Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
15 Oct 2009
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Mike: The Loser League is in full swing, with Winston Justice Security Systems holding a somewhat sizable lead and a number of teams bunched up around second and third place. Like real fantasy football, there is always an unofficial competition to come up with the most clever or amusing team name. In fantasy, you're often trying to come up with something that sounds impressive. In the Loser League, it's clearly the opposite.
Tom: I'm kind of disappointed with the current Loser League names. Some of them aren't bad, but few are good and timely. "Mirered In Futility" is a fine name, but Rick Mirer was drafted in 1993! The same goes for "Germane Crowell Intentions" -- fine name, just not timely.
Mike: True. I'd go on a protracted rant, as is my custom, over the unnecessary length of "I Really Shot Myself In The Foot, Er, Leg, To Ruin My NFL Career And End My Time As A Free Man," but that would be ... well ... you know what they say about pots, kettles, and the color black. I do like "Count Hochuli."
Tom: "Lights Out, Tila Tequila!" is inappropriate, but I'm still fond of it.
Mike: It's tough coming up with a great Loser League name because they're always so caught up in what team or players you're picking. So if you're right, then it's funny, because the guys suck. But if they're just mediocre or (God forbid) good, then your name is kind of lousy.
Tom: "2010 UFL All-Pros" is appropriate, as is "Waiting for Goodell." "Tuscaloser (sic) Textbook Salesmen" would be better without the "(sic)." Then again, you wouldn't get that because you pay no attention to college ball.
Mike: [sic] is generally awful. It usually denotes someone trying to draw attention to their own cleverness, which is somewhat tacky. One thing I see in common is that teams with names that sound like actual team names (city and nickname) are generally awful. Then again, the opposite doesn't always work. Sometimes funny, but often just weird, like "The Anaheim, Azusa, And Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review & Timing Association."
Tom: That's such a screwy name I'm not sure what to think about it.
Mike: It blew my mind. Maybe we should get some scientists to study these phenomena.
Tom: Apparently it's a song by Jan & Dean.
Mike: Weird. That's not to say that simple can't be great. "Zug Zug" is sublime, giving the appropriate air of idiocy plus incompetence. Some were close to this brilliant brevity, such as "Ron Mexico Point Spread Offense," which was one "Point" away from being my favorite.
Tom: Yeah. "Tom Cable's Punch-Out!" was pretty much inevitable, but I would have missed it if nobody had picked it. Not as obvious as "Hattiesburg Waffles," which just goes too far.
Mike: I think we need to come up with some manner of form for the ideal loser league name. Needs to be timely, and at least one pun is a must. Anything with city names is right out.
Tom: Part of the problem is that there can be no zlionsfan-style Mad Libs form. You need the right timely material and the right spark of inspiration to succeed in this business.
Mike: And you need to have precognitive powers, or material that's timeless, like crappy semi-pro/pro leagues.
Tom: Considering this column got its name from the XFL...
Mike: True, we really should throw our support behind "XFL Forever."
Tom: "_______ Forever" can be a great name, as my fantastically good year that one time I did MLS fantasy demonstrates.
Mike: "Forever" is just useful. It can indicate blind, loyal and complete devotion to something completely stupid.
Tom: "Football Outsiders Forever!"
Mike: Incidentally, "Hiking on the Appalachian Trail" is awesome, but violates Rule No. 1. Feel free to be amused in comments, but be careful. We're watching. Or Barnwell is watching.
All right, we have no idea who is watching, but we're pretty sure someone is, so follow the rules!
Tom: So, with Philip Rivers on bye in two leagues, I needed a bye gap quarterback. I'd drafted Matt Hasselbeck in one and was able to grab him off waivers in the other. Hello, four touchdowns! Unfortunately, I only won one of those games.
Mike: I'll see your Hasselbeck and raise you one Miles Austin. I have never seen such a spectacular day-of waiver pickup. It was jaw-dropping to see bye gap fodder put up numbers like that. The question now is what to do with him.
Tom: I saw he was available on waivers in the league where I'm thin at wide receiver. I really have no idea what to think about him, except I don't think I trust anybody in Dallas, at least in the passing game.
Mike: It's true, Romo has been relegated to my bench, which was easy to do, thanks to the new Pittsburgh offensive juggernaut. Yeah, it was just as weird typing that as it must be reading it.
Tom: 28 points against the Lions? Doesn't everybody do that? Anyway, my waiver wire pick-up of Pierre Garcon didn't go nearly as well. I opted for him over Collie, and put him in my starting lineup. And sat Nate Burleson of 98 yards and two touchdowns, which cost me the game.
Mike: A lot of people were counting on Garcon, among them my Yahoo opponent. It's all part of the waiver roulette; some strike it big and some lose big. Thankfully, I was able to fend my opponent off, although I do feel bad; he had the third-highest total in the league, far ahead of fourth place, and that performance is essentially meaningless because of the head-to-head nature of fantasy ball.
Tom: That's what happened in one league I was in this week. 158.62-154.40, where the next-highest total was 132.64. The team that won had been winless prior to this weekend.
Mike: That's always nice. It really sucks losing all of your games, as countless actors in NFL commercials can attest to.
Tom: It sucks less if you stop trying to win, as last year's Detroit Lions could tell you.
Mike: A really solid performance by Ronnie Brown pushed the glorious FO CBS team to victory. They retain their first-place standing. We're still the top scorer in the league, but second place in our division still has the same record, and is now fewer points behind.
Tom: Monday night wins are nice, but they're too stressful.
Mike: True, especially when all sorts of things are happening and you're shouting at the people who actually have the game to tell you what's going on. Oh, and you have stuff you need to finish before the next day and you put it off for football you can't even see. That, my friends, is sickness.
Tom: NFL.com Gamecenter? I watched most of the 2001 NFL playoffs that way ... except back then I used USA Today's auto-refresh scoreboard.
Mike: Gamecenter is often far behind. At the end of the game, for instance, I had no idea what happened on Miami's winning drive until about three minutes after it ended.
Tom: There's this magical technology called "cable television" you may want to look into.
Mike: Unless they sell it right next to the tree that grows money, I don't think I will.
Tom: I'm just trying to be a problem-solver here.
Mike: Pay for my cable, problem solved! Anyway, I'm still not sure what to do with Austin. I suppose it comes down to the injury situation with Roy Williams.
Tom: I'd be strongly tempted to dump him, thinking of how often the Cowboys will see a pass defense as bad as Kansas City's.
Mike: Of course, a number of people in my league read this article, so by talking about our thought process, I'm probably sabotaging any chance I would have of unloading him.
Tom: That's the upside of being in a league with people you don't actually know. Then again, for all I know, everybody in all three of my leagues is reading Scramble for a preview of what I may do next.
Mike: This just in, Miles Austin has been scientifically proven to be the best wide receiver ever, as he is a clone grown from cells taken from Jerry Rice and Cris Carter!
Tom: Unfortunately, it was this Jerry Rice.
Mike: And The Price Is Right trombone plays. This is a good question, though. He obviously has a lot of potential, but there's also massive risk involved, both because he's new and because the Cowboys' offense, like so many mediocre offenses, is so bi-polar. Who could you credibly get for a guy like that?
Tom: I'm not sure, but probably not a solid starter unless you're in a league with a Cowboys homer.
Mike: I suppose the nice part of this discussion is that Austin came off waivers. I didn't trade for him, so I don't need him to produce. He could stink the rest of the year and he has already done his job.
Tom: I suspect he's a one-week wonder.
Mike: Probably, but I will keep him on the bench, just in case. If he can keep that performance up, then he might add some oomph to my receiver corps.
Tom: I'm also not counting on any more 28-point games from Ahmad Bradshaw.
Mike: Amusingly, this week was Bradshaw versus Austin. I'm also seriously considering picking up Orton as trade bait, since he's just sitting there.
Tom: I thought about trying to pick him up as my bye week quarterback, but I just can't do it, for the same reason I was a terrible fantasy baseball player. I couldn't stand having a single member of the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets or Cubs on any of my teams.
Mike: Kickers get really interesting this time of year, since you need to grab them for bye weeks, but you really don't want to carry two. I'm helped somewhat by Vinatieri's injury, which means I'm probably just dumping the Colts and going with a kicker on a middling offense. That way, they get stopped and you get field goals rather than points after touchdown. Mare, Scobee, Kaeding, and Gould are all available.
Tom: Kaeding is perfect, there. San Diego's red zone offense struggles mightily. I have a kicker decision of my own this week. I picked up Elam and dropped Gould because of Chicago's bye week. Should I stick with Elam or grab Gould off waivers?
Mike: I'd stick with Gould.
Tom: I'm less tempted to go chasing points with kickers because the upside isn't that high. Although now seems like a good time for your public service announcement that this is advice from somebody who's been playing fantasy football for all of five weeks.
by Bill Barnwell
Bill (5-0) 98, Ian/Al (2-3) 63
Ian and Al's invocation of the FOMBC hurt them for another week, as Mike Sims-Walker was benched for breaking a team rule and they left their three top scorers on the bench in Matt Hasselbeck (27), Cedric Benson (19), and Donnie Avery (14). I remain the league's only undefeated team.
Will (2-3) 104, Aaron (2-3) 75
Will had three players right around 20 points in Peyton Manning (22), Vikings D (20), and Larry Fitzgerald (19). Aaron needed 30 points from Dustin Keller on Monday night to win and, surprisingly, didn't get it.
Rob (2-3) 121, Elias (2-3) 73
Mr. Weintraub picked up his second high score week this year, thanks to 33 points from Roddy White, 26 from Ahmad Bradshaw, 20 from Tony Romo, and 18 from Adrian Peterson.
Vivek (4-1) 83, Sean (2-3) 75
Sean failed to win despite getting 22 points from Kellen Winslow and 14 points from Lawrence Tynes; could've used more points from the Jets D, which hit for -1. Vivek got six points or more from everyone except Chris Johnson (three).
Mike (1-4) 45, Vince (3-2) 27
The most embarrassing match-up of the week deserves public scorn. Mike wins with the second-worst total of the week, which he got thanks to keeping three players in his lineup that were on bye. He only got to 45 because of Thomas Jones' 16 points on Monday night.
Vince has even less of an excuse. He played Chicago defense, but the rest of his team was just putrid:
Vince left 36 points on his bench; Tanier left 38.
Mike: Chase has a very interesting idea of how marriages work, or at least I'm not rich enough to understand how the wealthy operate.
Tom: Where the wife spends a joint resource on something worthless, and the husband is fine, nay, happy about it?
Mike: Hey, now, a nice dress is certainly not worthless. I'm more hung up on the idea of sudden, unilateral and severe unilateral expenditure.
Tom: I'm extraordinarily non-fashion conscious, to the point where the rare occasions when somebody says something about my clothes, I generally have to look down to remember what I have on.
Mike: You should go with the Einstein method, just have a closet full of all the same outfit.
Tom: I'm kind of tempted to do that. I think the irksome thing about this commercial is his reaction to all of this. At the end, she says "I know" about your ability to use the points for all sorts of different things, then does a little pose. And he just smiles.
Mike: Maybe he thought they were going to do another one-second boat trip?
Tom: Three seconds, actually ... there are two separate boating shots.
Mike: Dude loves boats. Of course, probably one of those guys who just sits around in his yacht in the harbor and doesn't go anywhere. Invites his friends over so they can talk about how they're on a boat, because being on the water reminds us of our colonial heritage. Or something.
Tom: Dancing, boating, fine dining ... this guy could learn something from Walter Mitty about how to fantasize. One thing about the target market is that Chase doesn't seem to be going for the 2.3-child ideal. It's more like 0.4 children per household, and the couple in this commercial is obviously DINK.
Mike: You're leaving out yachts. And tiny dogs. They're like children, but you don't even need to pretend to educate them, so they're even better.
Tom: Sapphire is upmarket, but not too upmarket. This isn't the American Express black card.
Mike: How many markets on credit do we need? In the end it's already mostly based on your credit score.
Tom: You're missing the marketing strategy. The Sapphire is to let people who are clearly upper-middle class act like they're one of the yachting set. But the yachting set doesn't need the Sapphire, because they already have the yacht and send their children off to boarding schools.
Mike: True. Maybe they can work on their strategy. Maybe bundle the card with the yacht? You want people to spend over their means.
Tom: Not quite, you want them to spend just enough within their means that you make money off of them, but they don't default. It's that one extra little indulgence -- that's what makes this dress bit so brilliant. Chase wants them to take these trips, because they'll spend points on hotels and travel, but when they get there, they'll charge the boat rental and the meals and souvenirs and all the other stuff that makes vacation so expensive.
Mike: Isn't the woman rebelling against Chase's mind games, then? You can't take a dress trip, so it seems they've been hoist on their own petard.
Tom: No, but my reaction is that her just blowing the points on a dress is unrealistic, so the potential Chase Sapphire card holder thinks "I'll never blow all my points on a dress, we'll go on vacation."
Mike: I'm not sure that my reaction to her spending points on a dress is unrealistic. Unless it somehow doubled as a yacht.
Tom: What is this obsession with yachts?
Mike: Yachts are awesome. They're rich people RVs. A bunch of people in cardigans cram into a tiny cabin and eat crappy food and drink so wine as they go on a tour of ... some stupid lake or something.
Tom: I've never actually been on a yacht, other than a long time ago at boat shows. They seem like neat things to own, but I've heard enough about the wastefulness of most boat ownership.
Mike: Wastefulness is part of the appeal. It's like a dream that we mortals can only touch through fantasy or cereal box sweepstakes (Moderately SFW). Of course, I imagine the real reason rich people love boats is the deep-seeded hope that one of these days they'll be able to just dump their spouse overboard in the ocean without any witnesses.
Tom: I thought spousal murder among the rich wasn't that common, since most of the real family wealth is tied up in trusts that the spouses don't have access to. I'd imagine it's more the sheer joy of dumping somebody over the side of a yacht, rather than the more mundane spousal problems you can read about in The Lockhorns.
Mike: tsk, tsk, Tom ... this is why you'll never get into the New York City District Attorney's Office's prestigious "Rich White People Murder" division ... it's all about life insurance.
Tom: We've already established that I spent most of Criminal Law playing NHL 95 on a Sega Genesis emulator. Unfortunately, I think I've lost the spreadsheet where I recorded my results of playing a best-of-seven playoffs with every team.
Mike: Why do I get the feeling all my time spent actually learning the law was misspent?
Tom: You fell into the seductive trap of criminal law.
Mike: Much like how this man fell into the seductive trap of the boat-dress. (See what I did there?)
Tom: How very cleaver.
Mike: Reading that physically hurt. It is interesting, though, that you see no kids. Maybe they needed to keep them away to keep the man's fantasy believable ... instead of yachts he'd be thinking about how the kid put their last can of peanut butter down the toilet, and how these nifty Chase Sapphire points can pay for Mario to come over and snake the entire waste water system.
Keep Chopping Wood: Trailing 14-10, the Cincinnati Bengals got the ball back at their own 20 with 2:15 left and two timeouts. That's 80 yards needed for a touchdown. The first five of those yards came via Baltimore Ravens cornerback Chris Carr on an illegal contact call. Six plays later, the Bengals were at midfield, when Ray Lewis decided it'd be a good idea to try to take Chad Ochocinco's head off. Fifteen more yards for the Bengals and another automatic first down. Four plays later, the Bengals faced third-and-16 from the Baltimore 30. Incomplete again for Ochocinco, but it's another flag, this one defensive pass interference whistled against Ed Reed for 10 yards. Next play: Touchdown, Andre Caldwell. That's a game-winner, thanks to three penalties totaling 30 yards and three automatic first downs from the wood-chopping Baltimore Ravens defense.
Mike Martz Award: The Martz Award is for particularly inexplicable decisions. Coaches may rightfully be hopeful or optimistic about things, or think they see something they don't, but that shouldn't be enough to earn a Martz Award. So, Josh McDaniels, you get a pass for challenging Knowshon Moreno's first-quarter fumble. Your team was already down 7-0, and there was probably a very small chance of winning that challenge, which would mean you'd get the ball back. This may be Dungy-style wishful challenging, but you can live with that. What earns you this week's Martz Award is your second challenge. With 10:04 to go in the second quarter, McDaniels used his second challenge. On a three-yard pass. On second-and-10. Where the only options were complete or incomplete. This could make sense, if McDaniels had won his first challenge and was extremely confident he'd win this challenge, but this was his final challenge for the game, and he used it to obtain what at best is an exceedingly small benefit.
Colbert Award:: Rex Ryan is certainly plain-spoken, and to his credit he's always straightforward with the media. We'll take his word for it that both fake punts in the first half of Monday's Jets-Dolphins game were called plays, and that the first just looked like a botch because of the bobbled snap. Both fakes were impressive for different reasons; on the second fake, the fact that the Jets had fourth-and-3 at the Jets' 40-yard line ("go for it" territory) is made up by the chutzpah of sending out your starting offensive line to block for a punt and assuming that your opponent wouldn't notice. Apparently they didn't. The first punt is particularly impressive, but not particularly reckless, because it was on the Jets' first possession of the game. Surprise trickeration is usually a good, calculated risk, and it paid dividends on that drive, allowing the Jets to even the score at 7-7. While the Jets didn't win the game, it certainly wasn't due to a timid game plan by their coach.
Kicker: Due to the incredibly well-planned and generally ingenious rules of the Loser League, we are able to ignore benchwarmers and other players who just can't hack it. In order to become a Loser League star, you have to actually screw up, with one exception: kickers. That explains how Josh Scobee managed to come out on top this week with a mighty 0 for ... doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. He didn't even attempt a point after touchdown, because the Jaguars didn't score any touchdowns. He didn't attempt any field goals, because the Jaguar's offense was that incompetent. Kris Brown at least had the decency to miss a field goal en route to his lone point.
Wide Receiver: Lee Evans at least has some sort of excuse for his share of the loser-riffic 1 point this week; Cleveland-Buffalo was a comedy of wind and subsequent awful quarterbacking. His mates in mediocrity, however (Devin Thomas, Davone Bess and Kenny Britt), don't get quite the same leeway.
Running Back: We'll always have the Raiders, remember? At some point it's like kicking a puppy, or at least a puppy that looks a lot like Justin Fargas. It must be rough enough playing on such a laughingstock of a team, but to be the whipping boy on said laughingstock is more than any player deserves. He does deserve his 1 Loser League point for this week, however. Conspicuously present near the top of the board are Jerious Norwood and Jerome Harrison, trendy picks at the start of the season as sleeper hits.
Quarterback: It would be really disappointing if Scobee won loser of the week just for doing absolutely nothing. Hooray, for Derek Anderson has come to our rescue! Brisk winds, dropped passes and his own natural incompetence drove Anderson to the heady depths of -1 point. Joining him in the hot seat is JaMarcus Russell who, as the kids say, JaMarcussed it.
Kulko: Who should get the honour of being my Peyton-Manning-Bye-Week-replacement QB? J.Campbell vs. KC or M.Hasselbeck vs. ARI?
Tom: I still have Hasselbeck, and I'm actually strongly considering him starting him over Philip Rivers against a strong Denver defense. I'm not sure Hasselbeck will be able to exploit the Arizona defense quite as well as Peyton Manning or Matt Schaub (game-losing interception notwithstanding) did, because the Seahawks don't have the No. 1 wide receiver that the Colts or Texans do, but I still expect him to be a solid fantasy play. I picked up Campbell in the league where I have Peyton, since it's unlikely Kansas City develops a good pass defense this week, but I'm still more than a little wary of relying on anybody coming out of Snyder-land.
Mike: I like the Hasselbeck option. Seattle has shown that it's back, at least against mediocre defenses, and Arizona's isn't all that great. Campbell is a solid play if you can't get Hasselbeck, but I'm afraid that Kansas City's defense is just so bad that Zorn will be tempted to just power run all game (which he could probably do) and severely cut down Campbell's fantasy points. This isn't a long-term thing, so if you do manage to get Hasselbeck, you might want to try to engineer a trade for some value down your roster ... he had a big week last week and will probably do well for himself this week, also.
Fontes of Wayne: Donnie "one good week" Avery or Sidney "playing the Ravens" Rice at WR this week? Also, is having Jeremy Maclin at WR worse for a) my FFL team or b) my Loser League team?
Tom: Ah, a lovely marginal wideout question! I don't like starting any Vikings wide receivers, simply because Brett's favorite target seems to be the cliched "whomever's open," or at least "whomever I feel like throwing to right now." Now that Avery seems to be over his injury, he's clearly the most attractive pass-catching target in St. Louis. Plus, it's not like the Jaguars have been particularly good defensively.
As to Maclin, definitely your Loser League team because of the deep pass problem. We discussed Hakeem Nicks after the Giants game against Kansas City to show you that's the kind of player who can destroy a Loser League team's week. You're almost better off with somebody like Wes Welker who'll never get the penalty but rarely exceed the 15 point inactivity penalty amount than a rarely-used deep threat.
Mike: I actually like Rice this week. I think Baltimore might be playing the the pass a bit soft after last week's penaltyfest/debacle, at least to start the game. As good as Baltimore's run defense is, I also think they're going to have to cheat a bit against Adrian Peterson, and that means more Ed Reed near the line and less Ed Reed ball-hawking around mediocre wide receivers. I just have no confidence in any aspect of the St. Louis offense, although that may be due to my profound disappointment with Steven Jackson.
While I am incredibly happy with this week's debut by Miles Austin, my core strategy in fantasy is consistency, which cuts strongly against marginal burners (such as Maclin) in general. I think he's bad for your fantasy football team, but he's much worse for your Loser League team. Loser League success is all about finding awful players who contribute. These players are so bad that the risk of pulling the inactivity penalty should be the primary concern of any Loser League owner.
Send your fantasy questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com, or drop by our handy message board and leave one in the weekly Scramble thread.
26 comments, Last at 16 Oct 2009, 7:50am by bubqr