NFL Preseason Week 2 – Cale: Welcome again to our preseason league-wide over/unders sequence! We formally have per week’s value of preseason video games underneath our belts, Laborious Knocks is again on our televisions, and the primary trace of that cool, late-August breeze is within the air. Significant soccer is nearly upon us, and what higher strategy to have a good time that than to dive into the NFC West—dwelling of the reigning Tremendous Bowl champs?
Bryan: I am at all times just a little bit biased in favor of the division as a result of it is the place my rooting curiosity lies, however I do really feel just like the NFC West is arguably probably the most intriguing division within the league this season. No different division has such a niche between the highest finish and backside finish of the potential for all 4 groups concerned. If the whole lot goes proper—for numerous values of “the whole lot”—we might see three potential Tremendous Bowl-contending groups on this division, with the fourth staff could possibly be punching away within the wild-card hunt. If the whole lot goes mistaken—for numerous values of “the whole lot”—we might see three groups vying for top-five picks and the fourth blowing a wild-card recreation because the No. 4 seed. Clearly, the common outcomes are going to be someplace within the center, and never each staff will hit their excessive and low, however that is the division I really feel I’ve the weakest grip on, the division the place little or no would shock me.
Cale: what I like to do after I solely have a tenuous grasp on one thing? Make predictions about it and let my cash experience!
Arizona Cardinals (8.5)
Cale: Let’s hold this dialogue underneath our contractually mandated 4 hours, we could? Of all of the groups within the NFC West, I believe the Cardinals epitomize your both-ends-of-the-spectrum description you gave above. On one hand, Kyler Murray is without doubt one of the higher younger quarterbacks on this league and has earned his payday. Having him in your staff ought to hold you in competitors in a robust division. Then again, the remainder of the infrastructure round him provides me zero confidence this staff will do nicely, and the Cardinals have carried out little or no underneath Murray’s tenure to instill any confidence this staff’s headed in the suitable path.
Bryan: There does appear to be a larger-than-average quantity of cleaning soap opera drama popping out of the desert this 12 months, does not there? Quite a lot of it surrounds Murray, although I do not assume he is the instigator of most of it—deleting all Cardinals pics off his Instagram at first of the offseason, the clause in his huge deal requiring him to review, the kerfuffle between him and Kliff Kingsbury over play calling and so forth and so forth. None of that could be a catastrophe by any stretch of the creativeness, and any a type of issues could possibly be moved apart, however it seems like one thing new comes out virtually each week. And that is earlier than you get into issues similar to Hollywood Brown’s arrest for extreme rushing or DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension for PEDs—it looks like one thing is at all times happening in Arizona this offseason. I imply, it clearly could possibly be worse (he mentioned, gesturing vaguely within the path of Cleveland and/or Miami), however it has not been a peaceful, quiet, preparatory interval for a playoff staff from a 12 months in the past.
Cale: The offensive aspect of the ball is liable for producing probably the most drama, however it’s additionally the place that wants probably the most stability, for Kyler’s sake. The rationale the Cardinals introduced in Kliff Kingsbury is to maximise the potential of Murray, giving him a college-style offense he can maximize his abilities in. As an alternative, the main focus is on contract clauses and the way Kingsbury passive-aggressively lets Murray name fourth-quarter performs in preseason video games simply to point out how arduous his job *actually* is.
Having the staff’s high two receiving choices get into sizzling water does not assist issues, both.
Bryan: We’re a pair weeks too early for this, however Kingsbury is at present at +900 to be the primary coach to fireplace or resign, 5 months after signing a contract extension. I am unsure I purchase into that, however that is an excellent indication of the ambiance the staff’s at present working underneath. And if Kingsbury falls off once more within the final half of the season, and Arizona does really feel like they should make a change, nicely, you possibly can’t eliminate the highest-paid quarterback in soccer for wage cap causes, so I suppose Kingsbury can be on the chopping block. We talked concerning the constructive vibes popping out of Jets camp last week. What is the reverse of that?
Cale: This staff is actually on the alternative finish of the vibes spectrum, and no quantity of variance would push them into the top-half of league-wide vibes rankings. We’ve not even touched on the protection, which boasted a sixth-best -8.2% DVOA however then let its face, Chandler Jones, stroll in free company.
Bryan: Our projections hate the Cardinal protection. I believe some drop-off after dropping Jones is inevitable, however twenty eighth? Eef. It does not assist that they don’t have any cornerbacks to talk of, in fact.
We’ve been very unfavorable concerning the Cardinals right here, however they do have one of the thrilling quarterbacks within the recreation, one who might simply take one other step ahead. He is actually not one I get pleasure from watching play my staff twice a 12 months! They have been among the finest groups within the league in September and October final 12 months, and Murray was dealing. And whereas there are potential indicators of regression on protection, Vance Joseph has carried out an excellent job in any respect his stops of manufacturing aggressive models, no matter obvious expertise. I believe the Cardinals want extra to go nicely than a few of their division rivals, however I might completely see it.
That being mentioned, I am taking the underneath, and I believe it is the simplest decide within the division. I believe that is extra prone to be a six-win staff than an eight-win staff, and even the latter would hold them underneath Vegas’ line. A nasty schedule, hardest within the league by our numbers, does not assist, both.
Cale: I believe the worst half about their schedule is simply how robust the again half is. Certain, kicking off the 12 months internet hosting Kansas Metropolis, at Las Vegas, and internet hosting the Rams all with out Hopkins is hard by itself, however the final eight weeks of the season see two video games in opposition to San Francisco, contests in opposition to each L.A. groups, and video games in opposition to the Patriots, Broncos, and Buccaneers. The second-half drop-off the Cardinals have confronted yearly of the Kingsbury administration inform me that again half is not going to go nice. If Arizona is not 5-2 by the point the brand new Name of Responsibility drops Week 8, then this guess’s lifeless within the water. Below is the decision right here.
Los Angeles Rams (10.5)
Bryan: Are we nonetheless standing within the afterglow of the Rams’ Tremendous Bowl win? Or is Sean McVay calling Matthew Stafford’s elbow harm “irregular” a trigger for panic in SoCal?
Cale: We actually thought Allen Robinson was going to finish up with an excellent, high quality quarterback for the primary time in his soccer profession, no strings hooked up. This seems like Robinson wished for a brand new quarterback on a monkey’s paw.
I’m truly nervous about Stafford’s arm. Coaching camp is meant to be the land of everlasting optimism; even when your staff is City Meyer-levels of chaotic, these tales do not often rear their head till midseason. The stories round Stafford’s elbow harm and the nebulous but ominous language utilized in virtually each one cannot bode nicely.
Bryan: Stafford began throwing once more final week, which is excellent news. However McVay additionally mentioned that John Wolford will not play in any Rams’ preseason recreation, which is much less excellent news—McVay retains his starters out of any and all preseason motion, and maintaining Wolford out is both a loopy escalation of that observe to the backups or an acknowledgement that Stafford won’t be 100% and risking the veteran backup is a questionable transfer.
I’m not terrified about Stafford’s arm. I believe it should be one thing he has to handle all through the season, presumably taking fewer reps frequently than he in any other case would, however he isn’t some wet-behind-the-ears rookie. I think about the Rams will have the ability to work out find out how to handle his workload to maintain him as efficient as potential. Which is nice, as a result of when you’re operating a stars-and-scrubs mannequin, you want all of your stars in play!
Cale: Plus, the star energy of that offense must be sufficient to maintain this staff afloat even when Wolford has to start out a number of video games. Van Jefferson’s harm throws a little bit of a wrinkle into issues, however Robinson and Cooper Kupp is arguably a top-five extensive receiver duo if we’re getting a peak-of-his-powers Robinson within the fold. That is nonetheless a top quality protection too, even with the lack of Von Miller. The Rams are literally poised to enhance on their numbers from final 12 months; we mission them to complete with the fifth-best protection by DVOA. After including Bobby Wagner to a place they’ve sorely uncared for, the Rams have star energy in any respect three ranges within the protection in Wagner, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey.
Bryan: The Rams are certainly one of 4 groups we mission within the high 10 of DVOA on either side of the ball, and deservedly so. Barring harm, the Rams have the very best flooring within the division by far. So even when Stafford’s arm is just a little sore, and Kupp cannot fairly seize the magic of his record-shattering season a 12 months in the past, and Robinson stays higher in our thoughts’s eye than truly on the sphere, and the cross rush drops off with out Miller there to capitalize, and the cornerbacks outdoors of Ramsey proceed to be merely enough, if that…
… OK, there are a variety of ifs. However I discover it arduous to think about the Rams ending up with a dropping report except they’re hit with a wave of accidents, be that Stafford lacking important time or a quorum of the celebs getting banged up. I do really feel that the Rams’ mannequin makes them extra vulnerable to issues if they undergo accidents; they’re depth will not be nice, by design, but when any staff suffers accidents they will be in bother. Assuming issues go kind of based on plan, I’ve no downside predicting the Rams to be someplace within the nine- to 12-win vary, ticking alongside, making the playoffs, and making an attempt to go back-to-back. So all I have to do is take the common of that and … get 10.5. Precisely their line. Nice.
Cale: I really feel just a little extra conservative than you do if solely due to the Stafford elbow. Wolford did turn out to be the primary participant to throw for 200 yards and rush for 50 yards in an NFL debut, so I do know McVay will not have any bother producing offense if he has to show to the backup, however this staff is taking part in the ninth-hardest schedule by our projections. It is a gauntlet, and I believe the stars-and-scrubs mannequin hasn’t been terribly injury-tested but. Final 12 months noticed a star-for-star swap when Odell Beckham Jr. crammed in instantly for Robert Woods upon information of his ACL tear, however might that maintain up for the quarterback positon? How fragile is the depth of this staff if one thing goes south? It is all speculative and being over-precautionary, however underneath seems like the decision if there may be even a small query surrounding Stafford’s well being.
Bryan: If I might get the push at 10, I’d take the over. A wholesome Rams staff must be proper up there with the highest squads within the convention, and whereas I would not name them favorites to repeat this season, I’d be removed from stunned in the event that they managed the feat. However in opposition to a troublesome schedule, with some minor query marks at key positions, I actually really feel 10-7 is the most definitely median end result, which is a really, very, very slight underneath. Simply too excessive of a line for my blood.
San Francisco 49ers (10)
Bryan: This, traditionally, has been the a part of the over/unders the place folks must wrench off my red-and-gold-colored glasses. That, or calm me down as I begin speaking concerning the eight zillion issues that would go mistaken in San Francisco. And this 12 months, we get to do each! Hurray!
Swapping out the quarterback of report within the years you went to a Tremendous Bowl and an NFC Championship Recreation is simply a type of issues that occurs to each membership, proper? Solely routine upkeep for a contender.
Cale: If something, the distinctiveness of the scenario ought to provide you with religion in the remainder of the system. If there wasn’t a lot belief in Shanahan’s talents as a playcaller and soccer thoughts, you would not have a change like that generate this type of line. Not many organizations might change to a quarterback with underneath 400 passing makes an attempt since highschool and nonetheless generate a double-digit line for his or her season win complete.
I am excited for the Trey Lance Expertise simply due to the additional degree of dimensionality that form of athlete might deliver to the Shanahan offense. Hopefully the artistic juices have not spoiled with Shanahan’s right-hand man Mike McDaniel heading to Miami, however with Lance taking part in alongside Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Trey Sermon, the upside for this offense feels sky-high, however it all comes right down to the huge gamble San Francisco is taking up Lance.
Bryan: There are considerations outdoors the quarterback place—the inside line is totally revamped and the beginning cornerbacks are already banged up, although not critically. And there are causes to have a good time outdoors the quarterback place—the Samuel contract scenario received resolved to everybody’s satisfaction, and Aiyuk goes loopy in camp with improbable stories and highlights popping out virtually every single day. And you continue to have nearly all of the bones of final 12 months’s top-five offense and top-10 protection in place, able to go.
However spending time speaking about rookie guards and cornerbacks is not what we’re right here for. This actually is the Lance query. If Trey Lance is the form of participant value spending three first-round draft picks on, the 49ers’ ceiling is increased than virtually anybody else’s within the league. There have been days at coaching camp the place he has dunked on the protection over and over. His mobilty provides the 49ers’ offense a model new dimension; his arm power provides them a verticality that Jimmy Garoppolo merely didn’t have. Because the begin of the 2021 preseason, Lance has three completions of 30-plus air yards; Garropolo has one within the final two years. If issues work out, the 49ers have the next ceiling than the Rams and will win the division.
If Trey Lance is the form of participant who hasn’t performed considerably in two years, and received his final important work in opposition to FCS competitors, the 49ers might undergo some critical rising pains this season. There have been days in coaching camp the place he has appeared unable to string two performs collectively, getting labored by the secondary and throwing wobbling balls across the subject. That arm power often confirmed up negatively within the first preseason recreation, together with his fastball being an excessive amount of on a few performs you anticipate NFL quarterbacks to make.
So, you realize. There is a vary right here.
Cale: I believe the largest X-factor for me with Lance is his mobility. Not solely was Garoppolo not a risk to throw deep, he has simply 182 dashing yards in 5 seasons with the 49ers. For comparability, Lance had 168 in six video games final 12 months. With San Francisco’s emphasis on spreading defenses out horizontally—and now vertically, too, with the specter of Lance’s lengthy ball—the alternatives Lance has to run turn out to be huge. It is simply one other wrinkle that defenses have to remember, and it is one thing that has much less likelihood for one thing to go mistaken than, say, any cross Lance places within the air.
The 49ers can at all times fall again on their protection, which we mission to take a reasonable step again from their seventh-best end last year. Richard Sherman appears to be actually excessive on the San Francisco secondary, arguing they’d be “amongst the most effective in soccer” by season’s finish. Plus, you possibly can’t go mistaken with the one-two punch of Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead in your defensive position. Some stability on this finish is nice to have, particularly contemplating San Francisco’s schedule is projected to be a lot simpler than the Rams’ or the Cardinals’.
I really feel assured in an over name right here. Perhaps I am placing an excessive amount of religion in Kyle Shanahan, or expressing too little concern with Lance’s inexperience, however the items simply match for me. All of it comes collectively so nicely. Perhaps I am a 12 months early to the social gathering, however Lance simply has to play league-average for this staff to go locations.
Bryan: Like with the Rams, I actually want I had one other half-win right here to make me really feel assured. With the road smack-dab at 10, we’re mainly arguing about whether or not the 49ers usually tend to go 9-8 or 11-6, and that is one of many bigger two-win swings, at the least from a notion standpoint. After I did game-by-game predictions, I had each the 49ers and Rams come out with 10 wins. From that standpoint, I’d have gone over from the Rams on this line simply primarily based on extra certainty surrounding them. However I’ll go underneath for the 49ers, underneath the idea that there will probably be days when Lance’s inexperience finally ends up hurting sufficient to show wins to losses. I nonetheless have them making the playoffs, and I believe they will be higher on the finish of the 12 months than the start as Lance will get extra reps, however I foresee sufficient potential for stumbling that I am barely extra snug with the underneath. Robust traces, although.
Seattle Seahawks (5.5)
Cale: What an unceremonious ending to this period of Seahawks soccer. Bobby Wagner lower with out warning. Russell Wilson making YouTube cringe compilation fodder out in Denver after the complete group launched collective statements blaming the entire commerce on him. Identical to that, it is throughout. The Seahawks go from perennial postseason lock to probably vying for a top-five draft decide.
Bryan: Sure, after I mentioned there have been three groups within the division who could possibly be vying for the Tremendous Bowl, the Seahawks have been in actual fact the staff I used to be leaving out of the equation. Shedding Russell Wilson was trigger for minor celebration all through the remainder of the division, and once you make a personnel transfer that causes your rivals to be comfortable, you may have in all probability carried out one thing mistaken.
It is virtually too simple to speak concerning the flooring falling out for Seattle. They’ve the worst quarterback scenario in soccer (as we write this, on the very least). They’ve a training workers which appears to haven’t developed with the instances, who gave the impression to be actively trying to place weights on their star passer a number of instances over the previous couple of seasons. They’ve had shockingly unhealthy luck within the draft, because the magic contact that spawned the DVOA dynasty dried up. It’s extremely, very simple to make the case for issues simply hitting all-time low in Seattle.
Cale: The one hope out of this Seattle staff comes from the very fact they received the DK Metcalf extension carried out, and even then neither quarterback vying for a beginning job has the instruments to maximise his potential. Geno Smith does not have the arm expertise to benefit from Metcalf’s vertical recreation, and Drew Lock has main points with accuracy in his deep recreation. I would say the one brilliant spot on this offense comes from Rashaad Penny, and that optimism is absolutely solely coming from fantasy soccer house owners.
Bryan: The offense is a giant bundle of miserable wrapped in a skinny layer of disappointment. However, if I am to play satan’s advocate right here for a minute, I even have some optimism on the defensive aspect of the ball. There’s a variety of upside within the entrance seven—upside that must be reached if the Seahawks are going to be any good this season, however upside that could possibly be realized. Jordyn Brooks appeared very good at instances final season. Darrell Taylor flashed pass-rushing chops. Including each Uchenna Nwosu and Shelby Harris is sure to assist as nicely. You would do far worse within the entrance seven than Seattle, even after dropping Wagner this offseason. Tre Brown and Sidney Jones are strong sufficient within the secondary, and I actually do like their star security, by which I imply Quandre Diggs and never the undersized edge rusher that Jamal Adams has turn out to be. I do not assume they are going to rise to the extent of excellent, however I might see them stunning folks and being enough. Or, at the least, the intense spot on the staff.
Cale: I see what you are saying, and I acknowledge the upside of that entrance seven, however man does that secondary fear me. Final 12 months, Seattle completed 26th in pass defense DVOA, and l cannot think about them getting any higher after this offseason. Shedding D.J. Reed is a blow, however even with him, I do not assume the Seahawks had an actual choice to match up with a staff’s high extensive receiver. Not solely is their division loaded with these guys, however so are their opponents within the AFC West and NFC South (nicely, at the least Tampa Bay and no matter model of Mike Thomas New Orleans will get this 12 months).
Bryan: The schedule ought to, at the least, do the Seahawks some favors. I do know home-field benefit has dropped off previously few seasons, however Seattle nonetheless has a popularity for being a troublesome place to play, what with the gang noise and all. And so they get the fearsome foursome of the Falcons, Giants, Panthers, and Jets all flying throughout the nation to play in Lumen Discipline. The highest of the schedule is hard, with the AFC West and NFC South on the schedule, however it seems like most of Seattle’s potential winnable video games are taking place in Seattle. Perhaps I am a idiot for nonetheless believing within the energy of HFA, however it’s arduous to ask for a nicer street/dwelling cut up for a staff that we’re projecting to battle. And if we’re proper about Arizona stumbling with out Hopkins, perhaps that pushes the Seahawks to 5 wins, and then you definately simply want yet another win, someplace, on the schedule to hit the over right here. Seattle has been a thorn in San Francisco’s aspect for years, and whereas the scissors are blunted within the rock-paper-scissors trio that was the Rams, Seahawks, and 49ers, it is nonetheless not a matchup I am precisely wanting ahead to.
Cale: No less than the sport in Germany does not eat into their dwelling schedule.
Aspect word: we’re actually sending this staff to play in Germany? The street schedule for the Seahawks is hard sufficient as-is. We’ve to ship them midway all over the world to get their doorways blown off by Tom Brady?
Bryan: Hey, previous folks do not do nicely with worldwide journey. So Brady and Pete Carroll can each relaxation off their jetlag whereas the kinder go and play some fußball.
I’ve talked myself into the over right here. Not by a ton, thoughts you, however I believe there are sufficient holes within the schedule, and simply sufficient religion within the offense, that I believe six or seven wins is inside the realm of affordable prospects. That is miserable contemplating what the Seahawks have carried out within the Carroll period, however 5.5 wins is a reasonably low bar to clear.
Cale: Your optimism on this staff is courageous. I, sadly, cannot relate. Below for me. I simply do not see Seattle doing a lot in 2022. The quarterback scenario is a large number and there is not sufficient expertise on the offense for the ability place gamers to create a excessive flooring. The protection is a variety of bets on younger expertise, and I’ve little or no religion on this secondary—particularly once you issue within the competitors they will be going in opposition to. I do not assume that is the worst staff within the league by any measure, however there are extra paths to the underside for Seattle than there are to the highest.
It figures that the division with the widest vary of outcomes would find yourself being our most divisive but. For these maintaining observe at dwelling, sure, two disagreements technically qualifies as our most disagreements on a division but.
Bryan: Contemplating the historical past of this text sequence, two disagreements are mainly the identical as civil warfare. We’ll see if we will not calm issues down and get a pleasant, smoother consensus tomorrow with a extra boring and easy division, the *checks notes* AFC West?!