Monday, September 13, 2010

NFL Preview 2010

OK so I've accepted that I am going to be posting this 2010 "preview" a little bit on the late side. What can I say. The below was written about 95% before this weekend, in some cases over the couple of weeks prior to the NFL season beginning with Week 1 this past weekend, and of course already some of it makes me look foolish. Awesome. Recalling last season, I had one of the most epic first halves in the history of NFL handicapping in 2010, running up a record more than 20 games over .500 by picking just my top five NFL games each week, starting in Week 2. Sadly, that first half was followed predictably by an equally heinous second half last season, one which managed to land me by season's end just a couple of games over 50% and left me literally clueless about the NFL. I'm sure I could not have correctly predicted a fucking tic tac toe game by the end of last season if it involved NFL players. And I felt every bit as donkish as I looked in the second half last year -- it was horrible, looking at the games and not seeing a single one that I felt confident about, where just a couple of months earlier I used to sit and fight with myself for an hour just to narrow down the games I was sure about to only five core picks.

It's amazing how things change, really. But by season's end, having been through the sports betting thing several times over before, I knew enough come the postseason to literally start posting (and betting) opposite picks -- figuring out which team seems likely to win against the spread, and then going with the total opposite of my every instinct. And of course, even though the strategy sounds like it can't be serious, I had an awesome playoffs last year, culiminating in me correctly reverse-picking both conference championship games as well as the Superbowl winner. So there you go. Logic and skill FTW.

Where do I go this year? Who the hell knows. The important thing is that I am determined to learn and improve at picking games, handicapping teams, etc. through what I'm tracking here at the blog. We'll have to wait and see how exactly that pans out, but I am looking forward to getting in to another NFL season, fantasy football-free. Never will I be secretly pissed off when the #2 receiver catches the pass for the team I have money on. Never again will I experience that slimy, ambiguous feeling when my star runningback takes a knee on the 1-yard line to clinch a big win for my beloved Eagles, directly costing my fantasy team a crucial victory in the process. As I've mentioned several times here previously, I used to be Mr. Fantasy Football. Like more than ten years ago now. I remember how fantasy football used to make every single game so much fucking more fun and interesting, back in the day. But at some point -- several years ago actually at this point -- that simply stopped being the case. Quietly, unknowingly, things flip-flopped at some point and all of a sudden one day a few years back I realized that fantasy football was taking games I used to not give two shits about one way or the other, and making them worse. I was suddenly pissed off because of something that happened in that otherwise worthless Tampa Bay - Cleveland game. I was calling DirectTV on opening day in a sweat because my NFL mobile package was not loading properly on my PDA. The bad call at the end of the Lions game was ruining my Sunday night. However it happened, at some point, the advantages I used to get from playing fantasy football turned into disadvantages.

I would bet that pretty much every fantasy football player out there who takes winning gets (or will get) to this point at some point after x number of seasons of fantasy football. Between several different social and professional circles, the internet, and live drafts among longtime friends, I probably played 35-40 separate seasons of fantasy football from maybe 1998-2008, a good 10 or 15 of them as the league commissioner and organizer. I was super into it, as I am with most things I choose to compete at, and I figured out exactly what it took to do well and outperform my peers at the game. But after 30 or 40 seasons of that, I had seen enough and been through through enough, I had outlasted enough Monday night comebacks and was the beneficiary of enough fractional victories on Tuesday morning error corrections to just be tired of it all. I've seen the worst-drafted, worst-run team win, and I've more times than I care to remember scored the most points in a fantasy league but never been near the top spot from opening day to the playoffs. Although I am sure that each person's threshold before reaching this point is different and there is probably some wide variation in there, but for most people I would guess fantasy becomes a big annoyance after a while if you take it seriously.

Anyways, so after resisting a late-game push from a nice group of friends who play a fantasy league every year and who I am sure would not have pissed me off, I am happy to say I will be fantasy-free again in 2010, but that doesn't mean I won't be into the NFL like a hawk as always. Starting right now, with my preview of what I am looking for in the 2010 NFL season, in the form of over-under picks just like I've done the last few years in MLB. And my driving premise this season is to take heart in what I learned last season -- don't just go with what the experts say about these teams. The experts are a bunch of fucking clowns, and they aren't close to knowing as much as I do about the NFL in many cases. So, with it in mind to make sure to follow my own lead with my picks on every one of these teams, here are my 2010 NFL over/unders, using the Vegas team over-under lines:

Arizona Cardinals 7.5 wins. I am going under here, although the number seems just about right. The loss of Kurt Warner will be huge, and with the guy who beat out Matt Leinert at the helm and given the loss of Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals look like a very average team to me in 2010.

Atlanta Falcons 9 wins. Another good line I think. I will go ahead and take the over, expecting probably 9 or 10 wins amid a better year from Matt Ryan and a huge bounceback year for Michael Turner.

Baltimore Ravens 10 wins. I like the over here, as I think the Ravens should be one of the underrated teams heading into 2010. Joe Flacco has steadily improved since bursting onto the NFL scene a few years ago, and there is every reason to expect another big jump up this year with the addition of two mega receivers in Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmanzadeh (plus Donte Stallworth, when he returns from a foot injury sometime in October) and with Ray Rice still pounding out of the backfield supported once again by Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain. Along with what should always be at least a solid defense while #52 is there, the Ravens look real good to me for 2010.

Buffalo Bills 5.5 wins. Ugh, this team stinks out loud, on both sides of the ball. Let's go under just for fun.

Carolina Panthers 7.5 wins. Like most people I do love the Panthers' head coach John Fox. But replacing Jake Delhomme with some guy named Matt Moore does not sound like a good recipe for a winning season in Carolina. I hate to pick against my guy Fox but at some point you know he is going to have to move on from this job after a bad season or two. Maybe this is the year. Ill grit my teeth and take the under.

Chicago Bears 8 wins. Under. I saw enough of Jay Cutler last year to know that he really does have awesome raw skills and yet just about the worst level of heart this side of the New York Mets. Mike Martz as the new O-coordinator makes for an interesting possible resurgence of scoring in Chicago, but that is a tough division with a lot of good or improving teams, and I don't like picking the Bears to go better than .500 here.

Cincinnati Bengals 7.5 wins. This is a surprisingly low line for what I think is one of the most overrated teams heading into the 2010 NFL season, but I am still going to go with the under here because I just don't get it. The team was barely good by the end of the 2009 season, and now because they added TO, they're a superbowl contender? What am I missing? Guess what guys: Marvin Lewis does not know what the shit he is doing. Period. I'll go under and predict 7 wins. Again.

Cleveland Browns 5.5 wins. Another joke of a team that actually got even worse in the offseason. Jake Delhomme does not excite me much as the new qb in town because his upside is severely limited in my view even if he "works out", and that team is going nowhere fast. I'll take the under although you can never be surprised if a team like this wins 6 games and still pretty much stinks to high heaven.

Dallas Cowboys 9.5 wins. This seems like an easy over to me, in that Dallas should clearly be the class of the NFC East. The Eagles are a huge question mark with Kevin Kolb at the helm, the Redskins are starting over under Mike Shanahan and new quarterback Donovan McNabb, and the Giants seem good-but-not-great, leaving the Cowboys I think to an easy win of the division and at least 10 wins in 2010.

Denver Broncos 7.5 wins. I just do not like this team in 2010. I'd like the under a lot better at 8 wins instead of 7.5, but in the end this has to be an under for me as I just don't see where the offense comes from for this team to sustain a .500 season in 2010. I don't love Kyle Orton although his numbers have probably been better than most people believe over his past 10-20 starts, I can't stand the Tim Tebow draft pick and I abhor what it says about Denver head coach Josh McDaniel, and an injury to Knowshon Moreno to start the season does not portend well to me for this Broncos team.

Detroit Lions 5 wins. Everybody says Matthew Stafford is the real deal in Detroit, and I tend to believe it on this one. 5 wins is a tough line for such a perennial loser, but I will go with the heart pick and take the over for the league's worst franchise in 2010.

Green Bay Packers 9.5 wins. I think the Pack is another of the overrated teams by "the experts" in 2010, as they seem to be everyone's pick to win the NFC North and maybe even go to the superbowl despite basically the exact same Vikings team coming back to play it out again this year. But I do like this team for another 10 or 11 wins and a postseason berth this coming season, so I'll take the over here despite most members of the media overrating this team in my view.

Houston Texans 8 wins. I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb and take the over here, although in reality I think 8 wins is probably more likely than 9. Matt Schaub remains one of the better numbers guys in the NFL and should have another great offensive season with Andre Johnson continuing as one of the league's absolute best receivers. It seems like the Texans have been knocking on the door for a while, and something tells me another .500 season and a chance for a late playoff run are in the cards for 2010.

Indianapolis Colts 11 wins. I just have to take the over for 11 wins with the Colts. Not saying they're going to have another 14-win output this year, but for the team that didn't lose a single game it tried to win until the superbowl last season and returns more or less the exact same team this year, so I feel like there's no choice but to take the over here and assume it's another easy win for Peyton Manning et all.

Jacksonville Jaguars 7 wins. I don't like the Jags much in 2010, mostly because I'm not a huge David Garrard fan, and even though it's hard not to love Maurice Jones-Drew, the rest of the AFC has so many other improving or better teams that I just don't think it's their year. 7 wins is another tough line to go under with but I will take the under here and expect the worst for Jack Del Rio's squad in 2010.

Kansas City Chiefs 6.5 wins. Here's another team everybody seems to be picking for a breakout season in 2010, but I just don't see it. Everybody including me likes head coach Todd Haley for how he stood up to Anquan Boldin on the sidelines in the playoffs a couple of years ago, but even he isn't going to be able to take poor staff in the running game, at quarterback and wide receiver, and a questionable defense and turn it into some kind of .500 team. I'll go under here although 5 or 6 wins would not surprise me at all for KC.

Miami Dolphins 8.5 wins. I love what the Dolphins have done over the past couple of seasons, I'm a big Tony Sparano guy at head coach, and the team definitely looks to be heading in the right direction with the addition of star wideout Brandon Marshall in the offseason. This is one of the toughest lines to me in the entire slate of teams because I do think the Fins are looking at 8 or 9 wins in 2010, but I will give the nod against the team with the sudden departure of Bill Parcells from his active role as team president just before the regular season began and take the under here for a team I do think will be pretty solid again in 2010.

Minnesota Vikings 9.5 wins. This one makes no sense at all to me, and I continue to feel the Vikings are being sold far short in 2010. I do think Brett Favre is older, more injured, and generally probably not looking to have his best season ever or even as good a year as last year in 2010. But this team was what, 14-2 last year, and now the line is 9.5 wins? I'll assume 11 wins at least even without Sidney Rice in the lineup for much of the season and with an older Favre, and with the extra win of cushion this seems like an easy over for this year.

New England Cheatriots 9.5 wins. This seems like another easy over to me, as 9.5 wins is just not that many wins even if the Pats do not prove to be as good as I expect them to be. Randy Moss is definitely a major concern in that he is publicly unhappy and has tended to check out quickly in previous instances where he was not all there mentally, but still with the talent on both sides of the ball and the best head coach in the game, this Cheats team just seems like a shoe-in for at least 10 wins in 2010.

New Orleans Saints 10.5 wins. Also an easy over in my book. The Saints look to me to be easily the class of the NFC, and offensively they should be as good as ever if not better in 2010. The Saints showed a disturbing inclination to play down to the level of their opponents and to play soft early in games during the 2009 regular season, so it might be tougher of this line were 11.5 or 12 wins, but at 10.5 I am not batting an eyelash before going with the over here.

New York Giants 8.5 wins. The Giants are a big huge question mark to me heading into 2010. In the end, Eli Manning should be good for another 20-25 touchdowns or so, and the rushing offense ought to be sufficiently good to enable this team to score the ball fairly well on the year, but like last year there are questions about the defense, and I still have to wonder where all the touchdowns are going to come from in terms of receivers on this team. With the Cowboys and Redskins likely improving somewhat in 2010, I guess I will take the under for the Giants and expect 7-8 wins in what could be Tom Coughlin's final season in New York.

New York Jets 9.5 wins. Everybody loves the Jets in 2010, who I believe are really, truly are the undisputed most overhyped team in the NFL. Although they shocked the world by running all the way to the AFC Championship in 2009-2010, this team backed into the playoffs in the most ridiculous way imaginable last year, and they really didn't even belong there at all in the first place and did everything they could to lose crucial games they thought they needed down the stretch to even be able to participate in the 2009-2010 postseason. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez did not look good in the preseason this summer, as those of you who watch "Hard Knocks" already know, and I just don't have nearly the good feeling about this season that all those experts out there do. 9.5 wins is a horrible line if you want to be under for the AFC's #2 team last year, but again with the heart thing I will go ahead and take the under and see what happens.

Oakland Raiders 6 wins. I love how everybody and their mother is picking the Raiders as a sleeper in the AFC West in 2010. Guess what? Jason Campbell is probably better than most people think he has been over the past couple of years, but in the end this is still Al Davis's team, the defense is not as good as some people think it is, and there are no offensive tools to help Campbell not suck in Oakland. I'll go under and expect another easy win for one of the worst franchises in sports.

Philadelphia Eagles 8.5 wins. I've made no secret here on the blog that I am a rabid Eagles fan, but even I just do not see how this team finds it way quite to 9 wins in 2010. Although I was never a major McNabb fan and have no doubt that he was never going to take the Eagles to any kind of a superbowl, I would be lying if I said I expect Kevin Kolb to make me forget about D-Mac anytime soon in Philadelphia. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Andy Reid as a regular season head coach, and I think he might be able to will this team to around a .500 season in a very tough NFC East in 2010, but I have to go under 8.5 wins as I just can't see enough going right for this team over the next few months.

Pittsburgh Steelers 9 wins. I like this team to come back with a strong effort after last season's letdown following a superbowl championship in 2008-2009, and if not for Ben Roethlisberger's season-opening suspension I would easily take the over here with confidence. But with Big Ben's suspension recently reduced from six games to just four, and with Dixon to stand in competently in his absence in addition to a likely big year from runningback Rashard Mendenhall or howeverthefikeyouspellit, I suppose I will grudgingly still take the over and hope the team can hang in there enough in Big Ben's absense until Week 6 of the 2010 NFL season.

San Diego Chargers 11 wins. The Chargers continue to maintain one of the best passing offenses in football along with a competent running game, and they play in one of the worst divisions in the history of the NFL to boot. Between all the games against a down Broncos team, a down Chiefs squad and the perpetually down Raiders, and with their offense what it is, 11 wins is probably a great line and spot-on for the 2010 Chargers, so in an absolute toss-up I will just go with the under because the experts love the over and Norv Turner is an embarrassment to NFL coaches everywhere.

San Francisco 49ers 8.5 wins. God how I want to like Mike Singletary. Just about every time I hear the guy talk, he is saying something I've always wanted to hear a head coach say but which nobody ever seems to be willing to. Well, Singletary is willing to say it. He reminds me a lot of Rex Ryan, two new-age NFL coaches who are young and can really relate with the players on an individual and very personal level, and I continue to have some faith that Singletary will some day mature into a serviceable NFL head coach. But for now, expecially after the way the 2009 season ended, I just don't have that faith in the Niners. Alex Smith is mediocre even on his good days, Frank Gore seems always almost ready to break out but never quite gets there, and in the end I just can't project 9 wins for this team and will have to go with the under even in a very weak NFC West. I have no idea who is going to win the games this season in the NFC West, where I suspect we could be looking at several times right around the .500 mark by January.

Seattle Seahawks 7.5 wins. I do not understand the Seahawks' plan to score the ball and to stop others from scoring in 2010, so I have to go with the under if I expect the team to finish 2010 below .500 like I do.

St. Louis Rams 5 wins. I like all the initial buzz on Sam Bradford and I tend to believe the talk that he is going to be a big-time NFL quarterback some day. But this is not that day, and this Rams team still has too many holes for me to predict even six wins until I see something a lot more than the basically no-improvement they showed in 2009. I go under on the Rams until they give me a reason to pick otherwise.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5.5 wins. Tampa looks to me to be the worst-coached and generally the lowest-skilled team in perhaps all the NFL in 2010. 5.5 wins is nothing but I will still take my chances with the under here.

Tennessee Titans 8.5 wins. I love the Titans and to me this line seems shockingly low. Behind one of the NFL's best coaches in Jeff Fisher, and the quarterback Fisher has finally found in Vince Young. and of course the NFL's greatest runningback in Chris Johnson, I think 9 wins is very likely and an easy over pick for the 2010 season.

Washington Redskins 7.5. The Skins remain one of the most difficult teams to pick for the 2010 NFL season. Mike Shanahan has taken over and is instilling his brand of micromanaging, highly-controlled football that has had proven success in the past, and Donovan McNabb also takes over at quarterback in a city that hasn't had a winner throwing the passes in like 20 years. McNabb will be hungry to perform well after Philly dissed him in the offseason, but ultimately something just tells me McNabb is in store for a generally average year in DC after a long history of regular season success in Philadelphia. The Skins have four runningbacks with a combined age of I think 342, and on the receiving corps there is almost nobody worth a mention for McNabb to throw to. Not to mention the problems for Albert Haynesworth, probably the team's most skilled player and certainly the highest-paid overall on defense. I think the Skins are likely to improve as a team from 2009, but starting from 4-12 and instilling an entirely new system, I think 8 wins is still a bit of a stretch. I like the under here for the Skins in 2010.

So there you have it. In my first ever set of NFL over-under picks, that is 12 overs and 20 unders. Looks like I'm expecting a lot more bad teams in 2010 than the "experts". Oh well. In terms of playoff teams, after going something like 1-for-12 in picking the postseason teams ahead of the 2009 season, this year I think the conferences play out this way: In the NFC, I'm expecting Dallas, New Orleans, Minnesota, Green Bay, the NFC West winner (I cannot even begin to make a prediction there, so I will just go out on a limb and pick the Seahawks under new head coach Pete Carroll) to be in, and that leaves one more spot which will probably be fought over between the Giants, the Cardinals, the 49ers and the Bears. I'll take the Giants out of that mess for the final NFC playoff spot. In the AFC, it's New England, Indy, Tennessee, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and San Diego. I feel much more confident about the postseason picks in the AFC than in the largely toss-up NFC outside of the superbowl champion New Orleans Saints.

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Blogger Bayne_S said...

Cumulative total of the lines is 1.5 games over 500 which would mean there should be more unders than overs.

20 - 12 ratio does not seem likely unless Saints, Ravens and Vikings far exceed their number.

I don't know which picks are wrong but I am thinking from the numbers a 17-15 under to over ration is more likely

12:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's what I posted.

Jets under.
Rams under.
Tampa over.
Detroit over.

I would have liked to get that Lions win that they got cheated out of to start 4-0 on the above teams. Oh well 3-1 is a good start.

9:46 AM  
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3:55 PM  
Blogger Schaubs said...

I only read as far as the Constanza method.

GL this year.

12:20 PM  
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Blogger GnightMoon said...

Loved this post. Must admit I read it four weeks into the NFL season. Easy for me to say now but I felt like your picks were mostly spot-on with your only weakness relying a little too much on what happened last season rather than anticipating change.

6:53 AM  

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