Five different teams from last year's DVOA top eight rank in the bottom half of the league through four weeks of 2014. What can we learn from other teams with similar starts in the past?
14 Sep 2011
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: Our favorite teams, the Steelers and Titans, both lost last weekend. We considered lamenting about that, but (a) that’s boring and (b) we’ve already written a column like that. We also considered the two standard versions of Week 1 reactions: (x) it’s National Jump to Conclusions Week and the world hasn’t substantially changed from a week ago and (y) Jump to Conclusions, since we now have real evidence and actual data. Instead, have a healthy sense of perspective but note that stuff actually happened. Some of that wasn’t surprising. For example, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady both showed they are still excellent quarterbacks. Some of it was. For example, Luke McCown (The Legend!) completed 13 of 15 passes in his first three quarters of play. There were no earth-shattering revelations, and this doesn’t seem like it will be 1999, where there’s one player like Kurt Warner you need to make a waiver claim on or else somebody else will get him and beat you.
Mike: We could also go the anti-anti-anti-Jump to Conclusions route, but that would require a mass influx of horn-rimmed glasses, an additional demand that would break the back of the already-strained Chicagoland market. Since this is a fantasy column, we're going to keep this week's introduction short and sweet and throw out two observations that should be helpful to a number of our readers' fantasy teams.
Tom: Do the rest of your league a favor and don’t start Steven Jackson next week unless he gets some unexpectedly positive news that says he’s going to play. Oh, and if you Chris Johnson owners want some small sample-size evidence about his play thus far, you can read this and keep your feet on the ground -- think his 2010 level of production, not 2009.
Mike: That's two, Tom, but whatever. My big piece of advice is to be patient with your wide receivers. Aside from the most elite of players, receivers have a lot of variance from week to week, even in a PPR league designed to stabilize the often hit-or-miss yardage totals wideouts earn. If you're confident in a receiver, don't freak out over one week, or maybe even two weeks. It's an explosive position but it's dangerous to start chasing the 150-yard game of the week unless you truly have a roster of all WR1s. That way lies madness.
Perhaps this isn't Jump to Conclusions Week in fantasy, after all, but Second Guess My Roster Week. If you feel the panic rising up in your ... wherever panic comes from ... throw up a comment in the comments section, visit the Scramble Mailbag thread in the forum, or send us an email. We're here to help! And yes, we have plenty of straightjackets at the ready.
Tom: Brandon Lloyd screwed me over. If he had between 3.5 and 13 points, I lost two fantasy games. If he had more than 13 or fewer than 3.5, I won one of those.
Mike: Wait, what? You're going to have to explain the situation. Did you have him in one and were up against him in the other?
Tom: Correct. In the one where I was against him, I was ahead by 3.5. In the one where I had him, I was down by 13.
Mike: To be fair, it sounds like there are other people that screwed you if you were down by 13.
Mike: Eh, I think almost anyone would've gone with Gore over Bush.
Tom: Maybe my team just isn't that good, but whatever. The league where I won was the IDP league, and I had the league's highest score by a goodly margin.
Mike: What was Lloyd's final total?
Tom: 8.9, or eight.
Mike: Ah. So is your IDP success because of your defense, or just because of a better team?
Tom: Mostly my offensive players all had insanely good weeks. Drew Brees put up almost as many points as Brady in this league. Wes Welker, LeSean McCoy, and Bush all had 20 or more points. The only IDP scorer in my top ten was Devin McCourty, and the only one with a sack was Richard Marshall. Are you playing fantasy this year?
Mike: Fairly commanding victories in both of my leagues this week.
Tom: Well done.
Mike: Even Steven Jackson gave me double-digits on the one play he managed to stay in for.
Tom: Yup, he was a great Loser League player to have this week, where by "great" I mean "he put up a ton of points."
Mike: Ray Rice and Brees, of course, had monster games, as did PHI D/ST. The three slots combined for 81 points. My opponent had 75. Total.
Mike: My other league I only had two RB slots so I benched Rice in favor of Darren McFadden and Ahmad Bradshaw which worked fairly well and despite Rice's huge game is a decision I still stand behind.
Tom: Rice had, what, three fantasy points in his previous game against the Steelers?
Mike: Exactly. Amusingly, in the second league, Brees and another defense -- this time Chicago -- once again cleaned up for me.
Tom: Bears D/ST worked wonderfully for me as well, albeit in one of my losing efforts.
Mike: Playing Rice was basically insane but worked out due to complete Steelers implosion. I'll start him over Bradshaw next week. I reached a bit in this league to grab Antonio Gates and that paid off this week, also. Partial PPR. All in all, things are humming along nicely. Except for Jackson. Yes, I put in a waiver claim for Cadillac Williams.
Tom: I'll be curious to see how he fares in St. Louis. I thought the Buccaneers clearly soured on him as a runner, as it seems like the knee injuries really took their toll.
Mike: Maybe. On the other hand, with Colston and Moore out, he'll be getting the defense's full attention.
Tom: At least over most wideouts. If the Rams give Cadillac carries in the red zone, I'd still play him over Meachem.
Mike: He's not really all that good. I'll have to ruminate on the subject.
Mike: I SAID I WILL RUMINATE. END COMMUNICATION.
(Mike retires to the chamber of rumination).
Known Chumpsky (82, Rivers) def. Wagstaff's Ringers (77, Tom)
Tom starts off the new season much like the old season: with the lowest total in his league. Here I thought that his griping about Lloyd was because he was in a pitched battle for a meaningful win, but it seems that he was simply trying to dig out of the "worst team in the league" hole. Unsuccessfully. Better than expected games from Romo and Jennings just weren't enough against the crushing might of Ryan Mathews and, uh, Jimmy Graham. Ouch.
Edmonton Eulers (107, Tanier) def. Intentional Rounding (99, Danny)
This was more like it, a close game with some real points. Not only that, but quite good play by both owners; there were very few points left on the bench, although I'm not sure why Tanier would go with both Marshawn Lynch and Knowshon Moreno over Tim Hightower. Anyway, Tanier pulled through with exceptional totals by Brees, Matt Forte and Bears D/ST, simply overpowering a more balanced Rounding attack. The teams' kickers (Rob Bironas and Adam Vinatieri) combined for one total point.
Dyscalculia Plus Ones (129, Will) def. Reverse Jinxes (94, Elias)
Good news for Elias: Brady had an absurd day. Bad news for Elias: a lot of those points came via Welker, negating most of his advantage. It didn't help that Elias (somehow!) didn't predict Cam Newton Maddening it all over the place, including Steve Smith, Esq, to the tune of 29 points. Then again, even if he ditched Dwayne Bowe's one point for Smith's 29, he still loses on sharp games by NYJ D/ST and Mike Tolbert, of all people.
That's Great Hustle! (105, Sean) def. Equipo del Jefe (95, Aaron)
Oh hey look it's Mr. Rice. The difference between an average day for Rice and this week's total is the difference in this game, as Sean's squad is largely split between huge games (Rice's 26, Matthew Stafford's 22 and Calvin Johnson's 20) and diminutive ones (Vincent Jackson's three and Saints D/ST's four). Somehow Aaron Hernandez, on the bench, outscored Jermichael Finley by 11 points, which I'm pretty sure means seppuku for Miami. Not just the team: the entire city. Aaron had strong games from most of his slots, including a 25 from McCoy, but was crushed by Steelers D/ST's contribution of negative three points.
Due to the way the league was constructed, two teams (Parts Unknown Mufflers and Los Pollos Hermanos) were on bye this week. For some reason, when we dropped from 12 teams to ten, bye weeks show up, and it's too late to fix it now.
Mike: I really would like to see the "behind the scenes" footage of this commercial. I bet they had to aim like nine cameras at that cat to get anything vaguely telegenic at a useful angle or rather, anything they could use in a CG spread.
Tom: I saw this commercial late at night, when I was watching something or another. College basketball, I think. I'm ever-diligent in keeping an eye out for commercials we can use in Scramble, and this jumped straight to the top of the list for this season.
Mike: Actually, now that I look again, it looks like the cat itself is always CG. I think that says everything.
Tom: I've watch the commercial maybe four occasions before tonight, and I just noticed something: the interdimensional portal entrance is on the opposite side of the kitchen as the exit.
Mike: Of all the possible things to notice, you notice that? I don't even know what that's supposed to mean!
Tom: I'm very practical even in these fantastical commercials. Remember the bears and the toilet paper? They had their toilet paper roll in the living room.
Mike: That's a bit more noticeable ... and a lot more weird.
Tom: I was just trying to figure out the geography of the kitchen!
Mike: The kitchen isn't real! It also opens to the front porch! This is one messed-up house, now that I think about it...
Tom: My dad was just in town, and I was reminded that engineers, as a general rule, have a very specific way of looking at the world. While I'm not an engineer myself, the Weltanschauung has rubbed off. We notice things like that.
Mike: I think it's mostly just you. I actually studied engineering and I'm nowhere near as crazy.
Tom: Well, OK, maybe you're right about that. So, what was your favorite part of the commercial? Was it the kitten accepting the kowtow from the turkeys? The wicker fish-head boat? Or that all of the animals are the ones with the kind of meat that (Friskies pretends) goes into cat food?
Mike: I'm not sure I can pierce the constant strain of insanity to even guess at that. Now that I realize the cat is not real, I'm actually extremely disappointed. They have this CG cat they can have do literally anything they want, but the cat never does anything, just kind of prances, at one point it rears, but that's about it. What's the point of magicking up a cat if you're just going to have it do normal, boring cat things?
Tom: On the DVD release of Attack of the Clones, there's this clip of Natalie Portman doing the roll to avoid the stamping machine in the droid factory on Geonosis, and she says something like "I look ridiculous doing this. This better be for something that ends up in the movie." Imagine that sort of reaction coming from a cat.
Mike: I think that says basically all we need to know about Natalie Portman.
Tom: Well, she did look ridiculous without all the CGI that made it clear why she was rolling on the set. Also, the can of cat food opens on its own.
Mike: Actors look ridiculous half the time. That's why there's editing. And no, the cat food does not open on its own. It spontaneously explodes with magical energy to form a gateway to a tiny universe that exists in the food itself. This cat is lucky that he doesn't have a housemate, or he may have been gobbled up while he was playing with the turkeys in food-land.
Tom: Looking at the turkeys, their eyes look weird. I wonder if this commercial is supposed to be set in the same world as Coraline.
Mike: No, because for how crazy it was, Coraline made some sense, whereas this is just completely insane.
Tom: I dunno, I felt like Coraline would have made more sense if I'd read the book before seeing the movie (I have yet to read the book). And this isn't completely insane. The cat is just getting a sort of preview of the animal parts it's about to devour.
Mike: ...the cat has been teleported to a magical realm by using its mind-powers to open a can of food. I'm surprised it isn't wearing a robe and wizard hat.
Tom: The tin exploded with flavor and emitted hallucinogens.
Mike: ...I'm not sure that helps your premise.
Tom: Hallucinogens imbued with the flavors the cat is about to eat. I don't quite have the interdimensional portal explained yet. I'm guessing it's metaphorical or something.
Mike: It was possibly spontaneously generated by how awful the background music is. "The magic Friskies makes happen?" What? "Excite your cat day and night with endless enchantment?"
Tom: I'm sorry, Mike. What kind of music should this commercial have?
Mike: I don't see how you don't go back to your production company and pull out generic Pirates of the Caribbean-alike No. 2783. It's called "Adventureland!" not "Effete Hipster Rock-Land."
Tom: Pirates of the Caribbean? I don't get that.
Mike: TV and radio programs often use music similar to the overture from Pirates of the Caribbean for "action" sequences or for dramatic tension. This cat is going on an Adventure! A high-seas adventure, no less!
Tom: Ahhhh. Well, yes, that's what they should have done then.
Mike: And there, I've explained the joke. Thanks a lot, Tom. It's sad that without the benefit of CG and using really, really old music, this commercial is still infinitely superior.
Mike: Those are actual cats doing things!
Tom: But the Human Beinz' masterpiece is now ridiculously old!
Mike: They made a cat and had it do nothing!
Tom: He went on a magical adventure wonderland. It wasn't that "nothing."
Mike: Pfft, more like went on a monorail ride in a magical adventure wonderland. No, scratch that. Even a monorail is more interesting than this.
Kicker: Ryan Succop and Adam Vinatieri both made an extra point and missed a field goal for -1 point. Too bad, as their teams would've only lost by 31 and 24, respectively, had they been perfect.
Wide Receiver: Jacoby Ford fumbled to open the Raiders' season, then got hurt later in the game to end up with 0 points. Behind him with 1 were Harry Douglas, Earl Bennett, Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Bowe, Percy Harvin, Derrick Mason, Antonio Brown, and Dezmon Briscoe.
Running Back: You might actually have started Jerome Harrison, Shonn Greene, or Rashard Mendenhall. If so, sorry! Each of them put up 2 points this week.
Quarterback: If Donovan McNabb continues his Week 1 yardage pace and Brady retires tomorrow, McNabb would have more yards than Brady by Week 15. Still, with a passing touchdown, he did end up with 6 points.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Would the Cowboys be better off if they just benched Tony Romo at the end of the third quarter? That's going to extremes, but they might have been better off against the Jets if they had.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Always Compete is Pete Carroll's mantra. I suppose that's a good way to think about punting in the fourth quarter when your team is down two scores.
COLBERT AWARD: Your Scramble writer was quite tempted to give this to Peyton Manning for his decision to undergo a riskier surgery that involved a much more arduous recovery process than your Scramble writer would have opted for. Your other Scramble writer suggested, though, a more reasonable choice: Sean Payton's boldness on the goal line. That's closer to the ideal than most NFL coaches, but his play calls are not helping the case for more coaches doing the same.
Carlos: MJD for Vick? Standard scoring, 10-team league. I'm relatively stacked at RB: Rashard Mendenhall, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeGarrette Blount, plus 3 solid but not great RBs (James Starks, Ryan Mathews, Tim Hightower). Weak at receiver. QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. There was a big run on receivers in my draft this year, so I kept grabbing the good RBs that fell to me figuring I could pull a trade eventually for a better WR.
Meanwhile, I was offered Michael Vick plus choice of James Harrison/ Michael Bush plus a choice of worthless RBs for MJD, Starks, and Eli. I would do MJD for Vick straight up at this point given how strong my other RBs are. MJD plus Starks feels steep given my gut feeling that Starks ends up being pretty valuable this year. Yet, I've got plenty of RB options so trading up from Starks to help land Vick gets those points from my bench to starting lineup. Pull the trigger? Thanks!
Mike: the problem with this is that it's way too early to tell if Vick is going to be extremely effective. Vick, if you recall from the past, is a master of putting together impressive seasons and then crapping the bed the next year.
Tom: I'm assuming you're only starting one QB, but if you make this trade you're going to have two guys who are very likely starter-caliber even in a 10-team league. Even if Vick declines, I think he'll still be an above-average fantasy quarterback.
Mike: True, and having two solid quarterbacks is pretty nice.
Tom: In a regular week, that means you'll have to choose between starting him and Roethlisberger.
Mike: Honestly, though, I'd say work on receiver. He already has two valuable quarterbacks so long as he plays match-ups well.
Tom: The question here, I think, is: is it easier to trade Vick/Roethlisberger or MJD for a receiver?
Mike: MJD, and value for a RB-WR trade is pretty well known. Those sorts of deals are much more common. He could probably get a mid-range WR1 plus a mid-high WR2 for MJD.
Tom: One exception might be if you have a quarterback-needy team in your league who has good wideouts. Say, somebody who had Peyton Manning and didn't get a good second option and now desperately needs a quarterback.
Mike: True. That is sometimes a problem giving advice like this, we don't know the layout of the league. I would just assume that anyone who picked Manning has a Plan B since we saw this potential problem a long ways away.
Tom: Yes, but now it's gone from "you need a half-decent option for a week or two" to "you're screwed for eight weeks at a minimum."
arnoldca79: Do I Drop Manning For Another QB? I already have Vick, strong RBs but a very weak WR core. So given Manning's uncertainty (got him in the sixth round, so wasn't a total waste), do I drop him and go for Chad Henne, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Rex Grossman? This knowing Vick will likely get knocked out at least a few games and risk Manning coming back after week 9 and going to a rival?
Or do I hang tight and hope Vick holds up until we know more about Payton's status/recovery/IR? The risk there is the semi-decent free agent qb's will be gone by then (12 team league where td's are 10 points). Since I am short on WR's, I need to keep as many as I can to see who pans out, and I am already thin at RB because of Steven Jackson's injury. This means I really only have Manning's spot to drop for another QB. Any help would be much appreciated!
Mike: You're going to be able to grab Henne, Fitzpatrick or Grossman whenever Vick is injured. Don't look for problems.
Tom: Unless teams are absolutely scavenging quarterbacks, yes.
Mike: If he goes down, then make the decision between Manning's roster spot and your second quarterbacks. But why panic now? There's some chance that Vick isn't injured and when Manning comes back you have two extremely valuable QBs and can trade one off for your playoffs push.
Tom: I'd hold on to Peyton, but I wouldn't be afraid to drop him. I just wouldn't drop him until you actually want the roster spot for something.
Send your fantasy questions to the Scramble team via the interwebs at scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com or drop us a line in the forum. You could try sending snail mail, but the post office is going to have trouble delivering to "Useless Losers, Somewhere Near Chicago, IL."
42 comments, Last at 18 Sep 2011, 8:32am by Mike Kurtz