It’s time to give an assessment of the upcoming season. As usual, I like to evaluate the teams based on their chances of going to the Super Bowl. And as usual, I judged them based on the different types of teams that I think have the best chance of winning–with teams that have really good defenses/special teams, a good run game, and a QB that can protect the football and make a handful of key plays having the best chance. The next type of a team I personally like is one that is balanced–maybe not great in any areas, but good in all areas. Teams with really terrific offenses and a solid defense (e.g., Chiefs) would also be in there.
In the first post, I’ll try to place the team in various tiers. I will say that I’m going to be doing some guessing because I’m not entirely sure about the changes to the roster. (Anyone know a good site that visually lays this out in an easy to read way?)
44 thoughts on “2021-2022 NFL Regular Season”
Before doing the tiers, I forgot to examine whether there are any great defenses this year. Here are some candidates: 49ers, Buccaneers, WFT, Vikings, Colts, Patriots, Dolphins, Steelers, Ravens, Browns, and Broncos. If I had to guess, I bullish on the Bucs, Broncos, Colts, and maybe the 49ers. If the Steelers go back to a more run-based offense, I would add their defense in here.
Buccaneers, Patriots, Ravens, Rams, 49ers, Bills, Packers, Vikings, Browns, Steelers, Seahawks
The Bucs bring back everyone. My understanding is that they have one of the oldest rosters in the league, but they were one of the healthiest last year. What’s the chances of them replicated something like that? This would be my main concern with them. Also, Brady’s ball security is question mark for me.
The Patriots had a huge roster upgrade, and I think they will return to their normal selves.
With the Steelers and Seahawks, I’m uncertain about their offense–what they will look like and how well they’ll perform.
With the Packers, it’s their defense. I have no idea what it will look like.
Vikings, Browns, and Steelers could move down into the 3rd tier.
Cowboys, Colts, Chargers, Panthers, Cardinals
I have greater uncertainty with these teams, but they could move up to the second tier.
This is way too early, but here are some quick thoughts:
Reid is always extremely high on the Vikings, and is again here as compared to the rest of the “NFL world”.
I would put the Bucs with the Chiefs at this point in time. I do think what the Chiefs did to fix their o-line is great and I do think Chiefs is probably the better team. But the Bucs went into the Super Bowl with an unhealthy receiving corp, and most are projecting their receiving group to be the best in the league, so the Bucs might be better than last year as well.
At least at this point, I would have the Colts and Chargers above the Steelers and Vikings (as I mentioned). I would probably have them above the Browns too.
I’m not extremely high on the Vikings this year–there’s too much uncertainty. I don’t know anything about their OL situation, which wasn’t good. And Gary Kubiak’s son will be the new OC (and I don’t think Rick Dennison will be there–although I’m not sure).
I was almost not going to include them in the 2nd tier, but I saw that someone picked them to have the second best defense, or something like that. That raised eyebrows, but the writer mentioned that they have a lot of injuries on the DL. I vaguely remember that. That made me think the defense could be very good. Still, if the offense takes a step back, they’re not going to be in the second tier. And then Mitchell mentioned their vaccination situation.
All in all, I’d bump them down to the 3rd tier to start the season.
The Colts QB situation gives me pause. Even if Wentz were, I’d be a little uncertain. As for the Chargers, I dislike picking them high–not until I see them play. They frequently play below their roster in my view. They also have a new head coach, so there’s greater uncertainty.
Using the tier system of best chance to get to the Super Bowl, here is what I have:
Bucs and Chiefs – I would lean Chiefs, but the Bucs should be really good as well. Add to that the Bucs have less competition in the the NFC, I think.
Bills and Niners – I give a slight edge of these two teams over the others I will mention. I think Allen will play well again, and I think their defense will get a little better. As for the Niners, I think their ceiling is really high. Of course they will have to win with Trey at QB, but they have a ton of talent.
Packers, Rams, Ravens, Browns – Most would have Packers above the Niners, but their last two playoff losses give me pause and makes me wonder if they are just a good regular season team. The Rams will take a step forward on offense, but I worry they will miss Staley, former DC. The Ravens will have to win with Lamar, and latey I’m hearing Roman, the OC, isn’t great at making adjustments. I really like the Browns and was tempted to put them in Tier 2a, but of course they are the Browns.
Cowboys, Seahawks, Colts, Chargers, and Pats – I reluctantly put the Pats in here just because of Bill. I am not a huge believer in Mac and I don’t think they will have a good enough defense. I keep hearing the Chargers being picked really low, but if they can stay healthy, they have the talent. I want to put the Football Team here and I probably should have. I think the Football Team actually has a higher ceiling than the Pats, but when you think of the Pats and the former Redskins, it makes it hard to pick Washington.
Because you don’t give them a chance with Jimmy G? As for their talent, I have a hard time gauging their roster. They’ve lost players and I was really keeping track of who was injured last year. I’m a little uncertain about their WRs as well. I feel like that is a weakness, and I’m not sure if they improved that position.
In a way, it makes sense that you pick the Bills so high. They’re essentially clones of KC, although they’re not as good. If they’re basically the same as last year, they would be closer to your tier 2b teams.
The Rams defense last year was very good, but in a way I think they were overrated. Specifically, they seemed to vulnerable against the run, and I think that may be by design. (They didn’t look good against the Packers and the 49ers ran over them, even with their injuries.) That may not matter though, as I expect their offense to be better. (Side note: With Goff, shotgun/spread was more of a secondary aspect of their offense. I’m wondering if that will change with Stafford.)
If the majority of pundits feel the same way you do about the Patriots, I’m picking them as my dark horse. I think they will have one of the better defenses in the league, and they have a really good run game. It feels like they’re utilizing the same formula in the early Brady years.
I’m feeling good about the Seahawk roster, too, so I think they could really rise. Their new OC and Russ’s mentality are going to be the key. If Waldron is at least as good as LaFleur (and I don’t really think highly of LaFleur) and Russ has the pre-2020 mindset, I think they will be Super Bowl contenders.
I also like Carolina as a surprise team, but not as Super Bowl contenders.
By the way, I like WFT’s OC, Scott Turner.
In terms of Niner’s receivers, you don’t think Aiyuk and Deebo are good for their offense? You add them to Kittle and their receiving corp seems pretty darn good. They also got Sanu, but I have no idea if he still any good.
In terms of the Pats, would you pick them over the Niners, Rams, and Browns this year? Just trying to gauge how good you think they will be. In a couple preseason rankings I saw, the Pats were middle of the road. Like 14-18. I was surprised to see the Chargers was like bottom ten if I remember correctly. I think Staley will change that defense, and they could be really good.
You think Carolina will be better than the Football Team? I like Carolina as well, but I think the Football Team could have a dominant defense and I cannot say that about any part of Carolina. I should have mentioned Miami in my other post. I would pick Miami over Carolina as well. I think they are right outside of Tier 3 for me.
My sense is that they lack speed, and I’m not sure if they’re great route-runners. Samuel seems better as a ball-carrier than a WR. I haven’t seen enough of Aiyuk to form a strong opinion.
Yeah, but it depends on the quality of three of their defenses. If the Pats have a great defense, I think they’re going to look like the Patriots we’re used to. But their division is a lot tougher, and even if they are much better, they may not have home field advantage going into the playoffs.
I get the sense that people are counting them out. A popular narrative explaining this seems to be the absence of Brady. No disrespect to Brady, but I don’t find that narrative compelling. To wit, if Brady played on the Pats last year, I think the results would have been very similar. The Pats had a bad roster last year, maybe the worst in terms of skill positions. I think they’ve made a huge upgrade–unless many of there pickups are miscalculations based on desperation clouding their judgment.
But if not, I think they have the potential to be one of the better defenses in the league. Their LBs, Hightower, Van Noy, and Judon feel like their poor man’s version of Singletary, Wilbur Marshall and Otis Wilson. They have some good young CBs as well.
And if they have a really good run game, and the pass-catchers are much improved, they are likely a Super Bowl contender.
What people may forget: On this type of team Mac Jones just needs to play like Brady in his early years, more of a game-manager. He doesn’t have to play like post-2006 Brady. The keys are the defense and run game. If one or more are great, I suspect Jones will be good enough to be a solid game manager.
I agree with you, but the Panthers seem to have better balance, as a team, than the WFT. Watching them last year, they seemed like a few good pieces (especially at QB) to be a strong playoff team. I’m not sure if they addressed that. But if Darnold can protect the ball (which is no given), I could see them being better than the WFT.
With the WFT, I’m not sure their defense will be dominant/great. I wouldn’t describe them that way last year. But if they’re really dominant, they’ll probably be better than the Panthers.
I also agree about Miami. They’ll probably be better than the Panthers, but I think a lot of people have high expectations for them, so they don’t really qualify as a dark horse in my view.
Deebo and Aiyuk doesn’t seem slow to me. I don’t get the feeling they are like Michael Irvin speed – which isn’t break away type. But I get what you saying they may not be great on the outsides. At least in terms of Deebo we never saw him perform on the outside all that much.
I don’t disagree with you on the Pat’s strengths. Although, Van Noy and Judon may seem good at the line of scrimmage, but I don’t know how they are in coverage. LBs have to be able to cover guys in today’s game or be able to rush the passer. But even if I give you that the LBs are a good to great group, I don’t see the Pat’s D-line getting much better than last year. I also think the receiving group is not even an average group even with the TE’s. Aguilar is probably their best guy right now, and the biggest thing I remember about him is the Philly hero that caught babies being dropped from a burning building say, “They were tossing babies out the window and we were catching ’em, unlike Aguilar….”. I also don’t know if NE will be a run first offense. Well not like I think Cleveland will be anyway. I think Cleveland will look like the Cowboys in Dak’s rookie year running the ball.
Yeah I don’t think Washington’s D will be dominant, but they have good pieces on offense, with Gibson and Mclaurin. They also added Adam Humphries, who could be an ideal guy to compliment Mclaurin. I heard this guy say, the thing with Fitz is, he has bad games every fourth game (although that could be generous). He said if he is only bad one fourth of the time, the Redskins will win a lot of games. That being said, I can see the Panthers being better than Washington too. I’m just saying at this point in time, if I had to predict who would be better I would lean Washington.
I looked at some power rankings of teams of interest. I looked at a writer from Yahoo, CBS Sports, ESPN, and PFF. The Pats were anywhere between 11 and 17. Miami was worst between 14 and 16. The Chargers were between 15 and 23. Yahoo had Seattle at 6 and CBS had them at 18, with ESPN having them at 8 and PFF at 10. They are the wildest in terms of all over the place. The Cowboys were between 12 and 17. Carolina is being picked 23 or lower. Washington has one 13 ranking, but if not they are about 20 or so. Just as reference where these teams are being picked.
In a 4-3, my sense is that the LBs have to be good in coverage, but if the 4-3 is more like a 3-4 (e.g., 46-0), then they can function more like 3-4 OLBs. (I have a feeling that Seahawks are moving towards this–they have two OLBs that can rush the passer.) This is not to say 3-4 OLBs don’t need to be good in coverage, but my sense is that the burden/difficulty is not as great.
My sense is that their DL wasn’t the problem last year. They were missing Van Noy or the Ninokovich type of LB. (I like the D-lineman Guy.)
Average would be significant improvement. Aguilar was not good in Philly, but he was surprisingly good with the Raiders–including his hands. He has a total turnaround. He’s not a WR1, but an OK WR2 and very good WR seems like a reasonable designation. That might be enough. (They also picked up Kendrick Bourne from the 49ers, who played quite a bit, but I would just say was an OK WR3 at best.) But again, these guys, including the TEs, are way better than their pass-catchers last year. The Jets had one of the worst rosters last year, but Jamison Crowder and Chris Herndon, by themselves, made them a better pass-catching unit than the Pats’.
To me, they started making the shift towards run-based offense starting in 2018. It’s more of a core part of their offense than the spread in my view–maybe not as much as Browns or Titans, but I think it’s more accurate to call them run-based than pass-based. (They have had really good run-blocking since that time as well. And their OL play overall has been one of the best, although they had a bunch of injuries last year, which hurt them.)
Yeah, those are solid pieces, and I like their OC, Scott Turner. He has a really balanced approach–to the point where you don’t know if it’s more run-based or pass-based.
The problem is their QB. 1 in 4 bad games sounds right on the surface, but in actuality I think Fitz can look elite in 4-5 games, but then struggle and even lose games for you in the next 3-4. This makes him a good backup QB (unless great ball security is a must for your backup).
Interestingly, Darnold has that kind of quality to, although I think this type of variance occurs within games–i.e., he can make great throws throughout the game, but then he frequently make 1-3 really bad plays that can cost the game. This is why I think if he can improve his ball security, and the Panthers have a good defense and run game, they can do damage.
OK, thanks. The Seahawks being all over the place makes sense. They have a no name DL. Maybe a little known OL as well. I’m actually optimistic about this team–although so much is riding on their OC, who is an unknown quantity.
The Chargers are a hard one for me to evaluate.
I just think LBs in general have to cover guys no matter the type of defense a team plays. Jaylon Smith is a good to great LB against the run, especially to the outside, but he is a liability against the pass. TEs and running backs are so much more capable of creating separation in the passing game than ever before. This switch in offenses are creating a “need” or a type of LBs, and right now there seems to be a little bit of a lag in that kind of LBs. Teams play more nickel and dime than ever, so having super solid LBs may not necessarily create a great defense. New England had no pass rush and was getting beaten on the line of scrimmage quite a bit last year. Yes the LBs will help, but if they cannot cover or rush the passer, their effectiveness will be diminished. If Gilmore can return to form after his injury, their defense can be great even without a good pass rush. He can take away half the field. I’m just not as sure they can be great without him at 100% even with the better LBs.
I think the Pats’ receiving corp had better talent last year then they do this year, but they were just not on the field. So yes based on the fact that all of the Pats’ receivers were often injured, I give you there are improved. But my argument is not whether they will be improved, it is whether these guys can make New England good this year. If I had to guess, they will definite hold back this year’s team. I get Bill can do magic with guys, I’m just not sure he has enough talent. And I agree New England became more of a running team, and I think if they were more willing to be like the Titans or Browns, I would have more faith in their ability to win games. I just don’t see that, and I’m wondering if Mac will be able to overcome his lack of receivers. It’s not like I think the Pats are going to suck, I just think unlike most pundits that a team like the Chargers probably have the higher ceiling, even if they always seem to underwhelm. I just think there is a chance Staley can create a great defense, and overcome some of the deficiencies on offense.
To be clear, I’m not saying LBs don’t have to cover. I think they need coverage skills these days. I just think they don’t need great skills, especially if they’re used like 3-4 OLBs.
What do you mean by “switch?” Do you mean more pass-catching threats on the field?
I kinda think we’re going through a weird transition phase, where you have some offenses relying more on a physical run game, which is countering teams going for more speed (e.g., converted LBs from safeties). My feeling is that traditional LBs (e.g., effective in the run) are becoming more important.
At the same time, defenses need to defend the spread. So you need LBs that can play a role in coverage or nickel/dime DBs that can also be effective with the run.
I just heard Peter King praising New England’s front seven on defense. I get their LBs are greatly improved, I just didn’t think their front 3 (or 4) was all that great last year, and I didn’t think they added much. I think they got the guy from the Dolphins. But if New England front seven is as great as King says, I can see them being very good. I know they o-line is top three. If teams win both sides of the line of scrimmage, they are normally very good despite some of their deficiencies.
At the skill position, I really think it’s a significant upgrade. (Who were the hurt WRs, besides Edelman, that you think made them good?) On defense it’s the LB corps. With Belichick, the question is not whether they have enough good players, as it would be for most teams. Rather, it’s more if the roster is too deficient to help (as it was last year). They have been consistently good without having one of the better rosters in the league.
If anyone else had the current roster, I wouldn’t expect much.
The DL wasn’t great, but I liked Guy and Winovich is young, so he could improve. With the Patriots, the LBs are generally involved wit the pass rush as well. And most importantly, the scheme/game plan is what matters most. If you evaluated the quality of the Patriot team based on their players, you’d almost never pick them as a Super Bowl contender.
I think their front seven could be one of the best–but it’s more about the scheme in my view. (And I liked some of their young DBs, besides Gilmore.)
I saw Trey Lance, Mac Jones, and Tua play this preseason of the big name “newer” guys. I only saw very little of Tua, but all three looked poised. I thought Trey looked the best though. He had some nice throws to the outside even though they weren’t completed. Mac looked poised, but did super vanilla stuff. I didn’t see enough of Tua.
You guys saw anyone you can comment on? Jordon Love?
In terms of QBs, I saw Geno Smith and Nathan Peterman, but I’m assuming you’re not interested in them.
I just watched all of Trey Lance’s throws. To me, he did not look good. First, his feet seemed clunky–both dropping back from under center and taking the ball from the shotgun. Something about his arm motion doesn’t look that great to me, but that’s more of a minor point–although I didn’t think his throws looked so good, too. The errant throws stood out. He also had two kinda bad throws that were close to being intercepted. He looks really raw and rough-around-the-edges. He seems far away from starting.
OK, nothing really stood out. (I thought of Sam Darnold, though. To me, if Darnold can improve his ball security he can be a solid starter.
Early on, I thought he was OK–similar to how I felt about Wilson. But as the highlights continued, Fields definitely showed more play making ability (i.e., scrambling and running). Probably for this reason, I though he looked the best of the three.
OK as well–similar to Wilson; maybe a tad better?
Again, OK. Maybe the least impressive arm?
Besides Fields’s playmaking, I have a hard time distinguishing the players–except I thought Lance was the worst of all of them. (I should say that it’s not like all the other QBs had way better footwork.)
Going back to Darnold. I recall someone say that if Darnold were drafted this year, he’d be rated higher than all of these QBs. That seems right to me. (Darnold can do more things–but the problem is his ball security in my opinion.)
re Trey Lance:
I will agree that Lance does look a little awkward. His throwing motion doesn’t look like Cam Newton, but the awkwardness reminds me of Cam. And I’ll add I heard a few pundits say he didn’t play all that well. However, I was impressed with the arm strength (couple throws to the outside), and the poise (although too much poise at times because he took too many sacks). Like I said I was only comparing Mac and Trey and I would go Trey after Week 1 of the preseason despite Mac probably having the better stats.
With regard to Lance’s poise, what stood out more was moments of jittery feet–although I could be misremembering that. (I feel like Tua can be like this, too, although yesterday, he looked pretty good.)
Just based on week 1 of preseason, I’d say it’s close to a wash between Lance and Jones. I’d give the edge to Jones, though. Lance to me looks far from being a starter. (Jones looked a lot better in week 2.)
I watched all the plays for Jordan Love and Tua Tagavailoa. They both looked better, more polished than the rookies, although maybe that’s not saying much.
Except for the INT, Tua looked good. To me, I feel he’s a QB that’s going to need a really good OL. That’s the only way you’re going to see his full potential. The situation is similar to Brees in my view. If Miami is serious about Tua, they should invest in the OL. I think he could have a shaky year if the pass pro is shaky. And that could really hurt his development as well.
I often refer to the depth charts here. They’re updated daily throughout the season. https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/29098001/2021-nfl-depth-charts-all-32-teams
If you’re looking for just lists of teams’ additions and subtractions all on one page, I don’t think it exists. But several sites have 2021 previews where you click on each team and see the additions and departures.
Thanks, Mitchell! I think this fits the bill!
The May 18 episode of the Mina Kimes Show Featuring Lenny took a deep dive on ranking NFL defenses. It was a bit too nerdy for my comprehension, but it was a good listen.
I’m not ready to think about tiers yet, but one thing you don’t mention and maybe didn’t consider is how vaccination rates may influence a team’s record. If you’re going to consider a team’s age and likelihood of injury, I think you have to think about COVID-19 as well.
The last I read, the Vikings have five or six starters who won’t get vaccinated, plus another twenty guys. Given exploding rates in positive tests these days, and the NFL’s firm policy on not rescheduling games, I would pencil in a couple of losses, at least, just attributable to the virus. This almost for sure means winning the NFC North is out of the question, leaving Minnesota with a wildcard spot at best. It’s worth considering.
Because I listen to so many podcasts based in the DC area (Tony Kornheiser, PTI, Kevin Sheehan, Meet the Press, This Week with George Stephanopolous, and Scott Van Pelt) I unintentionally follow and kind of like the Washington Football Team, who I think has the second-lowest rate (84%) of vaccinated players. Especially appalling because Ron Rivera is immunocompromised.
I have no verification on this, but someone told me the Seahawks have only one player who’s not vaccinated. I immediately said, “That has to be Wilson or Metcalf, right?” I can’t imagine any other player standing up to every other man on the roster like that — only Metcalf and Wilson have that kind of juice, right?
I’m not aware of the rates for each team, and I was too lazy to look them up, but it’s fair to consider this especially for a team like the Vikings…
26 players? Man, that’s a lot. Six starters seems like a lot by itself. Crazy. Yeah, that’s definitely a factor. Other teams that are similar are going to be affected in a negative way–or I’ll be surprised if they’re not.
Totally. If Rivera gets the virus from one of his players….Man (I’m literally shaking my head now.)
I don’t know, but I’d be disappointed if it were either of them.
2nd pres-season games for rookie/young QBs
Mac Jones footwork looks a lot better. I like the way a lot of this throws come out of the rhythm of his feet. I like the way he plants and bounces off his back foot, too (although the stride seems a tad long). Maybe I’m misremembering the first game, but his footwork seems significantly better in this second game.
Patriots move on from Cam Newton
This surprised me. Is there any good landing spot for him? None come to mind. I don’t think a team with a young QB would be a good spot for him…unless he embraces a backup role. He’s probably too beat up to go to a place that would welcome a running threat. I don’t know if his throwing ability is good enough to make him attractive. In a way, the Patriots was the perfect spot–because they could manufacture open targets (at least if they had sufficient, which they didn’t last year).
It surprised Schefter so it should have surprised everyone. Pablo Torre speculated that perhaps outright releasing him was a favor to Cam, so he could go where he wanted (and when he wanted), rather than trading him. He clearly has NFL value to someone, ‘though he may just want to wait until some first-stringer gets injured, as someone almost always does.
Houston seems like the obvious move if he wants a starting job now. If he wants to wait, I’d have his agent keep an eye on the Denver QB situation. That team looks like it might only need a guy who doesn’t lose games for them, and nobody seems really sure if that’s what they have. Detroit might be a possibility although in that division I don’t think so.
The fact that the Patriots cut him, and the his diminished play last year (although, again, he played with a bad roster) raises questions about how much value he has. Then again, I heard one pundit say that the Patriots might not want Cam as a backup if they choose Jones as the starter because Cam is too popular on the team and might cause divisions in the locker room. I have no idea if this is true.
But I am less confident Cam would be effective starter. Even if you factor in the weak roster, he does look broken down. Belichick, with adequate personnel, could manufacture layups for offense, and they have a strong run game. That’s a good situation. Maybe the Broncos will be similar, but I’m not certain. (I’m sure how good their OL is as well.) I’m also not sure Cam would be significantly better, or even better, than Bridgewater. Houston might take him, but they might have the worst roster in the league.
If the Patriots let Cam go because he messed up with Covid protocols, that may significantly reduce interest in signing him. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if there isn’t interest.
I wonder if Sean Payton would want him in New Orleans.
I agree with the Pats’ move if they were going to go with Mac. Sort of how I was saying Garoppolo should have been traded. I don’t think it’s good for a rookie QB to be looking over their shoulder all the time.
I agree with Mitchell’s teams for a starting position. As a back up though, I would say behind Lamar or behind Daniel Jones would be my top two.
If Shanahan decides Lance is the day 1 starter, the moving on from Jimmy G makes sense. Lance (and all the other rookie QBs) looked a little better as the preseason progressed, but I’m a little skeptical he’s ready to play.
I don’t think Cam would be good as a backup for Daniel Jones, for similar reasons above. He might be better for Lamar, but that’s a little risky, too, in my view.
The Texans have Rex Burkhead, Mark Ingram, and David Johnson. They should totally run the wishbone!
With a young Cam Newton, I would like to see that.
Raiders sign KJ Wright.
I’m happy with this move. I actually thought Wright played better than Wagner last year, and it might have been his best year. The Raiders haven’t had a good LB in a long, long time.
Why Colin Cowherd is wrong about Matt Stafford elevating the Rams and Baker Mayfield (being underrated)
I don’t always agree with the consensus of NFL pundits, but I’m totally with them with regard to Stafford elevating the Rams–possibly into a Super Bowl contender. There are other factors that need to be considered–and that’s something I think Cowherd and many fans seem to forget when it comes to the QB position. Specifically, they forget the degree to which winning and losing depend on many variables, not just the QB. No one would dispute this, but they act as if they don’t really understand or agree with this. There’s some examples of this in Cowherd’s argument against Stafford in the video below.
When you evaluate a QB, simply looking at the team’s success, without really considering other variables, is a bad way to assess. And if you’re going to compare QBs, you have to make sure the situations are comparable. And if you claim a QB in a bad situation performed better than a QB in a good situation, you better be sure your assessment of the situations are accurate. My sense is that Cowherd fails in this regard (but I don’t want to go through all the specifics).
One of Cowherd’s main arguments is the Vegas betting lines on the W-L record for the Lions and Rams. Since they’re essentially the same as last year’s records for both teams, Cowherd concludes that Vegas doesn’t think much of Stafford. Here’s another example of someone overlooking the other variables that affect winning and losing.
In this case, the Rams lost several pieces on defense, including their DC. Additionally, the DC they’re bringing in is going to run the same defense–which he’s unfamiliar with. That is, he’s not installing his own defense. They also lost their starting center and their pass game coordinator as well. Finally, perhaps Vegas believes the NFC West, as strong as it was last year, will be even tougher this year. I’m not how Vegas came to their conclusions, but my point is that many different factors, besides the QB, that could go into that process.
I’ll end the Stafford-Goff issue this way. I’m confident Stafford is a much better QB than Goff. One of Goff’s biggest problems is that he and his passes would frequently malfunction under heavy pressure. Stafford is much better in this regard. I would add that not only will he not crumble under a heavy pass rush, he has the ability to create in such situations. Stafford is better at this (and running) then some fans may think. (In terms of running with the ball, I would say he’s on par with Aaron Rodgers or Pat Mahomes.)
If this assessment is accurate, then it’s reasonable to think the offense will be much better. Throwing for a ton of yards or TDs don’t matter if a QB can’t perform well under heavy pressure. Stafford should be way better in this regard, and that, by itself, should help the team be a contender.
But this enhancement can be negated if the defense isn’t very good. Also, in one of the toughest divisions in the league, it may be difficult to get a good record or even make the playoffs.
As for the Mayfield issue, I’ll try to say something about this later.
Kickoff is nearly upon us so I guess I have to do this now.
Wild cards: Ravens, Patriots, Dolphins
Denver and Los Angeles are sexy picks to be good this year, and while I see it for the Broncos, I don’t see it for the Chargers. Although they are still a fun team to watch with a promising QB, what do they have that indicates they’re better than they were two seasons ago with Philip Rivers? I think the Raiders and Broncos will get to 9-8.
Wild cards: Cowboys, 49ers, Bears
That NFC East situation is so difficult to predict. Looks like the NFC West will again be the most competitive division.
My team to come out of nowhere this year is the Panthers, although maybe a lot of people wouldn’t think they’re coming out of nowhere. They were 5-11 the past two seasons, so I think they’ll qualify if they’re still in the playoff picture in week 17, which I think they will be. You may remember I was pretty into them last season.
Super bowl: I reeeeeeally don’t want to pick the Chiefs and Buccaneers for this game, like everyone seems to be. It’s super difficult to repeat as conference champs, and for the Chiefs it would be three in a row. But they are the best-looking team in the league. The Buccaneers offense did well enough, managing age and injuries with unusual grace. I think they could catch the same good waves, since there’s a kind of level-headed calm permeating the team vibe. Still, it’s just as likely that enough stuff goes wrong that they lose a critical game here and there. So I’m going with the Chiefs over the Rams, although I kinda want to see the Rams win this year.
MVP: Patrick Mahomes
Comeback player of the year: Christian McCaffrey over Saquon Barkley and Dak Prescott
(I’m just taking stabs in the dark on these)
Offensive rookie of the year: Kyle PItts (Falcons)
Defensive rookie of the year: Jaelan Phillips (Dolphins)
I think you’re making solid picks.
I wonder about the Saints, though. Yes, they lose Brees and won’t have Michael Thomas for a few games, and even if they do, they’re WR corps isn’t so hot. But they had a very good roster in the last few years; they were one of the more well-rounded teams as well. I don’t know who they lost or added, so maybe they lost a lot of players. But to finish would be a huge fall for this team. I’m a little iffy on that.
The Raiders being in second seemed far-fetched, but 9-8 seems reasonable. I’m getting a vibe that their defensive roster has improved, but I’m lukewarm on Gus Bradley. And the Raiders lost key pieces on the OL as well. They’re a quick passing team, so that might not matter, but it may really hurt their run game. I don’t have much faith in Gruden, too.
In the past I don’t think I’ve created bottom tiers–that is, teams that have the least or virtually no chance of winning the Super Bowl. (I’m trying to do this in order–left to right, up to down. The last team has the least chance of winning the Super Bowl. Teams on the same line basically have the same chance.)
Bears, (edit) Falcons
Jets, Eagles, Bengals, Jaguars
Right now, I would be surprised if any of these teams make it to the Super Bowl, let alone win it.
The Giants are really close to being in this tier. (They would be in the bottom of tier 3 right now.) I actually like the Giants in a lot of ways, but I’m sensing their OL will be bad. If that’s true, I don’t think they have any chance. On the other hand, if their OL is good enough to produce a good run game, they could be a lot better than people think. I think that the run game is the key, and the OL is the key to the run game. (I tend to think their defense will be solid, if not more than that.)
The Raiders probably belong here as well.
For the Bears, Fields and the defense could be good. If so, they could get in as a wildcard, but their chances of winning the Super Bowl still seem remote.
For the Jets, Eagles, Bengals, and Jaguars, I think the ceiling is a .500 record, I expect them to slightly miss this mark, more than slightly exceed it.
I’m pretty confident the Lions and Texans will not win 50% of their games. Lions 6 or less; Texans 5 or less.
(Edit: I forgot about the Falcons. I don’t know who they added or lost on defense, but my sense is that they’re going to be pretty bad on defense–and their offense won’t be good enough to make up for it. .500-ish seems to be their ceiling.)
Interesting piece by Kevin Clark at the Ringer. https://www.theringer.com/nfl/2021/10/15/22728003/jon-gruden-urban-meyer-cult-of-the-coach
He goes too specifically into Gruden and Meyer, but the gist of the story — coaching is changing — and some of the other details ring true with me, not only in sports but in other areas of management.
I thought the piece was kind of all over the place, and a bit confusing as a result. (shrugs)
I can see that. Confusing enough that you didn’t find yourself interested? I thought the bit about having few rules would have you nodding your head. As much as I dislike the Seahawks, my issue with Carroll wasn’t his supposedly simple and few rules, it was that one rule that I still think cannot be applied meaningfully. But the concept is sound, and it’s what I’ve used in my own (classroom) management and in my management of people.
I can’t think of anything that stood out, but there may have been several that were potentially interested. But by the time I got the end of the piece, I had trouble remembering those things. I think I was just trying to process the piece to find a cohesive whole, which I couldn’t get to.
After 7 weeks here is my rankings:
Bucs – It’s scary to think what this team can be if healthy. The Bucs won last year because of their defense, and this year they probably have the best offenses in the league. If their defense can get to last year’s playoff level, they can be scary good.
Bills – I put the Bills in by themselves because we know their offense is good, and their defense has potential to be really good as well. I don’t full trust Josh Allen, and the ceiling of this defense isn’t close to the Bucs.
Rams – Their offense isn’t as good as the Cowboys, but their defense definitely can be much better than the Cowboys. Whether their defense can get close to last year, I’m not sure.
Cowboys – Probably the best offense in the league behind the Bucs. Their defense gives up too many big plays. But I like that they take some chances on defense.
Chargers – I believe in Staley’s defense and Herbert is great despite laying an egg against the Ravens.
Cardinals – I don’t believe in them fully yet, but they do a lot of things well overall.
Packers – Their defense might not be better than the Cowboys’ and that might be saying a lot. But they have Rodgers and they knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs in 2016 and 2014.
Titans – Their offense can be great. But man is their defense bad. The defense shut down the Chiefs, though.
Baltimore – Lamar doesn’t have enough weapons and I’m not sold on their defense carrying them.
Cincinnati – I love me some Burrow. He may be my favorite QB outside of Dak. Burrow has weapons too with Higgins and Chase. If they keep improving their ceiling can be the second best AFC team behind the Bills.
Chiefs – Because they are the Chiefs. Their o-line will start to gel and they will get better, but can they turn it around in time will be the question.
Can’t really argue against these. Of the teams not making this list, are there any you could see turning the season around and making the playoffs? I still like Carolina against my better judgment, but the Raiders, Seahawks, and Browns might bet better choices. And is Tua figuring things out? Because if he is, the Dolphins could have a strong second half.
Man, the last few weeks has been brutal for Carolina, culminating with a horrible loss to a bad Giants team. The Carolina defense could be really good if Gilmore returns to form though.
The Raiders has been pretty impressive after the Gruden “thing”. The two games were very winnable, but after the controversy, you could see them “folding the tents”. I think the Raiders has a shot, but I cannot see them being better than the teams I mentioned.
I agree they have a shot, but I’m not sure if Mayfield will be good again this year. He definitely will not be healthy, and they will be without Kareem Hunt this year. I would love to see Cam play on this team if their o-line and Chubb was healthy.
If Seattle can go five hundred until Wilson returns, they will have a shot. Well, that’s if Wilson can be Wilson as soon as he returns.
The Fins are done. Tua doesn’t seem to be as big a problem as their defense. Their defense lead this team last season, and now they cannot be counted on.
2021 fantasy football recap. I played in ten leagues this year. One with our high school classmates, one in the office, and eight Yahoo! money leagues. The money leagues were all standard Yahoo! rules in ten-team leagues. Learning my lesson from the pricier fantasy baseball leagues, I stuck to $5 leagues for football.
sssnakes! (high-school classmates league)
Auction draft, keeper league
Finished 13-2; first in regular season; won championship
Josh Allen (Buf – QB)
Matthew Stafford (LAR – QB)
Julio Jones (Ten – WR)
Courtland Sutton (Den – WR)
Robby Anderson (Car – WR)
D’Andre Swift (Det – RB)
Darrell Henderson Jr. (LAR – RB)
Josh Jacobs (LV – RB)
George Kittle (SF – TE)
Najee Harris (Pit – RB)
Green Bay (GB – DEF)
Dallas Goedert (Phi – TE)
Spin Dwyers (office 12-team league)
Finished 8-7; sixth place; lost in round 1 of playoffs
1. (11) Ezekiel Elliott (Dal – RB)
2. (14) Saquon Barkley (NYG – RB)
3. (35) Josh Allen (Buf – QB)
4. (38) Chris Godwin (TB – WR)
5. (59) Brandon Aiyuk (SF – WR)
6. (62) Darrell Henderson Jr. (LAR – RB)
7. (83) Melvin Gordon III (Den – RB)
8. (86) Kenny Golladay (NYG – WR)
9. (107) Noah Fant (Den – TE)
10. (110) Will Fuller V (Mia – WR)
11. (131) Marquez Callaway (NO – WR)
12. (134) David Johnson (Hou – RB)
13. (155) Indianapolis (Ind – DEF)
14. (158) Rodrigo Blankenship (Ind – K)
15. (179) Tua Tagovailoa (Mia – QB)
Deep leagues are so tough, mostly because when you get injuries you’re digging really deep for replacements. With Barkley and Golladay on the bench most of the season, I mostly stayed competitive playing musical defenses all year.
Commitment 2xl Ence ($5 league)
Finished 5-10; ninth place
1. (3) Alvin Kamara (NO – RB)
2. (18) Calvin Ridley (Atl – WR)
3. (23) A.J. Brown (Ten – WR)
4. (38) D’Andre Swift (Det – RB)
5. (43) Amari Cooper (Dal – WR)
6. (58) Dak Prescott (Dal – QB)
7. (63) Chase Claypool (Pit – WR)
8. (78) Kenny Golladay (NYG – WR)
9. (83) Tyler Boyd (Cin – WR)
10. (98) Corey Davis (NYJ – WR)
11. (103) Dallas Goedert (Phi – TE)
12. (118) Nyheim Hines (Ind – RB)
13. (123) Baltimore (Bal – DEF)
14. (138) David Johnson (Hou – RB)
15. (143) Greg Zuerlein (Dal – K)
I still don’t know why this team wasn’t more successful.
The Black Hole ($5 league)
Finished 7-8; eighth place
1. (6) Ezekiel Elliott (Dal – RB)
2. (15) Saquon Barkley (NYG – RB)
3. (26) A.J. Brown (Ten – WR)
4. (35) Keenan Allen (LAC – WR)
5. (46) Kyler Murray (Ari – QB)
6. (55) Diontae Johnson (Pit – WR)
7. (66) Brandon Aiyuk (SF – WR)
8. (75) Noah Fant (Den – TE)
9. (86) Chase Edmonds (Ari – RB)
10. (95) Michael Carter (NYJ – RB)
11. (106) Tony Pollard (Dal – RB)
12. (115) Will Fuller V (Mia – WR)
13. (126) Mike Gesicki (Mia – TE)
14. (135) Indianapolis (Ind – DEF)
15. (146) Greg Zuerlein (Dal – K)
This league was just super competitive. First place in the standings had 10-5 and everyone else hovered around .500 all season.
Ghost to the Post ($5 league)
Finished 9-6; third place; lost in final
1. (7) Ezekiel Elliott (Dal – RB)
2. (14) Jonathan Taylor (Ind – RB)
3. (27) Keenan Allen (LAC – WR)
4. (34) Kyler Murray (Ari – QB)
5. (47) Julio Jones (Ten – WR)
6. (54) DJ Moore (Car – WR)
7. (67) Miles Sanders (Phi – RB)
8. (74) Tee Higgins (Cin – WR)
9. (87) Noah Fant (Den – TE)
10. (94) Michael Carter (NYJ – RB)
11. (107) Kenny Golladay (NYG – WR)
12. (114) Tony Pollard (Dal – RB)
13. (127) Dallas Goedert (Phi – TE)
14. (134) San Francisco (SF – DEF)
15. (147) Jason Sanders (Mia – K)
Pretty much carried by Jonathan Taylor.
Sea of Hands ($5 league)
Finished 8-7; sixth place
1. (3) Alvin Kamara (NO – RB)
2. (18) Austin Ekeler (LAC – RB)
3. (23) A.J. Brown (Ten – WR)
4. (38) Kyler Murray (Ari – QB)
5. (43) Robert Woods (LAR – WR)
6. (58) Julio Jones (Ten – WR)
7. (63) Tee Higgins (Cin – WR)
8. (78) Melvin Gordon III (Den – RB)
9. (83) Tyler Higbee (LAR – TE)
10. (98) Michael Carter (NYJ – RB)
11. (103) Ryan Tannehill (Ten – QB)
12. (118) Will Fuller V (Mia – WR)
13. (123) Indianapolis (Ind – DEF)
14. (138) Mike Gesicki (Mia – TE)
15. (143) Matt Prater (Ari – K)
As you can see, my sources had A.J. Brown ranked higher than I think most of my opponents in all leagues had him. I also grabbed Kyler Murray earlier in the draft in a few leagues than he was going in most drafts, a gamble that seemed to pay off in the first half of the season — until Murray got injured.
Immaculate Deception ($5 league)
Finished 7-8; ninth place
1. (6) Aaron Jones (GB – RB)
2. (15) Saquon Barkley (NYG – RB)
3. (26) A.J. Brown (Ten – WR)
4. (35) Chris Godwin (TB – WR)
5. (46) D’Andre Swift (Det – RB)
6. (55) Russell Wilson (Sea – QB)
7. (66) Tee Higgins (Cin – WR)
8. (75) Chase Edmonds (Ari – RB)
9. (86) Robby Anderson (Car – WR)
10. (95) Kenny Golladay (NYG – WR)
11. (106) Michael Carter (NYJ – RB)
12. (115) Dallas Goedert (Phi – TE)
13. (126) Trevor Lawrence (Jax – QB)
14. (135) Indianapolis (Ind – DEF)
15. (146) Rodrigo Blankenship (Ind – K)
This was a good team but the league was very competitive.
Cruisin’ with the Tooz ($5 league)
Finished 7-8; seventh place
1. (8) Aaron Jones (GB – RB)
2. (13) Tyreek Hill (KC – WR)
3. (28) Terry McLaurin (Was – WR)
4. (33) Chris Carson (Sea – RB)
5. (48) DJ Moore (Car – WR)
6. (53) Mark Andrews (Bal – TE)
7. (68) Tom Brady (TB – QB)
8. (73) Raheem Mostert (SF – RB)
9. (88) Michael Carter (NYJ – RB)
10. (93) JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pit – WR)
11. (108) Dallas Goedert (Phi – TE)
12. (113) Greg Zuerlein (Dal – K)
13. (128) Trevor Lawrence (Jax – QB)
14. (133) Tampa Bay (TB – DEF)
15. (148) James White (NE – RB)
I might as well have just passed in rounds 3 through 5. Rounds 8 through 10 were just as bad. Yikes.
The Mad Bomber ($5 league)
Finished 8-7; fourth place; won championship
1. (13) Derrick Henry RB
2. (19) Josh Allen QB
3. (20) DeAndre Hopkins WR
4. (25) Chris Carson RB
5. (50) Miles Sanders RB
6. (52) DJ Moore WR
7. (72) Pittsburgh DEF
8. (78) Diontae Johnson WR
9. (82) Greg Zuerlein K
10. (84) Robert Tonyan TE
11. (102) Joe Burrow QB
12. (112) Rob Gronkowski TE
13. (121) Courtland Sutton WR
14. (129) Michael Carter RB
15. (137) Jarvis Landry WR
It’s difficult to analyze an auction draft in this format, and Yahoo! doesn’t list just my players with my salaries. But here’s what the top 15 salaries looked like with their pick numbers. Yeah, someone bid $73 on Christian McCaffrey.
2. Christian McCaffrey (Car – RB) $73 “Astounding Tea…
4. Dalvin Cook (Min – RB) $65 Dogecoin
9. Alvin Kamara (NO – RB) $63 MAC ATTACKAAA
33. Aaron Jones (GB – RB) $60 bad team not good
14. Davante Adams (GB – WR) $59 “Astounding Tea…
13. Derrick Henry (Ten – RB) $57 The Mad Bomber
5. Ezekiel Elliott (Dal – RB) $55 Saquon Deez nuts
28. Austin Ekeler (LAC – RB) $53 The unknowns
12. Nick Chubb (Cle – RB) $52 Free win
1. Travis Kelce (KC – TE) $52 Saber Tooth Tigers
17. Tyreek Hill (KC – WR) $52 El Gallo
10. Saquon Barkley (NYG – RB) $52 Saquon Deez nuts
15. Jonathan Taylor (Ind – RB) $51 bad team not good
23. Antonio Gibson (Was – RB) $49 Saber Tooth Tigers
20. DeAndre Hopkins (Ari – WR) $49 The Mad Bomber
Just make the playoffs! Anything can happen!
The Mad Stork ($5 league)
Finished 8-7; fifth place
1. (5) Tyreek Hill WR
2. (31) Chris Carson RB
3. (32) CeeDee Lamb WR
4. (35) Allen Robinson II WR
5. (37) Josh Allen QB
6. (50) Josh Jacobs RB
7. (57) Mike Evans WR
8. (61) Myles Gaskin RB
9. (76) Indianapolis DEF
10. (86) Noah Fant TE
11. (96) Jason Sanders K
12. (105) Kenny Golladay WR
13. (114) Joe Burrow QB
14. (122) Mike Gesicki TE
15. (130) David Johnson RB
Top 15 auction prices:
4. Christian McCaffrey (Car – RB) $76 3 RB1s!!?? ($5)
8. Dalvin Cook (Min – RB) $69 Bald Eagles
12. Alvin Kamara (NO – RB) $66 Gryffindor
9. Derrick Henry (Ten – RB) $60 tony’s Fantastic …
2. Ezekiel Elliott (Dal – RB) $59 Pop-Lockett-Drop It
17. Aaron Jones (GB – RB) $56 Bald Eagles
14. Jonathan Taylor (Ind – RB) $54 Chance’s Crazy Team
22. Travis Kelce (KC – TE) $53 Team 20
10. Austin Ekeler (LAC – RB) $52 3 RB1s!!?? ($5)
3. Davante Adams (GB – WR) $52 Dude Where’s Lamar?
18. Nick Chubb (Cle – RB) $49 3 RB1s!!?? ($5)
5. Tyreek Hill (KC – WR) $46 The Mad Stork
1. Saquon Barkley (NYG – RB) $46 Chance’s Crazy Team
27. Stefon Diggs (Buf – WR) $45 tony’s Fantastic …
13. Najee Harris (Pit – RB) $45 tony’s Fantastic …
28. Calvin Ridley (Atl – WR) $43 Dude Where’s Lamar?
So for eight money leagues, I paid $40 and won $40. For all ten leagues, two championships and one runner-up. All things being equal (and assuming all leagues have ten teams), you’d expect to win one championship and one runner-up, so I did quite a bit better than random.
For next season, I’m considering doing more auction drafts. The draft is more fun, and I think the league rewards smarter drafting.