Predicting Every Team’s Record for the 2020 NFL Season

Here goes nothing: Conor Orr is back to look at each team’s 2020 schedule and project win totals for all 32 teams.

When friend and former Sports Illustrated teammate Jonathan Jones decided to abdicate the “predict all 256 games” throne back in 2018, I eagerly raised my hand. Jones, in an act of true camaraderie, warned me that this was a bad idea. He was stopping for a reason.

Some of us get blinded by love. Some of us by money. At the time, an ignorant 31-year-old Orr was blinded by potential pageviews and quote tweets. At the time, I couldn’t see the inevitably frustrating downside. The complications with my Excel spreadsheet. The first version where I had several teams going 16-0. The 31 missed calls from 790 AM Bull and the Mad Dog who demand to have me on their radio show to discuss why their perpetually middle-of-the-pack local team somehow finishes in the middle of the pack in this season’s projected standings. It’s aggravating. It’s a little stupid. But…

There is an inherent value in looking at teams through the lens of a bare spreadsheet. It’s easy to get caught up in a version of the NFL like we see on some daily NFL programming, where the hosts take turns each week saying that (insert one of the 32 teams) is going to be really good this year, so that when (insert every NFL team) has a good week, there is footage of the knowledgeable positivity. Excel is cold and detached. There are only 256 games and not every team can finish with a winning record.

So here goes nothing. These are the records we came up with after several iterations of predictions. I went through each team’s schedule in order to see how the rhythms of their season could play out instead of just sizing up the roster and deeming them, say, a 10-win team. If you bring this post up at the end of the year in a negative fashion, I will block you on Twitter, find your home address and sign you up for thousands of junk mailers.

AFC EAST

New England Patriots: 10-6
Miami Dolphins: 8-8
Buffalo Bills: 7-9
New York Jets: 6-10

I’m not sure what to make of my bullishness on Miami, honestly. The offensive line worries me and the them doesn’t have an A-plus blocking tight end to make up for any of the deficiencies. This is most certainly a work in progress. However, the Dolphins are solid through the middle of the defense and will be able to handle well what most of the offenses in the division do best. And their cornerback play on paper (the kind of paper that doesn’t include advanced coverage stats from 2019) should be superb. With the emergence of Brian Flores, I think the AFC East is the healthiest it’s been as a division in years. That doesn’t mean New England falters. It does mean that some strange things will happen, though. For example: I have the Jets splitting season series with the Bills and Patriots. I think we’ll see more splits than we have in years past with the pole position leader making up the difference on the out-of-conference schedule. I imagine Buffalo burning as I type this. I imagine my seat near the bar at Bar-Bill Tavern being roped off and I imagine Big Ditch Brewing Co. refusing to serve me any more (what a nightmare). What I don’t like for Buffalo is how their schedule dovetails into some pretty gnarly stretches, like Weeks 3-6 (Rams, at Raiders, at Titans, at Chiefs) then Weeks 8-14 (Patriots, Seahawks, at Cardinals, Chargers, at 49ers, Steelers). Those could be the kind of uphill climbs that blow up a season quickly.

AFC NORTH

Pittsburgh Steelers: 13-3
Baltimore Ravens: 12-4
Cleveland Browns: 9-7
Cincinnati Bengals: 2-14

I liked the Steelers more than I thought I would, though this is assuming a fully healthy and energized Ben Roethlisberger for the duration of the 2020 season. The same can be said about the Browns, who had 11 wins in my first cycle. In my initial run, I also found it hard to squeeze out a win for the Bengals, so Cincinnati did not register in the “W” column of my spreadsheet and thus did not factor into the computations (I have since reneged and given them victories against the Giants and Washington). It’s a historically difficult year to break in a rookie passer, especially when you’re a team whose infrastructure was so poor that you had the ability to pick No. 1 in the 2020 draft. Pittsburgh and Baltimore, meanwhile, have schedules that set up quite nicely. Should the Steelers survive that early stretch of games between late September and mid-October (Houston, at Tennessee, Philadelphia), they’ll be rolling into their first head-to-head matchup with the Ravens just before Halloween.

AFC SOUTH

Tennessee Titans: 10-6
Houston Texans: 9-7
Indianapolis Colts: 7-9
Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-15

I don’t think giving the Jaguars one win this season is an insult. After the release of Leonard Fournette on Monday, it seems like losing games might be part of the inevitable recalibration this team will undergo in 2021 (potentially with Trevor Lawrence and Josh McDaniels?!). I was surprised this exercise turned out the way it did because I like the Colts and expressly do not like the Texans in 2020. I think Houston is going to have an incredibly difficult time rebounding from both the embarrassing blown lead in the divisional round and the ouster of DeAndre Hopkins. And, outside of a date with Mike Zimmer, the beginning of the Colts’ schedule is incredibly fortuitous (at Jacksonville, Minnesota, New York Jets, at Chicago, at Cleveland, Cincinnati). Even if Jacoby Brissett was still the starting quarterback, that’s a team that could easily roll into its bye week 5-1.

AFC WEST

Kansas City Chiefs 10-6
Los Angeles Chargers: 9-7
Denver Broncos: 5-11
Las Vegas Raiders: 5-11

There are people who like the Denver Broncos way, way more than I do. In fact, according to the William Hill betting house, the “Broncos’ over (of 7.5 wins) has attracted 89% of the total dollars wagered, which leads all NFL teams. Denver’s over has captured 84% of the tickets as well, which only trails Buffalo over 9 (93%), Arizona over 7 (90%) and Seattle over 9.5 (85%).” I thought Drew Lock was on the right path with Rich Scangarello calling the plays, and I’ll need Pat Shurmur to prove me wrong before I jump on board. Sample size is a dangerous thing, though I understand the Broncos’ responsiveness. Lock had a relatively low bad throw percentage of 17.8 last year over five games and 156 attempts (for perspective, randomly selected quarterbacks Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers had BT%s of 20.3 and 21.2, respectively). On to more important matters: I have the Chiefs losing to the Chargers (twice!), Ravens, Raiders and Buccaneers. While it’s entirely possible they are more dominant than they were a year ago because of the condensed offseason and the health of Patrick Mahomes, teams in their vicinity have now had two years to draft ancillary talent that should help slow them down.

NFC EAST

Philadelphia Eagles: 11-5
Dallas Cowboys: 9-7
New York Giants: 5-11
Washington: 3-13

News of Jalen Reagor’s injury came out after my projections, and while it doesn’t seem like he’ll miss too much time—it actually seems to line up with the timeline Odell Beckham’s rookie year training camp injury—it’s going to be enough to throw off some of the plans Philadelphia had for multi-position utilization. Helping matters is that two of the first three opponents they’ll face sans-Reagor are Washington and the Bengals, projected to be two of the worst teams in football this year. Week 4’s Sunday night date with the 49ers should be a nice test to see where the team is. Down the final four-game stretch of last season, with an anonymous cast of skill-position players, Carson Wentz completed 67.6% of his passes for 1,199 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions (100.8 QB rating). While he took significantly more hits over the course of 2019 and his bad throw percentage actually rose, I don’t think it was indicative of a regression, but merely different roster circumstances married with a willingness to attempt some more high-risk throws. Why don’t I like the Cowboys as much? For starters, their opening four weeks are brutal, with games against the Falcons, Seahawks, Rams and Browns. There are some friendly pockets, but maybe not enough for a new head coach to establish a groove.

NFC NORTH

Green Bay Packers: 10-6
Minnesota Vikings: 8-8
Chicago Bears: 6-10
Detroit Lions: 4-12

I am admittedly missing the Lions swoon of late. In looking at their schedule, outside of their dates with the Bears, a matchup with the Jaguars and a second gift against Washington, I’m struggling to come up with a ton of games where they’ll be favored or, really, overwhelmingly competitive. I just don’t see where the wins come from. I’m disappointingly low on the Vikings and am begrudgingly accepting the Packers as the winner of the division. This is one of the divisions I was least happy about, but I wanted to remain closely aligned with the spreadsheet predictions and not alter the outcome just to achieve something I wanted. Green Bay still boasts a blue-chip offensive line, a top-five running back, a top-five wide receiver and some developing momentum at the No. 2 pass rusher spot. That is good enough, it seems, to squeak out another division title.

NFC SOUTH:

New Orleans Saints: 14-2
Atlanta Falcons: 10-6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 10-6
Carolina Panthers: 3-13

The NFC is (again) startlingly good. The NFC South and the NFC West are the two strongest divisions in football, followed by the AFC North. This season will be a dogfight and I imagine a very competitive playoff team coming from the No. 2 slot in this division. I am also projecting a Falcons resurgence, giving them the slight edge over Tampa Bay thanks to divisional records. This liking I’ve taken to the Falcons comes at a cost: a woefully underrated Carolina team that I just couldn’t give too many wins to over the course of this season.

NFC WEST

Seattle Seahawks: 12-4
Los Angeles Rams: 11-5
Arizona Cardinals: 9-7
San Francisco 49ers: 8-8

Putting the 49ers at 8-8 doesn’t look that bad, until you realize it’s last place in this division. I am admittedly caught in the offseason trap that is the Cardinals. They are the trendiest team in football this offseason and my hope is that they finally have the personnel to upgrade their already substantial lead over the NFL in four-wide sets. Like the Ravens last year, Arizona might end up being the kind of outlier that is just too difficult to defend with the standard limitations of your NFL roster, which will help them conjure up some victories. I still like the 49ers; who doesn’t? However, plenty of teams have missed the playoffs after a damning Super Bowl loss like this one, and, as we saw in Seattle, Jacksonville, Chicago and any of the other places where excellent defenses emerged over the course of the last decade, it’s incredibly difficult to keep a unit like that together while playing at a high level.

source https://www.si.com/nfl/2020/09/02/every-team-season-record-predictions

from Blogger http://samueldpoetry.blogspot.com/2020/09/predicting-every-teams-record-for-2020.html


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