2010 Staff Predictions
complied by David Gardner
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 Baltimore Ravens 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 Cleveland and Buffalo are there to make sure everybody has a full schedule.
OK, so we pick Baltimore 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.
For the third year, 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 2010 draft." Our college writers make similar comments about the FEI projections that ran in Football Outsiders Almanac 2010. 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: Kansas City, Indianapolis, Baltimore, New England
AFC wild cards: Pittsburgh, Miami (narrowly over the Jets)
NFC divisions: Arizona, Atlanta, Green Bay, Washington
NFC wild cards: Philadelphia, Chicago (narrowly over the Saints)
Super Bowl: Baltimore over Atlanta
First Pick in the Draft: Detroit
The updated version of the college projections referred to below can be found here.
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.
Team Most Likely to Beat FOA Prediction
Bill Barnwell: Buffalo. Injury regression goes a long way, even without a quarterback of note. And yes, the division's tough, but the AFC North looked tough before last year, and Cincinnati still managed to ride the injury wave to the division title. Honorable mention to Houston.
Will Carroll: Detroit. They're just better than three wins. I see where everything could break wrong and they end up at the bottom of the heap again, but I think a shift toward .500 is much more likely, especially with Schwartz's attacking defense.
Doug Farrar: San Francisco. There's still legitimate concern about Alex Smith, but I think the team's other issues are manageable. More offensive line turnover will be offset by backs (Frank Gore and the excellent Anthony Dixon) who can transcend bad ALY front fives. There may have been some "over-performance" on defense last year, but I think there’s enough talent to avoid a huge nosedive.
David Gardner: Oakland. The Raiders have a lot of talent, and coaches around the AFC West respect it. They'll be tougher this year. Jason Campbell can lead them to a .500 season.
Tom Gower: San Francisco. They're the best team in a lousy division. I'm more of an Alex Smith believer, and think the 49ers won't coach themselves out of an effective offense.
Mike Kurtz: Tennessee. Johnson's going to fall off a bit, but he'll be good enough for Young to continue being productive. I'm not in love with the defense, but I still think it will be well above average. I'm not a huge fan of the other teams in the division.
Sean McCormick: Houston. One of the FO tenets is that passing the ball and defending the pass are far more important than running the ball or stopping the run. Houston has one of the premier passing tandems in Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, and I can't remember the last time a top quarterback/wide receiver combo turned in a 5-11 season. The pass rush has looked much improved in the preseason, and if it continues into the regular season, that could help cover up deficiencies in the secondary.
Ben Muth: Oakland. It's a quarterback-driven league and going from JaMarcus Russell to Jason Campbell is like trading in your Hot Wheels for a Dodge Neon. It may not be a Porsche but at least it's a real car. That alone should push the Raiders to at least six wins.
Aaron Schatz: Houston. I was originally going to say Dallas until I put together that table with the new projections this morning. Our "Dallas sucks" prediction really doesn't look like Dallas sucking; it looks more like "Dallas declines a bit in a very hard division." On the other hand, our "Houston sucks" prediction really seems to think Houston sucks. I don't quite buy the various variables that have the offense declining, and I think the defensive projection suffers from too much Plexiglass Principle effect (i.e. teams that improve significantly in one year tend to revert a little the next year).
Mike Tanier: Detroit. The Lions don't look like a 3-13 team in the preseason or on paper.
Vince Verhei: San Francisco. With a full year of Michael Crabtree and a rebuilt offensive line, I was leaning towards picking them anyway. Then St. Louis lost its best receiver for the year, Seattle started trading away starting defenders for late-round draft picks, and Arizona climbed aboard the Derek Anderson Express. The 49ers may be the only team in the division that is actually better now than they were when camp opened. Really, I’m just hoping that whoever wins the division becomes the NFL's first playoff team with a losing record.
Robert Weintraub: Detroit. Especially if Ndamukong Suh decapitates an opposing quarterback each week, as he appears poised to do.
Team Most Likely to Fall Short of FOA Prediction
(Please note that most of these comments were written prior to the new forecast which has Arizona still winning the division but with only 8.0 mean projected wins.)
Bill Barnwell: Denver. Top two players lost to injury. No pass rush. Very questionable run defense. Top receiver is Jabar Gaffney.
Will Carroll: New England. All things equal, they're not likely to drop much, but something about this team just seems off.
Doug Farrar: Arizona. My bet is that this is the most popular pick by a mile, and it's pretty easy to tell why. Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett are total studs, and Calais Campbell and Steve Breaston are two among a number of interesting prospects, but the Cards are one more bad Derek Anderson performance away from starting Max Hall, an undrafted rookie from BYU. I like Hall as a long-term solution, but this may be the biggest retirement-related quarterback talent drop in NFL history.
David Gardner: Green Bay. This is going really against the grain, considering more than half of our staff selected the Packers to go to the Super Bowl. I just don't see how this team has really improved. I love Aaron Rodgers and the offense, but the corners the defensive line concern me.
Tom Gower: Arizona. I never believed the projection in the book. Kurt Warner did an awful lot to mask a lousy offensive line, and the receivers aren't nearly as valuable with Derek Anderson/Other getting them the ball. They're also starting their second-best running back.
Mike Kurtz: Tampa Bay. Despite my half-defense of the team's most recent draft, I can't find one unit on the team that I actually like. I went with the under at 5.5. I can't even imagine a .500 or winning season.
Sean McCormick: Arizona. Our prediction was predicated on the notion that Matt Leinart was better than most people thought he was and that the dropoff from Kurt Warner wouldn't be that drastic. Going from Kurt Warner to a guy who completes 50 percent of his passes is pretty drastic, however, and the offensive line is going to look a lot worse without Warner's quick release. Also, each of the other three teams in the division has looked a bit better than expected in preseason, so there might not be so many easy wins inside the NFC West.
Ben Muth: Chicago. I think Jay Cutler throws 30 picks in the Mike Martz system. I think Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher are past their prime. I think they go 2-4 in the division (split with the Lions and win one against either of the other two). I think nine wins is out of reach.
Aaron Schatz: Tampa Bay. No, I don't get it either, although the Bucs are more likely to hit their new, lower projection than they were to hit the book projection of 8.0 mean wins. The Bucs thing is based on a ton of small variables that all add up with no one element standing out that would explain so much improvement.
Mike Tanier: Washington. I was all-in with the 10-win projection when we started writing the book. Since then, Donovan McNabb has gotten hurt, the running backs have looked awful, there hasn't been much resolution at wide receiver, and Albert Haynesworth has been about as bad a distraction as possible. This looks like a sub-.500 team, once you pencil in Rex Grossman for a game or two and the gimpy version of McNabb for a few others.
Vince Verhei: Arizona. I was already wondering how they would get by without Karlos Dansby. Then came word that Derek Anderson, a known commodity as a horrible quarterback, may still be better than Matt Leinart. The floor for this team just dropped several levels.
Robert Weintraub: Minnesota. Ripken, Gehrig, Everett Scott (the consecutive game record holder before Lou) -- they finally missed a game, and it seems likely this is the year Brett Favre does too. It will be endemic of a disappointing season in many areas, including, most importantly, the offensive line.
Player Most Likely to Beat KUBIAK Projection
Bill Barnwell: Tom Brady. I think he has one more MVP-level season in him.
Will Carroll: Anthony Gonzalez. He's healthy and Manning likes throwing to him. It's that simple.
Doug Farrar: LaDainian Tomlinson. He's Derrick Ward in reverse -- he leaves the team with the sub-par run-blocking line, and heads to the New York team with the best run-blocking line in the NFL. Between rushing and receiving totals, he could outperform those projections by a mile.
David Gardner: Cadillac Williams. This isn't just because he's on my fantasy team. With Derrick Ward out of the picture and no patellar tendons left to tear, Williams could regain his rookie form.
Tom Gower: Ryan Mathews. I've already stated my affection for Mathews and believe he'll end up among the four highest-scoring backs (though I'd still take the consensus top four and probably Rashard Mendenhall before him). San Diego's running offense was really hamstrung last year by a worn-down Tomlinson, but I think Matthews and a healthy Nick Hardwick will revive it.
Mike Kurtz: Miles Austin. Austin is, I believe, an elite wide receiver. To see him barely above Hakeem Nicks and Santana Moss makes me sad.
Sean McCormick: LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson looked absolutely shot last year, but he's looked absolutely great in both training camp and preseason in New York -- to the point where he is a serious threat to split carries pretty evenly with Shonn Greene. The quality of the offensive line has a heavy impact on running backs, and going from the worst run-blocking unit in football to one of the best looks like it might extend Tomlinson's career by several years. (It's also why I would caution the Ryan Mathews bandwagon just a bit.)
Ben Muth: John Carlson. I believe he scores eight touchdowns and has a better year than big names like Chris Cooley, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jeremy Shockey, or Owen Daniels.
Aaron Schatz: Michael Turner. I think he'll bounce back from the Curse of 370 and average more than 4.3 yards per carry.
Mike Tanier: Brandon Marshall. I am not a big believer in the Dolphins offense, but they will make a serious effort to get him the ball. I think there will be some early-game screens and hitches to him just to make sure he feels involved early, and that the Screen to Marshall will be the play the Dolphins use when they need to get their offense started. I don't know if he will get 180 targets like he once did in Denver, but I think he'll get his share of empty calorie catches and yards, and I love them in fantasy. Like I said when I drafted Wes Welker and Marshall in our league: I like receivers who look busy.
Vince Verhei: Justin Forsett. I think he settles in as the team's top runner some time in October. There will still be plenty of Leon Washington and Julius Jones, but by the end of the year, Forsett could be a bottom-end starting running back, and he'll probably be freely available in most leagues.
Robert Weintraub: Carson Palmer. A bit of bias, perhaps, but if Palmer can't make things happen with a far more explosive set of targets in the passing game, he never will. Development of line in pass blocking is crucial.
Player Most Likely to Fall Short of KUBIAK Projection
Bill Barnwell: Shonn Greene. The loss of Alan Faneca, presence of LaDainian Tomlinson, decline in win-loss record, and likely injuries to offensive line are too many doubts for me.
Will Carroll: Steven Jackson. Back surgery seems bad for a power back. For him to come close to these numbers again means that Bradford will have to establish some kind of passing game. I don't like the line. I don't like the chances.
Doug Farrar: Rashard Mendenhall. I'm not feeling the love for any back behind that offensive line, especially since the offense will face a lot of defenders in the box in the first four weeks. I think Jonathan Dwyer is going to take some carries away from him.
David Gardner: Beanie Wells. Tim Hightower is going to the be the starter for a sinking Arizona team before the midway point.
Tom Gower: Hines Ward is going to hit the mid-30s-receiver wall one of these seasons, and when he does, I want to be able to say I predicted it.
Mike Kurtz: Jamaal Charles. Charles will be a good fantasy mid-round play, but we like Kansas City way, way too much. Even in a bad division.
Sean McCormick: Rashard Mendenhall. Again, running back performance is heavily dictated by the offensive line and, to a lesser extent, by the quarterback play. Maurkice Pouncey looks like a quality pick, but it's not a good sign when a rookie steps in and is the best player on the line. Mendenhall is also going to be seeing a lot of eight- and nine-man fronts until Ben Roethlisberger gets back, and that could nudge his numbers down a bit.
Ben Muth: David Garrard. I like David Garrard, and I think he's a fine quarterback. But even David Garrard's mother thinks ranking him ahead of Tony Romo this year is a little much.
Aaron Schatz: David Garrard. Basically what Ben said.
Mike Tanier: Jerome Harrison. The more he plays, the worse he looks. Doug and I were talking about Peyton Hillis last week, and after chuckling over his "fan favorite" credentials, I checked the tape and realized he's probably going to have a 10-touch roll, at least. Those touches will come at Harrison's expense.
Vince Verhei: Beanie Wells. I usually put close to zero faith in preseason numbers, but Wells is averaging just 2.76 yards per carry this August, a full two yards lower than Tim Hightower. I don't think it's clear Wells will be the top guy here, and when you consider the depressing state of the Cardinals, it's ridiculous to consider Wells as a top 20 guy.
Robert Weintraub: Tony Romo. I'm not expecting a pratfall, but rumor has a "website out there" has concerns about Dallas' offensive line, so that could detract from his numbers.
College Team Most Likely to Beat F/+ Projection
Bill Connelly: The easy answer would be Boise State, since they just cleared a hurdle the projections didn't think they would clear. Instead, we'll go with Utah; 7.8 wins is very conservative with their remaining schedule.
Brian Fremeau: Boise State and Washington. I'm cheating a bit by submitting this after they took care of the Hokies, but Boise is definitely going to beat its F/+ projection in the polls. But they had the second-highest mean win projection, so that's not saying much. I'll go with Washington, too, a team our system projects to 4.6 mean wins, but certainly seems good enough to get to a bowl game. There are plenty of pitfalls in the Pac-10, and Oregon looks like a monster out of the gate, but the Huskies are pointed in the right direction under Steve Sarkisian. I just can't count them out of enough games.
Tom Gower: Washington. One of college football's either annoying or great characteristics, depending on your point of view, is the ability of a particularly good quarterback to carry a team. The opening weekend loss to BYU gives me slight pause, but I still think the Lockerettes have a good chance to exceed the projected four wins by several games.
David Gardner: Michigan. With a new Big House in place and Denard Robinson showing an uncanny ability in RichRod's offense, the Wolverines could be the surprise of the season.
Ben Muth: Stanford. They have the conference's best coach, best offensive line and best player. They're a lock to win at least eight games, and with a little bit of defense, I like them to win the Pac-10. It's a great day to be alive and be a tree.
Robert Weintraub: Miami. Jacory!
College Team Most Likely to Fall Short of F/+ Projection
Bill Connelly: Penn State. Going 9-3 with a true freshman at quarterback isn't impossible, but it will be difficult. (And it probably goes without saying that Kansas will now severely struggle to go 7-5.)
Brian Fremeau: Penn State. The Nittany Lions are a bit too high, especially considering the schedule. Road trip to Tuscaloosa this weekend, plus trips to Iowa City and Columbus later on are going to be extremely challenging. They might be better than everyone else on their schedule, but there's so little room for error to get to our 9.2 mean wins projection.
David Gardner: Tennessee. I can't think of a single reason why they'll be better than last year or how they would win seven games.
Tom Gower: Tennessee. The projection doesn't take into account the talent exodus and the coaching upheaval.
Ben Muth: Arizona. Did you see that Holiday Bowl? They looked they didn't want to be there and embarrassed the entire conference. I know it's only one game, but I can't pick a team that no showed their biggest game in over 10 years to finish better than fifth in the Pac-10.
Robert Weintraub: Alabama. I thought this before Ingram got hurt and Dareus suspended. They will be strong, obviously, but they have come back to the pack and their opposition has improved.
Super Bowl XLV Winner and Loser
Bill Barnwell: Atlanta over Pittsburgh
Will Carroll: Indianapolis over Green Bay
Doug Farrar: Green Bay over Baltimore
David Gardner: Baltimore over New Orleans
Tom Gower: Indianapolis over Green Bay. Not that I expect either team actually to make it to the Super Bowl, but they're the teams I think have the best shot of ending up with the number-one seeds.
Mike Kurtz: Baltimore over New York Giants
Sean McCormick: Indianapolis over Green Bay
Ben Muth: Indianapolis over Green Bay
Aaron Schatz: Baltimore over Green Bay. That's what I told ESPN Magazine to run, that's what I picked for an ESPN piece with various "expert picks" running later today or tomorrow, and that's what I'm sticking with despite Atlanta's move in the updated projections. I like Green Bay to be a more balanced team, and thus have a slightly better chance to go all the way.
Mike Tanier: Indianapolis over Green Bay. Unless this game plays out like the preseason game in which the Packers scored 56 points and Peyton Manning spent the whole game looking like he wanted to smack someone, in which case reverse the results.
Vince Verhei: Indianapolis over Green Bay
Robert Weintraub: Baltimore over New Orleans
2011 BCS Championship Winner and Loser
Bill Connelly: The odds-on favorite has to be Boise State-Alabama, right? Texas sure does have an easy road, though.
Will Carroll: Alabama over Boise State
Doug Farrar: Boise State runs the table, sends the BCS supercomputer into a smoking, wheezing fit, and blows the next great bid for the little guy by losing to Ohio State.
Brian Fremeau: TCU over Ohio State. I don't think these are the two best teams in college football, but I think they each have a great chance of going undefeated. And I'm expecting the SEC teams (plus Big 12, ACC, and Pac-10 for that matter) to beat up on one another this year. If Ohio State, Boise State, and TCU are all undefeated at the end of the season, I wouldn't be surprised if TCU edges out the Broncos in the end. Boise will then win the Sugar Bowl over the SEC champ, and we'll all be terribly upset about the whole situation.
David Gardner: Boise State over Ohio State
Tom Gower: One-loss Alabama over previously undefeated Boise State. One-loss Ohio State, one-loss Florida, and undefeated TCU are left to stew on the sidelines.
Sean McCormick: Ohio State over Oregon
Ben Muth: Texas over Boise State
Mike Tanier: Texas over Ohio State
Vince Verhei: Alabama over Ohio State
Robert Weintraub: Texas over Ohio State
With the First Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, What Team Selects Whom?
Bill Barnwell: Cleveland Browns select Jake Locker, quarterback, Washington.
Will Carroll: Buffalo Bills select Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford, blowing the pick. Julio Jones goes third to St. Louis and sets up a resurgence stymied by the strike.
Doug Farrar: Buffalo Bills select Jake Locker, quarterback, Washington
David Gardner: Jacksonville Jaguars select Jake Locker, quarterback, Washington
Tom Gower: Buffalo Bills select Christian Ponder, quarterback, Florida State.
Mike Kurtz: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jake Locker, quarterback, Washington.
Ben Muth: Arizona Cardinals (pick acquired in trade with St. Louis) select Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford.
Sean McCormick: Jacksonville Jaguars select Jake Locker, quarterback, Washington.
Aaron Schatz: Cleveland Browns select Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford. (For fun, I'll even predict the second pick: Detroit Lions select Adrian Clayborn, defensive end, Iowa.)
Mike Tanier: Buffalo Bills select Jake Locker, quarterback, Washington
Vince Verhei: Buffalo Bills select Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford. The Jake Locker hysteria will cool down to a degree, though I expect he'll still be a first-round pick.
Robert Weintraub: Tampa Bay selects Robert Quinn, defensive end, North Carolina
72 comments, Last at 11 Sep 2010, 2:54pm
#1 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 08, 2010 - 5:44pm
Lots of Detroit love here. Although it's kind of a cop out. I mean they go 4-12, and your prediction was right. Way to take risks there guys.
Not a single person thinks one of the bottom 3 teams in the predictions will choose first (Detroit, Oakland, St Louis).
#3 by Andrew Potter // Sep 08, 2010 - 5:56pm
Ben does, but has the St. Louis pick being traded to Arizona.
#5 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 08, 2010 - 6:02pm
Whoops, that's what I get for skimming.
I wonder, everyone is so concerned about how DVOA predictions do at the top of the league, what their success rate is near the bottom.
#30 by Rich Arpin (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 11:59pm
I'm hoping pats can go deep in the playoffs and still have a top 5 pick. They still have the Raiders round 1 pick from the seymour deal a while back.
#54 by Noahrk // Sep 09, 2010 - 11:54am
I don't see either happening. That Pats defense looks very shaky and the Raiders have Campbell and a very easy schedule.
#61 by zlionsfan // Sep 09, 2010 - 2:43pm
It is "Most Likely", even if all that means is "DVOA doesn't like the 2010 Lions and we're not sure that's something you can measure."
That's one of the challenges with predicting the ability of a team with so little returning talent. I mean, they've got 11 new faces in the projected starting lineup ... even the kick returner is new. Even if this were something you could quantify, I'm not sure there'd be much point in trying to do so. I can't imagine this kind of problem happens that often in the NFL.
#2 by lester bangs (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 5:56pm
Here's Green Bay's improvement, DG - last year, for half the season, Aaron Rodgers had pocket awareness issues and the OL was a problem. These things were dramatically improved in the second half, and this year, they should be fine from the opening snap.
#9 by ammek // Sep 08, 2010 - 7:02pm
The weaknesses dramatically improved until the playoffs, and then they flared up again.
When (not if) Chad Clifton gets hurt again, and Mark Tauscher gets hurt again, the Packers are going to rely on a rookie LT and an out-of-position second-year guard at RT. Although I expect an improvement from last year's fiasco, no team still starting two tackles in their mid-30s can say their offensive line problems are solved.
David Gardner might also be referring to a defense that was due a regression towards the mean even without turning over four starters, or to special teams which were the fifth-worst of the decade last year, and have lost their premier returner as well as hiring an untested punter. Plenty of reasons to be cautious about the Pack this year.
#16 by Arkaein // Sep 08, 2010 - 8:13pm
But chances are that Clifton and Tauscher will play more combined games this year than last year simply by virtue of Tauscher not starting the season injured and unsigned. And I like the rookie LT better than the backup options last year.
The defense is a question mark, but has potential upside. Both OLBs in their second years, the whole D being in it's second year of the system, probably having Al Harris down the stretch when they need him rather that in the first half of the season when they probably won't (a look at the schedule does not exactly show a murderers row of passing offenses early). Burnett is already looking like an upgrade. Raji should be better, although that will mainly offset the loss of Jolly. A long-term injury to Woodson, Matthews, or Collins could be disastrous though.
The points about the punting and return games are off, in my mind. Mathshay is almost certain to be at least a small upgrade. Blackmon only player a few games last year, so they didn't really lose much in comparison, they just failed to upgrade. The coverage and return units probably get a bit better by default.
In any case with regards to David Gardener's logic, it seems strange to say that GB will fall short of their projection because they didn't get better, when they finished last year #2 overall in DVOA ratings. By that measure they should be a Superbowl contended just by holding position.
#4 by DEW (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 5:58pm
I am amazed that Kansas City is picked by the system to win the AFC West and nobody thinks they're the most likely to underperform. @_@
#18 by RickD // Sep 08, 2010 - 8:47pm
The Chefs are gold, baby!
#6 by compucrazy // Sep 08, 2010 - 6:02pm
Bah, why this article have to come out one day AFTER I pick Beanie Wells, Jerome Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall in my auction league? I thought my draft went well too.
#8 by Wide_Right // Sep 08, 2010 - 6:26pm
FO staff, you guys are killing me. Whatever happened to trusting the numbers? That's what I thought I was doing when I based my draft on KUBIAK's projections. That's why I buy that thing every year. Now I'm being told some of those projections are ridiculous. **SMH**
#7 by Mr. Housebroken // Sep 08, 2010 - 6:26pm
Mike Kurtz I like the Super Bowl 35 rerun.
#10 by nath // Sep 08, 2010 - 7:08pm
"Tom Gower: Ryan Mathews. I've already stated my affection for Mathews and believe he'll end up among the four highest-scoring backs (though I'd still take the consensus top four and probably Rashard Mendenhall before him)."
Boy, that's some real courage of your convictions, there. ;)
#11 by Jeff Fogle // Sep 08, 2010 - 7:10pm
"OK, so we pick Baltimore 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."
What are the odds that 13 guys picking would get NEITHER team right, like happened last year when nobody had Indy in the AFC, or New Orleans in the NFC (where Chicago got 2 votes and St. Louis 1)? Only Bill Barnwell's pick of Minnesota would reach the Final Four. What are the odds that 26 predictions of Super Bowl entrants from the staff of a football site would yield only one final four team?
Do football sites really "have" to make predictions? That's the opposite of the Bill James line of thinking. And, as you point out, it's a thankless job because it tends to celebrate the futility of the effort when it's done so far in advance.
#14 by Led // Sep 08, 2010 - 7:48pm
"What are the odds that 26 predictions of Super Bowl entrants from the staff of a football site would yield only one final four team?"
Probably not as high as you might think because there's an inevtiable element of groupthink within the staff.
#21 by Dan // Sep 08, 2010 - 9:36pm
Last year only 5 NFC teams and 4 AFC teams were included in their 13 picks. If we assume the probability breakdown for making the Super Bowl from each conference is 20-10-10-10-5-5-5-etc., like David suggested at the start of this article, then there was a 23% chance that they'd get neither team (assuming that they picked the most likely teams).
This year they picked 4 NFC teams and 3 AFC teams, so they're even more likely to miss out on both Super Bowl participants.
#12 by Hari-Kiri Beng… (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 7:33pm
Last year, no one at FO picked the Bengals to do anything. We swept the division, did poorly outside of it (for the most part), and faded down the stretch, due to injuries and a lack of offensive weapons.
This year, no one at FO picked the Bengals to do anything. (You're biased, Rob, so you unfortunately don't count.) Though the Ravens tend to draft very well, I wasn't that impressed with their last class (take it from a Bengals fan, freak injuries and fatness can drag down rookies), and we added more offensive weapons. Our schedule is tougher, but I still like our chances.
This isn't hating on DVOA, I'm just not understanding the love that certain problem-ridden teams are getting. But I'm biased...
#19 by RickD // Sep 08, 2010 - 8:49pm
The Bengals looked really bad against the Jets.
#27 by Steely McBeam (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 11:20pm
Baltimore is the AFC version of Dallas. They have talent but when the rubber meets the road they fall waaaay short. Last year they lost both games to the Bengals. The year before three games to the Steelers! Until they can beat the teams in their own division, they are paper tigers.
Please picketh the Ravens nevermore....
#13 by Bobby Wommack (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 7:48pm
"Will Carroll: New England. All things equal, they're not likely to drop much, but something about this team just seems off."
Wonderful. Eloquent. A thorough in-depth analysis. The type of insight I expect when coming to Football Outsiders or Skip Bayless's twitter.
#17 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 08, 2010 - 8:13pm
He's the site's medical expert, not an analyst of team strength, and this is just an article for fun.
#15 by Bobman // Sep 08, 2010 - 8:06pm
Too much love for the Colts--is this kind of a Madden/SI cover thing? You already caused Ugoh to be cut, so stop it, already! ... before they sign Jeff George to start.
#20 by Mike Huber (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 9:33pm
I don't get the Texas national championship prediction at all. The defense is solid, but the offense has some big questions in my book. The running game is not good and Gilbert is still cutting his teeth. He could get up to speed by the time they get to conference play and he does have a national championship game under his belt, but I'm not sold he can carry the team without some ground help. Last year's team had the luxury of having a senior QB that was ultra-accurate and was the primary running threat. He is now GONE.
I predict they will drop two games during the regular season - @ Texas Tech and @ Nebraska. I just don't see how they run the table with this team.
#22 by speedegg // Sep 08, 2010 - 9:41pm
This is why I dig this site. Rather than saying the projections are perfect (implying everyone else is wrong) there is a no-nonsense opinion of the projections and the reasons why. Trying to make predictions on a 16 game season is like a surgeon trying to operate with a steak knife instead of a scalpel, it's just hard to be precise. Still, KUBIAK lead me to Brady during his 50 TD season, so I think Mendenhall will do well.
#23 by Mike Huber (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 9:46pm
Great comment. There are so many variables that go into predicting individual and team performance that the best way to play it is going strictly by numbers. You will get some variance around the mean, but all in all there is a strong foundation for the prediction. Stick with the models and roll the dice.
#24 by Basilicus // Sep 08, 2010 - 10:09pm
My predictions on playoff teams go, in order, 1st seed-to-last:
AFC: New England (13-3), Baltimore (13-3), Houston (10-6), Oakland (10-6), San Diego (10-6), Indianapolis (9-7)
NFC: New Orleans (12-4), San Francisco (11-5), Green Bay (10-6), Dallas (10-6), Atlanta (11-5), Minnesota (9-7)
And I'm predicting a Baltimore-New Orleans super bowl.
#25 by Eddo // Sep 08, 2010 - 10:54pm
What the hell. My brother and I each spend a few hours predicting every game, so I'll post my results.
1. Ravens (13-3)
2. Colts (13-3) (tiebreaker: Raven's conference record)
3. Patriots (12-4)
4. Chargers (11-5)
5. Steelers (11-5)
6. Titans (10-6) (tiebreaker over Dolphins: head-to-head)
1. Falcons (12-4)
2. Packers (11-5)
3. 49ers (11-5) (tiebreaker: Packers' head-to-head win)
4. Cowboys (10-6) (tiebreaker over Eagles: division record; over Giants: strength-of-victory)
5. Giants (10-6) (tiebreaker over Eagles: division record; over Saints: strength-of-victory)
6. Eagles (10-6) (tiebreaker over Saints: strength-of-victory)
I don't like having the Saints out of the playoffs, though three NFCE teams at 10-6 is perfectly reasonable, given recent history. I'm also surprised the Steelers won so many games in my, um, "simulation".
Super Bowl: Ravens over Falcons.
#35 by Shattenjager // Sep 09, 2010 - 12:57am
I'll follow suit. I did go through the tiebreakers to figure out seeding, but I did not write down what tiebreaker decided things. I think that was probably a good idea and will do that in the future, though.
1. Colts (13-3)
2. Steelers (11-5)
3. Chargers (11-5)
4. Patriots (10-6)
5. Ravens (10-6)
6. Dolphins (9-7)
1. Eagles (14-2)
2. Saints (13-3)
3. Vikings (11-5)
4. Falcons (12-4)
5. Panthers (10-6)
Super Bowl: Colts over Falcons
I did have the Packers winning the NFCN until Derek Anderson became the starter in Arizona. At that point, I gave them a couple more losses, one of which was to the Vikings, which changed the division.
I did not expect to give the Chargers so many wins (I would guess that they would then end up with a weak DVOA in spite of the record), but I just couldn't find the losses for them.
#56 by Karl Cuba // Sep 09, 2010 - 12:32pm
You're clearly down on the NFC West, that's OK, a lot of people are. However, I think that you'll find that at least one team has to make the playoffs from this division, unless there's been a rule change that I'm unaware of.
#65 by Shattenjager // Sep 09, 2010 - 5:21pm
I also only listed 5 teams in the NFC because I somehow just skipped over the 49ers, who would be the fourth seed, and still did not notice even though they were numbered 1-5. I'm impressed with my own stupidity there.
However, would the playoffs go any differently if the 49ers did not show up? I don't think so.
#26 by Andrew Potter // Sep 08, 2010 - 11:07pm
Indianapolis at 9-7? Interesting. Where do you see those 7 losses coming? I expect at least 4-2 in the division along with wins over Denver, Kansas, Washington, Cincinnati, New England, San Diego, and Oakland. I'd also expect them to win at least one of the other five games. That puts them at least 11-5, more likely 12-4 or 13-3 in my reckoning.
I also can't see 13-3 for the Patriots, much as I'd like to. I think they'll drop at least two division games (at the Jets and at Miami) and can't see 9-1 against a remaining schedule which includes home games against Baltimore and Indianapolis along with trips to San Diego and Pittsburgh. I'd be very happy to be wrong on that one though, a #1 seed would suit me fine!
#36 by Basilicus // Sep 09, 2010 - 1:05am
It might help to explain the rest of my AFC South predictions:
I think the rest of the division has caught up while Indy hasn't done a whole lot to improve itself. This could be the most improved division in football and yet I've got Houston and Jacksonville with only one-game improvements, and Tennessee sitting pat at 8-8. That's all because of schedule.
As for the Colts, I'm sure Caldwell didn't mess with Tony Dungy's approach much, last year or this. However, they're a year into a new regime and, like many second-year coaches, I think we'll see a natural step backward. The Colts won 8 games last year by one score or less, and this year’s schedule is much, much tougher. The 2009 level of 4th quarter comebacks aren't something that you should really count on year-to-year, or would want to. The Colts have an O-line that can't run block, and they're down a running back with Addai's concussion for the first few weeks. Gonzalez is coming back, but teams have had the time to prepare better for Collie and Garcon - I think they benefited somewhat from the Doug Johnson Effect last year and will show some growing pains now teams can cover them better, meaning less big plays from the understudies. There'll be some trouble with the umpire rule, and I don't see that defense having as good a year as they did last year.
HOUSTON is my pick as one of this year's surprises. They've played Indy tremendously aggressively lately, losing 20-17 and 35-27 last year. They come back a much better team. A split, of course, is most likely, but I believe a Houston sweep this year is more likely than an Indy one. 2-0 Houston.
Indy only topped JACKSONVILLE 14-12 and 35-31 last year. I think Jacksonville's an improved, developed team, David Garrard has a big year (although maybe not Kubiak big) and could be a huge surprise. 1-1 Split.
I see this TENNESSEE team as dangerous and, if anything, I’ve underrated them. I could easily see a 1-1 split.
That makes Indy 2-4 in the division, maybe 3-3. That means they have to go 7-3 outside of it. I'll list the rest of the games, with my prediction in parenthesis after the competitor.
Week 2, vs. New York Giants (9-7), I’ll give to the Colts, but it’ll be close, at least at the beginning. 3-4.
Week 3 @ Denver (7-9). Colts, 4-4.
Week 5 vs. Kansas City (5-11). Colts, 5-4.
Week 6 @ Washington (9-7). Redskins are going to be a solid team rolling through a pretty easy first-half schedule. The Redskins have one of the biggest drop-offs between starting and backup talent, but they won't have had the time to get injured up yet. They’ll have confidence and be buying in, which means Indy meets them at the strongest they’ll be all season. It’s also probably before McNabb gets re/injured, which means some magic’ll be happening. As a note, I'd like to say Washington will probably be the team with the most disparity between the first and second halves of their season. As in, first half good, second half bad. Washington win, 5-5.
Week 9 @ Philly (8-8). Colts, with the chance of a tough game depending on which Philly shows up. 6-5.
Week 10 vs. Cincinnati (9-7). Colts win, but Cincinnati won’t be a cupcake. 7-5.
Week 11 @ New England (13-3). Let’s not pretend like a New England game is a pushover for the Colts, especially away. If not for a questionable decision, the Patriots would’ve had it last year. Close (like always), but Patriots win. 7-6.
Week 12 vs. San Diego (10-6). Could be tough, but Colts win. 8-6.
Week 13 vs. Dallas (10-6). It depends on which Dallas shows up, but I’m betting on them to be good this year. Colts lose. 8-7.
Week 16 @ Oakland (10-6). Oakland will be contending for the playoffs this year, which means they could be playing their brains out late in the season. They’ll have a monster pass rush and they’ve had a stellar running game hiding away for years, scared to come out because of the Jamarcus Russell Experience. Still, it’s the Colts, and they're the Raiders, so Colts win. 9-7.
Now, I could see the Colts picking up, really, any of those games. They could beat Washington, New England, Dallas. But they could just as easily drop to the Giants, Philly, San Diego, maybe even Cincinnati or Oakland on an especially good day for either of those teams. I listed my prediction for each in parentheses to show you that I think Indy will only play two teams all year that finish with losing records, Denver and Kansas City. I see a lot more downside to this schedule than upside. So, that's my epic explanation as to why I think the Colts take a step back.
#58 by Andrew Potter // Sep 09, 2010 - 1:01pm
Thanks for the detailed explanation. I don't agree with all of it, naturally, but it's always interesting to see how somebody else is thinking. I still think the Colts will be the dominant force in their division (I can't see them falling to 2-4 there) and it's no stretch at all to see them picking up 7 or 8 games outside to finish with at least 10 wins (again).
#28 by anton (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 11:46pm
Gentlemen prepare for the colts to win it all this season .. last season felt so much like the lakers season in which they lost at the finals to the celtics.. glad that many share the same sentiment.
#32 by Rich Arpin (not verified) // Sep 09, 2010 - 12:09am
Or they could be the 2008 Patriots, but worst. An injury to Manning completely destroys them and with the questions surrounding the o-line, it doesn't seem that far fetched, he only has to fall the wrong way once.
#29 by lester bangs (not verified) // Sep 08, 2010 - 11:57pm
Aaron Schatz: Michael Turner. I think he'll bounce back from the Curse of 370 and average more than 4.3 yards per carry.
Of course Turner went for 4.9 a pop last year and scored 10 TDs in 11 games. Let's not pretend he sucked last year. He just happened to get hurt, and in a way that any back could get hurt, regardless of his previous workload.
#31 by drobviousso // Sep 09, 2010 - 12:03am
When you say Dwyer will take touches away from Mendy, you mean Redman? I doubt Dwyer will even have a helmet on game day.
#33 by Lou // Sep 09, 2010 - 12:32am
Making predictions is fun, i still say its lame you guys don't do your own individual ones.
here are mine, just so i can check back at the end of the season:
SB: BAL over ATL in a blowout
1st pick: TB selects... no idea
Team Overperform: DET, i can see them winning 6-7 games and being the popular pick to win the division in 2011. (and then winning 7 games). I could also easily put OAK here
Team Under: MIN, already some injuries, i could see them losing a couple of games early and then completely giving up on childress
Player Over: Terrell Owens
Player Under: Steve Breaston
#34 by Raiderjoe // Sep 09, 2010 - 12:44am
going to cretae preidicitions thread in dicussion forum like did last year. A littl e late with it this time around. Expect to post it one hour or twoo hours before Vikes vs Saimts game.
preiview is this-
Super bowl 45- Oakland Raiders 31, atl flacs 17
#67 by Raiderjoe // Sep 09, 2010 - 6:11pm
ealrier projection was falcs make 2nd place and get to super bowl as 5 seed. next projeciton have them as 7 seed, so no playofofs.
new and fficial picks are up in dicsussion forum
#37 by Basilicus // Sep 09, 2010 - 1:19am
Ballsy picks. I'd be astonished if Chicago won the division. Pleased, but astonished. I think they'll lead it and give Bears fans hope before they meet the second half of their schedule.
I like the Washington pick. That division's anybody's, and every team in it can show up as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depending on the Sunday. Washington'll really have to rack up wins in the first half of the season to ride out their later schedule, but I think they've got a very good path provided they can at least split their division record.
I could see anybody winning the AFC South. See epic explanation above.
I'm surprised by Kansas City. I know a lot of people are high on them, and I think they'll be better than their losing record. I'd love to get on board, but I still don't follow the reasoning on them contending for the playoffs this year. What's your rationale for them?
#38 by anton (not verified) // Sep 09, 2010 - 1:25am
superbowl prediction: colts 28 vs giants 13 :-D
#39 by TomC // Sep 09, 2010 - 1:44am
Just so I can be mocked along with everyone else. This is the result of picking every game (albeit with about 5 seconds of thought per game):
AFCE: NE 11-5, NYJ 10-6, MIA 9-7, BUF 5-11
AFCN: PIT 11-5, BAL 10-6, CIN 7-9, CLE 3-13
AFCS: IND 12-4, TEN 8-8, HOU 6-10, JAC 3-13
AFCW: SD 12-4, DEN 9-7, OAK 7-9, KC 7-9
NFCE: PHI 11-5, NYG 10-6, DAL 9-7, WAS 8-8
NFCN: GB 11-5, MIN 9-7, CHI 8-8, DET 2-14
NFCS: NO 11-5, ATL 11-5, CAR 11-5, TB 4-12
NFCW: ARI 8-8, SF 6-10, SEA 4-12, STL 3-13
How 'bout that NFC South? Carolina 11-5? Really? I just watched Matt Moore look absolutely lost against Tennessee. I see I have them winning at home against CHI, BAL, and ATL, so maybe I'm putting way too much on home field advantage.
It would be hilarious if the NFC West ended up that way, but I'm not sure it's so unlikely.
#40 by Mr Shush // Sep 09, 2010 - 7:00am
Pulled out of my arse and in no way the result of assigning a result to every game on the schedule or indeed any games at all:
1. Indianapolis Colts 13-3
2. Baltimore Ravens 12-4
3. San Diego Chargers 11-5
4. New York Jets 10-6
5. New England Patriots 10-6
6. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6
1. Atlanta Falcons 12-4
2. Green Bay Packers 11-5
3. New York Giants 10-6
4. San Francisco 49ers 10-6
5. New Orleans Saints 11-5
6. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6
Indianapolis beats Atlanta in Superbowl XLV
Houston and San Francisco both definitely beat their respective projections.
Arizona and Tampa Bay both definitely miss.
T.O. is very likely to beat his KUBIAK projection.
Mendenhall will do well, but if he reaches anything like his KUBIAK yardage projection it will be on considerably more carries than KUBIAK thinks, and far more likely he just won't get there.
Utah will beat their F/+ projection (and Boise - duh).
Texas Tech will fall short of theirs.
1-loss Alabama will trounce previously undefeated Ohio State for the Championship, with undefeated Boise pouting on the sideline unless they faced 1-or-2-loss Florida in their bowl game, in which case the kicking they took there will shut them up.
The Buffalo Bills select Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford.
#41 by bubqr // Sep 09, 2010 - 7:25am
Way more love for Philly among FO fans (DVOA is eating your brain) than on the national media.
I'm not sure about this year, but with a quick look at the state of the NFL, in the NFC the Falcons, Packers and Eagles sure look like they will be contenders for the next 5/6 years at the very least. On paper the strength and youth of those teams is impressive.
#42 by Dales // Sep 09, 2010 - 7:27am
Team Most Likely to Beat FOA Prediction: The Raidahs
Team Most Likely to Fall Short of FOA Prediction: Redskins
Player Most Likely to Beat KUBIAK Projection: LdT
Player Most Likely to Fall Short of KUBIAK Projection: Phillip Rivers
College Team Most Likely to Beat F/+ Projection: Boise (would have said this before the game, too)
College Team Most Likely to Fall Short of F/+ Projection: Penn State
Super Bowl XLV Winner and Loser: Giants over Colts
2011 BCS Championship Winner and Loser: Alabama over Boise
With the First Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, What Team Selects Whom? Bucs select Patrick Peterson.
#43 by Mr Shush // Sep 09, 2010 - 8:45am
"Bucs select Patrick Peterson"
Really? Don't get me wrong, Peterson's a top prospect and a likely top five pick, but as far as I can tell no cornerback has ever gone in the top two overall, and certainly none since the merger. A couple of safeties have gone second (Eric Turner and Jerry Stovall). It's partly about the fact that it's a lower value position than DE or LT, but mostly, I suspect, about the fact that corner is one of the hardest positions to evaluate in terms of projecting college talent into the pros. Also, the Bucs have holes everywhere and the best player on their roster is a corner. I can't see it.
#50 by Dales // Sep 09, 2010 - 11:17am
You are almost certainly correct. I chose him mainly for the same reason I chose Suh last year. Wasn't sold on any of the preseason skill position names, and saw a top prospect at another position who would fill what I perceive as a glaring need.
I am kind of surprised no one gave Mallet any consideration. If I was not intentionally trying to avoid being labeled as a homer, I might have gone with him.
#57 by Mr Shush // Sep 09, 2010 - 12:46pm
I'm with you in that I'm not convinced at this point there's a quarterback worthy of the #1 pick, but the teams I expect to suck hardest and win least (Buffalo and Cleveland - the Rams will be horrible but so will half their opponents) need quarterbacks and either run a 3-4 or are keen to switch to one, while the best non-QB prospects are 4-3 ends. I'm with Aaron in that I think Clayborn will be the first non-quarterback chosen, and if the right team is sitting at #1 (Tampa or St. Louis, for example) he might be the pick.
#63 by BucNasty // Sep 09, 2010 - 3:43pm
If Tampa Bay picks first overall, they will take either a DE or a QB, and the only way it's a quarterback is if Morris is fired.
#44 by Fan in Exile // Sep 09, 2010 - 8:54am
Who is the second player that Denver has lost? I know Dumerville is out for the season but who's the other top player gone?
#49 by tornadot // Sep 09, 2010 - 10:53am
My guess is Clady.
#51 by Sidewards // Sep 09, 2010 - 11:23am
He probably meant Marshall.
Edit: My reading skills fail. Horribly.
Regardless, I think that Denver's prediction, like all of the teams in the West conferences, is kind of screwy based on the wins that they'll get from each other. Wackiness will ensue with games being decided by lapses of insanity.
#55 by Noahrk // Sep 09, 2010 - 12:03pm
That brought to mind some of those early season Denver wins last year. Like the one against Cincy.
#64 by Fan in Exile // Sep 09, 2010 - 4:25pm
He may have meant Clady but then it's a glaring research error because Clady played in the Vikings game a week ago and is going to start on Sunday.
#45 by Dean // Sep 09, 2010 - 9:47am
All those Ohio State predictions are going to look pretty foolish in about 72 hours when its only week 2 and they already have a loss.
#46 by Joe Reno (not verified) // Sep 09, 2010 - 10:12am
Considering how accurate you were last year you should put a disclaimer on this tripe. If you knew what you were doing you would live in Nevada.
#47 by Dean // Sep 09, 2010 - 10:37am
Given how carefully you read, you should probably put a disclaimer on your comment.
Please allow me to refer you back to the introductory paragraphs.
#72 by Karma Coma // Sep 11, 2010 - 2:54pm
#48 by Dean // Sep 09, 2010 - 10:38am
Duplicate post deleted.
#52 by mulldog // Sep 09, 2010 - 11:48am
Mike Tanier reaching to find a player falling short of his KUBIAK or is it just me? Jerome Harrison "The more he plays, the worse he looks."
Mind you I realize that the schedule at the end of the year was ridiculously easy but this seems about as contradictory a statement as can be made considering that he took over 20 carries just four times last season and his rushing totals in those games were: 121, 286, 148, 127.
Seems to me like he plays a lot better the more he plays.
Again, with limited touches in the preseason he's been pretty poor.
Extending it a touch in case anyone really wants to argue this, two other times he received over 10 carries against Balt and SD and had 16-52 and 10-35...but did catch 5-33 and 7-62(with 2 td's) respectively.
Not trying to be an asshole and I'm assuming it's the "eye-test" but I still think this statement makes no sense at all.
#60 by Eddo // Sep 09, 2010 - 2:24pm
I'm pretty sure that "The more he plays, the worse he looks" refers to the more games he plays. Those yardage totals somewhat agree, though three games is pretty small for a trend to be established.
Tanier's saying that the more he sees Harrison, the less impressed he is.
#66 by mulldog // Sep 09, 2010 - 6:06pm
Well, again, I'm not trying to be an asshole but unless he's talking about the pre-season games (speaking of small sample sizes) that makes absolutely no sense since those three huge rushing games (including the 286 which is good regardless of competition) came at the end of the season.
If we're going to consider how poor his schedule was we probably should realize that he isn't exactly playing behind the 1990's Cowboy offensive lines or with threatening QB's. I know he was given a ton of carries in the last two and that Mangini certainly doesn't seem a huge fan...I'm not even arguing Tanier's point, maybe he is overrated, but I think his recent performances (save the pre-season small sample I suppose) CERTAINLY does more to promote the idea that he MIGHT be good than the horrific numbers he put up in very limited touches in games prior (and by the way, Cleveland's rushing attack was horrid when he wasn't getting touches).
#53 by Err (not verified) // Sep 09, 2010 - 11:52am
As a redskins fan this made me laugh out loud at work: "Jason Campbell can lead them to a .500 season."
I'm going to miss him in a way. Nobody has gotten quite the crazy raw deal that he got.
#59 by Karl Cuba // Sep 09, 2010 - 1:25pm
I can't be arsed to do a game-by-game breakdown but here are my picks for the playoffs.
East: I really don't like the Pats D. Other than Mayo, Wilfork and Merriwether, do they have any quality, reliable defenders? At this stage Mankins looks like he isn't going to turn up and while Brady, Moss and Welkelmann are good, I doubt they'll be able to return to 2007 form. The Jets are overrated. I like the look of Miami, great O-line and running backs, improved receivers and if Henne isn't awful they look good on offense. I like their defensive backs and if Wake and Misi can provide any pressure I think they'll take this division.
North: Everyone loves the Ravens, I hate their corners. I also don't really see why the pundit world has fallen so deeply for Flacco. Without Big Ben for four games I can't see the Steelers winning this division and I'd be flabbergasted if they end up with the number 2 offense by DVOA (has Mendenhall been chatting up the DVOA computer? Buying it flowers, telling it that it's the prettiest laptop he's ever seen?). I pick the Bengals, they might be a bunch of rapists, kleptomaniacs, recidivists and lunatics but they have a good line, good receivers, finally have a tight end, a good veteran quarterback and I've always felt that Benson could be a very good runner if he felt like it. That defense looks good if the corners stay on the field.
South: Indy, it seems like they've barley lost a regular season game they've been trying to win for five years. I wonder if hCushinG will be the same player now he's no longer suffering from over-trained athlete syndrome?
West: Err, Oakland. Really Oakland. Basically I think that the Chiefs and the Broncos have too little talent on either side of the ball and that the Chargers rely on a passing game that will misfire more often without McNeil and Jackson. That leaves the Raiders and I reckon that if they can aviod the usual bonehead mistakes that usually doom them they can maybe win 9 games and win the division.
Wild Cards: Ravens, Steelers
East: Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo... I think Kolb will find that 16 games is a lot tougher than 3. I also can't work out what's going on with their line, this time last year I was really jealous of that unit, it looked like they'd built a quality unit that would last for at least 5 years, not so much today. The Cowboys have a real hole at safety and if they aren't worried then they should ask the Giants how much fun that is. Throw in some offensive line worries that could slow their rushing attack and I see them just failing short of expectations. I like the chances that the Giants' young receivers take a step forwards this year but my pick for the division is the Redskins. Shanahan will make the offense work and I really like the look of the defense. Orakpo and Carter are a fine set of endbackers, I think they'll be good with or without Fat Albert.
North: You can say the same things about the Vikings and the Packers; depth problems at cornerback and issues with the offensive line. The Vikings should also be worried that they are very reliant on their two oldest players, they've really missed Pat Williams when he's been missing recently and Lazarus is kind of important. As for the Packers, their pass rush seems to be Matthews and more Matthews and heaven help them if anything happens to Charles Woodson, who's no spring chicken. Unless Suh walks into the NFL and begins to devastate teams like he did in college I don't think Detroit will contend, which leaves the Bears. I think the Bears' personnel fits his scheme, though that line doesn't really fit any scheme, and getting Urlacher back and adding Peppers will be huge for that defense.
South: Saints, they are loaded in the defensive backfield, have two very good DLs and teh league's most feared offense. I like Atlanta and think they'll get a wildcard but I don't think as much of their defense.
West: I liked the 49ers before the preseason and since then the Cards have decided to start Derek Anderson and the Seahawks are behaving in a rather random fashion, they clearly don't agree that offensive line continuity is important. I think Bradford looks like the best quarterback in the division but he doesn' have a lot to work with and the defense isn't great. The 49ers should win this one.
Wild Cards: Falcons, Giants
Superbowl Champion Saints repeat (not so brave)
#62 by Timdog (not verified) // Sep 09, 2010 - 2:49pm
What is it about the Bills that everybody thinks they'll be the worst team in the NFL? I mean, they aren't going to be good by any stretch of the imagination, but they were a 6-10 team last year with 18 dudes on IR and a corpse for a head coach for over half the year. They are also absurdly loaded at running back and defensive back (to the point where should be trading some guys, quite honestly) - it should be enough to keep them reasonably competitive at around 5-6 wins.
As much as I want them to get Luck or Locker, that isn't going to happen. They'll be drafting in the 9-13 range, just like they have for most of the past decade.
#68 by Vincent Verhei // Sep 10, 2010 - 7:09am
At one point this offseason I wrote an AFC East Four Downs, and the more I researched the Bills for that piece, the more I found it impossible to believe they managed to win six games. When I looked at it, most of those wins came because they got bad quarterbacks to throw lots of interceptions.
In their six wins.
* Week 2: Byron Leftwich throws two picks, one of which is returned for a score. Bills beat Tampa Bay 33-20.
* Week 6: Mark Sanchez throws five picks, and the Jets add one more on a fake punt. Bills still just barely win, 16-13.
* Week 7: Jake Delhomme throws three picks, Bills beat Carolina 20-9.
* Week 12: Chad Henne throws three picks, Ricky Williams adds another, Bills beat Miami 31-14.
* Week 14: Matt Cassel throws four picks, Bills (barely) beat Kansas City 16-10.
* Week 17: In a blizzard, Peyton Manning and Curtis Painter throw one pick each. Bills beat the Colts' second-stringers 30-7.
So they won six games, but my eyes see a three- or four-win team that got some breaks in the schedule, and in the sloppy play of their opponents. I don't think they're getting four four-pick games in 2010.
They've got washed-up career backups at both starting tackle spots. Their center is also a journeyman. They lost their leading (OK, probably not their best) receiver. Their quarterbacks are pitiful. Their front seven is poorly built for a 3-4. They do have good DBs, but opponents are just going to run for 200 yards every week. And the schedule is brutal, second-toughest projected slate by our numbers.
And I think being stacked at running back is only slightly more valuable than being stacked at, say, long snapper.
#69 by BigCheese // Sep 10, 2010 - 6:23pm
I agree that Spiller was a 2009 Al Davis-level bad pick, because RB, which was already one of their two "strengths" is THE most fungible poition on an NFL team, but seriously, Chris Johnson over LenDale White is only slightly more valuable than Patrick Menelly over Desmond Clark?
#71 by Eddo // Sep 11, 2010 - 11:43am
Vince's comment was absurd, but you picked a bad counter-example. Did you see Des Clark as long snapper? He probably cost the Bears a good six points by himself that day.
#70 by BigCheese // Sep 10, 2010 - 6:26pm
The predictions I did for my MTG/NFL column (yes I am THAT big of a geek):
Division Champs: Packers, Cowboys, Saints, Niners
Wildcards: Falcons, Eagles
Division Champs: Colts, Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers
Wildcards: Texans, Patriots
SB: Packers over Texans (and as a Bears fan, just shoot me for even typing that)