AFC North Over/Unders: Can Bengals Change Their Stripes?

Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Preseason Week 2 - Bryan: Hello and welcome back to Football Outsiders' final over/under review for the 2022 season! It doesn't take a genius to figure out why we have left the AFC North for last, but there are a lot of interesting storylines lurking here. Are the Bengals more like last year's Super Bowl runners-up, or the mediocre team our numbers portrayed during the regular season? Will the Ravens recover from the injurypocalypse to once again be serious AFC contenders? What the heck does a Pittsburgh team look like without Ben Roethlisberger? All great things to talk about. Three out of four ain't bad, right?

Cale: The AFC North is home to a former MVP quarterback, a reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and last year's AFC champions. It has seemingly escaped actual NFL analysis when it might be one of the more fun divisions in football this year.

Bryan: Yeah, there are a lot of positive things to talk about here, with a lot of really fun potential. We'll focus on those things to begin with and save the rest for the end.

Baltimore Ravens (9.5)

Bryan: Well, they have to be healthier than they were last year, right? That's positive!

Cale: Don't jinx them, Bryan. Record-breaking Adjusted Games Lost is not lightning that should ever strike a team twice in franchise history, let alone in back-to-back seasons.

The defense is certainly going to benefit from Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey coming back, at least by our projections. The Ravens defense jumps from 28th in DVOA in 2021 up to 11th in our forecasts, a return to the top half of the league after a brief, injury-riddled hiatus.

Bryan: Is it weird that I'm more interested in what Baltimore does after 2022 than during it? That includes the ongoing Lamar Jackson contract saga, which is still unresolved as we write this, with articles coming out suggesting the Buccaneers are looking to make a play for him in a post-Tom Brady world. Jackson hasn't had positive passing DVOA since his MVP season in 2019, and while there are a lot of caveats and provisos to that statement, at some point Baltimore would like to see his advanced numbers bounce back before signing a contract worth $Montana.

If Jackson signs a contract in the next couple weeks, it's a regular story. If Jackson doesn't, then every single pass he attempts will be under a microscope as the NFL world starts revolving around the future of the 2019 MVP (which, honestly, would probably end up being the franchise tag, but let me dream here). We can talk all we want about him standing on his head considering the flaming wreckage that was Baltimore's roster last season, and I still am very much on the side considering Jackson one of the top quarterbacks in the game. But I can also understand why there's some skepticism around him, with 2019 looking more and more like an outlier with each passing year.

Cale: In Jackson's defense, he's not exactly working with a lot in that soon-to-be highly scrutinized passing game. Rashod Bateman is coming back from injury and seems promising for someone who played hurt all season. Mark Andrews has ascended to top-five tight end status. Beyond them, though, he's got, what, Devin Duvernay? Demarcus Robinson? Tylan Wallace? Isaiah Likely as TE2, at least. It's not a stretch to say this could be the weakest receiver corps Jackson has had thus far, and he has never exactly had a lot to work with at the position. If Arizona calls up and offers a first for Hollywood Brown, you take it every time, but the short-term loss at the position is tough to navigate. At best, Baltimore is betting on a lot of young, yet-to-be-proven commodities in the passing game.

Bryan: There are a lot of young, yet-to-be-proven commodities around the entire team, with Baltimore uncharacteristically using all 11 draft picks this season rather than shunting them into the future. Only one, Tyler Linderbaum, looks primed to start this season—another reason why the Ravens are more interesting to me going forward than in 2022 specifically—but that's a lot of young replacements marching in. The fact that they chose to use every pick despite usually being one of the better teams about trading implies to me that they saw weakness on their roster above and beyond just everyone getting hurt all the time. It will be interesting to see how the flotilla of highly drafted defensive talent slowly works its way into snaps over the course of the season, the kind of thing that would be fun to keep track of on a week-by-week basis if I were writing a Ravens blog.

I'm not writing a Ravens blog though, I'm doing over/unders. And it's hard for me to look at a team with an MVP-caliber quarterback and a coach with such a long track record of success as John Harbaugh and not think the floor here is a winning season. Even with the questions at wide receiver, I like the Ravens to win the division and go over their total this year. And if not, next year's contract negotiations will be all the more interesting.

Cale: This roster doesn't scream "double-digit wins" to me, but neither had most of the rosters of the Jackson era. I think this is a team set up for some growing pains in 2022, but Baltimore has also done a good job of developing young players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Baltimore also has an easier schedule, which should help, so this is going to be a very uncertain over call for me. This team is too good to go below .500, and I have faith in Jackson making any receiver corps work just enough to get by.

Cincinnati Bengals (10)

Bryan: If I'm picking the Ravens to win the division, that must mean I'm disrespecting your AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. This over/under line reflects their postseason run; it does not really reflect the team that was 17th with a -0.1% DVOA during the regular season. They rise to 13th and 5.3% when you include the postseason, but that still leaves a pretty solid gap between what our numbers said about the Bengals last year and what expectations have been put upon them from their January run.

Cale: While the Bengals' playoff run certainly put them on the map, the moves they have made this offseason solidify their status among the conference's best. They re-invented the entire right half of their offensive line, immediately addressing their biggest need after Joe Burrow took a league-high 51 sacks. Preventing Burrow from getting hit was top priority, and adding Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La'el Collins addresses that priority and then some. Now Burrow will have all the time in the world to throw to one of the best young receiving trios in the league. Now Bengals fans get the benefits of Option A while still having Ja'Marr Chase! Best of both worlds!

Bryan: We often warn people not to put too much weight into early-versus-late splits, and that just because a team finishes strong or weak doesn't mean that streak will continue into the next season. And normally that makes sense, but I'm 100% buying into Cincinnati's offensive blossoming over the last half of last season being signal and not noise. Keep Burrow upright more and this is a top-10 offense at the very least—and, I'd argue, probably a bit higher, even if our projections aren't bold enough to claim that yet. Burrow might be the most valuable asset in the league in the moment as he plays on his rookie contract (it's between him and Justin Herbert, take your pick), and the talent of Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd out there make Cincinnati a fun and dangerous team to watch. And using those extra Burrow Bucks to keep your franchise quarterback's jersey clean is a great plan, and I'm fully on board with it.

I'm less convinced that the defensive improvements we saw at the end of last season will stick, and I'm not sure throwing four draft picks at the unit is going to be enough to bump them into "OK for a contender" status for me. It feels like Cincinnati is going to be involved in a lot of 34-30 games this season, which as a neutral fan, I look forward to seeing.

Cale: The only thing I'll push back on there is that I think the Bengals will have a defense good enough where their offense can make up for it. That's contingent on Jessie Bates actually playing on the franchise tag, but if he does, Cincinnati has Bates, Trey Hendrickson, and decent enough playmakers on all three levels of the defense. Do you want to lean on Eli Apple in the Super Bowl? Not necessarily. But is he good enough to get by in the regular season? Sure.

I'm going over on Cincinnati just because of my faith in the offense. There aren't a ton of really formidable defenses on the Bengals' schedule. Especially in-division, I think their offense is good enough to take on any defense, and the defense won't have to sweat too much to keep up with the rest of the talent. I could see this bet really coming down to that final seven-game stretch: at Tennessee, hosting Kansas City and Cleveland, at Tampa Bay and New England, then hosting Buffalo and Baltimore. Nothing but fireworks until the playoffs start.

Bryan: An Apple a day keeps the over away. I feel like while the Bengals are on a rapidly increasing upward trajectory, they arrived at the Super Bowl a year or two ahead of schedule and still have a little bit more work to do on the defensive side of the ball before they're regular contenders. With a top-10 strength of schedule working against them, I think it's reasonable to expect this to be something of a consolidation year. I'll take the under.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7.5)

Bryan: We have seen what the Steelers look like without Ben Roethlisberger in 2020, but that was accidental. Now we get to see what the Steelers look like intentionally without Roethlisberger for the first time since 2003. It has been a bit!

Cale: While there's no official starting quarterback in Pittsburgh yet (although it appears Mitchell Trubisky is trending toward a Week 1 start), the group around whoever is throwing the ball is pretty loaded. The receiver corps is well-stocked, as it always seems to be in Pittsburgh. The trio of Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and George Pickens is going to make work a lot easier for Trubisky, and Najee Harris is of the heels of a season with over 1,600 all-purpose yards. The only concern I have is in a weak offensive line that has been minimally addressed despite being a growing concern the last few seasons.

Bryan: And that's assuming Trubisky starts. Kenny Pickett looked sharp in his opening preseason game (we're writing this before he takes the field for a second time, so if he ends up throwing 17 interceptions against the Jaguars, you can all point and laugh at me), getting the ball off quickly and showing command of the offense. A dink-and-dunk offense, mind you, with Pickett taking what the third-string Seahawks defense was willing to give him, but there was poise and decisiveness there that I think bodes well going forwards. Plus, Pickett-to-Pickens-in-Pittsburgh is just too good to not be a thing as soon as possible, right? The writer in me likes the way that flows.

Cale: Be careful with that, Bryan. The second he gets a little interception-happy, they'll start calling him Pick-It. It'll haunt him like Sam Darnold's "seeing ghosts" comments.

Bryan: I'm sure offensive coordinator Peter Piper can get all that sorted out lickety split. If not, he'll be out selling seashells by the seashore in no time.

Cale: Regardless of the starting quarterback, the strength of this team will lie in the defense. T.J. Watt is coming off the heels of a Defensive Player of the Year season where he nearly set the single-season sack record. Top-to-bottom, this is a loaded group. Adding Myles Jack, Larry Ogunjobi, and Levi Wallace to an already-strong defensive roster adds quality veteran play at all three levels of the field.

Bryan: Despite how loaded they looked on paper, the Steelers were only 14th in defensive DVOA last season; they were less than the sum of their parts. But I agree with you—there are a lot of solid additions here, and I think the top-line talent of Watt and Cameron Heyward and company should help them bounce back to the level we have come to expect. Maybe they won't hit "best in the league" like they were in 2020, but I would subjectively have them closer to the best than midtable. Our projections have them second behind only New Orleans, which sounds like the right ballpark.

I'm a little worried about the schedule; it's a tough division in a tough conference. There are a number of tough three-game stretches to fight through—the Saints, Bengals, and Colts right after the bye week; the Raiders, Ravens, and Browns to finish the year; and so on. But if they get even average play out of the quarterback position, I like the Steelers to surprise some people. I'll take the over here. Not a huge ceiling—10-7 would be about their max, I think. But 7.5 is a low enough line that I'm comfortable with it.

Cale: 7.5 wins is a tough, tough number. You're basically betting whether Mike Tomlin will have his first losing season as head coach of the Steelers, a bit I unfortunately will take. I think the Steelers need one year to re-tool post-Ben. The pieces are all there for me on paper, but the division and the conference are both too tough for me to map out a winning record with this road. Honestly, had order in the schedule shook out a bit better—if those Buffalo and Tampa Bay games weren't back-to-back, if they didn't open their year on the road in Cincinnati—I'd be more inclined to lean on Tomlin as a coach to make things happen. But with uncertainty at quarterback, I'm taking the under.

Cleveland Browns (8.5)

Bryan: For context, we're writing this the day after the NFL announced Deshaun Watson's 11-game suspension, and the subsequent Watson press conference where he declared his innocence and sent his apologies to anyone triggered by the investigation. It has not been a fun offseason to talk about the Browns.

Which is why I'm going to keep my part of this short, I think. I don't think Jacoby Brissett—or whoever is starting at quarterback—is going to lead the Browns to a 9-2 start in the 11 games of Watson's suspension. Thus, for this to hit the over, I'd have a monetary stake in Watson succeeding on the field. Right now, I don't feel right doing that. Thus, under.

Cale: There's a lot more reasons for me to go under than just Brissett. Cleveland is playing the fifth-hardest schedule in football by our projection, and the majority of those tough games come during Watson's suspension. Whomever is at the helm is basically working with just Amari Cooper at receiver—I don't have much faith in Donovan Peoples-Jones or David Bell to really be quality secondary receivers. If Cleveland honors Kareem Hunt's trade request, things turn south at the running back position too. Nick Chubb can work more effectively with a comparable back beside him; Cleveland would just trade Hunt if they had faith in either D'Ernest Johnson or Demetric Felton Jr. to take a meaningful share of carries alongside Chubb.

Plus, from a football perspective, Watson has not taken meaningful reps in 20 months. Reports out of camp and early preseason games have reflected that fact. Now, Watson will leave for suspension August 30 and won't be back until November 14. I don't care how easy the back stretch of games is, he's not going to be ready to play well in those games.

Overall

Bryan: 32 teams up, 32 teams down—and 23 agreements, as the hive mind remains undefeated. That does leave nine teams where Cale and I disagreed, which we have listed below for your perusal.

Over/Under Disagreements, 2022
Team O/U Bryan Cale
Kansas City Chiefs 10.5 Under Over
Los Angeles Chargers 10.0 Under Over
San Francisco 49ers 10.0 Under Over
Seattle Seahawks 5.5 Over Under
Cincinnati Bengals 10.0 Under Over
Pittsburgh Steelers 7.5 Over Under
Chicago Bears 6.5 Over Under
Jacksonville Jaguars 6.5 Under Over
Atlanta Falcons 7.0 Over Under

Cale: Good to know there's so much agreement when predicting the NFL, a league notorious for always going chalk and never having any surprises!

Bryan: It looks like most of our disagreements came with you being more comfortable to go for the extreme outcomes—teams winning or losing 13-plus games, while I stuck with the more conservative approach. What do you mean, not everyone's going to finish 9-8?

Cale: Both our Football Outsiders Almanac 2022 predictions and Vegas lines have kept team predictions closer to center than previous years. The way I see it, there are always teams that bottom out, and there are always teams that win 13, 14, 15 games. At that point, it's just making educated guesses on which teams are falling on the polar ends of the spectrum. When you're putting money on it, though, the conservative approach may be the better way to go in the long run.

Bryan: Well, that's only true if you're wrong! And, because these over/under pieces are the definitive explanation of exactly what will happen on the field this season, I'm looking forward to the both of us basking in our winnings come February.

Though I suppose we'll let them at least play out the regular season. Seems like a bit of an anticlimax after these prediction articles, but I guess it's for the best.

Comments

44 comments, Last at 06 Sep 2022, 9:49pm

1 "I'm sure offensive…

"I'm sure offensive coordinator Peter Piper can get all that sorted out lickety split. If not, he'll be out selling seashells by the seashore in no time."

This is such an amazing joke. Matt Canada's nickname is now "Peter Piper".

2 Possibly

Ravens 10-7

Bengals 10-6-1

Steelers 8-8-1

Browns 8-8-1

 

4 The browns have 49 million…

The browns have 49 million in cap space. The next closest team has 21. This feels like a horribly constructed roster that won’t have the depth should injuries mount, plus maybe the worst starting qb in the league for 11 weeks. Gotta go under 

5 This is so ridiculous I'm…

This is so ridiculous I'm having a hard time believing it!

Perhaps there's some shenanigans going on, like the Watson salary doesn't count against the cap during his suspension? Or they just forgot to mention 25 people they have under contract?

IANACapologist, but isn't it generally a mistake if a team that thinks/claims/pretends it's contending isn't spending near to the cap? Even so, this isn't "not spending near to the cap," this is more like just "not spending!"

12 It's almost like Watson's…

It's almost like Watson's salary/cap number this year is pointlessly low...

(generally you don't want to do what the Browns are doing - cap space effectively deflates each year since the cap grows. Spending $49M this year gets you more value than spending $49M next year. But obviously we know what game the Browns are playing)

10 The Browns don't actually…

The Browns don't actually have that much real space. Looking at cap on a year-to-year basis is super-misleading. You want to look at it on a 3-year basis at least: the Browns are like $49M under this year but projected to be $32M over next year (with current contracts!), and basically already even in '24 (and 7M over if you take into account roster size). So on a three year scale, they've got around $10M space, and that's it (and that's assuming their '23 and '24 rosters are filled with minimum-salary vets).

In other words, they're totally spent out on a 3-year timescale: you actually need several $M space each year just for injury replacements (and drafted rookies, if the Browns had any). $3M/yr is way too tight for that. Some of that money's going to have to be pushed forward past '24.

The reason they've got this much space this year is to pull the $#!+ they're pulling with Watson's contract, where his nonexistent salary doesn't actually get taken away during the suspension. So his cap number's garbage this year ($9.4M) and insane next year ($55M).

The 49M space (well, less once you actually have a roster and then pick up injury replacements over the season) will roll forward and allow them more flexibility next year. If they actually spent up to the cap this year they'd basically be forced to restructure Watson's contract making keeping him past '26 even harder.

7 A lot of the Bengals offense…

A lot of the Bengals offense felt like hero plays between Burrow and Chase that smell of the unsustainable variety. 

I know their defense has talent and it certainly upped it's play in the postseason, but I don't believe in that unit either.

To me, a lot will depend on how good Burrow is going to be. He's had less than 2 full seasons of play and while its been mostly good, I think there's still a lot of unknowns.

19 Chase ~ Moss?

A lot of the Bengals offense felt like hero plays between Burrow and Chase that smell of the unsustainable variety.

That's valid.  But there's a solid possibility that Hero Plays from Ja'Marr Chase are his normal level of play.  Like Randy Moss.

I'm willing to bet against almost everybody on the Bengals offense – Burrow, Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd – but not Ja'Marr Chase. He scares me.

20 I got laughed at by my…

In reply to by JimZipCode

I got laughed at by my friends mid season for proclaiming Chase was already a top 5 receiver in the NFL. Even right now, I might take him above any receiver in the NFL projecting out this coming year.

In thinking about it a bit further, there are a number of teams that were fairly mediocre in the regular season before stunning their way into the SB. The 07 Giants and the 08 Cardinals both come to mind. And interestingly, both improved the next year; albeit they did not get back to the SB. And honestly, I feel better about this Bengals team in comparison to how I felt about the 07 Giants and the 08 Cardinals. 

Of course, there's also the 2012 Ravens who will always be there as a team I can never forget. 

21 The Bengals required some…

The Bengals required some enormous breaks to get where they did -- the Raiders failing on four consecutive go-to-goal plays at the end o the 4th, Tennessee forgetting how to do anything aside from rush the passer, KC (and Mahomes!) forgetting how to play football starting with 0:30 to go in the 2nd quarter, and the Rams being down to two healthy ballcarrier/receivers in their first nine -- and one of the healthy guys having hands made of stone) with the officially allowing Cincinnati to facemask DBs to the ground before catching a go-route.

I'm not sure any of that is repeatable (well, maybe the Raiders...), let alone all of it. Chase was good and Burrow was good, but the numbers all tell us that Jefferson and Cousins were both better than Chase and Burrow -- and people treat the Vikings like a joke -- even though DVOA tells us Minnesota had both a better offense and a better defense than Cincinnati did -- and had worse health.
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2022/agl-injury-numbers-point-ravens-rebound-2022

Do you think Minnesota is going to suddenly go on a roll? Because all their indicators are better.

23 If the Bengals stay exactly…

If the Bengals stay exactly as good as they were last year? Certainly not. That team probably misses the playoffs this year. However, the difference between the Vikings and the Bengals all comes down to Joe Burrow.  I don't have any data to back up this claim, but it seems when a QB plays this well in his first two years, it augurs well for his future. And since they made sure to address their biggest team weakness, I have pretty positive expectations about this offense. 

Really, the point here is just how much better is Joe Burrow expected to get. If he's basically a little bit better and a top end Kirk cousins then I don't think this team's defense is anywhere good enough to be a repeat division winner, much less a contender.

I'll add some further comments. I've seen a decent amount of both Herbert and Burrow. I think Herbert has been easily the better player, though I could still see Burrow ending up being the better of the two. If I knew Burrow was as good as Herbert is now, I'd probably pencil this team as the division favorite.

24 And again, while we make fun…

And again, while we make fun of Cousins, his first two years as a starter were basically Herbert's first two years as a starter, and were substantially better than Burrow in the same stretch.

Narratives are sticky, people really like optics, and the gulf between good and great can be both wide and narrow.

\sadly for Herbert, the success or failure of the Chargers is often a negative indicator of QB quality.

25 Its not really fair to…

Its not really fair to compare Cousins to them because he didn't start full time until his third season. 

And while Cousins is maligned fair amount, I do think part of it has to do with the fact that he has some wild swings; finishing 18th and 20th in DVOA; something that probably held back opinions on Stafford as well. 

34 I've said this before, but I…

I've said this before, but I strongly believe the main reason Cousins gets maligned is fundamentally because of his cost, combined with the Vikings lack of willingness to commit/long-term plan. Minnesota's been playing with one hand tied behind their back for years. The pandemic really hit Minnesota hard, specifically because of their unwillingness to push money forward.

Cousins is exhibit #1 in why NFL contracts are agent theater. He signed a 1-year extension into 2023 for $35M, which sounds like "meh" when you're talking about Murray's 46M APY or Mahomes's 45M APY (I mean, it's Wilson's APY from 2019!). But if he would just keep signing 1-year contracts at standard cap growth rates, the Vikings would end up paying more to Cousins than any other QB except Rodgers, Prescott, and Watson. That's what exponential growth does.

Minnesota as a team has been limited, and so even though Cousins is a completely competent QB the team struggles because they pay him so much relative to his value.

31 Joe burrow in 2021, coming…

Joe burrow in 2021, coming off a major injury and turnstiles for a line, had a better season than Cousins has ever had let alone younger cousins. Kirk’s ceiling has always been higher than his on field performance and he’s settled into franchise quarterback who won’t ever win anything. Burrow meanwhile, was a field goal away from a title in just his second year. 

37 I do!

…and there are reasons why passer rating is a stat no one uses anymore.

I use it some!  It has its merits, one being that you can calculate it with single-game data and box score data.
You gotta be careful & thoughtful with it, but that's every stat.

39 Fair enough. You also serve…

In reply to by JimZipCode

Fair enough. You also serve as a data point where I would have said no thoughtful football fan uses passer rating. Damn it Jim.

43 Thoughtful!

Damn it Jim.

I know, you're a doctor not a bricklayer.

I use passer rating a lot (frequency), but I think I do it in pretty limited contexts; what I would call same-same comparisons.  So for example, Bill was pretty ineffective in the first half, as shown by his passer rating of X, but had a great second half as they made their comback, with a passer rating of Y.  Or: after he came back from covid Bill's passer rating in his next 4 games was Z, which is consistent with a post-covid hangover or lingering effects. 

It's descriptive rather than prescriptive – a little sportswriter-y – but it communicates or summarizes very well.  A ratings difference of 79 vs 110 is very clear to an older-school reader who doesn't trust newfangled stuff like DVOA or EPA.

If I was trying to do something more like serious analysis, I would use several stats.  The 'disappointing' Ravens offense of 2020 was better than you might remember: 11th in total DVOA, 14th in passer rating, 9th in points-per-drive.  I wouldn't try to make a case off passer rating alone; but it's illustrative when used with other stuff.  We fans of a certain age have been seeing it all our football-fan lives, so it comes across clearly.

(Thanks for calling me thoughtful!)

44 Passer rating is fine.

In reply to by JimZipCode

There's not a single person that'd take Cousins over Burrow either. 

It's a decent look at how passer does when removing variables, like OL not giving enough time to throw (yes sacks can be a QB stat but but not always), so when the passes actually able to be thrown/attempted.  

Vastly overhated but it more or less falls in line with other metrics as well. 1st in passer rating last year was Rodgers. Also 1st in the EPA+CPOE composite. And 1st in DVOA. As well as EPA/play. Adj EPA/play too. Is anyone going to really argue that strongly? (and passer rating really helps because he played behind a makeshift OL mostly of multiple UDFAs...hmm maybe he was the MVP)

Of course comparing Montana and Cousins passer rating is silly but that goes for any stat. There's plenty of era adjusted stats though.

41 ANY/A is much easier to…

In reply to by JimZipCode

ANY/A is much easier to calculate than NFL's passer rating and dramatically less bullcrap, although some part of me still thinks the relative TD/INT weights need era adjustment, and sacks should absolutely have a scale penalty as well - as in, right now sacks are just treated as a pass with negative yardage, whereas they're obviously worse than that. Probably something like you subtract 3*sacks (because of the added fumble risk).  Most QBs wouldn't change much on this (lowering by like, 0.2 ANY/A, I think).

But passer rating's obviously screwed at this point. I mean, the completion percentage part was intended to be a 50% league average, with a maximum of 77.5%, so the vast majority of the range is completely gone at this point.

36 Yeah, because passer rating…

Yeah, because passer rating completely ignores sacks, and Burrow nearly doubled Cousins in sack count. Plus passer rating puts incredibly low weight on interceptions (they're only slightly more penalized than touchdowns, which is wacko) and Burrow doubled Cousins there, too. Their QBR and ANY/A are basically identical. Burrow also faced easier defenses than Cousins did.

Lies, damn lies, statistics. I'm not saying Cousins is better than Burrow, however Cousins has definitely had better years than Burrow just had and last year neither of them were significantly better than the other, just different. 9 yards per attempt is awesome, except when it includes double the picks and nearly double the sacks. It ain't 1990 anymore.

38 Herbert is younger

I've seen a decent amount of both Herbert and Burrow. I think Herbert has been easily the better player, though I could still see Burrow ending up being the better of the two.

Herbert is about 15 months younger than Joe Burrow.  That's not as significant as it would be if they were both 20/21, but it's still young enough that if you were projecting growth curves, if Herbert is a little better now then he's a far better long-term bet.

 

40 I think Herbert is more than…

I think Herbert is more than a little better than Burrow. If he didn't get any better and this is all he was, id probably name at most 5 QBs that I would say are better. I cannot make that claim for Burrow.

The age thing is interesting but I'm not sure what to do with it. Herbert is older in terms of starting experience and yet younger in pure age. Does that matter? I was told it somehow did for Brandon Weeden in a positive way, yet his on the field play suggested it was years playing the in the NFL that mattered, not how much gray you have in your hair. 

And I was told it mattered for Sam darnold who is super young, But he has basically not improved from being a rookie despite many years now in the NFL. 

8 I have similar questions…

I have similar questions about Lamar's place in the QB hierarchy. Right now, He's absolutely a high floor QB but with Ravens having to rely on such a shaky receiving core plus a lot of new faces on defense, Lamar will need to ascend to that upper tier for me take this team seriously as a contender.

I see it the same way as Cale I guess. There's too much competency to see this team disappointing, but so many question marks on this roster that make me nervous. I would not put money on this team in either direction.

22 Ravens only rely on one WR, and Bateman is very good

… with Ravens having to rely on such a shaky receiving core plus a lot of new faces on defense, Lamar will need to ascend to that upper tier for me take this team seriously as a contender.

*IF* the Ravens get solid play from the LT position, whether that's Ronnie Stanley comes back or Ja'Wuan James plays solid competent pro ball; and IF Lamar & Mark Andrews & Rashod Bateman stay healthy, along with the OL and a couple of their first-line RBs; then the Ravens will have a top-10 or maybe top-5 offense along the lines of 2019.

Greg Roman's past offenses across San Franciso / Buffalo / Baltimore have usually had enough volume for ONE WR and ONE TE to post good (fantasy-relevant) numbers; and then everything else is spread around among the supporting cast. In SF it was Michael Crabtree & Vernon Davis, then Anquan Boldin & Vernon Davis.  In Buffalo it was Sammy Watkins and – well, I guess Charles Clay.  In Balto it's been Marquise Brown & Mark Andrews.

Brown was so bad in the second half of the year, it's easy to forget that thru the first half the year the one-WR-and-one-TE passing offense was working very well.  Thru eight games Marquise Brown was 6th in the NFL in  ̶p̶a̶s̶s̶i̶n̶g̶ receiving yards, gaining around 10 yards per target.  Mark Andrews was second to Travis Kelce in TE yards, Lamar was top-ten in passing yards-per-game, and the Ravens were 6-2.

This year Rashod Bateman slides into that #1-target-share role.  He's a more versatile player than Brown; I think he'll prove less slump-prone than Brown.  Bateman is an X like Roman's prior #1s, not the Z that Brown was, so that is likely a better overall play-calling fit.  Bateman seemed to have very good chemistry with Lamar in their few starts together (Bateman was hurt early, Lamar hurt late).  I see the Bateman/Andrews pair being productive on par with the 2013 Niners (Boldin 1170 yds, Davis 850).

If the Ravens get that from their top-line targets, then there's enough #2 and #3 pass-catchers (James Proche, Isaiah Likely, Demarcus Robinson etc) to gain the checkdown yards; and Roman will get his usual volume out of the RB committee. 

Honestly this year's WR corps is more proven/established than the 2019 group was, when the Ravens led the league in passing DVOA.  Wide Receiver is not really where the questions are going to be answered, in my opinion. If you want to know how the Ravens offense will fare, keep your eyes on the O-line and on the overall health.

13 " I don't think Jacoby…

" I don't think Jacoby Brissett—or whoever is starting at quarterback—is going to lead the Browns to a 9-2 start in the 11 games of Watson's suspension."

That doesn't make sense, are you saying Watson is expected to go 0-6?

14 No, I'm saying that if the…

No, I'm saying that if the Browns aren't over the 8.5 line before Watson returns, then I would need to root for Deshaun Watson to win football games in order to cash in on an 8.5 line, and that's not something I want to be doing.

 

After thinking about it for a few more days, I'd go under even if I was comfortable betting on Watson. Cale nailed most of the reasons -- the questions about the receiving corps, the problems with injuries on the offensive line, the rust on Watson when he does return.  So consider it an under for two reasons.

16 I can't say I understood…

I can't say I understood Cale's description of their last games as easy: I don't think Watson's going to sweep those back six games. Bengals/Ravens/Saints/Washington is not a fun four game stretch from a defensive point of view - (especially considering Young's likely back at full speed by then).

And then some part of me thinks the Browns might sit Watson with some sort of bullcrap injury in week 18 if they're out of the playoff race (which is way better odds than not). I mean, what's the point? It's a road game, so you're not trying to cheer up fans for next year, and at this point '23 is your best bet anyway so it's like, all risk, no reward. And when Watt and Heyward are on the opposing defensive line that's a bucketload of risk. Like, big giant bucketloads.

Honestly the few "under 7.5" lines that are out there with better odds are more tempting than the over 8.5.

27 Win Total Betting

One thing is I don't think these bets "push" on the whole number lines. Also ties do not count. (In the actual standings they are worth half a win.)

28 Bryan, if you are worried…

Bryan, if you are worried about the Browns oline holding up, how can you bet over for the Steelers? Their oline is trash. 

1600 yards for Harris?

If ge doesnt finish the season on IR, I'd be surprised. 

 

29 Well, Cale was talking about…

Well, Cale was talking about Harris hitting 1,600 all purpose yards last season.

But yes, the offensive line frightens me.  At this point, I'd call that Pittsburgh's biggest problem, and it's a big problem.

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