A look at fourth-down decision making in 2014 highlights Sean Payton, Marc Trestman, and... wait, this can't be right... Jim Caldwell? Plus: Chip Kelly may be less aggressive than you think he is.
06 Jan 2010
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Everyone's favorite Football Outsiders Staff Playoffs Fantasy League has returned! The scoring rules are the same as every year:
Teams are comprised of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K and 1 DEF. There are no substitutions, so if a player is injured or his team is eliminated, then he ceases to produce points for his team. The teams, in drafting order are as follows:
Alas, we had to leave out ex-Scrambler Bill Barnwell because of a neighborhood Internet outage. This is a serpentine draft, as is the fashion of the day, with a two-pick round eight.
1. Dave: Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings
2. Mike: Ryan Grant, RB Green Bay Packers
3. Tom: Joseph Addai, RB Indianapolis Colts
4. Sean: Thomas Jones, RB New York Jets
5. Vince: Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens
6. Aaron: Peyton Manning, QB Indianapolis Colts
7. Aaron: LaDainian Tomlinson, RB San Diego Chargers
8. Vince: Aaron Rodgers, QB Green Bay Packers
9. Sean: Philip Rivers, QB San Diego Chargers
10. Tom: Drew Brees, QB New Orleans Saints
11. Mike: Tom Brady, QB New England Patriots
12. Dave: Brett Favre, QB Minnesota Vikings
13. Dave: Randy Moss, WR New England Patriots
14. Mike: Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals
15. Tom: Reggie Wayne, WR Indianapolis Colts
16. Sean: Dallas Clark, TE Indianapolis Colts
17. Vince: Laurence Maroney, RB New England Patriots
18. Aaron: Antonio Gates, TE San Diego Chargers
19. Aaron: Miles Austin, WR Dallas Cowboys
20. Vince: DeSean Jackson, WR Philadelphia Eagles
21. Sean: Vincent Jackson, WR San Diego Chargers
22. Tom: Marques Colston, WR New Orleans Saints
23. Mike: Sidney Rice, WR Minnesota Vikings
24. Dave: Jason Witten, TE Dallas Cowboys
25. Dave: Greg Jennings, WR Green Bay Packers
26. Mike: Jeremy Maclin, WR Philadelphia Eagles
27. Tom: Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints
28. Sean: Larry Fitzgerald, WR Arizona Cardinals
29. Vince: Donald Driver, WR Green Bay Packers
30. Aaron: Marion Barber, RB Dallas Cowboys
31. Aaron: Julian Edelman, WR New England Patriots
32. Vince: Jermichael Finley, TE Green Bay Packers
33. Sean: Beanie Wells, RB Arizona Cardinals
34. Tom: Jeremy Shockey, TE New Orleans Saints
35. Mike: Derrick Mason, WR Baltimore Ravens
36. Dave: Robert Meachem, WR New Orleans Saints
37. Dave: Reggie Bush, RB New Orleans Saints
38. Mike: Brent Celek, TE Philadelphia Eagles
39. Tom: Austin Collie, WR Indianapolis Colts
40. Sean: New York Jets Defense
41. Vince: Green Bay Packers Defense
42. Aaron: Percy Harvin, WR Minnesota Vikings
43. Aaron: Indianapolis Colts Defense
44. Aaron: Nate Kaeding, K San Diego Chargers
45. Vince: Mason Crosby, K Green Bay Packers
46. Vince: Chad Ochocinco, WR Cincinnati Bengals
47. Sean: Stephen Gostkowski, K New England Patriots
48. Sean: Steve Breaston, WR Arizona Cardinals
49. Tom: Cincinnati Bengals Defense
50. Tom: Garrett Hartley, K New Orleans Saints
51. Mike: Ryan Longwell, K Minnesota Vikings
52. Mike: New Orleans Saints Defense
53. Dave: Jay Feely, K New York Jets
54. Dave: New England Patriots Defense
Here are the rosters. Feel free to put "The Final Countdown" on in the background.
|FO Playoff Fantasy Rosters|
|QB||Brett Favre||Tom Brady||Drew Brees||Philip Rivers||Aaron Rodgers||Peyton Manning|
|RB||Adrian Peterson||Ryan Grant||Joseph Addai||Thomas Jones||Ray Rice||LaDainian Tomlinson|
|RB||Reggie Bush||Cedric Benson||Pierre Thomas||Beanie Wells||Laurence Maroney||Marion Barber|
|WR||Randy Moss||Derrick Mason||Reggie Wayne||Vincent Jackson||DeSean Jackson||Miles Austin|
|WR||Greg Jennings||Sidney Rice||Marques Colston||Larry Fitzgerald||Donald Driver||Percy Harvin|
|WR||Robert Meachem||Jeremy Maclin||Austin Collie||Steve Breaston||Chad Ochocinco||Julian Edelman|
|TE||Jason Witten||Brent Celek||Jeremy Shockey||Dallas Clark||Jermichael Finley||Antonio Gates|
|K||Jay Feely||Ryan Longwell||Garrett Hartley||Stephen Gostkowski||Mason Crosby||Nate Kaeding|
|D||New England||New Orleans||Cincinnati||New York Jets||Green Bay||Indianapolis|
My strategy was just to try and get as much value for each pick as possible. Because of the double picks, I would often go a while without picking a single player, so I had to try and anticipate what was coming next -- the dreaded run on tight ends for example.
My strategy in the NFC was that I thought Minnesota and New Orleans would each win their first game, and I just wanted as many productive players as possible playing at least two games each.
Tom: I do kind of like the quarterback/running back hedge, as you may have guessed from my Brees/Thomas pairing.
Mike: He didn't quite load up to the same extent you did, and he still got good value across the board. He was able to do that because most of the other teams were avoiding stacking up on one specific team.
Tom: Probably. I like Dave's team more than I thought I would.
Mike: Witten probably wasn't such a great pick that high.
Tom: Well, in an end of the round slot, he wasn't going to pick again for another 10 slots, and Clark and Gates had just gone. It's aggressive, sure, but certainly not crazy.
I didn't like going second. The only running back I liked in the draft was Peterson. What I do like is Green Bay, especially since the offensive line seems to have somewhat gotten it together.
Tom: Talk about hedging your bets. It is weird that the "entire" first round was running backs and the second round was quarterbacks. I don't like Grant because I think Jackson may get too many carries.
Mike: It's a risk, but less of a risk than the other running backs.
Tom: I think Green Bay will beat Arizona, but I'm skeptical they can do more than that. I just felt like New Orleans was most likely to come out of the NFC, so I went all-in with them.
Mike: That's two games, which isn't bad. It isn't great, but the worst possible scenario is getting only one game out of your guy and the best is either three or four.
Tom: This whole thing feels like a complete crap shoot compared to a normal fantasy draft.
Mike: Very true.
If I'm going in, I'm going in full throttle. C'mon, Indianapolis-New Orleans Super Bowl!
Mike: Speaking of randomness, you definitely maximized it here.
Tom: If it happens, I have a great shot at winning. Since I don't really care about going down in flames, seems fine by me.
Mike: I'd say this is a good strategy, but trying to predict the two teams left standing at the end is like shooting a bullet with a smaller bullet blindfolded whilst riding a pony.
I think that the Colts and Chargers are the two most likely teams to reach (and win) the Super Bowl, and I wanted to be sure that I had either Manning or Rivers at quarterback and either Reggie Wayne or Vincent Jackson at wide receiver. I also had Dallas Clark targeted as the tight end who could really provide elite production, so I was thrilled to be able to take him in the third and still have Jackson available the following round. I also looked to target Thomas Jones and the Jets defense and came away with both. There's very little chance that the Jets will play three games, but I think they have possibly the best chance of any team in the field to play two games, and their defense was so dominant (and could put up major points against what looks to be a feeble Bengals offense) that I thought they were a slightly better play than the Colts defense. I didn't necessarily mean to have so many Cardinals on my team, but in each case I thought Fitzgerald, Wells and Breaston were clearly superior players to anyone else on the board. I think the Cards-Packers game is a toss-up, but if Arizona can manage to play two or even three games, each of those guys has a chance to put up big numbers.
Mike: I like Rivers, but for some reason I'm not feeling the Jets this week. Fitzthulu and Breaston also seems like an odd pairing.
Tom: He needs Arizona to make a deep run.
Mike: I suppose it makes sense with Boldin injured, but Fitz and Breaston aren't complimentary players.
Tom: And we both think they'll lose their first game.
Every year in this thing, one guy ends up with most of his roster coming from one team, and that team makes the Super Bowl and that guy picks up a ton of points. You can't beat that guy with a diversified roster picking up a touchdown here or there, so your only real chance to win is to pick a bunch of guys from one team yourself and hope that team makes the Super Bowl too. So while I didn't start off targeting any particular teams or players, once I got Aaron Rodgers, I was going to grab as many Packers as I could. I missed out on Greg Jennings -- I was surprised he went as high as he did -- but I got their No. 2 wide receiver, their tight end, their defense, and their kicker. If Arizona wins this Sunday, I'm screwed. GO PACK GO!
Mike: At least I'm not the only true believer. If his strategy works, he's golden. If not, I really don't like Maroney. Baltimore's run defense isn't great this year, but it's definitely good enough to bottle up New England.
Tom: Maroney does seem to have somewhat more credibility lately.
Mike: He's going to have to have, for the Pats to have much of a chance at winning the championship.
Tom: I never liked him, so I'll be skeptical of him long after the point I should be, but I don't think that we've reached the point where my skepticism is unwarranted.
I'm going with the idea that either Indianapolis or San Diego is going to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Since I think the NFC is a toss-up, I mostly wanted to go with players who could get four games, but since Boldin is injured, I liked Harvin better than any remaining receivers from seeds 3-6.
Tom: As we've seen, it's not a bad strategy, but I'm not sure how much I like what he did in the NFC. If the NFC really is evenly matched, you shouldn't expect some team to win four games.
Mike: Also, it doesn't seem that he tried to pick teams that would win four games so much as he avoided the NFC. Which I suppose fits his philosophy pretty well. He does have Peyton Manning, though.
Tom: Seems like kind of a milquetoast strategy ... and remember 2006, when Manning was like 2/7 in the AFC playoffs.
Mike: True. I'm of two minds with Edelman. I think he'll pretty much perfectly replace Welker for New England but I'm not sure how much value either of them would have in the playoffs.
Remember to assemble your own "best of what's left" teams in the comments! We'll keep track of them! Or find someone responsible to do so. We promise!
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: While it was tempting to give this award to the Cincinnati Bengals or the Philadelphia Eagles for just not showing up, or to the Auburn Tigers for continually giving Northwestern additional chances in the Outback Bowl, your Scramble writers are instead going beyond the universe of football to the NHL. The Winter Classic, while an interesting stunt, serves in part as a reminder that outdoor hockey is probably best limited to cities like Edmonton where it's well below freezing on January 1, also provided a great example of a player ignoring team goals to get personal revenge. Flyers forward Scott Hartnell has aggrieved Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, so Thomas decided to get his revenge by taking a whack at Hartnell. While Flyers defenseman Danny Svyret had the puck in the offensive zone. Considering Thomas is getting paid to stop shots, one would think that, and not taking a whack at an opposing player, would be his priority. The Bruins did manage to tie the game, and win it in the extra session, but Thomas almost gave the opponent a win, and that makes him an easy KCW winner.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: The Pittsburgh Steelers have made somewhat of a cottage industry of wide receivers throwing passes. Hines Ward has done it. Antwaan Randle El did it in the Super Bowl. Ward and Randle El, though, had something in common: they were college quarterbacks. Santonio Holmes, however, was a wide receiver in college. And in high school. So, we shouldn't be too surprised he threw a pass into double coverage and was intercepted, and nor should Mike Tomlin have been.
COLBERT AWARD: The Outback Bowl may be the early game of the decade, not that that's a particularly stiff challenge thus far. Still, part of the reason for that premature honor is that Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald not only showed confidence in quarterback Mike Kafka and let him keep throwing despite his five interceptions, he showed creativity in producing a game-tying two point conversion in the last minute and then boldness in eschewing a field goal to force a second overtime to go for the win.
"The Final Countdown" still playing? What, you didn't have it on loop? For shame. Note that some Week 17-only players aren't invited to this party. Being that guy is shame enough, don't you think? It would just be mean to pick on them any more.
We'll look at both the worst scorers for this week and the biggest Losers of the second half of the season.
Kicker: This week, we are all witness to greatness. Four extra points is a bad but passable game, right? How about four extra points and and a missed field goal? That's probably loser territory, right there. Just imagine what four extra points, two missed field goals and a missed extra point. It feels like ... -5 points, Kris Brown.
Kicker, Weeks 10-17: Spectacularly bad weeks a Loser League All-Star does not make, however. Kickers rely pretty heavily upon their teams for points. At 3 points a pop, if a team sputters in the red zone, then the kicker can start racking up points. The key appears to be maintaining a level of constant mediocrity, mirroring your team. You couldn't ask for a better model than Josh Scobee.
Wide Receiver: Part of the problem with the end of the season is that teams stop trying and don't play -- wait, is that a touchy subject? Sorry. Robert Meachem did play, but not much, and not very well. He avoided the penalty, but a paltry 12 yards and a fumble aided him to -2 points and Week 17 glory.
Wide Receiver, Weeks 10-17: Sometimes it's not the player's fault. Sometimes a good player (okay, this is the Loser League. A mediocre player) for whatever reason is passed up. Sometimes it's because the team changes offensive strategies. Sometimes it's because the team replaces you with two really good young players and you sit on the Island of Misfit Analogies. You'll fit right in, Bernard Berrian. You'll fit right in.
Running Back: You're a young player on a bad team that has shown hints of respectability. You're playing in a game that is relatively meaningless to your side, but is everything to your opponent. It's a perfect opportunity: If your team wins, they're the plucky spoiler, and players who have a good game are heroes of the fandom. Even if you lose, the "wanted it more" storyline is ready in your holster. The only way this can possibly go wrong is if you play, your team loses, and you do ... pretty much nothing. Michael Bush missed his chance at modern Raiders history by only putting up a paltry 1 point.
Running Back, Weeks 10-17: You know those awful accidents on the highway, that everyone talks about ignoring and how people staring at them hold up traffic and then go and stare at them anyway? They point and they shake their heads and they try to figure out what could possibly have meted out such horrible carnage. Matt Forte may as well have an "LO sraeB" imprint on his forehead at this point.
Quarterback: Eleven passes. Zero yards. One interception. I actually went and checked the line for that, because I didn't believe the computer (I'm sorry, Internet!). Wow. Carson Palmer is a Week 17 wunderkind with -2 points.
Quarterback, Weeks 10-17: Palmer's opposite was trying in Week 17, however. And every week before that, which is the scary part. Mark Sanchez can't play like he's, uh ... been playing, if they want to beat a Cincinnati team that's actually trying.
Congratulations to Free Orange Julius, our second-half Loser League Challenge champion! He'll get a free copy of next year's KUBIAK projections.
Honorable mention goes to Winston Justice Security Systems, which came extremely close to snagging the first-ever Loser League repeat. He'll get both KUBIAK and next year's FOA 2010 as a prize.
Where was the quirkiness, you say? Ha ha! This week's Scramble was only using 3/7 of its power! Scramble will be back next week, and its power will be over 9000!
54 comments, Last at 11 Jan 2010, 8:48pm by Snowglare