Andrew: Hello and welcome to the final Scramble for the Ball of the 2019 NFL season! We made it through another year! Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs and head coach Andy Reid, and commiserations to Bryan's beloved San Francisco 49ers for losing what may well be the most competitive title game ever to produce a double-digit winner.
Bryan: There are multiple reasons why I'm not devastated with the result, though the fact that it was competitive really wasn't one of them. I don't think the loss would be any harder to take if the Chiefs had just scored a zillion points -- it might have even been easier, because then you just tip your hat to the better team and move on. No, the fact that the 49ers were leading up until the final three minutes or so of the game makes it worse, if anything -- if you're gonna lose the Super Bowl, get it over in the first quarter, I suppose.
Would have made for a worse game for neutral fans, but eh. Eh, I say!
Andrew: Care to share the reasons you aren't devastated? I'm assuming at least one has to do with Andy Reid finally getting the figurative monkey off his back.
Bryan: That's the main one, though I'll loop back to that one in a moment. Part of it is coming off of a four-win season, with no winning seasons since 2013; you'd have to be crazy not to call this a successful year for San Francisco. Part of it is the fact that it feels like this wasn't a fluke, that the 49ers will be in position to be competitive for the next few years, at least -- they were a deserved 13-3, they never got blown out by anyone, et cetera et cetera. The future is bright for 49ers fans, excluding the ones blowing up my Twitter with wishes to get rid of Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo because they have one-game tunnel vision.
Andrew: Some people will never, ever be satisfied.
Bryan: Part of it is a long history of me liking the Chiefs, which started when I was a kid and Joe Montana ended up going over there. I was devastated when Joe left, and briefly considered switching my fandom to follow him. Then there was the exciting offense of the Trent Green years, the Alex Smith era ... the Chiefs have been fun to watch for quite some time. They hadn't won in 50 years -- I'd be singing a different tune if the 49ers had lost to the Patriots.
Andrew: Most of America would be, I suspect. Chunks of the UK, too.
Bryan: And, of course, it hurts less to lose to Patrick Mahomes doing Patrick Mahomes things than it hurt to lose to Joe Flacco, of all people. Don't get me wrong, it still sucks to see your team come up short in the Super Bowl, but sometimes great players do great things, and you just have to hand it to them and move on.
Andrew: I love that Mahomes won it, especially how he won it, because now he will never, ever be the guy who can't get it done. That fourth quarter may have spared us a decade of terrible reheated Peyton Manning analysis.
Bryan: And that brings us back around to Andy Reid. I don't know how anyone can't like Andy Reid. He's a good guy, a great coach, and one who has had to deal with more than his fair share of shit in his life. He has been hounded by accusations that he can't win the big one, as if three losing seasons in 21 years is a terrible record. He's one of the best coaches ever to do it -- not quite on the very tippy top Mount Rushmore level, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many better equipped to run a football team. And maybe now that he has a shiny trophy, he'll get some of the long-awaited praise he deserves.
Just, you know, I wish he had done it last year. That would have been nice.
Andrew: The great thing is unlike Mahomes versus Lamar Jackson, there isn't even really a candidate to take Reid's trope over from him. Who's the best remaining guy without a championship? In terms of raw wins, it's Ron Rivera. In terms of winning percentage, it's first-year guy Matt LaFleur. If we balance out the two, we get Sean McVay. None of those are remotely in Reid's stratosphere.
Bryan: I do look forward to the touching ceremony in Kansas City where Reid will hand the "best coach to never win a title" lifetime award back to Marty Schottenheimer, but you're right -- it's tough to point to an active coach who really can take claim to Reid's currently vacated crown. We've had it easy for quite some time -- Reid's long-time success has made him the default answer to the question for, what, a decade now?
Andrew: Certainly since he took a 2-14 Chiefs squad and immediately took them to ten wins, but yeah probably longer.
Bryan: Mike Zimmer is the most games above .500 among active coaches without a title, but it doesn't feel like anyone is going "man, I hope Zimmer gets a championship so people can recognize what a legend he is" or anything like that.
Andrew: Right. With Reid, it was the one hole in an otherwise Hall-of-Fame resumé. Nobody's arguing Zimmer for the Hall even if his Vikings had won this year.
Bryan: I think we'll just have to declare Reid's throne empty for now, with Zimmer joining McVay, Rivera, and Bruce Arians as the regency council or however you want to poorly stretch this metaphor.
The king is dead. Long live the king.
Andrew: Which means, for your humble Scrambletons, little else remains but to tie up our loose ends and put a bow on this NFL season. For us, that means looking back to the start of the season and seeing just how much we got right ... and how much we got badly, badly wrong. But first, one more traditional glance back over the Super Bowl action...
Super Bowl Commercial Review
Andrew: I was bitterly disappointed by the quality of Super Bowl commercials this year. There are people I know who watch the game for the occasion, and who are genuinely more interested in the commercials than the sport. This was not a vintage year. I counted exactly two commercials I liked: the pregame NFL 100 spot that cleverly culminated in the kids from the commercial emerging onto the field, and the MC Hammer Cheetos spot that won me a prop bet.
Bryan: Both of those were alright, with the Hammer one being one of the better "leaning on a celebrity" ads -- you know, the ads which are basically "this guy! You know that guy, right? Like this guy!" and then no other thought put into them. The "can't touch this" Cheetos joke is obvious, and it's not like Hammer has a ton of other stuff going on right now, so the fit was perfect. Not my favorite, but I see why you like it.
The General Voting Public also liked a "hey! Remember this?" ad, with Jeep's Groundhog Day revisited winning USA Today's AdMeter, but that's the poor quality of thing I'm talking about -- I think it's just people going "Hey! Groundhog Day! I like Groundhog Day!," and the commercial is entirely resting on those merits. It's not bad -- I, too, like Groundhog Day -- but it's lazy!
Andrew: Oh yeah! That one was quite good too. Though Bill Murray is just a smidge too fêted nowadays for my taste, considering his personal history.
Bryan: The Hyundai "smaht pahk" ad which I see a bunch of people fawning over was a Saturday Night Live sketch, and not a very good one at that; the same "meh" joke run into the ground over and over again, only with celebrities! Hard pass.
I will point to a few that worked for me, though. Google's Loretta was the requisite tear-jerkery thing which they've liked doing in recent years, and it stands out against the bad comedy. Doritos' The Cool Ranch ad had me cracking up; I don't know why "Old Town Road" will never get out of my head, and a Sam Elliott mustache dance-off will always get a smile, at least.
Andrew: I hated the Loretta one, which I considered bad melodrama. I can see what they were going for, but yuck. The Cool Ranch one was, I would say, amusing rather than Bowl-game worthy.
Bryan: I also enjoyed Rocket Mortgage's "Comfortable," with Jason Momoa gradually falling apart. But no, my favorite by far was Amazon's Before Alexa commercial. It was funny, it was quick, it had a lot of jokes that didn't overstay their welcome, I could see it being cut five or six different ways for the inevitable billion times it gets replayed over the next year, it has celebrities and uses them well without leaning on them too heavily -- it's pretty much my ideal of what a Super Bowl Commercial should be.
Andrew: It was innocuous enough, and reasonably amusing. I won't argue that it wasn't one of the better ones. I don't think it counters my thesis that this was a down year, overall.
Bryan: And there were some bad ones, for sure. Excluding the two political ads -- but no, the NFL isn't a political league, have mercy! -- my least favorite was the flop sweatiness of the flop sweaty, Sabra's "How We Muss," where they just threw celebrity after celebrity and dated meme after dated meme on the screen, in a broadside to just try to find something memorable to stick. I don't believe they've ever had a Super Bowl commercial before, and this one felt like a rookie mistake; panicking and chucking the ball up for grabs rather than being confident in their own product, to horribly mangle a metaphor.
Andrew: "Horribly mangled metaphors" sounds like an adequate description of commercials on TV. I don't think we need to say much more than that.
Staff Predictions Review
Andrew: Alright, time to go all the way back to the start of the year. Traditionally, leading into opening weekend, the Football Outsiders staff pits our collective wit, expertise, and discernment against the DVOA megacomputer (Aaron's laptop) to demonstrate the superiority of man over machine. Or, you know, the other thing. This year's predictions resulted in the following dominant victories/embarrassing whiffs.
Bryan: Joy, prediction reviews. This is definitely not adding insult to injury after the Super Bowl, no. Ah well, what must be done must be done.
TEAM MOST LIKELY TO BEAT/FALL SHORT OF ITS FOA PROJECTION
Beat: NY Jets (x2), Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, Minnesota, New England, San Francisco, Tampa Bay
Fall Short: Tennessee (x3), L.A. Chargers (x2), Pittsburgh (x2), Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Oakland
Andrew: I need to check my notes on this. What MADNESS drove people to project that an Adam Gase Jets team would outperform its DVOA projected win total?
Bryan: Both Rob Weintraub and Tom Bassinger expected Sam Darnold to take a step forward in 2019, and Tom also pointed to the baby-soft AFC East as a reason to be optimistic. It turned out, of course, that the Jets were part of that baby-soft AFC East, so, you know. That went well. They might have had a better chance if not for the scourge of mononucleosis, but still.
Andrew: I was part of the crowd of bad predictions here, believing that a healthy Panthers team would be a dark horse contender for something other than a top-ten draft pick. There may no longer be any such thing as a healthy Cam Newton. Cleveland was a big oopsie for Vince, and Atlanta for Derrik. Denver didn't exactly beat their projection convincingly, but they weren't terrible either.
Bryan: I suppose New England did technically beat its FOA projection, but man, I can not give credit for anyone picking the Patriots here -- the reason the top teams don't have sky-high projections is because of a conservative model, not because we didn't think the Patriots would be good. They beat their DVOA projection, of course (17.0% predicted, 29.9% overall), but were third instead of second overall. Nope nope nope.
I do think the best "team to beat" thing comes down to my 49ers pick, Rivers McCown's Baltimore pick, and Aaron Schatz's Minnesota pick; we all can be fairly happy with our selections. But Aaron picked the Vikings to win the NFC North, and I said that the 49ers would be trying to win a playoff spot in Week 17. Rivers went out on a limb and called the Ravens legitimate AFC contenders, and specifically pointed to a good Lamar Jackson season. I think I have to give the best pick here to Rivers.
Andrew: Agreed. Carl's pick of Tampa Bay was good, too. Their record undersold their performance, mainly because most teams don't have quite so many interceptions returned for touchdowns. We should expect that figure to regress toward the mean next year.
Bryan: As for the most disappointing team, I think the Tennessee projections all were going quite well until Ryan Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota. I was told, repeatedly by fans, that there was no quarterback competition in Tennessee, and that this was Mariota's team. Mariota's team definitely underperformed expectations. Tannehill's did not.
Andrew: I'm quite pleased with my own pick, here. The Chargers were a huge disappointment this year, and nowhere near the second-best DVOA in the league. Scott also picked them, depriving me sole credit there. Aaron's pick of the Lions was even better, though; they vastly underperformed even their worst-case scenario expectations. Two people picked the Steelers, which was interesting because they probably did underperform, but it's hard to fault a team for underperforming when they lost their starting quarterback in Week 2.
Tom Bassinger, again, probably had the worst miss with his pick of the Texans.
Bryan: But at least the Texans were bad by DVOA and whatnot -- it's not a terrible pick, but yeah, probably the worst of the bunch.
PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BEAT/FALL SHORT OF KUBIAK PROJECTION
Beat: Mark Andrews, Cameron Brate, Sam Darnold, Robert Foster, Royce Freeman, Mark Ingram, David Njoku, Dak Prescott, Darwin Thompson, James Washington, Russell Wilson
Fall Short: Antonio Brown (x3), Zach Ertz (x2), George Kittle (x2), Le'Veon Bell, Tom Brady, Jarvis Landry, Deshaun Watson
Andrew: Ooof, that Robert Foster pick. At least Dave got his parenthetical grimace right: the Bills did indeed bench Foster because of the investments they made in the other guys. Thompson never really got much of a chance in Kansas City. For me, that makes the biggest miss probably David Njoku. In a league that is devoid of top fantasy options at tight end, finishing TE77 is terrible.
Bryan: Njoku was a healthy scratch by the end of the year! Aaron said this would be a breakout season for him, and grabbed him heavily in fantasy. That, uh, didn't pay off. Cameron Brate and Sam Darnold weren't exactly top-quality starters, either, but Njoku takes the cake for me.
Andrew: In my defense, Cameron Brate did outperform his projection in exactly the way I expected. He was just the third-and-20 draw play of picks: he got more than expected, but it still wasn't exactly what we'd call a success.
Antonio Brown was, for many of us, the easy and obvious underperformance pick, and yes, he slightly underperformed our preseason KUBIAK projection. And basically any other projection that said he would avoid a total off-field meltdown.
Bryan: And these picks were made before Brown was cut! By Oakland, that is; have to be specific when talking about Brown's 2019. The worst picks here are either DeShaun Watson or George Kittle; we'll give it to Kittle because multiple people pegged him to have a down year. Derrik said "things would have to go wrong" for Kittle to lead the 49ers in receiving again. Kittle did lead the 49ers in receiving. I do not believe things went wrong.
As for the best "best" pick, that probably comes down to my Dak Prescott, Vince's Russell Wilson, or Tom's Mark Andrews, though Rivers' pick of Mark Ingram going from RB22 in our projections to RB8 is worth a nod as well. Prescott was our 16th-ranked quarterback in our projections; he ended up second behind only Lamar Jackson in fantasy points among quarterbacks. I'll toot my own horn here and say picking a non-starter in most leagues who ended up being near the top of the league counts the most!
SUPER BOWL LIV WINNER AND LOSER
Winner: Kansas City (x3), New Orleans (x3), Philadelphia (x3), New England (x2)
Loser: New England (x4), Philadelphia (x2), Carolina, Green Bay, Kansas City, L.A. Chargers, New Orleans,
Andrew: Aaron already covered this on Twitter. Four of us put Kansas City in the Super Bowl. Three correctly said they would win it. The worst pick here was either Carolina or the Chargers, who never even sniffed the playoffs. The closest to correct was probably Aaron's pick of the Chiefs over the No. 3 seed Saints. I picked the same teams, but the Saints winning. The worst was Vince, who picked the Eagles over the Chargers -- one team who missed the playoffs, and one who probably should have.
Bryan: The healthy Eagles missed the playoffs. Some folks in green jerseys did show up, though.
WITH THE NO. 1 PICK IN THE DRAFT, [TEAM] SELECTS [PLAYER]
Team: Miami (x5), Cincinnati (x2), Las Vegas (x2), Arizona, Denver
Player: Tua Tagovailoa (x9), Justin Herbert, "A quarterback not on any of our radars"
Bryan: Most of us were surprised the Dolphins didn't end up with the top pick, after shedding pretty much any player of value and earning three picks in the first round. Full credit to Dave and Rob for seeing through the Dolphins hype and grabbing the Bengals top overall. Rob is a Bengals fan and Dave follows the Dolphins closely; a little first-hand knowledge is useful.
Andrew: The tiebreaker here is which quarterback the Bengals pick No. 1 overall. Technically, my "Raiders trade up for Tagovailoa" scenario is still in play, but it seems a smidge unlikely to be the No. 1 overall pick.
Bryan: I can not give any credit for "a quarterback not on any of our radars." The point of predictions is to, uh, predict things. I mean, technically, it's correct -- it looks like the Bengals will be grabbing Joe Burrow, with Tagovailoa and Herbert likely coming off the board later in the first round -- but no, no, no, that's not how these things work. Boo, I say! Boo!
Preseason Over/Under Review
Andrew: Alright, so we've considered the staff as a whole. It's time to focus on the two of us who dared to pick every single team in football against their season over/unders. You can find all of the articles in which we made those picks by following these links:
Bryan: This did not go well. For me, at least.
We're only focusing on teams that were at least two games out of their over/under, in an attempt to keep this final article under ten zillion words.
Andrew: (This is, incidentally, the same reason Bryan has been banned from posting a single table in the body of the article.)
Bryan: This has the side effect of making my picks look even worse than their already very poor performance would have it! Ah well, better take my lumps.
+/- 2 WINS, BOTH GOT RIGHT:
Baltimore (+6), Washington (-3.5), Cleveland (-3), New Orleans (+3), Seattle (+2.5)
Andrew: This was the easy stuff. Baltimore hasn't been under eight wins once with their current coaching staff. Washington had a lame-duck coach and a lame-duck interim quarterback. Cleveland was vastly overhyped. The Saints were still very good. Seattle still can't quite overcome its own quarterback enough to fall below ten wins.
Bryan: I am very, very glad we both got Baltimore right. Baltimore's rise to the top was the story of the season -- of the regular season, at least -- and it makes us look better that we hit them. Admittedly, you said they'd be more 9-7 than 11-5, and I said I didn't expect them to be Super Bowl contenders, but still! We were right, and I'm taking that all the way.
+/-2 WINS, BOTH GOT WRONG:
L.A. Chargers (-5), San Francisco (+4.5) Cincinnati (-3.5), Detroit (-3.5), Carolina (-3), Buffalo (+2.5)
Bryan: One thing I found interesting is how both of us ended up semi-contradicting ourselves in the over/unders and staff predictions. You picked the Chargers over 10 wins, and still had them as the team most likely to underperform in the staff projections. As it was, they disintegrated in a cloud of bad luck and badly thrown balls. I, on the other hand, picked the 49ers to overperform their projection in the staff picks, and to go under 8.5 wins in the over/unders. I thought they'd be 8-7 going into the Seattle game, with a playoff spot on the line, and then they'd lose. So, yeah, oops.
Andrew: I didn't believe in their defense. Double oops. Or Garoppolo, for that matter, but I do think that jury's still out.
Bryan: The Lions managed to underperform our surprisingly high expectations; the Bengals managed to underperform our very low expectations. As you mentioned earlier, the concept of a "healthy Panthers team" doesn't really exist, and Buffalo … well, Josh Allen took a few steps forward this year, and I have to give them credit for that.
+/-2 WINS, DISAGREED:
Green Bay (+4, Andrew Over, Bryan Under), N.Y. Giants (-2, Andrew Under, Bryan Over)
Bryan: OK, in my defense, the Packers had 9.9 estimated wins, which is … still over their preseason over/under of nine.
Andrew: You were down on the NFC North as a whole, though. You had Minnesota under nine wins, and they finished 10-6. You also had Chicago under nine wins, which was correct. I called Chicago right and Detroit wrong, but I think I was closer to the general direction of travel in the division.
Bryan: Ah, but at least I made sure to take the over on Matt Patricia. You know, like an idiot.
In a more real Packers defense, I questioned whether Aaron Rodgers could get back to, you know, Aaron Rodgersing, and I think he did fall a bit short of that. I also didn't think the defense would be good, but jumping from 29th to 15th was enough to get them back into contention. Still, this was a bad miss.
I don't think the Giants miss was as bad, but it also wasn't, you know, good or anything. I didn't think they'd be good, but I thought the Saquon Barkley-led house of cards would be good enough for a push, and more likely 7-9 than 5-11. Again, no.
Andrew: This was another division in which you and I broadly diverged. To quote, because I love nothing more than to quote myself, "I look at that schedule and all the terrible teams on it, and see that the most common terrible team listed on it is the New York Football Giants." Yes, double-yes, and thrice yes.
Bryan: Oh, keep quoting yourself. I'll find a few for you in the next section...
Preseason Stat Predictions Review
Andrew: Last year, this is the article in which I called the breakout of one Patrick Mahomes, esquire, and the emergence of the Kansas City Chiefs. This year was ... not so good, Al.
Bryan: As a reminder, we made three picks in each category -- a favorite, a value pick, and a longshot. So we had a couple of cracks at each award. Let's see how that ended up working out for us.
Best Pick (Yards): James Winston (+950), first (Both)
Worst Pick (Yards): Matthew Stafford (+5000), 29th (Andrew)
Best Pick (Touchdowns): Jameis Winston (+2500), second (Andrew)
Worst Pick (Touchdowns): Cam Newton (+10000), 58th (Andrew)
Bryan: We got one! We made a pick, and made it well! All Jameis Winston knows how to do is throw touchdowns, and he doesn't care which team he throws them to. We liked Bruce Arians to give us Maximum Winston, and he delivered, for good or for ill.
Andrew: My biggest failure here was the inability to predict injuries: Matthew Stafford missed half the year with a back fracture, and Cam Newton hasn't been healthy since probably early 2017. That accounts for my worst miss in either category. Otherwise, Jameis and Mahomes were pretty solid picks.
Bryan: Your Carolina love is going to come back a couple of times here. I do wish we could have seen what Healthy Cam Newton could have done, but you were very, very confident that would be a thing. It was not a thing.
All three of my picks for yards (Winston, Patrick Mahomes, and Carson Wentz) finished in the top 10, so that's good. But I was on the Baker Mayfield train, and he only threw 22 touchdowns with nary an injury to excuse him; only three passers threw fewer touchdowns while starting all 16 games. The Browns suck, man.
Best Pick (Yards): Christian McCaffrey (+3300), third (Andrew)
Worst Pick (Yards): James Conner (+2000), 43rd (Bryan)
Best Pick (Touchdowns): Derrick Henry (+1000), first (Andrew)
Worst Pick (Touchdowns): Saquon Barkley (+710), 20th (Andrew)
Bryan: The Steelers' running back situation kills me. Last year, I was all in on Le'Veon Bell for multiple categories and, you know, that went ... OK. This year, I liked James Conner quite a bit as a longshot. With Antonio Brown gone, the Steelers had to run more, right? Oh, wait, they're going to lose their starting quarterback in Week 2 and have trouble keeping anything going on offense? Fantastic. Also, don't let me ever play "Belichick Running Back Roulette" again, sassafrassa Sony Michel.
Andrew: Conner also missed time injured, as did Saquon Barkley. Predicting injuries is tougher than anything else, and they can make a pick look really, really silly in hindsight.
Bryan: You did pretty darn well finding backs, however. You should have doubled down on Derrick Henry, but it's not like Christian McCaffrey didn't rush for a zillion yards! I took Zeke, who finished just behind McCaffrey in rushing yards, but everyone expected Zeke to get volume. A 1,000/1,000 season for McCaffrey was astounding.
Andrew: We may never see a season quite like that again, given all the circumstances that came together to make it happen. He is, for my money, the closest thing we had to a non-QB MVP this year.
Best Pick (Yards): Michael Thomas (+1000), first (Andrew)
Worst Pick (Yards): Odell Beckham (+750), 26th (Andrew)
Best Pick (Touchdowns): Tyler Lockett (+3000), ninth (Both)
Worst Pick (Touchdowns): JuJu Smith-Schuster (+1600), 84th (Andrew)
Andrew: Hey, I had both the best and the worst picks in receiving yards! Turns out Michael Thomas was the best value pick for the receiving yards title. Odell Beckham, as the aforementioned Baker Mayfield pick may convey, was not. He's my worst non-injury pick so far, I would say.
Bryan: My three picks for yards ended up in the top 11, with Julio Jones winning the "non-Michael Thomas" division. DeAndre Hopkins finished just outside the top 10, in part because he missed one game. I'm fairly happy with my Julio-Nuk-Keenan Allen picks there.
But man, touchdowns are a hard-to-pick grab bag. How did Davante Adams play for a 13-3 team and only get five touchdowns? How is that possible, like, mathematically?
Coach of the Year (John Harbaugh, +2800)
Best Pick: Kyle Shanahan (+1000, Bryan)
Worst Pick: Ron Rivera (+3300, Andrew)
Andrew: We were right to be very wary of Bruce Arians as the shortest-odds favorite for Coach of the Year. That looks no less bizarre now than it did at the time.
Bryan: John Harbaugh had a great year and deserves acclaim, for sure, but I think Kyle Shanahan was robbed. I may be biased here. Just possibly.
Andrew: Speaking of bias, how is my 5-7 Ron Rivera a worse pick than your 3-12-1 Matt Patricia?
Bryan: It's a fair point, but Rivera was fired; Patricia was not. I think that's a suitable tiebreaker for two picks which, uh, did not come close to winning the award.
Andrew: I dispute your subjective criteria, but what is indisputable is that my picks here were not good. Sean Payton, at least, grabbed the No. 3 seed despite five weeks starting a backup quarterback, but even that was a relatively disappointing outcome for a Saints team that should probably have grabbed themselves a bye week. Frank Reich was a longshot for a reason.
Bryan: My third pick, Doug Pederson, wasn't going to win the award, but I do think he gets some credit for driving the shambling, falling-apart Eagles into the playoffs. Patricia was a miss, but he literally had the worst odds on the table; that's what the longshot spot is for!
First Coach Fired (Jay Gruden, +333)
Best Pick: Jay Gruden (+333), first (Both)
Worst Pick: Kyle Shanahan (+3500, Andrew)
Andrew: In my defense, I did explain why Kyle Shanahan was a longshot. He's an even longer shot now!
Bryan: And your argument was fair, and it made a lot of sense at the time, and was a very logical longshot pick. But you also said that "the 49ers, for all the building, really don't look that great," and I said I'd rub it in if the 49ers won the NFC West, and they did, and so I am here. I fulfill my promises!
Andrew: We both nailed the Gruden pick, which was kinda like hitting a ball off the broad side of a barn at five paces.
Bryan: It was free money. To be fair, we picked him the year before, as well, but yeah, we didn't have to think more than 10 seconds before hammering on Gruden. I had Jon Gruden as my longshot, which was less correct, though I will say that I pegged the Raiders being dysfunctional. They got most of that out of their system during Hard Knocks, apparently.
Andrew: Doug Marrone was a solid pick, even though he wasn't fired, and his seat is rather toasty for 2020.
Bryan: This might be an easy pick next year, as well.
Most Valuable Player (Lamar Jackson, +4000)
Best Pick: Either Patrick Mahomes (+500, Both) or Drew Brees (+1800, Both)
Worst Pick: Ben Roethlisberger (+3250, Bryan)
Bryan: I couldn't decide whether to credit Mahomes or Brees as the best pick here -- Lamar Jackson swept all 50 votes, so I can't just give the tie to whoever was the higher runner-up. Brees was better, both by DVOA and DYAR. Mahomes missed less time, and put up fantastic numbers even while injured. I don't think either pick was bad at all; they just weren't Lamar Jackson.
Andrew: The only one who wasn't at least in the conversation at some point was Ben Roethlisberger. Another example of the curse of injuries, though I didn't think it was a particularly good pick at the time either.
Bryan: With the rest of the 2004 Class crumbling into dust before our eyes, you're probably right. But I guess we'll never know! A healthy Roethlisberger might have shattered records -- you can't prove that he wouldn't have!
Offensive Player of the Year (Michael Thomas)
Best Pick: Patrick Mahomes (Bryan)
Worst Pick: Saquon Barkley (Andrew)
Bryan: Thomas makes sense, though I might have made a strong argument for Christian McCaffrey for the award. We only picked one player each for this award thanks to the lack of odds (and it's awkward redundancy with MVP). I think it's fairly safe to say Mahomes outperformed Barkley.
Defensive Player of the Year (Stephon Gilmore, +8000)
Best Pick: Aaron Donald (+150, Both)
Worst Pick: Myles Garrett (+1000, Andrew)
Andrew: Aaron Donald had a mortal season, though still terrific, and Stephon Gilmore was the best player on the best defense in the league. We didn't come close to foreseeing that, but Cameron Jordan was a reasonable value pick and Myles Garrett ... wasn't.
Offensive Rookie of the Year (Kyler Murray, +150)
Best Pick: Kyler Murray (+150, Both)
Worst Pick: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (+6000, Andrew)
Andrew: Obvious pick is obvious.
Bryan: And we both had Josh Jacobs as our value pick; he finished runner-up. Obvious picks are obvious.
Andrew: Longshot picks are less so. Daniel Jones had his moments early on in New York, but looks, charitably, like a project right now. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was a very long shot, and did nothing to defy those expectations.
Defensive Rookie of the Year (Nick Bosa, +750)
Best Pick: Nick Bosa (+750, Bryan)
Worst Pick: Brian Burns (+2050, Both)
Bryan: One last quip of yours I promised to re-quote if the 49ers won the NFC West, from this section: "If the 49ers defense is good this year, Nick Bosa has a great chance. They won't be, but it's a nice thought."
Andrew: The first half of that quote is exceedingly prescient. Alas, the second was not. I was also wrong on the Buccaneers, when I said basically the same thing in relation to Devin White. You lose some, and you lose some.
Bryan: Oh, we can do that? In that case, I'm just taking the first half of the Super Bowl and throwing out the second.
Overall, though, our picks were pretty good. Josh Allen got a vote; Ed Oliver and Rock Ya-Sin started plenty of games. Even Brian Burns wasn't a disaster.
Andrew: Meh, your picks were better than mine. Rock Ya-Sin was closer to All-KCW than All-Rookie. Burns was fine, but Carolina's defense almost set awfulness records at the thing he's worst at (stopping the run). Ed Oliver isn't even a starter in Buffalo yet, though he did play well on a great defense.
Comeback Player of the Year (Ryan Tannehill, N/A)
Best Pick: Earl Thomas (+1400, Both)
Worst Pick: Cam Newton (+1100, Andrew)
Bryan: Tannehill was not listed as an option. "Adam Gase" is not a recognized condition to be coming back from. I don't like it when someone wins this award after coming back from not being good at football. I'm not saying Tannehill's 2019 wasn't fantastic -- it absolutely was. But even in the "non-biased towards Jimmy G" category, you had Travis Frederick coming back from Guillain-Barré syndrome, or Darren Waller overcoming substance abuse and leading the league in DYAR. Being on the Dolphins is terrible, but there are much more serious things to overcome!
Seriously, I know that Tannehill had his torn ACL two years ago, but that feels more like a candidacy for 2018, not 2019.
Andrew: I'd argue that Cam Newton still hasn't actually come back, as such, and that pick should be disqualified. LeSean McCoy was a worse pick, in my opinion. Earl Thomas was a good choice though, as a key player on the No. 1 team in the AFC. But yes, no way to have known that Tannehill would even be A Thing this January.
Super Bowl Winner (Kansas City Chiefs, +825)
Best Pick: New England Patriots (Andrew, +750)
Worst Pick: Carolina Panthers (Andrew, +5000)
Andrew: I said longshot, dangit. Also, not sure how my pick of the 5-11 Panthers, who at least reached a winning record at one point this season, is worse than your pick of the 5-11 Chargers, who did not.
Bryan: I had to pick one, and the Panthers had the worse DVOA by a mile, though some of that came from the give-up portion of the season after Rivera was fired.
Andrew: The Saints and Patriots were also effectively a tie. Both No. 3 seeds, both lost at home in their first playoff game. We did OK in this one, I think.
Bryan: Not as good as last year, but solid enough. I'll take it!
Andrew: So there you have it, our predictions record laid bare for all to see. Well, most of it, Bryan has a few housekeeping matters to cover below. Overall, this was a very entertaining year of football. Olympus may finally have fallen, we have a new champion, and both of our teams were among the top three seeds in the NFC. Thanks to you, the reader, for joining us throughout the journey, and Scramble will be back one way or another in August.
Keep Choppin' Wood
The Super Bowl was, as one might expect, generally a very well-played game featuring two high-quality sides. Two big negative plays, however, stand out: one by each starting quarterback.
The first of those was, as we will see below, not only predictable but predicted. Even with the 49ers trailing 7-3 early in the game, Jimmy Garoppolo should have taken the sack here:
Jimmy Garoppolo's interception was just the 2nd by a 49er in the Super Bowl.
Colin Kaepernick threw an INT in Super Bowl XLVII.
Joe Montana and Steve Young threw 0 in 5 combined starts.
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) 3 February 2020
The second was thrown by eventual game MVP Patrick Mahomes:
This is Pat Mahomes' first career interception in the playoffs pic.twitter.com/SjOFe0yM5M
— Safest Betting Sites (@SBS_Authority) 3 February 2020
This is alarmingly Garoppolike by Mahomes, who completely overlooks the linebacker, Fred Warner, underneath the throw. Ultimately, we consider Jimmy Garoppolo's interception to be worse because it was a bad decision to even throw that ball in the first place, but we juxtapose Mahomes to show that even the best player in the league makes those mistakes sometimes. This was hardly the most egregious KCW of the season.
Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game
We commented in our Prop Bet Extravaganza article that we expected both of these coaches to understand the importance of fourth-down aggressiveness. Andy Reid lived up to those expectations early and often, converting two fourth-and-1 situations on the team's first three drives to take a 10-3 lead. The Chiefs did not face another fourth-and-short during the game -- indeed, Kansas City did not face a single fourth down in the second half -- so we never got a clear picture of the limits of Reid's aggressiveness, but we applaud him for his aggressiveness in the early game.
John Fox Award for Conservatism
Kyle Shanahan, on the other hand, disappointed us with his conservatism. We will cover the sequence at the end of the first half momentarily, but we were also very disappointed that the man whose offense averaged 6.4 yards per rush and over 7 yards per pass chose to kick a 42-yard field goal on fourth-and-2 to conclude the first drive of the second half. The Chiefs have demonstrated repeatedly that no lead is truly safe, and the 49ers should certainly have been confident of converting that fourth-and-short.
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching
The first 28 minutes of the Super Bowl were exciting, tense, and close. And then the next two minutes became a clown show. Kyle Shanahan did the bulk of the work, but Andy Reid wasn't immune, either.
The Chiefs' last drive of the first half involved taking the ball out of Patrick Mahomes' hands; never a good plan. An end around to Mecole Hardman that lost 6 yards and then a hopeless screen to Damien Williams forced a fourth-down situation with 1:53 left in the half, and the 49ers sitting on all three timeouts. With the 49ers getting the ball back to start the second half, this was terrible -- the Chiefs had just started to move the ball, and they basically took themselves out of a scoring opportunity with some bad play calling. Now, with a timeout, the 49ers would have all day to respond…
Only the 49ers didn't take that timeout, meaning the Chiefs punted with 1:08 left on the clock rather than 1:53. That just has to be the wrong decision -- you can make an argument that it let the 49ers have those timeouts on offense, giving them more flexibility with what they could call, but A) that's not worth the extra 40 seconds, and B) the ensuing play calling was … let's call it "conservative" to be kind. The 49ers ran twice, draining the clock to 20 seconds before Kansas City called a timeout. With their hand forced, San Francisco completed a 20-yard pass and very nearly had a 42-yard gain deep into Chiefs territory, but it was called back by a correct (if ticky-tack) offensive pass interference call. It turns out, when the 49ers' offense tried, it could move the ball. Who knew! Shanahan said after the game that he was comfortable going into the half at 10-10. Probably would have been more comfortable at 13-10, or even 17-10. Just saying.
This capped off a season where Shanahan often got conservative in key moments. He is a fantastic offensive mind and has done great things to turn the 49ers around so quickly. If he can just learn to trust his top-ten offense in crucial situations, who knows what might happen?
'Thank You and Goodbye' Fantasy Player of the Week
It remains exceedingly likely that the Chiefs will cut Sammy Watkins and his $14-million, unguaranteed salary before 2020. If so, then at least his disappointing Chiefs tenure ended on an upswing -- back-to-back-to-back 75-plus-yard games in the playoffs, including the catch that moved the Chiefs from comeback mode to favored to win, even if it didn't actually score the go-ahead points. In five years, Chiefs fans won't remember the $34 million Watkins earned for less than 50/600/3 a season. They'll remember this, though.
— NFL (@NFL) February 3, 2020
Garbage-Time Performer Player of the Week
There really wasn't any garbage time in the Super Bowl -- it was a good, competitive game down to the very end. I suppose the closest thing we got to desperation time was that last 1:12 with the 49ers down 11 points. The 49ers literally did nothing with the ball then, so we'll give the award to Kendall Fuller for the quasi-Hail Mary interception that put even the craziest of comeback possibilities officially to bed.
WHO'S CUTTING ONIONS?!?!? pic.twitter.com/QWzhentwjv
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) February 3, 2020
Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week
No team makes the Super Bowl without a lot of reason for optimism, and the 49ers are no exception. There are certainly some concerns: excellent defense is less likely to be sustainable than excellent offense, and it is extremely tough to repeat as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. However, we can also note that this was Jimmy Garoppolo's first season after a torn ACL, an injury from which players usually take two years to return to their previous level; and that the 49ers have only two, maybe three significant unrestricted free agents this season (Emmanuel Sanders, Jimmie Ward, arguably Arik Armstead). They will probably be one of the best teams in the NFC next year, and appear well built to contend for many years yet. All is far from lost in Santa Clara.
Game-Changing Play of the Week
A lot of people are pegging Tyreek Hill's 44-yard catch on third-and-15 as the big play of the game, but that touchdown drive still left the Chiefs trailing by three. Scoring again, even with the Chiefs' offense, was never a guarantee against a 49ers defense which really did play well on the day. As a 49ers fan, I can tell you the play that flipped things from "just got to stop them" to "shoot, now we're going to have to score again" came with that aforementioned Watkins grab on the subsequent drive.
Watkins burned Richard Sherman on that catch, but it's important to note that this wasn't an isolated occurrence. The Packers burned Sherman on a similar play in the NFC Championship Game. Andy Reid and his staff must have seen that on film, and had it dialed up and ready to go when they needed it most. This wasn't a case of a great offensive player making a great offensive play; this was Reid and Eric Bieniemy doing their homework.
Two weeks ago, Davante Adams burned Richard Sherman in the NFC Championship using a quick jab to the right off the line.
— Cole Topham (@HamAnalysis) February 3, 2020
It's things like this which gives Reid his much-deserved post-bye week reputation. He is a stellar coach, and I'm glad he finally got to win the big one.
Staff Fantasy Update
Bryan: Aaron's pair of running backs made it a contest, but it's Andrew who holds on to the lead and the gets the win!
|FO Staff Playoffs Fantasy Results|
|QB||Lamar Jackson||30||Drew Brees||10||Patrick Mahomes||104||Russell Wilson||47||Jimmy Garoppolo||21||Tom Brady||8|
|RB||Damien Williams||62||Latavius Murray||2||Alvin Kamara||11||Dalvin Cook||25||Aaron Jones||37||Mark Ingram||2|
|RB||Raheem Mostert||62||Gus Edwards||2||Devin Singletary||12||James White||5||Derrick Henry||61||Sony Michel||6|
|WR||Mecole Hardman||1||Tyreek Hill||30||Michael Thomas||7||Davante Adams||41||Tyler Lockett||25||Julian Edelman||10|
|WR||Emmanuel Sanders||6||Marquise Brown||12||Cole Beasley||4||DeAndre Hopkins||20||DK Metcalf||27||John Brown||9|
|WR||Willie Snead||5||Deebo Samuel||12||Allen Lazard||3||A.J. Brown||5||Stefon Diggs||12||N'Keal Harry||2|
|TE||Hayden Hurst||11||Dallas Goedert||7||Jared Cook||5||Travis Kelce||44||George Kittle||5||Mark Andrews||3|
|K||Robbie Gould||32||Wil Lutz||9||Harrison Butker||21||Mason Crosby||6||Jason Myers||12||Justin Tucker||7|
|DEF||Philadelphia||-1||Baltimore||-3||New Orleans||1||Kansas City||6||San Francisco||20||New England||1|
Aaron's 45-point day in the Super Bowl (24 from Damien Williams, 11 from Raheem Mostert) was enough to put him over Andrew's post-championship round score, but Andrew got just enough from his remaining 49ers to put him over the top.
The most interesting thing about Andrew's team is its lack of top players -- only the San Francisco defense led any position for his squad, though a 14-point lead over any other (selected) defense is nothing to sneeze at. But no, Andrew's true strength was a lack of weakness -- only one player not in double digits, and just three under 20. That's a level of depth the rest of us simply could not manage to match, and results in a much-deserved win.
Best of the Rest
Bryan: We said last week that a lot of this game would depend on just how much Tevin Coleman played; our leader in the clubhouse had Sammy Watkins, but a few players behind him had Coleman ready to go. Coleman did pick up a couple points in his return from a dislocated shoulder, but it ended up not being enough. Sid, in second place, did manage to cut the gap to just five points, but Spybloom held on to claim Best of the Rest victory! Like many of the top Best of the Resters, Spybloom benefitted from Houston's wild-card win and early success against Kansas City. He was also one of ten teams to pick Watkins, the biggest miss the staff had in our draft. His 181 points would have finished midtable in the full-on draft -- quite an impressive total. Congratulations!
QB: DeShaun Watson (67 points)
RB: Miles Sanders (6 points)
RB: Carlos Hyde (15 points)
WR: Will Fuller (8 points)
WR: Kenny Stills (18 points)
WR: Sammy Watkins (32 points)
TE: Zach Ertz (4 points)
K: Ka'imi Fairbairn (14 points)
DEF: Tennessee (15 points)
And your top five:
- Spybloom (181 points)
- Sid (176 points)
- Jcypess (166 points)
- MountainTime (156 points)
- Eddo (155 points)
And finally, the best possible squad:
QB: Patrick Mahomes: 104 points (Drafted by Scott in Round 3 as QB4)
RB: Damien Williams: 62 points (Aaron, Round 2, RB4)
RB: Raheem Mostert: 62 points (Aaron, Round 3, RB5)
WR: Davante Adams: 41 points (Vince, Round 3, WR4)
WR: Sammy Watkins: 34 points (Undrafted!)
WR: Tyreek Hill: 30 points (Rivers, Round 2, WR2)
TE: Travis Kelce: 44 points (Vince, Round 1, TE1)
K: Robbie Gould: 32 points (Aaron, Round 7, K4)
DEF: San Francisco: 20 points (Andrew, Round 8, DEF4)
Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week
Bryan: Both Andrew and I finished at a decent 12-8-1 this season, meaning we needed to go to a tiebreak. That was the Super Bowl coin toss -- Andrew took tails, and ended up completing the Lock of the Week/Double Survival set. And speaking of Super Bowl bets...
Prop Bet Extravaganza Results
Bryan: As Andrew and I were once again rather in lockstep, I'll focus mainly on where we disagreed here. For the record, though, we both picked the Chiefs -- both heads up and against the spread -- and nailed that. We both had Patrick Mahomes winning MVP, and while he didn't run away with the award, he did win. We both had the 49ers scoring first, which ended up paying out, and we called that the team that scored first would end up losing. We said that a team would score three times in a row, and both of them managed that. Most impressively, perhaps, in an open bucket, we both took the Chiefs by seven to 12 points, which was spot-on. As an end result, both of us ended up in the black -- we had a really, really good set of picks! It's only the fifth time in the history of the Extravaganza where both Scramblers ended up with positive cash -- this is a hard game, y'all. We did both miss on the over, however. It was set at 54 points, so we missed by a field goal. Curse that end-of-half OPI!
So, while we both made oodles of cash, it came down to the few props on which we disagreed to determine a winner. I did correctly call that neither team would succeed on a two-point conversion; neither team even attempted one. I also correctly said they wouldn't show Joe Montana in his Chiefs uniform; most of the highlights they showed of old Chiefs teams were of the Hank Stram/Len Dawson vintage. As such, I end up with a cool $923 -- not a bad day at the office.
But Andrew ended up getting me. He correctly predicted that Raheem Mostert would be held under 76 rushing yards. He predicted that the first turnover would be an interception, and Jimmy Garoppolo delivered a special right to him. He correctly guessed that MC Hammer would use the phrase "Hammertime" in a Cheetos commercial, a case of me far, far, far overthinking things and punting that away. And, of course, he won the almighty coin flip, as tails never fails. As such, he ended with $1,342. He won the Prop Bet Extravaganza, Double Survival, Lock of the Week, and the Staff Fantasy Draft. All from someone who keeps telling me he hates making predictions.