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.
Next in the series are the Miami Dolphins.
HenneQuarterback Chad Henne, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions
Barnwell's take: UNDER and OVER. I certainly think adding Brandon Marshall gives Henne a devastating weapon in the red zone. Marshall had seven red-zone touchdowns for the Denver Broncos last year. Marshall's going to be the Dolphins' only real red-zone threat, though, and that should mitigate his impact on those fade patterns. I also think about the strengths of the Dolphins team and their scheme under Tony Sparano. They had the best line of any team in football last year in short-yardage situations, and I know Sparano would prefer to run the ball in short yardage than pass it around.
My take: OVER and OVER. I'm tempted to go under on touchdowns, but I can see the Dolphins opening up their offense not only because of Marshall's presence, but also because their backfield has a lot of question marks. Ronnie Brown has trouble staying healthy, and Ricky Williams is 33. Henne's natural development should give Sparano and offensive coordinator Dan Henning more confidence to pass. For that same reason, Henne's interception projection looks low to me. He wasn't a prolific thrower last year (17th in attempts per game), yet tied for 11th in interceptions thrown with 14.
WilliamsRunning back Ricky Williams, 878 rushing yards
Barnwell's take: OVER. The Dolphins are going to be able to run the ball effectively; that's no surprise. When people were looking at this team last year and projecting their numbers, I think a lot of folks were projecting Chad Pennington and Brown for full seasons without a second thought, and that's absurd. That they made it through a full season in 2008 was a miracle, not something that was likely to recur. Brown has missed time in virtually every one of his pro seasons, and Williams has been sturdy over the past two seasons. If Williams stays healthy, then he beats that total.
My take: UNDER. I hate to lower expectations for my meditation buddy, but his 2009 was off-the-charts unusual. I believe Williams can have another big season. But overs and unders are about betting on an outcome, and I think too many factors can trip him up. Williams' reps will go down if a) he starts to play like he's 33 years old, b) he suffers an injury, c) Brown can stay on the field, d) the Dolphins turn into more of a passing team.
MarshallReceiver Brandon Marshall, 104 receptions
Barnwell's take: UNDER. Any time I get asked to project someone to hit such a high total, I almost always take the under. Too many things have to go right for a player to hit such a high total: He must stay healthy; the players around him need to be effective; he needs to duck the occasional disappointing season that even the greats have. Based on his historical catch rate, Marshall will need to get about 165 targets or so to hit that total. I can't see him getting that many chances; Davone Bess got 114 last year, and he's the only wideout under Sparano to even hit 100. The Fins run the ball too frequently for Marshall to get the chances he needs to hit 104.
My take: UNDER. I believe Marshall will have a fantastic season, but for the same reasons as Bill listed, I don't see him catching 104 passes. Nothing indicates the Dolphins will have 1984 flashbacks and start slinging the ball all over the place. Football operations boss Bill Parcells never has believed in it. The Dolphins' offensive personnel was assembled to run. That's not to say they won't air it out more this year. I predict they will. But for Marshall to record 104 receptions, the Dolphins would have to change their identity completely. A more reasonable total for me is about 90 receptions for Marshall.