Ross Jacobs Reviews All The 2022 Faux Season Projections (Weeks 4-6)
--In weeks 1-3 we saw some very differing opinions on the AFC East, but by week 6 we've all mostly converged to the same records. RC and Chris even have identical records across the board.
Everyone has the Dolphins at 3-3 and the Bills at 4-2 except for Xavier who gives them 3-3 (not unreasonable considering how difficult the early schedule is).
I'm the lowest on the Patriots (a change from last year where I was highest on them) at 2-4, Xavier has them 3-3, and the other two have them at 4-2. Probably safe to expect them somewhere in that range but personally I think the schedule is a little more difficult than everyone else is assuming.
And finally we have the Jets with some optimism! Chris and RC see a nice 3-3 record early on. I have them at 2-4 and Xavier is still low on them at 1-5. Much like with the Patriots I think the schedule is more difficult than RC and Chris are anticipating. They have dates with the Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, Dolphins, and Packers. Not easy in my opinion.
--One of our most contentious divisions in weeks 1-3 was the AFC North and that hasn't changed here.
Chris and I are highest on the Ravens at 5-1. Xavier has them with a solid 4-2 and RC is bringing up the rear at 3-3. Things are reversed with the Bengals as Xavier is highest on them at 5-1, RC and Chris both have 4-2, and I'm lowest at 3-3. If I could redo it I think I would bump them up one win. 4-2 seems quite reasonable considering their early schedule seems quite manageable.
The big differences in our opinions are on the other two teams: Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Again, so much depends on how long you project the Browns to be without Watson. Xavier has them sitting pretty at 5-1 with no suspension, but the rest of us think Cleveland struggles to win without him. RC and I both have them at 2-4 and Chris has 3-3. I still think those scenarios are much more likely. The NFL can't afford to let Watson off without some kind of punishment.
And finally we have the Steelers who RC and Chris really seem to hate. They have Pitt at 1-5 and 0-6 respectively! The early schedule is quite difficult and it's likely they'll have a rookie QB, but Xavier and I are still giving them a more respectable 2-4.
--There's not much to say about the AFC South. We all agree that Jacksonville and the Texans still suck and we all agree that Tennessee and Indy are at least decent. Three of us have Indy at 4-2 which is a little surprising to me. I thought I might be the only one high on them but I guess not.
The biggest difference is Xavier who seems to like the Titans at 4-1 while RC and I are a bit down on them at 2-3. I'd be curious to hear Xavier's rationale for that one. It wouldn't surprise me if I was wrong about the Titans though as I've been perpetually underrating them for 2-3 years now.
--Nothing stands out too much in the AFC West. We all think the Chargers and Chiefs are good although there's a little disagreement about how the Chiefs get through their early schedule. The Raiders are the most frowned upon due to a very difficult early schedule. I was the most positive at 3-2 but I'd probably adjust that if given the chance.
Xavier is lowest on the Broncos at 2-4. I'm not seeing that one. The schedule isn't nearly as difficult as the Raiders.
--Very similar looking records for everyone in the NFC North. We all have Green Bay leading and Chicago in last. Xavier is a little more down on the Lions in general. RC and I are most positive on them. Chris and RC are both quite optimistic on the Vikings still, giving them a 4-2 record which ties the Packers for the lead.
--We get some bigger differences in the NFC East. Xavier and RC both like the Giants to go 3-3. Can't say I understand that. This is still a really bad team led by Daniel Jones and they have to play the Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, and Titans. Even if you give them wins over the Panthers and Bears they still need another win from that first group, and I don't think it's a given that they beat both Carolina and Chicago. 1-5 or 2-4 seems most likely to me.
RC and I both gave Philly 3-3 while Chris is highest at 5-1. I think he and Xavier are more on the right track. 4-2 seems right after further review. I think I was a little too low on them in my projections.
Both Washington and Dallas have mixed records for all of us. Chris is lowest on Washington at 1-5 and highest on Dallas at 4-3. I'm right in the middle at 3-3 for Dallas and 2-4 for Washington. That still seems accurate to me.
With so much dissent here I think there's room for some surprises. Philly seems like the favorite at this point.
--There aren't any huge differences in the NFC South. We all have Tampa in the lead with Atlanta and Carolina in the back in some combination. Xavier is lowest on Carolina while RC and I see potential for a couple wins there due to an easy schedule.
RC is also quite low on the Saints likely due to his dislike of Jameis Winston. I don't disagree with that, but I also acknowledge that the Saints have quite a good team around him, particularly on defense. That's why Xavier and I both have them at 4-2 at this point.
--And finally we have the NFC West without any real shocking takes. I'm a bit surprised to see the 49'ers with a better record across the group than the Rams, but now that I'm looking at the schedule again I see why. It's significantly easier than the Rams start. I would slightly adjust my picks for those two to be more in line with the group.
There is a split in the group on Arizona. RC and Chris both have them at 2-4 while Xavier and I have 4-2. Honestly 3-3 seems like a nice compromise. The early schedule is quite difficult with games against the Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, and Eagles.
And last but not least Chris is lowest on the Seahawks at 0-6. RC and I have 2-4 while Xavier has 3-3. Somewhere in the middle seems likely, maybe 1-5 or 2-4. This looks like quite a bad team to me and the schedule isn't their friend. 0-6 might be a little harsh though.
I reviewed last season's early projections to see if I could find any patterns that might help us when reviewing the 2022 projections. Here's what I found.
--Much like week 1-3 RC was almost spot on with his assessment of the AFC East. Chris and I were pretty close but a little too high on the Patriots, and Xavier was too low on the Bills and too high on everyone else.
--We were all quite close in our analysis of the AFC North. Xavier and I were a bit too high on the Browns, but everything else looked good. Chris was the most accurate overall and the only real notable bias was RC being too low on the Ravens, a mistake he seems to be repeating in 2022.
--Our AFC South picks were mostly pretty good although the group was noticeably too high on the Jaguars. Chris was much too low on the Titans, but not as low as I was! Easily the most egregious mistake so far was mine take on Tennessee. I had them 1-5 somehow when they actually went 4-2 so my 2-3 record for them this year should probably be adjusted significantly higher.
--Woof. Our group analysis of the AFC West was quite bad. We all had the Chiefs with a nice 5-1 record except for Xavier who correctly deduced that their tough schedule would have them at 3-3. The entire group missed badly on the Raiders who pulled off a couple of shocking close wins to give them a 4-2 record early.
RC was too high on the Broncos and Teddy Bridgewater while I was much too low on the Chargers because I thought their early schedule would hold them back.
Once again this shows me that when our opinions are divided so much on a division that means there's enough uncertainty to field a couple of surprises. The NFC East continues to stand out as the prime candidate for that in 2022.
--Speaking of the NFC East, our 2021 opinions were quite different as well. I was the most accurate in this case, only two games off the total. RC was a little too high on Washington, Xavier was too low on Philly and Dallas, and Chris was too high on Washington and too low on Dallas.
Seems like there were some common narratives we bought into as a group here, namely that the Washington defense was going to be elite and carry the team. Of course, they did lose Ryan Fitzpatrick for the season after we made these projections, but I'm not sure that would have changed things all too much.
I can see a little anti-Philly bias here as well. There was a lot of “Jalen Hurts is terrible” stuff going around this time last year. That didn't work out so well. Lesson learned? Don't buy into easy narratives. I'll have to think about how this could apply to 2022, but the most obvious team that comes to mind is the positive narrative surrounding the Jets. I'm not convinced that they've improved as much as some people seem to think.
--As a group our best division at this juncture was likely the NFC North. Xavier, RC, and I all had identical records and we were just a game or two off total. The lone standout was Chris who had the Vikings sitting pretty at 5-1, the Packers a lowly 2-4, and the Bears at 1-5. I would say he clearly cannot be trusted to remain unbiased when it comes to his Vikings, but his 2022 projections are in line with the rest of the group so far, so perhaps he's learned his lesson.
--RC and I did quite well with the NFC South at only 1 game off total. Chris and Xavier were in the right ballpark for the most part.
--Our NFC West projections, however, were not good...at all. We were all too high on the 49'ers although I was by far the worst offender. We were all too low on the Rams except for Chris who correctly identified that they would be a strong team. Nobody had the Cardinals picked to go 6-0 but I was closest at 4-2. Our best team from this division was the Seahawks as Chris and RC both correctly pegged them to go 2-4 while Xavier and I were at 3-3.
This was a very tough division last year with multiple goods teams which made the analysis early on quite difficult. That could easily apply to the AFC West in 2022.
--After reviewing our faux weeks 1-3 from last year I concluded that when we're all in agreement we tend to be pretty close to the mark. When one of us is a lone dissenter we are generally wrong. And when there's multiple different opinions it means there's uncertainty and room for surprises to happen.
I would say that those rules of thumb mostly hold true after reviewing weeks 4-6 from last year. Based on our differing opinions I continue to think that the NFC East and AFC West will be the divisions we get most wrong as a group. Those two divisions seem to be the two with the most teams that are close to the same talent level. There's no real consensus on who the best and worst teams are and thus many different takes on how things could shake out.
On the other side of the coin we have the NFC North and South and the AFC South where there's a clear division on who is good and not good. Those will likely be our most accurate divisions.