Category Archives: Sports

Posts about Rob’s interests in sports.

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.

 

2017 NFC South

2016 Finish: Atlanta, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina

Overall Notes: This is the hardest division to call, even more so than the AFC West. All 4 teams have very good to great QBs. All have some great weapons. It is, however, also the oldest division and therefore the most susceptible to injuries. I really wanted to love this division, but it’s just not as good as it might appear once I started looking at the numbers.

Atlanta Falcons
2016 Record: 11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 10.9)

2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 6th
2017 Age Rank: 24th
2016 DVOA Overall 3rd (O/D/ST):  (1st / 26th / 7th)

This was the best offense in the NFL last year. Even with some regression to the mean and perhaps some age-related dropoff, this offense will be fantastic. Matt Ryan is underrated because he’s not a “Super-Bowl-Winning-QB,” which is crap. He was fantastic last year.

The defense was problematic, though. However, I think between the addition of Dontari Poe and Takk McKinley this line will be significantly better. I don’t think the defense will be great, but they will pile up sacks. Say end up in the 20th in the NFL range.

I don’t think the Falcons will repeat, though. They’re older. They got lucky on injuries last year. I think they’ll be a tough team, but only 10-6, meaning the win this division.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2016 Record:  9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.6)

2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 18th
2017 Age Rank: 21st
2016 DVOA Overall 22nd (O/D/ST):  (19th / 13th / 20th)

When I started writing this column I anticipated thinking the Bucs would take a huge step forward. After all, I really liked the Bucs draft this year. O.J. Howard will be fantastic, though maybe not this year as it’s hard for a TE to come in right away.

The rest of their offense has a chance to be powerful. Jameis Winston is getting better, but he has to make better choices. He has one of the best WRs in Mike Evans, and another really good one in DeSean Jackson. I think their offensive line is good enough. This offense should be better, though probably average.

I think their defense will be better too, though that’s more because of the development of Noah Spence and Vernon Hargreaves.

But as I look at the numbers, I have come away unconvinced. Their team will be better, I think, but it wasn’t as good as their record showed last year. I can see them getting back to 9-7, although they’ll have earned it this time.

New Orleans Saints
2016 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.3)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 21st
2017 Age Rank: 28th
2016 DVOA Overall 21st (O/D/ST):  (6th / 31st / 27th)

This is one of the oldest teams in the NFL, but that may not be a good guideline. They are pretty top heavy, with Drew Brees at 38, John Kuhn at 34, Zach Strief at 33, and finally Adrian Peterson and Ted Ginn at 32.

If Brees isn’t Brees, then this team won’t go anywhere, but that’s true of every team with a great starting QB. The rest are replaceable, including Peterson. Frankly, I think Alvin Kamara is the best RB on the roster at this point in time. Peterson will have a couple of good games, especially this week against the Vikings, but he’s mostly done. Fortunately, Kamara is better than most realize.

The receivers are pretty good, especially Michael Thomas. And I think Coby Fleener will do much better this year. They’re supported by a very good line. The offense may step back a little bit, but will still be one of the top 10 in the NFL.

The defense will be problematic. They could dramatically improve and still be bad. Marcus Lattimore will probably be a major improvement at CB, but that position often takes time to adapt.

I can see them going 9-7, though. That’s only a win more than their Pythagorean from last year. I think 8-8 is more likely.

Carolina Panthers
2016 Record: 6-10 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.1)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 9th
2017 Age Rank: 31st
2016 DVOA Overall 24th (O/D/ST):  (25th / 10th / 25th)

I really like what this offense could be. The offensive line is pretty good. Greg Olsen is a great TE. There are several productive WRs and RBs, including Christian McCaffrey.

But Cam Newton is a big question mark. He was bad last year, having his worst year as both a thrower and runner. *If* he’s fully healthy, he can do amazing things. He’s been dinged up this training camp, and while he says he’s healthy, what else would he say?

If he can make the offense good, then this team has the defense to close down teams. Luke Kuechly will be in the Hall of Fame.

However, overall, I do not see this team doing terribly well. Clearly, I have my doubts about Newton. The team is one of the oldest in the NFL, and I expect them to lose a lot of games to injury. They weren’t great last year. If Newton is healthy, this team might be 10-6 or luck into 11-5, but I don’t expect it. I think more like 7-9.

2017 NFC North

2016 Finish: Green Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago

Overall Notes: As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the rest of this division is chasing the Packers. There’s a chance the Vikings catch them, but I’ll always pick Rodgers over Bradford.

Green Bay Packers
2016 Record: 10-6 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.1)

2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 15th
2017 Age Rank: 11th
2016 DVOA Overall 7th (O/D/ST):  (4th / 20th / 21st)

This team has a lot of weaknesses. However, they also have Aaron Rodgers and ton of weapons. Jordy Nelson is underrated. Randall Cobb, Devonte Adams, Ty Montgomery, and Martellus Bennett are really good players, too. The offensive line is good, certainly good enough. They’ll be great again on offense this year.

The defense has some issues, though I can see Kevin King making them better.

They were about average in most things last year. Normal injuries, not young, not old, basically hit their Pythagorean projection. It’s a good team, and I think they’ll continue to be good and go 10-6.

Minnesota Vikings
2016 Record:  8-8 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.6)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 14th
2017 Age Rank: 20th
2016 DVOA Overall 20th (O/D/ST):  (26th / 8th / 10th)

I waffle on the Vikings, mostly because I’m not a Sam Bradford fan. Some of his film is fantastic, but I just see a whole lot of meh. That might be because of what surrounds him, though, and the Vikings do have some things around him. I like Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. It wouldn’t surprise me if Dalvin Cook is the best rookie RB, and certainly an upgrade from the dregs of Adrian Peterson last year. The line has issues, though, and that could really hurt them. Still, I see them getting back towards league average.

On defense, there’s a lot to like, but I look at their age and I wonder. Either this team is at the exact right age where most of its players have their peak year, or they are on the downward side of their career. I’m going to lean towards peak, but I could see it dramatically falling off.

Overall, I think the Vikings take a step forward and compete for a division title and a wildcard at 10-6.

Chicago Bears
2016 Record: 3-13 (Pythagorean Wins: 4.7)
2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 32nd
2017 Age Rank: 22nd
2016 DVOA Overall 25th (O/D/ST):  (17th / 23rd / 18th)

I did not like what the Bears paid to draft Mitch Trubisky, but I have to say I thought the rest of their draft was good. I don’t know that it’ll make a dramatic difference this year, but it’s a nice foundation with Eddie Jackson and Adam Shaheen.

The offense was mediocre last year. I think it will remain so. Glennon or Trubisky will probably be an upgrade at QB, though not much this year. Jordan Howard is a really good RB. The offensive line isn’t bad. However, the receivers are mediocre and while I really like what Shaheen could be, it won’t be this year.

On defense, there’s some nice players but nothing special.

Overall, the Bears were very unlucky with injuries. Assuming they have average luck, I think this team will be a bit better. They were a 5 win team according to their Pythagorean record last year. 7-9 is not out of the question if Glennon or Trubisky improve their QB play, but I’ll actually say 6-10.

Detroit Lions
2016 Record: 9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.7)

2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 30th
2017 Age Rank: 12th
2016 DVOA Overall 27th (O/D/ST):  (15th / 32nd / 6th)

I am not a fan of Matthew Stafford. If he was really that good, his offense would be better than average. And that’s what this team was last year, average.

I see good players on the offense, but nothing to strike fear in my heart. I really like Larry Wofford, and losing him in free agency will hurt. That offensive line won’t be great.

The defense was awful last year. I don’t see much reason for optimism.

The team will likely be healthier this year, but they were really lucky to be 9-7 last year. I think the luck reverses and they end up around 5-11.

 

2017 NFC West

2016 Finish: Seattle, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco

Overall Notes: Seattle is a great team. Then there’s the rest.

Seattle Seahawks
2016 Record: 10-5-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.8)
2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 5th
2017 Age Rank: 13th
2016 DVOA Overall 11th (O/D/ST):  (16th / 5th / 15th)

Russell Wilson is a very good QB.He has a number of good targets like Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. There are questions at RB and on the line, though. I think they’ll stay in the about the same range on offensive DVOA.

The defense is very good and the addition of Sheldon Richardson shouldn’t hurt. My big concern here is that their defensive backfield is getting up there in age. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman get dinged up, and that could be a major problem.

However, they are the class of the division. Even if they get hit by injuries, which I expect, they will still be 11-5 and win the division and fight for the first seed.

Los Angeles Rams
2016 Record: 4-12 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.3)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 1st
2017 Age Rank: 2nd
2016 DVOA Overall 30th (O/D/ST):  (32nd / 15th / 3rd)

Two players shape this season for the Rams, Jared Goff and Aaron Donald.

This team was awful on offense last year, but there’s a chance they’ll be much better this year simply because Jeff Fisher, one of the worst coaches ever, has finally gotten the pink slip he has deserved for years. Without Fisher, Goff has a chance to develop. If he does, then this offense could be pretty good, actually. Todd Gurley is a very good RB. I really like what they did with their WRs this year, especially adding Sammy Watkins. He’ll be hampered by a mediocre offensive line, though.

The defense was average last year, and that was in part because of how good Aaron Donald was. Take him out of the equation and there are problems, and he’s holding out. The good news is that the defense is young and might improve enough without him to stay about the same.

I think Goff takes a step forward and makes this team average on offense. Being one of the youngest teams in the league I think they steal a victory or two from older teams late in the year. If Donald comes back and plays well, they could even do a little better.

Still, this team has a long way to go. I think they show great improvement and end up 7-9.

Arizona Cardinals
2016 Record: 7-8-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.4)

2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 19th
2017 Age Rank: 32nd
2016 DVOA Overall 16th (O/D/ST):  (21st / 3rd / 30th)

Arizona has been a real popular pick. I don’t see it. Carson Palmer has to stay healthy for them to be great. He wasn’t all that good last year, though, and he’s 37. I think he’ll be mediocre at best, which is basically what he was last year even though he amassed 4233 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are weapons on this offense. David Johnson is fantastic. Larry Fitzgerald is a first ballot hall-of-famer and while he’s not at his peak he’s still very good. But even with all of that and a healthy Palmer, they were only 21st on offensive DVOA. They’ll be worse this year, and if Palmer goes down they’ll be really bad.

The defense is very good, as can easily be seen with the DVOA rank of 3rd. However, it’s old. *If* everyone stays healthy, this team will continue to have a good defense. If they get hit hard or if the veterans regress? They’ll step back. Combined with that offense, that’s a bad thing.

I’m really down on this team. I think 7-9 is their ceiling, and frankly I expect 5-11. Injuries will happen, and they have a razor thin margin.

San Francisco 49ers
2016 Record: 2-14 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.9)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 24th
2017 Age Rank: 10th
2016 DVOA Overall 28th (O/D/ST):  (23rd / 28th / 17th)

Neither Brian Hoyer nor C.J. Beathard strike fear in anyone, except of course fans of their teams. The rest of the offense has a few good players, though Joe Staley is not as good as he once was. However, this will be one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

The defense will dramatically improve, though. DeForest Buckner was already turning into something. Add Arik Armstead, Ron Blair, and Solomon Thomas and you have a young and good defensive line. If Reuben Foster is healthy, they’ll be pretty good at linebacker. They’ve got some interesting backs too. I think this defense will be at least average, trending towards really good.

I don’t think the 49ers will improve much overall, though I think they’ll match this past year’s Pythagorean record and go 4-12. However, if they can make some improvements on the offense in future years, this defense can be impressive.

2017 NFC East

2016 Finish: Dallas, New York, Washington, Philadelphia

Overall Notes: This is the best division in football and it’s no contest. Look at their DVOAs, with the highest being 9th. And I think all the teams might have gotten better. Sheesh. They’ll beat each other up and might prevent the others from getting into the wildcard, though I think at least one of the wildcards will come from here.

Dallas Cowboys
2016 Record: 13-3 (Pythagorean Wins: 11.0)

2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 16th
2017 Age Rank: 17th
2016 DVOA Overall 2nd (O/D/ST):  (3rd / 18th / 9th)

This was a great team last year. It was one of the best offenses around, had an average defense, and played good special teams. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but this team could be even better if things break right.

The biggest question mark is the status of Ezekiel Elliott. I won’t comment on the case, other than to say I expect there to be an injunction tomorrow and the case taking all year. He may serve the suspension, but not until next year.

The offense is loaded. One of the question marks is whether Dak Prescott will have a sophomore slump. This is wishful thinking. People have tried to suggest that last year was a fluke, but there’s nothing in the statistics that suggests that to be true. He was not a dink and dunk QB, as shown by the length of his passes. He was one of the best at limiting interceptable passes. He made good decisions and attacked the defense successfully. That will continue.

The WRs are fantastic and deep. The RBs other than Elliott are pretty good. The TEs are solid. The offensive line has a couple of question marks but I think it’ll be even better than last year by the end of the year.

The defense is chock full of moving parts and questions. Many announcers see this and the lack of a star other than possibly Sean Lee, leading them to think this is a bad defense. It’s not. It’s average, but it can be even better. They lost a lot of snaps from last year’s team, but none of those snaps came from top tier players. They replaced them with young, unproven players and while they’ll make mistakes, they’ll do better at the end of the year.

I can see this defense be dominating, yes dominating, at the end of the year. I can also see it lose a game or two, especially at the beginning of the year where there are so many more question marks.

13-3 is hard to repeat though. I think the Cowboys will be better and finish with an 11-5 record. This will win the division and make them the 2nd seed.

Washington Redskins
2016 Record:  8-7-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.3)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 28th
2017 Age Rank: 15th
2016 DVOA Overall 9th (O/D/ST):  (5th / 25th / 13th)

The Redskins are the inverse of the Giants. It’s a great offense with Kirk Cousins and a number of excellent targets in Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, and Jordan Reed (if he can stay healthy). They run well enough, and I did not want them to get Samaje Perine. Trent Williams makes that line at least solid.

Will the defense improve? I think so, with additions like Jonathan Allen, Terrell McClain, Fabian Moreau, and Ryan Anderson. It won’t improve much, but get more in the 16th range. League average, in other words.

This was a good team last year. I think it’s better this year, especially since I think they’ll be healthier. I think they are definitely 10-6, maybe 11-5 and a wildcard team.

New York Giants
2016 Record:  11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.8)

2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 7th
2017 Age Rank: 9th
2016 DVOA Overall 8th (O/D/ST):  (22nd / 2nd / 11th)

The only way I see this team dropping off is if Eli Manning does dramatically worse. I would actually be surprised, even though he’s 36. He was mediocre at best last year, anyway. The offense looks better than it is because of Odell Beckham, Jr. and some big plays. However, they’re very inconsistent and Manning threw 16 interceptions, which is bad but about his norm. The offensive DVOA reflects that. Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram will help, but I doubt they’ll get any better in real terms.

However, the defense is young and great. I want to find a reason for the defense to take a step back. I can’t find it. They are on their downward curve, but closer to their peak than retirement. They may drop a bit, but only to 5th in defensive DVOA.

This team will do really well again. They’ll have a few more injuries than last year, I suspect, but at least 9-7. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re 10-6 and a wildcard team.

Philadelphia Eagles
2016 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.0)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 4th
2017 Age Rank: 23rd
2016 DVOA Overall 5th (O/D/ST):  (20th / 4th / 2nd)

Ah, the Eagles. They’ve added some help on offense for Carson Wentz, but not as much as people think. I was not a fan of Wentz last year. He didn’t play as well as many people think, but he was very good for a rookie. I think he’ll be better, but I don’t see the offense improving much.

The defense was great and got a lot of help in the draft. I was not happy with their draft, though not all of it will arrive this year with Sidney Jones’s injury. Still, Derek Barnett and Rasul Douglas will add some youth to the defense.

The one place where I see the Eagles regressing is on Special Teams, and that’s in part because Darren Sproles is 34. He’ll fall of a cliff soon, though he’s been a fantastic player.

I think the Eagles will take an overall step back, but not by much. They’ll still have a 7-9 record or so, but that’ll match their Pythagorean.

Rob’s Update: Surviving the Dragon

Week of 3-9 September

Well, I survived DragonCon. I have an AAR up at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=798. The TL:DR version: the logistics of 80,000 people in downtown Atlanta limit the fun, but there’s still lots of fun to be had.

Now I’m back home, sorta. We found a house and put in a bid. In fact, I signed the accepted counter-offer while in Atlanta. We went through the inspection yesterday and, for a house built in the early 50s, it’s in fantastic shape. There are quibbles here and there, and a couple of things we’re going to ask from the sellers, but by and large, nothing we can’t fix.

Exciting times.

Now we just have to make sure the financing goes through correctly. I get there are reasons for all of this but man this process is frustrating.

As for writing, I’ve done a little here and there, but for the time being it’s going to be iffy. Between the move and planned trips, time has been an issue. I did manage to get a good start on a particular thread while at DragonCon, though.

Now, the time has given some ideas a chance to percolate, so it’s not been unfruitful. Also, I’ve come up with a good short story idea that I’ve been dabbling with. I can’t finish it until I get access to my books, which are currently packed up, though.

The big news next week is that my opportunity to be “And More” will arrive as For a Few Credits More will be released on the 15th. I’ll have a link for you next week.

Tonight, the NFL season starts. I’m so ready. I’ll be writing my NFL Preview during the game so expect that post late tonight.

Quote of the Week

I’m not a huge Neil Gaiman fan. Yes, I know that makes me a heretic. However, I do love this quote.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

News and Works in Progress

  • New short story. It’s a secret 🙂
  • Brief Is My Flame (12k)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

While Van Allen Plexico let me have space at DragonCon, it was Brett Brooks and his wife Allyson who did much of the work manning the booth. You can find Brett’s Facebook author page here: https://www.facebook.com/brettbrooksauthor/. He has a fun and whimsical take on the Noir detective.

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: Pennsic’s First Week

Week of 30 July – 5 August

It’s been a wonderful first week of Pennsic. Part of that is the weather. It’s topped out at around 85, which is hotter than I like but is certainly not unbearable. In fact, it was so nice on Friday and Saturday that I got all of my setup and nesting done. Usually, the heat makes it a slower process and I still have work to do on Sunday.

My traditional Monday night bardic circle went very well. The first song started around 8:30 and I shut off the big torches at 3 or so. There was a good solid crowd of about 30-40 and we never stopped performing. That’s not shabby.

Monday was also Dad’s 77th birthday. I took a moment during the bardic circle to tell some stories about him.

I will freely admit that Tuesday was not my most active day, since I actually fell asleep around 5:30. I did come into the shop and arrange all of my stuff and lay all the electrical cables out. Tonight, we actually run all of the lights. Then I basically went and napped. I got up for dinner, but that was about it.

Yesterday, I got some serious work done. I’ve decided that the best way to write both Brief Is My Flame and None Call Me Mother is to focus on a single thread at a time. I wrote I Am a Wondrous Thing straight through, and I ended up re-arranging everything. This time I’m going to write a thread until I the returns diminish, then go off to another. Presumably, the next thread will inspire ideas in other threads, and eventually I’ll weave them together.

The first thread I’m working on is Eleonore in Demmen and Demmenkreisen. I’ve gotten a few thousand words written in that thread and its prompted my next thread, which will go through Svellheim.

Tomorrow, I’m off to ConFluence, where I have a busy weekend planned.

Friday 4pm: Genre Blending Panel
Friday 6pm: Reading
Saturday 10am: Autograph Session
Saturday 2pm: World Building with Exoplanets Panel
Saturday 4pm: Playing in Someone Else’s Sandbox Panel
Saturday 5pm: Vogon Poetry
Sunday 10am: The Ten Volume Trilogy
Sunday noon: The Martin Koszta Affair

It will be weird leaving Pennsic for this long, but it’s going to be a good time.

Quote of the Week

This weekend is the NFL Hall of Fame weekend where the 2017 enshrinees are inducted. This week’s quote comes from one my favorite players of all time, Dan Fouts. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993.

“Now that I’m retired, I want to say that all defensive linemen are sissies.” – Dan Fouts

News and Works in Progress

  • Sent in a short story in for an anthology. I’m waiting for a response. Waiting is hard, that is all.
  • Several thousand words into Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

One of the people I’ll meet this weekend as I’ll be on panels with him is William Keith, Jr. He’s written several military SF series, including some under the pen name of Ian Douglas. I’m a big fan of the Star Carrier series and the Heritage Trilogy. You can find his stuff at: https://www.amazon.com/Ian-Douglas/e/B001IGLZMC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1501810168&sr=8-1

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