NFL Mock Draft guru Xavier Cromartie and I (RC) recently published a daily series we do about this time every year – a computer simulation of the upcoming NFL season based on our inputs on the talent levels of the rosters, the schedule challenge/interpretations, etc.
Now, we are publishing our annual post-simulation chat about each division in the NFL -- looking at our differences and asking various questions about teams in the division. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we’re far apart.
We’ll be publishing our chat, done via email, division-by-division each day and soon after we’ll be publishing our ‘Top 3’ over/under win total bets with a fictitious $1,000 to spend on the three teams and seeing how we do after the season. We’ve both been ‘over/under’ winners for a couple of years now…you could make money following our ideas. Or just sit back and enjoy the free discussion and debate of ideas.
Please note, we were emailing back and forth. There might/will be typos, grammar things, abbreviations…but they’re limited, and you’ll be able to follow just fine, but note this is the raw transcript of our discussions…
AFC-S (XC) W L .PCT
x-IND … 10 - 6 = 0.625
HOU … 9 - 7 = 0.563
JAX … 8 - 8 = 0.500
TEN … 7 - 9 = 0.438
AFC South (RC)
JAC … 11 - 5 = 0.688
HOU … 10 - 6 = 0.625
IND … 9 - 7 = 0.563
TEN … 8 - 8 = 0.500
RC: We are +/- one win/loss on every team in the AFC South except one -- the Jacksonville Jaguars. You have them a respectable 8-8 and I have them winning the South, a #2 AFC seed at 11-5.
My basic case is simple...
Consider the 2017 and 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars (a team considered 'the future' after 2017, and their Final Four appearance in the playoffs)...
-- In 2017 and 2018, a top five defense -- this is one of the five best defense in the league. I'd argue with any offense at all/no Bortles this is a top 1-3 defense.
-- In 2017, unstoppable run game -- everyone knew it was coming and the still led the league in rushing. A good-to-great O-Line and Leonard Fournette, one of the three best RBs in the league when healthy. -- In 2018, Fournette was hurt right away and gone for like 10 weeks. One by one the O-Line got injured until they literally had all starters hurt/missing at one point. Their top OL (Cam R) was out from Week 3 on.
-- In 2017 and 2018...the worst QB play in the league. Period. And still nearly got to the Super Bowl in 2017 season.
You take a top 1-5 defense and put it with a top run game and now add a better/plausible QB...and I think they are closer to being one of the five best teams in the NFL than a 'missed the playoffs' group. You see them as the quintessential 8-8 squad.
Could you see the 2019 or 2020 Jags making a 2017-like run with this group?
Bonus question (if you're still watching)
Also, do you think the Jags owner Shahid Khan is about to pull two miracles by 2020 end...win the AFC South again and put Vince McMahon on his ass in the wrestling business? If I were to short a stock it would be WWE, because I think Khan's (and Cody Rhodes') AEW just landed the first uppercut this weekend with their first PPV as a fully formed company -- one of the best PPV's I've seen aside from Gargano-Ciampa NXTs. Did you see All-In/what do you think of the WWE-AEW war under way?
XC: I'll agree that the Jaguars are still top-five in defensive talent. But the 2017 defense was significantly better. That team was built like all the Ravens teams that tried to minimize Flacco and let the run game and defense grind out a win. Bortles wasn't good in 2017 nor any other year, but saying that he was the worst QB that year is an exaggeration. He played the game-manager role. I'll also note that 2017 was the year that the Colts were without Andrew Luck, and so the division was easier (2-0 vs Colts). In 2018, the Jags had a top-five defense and won only five games. Their 2017 season was an aberration.
Running is what teams do when they can't pass. All running games are pretty similar. I'll say that Ryquell Armstead should give the Jags a Fournette-like RB when Fournette gets hurt again, but I don't really care about running games. What matters is how good Nick Foles really is. I have him ranked as the #22 QB with this offense. He's a 30-year-old QB who has 44 career starts. He had one of the all-time hot streaks in 2013, but that's not who he really is. I think it's like upgrading from Blake Bortles to Derek Carr. It's better but it's not good enough. I think that they can win 8-9 games and maybe backdoor into the playoffs, but I don't think that they're a top team.
I think that some wrestling fans want AEW to succeed. Long ago, WWE (formerly WWWF) broke away from the NWA because the money is better in the Northeast. I feel that all of the failed major Southern-based promotions thereafter, from the NWA to JCP to WCW to TNA/Impact, were build on resentment of WWE and Northeastern culture. AEW is doing the same thing, but the Khan money can keep it going for a long time. I think that ECW and ROH were built on a better foundation as a superior in-ring artistic product than WWE. WWE's performance-art quality peaked during the Kurt Angle era (2000-2006) when it absorbed all of the major talent at the time. But WWE has always ignored ring talent in favor of impressive physical size. If AEW properly utilizes the available talent in the US, Canada, and Japan, then it can succeed.
RC: It's fair to say Foles is #22. I'd have him higher because I believe he could've been great if given the full chance -- you don't do what he did in 2013 and 2017 without possessing some skills. If not for his Jeff Fisher stint he'd 22-11 as a reg. season starter. Since his rookie year (minus Rams yr.) his starting record is 21-6. 25-8 including playoffs. it;s the craziest thing...the NFL fell all over itself trying to find successful QBs...and then they almost run Foles out of the league despite him winning in difficult circumstances.
what else is crazy is Andrew Luck is just 6 mos. younger than Foles. My how time flies. Foles feels old and Luck somehow seems 'fresh'.
I could see the Jags going on a tear if Foles is more middle of the pack/savvy veteran...like 11-12 wins, but I could also see 8-9 wins and no playoffs if things don't click early.
Before Cam Robinson went down last year...3-1 start to the season and ass-whooped the Patriots -- with no Fournette or Mq. Lee (not that he's a big deal) or a real TE. The line started to die and jags lost 10 of their next 12 -- one of their two wins shutting out Andrew Luck in Indy in a key Week 13 game.
I think, if relatively healthy, this 2019 Jags team can be better than the 2017 or 2018 (early) team -- and that makes them a bit of sleeping giant.
Also consider the schedule -- because they were bad last year, the rotational two opponents they got from last place in other divisions..at Cincy and host the Jets. If they go 3-3 in conference and 2-0 vs. CIN-NYJ...I need three wins of the other 8 games to beat any 7.5 win total 'overs' (and JAC will be one of my three o/u bets for 2019 when we get to that segment). Three wins and at OAK, TB among the teams in those other 8 games.
I think the Jags could win the AFC North if two early season things happen -- (1) beat KC at Jacksonville Week 1 (likely less Tyreek) and (2) get out to at least 3-2 through Week 5. If you told me they got out 3-2 through five games, I'd love them making the playoffs.
This is a tough division. If Tennessee is the worst...it ain't bad. Is Tennessee the best last place team in a division...or is it an NFC West team? Do you give Tennessee any hope to be the shocker team in the AFC South? Three 9-7 season in a row for the Titans...and they just don't feel like a 'winning record' team.
*I just watched WWE Raw's opening segment to see what they'd pull to compete with the AEW buzz/momentum occurring...and it was possibly the dumbest opener in recent weeks/months, which is par for their course the past few months/years. Vince McMahon is going to have a hard time not getting his XFL killed in a year flat and then his baby/WWE might be cut in half in a year at the rate their TV ratings and live attendance is going. What a mess.
XC: The Jags' schedule is hard to predict. I gave them a strong 6-2 home record even though most of those games are against good teams. They should go 3-0 against TEN, NYJ, and TB. But the other five are KC, NO, HOU (London), LAC, and IND. Going 3-2 against them would be an accomplishment. They could lose them all and be 3-5 at home. They got two road wins from me but it could be four or five. They're too volatile to bet on. If you bet on them you're hoping for the high-end scenario to play out.
I think that the Lions are the best last-place team in a division, but they are pretty similar to the Titans. The Titans need to be worried about whether Marcus Mariota is going to be their future QB. He has played poorly the last two seasons. It seems like they shifted the offensive focus to Derrick Henry because they know Mariota isn't getting the job done. Maybe the injuries are getting to him. The Titans' roster overall is decent. They can be in the mix if Mariota returns to fit form, but I'm not projecting him to do so. I'm not sure that the Titans will win any of their road games. There's too much competition in the AFC.
WWE stock is dropping lately along with the broad market, but it's not a long-term concern unless it drops below $59. WWE has been doing dumb stuff for decades but it still makes money.
RC: I'm high on the Jags. You've like the Colts back to last year. Tennessee keeps going 9-7 and we don't care. Which leaves Houston -- they keep winning the division and yet here we are not caring again. We give them respect but not the ultimate respect. Three division wins the past 4 years. Are we not respecting that trend enough...not respecting the team, the staff, etc.? I never pick them to win this division and yet they always seem to. Why do you think we tend to put Houston in the background for the AFC South?
XC: I don't think that I'm disrespecting the Texans. I had them as a Wild Card last season, and that's what they were. 9-7 is a good record; it puts them in the tiebreaker for the Wild Card again this season. They're a consistent 9-10 win type of team. I'm rating Deshaun Watson as a pretty good QB. There are too many good teams in the AFC. Their two direct threats in my projections are the Colts and Browns. I think that the Colts are a top-5 team in the league, and so they'll win the division. The Colts had a 10-1 streak down the stretch last season, including a road win @HOU and a dominant win @HOU in the playoffs (before losing @KC). The Browns have Baker Mayfield, who should step up as one of the top QBs in the league, and so it's hard to leave them out of the playoffs. The Texans have a shot if their rookies play well, but I didn't really care for the players they took.
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