Now that we’re all almost done kicking the crap out of each other and and the long-awaited NFL schedule has been announced, it’s time to take a look around the league and determine a baseline for how we can anticipate teams to carry the rock in 2014. In order to set the stage, please take a gander at the prologue for this series which breaks down the methodology used to determine overall team rushing offense and team rushing defense. As a brief recap, I evaluated each team’s performance in terms of both yards per carry and yards per game, identified team Z-scores for both and created an overall team rushing score. The same approach was used on the defensive front as well.
In case you’re lazy like myself, or have an unidentified phobia of clicking on links because the last time you clicked on a link you landed on a work-restricted pornography site and are now viewing these article even though you’re on a written warning, I’ve included the rushing charts below as a gentle reminder that you should not click on links that take you to voyeur websites – especially while at work. If you want to view the below information in table format, you’re going to have to trust me that the above link does not take you to the forbidden dance because again – I’m lazy.
I also updated the last part of the methodology when putting the offense up against the defense. Rather than finding the difference between the two Z-scores and aligning them with favor to either the offense or the defense I’m simply adding the two Z-scores together: positive scores are more favorable to the offense and negative scores are more favorable to the defense. As mentioned in the prologue and as FD explicated here, this information should be taken with a grain of salt.
In the prologue to this series I walked through the Arizona Cardinals matchups to provide a sneak-peek for the series before schedules were released. We knew the schedule didn’t look favorable, but once we look at it broken down by week it gets even uglier. In general, the NFC West is a dumpster fire for running backs. Obviously we know it’s tough to run against any of these teams, but this year the rest of the schedule really doesn’t do these teams any favors. It’s almost as if the NFL wanted to try their best to make it as difficult as possible for the best division in football to do what they generally do best – run the football. Andre Ellington’s 2013 non divisional opponents had a median rushing Z score of 0.42 to couple with the -0.87 median rushing score within the division. In 2014 the non-divisional opponents’ Z score will land on the opposite end of the histogram with a -0.41 Z-score. 1. The value has been bled dry, so Ellington doesn’t come at a discount. His Y/C dipped from 5.97 to 4.16 inside the conference, and I still struggle to think that Arians gives him 215 carries and doesn’t draft a complement.
St. Louis Rams
While Zac Stacy was a great value play for redrafters last year, he wasn’t a surprise if you kept up with all of the Zac Stacy crushing going on here at RotoViz. With Sam Bradford coming off an ACL injury, you’d think that Jeff Fisher and Co will lean early and often on Stacy, to let Sam get his confidence back in that leg. 2 Stacy is rounding out the end of the 2nd round in mock drafts so far, and that sounds about right. Stacy’s non divisional opponents aren’t quite as bad for STL as they will be for ARI, but they’re still good enough to give cause for concern. His touchdown production will keep him relevant, and he should get off to a good start. After he comes out of a bye his schedule will be absolutely brutal for 6 weeks with the only breath of fresh air seemingly coming week 8 against the Chiefs. At that point it may be a good time to make an offer for Stacy, as his owner may be sour about him at that point. Having said that, unless he gets lucky on the goal-line his week 15 draw is far from desirable.
San Francisco 49ers
“I really think Frank has 3 more good years.” 3. The good news is that you won’t have to spend more than a 6th round pick to either add depth to your running back corps by selecting Gore, or even leveraging him as one of your top late options in a Zero RB, Antifragility based team. The question is how involved are Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore going to be. In fact, the latter running backs fit the bill more as players with near zero investment down-payment that can pay bigger dividends. Once again, the theme of the night is not only the division but the non-divisional opponents. The best things going for owners that invest in the 49ers backfield comes in weeks 1 and 2. Based on 2013 data you’re really not happy with the matchups again until weeks 5 and 10. You could do worse than Oakland and San Diego as playoff week options, but again it’s nothing to write home about. It’s just a brutal year for owners of any of the NFC West workhorses.
It’s not exactly the best year for “Dis Mah Son” to taste the rainbow, and it’s going to be rough sledding to be all about ‘dat action, boss. The good news is that having money, a good lawyer, and NFL pedigree pays, as it appears Lynch avoided suspension and got off with only reckless driving charges for whatever incident he was involved in during the signing of The Declaration of Independence. With a major hit to the cap forthcoming in 2015 and THE Christine Michael waiting in the wings, Lynch has a lot to run for, in order to either remain a Seahawk after this year or audition for another team. The good news here is that out of all NFC West teams, it seems Lynch and/or agility super-star Christine Michael will be able to jump off to a good start with good matchups until week 7 when things should cool down. I love Christine Michael as a later round guy as much as Joanie loves Chachi, but I’m buying this backfield early and selling this backfield late to avoid the 49ers and Cardinals in the playoffs.