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Nov 08 2017

The 2017 NFL Hypothesis Report: Revisited

Now that midseason officially hit this past Sunday, it’s time to revisit this year’s NFL Hypothesis Report. I’m going to jump right in here with the team-by-teams. All I’ll do here is list where each team is at midseason, where I had them for the season, and biggest strength/weakness.


New England Patriots (6-2; predicted: 15-1, 1st) … Strength: Pass offense (Patriots rank first in passing yards per game) … Weakness: Run defense (Patriots rank last in yards allowed per rush) … The Patriots started 2-2, TE Rob Gronkowski didn’t play in Week 5, and they haven’t scored 25 points in a game since October 1. But Gronkowski and WR Brandin Cooks are on pace for 1K yards, and the New England defense has improved in the red zone during their four-game win streak.

Buffalo Bills (5-3; predicted: 3-13, 3rd) … Strength: Pass defense (Bills rank 5th in passer rating allowed) … Weakness: Pass offense (Bills rank 30th in pass yards per game) … The Bills acquired WR Kelvin Benjamin to give resilient QB Tyrod Taylor someone to throw to, while DT Marcell Dareus was traded. Buffalo’s front seven isn’t special, but head coach Sean McDermott is doing a great job with the secondary, with free agent S Micah Hyde collecting 5 INTs and 1st round rookie CB TreDavious White defending 12 passes.

Miami Dolphins (4-4; predicted: 7-9, 2nd) … Strength: Run defense (Dolphins rank 7th in rushing yards allowed per game) … Weakness: Run offense (Dolphins rank last in rush TD) … Head coach Adam Gase’s offense in Miami has only looked decent when RB Jay Ajayi was running well, and now he’s been traded. QB Jay Cutler’s TD-INT ratio (10-5) is right where it was in his 2015 season in Chicago with Gase (21-11), but he’s averaging a career-low 5.9 yards per attempt. The Dolphins are bottom-five in point differential, but they’re at .500. DT Ndamukong Suh has 3.5 sacks already.

New York Jets (4-5; predicted: 2-14, 4th) … Strength: Run offense (Jets are tied for 5th in rushing TD) … Weakness: Run defense (Jets rank 24th in rushing yards allowed per game) … Well, the Jets are not going to lose by 300 points this season. QB Josh McCown is also going to start his tenth game of the season, and he already has his most wins as a starter in a season since 2004. The Jets still aren’t good, but they are the best NFL team representing New York right now!


Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2; predicted: 13-3, 1st) … Strength: Pass defense (Steelers rank 2nd in pass TD allowed) … Weakness: Run offense (Steelers ranked 26th in rushing yards per attempt) … QB Ben Roethlisberger is having his least effective season in nine years, so for those looking forward to his potential retirement after the season, there’s that. RB Le’Veon Bell also is under 4.0 yards per rush and hasn’t had a run of more than 27 yards yet. But Pittsburgh’s defense is allowing the 2nd-fewest points per game, which had been an issue for years.

Baltimore Ravens (4-5; predicted: 10-6, 2nd) … Strength: Pass defense (Ravens rank 2nd in passer rating allowed) … Weakness: Pass offense (Ravens rank last in pass yards per attempt) … The Ravens have lost five of their last seven games, and they are threatening to ruin their league-best INT rate on defense with a tasteless pass offense. QB Joe Flacco targets RB Javorius Allen and TE Ben Watson more than any WR, while 2015 1st round WR Breshad Perriman has only 54 receiving yards on 27 targets.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-5; predicted: 8-8, 3rd) … Strength: Pass defense (Bengals are 4th in pass yards allowed per attempt) … Weakness: Run offense (Bengals rank last in rushing yards per game and per attempt) … The Bengals have the worst offense in the league, as 2nd round rookie RB Joe Mixon has found no room at all behind a predictably porous offensive line; he is averaging only 2.9 yards per rush. 1st round rookie WR John Ross fumbled his only career touch and has no receptions. And TE Tyler Eifert is on injured reserve again. At least OLB Vontaze Burfict isn’t suspended.

Cleveland Browns (0-8; predicted: 4-12, 4th) … Strength: Run defense (Browns allow fewest yards per rush) … Weakness: Pass offense (Browns rank last in passer rating) … Just when you thought 21st century Browns futility couldn’t get any worse, OT Joe Thomas goes on injured reserve. 2nd round rookie QB DeShone Kizer has been a disaster, compiling a 51.1 passer rating in 213 attempts. Out of 54 rookie passers with at least 200 pass attempts since the Browns re-entered the NFL in 1999, Kizer’s passer rating would be the worst. 1st round rookie DE Myles Garrett, the first overall pick in the 2017 Draft, does have four sacks in three games, but he has missed time with multiple injuries already.


Tennessee Titans (5-3; predicted: 13-3, 1st) … Strength: Run offense (Titans are tied for 2nd in rush TD) … Weakness: Pass rush (Titans rank 31st in sacks) … While Tennessee’s offense isn’t bad, it hasn’t been as dynamic as expected. QB Marcus Mariota only has six TD passes in seven starts, while 1st round WR Corey Davis only has 101 scoreless receiving yards. While Tennessee’s pass rush has been dormant outside of OLB Derrick Morgan and DE Jurrell Casey, FS Kevin Byard already has the most INTs by a Titans defender (six) since Michael Griffin had seven in 2008 – Tennessee’s last playoff season.

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3; predicted: 5-11, 3rd) … Strength: Pass defense (Jaguars rank first in passer rating allowed) … Weakness: Pass offense (Jaguars rank 26th in pass yards per game) … No team runs on a higher percentage of plays than the Jaguars, hiding QB Blake Bortles behind 1st round rookie RB Leonard Fournette and the top scoring defense in the NFL. Fournette’s 596 rushing yards would have led the Jaguars last year, and that’s with two games missed this season. Jacksonville is on pace for 70 sacks and 20 INTs – only the 1984 Chicago Bears (72 sacks, 21 INT) accomplished that feat.

Houston Texans (3-5; predicted: 7-9, 2nd) … Strength: Pass offense (Texans rank 2nd in pass TD) … Weakness: Pass defense (Texans rank 26th in passer rating allowed) … 1st round rookie QB Deshaun Watson’s electrifying season is over, and Houston now has the QB they deserve in Tom Savage since they aren’t interested in signing legitimate, possibly season-saving options. In addition to Watson, DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus are on injured reserve, and OT Duane Brown was traded one game after ending his holdout. Another 9-7 season for Bill O’Brien would be an accomplishment at this point.

Indianapolis Colts (3-6; predicted: 3-13, 4th) … Strength: Run offense (Colts are tied for 5th in rush TD) … Weakness: Run defense (Colts are last in rush TD allowed) … It’s best to keep this one concise. QB Andrew Luck won’t play this season, 1st round rookie FS Malik Hooker blew out his knee in Week 7, and the Colts allow the most points in the league.


Kansas City Chiefs (6-3; predicted: 12-4, 1st) … Strength: Pass offense (Chiefs rank 3rd in pass TD) … Weakness: Run defense (Chiefs rank 30th in rushing yards per attempt and per game) … Unlike fellow incumbent QBs Tom Savage and Mike Glennon, Alex Smith has held off a 2017 1st round rookie QB by being great, throwing 18 TD before his first INT. Smith threw 15 TD all last season. QB Patrick Mahomes II has yet to take a snap. All five of WR Tyreek Hill’s TDs this season have been at least 30 yards or longer, including one punt return.

Oakland Raiders (4-5; predicted: 9-7, 2nd) … Strength: Offensive line (Raiders are tied for 8th in sacks allowed) … Weakness: Pass defense (Raiders are last in passer rating allowed) … Oakland drafted CB Gareon Conley in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft and SS Karl Joseph in the 1st round of the 2016 NFL Draft, along with signing CB Sean Smith and FS Reggie Nelson in 2016 free agency. Somehow, the Raiders don’t have a single INT through ten weeks of the NFL season and 288 pass attempts. No team in NFL history has ever gone their first seven games without an INT, and here the Raiders are with nine games under their belt without an INT. Oakland still doesn’t get sacks either (13 in 9 games), while RB Marshawn Lynch looks closer to the player that retired after the 2015 season in Seattle than the 1st team All-Pro from five years ago.

Los Angeles Chargers (3-5; predicted: 4-12, 4th) … Strength: Pass rush (Chargers are tied for 4th in sacks) … Weakness: Special teams (Chargers rank last in field goals) … It will be an interested second half to the season for the homeless Chargers. 1st round WR Mike Williams is healthy, though he is behind WRs Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, and Travis Benjamin for now.  OLB Denzel Perryman is also ready to return for the second half of the season, and they need him to help improve a bottom-five run defense. QB Philip Rivers is on pace to throw for 4K yards again, but he is having a decidedly average season, while TE Antonio Gates is stuck on one TD reception.

Denver Broncos (3-5; predicted: 9-7, 3rd) … Strength: Run defense (Broncos rank 2nd in rushing yards allowed per play) … Weakness: Pass offense (Broncos rank tied for 30th in passer rating) … Only the winless Browns and 49ers have received worse QB play this season than the Denver Broncos, and it’s even worse when you look at their performance since their last win; only the Browns have a worse passer rating since Week 5. A big part of the issue is an offensive line that can’t pass protect, while QB Trevor Siemian has already matched his 2016 season total with 10 INTs. Siemian’s been benched, QB Brock Osweiler will eventually be benched, and 2016 1st round QB Paxton Lynch’s nondescript tenure is what allowed Siemian and Osweiler to be given starts in the first place.



Philadelphia Eagles (8-1; predicted: 7-9, 4th) … Strength: Pass offense (Eagles rank first in pass TD) … Weakness: Pass defense (Eagles rank 25th in pass yards allowed per game) … Scary times, Philadelphia and prosperity. What’s crazy is the fact that I warned about expecting consistency from free agent acquisitions RB LeGarrette Blount and WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The Eagles traded for RB Jay Ajayi, Jeffery is catching less than half of his targets, and Smith has one TD. But QB Carson Wentz has already found Jeffery, WR Nelson Agholor, and TE Zach Ertz for 16 of his 23 TD passes; Wentz had 16 TD all of his rookie season. The Eagles are 8-0 when they hold a team under 100 yards rushing, and they will get CB Ronald Darby back from a dislocated ankle.

Dallas Cowboys (5-3; predicted: 11-5, 1st) … Strength: Run offense (Cowboys rank first in rush TD) … Weakness: Run defense (Cowboys rank 25th in rush yards allowed per play) … RB Ezekiel Elliott has at least 80 rushing yards in 7-of-8 games this season to go with a league-leading seven rushing TD, and it seems unlikely that he’ll actually miss games this year. While QB Dak Prescott’s efficiency is down somewhat, he has made more plays as a passer and rusher. The Cowboys have a vulnerable defense, but DE Demarcus Lawrence already has more sacks this season (10.5) than in his first three seasons combined.

Washington Redskins (4-4; predicted: 9-7, 3rd) … Strength: Pass offense (Washington ranks 5th in passer rating) … Weakness: Run defense (Washington ranks 22nd in run yards allowed per attempt) … While QB Kirk Cousins is taking nearly twice as many sacks as usual, he has severely cut down on his INTs while already setting a career-high in rushing yards. 52.7 percent of Cousins’ pass yardage has gone to backs and TEs, while TE Vernon Davis has outproduced TE Jordan Reed. Washington lost 1st round rookie DE Jonathan Allen in Week 6 due to a foot injury.

New York Giants (1-7; predicted: 10-6, 2nd) … Strength: Offensive line (Giants rank tied for 14th in sacks allowed) … Weakness: Pass rush (Giants rank tied for 28th in sacks) … New York is threatening to bench QB Eli Manning, who has started every game since midway through his rookie season. Manning is having his least effective season in four years and was always a longshot to be productive without WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. But New York’s defense falling off despite many of the same players from the season before is a massive disappointment.


Minnesota Vikings (6-2; predicted: 8-8, 2nd) … Strength: Run defense (Vikings rank 3rd in rushing yards allowed per attempt and per game) … Weakness: Pass offense (Vikings rank tied for 21st in pass TD) … 2nd round rookie RB Dalvin Cook tore his ACL after a great start to his career, and QB Sam Bradford is on injured reserve after making it through only one start. QB Case Keenum has been steady, while QB Teddy Bridgewater may be ready to take over later in the season. Minnesota’s defense has been top-ten on all three levels.

Detroit Lions (4-4; predicted: 2-14, 4th) … Strength: Pass offense (Lions rank tied for 7th in pass TD) … Weakness: Pass rush (Lions rank tied for 23rd in sacks) … The Lions are coming up on four years since their last 100-yard rushing performance by a player, and QB Matthew Stafford isn’t saving them this year; he only has one game-winning drive after a record eight game-winning drives in 2016. But Stafford has only four INTs to go with 14 TD passes. The Lions are 0-3 in games decided by five points or fewer; they were 6-2 in such games last season.

Green Bay Packers (4-4; predicted: 11-5, 1st) … Strength: Run offense (Packers rank 5th in rushing yards per attempt) … Weakness: Pass rush (Packers rank tied for 28th in sacks) … QB Aaron Rodgers was off to another great start, but Green Bay has always hid underwhelming coaching and personnel management with Rodgers. Now that Rodgers may miss the rest of the season after a collarbone injury, the spotlight is on head coach Mike McCarthy to show that he can still compete with QBs he has invested in for multiple years. The early returns suggest that the Packers are in for a long remainder of the season due to a shallow pass rush (OLB Clay Matthews has only 2.5 sacks), a secondary that still isn’t good enough, and a QB in Brett Hundley that has already thrown more INTs than Rodgers this season despite nearly 100 fewer attempts.

Chicago Bears (3-5; predicted: 4-12, 3rd) … Strength: Pass rush (Bears rank tied for 9th in sacks) … Weakness: Pass offense (Bears rank last in pass yards per game) … Chicago head coach John Fox is trying to utilize the Tim Tebow plan for 1st round rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky. Since Trubisky replaced QB Mike Glennon as the starter in Week 5, the Bears have run on 60.1 percent of their plays, easily the highest mark in the league. For perspective, the 2011 Broncos ran the ball 59.0 percent of the time once Tebow replaced QB Kyle Orton as the starter in Week 7, and Fox overcame a 3-5 start that season to win the AFC West. Fox is going to have his work cut out for him if there is to be Trubiskymania in Chicago this winter.


New Orleans Saints (6-2; predicted: 9-7, 2nd) … Strength: Offensive line (Saints rank first in sacks allowed) … Weakness: Run defense (Saints rank 29th in rushing yards allowed per attempt) … The Saints ended their experiment with RB Adrian Peterson after four games, as they have all they need in RB Mark Ingram and 3rd round rookie RB Alvin Kamara. QB Drew Brees has been sacked on only 2.8 percent of his dropbacks, and he is completing an even higher percentage of his passes than ever before, with 8.1 yards per attempt to go with it. The defense was torched during the 0-2 start, but they haven’t allowed 400 yards since, and they have already kept four teams under 300 yards. They had only three games all of last year where opponents gained fewer than 300 yards.

Carolina Panthers (6-3; predicted: 9-7, 3rd) … Strength: Run defense (Panthers rank 2nd in rushing yards allowed per game) … Weakness: Pass offense (Panthers rank 27th in passer rating) … The good thing for the Panthers is that QB Cam Newton hasn’t missed a start after offseason shoulder surgery. But Newton has been barely better than last season, which is to say, not good. Now, Newton has to deal with not having WR Kelvin Benjamin (trade) and TE Greg Olsen (expected to return from injured reserve). While 1st round RB Christian McCaffrey has the first 50-reception season by a RB in franchise history, he has added nothing as a runner. Carolina can deal with the offense’s issues because no team allows fewer yards or first downs per game.

Atlanta Falcons (4-4; predicted: 15-1, 1st) … Strength: Run offense (Falcons rank 4th in rushing yards per attempt) … Weakness: Pass defense (Falcons rank 22nd in passer rating allowed) … The Raiders are off to a historically bad season when it comes to intercepting passes, but the Falcons aren’t far off with only two INTs in 274 pass attempts. CB Desmond Trufant and ILB Deion Jones have the INTs, and while starters CB Robert Alford and FS Ricardo Allen don’t have a sack, INT, FF, or recovered fumble this season. Somehow, WR Julio Jones has only one TD reception despite 68 targets.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6; predicted: 6-10, 4th) … Strength: Pass offense (Buccaneers rank 3rd in pass yards per game) … Weakness: Pass rush (Buccaneers rank last in sacks) … It hurts me how this team is consistently trash on a yearly basis. QB Jameis Winston is injured for the first time in his three-year career and a midseason turnaround on defense similar to last season’s is highly unlikely due to the lack of pass rush.


Los Angeles Rams (6-2; predicted: 4-12, 4th) … Strength: Run offense (Rams rank tied for 2nd in rushing TD) … Weakness: Run defense (Rams rank 27th in run yards allowed per attempt) … I completely missed on this one. Head coach Sean McVay has revived the young careers of QB Jared Goff (from a 63.6 passer rating and 0-7 record as a rookie to a 97.9 passer rating and 6-2 record this season) and RB Todd Gurley (on pace for 2K yards from scrimmage and 20 total TD). The defense is bad against the run, but there have been plenty of big plays, while DE Aaron Donald only missed one game with his holdout. The Rams have already scored more points through eight games this season (263) than they did all of last season (224).

Seattle Seahawks (5-3; predicted: 11-5, 1st) … Strength: Pass offense (Seahawks rank 2nd in pass yards per game) … Weakness: Run defense (Seahawks rank 24th in rushing yards allowed per game) … While the Seahawks have been inconsistent against the run, they have remained a top pass defense. While FS Earl Thomas and CB Richard Sherman have two INTs each, SS Kam Chancellor is still looking for his first big play of the season. Seattle is overly reliant on QB Russell Wilson due to the complete ineffectiveness of the RB corps after 7th round rookie Chris Carson was lost for the season after Week 4.

Arizona Cardinals (4-4; predicted: 11-5, 2nd) … Strength: Pass offense (Cardinals rank 5th in pass yards per game) … Weakness: Special teams (Cardinals rank tied for 27th in field goal percentage) … The Cardinals still have shoddy special teams, and now they won’t have QB Carson Palmer (arm) and RB David Johnson (wrist) indefinitely. Arizona traded for RB Adrian Peterson, and they seem determined to run him into the ground. Arizona’s defense is also having trouble getting off the field, ranking 30th in third down percentage allowed. OLB Chandler Jones is on pace for an 18-sack season, while WR Larry Fitzgerald is on pace for what would be a third straight 100-catch, 1K-yard receiving season.

San Francisco (0-9; predicted: 5-11, 3rd) … Strength: Special teams (49ers rank first in punts inside the 20) … Weakness: Run defense (49ers rank last in rushing yards allowed per game) … RB Carlos Hyde is averaging 4.0 yards per rush and will be hardpressed to reach 1,000 rushing yards this season. WR Pierre Garcon’s season is over after eight games and 500 scoreless receiving yards. No team has thrown more passes than the 49ers, yet no team has fewer TD passes than the 49ers. The wheels have fallen off in recent weeks; after losing all of their games from Week 2 through Week 6 by no more than three points, they have lost the last three games by double-digit margins, scoring only ten points in each game.

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