Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Scramble for the Ball: Lollapaloser

by Ian Dembsky and Vivek Ramgopal

Ian: Howdy! Welcome to another edition of Scramble for the Ball. First of all, a quick shoutout to the columnist I've been spelling. Al is now a father; his wife recently gave birth to a healthy Emma Bogdan. Congrats Al.

Let's begin in New England, where as most people predicted, the Colts finally exorcised the demons of Foxboro past and trounced the Patriots, 40-21. I have to admit, I don't think I've ever seen an offense play a better game of football in my life. It's become cliche when talking about the Colts, but it's really pick your poison when it comes to defending them. Early on, the Colts established a solid running game as the Pats did what they normally do against Indy -- drop eight into coverage. As Edge kept churning out first downs, all of a sudden there was more and more single coverage on the outside receivers, and Manning never failed to take advantage of it. What was incredible was not just how many completions the Colts wideouts had, but how wide open they were every time they caught a pass. But give Manning enough time, and he really showed that he can pick you apart.

Of course, giving him time was the most important factor. The Patriots had virtually no pass rush. Richard Seymour's absence had a much bigger impact on the game than anyone could have imagined; without a man in his face Peyton was free to scan the field and find whomever he wished while his O-line did a terrific job of pass protection.

Vivek: Monday night was a first for me, or at least a first in a while – a Monday Night Football game that I was actually looking forward to, and the same can probably be said for the rest of the planet. Take a look at what we've been treated to recently and notice the lack of hype.

Brady started 10-for-10, methodically picking apart defense, as he completed six passes to five different receivers to start the game. I expected the Colts secondary to come out hitting hard, especially Mike Doss and Bob Sanders, but that intimidation was not there. The Colts defense just is not that good ... yet. Before the flood of hate mail, let me explain:

1) The schedule -- this team has really only stopped one good offense (St. Louis). Cincinnati, San Diego, and Seattle are left on the schedule, two of them on the road.
2) I was not impressed by the tackling Monday night. This is a league-wide problem, but it seemed like every Colts defender was trying to tackle with his shoulder. I took some anatomy classes in college, so I know it's hard to bring someone down without the use of the arms.
3) Teams can run against the Colts. Chalk it up to injury and the fact that the Pats were playing catch-up, but Corey Dillon should have run the ball more than 12 times. Sure the Pats were forced to sign Mike Cloud to backup Dillon this week, but there should have been more touches. You only need to look back to the first drive (four rushes and one reception) to see what kind of success the Pats could have had if they continued with this gameplan.

Something else I have to bring up is Belichick's decision for the onside kick. I've learned to rarely, if ever, question Bill Belichick, but last night's decision to go for the onside kick called for questioning. Down by two touchdowns midway through the third quarter, what message does the onside kick send to your defense? Belichick basically said that he would rather have the Colts get in the endzone or kick a field goal quickly and then take his chances to recoup some points on offense. It was the NFL equivalent of a basketball team intentionally fouling the opponent at the end of the game.

And the result of the onside kick -- four plays, five yards, 1:01 off the clock and a field goal.

Ian: Here's where you and I disagree. What's wrong with Belichick's decision? Look you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the Patriots simply couldn't contain the Colts wideouts on Monday night. It was clear that Indy was more likely to score than not on every possession. So Bill figured that the chance of the Patriots' recovering the kick was greater than the chance of the Pats defense's coming up with a stop. And the Pats were likely to have to onside kick at some point; might as well try it when the Colts weren't lined up to prevent it. It turned out poorly, but I don't disagree with the decision.

Vivek: Speaking of coaching decisions, I have to give Dick Vermeil a lot of credit for his gutsy last-second decision to go for the win. The Raiders just scored on two straight possessions to take the lead, and with Sebastian Janikowski, there was a good chance that the Chiefs would not get the ball back had they lost the coin toss.

Ian: On to Minnesota, where the Viking offense got exactly what it needed -- Steady quarterback play. Hard to fault Daunte Culpepper too much, since his team wasn't exactly providing the solid support a quarterback needs. But it was clear that when Randy Moss left, Culpepper decided to take responsibility for the whole team on his shoulders, and clearly he put too much pressure on himself. It was as if he was convinced that he needed to make a big play every play, pulling the ball down and taking off without giving his receivers time to develop their patterns and running around in the pocket to avoid any kind of rush rather than simply getting rid of the ball. The result was a lot of 3rd-and-long situations, a number of fumbles, and a ton of forced balled that turned into interceptions.

After watching Brad Johnson lead Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title, one thing we learned about the guy is that he's smart about getting rid of the ball. He often would have as many throw-aways as big passes, but he was smart, efficient and wouldn't turn the ball over. The Vikings gave up just 3 sacks and one turnover on Sunday, and it helped them get a much-needed win over a division foe.

Vivek: Everyone else who is kicking themselves for cutting Michael Bennett raise his hand. Finally he comes through given the opportunity. The thing that surprised me most about Bennett's performance was how he ran the ball – through the middle as more of a power runner versus the more familiar speed runner to the outside. The offensive line had a lot to do with this. A unit that has not recovered from the loss of Matt Birk was ranked at the bottom of the league, but it did enough for Bennett last Sunday. The line did not overpower the defense, but created just enough space for Bennett to slice through the middle.

We'll see if Bennett figures prominently in the Vikings' gameplan for the rest of the season, but let's hope that the team learned something, unlike the Eagles who still did not use Brian Westbrook enough. The seventeen carries Sunday night were a season high for Westbrook, but he only rushed the ball sparcely in the fourth quarter. Late in the game at the Redskins 13-yard line, McNabb attempted three straight passes, missing twice. My biggest beef with not having Westbrook run the ball was the fact that there was nearly two minutes left in the game. If McNabb did get into the endzone, the Redskins would have still had plenty of time to attempt a field goal.

Ian: There's something I've been wondering about for a long time now, and it has to do with punting. It's not uncommon for a team to have a drive stall out just beyond midfield, and so they punt and try to pin the other team deep. But the approach is always the same: Have the punter boom it high and short, and hope it doesn't go in the endzone, or doesn't roll in if it hits down within the 10-yard line.

But whatever happened to the Coffin Corner? Seriously, I just can't fathom why punters don't worry less about how far they kick it, and worry more about where they kick it. Aiming it to go out of bounds within the 10-yard line seems like a good system to me. Why leave it up to chance, when that strangely-yet-beautifully shaped pigskin hits down on the 5 yard line, and who knows where it's gonna go?

Vivek: I'll chalk this one up to inexperience and the merry-go-round of punters in the NFL. Out of the top 20 punters this year (by yards per punt), 12 have less than five years of experience. These young punters are focused on showing that they can boom the ball deep in order to get a tryout and a job, versus showcasing directional and situational punting. A big leg can also eliminate the need for a team to keep a long kicker/occasional kickoff man on the roster.

Scramble for the Ball Mailbag

Vivek: Send your fantasy questions our way at scramble@footballoutsiders.com, or use the handy dandy Football Outsiders contact form.

Leading off this week is Alex:

L.J. Smith is listed as questionable. If he's not able to suit up, what other TE should I select: D.Jolley, Desmond Clark, Alex Smith, K.Mangum, C.Anderson, or M.Schobel? Also, may you kindly rank these players in the order you would start them: M.Moore, J.Jurevicius, C.Chambers, K.Barlow, and J.Bettis. And lastly, should I drop J.Brown in favor of Elam?

Vivek:

1) Cincy is on a bye, so that knocks out Schobel. I don't like any of these TE matchups, but I would go for Courtney Anderson, who has the more explosive offense around him.

2) Jurevicius, Chambers and then none of the rest. Moore is still nursing a wrist injury, and Michael Bennett's performance last week might have cost Moore his job. Barlow is facing a tough Chicago run defense on the heels of an awful Week 9 performance. Frank Gore, anyone? It also looks like it is time to bring the Bus (knee) in for servicing.

3) Brown has been more accurate, so hold onto him.

Ian: I'd also consider going for Doug Jolley. Now that Chris Baker is out for the season, look for the Jets to try and get Jolley worked into the offense a bit more. Of course, I have very low expectations for all the players you've mentioned. You're probably best off just hoping L.J. Smith plays.

Next up is Scramble regular Randy.

1) What is this weeks defense d'jour? Jets, Washington, Cleveland, Seattle, Oakland, or KC?

2) Should I stick with Tynes or pick up J.Wilkins or Buffalo's kicker?

3) My first round bust, Kevin Jones, is ailing. Should I seek solace this week in RBs M.Bennet, G.Jones, A.Peterson, Sam Gado, or Cleveland's Wright ?

4) Which 2 WRs should I start ? A.Chatman, R.Smith, J.Jurevicius, E.Wilford or C.Chambers ? And if R.Ferguson comes back, who has more value between him and A.Chatman?

Vivek:

1) KC versus Buffalo
2) Tynes. You should never spend more than five seconds debating about a kicker. With the exception of one or two guys, they're all about even.
3) Jones is looking doubtful with his arm injuries, so Bennett would be the safer play
4) Jurevicius and Rod Smith. I'm souring on Chambers, who has had a hard time getting involved in the Dolphins offense. And for part II of your question – Ferguson, because he is the more proven entity.

Ian: As a Tampa Bay fan it kills me to say so, but I like Washington's defense more than Kansas City's this week. Arrington is back, they're full of playmakers, and Chris Simms has had a lot of trouble protecting the football lately.

Lessons Learned from Week 9

Lesson 1 – Rosenhaus Translated into Nordic Means Career Killer

Vivek: The contract that the Eagles gave Terrell Owens last year will be the biggest one he'll ever see. Drew Rosenhaus wanted to make a splash as the super agent, so he convinced Owens that both of them were on the same page and had the same goals. Remember that Rosenhaus did not negotiate Owens' original contract, so Rosenhaus needed a new contract for the big payday. Even more appalling was the press conference on Tuesday, in which Rosenhaus and Owens blamed the media for building this up. I don't even need to comment on how absurd that was.

Now I am not saying that TO was a puppet and sat idly through all this, but I blame his agent even more. These guys are much smarter than to fire off all these statements. In my mind, these were calculated moves with calculated risks, and ones that backfired.

Lesson 2 – Steve McNair Should Retire

Ian: Steve, we're all big fans. Anyone would be hard pressed to come up with another player that was more of a warrior when it comes to football. You've got a great nickname, great all-around game, and came within a yard of a potential Super Bowl title. But hang ‘em up. No one wants to see you get killed on the field, and the talent level of your team just isn't worth the risk. A loss to Cleveland? The Titans are just too far from being title contenders, and you're too close to a career-ending injury. Walk away healthy, and we'll respect you forever.

Lesson 3 – Every professional team needs cheerleaders

With the exception of the Laker girls, when was the last time that cheerleaders were prominent? 'Nuff said.

Keep Choppin' Wood Award

Ian: It's a bit unfair to do it, since most of these players wouldn't be playing at all if not for injuries, but I'm giving the award to the entire New England secondary. This was a game the Patriots had to win. They had the crowd on their side, and Tom Brady played an excellent game. But I've never seen so many wide open wide receivers. And since the Patriots were almost always rushing three and dropping eight, where was the coverage? How was it so easy for Manning to complete over 75 percent of his passes? Sure there were injuries to starters, and sure it was the Colts offense, but there were so many third down opportunities to make a play and force the Colts to punt, and that play was almost never made.

Loser League

Vivek: For the FOXSports audience, this week marks the second half start of our ever so popular Loser League. Sure, anyone can pick LT or Shaun Alexander and brag about taking home a fantasy division title. Where is the skill in that? If your fantasy drafts burn you on an annual basis, then the Loser League is for you. This is the contest where you compete against hundreds of other readers to see who can come up with the lowest fantasy score each week. The catch? You can't just pick Jim Sorgi or Darren Sproles – the players you pick must play and reach certain minimums or else your team is subject to penalty points.

Remember to get your picks in by November 12, and I hope all your teams are awful.

Taking home a copy of Pro Football Prospectus 2006 (as soon as it's printed) for winning the first half contest was David Hess of New York and his entry, Vote For Pedro. Leading the way for Vote For Pedro were quarterbacks L.P. Losman and David "I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again" Carr.

Ian: The first half of the Loser League is in the books, so without further ado, here are your First Half Loser League All Stars:

Quarterback

Kyle Orton – Nothing beats a rookie pressed into service when it comes to the Loser League. Especially when it happens the week before the season starts, and it's a team that relies on defense and running the ball anyway. Kyle averaged a mere 7.7 points for the first half of the season, but we'll give him credit. He's a Loser League All Star, but a worthy NFL starter.

Unworthy NFL starters are the honorable mentions, Alex Smith and Joey Harrington. For Alex Smith to finish second in average points is astounding, given that he only started four weeks, and thus pulled six penalties (one due to a bye). But when he started, he redefined “suck�, turning in fantasy performances of 1, -7, and 0.

The top individual performance is the aforementioned -7 clunker by Alex Smith against the Colts. Close behind was a -5 point performance Week 3 by Kyle Orton against the Bengals, thanks to five interceptions.

Running Back

Jamal Lewis – Coming into the season, there were plenty of question marks surrounding Jamal Lewis. The most prominent, of course, was how would he perform after life in prison? Well, obviously not so well. But fortunately for Loser Leaguers, he's making a lot of money, so he always gets his carries. His only penalty was his bye week, and on only one other week did he top 15 points. His three lost fumbles are a nice bonus.

Marcel Shipp – Frankly, it surprised me that Jamal Lewis sucked worse than Marcel Shipp. It was very close though, and Marcel didn't have the starting job at the beginning of the season. Give him one more carry in Week 1, and he's the top Loser League All Star. That being said, the Arizona rushing attack is woeful, and makes for great Loser League stats.

Honorable mentions at running back go to Kevan Barlow and, surprisingly, Chris Brown. Barlow has been a very consistent Loser, avoiding penalty except for his bye week. Chris Brown has been quietly getting hot over the last four weeks, but it couldn't make up for early poor play, and his lack of any penalties thus far definitely helped there.

The top loser performance by a running back goes to a player who certainly isn't likely to have one again: Larry Johnson of the Chiefs. In Week 3 at Denver, he rushed 8 times for a mere 13 yards, and managed to fumble the ball away once, leading to a highly unusual negative week for a running back at -1 points.

Wide Receiver

Bryant Johnson – Who? Bryant Johnson of Arizona, who's probably being picked up off of your waiver wire right now, thanks to the injury to Anquan Boldin. He's only pulled penalty twice (once due to a bye week), but he's been amazing every other week. His non-penalty week-by-week point totals: 2, 1, 5, 0, 2, 1, 12. It helps that Arizona is often losing in games and goes to three-wide sets. Bryant finished with an average of six points per week.

Lee Evans – Lee actually tied Johnson with six points per week. Benefiting greatly from the J.P. Losman experiment, the Bills passing game rarely got on-track, and as a result Lee's value suffered. Lee never caught more than 3 passes in a game, yer only pulled penalty twice (once due to a bye week). His non-penalty week-by-week totals: 5, 1, 0, 2, 6, 2, 7. A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Honorable mentions go to perhaps the biggest fantasy bust of the season, Michael Clayton of Tampa Bay, and Travis Taylor of Minnesota. Clayton just hasn't gotten it going after a sensational rookie season last year. Travis Taylor earned a lot of fantasy starts after his two-touchdown Week 3 performance, but people seemed to forget that this is Travis Taylor, and even a broken clock is right twice a day.

No wide receiver managed to pull off negative points this season (oh, how I pine for the days of Az-Zahir Hakim with the Rams). Three players managed a zero point week though, the two Loser League All Stars and Jabar Gaffney of Houston.

Kicker

Ryan Longwell – Not only did Ryan Longwell lead all Loser League players with a paltry 2.9 points per week, he was almost 2 points per week worse than the second-worst kicker, and more than 3 points worse per week than any quarterback, running back, or wide receiver. With the Packers defense struggling, the offense is often compelled to go for touchdowns, and thus Longwell has attempted only 11 field goals this season. He's only converted on seven of them for a loser-rific 60 percent conversion rate. And he also managed to miss an extra point, which we score as -5 points.

Honorable mention goes to the New York Jets front office, for jumping all over Loser League specialist Mike Nugent who, like Longwell, is seven-for-11 on field goal attempts thus far. But Mike hasn't missed an extra point, and had his bye week already. But look for him to finish in the top three for sure during the second half of the Loser League season.

The top Loser performance for a kicker goes to Matt Stover, who way back in Week 1 managed a -5 thanks to three missed field goals against the Colts. Three different kickers managed a -2, including the two players already mentioned, and the now kickoff-only Jose Cortez.

With all that being said, I'm proud to award the First Half Loser League MVP Award to none other than Ryan Longwell! The funny thing is, I bet he was the starter for many fantasy teams as the season began, so his earning of this award is all the more impressive. But as said before, it wasn't even close. Longwell ran away with this award.

Best Bets

Ian (3-1-1 last week)

Not a bad return for me on the Best Bets front; if I could have talked myself out of taking the Patriots I would have gone 4-0-1. Amazingly, I got my Houston pick right, even though I took “Domanick Davis +13.5� – he didn't even play. Onto this week's picks.

CAROLINA -9.0 over NY Jets

If this game was in New York, I'd be a bit more hesitant, but there's a reason Brooks Bollinger is on my Loser League team this week. I expect him and the Jets to get trounced by the Panthers, who are on fire right now, and who make a terrific Survival Picks Pool choice if you haven't used them already.

ATLANTA -9.0 over Green Bay

Atlanta leads the league when it comes to running the football. Green Bay is awful at defending the run. And there's a waiver wire stampede this week for someone named “Samkon Gado.� I'll take the Falcons minus the points.

Arizona +3.5 over DETROIT

I'm not a big Arizona fan, but it's hard to take Detroit minus points against anyone at this point. It's especially hard with Kevin Jones banged up and Joey Harrington at quarterback. Amazingly, Neil Rackers is one of the best fantasy plays of the week. I'll be disappointed if he has fewer than 5 field goals.

St. Louis +6.5 over SEATTLE

Marc Bulger is back, and so is Isaac Bruce. I think Seattle has a great chance of winning this week, but I think St. Louis will make a late push for a backdoor cover.

Vivek: (2-1 last week, 12-18 overall)

One point away from an unblemished week. Damn you, Brooks Bollinger! For those of you who have been doing second half eliminator pools or are in leagues where you pick games straight up, take a look at the weekly picks by The Writers. Yours truly (in the NFL Guru Division) is third overall, which proves that I have some prognosticating skills … just not when you factor in the spread. As a whole, the Writers are coming in at an impressive 63 percent win rate, which is on par with some other major sites out there.

Kansas City +3.0 over BUFFALO

I actually checked a few sites to see if the favorite was switched. Not a typo. Do you trust either of the QBs for Buffalo?

Minnesota +10.0 over NY GIANTS

I'm still not sold on Eli Manning's accuracy. An ill advised or errant pass will cost the team the chance to cover.

Washington -1.0 over TAMPA BAY

If Jon Gruden wants to keep his playoff hopes alive in the crowded NFC South, he needs to replace Chris Simms. The Skins defense is going to force him into a lot of bad decisions.

Comments

1
by michael (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 6:03pm

careful guys - you just implied a lack of hype surrounding the Falcons! This could get ugly quick!

2
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 6:33pm

#1:

Could have been worse -- they could have cast aspersions on Denver.

3
by tom (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 6:42pm

Interesting stuff on Brad Johnson. I've often thought that there's too much emphasis on 'making a play' for Quarterbacks; it's a bit like cornerbacks going for the big interception and getting burned. Maybe the Packers need to show Brett Favre a few of Johnson's tapes...

4
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 8:24pm

but I blame his agent even more.

Funniest question was when Rosenhaus was asked what he's done for his client other than get him kicked off the Eagles.

What also cracks me up is that Rosenhaus thinks that they could get Owens reinstated this week.

Did he watch the game on Sunday? Yah, the Eagles lost, but Owens's replacement had 5 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Right now I think the Eagles are thinking "man, maybe we didn't need Owens at all this year."

I mean, yes, it's only one game, and yes they lost, but still, damn, that's a very nice start to a career.

5
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 9:11pm

OK, I need a bye-week replacement at QB off the waiver wire: Brad Johnson @ NYG, Garcia (partially healthy) home versus DET, or Holcomb at home versus KC? Any thoughts?

6
by jimmo (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 9:17pm

krasker wrote about the coffin corner previously, not sure if it got linked on FO or not...

7
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 9:18pm

I appreciate your appreciation of Brad Johnson. The only knock I've ever had on the guy is that he is a little fragile. However, I think you misdiagnose Culpepper's woes somewhat. While it is true that he attempted to throw a 10 point touchdown with every pass this year, he does not lack for allowing receivers to develop their patterns. In fact, his principle fault over his entire career is hanging on to the ball too long, which has resulted in a lot of sacks despite good protection (this year excepted, obviously).

Johnson, in contrast, makes much faster decisions. Vikings receivers have commented that there is a lot less free-lancing with Johnson, and they have to expect the ball to be there as soon as they make their break. Obviously, Culpepper's style works great when there is a certain wideout, the most controversial non-Drew Rosenhaus represented wideout in the league, around. The one thing that surprised me about Culpepper is that he did not adjust his play more to his new realities.

Of course, adjusting one's quarterback play, when one's defense is consistently yielding 24-plus points in the first half on the road, can be just a wee bit problematic. As can it be when one's interior offensive line is being collapsed with regularity.

Johnson benefited immensely from a defense which played well against the juggernaut that is Joey Harrington last Sunday. He wasn't compelled to put together four long touchdown drives, or two quick ones. Johnson (and the rbs) benefitted that the Vikings interior offensive line is starting to play better, especially since they've gotten Cory Withrow off the field. If Fonoti gets down to the 350 mark, and thus makes onto the field before the end of December, they might get better still.

For the rest of the season, it'll all come down to how well the Vikings' defense plays, particularly on the road. If they can hold teams to 10 points or less in the first half, then Johnson will have the opportunity to do what he does best, especially if they continue to run the ball with efficiency. If they give up seventeen or more to the Giants in the first half this Sunday, then you'll know that this remains a team that can't compete outside the Metrodome, and will be fortunate to win six or seven games at best.

I just heard that Smoot is out for 6 weeks with a broken collarbone, so that won't help, even though his play has been less than stellar. The linebacking has been hideous, but did look better on Sunday. The Vikings biggest defensive weakness, however, is an old problem, that of the lack of an outside pass rusher who can cause an opposing offensive coordinator to consider using two people to slow up.

I know regression analysis of injuries has been done which suggests that wr and qb are the two most important positions, but when I see what effect a Freeny has, or what the absence of a Seymour means, it seems pretty clear to me that an outside pass rusher who can force an offense to consider a double team is pretty darned essential as well.

If I had to choose between the first ten years of Reggie White, and the first ten years of Jerry Rice, for my expansion club, I think I'd choose White, as preposterous as that may sound to some.

Sorry for the length, but there was a lot interesting stuff to cover in this week's scramble. Thanks.

8
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 9:24pm

Oh, and as for the Bears, if they had Brad Johnson, they'd be a legitimate contender to make it to the Super Bowl.

9
by Terry (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 10:04pm

Derrick Mason at Jacksonville, or Reggie Brown at home against Dallas?

It's a deep league, no need for any pity.

10
by DavidH (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 10:05pm

Brown

11
by Jon (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 11:37pm

Wow skins are a 1 point favorite in tampa? My skins are awesome at winning at home, but with the exception of dallas they haven't been too noteworthy on the road. Very hopeful tho.

12
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:16am

Ian and Vivek, do you guys even read your own site? You say GB is "awful at defending the run". DVOA says their seventh best in adjusted line yards. Believe it or not, GB isn't actually terrible at everything.

Honestly guys, the stats here are very good stuff. Maybe you'd have better records predicting games if you actually used them.

13
by andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:39am

Jon, I think the Skins being favored is more an indicator on just how much of the shine has come off of Tampa.

14
by Ian (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 4:23am

Re #5 - I'd go with Kelly Holcomb. The Vikings have really struggled on the road, and I don't believe in Garcia or Harrington at all.

Re #7 - Great points; Brad certainly had a top defense to lean on, and the Vikings most definitely do not.

Re #9 - I'd stick with Derrick Mason; he always seems to get his yards. Reggie Brown had a big week but most of it came on one play. Wait another week and let him prove he's worth starting.

Re #12 - As of Week 9, Green Bay is ranked 21st in the league in rush defense. You just settle down now.

15
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 11:33am

Ian, so 21st, with a massive DVOA of 3.7 is "awful"? Four teams have rush DVOAs three times that high.

I didn't say GB's run defense was great. I didn't say it was good. I said it wasn't awful. A rank of 21st means 11 teams worse then them. I suppose if you consider any teams worse then 16th to be definitively "bad", then maybe 21st is "awful", but I like to actually recognize that oft-neglected group between great and awful which I like to call "average" or "mediocre", if you will.

16
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 12:04pm

Four teams have rush DVOAs three times that high.

See, the problem is that you and Ian are using different adjective scales. Let me try to provide a list for ya.

Starting from "mediocre" down:
mediocre
awful
horrendous
putrid
The Buffalo Bills

Does that help?

17
by Xian (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 1:08pm

I recall someone (Aaron?) mentioning that GB has (had? a week or two ago) the #1 rush defense to the right side of the line. Looking at the defensive stats, the vs. WRs is up...is it possible to get the individual rushing breakdowns up there?

Oh, d'oh! It's under defensive lines. GB is #7 in adjusted line yards? And #1 vs. runs off the right end & right tackle. Nice. I'm assuming that's Kampman, and not KGB.

Really bad in power situations, though. D'oh.

Man, #1 vs. runs to the right side, and #1 vs. #1 receiver. If only they could get the other 75% of the defense fixed.

18
by GBS (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 1:38pm

Hmmmm, Bill Polian says Hunter Smith has been instructed not to kick for the sidelines because coffin corner kicks are too easy to block, but Krasker says it's something else. Who should I believe? Given that anything Polian says in public has about a 50% chance of being true, I'm really undecided on this one.

19
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:15pm

corner coffin punt - I assume it is a little easier to punt... you often see the outside rushers get very close to blocking the punt, hardly ever in time though. The last little corner to turn is to extend inwards, in front of the punter, so if you take that away by aiming towards the corner, I can see how it makes the rusher's job easier. Also, I assume that it is harder to cover a fielded coffin punt, because one gunner has to come all the way across the field.

20
by DavidH (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:29pm

One gunner has to come across the field, but you also have an additional defender in the form of the sideline

21
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:49pm

Xian, you're correct that runs off the right side of GB's lines are predominantly vs Kampman.

Let me also say that GB's rush defense numbers are a bit baffling to me. With a rank of 7th in adjusted line yards but 21st in rushing DVOA you would think that GB stuffs the short runs but allows too many big runs (which penalize the LBs and secondary and do not really affect Adj Line Yards). However the D-line stats say the opposite. Very bad power stats as Xian pointed out, but very good against long runs. Bizarre.

22
by Xian (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:59pm

Yeah, I haven't had time to dig into it much, but I was going to say that from watching most of the games so far this year (and being at the Vikings game), GB's run defense has been okay, and has I think only allowd a long run of 24 yards? That may only be accurate to a couple of weeks ago.

It looks kind of weird to me, maybe it's subpar performance against teams that aren't known for running well at all? Even vs. Detroit, it seemed (subjectively) that they played the run pretty well. Maybe someone with more time (and knowledge of DVOA) can try to figure out what the deal is.

(I also figured it was Kampman because he's been pretty solid this year, and KGB isn't really known for holding up well against the run.)

23
by bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 3:06pm

Ian,

Thanks so much for spelling Foxboro the way it was when I was growing up. Just can't get used to all those extraneous letters!

24
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 4:19pm

Arkaein:

Power success is just rushing in short yardage situations, with less than 2 lines to go. That could likely indicate that the defensive line is not great at preventing holes from opening up (especially on the left side) but the linebackers are good at tackling and preventing loss of contain.

In other words, teams can get 2 yards, but usually they get less than 4, and rarely more than 10.

25
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 4:20pm

Oh, and don't forget that line yards aren't adjusted for opponent.

26
by JonL (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 4:55pm

Since Chad Johnson has a bye this week, which two receivers should I start - Rod Smith, Kennison, or Wilford?

27
by Kunk (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 5:43pm

Re. No #23:

Can we get a ruling on the correct spelling? Is it Foxboro or Foxborough? It seems as though any writer or TV station can pick and choose the spelling at will. This has to be a recognized town, so how do the people who live there spell it? It shouldn't be this confusing.

28
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 5:57pm

Google says Foxborough, not Foxboro, but entering Foxboro gets you to exactly the same place, except a few blocks down. Weird.

29
by Jerry (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 6:44pm

Looks like the town is Foxborough (see link). I think the Patriots referred to it as Foxboro, and eventually used that as the stadium name, creating the confusion.

30
by Tim Gerheim :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 7:16pm

I swear I'd never seen "Foxborough" until a week or so ago. It seems to have only recently hit the national media.

So whom to start in place of The Tomlinson on bye: Cadillac vs. Was or Kevin Jones vs. Ari? This may come down to a question of who's healthier, which is not uncommon this time of year.

31
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 1:46am

I don't know what Vivek is talking about. I thought BB's onside kick was a good move. Of course, it didn't work out, but who would have bashed him had it worked out?
It's all hindsight. Just like the "BB is a genius" stuff all over after he took the intentional safety against Denver. If that hadn't worked out, he probably would've received criticism.

32
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 5:29am

All of this talk of Jamal Lewis and his massive heap of suck got me curious about the numbers, so I looked them up. I knew they'd be lopsided, but I didn't know they'd be THIS lopsided. Everyone, brace yourself, you're about to be shocked.

There are 37 runningbacks with enough carries to qualify for ranking by DPAR. Of those 37 RBs, Lewis is 36th in DPAR and 36th in DVOA. If you didn't adjust for the quality of his opposition, he'd be 37th. This isn't shocking, since he's averaging a brutal 3.0 yards per carry... but what *IS* shocking is this: his backup, Chester Taylor, didn't meet the minimum number of carries to qualify for ranking by DVOA (which is weird, since it says a minimum of 40 carries is required, and Taylor has 45). However, if he DID meet the minimum number of carries, he would be the #1 RB in the entire NFL according to DVOA.

I know that backups frequently rank higher than starters, because they're fresher and all that, but I have NEVER before seen a starter who was second-to-last in the NFL and a backup who was first in the NFL. They both play behind the exact same O-line with the exact same QB and WRs. It's abundantly clear to me that this problem is 100% Jamal Lewis's problem and exactly 0% a fundamental problem with the Baltimore Ravens. That's absolutely RIDICULOUS.

With that said, HOW ON EARTH is this guy still getting carries? Seriously!? Even worse, he's a free agent after this season, so he's probably gone anyway! MDS makes a big deal about Holmes (18th in DVOA) getting more carries than Johnson (1st in DVOA), but not a peep about Lewis (36th in DVOA) getting carries over Chester Taylor (quasi-1st in DVOA)? For an "offensive genius", that's just plain offensive. Lots of praise has been heaped on Billick before, but sometimes, I get the feeling that he's all that's standing between Baltimore and a return to prominence.

33
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 5:41am

Also, can I get some love for Tom Nalen as an MVP candidate? He's already got five 1,000 yard rushers on his resume (one of them a 2,000 yard rusher, as well), and he's on pace to add a sixth this season, as well as a season with two 1,000 yard rushers, as well as becoming the first team to add a 3,000 yard passer, too. And for good measure, he's also leading a line that's second in the NFL in sacks allowed, although a lot of that has to do with Jake Plummer. I know offensive linemen get precisely zero love from the national media when it comes to award time, but if a line paves the way for 2 1,000 yard rushers and a 3,000 yard passer in a season while finishing second in sacks allowed, it definitely deserves SOME kind of hardware to show for it. Just my two cents.

To be honest, I'd give Plummer the Broncos MVP award over Nalen and Al Wilson (in that order) for the season, but only by a hair. I would just love for an offensive lineman's name to come up, just once, in a conversation about the MVP or offensive player of the year. That's all, just one little mention by the national media.

34
by MCS (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 8:45am

OK, I usually don't ask for lineup advice bur I have a big game against the division leader this week. She's 7-1-1 (yes she). I'm 7-2.

10points/TD
1pt/10 yds

Starting Manning, LJ, SJax, Rackers, Pitt, Ben Watson @ TE

Any ideas re. WR?
T. Holt @ Sea (Probable)
R. Wayne vs. Hou
D. Driver @ Atl
L. Evans @ KC
E. Wilford @ Balt
Mark Clayton vs. Jax
D. Jackson vs. StL (OUT)

35
by Adam (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 12:54pm

Foxborough is the town, Foxboro is the former name of the stadium.

MCS: Holt (if he's playing), Wayne and Driver.

My question: Wilford or DMason? Playing each other.

36
by MCS (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 1:24pm

I like Wilford over Mason.

37
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 2:01pm

RE: 34

Holt and Wayne, without a doubt. Driver and Evans would probably be my 3rd and 4th choices, if necessary.

38
by DavidH (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 2:10pm

I'm trying to look at the weekly Loser League results, but every week shows the same numbers (I think the numbers from week 9). Anybody else having this problem?

I was looking because I'm pretty sure I didn't use Duce Staley any week of the season. So I could have gone with Barlow, Foster, and myself and not done any worse. :)

This time I'm gonna try to pick people that play in more than 1 game for the half-season.

...

Oh, duh. Staley only played one week, and I can see that week, so I don't need to look at the others. I'm an idiot.

39
by KSR (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 5:31pm

Fantasy RB question: pick 2 of 4 RBs: Portis v. TB, Davis v. NYJ, Johnson v. BUF, and Jones v. SF. I'm leaning toward Johnson and Davis. Any thoughts?

40
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 6:06pm

Hmmm... I think I'd go Johnson and Davis.

I'd rank it: 1)Johnson 2)Davis 3)Portis 4)T.Jones

41
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 6:24pm

#32:

Kibbles, a few thoughts on what you posted:

Lewis is a free agent after this season, and the Ravens are hoping to keep him. Being a FA doesn't automatically mean you're gone, after all. In hoping to keep him, they have to play him and give him some carries. Using him in a fashion to how he was used before his injury is a way of demonstrating that commitment. It also happens to be working out for crap.The reason for that is not that he isn't committed, or that he is necessarily on the downside of his career, although that is a possibility, given the history of backs with 2,000-yard seasons.

What's screwing him up this season is the ankle surgery. As any Boston-area resident of this board can tell you (any of you guys out there? Any Boston in the house?), a microfracture surgery in the foot and ankle can take a very long time from which to recover. See Curt Schilling's pitching performance this year. Lewis had the same surgery, and is a running back in the NFL. Add to that a rehab process that was not exactly normal -- through no one's fault but his own -- and it's not a mystery as to why Lewis is subpar this year. It was also anticipated by a number of sources, including some guys out here who dabble in books.

Having heard and read Billick on the subject before (side note: Billick praised out here? Seriously? The only FO contributors that have anything to say about the guy usually take swipes at him. That's why I get it into it sometimes -- I think the guy deserves credit for some things. But back to topic), I believe he has a blind spot about running backs. He has admitted in his online blog at the Ravens website that he didn't think Priest Holmes could be THE back for a team; that he would be a 3rd-down guy at best.

This would be what is known in technical terms as stupid. I'll give him this; hes has admitted as much. What he's not realizing yet -- and I don't know if it's him , Fassel or the desire to retain Lewis for when he's completely recovered -- is that Chester Taylor is capable of carrying much more of the load for THIS season. After matching the Browns' offer, it doesn't make sense to use him so little, especially as Lewis is obviously not the workhorse he was. The tendency to walk away from the running game has been evident all year, starting with the 2nd half against Indy, and it makes no sense unless you look at it in the same frame as the 2001 season -- Lewis isn't there, so we have to jury-rig an offense. Trouble is, that year you had an established (if mentally fragile) NFL quarterback to pick up some of the slack. We're now seeing what that year would have looked like if they had to rely on Dilfer, with Billick's own misjudging of how to use Holmes.

I'm not saying that Chester Taylor is the equivalent of Priest Holmes, btw; just that Billick would have used Priest about the same way he's now using Chester. Note of interest -- Kordell Stewart was cut this week to make way for Musa Smith, who is more Billick's type of RB. Should be interesting to see how many carries he gets as this team lurches toward Christmas.

The Minnesota team that got Billick noticed had Robert Smith, for example, who I would regard as underrated except by the folks at this site. Smith made the whole aerial circus work (and was the subject of much HBO-recorded courting when Lewis went down in 2001).

Put it all together and what do you have? A coach who has specific players in mind for his system, has had success with it, but also has problems when he tries to shoehorn guys into holes they don't quite fit. That's been said about Shanahan as well; but this season is a more spectacular example of how that has limits.

42
by Tyler (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 8:46pm

This isn't really a Start/Sit question, but something I'm curious about for the future. Through a little skill and a little luck, my RB's that I got in the draft were Edge, Rudi Johnson, Willis McGahee and then I had Larry Johnson on my bench incase something happened and he became a starter. For the first part of the year, I would play Edge and Willis as my RB's, and Rudi as my flex. Now, I think that Larry will be a much better play than Rudi, so I'm thinking about attempting to trade him before our trade deadline rolls around next Friday. With Chris Perry getting more and more of his touches, what can I realistically expect as a fair return on Rudi?

43
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 9:39pm

Just for fun:

I always thought the official spelling was Foxborough, but it got abbreviated, including on some signs going into the town. But here is a site with a list of official Foxborough websites (town, state, police, etc.) that all use the "ugh" spelling:

http://www.geocities.com/foxboroughma/Official.htm

44
by Terry (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 9:43pm

Thanks for all the help guys, this time and times before.

Would you drop Derrick Mason / Marion Barber / Kevin Curtis / Mewelde Moore to take a chance on Chester Taylor ever getting more touches?

I'm thinking Barber, but Julius Jones has proved in his career to be fragile... and I'm his owner.

45
by Adam (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 10:23pm

Terry, Curtis is going to lose touches with both Holt/Bruce back, but the guy I might drop is Mason. Seriously, what's his ceiling, even with Boller back? A Mason-level WR (of this year's Mason) is available via FA every week, no?

46
by jimmo (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 4:53am

terry RE:44, Moore #1, Barber #2, hold on to Mason and Curtis. Mason is a #1 receiver; despite the potentially limited ceiling, if he goes 5-60 every week, (very likely) he's worth more than a backup RB, (assuming PPR). Since you're Jones' GM, I'd drop Moore, pick up Taylor and hang on to everyone else.
RE:Tyler, #42, please explain the "a little skill" in that draft. Not trying to be a d&*k, but there's no skill involved in drafting Edge, Rudi, McGahee, 1-2-3, unless its a keeper league, or something similar you're not referencing. Those are/were great picks in those spots, and absolute gimmes. OK, depends on what you expect for "fair return." If you're expecting a top WR for a 2nd (or 3rd) round, starting RB, no, you won't get it. I'd target whatever weakness you have, even TE. Rudi for Witten, Gonzales, Crumpler? I'd do it in a heartbeat, if you're weak there. Andre Johnson, Hines Ward, Coles, Joe Horn, all reasonable targets. Can't imagine he'd fetch much of a QB for you, but maybe Green, Plummer, McNair GMs are bored and they could help your depth. LJ is definitely a better play than RJ, by the way, if that even needs to be said.

47
by Dan (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 1:17pm

Kevin Curtis or Bobby Engram this week?

TD = 6 points
10 yards receiving / rushing = 1 point

48
by Tyler (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 2:22pm

RE: 46
What I meant by "skill" was more like "logic". That league is a start 2 QB league, so there were a lot of QB's being picked earlier in our draft than others. I figured the difference between having 3 really good RB's and 2 decent qb's would be greater than having Something like Peyton and Favre, like somebody in my league took with their first 2 picks. I mean, it sure helps that I ended up with Carson Palmer in the 10th round, but still. And I'd say that was good logic, since I'm in first and well ahead in total points. And what I meant for a fair return is mostly in the WR category. I had J-Walk to start the year, and Moose hasn't been as reliable as I hoped, so I'm normally just randomly selecting WR's based on matchup off the wire for my 3rd spot. I was thinking Joe Horn, and just wondered what other people thought I might be able to get.

49
by The Cartoonist (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:02pm

Is it totally insane to think about benching Ward this week to play Sam "Fifth String Nigerian Nightmare" Gado?

Last week Ward stunk it up with Batch at QB, but was that more to Al Harris' play than Batch's? I'm just afraid that Ward could do nothing again, and if Gado could put up 60 and a TD against the Steelers, what could he do against a much worse Falcons run D?

Talk me out of this...Or back me up...Thoughts?

50
by jimmo (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 7:42pm

re: Tyler #46, sounds good to me, great reply. I'm with you totally, you used excellent logic in the draft, and yeah, I'd say skill too, given the league settings you laid out. As I say above, Horn is a good target; I'd personally try Ward first, especially if you play in a PPR league. He looks to have some pretty nice matchups starting this week w/Cleveland (and again in week 16) and Minn. in week 15. Even in his tougher matchups, if Ben is back, he's virtually matchup-proof because they'll throw some vs. Indy, Cinci, and Chicago.
Plus, speaking from first-hand experience, some of his GMs are probably pretty frustrated right now between the hammy and the lack of production.

51
by jimmo (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 7:53pm

Jason, re:49, that actually is pretty tough. I'd bench a few guys for Gado this week (i'm currently contemplating sitting Julius Jones in favor of him), but I'd stick with Hines if I were you. Cleveland is 26 in pass D DVOA, and 26 vs. #1s, though they haven't given up terrible numbers to receivers (about 9 a game in one league, 28 in another, both right about average); the passing O I don't believe will be as anemic again this week, and yeah, I put a lot of last week on Al Harris. I wouldn't be surprised with another 60 and TD from Gado, but I expect the same from Ward, with the possible bonus of 5 or 6 points in PPR, if you play that.

52
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 2:42am

When I tried to submit the survey at the end of the Loser League thing, I got:

Table 'outsider_loserleague.loser_survey2' doesn't exist

53
by jimmo (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 10:15pm

well, damn, Jason! Here's hoping: A) Hines has a huge game tonight, or B) you didn't listen to my opinion, or maybe C) you put Gado in for someone else, and Hines still has a huge game...

wow

54
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 11:40pm

Man, not much Loser League talk. What happened?

I submitted my team last night. I had Longwell (:( ). I also had Orton, Alex Smith, Barlow, Shipp, and some others I don't remember.

55
by DavidH (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 11:19am

I overhauled my whole team from the first half, only keeping David Carr and Kevan Barlow. I got swindled into taking Longwell, too. But I started out fine, I think. 27 pts. First step towards sweeping both halves :) Actually, I don't care about winning the 2nd half. I just want the Ryan Leaf jersey ...

56
by The Cartoonist (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 12:40pm

No sweat, Jimmo. Sunday morning, after seeing Parcell's babble about not naming a starter, I actually pulled Julius Jones for Gado, so I had both Gado and Ward in my lineup! Woo-hoo! Won by three points. Pretty good for my LT/Chad Johnson bye week...

57
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 10:14pm

RE: 55

Hmm, didn't think of Carr. I had Lostman and Orton the first half, and I went with Orton and Alex Smith the 2nd half.

My kickers were Nugent and Longwell (I think). I don't believe Longwell...

58
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 11:38pm

In the first half, I picked Arrington, and I watched with dismay as he constantly got 5 or 6 carries a week. So the 2nd half I take Shipp. What happens? Shipp gets 4 carries and JJ gets 8. I think Dennis Green hates me.

59
by m (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 4:25am

Wow, you guys suck. You consistently do no better than chance on your best bets. It's a wonder that anyone takes anything you say seriously.

60
by uggs outlet (not verified) :: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 1:44am

good post