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15 Aug 2012

Scramble for the Ball: AFC/NFC West Over/Unders

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: Well, we did east last week, Mike. Do you have another preferred cardinal direction?

Mike: d6 says ... 5, so, west.

Tom: We'll start with the NFC again, so...


Mike: Always fun to talk about Steelers West.

Tom: Todd Haley is now the Steelers' offensive coordinator. The teams are now fully cross-pollinated instead of all the shared material going in one direction.

Mike: Ewwww.

Tom: Like the Steelers before this year, the Cardinals share the affliction of "Who needs an offensive line, really?"

Mike: Let's not get ahead of ourselves, the Steelers line still has a lot to prove. Actually, considering the Pirates' past week or so, I'm all for talking about the Steelers.

Tom: We'll talk about the Steelers when we talk about the Steelers. While Ben Muth was complimentary of his play, I trust no offensive line that has Levi Brown as a starter at left tackle. Also, formally disavowing my affection for Kevin Kolb is an even better move in hindsight than it was at the time.

Mike: That's a very clever way of saying you were wrong.

Tom: As noted in FOA 2012, he may be better than John Skelton, but that's not exactly setting the world on fire. And that's not what I meant at all. I'm humblebragging. Except without most of the humility.

Mike: Or the coherence.

Tom: What I was trying to say is that I don't expect the Cardinals to get very good quarterback play this year.

Mike: Then why didn't you just say so? Fancy-pants lawyerman. Anyway, I agree. I think the line for this is, like many of the lines for the eastern divisions, just about perfect.

Tom: Pretty much. The Cardinals are a bad, but not really terrible, team in a bad division.

Mike: It's just another one of these teams with an extremely low overall talent level.

Tom: Unlike most bad teams, though the Cardinals have a couple of standout players. Larry Fitzgerald, of course, plus Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, and Patrick Peterson on defense. It's just that they can't make up for the guys around them.

Mike: Right, which makes the thought that they're just a quarterback away understandable. Perhaps they're a bit more cognizant of their shortcomings than I give the team credit for, but they didn't pull out all the stops to get Peyton Manning. It's just a shame that Kolb is costing a pretty penny for pathetic performance.

Tom: Aside from that, y'know, they did at least try to get Manning.

Mike: While true, there is a difference between attempting to secure the top free agent and selling out completely to secure him. You always have a shot at a free agent. It's whether you're willing to give up enough to take that shot.

Tom: Eh. We don't know for sure how serious their pursuit was and how much it was they didn't have a shot to get him. I'd cite the counterexample of Mike Tolbert taking less money to go to Carolina, but let's move on.

(You just did. -ed)

Anyway, the Cardinals would have been a much better team with Manning. On that, I think we both agree. Looking at the schedule, it's hard for me to find eight games I feel really comfortable about the Cardinals winning. Under.

Mike: What? The Cardinals have an easy schedule and they're still in a terrible division. Over.


Tom: Also known as my dark horse. I may be crazy, but I would absolutely bet on this team at current odds to win the division.

Mike: You are crazy.

Tom: They played a very hard schedule the first half of last season, then everybody got hurt.

Mike: Much like the year previous, where they played decently, and then everyone got hurt.

Tom: If Jeff Fisher can bring some of the excellent health Tennessee enjoyed the last five or so years of his tenure there, the Rams could be a lot better pretty easily.

Mike: Health is a skill. One the Rams clearly do not have. How on Earth is one year of Fisher going to magically instill this ability?

Tom: Bad health is sometimes also a result of poor training. Anecdotal data suggests that's been a problem in St. Louis, one I think a Fisher regime could help avoid. I also think Fisher's preferred run-first conservative style could really help the Rams improve. Adding Cortland Finnegan helps an injury-riddled and not great secondary, and I like some of their defensive pieces.

Mike: A Fisher regime might provide some benefit, but I doubt he is firing all of the conditioning staff.

Tom: While their offense isn't great, Fisher's ball-control style doesn't require great offense, just a good running back. He also did try to hire strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson away from Tennessee, but the Titans blocked the move. The Rams will enter the season with the same trainer and strength and conditioning coach.

Mike: So basically there will be no actual difference between the 2011 Rams and the 2012 Rams. Right. So expect a lot of injuries in St. Louis this year. Again.

Tom: I still believe in Fisher.

Mike: Anyway, Fisher is the right man for this job and I think he will have a lot of success, especially now that the Rams are in tear-it-down mode, or at least more committed to that plan than they were before. Ironically, they will almost certainly finish with a better record despite spending the season working heavily on their younger talent.

Tom: By saying I think they could win the division, I'm not expecting more than 8-8 or 9-7. And Fisher's gone 8-8 with a 6-10-type team before.

Mike: Hah! I think that's a stretch, this year. I think next year that is a very reasonable goal, and the year after that the Rams will start creeping back into contender status. They're still going to be terrible this year, though. Under.

Tom: Bah, I'm out on my limb. Over.


Tom: I think the team itself recognized at some level that 2011 was a bit of a fluke, or at least that their receiving corps was a bit of a disaster last year. Our projection system comes out boldly in one direction on the 49ers, as readers may have heard. So, Mike, do you buy what FOA is selling, or does Jim Harbaugh have the power of beating the trends?

Mike: I don't really understand why FOA is so low on them. It's not just a matter of whether Harbaugh has magic powers, though.

Tom: It's not? I'm crushed.

Mike: Most importantly, the defensive front seven is still quality and the offensive line, I think, will benefit greatly from Harbaugh's actual expertise, if not his arcana.

Tom: Motivation, play design, and being Not Mike Singletary?

Mike: Yes, yes, and yes. Also an understanding of how defenses attack offensive lines, and another year with his staff to put that knowledge into practice. I don't think San Francisco will be an offensive juggernaut, but I think their defense will be very good and their offense will be better than last year. I am getting really, really sick of these whole-number lines, because this one in particular is forcing me to go with the Over.

Tom: I get that, but I struggle to see a "skill position" player beyond Vernon Davis I see as particularly good. Combined with a natural amount of regression on defense and special teams, that's Under.


Mike: I'm really looking forward to Matt "Matt Cassel" Flynn.

Tom: Matt Cassel won a division title his first second year as a starter. When he went into the season as a starter, that is. Our incredibly small sample size of Flynn experience is more flattering to him than Cassel's larger sample size as non-starter in the offseason was to him.

Mike: Yes, and then he went right back to being really bad. And both of their sample sizes are tiny!

Tom: Cassel did have 15-plus games.

Mike: Anyway. There is very little reason to believe Flynn is a franchise quarterback. So growing pains, regardless of whather he is, are going to be amusing in a very schadenfreude ... istic ... way.

Tom: It's fair to say, I think, that neither of us is as full-on with Flynn's future prospects as Vince's "only Pro Bowlers do this" article would suggest. And you have the new hawtness in Russell Wilson, who played the second half of last week's preseason game and gets a lot of rhetorical affection.

Mike: I will say that FOA is a bit overdramatic about Flynn. If he isn't great this year, that doesn't mean he's going to wash out. But anyway, there are other players on this team.

Tom: Let's embargo a discussion of the famous old wide receivers, and say some nice things about the defense. Like a pretty good and pretty young secondary. Yes, Brandon Browner is more NFL-inexperienced than young, but Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman is a nice grouping. The front seven is pretty good and fairly interesting as well.

Mike: It is, and the rest of the defense is set up very nicely to compliment them. Strong front seven against the run, very good secondary to allow them to play to their strengths.

Tom: I've been watching them a fair bit this offseason, for Titans-related reasons, and because Pete Carroll is a pretty good defensive coach.

Mike: Well, the linebackers were very active and made a lot of plays last year, but their pass defense was suspect. The Seahawks finished dead last in the league in DVOA allowed on passes to running backs.

Tom: That's a relative weakness. A lot of people I respect had a lot of affection for draft pick Bobby Wagner, but we'll see if he starts and how he does, especially in coverage.

Mike: And I suspect the above-average marks against tight ends was bolstered by Chancellor's excellent year. Fortunately, this line is pretty low, so I'm comfortable with the Over and the promise of more improvement next year.

Tom: I really hate this line. I'm tempted to do my "I know this is idiotic" push, but I'll go Over as well.


Tom: Almost all of these lines are whole numbers.

Mike: Why? That's just weird. Why would you bet on a line where you have two losing propositions instead of just one?

Tom: Just to annoy us people who have to make calls one way or the other.

Mike: I must admit, it's hard to be objective about the Broncos, just because my team lost in such embarrassing fashion to a team that was so very bad.

Tom: The Broncos were lucky to go 8-8 last year, getting outscored by 82 points. Normally they'd be headed for a fall like the 49ers, so of course they went out and added Peyton Manning. The playoffs were a perfect microcosm of the Broncos' season. They won one game in overtime and got blown out in the other game. Record of 1-1 with a terrible point differential.

Mike: The problem for me is that I basically believe Peyton Manning is an offense. He's not quite an entire team, but he's an entire offense. So in my opinion the Broncos have half of the game sewn up, even with the rather lackluster running game he's inheriting.

Tom: I actually like the passing game pieces. Peyton is an offensive line. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker I like, plus Jacob Tamme has played with Peyton before and Joel Dreessen is a good blocker and competent receiver at tight end. Obviously Thomas, Decker, and Dreessen likely won't have the near-telepathic link first Marvin Harrison and then Reggie Wayne developed with Peyton, at least not yet.

Mike: Well, all those guys are good enough for Manning to turn them into quality producers. That's really all they need.

Tom: Yup. Added to them, Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller are a nice pair of bookend pass rushers.

Mike: Who are terrible against the run. And behind them, the Broncos field a fairly awful secondary, so they'd better get to the quarterback or Very Bad Things will happen.

Tom: I'm relatively optimistic. Relatively. In a vacuum, 9-7 is about where I'd expect the Broncos to finish. Given that's the line, I'm bullish enough to go Over.

Mike: I'm not. I think this is a .500 team, so Under.


Mike: I'm trying to figure out why FOA is so high on this team.

Tom: Like the Broncos, the Chiefs are a worse team than their 2011 record (7-9, in this case) would indicate, but one likely to be improved this year. Assuming, of course, Dwayne Bowe turns up sooner rather than later -- Cassel needs pieces around him to be successful. Jonathan Baldwin should be better in his second season, Eric Winston is a big upgrade at right tackle, and Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki (plus Eric Berry) return with intact ACLs. I completely get why FOA is high on the Chiefs, not that 8.3 projected wins is that high.

Mike: I think this goes back to the Flynn discussion we had earlier. I just don't think Cassel is very good.

Tom: I don't think he's very good either. I think he's shown he can be a somewhat effective starter if the rest of the team around him is good enough.

Mike: Which means Bowe has another mediocre year, and the box gets stacked against Charles and the admittedly impressive offensive line. Well, sorry, the offensive line that looks much improved.

Tom: It certainly wasn't in 2011. It was in 2010.

Mike: Right.

Tom: Again like the Broncos, the line (in this case, 8.0) is about where I would expect even an improved Chiefs team to finish. In what should be a highly competitive division, I think the Chiefs have the worst quarterback. That to me says Under.

Mike: We'll have to see how Charles comes back this year. I think he is the make-or-break piece for this team, which could spell trouble since I'm fairly certain Cassel won't be able to keep any heat off him. I'll also take the Under.


Tom: I'm sure by now you've all read the Raiders chapter and thus know everything there is to know or could possibly know about the team. About 2,000 words is all that could be written about any NFL team. As we all know.

Mike: Hah!

Tom: The Raiders are theoretically good enough they could challenge for and maybe even win the division.

Mike: Everyone in that division is theoretically good enough to win the division.

Tom: Their problem is depth: they have virtually none at a number of positions. Their running back depth behind Darren McFadden is nil. Linebacker is about as bad.

Mike: To be fair, it doesn't really matter who the depth is in the secondary!

Tom: Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch is a nice combination of safeties. Cornerback is a bit of a wasteland. It's one of the positions with depth, but that's more about the lack of quality at the top.

Mike: The team was near the bottom by open field yards and decidedly below average against other wide receivers. I'll get behind the lack of quality.

Tom: Their second-most targeted player was linebacker Rolando McClain, who's awful in coverage. No. 2 cornerback was a revolving door of mostly suck. If nobody gets hurt all year, I'm picking the Raiders to win the division. Denarius Moore's hamstring has not been fully healthy in months. Under.

Mike: As I said, anyone in this division has some chance of winning it. The Raiders' is just a very, very small one. Under.


Tom: And ... Ryan Mathews is already hurt. Glad we got that one out of the way.

Mike: *ahem*



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Now that's out of the way as well. I've written in detail about the Chargers before, most notably in a book we may have mentioned in this column before known as Football Outsiders Almanac 2012. I don't buy the idea that 2011 saw the end of Philip Rivers as a very, very good quarterback. He forced some throws he probably shouldn't have, but needs better pieces around him.

Mike: I disagree with your book assertion that the defensive line isn't terrible. They were worst in the league in power runs, near-bottom in ALY, near-bottom in stuff percentage, no directional running stat higher than 18th, and below-average by ASR.

Tom: I did not think the defensive line was very good, but also did not think they were actively terrible.

Mike: I'm not sure what isn't actively terrible about them.

Tom: It was a team effort. Outside linebacker was a problem position, as since-cut Travis LaBoy led them in snaps, plus Takeo Spikes played heavily despite being 35-years-old. With Antonio Gates fully healthy and better depth at wide receiver, I think the offense should be better. The big problem is the secondary. Eric Weddle is awesome, Antoine Cason is okay, and the rest is an issue. They need either or both of second-year players Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright to be good this year. Otherwise, they're stuck counting on Melvin Ingram to improve a league-average pass rush and hoping that's enough to prevent coverage lapses from being exploited. Unless Quentin Jammer goes back to playing like the elite cornerback his draft position and awesome last name would lead you to believe he is, anyway.

Mike: Oh good lord, they're starting Atari Bigby, aren't they?

Tom: Maybe. Probably. At least at first. It depends on when third-round pick Brandon Taylor is ready to play, and when Bigby gets hurt.

Mike: This feels just like last year, when we looked at most of the secondaries in the league and found them rather wanting, but this one is especially suspect.

Tom: Yes, technically Bigby getting hurt is an if rather than a when, as he hasn't played in 16 games since he and Bob Sanders had full 2007 campaigns. Yes, again, I've tried not to overemphasize marginal secondaries this year, but this is a tough one for me to avoid talking about. The defense has also ranked in the 20s by DVOA three of the last four seasons, so it's not like 2011's bad performance can easily be written off as a fluke.

Mike: On the other hand, Mathews did choose an opportune time to injure himself. He'll only miss two or three regular season games, so he should be back on track in no time, especially since he'll likely be returning just in time to feast on Kansas City and New Orleans. I'd be worried about a regression by the offensive line, because currently it's kind of a mess. They got lucky with a mess last year, when a solidly average line played way over its head. I don't see that happening again.

Tom: Left tackle Jared Gaither has missed most of training camp due to injury. Yes, already.

Mike: That said, you have a good point about Gates, and I also don't see anything to suggest Rivers is sharply falling off. Rivers played the same way he always has; moments of absolute brilliance interspersed with complete head-scratchers in equal proportion. That is a known quality at this point. The team knows that Rivers gonna Rivers.

Tom: They need Gaither on the field in the regular season.

Mike: They do. I think they'll get him with enough season to spare.

Tom: The current alternative is Mario Henderson. We've seen that before, in Oakland. It was ugly. Henderson probably didn't get better in the time he was out of the league.

Mike: I really wish the line was 8.5. I think this is another ugly push situation, but here I don't like the team, so I'd say we have better chances with Under.

Tom: Writing the chapter, my reasonable range for the Chargers was 7-10 wins. It wouldn't shock me if they go over, but I'm not expecting it. Under.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 15 Aug 2012

32 comments, Last at 21 Aug 2012, 3:04pm by BigCheese


by Travis :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 4:23pm

Matt Cassel won a division title his first year as a starter. When he went into the season as a starter, that is.

Cassel went into 2009 as the Chiefs' starting QB, but injured himself the next-to-last week of preseason and missed Week 1. He wound up starting the next 15 games for a 4-12 team.

by Travis :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 4:09pm

Why would you bet on a line where you have two losing propositions instead of just one?

Every place I know of would refund your bet if a line pushed.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 6:54pm

Chargers 9: Over. They have a franchise quarterback and a non-New England level defense.
Raiders 7: Over. They have the injury-ravaged ghost of a franchise quarterback and Darren McFadden.
Broncos 9: Push. Peyton Manning compensates for defensive free-fall.
Chiefs 8: Under. Defense should have kept Carr.
SF: Under. This just isn't that great a team outside the defensive front seven, and the defensive front seven is so 1985.
ARI 7: Under. Darnell Dockett and Larry Fitzgerald were here in 2008 when this team had a franchise quarterback and had a shot at the playoffs. They're here, but everyone else talented is gone.
STL 6: Over? Tough one. I want to say the Jeff Fisher can get these guys to 7-9.
SEA 7: Under. Matt Flynn's receiving corpse was great in 2007 but a bit whiffy now. The defense will keep them in games, so 6-10 isn't out of reach.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 7:39pm

The Rams looked unathletic, unmotivated, and confused against the Colts. They looked like they would rather be selling door to door vacuums than playing in the NFL. And the Colts don't look particularly great. They'll be lucky to get to 4-12 again, next year Fisher cleans house.

by theslothook :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 8:00pm

I actually think KC has one of the most talented total rosters in the nfl. Their defensive line might be a bit suspect, but their secondary, their pass rusher in hali, along with derrick Thomas creates a very talented defense. As for offense, their o line seems pretty good along with bowe, moiaki, and charles- the offense is probably more talented than most. This is truly a good team saddled with a below avg qb. Matt Cassel clearly provides the case where good supporting cast can make a below avg qb look competent and a great supporting cast(ne 08) can make a below avg qb look like a probowler.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 1:41am

I'm guessing you meant Derrick Johnson. Derrick Thomas has not played for over a decade.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 08/21/2012 - 3:00pm

Or, you know... been alive....

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by jmcgoblue (not verified) :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 8:26pm

Wow, love the negative vibe everyone seems to have against the Chiefs. Y'all are going to be kicking yourselves for not betting a paycheck on the 'over' on this team when January rolls around. The team has the best defense in the division, and it's not even close...with the way Pittsburgh & Baltimore are aging it could be the best D in the conference when all is said and done. On offense...I'm not going to convince anyone who hasn't been following the team closely, but it's going to be a top-10 unit with or without Bowe (and he will show up in September anyway)...look over the roster & think about it. Throw in a relatively easy schedule, and this is a 10-win team minimum, and more likely 11 or 12.

KC - 12-4
SD - 10-6
Den - 9-7
Oak - 5-11

by jmcgoblue (not verified) :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 8:26pm

Wow, love the negative vibe everyone seems to have against the Chiefs. Y'all are going to be kicking yourselves for not betting a paycheck on the 'over' on this team when January rolls around. The team has the best defense in the division, and it's not even close...with the way Pittsburgh & Baltimore are aging it could be the best D in the conference when all is said and done. On offense...I'm not going to convince anyone who hasn't been following the team closely, but it's going to be a top-10 unit with or without Bowe (and he will show up in September anyway)...look over the roster & think about it. Throw in a relatively easy schedule, and this is a 10-win team minimum, and more likely 11 or 12.

KC - 12-4
SD - 10-6
Den - 9-7
Oak - 5-11

by theslothook :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 8:36pm

I can kind of believe the defense...(they still lack a really good d line btw), but a top 10 offense??? I agree they have talent on offense, but last year they were abysmal, ranked 26th. Even two years ago when everyone was healthy and weiss calling the plays, the offense ranked no better than 17th , and the year before that they were ranked 28th. All this to say yes i think the chiefs are being underrated, but they are hardly a top 10 offense and that is entirely due to their qb situation. Swap out cassel and maybe I can buy it.

by theslothook :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 8:36pm

I can kind of believe the defense...(they still lack a really good d line btw), but a top 10 offense??? I agree they have talent on offense, but last year they were abysmal, ranked 26th. Even two years ago when everyone was healthy and weiss calling the plays, the offense ranked no better than 17th , and the year before that they were ranked 28th. All this to say yes i think the chiefs are being underrated, but they are hardly a top 10 offense and that is entirely due to their qb situation. Swap out cassel and maybe I can buy it.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 8:59pm

I'm not sure that people don't believe in the Chiefs, just so much as this division is so wide open, it's hard to know how it will shake out. If the Chiefs go 10-6 and win it outright, I don't think anyone will be shocked. If they go 6-10 and come in 4th, I don't think anyone will be shocked. There's so many question marks in their competitors in SD, Oakland and especially the Broncos, that they could have 6 powder-puff games against divisional opponents or 6 tough as hell games against their arch-rivals. As a non-fan of any of the teams involved, I look at this division and wouldn't want to bet on any of them succeeding by a hair, bombing or dominating because all 4 could do any of those things. If Peyton is Peyton, the Chiefs can't hang with that. They got swept by Oakland last year and it looks like Oakland could be even better in 2012. SD had a down year on team that has been the cream of the AFC West crop for a while. The Chiefs won the division recently on the strength of smart QB play, a promising defense and a dominant running game. Which one of those teams is going to show up in 2012? Who the hell could know?

by t.d. :: Wed, 08/15/2012 - 10:58pm

I think Seattle wins 10 games and is the surprise of the league. I don't think they win the division, but I think this is the first year since 1998 where the nfc west has two good teams. I really like what Carroll's been doing with that defense, and the oline has pedigree if it hasn't quite developed yet (tom cable also did nice work with the raiders). the rams are still a disaster, and the cardinals have a gaping void at quarterback, so they'll get a few gimmie wins, and either flynn or wilson will be competent enough for them to succeed

by carola (not verified) :: Fri, 08/17/2012 - 11:16pm

I also think that this is gona be a great season for the Seahawks. Finally getting some well deserved respect from nay-sayers and crap talkers. Long live the 12th man! I love my Seahawks!!

by Alternator :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 1:06am

I'm wondering why people are so down on Cassel as to say he's a below-average QB. Are there really at least 16 guys that have proven themselves to be superior options?

Brady, Bradford, Brees, Cutler, Flacco, Manning x2, Newton, Rivers, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Romo, Ryan, Schaub, Stafford, Vick.

That's sixteen. If you want to count could-be starters, you'd include Hasselbeck and maybe Orton. I might be forgetting a name, but really, that'd put Cassel around 20th, and some of the ones above him have real issues (Bradford, Manning the Elder, and Vick have serious health questions).

Once you're into Palmer and Dalton, it's really hard to denigrate Cassel. That's hardly going to qualify as good, but it's not like he's a total disaster, which is the impression I'm getting from some of these comments.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 2:09am

Dalton, Fitzpatrick, Freeman, Hasselbeck*, Moore*, Palmer, Sanchez, Smith
*assuming he is the starter

So that puts him at 25 and that doesn't even consider guys like Luck, Third, or Flynn who could very well start and immediately be better as well. Below average seems appropriate if not charitable.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 08/17/2012 - 1:06pm

I don't know - last year he was 39th in the league in DVOA. In 2009, he was 37th. Last year, he ranked in between Tim tebow (who had better PASSING dvoa) and John Skelton (a guy who most agree is worse than Kevin Kolb, who those same people also agree is not very good.)

His best year in DVOA in KC he was 16th. It is the only year he had positive DVOA (or even got within the neighborhood of it.) He's never played all 16 games in a season in KC, so it's a little dubious to say some QB's have injury issues and therefore should be ranked lower than him. I got nothing against the guy, but his DVOA was worse in 2011 than Vince Young... and I loathe Young because he all but cost my eagles the season.

I care not one way or the other about the gu, but I have no idea what argument there is to be made that he's even mediocre. (And don't say his so-so numbers in the greatest passing attack of all-time that he scored in 2008 prove anything.)

by LionInAZ :: Sun, 08/19/2012 - 4:25pm

Matt Cassel is the equivalent of Alex Smith without Smith's mobility. That translates to a below average QB. He had one decent season of relatively mistake-free QB-ing against a weak schedule and with a healthy running game to keep the heat off him, and ended up being exposed in a blowout playoff loss at home by the Ravens.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 08/21/2012 - 3:04pm

Once you're into Palmer and Dalton, it's really hard to denigrate Cassel.

Seriously? I would think that the fact that I would rather have Palmer or Dalton over Cassel any day of the week makes it REALY easy to denigrate him.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by patriot8813 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 7:48am

I like the chiefs chances this year and I am picking them to win the division. Though they admittedly have a lot ifs, mostly due to injury, I think it will work out in their favor. I think people don't really fully understand the talent this team has on offense.

Tony Moeaki had a decent year as a rookie tight end and was hurt last year. He will help this team and improve from his rookie season if he can remain healthy. If not Boss could equal his production from his rookie year. Jamal Charles is very talented and the o-line is good enough to create holes for him. He has to remain healthy and if he does he could have a great year. If Hillis has a 2010 Thomas Jones year, it will be a decent one two punch and that shouldn't be too hard to achieve. Bowe is capable of playing well and I think he shows up this year and tries to prove he is worth a long term deal. Baldwin is growing as a player, seems to be much more focused this off-season and actually had an off-season to prepare unlike last year. I also think the chiefs have a good 3rd wr that can produce in Steve Breaston. Talk coming out of KC is McCluster is having a good camp and any contribution he makes is a bonus. With this supporting cast Cassel is good enough to elevate to an average qb and do enough to push this team on offense.

Their defense is also filled with talent in the secondary and the front seven. Which most people agree with. The Chiefs are also in a weak division and they fired Todd Haley, which just instantly elevates this team. I think people are underestimating the Chiefs and I see them winning this division with ease.

by BigWoody (not verified) :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 10:16am

That's a whole lot of "ifs" pat. But then, every team in the AFC West has a lot of "ifs" this year. It's the Ifs division.

by Joey (not verified) :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 1:24pm

Mike and Tom you both are idiots! Worst blog I've ever read. I Knew as soon as you said the 2011 was somewhat of a fluke for SF... I'm not even a 49er fan and they were a blown call and a fumbled punt away from the Super Bowl... Ya thats such a fluke season... You both are retards.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 2:05pm

What was fluky was mostly how healthy they stayed on defense. That's extremely unlikely to happen again.

That said, I still think they win 10 or 11 games.

by Joey (not verified) :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 3:05pm

They can afford injuries to the defense this year, they are so deep at every position! I'm very impressed. Even with the receiving corps... They definitely are over 10 wins.

by Nekked (not verified) :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 5:05pm

It's not just the lack of injuries, they were extremely lucky with recovering fumbles as well as just an overall lack of turnovers.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 08/17/2012 - 1:10pm

Did you really just call the writers "retards?" Ah, the regular season posters are flocking back...

by LionInAZ :: Sun, 08/19/2012 - 4:34pm

I guess he thinks that Randy Moss is going to transform Alex Smith into Tom Brady... although it's more likely that Smith will turn Randy into T.O.

by carola (not verified) :: Fri, 08/17/2012 - 11:20pm

LOL! Nice! The only reason 49ers did anything last season, is because the Seahawks were under construction. I cant wait for the Dec 23rd game at Century Link Field. I cant wait for the Hawks to kick that 49er tail!

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 6:49pm

I'd push the 49ers, even though it's a bit silly. Every team in the AFC West as under, really?

by Mike Kurtz :: Fri, 08/17/2012 - 10:56am

Likely one of these predictions is going to be incorrect, but considering the complete uncertainty in the division, none of them are a good bet to be overs. It's not quite hedging, but an unwillingness to bite on any of them based on what we know and don't know about the teams. It's important to note that we're just using the line and not the action. That is a huge consideration in actual wagering that we're ignoring to make the column closer to a review of the teams involved, rather than a betting guide.

We also approach each team individually rather than trying to map out a season or a division's season, so all this means is that we just don't believe in the AFCW. Trying to predict wins/losses quickly becomes indistinguishable from flipping a coin.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 08/17/2012 - 1:09pm

Also, the division winners in the AFC West for the past few seasons have been hanging around .500 anyway, so it's not like these lines are out of whack even for a division champion. SD could easily go 9-7 to win the division and the best you'd get out of it is a push. As Mike says, there's no reason to have confidence in any of those teams - the lines agree.