Every year, we look back on preseason win totals produced by forecasters and betting markets and chuckle at some of the more egregious misses. Last season, the Chicago Bears were initially forecast for seven wins by Las Vegas, then traded for Khalil Mack and somehow won 12. The Green Bay Packers’s predicted win total was 10, but they melted down in spectacular fashion and ultimately ended up winning just six games.We’ve already published our Elo projections, and we think they’re the best we’ve ever produced for the NFL, but there will still be lots of misses to grouse about come January. Forecasting a sport as luck-driven as the NFL is rough that way.It raises the question: How good are betting markets at predicting team wins? To find out, I got my hands on a tranche of win prediction data stretching back to 1989, courtesy of Sports Odds History, and checked how well Vegas preseason win totals predict actual team wins. While Vegas overall does a good job identifying good and bad teams, it turns out that at the lower end of the range of projected wins, Vegas predictions don’t seem particularly well calibrated — though the confidence intervals at the lower end are large because of the small sample size, so the results aren’t statistically significant. ExpectedActual2019 teams Which NFL teams might beat expectations?Average actual wins (1989-2018) by Vegas preseason expected wins, and the 2019 teams at each number of expected wins 5.04.6Arizona, Miami Projected win totals of six and fewer undersell teams’ prospects by about a win on average, with the exception of teams forecast for five wins.Win totals don’t change as frequently as the moneyline odds, so we probably shouldn’t take win totals at face value — at least for teams with low projected wins. What does this mean for non-bettors? It should be decent news for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins — teams that both Elo and Vegas have pegged for six wins in 2019 — since we should be more bullish on their chances than we currently are.Optimism for these probable cellar dwellers might feel forced. But we should fight the urge toward overconfidence, especially in the face of history. A few of these teams will end up surprising us — in a good way — at the end of the year for reasons inscrutable to us now. 6.56.4Detroit, Tampa Bay 9.08.5Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh 8.58.9Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Seattle Sources: SportsOddsHistory.com, Greg Guglielmo, Pinnacle, Betfair, William Hill, Bet365, BetOnline 11.010.2New England 9.59.0Chicago, Green Bay, L.A. Chargers 8.07.4Jacksonville, San Francisco, Tennessee 10.59.9Kansas City, L.A. Rams, New Orleans 7.06.9Buffalo, Denver, N.Y. Jets 10.08.8Philadelphia 6.06.7Cincinnati, N.Y. Giants, Oakland, Washington wins 7.57.6Carolina Well … maybe not the Bengals. Not only is Cincinnati saddled with an injured A.J. Green, who appears to be out until around Week 8, the Bengals have an offense that is bereft of top talent at nearly every position. Cincinnati replaced head coach Marvin Lewis after 16 seasons of on-again, off-again contention and turned instead to Zac Taylor, a coach best known for being friends with L.A. Rams wunderkind Sean McVay. The hope must be that Taylor can revitalize the career of quarterback Andy Dalton, who sports a middling career yards per attempt of 7.2 and is one of the few starting quarterbacks who Vegas believes wouldn’t move a line if he were to be replaced in the lineup. The defense doesn’t offer a compelling reason for optimism: The Bengals ranked 28th in defensive Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) last season. Perhaps we should view that as a reason to be bullish on their prospects in 2019 simply due to regression, since defensive performance year to year isn’t terribly stable. If that seems like a bridge too far, magic might be the answer: Taylor may give lip service to the notion that he isn’t trying to be like his mentor McVay, but McVay’s brand of QB sorcery seems like the best hope for the Bengals to crest seven wins this year.The Giants are more interesting. After a promising preseason performance by first-round pick Daniel Jones, New York fans are clamoring for a change of the guard at quarterback. As big of a reach as many believed Jones to be, I still see him as a better use of first-round draft capital than “generational talent” Saquon Barkley. Hailed as a potential savior and the missing piece for Eli Manning’s final championship push, Barkley helped the Giants improve from a terrible three-win team in 2017 to a merely bad five-win unit in 2018.The Giants were second-worst in the league on Expected Points Added per play on first-down play-action passes after adding Saquon to the backfield,1On a play call that averaged a robust 0.21 EPA per play for the rest of the league last year, the Giants were one of only two teams to average negative expected value, with -0.06 EPA per play. and prospects for a bounceback in play-action efficiency seem bleak. After trading all-world wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, the Giants lost free agent acquisition Golden Tate to a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs and their expected No. 3 wideout Corey Coleman to a season-ending ACL injury. Their best hope for a productive season may rest in ownership’s willingness to bench Manning for good this time.The other team to somehow accumulate negative value on first-down play action was Oakland. In what seems to be a pattern for teams at the bottom of the win total forecast, Vegas sees Derek Carr as a quarterback worth just 1 point to the spread. The stats back up that view. Carr’s career yards per attempt is, at 6.7, below league average, and his best season as judged by QBR is an anemic 54.6. His weapons are improved from a year ago, but they are volatile. New Raiders wideout Antonio Brown sat out of practice because he wasn’t allowed to wear a helmet the NFL deems dangerous and is now likely to be suspended for some period of time, and Tyrell Williams is a boom or bust weapon who likes to be targeted deep — something Carr may be reluctant to do given his career average depth of target of just 7.7 yards. Meanwhile “Hard Knocks” captured head coach Jon Gruden disparaging “all the football stats and all the fantasy bullshit” in favor of running backs that will “BOOF” the opposing team in pass protection. Of all the six-win teams, Oakland may be the most unpredictable — and that unpredictability could manifest itself in good ways, as well as bad. Brown’s antics could end with a fashionable and safe new helmet, Carr might be coaxed into throwing the deep ball to a talented field stretcher, and Gruden might use rookie running back Josh Jacobs optimally, leading to wins we simply can’t foresee at this point.The final team projected for six wins in 2019 is Washington, a team that somehow came to the determination that Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson were better choices than Colin Kaepernick to take over for quarterback Alex Smith when his 2018 season — and perhaps his career — ended with a gruesome leg injury.In the draft, Washington team president Bruce Allen added Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins in the first round but then failed to surround him with receiving weapons. Jamison Crowder left via free agency, former first-round bust Josh Doctson was released at the end of the preseason and tight end Jordan Reed suffered another concussion heading into Week 1. Their current starting wide receivers are third-round pick Terry McLaurin — also from Ohio State — and Paul Richardson.The outlook at running back is brighter with the return of Derrius Guice from an ACL tear that derailed his rookie season, but there is little evidence to suggest they will put him in advantageous spots to run the ball. With the ageless, tackle-breaking cyborg Adrian Peterson in 2018, Washington lined up against neutral or stacked boxes on first-and-10 or second and long 174 times, decided they liked the look and ran right into the scrum 72 percent of the time. But if Washington can flip the script on downs tailor-made for passing and eke out some yards where they should come easy, the duo of Guice and Peterson could be enough to protect current starter Case Keenum or rookie Haskins while he learns on the job — and possibly beat the team’s six-win projection.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
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Bradley Roby is coming back. The Ohio State redshirt sophomore cornerback is returning to Columbus for his junior season after flirting with the possibility of declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft, according to multiple reports. Roby, who was named an Associated Press second-team All-American and consensus All-Big Ten selection, played a considerable role on the defensive side of the ball during the Buckeyes’ undefeated 2012 season. Under the director of coach Urban Meyer, OSU finished the year 12-0 and is currently ranked No. 3 in the AP’s top-25 poll. Roby, who secured 63 tackles in addition to 17 pass breakups and two interceptions, will return to a defense that loses its starting defensive line, two of its starting linebackers, and fellow cornerback Travis Howard. Roby’s teammate, junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, opted to forgo his senior year and enter the draft instead. While Roby arguably played as consistently as any Buckeye throughout the season, perhaps his most notable game was against Nebraska on Oct. 6 when he recorded two interceptions, one of which he returned for a first-quarter touchdown to open the scoring. OSU went on to win, 63-38. At practice the next week, OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told reporters that Roby would be a “first-round pick down the road.” “A kid like Bradley, whose film study is extraordinary, hours and hours of film study, he’ll know his opponent. He understands the route that’s coming, he’s prepared for the ball when it comes and then you go to finish those plays,” Coombs said Oct. 8. “He’s the guy that wants to make plays, that needs to make plays for our team to be successful.” Roby’s decision will likely help solidify Meyer’s Buckeyes as one of the early favorites for the 2014 BCS National Championship.
Then-freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan (2) attempts to make a tackle during a game against Wisconsin on Dec. 6 in Indianapolis. OSU won, 59-0.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo EditorWith the Ohio State Spring Game just days away, there are still a few positions with vacancies.Defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Steve Miller join linebacker Curtis Grant and cornerback Doran Grant as members of the OSU defense who will not return after the title run in 2014.With that in mind, I took a look at five players you should watch in Saturday’s game to either replace the former Buckeyes or at least get some playing time in 2015 on the defensive side of the ball.1. Redshirt-sophomore cornerback Gareon ConleyThe Massillon, Ohio, native was the first person mentioned by cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs as the likely cornerback counterpart next to returning starter redshirt-sophomore Eli Apple.Conley earned one start in 2014 against the Michigan State Spartans, but after giving up big plays and a touchdown on the first drive of the game, was quickly replaced by a less-than-healthy Apple.With a spot open after Doran Grant’s departure, it is likely that the spot will be filled by either Conley or sophomore Damon Webb.Conley seemingly has the upper hand and a good showing in the Spring Game can only help his chances.2. Sophomore cornerback Damon Webb While Webb is behind Conley for the corner spot, there is a good chance he will still see significant playing time in 2015 at the nickel position.With Armani Reeves not returning because of health issues related to concussions, the nickel spot, which is usually reserved for passing downs, is wide open and it’s Webb’s job for the taking.Webb must have the skill to play, as he did not redshirt last season behind players like Doran Grant, Reeves, Apple and Conley.He appeared in nine games in 2014, and is sure to make an impact in 2015.3. Sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillanMcMillan made an instant impact last season as a true freshman, collecting 54 total tackles and playing in all but one game in 2014.He is the odds-on favorite to take over for Curtis Grant at the middle linebacker position and could possibly be even better than the graduating senior.McMillan was constantly subbed in for Curtis Grant on passing downs last season and was clearly the better athlete. Don’t expect him to get too much playing time on Saturday, but watch to see how he communicates with his teammates as the new signal caller on defense.4. Senior defensive lineman Tommy SchuttCoach Urban Meyer said Monday that Schutt is currently the favorite to replace Bennett on the interior defensive line.Not quite yet the starter, Schutt has struggled throughout his OSU career battling injuries along with a lack of playing time. He has accumulated just 17 total tackles in his first three years as a Buckeye.The reason to watch him is not because he is going to be an impact player in the Spring Game, but rather to see how he reacts to being on the cusp of earning a starting job.5. Sophomore defensive lineman Jalyn HolmesMeyer said Monday that redshirt-sophomore Tyquan Lewis is the front-runner to replace Miller at defensive end, but Lewis will not play in the Spring Game because of a shoulder injury.That opens the door for a player like Holmes, who came to OSU as a four-star prospect out of Norfolk, Va.Holmes played in nine games last season, including the national title win over Oregon, and accumulated 11 tackles in those appearances.There is a good chance Holmes will play most of the game on Saturday, and a good showing could put make him a dark horse to unseat Lewis from the starting lineup.Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m., and is set to follow the OSU lacrosse game against Maryland, which is set to start at 11 a.m. at Ohio Stadium.
Niki Carver makes contact with the ball during the Buckeyes’ win over Wright State on Sep. 24. Credit: Gretchen Rudolph | For The LanternThe Ohio State softball team beat Wisconsin 9-7 Friday in the first of a three-game series against Wisconsin behind a five-run sixth inning to complete a comeback and pick up its first Big-Ten win of the season in its home opener.Freshman third baseman Niki Carver got the sixth inning started for the Buckeyes (20-7, 1-3 Big Ten) with a single to left field, giving the team some much-needed energy as they were trailing 7-4 to Wisconsin (15-12, 1-1 Big Ten).Ohio State head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly credited the huge momentum change to Carver, saying that she “came out and hit the center of the ball all day long.”Center fielder Taylor White followed up Carver’s single with a double, then shortstop Lilli Piper walked to load the bases. Second baseman Emily Clark then picked up her first hit of the game, a two-run single to pull the Buckeyes within one run of the Badgers. Her hit not only brought in two runs, but brought the energy back to the Buckeyes. First baseman Ashley Goodwin grounded out, scoring the tying run. Then with the game tied, pitcher Shelby McCombs knocked a two-run homer to left-center field to give Ohio State a two-run lead and its fourth and fifth runs of the inning.“They’ll never admit that it was really important to them because they think every game is the same game,” Kovach Schoenly said. “But I think being here and showing our fans that we’re going to be that team that’s fighting and to continue to be those people, that team, is so important.”Junior pitcher Kat Duvall sealed the Buckeye win in the top of the seventh, striking out the side to end the game.“We got on the board and got up ahead of Wisconsin, so I just wanted to go in there and throw strikes so that we had a chance to win,” Duvall said.The Badgers took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when junior designated player Stephanie Lombardo singled to drive home freshman third baseman Taylor Johnson.Ohio State responded in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of runs due to a pair of Wisconsin errors.But Wisconsin got it going again in the top of the second inning. The Badgers were walked four times in the inning and scored a pair of runs on RBI doubles. A third run came around when junior pitcher Morgan Ray issued a walk with the bases loaded to push the Wisconsin lead to 4-2. Walks proved to be the primary issue for Ohio State in the winning effort. Though the Buckeyes out-hit the Badgers 12-4, the Ohio State pitching staff walked 13 batters compared to just two allowed by Wisconsin.Piper shot a double to left field to score a run in the bottom of the second inning, but Wisconsin got two runs back in the top of the fourth. Carver hit a solo home run in the bottom half of the inning to pull her team within two runs. Just before Ohio State’s five-run inning, Wisconsin added a final run on an RBI fielder’s choice in the top of the sixth.
Current manager of Deportivo Alavés, Abelardo Fernandez believes Alaves’ objective remains ‘staying up’, even after they came into the weekend as Liga leaders.Abelardo side ended Friday evening top of the table after they won 1-0 at Celta Vigo with Tomas Pina’s finish. However, Abelardo went ahead to declare that his side were not getting carried away as they’ve also had some luck.“Our objective is to stay up,” the Coach said after the game via Football Espana.“We won’t stay here, but no-one can take away the huge satisfaction of us going to sleep as leaders.“Of course it’s amazing that we have 17 points at this stage of the season. We’re playing well, but we’ve also had some luck.Abelardo promises to make it difficult for Barca Obinna Echi – April 23, 2019 Alaves boss Abelardo Fernandez has promised to make it a difficult night for league leaders Barcelona in their showdown on Tuesday night.The Basque club have…“We started the game very well, had a very good spell for 10-15 minutes and pressed Celta close to their only box.“We managed to control their breaks and the balance that Tomas Pina gave us in the midfield was important.“After that, we weren’t overwhelmed because we barely endured any dangerous situations.“I’m delighted with how my players fared against a complicated team to face like Celta.”
Spanish journalist Josep Pedrerol of El Chiringuito says that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez will sack Julen Lopetegui after Tuesday’s match against Viktoria Plzen, irrespective of what happens in that game.“Lopetegui will coach Madrid this Tuesday and it all points towards him not doing so at the Camp Nou. Mourinho is the favorite for the board and the club is thinking about appointing Solari until Mourinho is free to return to the Spanish capital. Solari would be a temporary option,” said Pedrerol via Managing Madrid.Mourinho: “Lionel Messi made me a better coach” Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Jose Mourinho believes the experience of going up against Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi at Real Madrid made him a greater coach.“Roberto Martinez is also a candidate but Conte is also ahead of him,” added the reporter.Following the consecutive poor performance of the team, it looks obvious that Lopetegui’s time as Real Madrid’s coach is coming to an end. It seems as though Madrid has decided to be patient and wait until right after El Clasico next Sunday as to decide the fate of Lopetegui’s future. The only victory for Madrid over Barcelona could save Lopetegui.