2020 NFL Win Totals Tracker: Betting Odds for All 32 Teams

NFL 2014 Week 12 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL Week 15 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL 2014 Week 12 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL 2014 Week 14 Lines: Betting Odds, Point Spreads, Totals From Las Vegas

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NFL 2014 Week 10 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL 2014 Week 13 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL 2014 Week 8 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL 2014 Week 11 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL 2014 Week 7 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL 2014 Week 9 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL 2014 Week 6 Lines: Point Spreads, Totals And Complete Betting Odds From Las Vegas

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NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020

We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them.
Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now.


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1. Arizona Cardinals


Why they can win the division:
Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other.

Why they could finish last again:
Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league.

Bottom line:
I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020.


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2. Detroit Lions


Why they can win the division:
Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough.

Why they could finish last again:
Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive.

Bottom line:
I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark.


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3. Miami Dolphins


Why they can win the division:
When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game.

Why they could finish last again:
As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams.

Bottom line:
As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here.


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4. Los Angeles Chargers


Why they can win the division:
First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy.

Bottom line:
In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division.


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5. Washington Redskins


Why they can win the division:
These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game.

Why they could finish last again:
Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you.

Bottom line:
These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently.


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6. Jacksonville Jaguars


Why they can win the division:
I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period.

Bottom line:
The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now.


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7. Carolina Panthers

Why they can win the division:
Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7.

Why they could finish last again:
Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season.

Bottom line:
The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center.


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8. Cincinnati Bengals


Why they can win the division:
We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates.

Why they could finish last again:
As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year.

Bottom line:
I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air.


If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/06/16/nfl-teams-most-likely-to-go-from-worst-to-first-in-2020/
You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9kCcuPobNU
submitted by hallach_halil to nfl [link] [comments]

Will the Philadelphia Eagles win OVER/UNDER 9.5 games? By University Stats Prof!

1. Introduction

The Eagles have been a good model of consistency. Over the past 20 years, they have had just four losing seasons.

It wasn’t always pretty, but Philly managed to secure the NFC East title with a 9-7 record last year. They closed out the regular season with a four-game winning streak to edge the Cowboys atop the division.

Unfortunately, Carson Wentz exited the wildcard playoff game early and the team couldn’t overcome his absence in a 17-9 home loss to the Seahawks.

2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs)

Carson Wentz needs to be applauded for his 2019 performance.

He had to deal with numerous injuries to his receiving corps and yet, he led the team to a playoff spot and he finished with a career-high in passing yards with 4,039. He threw 27 TD passes versus 7 interceptions, while playing all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season in 2016.

In the season finale, his top targets were Boston Scott, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins, Deontay Burnett and Greg Ward. Outside of Goedert, none is an established starter in the NFL. The Eagles still secured the NFC East title with a 34-17 road win in New York.

Philadelphia selected Jalen Hurts late in the second round of this year’s draft. He transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma for his senior year since Tua Tagovailoa was projected to be the starter. Hurst was actually replacing Kyler Murray who had just been taken as the number one overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft by the Cards.

Hurts did not disappoint in his lone season with the Sooners. He completed 237-of-340 passes (69.7%) with 3,851 passing yards, along with 32 TD passes and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 1,298 yards with 20 TDs on the ground!

His weaknesses are an average accuracy, inconsistent decision-making and a tendency to take off as a runner too often (sometimes when a receiver was open). He is likely to be used as a gadget player by Doug Pederson this year.

Nate Sudfeld will compete for the backup job. He missed the entire 2019 season due to a wrist injury he suffered during preseason. He was a sixth-round pick out of Indiana in the 2016 draft. He has attempted just 25 passes in the NFL in four years, so it’s hard to tell what to expect from him.

2.2 Running Backs (RBs)

Miles Sanders’ rookie season was a resounding success. He led all rookies with 1,327 yards from scrimmage.

He carried a heavier workload as the season went on. During the first eight games, he averaged 8.3 carries per game, as opposed to 14.1 over the last nine contests (including the playoff loss to the Seahawks).

Jordan Howard’s injury at midseason contributed to the increased usage of Sanders in the backfield. With Howard gone to Miami, the sky’s the limit for second-round pick out of Penn State.

Darren Sproles retired and Jay Ajayi was waived. That leaves the door wide open for third-year man Boston Scott. He flashed big time last year and unquestionably passed my eye test. The 5’6’’ back is very explosive.

Scott made a name for himself in Week #17 as he had to step in for Sanders who sprained an ankle in the first quarter against the Giants. Scott went on to rack up 138 total yards and three touchdowns.

2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs)

This unit was decimated by injuries last year. DeSean Jackson pretty much played just one game, while Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor missed six and five games, respectively.

Despite playing under his age-32 campaign, Jackson showed he still has field-stretching abilities in his lone meeting last year. He was spectacular with 8 catches for 154 yards and a couple of scores. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season very often in his career though.

Jeffery is another aging receiver coming off a significant injury. He underwent Lisfranc surgery, which requires a long rehab period. He’s questionable for the start of training camp.

Since two outstanding seasons in 2013 and 2014 with the Bears, Jeffery has missed four games per year on average, while showing signs of slowing down on the field as well. His 11.4 yards-per-catch average last year was a career low.

To be honest, I feel like Jeffery’s time in the league is coming to an end soon. Lisfranc injuries can be tricky for wide receivers, and full recovery is even more difficult for guys above 30 years of age.

Nelson Agholor was a younger WR who could have provided adequate depth, but he signed with the Raiders. The former first-rounder has not lived up to expectations, but he was still a decent pass catcher, albeit his drops were a big issue last year. Maybe a change of scenery will help rejuvenate his career.

Philly drafted Jalen Reagor with the #11 pick overall last April. He’s a smallish deep threat who is at his best on straight routes. He was good with contested catches, but will it still be the case in the NFL given his size? That’s a big question mark.

Reagor opened a lot of eyes by scoring eight touchdowns as a freshman with TCU after being a high recruit out of high school. He followed up with a great 72-1061-9 receiving line as a sophomore.

Reagor’s numbers dropped quite a bit as a junior (43-611-5), but you can attribute that to having a freshman QB at the helm. He’s an electrifying player who can take it to the house every time he touches the ball.

The competition for the number three role is also likely to involve Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. These two guys have had completely different paths before making it to the NFL.

Ward went undrafted before joining the AAF. He eventually was added to the Eagles’ practice squad, and later on promoted to the 53-man roster until a depleted receiving corps forced him onto the field.

Meanwhile, Arcega-Whiteside had more of a “conventional” journey by being drafted in the second-round of the 2019 draft.

Such resumes would suggest Arcega-Whiteside would be the superior wideout, but that’s not what we saw on the field. He only caught 10-of-22 targets for a disappointing 45% catch rate. He was rarely targeted down the stretch, despite the numerous injuries at the position.

On the other hand, Ward filled in admirably late in the season. Over the final four meetings, including the playoff game, he caught 20-of-25 targets (an 80% catch rate). He clearly deserves a shot as a top reserve for the upcoming season.

2.4 Tight Ends (TEs)

The Eagles have a nice duo at the tight end position with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.

Ertz is a true warrior. He hasn’t missed more than two games in each of his first seven season in the league. Last year, he played with two rib fractures one week after lacerating his kidney. Talk about a tough guy.

His numbers are also staggering. His lowest figures in terms of receptions and receiving yards over the past five years are 74 and 816. That’s truly remarkable! Please note that he’ll be turning 30 years old during the season.

Just like Ertz, Goedert is also a former second-rounder. However, he is four years younger. He caught 58 passes for 607 yards and 5 TDs, all career-highs. He was targeted 4 times per game on average before the team’s bye week versus an average of 7.9 for the remainder of the year. Granted, injuries to other targets probably boosted his numbers, but he still developed nice chemistry with Wentz.

2.5 Offensive Line (OL)

The Eagles have a heck of an offensive line.

You cannot blame Jason Kelce for anything over the past five years. He hasn’t missed any start, while consistently being one of the top centers in the league. As a matter of fact, he was rated as the #1 center in the NFL according to PFF grades last year. He’s now 32 years old.

Left tackle Jason Peters has been just as good as Kelce. He was nominated to nine Pro Bowls in his career and he finished as the number 6 tackle in the league with his 83.4 PFF mark. Unfortunately, the team decided to let the 38-year old hit the free agency market. EDIT: he was re-signed three days ago (this article was written several weeks ago). He is projected to play guard instead of tackle.

Peters will be replaced with 2019 first-round pick, Andre Dillard. Is he ready to take on the full-time job? It remains to be seen, but it will be difficult to fill Peters’ shoes.

As for Lane Johnson, the right tackle finished as the 3rd-best tackle in the league based on the PFF grading system. He’s been very good throughout his seven-year career; the former #4 overall pick has not disappointed at all!

Brandon Brooks also had a huge 2019 season! He ended the year as the top guard in the NFL with a jaw-dropping 92.9 PFF mark. Much like Lane Johnson, Brooks is another player above 30 years old who’s been reliable his entire career.

Left guard Isaac Seumalo started all 16 games for the first time of his career. He’s the one that received the lowest grades on this OL, but finishing 17th out of 81 guards is nothing to be ashamed of! The former third-round pick from the 2016 draft is not as talented as his colleagues, but you could do worse than having him as one of your starters.

The team lost good depth with the departure of Halapoulivaati Vaitai to Detroit. The 2019 season was clearly his best year; it would have been nice to retain him but he signed a huge contract with the Lions.

2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE

When comparing the upcoming 2020 season with last year, there are some positives and some negatives.

Let’s discuss the negative stuff first. I do expect a downgrade on the offensive line. They played at an extremely high level last year with four guys finishing among the 6 players at their respective position (based on PFF rankings). That’s unlikely to happen again, especially with three linemen aged 30 years or above.

Also, second-year man Andre Dillard has good potential, but it will be difficult to match Jason Peters’ 2019 performance. I do expect a drop-off here.

At quarterback and tight end, the situation remains stable.

At the running back position, losing Jordan Howard to free agency won’t hurt too much with the emergence of electrifying Boston Scott. Also, Miles Sanders is expected to take a leap in his sophomore season.

Finally, how could you not expect better production from the WR group? They were hit by the injury bug a lot last year. Agholor’s departure is a moderate blow; getting DeSean Jackson back is a bonus! Hopefully, speedy rookie Jalen Reagor can provide a spark to an offense that sorely missed game breakers last year.

The Eagles offense scored the 12th-highest number of points last year. My final conclusion, based on the arguments above, is that I expect similar production in 2020.

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Stable

3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs)

Fletcher Cox is an animal. Plain and simple.

Despite posting his second-lowest sack output of his illustrious eight-year career, he still graded as the 4th-best interior defenders in the NFL based on PFF rankings. On average, he has recorded 6 sacks per year (he only got 3.5 last year)

He has also been very durable; he’s missed just three games out 128. He still has good years to come at age 29.

Tim Jernigan was a decent starter next to Cox, but he clearly wasn’t needed on the team anymore after the Eagles signed stud DT Javon Hargrave. The former Steeler showed steady improvement in each of his first four years in the NFL. His 83.4 PFF mark last year put him in the 8th spot out of 114 DLs.

With Hargrave entering his prime years and Fletcher Cox being a perennial beast, good luck running the ball inside the tackles against the Eagles in 2020.

After playing three years in Indy, Hassan Ridgeway had a below-average season in his first year with the Eagles. He’s more of a rotational player, whom you hope won’t be needed as a starter.

3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED)

Brandon Graham is 32 years old, but he refuses to slow down. He led the team with 8.5 sacks last year, and he has averaged six sacks over an eight-year period!

The guy also finds a way to stay on the field. Can you believe he has missed a single game in eight years! He’s been consistently good and remains a force, both against the run and rushing the passer.

Derek Barnett is a former first-rounder coming off a career-high in sacks with 6.5. However, his 2019 PFF grade was the lowest of his three-year stint in the NFL and he finished as the number 83 edge defender out of 107 qualifiers. He’s an “okay” player.

Vinny Curry played 38% of the snaps last year, but it does not appear like he will be back with the team. At the time of writing, he was still a free agent. He did pick up five sacks last year, but teams seem reluctant to sign him because he’ll be playing his age-32 campaign. He actually played pretty well when called upon.

With Curry gone, the team must hope Josh Sweat will elevate his game. The 2018 fourth-round selection posted his first four sacks of his career last year, but his 62.5 overall PFF mark ranked him as the 76th-best edge defender out of 107 guys.

3.3 Linebackers (LBs)

After playing four years in Buffalo and four years in Philly, Nigel Bradham was cut by the Eagles, mainly for cap reasons. He provided average play at the LB position; he was good in coverage, but he was a liability defending the run.

The team also lost Kamu Grugier-Hill, who signed with the Dolphins. You could characterize him as a decent player, albeit far from being great.

That leaves the team pretty thin at the position.

Nathan Gerry is the lone 2019 starter that is still with the team. He ranked as the 34th-best linebacker out of 89 players. He does not offer much upside, though. It would be stunning to see him crack the top 25 someday.

Can Duke Riley and/or T.J Edwards crack the starting lineup? Neither seem to be an up-and-coming star. Riley was acquired for peanuts prior to last year and he played 35 snaps. As for Edwards, he was an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin that did well in limited time last year. He proved to be stout against the run.

3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs)

Philly’s back end has been revamped for the upcoming 2020 season.

The Eagles signed one of the best slot corners in the league: Nickell Robey-Coleman. He has received consistently good grades from ProFootballFocus over the past four years. At 5’8’’ he is pretty small, but you couldn’t tell from the quality of his game. He’s a nice addition.

Philly also acquired Darius “Big Play” Slay, who played the first seven years of his career with the Lions. He had a down year in 2019, but I’m not worried he can rebound in a new environment. He’s been covering opponent’s top receivers for a while in this league, and he’s done a good job at it. He has 19 career interceptions.

Ronald Darby’s career has been plagued with injuries recently and he was let go during the offseason. His PFF grade took an enormous drop last year, all the way from a respectable 70.6 in 2018 down to an abysmal 44.8 last year. He signed a one-year deal with the Redskins.

Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox are still on the team, but neither has proven to be an impactful contributor. Both graded as very below-average corners in 2019.

3.5 Safeties (S)

Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod both played the entire 2019 season. They ranked as the 32nd- and 52nd-best out of a bunch of 87 safeties.

The organization and Jenkins couldn’t agree on a deal, so the Eagles had to let him go after six very successful seasons. He picked off 11 passes during his six-year stint in Philly. He signed with the Saints, with which he spent the first five seasons of his career. Even though he wasn’t getting any younger, his present will be missed.

McLeod’s 2019 PFF grade was the lowest he had obtained over the past five years, but he still did a decent job.

Jalen Mills will be one piece of the puzzle in replacing Jenkins. But let’s face the reality: he has been pretty awful throughout his four-year career, except 2017 where he did better.

Another option will be newly acquired Will Parks, who is coming over from Denver. However, he’s clearly not a long-term solution either. He’s pretty versatile, but he’s a below-average player.

2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE

This unit was upgraded quite a bit during the offseason at two positions, but it also suffered a severe downgrade at a couple others.

First, acquiring Javon Hargrave to team up with Fletcher Cox on the interior of the line was big! At CB, getting Darius Slay and Nickell Robey-Coleman will provide much needed help at a position that has caused headaches for years in Philly.

Unfortunately, the defense lost its best safety when Malcolm Jenkins signed with the Saints. Also, even though none of them was a true difference maker, losing linebackers Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill creates a hole.

Since the team acquired some big time players while losing good/average players, I envision a small improvement. In 2019, the Eagles finished in the middle of the pack in terms of points allowed per game (15th out of 32 teams). I envision Philly finishing around the #10-#13 spot this year.

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small upgrade

4. Regular Season Wins

According to sportsbooks, the Eagles are expected to win 9.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?

Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:

Here are the results:

Estimated Probability Sportsbook Odds ROI
OVER 9.5 WINS 42.3% FanDuel -105 -17.4%
UNDER 9.5 WINS 57.7% Pinnacle -103 +13.7%
Tip: Bet UNDER 9.5 wins
Return On Investment (ROI): +13.7%
Rank: 19th-highest ROI out of 32 teams
Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): -136

Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Eagles’ 16 regular season games:

Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.

I invite you to take a look at my other 31 NFL team previews! Good information if you are involved in fantasy football and/or if you want to be up-to-date on player movement and teams' strengths and weaknesses (for betting purposes)!

Cheers,

Professor MJ
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Will the Green Bay Packers win OVER/UNDER 9 games? By University Stats Prof!

1. Introduction

Matt LaFleur’s first season as Green Bay’s head coach has to be considered a success. He led the team to a 13-3 record, which secured the NFC North title.

The Packers held off the Seahawks to a 28-23 home win in the first round of the playoffs, but were ousted by the Niners in a brutal 37-20 thumping (a game in which the Packers dugged themselves into an early 27-0 hole).

2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs)

Aaron Rodgers will be entering his 16th NFL season. He had another excellent year with a 26-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio and over 4,000 passing yards. He finished as the 7th-best QB in the league according to PFF ratings.

At 36 years old, he is likely to have a few good years left. After all, Drew Brees and Tom Brady posted nice statistics in their late thirties.

Rodgers has been very durable throughout his career, but he’s not invincible either. Tim Boyle was the backup plan last year, and the team needed to upgrade the position while starting to think about the post-Rodgers era.

Still, drafting Jordan Love was the most questionable and talked-about pick in this year’s draft. People expected the Packers to go with a veteran backup QB. Rodgers has mentioned several times he wants to play in his forties; he can still offer a good five years of solid play in the frozen tundra.

Love has possesses great size, throws with velocity and he’s very mobile. The main knock on him is the decision-making and inconsistency.

As a sophomore, he threw 32 TD passes versus 6 interceptions. He regressed a lot last year by posting a mediocre 20:17 TD:INT mark. Granted, his surrounding cast was very weak and he had to go through a coaching change.

Love can throw from many different arm angles; he reminds people of Patrick Mahomes in this regard. He can throw a fastball or a soft touch pass.

Quick note: he almost quit football when he was 14 years old after his dad committed suicide. However, he knew his dad would want him to keep playing, so he did just that.

2.2 Running Backs (RBs)

Aaron Jones is a top running back in this league. Along with Jamaal Williams, they form a lethal duo.

Including the playoffs, Jones ended up scoring 23 touchdowns in 18 games. His 19 regular season scores were the second most in Packers history. His numbers have increased in each of his first three years as a pro. He is also excellent as a pass catcher.

Despite playing in the shadow of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams still finished as the 17th-best RB based on PFF rankings. He does not seem like a lead back, but he’s a perfect change-of-pace guy. Much like Jones, he can do some damage as a receiver as well.

Williams has been a steady performer thus far in his career. He has rushed for 450-550 yards in each of his three seasons, while catching a minimum of 25 balls. He has 15 total TDs over this three-year span.

If you thought GM Brian Gutekunst made a strange move by drafting QB Jordan Love in the first round, he doubled down with another head scratcher in the 2nd round when he took A.J. Dillon.

Message to Mr. Gutekunst: Aaron Rodgers needed pass catchers, not a third running back! I really don’t get this pick either. I’m not saying Dillon won’t be good in the NFL; only time will tell. However, it clearly wasn’t a position of need for the Packers.

Dillon is a power back who rarely breaks off huge runs. He racked up big numbers in three seasons in Boston College. He’s unlikely to become a three-down starter, especially since he’s not a good pass catcher. He will likely be used sporadically as a rookie.

2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs)

Davante Adams is one of the best at his position. He had a streak of three straight seasons with at least 10 TD receptions snapped last year, but he still caught 83 passes for 997 yards in 12 games (he missed four games because of a toe injury).

Outside of Adams, all pass catchers appeared lost on the field. None of them developed a good chemistry with Rodgers.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling was a huge disappointment last year. He showed promise as a rookie with over 500 receiving yards. Here’s a jaw-dropping statistic: after Week #7, MVS did not get more than 19 receiving yards in any meeting. That’s awful.

One of the guys benefiting from Valdes-Scantling’s poor play was Jake Kumerow. He got more playing time than expected, but still only caught 12 passes. He is closing in on 30 years of age and is limited as an athlete, so he’s not a long-term answer for sure.

Allen Lazard was also thrown into action far more than expected. He finished second in terms of receiving yards for Green Bay, but let’s face the reality: the undrafted guy remains more of a #3 or #4 WR for any team.

Geronimo Allison was another bust last year. His top performance over the last 12 games (including the playoffs) was a meager 33 receiving yards. He left for another NFC North team, the Detroit Lions.

In other words, the #2 role is wide open. The team hopes newly acquired Devin Funchess can step into that role. The former second rounder had his best season in 2017 with the Panthers with a 63-840-8 stat line. He signed with the Colts last year, but played just one game before breaking a collarbone. He will be 26 years old this season and provides an interesting prospect for the Packers.

2.4 Tight Ends (TEs)

We’re not done talking about 2019 busts. Jimmy Graham was one of them. He clearly looks washed. He received the lowest grades of his 10-year career, and deservedly so. The Packers released him and he signed a few days later with the Bears (a horrible mind-boggling two-year, $16 million contract).

Marcedes Lewis received surprisingly good marks from PFF. If you look into the numbers, the good grade occurred mainly because of efficient run and pass blocking. He’s not much of a pass catcher and he will be 36 years old when the season begins.

Robert Tonyan will also be in the mix, but the guy that has the best chance to break out as a receiver in 2020 only caught three passes last year (all in the playoffs): Jace Sternberger. Taken in the third round of the 2019 draft, Sternberger was a threat at Texas A&M in college. He missed most of the regular season because of injuries, but the door is wide open with Graham’s departure.

We might also see third-round rookie Josiah Deguara. He has a great motor and plays extremely hard. He’s undersized as a tight end, though.

2.5 Offensive Line (OL)

The Packers had a pretty solid offensive line in 2019. All five starters managed to play at least 84% of the offensive snaps. And they all finished above-average according to PFF ratings!

The bad news, however, is the Bryan Bulaga left for the Chargers. Despite turning over 30 years old, he still played at a high level.

The Packers decided to replace him by signing Rick Wagner, formerly of the Lions. Wagner’s PFF grades from 2016 to 2018 were as follows: 74.0, 75.2 and 71.4. Last year, his play deteriorated a lot and he was tagged with a 59.0 grade. He finished as the #61 tackle among 81 guys.

I like the fact that the team is returning four out of five guys, but replacing Bulaga with Wagner has to be viewed as a downgrade.

2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE

The Packers offense finished in the middle of the pack in points scored per game. Barring major injuries, I expect about the same production in 2020.

The QB and RB situations remain the same.

Adding Funchess is not a huge move, but it won’t hurt. The team clearly needs someone to step up opposite of Davante Adams. At tight end, losing Jimmy Graham means close to nothing since he was so ineffective. Sternberger might bring a nice contribution, but we can hardly expect him to be a game-breaker.

Finally, the OL will take a dip with the loss of Bulaga. I don’t believe Rick Wagner can do better than him.

All in all, I view the additions/departures as a slight negative for Green Bay, but having so many starters returning to the lineup for a second straight season is always a good thing in the NFL. For these reasons, I expect a similar output as 2019 from this unit.

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Stable

3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs)

Kenny Clark had a fantastic season! He is one of the best interior rushers in the NFL. He recorded six sacks for the second straight year, and PFF ranked him as the 13th-best interior linemen out of 114 qualifiers.

The same nice comments cannot be made about Dean Lowry. He had the worst season of his four-year career as a pro. He did not post a single sack and wasn’t great against the run either.

Reserve Tyler Lancaster is only there to provide some depth. He isn’t particularly good in any aspect of the game.

The team did not make any move regarding this position during the offseason.

3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED)

During the last offseason, the Packers acquired two Smiths: Za’Darius and Preston. They burst onto the scene and got 13.5 and 12 sacks, respectively.

Obviously, both received high marks for their pass rushing abilities, but Preston finished as an average linebacker overall because of mediocre run defense and poor coverage.

Kyler Fackrell was a huge disappointment in 2019. After racking up 10.5 sacks in 2018, he only got one in 2019! He signed a one-year deal with the Giants.

First-round pick Rashan Gary wasn’t necessarily impressive during his rookie season. He played 23% of the snaps, while obtaining two sacks but very pedestrian marks from PFF (an overall 55.8 grade, which is near the bottom among edge defenders).

3.3 Linebackers (LBs)

Green Bay lost its leader in tackles from the past three years, Blake Martinez. After starting 61 of the last 64 Packers games, Martinez decided to join the New York Giants. He had the second-most tackles in the league last year, but don’t be misled by that number. Martinez still finished slight below-average (52nd out of 89 LBs) because of poor play against the run.

The Packers also lost some depth at the position when B.J. Goodson left for Cleveland.

Green Bay picked up a linebacker from the Browns roster: Christian Kirksey. He was picked in the 3rd round of the 2014 before being involved in all 16 games from his first four seasons in the NFL. However, he has been plagued with injuries over the most recent two years; he played 7 games in 2018 and only 2 games in 2019.

He is also capable of racking up tackles, as shown by his 2016 and 2017 seasons where he obtained 146 and 138. His PFF grades during his first four seasons varied between 61.9 and 69.3. Just to give you a rough idea, a 65.0 rating would have been good for 29th place out of 89 LBs.

3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs)

Jaire Alexander has done the job as the #1 corner. He has obtained 72.4 and 71.2 marks from PFF during his first two seasons, which is well-above average. He’s so-so defending the run, but his coverage skills are very good.

The number two corner, Kevin King had five interceptions last year after getting just one over his first two years as a pro. He did show some improvement after two rocky years. He finished 2019 as a middle-of-the-pack corner.

Tramon Williams played 74% of the snaps and had a surprisingly good season despite his age. He will be 37 when the 2020 season begins. He is currently a free agent and it remains to be seen if the Packers bring him back or not.

In summary, Alexander and King are both pretty young and could still be improving, but Tramon Williams provided quality play and it’s uncertain if someone else can pick up the slack.

3.5 Safeties (S)

Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage were the top two guys here.

Along with Za’Darius and Preston Smith, the Adrian Amos was another excellent signing by the Packers during the 2019 offseason. Amos had been a reliable guy in Chicago for four seasons, and he continued to excel in the frozen tundra.

After being selected as the #21 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Darnell Savage did show some flashes as a rookie last year. He finished as the #47 safety among 87 qualifiers, which is very satisfying for a rookie. He earned nice marks in coverage (77.4), but horrible ones against the run (37.7).

Will Redmond will be back as the number three safety. He’s not starter material for sure.

2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE

Most of the starters are returning in 2020. That’s the good news.

The team lost their leader in tackles, Blake Martinez, as well as pass rusher Kyler Fackrell and CB Tramon Williams.

The only acquisition worth of note is Christian Kirksey. Him not having played very much during the last two seasons brings some question marks.

The Packers defense struggled against the run last year, and there’s no reason to believe that will change in 2020. Green Bay still finished 9th in points allowed, which was a very acceptable result.

Unfortunately, a decrease in effectiveness is expected and I predict this unit will end 2020 as a middle-of-pack defense (12th – 19th in points allowed).

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small downgrade

4. Regular Season Wins

According to sportsbooks, the Green Bay Packers are expected to win 9 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?

Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:

Here are the results (excluding the simulated years where the Pack won exactly 9 games, since in those cases your bet would have tied):

Estimated Probability Sportsbook Odds ROI
OVER 9 WINS 51.4% bwin +115 +10.5%
UNDER 9 WINS 48.6% Heritage Sports +100 -2.8%
Tip: Bet OVER 9 wins
Return On Investment (ROI): +10.5%
Rank: 25th-highest ROI out of 32 teams
Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): -106

Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Packers’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: -6 vs ATL, -10 vs CAR, -4.5 vs CHI, -6.5 vs DET, -11.5 vs JAX, -3 vs MIN, -2.5 vs PHI, -3.5 vs TEN.
ROAD: 0 @ CHI, -2 @ DET, 0 @ HOU, +2.5 @ IND, +3 @ MIN, +5.5 @ NO, +6.5 @ SF, +2.5 @ TB.

Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.

TOMORROW: I'll talk about the team whose ROI is the 24th-highest in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers!

Did you like this write-up? If so, comment below! I'd like to know YOUR opinion on what to expect from the Packers' 2020 season!

Professor MJ
submitted by David-MJ to sportsbook [link] [comments]

Will the Seattle Seahawks win OVER/UNDER 9.5 games? By University Stats Prof!

1. Introduction

Upon hiring Pete Carroll as their new head coach back in 2010, the Seahawks had consecutive 7-9 seasons. Since then, the franchise has enjoyed eight winning seasons in a row, compiling an impressive 86-41-1 record (a 67.6% winning percentage).

Last year, Seattle stayed toe to toe with the 49ers atop the NFC West division by winning 10 of the first 12 games. However, the Seahawks lost three of their final four contests, including the season finale against the Niners that was lost by a matter of inches on fourth and goal.

The Seahawks opened the playoffs by traveling to Philadelphia. They took advantage of an early injury to QB Carson Wentz to take the game by a 17-to-9 score.

Seattle’s next stop was at Lambeau Field to face Aaron Rodgers’ squad. The Hawks almost rallied from a 21-to-3 deficit at halftime, but were defeated 28-23.

2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs)

Russell Wilson is just a phenomenal quarterback. There are so many good things that could be said about him.

Before diving into the numbers, here’s a stunning fact: he hasn’t missed a single game over his entire 8-year career. That’s incredible considering the number of hits he’s taken and given that he rushes about 90 times per season.

If not for Lamar Jackson’s heroics, Wilson might have won the MVP honor. He had his second-highest completion percentage (66.1%) and passing yards (4,110) of his career. His 31:5 TD:INT mark was exceptional.

All of the numbers above are great, but what makes them even more impressive is Wilson didn’t have a top-10 supporting cast. Keep in mind that he had just lost perhaps his top target, Doug Baldwin, who had decided to hang up his cleats at 31 years old. Wilson can clearly embrace the role of carrying a team on his shoulders.

The backup QB job is still up in the air. Geno Smith has yet to be re-signed, but it’s not impossible that he comes back.

2.2 Running Backs (RBs)

Chris Carson has now rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, while reaching the end zone nine times in each of those years. His career yards-per-rush average of 4.5 is very respectable as well.

Carson suffered a pretty significant hip injury in the season finale. He avoided surgery during the offseason, but is questionable for training camp.

The second leading rusher in 2019, Rashaad Penny, also had a severe late-season injury. He went down with a brutal torn ACL and he seems unlikely to be ready in time for Week #1. The number 28 overall pick from the 2018 draft rushed for just 370 yards behind Carson last year, but he improved his yards-per-rush average from 4.9 in 2018 up to 5.7 last year.

Considering both Carson and Penny are nicked up, can Travis Homer take advantage? Last year’s sixth-round rookie didn’t do much in 2019. He had touched the ball just three times through the first 15 weeks of the season. He had to step in when the injury bug hit Seattle’s backfield. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from his 18-114-0 rushing stat line.

2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs)

Tyler Lockett is a very reliable guy. His worst career season has been 41 receptions for 597 yards. Last season he set career-best in receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,057), while also hauling in 8 TD passes.

Much like his signal caller, Lockett is very durable. He has missed just one game in five years.

Rookie D.K. Metcalf stepped up in a nice way to grab the number two role. His 58-900-7 receiving line was a resounding success. He has a great mix of size and speed. He set a new league record with 160 receiving yards as a rookie in a playoff game.

The Patriots finally pulled the plug on the Phillip Dorsett experiment. He packed his bags for Seattle where he’ll be looking to fill a role as a deep threat. He couldn’t get going in New England despite a very thin receiving corps and having Tom Brady throwing the ball his way. It does not bode well for him.

David Moore had the third-most catches among Seattle WRs last year, but 17 receptions isn’t something to get overly excited about. He can be an occasional deep threat, but he makes bad mistakes at times. As a former seventh-rounder, there is not much upside with him.

2.4 Tight Ends (TEs)

Greg Olsen decided to hold off his project to call games on television for at least another year. He signed a $7 million one-year deal to join the Seahawks. He’s clearly not the once-dominant tight end he used to be, but the 35-year-old still caught 52 passes 597 yards despite catching passes from Kyle Allen and Will Grier.

Jacob Hollister led the position in receptions last year with 41, but that’s unlikely to happen again in 2020. He did his best, but keep in mind he was an undrafted guy who had caught just eight passes in two years. He benefited from Will Dissly’s injury and with the lucrative contract awarded to Olsen, it seems obvious that Hollister will get his playing time cut out.

Will Dissly got drafted in the 4th round in 2018. He missed most of his rookie season due to a torn right patellar tendon. This time, he tore his left Achilles’ during the sixth game of the 2019 regular season after a promising start. His athletic abilities could be more limited after sustaining a major injury to both legs.

As for Luke Willson, he will be primarily used as a blocking tight end.

2.5 Offensive Line (OL)

Right tackle Germain Ifedi left for Chicago during the offseason, but that’s fine from Seattle’s perspective. The 2016 first-round pick has been a bust and clearly struggled throughout his career. The team will replace him with Brandon Shell, formerly of the Jets. He is a small upgrade, but far from a big-time acquisition.

Left tackle Duane Brown continues to provide quality play on Russell Wilson’s blindside, but you have to wonder how much longer he can do the job. Brown will be entering his age-35 campaign. He finished as the 23rd-best tackle out of 81 qualifiers last year, which is a nice accomplishment for a player in his mid-thirties.

The team lost some depth following the departure of their #3 tackle, George Fant, to the Jets. He wasn’t great, but he still represented a good insurance policy.

Center Justin Britt had started either 15 or 16 games in each of his first five seasons in the NFL. His lucky streak ended on a running play in Week #8 where he tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the year. His play has been uneven, and he graded out as a below-average center. The team decided to release him during the offseason.

Backup center Joey Hunt did even worse than Britt when called upon to fill in as the starter. He’s not a long-term solution for sure, but he will compete for the starting gig with B.J. Finney, who was complete dust when he stepped on the field for the Steelers last year.

Guards Mike Iupati and D.J. Fluker received almost identical marks from PFF last year: 60.3 and 59.1 (46th and 48th out of 81 guards).

Iupati is a 10-year veteran whose play has deteriorated since 2017 when injuries started to plague him. As for Fluker, he’s also a player in decline. His first 3-4 years were good, but the last three not so much. Seattle released him and he found a new home two days later in Baltimore.

One potential candidate to replace Fluker is third-round rookie Damien Lewis. He is a great fit for Seattle’s run-oriented offense since he’s great in run blocking; he was seen throwing defenders on the ground many times. However, he’s not nearly as good in pass protection.

Perhaps Ethan Pocic can take advantage of his last shot to play in the NFL. After being picked in the second round of the 2017 draft, he has been bad in all three of his pro years.

2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE

Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and Jacob Hollister are all back for the Seahawks this year.

Add the return of TE Will Dissly from an injury, along with the acquisitions of Greg Olsen and Phillip Dorsett and you have a recipe for another successful season on offense, right?

A major potential problem stems from the offensive line. Replacing Ifedi for Shell is fine. However, Duane Brown and Mike Iupati are getting older (35 and 32 years old, respectively) and the team lost some depth following Fant’s departure to New York. There are big question marks at center and right guard following the release of Britt and Fluker without having clear-cut solutions to replace them.

Russell Wilson has always been great at dealing with suspect offensive lines, but there’s a limit to what he can do. Also, the team’s success relies on the running game quite a bit, so you need guys that will open up holes.

Don’t forget about Carson and Penny both coming back from significant injuries. Also, Russell Wilson is coming off an amazing season in which PFF rated him as the best QB in the league. As much as I love Wilson, it will be difficult to replicate that kind of success.

Seattle’s offense posted the 9th-most points in 2019. For the reasons stated above, I envision a slight downgrade in 2020.

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small downgrade

3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs)

The interior of the defensive line featured a mix of Quinton Jefferson, Poona Ford, Jarran Reed and Al Woods.

Let’s kick off the analysis with the two guys that left via free agency. Jefferson got drafted in the 5th round and had a slow start to his career. However, he showed nice improvement in each of the past two seasons, even reaching the #27 spot out of 114 DLs based on PFF grades. Seeing him leave for Buffalo wasn’t good news.

Al Woods also jumped off the ship to sign with the Jaguars. He won’t be missed as much as Jefferson, although he had a respectable 2019 season. He was more of a run-stuffer who turned 33 years old.

Poona Ford showed promise in limited time as an undrafted rookie in 2018, especially defending the run. He was an “okay” player last year and might see the field more often in the upcoming season.

Jarran Reed seemed like an up-and-coming star after generating 10.5 sacks in 2018. However, the 2016 second-round pick had a season to forget both on and off the field last year. He was slapped with a six-game suspension for domestic violence before having an ordinary season that included just two sacks.

He just signed a very lucrative contract, so the team is banking on him to rebound to his 2018 form. The talent is there for sure. Let’s see if he can put it together this year.

3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED)

The Seahawks were pretty bad last year rushing the passer. They had the second-fewest sacks in the league.

The team’s leader in sacks was Rasheem Green with only 4! The third-round pick from the 2018 draft wasn’t super effective, as shown by his 92nd rank out of 107 edge defenders in the NFL. There’s not much hope he will become a game-changer.

The only guy receiving good grades was Jadeveon Clowney. He’s known for his pass rushing abilities, but he’s an underrated run stuffer. He had his lowest sack output in five years, but he is bound to get rack up more in 2020. The bad news is he left via free agency.

Ezekiel Ansah was a major bust in his first year as a Seahawk. After averaging 8 sacks per year over his first six seasons, he recorded just 2.5 last year. He was also a liability defending the run. An awful year across the board. Now 31 years old, he has yet to sign with any team.

As for Branden Jackson, he is a replacement-level player. He has 3.5 sacks in four years.

The team is attempting to boost the position via a couple of free agent acquisitions: Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa.

Irvin is a nice addition. He is reuniting with the team that selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft. He has 52 career sacks in eight seasons, which amounts to 6.5 on average per year. Not bad!

It’s harder to figure out what to anticipate from Mayowa. He’s playing for a new team for the 5th time in 7 years. After posting just two sacks in his first three seasons, he now has 18 over the last four years. He is coming off a career year in Oakland with seven sacks and three forced fumbles. He is likely to be used as a rotational pass rusher.

Why not attempt to boost a position that underwhelmed last year by adding one more piece through the draft? That’s what the Seahawks did when taking Darrell Taylor in the second round. Based on expert evaluations, he has the toolbox necessary to succeed, but he needs quite a bit of development.

3.3 Linebackers (LBs)

Bobby Wagner led the NFL with 159 tackles last year. He’s never had less than 104 tackles in a season (and that was over 11 games). I think it’s fair to call him a tackling machine.

During his eight-year stint in the NFL, Wagner also has 19.5 sacks, 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles. He can do it all! He will be playing his age-30 campaign.

K.J. Wright had a subpar year. He received his lowest PFF grades of his nine-year career, but still finished in the middle of the pack (46th out of 89 LBs). He missed 11 games in 2018 with lingering knee issues, so you have to wonder if that still affects him.

Mychal Kendricks is gone after spending two uneven seasons in Seattle. He tore is ACL in the season finale and he pleaded guilty to securities fraud accusations.

The Seahawks picked a guy that is likely to play a rotational role in 2020: Jordyn Brooks. Some experts thought he was a reach at the 27th overall selection. He is good chasing running backs and scrambling QBs (he can literally fly and won’t miss many tackles), but he is far from a finished product in coverage.

3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs)

After two run-of-the-mill seasons, Shaquill Griffin flipped the switch and performed admirably well last year. His coverage skills improved dramatically and he finished at the #10 spot out of 112 corners in the NFL based on PFF rankings. Can the 2017 third-round pick keep it up?

Tre Flowers received awful marks from PFF after getting burned repeatedly last year. He finished among the worst CBs in the league.

The team felt a need to upgrade the position, and they did so in a big way. Seattle signed Quinton Dunbar, formerly of the Redskins. He is coming off a career year where he picked off four passes and graded as the second-best corner in the NFL.

Still, let’s not get exhilarated too much. Dunbar is an undrafted guy that had four decent, yet unspectacular, seasons. He hasn’t proved he can be a top starter yet, but having him over Flowers is definitely an upgrade!

3.5 Safeties (S)

Quandre Diggs was acquired from the Lions last year to bolster Seattle’s secondary. He did a great job with three picks in just five games! He was a nice get and an upgrade over Tedric Thompson (who is now off the team).

The other starting safety is Bradley McDougald. He’s been fairly solid in each of his six seasons in the NFL. He is not a game changer, however.

2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE

Let’s evaluate how the 2020 Seattle defense should fare compared to the 2019 unit.

On the interior of the line, we detect a downgrade following the departure of Quinton Jefferson, and to a lesser degree Al Woods. Granted, there is hope that Jarran Reed might bounce back from his super disappointing 2019 season.

At edge, Clowney and Ansah are out, while Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa are in. What is the net outcome from those moves? I’ll go with a slight loss, in part because Clowney is likely to improve upon his 2019 sack total and he was great against the run.

At linebacker, Wagner and Wright aren’t young fellows anymore, but they’re not old either. Wright had a subpar year and he certainly has a shot to do better in 2020. However, losing Mychal Kendricks isn’t good news (albeit not a devastating blow either!). We’ll see if rookie Jordyn Brooks can fill his shoes.

Plugging Quinton Dunbar opposite Shaquill Griffin is an upgrade for sure since Tre Flowers struggled mightily last year.

At safety, we know what to expect from McDougald: respectable play. Now, having Diggs for a full season instead of Tedric Thompson is a vast improvement.

For all of those reasons, I am pegging Seattle’s defense to stay around the same level as 2019. They finished 22nd in points allowed last year and I expect them to secure a similar spot in 2020.

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Stable

4. Regular Season Wins

According to sportsbooks, the Seahawks are expected to win 9.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?

Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:

Here are the results:

Estimated Probability Sportsbook Odds ROI
OVER 9.5 WINS 49.4% William Hill +130 +13.6%
UNDER 9.5 WINS 50.6% Pinnacle -118 -6.5%
Tip: Bet OVER 9.5 wins
Return On Investment (ROI): +13.6%
Rank: 21st-highest ROI out of 32 teams
Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): +102

Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Seahawks’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: -7.5 vs ARI, -2.5 vs DAL, -3.5 vs LAR, -3 vs MIN, -4.5 vs NE, -9 vs NYG, -8.5 vs NYJ, 0 vs SF.
ROAD: -2.5 @ ARI, -1.5 @ ATL, +2.5 @ BUF, +1.5 @ LAR, -4 @ MIA, +2 @ PHI, +6.5 @ SF, -6 @ WAS.

Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.

Tomorrow, we're previewing the Indianapolis Colts 2020 season! Will they win oveunder 8.5 games?

Cheers!

Professor MJ
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Lynn Bowden Jr is a Problem

With each year that goes by, it seems as if we’re inching closer and closer to position-less football. In this draft class, the “hybrid players” that seemingly get the most attention are Laviska Shenault and Antonio Gibson. Though his profile is tantalizing, the question of health surrounds Viska. With a very questionable offense, will Gibson be able to shine?
If one can hit on a hybrid player in dynasty, there’s not many more stocks that are more fun to watch go up. For my money, this year, that guy isn’t Viska or Gibson - it’s Lynn Bowden Jr.
Let’s go over a few points:
1) Production
2019 stats:
1,235 rushing yards 11 Rushing TDs 330 Passing Yards 2 Passing TDs 348 Receiving Yards 1 Receiving TD 200 Kickoff Return Yards 53 Punt Return Yards
To add, he accounted for a third (literally, 33.3%) of all Kentucky’s rushing and receiving yards. This is SEC competition folks. Florida, SC, UGA themselves are typically among the most stout of defenses (the East typically doesn’t have the most high octane offenses, but, traditionally, their defenses have been superb).
To cap it all off: he won the Paul Hornung Award (nation’s best all purpose/most versatile player), was 1st team All-SEC...and a consensus 1st team All-American.
In terms of production and displaying his talent, he was nothing short of special in 2019.
2) Fit with the Raiders
Prior to the draft, GM Mike Mayock had a very interesting line:
"You start looking at guys on the offense that can play in the slot, play at RB, be H-backs, there’s not really a label for them. They’re just either dynamic players, or they’re not."
Sure enough, Lynn Bowden Jr was the pick weeks later.
It’s odd to me how many folks still have him listed as a WR. Mayock, after the pick, was pretty clear about his intentions with Bowden...as he explicitly stated that he’d be mostly a RB/Joker type of role. Moving him around is assumed, due to the obvious nature of Bowden’s talent, but it’s nice for a GM to call out his primary role.
Mayock has shown he is as good of a scouting GM as there is in the NFL. There’s little reason to doubt they don’t have a plan (that will end up paying dividends for dynasty owners) for Bowden.
3) 2020 Outlook
Suddenly, the Raiders have a lot of mouths. Since Bowden will be lining up in multiple places, let’s look at things at a high level:
Jacobs Waller Ruggs Edwards Renfrow Richard T Williams
There’s more, but these are the ones that matter.
Let’s go down the list:
I do not believe Ruggs will be “fed” in 2020. I truly believe Ruggs will do the Raiders wonders, both in stretching the field and kick returning. He’ll have his game breaking plays, but he will not be filling up stat sheets on a weekly basis.
Bowden was the plan.
I think Lynn Bowden can easily get 70 carries and 40 catches. There are a lot of names here...but the opportunity for Bowden is clearer than one would expect.
Remember, he’s superior to Tarik Cohen as a prospect, has the higher draft cap, and has the hardware to show that he can line up anywhere. That raiders offense will also move the ball more effectively than the bears.
4) The Conspiracy Theorist in Me
Play along with me here. Derek Carr has been in the crosshairs of many trade rumors for multiple years. There’s a strong argument that the raiders are a QB away from being a significant threat in the AFC (that division is hell...with the chargers being a crazy D on paper, Broncos O being as loaded as it is, and KC being KC).
Mariota got paid, to say the least. IF Carr flames/gets hurt....and IF Mariota subsequently flames/gets hurt (very possible, much more so than Carr)...what happens?
Lynn Bowden Jr, right?
I’m willing to bet this scenario, or even just having Lynn pass a few times a game, played a factor in this pick. Lynn Bowden Jr is flat out dangerous with the ball, regardless of where he has it. If Gruden can figure out a way to make Bowden dangerous from the QB position in the NFL...watch out.
The point is: he’s an OPTION
To close, I think people are sleeping on Lynn Bowden Jr. He doesn’t have any business going in the 4th round of a rookie draft. He has the talent to be a star in the NFL, and the amount of names in the Raiders offensive room has spooked people. These names aren’t as robust as one may think, and we may see a 3rd round gem blossom into a game breaker.
Draft Lynn Bowden Jr and enjoy the ride. We haven’t seen many players like this man.
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Will the Tennessee Titans win OVER/UNDER 8.5 games? By University Stats Prof!

1. Introduction

Tennessee’s season completely turned around once they benched quarterback Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill.

After a 2-4 start, the Titans won seven of their final 10 games to sneak into the playoffs as the 6th seed in the AFC. Fun fact: it was the fourth straight season that the Titans finished with a 9-7 record!

In the playoffs, they knocked off the defending Super Bowl champions New England Patriots, as well as the top seed in the conference, the Baltimore Ravens. Derrick Henry ran like a mad man in those games, becoming the first player in NFL history to rack up at least 175 rushing yards in two games in the same postseason.

In the AFC Conference Championship Game, Tennessee grabbed a 17-7 lead in the second quarter, but couldn’t hold off the Chiefs any longer in a 35-to-24 defeat.

2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs)

Ryan Tannehill was clearly one of the best Cinderella stories in 2019. After taking over as the starting QB over Marcus Mariota, he led the league in QB rating.

He crushed his previous career-high in completion percentage with as astounding 70.3%; his personal best was 66.4% in 2014.

During his first six years in Miami, he posted a 123:75 TD:INT mark. That equates to a 1.64 ratio. In 2019, he threw 22 TD passes versus 6 interceptions, which amounts to a 3.7 ratio. As you can see, once again he obliterated his past numbers.

The team thinks he can keep playing at that level after handing him a hefty contract. I do believe he’ll do a good job in 2020, but not at the 2019 levels, obviously.

As of now, the backup QB is Logan Woodside since Mariota signed with the Raiders. Woodside was drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 draft out of Toledo. During preseason games, he completed 46-of-76 passes (a 60.5% completion rate) for 539 yards with 4 TDs and no interception. It’s hard to tell what he can bring to the table.

2.2 Running Backs (RBs)

Derrick Henry was a true beast last year. He won the rushing title with 1,540 rushing yards and 16 TDs on the ground (he added two more as a receiver). His 5.1 yards-per-carry average is mind-boggling considering the high volume.

He didn’t slow down in the playoffs. After rushing for 182 yards in New England, he single-handedly destroyed the Ravens with 195 rushing yards. He was quieter in K.C. by accumulating 69 yards on the ground.

Few people remember how he finished the previous year on a high note as well. In the final four meetings of the 2018 season, he averaged 146 rushing yards and 1.75 rushing TDs per contest. Obviously, he followed up with a season to remember.

Henry’s numbers have steadily increased every single year since he joined the league in 2016. Now 26 years old, defensive coordinators must be getting up at night to game plan against him.

Dion Lewis was a nice change-of-pace back, even though he didn’t have a great year. At least he had NFL experience, which is not the case of the remaining potential backup backs. Both Dalyn Dawkins and David Fluellen are undrafted guys who have combined for 19 rushing attempts in the league.

Tennessee filled a need by drafting Darrynton Evans in last April’s draft. The third-rounder complements Henry’s skillset well, as Evans can spell him on passing third-down situations (a role that used to be played by Dion Lewis). Also, he isn’t great running inside the tackles due to his small size, but he is more of a change-of-pace runner who has home-run hitting capacities.

2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs)

Rookie A.J. Brown was hyped as a big-play guy, and he did not disappoint. He didn’t catch that many balls, but when he did he made the most of it.

The Mississippi product led all receivers that caught at least 50 passes with a jaw-dropping 20.2 yards-per-catch average. He scored 8 TDs, while also topping the 1,000 receiving-yard mark (he had 1,051).

Will former #5 overall pick Corey Davis live up to his draft status? It seems unlikely after watching his first three years as a pro. He raised hopes by posting a 65-891-4 receiving line in 2018, but he regressed to 43-601-2 last year. Talent and youth play on his side, though. He may not be a true No. 1 wideout, but he can clearly do the job as a number two or three receiver.

Adam Humphries is an efficient, yet not explosive player. He is good to pick up key first downs. He caught more than 70% of his targets in his final two years in Tampa, and he reached that goal once again in his first season in Tennessee.

Was he worth a four-year deal worth $36 million? Probably not, but having him as your slot receiver is a bonus. His numbers were down last year, but he will be a useful tool as a 27-year old this year.

Tajae Sharpe also made a nice contribution last year with 25 receptions, 329 yards and 4 TDs. He was a nice luxury to have on your roster, but he signed with the Vikings during the offseason.

2.4 Tight Ends (TEs)

Jonnu Smith and Delanie Walker received the most playing time at tight end.

Walker did a decent job, but father time seems to have caught up to him. After being very durable for 11 years, he stayed healthy for just one game in 2018 and seven games last year. Accordingly, the team cut ties with him as he was going to enter his age-36 campaign.

Walker’s absence gave more room for Jonnu Smith to shine. The 2017 third-rounder has seen his numbers increase every year. His 35-439-3 receiving line is nothing to write home about. He could make a jump in 2020, but don’t expect huge steps.

Anthony Firkser will be back with the squad. He doesn’t have the size and speed to become a great TE, but he does a fine job for a guy that was never drafted.

MyCole Pruitt will be the #3 TE. He has never caught more than 10 passes in any of his five years in the NFL. Enough said.

2.5 Offensive Line (OL)

Ben Jones has done a great job at the pivot throughout his entire eight-year career. He raised his game to a higher level last year by finishing at the second-best center in the NFL according to PFF grades. He’s been an awesome pickup when acquired from the Texas a few years ago.

Right tackle Jack Conklin broke the bank in Cleveland, which left a glaring hole in Tennessee. He was a very solid player, and Dennis Kelly or Isaiah Wilson will try to fill his shoes.

Kelly has received his two best PFF grades of his seven-year career in 2018 and 2019, which is a good sign. However, he doesn’t play at the same level as Conklin.

The organization figures to have a better chance at replacing Conklin adequately with Isaiah Wilson, who was taken late in the first round of this year’s draft. This guy weighted close to 400 pounds coming out of high school! He is a mauler.

The rookie needs work for both his footwork and technique, which led to uneven play in college. He has exceptional physical traits and high potential, but may not be great right from the start.

At left tackle, Taylor Lewan is a cornerstone of this offensive line. He’s been good his whole career, never receiving a PFF mark below 76.4, which is remarkable!

Rodger Saffold is the starting left guard for the Titans. He ranked as the sixth-best guard in the NFL last year; needless to say he’s been a valuable piece of the puzzle for this franchise.

The weakest link is Nate Davis at right guard. The third-round rookie struggled big-time last year.

2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE

The Titans did not make a single free agent acquisition on offense.

They lost some depth with the departures of RB Dion Lewis and WR Tajae Sharpe. The team hopes 3rd round pick Darrynton Evans can spell Henry appropriately.

The backup QB will also be weaker due to Mariota leaving for Vegas. And despite his advanced age, Delanie Walker was a decent TE, although he only appeared in seven games last year.

The biggest loss occurred on the offensive line. Seeing Jack Conklin go to the Jets hurts the team. Rookie Isaiah Wilson will do his best to hold the fort, but he is unlikely to play at the same level as Conklin in his first year as a pro.

Finally, how could we expect better production out of Ryan Tannehill in 2020 as opposed to his 2019 heroics?

In conclusion, I am tagging the Titans offense with a moderate downgrade in comparison to 2019.

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Moderate downgrade

3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs)

Jurrell Casey is a strong run stuffer, while also averaging 5.7 sacks per year over a nine-year period. He was traded to Denver for cap reasons, which will hurt Tennessee’s interior of the line a lot.

With Casey gone, the team will hand a much heavier workload to Jeffery Simmons. After missing the first seven games due to a knee injury, he showed fairly good promise as a #19 overall pick from the 2019 draft. His sophomore year will be critical.

The team will also rely on DaQuan Jones to step up his game. He is an above-average DL, whose main strength is defending the run. He only has seven sacks in six years.

The Titans lost some depth as Austin Johnson went to the Giants.

3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED)

Harold Landry played twice as many snaps in his sophomore year as his rookie season, and he doubled his sack total (going from 4.5 to 9 to lead the team in that category). He graded as the 62nd-best edge defender in the league out of 107 players. He has the potential to take a leap.

The team hopes to improve its pass rush by adding Vic Beasley, formerly of the Falcons. His numbers are a bit puzzling. He led the league with 15.5 sacks in his second season back in 2016. Since then, he has posted 5, 5 and 8 sacks.

Those are not bad numbers, but they are clearly below expectations coming from a fellow that was the 8th overall selection in the 2015 draft. Also, he is a liability in run defense. In other words, he’s been more name than game recently.

Kamalei Correa racked up five sacks despite playing 39% of the snaps. He had just 3.5 sacks over his first three years as a pro. He’s not a game breaker.

Reggie Gilbert is a role player. The undrafted guy has 4.5 sacks in three years is no more than depth.

3.3 Linebackers (LBs)

Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans are the leaders of this group. Based on draft status, Evans is supposed to be the superior player, but that wasn’t the case at all last year.

Evans received poor marks from PFF with a 47.6 grade; he obtained spot #74 out of 89 LBs. He struggled a lot in coverage and wasn’t that great rushing the passer. He does a fine job defending the run though.

As for Brown, his 68.8 PFF grade allowed him to finish as the 20th-best linebacker in the league. His sack total went from 6 in 2018 down to just one a year ago. The former fifth-rounder will try to bring that number back up this season.

Wesley Woodyard’s career is clearly on the decline. He lost his starting job, his PFF grades are falling, he’s 34 years old and he is now a free agent after the Titans failed to re-sign him.

3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs)

Adoree’ Jackson is the team’s number 1 CB. He was the 18th overall pick from the 2017 draft. Even though he has only two career interceptions, he is still a fairly solid coverage guy. He constantly ranks among the upper tier.

Logan Ryan played almost all defensive snaps last year and he filled the scoresheet more than ever in his seven-year career. He had career-highs in tackles (113), sacks (4.5) and forced fumbles (4). He also picked off four passes, his second-best performance.

Yet, he graded as an average corner by taking the 62nd rank out of 112 CBs because of ordinary run defense and coverage skills. The Titans couldn’t meet his salary demands, so he left via free agency.

Malcolm Butler finished once again in the middle of the pack among all NFL cornerbacks last year. The Super Bowl XLIX hero has seen his PFF grades decrease in each of the past three seasons, but he still manages to intercept 2-4 passes every year. He missed seven games last year with a broken wrist.

LeShaun Sims played 30% of the snaps, while producing poor play on the field. He’s never been a good corner, but he still found a new home in Cincinnati when the Bengals signed him in March.

The Titans took Kristian Fulton late in the 2nd round this year. Many reports suggest he’ll be an average NFL starter. He is best in man coverage due to his physicality. He lost the entire 2017 season when he was caught trying to tamper with a PED test sample, where he submitted a friend’s urine.

3.5 Safeties (S)

Kevin Byard is one of the league’s highest paid safety and he deserves it. He has 17 interceptions over the last three years. In those seasons, his PFF rankings were 4th, 3rd and 10th among close to 90 qualifiers.

Byard turned out to be a huge bargain as a former third-round pick out of Middle Tennessee State. Now 27 years old, there is no reason to believe his play will deteriorate in 2020.

Kenny Vaccaro is well known among fans, even though his play is not great. He probably gets recognition due to his former first-round status, but his best PFF grade was 66.7 back in 2013. Just to give you an idea, such a mark would have yielded him the #48 spot out of 87 safeties last year. And that was his best season.

Amani Hooker played 30% of the snaps last year as a rookie. The Titans had actually traded up to secure his rights during the 2019 draft. He did a decent job, but the jury is still out about the fourth-rounder’s future.

2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE

The Titans allowed the 12th-fewest points in the league last year. Should be expect better or worse play in 2020?

Jurrell Casey’s presence will be missed in a big way on the interior of the line. Also, not getting CB Logan Ryan back is hardly good news. Overall, he was an above-average corner who was constantly on the field and has been very durable in his career.

The only good addition is Vic Beasley. I feel like he’s overrated since his sack numbers are lower than what most people think and due to poor run defense, but he still has valuable pass rushing abilities.

Based on this information, I anticipate a small downgrade from this unit.

Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small downgrade

4. Regular Season Wins

According to sportsbooks, the Titans are expected to win 8.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?

Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:

Here are the results:

Estimated Probability Sportsbook Odds ROI
OVER 8.5 WINS 50.9% FanDuel -110 -2.8%
UNDER 8.5 WINS 49.1% Pinnacle +129 +12.4%

Tip: Bet UNDER 8.5 wins
Return On Investment (ROI): +12.4%
Rank: 22nd-highest ROI out of 32 teams
Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): +104

Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Titans’ 16 regular season games:

Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.

I hope you found this article informative, I've got every NFL team covered so check out my other posts! Have a nice day!

Professor MJ
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Will the New Orleans Saints win OVER/UNDER 10.5 games? By University Stats Prof!

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
  1. Introduction
The Saints secured the #2 seed in last year’s playoffs following a great 13-3 season, despite Drew Brees missing five games.
Unfortunately, for the third straight season, the Saints were eliminated in dramatic fashion. After suffering through the “Minneapolis Miracle” in 2018 and the non-call on a critical blatant interference penalty against the Rams in 2019, the Saints lost a 26-20 overtime thriller at home against the Vikings. Once again, officials were questioned when the replay showed Kyle Rudolph possibly pushed P.J. Williams on the game-winning touchdown.
Bad luck just continues to stick to this franchise. Will it be THE year where they shake it all off?

  1. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the New Orleans Saints are expected to win 10.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?
Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:
Here are the results

Estimated probability Sportsbook Odds ROI
OVER 10.5 Wins 52% Fan Duel +100 +4.0%
UNDER 10.5 Wins 48% William Hill -110 -8.4%
Tip: Bet OVER 10.5 wins
Return On Investment (ROI): +4.0%
Rank: 30th-highest ROI out of 32 teams
Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): -108
Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.

3. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
QUARTERBACKS (QB)
Drew Brees is simply unbelievable on the field, and a wonderful human being. He donated $5 million to deliver meals to needy people in the Louisiana state. A great gesture from him and his wife.
Will he ever slow down or what? He is now 41 years old, but his numbers have kept impressing. He has completed at least 70% of his passes in each of his past four seasons, which is jaw-dropping! He led the league in that category last year.
His TD-to-INT ratio has also improved of late. Over the past two years, he has thrown 59 TD passes versus just 9 picks.
Backup QB Teddy Bridgewater left for Carolina during the offseason. Who can blame him? He deserved a chance to be a starter in this league once again. He’s joining a much weaker team, though. He did a very good job when Brees went down to a thumb injury.
For a moment, the backup QB became Taysom Hill, who has been the jack-of-all-trades in this offense. He can throw, he can run, he can catch.
However, it’s unclear who gets the #2 role following the signing of Jameis Winston, also known as “The Turnover Machine.”
Winston threw for 5,109 yards last year, which turned out to be the 8th-most in league history. However, the 30 interceptions (!!!) and five lost fumbles put a big blemish on his 2019 season. A 60.7% completion rate wasn’t all that great, either. He has great weapons to work with, including stud receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Playing for the Saints could end up being the best thing that has ever happened to Winston. He will get great tips from Drew Brees who, unlike Winston, doesn’t turn the ball over often. The former Buc has a great arm and he is in his mid-twenties; not all hope is lost for the former #1 overall pick out of Florida State.

RUNNING BACKS (RB)
Alvin Kamara’s numbers have been incredibly steady since entering the league in 2017. He has rushed for 728, 883 and 797 yards during that time frame, while catching exactly 81 balls (!!!) in each of these three seasons. His TD output was his lowest of his career though, as he only scored six total touchdowns in 2019.
It is worth noting, though, that he battled through injuries last year. He had more trouble breaking tackles down the stretch. He will be back at 100% when the 2020 season begins.
Latavius Murray is nice luxury as a backup running back. He picked up almost as many rushing yards as Kamara, while posting a nice 4.4 yards-per-carry average. This figure has never been lower than 3.9 in any of his six years in the NFL, which is remarkable.
Kamara missed two games last year; in those games, Murray racked up 150 and 157 total yards with a couple of touchdowns in each of those contests. The Saints will be in good hands if Kamara gets hurt.

WIDE RECEIVERS (WR)
Michael Thomas broke Marvin Harrison’s single-season record for receptions by catching 149 balls. He caught a minimum of four passes in all games and cleared the 100-receiving yard mark on 10 occasions.
Thomas was truly dominant. What’s even more incredible is he caught 149-of-185, which amounts to a mind-boggling 80.5% catch rate (an unbelievable percentage given the high volume).
With Thomas and Kamara catching so many passes, that didn’t leave many targets to the other receivers. Ted Ginn’s play seemed to drop off quite a bit, as he caught 30-of-56 balls thrown his way. He has his second-worst PFF grade over his 13-year career. At 35 years old, you have to wonder whether he has some gas left in the tank or not. I don’t believe he can rebound in 2020.
Meanwhile, Tre’Quan Smith was a disappointment last year. He did catch 5 TD passes for the second straight year after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft, but catching 18 passes for 234 yards won’t be anyone very excited.
As if the team needed more playmakers, they went on to get Emmanuel Sanders who started the year in Denver before getting traded to San Francisco.
Sanders suffered a brutal Achilles injury in 2018, but that did not prevent him from having a very nice 2019 season. He totaled 66 receptions for 869 yards and 5 TDs. He’s a nice get considering Ginn is getting older and Smith has yet to pan out.

TIGHT ENDS (TE)
Jared Cook is another aging player who has done surprisingly well. He hauled in 43 passes for 705 yards, which was not that close from being career-highs. However, his 9 TD receptions and his 16.4 yards-per-catch average were his career best. He started the season slowly, but seemed to develop a great chemistry with Drew Brees down the stretch.
Josh Hill is not much of a receiver, but he does the job as a blocker. He’s been with the team for seven years and 2019 was his best season in terms of receptions (25) and receiving yards (226). He is not a threat to take away Cook’s number one role.
The team traded four picks in order to select Adam Trautman out of Dayton in the third round of this year’s draft. His receiving production increased in each of his four years in college; it culminated with a 70-916-14 receiving line in 11 starts. Wow, 14 TDs in 11 games?!?
The only question surrounding Trautman is: can he handle a much higher level of competition than what he faced with Dayton? He could become a starter in 2021, considering Jared Cook’s age.

OFFENSIVE LINE (OL)
This is an exceptional group and all players are returning for the 2020 season, which does not bode well for opposing defenses.
Center Erik McCoy was picked in the second round of the draft last year and he competed with Nick Easton and Cameron Tom during training camp. McCoy won the job and finished as the number 4 center out of 37 guys, based on PFF ratings. I think it’s fair to say it was a great season for him.
Left tackle Terron Armstead made it to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year. He has received good marks in each of his seven seasons with the Saints. Drew Brees can rest easy with his blindside being protected by Armstead.
At right tackle the Saints have Ryan Ramczyk. PFF made him the #1 tackle in the entire league with a 90.9 grade last year. He has improved in each of his three seasons and has started all games but one.
At guard, New Orleans has Larry Warford and Andrus Peat. Warford was the 8th-best guard in the NFL according to ProFootballFocus ratings, while Peat was the only guy to struggle on this offensive line. Indeed, he finished at spot #70.
We observe a weird tendency regarding Peat. His PFF grades in his first three seasons were 68.0, 71.5 and 68.3, which is decent. Then, his marks took a huge dip in 2018: an abysmal 39.8. He followed it up with a 48.5 grade last year. The team doesn’t seem too concern about his level of play since they re-signed him to a lucrative five-year, $57.5 million contract.
Taking center Cesar Ruiz in the first round last April was a bit surprising. New Orleans already has a great center with McCoy. Head coach Sean Payton already claimed that right guard Larry Warford will have to compete for his job with either Ruiz or McCoy. Even though Warford played well last year, he is entering the final year of his contract.
For your information, Ruiz did not allow a single sack as a junior with Michigan last year. He also does a good job run blocking.

2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE
My opinion won’t be popular, but I do see a downgrade here. Sure, returning pretty much the entire 2019 lineup is great, but I’m wary of a few things.
First, the age factor. Brees is 41 years old and your body gets hurt more easily when you reach your forties. You can’t deny he has a higher likelihood of getting injured this season. If that happens, losing Teddy Bridgewater is going to hurt the offense, although Winston might pick up the slack if he can cut down on the turnovers.
Jared Cook, Emmanuel Sanders and Ted Ginn are also getting up there in age. Also, how in the world could you expect Michael Thomas to play at a higher level than last year? He is much more likely to regress than to improve upon his 2019 performance.
Finally, the offensive line did not suffer many injuries last season, except Andrus Peat who missed six games, but he was the weakest link on the line anyway. I don’t wish them bad luck, but one of their top four guys could easily get hurt, due to the physical nature of the game.
The Saints scored the third-highest number of points last year, and I’ll cautiously put them in the #5 to #8 spot.
Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small Downgrade


4. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (DL)
Signing a contract extension with David Onyemata was a priority for the organization. They did just that during the offseason. The team clearly likes him, despite a mediocre 55.3 PFF grade last year (he finished as the number 97 DL out of 114 qualifiers).
Sheldon Rankins is a former first-round pick who had a breakout 2018 campaign, which included a career-high 8 sacks. He was much quieter last year.
Rankins tore his Achilles’ in early 2019, and landed on injured reserve in December 2019 after coming close to tearing the other one. That’s a major question mark since such injuries are always tricky for football players.
Malcom Brown played close to 50% of the snaps last year. After spending four years in New England as a former first-rounder, he had a decent first year in New Orleans. He’s more effective defending the run than he is rushing the passer (he has recorded just two sacks in the past two years).
Shy Tuttle is more of a rotational player. His rookie season as an undrafted free agent exceeded expectations and he clearly deserves a shot to be back this year.

DEFENSIVE ENDS (DE) / EDGE (ED)
The Saints have a fantastic duo with Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, two former 1st round picks.
Jordan set a career-high with 15.5 sacks last year, after posting 12 and 13 sacks the previous two seasons. He’s an incredibly tough guy; can you believe he hasn’t missed a single game throughout his nine-year professional career? That’s phenomenal!
Davenport took a nice forward leap in his sophomore year. His PFF grade went up from 69.7 to 84.1. According to this grading system, Davenport was the 18th-best edge defender out of 107 guys.
Trey Hendrickson provides good depth for the Saints. He has shown improvement in each of his first three years in the league. He sacked opposing QBs on 4.5 occasions last year, after racking up just two in his first two years. The 25-year old is primed for another leap in 2020.
After a promising rookie season, Mario Edwards has been released a couple of times. He works as a rotational pass-rusher; he played 28% of the snaps last year. He’s been bothered by neck and hip injuries throughout his first five years in the league.

LINEBACKERS (LB)
Demario Davis was exceptional in all facets of the game last year. He played so well that he earned the #1 spot out of 89 LBs based on the PFF grading system.
He seems unlikely to repeat his 2019 performance, though. His PFF marks never exceeded 63 during his first five years. They went up to 73.7 and 75.1 in 2017 and 2018 before exploding to an astounding 90.4 last year. Entering his age-31 campaign, I find it hard to believe he could duplicate his success.
A.J. Klein’s career has been a roller-coaster ride. He’s had up-and-down years. Most recently, he had horrible 2016, 2017 and 2019 seasons, but above-average years in 2015 and 2018. He signed with Buffalo, so the Saints won’t need to deal with his inconsistencies anymore.
Is Kiko Alonso ready to embrace a bigger role in this defense? The answer is unclear. He played fairly well last year after two straight dreadful seasons in Miami, but his health is an issue. He tore his ACL during the playoff loss to the Vikings. That required the third ACL surgery of his career, which leaves some doubt about whether his quickness will be affected or not.
Considering the lack of depth at the position, drafting Zack Baun in the third round made sense. The former Badger has a high chance of starting right away. He collected 19.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks as a senior. He’s a bit undersized for the position, which means he could potentially struggle against the run but he’s a fierce pass rusher. Many mock drafts had him going in Round 2, so it seems like a good value pick that also fits a need.

CORNERBACKS (CB)
Eli Apple was let go during the offseason. He’s been nothing short of a disappointment since being selected as the No. 10 overall pick in 2016. He’s fine against the run, but his covering skills have been below standard.
Strangely enough, Marshon Lattimore’s PFF grades have decreased every year: 86.1 as a rookie first-round pick in 2017, 78.5 in his sophomore season and 65.6 last year. Granted, a hamstring injury limited him in 2019.
Lattimore picked off 5 passes in his rookie season, then just three over the past two years. He does have the potential to make it back among the best corners in the league.
P.J. Williams was primarily used as a slot corner last year, and things didn’t go so well. Just like Lattimore, his PFF grades have dipped every year. He finished as the 100th-bets CB out of 112 players.

SAFETIES (S)
Marcus Williams enjoyed a very successful rookie season before being the victim of the sophomore slump. However, he came back super strong last year. PFF ranked him as the third-best safety in the league, only behind Minnesota’s Anthony Harris and Denver’s Justin Simmons. He has a knack for big plays, as shown by his 10 career interceptions, one TD and two forced fumbles.
New Orleans lost its other starting safety, Vonn Bell, in the free agency market. His coverage skills were below-average, but he was one of the best in the business defending the run.
The team figures to replace him with Malcolm Jenkins, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles. He is seven years older than Bell, but he’s a proven veteran.
After five rocky seasons with the Saints during the 2009-2013 period, Jenkins had six consecutive good seasons in Philly. Now back with the team that drafted him 11 years ago, Saints fans are crossing their fingers he can keep up his nice level of play. Last year, Jenkins was the 32nd-best safety in the NFL based on PFF rankings.
I just don’t understand the length of Jenkins’ deal: a four-year deal with a 32-year old guy? Really?
The Saints traded up during the 2019 draft to secure the rights to Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the 4th round. He showed promise in his rookie season with very decent grades, especially against the run. He played 51% of the snaps and picked up his first interception and forced fumble of his career.

2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE
The Saints allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards in the league last year. That seems unlikely to happen again in 2020. Rankins’ health concerns me. I don’t believe Onyemata is that good. And Demario Davis’ play is extremely likely to regress after an unexpected phenomenal 2019 season.
As for the pass defense, I expect similar production as last year. Plugging Malcolm Jenkins instead of Vonn Bell at safety seems like an upgrade to me. However, losing Eli Apple is hardly good news. He was “okay” last season, but he had potential and he still needs to be replaced. Hopefully, plan B is not P.J. Williams because he does not appear to be the answer.
New Orleans finished 13th in points allowed last year. I expect a small drop, perhaps to a spot ranging between 15 and 19.
Final call (2020 vs 2019) : Small downgrade
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