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.
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: Ah, Loser League team names.
Mike: It's a tradition!
Tom: It is! You have Loser League. You try to come up with a funny and maybe timely team name. Your Scramble writers pen a column making fun of the bad ones and honoring the good ones. Or, alternatively, honoring the bad ones and making fun of the good ones, whichever is easier and/or more amusing.
Mike: We do like to go after low-hanging fruit. This is, after all, a football column. Our current leader (chief loser?) actually has a fairly snappy name: Snausage, which is just a funny word. Sadly it is followed by two awful names: Big Mike Williams Career Craves Fresh, Tasty Brains and Breesus is a Drew. The first is just way too long, trying to tell a story and in the process overselling the joke. The latter is just strange and has low comic potential.
Tom: I actually like Breesus is a Drew better than the other names. Lower down on the list, I'm a big fan of Texas Chainsaw Massaquoi.
Mike: The problem, like you alluded to, is both being clever and timely. Joey Harrington Appreciation Society is quite good, but seriously. Joey Harrington? Texas Chainsaw Massaquoi is excellent, I agree.
Tom: I'm not really a fan of most of these names.
Mike: Isn't losing losers of loserdom a repeat? It seems familiar.
Tom: I think it might be. There are a few I think I recognize. -1/0 DVOA isn't awful. 4Chan Gailey, not bad.
Mike: That may be my favorite. Grey Cup Champions I like -- just because I like sticking it to Canada.
Tom: I feel like the most recent offseason didn't give us much fodder for loser league names. GoldManSnacks may be the only entry I really like that couldn't have been done last year.
Mike: Various "purple drank" jokes, although I suppose they're not all that funny. Then again, there is much to be said for classics. Like "Cricket," another hilarious concept.
Tom: Purple drank could've been funny, I guess, but none of them are.
Mike: Yeah, as far as timely jokes, most of them are not related to football at all. Like Double Rainbow.
Tom: I don't get that one.
Tom: Oh, right. Had people never really seen a double rainbow before?
Mike: Ah, there's Winston Justice Security Systems! Didn't they win last year, or something?
Tom: I think they did. Almost a double winner, as I recall.
Mike: Well, they're losing bad this year, because they did not come up with a new name. Let that be a warning to you all.
Tom: Repeating a successful team name is something I think highly of, as people who remember the fate of last year's 1941 Orange Bowl Loser may recall.
Mike: Also, Failure Adjusted for Volatility Really Early is pretty good.
Tom: I think that might actually be a repeat.
Mike: Well, crap.
Tom: I'm not sure, but it seems kind of familiar.
Mike: On the upside, there are a lot fewer jokes about how the loser league team is the owner's actual fantasy team, which is just trite.
Tom: One year, I will actually do precisely that.
Mike: Honestly, you have to be pretty sad to try the self-effacing joke about being bad at fantasy footba -- what's that, Tom? Fantasy update time?
Tom: I pulled off a win in The League I Care About this week.
Tom: The game was in the balance until Sunday night, and Ryan Torain's 22 put me over the top for a 16-point win.
Mike: Ryan Torain was a great pick-up in leagues with deep bench, and I'm not saying that just because we both nabbed him.
Tom: I'm now 4-2, in third, and third in the league in points. In Staff League, alas, Torain was the reason I lost, so my affection for him is only partial.
Mike: I would see that if you had any chance whatsoever of winning the Staff League.
Tom: Yes, well, there is that.
Mike: Actually, the league opened up a bit this week, but that's for later.
Tom: How was your family league team?
Mike: We righted the ship this week, beating the top team in the league, which was previously undefeated, with the high score of the week. I feel bad for my sister, who has a respectable points-for (good enough for sixth) but has the third-highest points-against, landing her in 10th place. It is an interesting breakdown, though -- two 5-1 teams, five 3-3 teams, two 2-4 teams and one 1-5. Overall, it's been a competitive year.
Tom: That's always nice.
Mike: My game was really a story of unexpected explosions.
Tom: One of which came from Ryan Torain?
Mike: See, I expected a big game from Torain. Maybe not 24 points, but a good game. Megatron put up 22 points for him, Dwayne Bowe and Greg Jennings gave me 24 and 21 points, respectively. In any case, I got great production down the line, and it ended up 134-100, so a pretty comfortable win.
Mike: Although I have to go back to the "Jennings or Bowe?" question from a few weeks ago and change my answer to "yes."
Tom: Bowe would be a great if he could play the Texans every week.
Mike: Ah, we can but dream.
Team CBORG (BOSS, 2-4) 92 def. Better Call Saul (Rob, 4-2) 61
A rough week for the former outright leader in the Non-Scramble Alumni division, and a great victory for the ESPN projection system, which called this week perfectly, aside from Jets DST over Eagles DST (and really, who wouldn't make that call?). Rob didn't do anything wrong, either, merely had poor production from all of his players, including 1 point from Miles Austin.
Remain in Matt Light (Barnwell, 4-2) 68 def. Phanatic CodeBreakers (Tanier, 1-5) 64
And here is where we see the true purpose of Barnwell and the bizarre waiver system of his bizarre mistress: Tanier could not pick up a DST on Sunday, and lost by 4 points, easily within range of pretty much any waiver DST in a league this size. Of course, Josh Cribbs's injury certainly did not help, dragging the CodeBreakers down with -2 points. Even then, Barnwell needed a surprisingly big game out of San Francisco's defense to pull out the close victory, which to a fantasy guru is kind of like playing Mike Vrabel at TE because you've got a good feeling about this week.
That's Great Hustle! (Sean, 4-2) 119 def. Scramble Forever (Ian & Al, 3-3) 104
Finally, a good game! A great game all around, actually, but Marcedes Lewis (1 point) let Ian and Al down, while Jeremy Maclin (27 points) just shot through the roof. Another tough loss for our reigning champions.
Team Verhei (Vince, 4-2) 101 def. Equipo del Jefe (Aaron, 3-3) 86
Like Scramble Forever, the past few weeks have not been kind to Jefe. Last week was a close loss, and this week was crushing by comparison. As is the theme for this week, both teams played their best players. Vince's guys just put up better numbers.
Malice Aforethought (Will, 2-4) 90 def. Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom, 1-5) 84
Just when things started looking up for Team Gower, the door slams shut. The Ringers put up a great game for who they are, with 23 points from Kevin Kolb and 15 from the new Ben Roethlisberger-powered Mike Wallace. New Scramble heartthrob Ryan Torain was the death of Wagstaff's boys with 22 points, pushing an overall decent performance past Tom.
Consensus Picks (Elias, 4-2) 63 def. Triple Asian Flu (Doug, 4-2) 54
Doug finally got to try out his shiny new quarterback, and Roethlisberger did not disappoint. Unfortunately, the rest of the team did; five slots (Jason Snelling, Louis Murphy, Hakeem Nicks, Nate Washington and Visanthe Shiancoe) had 2 or fewer points. Those three zeroes were a big problem against Elias, who didn't do much better, but at least got something, and with a margin of 9, that was enough.
Mike: That thing is a crime against humanity. OH MY GOD HE'S NUZZLING THE TOILET PAPER.
Tom: Crimes against humanity: mass murder, genocide, Beary White nuzzling the toilet paper commercials.
Mike: You did not just make a pun.
Tom: I did!
Mike checks for recent hellmouth openings
Tom: I know, I now have to hie me to a punnery.
Tom: Hamlet, to Ophelia, "get thee to a nunnery"?
Mike: I know.
Tom: I was continuing with the bad jokes.
Mike: I know. Seriously, though, who thought this was a good idea? It's not that I don't think anyone will like it. It's that I can't even conceive of a person who would be capable of enjoying it.
Tom: Actually, what bothers me most is the apparent geography of their living quarters.
Mike: Well, it's clearly Standardized Sitcom Housing (it's back!).
Tom: I'm not even going to click on that link.
Mike: Probably wise.
Tom: But we see Beary White apparently sitting on the toilet, making googly eyes with Female Bear while she's sitting on the piece of furniture. That tells me they have eschewed the extremely popular "toilet in a separate room" aesthetic that I previously considered nearly indispensable.
Mike: Oh, we've been beyond that for years. She just wasn't on her half.
Tom: I'd rather buy a TV to put on my ceiling.
Mike: This is probably Japan's fault, really. They've simultaneously assaulted us with the separate ideas of furries and ... unconventional sexual practices.
Tom: Yes, I guess Japanese black bears do have to poop.
Mike: And then, like the plastic gun, once they are past security, the two are combined in an attempt to melt our brains. Er, shoot us. You get the idea.
Tom: I don't think we really need to blame Japan for this one. We're quite capable of coming up with stupid stuff like this in America.
Mike: I dunno. I really do like blaming Japan for things.
Tom: Sure, scapegoats are great. I really don't get this though. The toilet paper is so soft and nice that Beary likes to play with it, but one of the things Charmin is advertising is how you don't need to use as much of it. I feel like they need to be on Get Your Story Straight.
Mike: You really hate advertising campaigns that have more than one message, don't you?
Tom: They're intentionally subverting their own marketing campaign!
Mike: I'm just going to shake my head sadly at that. The problem with commenting on this commercial is that every time I try to make a point about the commercial itself it makes me want to douse my brain with bleach.
Tom: That's my other issue with this commercial. As soon as we saw it played on Sunday night, we instantly agreed it would be the one we'd use this week. The problem is, it's really just incredibly annoying, not interesting.
Mike: I'm not sure it's even annoying. It's just grossly offensive.
Tom: Oh, here's the other thing. The product comparison is to "the leading value brand." I enjoy using premium toilet paper. But if you want to distinguish yourself, compare yourself to something like Quilted Northern. Otherwise, I'll just buy whichever premium toilet paper is on sale when I need some more.
Mike: The problem is, how are you going to run a double-blind test of toilet paper? I mean, seriously. And then how do you guarantee that the samples involved are substantially simi -- no. I will not let Charmin beat me like this.
Tom: Just do the comparison with Charmin vs. "the other leading premium brand," and show me Charmin is better.
Mike: I am not going to talk about scientific methods for poop studies.
Tom: Really, they're just using the paper towel absorbency test. Which is something I noticed but was just going to elide over until you mentioned it.
Mike: ... moving on.
Tom: Yes. This website, "enjoythego.com" ... I do not like what it reminds me of.
Mike: Oh good lord. Shut it down!
Tom: Seriously, you don't want to go there. "Enter the Charmin Go Nation Contest, and you could win $50,000." ... "Show us how you 'Enjoy the Go.'"
Mike: Yeah, shut it down. We're done
Kicker: Kickers usually get a few chances per game to show off and make a difference, so it's important to make your few shots count. A few kickers missed as many or more field goals as Connor Barth did in Week 6, but they all made a few to best his -4 points on the week.
Wide Receiver: O fickle fate! Just a few weeks ago, Hakeem Nicks was a great fantasy pick-up, a world-beater, someone everyone wanted on their team. Just as the head of steam reached full, he has a week with three catches for 8 yards, and 0 points.
Running Back: Fumbles are what loser league leaders are made of, especially at running back, where even the worst back usually puts up a few points if they manage to get past the penalty. Knowshon Moreno had a pretty mediocre week, and his one fumble dropped him to the top with 2 points.
Quarterback: Astoundingly, Jason Campbell didn't take this prize home. The honor belongs to David Garrard, who the Titans debacled for 49 yards on 12 passes, an interception, and 0 points.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: We at FO speculated in the offseason that the acquisition of Jason Campbell and the tremendous upgrade he represented would very likely lead the Raiders to their best season since that Super Bowl against the Bucs. Six wins isn't an especially high bar, so it could still happen, but not with the kind of quarterbacking he provided the Raiders Sunday.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: In the first 57 minutes of Sunday's game against the Cowboys, the Vikings had nine offensive drives, one of which came at the end of the first half. On six of those eight non-limited drives, the Vikings gained at least one first down. The final one of those drives featured a Ryan Longwell field goal that gave them a 24-21 lead. On the ensuing possession, with 2:46 to play, Wade Phillips elected not to go for it on fourth-and-5, instead punting the bal and relying on his defense and two timeouts. The Cowboys did eventually get a defensive stop, but not before allowing the Vikings to pick up a first down, so they ended up with 13 seconds to go 91 yards. Philips' decision was of the kind that coaches can conventionally make without necessarily risking their job security, but that still doesn't make it a wise decision.
COLBERT AWARD: In the first quarter, on the opening drive of the game, on fourth-and-1 from the 2, most coaches would be perfectly content to kick the field goal. Not Todd Haley. In fact, that fourth-down conversion ended up being the Chiefs' second of the drive, as he'd earlier gone for it on fourth-and-2 from the Texans 17-yard line, an even more obvious normal "take the field goal" position. The Chiefs may have lost the game, but that was due to a complete inability to get a defensive stop on any of the Texans' last four possessions, not because their head coach was insufficiently bold.
Mr.P: Are Jason Witten's days as an elite pass catching tight end over? With Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Roy Williams, my guess is yes ... Should I try to trade him and play matchups, or trust he'll recover?
Mike: I doubt he's going to be worse than matchups, but on the other hand his stock has been low lately. I would wait for him to have a big game, because the media will instantly go into a Romo-Witten feeding frenzy. Then you can get top dollar for him and start playing matchups.
Tom: I really do think he's being kind of phased out of the Dallas offense. He's gotten a lot of work the past couple years, and he's almost too valuable as a blocker to get that much work. I still think you need a big upgrade at wideout to justify a trade, though.
Mike: Neither of those are great options, but I think Crayton is more likely to be useful.
Tom: I admit, I don't feel like I have a good handle on the Chargers this year. Crayton was very good in a limited role with the Cowboys earlier in his career, as I recall.
Tom: I just haven't seen enough out of Davis to feel at all comfortable recommending anybody pick him up. Not that I particularly like Crayton, but he's probably the better of the two options.
Mike: Well, it's also a crapshoot, since we're talking about bit players in the offense anyway.
Tom: We are, but they could be the No. 2 option in an offense that throws the ball a lot.
Check back next week for even more nonsense! In the meantime, send your fantasy football questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com