Football Outsiders

Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

2015 Staff Predictions

compiled by Vincent Verhei

This is one of our favorite features to write every year. It is also one of our most hated features to write every year.

Every group of football fans -- be they fantasy leaguers, officemates, drinking buddies, television crews, or in our case, a loose-knit collection of laptop warriors enslaved to our Internet connections -- loves to debate and discuss which teams will excel in the ensuing season, and which will suck. For our crew, it's an especially sweet time. After months of squinting at spreadsheets preparing our annual Football Outsiders Almanac (still available!), we get to put the data aside and put our knowledge to the test. It's a chance to find out if we're as smart as we think we are. The downside, though, is that our picks are on the record. Here's what we thought would happen in past seasons:

So 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 Seattle Seahawks have the best chance of any team in the NFL to make it to the Super Bowl -- 28.5 percent, perhaps, by some odds. Imagine then that 14 other teams in the NFC have a roughly five percent chance to make it to the Super Bowl, and also a team in Washington DC will play some games.

OK, so we pick Seattle to win the NFC. Even based solely on this opinion, there is a 7-in-10 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 seventh 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 2016 NFL draft." (Our college writers made similar projections about the F/+ college football projections in this article last week.) 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, Denver, Cincinnati, Indianapolis
AFC wild cards: Baltimore, San Diego
NFC divisions: Seattle, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Atlanta
NFC wild cards: St. Louis, New Orleans
Super Bowl: Seattle over New England
First Pick in the Draft: Washington

"Officially," we are projecting only one new playoff team in the AFC, with the Chargers replacing the Steelers. We see more turnover in the NFC, with the Eagles, Falcons, Rams, and Saints making the postseason at the expense of the Cowboys, Lions, Cardinals, and Panthers. But most readers know, it's all about probabilities, and the "pick" of New Orleans over Dallas as the second NFC wild card is really just about a tiny sliver of chance.

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.

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT FOA 2015 PROJECTION

Cian Fahey: Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys' offensive line will remain dominant while their additions to the defense, especially Greg Hardy, along with the return of Sean Lee should allow them to be even better than they were last season.

Nathan Forster: Green Bay Packers. The Aaron Rodgers-led Packers have only been under 9 wins twice in seven years -- Rodgers' first year and the Matt Flynn/Scott Tolzien experience in 2013. Jordy Nelson is a good receiver, but the Packers still have Randall Cobb and will be fine. Rodgers is so good that he could probably scrape together 9 wins even if he only had Davante Adams and a bag of Tostitos to throw to.

Tom Gower: Again, a section of this column more interesting from someone who hasn't just written a series of columns going through every team in the league. Since I just picked Miami to go over a line a full win higher than their FOA 2015 projection (o/u 8.5, projection 7.5), I'll go with them.

Andrew Healy: Denver. Peyton Manning has had double-digit wins every season since 2002. If he starts 16 games -- and except for 2011, he always has -- it seems very likely Denver beats FOA's projection of 9.5 wins. Denver is stacked on defense, too. FOA actually projects Denver to rank higher in defense (third) than on offense (fifth).

Scott Kacsmar: Dallas Cowboys. There were a lot of options I liked for this question (Arizona, Denver, Indianapolis, Miami, and Philadelphia), but I think the Cowboys should be just above the 8-8 purgatory and in the 9- to 11-win range this season. The only thing more consistent than criticism of Romo is the quality of his play. He keeps this team in contention every year and they still have Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and it wouldn't shock me if Terrance Williams made a leap in year three. I'm not one to act like the offensive line can cure cancer, but it's an asset and it should help Darren McFadden and company keep the running game productive. The defense will not come close to finishing first in takeaways per drive this year, and the Orlando Scandrick injury was huge, but the overall talent core looks better this year.

Mike Kurtz: Arizona Cardinals. Bruce Arians has shown an uncanny ability to make a whole lot of something with less than nothing, and a better health will make that defense terrifying.

Rivers McCown: Arizona Cardinals. I believe Bruce Arians has reached the point where we can stop doubting him, and I'm expecting a John Brown breakout season that puts this passing offense into a nice situation. If there's one thing we've learned from the bad Harbaugh 49ers prediction salad days, I hope it's that these league-adjusted numbers don't really touch on the impact of a great head coach.

Ben Muth: Baltimore Ravens. I love their offensive line and head coach and think the rest of the division looks weaker. I think this is a team that challenge for a first-round bye with 11 or 12 wins.

Aaron Schatz: I was really disappointed when the new, upgraded projection system sunk the Miami Dolphins. OK, so the idea of Miami as AFC favorites in a Tom Brady suspension world was a little bit far-fetched, but I still think the Dolphins will be an above-average team in total. Obviously Ndamukong Suh is going to have an impact on the defense and the special teams won't be as bad as they were last year. The change in our forecast came in large part because the offensive projection changed. The "quick-and-easy" system from that May ESPN Insider article looked at just 2014, but the new projection system takes a longer-term look and sees an offense that ranked 18th in 2013 and 22nd in 2012, with improvement in 2014 based on the run a lot more than the quarterback. I think reality will likely be somewhere in the middle -- a good offense, but not as good as last year, and the defense will improve despite the depth problems in the secondary. I wouldn't be shocked to see the entire AFC East go 8-8 or better despite Tom Brady being the only AFC East quarterback with a positive passing DVOA. Yay, AFC South on the schedule!

Vincent Verhei: Miami Dolphins. Ndamukong Suh all but guarantees that the defense will improve. Lamar Miller is one of the league's most underrated players. Between Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Jordan Cameron, they have a pretty good group of weapons in the passing game. And I think that Ryan Tannehill has shown steady improvement throughout his career, and could take a big step forward in his fourth season in the NFL (and just his fifth season as a quarterback).

Sterling Xie: Green Bay Packers. Based on win projection, no team got dropped more during the preseason than the Packers (granted, we still have them projected fourth in DVOA). But while Jordy Nelson isn't replaceable, his loss might bump the Packers down from a top-three receiving corps in the league to a merely very good one. Maybe Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers aren't ready for larger roles, and maybe the defense regresses closer to its 2013 levels. Still, I think 8.9 wins is a little low as a mean projection for Green Bay, and I'm certainly not ready to place Aaron Rodgers and Co. well below Seattle and New England in DVOA.

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF FOA 2015 PROJECTION

Cian Fahey: Pittsburgh Steelers. It's unlikely that the Steelers will come out of the gate strong because of Maurkice Pouncey's injury and the suspensions of Le'veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. Therefore, they're going to be playing catch-up before midseason. Bell and Bryant will return relatively early, but Pouncey is sidelined for a more prolonged period. With a defense that already lacks talent, they have no margin for error at all on offense.

Nathan Forster: Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have finished over 8 wins only once since 2010. That season was Adrian Peterson's 2,000-plus-yard effort in 2012, a feat that he is unlikely to repeat due to his advancing age and the fact that he had to sit out nearly all of last season. Moreover, even if Teddy Bridgewater develops into an above-average quarterback, the Vikings will still need a better showing from what was a poor defense last season to just break even.

Tom Gower: We projected Washington with the fewest wins in the league, but the worst team in the league goes more like 3-13 rather than 6-10. That's a bit of a cop out, though, so I'll instead go against our bold prediction of the Rams. I don't like Nick Foles nearly as much as our projections do, and I like Nick Foles behind that offensive line even less.

Andrew Healy: Carolina. Even before Kelvin Benjamin got hurt, FOA projected Carolina to be 19th on offense. With Greg Olsen the only clear receiving threat and the perennially injured Jonathan Stewart at running back, the floor is very low for the Panthers' offense. FOA only projected the defense for 20th, too. I don't see them getting to FOA's number (8.0), and 4-12 is on the table.

Scott Kacsmar: New York Jets. No one does .500 in less impressive fashion than the Jets. The 2013 Jets were 8-8 with a minus-98 scoring differential, the worst ever for a .500 team. The 1961 New York Titans (later renamed Jets) were 7-7 with a minus-89 scoring differential. It might take that kind of season of close wins combined with blowout losses to get the 2015 Jets to 8-8. I just don't see it coming together with all the new parts, including a rookie head coach and some over-30 starters like Antonio Cromartie and Brandon Marshall. The Sheldon Richardson situation doesn't help. The quarterback situation might actually be better off with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting, but even if the Jets play good defense that just means Fitzpatrick can throw game-ending interceptions in a 19-16 game instead of a 28-21 game. The East divisions are playing each other and I think the Jets are the second-worst team among those eight, with Washington bringing up the rear.

Mike Kurtz: St. Louis Rams. Sure, the offensive line is great, and the defense is coming off a very good year. On the other hand, defense is inconsistent from year to year, and a great line doesn't do much for you if there's nobody competent playing behind it.

Rivers McCown: San Francisco 49ers. I don't know that our systems are designed to deal with the kind of outflux the 49ers dealt with this offseason. I wouldn't be surprised if they were the worst team in the league. I also wouldn't be surprised if the offense did enough to keep them in a few games. But between the defensive turnover, Colin Kaepernick's prospects, and Jim Tomsula being (in my opinion) wildly underqualified for an NFL head coaching job... I don't think seven wins is realistic.

Ben Muth: St. Louis Rams. Nick Foles quarterbacking a Jeff Fisher-coached team in 2015 seems unlikely to finish above .500. There are still offensive line problems. They aren't going to play Todd Gurley for a months. The defensive line is great but they can only play four of those guys at a time, and none of them are going to play quarterback.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, I want to believe in the St. Louis Rams so badly. Those fans deserve one more trip back to the playoffs before the NFL dicks them over and leaves the city. But... I just can't help but think that our projections are overrating Nick Foles because of totally fluky numbers he put up in a completely different offensive system two years ago. The offensive line is very inexperienced, and that's something I feel isn't quite accounted for properly in the new projection system. Even on defense, there are still a lot of question marks in the secondary, and losing E.J. Gaines for the season is a problem. The projection system sees the Rams as the best of the running-and-defense wild-card contenders, a group that also includes the Bills, Texans, and Jets. But I don't see any reason to believe that the Rams offense will really be that much better than the offenses in Buffalo, Houston, and (Manning-Free) New York. (The Vikings are almost sort of in the same category, but their offense is projected a little better as those other offenses, their defense not quite as good, and they are the only one of these five teams with a tough schedule.)

Vincent Verhei: Pittsburgh Steelers. This is hard. Seattle and New England are so far ahead of the pack that most other teams have pretty modest projections that should be easy to beat. Do we really think teams like Denver and Green Bay will fail to win double-digit games? I guess I'll go with the Steelers. I can see Ben Roethlisberger declining to his pre-2014 status (which is still very good, but not best-quarterback-in-football good). I still don't like their defense. And I really don't like their schedule.

Sterling Xie: St. Louis Rams. Sorry, but what about this team is so drool-worthy besides the defensive line? I don't have much faith in Nick Foles, and while Todd Gurley may be the next Adrian Peterson instead of the next Trent Richardson, a rookie recovering from a torn ACL running behind a highly inexperienced O-line doesn't sound too enticing. Really hard for me to envision this team finishing top-five in DVOA.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT KUBIAK PROJECTION

Cian Fahey: Tony Romo. Just by being fully healthy entering the season this year, Romo already is at a major advantage over last year. He will likely be tasked with throwing the ball more often this year too because of DeMarco Murray's departure. Romo was outstanding last year when healthy. Presuming he can stay healthy this year behind a dominant offensive line, he should be extremely productive.

Nathan Forster: Joseph Randle. Randle may not be a transcendent talent, but there are a lot of factors that could break in his favor. First, the Cowboys' high number of running back carries could be due to a conscious effort to maximize the value of the Cowboys' excellent offensive line, and it may not regress towards the mean to the same degree that KUBIAK may believe. Plus, Darren McFadden is likely to be hurt, which might mean that Randle is only stuck in a committee for part of the year.

Tom Gower: I still like Ryan Mathews too much to expect him to be that much of a complementary part in Philadelphia's rushing attack, especially with DeMarco Murray's injury history and coming off a big workload. Relative to his ADP, I'm not sure, but I do like him a lot more than KUBIAK. I also like Justin Forsett to get more catches than our numbers have him with.

Andrew Healy: DeVante Parker. He was the 14th pick in the draft and a four-year starter who should be more ready to contribute than most rookie receivers. His quarterback broke out last year and the offensive line is in good shape. There is some competition for targets from other new arrivals, but Parker is the most talented receiver on the roster. His floor is around where KUBIAK has him (ranked 76th among receivers) and a top-20 season is in play. After missing most of the preseason, Parker is likely to play Week 1.

Scott Kacsmar: DeSean Jackson. Perhaps I'm letting the Seattle game get to me, but I trust Kirk Cousins' vertical passing more than I do RG3's right now. If Cousins can keep the job by not turning the ball over a ton, I could see Jackson benefit to the tune of a 1,300-yard season. Easy top-10 stuff instead of WR16. Jackson's been great the last two years in two different offenses with various quarterbacks.

Mike Kurtz: Mike Wallace. Blame Tom for this one. He really was a beast in the red zone last year, and he's moved to a softer defensive division. I see too much upside for such a low rank.

Rivers McCown: Danny Woodhead. I think it's easy to get into a post-injury lull about how important a player was when he missed most of last season. When the Chargers hit bad game scripts or third down, Woodhead will be out there. If you're in a PPR league, I'm almost positive he delivers great value for what it costs to get him. Even if you aren't, he's a real solid flex or backup play when San Diego isn't going up against a creampuff.

Ben Muth: Doug Martin. I think he ends up being a top-20 running back and starter in every league.

Aaron Schatz: As always, it's hard to pick this since I'm the one who makes the final decisions on how much playing time we give guys in KUBIAK. But I think Darren McFadden is a great example of a running back whose skills will look a lot better behind a great offensive line than they do behind an average or poor offensive line. Also, let me mention players where I think KUBIAK is absolutely right in being stronger than conventional wisdom: Greg Olsen, Anquan Boldin, Lamar Miller, and Jared Cook.

Vincent Verhei: Andrew Luck. This is usually a hard question for me to answer, but I've known I was going to pick Luck here since the moment the Colts drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round last April. If you were to list the top 10 Colts right now, Luck would be No. 1 (duh) and then you'd probably have at least six other fantasy position guys on the list too. This team is built to throw the ball all over the place, and it's reasonable to expect Luck to further improve in his fourth season. And I know his KUBIAK projection was high (the only quarterback in the top 20 players), but you couldn't make his projection high enough for me. I'm expecting 5,000 yards here. I'm expecting close to 50 touchdowns. Given the tight cluster of running backs this year, I'd make him the first overall pick in a fantasy draft without thinking twice.

Sterling Xie: Jordan Matthews. As top options in the Eagles offense, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin both posted top-10 wide receiver fantasy seasons for the first and only times in their careers. Matthews was extremely impressive from the slot as a rookie, and with his snap count set to increase this year, there's no reason to think he can't post a prolific season similar to what Maclin and Jackson did. The only question now is where Chip Kelly will ship him after the 2015 season.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF KUBIAK PROJECTION

Cian Fahey: Larry Fitzgerald. Although he remains a starter and seemingly an integral piece of the Cardinals' passing attack, the veteran wide receiver could get lost amongst all the weapons in Arizona this season. Fitzgerald is sluggish compared to what he was during his prime, while John Brown looks set to explode, Michael Floyd is still a viable starting option, and the running back talent in Arizona needs to get its touches too.

Nathan Forster: LeSean McCoy. The Buffalo Bills is a black hole for running back careers. Remember, this is a team that could not get consistent production from Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch and later relegated a running back with a 6.0-plus-yards/carry average and 2,000 yards from scrimmage to a committee role. Enter McCoy, fresh off a sub 4.0-yards/carry season and Rex Ryan, a coach whose teams have never generated offense, and you have a recipe for a disappointing fantasy draft pick.

Tom Gower: Marc Trestman's gone, and the influx of backs into Chicago means Matt Forte won't be relied on quite as much. I'm thinking rushing numbers even below the 999 yards we have him projected for and more like 45 or 50 receptions.

Andrew Healy: Marshawn Lynch. The end is almost always near for running backs who have run up the kind of mileage Lynch has at this point. Now over 2,000 career carries, Lynch may have another year or two, but maybe not.

Scott Kacsmar: Mike Evans. I just wasn't as impressed with him last year as I thought I would be. That huge three-game stretch in the middle of the season against some shoddy defenses worries me too. Where were you the rest of the time? Now he has a rookie quarterback who may not shine much this season in Jameis Winston. Evans is already dealing with a hamstring injury and could be in doubt for Week 1. I don't think he's ready to surge ahead this year.

Mike Kurtz: LeSean McCoy. I don't think he'll have a terrible season, but his performance last year has me worried, and if he has developed a case of happy feet, he's going to be in big trouble behind Buffalo's so-so line. It doesn't help that with their situation at quarterback, McCoy is going to be asked to carry the load. I think there is significant risk here, too much risk to peg him as the 11th RB.

Rivers McCown: Alfred Morris. There's just too many warning signs here for me. Washington's already flipped to Kirk Cousins, who I don't regard as a good quarterback. The defense hasn't taken a gigantic step forward. The coaches have been praising rookie running back Matt Jones constantly since training camp started. Do you really want to trust a two-down running back on what could be the worst team in the NFL? I wouldn't.

Ben Muth: Lamar Miller. I think he has an OK year, but KUBIAK really likes him.

Aaron Schatz: I think the hamstring is going to bother LeSean McCoy more than expected. They may have acquired him to be the workhorse, but there's a lot of depth there and they don't necessarily need to put him out there week after week if he's not 100 percent.

Vincent Verhei: C.J. Anderson. Let's just say I'm skeptical of any undrafted running back who gains 40 percent of his yardage on the season in just two games.

Sterling Xie: Latavius Murray. Our projections have Murray 17th overall among running backs, making him a bona fide RB2 in just about any league format. But when you throw out his ridiculous four-carry, 112-yard, 2-TD, performance against Kansas City, his career body of work looks pretty similar to Christine Michael and Lance Dunbar. Roy Helu was a very efficient per-play back in Washington, and while he's being pigeonholed as a third-down back, I wouldn't be surprised to see Helu wrest the starting running back job away from Murray at some point.

SUPER BOWL 50 (ARABIC NUMERALS ONLY, L IS FOR LOSERS) WINNER AND LOSER

Cian Fahey: Seahawks over Colts.

Nathan Forster: New England defeats Green Bay Packers. My personal belief is that Peyton Manning will drop off a cliff this year, leaving the Patriots in the catbird seat to repeat as AFC champions. Predicting a reprise of Super Bowl XLIX is too boring, so I guess I'll double down on the Packers because a Rodgers-versus-Brady Super Bowl would be fun.

Tom Gower: Seattle is the best team in the league, and I'm not sure who's second. The top of the AFC is a jumbled mess of flawed candidates, which means we may go back to the "whichever team gets hot and is healthy at the right time" format after a couple seasons of the best team winning the conference. How about the Broncos again?

Andrew Healy: Denver over Green Bay. Peyton Manning rides off into the sunset, not doomed to a post-career eternity of rampant underappreciation.

Scott Kacsmar: I keep getting a chunk of the Super Bowl right. I had Baltimore losing to Dallas in 2012 (Baltimore won SB). I had Denver beating Atlanta in 2013 (Denver lost SB). I had Seattle beating Denver again in 2014 (Seattle lost SB). So I get one of the participants right, but the opponent and outcome wrong. It's more probable than not some combination of last year's final four returns to the big game. So I'll go with Seattle over Indianapolis.

Mike Kurtz: Had we done this feature three weeks ago I would have been solidly on board with the Packers, but they had a raft of injuries that vaults Seattle over them in the NFC.

The AFC is a lot murkier. All of the top-tier teams have huge question marks. The Steelers' defense is terrible, the Patriots really don't have a secondary, and falling apart in the last month looks like it might be Peyton Manning's new normal. In the end, I think the Broncos are still the best team in the AFC, even if they'll be less effective in the playoffs.

Denver Broncos defeat the Seattle Seahawks.

Rivers McCown: Seattle over New England, electric boogaloo.

Ben Muth: The Seahawks beat the Ravens.

Aaron Schatz: Seahawks over Colts, because I think the Colts will use their easy schedule to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Seahawks are the clearest, most obvious choice for the best team in football right now. If you want the best chance to be right instead of just interesting, you pick them to win the Super Bowl. (And yes, I know what I said about the Rams' offensive line above... but the Seahawks have better offensive players to try to overcome the line problems.)

Vincent Verhei: Seattle over Denver. I am not happy about Seattle's crap-against-the-wall offensive line, and I can envision the end coming hard and fast for Peyton Manning, but Green Bay, New England, and Indy are the only other teams I could even seriously consider. But if the NFL is smart they'll rig the season to get the Pats and Seahawks back in the championship and then put the Super Bowl on PPV. They will then take in all the money on Earth.

Sterling Xie: Philadelphia over Indianapolis. Has a terrific chance to look foolish by midseason, but I'm all-in on the Chip Kelly bandwagon.

WITH THE NO. 1 PICK IN THE DRAFT, [TEAM] SELECTS [PLAYER]

Cian Fahey: Washington selects California quarterback Jared Goff.

Nathan Forster: The Jacksonville Jaguars select Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa. Blake Bortles does not seem to be particularly good and the Jaguars have no notable players on defense. Plus, after drafting Dante Fowler and losing him for the season in what seemed like minutes after they turned in the card, they've been struck by the "Jim Schwartz publicly supports analytics but does not follow its recommendations" curse. The Jaguars will probably not be willing to give up on Bortles, so I'll give them Bosa, who fits the archetype of the large, productive defensive end that goes high in the NFL draft.

Tom Gower: The Washington Snyders would love to select a quarterback, but without one worthy of the top pick they instead take... hmm, probably not an offensive tackle with Trent Williams and after taking Brandon Scherff, so I'll give them Robert Nkemdiche, defensive line, Ole Miss.

Andrew Healy: The Cleveland Browns select Cardale Jones. In contrast to the other leading candidates, the Browns have a hard schedule (ranked seventh according to FOA). It is also hard to top McCown/Manziel as a potentially bottomless pit.

Scott Kacsmar: I have five teams finishing at the bottom at 4-12. I don't even want to figure out the tie-breaker scenarios for that, so with the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Cleveland Browns select Cardale Jones, quarterback, Ohio State.

Mike Kurtz: Cleveland selects Cardale Jones, quarterback, the Ohio State University.

Rivers McCown: The Cleveland Browns select Joey Bosa, defensive end, Ohio State.

Ben Muth: The Redskins take California quarterback Jared Goff.

Aaron Schatz: Washington selects Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, whose stock sinks gradually throughout the college season and then climbs all the way back in the workout season next spring. He's tall! He has a strong arm! Also, QBASE will hate him, his NFL career will be awful, and Washington fans will be tortured for years by "what could have been" when they watch Joey Bosa playing across from Khalil Mack in the NFL's best pass rush.

Vincent Verhei: For four years now, I have picked either Cleveland or Oakland in this spot. Now, though, I think the Raiders have enough superstar potential that I can't honestly expect them to be the worst team in the league anymore. As for Cleveland, stories like this and this and this point out that the Browns are still a twisted carnival sideshow masquerading as a football team. That makes them a very tempting pick, as does their insistence on playing Josh McCown while the best quarterback on the roster is trying to play wide receiver. (That is not hyperbole, by the way: Terrelle Pryor's passing DVOA of -32.1% in his only season as a starter is better than what Josh McCown has done for most of his career, and that's not even counting Pryor's value as a runner.) I'm actually talking myself into picking the Browns again just sitting here, but then I remind myself that this organization was also a blazing madhouse last year, and Mike Pettine still found a way to win seven games. And I believe in Mike Pettine. So I can't argue that Cleveland is the NFL's bleakest franchise, not when the outfit in D.C. extended their quote-unquote franchise quarterback, then benched him, and then torpedoed any trade value he might have, just to keep him and risk guaranteeing a big payday in 2016, all in less than five months. So here we go: with the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Washington Redskins select Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones -- who then threatens to sue the team, the league, the NCAA, the Big Ten, and anyone else he can think of that will let him go back to school and keep his career as far away as possible from Dan Snyder.

Sterling Xie: Washington selects Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones. He's already taken a big step towards going No. 1 overall by beating out J.T. Barrett, and it's hard to imagine Jones looking bad around an uber-talented cast.

Comments

68 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2015, 12:13pm

2 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by theslothook // Sep 10, 2015 - 1:16pm

Baltimore should be getting more love for being a contender. Yes their receiving core is potentially a mess, but their offensive line is super strong, their defensive line is deep and talented and their linebackers are really good too. Their secondary can't possibly be as injured as it was last year, though I suppose safety is still a weakness. They are a pretty strong team from top to bottom.

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32 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Rick_and_Roll // Sep 11, 2015 - 12:23am

Baltimore's biggest issue is their division. The AFC North has three good teams that beat up on each other. New England and Indy have for years benefited by playing in divisions where their is no legit competition in regard to team or QB, while Denver owns the the average AFC West.

Yes they are good on the road in the playoffs, but its a much harder road. Getting their road game at Denver when the weather is nice doesn't exactly help them either.

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41 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Raiderjoe // Sep 11, 2015 - 6:11am

Bnegals due for a fall. Do see them as 7-9, 8-8ish. Will start sesson0-1 and then go from there. Can,see divisiom winner 10-6 and 2nd place team9-7.

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40 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Raiderjoe // Sep 11, 2015 - 6:08am

Yes Ravens could do food. Will,battle Oakland, New enfland, pittsburgh,And Colts for AfC corns.

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1 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 10, 2015 - 1:16pm

I'm with Vince (and Aaron somewhat) on the Miami offense. Apart from the QB there are four other players they simply can't replace with competent talent (Lamar Miller, JaWuan James, Brandon Albert and Mike Pouncey) which is worrying, but if it's up to Tannehill and the receivers I believe they will crush that offensive projection.

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Who, me?

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17 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by James-London // Sep 10, 2015 - 6:10pm

This. Given the terrifying front sevens in the AFCE, if injuries hit the O-line in any significant way, Joe Philbin can start to pack. If the line stays healthy, this should be a good offense.
Given the likelihood the secondary is awful, it will need to be-Miami may need to win a lot of shootouts.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

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46 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 11, 2015 - 12:29pm

Tha back seven is certainly worrying, but at least there's potential in the secondary. The LBs, except Jenkins, are a sorry lot. My main doubt is how much the front four will compensate for the back seven. They're deep and strong there, but basically I have no opinion on this defense, they could sink or they could swim.

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3 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by fb29 // Sep 10, 2015 - 1:23pm

Last year Rivers had Jordan Reed to exceed, and Le'Veon Bell to fall short.

2013 Cordarrelle Patterson to exceed, Ryan Mathews to fall short.

So this year avoid Woodhead, and buy Alf. The curse of Rivers!

Love your FOA chapters, Rivers. I particularly loved the Houston Texans chapter. The combo of flaying a GM and MacGyver references was awesome.

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4 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Rivers McCown // Sep 10, 2015 - 1:34pm

Or, maybe I'm due!

(/buys Alf in DFS leagues just to be safe.)

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5 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by johonny // Sep 10, 2015 - 2:18pm

I'm thinking right now: New England over Eagles. The Pats schedule gets soft and they seem to seasonally mind meld the other division teams into bad loses for a decade and half now so why should it end? The NFC had a repeat champ for the first time in a long time. So I'll go with a wild card surprise that's more typical of the NFC. Bradford stays healthy and Kelly becomes a genius... or not. No remembers these picks right :) Eagles over Pats and Santa gets boo'd again.

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6 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by dmstorm22 // Sep 10, 2015 - 3:03pm

My picks that will certainly come back to bite me:

AFC
1.) Baltimore = 12-4
2.) Denver = 12-4
3.) Indianapolis = 11-5
4.) New England = 11-5
5.) Miami = 10-6
6.) San Diego = 10-6

AFC Championship: Denver 24 @ Baltimore 21

NFC
1.) Dallas = 13-3
2.) Green Bay = 12-4
3.) Seattle = 11-5
4.) Atlanta = 9-7
5.) St. Louis = 10-6
6.) Minnesota = 9-7

NFC Championship: Green Bay 27 @ Dallas 20

Super Bowl L: Denver 31 vs Green Bay 21

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7 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by PaddyPat // Sep 10, 2015 - 3:56pm

I don't really understand why everyone is so high on Indianapolis. I understand that they're likely to get a free pass into the playoffs coming from their division, but other than that, any decently coached team that can execute will just run right over them. Teams like that--with such striking weaknesses--don't usually make it to Super Bowls.

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9 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by mehllageman56 // Sep 10, 2015 - 4:12pm

The Colts will probably win the division, which is half the battle, but I wouldn't be surprised if they go 1-3 against the AFC East or worse. Last year they lucked into playing the Broncos when Peyton's arm was done; I doubt that's happening in the playoffs again.

I still think there will be a lot more upheaval in the AFC than everyone is predicting. One of the other AFC East teams will make the playoffs, just because they get to play the AFC South, and I think it is likely Denver is toast and the Chiefs and Chargers make it. Agree with Scott that the Jets will perform worse than their statistical prediction, but I expect a 6-10 record where they actually outscore their opponents.

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10 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by theslothook // Sep 10, 2015 - 4:14pm

As a long time manning fan...i really hope to avoid a season of him being broken down and finished. I really think he wudnt have come back if he didnt feel like last year was injury related. If he's the same as last year - den is the fav in the afc imo

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13 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by mehllageman56 // Sep 10, 2015 - 4:29pm

I can understand being hopeful, but Bill Barnwell had a good point during his Quarterback Ring article a year or two back that once a premier quarterback reaches the end, it usually isn't a gradual decline but a precipitous one. Farve is an exception; his 2008 Jets year wasn't good, but followed up by a stellar 2009. Maybe Peyton and Brady have those in them, but I would think there are not many years for either of them left. As frustrating as it has been as a Jets fan to see both of them dominate the conference, I have to admit it would be a bummer for them to go out poorly, at least this season.

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47 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by BJR // Sep 11, 2015 - 2:28pm

I don't really understand the 'Denver is toast' angle. Their defense projects to be a top 10, if not a top 5 unit. I agree that Manning's durability is a concern, but I don't see his play falling off a cliff. Through 2013 and half of 2014 he was the best QB in the league before he became injured/worn down. Even if he has now declined to be only, say, the 8th best QB in the league, that, alongside the defence, is a pretty potent combination. In addition, Gary Kubiak looks a great hire to get the most out of the running game to help relieve Manning's workload.

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52 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by mehllageman56 // Sep 11, 2015 - 10:18pm

Peyton's QBR the second half of last year was between Jay Cutler's and Geno Smith's. Rather, their QBRs for the entire season, so it wasn't like they picked it up in the second half of the year. Peyton fell off a lot. You are correct that Denver had a great defense last year, but they lost the guy who made it run (Wade Phillips is a good co-ordinator, so that may not matter on that end), and they have a lot of talent on that side. When I write Denver is toast, I mean that they'll finish third, with between 7-9 wins, possibly being the last team out of the playoffs. I don't mean they're finishing last, behind Oakland, with the third pick in the draft. I really like the Chiefs and Chargers chances this year, and to be honest the schedule for the entire division is not easy (neither was last year's).

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53 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by dmstorm22 // Sep 12, 2015 - 1:12am

Can you define what 'a lot of talent on that side' means. They lost basically just Rahim Moore and Terrance Knighton on defense. Also, I think Wade Phillips is an upgrade from Jack Del Rio, and the personnel fits a 3-4 well (Miller/Ware/Ray will be a monster).

I also think Peyton was worse in the last five weeks of 2014 than he will be in 2015. I buy that it was mostly injury and not age related. You don't go from the best QB in teh NFL through 9 weeks to just league average in the last 8 weeks without injury being involved. QBs (and all players) fall off suddenly, but not that suddenly.

I honestly think Denver is a very undervalued Super Bowl contender, and teh Pats performance in Week 1 may make the Broncos AFC Title odds even better.

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56 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Scott Kacsmar // Sep 12, 2015 - 1:17pm

Put it this way.

Is 75% of Manning still better than 100% of Andy Dalton? Yes.
Is the Denver defense better than the Cincinnati defense has been? Yes, they have great talent and Wade's a very good DC.
Is Gary Kubiak at least equal to, if not better at coaching than Marvin Lewis? Yes.

So if the Bengals have won 9+ games and made the playoffs four years in a row, then how could you possibly pick Denver to fall in the 7-9 range? This team could basically be a superior version of what the Bengals are.

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60 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by mehllageman56 // Sep 12, 2015 - 9:00pm

Sorry I took a while to respond to both of you, just got off work an hour or two ago. It isn't a matter of Manning being 75%. When older quarterbacks fall apart, they really fall apart. Gary Kubiak could tell you a little about that, since his last year coaching saw Matt Schaub fall from a dyar of 697 in 2012 to a complete disaster in 2013, -123. Bill Barnwell has a good discussion of the trend of really good or great quarterbacks completely falling apart at the end of their careers here: http://grantland.com/features/bill-barnwell-names-best-qbs-nfl-history/ I'll grant you that his argument is very anecdotal, but it goes back as far as Y.A. Tittle.

Besides the Bengals are in a different situation. Last year they lucked out against a very easy schedule (the entire AFC North did), by playing two divisions with only two teams above .500. At the beginning of that 4 year run of playoffs, they had a lot more talent on defense than you give them credit for: Geno Atkins was one of the more dominant interior pass rushers in the NFL before his injury, and both Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph were really good corners. I'm not claiming the Broncos don't have a lot of talent on the defensive side, I'm just suggesting it won't be enough to make the playoffs if Peyton is cooked, since they are stuck in a brutal division and have a relatively tough schedule this year.

Perhaps neither of you should be too defensive about my beliefs, since I am one of the only two posters on this site still on the Geno Smith bandgwagon.

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62 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 13, 2015 - 11:08am

One thing that I agree with you is we often don't see the end of these QBs coming until it's too late. I mean, if it happens this year, we will look back on last year and say "yeah, the signs were all there".

The other thing is there seems to be a curious phenomenon where everybody keeps predicting Brady and Manning to fall of a cliff each year and it keeps on not happening, so now there seems to be general skepticism that they will ever be done -sure, we all know they can't play forever, but that won't happen THIS year.

------
Who, me?

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64 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by mehllageman56 // Sep 13, 2015 - 11:57am

Yeah, it really is impossible to predict whether they're going to keep going or not. That part is definitely a crapshoot. Again, I have my own biases as a Jets fan, but then I would be expecting Brady to fall off, but I really doubt that this year.

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66 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by tuluse // Sep 13, 2015 - 2:50pm

Well Payton Manning and Brady were still incredible last year. Brees clearly declined compared to the year before, so if he falls off a cliff it would have been something we should have seen coming.

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8 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Kevin from Philly // Sep 10, 2015 - 4:07pm

RJ already gave us Raiders over Cowboys as the SB result. Why did you guys even bother?

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22 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Vincent Verhei // Sep 10, 2015 - 7:33pm

Good point.

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11 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Paul R // Sep 10, 2015 - 4:26pm

PREDICTION FOR 2015-16: The Patriots will start strong but stumble near the end of the season when Belichick gets fed up with sneaking around and just flat-out dumps poison into the Gatorade cooler on the Eagles sideline.
The Patriots win that game, but Goodell fines Belichick two hundred dollars and suspends him for the first quarter of the Texans matchup. That small suspension will cause the Pats finely tuned winning machine to slip a gear and they will lose the next two games.
A tearful Tom Brady will retire from football after his befuddled team can only play to a tie against the Jets. Brady will be persuaded to return to the field just in time to have his jaw broken by a rampaging Ndamukong Suh who also injures two FOX interns and the team bus before his handlers can dart him.

The Patriots late-season stumble paves the way for a matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland has shocked the entire NFL by showing up for the playoffs with a record of 15-1. Their entire season has gone under the radar since no games were televised and the home games were only attended by a few dozen people whom no one believed.
The Browns trounce the Broncos in the AFCC. After the game, Peyton Manning admits that he has had no feeling below the neck since October of 2007 and says he's considering retiring. John Elway is immediately bombarded with texts and emails from Brett Favre and Jeff George. Elway buys a new phone.

Meanwhile, in the NFC, Seattle has beaten everybody and everything in their path, including one game against the Vikings in which Mike Kafka attempts only 22 passes, but the Seahawks record 25 interceptions, giving them a defensive DVOA of -389% and causing Aaron Scahtz do drink far too much and produce a completely incoherent Quick Reads.

In the end, Seattle is bested by the Arizona Cardinals and the hipster mastermind, Bruce Arians, who uses quantum mechanics to construct a quarterback-free, non-passing, no-handoff offense which is impossible to defend against in only three dimensions.

The Cardinals/Browns Super BowL will have very low television ratings, but will enjoy fame on YouTube because of a pyrotechnics accident during the halftime show which only frightens Bruno Mars, but causes severe burns to a dancing candy cane.
The smoke and smell of burning peppermint hang over the second half of the game, and a lenghty court battle between Levi's Stadium and Roger Goodell over the fumigation bill occupies most sports pundits during the off season.

The final score will be 8-3, but the name of the winner will be withheld in order to not spoil the suspense. Although the residents of Cleveland joyfully burn their city to the ground, this fact should not be taken as a "spoiler" since it will occur in November, and no one will even notice until February.

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12 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Karl Cuba // Sep 10, 2015 - 4:29pm

This isn't very accurate is it? Vince does Quick Reads.

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16 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Paul R // Sep 10, 2015 - 4:40pm

I saw that too late to edit. Sorry.
Aside from that, this should be accurate.

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21 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Vincent Verhei // Sep 10, 2015 - 7:31pm

The funny thing is, Paul put all that work into writing that, and the only feedback was to point out his one mistake. So now Paul's qualified to write Quick Reads too.

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24 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Paul R // Sep 10, 2015 - 8:50pm

I will take that as a compliment, Vincent. Thank you. If you're getting nitpicked, you know you're on the right track.

Of course, this is Football Outsiders, the World Series of nitpicking. I think there was a two-page argument over a hyphen a few years ago.

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27 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Karl Cuba // Sep 10, 2015 - 9:38pm

Can I point out that my comment was intended to be a joke, that the only inaccurate point was that he misidentified who wrote QR out of a post that was intended, from top to bottom, to be inaccurate.

Geesh! Who was it who said that Americans had no sense of irony?

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28 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by tuluse // Sep 10, 2015 - 9:41pm

I thought it was funny.

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30 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Vincent Verhei // Sep 10, 2015 - 10:59pm

No no, yours was funny. Mine was supposed to be funny too.

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34 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Paul R // Sep 11, 2015 - 2:27am

I thought it was funny, too. Sorry to cause any confusion.

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45 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by armchair journeyman quarterback // Sep 11, 2015 - 10:21am

The awkward serial disclosures of funny intentions -- also funny.

Great piece of work, Paul.

//AJMQB

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29 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by mehllageman56 // Sep 10, 2015 - 10:39pm

Hey, I commented and wasn't pointing out a mistake, just that it seemed rather hallucinogenic. And when he responded, I thanked him.

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14 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by mehllageman56 // Sep 10, 2015 - 4:32pm

Please give my wife whatever you're drinking/taking, it's better and probably healthier than what she drinks now. Otherwise, very amusing.

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19 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Paul R // Sep 10, 2015 - 7:19pm

Iced coffee and generic fish oil capsules from the grocery store.
Supposed to be good for your brain. I dunno. They were on sale.

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20 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by mehllageman56 // Sep 10, 2015 - 7:26pm

Thanks for the tip.

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42 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Topas // Sep 11, 2015 - 8:15am

Well done, Sir. Especially liked the part about Favre and George.

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63 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 13, 2015 - 11:11am

This is great!

------
Who, me?

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15 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Andrew Potter // Sep 10, 2015 - 4:36pm

And cos I missed the deadline...

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT FOA 2015 PROJECTION

Chicago Bears. John Fox is a solid hire who, in 20 years as a head coach and defensive co-ordinator, has never overseen a defense even close to as bad as our projections. I'm not saying they're going to win the division, though it doesn't look as tough as it was in 2014, but the offense is much the same and the defense should be significantly better than anything they fielded last year. Point in their favour: their home schedule, where six wins from eight games isn't out of the question.

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF FOA 2015 PROJECTION

Cleveland Browns. The Browns could very easily be 3-0 on September 28th ... and 3-13 on January 4th. They literally don't play a single team you'd fancy them to beat after the start of October. I'd guess the Browns will still pick up a game or two -- 49ers at home isn't as tough as it used to be -- but even for a team with this recent history 2015 looks like being ugly.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT KUBIAK PROJECTION

Eli Manning. He gets a shot at some delicious pass defenses this year, and his own team's secondary has already eerily echoed Tanier's predictably predictive prose. He has a good-to-very-good group of pass-catching teammates, health permitting, so I fancy a finish somewhere in the lower reaches of the fantasy top ten.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF KUBIAK PROJECTION

DeMarco Murray. His line's not as good, his quarterback's not as good, his receivers aren't as good, his tight ends aren't as good, and his team's probably not going to be able to run as much. But apart from that, he should be okay.

SUPER BOWL 50 (ARABIC NUMERALS ONLY, L IS FOR LOSERS) WINNER AND LOSER

Seattle Seahawks over Baltimore Ravens

WITH THE NO. 1 PICK IN THE DRAFT, [TEAM] SELECTS [PLAYER]

[Cleveland] selects [Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State]. That schedule, man. They're going to die.

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48 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Steve in WI // Sep 11, 2015 - 3:58pm

Counterpoint on the Bears beating their projection: Fox and company may all be really good coaches, but a lack of talent is a lack of talent. And the Bears certainly have that. The best player on the team is a guard who may finally be moving to tackle, which is great long-term but probably doesn't bode well for this season.

If the offense is "much the same" as last year, then expect lots of games that start with a 10-0 or 14-0 deficit because the offense can't sustain a drive in the first quarter for some inexplicable reason. Also, they're down a big WR since Brandon Marshall is gone and any potential Kevin White had is probably gone for this season at least, even if he recovers from this injury and comes back strong next year.

Apart from the coaching, I don't see what should be better about this defense. They're still incredibly weak at most of the positions.

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51 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Perfundle // Sep 11, 2015 - 7:45pm

Counterpoint to your counterpoint: the Cowboys' defense was widely considered to be utterly lacking in talent at the start of 2014. Here is PFF's assessment, for instance:

https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/05/22/2014-depth-chart-dallas...

While Carter, Claiborne, Wilcox and especially Hayden were as bad as advertised (PFF gave them 4 of the 6 worst grades on Dallas' defense), and Holloman was forced into retirement from injury, first-year DC Marinelli (first-year for Dallas, obviously) managed to turned them around from all-time awful to merely bad.

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54 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by TomC // Sep 12, 2015 - 12:21pm

Along the same lines as Steve's comment, yes, the Bears will probably outperform their defense (and special teams) projections, but they're equally likely to (severely) underperform on offense, where they might be starting a street FA at RG and a guard at RT and their LT is going to be day-to-day all year and their WRs are all hurt and they didn't really upgrade any position from their -0.1% offense from last year.

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57 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Andrew Potter // Sep 12, 2015 - 1:47pm

I had real difficulty picking a team to outperform its projection. I like Miami's chances, but that division could be brutal. I considered Arizona, but their quarterback's both old and injury-prone. Dallas or Denver? I have difficulty picking a team projected for nine wins, playoff contention, and a top-third DVOA finish to do much better than that, especially in their divisions, with their schedules.

Yeah, Chicago could fall apart, but I really think they're more likely to be a mediocrity than to be the fifth-worst team in the league. Even say their offense performs poorly - are they likely to be worse than most of the notoriously quarterback-deficient teams -- the Jets, Bills, Texans, Raiders, Browns, Jaguars, Griffins, Buccaneers, and Titans (to say nothing of the astonishing projection for the Rams)? If not, they're at worst around 24th in the league. Matching that on defense would be the worst Fox-coached defensive ranking in DVOA history, and make them roughly equivalent to last year's Vikings.

I do understand what you're saying about lack of talent, but I also think there's a lot to be said for lack of Mel Tucker.

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58 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by TomC // Sep 12, 2015 - 2:58pm

I hope you're right.

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59 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Andrew Potter // Sep 12, 2015 - 3:00pm

Somewhat ironically, it may be better in the long term for the team you support if you are.

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18 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Raiderjoe // Sep 10, 2015 - 6:42pm

Made picks in other thread here.,will copy and paste or just write again. Had weird typos, made post last night while lying on my side on bed, phone tried to autocorrect and failed (similar to Chiefs trying to do good). Cardinals came out as Cafenelia or Cafetenala or soemthing

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23 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by young curmudgeon // Sep 10, 2015 - 7:59pm

It's a sign of something when Raiderjoe mentions that he had "weird typos" in a post. I just don't know what...

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25 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Raiderjoe // Sep 10, 2015 - 9:10pm

Well yeah don't nkrmslly care, just type fadtt. Only look if typing stats.,need stats right if using them cuaude otherwise come across as buffoon. But today I work I looked at that dvoa lpredictions thread and Saw cardinals badly messed up

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31 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by PaddyPat // Sep 10, 2015 - 11:40pm

I know you always claim that it's just typos, but honestly, sometimes that's facetious. I've been watching you type "Detroit Loins" for years, and that can't always be an accident...

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35 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Paul R // Sep 11, 2015 - 2:29am

I can't spell it any other way now. Raiderjoe's "typos" are often an improvement on the original.

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37 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Raiderjoe // Sep 11, 2015 - 5:53am

Loins and Clots were ow legit typos back in day that actually kept. Phone ownt even try to autocorrect cjaause are actual words. Can be typo free if truly cared to which would hsppen if get bl9f.

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39 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Raiderjoe // Sep 11, 2015 - 6:00am

See? Just noticed, bl9f. Phone didn try to autocorrect or i hit enter without noticing. Meant "blog"

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26 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Bowl Game Anomaly // Sep 10, 2015 - 9:37pm

"Aaron Schatz: Washington selects Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, whose stock sinks gradually throughout the college season and then climbs all the way back in the workout season next spring. He's tall! He has a strong arm! Also, QBASE will hate him, his NFL career will be awful, and Washington fans will be tortured for years by "what could have been" when they watch Joey Bosa playing across from Khalil Mack in the NFL's best pass rush."

Ouch! What did we ever do to you, Aaron? Isn't it bad enough we root for the worst organization in the league? Excuse me while I curl up in a ball and die.

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38 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Raiderjoe // Sep 11, 2015 - 5:57am

Yes, poorly run team. Ekbarrassment to nfl. Probaby would draft stiff in,first round 2016. Team,will not become good until change team name to something good like Squirrels which has been,my suggestion for several years now.

Washington Squirrels coudk have great docile squirrel on helmrt or, since it is all the rage these days eitth the kids,, put an enraged squirrel on helemt- mad bbehchause a gaint or cowboy or eagle just stole some,of its nuts

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43 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Hurt Bones // Sep 11, 2015 - 8:32am

While I like the Washington Squirrels as a graphic image and general idea. They get a big “F’ on my alliteration meter. If we named teams after owners not cities (i.e Brown’s Browns, Brown’s Bengals), Snyder’s Squirrels would get a pretty decent alliteration score. Now Cincinnati Secret Squirrels would be good followed by New York Yosemite Sams, Minnesota Minnie Mice, Dallas Dastardly Do-Rights, Washington Wascally Wabbits, etc.

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67 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by LionInAZ // Sep 13, 2015 - 11:34pm

Washington Whackoffs would would work that way, or Beltway Bandits since they aren't even HQ'd in DC.

The Bandits would have a made to order logo: a hand taking taxpayer cash.

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33 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by Parmenides // Sep 11, 2015 - 2:08am

I can see the Panthers offense having problems, but I don't see how their defense falls off a cliff this year. Is it expected injuries or what?

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36 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by theslothook // Sep 11, 2015 - 2:34am

Their secondary is still a mess

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44 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by dmstorm22 // Sep 11, 2015 - 9:29am

The secondary was considered a mess two years ago before the season, and they ended up great. The secondary was considered a mess before last season, and they found a capable group by the end of the year.

At this point, I give the benefit of the doubt to Ron Rivera to make a secondary work reasonably well.

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49 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by theslothook // Sep 11, 2015 - 6:04pm

Those things eventually catch up to you. No amount of pass rush can save a lousy secondary.

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50 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by dmstorm22 // Sep 11, 2015 - 6:46pm

True, but in their scheme they don"t have to do much. They're really well coached. If anyone can get away with their personnel it is them. I really think Rivera is just a fantastic coach in scheming his defense.

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61 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by panthersnbraves // Sep 13, 2015 - 4:20am

But Josh Norman is considered in the top 10 these days, no? I will concede that the Safety situation is dire, but the Corners seem OK at least.

My outlook for the Panthers is worse than Harvey Dent making a decision. There are so many things that could go right, and they end up with a 10 or 11 win season, but there are also enough question marks that a 7 win season is quite possible as well. I was hoping DAVE was going to help reassure me...

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55 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by TomC // Sep 12, 2015 - 12:26pm

I can see them regressing, but "4-12 is on the table"? No way, not in that division. You get 2 for free from TB, at least split with ATL, and have a decent shot against NO. And they get the AFC South too! Under 6 wins seems like a 100-1 shot.

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65 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by KK Probs // Sep 13, 2015 - 1:07pm

This is my fourth straight year of piling on to the end of this column with my prediction of who is most likely to go over the FO Almanac win total prediction. I'm 3-0 with the 2012 Ravens, the 2013 Bengals, and the 2014 Packers, so why not try to keep it going?

This year, it's a repeat: the 2015 Green Bay Packers are more likely than any other team to beat their Football Outsiders preseason win total projection. To do this, they have to go 10-6 or better. To me, the prediction just leaps off the page.

There are players like Barry Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald, and perhaps most extreme example ever in Cortez Kennedy, who flash transcendent talent at their position, but who regularly find themselves stuck on teams who end the season below .500. This does not happen to teams with quarterbacks at that level, at least not since the NFL became an Arena Football hybrid with its level of pass-happiness. Aaron Rodgers has been that level of quarterback, and at 32 years of age he is still a couple of years short of where decline could be expected for an elite quarterback. You virtually never see a team dip below 8-8 with that level of play under center.

Center is actually a good place to go next when breaking down why this team will be better than they were in 2014, when they went 12-4. Corey Linsley was an immediate starter as a rookie from the outstanding 2014 Packers draft, and he performed solidly. That's difficult to do at his center position, and it's hard to imagine that he won't be even better in his second year. David Bakhtiari is going into his third year, and there is reason to think that he could continue to improve. There is no reason to think the offensive line will be worse than it was last year, when it was among the league's best, and continued improvement from these two players could make it even better.

Eddie Lacy has moved into undisputed top-tier RB status, and James Starks is an unheralded but ideal second running back. Starks is not just a space-filler when Lacy is out, he actually has his own unique but valuable skill set when he is on the field and, as the FO Almanac mentions, Rodgers has no hesitation about utilizing Starks when he is in the game. Davante Adams is due for the sophomore receiver bump in his value. My own eyes tell me that second-year TE Richard Rodgers showed steady improvement throughout last season, to the point that he is now vastly underrated right now as a pass-catching threat, and remember, this team doesn't need much help blocking with their current OL. Jordy Nelson is out and, as much as Packer fans want the Matt Flynn magic of re-signing former Packers who were cut by the Raiders to continue, James Jones will not fill his shoes. However, I believe this is the most talented offense that Aaron Rodgers has ever had and, as cavalier as this sounds, they don't need one of the NFL's top receivers in Jordy Nelson to go 10-6.

Ty Montgomery is kind of a bigger version of Randall Cobb and he brings a little bit to the table as a returner. While he could have a couple of interesting spurts as a receiver this year, his more likely upside is as a returner - although Micah Hyde's returns were actually a strength of the special teams, so Montgomery does have some work to do just to keep things at last year's level. Their special teams was famously weak at key moments last year, and it's about time they learned what "replacement level" means with regards to Tim Masthay - that is, you can find somebody watching TV on the couch today who you can replace Masthay with without losing anything - but Crosby remains as good of a choice as any to make 33-yard extra points in Wisconsin in November and December. The special teams was below-average last year, so it's hardly a reason to consider the teams as a whole weaker this year. They are theoretically emphasizing it more, so regression to league-average seems as likely as a significant drop.

Finally, the defense. They are young, and so they should get better, is a weak truism that applies here, especially to Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, another member of the strong 2014 draft class due for an improvement in his second year because he's at a position, safety, that's traditionally tough on rookies. There is not much here in the way of additions or subtractions, but the one thing that will give Packer fans pause is the loss of Devon House and Tramon Williams in the secondary. They do still have Sam Shields, Micah Hyde, and they drafted a couple of rookies and you would think that they knew what they were doing here, but it is a bit disconcerting in an NFC North Division that has worrisome passing potential. On the plus side, B.J. Raji is back from IR and looking svelte, relatively speaking. If they can avoid disaster in the secondary, there is every reason to think this will be a league-average defense again in 2015. We also have years of evidence to show that, even with a terrible defense, Rodgers can still lead this team to an above-average record.

They get the Cowboys and Panthers on the schedule, neither of whom inspires confidence in me this season. The Bears and Vikings are unknowns who have gone through big changes in the last year. They have some upside, but it's hard to imagine them getting to the level of the Packers this year. The Lions, sans Suh, should be good, but there's not much reason to think they've improved enough to beat the Packers. The NFC West and the AFC West are challenging and they have good defenses. But, going back to the thesis here, even a slate of 16 good defenses wouldn't be enough to hang 7 losses on Aaron Rodgers. It really comes down to how many of these teams can win possibly in a track meet against the Packers, and not many teams in those divisions qualify. So here's to the Packers going 10-6... and me going 4-0, hopefully.

You do a great job on Football Outsiders. Keep up the good work!

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68 Re: 2015 Staff Predictions

by WeaponX // Nov 12, 2015 - 12:13pm

4-12 is on the table for Carolina? Wrong, wrong and wrong. LOL GG.

Sometimes I even trip myself out.

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