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01 Sep 2010

Scramble: NFC Over/Unders II and Fantasy Drafts

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Dallas Cowboys (10.0)

Tom: So, I was listening to an interview this week with college football guru Phil Steele, and he mentioned one of the reasons he was high on Notre Dame for the umpty-umph straight year was Brian Kelly, who had outperformed his projections six straight seasons. In FO's predicting world, it'd be kind of like Andy Reid going off to coach the Cowboys.

Mike: Your analogy suffers from the fact that Dallas has actually won something within recent memory.

Tom: Hey, Notre Dame finally won a bowl game a couple years ago.

Mike: I'm sure it's one of the big ones, like the Jack-in-the-Box Carbo-Fun Bucket Bowl.

Tom: The Hawaii Bowl. It's in Hawaii, so it's a lot of fun.

Mike: I suppose that is nice.

Tom: Anyway, Football Outsiders Almanac 2010's low projection for the Cowboys has, I think, been fairly well-chronicled. And, for me at least, it's for pretty reasonable reasons.

Mike: I agree mostly, except for Mike Tanier's joke about one-note comic blog fodder. We have LOTS of notes here in Scramble, Mr. Tanier! At least three.

Tom: Unamusing football jokes, unamusing nerd jokes, and unamusing geek jokes?

Mike: That about sums it up, yes. We would try to branch out but unamusing nerd jokes just take so much effort.

Tom: Oh, some of our commenters last week asked that we talk more about the actual football teams on the field, so I'd just like to point out the Cowboys' excellent health in recent seasons, especially on the offensive line, is already starting to return more to normal.

Mike: And I will remind them that they aren't our real dad! And also that the Cowboys are another entry into the "Wow, everyone's secondary is awful" proto-column.

Tom: To which I will add the "I don't understand why this team will be better than it was last year" proto-column note. Granted, they did win more than 10 games last season.

Mike: To which I -- OK, I think we've gone a bit too meta.

Tom: I deny that there is necessarily any such thing.

Mike: Comparing this year to last by win total is a dangerous game. Their schedule is easier this season, if I recall, so they could very well improve and have fewer wins.

Tom: FOA has them projected for the 12th-strongest schedule, and they were about that last year. By which I mean they were 14th.

Mike: Last year they got to play the AFC West. QED.

Tom: FOA is down on the AFC South. Not quite last year's AFC West, but still none too fierce as far as opposing divisions go.

Mike: Fair enough.

Tom: I think FOA may be underrating the AFC South a bit, so the schedule could be harder than that projected 12th. So, suck it, Cowboy fans, under.

Mike: Even aside from that, one big factor is that teams now know about Miles Austin. They have tape, and they have the benefit of working against a weakened offensive line, so look for less offensive productivity, continued decline in the pass defense, and the under.

New York Giants (8.5)

Tom: Let's just not mention that I picked the Giants to go to the Super Bowl last year. I will instead say I don't feel like I have a good handle on this year's version.

Mike: I don't think they're much of an enigma. New York fell flat down the stretch last year, but it is still a well constructed team.

Tom: See, that's what I'm starting to doubt. I thought they were a well constructed team when they won the Super Bowl and in 2008. Last year, though, I thought maybe they got exposed a little.

Mike: True, but they were exposed in some part due to injury.

Tom: On defense, I can see that. On offense, I'm not so sure, and I'm less optimistic the defense will be nearly as good as it was in 2008.

Mike: I don't think the defense will be as good, no. I also think that Eli Manning is steadily improving. They don't have to be the 2008 Giants to be a good Giants team.

Tom: This is true. They also have an easier slate of opponents than do the Cowboys, 19th as opposed to 12th, though the absolute difference isn't very large. Looking at the schedule, I can easily see them as a 10-win team.

Mike: And while we can't forget how 2009 ended for New York, we also shouldn't overlook how well it started. I see a pretty clear over.

Tom: I'm much less confident than you are, but over for me as well.

Philadelphia Eagles (8.5)

Mike: Hooo boy.

Tom: No kidding.

Mike: Not to take a soapbox or anything, but now that Donovan McNabb is gone, shame on you, Philadelphia. Seriously. Lots of cities and teams would kill for the success that you complained so viciously about.

Tom: See, e.g, Chicago, which tried for a while to convince us Rex Grossman was a good NFL starting quarterback.

Mike: Yeah, seriously. It's hard for me to not look at this year's Eagles team through the prism of the city's treatment of McNabb.

Tom: What about the prism of the treatment of McNabb?

Mike: I just have the intractable feeling that after years of ignoring great talent and disparaging significant success, the team is going to "get theirs," when that talent, flawed as it may be, is gone.

Tom: See, the problem with the McNabb hate is, McNabb was a very good quarterback. Not great, not horrible, very good.

Mike: They're taking a set of wide receivers much more suited to a Giants-style offense and handing the keys over to someone without the arm or the talent at breaking down defenses to make it work.

Tom: Fine, so maybe Jason Avant has a bigger role and Jeremy Maclin a lesser one.

Mike: I'm not convinced that the transition will be at all smooth.

Tom: On the field, or off the field?

Mike: On the field. Off the field is an entirely separate issue, as years of success have given Philly fans a certain expectation, but I don't think it will affect this team that much. Philadelphia is the rare defense where I'm not completely terrified of their secondary, at least, so that's a plus. The defense may even be pretty good, if some of the young talent up front works out.

Tom: I feel like that should make me make another Joe Banner crack about how that means they're clearly the best team in the league again. The scary thing is, they hit the touchstones for "why might they be better than they were last year." They drafted Graham to rush the passer and Allen to play safety, and Sims at linebacker, who's less exciting than shiny rookies but has more experience.

Mike: I do think Asante Samuel is due for a drop-off, just because of the way he plays. At some point instinct and canny won't be enough, and he kind of makes the (again, pretty good) secondary tick.

Tom: I think you just hate that style of cornerback and therefore just predict bad things for them whenever possible. He's not Nnamdi Asomugha or Darrelle Revis, but he wasn't in 2008 or 2007 or 2006 either.

Mike: I will admit, I do not like that style of cornerback play, but he wasn't Asomugha or Revis in those years because he's getting older.

Tom: He's 29, or the same age as Asomugha.

Mike: I'm trying to explain that the way he plays cornerback is not as conducive to aging, because it's a lot of guesswork that can burn you if you can't recover quickly. Considering the work he's done on his more fundamental cornerbacking leading up to this year, I think on some level he himself agrees with me.

Tom: And I'm saying that I kind of see your point but don't really agree with you.

Mike: The solution is to be wrong less often, but that only gets you so far. I'm also not saying that he'll have a bad year, just that he's going to start declining, which is a negative for what appears to be a rather stalwart defense because he looms large in their game plan.

Tom: I think you're overrating his role in their game plan.

Mike: As far as where they fall against the line, I really have no idea.

Tom: I'm cautiously optimistic. Kevin Kolb is an interesting test case for what a collegiate spread guy can be if you train him the right way.

Mike: See, I'm expecting the Kolb experiment to be a disaster. I think the defense will be good enough to push them over .500, though. Over.

Tom: Cautious optimism equals over for me as well.

Washington Redskins (7.5)

Tom: Or, do you really believe in FOA?

Mike: You know, maybe McNabb was the magic beans in FO's Philadelphia predictions, and that in three or four years, the system will be purged?

Tom: Hm, maybe.

Mike: So much to say about the Redskins.

Tom: They underachieved by 1.8 Pythagorean Wins last season. They upgraded at quarterback and at both offensive tackle positions. They joined the "let's play a 3-4 for no good reason" trend.

Mike: Well, there are great reasons to play 3-4. They just don't make you instantly good at it.

Tom: There are great reasons to play 4-3, and there are great reasons to play 3-4. Just play that scheme for one of those reasons. Bob Slowik, who's the C.C. Brown of defensive coordinators is involved. Granted, he's only the defensive backs coach.

Mike: Yeah, if there's anything the NFL teaches us, it's that coaches are promoted past their competence, so being a bad coordinator doesn't mean you're a bad position coach.

Tom: Slowik's coaching bio includes the fact that he was defensive coordinator for the 1999 Browns, and while he coached in Denver, Champ Bailey and John Lynch made the Pro Bowl three straight seasons.

Mike: Really, personnel should be given a mulligan for time spent in Cleveland.

Tom: He did at least leave Cleveland after one year. I mean, it took LeBron seven to do that.

Mike: "My resume has three championship games, four winning seasons and a year with the Browns." ... "We'll just ignore that last bit."

Tom: Like the Eagles, the Redskins are a team I can look at and say, "Here's why they can and should be better in 2010." That is enough for me to say over.

Mike: They are absolutely better than they were in 2009. They're still kind of a mess, with a load of new coaches and another predictable free-agent buffet. New systems, new faces, another useless transition. It's worked out well in the past, but I just don't see it here. Under.

Chicago Bears (8.0)

Mike: Mwahahaha. So, I was listening to WSCR the other day. The guy on was very, very down on the Bears.

Tom: It wasn't me. I have no connection to sports radio.

Mike: He wasn't buying into all the changes they made over the offseason, and the Bears did, indeed, completely retool their entire front office and coaching staff. To some degree, he's right. He said that he didn't believe in magic systems, but rather it was personnel that determined how good a team was, particularly on the lines, which is really, really great stuff for sports radio. Seriously, I wish I could remember who the guy was so I could give him a cookie. He overlooks, of course, the fact that Mike Martz is actually magic.

Tom: He is? Is this like David Copperfield magic, or Penn and Teller magic?

Mike: Like bizarro-Nikola Tesla magic. The ability to teleport an offense +32.9% DVOA just with his presence.

Tom: Now what is your evidence for this magic, or is it beyond evidence because it's magic?

Mike: A magic reporter does not reveal the magician's secrets! (Buy FOA 2010, buy it now!) But the main thing is that the Martz system works. It works well, and it works amazingly. The downside is that your quarterback is brain-dead within three years.

Tom: His sad devotion to that ancient arcana hasn't helped him conjure up a Hall of Fame left tackle in his prime and the rest of an effective-enough offensive line, if the evidence from the preseason is to be believed.

Mike: Martz's turnaround in San Francisco, with a quarterback controversy and a gigantic personality clash with Samurai Mike, was nearly as impressive as the Rams you are referencing. It just wasn't noticed, because instead of going to bad to tremendous like the Rams, the 49ers went from catastrophically bad to just plain old bad. But even beyond that, Chicago made all the right moves. They were having serious issues getting pressure with their front four, so they grab the best pass-rushing lineman available. The offensive line is porous, they bring in a line coach in Mike Tice, who has some considerable credentials. The biggest question is whether Jay Cutler and Johnny Knox plus Devin Aromashodu can pull off the Martz system. I don't even see Devin Hester as a factor.

Tom: Hester :: Az-Zahir Hakim. Nice, but not that necessary. Anyway, the Bears plan sounds like the Jaguars plan: Let's address some of our weaknesses and hope that's enough to compensate for the others. We've already seen the answer as to how that works is "Well, kind of, but not really." Martz's most valuable contribution will be if he can actually teach Cutler the arcane art of playing quarterback. That would be of great benefit to Chicago's next general manager and head coach, which he is hoping will be, but will probably not be, Mike Martz.

Mike: I think you greatly understate the immediate impact Martz's CV implies he'll have. This is another enthusiastic over for me.

Tom: If I were wagering money, I'd take the under, but I'm not, so I'm going to do the statistically unintelligent thing and say push.

Detroit Lions (5.0)

Tom: Or, "I hate reasonable whole number lines."

Mike: As always.

Tom: I'm actually very curious to see how the Lions do this year.

Mike: I'm worried they're in the process of ruining Matthew Stafford.

Tom: I actually (gasp) like what I've seen out of the Lions this preseason, including particularly Stafford. He's lost the deer in headlights look. Yes, preseason, easy to overreact, blah blah blah.

Mike: That's really the root of my worry. Even with the deer in headlights, he showed flashes of talent last year, but he's been thrown to the lions on a really bad team.

Tom: That's so funny I forgot to kill myself.

Mike: Pun so very not intended, although it was worth it for the awesome early-90s call-back. Anyway, starting out as a rookie and playing through your first few years can really wreck promising quarterbacks. I'm not saying they should bench him per se. There really is no other option, and honestly, who is he going to learn from? But I think he has the potential to be a quality starter when the massive rebuilding plan comes to fruition.

Tom: I'm still not sold he'll be accurate enough.

Mike: But he might not make it to that point.

Tom: I think you're being unduly pessimistic. The problem is our customary concerns about the secondary. Namely, that it's pretty much Louis Delmas and a bunch of junk.

Mike: Well, there are concerns all over the place. The only passable unit on the team is the linebacking corps, and that just lost Larry Foote.

Tom: Larry Foote's OK. He's not anything special.

Mike: He's an above-replacement linebacker, and the Lions sorely need above-replacement anything.

Tom: Well, sure. I'm just not sure he's any better than, say, DeAndre Levy. And Levy will still be playing when the Lions have a real secondary. Should be playing. Could be playing.

Mike: Possibly. Levy is all right, but I think more veterans would do a world of good for the defense. Then again, it's rebuilding, so that's just how it works. Like I said, the linebackers are still passable. The Lions will be good someday. Just not for a while. Under.

Tom: I think you're selling them a little short. I'd feel better at 4.5, but I'll go over.

Green Bay Packers (9.5)

Mike: We've talked about teams which are the same, but marginally better than last year's version. Green Bay is pretty much the same, but marginally worse.

Tom: They were first in the league in Pythagorean Wins and second in DVOA. Unless they turn into the first half of season 2007 Patriots, there is no place to go but down for them. Except in the postseason.

Mike: True. I actually don't think Green Bay's secondary will fail them. I think their front seven may.

Tom: I'm not completely sold, either, but I don't see a reason to think they'll be worse beyond Johnny Jolly's drug-related suspension.

Mike: That is a downside, but the linebacking corps was never really good. The good defense of last year was built largely around great play from the secondary and insanely, uncharacteristically great line play. They will not get nearly so great a performance this year, and that means trouble for the linebackers, who are probably the weakest link on the chain.

Tom: Yet, you think the secondary will be fine. Does that mean continued great play, or just good?

Mike: Just good. I probably should have been more specific. The main difference is that I expected the secondary to be pretty good last year. There was absolutely nothing to predict the way the defensive line performed.

Tom: Hmm, so instead of the second best defense, they'll have, what, the fifth? Eighth?

Mike: Yeah, probably something like that. I have a sneaking suspicion that Jay Cutler and Brett Favre, however, are going to eat the linebackers alive in the coming year.

Tom: Fine, but with that offense, they can win 11 games again and, depending on other results, win the division.

Mike: I see the NFC North as either the most or the second-most difficult division in 2010, which is unfortunate for the Packers. It's a close call, but I don't think they can make it to 10. Under.

Tom: Bah, 11 wins, over.

Minnesota Vikings (9.5)

Mike: I've actually been impressed with the restraint of Favrus, warlord of the cold north.

Tom: I was hoping not to turn this into another referendum on Brett Favre.

Mike: Usually he spends all his time in the mode of Henry VIII, giving conflicting orders to his vassals, destroying hopes on a whim, and confusing the rest of the world. This year, he merely held a great feast and only cried a little.

Tom: I'm going to avoid talking about him, and talk about how the Vikings are an old team whose offensive line didn't play well at all at the end of last season. Worse, maybe the youngest and most promising part of the team is the group of wide receivers, and their two good young wideouts, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, are on the injury list.

Mike: Rice's injury is far, far more serious.

Tom: Rice's injury actually in some sense concerns me less. He'll have surgery, rehab, and come back. Harvin, on the other hand, is potentially questionable indefinitely.

Mike: That's true, but I think they'd be a bit more reserved with him if they thought his ankle was a real problem. As far as I can tell, he's pretty much practiced normally. Rice, on the other hand, is out for the first half of the season. So they're not only losing his productivity, but also shifting more and better coverage on to Harvin and company. I can see a bum ankle cutting off a bit of his edge against better coverage, in that case.

Tom: I was actually thinking a little longer-term in my comfort level with Rice. The first half of this year, I think they will have trouble without him. They have four road games in the first eight weeks: Saints, Jets, Packers, Patriots. Ouch.

Mike: Zing. What do you mean, long-term?

Tom: The last quarter of this season, the postseason, and future seasons.

Mike: I'm just confused as to the point you're making.

Tom: Sidney Rice's injury will definitely hurt them for the first half of 2010. He'll be fine going forward. Harvin may be in and out of the lineup for the next three seasons.

Mike: Okay. I disagree, but I can see it.

Tom: The obvious answer is to rely a lot on Adrian Peterson, but that aforementioned offensive line bothers me a lot (though not enough to prevent me from drafting him).

Mike: Well, the other thing is that Lord Farvus will have his entire war band assembled for the meaty second half of the season.

Tom: Even with the entire war band assembled, it's too easy for me to see them starting 2-5 with those four road games, plus home dates against Miami and Dallas.

Mike: This is true.

Tom: Given that, and the age on defense, I think they're in for a fall. Under.

Mike: Unless the chief has uncovered a Mace of Opposing Quarterback Kneecapping +5, I'm sadly inclined to agree on this likewise tough call. Under.

Your Scramble Writers' Fantasy Football Teams (By Which We Mean The One That's Already Been Drafted)

Tom: I have team, plus there's staff league.

Mike: I haven't drafted yet.

Tom: Er, I have one team.


Tom: Darn straight. This is another season of 1941 Orange Bowl Loser, which won the league championship last season.

QB: Kevin Kolb, PHI (8-79), Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (13-122)
RB: Adrian Peterson, MIN (1-2), Ronnie Brown, MIA (3-22), Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG (6-59), Jerome Harrison, CLE (7-62), Marion Barber, DAL (10-99)
WR: Reggie Wayne, IND (2-19), Steve Smith, CAR (4-39), Steve Smith, NYG (5-42), Santana Moss, WAS (9-82), Mike Williams, TB (12-119)
TE: Zach Miller, OAK (11-102)
K: Jeff Reed, PIT (14-139)
DST: Dolphins (15-142)

Mike: Both Steve Smiths! Interesting.

Tom: Including Staff League, I've now done five drafts, and this is the only time I've drafted higher than ninth. I now regret a couple of my picks. Ronnie Brown over Ryan Grant is one of those.

Mike: Eh, that decision could go either way.

Tom: I was hoping Matt Forte or Arian Foster would fall to me in the sixth round, but they went in the three picks before me, so I was kind of stuck with Bradshaw. Jerome Harrison I now regret, just because the latest tea leaves I've seen have Montario Hardesty ahead of him. Clinton Portis and Mike Wallace went later that same round.

Mike: You didn't take Wallace? And you're still on staff? What kind of photos of Aaron do you have?

Tom: I already had Wayne and the Steve Smiths. In a 2 RB/2 WR/1 flex league, I thought I needed an running back more.

Mike: Yeah, but when you're talking about Portis/Harrison/Wallace, you're really playing matchups with your flex. PPR?

Tom: No.

Mike: Hm. Still ...

Tom: Kolb was kind of an upside pick for me. Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, and Vince Young (Titans fan league) all went later that same round.

Mike: I like the late-round Roethlisberger pick.

Tom: The rules actually underemphasize quarterbacks a little bit. It's one point per 50 yards, plus six points for touchdowns.

Mike: Honestly, that probably makes Roethlisberger comparatively more valuable.

Tom: That's what I'm hoping.

FO Staff League

Mike: Last year, the FO Staff League ended up with a weird "counter-KUBIAK" team when one person didn't show up for the draft and his team was auto-picked based on the ESPN rankings. We liked the idea so much that this year, we did it on purpose, specifically setting up a "control team" that would be picked based on ESPN rankings as a counter to all the FO staffers picking based on FO principles. The rules are generally basic fantasy rules, with 2 RB, 2 WR, and a Flex starter each week.

BETTER CALL SAUL (Rob Weintraub)
QB: Tom Brady, NE (2-24), Carson Palmer, CIN (10-120)
RB: Chris Johnson, TEN (1-1), Michael Bush, OAK (6-72), Felix Jones, DAL (7-73), Tim Hightower, ARI (11-121), Bernard Scott, CIN (14-168)
WR: Miles Austin, DAL (3-25), Donald Driver, GB (5-49), Dez Bryant, DAL (8-96), Devin Aromashodu, CHI (9-97), Dexter McCluster, KC (13-145), Demaryius Thomas (16-192)
TE: Dallas Clark, IND (4-48)
K: Mason Crosby, GB (15-169)
DST: Cowboys (12-144)

Tom: Like last season, Rob ended up with the first pick.

Mike: Wow. That is a really nice team.

Tom: He has one running back. He drafted Johnson, then didn't address the position until taking Bush and Jones at the bottom of the 6th and top of the 7th rounds.

Mike: He has two starters; clear starters with the majority of carries.

Tom: Yes, but I have to think Hightower doesn't remain a clear starter for the entire season.

Mike: Possible. Also possible he just got really good value.

Tom: We'll see. I think he needs one of his speculative wideouts to pan out, and then shift him for another running back.

Mike: Entirely possible. I could also see him just doing well with three wideouts and a great running back plus one, with the rest of his team being what it is.

QB: Joe Flacco, BAL (6-71), Chad Henne, MIA (12-143)
RB: Ray Rice, BAL (1-2), Pierre Thomas, NO (2-23), C.J. Spiller, BUF (7-74)
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (3-26), Hakeem Nicks, NYG (4-47), Bernard Berrian, MIN (8-95), Louis Murphy, OAK (11-122), Julian Edelman, NE (14-167)
TE: Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN (5-50), Zach Miller, OAK (9-98), John Carlson, SEA (13-146)
K: Matt Prater (15-170)
DST: Packers (10-119), Colts (16-191)

Mike: Why does Doug have three tight ends? For a minute I thought that he just had fewer picks.

Tom: I have no idea.

Mike: Maybe he has grand schemes of trading Miller for a mid-range wide receiver?

Tom: Like Rob, I think he's weak at running back. Pierre Thomas to me doesn't get enough carries to be entirely reliable, and I don't trust Buffalo's offense enough to like C.J. Spiller.

Mike: I agree with you on both points. He waited a long time for a quarterback, also. Heck, he took a tight end before his quarterback. He probably got good value out of Flacco, it's true. But he could have picked up Romo instead of Shiancoe.

Tom: He took Shiancoe in the fifth round, as the first tight end off the board. Romo went later in the fifth round.

Mike: Right.

Tom: I'm deeply skeptical he's right about Shiancoe truly being that valuable. Tight ends don't normally have that many touchdowns two years in a row.

Mike: Agreed.

QB: Jay Cutler, CHI (9-99), Mark Sanchez, NYJ (14-166)
RB: Adrian Peterson, MIN (1-3), Ryan Grant, GB (2-22), Reggie Bush, NO (7-75), Thomas Jones, KC (8-94)
WR: Calvin Johnson, DET (3-27), Anquan Boldin, BAL (4-46), Michael Crabtree, SF (5-51), Santonio Holmes, NYJ (10-118), Legedu Naanee, SD (12-142), Devin Thomas, WAS (15-171)
TE: Brent Celek, PHI (6-70), Fred Davis, WAS (16-190)
K: Nate Kaeding, SD (13-147)
DST: Ravens (11-123)

Tom: Will wasn't able to make it to the draft himself, but he sent Jay Clemons of Sports Illustrated to draft in his place.

Mike: I think Cutler in round nine was great, but that's based on my optimism for the Bears.

Tom: I don't quite see the logic of picking a couple marginal wideouts like Holmes and Thomas. I'm just not sold they'll be very valuable. My guess was Holmes goes undrafted, so 10th round was much too early.

Mike: I actually think this is the worst of the running back corps we've seen thus far.

Tom: You do?

Mike: Yeah, it's very ho-hum.

Tom: Peterson and Grant are both very solid as RB1 and RB2. I think Thomas Jones will also get more carries than Charles owners would like.

Mike: Wait. For some reason I thought that was the other Adrian Peterson. Never mind. Good running backs.

Tom: I'm not sold on his wide receiver depth, because I'm not sure any of Johnson, Boldin, or Crabtree will be consistent, let alone a combination of them.

Mike: Consistency is key, but these are bench players we're talking about, and he'll have the luxury of playing matchups.

Tom: Oh, you're about to see the "playing matchups" team. When we get to Mr. Schatz's team, that is.

Mike: So yeah, good team unless Chicago does end up sucking.

Tom: Vince Verhei is actually up next, and he missed the draft but set his autodraft order based on KUBIAK to compensate for that.

TEAM VERHEI (Vince Verhei)
QB: Philip Rivers, SD (3-28), Donovan McNabb, WAS (6-69), David Garrard, JAC (8-93)
RB: Rashard Mendenhall, PIT (1-4), Ricky Williams, MIA (4-45), Joseph Addai, IND (5-52), Jerome Harrison, CLE (7-76), Correll Buckhalter, DEN (12-141)
WR: DeSean Jackson, PHI (2-21), Braylon Edwards, NYJ (9-100), Robert Meachem, NO (10-117), Devery Henderson, NO (11-124)
TE: Kevin Boss, NYG (15-172), Jeremy Shockey, NO (16-189)
K: Rob Bironas, TEN (14-165)
DST: Vikings (13-148)

Tom: That's how you end up a very good fantasy quarterback, plus two guys KUBIAK loves, plus three New Orleans Saints pass-catchers. But, yes, Mendenhall went fourth in the Staff League.

Mike: This is actually fairly neat. We'll have two control teams: the KUBIAK control and the standard fantasy control.

Tom: Yup. We're also doing waivers in an interesting way. Rather than the unlimited add/drop and waiver rule I did in my three leagues last year, this time we have a budget. We have a player acquisition budget of 100 to use for waiver pickups. The only tiebreaking comes in if two teams bid the same amount.

Mike: It's a good system.

Tom: See, I like my pastimes less complicated. We should be competing on ability to choose the right football players, and not throwing in this element of game theory.

Mike: I would think that you would be happy to have something that brings fantasy more toward actual football.

Tom: I thought about setting up a league where you got 1.5 points for a touchdown and -5 for an interception, but decided that probably wouldn't be very much fun to play.

Mike: It is true that you generally hate fun.

Tom: Vince has some undesirable concentration at wideout. He also has one top-tier fantasy quarterback in Rivers, and two guys KUBIAK is very high on in McNabb and Garrard. I think that's duplication of effort.

Mike: Yeah, that is really a problem with auto-draft. Well, he can always trade, so it may be, but if he can get good value at receiver or running back down the road for McNabb, then the picks were worth it.

Tom: Eh, just show up to your fantasy draft in the first place and avoid the whole problem.

Mike: Ouch.

Tom: I have no life. Why should anyone else?

EQUIPO DEL JEFE (Aaron Schatz)
QB: Matt Schaub, HOU (4-44)
RB: Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC (1-5), Matt Forte, CHI (2-20), Jamaal Charles, KC (3-29), Chester Taylor, CHI (10-116), Willis McGahee, BAL (12-140), Jason Snelling, ATL (15-173), Rashad Jennings, JAC (16-188)
WR: Santana Moss, WAS (6-68), Vincent Jackson, SD (7-77), T.J. Houshmandzadeh, SEA (8-92), Lee Evans, BUF (9-101), Kenny Britt, TEN (11-125)
TE: Antonio Gates, SD (5-53)
K: Adam Vinatieri, IND (14-164)
DST: Steelers (13-149)

Tom: Matchups? I got your "playing wide receiver matchups" right here.

Mike: Holy smokes, yes.

Tom: He decided about halfway through the draft that he was just going to commit to that strategy. The upside is, he has strong performers at every other position.

Mike: He has no backup quarterback. That's a really big weakness.

Tom: Yup, especially since FO has harped on Matt Schaub's injury issues.

Mike: I see a trade in Messrs. Verhei and Schatz's future.

Tom: That's certainly possible. I know Aaron was hoping to grab Ben Roethlisberger as a late-round pick, but he didn't get the chance.

Mike: Canny but risky play. And Aaron may have some good running back value to throw into that trade, too. He probably has the best depth there that we've seen thus far.

Tom: The one downside of this team is you'll have to spend a lot of time finding and making the right decisions at wideout. I prefer a much less burdensome team, especially in a league with no money involved. He certainly does have the best depth at running back, though. Charles to me is a questionable RB1 or even RB2, but an excellent RB3.

Mike: Playing matchups is also more risky, but it is also part of the fun of fantasy.

SCRAMBLE FOREVER (Ian Dembsky and Al Bogdan)
QB: Aaron Rodgers, GB (2-19), Matt Cassel, KC (12-139)
RB: Arian Foster, HOU (4-43), Jahvid Best, DET (6-67), Cadillac Williams, TB (7-78), Darren McFadden, OAK (8-91), Steve Slaton, HOU (10-115), Kareem Huggins, TB (13-150)
WR: Andre Johnson, HOU (1-6), Greg Jennings, GB (3-30), Terrell Owens, CIN (9-102), Mike Williams, TB (11-126), Sidney Rice, MIN (14-163)
TE: Jermichael Finley, GB (5-54)
K: Sebastian Janikowski, OAK (16-187)
DST: Cardinals (15-174)

Tom: Pre-empting his inevitable comment, Mr. Dembsky, who won last year, believes he once again has the league's best team.

Mike: Ian could have been the ESPN auto-draft and he still would think he had the best team.

Tom: I must say, I don't remember seeing another team that drafted two handcuff running backs.

Mike: In his defense, of all the teams to handcuff, I'd say the Texans are the best.

Tom: See, and here I was thinking the Buccaneers were a great team to grab both Cadillac and Huggins. A Cadillac injury is almost certainly inevitable, and with Ward's release (after the draft), Huggins will almost certainly be his replacement.

Mike: True, I just see less general upside with a running back in Tampa, whereas with Houston you're locking in a decent fantasy rushing attack.

Tom: Fair enough. My problem with Slaton is I'm not sure he'll end up as the Texans' backup running back.

Mike: I'm not particularly worried about that, but I can see the concern. Our stats abhorred him last year, although he was a decent fantasy back.

Tom: Well, a lot of Slaton's negative DVOA value came from fumbling problems. On a per-carry basis, he fumbled something like 50 percent more often than Peterson did in the regular season.

Mike: Yeah, it's like Rashard Mendenhall and Adrian Peterson had a child and doused it in butter.

Tom: Jahvid Best and Darren McFadden strike me as similar type of bets -- potentially explosive backs whose workload may be limited.

Mike: Didn't we have some similar thoughts on last year's version of Scramble Forever?

Tom: Not really.

Mike: I must have misremembered. Regardless, he's well set at other positions.

Tom: Last year Ian and Al lucked into Cedric Benson in the sixth round. They'll need one of their running backs to emerge like that again.

Mike: He got good value out of his picks.

(Ed. Note: And let it be proclaimed throughout the land that the new Tampa Bay backup running back shall be known on this website as "Lotso Huggins Back," the backup running back who smells like strawberries. As opposed to Ricky Williams, the backup running back who smells like something entirely different.)

QB: Peyton Manning, IND (2-18), Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (10-114)
RB: Steven Jackson, STL (1-7), Cedric Benson, CIN (3-31), LaDainian Tomlinson, NYJ (7-79), Donald Brown, IND (8-90), Tashard Choice, DAL (13-151)
WR: Dwayne Bowe, KC (4-42), Jeremy Maclin, PHI (5-55), Pierre Garcon, IND (6-66), Derrick Mason, BAL (9-103), Early Doucet, ARI (15-175)
TE: Owen Daniels, HOU (11-127), Dustin Keller, NYJ (14-162)
K: Jeff Reed, PIT (16-186)
DST: 49ers (12-138)

Mike: We're both pessimistic about Benson, and world plus dog is pessimistic about Tomlinson, and Jackson is hardly a sure bet. This could be a disaster.

Tom: I actually hate his wide receivers more than I hate his running backs.

Mike: I don't know, I find them generally inoffensive. Not the greatest, and definitely not enough to make up for the running backs.

Tom: Bowe's okay. Maclin I think plays a lesser role in the offense than he did last year. Ditto Garcon and Mason. Doucet has Anderson or Leinart or Skelton throwing him the football and is the third option behind Fitzgerald and Breaston.

Mike: I think both Garcon and Mason will get plenty of touches. More confident in Garcon than Mason, but I don't think they're necessarily bad.

Tom: I'm very skeptical, especially when it comes to consistent production. I had Garcon last year, and half the time I started him, Collie was the flavor of the week.

Mike: Once bitten, twice shy. Regardless, this does seem like the weakest team.

Tom: Sorry, Sean, we think your team kind of sucks.

QB: Tony Romo, DAL (5-56), Eli Manning, NYG (9-104)
RB: Michael Turner, ATL (1-8), LeSean McCoy, PHI (3-32), Clinton Portis, WAS (6-65), Leon Washington, SEA (10-113), Toby Gerhart (14-161)
WR: Roddy White, ATL (2-17), Hines Ward, PIT (4-41), Malcom Floyd, SD (8-89), Anthony Gonzalez, IND (11-128), Jabar Gaffney, DEN (12-137), Devin Hester, CHI (13-152)
TE: Jason Witten, DAL (7-80)
K: Garrett Hartley, NO (16-185)
DST: Giants (15-176)

Mike: Turner's still alive?

Tom: Shockingly, Turner did not make it to the autodrafted team.

Mike: That is actually really surprising.

Tom: Well, after the top four plus Mendenhall plus Andre Johnson, what do you do? I'm not sure you take the second wideout. Unless you take a quarterback, you're taking one of the more flawed running backs.

Mike: Peyton Manning.

Tom: Well, I think it depends on where you think there's quarterback value. I think you can get a perfectly adequate quarterback in the middle rounds. And if you can get a running back who, while not great, will still get the majority of the carries and the vast majority of the goal-line work, you take him. (Foreshadowing alert!)

Mike: I see what you did there. I suppose I can see the reasoning, but the problem is that you're spending an early pick on a risk.

Tom: Well, Bill Barnwell is a fantasy football expert, and we're just fantasy football columnists, so who are we to question him?

Mike: Remember that I'll be spending this season making fun of both of you.

Tom: By the end of the year, I'll wish I had made the 1.5 points for TD/-5 for interceptions, QB/RB/2WR/TE/11 IDP league.

Mike: Probably true regardless of how you do in your leagues. I like the Gonzalez pick. And while I can't support Witten, he probably reacted to an expected run on tight ends and got a good player.

Tom: I have no confidence in the non-Clark/Wayne Colts wideouts. It'll be Peyton Manning's Dial-A-Receiver, and where the ball goes, nobody knows!

Mike: Fair enough.

QB: Brett Favre, MIN (6-64), Kyle Orton, DEN (11-129), Matthew Stafford, DET (15-177)
RB: Frank Gore, SF (1-9), Beanie Wells, ARI (2-16), Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG (7-81), Darren Sproles, SD (9-105), Laurence Maroney, NE (10-112)
WR: Brandon Marshall, MIA (3-33), Wes Welker, NE (4-40), Chad Ochocinco, CIN (5-57), Josh Cribbs, CLE (16-184)
TE: Chris Cooley, WAS (8-88), Greg Olsen, CHI (13-153)
K: David Akers, PHI (12-136)
DST: Bengals (14-160)

Mike: Well, we know Gore is going to get approximately seven billion carries this season.

Tom: Until he falls apart for a game or two, or the 49ers offensive line fails to improve to the point where Singletary has to abandon his preferred running game and try to win instead.

Mike: That will be an amusing moment, if only because part of me thinks he won't abandon it.

Tom: Well, until Gore does break down, he should indeed get a lot of carries. One thing Mike mentioned is he doesn't really use KUBIAK much for this draft. I think that's probably smart, because everybody else except Team CBORG is at least looking at it. On the other hand, if you completely ignore it, you end up with some weird picks. Like Turner, Brandon Marshall was another guy I was sure would end up on the autodrafted team. People seem to be assuming he'll have roughly similar statistics.

Mike: Eh, I think the benefit of getting players that the other teams just don't believe in outweighs the weirdness of your picks. I think Mike made a good choice, there. Some amount of weirdness must also be attributed to Tanier himself, who just doesn't like fantasy football that much.

Tom: Hm, actually maybe I'm completely off. Last season, Denver attempted 558 passes. Miami actually attempted 545. I was thinking last year was more like 2008, when Denver attempted 620 passes and Miami 476.

Mike: I think he'll get similar targets. It's the quality of those targets that worries me.

Tom: Absence makes the heart grow fonder toward Kyle Orton?

Mike: I was one of the few Orton backers, if you recall. I'm not saying he's brilliant, but he's a passable quarterback.

Tom: I was thinking you just preferred him to your nemesis, Rex Grossman.

Mike: Hah! That is a completely reasonable interpretation of events.

Tom: I'm cautiously optimistic about Henne's play.

Mike: I'm not, but we've covered that.

Tom: I don't really get the need to draft three quarterbacks.

Mike: Trade bait.

Tom: Sure, but Stafford? I doubt anybody will go for Stafford early, so he may well be dropped to add bye week fodder.

Mike: Yeah, it's true, Stafford is probably a useless pick. We'll have to see.

TEAM CBORG (Autodraft)
QB: Drew Brees, NO (1-10)
RB: DeAngelo Williams, CAR (2-15), Jonathan Stewart, CAR (4-39), Brandon Jacobs, NYG (6-63), Kevin Smith (13-154), Marshawn Lynch, BUF (16-183)
WR: Steve Smith, CAR (3-34), Mike Sims-Walker, JAC (5-58), Percy Harvin, MIN (8-87), Austin Collie, IND (12-135), Nate Burleson, DET (15-178)
TE: Vernon Davis, SF (7-82), Kellen Winslow, TB (10-111)
K: Ryan Longwell, MIN (14-159)
DST: Jets (9-106), Eagles (11-130)

Mike: Oh, dear god. Why does this team have two defenses? Especially when one of them is the Jets?

Tom: Because it's autodraft. There was an autodraft team in my other league that picked four kickers.

Mike: Wow. Still, the team isn't hideous. Needs a backup quarterback.

Tom: If Harvin can stay healthy, I do like the wide receivers. I think Burleson could be a decent inconsistent option, if Stafford improves like I think he might and Detroit throws as much as I think they will. I feel like the autodrafted team last year was more interesting, though.

Mike: Probably true. I am a Kevin Smith fan.

Tom: The Clerks director? The former Cowboys cornerback? The guy who played Ares in Hercules?




As the caretaker of CBORG, I will play sit/starts based on ESPN's projections to keep the control group properly ... uh ... controlled.

Tom: The running backs look too JV to me. Williams is the only guy I feel confident could get the majority of his team's carries, and this team has Stewart to go with him.

Mike: Yeah, it's a weird bunch. We'll have to see who ESPN thinks is better week by week.

Tom: Good luck with that.

QB: Kevin Kolb, PHI (7-83)
RB: Ryan Mathews, SD (1-11), Ronnie Brown, MIA (3-35), Marion Barber, DAL (5-59), Fred Jackson, BUF (9-107), Montario Hardesty, CLE (10-110), Anthony Dixon, SF (16-182)
WR: Reggie Wayne, IND (2-14), Steve Smith, NYG (4-38), Mike Wallace, PIT (6-62), Johnny Knox, CHI (8-86), Laurent Robinson, STL (11-131), Mohamed Massaquoi, CLE (12-134)
TE: Heath Miller, PIT (13-155)
K: Lawrence Tynes, NYG (15-179)
DST: Dolphins (14-158)

Mike: You really love Kolb.

Tom: It just kind of worked out that I ended up with the same players in pretty much the same round in both drafts. Of course, with the second draft, I embraced that ethos more than I tried to avoid it.

Mike: Super-boring.

Tom: Yes, I am.

Mike: I like Wayne/Wallace/Knox, though.

Tom: Thank you. I actually like all six of my wideouts. Robinson and Massaquoi are likely to be primary targets, and Wallace could really explode if Ward sees a decline.

Mike: Hardesty is a risk, but with upside. And again I feel Brown is running out of steam. But not a bad team, the second time around.

Tom: Ryan Mathews may actually now be my favorite of the non-top four running backs.

Mike: That's good for you, I guess.

Tom: It is!

QB: Matt Ryan, ATL (5-60), Vince Young, TEN (10-109)
RB: Shonn Greene, NYJ (2-13), Knowshon Moreno, DEN (3-36), Justin Forsett, SEA (7-84), Jerious Norwood, ATL (13-156), Brian Westbrook, SF (16-181)
WR: Randy Moss, NE (1-12), Marques Colston, NO (4-37), Steve Breaston, ARI (8-85), Eddie Royal, DEN (9-108), Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ (14-157)
TE: Tony Gonzalez, ATL (6-61)
K: Stephen Gostkowski, NE (12-133)
DST: Bears (11-132), Saints (15-180)

Tom: Greene's going to get his touchdowns vultured by Tomlinson, because all that soup he's had has given him a nose for the end zone. Moreno I liked as a player, but McDaniels now scares me like Belichick in terms of splitting running back carries. Forsett, Norwood, and Westbrook are all part-time backs.

Mike: Yeah, for a brief second I thought "hadn't Westbrook retired?"

Tom: I like the wideouts more, except for Breaston (Anderson/Leinart/Skelton), Royal (firmly ensconced in the doghouse last year), and Cotchery (Sanchize!).

Mike: I actually owned Moreno last year and it was definitely a mixed bag. Just ignore Cotchery. Royal will still be in the doghouse, but will be a necessary dog this year. Still, we're complaining about the WR3 on a team with strong WR1 and WR2.

Tom: Well, sure. But with 2RB/2WR/1 flex, a third wideout is helpful, especially when your backs are weak sauce.

Mike: Elias will probably be able to get another running back in trade for Vince Young at some point. Or Ryan, I suppose, depending on how this year goes.

Tom: I also have to point out Elias beat Aaron to selecting Gostkowski as the first kicker.

Mike: Good move on Gostkowski.

Tom: I'm not so sure. Annoying people who pay you money isn't a sound long-run business strategy.

Mike: Sad but true. Was it worth it, Elias? Was it? (It probably was, he's a good kicker to get in the 12th round.)

Tom: I think I now like Elias's team less than I did at the draft. Maybe that's because I was watching the Lions play the Browns during the draft.

Mike: What, and you forgot what football actually was? I do think that most of the other teams with weak running back corps at least have a few guys with breakout potential. Team Holman doesn't really have that.

Tom: See, last season's Browns-Lions regular season game was actually reasonably entertaining, like the NFL equivalent of a not particularly well played but high-scoring and back-and-forth college game.

Mike: So, a college game between actual competitors. I hear there are a few of those matches each year.

Tom: Just like the FO Staff Fantasy League.

No Scramble next week, as we'll be running our annual Staff Predictions in this time slot instead. The week after that will see Scramble return in its commercial-hawking, random topic-discussing, lolspeak-purveying in-season glory! If you are having difficulty containing your excitement, there are receptacles under your seat into which you may shed excess enthusiasm.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 01 Sep 2010

46 comments, Last at 03 Sep 2010, 10:44am by Blair Wendell


by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 2:38pm


Will mafe own prediciitions in discussion forum thread latwr in week
but will say now that would take Detriot Loins over 5.0. Goodo shot to win 6 games.7 wins not oit of question.

Sneak preview of prediiicitions----

Afc West
Raiders 12-4
Chargers 8-8
Chiefs 5-11
Broincos 2-14

by parttimemovieguy :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 3:46pm

LOL ..."Fist"...

Talk about beating everyone to the punch!

::ducks the flying tomatoes::

by Dean :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:14pm

If you want fisting, I think this is the wrong site.

by Temo :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:27pm

As far as you know.

by edswood (not verified) :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:43pm

I am here for the gangbang. I thought it was accepted that everything on the internet has to do with porn. I just have to make sure I don't drink to much at RaiderJoe's next house party, or else consequences will never be the same.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 2:50pm

selective memories.

2005: -18.5%

Martz arrives in Detroit.

2006: -13.4%
2007: -9.5%

Martz departs.

2008: -20.6%

If there was any magic there, it was his ability to shuffle things around and pretend it was an improvement. He took a below-average offense and made it slightly less below-average with changes that disappeared as soon as he left. (So the end part was magic.)

The Lions are essentially the same kind of team they have been for at least the past 20 years: a bunch of ifs. The difference is that in the '90s, the ifs made the difference between 7 wins and 10 (for the most part). Now, they'll make the difference between 6 wins and 2.

If everyone plays to their potential, the Lions could exceed that projection. That won't happen. Under.

by Blair Wendell (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:44am

So your argument against Martz is that he ONLY had One order of Magnitude worth of improvement for the Lions, so that discredits his 3 Orders of Magnitude for the Rams & 49'ers? hmm...

10% from a coordinator is a pretty good Dollars for Donuts my friend.

by Temo :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 2:52pm

Quick rant:

"They have film on him/them/it" is one of the most abused phrase in NFL season previews.

I understand, somewhat, that when a team trots out a new offense (like the Wildcat of two years ago), it may take an entire off season before teams are equipped with the knowledge necessary to make adjustments. But I find it improbable that it would take an entire off-season of work to figure out how to shut down a single wide receiver. There's nothing that Miles Austin is doing out there that's so mind-bogglingly new that it takes a coaching staff a summer of film review to formulate a game plan.

I think that phrase is used by unsophisticated sports writers in lieu of "regression to the mean". You see that a lot in baseball, when a veteran player hits .350 one year then .300 the next and pundits claim that pitchers are "learning more about him". More often than not, it's just random fluctuation.

Austin was so incredibly awesome (in rate form, since he missed the first quarter of the season) last year that he's very unlikely to repeat that performance this year. I don't think you need to use "they have film on him" to justify the regression.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 3:25pm

It's very strange to me that the consensus seems to be that Austin will decisively regress. The guy was awesome last year - why wouldn't be put up another huge year? Awesome players play awesome. I think the draft just biases expectation so much - if he were a 1st round pick, I guarantee no one would be doubting his potential to repeat what he did last year... (hell, people are already assuming Dez Bryant will do something Austin-esque this year...)

by Temo :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:28pm

I dunno, define "decisive". Austin averaged 103 yards per game started last year... pro-rated over the entire season, he would have totaled 1652 yards. That would have been the 8th-most single-season receiving yards in the history of the game. It's better than Randy Moss' best season ever.

So yes, I expect him to not have an all-time great season this year. Most quantitative projection systems have trouble doing that for ANY player, never mind a "new" guy like Austin. If he simply replicates his numbers from last year, only over 16 games started instead of 12, his per-game production would decrease 20%, which would be a pretty "decisive" decline, but would still make him a terrific WR.

Edit: And, I may add, would not mean they "have film" on him either.

by Tracy :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:47pm

I think Miles Austin is an unusual player, in that his combined receiving line after his first 3 years in the NFL was 18 receptions for 354 yards, then he burst onto the scene with 81 catches for 1320 yards last year. It's not unusual for a WR to take several years to become elite, but usually they put up decent lines while they're figuring it out. Austin wasn't even very good until last year.

by Mike Kurtz :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 3:38pm

Because you have time. When a player like Austin comes out of (mostly) nowhere, he is largely an unknown quantity. This is a bigger deal for quarterbacks, but it also holds true for receivers and running backs. In the offseason you have time to look over your schedule for the next year and call the QA guys about all the little things that that opponent did. You have a chance to look at what kind of teams you're playing down the stretch and use that to craft your playbook on offense and your coverages on defense. That is a huge weapon compared to spending a week, maybe two, drilling your players against a scout team or trying to figure out exactly from a few weeks of tape what a receiver's best routes are.

To use your analogy, there are some pitchers who do spend a lot of time studying opposing batters and trying to figure out what makes them tick. I agree that's not most pitchers, and the effect isn't massive. On the other hand, in football you have a professional coach whose entire job it is to look at tape and figure out exactly what a guy's tendencies and capabilities are. It's a big difference.

by Temo :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:31pm

I still disagree, but I can't find any way to refute what you've said other than "eh, I don't know about that". I don't know how you separate regression to the mean (which happens to all players, regardless of NFL service time) from quantity of scouting material. All the stuff you said could be right, and it could also be wrong, and we have to way to prove it either way.

Also, I know my analogy wasn't perfect. There are batters who do worse in batting average after their rookie/sophmore year because teams adjust defensive alignments to suit batted ball tendencies (see: Brian McCann, Ryan Howard), which is why I said "veteran" batter.

Edit: The only way I know to test this is to see if WRs coming off their first starter season (start 12+ games) decline in the following year as teams learn from film. However, as most WRs coming off their first starter season are young guys who see improvement in skill from one year to the next, the data would be unfairly biased in my favor. Austin's a special case of a guy whose 4 years in the game has probably developed his skills as far as they will go, but on whom teams had little to no game film going into last year.

by Mr. Housebroken :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 3:29pm

You may want to Bold and Up the Font Size for the Green Bay Packer heading for easier viewing.

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:20pm


by Dales :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 10:45pm

edited because of complete lack of observedness and retention.

by Arkaein :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 3:33pm

Really don't get Mike's analysis of GB. If a team's record underperforms their DVOA and Pythagorean projection (and 11-5 should be considered underperforming the best ranks in the NFL), that's a good indicator of an improvement in record the following year, not a decline.

Even if GB declines slightly in DVOA and/or points scored vs. allowed, they could easily have a record as good or better. A repeat of 11-5 seems quite likely. A decline to 10-6 is certainly within reason. But expecting a better than 50% chance for a decline of 2 games seems extremely pessimistic, even if the schedule is a bit tougher.

And there's a fair bit of reason for optimism. The O-line started last year without Tauscher at RT and no great backup for Clifton at LT. Now they have a healthy Clifton and Bryan Bulaga. They also have a health Jason Spitz (expected to start at center early last preseason) to backup at center and guard. I'd put down money that Rodgers sack totals this year are half what they were last year.

Special teams are a lock to improve. They will have a punter that should at least be close to league average, and the cover units can only get better (they've been OK in the preseason). If Will Blackmon gets healthy and makes the team the return game improves, otherwise it should be no worse than last year (which Blackmon missed the majority of).

The LBs may be the weakest link on the defense, but there's no turnover and two players coming into their second year, so I don't see a major reason for a letdown.

Al Harris will miss the first 6 games on PUP, but he missed the last 8 games last year on IR, so unless his recovery fails it will be a push. CB depth is a concern though. Overall, GB is looking fairly good with respect to injuries, with no key players put on IR this preseason.

The only real losses are jolly and Kampman. I think BJ Raji coming into the season healthy and in his second year, and the #2 draft pick of DE Mike Neal should mitigate most of the loss of Jolly. Kampman never made a huge impact at OLB, so again I don't see a real reason for an expected dropoff here.

Any other thoughts?

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 11:18pm

That matches my thoughts as well.

Though I do agree with the worry about the middle of that D being carved up. Barnett was limited last year (intentionally because of the knee surgery recovery) and A.J. Hawk is solid but not a great. Chillar and Bishop aren't great either, but they don't drop off much from Barnett and Hawk so depth is still serviceable. I'm not happy with their coverage abilities for any of the ILBs though. I expect Matthews to play about the same, but I'm not sure about Jones missing time with the injury. Poppinga isn't much better than replacement level. I understand the worry about the linebackers because they are the traditional play makers in a 3-4 and the Packers corps are just average to above average and Matthews will see more double teams.

I don't think the D line will regress as much as the article expects, it looks fairly solid. I think it will help the pass rush more than it did last year but I'm not sure it + the backers are going to be as good vs the run. I'm concerned that Raji won't be as disciplined as he needs to be at nose, and will try to get fancy when he just needs to be eating blockers like Pickett did very well last year and in doing so allow holes to form where they shouldn't. I'm not sure Pickett at his size will hold up with all the movement he has to do. I like Neal, but after him, I'm not crazy about the other depth they will need to keep bodies fresh. I admit I hope Harrel has a monster year and plays like a first round draft choice should, but I don't expect it to happen. They need a 5th body.

Woodson can't be expected to play at the same level. But I think you can expect Williams to play better than last year. The nickel and dime backs aren't any worse than last year, though it's not a huge improvement as you are basically just having Underwood and Lee replacing Bush and Martin. Though maybe Shields gets the nod. But I see Underwood, Lee, Shields as a mild upgrade of Bush, Martin, Underwood from last year. Harris when he comes back is basically a push from last season. Collins I expect to hold serve. I worry about Morgan Burnett starting as a rookie, but then I didn't think Bigby was that great. The back-ups are the same as last year.

I expect the offense to be about the same.

I think special teams improve as well, because I thinking punting gets closer to league average, and I think the returners while still awful, will improve slightly. Crosby looked to have a below average year based on his own numbers so should likely be a bit better this year. I think both coverage teams will bump up closer to below average instead of horrendous. I actually think Shields will be part of the reason for improved coverage too. Not the same type of affect as we saw one person make in Minnesota last year, but...

An offensive note. I've seen talk about Rodgers not throwing so few ints. I do agree, but I think his baseline is closer to 10 a year, and I think the regressions think that number is closer to 13. So I'm thinking in the 9-12 range, I think the regressions are thinking in the 12-15 range. 3 or 4 ints makes 2 extra losses easier to see.

I almost feel they are down on the Packers because everyone else is high on them. :) Of course they also think the Bears are going to be good. I have never thought Cutler was that great I feel that pro bowl season in Denver was flukey, I also think last year was too, but on the other side. I don't buy into Martz either, so yeah I don't expect the Bears to beat the Pack, I think this article is thinking they split. So that's another game. :)

I'm taking the over. :)

by ammek :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 4:19am

I don't agree about LB being the main concern on defense. The starters might not be otherworldly, but it's the only position where there's any depth: you could sub in Chillar or Poppinga for AJ Hawk or Brad Jones, and the unit wouldn't suffer.

Elsewhere the lack of depth is frightening. Only two defensive linemen on the roster have started more than one game in the NFL. The nickel and dime backs have six tackles between them in three NFL seasons. At strong safety, there is competition between Atari Bigby (15 games missed in the last two years, now injured again) and a blatantly unready third-round rookie.

Injury to any one of Woodson, Nick Collins, Cullen Jenkins, or maybe Clay Matthews would put this defense in a big, big hole. I foresee plenty of shootouts. Unlike Mike, though, I don't envisage the NFC North being a strong division, so 10 wins is still a possibility, especially if the special teams de-worsen.

by bingo762 :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 3:52pm

Please don't confuse Philly fans with Philly radio station callers. We never hated McNabb and we're appreciative of what he did here. We're not glad to see him go but we recognize because of his and Kolb's contract situation and his injury history it had to be done now.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:02pm

+1. Philly loved McNabb and most fans were just as sorry to see him go as they were Dawkins...

by Rick 2 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 3:58pm

Gotta disagree. I loved McNabb (of course, I went to Syracuse too), was happy when arrived and told all my McNabb hating cousins it was the best pickup in quite a long time for Philly. 10 years later, they still refused to believe it. When Philly was going strong, they almost regularly said "you can put anyone at QB in this system and they will win". Of course, that's ridiculous. But try telling that to a bunch of people who lack the logic background to figure out why McNabb WAS so good.

All they saw was a 1-4 record in NFC Championships and that was all they needed to see. All the other good work was, well, worthless.

For years they kept pointing at Peyton. I'd say "the guy loses in the first round of the playoffs, for God's sake - by your standards, he's not nearly as good at McNabb". Now, of course, that's off the table. But still, compare Peyton's playoff record to McNabb's. They are comparable.

McNabb is an EXCELLENT QB. He could've had more wins and maybe even a SB if:
he started with better receivers
better time management was used
a better running game was implemented.

Oh well.......c'est la vie. I think Kolb is going to be better than people realize.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 3:57pm

I really wish FO would do an auction draft so we can see how they value players in a free market. Then I think we'd see some really interesting teams instead of just Kubiak favorites. I know it probably takes more time, but to me that brings much more skill to the table rather than just the traditional snake draft.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 10:20pm

Make it an auction keeper league. That'll knock the time for subsequent drafts down. (That's one reason my league moved to that format; we went to auction because it's much more interesting, and then it just makes more sense to make it a keeper league.)

by edswood (not verified) :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:05pm

hmmm, surprised they put gave Chicago an over and push on 8 wins. That team looks like it is going to totally self combust this year. I also am not seeing Stafford being permanently damaged from playing to soon. From what I have seen of Stafford he looks like the real deal, and that the Lions offense is going to be somewhat exciting this year. Peyton Manning had a really rough first season, as did Troy Aikman etc. I think that whole ruining of Quarterbacks by playing them to early and on bad teams is not really legit. A QB either has the intestinal fortitude to improve, or never gets it. To me Stafford has the ability to get to the next level.

I so can't wait to get this season started. If for nothing more than to get a new Super Bowl champion. I can not believe I used to feel bad for Saints fans. How did a fan base that never had any success go from one Super Bowl to being as cocky as any NFL fans. I have yet to see an intelligent Saint fan post anywhere. It usually reads like a RaiderJoe post without the humor. Saints rule, your team sucks it. Who Dat. I would think if I lived in Louisana I would savor, but be humble about the one good thing that happened there in the last fifty years. Shame cause I actually think Drew Brees is a good guy, but the fans should go back to wearing paper bags to cover their idiocy. Thats why I love this website so much. Intelligent football discussion, humor, minimal flaming, and thoughtful tempered enthusiasm for the poster's teams. Well played everyone, good to see thoughtful civilized humans do exist on this planet.

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:47pm

I don't see the Bears imploding. They're talented enough not be terrible, and Lovie's coaching style makes sure the team avoids big mistakes, even if it reduces the potential reward.

I see them somewhere from 7-9 wins. If the offensive line and secondary magically gel into average units, then there hope for being a good team, but those are both long shots.

As for ruining QBs, I think it depends on the quarterback and the team. The problem is we'll never really know who can take it. If a guy starts too early and flames out, you don't know that keeping him on the bench for a year or two would have helped, and likewise, a guy like Palmer who sat on the bench, you don't know if he would have been fine playing.

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 11:49pm

How did a fan base that never had any success go from one Super Bowl to being as cocky as any NFL fans. I have yet to see an intelligent Saint fan post anywhere. It usually reads like a RaiderJoe post without the humor.

know hwo to do some Html stuff now.

Am nopt cocky. Just tell it like it is.

Saints have long way to go to match Raiders.

super bowl wins- Raiders 3, Saimts 1

Raiders 410-335-11
Saimts 275-378-5

If Saints fanns want to talk let them. IT just go in one ear and out othehr ear. Raiders goign 12-4 this year, Saints 9-7 maybe 10-6, Atl Facls goign to win NFc south diviison.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 1:21am

I have the Falcons winning it, too. I am greatly encouraged to know that Raiderjoe is with me.

by dbostedo :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 3:03pm

"I have yet to see an intelligent Saint fan post anywhere. It usually reads like a RaiderJoe post without the humor. Saints rule, your team sucks it."

Actually, outside of predicting the Raiders record, I find Raiderjoe's posts to be usually very knowledgeable. Plus, outside of this site and a couple of others, you could probably insert any teams name there and be just as accurate.

by Sean McCormick :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:06pm

It's OK- I'm not too thrilled with my team, either. That said, I thought I had a killer team last year and it didn't work out so well...

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:42pm

I don't even see Devin Hester as a factor.

Do you want to elaborate on this? I'm pretty sure he is starting and considered the #1 receiver for the Bears. Do you mean, you think he'll do his job adequately, and it will be up to everyone else on the offense to raise their game to get the ship righted?

by Lou :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 6:29pm

as a bears fan i don't really expect for hester to be too much of a factor this year. Even though he's starting, i expect Knox and Aromashodu to have more targets by the end of the year.

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 7:10pm

Even if that's the case, he'll probably be the 3rd most targeted receiver. The 3rd most targeted receiver last year got 80 targets. I hardly think a receiver getting 80 targets is going to be a non factor.

by GhettoBear04 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 5:00pm

I wish you would talk about your evaluation of the Cowboys defense a bit more. They are a team that got better as the season progressed, primarily due to Jenkins developing into a very good CB and Spencer turning the hurries into sacks. Add in noted Top 25 Breakout Candidate Orlando Scandrick, I don't see how the defense is so laughable as to warrant the derision of a 7.5 win projection or status as a crappy secondary. I agree that there seem to be a lot of poor secondaries out there this year, I'm just not sure the Cowboys qualify as one. Perhaps it's my bias, so could you explain more?

While I readily admit the depth at OL, particularly along the interior, and safety are concerning, I feel like the FO projection overlooks the very good depth at WR, RB, OLB, DL and perhaps ILB with a bit more seasoning. Also, note that the depth at those positions is likely to result in good athletes to feed a good special teams coach's system.

The Cowboys look like a 9 or 10 win team to me, right in the thick of the NFC East chase. The injury bug has been sited often on this site as already affecting the Cowboys in the preseason, but outside of John Phillips being out for the year, they currently only project to be missing 1 starter-game (LG Kosier). There are a lot of guys who are being held out as a precaution and consistently suggesting otherwise is not adding anything to your argument.

by DW94 :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 9:21pm

Yeah, it's not clear to me either why Dallas' secondary is awful or why we should expect a decline in their pass defense. Jenkins and Newman are both above average corners. The pass rush is near the top of the league. The safeties are average. Newman is the only player where age might be a concern. I would like to see someone at the ILB position be able to cover a fly. Perhaps Sean Lee can be serviceable in this role later on in the season.

Oh, and yes Scandrick is an above average nickle CB as well.

by Temo :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:18pm

I'm not sure Newman is above-average anymore. Are the safeties really average? I'm not sure yet.

by Phoenix138 :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 5:02pm

Tom: Rice's injury actually in some sense concerns me less. He'll have surgery, rehab, and come back. Harvin, on the other hand, is potentially questionable indefinitely.

Mike: That's true, but I think they'd be a bit more reserved with him if they thought his ankle was a real problem. As far as I can tell, he's pretty much practiced normally. Rice, on the other hand, is out for the first half of the season. So they're not only losing his productivity, but also shifting more and better coverage on to Harvin and company. I can see a bum ankle cutting off a bit of his edge against better coverage, in that case.

Mike, are you talking about Favre's ankle here? Or are you under the impression that Percy has been bothered by a bum ankle?

by BigDerf :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 7:14pm

Am I the only one high on team CBORG? Starting Lineup

QB Brees
RB1 Stewart/Williams (I would just start Stewart because I think he's better... but one of them
RB2 Jacobs
WR1 S Smith Carolina
WR2 Sims-Walker
Flex Harvin
TE Davis
Defense Jets
Kicker Who Cares.

I'm just saying if Harvin plays double digit games and Jacobs becomes 08 Jacobs again then this team should be stacked.

by Dan :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 8:15pm

CBORG has a nice starting lineup if the Carolina offense breaks the right way, but no depth behind their top 3 at RB and WR. They really hurt themselves by taking two defenses and a backup tight end in rounds 9 through 11.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 8:52pm

The Great and Terrible Injury God will have even more influence that usual, for the NFL, on the Vikings' year. Right now, it ain't lookin' that great, and I am not among those who thinks Sidney Rice is well above average. If the stubbled old media whore stay upright, look for Greg Camarillo to have a career season.

However, their starting center has not yet played in the pre-season, resulting in Hererra playing the position for the first time in his life, and the team having tryouts for left guard. They looked to have a strong rookie starting at corner, with Lito Sheppard holding down the nickel spot until Cedric Griffin made it back in October or so, but then the rookie tears a meniscus last Saturday, and is out for at least a couple of weeks. Harvin's migraines could return at any moment. There ain't a lot of room for any more injuries, and the season hasn't started.

The one bright spot is that Ray Edwards is playing for about 40 million this season, Jared Allen is still crazy and talented, Kevin Williams is still really, really, good, Pat Williams at 38 looks to be in the best shape of his career, and the back ups on the defensive line are pretty talented, so Not as Fat Pat & Co. will get a breather now and then. The 4th quarter pass rush, which, as Bill Walsh noted, is, along with qb play, perhaps the key element in winning NFL games, might be extremely good.

If they can sneak in at 4-4 at the half-way point, and their injury luck improves from here on out, they'll likely be in decent shape. Neither of those conditions may come about, however.

by Joseph :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 12:19am

As a Saints fan, I wish we could play the Vikes at full strength, to prove that the NFC championship wasn't a fluke victory. However, winning the game is more important than beating you guys at full strength.
To help the DC (Frazier?) NOT sleep at night, think of the Saints going with Colston, Meachem, and Henderson at wideout, Shockey or Thomas at TE, and mostly Bush at RB (for receiving purposes) all game. I hope your great pass rush can get there before Brees spots somebody open.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 1:33am

Well, the Saints stripped the ball, and the Vikings dropped it. That isn't a fluke victory, even if slightly worse fumble recovery luck would have meant the Saints lose. On the other hand, the Vikings did dominate the line of scrimmage, and their qb played better, so if the Vikings would have had slightly better luck and won, that wouldn't have been a fluke, either. Hell, the most important play in the NFC Championship Game last year may have been when the Vikings missed an extra point, and the lost the game in ot to the Bears; the Saints would have had much harder time running the defensive scheme they had in the Superdome, if the game had been played in Minneapolis. When plaoff games get this close, the tiniest little thing can make all the difference.

This is a new season with different circumstances; the outcome of the game next week won't prove anything with regard to the ot game last January.

by Joseph :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 10:46am

Agree completely with the last paragraph.
Since I don't follow the Vikes, didn't know about the extra point--and I agree--HFA for the Vikings probably means they win the game. Anyway, it wouldn't shock me if this game is a tiebreaker for SOMETHING in regard to the playoffs, since I think that the NFC SB rep will come from the Saints, Vikings, Pack, & Cowboys.

by M :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 5:00pm

Don't forget about SF & Atlanta being in the mix as well. SF doesn't look that special, but have you seen their schedule? It's arguably the easiest in football. Pat Willis could be a defensive POY candidate, and if Frank Gore gets any blocking he could lead the league in rushing (think 2006 with more touchdowns). Atlanta is probably almost the equal of New Orleans if both teams are fully healthy.

Minnesota will need to go 5-3 somehow if they are going to be in the running for a bye week. They went 4-4 (I believe) in 2008 against an opening schedule as grueling as this one, and they easily could have pulled off 2 additional wins (or lost two more, honestly) with a few lucky bounces and competent QB play. The D-line & AP are the keys to the season; unless both are performing as THE BEST IN THE LEAGUE, this season will not be a happy one in MN.

by pazz (not verified) :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 11:57am

"Ryan Mathews may actually now be my favorite of the non-top four running backs."

so much in agreement it's bordering on unhealthy.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/02/2010 - 3:10pm

"Mike: . . . Mike Martz is actually magic.

Tom: He is? Is this like David Copperfield magic, or Penn and Teller magic?

Mike: Like bizarro-Nikola Tesla magic. The ability to teleport an offense +32.9% DVOA just with his presence."

Is it possible that Kurt Warner 3.0 was actually a clone who somehow escaped from the vat that was supposed to drown him seconds after his creation?

"Mike: Unless the chief has uncovered a Mace of Opposing Quarterback Kneecapping +5, I'm sadly inclined to agree on this likewise tough call. Under."

I'm pretty sure that Jared Allen has Quarterback Kneecapping 18/00 anyway, so magical maces may not be needed. It's true that Peyton Manning is immune to weapons with less than +3 enchantment, but if they face him they'll already be conference champions, so it's not a huge deal.