Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 NFL Preview Pt. 2: NFC Overs and Unders

You know the drill: we're picking NFL season win overs and unders with a focus on the NFC. First, the picture:

I'm not nearly as bearish on the NFC as I was on the AFC. But there is one team that I intensely dislike: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. First, let's start with this nugget: the 2012 draft. Greg Schiano arrived last year and selected: a safety, RB, LB, LB, CB, RB, TE. Look, Ma, no linemen! Granted: Doug Martin was a great find (one of my all-time favorite Broncos), but his rushing stats plummeted after his best linemen went down (he went from Adrian Peterson-wanabe to just a great back). But the Bucs had to trade up to get him. Hint: only loaded teams should trade up; everyone else needs as many lottery tickets as possible.

For consistency, TB traded up in the 2nd round again, giving up a 3rd and 4th for a 2nd and 7th because, of course they did. For their troubles, they got Lavonte David, a useful player at the fungible linebacker position who scored a 2012 Pro-Football-Reference approx. value (AV) of 9. If only David hadn't committed a personal foul against the Jets in week 1 of this year that single-handedly lost them the game. To prove draft mistakes were no fluke, the Bucs first pick, Alabama safety Mark Barron, had a fine AV of 6 before you consider Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, taken 22 picks later, who received a 7.

Things got better in 2013 with this draft: 1st rounder traded for Darrelle Revis, CB, QB, DT, DE, DE, RB. I know it was the 6th, but are the Bucs done taking RBs? Not that you can get a Tom Brady in the 6th. Overall, drafting defensive linemen given the 2.9% DVOA they had in 2012 (you want defensive DVOA to be low). But so many corners (and free-agent safety Dashon Goldson)? I get the need for secondary help, but an easy way to fix secondary issues would be to simply stop playing so many eight man boxes.

Which brings me back to the coach. In 11 Big East seasons with Rutgers, Greg Schiano had a winning conference record 4 times with an aggregate conference record of 28-48. In the Big East. Definitely qualified for the NFL. Rutgers did finish ranked (#12) at the end of 2006. Where did Tampa find this guy!? Then, at the end of a Week 2 loss, Schiano pulled a Busch-league, go for the knees tactic trying to knock Eli Manning down on a final-play QB kneel. I get fighting to the last minute. But the Giants won squarely after the Tampa Bay defense blew it in classic, coach-bewildering, mind-blowingly awful fashion. That kind of reckless attitude is exactly what led to Lavonte David's penalty on Geno Smith.

To recap: in two years, Greg Schiano, with no notable football achievements to his name, has colossally screwed one draft, instilled a culture of reckless disregard for safety and sportsmanship, lost 41-0 to the 5-8 Saints, thrown his QB under the bus (go about 2/3 of the way down), and started the 2013 seasons with two losses in which Tampa Bay had over 95% winning probability inside of 2 minutes.

Here is the story for Win Probability in the Jets game

Here is their chart for the Saints game:

This is astoundingly execrable decision making bordering on malfeasance from the head coach position. So much that I will make this bold declaration: Greg Schiano will no longer be the Buccaneers head coach and Josh Freeman their QB by the end of the 2013 season. All predictions wrong, of course, but you make the call!

It's okay, Bucs fans. Just across the division is another team whose coach will not be with them for 2014, though he survive until the offseason given the Panthers' strong defensive front 7. Ron Rivera stubbornly insists that QB Cam Newton run a pro-style, drop-back offense. This despite Newton standing 6'5"/245 lbs. For comparison, RG3 is 6'2"/217 lbs., Colin Kaepernick is 6'4"/230 lbs., and Russell Wilson is 5'11"/206 lbs. Each of those guys may be better than Newton, but each also has a coaching staff that has found every possible way to maximize their talents. Newton does not have that staff. Each of these young quarterbacks has quite a ways to go before they master the position in the sense of a Manning or Brady or Rodgers. But some will have an easier road with a friendlier learning curve, while Newton's team seems determined to fit a round peg into a square hole. BPix was smart to take the under.

The Falcons/Saints should beat on these teams with glee, but I think getting an actual coach helps the Saints immensely, and the Falcons were lucky in 2012. I like the Saints more, but both overs are smart.

The NFC East is a toss-up to me, and Vegas agrees. I like what Chip Kelly brings, I like his approach to the game (hiring lots of quality NFL guys around him), and I think the Eagles overachieve. The Giants are thin but have a tested coach and QB. Not too much feeling either way on the 'Boys and Washington, as both teams need to be completely healthy to compete.

In Minnesota, I think Ponder gets further exposed without Percy Harvin. Seriously, every big passing play was a screen to Harvin or set up by the screen to Harvin. I like many think the Lions are a sneaky solid team. The downside is that they also have a coach on the hot seat, which brings me to this point: if a coach is on the proverbial "hot seat," shouldn't you just fire him? You don't want him to be myopic like Schiano/Marrone. Either throw your support around him and take it on the chin if wrong, or get rid of him and bring stability to the franchise. I also liked the Chicago over as Cutler finally should have a decent O-line, and I'm rooting for the Canadian coach. I agree with BPix that in a decent division, it may be tricky for the Packers to get 11 wins.

In the West, Carson Palmer won 4 games with no offense, defense, or receivers; now he gets a good defensive and Larry Fitzgerald/Malcolm Floyd, with the underrated Bruce Arians at the helm. I love how Pittsburgh scapegoated Arians after the playoff loss at Denver, when it was really the defense's fault (in case you forgot: the offense had nothing to do with allowing Tim Tebow to through an 80 yard touchdown in OT). Now are Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley are sniping at each other and Arians is a head coach. Good thing I smartly chose the under on the Steelers. Wait a second... Anyway, I think the Cardinals get 6 wins. I don't know what to make of the Rams, and agree that this is probably the year the Seattle supplants San Francisco as the toast of the conference.

That does it for this part of the season preview. Did we get these right or wrong? You make the calls! Coming through the season will be a series of smaller-scope pieces detailing the effect specific strategies have on broader teams, including the effect of pace.

YouMakeTheCalls #YouMakeTheCalls

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