Tag Archives: NFL

2015 NFC West

NFC West (2014 Finish: Seahawks, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams)

Overall: I nailed this division not only in my rankings but in the reasons why. Let’s see how I do this year, when this division is not nearly so clear-cut.

Seattle Seahawks
2014 Record: 12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 11.9)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 18th
2015 Age Rank: 12th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 1st (5th / 1st / 19th)

It’s hard to have a dynasty in this day and age, but the Seahawks are doing a great job. Nevertheless, with all the turmoil of this offseason it’s safe to say the cracks are starting to show. The have benefited from Russell Wilson’s minimal salary cap hit, which has now passed. Other players are also looking to increase their salaries, and Kam Chancellor is even holding out. They’re also older than they have been over the last 4 years.

Despite such cracks, this team is still very good and will win a division that has regressed after being the best in the NFL.

The defense will fall off some, especially if Chancellor’s holdout is a long one, but will fall from being the best in the NFL to merely a great one in the 5th or so range.

The key to their offense in 2015, to me, is not the production of Jimmy Graham but that of Drew Nowak. Who? The Seahawks acquired Graham by trading away Max Unger, one of the top 5 centers in the NFL. Nowak is Unger’s replacement. Graham is a fantastic player, possibly the 2nd best TE in the NFL right now, but if Nowak plays poorly this offense will drop off.

Overall, I see this team dropping to 5th or 6th in the NFL in DVOA. Great, but not dominant. Still more than enough to win the NFC West, but maybe not to get home field advantage throughout.

Arizona Cardinals
2014 Record: 11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.3)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 17th
2015 Age Rank: 22nd
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 22nd (23rd / 7th / 21st)

This is a hard team to predict. They were extremely lucky, in terms of Pythagorean wins, but the discrepancy probably stems from their injuries at QB.

With Carson Palmer back, it’s hard not to look at this team and see a team that could very well win the division. There’s talent on the offense and it’s a good defense.

However, it has a huge Achilles heel. I do not like their offensive line. If they cannot protect Palmer then this team will regress to 9-7 or so and out of the playoffs. If they’re better than I think, then the race for the division will be decided Week 17 in Phoenix in a fantastic matchup between the Seahawk and the Cardinals, with the loser one of the wildcards.

I’m not optimistic, though.

Los Ang… er… St. Louis Rams
2014 Record: 6-10 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.1)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 13th
2015 Age Rank: 1st
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 18th (27th / 9th / 7th)

Yeah, sorry about that, fans of the Rams. I think they’re almost gone. If it’s any consolation this is a team that has been mismanaged for years and I don’t see that changing.

I really do not like their pick of Todd Gurley at 10th in the 1st round. I’m not a big fan of drafting RBs in the 1st round anyway, and I think Zac Stacy and Tre Mason are pretty good.

Now, the did do something I really like. I’m a bigger fan of Nick Foles than I am of Sam Bradford. Bradford is probably more talented, but Foles has been pretty good while Bradford has not.

The real problem, though, with that 27th ranked offense is that none of their high-round offensive line draft picks have worked out well. They clearly know how to rank defensive line players, and Aaron Donald might be the best DT in the NFL this year, but their investments in the OLine have not paid off.

I see a moderate improvement in the offense to somewhere around 20th, and this team will probably be around 8 wins. Not enough to get inthe playoffs, but some progress.

San Francisco 49ers
2014 Record: 8-8 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.0)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 28th
2015 Age Rank: 8th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 11th (16th / 5th / 24th)

Wow. I’m not a big fan of saying things like “this is the worst of something ever,” because that usually suffers from recency bias. However, it’s hard to think that this offseason has to rank among the worst ever for NFL teams.

Now, I will say that despite the losses of Patrick Willis and all the rest the front 7 will be better than most people think. However, this defense is going to seriously drop off to about average. The offense may pick up a bit of the slack, but I’m really not a fan of Colin Kaepernick.

This team will not fall off much, but they were luck to win 8 games last year, and I think 6-10 is their eventual result.

2015 AFC West

AFC West (2014 Finish: Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders)

Overall: I nailed this division, in terms of finish. I also did a pretty good job of analyzing why they would finish as they have.

I will say the Pythagorean win totals suggests the gap between Denver and the rest of the division was not as great as their 3 game cushion would suggest. I think this is a harbinger of 2015.

In all honesty, this is the hardest division in the AFC to predict. I can come up with a scenario where a mediocre to bad Oakland is 2nd in the division with 8 wins, which to me means KC wins going away and Denver getting unlucky and finishing with 6 wins, tied with San Diego. Or, Denver could win 12 games again, and KC just misses with 11 wins, but is a damn good wildcard team that gets to the AFC championship.

I just don’t know here.

Denver Broncos
2014 Record: 12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 11.0)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 1st
2015 Age Rank: 18th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 2nd (3rd / 4th / 27th)

It’s a truism that no team can survive the loss of their starting QB. I think this is especially true for the Broncos. Peyton Manning is perhaps the most skilled QB I’ve ever seen. Is he the best ever? Maybe not, but he’s in the discussion because he is simply so skilled at the job. Do yourself a favor and watch his footwork. Amazing.

I do think this team will have major injury problems, even if Peyton stays healthy. In 2013 they were 25th in terms of games lost, but went to 1st in 2014. They’ll be somewhere in the middle of that in 2015, but that means a big injury hit.

Because of that I really don’t quite know what to do with this team. I can easily come up with a scenario where this team gets hit early and they end up last in this division with 4 wins. If they get lucky, though, they could win it all.

For now, I’m going to leave them here, at the top of the division, but watch the injury list for Peyton or anyone on their OLine. This could be sign that of the dominoes falling.

Kansas City Chiefs
2014 Record: 9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 10.1)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 26th
2015 Age Rank: 6th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 10th (12th / 19th / 3rd)

I actually want to pick the Chiefs first. There’s a lot to like about this team and, according to Pythagorean wins, there’s only a game separating the Chiefs from the Broncos.

It’s rare for DVOA to be all that far off, but I think that’s the case here with the Chiefs defense. With only 281 points allowed in 2014, 2nd lowest in the NFL, they are clearly pretty damn good. On the other hand, their offense is really not that good.

What’s holding me back are the injuries to Eric Fisher and, more importantly, Dontari Poe. Poe is in the discussion as one of the best in the NFL at his position, and I think the Chiefs depend upon him. The good news is that he might play this week, but I want to see if he’s full strength before relying upon him.

We’ll see. This is a young team and I can totally see them finishing strong. They’re a little unlucky with the schedule, as their 2nd game with Denver is week 10 and not, say, week 15 when the age difference would be more likely to matter.

This is the hardest race in the AFC to call, by far. I think both will be 10-11 win teams. The loser is probably the other wildcard in the AFC.

San Diego Chargers
2014 Record: 9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.0)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 31st
2015 Age Rank: 21st
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 16th (10th / 24th / 23rd)

I’ve been a  fan of the Chargers since the days of Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, and James Jefferson. I want this team to win the division.

But I can’t see it. Yes, they’ll be better with injuries than last year, but they’re actually older as a team than the Broncos, so while they won’t be 31st, they won’t be healthy.

I hit the nail on the head with this team last year. I said they’d score because Rivers has weapons but that the defense would be weak. 10th on offense and 24th on defensive DVOA says I was right.

People are bullish on this offense in 2015 because of Melvin Gordon. I’m not so high on him, and I will say that trading up for an RB in today’s NFL is idiotic. Trading up in general is a bad idea, especially early in the draft, but for an RB? Awful decision.

This defense isn’t measurably better. I think this team not only regresses to its 8 Pythagorean wins of 2014 but even farther to 6 or so.

Oakland Raiders
2014 Record: 3-13 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.1)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 29th
2015 Age Rank: 23rd
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 29th (30th / 26th / 18th)

To show how mismanaged the Oakland Raiders are, think about how high they’ve picked in the draft year after year and then note that this is the oldest team in the AFC West.

Does Derek Carr look like he’s got some skills? Yes, he does, but his was a significantly below average QB last year. Are they assembling pieces around him? Yes, including an OLine that helped keep him upright.

Is it enough? Nope. This team is still 1-2 good drafts away. I see nothing that suggests this defense will be good. I do see major improvement on the offensive side, but that means not that it’s a good offense, but rather it’s an average to mediocre offense.

Overall, this team will win 5-6 games, an improvement to be sure but there’s so far to go.

2015 AFC South

AFC South (2014 Finish: Colts, Texans, Jaguars, Titans)

Overall: So, ummm, yeah. I was totally wrong about the Tennessee Titans. The less said about that the better. I was right about the rest of the division, in general, though.

I’m going to surprise a lot of people with my prediction for this division, so let’s get right to it.

Houston Texans
2014 Record: 9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.8)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 11th
2015 Age Rank: 5th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 19th (21st / 6th / 28th)

Wait, what? No Indianapolis? People are predicting the Colts will be in the Super Bowl. I’ll get to them in a bit but for now let’s look at what the Texans have to offer.

Let’s face it. Their offense will not light it up. They finished 21st last year and I can’t see a dramatic improvement. I think they’ll finish around the same place.

However, their defense is spectacular. It was 6th last year and I would not be surprised with the return of Jadaveon Clowney and the arrival of Vince Wilfork if this defense gets better. J.J. Watt is the best player in the NFL right now, hands down.

Their big possible area of improvement is in special teams, and, to be frank, I have no idea how to judge that.

However, notice their Pythagorean wins: 9.8. This was a 10-win team last year. They don’t have to get much better to be in playoff contention. Also, look at how young they are. They may have a few more injuries but this team will be winning in the trenches in December.

Indianapolis Colts
2014 Record: 11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 10.2)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 30th
2015 Age Rank: 32nd
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 12th (17th / 13th / 8th)

Ah, the presumptive favorites. I actually think this team is on the hook for a major drop. Why? They are the oldest team in the NFL. They were unlucky with injuries last year, but were also 29th in age last year suggesting a reason. Regression to the mean suggests they’ll be healthier, but they’ll continue to be close to the bottom.

Take a look at their Pythagorean wins: 10.2, or only 0.4 better than Houston. That’s not much, and younger players tend to be on the upswing of their career and older ones on the downswing. I suspect we’ll see that come in to play as Indianapolis wilts towards the end.

Furthermore, the primary reason people are suggesting the Colts will go to the Super Bowl is Andrew Luck. You won’t find a bigger fan of Andrew Luck than me, but he’s not enough, especially if he leads the NFL in fumbles again.

Don’t believe me? Look at the Colts DVOA in 2014. Their offense was their worst unit, being essentially average. I see no reason that will change, certainly not because of the old legs of Frank Gore.

Even if their offense improves some, I see a dropoff on their defense and special teams. I’m totally in the minority here, but unless they get really lucky with injuries and their Pythagorean win total this is an 8-8 team.

Jacksonville Jaguars
2014 Record: 3-13 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.6)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 20th
2015 Age Rank: 2nd
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 32nd (31st / 20th / 26th)

With the arrival of perennial All-Pro OT Jermey Parnell, the Jaguars will be dominant on offense…

Naw, I’m kidding. I do like Parnell and think he’ll help keep Blake Bortles upright. He’ll need the help, given that the Jaguars led the league in sacks allowed. We can’t answer whether Bortles is the answer or not if he gets sacked 3-4 times a game again.

I said last year this team was 2-3 drafts away from being a good team. I will now say this team is 1-2 drafts away.

This team will surprise some teams, especially in December because they are so young. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them beat Indianapolis when the Colts come visiting on 13 December.

Still, that will only be 1 of 4-5 wins for this team.

Tennessee Titans
2014 Record: 2-14 (Pythagorean Wins: 3.3)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 22nd
2015 Age Rank: 9th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 31st (29th / 29th / 20th)

Yeah, I thought they’d be good last year. I especially thought so after Snorri took me to watch them beat the Chiefs in the opener. They simply dominated the line of scrimmage.

However, they won only 1 other game, and as you can see above, they were wretched in all phases. In my defense, I thought they’d only win 9 games and the division would just be generally mediocre.

I’m pretty bullish on both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. I like what both of them can do, but I don’t see Mariota having enough of a supporting cast this year.

Like the Jaguars, I see incremental improvement, but this is also a team that is 1-2 drafts away.

2015 AFC North

AFC North (2014 Finish: Steelers, Bengals, Ravens, Browns)

Overall: I did pretty well here as well. The Steelers were better than I expected and the Bengals were worse, but other than that I nailed it.

I see this division dropping off a cliff. Overall it’s old, with the Ravens the youngest team at 15th. It was also lucky when it came to injuries, as none of the teams in this division were in the bottom half of the league. Also, both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh significantly outperformed their Pythagorean win total.

Last year, this division got 3 teams in the playoffs. At least 1 of the 6 teams that were in the playoffs in 2014 that will not be in 2015 come from here. I actually expect to see 2, but it’s possible Cincinnati gets lucky.

Baltimore Ravens
2014 Record: 10-6 (Pythagorean Wins: 10.9)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 7th
2015 Age Rank: 15th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 5th (9th / 8th / 2nd)

I was totally wrong about Baltimore last year. I thought they’d have some holes they could not cover. Instead, they ended up as the 5th most efficient team and were good across the board, 9th on offense, 8th on defense, and 2nd on teams.

They were middle of the pack in terms of age last year, and they’ve gotten slightly younger. I don’t see much regression here. I do think they’ll have a few more injuries this year.

I see this team winning 11 games and winning this division handily.

Cincinnati Bengals
2014 Record: 10-5-1 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.6)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 16th
2015 Age Rank: 20th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 13th (18th / 14th / 6th)

I said last year they were stacked on offense with a lot of good players everywhere. If I was right, they didn’t show it by their average performance of 18th in the NFL. Their defense was also average at 16th. At least they had good special teams.

There are pieces here, but I don’t see them connecting well enough to matter. They were average in just about every category last year. I think they’ll be average again.

Could they get lucky again and out perform their Pythagorean win total? Sure. However, everything I see suggests an 8-8 team.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2014 Record: 11-5 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.7)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 4th
2015 Age Rank: 26th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 8th (2nd / 30th / 12th)

Part of the reason that I was wrong about this team is that they were lucky when it came to injuries, ending up at 4th in the NFL. Given that they’re the 26th youngest team this year that’s not going to happen again. They’ve already lost Maurice Pouncey on the o-line.

They were also lucky in general, outperforming their Pythagorean record significantly.

They were carried by the 2nd best offense in the NFL in 2014, and I was right about Antonio Brown. Their offense will be very good again, but will drop to somewhere around 8th or 9th.

Their defense, though, was 30th. Maybe we’ll see significant improvement here. Having Ryan Shazier back will help, but I still think there are just too many holes. They’ll improve some, but not much.

Injuries will hit this team hard, and Steeler fans will be crying into their Terrible Towels. The Steelers will score lots of points but watch the playoffs just like I will.

Cleveland Browns
2014 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 6.9)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 14th
2015 Age Rank: 16th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 23rd (24th / 12th / 14th)

I’m actually tempted to pick them higher than the Steelers. I think overall, there’s more on this team than in Pittsburgh.

The problem, however, is that Ben Roethlisberger is a very good QB, and the Browns are wretched at QB. Johnny Manziel has shown flashes, and it’s possible he could turn into a productive NFL QB, but it’s unlikely and certainly won’t happen in 2015.

It’s too bad, because they actually have a pretty good OLine and defense. I think they’re defense may improve slightly, but this team will do about the same as last year.

If they get lucky, they’ll win 8 games and be in the playoff hunt for a while, but will eventually flop and crush the souls of the Dog Pound yet again.

If they get unlucky, hello 3rd or 4th pick in the 2016 draft.

2015 AFC East

AFC East (2014 Finish: Patriots, Bills, Jets, Dolphins.)

Overall Notes: I did a good job of picking the order last year, but I made a number of mistakes about the details along the way.

None of the teams in this division were particularly lucky or unlucky, with all of their Pythagorean win totals being within 1 of their actual win total.

I don’t see a great deal of change in the order this year, simply because of Tom Brady. None of the other teams can come close. I will say I would not be surprised if both wildcards come from this division, as I think both Buffalo and Miami can win 10 games.

New England Patriots 
2014 Record: 12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 11.8)
2014 Division Rank: 1st (My prediction: 1st)
2014 Injury Rank: 12th
2015 Age Rank: 13th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 4th (6th / 11th / 5th)

I said last year there are cracks in the armor, and if I was right, there wasn’t much sign of it. They ended up 4th best in the NFL in overall DVOA, peaking at the end. Worse, I suggested that they would get carried by their defense. I was wrong there too. Their defense was 11th in the NFL, but their offense was 6th and their special teams was 5th. In other words a very good to great offense and special teams propelled them to the Super Bowl.

I think my biggest mistake was thinking they were older than they were. Had I done better research I would have known they’re middle of the pack, so my anticipation that they would fall off some was based on lazy information.

They remain middle of the pack in age and injury. I do think the 2015 Patriots won’t be as good as the 2014 Patriots. I see a slight dropoff in efficiency, say overall in the 5th or 6th in DVOA. Will that be enough for the Bills or Dolphins to catch them? I doubt it.

The won the AFC East by 3 games last year. I think they’ll win only by 1 game this year, with a record around 11-5, in part because I think all of the other teams in the AFC East are better.

Miami Dolphins
2014 Record: 8-8 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.4)
2014 Division Rank: 3rd (My prediction: 3rd)
2014 Injury Rank: 21st
2015 Age Rank: 4th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 15th (7th /17th / 32nd)

Last year I thought they’d be mediocre on offense. I was wrong, they were 7th. I predicted an average defense and I was correct as they ended up 17th. With awful special teams, this team ended up middle of the pack.

Where I was wrong was my evaluation of Ryan Tannehill. For some reason, I just don’t like his game, yet the statistics show that he is both consistent and good. Is he a great QB, no, but he’s much better than I felt.

Hence, this year, I see some continued development on the offense. They’ll remain in the 7th overall range. Ndamokung Suh will help that defense. I think they’ll move up a little, say 10th in DVOA. The key to me will be if they can improve their special teams, because they were truly wretched last year.

Part of the reason I anticipate they’ll do well is that they’ve gotten younger, at 4th in the NFL. I see this team making mistakes and losing some games they shouldn’t early but peaking in December.  Overall, I think they’ll end up 10-6ish and a wildcard team.

Buffalo Bills
2014 Record: 9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.6)
2014 Division Rank: 2nd (My prediction: 2nd)
2014 Injury Rank: 10th
2015 Age Rank: 10th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 9th (26th / 2nd / 4th)

Consider the Bills 2014 DVOA. 26th in the NFL in offense, 2nd in defense, and 4th in special teams. Which of these is not like the others?

Last year,  I said that if E.J. Manuel could be solid, they would surprise people. Clearly, if their offense was 26th, he was awful.

I’ll say it again, if Tyrod Taylor and the skill position players can give the Bills an average offense, something around 15th, then this team will make it to the playoffs and will have a puncher’s chance of dethroning New England. This defense is really good.

That’s a big if, of course, as Taylor is on his 2nd team and really hasn’t shown that much. There are signs he’s improved, but we have to see something in the regular season.

Until I see something from Taylor, I’m going to put the Bills in 3rd place in the AFC East, but don’t go to sleep on this defense.

New York Jets
2014 Record: 4-12 (Pythagorean Wins: 4.8)
2014 Division Rank: 4th (My prediction: 4th)
2014 Injury Rank: 2nd
2015 Age Rank: 27th
2014 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 27th (25th / 21st / 16th)

This team is better on paper. Todd Bowles is an amazing coach.  But…

I said last year they’d be inefficient on offense. I was right, they ended up 25th in the NFL. I said last year they’d be inefficient on defense. I was right there too, as they finished 21st. Average special teams didn’t help. They did all of this despite being the 2nd most lucky team when it came to injuries.

This year they’re old, being the 27th youngest team, having brought in aging veterans to paper the cracks. This won’t work. These veterans will get hurt and this team will probably be worse in 2015.

2-14 is not out of the question. This kind of a record would be a good thing if they’re willing to stay to the path with Bowles. They need talent. Sadly, Jets fans are not patient and Jets ownership hasn’t been good.

Things don’t look good here.


I Am Ready For Some Football (Introduction)

The 2015 NFL season is nigh unto here. I’m so ready. Part of the reason is because I’m bullish about my Cowboys, but I’ll get to them in a bit.

Since I did a post like this last year, I’ll be reviewing how I did as well as prognosticating this year.

I actually did two posts last year. The first one, A New Season, is a good background of my methods and theories about the challenges of predicting the NFL. This year, I’ll do ten posts. This one, which will explain my methodology, and a post about each of the divisions. Plus I’ll sum it all up for those who don’t want the details.

I want to emphasize two main points. First, luck is way more important than many sportscasters, coaches, and players want to acknowledge. There aren’t that many plays in an NFL game, and there are only 16 in a year. Small sample sizes are prevalent.

One of the tools we can use to gauge how lucky a team is in a given year is to look at their Pythagorean record. Basically, this is a statistic based upon a team’s point differential. Teams that score lots more than their opponents tend to have better records than teams that don’t. Given all of the years of the NFL, we can determine what record should, on average, ensue from a given point differential.

Secondly, on average, 6 out of 12 playoff teams are not in the playoffs the following year because of regression to mean, bad luck, harder schedule, injuries, or just the whimsy of the NFL universe.

To anticipate these changes, I’ll look at what a team’s Pythagorean record was, their age, and the number of injuries they suffered last year.

Teams who exceeded their Pythagorean will tend to regress to the mean. Teams who are older will tend to have more injuries. I wouldn’t be surprised if older teams fade at the end of the year, though I’ve not seen studies on this. Teams that had a bunch of injuries will tend to regress to the mean, depending upon their age.

The other post was the breakdown of each team at And They’re Off. This is the post I’ll be referring to constantly to determine where I was right and wrong.

One more thing. I’ll be making a lot of references to DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average), which is an advanced stat developed by Football Outsiders. Here’s an explanation how it works at DVOA. The main thing to note is that not every yard is created equal. A gain of 10 yards on 3rd and 20 is useless, while a 2 yard gain on 3rd and 1 is productive. DVOA looks at every play, figures out what the average result would be, then compares the actual result to that average.

In any case, it provides a single value to compare teams on offense, defense, and special teams. It’s an esoteric system, but for the purposes of this exercise, it means I can use one statistic consistently to help make comparisons. Last year, it suggested that going into the playoffs the Seahawks and the Patriots were the best teams in the NFL.

With that said, let’s get to it. I’ll start with the AFC East and the AFC North, because Pittsburgh and New England play tomorrow night.


Ah, Deflategate

I suppose as a football fan I should have an opinion.

I guess what makes me laugh at this the most is that there’s no story, and no real punishment, if Tom Brady simply says, “Yeah, I told them to make the footballs how I like them, like every QB does. I messed up and told them the wrong PSI. It’s totally my mistake. I apologize, and it won’t happen again.”


It’d be discussed about a day or two, and Tom’s seen as an upright guy who was simply participating in a time-honored tradition of trying to get any advantage on the field.

If there’s a penalty, it’s no more than $25,000.

But no, he has to clam up, hide the relevant texts, and generally act like an arrogant jerk. That’s why he’s getting 4 games and the Patriots are losing picks.

Some people have said they would not give over their cell phone for everyone to prowl through. I agree with that. However,  what Wells asked for was to have them all sit in a room, Wells to ask questions, and for Tom and his representatives to look through the texts for anything relevant. This is not a case of giving over everything on his phone.

I also saw Tom Brady’s response at the Salem St. speaking tour just after the Wells report. I think I speak for every non-Patriots fan in saying that he came across as arrogant. I suspect even a percentage of Patriots fans felt the same way.

On the heels of all sorts of other times the Patriots have skirted the rules, I’m not surprised that the NFL decided to hit them hard.


Interesting Day

Greetings all

It’s been an interesting day, mostly in a good way.

I had to buy a dryer today, not necessarily a good thing, but because the owner made a mistake I got $100 off. I actually tried to split it with him, but he refused. That’s a good way to start our relationship, Stewart Appliances in Olathe.

A second bonus came in the form of La’el Collins signing with the Cowboys. I feel bad for the kid, who apparently did nothing wrong, but because of the timing of a the murder investigation of a former girlfriend, lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $5million.

In any case, he’s supposed to be a first-round talent at either guard or right tackle. The Cowboys already had probably the best offensive line in the NFL. Now they’re even deeper. Excellent.

Well, that’s enough dawdling. Back to writing.

Random Musings

Greetings all

I’m going to do a quick post of random musings while I’m waiting for the football game to start.

1. First, a couple of touch-ups from the Ray Rice thing. I said then that if it was the case that there was a cover-up, we would find out. Too many people would have to be involved. At the time, I was willing to believe Roger Goodell until I had more evidence.

We have more evidence now. There’s something fishy in Denmark.

2. This was an awful week for the NFL, and I’m going to pile on about the play on the field.

Why does a multi-billion dollar industry not have full-time officials? They need a pool of about 200 officials at any one point. Why are they not willing to pay, say, $200,000 a year to them? That totals less than $40 million per year. Yeah, that’s a lot to most industries but not that much to the NFL.

Especially when it affects their product on the field. Percy Harvin was clearly out-of-bounds, for example. This is an objective call, not a whit of judgment involved. Fortunately, the Seahawks didn’t win. The horse-collar call in the Eagles-Colts game was a missed call, also for a non-subjective reason. The rule specifically says that a horse-collar tackle requires the defender to put his hand inside the jersey. This did not happen. It was a major play in the game and might have allowed the Eagles to have a chance.

Was it a tough call? Absolutely, but without full-time officials I don’t think the NFL is doing everything they can to ensure good officiating. Penny wise, pound foolish.

3. I’m pleased with a number of my prognostications at this point, but it’s only two weeks in. We really don’t know what teams are until about six-eight weeks in the season.

Let’s not anoint or bury any team just yet. To put it in perspective, DeMarco Murray will not rush for 2300 yards like he is currently on pace to do.

4. NFL players have a much tougher life than people realize. People see the salaries but don’t recognize the harm that is done to their bodies. One thing that isn’t recognized is how powerful the personal conduct policy is.

Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson may have lost their careers. Many people are happy about this.

I wonder how many people might be so happy if they had to work with a personal conduct policy themselves? How many people don’t have skeletons in their closets? How many people have *never* done something wrong?

And what are the chances in this media-filled world we get away with our mistakes now? Unless, of course, the mainstream media chooses to ignore the problem.

5. The NFL will weather this and be just fine. This might not even be the worst week in the NFL or worst decision by a commissioner. The ghost of Pete Rozelle might still think the decision to play after the assassination of JFK is worse.

Before someone says that NFL players have it easy and get away with stuff, examine your politicians.

Or actors. Or rock stars. Heck, these people, most of whom claim to be very liberal and progressive, often see their careers improved by their missteps and outrages.

6. I’ve got a longer post down the road about athletes vs. other people in the spotlight. Suffice to say that athletes compared to all the rest are screwed.

That’s it for now, I’m going to turn my attention to the Rams-Cowboys.

Who Knew What And When?

So we have another act in the tragedy that is Ray Rice. I use tragedy because his story might well have been written by Sophocles. He rose to the height of his profession, including a Super Bowl ring. Now, because of his wrath and hubris he has become an outcast.

Initially, his penalty for his actions were laughable. A two-game suspension was simply not enough, but I actually don’t know if Roger Goodell had any right answers with the information that I think he had when he made the decision.

Understand that there were a variety of pressures forcing Goodell to make a decision in the spring. He had to do something when he did rather than waiting for more information.

Understand also that Goodell, according to the New Jersey state prosecutor did not have access to the video inside the elevator. TMZ is trying to prove that he did, but according to New Jersey law if he did Goodell was breaking the law himself.

Understand finally that both Janay and Ray Rice were initially charged with assaulting each other. Yes, Janay’s charge was later dropped and Ray’s was later increased, but up to the release of the video there was always some questions about what actually happened.

Then the legal penalty came down and it was light.

To recap. A situation with lots of questions. A slight legal penalty. No countervailing evidence available at the time.

And let’s not forget that prior to this Ray Rice had had no missteps that we know of. He had shown up to work, worked hard, produced, and was well liked by his co-workers.

Every single one of us, when faced with a situation involving someone we know and like, will tend to think the best of our friend. Based on the evidence available at the time, I’m sure that is what was going through the minds all of the people in the Ravens organization and in the NFL.

We, of course, view this from a more distant lens, but we have to recognize that we probably would have said the same things if we had been in the position of the Ravens management and players back then.

There were other factors as well. Had Goodell placed a more significant penalty upon Rice, such as the six games he has promised to assess on first offenders in the future, he might very well have faced a union, the NFLPA, ready to defend its player.

We can all agree that two games is too little. Four games would have earned him criticism that it was either too little or too much. Six games would have put him in conflict with the union. More games and it would have been outright war with the union. Trust me, the presence of the union influenced Goodell’s initial decision downwards.

I’m not a Roger Goodell fan at all, but I have to say I think he was in a no-win situation at the time.

In many ways, the two-game suspension was the *best* possible choice by Goodell. The ensuing criticism and outcry have made everyone, especially the union, more aware of the issue.

Without that light penalty, and the criticism, the NFLPA would have already gotten a restraining order to prevent the Ravens from releasing Rice and the NFL from suspending him indefinitely. I guarantee it given the NFLPA’s history.

Now there are other questions. First, why was the initial legal penalty so light?

I’ve seen people criticize this situation as an example where a professional athlete got off lightly until the end. However, remember that he was a first time offender. Also, Janay had declined to press charges. This was not an easy case to win, and if the prosecutor had lost then Ray Rice would have, indeed, completely gotten away with it. Jury trials are always iffy.

So this was a case of doing what they could, rather than tilt at an uncertain windmill. Prosecutors do this all of the time.

Second, asking when Goodell actually saw the video is a legitimate question. Right now, with the state of New Jersey corroborating his claim, I have no choice to believe the timeline that he has put forth.

Could this be a conspiracy? Sure. But it’s very difficult to conceal a conspiracy that includes all of the people involved in New Jersey and all of the people involved in the NFL side. If there is a conspiracy to hide the fact that Goodell had seen the video prior to yesterday, then TMZ or someone else will find that out.

But right now, it seems much more likely that the NFL did not know. That the Ravens did not know. That the decision Goodell made in the spring was based on evidence not including the video.

There are many reasons to criticize Goodell. I don’t know that this is one of them.

In fact, the one person in all of this that we can and should criticize is Ray Rice himself. What I saw was disgusting, and I’m not willing to watch all of the video. So, please understand that none of this post is a defense of Rice’s actions, merely a commentary on the reality of the position that people were in.

As a side note, I think I’m going to discuss the position of athletes in our society and point out some interesting inconsistencies in how we treat them. But that’s a long blog post in it’s own right.

Now, let’s take a quick glance at the impact of the Ravens release of Rice.

One thing most of you may not know is the structure of player salaries in the NFL. There is no shame in that, as it is insanely complicated because of the salary cap and ways teams try to manipulate that cap.

Why do I bring this up? Well, if any of you out there wish to criticize the Ravens and their handling of this situation I want you to realize that they incurred a severe penalty by cutting Ray Rice.

Ray Rice will count $4.75million against their $133million salary cap in 2014. In other words they have 3.6% less money to spend on players than every other team in 2014. This may not sound like much but it is huge in a league dominated by parity. In 2015, it will be worse, probably something like 7%.

Cap space is more valuable than money to most NFL teams. Nearly every owner would toss $14million away if it would help the team, and while the Ravens will likely go after some of that bonus money, that money is essentially irrelevant to them.

But cap space matters. A cap hit is a direct hit on the ability of a team to put the best players it could out on the field.

That $14million cap hit is huge and could quite easily cost the Ravens a playoff berth.

In fact, one could make the case that a lesser cap hit did just that to the Dallas Cowboys. In 2012 and 2013, the NFL assessed a $5million per year cap penalty  for following the existing rules and not colluding with the other owners. It is entirely possible that this penalty cost the Cowboys two playoff berths, and almost certainly cost them one.

Cap space is everything in the NFL.

So if you’re mad that the Ravens stood up for their friend prior to the release of the video, then you should understand that they have hurt their production on the field and hence their income by releasing him based on the new evidence.

They absolutely made the right decision, of course, but they should be recognized for the cost they paid.

Again, there is a bad guy in all of this and that is Ray Rice. Outside of him are a bunch of people trying to navigate the shoals of this situation as best they can while suffering the consequences of his actions.

I’m glad I’m not one of them.