Football Outsiders

Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

2016 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 -- 26.5 percent, perhaps, according to 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 the Bay Area will play some games. ("San Francisco?" Seriously, go look at a map and ask yourself why they aren't the "San Jose 49ers.")

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.

Then again, if we each picked our 12 playoff teams, there would be a lot of overlap and you wouldn't learn a lot. Instead, we're showing our individuality by each arguing without own statistical forecast, giving answers to questions such as "which team is most 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, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Indianapolis
AFC wild cards: Baltimore, Cincinnati
NFC divisions: Seattle, Green Bay, Carolina, New York Giants
NFC wild cards: Arizona, Detroit
Super Bowl: Seattle over New England
First Pick in the Draft: Cleveland

"Officially," we are projecting two new playoff teams in the AFC, with Baltimore and Indianapolis replacing Denver and Houston. In the NFC, Teddy Bridgewater's injury could open a door for Detroit, and the NFC East is completely wide open, with the best and worst teams separated by less than a full win. But most readers know, it's all about probabilities, and the "pick" of the New York Giants over Dallas as the division winner 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."

Before we get to the staff predictions, let's introduce some new members to the Football Outsiders staff! We're proud to introduce three new names giving their staff predictions below. Carl Yedor and Andrew Potter have been FO interns for a couple years now, but we're upping them to full staff members. Carl just graduated from Georgetown, where he worked on analytics with the Georgetown football team. (Yes, there is one! It plays in the FCS Patriot League.) He'll be contributing mostly in the offseason and to Football Outsiders Almanac 2017. Andrew Potter joins Cian Fahey in the European department of Football Outsiders. You may recognize his name as the man who has compiled Audibles at the Line and Injury Aftermath each Monday for the last couple seasons. In addition, he'll now be one half of the new team taking over Scramble for the Ball! His new co-writer is Bryan Knowles, a long-time Bay Area resident (now Chicago) who has covered both the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers for sites including Bleacher Report and Fansided. He's also a former FO game charter and has done work with our old friend Andy Benoit at MMQB.com.

Scramble for the Ball with Andrew and Bryan will premiere next Wednesday morning. Film Room will now run on Thursdays, and Word of Muth on Fridays.

And now: here are your 2016 staff predictions.

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT FOA 2016 PROJECTION

Cian Fahey: Cleveland Browns. The Browns offense will give them a chance to win six or seven games even if their defense will prevent them from winning more.

Tom Gower: New England Patriots. Hmm. This section was a lot easier the last seven seasons when I had just written a series of columns going through and projecting each team in the league. I'm tempted to reprise last year's answer of Miami in the belief that coaching was their biggest deficiency, but I'm not willing to go there with that roster and the holes between the pieces I like. If not for the Tony Romo injury, I would say Dallas, the class of a lousy division, but that injury gives me pause there. I guess I'll default to Bill Belichick's Soulless Death Machine because I can't see this team going 9-7 unless Tom Brady falls off the same age-39 cliff Peyton Manning did last season.

Scott Kacsmar: Carolina Panthers. I know I kept calling them the worst 15-1 team ever last year, but it's hard to see them not winning double-digit games again. That division is still really flawed and this is the best overall team in the NFC South. The turnovers won't come as freely, the field position and schedule may not be as advantageous, but the talent is still there to be a top-four team in the NFC at the very least.

Bryan Knowles: Washington Redskins. I liked Kirk Cousins coming out of college, and although he did absolutely nothing to support that opinion in his first three years in the league, something seemed to turn around for him last year. He won't repeat his 2015 numbers, but I think he can be a perfectly cromulent player this year. I also remember what Scot McCloughan did as general manager in San Francisco and an exec in Seattle, and I could see the same sort of positive effect happening in Washington this year.

Rivers McCown: Washington Redskins. I believe in Scot McCloughan as a talent evaluator and am impressed with the pieces he has brought in. I agree that the passing game is likely to regress, because I'm not a long-term Kirk Cousins believer, but I think there's more than enough in the receiving corps, offensive line, and front seven to beat their sad projection. Especially in this division. 

Ben Muth: Jacksonville Jaguars. I like their recent drafts. I'm kind of in on Blake Bortles, and I like the talent around him. I could see them going 8-8 this year.

Andrew Potter: Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville needs to take a major step forward this season. If they're one of the eight worst teams in the league, as we have them projected, this coaching staff shouldn't last the year even with a very patient ownership. They've invested heavily in their weaknesses from last year (offensive line, secondary) and signed top free agents at several key positions. They now have one of the best "skill" rosters in the league on offense to go with a defense chock-full of talent and potential. Their division is still weak, and they don't have the toughest out-of-division schedule, so eight wins seems like a bare minimum requirement for this season to be considered any kind of a success.

Aaron Schatz: Oakland Raiders. OK, I'll admit, I buy into the hype a bit. I don't buy into the David Carr hype -- Scott Kacsmar made some excellent points about Carr in this article -- but I love Amari Cooper and I buy into the hype about the offensive line and the free-agent additions. I think there's a lot of talent on this roster, and I don't think the personnel change variables in the DVOA projection system can fully account for how well the new talent fits in with the talent that was already there. I do worry a bit about whether there will be a pass rush across from Khalil Mack with Mario Edwards injured, but the Raiders get the benefit of that easy schedule everyone in the AFC West plays. I think they'll finish second in the division and I wouldn't be surprised if they snag a wild card from one of the AFC North teams that the projection system picked.

Vincent Verhei: Chicago Bears. Jay Cutler is coming off his best year in Chicago even though the Bears set a record for wide receiver adjusted games lost. Even moderate health there should make the offense better. I also see big improvement in the front seven, with Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman making for a huge upgrade inside, and the quartet of Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Leonard Floyd, and Pernell McPhee (once he returns midseason) should provide good pass pressure. And they have the easiest schedule in the league.

Rob Weintraub: Cleveland Browns. For several reasons -- I believe in the Power of Hue, having seen it firsthand for many years in Cincy. The projection is so abysmally pessimistic that even occasional competence should be enough to best it. I do think they have assembled some good young (raw) talent, and should at least score some points and not fall out of games by the second quarter. Every single person who has an NFL opinion thinks they will be the worst team in the league, so I'm going against the herd. And it's something of a reverse jinx, as the continuing futility in Cleveland is one of the few things that I rely upon each year. It's hard enough being a Bengals fan. If the Browns get good, too... (Skins a close second.)

Sterling Xie: Jacksonville Jaguars. While I don't quite buy the trendy playoff hype the Jags are receiving from some circles, I don't think they'll be one of the seven worst teams in the league by DVOA, as our forecast suggests. Even if you're a Blake Bortles disbeliever (which I consider myself to be to some extent), the offensive projection seems particularly pessimistic. Apart from the Chris Ivory signing, it's hard to think of an offseason move which was widely panned. Mediocrity isn't exciting, but it's still better than watching Blaine Gabbert throw backwards.

Carl Yedor: Houston Texans. Houston had a circus at quarterback last year, and they still managed to win the AFC South. Newly signed Brock Osweiler is entering his age-26 season, and the Texans made a concerted effort to improve their offense in the draft, using their first four picks on the offensive side of the ball.

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF FOA 2016 PROJECTION, OTHER THAN DALLAS

Cian Fahey: Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens roster as a whole lacks talent, but more significant is how many key players they have coming off serious injury.

Tom Gower: Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is the easy answer here. The numbers make a good case they'll have a better record than they had last year, with indicators like a last-place ranking in offensive AGL, a lousy record in close games, and a lack of defensive turnovers suggesting big improvement. But I have a hard time convincing myself this team is actually good. That doesn't preclude them from winning even 10 games, of course, but it does mean I doubt they win the 9.1 we have them projected for.

Scott Kacsmar: San Diego Chargers. I was kind of feeling this team as a dark horse for a 9-7 wild-card contender, but it just hasn't been an impressive summer with the ridiculous Joey Bosa situation and some bad turnover at the wide receiver position. I still don't trust the offensive line in front of Philip Rivers, and this may be the end of the line for Mike McCoy. I'd sooner bet a fourth-place finish in the AFC West.

Bryan Knowles: Detroit Lions. Losing their all-time leading receiver this offseason is a major blow to an offense that struggled to move the ball on the ground last year. Unless Golden Tate proves to be a better Megatron replacement than Starscream ever was, I wonder if their second-half improvement on offense can be maintained.

Rivers McCown: Tennessee Titans. With all due respect to all the statistical indicators in favor of them moving up (pythagorean wins, turnover margin, etc.) -- this is a dead-end football team led by someone who has approximately zero success as an NFL head coach. Their receiving corps is so bad that a fifth-round rookie is likely to start. The defense should be fine, if healthy. But between Mike Mularkey and a number of holes that have been filled by rookies or unheralded/washed up veterans, I'm getting a whiff of 2015 49ers. 

Ben Muth: Baltimore Ravens. I love John Harbaugh, and the offensive line. But there's not a lot of talent here.

Andrew Potter: Baltimore Ravens. It's hard to see past Baltimore here. Their best receiver is 37 and coming off a torn Achilles. Their star linebacker is 33 and coming off a torn Achilles. Their quarterback was tentative and erratic last season before he suffered a major injury infamous for making quarterbacks more tentative and erratic. Their starting left tackle retired after a season in which he missed more games than he started. The next time their best tight end (who is probably not their best tight end) finishes an active season with his hip in place will be the first time in three years he has done so. Several of the positions which aren't staffed by major injury red flags are staffed by major talent red flags, in a traditionally merciless division. Nine or more wins for this roster against this schedule seems like it might be John Harbaugh's best coaching job yet. Not that I'd bet against him.

Aaron Schatz: Tennessee Titans. The DVOA projection system loves Marcus Mariota because QBASE loves Marcus Mariota. I'm very pessimistic about the coaching staff and the decision to focus the offense so heavily on the running game. This team isn't going to be successful enough or have a strong enough defense to run an offense like Carolina or Seattle runs. Yes, I know that the Titans have an easy schedule, but the Colts and Texans are better and the Jaguars have more potential.

Vincent Verhei: Baltimore Ravens. It's my job to put this list together, which means I was looking at everyone's picks as they came in. Then when it came time to make my own, I really wanted to find a new team just so I wasn't piggy-backing on everyone else, but... I couldn't do it. The truth is the dropoff in the AFC after the top three teams is steep, and the Ravens are much closer to the pack than they are to the Pats, Chiefs, and Steelers.

Rob Weintraub: Arizona Cardinals. Just seems like so much went right last season, starting with Carson Palmer's good health. Carson is a year older than Tony Romo, and we all have the Cowboys quarterback ready for the old-age home. They won't stink, but I can see Palmer missing a game or three and the Cards fighting for a wild-card spot and finishing around .500.

Sterling Xie: Baltimore Ravens. As steady as they have been the past eight years, this feels like an aging capped-out roster without the type of high-end talent (especially on defense) they have had throughout the Joe Flacco-John Harbaugh era. I would still take a Terrell Suggs-Steve Smith Sr. tandem in an NFL Hunger Games competition, even with one undamaged Achilles' tendon between them, but that's unfortunately not the criteria here.

Carl Yedor: Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia just traded Sam Bradford to Minnesota for draft picks, which makes them worse in the short term. This could potentially swing a game against Cleveland or Chicago early on, with Carson Wentz working his way back from a rib injury and Chase Daniel having thrown 77 passes in his first six years in the league.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT KUBIAK PROJECTION

Cian Fahey: Sterling Shepard, WR, NYG. Shepard is a perfect fit in Ben McAdoo's offense. He proved his athleticism wasn't a concern during the regular season. He should start 16 games in a pass-heavy offense and thrive across from Odell Beckham.

Tom Gower: C.J. Anderson, RB, DEN. I believe in C.J. Anderson, that Denver will have a better offensive line than they did last year, and that our namesake will give him the ball as often as he can.

Scott Kacsmar: Mike Evans, WR, TB. We have Evans as WR9, but I think he ascends to the top five this year with Jameis Winston finding more deep-ball success for touchdowns. Evans had some bad drops last year, but I think they get things cleaned up and look a lot better together.

Bryan Knowles: Latavius Murray, RB, OAK. Murray was incredibly inefficient last season, and his success rate of 39 percent was absolutely terrible. That being said, Oakland upgraded its offensive line with Kelechi Osemele, and I expect the team to continue to improve this season. That means plenty of opportunity for Murray to pad his stats; volume's exactly what I'm looking for out of my RB2. Rookie DeAndre Washington has looked good in preseason, but pass protection woes could keep him from replacing Murray this year, at least.

Rivers McCown: C.J. Anderson, RB, DEN. Of all the top-four-round guys I've picked over the past few weeks, the guy I keep gravitating to the most is Anderson. I don't blame you if you don't want to get fooled by him again, but the situation -- bad passing game, great defense, Gary Kubiak coached-offense -- begs for a franchise back. He has the talent to be that guy, and has done it in stretches of each of the last two seasons. They made the financial commitment, so it's clear what they want Anderson to be. 

Andrew Potter: Anquan Boldin, WR, DET. He's no spring chicken, but he is returning to a high-volume passing offense and he has never been the type of receiver to rely on pure athleticism. I look at the list of players above him and it's quite some time before I find somebody I'd rather have catching passes.

Aaron Schatz: Amari Cooper, WR, OAK. Transcendent talent, easy schedule, and his numbers were really impacted by that foot injury at the end of last year.

Vincent Verhei: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT. I think that once Le'veon Bell returns from suspension, the Steelers will have the best offense in the league, and the quarterback on the best offense in the league should not be the eighth quarterback off the board.

Rob Weintraub: Matt Ryan, QB, ATL. Maybe it is a product of living in Atlanta, but put me down as thinking last season was more aberration than beginning of steep decline. I'm not on board with a full recovery to his prime numbers, but with another season in Kyle Shanahan's system and a cutdown on the rookie mistakes he made last year, Ryan in 2016 should at least approach his usual standard. However, for the sake of my enjoyment of local sports talk radio sturm and drang, I hope I'm dead wrong.

Sterling Xie: Alshon Jeffery, WR, CHI. Granted, there's plenty of downside to the Bears' top receiver. It's basically a 50-50 proposition as to whether or not Jeffery will stay healthy -- in four seasons, he has missed significant time twice and played 16 games twice. If the latter occurs, though, Jeffery should be one of the steadier week-to-week target hogs. He's the second-tier wide receiver with the highest upside, in my opinion.

Carl Yedor: Markus Wheaton, WR, PIT. The Steelers look to have a very potent offense this year, and Ben Roethlisberger can't throw the ball to Antonio Brown on every single play (just most of them). Le'veon Bell and Martavis Bryant are both suspended for at least part of the season, which will lead to an increase in targets for Wheaton. With Antonio Brown drawing the toughest opposing defensive back week in and week out, look for Wheaton to have plenty of targets each week and outpace his KUBIAK projection.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF KUBIAK PROJECTION

Cian Fahey: Blake Bortles, QB, JAC. Chris Ivory's presence will make the Jaguars more run-oriented in the red zone. That alone should slash his touchdown numbers.

Tom Gower: Lamar Miller, RB, HOU. No, not every Miami coach who refused to give Miller 15-plus carries every week was nuts. This ends up more of a committee than you think, and he has more like 220 to 240 carries than 280.

Scott Kacsmar: Jordy Nelson, WR, GB. He is one of my favorite wide receivers, but I think Nelson falls out of the top 10 this year. Some early struggles in his return from injury will knock his numbers down, but he'll get stronger as the year goes on and hopefully return to his previous form. This offense has become very reliant on him in recent years.

Bryan Knowles: Duke Johnson, RB, CLE. Johnson will spend some of the season splitting carries with Isaiah Crowell; he's still technically listed as the backup, for all that's worth. Most of his fantasy value last season came in the receiving game, but rushing quarterbacks like RGIII generally throw to running backs less than their more traditional counterparts.

Rivers McCown: Matt Jones, RB, WAS and Jeremy Langford, RB, CHI. Both feel like backs we'll look back on in five years and be surprised they were ever in a starting competition. The situations work, but I'm not sold on either player's talent. 

Andrew Potter: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, CAR. Is he even guaranteed to be the top receiver on his own team? There's been a lot of talk about Devin Funchess pushing him, and Benjamin is apparently struggling a bit to come back from his torn ACL.

Aaron Schatz: Frank Gore, RB, IND. He's 33 and I expect this to be the year he breaks down.

Vincent Verhei: Tom Brady, QB, NE. Or, more specifically, "12 games of Tom Brady and 4 games of some average quarterback." The suspension doesn't help, but even putting that aside, let's not forget that Brady is now 39 years old. Here is the full list of quarterbacks age 39 or older with 30 or more touchdowns in a season: Warren Moon with 33 in Kansas City at age 39 in 1995, and Brett Favre with 33 at age 40 in Minnesota in 2009. End of list. We are now in a different era of passing numbers, and if anyone can fend off Father Time, it's Brady. And I'm not expecting him to turn into the Walking Dead like Peyton Manning did last year. But I do think his days as a QB1 in most leagues are done.

Rob Weintraub: David Johnson, RB, ARI. We've seen this before, no? Guy comes out of nowhere to have a great season running the ball, becomes the preseason fantasy darling, then gets hurt or regresses when defenses are geared to stop him. Johnson feels like a younger Justin Forsett to me. Maybe the drop-off won't be as radical, but this is the NFL and he is a running back -- he's already on borrowed time.

Sterling Xie: Allen Robinson, WR, JAC. This isn't an indictment of Robinson's obvious talent, but rather a reaction to his ranking ahead of A.J. Green and DeAndre Hopkins, among others. The third-year pro is a strong candidate for touchdown regression -- it's easy to imagine Jacksonville running backs scoring more than three rushing touchdowns this year, or for Julius Thomas to stay healthier.

Carl Yedor: Jeremy Langford, RB, CHI. Langford performed well filling in for Matt Forte last season in Chicago, but he's running up against the flip side of some of FO's earliest research. If you run when you win, then when you don't win, you won't be running as often while you try to erase a deficit. The Bears do not look good this year, and as such, they won't have as many opportunities to ice away games late. Langford's season-long numbers will be better this year in a full-time role, but I don't think his team will be able to give him enough chances to do what he does best.

SUPER BOWL LI WINNER AND LOSER 

Cian Fahey: Seattle over Pittsburgh. The AFC is wide open and the Seahawks still have the best roster-coach combination in the NFL.

Tom Gower: Seattle may have the best roster in the league. Sam Bradford may give the Vikings a much better shot than Shaun Hill would have. I'm done doubting Bruce Arians. But I think the Packers have a great shot at home field and consider them the favorite against an AFC that lacks clear standouts. Green Bay over New England.

Scott Kacsmar: I feel like this is a cheap pick, but Seattle over New England in a rematch. This time the Seahawks throw from the 1-yard line again, but it's a fade to Jimmy Graham instead of a slant to Ricardo Lockette.

Bryan Knowles: I'll respectfully disagree with my new Scramble for the Ball partner, and pick Arizona over Pittsburgh instead of Pittsburgh over Arizona.

Rivers McCown: Seattle over Kansas City.

Ben Muth: Green Bay over New England.

Andrew Potter: Pittsburgh (again) over Arizona (again) with a fourth-quarter game-winning drive (again).

Aaron Schatz: Arizona over Pittsburgh. I'm going with the original pick from the early projections I did for ESPN Insider back in May, rather than the pick from the final projections. I just really love these two offenses, and I think the schedule should give these teams the two No. 1 seeds and thus home-field advantage in the two conference championship games. That would make them the best bets, even if Seattle and New England (with a healthy Brady) are slightly better teams.

Vincent Verhei: Arizona over New England. The way I see it, there are six very strong contenders for the Super Bowl this year: New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Arizona, Green Bay, and Carolina. (I am tempted to add Kansas City to that mix, but I've lost faith in Andy Reid to not screw something up along the way.) You could take either of those AFC teams or any of those NFCs teams and pick one to win and one to lose and it would make sense to me. But if I must pick two teams, I'll pick the two that seem to have the deepest, most complete rosters, even if both of their quarterbacks are likely to take a step backwards this year. And of those two teams, I'll take the coach who I think is best right now, over the coach who I think has been the best I've seen in my lifetime.

Rob Weintraub: Same as every year -- I'll be right one of these seasons -- New England over Green Bay.

Sterling Xie: I suppose I shouldn't run back my Eagles-Colts prediction from last year. Let's go a little more status quo this year: Arizona over New England.

Carl Yedor: Arizona over Pittsburgh. This is a bit of an emotional hedge, but Arizona has an easier schedule than Seattle, which could make the difference in the Cardinals winning the division and having home field advantage through the NFC playoffs. The Brady suspension gives the Steelers the inside track to the 1-seed.

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

Cian Fahey: San Francisco 49ers select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnneeeeee.

Tom Gower: The San Francisco 49ers select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson.

Scott Kacsmar: The San Francisco 49ers select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. I'd hate to see our recent track record on this question. It's not so much the NFL team we pick, but the hyped college prospect in early September is usually way off come draft time. Matt Barkley and Cardale Jones anyone?

Bryan Knowles: The Cleveland Browns trade down. If they can't trade down, they select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson.

Rivers McCown: The Cleveland Analytics Crew selects ROBOPUNTER -- err, I mean, Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M. 

Ben Muth: Tennessee Titans select Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M.

Andrew Potter: Tennessee sparks an existential crisis in American sports by getting relegated to the SEC following their second consecutive last-place finish, but the Titans are reinstated when all four College Football Playoff semi-finalists and both Grey Cup finalists reject the invitation to join the AFC South. Chip Kelly ignores the fact that the Titans aren't going to pick a quarterback and badgers Trent Baalke into trading San Francisco's entire draft to move up one spot and select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. Mularkey's Titans, not to be outdone, select an offensive guard with the second overall pick.

Aaron Schatz: It's so tempting to try to be counterintuitive and say something like "Brad Kaaya" or "Hey, let's say Washington again, maybe I'll be right this year!" But come on, Cleveland may end up with two of the top five picks and Deshawn Watson is more accurate than Kaaya, is more mobile, and throws for more yards per attempt. Even if San Franciso ties Cleveland or Philadelphia for the worst record, the 49ers will lose the tiebreaker because their schedule is stronger. So, probabilities. The Cleveland Browns select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. (Don't worry, analytics fans: they'll trade down from their other first-round pick.)

Vincent Verhei: Every year in this space, I narrow my choices down to "Cleveland and blank." And then, out of those two teams, I pick the wrong one. So congratulations, 49ers, you're going to shock the world because of this pick: The San Francisco 49ers select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson.

Rob Weintraub: The San Francisco 49ers select Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami.

Sterling Xie: The Cleveland Browns select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson.

Carl Yedor: The San Francisco 49ers select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson.

Comments

22 comments, Last at 16 Sep 2016, 4:30am

1 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by TomC // Sep 08, 2016 - 2:55pm

The columns from previous years are a goldmine if you like mean-spirited fun at others' expense (and who doesn't?!). I particularly like Andrew Healy's contributions from last year:

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF FOA 2015 PROJECTION:

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.

Missed it by *that* much ("that much" being 11 wins).

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT FOA 2015 PROJECTION

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).

Wait, why are you making fun of this prediction; the Broncos *did* outperform their projection. Yes, but Andrew said it would be because of Peyton Manning and the offense.

And more mean-spiritedness, this time picking on the new guy:

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF KUBIAK PROJECTION

Carl Yedor: Jeremy Langford, RB, CHI. Langford performed well filling in for Matt Forte last season in Chicago, but he's running up against the flip side of some of FO's earliest research. If you run when you win, then when you don't win, you won't be running as often while you try to erase a deficit. The Bears do not look good this year, and as such, they won't have as many opportunities to ice away games late. Langford's season-long numbers will be better this year in a full-time role, but I don't think his team will be able to give him enough chances to do what he does best.

The Bears were 6-10 last year. They won exactly one game by more than 5 points. There was no icing going on.

Login or Register to post comments

5 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by Travis // Sep 08, 2016 - 3:31pm

If you're looking for true mean-spirited fun, you can't beat the 2007 predictions:

Team Most Likely To Fall Short Of Its PFP Projection:

Aaron Schatz: New York Giants. They start their year like this: at Dallas, home against Green Bay, at Washington, home against Philadelphia, and then "home" against the Jets. There's a pretty good chance they come out of that 0-5 or 1-4, and if this team starts slow, they're going full Kotite.

Bill Barnwell: New York Giants. When I think about this upcoming Giants season, my heart hurts in the way it does when you think of ex-girlfriends sleeping with new people. Many new people. At the same time. While she reassures them all how much better they are in bed than you. Oh, and she does this all in the next room over from you while you're trying to sleep. And then makes the whole group breakfast afterwards, your favorite breakfast, too, and throws out the last helping as you go to grab some. It's like that, except it's going to happen for about 17 consecutive weekends. It astounds me that some people still think this team has a chance of being competitive in 2007.

Player Who Will Most Underperform His KUBIAK Projection

Ryan Wilson: Randy Moss. The Patriots have too many offensive weapons, and Moss won't ever be the guy he was in Minnesota. Not until the Patriots hire Brian Billick as the offensive coordinator, anyway.

Login or Register to post comments

2 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by theslothook // Sep 08, 2016 - 2:57pm

Last year I picked Baltimore to win the sb. This year...not so much. This season will test how much faith we have in Ozzie. Ostensibly, the ravens roster looks the weakest they've been since they began. But ozzie always does well somehow. Somehow!

Login or Register to post comments

12 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by jonnyblazin // Sep 08, 2016 - 7:10pm

I think this years Ravens draft class looks pretty stellar, so I don't know if their roster as a whole is that weak. I'm just not sure if the rookies will be able to help all that much this year.

I'd say the Ravens will succeed or fail based on how their secondary shapes up. Their front 7 and offensive line look solid as usual. They have a pretty dynamic group of skill players, and won't need to rely much on Steve Smith in case he's washed up (I cower in fear even mentioning the possibility). But is Weddle still good? Can Webb play safety? Can Jimmy Smith return to 2014 form? Will the other CB's stay healthy and perform adequately? Not sure about any of them.

Login or Register to post comments

3 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by Raiderjoe // Sep 08, 2016 - 3:10pm

copied from where I postyed this in discussion forum thread-

predcitions kind of stink like the chargers. but fun to read occasionally. I may get some of these wrong mayevb even on purpose. if I got them all right, people would think I'm an alien and/or time traveler.

NFc east
(4)Gaints 8-8
Cowbioys 7-9
Squirrels 7-9
Eags 5-11

NFC North
(1)Packer s 12-4
Vikings 8-8
Bears 6=-10
Lions 6-10

NFC Soputh
(3) Pantehrs 10-6
(6)Buccaneers 8-7-1
Falcs 7-9
Saints 6-10

NFC Wets
(2)Cardinals 12-4
(5)Seahawks 11-5
rams 7-9
49ers 3-13

AFC east
(3)Pates 11-5
Jets 9-7
Biils 7-9
Dolphins 6-10

AFC North
(1) Steelers 12-4
(5) Bengals 10-6
ravens 8-8
browns 4-12

AFC South
(4) Texans 9-7
Clots 8-8
Jaguars 8-8
Titans 5-11

AFC West
(2) Raiders 11-5
(6) Chiefs 9-7
Broncos 8-8
Charges 7-8-1

playoffs
wild card round-
Buccaneers 17 at Pantehrs 27
Seahawks 20 at Giants 13
chiefs 16 at pates 41
Bengals 23 at Texans 20

divisional round-
Seawhsks 20 at Packers 27
Pantehrs 17 at Cardinals 24
Bengals 28 at Steeklers 24
Pates 23 at Raiders 30

championsjhip games-
cardibnals 27 at Packers 30
bengals 20 at Raiders 31

Super Bowl 51
Raiders 27, Packers 21

Suiper Bowl MVP- Derek Carr

Login or Register to post comments

6 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by The Ancient Mariner // Sep 08, 2016 - 4:04pm

Raiderjoe, I'd be willing to believe you're an alien anyway. ;)

Login or Register to post comments

4 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by theslothook // Sep 08, 2016 - 3:24pm

To me; the biggest wildcard here is what do we expect of Carson Palmer. Last year, imo - he was the best qb in the nfl. If he's like that next year; then sea and Ari are the two best teams in the nfl/

Login or Register to post comments

7 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by t.d. // Sep 08, 2016 - 5:26pm

you guys are totally sleeping on the bengals, who were right there with denver and new england in the afc last year until dalton broke his thumb. they're probably the 'strongest in the trenches' team in the league, and the afc is comparatively wide open. i know you guys tend to make predictions on what's happened in the last five years, but you missed the nfc west revival in 2012, and you're missing that the afc north is the best division in football now

Login or Register to post comments

10 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by Andrew Potter // Sep 08, 2016 - 6:08pm

Hasn't the AFC North been the best division in the AFC (and arguably the best in the league) since about 2008? I don't think we're missing that - five of us picked an AFC North team to make the Super Bowl. One of the reasons I wouldn't pick Cincinnati or Pittsburgh to beat their FOA projection though, is exactly that: they're matched up in a tough division, and the other divisions they play aren't exactly cupcakes.

Login or Register to post comments

14 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by t.d. // Sep 08, 2016 - 7:30pm

I'd say conventional wisdom is that the NFC west is the best division in football (and the NFC in general is superior), and last year the AFC West was probably better. Five people picked Pittsburgh to make the Super Bowl (and I guess picking the Ravens to underperform is a backhanded compliment to the Bengals). A lot of people also have the Browns as a dumpster fire, and I don't see that happening, either

Login or Register to post comments

8 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by johonny // Sep 08, 2016 - 5:37pm

I'm taking the Patriots over Packers in the Superbowl. I think Miami has a real shot at the number one pick if they dropped their Cleveland Browns trap game. Their 4 left tackle and a back up center offensive line has not impressed in preseason and their running game was invisible. I think I'll take New Orleans to overachieve projections.

Login or Register to post comments

9 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by Noah Arkadia // Sep 08, 2016 - 6:07pm

Nah. Tannebaum will Tannenbaum (and has, in fact, Tannebaumed freely), the running game is bad and the defense has very exploitable holes, to say the least. But I think Gase is the right coach for the pass offense. Being that offense is the most important facet of the game and that pass pro is much improved, I see 5 wins at the absolute worst and as many as 8 if things go well. If Tannehill were to go down, of course, all bets are off. But the first overall... that's just the pain of it all talking.

Login or Register to post comments

19 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by James-London // Sep 09, 2016 - 11:25am

I don't think Miami are serious contenders for the #1 pick, but I can't find 9 wins on the schedule no matter how hard I look. 8, if I squint, and Gase works his magic with the offense seems like the ceiling, and frankly, I'm expecting 6.

If Miami are going to beat that projection, then Tannehill will be an MVP candidate, because they'll need to scoring 40 points/game. Reshad Jones aside, Miami's back 7 is UGLY

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

Login or Register to post comments

11 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by bravehoptoad // Sep 08, 2016 - 6:31pm

("San Francisco?" Seriously, go look at a map and ask yourself why they aren't the "San Jose 49ers.")

Because even people from San Jose say things like, "I like San Jose! It's got nice weather, and it's so close to the City."

(City, in these parts, meaning S.F.)

Login or Register to post comments

13 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by theslothook // Sep 08, 2016 - 7:22pm

As someone who lives in the city - trust me, I miss the San Jose weather

Login or Register to post comments

20 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by bravehoptoad // Sep 09, 2016 - 5:01pm

I could see a whole lot of rimshot jokes lined up about San Jose to help answer Aaron's question:
-------------

The 49ers front office sent out a property team to downtown San Jose, but they couldn't find it. rimshot

But seriously, I love downtown San Jose. I circumnavigated it a few days ago, and it was one of the most pleasant 10 minutes of my life. rimshot

And I'm not the only one who loves San Jose. Have you read A Detailed History of San Jose's Influence on American Life? It's a new postage stamp put out by the Post Office. rimshot

It's in 12-point font. rimshot
----------

I know, you don't want me to stop, but I must.

Login or Register to post comments

21 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by theslothook // Sep 10, 2016 - 2:13am

The bay area really is a unique place unlike anything I've ever seen in other major metropolitan areas. The city is a proper city, but the rest of the bay is segmented by district and each district has its good and bad.

I grew up in a nice part of the southbay which includes San Jose, so I always enjoyed that experience. Curiously, I grew up one town away from where jared allen and trent edwards played football. I was only about 10 minutes from apple's headquarters. It was a suburb, but didn't feel like a traditional suburb. Plus, there was plenty to do and the weather was usually good so it certainly didn't feel like an isolated nowhere.

Living in the city is a different experience. SF is pretty different than what it was when I was growing up, but now living there, you definitely feel the contrast between the southbay and the city. Overall, I like both settings and both have their pluses and minuses. The city offers plenty to do within walking distance and lots of people, but you pay a huge premium and get pretty much a cardboard box in return. San Jose is equally expensive, but you get ot enjoy having a car and get much more space for the money. I guess it depends on personal taste.

I would love to live in NY or Chicago and contrast the lifestyles. I suspect there's a ton of similarity there.

Login or Register to post comments

18 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 09, 2016 - 8:51am

It could be worse. For both "New York" teams, if New Jersey's governor shuts down a bridge, half the stadium will be empty.

Login or Register to post comments

15 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by Cythammer // Sep 08, 2016 - 7:51pm

I'll throw out some predictions. I haven't really been paying enough attention to the offseason to have a particularly informed opinion, but hey, predictions are fun.

AFC Playoff teams:

NE
KC
Steelers
Texans
Bills (WC)
Bengals (WC)

NFC Playoff teams:

Seahawks
Cowboys
Packers
Carolina
Cardinals (WC)
Lions (WC)

Picking that last NFL Wild Card team is tough. Seems like there's only four really quality teams in the NFC. Detroit has an easy schedule though.

As a Jets fan I'll say 7-9 or so sounds about right for them. They aren't going to be terrible, but the offense getting worse seems predictable. I think if they get lucky and/or play a little above their talent level, they could maybe make the playoffs with a 9-7 record, if some of the teams likely to be contending for a Wild Card spot with them stumble. But the 25% chance DVOA gives for that happening sounds accurate. If that doesn't happen, Bowles will probably be on the hot seat going into next season, and I predict will likely be out after another subpar season in 2017.

I'm a little surprised how many people like NE to win the Super Bowl. It seems risky to go with a team that relies so much on a 39-year old. I think the odds that at that age Brady either suffers a major injury or a significant drop off in play have got to be pretty good.

I'm primarily going with Seattle over the Cardinals because Palmer doesn't have a long history of seasons as good as last year, and is, in any case, old.

I'm predicting a solid season from the Bills because I have faith in Rex Ryan to dramatically improve the defense from last year. Seems like a fluke that a Ryan defense was that bad, and since the offense was already pretty decent... Bills should be good.

Championship Games:

Chiefs over Steelers
Seahawks over Packers

Super Bowl Champions:

Kansas City Chiefs

Login or Register to post comments

16 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by dbostedo // Sep 08, 2016 - 10:32pm

Nice job not buying into that DAVID Carr hype Mr. Schatz!! I wouldn't do that either... I might be tempted by Derek Carr though....

Login or Register to post comments

17 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by herewegobrowniesherewego // Sep 09, 2016 - 12:01am

Rob W -

" Every single person who has an NFL opinion thinks they will be the worst team in the league, so I'm going against the herd. And it's something of a reverse jinx, "

Hey, the overwhelming majority of the experts predicted that the first year of Andy+AJ would be a 2-14, 3-13 type year for you too. Maybe reverse jinxes, by the masses, can happen again?

Cian, agree with you on both the Browns and Ravens, even though we've always had to disagree on Joe Haden (last year's disaster notwithstanding, and I do think the rest of the defense will be bad.)

Scott K-

" it just hasn't been an impressive summer with the ridiculous Joey Bosa situation and some bad turnover at the wide receiver position."

You don't think Travis Benji is "good turnover" ? It could be scary to see him with a stable deep-threat QB situation for the first time in his career. No amount of scheming with extra safety help can overcome that level of speed.

Login or Register to post comments

22 Re: 2016 Staff Predictions

by AK47Uprising // Sep 16, 2016 - 4:30am

AFC divisions: New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Houston
AFC wild cards: Baltimore, Denver
NFC divisions: Seattle, Green Bay, Carolina, New York Giants
NFC wild cards: Arizona, Detroit
Super Bowl: New England over Carolina
First Pick in the Draft: Cleveland

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT FOA 2016 PROJECTION
Oakland Raiders

NFL TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF FOA 2016 PROJECTION, OTHER THAN DALLAS
Indianapolis Colts

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT KUBIAK PROJECTION
Amairi Cooper

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF KUBIAK PROJECTION
Devonta Freeman

SUPER BOWL LI WINNER AND LOSER
New England over Carolina

WITH THE NO. 1 PICK IN THE DRAFT, [TEAM] SELECTS [PLAYER]
The Cleveland Browns select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson.

Login or Register to post comments