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: This week’s topic is the annual honoring and/or mocking of Loser League team names. Peruse the full list of names on the standings page, if you will.
Mike: This is probably the weakest batch of loser league names yet. Commentariat, I am disappoint.
Tom: It's hard to come up with a good Loser League team name. And when people come up with a good one, like "Chainsaw Massaquoi," it's tempting to reuse it. Mohamed Massaquoi is still in the league, so it's still a good name, but I'm pretty sure it's a repeat.
Mike: To be fair, some are amusing because the namesake is no longer in the league, like "Joe Gibbs Comeback," which is a bit too believable given the quality of Joe Gibbs' unfortunate prior comeback.
Tom: "Ghost of Derek Anderson Past" is old, I think? I don't recognize "That Thing You Legedu" as a repeat, but it might be. There are a couple timely Nevin Shapiro names, but they're boring.
Mike: There are even a few making fun of the Steelers, which is always a smart move. Take, for instance, "The Blocking Dead." (That is about the Steelers offensive line, right?) One of the big questions is whether "Plax Whax Slax" is timely.
Tom: Yes? No? I don't know.
Mike: You need to have some opinion, that's the entire purpose of this piece!
Tom: "Last Manning Standing" might now be timely. "Living with Lefeged" is kind of clever, and Joe Lefeged is a rookie so it’s timely, but it's not outstanding in my eyes.
Mike: There are a lot of those. "Josh McDaniels Drafting Experience," for instance.
Tom: "The Bucs Regress to the Mean Here" is one that I kind of like. It's not super-clever, but seems to fit.
Mike: I think that my choice for this half-year is actually "How is this Better than My Real Team?"
Tom: Honorable mention to the "United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit" squad. It's not that humorous, but it is fitting to think they're in the league.
Mike: Well, the Eighth Circuit does cover Minnesota, so it makes sense.
Tom: Yup. Overall, though, I'm going to say that our absence deprived the first-half Loser League of what would've clearly been the two best Loser League names.
Mike: I usually don't play the Loser League, actually, but feel free to go ahead and flatter yourself.
Tom: Thanks, I will!
Tom: My team that's great because I ignored running backs and concentrated on every other position started Jacquizz Rodgers this week, and still won by 85. The Drew Brees/Wes Welker/LeSean McCoy show still runs on. And I'm now 1-2 when I don't lead the league in points for the week.
Mike: I'm still not sure how I won my first league.
Tom: Can't you just look at the points and add them up and see how that way? (I have a reputation as an extreme literalist to uphold, you know.)
Mike: I'm half-convinced the numbers are lying to me. Julio Jones had a bad game, Darren McFadden had a miserable game, Rob Gronkowski had a mediocre game, and Chicago's defense was pathetic. I managed to get by because my opponent's lineup for this week just wasn't that good, partially because his team isn't all that great, and also because he was ravaged by byes. I'm not sure what more I can do, really. I was only missing Ray Rice. Bad luck, I guess.
Tom: You weren't playing against my other team, were you?
Mike: No, no team is as bad as your Staff League team.
Tom: My opponent put up one of the league's worst scores, but I had the worst thanks to total team underachievement. And no, I'm not talking about my glorious triumph in Staff League this week.
Mike: Glorious. Anyway, I'm still in first place, albeit slightly behind in points. My other team's bye week disaster was, predictably, a disaster. I need to replace PHI DST. That is clearly no longer a good play.
Tom: Watch, they'll put up a 20-spot next week.
Mike: Of course they will. Aside from that, I was relying on Knowshon Moreno and Mario Manningham to beat Aaron Rodgers and Steve Smith, Esquire. I needed random, explosive production. Predictably I didn't get it. I'm still in the running, though, so now that I have half of my team's byes out of the way, things should go better going forward.
Tom: I'm in a big tie for second (first in the division) in one league and in a big tie for first (fourth on points) in the other. I have some bye week fun coming up, but am optimistic in both leagues.
Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom, 2-3) 97 def. Edmonton Eulers (Tanier, 1-4) 85
Tom finally came up with an impressive win! Well, marginally impressive, but he finished near the middle of the league this week and deserves congratulations for reaching such rarified heights. Minnesota archeological find Adrian Peterson's 30 points were the clear difference-maker in this contest, as Tanier's best answer was Drew Brees and his 20 points.
Known Chumpsky (Rivers, 3-2) 112 def. Dyscalculia Plus Ones (Will, 4-1) 70
Will's reign of terror has finally come to an end! Powered by a monster game by Ben Roethlisberger and Victor Cruz's out-of-nowhere 20 points, Rivers not only took advantage of a bad week by the Plus Ones, he absolutely buried them. Readers should note that the week after your Scramble writers suggested that someone start Cruz, he had a huge game. We're just laying that on the table.
Reverse Jinxes (Elias, 4-1) 108 def. Intentional Rounding (Danny, 1-4) 82
If anyone ever wondered why we're not recommending Dustin Keller (see the mailbag, below), it was his whopping zero points against a very vulnerable New England secondary. Dwayne Bowe emerged from his hole, saw his shadow, and had a 24-point game before scurrying back into hiding, giving Elias an impressive win on a week without Miles Austin or Steven Jackson.
Los Pollos Hermanos (Rob, 2-1) 82 def. Parts Unknown Mufflers (Ben, 0-3) 62
Ben continues as the league's sole winless team despite Rob's very beatable effort. In fact, the two teams share a kind of symmetry this week. Team-best totals by the quarterback (Rodgers vs. Philip Rivers), followed by precisely one wide receiver (Roddy White vs. Mike Wallace) and one running back (DeAngelo Williams vs. Beanie Wells). The big difference is that Rob's guys put up more points, plus Neil Rackers, of all players, gave Rob 10. Connor Barth contributed only three points to the Mufflers.
Tom: I know I like Deion Sanders as a football commentator and as a personality much more than you do.
Mike: That's like saying there are things less deadly than being launched into the sun. The mother of all tautologies.
Tom: That said, I did not see the need for him to be in a commercial as though miniaturized by Rick Moranis.
Mike: He clearly was not miniaturized by Rick Moranis, though. Otherwise, this would actually be amusing on some level and wouldn't be using the example of trying to get bizarre flying elves away from your dollar bill as evidence that you "like money."
Tom: I'll also point out that Deion rudely switches the channel away from the one the person was watching to Game Mix, which has eight different games on at once. I'm in my sixth year of subscribing to Sunday Ticket. I've spent maybe four hours, total, watching Game Mix in that time. I'm usually watching my game of choice, or sometimes flipping back-and-forth between two or three games.
Mike: Right, even people who know a lot about football have trouble keeping track of what is going on unless they're paying close attention, and it is impossible to pay attention to eight games at once.
Tom: It's impossible to pay decent attention to eight games at once. You can pretend you're paying attention to a bunch of different games, but it's difficult to say anything meaningful about them. I don't know if other people use Sunday Ticket in the same way I do, but I'd guess most people who have it get it primarily so they can watch their favorite team. I suppose this unrealistic (to me) method of consumption does happen to be the best way of highlighting what is exclusive to DirecTV. Namely, the choice of games.
Mike: That other people get Sunday Ticket to watch their favorite team is what DirecTV assumes, based on it's other advertising. Back to this commercial: why on Earth does Deion have fairy princess wings? OK, I get it, you want a miniature Deion Sanders. Who wouldn't? But there are tons of ways you can have a tiny flying Deion Sanders.
Tom: Breaking and entering? Theft?
Mike: What? I'm saying, why fairy wings?
Tom: I'm assuming he got the dollar bill from that guy's wallet.
Mike: Why not, say, dragon wings, or a jetpack?
Tom: Also, Deion magically gives the guy's TV Sunday Ticket without making any apparent wiring changes.
Mike: Or hover above the ground like a hovercraft, held aloft by his own massive production of hot air?
Tom: I can only assume that what look like Fairy Princess Wings are actually a satellite receiver and a wireless repeater that beams the DirecTV signal to the TV.
Mike: That wouldn't work, though. Deion is not constantly facing Southeast!
Tom: Magical Fairy Princess Wings, then.
Tom: And he actually doesn't change orientation that much in this commercial.
Mike: It's like someone at DirecTV looked at a poster for the Tooth Fairy and said "hey, that is a really great idea!"
Tom: And then they decided to go out and hire Sanders to be the tooth fairy. Why? OK, you're not the person to ask that question to.
Mike: Maybe they offered a special version of Game Mix to Sanders, where Deion can just watch 8 tapes of his own highlights?
Tom: He'd wear the outfit, no problem. They might have had to CGI in the wig. If he had to do it, though, he'd wear the wig. The do-rag protects him from any contamination.
Mike: Good point. What a versatile piece of headgear. In conclusion, what this guy needs isn't DirecTV, its a flyswatter.
Tom: I should point out, though, the do-rag would probably not be NFL-approved, as it's black and the uniform does not contain any black in it.
Mike: NFL: 1, Do-Rags and Suits: 0
KICKER: Olindo Mare made three extra points, but it's the one he missed that pulls him down to -2. I wonder if the Panthers could've found that for less than four years at three million dollars per.
WIDE RECEIVER: Eric Decker managed two receptions for -4 yards for 0 points. That's actually kind of impressive. At a more mundane 1 were Michael Jenkins, Jordy Nelson, Johnny Knox, Andre Caldwell, Harry Douglas, The Mike Williams of Tampa, Titus Young, and Dezmon Briscoe.
RUNNING BACK: Even with Joseph Addai going out with an injury, Donald Brown could not get more than 3 points. Next up were Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones, and James Starks with 5 points.
QUARTERBACK: The Denver Broncos quarterbacks who played Sunday combined for 30 Loser League points. That was 31 for Tim Tebow (16, plus 15 for the penalty) and -1 for Kyle Orton.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Complete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete. Incomplete and intercepted to end the game. That is how Texans wideout Jacoby Jones spent his Sunday after being thrust into the starting lineup by Andre Johnson's secondary. With that kind of result you'd think Nnamdi Asomugha was still in Oakland.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: When he became head coach of the Tennessee Titans, Mike Munchak fulfilled a promise to a prep teammate and gave him a coaching job. Knowing that Chet Parlavecchio had no NFL coaching experience, Munchak gave him the job where he could as little damage as possible: assistant special teams coach, a position the Titans hadn't even bothered to fill in years past. So why then did Andy Reid make offensive line coach Juan Castillo defensive coordinator when he'd never coached defense beyond the high school level?
COLBERT AWARD: Tim Tebow went over 11 seconds without releasing the ball on his end of game Hail Mary attempt. He had that kind of time because the San Diego Chargers gave it to him by only rushing three defenders. That stood in contrast to Gregg Williams and the New Orleans Saints defense, who brought the blitz, rushing five, against Carolina's Hail Mary. Cam Newton was hurried and had to scramble; eventually he was forced to throw the ball before his receivers made it to the end zone.
Tom: So, while we were writing this column and after we talked about fantasy football, I just got an email with a trade proposal. Somebody offered me Matt Ryan and Roddy White for Drew Brees. The league is somewhat biased towards quarterbacks, and biased toward quarterbacks who complete a lot of passes and throw for a lot of yards.
Mike: So, not Matt Ryan.
Tom: The Falcons are surprisingly pass-heavy, as we discussed last week, but it's not like Drew Brees is in an offense known for not throwing. If he really wants Drew Brees, I'm tempted to make a counter-proposal where I throw in Reggie Bush and he gives me Steven Jackson as well. But, really, I don't want Matt Ryan.
Mike: Neither does he! Seeing as he's tossing out both Ryan and Ryan's main target.
Tom: It's not a particularly attractive trade proposal, as the position where I'm particularly weak is running back. I didn't start Quizz Rodgers because I wanted to, I just didn't really have anybody better.
Mike: Go ahead and try your counter-proposal and be happy with maybe Ryan and Jackson for Bush and Brees.
Tom: The league's so heavily biased toward quarterbacks that even if he accepts it, I'm coming out a loser. Many weeks, Brees will outscore Ryan and Jackson combined. Heck, Brees' projected points for the rest of the year is almost the same as Ryan and White's combined.
Mike: There you have it, then. Tell him to get bent.
Tom: That is what I plan to do. Now, the actual mailbag:
Fontes of Wayne: My league starts 2RB/2WR/1 Flex. The first-place team (I'm in second) just offered me Maurice Jones-Drew for Welker. I've also got Dwayne Bowe/Hakeem Nicks/Mike Wallace at WR, and my RBs are Cedric Benson/Daniel Thomas/Pierre Thomas. It definitely improves me, but I have my worries. Do I go for it? Do I try to deal one of the other receivers? Do I make him give me LeSean McCoy instead?
Mike: Try Bowe for MJD. He is coming off a good game against a bad team, so his stock is probably about as high as it'll be for a while.
Tom: Welker is a premium receiver. If he wants a premium receiver, I'd ask for a premium running back in return.
Mike: If he absolutely must have Welker, I agree, try to get McCoy out of him. Welker is just too much of an asset to give away for a second-tier back.
Tom: Yup, especially given that I don't think anybody knows just what is going on with the Jaguars, and their curious refusal to just overwork MJD with a rookie quarterback.
Flores Salicis: So my quest to replace Andre Johnson's fantasy value is not going very well so far. Options for Week 6 (as a Colts fan, Andre Johnson's "day-to-day status" to me means "pray to dear god that so-and-so's appendage does not explode and they don't wind up on IR"): Jabar Gaffney vs. an increasingly suspect Philly D (he may not get many touchdowns, but he sure gets a steady number of catches), Antonio Brown vs. Jacksonville (he was pretty quiet last week, and alas, no return yard points in this league, but JAC is bad against No. 2 WRs...and his QB is better than Grossman. Usually...). Secondly, Aaron Hernandez unfortunately is back, so Gronk gets less attention (despite Hernandez being pretty bad last week, it was frustrating how many more targets he seemed to get!). Also, DAL apparently is pretty good against the pass - is this the week I should start Dustin Keller instead against the Miami "defense?" Lastly, Eli(te) Manning vs. Ben! BUF and JAC are both ranked better against the pass than I thought they would be. JAC is slightly worse, but the game with BUF is much more likely to be a shoot out.
Mike: First, Antonio Brown isn't the No. 2 receiver, he's a No. 3. Gaffney is going to get a lot of targets, and Brown may not get any. Gaffney, as sad as I am to say it, is the way to go. Personally, I think Keller vs. Gronkowski is a toss-up; while Miami's defense is much worse than Dallas', New England's pass offense is miles ahead of the Jets'. Personally, I'd go with Gronk. Finally, I would be worried with Manning against Buffalo because Manning has streaks of inaccuracy and Buffalo has been a ball-hawking secondary so far this year. Jacksonville is a mediocre pass defense and Roethlisberger seems to be discovering his inner pocket passer, so I'd go with Big Ben.
Tom: As an occasionally disgruntled Dustin Keller owner, I'd say to go with Gronkowski. Miami is surprisingly decent against tight ends, or at least it's not their greatest weakness, while Gronkowski is such a big weapon for the Patriots even with Hernandez back. I concur with Mike that Ben Roethlisberger against the Jaguars is the way to go, but not enough I can recommend Antonio Brown wholeheartedly. I'd go with the slightly more reliable production from Gaffney.
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