Five Questions With Football Outsiders

Football Outsiders has released their annual Almanac previewing the season. It is an interesting read. Of note are their KUBIAK player projections for fantasy football. I used them for my fantasy teams last year. I played in two leagues. I came in first in the regular season in one and won the other from the third seed so this is good stuff when it comes to fantasy. Here is what they say: The essential guide to the 2011 season, the book that correctly predicted 9 of 12 playoff teams last year, fully updated with post-lockout free agency and trades.

Sean McCormick, who wrote the Jets preview chapter, answered five of my questions under the jump.

You can get it in either PDF or book form.

The five questions are under the jump. Keep in mind the opinions of Sean McCormick do not necessarily reflect those of GGN.

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1. Your chapter on the Jets refers to the team as a "cryptodynasty," a
team with multiple consecutive seasons falling just short of the
conference title. Some of those teams have eventually taken the next
step. Others did not. Rate the Jets' chances against the other
cryptodynasties.

I would say that their chances are worse for several reasons.  The
first is that the Jets’ playoff success the last two seasons has not
really been indicative of their quality of play in the regular season.
 It’s not like 1999 when
Tennessee was 13-3 and still had to go the
wild card route because there was a 14-2 juggernaut in their division.
 The Jets went into the playoffs as a sixth seed both times, and in
one of those years, they slipped in at 9-7.  Last year they were
better, but there was a fairly hefty gap between them and the cream of
the AFC like New
England and Pittsburgh, at least when you look at the
regular season as a whole.  Those teams aren’t going away, and this
year they are likely to be re-joined by
San Diego.  Those are all
teams that have as much or more talent up and down their rosters, but
each one also boasts an elite quarterback.  Mark Sanchez is getting
better, but he would have to take a huge leap to reach the Tom
Brady/Philip Rivers level.  That brings up a longer-term problem,
which is that beyond Sanchez and Shonn Greene, the Jets really don’t
have much young talent to develop.  This is a veteran-laden team,
which means that they have a small window to break through.

2. You guys run projections on every skill player. How much more
challenging was it to project what Plaxico Burress will do than
another receiver. Do you have any less confidence in your proejection
relative to other players?

Obviously you aren’t going to find many players period who are coming
into the league after two years in prison, much less guys who match
Burress’ age and position.  That said, Burress may not be as hard a
projection as you might think.  Receivers don’t generally get better
once they hit their mid-thirties, and in Plax’s case, his play was
actually tailing off before his nightclub incident.  There is an
established narrative that Burress’ arrest sent the Giants’ passing
game into a tailspin, but their passing DVOA was actually better in
the games where Burress was out, and while you don’t want to read too
much into these things, it’s worth noting that Eli Manning didn’t show
much interest in lobbying for Burress’ return.  Supposedly the Jets
were sold based on a phenomenal workout tape Burress put together, but
it takes a lot of optimism to think that Burress is therefore ready to
step into a starting job and pick up where he left off.  The good news
is that Burress is still a physical problem for defenses in the red
zone, so he may still prove useful as a specialist, but considering
how things shook out, the Jets would have been better off in the short
term and in the long term by simply re-signing Braylon Edwards.

3. You note in your projections that Derrick Mason has a history of
being very productive in the red zone. To what degree do you think he
will help the Jets in this area, and to what degree do you think his
production there was by chance?

Mason has always run very precise routes, which is naturally of help
in the red zone.  That said, it’s tough to project that way because
you don’t know that the Jets will end up using Mason the same way that
Baltimore did, and because Mason is at an age where he could lose his
ability to get away from press coverage at any moment.  It’s more
likely that the Jets will run plays specifically for Burress when they
get close, and that those plays will look a lot like what they ran for
Braylon Edwards.

4. You guys rate the Jets' third down defense as the worst in the NFL
in 2010. To what degree do you see this improving if at all, and what
are the biggest reasons?

The odds of the third down defense improving are very good.  To put
things in perspective, the Jets were far and away the best third-down
defense in the league in 2009.  There was no question that they were
going to be some regression some last year, though I don’t think
anyone would have predicted that the Jets would suddenly be a worse
third-down defense than
Houston or Denver.  The Jets have been
consistently good on first and second down, and the Plexiglass
Principle suggests that the third down performance will bounce back,
even if you don’t factor in any tinkering by Rex Ryan or Rob Pettine.

5. The Jets averaged 5.7 per play in their Wildcat (Seminole) package.
How much success would one attribute to the now departed Brad Smith,
and how much was due to blocking?

Oh, I would attribute most of the success to the blocking and the
scheme.  The Seminole is a specialty package, and it reminds me a bit
of the success the Jets have had with their special teams.  The Jets
have been able to replace one star kick returner after another, from
Leon Johnson to Chad Morton to Leon Washington, and I’m sure they’ll
have no problem replacing Smith, too.  I think the same holds for the
Seminole.  If anything, I’ve been struck in the preseason by the
sophisticated ways that the team has used Jeremy Kerley in the
formation.  Kerley has run some counter plays with run/pass options
that I’m not sure the team would trust Smith to execute.

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