A dissapointing 2057 led to an 8-8 finish. There were injuries and some poor adaptingto the new patch but mostly a huge regression past the mean in generating TOs. The O was still #1 in both YPC and YPA (until resting starters in week 17).
Up against the cap had significant turnover at most position groups but solid planning has them well positioned to repeat performances from teh past few seasons for better or worse:
In the backfield the headliner was moving future HoFer Fulton but we ended up drafting what looks like coudl be the next HoF RB in Holzer who even will be able to contribute in the passing game in a way Fulton never could. In general expect to see the RBs catch more passes this year with 2nd year scatback Borders continuing to expand on his role from last season.
It will be interesting to see if the runnign game can continue its dominance with some downrades on the OL. HoF C Keith retired and while FA pickup Cooley is certianly a starter, those are big shoes to fill. LT Horner who previously was 90+ in run blocking also saw age catch up to him and might not be the force we was ocne on the left edge. That said the Gs are still top notch and Holzer has plenty of gas in the tank and looks to b a perfect prospect in the GM's eyes.
2nd year WR Fence looks to play a big role this year as a WR2 and give Fargo a complete player at that spot. There are interesting tertiary options as well though we hope not to use them much. WR Crabtree remains a 1A talent but with 2 concussions it is a delicate matter, Fargo gambled giving him a max bonus contract all the same. TE Schulz remains on the roster but wants to get paid, he will likely have to suck it up this year before being shipped off this next offseason.
For the 2nd consecutive year Fargo will switch up their defensive front. Their run D was atrocious in the 43U as they were starting DE Walsh with his 0 run defense. Out is both the scheme and player along with overpaid vet Bays. However they did pick up 2 solid starters at DE and EDGE man Alexander will likely play mostly at DE with hopes that getting a bit wider will push him into elite pass rusher production. The 3 stalwarts at DT remain but with little depth behind them, don't be surprised to see Fargo add a young DT to plan for the future and as insurance. Both off-ball LBs are still studly and we hope to continue to dominate the 2nd level.
Fargo drafted 2 new boundary CBs, the 2nd rounder Zimmerman was supposed to bust out on the scene during the postdraft process but turns out to pretty much be a solid player but nothing special due to replace CB Gruttaduria at LCB. So no real net changes here but they do plan on being more versatile in their alignments using there 3 Ss each with different skill sets as Watkins used to the be the alpha of the group but has regressed a bit to be more of a FS type.
All in all their season will largely depend on if the coaching staff can get accustomed to the new patch in time. It would be great to see their defensive TOs recover and seems plausible but if they can't clean up their own play on O then they certainly will have a ceiling themselves.
It is worth noting that in their many draft day moves they picked up an additional 1st from Miami so in what promises to be a very competitive division the stakes will be quite high season long.
Detroit (-1) at Boston
A fair line but we will likely side with the home team as we see things quite close with lots of strength versus strength.
When Detorit has the ball you wll see they are solid but quite unremarkable. Sure, they have a Z in Von Wyss that gets his 5 YAC/catch but he is not a 1A receiver in any other regard and the secondary options are quite mediocre.
They run a ZY scheme like many teams in the league and manage to put up points by being efficient as they are top 5 in both opposing PD% and PR% and are top 10 in avoiding TOs. They overuse the short game a bit and do well in the intermediate range but likely can't trust their skill players to get open at that level against playoff competition. The running game is bottom third by most meaningful metrics as well.
If they had a good track record on 3rd or in the RZ then maybe I could be convinced but Boston is stacked in the front 7, their only real weakness talent-wise would be hitting them deep but the stats show them as top 5 in deep pass defense. They do a good job of balancing out their backend by using their stud CB at RCB opposite their stud SS and it will be interesting if they stick with this or in general how they handle Von Wyss i.e. using doubles or whatnot. (Key #1)
Anyways, I struggle to see Detroit getting to 24 points in this one and let's not forget that Boston is actually number 1 by a long shot at forcing TOs (Key #2) so it wouldn't surprise me for them to pull away from a tight game leveraging those opportunities- in any case avoiding turnovers will not be enough against a Boston team that put up more than 100 points in their last 3 games.
I believe the season long stats for Boston can be misleading. Young QB Klingbiel has settled in the latter half of this season going over 100 QBR in 5 of his last 7 games. Detroit may wish to see what happened in thsoe other 2 games as wella s what they were doing during thehir numerous shutdown D performances.
The only hesitation I have is that Boston is a clone of the Detroit offense and how well Detorit matches up with what they do.
Assuming Boston activates WR Torres, they should run their standard ZX offense even with Detroit having a pair of very good cover men outside. While they are a bit mediocre at T the pass blocking numbers seem just fine, but this may be their weakness as Detroit is tops in generating a rush and we may see that play out on 3rd downs as Boston can't run the ball and struggle mightily on 3rd downs. (Key #3)
We won't cheat and say the game will come down to TOs but it will, both teams are wehre they are because of excellent ball protection and ballhawking Ds.
If either team could run the ball I would give them the edge or if either QB was TO-prone but that doesn't seem to be the case so I am gonna say that whichever coaching staff can design a new GP will win. We see that Detroit doesn't want to be throwing it at S Manning with their typical ZY target split and that Boston will likely struggle with Detroit's outside corners and pass rush.
While Detroit put up some great games on D this year I think Boston is a different team than their record shows after going 7-1 in the back half and 9-3 since their bye and favor them to win outright by 6 points. 17-23.