Saturday, September 17, 2011

NFL ramblings

Vernon Davis' fantasy value:
I was listening to a fantasy football podcast from ESPN and a remark was made about not being that high on Vernon Davis because he has Alex Smith throwing to him.  In the last two years, Davis has put up 1,879 yards and 20 TDs.  And who was his quarterback for 20 of those 32 games?  Oh that’s right, Alex Smith.  Then again, Alex is entering his seventh year in the league.  You’re usually a worse quarterback in your seventh year than in your fifth or sixth, right?  Especially if you’ve replaced the worst head coach in the league, who knew nothing about offense, with an offensive minded coach.  And if you’ve added another weapon on offense, in the form of Braylon Edwards, that opposing defenses have to account for.  But yeah, this year Alex is really going to have a negative effect on Vernon.

Arizona's preseason ranking:
Most preseason rankings had the Arizona Cardinals finishing in second place in the NFC West.  Unless Kevin Kolb is the second coming of Kurt Warner (which I’m going to guess he’s not), how do they foresee that happening?  Since Arizona last won the division, they’ve lost Warner, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Karlos Dansby, Tim Hightower and Steve Breaston.  They’ve added Kevin Kolb, Kerry Rhodes, Joey Porter, and Patrick Peterson.  Kolb, Rhodes and Porter are downgrades from Warner, Rolle, and Dansby and Peterson’s just a rookie.  Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible that Arizona finishes in second.  But if you’re just looking at their team on paper, how on earth do you project them to do well?  Their roster looks seriously downgraded from their previous playoff teams.  And while they beat Carolina, they also gave up almost 500 yards to them.  Anything can happen, but I just don’t get why people think Kevin Kolb makes up for all the other roster changes.

Peyton Manning's value:
I was listening to Mike & Mike last week and they talked about what kind of effect that Manning being out for the year would have on the Colts.  They mentioned that it would have a more drastic effect on the team than the one Brady had when he missed the whole year.  That parlayed into saying that Manning is more valuable than Brady.  The problem I have with using this scenario as a comparison between Manning and Brady is that it’s not really about them.  It’s about their back-ups.  The man who stepped in for Brady that year was Matt Cassel.  The man who will step in for Manning is Kerry Collins.  One, it turns out, is a starting caliber quarterback who had been in the system for three years prior.  The other is a just-retired player who has been in the system for three weeks.  You don’t use the drop-off from Manning to Collins or Curtis Painter with Brady’s drop-off to Cassel to compare Manning and Brady's value to each other.  That isn’t a commendation of Manning.  It’s an indictment of his back-up.  The true value of Manning and Brady should be done by comparing Manning and Brady.  Not by comparing how the Patriots do with Cassel versus how the Colts do with Collins/Painter.  Saying Manning is more valuable because his back-up is of less quality is meaningless.  The Colts are worse off than the Patriots because they have a worse back-up quarterback.  Not because they have a better starting quarterback.

Manning's injury may be Luck-y:
With news that Peyton Manning had a third neck surgery, people have suggested he just shut it down for the year.  Not only would that be the best thing for him, but it could benefit the team long-term if it put them in a position to draft Andrew Luck.  I hope that doesn’t happen.  Since they’ve had Peyton, they’ve put no time into developing a backup quarterback.  If that backfires on them while Peyton’s out, they deserve that.  You can’t put all your eggs in one basket and not expect disaster when that basket breaks.  But if that were to land them the best QB prospect out there, because it happened to be the year Luck was coming out, that would just be ridiculous.  The best QB in the draft should go to the team that needs it in the near future.  A team with a starting quarterback of Manning’s caliber should have to develop a quarterback that could eventually take over.  Just like the Patriots did with Cassel and are doing with Mallet while they still have Brady, what the Packers did with Rodgers while they had Favre, and even what the Eagles did with Kolb while they had McNabb.  Not have one fall in their lap while their star quarterback is injured.

Record-breaking Week 1:
On a positive football related note, the NFL had a very strong opening weekend.  Not just in quality, but record breaking as well.  Rodgers and Brees set a record for each having 300+ yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions during the same game on opening weekend.  Ted Ginn Jr. became the first player to return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the first game of the year.  Cam Newton threw for 400+ yards, the most by a rookie in his first game.  Sebastian Janikowski tied the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal.  Dallas lost for the first time in history when leading by 14+ points in the 4th quarter, bringing their overall record to 241-1-1.  And Brady threw for 500+ yards, which is a team record.  There's definitely worse ways to kick off a new season than with half a dozen historic happenings.  Should be a good year.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

NFL Predictions 2011

For fun, I thought I'd make some predictions about the NFL season.  Here are my guesses on who will make the playoffs, who will advance to the Super Bowl, and who will win MVP.

Playoff Teams:
I think the AFC playoff teams are the easiest to predict, as it will look pretty similar to last year, with the Patriots, Steelers, Jets, and Ravens all returning.  The only differences I see are the Chargers and Texans replacing the Chiefs and Colts.  With Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson not holding out this year and the possibility that Ryan Mathews stays healthy, the Chargers offense could be even more explosive than last year.  And the defense should stay solid, if not improve, with the additions of Takeo Spikes, Travis LaBoy, and Bob Sanders.  I think the Texans have a couple things going for them.  One is that Peyton Manning may miss a couple games (or more), presumably removing the Colts from their usual playoff spot.  The other is that their defense should be improved, with the signing of Johnathan Joseph and the hiring of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator.  With the regression of the Colts and the strengthening of their defense, Houston should walkaway with the division.

Like the AFC, I see four NFC teams returning to the playoffs from last year: the Falcons, Eagles, Packers, and Saints.  The most obvious newcomer to the playoffs this year should be the Rams.  The Seahawks QB situation appears to be abysmal.  The Niners have a new coaching staff.  The Cardinals have upgraded the QB position.  However, they're now without Hightower, Breaston, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Joey Porter's a year older.  I think the worst case scenario for the Rams is that they end up tied with the Niners going into their week 17 match-up.  And since that game is in St. Louis, it's safe to assume that they advance to playoffs even in their worst case scenario.

The final NFC playoff team is trickier to predict.  I think Chicago and Tampa probably take a step back, I think the Lions are probably a year away from the playoffs and the Giants look decimated by injuries.  Contrary to most people's opinion, I actually think the Vikings have a shot.  They no longer have drama surrounding the head coach and I think McNabb is an upgrade over Favre.  He had a decent season in Washington, which he should be able to outperform that with the likes of Peterson, Harvin, Schiancoe and Jenkins surrounding him.  The question for the Vikings is whether or not their defense will slip, with the subtractions of Pat Williams and Ray Edwards.  The other candidate to make the playoffs is the Cowboys.  Their offense should improve, if Romo can stay healthy.  And while I don't trust their defense, it's not like there's much room to regress.  I think the Vikings will be better than people think, but Dallas has an easier schedule (and probably even division, at this point).  So I'm going with the Cowboys to make the playoffs.

Super Bowl picks:
I think the Rams and Ravens are long shots and I don't think the Cowboys or Texans will have good enough defenses to make it to the Super Bowl.  That leaves the Packers, Steelers, Eagles, Falcons, Saints, Patriots, Jets, and Chargers.  Most teams don't make it to the Super Bowl two years in a row, so it would be tough to pick the Packers or Steelers.  The Eagles are the most talented team in the league.  In a normal year, they'd be a near lock to make the Super Bowl.  But with limited time to jell, it's hard to pick them.  The Falcons are a very good team.  They would probably be my favorite to win the NFC, if it weren't for the Saints.  Not only are the Saints a very good team, but they're two years removed from the Super Bowl (so no hangover) and they have the most continuity and stability in the league.  Which, following a lockout, historically bodes well for not only a Super Bowl appearance, but a win as well.  Who do the Saints play?  I think it comes down to the Patriots, the Jets, and the darkhorse Chargers.  The Patriots are supremely talented, but their last two playoff appearances have been shaky.  The Jets have been to the AFC Championship game two years in a row, but they're starting to feel like the team that gets really close without ever getting over the hump.  Therefore, I'll pick the Chargers to make a surprise Super Bowl appearance.  I might as well pick an underdog, since the Saints seem like the safest pick in football.  Regardless of who comes out of the AFC, I think the Saints will win the Super Bowl.

Final rankings for Super Bowl Favorites: Saints, Falcons, Eagles, Packers, Cowboys, Rams for the NFC and Chargers, Patriots, Jets, Steelers, Texans, and Ravens for the AFC.

I sort of feel like it's Michael Vick's award to lose.  But while that may give him a head start, I think it also leaves little room for error.  So I'm guessing that it comes down to Philip Rivers or Matt Schaub.  Both could have monster years.  Will Schaub benefit from the narrative of taking his team from third place to first place?  Or will he suffer from the possible narrative that it took a Peyton Manning neck injury for the Texans to make the playoffs?  I went into this thinking it would be the former, and that I'd pick Schaub, but I'm going to guess that Manning's storyline will compete for attention with Schaub's production.  So I'm going with Philip Rivers to be the MVP.

No matter how right or wrong my predictions end up, it should be an exciting year of football.