Saturday, March 29, 2014

MLB Predictions, 2014

While I have five of the six divisions with different division winners, as compared to last year, overall, I did not have any great surprises, I tended to clump the teams towards .500, and the variation per team was not all that different from last year.

American League
AL East #1 Division (+/- 20)
A different version of Moneyball helps the Rays to once again overachieve and capture the most competent division in baseball.
Tampa Bay Rays 90-72
Boston Red Sox 87-75
New York Yankees 87-75
Toronto Blue Jays 82-80
Baltimore Orioles 79-83

AL Central #4 (-1)
If the Royals do not win the division this year, then possibly I will not pick them to win it next season.. But that is rather unlikely.
Kansas City Royals 88-74
Detroit Tigers 88-74
Cleveland Indians 80-82
Chicago White Sox 76-86
Minnesota Twins 72-90

AL West #5 (-16)
The Angels' lineup finally gels and the Angels manage to squeak past the Athletics for the division title.
Los Angeles Angels 87-75
Oakland Athletics 87-75
Texas Rangers 86-76
Seattle Mariners 71-91
Houston Astros 58-104

National League
NL East #6 (-17)
May the least incompetent team win?  This division kind of seems to lack hitting.  I see the Nationals being able to take advantage of the poor division and grabbing a playoff spot.
Washington Nationals 89-73
Atlanta Braves 84-78
Philadelphia Phillies 79-83
New York Mets 72-90
Miami Marlins 64-98

NL Central #3 (6)
I possibly should have kept the Cardinals on top, but I wanted to see a change at the top of the division so the Reds were given the benefit of the doubt and were named the division winner.
Cincinnati Reds 88-74
St. Louis Cardinals 88-74
Pittsburgh Pirates 79-83
Milwaukee Brewers 77-85
Chicago Cubs 69-91

NL West #2 (8)
The lone repeat division winner captures the division due to the mediocrity of the rest of the division and their impressive roster.
Los Angeles Dodgers 91-71
San Francisco Giants 81-81
Colorado Rockies 79-83
Arizona Diamondbacks  77-85
San Diego Padres 75-87

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Quarterback Rankings for 2014

In this post I will be ranking all 32 starters, two free agents, and about two dozen backup QBs. The +, -, or NA (No ranking previously) after each quarterback's name is how much that quarterback has moved from my first rankings.  The grade right before the end of each quarterback's notes is the amount of support that quarterback received from the offensive line, the rushing attack, and his wide receivers.   My OL grades were mostly just educated guesses, RB and WR grades are certainly more accurate.
       I was a little tempted to grade the defensive side of the ball as well in a simple letter grade, but I ended up passing on doing that since it would have added even more research and time spent on this post and I figure that I already spent enough time on this post and that it is more than sufficiently long.

My rankings for the quarterbacks were based partially on their play as a whole in their careers, play this past season, and also as a predictive guess as to how each would be able to play in a random game in 2014.
The overall average grade for the quarterbacks is a low B-.  At first I thought that I had too many high grades, and, 'if everyone is above average, then no one is' came to mind, but I suppose that a B- average isn't too out of the ordinary for an average grade.

I had not looked at my previous post on QB rankings to check how far QBs should move up or down until I was close to the end of editing this, but I found it somewhat funny that even though I had more QBs that I did not officially place into the rankings this season, I still somehow ended up with 48 players officially ranked in each post.

The next time I rank quarterbacks I may be tempted to forgo putting in backups or FAs as normal rankings and simply rank the starting quarterbacks who have started the most games for their team, and then rank the backups and FAs in a separate ranking.  Seeing quarterbacks like Flacco, Tannehill, and Manning, etc., in the 30's doesn't entirely seem right.. Though, at the same time, I do not have an extremely high opinion of any of those three QBs.

This year, I am willing to say that there are six QBs in the NFL who can be bestowed the title 'Elite'.  On to the rankings..

A+: The Commanders of the League Division
1.  Peyton Manning +3  Sure Manning is provided with one of the best receiving corps in the NFL, a somewhat average running game, and a fair O-line, but he helps to provide that overall group of good players with the opportunities to perform as great players.  He has the ability to produce stats and dominate an opponent like no other player.  Manning was a stat monster this season, breaking various NFL regular season records.  Those stats, combined with Rodger's injury, were enough to boost Manning to #1.  Below average to average offensive line, decent rushing attack, very good receiving corps.  Offensive support for Manning, B+. 

Tom Brady had many moments of frustration
 this season with both himself and his WRs, but
he still helped to lead the Patriots to a 12-4 record.

(Author of the picture, Jeffrey Beall.)
2.  Aaron Rodgers -1 Even though I think that Rodgers is just a smidgen below Manning, that isn't to lessen anything that Rodgers does.  In fact, in some respects, Rodgers is sometimes asked to do more than  what Manning is asked to do.  Rodgers molds poor O-line play, Eddie Lacy (somewhat of a revelation to the Packers in that they may finally have a competent running game), and very good receivers into a top 5 offense.  Support to Rodgers, B-. 

3.  Tom Brady -1 While Brady did have many more struggles than he normally does, in some regards he still provided one of his best years at QB for the Patriots.  Considering that Brady was behind a slightly above average offensive line, a mismatched group of running backs, and that he was at times throwing to receivers that I had never even heard of before, he provided a top-level QB performance. Normally the coach that each QB has does not have much of an impact on the grade for offensive support, but having Coach Belichick keeps Brady's offensive support grade above a D+ or D-.  C- 

A: The Remaining Elite QBs Division
4.  Phillip Rivers +5 This is the Phillip Rivers I know and like.  The aberration of the previous two seasons of poor play by Rivers aside, Rivers is an elite quarterback.  Although, to be honest, Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt have a considerable amount to do with his improvement back to eliteness.  (I'm just throwing this out there, but if the Browns really wanted to be top 3 team in the AFC, then all they wound need to do is trade for/buyout Coach McCoy and Whisenhunt and sign Tim Tebow. I think the Brown's offense would be in the top 10 and since their defense doesn't need to be substantially fixed at all it would also be in the top 10 and the Browns would be in the area of a top 6 team.)
        Coach McCoy said before the season began that he thought Rivers could have a 70% completion percentage at the end of the year, and while people semi-laughed at him before the season, Rivers finished at 69.5%.  Not too shabby. Despite having a lack of options at WR, partially due to a number of injuries, Rivers still had great success.  The Charger's rushing attack is about average, O-line play slightly above average, and WR's a bit below average.  Support for Rivers, C-.

While having LeSean McCoy available to juke defenders certainly
 did help Foles, he was able to turn in one of the most impressive
abbreviated seasons ever by an NFL QB.  (link)
5. Nick Foles +/- NA Foles had the fastest rise to the rank of the elites that I have ever seen.  While Foles only has a little over a year of starting experience, I was willing to be a little bit risky and place him in the top 6 based on his stellar performances throughout the season.  (Except for the games in which he and the Eagles played the Cowboys, he had some poor moments in those games.)  His TD to INT ratio, at 27-2, was absolutely unreal.. And thus it is unsustainable for the future, but still incredible nonetheless. He is working with a top 3 running back, a fair offensive line, one of the best coaches in the NFL, and, other than one great play-maker receiver, semi-poor wide receivers. So while his situation is somewhat desirable, he did have an amazing season.  B

6.  Drew Brees -3 If Drew Brees is at home in a dome, then he is probably the 3rd best QB in the NFL, but if Drew Brees is in the elements on the road, then he is closer to only being a top half QB.  Getting back Coach Peyton was great news for Brees.  Brees can have some of the prettiest passes in the game.  He has a decent O-line, a poor rushing attack, one of the best coaches in the NFL, somewhat decent WR's, and a monster TE.  B+

A-: The On the Verge of Eliteness Division
7.  Andrew Luck +9 (approx.)  While I did contemplate moving Luck up to the Elite, to me, he hasn't shown a level of consistency yet to be considered an elite quarterback.  However, that's not to take away from anything that he does, he improves a below-average team to playoff-caliber level.  He is one of the smartest QB's in the game and accentuates his and the Colts' play greatly because of it.  Below average O-line, poor rushing attack, generally fair WR's.  Tempted to go with a D+, but I'll settle with a C-.

8.  Tony Romo -1 Viewed by some as a below average QB, Romo provides the Cowboys with great QB play week in and week out.  One of the more consistently great QB's in the NFL.  Below average O-line, decent rushing attack, and some decent WR's.  C+

9.  Matt Ryan +4 This was finally the year that Matty Ice couldn't take the heat and melted..  Failed attempts at humor aside, he and the Falcons struggled mightily in close games for the first time in his career. Injuries to other offensive players certainly hurt his consistency, but overall it was still a fairly disappointing season for Ryan.  Average O-line, generally a horrible rushing attack, very good WR's.  C

B+: The Still a Franchise QB Division
10.  Cam Newton +5 Up until a few weeks into this season, there were many questions about Newton's ability to lead, his playmaking abilities for the last few years, and why the Panthers couldn't seem to win the close game. But, the narrative has changed drastically since then, because the Panthers won 11 of 12 games, with the lone loss being played in a close to impossible place to win, the Saints' Superdome.  Newton was a very good QB before this breakthrough, and remains just that: a very good QB. His overall stats are in many ways virtually the same in the three seasons that he has played in the NFL.  I'm not willing to place him into the A grade until he has another year making winning plays and leading winning drives. Below average O-line, same for the rushing attack, below average WRs.  D+

11. Russell Wilson +/- NA This seemed like a good spot for Wilson, however I was a bit tempted to give him just a B.  (I did write the majority of this blog post before the playoffs even began, but I still certainly think that Wilson should be at or very close to #11.  Wilson's play in the playoffs does not change my opinion of him very much.) He can help to be the facilitator of an explosive offense, however, he has more help than most QBs which should be taken into account.  His record over two years is impressive, but if it were possible to swap Luck and him over the past two seasons, then I think that Wilson would have struggled with some of the aspects of the Colts' offense, and the Colts would have consequently likely not been a playoff-caliber team either last season or this season.. (However, they still would have made the playoffs this season.  They would have made the playoffs because of circumstances inside their division, namely the putridity of it, not because of actually being a playoff-caliber team.)  Good O-line, great rushing attack, good WRs. B+ 

B: The Worthy of a Starting Job Division
12.  Josh McCown +/- NA While I do not think the differences between McCown and Cutler are substantial, I do have McCown marginally higher than Cutler, thus I do think that he is the better QB, albeit slightly.  I was never able to watch very much of McCown's games, however, in what I saw he was a decent QB and his QBR numbers were somewhat off the charts considering that they were even above Manning's numbers.  Therefore, I am willing to give McCown a very solid B.

13.  Matthew Stafford -2 Stafford has the opportunity to throw to one of the best WRs to ever play the game, a fair offensive line, an explosive rushing attack, and yet somehow Stafford is one of the league leaders in interceptions..  Something doesn't compute. Despite that large negative, Stafford does have the ability to throw for 300 yards on any given Sunday.  While I know effectively nothing about the situation, I kind of wonder what his leadership is like, because, to me, considering the firepower the Lions have, leadership seems to be one of the missing ingredients for the Lions to be a top NFC team.  B-.

14.  Colin Kaepernick +/- NA Kaepernick by-in-large took a semi-major step back this season, as expected.  I found it a bit humorous how some analysts/experts were saying that he had a decent chance at being the best QB that ever played the game..  He hadn't even played a full season of games and yet some were ready to anoint him as having the potential to be the greatest ever? Really? That aside, he was still a fairly decent quarterback and generally provided the 49ers with winning plays. OL is decent, rushing attack is above average, and WR's are slightly above average.  B-

15.  FA Tim Tebow -1 Sure he gives his team a bit of a lightning storm since the media and the rest of the league is somewhat inclined to talk about him, but that isn't a very good reason to not pursue signing him.  Props to NE for showcasing him for a little while, but still, for now, no team has the guts to actually pick up an above average QB.  

16.  Matt Flynn +21 (Gigantic leap up the board for Flynn, I don't like to make leaps greater than 10 in improvement, but here, since he was ranked so lowly to begin with, I'll make an exception.) One start almost never showcases a QB's skills accurately, and Flynn's one start against the Redskins was a bit of a joke in multiple regards.  When he wasn't hesitant he provided good throws for the Oakland receivers and helped to lead the Raiders to a quick 14-0 lead, however, once the Raiders took the lead, they became outrageously conservative and asked Flynn to make throws which are not accommodating to him.  Consequently, the Redskins came back and took the victory from the jaws of defeat.  I was fine with the Raiders cutting him though, since, to them, he was a sunk-cost and it provided the Packers with the opportunity to pick him up to replace Rodgers. (After Flynn was picked up by the Bills.) 

I tend to agree more with QBR over the normal 0-158.3 rating, however I don't think that it is always a very accurate assessment of a QB's play either.  QBR said that Flynn was the worst qualified starting QB.. Which, to me, is a joke.  While Flynn certainly didn't look like Rodgers out there, (and no one does..), and about 1 out of every 10 drop-backs was a sack, he did usually look miles above the Hennes and Bradfords of the world.  

Flynn, like Tebow.. (I know, it is so incredible..)  needs to be put into a '2 minute' spread type offense where he is only asked to make 1-3 reads each play in a quick-paced offense.  He and Tebow struggle when they are given time to subconsciously ask themselves whether or not they should make a certain pass or not.  When Flynn and Tebow are put into situations in which they are asked to make a quick decision, trust their 'flawed' mechanics and the intended receiver, and are put into a fast-paced offense, then they are at their best.  It is no coincidence that Tebow and Flynn have the ability to lead incredible comebacks.  Generally, in situations that are dire for their teams, it is more likely that the two QBs are placed into situations which are more advantageous to their skill-sets and they become semi-high risk and very high reward QBs.

 And yes, both QBs owe some of their success to other teams being stunned and foolish.  Flynn and the Packers benefited from the Cowboys refusing to rush the ball against a below-average rushing defense.  While Tebow and the Broncos benefited from some teams, such as the Bears, going into a prevent defense against him and the Broncos.  Green Bay is not some anomaly place and team wherein Flynn 'magically' becomes a competent QB. No, Green Bay is simply a place wherein the Packers are more likely to utilize his skill-set properly.  Flynn and Tebow are both above average QBs that should be starters somewhere in the NFL.

17.  Jay Cutler -5 Cutler was criticized for not playing a few years back and then this year was criticized for playing..  Sometimes a guy just can't win..  He certainly helps Chicago with his play, however, other QBs can be signed for less money.  In a world with no economic problems, signing both McCown and him would be the right move, however that world is not reality, hence I think the correct move for the Bears is that they should sign McCown instead of him. (I would also say that is the move less likely to happen.) [] Chicago's O-line is about average, rushing attack is decent, and wide receivers are also decent.  B-

18.  Ben Roethlisberger -10 (This is probably too large of a fall, but I was unimpressed with large portions of Roethlisberger's play.The biggest problem I have with Roethlisberger is that I have a difficult time spelling his name and have to spell check it every other time I type it.. Okay, joking, joking, that's not his biggest problem.  Silliness aside, he struggled mightily with his consistency throughout the season and as such the offense had major difficulties.  OL below average, rushing attack was poor at the beginning of the season, but it picked up to the point of being average, and WRs are below average. C-

B-: The Generally a Quality Starter Division
19.  Jake Locker +17 (Locker certainly jumped up the rankings this season, he was also an exception since he was originally too low.) The Titans provided an early season surprise with their play, but faded quickly down the stretch with Locker suffering an injury.  I have stated before that I like Locker's abilities, I think the Titans should sign a long-term deal with him.  OL above average, rushing attack average, WRs below average.  C

20.  Sam Bradford +12 Bradford's injury puts some interesting pressure onto the Rams.. I think that Bradford is an above average QB, but the dilemma comes in that he is only that: above average.. With the offensive skill-players that the Rams have they probably need a healthy B quarterback or above to be a good team.  I'm not certain what the Rams should do with him, I would very slightly lean towards signing a long term deal with him, but only very slightly. Neither decision comes without resulting problems.  O-line average, rushing attack above average, WRs average.  C

21.  Alex Smith -1 When provided with good teams and scenarios, Smith provides a level of competency that I was unable to foresee two years ago.  His QBR points to him being a below average QB, which I agree with, however he is able to manage a game very competently.  OL above average, Rushing attack is great, and WRs are above average.  B-

22. Robert Griffin the III B- -6 (approx.)  Griffin's injuries are very troubling, but I don't think that he is a walking injury waiting to happen.  He should still be able to have a decent career.  OL very poor, rushing attack below average, receivers slightly below average.  D+

23.  Carson Palmer +4 At times it was hard to tell whether or not Palmer was accentuating the Cardinals chances to win or if he was holding them back..  That aside, Palmer was generally a fairly decent QB and  he certainly provided better passes than the mess of a QB situation that the Cardinals had last season.  A much better OL than last season, though still only up to about average, rushing attack is below average, and WRs are above average.  C-

24. Michael Vick -14 Vick provided a decent level of play until he was, get this:..  (I hope you're seated for this, since you probably won't see it coming..) Injured.  At this point in his career it might be better for him to go to some franchise such as the Browns or Jags, and then between him and some other backup/starter they could possibly provide enough decent play for that team to be a competent and possibly even playoff-caliber team.

25. Kyle Orton -3 Other than when something like the media and its hullabaloo, thanks to Tebow, gets to his psyche, Orton is a somewhat reliable quarterback.  He has some high risk throws, but in general is a fairly decent quarterback.  He isn't exactly very old, so, in my humble opinion, he should quite possibly be a starter somewhere in the league.  However, an argument could certainly be made that his level of play is a fairly known entity, and as such younger and more volatile options at QB should be pursued for teams without a 'franchise QB'. 

26.  Kirk Cousins +/- NA He didn't acquit himself very well in his 3 starts, but I think a large reason behind that happening was because of Washington's horrible OL.  I'm not willing to give up on Cousins yet.

27.  Matt Hasselbeck -8 Hasselbeck is a quality backup who could potentially be a good alternative for teams across the league when those teams have openings that will last for more than 2 weeks, such as the Packers when Rodgers went down. Since Hasselbeck happens to be the first backup QB that I've mentioned without playing time, apparently Hasselbeck is the best backup QB as well.

C+: The Manageable Starters Division
File:Matt Schaub tackled.jpg
Schaub impressively bookended the
 season with interceptions.  His time in
Houston may be short. (Author: AJ Guel)
28.  Matt Schaub -23  I fail to see how Schaub fell from the division of QB On the Verge of Eliteness, to the level of (semi-) manageable starting quarterback.  His fall from the verge of the elite was very fast, but that can certainly occur when when you pass the other team a touchdown in 4 consecutive weeks.  OL is below average, RBs suffered injuries, but are normally decent, and WRs are fair.  C+ 

29. Andy Dalton -12 (Dalton probably improved his play this season, and as such, either this is a somewhat poor ranking or the previous ranking was too low.) I probably have Dalton too low, but at the same time his consistency leaves a lot to be desired.  One week Dalton is a top 5 quarterback, then the next week he is a bottom five starting quarterback.  O-line above average, rushing attack is decent, WRs are some of the best in the league.  B

30. Terrelle Pryor +/- NA I largely agree with Pryor's previous agent on this one, at times it seemed like the Raiders were actively trying to sabotage Pryor's career.  I fail to see why management/coaching would desire to do so, but to me, that is indeed what it appeared that they were trying to do.  I am still of the opinion that Flynn would have been able to lead the Raiders to a semi-decent record, even while also setting a modern day record for sacks taken. However, next to Flynn, Pryor was the next best thing on the roster for the Raiders and he provided them with a genuine spark when he played, but as soon as he was injured the reigns were taken away from him and handed to McGloin.  O-line somewhat horrendous, rushing attack above average, and the support from WRs is horrible.  D

31. Case Keenum +/- NA Keenum may not have led the Texans to a single victory, but I still mostly like what I saw from him.  I'm not certain if he is the Texan's QB of the future or not, I would lean towards sticking with him as the starter and fixing other needs on the roster, such as drafting someone like Jadeovon Clowney in the NFL draft.  

32.  Chase Daniels -19 (He fell in the rankings through no real fault of his own.)  I'm not entirely certain why no team has ever taken a flyer on Daniels as a starter, sure he has that occasional ugly pass, such as his last pass against the Chargers, but he has the abilities to be Drew Brees lite.  I think a team should take a risk on him.  And while one game sample size means almost nothing, if Succup had just been able to hit another field goal, then the Chiefs second stringers would have beaten the Chargers 1st stringers. 

C: The Handed a Starting Gig, Despite Poor Play Division
33. Joe Flacco -9 (Another ranking that is way too tough, even if I am fairly tough on him, Flacco should likely be a bit higher.) How about that fluke season last year?  Flacco had the most interceptions by a QB not named Eli Manning this year?  No way..  I never would have guessed..  This is the Joe Fluko Flacco that I know and like, although really it wasn't all his fault or really even close to all his fault. He had almost a complete lack of support from the running game and his wide-receivers.
       Not to be a broken record, but I hope that management is happy with the decision to likely give 120+ million dollars to a quarterback who has a career normal QB rating of 83.7, a QB with a career completion percentage a tick above 60%, a quarterback who doesn't pass the eye test, and a QB who has never ended a season in the top ten of QBR. (This season he finished 25th in QBR.)  The money being tossed to Flacco makes it rather difficult to sign as many weapons as they would like to sign. OL slightly below average, rushing attack poor, and WRs also poor.  D+

34. Mike Glennon +/- NA Considering the circumstances, Glennon did a somewhat admirable job in Tampa.  He did not post monster stats, or really anything close to them, but he provided a decent level of consistency at QB.  If I would be the head of Tbay's management, then I would not want him as my starting QB because there are higher ceiling quarterbacks available, but he certainly isn't a horrible choice to be a team's quarterback.  OL below average, rushing attack about average, WRs slightly below average.  C-

35.  Matt McGloin +/- NA I fail to see why McGloin was receiving such glowing praise from the media for a handful of weeks.. He didn't exactly lead the Raiders to many victories.. And he didn't look particularly impressive throwing interceptions either.  In my opinion, he shouldn't have seen the field beyond a game or two, but that certainly shouldn't be held against him..  Depending on what management does, he could have an interesting future in Oakland. 

36.  Eli Manning -30 (Kind of a ridiculous fall for Manning.. I should possibly cap how far a QB can fall as well.) Manning and Tannehill probably shouldn't be this low, but that's just the way things worked out.  I think that Eli should say that he is an elite quarterback so that people can scoff at him again. since it worked out pretty well for him last time..

37.  Ryan Tannehill +/- NA -15 I haven't seen enough of Tannehill to really have a solid opinion on his ability to play QB, but the limited amount of action that I have seen plus his statistics haven't impressed me too much.  Bad OL, mediocre rushing attack, below average WRs.  D+

C-: The Occasionally Serviceable Quarterback Division
38.  Josh Freeman -5 Freeman was another quarterback with a semi-precipitous fall from competency to incompetence.  I partially fail to see what caused the situation in Tampa to go so dreadfully wrong, and, for whatever reason, Freeman couldn't seem to find his accuracy early this season.  Also, his one start for Minnesota was a bit of a joke..  That situation set up everyone to fail..  You sign a guy with confidence issues and immediately ask him to lead your team without him having a firm understanding of your playbook?  Yeah, I'm sure that scenario won't fail in all respects.. And after that one start, the Vikings were paying him millions of dollars for what purpose?  To sit on the bench?  Well, actually.. Yes.  Unsuccessful management at its finest.

39.  Geno Smith +/- NA I'm not entirely certain why I ever had vaguely high hopes for Smith..  While he did provide winning plays at times for the Jets and it is way too early to give up on him, by-in-large he simply turned the ball over and provided the other team with more points than his own.   He does have a lack of options at WR, but still he should have provided more of a spark to the Jets offense. OL below average, rushing attack below average, and WRs are poor.  D+

40.  Chad Henne +/- NA Henne isn't a horrible choice to use as a tanking quarterback, but really he is probably a little too competent..  As such, the Jaguars are still in a scenario where they have no legitimate franchise starting QB and likely will not be able to grab one in the draft, unless they trade away multiple picks. Since this should technically be about him, Henne did do a decentish job given the horrible circumstances of the Jaguars.  By my grades, he was given the worst support in the NFL, but he still, at least, turned that into 4 wins.  OL is a fair amount below average, the rushing attack at times was horrible, WRs are also poor.  D-

41.  Ryan Fitzpatrick -7 Fitzpatrick is a very competent backup QB. But, he has effectively no unrealized potential remaining and is a known entity.   He shouldn't have started the rest of the way for the Titans as starting QB, but that is just the way that some failed managements like to do things.  Fitzpatrick is a good stop-gap, a 1 to a maximum of 3 games starting QB, he isn't a 'Locker just got injured and he'll be out for handful of games so let's put in Fitz until Locker is ready to go' kind of guy.  Decent job by Fitzpatrick with limited weapons.  OL above average, rushing attack below average, and WRs are poor.  C-

42.  Kellen Clemens +/- NA Clemens did help lead the Rams to a 4-5 record during his tenure at QB.. (What that accomplished for the Rams I have no idea.)  And he was a better quarterback than I would have given him credit for.

43.  Matt Cassel -14 Cassel had a few good plays for the Vikings, but he is largely a known entity so I fail to see what the Vikings were gaining by playing him.  OL average, rushing attack is decent, WRs are fairly bad.  C-

D+ through D-: The Third String QBs With Little Upside Division
44.  Christian Ponder -13 By this point, Ponder can probably be considered a first round bust.  I think he can be a decent backup, but his starting quarterback days are likely over.

45.  Jason Campbell +/- NA At rare times Campbell provided the Browns with a spark on offense, but most of the time, other than via Josh Gordon, the offense simply failed to move the ball.  OL average, rushing attack is poor, WRs are poor with the exception of Gordon.  D+

46.  Brandon Weeden +/- NA It may happen to be a bit past the time for the Browns to give up on the Weeden era ever having great success in Cleveland.  I'm just saying.  I hope some team picks him up as a backup, but he doesn't appear to be very close to starting material.

F+ and below: The You're still in the NFL? Division
47.  Curtis Painter +/- 0 Welcome back Mr. Painter, I'm not sure why you are still employed in the NFL, maybe you are a great friend of the Mannings?  Painter has a stellar career normal (0-158.3) rating of 57.6, and consequently he likely has a QBR less than 36, yet he is still in the league backing up Mannings.  

48.  Blaine Gabbert -3 Even Peyton Manning was awful for a year when he was just coming into the league.. Sadly for Gabbert, he's not even close to the same realm as Peyton Manning.  It is possible that an organization not named the Jacksonville Jaguars could provide new life for his NFL career, but not very likely.

Rankings of a few players I forgot to add to my original list.
Tony Tebow A+ #(The number simply means what spot I would guess they would fit in.. For Tony Tebow it would be approximately at Tom Brady's spot.) I still think that Tony Tebow would make an elite quarterback.

Brian Hoyer B- #24 Hoyer didn't provide fantastic stats, but he did provide something that the other Browns quarterbacks had much difficulty in providing: victories. Hoyer provided two victories in his two games that he started and finished, while the other Browns QBs were an embarrassing 2 and 12. Hoyer at least provided competency at the most important position in the game.  While I would much prefer that the Browns go the route of a Tim Tebow, Vince Young, or even Matt Schaub, I would also be somewhat interested in seeing what Hoyer could do with the Browns if given more playing time.
Vince Young B- #25 Young is another QB with a good record, but 'lousy' mechanics, and hence he is out of the league.  Suffice it to say, I don't think this is the correct route.  Some team should take a flyer on Young.
Colt McCoy B- #27 I don't have a lot to say for McCoy, I simply want to mention that he should also be given the opportunity to be a starter somewhere.  

Seneca Wallace C+ #28 Wallace played decently when asked to step in, but soon an injury took the starting role away from him as well.
Kevin Kolb C+ #29 Kolb may still has some potential left untapped.  He should be a decent backup at worst.
Ryan Mallet C+ #29 I'm guessing that learning from Belichick and Brady isn't a horrible circumstance for Mallet.
Matt Barkley C+ #31 Barkley didn't impress in his playing time, but I still have semi-high expectations for him.
Thad Lewis C+ #31 Lewis is still somewhat of an unknown entity and he didn't play too poorly when given the chance.

EJ Manuel C- #38 Manuel didn't show that he could be the leader of the Bills.  While one year, especially a year with semi-major injuries, doesn't prove anything, Manuel has not looked like a very good QB.

Scott Tolzein D+ #44 Tolzein understandably struggled in attempting to take over the starting QB role in place of Rodgers.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

NFL Playoff Predictions, 2014

Wild Card Weekend
AFC
#4 Colts vs #5 Chiefs
Weather could have a large impact on this game if the Colts would happen to open the retractable roof.. But, since that isn't going to happen, this will be the only game that won't have to deal with subpar weather conditions.  Both teams somewhat greatly overachieved this season.  I would like to pick against both teams..  Seven defensive touchdowns for the Chiefs on the year, which was the best in the NFL.  The Colts have beaten quality opponents, the Chiefs have not.  

Indy had 14 TOs on the season while the New York Giants had 44.  The Colts played the tough NFC West and the poor AFC South, while the Chiefs played the tough AFC West and the semi-poor NFC East division.  The Colts have the much better quarterback and a much better record against common opponents.  

Running Charles 60% would probably be the right decision for the Chiefs.  Indy is the better team and, if not for some injuries and beating the Chiefs in the regular season, they would be my pick.  All of this should lead me to picking the Colts, but I think  that in this game the Chiefs won't have a net TO deficit of 4, more penalties, and 19 fewer plays than the Colts.  #5 Chiefs win.

#3 Bengals vs #6 Chargers
Similar scenario for this game as the Colts-Chiefs game.  This will be the third week that the Bengals will have prepared for the Chargers, since Cincinnati had a bye week to prepare for the Chargers in their matchup this season.

Each of Philly's home openers from the past four years went on to win the SB. The Eagles happened to face the Chargers in their opener this season.  Cincy has the advantage up front on both sides of the ball, but I can't quite trust Dalton to win a playoff game over Rivers.  Even though Dalton may not need to anyways..  (The AFC side of the playoffs is about to become very lopsided with the AFC West..)  #6 Chargers victory

NFC
#6 Saints vs #3 Eagles
The Superdome Saints and the Saints on the road are two entirely different teams.  Philly has a complete lack of quality victories. The Saints have some impressive victories, but they occur in New Orleans.  Weather will probably not affect the game's result as much as people think.  The Eagles are the poorer team overall, but at home I think they can pull off the victory.  #3 Eagles win.

#4 Packers #5 49ers
The 49ers had a few quality wins, while the Packers had effectively none.In previous matchups the 49ers have dominated the Packers on the offensive side of the ball.  Both teams have somewhat legitimate SB aspirations.

I don't think that Kaepernick throws for 400+ yards and Vernon Davis gets 200+ yards receiving in this game, just saying.  Weather will be a somewhat significant factor in this game.  San Francisco is one of the top 5 teams in the NFL, but Rodgers proves to be the difference in the game.  If the QBs were to be reversed, then I would have the 49ers favored by 10 and they would be the clear pick..  However, that is not the case, and as such I will pick the 3rd upset in 4 games.  #4 Packers prevail

Divisional Round
AFC
#1 Broncos vs #6 Chargers
I think that three teams can win in Denver: The Patriots, the Bengals, and the Chargers.   This could be an interesting game, especially since the Chargers often seem to have Manning's number, but if it occurs then I think that the Broncos can overwhelm the Chargers with their firepower on offense.  Manning gets one monkey off his back with a playoff victory with the Broncos.  #1 Broncos win.  

#2 Patriots vs #5 Chiefs
This was my least researched pick, the Chiefs would have a chance to win this game, but it would be a very small one.  I would expect NE to have a somewhat methodical 10 point victory.  #2 Patriots overwhelm.  

NFC
#1 Seahawks vs #4 Packers
Of the four remaining teams in the NFC, only the Panthers cannot win the SB. With a healthy Harvin, I would take the Seahawks at home without a second thought.  This game had a bit of a domino effect on my picks, this game partially determined the SB winner, whoever that would be. I analyzed this game the longest, but eventually came to the conclusion that Seattle would win. #1 Seahawks win.

#2 Panthers vs #3 Eagles
This was a somewhat tough game to pick.. But, I finally decided that Chip Kelly and Nick Foles could figure out how to beat Cam Newton and the Panthers. #4 Eagles victory.


Wild Card Divisional  Championship  Super Bowl  
AFC



Broncos        Bye 70 45 25
Patriots        Bye 70 30 10
Bengals 60 15 10
Colts 55 25 10
Chiefs 45 5

Chargers 40 15 5
(Total %) 200 200 100 35
NFC



Seahawks        Bye 75 40 35
Panthers        Bye 35

Eagles 55 30 25 10
Packers 40 25 15 10
49ers 60 30 15 10
Saints 45 5 5
(Total %)
200 200 100 65

Conference Championship Round
AFC
#1 Broncos vs #2 Patriots
Despite the Wild-Card weekend upsets, the Championship in the AFC ended up being very heavy-favorite.  Brady vs Manning for a chance to play in the SB.  I contemplated whether or not the Pats could pull off a cold weather win in Denver, and while it can certainly happen, I think that the Broncos will be able to push past the Patriots smoke and mirrors act.  The #1 Broncos' win a close game over the #2 Patriots.


File:Russell Wilson vs Jets, November 11, 2012.jpg
The Seahawks and Russell Wilson,
 the SB MVP, 
 continue Peyton
Manning's playoff struggles.  

(Author of the photo: Larry Maurer)
NFC
#1 Seahawks  vs #3 Eagles
This could be a very interesting matchup, with Philly's high-flying offense facing the dominating Seattle defense, but the other side of the ball would likely be much less interesting because Seattle would be able to get past the sieve of Philly's defense.  During my research of the Seahawks I was generally impressed with how Wilson acts as a person.  I don't completely like thinking that liberal Seattle will get to the SB, but the Eagles defense likely won't be able to provide very much competition.
#1 Seahawks overwhelm.

Super Bowl XLVIII
#1 Seahawks vs #1 Broncos
Despite not liking to pick favorites, somehow I think that the two #1 seeds will be playing each other in the SB.  Although, at least it is sort of unconventional to pick favorites, considering that picking favorites in the NFL is a bad way to go in the playoffs since in 5 of the last 7 seasons the SB winner has played on Wild Card Weekend and of the last 15 SBs the two #1 seeds have only been in it together once.  If it were to occur, then I do think that this high-profile matchup would be a fairly good game, and that Wilson could pass the Seahawks to victory in the end.  The Seahawks succeed as Super Bowl champions, 30-20.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NFL Picks, Reviewing Week 12 through 14, 2013

The picks went well enough in week 12 to be the only post for regular season picks that I will do for this season wherein I will make the picks and explain the reasoning before making the picks.  But, it was interesting enough that I will likley go ahead and post what my picks are for the rest of the season.  The picks for week 12 were not extremely representative of the season I've been having.  Week 12 was either the best or second best week for spread picks that I've had this year.  Which isn't necessarily to say that I've been horrible with spread picks, I've been above .500 in 6 of the last 8 weeks (though I was below .500 for 3 of the first 4 weeks of the season), just that week 12 was above my normal decent.

Non Picks
Rams-Bears  Even with Clemens still not producing, the Rams still somehow scored more than forty on the Bears.  Still a good non-pick, the Bears are the better team, but the Rams were in the slightly better position.  The Rams are just playing out the string with Clemens at QB..  I don't know what their general goal is right now.. Coach Fisher and company is still doing a good job of getting value out of the team, but they have a bit of a quandary right now as to whether they should stick with Bradford or look for some other quarterback.  The Bears are a somewhat interesting team right now, McCown has done a very admirable job as a fill-in for Cutler, and the Bears are still somewhat in the hunt for grabbing a playoff spot.

Panthers-Dolphins  Another pick that was good to stay away from, the Panthers did end up winning late on another Comeback Cam drive, but even with the win they were a point below beating the spread.  The public is way too high on the Panthers right now.  The Panthers should have done better in the early portion of the season, but these last few weeks they have been the team getting the breaks.  The Dolphins should be a team without a chance at the playoffs, but they're playing in the soft AFC and hence they still have a fair chance at making the playoffs.

Texans-Jags  Or a Jaguars 'blowout'..  And the basic 10 point principle wins once again.  Another game that was fine to stay away from, Keenum was below average, and the Houston offense did almost nothing.  In no way did I see this happening before the season, but somehow the Texans actually have a fair shot at getting a top 5 pick in the draft.   The Jaguars are a horrible team and, no offense meant to them at all, but also sort of dense enough that they also may win enough to lose draft positioning.  [and they went ahead and won again on Sunday..]  Great job management.  Not that getting Teddy Bridgewater would solve anything anyways.. He plays for Louisville..  Not to stereotype him, but he would quite possibly be similar to a better version of Geno Smith.  (And I don't really have a strong position on how decent of a player Bridgewater is right now, I haven't seen him play beyond highlights.  I might catch some of Louisville's games sometime to see where I would guess that he measures up.)

Colts-Cards Vegas again asked the public to take the Colts, and it came through for Vegas.  The stay away was still the right play, but this was the closest one to 'should have been a pick'.  The Colts are a relative lock to make the playoffs, however they've been showing more of their true colors of late and have been a poorish team that depends on Luck to bail them out.  The Cards are a fairly underrated team, by about everyone, including myself, but I still do not think they will make the playoffs.

I am not certain as to what would be the average of games that I wouldn't pick each week, but, even though I can be irrationally confident about the picks before the games occur, I would guess that it would generally be a little higher than 4 games.

Overall non picks: 2-2.  Obviously not all that great to bat .500, but that's kind of the reason the games were no plays.  I was not convinced either way in the games, and therefore my pick would likely be slightly worse than a coin flip, possibly in the area of a 47% proposition.  The two games I won were blowouts, while the two games I lost were somewhat close.                          

Actual Picks
Favorites 
Ravens-Jets Not a lot to say for this game..  The Ravens did what they should have, while the Jets played like the team they are..  A bad team with a poor quarterback.  The Ravens are a mediocre team, but that fits in fine with the mediocrity of the other teams that are 'fighting' for the the 6th playoff seed.  Also, Fluko Flacco is getting paid over a million dollars per game..  Just wanted to mention that little fact. (I think that every time the Ravens come up for my blogging I'll be a little tempted to bring that up.) Congrats once again to management for signing him to an 11 digit deal (including pennies).  The Jets are another one of those brilliantly managed teams, never letting Tebow see the light of day, drafting and playing Geno Smith, still having Marc Sanchez, signing Ed Reed, etc, etc, some GM's never seem to learn.  Funnily enough though, the Jets may possibly still be in contention for the 6th playoff spot when it's week 16.

Packers-Vikings, No way, Flynn is a better QB than Tolzien?  I never would have guessed..  I was slightly disappointed in Tolzien's play, but really he did mostly as expected, the worse part for the Packers was on the other side of the ball.  The defense was kind of beyond poor considering they were facing the powerhouse of CP and and beat-up Vikings team.  Due to the lack of wisdom (And really in this scenario I don't think it makes sense to try and 'find out' what Tolzien can do in this spot..  Imho, generally, not very much information on the long term prospects of a QB can be gleaned from just a few starts.  Case in point, about every single quarterback that's played in the NFL..) of Flynn not playing until the 3rd quarter, the Packers could only muster the tie, and thus did not cover.  Still the right side and a decent pick.  
       The Packers should simply be sticking with Flynn the rest of the way until Rodgers is fully recovered, and as such, if the Lions manage to choke a few games, then they will likely still have a shot for winning the division come week 17.  What did the Vikings gain from this game?  They hurt a division 'rival' since they could not tie for the division lead, but in the meanwhile the VIking's draft positioning was hurt.  This isn't to say that they should have been playing for a loss or anything, but I just find it a bit frustrating when a team like the Vikings is mired in incompetency.. Fairly clearly, in my view, none of the Vikings QB's are competent level NFL QB's.. (Unless the competency is related to how likely it is that one of them can get you a top 5 draft choice.)  It isn't all rocket science, teams without a real plan at the most important position in the game are generally going to be destined for failure.  And by most important position I clearly mean their punter, Jeff Locke,  clearly..

Raiders-Titans Vegas and the public were right..., but only by technicality.  The Raiders were around an 85% probability to win the game with less than 3 minutes to play, but then the Raiders D# collapses, and the Titans get a last minute victory.  Also, I fail to see why there is so much praise directed to McGloin, I haven't been able to pay much attention to the Raiders the last few weeks so I don't have a great read as to how he has played and how his decisions have been, but, in my opinion, Pryor fairly consistently made winning plays, and provides a level of speed that very few have.  While Pryor's accuracy was poor, he is a very young QB, and it certainly can improve.  Also.. Again the Raiders were given a horrible (/joke) line by Vegas in their game against the Cowboys.  
       The Raiders were quite possibly given the dagger in their game against the Titans, they're still only a game out of the 6th playoff spot, but their schedule is very difficult for the last 3rd of the season.  The Raiders have been in every single game but two so far this season, the ball has just  generally 'bounced' the other way come the final 5 minutes.  Still a decent pick and the right side.  The Titans are, like the Rams, in a weird spot with the decision regarding their QB.  Based on their schedule the Titans are still very much alive to actually make the playoffs, and if they had been able to hold off Luck on a single drive, they could be challenging to host a playoff game.. And if this team would have played in the NFC West this year, then they would be  somewhat fortunate to have more than 3 wins.

49ers-Redskins 
I expected the 49ers D# to be dominating, but I wasn't sure what the 9ers offense could do.   Playing against 5 and a half still isn't great, but the reasoning and process of the outcome again appears to show that it was the right pick.

Favorites went 2-2.  Again semi-decent results, despite batting .500. (By that I mean that a blowout win is worth more than a toss up win.  Since the toss-up win was thus likely based somewhat on randomness, while the blowout win was likely a somewhat common result.. In regards to that team winning.)  Two demolition victories, while the two losses were less than a touchdown (in total) from being correct.

Underdogs 
Falcons-Saints 
The Falcons and Texans have frustrated me all season with their ineptitude, the Falcons partially continued it here, but at least this time they covered the spread.  At this point in the season when the Falcons aren't really playing for much besides paychecks and pride, it probably would have been better to just stay away from this game.  It's quite possible that the Falcons will flip from top of the division to bottom..  It's even possible that they could flip from top of the NFC to bottom of the NFC.. Such a disappointing turnaround.  The Saints have 4 more tough games, even if their opposition doesn't necessarily have great records, but they're still a relative lock to reach the playoffs.

Buccaneers-Lions 
As with all of these but the Falcons game, the straight-up upset came through as well.  The 'gift' line certainly wasn't entirely inaccurate, considering the Lions had 5 turnovers as opposed the Buccaneers 0, however it was still to high.  If the line would have been accurate, then this would have been a bad play, but with the extra points it was a fine play.  The Bucs are a competent team and I think will finish the season somewhat strongly.  The Lions are one of the most dominant, mistake prone teams in the NFL.  They control their playoff destiny and I'm not certain that they can choke enough games to give the division to the Painkers Packers.

Chargers-Chiefs 
And by 'line' I meant over/under line.. Or not.  But, it did effectivley play-out that the game line was too low, considering that the Chiefs had 2 TO's to the Chargers 0.  It probably would have been better to stay away from this game.  The Chargers have a chance at the playoffs, but quite possibly their losses to the Titans and Dolphins will come back to 'haunt' them.  When the Chiefs were 8-0 I still thought there was actually a possibility that they would not make the playoffs, but since then the playoff bubble has weakened and the Chiefs are a fairly safe lock for the 5th seed.

Patriots-Broncos 
Well, it started off extremely well for the Broncos, but it did not end well for them..  Considering the weather, I don't think the game should have been as close as it was.  The Pats were the right side and the line was off.  The Patriots are actually underrated by Vegas and by the public and this is even with them being a relative lock to be the #1 or #2 seed. The Broncos four remaining teams are all below .500 so that, combined with the weather, should help to soften up the Broncos for the playoffs, even if they will quite possibly enter with the #1 seed.

Cowboys-Giants
Answer: There is no downside.  The Giants made the game closer than it should have been, but the Cowboys showed that they are indeed, somewhat clearly, the better team.  The Cowboys have a tough remaining 4 games and may not make the playoffs, but it won't be the fault of Romo..  The Giants started their late season run a game or two late, but they can still play the role of spoiler.

Steelers-Browns 
And then, once Campbell was injured, Roethlisberger is on one side of the field with Weeden on the other side..  The Steelers play some playoff-peripheral teams the next few weeks so they have a chance to create some of their own breaks.  The Browns offense is so poor.. And that's with a top 5 receiver.  Without Gordon they might be scoring 13 a game.  Other than draft positioning, what are the Browns gaining from playing QB's of the ilk of Weeden and Campbell?

6-0 with picking underdogs.  As usual, underdogs were where everything comes together.  As I mentioned, five of the 'underdogs' were able to straight-up win, and all of the underdogs were able to cover the spread.  Overall spread record for the week for all games was 10-4.  The overall record in games that I would have picked was a very decent 8-2.

More quick analysis:  The 4 losses I had (as related to the spread) for the week were the Packers by 4.5, the Panthers by .5, the Texans by 17.5, and the Raiders by 2.5.  Overall average loss of 6.25 points, but obviously the Texans outlier kind of messes with that.  The wins were by 4.5+19.5+18.5+12.5+8.5+12.5+26.5+5.5+5.5+15.5 which means an average win of 12.9 points.  
        And in actual games that I picked, the mean loss would be 3.5 points and the mean win would 10.4.  (Quick side-note, it doesn't necessarily provide any great insightful information, but the three largest overall point differential games in relation to spread were all decided in the non-picks.)  Very solid numbers here as well, 3.5 obviously isn't significant over 2 games, but it at least means the two games were only a play away from being a victory, while average wins at 10.4 is a little bit significant since it's spread across 8 games and partially shows that the picks were indeed decent picks.

Picks for week 13
While this may be partially revisionist history (which is obviously not a great idea..), my main picks likely would have been something like Eagles, Falcons, and Raiders, which would have gone 2-1.  Most likely, however, I would have made other picks as well.  Since I did not officially decide on these picks beforehand, they will not be considered into my overall record.

Picks for week 14
There were some somewhat strong leanings, but no picks for the Bucs, Steelers, Broncos, Rams, and Chargers.  Only four picks for week 14.  Actual picks, in order of confidence, Cowboys, Raiders,  Eagles, Texans.  As a quick note, all  four of the lines are accurate, except for the Texans' line, which actually favors the Jaguars.  Apparently the Jets poor play in recent weeks was enough to match the poor perception of the Raiders, considering that this week is the first week in quite a few weeks in which the Raider's line is a somewhat fair line.  Thank you for reading.

Many more struggles for week 14 than the previous two weeks.  The somewhat strong leanings only went 3-2.  Bucs, Broncs, and Chargers all with blowout victories, while for the two losses the Rams were blown-out and the Steelers lost a somewhat close game (spread-wise).

While I had another winning week overall for picking the spread.  The games that I did pick finished with a very poor 1-3 record.  

I'm not entirely certain what happened in the Cowboys game.  The Bears are a decent team, and McCown is a good QB, but still, the Cowboys should have had the offense to win that game.  I can't completely make a determination as to whether that was the right side and if that should have been a pick, but I would tend to still say yes.  

While the Raiders were the right side, the game probably should have been a stay away..  I still don't understand why the Raiders are playing McGloin over Pryor.  They have all-but destroyed their playoff hopes with that decision.

Eagles - For this game, if I would have known about the weather conditions and that Bush would be out for this game, then it would still have been a good pick.  But, if I had known about the weather conditions and not known about Bush, then it would have been a bad pck.  And as it was I knew about neither, so it will remain the mostly right side and a decent pick.

The Texans game never should have been a pick.  Not only did/does it make sense for the Texans to lose that game, but the two teams were partially headed in opposite directions.  The main reason that I liked the game was because I thought that Keenum would play well and partially solidify himself as the starter heading into next season.  But, it makes sense for the Texans to continue their free fall and be able to grab a top 4 draft choice and then either pick up Clowney or trade it for other first round picks.  Also, the line was clearly slanted in the Texans favor, so that should have meant an automatic stay away as well.

Overall record falls to 9-5.  In my future picks I will try to stay away from picking teams whose seasons are finished and from teams who already have a line that is unfavorable to them, because the line favors them more than it should.

Picks for week 15
Originally I did not have very many picks for this week, but I convinced myself on a couple of games that were previously just strong leanings towards that team.  The worst lines (meaning, that they should have been made a few points in the direction of this team) were for the Jaguars (again), Eagles, Seahawks, Ravens, and for once it will be for the opposition of the Raiders, hence the Chiefs.  Soft leanings: Browns and Texans.  Actual picks: Patriots, Eagles, Seahawks, Steelers, Packers, Tampa Bay.

The first three teams are all favorites, but, other than just liking them in their respective games anyways, the lines show that it would still be advantageous to pick them, consequently I will still take the points for each of those three teams.  Then I take some points and have three underdog picks.  I don't entirely like the Packers and Steelers, those two picks are more heart picks than brain, but I still think that each team is on the right side. Thank you for reading.