Bengals Stand Defiant in 2021 Predictions Review
NFL Super Bowl - Andrew: Hello and welcome to the final Scramble for the Ball of the 2021 season. Congratulations to the Los Angeles Rams and commiserations to the Cincinnati Bengals. With the Super Bowl in the books, now is the ideal time for us to point fingers and laugh at ourselves for mispredicting a season that certainly didn't go the way most of us expected.
Bryan: There has been some debate around the ol' interwebs if the chaos of 2021 is a negative—if, say, playoff expansion and whatnot has ruined the sport. This was, after all, the first Super Bowl without a top-three seed in it since the concept of seeding was introduced in 1975. To that, I say poppycock and balderdash and other old-timey interjects of disbelief. It's good, every now and again, for things to happen wildly; you don't want the same old teams doing the same old things year after year after year. Obviously, you don't want the regular season to become meaningless, but a little bit of chaos in an occasional December or January helps keep the possibility of chaos alive, even when chalk rules supreme.
Andrew: Really, I'd say that's more a consequence of there not really being a proper No. 1 seed this year. The Titans and Packers were two of the more flawed top seeds I can remember, and all of the top teams had gaping weaknesses that could be, and often were, exploited by their opponents. If this had been a normal playoff field, I might bemoan the outcome, because it does frustrate me when playoff results negate the importance of the regular season. But this was not a normal playoff field; it was 14 very flawed teams playing off to determine a flawed champion. I'm cool with that.
Bryan: Of course, a season full of flaws and unpredicted (and perhaps unpredictable) runs means that looking back at our predictions is going to be a more self-flagellating exercise than normal. But, if we're going to put our picks into something as permanent as digital ink, then we should at least go back and laugh at the idiots who were writing this thing back in August.
Staff Predictions Review
Andrew: We'll begin with the full site-wide staff predictions, before homing in on our own misjudgements. Those of you who are familiar with the site's machinations will already know that we release a set of preseason projections every July as part of our annual Almanac. You'll also know that we like to embarrass ourselves every August by pitting our own subjective opinions against those very same projections in our annual staff predictions article. Suffice it to say, this was not a vintage year for our subjective opinions.
Bryan: Well, we had some hits. We're always asked which teams will over- or underperform their Almanac projections because we're aware that the Massive DVOA Computer is not, in fact, infallible. Five of us liked the Chargers, who went from a 7.2-win projection to 9-8 and about two seconds away from the playoffs, and from 24th in projected DVOA to 12th. Then you had Thomas Bassinger saying the Eagles were going to bounce back, and both Mike and you yourself had the Titans doing better than expected, which they did in record if not in DVOA.
Andrew: That's all true, and I confess I hadn't realized that the Chargers were rated so low in our preseason projections, so I'd mentally chalked those Chargers picks up as misses. Tom's pick of the Eagles is perhaps the most prescient, since they made the playoffs when they were projected to be very bad. And yes, I felt good about my Titans pick when they wrapped up the No. 1 seed.
Bryan: They're not all hits, mind you. Vince Verhei figured Ryan Fitzpatrick would spark the Washington offense and the defense wouldn't slip that badly.
Andrew: At least he has the injury excuse there. Washington with Taylor Heinicke, et al., is a very different prospect from Washington with a dose of FitzMagic.
When it comes to teams that underperformed, there were some very clear hits, one bad miss, and one very bad miss that becomes even more agonizing when you realize who made the pick. We'll start with the hits: the Vikings were not nearly as good as our projections thought they would be, and Cale Clinton absolutely nailed the Seahawks.
Bryan: In terms of DVOA, if not record, you can include the Steelers here, who went from a 4.6% projection to -10.4% as Big Ben's arm died in front of us, as Aaron Schatz and Rivers McCown suggested.
But when it comes to misses, I suppose I have to stand up and take my shots for saying the Cowboys would have a terrible defense and have to win shootouts all year long. They ended up with the No. 2 defense in DVOA, with rookie talent outperforming even their wildest expectations. I don't think it's the worst miss, but it's a bad one.
Andrew: Definitely not the worst miss. The worst miss belongs, painfully, to our resident Bengals fan, Rob Weintraub ... who picked the Los Angeles Rams as the team most likely to underperform. It would be a little unkind to heap salt into that wound, but it's difficult to whiff harder on a pick than that. (Spoiler alert: Bryan and I both whiffed harder on a pick than that.)
The KUBIAK projection questions are quite tricky, because we don't have the original KUBIAK spreadsheet. However, when it comes to overachievers, I feel safe in saying that Javonte Williams was a strong hit for both Rivers and Aaron, and Rob nailed his pick of Joe Burrow. On the flip side, all-KCW selection Laviska Shenault was a miss for J.P. Acosta, but even that pales in comparison to Vince's pick of Tyrell Williams, who had all of two catches for 14 yards in Detroit.
Bryan: Javonte Williams was, in fact, the statistically best "overperforming" pick, followed by Burrow and Cale's pick of Austin Ekeler. And Vince's flop with Williams is probably the worst pick, but Williams had concussion issues. I'll point out that we also thought that James White and Curtis Samuel would have star seasons, which, uh, they did not.
The saddest part of Tom Brady retiring is that Vince will never be right, having picked Tom Brady to underperform for six consecutive seasons. Credit to him for sailing on that ship for half a decade, but Brady, somehow, beat Father Time. But at least Brady was considered a solid pick in our projections; Jalen Hurts was below that, and Scott still had him going under his projections, bringing up the shadow of Tim Tebow.
Andrew: Derrick Henry was a popular pick in that category, and a correct one, albeit with the injury excuse. Julio Jones was an astute pick, but also a player bitten by the injury bug.
Bryan: I think the best pick probably was you grabbing Saquon Barkley—he was projected in the top 20, depending on your scoring system, but he couldn't even crack the top 30 running backs as the Giants' offense … imploded? Let's say imploded, to be kind.
Andrew: As a Barkley dynasty league manager, I can assure you that I took limited joy from that specific pick being correct. Carl also made a good pick with D'Andre Swift, who was another All-KCW nominee. Would you consider Steelers leading receiver Diontae Johnson the worst pick?
Bryan: I'd actually stick with Hurts, Brady, and even Kirk Cousins as worse misses than Johnson, but that was a whiff, for sure.
Andrew: Drifting back from fantasy land to the real world, not one of us guessed either of the Super Bowl participants correctly. To put that in perspective, our collective guesses included multiple picks of a Baltimore side that missed the playoffs, Vince picking a Seattle team that finished last in its division, and even a pick of the Cleveland Browns. Nobody picked the Rams, and not even Rob dreamt that the Bengals would feature in the big game. Those four I mentioned are the worst picks; the best are probably the Chiefs side that lost in the AFC Championship Game, and either the Packers squad that claimed the No. 1 seed in the NFC or the 49ers side that lost the NFC Championship Game.
Bryan: I might have to give it to Mike's 49ers-Bills projection for "best," as he took two teams no one else took and they both came very close. It's easy to predict the Chiefs to come close to the Super Bowl (nearly everyone did, after all); harder to back Jimmy Garoppolo. And I'll say Vince's Seahawks-Chiefs pick was the worst, thanks to the power of Homerism.
As for the worst teams in the league? Not one of us picked the Jaguars to have the worst record in the league again, partially out of respect for Trevor Lawrence and partially just out of kindness. None of us saw Urban Meyer coming!
Andrew: Aaron and I were this close to getting the right team, though! Literally Week 18, Packers-resting-starters close. If the Packers have something to play for while the Jaguars beat the Colts, the Lions could oh-so-easily have snatched that No. 1 pick.
Bryan: The worst pick goes to Cale and I picking the Eagles, though I suppose they have plenty of trade capital to possibly move up to No. 1, so put a pin in that for April, maybe? OK, no—three picks, none in the top 10? I thought taking them would be savvy because I had multiple chances to be right, and instead, I just look like a bigger idiot.
Andrew: The less said about the player we expected to be the No. 1 pick, the better. I'm pretty sure it won't be Spencer Rattler. Or Carson Strong. Or Kayvon Thibodeaux, for that matter, though at least Thibodeaux is projected to go in the top 10.
Bryan: It might be Thibodeaux, perhaps, and at least Strong will still be, uh, drafted. Rattler was benched and ended up transferring to South Carolina, and isn't even coming out this year. Projecting college players is hard.
Andrew: Overall, some hits, but quite a lot of whiffs in this rather strange year.
Andrew: For the first time, we split our over/unders articles into individual divisions rather than grouping them by compass point this year, so here's the full set of links.
AFC: North | East | South | West
NFC: North | East | South | West
Bryan: First the good—we were both over .500! That's always difficult to do, considering Vegas is actively trying to take our money with these things.
Andrew: Though we should note, that is counting pushes as ties rather than losses. Vegas being Vegas, they will happily take your money even if the team pushes. If you bet on the over, they have to actually go over for the bet to win.
Bryan: Considering we didn't have the opportunity to just not pick something, I'm comfortable with calling pushes ties here. In that case, you beat me by going 17-11-4, but there's nothing to be ashamed about in a 15-13-4 season. Just a little lighter wallet at the end of the day. And if you limit it to things we were more or less sure about, rather than the "ugh, I don't know, under" picks, I think we did quite well.
Andrew: Quite well, with one or two glaring exceptions. Let's start with the picks we nailed. Both of us picked the Packers, Cowboys, and Raiders to go over their lines. All three made the playoffs, clearing their line by at least three wins. At the other end, we thought New York football would suck, and it did suck, as both the Jets and Giants finished with four wins. The Jaguars continued to be the Jaguars, only even more so, and Sam Darnold did not in fact enjoy a career revival in Carolina. All four finished at least two wins under their line, just as we predicted.
Bryan: To go along with those seven hits, however, we did have five misses on teams that blew their lines by at least two wins. We did not foresee the injury apocalypse in Baltimore, nor Seattle's sputtering. We also weren't sure about Kliff Kingsbury's development in Arizona (frankly, we're still not), thought Philadelphia would struggle, and, uh … well, let's talk about the tiger in the room.
Andrew: Yeah, this has been a major mea culpa for me all year long. I just did not see anything that suggested that Zac Taylor was even a decent coach, never mind a good one, and I had absolutely no confidence in the Bengals roster. I called them "at best the fourth-best team in the division, and at worst the fourth-worst team in the conference." Yeah, that's a slight whiff.
Bryan: I think I come off a little better than you did—I mentioned the possibility of some Panglossian Burrow-to-Chase optimism, while pointing out that the offensive line might give up 50 sacks; they gave up 51. But no, I have to wear the hat of shame along with you; I figured Zac Taylor would be looking for a new job, not signing a new extension, at the end of the season.
Andrew: In fact, what let me down in the AFC was my grasp of the North. I went 1-3 in that division, and the other pick I missed by at least two wins was one that you got right: the Browns went 8-9, whereas I picked them to go over 10.5 wins. They did beat the Bengals twice, which I predicted! They were also heavily blighted by injuries and COVID, just not quite to the same level as the Ravens.
Bryan: To be fair, I thought the Browns would be wild-card contenders with a winning record, and not 8-9 and in a bit of chaos again, but picking the Factory of Sadness to win double-digit games is a Rubicon I can not yet cross.
And you got your own back with the Titans pick. I figured Ryan Tannehill was going to regress sharply without Arthur Smith, and that spending a zillion dollars on defense did not mean the defense was actually going to improve. Miss and miss.
Andrew: Yeah, I never understood the Titans pessimism. I didn't quite anticipate the No. 1 seed, but they were clearly the most settled and established squad in the division and an obvious 10-win team to me. I even nailed that they wouldn't make any noise in the postseason when they got there, which was painfully accurate.
Not quite as accurate as my Texans piece, mind you: "There is absolutely nothing to get excited about here, and I suspect that even getting enthusiastic about potential draft position is a bridge too far. They'll pick in the top 10, for sure, but this line is the over/under on them picking in the top three ... let's say the No. 3 overall pick, assuming no Deshaun Watson in 2021. I think that's just bad enough to hit the under, but boy would I be tempted to push. They'll scrape their way to 4-13, and I'll be frustrated."
Dagnabbit. Looks like I know the AFC South entirely too well to be considered healthy.
Bryan: I'm most frustrated, I think, by going 0-4 in the NFC West. Under on the Cardinals ("not convinced they'll have a successful offense for four months"), under on the Rams ("12 wins is the upper bounds on what they could reasonably be expected to do"), over on the 49ers ("you can see the trendline to Trey Lance starting Week 1"), over on the Seahawks ("if the offense looks like they did last September, look out"). Ugh.
Andrew: All in all though, not a bad performance, albeit with one very glaring oversight.
Award/Stat Predictions Review
Andrew: That leaves just one set of predictions to cover. You can read our preseason picks for this year's award winners and major stat leaders here.
Bryan: Neither of us saw Tom Brady leading the league in counting stats. Neither of us should have seen Tom Brady leading the league in counting stats.
Andrew: Tom Brady should not have led the league in counting stats. The man is older than I am, for pity's sake!
Bryan: That being said, I did pick Justin Herbert as my best bet for both yards and touchdowns, and he finished second and third, respectively. I'm happy with that! I thought the Chargers offense would be more explosive than it actually was, but I believe Herbert set a record for fourth-down passing yards which pumped his numbers up. I'll take it!
Andrew: For all my Bengals pessimism from before, Joe Burrow was a very nice longshot pick for passing yards, and Dak Prescott wasn't terrible value either. Neither was as good as your Herbert pick, but it's not like I picked, I dunno, Ben Roethlisberger or somebody.
Bryan: At least Roethlisberger was my longshot for both yards and touchdowns; it just turns out that Big Ben couldn't take a single long shot this season as his arm turned into rigatoni. I suppose I could have picked a Russell Wilson or Matt Ryan as a best bet instead!
Andrew: I'm a little annoyed with myself for not picking Matthew Stafford in either of those categories for once. Aaron Rodgers and Joe Burrow were decent picks in the touchdown leaderboard, but still not as good as Herbert. Kudos to you for that.
Neither of us saw Jonathan Taylor leading the league in rushing yards, but I did grab Nick Chubb as a value pick and Chubb finished second. Derrick Henry somehow finished in the top 10 despite missing half the year. Gus Edwards and Josh Jacobs were nowhere to be seen, for varying reasons.
Bryan: With Henry and Edwards both getting hurt, my picks for rushing yards were sort of cursed, so you can run away with this one. And hey, you did pick Jonathan Taylor—for rushing touchdowns, which he also led. So you can hold your head high on these picks.
Andrew: All of our picks in that category at least placed in the top 10 apart from Dalvin Cook, who also missed time with injury. Not bad, all things considered.
Just as neither of us saw Jonathan Taylor coming, neither of us saw Cooper Kupp at all. He was +3500 to lead the league in receiving yards, and +4000 in touchdowns. That's a lot of bang for your hypothetical buck! I had to settle for Davante Adams, who finished third in yards and fifth in touchdowns, and the less said about my other picks, the better.
Bryan: My worst pick was probably Keenan Allen as my longshot for touchdowns, but at least he was a +4000 longshot; you miss 100% of the shots you don't yadda yadda yadda. That also absolves you for the DJ Chark pick—that and the ankle injury that knocked him out of the season. I shall be kind and not mention Allen Robinson here for you.
As for awards, it's a mixed bag. We kind of nailed MVP—my best bet was Aaron Rodgers, who won; yours was Tom Brady, who finished in a reasonably close second place
Andrew: Like the Super Bowl MVP award, this was a very tight race between our respective picks, with you eking out the win in the end.
Bryan: Our coach of the year picks weren't terrible, either—we both had Bill Belichick, who made the playoffs with a rookie quarterback. We both had one other playoff coach in Kyle Shanahan and Bruce Arians, and both Sean Payton and John Harbaugh did a good job coping with injuries, only to fall a bit short.
Andrew: I think if Jameis Winston stays healthy and the Saints make the playoffs, Payton is also in with a shout. Unfortunately, the first of those not happening led to the second and prevented the third.
Bryan: But neither of us had Mike Vrabel, or Matt LaFleur, or Rich Bisaccia or Zac Taylor, who combined for 49 of the 50 votes. Belichick got one, so we tie!
Andrew: I legitimately thought the Titans were too consistently good to give Vrabel a chance. It's not usually won by a good team from the previous year getting a little bit better!
Bryan: There was no way we were going to predict Jon Gruden getting fired first, so I'm OK with us missing there. And our favorite, Matt Nagy, was indeed fired, though not before Urban Meyer got shown the door. Our longshot, Kliff Kingsbury, isn't going anywhere, though there have been some whispers about his job security with Arizona flopping down the stretch again. Maybe a little more flop, and that would have been considered visionary.
Andrew: Huh. Neither of us made a best bet pick in this category, which is a small historical curiosity I'm sure nobody will dare to double check.
Bryan: Yeah, it's very strange that neither of us looked at the AFC North, saw a team we thought would be a nightmare, and shoved Zac Taylor out the door. Good thing, too, or we'd look like morons!
Speaking of not looking like morons, nice longshot pick of Jonathan Taylor for offensive player of the year. I mean, he wasn't; Kupp ran away with it in the end, but Taylor finished second and even had some (incorrect) speculation for MVP in the back half of the season. Much better than my trio of Dalvin Cook/Travis Kelce/Ezekiel Elliott, and more than making up for your Alvin Kamara pick.
Andrew: Alvin Kamara might also have earned some love if the Saints had stayed healthy and in contention, but again, that didn't happen. Still, 1,300 yards from scrimmage in 13 games is nothing to sneeze at.
Bryan: Frankly, I think we were right when we both picked Aaron Donald for defensive player of the year, and we're backed by the vote from our own head honcho. Not that T.J. Watt wasn't a deserving winner, mind you, just that Donald remains the best defensive player in the league. I'll pick him again, assuming he doesn't retire this offseason. We won't speak as much about Chase Young, Bradley Chubb, or Za'Darius Smith.
Andrew: Yeah, those picks are speculating on something random happening, not serious picks that people should actually make.
We made more serious picks for each of the rookie of the year categories, and this is score one for me, score one for you. On offense, we both had Mac Jones as a reasonable pick for best value, your longshot of Javonte Williams was solid enough, but my longshot of Ja'Marr Chase would have paid off handsomely. Then on the defensive side, most of our picks were not great, but you called Micah Parsons absolutely spot on.
Bryan: Well, I said Parsons would be good in coverage, which he was not, but yeah, I'm happy when I grabbed the unanimous DROY from a draft without a clear favorite.
You picked Joe Burrow as comeback player of the year, while I argued that he was not, in fact, coming back so much as naturally developing after a serious injury. The voters agreed with you! I still think it should have gone to Dak Prescott, but I don't get a vote there. The less said about our longshots of Christian McCaffrey and Courtland Sutton, the better.
Andrew: Well McCaffrey gets another chance at this award next year, so there's that!
Our final category was the Super Bowl winner, and just like in the staff predictions, neither of us took either of the teams that actually made the big game. The Buccaneers were a reasonable choice, and the Patriots did indeed return to the postseason as a longshot, but again the best pick was probably the 49ers, and the worst was the injury-ravaged Ravens. Unsurprisingly, neither of us saw the Bengals coming. I don't think anybody else did either! All in all, not our greatest set of picks, but far from our worst, either.
And It's Goodnight From Him
Andrew: And that does it for another season of Scramble for the Ball! But not only that, as we've alluded to once or twice during the year, that also does it for your current Scramble team. Six seasons is a long time in this business, and the real world beckons me back from beyond the lamppost. It has been a blast writing this column, and (usually) even more of a blast reading the resultant comments, so thanks to all of you for being kind to this pair of goofballs over the past half-decade and more.
Bryan: It has been wonderful shepherding Scramble for the past six years, and it's great to be part of what will be a twenty-year legacy next season. It will be back in some form, with some pair of idiots, and we hope you give whoever is under center next season the same sort of welcome and love you gave us this past half-decade.
And neither of us will be gone, mind you! This isn't a goodbye forever. Andrew is still going to be around in Audibles and the injury report, and I may well end up being half of the new Scramble team next year; that's not decided yet and no one wants to think about that 48 hours after the freaking Super Bowl ended. We must return to our respective regeneration chambers and try to recover at least an nth of our sanity before thinking about 2022. But this is the Knowles-Potter team signing off for the last time. Have a good one, folks.
Andrew: To quote a great, great man, "so long, and thanks for all the fish."
Playoff Fantasy Update
Bryan: No need for much of an update here, as Vince had the victory sewn up going into the game, but it's worth pointing out that he topped 500 POINTS. This is what happens when the go-all-in-on-one-team strategy works.
|2021 Staff Playoff Fantasy Challenge|
|108.55||Josh Allen||83.25||Tom Brady||38||Matthew Stafford||105.6||Dak Prescott||23.4||Aaron Rodgers||11.25||Kyler Murray||3.45|
|RB||Derrick Henry||12.2||Elijah Mitchell||35.6||Aaron Jones||26||Joe Mixon||65.2||Leonard Fournette||31.7||A.J. Dillon||2.5||Damien Harris||4.7|
|RB||Darrel Williams||-1.6||James Conner||9.4||Josh Jacobs||16.7||Sony Michel||10.2||Ezekiel Elliott||4.1||Devin Singletary||36.85||Tony Pollard||4.6|
|WR||Amari Cooper||18.4||Stefon Diggs||14.7||A.J. Brown||25.2||Cooper Kupp||115.3||Tee Higgins||60.9||Mike Evans||52.6||Davante Adams||18|
|WR||Van Jefferson||20.7||Ja'Marr Chase||71||Julio Jones||12.2||Odell Beckham||63.5||Cedrick Wilsom||11.2||Allen Lazard||1.6||Tyreek Hill||69.3|
|WR||Jakobi Meyers||10||Deebo Samuel||51.1||Breshad Perriman||1.5||Tyler Boyd||32.3||Mecole Hardman||37.6||Byron Pringle||38.2||CeeDee Lamb||3.6|
|TE||Dalton Schultz||15.9||Dawson Knox||28.8||George Kittle||23.8||Travis Kelce||75||Rob Gronkowski||26.6||Tyler Higbee||20.5||Zach Ertz||5.1|
|K||Harrison Butker||26||Evan McPherson||59||Ryan Succop||17||Matt Gay||39||Greg Zuerlein||8||Mason Crosby||4||Matt Prater||6|
For comparison, last season Andrew won with 297.65 points. It was a low-scoring season last year, admittedly, but Vince's performance is beyond what anyone's expectations could have possibly been.
Best of the Rest
Bryan: None of the crazy scenarios ended up panning out, so JGov is indeed our winner—and a healthy one, too, more than 25 points clear of the rest of the rabble. Joe Burrow was, in fact, a must-have for anyone seriously contending this year, which is not surprising. But it required taking Gabriel Davis and his insane five-touchdown performance if you wanted to crack the top three, and JGov was on top of that as well. His final roster:
- QB Joe Burrow (76.35 points)
- RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (12.9 points)
- RB Cam Akers (27 points)
- WR Gabriel Davis (64.2 points)
- WR Brandon Aiyuk (22.5 points)
- WR Tyler Johnson (9.5 points)
- TE Darren Waller (14.6 points)
- K Robbie Gould (31 points)
- DEF San Francisco (14 points)
It was a tight race for second place, and so we present our top five finishers:
- JGov (272.05 points)
- StMedard (245.95 points)
- Fizz and Friends (243.25 points)
- Bronco Jeff (229.95 points)
- AlecB (212.35 points)
The best possible team for Best of the Rest would have been as follows:
- QB Joe Burrow (76.35 points)
- RB Jerick McKinnon (51.5 points)
- RB Cam Akers (27 points)
- WR Gabriel Davis (64.2 points)
- WR Kendrick Bourne (28.1 points)
- WR Brandon Aiyuk (22.5 points)
- TE C.J. Uzomah (35.6 points)
- K Robbie Gould (31 points)
- DEF Cincinnati (18 points)
A combined score of 354.25 points squeezes you over Rivers for second place, but Vince was truly untouchable.
And finally, the best team including players taken in the staff league, would have been:
- QB Patrick Mahomes (108.55 points, Bryan [Round 1])
- RB Joe Mixon (65.2 points, Vince [Round 3])
- RB Jerick McKinnon (51.5 points, undrafted)
- WR Cooper Kupp (115.3 points, Vince [Round 2])
- WR Ja'Marr Chase (71 points, Rivers [Round 3])
- WR Tyreek Hill (69.3 points, Dave [Round 2])
- TE Travis Kelce (75 points, Vince [Round 1])
- K Evan McPherson (59 points, Rivers [Round 8])
- DEF Cincinnati (18 points, undrafted)
Prop Bet Extravaganza Results
Bryan: While we don't have the final scores officially tabulated yet—there are a couple cross-sport props that remain up for grabs—the last ever Bryan v. Andrew Prop Bet Extravaganza was, well, rather one-sided. There were 20 prop bets we disagreed on. We both, together, missed on four—we both had the Rams winning by double-digits and we figured a quarter in the middle would be the highest scoring, both of which ended up quite wrong. I thought Van Jefferson was an exciting longshot for first touchdown, while Andrew went with Sony Michel; while we were right to avoid Cooper Kupp's short odds, we should have stuck with Odell Beckham. And neither of us could possibly have predicted the Rams would have had Blue Liquid for the Ceremonial Coach Soaking, though at least Andrew could argue that at least some of it was clear. We also technically pushed on NHL goals versus first-half points, both clocking in at 23, sasafrassa bungled extra point.
Andrew did hit a few of his props. He correctly used his Association Football knowledge to predict that there would be more yellow cards in a Premier League game than there were Bengals touchdowns. He also correctly predicted a 1-yard touchdown, although it took us 58:35 to get there. All you need is one, after all.
But oh my, on everything else we disagreed on? It was nearly a clean sweep for yours truly. The Rams scored first, and last, and they won. The Bengals managed to score three times in a row. The first turnover was, in fact, an interception, and Matthew Stafford did, in fact, throw it. It was Cooper Kupp, not Aaron Donald, who won MVP. Snoop performed before Mary J. Blige; Eminem opened with "Lose Yourself" and not "Real Slim Shady," and no accursed Crypto Apes marred our screens. Matthew Stafford threw further than a Daytona 500 car can drive. Joe Mixon outran Jon Rahm's golf score. I even have a chance remaining in the NFL versus Olympics prop—Kupp had eight catches, and the US is sitting on seven gold medals, with Mikaela Shiffrin, Elena Meyers-Taylor, Aaron Blunck, Alex Hall, Hanna Faulhaber, Jordan Stolz, Joey Mantia, Brittany Bowe, and the women's hockey team all still with events to come.
Scratch the Olympic prop for now, and I had a profit of 1,445 bars of latinum on our opposed bets, with Andrew sitting at a 1,450-bar loss. If you, like many, feel that Aaron Donald was robbed, and he, not Kupp, should be MVP, it would be closer, but I still would have come out on top, 745 to 450, and even an Olympic fail for me would still hand me the victory in that circumstance. As it stands, however, I will gratefully accept my winnings and do only a very tasteful, restrained victory dance.
Keep Choppin' Wood
While it would be a stretch to say the Super Bowl was a well-played game, in general, both teams were able to avoid devastating errors. Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions, but one was a near-Hail Mary on a third-and-long that worked out better than a punt would have anyway, and the other hit his backup receiver in the hands but bounced to a Bengals defender. The missed extra point was a fumbled snap, not a kicking or blocking disaster, and even that probably worked out in Los Angeles' favor as it forced their extremely conservative coach (more on that in a moment) to play for a game-winning touchdown instead of a game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter. The Bengals offensive line was overwhelmed, but Aaron Donald and Von Miller have made fools of better lines than this one.
However, there was one unit on the field that did make at least one critical, game-changing error.
"no pass interference" pic.twitter.com/CQzYNrq7Cx
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) February 14, 2022
On the first play of the second half, Joe Burrow threw for Tee Higgins down the left sideline with Jalen Ramsey in good coverage. While the pass was in the air, Higgins grabbed a hold of the cornerback's facemask and pulled him to the ground before catching the ball and running for a 75-yard score. The clear and obvious foul would have taken the touchdown off the board and left the Bengals facing first-and-25, but Ron Torbert's officiating crew completely missed it. They also missed an obvious false start by the entire Rams offensive line on the game-winning drive, and called several fouls late in the game that they hadn't been calling for the first 58 minutes, so much so that even Tony Dungy publicly criticized them for it.
Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game
With both head coaches ranking in the bottom half of the league in EdjSports' Critical Call Index, which measures coaching aggressiveness on fourth downs, we had not expected the Super Bowl to feature many aggressive decisions. So it was both a surprise and a delight to see Zac Taylor defy his own tendencies against his former boss. On Cincinnati's opening drive, they went for it on fourth-and-1 just across midfield, but Ernest Jones broke up Joe Burrow's pass intended for Ja'Marr Chase. On their first fourth down of the second half, Joe Burrow scrambled for a first down on another fourth-and-1. Unfortunately, the game also ended on a fourth-and-1 failure, as Joe Burrow missed Samaje Perine with 43 seconds left.
John Fox Award for Conservatism
Admittedly, Sean McVay did not have nearly as many opportunities as Taylor to be aggressive on fourth down. His team went for the only fourth-and-1 they faced, and that was deep in their own end, where most coaches would have preferred to punt. However, what earns McVay this award is his dreadfully conservative play calling throughout the game, as elucidated in the...
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching
Sean McVay. Oh, Sean McVay. On the Rams' first 11 drives, they had 18 rushing plays. Exactly zero of them were successful. That includes 12, yes, 12 carries on 1st-and-10 for a combined total of 26 yards, with four stuffs and long gain of 6 yards. And it wasn't just the sheer ineffectiveness of the running, it was the lack of any sort of creativity in the run game—narrow formations, slamming backs straight up the middle over and over again, to practically zero results. Yes, the receiving corps was undermanned, but Cooper Kupp and four guys named Moe were consistently a more efficient attack than slamming into the Bengals front over and over and over and over again. It took until the very last Rams drive of the game for McVay to open things up, spread the offense wide, and let Matthew Stafford, the man he traded multiple first-round picks for, take apart a fragile Cincinnati zone. You can't help but think that this was an option throughout the game, and that the primary reason this was a close contest was McVay's stubborn insistence on wasting drive after drive with aggravatingly ineffective rushing plays.
'Joe Slightly Warmed Over' Fantasy Player of the Week
Seven players scored double-digit fantasy points in the Super Bowl; six were on drafted in the Staff League. That means we're giving our final nod to Joe Burrow, who ended the postseason as QB4, ahead of the Dak Prescotts, Tom Bradys, Kyler Murrays, and Aaron Rodgerses of the world. Burrow didn't have much time to throw on Sunday, but he can be commended for getting the ball out quickly for most of the game, buying time for his beleaguered offensive line, and he did end up with a touchdown pass. That's far from a given; there have been 28 Super Bowl starters who failed to throw for a touchdown, 20 of them losers. Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Cam Newton—there's absolutely no guarantee you'll look good in the Super Bowl, no matter what your regular-season performance was like. Burrow has very little to be ashamed of, even if his guys couldn't come out on top.
Burrow to Higgins for 75 yards and the @Bengals have the lead! #RuleItAll
: #SBLVI on NBC
: https://t.co/K02y40b5Nu pic.twitter.com/lTfM3W8nyA
— NFL (@NFL) February 14, 2022
Garbage Time Failed Comeback Performer of the Week
For the third week in a row, we can't give out a "garbage-time" player, because there was no garbage time to speak of. There was some offense after the game-winning score, however, so we can at least tip our hat to Ja'Marr Chase, who opened Cincinnati's final drive with a 17-yard reception, taking advantage of Jalen Ramsey's ill-advised attempt to drive on the ball to move the Bengals close to midfield. One or two more of those and the Bengals get to trot Evan McPherson out to try a game-tying field goal. And Chase was winning his matchups, too. If Aaron Donald doesn't happen on that fourth-down play, Chase had beaten Ramsey again. Joe Burrow will be seeing this one in his dreams for months; what might have been.
Burrow to Higgins for 75 yards and the @Bengals have the lead! #RuleItAll
: #SBLVI on NBC
: https://t.co/K02y40b5Nu pic.twitter.com/lTfM3W8nyA
— NFL (@NFL) February 14, 2022
Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week
Comfort for the Bengals is pretty obvious. Their 25-year-old quarterback has just completed his second year, and has three years remaining on his rookie deal. Their top two receivers, Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, will be 22 and 23 years old, respectively, on opening day of the 2022 season. Among their backs and receivers, only 29-year-old tight end C.J. Uzomah will be over the age of 27 in 2022. The Bengals offense is youthful, talented, and exciting. That's no guarantee of future success, but it's a far better position than most franchises face this offseason.
Game-Changing Play of the Week
Cooper Kupp may have won the MVP on the Rams' final drive, but it was Eli Apple who delivered it to him. On that last drive alone, Kupp caught four passes against Apple for 39 yards, and also drew a pass interference call that brought the ball down to the 1 and made a touchdown as close to a sure thing as you could possibly get. Considering Apple had been, shall we say, quite vocal on social media leading up to the game, he has been getting absolutely destroyed on Twitter and Instagram for these final drive failings. I'm putting up the game-winning touchdown as the video here, but I think I'd argue that the interference penalty two plays before was more painful. Either way, when the chips were on the line, Apple got bitten, and we join the various receivers from around the league in turning Apple's taunting back at him.
IT'S BEEN COOPER KUPP ALL YEAR.
HE DOES IT AGAIN. #RamsHouse
📺: #SBLVI on NBC
📱: https://t.co/K02y40b5Nu pic.twitter.com/02QlsZmirX
— NFL (@NFL) February 14, 2022
23 comments, Last at 20 Feb 2022, 12:17pm
#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 16, 2022 - 12:08pm
Among their backs and receivers, only 29-year-old tight end C.J. Uzomah will be over the age of 27 in 2022. The Bengals offense is youthful, talented, and exciting. That's no guarantee of future success, but it's a far better position than most franchises face this offseason.
I remember my comp team. They had one starter over age 29. They had two highly-drafted QBs under 25, and a successful 27 year-old journeyman; they had HOFers at RB and WR under 23, and a really competent WR2. They had young all-pros at LB and NT, and pro bowlers in their secondary. They had two young Hall of Very Good guys on their line. They ran an aggressive, up-tempo offense that was ahead of its time.
They would never win another playoff game.
#3 by theslothook // Feb 16, 2022 - 12:11pm
The biggest issue between this Bengals team and similar teams with second-year quarterbacks who make the sb is the overall talent of the core. The 2013 Seahawks and 2006 Steelers were both far more loaded with talent as evidenced by the fact that they made the playoffs a year earlier.
That's the biggest reason for lack of optimism for this Bengals team. They have lots of cap space so maybe they buttress their team with new additions, but as is, to replicate their success Joe burrow is going to need to get even better.
#14 by GwillyGecko // Feb 17, 2022 - 5:36am
Herman Moore is not a hall of fame wr, and by the two highly drafted qbs under 25 im assuming you mean Andre Ware and Rodney Peete, the former was already well on his way to being a bust at that point and the latter was neither highly drafted nor particularly good
#2 by theslothook // Feb 16, 2022 - 12:08pm
Revisiting a few thoughts from one year ago:
I thought this year would be a great litmus test for what kind of quarterback Josh Allen ultimately is. Well he had a down year compared to last year, he was still much closer to that QB than the first two years. Revisiting Taniers outcome probabilities, Allen is unlikely to be a bust at this point and probably good enough to justify the contract. I think his chance for super stardom is higher than I did a year ago.
I thought Wilson would enjoy a big year, instead he disappointed for the second straight year. So did Rodgers at one point, making me wonder if it was due to an age related decline. Not everyone ages like Tom Brady or even close to it. Sometimes you go the way of McNabb.
The only team I bet significant money on this season was that the Browns would go under on their projection. It happened to work out but I don't think I was right about how much they would regress in retrospect.
#4 by reddwarf // Feb 16, 2022 - 12:43pm
Very sorry to hear this is the last Scramble for the two of you as a team. This article (and Word of Muth) are my favorites each week the last few years. The new team (even if it includes 1/2 of you :) ) will have big shoes to fill. Thanks for all the articles!
#20 by jheidelberg // Feb 17, 2022 - 3:56pm
These articles are great fun, and I wish you the best, hoping that the time opened up by not writing this article is quality time, not garbage time, and that anything that you guys do is not on the Keep Choppin' Wood list.
#5 by AFCNFCBowl // Feb 16, 2022 - 1:12pm
ARI over 8.5
ATL under 7.5
CHI under 7.5
DEN under 9
DET under 4.5
GB over 10.5
JAX under 6.5
LAR over 10.5
MIN under 9
NYG under 7
NYJ under 6
TB over 12
TEN over 9.5
BAL over 10.5
CIN under 6.5
CLE over 10.5
DAL under 9
KC over 12.5
LV under 7.5
PHI under 6.5
PIT under 8.5
SF over 10.5
SEA over 9.5
WAS over 8.5
BUF over 11
HOU under 4
IND under 9
NO under 9
Was unsure about CAR, LAC, MIA, and NE (had them very close to their win total).
#6 by BigRichie // Feb 16, 2022 - 1:48pm
The pass to Skow-however-many-syllables did NOT! hit him in the hands. He had to reach out for it, so he got his hands on it.
A slant is supposed to be on the body. One you have to reach up for is a rib injury waiting to happen, one like that to Skow-whatever a gift-wrapped concussion. Particularly considering a slant is the easiest pass to throw, it was a poorly thrown ball.
#7 by Aaron Brooks G… // Feb 16, 2022 - 2:31pm
That is a dig route, my friend, and it hit him in the basket as he dropped the baby like he was Agholor.
#9 by BigRichie // Feb 16, 2022 - 3:56pm
I'll take the diagram's word for it. That pass is still supposed to go on the numbers, into the body. It's not a curl route, where you present a big target to the QB (understanding there'll be no YAC).
The ball is in front of Skow-whatsisname. He'd wind up going to the ground to complete the catch. Which would've been a much happier outcome, but not the designed one. The pass wasn't where it's supposed to be.
#11 by turbohappy // Feb 16, 2022 - 5:12pm
He goes off screen for a bit, but given the angle of his body combined with Kupp's route I'm not even convinced it was supposed to be a dig. It could be a curl that he aborted because the pass was off target or he could have started to run the wrong route or something...definitely looks strange me. Definitely not a slant though.
#15 by omaholic // Feb 17, 2022 - 6:51am
"Vegas being Vegas, they will happily take your money even if the team pushes."
This is not true. If it's an even number line, hitting the line is a push and will refund your stake. Under your interpretation the house would sweep both side of the bet if it hit the number.
#19 by Pat // Feb 17, 2022 - 1:19pm
That's why hooks (half-number lines) exist - otherwise the house would have massive disincentive to never use them, because if they nail the prediction holy cow they make money. There's less incentive to add the half-point, because it only "costs" them the average take on a bet (due to the vig).