Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
16 Sep 2009
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: Well, Mike, for the first time ever, we managed to survive interacting during a Pittsburgh-Tennessee game.
Mike: Yeah, it was a even a close one, too. We deserve a medal, or something. Although I did kind of snap at all the Titans fans that magically appeared during the game.
Tom: I'm glad I had the Titans liveblog I did to distract me, and we are both too sensible to suggest we watch the game in each others' physical presence. There are limits to tolerance.
Mike: That would have been ... interesting. I watched the second Pittsburgh-Baltimore game last year with a rabid Ravens fan. The real unfortunate soul, however, was my wife, the Browns fan, stuck watching her two friends root for the two teams she hates. Teams that were very good.
Tom: I watched the first half of the Pittsburgh-Tennessee playoff game in 2003 with a Steelers fan, so I know I am actually capable of keeping myself in check when there are other fans around.
Mike: True. The main thing to keep in mind when watching football in mixed company is civility. We as fans have a tendency to get caught up in what's going on and forget that we're not actually doing anything, which makes trash-talking a bit silly.
Tom: Like the Onion article: "I'm better than you because the team from my metro area beat the team from your metro area."
Mike: True, it's not like your witty comment is going to demoralize the other team. I think it's mostly the alpha-male version of small talk. Instead of "Oh my, the weather sure is nice today, isn't it?" you have "I WILL DESTROY YOUR SOOOOOUL!" And unless the other fan is actually a member of the Patriots organization, you just scoff at them.
Tom: On a completely unrelated note, one of my theories was soundly defeated when Matt Walsh did not have "an unfortunate accident," so I guess Vladimir Putin will have to pay for his Super Bowl ring some other way. Something like matryoshka dolls with vodka in the middle.
Mike: The entire city of Chicago could use that right about now. Wailing and gnashing of teeth doesn't even begin to describe the angst the city plunged into between Sunday and Monday morning. Of course, the reality lies somewhere between the two, although that reality still may end up looking disturbingly like Rex Grossman.
Tom: Isn't it always, though? Every girl looks prettier at 2 A.M. and worse when seen through the hangover at 8 a.m.
Mike: I'd be worried if a girl you saw at any time looked like Rex Grossman.
Tom: We've been through all this before. There is no Rex Grossman. There was no Kyle Orton. There was no Chad Hutchinson, or Moses Moreno, or Craig Krenzel. There is only Bears QB.
Mike: Who do we blame for this malaise, though? Smith? Angelo?
Tom: That's the problem with the Bears. The Indians could simply point at Bobby Bragan for hexing them. The Bears, however, had George Halas when they had a decent quarterback, and George Halas for 30-plus years thereafter.
Mike: Tom and I love few things more than football. There are few things we hate more, however, than the commercials that advertisers think football fans want to see. From the lewd to the neanderthalic, Madison Avenue has a strange view of what football fans really want. Every week this season, Tom and I will single out a commercial (a new one, if possible), and subject it to the derision it deserves. Or at least try to figure out why anyone would have thought it effective.
Tom: If not for the Levi's logo, I would have no idea what this commercial was for.
Mike: Any idea what that voiceover is? It sounds like an old marxist record for some South American country. "Buy Levi's, the friendly American bourgeoisie pig-dog!"
Tom: Not really enough yapping about "the people" for that.
Mike: It's Walt Whitman, apparently.
Tom: I'll take "150 year-old stuff nobody reads" for $17, please, Alex. I prefer my commercials either straightforwardly parodic or meta ... like the "we just wasted $2 million" E*Trade commercial. Or show me some utility for the product. Anything.
Mike: The utility of the product is that if you ran into Walt Whitman and were wearing Levi's, he would totally check you out. That's just one of the many levels this commercial operates on.
Tom: Nothing worse than artsy commercials.
Mike: They're putting up a good try, but they don't even match the words to the images they're supposed to represent. They're halfway through the "how awesome is America? So awesome!" list before "strong" comes up. Then they rapid-fire them. This just leaves us with burning questions! Like, is backflipping kid actually rich? Or is this an allegory for banana republics?
Tom: That's part of the artsyness, playing with pace to screw with your mind. As for the kid, he looks like an oppressed minority.
Mike: So, they're being ironic. Cheeky! Take that, Whitman! He probably refused to buy the original Levi's, and the company is acting on a century-old grudge.
Tom: What this does tell us, is that every commercial should have a random person riding a horse for no reason. Our Country may have had cowboys, but there was no horse. The horse makes all the difference.
Mike: I'm surprised the horse survived the obvious denim apocalypse. As with all apocalyptic media, one wonders what happened to the less fortunate. Like, were the Dockers wearers converted into hordes of zombies?
Tom: Or worse, the Lee's people.
Tom: I won't go into it. They know what they did. Anyway, this commercial needs an AI-style "two million years later" scene at the end.
Mike: I'm not sure how that would help. The way this commercial goes, it seems that scene would really just boil down to "Hey, the free world is a giant nuclear crater ruled by an oppressive reanimated poet-zombie, and the landscape is covered with irradiated, man-eating khakis, but at least we have comfortable jeans!"
Mike: Insane. It's not even like New Orleans did poorly this week, and he's trying to sell low. That offense was firing on all cylinders.
Tom: Apparently because I (stupidly) cut Julius Jones, I'm a complete idjit. Then again, he completely failed to notice that Anthony Gonzalez got hurt, so I have to start Justin Gage, Steve Smith (NYG) or waiver fodder.
Mike: Ah, the fantasy sharks are circling. You might end up being That Guy.
Tom: I was watching NFL Network's new show with coaches this week, and Mike Martz (I think it was Martz) said he thought the Saints could be as good an offense as the '07 Patriots. Yes, it's National Jump to Conclusions Week, and nobody is immune.
Mike: You'd think Martz's inherent crazy would counteract it, but apparently it's a constructive signal.
Tom: Anyway, I discovered this week the joys of a Monday Night Football comeback. I was down 72-50 entering MNF with Rivers and Zach Miller yet to go.
Mike: They are always fun, but somewhat less so when you don't have cable.
Tom: At least you have the points tracker on Yahoo!.
Mike: That goes away after the third week. Fantasy is big business, remember.
Tom: I suppose this is a good time to mention that KUBIAK is still available, and isn't done being updated yet.
Mike: The FO CBS team did very well, finishing with the fourth-highest total in the CBS IDP Expert's League this week, despite Troy Polamalu being injured for over half his game. At some point I need to write that draft recap article, because if I wait too long, it just looks silly.
Mike: My Yahoo! league, however, was abysmal. Slaton, Steven Jackson and Anthony Gonzalez were kind of a perfect storm, and I ended with the second-lowest total in my league. Not exactly an auspicious start to my title defense. I just want to know how many teams Gonzalez ruined this week.
Tom: He was on my team that Rivers and Miller saved on MNF, at least.
Mike: Bill Barnwell has kindly dropped in to offer an update on the FO staff fantasy league:
Bill 90, Aaron 72
I left Holmes (19 pts) on my bench for Coles (1 pt); Aaron got a 0 from Anthony Gonzalez.
Vince 79, Will 72
Vince basically won because of the McKelvin fumble, since he has Brady. He got four combined points from three players (LenDale White, Felix Jones, Bernard Berrian).
Ian/Al 82, Mike 77
Ian/Al left Cedric Benson -- one of the top fantasy picks of the week in the Insider column -- on their bench so they could start Eddie Royal (-1). Mike scored 77 points despite starting Jay Cutler. Had he started Joe Flacco (also featured as one of top fantasy picks of the week in the Insider column), he would've scored 90 and won.
Doug 72, Elias 58
Doug got four points or less from six of his nine players (Slaton 2, Brown 4, Houshmandzadeh 4, Breaston 0, Daniels 4, BAL D 4) and won because Drew Brees had 36.
Rob 129, Sean 95
Sean puts up the second-highest score of the week, thanks to 38 points from his TE/K/D triad of Shockey (15), Tynes (11), and Jets D (12), but lost to the highest score of the week. Rob got 63 points from Romo (26) and Peterson (37) and would've beaten either of the following two teams with those two alone.
Vivek 62, Pat 59
Vivek won by making a mistake -- he left Matt Cassel in his starting lineup and got a 0, but his backup was Jake Delhomme, who scored a -8; had he actually played Delhomme, he would've lost. FANTASY FOOTBALL IS AWESOME.
Mike: The Loser League is in full swing again! Here are the players you all wish you had picked.
Tom: QB: Yes, it's National Jump to Conclusions Week, but doubt FO's negative projection for Jake Delhomme at your peril. 4 interceptions and 73 yards gave him -4, tied with Mike Nugent's -4 in Week 1 2006 for one of the worst-ever Loser League performances.
RB: 1 point. That was the standout debut performance for the first running back drafted in 2009, as Knowshon Moreno had 19 yards on 8 carries, matching Willie Parker's total on 13 carries from Thursday. This is the second year in a row one of your Loser League first week stars played against the Titans.
WR: 2 catches, 6 yards. That's how you treat your biggest downfield threat, at least if you're the Washington Redskins, and Santana Moss earned 0 points for his troubles. There was an octet of players with 1 point, including names you might expect (Andre Davis and Brian Hartline) and some, such as Anquan Boldin and Eddie Royal, you probably wouldn't. Josh Cribbs, Austin Collie, Bobby Engram, and Sidney Rice were the others.
K: It's rare that a player could be a decent actual fantasy player and Loser League star in the same game, but Jason Elam would have given you 7 points if you happened to find a league that didn't penalize you for misses. Here in Loser League, though, those two missed field goals and missed extra point cost you. Also clocking with in a -2 was Rams' kicker Josh Brown whose sole action against his former team was a missed field goal.
Mike: One of the most interesting parts of National Jump to Conclusions Week is trying to figure out which of the teams that (supposedly) overperformed in the opener will be able to keep the train going through the rest of the season. There were a host of games this week where teams thoroughly panned by pretty much everyone at least put up a good fight, much to the excitement of columnists everywhere, who were guaranteed a really, really easy week of writing.
Unexpected success is both a blessing and a curse -- it invigorates the fan base, but when the luster wears off, they come back even angrier than before. The best one can do is enjoy it while it lasts, and scramble madly in an attempt to keep it all together after it starts falling apart. Like too much alcohol, it can also lead to serious medical problems, so before doing anything be sure to ask your doctor if the Raiders are right for you. If he says "yes," it might be time to check in to rehab.
Keep Chopping Wood Award: I get it -- most teams give veteran snappers the right to make a quick snap if they can catch the other team in a penalty. The key part of that is "quick." As in "immediate." That's the lesson Bears snapper Patrick Mannelly now knows: If you're sure you have the penalty, take the penalty and hope for the best on the rest of what happens. The "justification" here is that fourth-and-11 would simply have turned into fourth-and-6 with the penalty, while by waiting you have a chance to (A) convert fourth-and-11 into a first down or (B) just punt the ball away if you fail. Of course, if you do things other than quickly, you end up with option (C), fail to convert and don't catch the other team in a penalty.
The Mike Martz Award: Naturally, Lovie Smith then compounded Mannelly's error by challenging the obviously correct non-call, making him a serious contender for the Mike Martz Award for inexplicable coaching move of the week. This week, however, it goes to one of its regular contenders, Marvin Lewis. Down 6-0, with all three timeouts remaining, the Bengals drove down to the 1, or maybe the end zone. Since it was inside 2:00, Lewis had to wait for the booth review for a final determination. Even without a score granted, though, the Bengals didn't need much time on the clock and had a clear benefit from running the clock down, which would leave less time for a comeback. But no, Mr. Lewis takes a time out immediately, because, after all, you need eight seconds a play and if there wasn't a score, the clock would start on the "ready for play" signal, because, what, the review overrules the challenge? It's bizarre, depressing, and, in a way, vaguely frightening that someone getting paid big (OK, it's the Bengals, not-so-big) bucks seems to be so ignorant of such a key part of their job.
The Colbert Award: The Colbert Award has historically been awarded to the coach who makes a risky but intelligent decision of the sort that runs contrary to the conventional wisdom. This week the nominee was Brad Childress for his onside kick to open the season. Your Scramble authors have decided, however, that giving an award for intelligent coaching to Brad Childress presents such an extreme example of cognitive dissonance that they simply can't do it. Thus, no Colbert Award will be given this week.
Mike: This one is actually on us. We didn't figure out what our plan for the Scramble Mailbag would be until it was already too late to implement. From here on out, however, we'll be starting a Mandatory Scramble Fantasy Questions Thread on the message board every Monday, where you'll have roughly two to two and a half days to pelt us with that burning fantasy question that is eating you up/taking up all your time/ruining your marriage. We also, naturally, field questions e-mailed to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com.
What do you do with a player like Anthony Gonzalez, out for two to six weeks? It seems like a bunch of people on Yahoo! have dumped him, but I'm tempted to hang on to him.
-- Tom Gower
Mike: If you have a lot of bench, sit him and hope he comes back soon. If you don't have any bench space, you really don't have a choice but to cut him and obsessively watch for injury news.
Tom: If I had to drop somebody, it'd probably be Donald Brown.
Mike: Indy's rushing offense isn't going to be great, and Addai is clearly the guy, even if he does wear down. Probably a safe drop.
Tom: The only question is, who should I add? This is the team where my backup wide receivers are all awful. Other than a quarterback injury, Gonzalez getting hurt was almost a worst-case scenario.
Mike: I dislike adding after week one. Try to skate by playing match-ups if you can, teams playing the Texans, or the Lions.
That does it for this week! Send us questions!
31 comments, Last at 18 Sep 2009, 2:06pm by Mike Kurtz