Jason Fitzgerald


Recent Posts by Jason

Looking at the Decisions Facing the Giants

I had talked about the Giants a bit on the podcast this week and then came across this piece on the Giants by Bart Hubbuchof the NYPost  and I thought it made an interesting topic to discuss here as well since this is clearly a team with big decisions to make.

It’s easy to find excuses for the 3-8 record the Giants currently have. The team does enough at times to make them think that they are just a few breaks away from turning their season around and being a playoff competitor. It is very easy to look back at the seasons results and say the Giants could have beaten Arizona, San Francisco, and Dallas (possibly twice).  Change the results of those games and 3-8 quickly turns to 6-5 or 7-4 in the blink of an eye.

They never had their expected started receivers really healthy at the same time. David Wilson was forced into retirement in the summer. Their starting running back, Rashad Jennings, got hurt just as the team really settled into an offensive groove. The team lost two key members of the secondary- Prince Amukamara and Walter Thurmond to season ending injuries. One of their big free agent acquisitions, Geoff Schwartz, missed almost of all the season due to injury. Their other prime free agent acquisition, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, has nursed nagging injuries all year. Jon Beason, their starting middle linebacker in 2013, was injured in camp and was ineffective trying to play through the pain. It’s very easy to sit back and say this season was derailed before it even began.

But the Giants also have to consider reality. When you go back to the Giants first “era” under head coach Tom Coughlin you have a team that won 11 games in 2005, 8 games in 2006, 10 games in 2007, and 12 games in 2008. Included in that stretch were two division titles, four playoff appearances, and, of course, the Super Bowl championship in 2007.

Since that time the Giants have made the playoffs just once and only once finished the season with at least 10 wins. Now the one playoff season was a huge success in 2011, culminating in another Super Bowl win, but the fact is the Giants have not improved at all since then.  Since winning the Super Bowl in 2011, they have won 9 games in 2012, 7 games in 2013 and are on pace for a 4 or 5 win season in 2014.

Here is what the record of the Giants looks like since Coughlin took over the team in 2004.

Giants Record

This pattern is the real problem facing the Giants. You look at those first years and it’s a team building towards something. They were a team that showed, over the long term, improvement. Their best team was probably not the one that won the Super Bowl, but it was a period of growth. Since then they have been stagnant over the regular season and now look to be in freefall.

Blinders in the NFL can lead to the downfall of an organization. The Giants at times seem so focused on 2011 that they don’t seem to realize that that season was an eternity ago in the NFL. Whatever fixes the Giants have tried to get back there have not worked. You can not fall back on excuses for 2012, 2013, and 2014. At some point you have to realize that chasing what worked then is probably not going to improve the team either now or in the future.

The Giants are not alone in this struggle in the NFL. The Jets for years chased a handful of successful seasons until they realized they had to just rip the team apart and begin again. New Orleans should be asking themselves the same questions that the Giants should be asking now. Philadelphia’s been down this road and so have countless other teams in the NFL.

The Giants are in one of the worst situations a team can find themselves in. They have the two time Super Bowl winning coach and quarterback, but neither of late has looked to be anywhere near that level anymore. Both are essentially going to enter lame duck periods with the organization and the decisions with those two will likely shape the direction the franchise goes in. The decision on the QB is the one that shapes the roster of the team going forward and no matter what the decisions will be criticized.

I’ve been an Eli Manning fan and I think he often gets criticized harshly because of where he was drafted and why he was drafted there. But Manning is not the kind of player who is going to put a below average team on his back and carry them to greatness. What the Giants need to ask is whether he can still play a very important role on a decent team and how long he can play that role for. Let’s look at the options ahead:

A Free Agent Frenzy

The Giants are not a team that seems to be an N’damukong Suh away from a deep playoff run. They need a new left tackle. They need a better running game. They need better pass rushers and more consistent play from the secondary. Even Victor Cruz has to be a major question mark after finishing the last two years on IR.  Fixing the team for 2015 seems to be a difficult task, one that could cost tens of millions of dollars in free agency and end up blowing the Giants up for the next 4 years if things go poorly. But if the Giants don’t believe in the viability of Manning to grow with a younger team and need to keep him, this is the path they must take.

The Giants salary cap position isn’t bad going into 2015, but I don’t think you would call it great either.  My estimates have the Giants going into next season with a ballpark number of $24 million in cap room, assuming a $144 million cap, which roughly means $18 million in cap to spend. They can create more space by releasing players like Beason and Mathias Kiwanuka, but they also have Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle coming up as free agents.

With all the holes the Giants have on the roster it really requires an extension of Manning to make it feasible. And once you extend Manning can you really let a player like Pierre-Paul walk? Probably not, even though JPP will likely clog the Giants cap for years to come and never bring them value at whatever cost his extension comes in at. You look at free agency and see Suh, maybe a DeMarco Murray, Julius Thomas, and so on. You have to reach for the stars and hope they all align because if they don’t you become the Oakland Raiders of a few years ago.

And at what cost can you extend Manning?  With the QB position being such a premier pay position, a two time Super Bowl winner is going to cost a great deal if he ever hits free agency. A team like the Rams or even the Giants stadium partners would jump all over him. Manning is not going to sign some Andy Dalton incentive laden, $16 million a year contract. He is going to want big money and should be content to wait until his draft cohort of Ben Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers get theirs to give him a minimum acceptable level.

Because you have to make the numbers work with the salary cap this is going to likely lead to a very player friendly deal. If Manning continues to be an interception machine or the team plays poorly he is going be a cap killer under this plan and likely be a sticking point when it comes to bringing any new coaches on in the future.

 End The Manning Era

Some might say that this is the time to trade Manning away because of all these factors, and I can understand that line of thinking, but it would rely on the team having the ability to draft a quarterback in the first round. Otherwise what benefit would they have?  They just drafted a terrific wide receiver whose talents will be lost playing with a journeyman level quarterback. They will then be stuck with a bunch of failed free agents they signed this year and some additional draft picks while Ryan Nassib plays QB in what will be a lost 2015. When you charge the prices the Giants charge for tickets it is very hard to sell that to your fanbase, unless you get an absolute haul in a trade. If the Giants are willing to go this path it means Manning and Coughlin will both be gone, but GM Jerry Reese could remain long term if he was given the green light to do this.

Stay the Course

The third option is to just play it out next year. Bring back the coach and the QB, but don’t touch the contracts. This is probably the most likely scenario for the team given the Giants recent history. Under this scenario you probably bring back Rolle but let JPP walk in free agency, because he is too risky long term. The team will pinpoint one or two free agents and keep their fingers crossed that the injury excuse works and the rest of the team is healthy and productive in 2015.

The most likely outcome is that the team continues to struggle, but the Giants can get whatever additional confirmation that they need that they should blow the team up in 2016. Since they didn’t extend Manning they can hit the exit switch and move on to their next era of football. Manning becomes a free agent and the Giants can release the players signed in 2014 with little cap implications. Those signed next year you are stuck with, but that should not be a major negative moving forward.

This ties Manning, Coughlin, and Reese together for one more season, with all three going if it fails. A new GM would likely use the franchise tag on Manning, despite the cost, in an effort to trade Manning and get something back in return in 2016 rather than having him walk for nothing. So they don’t really lose the trade benefit completely if they do this.

Build Young Around Manning

This is the scenario where the Giants realize that the free agent fixes haven’t worked for them for years and need to change their approach by building through the draft and looking for a long term solution. The Giants have to believe, under this scenario, that Manning has a long career ahead of him and can be viable three and four years down the line as a group of youngsters hit their prime.

Manning would also be extended in this case, but under very different terms than the extension talked about in the free agent plan. The GM doesn’t care about the cap in the present since free agency isn’t a priority and can design a frontloaded contract where the Giants take the brunt of the salary cap hits on a massive contract early so that they have cap flexibility two-three years down the line when they are ready to make the moves to supplement the youth they bring in.

That doesn’t completely nullify 2015 as they can try to get by with the players they recently signed, but would likely avoid bringing back Pierre-Paul and Rolle. In fact they would essentially disregard free agency entirely in 2015 outside a few players here and there that can sign shorter term deals. The type of contract that Manning would sign would likely still leave the emergency exit door open in the future if the draft picks fail and/or Manning fails, so it is not a cap or roster killer.

This plan likely means the end of Coughlin unless they think he does have another 3 or 4 years in him, but keeps the other two in place no matter what.

So what path would you take if you were a Giants fan or in charge of running the team?  It’s a big decision. I definitely would not extend Manning at this point and I don’t believe a free agent splash is going to amount to anything either. I’d probably lean towards staying the course, not because I believe that it will work, I just think it’s the best option for the team as constituted.

I’m pretty certain I’m not keeping Manning long term, but Ill keep the window slightly ajar in case something radical changes next season. I won’t damage the long term health of the team moving forward with that plan as I would others and I’ll make certain my team as a pulse at QB in 2015, because I know if I go to the alterative on my team I’m just throwing the season away, possibly for no good reason.

It’s almost a no-win scenario for the Giants. If they do nothing in the offseason they are going to get killed for throwing in the towel on a team that some think are a few pieces away. If they go crazy in free agency people will kill them for overspending on a team that is closer to the Buccaneers than the Broncos.

It’s probably the type of situation where the only way to make a majority of people pleased with the direction is to hire a new GM who will have a honeymoon period to remold the roster. I would not expect a new GM next season so Id anticipate the Giants having many months of listening to second guessing the decision making process and hoping that the regular season proves them right for doing whatever they decide to do.

2015 NFL Draft Selection Tracker

Welcome to our NFL Draft Selection Tracker. We are currently updated through the results of all the games in week 12. Hopefully this tracker will give you a better idea for your mock drafting or fan discussions as it reflects the overall SOS rather than the SOS at this moment in time.

The draft order for the first 20 selections is determined by win/loss record with ties being broken by strength of schedule.  Most draft charts will only use the current SOS, but for this chart we use the SOS projections for a teams’ entire schedule since it’s that number that eventually matters. Picks 21 through 32 are determined by playoff exits. For the time being I am not making those changes since it is so early in the season for tiebreakers, but for this week what that would mean is that the Saints, Colts, Lions and Steelers are all in the 21+ range despite their current draft status.

Our current top 5 picks belong to the Raiders, Jaguars, Buccaneers, Titans, and Jets.  At this point I would say that the top 4 teams all have a chance to obtain the number one overall pick.  Tampa and Tennessee are neck and neck for winning a tiebreaker and if the Raiders or Jaguars fall into a tie with those teams they will immediately move to the back of the group.

Jacksonville has the “clearest” path to number 1. If they lose out its almost a certainty they will win it. For the Raiders to get the 1 they are going to need to lose out and have the Jaguars win one game. Their Thursday night game against the Titans in a few weeks could be for the number 1 overall pick if the Raiders win another game. If the Jaguars lose to the Titans, the Titans will jump them in the race for the top picks.  The Jets basically have no chance for the number 1 selection.

If you notice any other errors also let me know and Ill check the formulas to make sure the schedules are correct.

2015 Projected Draft Order, November 25

PickTeamWin %SOS
1Jaguars0.0910.520
2Raiders0.0910.602
3Buccaneers0.1820.469
4Titans0.1820.486
5Jets0.1820.557
6Redskins0.2730.489
7Giants0.2730.517
8Panthers0.3180.497
9Vikings0.3640.474
10Falcons0.3640.474
11Saints0.3640.491
12Rams0.3640.551
13Texans0.4550.440
14Bears0.4550.509
15Dolphins0.5450.506
16Bills0.5450.528
17Browns0.6360.446
18Steelers0.6360.457
19Lions0.6360.469
20Colts0.6360.474
21Ravens0.6360.480
22Chargers0.6360.511
23Chiefs0.6360.517
2449ers0.6360.534
25Seahawks0.6360.548
26Bengals0.6820.497
27Cowboys0.7270.449
28Eagles0.7270.463
29Packers0.7270.474
30Broncos0.7270.537
31Patriots0.8180.509
32Cardinals0.8180.523

 

NFL Predictions 2014: Week 12

Some big upsets last week which helped lead to a 7-7 record SU and 8-6 record ATS. My record on the season now stands at 104-56-1 and 93-64-4.  I’m not off to a good start with the pick of the Chiefs on Thursday. Let’s hope or better luck today…

 

Browns (+3) over FALCONS- Cleveland needs a better effort than last week, but should get somewhat healthy against a poor Falcons defense.  If Browns defense dictates the pace of the game they will win outright. Browns 21 Falcons 17

EAGLES (-11) over Titans- Philly was embarrassed last week  but should bounce back this week with a big win. If LeSean McCoy can’t have a monster game against the Titans you can probably write that off for the rest of the season.  Eagles 29 Titans 17

Lions (+7.5) over PATRIOTS- With the NFC so tight  this is a game the Lions would like to have especially to avoid a losing streak. That said New England is clicking on all cylinders and Detroit’s offense likely cant keep up in a game that gets in the 20s. But the line seems to be selling the Lions defense way short and if they play the way they have the Lions offense should stumble their way into the end zone a few times.  Patriots 20 Lions 14

Packers (-7.5) over VIKINGS- I tried to come up with a way to give the Vikings a chance and I cant do it. Their offense is so poor and its designed to just completely hide a QB. Jennings will be back for Minnesota which doesn’t mean much, though he may be trying to audition to a return to Green Bay after he is released next season. Packers 28 Vikings 14

COLTS (-13.5) over Jaguars- The Colts look to be at least a year away from competing with the big boys, but they will dominate the rest of the NFL, especially the cellar dwellers like the Jaguars. Only chance for Jacksonville is if they have likely prepared for this game as if it’s the Super Bowl and may have a higher than expected level of intensity. Even then its hard to see a win. Colts 34 Jaguars 16

Bengals (+2) over TEXANS- I see this being a real flip a coin kind of game between two pretty evenly matched teams. The Bengals fate always lays in the hands of their quarterback and whether or not he throws the games away for them.   Close game decided by a field goal late so Ill take the points. Texans 17 Bengals 16

Buccaneers (+5.5) over BEARS- I don’t think this game means all that much to the Bears players beyond just getting a win, but if the Bucs players have any connection to their head coach or, to a lesser extent, quarterback, they will likely give that extra effort that could push things in their favor. Chicago has better talent and the home field but that defense is so bad that I cant expect them to win by 6. Bears 24 Buccaneers 20

Cardinals (+7.5) over SEAHAWKS- The line certainly scares me since its begging me to take Arizona, but I’ll do it anyway. Seattle will need to get away from their usual way of playing if they are to beat Arizona unless Arizona is just overwhelmed by the atmosphere of the game. Arizona’s been the better team and Ill select them to continue to be that. Cardinals 19 Seahawks 17

CHARGERS (-6) over Rams- I can’t really figure the Rams out and the Chargers are trending don making this a high line to consider, but the Rams haven’t been the most consistent of teams and if there is a game that can be a letdown its this one. Chargers 21 Rams 14

Dolphins (+6.5) over BRONCOS- I think this will be much closer than people think. The Miami defense is going to get pressure on Manning this week and if that disrupts him anything can happen. Miami has lost a few heartbreakers and I think they actually get one back in Denver. Dolphins 23 Broncos 21

Redskins (+8.5) over 49ers- I hate taking the Redskins who are the most dysfunctional team in the NFL right now, but the 49ers haven’t been that good of late and this is a huge line for their offense to cover. Maybe Colt McCoy even shows up here to get the cover. 49ers 23 Redskins 17

Cowboys (-3.5) over GIANTS- New York has a lot of thinking to do when it comes to next season and most likely this game will give  them more reasons to consider blowing it up next year.  These teams often play close but lately the Giants will find a way to give Dallas enough points to help them cover. Cowboys 29 Giants 20

BILLS (-1.5) over Jets- Im not sure who will be the home team in this one, but it shouldn’t matter. Buffalo’s defense has been very good and the Jets offense has not and that is likely the deciding matchup in the game. Jets need to sop big plays to win, something they have rarely done this year. Bills 23 Jets 16

Ravens (+3) over SAINTS- The best team in the NFC South this week will likely be the Panthers simply because they are on a bye. Saints are not a good team while the Ravens are much better than the record. They should take advantage of Saints mistakes to win outright. Ravens 27 Saints 20

Podcast: Peterson, Veteran Waivers, Revis, Giants, NFL Picks and More…

In this week’s OTC podcast I cover a number of topics including:

– The Adrian Peterson situation and the NFL’s constant making up of rules

– The veteran waivers process with Ben Tate and LeGarrette Blount

– What Darrelle Revis might earn and the problems with overpaying a cornerback

– Eli Manning’s future as the Giants struggles continue

-Allen Baileys contract extension with Kansas City and the Chiefs cap situation next year

– My picks for week 12

View in iTunes

Listen via Stitcher

Subscribe to the OTC Podcast

Week 12 OTC FanDuel Fantasy Football League

We actually hit our target of 16 teams last week (!) so FanDuel expaned the league to 22 teams. The cost to join is still $2 and the top 4 teams will win a prize. Once again feel free to let any friends of yours who play or might want to play to check it out since we are pushing the limit higher again this week.The deadline for entry is a few minutes before the 1PM kickoff on Sunday. Remember that each week we will have a new league so there is also no commitment to play beyond week 12.

Follow this link for the OTC Week 12 FanDuel League

If you haven’t tried FanDuel out yet its basically a weekly fantasy football league where your team is made up within the constraints of a salary cap. They do have free games to try out and if you click through the link you should be able to see how the game works and how you pick a team without needing to sign up. By signing up through OTC FanDuel will also issue you a deposit bonus to try out the games. It’s really fun and I definitely recommend it to anyone that can spare a few dollars each week. Our OTC is still a small league so its a good type of league to learn this type f fantasy game in as well before making the leap to more expensive games.

In last weeks game I was able to just hold on for the win with 147 points primarily behind Mike Evans of the Bucs.  For this week my receiver strategy I tried worked out quite well, but I came up way short in the running back department. I had high hopes for Steven Jackson based on opponent and lets say that was a big swing and miss.

Danfrommadison came on strong late with the big performance from Le’Veon Bell and would have won had the Patriots used Shane Vereen more on Sunday night. Ocho_evilo pulled up third with what may have been the most balanced team of the week and tokyola took the final prize spot of the week.

Congrats to all the winners and good luck to the players this week!

Sign Up  for the OTC Week 12 FanDuel League

NFL Predictions 2014: Week 12 Thursday Night Football

Some big upsets last week which helped lead to a 7-7 record SU and 8-6 record ATS. My record on the season now stands at 104-56-1 and 93-64-4.  Onto another boring edition of Thursday Night Football…

Chiefs (-7.5) over RAIDERS- It’s hard to see the Raiders having much of a shot in this game unless the Chiefs sleepwalk through it. The Chiefs run game is terrific and should match up well with the Raiders defense. The biggest weakness on the Chiefs defense is their run defense, depsite the weird no touchdown stat, but that is also the run offense of the Raiders is one of the worst in the NFL. I’ve liked the bit I have seen of the Raiders QB, but he is very mistake prone and is going to be under heavy pressure tonight from the Chiefs pass rush which will likely make things even worse. They could go to an extreme short passing game to try to avoid the rush but thats not going to bring about a positive result, its just going to limit the really negative ones. Chiefs continue to push towards the playoffs while Oakland keeps pushing to the number 1 pick. Chiefs 24 Raiders 10

OTC NFL Power Rankings: Week 12

Following their blowout win against the Colts, the Patriots vault to the top spot in the rankings. The Packers also had a major jump after stifling the Eagles while the Broncos fell to number 3 off their bad loss to the Rams.

Looking through the list, the OTC top 10 is an interesting group of teams. There are really no balanced teams in the group at all. The Patriots, Packers, Broncos, and Colts are all very efficient at scoring points but not nearly as good at preventing them. Still they trend above average. The Ravens, Dolphins, Chiefs, and Cardinals are all mediocre to poor offenses but are having incredible defensive seasons. I guess the Eagles and Seahawks would be the most balanced. Both are average offenses combined with good but not standout defensive units.

At the bottom of the pile, the Rams made a leap up while the Redskins took a big dive down. Tampa Bay’s win helped push them out of the bottom spot.

 

NFL Power Rankings, Through Week 11

RankChangeTeamScoring EfficiencyDefensive EfficiencyTotal EfficiencyProjected Wins
1+2Patriots30.9%13.5%44.4%12.2
2+6Packers28.0%10.3%38.3%11.6
3-2Broncos21.1%14.0%35.0%11.3
4+1Ravens8.4%22.9%31.3%11.0
5+1Dolphins1.5%29.4%31.0%11.0
6-4Colts22.7%6.6%29.3%10.8
7-3Chiefs-4.3%33.5%29.2%10.8
8+1Cardinals-7.6%31.0%23.4%10.3
9+1Seahawks-0.2%16.5%16.3%9.6
10-3Eagles13.7%0.0%13.7%9.3
11-Lions-29.2%40.8%11.5%9.2
12+1Cowboys11.5%-0.1%11.4%9.1
13+5Texans-15.0%21.3%6.2%8.6
14+1Bills-14.9%20.7%5.8%8.6
15-1Chargers-14.2%20.0%5.8%8.6
16-4Saints5.0%-1.8%3.2%8.3
17+3Bengals-15.3%18.3%2.9%8.3
18-2Steelers2.6%-0.6%2.0%8.2
19-49ers-21.4%21.7%0.3%8.1
20-3Browns-21.1%21.2%0.1%8.0
21-Giants-17.4%3.2%-14.2%6.7
22-Vikings-34.5%16.9%-17.6%6.4
23+1Falcons-13.6%-8.3%-21.9%5.9
24+5Rams-25.7%2.9%-22.7%5.9
25+3Bears-16.6%-8.7%-25.3%5.6
26-1Panthers-25.9%0.1%-25.7%5.6
27-Titans-35.2%6.5%-28.7%5.3
28-5Redskins-24.0%-5.8%-29.8%5.2
29-3Jets-22.3%-10.7%-33.0%4.9
30-Raiders-36.3%1.5%-34.8%4.7
31+1Buccaneers-29.0%-13.9%-42.9%3.9
32-1Jaguars-32.0%-19.1%-51.1%3.2