AFC East: Over Under 62910

Over or under? New York Jets

June, 29, 2010
6/29/10
3:00
PM ET
Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell and I pick over or under for three players from each AFC East team, using 2010 statistical projections from ESPN.com's fantasy analysts.

The New York Jets round out the four-part series.

Sanchez
Sanchez
Quarterback Mark Sanchez, 17 touchdowns and 17 interceptions

Barnwell's take: OVER and OVER. Sanchez threw only 364 passes last year, and he was picked off on 5.5 percent of those throws. Since 364 is about two-thirds of a season for most quarterbacks, if you project Sanchez's performance onto a more reasonable 16-game total for quarterbacks -- 500 attempts -- then he would have thrown 28 picks. I wholly believe that Sanchez will play better as a sophomore, but the Jets' running game won't be as effective with the loss of Alan Faneca. Sanchez is going to have to throw the ball more than he did a year ago. When he does, he's going to make mistakes. I think the rise in attempts will also push his touchdown rate up, though, to the point where he should be able to hit 20 touchdowns.

My take: OVER and OVER. The Jets are going to throw significantly more in 2010. They acquired Santonio Holmes. Sanchez will have Braylon Edwards for a full season. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will figure out ways to use tight end Dustin Keller more, especially in the red zone. Part of LaDainian Tomlinson's appeal is that the Jets can throw to him out of the backfield. Plus, the run game might not prove to be as reliable without Thomas Jones. Shonn Greene showed promise in the postseason, but can he be a workhorse for a full season?

Tomlinson
Tomlinson
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, 644 rushing yards and seven touchdowns

Barnwell's take: UNDER and UNDER. I'm not bullish on Tomlinson's chances in New York. He was dire in San Diego last year. His touchdown total occurred because he had more chances inside the 5-yard line than any back besides Adrian Peterson. If you compare Tomlinson's performance there to a league-average back given the same number of opportunities, Tomlinson's touchdown total was actually below-average. There are the complicating factors of injury and a likely decline in the Jets' running game.

My take: OVER and UNDER. I'm probably reaching a little on the yardage, but Tomlinson did rush for 730 yards in a passing offense and behind a line that's not as talented as New York's. Even if he's the backup, he'll take his share of handoffs. With Jones taking a lion's share of the Jets' rushing attempts last year and Leon Washington getting 72 carries, Greene managed to rush for 540 yards as a rookie. Green looks like he'll be the featured back, but the carries should be more balanced this year. But around the goal line, Greene should get the carries and limit Tomlinson's touchdowns.

Cromartie
Cromartie
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, five interceptions

Barnwell's take: UNDER. Cromartie's another example of the issues I brought up with Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd. Interception totals just aren't consistent from year to year in the way other statistics are. Cromartie followed a 10-interception season in 2007 with five picks in '08 and '09 combined. Darrelle Revis isn't like Nnamdi Asomugha, who forces a lot of passes -- and potential interceptions -- the opposite way. Revis was targeted more than all but three other corners last year because the Jets build a scheme designed to dare quarterbacks into throwing his direction. Cromartie won't get the targets for five picks.

My take: OVER. A substantial reason for Cromartie's steep decline in interceptions after his All-Pro season was X's and O's. He is much better in man-to-man coverage, but the Chargers asked him to play more zone the past two years. Jets defensive mastermind Rex Ryan wants his cornerbacks in man coverage. Ryan does manipulate quarterbacks into throwing Revis' way, as Bill noted. But Dwight Lowery and Lito Sheppard, who split the starts opposite Revis, still combined for four interceptions last year. Cromartie is more dangerous than Sheppard and Lowery.

Over or under? New England Patriots

June, 29, 2010
6/29/10
2:00
PM ET
Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell and I pick over or under for three players from each AFC East team, using 2010 statistical projections from ESPN.com's fantasy analysts.

It's time to bring you the New England Patriots.

Brady
Brady
Quarterback Tom Brady, 30 touchdowns

Barnwell's take: OVER, but only slightly. If you plug Brady's historical touchdown rate (5.3 percent) into last year's total of 565 pass attempts, you get ... 30.1 touchdowns. I don't know if that's necessarily the right figure to use, though. Brady had 50 touchdowns in his legendary 2007 season. In 2009, Brady saw each of his top receivers get hurt, and his third guy was Sam Aiken for a good portion of the year. I think Julian Edelman and/or Torry Holt should be an upgrade as the third receiver. It might only be 32 or 33 touchdowns, but that would still be over.

My take: UNDER. Brady has surpassed 28 touchdowns in a season exactly once. Sure, Brady was transcendent in 2007. But he, Randy Moss and Wes Welker have accumulated a lot of scars since then. Nobody knows when Welker will return to form after knee and shoulder surgeries. Moss is 33 years old and has been slowed by injuries. Brady, a year after he tossed seven touchdown passes to tight ends Benjamin Watson and Chris Baker, will be throwing to rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. With all those variables, I have little reason to trust Brady will throw for more touchdowns in 2010 than he has in seven of his eight full seasons.

Moss

Moss
Receiver Randy Moss, 93 catches

Barnwell's take: UNDER. Even though I think Brady will hit the over on touchdowns, this is a really high total for a player that's struggled with minor injuries throughout his time in New England (even if those injuries have been swept under the rug at times). The Pats should also have more in the way of options for Brady, which should allow him to spread the ball out to a wider group of targets.

My take: UNDER. I agree with Bill. This number seems irrationally high to me. Perhaps the belief is that he'll pick up some slack while Welker recovers. But Moss has surpassed 83 passes just once in his past six seasons. He has shown signs of wear, playing a good portion of last season with a separated shoulder, a league source told ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss after the Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs.

Welker

Welker
Receiver Wes Welker, 89 receptions

Barnwell's take: UNDER. This really comes down to how healthy you think Welker is. This sort of recovery timeframe from an ACL injury would not be unprecedented. Philip Rivers had a torn ACL and had surgery after the playoffs in 2007, and he was quite fantastic in 2008. Then again, Rivers wasn't playing wide receiver. If I knew Welker would be on the field Week 1 at 90 percent, I'd take the over. But I think it will take longer for him to heal than, perhaps, the Patriots have been playing up.

My take: UNDER. So much of Welker's game relies on cuts, stops and starts. Those are the types of activities that put so much strain on a player's knees. Welker averaged 8.9 receptions a game last year, so it's easy to do the math and see he could miss six games and still hit ESPN.com's fantasy projection at that clip. But we can't possibly expect Welker to maintain the same torrid pace he set when perfectly healthy. Edelman's emergence will allow the Patriots to bring Welker back cautiously and give Brady another option even when Welker gets back on the field.

Over or under? Miami Dolphins

June, 29, 2010
6/29/10
10:30
AM ET
Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell and I pick over or under for three players from each AFC East team, using 2010 statistical projections from ESPN.com's fantasy analysts.

Next in the series are the Miami Dolphins.

Henne
Henne
Quarterback Chad Henne, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions

Barnwell's take: UNDER and OVER. I certainly think adding Brandon Marshall gives Henne a devastating weapon in the red zone. Marshall had seven red-zone touchdowns for the Denver Broncos last year. Marshall's going to be the Dolphins' only real red-zone threat, though, and that should mitigate his impact on those fade patterns. I also think about the strengths of the Dolphins team and their scheme under Tony Sparano. They had the best line of any team in football last year in short-yardage situations, and I know Sparano would prefer to run the ball in short yardage than pass it around.

My take: OVER and OVER. I'm tempted to go under on touchdowns, but I can see the Dolphins opening up their offense not only because of Marshall's presence, but also because their backfield has a lot of question marks. Ronnie Brown has trouble staying healthy, and Ricky Williams is 33. Henne's natural development should give Sparano and offensive coordinator Dan Henning more confidence to pass. For that same reason, Henne's interception projection looks low to me. He wasn't a prolific thrower last year (17th in attempts per game), yet tied for 11th in interceptions thrown with 14.

Williams
Williams
Running back Ricky Williams, 878 rushing yards

Barnwell's take: OVER. The Dolphins are going to be able to run the ball effectively; that's no surprise. When people were looking at this team last year and projecting their numbers, I think a lot of folks were projecting Chad Pennington and Brown for full seasons without a second thought, and that's absurd. That they made it through a full season in 2008 was a miracle, not something that was likely to recur. Brown has missed time in virtually every one of his pro seasons, and Williams has been sturdy over the past two seasons. If Williams stays healthy, then he beats that total.

My take: UNDER. I hate to lower expectations for my meditation buddy, but his 2009 was off-the-charts unusual. I believe Williams can have another big season. But overs and unders are about betting on an outcome, and I think too many factors can trip him up. Williams' reps will go down if a) he starts to play like he's 33 years old, b) he suffers an injury, c) Brown can stay on the field, d) the Dolphins turn into more of a passing team.

Marshall
Marshall
Receiver Brandon Marshall, 104 receptions

Barnwell's take: UNDER. Any time I get asked to project someone to hit such a high total, I almost always take the under. Too many things have to go right for a player to hit such a high total: He must stay healthy; the players around him need to be effective; he needs to duck the occasional disappointing season that even the greats have. Based on his historical catch rate, Marshall will need to get about 165 targets or so to hit that total. I can't see him getting that many chances; Davone Bess got 114 last year, and he's the only wideout under Sparano to even hit 100. The Fins run the ball too frequently for Marshall to get the chances he needs to hit 104.

My take: UNDER. I believe Marshall will have a fantastic season, but for the same reasons as Bill listed, I don't see him catching 104 passes. Nothing indicates the Dolphins will have 1984 flashbacks and start slinging the ball all over the place. Football operations boss Bill Parcells never has believed in it. The Dolphins' offensive personnel was assembled to run. That's not to say they won't air it out more this year. I predict they will. But for Marshall to record 104 receptions, the Dolphins would have to change their identity completely. A more reasonable total for me is about 90 receptions for Marshall.

Over or under? Buffalo Bills

June, 29, 2010
6/29/10
9:30
AM ET
Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell and I pick over or under for three players from each AFC East team, using 2010 statistical projections from ESPN.com's fantasy analysts.

We start with the Buffalo Bills.

Spiller
Spiller
Rookie running back C.J. Spiller, 1,152 yards from scrimmage

Barnwell's take: UNDER. The problem here isn't Spiller's talent, but the context of the situation he's entering. The Bills are rebuilding their offensive line after last year's rash of injuries and the retirement of Brad Butler. Lines take time to meld. There's no established quarterback to take the pressure off of the run game, which suggests there will be eight men in the box against Spiller on most plays. He's also going to be splitting time with Fred Jackson and, potentially, Marshawn Lynch. He's explosive, but so was Darren McFadden when he was coming out of school.

My take: UNDER. For those who were wondering, ESPN.com's fantasy forecast has Spiller rushing for 812 yards and catching 39 passes for 340 yards. I can't envision Spiller running for that kind of yardage behind a patchwork offensive line that's especially weak at tackle, which will curb Spiller's ability to get outside. Spiller won't be able to grind out 800-plus yards up the middle. That said, I also disagree with the receiving projections. They're too low.

Evans
Evans
Wide receiver Lee Evans, 54 catches

Barnwell's take: OVER. I think that projection is pretty close to his eventual total, but my concern is the lack of reliable talent across the field from Evans. He was thrown 137 passes in 2006; since then, his target total has gone consistently down, with 113 in 2007, 102 in 2008, and 95 a year ago. It's hard to figure that James Hardy or Steve Johnson will be thrown as many passes as Terrell Owens was last year, and with those passes needing to go somewhere, I think Evans gets closer to that 130-target level in 2010.

My take: OVER. Call me foolish for continuing to believe this, but Evans is a far superior talent compared to his production, and Buffalo's quarterback play can't get any worse than last year. Evans has played six NFL seasons, and in three of them he caught 48 or fewer passes. He's coming off the worst season of his career in both receptions and yardage, but as Bill points out, Owens is gone. So is Josh Reed. Somebody has to catch the ball, and I have a hard time believing an offensive-minded coach like Chan Gailey won't be able to figure out a way to deliver it to Evans.

Byrd
Byrd
Safety Jairus Byrd, five interceptions

Barnwell's take: UNDER. Since 1990, there have been 24 instances of a player picking off nine passes in a year. In the subsequent season, those defensive backs averaged fewer than three interceptions. I think Byrd's performance last year was a combination of good instincts and, honestly, luck. How many of Byrd's interceptions were overthrows that just fell into his lap? Those just don't happen year after year.

My take: OVER. It's hard to guess what the Bills' defense will look like. They're transforming from a Tampa 2 to a 3-4. But Byrd is a ballhawk in a division that should pass more this year. He recorded nine interceptions even though he didn't take over the starting free safety spot until Week 5, played hurt for most of the season and missed the final two games to have sports hernia surgery.

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