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» Scramble for the Ball: The DVOA Schism

Mike and Tom try to figure out what kind of secret sauce Arizona is feeding the media to sit at the top of the power rankings and in the middle of our DVOA rankings.

15 Dec 2010

Scramble for the Ball: QBs, Continued

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Quarterbacks Revisited

Tom: Mike's dealing with some family obligations this week (and I'd appreciate it if you keep him and his family in your thoughts), so we're changing things up a little bit this week. He's still around for most of the normal Scramble insanity you know and love (or loathe), but you're not getting a commercial interlude. And rather than our normal opening banter, here is a little essay by yours truly.

At the start of last week's column, I wrote something about the effect of the salary cap on the level of competitiveness, and particularly year-to-year competitiveness, and then the importance of having a good quarterback in the salary cap era. I wrote that mostly as a framing device, and because that's how I started thinking about the issue we wrote about last week, the best quarterback of the past 20 years not to lead his team to the Super Bowl. Year-to-year competitiveness was a separate issue, and one we intentionally did not discuss. Now, I'd like to think about that a little bit.

Over at Pro-Football-Reference, Doug Drinen wrote a series about parity, whether within season, in terms of teams near .500 (Pete Rozelle's dream, as I like to think of it) or in terms of close games, and also in terms of consistency of winning from year-to-year. That last gets at what I'm most interested in, teams being consistently good across a multi-year period.

My working hypothesis there is that this factor is now more closely related to consistently good quarterback play than any other aspect of team-building. Teasing out exactly where to draw this line, and the influence of teammates on a quarterback is difficult, because we have very few things that are close to natural experiments. We mentioned it in the discussion of Trent Green last week, but it's likely that other good quarterbacks would have been successful behind that excellent offensive line, handing the ball off to Priest Holmes and then Larry Johnson, and throwing the ball to Tony Gonzalez and the cast of wideouts. Unfortunately, Green was the only quarterback those Chiefs had with that collection of offensive talent, so we can't say with a great deal of confidence how another quarterback would have done.

Fortunately, we have had a couple natural experiments of late. The most notable ones are New England Patriots from 2007 to 2008, going from Tom Brady to Matt Cassel after a Week 1 injury, and this year's Arizona Cardinals, going from Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart Derek Anderson Max Hall John Skelton. These examples do tend to support my hypothesis, as the Cardinals' Offensive DVOA is currently down 39.9% from where it was in 2009, and the Patriots' Offensive DVOA fell 28.7% from 2007 to 2008 with mostly the same starting cast around Cassel.

Another interesting data point goes back to last week's column, and that's success at the highest level. In the salary cap era, only three franchises have made it to the Super Bowl with different starting quarterbacks: the Patriots with Drew Bledsoe and then Tom Brady; the Steelers with first Neil O'Donnell and then Ben Roethlisberger; and the Giants with Kerry Collins and then Eli Manning. The Patriots made it in 1996 and then in in 2001, and in between had turned over 19 of their 22 starters, with only Willie McGinest, Ted Johnson, and Lawyer Milloy starting most of the games both times (Adam Vinatieri doesn't count). The Steelers went 10 years between Super Bowls, from 1995 to 2005, and in between turned over their entire starting lineup and their entire roster save Willie Williams. Between 2000 and 2007, the Giants turned over 20 of 22 starters, with Amani Toomer and Michael Strahan the only holdovers on the roster. I contend therefore that the change in quarterback was also associated with a general change in era for a team, and that a team did not make a Super Bowl with a different quarterback without changing the era.

The contrast is to the late years of the pre-Cap era, when you saw two separate franchises win the Super Bowl with different quarterbacks. The Giants make another appearance, winning the Super Bowl in 1986 with Phil Simms and in 1990 with Jeff Hostetler, with eight starters and 22 roster players in common. Similarly, the 1987 and 1991 Washington Redskins had eight starters and 18 roster players in common despite a change from Doug Williams to Mark Rypien at quarterback, a change no doubt mitigated by starting Art Monk, Ricky Sanders, and Gary Clark at wideout in both Super Bowls.

Mind you, I don't mean to understate the influence in the pre-Cap era of having a good quarterback. The San Francisco 49ers awkwardly straddle the pre- and post-cap eras with their 1989 and 1994 championship teams, but Joe Montana was clearly of great value to their four Super Bowl champions of the 1980s, the same way Tom Brady was to the Patriots four Super Bowl appearances in the 2000s. My contention is instead that consistent quarterback play is by far the most important factor currently in consistent team success, and that is truer now than it was 10 and especially 20 and 30 years ago. That is primarily true because the cap era has made it harder to keep a particularly talented team together for an extended run. There is also that other factor about the apparently increasing returns to passing success, but that is a topic for another day.

Fantasy Football Update

Tom: I had my crucial No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in the last week of the regular season. Or, as I thought of it, a giant "Who cares?" fest because we were both playoff locks and seeding in the top four isn't very important. My team apparently had the same attitude I did toward the game, as I put up the league's worst score. Ahmad Bradshaw had 17 points, and Reggie Wayne had 10. Nobody else had more than seven. I wasn't helped by leaving Ryan Torain on the bench because his status as of Thursday seemed a little uncertain, and starting Johnny Knox over Santana Moss didn't work out very well.

Mike: Torain would've won the game for me. Heck, pretty much anyone on my bench would've won the game for me. Tom was right, and I was wrong: Denver was a mess. But I still only lost by six points. So David Garrard. Or Matt Ryan. Or Torain. Anyone, really.

Tom: Even I didn't think Denver would be nearly as much of as mess as it actually was.

Mike: Yeah, even a old-fashioned bad game (five or six points) from Kyle Orton would've been enough, and that doesn't cover the second goose egg in a row by Bowe. Really, none of the players I started performed well. Rashard Mendenhall had a bad game, and Greg Jennings for obvious reasons did, also. And I was still within six. Extremely disappointing, but that does it for my season.

Tom: Cruel, cruel fate, you are the mistress of fantasy football doom.

Mike: Indeed.

Tom: I'm headed to the fantasy postseason with what ends up being the No. 3 seed. That's a pretty fair assessment of where my team ended up -- not as good as I thought it was earlier, but not too bad. It should be a good competitive game this week, with my team coming in as a slight underdog.

Mike: You're playing the top seed?

Tom: I have the No. 3 seed, playing the No. 2 seed. The other game is No. 1 vs. No. 4 (the fourth seed is probably the best team).

Mike: Nur, right.

Tom: I just hope it doesn't come down to the final play of Monday night's Bears-Vikings game, as last year's glorious fantasy football championship did.

Mike: Haha. It can't get better than that.

Tom: Yeah, that was about as good as it gets, especially the ability to be genuinely happy about the Bears game and enjoy the talk at work. This year, if Adrian Peterson has 300 yards and five touchdowns to lead my team to victory, I'll have to keep my mouth shut.

Mike: Haha.

Tom: Anyway, I'll be sure to regale you next week with tales of postseason success or failure. Assuming Peterson doesn't go for 300 yards and five touchdowns, and I get torn limb from limb by local Bears fans for bragging about my fantasy triumph.

Mike: It probably won't come to that, but good luck. The Bears fans are definitely going to have residual Patriots anger. (I know all about that condition. It lingers.)

Tom: I remember 59-0 well. So don't complain to me too much about 36-7. Got that?

FO Staff League Update

Staff League starts its playoffs this week. Remain in Matt Light (Bill) and That's Great Hustle (Sean) were the top two seeds and had a bye, so we'll start with the winners bracket:

No. 4 Equipo Del Jefe (Aaron) 86 def. No. 5 Consensus Picks (Elias) 53

Aaron comes away with the victory thanks to a complete team effort featuring five players in double digits, topped by Steelers DST's 19 points, to offset leaving Matt Schaub's 25 points on the bench. Elias got almost all of his points from Matt Ryan, Knowshon Moreno, and Marques Colston.

No. 3 Scramble Forever (Ian & Al) 114 def. No. 6 Better Call Saul (Rob) 86

Ian and Al started Aaron Rodgers' one point over Michael Vick's 21 and still put up the league's best score of the week, thanks in large part to Darren McFadden's 38. Rob had four players put up 20+ points, but two of them, Tim Hightower and Deion Branch were left on his bench.

Now, the consolation ladder:

No. 11 Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom) 67 def. No. 12 Team CBORG (Skynet) 60

ESPN's projections failed CBORG this time, as the bench had 63 points to the suggested roster's 60. Swapping Brandon Jacobs in for either Marshawn Lynch or Chris Ivory would have let CBORG to the victory. Tom, meanwhile, was led by Dolphins DST's 21 points.

No. 10 Phanatic Codebreakers (Tanier) 57 def. No. 10 Malice Aforethought (Will) 48

Mike sneaks out a win in the league's lowest-scoring matchup, no thanks to Kyle Orton's -2 or Titans DST's -3. Will was yet another person who left Ryan Torain on his bench and had it cost him a victory.

No. 7 Team Verhei (Vince) 67 def. No. 8 Triple Asian Flu (Doug) 52

Vince had four players in double digits. Unfortunately, three of them were his quarterbacks. Fortunately, the other was DeSean Jackson and his 27 points. That was enough to beat Doug, whose high scorer was Ben Roethlisberger and his 12 points.

Here are next week's matchups:

Winner's Bracket:

  • No. 1 Remain in Matt Light (Bill) vs. No. 4 Equipo Del Jefe (Aaron)

  • No. 2 That's Great Hustle (Sean) vs. No. 3 Scramble Forever (Ian & Al)

Winner's Consolation Ladder:

  • No. 5 Consensus Picks (Elias) vs. No. 6 Better Call Saul (Rob)

Consolation Ladder:

  • No. 8 Triple Asian Flu (Doug) vs. No. 11 Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom)
  • No. 7 Team Verhei (Vince) vs. No. 9 Phanatic Codebreakers (Tanier)
  • No. 10 Malice Aforethought (Will) vs. No. 12 Team CBORG (Skynet)

Loser League Update

KICKERS: Ryan Succop becomes the latest kicker to learn the joys of getting shut out and ending up with 0 points. Boasting the same total is Graham Gano, whose name appears elsewhere in this column and did make the only extra point he got credit for attempting.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Donald Driver, Steve Smith Esquire, Brian Robiskie, Devin Hester, Jason Avant, Danny Amendola, Antwan Randle El, and Kenny Britt each had 1 point this week, in what I'll just assume is the biggest tie for the lowest score in a single week in Loser League history.

RUNNING BACKS: Adrian Peterson is your low scorer with 2 points. If you had him and an elimination game this week, you have my condolences. Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown, Shonn Greene, Ricky Williams, C.J. Spiller and Jahvid Best each had 3 points, and if you started any of them, you got what you deserved.

QUARTERBACKS: Kyle Orton and Aaron Rodgers may have helped carry your team at points this season. Well, they put up 0 and 2 points, respectively, this week, below even Jimmy Clausen.

Awards!

KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Graham Ga-NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, with an assist/honorable mention to Hunter Smith and the rest of the Redskins field-goal unit. You're last in the league by a sizable margin for a reason.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: It's rare that an experienced coach makes two decisions in one week that qualify him for this award, but Jeff Fisher pulled it off this week. Tom defended him, somewhat, in Audibles, but Jeff Fisher should not have punted on fourth-and-1 with 4:14 to play, even from his own 34 with three timeouts remaining in a one-score game, and further should not have had his offense exhaust all of the remaining time to get a single touchdown in a two-score game. Rather, Fisher should have kicked a 42-yard field goal with 55 seconds left and gone for the onside. If you picked the Titans to cover, be grateful for his error.

COLBERT AWARD: Did Tom Cable really tell his defense to sit down and let Maurice Jones-Drew score a touchdown right after the two-minute warning to take the lead to give his team more time on offense to score? If he admitted to it, your Scramble writer didn't see it, but it did look like the Raiders defense wasn't trying very hard on the play. Seeing as the strong safety was on the line and the corners were lined up in press coverage with the lone safety playing a middle zone, we're inclined to think the play was thrown. If so, we applaud Cable for enacting "let them score."

Scramble Mailbag

DGL: Standard scoring, second week of a two-week first round playoff matchup, and assuming Aaron Rodgers doesn't play, I need to decide one of these four to sit: Mendenhall vs. the Jets, Matt Forte vs. the Vikings, Marques Colston vs. the Ravens, or Jennings vs. Matt Flynn. (If Rodgers does play, then Jennings starts and the question reduces to one of the other three to sit.)

Mike: Er, I think he's asking which of those three, really, since if Rodgers doesn't play Jennings is out.

Tom: Well, as tempting as it is to think of Jennings going up against Matt Flynn, the Packers are playing the Patriots.

Mike: See, I think the Packers can put up a good fight. Unlike the Bears, their defense is well-suited for New England. And also unlike the Bears, they may actually game-plan for the Patriots, but if we spent time talking about every coaching staff that is more competent than Chicago's, this would be an even longer column that it normally is.

Tom: And yes, if Rodgers is out, start the other three. Matt Flynn will probably be blitzed and/or confused into oblivion.

Mike: I don't like Mendenhall, if you absolutely must play Jennings.

Tom: As Aaron mentioned in this week's DVOA column, the Jets have been very strong in run defense both with and without Revis.

Mike: Yes, and the Steelers offensive line is both mediocre and injured. That is exactly what you do not want going up against an elite defense.

Tom: I concur with this. If Flynn starts, sit Jennings. If Rodgers plays, start Jennings and sit Mendenhall.

jay: I'm coming off a bye week into playoffs and I have basically two positions in doubt with three people to fill them: Vincent Jackson, Sidney Rice and Jason Witten. I'm pretty solid on Jackson, but Witten or Rice seems to be a toss-up. You either have Witten going against the Redskins, who are good against the TE and it's a divisional game, or a Vikings team with a problem at QB up against the Bears which will be played who knows where. As an aside, should I go with Matt Ryan or Jon Kitna this week?

Tom: The news today is that the Monday night Vikings-Bears game will be played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium.

Mike: Matt Ryan. Like I should have last week. The other news is that no matter who is playing quarterback for Minnesota, they are going to get absolutely killed, so I say Witten.

Tom: Both Kitna and Ryan have attractive matchups in the Redskins and Seahawks pass defenses. My worry would be that Atlanta will look to run and have success running, limiting Ryan's chances. Meanwhile, going back to this week's DVOA column, Dallas has had a lot of success passing of late. I'd actually lean Kitna over Ryan.

Mike: I just don't trust the Cowboys offense and the miracle resurgence with the same players plus Jon Freaking Kitna. Not buying it.

Tom: That's a perfectly reasonable position to take. You're probably right that the Vikings are going to get killed. All three quarterbacks are hurt right now, and they're reportedly look to add somebody off the street. The Redskins are decent defending against tight ends, but there's just too high a chance Rice puts up zero.

Mike: Yeah.

nick_thunderdome: OK, guys, I won my first round game at the last possible second (Andre Johnson's TD put me up by less than a point). Thanks for the help. Mike Tolbert was worth much more than Stevie Johnson. The only big miss was Hines Ward, who was my No. 2 scorer but was on the bench; no one could have called that. This week I've got a few open questions:

QB: Ben Roethlisberger vs. NYJ, Orton vs. OAK or Kerry Collins vs HOU off the waiver wire. Scoring is six pts for a TD and a four-point bonus for 300-plus yds.

TE: Kevin Boss vs. PHI, Aaron Hernandez vs. GB, or
waiver claim on Owen Daniels (might not get him) vs. TEN, or waiver claim on Kellen Winslow (will almost certainly get him) vs. DET. .5 PPR and a four-point bonus for 100-plus yards.

DEF: KC vs. STL, or waiver -ire choices: Carolina, Arizona and Dallas. Scoring is points for yards allowed, points for points allowed and points for DTD, INT, sacks, fumbles recovered. A defense that holds down the yards and points does better than one that causes turnovers but gives up points.

Thanks in advance guys! Hope to be asking your advice again for the finals.

Mike: I'm actually interested to hear what you have to say about Collins. Normally I'd say play whoever is against Houston, but I have no idea of Collins is an actual quarterback anymore.

Tom: Well, he ranked highly in Quick Reads this week. I think that's a little misleading, as a lot of his value came in what was effectively garbage time. He had trouble completing passes and throwing the ball downfield until the Colts started playing soft coverage and giving up underneath stuff when up two scores with less than three minutes left. He's not an effective thrower of the deep ball, and the Titans have had trouble linking together enough intermediate plays to move the ball down the field.

Mike: I'd probably take Roethlisberger then.

Tom: He's probably an adequate start, but I wouldn't expect a lot of points.

Mike: Denver is a disaster, and Collins sounds shaky.

Tom: I'd start Roethlisberger as well (and will be starting him in the playoffs). The Jets don't have a great pass rush, and they're good but not lockdown like they were last year. As to tight end, this isn't a question. Grab Winslow, and start him, and be grateful he wasn't claimed.

Mike: Good Lord, yes.

Tom: If you can't get him, I'd start Boss, simply because you know he'll get opportunities. Hernandez may lose out in the Patriots Wheel of Underneath Receivers and Dreessen still starts for the Texans.

Mike: Right, the other two are hit and miss.

Tom: In terms of defense, I once again must reference this week's DVOA column. Dallas's defense is still mostly ineffective.

Mike: Stupid DVOA column is doing our job.

Tom: Hey, I'm not complaining. Carolina's defense has actually been sort of adequate this year. And don't put too much stock in last week's Arizona game. Denver was discombobulated and didn't seem to try very hard in the fourth quarter; the Cardinals offense is still terrible. I'll probably be starting Kansas City myself, but the Panthers are a very viable start and probably better than KC this week.

Mike: Kansas City is good enough to be dangerous, but too inconsistent. I'd go with the Panthers.

Send all your fantasy playoff questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com! Guaranteed to be free of Broncos!

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 15 Dec 2010

26 comments, Last at 17 Dec 2010, 9:33am by Kevin from Philly

Comments

1
by Eddo :: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 6:14pm

"See, I think the Packers can put up a good fight. Unlike the Bears, their defense is well-suited for New England. And also unlike the Bears, they may actually game-plan for the Patriots, but if we spent time talking about every coaching staff that is more competent than Chicago's, this would be an even longer column that it normally is"

I'm curious as to why you think the Packers' defense is better-suited for the Patriots' offense than the Bears' is. If anything, I think the way to beat New England is to play a straight-up defense, hope to get to Brady with your front four, and tackle well to limit yardage after the catch underneath.

Prior to this past weekend (and maybe still, given that the snow severely hurt the Bears' defense), I would have said the Bears and Giants were best-equipped to perform those tasks. I would guess the Packers are better-suited than most, though they do rely a bit more out "outsmarting" opposing QBs, if you will, and generating pressure with blitzes.

As for the Bears' coaching staff, up until this year, I would have agreed with you. And, speaking of the game against New England only, I do agree with you. But overall, this has been the most well-prepared team I've seen Lovie Smith coach in Chicago. (More importantly, it's also been the best staff at making mid-game adjustments.)

4
by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 6:47pm

I used to think the Bears are well suited, but the Bears had their greatest success when they blitzed. Did some a-gap stuff. The Packers also rush 3 a lot, or rush 4 in s 2-4-5 set. They vary things up more. The key really is to tackle well, and make them kick field goals.

2
by DaveP :: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 6:34pm

Standard league, no PPR

Start 2WR, 2RB, 1WR/RB

RB: Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Fred Jackson, Danny Woodhead
WR: Miles Austin, Jeremy Maclin, Reggie Wayne, Danny Woodhead

Yes, Woodhead can count as a WR or a RB (it's Yahoo, what can I say?)

Last week I started the 4 RBs and Wayne, but Miami's good against the run and Was is poor against the pass, so I'm leaning Rice,Forte,Woodhead,Wayne and Austin.

Thoughts?

Dave

17
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 3:01pm

I agree with you and would start Austin. The one I wonder about is Woodhead, since the Packers normally have a pretty run defense and are good at defending passes to RBs and bad at passes to TEs.

26
by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 9:33am

A pretty run defense? Did they borrow Polomalu's shampoo?

3
by nick_thunderdome (not verified) :: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 6:43pm

Update:

Jason Campbell is also available.

Big Ben vs NYJ or Campbell vs DEN.

(Yeah, I really don't like the idea of going with Ben: I need a pretty decent game from my QB b/c I'm facing the league's top scoring team and he's got good match ups).

5
by Jere :: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 7:16pm

I disagree with our fine columnists and would say to definitely play Collins v HOU. Mario Williams is now on IR so no pass rush or pass D and you will reap the benefits (as will Britt on my team!)

12
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 10:50am

If you don't want to start Big Ben, then I'd go with Collins over your other options.

6
by Jerry :: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 7:26pm

Tom,

Do you consider the Ravens a consistently good team? Yeah, they'd have been better with a good QB (like every other team), but they've certainly been solid for the last decade.

9
by paddypat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 10:14pm

This is a fascinating counter example that surprisingly didn't come to mind. Baltimore had some of its best years without very good quarterback play. They ranked 3rd in 2000 with Dilfer and Banks at the helm, then 2nd in 2006 under the stewardship of the veteran McNair. Then the were 3rd in 2008 in Flacco's rookie year when he was near the top of the bottom third of the league in QB DVOA. Since then they've been aided by improved quarterback play, but I don't think Flacco's performance can really compare to a Brady or Rivers or even a Trent Green yet. Don't peg me for a hater, but I wouldn't call him a standout or "great" player at his position... yet, albeit a good and very competent one. The Ravens have been a little boom and bust year-to-year compared to a franchise like Indianapolis, but they've certainly been very strong over many years in the past decade during a time in which they have had an awful lot of roster turnover. Since they haven't had a great quarterback, and haven't even had coaching continuity, I wonder if that makes them a sort of scintillating counter-example, suggesting that the Baltimore front-office is arguably the best in the league. (That would assume, of course, that we buy the notion that Peyton and Brady, etc. really do "carry" their teams, instead of simply supporting what are otherwise strong casts. As a further argument in support of this notion, I do think it's important to remember that by the end of 2008, Cassel was putting up some pretty remarkable production, suggesting that if the Pats HAD actually moved on with Cassel, their production might not have seen a really substantial long-term drop-off.)

10
by Theo :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 5:43am

the ravens also have assembled a nice receiving corpse lately with mason, boldin and housh. Their rookie tight end isn't half bad either.
It's surprising they aren't doing better if you consider what they have on the defensive side of the ball.
Maybe a cornerback or 2 wouldn't hurt. Come to think of it... what is the weakness on the ravens?

11
by dcaslin :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 10:08am

CB was supposed to be their weakness after injuries in the off-season, but I'd argue that it's actually now one of their strengths. Chris Carr has been quietly great, Josh Wilson is doing an excellent job, and Lardarius Webb is competent. Their biggest defensive issue is a lack of a decent pass rush, which is taking those good CB's and making them work very hard. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are also getting older, so we're starting to lack a truly great defensive player other than Suggs (who doesn't have enough help to be a game changer against decent offensive lines).

On offense, Jared Gaither's IR status killed us. Oher is a great RT and at best a decent LT. Marshall Yanda was a great guard is a pretty good RT. Chris Chester (his replacement while he plays RT) is at best OK. Matt Birk is getting old at center (but still decent). Finish that shuffle and you end up making a bunch of great OL players average and the overall line play is significantly worse w/o Gaither (even in 2009 he got hurt and we got killed until he got back). Moving Yanda really hurt our running game, and our passing game is susceptible to safety blitzes. As an FO article pointed out, the Ravens offense is basically a few good bombs and a lot of stifled drives.

This further pressures our aging defense by making them play too many snaps. Part of why we keep blowing 4th quarter leads is our D (esp the line) is just exhausted. If you saw Jarrett Johnson chugging after Schaub on Monday, you'd know what I mean (he looked like he'd just finished a marathon w/ a gunshot wound)...

15
by 0tarin :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 12:55pm

As dcaslin points out above, I think most Ravens fans would point to the OL as the single greatest weakness at this point. Flacco has quietly been having a relatively good season despite the fact that he's been sacked more times this year already than he had in any single season in the past. Allowing 5.5 sacks against the almighty Texans' defense was partially a result of a decision to shuffle the OL around before the game (moving Chris Chester to a tight end, Yanda back to guard, and Oniel Cousins into RT, as I recall), which they simply couldn't handle. Each player is pretty good once they get a rhythm going, but can't handle shifting about. I think the safety blitz weakness is more due to Flacco being unable to adjust the blocking at the line, rather than the line itself.

I concur with dc's points regarding the corners as well, but thought it was worth adding that the safeties are simply not as good as they once were. Obviously, Ed Reed is aging and while he's still terrific, he needs the benefit of a good rush and a solid SS alongside him. Landry is not (and as far as I've seen, has never been), a solid SS. Between that and losing Kindle (who was supposed to be Suggs' counterpoint) for the year and the behemoth Cody underachieving, the rush simply isn't sufficient to allow the DBs to do what they would like.

7
by Rudolf Lightcap (not verified) :: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 7:40pm

Standard league + PPR

I have a juggernaut with some issues for the playoffs.

QB: Rodgers (concussion), Cassell (appendectomy), or pick up Fitzpatrick?
RB: Of these six, which three to start - Hillis, Bradshaw, Jacobs, Moreno, Jamaal Charles, Green-Ellis
DEF: Min (snow bowl possibly against Chicago), or pick up Dallas, Oakland, Carolina?

Thanks!

18
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 3:06pm

QB: I'd start Rodgers if he plays, else Cassel if he plays, else Fitzpatrick.
RB: I'd start Bradshaw, Hillis (matchup), and Charles. Moreno is also viable, though I'm leery of all Denver players right now.
DEF: Panthers have a good matchup this week.

8
by Theo :: Wed, 12/15/2010 - 9:02pm

Since DVOA didn't cover this.
Maybe this is a good place to cover the 7-9 NFC West (worst) play off odds!!!
Damn they suck.

And who's that girl in the yellow. She's hot.

13
by funkdoc (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 12:06pm

Seeing as it looks like Cassel might come back, I really only have one decision to make, for my last WR spot out of 3: Jennings, Kenny Britt, or Vincent Jackson?

This is a PPR league with ridiculously huge (incorrectly programmed, most likely) bonuses for long TDs. Darren McFadden was worth 83 points last week, to give you an idea.

I'm still tempted to go with Jennings based on the matchup, but then Britt is playing against Houston without Mario Williams soooooooooo

14
by funkdoc (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 12:27pm

As I think about it more, I'm leaning toward starting Jackson tonight, since Floyd is about the only other WR left on that team and my opponent has Rivers.

Reggie Wayne is the one guy who's in the lineup for sure, and I think Bowe has to be an automatic start as well if Cassel comes back. If he doesn't, I don't think Britt will be that bad of a consolation prize this week...

16
by Red Hedgehog :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 1:50pm

Did you guys miss Johnny Knox? His two catches for 16 yards and a fumble should give him a loser league score of -1, no?

And if people are willing to give fantasy advice,
League 1 (No PPR):
2 RBs of Foster, McFadden, Charles, Blount
2 WRs of Jennings, Nicks, Britt, Mike Williams (TB)

League 2 (PPR, QBs penalized -1 for sacks, -3 for INT):
QB of McNabb or Collins
2 RBs of Hillis, Blount, Wells, Donald Brown, Javarris James
1 WR of Mike Williams (TB) or Kenny Britt

23
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 5:15pm

Knox should have had 0 this week, as he had 2 catches for 20 yards with a fumble. The gamebook (and anybody else) is wrong giving him 2-16, as he had one catch for 19 and a second catch officially credited for 1 yard which resulted in a fumble recovered 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage and returned for a touchdown.

Quick takes:
RB: Foster, McFadden, Blount, Charles
WR: Jennings (if Rodgers plays), Nicks, Mike Williams, Britt, Jennings (if Flynn plays)

QB: Lean Collins
RB: Blount, Hillis, Wells, James, Brown
WR: Mike Williams. Britt could have a great day, and he's better than any other Titans wideout, but he still only went 4-39+fumble last week.

EDIT re Knox: He should have had 0. The NFL for whatever reason officially gives him 2-16, shortening his 1 yard reception to -3 because of the location of the fumble recovery, but he gets credit for 20 yards in LL.

20
by funkdoc (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 3:36pm

For league 1, McFadden is the easiest pick at RB since Denver is beyond horrible. I think the second one depends on how good you feel about the matchup - I'd go with Foster as the safe pick if your team is the favorite to win, and Charles for upside if you're the underdog. For the WRs, Nicks is the obvious #1 to me, and yet again I'd say Williams is the safer one and Britt the bigger upside guy.

For league 2, I really think Collins is a top 10 QB play this week. No Mario Williams probably moves Houston back down to dead last in defense from here on out. See above for the WRs. Hillis is the easiest one for RB of course, and I'd say it's a tossup between Blount and James (James has the better matchup but a less certain role).

21
by Viich (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 3:40pm

League 1 - McFadden & Charles, Nicks & Williams

League 2 - Collins, Hillis, Blount, & Williams

Now do me!

RB I'm set with Steven Jackson & McFadden, other options are Pierre Thomas, Danny Woodhead & Brian Westbrook.
WR 3 of Roddy White, Santonio Holmes, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Danny Woodhead & Mike Williams (TB)
(I've been king of stashing suspended WRs this year. )
DEF I'm set to go with Cleveland for some strange reason.

19
by Kurt :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 3:22pm

It's close, but I think the 30 yard line is too far out to allow MJD to score. I think they had a better chance of JAX missing a mid-40's FG than they did of driving for a tying touchdown in the last 1:30 or whatever.

If they had instructions to let MJD go IF he got through the line and was headed for a good gain; that I can get on board with.

22
by Viich (not verified) :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 4:46pm

When I was watching the game, I felt that the defence was sold out to either stop the run for no gain or let him score. I think they rightly felt that a first down lost the game, and it was either 3 downs to the FG try, or let em score and try to beat em with the offence.

24
by BJR :: Thu, 12/16/2010 - 9:07pm

Here's one for ya: I own Mike Wallace and Hines Ward in a standard league. Who's the better (or less bad) play against the Jets this weekend?

25
by Theo :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 7:50am

Wallace is better this year for fantasy owners.
.
I have to choose between Wallace (vs Jets) and Davone Bess (vs Bills).