Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

2009 Staff Predictions

compiled by Vince Verhei

Here's your standard warning: Predictions are probably wrong. It is the intrinsic nature of the NFL: there are so many variables and so much luck involved in a 16-game season that teams will make the playoffs or bomb for totally unexpected and sometimes baffling reasons.

Let's say we think the San Diego Chargers have the best chance of any team in the AFC to make it to the Super Bowl -- 20 percent, perhaps. For the sake of argument, we'll also say that Indianapolis, New England, and Pittsburgh each have a 10 percent chance to make the Super Bowl, ten other teams have a five percent chance, and Buffalo and Oakland are there to make sure everybody has a full schedule.

OK, so we pick San Diego to win the AFC. Even based solely on this opinion, there is four in five chance the pick will be incorrect. So preseason predictions are all going to be mostly wrong. It is unavoidable.

As we note every year, we're going to make picks anyway, because that's part of running a football site: you make picks. However, we no longer have every writer make their own pick of the 12 playoff teams because we were running into a bit of a problem. Running a dozen sets of predictions meant that it was easy to attack FO if you didn't like us. Look at our preseason article, and you were bound to find something completely stupid predicted for every single team, even if it was only the opinion of one writer. If everybody picked Carolina except one person, and Carolina ended up winning their division, someone out there would post, "See, Football Outsiders said Carolina would suck." Comments like this showed up around the Web. We're used to criticism, but this was just lame and annoying.

Last year, we came up with a new concept. Instead of each picking 12 playoff teams, we're showing our individuality by each arguing our point in categories such as "team likely to beat its projection" and "who will go first in the 2009 draft." Our college writers make similar comments about the FEI projections that ran in Football Outsiders Almanac 2009. However, the official FO predictions are based on the statistical projection system, even when the output looks a little strange. You can find those projections here, and as a reminder, the playoff forecast is:

AFC divisions: San Diego, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New England
AFC wild cards: Jacksonville, Tennessee
NFC divisions: Seattle, Chicago, Carolina, New York Giants
NFC wild cards: Minnesota, Philadelphia
Super Bowl: San Diego over Chicago
First Pick in the Draft: Denver

We often say -- even though some people don't seem to ever hear it -- that we do not believe that our statistical methods are perfect. Our subjective views are informed by our objective numbers, but not dictated by them. However, we want to make this clear: EACH OF THE OPINIONS LISTED BELOW IS THE OPINION OF THAT WRITER AND THAT WRITER ONLY. These are not "Football Outsiders predicts."

All right, let's rock.

(Bill Moore's predictions were accidentally omitted from this article when it was first published. They have since been added. Sorry, Bill.)

Team Most Likely To Beat Its FOA Projection

Bill Barnwell: Baltimore. They won 11 games last year (and should have won 13 with proper officiating) despite being one of the most injured teams in football. There's no reason to think that'll happen again, and while the offense isn't going to get away with being as gimmicky as it was a year ago, the offensive line should be a whole lot better -- and deeper -- with the return of Marshal Yanda and the arrival of Michael Oher. Oh, and the defense is still the Baltimore Ravens defense. They'll win 11 games again.

Will Carroll: I think Detroit will finish better than 5-11. I know, that seems a bit crazy, but I look at the way that Atlanta turned things around and mostly did that through offense. I think even without "his personnel" that Jim Schwartz will use defense and ball control to win a couple games they probably shouldn't. I also think that the NFC Central is a bit overrated and that the Lions will steal one from a couple of their division foes.

Doug Farrar: New York Jets. I believe the Miami back-to-earth projection, and the Bills appear to be in total freefall. So they've got the Pats to worry about, but they knew that. And I don't know that any projection system has an answer for Mark Sanchez – based on what I've seen in the preseason, he has confirmed what I saw of him at USC. There is an innate ability to get out of trouble and make smart plays that reminds me of Matt Ryan. I also like the tangible and intangible aspects of the Baltimore transfer via Rex Ryan, Bart Scott, and Jim Leonhard.

Brian Fremeau: Green Bay. Minnesota and Chicago grabbed more offseason buzz and look pretty good as well, but Green Bay doesn't have to beat either of them to get to eight wins -- Cincinnati, St. Louis, Cleveland, two against Detroit, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Seattle ... the Packers will make the playoffs.

David Gardner: Atlanta. In the most unpredictable division in the NFL, the Falcons had a steady and low-key offseason. They return with an above-average offensive line (ninth in run blocking and fifth in pass protection) and a lot of talent at skill positions on offense. The only question will be the run defense in a division full of strong offensive lines.

Tom Gower: Green Bay. They still have an excellent passing game, and Rodgers is in his second full year as a starter so he should be more comfortable. This team had 8.9 Pythagorean Wins last year and was 11th in the league in DVOA. The switch to the 3-4 concerns me, but the defense is talented enough they'll exceed the 7.4 projected in FOA.

Mike Kurtz: Green Bay. They have a potent passing offense and what I'm convinced will be a terrifying defense. Thank god FO has slain the Run To Win Dragon, so I can feel confident with this one.

Sean McCormick: Green Bay. The Packers were the 11th best team in the league last year according to DVOA, and their Pythagorean projection was nearly three games higher than their 6-10 record. Some of that was due to an unrepeatable level of defensive scoring, but even so, this is a team that had a lot of bad luck last year. Aaron Rodgers is going into his second season as starter, a point when a lot of young quarterbacks have made a big jump (Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Palmer), and I think he's poised to have a top-five season. The Packers have also cut a swath through the NFL this preseason like Atilla through the Roman Empire, and they've done it when the starters are in. This could be one of the best teams in the NFC, so I think the 7.4 projection is considerably too low.

Bill Moore: Need I get a restraining order? I can't seem to shake Brett Favre. While in New York, I watched an overhyped Favre play subpar ball for a subpar team. Now I'm in Minnesota, and its déjà vu all over again -- sort of. I think this year's Favre doesn't have to do too much to help his new mates. I'll take the Vikings as the team that outperforms its 8.8-win projection.

Aaron Schatz: Arizona. In interviews, I've said that I spent the spring constantly looking for ways to get the Arizona projection higher, and I meant it. I don't think they're going back to the playoffs, but I also don't think Arizona will be one of the five worst teams in the league. I think the projection is somewhat hurt by their decision to lay down like dogs at the end of the regular season, but the passing game should still be good and the defense not that much below average. Plus, Seattle and St. Louis both look a little weaker than they did a couple months ago, which means better odds of the Cardinals winning two or maybe even three games over those teams. I also agree with all the readers who believe the Green Bay offense and Pittsburgh defense are projected too low by the system.

Mike Tanier: Green Bay. I think they are in the "Texans" predicament, to a degree: The Bears and Vikings are projected to be very good, and their projections have an impact on the Packers prediction. I like the Packers defense this year, and I think Aaron Rodgers learned a lot last year. I agree with the amount of variance in the Packers projection: They really are a team that could go 5-11 (an injury to Rodgers) to 12-4 (an injury to Cutler and a little luck) based on just a few small factors.

Vince Verhei: Arizona. The two biggest factor's in KUBIAK's low projection for the Cardinals are improvement among the rest of the division, and a dropoff at quarterback. I don't have much faith in Seattle or St. Louis (at least, not as much as KUBIAK does), and I think Kurt Warner will be able to play beyond his years. He has spent more time on the bench than most 38-year-old quarterbacks, and that means less wear and tear on the body. And if Warner is injured, I think Matt Leinart will show that he deserves the job for good. All in all, I expect the Cardinals to be about where they were last year: an eight- or nine-win team sneaking into the playoffs.

Rob Weintraub: I've spent much of the last few months talking Curse of 370, increased injuries, tougher sked, etc., etc., but Atlanta has too much firepower to go 6-10. Also, Green Bay will have seven wins by November.

Team Most Likely To Fall Short Of Its FOA Projection

Bill Barnwell: Tennessee. Losing Albert Haynesworth goes a long way, but they've also been really healthy each of the last two seasons and have a real thin tightrope to walk when it comes to losing players like Keith Bulluck, Michael Roos, or Chris Johnson. Some of those wins have to go to Houston and Jacksonville.

Will Carroll: Oakland. Someone tell me how this team projects to win six games! They don't have any of the tools and have all the distractions. Also, Indianapolis just doesn't feel like the same place with Jim Caldwell "in charge."

Doug Farrar: Jacksonville. Brutal division, serious quarterback protection issues, and not much on the depth chart behind Maurice Jones-Drew. The receivers will be better, and I like what they're doing on defense, but this is a case where the indicators don't match the reality. Perhaps they're a year away from that big rebound?

Brian Fremeau: San Diego. It won't be a disaster, but 12.5 wins is a big, big number, especially with games against the NFC East, plus Tennessee, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.

David Gardner: Tennessee. The AFC South is a notoriously tough division, and Tennessee lost a lot of talent in the offseason. The running game should be good, but the Titans will have trouble fully using it if they can't get points on the board early in games. I don't like Kerry Collins to have a successful enough season for the Titans to return to overcome the Texans or Colts in the division.

Tom Gower: St. Louis. The bottom line is this team just isn't very talented. Bulger quite likely won't play 16 games, and won't play at the level he did six years ago. Yes, they should be better in the red zone than they were last year, but not enough to go 8-8.

Mike Kurtz: New England. 12 wins? For serious? I know their schedule is generally laughable, but so is their defense. The Moss and Brady show will still be great, but not two years ago great, and they would need it to be for 12 wins.

Sean McCormick: St. Louis. I know that there are many trends suggesting the Rams will take a big step forward this year, but I'm skeptical for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is simply the low talent level on the roster. If the Rams don't have the worst talent base in the NFL right now, they are certainly in the conversation. Ideally you want a draft class to make a decisive impact in its third season; well, the Rams just cut or traded away their entire 2006 draft class. They also have a very injury-prone quarterback who is already coming into the season with a broken finger on his throwing hand and who is unlikely to play 16 or even 14 games this year. I know that the Rams had the biggest variance in their projection, and I tend to think they're going to come in on the low end.

Bill Moore: Mike Vick has caused a stir, but my pick is unrelated to him. I think Andy Reid will know how to use him judiciously, and he'll help a potentially weak running game. Nevertheless, the Eagles lack the talent across the board to compete in a very tough division. Neither Jackson nor Curtis are true No. 1 receivers. The running game even with Vick is in question, and the offensive line has had too much rotation. Changes to the defense will also hurt, and I'm not a big fan of either Samuel or Hobbs. The Eagles will fall short of 9.3 wins.

Aaron Schatz: Jacksonville. I believe in the numbers when it comes to the Jaguars' offensive resurgence, despite Torry Holt's age and the fact that they'll start two rookie tackles. However, I have serious questions about that defense, especially with a rookie corner now starting opposite Mathis. I hope Derek Cox likes to be picked on. They might get a playoff spot, but it would be a wild card. They won't be competing for the division title.

Mike Tanier: Seattle. I'm not a Jim Mora fan, don't think much of their overall offensive talent, and I think Matt Hasselbeck has reached the injury tipping point where he won't be able to stay on the field as much anymore. If the Rams are as good as we think and the Cardinals a little better than we think, the Seahawks could be a 6-10 team.

Vince Verhei: Seattle. Their projected improvement is based on a return to health for the offense, but Mike Wahle has already retired after failing to recover from surgery, and Walter Jones and Chris Spencer are out for at least the opener. I don't think Jones or Matt Hasselbeck will ever play 16 games in a season again. Jim Mora was a failure in his first coaching job, and except for Bill Belichick, bad coaches usually remain bad coaches the second time around. They'll be better than last season, and I can see them eking out nine wins and slipping into the playoffs ahead of Arizona. But that's the best-case scenario, and the team projection system has them equaling or topping that nearly three out of four times.

Rob Weintraub: Not sure I see where Cleveland wins six or seven games, even factoring in a win over my Bengals.

Player Who Will Most Exceed His KUBIAK Projection

Bill Barnwell: Darren McFadden. Put up decent numbers in a bad offense last year despite playing with a nasty case of turf toe. Toe should be better, as should the offense. Line is underrated, and McFadden had the best non-Chris Johnson Speed Score in years. Just hugely undervalued.

Will Carroll: The consensus seems to be that Marion Barber will lose carries to Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. Jones I get a little, but it was injuries, not scheme, that hurt Barber last season. If he can stay healthy -- a big if, mind you -- I think the Cowboys will have to focus more on the run than in the past. I think Witten and Barber end up the real beneficiaries of the offseason changes in Dallas.

Doug Farrar: Matt Ryan. I had thought that the Falcons would use Jerious Norwood to take the pressure off Michael Turner, but I'm starting to believe that the guy who will take "carries" away from Turner is actually Tony Gonzalez, and that Tom Dimitroff got Gonzo to shift the landscape to a Ryan-led offense. I see Ryan with 4,000 passing yards and 30-plus touchdowns.

Brian Fremeau: Jay Cutler. Twenty touchdowns is a reasonably low bar, and I can easily foresee Cutler leapfrogging the likes of Roethlisberger and Hasselbeck in NFC production.

David Gardner: Joseph Addai, running back, Indianapolis Colts. Addai burst onto the scene as a rookie, but he hasn't performed up to par in the two seasons since. But with competition from rookie Donald Brown and what looks to be a more potent passing attack from the Colts, Addai will have every opportunity to get back to form.

Tom Gower: Santonio Holmes. Kubiak likes Ward better than him, but I think this is the year the former Buckeye becomes the clear No. 1 wideout in Pittsburgh.

Mike Kurtz: Chad Ochocinco. He's the top receiver on a team that looks to be much improved, with his extremely talented quarterback returning (maybe) to health. As far as I can tell, he still has the skills, so if Palmer can stay upright and deliver, he's poised to have a monster season, even dealing with the talented Pittsburgh and Baltimore defenses.

Sean McCormick: Mark Sanchez. Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger all experienced success out of the gate as rookies, and the common thread is that each played in an offense that protected them by calling an obscene number of rushing plays. Sanchez is inheriting one of the best offensive lines in the league, a deep stable of running backs, and a quality tight end to dump off to when the pressure comes. He won't be the worst quarterback in the league, and he could surprise by having a season somewhat in line with Joe Flacco's 2008, and possibly better.

Bill Moore: No sophomore jinx for Joe Flacco. The Ravens went max-protect quite often last year to shelter the young quarterback. This past offseason the Ravens bolstered their offensive line, particularly with the addition of Matt Birk. Although he needs some more quality hands to catch the ball, a year progressed reading NFL offenses and a solid protection in front of him makes Flacco my pick.

Aaron Schatz: I still believe in Carson Palmer. I don't believe in his offensive line or his running game, but I think Palmer has enough talent to get top-10 quarterback stats anyway.

Mike Tanier: Le'Ron McClain. When the Ravens said they were moving him back to a "traditional" fullback role, I think they were talking about the 1970s tradition. He won't be used the way he was last year, but he's going to get a ton of goal-line carries.

Vince Verhei: Jay Cutler. The Bears don't have great wide receivers, but they've got a pair of effective tight ends and a running back with good hands. Together, they'll get Cutler at least 25 touchdowns.

Rob Weintraub: Eddie Royal. Even though his quarterback and biggest fan has blown town, four touchdowns seems a little low for such an instinctive player.

Player Who Will Most Underperform His KUBIAK Projection

Bill Barnwell: Adrian Peterson. The Curse of 363 strikes. Honorable mention to Steve Slaton.

Will Carroll: Is it too easy or FO cliche to say Michael Turner? OK, I'll go with Drew Brees. Brees is a solid quarterback, but who's going to catch 4000 yards worth of passes? He has two guys coming off microfracture, one coming off shoulder issues, and one that gets too drunk in Vegas. Pierre Thomas might be a better running back than Reggie Bush, but that doesn't make him a good running back. If Brees puts up KUBIAK's projection, we're going to have to really re-examine him.

Doug Farrar: Clinton Portis. The clock is ticking, I'm not convinced that the line has improved, and they're talking about using Ladell Betts more.

Brian Fremeau: Steve Slaton. This year's Ryan Grant, Slaton won't fall off the face of the earth, but probably will take a small step back in terms of big fantasy production.

David Gardner: Dwayne Bowe, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs. He has succeeded so far with underwhelming quarterbacks, but a tough offseason will not help Bowe be a top-30 KUBIAK player. Matt Cassel made his living last season by checking to Wes Welker, not throwing deep -- which is where Bowe like to play.

Tom Gower: Maurice Jones-Drew. I have serious concerns about how well he'll be able to handle a much greater workload than he's ever had to handle before. He should still be a solid fantasy performer, but more like the No. 8 running back than the clear No. 1 Kubiak has him at.

Mike Kurtz: Matt Forte. The Bears offensive line is terrible. They may be able to drive and field a passable offense based on scheme and Cutler's talent, you can't avoid the importance of the offensive line when it comes to a running back's success.

Sean McCormick: Julius Jones. Just because you are the starting running back on a good team in September does not mean that you will stay the starting running back come October. Jones has looked bad in preseason, and I think Edgerrin James cuts into his carries pretty significantly by week four or five. Running games also tend to be most impacted when the quarterback is injured, as teams no longer have to respect the pass, and Matt Hasselbeck is a back spasm waiting to happen.

Bill Moore: Forget the Curse of 370, how about the curse of the big 3-0? Brian Westbrook has been on the decline since 2006. Turning 30 on September 3rd won't help. Did I mention he hasn’t taken a snap in preseason?

Aaron Schatz: Marques Colston. From what I understand based on talking to Will Carroll, those injuries are going to nag at him and be a bigger problem than people seem to think.

Mike Tanier: Maurice Jones-Drew. I have a hard time projecting an extra 100 carries into a player's workload. MJD is already nicked up, and I think the Jaguars will use Greg Jones or one of the young backs enough so that MJD's workload tops out at about 225 to 250 carries.

Vince Verhei: Brian Westbrook. Too many years, too many injuries, too much LeSean McCoy.

Rob Weintraub: Eli Manning. Between the lack of outside threats and the comfort level of all that dinero, I think Eli gets the back pages frothing again this season.

Team Most Likely To Beat Its FEI Projection

Will Carroll: I hate to say this, but even picked at 9-3, 'Bama's going to be better than that. Star Jackson will win the job outright by midseason and Nick Saban's recruiting is pushing this program into position to be the next USC or Texas if either falters.

Brian Fremeau: Backhanded endorsement: Ole Miss. A couple of years back, Arkansas had the horses for big things (Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the same backfield) but Houston Nutt teams consistently lose a couple of games every season they shouldn't. On top of that, the rest of the SEC West could all be better than they were a year ago. I'm confident Mississippi will not live up to its lofty national preseason reputation. That said, FEI's 6.4 wins is a bit low -- I'm pretty sure they'll be in the seven- to eight-win mix at the end of the year.

David Gardner: Mississippi Rebels. Coach Houston Nutt is underrated, and the Rebels have the second-best quarterback in the SEC in Jevan Snead.

Tom Gower: Before the first weekend's slate of games, I would have said for sure Illinois, projected for No. 76 and 4-8 (2-6). Unimpressive performance against Mizzou notwithstanding, I think the Illini will still be bowl-eligible and significantly better than No. 77 Indiana. Cincinnati, 6-6 (3-5), will also be better than seventh in the Big East, and I would have said that before the big win over Rutgers, too.

Rob Weintraub: Ole Miss. I don't think they are Top 10, as some would have it, nor do I think they will win the SEC West. But they have too many good players, starting at quarterback, and too soft a schedule for the Rebs to go only 6-6.

Team Most Likely To Fall Short Of Its FEI Projection

Will Carroll: Michigan. Ha, it's fun to watch Rich Rodriguez cry. He's the Kelvin Sampson of college football, a talented coach with a unique system, but trouble waiting to happen for any organization.

Brian Fremeau: Nothing gets under a Notre Dame fan's skin more than the consistent success of Boston College. The team hasn't just had its way with the Irish -- BC has trumped preseason expectations for the better part of the last decade. But with big question marks at quarterback and linebacker, this has to be the year the Eagles stumble, right? I know I'm jinxing ND for October 24th, but FEI's 8.5 wins are just too generous for Boston College.

David Gardner: Virginia Tech. The Hokies' inept offense was exposed in its first game against Alabama. The offensive line isn't able to protect quarterback Trod Taylor, and a strong division won't help either. Miami, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina all await the Hokies.

Tom Gower: Mentioning Oklahoma now with Sam Bradford's injury would be too simple, and cheating. Instead, I'll take the Auburn Tigers, projected for 9-3 (5-3) and second in the SEC West. The program FEI is based on Tommy Tuberville, and while he wore out his welcome on the plains, I still haven't seen any signs Chizik is his equal as a head coach. Combined with the team's talent level, borderline bowl eligibility, and behind LSU, Ole Miss, and Alabama in the West seems more likely to me.

Rob Weintraub: Kicking a team when they are down is so Russian Mafia, but it's hard to see Michigan coming close to 8-4.

Super Bowl XLIV Winner and Loser

Bill Barnwell: Minnesota over San Diego.

Will Carroll: Pittsburgh over St Louis.

Doug Farrar: Green Bay over Baltimore. The Packers take the NFC with Aaron Rodgers’ ascent to the top of the "Best Quarterback Nobody Talks About" category (replacing Drew Brees, who is now actually talked about) and Dom Capers making the 3-4 conversion work. Baltimore regresses a bit on defense but puts out a power running game that the 1973 Dolphins would appreciate, and just enough firepower from Joe Flacco and his Mystery Receivers to wrest the AFC North away from the Steelers. The Packers and Ravens set a Super Bowl record for most offensive formations, and Greg Jennings’ Beast Mode makes the difference in a tight game. To celebrate "his team’s" return to greatness, He Who Shall Not Be Named leaves 43 unanswered voicemails with Ted Thompson, offering his services for the 2010 season.

Brian Fremeau: New England over Chicago.

David Gardner: San Diego over Green Bay.

Tom Gower: New England over the New York Giants, in an insufferable rematch I'm forced to watch on mute lest I throw something at Phil Simms. The schedule shapes up nicely for the Patriots to grasp home-field advantage, and the last time they lost a home playoff game, Earl Campbell was the leading rusher. The NFC is harder to call, but I still think the Giants are the best team. The Pats will be better able to cope with the Giants' pass rush, which means they'll score enough points to win.

Mike Kurtz: Pittsburgh over Green Bay. The Steelers may have an even more terrifying defense than they did last year, and everything else will mostly stay the same. Except now they have an easy schedule to rely upon. It's tough choosing between New York and Green Bay, but in the end I just have more confidence in Aaron Rodgers than Eli Manning when it comes to putting up good numbers in evenly-matched games.

Sean McCormick: San Diego over Green Bay. People say the Chargers can't win in the playoffs because of Norv Turner, but the Chargers polished off two excellent Colts teams over the last two postseasons. I don't see why they couldn't beat other elite AFC teams. They have the most balanced roster of any of the AFC contenders, their quarterback is about to be a rock star, and they have the least challenging road to a division title. As for the Packers, I like their depth at receiver and think they have the ability to spread out and exploit any of the secondaries they'll face come playoff time. Like Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers looks like he's ready to step up and have a superlative year, and the Packers will continue to have a tremendous home-field advantage in December and January.

Bill Moore: As much as I appreciate the talent in New England (including the newly added talent), losing Bruschi, Harrison, Vrabel, and Seymour in the same offseason is too much. San Diego Chargers beat the Chicago Bears.

Aaron Schatz: New England over New York Giants. This seems like a homer pick, but the projections have three teams in the AFC ahead of everyone else, and that includes a coach I can't trust (Turner) and a coach who's a mystery (Caldwell), so I'll go with the coach with a track record. I think the Giants are deeper than the Bears and thus more likely to make it through January.

Mike Tanier: New England over Chicago. The Patriots defense isn't that great, but I don't think it will matter much; they will win a lot of 38-24 games. It's hard to pick an NFC team this season; I'm going with the Bears because so many offensive players are hitting their prime at the same time, and the veterans on defense haven't gone over-the-hill yet.

Vince Verhei: San Diego over New York Giants. Expect a thousand stories about the electric San Diego offense against the stalwart New York defense -- which seems appropriate, from a historical perspective.

Rob Weintraub: New England over Green Bay.

BCS Championship Winner and Loser

Will Carroll: Oklahoma over Alabama.

Brian Fremeau: Florida over Texas is the safe bet, but I'll go with it anyway. USC will sneak in to No. 2 after the bowl game for the upteenth straight season. Probably too many obstacles in the way, but my dark horse national championship game contender is Georgia Tech.

David Gardner: Florida over Texas.

Tom Gower: Florida over Texas (admittedly a disgustingly chalky selection).

Mike Kurtz: Texas over Georgia.

Sean McCormick: USC over Texas.

Bill Moore: Florida beats Oklahoma Alabama.

Aaron Schatz: Florida over Texas.

Mike Tanier: Texas over Florida. Full disclosure: This originally read "Oklahoma over Florida," then I watched the BYU game. Florida is the best team in the nation. I am just being cantankerous and picking someone to beat them because they get on my nerves.

Rob Weintraub: Florida over Texas.

With The First Pick In The 2009 NFL Draft, The What Team Selects Who?

Bill Barnwell: New York Jets select defensive tackle Terrence Cody, Arkansas.

Will Carroll: The Cleveland Browns select Sam Bradford, quarterback from Oklahoma.

Doug Farrar: The Seattle Seahawks send Shinebox McDaniels a nice fruit basket and select Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, whose name means "House of Spears". How cool is that?

Brian Fremeau: Oakland Raiders select Jevan Snead, quarterback, Mississippi ... and of course regret it.

David Gardner: The Oakland Raiders select Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Oklahoma

Tom Gower: Seattle (from Denver) selects Tim Tebow, quarterback, Florida. This is a positive, not a normative, prediction.

Mike Kurtz: Cleveland Browns select OT Sam Young, Notre Dame. Because if you can't trust a team to realize that Derek Anderson is not an NFL quarterback, then nothing should surprise you.

Sean McCormick: The Buffalo Bills select Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma.

Bill Moore: The Denver Broncos realize they need to quarterback to win and select Tim Tebow.

(Bill apparently forgot that Denver traded their first-round pick to Seattle. Or he is predicting a blockbuster trade at the top of next year's draft.)

Aaron Schatz: I so wanted to write that Seattle would take Sam Bradford with the top pick they got from Denver... but we don't know what Bradford's injury does to his draft status, and there's actually an AFC team that's a bigger mess than Denver, so: Buffalo selects Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Mike Tanier: The Raiders select Tim Tebow, who refuses to play for the team on moral grounds.

Vince Verhei: I've been set for months to make a joke here about Seattle using Denver's pick to take Sam Bradford. Then Bradford hurt his shoulder, and the Buffalo Bills got even messier than they were before, cutting coaches and tackles willy-nilly. So now I think the Bills, in their never-ending desperate quest to sell tickets, will use the first pick to select the player with the best resume in college football history: Tim Tebow. Maybe they'll even bring in Jon Gruden to coach him.

Rob Weintraub: The Cleveland Browns select Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Oklahoma (unless it's the Saints, in which case they have to take the sanctified Tim Tebow).

Comments

88 comments, Last at 14 Sep 2009, 12:46am

1 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Brian Fremeau: Jay Cutler. Twenty touchdowns is a reasonably low bar, and I can easily foresee Cutler leapfrogging the likes of Roethlisberger and Hasselbeck in NFC production.

I could see why you'd think that Cutler would leapfrog Roethlisberger in NFC production. That bar isn't set very high.

4 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Will Carroll, I want to marry you for your Lions comment. But once we're married, you'll have to solve the drug problem you clearly have.

5 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

"Will Carroll: Pittsburgh over St Louis."

That's got to be a typo.

Also, Georgia in the BCS game? Ha.

7 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

I don't know. I think Will is just pointing out how futile these predictions really are. One year ago, who but the most devoted Cards fan would have predicted Pittsburgh over Arizona in the SB? Personally, as a devoted Cheesehead I 'm a bit frightened by all the Packers love. While I'd love them to get to the big game, only in my dreams do I honestly see it happening.

9 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

That's fine with me, but if so really have fun with it. For all we know he's being serious, because the other predictions are.

49 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

My flabber was likewise gasted. I assume this pick was made before Pittsburgh fielded that abortion of an offensive line and nonexistent running game (unless Carroll thinks the Steelers OL will undergo a sudden rebirth in January for the second consecutive year) but St. Louis?! They are an odds-on favorite for a top 10 pick. They may not be the best team in Missouri and I'm not counting the Chefs. If he's just screwing around, why not go all out and pick a Denver-St. Louis Super Bowl?

Hail Hydra!

74 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

You must have missed where Harris said "(unless Carroll thinks the Steelers OL will undergo a sudden rebirth in January for the second consecutive year)". He was pointing out that when they won the Super Bowl, their line was playing much better than it played during last year's regular season and last night's game.

6 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

What the hell happened to you guys? someone made fun of you on the internet?! the horror! predictions are fun, put on your man pants and make individual predictions. look its easy:

AFC divisions: SD, PIT, IND, NE
AFC wild cards: JAC, HOU
NFC divisions: SEA, CHI, NO, NYG
NFC wild cards: GB, DAL
Super Bowl: CHI over SD
First Pick in the Draft: BUF takes Tim Tebow
Team Overperform: GB
Team underperform: IND
Player Overperform: Michael Turner
Player Underperform: Adrian Peterson

remember you miss 100% of the predictions you don't make.

39 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

The Colts' mean projection was 11.5 wins, so there's plenty of room there to win the division under that. Wouldn't it be reasonable for all three of those teams to go 9-7 and all his non-playoff teams to win 8 or less games?

45 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

I don't know about reasonable, but it could be possible. I still can't imagine that division being won with less than 10 wins.

64 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

"remember you miss 100% of the predictions you don't make."

No, you don't. But i once saw a kid with a No Fear t-shirt that featured a basketball player with his groin in a defender's face and the caption "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." So i guess that brand of reasoning has gained some popular traction.

66 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

If you combine the two slogans, you end up with "you miss 100% of the shots you don't make." I think that's a slogan we can all get behind.

8 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Star Jackson cannot even win the back-up job outright, let alone the starting job...not sure where that came from. This is Greg McElroy's team.

13 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

I like this format more than just listing predictions from each author but I am still surprised you didn't come up with a less cowardly way of explaining it.

14 I have faith in my Seahawks *sniff* :c

AFC divisions: SD, BAL, TEN, NE
AFC wild cards: PIT, IND
NFC divisions: SEA, CHI, CAR, NYG
NFC wild cards: GB, PHI
Super Bowl: PHI over SD
First Pick in the Draft: SEA takes House O' Spears
Team Overperform: GB
Team underperform: DET (going for the title!)
Player Overperform: Matt Forte
Player Underperform: Mark Bulger

15 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

I was really struck by "I see Ryan with 4,000 passing yards and 30-plus touchdowns." So I looked on PFR just to see and the only second-year players ever to reach those numbers are Dan Marino (age 23 in 1984, 5084 yards and 48 TD), Kurt Warner (age 28 in 1999, 4353 yards and 41 TD), and Jeff Garcia (age 30 in 2000, 4278 yards and 31 TD). I don't think that really says that it's impossible for Ryan, but it might tell us just how amazing he is if he does reach that.

(Incidentally, Jay Schroeder, Drew Bledsoe, and Peyton Manning did reach 4000 yards but not 30 touchdowns while Daunte Culpepper and Carson Palmer did reach 30 TD but not 4000 yards.)

16 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Since others are doing it, I'll post my picks:

AFC Divisions: SD, Pit, Ind, NE
AFC Wild Cards: Jax, Bal
NFC Divisions: Ari, Min, NO, Phi
NFC Wild Cards: NYG, GB
Super Bowl: SD over Phi
First pick in the draft: TB takes Some College Player (I hate and have no interest in college football, so I can't name anyone and don't want to.)
Team Overperform: Hou
Team Underperform: StL
Player Overperform: Frank Gore (I seriously see a 370 season)
Player Underperform: Marques Colston (I've been avoiding him in fantasy drafts for the same reasons Aaron explained above.)

17 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

When in Rome...

AFC Divisions: SD, BAL, IND, NE (boring, I know)
AFC WC: PIT, TEN

NFC Divisions: SEA, CHI, NO, NYG
NFC WC: GB, PHI

Super Bowl: BAL over CHI

First Pick: BUF takes some lineman

Team overperform: GB
Team underperform: KC

Player overperform: Carson Palmer
Player underperform: Knowshon Moreno (and I drafted him)

18 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Brees is a solid quarterback, but who's going to catch 4000 yards worth of passes? He has two guys coming off microfracture, one coming off shoulder issues, and one that gets too drunk in Vegas.

Last year Shockey was traded late to the Saints, tried playing through a sports hernia for several games, then missed several games because he gave in and had surgery. When he came back to play, he still hadn't completely learned the offense.

Colston hurt his hand early, missing some games, and wasn't his sure-handed self all year, even when the splint came off.

Bush missed his usual assortment of games with injuries.

Deuce McAllister, the other starting running back they were counting on before the year started, never really got onto the field often; apparently he couldn't get over his previous knee injuries.

Despite all of these problems, Brees still put up absurd numbers. He's the opposite of another quarterback in the division, Jake Delhomme. Delhomme throws everything to 1 receiver and barely looks at other receivers; Brees will throw to anyone on any play.

With Brees, the question isn't who is he throwing to, it's who is he throwing against? If you have slow corners, he'll throw deep repeatedly; if your linebackers have problems in coverage the tight ends will have a big day. This is why individual Saints receivers will see their numbers go up and down by a large amount game to game. Part of this is Payton's game planning, but its also Brees willing to look at each option until he sees the open man.

Remember the Monday night game last year that was Saints vs. Packers? Everyone was talking about what a great matchup it would be; Brees vs. the 2 great corners the Packers have. Only Brees decided to ignore them all game; he completed only 2 passes to starting receivers Henderson and Colston (granted, 1 went for a touchdown.) Reggie Bush was out with an injury. Yet Brees' numbers were 20 for 26, 323 yards; everyone was suddenly aware the Packers had no pass defense other than those 2 cornerbacks.

You might argue that Brees numbers will go down because he's facing tougher defenses this year; that the prolonged absence of his left tackle is cause for concern; or simply that he'll have some bad luck in areas other than receiver health. But last year we already saw lousy luck with receiver health, and he still performed phenomenally. All the receivers have at least decent hands and know to run the routes they're supposed to; it's left to Brees to pick out where the gap in the defense is.

38 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Bingo. It seems like everyone who jumped on the Saints bandwagon after 2006 has now climbed off, only now they can't be bothered to do any proper research about the team and assume the defense will be bad again, and that players who were injured (yes, "were" as in "no longer") are still hampered by injuries.

For whatver reason FO seems really down on the Saints this year when a large number of other media outlets have us doing pretty well. They're favourites to win the division with every bookmaker I've seen, and you don't see many bookmakers short of money do you?

41 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Bookmakers are good at judging popular picks. They don't have to be right. They simply have to be able to get roughly even money on both sides of their bet. Accounting skills are more important then football knowledge for this.

19 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

My answers:

Most likely to beat: Gang green. Sanchez is another notarookierookie.
Most likely to lag: Chicago.

Beat Kubiak: McFadden. Barnwell is right.
Underperform: Cutler.

Better than FEI: Arkansas (homer!)
Worse: Ohio State

SB: New England over Green Bay
BCS: Texas over Florida

Draft: Bills take Ndamukong Suh. (And I wrote this after having totally missed Aaron saying the same thing. Oh well!)

20 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Green Bay Packers

Dom Capers has a history of turning around defenses. Aaron Rogers was great in his first season as a starter and will build upon his success ( while Cutler/Favre are getting adjusted to their new teams). Rodgers will be the best QB in the North, and last year everybody thought GB was making a horrible mistake. Rodgers outplayed Favre last year, and the gap will only increase this year.

21 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

"So preseason predictions are all going to be mostly wrong. It is unavoidable."

You mean like the Giants getting the #1 pick? Before you guys made the "best predictions" out there. Now we get this spiel on probabilities. Well, at least you guys became more humble.

23 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Aaron is scarred. I've never met him, but I imagine he's short, because short people are the type that can't get over stuff like that.

25 Anything you can do I can do worse

Likely to exceed: The Jets, on Ewing Theory (non-playoff corollary) alone. Or at least because of addition by subtraction. And the quagmire in Buffalo.

Likely to miss: (sigh) At QB, the Lions have a completely untested rookie, an aging, injured backup, and, um, really no one behind that. (But Drew Stanton has a really good shot at missing almost another entire season. Even if the surgery was a success and even if he does come back completely, what's he going to be like if he does have to play?) The WRs are Megatron and guys other teams didn't want, the top two TEs are blocking TEs ... but hey, at least Kevin Smith has a real NFL backup now. I really, really want to believe in Schwartz, but he doesn't have a full team yet, and there's no way these guys are going to win 6 games.

Likely to exceed, player: Sanchez, thus helping the Jets exceed their team projection. I would really like to say Stafford, but I just can't believe the line is ready to block for a rookie QB, and without a decent line, he's going to beat the attempts projection but not hit the other ones ...

Likely to miss, player: Steven Jackson. I see seven-man fronts and backup QBs in Jackson's future. I also see missed games from injuries.

Likely to exceed, school: I'd love to pick someone like Colorado State, but without a complete selection of non-BCS teams, I can't do that ... and picking Oklahoma State would be based on seeing this past weekend's action. So I'll pretend that I didn't see any of it and go with my alma mater. Purdue finally has an active head coach (Tiller did a great job at Purdue but also seemed to be fishing most of last season), a somewhat competent quarterback (I have no idea what the Colts saw in Painter to make him their third-string QB, which is especially surprising considering that the position didn't exist for most of Dungy's tenure), and a defense that can't possibly be as bad as last season. Plus the Big Ten is still three groups of teams: Ohio State, decent teams, and uh-oh. Although Purdue misses out on playing Iowa this year, they do have enough uh-oh teams that they should beat their 5-7 projection. (Naturally, I would take half of this back after having seen the Toledo game.)

Likely to miss, school: Notre Dame. duh. Although I'd almost rather see them exceed their projection and then get crushed in a BCS bowl again. That's always fun. Besides, it adds life to the dead zone that's usually occupied by announcers falling all over themselves trying not to talk about a playoff. (At least there are minor bowl games that week too. I don't think the BCS people realize that the extra week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl is not something fans like. We want our games nownownow.)

Super Bowl: San Diego over NY Giants.
BCS game: Oklahoma State over California. Yeah, because I can. If I'm going to be wrong, I might as well have fun with it.

80 Re: Anything you can do I can do worse

Plus the Big Ten is still three groups of teams: Ohio State, decent teams, and uh-oh.

I probably don't want to know which group my graduate school (Indiana) is in, do I?

(sigh) At least there's basketb...oh.

26 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

#6-

I think their point is that, as a site dedicated to rational, empirical analysis of football, they would be the first to acknowledge that making predictions based on preseason, looking at rosters on paper, etc. is largely an exercise in futility. Nevertheless, as a football site, they're expected to do it, because it's par for the course in football journalism. By downplaying their predictions, they are attempting to preserve the credibility of their statistically-driven approach to analysis. Since they're often critical of more traditional analysts, it behooves them to do this; it prevents their targets from dismissing FO as just another football site because they also incorrectly picked the winner of the NFC North or whatever. When you're developing a statistical model, or any other tool for measuring performance for that matter, the last thing you want to do is claim that it does something which it does not. Soft-pedaling preseason predictions does that.

27 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

Well I guess that answers the questions I posed earlier today as to why GB's projections were so much lower than most people expect, it's because no one seems to know what the mystical FO mainframe is thinking on this one.

I'm too lazy to go back and check, but the Packers might be setting some kind of FO record for most disagreement between the DVOA preseason projections and the staff predictions. You guys are more optimistic about a superbowl appearance than I am, and I'm a fairly optimistic guy.

28 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

FO Writer Most Likely to Beat His Projection:
Mike Tanier -- Solid writing for a few years now. Poised to make the leap behind the new offensive firefox

FO Writer Most Likely to Underperform His Projection:
Mike Kurtz -- After week 7, Olin Kreutz will step out of a dark alley behind the Billy Goat and punch out Mike for all his Bears hating

Infinitive Most Likely to Exceed Its Individual Projection:
To Theisman -- the consistent national exposure on MNF will lead to some excellent urban dictionary entries

Infinitive Most Likely to Underperform Its Individual Projection:
To Study -- studying sucks.

29 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

"Rob Weintraub: The Cleveland Browns select Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Oklahoma (unless it's the Saints, in which case they have to take the sanctified Tim Tebow)."

Isn't McCoy more in the Tommy Harris mold of defensive tackles? That doesn't seem like a good fit for a 3-4 defense. This is of course assuming that Eric Mangini still has his job if the Browns end up with the #1 overall pick, which may not be the case.

30 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

My picks:

AFC Divisions: SD, Pit, Ind, NE
AFC Wild Cards: Ten, Bal
NFC Divisions: Sea, Min, Atl, Nyg
NFC Wild Cards: Phil, GB
Super Bowl: SD over Giants
First pick in the draft: Lions select Trent Williams
Team Overperform: GB
Team Underperform: Stl
Player Overperform: Marion Barber
Player Underperform: Julius Jones

32 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

So much for the "Preseason means nothing" talks. I didn't see that much love for Green Bay before... I do agree about them overperforming.

33 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

I don't see how Steve Slaton will take a step back. He "only" had 268 carries last year, he had about 1200 yards, as a lead runner on a team with no dangerous 1-2 punch, 1000 yards is quite low. He scored 9 td's last year on the ground, maybe Chris Brown will take some of those away, but Slaton will probably compensate by scoring more than one through the air. 377 passing yards, well that wouldn't be out of the question since he is a great receiver out of the backfield, the 50 catches could be lowered, but then he will probably pick up more than 7.2 yards.

I'm not saying that he will take a huge leap forward, but I don't quite understand in which statistical category that he is going to digress. His 4.8 ypc. could take a step back, but then again, the Texans got a great o-line and their passing attack is sublime. I think Slaton will have no trouble reaching his numbers from last year once again.

34 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

I see a lot of people are projecting that Tim Tebow will go #1 overall. Would that be the highest that any team has drafted a TE in NFL history?

[/MelKiper]

35 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

No, but it would be the highest anyone has drafted a running back since the Bengals took Ki-Jana Carter in 1995, and I hear that didn't work out so well. Tebow will be drafted in the top ten, because the team that hires Gruden will presumably have been bad enough to fire its current coach.

I'm also baffled by the ubiquity of defensive tackle #1 overall predictions. For a DT to be worth #1 pick money, he has to be one of the two or three best in the league at the position - perhaps even the very best. That makes it a horribly risky pick. If Bradford makes a full recovery from injury, and if he declares, any team other than the Falcons, Bears and Chargers would be insane to pass on him. I happen to think he'll stay in college (again), but I could of course be wrong.

36 Re: 2009 Staff Predictions

I think the team most likely to overachieve is Philadelphia. I could easily see them going 12-4 if McNabb is healthy (admittedly a big if).

As for most likely to underachieve, I'd say Tampa Bay. I haven't liked anything they've done lately. A 4-12 trainwreck seems a distinct possibility.

Oh, and using the 1st pick on Tebow would be by far the worst move in NFL history.