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?
24 Sep 2009
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Mike: You can really tell the difference between us and other, more professional football writers in the week following humiliating and/or embarrassing losses by our rooting interests. Even Simmons manages to keep from losing it when his teams lose, and I'm pretty sure he divides the world into "Boston" and "West Boston." Needless to say, I'm still stewing over this week.
Tom: That makes two of us.
Mike: You'd think that fans of two good teams would have losses spaced out more conveniently.
Tom: I'm not so sure that Tennessee is that good. The secondary was absolutely awful on Sunday.
Mike: Yeah, that's all the banter you're getting out of us this week. Angry Scramble is, as the kids say, Angry.
Mike: One thing at least appeared to be going well this week, with the FO CBS team only down 20-odd points going into Sunday night. All that needed to happen was a good game by Tony Romo and an average game for Dallas Clark, who was owned by our opponent. There was a brief glimmer of hope, but then Romo went all TONY ROMOOO and we know how this story ends: Overweight sportswriters calling him a girl. Dallas Clark, of course, opened up a can of non-dolphin-safe tuna to the tune of 183 yards and generalized fantasy ownage. Oh, and our opponent also had Frank Gore. Actually, both of my opponents this week did.
Tom: Having Frank Gore this week didn't automatically result in victory, as I could tell you. He gave me 36.6 points out of 106.84 total. My opponent had 107.74. Thank you, Ted @$^#ing Ginn. I started Zach Miller, he got shut out. I started Jacobs over Cedric Benson, 5.8 points vs. 14.1 points. Gage over Steve Smith, 2.7 vs. 19.4 points. And ... Jeff Reed.
Mike: That's brutal, although Jeff Reed caused both of us horrible pain and suffering this week. This does beg the question, why would you ever start Justin Gage?
Tom: He's the Titans' No. one wideout. Sad and pathetic as that may be, it's true.
Mike: That and an empty sack is worth one sack.
Tom: I wasn't expecting him to do much more than four or five catches for 60 or so yards, and he couldn't even do that. Of course, my other two teams got crushed. Going to the game in Tennessee meant I ended up starting Wes Welker. Oops. And I took Barnwell's advice and started Hasselbeck over Rivers in another league. Double oops. The Cowboys D gave me squat.
Mike: To be fair, I made the same mistake with Rivers. I think a lot of people just got too gun-shy, here.
Tom: I can at least console myself that I went up against Matt Schaub in one league, the same league where I went up against Brees last week. If life holds true to form, Trent Edwards will be the NFL's No. one fantasy QB next week.
Mike: The problem underlying all of these fantasy woes is that we simply have no idea what teams are good and which are bad.
Tom: I'd like to think that I'm just getting screwed by the fickle finger of fate. If I had gone up against the team with Schaub last week, I would've been happy. Instead, I got to see him destroy my football team and one of my fantasy teams.
Mike: Fantasy football is really all about knowledge and the ability to analyze players and match-ups. Early in the season, you might shell out money or spend time obsessively reading every fantasy rag you can possibly find, but you're really just picking on faith and prior performance. You think the Ravens' defense is going to be terrifying. You're sure that St. Louis will have a passable offense this year. But none of us really know anything, we're all kind of guessing.
Tom: This year does seem kind of random. For a fantasy n00b, it seems random. I like all my teams, more or less, but in one league I've been destroyed each of the first two weeks.
Mike: This lack of information is a real problem, because if things are just working the kinks out, then you should hold fast. If they're not, then you should get a jump on blowing up your team and trying to figure out what sleepers could fill your second and third slots. There isn't a lot you can do, besides trying to tag sleepers or scoop up good waiver fodder, then wait and see how things progress.
Tom: How soon is it to write off your team? I still feel like I could have a decent team, but if I go to 0-3 or 0-4, should I just stop caring?
Mike: It depends on your league. How many get into the playoffs? Are they MLB or the NBA?
Tom: MLS. Eight out of 12 get in.
Mike: In that case, even 0-4 isn't panic territory. It's far too early to start worrying.
Tom: It's just frustrating to lose, and lose badly.
Mike: Especially when you're defending a title, yeah. It was much more close than I had thought, actually ... I only lost by 26 points against Frank Gore, Eli Manning, and Marion Barber. I consider that a moral victory. Here's the FO staff league update:
Bill 59, Vince 41
I did follow what I said to do in my fantasy column and bench Matt Forte. Unfortunately, I also chose to pick up Brady Quinn, who scored two points. Vince got a zero from both his tight end (Zach Miller) and his kicker (Jeff Reed).
Aaron 93, Ian 84
Ian probably lost because quarterback Matt Hasselbeck went down halfway through the game with a rib injury; Carson Palmer was on his bench and scored 19. Aaron had three 20-point players, but two of them (Rivers and Sproles) were on his bench as he tried to avoid the Ravens.
Pat 90, Elias 90
Yup -- our first tie. Pat could've won if Kurt Warner hadn't given way to Matt Leinart in the third quarter; he made a remarkable comeback on Monday night because of Dallas Clark. Eli had Jerious Norwood in his lineup and got a zero; Willis McGahee sat on his bench and scored 20.
Sean 121, Doug 57
An ass-whooping. Sean had seven players in double digits, and that doesn't include the 91 points he had on his bench (Brown 25, Jackson 17, Schaub 30, Driver 15). To compare, Doug had one player in double digits.
Vivek 124, Rob 65
Chris Johnson (45) or Frank Gore (35) probably would've sufficed, but Vivek had them both.
Mike: What the what? People buy this crap?
Tom: If I had a dog, I might buy the Tailgate Companion. Instead, I'll just talk about it, like I talked about buying a "Make 7/Up Yours" shirt.
Mike: Or like how Patriots fans tell us every year that the secondary is fine. Good ideas and great words, but never with the execution. Are you serious about the tailgate companion, though? How is it better than a dog sweater?
Tom: It has six individually-sewn pockets! "We didn't make your dog, we made your dog better."
Mike: I can't imagine it even works, really. So are we now getting man points for theoretical laziness? Pretty soon in order to be a real man you'll have to actually have an LCD TV installed into your monster truck, which you live in, being sustained by some manner of nacho-based IV.
Tom: Come on, though, how many products are really that useful? You go to kitchen supply stores, some people buy groolers and tailgate companions and foozies.
Mike: I suppose kitsch does play into it. On the other hand, you know the people buying groolers already have both coolers and grills. They're not sitting around going "Oh no! Whatever shall I do with this large quantity of warm beer and uncooked meat?" Unlike, say, getting an instant-read thermometer to replace the charred lump that once was your finger. Also, why do they need to clarify that they didn't make our dogs? The only options I can think of involve in some way illicit cloning or baby daddy court. Neither of which are particularly pleasant.
Tom: I think we're going to have to agree to disagree as to the relevance of those old BASF spots to the target Bud Light audience. I think it pretty clearly covers most of it.
Mike: My impression of Bud Light was that it was more of a gateway drug. You start out with it because it's cheap, but then down the line if things go well you move on to better beers, or if they go worse you end up with sterno. You can make a case for brand power, but Bud Light is the compromise beer. You kind of want something better, but you don't want it enough to pay for it, so you compromise, but if you're compromising, why would you spend money on compromise-branded crap? At least the companion and the grooler may have some utility. I'm not sure how on Earth you're supposed to use the foozie.
Tom: It's a ridiculous gimmick product, and only $10 for two, such a bargain!
Mike: Maybe hipsters are buying them ironically?
Tom: They already spent all their money on snuggies.
Mike: I suppose my other problem is that the grooler just doesn't look safe.
Tom: True, I would be worried about splatter.
Mike: Or the thing melting. Or the support pole buckling and throwing coals all over you.
Mike: Wait ... there are other combined grill/cooler products? It's just a grill with a cooler attached! Is having two separate appliances really that confusing? And that first one isn't even a real grill!
Tom: This is exactly why the grooler is such a smash hit. It's a pseudo-real grill, and a cooler. Although, alas, the Wal*Mart product seems to be discontinued.
Mike: I'm starting to feel uncomfortable yelling at companies for marketing at us like we're idiots, because apparently we are actually idiots, and they're being completely responsible.
Tom: There are more products that people actually buy, Mike, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Keep Chopping Wood: "Honk" is something of an overused term in football fandom. Every kicker has his share of misses, some of them close and some of them way off. Jeff Reed honked two field goals. Sure, it was raining for the second, but that didn't seem to hurt Robbie Gould. Part of me thinks that Daniel Sepulveda, like Dan Marino, will end up as the target of a kicker's monomaniacal rage, but one hopes that even Reed realizes what an awful performance that was, and exactly who was responsible. The Bears won by a field goal. Reed missed two. Enough said.
Mike Martz Award: Jeff Fisher's reputation for strategic creativity seems to largely be built on a couple things: the game in Indianapolis in 2004 where he onside kicked a couple times in the first quarter, his willingness to fake a punt most every preseason, and actually bothering to read and remember the NFL Rulebook -- unlike, say, Marvin Lewis. Something seems to desert him, though, when looking at possible long field goals against the Texans. Much like he did last December, Fisher opted to throw downfield on fourth down and intermediate rather than attempt a 50-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of a close game because after all, as with the forward pass, three things can happen when you try a field goal and two of them are bad. It is perhaps somewhat more defensible to throw downfield to Justin Gage (one of the five worst No. one wide receivers in football) than Justin McCareins (the worst starting wide receiver in football), but running a draw on third-and-4 to set up a more feasible fourth down conversion (oops, the draw lost two yards) just serves to indicate the disconnect between Fisher's reputation and his normal course of decision-making.
Colbert Award: This week's award goes to Jim Zorn of the Washington Redskins. Nursing a 9-7 lead at the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game and facing fourth-and-1 from the Rams' 2-yard line, Zorn had a decision to make. The "book" call would be to kick the field goal, forcing the Rams to score a touchdown to win the game. The Rams were out of time-, however, so a first down ices the game, and a touchdown would force the Rams to score twice in the final two minutes. Your Scramble writers don't know if Zorn's an FO reader, so he probably would not be able to tell you that last year the Redskins converted 69 percent of their Power opportunities. His sense told him, though, that going for it there gave his team enough of a chance to win that it was worth enduring the inevitable withering criticism had it failed and his team lost by a field goal. For this, we applaud him.
Mike: Individual teams, we often hear, are a family, and the analogy largely makes sense. Coaches are the parents, rookies are the babies, the players are all siblings, and owners are the grandparents who buy gaudy, giant, expensive, dangerous toys for the kids to whack. Different families are, of course, different, but they track families in the general population pretty well. Some of them have personal space/touching issues (St. Louis), some of them refuse to take your call (Denver), some of them are loyal to a fault (Chicago), and some of them are just plain abusive (Pittsburgh). There's even one with that weird uncle that swore you to secrecy about what happened at that family reunion two decades ago!
The children grow up, and find other children that they like to throw dirt at, and next thing you know, they're picking china patterns! But marriage changes everyone, and the creepy stalker cousins show up to gawk and stare and complain about how they don't hang out with them anymore because of that no-good stupid woman sucking the
fun football ability out of him. Oh, well. At least they had the good ol' days, when football-related crackpot fantasy didn't have to compete with biology, the human condition or, well, reality.
Mike: It's not enough to rail on about an awful game, we at FO have a beautiful machine designed solely to add insult to injury. Onward to the Loser League!
QB: I would like to issue a formal apology to Eric Mangini and the Cleveland Browns organization. Like many observers, I thought that the quarterback controversy between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson was proof that Mangini is incompetent. It seems, however, that Mangini was right to try the two quarterbacks against each other, because it looks like they're both incompetent. C'est la vie. Brady Quinn tops the bill as the losingest loser in loserland, with -2 points!
RB: This was a pretty weak week for running back losers. Normally you can at least hope for something negative, a giant meltdown, or a chain of fumbles or something. 2 points is really just a day where the coach forgot you existed. Look for Glen Coffee and Chris Brown on milk cartons near you.
WR: Now this is more like it, although some of Josh Cribbs's troubles are at least partially Brady Quinn-related, so he gets some sympathy for his 0 points this week. Troy Williamson, however, was at least in the general vicinity of a winning effort, with a fair amount of touches to go around.
K: The creme de la creme of loser league Week 2. It is truly a dark week for Jeff Reed, who really is a pretty good kicker, generally consistent, and has even whipped his kickoff game into some sort of shape. Even good players can have awful weeks, though, and Reed's -2 was an impressive total.
DrunkenSuperman: I'm really screwed here. It's doubleheader week in our league, and I have the rib squad as my quarterbacks (McNabb, Hasselbeck). I need to choose wisely off the waiver wire scrapheap. Who would you pick from these luminaries?
Leftwich vs. NYG
Campbell @ DET
Collins @ NYJ
Kolb vs. KC
Sanchez vs. TEN
Hill @ MIN
I think those are my 'best' options. I'm not going to suggest something silly like Quinn vs. Baltimore or Russell vs. an NFL team.
Mike: Ah, we'll always have the Raiders. Leftwich and Sanchez are going to get destroyed, as will Hill.
Tom: I'm not so sure Sanchez will get destroyed -- both Ben Roethlisberger and Schaub put up at least reasonable fantasy games against the Titans. Collins will probably get destroyed, though. Jenkins destroyed Mawae in the game last year, and the Titans have struggled against 3-4 teams for quite a while. Plus, well, Gage and Washington?
Mike: Roethlisberger and Schaub are at least plausibly wily quarterbacks with some experience. Sanchez, for his pretty crown, just isn't.
Tom: I wouldn't start Sanchez, I just don't think he's quite as bad an option as you think he is. But, there's a quarterback playing against Detroit on that list, and one against Kansas City on a team that likes to pass.
Mike: Yeah, it comes down to Campbell or Kolb.
Tom: Whatever his flaws as an NFL quarterback, I think I'd go with Kolb.
Mike: I think Campbell has better vertical weapons, though.
Tom: The Lions are also still quite bad against the run -- I just think the Redskins will jam the ball down their throats. Both the Saints and Vikings were able to do that effectively.
Mike: I agree. Kolb it is.
Mrapollinax: My team is listed below. Our league starts 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1Flex, 1K and 1 DEF with 5 on the Bench. The league awards 1 point per reception rush/rec TDs are 6pts. So looking at my bench I'm thinking of actually starting TWO TE (one at my Flex). I know I am bucking the common strategies of starting a RB in your FLEX and NEVER have more than one TE on your roster at a time. However hear me out. After MJD my other RBs have tough matchups or might not start (Bell). My WR between Mason and Manningham do not instill me with great confidence as they are both playing teams that are horrible against the run (CLE and TB respectively) and their teams have very strong running games. With Anthony Gonzales and Antonio Bryant out both Clark and Winslow had huge weeks. Clark faces Arizona who gave up 3/62 with 1 TD to Lewis and NYG gave up 5/33 and 1TD to Witten. Could this actually work on a week-to-week basis? Or am I talking crazy talk?
QB Tom Brady; Mark Sanchez*
RB Maurice Jones-Drew; Cedric Benson; Felix Jones; Mike Bell*; Cadillac Williams*;
WR Reggie Wayne; Wes Welker; Marques Colston; Derrick Mason; Mario Manningham*
TE Kellen Winslow; Dallas Clark*
K Matt Prater (but really whoever is best available)
Tom: I wonder what these trades were. Wayne and Clark is a sort of overload on Indy's offensive performance ... every Addai/Brown/Garcon touchdown would leave me sputtering in anger.
Mike: Benson's playing Pittsburgh, so that's right out. I'd go with Cadillac over Dallas Clark. Clark might put up a huge game, sure, but he might also disappear.
Tom: Clark over Winslow at tight end, though? With Gonzalez out, I really think Clark will get a lot of targets. Really, it's Mason, Manningham, Cadillac, or Winslow.
Mike: That is true, it's a PPR league. On the other hand, Manning does have other weapons, it's just a matter of who they prioritize. Probably has the edge on Winslow, however.
Tom: I have Mason and have started him, probably unwisely, so spite requires me to recommend against starting him.
Mike: That and logic. Winslow is less likely to throw up a big game than Cadillac, and an average game for a running back is better than an average game for a tight end, so the running back wins out.
Tom: That doesn't settle Mason/Manningham vs. Cadillac in a PPR league, however. The question is then whether you trust Manningham as a legit starting wide receiver.
Tom: OK, then.
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