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Got Eagles Over 9.5 -130 early May and I would be surprised if they didn't win double-digit games this year.
Quote Originally Posted by JerryWrasse:

Was wondering when you were going to show up. Thanks for posts and good luck this year. 

Thanks, Jerry! Much success this year!


2019 Schedule

Now it's getting hideous for Jon Gruden and his team. We would expect the strength of their plan to regress, but it's not getting more comfortable. According to current Pinnacle win totals, the Oakland Raiders are projected to play the third-toughest schedule at .5224. Using 2018 EPA per offensive play numbers, their program projects to be the 7th-hardest. It makes sense when looking at their program. Playing four games against the Chiefs and Bolts does a lot. Teams like the Vikings, Jets, Lions, and Packers will likely feature improved passing attacks. We should also expect a guy like Broncos coach Vic Fangio to get the best out of Carr.

But it gets even uglier. At 32,000, the Raiders will travel the most miles of all teams. As a team from the Pacific time zone, they are going to play six road games at 1 PM ET. From weeks three to eight, the Raiders will play five straight games outside of California. The NFL scheduling committee crushed the Raiders.

Oakland Raiders 2019: Better Prepare for Vegas

I think the Jets and the Raiders make up for a very cool comparison. Both teams won four matchups last year, but enter the 2019 season under entirely different circumstances. The Jets have a quarterback who enters year two and has a lot of upside in an improved environment whereas Derek Carr has no hidden potential left. The Jets also have a lot of positive regression going for them like a better record in close games. The third argument is the schedule. Gang Green is expected to face one of the most relaxed programs in the league, whereas Oakland will deal with one of the hardest.

I can hardly see the Raiders win more than six games and I would go with seven wins as their absolute ceiling if they land on the positive side of variance. The Raiders look like a 5-11 to 6-10 team on paper, and I would lean towards the under on their win total of 6. But the timing for the best market entry is already gone as markets have bet this total down from 6.2 to as low as 5.8 now. Maybe the over gets some money entering the market with more positive Antonio Brown news the upcoming days. At a better price, I would consider a play on the under.

However, the Raiders shouldn't do anything this year. Oakland's goal should be to get ready for Las Vegas in 2020. Maybe they will also think about a new quarterback.



The scheme of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther relies on creating pressure with four rushers while playing disciplined coverage on the backend. That wasn't a good recipe in 2018. The Raiders [link from unapproved source] but ranked dead-last in creating pressure. With such a bad pass rush, it could have been a smart idea to call more blitzes to create pressure via the scheme. But Guenther refused it - the Raiders had the fourth-lowest blitz rate. And they got shredded.

The only additions to the worst defensive line in 2018 are rookie defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. Guenther is hoping to get a second-year leap out of defensive tackles PJ Hall and Maurice Hurst. The defense looks improved at linebacker where Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall are joining Tahir Whitehead in 4-3 base sets.  Veteran experience and communication ability will always help, but Burfict and Marshall aren't blessed with great athleticism or coverage ability at this stage of their respective careers.

The secondary is filled with question marks. On paper, the Raiders improved their middle-of-the-field-coverage with Lamarcus Joyner and added mad-tackling rookie Johnathan Abraham for the box. But their cornerback group remains a problem. Their highest-graded cornerback - Gareon Conley - ranked 76th among 125 qualifying cornerbacks. Daryl Worley (112th), Nevin Lawson (108th) and Nick Nelson (124th) don't keep opposing offensive coordinators up at night, either. I see this defense slightly improved due to the linebackers and the Joyner addition, but the pass rush remains a work in progress, and the cornerbacks should once again be overmatched against a tight schedule.


The Former Incredible Offensive Line is Incognito

I didn't think the Raiders offensive design was terrible last year. But if you don't have a quarterback who can execute your offense and preferably checks it down to avoid a sack, you are in trouble. Carr had his best season when the offensive line was the best in the league, and he could throw from clean platforms. As soon as he feels pressure, he gets frantic.

In my 2018 Raiders preview, I criticized the hiring of offensive line coach Tom Cable who his hands down the worst position coach in the NFL based on his track records. Cable left the Seahawks, and suddenly they had solid line play. Cable came to Oakland, and suddenly a top-five unit turned into a below-average group. Kolton Miller was a disaster as a rookie, giving up 16 sacks himself, according to Pro Football Focus. He never was an excellent prospect coming out of college.

Miller will start at left tackle, and Oakland shouldn't be optimistic about a massive improvement, especially not under Cable. The Raiders made Trent Brown the highest-paid tackle, but he was only the 59th-graded tackle out of 85 by PFF. Their most significant reasoning was that he benefited a lot from Tom Brady and a quick passing game and didn't play well on a per-play basis.

In a shocking move, the Oakland Raiders traded away left guard Kelechi Osemele, one of the league's best at his position until he played under Cable. His replacement is Richie Incognito, a former Pro Bowler who will miss the first two weeks of 2019 due to a suspension. Right, guard Gabe Jackson will miss at least half of the season due to injury. Center Rodney Hudson will probably be the lone quality starter in week one. For a quarterback who gets frantic and seeks his check-down with the slightest sign of pressure, this is a nightmare setup.

Trading for wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is coming off his least efficient season, was one of the biggest storylines during the off-season, but it's uncertain whether he is going to be a full go for the Raiders. Brown dealt with a foot issue and left training camp because he is not allowed to play with his standard helmet. He only practiced with the team twice thus far. And he also goes from Ben Roethlisberger to Derek Carr. Without Brown, that would leave the Raiders with speedsters JJ Nelson, Tyrell Williams, and rookie slot receiver Hunter Renfrow. You could dream of a better wide receiving depth chart. Oakland also needs to replace 101 targets, 68 receptions, 896 yards, and six touchdowns from tight end Jared Cook. The 6'2" Darren Waller, who had a good camp, is the frontrunner for the job. However, Waller has 18 receptions through his four-year NFL career.

Without Antonio Brown, this offense looks worse on paper than its 2018 version. With him, I doubt that they are vastly improved.


Oakland Raiders 2018 Stats Review:

Record: 4-12

Pythagorean Wins:3.7

ATS: 6-10; average line 6.0

Over/Under: 6-9-1; average total 47.6

Close Games Record: 3-3

Turnover Differential: -0.4

Adjusted Games Lost (injuries):81.7 (19th)

Offense: 25th in EPA per play (-0.041);  5.52 yards per play

Defense: 32nd in EPA per play (+0.165);  6.44 yards per play

The Bad and the Ugly

The only reason the Oakland Raiders didn't hold the first overall pick in the 2019 draft was their head-to-head win against the Arizona Cardinals. When studying a 4-12 team, we would usually find substantial positive regression factors, as we did with the Jets. But not so much with the 2018 Raiders. They were just atrocious and didn't underperform by a lot against the second-hardest schedule (.547). Their Pythagorean win expectation of 3.7 was the second-lowest number in the league, and they had a record of 3-3 in close games. Their injury luck was slightly below average, and their turnover margin of -0.4 was not extraordinarily bad.

Winning four games or less in consecutive seasons is as hard as winning twelve or more. Based on that fact alone, the Raiders should somehow improve. But there aren't a lot of indicators pointing towards a massive improvement. Their historically weak defense should improve, but the room for improvement is limited due to their schedule (we will get to that).

They also ranked 25th in offensive EPA per play and offense is more sticky from year to year than defense - especially when the quarterback remains the same. As much as he tries to be that guy on Hard Knocks, Derek Carr isn't a competent signal-caller. He isn't even average. He had one good season in a great environment, that's it. In what was supposed to be a friendlier environment for the quarterback, Derek Carr finished 27th in QBR out of 33 qualifying players.

Except for some more defensive contribution, the Raiders can't count on lousy luck to shift to their side.

Quote Originally Posted by Silverstones:

Put any QB on a good team  in a division with 3 non competitive teams you only need to win 2 home games  Any QB in this situation will keep showing up in these Championship games 

Brady's the only wild card on how bad he will play  Mark Sanchez Jake Plummer both outplayed and beat him on weak teams 

He never outplayed Eli  2 super bowls vs Giants 0-13 -1 int  Giants were a 500 team 

The 1st SB Brady threw for 120 yards  Patriots won on 3 turnovers by defense  
The Atlanta and Seattle game 4 ints including a pick 6    

The Carolina SB they beat a bad Carolina team by 3 points and Brady threw a pick in 4th quarter almost blew game , again the other teams QB was better than him 

Patriot 14-5 without  him with basically high school QB's this is the easiest team to play QB ,  if he retired 5 years ago they probably would have won more .


Good luck LC!
They say the good teams have good QBs, optimally on a rookie contract. From 2007-2017, 22 running backs have been drafted in the first round. Two of those teams who drafted one made the Super Bowl:

2008 Steelers: Rashard Mendenhall was on IR

2015 Broncos: Knowshon Moreno left Denver in 2013

It's 2018. You do everything possible to increase your pass efficiency on both sides of the ball.

If the Giants took Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen, they most likely wouldn't be in a position to draft Justin Herbert in the top-3.
Quote Originally Posted by Bobbys_pregame:

If not for this rookie, Giants wouldn't even have a single win and their losing average would have been quite damming.

Absolute stud.
Currently weighs 236lbs.
May get even heavier making him a human wrecking ball.

Without Barkley they wouldn't have torched an awful Texans secondary with Odell and Shepard? 
It's mind-blowing to me how you can still defend this pick after watching Eli Manning for six weeks. This pick didn't make sense at the time and all the analytics guys got proven right. 

Saquon might be that "generational talent" and end up as the best RB to ever play the game, but it doesn't matter unless you get the QB position solved. See LaDainian Tomlinson in his first three years.

You need an RB who can catch the ball. The rest is coaching, scheme, play-calling and offensive line play. As long as you can get guys like Kareem Hunt, Jordan Howard, Phillip Lindsay, Alvin Kamara or James Conner in round three or later, there is no reason to grab this position earlier.
Congrats, scal! Had Browns -3 as well. Bad pick in hindsight and we got extremely lucky, but that's variance. Makes up for an unlucky loss in the future. Or in the past, lol.
Thanks, gentlemen! Wish you good luck this year 

If someone is interested, you can get my full 271-page NFL Preview 2018 now at suuma dot eu -> e-Book.

It includes:

-Detailed previews of all 32 teams
-Deep dive into starting formations on offense and defense
-SOS predictions
-Win projections & season win total leans

Each chapter also includes a stats&odds-sheet with 2017 efficiency numbers, expected scoring, a regression tool box and schedule rankings. For instance, I took the current season win totals from Pinnacle and calculated SOS based on the current market views.

Have a good weekend and enjoy football!
FWIW: while doing research on Matt LaFleur for my Titans preview, I've found out that some famous OCs like McVay, K. Shanahan, Andy Reid, P. Shurmur, Todd Haley or Bruce Arians all struggled in their first year as a play-caller. I am assuming it's important to get a routine for situational awareness.

The floor is very high this year

Even in a tough NFC, the Atlanta Falcons are a clear-cut playoff team to me on paper. I predict an average schedule overall and an easy one for their offense. I expect them to compete with the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South title, even though I still have the Saints a bit higher. But the Saints play a brutal schedule. The Falcons ranked 3rd in adjusted games lost for both offense and defense so they had quite the injury luck. This might regress a bit this year so don't be surprised if a few more injuries are going to pop up. 

My win projection for them is in the 10 to 12-win range. As always - injuries can destroy any team’s season at any time, but it would surprise me if the Falcons finished worse than 10-6 which got to be their floor this year. Their win total is listed at either 9 or 9.5. Pinnacle has Over 9 -130, 5dimes has Over 9.5 +102 My lean is a play on the Over here.

Falcons are +100 to make the playoffs at 5dimes and I really like the value. They are around 22-1 to win the Super Bowl and around 10-1 / 11-1 to win the NFC.  If you believe in the Falcons as a playoff-term, there will be possibilities for hedging out of a 22-1 ticket.



The defense is too talented

The Falcons defense has a lot of potential going into the year. On the interior defensive line, Grady Jarrett has turned into an absolute stud. Rookie DT Deadrin Senat should bring a lot of athleticism to the table, but it’s tough to predict how many snaps he is going to get. Jack Crawford is the projected starter next to Jarrett. If the Falcons get any pass rush out of the other guys it would be great, otherwise Jarrett is the lone force after the departure of Dontari Poe. Vic Beasley led the league in sacks and forced fumbles in 2016, but he played a much more versatile role at linebacker in 2017 and started the season with a harmstring injury that made him miss a lot of snaps and even two full games. Head coach Dan Quinn already announced that Beasley will move back to defensive end in full-time capacity. Beasley focusing on rushing the passer with second-year rusher Takkarist McKinley coming from the other side is a good idea. Whether or not McKinley is going to get the majority of pass rushing snaps is up in the air, but a rotation of Brooks Reed, Derrick Shelby and McKinley is as solid as it gets opposite of Beasley.

At linebacker, Deion Jones is one of the best in the league when it comes to coverage and De’Vondre Campbell is also decent. Both guys possess speed and athleticism. The biggest reason why I am thrilled about their defense aside of Beasley returning to defensive end is rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver. I don’t know if you are familiar with the YouTube channel of Brett Kollmann. He does tape analysis on NFL players and College prospects. Sometimes I completely disagree with his takes, but he still put up good content. For Kollmann, Oliver is the best cornerback in the class and even while we don’t have to agree with that take, he still makes a good case. Oliver has a rare combination of speed, size (6’1”) and length. His arm length is outstanding – they measure 33.5 inches and in the past 20 years, only six (!) cornerback prospects measured longer. He brings a lot of athleticism – he is a former Arizona state champion in 110m and 400m hurdles. 

I am banking on him as a starter on the outside opposite of stud Desmond Trufant, because Oliver matches up well with the big-bodied receivers in the NFL. This move would allow 5’10” Robert Alford to move to the inside and play in Nickel. Brian Poole and former Cardinal Justin Bethel will see dime snaps. Strong safety Ricardo Allen is good in coverage while 2016 first-round pick Keanu Neal really isn’t yet. Overall, this defense is decent and has top-10 potential, especially if Oliver can establish himself as an early starter on the outside. Dan Quinn and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel bring experience and awareness. However, the Falcons defense probably won’t face the easiest schedule as I predict it to be the 10th-toughest.


Matt Ryan will have an MVP-caliber season

Steve Sarkisian is still the offensive coordinator, and no one can explain why. He is also the biggest question mark going into the season, because the rest of the offense is pretty much set. Will he learn from his mistakes? Will he adjust his scheme? Will he show better situational awareness? All that remains to be seen. The regression curve can only go up in Atlanta. Matt Ryan will have more “luck” and the receivers are going to drop less than in 2017.

The offensive line is set. The projected starters from left to right are Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Brandon Fusco and Ryan Schraeder. Last season the line had a significant problem at the guard position. RG Wes Schweitzer couldn’t fill in for the retired Chris Chester and when LG Andy Levitre went down in week 13, backup Ben Garland completely destroyed the foundation of the line. Former Niners-lineman Brandon Fusco was signed in free agency. He has never been a good pass protector, but he might still be an upgrade from Schweitzer. And furthermore, if either guard gets hurt, the first replacement won’t be Ben Garland. In the first round of the draft I really expected the Falcons to draft guard Will Hernandez to round out the line. But their alternative wasn’t a bad choice either, which brings us to the receiving corps.

I absolutely loved the move of picking Calvin Ridley, because it is the perfect landing spot for both sides. Ridley possesses great route running, deep speed and is a mismatch on short and underneath routes. Every scout saw him as a guy who will be a playmaker right out of the gate, even though his upside isn’t expected to be up to the moon. The only knock on him was his inability to get off press coverage. But in Atlanta, he is going to be the WR2 opposite of Julio Jones, which is excellent. He is going to see a lot of CB2s this year and if a defense is willing to stop both guys, they better have two good cornerbacks who can play press coverage. It also allows Mohamed Sanu to be moved across the formation to create mismatches – well, if Sarkisian moves him around to create mismatches. 

The tandem of Davonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is a major part of the offense but they had a “down year”, because they took part in the drop / failed receptions festival. I am also expecting positive regression here. At tight end, Austin Hooper is the clear No. 1 going into 2018 and while he showed promise in his second pro season, he needs to work on his consistency – we talked about the two plays against the Dolphins and Panthers. If we put everything together, this offense is clearly top-10 material on paper. If Steve Sarkisian gets his act together, they will be one of the best offenses in the league next season and Matt Ryan is primed for an MVP-caliber season.

Fortunately for them, they don’t play a tough schedule on offense as I predict it to be the 2nd-easiest based on my current Power Rating. They finished third in the NFC South last year, so they get to play the Packers at Lambeau but the Cardinals at home, so unlike the Saints, the Falcons avoid the defenses of Minnesota and Los Angeles. Aside of the Eagles, the NFC East is everything but famous for their defenses as of now. The Panthers and Buccaneers secondaries don’t match up well with them.



Regression was inevitable

I was looking for a word to describe the Falcons’ 2017 campaign and here is what I came up with: weird. Their season was weird. They won games they were supposed to lose and lost games they were supposed to win. In 2017, against the Lions and Saints, the Falcons went 2-0 when throwing three or more interceptions – all other teams went 1-31. They also went 1-0 in a game at Seattle in which they had less than 100 rush yards, less than 200 passing yards and conceded more than 30 points. The rest of the league went 0-19. Well, teams are 6-636 in this case since 1989. And then, on the flip side, they lost games against the Bills, Dolphins and Panthers which they could have or rather should have won. And those three games pretty much sum their season up as they were highly efficient on a yards-per-play basis, but they were completely inefficient in terms of scoring-based outcomes – this is what you see in the stats sheet above. And that’s why I kept saying they weren’t a good playoff team last year. 

Let’s dive into the numbers: Atlanta’s offense ranked 3rdin Net Yards Per Pass Attempt and therefore 3rdin Yards Per Play. But they ranked just 12thin passer rating and 10thin Pass DVOA. On defense, it was the same story: They ranked 9thin Net Yards Per Pass Attempt and 13thin Yards Per Play. However, they ranked 20thin Passer Rating and 19thin Pass DVOA. They couldn’t turn their efficiency in yardage into scoring-based efficiency. You can also recognize that when studying the Expected Scoring table. Based on metrics, they should have scored 24.1 offensive points per game but scored only 20.8.

That’s why they were still inefficient and finished 12thin my overall ranking. What were the reasons for it? First of all, Matt Ryan was sensational, but he was also in a crazy regression season and his supporting cast showed issues that haven’t been there in 2016. He led all Quarterbacks in tipped interceptions and he had a stunning six of them! The Falcons receiving corps also had a lot of failed receptions like drops on accurate throws. According to Pro Football Focus, Matt Ryan was among the best quarterbacks in turnover-worthy throws. He just had bad luck - it’s what we call variance.

It also didn’t help that first-year NFL offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian struggled with play-calling and situational awareness. Gone were the creative play-action plays by Kyle Shanahan, arrived has a more conservative drop-back offense. While I was watching the Bills and Dolphins games again before writing this chapter, I had the feeling that Steve Sarkisian is a casual Madden player who randomly chooses between the three plays provided by “Ask Madden”. 

To demonstrate the problems explained, let’s take a look at the Bills, Dolphins and Panthers games that perfectly illustrate what I am saying. Thanks to a fumble return touchdown and a few exceptional plays by Tyrod Taylor, the Bills led 23-17. With 40 seconds left, the Falcons were facing a 4th& 1 at the BUF14 after Sarkisian refused to run the ball or give Ryan short options on 3rddown. On 4thdown, the Falcons didn’t run a fullback dive, a QB sneak or spread the field out to create mismatches in the short area. Sarkisian called an under-center pass in 12 personnel with the tight end, fullback and running back being in pass protection. Only two receivers ran routes and neither had the name Julio Jones. Both routes were covered, the pass to Taylor Gabriel went incomplete – game, set match.

Against the Dolphins, the Falcons led 17-0 at halftime just to let the Fins come back, taking over with a 20-17 lead late in the game. Once again, the Falcons marched downfield and had a 1st& 10 at the MIA26 with 47 seconds and two timeouts left. TE Austin Hooper ran a post route from inside the right number to the MIA8. Ryan delivered a perfect ball into his hands, but he couldn’t haul it in with Codrea Tankersley in his back and the ball popped into the hands of safety Reshad Jones – game, set, match. At Carolina, the Falcons outgained their divisional rival by 2.5 yards per pass and 24.6 in passer rating, but two crucial plays didn’t go their way. Right before halftime, the Falcons were at the CAR49 and Matt Ryan was looking for Austin Hooper over the middle, but he fell down on his route and Mike Adams returned the easy interception into Falcons territory. The Panthers scored a touchdown and made it 14-10 before halftime. Later in the game while facing a 4th& 7 at the CAR39, Ryan went deep to a wide-open Julio Jones in the end zone, but Jones dropped the easy touchdown reception. Atlanta still went 10-6 because of the other three weird wins described. And how did the Falcons season end? By terrible play-calling inside the Eagles red zone at the end of the divisional playoffs. A classic Sarkisian. Rant over.

Since 2010, there have been three qualifying quarterbacks with a positive DVOA under pressure over a season:

Josh McCOwn 2013
Tom Brady 2017
Case Keenum 2017

When you consider that the Vikings offense ranked 28th in pressure rate, it's even more fascinating.
FYI: Jags are -3.5 favorites.
Let's not overreact to the Jason Verrett injury. He would have been a nice bonus and everyone wanted to see him on the field. But the [link from unapproved source] already had three cornerbacks who ranked in the top-15 by [link from unapproved source] in 2017. Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams and Desmond King are excellent.
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