Yearly pundits take a crack at predicting how powerful of a schedule [insert team name here] has in retailer for them. Final 12 months your favourite pundit (fairly please) entered the fray. Let’s give it a go one other time—however with one different layer of information to work from. Think about this a two-part collection as we study each side of the ball for the opponents of the Buffalo Bills.
I’ll check out the upcoming opponents in two methods: an analytics-based mannequin and a few educated guessing. That second factor doesn’t want explaining so let’s follow the primary. With two key metrics (factors scored and yards per play) we take the 2020 rating of each opponent and create a median.
Like most predictions of this nature, it’s undoubtedly flawed in that we’re utilizing final 12 months’s ranks to foretell this 12 months, which…isn’t good. Additionally be aware we’re utilizing rating as we solely care about relative standings compared with the remainder of the league. Which means 16.5 is a “completely common” schedule, with decrease numbers that means stronger offenses.
The Analytics Mannequin
For instance the idea, I submit the beneath knowledge set. The Payments’ opponents had the next ranks when it got here to factors scored:
12 15 25 18 6 4 15 30 32 9 5 27 3 24 27 16 32
You would possibly discover that there are two every of 15, 27, and 32. These are the division opponents that consider twice. The common rating comes out to 17.6, which breaks out to a bit of bit worse than common.
Final 12 months’s prediction was a median of 17.4, so it may very well be anticipated that the Payments’ protection will sq. off comparatively equal in phrases competitors this 12 months as in contrast with the 2020 season.
As an apart, I did circle again to see if there was any validity to the train. Final 12 months’s prediction of 17.4 compares to final 12 months’s actuality of 18.2, which is fairly shut.
Yards per play
On the subject of yards per play, final 12 months the mannequin predicted opponents with a median rank of 21.3, which is frankly astounding (the fact was 18.8). Why is that astounding? As famous final 12 months, within the NFL each workforce confronted 13 of the league’s 32 groups. That’s 41 p.c, which ought to be a big sufficient pattern to make most scores hover near the common.
The 2021 Payments are projected to be going through a median opponent rank of 17.9, which is an honest bounce again to the anticipated. Placing the analytics mannequin collectively, the suggestion is that the Payments ought to face groups which are higher at shifting the ball than final 12 months, however not any higher at placing factors on the board.
Be aware: This 12 months workforce’s will face off towards 14 groups , or 44 p.c of the league, which ought to serve to additional drive rankings towards the common. (Bear in mind, Washington was added to the Payments’ schedule when the season expanded to 17 video games starting with the 2021 season.)
The explanation to incorporate that is to regulate for the key problem that’s—we’re going off of final 12 months’s ranks. Change ought to definitely be anticipated. Within the division, the Miami Dolphins have been mediocre, the New England Patriots have been flirting with unhealthy, and the New York Jets have been ranked lifeless final in each metrics seen above.
For the Dolphins’ offense, quite a bit will relaxation on the arm of Tua Tagovailoa. Buffalo confronted off towards Ryan Fitzpatrick of their first matchup, which was their stronger outing. It’s doable the Dolphins enhance with one other 12 months in the identical system however I’m not relying on a serious shift.
The Patriots (for now) look like driving with Cam Newton. I’ve loved watching the person’s profession however I don’t see him returning to MVP-caliber play. New England may try and shift the playbook to ultimately get Mac Jones onto the sector. That might seemingly be a poor match for Newton. The choice is to attempt to work two playbooks with one workforce, which additionally isn’t nice. If Jones does see recreation motion, I wouldn’t dream of predicting enchancment over their 2020 ranks.
Yell at me within the feedback as a result of I do suppose the Jets will enhance. That is primarily as a result of it takes a particular sort of unhealthy to be ranked 32 two years working. With a clear teaching slate and exactly zero confirmed quarterbacks on the roster, I don’t suppose it is going to be a BIG bounce. And sure, I received’t rule out the opportunity of them sticking round 32.
The remainder of the AFC opponents
The Payments will face the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs once more this 12 months. The Titans arguably had the strongest general offense based mostly on the metrics above, ranked quantity 4 in each. Ryan Tannehill’s resurgence (emergence?) appears to be legit and so they added Julio Jones. They don’t have a lot room to enhance, however it’d silly to count on regression. The Steelers however noticed indicators of Huge Ben’s decline and…determined to roll yet another 12 months with him—with primarily no backup plan. They have been common final 12 months and I’d wager they fall off a bit of bit extra. So long as Patrick Mahomes is upright and in crimson and yellow, Kansas Metropolis is an issue. There may very well be a slight decline with a mass exodus of offensive linemen—or an enchancment with the gamers they added alongside the road.
Final 12 months’s tilts with the Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, and Denver Broncos is changed with video games towards the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Raiders led the way in which in final 12 months’s trio with the Chargers and Broncos firmly within the “uninspiring” class. The Colts including Carson Wentz might make them much more harmful than final 12 months if Wentz rekindles magic with head coach Frank Reich. The Jagulars will roll out rookie Trevor Lawrence or Gardner Minshew II. That’s seemingly a wash. Doug Marrone being ousted for City Meyer may very well be the larger change, however the safer guess is on some rising pains. The Texans in the meantime are a query mark. If Deshaun Watson performs, contemplate this lineup stronger than final 12 months’s. I like Tyrod Taylor however he’s no Watson. If Watson doesn’t play, the group of Houston/Indy/Jax is possibly a slight enchancment over final 12 months’s Vegas/Bolts/Horsies lineup.
Final season the Payments confronted the NFC West, which, for probably the most half, was principally meh. Solely the Seattle Seahawks have been above common, with the (harm/COVID-19-ravaged) San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams on the decrease finish of common. Nobody was horrible although.
This 12 months the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers prime the listing. It’s doable Tom Brady will lastly flip to mud however betting on it has not precisely been wager. Utilizing final 12 months’s rating just like the mannequin above does, the New Orleans Saints ought to be an elite opponent. Nothing towards Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston, however they ain’t Drew Brees. This top-end opponent seemingly received’t be one in 2021.
The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers in the meantime look to be mediocre on paper, roughly equaling the 49ers and Rams. Matt Ryan can play and it’s seemingly Dan Quinn was holding him again. The lack of Julio Jones would possibly stability that out, however the Falcons is likely to be a workforce on the rise. Carolina is banking on the Jets having mishandled Sam Darnold—which actually is tough to argue towards.
You may add in Washington too, who would possibly present enchancment from their cellar standing final 12 months—but additionally represents a 2020 playoff workforce. Total the NFC opponents look to be a harder slate of offenses than final season.
The 2 fashions agree with one another that the Payments can have a harder schedule of offenses to face this season. On the analytics facet, scoring output was equally ranked each years. However the capability for opponent offenses to maneuver the ball appears to be like to be an honest clip higher this season. On the educated-guess facet of issues, the Payments’ hardest opponents final 12 months are on the schedule once more with no purpose to suppose a big decline is on the way in which. A number of new opponents look to be stronger than 2020’s listing.