War of the Wings AAR

The second thing on this trip was War of the Wings, an SCA event in Atlantia. I am glad I get to do what I do, but sometimes the effort required can make things challenging.

Once again, I have to thank Master Andrixos for letting me sell in his booth. I really enjoy spending time with Drix, and there’s no doubt he’s helped me get traffic.

Now, traffic at the event for the merchants wasn’t as good as anyone hoped, and I suspect some of that is because they are still settling in with the best layout for everything. War of the Wings is a growing event, and the site is great, though tilted. However, they’re still fiddling with some stuff, including the best way to arrange the merchants. Sales were good enough that I’d like to go back if circumstances allow, but I think they’ll be better in the future.

One thing that I think we’ll do differently is that both Drix and I will get separate booths, though we’ll ask to be next to each other. There are advantages for both of us to work together, including setup and tear down, but my logistics were a little complicated because my tent was so far away from the merchant booth. We’re going to try to be next to each other at Meridies 40th Year.

While my camp was not close, I was blessed to be permitted to camp with Yorkshire Manor, one of the households in Atlantia. Included in that camp is Bryce de Byram, who is someone I knew well enough from Pennsics past to ask for space, but not much more.

I said that the effort to do this job is challenging, and where that effort can be frustrating is my fatigue after work. Not just physical fatigue either, but also the fatigue of talking to people all day long. What that meant was my hopes to get to know the people of Yorkshire Manor better, especially Bryce, were foiled. I barely was able to spend any time with them. By the time I got home, I was too tired to enjoy the group, which was a shame. Many thanks to all of them, especially Bryce, Christian Thomas (who ran the camp), and all the people who helped make it a cool place. I’m sorry I didn’t do you all justice.

As I said, I would like to go back, if circumstances allow. Now that I know how things are laid out, I think I can plan more efficiently, meaning I might have more energy to get to know some of those great people.

Constellation AAR

I’m a little late posting this because I’ve been so busy over the past week, but better late than never.

This was the last Constellation, which is a shame because it was such a nice little con. There weren’t a ton of people there, but the quality of those that were there was impressive. The guests, including Mary Robinette Kowal, Orson Scott Card, David Drake, and Toni Weisskopf were great. The fans at the panels were generally interested and engaged, with some excellent questions. Also, since there weren’t so many people, we were able to interact with most of them multiple times. I love it when I can actually get to know some of the others there.

Most of my programming happened on Saturday, where I basically worked from 11am to 6pm. I love those kinds of schedules, even if they’re tiring.

My first panel was Combat in Science Fiction – Weapons and Strategy. I enjoyed this panel, though it was a little terrifying. To my right was Card. To my left was Drake. Uhhhhh…. Those two, of course, have a lot of great things to say. I managed to get a few good things in myself. One of the things that I think will be true in warfare, no matter in a fantasy universe, the real world, or in a science fiction future, is that logistics will shape how and where battles are fought. Only after I figure out what is scarce or what is required to fight, can I write combat.

After that panel, I had three straight hours at a table to sell my books. I sold a ew, but the better part of this time was spent chatting with Michael Allen, Rich Groller, and Stephanie Osborn. These are all really good authors and I like looking at their solutions to the things we all deal with, like for example the logistics of moving books around. Michael had a neat arrangement that let him move a tall bookcase around. I think, once I get my next woodshop, I can do something like what he did, only purpose built instead of adapting various things.

At 4pm I was in a panel about History in Science Fiction. Obviously, this is a perfect panel for me and I had a great time. We had a lot of great things to say, so much so that we went over.

This wouldn’t have been a problem except that my last panel of the day was immediately following. This panel covered blending genres and it was rough but fun. There were two of us on the panel, Allen and I. As I say, the history panel went long and he was also on that panel so we got started late. Plus, neither of us had planned to moderate so it took a bit to get rolling. However, this was probably the most fun of my panels. We played a game where I went around the room asking for favorite books, movies, things and then I would riff on a blended genre. Lots of improvisational fun.

I thought about going to bed early because I was tired, but ended up heading to the Moon Princess Party. I had a fantastic time and got to chat with a bunch of people. Really glad I went.

I was only involved in one panel on Sunday, and that was a roundtable discussion about endings. I learned a ton, but the most surreal moment was hearing Drake talk about listening to Manly Wade Wellman’s stories as Wellman was on his deathbed. The surreal part is that I had heard one of the stories before, related to Wellman’s time in Wichita and Kansas as a newspaperman, but I had never heard who it was that was involved. Weird how close we all are sometimes.

Constellation was also notable for being my mom’s first SF/F convention. She thought she’d be kind of bored, but ended up going to more panels than I did. Overall, take my mom to work day went very well.

It is a shame Constellation is ending. It was a great con, well run, with good guests and fans. Plus, the sequence of events on this trip are excellent, and I would have liked to have the option to do all three events again.

 

Rob’s Update: Near Tannhauser Gate

Weeks of 1-14 October

Greetings all. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and there’s some good news to report. Though I don’t have news on a house, we’ve managed to carve out enough space for me to have a cubicle I can work in from home. I haven’t had such a thing in months.

I’ve been working on a series of small things, including some short stories in Shijuren. Also, I’ve made major progress on the website upgrade. I expect that to go live soon.

That hasn’t left much time for Brief Is My Flame, but there have been bits and pieces here and there. Scenes, mostly, or snippets of conversation. I don’t actually know how many words, because they’re in a variety of places right now, but when I get back I’ll piece them together.

Get back? Where is Rob going?

Well, let me tell you. My mom wanted to see relatives in North Carolina, so we scheduled a trip in conjunction with cons and events. We leave tomorrow and wind our way to Huntsville, AL where I’ll be at Constellation.

Then, we see a variety of relatives as we make our way across eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. On Wednesday of next week, I’ll drop my mom off with relatives and end up in Boonville, where I’ll be selling books at War of the Wings. This will be a good chance for me to get my name out to a part of the SCA I’ve not spent much time at.

Following that, we spend more time with relatives concluded by attending HonorCon in Raleigh.

Whew. I’m gonna be tired in early November, I tell you what. But I’m really excited.

Quote of the Week

I don’t know when I’ll get to see it, but I’m really excited about Blade Runner 2049. So, there seems only one quote that’s appropriate.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…” – Roy Batty, Blade Runner

News and Works in Progress

  • Short stories
  • Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing new to add, but more will be coming during the trip.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

My story in For a Few Credits More involves a Peacemaker, but Peacemakers in the Four Horsemen Universe have their noses in all sorts of places. Kevin Ikenberry, who assisted me to make sure we were consistent, put out a full length Peacemaker novel. Here’s his author page on Amazon for the rest of his stuff: https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Ikenberry/e/B00ASFBXT4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: An Office in the Wilderness

Week of 17-30 September

Greetings all

Sorry I didn’t post an update last week, things were just kind of wonky. I’ve mentioned that I’m in the midst of moving to Omaha, and last week I finally realized I needed to make the more permanent step of moving my cat Thorn and set up some sort of an office up there. I’ve had no real place to work in my house in Olathe for a while now, and it has hampered progress.

I had hoped that I would close on a house in Omaha next week. Sadly, that fell through primarily because the mortgage company promised things it could not deliver. I’m now looking for a new mortgage company and trying to be patient as we start the process anew.

So I’ve been focused on all those sorts of things instead of writing. The good news is that this sort of time spawns all sorts of ideas, and a voice recorder lets me note them or when I’ll have a chance to seriously write.

I’m also in the midst of a lot of travel over the next month. In a sense, now is the exact right time to not really have a home, given that I’d have been away from it anyway. Last week’s trip to Grimfells went well. I anticipate a enjoyable and productive weekend and I’m very much looking forward to my upcoming trip to Constellation, War of the Wings, and HonorCon.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Quote of the Week

One of the reasons we’re disappointed about not getting the house is that we were hoping to host Thanksgiving at the new place. That’s not happening now. Still, no  matter when it happens, we believe in this quote.

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

News and Works in Progress

  • About 1k in Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing this week.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

One of my favorite stories in For a Few Credits More is “Forbidden Science” by Terry Mixon. He gets, shall we say, back to the future with antimatter. Fun stuff, now with extra big explosions! You can find his work at http://www.terrymixon.com/.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Mechs in Action

Week of 10-16 September

Greetings all and welcome to release day!

For a Few Credits More, the second anthology in the Four Horsemen Universe is now available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075LGF41H

I want to thank Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey for letting me play in their sandbox. If you like military science fiction with mechs, this is the universe for you.

My story, “Where Enemies Sit” talks about a lieutenant on his first deployment. The title comes from the Havamal which begins:

All the entrances, before you walk forward,
you should look at,
you should spy out;
for you can’t know for certain where enemies are sitting,
ahead in the hall
(Larrington, Carolyne. (Trans.) (1999) The Poetic Edda, page 14. Oxford World’s Classics)

Let’s just say the lieutenant finds enemies sitting where he did not expect.

Anyway, I’m very excited to become a part of the Four Horsemen Universe, and hope to be allowed to contribute more. “Where Enemies Sit” has spawned a number of ideas for me that I will try and fit between writing in Shijuren.

Speaking of which, I’ve done a little, but not much. With all the upheaval in my life, I simply haven’t written much. I’ve done a number of other projects, though, and have been clearing the decks of some assembled things that have also needed attention.

I’ve got a series of SCA events to attend over the next three weeks. I’ll be at Queen’s Prize Tournament, which will give me an opportunity to visit with my apprentice. The week after, I’ll be in Grimfells with my booth. I’ll also be selling at the Gryphon’s Fest event.

I hope to have copies of For a Few Credits More there, but it may take a while.

With that, I’ll get back to work.

Quote of the Week

Also from Larrington’s translation of the Havamal is a much more famous passage:

Cattle die,
kinsmen die
you yourself die;
I know one thing
which never dies:
the judgment of a dead man’s life
– The Havamal, Stanza 77

News and Works in Progress

  • Did about 2k words in Brief Is My Flame this week. Not much really, but I’ve been scribbling out and recording notes to hopefully make the writing much quicker when everything settles down.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Last week I did my NFL prediction at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=839. There are also eight other blog posts breaking down each division. They’re linked in this main post.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

I’ve put both of them here before, but this week’s spotlight again goes to Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey, whose Four Horsemen Universe is blowing up. In fact, over the next few weeks, I’ll be linking to other authors in For a Few Credits More.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

2017 Season Overview

Here are my predictions for the 2017 NFL Season. I’m really excited for the year.

This, by the way, is the TL:DR page. You can find my detailed discussions at my divisional breakdowns.

Here are my divisional breakdowns
NFC East: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=814
NFC North: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=818
NFC South: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=816
NFC West: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=820
AFC East: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=804
AFC North: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=812
AFC South: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=810
AFC West: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=806

NFC Playoffs by Seed
1. Seattle Seahawks (NFC East champion)
2. Dallas Cowboys (NFC West champion)
3. Green Bay Packers (NFC North champion)
4. Atlanta Falcons (NFC South champion)
5. Washington Redskins (Wildcard 1)
6. Minnesota Vikings (Wildcard 2)

AFC Playoffs by Seed
1. New England Patriots (AFC East champion)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West champion)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North champion)
4. Tennessee Titans (AFC South champion)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (Wildcard 1)
6. Denver Broncos (Wildcard 2)

Wild Card Round
Green Bay over Minnesota
Washington over Atlanta
Pittsburgh over Denver
Los Angeles over Tennessee

Divisional Round
Dallas over Green Bay
Washington over Seattle
New England over Los Angeles
Kansas City over Pittsburgh

Championship
Dallas over Washington
New England over Kansas City

Super Bowl
Dallas over New England

I look back at my predictions for 2015 and I see much the same things. That makes me worried. However, I really do think this Dallas team is far deeper than I’ve ever seen. Had Tony Romo stayed healthy in 2015 and they had average luck on fumble recoveries (they were extremely unlucky), I think they’d have done really well.

I don’t like my predictions in the NFC. All four of the division winners are the same as 2016. In all honesty, the Cowboys are the most vulnerable, though perhaps the Packers. I simply don’t see anyone taking the division titles from the Seahawks and Falcons. Still, the two wildcard teams are different and that’s about right.

In the AFC, I have three new playoff teams, which is again about right. Tennessee is the only new divisional winner, though. Still, I just can’t see anyone dethroning the Patriots or Steelers, though I could see anyone win the AFC West.

Still, there’s too much chalk. It’s too close to what it was last year. I’m not seeing my mistakes, but they’re there.

However, I’ll stick with this as it’s what my process ends up saying. It’ll give me a chance to examine my process next year. By the way, I explain that process here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=301.

Welcome to the new season, everyone!

2017 AFC East

AFC East

2016 Finish: New England, Miami, Buffalo, New York Jets

Overall Notes: New England is perhaps the best run team ever, with perhaps the best quarterback ever. They are also extremely lucky to be in the AFC East. The Dolphins, Bills, and Jets have had, in general, mediocre teams. The Patriots have been great, no doubt, but they’ve also benefited from a weak division.

New England Patriots
2016 Record: 14-2 (Pythagorean Wins: 12.8)
2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 8th
2017 Age Rank: 26th
2016 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 1st (2nd / 16th / 8th)

The defending NFL champs return and seem to be even more loaded than before. The are an extremely smart organization, and they know more than anyone else that their window with Tom Brady is closing because he getting old. So, instead of using the draft, which they’re actually not particularly good at, they used their draft picks as trade capital to bring back Brandon Cooks and signed Stephon Gilmore in free agency.

This is excellent game theory. They will suffer a bit as the lack of a draft class bites them a little in three years or so, but if it means another Super Bowl in 2017, that’s a good trade.

Nothing about last year suggests their record was a fluke. They outperformed their Pythagorean record by a little, but they were still the best Overall DVOA team in the NFL. They were a little lucky with injuries, but not extremely so. This was a great team that was a worthy NFL winner and they might be better this year.

People are predicting them back to the Super Bowl. In fact, some are suggesting 16-0 is possible. That’s overly optimistic but I can understand it.

The only real concern I have for this team is injuries. They are older than most, meaning they’re more likely to have injuries. We’ve already seen that with Julian Edelman out for the season.

However, this team will dominate this division. If they aren’t at least 5-1 in division, I’ll be shocked. In fact, they’d win this division handily if Brady gets injured tonight and Jimmy Garoppolo is their quarterback all year long.

I predict 14-2 and the 1st seed in the playoffs with Brady. Without? 11-5 or 10-6, winning the division and being the 3rd or 4th seed.

This team is really good. Yes, my name is Captain Obvious

Miami Dolphins
2016 Record: 10-6 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.5)
2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 26th
2017 Age Rank: 29th
2016 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 18th (14th / 19th / 12th)

I suppose I’ll pick the Dolphins to come in 2nd place in the AFC East. Someone has to and the Bills and Jets will be competing for the first pick in the draft.

This was a playoff team last year, but got there by getting lucky. They outperformed their Pythagorean record quite a bit. They were mediocre last year. Yes, they added a few players, but none of them were world-beaters. They also lost a few players, again none of them great.

They’ve already been hit by the injury bug by losing their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill. However, I think Jay Cutler is about as good, perhaps even a tick better. It’s hard to say. Neither is particularly good.

And that’s the problem. There’s nothing on this team that’s good. Last year they were middle of the pack in DVOA across the board. They had a lot of injuries, but are unlikely to see that change this year as they’re old.

I can see them going 8-8 if *everything* breaks well, but honestly that’s because they could sweep both the Bills and Jets. More realistically, they eke out a victory or two and end up 6-10 or so.

Buffalo Bills
2016 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.5)
2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 25th
2017 Age Rank: 30th
2016 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 17th (10th / 27th / 22nd)

This was actually a better team than the Dolphins last year, though their record didn’t reflect it.

But they weren’t that much better. This year, they’ve lost a number of their best players to trades and free agency. Their best offensive player, LeSean McCoy, is 29, and that’s old for a running back. I’d bet he doesn’t make it through the season healthy. Their offensive line is pretty good, actually, but they simply don’t have enough weapons. They were 10th in DVOA last year, which isn’t bad, but I don’t see them improving and they’d have to improve to make this team competitive.

On defense, they lost one of their best players, Stephon Gilmore, to the Patriots. They have some good defensive linemen, but this defense won’t improve much from that 27th ranking.

I see this team in the 5-11 range.

New York Jets
2016 Record: 5-11 (Pythagorean Wins: 4.4)
2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 29th
2017 Age Rank: 6th
2016 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 32nd (31st / 21st / 32nd)

This may be the worst team in the NFL. They were last in DVOA last year, significantly worse than the 1-15 Cleveland Browns. Awful on offense, mediocre on defense, and the worst on special teams.

They lost a number of good players to free agency like Brandon Marshall. They cut some like Nick Mangold. These weren’t bad decisions, actually, as they were all old and on the downward slope like Darrelle Revis. It’s clear that the Jets are looking at getting younger. This is a smart thing.

But they’ve got nothing on offense. Most of their starters aren’t as good as the Patriots’ backups. They have a number of good players on defense, like Muhammed Wilkerson, but not enough. Morris Claiborne was signed away from the Cowboys, and he’s a good player when healthy. The problem is that he’s never made it through a season healthy.

It’s possible this team wins 3 games. I suppose. I’d bet they win less, though. They were awful last year and got worse. They are the mirror image of the Patriots.

2017 AFC West

2016 Finish: Kansas City, Oakland, Denver, San Diego

Overall Notes: This is a really balanced division. You can make a good argument for any of the four teams winning it. Each of the teams is playoff worthy, but none of them might be wild-card teams. The division will beat each other up, plus they play the NFC East, though they do have the advantage of playing the AFC East as well.

Kansas City Chiefs
2016 Record:  12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 10.1)
2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 27th
2017 Age Rank: 16th
2016 DVOA Overall 6th (O/D/ST):  (13th / 14th / 1st)

There’s a lot to like about this team. Travis Kelce is one of the best TEs in the game. Tyreek Hill can score from anywhere. Yes, even from Novosibirsk. Alex Smith knows his strengths and plays to them. Kareem Hunt will do very well at RB. They don’t have enough on the outside, though, and that’ll hurt them. I think the Chiefs will take a small step up on offense, but not a huge one. Say 9th or 10th in Offensive DVOA next year.

I think they’ll also see a slight step up on defense, simply because Justin Houston is healthy. In all honesty, this team could, if all breaks well, take a large step up, say to 5th in DVOA. There’s a lot to work with here.

But I don’t think they’ll duplicate that 1st in Special Teams. It’s the most volatile of rankings, and if they are indeed only using Hill on offense, then they’re losing him in the return game and that’s a mistake. I understand the idea of protecting him from injury, but he’s just too good not to use him.

Overall, I think they’ll come in around 11-5. They didn’t add much, in my opinion, having spent so much draft capital on Patrick Mahomes, but they were really unlucky on injuries last year. Given their age, middle of the pack, I’d expect their injuries to return to middle of the pack, even though they’ve already lost Spencer Ware for the season. I think they’ll win the division, but as I said, it could really be any team.

Los Angeles Chargers
2016 Record: 5-11 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.7)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 31st
2017 Age Rank: 8th
2016 DVOA Overall 19th (O/D/ST):  (18th / 7th / 29th)

Speaking of volatile, let’s talk about the Chargers. They were hammered by injuries last year, but were much better than their 5-11 record. Essentially, this was an average team *after* all of the injuries. They were fairly stable in terms of free agency, though I do like what they did in the draft.

If Keenan Allen can stay healthy, they’re very good on the outside. Melvin Gordon is a good RB. They have a great QB in Philip Rivers. At TE, while Antonio Gates may be at the end of his career, I think Hunter Henry will be outstanding. If that offensive line can be average, this offense will dramatically improve. And it wasn’t awful last year.

On defense, they were very good last year. I see a small dropoff here, but not much. Joey Bosa will be better this year, and while they don’t have a tone of stars on defense, they have lots of quality players.

Their weakness was Special Teams. I don’t honestly know how well they’ve addressed this, but there’s room for significant improvement if they can just reach mediocre.

Man, I have no idea what to do with this team. I can see them dominating the division if the offense clicks and their injury luck turns back in their favor. They’re also the youngest team in the division, and I think they’ll do better in the latter part of the season. So, ummm, yeah. I’ll say 10-6 and contending for a wild card.

Oakland Raiders
2016 Record:  12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.8)

2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 13th
2017 Age Rank: 19th
2016 DVOA Overall 10th (O/D/ST):  (8th / 22nd / 14th)

The Oakland Raiders were not as good as their record indicated last year. That 3.2 differential in record to Pythagorean wins is huge. They got really lucky in a bunch of games, even though the loss of Derek Carr in game 15 was awful luck that ruined their season. In general though, their injuries and their age are not extraordinary.

The team was pretty stable in terms of additions and losses. The big addition is Marshawn Lynch, but no one really knows what he’ll do after spending a year out of the league. Plus, he’s old. I will say that this never gets old: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIjQuxaK4Mw.

I actually think the Raiders will be very good on offense. They’ve got a great offensive line, very good to great receivers, and Lynch. I think Carr is a little overrated, but there’s no denying he’s damn good. This offense could be even better and they were really good last year.

Defense is a huge question mark, though. They were 22nd on defensive DVOA last year despite having Khalil Mack, who is fantastic. They drafted well, and both Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu will help.

But I can’t get over that 8.8 Pythagorean from last year. They were extremely lucky to get to 12 wins, and I don’t see it happening again. They’re the oldest team in the division, and that won’t help. I think they’re a better team this year but I think they end up 9-7.

Denver Broncos
2016 Record:  9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.1)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 10th
2017 Age Rank: 14th
2016 DVOA Overall 14th (O/D/ST):  (28th / 1st / 24th)

I really like what this team did on the offensive line, especially adding Ron Leary. The offensive line was a weakness last year, and I think it’ll be at least average. This is huge for them, because they do not have the quarterback to overcome that weakness. Tom Brady could. Trevor Simien? Not so much. However, with that improved line I see this offense getting significantly better.

But I see a regression on defense. I really couldn’t tell you why, though. Maybe it’s because their best defensive players are 28 and older. Maybe it’s because I love DeMarcus Ware so much that his retirement is influencing me.

My suspicion is this team will be about the same, in the 9-7 range, though I’ll actually predict 8-8, but that will be driven by the offense approaching average.

 

2017 AFC South

2016 Finish: Houston, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Jacksonville

Overall Notes: Tennessee is head and shoulders above the others. The Texans will do well because of that defense, but that offense is iffy. Jacksonville will improve, but they also don’t have a quarterback. And Indianapolis? I’d rank them pretty low *if* Andrew Luck were healthy.

Tennessee Titans
2016 Record:  9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.1)
2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 2nd
2017 Age Rank: 27th
2016 DVOA Overall 15th (O/D/ST):  (9th / 24th / 19th)

The Titans are the best team in this division and it’s not close. However, there are two worrisome factors. One, they were extraordinarily lucky in terms of injuries last year. That probably won’t happen again especially since they’re one of the oldest teams in the NFL.

However, Marcus Mariota is a rising star for a reason. DeMarco Murray is ancient for an RB, but Derrick Henry is about as good, if not better. I don’t like their receiver corps overall, but by the end of the year Corey Davis might have figured a bunch of things out. He’s going to be really good, though probably not this year.

Their defense is a problem, though. I *think* it’ll be better, but not much. Still, I think it’ll be good enough with that offense.

They are old, and will get injuries, but the oldest players on the roster are not their most important ones. Matt Cassel’s age, for example, is irrelevant, because no team survives the loss of their first-string QB.

This team might finish last in the AFC West, but in the AFC South? I think they win it with a 10-6 record.

Houston Texans
2016 Record:  9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 6.5)

2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 22nd
2017 Age Rank: 4th
2016 DVOA Overall 29th (O/D/ST):  (30th / 9th /  31st)

This team was not as good as its record last year. They were unlucky in terms of injuries, especially to J.J. Watt, but even so this offense was horrible. Their Special Teams were even worse.

Things could get better on offense, but that will mean Tom Savage will dramatically improve (unlikely), or Deshaun Watson will be good (more likely, but only if he gets a chance). They’ll have weapons on the offense, but the line isn’t great. I could see an improvement here, maybe even to mediocrity.

On defense, their fans have to be salivating over a defense with a healthy Watt, Jadaveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and some solid DBs. They could be fantastic.

The problem with this team is that they could be significantly better and their record stay the same or even get worse. Now, being a young team, I think they’ll improve at the end of the year, but I still see an 8-8 team.

Jacksonville Jaguars
2016 Record:  3-13 (Pythagorean Wins: 5.8)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 17th
2017 Age Rank: 7th
2016 DVOA Overall 26th (O/D/ST):  (27th / 12th / 23rd)

Man, this team is frustrating. They have a ton of talent. But they have Blake Bortles and Chad Henne at QB.

They do have a good RB in Leonard Fournette, and a number of talented WRs. The offensive is mediocre, though, and without a good QB, they can’t overcome it.

The defense has a chance to be fantastic, though, perhaps even better than the Texans. They are going to be really stout up the middle, and if they can get some pass rush off the end, they will do some damage, though that’s not necessarily likely.

They were unlucky last year, and they’re youngish so I expect them to dramatically improve on that 3-13 record, but I can’t see them more than 7-9 because of wretched QB play.

Indianapolis Colts
2016 Record:  8-8 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.5)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 20th
2017 Age Rank: 5th
2016 DVOA Overall 23rd (O/D/ST):  (12th / 29th / 5th)

I see a huge regression on this team, and it’s not simply because Andrew Luck is hurt. They don’t have great RBs. Outside of T.Y. Hilton, who is really good, they don’t have any other weapons. The offensive line is horrible. The only reason they were 12th in Offensive DVOA was Luck. They’d be worse this year with him, but without? Whew, doggy.

The defense isn’t getting significantly better, either, even with their top 3 draft picks coming on this side of the ball. I think Malik Hooker will be fantastic, and was higher on Quincy Wilson than most, but the rest of their DBs aren’t much. Nor do they have a front seven to scare anyone. They were 29th last year for a reason, and while they improve a touch, it won’t be higher than 20th.

I think they might steal a win or two at the end of the season as some of their young players catch up to the NFL’s speed and Luck returns, but I see this as a 5-11 type team. Maybe 3-13.

2017 AFC North

2016 Finish: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland

Overall Notes: Pittsburgh is clearly the best team in the AFC North. I see regression in Baltimore. Cincinnati is a bit of a cipher. And while I see Cleveland improving, it’s a long way from 1-15 to the Steelers’ level.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2016 Record:  11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.9)

2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 12th
2017 Age Rank: 18th
2016 DVOA Overall 4th (O/D/ST):  (7th / 11th / 17th)

I’m not as high on the Steelers as many people are. I think Ben Roethlisberger will continue to be excellent, and Antonio Brown might be the best WR in the NFL. The offensive line is very good to great. And LeVeon Bell is fantastic. However, I worry about Bell because he held out during training camp. I think he’s ripe for a pulled muscle injury that will hamper him all year.

Their defense will be pretty good again. James Harrison takes a step back but is replaced by T.J. Watt. Ryan Shazier might have a breakout year and they have a number of other solid players.

Still, they weren’t quite as good as their record last year. Given the quality of the division, I expect another 11-5 record, but I don’t think they’re as good as they have been.

Cincinnati Bengals
2016 Record:  6-9-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.3)
2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 3rd
2017 Age Rank: 3rd
2016 DVOA Overall 13th (O/D/ST):  (11th / 17th / 28th)

This is a hard team to predict. On the one hand, they were better than their record last year. On the other, I just don’t care for the team. They’ve lots of good players, but not many great ones other than A.J. Green.

That’s exemplified by that 11th in Offensive DVOA. Andy Dalton is good, but not great. Joe Mixon might be great, but I don’t expect it this year. A.J. Green is great, but their best receivers besides him are rookies and WR is one of the hardest positions for a rookie. The offensive line is serviceable, but nothing better than average. That 11th is probably the top of their range.

On defense, they’re going to benefit from a couple of really nice draft picks. However, their best players are on the downward curve of their career, like Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Adam Jones. I doubt they’ll get better on this side of the ball.

I can see them improving on Special Teams, and being as young as they are, they’ll do better later in the year. Still, this is an 8-8 team, just like they were last year.

Baltimore Ravens
2016 Record:  8-8 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.6)
2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 11th
2017 Age Rank: 25th
2016 DVOA Overall 12th (O/D/ST):  (24th / 6th / 4th)

This offense was bad last year, and it’ll be just as bad this year, if not worse. I don’t like how much they lost on the line. I’ve never been a fan of Joe Flacco, and there’s not a dynamic weapon. They’ll struggle to score points. Without Justin Tucker, the best kicker in the NFL, they’d be one of the worst scoring offenses in the league.

Now, their defense was very good last year, and I expect it to be as good or better this year. Lots of good players at every level, and they drafted two nice prospects.

I think 8 wins is their ceiling, but I don’t see them reaching it. I’d say more like 7-9.

Cleveland Browns
2016 Record:  1-15 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.3)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 23rd
2017 Age Rank: 1st
2016 DVOA Overall 31st (O/D/ST):  (29th / 30th /  26th)

It’s a long climb from 1-15 but they’re on their way. I really like what this team is doing. If the ownership gives their coach and GM several years to develop things, they’ll turn this around. Unfortunately, the Browns are not known for their patience.

Still, there are positive signs. If Deshone Kizer becomes a decent QB, they have some weapons. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson make a nice RB tandem. Corey Coleman could be something special, as could David Njoku. Plus, I really like this offensive line. I don’t think this offense will be great, but I could see it becoming league average.

Likewise, I see promise on this defense. Myles Garrett will miss some time because of a high ankle sprain, an injury that often lingers. That’s unfortunate. However, there’s lots of young talent on this side of the ball.

I don’t see this team making the playoffs, but I would not be surprised if they won 8 games. More likely they go 7-9 and tie the Ravens for last in the division.

 

Opinions and fiction of person misplaced in time.