Scramble for the Ball: 2020 South Over/ Unders Bryan Knowles 19 Aug 2020, 11:39 am

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady

Andrew: Hello and welcome back to Scramble for the Ball, where this week training camp get properly underway with our first padded pattern of the season. Last week’s article demonstrated how quickly we get back in sync after four years together, so this week we pioneered live undertake in a bid to spark some disagreement.

Bryan: This came as a surprise to yours truly, who dissolved up ingesting a faceful of coffee counter when I get up this morning. Still, you have to praise Andrew for his resourcefulness; I don’t know how he bribed my feline to take part in his tackling shenanigans, but I imply, approval where credit is due.

Andrew: Anybody who has ever become the plaything proprietor of a cat is common knowledge that felines can neither be bribed nor enticed, so I make no responsibility for the murderous actions of your feline friend. However, our ameliorated action drills always carried the risk of things going south instantly, so what better route to introduce what I consider the most interesting pair of separations in our lineup. As ever, interesting does not necessarily mean good; in fact in the case of the latter, it undoubtedly does not imply good.

Bryan: And, of course, it helps to make a division interesting when you’re a fan of one of the teams involved, naturally — find me calling the NFC West the most interesting division in football for, what, four years in a row now?

Still, you’ve got a point — there are some juicy, juicy storylines south of the Mason-Dixon line this year( and also in Indianapolis; the NFL’s directional impression “ve never had” its strong point .) A duo of potential Hall of Fame quarterbacks bolstering the two schisms is obviously help your overall interest rate!

( Reminder: Last-place Over/ Under refers to the last time the team went over/ under this year’s line .)

NFC SOUTH

Bryan: I’m not sure which separation I consider the best in football this year, but I conclude the NFC South has a strong argument. At the very least, I think it has the highest ceiling in football. While there’s plenty of skepticism involved in any predictions, if things go right, we could be looking at a trio of Super Bowl-contending crews, and then too football being played in Carolina.

Andrew: I’m not sure I’d agree with the height of the ceiling, because I could see a direction to any of the NFC West crews acquiring the Super Bowl far more easily than I could the Panthers. Or any of about three other segments too, for that are important. The Panthers are double-plus-ungood right now.

Bryan: The NFC West would be my other picking, more, and we’ll get to that next week. But even the Panthers have a shiny brand-new quarterback in place, and that gives the potential for a significant reversal of fortunes. They’re a bad squad with a inkling of hope, as opposed to a bad crew in the middle of a painful rebuild.

Andrew: … which, coincidentally, describes another southerly franchise we’ll get to last-minute in the article.

Atlanta Falcons( 7.5)

Last Over: 2017( Head Coach: Dan Quinn; Quarterback: Matt Ryan) Last-place Under: 2019( Dan Quinn, Matt Ryan)

Andrew: There are questions around most units in the NFL. There are even some puzzles. There might even be enigmas, though that term is often overused to describe things that are only vaguely perplexing. Then there’s Dan Quinn still being the Falcons honcho coach.

Bryan: Hey, I’ll have you know that Quinn’s not a quitter; that he deters his team fighting to the very last. I entail, after all, even after they were eliminated, the Falcons disappeared 6-2 in their last eight games, which has to bring positive vibes and impetu into this upcoming season. You know, like how they became 6-2 down the pull in 2016. And, uh, 2017. And … do the Falcons know that football starts in September?

Andrew: So you’re telling me the Falcons have been banking all along on a delayed start to the season because of the world health crisis, allowing them to harness the vigor of Winter Dan Quinn at the start of the season instead of after all hope is lost? That is some mighty foresight. I don’t meditate any of us considered that a realistic prospect in March, never mind January. Kudos to Arthur Blank.

Bryan: I said that this is the division with the highest ceilings, so maybe I “re trying to” conclude that case rather than merely snark at Dan Quinn. But serviceman, snarking at Dan Quinn is so much easier. Anyway. I actually do like the Falcons’ draft class. They gaped, met that their protection was terrible, and exactly vanished and drafted actor after actor after actor to bolster it up, with A.J. Terrell, Marlon Davidson, and Mykal Walker resulting service charges. If those musicians reach and provide an immediate blow — and again, we’re talking “best-case scenario” stuff here — that could bring the justification up to being a top-1 0 legion. Couple that with Matt Ryan and the duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley on pique, and that’s a team that can go, say, 10 -6 and fight for a wild card, or even the divide deed in a super best-case scenario.

Andrew: This sounds immensely like the occasion you realized a couple of weeks ago for Minnesota being 2021 schism champions.

Bryan: The perturb is, I trust Minnesota’s front office far more than I rely Atlanta’s. After all, they haven’t deterred Dan Quinn around! Plus, 2021 is a year apart, probably.

Andrew: There is likely to be be a whole season between now and then. Here’s my first flake of tribulation: you’re asking me to believe in a top-1 0 defensive attempt from a unit that has accurately one season in the top 20 since 2012 — last year, when they finished 20 th. It’s barely a record of sustained success for the onetime Seahawks defensive coordinator.

Bryan: Ah, but they only a top-1 0 security in Weeks 10 to 17. Usually, that sort of second-half surge has zero correlation to future success, and the Falcons were also helped by a soft backbone of schedule. But you can at least point to Quinn handing off defensive scheming responsibilities to Raheem Morris and find intellects to hope in Atlanta. They’ve too tried Minnesota’s tactic of hindering their defensive core together in a move that is eventually going to bite them in the stipend cap — something that should clear Falcons devotees bullish about 2020, and bearish about seasons to come.

Andrew: A simulate that, as we all echo, used to work spectacularly for Minnesota in … some future time, maybe never.

Bryan: Hey, it got them over 7.5 prevails!

Andrew: That’s true, and for that, at least, the Falcons do have a stronger track record — their worst record under Quinn has been 7-9, and they’ve finished 8-8 or better three times in five seasons. So what’s the actual downside now? Portions of the schedule are bumpy, but that’s mainly the implications of the disagreement. The security is a hodgepodge of the oft-injured, the replaceable, and the raw. The offensive cable is not the force it formerly was, and it was never that immense a pressure even then.

Bryan: I don’t think they’ll set a brand-new record for futility under Quinn; I envisage 7-9 is more or less the floor when you have an offense that talented. I’ll bring a Panglossian smell of optimism now — the Falcons start the season 6-3 going into their bye, thanks to rattling off acquires against Detroit, Carolina, and Denver, and get a bunch of “are the Falcons back? ” headlines during their week off. Then, the second half of the schedule comes along, with both Saints games, both Buccaneers games, and the Honcho recreation, and they stumble to 2-5 the rest of the way. That’s both the Over and a recipe for Quinn going fuelled, considering how much value the Falcons’ ownership seems to put in performance down the pull. Truly, the best use of every possible worlds.

Andrew: In theory, the two Panthers sports, some residence NFC North matchups, and dwelling appointments with the AFC West give them a half-dozen earns, plus they wrest something against one or two of the very best squads on their schedule. A crew with Matt Ryan at quarterback and those wide receivers should always have a chance. Unfortunately, I think it’s ever having a chance to come back, rather than a chance to really achieve much. I meditate the biggest split for the Falcons is likely to be home/ street rather than early/ late, but fairly of their winnable plays are at home that I have them 6-2 there. Throw in the Panthers on the road, and they should only need to pull one more random victory out of the other eight games. It won’t be as smooth as I’ve prophesied, and it will still simply be 8-8, but there’s more room over than under here. Over, and then they shell Dan Quinn.

Carolina Panthers( 5.5)

Last Over: 2018( Ron Rivera, Cam Newton) Last Under: 2019( Ron Rivera, Kyle Allen)

Bryan: We’re all about recycling here, so I’ll bring back the same joke I be useful for the Bengals and the Football Team: today, we’re covering seven teams that could theoretically win their divide, and then too the Carolina Panthers. Get your wagers in now for which team I get to say that about next week!

Andrew: Last-place year, I was very optimistic about the Panthers, with the oft-repeated proviso that Cam Newton be healthy. That was flatly absolutely no truth to the rumors. This year, however, the supporting assign on offense is largely the same, and now they have a different if-he’s-healthy question mark at quarterback. And I have to say, if he is, this offense could sneakily is largely, very good.

Bryan: The best-case scenario for the Panthers is if Teddy Bridgewater is the franchise quarterback his original draft position indicated he “wouldve been”; now he’s healthy and back and would give the Panthers something to build around going forward. The second-best case scenario for the Panthers is if Bridgewater is terrible and the team implodes and the Panthers get their crack at Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields or Trey Lance or whoever they like going forwards.

The absolute worst-case scenario for this team is if Bridgewater is OK, because they do not have the ability around him to turn “OK” into anything more than a 5-11, maybe 6-10 season, and then they’d miss on a long-term answer at the position. It really is Bridgewater or bust for Carolina moving forwards. The offensive text is a mess, they lost Luke Kuechly, they’ve got problems in the secondary, they have a new coaching staff…

Andrew: I’ll certainly grant you problems in the secondary, but I’m not sure how much of a mess the offensive wire really is. Matt Paradis is a solid middle. Taylor Moton, Russell Okung, and Greg Little should is tantamount to a solid trio of tackles, however they end up aligned. They should be able to get a pair of starting pickets from their interior front alternatives. It’s the biggest question mark on their offense other than Bridgewater, but I’m not convinced it’s the worst situation in their fraction at this point.

Bryan: You have a lot more faith than I do in Okung, who is A) coming back from a pulmonary embolism, B) had to leave practice early on the day we’re writing this, and C) has reportedly been thinking about retirement rather than playing in 2020( though Okung has denied those reports ).

Andrew: I suspect I truly have a lot more faith in Little and Moton than you do, though yes, Little is still on PUP and that, I freely acknowledge, would be a problem.

Bryan: I likewise worry about Matt Rhule coming in — not because I think he’ll be a bad instruct consequently, but this has not been the offseason to stir sweeping changes to a team’s on-field strategy. With the shortened offseason interval, originating aches for units with new strategies might last longer than they would under normal occasions. And they’re playing in a monster of a subdivision, where we just had the third-best team go over a 7.5 -win line. This is the one team in football where I’d be on 0-16 alert, precisely blending their endowment issues with their overall murder’s row of their planned, the hardest in the conference by expected DVOA.

Andrew: Huh. You have Atlanta as the third-best team in the division. I wasn’t far off with the live tackling thing, was I?

Bryan: That’s complicated, and we’ll get there soon enough.

Andrew: I will accept that if one legion in football screams 0-16 at me, it’s the Panthers defense. That, for me, is the big worry here. I previously semi-berated Dallas for picking up actors from last year’s Panthers to fix their front seven. This year’s Panthers barely even did that is something that. Brian Burns, who I enjoy, are here, and Kawann Short, and Derrick Brown may prove a tremendous draft pick, and then … yikes. Where’s the pass surge, other than Burns? Where’s the coverage, other than perhaps Donte Jackson?

Bryan: At least the Panthers were aware of this, drafting nothing but defensive participates. I actually, really liked Yetur Gross-Matos coming into the draft, and he’s a steal in the second round. Even if he is as advertised, though, the Panthers do need yet another edge rusher to step up, but it’s good to at least picture the team aware of its pits and drafting accordingly. Coverage might come from Kenny Robinson, who was really strong in the XFL — remember the XFL? I just do…

I’m having trouble finding a team that I would say has less potential than the Panthers, although new instruct+ new quarterback+ a strong defensive rookie class could equal … what. What’s their ceiling, 7-9? If they’re lucky? Are they good enough to beat, like, the Raiders, or Cardinals, or Broncos at home? I’m simply not sure. I consider going for the under here is the easiest call in the department, as much as I like Teddy. Too many excavations on security , no sect in the offensive strand. I think they’ll dodge the specter of respectability and be in line for a top-five pick; find a shiny new passer to rebuild in 2021.

Andrew: Unfortunately, I have to agree on the under even though I actually, truly just wanted to disagree. They’re clearly the worst team in the division. They’ve lost beloved chairwomen on both offense and defense. Their brand-new quarterback hasn’t frisked a full season in 5 year, though he did make it through his recent month’s worth of starts unscathed. Their defense may well be the worst in the organization. They play a stack of hard road plays. The upside, as you say, is maybe 7-9. That’s not enough headroom for the over. Under.

New Orleans Saints( 10.5)

Last Over: 2019( Sean Payton, Drew Brees) Last Under: 2016( Sean Payton, Drew Brees)

Bryan: “Does Drew Brees have gas in the barrel for one more run? ” the headlines scream. This would be the Brees that led the league in DVOA and finished third in DYAR despite missing five activities. The headlines are stupid.

Andrew: Brees is purely the first in a lope of same age quarterbacks that we’ll consider in this article. There’s some virtue in the issues to: his continue has been clearly drooped off later in the season in recent years, which has contributed to — but not been alone the cause of — the heap of recent playoff departs. In some styles, this kinda feels like win-or-bust year for the team between Brees’ age, Alvin Kamara’s contract, Emmanuel Sanders … but then last year felt like win-or-bust very, and its first year before. That’s what you get with a dealership quarterback in his late thirties.

Bryan: Maybe Brees should attract last year’s strategy once again and sit out five weeks. Let Jameis Winston handle the Packers-Lions-Chargers-Bye-Panthers stretching; restrain him health and fresh, yeah?

Andrew: After all, last year worked out immense, right? Bye wrapped up nice and early, week off, straight to the divisional round with a rested team and … sigh.

Bryan: You’d reflect, as a Saints fan, you’d be used to pain playoff departures by now. Beastquake, Alex Smith, the Minneapolis Miracle, pass interference…

Andrew: I tell myself that each year. Each time, it’s surely they can’t top that. Nope, first 13 -3 team ever to lose in the wild-card round. It’s a beautiful thing.

Bryan: All kidding digression, I’m having trouble finding … any faults on this Saints team. Maybe their linebackers aren’t quite up to snuff? Eh? Demario Davis can’t do it all by himself?

Andrew: The linebackers are fine, and they’re a smudge where as long as you’re adequate, you’re probably OK. The Saints are still the most complete team in the NFC. They sterilized their most glaring issue from most recent years by ratifying Emmanuel Sanders. They have a top-five offensive line, an all-time great quarterback, and a penetrating, talented justification. They’re my favorites for the conference by virtue of a combination of talent, separation, and planned. All that remains is to figure out what type of ugly playoff loss they will experience this year. I’m not saying I’d very be a Lion fan , not at all, but there’s much more of a sense of consumed potential here.

Bryan: Ah, the rose-colored Mardi Gras glasses of being a Saints fan. Thing is, I concur. If you were to tell me that a squad was to go 16 -0 this season, I’d bet on the Saints. They are the best team in their schism, with a lot of uncertainty about team No. 2( yes, we’re got to get ). They do have to face three of last year’s final four; the Packers, Chiefs, and 49 ers — but they get them all at home, presupposing home-field advantage implies anything in the topsy-turvy world of 2020. I’m not sure how much I buy into the “Brees does tired at the end of the year” narrative when we see much stronger versions of it from other age quarterbacks. Sanders is the Saints’ best second receiver since, what, Brandin Cooks? Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport are a hell of a duo to try to stop; they brought in Malcom Jenkins to help shore up their secondary … I make, good sovereign, this squad is stacked.

Even without that super-optimism, though, I spurn anyone to find seven damages on the following schedule. Let’s say the Buccaneers are as advertised and take one. Divisional activities are tough, so we’ll give one to Atlanta. Maybe they lose all three to the Green Bay-Kansas City-San Francisco triumvirate. And then … uh … the Raiders? The Bears in the cold of, uh, very early November? The Eagles, maybe?

Andrew: Which leaves us deposit picking between 10 -6 wild-card hopefuls and 11 -5 segment supporters. Unless something terrible and unreliable happens to Brees, I’m not taking the under on that. The easiest collect of the entire series for me might be New Orleans over 10.5.

Bryan: This is how insane our agreement has become — I, too, was about to call taking the over the easiest pick of the entire series. I might make the over on a 12.5 wire. Our own prognosis have the NFC South as “the worlds largest” stratified separation in football; the Saints aren’t sniffing second place. 13 -3 and another heartbreak in the postseason, here “were coming”!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers( 9.5)

Last Over: 2011( Raheem Morris, Josh Freeman) Last Under: 2019( Bruce Arians, Jameis Winston)

Bryan: And from the easiest pick in the series to the hardest…

Andrew: I’m gonna make like Jack and go to the well, actually now, because I think there’s a harder one later in the section, but that’s because whole number strands are undoubtedly evil.

Bryan: And I presume, technically, I repute the uncertainty in New England was the actual hardest pick in the line, so I’ll rephrase slightly. Is there a unit with a bigger gap between the most appropriate probable the results and their worst than Tampa Bay?

Andrew: Case for the upside: despite the madness of Jameis, this coaching staff made a particularly, very competitive team rather quickly out of what Dirk Koetter left behind last-place season. Todd Bowles in particular did an excellent job fashioning a strong and ascending security out of what had previously been a porous group of participates. The outside receivers are among the best tandems in video games. Without Winston’s turnovers, the Buccaneers could very well have constructed the playoffs in Arians and Co.’s first season.

Bryan: And the Buccaneer took that strong start and manufactured one of the most important splashings in free organization we’ve ever seen. We are, of course, talking about the addition of Joe Haeg, who caters enormous jive undertake breadth behind Ali Marpet and rookie Tristan Wirfs; a great signing that has really adapted the Buccaneers’ outlook going forward, propagandizing this row to heights Tampa Bay hasn’t seen since the opening up of last decade.

Andrew: More humbly, they changed The Human Rollercoaster with the greatest quarterback of all time. They proceed three-deep at tighten terminate, with the greatest in recent history joining them at that spot more. They also retained the breakout NFL sack leader, forming the most hype for a group of Buccaneer since the heyday of the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Bryan: I was just going to demand we introduced an “arguably” in front of “greatest quarterback of all time, ” because Joe Montana and Peyton Manning are frowning at that previous paragraph. Then again, both of those guys purposed up finishing their business in different-colored t-shirts, with substantial postseason success between them, so there’s precedent for a daring Tom Brady farewell expedition in warmer climes. Then again( again ), Johnny Unitas finished his profession by adjourn to warm climate, and that didn’t precisely direct, either. So, the signing of The Greatest Quarterback of all Time will work by a vote of 2-1. Next squad!

Andrew: I’m referring mainly to the marketing and publicity , not my opinion. In my opinion, while the Buccaneers may well have a near-mythic figure taking their snarls under center this year, the mythos is likely to outstrip the reality of the coming season by a not-exactly-inconsiderable margin. Which is where the contingency for the downside comes in.

Bryan: I depleted a bunch of the offseason writing our annual quarterback portions — YAC +, passing plus-minus, failed attainments, et cetera. Which symbolized I had to devote a good deal of period grappling with the New England Patriots’ passing game, and extremely their second-half breakdown a year ago.

In case you don’t want to go through all that again, Tom Brady graded 30 th( out of 34) in successful completion percentage, creating less DYAR and DVOA than Jameis Winston on all toys that were not interceptions or sacks( other than that, Mrs. Lincoln …). He ranked 23 rd out of 34 th in YAC +. And he was dead last-place in Passing Plus-Minus, with -2 1.3 periods under expectation.

He still finished last year with a positive DVOA, albeit his worst ever in a full season. But from Weeks 10 to 17, that DVOA dropped to -1 2.6%, sixth-worst in the tournament. Below Sam Darnold. Below Baker Mayfield. Below Mitchell Trubisky. And , notably, below Jameis Winston, although only just. The debate is that Brady had his worst offensive supporting cast mostly ever, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But you can’t situated all the blame on the receivers for Brady’s inaccuracy — SIS charting had Brady eighth-worst in catchable-pass rate and fifth-worst in on-target rate. He was not right at the end of last season — forget Drew Brees’ late-season slide from great quarterback to above-average passer; Brady was arguably not starting-quality at the end of 2019. Maybe that’s because his offense wasn’t clicking, and the dose of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, onetime WWE 24/7 champ Rob Gronkowski, and the rest of the Buccaneers’ crazy collection of knowledge importance knack, coupled with avoiding Foxborough’s freezing ailments, will improve Brady back to bona fide brilliance. Or maybe he’s 43 years old, and all quarterbacks in NFL history have combined to go 147 -for-2 81 for 1,607 grounds, 10 touchdowns, and eight interceptions at senility 43 or older. The occasion for the under is Brady being, if not toast, then at least significantly warmed bread.

I also have questions about how Brady’s short-passing focus will mesh with Arians’ deep-shot philosophy, but that seems very much secondary to the overarching question of what Tom Brady the Buccaneers are getting, exactly.

Andrew: That about sums it up. The upside is a Manning-in-Denver second achievement: one of the best receiving groups in the tournament, with a ex-serviceman, high-level quarterback who, while not quite at his otherworldly best, promotes the human rights unit to one of the very best in the play. The downside is also Manning in Denver, but his injured and ineffective final season, hoping to squeeze fairly from the defense and supporting cast to carry the ailing veteran to a swansong championship. The Buccaneers are better than they have been for relatively some time, but even so this not that Denver defense. Rob Gronkowski is also coming back here from a year out, which again has its possible positives and negatives. The defense made a huge leap forward last year, which usually entails regression the following season. Unless Brady is closer to 2018 Brady than 2019 Brady, this is likely to end up highly anticlimactic. That this is the Buccaneers exclusively realizes the anticlimax more likely.

Bryan: The best occasion is 14 -2, the bye, a cruise through the playoffs, a Super Bowl title, and the best team in franchise autobiography. The worst-case is 6-10, because I judge my fingers would actually start a riot if I typed the word “Tom Brady, five-win quarterback.” So it’s really all to play for! And 9.5 earns is right smack dab in the middle — we’re often trying to decide whether a crew is going to go 9-7 or 10 -6; that is not the case with Tampa Bay.

Let’s assume, for the moment, that Brady is … alright. He’s not TOM BRADY, DESTROYER OF WORLDS, and he’s not million-year-old Unitas limping around the field. The Buccaneers have arguably the best receiving detachments in football. Their defensive way did massive steps with Jason Pierre-Paul coming back; JPP and Shaq Barrett, plus Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh make a heck of a part. The offensive text is very solid, Jamal Dean and Carlton Davis are an underrated pair of angles, and I really do love Arians as a coach-and-four. That’s a squad that can go places as long as their quarterback isn’t serving as an anchor. It’s a hard, hard, hard summon … but I’m taking the over. Hardest call of the working day by a mile for me.

Andrew: My best-case is considerably lower than yours. The Buccaneers talent is good, but not transcendent. I expect the protection to take a step backwards. The schedule is probably the easiest in the subdivision without record for home/ street separates, but it’s still too tough for me to predict a 14 -win crew even if Tom Brady is TOM BRADY. I review even a solid Buccaneers team is aspiring to take second place in the partition away from the Falcons after the two essentially bind last season. So the issues to, for me is simply “do they offset the playoffs as a wild card or don’t they? ” 10 wins and they’re in, nine and they’re out. I don’t think they do it. I suppose Brady’s closing in on the end, and even with the enhanced receiving regiments the end will come sooner than he expects. Under.

Bryan: Disagreement! And all there needed to be was the most polarizing team in football in 2020. Astounding.

AFC SOUTH

Andrew: Remember the start of the clause when I called these segments interesting, but not consequently good? This fraction is really what I had in head. Pretty much any of three squads could win it and I wouldn’t be surprised. Pretty much any of those three could ended with a( narrowly) losing record and I wouldn’t be surprised. Three crews could become the playoffs and I wouldn’t be surprised. The partition could be prevailed at 7-9 and I still wouldn’t be surprised. The Jaguars could just not frisk football in 2020, and is not simply would I not be surprised, I’m not sure anybody would notice.

Bryan: Oh, soldier, you are not going to be allowed in the state of Florida anymore with your does on the Buccaneers and Jaguars, and you were down on the Dolphins, too. We’ll try to dive into what the nation did to you last-minute, in an attempt to figure out the root of all this Sunshine cynicism.

I tend to agree with you that this won’t be one of the particularly good discords — the last such fraction we’re covering this year, if that’s not too much of a spoiler for the Western partitions. I do think there is potential for a couple of double-digit win units now, though, which can’t be said for every division — see the AFC East, for example.

Andrew: I could see the Bills getting there. It’s not exactly unprecedented. I foresee three units at 9-7 is the most likely outcome here though, for rationales I’m sure we’ll get to very soon.

Houston Texans( 7.5)

Last Over: 2019( Bill O’Brien, Deshaun Watson) Last Under: 2017( Bill O’Brien, Deshaun Watson)

Andrew: Does it make any sense if I start out with people saying I peg the Texans as the AFC South team most likely to impel the playoffs, but too the one least likely to do anything formerly they get there?

Bryan: The sentence originates sense, though I’m not sure I agree with the underlying presumptions you’re obligating there. I still forget sometimes that the Texans won the division in 2019; all caches of that season have been replaced by laughter at the haul the Texans were able to get for DeAndre Hopkins.

Andrew: That is one charitable, mighty positive squander of the word “haul” there. If sell evaluate is measured in U-Hauls, the Texans got a pre-loved wheelbarrow.

Bryan: It was exceedingly difficult to find any split where Hopkins wasn’t Deshaun Watson’s most valuable receiver last season, or the season before, for that are important. And I tried! I looked for ages! The Texans were more reliant on Hopkins everywhere — every down, every distance, wide versus slit splits, you appointed it — than any other team relied on their top guy. Hopkins was the major targets everywhere. You could make an rationale for perhaps the Saints and Michael Thomas, but the Saints recognized this and went out and got more assistance at the wideout sentiment. The Texans get worse! And they get peanuts in return. Trading Hopkins for the best running back in football — let’s say, for assertion, Christian McCaffrey — would have been a negative trade for Houston. Trading him for David Johnson? For … wha? I guess at least they got one second-round pick out of the slew. Brandin Cooks was worth a first in both 2018 and 2017, and Hopkins, one of the top five receivers in recent seasons, wasn’t? Zwuh?

Andrew: Questionable sells, gashes, signals, and mediations have all been trademarks of the Bill O’Brien epoch, to go with controversial coaching decisions, toy labels, and staff decisions. Yet the Texans not only won the division in 2019, they too won it in 2018. And 2016. And 2015. The only season they didn’t, Deshaun Watson tore his ACL as a rookie and they had to go back to the quarterback they somehow, inexplicably opened the season with as the starter ahead of Watson. Watson is clearly the best quarterback in the department, which is why I give the Texans the best chance to win the thing, but O’Brien is clearly the worst head coach, which is why I give them the lowest chance to do anything once they get there.( Well, I guess I actually give the Jaguars the worst chance to do anything formerly they get there, but the Jaguars getting there is already such a silly situation that I can’t bear considered in it in this ridiculous neverending abomination of a year .)

Bryan: It’s certainly justifiable that he’s the worst head coach in the schism, though I consider I’d go abroad. I think it’s inarguable that he’s the worst general manager. We’re sure he’s not going to trade away J.J. Watt midseason, right? For a bag of peanuts and a long snapper? This is a team that liberated Aaron Colvin after Week 1, immediately after spending a bunch to go grab him and talking up his comeback. Working for O’Brien seems like a nightmare.

On the field, I’m concerned about Houston’s pass protection. Sacks are a quarterback stat and so on, but pressures certainly aren’t, and Houston looks like they’re embracing the classic “eh, our quarterback’ll figure it out” strategy uttered famed by Seattle and Russell Wilson; they’ve ranked 31 st, 32 nd, and 28 th in pres rate in the last three seasons. That’s not good!

Andrew: Plus ca vary, nonetheless. This is a team that has utilized three tackling dummies, a traffic cone, and a stop daybreak as an offensive word in the past. At least now they have a professional left tackle in there somewhere.

Bryan: Are there odds I can get somewhere on Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller both being healthy at the same time? Did bringing in Randall Cobb come with a day machine to the mid-2 010 s? What is this receiving corps?

Andrew: As long as that time’s not 1 p.m. Eastern on a Sunday afternoon, sure. This receiving forces is what you get when you build a roster without an overarching contrive. “We need somebody to play this persona, so he’ll do. We need a slot chap, so he’ll do.” Really, that applies to much of the Texans roster. “We need a left attack, so let’s get the guy from Miami. We need a privilege tackle, so let’s get that person in the draft articles. Dangit, we need a slit reces, but phew Tampa Bay liberated that Hargreaves kid and he was a top enlist pick once. We have a laded of receivers, but we need a running back so let’s make this nonsense trade.” It’s bandages over sticking plasters over supernatural scatter, all without a holistic plan to fix what’s stimulate the repeated injuries.

Bryan: And hitherto, as “youve said”, this unit stops winning the department. They was an increase 24 -0 over the Chief in the playoffs! I don’t know how it runs, and I suspect the answer is “Deshaun Watson is supernatural, ” but O’Brien’s slapdash philosophy has somehow displayed results.

It doesn’t sway me. I will securely territory now that the Texans will not have a winning record in 2020. That does give them a little wriggle-room on this pipeline, but not enough for me. Under, under, under.

Andrew: Yeah, they will. Ultimately, they still have the best quarterback in the schism. Their receiving squads is undeniably worse without Hopkins, but they’re all professional-caliber receivers and Watson will make it use. The defensive programme is still “hope J.J. Watt is healthy and put 10 heated mass around him, ” but as long as Watt remains on the field they’ll get enough from it to stumble nine acquires and an eventual playoff loss. That’ll be just enough for Bill O’Brien to keep his position as gentleman of the sticking plasters, and we’ll have this exact same conversation after his next apparently crazy short-term move. Over.

Bryan: Trading Deshaun Watson for Chris Johnson, right? That seems O’Brien-esque. Annnyway.

Indianapolis Colts (8. 5)

Last Over: 2018( Frank Reich, Andrew Luck) Last Under: 2019( Frank Reich, Jacoby Brissett)

Bryan: I like Philip Rivers! I like DeForest Buckner! Therefore, I must like the Colts. Wow, got that one done in a sentence; I’m getting good at this.

Andrew: Wait, haven’t we already done this Rivers segment? I could attest we’ve once discussed this …* Checks notes .* … ace QB leaves long-term home, honchoes elsewhere for possible swan song in hopes of enhancing his gift, changes young but incoherent starter from previous year as final segment to hoist franchise into playoff contention. Are you sure we didn’t previously do this bit?

Bryan: Yeah, they’re obviously in a same craft as the Bucs, raising a very wide range of potential outcomes. I don’t feel their floor is quite as low-toned as Tampa Bay’s, because Rivers’ strives weren’t as bad as Brady’s last-place season, but this is another team that could go anywhere from losing season to Super Bowl contender depending on just how all their sections fit together. I don’t believe their opportunities for making either extreme are as high-pitched, but the uncertainty is definitely there.

Andrew: I agree with you there. Rivers has been called with “he doesn’t have the arm anymore” comments and stories for longer than either Brady or Brees, and to be fair he genuinely doesn’t, but like Brady he accomplished very well in 2018, like Brady he had a down time in 2019, and like Brady expectations are for him to return to his previous degree in a better statu in 2020. “Better situation” for Rivers doesn’t mean the same as for Brady though. I don’t belief numerous people are arguing for T.Y. Hilton and open-palmed shrug to be better than Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry, but the Chargers are an absurd gypsy curse of a dealership who never met a crazy loss they wouldn’t experience first-hand, whereas the Colts are a well-coached unit devoid of shortcomings in a division that didn’t time become the exclusive owned of one Patrick Mahomes, Esq.

Bryan: For me, it’s the offensive wrinkle that is the big upgrade now. Leading from Scott Quessenberry, Trenton Scott, and Sam Tevi to Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, and Ryan Kelly is a huge upgrade for Rivers, and I review a significant amount of his skirmishes in Los Angeles came from having roughly 0.1 seconds to read a defense before he was swarmed with push. Allow Rivers to work behind an offensive direction, in a functioning offensive system, and I like his chances to bounce back to … solid, at least. I think he’ll be the weakest association on Indianapolis’ offense, but not someone who is going to drag down the team, and that’s a strengthened in from Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer.

Andrew: Likewise, for all that I just said about the receivers, I like the fit of Michael Pittman a lot — so much so, in fact, that Aaron had to temper my fervor quite a bit in the musician notes in Football Outsiders Almanac 2020( still accessible ! ). Trey Burton and Jack Doyle are no Hunter Henry, but they’re adequate veteran starters, and the deeper regions of the receiving forces house a capability playmaker in Parris Campbell, a big slot receiver of the type Rivers adoration in Zach Pascal, and a smattering of young chaps who could make a is progress given the opportunity.

Bryan: And, again, I really like DeForest Buckner, and was unfortunate to see him go to Indianapolis. I conclude I’m higher on the Colts justification than you were in the Almanac — no true-blue standout sentiments there, but not a good deal of weaknesses.

Andrew: That’s exactly how I described them in the Almanac. No fatigues, but no true-blue persuasiveness. They have a great linebacker detachments, but that’s like having a great cooler on your PC: yeah, it helps keep everything working well, and you’ll know instantly when you have a painful one, but it’s not what realizes the system great or sickening. Buckner could be a difference-maker in the breast seven, but more likely they continue to be Quite Good. As does the rest of the team. Except the quarterback, who has been modernized from Quite Bad to Quite Good. The refurbished CPU, in our earlier analogy, although it’s from a previous contemporary of chipping and you’re certainly only delaying the inevitable full structure upgrade. But it runs Crysis, and that’s the benchmark. Like nine acquires in the AFC South. Over.

Bryan: I like Philip Rivers! I like DeForest Buckner! Therefore, I must like the Colts. Over.

Jacksonville Jaguars( 5)

Last Over: 2019( Doug Marrone, Gardner Minshew) Last Under: 2016( Gus Bradley, Blake Bortles)

Andrew: We often joke that all whole number words should be illegal, but this line constitutes a felony in some jurisdictions.

Bryan: I went on a tirade about the Green Bay Packers after having to study them all offseason for FOA 2020. Are we about to get the same from you from your deep study of Doug Marrone’s gang?

Andrew: No, because deep study is far more effort than the 2019 Jaguars merited. I preferred to riff off The Good Place, deterring the attitude sun and rosy, while pour just enough scorn on the right to make it clear where my feelings lay. The Jaguars, as I wrote in the book, have two possible winning situations: either Gardner Minshew is a prospective franchise quarterback, in which case this should be an exciting season of mustachioed madness, or he isn’t, in which case this should be an amusing season of mustachioed madness that ends with a( nother) top enlist select to blow.

Bryan: Well, let’s look at a little reason for confidence, shall we? The Jaguars defense boasts the best Josh Allen in the play, and I do like K’Lavon Chaisson, who I belief will be an important part of whatever the next good Jaguars team will be. DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault are a solid provided of receivers for the Mustachioed One to lean upon. Brandon Linder and Andrew Norwell specify fortitude up the centre. Myles Jack and Joe Schobert are a pair of solid linebackers. It’s not a Dolphins-esque tank, right?

Andrew: Not deliberately, but I’m not convinced it won’t somehow end up worse. The loss of Calais Campbell hurts a great deal, and there’s still no lucidity on the future of Yannick Ngakoue. To say nothing of the smolder rubble where the very best secondary in the conference once stood, with exclusively CJ Henderson now peering about in stupor. But hey, they signed an expensive free-agent linebacker to oust their All-KCW crew from last year. So that’s nice. Watercooling is nice.

Bryan: I’m sensing computer difficulties from across the ocean here.

I suppose this is a two-part question, then — do you believe the Jaguars are trying, in an NFL way, to tank( not to intentionally lose, but very overtaking on making moves that will utter them better now in order to stockpile resources for the future ), or are they just that bad at making a team? And do you think they’ll successfully lose 12 or more competitions in a separation we both concur is not the strongest?

Andrew: I don’t think it’s so much a deliberate strategy as an acceptance that they’ve reached the end of the road that they had kept pushing everything down. Jalen Ramsey’s departure was the final straw in the dismantling of the aforementioned immense secondary, although technically A.J. Bouye outlasted him in Jacksonville. Calais Campbell’s departure was the final straw in the dismantling of the #SACKSONVILLE front seven, though Yannick Ngakoue has technically outlasted him. It’s more of an “end of an era” feel, even if they are the era really only lasted one season. Contracts came due and ceiling area was limited, and there was just no way to square that circle competitively, at least not without an even bigger cap mess further down the line.

Rather than try to do “whos working”, they deterred the coaching organization( who will probably exclusively be there for this season ), be used in young actors, formed the apparently random signed during a top linebacker for reasons that broadly escape me, and hope to be ready to either compete next season or start yet another building cycle afresh — brand-new instruct, brand-new quarterback, new start.

Bryan: Here’s the thing for me: the divide is weak enough, and there’s fairly possible with Minshew, those receivers, and the interior of the line, that I have a hard time becoming under on five-win line. That’s a crazy low-toned argument, the lowest in football this season. Possibilities could not be lower, but foreseeing any collect of ability to go 4-12 is really, really hard to do. Our mean projection for them in the Almanac was 7.1! Six crews had worse estimates than that, including the Panthers, who we already talked about today.

Andrew: Inherently conservative estimations, I feel obligated to point out. We didn’t even prophesy last year’s Miami to go under five triumphs. We basically never project a unit that low-spirited. And we projected seven teams worse than Cincinnati last year. Somebody’s going to thumped that under, and hit it big.

Bryan: And it’s not going to be Jacksonville. Over, on the superpower of the mustache and the weakness of the divide — home sports against Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Miami get them to four, and they’ll pick up another earn or two along the way.

Andrew: The thing about the mustache is he’s not nearly as good of a quarterback as parties would have you believe. What worked is what procreated him evoking: his improvisational knowledge. You can’t build an offense out of improvisation, and I’m not entirely convinced that Jay Gruden can build an offense out of Jacksonville’s actors. The ability drain on defense is real, and the offense isn’t consistent enough to dig them out of it. The planned is very, awfully unkind, pitting the team against the AFC and NFC North. Not one team will look at the Jaguars on their schedule and think anything less than “must win.” Most of them will follow through on that. Do I visualize 6-10 or 4-12 is more likely? No, I picture 5-11 is more likely, but they’re too more likely to smacked 0-16 than 10 -6. Under.

Tennessee Titans (8. 5)

Last Over: 2019( Mike Vrabel, Ryan Tannehill) Last Under: 2015( Mike Mularkey, Marcus Mariota)

Bryan: Well, this should be easy, right? Death, taxes, and the Titan running 9-7. They’ve been 9-7 each of the past four seasons, through coaching changes and quarterback conversions. They’ve been luck to go 9-7 and they’ve been unhappy to go 9-7. They have been, for nearly half a decade, the platonic ideology of “eh, they’re not bad, I guess.” We can really bang out an “over” and call it a day, right?

Andrew: Pretty much, yeah, really. Everything we said earlier about the Colts and “no imperfections , no strengths” has applied to the Titans for three years longer. They time “are.” The loss of Jurrell Casey hurts, but not as much as it once ought to have been. The loss of Jack Conklin hurts, but they have a tolerable tried and tested stand-in and Conklin wasn’t actually that great last year anyway. Ryan Tannehill probably won’t be 2019 Ryan Tannehill again, but we forget that the team was 9-7 with Marcus Mariota the previous few years and even a moderately regressed Tannehill is probably a better fit than Mariota. They have no glaring openings , no major concentrations, and a 9-7 track record perfectly in line with expectations.

Bryan: I feel like the Titans are counting on Tannehill being 2019 Tannehill once again, at least in their confidence and swagger and contract mediations. They’re too counting on Derrick Henry having another monster season — and when you’re counting on recites of two vocation outlier times, you’re on wobbly ground. Tannehill, the human golf clap, has never been a dreadful quarterback, but he was arguably the most efficient passer in the league last-place season, and I do not hear him coming anywhere close to that in 2020 — I think it was one of those small-sample supernaturals that happen every once in a while.( Remember Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson ?) Tannehill won’t be that bad, but I’m selling, heavily, on a Tannehill-led team doing damage.

I likewise don’t know where the Titans are going to get anything approaching a pass rushed with Jurrell Casey and Cameron Wake gone. Vic Beasley as a replacing? Ehhh. I theorize Harold Landry could take a sudden change forward, but it does not fill me with confidence.

Andrew: Landry had nine bags last-place season and is already a extremely decent edge rusher. It wouldn’t need that much of a leaping. I suspect the team will be gazing more to Jeffery Simmons for the change to supersede Casey, who let’s remember exclusively had five bags himself. That’s a good chassis, but not invaluable for a defensive tackle. Edge rush, for me, has been the question mark over the justification for mostly the entire movement of 9-7 seasons, but they remain going just enough.

My issue with the Titans is that “just enough” was just enough to come Mike Mularkey shot. Mike Vrabel was meant to make the team beyond “just enough, ” but absent Ryan Tannehill having certainly break-dance through to become a very good quarterback, that hasn’t really happened. I wrote in the 2018 Almanac that the Titans were quite good at their quaint diet of moved the ball and stop the run, and those are exactly the strengths of the 2020 unit. I’m not sure a Tannehill regression moves the needle that is something that, given they were 7-3 with him last year and we’re expecting him to regress a little bit closer to his busines 49 -4 9 self.

Bryan: We guided a table of quarterback breakout seasons in this year’s Almanac, and boy howdy, does it not inspire confidence. Same quarterbacks to Tannehill include Josh McCown! Tyrod Taylor! Brian Hoyer! Case Keenum! Even the idealistic surface — the Alex Smiths, the Joe Flaccos, the Andy Daltons, the Ryan Fitzpatricks — aren’t super great. And I visualize, if Tannehill does regress, that does move the needle for me, though simply enough to just barely fight against the gravity of the Inevitable 9-7 Season. I’m going to go for the under now; the security will need to take a step up to make up for offense regression, and I don’t know if Mike Vrabel’s crew can pull that off. It’s close, though; the bait of 9-7 is strong.

Andrew: Ultimately, this is a 9-7 squad masquerading as a 9-7 squad. There’s not much to like, but even the stuff you despise is really more substance to be blase about than rightfully cause for concern. Some tough luck or inadequately duration hurts could be the difference between a wild card and a losing record, but the Titans will be somewhere in that mix. I’m taking the over on a line that is pitch-perfect.

Bryan: So with four divergences the coming week, that imparts our total to the year to … five. That’s as many as we had last year, though, so premising we can find one line to disagree with when we go West next week, we may more break out of the hive brain that has come to define these preseason over/ unders in recent years.

Andrew: Surely there’s no way we could possibly disagree on the direction of such poses of uniformity as the Chargers and Raiders. Surely not!

1

Still, you’ve got a station — …

Still, you’ve got a point — there are some juicy, juicy storylines south of the Mason-Dixon line this year( and also in Indianapolis; the NFL’s directional gumption has never been its strong point .)

The AFC North has the above-mentioned issues, too — Baltimore is south of the Mason-Dixon line.

If you lengthened it west, Cincinnati is, more. The RCA Dome is only three miles north of the line. Southern Indianapolis is actually south of the Mason-Dixon line — it passes through the perimeter of the city.

Hell, Pittsburgh is south of the northern limit of the Confederacy( Lawrenceville, WV ).

American historical geography is weird.

2

This would be the Brees that …

This would be the Brees that led the league in DVOA and finished third in DYAR despite missing five competitions. The headlines are stupid.

Tom Brady passed the conference in DYAR/ DVOA only two years ago. This off-season NE didn’t resign him. Age-cliffs are a hell of a thing, and Brady didn’t have Brees’ hurt history.

Is there a unit with a bigger gap between the most appropriate probable outcome and their worst than Tampa Bay?

Detroit, maybe? That’s a team whose upshot depends almost entirely on Stafford’s health. That’s a 7-9 crew if he’s health, and a 1-15 crew if not.

Read more: footballoutsiders.com