NFC North Over/Unders: Can Dan Campbell Lead the Lions Out of the Cellar?

Detroit Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell
Detroit Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Andrew: Hello and welcome to this, the final week of our preseason over/under columns. With only two divisions left to cover, it will come as no surprise that we head first to the NFC half of the frozen north. There, we cast our gaze upon a division champion in Jeopardy!, an on-the-fly rebuild that hopes to bear immediate fruit, a feisty pride looking to bite yer legs off, and the winner of Bryan's brand-new Justin Fields game.

Bryan: Ostensibly, we saved the North divisions until last to tie in with the Browns and Bengals getting nationally televised preseason games this week, but the real reason was to give the unsettled situations here in the NFC North some time to shake out. When we were plotting this year's schedule, we had no idea who would be starting Week 1 for three of the four teams in the division, and couldn't really believe that the fourth team would be starting who they would be starting. I think things have become a little clearer over the past few weeks, which is convenient for us.

This is traditionally where I say that I hate the division and feel that it's a massive bundle of mediocrity waiting to happen, but for the first time since we started writing these previews years ago, I actually have a bit of optimism about the NFC North. Maybe that's just Vegas' negativity catching up and surpassing my own, and I'm not saying this is one of the best divisions in the league or anything, but the NFC North has some intrigue to it for the first time in a while.

Andrew: ... or maybe it's just the lack of Matt Patricia this time around…

Bryan: I mean, that doesn't hurt.

Note: "Last Over" and "Last Under" below list the last time each team went over this year's over/under number. Yes, that's awkward with the shift from 16 games to 17. We're waiting for the commissioner to respond to our angry letters.

Chicago Bears (7.5)

Last Over: 2020 (Head Coach: Matt Nagy; Quarterback: Mitchell Trubisky)
Last Under: 2017 (John Fox/Mitchell Trubisky)

Andrew: Is it safe to call the Bears the final competitor in the Justin Fields game, or do you consider the Lions a participant?

Bryan: Because of the divisional ties, I do consider Detroit our last contender out in the Fields race, but the Bears bring up their own variety of the game. To wit: how much was trading up for Fields a savvy personnel move by a team that needed to make a switch at quarterback, and how much was desperation from Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy trying to cool off their hot seats for a season or two?

Andrew: See, I considered the Bears' contribution to the game not so much, "why didn't they draft Fields?"—since, you know, they did—but rather, "why are they persisting with Andy Dalton ahead of him?" I had a soft spot for Dalton back in the middle of last decade, but the Red Rocket has well and truly splashed down at this point.

Bryan: Watching Saturday's preseason game between Chicago and Buffalo was Dickensian—the ghosts of Bears quarterbacks past, present, and future all on the field. Mitchell Trubisky and the Bills' backups came out and shredded the Bears, who had a decent chunk of their starters out there. Dalton came out and was ... "appalling" might be strong, but if you were missing Alex Smith and the Zillion Checkdowns, Dalton filled a very important niche for you. And then Fields came out and played well, if erratic, against some of Buffalo's scrubs. Nagy is currently on record saying we need to see Dalton in the regular season. And my question is: Do we? Do we really? Haven't we suffered enough? Going from Christmas Carol to Bleak House, I see.

Andrew: I do think that, if you're expecting the transition to Fields to cool off the pressure on Nagy and Pace, you're in for a rude awakening, absent the sort of rookie season that doesn't begin with a struggle to oust Andy Dalton.

Bryan: I think there's a difference in feel between the Bears opening, say, 3-6 before the bye with Andy Dalton and doing the same with Justin Fields. Under Dalton, that's just a depressing, lost season right off the bat. Under Fields, you'll have people talking about his development, and highlights of him leaving Nick Bosa in the dust and dueling against Joe Burrow and outplaying Jared Goff, and so on and so forth.

Andrew: Sure, but that meal is served with a generous helping of "imagine this guy with a coach and general manager who were smart enough to give him starter reps in the offseason." I feel like this team needs a serious tilt at a division title just to save the head coach's job. Maybe I'm misreading things, but I definitely expect to be mentioning Nagy's name in our Awards and Stat Predictions article next week, and not in a good way. An under on this line would seem to me to cement his departure, Fields or no Fields. Either way, they're likely 3-6 heading into the bye, and I don't see them posting a winning record after that.

Bryan: It's interesting that we're talking about a hot seat for a team that made the playoffs last year, but I'm with you. If Nagy's going to survive, he has to revitalize his reputation as QB Whisperer, and the longer he insists that Andy Dalton is the guy who gives his team the best chance to win, the less I like his chances of sticking around. I'm not saying Justin Fields is the guy for sure, but we know who Dalton is by now, and he's no longer someone that will lead to division titles or winning records in the 2020s. The longer Dalton starts, the more confident I am about picking the under here.

Andrew: There are some pieces to like in Chicago. Khalil Mack. Akiem Hicks. Eddie Jackson. Roquan Smith. The defense should be pretty good. I don't think it'll be good enough, though, to make up for what they're putting out there on offense. Allen Robinson is still a stud, but there just isn't enough else on that unit. They'll grab a few wins off their divisional opponents, but the schedule outside the division is brutal enough that they'll still finish under seven wins. It'll then be up to a new staff to play the Fields.

Detroit Lions (4.5)

Last Over: 2020 (Matt Patricia/Matthew Stafford)
Last Under: 2019 (Matt Patricia/Matthew Stafford)

Bryan: We welcome in our last contestant in the second most popular game show in the division, Explain Why Team X Passed on Justin Fields! The fact that you weren't sure if they should be included or not is probably a good indicator that there's a logic behind the madness, but for the record, why did the Lions pass on Fields, instead taking offensive tackle Penei Sewell and opting to go with hot quarterback prospect, uh, Jared Goff in 2021?

Andrew: There are many different factors at play here. The first is that "please take Jared Goff" was probably a condition of the Matthew Stafford trade, and the only way you're having success with Goff as your starter is to build the best pass protection you can possibly get. I genuinely think the Lions are in pretty good shape there: I don't have an opinion on Jonah Jackson, having largely avoided the Lions last season, but everybody else on that line either is or should be well above average for his position. If Sewell is close to what he's meant to be, this might well be the best offensive line in the division, and a top-10 line overall.

Bryan: Sewell has had some rookie struggles in the preseason, but A) it's preseason, B) he's shifting to a new position on the line, and C) he sat out all of 2020 due to the pandemic and has a bit of rust to shake off. Some of the panic in the Lionsverse should be tamped down just a bit

Andrew: The second factor is a head coach who appears to have been brought south of the wall from the Thenns. Of course a guy who talks the way Dan Campbell talks, from the background Dan Campbell is from, will want to draft a premier offensive tackle.

Bryan: After three years of Matt Patricia acting like Dutch van der Linde, insisting that he has a plan while everything falls further and further in chaos around him, Campbell speaking the Old Tongue of biting kneecaps and kicking teeth is a refreshing change of pace. I will be honest, I was prepared to hate Campbell. That kind of intensity rah-rah talk reminds me too much of guys like Jim Tomsula, all bark and very little bite. But I find myself being drawn to Campbell, because so far he has accompanied that bluster with a fairly honest understanding of who the Lions are and where they are on the arc of competitiveness … as well as providing plenty of entertaining quotes, which makes our job much easier.

Andrew: I'm oddly intrigued by that this year. To find out just where they are on the arc of competitiveness, I mean. The Lions aren't going to be good, but there's a strong likelihood that Matt Patricia made the absolute least of what he had, and there may well be some talent here. Particularly on the defense and offensive lines, which is exactly where Campbell would like it. They're going to hit some people where they didn't expect to be hit, and they're going to be proud of it.

Bryan: The secondary has some interesting young talent, too. I'm not giving up on Jeff Okudah just yet!

Andrew: You can't really give up on anybody who has only played under Patricia just yet.

Bryan: Ultimately, what separates Campbell from someone like Urban Meyer for me is the fact that I can see a sort of logic behind Detroit's moves this offseason—build up the line, play tough in the trenches, accept a bunch of losses this season, and find your franchise quarterback next year. It's not the plan I would do, but it's not like they're firing random first-round picks at running backs or bringing in sideshow attractions to fill out the roster. I like that there's a sense of order in Campbell's chaos.

Andrew: Let's be frank: for a team in this situation, any actual plan is a welcome change. The Lions have lost many of their best players over the past couple of seasons, and they were never that good even with those players. The schedule does them no favors whatsoever. They're probably going to open 1-4 at best, they might beat Cincinnati, then it's back to losing for most of the back nine. If you told me one team went 0-17 this year, I'd suspect that the Lions lost to the Bengals and that was that. However, I would not be surprised if they caught a couple of opponents cold and finished a relatively respectable 5-12.

Bryan: I have had an irrational fear all offseason that the Lions are going to beat the 49ers in Week 1 before the enthusiasm that Campbell brings wears off early in September. That happened when Campbell took over the Dolphins in 2015; he took a 1-3 team and then won his first two games 38-10 and 44-26, that last one over a fairly solid Texans squad. That petered out as the overall talent level started holding out, but if Campbell is as loved by his players as his ex-players say he is, that might pave over a couple of flaws here and there. For about a month.

Andrew: Right. And that month is tough enough that even a fired-up Lions squad playing at its peak ability probably loses more than they win. I see precisely one game all year that I'd expect the Lions to be favored in, and even that depends how Joe Burrow plays on his return from a multi-ligament knee injury. They might upset a couple of others in defensive slugfests—I'm thinking Chicago, maybe Denver, possibly Philadelphia if Hurts is not the answer—but finding five actual wins here is not an easy task.

Bryan: To get to five, you probably start looking at things like the Vikings at home after a quasi-bye due to the Thanksgiving game. Maybe the Cardinals if Kliff Kingsbury continues to flounder or the Packers in Week 18 if they're resting starters. I'm not overly filled with confidence.

Andrew: That's too much prognostication for me. They play 17 games. 16 of their opponents are clearly better than them. A fired-up, inspired bad team is still a bad team. Maybe with a top-three pick, they can look to replace Goff. They'll certainly have the chance. Under.

Bryan: The Lions are one of the few teams—possibly the only team—that seems to have admitted they're really not trying to compete this season. I admire a team that knows where it's at. At the same time, though, I think the Lions will surprise a few people and grind out a few wins against teams that overlook them. Plus, if I took the Texans over 4.0, I can't in good conscience take the Lions under 4.5. Pass me a slice of kneecap, please. Over!

Green Bay Packers (10)

Last Over: 2020 (Matt LaFleur/Aaron Rodgers)
Last Under: 2018 (Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers)

Bryan: In the midst of Aaron Rodgers panic, this line dropped to 8.5 and was briefly even removed from the board entirely.

Wait, I'm sorry; I got the formatting for this wrong, considering Rodgers' offseason pursuits. This team saw their preseason over/under drop to 8.5, amidst rumors that their star quarterback wanted out of town.

Andrew: Who is the Houston Texans? No, wait, who is the Seattle Seahawks? Come to think of it, it has been quite the offseason for franchise quarterback rumors.

Bryan: I never thought the Wilson-out-of-Seattle rumors had anything to them this season, and the Watson situation is a whole different kettle of fish. The Packers? Man, when they do quarterback controversies, they do them right. Rodgers and company are invoking the 1998 Last Dance Bulls, planning on riding to one more title before everything explodes next offseason.

Andrew: Which is fine, except the Last Dance Bulls had a slightly more pronounced track record of success than the Rodgers-era Packers. That's in no way a criticism of Rodgers, but let's not pretend this is a dynasty for the ages.

Bryan: It does seem ... anti-climactic, I guess ... that the resolution to the situation for this year was to bring Randall Cobb back and slightly adjust Rodgers' contract so we'll be in a similar situation next March; Rodgers' newly restructured contract voids for 2023, but he still is very difficult to move in 2022, both financially and because, well, he was the MVP last season. They can't use the franchise tag on him in 2023, but if you think the Packers, with a first-round pick on their bench, were going to tag a 39-year-old Rodgers, you may have overdosed on cheese curds. As far as a list of demands for basically holding a franchise hostage this offseason, that's remarkably small scale.

Andrew: Yet for all that drama, they're the division favorites, having won 13 games in each of the two seasons under their young head coach. They have reached the NFC Championship Game both years, but lost to a more complete squad on each occasion. Green Bay has won the NFC North in seven of the past 10 seasons, and Aaron Rodgers is the reigning league MVP. They're not that different this season to last—a new center, possibly a new starting cornerback opposite Jaire Alexander, Cobb back at receiver—and with Rodgers back in the fold, I don't see much reason to expect a different result.

Bryan: The Packers' wild ride may be destined to end in a wild crash, but while the wheels are on the ground, they're contenders. I don't expect the offseason drama—either the stuff that has just passed or the stuff that awaits them in 2022—to bleed onto the field, and if it doesn't, there's very little reason to believe the Packers won't be right up there in January.

Andrew: I'm not quite pushing for another 13-3 performance. There are some dicey games on this schedule, including trips to Kansas City, Baltimore, a potentially tricky Saints team, and a 49ers squad who won't yet have had time to get everybody hurt. The Packers don't need to go 13-3 to hit the over, though, and they won't lose all four of those tricky games. They'll pick up at least eight wins before the bye, at least three after, and retain the NFC North. Then they'll lose in the playoffs to a more complete roster, Rodgers will take the hump during the offseason, and we'll revisit this conversation next August. It's not exactly optimism, but it's over.

Bryan: Yeah, all the interesting things to say about the Packers are about their long-term future, not about 2021. Matt LaFleur is going to organize another top-five offense; the defense is going to be adequate, if not much more than that; and they're going to get another bite at the apple. Could I see things collapsing? It's not entirely crazy to think about, but it would probably take an awful start to the year with all of this offseason's negativity weighing more on the team than I think is realistic. There's really not that much more to say; this is the same team as last year, and everything's fine so long as you don't look over the horizon. I'm an over as well.

Minnesota Vikings (9)

Last Over: 2019 (Mike Zimmer/Kirk Cousins)
Last Under: 2020 (Mike Zimmer/Kirk Cousins)

Bryan: In these articles last year, I suggested that I would take the Vikings to win the division in 2021. And that was looking really, really good around draft day, when it looked like Green Bay might catch fire, burn down, and fall into a swamp. I said that I thought the Vikings were the "best team set up for the future" in August 2020. I don't think I can fully support that statement as we stand now, but the Vikings' one-year mini-rebuild hasn't gone too badly, has it?

Andrew: Certainly, their transition at wide receiver was spectacular. It was easy to question trading away Stefon Diggs, but Justin Jefferson made us all forget about that in a hurry.

Bryan: Diggs was part of the Vikings spending 2020 dead for cap reasons, as all the money they kept pushing into the future to keep their corps together finally came due. Going 7-9 with $34 million of dead money bloating your roster is a moderately impressive outcome.

Andrew: I'm sure they'd like to have seen more return from the investment in Jeff Gladney, but Cameron Dantzler was a decent use of a third-rounder and they have certainly addressed that spot this offseason. I'm not convinced how much Patrick Peterson has left, but bringing back Mackensie Alexander was a smart move, and Bashaud Breeland's one of those guys who plays a little better than his reputation. The news that Everson Griffen is rejoining the edge rotation across from Danielle Hunter is also welcome. While I don't quite expect dominance from it, the defense looks pretty good.

Bryan: There's a lot of young talent here, too, considering the Vikings have made 26 draft picks over the last two years—guys like Ezra Cleveland and Irv Smith and a whole passel of depth players. They have turned from an old team trying to keep things together to a young team with potential for improvement very rapidly. Rick Spielman deserves some kudos.

Andrew: I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call them a young team. A lot of their top players are in their age-29 seasons or older, including Harrison Smith, Adam Thielen, Michael Pierce, Sheldon Richardson, Griffen, Peterson, their starting linebackers, and of course Kirk Cousins.

Bryan: That's true—they were 20th in snap-weighted age last season, so on the young side but not exceptionally so. I guess I more mean that their depth is filled with players who could plausibly still develop, as opposed to aging veterans who are who they are at this point. If you weigh everyone evenly, the Vikings had the second-youngest roster as of the beginning of camp; young players who the Vikings hope will step up to replace those starters over the next few seasons.

Andrew: It helps that some of the younger players, such as Jefferson, Dantzler, and Alex Mattison, have already made significant impacts. But when you compare their young talent to, say, Miami or Washington or the Chargers, it's not quite as impressive as you might have thought. The important aspect, for me, is that having young depth means they have depth. That's critical for most teams, but especially when you're starting older players. You can look at Minnesota's roster and see a succession plan in place at most positions.

Bryan: And, as Scott Spratt points out in the Vikings chapter of Football Outsiders Almanac 2021, Minnesota was bad at a number of things last season which tend to revert to the mean year-after-year; things like struggling on third downs or starting with particularly bad field position or just having a lot of injuries to deal with on the defensive side of the ball. The Vikings could be the exact same team in 2021 and still come out with a better record just from regression.

That being said, there's kind of an elephant in the room here that we need to at least mention. News came out this week that the Vikings were inviting an epidemiologist to speak to the team, and he's not coming in to tell them what a bang-up job they have been doing. Though if Kirk Cousins can move his meeting-room plexiglass bubble to the field, that might well help keep pass-rushers off him!

Andrew: There are a few teams who could still be caught out by pandemic protocols, and the Vikings appear more likely than most, but that doesn't really move the needle on their prospects for me. I'm more bothered that the Vikings look pretty good, but not difference-making good. They have a lot of pretty good players, and that's definitely better than having a lot of not-good players, but I don't see what tips them beyond their usual level of somewhere around .500, either narrowly missing the playoffs or losing out early in the postseason. (Doubly frustrating for me, as their only playoff wins in the past decade have both come against the Saints.)

Bryan: The Vikings have a weird pattern under Zimmer. Every year he has been in charge, they have bounced between a seven- or eight-win season and double-digit victories. That would put them on pace for another double-digit-win season in 2021. You're right in that I don't think the Vikings will end up Kendall Hintoning themselves, so we can judge them more or less on the merits. I'd call them a .500-ish team with quite a bit of upside. I don't see them finishing worse than 8-9, and could easily see things clicking at a much higher pace. It's not entirely crazy to say they could start 6-0, going undefeated into the bye week, though 4-2 feels more likely. A whole-number line feels very pushy to me here, but I'll go with that potential and say 10-7 is more likely than 8-9. Over, though I can't quite back up my bravado from last year's over/unders.

Andrew: Their performance floor is important here, I agree. They should start roughly 4-2, then break roughly even after the bye. They can certainly go 4-2 in the division, which alongside Carolina, Cincinnati, Arizona, and possibly the Chargers should make eight wins very attainable. Then Minnesota can certainly take a couple of their other games. When eight wins is your rough downside, there's not a lot of room under a nine-win line. I'll give Zimmer and his charges the benefit of a lukewarm endorsement, and put them down for 10-7 or 11-6. Over.

Bryan and Andrew return tomorrow to wrap up the over/under series with a trip to the AFC North. Is the Factory of Sadness closed for good in Cleveland? Can Zac Taylor demonstrate why he was named head coach? And what secrets lurk in the mystery wing of Copper Beeches? These questions and fewer answered tomorrow, same Scramble time, same Scramble channel.

Comments

43 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2021, 11:08am

1 Lions under

Really, the only reason I'd go with the Lions under is because honestly, their schedule's effing brutal. I mean, you're looking at 14 games against teams that'll either have winning records or close to it unless injuries sink them.

I think Andrew's "16 of their opponents are clearly better than them" is a big overstatement. I don't actually think the Lions are that bad of a team. Their biggest problem last year was the utter disaster on defense, and, well, defense is super-variable and I way blame Patricia for that.

The problem to me is that they're just in that bottom tier of crap teams, and even though I think they could be one of the best teams in that crap tier, there aren't any others in their division, and in the other divisions they play (AFC North, NFC West) there's a grand total of one

I mean, I think the absolute safest bet would be that if you told me to place a bet on the number of "overs" in the NFC North and set the line at Andrew & Bryan's average (2.5), I'd take that "under" in a heartbeat. Don't know which teams hit the under, but definitely going to be two of 'em.

8 Interesting. I'm pretty down…

In reply to by Pat

Interesting. I'm pretty down on the Bears this year, but I am still having a hard time finding two unders, especially when I manage to remember that there's 17 games this year. Unless Rodgers gets hurt, there is no way Green Bay loses 8 games---and even if he does I think it's 50/50 they get a push, because the rest of that roster is so good. Do you really see Minnesota going under .500 again? The Bears are probably the best bet to go under, but think about how atrocious they were on offense last year, and they still went .500 pretty comfortably, and they'd have to lose 10 to go under this year---certainly not out of the question but hard to see unless the defense falls off a cliff. Finally I just have a hard time betting on 13 losses for anyone.

11 To be clear, I said under 3 …

To be clear, I said under 3 *overs*: not 2 or more unders. Pushes count as unders. Just like ties are losses. (My last statement should've been "don't know which 2 push or go under").

It's the combination of them: if Green Bay's winning 11 games and Minnesota's winning 10 - against *that* schedule - good chance Chicago's picking up 4 division losses. Then it's hard to imagine them *not* picking up 4-6 losses from the two divisions, meaning they'd have to lose under 2/5 remaining. Seems unlikely.

16 Agree with your take on the…

In reply to by Pat

Agree with your take on the Lions.  I don’t think they’re as bad as everyone thinks they are (most power rankings have them in same tier as the Texans…I think they’re more likely to be roughly the same quality as the 2020 Panthers), but I’m having a real hard time finding more than 3 or 4 wins on their schedule, given average luck.

28 Lions

It may not come across that way, but that's roughly my take on them, too. I just feel that schedule is particularly brutal for a team in that lower quarter of the league. Every team in their division is better than them, every team in the NFC West should be better than them, three of the four teams in the AFC North are better than them, the Falcons should be better than them, and the Eagles are similar but with more upside if they can somehow stop losing everybody to injury. If the Lions were playing the NFC East or AFC South, I'd fancy them to surprise a few people. Against the NFC West and the AFC North, I can see even a significantly improved Lions squad struggling to reach five wins.

30 Yep, that's the impression I…

In reply to by Andrew Potter

Yep, that's the impression I took from your blurb on them.  I actually like the direction the team is heading, starting with them admitting to themselves that they're far away from being even a playoff contender, much less a SB contender, and I think they did quite well in this past draft.  But the next 1-2 seasons are going to look rough....well actually the past 20 seasons have looked rough more often than not, so I guess I'll be used to it.

39 Eh, they had about 4 mil in…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Eh, they had about 4 mil in cap space prior to the restructure (even after cutting some veterans and making a couple other take paycuts).  The restructure added 5 mil and 10 mil of dead money in 2022 and 2023 (not the end of the world), and forces Goff to stay on the roster for two years minimum, instead of 1 year. I was kind of indifferent about that move.

I'm not a fan of trading up in general, so yea, I look at the second (attempted) move with a jaundiced eye, but even highly regarded GMs have done that before.  The worse process, IMO was bringing Gurley in for a tryout.  Thankfully, Gurley's asking price was apparently too high.

You could also point to the signing of Breshad Perriman for 2 mil when it turns out (in hindsight) he couldn't even make the damn team...even in the weakest WR room in the league!  But I at least give them credit for realizing that money was sunk cost.  Prior regimes would have given him the whole season to prove that he can't play.

40 Well

Might not need to restructure if you don't sign Perriman (or least give him that much guaranteed). Or, from another point of view, they may have moved on too quickly based on less than meaningful time they had with him, instead of trusting what he's put up in the past with other teams, in meaningful action. Not that holding onto him for what looks like a rough year, regardless of whether he's on the team or not, matters that much. 

You think bringing in Gurley was worse process? Really now? I think bringing in a former multi time All Pro, who's not even 30 yet, for literally nothing other than to just take a quick look, is just fine process. If he blows you away, cool. If he doesn't look like he has a decent future, tell him thanks and cap sheet isn't affected (and it wasn't...unlike Perriman). 

I guess in the end they're lucky Atlanta is dumb but I'd want a way out of Goff sooner rather than later, if the opportunity presents itself. Otherwise they can keep him. Just keep that door more open. 

I'm still dubious of how good Detroit is set up. Feels like they'll bungle it from what I've gleamed. Even if we go deeper into the already discussed RB situation, why is $1m of Jamaal Williams salary guaranteed next year? As a Packers fan who enjoyed his time with Jamaal, not sure how he was able to get that but they should be leaning on younger guys, particularly Swift more so as time goes on especially. But hey, give the Packers, your division rival, a (6th round, according to OTC) comp pick just to eat his dead money next year :)

And Campbell biting knee caps is just...idk who that's suppose to hype up. Maybe I've missed him talking up analytics or something but I doubt it.  

41 "I'm still dubious of how…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

"I'm still dubious of how good Detroit is set up. Feels like they'll bungle it..."

Hey, based on past performance, I can't argue that this isn't a reasonable assumption!

On the other hand, this makes no sense: 

"from another point of view, they may have moved on too quickly based on less than meaningful time they had with [Perriman], instead of trusting what he's put up in the past with other teams, in meaningful action...."

Which Breshaud Perriman are you talking about?  He's had a grand total of one okay year (2019 with Tampa).  Otherwise, he alternates being injured and struggling to catch the football when he's healthy (sub 50% catch rate for his career).  

In this training camp, dude was baaad (when he wasn't injured).  Even the camp bodies were outperforming him.  Like how bad do you have to be to not stand out with this group of wide receivers?  He's 27, so I think we know what he is at this point.  If he's not going to meaningfully contribute, I'd rather use the roster spot for an unproven young guy (also, a lot of WRs who have done more than him in league will be on the waiver wire today).  Like I said, signing him in the first place was a mistake, but it was a cheap mistake.  They recognized it immediately and moved on.  

In that context, your statement about Jamaal Williams is even more puzzling.  1 million doesn't really move the needle for me (and his contract is short), and at least he has a track record of good performance (but hey, enjoy the 6th round comp pick).  Swift is already having nagging injuries pop up.  The guys behind those two are a 7th round pick and an undrafted free agent.

As far as the Campbell knee caps thing...judging him on that is like scouting based on viral twitter gifs and ESPN highlights.  It's a net neutral overall.  So far he's assembled a highly-regarded coaching staff, the players seem to love him (maybe that's based on being not-Matt Patricia).  Yea, he's kinda goofy sometimes, but Pete Carroll was viewed the same way pre-2012.  Whatever, I guess time will tell.  I wouldn't be totally shocked if the Lions are looking for a new coach in 2025 (again, see above regarding past performance), but I don't think the kneecaps thing is a valid data point to make a prediction about that.

42 Meh

Sub 50% catch rate comes solely from 2017. Other 4 years are at least 50%. Not great but workable as a WR3 Id say. Certainly he's the best WR cut so far. 71.4 grade from PFF from 18-20 on 1,514 snaps. Dont know "a lot of WRs who have done more than him in league will be on the waiver wire today"

Ah, the way RB rooms should be built. Through non CFA and day 3 picks. Perfection. Jamaal is fun at least, good in the passing game too but he's not a great runner.

They better come out with some more sound intelligent hype than that though. Maybe they can explain the kicker dealio to hype up the nerds.

31 I think the part that throws…

In reply to by Andrew Potter

I think the part that throws me is the "accept a bunch of losses this year" part. I don't think they're exactly accepting it - I just don't think there's really a choice. Like, going free-agent crazy and pushing buckets of money down the line wouldn't actually net them wins with that schedule anyway.

Maybe they should've gone after Fields in the draft, but again, there's enough wrong with the team (god, the defense) that swapping Stafford for Fields would just end up with them being a middling team for a few years before Fields (if he's good) becomes expensive again. 

33 Agree. Goff is young enough…

Agree. Goff is young enough to build a team around, and arguments that he is crap after leading a team to an admittedly poor performance in a Super Bowl amount to recency bias. Fields, on the other hand, has no record to base a future on, especially considering the history of Ohio State QBs in the NFL.

35 I'm not saying I have…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I'm not saying I have complete faith in Goff, but at least he has had positive experience in the NFL. 

On the other side, Fields threw only 618 passes in his college career, barely one full season, and less than 250 his senior year. Not the footprint you want to see from someone who is expected to carry a team on his arm. Lamar Jackson, for all of the questions about him, had way more pass attempts than Fields.

Yes, there's a reason teams don't go looking for QBs from either Ohio State or Alabama.

36 So much wrong

Still using total pass attempts to judge QBs in 2021. You do know Kyler Murray "only" had 519 attempts? You do know some of their dropbacks turn into runs right? You do know last year was shortened for most teams? You do know that wasn't his senior year? What are you bringing up Lamar for? You think Lamars flaws were more forgivable...because he showed them...more? Why aren't you bringing up Mac Jones? Or Trey Lance? Or Cam Newton? 

Helmet scouting STILL. There's no helping you. 

"Why would the Chiefs pick a QB from Texas Tech?! Graham Harrell SUCKED!!! Oh and Joe Burrow is from OSU AND LSU? HA! Jamarcus Russell sucked too!! Tua sucks BECUASE he went to Alabama, just like garbage QBs Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Bart Starr! Oops I only meant Bama of the past 20 years. Sorry, but not really, for moving the goalposts to fit my narrative."

2 0 2 1 and this is still happening. Yall believe what you want.

37 Disjointed arguments don't…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Disjointed arguments don't help you. Comparing QBs from 50 years ago with barely wet-under-the-ears current projects is just nonsense. Your fanboy love for Kyler Murray doesn't make him a Hall of Fame candidate. It's your beliefs that are obstructive. I'll settle for the numbers.

38 Lol disjointed

Your helmet scouting in 2021. You're literally comparing Fields to....Haskins because they went to OSU? Name literally anything else they have in common on the football field. Hint: it's nothing because they're completely different players but you dont actually watch CFB, you just look at the helmet and say Mahomes sucked because Graham Harrell, who wasn't 50 years ago, sucked. 

Fanboy love. Man you're getting desperate for an insult. You dont have numbers! You have uniforms you're bashing these guys off of! You want numbers? Like % of yards gained through the air in their Ohio State careers? Dwayne Haskins: 51.4% Justin Fields: 71.9%

You wont accept the numbers anyway describing how Haskins and Fields are completely different. You're sticking up for Goff while bashing Murray, Fields, Mahomes etc. You couldn't be more transparent!

But yeah these are disjointed arguments! 

43 I think the better argument…

I think the better argument is that Goff is a better candidate to do a wholesale rebuild, and when the team's at least respectable in a few years they can have a more critical evaluation and decide what to do then. The whole idea of a "QB Savior" who arrives and leads the team to the promised land just really doesn't happen. Perpetually bad teams have real, structural problems that take time to fix.

I mean, fans of Fields can shout and wave their hands all they want (and boy, do they ever) but Fields is way, way, way more valuable to a team like the Bears than he is to the Lions. The "extreme meta" version of me wonders if the Lions should've gone after him just to get him away from the Bears.

That being said... it is the Bears we're talking about.

2 I think Zimmer deserves a…

I think Zimmer deserves a lot more credit that people seem to be giving. The vikings were setup for a complete meltdown a year ago. I hope Zimmer has bought enough cache to go for a number of years because the Vikings are in this weird situation. They have a young nucleas but a veteran QB that might be on the decline in a few years. 

I think the Chiefs are a good example of what can happen if a good team finally finds its QB. 

3 Have said it many times, but…

Have said it many times, but it's worth repeating: ya' gotta be an idiot to believe it is likely that the next coach the Vikings hire will be better than Zimmer, no matter who makes the hiring decision. 

15 I already believed that…

I already believed that Zimmer has been easily the best coach in the NFC North for the past 5 years or so, but he’s really won me over lately with his training camp conferences, where he grumpily roasts some of the misguided anti-science players on his own team.  That man really doesn’t give a damn who he offends.

18 Hmm...best coach in the NFC…

Hmm...best coach in the NFC over the last 5 years.  At first blush, the candidates would be:

Payton, Carrol, Arians, Shannahan, and McVay.

Of this group, if I had to give a 10 year contract a la Jon Gruden...

I'd probably feel most comfortable with Carrol maybe? I don't like his offensive style at all and he certainly could use a crash course in analytics, but I feel like he does improve the defense far more than the talent would suggest. In that way he's a lot like Zimmer. 

I like Kyle Shannahan a lot as well but he's had 1 year of success. And my opinion of McVay might hinge on how he does this year.

19 Of this group, if I had to…

Of this group, if I had to give a 10 year contract a la Jon Gruden...

I'd probably feel most comfortable with Carrol maybe?

Carroll's eight billion years old, so a 10-year contract might not be a great idea. Good coach, but he ain't coaching at age 79. I'm guessing the concern on Payton is success without Brees - so OK, if we just exclude Payton entirely, I'd probably just go with Ron Rivera. Lot of reasons why the Panthers declined, and that was a really nice first year with Washington. Hard to judge due to the whole "terrible owner" thing, though.

22 Meant to say forgetting age…

Meant to say forgetting age. Yes Peter Carrol is ancient.

In thinking it over, I might prefer Payton over Carrol especially since Payton has won without Brees at QB. Rivera is a good choice too, though I wasn't that impressed with last year's team. 

29  though I wasn't that…

 though I wasn't that impressed with last year's team. 

You must not appreciate the difficulty of working under one Daniel Snyder. Getting them to abandon hope on Haskins is a feat unto itself.

21 Zimmer's never has had any…

Zimmer's never has had any fornications to give, and that's probably why it took so long for him to get a top slot. Most NFL owners likely expect some ass-smooching if not a full blown buttocks tongue-job, and Ol' Zimmy just don't roll that way.

It's also why most players like playing for him, and why so many assistants who have multiple options like working for him. That latter quality, the ability to identify and attract good assistants, is, I think, among the top 2 qualties a head coach needs. His inability to even try to bullshit anybody is something other football coaches respond to.

23 Among the many quotable…

Among the many quotable moments from Zimmer, I loved his restrained(by his standard) response to Greg Williams. "If we were on the streets, it would be a fight."

I suspect you are right that Zimmer is a little too candid for most front offices. It's why I could never see him accepting a job from Jerry Jones, Mark Davis, or Dan Snyder. Maybe Irsay too. 

 

4 If they have reasonable…

If they have reasonable health, the Vikings defense will be fine. They'll likely get around 25 sacks, and lots of pressures from their defensive ends, and they should  get good push in the middle, too. Pierce, Tomlinson& Richardson, none of whom were on the roster last year, means Zimmer won't have to bring a db into the box, which he hates to do. They'll be just fine on that side of the ball.

As has been typically the case in the Zimmer era, excepting oddball 2020 season, they'll get as far as their blocking allows. Yes, Cousins has consumed more cap space than you'd like, for a guy who just can't compensate for mediocre to bad blocking to any notable degree, but that's the NFL qb market these days. Will they block well enough and be healthy enough to get to 10-12 wins? Damned if I have a clue. It'd help if for once they'd get lucky with placekicker performance, which hasn't happened in about a decade.

  

27 Could easily see the bottom falling out on GB

It's not that likely, but assuming Rodgers is walking after this year, all the ingredients are there.

 

The Bears are super flawed, but if they were willing to commit to Fields Week 1, they might be interesting. But it seems like Pace/Nagy think sitting Fields is their best chance of sticking around long term. Which is odd because if the Bears go 5-12 and hand over the 6th pick to the Giants, not sure management would be happy with that.

6 Detroit's in an interesting…

Detroit's in an interesting situation. Expectations are so low on Goff right now as his reputation is in complete shambles, but it would not surprise me to see him resurrect his career. He's still sufficiently young that he could figure in Detroit's long term plans depending on how he plays; in which case Detroit's future is less nebulous than it appears. 

 

17 Yea, I think the pendulum of…

Yea, I think the pendulum of public opinion has swung too far on Goff.  Everyone’s acting like he’s QB30, when he’s more like QB16-20 (which granted, isn’t all that exciting).  I personally think his ceiling is around the Kirk Cousins tier….he can look good in a good situation (which Detroit is not, aside from the offensive line).  He seems like a good dude, and I’m rooting for him to prove some of his haters wrong (not just because of my fandom), but I would be perfectly fine with it if the Lions finish 3-14 (but with a DVOA reflecting they’re a better team that was just unlucky/had a brutal schedule), and picking in the top 3 and in a position to get a new QB.

9 My division

Bears and Packers over

Lions and Vikings under

Yall must be expecting a lot from the Vikings injuries to have that line over the Bears and still be in agreement Vikings over and Bears under. I guess I'm the only one concerned the Vikings solid starting QB (and backup!) are gonna put people in Covid danger to offset getting Hunter et al back. 

10 My takes

The Packers are definitely all-in on 2021 as they will be dumping salaries and in cap hell next year. (Their projected 2022 cap number with just the current salaries is already over $250M according to Spotrac.) The roster is good enough that they could hit ten wins with Love as long as he's halfway competent. The lack of experience in the interior OL scares me, but that and #2 CB are really the only questions. Over

As long as Nagy insists on playing Dalton, I'll definitely take the Bears Under. But I'd likely take the under with Fields, too. The Lions look like they're all in on the Spencer Rattler sweepstakes, so an easy Under despite Campbell's massive caffeine consumption. The Vikings look to be back on track after last year's lost season, though I don't understand anyone's antivaccine stance and Cousin's vaccination status could derail their whole season. I'll still take the Over because I trust Zimmer to not repeat last season.  

12 The Bears and Lions are horrible

Chicago easily could've been a 5-win team last year, and this year gets the NFC West (instead of the NFC East). In the AFC, they draw the North and lose the South. So right away, there's a massive scheduling upgrade They also have the misfortunate of having finished second, meaning they get Tampa (which they won't beat again) as one of their two intra-conference games (they do get NYG again -- really the only team they beat that shows up on the schedule again that they should be favored against). I don't see how they win more than six games when the Bears have to get to eight.

Detroit has more holes, but only a slightly easier schedule (Philly and ATL in intra-conference games). New coach, less depth behind Goff -- but 4.5 wins is such a ridiculously low bar. Two wins in division games, two wins out of the PHI-CIN-ARI home trio and an upset somewhere, and you're home free.

14 I agree the Bears are likely…

I agree the Bears are likely to go under, but I don't see where you get that they "easily could've been a 5-win team last year." They were absolutely average in all FO metrics: 15th overall in DVOA and weighted DVOA, -0.6% DVOA, +1.7% wDVOA, and 7.9 estimated wins, not to mention the lowest variance in the league. If you ran a zillion simulated 2020 seasons based on those numbers, the Bears would be the least likely 8-8 team to drop to 5-11. 

24 I based the five-win…

I based the five-win assessment off the fact they had some incredible comebacks against Detroit and Atlanta, plus the fact we know they're not as good as Tampa. Yes, a win is a win, but outside of Tampa, the Bears didn't beat a team with more than 7 wins.

26 That being said

In reply to by Ambientdonkey

I'm not sure they have a starting quality offensive tackle on the roster, only have 2-3 reliable targets in the passing game, and I expect the defense to be closer to the middle of the league then the top. So under.