The hidden side of politics

Barnwell’s NFL fact check: Don’t be surprised if these 7 things happen

Reported by ESPN:

An NFL season lasts only 16 games, but in terms of our memories, it seems to be the only football we can possibly remember. Both fans and analysts alike are subject to recency bias, in which we treat the most recent information we have as the most important information in understanding and projecting a complex game. The NFL moves quickly and has an impossibly high attrition rate. It’s easy to forget what happened years ago.

In most cases, though, we can look through history to get a sense of what’s likely to reoccur from season to season. What happened in 2018 will stay in the record books forever, but there will be plenty of elements and stories from 2018 that won’t happen again in 2019, even if it seems as if the circumstances or the talents involved are staying the same.

Let’s run through a few of those 2018 stories which might seem likely to reoccur in 2019 and detail why they’re not likely to happen again:

Jump to a team:
KC | LAC | NE | SF

Don’t be surprised if … Amari Cooper‘s touchdowns dry up

It’s hard to argue against the idea that Cooper transformed the Cowboys in 2018. After Dallas sent a first-round pick to the Raiders to acquire the former Alabama star, Cooper turned around both his own season and his new team. Dallas won seven of its final eight games with Cooper in the lineup, and the star wideout clearly made the difference in two crucial divisional victories. Cooper went off for 180 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-23 win over Washington and topped that with a 213-yard, three-score effort against the Eagles in a 29-23 overtime victory two weeks later. It’s a trade the Cowboys clearly won’t regret anytime soon.

Cooper racked up 53 catches on 76 targets for 725 yards and six touchdowns over nine games with the Cowboys. Those numbers were good for 105.6 fantasy points, which was seventh in the league over that stretch and ahead of stars like Michael Thomas and Mike Evans. It was a major leap on Cooper’s prior nine games with the Raiders, which had produced 28 catches for 461 yards and three touchdowns. Is this the new normal for him?

At the very least, it’s fair to figure his touchdown rate will decline. Cooper scored seven touchdowns in nine games with the Cowboys, which prorates to 12.5 scores over a 16-game season. In Oakland, Cooper scored only 19 times in 52 games, for a prorated figure of just under six scores per 16 contests. In an offense in which Ezekiel Elliott will gobble up red zone touches, it’s difficult to see Cooper topping 12 touchdowns over a full season.

Some of Cooper’s scores came on big plays which might not be repeatable. He scored a 90-yard touchdown on a play in which he was surrounded after the catch by three Washington defensive backs who inexplicably failed to make a tackle. Cooper’s three-score game against a banged-up Eagles secondary included a 75-yard score in which safety Corey Graham appeared to lose the ball in the lights. Those plays still count in the record books, of course, but fans expecting multiple games approaching 200 yards with multiple touchdowns might be disappointed by Cooper in 2019.

Don’t be surprised if … the 49ers improve with (or without) Jimmy Garoppolo

A trendy pick to make the postseason this time last year after going 5-0 with Garoppolo as their starter in 2017, the 49ers started 1-1 before Garoppolo tore his ACL in the middle of a loss to the Chiefs. Kyle Shanahan’s team proceeded to lose eight of its next nine games and eventually finished with the league’s second-worst record at 4-12. It’s unclear whether the 49ers would have made it into the playoffs in a division in which the Rams and Seahawks were both impressive, but once Garoppolo went down, the Niners had no hope.

I mentioned the injury concerns surrounding Garoppolo when I profiled the former Patriots backup last August, and last season did little to quell the biggest question for him. Garoppolo lasted two starts filling in for Tom Brady in 2016 before going down because of a serious sprain of the AC joint in his shoulder. We still haven’t seen the 27-year-old make even six starts in a row without getting injured. Health is a skill, and until Garoppolo actually plays a full 16-game season, the 49ers can’t count on him for 16 games at a time.

The good news is that Jimmy G will almost surely make it through more than three games this season. I also don’t think the 49ers will be doomed in 2019 if they lose their starting quarterback again. For one, they have one of the league’s more promising backups in Nick Mullens, who held his own after taking over for C.J. Beathard last season. These stats can’t possibly tell the whole story between these two quarterbacks, but it is fair to note that Mullens basically impersonated Garoppolo’s performance in the Shanahan offense when you look at their respective numbers in San Francisco: