball in the league, they're even able to take the hit if All-Pro right guard Shawn Andrews can't go. If I'm expecting declines from the Giants and the Cowboys, those wins have to go somewhere, and the Eagles are target No. 1. Over.

St. Louis Rams (+/- 8.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 5.8 Wins

There's been a lot of talk on our discussion forum about how KUBIAK and the projection system are "broken" when it comes to the Rams. It's entirely possible that there are variables we haven't yet accounted for, but when we factor in the variables that work for everyone else, the system spits out poor numbers for the Rams. It's not as if there's no reason to believe in the projection: The skill players are not likely to be as healthy as they were last year -- which we're already seeing with Torry Holt. Their line is anchored by a rapidly aging Orlando Pace, the one important Rams player who did get hurt last year, Marc Bulger threw interceptions at a flukishly-low rate early in the season, and the Rams actually acquired Mike Rumph of their own free will. There's a 12 percent chance, according to the system, of the Rams winning nine or more games. I'm willing to believe in that, even if it's underrating the Rams somehow. Under.

San Francisco 49ers (+/- 8 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 8.1 Wins

Our predictive powers say that the 49ers have the easiest schedule in football in 2007. In 2005 and 2006, we said that about the Bears; they went from 5-11 to 11-5 to 13-3. Schedule helps, a lot. So will adding the best defensive player on the market, acquiring a true No. 1 receiver, and replacing the weak link of your team (right tackle Kwame Harris) with a first-round pick. Concerns about Frank Gore's injury-prone nature are overblown; this is one of the smartest organizations in the league, and they know well what they're doing. If their front seven solidifies more quickly than expected, they win the division. If not, they're still a decent bet to win eight or nine games, and that's worth taking the Over.

Seattle Seahawks (+/- 9.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 8.0 Wins

The thing is that I really have to choose the Over here, merely because I've got Arizona winning five games and St. Louis winning seven. Someone has to take this division, and while there are a lot of negative things in Seattle, realistically, there are still enough positive things to pull it off. For that to happen, the offensive line has to be healthier than last year; if anyone gets hurt, they have even less depth than they did in 2006. They can afford to lose Darrell Jackson following the ascension of D.J. Hackett, but they have no tight ends of any note. Marcus Tubbs, absolutely essential to the Seahawks' defensive line, has only recently (as in this week) returned to practice following microfracture surgery on his knee. On the other hand, they'll have a full year of Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander. To me, that's enough to push them over nine wins and win the division, even if it is a last gasp.

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

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+/- 7.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 9.0 Wins

Ah, the team only a mother (or FO projection system) could love. Tampa was the NFC's most-injured team in 2006, but with fewer spleens left to rupture, that's probably going to regress some, which helps their projection. What Tampa really has to overcome is aging, particularly on the defensive side. On offense, if everything goes right (especially with Jeff Garcia and what was an abysmal offensive line in 2006), they have the weaponry to actually show off a serious attack. In a division where I'm saying everyone else will hit the under on their projection, someone has to actually win some games. Over.

Washington Redskins (+/- 7.5 Wins)

PFP 2007 Projection: 8.2 Wins

I'm going to say that the Redskins not only hit their Over, but they host a playoff game. Why? A lot of things. Their third-down performance on defense is going to improve, and they've upgraded their weaknesses with the additions of LaRon Landry, Fred Smoot (who is at least better than Mike Rumph, for sure) and London Fletcher-Baker, plus the return to health of Cornelius Griffin. On offense, while Brandon Lloyd will continue to be Brandon Lloyd, the Redskins will have had a full year to digest the Al Saunders offensive playbook, with Lewin Career Forecast favorite Jason Campbell behind center from training camp on. While we're not sanguine on Clinton Portis' chances of staying healthy for a full year, he'll be able to split time with Ladell Betts. I may be a fool, but I think that I'm buying low here on an underrated team.

Fantasy Mailbag

Gerry: My dynasty league team is absolutely loaded right now. 12-team league, Carson Palmer, Charlie Frye, David Carr and crap at quarterback; LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander at running back with good depth in Brandon Jacobs and Michael Turner; Roy Williams, Mark Clayton, D.J. Hackett, Vernon Davis and crap at wide receiver; Stephen Gostkowski and Nate Kaeding at kicker; Giants and Denver at defense. For all intents and purposes, it's a straight touchdown league with passing touchdowns equal to others, although you can get a bonus point for 300 yards passing, 100 yards rushing or 100 yards receiving. Picking last as the champ, I am envisioning that Russell, Johnson, Peterson, Lynch, Quinn, Bowe, Meachem, Davis, and Gonzalez will be gone. One other rookie may go, but in the past we have almost always had at least one free agent go at some point in the first round, so I am guessing the above will be the list of rookies gone by my pick.

I doubt I can get a player who will improve my team for this year, so I need to think down the road. Running back depth may become a problem with Alexander's inevitable decline continuing. My quarterback depth needs addressing, but next year's rookie class looks to be exceptionally deep for quarterbacks. Wide receiver is the place I could upgrade the most, so is that where you would go if you were me? Right now, my short list is Kolb if I decide to address quarterback this year and Steve Smith (who has been catching everything in Giants camp, and has Toomer aging in front of him) if I don't. Which position would you focus on? What would your short list be?

The thing about The Other Steve Smith is that he also has to compete with Sinorice Moss for playing time, and a lot of people forget about Sinorice Moss because he pretty much disappeared for the 2006 season. I agree that wideout is probably the best place to look for depth, and you're right that most of those guys will be gone by the time you get to pick. If Anthony Gonzalez falls to you, he would be the guy I would take regardless of who else is out there -- the Colts simply don't miss on first-round picks, especially at skill positions. I would focus on guys who will be seeing more playing time towards the end of the year in unsettled situations -- that includes Minnesota, where Sidney Rice and Martin Nance (who might be the most impressive player in Vikings camp this year) could be playing roles in an offense with the competent Kelly Holcomb behind a (half) good offensive line by midseason.

Later on, there might be some players who are still available as free agents, but are essentially rookies because of their lack of experience. Mark Bradley on Chicago is a fantastic player when he's healthy (37.4% DVOA) ... but he's never healthy. Jerome Mathis on Houston is a speed demon who's returning from injury and could see some deep throws if Matt Schaub stays upright. Derek Hagan of the Dolphins is a possession receiver who goes over the middle, and that's exactly what the Dolphins offense is lacking at the moment. With Samie Parker's hold on the starting job slipping, Kansas City might turn to Jeff Webb or Chris Hannon to replace him. All of these guys are relatively low-profile, but could help your team toward the end of this year while remaining effective keepers for years to come.

Next week, Scramble previews Week 1 of the NFL season, just like how the real Web sites do it: with video games.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 29 Aug 2007

52 comments, Last at 06 Sep 2007, 2:09pm by Sid


by Jason Kramer (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 12:09pm

A few notes on the Packers summary: Harrell is going to make the team, but likely won't even be on the active roster opening day. Also, Driver is not fully healthy, he just sprained his foot a week or so ago.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 12:17pm

I've got the Vikings at about six wins, and the primary reason is not Jackson, who does have the needed physical tools, nor the outside pass rush, which will be better, but the fact that the receivers rarely get open, often drop the ball when they do, and hardly ever outfight a db for the ball. Defensive coordinators are going to put eight and sometimes even nine guys in the box, to shut off the run, while blitzing incessantly, and even if Jackson's decision making is superlative, which it won't be, given his inexperience, there aren't going to be many points scored.

Even a pro bowl caliber, experienced, qb would have difficulty putting up numbers with this set of receivers. If Jackson had one pro bowl caliber, and other replacement level receivers to throw to, this offense and defense would comprise a team with reasonable hopes of winning 10 games.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 12:26pm

Ouch. I see you're taking the "emotionally distance myself from the team so that it hurts less when they fail" approach. I'd tell you what I think of your Giants projection, but I need 24-48 hours to make up my mind.


Ah, what the hell. Here goes: Everything you said is true except that Dave Diehl was not backup guard-- he's started every snap since he's been drafted. (Of course, this doesn't really say anything about his ability to start at left tackle.) Honestly, though, I'm not worried about the Giants offense. They'll do fine. The defense, however, looks like a mess. When R.W. McQuarters is starting for your team, your team does not have a competent secondary.

by Cmos (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 12:48pm

Dammit! I didn’t get to finish my ramblings from the Manning/Pythagorean thread so I will do it here. I could care less whose better, Manning or Brady, both great so shut up about it already.

Pythagoras likes teams that give up few running yards and doesn't seem to bother with passing yardage, due mostly to teams who limited the others offense from scoring by running out the clock but DVOA prefers teams who can stop the pass over teams who stop the run. Why?

Well running out the clock with the lead is important for finishing off opponents and stopping the other team from doing so allows you more chances to get back into the game but if you can’t stop the pass you can’t stop teams from scoring, right? Soooooo you need to be able to pass to get a lead, but run to pick up the short 3rds downs and run out the clock. So wouldn’t teams built more around Passing to score, running to kill clock and a good pass defense to quick teams from coming back have a higher win total than those who are built around the old “run the ball/stop the run� school?

And here is another thing, what about the teams who use the short passing game like a running game, like Eagles? Obviously their extreme amount of passing have netted them some regular success. Has their lack of running hurt them, I’m sure if you look at it in the light of injuries, etc.

It just seems on Defense that stopping another team from running (running the clock) is not nearly as important as keeping teams from scoring (Points coming out of the passing game) or the Colts approach of scoring like crazy and hoping the defense shows up. Input?

by Ian (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 12:53pm

Do you do drugs, Jason?

by solarjetman (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 12:56pm

In order for the Redskins to host a playoff game, they'll have to win the NFC East; but you're speaking really highly of the Eagles. Do you really have the Redskins ahead of the Eagles?

by Sporran (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 1:07pm

"I’m going to say that the Redskins not only hit their Over, but they host a playoff game."

You do realize that this is, in essence, predicting the Redskins to win the NFC East since only division winners host playoff games?

I only comment because you seemed pretty high on Philadelphia as well.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 1:09pm


Are you talking to me, or to the author of post #1?

And, in either case, would you care to elaborate as to what you're getting at?

by Marko (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 1:21pm

Maybe he was talking to Jason Beattie?

"First-round pick Justin Harrell has the best pedigree a first-round pick not named Johnathan Sullivan can have: SEC defensive tackle."

That pedigree didn't help the Browns when they drafted Gerard Warren.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 1:31pm


That would make far more sense, thanks.

by wr (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 1:36pm

re 6,7 : IIRC the Redskins could host a game if they're the wildcard team with the best record.

by Marko (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 1:42pm

11: Only if they host the NFC Championship Game, which would have to be against the other wild card team (the #6 seed).

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 1:56pm

Re: 1 I think he's simply not in football shape after his long layoff, and his legs are pretty much dead from training camp. My guess is he'll be inactive the first few weeks (time off which will probably help) and he'll contribute, to some degree anyways, in the second half of the season.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 2:22pm

re: 4

Cmos, why not put your Pythagoras ruminations in the Pythagoras thread? Just click the "Extra Points" and you'll see 10 pages of them going back beyond the dog days of summer.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 2:25pm

Oops, apologies. Didn't see that the thread has been closed.

by Jon (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 2:30pm

Bill, I'm no fan of Coughlin either, but you really are blinded by his failings last year. Can Diehl really do worse than NY's LTs being ranked #29 in 2006? I agree on Dallas and Philly, but Washington's depth leaves them really vulnerable to injuries. The Giants should be the sleeper team everyone's talking about, the entire media is writing them off.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 2:54pm

Yeah, I just dont see all the negativity about the giants.

It seems like its all based around Tiki retiring. From what I've seen, Brandon Jacobs is definitely a better pure runner than Tiki, and while hes not the receiver Tiki is yet, hes going to allow them to do things they couldnt do with Tiki.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 2:56pm

Harrell has NOT impressed in camp. The coaches are delivering the same excuses they used to give for Jamal Reynolds. Harrell has been sluggish all camp and pretty much manhandled by offensive linemen just off the street. Against the first team O-line I don't think Spitz or Moll broke a sweat keeping Harrell at bay.

But the good news on defense is that Marquand Manuel is all but OUT. Last word has Manuel fighting to stay on the roster. Anyone who follows the Packers knows that this guy was in the middle of giving up any big play not surrendered by Ahmad Carroll (before he got cut).

by Jens (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 3:04pm

Obviously the Eagles will win the NFC East, and the Redskins will be seeded 5th and host the NFC championship game against the 6th seeded team. See - it all makes sence.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 3:06pm

Re: 18 eh, give the guy a chance. Coaches are making excuses for him, to be sure, but I don't think it's anywhere near Jamal Reynolds levels. He had been out of football and it's just far too early to pass judgment. Even if he never lives up to his first round status, I think the chances of him being a Jamal Reynolds level bust is fairly remote.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 3:07pm

P.S. Is Atari Bigby the best name in the NFL or what?

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 3:09pm

P.P.S. This is when I really wish Cliff Christl hadn't retired. The guy knows how to spot a loser, and as I recall, he had Reynolds pegged as a loser by the end of his first week of camp.

by Cartoonist on Crack (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 3:31pm

Yo, I got as much crack as Travis got baby mommas.

by MM (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 3:39pm

RE: 5

"Do you take drugs, Jason?"
"Every day."

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 3:39pm

“�People can judge me all they want,But only God can judge me.�

That quote is awesome for 2 reasons:

1) It makes no sense.

2) If there is a god, and he believes in him, Travis is going to hell for sex out of wedlock, adultery, etc.

by Mike W (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 4:49pm

Thanks to Lance Briggs and Travis Henry, thousands of fantasy teams have clever new names.

by Oswlek (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 5:00pm

This is as good a place as ever to give my "team that ends the season with a better record than they should and thus trick some people into backing them as a sleeper team the next year".

Ladies and gentlemen please welcome your San Francisco 49ers.

by Black Diamond Detective (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 5:47pm

I’m willing to give Rex Grossman(!) the benefit of the doubt

Nooo, don't do it! That's how they get you, man, that's how they get you. Vegas is full of hotels built in part by cash flows from guys giving the benefit of the doubt.

Cartoon was hilarious btw. Good show.

by Gus (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 6:27pm

Bah, anyone else remember the good old days last year when there weren't these spam words? I kid, I kid, it's a minor inconvenience, that's all.

Iggles in the NFC again, I see can't be terribly surprised by that. I am a little surprised by Arizona's low projection, but I suppose I shouldn't be given the fact that they've been a "sleeper team" for three years running.

by Kyle (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 6:56pm

Bill reminds me of the angry Indians fan from Major League 2, who follows his team, showing up to all 81 regular season games, only to relentlessly criticize his favorite team simply for the sake of criticizing the team.

My favorite part? The Bucs and Redskins are going to improve significantly from last season because they will be healthier. Meanwhile, the Giants are resigned to a terrible season... despite entering with a relatively clean bill of health on defense, which was perhaps the single biggest reason the team collapsed in the second half. Call me crazy or a homer, but I would think that starting legit starters at defensive end and linebacker, instead of such luminaries as William Joseph, Adrian Awasom and Brandon Short, might just help the team.

But nevermind. They've got no left tackle, Tiki retired, Strahan might retire and he is the best player on the defense (and the defense looks terrible this preseason without him), and no one trusts Coughlin in that locker room.

Aside from astutely pointing out the safety debacle, you read off the national media cheat sheet of generalizations for the team. Excellent analysis.

by Just Another Falcon Fan (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 7:26pm

I have to say I really don't see what you have against Bobby Petrino. So far, he appears to be a very professional coach with a solid staff around him. I can't fault him for anything he's said or done with respect to He Who Will No Longer Be Named On My Jersey. He's a creative offensive mind with experience at the professional level. He built a winning program at Louisville through coaching, not recruiting. He doesn't strike me as Nick Saban v. 2.0. So what's your beef?

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 7:34pm

Detroit Lions (+/- 6.5 Wins)

(takes deep breaths)

(calculates chances of obtaining second mortgage and getting cash to Vegas before season starts)

(places calls)

They must have a couple of other lines that are really well placed, because I can't imagine there are that many Lions fans drinking enough Kool-Aid AND traveling or using contacts to place bets to take the over, so sports books are going to need something else to pay off or they'll lose their asses on that one.

by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 08/29/2007 - 8:11pm

Bill, how can you take the under on Detroit? Jon Kitna's gonna throw 50 Touchdowns. He said so himself. You can't throw 50 touchdowns and not win 7 gam...

Oh, I see.

by TomC (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 12:23am

2) If there is a god, and he believes in him, Travis is going to hell for sex out of wedlock, adultery, etc.

Only if his god thinks like yours apparently does. Certainly there are versions of the Old Testament Y*HW*H that would have been A-OK with this sort of behavior -- anything to be fruitful and multiply. And it wasn't even his daughters or anything, so he's in better shape judgment-wise than Lot.

(Also, I don't believe there's anything necessarily adulterous about what he did. He's not married, though I don't know about the 9 women.)

by max (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 12:50am

What a flawed superficial explanation:

"1. There’s been a lot of talk on our discussion forum about how KUBIAK and the projection system are “broken� when it comes to the Rams. It’s entirely possible that there are variables we haven’t yet accounted for, but when we factor in the variables that work for everyone else, the system spits out poor numbers for the Rams."

Well, which one is it? First you said it entirely possible that the model is off, then you said the model works for everyone else so it's OK. And you forgot to say the REASON why the model may be off. It's because you guys have been getting the Rams wrong for years now.

"2. It’s not as if there’s no reason to believe in the projection: The skill players are not likely to be as healthy as they were last year — which we’re already seeing with Torry Holt. Their line is anchored by a rapidly aging Orlando Pace, the one important Rams player who did get hurt last year, Marc Bulger threw interceptions at a flukishly-low rate early in the season, and the Rams actually acquired Mike Rumph of their own free will."

So that's what the projection is based on? Let's see, injuries to older players. Sure that can happen. And it can happen to every team. How old is Walter Jones? Same as Pace. How old is Marvin Harrison, same as Bruce. Yet, those guys aren't taking any hits for being vulnerable to injury.

And did you consider that Bulger is in a much more conservative offense under Linehan than Martz? You didn't mention it.

And the Rams cut Rumph weeks ago. He was camp fodder because of the Fahkir Brown suspension.

You're gonna have to come up with something better than that lame analysis to convince informed fans. Very disappointing.

by Chris M (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 1:37am

Fantasy question:

Just finished my draft, and ended up with these backs - Westbrook, Jamal Lewis, Adrian Peterson, and Fred Taylor.

After the draft, Brandon Jackson is still available as a FA. Should I pick him up to replace any of those guys, especially the last two? Will he still be the main back by week 5 (when he'd need to spell Westbrook)?

Scoring is 1/20 yards, PPR, .5 per attempt.

by mr parker (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 10:23am

You criticized my team, you have no idea what you are talking about. So what if they are old and going to get injured some guy who you don't know about yet will save us. Your projection system sucks. I don't have my own system but your system sucks. I am somehow more clairevoyant than you. I do not understand that these projections are mostly for fun at all.

by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 10:27am

They've been wrong on the Rams for years? How long have they been making predictions? Here are their last 3 records: 8-8, 6-10, 8-8. Rams fans seem to be acting like their team has been unstoppable since 1999. In fact, last year's 8-8 in a very bad division doesn't very good at all. And I don't remember the mean projection for the Rams last year, but I'm sure one of the factors was that Seattle was projected to be much stronger than they turned out to be.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 10:42am

Gerry, as a Texans fan I'm going to have to strongly disagree with Bill on one piece of fantasy advice: do not pick up Jerome Mathis, as he will barely see the field as a receiver, this year or any other. Look instead at 3rd round rookie Jacoby Jones, who has returned punts for TDs in two straight preseason games, as well as catching another TD against the Dallas starters last time out and picking up nice yardage receiving and rushing. Jones is clearly installed as the #3 receiver and primary deep threat in Houston, whereas Mathis will be #5 at best and is not even 100% guaranteed to make the team. Jones is also younger and does not have Mathis's injury history.

Elsewhere, give serious thought to James Jones in Green Bay, who I hear has had an excellent preseason and could yet beat out Jennings for a starting job opposite Driver. In the longer term, I expect Jason Hill in San Francisco to develop into an excellent player, while Oakland's Johnnie Lee Higgins could turn into a very dangerous deep threat.

Finally, though, if Kolb is still there you have to use that pick on him, and you should trade Alexander right now while he still has some value.

by max (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 11:39am

#38 :: James G,

The mean projection for the Rams last year was 4.7. Off by 3.3 games. That's a 70% difference.

And Seattle not being very strong last year had nothing to do with the Rams winning 8 games instead of less than 5. Seattle beat the Rams twice anyway. Actually, the Rams went 2-4 in their weak division. So don't go there.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this with posters, but your arguments are flawed.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 1:06pm

Thanks for answering my Q, Bill, although my draft was on Saturday. :-) I ended up having what the entire league feels was a horrible draft because I ended up going with Kolb, who everyone in the league felt I could have gotten in our second round. Everyone assumed I would grab Smith, but I had decided both on what you wrote regarding him plus the fact that the Giants are just not a team which lends itself to having top-flight WRs by our scoring system. The best in recent memory have been Toomer and Plax, but neither is a top-tier wideout in our league. Meachem fell, and maybe he should have been my pick, but I had noticed that he has looked less than stellar so far. If Kolb really would have fallen to the last pick of the 2nd, then I did screw it up, but I am not convinced he would have and besides I did not want to risk it.

As for the projections, I like the over on Carolina, due to the presence of Carr on the roster. If Delhomme struggles, they have someone to turn to, so for them to get really subpar QB performance for the entire season they will need to have two guys fail. I think there is a good chance that one of them will end up being quite a bit better than Delhomme was last season. I think the odds are that the line will stay healthier than last year; if we say for some teams that they were unusually healthy which will likely not happen again, it makes sense to think about the opposite.

Regarding Dallas, doesn't going from Parcells to Phillips deserve at least a mention as another reason to expect a decline? Give Tuna his props!

by Roy (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 2:43pm

the rams went 8-8 last year on luck.

in week 3, warner fumbled a snap inside the rams 20 while AZ was just running the clock down til they could kick a game-winning FG.

in week 5, favre fumbled at the rams 11 with 1m left in the game and the packers driving for either a game-tying FG or a game-winning TD. it was a sack not a snap this time though.

in week 12, the 49ers were down 3 with 4m left and a 4th and 1 on the rams 7. nolan elected for the tying FG instead of taking his chances with frank gore against the rams terrible rush defense. a horrible decision imo that may have cost the 49ers the game.

in week 16, with 2m left, betts fumbled at the end of a run that would have given the redskins a 1st-10 on the rams 24 in a tie game.

by max (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 4:05pm

#42. Roy,

The luck theory would hold more weight if the Rams didn't outscore those teams by a total of 1619 - 1338.

The only team that outgain the Rams in those games were the Packers. And that was by only 9 yds (336-327).

And in the Washington game the Rams outgained them 579 - 336 = 243 yds.

But that's not the real key thing here. It's how the Rams finished the season that should be considered most important when assessing this year. And they finished playing very well on offense with their OL really coming on strong.

by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 4:36pm

The Rams didn't finish the year strong according to DVOA. Their overall DVOA was -5.2%, and their weighted DVOA was -11.5%. That's almost certainly a factor that's bringing their predictions for this year down.

by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 11:04pm

are you at all worried about the Rams defense?
It doesn't seem very good.

by Roy (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 11:18pm


i don't want to make a big argument out of this, but the yardage was pretty much equal in the 2 other games you didn't mention. anyway, i assumed dvoa was measuring yards and its opinion of the rams is already documented. i'm just pointing out 4 games where the rams' opponent snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. if the rams split those games, maybe no one worries about how the rams W-L not matching their projection.

by max (not verified) :: Fri, 08/31/2007 - 12:46am

#45. coldbikemessenger,

Ah, a valid point finally. Yes I am worried about the Rams defense. Their safeties suck, and their LB's are undersized and don't get protected by the DL. It's worse than not very good. The only 2 positive additions they made since last year are a rookie DT (Carriker) and a previously injuried vet DE (James Hall). The best I can hope for is middle of the road. If FO said their projection was based primarily on the Rams D being horrible this year, I would have no argument. But that's not what they said.

— 8/30/2007 @ 10:04 pm

by Bob Mozitis (not verified) :: Fri, 08/31/2007 - 11:56am

Gerry, if you are reading this, here are the draft results from my dyansty league draft 2 nights ago. Its also a 12 team league with more of a standard scoring than yours. 1st round: Peterson, Johnson, Lynch, B Jackson, Russell, Bowe, Meachem, Quinn, M Bush, Gonzalez, Jacoby Jones, C Davis (my pick). 2nd round: C Henry, Booker, Peterson (Chi), Irons, Olsen, Hunt, Ginn, S Smith, Kolb (my pick), Stanton, Jarrett (my pick), Pittman. The only good players taken in the third round were James Jones, Sidney Rice, and Brian Leonard.

by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 08/31/2007 - 12:20pm

"Gerry, as a Texans fan"

This just in...the Texans have fans.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 08/31/2007 - 11:24pm

#30- I was going to write a similar response, but I think you covered all the bases. I was dissapointed/shocked to read the redskins and Giants write up in the PFP.

The Giants are coming off back to back playoff seasons, but you would think they were a 4-12 team after reading their outlook. Then there is some nonsense about how Washington isn't that different than the Colts minus Manning/Harrison, and how they were plagued by injuries. I mean Shawn Springs was only a 30+ year old corner with an injury history, and Clinton Portis was rode into the ground 2 years ago. The team had no depth, and the defense was historically bad on numerous accounts, but Washington should really bounce back after that season of unlucky injuries?

Philly will win the NFC East, but I see everybody count the Giants out. They won the division 2 years ago, and were the 3rd team in their division to make the playoffs despite the hardest schedule of any playoff team, and the #1 schedule going into last year. They don't even have to be as good this year to make the playoffs, with an easier schedule. The Giants will be the sleeper team of the NFC.

by Phil (not verified) :: Mon, 09/03/2007 - 11:24pm

Giants fans are funny.

by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 2:09pm

where can I find official lines for this? What website provides it?