2012 Staff Predictions

2012 Staff Predictions
2012 Staff Predictions
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

complied by Rivers McCown

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. We can only guess.

Let's say we think the New England Patriots 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 Houston, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore each have a 10 percent chance to make the Super Bowl, ten other teams have a five percent chance, and Jacksonville and Cleveland are there to make sure everybody has a full schedule.

OK, so we pick New England to win the AFC. Even based solely on this opinion, there is four in five chance the pick will be incorrect. So all preseason predictions are 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 fifth 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 2013 draft." Our college writers make similar comments about the FEI projections that ran in Football Outsiders Almanac 2012. 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: New England, Pittsburgh, Houston, Denver (by a razor-thin margin over Kansas City)
AFC wild cards: New York Jets, Buffalo
NFC divisions: New York Giants (narrowly over Philadelphia), Green Bay, Atlanta, San Francisco
NFC wild cards: New Orleans, Chicago
Super Bowl: New England over Green Bay
First Pick in the Draft: St. Louis

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."

One more note. We're introducing a new staff member below, Peter Koski. Peter has been one of our best game charters and in the last couple of years he's taken over the process of compiling all of our game charting data each season. It's enough work to earn him the title of Game Charting Coordinator which has been vacant for a couple years, and he'll get to add his voice into Audibles each week as a thanks for his hard work. Plus we needed more 49ers homerism to balance out their 2012 projection.

All right, let's rock.

Team Most Likely to Beat Their FOA 2012 Prediction

Andy Benoit: San Francisco. Maybe this team won’t go 13-3 again this year, but what evidence have they themselves produced that would suggest a five-to-six game drop? They have virtually the same team back on both sides of the ball, only this year they’re deeper at running back, more experienced along the offensive line, and more talented at receiver.

J.J. Cooper: San Diego. With the core of a solid team still in place, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Chargers start slow, finish fast and get to 10 wins, only to lose in the first round of the playoffs, like usual.

Tom Gower: Philadelphia Eagles.

Peter Koski: San Francisco Homer Alert! Yes, I believe the 49ers will see a regression in their turnover margin and their AGL in 2012. Yes, they have a tougher schedule in 2012 that features road games against Green Bay, New Orleans, and New England. As well as a back-to-back in Minnesota and against the Jets. However, the 49ers still have six games versus the NFC West and a manageable home schedule. My red and gold colored glasses see at least a nine win team.

Mike Kurtz: Seattle Seahawks. A young, talented team in a miserable division, and a fairly low line.

Sean McCormick: San Francisco. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to expect a significant regression from the 49ers, and I doubt they'll be hosting the NFC Championship game again this year. Their style of play is also difficult to succeed with year in and year out, though the Ravens have certainly shown you can do it. But the 49ers have a terrific coach in Jim Harbaugh, and I tend to buy into the notion that Alex Smith is going to be as good or better next year rather than worse. The division, while improving, is still pretty soft, and 5-1 is a reasonable expectation. That means the Niners would have to hunt up four more wins to beat their projection, and I think they can probably do that.

Rivers McCown: Seattle. I'll go back to the scene of the crime (my Rams prediction to beat their FOA forecast last year) and instead put my faith in The Asterisk and one of the best defenses in the NFC.

Ben Muth: San Francisco 49ers. I know all the reasons why San Francisco is supposed to regress this year, but I also know they return all 11 on a very good defense. They play the Rams and Cardinals a combined 4 times. And they have a great coach. Teams have won ten games with much less.

Aaron Schatz: I'm bored with talking about San Francisco, so I guess I'll say Detroit. The system expects regression on both offense and defense, but it seems like a little much, especially since the Lions should be able to take advantage of the same easy schedule that puts the Jets and Bills into playoff contention.

That being said... there sure are a lot of NFC teams where the projections seem too low. We know the arguments for San Francisco. The Giants were definitely too low before I added the manual bump for postseason performance. The Eagles seem awfully low given the numerous indicators suggesting a rebound. There are reasons to think Dallas will be better. I love Russell Wilson too and want to believe Seattle will be better than projected. Look, all these NFC teams can't outperform their projections at the same time without the wins coming from somewhere. Where are they coming from? Maybe you want to move some wins away from the AFC East teams, but those could only go to the NFC West. That still doesn't do anything for the Lions or Eagles.

Danny Tuccitto: San Francisco is the logical pick here given the amount of attention we've paid to their projection since the book came out. I definitely don't see 13-3 again, but I also don't see 7-9. The NFC West is so bad that they probably start the season with five automatic division wins. Wins against Minnesota, Miami, and one of the three home opponents during October pushes them up to eight. There are only three things I can imagine happening that would drop them to 7-9 (or worse): Alex Smith suffers a major injury early on, Aldon Smith's hip injury turns into something worse, or Dashon Goldson gets hurt. Those are the only three positions where their backup is nowhere near as good as the starter. Even if Patrick Willis gets hurt, at least they have NaVorro Bowman, and Larry Grant filled in for Willis remarkably well at the end of last season.

If I had to go with a less obvious pick, it would be Seattle. The defense is there. Just like the 49ers, they've got seemingly easy wins against St. Louis and Arizona (and can hang with San Francisco). Most importantly, with all due respect to Tarvaris Jackson, their quarterback situation is much improved.

Vince Verhei: Kansas City Chiefs. The schedule is brutal (eight games against the NFC South and AFC North), but the Chiefs won seven games last year with three of their top ten guys missing at least 14 games each. They looked much better under Romeo Crennel at the end of last season than they did under Todd Haley. Jonathan Baldwin should improve in his second season, they have an elite secondary, Jamaal Charles is back, and in my mind they're the favorites in the AFC West.

Robert Weintraub: The 49ers are too easy, almost like one of those Vegas lines that seem like a sucker bet -- until you lose your shirt. So I'll stay away from the obvious and go with with New England. Not sure where four losses come from with that schedule, unless Tom Brady goes down. I'd say they are more likely to go unbeaten again than 12-4.

Team Most Likely to Fall Short of Their FOA 2012 Prediction

Andy Benoit: New York Jets. Don’t know what part of our normally solid formulas like offenses that can’t throw or run...

J.J. Cooper: Miami. FO didn't pick the Dolphins to do a whole lot this year, but the combination of an not ready rookie quarterback and a talent-deficient roster adds up to what might be the worst team in the NFL.

Tom Gower: I picked the Carolina Panthers to go under a line almost a full win lower than their FOA 2012 prediction of 8.3, so I'll go with them here.

Peter Koski: Chicago. I like the Bears this season, but I'm not sure they make it to 10 wins. On average, the Bears defense isn't that old, but the marquee players are on the wrong side of 30 with two inexperienced safeties. Yes, the Bears play the NFC West and AFC South this year, but they also play nine games against top-15 pass defenses by DVOA. Also, I'm not encouraged by the Chicago offensive line's second-to-last finish in Adjusted Sack Rate.

Mike Kurtz: New England Patriots. The defense is still horrid.

Sean McCormick: Miami. They've just stuck an overdrafted rookie quarterback in charge of an offense that is utterly bereft of skill position talent that might take some of the load of him. If you told me that Andrew Luck came in and powered his team to seven wins, I'd have no problems believing it. Ryan Tannehill? C'mon, that's easy.

Rivers McCown: Miami. I just don't think they have enough overall talent to pick up seven wins. Jake Long is awesome, and the front seven still has plenty of disruptive forces, but the secondary is depleted. And Ryan Tannehill is not the quarterback I want to be starting right away as a rookie.

Ben Muth: Carolina Panthers. As tempting as the Dolphins are here, I refuse to believe a team that offers as many absurd contract extensions as Carolina has over the past couple of seasons can go .500. Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are healthy, and are joined by a highly-touted Luke Kuechly, but that defense was truly awful last year. I don't think three guys are going change that. I think it would take a top-five quarterback to take this team to eight or nine wins (projected 8.3) and I don't think Cam Newton is there yet.

Aaron Schatz: Um... Washington, I guess? I like Robert Griffin but I don't think the secondary is good enough for that team to be a top-ten defense. I'm having a hard time picking a team for this category, which ties into what I said above, that there don't seem to be enough wins to go around to all the good teams in the NFC. Maybe a lot of people think that the AFC East teams are projected too high, but there's a lot of evidence to support those projections.

a) Schedule
b) The Jets were 23rd in offensive DVOA last year. Are they really going to be that much worse this year with basically the same players?
c) The Bills are now projected to be an average team, not a top-ten team, which seems to make more sense but still makes them playoff contenders.
d) The Dolphins were much better than people think last year, especially on defense, which should mitigate the decline expected due to a struggling rookie quarterback and the loss of their worst receiver.

Danny Tuccitto: I could see Pittsburgh taking a bigger dip from last year's 12-4 record. Between David DeCastro's injury, Mike Wallace's holdout, the turmoil at left tackle, the uncertainty at running back, and the insanity of Todd Haley, I'm guessing the offense might not be what it's been the past few years. A lot of their offseason moves were designed to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, but now it seems that they're right back where they started.

I could also see New England falling short, only because a 11.9-win projection doesn't leave a lot of margin for error.

Vince Verhei: Denver Broncos. As I recently explained, the Broncos have two scary pass rushers and no other players you'd really want starting on your defense. I'm not thrilled with the Demaryius Thomas/Eric Decker/Andre Caldwell trio at wide receiver, the Joel Dreesen/Jacob Tamme tag team at tight end, or the Willis McGahee/Ronnie Hillman combo at running back. And Peyton Manning, as great as he is, is 36 years old and is coming off experimental neck surgery. This is uncharted territory, and I'm not going to assume he'll be the Manning of old.

Robert Weintraub: Miami. Hard to feature the Fish getting to seven wins without Chad Johnson, heh.

Player Most Likely to Beat His KUBIAK Projection

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Andy Benoit: Jay Cutler. Cutler is playing in a more favorable system this year as new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, recognizing the offensive line’s limitations, has eliminated all seven-step drops. Also, Cutler is being reunited with a No. 1-caliber receiver in Brandon Marshall.

J.J. Cooper: Andrew Luck will have some ups and downs, but he is more ready to step into the starting lineup than any rookie quarterback in quite a while. He'll have enough big games to make this projection seem low, even if the
surrounding talent isn't that impressive.

Tom Gower: I'm bullish on Adrian Peterson's health and the ability of the Vikings to have a more functional offense later in the season. He'll still be down the first couple weeks, but I like him more than most of the other running backs in his tier.

Peter Koski: Percy Harvin. I think 2012 is a record-setting year for Harvin across the board. 90 or more receptions, more than a 1,000 yards, and more than eight touchdowns. Even if the year starts slow, the return of Adrian Peterson from injury and Jerome Simpson from suspension will create opportunities up for Harvin.

Mike Kurtz: Adrian Peterson. I can see him only barely breaking 1,000 yards this season, but I just can't see only eight rushing touchdowns.

Sean McCormick: Mark Sanchez. Not a popular pick at the moment, considering the Jets' comical offensive performance in the preseason, but I actually think Sanchez has been throwing the ball well, and that a receiving corps with Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Dustin Keller will produce some markedly different results from one with Patrick Turner and a very raw Stephen Hill. Sanchez has easily gone over the 3,000-yard mark each of the last two seasons, and I don't think there is any reason to expect a decline in his play this year (and no, Tim Tebow isn't going to significantly cut into his attempts).

Rivers McCown: Julio Jones. KUBIAK seems to be expecting Jones to ease into Roddy White's No. 1 role. I think, instead, he will seize it by the throat.

Ben Muth: Peyton Hillis. I think the Chiefs are going to be able to run the ball this year. Obviously, Jamal Charles is going to be the main option, but coming off an ACL injury he's going to have share carries with Hillis. Plus, Hillis should be well rested since he didn't play hard last year.

Aaron Schatz: Mikel LeShoure will really grab onto the starting job in Detroit when his early-season suspension is over. There is a reason it looked like Kevin Smith was done with football at age 24; the guy was awful his first three seasons. Also, I think David Wilson is better than Ahmad Bradshaw and the Giants will realize it by midseason.

Danny Tuccitto: Titus Young. KUBIAK projects his 2012 stats as almost identical to his 2011 stats, which were about as mediocre as you'd expect from a rookie No. 3 wide receiver. He's got a year under of NFL football under his belt, a full offseason of work in the Lions' system, and he already passed the ageless Nate Burleson on Detroit's depth chart. I see a moderate jump in his fantasy production.

Vince Verhei: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Martin is theoretically part of a committee with LeGarrette Blount. I don't expect that to last long. Martin's versatility could also be a factor. I'd put the over/under on his yards from scrimmage at 1,500, and I'd take the over.

Robert Weintraub: Avalanche warning! Peyton Hillis will shrug off the effects of the Madden Curse (and being a Browns player) to rejuvenate in KC.

Player Most Likely to Fall Short of His KUBIAK Projection

Andy Benoit: Jake Locker. Locker has a long ways to go as a pocket passer. The Titans will have to call a lot of rolling pockets to make him comfortable. That could put a subtle-but-consistent limitation on the downfield passing game.

J.J. Cooper: Count me among the skeptics who believe that Chris Johnson's disappointing 2011 season is a sign that he'll never come close to matching the brilliance he showed before.

Tom Gower: Denarius Moore seems to have a connection with Carson Palmer, and if healthy, could have the kind of breakout season KUBIAK is predicting for him. I don't trust his ability to stay healthy and don't think he's quite good enough yet.

Peter Koski: Eli Manning. Manning saw a huge spike in passing yards last year, with his yards per attempt jumping by a full yard. The much-talked-about regression of Victor Cruz's ability to score 60-yard touchdowns, the constantly nicked up Hakeem Nicks, and a tougher overall schedule tell me Eli is headed back towards 2009-2010 numbers and not the 2011 ones.

Mike Kurtz: Maurice Jones-Drew. I doubt his incredibly pointless holdout will be forgotten by anyone, and he is definitely going to lose snaps because of it.

Sean McCormick: Chris Johnson. I can't think of any running backs who lost their mojo the way Johnson did last year who turned around and got it back. Running backs just have short shelf lives, and even if there was no obvious reason for Johnson's decline, I'm going to stay skeptical until I see him turn it around. The skill position talent isn't going to help him out much, either.

Rivers McCown: Shonn Greene. Between the threat of TebowCat, Bilal Powell looking good in the preseason, and the fact that Greene has been a consistent underachiever on the field so far, I'd be pretty surprised if he garnered nearly 1,000 yards.

Ben Muth: Matt Ryan. I just don't think he's that good. He has all the weapons now, but I think he's an average quarterback, not a top-five quarterback.

Aaron Schatz: I've been driving the Denarius Moore bandwagon all preseason, but hamstring injuries do tend to linger.

Danny Tuccitto: Maurice Jones-Drew, just so we can test the theory that holding out predisposes a player to injury and/or ineffectiveness.

Vince Verhei: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers. When you start at the top, there's only way to go. Of the ten best fantasy seasons by first-year starting quarterbacks between 2000 and 2010, eight declined the next season, by an average of 90 points. That's partly skewed by guys like Shaun King who were never supposed to be starters to begin with, but Daunte Culpepper, Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and Aaron Brooks all took a step backward in their second season in the lineup. Michael Vick was injured in his second season and spent the rest of his career in Atlanta trying to live up to his 2002 campaign. It's not realistic to expect Newton to repeat 2011 every year.

Robert Weintraub: Rob Gronkowski falls prey to exceptional expectations, his inability to avoid sampling all the pleasures of the Boston nightlife (and morninglife), and the presence of Brandon Lloyd and comes back to earth. Sample Boston Herald headline circa Thanksgiving -- "Gronk Can't Grok His 2012 Numbers."

College Team Most Likely to Beat Their F/+ Projection

Andy Benoit: No. 13 Ohio State. Because Urban Meyer will probably wind up working 15-hour days again.

Bill Connelly: Michigan State. Really, they are only inexperienced in one aspect: the passing game. They can win a lot of games, and finish higher than 24th, simply on the power of a fantastic defense and solid running game.

Brian Fremeau: West Virginia. The No. 20 team in our projections is heading to a BCS bowl game in Dana Holgorsen's second season at the helm, and they'll look a lot like last year's Oklahoma State team on their way. The Mountaineers will have a ridiculously efficient and explosive offense, with an underrated defense due to garbage time drives and scores. Senior quarterback Geno Smith will put up numbers that will garner Heisman attention, especially after knocking off Oklahoma in Morgantown on November 17th.

Tom Gower: I think Michigan State has a good shot at double-digit wins again.

(Ed. Note: We should mention that Tom sent this in before Michigan State beat Boise State this weekend.)

Matt Hinton: Louisville. The Cardinals salvaged a dreadful start in 2011 with an improbable run to a share of the Big East championship, and one of the teams they shared it with – West Virginia – is no longer in the conference. Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback in the league, and his surrounding cast can match anyone on the schedule for overall talent level. That may say more about the schedule than it does about Louisville, but still I'm on board with the preseason consensus that the Cardinals should be favored to win the Big East, and the automatic BCS bid that (yes, still) comes with it. So I'm a little mystified why we've projected them to finish fourth.

Rivers McCown: I'm sure this'll be unpopular in the wake of them getting whitewashed by Alabama, but give me Michigan. As Matt Hinton noted the other day, who hasn't gotten rolled by the Tide lately? I think they can make a BCS bowl.

Ben Muth: UCLA. Talent wins, and UCLA has a lot of talent, particularly on defense. They play in the Pac-12 South which consists USC and teams that will show up on Matt Barkley's highlight tape come draft day. I'm not a huge Mora fan, but I could see eight wins from UCLA if Brett Hundley is even average.

Robert Weintraub: I have Southern Cal in the title game, so clearly I think they will win more than 10 games. Bonus pick -- Duke goes 6-6 and is bowl eligible for the first time since people didn't reflexively hate Duke.

College Team Most Likely to Fall Short of Their F/+ Projection

Andy Benoit: No. 2 LSU. The loss of Tyrann Mathieu hurts.

Bill Connelly: Stanford. Stanford, Oklahoma State, and Baylor were all probably projected a little too high because of their recent success with players who are no longer in uniform. But both Mike Gundy and Art Briles have proven they can produce huge offensive numbers with just about anybody. David Shaw has not; at least, he hasn't yet.

Brian Fremeau: Florida. As much as I want to believe in the infallibility of our five-year performance baselines, the Gators simply aren't the same kind of program as they were in the Urban Meyer heyday. And even if they were, the schedule is too difficult to overcome. October features games against LSU, Georgia, and South Carolina. A trip to Florida State awaits in November. The Gators will get to a bowl game, but it won't be of the BCS variety.

Tom Gower: Oklahoma's had too many offensive line injuries and Oklahoma State lost too many of its best players for me to be comfortable predicting either team to end up with more than 9 wins.

Matt Hinton: TCU. The Horned Frogs have been money for a solid decade under Gary Patterson (the undefeated 2009 and 2010 teams both deserved a shot at the national title), and return a very good pass-catch combo in quarterback Casey Pachall and Josh Boyce. But they're also replacing the vast majority of their offensive line and secondary just as the degree of difficult increases dramatically in the transition from the Mountain West to the Big 12; they also unexpectedly lost four returning starters for various reasons over the course of the offseason. They could start 7-0 against the back-loaded schedule, but the fall against the top half of the Big 12 in November will be very hard.

Rivers McCown: Florida State. Because they are Florida State.

Ben Muth: Arizona State. Arizona State loses a lot from a team that went 6-7 last year. They have a quarterback situation (a controversy is when you have multiple good options at the position, a situation is the opposite), and Todd Graham may be the first coach in NCAA history who lost his team's respect before spring practice started.

Robert Weintraub: I just can't see Oklahoma State replacing all that talent on the fly and getting to ten wins. If they do, Mike Gundy is, indeed, a man.

Super Bowl XLVII Winner and Loser

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Andy Benoit :Green Bay over Pittsburgh. Sounds familiar, I know. The Packers offense is a machine and I think that über-versatile defense will rediscover its pass-rush and thus, it’s potency this season. The Steelers are aging a bit on defense but haven’t crossed the threshold yet. Offensively, their passing game is potentially as dynamic as anyone in the AFC’s.

J.J. Cooper: Green Bay over New England.

Tom Gower: After my 2009 prediction ended up as the Super Bowl XLV matchup, albeit with the winner reversed, I'm going with the reverse of my 2010 prediction, sort of. Green Bay over Denver.

Peter Koski: San Francisco over New England.

Mike Kurtz: Green Bay over Baltimore.

Sean McCormick: New England over Green Bay.

Rivers McCown: Philadelphia over New England.

Ben Muth: Green Bay beats New England, and Skip Bayless asks if Tom Brady can win a Super Bowl married to someone who grew up watching soccer.

Aaron Schatz: I picked New England over Green Bay last year, and I'll pick it again this year.

Danny Tuccitto: With full understanding that none of the following is going to come true...

Since 2003, only New England, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis have won the AFC. It's time to give someone else a chance. Baltimore blew their chance last year, so I'll go with the Texans. Houston fans deserve something positive to counteract the Astros.

For my NFC champion, I'd love to take San Francisco because it would make me happy if they won. That doesn't seem to be in the spirit of this little exercise, though. I'd love to take New Orleans because of the narrative. Just -- man, that defense is bad. Therefore, I'll go with the Bears.

For Super Bowl XLVII, I'll say Houston over Chicago because that's practically a home game for the Texans.

Vince Verhei: New England Patriots over Atlanta Falcons. Pats play the AFC South and NFC West and will probably be the favorites in at least 13 games. Falcons have a tougher road against the NFC East and their own division (although they do get to play the AFC West), but Mike Tanier's chapter in FOA 2012 (still available!) made me realize that this team has made the right decision both on and off the field almost every time in the past five years, and I'm counting on their postseason luck turning around.

Robert Weintraub: New England over Green Bay.

2012 BCS Championship Winner and Loser

Andy Benoit: Someone From the SEC over Someone From the SEC. Fill in whatever teams you’d like.

Bill Connelly: Alabama over Oregon.

Brian Fremeau: Alabama over Oregon. It isn't much of a stretch to pick the two teams most likely to go undefeated in the regular season according to our projections, but here we are. Two teams destined to dominate the vast majority of their games in distinctly different ways. Two teams destined to showcase their highest profile performances on the same fateful date, November 3rd, Alabama on the road at LSU and Oregon on the road at USC. An offense that no one will be able to stop versus a defense no one will be able to score upon. We haven't had a controversy-free national championship matchup selected since the USC-Texas clash at the end of the 2005 season. Before we usher in a four-team playoff, we'll get that one more game that everyone will agree upon after all other arguments are settled on the field. Alabama over Oregon, 31-30.

Tom Gower: LSU over Oregon.

Matt Hinton: USC over Alabama. Yeah, it's chalk, but picking anyone else here (save LSU) would be ignoring the obvious. Alabama sent more talent to the NFL from last year's juggernaut BCS championship outfit than any other team in the country, and yet has assembled such an unassailable pipeline of blue-chip recruiting classes in Tuscaloosa that it may also return more talent than any team in the country, even if much of it has yet to take the field in any significant capacity. The Crimson Tide are positively grizzled in the two areas where it matters most – quarterback and offensive line – and should have no trouble filling in the gaps. USC was arguably the best team in college football by the end of November, and boasts the best passing game by far courtesy of future first-rounders Matt Barkley at quarterback and Robert Woods and Marqise Lee at wide receiver. (The late transfer of 1,000-yard rusher Silas Redd from Penn State doesn't hurt, either.) But mainly, I cannot overstate how badly I want to see the reaction from SEC fans if a team coach by Lane Kiffin schools one coached by Nick Saban in the championship game.

Sean McCormick: USC over Alabama.

Rivers McCown: Alabama over West Virginia.

Ben Muth: USC beats Alabama.

Robert Weintraub: USC over Alabama

With the First Pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, ____ selects ________.

Andy Benoit: The Oakland Raiders select Jarvis Jones, linebacker, Georgia.

J.J. Cooper: Somebody makes a trade with Miami to pick Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC, because the Dolphins can't take Barkley a year after drafting Ryan Tannehill.

Tom Gower: The Cleveland Browns select Logan Thomas, quarterback, Virginia Tech.

Peter Koski: Miami earns first pick, but trades it away because they're invested in Ryan Tannehill and his wife is hot, so who needs Matt Barkley?

Mike Kurtz: The Cleveland Browns pick ... who the hell knows, it's the Browns. Probably Jerry Lewis. (OK, Barkevious Mingo.)

Sean McCormick: The Cleveland Browns select Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC.

Rivers McCown: The Miami Dolphins select Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, Utah.

Ben Muth: The Cleveland Browns select Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC.

Aaron Schatz: The St. Louis Rams select Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, Utah. The Rams can't deal the pick because they don't want Matt Barkley in their division with Arizona, and Jacksonville won't want to part with multiple first-round picks when they could wait and take Tyler Wilson or Geno Smith in whatever slot they actually end up with.

Danny Tuccitto: The Arizona Cardinals select Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC.

Vince Verhei: The Cleveland Browns select Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC.

Robert Weintraub: The Miami Dolphins select Barkevious Mingo, defensive end, LSU.


76 comments, Last at 09 Sep 2012, 10:10pm

#1 by CraigoMc (not verified) // Sep 05, 2012 - 7:12pm

Out of curiosity, how many teams have spent first-round picks on QBs in consecutive years?

Points: 0

#2 by Shattenjager // Sep 05, 2012 - 7:33pm

Just based on the position that p-f-r gives them, which is far from perfect, especially before about 1960, there are seven, if I'm counting correctly. This includes the supplemental draft, because I didn't see a reason to exclude it:

Detroit took Y.A. Tittle in '48, then John Rauch in '49.
San Francisco took Earl Morrall in '56, then John Brodie in '57.
Washington took Richie Lucas in '60, then Norm Snead in '61.
The Rams took Roman Gabriel in '62, then Terry Baker in '63, then Bill Munson in '64.
Miami took Rick Norton in '66, then Bob Griese in '67.
Baltimore took Art Schlichter in '82, then John Elway in '83.
The Jets took Ken O'Brien in '83, then Ken Hobart in '84.

And of course, Dallas took both Troy Aikman and Steve Walsh in '89. Not the same but close.

Here is a full list of all quarterbacks taken in the first round (including NFL, AFL, and AAFC): http://pfref.com/tiny/h63L1

Points: 0

#4 by CraigoMc (not verified) // Sep 05, 2012 - 8:11pm

Thank you - I didn't think the Browns would be making history if they picked Barkley or another QB, but it's nice to have confirmation. It has been quite a while though, which explains why I couldn't think of an example.

Points: 0

#10 by dbostedo // Sep 05, 2012 - 9:54pm

The interesting thing is that it would make more sense for the Browns than past examples, because of the age of their #1 pick this year. It's a little like they picked them 6 years apart...

And I'm wondering if the Logan Thomas pick up above was meant to be an example of a bad pick of the type the Browns are prone to make... I'm a VT fan, but I can't see Thomas being the number 1 overall at the end of this year.

Points: 0

#11 by Marko // Sep 05, 2012 - 10:02pm

I think it would be great if the Browns drafted Barkevious Mingo. Not only is he a top prospect, but he has an all-time great name. And how could the fans in the Dog Pound not love a guy named "Barkevious"?

Points: 0

#25 by CraigoMc (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 11:18am

I'm thinking that the Browns win about 6-8 games this year - too few for the playoffs, but high enough to miss out on a top-10 pick. The new ownership sours on Weeden quickly, panics, and reaches for a QB in the mid-first, breaking Cleveland's heart yet again.

Points: 0

#8 by Marko // Sep 05, 2012 - 9:22pm

Although Baltimore drafted Elway in 1983, he was traded about a week after the draft to Denver because he refused to play for the Colts (as I'm sure you know). The Jets drafted Hobart in 1984 in a supplemental draft of USFL and CFL players, not in the regular draft or a supplemental draft of players coming out of college. As for Steve Walsh, he was drafted in the supplemental draft in 1989, so technically the Cowboys used a first round draft pick on him in 1990 after drafting Troy Aikman first overall in 1989.

Points: 0

#19 by Shattenjager // Sep 06, 2012 - 1:30am

Y.A. Tittle went to the AAFC. Richie Lucas went to the AFL. The 49ers traded Earl Morrall before the next season began (though after the draft), along with a guard they had just drafted, for an all-pro linebacker and two first-round picks. Art Schichter's gambling woes had come to light before the '83 draft and he was suspended indefinitely less than a month after it.

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#14 by BaronFoobarstein // Sep 05, 2012 - 10:16pm

No team has ever taken back to back first overall QBs, though Boston came close in 44 and 46.

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#63 by jebmak // Sep 07, 2012 - 4:13am

It seems like the Dolphins spend a second round pick on a QB every year, but maybe that is just my bias speaking.

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#3 by mm (old) (not verified) // Sep 05, 2012 - 7:37pm

Matt Hinton's picks for college team most likely to fall short of/exceed projections appear to be flipped.

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#5 by Rivers McCown // Sep 05, 2012 - 8:18pm

Thanks, fixed that.

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#6 by Cliff Clavicle (not verified) // Sep 05, 2012 - 8:52pm

Pats won't get anywhere near the SB this year, first round elimination AT BEST. Wildly overrated team.

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#38 by Go Pats (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 1:57pm

Oh Really, please do tell us why.
Is it the scrub playing QB?
The lousy TE duo?
The short slot WR who is so overrated?
Lousy head coach and OC?
One of the worst combos of kickr and Punter?
Toughest schedlue in the league this year?
I could go on ...

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#64 by David // Sep 07, 2012 - 9:05am

I'm just curious - did you mean to post as a perfect example of the OP's point on people overrating the Patriots by only praising their good parts? I mean, is this an irony that I'm just missing?

Anyway, on the wild assumption that you're serious - no, it's their lousy, terrible and awful defense. No question that they will make the playoffs (not least because of the easy schedule), but then a stumble in the playoffs seems dreadfully likely

The strength of schedule thing, in particular, doesn't do them any favours once they actually make the playoffs, y'know...

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#65 by MJK // Sep 07, 2012 - 10:04am

And on what grounds do you think their defense will be terrible? You've never seen their defense. No one has. It is decidedly not the same defense as last year (16 players of turnover). It may not be good, but the point is that we just don't know. It could be anything, and the odds of it being as bad as last year are relatively low.

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#67 by Go Pats (not verified) // Sep 07, 2012 - 11:45am

Agreed. I did not comment on th defense but wa planning to. No way they are anywher near as bad as last year. I dont think we will be seeing any WR in the secondary this year, unless o course the injury bug really hits them again (unlikely). Also the defense was bad last year in terms of yards allowed (i believe the Packers was slightly worse) but in terms of point allowed I think they were middle of the pack. Anyway, I think with the continued infusion of youth, mor focus on the defense in the draft and training camp, the defense in theory anyway, should be much improved.

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#7 by Will Allen // Sep 05, 2012 - 9:07pm

If Ponder doesn't make large improvement, the Vikings have an outstanding chance to lose 14 or 15 games, including their last eight, and win the Barkley sweepstakes, with new coach Lane Kiffin, just as rumors of recruiting violations begin wafting around the USC campus once again. I'm tellin' ya'; if the Vikings start 2-6, that's all the games they are winning.

I'm kind of hoping for it, as punishment for the stadium hold-up.

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#9 by Raiderjoe // Sep 05, 2012 - 9:53pm

Super Bowel 47
Raiders 34, Betas 20

MVp super Bowl Darren McFadden

Regular season mvl- Aaron Rodgers

Defensive player f the year- nick barnett

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#13 by BaronFoobarstein // Sep 05, 2012 - 10:15pm

The Betas are in the Animal Football Conference, right?

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#15 by Sifter // Sep 05, 2012 - 11:14pm

I'm just looking forward to seeing a super bowel...WOW!

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#18 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 06, 2012 - 12:10am

They played that in 2009.

The 1-15 Rams beat the 2-14 Lions 17-10.

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#33 by Hurt Bones // Sep 06, 2012 - 12:14pm

Yes, but they have no players only particles.

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#26 by jtduffin // Sep 06, 2012 - 11:25am

I understood most of this, but who are the Betas? Are they AKA the Chicago Bears?

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#42 by TomC // Sep 06, 2012 - 2:23pm

RJ has CHI in the SB?!!!! That is the best news this Betas fan has heard in a long, long time.

edit: unfortunately, it's probably just because of Michael Bush and Jason Campbell. But if RJ objectively believed the Bears were going to win the NFC, I'd be majorly stoked.

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#59 by Raiderjoe // Sep 06, 2012 - 7:10pm

Nothing to do with Campbell and bush. But nice for them to have them on tema.

Cmapbell much better bakcho QB than C. Hanie. Also bush good player.

Beras have good coaching staff, QB, defense, WRs, RB and other thongs.

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#60 by nuclearbdgr // Sep 06, 2012 - 10:35pm

I love raiderjoe typos - I hope Forte knows he is a thong.

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#12 by Nathan Forster // Sep 05, 2012 - 10:04pm

Am I the only one who completely buys the model's projection for the 49ers? It seems based on inputs that are highly unlikely to be noise. The Houston Texans served as Exhibit A-Z regarding the variability of defense. Alex Smith has been a pretty awful quarterback for a fairly long time. Given the importance of the quarterback position, a regression from his average play last season to his mean level of performance would likely have a large impact on the team's success as a whole. The only aspect of the projection that is remotely surprising is that the 49ers have the advantage of playing 3/8 of their season against the swampland known as the NFC West.

Sorry JPP!

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#27 by Jim Z. (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 11:29am

Alex Smith was efficient last year, but basically an average-level (#13 in DYAR / #14 DVOA) quarterback. He didn't even play very far above his typical level; it just so happened that the team around him was other-worldly.

If you take away elite special teams and elite defense from the 49ers last year, you basically get a typical 2005-2010 49ers season.

If you're banking on the 49ers to maintain their level of success from a year ago, you are basically counting on the defense to play at similarly ridiculously elite level AND the special teams to pace the league AND Alex Smith to play close to his absolute ceiling. All three of these must happen again, for a second consecutive year.

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#29 by t.d. // Sep 06, 2012 - 11:45am

he was average with a historically unsustainable low interception rate, which ain't a good sign. some of that's probably coaching, but much of it is probably luck

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#30 by commissionerleaf // Sep 06, 2012 - 11:49am

I am in agreement as well. I expect the 49ers to continue to succeed on defense, with a certain amount of regression to the mean as one of the cornerbacks/Goldson/Dlinemen not named Smith turns into a pumpkin. Thing is, when your offense is going to score in the teens on a good Sunday, you can lose a lot more games with a little regression to the mean.

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#31 by CraigoMc (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 11:51am

As far as Alex Smith, most aspects of of his game stayed roughly the same except for his INT rate, which dropped dramatically (2.9 to 1.1), and his sack rate, which spiked from 6% to 9%. People tend to overrated his 2011 performance for several reasons - he's Alex Smith, he had great DEF/ST, as you mentioned, and 5 INTS is an eye-poppingly low number. But there's every reason to suspect that he'll be back in double-digits this season.

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#37 by Jericho (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 1:37pm

Also, the 49ers seems to be very healthy last year. They'd need to repeat that too...

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#36 by bravehoptoad // Sep 06, 2012 - 1:35pm

7-9 is what Singletary and Raye could do with this team. It's tough to swallow that Harbaugh can't do any better with most of the same players.

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#39 by Go Pats (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 2:04pm

They will not win 13 but 5-1 or 6-0 is doable within the division, assuming no major injuries and they can easily go 5-5 at least against the rest of the schedule. I agree Smith will not have as few INT's but I think they will score much more often assuming better WR play. The young OL is getting better and I think with continued creative play calling and another year of good coaching, they will be a force. That being said, Manning was an idiot to not come to SF.

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#16 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 05, 2012 - 11:58pm

"I'm sure this'll be unpopular in the wake of them getting whitewashed by Alabama, but give me Michigan. As Matt Hinton noted the other day, who hasn't gotten rolled by the Tide lately? I think they can make a BCS bowl."

Bad defense. One-man offense. There are now multiple blueprints for how to contain that kid who can't tie his shoes. Denard Robinson throws the best punt in the NCAA.

They might beat their current F/+ projection, but not their season opener.

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#17 by RickD // Sep 06, 2012 - 12:01am

"Super Bowl XLVI Winner and Loser"

That should be easy. What about Super Bowl XLVII? Or any Super Bowl played in the future instead of the past?

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#20 by t.d. // Sep 06, 2012 - 1:46am

I think if Arizona were to sign Garrard in two weeks, suddenly the NFC West would have three good teams. Not sure why, other than history, you guys are assuming the NFC West will suck again (even St Louis has a 'franchise' quarterback)

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#21 by Eddo // Sep 06, 2012 - 9:50am

This seems like a massive overrating of a QB that hasn't thrown a pass since 2010.

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#22 by t.d. // Sep 06, 2012 - 10:06am

I admittedly have a higher impression of Garrard than most, having seen him as a starter for several years in Jacksonville, but everybody suddenly noticed that the Jaguars had a shit line and no receivers when he was no longer the starter, but they were league-average with Garrard, with no line and terrible receivers. He was a miracle worker here, and he'd have easily won the job in Miami if he was healthy (admittedly a big concern for a 34 year old who was cut because he couldn't start the season). He'd be a tremendous upgrade over Skelton or Kolb

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#32 by commissionerleaf // Sep 06, 2012 - 12:00pm

Garrard has been overrated because of the season when he took over for Leftwich and had a Tebow-like miracle lack of interceptions that drove a successful team. However, at age 30-31 he was every bit as good as 2011 Alex Smith or 2011 Matt Hasselbeck. Presumably he is almost that good now. I would be thrilled to have him as a backup, and he wouldn't embarrass a team as a starter. But that's all; he isn't suddenly going to turn into Tom Brady. His ceiling is probably post-injuries Donovan McNabb at this point (to choose a player with a similar skill set), with the important difference that Garrard appears to actually want to play football and be willing to stay in shape.

I still think the Jaguars' prevarication between Leftwich and Garrard hurt them a lot. With a little better drafting and the willingness to make a call and trade one quarterback while they were valuable, they could be a very different team - with either one at the helm.

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#34 by t.d. // Sep 06, 2012 - 12:36pm

While I agree that he probably wouldn't suddenly be an All Pro, I think he might be better than you think- immediately after that great year in 2007, the Jaguars lost their starting center and both guards to injury before week two the next season, and they've had a terrible line ever since. He was frequently dealing with unblocked guys chasing him up the middle. Their line really has been worse than the Bears' the last few years, and their receivers have been worse, too (Garrard's receivers were nothing special even in 2007). While Arizona is a complete mess at tackle, they at least have good weapons at receiver and Garrard's used to running for his life. I think their defense is deceptively good, and they'd be crazy not to at least call him after week one, when contracts are no longer guaranteed

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#23 by Ryan D. // Sep 06, 2012 - 10:14am

"Ben Muth: Carolina Panthers. As tempting as the Dolphins are here, I refuse to believe a team that offers as many absurd contract extensions as Carolina has over the past couple of seasons can go .500. Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are healthy, and are joined by a highly-touted Luke Kuechly, but that defense was truly awful last year. I don't think three guys are going change that. I think it would take a top-five quarterback to take this team to eight or nine wins (projected 8.3) and I don't think Cam Newton is there yet."

What about getting Ron Edwards back from injury at DT, and picking up Dwan Edwards to play the other DT spot, when they played 2 rookie DTs last season? Shoring up their interior defensive line along with the return of competent NFL-caliber linebackers should result in a big improvement over last season, when they couldn't stop anyone from running up the middle, especially late in games.

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#24 by KK Probs (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 10:19am

The Baltimore Ravens wins projection in the 2012 FOA is for 9.2 wins. This is 1.4 to 2.8 wins shy of their Pythagorean Wins from any of the last four seasons. It is also 1.4 to 2.9 wins shy of their Estimated Wins from any of the last four seasons. Their actual wins during that time have been 11, 9, 12, 12.

Their schedule doesn't look that imposing, and Baltimore will very likely be favored in 11-14 games this year, both by FO stats and common consensus. Collectively, are Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Cleveland really any different than they have been the last four years? I would say no, and so do FO stats, by and large. The non-divisional schedule includes the NFC East, AFC West, Houston and New England. On their entire schedule, Pittsburgh and New England are the only teams given a higher win projection in the 2012 FOA, and they are the only two given a higher rating in the Pre-Week 1 2012 DVOA Ratings. So... they go 0-3 against those teams (including 2 home games)... and then 9-4 against teams rated lower than them - 7 of which have a DVOA rating below 0% going into the season?

I get that Suggs is on the PUP (not IR), they're getting old (so is Pittsburgh), and Flacco has flaws in his game (he always has). But the worst Ravens team since 2007 is this obvious to everyone - so obvious that no one even mentions it? Where do those 6.8 loses come from? NFL predictions are subject to being overwhelmed by chance, as noted, and mine as much as anyone's, but this looks to me like both the most likely and most overlooked FO miss for 2012.

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#28 by Jim Z. (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 11:35am

Purely from a subjective standpoint, I just don't see where the defense is going to come from on that team.

Where is the talent on that team that is not extremely old (Lewis, Reed) or injured (Suggs)?

I don't think that Courtney Upshaw or any of their other OLB pass-rushers (Kruger, Kindle) they have on the roster will ever be more than solid, run-plugging, set-the-edge kind of guys or rotational players, at best.

Ladarius Webb seems to be one of those typical zone-corner-who-plays-behind-a-great-pass-rush CBs who will struggle if the unit in front of them isn't generating a great pass rush. Jimmy Smith hasn't really proven anything in the NFL yet.

I like Ngata, but he's not the Superman that many make him out to be. He's a good run-stuffing presence on the line, and a decent pass rusher, but if he's going to be the only real threat in that front seven with Suggs injured, I just don't like their ability to generate any pass rush.

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#41 by KK Probs (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 2:21pm

Mike Kurtz did take Baltimore to win the AFC, so that's not no mention at all, I guess.

The offense hasn't really changed much. It may have players who are peaking, but it doesn't really have players who should be decline in key positions. If anything, I think Torrey Smith could emerge as a top deep threat and make their offense slightly better. The special teams almost can't help but get better, after finishing 30th in the NFL. I think the debate is with the defense, and all of those points are valid.

I don't know if I totally agree with the assessment of the front seven, but I don't have a compelling argument on their behalf either. But Smith-Webb-Pollard-Reed strike me as being better than the Ravens secondary of 2011 (when their defense was ranked #1 in DVOA) due mostly to experience. Reed is the only one of those at a phase of his career where we might expect decline, but then again safties of his caliber can be very productive in their mid-30s. The other three are 26-27 years old, not years where we'd expect decline. Whether or not they can stand up to the extra stress of not having Suggs pass-rushing for at least 6 weeks (and maybe having him diminshed for the whole season) is the main question facing the Ravens.

I think the view that the Ravens are a 9-win team might be rational, particularily if you think Suggs can beat up Lawrence Taylor in his prime in a street fight, and then knock out Vladimir Klitschko and Jon Jones later that night, while his 10 fellow starters are so bad that they couldn't even start on the New England Patriots defense(now that's bad). To just assume failure of the 2011 #1-ranked defense based on the assumed decline of players who haven't really shown much decline yet on a team that's been top 6 in defensive DVOA for 4 straight years, and then brush it aside hardly a mention... that seems like a really, really pessimistic view of the team.

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#40 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 2:20pm

"Mike Kurtz: New England Patriots. The defense is still horrid."

This is pretty funny. Even if we ignore the additions to the team, the fact that they were a top 3 in games lost to injuries and that they were hampered by the lack of an offseason in 2011 more than most teams, and take this one faith...

Didn't they just go 13-3 last year?

Your knuckle dragging Steeler fan is showing, Mike. ;-)

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#43 by Jimmy // Sep 06, 2012 - 2:37pm

How exactly were the Pats hampered more than other teams by the lack of an offseason?

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#44 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 3:19pm

I knew someone would bring that up.

At their best, NE is a multi-facetted defense that relies as much on scheme as they do guys winning individual matchups. This requires guys being able to do many different things and to know what each other position is doing. That is what made their defenses back in the 03-04 hey day so good, they were all of singular mind. The players were good, some even great, but they collective ability was more than the total individual talent.

Contrast to defenses like Indy's over the last decade, that pretty much did the same thing year in, year out, play in, play out.

The lack of an offseason forced NE to simplify things taking away that essential part of their arsenal. Notice that they were better in the playoffs when the returned some starters and were able to run the full defensive package.

On top of that, NE had a tremendous amount of turnover and youth. Of the 11 starters, only 2 had more than one season as a starter on the team. 5 had less than 2 years experience in the league, and that was before all the injuries took place.

Lastly, NE is a habitual slow starter, defensively. Even at their best, it typically takes them 2 months to hit their stride with a full offseason.

So, yes, NE was definitely affected by the lockout more than most, and this isn't hindsight. I predicted it would happen before the season even started.

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#45 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 3:23pm

That should say, "I knew someone would ask about that one." Obviously, I brought it up. ;-)

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#46 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 3:24pm

That should say, "I knew someone would ask about that one." Obviously, I brought it up. ;-)

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#47 by Karl Cuba // Sep 06, 2012 - 3:29pm

It isn't hindsight, it's nonsense. Some teams were installing entirely new schemes with entirely new coaching staffs and we're supposed to feel bad for the f*&(ing Patriots with one of the longest tenured coaches in the league? And as for the so-called-most-complicated-defense-ever argument, several ex-Pats have declared that to be false too, McGinnest and Bruschi have both stated that they aren't doing any damn voodoo, they just execute simple schemes well, in a manner not totally dissimilar to the aforementioned Colts.

Or perhaps the violin players are too despondent to raise their instruments and that's why I can't hear the morose music playing for the Pats defense.

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#48 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 3:51pm

You can attack the statements as much as you want, but they are true.

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#50 by BaronFoobarstein // Sep 06, 2012 - 4:17pm

Where there ya go. The lockout hurt the Pats defense more than any other because ipse dixit. QED. Now let's all go eat a God damn snack.

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#53 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 4:39pm

You guys are funny. Not only are you both building straw men out of my arguments, but you are completely missing the overall point.

"Even if we ignore..."

Whether you agree or disagree with my contention is entirely irrelevant. The defense was brutal in 2011 and they still won 13 games against what looks to be a harder slate of games than they are scheduled to face this year. And that was with an offense that suffered numerous OL and RB injuries as well as having limited depth at both TE and WR, all of which has been addressed with the possible exception of OL.

Mike will have to come up with a much more compelling reason why NE won't win 12 games this year. From where I sit, that is the nadir for the team as long as Brady doesn't go on IR.

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#73 by dmstorm22 // Sep 08, 2012 - 12:08pm

Sanchez, Palko, V. Young, Orlovsky, Grossman, Tebow, Moore, Fitzpatrick, Tebow.

That was the list of QBs they faced in between their loss to the Giants in Week 9 and the AFC Title Game. There's a reason why that coincided with a 9-0 run. When they went back to playing better QBs (Flacco, Eli) they barely won and then lost.

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#49 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 3:57pm

FWIW, I've heard Willie and Law's statements (though not Tedy's), and the purpose of theirs was to deflect some of the praise that was being heaped onto Bill onto the players, who certainly deserved a good deal of it. No matter the schemes, you still need right players to make them work. But it doesn't change the facts around what I wrote earlier.

Anyone who has watched NE for the past decade and Indy for the past decade knows that the two aren't even close in complexity.

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#51 by t.d. // Sep 06, 2012 - 4:27pm

yeah, really it's Tommy and the offense that has let the Pats down in the postseason since 2006, and if it weren't for Marlon McCree foolishly trying to return his pick of Brady instead of going down, that streak of offensive futility would date back to'04. Strange, really

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#52 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 4:35pm

You won't get too much of an argument from me. Even though the defense melted down in the 2006 AFCCG, half of that unit was flu ridden, getting IVs and puking on the sidelines. Hard to expect them to slow Indy down with the heat blaring. All the offense needed to do was get a handful of first downs to put the game away and they couldn't even do that.

And then in 2007, It wasn't just the Giants that slowed them down, SD held them to 21 points. Brady's ankle didn't help things, but still...

2009 and 2010 shared equal responsibility, and the offense was clearly the lesser performer of the two units in last year's playoffs.

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#54 by t.d. // Sep 06, 2012 - 4:42pm

Yeah, but it really is odd. They've been a historically great offense in three of the last five seasons, and every time the offense has flamed out in the playoffs (their 21 points against the Jets is misleading since their last td came against a 'prevent', and I don't even think they got the ball back)

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#55 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 4:55pm

This is why a lot of fans are comparing them to the Colt teams from the early 2000s. The only difference is that at least those teams were built to stop the pass!

I'm hoping that all the TE emphasis this offseason will lead to NE becoming more proficient at running the ball. DVOA always loves them, but it isn't an accurate measure because NE's rushing offense is (or has been, hopefully) dependent on passing success to open things up. When teams shut down Brady, rarely can the Pats counter punch with the ground game.

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#56 by t.d. // Sep 06, 2012 - 5:08pm

They're flat out terrifying, and what's fascinating is that BB was trying to do this TE revolution long before it ever took, although I agree the running game has been overrated by dvoa. I just think Pats fans are a little blase about turning over three starters on the line and switching from a running back who never, ever fumbled

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#57 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 06, 2012 - 5:24pm

Count me among the blase on both of those. ;-)

OL - Solder is a first rounder who looked good as a rookie at RT. He's had a rough camp at LT, so there is some concern, but it isn't as if Light was superhuman there. RT is a bigger concern if Vollmer doesn't return to health, but NE has schemed around liabilities at RT for pretty much Brady's entire career. Last year alone they were on their 4th C and 2nd RT for a couple games. In 2005, they went most of the season down two tackles and the center with a rookie LG.

Despite plenty of talent issues on the line, NE has never had a season when pass pro was a persistent problem. Yes, PS hasn't been comforting, but I'm going to trust that between Josh McD, Brady and Dante Scarnechia, they'll figure out an approach that puts a competent unit out there.

If the secondary looked like crap all preseason, I'd be far less inclined to take anything on faith.

RB - Benny was very good in 2010, not so much in 2011. He never fumbled and was a solid GL back, but other than that he was pretty much a liability. Not much of a threat to get outside or in the passing game and only ran for 3.7 ypc all season. I'll trade 2-3 fumbles on the season for a more dynamic presence in the backfield.

Agreed on the TE. In interviews, Bill has talked about going all the way back the Colt(?) teams of the 70's that he coached and how much damage they could do from the 2TE sets. Even before Gronk/Ahern, they tried to get a dynamic duo with Graham/Watson and then again with the dual selection of Thomas/Mills in 2006. Obviously those didn't work out quite so well.

Thanks for the good conversation.

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#58 by t.d. // Sep 06, 2012 - 5:40pm

Likewise on the convo. Agree that Brady at his apex is an absolute master of the quick release, and is coming off two absolute pantheon seasons. I think if you're right and the offense maintains this level, they're a virtual lock to end the season in New Orleans (I'd still expect -random NFC champ- to beat them)

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#66 by Cro-Mags // Sep 07, 2012 - 10:47am

I see your 'If Marlon McCree' and raise you three 'If Bernard Pollards'.

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#61 by MJK // Sep 06, 2012 - 10:38pm

The main thing I wonder when I hear anyonw say "the defense is still horrid" or even the opposite "the defense will be much improved"...how the hell can you tell?

This is a completely new defense. Something like 16 new players on defense on the 53 man roster. Many of those are rookies, so we have no film on them. There's loads of depth at some positions (DL, for example), and almost none at others (safety), so depending on where injuries hit, they could hurt really bad or hardly at all. And they're playing a new style that they haven't played since BB took over the team (emphasizing a 4-3 as their base set, and playing more one gap).

Finally, in the preseason, they looked fantastic half the time and terrible the other half.

I honestly don't know how anyone can predict anything about this defense. I see a 1/3 chance that they will be as horrible (or almost) as they were last year, a 1/3 chance they'll be mediocre, and a 1/3 chance they'll be really good. Not Ravens good, but good.

Anyone who claims to know more about their defense is either Matt Patricia in disguies or BSing.

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#62 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Sep 07, 2012 - 1:14am

I think we'll see all three this year with it settling somewhere between option two and three come playoff time.

Agree with your overall point. Mike hasn't a clue how much is different about this defense an not even Pat fans really know how it will play out this year.

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#74 by dmstorm22 // Sep 08, 2012 - 12:12pm

I think it is hard to expect the defense to have equal chance of being bad and being good. Sure, some defenses do improve tremendously from year to year, but by DVOA this Patriots defense is getting worse every year over the past five. It is hard to see them really improving to Top-12 level in one offseason, where they lost their two top pass rushers from 2011.

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#68 by T Colt (not verified) // Sep 07, 2012 - 1:47pm

Just curious why Ben thinks Matt Ryan is an "average" QB? 4 years of advanced metrics from FO, PFF, and ESPN Total QBR says Ryan has consistently been one of the top 5-7 QB's in the NFL. Regular stats such as QB rating place him in the 6-10 range. Hardly seems average to me, just wondering.

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#69 by MC2 // Sep 07, 2012 - 11:11pm

Totally agree. "Average", by definition, would be somewhere around 16th in the league. I challenge anyone to name 15 QBs that are better than Ryan. Heck, I'll settle for 10 that are clearly better and 5 that are about the same. Anyone?

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#70 by BaronFoobarstein // Sep 07, 2012 - 11:51pm

I'll try.



Nope, I can't do it. And of course the division is somewhat arbitrary. Do E. Manning and Romo really belong in the better category instead of the similar one? Maybe. Is Vick reall similar instead of worse? Maybe not. Anyway I think Ryan is definitely in the top third, and I would choose to call him "above average" or even "good." But on the other hand "average" is such a broad term, I think you could justifiably call anyone in the middle half of QBs average, and I would put Ryan there (if only just).

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#71 by Karl Cuba // Sep 08, 2012 - 6:58am

Cutler in the better group and Newton. Quite possibly Luck and Griffin too by the end of the year.

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#72 by BaronFoobarstein // Sep 08, 2012 - 11:30am

Hmm, forgot about Cutler. He probably fits in the similar group. Newton doesn't make either list, and I'm not putting players who haven't actually played anywhere.

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#75 by dmstorm22 // Sep 08, 2012 - 12:17pm

I'll try mine:

Clearly Better:

P. Manning (if healthy)


Rivers (who could easily go back to being in that above category)


Eli (I don't want to go too far from just one great year)
Romo (I think overrated by conventional and advanced statistics)

By my subjective list, Ryan is in that 7-14 group with seven other guys. To me, he probably is behind Eli and Romo, and tied with Schaub slightly ahead of Stafford, Cutler, Vick and Flacco, but that is splitting hairs.

Points: 0

#76 by alfa1 (not verified) // Sep 09, 2012 - 10:10pm

Hey Ben, you still think Matt Ryan is average?

Points: 0

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