(Note: Changed title from "Bragging Rights". I think ultimately I don't have anything to brag about yet, but this is rather more about how lazy the "experts" are.)
If you've read any of my posts on here, you know that I've written quite a bit previewing the 2011 season. And while most of them were on the Chiefs, I also did one on which teams I bought and which ones I didn't. I later did one on exactly why the "experts" are so bad at predicting what's going to happen. I was going to wait until the end of the year to look at how I did, since so much can change in a season, but I saw an article on SI.com that was just too perfect.
In this article, Don Banks talks about 5 "contenders" (according to the "experts") who are "in trouble". His five teams are the Jets, Steelers, Eagles, Falcons, and Rams. Now, those first two teams are 2-1, which is hardly a poor start, so I'll go ahead and ignore those. The Eagles had such a weird offseason that nobody really knew what would happen with them, and anybody who thought they did were simply wrong. (The best analysis of the Eagles I saw was Walter Football, so there's that.)
The Falcons and Rams, however, are 1-2 and 0-3 respectively, and as you may know if you clicked that first link, you can see that there is exactly one "expert" who is not surprised at all, and that one "expert" is me. (And let me apologize now for being so smug. I'm sure I've angered the gods enough to cause me to fall down some stairs or something in the near future.)
Here's what I said about the Falcons:
In short, the Falcons were terrible on offense and defense, but made up for it by committing few mistakes while allowing their opponents to self-destruct. Combine that with their TE aging and their only good draft pick filling a need they didn't really have (their #2 WR is much better than ours), and you have a team who is in for a disappointing season.
Amazing, isn't it? It's almost like once you actually look at real stats and ignore conventional wisdom, you can actually know what's really going on. So what did Banks say about the Falcons (and the other 4)?
Heading into this season, all five looked like playoff locks, and I know of at least one Internet NFL hack who tabbed them to represent 5/12's of his postseason field. (Alas, I was not alone. Three of my fellow SI.com NFL "experts'' had them all represented in their preseason playoff predictions, and four others on our panel had four of those five teams making the postseason).
Wow, so a college student who writes in his free time out smarted pretty much all of SI's "experts" who, I should remind you, do this as a living? What a shocker. But it gets better:
Trying to figure out who the Falcons really are this season has been one of the real mysteries of 2011.
Oh really? It;s quite obvious who they are. From my "Buy or Sell" post:
Matt Ryan is vastly overrated. And by "vastly overrated" I don't mean that he's just average instead of really good like everybody thinks. I mean he's pretty terrible. As in Matt Cassel is not only better, but better by a significant amount. As I mentioned, I measure passing by NY/A, where Ryan gets 6.0 NY/A. This puts him at 21st in the NFL between Alex Smith and Chad Henne. The only thing that really saves is his interception percentage (int%) at 1.6%, which is exactly the same as Cassel's. Unfortunately, Cassel's 6.2 NY/A is good for 15th in the NFL. So, in short, Ryan is a poor man's Matt Cassel, which isn't a compliment.
Michael Turner is vastly overrated. He had 4.1 Y/A, which is 25th in the NFL (with more than 150 carries). He can't catch either, with only 12 receptions last years. The only thing he does well at all is block, but blocking alone doesn't qualify you as being a good running back.
How did Banks try to explain it? Well...
Atlanta's real issue may be that it's in transition as far as its offensive identity. The Falcons don't seem to know yet whether they want to throw it open and be a quarterback-driven, passing-first offense, or keep one foot in their recent past, with Turner's blend of power and speed running being essential to their formula for success. The sooner they figure out that passing-first teams win the Super Bowl these days, the further they will be toward reaching that long-awaited franchise goal. Maybe this week's trip to offensively challenged Seattle offers the perfect opportunity for Atlanta to begin its transformation.
No, that's not their problem at all. Their problem is that their offense isn't in transition, it's the same as always. And now that they don't have turnovers and penalties to rely on, they're being exposed for who they really are. As I said in the "How to Preview Seasons" post:
I think this graph illustrates one of the better predictors that is commonly ignored. Simply put, with something like turnovers, teams will regress to the mean, so that a team like the Falcons, who's 13-win season was built on a high turnover margin, have a very good chance of being disappointments. (The Chiefs also had a high turnover differential, but considering that we have historically been the best team in the NFL in turnover differential by a wide margin, I'm not too concerned.)
Hilariously, this not only applies to the Falcons, but to the Chiefs as well. A whole lot of our misery is caused by turnovers, but yet again the "experts" miss it because, instead of trying to make their analysis better, they just say "oh well" and make the same mistakes again.
The Rams aren't quite as bad, but it's still painful. Banks says:
New offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has certainly been no difference-maker so far, with the Rams' red-zone offense struggling and Bradford seemingly regressing.
No, Bradford is not regressing. He just isn't progressing. As I said in "Buy or Sell":
The Rams were simply not very good last year. They were below average on defense (5.3 Y/P, 17th in NFL) but among the worst on offense (4.6 Y/P, 30th in NFL). But while most people know they were bad last year. they think that Sam Bradford is the next Peyton Manning. It's possible, and Bradford will almost certainly improve next year, but he was just terrible last year. You know who had the worst NY/A last year? Well, Jimmy Clausen. But you know who had the second worst NY/A? That's right, Sam Bradford, with 5.2. The gap between Bradford and Derek Anderson (!!!) is 0.2 NY/A, which is the difference between the 14th best QB and the 26th. And, just to be clear, Anderson did better!
But Banks has a very different explanation:
And now Bradford is getting banged up behind a Rams offensive line that looks lost. He suffered a toe sprain against the Ravens on one of his five sacks, and he's been dropped 11 times -- and hit at least twice that much -- in three games. In each of the Rams' losses, Bradford has lost a fumble that got returned for a touchdown, deflating St. Louis' hopes to stay in the game and opening the floodgates for its opponent.
Sure, sacks are bad, but 5 sacks aren't really that terrible. The problem isn't the sacks, or even Bradford. It's the receivers.
I looked into them a bit, and I'm convinced that the problem wasn't that Bradford sucked, but that he had nobody to throw to. If we traded Chris Chambers to the Rams, he would be the best receiver on their team. To make it worse, they didn't really do much in the draft to help him out.
Is it possible that these sacks and pressures are caused by the receivers not getting open? Without looking at the tape, I can't say for sure, but it's entirely possible.
So with this in mind, his opening paragraph is simultaneously hilarious and cringe-inducing:
It never takes long for an NFL season to prove us wrong. Three weeks into the tale of 2011, conventional wisdom is already on something of a losing streak. Things might be all hiccups and giggles in Detroit and Buffalo, where the 3-0 Lions and Bills appear headed for a Rust Belt Super Bowl matchup -- wouldn't that be something? -- but early season problems abound in some unlikely venues around the league.
You know why the NFL season always proves you wrong? Because you don't bother to do your job. Maybe if you and all the other "experts" would actually do research and try to understand what's going on instead of just saying what you feel in your gut conventional wisdom wouldn't be looking so bad. If you need some more help, you can just read my post again and see that it was pretty obvious the Giants and 49ers were going to do well. This may help when you're writing the "Giants and 49ers are in first place who could have guessed?" article.
(Note: Since I wrote these articles so long ago that I forgot a lot of what I wrote. I actually did predict the Eagles would do poorly, which would make me a giant hypocrite. In my defense, that article was written before the Eagles went on the free agent shopping spree, so I won't claim credit for predicting them doing poorly if you won't call me a hypocrite.)