Absurd-Yet-Somehow-Plausible-Case Scenarios for All 32 NFL Teams

Often in the NFL previews you read this time of year, you’ll see the writers include a “Best-Case Scenario” and “Worst-Case Scenario” for each team before making a prediction that will most likely involve the team in question finishing in the exact same spot in their division as the year before. After a short time, however, reading through those best-and-worst-case scenarios gets rather laborious because, when you get right down to it, the best-and-worst-case scenarios are basically the same for every team. Best-case scenario: [insert your team here] goes 19-0, wins the Super Bowl, and somehow becomes exempt from the salary cap rules for the next 15 years! Worst-case scenario: nuclear holocaust, everyone dies. Essentially, that’s the ceiling and floor for every NFL team in 2012 and you’ve likely already thought through and accepted those possibilities in your mind beforehand.

But have you, dear reader, thought about the Absurd-Yet-Somehow-Plausible-Case Scenario for your team this upcoming year? I fear you have not. Thus, allow me to go team-by-team and run some seemingly ludicrous possibilities by you that, after you’ve thought about it for a little while, will actually begin to make a lot of sense…

Arizona Cardinals: After seeing the 73rd uncatchable intended pass of the season sail over his head in Week 4, Larry Fitzgerald abruptly retires from football during the game, journeys to Tibet in order to become a Buddhist monk, and lives the life of a discouraged hermit for the rest of his days. Kevin Kolb and/or John Skelton begin overthrowing Early Doucet in response.

Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan becomes the first quarterback in NFL history to complete all 40 of his pass attempts in a single game, Week 14 against the Panthers. Unfortunately, those 40 completions are only five yard dumpoffs to Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers and the Falcons lose 31-19.

Baltimore Ravens: Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron fully realizes his manifest destiny as the Crazy Old Uncle position coach in the NFL and calls only 60-yard bomb plays to Torrey Smith in the Week 3 game against the Patriots, then only Ray Rice runs up the middle the next week against the Browns. He receives a five-year contract extension after the season.

Buffalo Bills: Ryan Fitzpatrick acknowledges he cheated on a midterm at Harvard, retroactively losing his credits for that class and getting his degree revoked. After enrolling at Erie Community College to make up that class and re-earning his degree, commentators begin referring to Fitzpatrick as “Erie Community College quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.”

Carolina Panthers: Owner Jerry Richardson disguises himself in black-face during a meet-and-greet in inner-city Charlotte as a “way to have fun.” He dies shortly thereafter.

Chicago Bears: Left tackle J’Marcus Webb briefly gets demoted after giving up a sack to the Jaguars’ newest defensive end, eleven-year-old girl Madison Taylor, but gets his job back with a strong week at practice. Of the incident, Coach Lovie Smith says, “We like our team,” “Jay is our quarterback,” and “We still have a lot of football left to play.”

Cincinnati Bengals: Owner Mike Brown begins charging his players $1.75 for every time they have to use the restroom at the team’s practice facility. He dies shortly thereafter.

Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden reveals in early November that he is the real-life Benjamin Button and, at 72 years old, is actually aging in reverse. Coach Pat Shurmur still refuses to put Weeden back in at starting quarterback.

Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones “accidentally” plays a five-minute compilation video consisting of footage of him picking his nose in his luxury suite on the giant scoreboard at Cowboys Stadium. Thanks to Rob Ryan, however, it remains only the second-most disgusting thing seen by fans that day.

Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning’s head falls off during the opening game against the Steelers; a crack team of surgeons attending the game is able to reattach it within five minutes, but for the rest of the season, Manning’s head is tilted at a 45-degree angle. He still posts a higher passer rating than Matt Cassel.

Detroit Lions: Jim Schwartz takes exception to the pat on the back given to him by Vikings coach Leslie Frazier after a disappointing loss in Week 4 and starts a massive brawl that ends with forty-five people dead and hundreds more wounded. It becomes known as the fourth-worst sports brawl in Detroit history.

Green Bay Packers: B.J. Raji fully embraces his manifest destiny as the second coming of Gilbert Brown and travels tavern to tavern across the great state of Wisconsin, attempting to get different burgers named after him. Unfortunately, he balloons to 575 pounds by December and is put on IR.

Houston Texans: The Texans lose a heartbreaker to the Broncos in Week 3 when defensive coordinator Wade Phillips spills nacho cheese on his play sheet, thus leaving the Texans’ defense in disarray at the end of the game. Phillips attempts to console fans in his post-game news conference by licking his lips and saying, “Worth it.”

Indianapolis Colts: Jim Irsay becomes convinced that he is Pink, the protagonist in Pink Floyd’s concept album The Wall and begins performing concerts at Lucas Oil Stadium posing as a fascist dictator. He dies shortly thereafter.

Jacksonville Jaguars: In Week 9 against the Lions, Blaine Gabbert receives what is believed to be the first ever “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Pooping on the Field” penalty after inadvertently catching the gaze of Kyle Vanden Bosch before the first snap of the game.

Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo Crennel becomes infatuated with a lovely woman named Juliet Benatelli at a team dinner function and begins a torrid yet ultimately tragic love affair with her. The Chiefs go 6-10.

Miami Dolphins: “By sheer luck,” Lauren Tannehill manages to appear on-camera in her luxury suite during every Dolphins home game, becomes the most popular person associated with the team.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings lose on a heart-breaking Hail Mary in Week 1 to the Jaguars after defenders ignore Leslie Frazier’s prevent play call in favor of linebackers coach Mike Singletary’s “GET AFTER THE QUARTERBACK” audible.

New England Patriots: Tom Brady throws for 5,500 yards, 53 TDs, and 3 INTs in leading the Patriots to another undefeated season, but is knocked out of the divisional playoff game against the Texans with another torn ACL. Patriot fans remark they knew Brady was a choker all along.

New Orleans Saints: When Commissioner Roger Goodell makes the mistake of attending the Chargers-Saints Sunday Night game in week 5 without any bodyguards, suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma enters his luxury suite, shouts “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” and shoots Goodell. Saints fans respond by shouting, “WHO DAT! WHO DAT GONNA SUSPEND DEM SAINTS WHODAT DREW BREES JUMBOLAYA KATRINA! GUMBO.”

New York Giants: Tom Coughlin is caught smiling accidentally on camera, realizes his mistake, then quickly reverts back to his standard “Can you believe this crap?” expression.

New York Jets: Honestly, there’s not really anything “absurd” that could happen to this team. I guess a tape of Tim Tebow starring in Rex Ryan’s latest foot fetish video might get close, but other than that this is a pretty freaking strange team.

Oakland Raiders: Unaccustomed to having a stable and effective front office, the fans in the Black Hole section of Raiders home games surprisingly get haircuts, remove their facepaint, and dress in collared shirts and khakis for every home game and don’t murder anyone.

Philadelphia Eagles: Juan Castillo unveils the unconventional defensive strategy of positioning all eleven defenders fifteen yards behind line of scrimmage on every play of Week 4 game against the Giants, blames resulting 56-7 loss on “living and learning.”

Pittsburgh Steelers: James Harrison and/or Ryan Clark brutally concuss someone, call resulting one-game suspension “a miscarriage of justice” and deny any wrongdoing.

St. Louis Rams: When the Rams’ last healthy receiver goes down with an injury in Week 11, the team takes the unusual step of attempting to sign Hall of Fame receiver Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch. Since Crazylegs died in 2004, however, their attempts are unsuccessful and they sign Devin Aromashodu instead.

San Diego Chargers: Norv Turner attempts a fake punt on first-and-goal from the one-yard-line in Week 13’s game against the Bengals as a way of “catching them with their pants down.” The snap is gunned twenty yards over Mike Scifres’ head and recovered and run back by the Bengals for a touchdown.

San Francisco 49ers: After a rash of early-season turnovers, the 49ers take the unusual step of kneeling on every offensive play, beginning with the Week 4 game against the Jets. Coach Jim Harbaugh rationalizes it as “simple opportunity cost management. The opportunity of being able to throw the ball is far outweighed by the cost of having Alex Smith at quarterback.”

Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll attempts to lead his team in a massive group hug before their Week 1 game against the Cardinals, but is rebuffed at every turn. Disgruntled and disappointed, Carroll refuses to make any decisions during the resulting 24-17 loss as a way of “making them realize how much it hurts to not have your feelings appreciated.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vincent Jackson makes an incredible, lunging dive after the ball that shows off his incredible athleticism. Unfortunately, the “ball” in question is actually a meatball at a local restaurant; on the field, V-Jax alligator-arms approximately 150 pass attempts of the course of the season.

Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson finally turns on his “gettin’ away from the cops” speed – in an attempt to chase down owner Bud Adams in the LP Field parking lot after the Week 9 loss to the Bears after Adams flipped him both birds for his 23-carry, 24-yard effort.

Washington Redskins: Frustrated by Robert Griffin III’s slow start, Dan Snyder signs Joe Montana to a contract, proclaiming that the Redskins “finally have their Super Bowl quarterback. And not for a cent over $200 million!”

SSLYAR’s Preseason 2012 Quarterback Power Rankings

With the start of the regular season a little less than a week away, now seems like an ideal time to take a look at football’s most important position via banging out a preliminary power ranking that, in all likelihood, will look hilariously outdated by the end of September. Really, I’m just posting a preseason version of this so we can look back at it in January and laugh at how much things changed during the season. It’ll be fun! Now I made these rankings after closely consulting passing statistics from the past three years (with considerable weight placed on 2011), but ultimately they’re still subjective, as I tried to take into account things such as relative talent of each quarterback’s supporting cast, age, and general aura of suckiness (or lack thereof). For the ease of the reader, we’ll break this sucker down into general tiers and go in reverse order because it’ll heighten the drama of when I’m going to announce Aaron Rodgers as the best quarterback alive. First, though, let’s take a look at the quarterbacks who aren’t listed in the top 32 below and yet appear to be their team’s starting quarterback opening day…

Ryan Tannehill was a league-average quarterback last year – in the Big 12. I can only assume he’ll be much better this year on a team where his best receiver is Davone Bess…Brandon Weeden applied for Social Security last month…Jake Locker grew up on a farm in Washington State, which means he literally couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn…Blaine Gabbert turtles whenever he sees Justin Tuck in those Subway commercials…Christian Ponder bears a remarkable resemblance to Doug Flutie while bringing little of the excitement…Russell Wilson looks like he’ll be a good one in the future; whether that’s the near or distant future is anyone’s guess, though…John Skelton may or may not start opening day for the Cardinals; I think Ken Whisenhunt’s best option is probably snapping the ball twenty yards behind the line of scrimmage to Patrick Peterson and having him pretend that it’s a punt return every play…And Sam Bradford proved that it’s pretty tough to win when you’re battling a high ankle sprain and throwing to fans pulled out of the stands before the game…

Onto to the rankings…

The Kordell Stewart “Only as a Last Resort” Division

32. Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins.
31. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs.

30. Tim Tebow, New York Jets.

I’m including Tebow in the top 32 because of the effect he has on a team’s running game; I still think that were you to pair him with a great running back like Maurice Jones-Drew, you’d be able to run for something around 5.5 yards per carry and get 3000 yards on the ground over the course of the season. BALL-CONTROL OFFENSE right there. I’d much rather have that than Matt Cassel throwing 20 wide receiver screens a game.

The Mike Tomczak “Hey, I’m Not So Bad in Limited Amounts of Playing Time” Division

29. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans.

28. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins.

Two quarterbacks who were perfectly average last season, which is the exact wrong place you want to be if you’re a starting quarterback and over the age of 25. If you’re average and perceived to have hit your ceiling, NFL teams will go for the risky yet young gunslingers every time.

The Scott Mitchell “Intriguing Backup Who Hasn’t Shown Anything as a Starter Yet” Division

27. Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals.

26. Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks.

I’m still fairly high on Flynn, though his demotion at the hands of Russell Wilson coupled with Joe Philbin’s refusal to bring him to Miami are a couple of bad signs. Kolb will likely be knocked for the season by week 3 with wind-related injuries.

The Rodney Peete “Uh, Guys, I Really Don’t Think I Should Be Starting” Division

25. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills.

24. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets.

The two biggest reasons I’m skeptical of my playoff predictions for the Bills and Jets. But they’re going to have easy schedules, right? They can’t possibly screw things up that much, right? Right?

The Gus Frerotte “Roughly League-Average Starter (minus the headbutting)” Division

23. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
22. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers.
21. Jason Campbell, Chicago Bears.
20. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders.
19. Kyle Orton, Dallas Cowboys.

18. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals.

Orton and Campbell fell prey to the youth movement that’s afoot in NFL franchises everywhere these days; looking strictly at production, those two could easily find starting jobs on probably a dozen teams around the league. My guess is Freeman (and perhaps Dalton) will rise into the above-average division by season’s end. Carson Palmer could, too, if he avoids throwing 30 interceptions first.

The Peyton Manning circa 1998 “We’ve Stumbled Upon a GOLD MINE here!” Division

17. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins.

16. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts.

These two probably won’t perform as well as the division below them, but there’s no question you’d rather have them long-term. I’m only ranking Luck above RGIII because the Colts never seriously questioned whether they were going to take him first.

The Stan Humphries “Slightly Above-Average Starter” Division

15. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens.

I had a whale of a time trying to figure out where to put Mr. Flacco; he’s definitely better than the likes of Alex Smith and Jason Campbell, but it just felt wrong putting in the same group as Cam and Matt Stafford. Hence, this is my compromise.

The Ron Jaworski “Above-Average Starter in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE” Division

14. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears.
13. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons.
12. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles.
11. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions.

10. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers.

This is the line in the sand, I think, where you can easily envision winning a Super Bowl with any of these quarterbacks without needing the equivalent of the ’85 Bears or ’00 Ravens defense to help out. I would rank Vick higher, but he’s always hurt for three games a season, so that hurts in the final analysis. Stafford undeniably is helped by having the best wide receiver in the world at his disposal; I’m ranking Cam ahead of him because I’m pretty sure Newton would have been able to toss jump balls up to Calvin Johnson last year, too, in addition to being one of the best short-distance runners in the league.

The Peyton Manning circa 2012 “I have NO IDEA where to put this guy” Division

9. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos.

I mean…do you?

The Donovan McNabb “Elite, One Step Short of True Franchise Quarterback” Division

8. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers.
7. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans.
6. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers.
5. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys.

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants.

You could arrange this order just by picking names out of a hat and it would be just as valid. I explained my Romo defense in the Cowboys preview I posted last month; with the exception of the three guys in the “Franchise” Division, I would happily take Romo’s excellence 90% of the time and put up with the choking in the other 10%. In researching the past three seasons statistically, I was shocked to see how high Matt Schaub ranked in efficiency. I know Roethlisberger has the better reputation and Schaub has Andre Johnson…but overall, hasn’t Roethlisberger’s group of receivers been better than Schaub’s the past few years (particularly with all the time Johnson has missed)? Eli gets the edge because of his play last postseason, but I don’t feel that any of these quarterbacks are particularly close to the three ranked above them.

The Dan Marino “True Franchise Quarterback” Division

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers.

I would be fine with any of these guys as my quarterback.

Exciting Announcement / 2012 Team Previews Roundup

Now for some fun news, gang, so everyone gather around your computers and keep your ears peeled. My good buddy Lucas runs a blog entitled Confessions of a Sportscaster – you can find the link on the sidebar, but screw it, we’ll put a link here, too – and you should read it because it’s quite entertaining and thoughtful (right now, he’s halfway through his NFL divisional previews, so now would be an ideal time to bookmark that URL if you haven’t done so already). And Lucas comes up to me the other day and he says to me, “You know, Nathaniel, we should combine blog forces and create an NFL picks league on ESPN.com in which we select winners against the spread, competing against each other and anyone else who is interested for the purpose of enhancing our own personal enjoyment and lording bragging rights over each other.” And I said to Lucas, “You know, that’s a great idea, let’s do it!” Then we went back to drinking Gatorade and playing games of H-O-R-S-E.

So here’s the link to that group; please consider joining our league and putting us to shame. As mentioned above, we’ll be picking winners against the gambling lines Vegas would put up for each game if gambling were legal. We’ll also explain our picks in a giant co-written post each week (found either here or on Confessions). The winner of the personal picks battle between Lucas and myself will write a guest post on the other’s blog (spoiler alert: if I win, my post will be entitled “101 Reasons Why the Packers Suck”). If any commoners among you win the league outright, it seems that Lucas is extending an offer to write a post on his blog as well; I will probably extend to you my deepest respect and good wishes. Please proffer your entry before the season begins a week from today.

Also, the last SSLYAR 2012 Team Preview was posted today; thanks to everyone who read any or all of them. If you missed any of them, I’ve posted links to all of them below (sorted by division) so you’re spared the agony of having type in the search box (the horror!).

AFC East: Buffalo, Miami, New England, NY Jets

AFC North: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh

AFC South: Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee

AFC West: Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego

NFC East: Dallas, NY Giants, Philadelphia, Washington

NFC North: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota

NFC South: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay

NFC West: Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle

2012 Team Previews: Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins (previously known as the Boston Redskins and Boston Braves)

  • 2011 Record: 5-11 (4th in NFC East)
  • 2011 Point Differential: -79 (24th out of 32)
  • 2011 Strength of Schedule (per PFR’s SRS system): +0.8 6th)
  • 2011 Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt (offense): 4.9 (t-22nd)
  • 2011 Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt (defense): 6.2 (22nd)
  • 2011 Adjusted Pythagorean Record (accounting for Strength of Schedule): 6.1-9.9 (24th)
  • 2010 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: 6.2-9.8 (t-24th)

And now we’re honored to have some special words on the 2012 Redskins from the biggest ‘Skins fan of them all, President Abraham Lincoln. Take it away, Honest Abe!

Three score and fifteen years ago our father, George Preston Marshall, brought forth on this city, a new football team, conceived in almighty toughness, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal – except Negroes. It would take us another score and four years before we would finally be strong-armed by the government into integrating the team. Not our finest moment. 

Now we are engaged in a great divisional war, testing whether that franchise, or any franchise so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great gridiron of the NFC East – FedEx Field. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a new luxury suite (sponsored by Jamba Juice) for those who here gave their Personal Seat Licenses that that franchise might profit obscenely. It is altogether pretentious and unnecessary that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here (I’m looking at you, Rex), have consecrated it, far above our poor power to boo or throw pig snouts from the stands. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here (even though three different ESPN channels are airing or streaming this live in some capacity), but it can never forget what our great Redskins have done here. Slingin’ Sammy Baugh: both tossing and punting the pigskin with great aplomb. Sonny Jurgensen: showing our dear brothers and sisters across this great land that outstanding physical fitness is not a necessity for becoming a great field general. George Allen: leading the Over-the-Hill Gang to an unprecedented era of sustained success and gut-wrenching failure. Joe Theismann: bravely leading our squad to its first Super Bowl victory and showing us all a new way to bend our leg. And Joe Gibbs: taking proven principles from the venerable Don Coryell and matching it with a power running game in order to lead our squad to three Super Bowls.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who played here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is for Mike Shanahan to hearken back to the time he was a genius among men and forget about ever again playing John Beck in a meaningful contest. It is for Daniel Snyder to realize that building through the draft, rather than dispersing $55 million into the hands of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, is the proper way to build a team. It is for our great new hope, Robert Griffin III, to make good on his incredible potential and lead this team forth to victory over the dreaded Cowboys and Giants. And it is rather for us fans to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these inductees in the Redskins Ring of Fame we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these players shall not have lost in vain — that this franchise, under Dan, shall have a new birth of Super Bowl victories — and that we shall never forget this refrain by which all wisdom and understanding springs forth from:

Hail to the Redskins,

Hail Victory,

Braves on the Warpath,

Fight for old D.C.

Random thoughts

The Redskins gave up a king’s ransom of draft picks to the Rams in order to move up and pick Robert Griffin III, but the heavy price will almost certainly be worth it. In his final season at Baylor, RGIII completed 72.4% of his passes, threw 37 touchdown passes in comparison to just 6 interceptions, and had an incredible 11.7 yards per attempt. By the way, he also has world-class speed but, unlike most scrambling quarterbacks coming out of college, always looks to throw the ball downfield and runs only as a last resort. He and Andrew Luck are two of the greatest quarterback prospects to ever come out of college; it’s almost a divine accident that they both entered the draft in the same year…Unfortunately for RGIII this year, his teammates are still mostly the bumbling bunch from the past few seasons. The Redskins upgraded their receiving core by signing Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan in free agency but, in true Redskins style, did so by massively overpaying both (particularly Garcon, who is an extreme boom-or-bust receiver)…Defensively, the Redskins’ pass rush led by Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan did a credible job of getting after the quarterback (copyright Mike Singletary), but the secondary had massive problems after LaRon Landry got hurt. Washington’s response to fixing these coverage woes was to sign noted turnstile Brandon Meriweather and Vikings castoff Cedric Griffin, who wasn’t good enough to stay on one of the few secondaries worse than D.C.’s. Good choices!…

Outlook

The Redskins spent part of the offseason doing what they always do – throwing huge money at average players who will never play up to their billing – but they finally made a great long-term move by trading up in the draft to pick Robert Griffin III. It’s tough to envision the Redskins competing this season, for a variety of reasons. First, as we’ve noted ad nauseum, virtually all rookie quarterbacks struggle – even incredibly gifted and smart ones who seemed destined for superstardom. Second, they’ve got one of the three toughest schedules in the league; their NFC East divisional foes all are serious playoff contenders and they also have to match up against the NFC South and AFC North. Good luck. And third, and perhaps most importantly: they really kind of suck. Add that all up and it amounts to what looks like a high draft pick for the Rams in 2013 (the Redskins sent that first-round pick, plus several others, over to St. Louis in the RGIII trade). But the most important commodity in the NFL is a true franchise quarterback. And now that the Redskins seem to have one, their long-term future is finally starting to look bright.

2012 Projected Point Differential: 341.0-384.5

2012 Average Projection: 6.9-9.1 (4th in NFC East)

2012 Team Previews: Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans (previously known as the Tennessee Oilers and Houston Oilers)

  • 2011 Record: 9-7 (2nd in AFC South)
  • 2011 Point Differential: +8 (17th out of 32)
  • 2011 Strength of Schedule (per PFR’s SRS system): -1.5 (30th)
  • 2011 Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt (offense): 6.1 (t-13th)
  • 2011 Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt (defense): 5.7 (t-10th)
  • 2011 Adjusted Pythagorean Record (accounting for Strength of Schedule): 7.5-8.5 (t-19th)
  • 2010 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: 8.5-7.5 (14th)

And now a word from our sponsor, Titans owner Bud Adams, who’s here to tell us about his amazing new product: Dips**t-Free Dentures. I’m sure you all will give him your rapt attention…

The following is a paid advertisement and does not reflect the views or opinions of Someone Still Loves You, Alberto Riveron

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The preceding has been a paid advertisment for Dips***t-Free Dentures.

Random thoughts

Chris Johnson followed up his monstrous contract extension before the 2011 season with an absolutely horrendous start to the year. How could a guy who was unquestionably the league’s most dangerous and exciting player just two years before average just 3.0 yards per carry in the first eight games of the season? He rebounded in the second half to hit the 1,0000 yard mark and get his yards per carry up to 4.0, but certainly much more is expected out of a back who will now bring a cap hit north of $10 million for the next four seasons…After three consecutive poor-to-very-poor seasons in Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck surprisingly rebounded in Tennessee to post a roughly average Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt figure in 2011. His greatest attribute was getting rid of the ball quickly, only getting sacked on 3.5% of his dropbacks. With Jake Locker now starting under center, expect the Titans’ sack rate to balloon with its new inexperienced, scrambling quarterback; on the other hand, Locker’s decided edge in arm strength could give the Titans more big plays in 2012…Receiver Kenny Britt had a huge start to the season last year before tearing both his ACL and MCL. The Titans were expecting big things out of Britt entering this year, but numerous off-the-field incidents will likely leave Britt suspended for a portion of the season…

Outlook

How you feel about the Titans’ chances in 2012 is likely tied to your opinion of their new starting quarterback, second-year man Jake Locker. And for all his athleticism and arm strength, I have an extremely hard time believing that Locker will be accurate enough to succeed as a starting quarterback in the NFL. During his college career at Washington, Locker was very bally-hooed, but never really lived up to his potential, completing only 53.9% of his passes during his career. More worrisome: he only averaged 6.7 yards per attempt in his entire Husky career. For perspective, the NFL yards per attempt average each season usually sits right at or above 7.0. How is a guy who never hit that figure in college going to start doing that in the pros? For those reasons stated above, Tennessee’s offensive projection this season is very pessimistic and a defense that has essentially epitomized average play the past few seasons probably won’t be able to counteract that. Hence, a Titans team that was just a game back of first-place Houston last year seems likely to fall back to also-ran status in 2012.

2012 Projected Point Differential: 286.1-361.8

2012 Average Projection: 5.8-10.2 (3rd in AFC South)

2012 Team Previews: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • 2011 Record: 4-12 (4th in NFC South)
  • 2011 Point Differential: -207 (31st out of 32)
  • 2011 Strength of Schedule (per PFR’s SRS system): +2.3 (2nd)
  • 2011 Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt (offense): 4.7 (t-25th)
  • 2011 Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt (defense): 7.5 (32nd)
  • 2011 Adjusted Pythagorean Record (accounting for Strength of Schedule): 4.0-12.0 (30th)
  • 2010 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: 7.7-8.3 (17th)

And now a very special preview of the 2012 Buccaneers from Super Bowl-winning coach and current ESPN announcer Jon Gruden. Take it away, Coach Gruden!

*Smirks, eyes get wide, smirks again*…Well, well, well, well, well, what do we have here? If I recall my facts correctly, isn’t this a team that’s only won seventeen games the past three years? Now I’m no SRINIVASA RAMANUJAN, but hearkening back to the division methods that I learned back in Sister JEANETTE ANNE GUTTERDAGGER’s FOURTH GRADE MATH CLASS, even I can tell that’s only averaging a little over five wins a season there. That won’t quite get the job done, now will it? *clucks teeth disapprovingly* You wanna know something else I heard about these TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS? I heard they so thoroughly quit on their coach at the end of last season that they wouldn’t even listen to his directions for finding THE JOHN in December. *cocks right eyebrow* Almost makes you think hiring a thirty-two year old kid WITH NO PRIOR NFL COORDINATING EXPERIENCE as your head coach was a choice LACKING IN ERUDITION. *leans forward* Almost makes you think they shoulda held onto that prior coach of theirs…*smirks*…you know…the one with the STERLING 95-81 CAREER RECORD…the guy with an UNDEFEATED MARK in the little game they call THE SUPER BOWL…that undisputed MOLDER OF MEN who turned the six-yard slant into a INDESTRUCTIBLE FORCE OF AGONY AND TERROR for his opponents? Remember THAT GUY?

Of course, by now, I’m sure you know I’m referring to myself and my SURPRISE TERMINATION in January of 2009. And, believe me, it gave me NO PLEASURE WHATSOEVER to see Raheem Morris fail SPECTACULARLY in his three years as Bucs head coach. Raheem is a good friend of mine. I gave him a shot as a defensive quality control coach back when he was just a PUERILE YOUNG ASSISTANT out of Hofstra and watched him grow into the PASSABLE DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH HE IS TODAY. I have no interest in telling Raheem…*raises right hand slightly*…I told you so. Instead, I save that for that old crusty warlock MALCOLM GLAZER. YOU HEAR THAT, MALCOLM? I TOLD YOU SO, YOU @*$&!&%@*#@!*$&@*$&#* HAIRY BUTTSPLEEN! GO DIE IN ONE OF THE MANY TRAILER PARKS YOU PURCHASED BACK IN THE SEVENTIES, YOU SCUM-SUCKING PURVEYOR OF COLORECTAL DISEASE!

*Catches self, attempts to calm down* Well, now. Looks like I got a little carried away with myself there. You know, I actually owe a lot to the Glazer Family. We’ve had our differences over the years and we’re certainly not exchanging Christmas cards these days – that sorta fell by the wayside when I included some Anthrax in my holiday greeting back in 2010. But, when all’s said and done, Malcolm is responsible for giving me seven years of fine employment in a locale that is synonymous with PARADISE ON EARTH. And for that, I admit, I must thank him. I also admit that he taught me VALUABLE LESSONS about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness that I still share with my fellow members of the Fired Football Coaches Association here in Tampa. Stay true to yourself. Maximize your happiness. Get the hell out of this office, Jon, you were fired two and a half years ago. *eyes moisten, raises right hand slightly* This is the stuff that great men TAKE TO THEIR GRAVE, clutching CLOSELY TO THEIR BREAST, cherishing like LIFE-GIVING MANNA FROM HEAVEN. And whenever I’m not leaving a flaming bag of fudgies on Malcolm’s doorstep, I always keep these values in mind.

But getting back to THESE GUYS, the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS. I gotta tell ya, I was RELIEVED to hear that they didn’t want to interview me for my old job. I’ve taken THESE BROKEN WINGS of mine and learned to fly again. I have a great gig announcing for one of the VENERABLE INSTITUTIONS of the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. I still get to wake up at three in the morning and break down all my game film, just like when I was a BLOSSOMING RESORVOIR OF INTERMEDIATE ROUTE KNOWLEDGE way back in kindergarten. I’m even coming out with my own specialty brand of SALAMI later this year specifically catered towards the FOOTBALL FANATIC demographic; and once we’re able to come up with a name that isn’t an OBVIOUS DOUBLE ENTENDRE, we’ll get that sucker out on the shelves IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD GROCER. So I’m thrilled to see the Buccaneers go for a complete break with the past and hire the OUTSTANDING former coach of Rutgers University, GREG SCHIANO. Greg is A STERN DISCIPLINARIAN who won’t leave any room for any LAZY LARRY’s or DALLYING DICK’S to meander their way through the season. These Tampa Bay Buccaneers are headed back on the right track and I gotta tell ya…*cocks right eyebrow*…I see nothing but BRIGHT THINGS in this franchise’s future. But should these Buccaneers continue to flounder and the salami business fail to produce any fruit…*winks*…there’s always a former Super Bowl-winning coach who lives right down the road…*grows visibly agitated*…No, not Tony Dungy, me! *finishes purchase of Haagen-Dazs at neighborhood 7-11, leaves in a huff*…

Random thoughts

Tampa Bay had been one of the thriftiest teams in the league since switching to a youth movement in 2009, but with a much higher salary cap floor on the horizon, the Buccaneers were the biggest spenders during the 2012 free agent signing period, snatching up Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson and Saints guard Carl Nicks. At 29 and having a history of inconsistent effort, Jackson’s a risk, but he’s one of the best downfield threats in the league and Nicks is arguably the best guard in football, so expect the Buccaneers’ offense to be greatly improved in 2012…Unfortunately for the Bucs, the Pro Bowl guard they were planning on pairing with Nicks, Davin Joseph, suffered a serious knee injury during the preseason and will be out the entire season…The main issue with the Bucs last year – and, really, every year since Monte Kiffin left to follow his son around the college football ranks – was their defense; as you can see at the top of the page, they were the worst team in football against the pass, generating little pass rush and possessing a sieve-like secondary. Tampa Bay drafted Alabama safety Mark Barron to help fix the latter, but fixing the former is more a matter of avoiding injuries (former first-round pick Gerald McCoy, in particular, would be a great help if he could stay healthy) and giving a consistent effort…

Outlook

The Buccaneers are neither the 10-6 team on the rise they appeared to be in 2010 nor the 4-12 bottom-dwellers they portrayed themselves as last year. 2010 was a fluke-filled season fueled by close victories against an soft schedule; 2011 started off with losses against a tough schedule, then ended with one of the most egregious examples of a team quitting on its coach in recent memory. Whether new coach Greg Schiano will be able to avoid the same fate is up for debate. But the Bucs should be able to move the ball this season; Vincent Jackson gives Josh Freeman the deep threat he sorely needed and the addition of All-Pro guard Nicks should ensure nice years for backs LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin. The defense will still likely be bad, but keep in mind that they faced the toughest slate of opposing offenses in the league last year. If they actually try for this entire season, there’s still young, highly drafted talent that could noticeably improve. Subjectively, my guess is the Buccaneers’ mercurial tendencies will either lead them to far exceed or lag behind the below projection; lukewarm doesn’t seem to be their style.

2012 Projected Point Differential: 381.4-405.8

2012 Average Projection: 7.4-8.6 (4th in NFC South)

2012 Team Previews: Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks

  • 2011 Record: 7-9 (3rd in NFC West)
  • 2011 Point Differential: +6 (18th out of 32)
  • 2011 Strength of Schedule (per PFR’s SRS system): +0.4 (t-10th)
  • 2011 Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt (offense): 5.0 (21st)
  • 2011 Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt (defense): 5.0 (6th)
  • 2011 Adjusted Pythagorean Record (accounting for Strength of Schedule): 8.4-7.6 (t-15th)
  • 2010 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: 4.3-11.7 (30th)

And now a frank discussion of the worst uniforms in recent NFL history

In case you didn’t know, the NFL switched apparel suppliers at the end of last season, ending their long-time partnership with Reebok in favor of Nike’s deeper pockets. Given Nike’s, shall we say, adventurous college designs, many NFL fans were hopeful/worried (depending on their attitude towards those college uniforms) that the switch in apparel companies would lead to radical uniform redesigns like these. Of course, there was never a real chance of that happening; NFL owners are some of the most conservative people around this side of Barry Goldwater and the thought of seeing a tradition-rich franchise like the Bears parading around in something resembling this would have likely caused them to choke on their caviar. Thus, when the new Nike uniforms were unveiled earlier this year, the vast majority of NFL teams made no significant changes and most uniforms look exactly the same as before.

The Seahawks, however, were the one team that took the opportunity to make major redesigns, as you can see from the picture above. And the results aren’t pretty, unless you like rejected Arena League uniforms. There’s too much going on in the top of the jersey and the new gray alternate jersey look exactly like the road whites have been dragged through a smokestack. Even the names of the Seahawks’ new color scheme sound pretentious: College Navy. Action Green. Wolf Grey. And…White (reportedly Aryan White was the original title but was shelved at the last minute). Bleh. In honor of these new affronts to manhood, let’s take a look back at some of the other terrible NFL uniforms of recent vintage.

Philadelphia Eagles 1932 Throwback Uniforms (2007). The worst part about this is the Eagles were wearing these in honor of the Frankfort Yellow Jackets. Why would you wear the garish monstrosity of another franchise you were never even affiliated with? Might as well wear the Providence Steam Roller throwbacks at that point.

Denver Broncos 1960 Throwback Uniforms (2009). OH MY WORD I FORGOT ABOUT THOSE SOCKS. Honestly, if you replaced those with something relatively normal, then this mustard-and-poop color scheme isn’t actually that bad…*thinks for a minute*…okay, you’re right, it would still be pretty bad.

Chicago Bears Alternate Orange Uniforms (2005-2011). What’s bad about these is the standard Bears home jersey is arguably the best in the league; trading those in for Orange-Crush Broncos-aping unis is a huge loss. Fortunately, the 1940s retro uniforms the Bears wore in 2010 are returning this season.

Detroit Lions Alternate Black Uniforms (2005-2008). There should just be a rule outlawing teams that originated before World War II from wearing alternate jerseys with dominant colors that have NO prior history with the team. Why did you feel like you needed to rip off the Panthers’ jerseys, Detroit? Why?

Jacksonville Jaguars Home and Away Uniforms (2009-present). Much like the Seahawks, the Jaguars’ recent redesign seems rather cheaply made and dilutes a previously strong design. I’d also like to take this time to once again ask Shad Khan WHY HAVEN’T YOU MOVED THE JAGUARS TO LOS ANGELES YET?

New York Jets 1960 Throwback Uniforms (2007-present). Why not celebrate the most putrid time of your franchise’s existence by wearing their equally putrid uniforms? F-E-E-T! FEET! FEET! FEET!

Seattle Seahawks Alternate Lime Green Uniforms (2009). And, of course, no discussion of terrible NFL uniforms is complete without mentioning the one-game abomination that these Seahawks alternates graced us with a few years back. Really, they should be proud more than anything else; any time you can unequivocally say that something is clearly the best or worst in its given field, you should feel honored to be part of that. Plus, who knows how many people were inspired to purchase Apple Jolly Ranchers after watching that game; as I hope you all know, Jolly Ranchers are delicious and anything leading to the purchase of more Jolly Ranchers is a net gain in my book. So, nuclear holocaust green Seahawks jerseys, I salute you for a job well done. Keep fighting the good fight!

Random thoughts

Probably the biggest surprise starter in the NFL opening day will be Russell Wilson, who outperformed Matt Flynn in the preseason and will be one of several rookie quarterbacks under center from the get-go. Wilson was incredibly efficient in his lone season at Wisconsin (having transferred there from North Carolina State), completing 72.8% of his passes and tossing 33 touchdown passes in comparison to just 4 interceptions. In addition, Football Outsiders’ Lewin Career Forecast system gave Wilson its highest rated projection ever (although FO head Aaron Schatz couldn’t backpedal from that projection hard enough) and he’s got excellent mobility and accuracy. The only knock on him has been his height (5-11); then again, Drew Brees and Michael Vick are only an inch taller and they’ve both had a pretty good run. Subjectively, I think Wilson will make it as a solid starting quarterback eventually; the usual warning signs with starting rookie quarterbacks apply for this season, however…Flynn was expected to win the Seahawks’ starting quarterback job easily after parlaying his amazing Week 17 start with the Packers into a big payday in the offseason. As Football Outsiders’ Vince Verhei and Grantland’s Bill Barnwell both noted, every other quarterback in NFL history who posted a single game stat line similar to Flynn’s 31-of-44, 480 yards, 6 TDs and 1 INT made the Pro Bowl at some point in their career (except for Scott Mitchell and even he had one phenomenal season in 1995). Flynn starts this year on the bench, but it’s fair to expect that he will get some playing time at some point this year…The Seahawks’ defense took a big step forward in 2011, largely thanks to their Pro Bowl safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Thomas is 23 and Chancellor is the old guy at 24, so this may be the beginning of a long period of excellence at the position for the Seahawks…

Outlook

The Seahawks won the NFC West in 2010 and then went on to memorably beat the Saints in the playoffs, but by all indicators they were a much better team last season. Their defense became an above-average unit, with young playmakers all over the field and their offense did about as well as you could hope with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. How well you think the Seahawks will do in 2012 is largely tied to how much you think the Plexiglass Principle will affect their season. If their defense slides back down to something approaching their terrible 2010 effort, this will be a four-win team. If you think that last year represented young talent coalescing for the first time and things can only improve as that young talent gets closer to its peak, then the Seahawks may deserve to be the NFC West favorite. Questions will always linger around a team starting a rookie quarterback, so the Seahawks’ overall projection this year puts them around the seven-win mark they’ve maintained the first two years of Pete Carroll’s tenure. Again, though, in a division that looks very weak, Seattle has as good a chance as anyone of making the playoffs.

2012 Projected Point Differential: 322.4-354.7

2012 Average Projection: 7.1-8.9 (2nd in NFC West)

Alberto Riveron Fun Fact of the Day: August 24, 2012

Welcome to the Alberto Riveron Fun Fact of the Day! Each day, you’ll find out something new that you probably didn’t know about esteemed NFL referee Alberto Riveron. Please enjoy responsibly.

Did you know that…

Now you do! Someone Still Loves You, Alberto Riveron is off on a long weekend. We’ll be back next week to finish up our team-by-team previews and give out $100 billion to one lucky reader! (Note: last item may not be true). Thanks for reading.

WhatIfSports Duel to the Death: 2011 Jaguars vs. 2007 Patriots (but with a twist!)

So far in our WhatIfSports Duel to the Death series, we’ve seen a winless team achieve the impossible (winning a game) and the Vikings surprisingly finding a way to win a meaningless game that didn’t have any real stakes attached; we know, we’re surprised, too. For this week’s simulation, we decided to shake things up a little bit. On the one side, we have last year’s 5-11 Jacksonville Jaguars squad. I assume you’re familiar with them. Maurice Jones-Drew, pretty good defense until everyone died of cholera, Blaine Gabbert bravely taking the field in spite of his distinction as the first NFL quarterback with menstrual cramps – basically, your garden-variety bad team. On the other side, we have the 2007 New England Patriots who, you may remember, won quite a few games that season, set quite a few records, had a lot of laughs along the way, and were ultimately foiled by the hand of God (working through the helmet of David Tyree). Why am I bothering with this simulation, exactly? On paper, I’ve got the 2007 Patriots listed as 21.5 point favorites and I’m taking the over.

But that’s the thing about football: they don’t play the games on paper. And in our simulation, the ’07 Patriots were without the services of their three best offensive players – MVP quarterback Tom Brady and wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker – for reasons that are completely clear (I didn’t want them to play). In their stead: former Michigan Wolverine Matt Gutierrez at quarterback (did you know that he had a perfect completion percentage in 2007? ADMIT THAT YOU DID NOT) and Kelley Washington and Chad Jackson at receiver (number of combined career receptions with the Patriots: 14). To ensure no home field advantage, the game was played at the old Kingdome in Seattle (weather conditions: 72 degrees, no sky). Who would win: the crap team playing with a full deck or the great team missing their three best players?

Well, WhatIfSports could not have stated its belief more decisively than it did in the simulation: the crap team would win and they would win big. Buoyed by a huge day by Maurice Jones-Drew and five field goals from Josh Scobee, the Jaguars shockingly won in a laugher, 29-0. After a scoreless first quarter, MJD gained a combined 75 yards on two plays in the middle of the second, setting up a thirteen yard touchdown scamper by Deji Karim. After two Scobee field goals, Gabbert found Jared Dillard for a 24-yard touchdown strike to put the Jags up 20-0 and end any type of doubt involving the outcome. Scobee finished out the scoring in the fourth quarter with three more field goals, all from beyond 40 yards.

The Jaguars were able to run the ball effectively behind MJD (167 yards on 26 attempts), thus taking the pressure off Blaine Gabbert and allowing him to simply enter game manager mode (13-of-22, 126 yards, 1 TD). But the biggest reason for the Jags’ surprising victory? Mr. Matt Gutierrez, who went THREE FOR TWENTY-SIX FOR THIRTY-TWO YARDS. No, that is not a misprint; check the box score link at the bottom of the page. In fact, Gutierrez threw as many completions to the Jaguars as he did his own men; Jags linebacker Daryl Smith tied for the Pats reception lead with two. Matt Cassel was sent in late to quench the raging wildfire, but could only go 2-of-6 for 22 yards on his own. The lesson, as always: MVP quarterbacks and All-Pro Wide Receivers are somewhat important.

WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Final Score (box score and play-by-play): 2011 Jacksonville Jaguars 29, 2007 New England Patriots (in name only) 0.

Game of the Week: Panthers vs. Jets

Get excited, folks! We’ve reached the point in the preseason where the starters actually play a majority of the game (before trading in their pads for flip-flops and baseball caps for the fourth preseason game). Those of you who like to make rash predictions based on games that don’t remotely count: this is your time to shine. For this highly important point in the preseason, Game of the Week profiles a game featuring two teams that are essentially exact opposites…

Who: Carolina Panthers vs. New York Jets

Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

When: 8:00 P.M. (EDT), Sunday, August 26th

Network: NBC (play-by-play by Al Michaels, color commentary by Cris Collinsworth). Al took NBC’s first preseason game (Colts-Steelers) off as well-deserved rest for his work at the Olympics. Dan Hicks did a good job in his stead and would be an improvement over at least 75% of CBS’s or FOX’s play-by-play men, but it’s downright ‘UGE to have the best in the business back in the booth.

Key Storylines:

1. Will Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow complete a forward pass? You may not have heard this the past few weeks, but in a development no one saw coming,  the Jets quarterbacks have struggled so far this preseason. Here’s Sanchez and Tebow’s combined stats from the first two preseason games: 22-of-39, 131 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and 9 sacks for 61 yards lost. If you were wondering what their combined Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt figure would be, it’s -0.42. Now all will be forgotten if either or both play well in this upcoming dress rehearsal against the Panthers. But if they both struggle again, it would be an affront to your manhood if you couldn’t ascend to the starting quarterback position, Greg McElroy.

2. Can Wayne Hunter block a human being, dead or alive? The beleaguered Jets right tackle had his troubles, shall we say, with Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck last Saturday and appears to dead set on giving J’Marcus Webb a fight for the coveted Worst Starting Offensive Tackle in the Leauge title. Panthers ends Charles Johnson and Antwan Applewhite don’t inspire the same sort of fear that JPP and Tuck do, but they’re not to be trifled with, either. So, essentially, if Sanchez and Tebow don’t get the Jets faithful booing themselves hoarse, Hunter will. And it’s a good thing, too, Jets fans don’t know what to do with themselves if they can’t boo someone.

3. Otahgate. Don’t forget, the Jets and Panthers attempted a trade last month that would have sent oft-injured Panthers tackle Jeff Otah to the Jets for a conditional seventh-round pick. Would have sent, anyway, except Otah failed his physical (surprise!), the Panthers ended up releasing Otah, and the two sides went their separate ways, pretending like nothing ever happened. But what if bad blood still lingers? This is mere speculation, but I’m pretty sure Otah on one knee is better than Wayne Hunter with two. What if the Jets defense completely snaps at their offense’s complete lack of success and tries to take it out on Otah, roaming throughout the entire Panthers’ sideline searching for his blood, only to find that they forgot he was released? That would be pretty weird.

 Steve Stone’s Said in Stone Cold Lock of the Game: “Being a former pitcher, I’d like to tell you pitchers are the most important player on the field and the smartest player on the field.”

Projected Final Score: Carolina 27, NY Jets 9

Team To Bet On If Gambling Were Legal: Panthers (+3)