AFCE status report.

Mr Sports

If you’ve wondered about Kolonich’s generic sportwriter icon, this is Milt Dunnell, the “Sports Editor of Canada.”  (click.)

The Reboot may be on hiatus but Kolonich is still with us.  Here’s his wry take on the AFC East.


Miami Dolphins

Sandwiched between the latest from Mary Kay’s TMZ Twitter feed and the PD’s first installment of Bro Witness News*, was this hilarious headline:

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As corporate monoliths go, the league was either brazen or brainless enough to allow Jerry Jimmy Haslam and Stephen Ross to discuss “Expectations of Leadership” with dozens of bored rookies.  While the jury is both literally and figuratively out on Haslam, Ross has already proven that he is indeed Jerry-class when it comes to running an NFL team into the ground.

Consider:

stephen-ross

Ross grips the ball better than his 9-inch-handed QB.

  • The Dolphins play in the league’s weakest division, yet have not visited the playoffs since the Chad Pennington era.
  • Ross chased Jim Harbaugh while Tony Sparano twisted in the wind.  Ross missed badly, apologized to Sparano by giving him an extension – then ate the contract a year later.
  • Ross green lit Jeff Ireland’s pathetic 2013 offseason shopping spree (a desperate attempt to save his once promising career), before firing him a year later.
  • Watched from afar as Richie Incognito media morphed from a simple asshole football player into nuclear Bin Laden.
  • And naturally, head football coach Joe Philbin – the guy who allowed both gay blow up dolls and an NFL leading 58 sacks of Ryan Tannehill – was brought back for the 2014 season.

And because cap-strapped teams with weak ownership, a horrid reputation, a new general manager and an average quarterback usually don’t equal success, Philbin is already a lame duck in a throwaway season.

Oh, and about that new general manager:

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 11.07.53 AM

 

But wait – it’s not all bad!

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Oh my.

Re-signed: DT Randy Starks, CB Brent Grimes
Veteran additions: OT Branden Albert, WR Kevin Cone, FS Louis Delmas, CB Cortland Finnegan, OT Jason Fox, NT Earl Mitchell, RB Knowshon Moreno, G Shelley Smith, WR Damian Williams.

Veteran subtractions: CB Nolan Carroll, OT Tyson Clabo, SS Chris Clemons, G Richie Incognito, G John Jerry, TE Dustin Keller, OT Jonathan Martin, OT Bryant McKinnie, WR Marlon Moore, CB Chris Owens, DT Paul Soliai, LB Austin Spitler, DB R.J. Stanford, G Danny Watkins, OT Will Yeatman, CB Dimitri Patterson.
Draft picks: 1-Ja’Wuan James (OT), 2-Jarvis Landry (WR), 3-Billy Turner (OT), 4-Walt Aikens (CB), 5a-Arthur Lynch (TE), 5b-Jordie Tripp (OLB), 6-Matt Hazel (WR), 7-Terrence Fede (DE).

OFFSEASON GRADE:  How about a P for Pointless?

Fifteen years of Browns’ expansion ball informs me that Dennis Hickey and Joe Philbin won’t be around in 2015, so let’s not pretend that most of these additions are going to be favored by the next regime (My fake money’s on Holmgren sniffing out Ross’ Lerner-esque ooze.).

Billy-turner

Billy Turner from North Dakota State.

As for the free agents, the Dolphins pulled an Ireland to get a year or two out of Branden Albert, rewarded Brent Grimes for a big contract year, then picked up either dumped or damaged goods in Knowshon Moreno, Cortland Finnegan and Louis Delmas.  Certainly, draft picks Ja’Wuan James and Billy Turner will add depth to what was probably the league’s worst O-Line (and they will always be polite and respectful towards each other) and Jarvis Landry can ideally make a few plays over the middle of the field.

However, the Dolphins are clearly in transition between a past, present and future front office and coaching staff (whether they realize it or not).  Or in other words, Philbin needs to win now, Hickey is looking to the future – and both will be gone soon anyway, much like the team’s image as a successful NFL franchise.

ANALYSIS:  Ryan Tannehill is probably the fifth best quarterback of the 2012 draft class (I would probably go Wilson-Luck-Foles-Griffin-Tannehill), which, given the talent from that year, actually means something.  Pair Tannehill with Chip Kelly or at the least, give him an average offensive line and his rank goes a bit higher.   But then again, I’m probably reflecting more on the start of Tannehill’s 2013 season than its dismal end.

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Tannehill has learned how to avoid the interceptions that were a problem in his Kyle Field days.

But the bigger question is – is Tannehill worth a big grown-up contract?  Given that elite NFL QB’s have become the NFL’s one percenters – and since Tannehill and Andy Dalton have the exact number of playoff wins – this is already a make or break year for the Dolphins’ still insanely young QB to define his career.

A run to the playoffs in an increasingly weak AFC East could spare Philbin and Hickey for another year and likely put Tannehill in the Dalton-sphere of 12-15 mil a year.  Anything less means Tannehill is Christian Ponder in 2015.

Of course, the problem is that Charles Clay was probably the Dolphins’ best receiver.  Last year, the Dolphins’ O-Line couldn’t block well enough to allow Tannehill to connect downfield with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline.  Clay benefitted from a variety of dump offs and Oh My God I’m About to Get F-ing Sacked Again! types of passes.**

The running game was bipolar, as witnessed by four games in which the Dolphins were held under 25 total rushing yards (naturally, one of those games was a win over the Browns), and 157 and 181 yard outputs in wins over the Bengals and Steelers.  LaMar Miller and the concussed brain of Daniel Thomas return along with Bronco castoff Moreno.

The hope is that new talent along the offensive line and the arrival of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor*** from Chip Kelly’s Eagles sparks an inconsistent offense.  It had better – given that the Dolphins’ offensive skill players are nearly identical from 2013.

mTzq6.Em.56

Vernon doing the patented Wake move.

On defense, the Dolphins were 20th in the league in yards allowed, but top ten (8th) in giving up points.  The Dolphins’ front seven is strong and bolstered by a classic Kanicki front four.  Olivier Vernon – also known as NOT Dion Jordan – came out of nowhere to grab 11.5 sacks across from veteran Cameron Wake.  Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe add some nice range but the secondary is a huge mess.  Grimes anchors a unit that will probably (in September only) feature the ghosts of Finnegan and Delmas.

THE PICK:  The Dolphins definitely targeted a need along their offensive line and of course won’t have Slate.com writers picking through their garbage this year.  However, the Dolphins return the same skill players from an average 2013 offense and somehow got older on defense.  Throw in lame duck Philbin and the Dolphins are staring at a top ten pick next year.

* It’s only a matter of time before Chris Fedor is mock drafting dick pics.
** Surprisingly not a category on Football Outsiders.
*** Funny how Lazor and not “Offensive Coordinator” Pat Shurmur got a promotion.

*****

Buffalo Bills

I’ve long held the belief that had Art Modell not been a stunningly incompetent businessman, he could have kept the Browns in Cleveland for another decade – long enough to crumble the franchise into something resembling today’s Bills.

Just imagine:

  1. A depressed, post-industrial economy with a shrinking population;
  2. A decaying stadium built eight Presidents ago;
  3. An octogenarian owner whose last smart move was hiring Bill Polian;
  4. Lake Effect Snow!!
  5. Endless talk of a new stadium.

Throw in great, great fans whose best sports memories are almost winning something 25 years ago and now suffer through endless organizational reboots and you have a sinister Modell-ian vision that almost makes a Browns’ fan thankful for the Lerner family.

But there is hope – I guess.

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Paint and scoreboards and check out #4. Good christ, buffalobills.com. (click.)

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But would Trump be a disaster for Buffalo? That’s the more relevant question ESPN-Ashley. (click.)

Re-signed: S Aaron Williams, TE Scott Chandler, K Dan Carpenter, TE Mike Caussin, WR Chris Hogan, CB Brandon Smith.
Veteran additions: RB Anthony Dixon, CB Corey Graham, LB Keith Rivers, LB Brandon Spikes, G Chris Williams, DE Jarius Wynn, WR Mike Williams, RB Bryce Brown.
Veteran subtractions: FS Jairus Byrd, DE Alex Carrington, QB Kevin Kolb, FS Jim Leonhard, LB Arthur Moats, OT Thomas Welch, WR Steve Johnson.
Draft picks: 1-Sammy Watkins (WR), 2-Cyrus Kouandjio (OT), 3-Preston Brown (ILB), 4-Ross Cockrell (CB), 5-Cyril Richardson (G), 7a-Randell Johnson (OLB), 7b-Seantrel Henderson (OT).

OFFSEASON GRADE:  B for Buffalo!!!!!!

williams-intro-story

The Bills-USC connection not as sketchy as I thought.

But depressing misery aside, the Bills have some things going for them.  Over the past few years, they have quietly built a solid defense featuring one of the league’s best pass rushes.  Buffalo’s offense features more speed than any team in the AFC East (which sounded like a positive statement a few seconds ago) and playing a last place schedule in the league’s worst division is always a positive.

The Bills added playmakers in Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams and Chip Kelly expendable Bryce Brown and upgraded their porous offensive line depth with Kouandijo and Richardson.  On defense, Brandon Spikes and Preston Brown should help a run defense that allowed more than 120 yards eleven times in 2013.  Obviously, the big free agent loss was Jairus Byrd – who signed an eleventy billion dollar contract with the Saints.  Re-signing Aaron Williams helps with depth in a secondary that really improved over the last third of 2013.

On paper, the Bills are doing a patient and thorough job of rebuilding – that is until you remember two things:

  1. They just traded their (high) 2015 first rounder away.
  2. EJ Manuel is your Week One starter.  (Thad Lewis starts Week Fifteen.)

ANALYSIS:  Obviously, Browns’ fans are going to be paying close attention to the 2014 Bills.  And wouldn’t it be hilarious if Doug Whaley (or his replacement) calls Farmer again next May looking for his next franchise QB?

image

Say here Manuel doesn’t last the whole season, giving way too …

As for the current one, EJ Manuel looks the part of an NFL franchise QB, but he (and pay attention, Jaguar fans) completed less than 60% of his passes in six of his ten 2013 starts.  Even more troubling was Manuel’s wobbly accuracy on passes downfield.  In a normal football universe, we would be talking about a typical rookie QB.  However, in today’s ADHD NFL, Manuel’s inconsistency, brief injury history and general aloofness points to the Bills looking for a new QB in 2015.

This is kind of a problem, given that the Bills have crafted their roster around Manuel.

Coach Doug Marrone is trying to copy a Sean Payton blueprint in Western New York and has added some nice young players in Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Williams and now Watkins.  Having this young core necessitated the exodus of Stevie Johnson.  Add in CJ Spiller and Brown to the league’s second best rushing attack and on paper, the Ontario Saints look like a formidable bunch.

roc1008salbills1-1

… our old friend and somewhat underrated Dukie, Thad Lewis.

That is, if Manuel can make a quantum leap into becoming a living, breathing NFL QB**** – and not the guy who played worse than Thad Lewis.  By the time December rolled around, Marrone had basically given up on his passing game.

Defensively, Mike Pettine’s former squad boasted the 10th best unit in yards allowed and were 21st in points given up.  Of course, the telling stat found the Bills second in the league in sacks with 57, led by Mario Williams’ 13 and the Dareus/Williams inside duo with 18 combined.  Clearly, the front seven push allowed the Bills to boast the 4th best pass defense.  However, the Bills gave up a ton of rushing yards – ranking 27th in the league.

Stats aside, the Bills have a stacked front line and an emerging star in linebacker Kiko Alonso.  Both free agency and the draft further addressed the run stopping linebacker problem.  Obviously, Byrd’s departure can’t help – but the bigger issue should be replacing Mike Pettine’s versatile system with Jim Schwartz’s 1995 playbook.

Oh and there’s this:

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It’s never a good sign when you hear “hip surgery” and “football player.”

THE PICK:  Because NFL teams are infinitely stupid, there’s a great chance that Marrone and Whaley are canned after the coming season – especially if the Bills are sold.  Clearly, the Doug’s know this – as evidenced by the Watkins gamble.  However, the biggest gamble is assuming that Manuel makes a leap, along with his talented, but really young receivers.  Defensively, the Bills can’t get better under the unimaginative Schwartz – which leaves them about where they were a year ago.

Good news, Browns fans.

**** Here’s one for all you Lobster Fest bettors, is Jameis Winston that much better than Manuel?

*****

New York Jets

How is it that in the inflated hype media capital of the world Rex Ryan isn’t lauded as the best coach in football after what he accomplished in 2013?

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8-8 really was amazing for the Jets last year.

What about the following doesn’t scream Coach of the Year?

  1. Turned 16 Geno Smith starts into 8 improbable wins.
  2. Milked 1600 yards out of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell.
  3. Survived a locker room where Kellen Winslow was a veteran leader.
  4. Forged the league’s 3rd best run defense out of Sheldon Richardson, Muhammed Wilkerson and scraps.
  5. Won games with Marty Morningwheg as OC.
  6. Again for emphasis – Turned 16 Geno Smith starts into 8 improbable wins (and yes, they got really lucky and weird breaks in three of them).

Most impressive, Ryan did the impossible and not only survived a lame duck season under new GM John Idzik, but managed to squeeze out a contract extension.  In an NFL world of power grabs that makes ancient Rome look like a scrapbooking meet, Idzik actually zipped up his pants and realized that no other coach could do as much with so little as Ryan did in 2013.

But as for that media love, eight wins in New York makes for a loser.  And once the world sees the hilarity of Eli Manning in a West Coast offense*****, Ryan will likely again slip under the radar.

Re-signed: Head coach Rex Ryan, OLB Calvin Pace, T Willie Colon, DT Leger Douzable, K Nick Folk, CB Ellis Lankster, CB Darrin Walls, LB Nick Bellore, TE Jeff Cumberland.
Veteran additions: WR Eric Decker, WR Jacoby Ford, OT Breno Giacomini, CB Johnny Patrick, QB Michael Vick, CB Dimitri Patterson, RB Chris Johnson, OLB Garrett McIntyre.
Veteran subtractions: DB Aaron Berry, WR Josh Cribbs, CB Antonio Cromartie, G Vladimir Ducasse, QB David Garrard, RB John Griffin, WR Vidal Hazelton, RB Lex Hilliard, WR Santonio Holmes, OT Austin Howard, LB Josh Mauga, FS Ed Reed, TE Konrad Reuland, RB Darius Reynaud, DB Isaiah Trufant, TE Kellen Winslow, QB Mark Sanchez.
Draft picks: 1-Calvin Pryor (S), 2-Jace Amaro (TE), 3-Dexter McDougle (CB), 4a-Jalen Saunders (WR), 4b-Shaq Evans (WR), 4c-Dakota Dozier (OT), 5-Jeremiah George (ILB), 6a-Brandon Dixon (CB), 6b-Quincy Enunwa (WR), 6c-IK Enemkpali (DE), 6d-Tajh Boyd (QB), 7-Trevor Reilly (OLB).

OFFSEASON GRADE:  A+++

Again, solely for bringing back Ryan and not installing Darren Bevel or Ray Horton as HC, the Jets win their offseason.  Although to continue with our alliterative theme, the A could also stand for Addition (by Subtraction).  The Jets dumped a lot of dead weight – starting with the remains of Mark Sanchez, Ed Reed, K2, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie.  Getting younger is always a smart idea, particularly when your veteran talent isn’t that great to begin with.

Idzik’s second Jets’ draft focused on the two things the Jets are pretty bad at – throwing the ball and stopping other teams from doing the same.  Calvin Pryor is a quintessential Ryan safety and could be a Pro Bowler in a year or two.  Dexter McDougle adds depth to a thin corner spot.  Taking Jace Amaro was a necessary reach and Idzik adds two more mid-round wideouts to what was probably the league’s worst group of receivers a year ago.

However, the biggest splash came during free agency, where the Jets made Eric Decker worth more than a third world country.  Of course, without Peyton Manning, Decker is probably a miscast, 50-catch receiving reality TV B-lister.  But then again, David Nelson was probably the team’s most reliable pass catcher a year ago.  Kind of intriguing is the arrival of Jacoby Ford – still one of the league’s fastest players.

NYPostBackCover

Classic Post backcover. (click.)

Speaking of which, Chris Johnson is in town to do whatever it is that people think Chris Johnson does – which has to count for something.

Oh and Mike Vick.

ANALYSIS:  There’s no reason to think the Jets can’t again do what it is they do well – which is run the ball and stop the run.  Ivory and Powell led the league’s 6th best rushing attack, which is amazing given how defenses knew they were facing Geno Smith.  This is likely Smith’s last year as a starting NFL QB, at least based on how extraordinarily limited the Jets’ passing attack remains.  Of course, you can’t really blame Smith.  He has that Big 12 one read, throw to the wide open guy, Weeden(y) rock head type of mentality and unfortunately is running an equal parts complex and dumb Marty Morningwheg offense.

Vick arrives for a reunion of sorts with Morningwheg, albeit without Andy Reid, which should tell you everything.  He’ll probably end up starting by October and if he avoids fumbling every third snap, could be surprisingly effective.  Although it remains to be seen if Vick’s old man body can take another few months of abuse.  Unfortunately, the 2004 version of Vick would be a much better fit in this current Jet offense, something that popped into my head after reading about Ryan’s goofy jab at Tebowmania.  Given that the Jets’ passing game is probably the worst in the league (although I’m holding out hope for Charlie Whitehurst in Tennessee), some 1930’s triple option action seems wholly appropriate.

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Wilkerson and Richardson define run-stuffing interior.

Sadly, this probably won’t happen.

Defensively, the Jets feature two of the league’s best D-lineman in Wilkerson and Richardson.  These two make up for a lot of weaknesses behind them, particularly an underwhelming outside pass rush that featured 59-year old Calvin Pace1 as the team’s sack leader.  The corner play is shaky (which means Dmitri Patterson gets another year of checks), but there is a lot of young talent available – led by Pryor, who is my early lock for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

THE PICK:  Even with what looks to be a solid draft and an offseason that produced that NFL rarity of franchise stability, on paper the Jets are an exceptionally boring 4-12 team.  Yet, Ryan pushes this group into that always competitive but usually super frustrating grinder squad class that is capable of winning an incredibly bad division of football.

***** Seriously.  Marcus Mariota to New Jersey in 2015.

*****

New England Patriots

The Patriots have basically evolved into the “Good Parents” team of the NFL.  They’re boring, consistent, never controversial (minus the occasional player getting arrested for murder) and ever reliable.  Or in the particular case of Brady and Belichick, they are so grown up that they remind me of a couple who were raised in the Depression.  You know – the kind who paid off their house 65 years ago and are sitting on millions, yet reuse coffee filters.

danny-amendola

Has played in 62% of the games for which he’s been on roster.

How else to explain the rationale behind GM Belichick giving his career could end on any snap Hall of Fame QB the following opening day lineup?

  1. Danny “Injured Reserve” Amendola;
  2. Kenbrell Thompkins – the guy who barely cracked Butch Jones’ UC lineup;
  3. Michael Hoomanawanui, aka “Gronk’s backup;”
  4. Julian “Guy Michael Lombardi would have given 100 mil for” Edelman.

And don’t forget about Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce (Leon McFadden can’t).

On one hand, you can cite a massive murder boner and a bad knee, hip, back and neck for the Patriots’ thrift store offensive lineup.

Or:  Jesus Christ Grandpa – you can afford one Outback dinner!

To think that Brady, he of the perfect Randy Moss regular season, is going to retire with a Kent State 7th rounder as his top target is sad – and predictable.  Similarly, Brady isn’t helping his own legacy by not pressing for some legitimate playmakers.  Could you only imagine this offense with Larry Fitzgerald or Josh Gordon (because you know that could have happened last year)?

But then, that’s not what the Patriot Way is about.

It’s more about drafting shitty backups from Rutgers, then replacing them with street free agents.

Re-signed: C Ryan Wendell, WR Julian Edelman, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, LS Danny Aiken.
Veteran additions: CB Brandon Browner, FS Patrick Chung, WR Brandon LaFell, CB Darrelle Revis, DE Will Smith, LB Josh Hull.
Veteran subtractions: RB LeGarrette Blount, DE Andre Carter, WR Austin Collie, LB Dane Fletcher, SS Steve Gregory, TE Matthew Mulligan, LB Brandon Spikes, OT Will Svitek, CB Aqib Talib, OT Markus Zusevics, DT Isaac Sopoaga, S Adrian Wilson.
Draft picks: 1-Dominique Easley (DE), 2-Jimmy Garoppolo (QB), 4a-Bryan Stork (C), 4b-James White (RB), 4c-Cameron Fleming (OT), 6a-Jon Halapio (G), 6b-Zach Moore (DE), 6c-Jemea Thomas (S), 7-Jeremy Gallon (WR).

OFFSEASON GRADE:  How about an E for Ego?

easley1

Like Montario Hardesty knees except,, first round.

If any Head Coach truly needs a strong GM to draft for him (which will never, ever happen), it’s Belichick.  Last month, Belichick basically took his usual surplus of picks and turned them into a top two of Dominique Easley (a guy who Gronkowski thinks is injury prone) and Jimmy Garappolo (who it turns out is not a playmaking wide receiver).  Although pay attention to whoever was taken in the seventh round, as he will be starting Week Two.******

Of course, the Patriots made some uncharacteristic noise in the free agent market by renting Darrelle Revis for a year and ordering Brandon Browner off the dollar menu.  Edelman was re-signed to a huge deal, along with former Panther Brandon LaFell.  Starters Brandon Spikes, Aqib Talib and Steve Gregory leave a defense that was average against the pass and terrible (30th in the league) against the run.

ANALYSIS:  While my cranky black heart finds it easy to poke holes in GM Belichick’s doings, Coach Belichick is still one of the league’s best.  Before a run of injuries to veterans Tommy Kelly, Vince Wilfork and Jerrod Mayo, the Patriots boasted a strong early season defense.  Later on, Chandler Jones, Don’ta Hightower and Jamie Collins emerged as real talents (and yes, I again realize that Belichick drafted all three players).  However the Patriots couldn’t stop the run and most importantly didn’t have the kind of pass rush or flexibility to slow down the Broncos.

In adding Revis and Browner, Belichick is basically game planning for next January.  Yet, if the Seahawk blueprint proved anything (or history in general), beating Peyton Manning requires a lot of pressure and solid underneath coverage.  I’m not sure this Patriots’ team is always capable of either.

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Gotta admit the Gronk/JFF show would be entertaining.

Also, it helps to score points – something the Patriots were really good at – except against playoff teams like the Bengals, Panthers and Broncos.

Mainly because of the skeleton crew Brady had to work with, the Patriots leaned on their running game throughout 2013.  Although it’s far too primitive for the advanced stat nerds out there, the Patriots boasted an 11-1 mark last year when they ran for more than 100 yards.  (So they should probably do that more).  Brady heated up in the middle of the year and torched some bad defenses, including the Steelers and Browns.  Edelman did a nice Welker impression and the young wideouts made a few plays.

However, the big key for the Patriots remains the health of Gronkowski – which by now is just an echo from the last New England Super Bowl loss.  Without their star tight end, the Patriots still win their dismal division and could again sneak into another conference championship.  Football people I respect love Dobson and the Pats’ O-Line is more stable than it’s been in years.  Revis will no doubt give Belichick some options in the secondary and a promising young defense will get better.

THE PICK:  Belichick drops another January heartbreaker, then steals his neighbor’s newspaper.

****** Although bonus points have to be awarded for BB taking Cameron Fleming (surprisingly not a surprise first rounder).

*****

STANDINGS

1.  New England 10-6
2.  NY Jets 8-8
3.  Buffalo 6-10
4.  Miami 5-11

No wild card.


  1. But wait… Grantland DVOA’d  the 59 yr old Pace to the Browns in free agency.  Because … well I don’t know but, BARNWELL! [back]

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  • mgbode

    thoughts while reading:

    Miami – completely agree on them being the leagues worst dumpster fire. further proof (as if you didn’t have enough): Ray Farmer chose to remain with the Browns over being their GM due to their instability and rudderless ship (cuz we are so stable). I expect them to be this decade’s post-2002-Superbowl Raiders.

  • >>>>>Here’s one for all you Lobster Fest bettors, is Jameis Winston that much better than Manuel?>>>>>
    yes. hell yes.

    now then, he needs seriously to get his shit together but within the talented athletic qb category, i think winston tops griffin and newton.

    (all that being said, i have nick marshall and connor cook as 1 and 1a in the QBs-i-like-next-draft convo. and mannion is right behind them.)

  • maxfnmloans

    First thing I’d like to say: I am proud to report I discovered recently that I was blocked by Barnwell on Twitter (some moths ago, apparently) because I called him (and Simmons) out on their Mike Lombardi bias. Yay me!

    Anyhow, great to hear from you DK. After reading that linked article about the “improvements” at Ralph Wilson, I feel a thousand percent better about being a Browns fan. At least we dont have the spectre of losing our team hanging over our heads while we have to read tripe about fancy staircases being packaged as reason to be excited about the upcoming season.

    To me, as long as Belichick is in charge of his faculties and Brady is capable of playing, the AFC-E is the “lather, rinse, repeat” division of the NFL. I hear what you’re saying about the division being very weak, and can see why you might think that’s a damnation about teams that haven’t been able to break through, but that’s like saying the Eastern Conference in the NBA sucks bvecause no one can beat Miami (the Eastern Conference may suck, but even if it was any good, most teams would still have a tough time beating Miami) (or, if we prefer, think about the Eastern Conference in the 90’s with the Bulls. Wouldnt want anyone to accuse me of praising leBron).

    The Dolphins pretty much had nowhere to go but up, but you’re spot on with the assertion that being stuck between regimes is doing no favors for anyone in south Florida. I wanted to laugh at the article about Dion Jordan getting “bulked up” to 265, but then I remembered Mingo…sigh. At any rate, the fact that Philbin survived the offseason is a minor miracle, and if things get ugly early, I see a long season ahead for the Phins (and to think, they would have had an even worse record last year if not for O’Neill Cousins).

    As far as the Jets go, it’s pretty amazing how Rex gets these guys to buy in, but given the talent level, their ceiling is still 8-8. Question is if 8-8 is good enough to keep Rex out of hot water next year.

    And thank you Kanick, for letting us in on who is the guy in the picture. I will admit to having searched it on Google images in the past to figure out who that was. I figured it was Danny Kaye or someone of that ilk from some Bogart movie or Bing Crosby special. Now I know.

    • barnwell keeps doing the same non-analysis year after year. here he is again this year with 2800+ words without so much as a mention of a player or coach or GM contribution and palming it off as analysis.

      “… are those dang Colts. Indianapolis went from being the “luckiest” team
      in the league in 2012 to the second-luckiest last year.” derp.

      as dull as i find barnwell, even worse are the sloan-school-wannabees who worship at his altar.

      • Dave Kolonich

        I love his Regression picks. Like how the 49ers were going to bottom out these last two years.

        Although I do agree with his podcast take that the Cardinals are probably a 7-9 team in 2014.

        • if you’re trotting out pythagorean theorem in a sports context, you’re probably an asshole.

          • CLEVTA

            I don’t understand that statement Kanick. I don’t love barnwell but regression in many instances, including pythag, is real. Just bc the colts have bucked that trend 2x doesn’t make it a meaningless factor. The fact that certain Vegas win loss totals are very reflective of those regressions should say something. Houston is a 7.5 total for a reason. I’ve made lots of $$ in the last few years banking on certain stats moderating to normalcy.

          • how much have you lost though? and on balance is it within one std dev of the mean? and could you have done as well by doing your own analysis?

            i suspect the coaching and qb and injury turmoil from 2013 on a 2012 12-win roster has way more to do with houston’s 7.5 number than regression analyses.

            lookit, it’s a fine diversion but i resent it being presented as meaningful analysis. phrenology was correct on occasion. but that doesnt make it real.

          • CLEVTA

            When I say made $ that’s a net number. I absolutely agree that stats are not end all. Just like everything else there needs to be a nice mix of quant and qualitative analysis that needs to be considered. Vegas does though take stats into account much much more than coaching for example. Only really big stars move win totals like Peyton.

          • maxfnmloans

            “Just like everything else there needs to be a nice mix of quant and qualitative analysis that needs to be considered”

            That’s the head on the nail. That’s why Barnwell has been off on Indy. Luck is that type of player, but the quantitative stats can’t predict for something nebulous like “organic improvement from rookie to second year”.

          • mgbode

            Not only that but it makes for an annoying read. TMQ (Easterbrook) is another writer who just picks out a few things to focus on and point out and harp on and it reads to me more like nagging than analysis even when I agree with some of it.

          • CLEVTA

            For example my biggest bet of last pre season was Carolina over their win total and their lack of success in close games and their underperforming pythag were huge reasons.

          • maxfnmloans

            any time I hear Phernology, I think of the movie “Men at Work” which was one of my favorites when I was 13.

          • Petefranklin

            In reading Barnwell, I was just about to blow his article off as a bunch of gobble-gook until he unveiled the holy grail….turnovers. You can’t coach turnovers, you can only try to minimize them. I think a “bounce” in turnovers from one year to the next has the most value regarding season wins vs. the vegas win total #. The reason why the wise guys kill the books is IMO because the public does NOT take turnover randomness(luck) into account like the wise guys do.
            If you want to see which teams will improve or implode this year just take the season win #’s as of right now, not the openers, and compare them to the #’s after week 3 of preseason. The teams that have moved from this point on are going to be the ones over or underperforming their win total.
            The reason for a look at this point in time is because the soft lines have been hammered into place by the sharps. The arbitrage in the #’s is gone and the book managers who haven’t posted #’s yet absolutely have to respect the #’s that are on the board now, or they will get beat down with wise guy opinion max bets, much like the MGM? i think, opened the Clowns at 6 wins two years ago. I ran to the bank then the book when I heard that total but it was too late and they had moved the line to 5.

            Here are the #’s from Southpoint first column, W Hill 2nd at the moment
            SEA 11 ov125 , 11.5 un 125
            cards 7.5ov150 , 7.5 ov 130
            ATL 8.5 un130 , 8 ov 150
            Ravens 8.5 , same
            Buff 6.5 OV 140 , 6.5 ov 150
            CAR 8 ov 125 , 8.5 un 120
            CHI 8ov 160 , 8.5 ov 115
            Bengals 9.5 UN 150 , un 135
            BROWNS 6.5 OVER150 , same(150 to win 100 0r 100 to win 130)
            DAL 8 UN 140 , 8 un 115
            DEN 11 OV 150 , 11.5 un 125
            DET 8 ov 145 , same
            GB 10 ov 140 ,10.5
            HOU 8 un 150 , un 130
            Colts 9 OV 160 , 9.5 un 125
            JAX 4.5 OV 155 , ov 145
            KC 8 OV 115 , 8.5 un 140
            MIA 8 un 130 ,7.5 ov 135
            MIN 6 un 135 , 6 un 120
            NE 10.5 ov 145 , ov 140
            NO 9.5 ov 150 , ov 140
            NYG 7.5 ov 140 , ov 130
            NYJ 7 ov 130 , 6.5 ov 160
            OAK 5 un 140 , 5.5 un 160
            PHI 9 un 115 , 9
            Pitt 8.5 ov135 , ov 115
            SD 8 ov 120 , 8.5 un 125
            SF 10 ov 125 , 10.5 ov 130
            STL 7.5 ov 115 . 7.5 ov 140
            TB 7 ov 120 , 7.5 un 140
            Tenn7 ov 135 , 7
            Wash 7 ov 150 , 7.5 under 140
            Any movement of 30 cents or more is a good indicator of team performance coming this year. A half game is worth about 50 cents if I remember correctly.

    • Dave Kolonich

      The 90’s Bulls comparison is interesting. Obviously, the East being pathetic is why BB has won 11 division titles. But you have to wonder if stomping the Dolphins and Bills every year is good prep for the truly strong AFC teams of now and the past (Denver, Baltimore).

      Also – (and if I drew the AFC West preview, I would have added this…), the real way to evaluate your team’s playoff chances is “Could they beat the Seahawks?” No way Brady and Edelman are scoring more than a garbage TD against that bunch. As for Denver, they could spend 200 mil on the defense, but their offense is still the same soft unit that will get drilled again should the two teams meet next February.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      “that ilk from some Bogart movie”
      On a morning from a Bogart movie
      In a country where they turn back time

  • not sure i agree with any of the grades and that’s wholly beside the point. just a great read.

    and yet, i must opine:

    dolphins: B. o-line was a disaster and they (over?) paid for brandon albert and then followed up with o-line picks in 1st and 3rd rounds. that’s pretty good. theyll have pouncey back and could have pulled a full 180 on the LOS.
    bills: F. agree that you have a GM fearing regime change and thus mortgaging future to bet on a longshot this year. that longshot of ej manuel to sammy watkins behind cyrus kouandijo will not pay off.
    jets: D. i feel you on the rex re-signing, good move there. but stacked as the defense was and shit as the offense is,,, a resource allocation plan that tilts defense and is sitting on 30M of unused cap post free agency isnt setting up for success. i think rex might have insisted on the contract extension because otherwise he’d be left holding the bag for the tanked-season roster that idzik has given him. 8-8 will be another rex miracle.
    pats: B. defensive secondary sucked last year? no prob, here’s revis and browner. we’ll even bring back patrick chung to help school everyone in what we want. i like lafell. garoppolo is a terrific luxury pick that top teams get to make. and those late round picks that turn into 10 year veterans? fleming (4th), stork (4th), halapio (6th). all will be great value picks.

    i’ll bump the pats win count because theyll feast on two of the league’s worst in the jets and bills.
    pats 11-5; dolphins 7-9; jets 5-11 (all defense); bills 2-14.

  • actovegin1armstrong

    Fantastic job sir!
    Even though I am not a big fan of quarterbacks in general, I really liked the Tajh Boyd in the 6th round pick by the J-E-T-S. What do you think Mr. Kolonich? Will he make the team and if so, how long until he becomes every Jets fan’s favorite player, the backup QB?

    • Dave Kolonich

      You have to worry about the college QB who wins a bunch but over relies on a standout WR:

      Weeden
      Manz…..ooops, never mind.

      • or benefits from terrific/oversized o-line.

        bridgewater
        manz.. oops. (you know there’s yet another TAMU lineman projected as yet another top 10 pick in yet another draft next year?)

        • Dave Kolonich

          Right. And if Evans pans out, you’re looking at one of the most stacked offenses in the past decade. But the Browns have Miles Austin, so…..

      • actovegin1armstrong

        Well, which came first the chicken or the or the receiver?
        The Luck or the Whalen?