The FFM Analysts Debate/Discuss the 2022 NFL Season Projections (Part 6) *The finale


A couple of weeks ago, we ran a series (Faux 1.0) where our analysts ran their 2022 season projections for wins-losses and projecting through the playoffs. They then took that information and pitched their Top 3 over-under win total bets, using a fictitious $1,000 to wager. Now, to wrap up this series, the analysts were engaged in a chat format debate/questions on their 2022 projected season results and top over-under bets – and we will be publishing the chat over the course of this week in a daily series, publishing a section at a time (in order).

This chat was designed to detail more on the group’s top predictions and/or most controversial projections. Sometimes the group is in agreement, but there’s always room for firework debates on the right topic (and we had a few).

We hope you enjoy this peek behind the curtain as the FFM analyst’s weigh in on their early predictions and projections for 2022. Analysts = RC, Ross Jacobs, Xavier Cromartie, and Chris Bilello (limited due to travel when we had this ongoing chat). 

*Forgive any typos, shorthand-grammar…it’s an informal chat, with a lot of words published straight from the chat.

RC: Final question is a two-parter…

1: Having gone through this Faux 1.0 exercise, and seeing everyone else’s projections and debate – what’s the big regret or team you’re now talked into a little bit, etc. What’s the big change you would make if you were re-doing your full season projections and/or playoff scenarios?

2: As we sit and chat today, Deshaun Watson has yet to be suspended but all hell is breaking loose on how much worse this whole situation is. What is your current prediction on his 2022 suspension scenario? Include what your suspension prediction for Faux 1.0 was. And what ripple effects do you see happening to the Browns and any other team off an increase in your suspension projection? It sure does help those Cincy ‘overs’, no? 

XC: Any changes would come from new information being available. The QB market is still unsettled. Watson could be suspended. Baker Mayfield could go to the Seahawks or maybe even stay with the Browns to fill in for Watson. Jimmy Garoppolo could go to the Panthers. Injuries or trades at WR would also have a significant impact. If Watson is suspended for a long time because of the new cases filed after we ran the faux season projections, then obviously I would change my projection. But that information was unknown beforehand and his fate is still uncertain as of this writing. The Broncos are a team that I knew I would be low-balling. Nothing has changed there, but they have a new coach and QB, and so it's less predictable than other situations. Ergo, I didn't take the Broncos as one of my picks.

I did not project Watson to be suspended in 2022. I have no comment on Watson's legal situation. I have the Browns 1-1 against the Bengals and 2-0 against the Steelers. Thank you.

Ross: I can think of two changes that stand out to me. I think I would bump the Titans up just a little bit and drop the Cardinals down a little.

In my faux season I projected Watson to be suspended for 6 games although I was thinking it could be as high as 8, but in recent weeks I've come to believe he's going to be suspended for the entire year. I think the league was planning on 4-6 weeks initially but with more allegations coming out and MLB suspending Trevor Bauer for 2 years, circumstances have changed. I suspect that Goodell is going to see a year suspension as the best scenario for all parties. The league gets to look more tough than they have in other cases, Watson gets a year to handle these cases (settling all of them is in the NFL's best interest as well, they don't want him to be found guilty, that's bad for their image), and Watson loses no income due to how his contract with Cleveland was structured.

If he is indeed gone for the entire year then I definitely think that takes the Bengals into “best bet” territory. I also like the Ravens over quite a lot in that case. Obviously the Browns line is going to be very low as well, somewhere in the range of 6.5 I would guess. I don't believe Baker is coming back to save them.

XC: A year-long suspension to “look tough”? Is Goodell no more than a Roman Emperor who looks to the crowd of the Colosseum to see whether to give the thumbs up or thumbs down?

RC: Yes…Goodell is that Emperor…101%. 

Our job in projecting and betting on these things, the Browns…the ripple effects to the other teams on their schedule…is in part ‘guessing’/theorizing on what Goodell will do ‘for the Shield’. And ‘the Shield’ is…what the owners want…who are also reacting to ‘the crowd’, but also what’s in their best interests (which might just be quelling the crowd). 

I think so many owners are pissed at Jimmy Haslam that they will delight in roasting him here. I think Watson will now be suspended indefinitely (to just get this out of sight) while they look to see how they can nullify the contract. 

I did my Faux 1.0 season projections with DW gone for 8 games. If I did mine today – he’s gone all 17. I’ve been changing all my FF projections to reflect not-Watson (and not-Baker) at QB for Cleveland…but I could see Baker, if Watson deal gets nullified (which I have no real idea how they will, but I’m sure they can try and probably find a way in some event). 

XC: Have you forgotten that the NFLPA and CBA exist? The scenario that you've described isn't legal. The Disciplinary Officer (not Roger Goodell) must examine the evidence and prove that Watson violated the Personal Conduct Policy. If the Disciplinary Officer recommends no suspension, then there is nothing Goodell or the owners can do. Goodell has power as Commissioner only if the Disciplinary Officer determines, via the evidence available to the NFL, that Watson should be suspended.

So, you are projecting that there is sufficient evidence against Watson to suspend him. Could you please state here, on the written public record, what specific acts you believe Watson committed that led to your projection of his suspension?

RC: Was Ezekiel Elliott convicted of anything to warrant his suspension a few years ago? Jameis Winston v. Uber driver from 2018? Was Ray Rice convicted of anything (I can’t remember, truly…but I don't think so)? Ditto Greg Hardy for 10 games? 

Doesn’t the league conduct their own investigations and do what they want? Tom Brady ‘deflategate’? I’m willing to be educated on it because I don’t track the real legalities with the suspensions. I just know people get suspended in the NFL all the time for ‘conduct detrimental’ but weren’t convicted of anything…or maintain their innocence all along. 

Even if the Browns imposed their own (wink-wink) suspension/keep Watson away from the team for a while? What if it’s found Watson lied in his testimony/time with the NFL talking about things? What if he never mentioned the Houston NDAs? Or if his count of how many therapists used were off by a lot? 

XC: Elliott and all the other suspensions happened before the latest CBA. The latest CBA was changed to be more fair to the players. The Disciplinary Officer oversees the league's private investigation. It is true that a criminal conviction is not required to suspend a player for violating the PCP. But the player will be disciplined for violating the PCP only if "credible evidence establishes that he engaged in prohibited conduct." The Disciplinary Officer looks at the evidence and facts gathered by the league and makes the determination of discipline. If the Disciplinary Officer does support a suspension in this case, then the baseline would be 6 games, but that number can be adjusted up or down (e.g., if the league felt that he blatantly lied, that could be an aggravating factor).

Now the currently known facts are (1) the Texas grand juries did not believe that there was enough evidence to charge Watson criminally; (2) the civil lawsuits are still pending; and (3) the league (unlike the media) did not swiftly jump to the conclusion that the allegations are "credible evidence." Therefore, if you are projecting that Watson will be suspended, then you must personally believe that the NFL will ultimately find a good reason to believe the accusing women, in at least some way. Because, of course, if you instead believe Watson's side of the story, then there should be no reason to suspend him.

RC: I think if the NFL thinks they need to put Watson on ice ‘for the Shield’...then they will find something/some reason, some anything to do what they want to do. And based on where sentiment is going…the NFL is gonna wanna run from this. And if the NFLPA gets in the way of this, then they’re in the spot of defending Deshaun, who is hated by most of the league’s players/their members. 

I, personally, think they’re all going to explore a way out of this – to void the contract and undo the deal and have a settlement on picks returned to Houston. Cleveland is gonna want ‘out’ of this and so will the NFL. Watson is going to become a bigger pariah than Tim Tebow or Colin Kaepernick…and I use them as examples because neither was guilty of any crime. They are examples of what happens when the league doesn’t want to deal with PR headaches…and I get their logic on why they have to micromanage PR, player or constitution be damned. And with Watson…we don’t know what could come from the past next. 

At a minimum, for now, they can just freeze him/ghost him…an indefinite suspension, even paid for the year (his $1M) until everything is washed through on civil cases, or more claims. I’m just thinking – ‘what would a corporation do?’ They want this to go away for a while/ever. They can make it so…or at least make it go away for now/2022. 

If an assistant coach can be fined for a non-criminal (libel or slander) tweet…and ultimately he’ll be run out of the league for it – then THEY can do whatever they want with Watson, legalities or morality or free speech or constitution be damned. I think they’re getting backed into a corner and their answer to that will be to make the problem go away (for now, for awhile, or forever).

Ross: Pretty much what RC said. The NFL doesn’t give a damn about an officer or even their own rules. They’ve shown that plenty of times. They are going to protect themselves and if that means roasting Watson (fair or not) they’ll do it. There’s no loyalty here.

XC: A suspension is a legitimate possibility. But essentially everything else in your head canon seems detached from reality. Which players hate Watson? Many players have shown support for him on Twitter. Nick Chubb said, "We all love him." Watson took his teammates on a trip to the Bahamas. The players didn't watch the HBO hit piece. They don't care about it. They interact with Watson as a football player.

Tim Tebow (inspirational speaker and good Christian man) is out of the league because of an incompatible skillset, like many players every year. Colin Kaepernick intentionally antagonized a large portion of the NFL fan base and would have directly harmed the revenue of any team that signed him. Deshaun Watson had multiple teams bidding on him the nanosecond that the criminal charges were dropped despite the possibility of a suspension.

Even more bonkers is the idea of voiding/undoing Watson's contact. A theory on this topic was floated by fake-news website PFT, but it has already been explicitly refuted by the Browns. It would become theoretically possible only in the highly unlikely scenario that the newest, 24th lawsuit were elevated to a criminal case. The Browns are acting in a way that is the complete inverse of your imagination. They are sticking by Watson despite any PR hits that come. Even if they did want to get out of Watson's contract, you should consider seeking mental health services if you think that the NFLPA would stand back and let it happen.

Are you aware that the Disciplinary Officer is a real person? This person is jointly chosen by both the NFL and the NFLPA. The person who was jointly chosen is Sue L. Robinson. She was appointed as a judge of a federal district court in 1991 by former Republican President George H. W. Bush, and she retired 26 years later. Yet you believe that this former judge is, in reality, a mere stooge of Roger Goodell, who is on a personal quest to completely remove Watson from the NFL at any cost (even if it's illegal) to appease an angry Twitter mob. Where can I find your sports fiction novel on Amazon?

I will close by saying that unlike my colleagues at FFM, I believe that the NFL follows the laws of the United States.

RC: Oh, wait. Nick Chubb ‘we all love him’ – that’s a clincher. I take it all back. File that with every player who loves the new coaching staff and QB…but then 2-4 years later is bagging on them and we find out how much they hated playing for ___. 

The Browns refuted they were looking into voiding the contract? Why, case closed. The Browns are so wonderfully run and organizations never lie. You mean the Browns aren't publicly admitting their error right now? Shocking. And maybe they don't feel so, and will go to the end with Watson – I could see that, but don't give me ‘they said’ and expect me to buy that BS. No more than I believe ‘Deshaun said…’ a month or so ago. 

I’m not saying I’m right 100% and he’s gonna be suspended all year and you’re wrong…but I don’t believe I am way off base in suspecting/predicting a harsh punishment. What you noted about Kaepernick is my case for Watson – and if teams were doing the bidding now (not months ago) after this HBO thing + the 24th person coming out and the text messages + the number of therapists he sought + the Houston NDA thing…on top of the bad scene with the other cases – it’s a mammoth, growing black eye for the league and no one would do a deal with him right now. ‘What could come out tomorrow?’ has to be on the NFL’s mind. And if Deshaun lied about anything to the NFL in his testimony/meeting – then there’s gonna be grounds for something right there. 

And lastly…wait, the NFL appointed a judge! Why, I feel better already! In no way are any judges ever compromised, stooges, or biased. A former judge is the Disciplinary Officer…well, case closed. Does Sue have a real gavel and everything? One of those cool robes when she’s deliberating the Watson case. 

I could be wrong about 17 games or indefinite. But your assertion that it can’t be either or anything above zero…you’re entitled to that call, and you can celebrate and spike it in my face if you’re right, but I think the case for zero and no case for anything else – it is as delusional as you probably think my case is. 

How about this to end this so we don’t go in circles on it (but I want you to have the last word to roast me, as a good host…), because I don’t want to give Deshaun too much of our brain cells over dart throw guesses at the purity of the NFL legal system – coffee bet…if Watson plays Week 1, I’ll send you a cup of Starbucks coffee…but if Watson is suspended for Week 1 – you owe me the sweet nectar of the gods? I mean, there’s no way he’ll get suspended right – you are taking candy/coffee from a baby here!

XC: I have said that it is uncertain whether he will or will not be suspended. In every response I have made about Watson, I have shown openness to the possibility of suspension. I didn't project him to be suspended in my faux season for the same reason I didn't project any other player to be suspended, injured, or traded—I don't have that information at this time.

I will end with a quote. "You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." A person might assume that this quote is related to the Deshaun Watson situation. But in fact it was Tim Tebow who said it, quoting Psalm 16:11. Remember to question assumptions.