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An idiot's (two idiots'?) guide to Thanksgiving football, prepped and primed for the monsters-in-law who only watch these three games in a year.

07 Sep 2017

2017 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 New England Patriots have the best chance of any team in the NFL to make it to the Super Bowl. Let's say we think they'll make it 35 percent of the time, which happen to be the odds based on our most recent simulation. Imagine then that 13 other teams in the AFC have a 5 percent chance to make it to the Super Bowl, while the Browns and Jets also, technically, exist.

OK, so we pick New England to win the AFC. Even based solely on this opinion, there is a 2-in-3 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 2018 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 updated playoff forecast is:

AFC divisions: New England, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Tennessee
AFC wild cards: Kansas City, Baltimore (Cincinnati is close)
NFC divisions: Seattle, Green Bay, Dallas, Carolina
NFC wild cards: Arizona, New York Giants (Atlanta and Los Angeles Rams are also close)
Super Bowl: New England over Seattle
First Pick in the Draft: New York Jets, narrowly over Cleveland

"Officially," we are projecting two new playoff teams in the AFC, with Baltimore and Tennessee replacing Miami and Houston. But the separation at the top is clear -- the Patriots are nearly a full win ahead of the Steelers, who are nearly two full wins ahead of anyone else in the conference. In the NFC, there is a very tight cluster at the top -- Seattle, Green Bay, and Dallas are separated by less than one full win. The second tier is even tighter, with Carolina less than half a win ahead of a three-way bottleneck between the Cardinals, Giants, and Falcons.

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."

And now: here are your 2017 staff predictions.

TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT ITS FOA PROJECTION

Tom Gower: Seattle Seahawks, and this would have been my answer even before the Sheldon Richardson trade. Russell Wilson makes the offensive line work well enough, they'll find a workable run game from their collection of backs, and I expect the defense to be elite. Playing the AFC South doesn't hurt.

Scott Kacsmar: Atlanta Falcons. I still like Atlanta a lot to return to the playoffs. This was a very strong 11-5 team: third in DVOA, second in net yards per drive and net points per drive. The Falcons blew four fourth-quarter leads, and that ended up coming back to haunt them in the Super Bowl of course. The offense will obviously slip a little, but it should still be one of the league's best. Defense is where the Falcons can make up the most ground with a lot of young talent and the return of Desmond Trufant. I know the NFC South is notorious for quick turnarounds, but I think Atlanta stays on top.

Bryan Knowles: Los Angeles Chargers. While you have to be careful about teams that are relocating, I'm impressed with the talent they have assembled. They brought in Russell Okung to shore up the offensive line and they'll hopefully get full seasons out of Joey Bosa, Jason Verrett, and Keenan Allen. Moving on from Mike McCoy doesn't hurt, either. I know the traditional Chargers Injury Bug has already started attacking them, but I wouldn't at all be stunned to see them go 10-6 and end up in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Rivers McCown: Cincinnati Bengals. I did their chapter this year and the offensive line situation terrifies me. But when you look at what's happening in the rest of the AFC, a lot of the other statistical contenders for a wild-card spot have taken steps back. Baltimore, in particular, has a grisly injury situation. The Colts are without Andrew Luck for some time. The Broncos and Texans should still project to have poor quarterback play. And then, in Pittsburgh, one (increasingly common) Ben Roethlisberger injury wrecks that whole offense. Combine that with an easy schedule and a reload of skill position talent, and I think the Bengals have a good case to finish with 10 wins.

Ben Muth: New England Patriots. I think they're basically starting the season 6-0 within the division. That means they just need to go 6-4 the rest of the way to beat the projection.

Andrew Potter: Atlanta Falcons. Every important player returns to the offense, though of course it is very unlikely to reach last season's heights. The defense should be able to make up for a reasonable drop-off though; they've added some major pieces to a unit that was already improving over the tail end of last season. The AFC East and NFC North should provide plenty of opportunities for out-of-division wins, so as long as they take care of business in their own division they have a great chance to compete for a bye.

Aaron Schatz: Minnesota Vikings. I think I discussed this in one of the ESPN Insider pieces where we did early team projections, but the Vikings' defensive projection is very strange. The way the forecast works is that we do every team's mean projection, and then we normalize the league so that offense, defense, and special teams each average 0%. For some reason this year, a series of personnel changes led to a lot of teams ending up projected with above-average defenses (i.e. below 0%). The Vikings didn't have those changes, so essentially the projection system spat out the same defense as last year but then moved it down because it had to normalize the whole league. But of course the league doesn't play on my spreadsheets, and we know that the Vikings have all the same talent as last year except the young players are all a bit more experienced and the only really old player is Terence Newman. I also think the offense can be a little better than 22nd with a healthier offensive line. I expect the Vikings to be in the NFC wild-card race.

Vince Verhei: Houston Texans. If J.J. Watt is healthy, and everyone else plays as well as they did in 2016, the Texans could have the best front seven in the NFL. That would cover up the holes in the secondary, most of the time. On offense, I think Deshaun Watson is starting by midseason, and though he'll make plenty of mistake, he'll also make just enough big plays to get too much credit for Houston wins. One of our readers (sorry, I forget who or where) made the comparison to the 2009 New York Jets, who won 11 games including the playoffs with a rookie Mark Sanchez at quarterback and the league's best defense. I see Houston as being clearly better than Indianapolis or Jacksonville, and fighting Tennessee for the AFC South crown.

Carl Yedor: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the new weapons around Jameis Winston in the passing game, particularly DeSean Jackson taking the top off of defenses, the Buccaneers have the potential to be one of the most explosive offenses in the league. The threat of Jackson going deep will make teams think twice about rolling coverage over to Mike Evans' side of the field. Moving on from Roberto Aguayo, who at this point was a sunk cost, should improve their special teams over their projected last-place finish as well.

TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF ITS FOA PROJECTION

Tom Gower: Jacksonville Jaguars. I imagine the Rams will be this year's version of what the Ravens were last year: writers registering their obvious dissent with the surprisingly optimistic projection from the book. (I almost picked the Jets last year, just to be different, and wish I did.) My real answer is probably the Colts, because of Andrew Luck's injury, but that feels like cheating, so I'll go inside with one of the teams I wrote about in FOA 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since I wrote the first draft of the team chapter in May, the situation with Blake Bortles has deteriorated much more quickly than I thought it would; the offensive line improvements they needed haven't come close to happening; Leonard Fournette was already banged up in the preseason; and the cornerback injuries, where they're stars-and-scrubs, have lingered longer than I expected them to. They're still in the AFC South, where all you need to go .500 is not repeatedly shoot yourself in the foot, but I have a hard time seeing them going 10-6 without getting very lucky, and any defensive regression could leave them at 4-12.

Scott Kacsmar: Los Angeles Rams. I just can't get with the Rams flirting with .500. Even after giving them upset wins over the Seahawks and Titans, I couldn't do better than 6-10, which still might be a success given how historically awful Jared Goff's rookie season was. It also helps that the Colts won't have Andrew Luck and Vontae Davis in Week 1 in a game I otherwise would expect Indianapolis to win. But I can't go above 6-10 for this team, and that's assuming Aaron Donald ends his holdout and plays immediately. Sean McVay could be a lock for Coach of the Year should the Rams actually pull off a winning record.

Bryan Knowles: Los Angeles Rams. I'm tempted to say Chicago, but they're not projected super-high to begin with. While I think the Rams will be improved over last year and will beat conventional wisdom, the updated projections still have them ranked 14th in DVOA, which feels like a bridge too far. Aaron Donald is still holding out, and Dominique Easley tore his ACL, which probably will hurt Wade Phillips' efforts to get that defense back to how good they used to be. They have roughly zero depth anywhere. Their offensive line was a shambles last season. And, of course, Jared Goff excavated new floors for quarterback play last season. Will they be better in 2017? Yeah, I think so. Will they be a borderline playoff contender? Not this year.

Rivers McCown: Buffalo Bills. I mean, it's an obvious one, right? This team is in complete and utter upheaval and I think they have set up the current pieces on their roster that can be part of a good NFL team to fail. The only hesitancy I have is how likely the non-Patriots division is to gift them with wins.

Ben Muth: New York Jets. Even in the putrid AFC East I can't see them getting to six wins.

Andrew Potter: Oakland Raiders. I want to say the Jets, because I don't see them getting close to six wins, but it's hard to undershoot the second-worst projection in a league still containing the Browns and 49ers. Instead, I'll say Oakland. So much of last season's success was the result of a pass offense that I think overachieved and will drop a bit in 2017. I don't see much to like about the defense, and they're now in a weird conflict with Sebastian Janikowski after the offseason will-he-won't-he with Donald Penn. A bit less luck against a prospectively tougher schedule, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Raiders miss the playoffs, never mind finish sixth in the league in DVOA.

Aaron Schatz: Cincinnati Bengals. They have so many good skill players, but John Ross isn't healthy and they sure seem insistent on sticking with lots of Jeremy Hill instead of moving to Joe Mixon right away. And that offensive line is going to be a real problem. I don't see this team improving over last season.

Also, I've stated this elsewhere, but I'll state it again here. The optimistic Los Angeles Rams projection is null and void if Aaron Donald's holdout stretches more than a game or two into the regular season. They need him to make that defense really shine.

Vince Verhei: Kansas City Chiefs. No wideout on the roster has ever had a 100-yard game. Two of the top four are gadget players who have never been full-time wideouts before. The lead running back is a third-round rookie who did not make the top 10 in this year's BackCAST projections. They have so little faith in their quarterback, they just traded up to pick his replacement, then put said replacement on the shelf. The top three linebackers have a combined age of 97, and only one of them played more than 600 defensive snaps last year. They're not likely to finish first in special teams again. There are no pushovers in the AFC West, and the out-of-division schedule includes the NFC East, plus games against Houston, Pittsburgh, and a road trip to New England in the season opener.

Carl Yedor: Indianapolis Colts. If Andrew Luck misses extended time into the season, which it looks like he very well might, the Colts are in for a rough time. Former general manager Ryan Grigson failed to build much of a roster around Luck (hence the "former" ahead of his title), but Luck was still able to drag Indianapolis to the playoffs in his first three seasons. Luck has been hurt in both 2015 and 2016, and coincidentally, the Colts were not a contender without him. With Luck's status uncertain for the early going and three of our top five defenses on the schedule in the first four weeks, it could be a struggle.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT KUBIAK PROJECTION

Tom Gower: Allen Robinson, WR, JAC. I think I've gotten this wrong every year, or nearly so. My pessimism about the Jaguars is optimism for their fantasy projections, so I tried to be bullish on Bortles and Allen Robinson. Obviously with Bortles' job security, it's hard to be too bullish on him even as a straight fantasy play, but that fear of defensive regression means we'll see less of the Leonard Fournette offense and more of Jacksonville quarterbacks down too many points chucking it in the general direction of their receivers, as seen in 2015. I'm also slightly more optimistic on Rishard Matthews, whom I expect to again be the focal point of the Titans' passing offense.

Scott Kacsmar: DeVante Parker, WR, MIA. I'm going all in on Parker to pull off the "third-year breakout receiver" season in Miami. Some of that may be helped by Jay Cutler's playing style, where he'll willingly give his player some chances to make plays that maybe Ryan Tannehill won't pull the trigger on. Either way, I think Parker takes a big step forward in Miami instead of being a guy who puts up Rishard Matthews or Jamison Crowder numbers like KUBIAK projects.

Bryan Knowles: Randall Cobb, WR, GB. With many leagues switching to three starting receivers, you have to dig a little deeper to find your starters. Cobb to me seems like a really solid WR3 prospect. He's coming off of two subpar seasons, but one was due to his injuries, and the other was due to Jordy Nelson's injuries, leaving Cobb matched against top cornerbacks week in and week out. The Packers are a high-volume passing attack, and I like Cobb to get more than his fair share of touches. KUBIAK has him as the 65th receiver, but I don't think another 80/800/6 line is out of the question, like he did in 2015. That'd be worth the eighth-round pick it currently costs to get him."

Rivers McCown: Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN. I think he's an obvious three-down back right away and enters 2018 as a consensus top-five fantasy football asset.

Andrew Potter: DeSean Jackson, WR, TB. Jackson's best route is Jameis Winston's worst, but Dirk Koetter is clever enough to get Jackson involved in ways that take advantage of more than just his deep speed. As long as Jackson stays healthy, I expect him to be well ahead of WR42.

Aaron Schatz: Ameer Abdullah, RB, DET. I'm not sure why his projection came out so much lower than conventional wisdom, even when giving him a huge role on the team. Especially when the rest of the Lions projections are so high because of our assumption that the Lions will not have a historically low number of drives again.

Vince Verhei: Danny Woodhead, RB, BAL: On Bill Barnwell's podcast, I believe I said Woodhead would get a million 3-yard receptions playing with Joe Flacco. On reflection, that may have been low. It wouldn't stun me if Woodhead led the team in catches. Woodhead was the ultimate secret weapon in daily fantasy leagues when he was healthy two years ago, and should return to that status this season. I think he'll also be a starting-caliber running back in PPR leagues.

Carl Yedor: Kenny Britt, WR, CLE. Cleveland's offensive line should give DeShone Kizer plenty of time to throw, and Britt is the No. 1 target for the Browns. The Browns will still likely be trailing frequently, meaning they will be in a position where they need to throw to catch up. Kizer showed no qualms about throwing deep during the preseason. Britt managed a 1,000-yard season and finished 28th in receiving DYAR among wide receivers in 2016 despite playing with Case Keenum and Jared Goff, so even if Kizer struggles as a rookie, Britt should still be able to produce.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF KUBIAK PROJECTION

Tom Gower: LeSean McCoy, RB, BUF. Buffalo's transition into what Sean McDermott wants them to be ends up with McCoy's fantasy production as part of its collateral damage, and he finishes somewhere around 10th or 12th among running backs instead of fourth.

Scott Kacsmar: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI. His yards per catch dropped to a career-low 11.1 in 2015 despite Carson Palmer's excellent season, and it dropped even lower to just 9.6 last season. Fitzgerald is now 34 and I think we'll see him drop out of the tier of premiere wide receivers. This could be a good chance to get John Brown back on track after health issues last year, and J.J. Nelson is an interesting deep threat with speed who started to contribute more in 2016. David Johnson will also eat up a ton of the short targets again.

Bryan Knowles: Derek Carr, QB, OAK. The former Highest Paid Player in Football is seventh in our KUBIAK quarterback rankings. Last year, he ranked 15th in fantasy points per game (depending on your system), so that's quite a jump -- against a tougher slate of defenses than he faced a year ago, to boot. He's also coming back from injury, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Marshawn Lynch vulture some goal-line touchdowns away from him. I also still have questions about Carr's accuracy and decision making; he's developing alright but he's not the MVP-candidate the media made him out to be last season. I'm staying away from Carr as a starter this year.

Rivers McCown: T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND. This is purely an "I don't trust Andrew Luck to be healthy" pick, and nothing against Hilton's talent.

Andrew Potter: Greg Olsen, TE, CAR. This is a non-injury category, right? In that case, with Andrew Luck sidelined, I'll opt for Greg Olsen. By all accounts, Carolina's offense is set to change quite a bit as a result of their offseason acquisitions, most notably Christian McCaffrey. The most likely candidate to take a hit in that is Olsen, who has been Carolina's leading receiver every year since Steve Smith left for Baltimore in 2013. It's that bit harder to snag red zone touchdowns when you're blocking for a dynamic running game, and though somebody has to catch Newton's passes, that somebody won't be Olsen forever.

Aaron Schatz: Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN. The projection had him bouncing back a bit in touchdowns, and for crying out loud somebody has to catch the ball in Denver. They really only have two wide receivers, Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. But Thomas is 30 and it just seems like he doesn't make the great catches he used to make. The decline last year wasn't just about the quarterbacks.

Vince Verhei: Tom Brady, QB, NE: Last year I picked Brady here based strictly on his age. Then he had another good season, and now he's another year older at age 40, so I basically have to pick him again, right? I think I'm going to pick Brady every year here until he actually has a bad season -- at which point I will probably switch to picking Drew Brees.

Carl Yedor: Eddie Lacy, RB, SEA. With the emergence of seventh-round pick Chris Carson in training camp, an already-crowded Seattle backfield just got even more unpredictable. Thomas Rawls was running with the starters to begin the preseason, but given his past injury issues, who knows how many carries he'll end up getting. And C.J. Prosise provides a threat out of the backfield on passing downs, meaning that Lacy will have limited upside there barring an injury. I would avoid rolling with any of these running backs until there is a clear pecking order established, and Lacy has the highest projection with the most competition for his specific role.

SUPER BOWL LII WINNER AND LOSER

Tom Gower: The Seattle Seahawks run the ball at the goal line and get their revenge on the New England Patriots.

Scott Kacsmar: New England Patriots over Seattle Seahawks. I know, it's terrible to keep going to that one. I had Dallas back in February, but too many suspensions since then. Atlanta getting revenge in a rematch was my second consideration.

Bryan Knowles: Pittsburgh Steelers brings home one last title before Ben Roethlisberger rides into the sunset, beating Seattle 23-20 in a rematch of Super Bowl XL.

Rivers McCown: I hate how wildly uncreative this feels, but New England Patriots over Seattle Seahawks.

Ben Muth: Green Bay Packers over Pittsburgh Steelers.

Andrew Potter: Seattle Seahawks over New England Patriots.

Aaron Schatz: New England Patriots over Green Bay Packers. It would be fun to be all counterintuitive but the Patriots' odds are so far ahead of the rest of the league, it just doesn't make sense to pick anyone else if you want to have the best possible chance of being correct. On defense, I'll guess that the Green Bay secondary will be in better shape than the Seattle offensive line by January.

Vince Verhei: Seattle Seahawks defeat New England Patriots. At this point I like Seattle's defense more than I like New England's offense. Those two teams have fewer weaknesses than Pittsburgh, Green Bay, or Dallas, and the dropoff after those five teams is mighty steep.

Carl Yedor: New England Patriots over Green Bay Packers. The Patriots should have a cakewalk in the division, with the Jets and the Bills effectively taking the season off and the Dolphins turning to Jay Cutler at quarterback in the absence of Ryan Tannehill. That should be enough for them to lock up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Green Bay faces off against Seattle in Week 1 at Lambeau, and a win there could be the determining factor in where the NFC championship game ends up being played. While the Patriots have been dealing with some injuries already, the Packers' defense would still likely struggle with the remaining array of weapons at Tom Brady's disposal.

WITH THE NO. 1 PICK IN THE 2018 DRAFT, TEAM SELECTS PLAYER

Tom Gower: The New York Jets select Sam Darnold, QB, USC. Tanking pays off!

Scott Kacsmar: The New York Jets select Sam Darnold, QB, USC. Like I say every year, we always seem to latch onto a certain quarterback for this, and it seems like that quarterback doesn't even come close to the No. 1 pick come April. It's happened before with Matt Barkley and Cardale Jones. At the very least, the Jets tanking to get the best quarterback in 2018 seems extremely probable at this point.

Bryan Knowles: The New York Jets select Sam Darnold, QB, USC. Too bad the draft's not in New York anymore.

Rivers McCown: The New York Jets select Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming, after Sam Darnold doesn't come out.

Ben Muth: The New York Jets select Sam Darnold, QB, USC.

Andrew Potter: The San Francisco 49ers select some college kid or other, let's say Arden Key, EDGE, LSU. The free-agent acquisition of Kirk Cousins takes pressure off the franchise to select a quarterback, giving John Lynch room to further upgrade the team's obvious strength with the draft's best player.

Aaron Schatz: New York Jets select Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. I would have had Cleveland here until the preseason, but the Sheldon Richardson trade helps ruin the "Jets defense may be too good for them to successfully tank" storyline.

Vince Verhei: San Francisco 49ers select Arden Key, EDGE, LSU. This race is wide open. There are more than half a dozen teams I could see ending up here. In the end it came down to San Francisco's very difficult schedule -- fifth-toughest overall by our projections, with only five games against teams with projected DVOAs below 0.0%. That includes all four AFC South teams -- imagine if they were playing the West or North instead! -- and I already said I think Houston will be better than its projection. The 49ers might not be favored in a game until back-to-back home tilts against Tennessee and Jacksonville in December. I agree with Potter that Cousins will be San Francisco's quarterback as soon as legally possible. So John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan will begin Year 2 of their Six-Year Program by getting their pass-rusher. And Key looks like the consensus top pass-rusher prospect in 2018 right now.

Carl Yedor: The New York Jets select Sam Darnold, QB, USC.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 07 Sep 2017

25 comments, Last at 08 Sep 2017, 6:39pm by theslothook

Comments

1
by theslothook :: Thu, 09/07/2017 - 7:07pm

Is it just me - or are there now NFL teams doing the NBA style blatant tanking? The bills, jets are in full tank mode. The Browns just effectively tanked the last two years.

4
by bigpoppapump :: Thu, 09/07/2017 - 8:32pm

Nobody has played a game yet. So ascribing blatant tanking to anyone is bizzaro. In my humble etc.

6
by theslothook :: Thu, 09/07/2017 - 9:17pm

Starting Josh McCown is a pretty strong smoking gun. Ditto for the bills jettisoning everyone. And don't get me started on the browns.

BTw - when I say tank - the players I believe will play as hard as they can. Coaches will coach as best as they can. The gms will do everything they can to assure that wont be enough.

18
by Led :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:51pm

Starting McCown is actually a sign of NOT tanking. He's not good, but he sets a floor of not goodness. The depths to which a Hack/Petty offense could fall are unknown (and fill me with a nameless dread). Shedding expensive veterans certainly shows that the team isn't prioritizing 2017 wins, but it's not to make the team worse on purpose for draft position. It's so younger players can be evaluated and get experience. It'd be hard to tell if Wesley Johnson is the future at center if he backs up Mangold another year. There's actually some promising young talent at WR that would not see the field much if Marshall and Decker were still on the team. Why sign Claiborne if you're trying to lose? Why sign Jeremy Kerley so you have a minimally competent PR if you're trying to lose? Cutting David Harris looked like a tank move at the time, but the fact that he couldn't get on the field last night even after Hightower got hurt indicates that maybe the Jets were on to something.

20
by theslothook :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:39pm

Let me be clear - I don't think the tanking is coming from the jets coaching staff or the jets players. However, the coaches can only play the players they have. We can debate if Josh McCown is really the best qb they could afford/bring in this offseason(I definitely think there are better options). Not too mention, Josh McCown's three last stints netted the first pick, the 2nd pick, and the first pick again. If hes proven anything - its that hes just good enough to avoid going 0-16 and just bad enough to get you a top 3 pick. Sounds like the perfect veteran qb to bring in if you're primary motivation is to suck.

Btw - I don't even think this is a bad strategy. I worry that this may cause a lot of sad sacks to go full tank and that will hurt the league, but it IS the right way to go from horrible to good.

23
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 3:46pm

rthink this tanking business occurign now due to rules and situation. NEED to have great quaureback now to win pretty much or if not greta there need amazing defense and coaching (Ravens when won tuih j.flacco, devn wuth b. osweiler, p. manning ). most teams winning big due to qb play (sehakws, pates, clots, gaints solid with e. manning). so like Bils, and Jets sayidn, "We need reall good querbackt not mccown or Fitzpatrick ro e. manuel or m. sanchez or t. Edwards or some other bum. we need the next Soft Balls Bardy or the next A. luck or P. maning, or r. wiolson of Derek carr or something."
then this year also has some big qb prospects like josh allen, josh rosen and sam darnold and even ok state and lousiville have guys that could play well and test well and maybe be top 10 picks.

so, not all that surprised tanking maybe going on this year. tanking will not happen often. nfl and draft does not lend itself to tnaking being worthwhile thoing. in nba, hapopens all the time since one individual can make huge duifference. only time it really matters in nfl is when QBs are entering league and you have some really desperate teams. Jets and Bills qualify. both major problems at QB position for multiple decades now

24
by Led :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 5:31pm

No, I gotcha about the players and coaches. But I don't even think the front office is trying to lose. I think they're trying win as many games as possible this year consistent with managing the existing roster for longer term success. If necessary, they'll sacrifice the former for the latter. In practice, it means the team is likely going to be bad this year. No dispute about that. I just think that's different from, say, what the 76ers have done. For example, if Petty (or even Hackenberg) plays like a competent NFL backup/marginal starter, their big DL investment (Mo) returns to his 2015 form, their young defenders (Lee, Adams, Maye) and WRs (Anderson, Stewart, Hansen) all flash, and their young OL (Johnson, Shell) prove to be legit starters, and the team goes 7-9, I think the front office would be very happy. They'd still be a legit starting QB away, but at least they'd have the makings of a competitive team. The NFL is different enough from the NBA that a single player, even a franchise QB, is not worth gutting an entire roster for.

25
by theslothook :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 6:39pm

I know the nba is different, but even this answer isn't entirely true. Ok, outside of Lebron, KD, and maybe a couple others, how many teams really do turn themselves around with a franchise star?

Anthony Davis by himself couldn't rescue the pelicans out of the lottery. Everyone in the east that had one star was still bad.

In the nfl - it feels like Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Manning(when he had a healthy arm and neck) were the kind of stars that could drag a team a la lebron, Kd etc.

Also the biggest thing - the nfl guarantees your slot in the draft. The nba is a lottery. Therefore, if you stink, you are guaranteed a top pick. I would think the certainty is whats so attractive.

17
by ChrisS :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 11:39am

No it is not just you, I see it as well. It is weird in football because teams seem to rise and fall very quickly without obvious tanking and drafting does not seem as valuable as it does in other sports. In the last 10 years the best players (my subjective opinion) taken in the first 3 spots are Cam Newton, Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Von Miller & Andrew Luck. It is hard to say any of these players have turned around their franchise. However Cam certainly helped Carolina improve and Von Miller helps make Denver a very good defense. Here is Mike Tanier's take on it http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2731339-nfl-moneyball-is-hurting-the-...

2
by BigRichie :: Thu, 09/07/2017 - 7:24pm

Overall, youse guys 2016 predictions were pretty much a pile of dreck. Better luck this year! I'm betting on you! If I could.

3
by BigRichie :: Thu, 09/07/2017 - 7:53pm

Even uber-analytic types can't give up their biases, can they (we)? College QB after college QB plays himself out of the top-tier 1st Round NFL draft in his final college season, and 7 out of 9 again pick a specific QB to go first next year. If there's no clear alpha QB and Arden Key is clearly the best non-QB prospect, gotta go with him. Particularly since a Cousins signing isn't the only way by which the bottommost feeder could nevertheless be happy with its QB. (Cleveland again goes 3-13 as Myles pulls a Clowney, while being happy with the potential Kizer shows; Indy collapses as Luck never gets fully healthy; some team with aspirations like Detroit or Baltimore or Cincy nevertheless due to bad injury luck finds itself at 3-8 come Thanksgiving, and then mails in the remainder of the season)

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by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 09/07/2017 - 8:40pm

Speaking only for myself: I can only name, like, five college players. So if I think a team is going to take a QB, I look up the most hyped QB. If I think a team is going to take a pass-rusher, I look up the mosty hyped pass-rusher. I had never heard of Arden Key until writing that paragraph.

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by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 09/07/2017 - 10:11pm

It's entirely possible that the first pick isn't a quarterback, but it isn't that likely; if the Browns are happy with Kizer, they would entertain offers to move down. Same with the other teams you mentioned. While Key is a great prospect, he did leave campus for an unknown reason this past year (he's back, so don't freak out). Personally I like Mike McGlinchey from Notre Dame; I was watching video of an sleeper pass rusher from Kansas (Dorance Armstrong), and started watching the end from the other side because it was obvious Armstrong couldn't do anything against McGlinchey at all.

There are several senior quarterbacks who will get drafted high next year: Mason Rudolph from OK State, Luke Falk from Washington State, among others. Baker Mayfield will possibly break Qbase if this site does the calculations on him; most scouts have him going in the fourth round or later. Darnold, Rosen, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen are usually pegged as top ten quarterback picks in the draft if they come out; Rosen and Darnold have the stats to back that up right now, Jackson and Allen not so much. There also is Brett Rypien at Boise State, who is a junior, and Logan Woodside at Toledo, a senior. Overall, I would argue next year could end up being a huge year for quarterbacks in the draft.

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by Dan :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 7:33am

A QB goes #1 more than half the time, and I bet it will happen again this year. Darnold is the best one-year-away QB prospect since Jameis Winston, in my opinion (and #4 behind Luck, Bradford, and Winston, if you go back farther). The reason for the debate about the best QB prospect is that there are multiple very good ones (unlike a year ago, when the debate about the best QB happened because there weren't any really good QB prospects).

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by Rivers McCown :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:25pm

I picked Myles Garrett before last season. I just don't think that highly of the Jets front office, is the real sticking point.

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by oaktoon :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:43am

Vince Verhei-- Pretend you never typed any of those words about the Chiefs.. Though the Berry injury is very problemmatic... but either Belichick has the worst defense in 20 years of coaching or that offense is very dynamic and could cause some serious waves throughout the AFC...

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by theslothook :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:58am

Or it's week one and strange things happen

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by Vincent Verhei :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:23am

Ha ha ha! I fooled everyone! I said Kansas City would be bad and you all believed me! Oh, what a great joke that was! Ha ha!

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by t.d. :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 3:01am

One of these years, the AFC South will turn the corner, like the NFC West and the AFC West before them. Still think Jacksonville is a year (and a new quarterback, unless they sign Kaep) away from turning the corner from dumpster fire to frisky, but, assuming Luck plays 12 games or more, the other three should be decent. Houston is adding Watson and Watt to last year's team, and Tennessee was close to decent last year. Indy is still Luck and not much else, but that could be enough to be ok.

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by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 8:45am

Looking at those Super Bowl picks, it's really telling, huh?

It's mostly NE vs SEA or ATL, or PIT vs SEA or GB.

All of those SBs have already happened -- the only permutation is PIT vs SEA was the Hasselbeck version.

The only one we haven't seen is NE vs GB, and even that happened as recently as 1997.

Is it just me, or is the NFL starting to resemble the NBA, where you can pretty much call the conference finals before the season starts?

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by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 9:51am

I don't think many predicted ATL to be a Final-4 team last year. And we were a few miracle Rodgers plays away from it being ATL @ DAL for the NFC Championship Game.

The year before, we had an NFC Title Game with two incredibly strong teams with 13-3 ARZ @ 15-1 CAR. Both missed the playoffs the next year.

The AFC is fairly easy, with NE you're very likely 50% of the way there, but the NFC is still more up and down that people realize.

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by dank067 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:27am

It's the AFC's fault! In the past 14 years only 5/16 AFC teams have appeared in the Super Bowl, all of whom but Baltimore have appeared multiple times in that span. It's an arbitrary endpoint to stop before reaching 2002, but 14 years is still a long time. You could also consolidate the Colts and Broncos into "Peyton Manning's team" and now it's only 4.

Meanwhile the NFC has had 10 teams make the Super Bowl in that time. Only Carolina, the Giants, and Seattle have made multiple appearances, with the Panthers and Seahawks splitting appearances between completely separate eras of the team.

Inevitably this will change with Brady and Roethlisberger reaching the end of their careers, but it is interesting how much more consistently dominant the major players of the AFC have been compared to the NFC.

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by Jetspete :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:39pm

2002 isn't really arbitrary, it was the year of realignment and not far from when the league implemented overly friendly rules for the quarterback. It makes sense under those conditions that in a conference with 3 hall of fame quarterbacks, one of the three would win virtually every year. The NFC hasn't had that type of QB dominance.

Injury luck also played a major role in top heavy dominance. Pennington, Palmer, Matt Schaub and to an extent McNair could've challenged for a title, but their careers at the time were derailed by injuries. Rivers and more recently Luck have been derailed by idiot coaching.

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by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 3:33pm

I looked at this recently. Here's a summary of QB top 10 finishes in passing DVOA by division since 2006: https://twitter.com/FO_ScottKacsmar/status/888843725547474949

Going back to 2002, AFC East has been absolutely dominated at QB by Brady. Roethlisberger has basically been the North's best QB since he was drafted, save for a couple of Palmer seasons. Colts had Peyton and continued it with Luck in his first three years. Only in the West have we seen some shifts of QB power and different reigns. Trent Green was really good for KC in 2002-05. Brees broke out in 04 for SD, and Rivers carried that thru 2011 before Peyton joined the division in 2012. Now it might be Carr's division, but we'll see.

When you look at the NFC, you see a lot more runs of QB success across each division. In the East, the Cowboys are following up Romo with Dak, the Eagles had McNabb and one huge year from each Vick (2010) and Foles (2013), RG3's rookie year and Cousins the last two years, and Eli is Eli, which is still better than most AFC QBs. The West has had teams with multiple runs, including Seattle (Hasselbeck/Wilson) and Arizona (Warner/Palmer). The Rams really haven't had anything good since Bulger (2002-2006), and the 49ers only had the Harbaugh years that worked with Smith/Kap (2011-2014). The North has largely been dominated by GB (Favre/Rodgers), but at least Stafford and Cutler were competent for their teams (especially compared to historic DET/CHI QBs), and MIN had that one huge year from Favre (2009). The NFC South has two MVP QBs, and neither is Drew Brees if you can believe it. He has to deal with good years from Cam and Ryan often, and now Winston might be a good one.

So yeah, I think this has a lot to do with why the NFC has so many different teams show up in championship games and SBs, while the AFC is basically Brady, Ben, Manning's team and the occasional BAL year.

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by cstoos :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 9:16am

Vince's blurb on the Chiefs falling short of DVOA was almost all demolished in a single game last night. Not saying they won't, but the parts he highlighted....gold.