Dark-horse Super Bowl teams: Jets and Panthers could surprise
For those of you that dont have ESPN Insider access and would like to read one of the few positive predictions out there for our team.
In most years, the Super Bowl is won by teams that made the playoffs in the prior campaign, as there have been only 11 cases in which teams went from not making the playoffs one year to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy the next.
While the chances of that happening this season aren't great, it should be noted this has happened six times in the past 13 seasons, so it is becoming more common of late.
There are a couple of teams that did not make the playoffs in 2011 that are already being touted as either divisional favorites (Philadelphia Eagles) or somewhat under-the-radar Super Bowl contenders (Chicago Bears) that would seem to be good candidates for making it seven teams in the past 14 seasons.
But let's take this one step further by looking at three teams that would truly fit the dark-horse label if they won the Super Bowl this season. Again, these aren't favorites, just teams that fit the profile.
New York Jets
Rex Ryan used to be the one to make Super Bowl predictions for his club. Now that he has imposed a filter on himself for that type of prognosticating, it is up to others to make those predictions instead.
The somewhat ironic part is that the Jets' Super Bowl case this year is stronger than it might seem at first glance.
It starts with Ryan's ability to coach defense. Last season was an admittedly less-than-stellar showing on that side of that ball, as New York allowed 24 or more points in eight games and 30 or more points in five games.
Having noted that, the Jets' D was still quite strong in a large number of categories. The Jets ranked tied for second in vertical yards per attempt allowed (9.3), were second in stretch vertical YPA (8.4), tied for fifth in defensive GBP (a stat from my draft guide that gauges defensive prowess against the run), and ranked tied for seventh in the bad decision rate (BDR) metric (3.2 percent) that measures a defense's ability to force the opposing quarterback to make mental errors that lead to turnover chances. (Note: Vertical passes are aerials thrown 11 or more yards, while stretch vertical passes are thrown 20 or more yards.)
Getting those kinds of numbers out of a subpar year goes to show just how truly adept Ryan is at defensive play-calling, so that part of the Ryan Super Bowl formula should hold up.
The Jets also could see improvements in their offense since their passing woes last year had as much to do with the poor play of Plaxico Burress than it did with any leadership deficiencies of Mark Sanchez. Of course, they aren't showing much yet, but the additions of Chaz Schilens and Stephen Hill should eventually make this team's vertical game much better than it was with Burress.
Add that to a strong rushing attack (New York ranked 10th in the league in good run-blocking rate), and it might be enough to vault Gang Green back into the postseason and onto the Super Bowl track Ryan has seen in this club's future in previous seasons.
It's really hard to overstate how little preseason performances can mean. Yes, I'm calling the Jets a dark horse, not a favorite. But it's because they're already extremely good in one area, and even competence in another could make them very good.
Ryan Kalil promised a Super Bowl win this year and both his team's quarterback and owner backed him up on it.
There are more than a few metric elements that back him up as well.
Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
It's easier to make Super Bowl predictions when you have Cam Newton.
Cam Newton is the easiest place to begin, as he set rookie records last season and was one of only eight passers with 1,000 or more stretch vertical passing yards. Like most young quarterbacks, he did struggle in the BDR category (4.2 percent, fifth highest in the league), but that number should decrease as Newton becomes more acclimated to the NFL.
Newton also benefits from having Steve Smith to throw to, as his 10.7 overall YPA ranked tied for 11th last season.
The passing attack could actually turn out to be even more dangerous this year if Brandon LaFell continues to progress. His 14.7 vertical YPA last season ranked tied for sixth among wideouts with at least 30 vertical targets. That type of ability is part of why LaFell has a strong grip on the starting job opposite of Smith and could be on the verge of a breakthrough.
In addition, Carolina boasts two running backs (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) who ranked in the top six of the league in the good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) category that measures a ball carrier's productivity when receiving good blocking. The Panthers also rated sixth in the league in good blocking rate and topped the NFL in offensive GBP.
They will need all of these elements to protect a defense with some coverage issues, but if that group gets better while the Panthers' offense keeps the pressure off of it, this team could start to hit its stride just in time for a late-season/postseason run.
A historical comparison for the Titans could be the 1927 New York Yankees, as there might not be a team in the NFL with more offensive home run potential than Tennessee.
Chris Johnson would be the Babe Ruth of that analogy, as there are a multitude of reasons to think that he will return to something close to his CJ2K performance level.
Tennessee also has a potentially elite tight end in Jared Cook. Cook's 10.8 overall YPA last year was the best among tight ends, and his 534 vertical yards ranked fourth. All he needs to start competing for Pro Bowl berths is a jump in targets from the 74 he had last year to something in the 100-125 range.
Kenny Britt has a history of posting dominant vertical and stretch vertical numbers. Unfortunately, he also has a history of off-field issues that includes a DUI arrest this summer, but once he serves a one-game suspension for that incident, Britt should be back in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
In Britt's absence, Nate Washington could prove to be a more than capable replacement, as his 12.6 vertical YPA last year ranked 13th out of 43 wide receivers with at least 40 vertical targets.
New starting quarterback Jake Locker does have some weaknesses to his game, but with this much talent around him and a very favorable schedule (my draft guide has the Titans facing the second-easiest pass defense schedule in the NFL), his learning curve might be smaller than usual for someone in his spot. Having a backup quarterback of the caliber of Matt Hasselbeck also doesn't hurt.
If the Tennessee offense can hit enough proverbial home runs, it might be enough to vault a team that was 9-7 last year to double-digit wins and a shot at making a Super Bowl run.
Last edited by TokyoJetsFan; 09-03-2012 at 10:52 PM.
Well, interesting. This is kind of a Sabermetric approach to thinking about the Jets.
When I think back to last season, I am somewhat surprised that we won 8 games. It's a bit of a testament to the team or staff that as horrible as those three games were [3-5] and as bad as we got beat by NE and as bad as we finished the season and as bad as the locker-room was - we still won 8. We were still better than half the teams in the league.
Aside from the obvious preseason noise, I think the Jets have a real chance to be better in generating organic pressure, espc. up the middle and also to be better at generating turnovers in the secondary.
The offense is a mystery - but we already know that Austin Howard could work out better than Wayne Hunter did.
I am willing to say that 8 wins was a hugely low mark for this team; a reasonable bounce-back given the real changes should make us happy again as Jets fans and - yes - I do think we'll be in the hunt for the playoffs again and - as many years have shown - then it's anybody's game.
Well if someone made you sound ignorant, you would react the same way.
Not to pile on but your post made you sound ignorant, not the other poster. Just like "First Down" sounds like a loser troll who just came on this site b/c he can't get laid and has nothing else to do but troll a Jets board when he really isn't a Jets fan. I'm not saying that you're like that, just saying that what you say in your posts determines how people look at you. Where there is smoke there is fire.