Eight weeks ago, the Vikings were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in DVOA. Now they're 6-6 and probably done. What went wrong?
29 Dec 2010
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: So, Mike, the rosters for the 2011 Pro Bowl were announced today.
Mike: Isn't it still the 2010 Pro Bowl?
Tom: The NFL refers to it as the 2011 Pro Bowl, since the game is played next year.
Mike: That is ... rather silly, but all right.
Tom: The idea of a football All-Star game strikes me as kind of silly.
Mike: Why is that? The league clearly has stars. Superstars, even, who clearly add significant value to their team.
Tom: Football is a game that depends on intensity, and isn't nearly as good when players aren't trying hard to win and are trying to avoid injury.
Mike: That is true, although it seems that it would be lame to just announce a list of All-Pros and leave it at that.
Tom: The stakes for the Pro Bowl tend to be minimal, so players don't try hard except late in a close game, when they realize the difference between winning and losing is breaking even or coming out ahead for their trip. And, yes, it probably would be lame to just have a list of the best players from each conference, but if we're going to go ahead and play a silly game, the silly game needs to have silly rules. The NFL doesn't want to develop a completely separate rulebook for a single game, so we have to do other things.
Mike: Such as?
Tom: And, as much as I hate to suggest it, the NFL should consider taking a page from baseball and other all-star games, and mandate that every team have a representative.
Mike: I don't see why you would hate to suggest that. I think that's a great feature of the MLB All-Star Game.
Tom: Well, taken to its most extreme, it inevitably yields results like Scott LaChance, NHL All-Star.
Mike: It gives fans of even the most awful teams a reason to watch and a warm fuzzy feeling that their best player is recognized despite the fact that their team is pathetic. As a fan of an awful team, I can tell you from experience that is one of the few highlights of the year.
Tom: The Islanders only had one good player, Ziggy Palffy, and since he was injured, the Fish Sticks needed a representative. So they chose maybe the league's 125th best player, who just happened to be the team's second best player.
Mike: Yeah, once in a while you get something silly, but that's extremely rare.
Tom: Well, I wouldn't be too hasty to make that declaration. The announced Pro Bowl rosters actually were pretty inclusive this year, as 28 of the 32 teams had at least one player selected. That means we need to find a roster spot for a player from Buffalo, Cincinnati, Seattle, and Tampa Bay. And, before you suggest it, I'm going to pre-emptively veto adding extra roster spots. As a reminder, here is a link to the rosters.
Tom: Unfortunately, Brandon Lloyd is our lone Denver representative.
Mike: Yes, and if I had five hours to sit by and work it all out, I'm sure we could fit the jigsaw puzzle together.
Mike: You act as if this is some Herculean task, but it's trivial, if time-consuming, much like creating the schedule.
Tom: Well, the issue with making the schedule is not producing an actual schedule, but making it an attractive one.
Tom: For Bills, I don't think you can find a roster spot for Steve Johnson.
Mike: I'm also not claiming that a better player wouldn't be snubbed.
Mike: Sure, that works. I think the Bucs are actually the hardest, if we are going through and picking out potential charity Pro Bowl spots.
Tom: I'd mention Aqib Talib at corner as a possibility, but he's on Injured Reserve.
Tom: I don't think much of Blount as a player, but that's a separate issue.
Tom: The one name I've seen is Donald Penn at tackle. That said, Winslow is a good choice.
Mike: Yeah, he's having a better year on a vastly inferior offense.
Tom: Now, the hard one, the Seahawks.
(Tom goes off for a couple minutes, trying to find a good Seahawks player.)
So, Mike, how much are you willing to incur the wrath of Bears fans?
Mike: When have I ever shied away from that?
Tom: The Seahawks rank second in the league in Special Teams DVOA. The single most valuable component of their special teams play -- the category where they top the league -- is Kickoff Returns. They're also a well above-average punt returning team. Are you willing to kick Devin Hester off to make room for Leon Washington?
Mike: Yes. As you said, they top the league in kickoff returns, and more to the point, selections for returners is a group selection for the coverage teams, when you get down to it.
Tom: The Bears are slightly ahead on combined value from punt and kick returns in our ratings. But it's close enough that choosing Washington is reasonable.
Mike: And Seattle is basically neck and neck with Chicago. There you have it, then. That wasn't even nearly as time consuming as I thought it would be, and we came up with candidates that can stand up on their own, even.
Tom: If you Bears fans want Hester to have another trip to Hawaii, find us another Seahawks player to put in the Pro Bowl instead of Washington.
Mike: Well, he's not getting the trip. We don't actually control the selection. You do realize that, Tom?
Tom: Not yet, we don't. Not yet.
Mike: Attention players: don't let this go to your heads. In the latest installment of "Insane things I heard on Bears radio postgame," they were talking about how choosing awards during the season is stupid, because then players and coaches get the awards and lose "the edge."
Mike: Because obviously the players were playing just to get the award. I also learned that having a first-round bye is bad, because you lose your momentum. And watching your opponent make plays in the wild card round makes you sad or something. There may have been extra crazy after that bit, but I turned the radio off in disgust.
Tom: And on that note, I can launch right into my fantasy football travails!
Tom: So, after we did last week's column, I decided to make a bunch of lineup changes in my fantasy team for our championship game. I benched Jacob Tamme and decided to pick up another tight end. Because the Packers were bad against tight ends, I grabbed Kevin Boss over Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski had 17 points, Tamme had 13 ... Boss had zero. I grabbed Cowboys DST and dropped Chiefs DST. Chiefs 19 points, Cowboys five. I picked up Vincent Jackson and benched Johnny Knox. Jackson five points, Knox 21.
Mike: Mastermindering: It's not just for coaches.
Tom: I lost by 16 points, 88-72.
Mike: That has to be rough.
Tom: I actually got lucky. My opponent started Andre Johnson, who didn't play, and Wes Welker, who only had one point. He left Matt Forte's 22 points and Miles Austin's 15 on his bench. (Forte could've started at flex.) I got 16 points each from Ben Roethlisberger and Adrian Peterson, but most of my team was very meh. My opponent got 24 from Patriots DST, 17 from Michael Vick, and had three other players in double digits. And thus my streak of winning a championship every year I play fantasy football ends at one.
Mike: A shame.
Tom: I will, somehow, survive and carry on, I'm sure. But I will have to do so as a humbled, chastened man.
Mike: C'est la vie.
Tom: Let this be a lesson to you, the reader. I'm just not sure what the lesson is: (a) don't overthink your fantasy football teams, or (b) fantasy football is a cruel, cruel mistress, and one to whom you should not entrust any of your affections.
Equipo del Jefe (Aaron, 8-5) 140 def. Scramble Forever (Ian & Al, 9-4) 98 (Championship)
I have to say, I am extremely surprised by this result, and by the players that powered it. Aaron received 20 or more points from three different players. Josh Freeman is plausible, but 29 points is still somewhat nutty. Matt Forte with 22 points against the stout Jets' run defense? Jamaal Charles with 23 points against what was supposed to be a similarly strong Titans' run defense? That said, even if you cut their totals in half, Aaron still wins, albeit in a much more close game, thanks to good production from Kenny Britt, Rob Gronkowski and Steelers DST (14, 17 and 15 points, respectively).
Ian and Al just kind of fell flat. Michael Vick produced with 20 points, and so did Arian Foster (19), but those were the highs, and half the team scored single-digits (Chargers DST actually ended with -2 points). They left 12 points on the bench by starting Vick over Aaron Rodgers, but that wouldn't nearly close the gap.
So congratulations to Editor-President-Overlord-In-Chief Aaron Schatz, this year's FO Staff League Champion! We shall see how he fares in the FO Staff Playoff league, starting ... when the playoffs start.
Scramble is getting into the holiday spirit this week by giving beleaguered ad agencies a respite from the usual mockery. Just a one week respite, though, so be warned.
Kicker: David Buehler, despite earning one of this week's awards, did not top the list. Neither did any available player, actually. The winner was Clint Stitser, who missed an extra point but made four others, for -1 points. Instead, one of the all-time greats, David Akers tops the list with two made field goals and one missed, for 0 points.
Wide Receiver: Jerricho Cotchery. Again -- 0 points. Raise your hand if you're surprised.
Running Back: And why did your Scramble writers have such a hard time coming up with a Seattle Pro Bowler? Because it's a team who plays Justin Forsett, that's why. Forsett had eight carries for 12 yards and 1 point.
Quarterback: It's hard to make fun of Jimmy Clausen because he's a young player on the worst team in the league, and this week he played one of the best defenses in the league. That said, 23 attempts for 72 yards with an interception is pretty horrid, and 1 point is low enough to put him into the loser league leaders.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Doink! Cowboys kicker David Buehler missed the simplest kick in football, an extra point, with 1:41 to play on Christmas night, leaving Dallas with a two-point lead. A two-point lead that could be overcome in regulation by a mere field goal, which Jay Feely was kind enough to provide.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: While in the end it was the drop that did it in, the fake punt that the Jets ran had pretty much the entire first-team offense in, including Mark Sanchez taking a direct snap lined up as a protector. While this was not the first time the Bears had seen an opposing quarterback in the game on special teams, there's a slight difference between Mark Sanchez in an obvious fake punt and Cody Pickett lining up as a gunner in kick coverage. Rex Ryan, what were you thinking?
COLBERT AWARD: If your team is likely to lose, you might as well take risks to see if you can tip the balance. We credited Jeff Fisher for doing this last week, and credit Bills coach Chan Gailey for only punting twice, both times inside his own 20, on a dozen offensive possessions.
Tom: So, through Tuesday evening, there were no questions in the Scramble thread on the message board, nor had we received any e-mails, and the fantasy section of the greater FO board was a ghost town.
Mike: No questions for any of our leagues, no questions from the staff, and no questions from any friends. This week, fantasy football is dead. This is actually a very good thing, considering it means that people's leagues have ended
Tom: As all leagues should.
Mike: And the world is becoming a more enlightened place.
Tom: I wouldn't go quite that far.
Mike: And so this week, we rest. But next week begins the staff playoff league, and our annual best of the rest challenge.
Tom: Yes, that wonderful task again. Don't let your fantasy skills atrophy too much in the meantime, readers, and we will answer fantasy questions in comments if your league is so benighted as to have actual competition Week 17.
Are you ready for some (largely meaningless) football? The playoff teams are largely set, so get a leg up on the rest of your playoffs fantasy league by e-mailing your questions to Scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com
16 comments, Last at 01 Jan 2011, 7:18pm by morganja