By Luis DeLoureiro
Today we are going to give you some of our predictions for the 2011 season. More will come in later articles.
We were going to refer to the article as “Waterboy’s Fearless Predictions”. But, we Googled “fearless predictions NFL” and received about 212,000 results. So, we also considered “Waterboy’s Wild Guesses as to How the 2011 Season Will Play Out” -- fewer Google hits, but a tad too long.
In the interest of both brevity and non-conformity, we settled on “Waterboy’s Completely Horrified Predictions." Kind of flows….no?
So, below are a couple of thoughts/predictions for the 2011 season, definitely worth the paper they're not printed on.
Let's cut right to the chase and tell you that The Waterboy’s selection for Super Bowl Champion is the San Diego Chargers.
Why the Chargers?
For one, it would be too easy to choose the Packers, Eagles, Patriots, Steelers or Saints. Everyone is choosing one of those teams.
By now, everyone has heard that the Chargers led the NFL in both offensive yards gained (6,329) and defensive yards allowed (4,345).
As we have said many times at CHFF, traditional volume stats mean very little. However, a review of our Quality Stats
supports what the volume stats suggest.
The 2010 San Diego Chargers may have been the best non-playoff team in NFL history.
The Chargers finished in the top 10 in Passing Yards per Attempt
), Defensive Hog Index
), Passer Rating Differential
), Defensive Passer Rating
) and Scoreability
The only other team to finish in the top 10 in each of these indicators was the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Of the other six teams that finished in the top 10 in three of the metrics, only the Giants missed the playoffs. (No team finished in the top 10 in exactly four of the metrics).
So, how did the 2010 Chargers fail?
You don’t need to look any further than our Bendability
stat to see what doomed San Diego’s season. (Bendability is the team-wide measurement of ability to keep opponents off the scoreboard). The Chargers finished 28th
The low ranking was the result of a special teams unit that surrendered a league high four combined kick-off and punt returns for TDs.
One would think that with such positive metrics elsewhere, the Chargers would have been able to overcome the horrible Bendability ranking. However, not only was San Diego’s special teams unit historically bad, but they also had the timing of Abba at a rave.
In Week 1, the Chargers surrendered a kickoff return touchdown in a seven point loss to the Chiefs. Two weeks later, they gave up two Leon Washington kickoff returns for touchdowns in a 27-20 loss. And, in Week 5, the Raiders blocked a punt for a touchdown in a game Oakland won by eight points.
That’s three losses that can be directly linked to special teams mistakes. They finished one game behind the AFC West Champion Chiefs.
Why does The Waterboy pick the Chargers to win the Super Bowl?
They are outstanding on both sides of the ball
Philip Rivers seems to improve with every game. He’s been playing at an elite level for the last three years – leading the league in YPA and surpassing 100 in QB rating each year.
Rivers can put the team on his back – helping the Chargers overcome Norv Turner’s usual shortcomings (this one is purely subjective – but it sounds reasonable)
And, there’s absolutely NO WAY the Chargers special teams will throw away three games. No way! It can’t happen.
The Chargers have made an annual habit out of peaking late. If they can avoid the early failures that buried them in 2010, they can make a run in 2011.
It’s well known that every year the NFL experiences a year-over-year turnover of five to six playoff teams. And, every August - lacking the originality and creativity to think of new topics - conformist writers, bloggers and pundits tell us which playoff teams from the year before will miss the party, who will replace them and why.
With that said, here’s who we think will crash the 2011 playoff party (please note the originality of that last sentence).
First, the AFC…..
The AFC seems to be pretty straightforward – with a pretty clear delineation between the conference’s contenders and non-contenders (it seems too clichéd to call them pretenders).
Logic suggests that the Jets, Patriots, Steelers and Ravens will likely take the East and North divisions – as well as the conference’s two wild card spots. We have to stick with our Super Bowl prediction and suggest that the Chargers will win the West.
So far, the AFC would have a turnover of only one team – with the Chargers replacing the Chiefs.
While we don’t expect major turnover in the AFC, we will guess that there will be more than one new team in the playoffs.
With that said, we’ll grudgingly predict that the Texans will supplant the Colts in the AFC South. (We wanted to predict that the Browns will ride their easy schedule to a Wild Card berth. But, this column already has credibility issues and predicting success for the Browns would likely end it forever).
Waterboy Official AFC Predictions:
Division winners – Patriots, Steelers, Texans and Chargers
Wild Cards – Jets and Ravens
Now, the NFC
In the top-heavy NFC, only two teams – the Vikings and Panthers – can be written off with any level of confidence. The Redskins could join Minnesota and Carolina, but an easy schedule may keep them in the conversation.
Because much of the NFL world turns to this column for sage NFL advice, we’ll try to dig through the noise and tell you which NFC teams will emerge.
The NFC West will be a crapshoot.
The Cardinals and 49ers made major changes at quarterback – Arizona traded for Kevin Kolb - and coaching – San Francisco hired Jim Harbaugh, the most sought after coach of the 2011 off-season. Sam Bradford and the Rams should continue to improve and the Seahawks are the defending champs.
We’ll go with the Rams, not just because Bradford appears to be the league’s next great quarterback (that’s known as hyperbole in the literary world), but also, St, Louis returns most of a defense that finished 2010 ninth in Defensive Passer Rating and tied for seventh in the Defensive Hog Index.
We’re not going to go on too much of a limb with the rest of the NFC. We’ll take the Saints, Packers and, in a mild surprise, the Giants as division winners (despite missing the playoffs the last two years, the Giants have actually excelled in many Quality Stats). We believe the Eagles and Cowboys (by a hair over the Bears, Falcons and Bucs) will round out the field as the Wild Cards.
Waterboy Official NFC Predictions:
Division winners – Giants, Packers, Saints and Rams
Wild Cards – Cowboys and Eagles
The final tally is five new playoff teams – the Texans, Chargers, Giants, Rams and Cowboys will replace the Colts, Chiefs, Bears, Falcons and Seahawks.
(So much for our theory of one team coming from out of nowhere).
The Waterboy predicts that Chris Johnson will get a new contract with the Titans and lead the team to 7-9 wins – rendering one of the biggest stories of the offseason one of the biggest non-stories of the 2011 season.
That doesn’t mean Johnson’s holdout hasn’t had some entertainment value.
Last week, Tennessee owner Bud Adams said, “I’m not going to make any offers the way he’s acting. Life’s too short.”
(OK….so, this one is more of a rant than a prediction).
Life’s too short?
Adams is the same guy who essentially spent 1986 – 1996 threatening to move the Houston Oilers to any city with a Starbucks. He finally moved the Oilers to Tennessee in 1997. In the team’s first three years there, they played in three stadiums in two cities and had two different names.
But, somehow, life’s too short to pay one of his players 1.4% above his perceived market value…..
If you have any questions, comments or death threats for the Monday Morning Waterboy, please feel free to contact him on Twitter at @deloureiro