Tuesday, September 17, 2013

5 comments Bill Simmons Does an NFC Power Poll

Bill Simmons has followed up his AFC power poll with an NFC power poll. I briefly discussed the issue with doing the NFC and AFC power polls separately and the issue is that teams won't be ranked in chronological order of their strength, but Bill has tried to remedy this by providing the AFC team names in the respective numerical spot he ranked them in the AFC power poll. It seems kind of silly to me and it just would have been easier to do an NFL power poll with 16 teams on Thursday and 16 teams on Friday, but who I am to question the all-knowing Bill Simmons? I'm nobody and Bill is a somebody. Just ask him. I'm sure Bill would state he is somebody and then use his own opinion of how great he is as proof this is true. So without more rambling, here is Bill's NFC power poll. 

If you missed Grantland's 2013 NFL preview coverage — including my three-part NFL over/under podcast from Vegas with Cousin Sal,

I didn't read or pay attention to any of this stuff, but I wouldn't say I missed it.

If you missed my AFC Power Poll heading into the 2013 season, which went up Thursday afternoon on Grantland, click here. That column included my Baltimore-Denver pick — after I ranked the Ravens ahead of the Broncos and grabbed the +7.5 points, they lost in Denver by 25.

It's almost like there is no science or rules behind gambling and in the end it is all guesswork. This couldn't be true though, right?

Today, we're cranking out an NFC Power Poll. For no extra charge, I included yesterday's AFC rankings within today's column so you could see every team on one list.


25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I juggled six possibilities for "NFC's worst team," which is a fancy way of saying, "they're better than anyone in the AFC's bottom seven, only they have the misfortune of playing in a stacked conference."

I'm not sure you can count any conference that has Ron Rivera as the head coach for one of the teams in that conference as "stacked."

Then you have second-year coach Greg Schiano, voted the winner of last November's Sporting News poll for "The Coach You'd Least Want to Play For."

Who else was on this list?

Bill Belichick
Tom Coughlin
Andy Reid
Mike Shanahan
Jim Harbaugh

That's ten Super Bowl appearances and six Super Bowl victories in there. This reminds me of a quote from "The Sopranos" where Tony was trying to stop Christopher Moltisanti from being the whiny bitch he could be at times,

"You don't have to love, but you will respect me."

Exactly. You don't have to love them, but you have to respect them because they win games. I'm not a fan of Greg Schiano, but his name on this list means very little as long as he is successful.

What's more likely — the Bucs making the 2013 playoffs, or Schiano and Freeman being jettisoned out of Tampa five months from now, then Schiano landing a college job and eventually ending up in one of those Mike Rice–type scandals because he attacked some poor sophomore with a tackling dummy?

It's very much more likely the Buccaneers make the 2013 playoffs.

24. The Lions of Detroit

23. Carolina Panthers

Both teams have killer fantasy QBs (Matt Stafford and Cam Newton) and one-of-a-kind blue-chippers (Calvin Johnson and Luke Kuechly). Both teams were well-represented at your 2013 fantasy draft.

And we all know that fantasy rankings always accurately represent real-life talent.

Know this: I've seen everything I needed to see from the Jim Schwartz and Ron Rivera eras already. It's a shame about the Panthers — blessed with Newton and one of the best defensive front sevens in football — who somehow have gone 2-12 in games decided by seven points or fewer since Newton and Rivera teamed up.

2-13 now. Yippee!

Football Outsiders' excellent DVOA season prediction model likes the 2013 Panthers for that very reason: Bad luck tends to even out over time.

But stupid decision-making stands the test of time. Upon having his previous offensive coordinator inexplicably get a head coaching job with the Browns, Ron Rivera decided to save his job he would turn to Mike Shula to run the offense. That's like a television show having falling ratings and then seeing if Ted McGinley is available to give the show a shot in the arm.

22. St. Louis Rams

21. Arizona Cardinals

We think Jeff Fisher is a good coach even though he has coached 16 full seasons and finished above .500 in only six of them.

I'm completely torn between being happy that more people are noticing Jeff "8-8" Fisher's overratedness and being really sad that Bill Simmons is agreeing with me.

He hasn't won a playoff game since 2003. He's an average coach. Not great, not bad. He's somewhere in the middle.

(whispers) Exactly right.

If it's OK with you, I'm crossing off the Rams. As for the Cardinals, they were looking sleeperish until they lost no. 7 overall pick Jonathan Cooper with a broken leg. (So much for improving their offensive line.)

So Bill was high on the Cardinals until they lost a rookie offensive lineman? At that point he thought, "Well that screws up the entire season" because a rookie offensive lineman got injured? Sounds like Bill had pretty much the entire Cardinals season riding on Cooper, which is especially odd to me. Who the hell has a team's entire season riding on one offensive lineman? It sounds like Bill just wanted an excuse to count the Cardinals out and couldn't think of a different football-related reason.

That reminds me, I went against someone who started Peyton Manning, Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas in Week 1. It's Friday and I'm down 97.9 points already. Why is fantasy football fun again?

This reminds me, no one cares about the fantasy team of someone they don't know. Who am I kidding though? The Simmonsites care about everything Bill says and does.

20. Philadelphia Eagles

Ottawa reader Neil Varan wonders, "Who's the leading candidate for your 2013 Man-Crush?" The answer: Eagles coach Chip Kelly. I love his brain, love his system, love the rapid-fire play thing … I mean, I would have picked the Eagles as my 2013 sleeper if Michael Vick weren't so prominently involved. Last year, we decided that (a) his decision-making just wasn't good enough, (b) it was too hard for him to stay healthy,

It was hard for Vick to stay healthy because he held onto the ball too long. In the Chip Kelly offense he isn't supposed to hold the ball long, so I guess we'll see.

Now he's going to spearhead an offense that runs 85 plays a game and relies on him to make MORE decisions? If Kelly makes this one work in Year 1, he's even better than I thought. And I think he's gonna be great. Eventually.

I'm not sure there is an "eventually" about it. I think Chip Kelly will be great running his offense from his first year in the league and then make the appropriate adjustments once the NFL adjusts to him.

Then again, Indiana reader Rick Vaughn throws something he calls "The Barnwell Theory" at us, explaining, "When Bill Barnwell and the Advanced Stat Troubadours (trademark pending) win the public over and blatantly influence a line, the team in question is guaranteed to prove them wrong. This year's example: Barnwell's regression-laden fingerprints are all over the Colts over/under for season wins (8.5). Quick reminder: they play half their games against the California penal league: Jags twice, Titans twice, Oakland (home), Dolphins (home), San Diego (away), and Cardinals (away). They're 5-3 over that stretch if Gary Hogeboom is under center. I'm guessing 6-2. Yes, they play the NFC West, but let's also consider the 2nd year leap for franchise QBs like Montana, Marino, Elway, and Manning. Three years ago this over/under is 9.5.

Ah yes, it's a Bill Simmons reader who gets his email published because it plugs the column of another Grantland columnist. Not only that, but this is an email from a Simmons reader who makes up statistics as if they are facts and not just something he made up prior to writing the email. So the over/under on wins for a quarterback making the 2nd year leap three years ago was 9.5? What was the over/under five years ago? How about ten years ago? I guess you can prove yourself to be correct if you make up a statistic that helps to prove your point.

I'd say Atlanta (9.5 wins), Minnesota (7 wins) and Carolina (7.5 wins — too high in that case) would be your Barnwell Theory value candidates.

Great, Rick from Indiana you have now made this Barnwell Theory a "thing" that Bill will recite in his mailbags and columns as if it was a fact. Who knows, maybe Bill will just outright steal the theory like he did the Ewing Theory.


(shakes head sadly)
14. Dallas Cowboys

Who's the best "Overrated, Underrated or Properly Rated?" argument in the entire league? Antonio Ramiro Romo, that's who. You can argue both sides until you're blue in the face. 

So not only is Bill getting ready to argue on under/overratedness, which is an argument that can't be proven definitively one way or another due to it being entirely subjective, but he has just proclaimed Tony Romo as the best topic for this argument, even though Romo being the best topic for this argument can also not be proven definitively one way or another definitively. At this point, nearly everything Bill would write on this topic is purely an opinion that he would try to pass off as a fact.

I'll spare you from having to read it. The stats say that some people underrate Tony Romo while those who use anecdotal evidence say Romo is overrated because he will give the opposing team a turnover at the perfect time they need one. Nothing has been decided in regard to over/underratedness, Bill thinks Romo will be underrated this year.

12. New York Giants

But as far as the Super Bowl goes, I thought these two lists were interesting … Over-60 coaches who won the Super Bowl: Tom Coughlin (65), '11 Giants; Dick Vermeil (63), '99 Rams; Weeb Ewbank (61), '69 Jets.

In 2007, I created the Speed Limit Theory for NFL head coaches — once they creep over 55, it starts to get a little dicey. That doesn't mean they can't succeed. Coughlin and Vermeil won Super Bowls. Marty Schottenheimer won 14 games when he was 63. Marv Levy made four straight Super Bowls in his 60s.

Bill created this theory and then of course Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls while being over the age of 55, while Bill Belichick made it two Super Bowls while being 54 years old and 58 years old.

35-and-over QBs who won the Super Bowl: John Elway (37, 38), '97 and '98 Broncos; Jim Plunkett (36), '83 Raiders; Roger Staubach (35), '77 Cowboys.

Wow, I'm not sure how this pertains to the New York Giants since Eli Manning isn't over the age of 35---

A couple of points: First, the 2013 Patriots have a 61-year-old coach AND a 36-year-old QB. They'd be making history twice by winning the Super Bowl — it's one of many reasons why I'm picking against them winning a fourth Super Bowl.

But...but...we aren't talking about the Patriots. We are talking about the New York Giants. The Patriots have already been discussed and are in the AFC, not the NFC.

Second, only two QB-coach combos have ever had their combined ages exceed 90 and still win a Super Bowl: Coughlin and Eli Manning in 2011 (95), and Vermeil and Kurt Warner in 1999 (91).

I always love it when Bill does simple math, creates a half-assed theory and then believes it means something. Bill likes to create complicated theories that can easily be summed up in another fashion. Basically, older quarterbacks generally don't win Super Bowls very often and older head coaches don't win Super Bowls very often. So the odds of an older head coach and an older quarterback winning a Super Bowl together are not high.

By the way, John Fox and Peyton Manning's ages add up to 95. It's not often an older quarterback wins a title and it's not often he wins the title with an older coach. There doesn't need to be a made-up theory to help prove this.

Third, Coughlin is two years older than my dad (who spent three hours sitting in the sun for a Saturday Red Sox–Dodgers game last month and was basically delirious for the next 36 hours), 

I'm guessing Tom Coughlin, who happens to be a football coach and is used to being in the sun, probably is in better shape than Bill's dad. It wouldn't be a Bill Simmons column if he didn't try to attribute something to his friends or family that isn't necessarily attributable to just them.

I'm not saying he can't win the Super Bowl — shit, Tom Coughlin might be superhuman for all we know.

He did win a Super Bowl two apparently very, very long years ago in 2011, a time when Bill Simmons seems to believe Tom Coughlin was a decade younger than he is now.

I'm just pointing out that we have nearly 50 years of Super Bowl data at our disposal right now — only the 1993 Bills made the Super Bowl with a coach in his late 60s (Levy, age 68) and an over-30 QB (Jim Kelly, age 33). So if the 2013 Giants win the Super Bowl, they really will be making history. If it's all right, I'm picking against it.

Typical Bill Simmons. Notice how he is picking against the Giants for completely non-football related reasons. He has no clue how to pick against them based on their roster, so he makes up some theory in order to pick against them that way. At least count them out for a reason that is football-related.

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that Bill Simmons doesn't understand sports outside of NBA basketball. He tends to shy away from actually analyzing a team's strengths and weaknesses and prefers to focus on half-assed theories that will help lead him to the conclusion he is incapable of reaching while using analysis and a sports-related line of thought. Maybe not, but it seems Bill's default mechanism is to create a theory to explain something rather than just explain it in easier terms.

11. Chicago Bears 

It's time for my annual "I know I discounted you in my over/under podcast with Cousin Sal, but I thought about it some more and now I think you're gonna be good" flip-flop pick! 

Much like in the AFC Preview, Bill has chosen to play both sides with certain teams. If the Bears stink then he can claim his original point of view was correct, but if they are good then he can point out he knew the Bears would be good. Bill is terrified of being seen as wrong, so playing both sides works out well for him.

I love everything I'm reading about Marc Trestman — if he gets Jay Cutler and Matt Forte going, and Cutler can shed his QBPTSD issues after three years of pummelings (this photo spread is incredible), you'd have to throw Chicago into that six-team circle of "Teams That Can Win The Super Bowl."

Bill thinks the Bears are one of the six teams that can win the Super Bowl, but ranks them 11th in his power rankings and doesn't have them winning their Wild Card round game. So I guess they "can" win the Super Bowl, but Bill doesn't seem to think they will, except he said they can so either way he gets to be right and doesn't have to worry about being wrong and that's all that matters.

Thanks to the salary cap, the scheduling, unpredictable injuries and the NFL's love for parity, it's become harder and harder for one team to just dominate for five straight months and win the Super Bowl. You just want to be one of the five or six teams with a legitimate chance in January — you want to get to the point where a couple of Jacoby Jones–Rahim Moore plays swing your way and suddenly you're holding the trophy.

Oh, so now Bill is predicting which NFL teams will have the most amount of luck this year. I'm sure there is a theory to follow.

Anyway, we've reached the point of the Power Poll in which any of these 12 teams have a chance to make that circle. 

Oh, so the six-team circle is now a twelve-team circle. You know what, let's just make it a thirty-two team circle and get it over with.

I don't trust Cutler's track record enough to stick Chicago in that circle yet, but I see them sniffing around it in January.

Well I guess the Bears are out of the circle now. Let me sum up Bill's statements on the Bears:

-He doesn't think they will be very good this year.

-He has changed his mind and thinks they will be good and are the 11th best team in the NFL.

-They are one of six teams that can win the Super Bowl.

-There are actually one of twelve teams that can win the Super Bowl.

-The Bears probably aren't good enough to win the Super Bowl.

No contradictions in there, right?

(If I offered every Packers fan 10 and 6 and the no. 5 seed right now, would they take it? I bet they would.)


I think if you offered fans of 26 of 32 teams in the NFL a 10-6 season and a fifth seed they would take it. I'm not sure why Bill seems to think because the Packers have a difficult schedule he is going really far out on on a limb in saying the Packers fans would accept a 10-6 season with a No. 5 seed in the playoffs.

Second, the Saints went 7-9 last year … and the coaching upgrade from the Superdome janitor to Sean Payton has to be worth at least a plus-4 WARM.

That's not a real thing...well, it is a real thing but people who don't strive to be the most clever person in the room will simply say "Having Sean Payton back has to be worth four additional wins for the Saints."

(There's a fourth reason that I hesitate to mention: Somehow I ended up with Aaron Rodgers as my starting QB in both fantasy leagues. I've had terrible fantasy football mojo ever since the glorious 2007 season, when I rode LaDainian Tomlinson, rookie Adrian Peterson and Wes Welker to my West Coast title, nearly went undefeated — jinxing that quest by stupidly writing about it — and spent way too much time crowing about it afterward. The following year, I built my season around Tom Brady and it was gone in eight minutes. I've never been the same — it's the fantasy equivalent of the Pirates losing Bonds and going into a two-decade tailspin. I haven't come close to winning a title since. Now I have all my eggs in the Aaron Rodgers basket. If I'm a fantasy mush, this can't be good for the Packers. If you don't believe me — again, it's Friday and I'm down by 97.9 points in one of my leagues right now. Sorry, Packers fans. I'm apologizing in advance.)

Please do tell me more about your fantasy team. In fact, give us a year-by-year breakdown of your fantasy seasons including your own personal thoughts on each season while including as much whining as possible.

Also, everyone spent the offseason (a) figuring out how to stop the read-option (which caught everyone by surprise last year), and (b) blowing smoke up Colin Kaepernick's butt and treating him like a superstar even though he's started only 10 games. I kept waiting for everything to go to his head in the form of a "My Name Is Colin" music video …

Then Bill links the "My Name is Willie" video from "Any Given Sunday" because we all know movies are exactly like real life. 

Think about how much Baltimore struggled last night with subpar receivers once they fell behind, think about San Francisco falling behind by 17 or more in their last two playoff games, then think about having money on San Francisco anytime they're down 10 this season. It's a little nerve-racking. Seriously, what if the league figures out that read-option?

Then it appears Colin Kaepernick will successfully sling the ball all around the field and with the help of the 49ers very good defense do his best to help the 49ers come back to win the game. 

3. Atlanta Falcons

Barnwell made an impressive regression case for them on Grantland, which corresponded nicely with Vegas's surprisingly low over/under of 9½ for them. (RICK VAUGHN ALERT!) I'm going the other way: I loved the way the Falcons played in the playoffs. I liked their draft. I think Steven Jackson has 2004 Corey Dillon potential.

Naturally, there is no more apt comparison to Steven Jackson than a comparison to a New England Patriots running back. It's not like there has ever been another free agent running back who joined a new team that ended up making the Super Bowl.

More importantly: We just watched the future of pro football in last night's Broncos-Ravens game. In the third quarter, the combination of Denver's pace with the altitude and Baltimore's offense falling into a three-and-out rut was absolutely deadly. You could see Baltimore's defense fading as that quarter dragged on. They couldn't handle it.

The Falcons and the Patriots ran a hurry-up offense long before the Broncos ran one with Peyton Manning. Not to mention, Atlanta doesn't play their home games at a high altitude so I'm not sure what the Denver altitude has to do with the Falcons. The future of pro football "we" saw in the Broncos-Ravens game seems irrelevant as it pertains to the Falcons. The Falcons were already running the hurry-up offense and they play in a dome, not in a high altitude.

If you have a franchise QB and a couple big playmakers, and you can rip off plays at a breakneck pace, that's the single biggest advantage of the "Nobody's Allowed To Crush Receivers Over The Middle Anymore" era.

If a team has a franchise QB and a couple playmakers I think that's an advantage no matter what pace that teams plays at, no?

But you need the right QB, you need the home-field advantage, you need the big-play guys, and you need to be REALLY good at the no-huddle thing. Atlanta checks all four of those boxes

And yet, this advantage didn't get them to the Super Bowl last year and this year they have a shakier offensive line and a younger, less experienced defense. Who am I to argue with Bill's ability to make a list and check off boxes though?

1. Seattle Seahawks

Year after year after year, I can see the Niners and Seahawks measuring themselves against one another, lobbing potshots at each other, making sketchy roster moves clearly intended to piss off the other team (Chris Harper, everybody!)

I'm not sure this was a sketchy roster move since the Seahawks released Harper on their own accord fully knowing a division rival could claim him.

If it gets REALLY good, once or twice, we'll see a free agent switch from one side to the other for more money, and we'll all consider him a massive traitor — like how Red Sox fans felt about Johnny Damon in 2006.

I think Bill is getting a little bit (well, a lot) ahead of himself here.

It's going to be fantastic. I can't wait. But for 2013? I think it's Seattle's year. In Russell Wilson we trust.

No, in Russell Wilson you trust. "We" aren't you and you don't speak for "we." 


JD said...

Sorry, I can't help but say the name Gary Hogeboom over and over...love that name.

Snarf said...

Can't wait for you to comment on greggggg this week.

Bengoodfella said...

JD, he was on Survivor. I'm guessing that's how Bill knows his name, since he has told us in the past he likes Survivor.

Snarf, I forgot to post MMQB yesterday and I'm writing TMQ now. I completely meant to post the Rick Reilly column from a couple weeks ago as well. I'm very much not on the ball right now.

Dan said...

Keep them coming, I have been coming to your page for maybe three years now? If you stop, I won't know what to do with myself!

Bengoodfella said...

Dan, I'm sure you would survive after a long period of mourning. I will keep them coming, don't worry, I just tend to forget to post columns or run out of time to write them during a given week.