Lombardi: Confusing hope with a plan after the NFL Draft

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After spending the last two months in “lying season,” we have moved into “proclamation season,” when all NFL teams are happy with their draft and proclaim this season will be their best season ever.  Can this be true?  Of course not. Most NFL teams confuse hope with a plan, and they are hoping to win, not planning on winning.  Adding talent is the first step. Developing talent is another. 

For example, the Washington Commanders had an interesting draft, devoting their resources towards helping their secondary, which needed help.  Did their draft move their win total, which currently sits between 6.5 and 7 in most shops?  The Commanders have a talented roster with a huge question mark at quarterback.  Sam Howell, the fifth-round pick from North Carolina last season with one start under his belt, is their starter, and Eric Bieniemy was hired to revive the offense.  The books are rather dubious of Washington having a good season—and on paper, they appear better than a 7-win team—yet with the concerns on offense, how can anyone place a wager?  Washington beat Philadelphia last season in Philadelphia, which indicates their level of potential, and with a good draft, they should improve.  Yet, we know the over win totals are always tied to quarterbacks, not the draft.  As much as the draft takes the spotlight, the win totals will not move unless the quarterback is proven. 

The lowest win totals are the Cardinals at 5.5, with Kyler Murray’s health for the season in doubt.  Then most of the teams with rookie quarterbacks are residing at 6.5 except for the Panthers, which sit at 7.5 because their young quarterback Bryce Young and Andy Dalton give them a chance to win games, along with a defense that can keep them in games.  The Bears are at 7.5, which is remarkable considering their overall roster and their lack of consistent play from Justin Fields.  The perception of Fields moves this line above 7. Ask yourself: Have the Bears improved their roster to win eight games?  No way.  I don’t see it.  The Bears and the Bucs are my two favorites to go under their win total.  The Bucs, at 6.5 wins, will struggle with Baker Mayfield behind an offensive line that can’t protect him.  Last season Tom Brady got rid of the ball so quickly, he hid the lack of protection.  That won’t happen this season.  Mayfield or Kyle Trask is in a tough spot, replacing the GOAT with a team that doesn’t have talent around them.  I love the under for both teams. 

With Jordan Love now under center, the Packers are set at 7.5 wins, the same as the Bears.  The Pack did a smart thing, removing the option year from Love’s contract, which allows them to focus on whether Love can be a full-time starter instead of paying him a huge number in year five.  One of the most overrated statements regarding the draft is when teams want the fifth-year option on a player and will be willing to move back into the first to get the extra year.  No.  The extra year is too expensive and, most often, unaffordable. The Packers made it more affordable with a little help from Love.  They will be a young team, relying on rookies or second-year players to impact their team.  And this will be a completely different team for head coach Matt LaFleur to coach as he will be in control from the sidelines, not having Aaron Rodgers to control the game at the line of scrimmage. 

There will be mistakes and turnovers, but the Packers have a better roster than the Bears, yet their team win totals are the same.  It reminds me of the scene in The Irishman, when Al Pacino, playing Jimmy Hoffa, is sitting in prison having an ice cream sundae when his nemesis Tony Pro comes over to discuss his pension.  Hoffa explains to Pro that he lost his pension when he entered prison.  Which causes Tony Pro to ask, how can he lose his pension and Hoffa still have his when they are “both sitting here.”   How can the Bears and Packers have the same win total when they are both sitting with unproven players at quarterback?  As Pro said, it “makes no sense.” 

The Eagles had a great draft and a great off-season and their win total of 10.5 never moved, although it’s -150 for the over.  Give me the five teams on their schedule that can beat the Eagles if they are healthy?  You can’t.  So how will they not win 12 games? 

The Bills are at 10.5, and the Jets are at 9.5.  Are we sure the Bills are the better team now with Rodgers at quarterback? I’m not.  The Jets have a better defense, and with good play at quarterback, they are at least even with the Bills.  I’m not completely on board the Jets hype train, but I’m not sold on the Bills being great again this season.  I love the Dalton Kincaid pick at tight end, and it appears the Bills might become more of a 12 team with an emphasis on running the ball with more power—something they must do.  They cannot rely on Josh Allen to be their leading runner.  And getting Bill Belichick at the same win total as the Bears seems disrespectful. Like Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Belichick will find a way to win more than 7.5 games next year—that’s a given. 

The schedule, which comes out next week, won’t affect the win totals, but it will be exciting to know America will see the Jets five times on national television.  I am jacked.