NFC East Over/ Unders: Will a Little Fitzmagic Spark Joy in Washington? Bryan Knowles 04 Aug 2021, 10:17 am
Andrew: Hello and welcome back for another exciting season of Scramble for the Ball, our sixth at the helm of this metaphorical ship. We have now been at this so long that only seven franchises have the same head coach that they did when we began, and only four still have the same starting quarterback. While that is just like either a brag or the prelude to a trivia quiz, it’s truly simply meant as a reminder of the speed of change in the NFL. That gait has been particularly rapid over the past couple of offseasons as we transition out of one epoch and into the next. Heck, as of this season , not even the schedule remains the same!
Bryan: It’s strange to think that we have been at the helm of Scramble for a third of Football Outsiders’ lifetime. This must be what old geeks felt when Patrick Stewart or Tom Baker started lapping their predecessors’ run occasions. So long as we’re not the Scott Bakulas or Colin Bakers of the world, we’re doing something right. I entail, we have been at this long enough that Tom Brady was still winning Super Bowls when we started our tower! Crazy to think how much the world has changed.
But no, we’re back, older and more tired than ever, to cover the longest NFL season since the 1920 s. Seventeen games is such an easy-to-work-with amount. It certainly doesn’t cause any problems at all, say, dividing plays into home-and-away divides, or smashing literally decades of formulas for a statistically inclined website. And who needed a convenient scheduling formula ever; one random game against a team from the opposite conference is totally worth breach the longest period of structural stability the league had ever seen! And 17 is definitely not an awkward stepping-stone towards 18 plays in the not-too-distant future, and we’re certainly not in a bizarre transitional periods that NFL historians will look back on in 50 years and wonder what the hell happened.
Andrew: The impact of the 17 -game schedule will be felt in far more significant places than this article, but it does have a fairly fundamental impression on our arithmetic. Nine wins used to be a fairly good season, but now it’s basically. 500. Seven wins used to be mediocrity, but it seems considerably worse now that it’s a 10 -loss campaign. Every team has an extra game to got to get their win total, and even the really bad crews aren’t likely to finish with records as bad as before. Well, except the Texans, but that’s a separate issue.
Bryan: Our prime directive, then, is to try to wrap our heads around this new 17 -game era as we go through the league’s over/ unders, our annual excuse to rifle off jokes about all 32 crews and pretend that we’re offering any analysis of value. So, some things never change, then.
Andrew: We start out East, with maybe the least predictable divide in the sport across last season and this.
Bryan: No appreciation constructing it easy on ourselves, then.
I shall begin with the annual broadcast of tepid takes: the NFC East is the worst division in football. Shocking, I know, considering the division was won with a losing record in 2020, but I think that the East has the lowest floor of any individual division–the worst worst-case scenarios should the bottom fall out for everyone.
Andrew: Ooh, I’m not so sure about that this year, but we’ll get to that in a couple of weeks. I certainly agree that the bottom falling out for everybody here isn’t far-fetched. I just think we pretty much appreciate that last year, and I’m not potting on a repetition of that atrocity.
Bryan: I hope you’re right, as watching the clown show of the department stumble across the line in prime time last year was … well, it was good for a few laughs, and I guess it induced our undertakings that much easier, but I do generally favor competitive football, all things considered. And, like, good competitive football , not an evenly matched Absurdity tape.
Andrew: Right, but hopefully this year we’ll watch more than a month of Dak Prescott and less than a snap of Dwayne Haskins. Carson Wentz has taken his difficulties elsewhere, and while I’m not sure Jalen Hurts is the answer, he at least signals the front office might be asking the privilege questions. The Giants are still the Monster. What an age this isn’t for New York football.
Bryan: Oh, I’m not sure the Giants are the fan base that should be most pessimistic in the NFC East–but, I get ahead of myself. First, we need to ask, how ’bout them Cowboys?
( Note: “Last Over” and “Last Under” below roster the last time each team went over this year’s over/ under amount. Yes, that’s awkward with the shift from 16 games to 17. We’re coping .)
DALLAS COWBOYS( 9) Last-place Over: 2018( Head Coach: Jason Garrett; Quarterback: Dak Prescott) Last-place Under: 2020( Mike McCarthy, Andy Dalton)
Bryan: Whole-number line for a team with a quarterback coming back from a major injury? Ah, Vegas, you are familiar with just what I like.
Andrew: The optimistic opinion for Dallas is quite easy: you put last-place season’s Prescott-led offense with an average-or-better defense more in keeping with their pre-Mike Nolan performance and you readily have the best team in the division. The best team in a division should be good for 10 wins even in a 16 -game schedule, so that should be a lock with an extra game. I’m not saying it’ll be that straightforward, and the impact of a highly experienced football coach is likely to be felt one course or the other, but it’s not remotely unreasonable.
Bryan: So, the idea is that Dak Prescott throwing to Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and the rest is going to be a fantastic offense that propels a … let’s be optimists for the moment and left open at an “undistinguished” defense … to a massive winning record. And, I intend, Prescott did look good for the first month of 2020 before he was hurt, driving the Cowboys all the way to, uh, 12th in offensive DVOA. We’re sure Mike McCarthy is capable of coaching a good offense in the 2020 s?
Andrew: Well, we need to remember that 10 -7 isn’t a massive winning record anymore. It’s probably wild-card level in six of the eight divides. I envisage the Cowboys are good enough, with a defense that might not look like it’s playing dodgeball instead of football, to be a strong wild-card contender in most departments. This isn’t most divides. They’re a contender to win it.
Bryan: Snark aside, I can see it. If everyone bides health, the Cowboys could have a top-five quarterback working behind a top-five offensive line. Besides Prescott, you’re getting La’el Collins back, and maybe Tyron Smith will finally be health, and so on and so forth–it’s not quite those great Cowboys cables from a decade ago, but it’s a solid foundation to work with. “Everyone staying healthy” seems like a heck of video games, considering Prescott already has had a shoulder injury in camp, but the pieces are there, offensively, for, what, a 12 -5 team, maybe? In a merriment, shootout-oriented way?
I only don’t know how the protection comprises up. You intimate they’ll go back to their pre-Nolan performance, which, I entail, I get regression to the mean, I do. But Dallas doesn’t have an interior line to speak of, which won’t matter all that much if every game is a 40 -3 8 shootout. But they don’t have any cornerbacks either, and that will matter, because they’ll be the ones with the 38.
Andrew: All I’m truly saying there is I suppose Nolan and his scheme was a net negative for Dallas last year, and they could be better just for not being so confused all the time. They drafted two cornerbacks on Day 2, which is good because they needed some, and I desire the addition of Malik Hooker if–and this is a theme here, I admit–he can stay healthy.
Bryan: What I’m saying is that this looks like a 9-8 squad if I’ve ever seen one. Which I haven’t.
So, because of the blasted whole-number line, I’m left trying to decide if I’m optimistic enough that the offense will hum to go 10 -7, or if I’m pessimistic enough about the defense to go 8-9. These are not numbers I’m used to working with! In real life, I’m staying far, far from being this line. In ScrambleLand I don’t have that option. For all my cynicism, I’m taking the over, but it’s an over under duress.
Andrew: As you’ve probably gathered, I concur. It’s kinda disappointing that even when we open a preseason by arguing about a squad, we still come down on the same side of the line. Let’s hope that’s not a sign of things to come. Over.
Bryan: At least the lines get easier from here.
New York Giants( 7) Last-place Over: 2016( Ben McAdoo, Eli Manning) Last Under: 2020( Joe Judge, Daniel Jones)
Bryan: Well, shoot.
I’m fairly sure Monsters followers are still wailing about Nate Sudfeld entering Week 17 ‘s final game against Washington, accusing that for their failure to win the department. Why, it should have been them losing in the wild-card game to Tampa Bay! And it’s certainly the faulting of a third-string quarterback from another team, and not the 6-10 record they put up themselves.
Andrew: Ordinarily, when a squad constructs the number of adds-on the Giants did, especially at receiving posts, you would suggest that puts pressure on the quarterback. And maybe it does, but I’m not wholly certain it modifies much. I’m not persuaded that the quality of his targets has ever been the issue for Daniel Jones, and I’m not really sure why adding more of them will stop him from fumbling again as he’s sacked for the 50 th time in Week 18.
Bryan: I’m surprised there’s not more national sentiment about this being a make-or-break year for Danny Dimes. It’s the third year for a first-round passer whom most Twitter Draftniks envisaged should never have been a first-round pick–not that Dave Gettleman dedicates two figs about people with keyboards or, y’know, electricity. Jones’ firstly two years verified DVOAs of -1 9.2% and -2 2.4%. It must be put-up or shut-up time; the Giant need Jones to take the Patented Josh Allen Third-Year Leap. And yet, I hear more report about Kelvin Benjamin eating his way out of town than I be informed about Jones.
Andrew: Josh Allen certainly seem to be the model for the approach the Giants front office took the summer months, and “youre seeing” where the improvements would come from around the roster. Color me skeptical, though, that we’re going to see anything other than more of the same.
Bryan: The Giants at least have some legitimate strengths they can fall back on. Saquon Barkley will be back, and although we can laugh and joke all we want about how early he was picked, he’s phenomenal. They likewise have a great interior line with Leonard Williams and corporation. And, presuming Gettleman gets his time machine operating and the Giants get to play in the 1970 s this season, a strong running game and interior path is a recipe for success! In the world of 2021, nonetheless, the Giant appear to be strongest at the very least relevant positions.
Andrew: Barkley is also coming off his second significant hurt in as many seasons, after a high-ankle sprain cost him three games and hobbled him for several more in 2019. He’s a great player when healthy, but that has been an important qualifier still further. Other than hoping for stud receivers to push them over the top on offense, I don’t understand where I should expect major improvements from a team that was 6-10 last year. Seven wins is an annoying line, because thanks to that extra game, it’s right in the same ballpark.
Bryan: 7-10 is also interesting because that’s the record the Monster would need to join the Anti-Dynasty rankings I did this offseason, with the Gettleman Wilderness joining the Adam Gase Experience. What an period this is for New York football, indeed.
Andrew: Ultimately, I imagine enough of the teams the Giants play-act are better than them, especially early in the year, that the season could be removed from them rather quickly. Playing against the AFC West and NFC South could be very painful, and the Panthers game is the only one I’d favor them in before the final week of November. Even that is only because of Sam Darnold; I’d fancy the Panthers to win if Teddy Bridgewater was still their quarterback.
Bryan: Well, New York gets the Falcons before that, and I could( and will !) make arguments about the Broncos, Rams, and Raiders, but I think we’re both bending in the same general guidance. I don’t verify a footpath to a win record here barring Daniel Jones becoming the musician the Giants thought he would be. I don’t accused them for protruding with him rather than drafting Justin Fields; at some degree, you do have to believe in your own scouting, and committing three years to a first-round pick isn’t heinous or anything. But human, I don’t see it. 7-10 seems just about right to me, but there’s enough downside here for me to take the under.
Andrew: I could see an upside of 8-9. I can see a downside of 5-12 much more easily. That pushes me under what I consider the most awkward path in this column.
Philadelphia Eagles( 6.5) Last-place Over: 2019( Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz) Last Under: 2020( Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz)
Bryan: This week, we’re looking at three crews that could be used to win this division, and then also the Philadelphia Eagles are here for some reason. Wow, but the mighty have fallen; didn’t this squad win a Super Bowl a few years ago? We’re supposed to still be in some residual afterglow for Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman from 2017. Instead, Pederson’s out, Roseman’s seat is quite warm, and Eagles fans are rooting for Carson Wentz “re coming” from a paw hurt not to help turn the Eagles’ season around, but to play enough clicks that they get the first-round pick from the Colts rather than second-rounder. Season tickets still available, folks.
Andrew: Personally, I cannot wait to view the epic Jalen Hurts-Taysom Hill showdown in Week 11. That may be the only Eagles game I watch start-to-finish all year.
It’s weird, because on paper so much of this listing gazes solid. Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson on the offensive pipeline. Miles Sanders and Kerryon Johnson in the backfield. An alarmingly strong defensive line. The trouble is, if you take your commentary about the Monster being built for the 1970 s, the Eagles are developed for the 1920 s.
Bryan: In an epoch where so many teams have been willing to blow things up in the name of rebuilding, it’s kind of weird that the Eagles didn’t, right? Sure, they get rid of their manager coach and their starting quarterback, but the government has the offensive pipeline of a argue football team. It would seem if there was ever a time to go all in on not going all in, it’d be a year where you decided to eat $ 34 million in dead fund from your former franchise passer.
Andrew: My guess would be that they want to see what they actually have in Hurts, and you aren’t going to find that out if he’s flat on his back behind a bunch of Day 3 pickings and college free agent instead of Johnson, Brooks, and company. With the dead fund off the books after this year, if Hurts is the real bargain they could be in a position to argue quickly.
However, there is the teensy issue of a professional-caliber receiving corps, and the looming issue of age and hurt history for many of their top musicians. Kelce, Johnson, Zach Ertz, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Darius Slay are all the wrong side of 30, and a squad full of ex-servicemen coming off a 4-11-1 season isn’t exactly the stuff rebounds are traditionally made of.
Bryan: This line is asking if the Eagles are going to go at least 7-10. They might start 0-8! They may not win back-to-back games until December, when they ultimately get to play the rest of the NFC East in the strange backlogged schedule the NFL has given this department. Maybe Nick Sirianni has some magic in him, but that would require me, uh, knowing anything about Nick Sirianni. The one thing I do know about him is that he played rock, newspaper, scissors during his player interviews to judge … competitiveness, I believe. What, Tiddlywinks didn’t work due to social distancing? You know Bill Belichick is out there stimulating defensive linemen play a game of Twilight Imperium and McVay is dropping in Apex Legends with a pair of tiny slot receivers. Siranni’s Eagles look like the Soft touch of the division.
Andrew: The Eagles look like the sort of team that could be used to divide with the Monster, thump the Plane and Lions, and lose literally every other game they play. Oh, they’ll pick up another couple of wins because they have a competitive listing and bizarre things happen, but it’s way easier to find 10 damages on their schedule than it is to find seven wins. Under.
Bryan: The silver lining is they may be bad enough to get a Spencer Rattler type without needing that extra first-round pick from the Colts. Under.
Washington Football Team ( 8.5) Last Over: 2015( Jon Gruden, Kirk Cousins) Last Under: 2020( Ron Rivera, Alex Smith)
Andrew: Man, if merely sports predictions were really this straightforward. Here, we have a team that had the worst offense in the tournament, quarterbacked by not just one but two of the worst five qualifying quarterbacks in our tables. Despite that, a coach-and-four famed for getting great performance out of a strong front seven and not much else still dragged them to seven wins and a separation title while battling cancer. A better( or at least less incompetent) quarterback, a tutor who can now thankfully focus his full attention on his undertaking, and another year of suffer for the young defense should stimulate nine wins a lock, right? At least, that’s the assumption. If merely it was that simple.
Bryan: Wow, “straightforward” is not the word I’d use to describe forecast the 2021 Washington Football Team; they’re in the top tier of hardest squads to figure out for me. I don’t have any idea what to expect out of Ryan Fitzpatrick, and neither should anyone else; the man makes a living out of providing brief hope to franchises, signing a brand-new contract, and plummeting. That’s the lifecycle of Fitzmagic for you. The defensive line is great and is going to continue to be great, but pretty much every other position is a massive question mark. Not in a “there’s no knack here” sort of way, but in a “I have no idea what to expect here” sort of way.
Andrew: To was apparent, it’s the conjecture I was describing as straightforward. These things don’t ever proceed according to plan. As you rightly point out, there’s a huge amount of volatility to Washington. Defense is generally less consistent than offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick is generally less consistent than pretty much any quarterback not named Jameis Winston. I always think of Fitzpatrick as the quarterback you want if your team is likely to be bad: he’s good enough to let you evaluate the rest of your offense, he’ll win you some games by everything grouped together just long enough to do so, and it doesn’t matter that he’ll also lose you some plays by letting everything come unraveled at once. For a squad like Washington, with a potential premier defense, individual less volatile, who won’t singlehandedly win you games or lose you games, might have been a better fit.
Bryan: And Fitzpatrick’s just the tip of the iceberg there. I like Terry McLaurin, but I just got finished writing all of the various stat review articles this offseason, and Curtis Samuel might be the most headscratching receiver I’ve ever come across, finishing in the top 10 in receiving plus-minus but in the bottom 10 in both YAC + and average profundity of target, something which had never been done before. Half the offensive pipeline is currently on the COVID list, forcing Washington to sign players simply to run a training camp. Their tight terminate is a converted quarterback, though at least they have the best quarterback-to-tight end conversion in the conference, Jacksonville. Man, if it wasn’t for how legitimately great Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, and the rest of that pipeline is, I’d be super-pessimistic about Washington. As it is, I’m simply confused, which at least sets me in my consolation zone.
Andrew: Although I do have concerns about the offense, I’m more optimistic than you about the protection. William Jackson is a very good cornerback who has been obscured by playing in Cincinnati. I like the securities and Kendall Fuller. I’m not saying that’s a back four or five I’d want as the strength of my protection, but Rivera has dragged very strong performance out of far worse secondaries than this one. Jamin Davis should upgrade the linebacker corps significantly. It’ll be tough to improve on last season’s DVOA( third in the conference at -1 8.3% ), but I do think they have upgraded their personnel. They have done the same on offense, even though they are purely by virtue of not utilizing Dwayne Haskins and the not-quite-bionic Alex Smith.
Bryan: You’re doing a good job of describing the best-case scenario, and it’s one that’s wholly reasonable. You get the same Fitzpatrick that has shown up the last couple of years, the defense remains as ferocious as it was in 2020, you get improved receiving play from the adds-on of Samuel and Dyami Brown, and you get an 11 -6 crew that wins the division–deservedly so, this time–and thumps the Vikings or someone in the wild-card game, and then loses to an actual challenger in the divisional round.
On the other hand, you have the worst-case scenario, where Fitzpatrick reverts into Ryan Fitz-Six-Picks, year-to-year regression on the protection sends them plummeting down to average at best, and Rivera has to miss three or four plays because his unvaccinated crew is trying to kill their immunocompromised tutor. Washington loses 13 straight games in the middle of the season, goes 3-14, and gets the first overall pick to join a brand-new coach and a new franchise identity in 2022.
Andrew: COVID is definitely the wild card here, but that is inherently unpredictable. I don’t watch the defense refusing to median, save trauma, which is another possible wild card. I’m use the word “wild card” a lot here, and not by coincidence. Washington are the second-best team in the second-worst division. Nine wins is fine, and that’s an over. I won’t be scandalized if they finish anywhere from seven to 10 wins, which is right around the line, so I’m going to be a touching optimistic.
Bryan: I agree that Washington is the second-most-likely team to win the department, so we’re not miles apart here. We are, nonetheless, a few wins apart. I see seven is the median result for this team, with huge mistake bars on either side. 8.5 wins is just too rich for my blood; I’m blithely taking the under here.
Disagreement! At last-place! Bottle it. Save it. It’s a rare resource.
But wait, sports fans! There’s more Scramble coming your lane the coming week. For 2021, we’re splitting Bryan and Andrew’s normal 7,000 -word screeds into two bite-sized clumps passing on back-to-back days. Will Bryan and Andrew laud the Jets’ rebuild? Is Josh Allen for real? And just what frightful beast is leaving those footprints on the moor, leading to the death of Sir Charles Baskerville? Find the answers to these questions and fewer tomorrow; same Scramble time, same Scramble channel.
by ImNewAroundThe … // Aug 04, 2021 – 10:48 am
I think Giants and Foosball Team under and Cowboys and Eagles (!) over.
by trammo7 1 // Aug 04, 2021 – 11:11 am
I am not sure I ‘get’ all of the people down on Philly. Much of the dead weight from last season is go. They are very solid on both pipelines. Even is Hurts plays ‘OK’, simply eliminating some of the bad turnovers and sackings that Wentz took last year should be an improvement. I anticipate 7-10 is a very reachable record for the Eagles, maybe even 8-9.
by Yeizzo // Aug 04, 2021 – 11:53 am
WAS over and DAL under for sure, PHI and NYG look about right.
by Raiderjoe // Aug 04, 2021 – 12:54 pm
Nto easy division to predict. Kdid not get any se as on previews mafs or Football Outsiders Almanac yet. Too be concentrated on [?][?]. Will get into football at soem point perhaps period before fantsy draft.
Will root for Squirrels the most becuss of good defense and interesting to watch quarterback
by robbbbbb // Aug 04, 2021 – 1:34 pm
Wow. A reference to a twelve hour boardgame in a football clause. That’s nifty. That says something about the author, right there. I like it.
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