Are the best defenses against play action the best against regular passes too? How much impact does play action really have in an NFL game, and does it correlate from year to year?
30 Nov 2011
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: So, how about that Ndamukong Suh guy, eh?
Mike: I'm actually shocked he got a two-game suspension
Tom: Why's that?
Mike: I don't know, the kicking incident, while terrible and definitely worth an ejection and a fine, didn't seem intentional and malicious enough for a severe sanction.
Tom: He has apparently appealed his suspension.
Mike: He will undoubtedly lose.
Tom: Oh, I'm sure.
Mike: I'm shocked, but I'm certainly not outraged and probably not even opposed. And I certainly allowed for this possibility. What I find astounding is the number of people who are actually defending him.
Tom: I wonder if the fact that he did it after his meeting with Goodell earned him a harsher punishment.
Mike: Dollars'll get you doughnuts it did.
Tom: As a general disciplinary question, how much would you take into account that the player was ejected, and the point of the game at which he was ejected? I saw somebody say that he's already missed roughly two quarters for it, so a suspension for two games would really be a two-and-a-half game suspension.
Mike: I wouldn't take that into account at all.
Tom: Me neither. I can sort of see the justification for the idea, but I don't really buy it.
Mike: A suspension is an additional punishment by the league whereas ejection is a sanction by the officiating crew. It's even possible that there could be a suspension for this same activity if the crew happened to not see it, so the two, by necessity, must be dissociated.
Tom: I think part of the argument is that an ejection actually hurts a team more than a suspension. When a player is ejected, their team has to play a player short. When a player is suspended by the league, including for disciplinary reasons, they don't count against the 46-man active roster or the 53-man total roster.
Mike: Well, the ejection is a team sanction. The suspension is a player sanction, to some degree. So yes, it will hurt the team more. Then again, it's the team's job to make sure that its players don't run around stomping people's faces.
Tom: To some degree. And if it's the team's job, then why doesn't the team bear a higher price if Suh is suspended? Yes, in the case of Suh, the Lions do have a high price because the marginal roster player isn't nearly as good as Suh. But not every player suspended will be a star-caliber player. Do you rely on Goodell to adjust his punishment if a marginal player hurts a player on another team in a discipline-worthy way?
Mike: You misunderstand my argument. They are two separate things. The first is meant to punish the team (there's no reason to believe a player is harmed by not playing in a game for which he is still getting paid), whereas the second is meant to punish the player (he will not get paid for those weeks).
Tom: The question I have, though, is why do we absolve the team in one case and not the other? Why shouldn't the Lions have to play with 52 and 45 while Suh is suspended?
Mike: I don't think we do, we just punish them in proportion. The Lions probably aren't culpable enough in the incident to justify hamstringing them for two weeks. But for part of a game, it makes sense.
Tom: I think I actually almost completely agree with you. I think of it, though, as a system of creating incentives for behavior. From that perspective, a player has control over their own actions. Ejecting him is good by both game control and disciplinary reasons, but I wonder if ejections shouldn't carry automatic one-week fines for that game, subject to automatic review by the league office.
Mike: I would probably support a rule to that effect. Personally, I think there should probably be more ejections. There are too many fights, some of them pretty bad, that aren't properly sanctioned. There's just no excuse for that sort of behavior.
Tom: I've had thoughts among the same lines before. Officials seem to hesitate because ejections can be such a severe team punishment. And calling personal fouls doesn't necessarily work, because you normally end up with offsetting penalties.
Mike: They don't offset if you clearly saw who started it, but that rarely happens.
Tom: Exactly. As for Suh as a player, he needs to do a better job of finding the line between playing aggressively and going over the edge. It's a hard line to draw sometimes, but plenty of other players manage to do it.
Tom: Well, Drew Brees helped me accomplish what forgetting to bench Devin McCourty prevented me from: the league's high score for the week. In the league where I have a good team, even. Wes Welker and Johnny Knox also had at least 30 points under our scoring rules. After the last couple weeks, I am now outscoring the team with the league's best record by 25 rather than 20. I even won my game in the other league, thanks to some poor start-sit decisions by my opponent.
Mike: Nothing better than opponent incompetence.
Mike: Oh. Well, that's perfectly justifiable.
Tom: Well, Williams had a really juicy matchup, and it's not a huge shock to see Rice and Forte struggle against good defenses. Sidney Rice and Torrey Smith over Lance Moore, I think, was less justified.
Mike: True. I actually think Forte's value is going to drop precipitously now that the Bears don't have a plausible passing game.
Tom: I think there's a good chance you're right about that, but fortunately I don't have him on any of my fantasy teams.
Mike: On the opposite side of the coin, the past three weeks have been disastrous for me. A good chunk of my players in both leagues are injured.
Tom: Mike, don't you realize you're supposed to be making voodoo dolls of your opponent's team, not your own?
Mike: But my widdle Julio Jones doll is just soooooo cute! Things are so bad that I actually threw my game two weeks ago, because between injuries and byes, I could only field one of the three wide receiver slots. Naturally, this was in a PPR league with a very shallow bench. So it was either cut an A.J. Green or Mike Wallace and watch them get snapped up, or take my chances with one receiver. It almost worked, too. I only lost by five points. Then the next week, of course, I draw the high score in the league and drop another game. I am now in third after commanding first place for basically the entire season. Brees's monster day wasn't enough against my other opponent, either, who has now played me in both of the weeks Tom Brady and Welker lit the world on fire. I've tumbled in the past three weeks from second place to sixth, and that means I'm probably missing the playoffs. Basically a disaster. I should be all right in one league, and if I can get into the playoffs I think I'll be OK in the other, but I have no confidence that I'll be able to do so.
Tom: I've clinched a playoff berth in the one league, and am virtually eliminated in the other. Theoretically, it's possible that I could make it in if I win my last two games, but I would need a lot of unlikely results and for my mediocre team to make up a big total points deficit.
Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom, 3-7) 86 def. That's Great Hustle! (Sean, 8-2) 73
It wouldn't be much of an understatement to say I feel a bit like Herbert Morrison reporting this. Somehow Tom, the second-most sad-sack franchise in this league (Sorry Ben), beat the league's top team. How did he do it? By starting Johnny Knox and his mighty 20 points? No. He did it the old-fashioned way: sucking slightly less than your opponent. Ray Rice was somewhat-predictably unimpressive, but Vincent Jackson's two points against the Broncos is just astoundingly awful. The main culprit for Hustle was the Eagles DST, which failed spectacularly to stop, contain, or even lightly cajole the New England offensive machine.
Equipo del Jefe (Aaron, 5-5) 116 def. Known Chumpsky (Rivers, 5-5) 109
Tebowmania: Catch it! Tim Tebow, while being an absolutely terrible quarterback, served Aaron well enough as an emergency backup to Matt Schaub, but the real star of the Jefes was Sebastian Janikowski, who was perfect on six field goals, a few of which were in the 50-plus range. In the end, the decision between Shonn Greene (eight points) and Roy Helu (21) was probably agonizing, and unfortunately for the Chumpskies, it went the wrong way.
Los Pollos Hermanos (Rob, 5-5) 87 def. Intentional Rounding (Danny, 4-6) 53
Finally, someone has ended Danny's reign of ... whatever that was. In the end, I'm really not sure what Danny could have done, since Jason Witten against Miami was a better prospect than Dustin Keller against Buffalo, A.J. Green was questionable, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a Patriots running back. If Chris Johnson hadn't finally figured out how to put one foot in front of the other (17 points), this would have been even more horrible. Not that Rob's team was much more impressive, but at least he has Aaron Rodgers. And he beat Tom.
Parts Unknown Mufflers (Ben, 2-8) 87 def. Reverse Jinxes (Elias, 6-4) 79
Another close and unimpressive contest. Imagine how angry Rivers is about this week, and multiply it by two to understand your Scramble writer's rage. Tom Brady lit up the boards with 28 points, but the rest of the Jinxes, despite a solid lineup (Rashard Mendenhall, Steven Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Smith and Vernon Davis) absolutely crapped the bed. It's only fitting that on such a terrible day for Jackson, Beanie Wells, of all people, puts up 26 points and gives the Mufflers their second victory. I would say it wasn't all on Wells, but Ben's bench had eight points. Total.
Mike: Gwen Stefani apparently is vying for the position of Queen Weeaboo.
Tom: Point of order, Target: Harajuku is "ha-ra-ju-ku" not "hair-a-ju-ku."
Mike: Yeah, there is no universe where a random American voiceover actress is going to pronounce that correctly.
Tom: That doesn't mean it can't bug me, the same way "kair-e-o-ke" does.
Mike: I should note that this isn't a massive surprise.
Tom: Which, that I'm annoyed by people's mispronunciation of Japanese terms, or that they're not pronounced the same way?
Mike: No, that Stefani is apparently a crazy weeaboo. The last Stefani album I listened to any of was Love Angel Music Baby, and I remember a fair number of pentatonic tracks, at least in whole or in part.
Tom: Ah. We've already exhausted my knowledge of Gwen Stefani's oeuvre, so I can't really support or dispute you.
Mike: This does annoy, me, however.
Tom: What, that Gwen turns into a different, 8-bit person when the other people in the video just have their outfits magically change?
Mike: Stop interrupting my sentence fragment segues! I am referring to the idea that Japan is a magical place full of video game and anime wonder.
Tom: Ah. Yeah, I never saw 8-bit hamburgers flying through the skies of Tokyo when I lived there. Also, Fuji-san is way too close to Tokyo in that opening shot.
Mike: I understand that all foreign cultures are to some degree caricatured in this fashion, like how Americans are all Texans with gigantic hats. But it's so much more insidious when it's fawning in the way that, shall we say, certain unsophisticated Nippophiles are.
Tom: Have you ever been to EPCOT?
Mike: I actually have not been to EPCOT. Or, if I have been, I was probably a three-year-old.
Tom: What do you think about the World Showcase?
Mike: What exactly is that?
Tom: Roughly a dozen countries, including the US, have their own pavilions. As Dave Barry said, it's what the countries would be like if they consisted entirely of restaurants and souvenir shops.
Tom: OK. It's been about fifteen years since I've been, so we'll shelve that topic. Anyway, one of the themes of the real Harajuku is the multiplicity of people and styles. Yet after the opening shot, it's like we're in that Will Smith movie about the zombiepocalypse and the only people around are the stars of our commercial.
Mike: To be fair, they probably spent all their advertising budget for this line on getting Stefani to record the weird chiptune incidental music.
Tom: Oh, that isn't something from her latest album?
Mike: I have no idea. That's a good question. Anyway, I'm probably overly sensitive to this issue.
Tom: Probably, considering I'm not sure what you're talking about.
Mike: I told you to stop that! Anyway, I had to deal with these people when I was at Ohio State, when I was teaching Japanese, and also constantly because I'm a gamer. I've been assaulted by people with unhealthy obsessions with Japanese subculture for the past decade. So many tildes. So many.
Tom: My general experience is that many of the overly enthusiastic haven't actually been there.
Tom: For those of you who go to Tokyo, go ahead and stop by Harajuku on the weekend. It actually does make for an interesting people-watching experience.
Mike: And if I so much as see one "kawaii" in comments, lord help me I will sic Chuck Norris on you all.
KICKER: By now, Scramble should probably have a cut-and-paste for Graham Gano here, and something beyond the normal Ga-NOOOOOOOOOOO. Jason Hanson tried, with a negative score of his own, but Gano's missed extra point put him over the top at -2 despite making two field goals.
WIDE RECEIVER: Mike Thomas, Legedu Naanee, Jason Hill, Andre Roberts, Mike Wallace, Jerome Simpson, and Kevin Walter each had 1 point. And if you watched the Jacksonville-Houston game, you got to see three of them!
RUNNING BACK: Javon Ringer was unproductive and fumbled, for -1, while Jackie Battle was merely unproductive for his 2 points.
QUARTERBACK: Yo gabba Blaine Gabbert! Alex Smith was smart enough to get 12 of his 137 combined yards rushing (125 passing), so he beats out Gabbert's 4 (136 yards passing, one rushing) by a single point.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Is DeSean Jackson single-handedly trying to refute the "contract year" phenomenon? Is he that unhappy with his contract situation, or just that much of a knucklehead?
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: In 2007, it looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars might be on the upswing. They finished third in DVOA, won at Pittsburgh in the postseason, and played New England close. Team management clearly thought they were, and decided to double-down on what they had. First, head coach Jack Del Rio was given a five-year extension at nearly five million dollars a year. Second, quarterback David Garrard was given a six-year, $60 million dollar extension of his own. Third, general manager Shack Harris traded up in the draft to select Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves.
Unfortunately, the 2007 Jaguars weren't quite what their DVOA indicated they were. They were average on defense and special teams, and the offense was keyed by unsustainably good third-down performance and a historically-low interception rate by Garrard. Things returned to a more normal state of affairs in the passing game, the defense regressed badly, and the Jaguars have a combined record of 23-36 since. Less than four years later, Garrard, Harris, Harvey, Groves, and now finally Del Rio are on their way out of town, and the Jaguars are now a case study in what happens when you don't properly evaluate your football team.
Honorable mention to the New York Jets, who gave offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer an extension because ... uh...
COLBERT AWARD: Most football coaches, when they fake a kick, fake it from a relatively close distance, so the play doesn't have to gain many yards to be successful. The NFL, though, has Sean Payton, and who cares if it's 11 yards to go? He sees something that he thinks might work, and he's faking the field goal when he gets the chance. Kudos to Jason Pierre-Paul for tackling Jimmy Graham short of the sticks, letting us remind you that for the Colbert Award, it's the thought that counts, not the result.
Joe: Hi again. Week 13 match-ups: I have to choose between Andre Johnson vs. Atlanta or Miles Austin vs. Arizona. Andre Johnson is always tough to bench, even with T.J. Yates passing to him, and Austin will be returning from injury. However, I do have Tony Romo at QB, so the handcuffing makes it tempting. Thanks.
Mike: I'm not a fan of playing receivers with quarterbacks, maybe because I'm too conservative, but it seems that you're setting yourself up for failure. Before I get shouty comments and emails, this is a very different situation than starting a quarterback and a running back or a running back and a No. 1 receiver.
Tom: I think it ties into our discussion of variance avoidance a couple weeks ago, though not quite in the same way. If only because you don't have the same measure of control a coach does. I've mentioned previously that I dislike overloading my fantasy roster, including splitting up bye weeks as much as I can.
Mike: Yeah. On the other hand, I really can't imagine Yates being effective, so I would go against my own "rule" and play Austin anyway.
Tom: I would too, actually. As I mentioned in Audibles, I like Yates, but "starting in 2011" is a bit much.
Jeff: I know we're still not even in the fantasy playoffs, but I've been thinking about next year's keepers while trying to improve for future seasons at my league's trade deadline (first year we're doing keepers, so everyone's feeling their way). I get to keep two guys and give up the picks they were drafted with this year. Adrian Peterson for a first-rounder is a no-brainer, but I'm not sure who the second should be. I could go Greg Jennings for a second (but does GB have too many weapons?), Steven Jackson for a second (but age, injuries, and team quality are concerns), Hakeem Nicks for a third (same concern as Jennings plus injuries), Tony Romo for a fifth (safest, but not necessarily a great value), or Fred Jackson for an eighth (great value, but all the same concerns as S Jax).
We can keep a max of three years, so value down the line matters some, but I'm mostly inclined to focus just on this coming year. My inclination is to go F Jax, figuring that I can get guys of similar quality to the others in the second and third rounds of the draft, but I'm worried about whether he can repeat this year or if he'll have a big drop-off. What's your take? Thanks.
Tom: Hmm. I admit that I have no personal keeper league experience, but I would go with your inclination to keep AP and Jackson.
Mike: Yeah, if you can set yourself up in a keeper with a RB1 and an RB1.5, you're in good shape
Tom: The one thing I'd monitor the rest of this year is how well C.J. Spiller does as a rusher, and how much they throw him the ball.
Mike: True, Jackson has huge issues, but despite those he's been solid at RB2, and when he's healthy he's an RB1.
Tom: Spiller seemed to be on the Eric Metcalf path on turning into a slot receiver more than an actual running back, but if he does well that may turn into a committee. That said, getting Jackson in the 8th round (effectively like a 10th round pick with two rounds of keepers) would still be a good value even if he's part of a committee.
Mike: As for the other options, they're either, as you said, wide receivers on teams with a lot of weapons, or an extremely inconsistent sub-elite quarterback and someone who plays for the Rams.
Tom: None of your others players to me provides as much added value as Jackson.
Flores: I think DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles, and Wes Welker are safe plays, but for the second RB and flex spot, I have no idea. Not sure Andre Johnson will be great with Yates, or if Julio Jones will be back in form. Still hate Santonio Holmes. Steven Jackson has that awful oline and plays SF, but Mike Tolbert is still backing up Ryan Mathews. For QB, Eli Manning over Ben Roethlisberger again I assume in the shoot out vs GB over Ben vs Cincy? Thanks!
Mike: I agree with Jones, but I'm much less sold on Tolbert. I think I'm going to say Jackson here. Tolbert is still the second man in a platoon that is trapped in the middle of an imploding ball of NORV. I don't want to be anywhere near that situation.
Tom: Eh. I think Jacksonville's defensive injuries will catch up with them, and I see Tolbert getting enough goalline work he'll probably get a score.
Mike: As for the final question, Cincinatti's pass defense is marginally better than Green Bay's, but I agree there's some concern that Pittsburgh's defense will finally get its act together and just lock out the Bengals and/or destroy Andy Dalton. Go with Eli.
It's nearly playoffs time, and unlike some spoil-sports, your Scramble writers would absolutely love to talk about them! Send your questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com or drop by our thread in the message board, which I promise will absolutely exist for reals this week, or Tom is in a world of hurt.
44 comments, Last at 02 Dec 2011, 5:15pm by Intropy