NFL Preseason Week 1 – Bryan: Welcome again to our preseason over/underneath protection, as we attain the midway level. That takes us out to the AFC East, residence of Tremendous Bowl favorites, rookie sensations, and extra tampering than you’ll be able to shake a stick at.
Cale: Name it a sizzling take, however I believe the AFC East could be essentially the most fascinating division within the NFL in 2022. No, it would not have the upside of its western counterpart, however by way of storylines, that is the division I will be tapped into all season.
The whole lot virtually feels upside-down within the AFC East. The Buffalo Payments that constructed their model off being perennial underdogs are actually the favorites to win the Tremendous Bowl. The New England Patriots, three years faraway from dropping Tom Brady, someway really feel like they’ve extra query marks throughout the board than ever earlier than. The Miami Dolphins are constructing a YAC machine within the 305 with their new head coach straight off the Vans Warped Tour, and the New York Jets have, dare I say, real optimism of their younger core?
Simply kidding, Jets followers and offseason optimism go hand-in-hand; normally, it is unjustified optimism at that.
Buffalo Payments (11.5)
Bryan: Let’s begin by simply sort of stepping again and admiring that quantity. At 11.5, the Payments have the very best over/underneath within the league this season. OK, technically, they’re tied with the Buccaneers, however over for Tampa Bay is at -120; for Buffalo, it is at -140. The sportsbooks appear to assume the Payments would be the most profitable staff this 12 months, not less than within the common season. It is a massive quantity, and plenty of expectations to go together with it.
On an unrelated observe, the Payments and Buccaneers are my Tremendous Bowl picks, as a result of I’m thrilling and enjoyable at events.
Cale: I imply, you are most likely proper to choose them. Rule out the cosmic cruelty that may be Buffalo lastly getting over the hump and making the Tremendous Bowl, solely to promptly sq. off towards the 45-year-old that beat them into submission for the higher a part of 20 years. This Payments staff is GOOD. There is a purpose that, when previewing the Payments on the Football Outsiders Podcast, Aaron, Scott, and I simply ran out of issues to speak about. There are subsequent to no flaws on this roster. The Payments got here into the offseason with one of the crucial full depth charts in soccer, solely so as to add Von Miller to their protection and deal with their greatest issues—a second cornerback and a pass-catching working again—with their early draft picks.
If we’re poking holes, what’s there to even speak about? The truth that the offensive line is simply barely above common? I suppose there are some issues about what Buffalo has at receiver behind Stefon Diggs, however I’m astronomically excessive on Gabriel Davis, and a giant Isaiah McKenzie fan in addition.
Bryan: I believe it is value noting that the regular-season Payments in 2021 have been not so good as the postseason Payments, not less than not on a week-to-week foundation. We noticed Buffalo lay a bunch of eggs final season—the Week 1 loss to the Steelers, the Week 6 loss to the Titans, the Week 9 loss to the Jaguars, and the Week 11 loss to the Colts all stand out as days the place the Payments floundered towards inferior groups, for various values of “floundered” and “inferior.” That Jaguars contest was one of many worst video games I’ve seen from a very, actually good staff—Josh Allen, at this level, shouldn’t be main his offense to a -58.3% passing DVOA towards a squad led by City Meyer.
The purpose isn’t “oh, the Payments secretly aren’t excellent” or something like that. The purpose is that the Payments had the most variance final season and have been the nice staff most certainly to lose to a foul staff on a bizarre, random day. That does not change my opinion of them as playoff contenders or Tremendous Bowl contenders or something of that nature, nevertheless it does not less than elevate some questions on hitting 11.5—a couple of off days can actually change the chances of getting that excessive. Will that proceed to be an issue going ahead, or was it a one-year fluke? I do not know! That they had extra variance than common in 2020 as effectively, though not as excessive because it was final season. Maybe the Josh Allen expertise is a very good rollercoaster—numerous thrills, however be careful for the dips.
Cale: Yeah, and this is not the AFC of years previous. Even with Buffalo wanting just like the staff to beat, the competitors round them has drastically improved. Their six-game slate earlier than the bye—on the Rams, internet hosting Tennessee, at Miami, at Baltimore, internet hosting Pittsburgh, and at Kansas Metropolis— goes to be some robust sledding. That does not even take into account the video games towards Inexperienced Bay, Cleveland, and Cincinnati within the again half, or the competitors in-division. Whereas I do not assume there will probably be any gale-force winds like that Monday Night time Soccer recreation towards New England to create some outlandish situations, this can be a division of groups which have notoriously beat up on one another prior to now. I assume it comes with the territory of being the staff to beat within the NFL. Enjoying a first-place schedule means you must play the perfect.
Bryan: Are all of us prepared for the bye-week “what’s flawed with the Payments?” articles, with Buffalo sitting at, oh, as an instance 2-4? As a result of they will occur, after which Buffalo’s going to rattle off 5 or 6 wins a row and we’ll get the subsequent flood of “they’re again!” articles. Buffalo will probably be high quality. Ultimately. However the highway could be somewhat bumpy on the best way.
I believe I’ve talked myself into the underneath right here, simply because going 12-5 within the AFC looks like a very robust ask this 12 months. Drawing the AFC and NFC Norths is not ideally suited, you level out the division is hard, and the Payments are simply inconsistent sufficient that I believe 11-6 and even 10-7 is solely affordable. I nonetheless have them as my AFC favorites, thoughts you, however I am going to play the chances and go together with the underneath.
Cale: There are some actually fascinating scheduling wrinkles in right here, not less than anecdotally talking. Like, that Thursday evening recreation in Detroit following their recreation towards Cleveland has the makings of final 12 months’s Josh Allen Bowl in Jacksonville. I nonetheless assume 11-6 may very well be a aggressive report for prime seeding within the AFC, and this doesn’t discredit Buffalo’s Tremendous Bowl odds within the slightest, however underneath simply feels safer. Heck, I am the man who mentioned “it would not be playing with out taking a couple of dangers” when betting the over on Jacksonville simply last week, however I really feel extra comfy enjoying conservatively with regards to a staff with such excessive variance.
Moreover, when’s the final time the staff with common preseason reward really lived as much as expectations? The complete Sean McDermott-Josh Allen period has been constructed on defying odds and silencing critics. I assume on this case residing as much as predictions can be defying the chances by my logic, however I not less than wish to see them do it first.
Miami Dolphins (9)
Bryan: So, Miami had a pleasant, quiet, uneventful offseason, proper? I do not know what we might probably speak about right here.
Cale: The place would you want to start out, Bryan? The tampering penalties, the tanking allegations, the Tyreek Hill acquisition, the Deshaun Watson courting, the whole upheaval of the teaching workers? Or do you wish to simply minimize to the chase and speak Tua?
Bryan: We might speak about new head coach and Web Cool Man Mike McDaniel, who needs to be numerous enjoyable this season. Word that enjoyable would not essentially correlate with success in any possible way, however not less than the press conferences needs to be memorable.
Cale: You gotta love a man who’s nonetheless making “Mike Jones!” jokes in 2022. I am kidding, however solely partly. McDaniel genuinely looks like an amazing man and a powerful offensive thoughts. There is a purpose Kyle Shanahan had dragged him to each new vacation spot since his days in Houston. I am simply beginning to attain my restrict on the younger offensive wunderkin storyline.
Bryan: Everyone knows that importing the Shanahan offense to the AFC East pays instant dividends. Simply have a look at Mike LaFleur in New York final season!
OK, the Dolphins are a little extra proficient than final 12 months’s Jets have been, and it will be actually fascinating to see how rapidly McDaniel will get all of the items in place to duplicate the system he is used to working. Lots of the Dolphins key gamers are sq. pegs for spherical holes—I firmly consider that the rationale Mike Gesicki didn’t get a long-term deal this offseason and is as a substitute enjoying on the franchise tag is that he would not match the YAC-and-blocking paradigm that McDaniel needs to have. There will probably be some rising pains as issues sort of shunt over to the broad zone speeding scheme and the catch-and-run offensive philosophy.
That being mentioned, including Tyreek Hill and Terron Armstead is a giant achieve for any offense, scheme or no scheme, and guys comparable to Raheem Mostert and Cedric Wilson add some good complementary items as effectively. That does sort of put numerous strain on the shoulders of Tua Tagovailoa, and, effectively…
Cale: I imply, this actually all falls on his shoulders, would not it? It is clearly a make-or-break 12 months for Tua, and I believe this entire overhaul of talent place gamers will profit him. If all we’ve to go off of are viral social media posts of Tua making heaves downfield in shorts, he has not less than improved over the course of the offseason.
My concern would not lie with scheme or talent place, it is within the offensive line. Touchdown the perfect deal with available on the market will completely enhance Miami’s state of affairs, however give me the Cincinnati line-building technique on daily basis. Construct by means of a number of second- or third-tier signings to boost the expertise by means of median efficiency as a substitute of touchdown one top-tier man who is predicted to behave because the rising tide to raise all boats.
This line nonetheless has huge holes in it. Liam Eichenberg blew 42 move blocks final 12 months, 4 greater than every other lineman within the league. His job needs to be made simpler by being bumped inside to left guard, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a obvious gap. Connor Williams additionally shuffles from left guard to middle, and Austin Jackson bumps from left guard to proper deal with. Musical chairs on the offensive line has by no means been an amazing signal of something, however I suppose locking up an important place on the road with Armstead will assist deliver this unit out of the league’s basement.
Bryan: I believe if the Dolphins are let down this season, it is extra more likely to be by the protection. Dropping Brian Flores hurts there, as I really feel numerous their strain got here from scheme and design versus simply uncooked expertise in move rush—not that the gamers the Dolphins have up entrance are unhealthy, simply that they have been used to the utmost by Flores, and I am involved the offseason shakeup will probably be unhealthy for them. Cornerback is one other actual drawback, with Byron Jones not residing as much as his hype when he joined the staff; I am undecided you wish to have cornerback issues in a division with Josh Allen!
I do not know. I really feel like that is going to be a tough, uneven transition 12 months—which I suppose suits in with the complete feeling of their offseason, so I suppose it’s not less than on model. A nine-win line is mainly betting on whether or not or not they will have a profitable season. The Dolphins have been lucky to have profitable seasons the final two years, and I am probably not feeling a repeat. I am going with the underneath, and we’ll see the place they wind up 12 months from now.
Cale: I am very cautious of the preseason hype in Miami. The Tyreek Hill press tour is not doing the job I believe he thinks it is doing. Certain, the ceiling’s excessive if all the pieces on this offense goes effectively, nevertheless it ignores all of the questions you simply raised on the opposite aspect of the ball. And I like a few of the items on this protection! Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland is a superb core to construct round, however there’s not lots past that. The items within the entrance seven—Christian Wilkins, Melvin Ingram, Emmanuel Ogbah, Elandon Roberts—aren’t shifting the needle for this protection with the problems of their secondary.
It would not assist that McDaniel has a few of the least strain of any head coach to achieve his first 12 months. The staff already has built-in scapegoats on either side of the ball. Unhealthy on offense? Tua’s gone. Unhealthy on protection? Flores simply left, give it time. If this staff is as easy-going and laid again as their coach has been portrayed up to now, the strain will not be there to push to succeed. I am prepared for an underneath and a Miami letdown.
Hey, if Tua’s actually gone after this 12 months, I ponder in the event that they’d commerce up for a brand new quarterba—ah, wait. Blame Stephen Ross for that one.
New England Patriots (8.5)
Cale: The New England Patriots: no coordinators, no titles, no drawback. There wasn’t a lot by way of additions this offseason, outdoors of DeVante Parker and a few (head-scratching) draft picks. Most of this offseason was stuffed with losses. No extra Josh McDaniels, no extra J.C. Jackson, and the prototypical Patriot linebackers in Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Kyle Van Noy have all skipped city. This can be a staff betting massive on their youth regardless of having a Cronenberg-esqe hybrid of Matt Patricia and Joe Choose working this offense.
Bryan: It feels somewhat like Invoice Belichick is daring us to say unhealthy issues in regards to the staff. Patricia and Choose as vital items of your workers? No coordinators in any respect? Letting Jackson go away city? Do you dare doubt the Belichick, destroyer of worlds? Are you able to face up to the glare from beneath the hoodie?
Cale: To be fully trustworthy, I am weirdly optimistic about this Patriots staff regardless of my higher judgements. Writing the New England chapter in Football Outsiders Almanac 2022, all I had have been questions: questions on what this offense was going to appear like, how the teaching modifications would have an effect on Mac Jones’ improvement, who can be the participant to step up in every of the three ranges of this protection.
Name it Stockholm Syndrome, however the extra time I spend ruminating on the Patriots , the extra I like their probabilities in 2022. As a contender within the AFC East? In all probability not. However I believe their offense is simply all-encompassing sufficient to tackle any protection they face. Every of the broad receivers has not less than one factor they’ll do effectively. If the downfall of the 2021 Buccaneers, the 2021 Rams’ potential to take a number of ACL tears in stride, and the strikes made by Inexperienced Bay and Kansas Metropolis this offseason have taught us something, it is that receiver depth and flexibility could also be extra vital that prime receiver expertise.
On prime of that, the working again room is loaded. Mac Jones, looks-wise, is a far cry from the shirtless cigar photographs he took after Alabama’s Nationwide Championship, and the camp tape of his deep ball exhibits it. A minimum of offensively, I’ve cautious religion that they’ll break freed from the constraints positioned on them by Joethew PaJudgia.
Bryan: I am not 1,000,000 miles from the place you’re, though I believe I might phrase it as closely cautious, contingent optimism. I am very to see the place Mac Jones goes in Yr 2. The e book on him popping out was that he had the very best flooring of the rookie class, however the lowest ceiling. So, a 12 months after he was the perfect of the rookie class, the place does he go from right here? Had been the scouts flawed about his potential, and can he enhance in his second season the best way good rookies are likely to do? As a result of if Jones can soar into the highest 10 in passing DVOA, that optimism is absolutely justified. If, alternatively, his stable rookie season finally ends up being his restrict, which is what the “low ceiling” takes would have you ever consider, the place does the Patriots offense go from right here? And I’ve detrimental religion in PaJudgia persevering with to develop anybody; not after the overall response Lions and Giants followers needed to their meddling after they have been in cost.
Cale: I simply maintain falling again on the outdated tales of Belichick and Brady spending all week dissecting defenses and nearly reverse-learning offensive improvement by means of that. They’re like comforting bedtime tales you inform New England kids after they assume PaJudgia is hiding underneath their mattress.
If I had any issues about this staff (which I do), it is on the defensive aspect of the ball. On prime of the personnel modifications the Patriots are making, their present roster necessitates schematic modifications as effectively. New England was already working extra zone than that they had in earlier years, and that development ought to proceed as a result of a mix of Jalen Mills, Terrance Mitchell, Malcolm Butler, and Jack Jones isn’t going that will help you run man towards any prime offenses within the AFC. As talked about earlier, the hulking, run-heavy linebackers of outdated are gone, changed by leaner off-ball linebackers who can drop into move protection within the flats as a substitute. This does not point out the large bets they’re taking up guys comparable to Josh Uche, Christian Barmore, and Ja’Whaun Bentley to take the subsequent step and turn out to be bona fide NFL starters.
Do I believe a few of these bets repay? I am going to put my cash on one of the crucial cerebral NFL coaches and probably the greatest defensive minds to ever work within the recreation. Do I believe all of them hit? That is a stretch.
Bryan: Excessive reward for Matt Patricia, there.
This can be a robust one—probably the hardest line within the league, not less than outdoors groups with doubtlessly suspended quarterbacks. There are such a lot of shifting components in play right here that there is numerous variance between the perfect and worst outcomes for the Patriots this season. And whereas we rightfully reward Belichick for having the ability to navigate uneven waters, I am undecided we’ve ever seen him work with this a lot schematic uncertainty at one time. With one of many 10 hardest schedules within the league, New England faces an uphill battle to match final season’s outcomes, and I do not assume anybody can be shocked in the event that they slipped a bit.
I’m nonetheless going to go together with the over. It isn’t one I am pleased about, and I would not put any actual cash on this line, however I suppose I nonetheless do place confidence in Belichick figuring issues out, and Jones taking that subsequent step ahead. However this can be a very disagreeable line, and I might keep far-off from it.
Cale: Wow, I actually thought this was going to be the place we differed, however I am glad to listen to my irrational optimism has persuaded you.
Belichick has one dropping season as head coach of the New England Patriots, and it was with the 7-9 staff that introduced Cam Newton in to start out mid-summer, had essentially the most adjusted video games misplaced from COVID of any staff within the league, and in addition boasted Damiere Byrd as its prime broad receiver. This staff is objectively higher than that one, and it could be an apples-to-oranges comparability to liken the 2 collectively, however the 2022 line is simply a game-and-a-half over this one.
It feels as if all we talked about was “if” and “hopefully” on this write-up, and it could take lots for all these to come back to fruition, however I additionally assume there’s lots of people undervaluing the items which are already in place. Plus, on prime of enjoying the NFC North, you’ll be able to at all times rely on New England to choose up some in-division wins and beat some opponents which will out-match them on paper. Give me the over.
New York Jets (5.5)
Bryan: On the podcast, you expressed some optimism in regards to the New York Jets, after which lightning struck and also you misplaced all energy. That is not ominous in any respect.
Cale: The powers that be don’t desire the general public to know that the Jets could be a very good (learn: enjoyable) staff.
I had the chance to spend two days at Jets camp this week, and the one factor I observed: the vibes are immaculate. (That is how we choose issues at an analytics web site, proper? Vibes?) However severely, I actually assume there may be some promise to this Jets staff on either side of the ball. That is clearly a really younger staff. They have been the eighth-youngest roster by snap-weighted age and began the second-most whole snaps from rookies in 2021, then put 4 bets on rookies within the prime 35 draft picks to play beginning positions. However I actually assume these rookies (coupled with different veteran acquisitions) can actually open issues up for this staff.
Take the secondary, for instance, which received torched final 12 months and put up a league-worst 29.0% defensive passing DVOA. The entire unit was constructed out of Day 3 picks, and it confirmed. Now, although, these younger picks have a 12 months of expertise and might slot in behind Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and D.J. Reed to supply some much-needed depth at nook. Or the broad receiver place, the place Garrett Wilson’s positional versatility opens issues up for Elijah Moore to both play outdoors or within the slot. Or at working again, the place Breece Corridor turns into the bell-cow again and frees up Michael Carter for use way more effectively (and take manner fewer hits).
Bryan: I hear you, and I believe there’s numerous enchancment at numerous key places. However the place do the “Joe Flacco is outplaying Zach Wilson” tales come into your immaculate vibes? I am 90% positive that is typical August nonsense from the coaching camp website at Lake Woebegone, however normally, the hype is directed at your second-year quarterback, not away from him.
My regular normal for judging rookie quarterbacks is to disregard all of the unhealthy they do and concentrate on the nice. In Yr 1, I wish to see indicators that one thing you are doing is engaged on the professional stage; flaws and errors may be fastened as time goes by. So when Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence have very unhealthy years in 12 months one, you’ll be able to nonetheless level out some choices and nice throws and mobility as issues that may be constructed on; examples of the potential they confirmed popping by means of. The listing of issues Wilson did effectively as a rookie is … very slim.
Cale: However Bryan, Zach Wilson deleted all the social media off his phone. That alone counts for not less than two wins, proper?
The time period I saved coming again to when breaking down Wilson was “hero ball,” simply this incessant want to increase performs, do issues out of construction, and take each shot downfield no matter whether or not it was open or not. He might try this at BYU, when he performed Louisiana Tech and North Alabama. However efficiency like that’s how you find yourself throwing 4 interceptions in your second NFL begin, every extra egregious than the final.
I maintain coming again to that Tampa Bay recreation in Week 17. Not as a result of Antonio Brown ran off the sphere at halftime, however as a result of Zach Wilson discovered an important lesson imparted to him by Mike White: checkdowns and throwaways are OK. I believe the Jets might need really beat the Buccaneers had Wilson had greater than Braxton Berrios to throw to at that time within the season. There are nonetheless accuracy points (Wilson completed dead last in CPOE amongst qualifying quarterbacks), however I believe the bump in surrounding talent place gamers, some extra safety on the road, and receiving a humbling from Mike effing White ought to not less than elevate Wilson’s flooring of efficiency by default. He cannot get worse, proper? Proper?
Bryan: If, and it is a sizeable if, Wilson can elevate his play to even just under common, I believe the Jets may very well be sneaky good this season. OK, “good” could be a stretch, however sneaky respectable. The protection has had a lot work executed to it, and I nonetheless assume Robert Saleh goes to generate a very good unit sooner moderately than later in New York. Final season, they mainly solely used property to usher in Carl Lawson on protection as they centered on the offensive aspect of the ball, so when Lawson went down in coaching camp, they have been simply sort of SOL. The additions to the secondary and move rush ought to make issues way more competent. A profitable Jets staff this season, regardless of the way you wish to outline success for the Jets, goes to be a defensively-led staff, and I believe they will come out alright. Perhaps not eighth-best within the league like our projections have them, however sufficient to the place that will not be the bit individuals are worrying about subsequent offseason.
To go for the over right here, you must consider that Zach Wilson is not going to be the worst quarterback in soccer. Are you there? Do these late-season enhancements in Wilson’s processing lead you to consider we’ll see a extra competent skilled in Yr 2?
Cale: Actually, somewhat? I simply assume confidence within the system put in place by Saleh and Mike LaFleur, plus some extra teaching within the offseason, will assist issues go way more easily for Wilson. 5.5 wins looks like a really attainable quantity. Their first half of the schedule is a gauntlet, although. Kicking off the 12 months by working by means of the entire AFC North, internet hosting Miami, then going at Packers, at Denver, New England, and Buffalo earlier than their Week 10 bye? There is a world the place they eke a couple of of these video games out and appear like feisty wild-card materials. There’s additionally a world the place they kick off the 12 months, what, 1-8? 2-7?
Actually, that may put them on respectable tempo to clear 5.5, simply given how simple their again half is, however it could be a giant vibes killer. I am taking the over simply off the truth that this staff is unquestionably one-and-a-half video games higher than final 12 months’s 4-13 roster. There is a massive wager on Wilson, however I believe the expertise round him is nice sufficient to get there. Worst case, Flacco makes his triumphant comeback within the again half, they choose up some video games towards the NFC North, and the quarterback search begins once more. Cue my Sisyphus reference from the Jets chapter of FOA 2022.
Bryan: A part of me needs to say you could have been hanging out with Dionysus, not Sisyphus, when you assume the Jets are going to be good this 12 months, however that is simply because it is a humorous line. A line of 5.5 wins may be very, very low, and I nonetheless place confidence in Saleh and the remainder of the San Francisco exports to make a halfway-talented staff with time. It does require Wilson to take a step ahead, however solely to “not completely embarrassing.” I believe that is effectively inside the realm of risk, so I am going to take the over as effectively.
Man, all this Jets optimism is loopy. Hopefully, this time we can’t be struck down for our hubris and have one other huge energy failure in the course of speaking about this f