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22 Oct 2004

Scramble for the Ball: One Hand Clapping

Hey all, it's just Al this week. Viv is off trying to recover from watching the biggest choke job in the history of sports at the Happiest Place on Earth. With our technical problems and ridiculously long baseball games to watch every night this week, I didn't have time to find a guest host to join me in all the fun.

So what to write about this week? I thought it might be a good idea to take another look at something Ian first examined the week after the Super Bowl -- future odds for the 2005 Super Bowl championship. Back then, Ian liked Tampa at 15-1, the Jets at 40-1, and the Colts at 12-1. I liked the Giants at 35-1, the Bengals at 35-1, and the Chargers at 40-1. Here are the latest odds:

The Pretenders

TEAM ODDS
Raiders 125-1
Buccaneers 150-1
Bengals 200-1
Bears 300-1
Bills 300-1
Cardinals 500-1
Dolphins 1000-1
49ers 1000-1

Are any of these even worth tossing a couple of speculative dollars on? According to DVOA, Buffalo is a great bet. The Bills are the #12 team according to our rankings, yet have the fourth longest odds out of anyone in the NFL. Now, there are two huge things standing in their way of even making the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl -- New England and New York. But stranger things have happened.

The Long Shots

TEAM ODDS
Titans 66-1
Chargers 66-1
Chiefs 66-1
Browns 66-1
Texans 66-1
Cowboys 80-1
Panthers 80-1
Redskins 80-1
Saints 80-1

I'm a bit surprised that San Diego's odds have actually gotten worse than they were in the preseason. If anything, they've exceeded all expectations over the first six weeks. They also have what looks to be a pretty easy schedule to finish out the year. They could easily win their next three games before their bye week -- @CAR, OAK, NO. That's 6-3. They finish the year with only two of their last seven games against teams that are currently above .500 -- Denver and Indianapolis. If they can win the other five, that's 11-5, which should be good for at least a home playoff game. Anyone with a home playoff game has better than a 1 in 66 chance of winning it all.

The Contenders

TEAM ODDS
Jets 20-1
Falcons 20-1
Ravens 25-1
Rams 25-1
Giants 28-1
Jaguars 33-1
Steelers 33-1
Lions 50-1
Packers 50-1

It looks like there still isn't much confidence in the Giants. They've gone 5-1, yet have only improved to a 28-1 shot to win the big game. St. Louis at 25-1 is extremely intriguing. The current NFC West leader has to have better odds than this. The Packers are possibly the worst bet on the board. If this was any other team sitting at 2-4 in the NFC North with the worst pass defense in football they'd be at least 100-1 shots.

The Favorites

TEAM ODDS
Patriots 10-3
Eagles 7-2
Colts 11-2
Seahawks 10-1
Vikings 12-1
Broncos 14-1

I like Seattle at 10-1. With the best defense in football so far and a pretty good offense, the Seahawks have a better than 10% chance to win the Super Bowl. On the other hand, I wouldn't put a dime on the Vikings at 12-1. According to DVOA, they're incredibly overrated. Sure, they may have the best offense in football, but when you combine that with the worst defense in the league you're not going to win a championship.

Scramble Survivor League Update

This is the week where we stop granting immunity and move to a two week elimination period. Now's a good time to check out who's still alive and see if I have any shot at winning this for the third year in a row. Unfortunately I'll be coming from behind as I only have two teams left compared to Ian's four.

Hey Ya (Al) Off and Running (Ian) Hit or Miss (Al)
QB Hasselbeck McNabb McNair
QB Gannon Bulger Plummer
RB Portis Tomlinson Alexander
RB Henry Bennett M. Faulk
RB R. Johnson Foster S. Davis
WR A. Johnson Horn Chambers
WR R. Smith Porter Key. Johnson
WR Burress McCareins Branch
WR Engram Bennett McCardell
TE B. Miller Da. Clark Gates
TE Kinney Stevens E. Johnson
K Kasay Vanderjagt Stover
K Hanson Elling Lindell
DT Baltimore Buffalo St. Louis
DT Atlanta San Francisco Chicago
These Guys Are Good (Ian) Fear Factors (Ian) Rockhammers (Ian)
QB Brooks Culpepper P. Manning
QB Leftwich B. Johnson Delhomme
RB A. Green Barber Dillon
RB Martin Staley Westbrook
RB Wheatley Duckett Garner
WR Ward J. Smith K. Robinson
WR D. Jackson Bruce Wayne
WR Toomer Terrell Lloyd
WR Stallworth Burleson Givens
TE Winslow Shockey B. Williams
TE L. Smith McMichael Pollard
K Akers Longwell J. Brown
K Brien Janikowski Mare
DT Dallas Denver Pittsburgh
DT Miami Indy Minnesota

The favorite has to be the Fear Factors. They've been either the #1 or #2 scoring team every week this year. Thanks to Daunte Culpepper and his 35.2 points per week this team has been running over the competition. But, it's not invincible. First, there's no backup quarterback now that Brad Johnson has lost his starting job in Tampa. If Culpepper gets banged up or has an off week (say, when his #1 receiver is hobbled by hamstring problems) this team could be vulnerable.

Ian, however, also has the weakest team still alive -- Off and Running. Outside of LaDanian Tomlinson and Joe Horn, this team has no depth at running back or wide receiver. With Mike Vanderjagt banged up, this team could easily put up goose eggs at both kicker and tight end. If this team doesn't get knocked out over the next two weeks, they should be gone after Tomlinson's bye in Week 10.

My two teams both have decent shots at winning should the Fear Factors falter. Seattle already had its bye week, so I don't have to worry about Hey Ya being without a quarterback in any upcoming weeks. Depth could be a big issue here, however, with Travis Henry losing carries to Willis McGahee and Bobby Engram banged up. I am optimistic, however, as Plaxico Burress seems to have gained new life as a fantasy player with Ben Rottweiler at the helm.

Hit or Miss gained some life with Keenan McCardell finally getting traded. And he couldn't have ended up in a better place. San Diego's offense has been fantastic, but they needed someone to step with Reche Caldwell out for the season with a torn knee ligament. If only I could count both Eric Johnson's and Antonio Gates' points each week I'd be much more confident in this team's chances to win the league.

Scramble for the Ball Mailbag

Remember that you can email your questions to scramble@footballoutsiders.com. Because of the technical difficulties of the past week, I haven't been able to access the mailbag. So, since this is usually the section of the article where we end up talking about fantasy decisions, I'll talk about a couple of ones I'm facing this week in different leagues. Let me know what you think I should do in the comments below.

RB: Pick two starters -- LaDanian Tomlinson @CAR, Chris Brown @MIN, Ruben Droughns @CIN

This is the type of decision I don't mind having to make. Whichever two I start, I should do well. Over the past four weeks, LT2 and Droughns have been the #2 and #3 scoring running backs in this league. On the season, LT2 is #4 and Brown is #6. Each is going up against a subpar rushing defense. No one has allowed more rushing yards per game than Cincinnati has. Carolina isn't too far behind them at 143.4 yards per game. The Vikings have only allowed 103.8 yards per game, but are #3 in the league in rushing TDs allowed with eight. Right now I'm leaning towards starting Tomlinson and Droughns.

QB: Pick one starter -- Drew Brees @CAR, Byron Leftwich @IND

Both are top ten fantasy QBs this year. Leftwich has thrown for more yards, while Brees has thrown two more touchdowns and one less interception. Carolina hasn't allowed many passing yards, only 174.6 per game. However, that may be mainly due to their awful rush defense and not because of anything the Panther secondary is doing. DVOA seems to think the Panthers have done pretty well against the pass, ranking Carolina #11. The Colts, as you may have heard, have struggled a bit on defense. No one has allowed more passing yards per game than Indy has at 293.6 per game. For that reason, I'm going with Leftwich this week.

QB: Pick two starters -- Matt Hasselbeck @ARI, Michael Vick @KC, Marc Bulger @MIA, Kurt Warner DET

If only the RBs and WRs on this team weren't awful I'd be doing well in this league. Bulger's going up a pretty good defense in Miami, but he's been the #3 quarterback behind Culpepper and Manning in this league's ridiculous scoring system. Vick's struggled this year, but he had a great game last week and is going up against a Chief defense that will allow some yardage. Hasselbeck has been my second best QB, but the Cardinals have the #2 pass defense in the NFL. Warner is at home, where he's put up his best numbers, against a pass defense that was shredded by the Packers last Sunday. I honestly have no idea who to play here. I have Hasselbeck and Vick in there now, but I'm sure I'll change that at least once before Sunday.

Keep Choppin' Wood Award

Tough call this week. Chad Johnson deserves some consideration. After sending your opposing cornerbacks bottles of Pepto Bismol, you have to put up a better line than 37 receiving yards. Chad had nine passes thrown in his direction on Sunday and only caught three of them.

I almost went with Terrence Newman. Newman's just been flat out terrible at times this year. When the Steelers needed to drive down the field to come back against the Cowboys, the Rottweiler did so by attacking Newman. It's never a good sign when a cornerback is your team's leading tackler. A cornerback doesn't rack up tackles unless his man has caught the ball first. Terrence Newman on Sunday? 11 tackles, four more than any other Cowboy defender.

However, this week's KCW Award goes not to an individual, but to a unit -- the Miami defensive line. Sure, they may be at the top of our rankings, but against the Bills they might have cost the Dolphins their best chance at a victory in the foreseeable future. They were going up against the worst line in football at preventing sacks with one of the least mobile quarterbacks in the league behind it. How in the world do you only sack Drew Bledsoe once? This is a quarterback that had been sacked 18 times over the previous three games. This is a quarterback that has been getting sacked at a rate of over three times per game since 1999. And the Dolphins allowed him to have only his second game this year with a QB rating over 90 by only getting to him once. But it wasn't just on pass rush that the Miami line struggled. Willis McGahee came in and stole Travis Henry's job away from him by taking advantage of the Dolphins. Put together 1 sack and 4.3 yards per carry and you get this week's Keep Choppin' Wood Award winner.

Best Bets

Viv finally had a winning week, going 3-2 to raise his season record to 7-13. He was able to take a break from riding Space Mountain and sent me his three picks for the week:

GIANTS -6.5 over Detroit

New Orleans +3 over OAKLAND

Philadelphia -7 over CLEVELAND

I had another 3-1 week to finally get my season record back to .500 at 10-10.

San Diego +3 over CAROLINA

I guess the oddsmakers don't believe in the Chargers just yet. Carolina did nothing against Philadelphia last week and won't be at full strength again until next season. Drew Brees is doing a great job auditioning for future employers and should put up another good day against the Panthers. The Chargers have clearly been the better team this season. No way should they be getting three points.

Atlanta +3.5 over KANSAS CITY

Count me in as a believer that the Chiefs are better that their record says they are. But you can also count me among those who think that Kansas City's linebackers will be eaten alive by Michael Vick.

Dallas +3.5 over GREEN BAY

I keep going back to the same theme with my picks this week. Picking against teams that are giving points at home for no reason other than reputation. Dallas hasn't been any good this year, but they've been better than the Pack. Vinny Testeverde could put up 400 passing yards this week against the Green Bay secondary.

Loser League Update

Because of the site difficulties, the Week 6 results aren't up yet. I do, however, have the Loser League All Star team. With an honorable mention to the undraftable Lawrence Tynes and his 2-4 FG, 1-2 XP, -2 point performance, here are your losers:

QB: Donovan McNabb (?!?!) (8 points, 14-26, 209 yards, 1 INT)
RB: Eddie George (2 points, 10 attempts, 28 yards)
RB: Domanick Davis (2 points, 10 attempts, 25 yards)
WR: Ricky Proehl (1 point, 2 catches, 17 yards)
WR: Bobby Wade (1 point, 4 catches, 17 yards)
K: Martin Gramatica (-1 points, 3 XP, 0-2 FG)

Posted by: Al Bogdan on 22 Oct 2004

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