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Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

11 Aug 2010

Scramble for the Ball: AFC Over/Unders Part I

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: So, it's time for another season of football, which means it's also time for another season of Scramble for the Ball.

Mike: Which means another season of playing that fool's game, preseason over/unders!

Tom: The motto of Scramble for the Ball is "all predictions wrong or your money back!" Now that Mike and I are writing Scramble for the second straight season, we thought we'd start by breaking tradition. Rather than two insanely long, very late preseason columns, we're writing more preseason columns, each of semi-reasonable length and more or less on time.

Mike: Truly, we are mad with power. Also, keep in mind that's a Mike and Tom definition of "semi-reasonable." Let's not get too carried away.

Tom: We are both still attorneys, after all. Rather than breaking up over/unders by alphabetical order, we're going division by division -- part of my clever ploy to avoid unintentionally picking every team in a decision to go under, as I did with the NFC South last season. Granted, every team but New Orelans did go under, but it still looked bad. I should also note that, except as mentioned to the contrary, there is no actual money on any of these predictions.

Mike: On that note, do not complain about consistency, and don't try to add up over and unders in some bizarre attempt to prove to the greater Intertrucks that FO doesn't understand how schedules work. We are pronouncing very vague judgments on these teams. We don't have a giant whiteboard where we meticulously plotted out who wins which game.

Actually, that would be pretty awesome. Note to self: Make Aaron get a whiteboard for the FO Cave.

Tom: Now, now, Mike, race neutral. Call it a "dry erase board."

Mike: Why you gotta be racist against wet erase boards? I'm not sure I can work with you anymore ...

Tom: I'd tell you about me and the tragic story of my experience with a wet erase board, but the wounds are still too raw.

Mike: So that's the long and short of it: We're going to go through and pick over/under wins for each team in the league, over the course of four weeks. Around that time, Tom figures out the whiteboard's secret name, becomes the Prince of China, and we start fawning over this year's set of Old Spice Commercials. Oh, and some stuff about fantasy football.

Tom: We'll start with the AFC East and the AFC North.

Buffalo Bills (5.5)

Mike: Personally, I don't know how Buffalo can survive without T.O.

Tom: With their quarterbacks, they only need one wide receiver. Lee Evans was, the last time we saw him with a credible quarterback, a decent deep threat.

Mike: The big question is, what will be the split in carries between Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, and Marshawn Lynch. Actually, no, the bigger question is how to fit "Greater Toronto Metropolitan Area" into a snappy team name.

Tom: Why do we think the Greater Toronto Metropolitan Area will be their future?

Mike: Uh, because Buffalo. And it being Buffalo. Which, honestly, is probably part of said area at this point.

Tom: The switch to the 3-4 strikes me as insane.

Mike: But it's so in right now! I think we've seen something odd in the past few years with teams moving to the 3-4 because of deficiencies on their defensive lines, rather than switching to accentuate strength in the linebacker corps. This, of course, is a recipe for disaster.

Tom: But the 3-4 is popular, and special! I could sort of see why Jacksonville tried out the 3-4 last year, since the defense was lousy in 2008 and maybe a change of scheme would help. Does Buffalo actually realize they had a decent defense last year?

Mike: I'm not even sure the staff is paying any attention to Buffalo at this point. The Bills have the second-toughest average opponent, according to scandalously available-for-purchase Football Outsiders Almanac 2010. Five wins is certainly a safe proposition. Under.

Tom: If they go winless in the division (quite possible), they need to go 6-4 in non-conference games. That's not happening. Under from me as well.

Miami Dolphins (8.5)

Mike: Wildcat. Wildcat. Wildcat. Wildcat. Wildcat. Out of our system now?

Tom: Aaron just gave an interview with Phinsider (Miami SBN site) where he noted that Miami was one of the few teams that could run the Wildcat the right way.

Mike: Apparently not.

Tom: As in, the Wildcat as a real offensive scheme, with enough possible plays to make it credible. Now, if Chad Henne is a good quarterback, that's a different issue.

Mike: And if Ronnie Brown can keep it going for another year. He's falling apart.

Tom: Can Ricky Williams sustain his late-career resurgence? Two old running backs is scary..

Mike: Very.

Tom: How much does Brandon Marshall upgrade the passing game? I don't feel like I have a good answer to that question.

Mike: I think he'll loom large, but I don't think he'll make a huge difference. I think we are going to see a move away from the wildcat, even if Henne is miserable, however. Just because I don't see an engine waiting in the wings, and like you said, two older backs. The wildcat was a creature of necessity, and it will last only as long as it's viable.

Tom: It'll look more like a gimmick they pull out occasionally than a staple of the offense.

Mike: So, it'll be like other teams' option packages. Except not as lame.

Tom: Exactly. I don't have a good feel for the Dolphins at all. They could go 5-11 or 11-5, and it wouldn't shock me either way.

Mike: Sounds a lot like New Orleans from last year, so I'll do what I did last year and make fun of them and dismissively, then say under. And then watch them win a championship.

Tom: I will hesitatingly agree with you and say under.

New England Patriots (9.5)

Tom: That playoff loss left a very sour taste in the mouth.

Mike: Yeah, but who cares, really? New England is a professional organization with a lot of veterans. And, I'm increasingly convinced, is coached by the Hypnotoad.

Tom: I guess ...

Mike: It's a joke, Tom. Jokes are fun.

Tom: I own a "Where Fun Comes to Die" T-shirt. It's the UChicago in me.

Mike: This is going to be a long season ...

Tom: Anyway, New England also has some young players on defense who may or may not be good, which is cause for some concern. More importantly, Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss is the key to the offense.

Mike: I'm not worried about the offense whatsoever. The keys are all still in place.

Well, actually, I have a twinge of worry. I still think the secondary is going to be lit up, which means lots of shoot-outs. I'm wondering if the Pats can still keep up.

Tom: Who is going to rush the passer?

Mike: Tully Banta-Cain?

Tom: I guess. They were 18th in Adjusted Sack Rate the last two years, which is a little better than I thought they were.

Mike: If Belichick deserves any credit for being a great coach, it is undoubtedly rooted in the way he brings it from all over the place in LeBeau-like fashion.

Tom: I thought the three Super Bowl wins in four years was evidence of coaching competence, but if you want to list creative pass pressure first, that's fine with me.

Mike: This is not going to become a referendum on Belichick. Even we aren't willing to spend that much space. I think he can hold the defense together enough to get the edge in the boatloads of inevitable shoot-outs, however, so over.

Tom: This is boring, we're agreeing with each other. Over.

New York Jets (9.5)

Mike: Sanchize II: Electric Boogaloo!

Tom: I hate headline writing, but in some ways I really enjoyed the ESPN headline about Mark Sanchez as the next JaMarcus Russell.

Mike: Zing!

Tom: It feels like people don't realize he had one of the worst seasons a rookie quarterback has ever had.

Mike: Wins are credited to the quarterback. As far as this year goes, Sanchez does have a great new weapon in Santonio Holmes.

Tom: Sure, he's a deep threat, kind of like Braylon Edwards only less droppy. They need someone to catch intermediate passes.

Mike: I actually think Holmes is going to be catching those intermediate passes. He's not the ideal possession receiver, but he has good enough hands and routes.

Tom: At least after the first four weeks, maybe.

Mike: Well, yeah. But I think he'll help Sanchez immensely, which should move him from awful to mediocre.

Tom: I'm not sure it'll be enough to offset the likely decline in the running game and offensive line.

Mike: No, but it'll still be good, which should be more than enough. Over.

Tom: Good defense, OK running game, mediocre passing game. That sounds to me like 7-9 wins. Under.

Mike: Hooray, boring AFC East done!

Baltimore Ravens (10)

Tom: First in DVOA, 11.6 Pythagorean Wins last season.

Mike: Baltimore is going to be scary good. I think watching them may actually cause injury.

Tom: Tennessee doesn't play them this year, no skin off my back ... or whatever the expression is. I'm not sure I buy that Joe Flacco will be quite good enough, but I expect the defense again to be very good and the running game to be strong. Anquan Boldin has his flaws as a player, but he's still a big upgrade on Mark Clayton.

Mike: I think Flacco has shown he can be at the least a good starting quarterback. Maybe he has a slump en route to that. I could see it, considering the tough division, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Tom: I have more confidence in him than I had in Kerry Collins in 2008, and the Titans went 13-3.

Mike: That said, who exactly is playing cornerback?

Tom: I'm sure they'll be game-planning to cover for them.

Mike: By what, getting the competition committee to remove the position?

Tom: It will at least be a much more difficult task if they'll be sans Ed Reed for the first six or so games.

Mike: Actually, now that I think about it, I'm really unconvinced of Baltimore's pass defense. Even with Reed, honestly. He's going to regress this year -- that may mean going from insane to merely great, but that would open up all sorts of holes.

Tom: I still believe in this team.

Mike: You know, I'm going to take the coward's option. I think this team is as good as exactly 10 wins, which may actually win the division in the end. Push.

Tom: Wimp. Over.

Cincinnati Bengals (8)

Mike: There is no way in hell that Cedric Benson has another season like last year.

Tom: Probably not.

Mike: And even in addition to that, I'm concerned about this offensive line.

Tom: For winning a decent division, they were an unimpressive 10-6. 8.4 Pythagorean Wins and 19th in DVOA. They looked almost as limited in their playoff game as Miami did in 2008. Incidentally, we're writing this as we are watching the Hall of Fame Game, and in the player intros they mentioned Benson had 169 yards on the ground against the Jets. Big freaking deal. I mean, that was good against the Jets, but they still looked extraordinarily unthreatening.

Mike: We also saw Emmitt Smith call Al Michaels "Mike." The fact that we are watching the Hall of Fame Game explains so much about this column, really. It's sucking my brains out.

Tom: Well, for some definition of watching.

Mike: Have I mentioned how awful Fawcett Stadium is, even by high school football standards? I have? OK.

Tom: It's not sucking my brains out nearly as quickly as the Famers-Gamers Madden thing that was on before it.

Mike: The wife and I actually turned this on a few minutes early and were so very, very confused. So, they had actual football players and then some kind of Madden gamer or two thrown in on each team? Or something?

Tom: As Rich Eisen pointed out on Twitter, doing that was either a career killer or showed he has future as a play-by-play guy.

Mike: They also only handed out copies of Madden for Playstation 3. I wonder if people in the audience without PS3s got to trade their copies out at the door. Anyway. Cincy’s main problem down the stretch, as you mentioned, was that the passing game collapsed.

Tom: It was mediocre all year, and then disappeared. I can't see T.O. fixing the mediocrity, and it's way too easy to see him and Ochenta Y Cinco not getting along well.

Mike: I don't see why not. He's not top 10 anymore, but two top-20 receivers is more than enough. There are concerns about personnel insanity, but we have that every year. Cincinnati is a madhouse. But let's assume that there isn't some kind of locker room explosion ...

Tom: I didn't know you were an economist.

Mike: This is why I always carry a can opener -- to beat the economist over the head.

Tom: Meltdown seems inevitable in Cincinnati this year.

Mike: I disagree. T.O. got a taste of being on a listless, hopeless, useless, and otherwise depressing adjective-laden team last year. I don't think he's mellowed, but I think he's finally at the point where he knows enough not to destroy. Ochocinco does everything, as the kids say, "for the lolz." Much more agent provocateur than locker room cancer.

Tom: I think you're a little too optimistic, but we shall see. Still a mediocre offense, plus a less-good defense, plus a team that wasn't 10-6 good points to a FOA-approved under from me.

Mike: It's a very even division. Like I said, I can see Baltimore getting the division with 10 wins. Cincy is better than .500, so nine wins sounds about right. Over.

Cleveland Browns (5.5)

Tom: Lousy team, suitably lousy over/under.

Mike: It all depends on which random player Mangini decides to bench.

Tom: I'm not sure they have any more bad players blocking good players like Lewis-Harrison. On the other hand, from Quinn and Anderson to Delhomme and Wallace, they have more age, but a different mix of mediocrity.

Mike: No, the sad thing is that the Mangini Browns are probably the most sane version we've seen since the team was resuscitated. That's the real dig.

Tom: This team was just so unrelentingly awful for the first dozen games of 2009

Mike: I still have no idea what the rebuilding plan is. Holmgren had a year or two of free passes. He could've waited until a draft with a decent quarterback class came around.

Tom: I hated Colt McCoy as a prospect, as readers of our draft liveblog learned, and Cleveland isn't my favorite place for a popgun arm like his.

Mike: Love him or hate him, they seem to have set up their rebuilding strategy on a second- or third-tier quarteback prospect in a bad year for quarterbacks because ... I don't know, Holmgren is impatient?

Tom: They need to sell hope.

Mike: Browns fans are like Cubs fans. They will always buy tickets.

Tom: Years and years of consistent badness can beat that out of a fan base. See, the Detroit Lions.

Mike: You underestimate Browns fans. They are insanely loyal. Depressed and angry, but loyal. In any case, this is about the Browns this year, not three years down the road. No team featuring Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme is going to win six games. Under.

Tom: Four-game winning streaks and shiny new quarterbacks do help promote fan optimism. I can see the Browns winning six games, but I don't think they will. Under.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8.5)

Mike: God, Pittsburgh is such a headache. The Steelers weren't incredibly impressive last year. The defense was the worst the team has posted in the DVOA era, and they lost a lot of close games. No Ben Roethlisberger for likely four weeks in 2010. And a makeshift receiving corps.

Tom: Makeshift? They need Mike Wallace to play well in an expanded role. And Ward not to hit the 30-something receiver wall.

Mike: Any scheme that seriously includes Antwaan Randle El is makeshift.

Tom: He's OK as a third or fourth guy.

Mike: I suppose. I think it really comes down to whether Rashard Mendenhall can break out.

Tom: FOA and KUBIAK come out fairly definitively on that issue, and unlike with the Rams projection last year, I don't see any ridiculously glaring reasons to doubt that projection.

Mike: True. I still don't think Pittsburgh matches up well with the other (good) teams in its division, and it's down a star quarterback for four to six weeks. I can't get behind nine wins with that combination.

Tom: A perennially decent to really good defense, a running game that I think should be better, and the ability to make do for four to six games. Roethlisberger is really good, but I think they'll do better than you think with a quarterback who won't hold on to the ball forever and is willing to play within the game plan.

Mike: It's also important that, as a member of the media, I lower expectations for Pittsburgh as much as possible, thereby improving actual performance.

Tom: I think you tend to vacillate between the Inverse Hype Theory of Success and actually hating your team. It's a very thin line.

Mike: Blame the Pirates.

Tom: Anyway, 8.5 really isn't that many wins for a decent team. Over.

Mike: I think this is a .500 team. Under.

See, that wasn't so bad! Tune in next week, when Tom and Mike make all sorts of enemies in the AFC South and AFC West!

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 11 Aug 2010

47 comments, Last at 26 Aug 2010, 12:57am by derftron


by chemical burn :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 1:31pm

It's official: football is back! Man, I love this site...

by Phil Osopher :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 3:01pm

Browns fans are very loyal to a pathological level. But, all the losing is taking a toll along with the economic bomb that went off. They better show some improvement or the fans will run off Holmgren too. Lerner is totally incompetent as an owner. Let's hope Holmgren comes through or this city may not be able to handle another 5 years of suckitude

And as far as McCoy, he was a very late third round pick and is the undisputed 3rd quarterback. It doesn't matter if he pans out or not. He can be cut with no real consequences, if he sucks.

Next year, when the Browns are drafting high in the first round, hopefully there will be an actual NFL level QB available and for once in a generation they actually go to the Browns. We all know and don't love the Browns ability to pass on great NFL QB's or draft complete losers.

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
-Albert Einstein

by drobviousso :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 4:17pm

A few years back when I was living in Cleveland, I went to a stand up show down town. Some local lady had just finished up a season on Last Comic Standing, and had come home to do a homecoming show. Most of the martial was about living in Cleveland.

One joke went along the lines of 'Cleveland has the lowest divorce rate of any major city in the country. This never made sense to me till I was watching the Browns the next week. Then it clicked. Yeah, our marriage is a wreck, we're up to our eyeballs in debt, and he started smacking me around.

But next year. Next year I think we got a chance for real happiness.'

This really seems to sum up Cleveland fans to me. (Apologies for forgetting the name and butchering the joke.)

by Theo :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 4:32pm

"Now that Mike and I are writing Scramble for the second straight season, we thought we'd start by breaking tradition."

Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. What? lol

(someone close the italics tag!!!)

by Arkaein :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 7:59pm

No. Someone please fix the code that handles end tags.

Form input sanitizing is standard practice for any interactive website. If one post screws up other posts it is purely the fault of the site maintainers, and it's getting old to pretend otherwise around here (not a dig at you personally Theo).

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 9:08pm

Does putting a /em at the beginning of a post help?

by Temo :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 6:58pm

Tom: It feels like people don't realize he had one of the worst seasons a rookie quarterback has ever had.

Lets just amend that to "worst regular season". He was quite acceptable in the playoffs.

by Theo :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 7:40pm

well that's the scary thing that came to mind. the kid isn't that good. he was on a run and defend strategy.
Well if they get that over his head cornerback signed, they will be ok, because I saw those matches and I thing Mcwhatever knows the deal now. He's on a learning curve!
You read it here first!

by Travis :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 8:55pm

FWIW, a list of rookie QBs who threw at least 160 passes that year. Sanchez ranks in the middle in adjusted net yards per pass. Not era- or schedule-adjusted, of course, but it makes Sanchez's season look less horrible.

(Note: this list includes a couple of players, like Aaron Brooks, who did not play at all their rookie year. PFR doesn't distinguish these players from true rookies.)

In the ESPN article, JaMarcus Russell's similar second season was compared to Sanchez's first, which is why I thought the headline was unfair.

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 10:41pm

If you sort the same list by adjusted Int%+ (era-adjusted), he's 7th. If you like, you're perfectly welcome to point out Terry Bradshaw ranks 2nd on the same list, while I can concentrate on the illustrious NFL careers of Scott Hunter, Ryan Leaf, and Eric Zeier. There are other names toward the top of the list who had good or better NFL careers, but virtually all of them were league-average at one or more of the advanced passing metrics. Sanchez wasn't. If you then throw overall team quality and rushing game into the mix...

Interestingly, both Freeman and Stafford are also in the top 8. Last year looks like a horrid one for rookie quarterbacks.

by tuluse :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 3:33am

Most rookie quarterbacks are bad, just about any subset of rookie quarterbacks will have more failures than successes.

Also, Jamarcus Russell wasn't that bad his 2nd year. He was just run of the mill bad. It wasn't until last year that he was truly historically awful.

by Travis :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 8:17am

FWIW, current starting QBs, sorted by passes thrown their rookie year, with FO stats included where available:

Peyton Manning ...... 575 Att ...... 579 DYAR ....... 4.5% DVOA
Matt Ryan .................. 434 Att ..... 1167 DYAR ...... 30.9% DVOA
Joe Flacco ................ 428 Att ...... 384 DYAR ....... 2.4% DVOA
Matthew Stafford ..... 377 Att ..... -529 DYAR ..... -31.8% DVOA
Matt Leinart .............. 377 Att ...... 215 DYAR ...... -1.2% DVOA
Kyle Orton ................ 368 Att ..... -595 DYAR ..... -33.8% DVOA
Mark Sanchez ........ 364 Att ..... -266 DYAR ..... -21.9% DVOA
Vince Young ............ 357 Att ....... 99 DYAR ...... -6.9% DVOA
Ben Roethlisberger.. 295 Att ...... 930 DYAR ...... 32.8% DVOA
Josh Freeman .......... 290 Att ..... -295 DYAR ..... -26.2% DVOA
Trent Edwards .......... 269 Att ....... 58 DYAR ...... -7.8% DVOA
Donovan McNabb ...... 216 Att ..... -702 DYAR ..... -56.3% DVOA
Eli Manning .............. 197 Att ..... -238 DYAR ..... -23.9% DVOA
Alex Smith ................ 165 Att ..... -879 DYAR ..... -89.4% DVOA
Jay Cutler ................. 137 Att ...... -15 DYAR ..... -12.7% DVOA
Matt Moore ................ 111 Att ....... 66 DYAR ...... -2.8% DVOA
Matt Schaub ............... 70 Att ..... -250 DYAR ..... -63.2% DVOA
David Garrard ............ 46 Att ...... -81 DYAR ..... -36.3% DVOA
Drew Brees ................ 27 Att ....... 81 DYAR ...... 26.7% DVOA
Matt Cassel ................ 24 Att ....... 16 DYAR ...... -1.7% DVOA
Aaron Rodgers ........... 16 Att ...... 133 DYAR .... -117.6% DVOA
Chad Henne ................ 12 Att ........ 8 DYAR ...... -2.3% DVOA
Philip Rivers ............... 8 Att ....... -2 DYAR ..... -45.0% DVOA
Brett Favre ................. 4 Att ...... (0 for 4, 2 int, sack)
Tom Brady ................... 3 Att ...... -12 DYAR ..... -66.6% DVOA
Carson Palmer ......... 0 Att
Jake Delhomme ......... 0 Att
Jason Campbell ........ 0 Att
Kevin Kolb ................ 0 Att
Matt Hasselbeck ....... 0 Att
Tony Romo ............. 0 Att
Sam Bradford

by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 12:08pm

Love that presentation Travis. Interesting that 14 of the 31 (excluding Bradford) threw 50 passes or less...and that several big names are within that group. Speaks favorably I think for the apprentice approach...though that can be a misread since apprentice options who never amounted to anything wouldn't show up on a list of projected starters for this year. Great way to try and tackle the issue of figuring out where Sanchez really stands in the big picture.

Maybe it's a good sign for his future that his three road playoff games graded out pretty well. Not sure what DVOA has for that. In regular stats:

41-68-539, 4 TD's, 2 INTs

That equates to 21-35-277 over kind of a normalized 35-pass game, with a good TD/INT ratio. Very small sample size obviously, and that 80 yard pass against the Colts looms large within the small sample size. Make it a 40-yard pass and we're still in the mid 250's for an average.

Some potential positives anyway, in what was mostly a year of ugliness (63.0 passer rating, 12-20 ratio the wrong way in the regular season)...

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 9:12pm

A huge factor was he played on a team with a terrific defense and running game. Virtually any scrub can perform acceptably well under those circumstances. And that's all the Jets got out of Sanchez? Not saying he's doomed to be bad, but it's not a good sign.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 10:19am

I think the whole discussion of Sanchez is funny because of this: he was undeniably awful last year. The argument then boils down to one side saying "There's very little chance that someone who played that bad for 16 games could ever be a good-to-great QB in the NFL" and the other side saying "Come on, it's not like he's Jamarcus Russell or Alex Smith! Look, he was better than Josh Freeman!"

I personally think there's no reason to write him off yet, but he also clearly was the weak link (by a wide margin) on a strong team last year. If he's mediocre or below average again this year, then it's time to write him off...

by tuluse :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 12:29pm

Well no. I look at Sanchez and I merely saw a bad QB, who showed glimmers of hope. My argument is that most rookie QBs are bad (most are so bad they don't even play) and trying to predict how a QB will develop based on his rookie stats is a fools errand.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 12:37pm

Glimmers of hope compared to what? I saw Josh Freeman make a couple plays and thought "He's got something... sometimes." That's not enough to think a guy can be consistently good in at an unforgiving position in a very difficult league. Most rookies QB's are bad, of course, and no one should be writing him off yet... but there's no good reason to think he'll reach the level of Eli Manning or Chad Pennington (just to keep it NYC-centric.)

by Led :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 2:15pm

Sanchez's numbers are comparable to Eli Manning's rookie year. Very similar, in fact, if you scaled Manning's numbers up to a full year. DVOA says Sanchez was a little better.

by Led :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 2:19pm

There's a good change Sanchez will never amount to much. I'm not trying to deny that. All I'm saying is that what William Goldman said about the movie business applies equally to projecting rookie QBs: "Nobody knows nothing."

by TTS (not verified) :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 5:12pm

Not a great year for rookie qbs indeed, but Sanchez worked with 11th DVOA rushing offense and 1st DVOA defense. Freeman had 24th and 18th, respectively and Stafford got stuck with 29th and 32nd. I think all 3 can be viable NFL qbs, but Sanchez's #'s look worse when put in this context.

by Led :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 9:48am

Sanchez's mean numbers (especially int%) are weighed down heavily by three mammothly bad games. You can't assume them out of existence, of course, but if you looked at his median numbers rather than mean than you'll probably get a better sense of his performance. I don't think comparing single seasons in football is a very useful way to predict future performance anyway, at least for rookie/1st year QBs. Samples are too small, there's too many idiosyncratic variables and the results are all over the place. Objective analysis doesn't ALWAYS mean accurate. Sometimes you just have the bite the bullet and go with a subjective assessment.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 10:25am

Again, how do you have 3 mammothly bad games when all you have to do is hand off the ball and hit a few short strikes?

To put Sanchez's bad season in perspective, if Stafford had those kinds of games, which he did, all right. He was asked to carry the team on his shoulders. He only once had under 30 attempts in a game and went over 40 several times. You expected him to mess up bad. Sanchez never threw it more than 35 times all year and had less than 20 attempts several times.

The difference in the level of demand between each other's jobs is staggering.

by t.d. :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 11:20am

Is this a sincere question? Early in the season Sanchez exceeded expectations, so they gave him more responsibility. Two of those three 'bad' games were his fourth and sixth career starts, against the Saints and Bills, who were pretty good at pass defense last season. Then they scaled things back. Stafford had no expectation to win. Before the Sanchez-Jamarcus Russell comparisons, there were plenty of unflattering comps for Eli Manning, who, for whatever he is, isn't historically bad

by Temo :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 11:19am

In the ESPN article, JaMarcus Russell's similar second season was compared to Sanchez's first, which is why I thought the headline was unfair.

I think the only thing people should take away from that comparison is that Sanchez was the weak link of last year's team. It's amusing that Jamarcus' 2nd season and Sanchez's first season are so alike, but I doubt that anyone who actually watched Sanchez last year would say that his looked anything like Jamarcus Russel.

by are-tee :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 10:16am

Mark Sanchez has "it". There's no stat to measure that, not even in FO.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 8:17pm

Listen, none of this analysis of Sanchez addresses the elephant in the room, the controversial unspoken truth that nobody seems to want to address: he's the dreamiest QB in the division. That's right: Tom Brady is no longer the most gorgeous QB in the AFC East.

by zlionsfan :: Sun, 08/15/2010 - 12:07am

Actually, no. Sanchez has "an". I don't know that there's been a quarterback since Jon Kitna who's had "it".

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 11:13pm

If no one else will say it, then I will: Betting the push is idiotic.

by jebmak :: Sat, 08/14/2010 - 3:49am


by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 08/11/2010 - 11:43pm

"Well, actually, I have a twinge of worry. I still think the secondary is going to be lit up, which means lots of shoot-outs. I'm wondering if the Pats can still keep up.

Tom: Who is going to rush the passer?

Mike: Tully Banta-Cain?

Tom: I guess. They were 18th in Adjusted Sack Rate the last two years, which is a little better than I thought they were.

While all this is probably true, I honestly can't say that they aren't better than last year at Cornerback, Safety, and linebacker. According to what is coming from camp, Chung has completely supplanted Sanders, McCourty and Butler have pushed Wilhite off the field, and Cunningham is starting opposite Banta-Cain. Spikes is pushing Guyton hard. They might not be great starters all of them, but they're going to be BETTER than last year, and if they see any improvement from Edelman, Tate, or Price, the offense should be very good.

by Sunil (not verified) :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 10:04am

Tom / Mike

You can't make this a tradition unless you have a standard disclaimer that goes something like:

"You have direspected my XXX YYY (name of team) by according it AA / BB (either "push" or "under"). Don't you realize that with (some crazy notion about a new coach / player / scheme) in place my team will likely end up at ## (ridiculous projection of win total). And I can't believe you gave team XXX YYY (some conference rival) an (Over / Push)! Their (injuries / off-season drama / cap related losses) means they are never likely to win more than ## (grossly low-balled win estimate)"

by Soulless Mercha... :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 11:21am

As a Bills fan, I can say this with great confidence: an over/under of 5.5 wins for that team is psychotic. If they hit five wins, that would be a miracle.

That defense is going to get cut to ribbons by opposing running backs all year long, especially by the big, bruiser backs. Dig it: the Bills have a good-to-very good secondary, a newly installed 3-4 defense, a "high motor" 4-3 DT now playing at NT for the first time ever and being way undersized, and DEs who are kinda dubious as 3-4 DEs. So passing against them could be semi-risky, but running between the tackles will probably be a simple proposition. Oy.

Bills games this year are going to be rush heavy on both sides. Won't be pretty.

by Rocco :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 5:54pm

It may not be pretty, but at the least the game times will be the shortest in 20 years.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 10:15am

Also, keep in mind that the Bills lost Special Teams guru Bobby April and that their unbelievably consistently awesome special teams stands a chance at evaporating... Seriously, go back and look at their ST rankings since April took over in 2002 - they rank at the top of the list a crazy number of times. Their lone bright spot of the past decade could easily go up in smoke...

by tgt2 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 1:17pm

The Pirates still exist?

by drobviousso :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 3:32pm

Only until this Saturday.

by jebmak :: Sat, 08/14/2010 - 3:50am

If they played hockey they would be in the playoff hunt.

by zlionsfan :: Sun, 08/15/2010 - 12:13am

lol no. They're 20.5 games out of 8th. The Mets would still be in the playoff hunt.

by DGL :: Mon, 08/16/2010 - 3:37pm

Hey, the Pirates have won 39 games. Last season the Canadiens made the playoffs having won 39 games. Ergo, in the NHL, the Pirates would still be in the playoff hunt...

by BD (not verified) :: Thu, 08/12/2010 - 7:51pm

Tom (and everyone else), just wondering: How is the Bengals defense less-good? Is this a regression to the mean expectation, or are there personnel issues you see? It seems to me they're the same or better at every position on defense.

by Tom Gower :: Sat, 08/14/2010 - 10:08am

Regression to the mean, and I seriously question the sustainability of an above-average pass defense with a pass rush as bad as theirs has been lately (32nd, 31st, 28th in ASR the last 3 seasons). I didn't see them add a proven pass rusher in free agency, so they'll be relying on Dunlap and internal improvements from returnees, including more time on the field from Antwan Odom. I'm skeptical.

by Anonymous23 (not verified) :: Mon, 08/16/2010 - 11:23am

The Bengal's D last year reminds me most of their D the year they made the playoffs. It was very opportunistic, but not really "good". They got a ton of turnovers, which masked the fact that they werent all that talented.

Same last season. They had a lot of turnovers (27 was it?). It just seemed that every time the ball hit the ground (figuratively) it bounced the Bengals way. You dont get two years like that in a row.

by johonny (not verified) :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 2:21pm

Is Ronnie Brown really an old 29? He's never really had a killer high carry season. Bad minor injuries have limited his per year carry totals. He hasn't has either of the worst injuries (knee, Achilles). So isn't he a likely candidate for being productive into his early 30s? He may only be a 200 carry back still. But I don't see anything in his numbers to suggest he's falling apart or getting old.

by Tom Gower :: Fri, 08/13/2010 - 6:17pm

He won't be very productive when he's not in the lineup. 29 tends to be an age of decline for RBs, and he's shown he gets injured more frequently than most RBs. It's possible his injury woes have left his body "fresher" and he could be a productive 200 carry back for several more seasons, but I think it's probably more likely he's less effective and on the field at the same level or even less.

by Jim G (not verified) :: Sat, 08/14/2010 - 9:33pm

He tore his ACL in 2007 about halfway through the year. I think he was leading the league in rushing at the time.

by df (not verified) :: Mon, 08/23/2010 - 12:03pm

The Jets need an intermediate threat? What about Cotchery? He is the 22nd ranked receiver on FO and that's his bread and butter. I'd throw Keller into the mix as well. Am I just being a fanboy?

by derftron (not verified) :: Thu, 08/26/2010 - 12:57am

The 9 win prediction is probably fair....

That said, all of the discussion seems to be from a rather stale point of view that I wouldnt expect.

Benson wont have another year like last year? He looks pretty fresh and impressive so far this preseason. I also have to think that all the new offensive weapons will have a positive impact. The pass protection can be shaky at times, but the O-line seems to love run-blocking.

As far as the defense getting worse......how do you figure that one? Young D going into their prime + everybody healthy + high caliber DBs + deep on the line = they wont be as good?

I would get riled up, but you guys are wrong so often that I thought I should just casually mention that you might want to actually observe the team you are talking about