Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
16 Nov 2011
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: So, Mike, back at the beginning of the year, we did these Over/Unders. And by now we happen to know, or at least be really sure, that we were wrong on some of them. Take, for instance, the Indianapolis Colts. When we made our predictions, Peyton Manning's status was uncertain, and I thought he'd miss no more than a couple games this season. So I said Over. Oops.
Mike: You should write to the Colts about this. Ask for some sympathy, I'm sure they'll be broken up.
Tom: I would, but the Colts tend to be unsympathetic to Internet writers in general.
Mike: Poor us.
Tom: Well, poor Nate, really. Another team we can call is the Cincinnati Bengals, who had an O/U of only 5.5 and already have six wins. Again, yay you, boo me.
Mike: It is pretty funny how big a difference Manning not playing is. So, overall, how did we do?
Tom: Well, it's tough to call so far. San Diego at 4-5 will be hard-pressed to go over 10 like we both called them to do. Even with the Bills collapsing, they're still only a win short of the 5.5 over we both predicted. Just for the record, since we didn't mention it in the previews, I went 21-11 last year and you went 16-16. I should mention we both were wrong on the Eagles over 10.5. I was wrong on San Francisco under 7.5, but you were right. Go you. My Green Bay under 11.5 does not look good right now. Unsurprisingly, or maybe it's just my biases, quarterback play seems to be the determining factor in what teams I've gotten wrong.
Mike: Both ways, or just the play of exceptional quarterbacks?
Mike: I see.
Tom: Aside from that, though, I'm not really sure if there are any patterns to come up with out of what I got wrong or right.
Mike: I probably misjudged the Steelers, but don't I do that every year?
Tom: I thought you just normally invoked the Inverse Hype Success Theorem.
Mike: That is generally my goal. Really, though, my picks seem to be more gut feelings on the teams. I was dismissive of Anquan Boldin's random effectiveness, so I went under with the Ravens.
Tom: The Ravens aren't as schizoid as the Eagles, but they're random enough in their own right.
Mike: Indeed. I see you went over on the Browns.
Tom: That isn't decided yet. They could still make a run.
Mike: This is true. The more likely scenario, though, is that they get pummeled by the Ravens and Steelers for a while and the team just gives up.
Tom: Ah, what would a world where we couldn't make fun of the Browns be like, and would anybody really want to live there?
Tom: Good news! In the one league I care about, I crushed the team I had previously been tied for the division lead with. And put up the league's highest score for the fourth time. That makes six times in ten weeks that my game has included the league's highest score for that week. Drew Brees put up his normal fine score, and Ed Dickson (whom I unfortunately dropped in Staff League before Sunday's action), Brian Urlacher, and Charles Tillman also had good games. My opponent, on the other hand, had to put up with Jay Cutler having what must have been one of the worst fantasy games of the modern era for a team that put up 37 points.
Mike: Pretty miserable week for my teams. In one league, I had to deal with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Bush, of all people. Even Rob Gronkowski's big game couldn't save me after Jeremy Maclin and Julio Jones went down with injuries. And, of course, my opponent in the other league had Gronkowski, which would have been fine if Green Bay's special teams hadn't picked this Monday to wake up.
Tom: Oh, fun.
Mike: So while I'm still in first in one league, I'm stuck on the bubble in the second, since basically half of the league is at 5-5. Very disappointing.
Tom: I suppose I should mention that in my other league I lost by 26 points. Fitzgerald was my only player who had more than 11 points. I played Delone Carter (1.4 points) over Ben Tate (12.3 points). Oh, and I played Chiefs DST (one point) over Bears (36). The reason I played Carter was I forgot to put Ryan Mathews in, but he only had 5 points so that didn't cost me much.
Los Pollos Hermanos (Rob, 3-5) 80 def. Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom, 2-6) 69
Tom's baaaack! And as bad as ever, it seems. While Frank Gore's injury is hardly within the Ringers' control, it would have been nice to garner more than zero points, I'm sure. Special mention to Marcedes Lewis, who also laid an egg, and the Chiefs DST, which continues to be the Chiefs DST. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers (28) and DeMarco Murray (22) combined for over 60 percent of Rob's points, so that speaks volumes about the rest of his team.
That's Great Hustle! (Sean, 7-1) 70 def. Dyscalculia Plus Ones (Will, 7-2) 65
A close, if embarrassing, contest, was spearheaded by Sean's odd decision to start New Orleans DST over Philadelphia DST. As it was, all Will needed was for the Jets' much-vaunted defense to merely be average. He received ... -2 points. Other weirdness: Both teams were driven largely by their kickers, as the Hustle! received its second-highest total (17) from John Kasay, and Rob Bironas (13) tied for the Plus Ones' top honors.
Edmonton Eulers (Tanier, 4-4) 133 def. Equipo del Jefe (Aaron, 3-5) 105
Aaron had one of those weeks, the weeks that all fantasy players know and dread: the week where you outscore everyone except your opponent. It was a strong effort, spearheaded by Maurice Jones-Drew (19 points) and Michael Bush (29), but the Eulers just had way too much firepower this week; five of Mike's nine spots put up over 20 points. Even with Stevie Johnson's miserable performance, it was more than enough.
Known Chumpsky (Rivers, 5-3) 82 def. Parts Unknown Mufflers (Ben, 1-7) 51
Back to the bottom of the pile for Ben. After briefly getting his head above water, Larry Fitzgerald and Rivers dunk him right back down again. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the problems were this week, but I'll go with "Everyone who wasn't David Akers or Philip Rivers."
Mike: Now, the field of auto insurance marketing is probably the biggest marketing cesspool of them all. It has gotten better recently, to be sure, spearheaded largely by the efforts of GEICO (I know, I know) to move away from the old model of "shouting about how great rates are" toward more high-concept marketing.
Tom: One of the things you have to understand about this commercial is that Illinois recently enacted a law that requires all drivers to have auto insurance.
Mike: That said, we still have to deal with Flo and friends.
Tom: Thus you had a lot of people who hadn't normally bought auto insurance who were now required to do so. Of course, to fill the demand for auto insurance, you also had relatively new insurance companies.
Mike: True, although I don't think that has too much bearing on the content of this ad. As The General has shown us, it doesn't matter how established you are or how sophisticated your audience is. Auto insurance marketing is just awful.
Tom: Are you seriously doubting a fake animated military officer?
Mike: Doesn't he have like six stars on his shoulders? What would that even be? Mega-General?
Tom: That's just to signify he's super-important.
Mike: I guess so! Of course, even when you go for high-concept, you still have bombs like Allstate's "mayhem" commercials, which I personally do not mind but many, many people despise.
Tom: I admit to not being a fan of them.
Mike: It may be a 30 Rock thing.
Tom: But at least most of them are much more realistic than State Farm's latest commercial that claims there are people in Green Bay that don't recognize Aaron Rodgers.
Mike: Mayhem just makes sense when it's played by Dennis Duffy.
Tom: If Rodgers went into a local State Farm office in Green Bay that he'd never been in before, he'd be the center of attention.
Mike: To be fair, I'm sure there are some people in Green Bay who don't recognize Rodgers.
Tom: Even someone as oblivious as I would tend to notice the other people in the office noting his presence.
Mike: Perhaps, although the staff knew who he was, as did the crazy cheesehead at the end. I actually quite like that commercial, because Rodgers' belt pose is really dumb.
Tom: I concur. Then again, it may appeal more to fans of professional wrestling. And though being a fan of professional wrestling was a Scramble writer tradition, we seem to have broken that one. Anyway, this commercial is also a good example of something that plagues many local commercials: the not-that-attractive attractive woman.
Mike: You're on your own with this one, Tom.
Tom: Perhaps that's not a direction we should really go down.
Mike: Probably not. It does feature awesome 90s hair, though.
Tom: But my observation is that some commercials call for attractive women to make their product more attractive. National commercials tend to be better at that sort of thing, though of course Your Mileage May Vary. It's just part of a wider trend toward greater professionalism we noted most prominently in our discussion of the Red House. And I don't know about the hair. Even when I first saw the commercial, I thought the hair looked kind of dated. Then again, I'm not exactly the person to consult on the latest fashion.
Mike: Well, early 90s had a lot of 80s left in it so it makes sense.
Tom: Also, I'm not quite up on my avian biology, but can male eagles lay eggs? Or is that one of the inconvenient questions I'm better off not asking? That's bothered me ever since the commercial first aired, and I see it's one of YouTube's favorite questions as well.
Mike: Maybe he was just carrying the egg? There's no way he lays it there since it immediately hatches. I'm also trying to figure out what they were thinking with regards to Eagleman's voice.
Tom: Actually, the same thing I'm sure they were thinking with the people in the car: Who can take off work for a couple hours to film a commercial?
Mike: Good point. So, Tom, when do you want to go film the FO commercial?
KICKER: Ryan Longwell can at least curse his teammates, because he made that field goal Monday night from 47 yards before missing from 52. Jay Feely, however, came by his -1 honestly, missing a chipshot field goal.
WIDE RECEIVER: You may have started Julio Jones, Stevie Johnson, or Jeremy Maclin on your real fantasy team. Your Scramble writers certainly did with Jones and Johnson, so they already knew they put up 0 points.
RUNNING BACK: Didn't BenJarvus Green-Ellis go over 100 yards in the first Patriots-Jets game this year? Well, he didn't go over 10 in the second meeting, and that gave him the lowest running back total for this week, with 0 points. Just behind him with 1 point each were Ryan Grant and Mark Ingram. Remind us why the Saints traded up to get Ingram this year again, would you?
QUARTERBACK: Suck for Luck? Curtis Painter's 0 points put him on that bandwagon. Just imagine the sort of career Painter could have after this year if he never has to play. He could be in the league another ten years!
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Shorter Any Given Sunday: the Ravens employed David Reed, and the Seahawks were the beneficiary of his mistakes.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: With the right set of numbers, you can argue that Mike Smith was right to go for it in overtime. But why was he only aggressive at that time instead of, say, earlier in the game on fourth-and-1 in his own end, or in his general decision-making? We mentioned in this space a couple weeks ago Pete Carroll’s complete lack of a coherent strategy with regard to risk-taking, and Smith is a member of the same fraternity of scattershot approaches to the decisions. Question in honor of Daniel Kahneman: Would Smith still have gone for it if the Falcons hadn’t initially been awarded a first down, only to have it properly taken away on replay?
COLBERT AWARD: Jim Harbaugh’s random onside kick call in the second quarter of Sunday’s game gave the 49ers a key extra possession in what was a competitive game from start to finish. And the way Mario Manningham came up after pulling in that fourth-down pass made your Scramble writer think that it'd be worth a low-risk challenge, even though that one didn’t pan out.
John: I've been playing rotating tight ends, but picked up Heath Miller and have had some success with him lately. The Steelers are finally on their bye week, though, so it's time to hit the waiver wire. Top names on the wire, by most points this year, are Fred Davis, Ed Dickson, Ben Watson, Brent Celek, and Jared Cook. Which one should I play this week, and is any of them good enough I should just play him over Miller going forward?
Tom: My key to tight end questions for non-elite tight ends is always the DVOA by type of receiver page.
Mike: Normally I'd say Celek, but I don't trust the Eagles farther than I can throw them. That is the whole team, not any individual.
Tom: I think it's fair to say the Eagles as a team are fairly schizoid.
Tom: Davis has a pretty good matchup against the Cowboys, who are allowing a good number of yards and catches to opposing tight ends. Are you willing to trust the Redskins passing game, though?
Mike: Cook would be my second choice, but Atlanta is somehow really good against tight ends? That doesn't even make sense.
Tom: It's weird. Teams are throwing the ball to the tight end a lot against Atlanta, though. They have a great DVOA against them, but opposing tight ends are being thrown the ball 10.2 times per game and nobody else is above 9.0. With all due respect to linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, I also don't think much of Atlanta's safeties, so even though Cook's production can be wildly variable, I think he might be worth a start this week. I'd play Cook, I think, and go back to Miller after this week.
Mike: I just don't trust Cook. I actually think Dickson will be a good start this week, because Cincy, absent top corner Leon Hall, will completely sell out to stop Anquan Boldin. But it's really a toss-up.
Scramble will take a hiatus for Thanksgiving next week, but Tom and Mike will still answer your questions! Send them in to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com or leave a note on the forum.
29 comments, Last at 17 Nov 2011, 4:45pm by Shattenjager