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?
01 Dec 2010
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Mike: I recall our annual rite of football pundit buffoonery, yes.
Tom: And I have some bad news. We both picked the Tampa Bay Bucs to go Under 5.5 wins. The Bucs are currently 7-4.
Mike: I'm still not sure how, but I can't really argue with the fact.
Mike: That, I did not know, and it is a bit strange.
Tom: Strange how?
Mike: When you think of mobile quarterbacks, Freeman isn't the first that comes to mind. I'd think Aaron Rodgers, for instance.
Tom: Another team we both got wrong was the Rams, where we both went Under 5.0 and they’re 5-6.
Mike: Didn't we do some massive CYA regarding the general awfulness of the western divisions, though?
Tom: Probably not as much as we should have.
Tom: Though I did boldly declare the 49ers would go Over 8.5 simply because somebody had to win the division.
Mike: Sad but also true.
Tom: I was in football love with Sam Bradford pre-draft, but I underestimated just how much of an upgrade he was from Marc Bulger (being a big upgrade on Kyle Boller and Keith Null is less of a surprise). The Rams still aren't what I'd call "good," but like the Lions, they've stepped up from "incredibly awful" to a more normal variety of "bad."
Mike: We've seen a lot of that across the league. The Browns also come to mind in that category. I call it "respectably bad."
Tom: The Browns are only 4-7. They can still be Under 5.5 as we both predicted they'd be. In the AFC North, we see your Inverse Hype Theory of Success also is working wonderfully, as the Steelers are 8-3 and seem to be a lock to go Over 8.5 as I said they would.
Mike: Steelers fans are crafty. Like foxes.
Tom: You're just mimicking Bill Barnwell's successful strategy from 2007, when he predicted the Giants to have the No. 1 overall pick and they won the Super Bowl.
Mike: We were at this long before Barnwell was born.
Tom: Oh, probably. I do feel glad we both chose Panthers Under 7.0.
Mike: Well, it shows we have some sense. I can't take too much pride in that one.
Tom: There aren't that many over/unders you can call after 11 games, but that one you can. Another one you can is the Chiefs, and sorry, you went Under 6.5 there. Doubt the FO preseason predictions at your peril, or did you not see this week's playoff odds?
Mike: I didn't look, actually. Why?
Tom: Of all the special matchups, the official FO prediction of Ravens-Falcons is the most likely Super Bowl pairing.
Mike: Speaking of inverse hype, I am glad to see that the Steelers are not likely to get the top seed. Mostly because if it came down to it, I'm not sure I could take losing another AFC Championship Game at Heinz to the Patriots. You have no idea, the toll.
Tom: Yes, it's so tragic to keep losing the AFC Championship Game at home. I have a general idea, though, since the Titans keep losing in the divisional round as the top seed. To the Ratbirds. We'll be back later this season with a full look at where we finished on our picks. Before we do that, though, we'll have to enlighten the world with how fantasy football should be. But now it's time for an update on fantasy football as it is.
Tom: I won my fourth fantasy game in a row this week. And once again, I won despite a pretty lousy overall performance. Each of my starting wideouts, Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne, only put up four points, and nobody put up more than 12. But, hey, you don't have to have a great game, just outscore your opponent. I'm now 9-3, tops in the league, and am guaranteed to make the playoffs.
Mike: Nice. What was the final score?
Tom: 71-59. And my opponent got 27 points from Chargers DST.
Mike: Oh. Wow. That is not a large number.
Mike: This week was the opposite for me. A very good week. I scored 160, the highest in the league by 29 points. My opponent scored 85 points.
Tom: Wow, 160. That seems like a lot of points.
Mike: Considering I nearly doubled my opponent's total, yeah. It was a great all-around effort, too: 33 points from Kyle Orton, 37 points from Dwayne Bowe, and 22 points from Rashard Mendenhall. My main disappointment was Greg Jennings, and that was just because his string of 20-plus point games ended. He still gave me 13 points.
Mike: With that, my fifth victory in a row, I move into sole possession of the No. 2 spot in the league. However, the last game of the season is between me and the No. 3 team, over whom I have a 25-point lead. So should I lose by more than 25 points, I'll get knocked back down to the third seed.
Tom: Well, third seed would still be OK, right, since you're really trying to avoid the top team?
Mike: Yeah. Is Kenny Britt back?
Tom: The latest is he could possibly play a week not this week but next Thursday against the Colts.
Mike: The New York Football Steve Smith is also injured.
Tom: Yes, he is. I'm hoping he'll be back for the fantasy playoffs.
Mike: Which means I'm stuck playing either Eddie Royal or Jabar Gaffney, although Denver is playing the Chiefs, so I suppose worse things could happen. Sadly, Mendenhall is playing Baltimore and Darren McFadden is playing San Diego.
Tom: Obviously, you should play McFadden. That's if you believe in the Conservation of Happiness Theory. Mendenhall's success against Baltimore would be good for you as a fan, but any failures of his wouldn't hurt you if he's on your fantasy bench.
Mike: So there's a good chance I lose this upcoming game. Hopefully if I do, I'll keep it within 25. And I'm probably going to play both.
Tom: Oh, right, you're in a two-RB-too-many league.
Tom: Well, Torain didn't play last week, and we don't know his status for this week yet.
Mike: Yeah. And even if he does play, he's playing the Giants, so I'm pretty much stuck with Mendenhall and Forte. On the other hand, teams have found success running against Baltimore. We'll have to see.
Tom: Well, good luck with that.
Tom: Meanwhile, I've been trying to scour the waiver wire for decent fantasy plays. Partly for next week, but primarily for good matchups for Weeks 15-16.
Mike: Any likely candidates?
Tom: Denver plays Houston Week 16, so Jabar Gaffney is an option. I grabbed Toby Gerhart as a handcuff for Adrian Peterson. Zach Miller's production has been awful of late and with Jacob Tamme around I don't need him, so I also picked up Johnny Knox. We'll see how things work out.
Mike: As for me, I picked up Britt looking forward a few weeks ago. That that was probably my second-biggest waiver pick-up, behind Kyle Orton. Hopefully my good fortune will continue.
Better Call Saul (Rob, 6-6) 100 def. Team CBORG (Bea Arthur Femputer, 2-10) 45
Yeah, CBORG is really bad. And the projections lead to poor results. Given that not many expected Eagles DST to garner zero points against Chicago, the Jets vs. Cincinnati really should've been a more promising start. More to the point, CBORG only had one slot break double-digits (Drew Brees with 16 points). Rob had Tom Brady. Game over.
Remain in Matt Light (Barnwell, 10-2) 92 def. Phanatic CodeBreakers (Tanier, 5-7) 86
The Teams Referred To By Their Last Names Bowl (admittedly not as catchy as "Keystone Bowl") was extremely close, and Brandon Marshall sitting was a huge problem for Tanier, who had to eat the goose egg. Add in Frank Gore's mid-game injury and you have the familiar sound of an Eagles fan cursing the football gods. With this serviceable but unremarkable win, Barnwell has assured his queen is seated on a throne fashioned from the skulls of her enemies, a perch from which she can gaze upon lesser teams and find them wanting (he locked up the top seed in the Scramble Alumni Division).
That's Great Hustle! (Sean, 8-4) 124 def. Scramble Forever (Ian & Al, 8-4) 82
This display of imperial majesty was made possible by Scramble Forever's defeat at the hands of Sean. It should be noted that despite each team having the same record, Sean is first in the Non-Scramble Alumni Division, whereas Ian and Al are relegated to second place. Both teams were set with some skill -- Ian and Al chose not to risk Vick against the active Chicago defense and were rewarded with an extra nine points by Aaron Rodgers -- Sean just had too much firepower, especially coming from Peyton Hillis (37 points) and Dwayne Bowe (35 points).
Equipo del Jefe (Aaron, 7-5) 91 def. Team Verhei (6-6) 70
This year's staff league may not only provide good data regarding auto-drafts and projection systems, but also the age-old (two-year-old) question your Scramble writers have constantly posed: Is it better to have an inconsistent team with a high points ceiling or a consistent team with a low ceiling? A post-mortem of Jefe and Scramble Forever should give us some interesting data in that regard. Aaron won this game like he has in all of his other wins, with above-average production across the board (six players with double-digit totals, only one with more than 20). Vince had a similar performance, but zeroes from Joseph Addai and Rob Bironas really sunk him.
Malice Aforethought (Will, 4-8) 84 def. Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom, 3-9) 77
Will actually put up enough points to beat most teams in the league this week, so it's kind of a shame the performance was wasted against Tom. The only significant misplay was Mark Sanchez instead of Jay Cutler. But nobody will ever blame you for not believing in Jay Cutler.
Consensus Picks (Elias, 7-5) 77 def. Triple Asian Flu (Doug, 6-6) 41
Doug's team reads like an injury report. Jason Snelling was questionable and played in a limited capacity, likewise for Zach Miller. Hakeem Nicks was ruled out, and while Jason Hanson was only questionable, he did not make a single attempt. That's nearly half of the team in triage, plus a questionable Pierre Thomas on the bench, and probables for Ben Roethlisberger, C.J. Spiller and Chad Henne. Elias didn't have the same problem, although he keeps forgetting to get a kicker off waivers. Elias! Sign a kicker! They're random free points (unless they play for the Titans)!
It's fascinating that in both divisions, the No. 2 team (Scramble Forever, Equipo del Jefe) has more points scored than the top team (Remain in Matt Light, That's Great Hustle!) by a substantial margin (108 and 55 points, respectively). Head honcho Aaron has a chance of catching up in the last week of the regular season since he is back by only one game, but Ian and Al are locked into the second seed since they are two games behind failed sports-themed comic book villain Barnwell and two games ahead of Vince's Team With No Name. While Jefe has nearly 300 points more than the third-place team (Consensus Picks), he could still fall into third if he loses and Elias wins.
Mike: Either this is a secret commercial for a McDonalds LARP club, or someone is a compulsive liar.
Tom: Tell me more about the McDonald's LARP club. What would it be like? I'm having trouble envisaging such a thing.
Mike: Something like Medieval Fight Club, I imagine.
Tom: I'm not sure I'm familiar with that, either. Is it like Medieval Times?
Mike: Pretty much, except with a lower quality of hair.
Tom: I see ... Do you watch any shows that are popular but not critically acclaimed?
Mike: I occasionally watch Cougar Town and The Middle, although I'd say those are neither popular nor critically acclaimed.
Tom: Well, I guess that's close enough.
Mike: Both are quite good, in any case. Oh, I also watch The Clone Wars, which is popular but not critically acclaimed.
Tom: That's because it's terrible, or at least the first couple episodes were. Anyway, digression aside, what is it with the commercial? Is "Where does breakfast come from?" really that hard a question that dad has to punt?
Mike: I think they're trying to go with a cute take on the "Where do babies come from?" question.
Tom: Yes, but then they hit that anyway at the end of the commercial. So it's not really that cute.
Mike: No, and I think that's really where the whole thing gets away from them.
Tom: Also, why does Cute Kid ask that question when they're at McDonald's? Has she never eaten breakfast before? Does she think there's something special about breakfast that what you're eating couldn't and has never been eaten at another meal?
Mike: Small children ask questions they've already asked or know the answer to already. That's not an uncommon thing. On the other hand, if the question really bothers the family, they should just say that breakfast comes from animals, which are killed so that you can consume their flesh.
Tom: Well, we already know that groups talk about what they know. South Park also taught us that telling kids about the joys of killing animals so you can eat their flesh just turns kids into animal-saving commandos.
Mike: That is such fantasy. Our children are far too lazy to do that, and if they aren't, then they certainly deserve the truck ride with Mr. Wor -- Michael Dorn.
Tom: Actually, did you see the best part of that? Apparently they never approached Michael Dorn about actually being in the episode, and he said after they aired he was disappointed they didn't ask him.
Mike: Yeah. That's probably because the South Park team is the most unprofessional group in the history of television, but that is neither here nor there.
Tom: Not quite, but it's probably close. And yes, that is neither here nor there.
Mike: In any case, they don't even get the wizard thing right. Apparently fantasy wizards just spend time flipping things, not creating fire to cook the stuff, or transmuting it into other things. Just flipping. Even early Harry Potter has more impressive wizardry than that.
Tom: Can we back up a step? This is a kingdom, with a group of giants. What is it always a kingdom? Why is it giants? This could've been a valuable life lesson about incentives and motivation and the ability to work with normal people, who operate other than by coercion. Also, these aren't real wizards, these are Breakfast Wizards.
Mike: It's a kingdom because there were no non-feudal countries before the United States, and they're giants because giants are bigger and Bigger Is Better.
Tom: Well, I won't agree or disagree with you. But "Cute" Kid is asking the question now, not 200-300 years ago.
Mike: True, but the parents aren't even remotely answering her question.
Tom: Also, we see an example of Television Rules of Travel here. Kid asks the question when they are in the car, but by the end of the commercial less than a minute later, they're in the McDonald's, sitting at their table, eating their food.
Mike: They were drawing upon their common experience of Fantasy as portrayed in media. (Holy cow, a legitimate linkage!) Come to think of it, McDonald's does that a lot. Their customers must have really disjointed conversations.
Tom: Well, don't you ever have disjointed conversations with people?
Mike: Usually only myself.
Tom: You're married. I thought part of the reason you got married was so you'd have someone to talk to and wouldn't just spend the evening yelling yourself hoarse at the TV like I did tonight.
Mike: Spouses tend to demand coherent conversation. Or, in my case, discussions of the highest mark-up we can charge to small children.
Tom: Small children tend to make bad customers. They're whiny, messy, and don't have much money. You'd probably have a more successful business if you sold to their parents instead.
Mike: Well, you get a grab-bag. The children are really there to show up and screw up the combo you've been building, which is the lesson of this commercial: Children exist as a thorn in your side and must be fed lies to get them to shut up about trivial and mundane things.
Tom: So, how did they then answer, "So, where did I come from?" I'm voting for telling her she was adopted. Especially if she wasn't.
Mike: They've created a convenient framework: Child wizards!
KICKER: Ah, Rob Bironas, you are still second among kickers in our FG/XP stats, but not because of Sunday's 0 points and no opportunity. Next on the bottom were AFC South compadres Adam Vinatieri and not part of Loser League Aaron Pettrey, each with 2 points.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Deon Butler, Harry Douglas, and Arrelious Benn, come on down. You're the latest winners of the "mediocre wide receivers who put up 0 Loser League points this week!"
RUNNING BACKS: Brandon Jackson had 3 points. Cedric Benson and Danny Woodhead put up 4. It's probably just a senior moment, but your Scramble writer is having difficulty coming up with a witty, interesting, or even uninteresting but non-obvious thing those three men had in common.
(Your other Scramble writer is still busy trying to figure out who Arrelious Benn is.)
QUARTERBACK: We're sorry, but Rusty Smith and his 0 points were not available as a Loser League selection. That leaves Derek Anderson's 5 points as low score of the week. Just don't tell him in person or ask Kent Somers to tell him for you.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: With 1:06 to play in Sunday's game, the Green Bay Packers scored a touchdown to tie their game with the Falcons. Mason Crosby had an excellent kickoff, forcing Eric Weems to field the ball four yards deep in his own end zone. No matter, he returned it out to the 36, and then a personal foul face mask on Matt Wilhelm gave the Falcons the ball in Packer territory. With two timeouts and 49 seconds to work with, getting a mere 20 yards wasn't much of a challenge for the Falcons offense, and the Packers went home as losers.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Trailing 31-13 with 11:56 to go, Andy Reid opted to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Trailing 31-16 with 4:52 to play, Andy Reid opted to kick a field goal and fourth-and-goal from the 18. Individually, neither decision is completely insane. Combined, they represent a coach taking the conservative route and not taking the risks sometimes necessary to win a game when trailing by touchdowns, not field goals.
COLBERT AWARD: The Houston Texans through 11 weeks were the worst defense in DVOA history, and in particular an awful pass defense. Starting a rookie sixth-round pick and with Chris Johnson in the backfield, many, including your Scramble writer, expected a run-heavy game plan for the Titans. Coordinator Mike Heimerdinger opted to attack the Texans' biggest weakness, dropping Rusty Smith back 32 times and running the ball only 12 times. OK, so Rusty Smith didn't really execute the game plan effectively, and the Texans had their first shutout since 2004, but that's what happens sometimes when you're aggressive.
JC: OK, guys, this is it, I am on the final stretch and I am hanging for dear life in my league, basically the top 4 (out of ten) teams make the playoffs, currently number one and two are basically in , based on both, W-L record and points scored as tie breaker. I am fourth, one game behind 1 and 2, tied with number 3, but several points behind 1 and 3, ahead of number two, who happens to be my rival this coming week, also I have two teams one game behind me and all of us are pretty tight on points scored. Hopefully I have conveyed the drama involved in this situation so I can get your best effort, guys.
So, I need advice on this critical week. I have finally promoted Matt Cassel over Matt Ryan as QB, but I need validation for my decision, my RB's have been set on stone, Forte and Mendenhall, but I a am not feeling great about match ups, on the bench I have Ronnie Brown, Shonn Greene and might get "Glass Joe" Brian Westbrook from waivers. Same with my WRs, solid starters with Calvin Johnson and Mike Wallace, but for the number 3 option I have either TB's Mike Williams, Wes Welker, and Jacksonville's Mike Thomas. I am not sold on anyone due to match ups. I really need this win and as many points as possible. Bring it up, guys!
Tom: Well, Cassel was a good play because he's faced a favorable run of matchups. That favorable run continues against the Broncos, who now have the league's worst pass defense in DVOA terms. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's pass defense is OK and its run defense is atrocious, so we know what Atlanta's game plan is likely to be.
Mike: You know, taking a flier on Greene may not be such a bad idea. I guess it really depends on how much you trust the Pittsburgh offense. Baltimore is essentially average against the run. New England is atrocious, but you'd be playing a backup.
Tom: I can't really encourage playing a part-time back over a lead guy, especially with New England also having a lousy pass defense.
Mike: True. I guess it really depends on what your thoughts on the Jets and Steelers offenses are. DVOA thinks the Steelers have a basically average rushing attack, so you shouldn't be scared of an average rush defense.
Tom: And at wideout, play Mike Thomas. Tennessee's defense has been really mediocre of late.
Mike: Really? The Jets secondary is really not scary anymore, and Welker is a favorite of his quarterback on a really good passing offense.
Tom: I think the Jets pass D is better than DVOA thinks it is. Actually, I'm not sure which you play of Thomas, Wallace, and Welker.
Mike: You play Wallace. You have to play Wallace. I think we've had this discussion about Baltimore's secondary already
Tom: I think we did, but that was before Ed Reed came back and was supposed to fix everything. Obviously, that doesn't seem to have happened.
Tom: Hm, maybe you do go with Welker, Wallace, and Calvin Johnson then.
Mike: I agree.
Matthew Kenerly: I need 2 RBs out of Brian Westbrook, Cedric Benson, Joseph Addai, Fred Jackson and Jonathan Stewart, and 2 WRs out of Santana Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Sidney Rice and Tampa's Mike Williams. The playoffs are on the line, guys, who ya got?
Mike: I think your wide receiver choice is more clear: Washington is in disarray, and Ochocinco is a clear No. 2 receiver with a shaky quarterback playing against a decent secondary. That leaves Rice and Williams, who happen to have decent matchups. On the other hand, Buffalo's run defense is pathetic, so Benson is a great play. Seattle is in similar disarray, so I'd go with Stewart as your second back.
(This question came in late and as such Tom did not have time to give his response before we went to press. Look for his answer in the comments, below.)
See how we provided a road map for future Scramble columns in the intro? Journamalism! You can still put your stamp on our insanity, however, for the low, low price of an e-mail sent to Scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com! Capitalism, ho!
21 comments, Last at 02 Dec 2010, 11:11pm by Basilicus