2021 Team Projections - Review

2021 was the first season where I did some serious rankings myself. Didn’t just sort some lists or assigned random values to players, but went the extra mile and started ranking teams by passing and rushing production, to determine how much volume each team has to distribute among their players.

So, with the regular season in the books, it’s time to review how I did.
TL;DR: not too bad, overall, but with a couple of heavy misses.

Here is a list of my biggest bloopers. Could I have known better before week 1, or did the season just not go as expected for these teams?

Below lists show where I ranked each team in the respective category. Passing Yards = 1 means I expected that team to rack up the most passing yards in the league, 32 represents the least yards among all 32 NFL teams.

Passing Yards

Team Projected Rank Actual Rank Missed by
BAL 29 13 16
NYJ 31 20 11
NE 24 14 10
CAR 19 29 -10
NO 22 32 -10
SEA 7 23 -16

The Ravens certainly did go through the air a lot more than in previous years. I had bumped them a little, but that was not nearly enough. Their woes on RB certainly played a role here.

As for the Jets, I was one of Zach Wilson’s biggest critics, and in the beginning of the season, he seemed to prove me right. But I can’t deny that he did show a notable development towards the end of the season. The games with Mike White under center also bumped the team production quite a bit. Overall, the Jets did better than I had anticipated.

Same story about the Patriots: I never thought Mac Jones was terrible, but I had not thought he would be so good in his rookie year already. His stat line looks very solid, and so does the Pats’ team production. Didn’t give them enough credit.

As for Carolina, I had hopes that Sam Darnold could show he’s actually a good QB. He didn’t. Then he was injured, which hurt the team production even more. Maybe I had them ranked a little too high, but I don’t think we could expect their season to be that terrible.

Same for New Orleans, where the slip in passing production can be attributed to Jameis Winston’s injury. Can’t project these kind of injuries, so I’m cool with my miss.

But what about Seattle? On paper, they had a great receiving corps, whereas their backfield looked shaky. Russell Wilson had repeatedly voiced his intention to rely more on the pass, and it looked like the team would unleash him more than in recent years. Okay, ranking them 7th in terms of passing yards may have been too optimistic. But 23rd? That’s their worst since 2018. Did I just miss the writing on the wall, or was the Seahawks season just a bad surprise?

For the rest of the league, I did okay. Projected 23 teams within 5 ranks of their actual result, which means my volume predictions were pretty much on par.

Rushing stats comparison will follow in the next post.

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Rushing Yards

Team Projected Rank Actual Rank Missed by
LAR 12 25 13
MIN 4 17 13
LV 15 28 13
IND 14 2 -12
DET 31 19 -12
BUF 19 6 -13
WSH 26 12 -14

Rams - their RB1 got injured, and their passing game was stellar. I’m still a little surprised that they didn’t focus on the run a little more, as they had a lot of positive game scripts. Anyway, it is what it is.

The Vikings really were a surprise. Sure, Dalvin Cook had some health issues, but Mattison wasn’t terrible whenever he had to fill in. But the Vikings relied on the pass more than I had expected. Did I miss some signs here?

The Raiders had a chaotic season. They also threw more check-down or shuffle passes to their RBs, which shifted the stat line a little. Not sure if I should have ranked them differently during the preseason.

The Colts - I have to admit, I have never been a Jonathan Taylor believer, and I was wrong. Simple as that. Plus, Carson Wentz is not as great a passer as everybody thought he was. Lesson learned.

As for the Lions, I did correctly project them to be one of the worst teams of the 2022 season. So my expectation was that they had to lean on the pass more, due to a lot of negative game scripts. They didn’t, and Swift performed well, hence my miss.

Now, as for the Bills - I double- and triple-checked. Did they really rack up the 6th most rushing yards of all NFL teams? I was fairly sure my #19 projection would turn out to be pretty accurate, but alas - they are one of my biggest misses. Definitely need to take a closer look at this.

No headache about my miss on The Football Team, though. My projections were based on Ryan Fitzpatrick finishing his career on a high note, so I had them down as a pass-heavy team. But his season (and sadly, his career) ended after just a few snaps, and with Heinicke (or worse) under center, they turned into a run-heavy team. Happens.

So, back to the drawing board for the 2022 season. I’m pretty happy with my first attempt at rankings and projections, and hope I can improve the accuracy for the next season.

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Russell Wilson started off strong, but then Chris Carson got injured. Seattle’s passing attack is predicated off at least a threat of running and play action. Then Wilson got injured and took several games to get right. 7 might have been too high, but 23 is certainly an aberration that couldn’t have been predicted by process.

Right, Russell had his finger injury. Had already forgotten about that.

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