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27 Aug 2014

Scramble Over/Unders: the Norths

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: As we do every year, we begin with a series of columns examining the over/unders for each NFL team. As usual, the over/unders we will be using are courtesy of Bovada. At Bovada, those over/under win totals are accompanied by numerical lines, indicating whether a team is likelier to go over or under. As Mike and I are engaged in a grand exercise of passing judgment on teams rather than wagering money, we will be discussing teams only in relation to their over/under win totals and ignoring the betting odds. We have previously covered the AFC and NFC East and South divisions. If we're going by the Japanese alphabet, the North divisions would be next up. And we begin with the most recent Super Bowl champion among the weekly octet.


Tom: Or, just how much do you agree with the projections in Football Outsiders Almanac 2014? It was not often pretty, especially at the end of the season, but the Ravens finished a disappointing 8-8 last season.

Mike: Forget that, how much does FOA 14 agree with the projections in FOA 14?

Tom: I think popular acclaim, my eyes, and our numbers agreed that the Ravens looked like a below-average team last year. Numbers tended to agree, as the Ravens were 23rd in total DVOA and had 7.1 Pythagorean wins and 6.8 Estimated Wins. All of that decline from 2012, though, came on the offensive side of the ball. As I expected, the Ravens had a better defensive DVOA last year than they did when they won the Super Bowl. Whatever you want to say about Gary Kubiak's faults, the man has an integrated, conceptual offense not revolving around "being successful on random deep passes," as seemed to be true of Baltimore's last two offensive coordinators.

Mike: Well, let's put it this way; the only starter on Baltimore's offense that recorded a positive DVOA last year was Marlon Brown. Think about that for a moment. The only player on the entire offense that was above-average was a rookie slot receiver

Tom: I'm making the "Jim Caldwell is a ninny argument." That, and the line wasn't very good.

Mike: Yes, well, there is also that

Tom: They're in their second year of running more zone blocking. I believe in Ozzie Newsome's ability to find talent. They'll have Eugene Monroe all year. I think the line should be better.

Mike: And Kubiak should help, yes. The line will definitely be improved. It's really very difficult to lay all of this offense's faults on the line, however. Even assuming, as we can most likely safely do, that Kubiak will run a better offense. I just really hate this offense, is the point I'm trying to make.

Tom: I'm not saying I love their ball-handlers on offense, at any position, outside of Torrey Smith and a healthy Dennis Pitta. But if you think this can be an average offense, the AFC North is mediocre enough the Ravens can win 10 games again.

Mike: I don't see how it could possibly be average. It will be better, but it was putrid last year and their plan is largely "Once more, with feeling!"

Tom: Maybe I've just watched too many offensive coordinators whose plan seems to be "calling plays in the hope something works," but I still really appreciate Kubiak having an offense that makes sense.

Mike: The defense will still be good, but I'm less inclined to trust it to not regress toward the bottom of the top-10. Last year's 8-8 record was overachieving, but I think this year's 8-8 will be right on the nose. Under.

Tom: I believe. Over.


Tom: Must ... not ... push ...


Tom: I'm searching for something new to say about the Bengals, but I don't have anything. They lost both their coordinators. I'm not sure how much of a loss Jay Gruden is. As we discussed (briefly) when we talked about the Redskins, I'm not sure just how effective he was. Hue Jackson is an effective designer of offense, as he showed in Oakland; just don't let him make franchise decisions.

Mike: Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Tom: It seems fitting that expression apparently dates from the mid-19th century, though it would be even more fitting if it were older.

The loss of Mike Zimmer seems like it could be a big one. I haven't followed Paul Gunther's career closely. After the success Arizona had on defense with Todd Bowles after the loss of Ray Horton, though, I'm wary of overrating the loss of an esteemed schemer and leader. We'll see if the old corners stay healthy and young enough and/or the young corners are good. The defensive line is still deep, and it's not like Michael Johnson was their only or even best edge rusher.

If you want, we could have a discussion of Giovani Bernard's fantasy value.

Mike: Anyway, I'm really excited by the combination of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Moreso in real football than fantasy football, for vulture reasons.

Tom: I don't think there's much question it's a better real than fantasy football combo, for both players.

Mike: Yes. "Cincinnati RB" is probably the most frustrating example of that phenomenon, however.

Tom: I still want to push.

Mike: Push is tempting. I think the late-season improvement on the offensive line is going to stick. And if that sticks, the offense as a whole will be not just better, but much more consistent.

Tom: To me that was driven too much by the position move. Anthony Collins is in Tampa and Andrew Whitworth's going back to left tackle. No pushing this year. Under.

Mike: I actually think Cincinnati may have underperformed last year. Yes, the position move helped, but more importantly Whitworth also got healthy. The Bengals, honestly, are my favorites in the AFC, Non-Manning Division. Over.


Mike: Who is ready for maybe some two-quarterback system why not?

Tom: OK, I probably should have done this before now. But I just added up all 32 team over/under numbers, and it added up to 262. I now feel better about this line being 0.5 or 1.0 wins higher than I expected it to be.

Kyle Shanahan's arrival really helped the Texans improve their run game efficiency. He did the same thing in Washington his first season. The Browns could have a reasonable offensive line. I like their defensive talent, mostly. I like Mike Pettine, and his match with their talent.

Of this alleged two-quarterback system, I want absolutely no part.

Mike: I don't know how Pettine could possibly have thought saying that was a good idea.

Tom: In his defense, he did used to work with Rex Ryan.

Mike: I think you're confused with the definition of "defense." It was bad enough that they kept up the fiction of a quarterback competition when they ran the full offense in preseason and Johnny Manziel was completely out of his depth.

Tom: The Browns have been mostly boring. Brian Hoyer is really boring. Manziel is interesting, or was at Texas A&M.

Mike: Now Hoyer, who isn't very good anyway, is going to be looking over his shoulder and wondering when they're going to start asking him to run block for his backup. Yes, the Browns have been boring. I'm not sure being insane is any better. Or if the team has just bought into the whole Manziel nonsense. Although that would probably be catastrophic.

Tom: He was their first-round pick. Your first-round pick is supposed to play as a rookie. It's science!

(What branch of science, you ask? Oh, look, space shuttle!)

Mike: Ooooo, space shuttle!

Anyway, I like Cleveland's youth on defense. I'm particularly looking forward to Barkevious Mingo's second campaign, and not just because he has the most fabulous name in the NFL.

Tom: I like the first-round pick they got from the Bills. I think Justin Gilbert may be good, but it won't be in 2014.

Mike: I also think that Busta Screen should show some improvement, especially in his new, reduced role. Although, as you said, a lot of this is players that will probably be ready next season. In the meantime, the Browns have a promising but not elite defense, and a wide receiver. And a quarterback their coach is constantly trying to undermine for no reason. In other words, it's the Browns. Under.

Tom: 2013 Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton and defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi are now in Tennessee, and it's been interesting to hear them discuss in offseason interviews how the defensive back group in Tennessee is long and fast and physical, unlike the Browns' secondary. For some reason, Buster Skrine was always the first player that came to my mind when the said that. The recent front office upheaval doesn't leave them as badly off as it has some other teams, but this is still a growing collection of talent that could be good some year. That year is not likely to be 2014. At a line more like the 5.5 or 6.0 I expected, this is a tough call. At 6.5, though, give me under.


Mike: World + Dog[g] all wonder what kind of blackmail Todd Haley has on the Rooneys.

Tom: FOA 2014 projects the Steelers to win the AFC North. They got 16 games from each of Ben Roethsliberger and Troy Polamalu last year and went 8-8. I'm not sure I agree with this one.

Mike: %#@@^ Todd Haley, is why.

Tom: Maybe in a world where they have a different offensive coordinator, the Steelers win more games.

Mike: I know it's old by now, but I hate the way this offense has been run with a burning passion which would take most of the Earth's water to extinguish.

Tom: But he was there in 2013 and he's there this year. I do not see that as a reason for improvement.

Mike: Unfortunately.

Tom: Mike Munchak was once a good offensive line coach, but he hasn't developed a young offensive lineman since David Stewart in 2006.

Mike: Haley did seem to let the reins loose a little bit as the season wore on and let Roethlisberger execute the no-huddle and call plays on the field. Why a coordinator would have such trouble just trusting a probably second-tier quarterback with years of experience --- OK, I'm not making this about Haley.

Tom: Beyond "it's Dick LeBeau," how much of the defense do you trust?

Mike: Way less than the offense, actually, provided the Free Roethlisberger campaign was successful. They brought back Brett Keisel, for starters. In the middle of the preseason. Keisel is expected to start opening day, provided he can get into football shape, which means we're two weeks away from the season and one of the starters is not in football shape. I do think that the team has done a good job of rebuilding the linebacking corps.

Tom: I do like Lawrence Timmons. In years past, it seems like Ryan Shazier would have been able to sit for a year instead of being thrust into the lineup immediately. Again, probably good in the future, maybe not in 2014.

Mike: People worry about Polamalu, with decent reason given his health and age, but the real problem with the Steelers' defense the past two years was that the linebackers were mediocre at just about everything. There were real run-stopping issues, which led to a lot of close safety play (and paradoxically a lot of big runs when Polamalu gambled and everyone else misread the play). Not as much last year, but two years ago the lack of pass rush was a major headache for a secondary that covers well early but has trouble maintaining coverage.

Tom: As long as Jarvis Jones is never blocked by anything other than air or an undersized running back, he can be a force at outside linebacker.

Mike: I still believe in Jason Worilds. And more importantly, I think he can be great right now.

Tom: Worilds is OK. I'm not sure he's the sort of player who can have a transformative effect on a defense, and I think the Steelers will need him to.

Mike: I disagree. I think he mostly needs to do his job, and do it very well. That will free the other linebackers to do theirs. The problem recently has been that nobody has been handling their assignments, and that led to a lot of big plays and especially big YAC plays.

Tom: I expect him to have a few too many "not quite there" rushes as a secondary I don't really like is exploited. Under.

Mike: Honestly, I think the defense will be good enough as it transitions to the new generation, and provided Haley doesn't get in the way too much, the offense should be impressive. Over.

Tom: And now the NFC.


Tom: The Bears went 8-8 with a ridiculously injured defense. They added some talented defensive players in the offseason. The schedule isn't too bad, with the AFC East and NFC South on there. Is Marc Trestman a fluke, the departure of Josh McCown that disturbing, or people's memories of that Eagles game just too strong?

Mike: Do you really think the Bears have the sixth-best offense in the league?

Tom: I'm not sure the Bears will finish sixth in DVOA again. But I don't think an offensive DVOA of 10% is out of the question.

Mike: I can't believe we could live in a world where Josh McCown's departure causes people to wring their hands in worry.

Tom: Hey, I'm hoping that's not the world we live in.

Mike: Too late. You should be hoping we don't live in the world where the hand-wringers were right. To me, the Bears offense was a bit of an enigma last year.

Tom: I know, Jay Cutler has an injury history. The offense was pretty healthy last year (first in Adjusted Game Lost, in contrast to the defense ranking 30th).

Mike: It seemed like a better version of the Baltimore offense, actually. Higher-probability plays than the Ravens, but the end result was a relatively inconsistent offense that had enough flash and big plays to amass value without showing great reliable per-play value.

Tom: Having receivers who can make contested catches and a quarterback willing to pull the trigger are more sustainable than what the Ravens ran last year. If I had to make a comparison, it would be to San Diego a few years ago, with Philip Rivers throwing to Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd.

Mike: Well, I said better version. For instance, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey were both top-15 receivers by DYAR last year but lumped near the middle of the pack on a per-play basis, according to DVOA.

Tom: Well, yeah, they both had 150 or more targets.

Mike: So did, say, Antonio Brown. That's also a rather arbitrary cutoff. My point is not that I think the Bears offense is bad.

Tom: OK, what is your point then? Do you expect the Bears to have a top-ten offense this year?

Mike: I do not.

Tom: OK, we disagree there.

Mike: I expect them to have a solidly above-average offense. I don't think the offense is consistent enough, I think Forte and Cutler are both major injury concerns, and I think the team was generally mediocre in the second half of last year. I do like them to make noise for a wild card spot, however. The run defense will be nowhere near as bad as it was when it sunk the team in 2013, just because it is impossible to be that bad two years in a row. So the defense will be more solid, the offense will come back to Earth, and they'll beat up on the Lions and the Vikings. Over.

Tom: And I was thinking we were going to disagree. An FOA-approved over from me as well.


Tom: So, about that Jim Caldwell... I know, what teams look for in their next head coach is generally somebody they see as not having the prior head coach's faults. In Caldwell, the Lions definitely found a Not Jim Schwartz.

Mike: What about Jim Ca ... ldw .... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tom: To Caldwell's credit, the 2011 Indianapolis Colts did not quit on him, winning two games in a row after that 0-13 start. His coaching the rest of the season, though, was of the sort that indicated the Colts might be intentionally tanking.

Mike: One thing that really shocked me about the 2013 Lions was that the offense, despite the endless promise of Matthew Stafford and the tangible domination of Calvin Johnson, was just not very good.

Tom: That's the fascinating thing about the Lions. They have loads of potentially really, really good players, almost none of whom outside of Megatron actually are.

Mike: That is, according to our Premium DVOA database, with one major exception: when the team was losing big. When the team isn't down big, the offense meandered from average late and close (-1.6% DVOA, 15th) to really quite bad winning small (-20.0% DVOA, 25th). When they're losing big, however? 60.6% DVOA. Best in the league, roughly 7% better than our pet project, the 2013 "We'll Just Mess You Up In the Second Half" Broncos. I want to go on a rant about the running backs but I already did that in Four Downs.

Tom: I was also thinking of the running back duo in my "potentially really, really good, actually aren't" commentary. OK, so they gave Reggie Bush too many carries. Giving him less won't be that hard.

Mike: Joique Bell was very valuable as a receiving running back last year, but Matt Stafford has a long history of turning basically any running back on hand into an all-star receiver out of the backfield. Reggie Bush was basically replacement level. In fact, the Detroit offense, going back to our situational DVOA, was at its worst and near the worst in the league when they were ahead.

Well, not near the worst in the league. Jacksonville had a -117.2% DVOA when winning big. Which is mostly astounding because I'm trying to remember a time last year when Jacksonville was actually winning big,.

Tom: They were up 14 a couple times against the Texans one game.

Mike: Oh, right, the Texans. Of course.

Tom: Well this is interesting. Playing with the running back DVOA, it appears that Bell and Bush evenly split the carries when the Lions were leading. On those carries, Bell was dreadful, posting a DVOA of -25.9%.

Mike: Yeah, Bell was really not good. The question has always been how, with such an amazing offense, the Lions have been so thoroughly mediocre. I think the answer really is that the offense to some degree is smoke and mirrors from a team that can really chew up softer coverages but constricts to Megatron reenacting the Battle of Thermopylae when real defensive pressure is applied.

Tom: It's weird; I would have expected Bush to be the more effective back when the Lions were trailing. Nope, vice versa.

Mike: Bush was also really not good, but they both put up gaudy traditional counting stats.

Tom: Bell rushing DVOA when tied/trailing 18.4%, compared to that -25.9% leading. Bush rushing DVOA -13.4% tied/trailing, 6.7% when leading.

The defense feels like Carolina lite--the secondary not quite that bad, the linebackers not that good, the defensive line pedigreed but not up to that level. Basically, Detroit of late is my model for what Carolina might look like this year, when the pass rush doesn't get there. Anyway, there's a case for the Lions. In another division, I could see it happening. Not in the NFC North. Under.

Mike: A more disciplined defense could cut down on the heartbreaking and embarrassing losses they suffered last year. Then again, the offense is incapable of holding on to a lead, and probably had just as much to do with those agonizing defeats as the never-ending game of What's My Line? in which the secondary was engaged. This is the same frustrating team from last year, but there's every reason to expect the Lions to be every bit as maddening in 2014. Under.


Mike: So the big, agonizing question this offseason was whether the Packers should sink the considerable cost in re-signing B.J. Raji. They did! And then Raji tore his bicep and now he's on IR before opening day. I'm not sure schadenfreude is the right term, but man, the universe is cruel.

Tom: Maybe that was Ted Thompson's reasoning behind what Mike Tanier rightly describes as some goofy-seeming roster decisions in the recent past. Keeping in mind that surprises are inevitable, where do you get to six losses on Green Bay's schedule, barring another Aaron Rodgers injury or some 2010 weirdness in close games?

Mike: Are you suggesting that Thompson is Front Office Batman?

Tom: No, I'm suggesting he was pulling a Rex Kramer from Airplane!, refusing to turn on the airport lights because that's just what they'd be expecting.

Mike: It's amazing how thoroughly you have embraced the mad scientist persona Tanier crafted for Thompson. That is why he gets the big bucks.

Tom: Maybe I'm recalling last preseason or the preseason before that, when we argued Scott Tolzien was not a good backup plan. Now that we've seen what it brought, it's a taboo subject again?

Mike: To answer your question, I can't find six losses in this schedule, as much as I hate searching for wins and losses when examining a team's line.

Tom: Wins and losses off a schedule are a mug's game, which is why we regularly engage in the grand passing of judgment rather than intimate schedule examination, but it's still a useful tool. Rodgers, when healthy, is one of the couple best quarterbacks in football (and I would specify it further from there, but that is a whole separate argument). This could be the best Packers team at running the ball since, oh, maybe 2007? The defense just has to be average for the Packers to win a lot of games, and I think they have the potential to be better than that.

Mike: I agree. The secondary is a big question mark, but the rest of the team, even without Raji, is so talented that it's hard to pick against them. Over.

Tom: This is another one the hypothetical me who bets might put money on. Over.


Tom: Mock my "no pushing" resolution, do you?

Mike: Always.

Tom: Fine. I mocked the Packers for not having a reliable backup quarterback. Whatever fault that sin was, it pales to what the Vikings did last season at quarterback. The most parsimonious explanation I can come up with is Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman were involved in a power struggle, and the signal-caller was an innocent bystander in that conflict.

Mike: Like a South American civil war, but more horrific.

Tom: The more interesting question is how effective the defense will be. The secondary was nearly as much of a disaster as quarterback, as Mr. Tanier rightly notes. There's youth there, but development is needed. I have a lot of respect for Mike Zimmer's work, but he's the head coach, not just the defensive coordinator.

The Everson Griffen contract is one that you call "aggressive" even if you like it, and "Dan Snyder-esque" if you don't. Well, OK, Snyder's particular form of overpayment is more for older players coming off big statistical seasons, rather than a bet on flashed potential like Griffen's deal.

Mike: Yeah, the term is "lottery ticket."

Tom: OK, that is a much better negative description than "Snyder-esque."

Mike: I'd say it's not terrible, honestly. The Vikings are in a transition year on the defensive line. They have a favorable cap situation because they haven't developed many players worth signing recently.

Tom: If this was a Tampa Bay-like situation and he was supposed to have a transformative effect, I'd be more critical. He has had a couple years of good play, and Brian Robison is an effective player on the other side. I'm excited to see how Zimmer will use Anthony Barr, though again I'm not sure how much impact to expect from him this year.

Mike: Griffen was signed to keep a competitive NFL defense while dumping quality but expensive starters while the new kids are trained up. I think the biggest problem with the Vikings is that the team is full of players that might turn into above-average starters. But there's no real sure-fire talent aside from Adrian Peterson and, depending on how well you trust your eyes to divorce receiver performance from quarterback ineptness, Cordarrelle Patterson. The rest of the VIkings are temporary measures and promising youngsters who may or may not turn into anything in 2015 or 2016.

Tom: I'm optimistic on the long-term potential of Teddy Bridgewater. Kyle Rudolph could have a great year in Norv Turner's tight end-friendly scheme. Patterson obviously has some special talents. I think Barr could be really good.

Mike: Whether there's enough talent for that strategy to bear fruit will be interesting to watch. They'll still be terrible this year. Under.

Tom: The Vikings went 5-10-1 last year with some sub-optimal situations. They had 6.1 Pythagorean wins and 6.5 Estimated Wins. Again, the push is tempting, but give me over.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 27 Aug 2014

15 comments, Last at 23 Sep 2014, 2:16pm by


by Will Allen :: Wed, 08/27/2014 - 5:50pm

The Vikings may provide some real insight as to the value of a coaching staff. This team has not had good coaches installed in the head job and two coordinators for nearly two decades, since Green, Dungy, and Billick had the jobs. I have no idea if George Edwards is a good defensive coordinator, but it sounds as if Zimmer is very hands on with the defense, even as a head coach, and Norv can coach offense. Overall, this team has been poorly coached in some significant aspect for a very, very, long time. If that changes, going over won't be too much to ask.

On the other hand, it's pretty uncertain that this will change, although the last few months are encouraging, and the schedule is difficult. I guess I lean towards over, since I firmly believe if they had just let Cassell start every game last year, they probably would have won 7 games, as bad as they were on defense.

by herewegobrownie... :: Wed, 08/27/2014 - 5:56pm

" In the meantime, the Browns have a promising but not elite defense, and a wide receiver."

I take it you finished writing before today's news. :)

People keep saying "but this was a 4-12 team with Gordon for most of last year! One non-QB doesn't make a team!" but it's safe to say they would've been 2-14 without him (I think we can subtract the Baltimore and Minnesota wins; we'll assume they still win the first Cin game, which was quite a Hoyer-to-Cameron show, and the 37-21 Buffalo game.

As for the other part, we can only hope that Haden and Skrine are the difference to keep something like last weekend, when the 2nd and 3rd team Rams offense hung nearly 500 yards on the Browns, from happening again.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 08/27/2014 - 6:51pm

I'm a bit surprised at the prediction that the Bears won't have a top-ten offense this year. The only thing that really worries me is the lack of a solid 3rd receiver, and while injuries can obviously derail any team, assuming the major players stay healthy I don't see why they won't be even better than last year on offense.

I'm less optimistic about defense and special teams. Frankly, I don't see any reason why the rushing defense automatically will improve from last season and I think Shea McClellin will be just as useless as a linebacker as he was at defensive end. The idea that Chris Conte will likely be starting, again, makes me nauseous. And the way special teams are looking, the Bears will be starting most of their drives at about their own 15 while opponents will be starting at midfield.

I hope you guys are right on your over prediction, but honestly they're starting to look like a 6-8 win team to me.

by Kurt :: Wed, 08/27/2014 - 7:03pm

Mike at least seems pretty precise in his expectations. Not top ten, but solidly above average! I expect them to be *exactly* the thirteenth best offense!

by Will Allen :: Wed, 08/27/2014 - 7:07pm

Yeah, I also think the Bears will score a ton, but I don't have any confidence that they will stop anybody, and their special teams remain a mere shadow of the Lovie years.

Has any other team undergone such a complete 180 in identity in such a short time?

by Perfundle :: Wed, 08/27/2014 - 10:04pm

To answer this question, I looked at all the teams since 1990 that saw their offense improve and their defense decline or vice versa (I left out special teams because Chicago's special teams weren't that bad last year). Out of those I looked for the maximum change of the smaller of the two changes (e.g. Chicago's offense went up 24.2% in DVOA and the defense went up 35.4%, so the smaller change would be 24.2%). I did this because I don't want to pick up teams with a small change in one unit and a massive change in the other unit, which would skew the numbers. I also weighted the offensive and defensive shifts by the standard deviation of Off DVOA and Def DVOA, because there is less variation in Def DVOA. Chicago comes out fifth in this measure.

First and second place don't really fit the complete 180 in identity theme, because their historically good defense is still skewing the numbers. Of course, I'm referring to the 1990-1991 Eagles and the 1991-1992 Eagles. Their defense was still top-3 in 1990 and 1992, but nowhere near the 1991 version.

Outside of those two, there is the 2004-2005 Vikings, although once again one of the units was below-average in both years. They went from the 5th-best offense and 32nd-best defense to the 26th-best offense and 23rd-best defense.

The best example then, one where one unit went from above-average to below-average and the other did the opposite like Chicago's did, would be the 2010-2011 Jaguars. They went from the 14th-best offense and 32nd-best defense to the 31st-best offense and 5th-best defense. As a bonus, their special teams dropped from 7th to 26th.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 08/27/2014 - 10:13pm


by Duke :: Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:33am

Frankly, I don't see any reason why the rushing defense automatically will improve from last season

I think you're forgetting just how truly awful the Bears run D was last season. It would take an actual concerted effort--or massive injuries--to replicate.

I'm not expecting a great run d, but an improvement to the 20-23 range seems possible. They added a lot of good, solid players to the D line. They also hired new coaches for the D line and LBs, which I think will help; there were a lot of players out of position last year. Having the veteran LBs Briggs and Williams back should help with that, too. McClellin will likely be garbage against the run but frankly I doubt he sees the field except on passing downs anyway (not that he'll be any good at that, just saying).

I'm optimistic. There's still talent on that side of the ball. If the coaching staff can reverse decades of incompetence on the offensive side in one year, it doesn't seem impossible that they can get back a little of what this team once had on D. The preseason has not been encouraging, but it is just preseason. We'll see.

by Guest789 :: Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:53am

Can someone link me to the article(s) where Tanier discusses Ted Thompson?

by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:30pm

It's in the Almanac, which is on sale right now!


by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:26pm

Baltimore: Unfortunately, Joe Flacco is like the Super-Eli; he is a strong-armed passer who hits deep passes even to mediocre receivers and makes highlights both good and bad, and has a Super Bowl Ring, too. Eli Manning is a better quarterback, though, and Eli Manning has some Giants fans pining for Ryan Nassib. UNDER.
Cincinnati: Unfortunately, Andy Dalton is the Un-Eli; he is a weak-armed passer who is bailed out by his receivers and a good defense, and is exposed by better opposing defenses in the postseason. UNDER.
Cleveland: Brian Hoyer is not good enough to be compared to Eli Manning. Johnny Manziel has drawn Ryan Leaf comparisons before even stepping on a football field. UNDER.
Pittsburgh: The linebackers may be better, but unfortunately at this point in his career, Polamalu is essentially one of them. However, Dick LeBeau, and also Roethlisberger-to-Brown and two games each against Cleveland and Baltimore. OVER.

Chicago: I don't understand why everyone seems to think that this offense will be all-world. I do understand why people think that it will be good; Marshall and Jeffery are, in fact, good, and Jay Cutler is one of the most gifted boneheaded quarterbacks in the history of football. Unfortunately, the back seven is not that great anymore, and the history of boneheaded quarterbacks is not that shiny. UNDER.
Detroit: I'm not sure what the question was, but the answer is not "Jim Caldwell".
Green Bay: Assuming Aaron Rodgers stays healthy, they win the division. OVER.
Minnesota: Not a fantastically talented team. Adrian Peterson is a great running back, but this isn't 1975 and Teddy Bridgewater probably isn't ready to drag this team to the postseason. Matt Cassel certainly isn't. UNDER.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 08/28/2014 - 5:46pm

I'm not a gambler in any way, but I see a line for the Browns of 6.5 wins, think about how Hoyer and Manziel have looked in the preseason, see Josh Gordon gone for the year, figure it's Cleveland so other things have to go wrong . . . I should get a second mortgage to bet the "Under", shouldn't I?

by Perfundle :: Thu, 08/28/2014 - 6:01pm

It can't possibly be still available at 6.5 at this point.

by TomC :: Tue, 09/02/2014 - 1:31pm

Probably not, but that was my reaction as well. Even before the Gordon suspension was confirmed, I would have happily put down a large chunk of imaginary change on Cleveland underperforming 6.5.