AFC Over/Under - Part I....

Angry Pope

All Raider
Feb 2, 2006
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Scramble for the Ball: AFC Over-Unders Part I


Ian: Howdy! And welcome to another Scramble for the Ball favorite: Over/Under predictions on team wins for the upcoming season. We’re breaking the column up into four parts: Bad AFC, Good AFC, Bad NFC and Good NFC. Today, we’re kicking things off with the bad AFC teams.

Bill: You write one thing about football cards and the next week, ESPN and Yahoo have front page articles about the card industry. There goes that idea. Wait — did someone mention sports betting talk? I already feel better. Let’s do this.

Houston Texans (o/u 5.5)

Ian: Wow, talk about a tough way to start the season. The Texans’ first four games are vs. PHI, @IND, vs. WAS, vs. MIA, then they have the bye week. If you’re keeping score at home, going into Week 6 the Texans will be 0-4, and the rest of their games will become much less important to their fans and the media than the never-ending “Reggie Bush” debate.

It’s a shame, really, because I do think they’ll be a better team than they have been. I think Eric Moulds and Andre Johnson will have respectable seasons, and give Domanick Davis some running room (if he’s ever healthy). But I think many solid performances will come in losing efforts.

They have some winnable matchups in the second half, but not enough to make up for a disastrous start to the season. That’s why I’m going Underhere.

Bill: I’m not convinced the guy who was 64th in WR DVOA last year — and hasn’t been on the positive side of the DVOA ledger since 2000 — is going to create that much space for Andre Johnson or Domanick Davis. If the Texans are going to win six games, their defense is going to have to improve. Fortunately for them, they can’t get any lower — their 21.2% DVOA was last in the league last year. How much better will they get? Well, Mario Williams will certainly help. For the years we have data, the teams that finished last in defensive DVOA averaged a rank of 23rd the year after; in 2005, the Vikings improved to 19th after their dead last finish in 2004.

All that said, they certainly do have an ugly start to the season. I’m really high on the Texans in ‘07, but this is a year for learning Gary Kubiak’s system and trying to build some sort of stable foundation in Texas. I predict that David Carr will, for the fifth season running, not once have to worry about buying any of his offensive linemen watches, dinner, candy, Otto’s BBQ, light rail fare… Under.

Tennessee Titans (o/u 5.5)

Ian: Nice to see that Tennessee starts with a home game against the Jets, which should get their season off on a positive note. But it’s all downhill from there. @SD, @MIA, DAL, @IND, @WAS, then the bye week. If I thought they had a strong chance of sweeping the Texans this season, I’d figure they could scrounge out six wins, but I don’t even see that happening.

They’ve got a mess of running backs and a new starting quarterback, and when they enter their bye week at 2-4 it’s probably going to be Vince Young time. I believe that in time, he will be an excellent NFL quarterback. But the track record for rookie starters is not good. Sorry Tennessee fans, you’re in for a long season. Under.

Bill: I’m not with you on this one. I have pretty high hopes for the Titans this year — they have a young defensive line that’s rapidly maturing behind what’s going to be a very good linebacking corps with the addition of David Thornton from Indianapolis. On the offensive side, while David Givens isn’t a #1, I think he can be a #1a — and if Drew Bennett’s a #1a too, well, that doesn’t exactly add up to anything but I think they’ll be able to get 160 balls off of Billy Volek, which should keep Vince Young off the field. They also replaced Brad Hopkins, their worst offensive lineman last year, with Michael Roos, their best. There’s a lot to like here. Over.

Buffalo Bills (o/u 6.5)

Ian: Here’s a team that’s hard to figure. They finished a disappointing 5-11 last season. Willis McGahee managed only five touchdowns, though he did see a rise in rushing yardage from his rookie season. Eric Moulds is gone, and while Kelly Holcomb is the current starter, J.P. Losman is still waiting in the wings.

All that being said, I think the Bills have an excellent chance of topping the six win mark. They get to face the Jets twice (in case you haven’t figured it out, I’m really sour on the Jets this season), they have four games against the NFC North (all of which are winnable games for them, especially considering they get to face the Vikings at home), and they get Miami and Tennessee at home two of the last three weeks of the season.

Sure, by the time we’re four weeks into the season, many team perceptions will change. But from what I see right now, I’m going with the Over.

Bill: Ian, are you really implying that J.P. Losman waiting in the wings is a good thing? Usually, I think, “waiting in the wings” implies something positive and hopeful. Maybe “lurking in the wings” or “threatening with potential use” would work. It seems like saying, “Well, if this date doesn’t work out, it’s no problem. I have Tawny Kitaen waiting in the wings.” This team really turned down Matt Leinart? So they could draft a safety? Maybe they were just assuming they’d be in position to draft Brady Quinn in 2007. Go Under with extreme prejudice. And, just for fun, your Marv Levy quote of the week:

“‘It was different in the old days,’ says the 80-year-old Levy, the Hall of Famer who took over as Buffalo’s general manager this year, nine years after retiring as the Bills’ coach. ‘I’ll even go back in my experience to Division III. Then if you had a drink if water during practice you were a sissy: ‘You shouldn’t drink water.’”

Cleveland Browns (o/u 6.5)

Ian: The Browns are just full of question marks. Is Charlie Frye for real? Can Reuben Droughns stay out of trouble off the field? Can Joe Jurevicius carry a bulk of this team’s receiving load? Will Braylon Edwards come back healthy? And, perhaps most importantly, will Romeo Crennel be able to create the defensive success in Cleveland that he did in New England?

I’m gonna say “no.” “No” to many of the above questions and “no” to the question of whether or not they can win seven games. They have what seems like a fairly average schedule, maybe a bit on the hard side. The schedule is not what’s important here– What’s important is whether or not Crennel can implement his system, and implement it effectively. I just don’t see that happening with the talent they currently possess. I’m going Under.

Bill: Jurevicius is basically replacing Antonio Bryant in this offense — his DVOA was better, but he also had Matt Hasselbeck to work with. Edwards is also off the PUP list as of Sunday, which is good — unfortunately, he’ll be lending his crutches to LeCharles Bentley, who can wear any jersey number he wants now that he’ll be on the sideline all season. To be honest, though, it wouldn’t really have made much of a difference. This is a developing team that had a great off-season … but also the fifth-hardest schedule in football. Much like the Texans, their year is 2007. Under.


New York Jets (o/u 6.5)

Ian: You can’t succeed in the NFL without solid, intelligent quarterback play. The Ravens might have won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at the helm, but while he wasn’t flashy, he played extremely intelligent and didn’t get in the way of the rest of his team.

[angry Tampa fan] (I can’t help it– I have to make an aside here. Hey Trent — Why couldn’t you play like that in Tampa?!? Why did you HAND AWAY games that the defense was WINNING FOR YOU? You BUM!!!) [/angry Tampa fan]

Excuse me, sorry about that … Where was I? Oh, yes. You need strong quarterback play to succeed, and the Jets just don’t have it. Blame it on injuries if you will, but Chad Pennington just has not gotten it done. Nor do I expect him to get it done this season. Patrick Ramsey? “Wee” Brooks Bollinger? None of these guys are guys I’d want quarterbacking my team. At least they have a strong running game to take the heat off … Oh, wait, it’s hard for the offensive line to open up holes for Curtis Martin and his wheelchair. Getting rid of John Abraham will help them, though.

I think I’ve said enough. Under.

Bill: Here’s my question: why is Eric Mangini switching to a 3-4 when his best defensive players are suited for a 4-3? To find a spot for Bryan Thomas? Come on. Shouldn’t he be worried a little bit more about keeping guys off Jonathan Vilma? The Victor Hobson/Eric Barton outside linebacker combination isn’t exactly McGinest and Vrabel part II, either, and while the Jets have a good pair of safeties, they need to bury David Barrett with Jimmy Hoffa. Under.

Oakland Raiders (o/u 6.5)

Ian: Does any fantasy player have more upside and downside than Aaron Brooks? He’s been handed the keys to a Cadillac, but does he know how to drive? A recent Jerry Porter trade demand looms large, but with Randy Moss and Doug Gabriel, they’re not lacking for receivers. Also, LaMont Jordan has proven a solid workhorse back, as well as a solid receiver out of the backfield.

They have a rather balanced schedule. Their division, of course, is a very tough one: San Diego, Kansas City and Denver are all potential playoff teams. Outside their division, they get games against Cleveland, San Francisco, Houston, St. Louis and the Jets, all of which I’d at least consider “winnable”.

Hard to predict what’s going to happen here– But I’m gonna go with a surprise rejuvenation of Aaron Brooks’ career, and the Over.

Bill: Jordan’s a good fantasy receiver for a running back, but his -0.7% DVOA last year isn’t anything to write home about. I still get the feeling that Art Shell was Al Davis’ panic pick for a coach, and everything coming out of Raiders camp has been, well, sketchy. Speaking of sketchy…


1) Make sure your nose remains hard at all times. This is very important.
2) We’ve won with a deep passing attack in the past. As a result, this is the only way that we can score effectively in the present, and any attempt to move away to a different scheme must be met with the utmost resistance.
3) With #2 in mind, any time we acquire a strong-armed passer with little accuracy, all his faults must be immediately forgotten. He will lead us to the promised land, where Ken Stabler teaches your kid how to throw the out, Cliff Branch runs all your errands for you, and everyone has ridiculous facial hair.
4) If you don’t look like you could be an extra in the Under Armour commercials, you’re not toolsy enough for us. In fact, if you’re in one of the Under Armour commercial, you have a job. (An aside: did anyone else notice, in one of those commercials, the opposing team runs a sweep on fourth and goal from the ten against the Under Armour team? Who is calling the plays for the opponents there? No one else notices these things but me, I think.)
5) Your swagger must be palpable at all times. This is very important.
6) Penalties for false starts and offsides are absolutely unacceptable, unless you’re Howie Long. Penalties for late hits and unnecessary roughness are, in fact, an entirely accurate measure of how tough you are.
7) You must be able to point out your utter, innate grittiness at all times. Carrying around dirt and/or eye black for said purposes is not only acceptable but, again, very important.

OK, enough of that. Every article I read on the Raiders talks about how Art Shell’s going to return the Raiders to this disciplined, workmanlike team that doesn’t commit any penalties. As Mike Tanier points out in his essay on the Raiders in PFP 2006, guess who set the league record for penalties in a season? The 1994 Raiders, coached by, yes, Art Shell. Under.

Baltimore Ravens (o/u 8.0)

Ian: If you read the last Scramble column, you know where I’m headed with this one. I’m going Over. With Steve McNair re-uniting with Derrick Mason, and getting one of the top tight end receivers in Todd Heap, I expect big things from the Baltimore passing game. Not to mention that Jamal Lewis is another year removed from prison, so he should be getting back in better shape. Also, their defense is still top-notch, with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed leading the way.

Their home games this season include OAK, SD, CAR, CIN, ATL, PIT, CLE and BUF, of which I expect them to go at least 5-3. Road games include TB, CLE, DEN, NO, TEN, CIN, KC and PIT. They should be able to win four of those.

Not only do I expect them to hit the Over on this one, I think this the best bet if you are looking for a non-playoff team from last season to make the playoffs this year. There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon; jump on board!

Bill: Here’s a question — what was Jamal Lewis doing in prison that got him out of shape? Was he sitting on a recliner eating Dibs? Who was running this prison, Simon Adebisi? I’m also worried about Ray Lewis’ dedication after not joining the Re-up Gang this summer. The Under for Jason Whitlock’s Super Bowl champion pick? Muah, magnifique.

Ian: How dare you take the Under on my favorite sleeper team to make the playoffs! An Ed Reed jersey says that the Ravens make the Over.

Bill: Surely you can’t be serious?

Ian: I’m always serious when it comes to betting.

Bill: Fine, you’re on. If I win, I’ll take a jersey of whatever Giants player hasn’t been injured or benched by Tom Coughlin.

Ian: One Luke Petitgout jersey, coming up!

Bill: Think Chris Snee has a better chance of keeping his job. Mmm … nepotism. I kid.

Cincinnati Bengals (o/u 9.0)

Ian: Might as well start with the focal point of the Bengals franchise: Carson Palmer. All indications are that he’s going to pull a minor medical miracle and be ready to start for the Bengals Week 1. Amazing. But will he be able to perform up to last season’s standards?

So much of the Bengals offense is based on timing. They like to run the hurry-up, ala Peyton Manning and the Colts. They like to audible at the line, and they like to run receiver option routes to let Chad and T.J. pick their spots. Here’s where Carson’s injury is a big problem.

If he’d been spending time since last season working with his team on their timing and efficiency, I’d expect the Bengals to come out winning and continue with a strong season north of nine wins. As it is though, I expect there will be some time before he gets back in the flow of things, and too much of their success relies on that flow to win week one in Arrowhead, for starters.

If the Bengals win week one, I’ll already be pretty sure that I was wrong, but as it stands right now I’m going with the Under.

Bill: So much of the Bengals’ player development scheme, apparently, is based on thuggin’ and buggin’. Forget the ghastly drop in production that would result if Palmer is replaced by Anthony Wright or Doug Johnson; with a hole at MLB due to Odell Thurman’s repeated indiscretions, a likely dropoff coming from CB Tory James at 33, and the overrated Sam Adams (Buffalo’s DL was 25th in the league at stuffing rushers last year, and 29th on power runs) being relied on to shore up the run defense, I don’t feel real confident about the Bengals’ defense improving very much. Throw in the second hardest schedule in football this season, and I see the Bengals staring up at nine wins this season. Under.
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