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Our look at play-action pass in 2017 flips to the defensive side of the ball. Carolina was historically good, Houston was historically bad, and a long-standing question about year-to-year correlation gets cleared up.

30 Aug 2017

Scramble for the Ball: 2017 North Over/Unders

by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Bryan: Welcome to the last Scramble over/under of the season, with the divisions arguably most likely to overthrow the reign of the Patriots. While we -- and everyone else in the known universe -- are favoring New England to win it all this year, it's more likely than not that someone, somewhere will bring the dragon crashing to the ground, cementing their own power in the process. Two of the four most likely teams to do that play their football up north.

Andrew: While every aunt and her nephew thinks they know how this one's going to wind up, there are plenty of twists to play out in the coming season. The strongest team does not always win, and the pack will almost always triumph over the lone favorite. Nobody knows that better than the bannermen of the North, those six-time champion Steelborn and the four-time victorious Greenpackers.

Bryan:When people ask you what happened in the 2017 season, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Brady.

All lines courtesy of Bovada and were accurate at time of writing.

AFC North


Andrew: We kick off by discussing the Ravens, for whom the most difficult question to answer may be just what sort of team they'll have on the field by midseason. With still almost a fortnight until their regular-season opener, the Ravens have already lost nine players to injured reserve. The importance of these players ranges from starting tight end Dennis Pitta and probable starting running back Kenneth Dixon, through nickelback Tavon Young and offensive guard Alex Lewis, to depth players such as Albert McClellan and Nico Siragusa.

Bryan: In addition, Joe Flacco has yet to take a snap this summer, Ronnie Stanley missed essentially all of training camp with an undisclosed injury, Breshad Perriman has been sidelined since the first week of camp with a bad hamstring, and Marshal Yanda has only been able to play in one preseason game. Other than that, though, they're ready for action!

Andrew: It seems like this is a perennial issue for the Ravens, so at least John Harbaugh and company have plenty of experience coaching a patchwork lineup.

Bryan: I think that's more perception than reality. The Ravens have ranked in the top ten in adjusted games lost in three of the last four seasons, so they have been relatively healthy, all things considered. The one exception was 2015, when they had 19 players end up on injured reserve, including Flacco and nearly their entire starting receiving corps.

Andrew: That season might still be clouding my rearview mirror. I remember at one point they'd lost Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Justin Forsett, Eugene Monroe, Jeremy Zuttah, Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Marlon Brown, and Michael Campanaro on offense, as well as Terrell Suggs, Chris Canty, and a lengthy list of backups.

Bryan: Notably, that massively-injured 2015 season was the only time in the past nine years they have finished under .500.

Andrew: Which makes this over/under one of the trickiest I have seen yet.

Bryan: Flacco has only had one losing record as a starter, and that was in the year he hurt his ACL. That proves he's #elite, right? My biggest concern, actually, is how quickly the Ravens' offense can kick into gear after essentially missing the entire preseason as a unit. While four preseason games are too much, some level of continuity and practice would be nice, especially when you're replacing four of your top six receivers. They open up with three divisional games in their first four weeks, too, so there's not a lot of time to get everyone gelling together on the field. The back half of the schedule is much easier, all things considered. I'd be more confident with this over/under if they could play all their games in reverse. Is Benjamin Button available to quarterback while Flacco's hurt?

Andrew: It's worse than that: if Flacco misses any time, the Ravens turn to Ryan Mallett. Fortunately, the season Flacco tore his ACL was also the only season in which he's missed a start. Less fortunately, he posted a -14.6% DVOA on returning from that injury. Admittedly, it takes most quarterbacks a year to get over an ACL tear, but it's not just one season of concern: Flacco has had one season with a DVOA better than minus-10.0% since 2013, and his median DVOA rank is 28th.

Bryan: Give that man a massive contract!


It sounds like we're saying the offense is going to sputter this season, so the Ravens will have to win without scoring very many points. Fortunately, they're very good at that. In the past five years, they have won 14 games while scoring 20 points or fewer, second to only the Seahawks in that time. Justin Tucker, MVP. With a soft schedule and a defense that reloaded heavily in the draft (Marlon Humphrey, Tyus Bowser, Chris Wormley, Tim Williams) and free agency (Tony Jefferson, Brandon Carr), I think ... they're going to hit eight wins exactly. I'll flip a coin here … Over.

Andrew: If I had checked the lines ahead of time, I would have saved last week's midwife quip for this conversation. As it is, I actually think the Ravens are well-coached enough to keep winning in spite of their quarterback's underachievement. Over.


Bryan: Cincinnati is aware that an offensive line is a useful part of a football team, right? Like, that it's important to stop the other team from getting free rein at your quarterback? That when you lose Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, it might be a good idea to try to replace them?

Andrew: Well, the thinking in Cincinnati was that they already had their replacements on the roster. The Bengals consistently try to draft in advance, so that they are always developing replacements for their big potential free agents. The problem is that, in this instance, those replacements are nowhere near as good. In the case of Cedric Ogbuehi at the very least, they are also being thrown into starting roles well before their performance merits it. There's a reason the Bengals brought back veteran Andre Smith -- who saw four starts as part of last year's Vikings injury collapse -- and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup.

Bryan: It's not like the Bengals were strapped for cash, either -- they had $20 million in unused cap space entering training camp, yet they didn't even give an offer to Zeitler. Confidence in your guys is one thing, but tasking Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher with stopping edge rushers is a leap too far. This is a team with talent on offense -- Andy Dalton to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert is a very solid passing game, and Joe Mixon could revitalize Cincy's moribund running game -- but the offensive line seems poised to render all that potential moot.

Andrew: When pressured, Andy Dalton ranked 25th in the league among qualifying passers in 2016. Even in 2015, when he ranked 11th, he had the eighth-largest dropoff between his DVOA without pressure and his DVOA with pressure. He then had the sixth-largest dropoff last year.

Bryan: Oh, well, then, letting your offensive line vanish in free agency seems like a perfectly logical plan! Building through the draft makes a lot of sense in a vacuum, but a free-agent signing or two can help paper over some holes while key players develop. The Bengals have been on the edge of being an actual good team for years now -- hence five straight first-round playoff exits -- and who's the biggest name they have added in that time to push them over the top? Kevin Minter? Karlos Dansby? Michael Johnson? Maybe Manny Lawson and Nate Clements?

Andrew: That reads very much like a Green Bay Packers paragraph, only Andy Dalton is not Aaron Rodgers.

Bryan: You can't build a great team through free agency, but you can certainly help go from good to great with some key signings. The Bengals have been happy to resign their own guys and let top-end talent leave when they get too expensive, so it's not a surprise they have been essentially on a treadmill for half a decade. They slipped off last year thanks to injuries to Dalton and Green, so again, it's really good that they let their pass protectors go!

Andrew: There's a couple of ways to look at the Bengals from last year to this. One is that, with superior kicking performance and a bit more luck, the Bengals could have been a playoff team last year. Another is that they still have the same bad kicker and are now considerably less talented player-for-player than they were then. They have gained some terrific football players in Joe Mixon and John Ross. They have lost more critical pieces in Whitworth, Zeitler, and the injured Shawn Williams, as well as Vontaze Burfict's suspension. They have lost talent, they have lost depth, and they sure don't look like a nine-win team to me. In fact, they look more like a top-five draft pick. Under.

Bryan: Yeah, 8.5 seems at least a win and a half too high for me. I'm not sure I'd go top-five in a world where the 49ers, Jets, and Browns are playing football, but I'm fairly confident this is an under.


Andrew: DeShone Kizer is the starter! This is not a drill! Cleveland might have an actual quarterback of the future and not just another season of reclamation projects, wrestling legend namesakes, and Josh McCown injury replacements.

Bryan: They realized they didn't want to be a miser; confiding with sly they were the wiser. Young blood is the lovin' upriser; that's why everybody want to keep it like the Kizer. If the Browns could stop Kizer from giving it away now, they might actually be not entirely terrible! Maybe! I mean, possibly!

Andrew: You're barking up the wrong musical tree. This year's Browns are clearly little pieces, little pieces, little pieces / Pieces that were picked up on the way / Imprinted with a purpose, with a purpose with a purpose / A purpose that's become quite clear today.

Bryan: Of course, to actually get back to something resembling competence, the Browns still have to clear away all the old Scar Tissue from their decade-plus of terrible play and player acquisition. It may be some time before they find any Higher Ground than 5-11 or so.

Andrew: I may be hallucinating in high fidelity, but I can see Various Methods of Escape for the Browns this year. The offensive line has been the relative strength of this team forever, and they just added possibly the best guard available in free agency. They also might finally have the skill players around them to take advantage. Kenny Britt is a legitimately good wide receiver, who just managed a 1,000-yard season catching throws from Case Keenum and Jared Goff. David Njoku can probably be thrown into the rookie tight end cryo chamber to be thoroughly defrosted next offseason, but a competent performance from Randall Telfer or Seth DeValve -- who really needs to license his name as a character for Half-Life 3 -- should be all it takes to give Kizer four or five viable targets. If the line plays up to its reputation, there's both yards and points to be had here.

Bryan: Half-Life 3 will come out at just about the same time the Browns win the Super Bowl.

I like what they're building on defense, too. You would hope the top overall pick in a draft turns out to be solid, and Myles Garrett looks great on film and in our statistical models and, most importantly, isn't a quarterback they reached to go get. Jabrill Peppers should be an instant upgrade to a terrible secondary, and then you have Danny Shelton, Christian Kirksey, Jamie Collins, Emmanuel Ogbah … that's not going to be a great defense in 2017, but that's a pretty solid young nucleus to build around.

Obviously, though, we're grading on a curve here. This is more "hey, look at the job these guys are doing rebuilding!" rather than "wow, this is going to be any good at actually playing football this year!"

Andrew: At least it's not just a copy of a copy of a copy of a terrible Browns team that came before. What they are this year will probably be determined by their opening four games. Home games with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati need to yield at least one win, because trips to Baltimore and Indianapolis -- who, it is to be hoped, will have Andrew Luck healthy by then -- aren't the friendliest possible road openers. From there though, there are eight straight games where Cleveland should be in with a shout, and some decent progress could well see the Browns hit five wins by the start of December. They'll need to, because then the schedule gets rough again, but I don't think 5-11 is remotely out of the question. So much will come down to the rookie quarterback, of course, but I like the potential enough that I'm leaning over.

Bryan: The Browns have been so bad in recent years, it's been Hard to Concentrate on what they have actually been doing positively. They have still got a ways to slide before they are actually good. A big step would be finding a quarterback who lasts for multiple seasons; only Tim Couch, Derek Anderson, and Colt McCoy have led the New Browns in passing in more than one season since they returned to the NFL. Is Kizer that guy for the future? I don't know. But it feels like, for the first time in forever, there's a plan in place here, and early returns are promising. You have to be pretty bad to get a 4.5-win line, and don't get me wrong, the Browns will be bad yet again. But I think they'll be over 4.5-win bad for the first time in a couple years.


Andrew: The current-generation Pittsburgh Steelers, to me, are the single most confusing of the league's perennial contenders for one simple reason: they are consistently better than every other team in their conference except one. That one, however, completely and totally owns them. If anybody else can beat New England, Pittsburgh is the clear favorite in the AFC and it's not even close. If nobody else beats New England, Pittsburgh almost might as well stay at home in January. I'd honestly take the Steelers on a neutral field against any other team in the AFC, but there are about half a dozen teams I think are more likely to beat the Patriots.

Bryan: When I started going game-by-game through the season, New England at Pittsburgh in Week 15 immediately caught my eye. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that that game, right there, could decide home-field advantage in the AFC. And if it does, then that could help decide the AFC Championship. If, if, if Pittsburgh can get over their New England hurdle. Mike Tomlin's teams are 2-6 against Bill Belichick, including losing each of the last four matchups and two last year alone. One of those wins came against Matt Cassel, to boot.

Andrew: For my money, a bigger factor in deciding the location of the AFC Championship Game will be the timing of Ben Roethlisberger's inevitable injury. Big Ben has only played 16 games three times in his 13-year career. (Admittedly, he probably would have in his rookie year if he had been the opening-day starter, and the only game he missed in 2007 was a Week 17 rest game.) If he misses the two games before the bye, the team can probably muddle through. If he misses any time from mid-November onwards, that would be a much bigger problem.

Bryan: I do have my second HOT TAEK of the year here, because last week's went oh-so-well. If we played in a league without injuries, so all of the Steelers starters were able to play a full season, they'd be the best team in the NFL. Better than the Patriots. The problems are depth and health, both areas in which New England has them beat. And if I'm trying to shepherd backups and injury replacements through a winning season, I trust Belichick more than Tomlin.

But fully healthy? The Steelers are something to behold. They match up very well with the Pats on offense -- worse at tight end and quarterback, but better on the line, at running back, and in the receiving corps. They have a young defense I really think is ready to take that next step from good to great, assuming (say it with me) everyone stays healthy. Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier were very good last year ... when healthy. Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargrave are entering their sophomore seasons, so it's reasonable to expect a bump up in play from all of them. I'm a big fan of T.J. Watt, though that may be some bleed over from J.J. I see potential ... if they can avoid the injury bug.

Andrew: I don't know that I share your faith in the defense, but I certainly take your point. For me, Pittsburgh's ceiling comes down to what I said before: if something goes wrong with Brady and/or the Patriots, they're my Super Bowl favorite. If not, they have very recently proven utterly incapable of covering Brady's receivers, and the Patriots appear even better equipped this season to handle Pittsburgh's. I look at their schedule, and short of another injury to Roethlisberger I don't see what stops them from hitting ten wins. If some of their fans are to be believed, that's exactly what will keep them down -- the Steelers have a reputation in their own support for playing down to the level of inferior opposition -- but I see at least 11 games they ought to win, four more they could win, and the New England game at home where they have a better chance than usual to win. Even assuming they drop a couple of gimmes and split the other games, they're at 11 wins. This line is exactly where I'd put it. My possible overestimation of the Steelers' talents says over.

Bryan: The Steelers are currently favored in 14 of their first 15 games, with the one exception being against ... New England, of course. They aren't as big as favorites as the Patriots are in most of their games, because they have got a tougher schedule to traverse. Still, double-digit wins seems like a reasonable floor for this Steelers team … if nothing goes wrong. Oh, for a world without injuries. Over.

NFC North


Andrew: Before we get into a proper discussion of the 2017 Chicago Bears, I feel compelled to raise a simple yet existential question. The Bears claimed Roberto Aguayo on waivers. The Bears already employ Connor Barth. What kind of football team looks at the last two years of Buccaneers kicking and thinks, "you know what, that is the standard of performance we want to emulate here." Signing a Buccaneers placekicker is the special teams equivalent of signing Josh McCown. Signing two of them is reckless endangerment.

Bryan: Is it as reckless as signing a backup Buccaneers quarterback to a massive contract and then trading up to draft a rookie quarterback with the second overall pick? The Trade, which has come to define the Bears' offseason to some extent, feels like a lack of long-term planning. If they were going to make a move for Mitchell Trubisky, why give a large contract to Mike Glennon? And if they thought that Glennon would be their quarterback of the future, why trade up to get Trubisky? The moves sort of clash, philosophically.

Of course, while Glennon is making $15 million a year, it's not a long-term deal; the Bears can get out of it after this season if they so choose without destroying their cap. And if Trubisky ends up looking as good in real life as he did in his first couple preseason outings, no one's going to remember the Bears gave up a few mid-round picks to unnecessarily move up a slot.

Andrew: If you think you can get your quarterback, you get your quarterback. Remember, at the time of the Glennon signing, both San Francisco and Cleveland needed a quarterback, and either of those two could have gazumped Chicago's plans. I only think the Glennon signing becomes a bad one if it has a negative effect in the locker room; it's a short contract, it's not stupid money, and the Bears had more than enough cap space to make an expensive short-term move, even if it turns out to be a mistake.

Bryan: It could also be negative if he blocks the way to Trubisky's development. One of Trubisky's biggest drawbacks is a lack of experience; he only started 13 games in college. He needs reps to turn his potential into talent.

Andrew: Right, but if Mike Glennon is the reason a clearly ready Trubisky isn't playing, that's not a problem with the Glennon signing in and of itself; it's a problem with the coach who's playing the wrong guy. A few games in his rookie year will not determine what Mitchell Trubisky turns out to be, unless those games come too early for him. Glennon should, in theory, mean Trubisky doesn't need to see the field unless he's ready to. I don't see an issue with the approach, as long as Glennon's professional about the unexpected draft-day development.

Bryan: I'm still dubious; the only two quarterbacks since 2006 who sat their rookie season and have since started at least 32 games in the NFL are Colin Kaepernick and Chad Henne (Brian Hoyer has 31). If John Fox and Co. are slow getting Trubisky into action, that bodes poorly for his long-term success.

Fortunately, I have many positive things to say about the Bears as well, so this entry isn't entirely negative. Those are mostly "wow, Jordan Howard!" and "look at that offensive line!," but still. Those are positives! And also the whole "maybe the entire team won't be on injured reserve this season" aspect. 155.1 adjusted games lost shattered the record, and quite a few bones -- it's the highest we have recorded since 2000.

Andrew: There are a lot of pieces to like in the Bears defense, too. Marcus Cooper isn't one of them, but most of the other starters at least have a floor of "solid." I genuinely like that linebacker group, though I would have liked the central pair a bit more three years ago. Still, Danny Trevathan's young enough that his best years should be yet to come, and Jerrell Freeman should have plenty left in the tank.

Bryan: It's coordinator Vic Fangio's third season in Chicago, too, meaning he's now had enough time to clear out the chaff from the old regime and bring in guys who fit his system -- guys like Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman, who fit Fangio's 3-4 best. There's always a transition time when switching defensive fronts, but that time should be over now. Really, you'd hope that the Bears would be at least alright on defense after this much time in the new system.

Andrew: My issue with the Bears, I think, is that although they have done a good job raising the floor of the team from "hopelessly overmatched" to "competent," I'm not really sold that the ceiling of the team is higher than it was with Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, and Jay Cutler. Is Kevin White a go-to receiver? If not, who's catching passes? Outside Jordan Howard and the offensive guards, there's nobody on either side of the ball that I think elevates his unit. It looks, well, like a recipe for mediocrity.

Bryan: Sure, but mediocrity gets them over 5.5 wins, surely! I think this will be the best team of the John Fox era, which says more about the John Fox era than it does about this team.

Andrew: Mediocrity gets them to 0-4 at the start of September, maybe scraping a couple of wins in October. The back half of the schedule looks a lot less intimidating at this point though, so I'll agree that they finish over this line, with a 6-10 or 7-9 look to their final record.


Bryan: In 1990, the highest paid player in football was Joe Montana. His new deal, coming after back-to-back Super Bowl victories and an MVP award, gave him an average of $3.25 million a year, an unheard of amount for the time. Thanks to Montana's record-breaking contract, the '90 49ers were the best-paid team in football, making a cool $26.8 million dollars for the season. Matthew Stafford's new deal pays him $27 million a season, making him the new king of moneytown.

Andrew: Let's not forget that he already had the second-largest rookie contract in history, too, behind only now-division rival Sam Bradford. The question now, as it was then, is what exactly are the Lions getting for that money?

Bryan: A ticket to competence, I think. Stafford was the third-place finisher in the Drew Brees Memorial Please Get Me Some Help race last season, finishing with the third-most QB-added value last season. He had the sixth-most QB Expected Points Added, while his teammates put up the sixth-least EPA.

Andrew: Brees is the undisputed king of the "sabotaged by his own defense" category, but Brees is also a consistent top-four quarterback. Stafford's average DVOA rank over the past five years, both mean and median, is 14th. Looking purely at the numbers, he's Jameis Winston with four times the experience.

Bryan: You could also argue that a chunk of that $27 million might have been nice to spend on a defensive addition or two. Yes, Stafford was able to have eight fourth-quarter comebacks last season, but that's because the defense kept putting him into positions where he had to make fourth-quarter comebacks! Stafford is good enough to paper over a lot of Detroit's problems, but it also kind of blocks out the fact that this is not a good defensive football team. You can't just expect Stafford -- an above-average but far from great quarterback -- to keep bailing you out game after game after game. And by devoting so much of the salary cap to him, that's exactly what Detroit seems to be doing, locking in at least four more years of the same basic roster construction.

Andrew: Still, at least he's not Joe Flacco. *Ducks.*

Bryan: Here, as best as I can dig up from old newspaper reports, is the list of players who, at one point, had the NFL's biggest contract in the 1990s:

  • Joe Montana
  • Dan Marino
  • Troy Aikman
  • Drew Bledsoe
  • Brett Favre
  • Steve Young

And here is that same list since 2012:

  • Joe Flacco
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Joe Flacco again
  • Andrew Luck
  • Derek Carr
  • Matthew Stafford

The big contracts used to go to players with a track record of experience; now it often goes to "above-average quarterback whose contract is expiring." It didn't used to be this way! Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady have all had their day atop the salary totem pole, but in the past five years, things have changed. You wonder where it's going to end.

Andrew: At least we appear to be over paying Ryan Fitzpatrick $12 million per season. We must be getting close to critical mass though, where the pressure from the quarterback contract for a middling starter will turn the surrounding roster into such a desolate wasteland that teams would prefer not to join that arms race at all and take their chances with somebody ... I don't know, greener? More environmentally friendly?

Bryan: Maybe then we'll see the return of the mid-class quarterback. Fifteen quarterbacks have an average salary of $20 million or more; seven more are between $15 and $20 million. Only one quarterback in football is in the $10 million to $15 million range: Jay Cutler. And only Brian Hoyer and Josh McCown are penciled in as veteran starters for less than $10 million. I'm not saying I wouldn't give Aaron Rodgers or (a younger) Tom Brady $20 million to $25 million a year, as much as it impacts your salary cap. But things feel like they have gotten out of control at the moment.

Andrew: Still, on offense at least, the Lions do have plenty of other talent around the quarterback. I have long been a fan of both Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Ricky Wagner is a sensible, if not necessarily spectacular, replacement for Riley Reiff. Greg Robinson is a massive question mark, but you'd imagine that the Lions will be able to put up some points. Will that be enough to overcome the defensive shortcomings like last year, or was last year an overperformance due for some correction?

Bryan: A healthy Ameer Abdullah will help too, but no. I really don't think the Lions can keep putting their offense into worse and worse situations and expect them to keep bailing them out. That's something that can happen in a 16-game season just due to a small sample size, but it's not the strategy for long-term sustained success. Admittedly, they had injuries everywhere on D last year -- Ezekiel Ansah, DeAndre Levy, Darius Slay -- but I don't see that much of a bounceback.

Andrew: There are definitely a few winnable games on Detroit's schedule, but there are a lot of very losable ones too. I don't see them taking more than a couple of road wins, and I see at least four teams I'd favor in Detroit (Arizona, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Green Bay). I think the existing deficiencies are enough to see the Lions finish under .500, highly-paid quarterback or no.

Bryan: None of what I said earlier means I don't think Stafford deserved a raise (from $17.7 million a year) or a new contract, just that he shouldn't be the highest-paid player in the game. And as good as he's been when the Lions have needed him, they need to need him less frequently. I'm taking the under.


Bryan: Speaking of the Drew Brees Memorial Please Get Me Some Help award, are we sure that Ted Thompson doesn't have a bet going somewhere to see how bad a team he can piece around Aaron Rodgers and still be a Super Bowl contender?

Andrew: I don't think that's entirely fair. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb aren't what they once were, and Ty Montgomery doesn't even play the same position he did two years ago, but Thompson has finally used free agency to get Rodgers a potentially major piece in Martellus Bennett, and has thus in theory upgraded both the running game and the passing game with a single move. The Packers line should be a reasonable unit, if not what it was two years ago, and the defense isn't even nearly the worst unit in the division. As always, this team will go where Rodgers takes it, but that's true of nearly every team in the league with a franchise quarterback.

Bryan: Oh, I'm still saying the Packers are Super Bowl contenders, in large part due to having the best quarterback in football behind center. And yes, the Martellus Bennett signing is an uncharacteristic move to bolster an offense from a team that seems allergic to the concept of bringing in players from outside the organization. But they let T.J. Lang go without a solid plan to replace him -- an aging Jahri Evans does not count as a "solid plan" at guard. Their top running back wasn't a running back a year ago, as they let Eddie Lacy, Christine Michael, and James Starks all leave. That leaves Ty Montgomery and four rookies as their running back corps -- and while backs are fungible, some experience would be nice. Their defense ranked 20th in the league last season, and they're counting on rookies to help bolster that.

Andrew: But they have Rodgers, ergo, Super Bowl contender. That's the bane of every other team in the NFC. I agree that the team around him isn't as good as it could be, but your opening sentence of this segment references a case study in how bad it isn't.

Bryan: That's just it! It's the bare minimum at every position. Is Evans a terrible player? No! He has been about average in recent years, which is what you need to stay in contention the NFC title. Is Montgomery a disaster at running back? No! But an actual back with experience would be nice to have in the backfield. Is the defense Saints-level bad? No! But could it have been bolstered significantly this offseason to take some pressure off of Rodgers? Certainly. It's the minimum of what is required to be a Super Bowl contending team.

Andrew: Is this the GM equivalent of the Mike Tomlin/Andy Reid criticism? Clearly, there's potential for this team to be better than it is, but there's also potential for it to be a whole lot worse. While throwing $12 million a year at Kevin Zeitler makes sense, or looking at a Tony Jefferson or, heck, a DeSean Jackson-type signing as a massive potential upgrade, it only takes one Jairus Byrd or Antonio Bryant to leave you with a bad player and now no cap space to get out of it.

Bryan: I look at it like this. Building through the draft is your ice cream, and free agent signings are the chocolate syrup on top. You can have a really good dessert with just ice cream, and a bowl full of chocolate syrup might taste good for a while but is going to make you sick in the long run. But when you refuse, on principle, to even reach for the chocolate syrup, your ice cream isn't going to be more than just good. It's not going to become some kind of great bowl. A Super Bowl, if you would.

Andrew: I understand, as long as you appreciate that the best chocolate syrup is expensive, and doesn't always turn out to even be chocolate. And once it's on your dessert, it can be difficult to get off.

Bryan: We will leave a discussion of what the sauce may actually be to the reader's discretion.

Andrew: I don't think any team was seriously considering signing Najeh Davenport this offseason.

Bryan: All that being said, I like the Packers a lot this season, because they do have the elements of a Super Bowl team around the best quarterback in the league, and that goes a long way. They're one of the NFC's Top Trio along with Dallas and Seattle, and their head-to-head matchups with those two teams in Weeks 1 and 5 might decide who claims home field in the playoffs. I wouldn't be stunned if Green Bay were to fall down, but I don't think it's very likely. I think this is another in the run of 10-6-type seasons that have become par for Green Bay in the Rodgers era. I'll take the over, and then we'll see what happens come January.

Andrew: At the very least, the Packers are the class of the division. The rest of the schedule is tricky, but Green Bay is another one of those teams where I worry more for the effect on their opponents' schedule. An 11-win season doesn't sound remotely unreasonable, as long as Rodgers is healthy. Injuries being what they are, I'll also take the over.


Bryan: The logic here is sound, at least. Take a team that went 8-8 despite near-historic levels of injuries along the offensive line, project some regression to the mean, and call it a winning record. That seems logical.

Andrew: It would be, if regression was that simple. This team's offensive line was the worst single-unit injury situation I can remember last season. The problem is, I'm not totally convinced that this year's situation is that much better. Mike Remmers is a very bad offensive tackle. He is remembered by most for his mauling at the hands of Von Miller in the Super Bowl, but he is capable of being just as bad against far lesser players than Von Miller.

Bryan: I watched far too much Mike Remmers when covering the Panthers in 2015; it's amazing that team was able to go 15-1 with Remmers and Michael Oher as their starting tackles. If he bolsters the Vikings line, that just means the Vikings line is terrible.

Andrew: On the other end of the line, Riley Reiff is a solid enough right tackle being asked to play on the left. Again, let's ask the Panthers how great an idea that is.

Bryan: I was about to say "and the Vikings haven't really developed any offensive weapons in Mike Zimmer's tenure," but then I forgot about Adam Thielen.

Andrew: Just like the Packers did on Christmas Eve.

Bryan: Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph are a good set of receivers for Sam Bradford to work with, and they used their top draft pick on Dalvin Cook, so you have got a few pieces to play with on offense. None of that matters, of course, if the offensive line is Swiss cheese.

Andrew: See Bengals, Cincinnati.

Bryan: Don't read too much into preseason, but the Vikings' starters got pretty much destroyed for a half by the 49ers in the third, "dress rehearsal" game on Sunday. Aaron Lynch, Elvis Dumervil, and Arik Armstead are nice players, but not exactly the most threatening group the Vikings will come across this season, and Minnesota just could not contain them. Willie Beavers -- the backup in case Mike Remmers plays like, well, Mike Remmers -- in particular was on skates all night long. I was very unimpressed.

Andrew: You say that those three aren't the most threatening group the Vikings will face this season, but their schedule isn't exactly loaded with pass-rushing talent. The Rams, sure, will be a problem. The Ravens and Browns could maybe get some pressure, and the Packers will find something. This isn't the AFC West though. The Vikings might be able to get by on turnstiles and rollerskates.

Bryan: And they do have a very promising defense -- top-ten a year ago, with room to improve. I question the Vikings'offensive play calling, but Zimmer knows a thing or two about dialing up a defense. They'd feel happier if Sharif Floyd was going to be playing, but even without him, you have Linval Joseph and Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks -- quite a bit of talent to like here. If they all keep taking steps forward, this could be a top-five defense this year, which will help them cover some of the offensive deficiencies.

Andrew: I like Sam Bradford, always have. I love the Vikings' talent. I don't, however, fancy their schedule. I'm not really sure where they get nine wins, unless they achieve a great deal of success inside the division. Even if they are a better team, a more complete team this year, which I think they will be, I'm not persuaded that their record will reflect that. Their roster construction reminds me of the Seahawks, but Sam Bradford is not Russell Wilson. Under.

Bryan: I don't like Sam Bradford, and think he played above his level last season. If that's the New Bradford, as opposed to the oft-injured and quasi-accurate passer from St. Louis and Philadelphia, then the Vikings have a chance to make some noise. I just have too many questions to find nine wins on this schedule. Under.

Bryan: So all 32 teams are finally in the books! Let's take a quick recap here:

Bryan: 15 overs, 17 unders

Andrew: 14 overs, 18 unders

Some slight pessimism there from both of us, though nothing quite out of the realm of possibility, especially if a few of the Overs hit in a big way.

We may have agreed on all the teams in the North, but have no fear -- we also agreed on most of the teams in other divisions as well. Our chances at an ESPN debate show seem slim to none at this point, and we would send an application into FS1, but they have apparently forgotten how the written word works there, so I wouldn't hold my breath. We did end up disagreeing on seven teams, though:

2017 Scramble Over/Under Disagreements
Team O/U Bryan Andrew
DAL 9.5 Over Under
WAS 7.5 Over Under
JAC 6.5 Under Over
ATL 9.5 Under Over
LACH 7.5 Over Under
KC 9 Under Over
SF 4.5 Over Under

In about four months, we'll see which one of us looks clever and which one of us looks ... much ... less clever … indeed.

Football Outsiders doesn't answer fantasy questions on Twitter, so if you don't have a Premium subscription and access to the 24-hour Fantasy Answering Service, the Scramble mailbag is one way to get a Football Outsiders answer to your fantasy questions! Email us with fantasy questions, award suggestions, crazy videos, outlandish conspiracy theories, acknowledgements that yes, "Higher Ground" is a Stevie Wonder song first and foremost, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam at scramble@footballoutsiders.com.

Posted by: Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter on 30 Aug 2017

98 comments, Last at 04 Sep 2017, 12:55pm by Bryan Knowles


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 2:52pm

Worth a consideration re: Stafford's salary.

We all agree the defense is a dumpster fire, who places the offense in repeatedly bad situations it needs to dig out of. Despite that, the Lions went 9-7.

Now realize the Lions' rush offense is worse than their defense. They can't run against anyone. They were slightly ahead of Minnesota (who played a zero-man line) and LA, who didn't actually field an offense. Thus, the Lions went 9-7, solely on the ability of their passing game to keep them in leads the defense kept giving away.

For all GB doesn't have any RBs, they can run the ball effectively. DET cannot.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 4:33pm

Here's my counterpoint for you, though -- is it worth it to go 9-7 repeatedly? If that's the level to which Stafford can raise the team, is that particularly valuable?

9-7 seasons are great, especially if you're coming off of, say, the 1996-2008 Lions who averaged five wins a season before drafting Stafford. But at some point, you hope to go beyond that.

And, to be fair, the Stafford-Lions DID go beyond that. Twice! In 2011 and 2014. Which just so happen to be the only two seasons in Stafford's career where the Lions had a top-10 defensive DVOA.

Obviously, quarterbacks will do better when the teams around them are better, but we're talking about the highest paid player in the game. You see someone like Aaron Rodgers pushing the 25th, 16th and 20th-best defenses in the league to double-digit wins and the playoffs in 2011, 2014 and 2016, and compare that to Stafford, and it just doesn't quite...mesh.

Stafford's a good quarterback. One of the top ten in the league, I'd say -- his DYAR places him there, even if his DVOA generally doesn't. He's a quarterback who will get very good performances out of very good players, which is an asset, for sure. Tons of teams would love to have that; they have players without the arm to unleash deep threats or the accuracy to place quick routes where their receivers can get them, etc. He deserved a raise over his previous contract, which placed him behind the likes of Brock Osweiler and Ryan Tannehill. Those were much worse deals than Stafford just signed, let me tell you.

But Stafford's not the kind of player who will help boost someone's performance ~above~ their talent level, if that makes sense. You see players go to Brady or Rodgers and perform better because their quarterbacks are just on that next level, comparatively. Stafford's not that guy, and he'll never be that guy. That's OK -- you don't NEED "that guy" to win Super Bowls, but it means that Stafford requires more talent around him than the tippy-top quarterbacks in order for his teams to be the most successful.

And that, of course, is the problem with the big deal. The Lions are OK in the salary cap next year, but they're currently 20th in cap room in 2019 and 24th in 2020. It's not quite the mess that Philadelphia has on their hands, but it does constrain what they can do. And they still have to re-sign Ziggy Ansah and Tahir Whitehead and Tavon Wilson, etc, etc, etc. An extra $5 million of cap room a year would help them a lot!

I'm fine with Stafford joining the ranks of the $20-$25 million men, actually. I think he's more valuable on the -low- end of that range rather than getting the Most Money in NFL History, but he's certainly proven more to me than Derek Carr, for example. I think it's just inflated now because you're "average" veteran starter is getting $20 million, pushing up the contracts for good-but-not-great players like Stafford into the stratosphere.

And, back to the original point -- if 9-7 is your ceiling with Stafford and a Not-Good-Supporting Cast, it might make sense to move on from Stafford and try to build up a supporting cast with a cheaper quarterback. Because if Stafford's contract prohibits them from making the moves they need to make the team Super Bowl contenders, then what's the use of having Stafford to begin with?

Overall, though, I think this (and the Lions section in general) was less a complaint about Stafford and more about the disappearance of the average-salaried quarterback. The top QBs in the league will always get about 15% of the cap; it's been that way since the cap was introduced, and it seems like a fairly decent number when you break things down -- the quality of an NFL team is about 50% offense and a great quarterback can smooth over a lot of deficiencies on an offense, so giving them roughly a third of your offensive salary cap makes sense in a vacuum. The problem is that it used to just be the top QBs getting that kind of money, and now it's any quarterback who's above average, and it feels like something has to give at some point.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 6:17pm

9-7 seasons are great, especially if you're coming off of, say, the 1996-2008 Lions who averaged five wins a season before drafting Stafford. But at some point, you hope to go beyond that.

Hoo-boy. You clearly are not familiar with the Lions.

We hope to get to the second round of the playoffs. It's possible some dark sacrifice, or sufficient amounts of cocaine, would deliver the Lions to the 3rd round.

We don't even want to win a Super Bowl; we'd just like to be in the same stadium as the trophy.

I think Detroit fans think that first one, and quite possibly the second is within Stafford's potential. I don't think god himself can carry them to the last one without better drafting.

That aside, your larger argument boils down to this:
You're better off spending your extra $5M on Ziggy Ansah than Matt Stafford.

I think that's wrong. Ansahs are vastly more fungible than Staffords.

How many teams would pay $5M in cash to start Stafford in the playoffs, versus how many would pay $5M in cash to start Ansah?


Stafford > Ansah + Fitzpatrick

by mrt1212 :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 1:43am

"How many teams would pay $5M in cash to start Stafford in the playoffs, versus how many would pay $5M in cash to start Ansah?"

Few for the former because some of them have better QBs than Matthew Stafford and are cheaper too *snaps fingers and sashays away*

I think there is a deeper question here though: Should Stafford give a hoot about how his salary impacts the composition of the team around him, and if not, does this unequivocally make Brady the GOAT because he does?

by Dan :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 8:29am

Rodgers is clearly a much better quarterback than Stafford, and is worth at least $5-10M more per year. But if Rodgers is signed for $20M per year rather than the $35+ that he is worth, it's not clear what the Lions can do about that.

I suppose one option is letting Stafford walk and keep taking shots at new quarterbacks, either to find the next Rodgers (and hope he also remains underpaid) or to find the next Russell Wilson on his rookie contract. But that seems like a worse option than paying up for Stafford and trying to hit on some draft picks and free agents in order to build up enough surrounding talent to contend with Stafford.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 2:52pm

Oh, regarding QBs who sit out their first season? 2006 is a conspicuous endpoint. Aaron Rodgers sat out all of 2005.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 4:16pm

A lot of high draft picks used to sign 6-7 year rookie contracts which gave teams more time to evaluate the player.

Now it's a 4-year contract for most draft picks, but I believe teams have a 5th option on 1st round picks.

(That said Rodgers first contract was for five years but the Packers had the luxury of Favre)

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 4:41pm

It is a conspicuous end-point! It's because I first ran those stats about a year ago and got a round decade's worth of numbers, and then just tacked on last season for this year.

As for Rodgers, well, if you want to make the argument Mike Glennon is Brett Favre, than I'm not going to stop you.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 6:32pm

Sooooo if I am reading this correctly the Bears have just signed a Brett Favre and drafted an Aaron Rodgers.


by Mr Shush :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 5:00am

Go back another year and you get Phillip Rivers. So it actually could be that they drafted Rivers and signed Brees. Sucks to be you, right?

If we want to be less facetious, I think the last really good first round rookie to sit behind a quarterback who wasn't himself a star was Carson Palmer, holding Kitna's clipboard in 2003.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 4:01pm

Last year's Vikings medical debacle has put me off from making preseason projections any longer. I am, however, sick to death of watching horrible blocking, as I have in 6 of the past 7 seasons. A soft football team is my least favorite football team to watch. The Vikings have some hard cases on defense, but they get pushed around on offense, and have for the better part of the decade. Ick.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 4:20pm

What's the situation with Bridgewater?

It's over a year since he got injured but I presume he's still expected to return. Or did I miss the retirement announcement.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 4:40pm

Zimmer says Bridgewater's "all-in" on returning, with a possibility he could return this season.

He's a free agent after this year, which should be very, very interesting to watch.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 5:06pm

Yeah, it'll be a real conumdrum if Bradford plays well.

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 2:12am

So Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor, and Kirk Cousins could all be available for next season. When's the last time so many starting caliber QBs were available?

by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 3:40am

Technically, Sam Bradford and Drew Brees have their contracts expiring and could be available too, though I can't imagine Brees hitting the market -- or both Bradford/Bridgewater. One sure, but not both.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:44am

Technically Romo, Cutler and Kaepernick have all been available this offseason.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 4:09pm

I didn't understand the comment about Zimmer's offensive play calling, since he doesn't call plays for the offense. That's before we note that there is no nuch thing as effective play calling for an offense that never blocks anybody

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 4:39pm

That's...a very fair point. It's one of those things where I was originally making one point and then edited it and changed it and didn't quite catch everything. Good catch.

I stand by the "playcalling is bad" insomuch that they were insanely committed to their (terrible) running game rather than their (adequate) passing game, and it hurt their overall offensive performance significantly.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 5:04pm

Yeah, I think playcalling become pretty superflous in the context of zero, and I mean zero, blocking. There has to be some limit to the abuse Bradford was subjected to.

I've never been a big Bradford fan, and don't know if I am yet, from a pure production basis. He is a tough, tough, sonuvabitch, however, and I find that admirable.

by fb29 :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 4:48pm

"tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Brady."

May be biased due to GoT love, but this is the best line you guys have come up with. Just perfect.

by RickD :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:53am

Patriots fans have been using 'The North Remembers' for quite some time. Usually in reference to Goodell.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 5:03am

I'm beginning to think I may have to stop reading FO - it's only a matter of time before someone posts a major Winds of Winter spoiler...

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 09/04/2017 - 12:55pm

I've actually only ever read the first book (and haven't seen the show at all!), so you're safe in my columns :P

by ChrisLong :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 6:35pm

The Packers are often compared to the Patriots, with the Packers lack of free agent signings often denigrated compared to the Patriots, including in FOA 2017. I think this comparison is both reactionary and misguided. Often, a simple comparison is made between who the Patriots have signed as free agents (or otherwise acquired) and who the Packers have, and it is left at that. Yes, the Patriots have signed more impact players but at what cost with regard to re-signing their own draftees or even the veteran free agents they've acquired? They've had to let go of Brandon Spikes, Shane Vereen, Tavon Wilson, Logan Ryan, Jamie Collins (trade for 4th rounder), Chandler Jones (trade for J. Cooper (released), Thuney (decent guard prospect) and Malcolm Mitchell (middling WR), which does not equal a top pass rusher), and that's not even counting all the veterans they've had to let go. These are all significant contributors for other teams.

I submit to you that the Patriots player acquisition strategy is propped up by Brady as much as the Packers' is propped up by Rodgers. The Packers have reached the NFC Championship Game twice in the past three years, and the playoffs exactly as many times in a row as the Patriots. Are the Patriots better over that time? Certainly. But I think we can all agree that most of that is due to some better luck for the Patriots and not some vast difference in the quality of the teams because of the Packers draft-heavy strategy.

by ChrisLong :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 6:49pm

The Patriots have also played in a much weaker divison throughout Brady and Belichick's time there, leading to inflated win totals and more first-round byes.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 8:15pm

There's some decent analysis on a thread of the last couple days which breaks down divisional w-l records of the teams which did not win the division, outside of their division. It indicated that the AFC East and NFC North were tied for first, since about 2008.

by RickD :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:55am

The "much weaker division" argument doesn't hold water if you run the numbers.

by BJR :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 8:22pm

The 'weak AFC East' argument was debunked fairly comprehensively on another recent thread (although the NFC North may have been marginally tougher overall).

But, yeah, I agree with your overall point. I was disappointed reading the Packers chapter in FOA'17; blaming the Packers relatively poor playoff performance in recent seasons on a lack of free-agent signings feels like the type of narrative that smart analysis should avoid. As you suggest, the difference between winning and losing an NFC Championship game is not wide, and often comes down to luck. Probably not an indication that the entire team-building strategy is flawed.

by Doug L :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 8:20pm

I might be missing your point, but aren't Thuney and Mitchell still on the team?

by RickD :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:58am

Yes, they're both still on the team and they're both entering their second years as pro. They'll be cheap for a while longer.

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 3:01pm

Mostly just saying that Chandler Jones >>> Mitchell and Thuney.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 8:32pm

I would argue that the average Patriots team HAS been better than the average Packers team over the past seven or eight years, and that it's not all luck that leads to the Patriots having better results.

That being said, I'm actually quite high on the Packers this season -- and, of course, between writing the article and publication, they went out and grabbed Ahmad Brooks, which is exactly the sort of deal we critique them for not making.

by Flounder :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 9:44pm

Was an important signing. Now O-line is the remaining position group 1 injury away from disaster.

Don freaking Barclay, last seen in a boot, is currently their sixth best lineman. DON BARCLAY.

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 3:00pm

I'm not disagreeing with that. The Patriots have definitely been better. But I'm saying that comes down to the HoFers they've drafted, not because of their different strategy re: free agents.

Brooks was a great player, three seasons ago. I think it shores up their depth at OLB behind two injury prone guys, but I doubt he's gonna be a signing they point to and say it won games for them.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 10:39pm

None of the players you list that the Patriots let go have had much impact since then, so what exactly did the Patriots lose by letting them go? You didn't even mention Moss, Seymour, McCourty, or Bennett, who were bigger contributors. I haven't seen that the Patriots have seen much degradation.

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 3:30pm

Admittedly, I'm not a Pats expert; I just googled their drafts since 2010 and went from there. And I just said "and that's not even counting the veterans" to account for guys like this. But it only serves to further my point. You don't think the Pats have missed any of these guys? The Pats haven't had a top 10 defense by DVOA in many years, and I think that would've been different had they been able to re-sign Chandler Jones, McCourty, Seymour, etc. Belichick should get a ton of credit for turning bit pieces and nobodies into a serviceable defense, and even developing a star out of one or two of those players, but I think it's incorrect to say that they are better off for it and didn't lose anything by letting them go.

by RickD :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 1:07am

They've had to let go of Brandon Spikes, Shane Vereen, Tavon Wilson, Logan Ryan, Jamie Collins (trade for 4th rounder), Chandler Jones...

Spikes was let go because he lied about a car accident.
Vereen was a free agent who got a good deal from the Giants. He was replaced by James White who had a hell of a Super Bowl.

Tavon Wilson? Good riddance.

Logan Ryan got the kind of contract that #2 CBs get when they win a Super Bowl. Pats weren't going to keep him around for that money. There is a general philosophy of not investing too much money in any one player. Also Belichick clearly thinks the top talent at CB and DL get overpaid. (Which is why Chandler Jones left - that and the fact that he wandered naked into a gas station high on 'synthetic marijuana'.)

The Pats didn't have to trade Collins. They gave up on him. They'd gone to the trouble of making sure they'd have enough cap space and then he played with little interest for most of the first half of last season.

It is rare for BB to give up on a player who then becomes great elsewhere. Sometimes very good players will go elsewhere for the paycheck and do very well.

There certainly is something to the point that Brady's team-friendly contract helps the franchise immensely. For all the griping that Pats' fans do whenever one of our favorites leaves town, it is almost always the case that Belichick has made the right choice.

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 3:15pm

Just saying Belichick is right all the time doesn't make it true. He's wrong about people all the time, just like any GM. I don't think Belichick is "giving up" on players that become great, I think they are unable to re-sign them because of their general strategy. That's what I'm getting at. Belichick is obviously a great coach and GM but the Patriots have been better than the Packers by a slim margin that likely has little to do with their organizational strategy, and much more to do with some good luck and having Rob Gronkowski, but the Packers organizational strategy consistently gets trashed here and elsewhere. Yes, the Packers could've signed a big free agent in the recent past, but then they wouldn't be able to resign Bahktiari or Mike Daniels or whoever. Both strategies have merit, only one gets trashed.

by mrt1212 :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 3:39pm

Is there a fallacy where only championships count as success?

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 4:10pm

Yes, at least if you talk to Pats fans. I've been pretty happy with TT and McCarthy overall, and I think he's accepted that even he can learn by his dipping into the FA market far more than he has in the past. The Bennett signing was great. I realize that Evans isn't Lang, but you can only keep so many really good players and they had already spent for Bakhtiari and Bulaga.

I lived through 25 years of mostly suckiness from 1968 to 1992. I know this run too will eventually come to an end. I'm going to enjoy it while I can. It's certainly more enjoyable than being a Lions fan who last won a championship before the AFL existed.

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 4:28pm

Agreed. TT and McCarthy have been above average. Evans is a stopgap solution who also happened to play well last year, so I'm not worried about him. Bennett was a very good addition, and I think Kendricks is a very underrated player also. I expect the Packers to go 12 quite often this year.

by theslothook :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 4:52pm

I'm on the pessimistic side of the Packers team building.

Compare the pats and packers all you want, but you get a sense that Brady and the Patriots have an effective system while the packers system is Rodgers.

I don't think they are talentless without Rodgers, but they could be a lot better and sometimes a Revis or Talib signing is the one that puts you over the top.

Last year's team wasn't that good outside of some god like moments from Rodgers and the trend has been squarely downward in terms of talent. I've seen too many colts teams hemmed by elite play that never managed to stop the talent bleed until all that was left was qb heroics and timely turnovers.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 5:06pm

The point is that it's the Pats and everyone else. If the standard is Belichick, EVERYONE ELSE SUCKS. (Yelling intended.) This "Oooo, they didn't win another championship" stuff is bullshit. It's the same crap we used to hear about Schottenheimer and Coryell. I'd rather have the last 25 years of goodness at 1261 Lombardi than pretty much any other team's fan experience. This is why so many fans hate the Pats. Not because they don't like the Pats. It's that almost every one of their fans is so f***ing condescending (and that includes some writers on this staff) that the rest of us wish physical violence if that's what it takes to shut their smarmy fans up.

by theslothook :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 5:27pm

I'm not holding them to the standard of the Patriots. But look around the league, how much are the packers getting by entirely because of Rodgers? I'd say quite a lot. That to me speaks of not maximizing potential.

In 2013, the Broncos got by with Manning heroics and talented offensive players but the defense was a huge negative by the end of the year. It would have been very reasonable for Elway to sit on his hands, let the defense bounce back health wise, draft appropriately and continue to rely on the offense. He chose not to, which is fortunate since manning heroics lasted exactly half a season afterwards.

The packers don't need to go full Elway here, but you don't think they can do better than just adding a Martellus Bennett here or an aging Julius Pepper?

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 5:51pm

Yes, and in 2014, the Packers without doing those things were at the same level, and then were as good as them in 2015, and now are much better than them. Because they don't need to mortgage their future for the present. They have an all-timer at QB who is in the prime of his career. Why should they bust their salary cap for one Super Bowl and then fall below their current level to a wildcard team? When all indications are that they will continue to seriously contend for the Super Bowl for the next 6-8 seasons? It doesn't make any sense. The Pats picked up Brandin Cooks for a 1st round pick because Brady will retire soon, and they're willing to upgrade now and slide back in the future. The Packers don't need to do that, and criticizing them for not doing so is nearsighted and reactionary.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:03pm

The Pats picked up Cooks for a first rounder because he is a stud and both Edelman and Amendola are near the end of their careers. His acquisition is specifically to prolong NE's success, not to have one last supernova before fading into obscurity.

I empathize with your point about Green Bay's methods, but your grasp of all-things-Patriots leaves much to be desired.

by theslothook :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:15pm

I'm not sure we can say what the Patriots long term plans are. Honestly, many of them confuse me. A year ago, they traded away Chandler Jones because they wanted to remain cap flexible and longer term focused. Then this year they go on a spending spree, suggesting they are in win now?

I know it didn't cost them a championship, but that's a poor way to look at it. Why willingly let go Chandler Jones then go and spend on Brandon Cooks and Stephon Gilmore and trade for Kony Ealy?

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:35pm

Chandler's trade was something that would have happened regardless of any particular timeline. He wasn't consistent enough to warrant the money that pass rushers earn on the open market, so it was best to move on while he still had value.

The spending spree they went on this year suggests a few possible things.

1) They weren't particularly high on this draft class.
2) They felt it was best to supplement the roster with "sure things".

What it definitely does *not* suggest is that they have any interest in going "all in" and forgoing future success for a few more cracks with Tom. Not a single acquisition is financially problematic and only Cooks presents any longevity issues (in his case, contractually).

People are stretching to connect dots that aren't really there.

by theslothook :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:45pm

I guess I'm a bit confused. Chandler Jones was more of a sure thing to me than any of the players they brought in and he didn't come with some loss of draft picks.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:07pm

Heading into the 2016 season, Pats fans knew that NE could not afford to retain all three of Jones/Collins/Hightower. It was nearly unanimous that the one who would go was Jones since his position and his sacks assured compensation that his overall on-field did not warrant. The only surprise ended up being that Collins left, too.

It really is that simple, and it only contradicts NE's behavior the following year superficially.

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:20pm

Brandin Cooks is a good player, but Julio Jones or Antonio Brown he is not. Ranked 16th in receiving DYAR and 20th in DVOA last year, 21st and 40th respectively in 2015. Maybe Brady has 4 more good years in him, but I lean towards 1-2 more before he drops off precipitously. They're not hanging on to Garoppolo for no reason, they think he might be their next QB and don't want to let him go. But the chances of Garoppolo turning into the next Aaron Rodgers are also slim, simply because there aren't talents like Rodgers all that often. The Pats were smart not to extend Cooks but rather simply pick up his 2018 option, they're waiting to see what happens with Brady and Garoppolo before they break the bank for a player who, so far, has been good but not great.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:44pm

I don't mean to be offensive, but you continue to be wrong about virtually everything Pats-related that you say.

Disregarding the prediction about Brady and Jimmy's futures, your comments about why they didn't trade Jimmy are in complete contrast with your earlier comments about them being focused on the now. As for Cooks, NE didn't extend him because there is no reason to do so, not because of any reluctance to do so. To the contrary, the fact that they considered it viable to trade a first for him despite having only two years remaining suggests they either consider him significantly better than you do, or they have every intention of extending him. More than likely it is both.

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:07pm

I'm not offended by someone telling me I'm wrong. I'll clarify my reasoning: they're all in to win with Brady because they know he's great and know improving the team now gives them the best chance to win another Super Bowl or two. And maybe they think Garoppolo is a good player. But a smart manager takes into account uncertainty about his own evaluations, and while they may think he has a good future, they also know they have no way to be sure until he really hits the field as the franchise QB. And so they're not counting on him to be the next big thing by signing lots of people to long-term deals. They're in win-now mode, and if they are lucky will only have one down year after Brady declines before they're back in contention.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:12pm

The Patriots are in no more of a "win-now" mode than they've always been.

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:22pm

If you say so. Trading first-round picks, even late ones, I think would typically be considered a move looking to win now, rather than selecting a promising young player for the future. Maybe it was the best thing they could do. But there were some blue chip defensive prospects out there at the end of round 1, and down the line they might regret not getting one.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:32pm

Trading first-round picks, even late ones, I think would typically be considered a move looking to win now, rather than selecting a promising young player for the future.

Not when the guy you receive is also a promising young player for the future, especially when he plays a position you have a spotty draft history with.

Maybe it was the best thing they could do.

It has nothing to do with being "the best thing they could do." An opportunity arose that put a player they coveted on the market, so they made the trade. No more, no less.

by Alternator :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 1:11am

Brandon Cooks is currently twenty three years old - he'll hit the ripe old age of twenty four in late September. He's still under contract for two years. He's proven his ability to be, at worst, a very solid #2, with the potential to grow into a true #1.

How is this possibly a win-now move?

by theslothook :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:12pm

Um, I disagree with a lot of that. The packers were on the same level as the broncos in 2014? Not according to dvoa and that discounts the fact that manning in the second half fell of a cliff. The fact that the comparison is being made to a team with a huge hole at qb says it all, doesn't it? Imagine if Manning were still healthy and in his prime, would you then bemoan the talent difference and wonder why the packers couldn't do as well?

The packers have hardly come close to threatening their salary cap future. Would one big free agent signing really signal the end of cap flexibility?

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:34pm

Packers in 2014: #3 in DVOA, 23.9%
Broncos in 2014: #2 in DVOA, 29.5%

Broncos were better in 2014 but not by much. I.e., same level. The Broncos did the right thing to mortgage their future for the present, just saying it's not what the Packers should be doing. And if Manning had not retired, their defense would not have been able to stay together as well as it had. They likely wouldn't have had the cap room to franchise Von Miller, for example.

The Packers have approximately 10-11 million in cap room this season. That's one big-time player and then they're right at the cap. Not sure about their future cap room, but they have a lot of young players that if they improve will need their second contracts soon.

by theslothook :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:43pm

That #2 ranking takes into account a half seasons worth of Manning decline. Also, we won't know to what extent Manning's contract would have precluded them from. I strongly doubt it would have cost them Von Miller. Basically, they had the room sign Talib and Demarcus Ware. Both of those additions were hardly all in as both are on the roster for 3+ years.

Name me one player besides Aaron Rodgers that represents someone the packers absolutely must pay?

by ChrisLong :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:00pm

Yes, it does represent a half-season of Manning being bad. So what? That's why they went all-in to begin with. Because they thought Manning was beginning to decline and wanted to make up for that decline with new, talented blood. They went all-in and kept up their level of play. Great job, seriously. That's what a good team does. If they thought Manning was going to stay amazing, maybe they wouldn't have invested as they did, because it wouldn't have been as urgent. Or maybe they would have. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I don't think it would've cost them Von Miller either, but maybe it would've cost them the ability to extend Emmanuel Sanders, sign Russell Okung, or whatever. I don't want to get into the nitty gritty of every decision that ever happened. The larger point is that the Packers aren't stupid for not going after big name free agents every year.

Because the Packers ARE a draft heavy team though, it is imperative for them to resign their top home-grown talent. That is what their strategy is designed to ensure. Therefore, in order to stay contenders, they will almost certainly pay to keep Morgan Burnett, Davante Adams, Lane Taylor, and Corey Linsley. Are there comparable players on the market? Possibly, but they wouldn't be able to sign replacements for all of those players because of the competition for free agents.

by theslothook :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 11:34pm

I think my point was one echoed by the writers. Building through the draft is right, but use free agency judiciously to round out the rough edges.

There are many points between going all in and being frugal. And the broncos didn't think Manning would fall apart, or they wouldn't have signed Sanders. They judiciously chose which free agents to go after.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:48pm

Name me one player besides Aaron Rodgers that represents someone the packers absolutely must pay?

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix in the near future. They just paid Mike Daniels and David Bakhtiari, who would also qualify as must pays.

by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 8:03pm

If I may chime in on this absurd Pats/Packers thread as a Jets fan, their strategies may differ due to their quarterback situations. Rodgers is younger and has less mileage on his body than Brady, so the championship window for the Packers will probably remain open longer. Granted, both teams have drafted heirs, but I wouldn't say either Hundley or Jimmy G are certain to be top ten quality starters. Another reason the Pats have been able to play in the free agency and trade market is Tom Brady's contract; he's consistently left money on the table. Helps when you're dating/married to a woman who makes more than All-World quarterbacks. The Patriots better find someone for Garroppolo or that's going to end soon.

Personally, I'd switch places with either fan base, until the moment Sam Darnold signs a contract with the Jets. And I'm doubting the universe will allow that to happen.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 5:26pm

Lighten up, Francis

(Edit) That was a joke. Meant no hostility.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 5:55pm

I have no comment about your overarching point, but it warrants mention that your assessments of Thuney and Mitchell are woefully misguided. Barring injuries, both players look like fixtures for years to come and most Pats fans are perfectly content with the trade and would gladly do it again.

by Alternator :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 1:07am

I, for one, would take a quality guard and a #2/#3 receiver over a one-dimensional pass rusher, regardless how good he is at that dimension. Jones was excellent at bringing pressure, but he was no more than adequate at all other tasks asked of a linebacker, and the Patriots defense focuses heavily on versatility.

There's a place for pure rushing linebackers, but the fit in New England wasn't clean enough to justify sixteen million a year.

by theslothook :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 1:35am

I feel like the only team and fanbase that would accept this tradeoff without it coming back to bite them is NE

by herewegobrownie... :: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 10:42pm

So...since this was written, Joe Haden got cut by the Browns, and pulled a Kevin Durant - and I'm not talking about how both of them are from DC, but rather how he's now teammates with Antonio Brown who regularly burned him even in his prime, and Martavis Bryant who gave him the worst injury of his career.

How does this affect the picture? Hurts the Browns' depth, honestly, and the secondary was a weakness for the Steelers...

by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 3:48am

I don't think the Haden signing really hurts the Browns; their next three corners have all looked solid (at least, adjusting for Browns Expectations) this preseason. If the Browns were shooting for the playoffs, this would hurt that significantly -- but they're not. I still like them for the over.

As for the Steelers, if Haden can return to the form he was pre-2015-concussion, then that's a big boost. If he plays like he did last year--badly, in other words--it's not going to help much.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 11:00am

While it's not exactly a "Josh Freeman has been a Viking for a few days, let's start him on Monday night" situation, I have to imagine there's a lot to pick up in terms of defensive schemes and responsibilities. There's presumably some time where Haden has to figure out how to fit into the Steelers' defense.

Also, I thought the note in FOA on Haden was pretty insightful; his target % for the Browns the prior three years was over 20%, which says nobody has been scared to throw at him for several years.

by jtr :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:17pm

From the little bit I've seen of him, I think at this point in his career he's going to be better in Pittsburgh's zones than if he had to play a lot of man coverage. Plus, while I'm not his biggest fan, at least Mike Mitchell has some idea what he's doing, so at least Haden will now have safety help on the plays where he's supposed to have safety help. I think Haden will probably be a roughly average CB, which is probably about the best Pittsburgh could hope for from whoever won the Ross Cockrell-Cody Sensabaugh competition for one of the starting outside corner spots. Making this move indicates that they were not impressed by what those two guys showed in camp and pre-season.

by mrt1212 :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:47pm

The more important question is "will these zones be better against the Pats"

by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:50pm

The most important question is "Will Tom Brady's performance fall off by the AFC championship, due to his age." Don't know the answer, but I'd bet on the field and not the Pats this year.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:59pm

The field is almost always a wise decision, but not if it hinges on whether Brady will fall off due to age.

by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 8:10pm

He's forty years old. Chances are, he falls apart this year or the next. Great seasons by 40-something quarterbacks are basically two seasons by Warren Moon and Brett Farve.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 8:15pm

Seasons like Brady's at 39 aren't likely, either. He won't fall apart this year, you can take that to the bank. Unlikely next year as well, though I won't be surprised to see some drop off.

If you're looking for a Manning-in-2015 mid year collapse, that isn't on the table until at least 43.

by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 8:24pm

Feel you're being a little too cocky on this. Bill Barnwell did an article about late seasons from dominant quarterbacks, and basically when they fall off, they really fall off. Perhaps Brady makes it to 43, but I highly doubt it. Still won't put money where my mouth is on that one, though.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 8:40pm

I'm not being cocky, just following the evidence. There really isn't a proper comparable in those earlier QBs; Manning's physical ability had clearly declined coming off the surgeries, even in the remarkable 2013 season, Favre never really took care of himself, all the other guys played decades ago when the position was more brutal and nutrition was less informed.

Most importantly, there is no evidence that Brady is primed for a decline aside from his age. All of the earlier QBs had clearly come down a great deal from their peaks and weren't playing anywhere near Brady's level. The air has always come out of the tires a bit before the wheels came completely off, but this hasn't happened with Brady yet.

by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 9:00pm

The evidence he will decline is his age. It happens to everyone: Brett Farve, Warren Moon, Manning. Farve had a MVP season the year before his last year. I looked for the Barnwell article and didn't find it. Perhaps I was thinking of his side comments in this article: http://grantland.com/features/bill-barnwell-names-best-qbs-nfl-history/

He did write an article closer to your point of view last year, when Brady was having the best age 39 season ever: http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/17933950/no-quarterback-ever-played-w...

I think we'll just have to wait and see who's correct about this on the field. Believe me, I'm a Jets fan, so I do have a bias in this, but not as much as you would think. This year is toast for me, and personally, I'd prefer the Pats get another title to that jerk in Pittsburgh raising it one more time.

by Anon Ymous :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 9:41am

I already conceded that age is a factor against Brady but, for reasons I've tried to explain, I don't think that precedent applies in this situation. Eventually it will, of course, but I don't view 40 as the hard line that people make it out to be.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 8:57pm

Favre had a great 2009 in Minnesota. He looked brilliant, and playing with Peterson and a healthy Sydney Rice seemed to reinvigorate him. By the end of 2010, he was toast even before he was injured. The same could happen to Brady this year. Not saying it will. But I would not say "He won't fall apart this year, you can take that to the bank."

by Anon Ymous :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 9:52am

Of course, but Favre didn't take care of himself like Brady, didn't play with the precision of Brady and didn't have Brady's mental acuity. Perhaps most importantly, Favre didn't have Brady's bizarrely increasing multi-year trend going into his age 40 season. That's why I don't consider Favre a good comp.

If there is something innate to the human condition that makes an age 40 decline unavoidable, then it will obviously happen. But nothing else in Brady's play over past few years indicates that it will.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 10:47am

Brady will likely play great until he experiences his next major injury. Then, he'll likely go over the cliff, because that is what old athletes do, in any sport. Their recovery ability fails.

Anybody who thinks they can predict injuries in the NFL is being silly.

by ChrisLong :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:08am

And recovery from the bumps and bruises of daily NFL life also fails. I don't think it's a slight on Brady to expect him to decline this season. For one thing, he could decline significantly and still be in the top 10 in DVOA, still throw for 4000 yards and still throw 30 TDs.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:00pm

Well, I also think that what are frequently considered "bumps and bruises" in the NFL are in reality major injuries. Favre got the feces stomped out of him, while playing a great game, in January 2010 in the Superdome. He was never the same again. In January 2016, in Denver, Brady took a real pounding, even if it was not as brutal as Favre's. He came back great. Will he handle the next brutalization as well? I dunno, but if you were wagering money that matteted, the smart play would be to bet that the next game where the protection largely fails, and he gets stomped a dozen times, we'll see a noticeable decline in recovery time.

by Anon Ymous :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:19am

Injuries are definitely a primary, but unpredictable determinant. I don't contest that position, I contest the idea that simply becoming 40 will lead to a significant decline that has not even begun to manifest yet.

And Chris,

I don't think it's a slight on Brady to expect him to decline this season.

I'm not suggesting people are "slighting" Brady, just that they are applying improper precedent, albeit the best we have available. I also don't object to the notion that Brady may begin a decline this year, it's the "cliff" stuff that I feel is wholly unjustified.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:42am

Here's how the cliff works.

As you age, you start to lose flexibility, agility, and reflexes, even if top-end speed and strength remain.

What this means is that pocket mobility and awareness begin to decrease, and a QB's kinesthetic awareness starts to tunnel vision. This decline may not yet be noticeable in aggregate performance, because experience can compensate for this for awhile.

What you'll start to experience, though, is more contact on passing plays. Eventually more big hits.

Which, when you're 40, is a problem. Because you don't heal like you did when you were 20, no matter how much HGH and steroids you take. You aren't Wolverine anymore.

Eventually, that cumulative damage leads to your brain writing checks your body can't cash. This leads to Manning's Dilfer phase, and Brett Favre leaving a chalk outline in the tundra at TCF Bank Field. Those guys collapsed like a one-hoss shay.

by jtr :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 10:59am

Despite his early reputation as a bit of a wildman, Favre did take care of himself. Just off a quick google search, here's an SI article from 1995 about his routine, which includes plenty of conditioning, supplements, and healthy food:
Every pro football player takes great care of his body. You simply don't play high-level professional sports otherewise. Brady doesn't take better care of himself than the rest of the league, he's just the loudest about it so he can sell his overpriced snakeoil.

by Anon Ymous :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:14am

Every pro football player takes great care of his body. You simply don't play high-level professional sports otherewise.

This is no more meaningful than saying, "every pro cornerback is a great athlete, you simply couldn't play the position otherwise." While true, it ignores that there can still be a relatively large gradient within the group.

Brady doesn't take better care of himself than the rest of the league

You have no way of knowing this.

he's just the loudest about it so he can sell his overpriced snakeoil.

This comment suggests more bias on your part than anything else.

by jtr :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:25am

Do you really think he has an edge on everyone because he sleeps in magic $100 pajama shirts? A huge fraction of his public image is designed to push obvious BS like this.

by Anon Ymous :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:30am

No, nor does anyone else.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:00pm

I bet Brady does take better care of himself than others. Or at least what he believes to be better. A few years ago he said he'd never eaten a strawberry or drunk coffee. If there's a player who I'd guess is anal about the precision of this stuff, it's Brady. Of course he doesn't know the difference in pressure between two footballs when he's handed them so I could be very wrong about that.

As for Brett and his wonderful health regime, 1995 was the year before his tearful press conference to admit that he'd become addicted to painkillers. So there's SI talking about all the good things he says he does, while in the meantime he's trashing it with drugs that suppress the body's internal messages about good and bad.

by Jerry :: Fri, 09/01/2017 - 3:18am

I think at this point in his career he's going to be better in Pittsburgh's zones than if he had to play a lot of man coverage.

The Steelers are talking about how they want to play more press-man; we'll see how it turns out.

by Andrew Potter :: Sun, 09/03/2017 - 12:59pm

The Bears claimed Roberto Aguayo on waivers. The Bears already employ Connor Barth.

The Bears have also now claimed released long snapper Andrew DePaola on waivers. Somebody in Chicago is evidently playing Buccaneers special teams Bingo!

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 09/03/2017 - 1:58pm

Given that Lovie went from Bears to Bucs. Wonder if that's the connection to these decisions. Not sure where he is these days.

by Andrew Potter :: Sun, 09/03/2017 - 3:16pm

University of Illinois.