Hastily Assembled 2016 NFL Predictions

First, some good news: We should returning to zonereads.com shortly; I’ve been a little delayed by this whole “attempting to make a living” thing, but I should be importing the site back over soon.

I’m also planning to get back to more regular content; it’s certainly not like I lack for thoughts about the NFL, but I have lacked motivation to take the time to articulate them at column length. I already have a few ideas for upcoming columns, and I hope to crank those out in the next couple of weeks, although I have other projects that are labors of love or labors of money that could squeeze my time.

I’d like to get a weekly column going for either fantasy or gambling purposes. We’ll see if I succeed.

On to the purposes of this column: A quickly assembled guess at this year’s NFL standings, which of course is both too similar to last year’s to be interesting and too similar to be correct, given the variances and deviations that happen every year.

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Quick and Dirty 2015 Season Predictions

Sad to say, Zone Reads has been through some lean times this year. We’ve lost some contributors and those that remain have careers that are increasingly demanding of our time. We’ll still try to keep churning out content as much as we can, though, especially once draft season begins. That said, if you need a place to contribute your football knowledge and writing, we’re happy to listen to submissions for new contributors.

In the meantime, I pulled a season-standings prediction out of my ass sometime last week, and with the season upon us, I thought I’d generate some content by writing a quick sentence or three about each team:

 

The AFC

 

EAST

  1. New England Patriots – 11-5. Brady is free (as he should be), and though the team lost a lot of defensive talent in the offseason, it’s more or less business as usual.
  2. Miami Dolphins – 11-5. They have the talent that they should take a substantial leap forward. In my heart of hearts, I still can’t justify picking them to win the division, and it’s because I think Joe Philbin is by all evidence a bad coach who is holding the team back.
  3. Buffalo Bills – 8-8. It’s a Rex Ryan team with a lot of defensive talent. They’ll mostly be competitive. They have a fair amount of offensive talent, too, and while I’m relatively optimistic about Tyrod Taylor, any Rex offense automatically brings certain assumptions of low-quality play.
  4. New York Jets – 7-9. Mike Maccagnan decided it was time to stop bullshitting around in the secondary. I like Todd Bowles’ prospects as head coach. Still not optimistic about the QB situation.

NORTH

  1. Baltimore Ravens – 10-6. I didn’t care much for the Breshad Perriman pick (give me Devin Smith catching deep balls from Flacco all day, good lord), but this team always manages to stay freshly-stocked with talent, and has no major holes.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers – 9-7. This was a team that had major defensive holes and was going to have to rely on offense, and now several major offensive contributors are going to miss significant parts of the season. I think they’ll struggle in stretches and may not win enough games to make the playoffs.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals – 6-10. Speaking of holes: I don’t know how a team with weak QB play and no pass rush won ten games. They didn’t try to upgrade either. I think it’s going to get worse for them.
  4. Cleveland Browns – 6-10. No QB. Their best receiver is probably Duke Johnson. Mike Pettine might be a wizard for getting them to 7-9 lats year, but even a wizard can’t overcome the talent level and organizational dysfunction this franchise consistently shows. Fun note: They’ve drafted one receiver in the last two years, and they cut him this preseason before he ever played a game for them. They’ve had seven first-round picks since 2012, and they’ve yet to find an impact player (though Danny Shelton might finally fit the bill. Might).

SOUTH

  1. Indianapolis Colts – 12-4. My pick for home field advantage in the AFC because they have a soft schedule and a juggernaut passing offense. Who needs defense when you have Andrew Luck?
  2. Houston Texans – 7-9. A replacement-level offense without Arian Foster. I just don’t know how this team will score enough points to keep competitive. Damn Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith (who is apparently untouchable no matter how many bad drafts he has) for denying us a Luck-Teddy rivalry.
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10. I’m betting on a step forward for this team; I think they finally have enough talent to overcome the mistakes of the Gene Smith era. Mind you, they’re still on a shaky footing in a number of areas, and they have to count on guys actually taking their projected steps forward, but at least they’re finally trending in the right direction.
  4. Tennessee Titans – 5-11. Marcus Mariota will, I think, end up being a fine choice at QB. But this year, that still won’t be enough for the team to really bounce back. It may not even be enough to save jobs. Eventually, though, a Mariota – Dorial Green-Beckham connection could prove very scary.

WEST

  1. Denver Broncos – 11-5. I’ve made my thoughts on Gary Kubiak well-known. I even have worries about Peyton Manning finally hitting the physical wall that his brilliance can’t overcome. In the end, though, this is an extraordinarily talented squad all around.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs – 10-6. I don’t know if I buy all the preseason hype that Alex Smith is finally, in his 11th year in the league, willing to throw downfield, but I do buy that 2015 Jeremy Maclin is substantially better than 2014 Dwayne Bowe, I buy the emergence of Travis Kelce, I buy Andy Reid’s offensive gameplanning (if not always his playcalling or clock management), and I buy a strong pass rush and two of my favorite young CBs in the game, Phillip Gaines and Marcus Peters.
  3. San Diego Chargers – 8-8. I’m a believer in Philip Rivers, it’s just… what else do they have? Eric Weddle? Jeremiah Attaochu? I don’t think the line is strong enough to spring Melvin Gordon to the kinds of big plays he needs to justify his draft position. Rivers will keep them competitive, but do they have the talent to go further than that?
  4. Oakland Raiders – 5-11. I think Amari Cooper is overrated (though he’s proving me wrong so far). I think Derek Carr is significantly overrated. I think Reggie McKenzie has made mostly bad moves since taking over as GM. I don’t rate Jack Del Rio. Even if Cooper is the offensive equivalent of Khalil Mack vis-a-vis studliness… what else does the team really have, outside of them?

The NFC

 

EAST

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – 10-6. Under-reported part of Chip Kelly’s roster remake: He’s targeted quite a few guys with worlds of talent but a substantial injury history– significantly, his top three additions to the backfield this year. Kelly is betting his commitment to advanced sports science and sports medicine will mitigate those injuries. (For you NBA fans, he’s trying to bring that Phoenix Suns Training Staff magic to the NFL.) I haven’t found a reason to bet against Chip Kelly yet.
  2. Dallas Cowboys – 10-6. Still think their run game struggles. They picked up an absurd haul of talent in the draft, though, and if their pass rush trio of Greg Hardy / DeMarcus Lawrence / Randy Gregory comes on strong, they could be a top team overall. They have a tough out-of-division schedule, though (NE, SEA, @GB), and Jason Garrett is a guy I always count on to come up short when the game is on the line.
  3. New York Giants – 6-10. The opposite of the Eagles in terms of sports medicine– they draft injury-prone or previously injured guys, their guys get injured all the time, and they don’t seem to give a damn about changing their processes. I don’t see a lot to like here. Please, Tom Coughlin, please, please, please, don’t let your retrograde opinions of sports medicine and injury treatment ruin Odell Beckham’s career.
  4. Washington Potatoes, 3-13. I see even less to like here. DeSean Jackson. Trent Williams. The running backs. A handful of good pass rushers. Bashaud Breeland, eventually. That’s about it. I think Jay Gruden is an embarrassment who should never have a head coaching job again solely based on his willingness to publicly undermine players and deflect responsibility onto everyone but himself– a total lack of leadership. At least they can look forward to taking the wrong quarterback #1 overall in 2016.

NORTH

  1. Green Bay Packers – 11-5. Even without Jordy Nelson, the team is still led by possibly the best quarterback who ever lived. Aaron Rodgers’ career record (including a 6-10 first season as starter) is 70-33; pro-rated to 16 games, that’s good for 10.87 wins. I’m comfortable with predicting 11 wins in perpetuity for Mr. Rodgers until he is no longer possibly the best quarterback who ever lived.
  2. Minnesota Vikings – 10-6. A now-popular dark horse for a team to emerge into the playoffs, the Vikings have all the good signs: a head coach I like, a quarterback I love who is primed to take a big step forward, and a lot of other young and improving talent. I particularly like Mike Zimmer’s chances of getting the most out of a very talented pass-rushing squadron. Add it all up, mix in the return of Adrian Peterson and a third-place schedule, and a playoff trip seems well within the range of possibilities.
  3. Detroit Lions – 8-8. No way to get around how much losing Ndamukong Suh hurts. I think they won more games last year than their talent should have indicated, and this seems like about the right spot for them (particularly since I don’t see Jim Caldwell as coaxing more out of the talent at hand; his strength seems to be “not a screaming maniac who constantly has everyone on edge”).
  4. Chicago Bears – 5-11. Hey, it’s almost the same team as last year’s Bears, but less good at offense!

SOUTH

  1. New Orleans Saints – 9-7. The demise of Drew Brees has been greatly overstated. Yes, you can worry about the lack of receiving talent, but the Super Bowl team didn’t have much outside of Marques Colston at receiver, either (despite the high draft status of guys like Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson). The offense will go horizontal, the defense will benefit from a substantial injection of talent (once everyone finally gets healthy), and that combined with a weak schedule should be just enough to put them back on top of the division.
  2. Atlanta Falcons – 8-8. It’ll be neck-and-neck with these two teams all year. The Assassination of Julio Jones’ Prime by the Coward Mike Smith has mercifully come to an end. I like Dan Quinn, I cried a little when they drafted Vic Beasley, and Kyle Shanahan has proven to be a true offensive mind, not a hire based out of nepotism. Still, though, I think the Saints will be a little better, at least this year.
  3. Carolina Panthers – 7-9. The records may be close, but I think Carolina substantially lags behind the other two. The Panthers’ offensive line and receiver crew seems to be the product of an approach that says “How little can we give Cam Newton and still field a competitive offense?” With Kelvin Benjamin out, the situation goes from bad to worse. The front seven is good, but there’s no dominant pass rusher. I just see a lot of places the team has subpar talent, and a lot of ways that can come back to bite them.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 6-10. I think Jameis Winston is the real deal and I love that they gave him offensive line support to boot. They’ll be better than last year, although they still have no pass rush outside of Gerald McCoy, and I honestly couldn’t tell you much about the back seven outside of Lavonte David (although they apparently love Kwon Alexander and will name him the starter at MLB). Trending up, but not there yet.

WEST

  1. Seattle Seahawks – 10-6. The win total is a little light, because I think they’ll not be quite as good as last year. As long as Kam Chancellor is out, the defense is that much weaker. The offensive line is extremely unproven and could turn out to be really, really bad. Obviously they’re too good all around to slip much, but they will not seem nearly as invincible this year as they have in the past.
  2. Arizona Cardinals – 10-6. Didn’t have the guts to pick them for the division, either, but I’m not betting against Bruce Arians at this point. Could be a juggernaut on offense if Carson Palmer stays healthy and lives up to what Arians thinks he can do. Still some question marks on the line and on defense, but I’m going to assume Arians finds a way to pull it all together.
  3. St. Louis Rams – 6-10. Football Outsiders picked them to finish 5th in DVOA this year, and I don’t understand that at all. I don’t understand why people love Jeff Fisher, but again, I’ve written on that extensively. If you believe drafting a bunch of rookies automatically makes a great offensive line, and if you believe that, for some reason, Nick Foles can replicate his 27:2 TD:INT ratio from 2013 in a Jeff Fisher offense, and you believe Todd Gurley comes back healthy, faces no more problems, and is a juggernaut (by far the most likely part, IMO), then sure, they could make the playoffs. Me, I see them losing a lot of games 13-9 because they can’t move the damn ball unless Gurley breaks a big play or someone bites on a play-action deep ball to Brian Quick. (That involves both Quick, coming off an ACL tear, beating his man deep, and Foles hitting him in stride, so, good luck.) Also, for as much buzz as their front four gets, the back four isn’t nearly as good.
  4. San Francisco – 5-11. I’m willing to be open-minded about Jim Tomsula. But this team has faced such a massive talent drain– with an incredible amount of unexpected losses; maybe you expect Justin Smith to retire and Mike Iupati to take a big free-agent deal, but nobody could have planned to lose Chris Borland, Anthony Davis, AND Aldon Smith on top of that. I don’t know if any coach could overcome that degree of talent drain.

PLAYOFFS

AFC WILD CARD

3)Denver over 6)Kansas City

4)Baltimore over 5)Miami

NFC WILD CARD

3)Philadelphia over 6)Arizona

4)New Orleans over 5)Minnesota

AFC DIVISIONAL

1)Indianapolis over 4)Baltimore

2)New England over 3)Denver

NFC DIVISIONAL

1)Green Bay over 4)New Orleans

3)Philadelphia over 2)Seattle

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

1)Indianapolis over 2)New England

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP

1)Green Bay over 3)Philadelphia

SUPER BOWL

Packers 34, Colts 31– Two of the league’s best at the top of their game produce an all-time classic with multiple lead changes in the fourth, before Aaron Rodgers leads the final comeback drive without leaving Andrew Luck time to answer.

The Top 10: Edge Rushers

The defensive players that generally get the most glory are pass rushers and linebackers. Unfortunately this is because they are the only defensive positions that accumulate traditional counting stats; sacks and tackles. That said, edge rushers are among the most valuable defensive players on the field. In the case of 4-3 defenses, the edge rusher is labeled defensive end, while in a 3-4 they are termed outside linebackers. There are some differences in responsibilities between these two positions, but for the most part they represent the same asset; edge disruption. They will generally be matched up against opposing offensive tackles, needing to maintain their position against the run and beat their man when rushing the passer.

Tier 1: Robert Quinn, Von Miller

1. Quinn: I hate to put him this high, but that’s a reflection of just how dominant Quinn was last year against both the run and pass. He totaled 91 pass disruptions, leading the league in hurries (51) and QB hits (21) to go along with a paltry 19 sacks and 7 forced fumbles. Usually when a player is getting lucky, two or three of the above stat categories will be lacking. The fact that Quinn’s numbers are phenomenal across the board says quite a lot. He is a bit of a one year wonder, previously providing a speed rush and not much else. Additionally, he plays with one of the most talented defensive lines in the league. That said, he is only 24, and that talented defensive front just got even deeper; you can continue to expect only good things from Robert Quinn. While I expect the rest of the guys on this list to narrow the gap in 2014, 2013 is the reason he deserves the top spot.

2. Miller: Von had questions surrounding him last season after getting suspended for the first 6 games, but he got back to full speed pretty quickly once he was back on the field. He now has physical questions after tearing his ACL at the end of 2013, and has only played 9 snaps in the preseason thus far. That said, I expect him to return to form this season, which means unique quickness and acceleration for the position of an edge rusher. His burst off the snap and overall athleticism has been unmatched (till perhaps now with Jadeveon Clowney) by anyone in the NFL. He is a special player, and it was obvious from the first snap he played as a Bronco.

Tier 2: Cameron Jordan, Aldon Smith, Robert Mathis, Cameron Wake

3. Jordan: Another guy who was somewhat of an afterthought as a 1st round pick, Jordan was initially playing some interior defensive line. However 2013 saw new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan change up the whole defense, including moving Jordan to the position of an edge rusher. Jordan responded with a career year, notching 12.5 sacks to go along with a whopping 87 pass disruptions. Jordan has unique strength for an edge rusher, making him a daunting challenge for most pass protectors who are used to facing smaller speedier players. Throw in the fact that he’s only 25, and the future is very bright for Jordan.

4. Smith: Aldon Smith had a down 2013 due to off the field issues and a leave of absence. When he was on the field, he looked every bit the part of a budding star who can rush the passer at a high level while stuffing the run as well. His combination of size, strength, acceleration, and past performance make him seem extremely likely to keep improving his game. If he can clean up his life outside of football, the 49’ers should have a blue chip level edge rusher for many years to come.

5. Mathis: Mathis has always been a great two way defensive player, but before last season I doubt many people thought of him quickly when naming the league’s top defensive players. He had always held his own in a 4-3 defense, quietly performing well while his teammate Dwight Freeney soaked up most of the glory with his electric speed rushes. However last year, Chuch Pagano transitioned the Colts defense to a 3-4 alignment, moving Mathis to a stand up edge rushing position. At first I was skeptical of the change, Mathis has been great for a decade at 4-3 DE, why change a good thing? My concerns with Mathis were quickly alleviated in 2013, as he responded with the most dominant season of his career, recording 19.5 sacks and 75 QB disruptions. He is 33 and I am expecting some regression this year, but Mathis has never had a poor season in his career. Considering last season’s performance, I don’t expect that to change in 2014.

6. Wake: It’s hard to believe that Wake is 32 years old, as there is no one in the NFL who can match his speed off the edge. He is a scary opponent for the leagues slower footed offensive tackles, and easily beats the better ones for sacks often enough. He is nothing special against the run, but nobody can eliminate his pass rush, and we all know that is a more valuable asset. He is a unique case when considering his age and that he only came into the league at 27 years old, so it’s hard to project how many more years he can maintain this level of play. That said, he has not yet shown any signs of regression, so I expect him to remain in this tier for 2014.

Tier 3: Jared Allen, Demarcus Ware, Ryan Kerrigan, Tamba Hali, Clay Matthews

7. Allen

8. Ware

9. Hali

10. Matthews

This tier is mostly occupied by veteran players who experienced down years. Jared Allen did not light up the stat sheet as much as in years past, Demarcus Ware played on the worst defense of his career, and Matthews had an injury plagued year. That said, these players are all still far too talented to miss this list, and I think there are arguments to put all of them in the above tier; I expect all of them to bounce back with elite play this year. Allen and Ware have looked explosive in preseason and are in better team situations this year. Matthews is only 28 and has displayed enough toughness to expect a return to greatness. Considering they have all had top tier level performances as recent as 2012, I can’t leave them off this list. It’s a shame that Hali doesn’t get as much attention as his peers, as he is every bit as deserving of being on this list. Teammate Justin Houston may get more attention with splashier plays, but make no mistake, Hali is still the better player right now.

Just missed: Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson – I’m still kind of shocked that I left both these guys off the list, especially considering the season the Panthers defensive line just had. I felt that the 7th to 12th best edge rushers in the league were very close together, and I wouldn’t argue against switching up the order of any them. That said, I think the above guys are going to have slightly better seasons.

On the rise: Carlos Dunlap, Chandler Jones, Brian Robison

Hurt but could bounce back: Jason Pierre-Paul

The Top 10: Running Backs

Ah, the coveted prizes of fantasy football; running backs. There is a lot of glory in being the man who runs through eleven defenders, taking all the hits while dishing out punishment. However this combined with the following of general stats tends to overrate the importance of running backs relative to other positions. While I believe the top runners are indeed game-changing level players, many others at the position don’t have a complete game, offering one-dimensional skill sets. In my eyes, this devalues them relative to other positions who are playing more snaps while representing more than a decoy on every down.

NFL front offices seem to share this line of thinking, paying running backs less than most other positions, while spending fewer 1st round picks on them. Players such as the ones on this list are still coveted, but it can be very economical to find balancing skill sets in multiple players for less money. It’s also worth debating if scouting at the position is weaker than at other positions or if teams just realize they can get good prospects later in the draft; only three of the players on this list were taken in the 1st round, while the other seven were taken in the 2nd or 3rd round. Throw in the fact that the passing game is more valuable to an offense than the running game, and it’s not hard to see why teams are veering away from “bell cow” running backs towards tandems. As a result, this list is largely populated by great runners who also provide good value to the passing game.

Tier 1: LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles

1. McCoy: Shady McCoy is easily my favorite runner in the league, as he just seems impossible to tackle. Most backs try to run through you, not many can make a defender miss like Shady. NFL players are supposed to take hits, yet I have never seen this guy take a big hit. Somehow he is always able to react faster than his opponent, dodging the brunt of a hit, if not entirely. I think this bodes very well for his longevity, as it’s the accumulation of hits that truly wears down a running back. McCoy is consistently near the top of the league in missed tackles forced, resulting in career yard per carry average of 4.8. In addition to his elite running ability, he has exceptional hands and is a formidable receiver out of the backfield. His overall complete game gives him the #1 RB in the league ranking.

2. ADP: What is there to say about “All Day” that isn’t already common knowledge? He very well might be the best pure runner of the last few decades, combining elite strength with elite speed and quickness. It routinely takes two or more defenders to bring him down, with very few defenders capable of bringing him down one on one. When he tore his MCL and ACL in 2011, many feared it might take him awhile to get back to full speed. Just 8 months later he returned to the field, put together an MVP season, and came 9 yards short of breaking the NFL’s single season rushing record. As incredible of a runner as he is (perhaps the greatest ever) one has to wonder why his freakish athleticism doesn’t really translate to the rest of his game. His blocking is average at best, and he doesn’t seem to have any feel for running basic routes out of the backfield; he has just 527 yards receiving over the last 3 seasons combined. Based on how scary he is running the ball, it’s surprising to have him lower than #1. However, when you look at complete skill sets, and value added on every play, McCoy is the better player to me.

3. Charles: Extremely dangerous as a rusher and receiver. At the moment, he might be the league’s best home run threat, with the ability to go the distance on any play. His career yards per rush average is a whopping 5.6, actually brought down by last seasons meager 5.0! The hiring of head coach Andy Reid last season may have benefited no one more than Charles, as he put up career bests in total yards (1980) and touchdowns (19). That said, I am slightly more scared of Charles’ injury history than I am when it comes to the above two players. Ability to stay healthy is a skill, and so I have him lower than the McCoy and Peterson. It is worth noting that the difference in value between these three players is quite small, although McCoy and Charles are definitely better fits in a passing offense.

Tier 2: Eddie Lacy, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch

4. Lacy: I originally had Lacy in the above tier, but felt it was a bit too early to throw him in such a class. While Lacy already boasts a well rounded skill set, he has not established fear in his opponents as a home run hitter yet, something all of the above three have done. Lacy is a more physical runner, unleashing a beating on defenders every time he carries the ball. His forced missed tackles were right on par (56) with McCoy (57) and Peterson (58), while also impressing as a receiver and blocker. He seems like the most complete player on this list, but I need to see one more season out of him before I can bump him up to the top tier.

5. Forte: Before last season I wouldn’t really have thought about putting Forte this high. It had always been easy to notice him as a receiver (he has averaged 57 catches per year), but I never thought he was a special runner.  However as soon as I started watching 2013 preseason games, it was clear; Forte was faster. Maybe he had just been unhealthy before, in a better scheme with a new coach, or was now gelling with a vastly superior offensive line. Whatever the reason was, Forte put up an incredible 2013 season and brought stability to an offense that experienced injuries to it’s starting QB.

6. Lynch: Lynch is a case similar to Peterson; very impressive runner, but not so impressive at his other jobs. While it may not seem like a big deal, a balanced game is very crucial to staying on the field as a running back. If opposing teams know that your running back is no threat to catch a pass or block efficiently, it gives their defenses a lot of unseen flexibility. Lynch is solid in pass protection, but is barely average as a receiver. This might seem like a nitpick, but I have him this low almost solely because of his poor receiving skills. The guy broke 75 tackles last year, wouldn’t you like to see him catch more passes and get into more 1 on 1 situations with defensive backs?

Tier 3: Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, Demarco Murray, Gio Bernard

7. Gore

8. Bush

9. Murray

10. Bernard

Gore, Bush, and Murray are all very good players, but are unlikely to get better at this point in their careers. I keep waiting for Gore to regress, but the 49’ers have done a nice job, of limiting his snaps and getting the best performance out of him; he is still a very physical runner with great pass blocking skills while also contributing as a receiver. Reggie Bush may never have lived up to the billing of “the next Gale Sayers,” but he has firmly established himself as a dangerous rushing/receiving combo with incredible speed and quickness. DeMarco Murray has never had questions about his talent, boasting a great combination of speed, strength, and receiving skills. However every hit he takes seems likely to scare Cowboys fans, as he has missed time due to injury all three years in the league. Gio Bernard is the only young gun with a chance to rise on this list, and I think he is very likely to do just that. He has great quickness and strength to go along with good hands, and is a lock to become one of the leagues better running backs over the next few years.

Missed time or injured, but could bounce back: Arian Foster, C.J. Spiller, Shane Vereen

On the rise: Leveon Bell, Andre Ellington

My first set of 2014 predictions

Every year I put out at least a cursory projection of the NFL standings. Most of the time, I’m just guessing, but I’ve always wanted to add a little more rigor to my analysis.

This year, I went through each team’s schedule and did my best to estimate their win equity in each game, and projecting the results from each. After getting the totals, I had the league one game under .500, so I readjusted my totals on a few teams where I considered my initial predictions shaky to get to 256-256.

This isn’t a power ranking; this is a projection based on schedule as well as strength.

Six teams have half-wins; that doesn’t mean I’m predicting ties in certain games, just that that was the most clear and honest answer in my eyes and I couldn’t round it one way or the other for the sake of even numbers.

Anyway, here we go:

[table caption=”AFC” width=”640″ colwidth=”140|10|10|140|10|10|140|10|10|140|10|10″ colalign=”right|center|center|right|center|center|right|center|center|right|center|center”]
East,W,L,North,W,L,South,W,L,West,W,L
New England,11.5,4.5,Baltimore,9,7,Indianapolis,11,5,Denver,12,4
Miami,8,8,Cincinnati,8,8,Tennessee,7,9,San Diego,7.5,8.5
New York Jets,7,9,Pittsburgh,8,8,Houston,6,10,Kansas City,7.5,8.5
Buffalo,6,10,Cleveland,7,9,Jacksonville,6,10,Oakland,4,12
[/table]

[table caption=”NFC” width=”640″ colwidth=”140|10|10|140|10|10|140|10|10|140|10|10″ colalign=”right|center|center|right|center|center|right|center|center|right|center|center”]
East,W,L,North,W,L,South,W,L,West,W,L
Philadelphia,9,7,Green Bay,11,5,New Orleans,11,5,Seattle,11.5,4.5
Washington,8,8,Chicago,8,8,Carolina,8,8,San Francisco,11,5
Dallas,7,9,Detroit,6.5,9.5,Atlanta,7,9,Arizona,9,7
New York Giants,6.5,9.5,Minnesota,5,11,Tampa Bay,6,10,St. Louis,6,10
[/table]

Post any questions, comments, or curiosities you have. I’ll be the first to note that certain teams’ records vs. their perceived strength were distorted by strength of schedule: For example, Indianapolis’ is quite easy, while the AFC North’s is quite hard.

The Top 10: Cornerbacks

NFL Network’s top 100 list has now been running for a few years, and it consistently draws grumbles around the country from more knowledgeable fans. While the rankings are voted by the players, the process of gathering the votes seems mediocre at best; each player is asked to list their top 15 players in the league. There is no weighing of votes by position, as each player’s vote seems to carry equal value. (For example, it would make more sense if the ranking of receivers was weighted more heavily by the cornerbacks who cover them.) Defensive linemen and offensive linemen would likely have the best idea of who the toughest players were at their opposing positions. And the coaches, who may have the most important opinions of all, are not involved at all!

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Revisiting Predictions at Midseason (AFC)

(or: How I don’t have to think of a unique idea for a post or do any specific in-depth analysis but still manage to write something this week.)

Every team has played at least eight games. Some have played nine. That makes this the unofficial midpoint of the NFL season, and with it from columnists all across the land comes the time to look back, assign grades, compare predictions, and revise projections.

I don’t give out grades– they seem so arbitrary– but I will review, in brief, what I thought would happen with each team, what is happening, and what I think will happen.

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