Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell and I pick over or under for three players from each AFC East team, using 2010 statistical projections from ESPN.com's fantasy analysts.
We start with the Buffalo Bills.
SpillerRookie running back C.J. Spiller, 1,152 yards from scrimmage
Barnwell's take: UNDER. The problem here isn't Spiller's talent, but the context of the situation he's entering. The Bills are rebuilding their offensive line after last year's rash of injuries and the retirement of Brad Butler. Lines take time to meld. There's no established quarterback to take the pressure off of the run game, which suggests there will be eight men in the box against Spiller on most plays. He's also going to be splitting time with Fred Jackson and, potentially, Marshawn Lynch. He's explosive, but so was Darren McFadden when he was coming out of school.
My take: UNDER. For those who were wondering, ESPN.com's fantasy forecast has Spiller rushing for 812 yards and catching 39 passes for 340 yards. I can't envision Spiller running for that kind of yardage behind a patchwork offensive line that's especially weak at tackle, which will curb Spiller's ability to get outside. Spiller won't be able to grind out 800-plus yards up the middle. That said, I also disagree with the receiving projections. They're too low.
EvansWide receiver Lee Evans, 54 catches
Barnwell's take: OVER. I think that projection is pretty close to his eventual total, but my concern is the lack of reliable talent across the field from Evans. He was thrown 137 passes in 2006; since then, his target total has gone consistently down, with 113 in 2007, 102 in 2008, and 95 a year ago. It's hard to figure that James Hardy or Steve Johnson will be thrown as many passes as Terrell Owens was last year, and with those passes needing to go somewhere, I think Evans gets closer to that 130-target level in 2010.
My take: OVER. Call me foolish for continuing to believe this, but Evans is a far superior talent compared to his production, and Buffalo's quarterback play can't get any worse than last year. Evans has played six NFL seasons, and in three of them he caught 48 or fewer passes. He's coming off the worst season of his career in both receptions and yardage, but as Bill points out, Owens is gone. So is Josh Reed. Somebody has to catch the ball, and I have a hard time believing an offensive-minded coach like Chan Gailey won't be able to figure out a way to deliver it to Evans.
ByrdSafety Jairus Byrd, five interceptions
Barnwell's take: UNDER. Since 1990, there have been 24 instances of a player picking off nine passes in a year. In the subsequent season, those defensive backs averaged fewer than three interceptions. I think Byrd's performance last year was a combination of good instincts and, honestly, luck. How many of Byrd's interceptions were overthrows that just fell into his lap? Those just don't happen year after year.
My take: OVER. It's hard to guess what the Bills' defense will look like. They're transforming from a Tampa 2 to a 3-4. But Byrd is a ballhawk in a division that should pass more this year. He recorded nine interceptions even though he didn't take over the starting free safety spot until Week 5, played hurt for most of the season and missed the final two games to have sports hernia surgery.