2022 Staff Picks: Faith in Matt Ryan and the Colts

Indianapolis Colts QB Matt Ryan
Indianapolis Colts QB Matt Ryan
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 1 - Compiled by Vincent Verhei

Somebody has to win the AFC South, and a lot of our writers think it's going to be the Indianapolis Colts. There's plenty of disagreement there, however. In fact, there's disagreement throughout our staff predictions. We have always said that Football Outsiders is a collection of individuals with diverse opinions, not a hivemind, and that has never been more true than this season.

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 17-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 Buffalo Bills have the best chance of any team in the NFL to play in the Super Bowl. Let's say we think they'll get there 20% of the time, which are roughly the odds based on our most recent simulation (The exact odds are 21.6%.) Imagine then that 15 other teams in the AFC each have a 5% or 6% chance to reach the Super Bowl.

OK, so we pick Buffalo to win the AFC. Even based solely on this opinion, there is an eight-out-of-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 14 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 with our 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 2023 NFL draft?" 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: Buffalo, Baltimore, L.A. Chargers, Indianapolis
AFC wild cards: Kansas City, Cincinnati, Las Vegas
NFC divisions: L.A. Rams, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Green Bay
NFC wild cards: New Orleans, Minnesota, Dallas
Super Bowl: Buffalo over Philadelphia
First Pick in the Draft: New York Giants

"Officially," we are projecting three new playoff teams in the AFC, with the Ravens, Chargers, and Colts replacing the Titans, Patriots, and Steelers. We see two new NFC clubs in the postseason, with New Orleans and Minnesota getting wild-card berths instead of San Francisco and Arizona.

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."

As noted earlier, there was plenty of dissension among our herd this year. We had 15 different writers making predictions, and they selected:

  • nine different teams to beat their FOA 2022 projections;
  • 10 different teams to fall short of their FOA 2022 projections;
  • 12 different teams with a player to beat his KUBIAK projection;
  • 12 different teams with a player to fall short of his KUBIAK projection;
  • five different teams to win the AFC;
  • five different teams to win the NFC;
  • six different teams to win the Super Bowl;
  • and seven different teams to finish with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft.

This may be a function of our abnormally condensed projections this year—the gap between the best and worst teams in our forecast is much smaller than usual. It may be random chance. Or it may be a sign that trying to make predictions after an unprecedented offseason in terms of player movement is a fool's errand. Regardless, it's a lot more fun than reading "I'm picking Kansas City because Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes" a dozen times in a row.

So here they are: your 2022 staff predictions.

Note: Listed ranks for the DVOA projections may be slightly off if they are based on the projections in the book instead of the updated projections published on Wednesday.

TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT ITS FOA 2022 PROJECTION

Thomas Bassinger: Carolina Panthers. We see it every season: A team that finished in last place the previous year vaults into the playoffs the next season. The Ravens are a good bet to be one of those teams, and so are the Broncos. I think the Panthers have a shot, too, despite what our post-Almanac projections say (7.1 mean wins, 31st in total DVOA, 29th in offensive DVOA, and 23rd in defensive DVOA). Carolina had the worst pass offense in the league last season, but with a healthy Baker Mayfield under center and a healthy (for now) Christian McCaffrey in the backfield, that won't happen again. The pass offense should be at least average and has the potential to be more.

Dave Bernreuther: Indianapolis Colts. I will join the legions of online Colts fans in trolling Mike Tanier on this one, but I just don't see how a team that could have beaten anyone last year with Carson Wentz (on the right day, of course) doesn't get better after swapping him out for Matt Ryan, which was the quarterback move I was on board for last year too. No, Ryan has not played at an MVP level, and yes, some of Atlanta's comical red zone woes can be placed squarely on his shoulders, but I'm still solidly in the "Frank Reich will make a big difference" camp. If he could make Wentz a near-playoff quarterback, I see no reason to believe Reich can't make a former MVP a playoff quarterback again in a weak division. Even though they have to play the AFC West, even though I think it's foolish to expect the same level of production from Jonathan Taylor this year, and even though it's the Colts so you just know that some position group is going to end up decimated by injuries.

I don't think the Colts will win the division or advance to the Super Bowl in a stacked conference ... but I think they certainly could. And I don't see any reason at all that their DVOA should be a negative reciprocal of the team I'm picking in the opposite of this category. They're not a favorite ... but I expect them to finish with a positive DVOA. They did last year, after all.

Cale Clinton: Indianapolis Colts. The AFC South might be the weakest division in football top-to-bottom, but I think Indianapolis will earn their eventual division title. For a team that finished 13th in offensive DVOA in 2021, I think the upgrade from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan, aged as he may be, represents a material positive change for the Colts offense. The group of pass-catchers may not be the best in the NFL, but I think the likes of Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce are enough to allow the Colts offense to function at a respectable level. There is an exceptional level of turnover in the secondary, but the additions of Stephon Gilmore, Rodney McLeod, and Brandon Facyson—as well as Yannick Ngakoue in the front seven—should be enough to mitigate some of the drop in talent. Do I think Indy will be world-beaters? No, but the talent here is enough to keep the Colts from the fringe of a bottom-10 DVOA team this season.

Tom Gower: San Francisco 49ers. It's too easy to just list the teams at the top of the table because of the conservative nature of our projections. If I thought the Bills were going to go 15-2, I'd list them anyway, but ending up 12-5 would beat the FOA projection but just be a "normal" really good team record in a more aggressive projection. Instead, I'll go with San Francisco. They were sixth in DVOA last year playing through a ton of injuries. They almost made the Super Bowl! Yes, they might be really injured yet again, but Kyle Shanahan is still one of the best playcallers and designers in the league. Most importantly, bringing back Jimmy Garoppolo gives them a floor at quarterback they didn't have if Trey Lance struggles or is injured. The division isn't easy, but it's manageable. Double-digit wins.

Derrik Klassen: Indianapolis Colts. This year's projections have the Colts, Titans, and Texans back-to-back-to-back in projected wins, with the Colts finishing second among that group in overall DVOA. I, however, have a hard time seeing how the Colts don't run away with the division. The offense will be markedly better with Matt Ryan at quarterback, giving Frank Reich the freedom to open up his scheme in a way he hasn't been able to since Andrew Luck. Additionally, I don't find the loss of Matt Eberflus to be particularly damaging to the defense, and I'm not sure any of the offenses in the division pose a major threat to the Colts defense anyway.

Bryan Knowles: San Francisco 49ers. This is the third time in the last four seasons I've picked the 49ers, and so far, I'm 1-1. We'll go for the rubber match this year. Our offensive projections for the 49ers are middling because of the massive question mark at quarterback—no one really knows what to make of Trey Lance just yet, because he has barely seen the field in the last two years. If he's a decent fraction of what Kyle Shanahan and company believed him to be coming out of the draft, however, this could very easily be a top-10 offense; it just takes a leap of faith to get there. I'll take the leap. Our defensive projections also have the 49ers falling to 14th from seventh in 2021, and I think that if everyone stays healthy, the front seven is just too good to fall back to league average, questions about the secondary or not. I hate, hate, hate picking the 49ers because it feels like homerism, but well, here we are.

Rivers McCown: Tennessee Titans. I think somebody in this division has to win 10 games, especially given the amount of bad football contained therein. My eyes go to the team with the best quarterback in the division. (Someone says Trevor Lawrence's name and I shake my head politely, but firmly.) Let's try this again. My eyes go to the team with the best established quarterback in the division. (Someone says Matt Ryan's name and I point to Gus Bradley and mouth "nooooo!") No, never mind. My eyes go to the team that was the AFC's No. 1 seed last year, yet received zero respect.

I understand what I'm spitting into. The offensive line lost Rodger Saffold. The receiver room lost A.J. Brown and replaced him with a first-round pick who was running with the twos and threes for most of training camp. The divisional round flameout has left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. But at the end of the day: the team that won the AFC's No. 1 seed isn't much worse than they were last year—Brown was hurt a lot, and Derrick Henry missed most of the season. They still get six games against the same divisional opponents that I'm waiting to see real steps forward from. They have reliable quarterback play, anything they get from Henry (and I'd bet on them getting something from him) is a bonus, and they have the most trustworthy defense in the division in my opinion. I don't know that I'd throw money on them to win the AFC South straight up, but all I have to do to win is watch them go 8-9? I'll take that bet.

(Ed. Note: This was written before Harold Landry tore his ACL, but Rivers declined our offer to let him change his mind.)

Ian O'Connor: Minnesota Vikings. Kirk Cousins has the fifth-most touchdown passes since arriving in Minnesota in 2018, with 30-plus the last two seasons. Now he has a new, offense-minded head coach. Kevin O'Connell will take this offense to new heights, and the defense will return to the top 10. With the eighth-easiest projected schedule, I think Minnesota gets to double-digit wins. And as much as it pains me to say this, I think Minnesota wins the NFC North this year as well.

Andrew Potter: Indianapolis Colts. I can't stress enough how much I love the addition of Matt Ryan to an offense that has remained functional starting career backups (Jacoby Brissett), failed reclamation projects (Carson Wentz), and the reheated leftovers of once-franchise quarterbacks (Philip Rivers). Ryan may be on the downside of his career, but he remains far better than anything the Colts have had since Andrew Luck's abrupt retirement. The rest of the roster isn't quite where it was a couple of seasons ago when they made the playoffs with Rivers, but give these guys a top-12 quarterback and they're a postseason contender. Give them anything close to peak Ryan and they're a dark horse in a crowded, muddled AFC.

Aaron Schatz: Denver Broncos. I am the one who's been going on so many different podcasts and making the case for why the Denver Broncos defense was a statistical mirage last year, third in points allowed but 20th in yards per drive and defensive DVOA. And I think they lose something by losing Vic Fangio as head coach. But on the other hand, they are currently projected 29th in defense. They were 20th in defense last year, not 29th. So we have them getting worse. As long as Bradley Chubb or Randy Gregory can stay healthy all year -- especially if both of them can -- they should be as good as last year, if not better. Patrick Surtain should be even better, Justin Simmons is still stellar. The off-ball linebackers are unimpressive but that was the case with the Rams last year and how much does that matter in the current NFL? I also think the offensive projection is taking a little too much off for Tim Patrick given the quality of the receivers who are left without him. So I expect the Broncos to be slightly better than our projection on offense and at least average on defense. I think they should be the favorite for the last AFC wild card, not Las Vegas the way our numbers came out.

Tom Strachan: Indianapolis Colts. The AFC South feels ripe for a team to surpass expectations and perhaps I’m taking the easy option with the Colts, but our projections have the team at 7.9 and they surpassed that with 9 wins in 2021. Based on projected win totals Las Vegas seems to believe the Colts will be closer to 10 wins than 8. It’s hard to make an argument that the team has done anything but improve with Matt Ryan in the building and Michael Pittman primed to make the leap. Ryan might have been questionable at times during the 2021 campaign but he should be afforded more time this year with better offensive line play ahead of him. 

Mike Tanier: Cincinnati Bengals. We don't have many data points for a team that reached the Super Bowl and THEN fixed its offensive line. OK, maybe the 2020 Chiefs. That's one data point. Yes, the Bengals could improve markedly but still fall short of the Super Bowl this year. They still look like a 10- or 11-win team to me.

Vincent Verhei: Jacksonville Jaguars. Nowhere to go but up, right? I like Josh Allen and Travon Walker as bookend edge rushers. I like Christian Kirk leading a crew of actual wide receivers, not the parade of kick returners they were throwing out their last season. I like Trevor Lawrence to play more like he did at Clemson. But mostly, I like the addition by subtraction of Urban Meyer, The Worst NFL Coach Any of Us has Ever Seen.

Rob Weintraub: Indianapolis Colts. Matt Ryan has been unappreciated for virtually his entire career, starting for when he was attacked by Falcons fans for Not Being Mike Vick. Is Ryan an All-Pro at this stage of his career? Of course not. But the chasm between what he will bring to the Colts offense and what Carson Wentz took away from it in 2021 is vast. The name of the projection game is efficiency, and that's what Ryan will provide—unspectacular but quality play that will boost Indy in both the DVOA and the AFC South charts.

Carl Yedor: Buffalo Bills. This feels like cheating because our projections are inherently conservative, but the Bills had a compelling argument as the best team in football a year ago, and their divisional competition is not particularly impressive. While the Bills do have to play nine road games this season, included on that list of teams will be the Bears, Lions, and Jets. Buffalo reached the 11-win mark a year ago while going 0-5 in one-score games, and I like their chances to improve on that quite a bit.

TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF ITS FOA 2022 PROJECTION

Thomas Bassinger: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Total gut call here. I just don't like the energy around this team. Maybe Tom Brady can compartmentalize whatever it is that's going on in his personal life and be laser-focused on football the moment he steps onto the field. Maybe he doesn't need to practice at this stage of his career. But the vibe this offseason couldn't be more different from Brady's first with the Buccaneers, when he was leading teammates through workouts at a local high school. Plus, he'll be playing behind new interior offensive linemen. They upgraded at right guard (Shaq Mason), but left guard Ali Marpet retired and center Ryan Jensen suffered a knee injury during training camp and will start the season on injured reserve. I can see the Buccaneers getting back to the playoffs, but I don't think they're a Super Bowl contender anymore.

Dave Bernreuther: New Orleans Saints. I was tempted to take the Eagles here, because I know DVOA loves them and I'm not at all sold on Jalen Hurts or even Nick Sirianni, but that roster still feels better to me than the Dream Team of 2011 and thus unlikely to universally underwhelm. Ultimately, I think they're a solid bet to win the division even if Hurts does what I expect him to do (which is not much).

But the Saints? Sure, I appreciate their defense. But they lost a great offensive head coach and have a turnover-prone quarterback coming off an injury and minor question marks on their two best skill position guys. Maybe I'll be proven very, very wrong here, but I don't see this being a top-10 DVOA team at all. They won't go 4-13 or anything, but I can't imagine they'll be a serious playoff contender either. The vibes they give me are much more "any random decent Bears team from the last two decades" than "any random scary Ravens team from the last two decades." I view their upside as "thoroughly average."

Cale Clinton: Denver Broncos. There's just something about this Broncos team that doesn't align with the offseason hype. Russell Wilson is clearly motivated by his Seattle departure, and an upgrade of that magnitude in the most important position in football is certainly going to boost a team, but I think we may be a year early on the Broncos. The AFC West is a gauntlet, and Denver just has too many question marks for me to see them at what is essentially a coin flip's odds to make the playoffs. A first-year head coach and a quarterback in a new system don't typically bode well for success. Plus, if that defense is as close to as bad as we project, then I can't see Denver winning many of their in-division contests. The Broncos are clearly in this for the long haul, considering they handed Russ a bag without seeing him play a down of real football. I think Denver opened up their championship window for the next few years with the Russ deal, I just don't think they look like a contender in their first year.

Tom Gower: Chicago Bears. Again, it's too easy to list the teams at the bottom of the table because of the nature of our projections. A bit further up the table, my trust level in Carson Wentz and Jack Del Rio is basically nil, but Washington is already 29th in DVOA and the main reason they're not at the bottom of the projections is a soft schedule. That's fair. Next to them, though, is Chicago. The offensive line is a mess. The receivers may be even worse. The Lions are feisty. The Vikings are a reasonable bet to be a top-10 team, especially if Mike Zimmer's message had started wearing thin (and we're getting those articles this offseason). The Packers are the Packers. Matt Eberflus will probably go through some rookie head coach growing pains, and we have seen Justin Fields look bad in a bad environment. Robert Quinn had about as many sacks as hurries, so he's more likely to have eight sacks than 18.5 again (and, yeah, Khalil Mack is gone).

Derrik Klassen: Dallas Cowboys. I am a huge Dak Prescott guy, but everything about the Cowboys feels like it's built on shaky ground. For one, I don't trust Mike McCarthy whatsoever. Beyond that, the offense feels like it's one (more) injury away from serious concern, especially at wide receiver. I also think Dallas' defense falling only to sixth in DVOA this year is optimistic. Trevon Diggs' turnovers are likely to regress and the pass-rushing rotation should be worse without Randy Gregory. Dallas isn't a secretly bad team, but our total DVOA projections have them in the top eight this year, and they feel more like a 10th to 14th type team to me barring an impeccable bill of health.

Bryan Knowles: Jacksonville Jaguars. Congratulations on getting rid of Urban Meyer! You kept Trent Baalke, though, so the questions about your roster construction will remain—see the breaking of the receiver market with Christian Kirk for starters. We're all expecting Trevor Lawrence to take the next step forward and look like the once-in-a-generation prospect he was touted as, but I have questions if he's going to be able to do it behind an offensive line that both entered and exited the offseason with significant questions. Doug Pederson will provide this franchise with some much-needed stability, but it's going to take a few years to get through this Urban renewal.

Rivers McCown: Dallas Cowboys. As the writer of the Cowboys chapter in Football Outsiders Almanac 2022, I tried to focus my powers on explaining why the numbers were as good as they were last season, and tried to provide arguments for why they could stay that way. Now that it's September and I'm looking at Tyler Smith at left tackle, non-CeeDee Lamb receivers who aren't good, and just a general lack of investment in good backup plans, I'm worried.

Given how the projections played out this year, there aren't many of the highly ranked teams that I'm just dying to bet against. Dallas at 9.8 wins is not inconceivable to me in the slightest given their schedule. But we used the words "most likely" and given how to-the-mean everyone is this year, with nobody under 10.2 wins in the book, Dallas is the one team that stands out in that top tier as a team I have reservations about.

Ian O'Connor: Seattle Seahawks. There's really nothing I like about this year's Seahawks team. They go from Russell Wilson at quarterback to Geno Smith and Drew Lock, giving them the worst offensive projection in the league. The defense projects to be below average for the fifth straight year. Pete Carroll has been as conservative as they come on fourth downs, so don't expect any Dan Campbell-like risks to keep games close. With their usual six games against the 49ers, Cardinals, and Rams, road games against the Saints and Bucs (vs. Tampa Bay in Germany), plus four games against the loaded AFC West, I don't see the Seahawks reaching seven wins this season.

Andrew Potter: Dallas Cowboys. Something has to give in the NFC East, where the Eagles and Cowboys are neck-and-neck atop the division in our book projections. The loss of Tyron Smith always hurts their offense, and they won't get the same defensive performance they did last year. I don't think they'll be a bad team, but I don't trust the coaching staff to make the most of having the best quarterback in the division.

Aaron Schatz: Chicago Bears. The projection system likes the defense to rebound, but I don't see it with this personnel. They lost a few good players in the offseason -- Khalil Mack, obviously, and Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman -- and there are real questions about everything from the cornerbacks to edge rushers who aren't Robert Quinn. Not to mention Quinn isn't getting 18.5 sacks again.

Tom Strachan: Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps it’s the Jerry Jones effect, but the Cowboys have somewhat gone under the radar for how bad an offseason they’ve been having. They badly misjudged the wide receiver market when trading Amari Cooper to Cleveland, then failed to adequately replace him in the draft with Michael Gallup returning from a severe knee injury. Most recently though, and potentially even more impactful is the loss of Tyron Smith to a severe hamstring injury that shall sideline him till deep into the season. Year after year it seems the Cowboys' success is tied to the health of the offensive line and 9.8 wins feels a touch too high, even if they do get to play in the NFC East.

Mike Tanier: New Orleans Saints. Yes, I remain a huge Saints skeptic. I know their schedule is favorable. I know their defense is a DVOA darling. The egg-on-my-face possibility for this pick is high, but so is the possibility that too many key players get old and the left tackle problem creates the latest excuse for a 25-turnover Jameis Winston season.

Vincent Verhei: Las Vegas Raiders. They overpaid for Chandler Jones, who might not even match what Yannick Ngakoue did last year. The offensive line and secondary seem pretty dreadful. The fantasy players look great—Davante Adams could be the NFL's WR1 again—but they might need to score 30 points a game to win. Clearly, to me, the worst team in the AFC West.

Rob Weintraub: Buffalo Bills. Part of that is a kneejerk response to everyone and his uncle giving the Bills the Super Bowl and a crack at an undefeated season. Sure, the team is good, but "five percentage points of DVOA better than the next best team in the NFL" good? I also don't believe the AFC East will be as weak as it was when the Pats were winning the division every season. The defense won't be nearly as strong as it appeared a year ago, despite whatever Von MIller brings to the table. The Bills will be a playoff team but not DVOA champs—jump through that table, Buffalo fans!

Carl Yedor: Pittsburgh Steelers. Kenny Pickett, the most "pro-ready" quarterback prospect of this year's draft class, was not able to beat out Mitchell Trubisky, fresh off a one-year image rehabilitation stint in Buffalo where he rarely saw the field, for the starting job. The offensive line has major question marks, and the defensive front isn't getting any younger. Pittsburgh has a nice wide receiver corps, but the team could easily faceplant because of the lack of reliable quarterback play.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT HIS KUBIAK PROJECTION

Thomas Bassinger: Derek Carr, QB, LV. He's a different quarterback than he used to be and now has the best supporting cast of his career. His average depth of target has jumped from 6.8 yards in 2019 (32nd) to 8.6 in 2021 (sixth). With Davante Adams in the fold, I don't see that changing. And while Carr might not throw as many passes as he did last season, he's still going to have to throw a lot to keep up with the other gunslingers in the AFC Wild, Wild West. I can see him reaching 30 touchdown passes for the first time since 2015.

Dave Bernreuther: J.K. Dobbins, RB, BAL. He may not actually be the *most* likely to beat his projection, but if I'm trying to challenge myself, taking a top-30 player at the position coming off an injury seems like there's at least some degree of difficulty. KUBIAK sees Dobbins as posting lower totals this season than he did as a rookie, and even factoring in the injury and the typical Ravens' running back rotation, I just don't see how he doesn't beat that. It's not a contrarian pick to assume that the Ravens will get better this year since they presumably won't lose half the offense to injury again, but I'm a little surprised that Dobbins' projections aren't about 20% higher.

Cale Clinton: Gabriel Davis, WR, BUF. If Buffalo fans can forget about the last 13 seconds of the divisional round for just a moment, the biggest takeaway of that game should have been that Gabriel Davis is the truth. Catching eight passes on 10 targets for 201 yards and four touchdowns was enough of a vote of confidence for Buffalo to not bring in a second receiver alongside Stefon Diggs, instead letting Davis take that WR2 spot. If Buffalo is as good as we have all predicted, Davis is going to need to take on a considerably bigger workload to keep this Bills offense humming. Just looking at our KUBIAK projections—there are eight teams with at least two wide receivers in the top 30. With Buffalo's passing volume alone, I think Davis elevates himself enough to join Diggs as the ninth duo in that category.

Tom Gower: Elijah Mitchell, RB, SF. If the 49ers are better than we think they might be, and Deebo Samuel is less of a running back than we think he might be, those touchdowns are going someplace else. Mitchell might be the beneficiary of that, especially if they end up playing Jimmy Garoppolo.

Derrik Klassen: Geno Smith, QB, SEA. No, Geno Smith is not going to be good. He can be fine, though, especially considering he is throwing to two bona fide stud receivers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, not to mention new tight end Noah Fant. Smith has a tendency to hold the ball for too long and perhaps test windows he shouldn't, but with Metcalf as a ball-winner, Lockett as a field-stretcher, and Fant as a YAC threat, it's not that outlandish to see how Smith uses his proficient accuracy to put together a respectable season. Smith is projected as QB28 per KUBIAK, but he very well could finish above a handful of guys ahead of him, including Carson Wentz, Daniel Jones, and Davis Mills.

Bryan Knowles: J.D. McKissic, RB, WAS. Trying to project the Commanders backfield is an exercise in frustration, for sure, with Ron Rivera being frustratingly vague about Antonio Gibson, Brian Robinson, and McKissic. We have McKissic somewhere around RB54, depending on your settings, but I think he's going to get more value than that, at least in PPR leagues. Few backs in the league receive more targets from wideout positions than McKissic, who tends to come in for Gibson any time Washington needs to pass—and I expect them to need to pass a lot. Stay far, far away from McKissic in non-PPR formats, but I think he'll be flex-worthy in leagues where catching passes matters.

Rivers McCown: Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, NE. I'm a huge fan of Damian Harris, but the way I see this playing out is that Stevenson eventually becomes the lead back. Harris will have his series, as he did last year. But with Ty Montgomery hurt, J.J. Taylor cut, and the only real passing-down back around being rookie Pierre Strong, I like Stevenson to eventually take over the third-down back role. And once he's getting series to himself and third-down snaps to himself, well, he's going to be an extremely valuable fantasy back almost by default. If the Patriots happen to have a good offense, great. If they don't, well, that almost benefits Stevenson staying on the field more if my read of the situation is correct. Let it burn, Matt Patricia.

Ian O'Connor: Courtland Sutton, WR, DEN. I'm all aboard the Courtland Sutton train this year. He had the third-highest average depth of target last year, almost a full yard higher than Tyler Lockett in ninth place. Not only will he be Russell Wilson's new deep target, I think he'll be Wilson's go-to guy in the red zone. It'll be a career year for Sutton, who will notch his second 1,000-yard season and first double-digit touchdown campaign.

Andrew Potter: DJ Chark, WR, DET. Chark is a legitimately good wide receiver who has endured absolute dreck for quarterbacks throughout his professional career. Jared Goff isn't a world-beater, but neither is he Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew, or Mike Glennon. A healthy Chark is Detroit's best receiver, and though a healthy Chark is far from guaranteed, staying on the field should be enough for him to exceed the WR58 projection we have for him in KUBIAK.

Aaron Schatz: Trevor Lawrence, QB, JAX. I keep talking about my "subjective case for Jacksonville," which is primarily based on the idea that Urban Meyer was a uniquely poor head coach and Lawrence is still the stud prospect we thought he was a year ago. So I expect good numbers from Lawrence this season, especially with Doug Pederson's pass-heavy playcalling.

Tom Strachan: Trey Lance, QB, SF. The KUBIAK projections aren’t kind to Trey Lance but I’ve got to believe in his upside. There is nobody I’m more aligned with in fantasy football this year and it just feels too crazy that Lance’s rushing floor and big arm can’t come good with Kyle Shanahan calling the plays. The Niners defense is good enough to keep the team in games even when Lance experiences hiccups and I’m confident he’ll end the year with the public having a lot more faith in him.

Mike Tanier: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, MIA. He's gonna crack that projection just on shovel passes to Tyreek.

Vincent Verhei: Trevor Lawrence, QB, JAX. Like I said, I'm high on the Jaguars. We have Lawrence 15th among quarterbacks, but that feels like a non-injury worst-case scenario. I think it's more likely he falls in the eight to 12 range as a low-end fantasy starter.

Rob Weintraub: Lamar Jackson, QB, BAL. Jackson has struggled in his advanced stats over the last two seasons, but the return of Ronnie Stanley and J.K. Dobbins should unburden his load tremendously in 2022. Meanwhile, his unresolved contractual status just screams "Lamar bet on himself ... and won!!!" takes from across the worshipful NFL media landscape. His weaponry on the perimeter may not be state of the art, but Rashod Bateman will emerge as a reliable enough target to boost Lamar's numbers beyond his (already pretty damn good) predicted baseline counting stats. His only drawback is the defenses he will face on six occasions in the AFC North, but if Jackson is worth the bag he will find a way to overcome them.

Carl Yedor: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, KC. If Smith-Schuster stays healthy for most of the season, he should beat his projection (74-771-5.7). The former Steelers wideout should get the best quarterback play of his career with Patrick Mahomes and has the chance to be the top wide receiver for an up-tempo Chiefs passing attack. The only time in his career that Smith-Schuster fell short of these marks while playing at least 12 games came when he was catching passes from Mason Rudolph and the legendary Duck Hodges. Take the over.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF HIS KUBIAK PROJECTION

(Ed. Note: There has been an error that artificially lifted Julio Jones' numbers in the KUBIAK app for the last few days. That will be fixed soon, and none of us picked Jones for this category based on that incorrect projection.)

Thomas Bassinger: Leonard Fournette, RB, TB. Fournette had a career season in 2021, posting new highs in rushing DYAR (second among running backs), rushing DVOA (fifth), and receiving DYAR (sixth). Our KUBIAK projection doesn't see him matching that efficiency, but it has him gaining 1,300 yards from scrimmage, more than last season and most since 2019. If he does meet that projection, it would be the first time he gained 1,000 yards from scrimmage in consecutive seasons. It's certainly possible that he's a great scheme fit in Tampa Bay, but I'm skeptical that he and the Buccaneers can sustain that level of production.

Dave Bernreuther: Tyreek Hill, WR, MIA. This one feels a little too obvious to me. Even if Tua Tagovailoa doesn't get him killed with a poorly placed pass—which I think is very possible—I think Mike McDaniel's history shows us that the Dolphins offense isn't just going to run through one player, so the fantasy points really should end up getting spread around enough that we're unlikely to see peak Tyreek output. (Mostly, though, I think that Tua isn't very good and is still going to end up making Hill regret going to Miami by about Week 4.)

Cale Clinton: Derrick Henry, RB, TEN. I think Henry's days as a guaranteed top-10 fantasy running back are behind him. Henry turns 29 this season. He's also coming off a Jones fracture, an injury almost exclusively caused from increased training and pressure on your feet. Yes, he made a valiant return for the Titans' playoff game against Cincinnati, but I worry that statline of 20 attempts for 62 yards is a harbinger of things to come. The unstoppable force of Henry's 6-foot-3, 250-pound frame hurdling at you doesn't seem like it's sustainable with this much wear on the body. Henry is also sparingly used in the passing game, which limits his ability to generate points elsewhere if his effectiveness between the tackles wanes. On top of all that, the way defenses approach the Titans changes drastically without A.J. Brown. Through the first few weeks of the season, I wouldn't be surprised if the Titans see the highest rate of eight-plus defenders in the box, begging the Titans to win with Ryan Tannehill, Treylon Burks, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. Time and scheme are both colluding to stack the decks against Derrick Henry.

Tom Gower: AJ Dillon, RB, GB. The appeal of Dillon is obvious—moved into an even split with Aaron Jones, plays on a good offense, has the size to be an effective runner in inclement weather, and a ludicrously good 63% success rate. But despite that he finished just 15th in DVOA thanks to a lack of long runs—he had one of the worst open fields yard per carry numbers, and the only backs behind him were old or washed up. You can be a hyper-successful running back this way—see Edgerrin James in Indianapolis—but that should put more than a bit of a damper on the Derrick Henry comparisons. And KUBIAK has him as a low-end RB2 in non-PPR, ahead of backs with much more reliable volume, and with Aaron Jones still highly ranked (RB10). Either the Packers are running the ball A TON this year, including at the goal line where they have long been an aggressive passing offense (probably too aggressive!), or Dillon and/or Jones are overrated.

Derrik Klassen: Leonard Fournette, RB, TB. The situation around Leonard Fournette could see him falling behind the other elite fantasy running backs at the top. The Bucs offensive line got worse this offseason, particularly along the interior. For a runner who makes his money between the tackles, primarily as a downhill runner on duo and gap runs, Fournette should feel the sting of losing interior talent. Additionally, the Bucs brought in Rachaad White via the draft. White won't take over the starting job, but he is a three-down player who can pass-protect and catch the ball effectively out of the backfield, something Fournette has done only by necessity rather than his receiving skills actually warranting it. It would not be surprising to see White eat away Fournette's snaps in situational spots.

Bryan Knowles: Devin Singletary, RB, BUF. Our projections have a pretty clear hierarchy in Buffalo's backfield—Singletary getting about half of the touches, James Cook getting about a quarter, and Zack Moss getting the majority of the slop behind them. If that holds true, our projections for Singletary (RB24 or so, depending on your league) should be just about right. Trouble is, I don't believe Singletary will get over half the touches in a backfield that is terrible for fantasy purposes. I think Cook is going to be a major contributor by the end of the season as he becomes more comfortable in pass protection, and the Bills seem determined to keep making Moss a thing. Buffalo's backfield is such a quagmire that I'm not touching Singletary in any sort of PPR format, though you could talk me into him if he slips in non-PPR leagues.

Rivers McCown: Travis Kelce, TE, KC. I'm just having a hard time believing that he can continue to handle the workload that he has at age 33. There was already some fall-off last year. Now the Chiefs have invested in new wideouts such as Skyy Moore, JuJu Smith-Schuster (who also sees the middle-of-the-field targets) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Almost everything that Patrick Mahomes has mentioned this year when asked about the offense has been about spreading the ball around more. I don't think Kelce is going to be a bad fantasy player, certainly, but I see him as more likely to be part of the top-tier pack than a stand-alone, easy TE1 like he is in KUBIAK's most recent update.

Ian O'Connor: Josh Jacobs, RB, LV. I don't expect Jacobs to catch 50-plus balls again with Ameer Abdullah and Brandon Bolden in the fold. And with Davante Adams in town, plus Hunter Renfrow and a healthy Darren Waller, I'd also expect Jacobs to lose some red zone touches. Jacobs may not lose a lot of early-down work to Day 3 rookie Zamir White (at least early on), but I see too much working against him to live up to his top-20 running back projection.

Andrew Potter: DK Metcalf, WR SEA. This says absolutely nothing about Metcalf's ability and everything about the difference between Russell Wilson and whatever combination of Geno Smith and Drew Lock ends up starting most of the year for Seattle. Metcalf is still good enough to get his points, but this is an offense that was already too run-heavy, downgrading massively at quarterback in a tough division. A top-20 season is a tall order in those circumstances, even for a player as good as Metcalf.

Aaron Schatz: Dalton Schultz, TE, DAL. Schultz's numbers last year (808 yards, 8 touchdowns) scream career year, and I think that with Tyron Smith injured the Cowboys are going to have to leave tight ends in to block a lot more often than they would like.

Tom Strachan: Brandin Cooks, WR, HOU. Cooks is ranked 15th in KUBIAK projections at wide receiver and that’s a touch higher than I’d be willing to go. The Texans have built a reasonable set of above-average weapons around Davis Mills and I fancy Brevin Jordan and Nico Collins to both take enough of a jump that they eat into Cooks’ production.

Mike Tanier: Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR. Lotta fantasy owners are gonna be cursing their decision to draft an ever-injured running back on a bad team first overall once CMC follows up lots of 15-45-0/7-43-0 stat lines with an October hamstring injury that turns the rest of the year into bean dip.

Vincent Verhei: Tom Brady, QB, TB. Seven years in a row now. Once you pick a guy specifically because he is old, you're pretty much stuck picking him until he retires. Brady turned 45 in August. Per Stathead, there have been two—TWO!—touchdown passes in the history of the NFL ever thrown by anyone so old (both by George Blanda, one in 1972, one in 1974). Someday, this man will decline.

Rob Weintraub: Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR. It's not McCaffrey's fault, but the years of injuries and overuse appear to be catching up to him. So what better situation to be in than being relied upon to lighten the load for the team's new quarterback? Carolina would like to emulate Baker Mayfield's best moments in Cleveland, when the Browns rode Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and Mayfield drafted off the running game to decency. However, McCaffrey isn't Chubb, there is no backup of Hunt's quality to help him, and the Panthers offensive line is a far cry from the Browns version. It is building up toward another limpy season for Christian—hopefully not anything that keeps him out long-term—and with defenses keying on him from the opening kickoff (against Cleveland, ironically), 2022 feels like a season that becomes McCaffrey's crossroads moment in Charlotte.

Carl Yedor: Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND. Taylor was a stud a year ago, but with more reliable quarterback play likely coming from Matt Ryan this season, the Colts ought to be more willing to air it out in neutral game scripts. The coaching staff spent the offseason raving about what fellow running back Nyheim Hines can offer as a receiving threat, so the team will not need to lean on Taylor nearly as much. This has nothing to do with his ability as a player; it's purely a situation where the team does not need to rely on pounding the rock with him down after down.

SUPER BOWL LVII WINNER AND LOSER

Thomas Bassinger: Green Bay Packers over Los Angeles Chargers. While I think the Eagles are one of the deepest teams in the NFL, the Packers also have a strong roster and have the thing Philadelphia does not: a first-ballot Hall of Famer at quarterback. All that hand-wringing over Aaron Rodgers' receiving corps? By season's end, it'll seem ridiculous. Over in the AFC, I expect Justin Herbert to continue his ascent and for defensive additions J.C. Jackson and Khalil Mack to push the Chargers over the playoff hump and into the Super Bowl picture.

Dave Bernreuther: Baltimore Ravens over San Francisco 49ers. Throwing darts here, but a 10-year anniversary rematch somehow doesn't feel all that far-fetched to me at all. It's certainly not sexy, but the 49ers coming close every year even with a quarterback they were desperate to replace has a certain L.A. Rams feel to it, and I'm as high on the Ravens as DVOA is. If their luck evens out and the three teams ahead of them get a tad unlucky—which is not a reach, seeing as how one of those teams is the Chargers—it is not a stretch at all to see the Ravens sneaking through that wild AFC field with the potential benefit of the bye if the Bills slip and the West teams beat the crap out of each other. There's no doubt in my mind that the Bills are better, top-to-bottom, but my 1990s Upstate New York upbringing still has my brain poisoned to expect that something bad will happen to them again this year.

Cale Clinton: The Buffalo Bills over the Los Angeles Rams. A work of scheduling magic, book-ending the season with this matchup.

Tom Gower: Buffalo Bills over Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Derrik Klassen: Kansas City Chiefs over Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If I wanted to be as dull as possible, I would have taken the Bills instead of the Chiefs here and rolled with the chalk, but I will instead take the brave stance of betting on Andy Reid and a ticked-off Patrick Mahomes. The offense will figure itself out despite losing Tyreek Hill and the defense has a lot of young talent that could make a major impact if things break right.

Bryan Knowles: The Buffalo Bills defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, as I have begun to drink the Football Outsiders Almanac 2022 Kool-Aid when it comes to Philadelphia.

Rivers McCown: The Los Angeles Chargers beat the San Francisco 49ers despite a heavy home crowd advantage in that one of these teams has fans.

Ian O'Connor: Green Bay Packers over Los Angeles Chargers. I'm going against the favorites and making a homer pick. I think the Packers defense jumps into the elite tier this season and takes some of the pressure off the young receivers. Like Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in 2020, Aaron Rodgers and the offense get clicking after their Week 14 bye (the season's last bye week) and make a run as a wild-card team. Meanwhile, the Chargers beat Buffalo in the AFC Championship Game in another heartbreaker for the Bills. We're treated to another Super Bowl matchup between one of the old guys vs. one of the young guns.

Andrew Potter: Denver Broncos over Los Angeles Rams. I don't want to go for the obvious Bills pick, so let's have a surprise emerge from the tightest division in the AFC to overthrow the defending champs.

Aaron Schatz: Buffalo Bills over Philadelphia Eagles. That schedule is getting the Eagles the No. 1 seed, kids. Come join me on the bandwagon.

Tom Strachan: Baltimore Ravens over Philadelphia Eagles. I can’t pass on the idea of the two best dual-threat quarterbacks in the league facing off against each other in the Superbowl. Ravens win it with a Justin Tucker 55-yard bomb.

Mike Tanier: Buffalo Bills over Los Angeles Rams. Chalkzilla, baby.

Vincent Verhei: Buffalo Bills over Green Bay Packers. This comes down to "Which AFC team beats which NFC team?" The Bills have the clearest path to home-field advantage of any of the prominent AFC contenders, which makes them the favorites to win the Super Bowl. The NFC is much trickier—all I see are question marks everywhere. I love what Philadelphia has done, I think they had the best offseason of any team in the league, but I can't talk myself into picking them here. I'll take the Packers and their four-time MVP quarterback.

Rob Weintraub: Green Bay Packers over Kansas City Chiefs.

Carl Yedor: Buffalo Bills defeat Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nothing fancy here, but these two teams have pretty clear paths to winning their respective divisions and enough talent on the roster (particularly at quarterback) to make it happen. Josh Allen did everything he could a year ago in defeat against the Chiefs in the playoffs; somehow it seems like another level is possible. Tom Brady will eventually fall off or retire, but I won't be the one predicting that it will happen in the moment.

WITH THE FIRST PICK IN THE 2023 NFL DRAFT, [TEAM] SELECTS [PLAYER]

Thomas Bassinger: The New York Giants select C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State. The Giants aren't good, and they have been brutally honest about that. Case in point: "We're just trying to get through today," general manager Joe Schoen told reporters last week. "The situation's the situation. It's the hand we were dealt, and we're going to do the best we can with what we have."

Dave Bernreuther: The Seattle Seahawks select Bryce Young, QB, Alabama. With apologies to Vince, I don't see how this team wins more than a few games against that schedule and having dumped their best player. Unlike the Washington and New York, the worst teams in the NFC East, they don't get the benefit of two easy games inside the division. I think Seattle will quickly see the error of their ways and then compensate by overdrafting another short quarterback prospect. That said, Pete Carroll is still good at a lot of things, whereas the situation in Carolina is just a trainwreck, so I would not be at all surprised to see the Panthers picking first (which is an outcome I suspect many will predict).

Cale Clinton: The New York Jets (trading up a few slots with the Chicago Bears) select Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia. If Zach Wilson flames out, this Jets roster is good enough to be in that "a quarterback away from relevancy" no-man's-land teams tend to find themselves in. I just worry the Jets may course-correct too hard, giving up on the risky, high-upside highlight machine in Wilson to then go for the proven, high-floor game manager in Bennett.

Tom Gower: The New York Jets select C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State. I feel better about Stroud going No. 1 (closer to prototype size than Bryce Young) than I do about the team. Carolina and Atlanta are in the same division. Ditto Washington and the Giants, who are candidates for a "maybe they just massively upgraded the coaching staff" bump. I guess I'll go with the Jets, who are the worst team in the division unless Bill Bellichick has decided to pull off a masterfully disguised tank job.

Derrik Klassen: The New York Jets select Will Anderson Jr., DE, Alabama. Truthfully, if the Jets are this bad, they will probably make a move at quarterback. However, given that Zach Wilson is only in his second season and will likely have a rough start to the year as he works back from a minor knee injury, it's not unreasonable to see the Jets give him one more chance and take a surefire star in the draft in Will Anderson. Anderson has an outrageous blend of explosiveness, strength, technique, and energy that will make him an impact starter right away in the NFL. For a franchise that has lacked star power off the edge for decades, securing someone like Anderson would be a godsend for New York.

Bryan Knowles: The Detroit Lions send their first-round pick, the extra first-rounder they got from the Rams from the Matthew Stafford trade, and some 2024 selections to Jacksonville, and they use the first pick to select C.J. Stroud, quarterback, Ohio State.

Rivers McCown: The Atlanta Falcons select C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State.

Ian O'Connor: The Seattle Seahawks select C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State. The Drew Lock/Geno Smith combo proves unsuccessful. Who could have seen that coming... As I mentioned earlier, the Seahawks have games against the 49ers (x2), Cardinals (x2), Rams (x2), Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders, Saints (at NO), and Buccaneers (in Germany). Seattle wins their fewest games since 1992 and makes the 2022 College Football Playoff champion their franchise icon.

Andrew Potter: Seattle Seahawks select the top quarterback—let's tie on the blindfold and stick a pin in Bryce Young, QB, Alabama. The Seahawks aren't the worst team in the league, but it's not entirely clear who is. Their division is a nightmare, and they also play the brutal AFC West and challenging NFC South. Young may be too close to a Russell Wilson comparison for comfort, but after this season, it could really be just about anybody who isn't Geno Smith or Drew Lock.

Aaron Schatz: The New York Giants select C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State. I know that a lot of people feel that the Giants can't possibly get the No. 1 pick with that schedule, but our projections for them are much lower than any other team, and I think the management of this team knows it is building for the future.

Tom Strachan: I’m too deep in the weeds of this NFL season to ever know too much about the upcoming class, but I’ll say the Atlanta Falcons have the number one overall pick, and choose a quarterback.

Mike Tanier: The Detroit Lions select Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia, so they can continue to build a tough-guy team with Jared Goff at quarterback. Who's trolling? I'm not trolling. YOU'RE TROLLING.

Vincent Verhei: The New York Giants select Bryce Young, QB, Alabama. The recovery from the disastrous Dave Gettleman era begins in earnest.

Rob Weintraub: The Chicago Bears select Will Anderson, DE, Alabama.

Carl Yedor: The New York Giants select C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State. New York is in the middle of a multi-year rebuild, and Daniel Jones has not shown enough to be considered a building block for the team moving forward. The new regime is not tied to Jones, and barring an unforeseen improvement in play, they should be looking to upgrade this offseason.

Comments

106 comments, Last at 12 Sep 2022, 6:05pm

1 Real monkey's paw situation…

Real monkey's paw situation here for the Birds. That said, even being in the SB means Hurts balled out this season and they can look at edge rushers and CBs in the draft.

8 It's worse than that: not…

It's worse than that: not one of them picked the Eagles as likely to fall short of their projection, which is way high. Their mean win total is 10.6 wins, around 1.5 wins over Vegas's prediction, which is pretty darn big. Dave nearly saved us, but instead went with the boring pick of the Saints. And even even worse, the most commonly picked team to fall short was the Dallas Cowboys. It's like Mike Tanier friggin' brainwashed everyone.

I mean, at the beginning of the offseason I felt like the opinion on the Eagles was "well, it's a make or break season for Hurts" and jeebers, now we're talking friggin' Super Bowl?

That being said, the Eagles are kinda treating it like an all-in year. I mean, it's Cox and Kelce's final year and next year is Hurts's contract year so maybe that's not entirely nuts.

12 What a difference a year…

What a difference a year makes. I know you heartily disagreed with my assertion that everyone was super down on Philly. Without rehashing that whole debate, just perusing last year's predictions; DVOA had the Eagles as the sixth worst team for 2021 and at least 2 of the writers predicted the Eagles would end up with the first overall pick(I think its implied that the pick was their own). On year laterm they are expected to win the divison and win the conference. At least 2 writers think they are going to be in the SB.

I understand the optimism somewhat, but just so much feels uncertain about this team. Just how good should we expect Hurts to be? How will the coaching staff handle loftier expectations? And just how good or bad is the division outside of the Giants being horrible. 

19 '21 Eagles predictions…

'21 Eagles predictions really have to be taken with a grain of salt because basically the "default" for "new coach hire" is he's bad, because most coaches are bad because that's how talent distribution works. If anyone could do it, they wouldn't get paid that much. Any time there's a coaching change to a brand new hire there's a lot of uncertainty in the prediction.

To be clear, I don't disagree that people were super down on Philly. Of course they were. What I said was that people were wrong to be down on them because if it surprised you how bad Philly was in 2020, it shouldn't surprise you when they were significantly better. The team didn't change much! Yeah, sure, they changed the QB but Wentz was like a part-time QB in Philly anyway. The best players from 2019 were still there!

And now again it feels like DVOA has an overly-reactive approach: they were good last year, they added a high-end talent at WR and spent a bunch on defense. Yeah, sure, but the best players on the team are older and Hurts (from a pure 'average QB development' standpoint) is close to maxed out.

Really the main reason for high expectations is the schedule. It's entirely possible that they might be favored in every game this year (Green Bay would be favored now, but that game is week 12 and at home). But of course "easy schedule" goes away the instant you hit the playoffs.

And just how good or bad is the division outside of the Giants being horrible. 

Washington's too well coached and Dallas is too well run to be totally horrible. Yes, I said Dallas is well run, I feel nauseous about it too, but they are. Both of them have fundamental issues that prevent them from being great teams.

21 I don't think Dallas is well…

I don't think Dallas is well run or well coached. This is a team that notoriously wastes talent/loses games they shouldn't. How many years did I watch a Romo led team with enough good players on defense to still finish 8-8 over and over? I was lower on Dak when he signed his contract. I have since changed my tune and think he's quite good, but the team to me is still very flawed.

People forget that before Dak hurt his leg in 2020, they were 2-3 and already looking like yet the latest iteration of the Dallas disappointments. 

24 Point of note: I did not say…

Point of note: I did not say Dallas was well coached. That's one of their flaws.

How many years did I watch a Romo led team with enough good players on defense to still finish 8-8 over and over?

Finishing 8-8 over and over is a sign of being well run. Do they waste talent and lose games they shouldn't? Absolutely. Like I said - they've got flaws that prevent them from being great (cough Jerry Jones's ego cough). Do they acquire and develop talent better than other teams? Also yup.

Dallas has a 0.560 won/loss record since Jerry Jones sucked up his pride and actually brought in someone on the coaching side who could help (Parcells in '03). They have 4 losing seasons in that entire stretch. They are absolutely a well run organization.

Now stop making me say good things about the Cowboys.

27 I think they've drafted well…

I think they've drafted well. So have the Chargers. I don't think that in of itself says anything about how well run they are. The Broncos were well run when they grabbed Peyton Manning; putting up 4 straight double digit win seasons and 4 top 2 seeds along with 2 SB appearances and 1 win. Manning retires and the team enters an extreme malaise. 

I definitely think given who they have had on those rosters that 8-8 is pretty unacceptable. You can blame that on the coaching, but that's not an accident. Jerry has always shot from the hip when it comes to who should be coaching this team. Also the insanity of having multiple different offensive play callers who all shared Jerry's unrelenting vote of confidence. 

I've said elsewhere, I would not be surprised if McCarthy gets fired first. 

33 I think they've drafted well…

I think they've drafted well. So have the Chargers. I don't think that in of itself says anything about how well run they are.

It's not drafting, they've been really good at talent acquisition in general. And I don't view drafting as the roll of the dice that you do.

The Broncos were well run when they grabbed Peyton Manning; putting up 4 straight double digit win seasons and 4 top 2 seeds along with 2 SB appearances and 1 win.

Prior to grabbing Manning the Broncos had 1 winning season in the past 6. They weren't well run when they grabbed Manning, Manning made them well run. Kubiak and Fox did nothing on the offensive side. Their offense was "whatever you want, Peyton."

Jerry has always shot from the hip when it comes to who should be coaching this team. 

This is exactly what I'm saying.

38 I have to agree with all of…

I have to agree with all of this. They draft well but Jerry & Sons have ways of sabotaging it.

Jerry has cultivated a country club culture that insulates his players and brainwashes them into thinking it's a privilege to play for his team. He treats his star players like his favorite sons (Zeke) and can't part with them. There's no real accountability, although parting ways with Cooper and La'el Collins points toward some positivity. He and Steven think "their guys" (draft picks) are better than anyone else's, and so they absolutely refuse to bring in higher priced free agents that could shore up a position of need. It's as if they think outside players from organizations will disrupt the JerryWorld culture that's been created. McCarthy is just a stop-gap, his real love is for Sean Payton because he started out on the Dallas coaching ranks, and Jerry would love to take credit for that.

He's also falsely optimistic and likes living in a world where the Cowboys have a shot to win it every year, and this optimism prevents him from facing the actual cancer that he's spread throughout the organization. He finally faced it with Jason Garrett, but by then Romo's career was over. The merry-go-round continues.

51 I... don't agree with a lot…

I... don't agree with a lot of this, despite more or less agreeing with the end conclusion.

He treats his star players like his favorite sons (Zeke) and can't part with them. There's no real accountability, although parting ways with Cooper and La'el Collins points toward some positivity.

This seems overly harsh - yeah Jerry/the Cowboys take care of "their guys", but at least to my view not in a way that's a major problem. Obviously the Zeke contract is big and a mistake, but he's also not out here wheeling people around in a wheelchair like Arthur Blank did. And cultivating an environment people want to come play seems like a positive thing? The Cowboys are an organization that likes to keep their own in the fold, but there's plenty of successful orgs who operate that way. And they've actually been one of the better teams at getting compensatory picks every year, so perhaps it's really more of a perception than reality.

He and Steven think "their guys" (draft picks) are better than anyone else's, and so they absolutely refuse to bring in higher priced free agents that could shore up a position of need. It's as if they think outside players from organizations will disrupt the JerryWorld culture that's been created.

I mean, this is just flat wrong. Terrell Owens and Amari Cooper were both big acquisitions, and while Cooper was a trade rather than a free agent they did then extend him. Right around the time I was really getting into following team building and the smaller details of everything, the Cowboys went out and by all accounts massively overpaid for Leonard Davis. Jones/the Cowboys were being ripped for trying to just throw money at players to fix their holes rather than do things the "right way" and develop from within, so this criticism just sounds really weird to me.

Now, I do ultimately agree that a) Jerry wants to have a hand in the Cowboys' success and b) he's always an optimist, often overly so. You can definitely trace a lot of the problems the Cowboys have had over the last 25 years to those two things, but I also think their impact has been often overstated. Would they be better with the same football organization but a different person at the top who was more hands off on coaching in particular? Sure, probably. Would a different person at the top have put together the same front office that has led them to be fairly successful overall, despite obviously falling short in the playoffs? Who knows. Jerry's kinda the owner version of the decent coach who you feel like is holding you back but still makes you nervous to fire them, because it's quite easy to imagine the next guy being worse.

53 I actually think Jerry's…

I actually think Jerry's biggest strength is that he *doesn't* hold on to players: he'll fawn over them when they're there and the instant they decline, they're gone (with a few exceptions). Maybe a year extra if the cap is involved (which is what's happening with Zeke).

Plus it's more just base football: he's had strong lines for a long time, and that's always a recipe for a high floor.

80 I may have gone overboard…

I may have gone overboard with the "favorite sons" take, obviously Dez was ejected pretty swiftly, but the Jaylon Smith payday is another example of Jones love going astray. I feel like Jaylon learned his salesmanship from Jerry and became a product/parody of the self promoting world of the Cowboys media landscape --he was more focused on his brand (hilariously called Clear Eye View), and doing  his signature swipe move for the cameras than he was in getting better, provided he even could get better with his injury which was supposedly fixed.

Owens was a while ago now, and my main problem with their free agent strategy is that it's extremely strict to the point of being limiting -- the only time they ever bring in a high probability potential impact player nowadays is when it's a last resort. Amari Cooper was a panic trade because Jerry thought rolling with Allen Hurns as the number one receiver was a decent idea. 

The idea of Jerry Jones controlling his coaches seems true because I've heard it so many times, but if I try to be dispassionate about it, it seems more like myth than fact. I don't think I've ever seen a real piece of evidence or testimony to suggest Jerry has told a coach how to do his job or demanded that certain players be started. Based on what I've read, it was Garrett who demanded higher draft picks in the O-line and the one who wanted to continue starting Dak when Romo was ready to play again in 2016. 

83 I don't think Jerry…

I don't think Jerry explicitly controls his coaches: I think it's implicit, because he's so impulsive/driven/confident in picking them. I can't really find the word: it's like he has an idea for what/who he wants, and goes and gets that person, and so they just keep playing to kind of the *idea*. In some sense it's like they're just stale: Jerry keeps hiring Similar Guys and the team ends up good, not great.

The McCarthy hire was so on brand, for instance.

91 I see the control, if there…

I see the control, if there is any, as more of a subtle undermining -- Jerry acts as if the players play for him, and not the coach he hires, despite how much he likes or pretends to like them. So it's difficult for the players to buy in fully or accept criticism from the coach because they know if Papa Jerry is happy, that's all that matters. Maybe the coaches appear as puppets to some players, even if Jerry doesn't actually pull the strings. Just the appearance can do the damage.

Do you think Payton would end up as a stale Similar Guy?

92 Yeah, I think that's a…

Yeah, I think that's a really good way to put it.

I think Payton is more like Parcells - he'd get fed up with the crap and retire again once friction develops. I can't see Payton being okay with Jerry speaking strongly about a player he's trying to drill sense into, for instance.

97 I think someone like…

I think someone like Parcells, who had the ultimate cache, still felt friction working under Jerrah. The TO fiasco in Dallas was multifaceted, but I think a big part of it was Jerry's insistence on acquiring Owens, who was definitely not a Parcels guy. I also think sending a first rounder Roy Williams was also a Jerry move. Jerry seems to have a fetish for wide receivers. 

Of course, Parcells retired thereafter and perhaps he simply grew tired of coaching in general. 

103 I remember the saints tried…

I remember the saints tried to get him back during bountygate but he turned them down. 

Jerry kinda reminds me of the old George Steinbrenner Yankee's. The difference being you can't just throw money at things as easily in the NFL.

32 Yeah, sure, but the best…

Yeah, sure, but the best players on the team are older

You can say this about any playoff caliber team.

Most of the offense is 25 or younger. Their oldest skill position player is 27. Last year they were an old team on defense, but this year their veteran additions on that side of the ball are 24, 26, 27, and 29. 

39 But that isn't really true…

But that isn't really true of the Eagles. Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Darius Slay are three of the five oldest Eagles and they're all coming off strong seasons. The other two are Fletcher Cox, who is in decline and Brandon Graham who is coming off an Achilles tear, but they weren't their best players last year. Everyone else that could be considered the Eagles best players are either in or not yet in their prime.

42 Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson…

Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Darius Slay are three of the five oldest Eagles and they're all coming off strong seasons. 

Yes, exactly, and by any reasonable aging curve, you would then expect their next season to be worse. That's my point. My baseline expectation of those 3 is not "same as last year."  They're way past that point (sadly), which seriously hurts to say.

72 I agree with you about the…

I agree with you about the Eagles. Last year it felt like people here were too low on them. This year it seems like the opposite. We'll have to see how Hurts develops, that's the key for them.

89 Yeah, it's like people don't…

Yeah, it's like people don't think about the team long-term and just look at last year. I mean, my opinion on Philly has changed very little over the past 3 years. That's why I look at people who say "wow, I was surprised at the Eagles flopping 2 years ago and then surprised by them again succeeding last year!" and I'm like "wuh? average = exactly where I thought they were."

But there's a difference between my future opinion of the team and my current opinion of the team. 

2 years ago when Philly drafted Reagor and Hurts I said WTF Roseman because they had friggin' 7 high-level talents they needed to replace in the next 2-3 years - Brooks, Cox, Graham, Kelce, Johnson, Peters/Jenkins (*), and Slay. Yes, I know they just got Slay in '20, he was a 29 year old CB, you're not getting more than 3 years out of him on average. Drafting Hurts was a luxury they couldn't afford then. The * on Peters/Jenkins was because they were obviously in the process of replacing them, but looking at things at a 2-3 year timescale you don't know if Dillard would work out (and... he didn't, at least not as a replacement for Peters) and they had nothin' for replacing Jenkins. 

So '20 went by, things went to hell and things only got worse because now QB was a possible need as well and you hadn't replaced any of those guys. So my opinion on the future of the team went down. But my current opinion of the team wasn't that different. Kelce, Johnson, Graham, Cox, and Slay were all extremely high end. They're still old. They still need to be replaced. Mailata/McLeod were kindof question marks but enough that you could punt that a year down and you still had Dillard, and Brooks was gone, but Brooks was the least-valuable guy in that list.

Then the '21 draft came and it's like OK, you need replacements for... everyone I said before except Peters/Jenkins (which, again, was in progress). And they friggin' go and draft another WR and a Brooks replacement, and I'm like WTF Roseman, you have so little time left on these guys. So my opinion long term on the team was very low, even though my current opinion didn't change, because, again, Kelce/Johnson/Graham/Cox/Slay. (I woudn't have drafted a WR, I would've just gone 2-TE heavy that year).

'21 goes by and the stars friggin' align, mostly everyone stays healthy and even though Cox declined, Slay played great, Kelce and Johnson balled out and DeVonta Smith has a great rookie year, Mailata is officially a Peters replacement, and Sweat might be a Graham replacement. McLeod actually plays great but eff, they let him go. Grrr.

Now in the '22 draft they finally grab a Cox and Kelce replacement plan. Those guys still need to work out, so that's like a 1 in 4 shot! Not super-convinced on Dickerson but again - guard. Still need a Slay and Johnson replacement and WTF at safety (but then Gardner-Johnson happened).

So again, my opinion on the team is pretty much the same (higher, but not this wacko high stuff), my long-term opinion is a little better since I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's still a tiny light through a maze of twisty passages so my opinion's not super high.

I will say my opinion on Philly this year is almost entirely tied to a combination of how the new guys on defense do and what that leads to in terms of a contract. If they extend Gardner-Johnson for like $8M/yr flat and he plays solid, that's... some pretty solid progress. Next year's draft better damn well be OT/DE/CB, and you still have to hope on Hurts, but... OK, there's a path.

49 I think the biggest thing to…

I think the biggest thing to figure out with the Eagles is have they elevated the coaching and roster enough to actually beat good teams? Last year they racked up their victories against cream puffs and got stomped by the playoff teams. The O-line is amazing, WR room looks as good as it has in decades, Hurts is a top 3 rushing QB in the NFL, and their defensive line is solid. The biggest question is how much better will Hurts get as a passer? Can a team coached by Sirianni actually beat real teams? Is their roster really that much better than a lesser Cowboys roster? I like the Eagles in general but feel like they have a lot more to prove before I would even put them definitively above the Cowboys. Dak is considerably better than Jalen at this point and Micah Parsons is the best player on either roster. This year really is going to be nuts with all of these questions

86 How could full fledged…

How could full fledged optimism for a Philly sports team ever go wrong?

Seriously though they made a lot of improvements and their schedule is extremely favorable. I think DAL is the only real threat in the division and with the way the schedule is set up they are at an extreme disadvantage. For the 3 games that are different (parentheses are DVOA projected rank) between DAL and PHI, DAL plays TB (5), CIN (11), and LARM (3) while PHI plays NO (9), PIT (17), and ARI (21).

The Eagles only play 1 team all season with better Super Bowl betting odds than them and it's GB in Philly.

13 They've gotten demonstrably…

They've gotten demonstrably better at every position except OL (which features two rising stars and two All Pros) and, of course, the most important one. If the new additions live up to expectations and Hurts is no worse than last year, they should win the division. And as a Negadelphian, I absolutely hate feeling this way.

22 They've gotten demonstrably…

They've gotten demonstrably better at every position except OL

Every position last year was utter damn trash except OL and QB, so this isn't exactly saying much! The only reason they pulled off the year they did is because the OL played great. I'd say "out of their mind" but I'm forever obligated to reserve that phrase for 2017.

If the new additions live up to expectations

Yes, and that statement's never come back to bite Philly in the ass. Never, I tell you. Every free agent Philly's gone after has been great.

26 If you're going to be…

If you're going to be pedantic, the only significant free agent acquisitions were Kyzir White, who can't possibly be worse than Davion Taylor or Alex Singleton, and Hassan Reddick, who can't possibly be any worse than Gennard Avery. Now, Gannon is still a boob, but he has a lot more talent to misuse this year.

36 If you're going to be…

If you're going to be pedantic, the only significant free agent acquisitions

bangs head against wall

C'mon, you know what I meant. I'm super-hopeful the secondary won't suck and AJ Brown will be great but holy hell was AJ Brown up and down last year, Gardner-Johnson is a bit of a headcase and Bradberry played for the Giants, so who knows what they'll have to fix.

You may note that I'm really stretching a bit here.

41 I mean, yeah. They became…

I mean, yeah. They became available for some reason. But those guys are good-to-elite players acquired for reasonable prices (at least until we see CGJ's extension). No risk, no reward.

25 Its also possible Hurts…

Its also possible Hurts looks worse this year. He's honestly the biggest wildcard quarterback out there for me. I could see him faceplanting. I could see him staying roughly the same. I could see him elevating and becoming a really really good QB. I just don't know what to expect from him and that's coloring my murky Eagles outlook.

2 Pretty sure if some team…

Pretty sure if some team gets the #1 pick and doesn't want to select a QB they will trade it for a great haul. I can't imagine a non-QB getting picked first this year. 

5 I've seen Anderson play, so…

I've seen Anderson play, so I can imagine it.  Especially if it's the Jets or Jaguars with the first pick.  Not saying it's likely, but right now Anderson is easily the best player in college football.

9 Even in that scenario the…

Even in that scenario the odds are still in favor of them being able to trade down to pick Anderson, especially if they openly shop the pick because then you've also created incentive for the team picking 2nd to trade places with you

11 I think the biggest reason…

I think the biggest reason to think a QB's going to go #1 overall is just that everyone basically punted on this year, so the number of teams trying to get a QB next year will be abnormally high. I mean, you've potentially got nearly half the freaking league next year. Some of those guys will succeed, but I'd still guess as many as 8 teams are going to be fighting over QBs.

This year has the potential to have really, really bad quarterbacking, at least in some sense. Last year had horrible QB play too but lots of it was from rookies. This year has the potential to have both bad and hopeless quarterbacking.

15 Seattle is pretty much…

Seattle is pretty much explicitly tanking. ATL is less good at it.   NYG and CAR figures either the guy they got works or they get another roll. Could be even more teams given that the hyped class of 2 years ago hasn't lived up to the hype so it's possible at least one of those teams will be in it also. 

ed: Doh! Forgot the Texans. They are all in too.

 

31 Atlanta, Houston, and the…

Atlanta, Houston, and the Giants are pretty obviously tanking as well in my opinion. You don't draft a friggin' 4th round QB and start a backup QB expecting to win games, haha c'mon, Lovie Smith and Davis Mills, and if the Giants had thought there's a chance in hell of Daniel Jones succeeding they would've picked up his 5th year option.

So to me that's 4 teams that are without a doubt going to take shots at the '23 QB draft, and I could easily see up to 4-6 more (pick randomly from NYJ, CAR, PHI, WAS, PIT, CHI, MIN, NO, TB, MIA, IND, LV, CHI). Obviously several of those aren't going to be high in the draft but because there are likely to be so many of them the guys who are desperate can't leave anything to chance.

55 I don't see any way that…

I don't see any way that Pete Carroll is willingly tanking. This team feels like a variant of the 2011 team that was frisky and won 7 games with Tarvaris Jackson at QB and Lynch at RB. Geno and Penny could definitely do a decent job pretending. If they were tanking they would have pushed out the HC/GM. Ditto for the Texans and Lovie. The Texans are a team that seems like they are going to play there way into no man's land due to a terrible division. The big question is how big of a haul could Jax get if they get their 3rd consecutive 1st pick and decide to trade it? There could be a bunch of teams in that 8-14 pick range that are willing to mortgage everything to get CJ/Bryce with brand new HC/GM combos. I kind of expect it to be a battle between ATL and NY(J|G). Question is how fast do the Jets ditch the MILF hunter? I could see them getting a haul for him if they are willing to trade him. I would personally like to see teams start trading those top 5 QBs faster so they can recoup value.

87 Carroll was actively…

Carroll was actively searching for QBs with that team, though - they obviously drafted Wilson and grabbed Matt Flynn for a decently high contract for a career backup at the time (it'd be the equivalent now of probably something like a 3-year $53M contract given QB market acceleration).

But "tanking" here doesn't really necessarily mean trying to lose games. That's always a bad idea. You're just not going crazy trying to win. They've got $50M in dead money this year they're absorbing, no seriously bad vet contracts on the team, and basically a fresh start option next year. Draft-wise, you land where you land: the difference in the first round is just nowhere near as big as people make it out to be in practical terms. It's really just money that they're not spending.

If they were tanking they would have pushed out the HC/GM

No, that's not tanking, that's restarting. Maybe we need a new term here. Biding their time? Being patient? I dunno.

99 If you want to be pedantic, …

If you want to be pedantic, "tanking" does mean trying to lose games.  You seem to be defining it as "heavily weighing future years at the expense of this year", which is often a reason than tanking takes place, but is not tanking.

101 The issue is that "tanking"…

The issue is that "tanking" in the sense of actively trying to lose games doesn't happen in the NFL. I mean, that's what we saw with the Flores investigation: even suggesting it basically makes a coach flip out, because it's terrible for the players and the organization long-term. You can't tell an OL "hey go out there and not block," and you actually can't even just sit a great player without their consent. So it's not like the Seahawks could just bench DK Metcalf if he wasn't OK with it.

I'm more suggesting the only sane definition of tanking is "not actively trying to win as many games as possible this year" because that's what coaches/general managers actually do. That's what the Titans did in the mid-2000s, that's what Belichick did in '20, etc. And in my opinion that's what Carroll's doing this year as well.

Obviously the issue there is that there are degrees of that, which obviously is where all the disagreement comes from.

3 Okay here I'm going to post…

Okay here I'm going to post my zany predictions for this upcoming season

I have the Bills beating the 49ers in the Sb.

I have Jacksonville winning the division.

I think the Giants are going to be the worst team in the league next year by record and probably by DVOA.

 

 

68 I could easily see…

I could easily see Jacksonville winning the division. It’s a putrid division, they’ve got Lawrence year 2, and competent if not spectacular coaching. As for the Giants they look like potentially the least talented roster in the NFL not named Falcons.

4 "Vincent Verhei: Tom Brady,…

"Vincent Verhei: Tom Brady, QB, TB. Seven years in a row now."

Good on you, Vince!  Stick to your guns.  At this point, this continual prediction is now historical gold, worthy of a victory lap if it finally comes to pass.  (And if Brady retires after being Super Bowl MVP, it will only age better!)

81 7 years in a row:

From the 2016 article:

"....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."

Brady had the highest graded PFF QB season on record and won the Super Bowl at age 39.

From the 2017 article:

"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."

Brady won MVP at 40 leading the league in DYAR, and finishing the season in the Super Bowl with most DYAR ever in that game to date. Drew Brees retired after the 2020 season.

From the 2018 article:

"Brady will be 41 this season. Only once in NFL history has a quarterback that old thrown for more than 20 touchdowns: Warren Moon, who threw for 25 scores with the Seahawks in 1997."

Brady won the Super Bowl at age 41 after outdueling the MVP in an OT thriller at Arrowhead to reach the Super Bowl.

From the 2019 article:

"There have been a total of 38 touchdowns in NFL history thrown by players of Brady's age or older; the single-season record is 11 by Warren Moon with the Seahawks in 1998."

Brady threw for 24 touchdowns with a receiving highlighted by a broken Julian Edelman and RB receiving DYAR darling James White.

From the 2020 article:

"Turns out, based on his projections in Football Outsiders Almanac... ...Brady has thrown for fewer yardage than projected for four years in a row, and fewer touchdowns three years in a row. To be fair, the yardage differences have been tiny -- about 130 yards a season, on average -- but since 2017 he has been projected to throw 97 touchdown passes and has delivered only 85. So Brady has a history of underperforming KUBIAK, and now he is 43 years old. In NFL/AFL history, there have been a total of 22 touchdown passes by players in their age-43 seasons or older. The single-season record is six by George Blanda with the Raiders in 1970."

Brady won the Super Bowl at age 43 leading including leading his team to 30+ points 4 games in a row for in the playoffs for the first time in NFL history. He also finished the year 2nd in combined playoff+regular season DYAR for good measure.

From the 2021 article:

"But Brady is 44 now. At some point soon, he will join George Blanda, Steve DeBerg, and Vinny Testaverde as the fourth 44-year-old to throw a touchdown pass since 1950. The single-season record is four;"

Brady finished the year leading in DYAR as well as PFF grade, regular Yards, and TDs, and brought in another All Pro 2nd team QB.

That's 6 years of the playoffs, 13 playoff wins (5th all time and more than any active QB), 4 Super Bowl appearances, 3 Super Bowl wins, 2 Super Bowl MVPs, 1 regular season MVP & 1st team all pro QB, and two 2nd team All Pro QB awards.

Looks like that alone would be a Hall of Fame career, I wonder what he'll add on this year...

10 I'm more surprised at the…

I'm more surprised at the dominance of picking CJ Stroud as the first overall pick. I think Young's a waaaay safer pick. I think it's going to be hard for people to look at '23 as anything other than a disappointment for Stroud because people have completely unrealistic expectations.

18 I'm surprised anyone is…

I'm surprised anyone is confident in either of them.

It's like everyone forgot Alabama is perfectly capable of reaching a playoff with a running back throwing passes. (Blake Sims, 2014) Or that every OSU QB looks like a golden god until they play on a team who isn't massively more talented than the opposition.

20 Is the Eagles Super Bowl…

Is the Eagles Super Bowl love based solely on roster improvement? Because Nick Sirianni seems like just a dude to me, and even with a better roster it's hard for me to imagine him getting past coaches like Matt LeFleur, Sean McVay, or Kyle Shanahan in the playoffs.

What has he shown other than being adaptable enough to switch to a run based offense in the later half of the season?

23 Pat certainly disagrees, but…

Pat certainly disagrees, but I was very impressed with his job last year with the Eagles. As an aside, I still have no idea how good LaFleur is. I still partially blame his decision making for that loss to the TB. 

Put it another way. What did you think of Zac Taylor one year ago?

40 Pat certainly disagrees, but…

Pat certainly disagrees, but I was very impressed with his job last year with the Eagles.

Waitwaitwait. What the heck were you impressed by?? Sirianni's ability to listen to the guys on the OL who at some point must've come up to him and said "you know we're better than these other guys, right?"

Philly got flattened in the playoffs versus Tampa when the OL wasn't just tossing guys out of the way like rag dolls. Tom Brady probably laughed when he saw film of the Eagles linebackers, and moved on to film of the other teams.

Put it another way. What did you think of Zac Taylor one year ago?

Taylor came into a team that hadn't had a winning record in 4 years. Sirianni came into an organization that had 3/4 of the prior years end in the playoffs. Sirianni by default should do well.

44 Unlike you, I, along with…

Unlike you, I, along with the rest of the football world, thought the Eagles would suck. I know you disagree, so that's where this is all stemming from. 

I think it might be easier on both of us if you just state flatly what your expectations are for the Eagles this year in very plain terms and then we can actually verify if your views are correct one year later. Its fine if they come out wildly wrong, I've made plenty of predictions that came out wildly wrong so its not going to be referendum on your fanhood. Incidentally, I am happy to say that last year I got the Bengals right to some extent. Something most of the posters thought I was dead wrong about. 

I've already written some of this already; but I expect Dallas to be worse this year. I expect Washington to be better than people are expecting(call it closer to 500). I think the Colts will probably finish third in the division. 

56 I don't *have* "plain term"…

I don't *have* "plain term" expectations. I can't predict injuries, which is what 90% of a season is determined by. I can't predict age decline (other than "it'll happen eventually!"). I can't predict how AJ Brown or Reddick will do, I haven't watched them enough.

My expectations are lots of "if this, then thats." If the OL stays uninjured again and Kelce and Johnson don't decline the offense will be better than last year (bold prediction!).

I don't have high expectations for the defense because I don't trust new arrivals and also because I'm not impressed with the DC.

59 I think injuries bake into…

I think injuries bake into your predictions. Does this team have depth/stars to compensate for the inevitable injuries. Do you trust AJ Brown and Reddick + the offensive line. 

I bet you have 0 qualms thinking the Giants will suck, the Bears offense will be moribund, and the Chiefs offense will still be dynamite. Sometimes, just saying I don't expect the Eagles to suck like last year would have been enough to go against the grain; as I have done with the Jaguars which is very much against conventional wisdom.

If you have some predictions that run counter to the prevaling zeitgest, you can put them here. 

62 I don't understand the…

I don't understand the concept of baking injuries into predictions. It's like an old statistics professor's quote (said with a heavy Russian accent): "You have two chickens. I have zero chickens. Between us, we have one chicken each. Yet I am starving and you are gaining weight."

I don't believe the Chiefs offense will be dynamite. I think they'll be good and still win, but they'll be much less explosive and people will be talking about Mahomes trying too much.

64 Good team's can mitigate…

Good team's can mitigate injuries more than bad teams can. If I am predicting a team to buck their win loss record, I am not doing it because I assume they will have pristine health. 

I think we also disagree about the degree to which injuries explain the variation in wins and losses. They play a part, for sure, but I don't think they are so vital that they can render expected win totals totally random. That maybe true if the QB and the team's best 3-5 starters are all out. But how often does that happen?

Look over the worst teams in the league. Did they arrive there mostly due to injuries? What about the best teams, are they all the healthiest? 

58 He's also 4-2 in the…

He's also 4-2 in the playoffs and has never had a passing offense finish below 16th in NY/A fielding the immortal Beathard/Mullens/Hoyer trio for 20 games of that period. Kyle wins actual games regularly in the playoffs and against playoff teams on the road. If they fired him tomorrow he would have a job on Monday. Sirianni is still waiting to win his first game against a playoff team. I think we need to all wait and see what they can do against good teams before we anoint them.

37 My reticence with the…

My reticence with the Bengals is in part because 2021 involved everything breaking their way in a manner that feels not remotely repeatable.

They basically held up a gorgon's head to every opponent and still couldn't win the Bowl.

57 Yup. I also have my doubts…

Yup. I also have my doubts long term that the cheapest owner in the league has changed. It's easy to look good when you've got a coach, QB, and WR all essentially on rookie contracts. Wake me when he needs to pay people.

60 If you are a Bengals fan,…

If you are a Bengals fan, you can credibly talk yourself into thinking they went out and fixed the biggest issue they had, so their offense might improve. Also, their defense, which was mostly bad last year, might also improve with another year of coaching.

To me, a lot of this will come down to what is Joe Burrow. I think if he improves to tier 2 player, they should still threaten for a wildcard spot. If he stays the same, I enough concerns about the talent on defense + the over-reliance of hero plays to Jamar Chase that might be replicable, but I'd need to see it to believe it. 

 

43 dead cat bounce

whole lotta matt ryan love out there. imagine if ATL did not have among the most dynamic TE/RB receiving combos last year. that offense would have been pitiful. we are talking about a guy who turned cal ridley into late career TJ housh. though its fair to question if ridley did that to himself

48 It's all about Julio leaving…

In reply to by hanjna

It's all about Julio leaving (and/or limping). Ridley's career numbers when Julio was inactive: 58-668-3. With Julio on the field, 190-2674-25. Yards per catch went down from 14.1 to 11.5. Catch percentage down from 66.4% to 61.7%. I'd like to see the DVOA splits. Probably would have been a decent #2 behind Pitts if he didn't ghost the team last year.

46 Most Likely to Beat…

Most Likely to Beat Projection: Colts and 49ers, for similar reasons as those from the staff. Really impressed with the Ngakoue pickup in Indy, and with strength of schedule at 28, they should struggle to make DVOA move more than they struggle to pick up wins. If Matty Ice tears his ACL Sunday, this projection still looks bad on offense as Foles is also an upgrade over Wentz. The 49ers offensive projection makes me think Aaron poured grain alcohol into the back of his laptop before running the code.

Most Likely to Fall Short: Buffalo Bills. I expect more regression on defense than The Model, and Josh Allen has a lower floor than he's credited with after a great season.

Super Bowl: Rams over Ravens. Love both of these teams this season.

First Overall: Falcons trade up to pick Will Anderson at EDGE.

61 I'll make one further…

I'll make one further proclamation. The Chargers should win the division. Frankly, with the amount of talent they have, they should be in the conversation right there with the Bills.

AND YET, I am picking KC anyways. Sure, its easy enough to bet on Mahomes. But man, that's less the reason and much more because of all of the ways the Chargers have shot themselves in the foot in the past. Last year's debacle doesn't even crack the top 5 nuttiest results that doomed a chargers season. 

69 I have 2 teams likely to…

I have 2 teams likely to beat DVOA projections and they are both from NFCW, SF and SEA.

SF is odd for a couple reasons:

1. For the offense to drop to 19th you are essentially assuming that Trey Lance with all the weapons from last year will be worse than the injury ravaged 2020 team that was missing Deebo and many others. This assumes Trey will be worse than he was as a rookie when he never took first team reps and started 10 quarters of football posting a 18% passing DVOA anyway. I could see this happening due to how terrible the IOL could be but it does not seem close to a likely outcome.

2. For the defense to drop to 13th you would be assuming it will be worse than the Bosa-less mash unit from 2020 as well. The only way that happens is if the team ends up as injured as it was that year or worse. The Ward/Moseley outside CB duo is the best they have had since 2019 and rookie Womack looks like he could at least be as good as declining banged up K'wuan Williams from last year as the nickel back. The defensive rating is even crazier if you take into account how much better it was down the stretch and in the playoffs. I guess DJ Jones and Arden Key are the best defensive linemen in the NFL? 

SEA is the biggest over (5.5) bet I have made in a while. Losing Russ essentially knocks them out of winning the division but not enough to stop an offense with play makers like Lockett/DK/Penny from putting up points against bad teams. They get to play NYJ/NYG/ATL/DET this year and have a good chance of winning 2 division games off familiarity alone. Losing Russ is big but is it big enough to drop them from 7th to 30th?

The 2 most overrated teams are PHI and NYJ.

I have no clue how the Jets defense is going from 32nd to 7th off rookies and injury returns. Lawson, Moseley, and Sauce are enough to take them into the 15-20 range easily if they all return to original form or play at their elite college level. Wilson is out 4 weeks so Flacco has to carry the team for 4 games. That offense could be Giants 2021 bad early on. Their non-RB skill position guys are pretty terrible too.

The Eagles still haven't beat a playoff team and were typically blown out in those games last year. They still have to stay within 2 scores of the Cowboys at least once to have a chance at top 10 DVOA. I could see them being a middling DVOA team that gets 10+ wins off a cream puff schedule though. I am having trouble seeing why their defense is going to improve that much though. Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean should be really good but it seems like a lot of projection to assume a 50% snap 3 technique and an off ball linebacker are going to elevate the team 20 spots in one off season.

SB Pick: Baltimore beats TB and Lamar Jackson signs the first 3 year $200 million fully guaranteed contract while Tom Brady retires.

79 Really like your analysis,…

Really like your analysis, just want to add I think the Eagles projection and hype is more around AJ Brown and 2nd year Devonta Smith instead of the defensive additions you mentioned, although they obviously can’t hurt. Im behind the Eagles this year as winning the NFC East just on schedule and talent but that QB/HC combo is probably not ready to quite make it to the conference title game.

agree with the Seahawks, they aren’t tanking either. Smith won’t be bad, he just won’t be good. To go under 5.5 wins you need a rash of injuries or blasphemous rookie qb play. Plus, schedule.

82 I agree most of the…

I agree most of the excitement for Philly is probably AJ Brown, and that's what worries me: the offense was already probably close to maxed out with Hurts (again, just statistics) so I don't know how much that can help.

The defensive additions actually interest *me* more, although I'm more worried that the linebackers are still hot garbage: I was *not* excited about Dean, who just looks like a trademark Roseman "look I got a steal, oh wait, you guys weren't high on him for a reason" pick. And also worried that filling the secondary with guys that other teams didn't want to pay might not be a great plan (although it's the Giants).

85 Yeah it seems like a lot of…

Yeah it seems like a lot of the projection moves revolve around schedule strength more than I have noticed in the past. The Geno led Seahawks were not very bad last year. The worst Seahawks games were the injured Russ ones where he returned too quickly. With Carroll as the coach they are a perfectly built cream puff destroyer. They are going to lose to the top-half teams and beat up on the bad teams.

The Eagles have a roster I really like and a coach I am not very convinced by. First half of the season he was basically on the hot seat before evolving the team into the Kirkland Ravens. That is why adding AJ Brown seems like less of an impact than it would be on another team. If they do some cool big slot McVay/wide back Deebo stuff with him it could get really interesting. Davis is a wildcard too. He has the talent to be a Vita Vea level dominator who essentially moves them into that NO/SF/TB level of run defense where they can stay in nickel and still only allow 3 ypc without run blitzing. 

The NFC West ratings are interesting though. The whole division finished top 10 last year and I was expecting them to drop because of all the departures but falling that far is kind of nuts. I get it that they are playing the AFC West but this division sent 3 teams to the playoffs, represented both sides of the NFCCG, and won the SB. For example I think the 49ers are going to win between 8-10 and have a top 10 DVOA because of variance and schedule. I think they are underrated in DVOA way more than win total. The Rams were the biggest candidate to fall other than the Seahawks and are rated at 3. Robinson seems like a downgrade from Woods/OBJ, Noteboom is a big drop from Whitworth, and they have their worst edge rushers of the McVay era after losing Von Miller. It's the Rams though so I fully expect them to trade a 2049 1st round pick for Robert Quinn by week 5 and suddenly look great again.

BTW now is probably a good time to start betting on the Rams. They got stomped by SF, AZ, GB, and Ten last year as well on their way to the SB. That GB 8 point loss was a lot worse than the final score too. They are going to smoke a couple of the AFC West teams and catch the media/public by surprise. Remember Aaron Donald owns Russell Wilson.

90 He has the talent to be a…

He has the talent to be a Vita Vea level dominator who essentially moves them into that NO/SF/TB level of run defense where they can stay in nickel and still only allow 3 ypc without run blitzing. 

I'm really hopeful on Davis because this isn't new territory for Philly: Philly was this team even in '20 (not like you could tell thanks to situational stuff). It's even possible that with Cox and Davis overlapping for a year that '22 really works out well.

 Noteboom is a big drop from Whitworth,

Honestly I think this'll be interesting: I don't think he looked particularly bad last night, just... still a bit raw.

102 Noteboom looked average+…

Noteboom looked average+ last year in spots but it is just so tough in the NFC West when you have obvious weakness on the O line. The crap at guard for SF is why I think we will be happy to split with the Rams this year. Donald is going to wreck the inside of that line. Bosa and the SF D line are going to roast that LA line as well. Those 2 games are going to low scoring and brutal.

I am really starting to question my overrated Eagles take as I read more Eagles fan responses though. If Davis hits and they get that light box dominant run defense they could really cause problems for the Cowboys specifically this year. Dak has lost a lot of passing game help between Tyron, Amari, Gallup, and Collins which could lead to much bigger problems when the running game is shut down. A good example of that is what SF did to them in the playoffs. Make them one dimensional and run the ball on them to beat them. The Eagles could definitely be setup for that. Maybe the better overrated pick was the Patriots with Patricia/Rhule calling plays.

70 My picks, based largely on…

My picks, based largely on reason but with a healthy dose of Gut(TM):

TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT ITS FOA 2022 PROJECTION: Carolina Panthers. In another thread I talked myself into like 7-9 wins, based on having a non-terrible QB and a decent (if unspectacular) roster all around, and I'm sticking with it.

TEAM MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF ITS FOA 2022 PROJECTION: Philadelphia Eagles. Partly because their projection seems very aggressive based on what they've actually done the last few years, partly because I'm not sold on Hurts ever being much better than what he was last year, but also, strictly in terms of DVOA, I think they might just get killed in opponent adjustments. Weak schedule is weak.

(Dis)Honorable mentions: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (everything Bassinger said, plus Arians --> Bowles is one of the bigger coaching downgrades in recent memory), Buffalo Bills (if for no other reason than their projection is so high, but I do think their offense and defense are more "good" than "great", and Allen in particular is still more erratic than an "elite" QB ought to be).

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT HIS KUBIAK PROJECTION: Mac Jones. He was really solid last year, and the improvements he needs to make are mostly finer soft skills - he just needs to tighten a lot of screws, so to speak - and I think Belichick is probably the best man to help him do it.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL SHORT OF HIS KUBIAK PROJECTION: Tyreek Hill. Everything Bernreuther said.

SUPER BOWL LVII WINNER AND LOSER: Dallas Cowboys over Buffalo Bills. Maybe the funniest possible outcome. I think Dallas is amazingly underrated among football-knowers - they lost some names on offense, but mostly guys whose reputations are way ahead of their actual play lately - they won't miss a beat. I'm much more worried about defense, but they have a few absolute studs there, and that was enough for the Rams last year. The Bills I think are the most complete team all around, which ought to take them a ways, but here they run into a team with a singularly better unit (Dallas O) and a defense that can pick of Allen a couple of times to win a shootout.

Mike McCarthy, first coach to win the Super Bowl with two different teams, spends the offseason posing for his Hall of Fame bust.

WITH THE FIRST PICK IN THE 2023 NFL DRAFT, [TEAM] SELECTS [PLAYER]: Atlanta Falcons select Stetson Bennett. Caught between "Marcus Mariota was pretty good once and could be again!" and "Boy, outside him and the receiving corps that roster is just garbage" - guessing the latter wins out, and Atlanta finishes like 2-15. Bennett seems almost too obvious, but I think 1) it will be a QB, and 2) neither Young nor Stroud are flawless, and they'll get nitpicked to death throughout the draft process; Bennett will be said to have the "highest floor" and that sort of thing, and for a team with plans to return to contention quickly, he'll be the man.

88 I really like the Dallas…

I really like the Dallas pick. My lifelong hatred of them and disdain for McCarthy stopped me from picking them in the SB. There is a non-zero chance that Micah Parsons is literally Lawrence Taylor 2. This is the first time I have ever felt that way about anyone in the NFL. Peak JJ Watt was Reggie White 2. Aaron Donald turned into the seemingly impossible question "what if John Randle were literally better at everything?". They could ride an insane defense and ball control offense really far into the playoffs.

I agree on ATL but that Bennett pick is hilarious. That would be Rick Mirer level bad and put them in purgatory for another 5 years.

I also dig the Panthers pick because their defense is underrated and Baker Mayfield will be the best QB they have had since pre-injury Cam Newton. If McCaffrey stays healthy they could end up as a wild card team.

Hard disagree on Mac Jones. He faded hard down the stretch and is dealing with the biggest OC downgrade in the entire NFL. He is too accurate to drop below the top 25. If the horrible combo of Rhule/Patricia decides to force him to lean into his weaknesses we could see his TO numbers jump. For a guy like Mac a jump in TOs will crush his game because he doesn't make up for it with the huge plays. He built a lot of his stats last year pounding on terrible teams or complimenting huge rushing performances by the Pats. His best game by far was the one against TB when they were missing 90% of their secondary. All the stars are aligned for a fall back year and a jump in TOs.

96 Aaron Donald turned into the…

Aaron Donald turned into the seemingly impossible question "what if John Randle were literally better at everything?".

Randle was better at rush defense. John Randle could eliminate an entire half of a field from Barry Sanders. No one else could do that.

73 Where's the HATE!, guys??

I can't believe the Texans got no staff votes for 'Most Likely to Fall Short of its Projection'. Not even Rivers! Heck, given how much love there is for Easterby on this site, I half-expected them to be unanimous!  :-)

(Texans at 30-to-1 to win THAT! Division is the best Futures bet I've ever made)

74 Top Pick

I have a sneaking suspicion that the top QB taken won't be any of the guys named here (Stroud, Young, or Bennett). Trevor Lawrence is the only guy in a while who entered his draft year as the consensus top QB prospect and actually went #1, and there are a LOT of exciting QB prospects this year that have more prototypical NFL builds than either Stroud or Young, and way more upside than Bennett.

84 How is Stroud not prototypical

In reply to by Sportszilla

At 6-3 215lbs? 

Didn't even see the original Stetson mention. I mean no way but it does fit their mold lol

76 Most likely to overperform:…

Most likely to overperform: of good teams, probably the 49ers. Of bad teams, definitely the Giants. They have an easy schedule and I think we’re underselling just how bad the coaching staff was last year. They’re similar to the jaguars in my mind.

Most likely to underperform: of good teams, Vikings. DVOA seems wildly optimistic about a team with no secondary, aging pass rushers, and a unvaccinated mid-tier QB. Of bad teams, the Texans without a doubt. I bet they won’t be as bad the public thinks, but I can’t see them even sniffing 8 wins.

MVP: Josh Allen, since I’m doing this after opening night

Super bowl: 49ers over bills. Chiefs I think will give bills a run for the money, and potentially the Ravens if they get OBJ mid season. NFC honestly I can’t see any team besides the Bucs in the title game, and there’s bad vibes coming out of there. 49ers made the conference game and dropped a INT to not go to super bowl last year with garropolos arm falling off. They still have him, added a good corner, and have potential at QB. As long as they don’t have another one of their trademark “3/4 of team injured” season, Shan Shan is a wizard, defense is good, line good. 
 

1st pick: best qb prospect, NY Jets. I think Atlanta (or Seattle) is the worst team by DVOA but the non AFC-south AFC is so deep a team from that conference will most likely be picking firsf

 

 

77 Most likely to overperform:…

Most likely to overperform: of good teams, probably the 49ers. Of bad teams, definitely the Giants. They have an easy schedule and I think we’re underselling just how bad the coaching staff was last year. They’re similar to the jaguars in my mind.

Most likely to underperform: of good teams, Vikings. DVOA seems wildly optimistic about a team with no secondary, aging pass rushers, and a unvaccinated mid-tier QB. Of bad teams, the Texans without a doubt. I bet they won’t be as bad the public thinks, but I can’t see them even sniffing 8 wins.

MVP: Josh Allen, since I’m doing this after opening night

Super bowl: 49ers over bills. Chiefs I think will give bills a run for the money, and potentially the Ravens if they get OBJ mid season. NFC honestly I can’t see any team besides the Bucs in the title game, and there’s bad vibes coming out of there. 49ers made the conference game and dropped a INT to not go to super bowl last year with garropolos arm falling off. They still have him, added a good corner, and have potential at QB. As long as they don’t have another one of their trademark “3/4 of team injured” season, Shan Shan is a wizard, defense is good, line good, playmakers elite, team gonna romp.
 

1st pick: best qb prospect, NY Jets. I think Atlanta (or Seattle) is the worst team by DVOA but the non AFC-south AFC is so deep a team from that conference will most likely be picking firsf

 

 

94 one more FO/AFC South thing

What's with all this analyst love for Matt Ryan?? Someone even saying 'he's clearly superior to Philip Rivers'.

An overreaction to Wentz' last year? (really wasn't all THAT! bad, guys; he just convinced Frank Reich of all people he had no ability to learn from his mistakes ["What Mistakes?!?!?"])

Filling an emotional need to elevate SOME!-one to AFC South Champ?

104 Late to it

Most likely to beat DVOA Projection: SF, NYG, IND

Most likely to fall short of DVOA projection: NYJ, BAL, CHI

Super Bowl: BUF over TB

#1 Pick: ATL selects CJ Stroud

105 pciks

orde rof finishes 1st-, 2nd, 3rd, 4th

AFC East- Nisll, Pates, Jets, dolpsh

AFC North- Ravens, Benagls, Steelers, browns

AFC South- Clots, titnas, jaguars, Texans

AFC West- Raiders, Chargersm < brocnos, Ciefs

NFC East- Cowbiys, Eags, Commanders, Gaints

NFC North- Packers, Vikigns, Loins, Bears

NGC Sourh- Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints, Falcons

NFC West- rmasm, 59ers, Cardinals, Seaahskws

 

AFc Chamouinshio Game- Raiders 31, Bilks 24

NFC Championship Game- Buccaneers 22, Packers 17

 

Super Bowl- Raiders 38, Buccaneers 20   

 

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