Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
06 Jan 2011
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Everyone's favorite Football Outsiders Staff Playoffs Fantasy League has returned! The scoring rules are the same as every year:
Teams are comprised of one QB, two RBs, three WRs, one TE, one K and one DEF. There are no substitutions, so if a player is injured or his team is eliminated, then he ceases to produce points for his team. The teams, in drafting order are as follows:
This is a serpentine draft, as is the fashion of the day, with a two-pick round eight.
1.Mike: Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
2. Tom: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
3. Dave: Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons
4. Sean: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
5. Tim: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
6. Ben: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
7. Ben: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, New England Patriots
8. Tim: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
9. Sean: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
10. Dave: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
11. Tom: Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
12. Mike: Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints
13. Mike: LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
14. Tom: Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
15. Dave: Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers
16. Sean: Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
17. Tim: Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
18. Ben: Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
19. Ben: Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts
20. Tim: DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
21. Sean: Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets
22. Dave: Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
23. Tom: Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints
24. Mike: Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
25. Mike: Johnny Knox, WR, Chicago Bears
26. Tom: Deion Branch, WR, New England Patriots
27. Dave: Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis Colts
28. Sean: Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
29. Tim: Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints
30. Ben: LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, New York Jets
31. Ben: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
32. Tim: Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
33. Sean: Braylon Edwards, WR, New York Jets
34. Dave: Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
35. Tom: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
36. Mike: Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
37. Mike: Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons
38. Tom: Brandon Tate, WR, New England Patriots
39. Dave: Jacob Tamme, TE, Indianapolis Colts
40. Sean: Baltimore Ravens Defense
41. Tim: Pittsburgh Steelers Defense
42. Ben: Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
43. Ben: New Orleans Saints Defense
44. Ben: Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans Saints
45. Tim: David Akers, K, Philadelphia Eagles
46. Tim: Blair White, WR, Indianapolis Colts
47. Sean: Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets
48. Sean: Mason Crobsy, K, Green Bay Packers
49. Dave: Adam Vinatieri, K, Indianapolis Colts
50. Dave: Atlanta Falcons Defense
51. Tom: Shayne Graham, K, New England Patriots
52. Tom: New England Patriots Defense
53. Mike: Chicago Bears Defense
54. Mike: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
As a recap, here are the rosters:
|FO Playoff Fantasy Rosters|
|QB||Matt Ryan||Tom Brady||Ben Roethlisberger||Aaron Rodgers||Peyton Manning||Drew Brees|
|RB||Ray Rice||Matt Forte||Michael Turner||Jamaal Charles||Rashard Mendenhall||BenJarvus Green-Ellis|
|RB||LeSean McCoy||Pierre Thomas||Joseph Addai||Shonn Greene||Reggie Bush||Ladainian Tomlinson|
|WR||Marques Colston||Roddy White||Greg Jennings||Reggie Wayne||Mike Wallace||Dwayne Bowe|
|WR||Anquan Boldin||Deion Branch||Wes Welker||Santonio Holmes||DeSean Jackson||Pierre Garcon|
|WR||Johnny Knox||Brandon Tate||Hines Ward||Braylon Edwards||Blair White||Jeremy Maclin|
|TE||Heath Miller||Rob Gronkowski||Jacob Tamme||Dustin Keller||Brent Celek||Tony Gonzalez|
|K||Matt Bryant||Shayne Graham||Adam Vinatieri||Mason Crosby||David Akers||Garrett Hartley|
Going into the draft, I really wanted one of the big three quarterbacks and a running back I thought would play in multiple games. I ended up with Brees and the law firm (should that be capitalized?), which accomplished both goals in my first two picks. From there I wanted receivers who could score touchdowns. I figure in such a small sample size, touchdowns will be king. Also, by picking Dwayne Bowe, I've had him in every one of my five fantasy drafts these past two years. I don't like my LT pick because I think he's only playing one game, and he hasn't looked good lately, but running back was thin. Obviously, my last two picks mean I think the Saints are going deep. And finally, I picked Gonzalez because I need a scapegoat if I don't win. A Kal guy always makes a good scapegoat.
Mike: I'm really iffy on his RBs.
Tom: Well, he did draft sixth. We can talk about this more when we get to my team, but I'm skeptical of all RBs this year. That said, I think really little of Tomlinson as RB2. He's had a down second half of the year, and the Jets are way too likely to lose in the first round.
Mike: Yeah. I think Bowe is another risky pick.
Tom: Strongly agreed.
Mike: Bowe is a great player and a fantasy stud, but KC's chances of making it past the wild-card round are probably pretty slim.
Tom: I'm not sold he's great, but that's not particularly here nor there. The Chiefs, I think, are even more likely than the Jets to lose in the first round. His quarterback is also Matt Cassel. Matt Cassel has had a fine year, but you'll see Matt Cassel's name elsewhere in this column in a place you don't want to see it.
I found this draft incredibly difficult. In the past when I've participated in these leagues, I've made the mistake of being seduced by the teams playing on wild card weekend and the possibility of their playing four games. I wanted to avoid that this year, which is why I took Mendenhall in the first round and went heavy on Steelers. I don't think Pittsburgh will be one-and-done. Unfortunately, I can't say that so confidently about the Falcons or the Bears, and I was always a step behind the Patriots bandwagon, so I wound up with a smorgasbord of good fantasy players on teams that I think have a chance to keep winning. Peyton Manning led me down the primrose path, though: If they beat the Jets, the Colts will play the Steelers, and I lose either way. I'd have been better off with Matt Ryan, or waiting until the end to take a QB and taking someone like Forte or even Roddy White there. (Basically I'd like Tom's draft. Maybe the official scorer will get our names mixed up like it's an Audibles column.)
Mike: Tim must've read the final 2010 DVOA column!
Tom: I was a little surprised Wallace was one of the first wideouts somebody took.
Mike: I probably should've gone with him, honestly. I have regrets about my first WR choice, but we'll get to that. I'm worried about Bush. I like New Orleans's chances, but Bush just seems like dead weight.
Tom: Well, with Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas going on Injured Reserve this week, the Saints have to give the ball to somebody on handoffs.
Mike: I suppose that is true
Tom: I do like Tim's team.
Mike: Bush has never demonstrated that he could put up big numbers outside of his battery, though. That said, I also like Tim's team.
Tom: The one question I have is: Which teams does he want to win? I guess the Steelers and the Colts are his best bets.
Mike: Clearly. The Eagles, also, with Jackson, Celek, and Akers.
Tom: Yes. The Eagles and Packers both scared me too much to draft any of them. If I went there, I'd go all-in on one team and hope for the best, like Sean did last year. And hope you pick the winner, unlike Sean.
Mike: If only it were that simple.
Tom: Well, going all-in on Saints and Colts was my winning strategy last year.
Go, sixth-seeds! This feels like a weird playoff year in that there just aren't that many skill position players who I really felt comfortable with. The only position where I felt like there would be depth was at quarterback, where I would have been happy with any from the group of Brees, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, or Manning once Brady was off the board. I took Charles because he was clearly the best running back on the board, and while I don't like the matchups all that much, he was the player with the most home run potential. Greene has been establishing himself as the head of the Jets rotation as of late, and he ripped up Indy last year. I know it looks like my Jets fandom got me later on, but in each case, I thought Holmes, Edwards and Keller represented the players who had the best shot of having standout performances, particularly against a slate of iffy Indianapolis/New England defenses. My team will go belly up if the Colts win, but as I said, I felt like the potential out of the Jets skill position players was simply higher than for the equivalent guys from Chicago or Baltimore or Altanta or what have you.
Mike: I guess it would be too inconsistent to complain about Greene after also complaining about Tomlinson.
Tom: I don't think so. They'll split carries, which decreases both guys' value.
Mike: True. I think the rest of his team is pretty solid, although for reasons stated above, I'm skeptical of Charles. Then again, the chance for a homerun is better than most, and one huge losing game might just get enough value.
Tom: Well, half his team is guaranteed to be gone after a game. Charles OR Ravens defense. Wayne OR the Jets quartet of Holmes/Edwards/Keller.
Tom: I feel like his Jets fandom got him in his later picks.
Mike: It happens to the best of us.
I have a huge grudge from last year, when I finished in a very distant second to Tom. Actually, not really -- I only vaguely remembered playing. But I went with a similar strategy as I did last time. Essentially, I looked for players who I believed I could get two productive games out of, so I focused on teams like the Colts, Falcons, and Steelers.
Mike: Dave's team is going to lose a lot of points due to the bye, I think. Over half his team won't see action the opening week.
Tom: Like your team last year, I think Dave has a very good, well-balanced team that virtually guarantees he will finish third or fourth.
Tom: I mean, I'd like his team in a real fantasy league, where we go head to head every week, but not in this format.
Mike: The problem really is that, on one hand you have to guess which teams are going to win, which leans heavily toward the teams with byes (who are ostensibly better). On the other hand, a team that gets to the championship game in two games instead of one will have players with larger cumulative totals. There's no sure-fire way to do it.
Mike: Brady was a great pickup.
Tom: Aside from the Patriots, I had no confidence in any team other than the Saints to win a game. So, after you took Ray Rice with the first pick, I didn't love any of the other running backs. One of the keys last year was to get one of the high-scoring quarterbacks. If you didn't have one of them, you didn't have a chance. I'm not a Patriots fan, but Brady was by far my favorite QB in the draft.
Mike: He's coming off an historic season.
Tom: Last year's draft went all RB in the first round and all QB in the second, and I didn't want the fifth pick at QB.
Mike: The other great QB in the league is on a struggling team that's kind of in disarray. Brady is clearly a great play. By that token, I really didn't want to start off with a QB, even Brady, especially since Brady has a bye.
Tom: I was hoping for Green-Ellis at RB, but Ben took him. I was also hoping for Welker, but Dave grabbed him one pick before me. Also, curse you, Sean Payton, curse you.
Mike: I'd be happy not to be tempted by Green-Ellis. The likely matchup for New England in the divisional round is Baltimore. That is not promising for the running game.
Tom: Oh, I'm reasonably happy with Forte. I am NOT happy with Pierre Thomas going on IR, but such is life.
Tom: If I weren't pseudo-commissioner, I'd ask for a roster exemption at the end of the draft for players placed on IR before the first round of games. But, really, it's no different than those fantasy drafts in early August and taking a player like Sidney Rice only to get unlucky.
Mike: As regular readers of this column (all five of them) know, our main platform is that fantasy is a fickle and capricious beast.
Mike: At quarterback, I debated Michael Vick versus vs. Ryan.
Tom: Not Sanchize!
Mike: ... No. I ended up choosing Ryan because I'm too worried that Vick will fade, even though the Falcons' most likely second-round opponent will be Green Bay.
Tom: Either way I'd like to congratulate you for waiting until pick 54 to take your quarterback.
Mike: I figured I might as well.
Tom: Oh, absolutely. The second round last year was all quarterbacks. The guy who drafted first and 12th last year cost himself a better wideout or second running back by taking the last quarterback.
Mike: Of course, I may have blown it.
Tom: How so?
Mike: There's a good chance that Colston won't be ready for the wild-card game.
Tom: We're all so confident in the Seahawks' chances you Best of the Rest commenters can have your pick of whatever Seattleites you want.
Mike: That's kind of sad, really.
Tom: Sort of like the Seahawks themselves! ba-dum-cha
Mike: Yes. That.
Tom: Like they say about the lottery, "You can't win if you don't play." And, unfortunately, the Seahawks may have been better off playing Mega Millions.
Tom: Not that anybody should ever play Mega Millions as a logical move.
Mike: I actually was talking with my wife about this year's playoff fantasy challenge, and our thought was that the commenters have it stacked against them since there are clearly excellent teams and clearly bad (by playoff standards) teams, so they're left building a team of Seahawks, for instance.
Tom: Our most successful Best of the Rest teams last year were made mostly of Jets players, as I recall.
Tom: This year, the Seahawks are the only similar alternative.
Mike: I don't remember being nearly so down on Seattle as I was on the Jets last year, however. I could be wrong.
Tom: Even the worse teams we don't think will win, like the Chiefs or the Jets, have had their standout fantasy choices taken.
Mike: We'll have to wait and see!
Tom: And so we shall.
Remember to assemble your own "best of what's left" teams in the comments! We'll keep track of them! Or find someone responsible to do so. We promise!
Mike: Look how creepy the second guy's eyes are. He's all wide-eyed and barely blinks. He takes the inherent creepiness of the situation and takes it all the way to 11. And he kind of leers.
Tom: Have you ever noticed that on IMDb, This Is Spinal Tap's rating is out of 11?
Mike: I have not, but that is awesome. Although it is somewhat muted by the fact that it only has an 8/11.
Tom: Yeah, well, it's iconic but not that good.
Mike: Hey, now, Spinal Tap was brilliant.
Tom: Moving along, though, the eyes weren't really what struck me. The basic thing: The "main guy" has both the chicken sandwiches in both his hands. If I had helping hands, they'd be helping me by holding at least one of the chicken sandwiches.
Mike: I dunno, I can't imagine a guy standing behind you would be able to effectively deliver sandwich-based nutrition to your mouth, at least not without making a huge mess. Dancing seems a bit more plausible.
Tom: Yes, but this guy isn't even eating his chicken sandwiches. He's just holding them in his hands. And the other thing is, I don't know what your fast food experience is like, but mine has been that it tends to taste much better warm. Unless Burger King has really changed their decor, the guy is not in a BK and has probably not just stepped out of one. His chicken sandwich is getting cool and less desirable. Why do you buy extras, just to carry them around?
Mike: Because it's buy one get one free! What, you think he would forego something he didn't need despite the OBVIOUS SALE?
Tom: So you buy two, and you eat two. You don't buy them for posterity.
Mike: He could be assuming that she does not know they are on sale, and is therefore using the sandwiches as a way to show off his largesse.
Tom: It's fast food. It's not like it's hugely expensive.
Mike: Yes but ... TWO. He has money to throw around on extraneous sandwiches!
Tom: If I wanted to show off, I'd use tins of caviar or something like that.
Mike: Phfft, that would make him snooty.
Tom: No, snooty would be Grey Poupon.
Mike: Well, then creepy guy would be his driver, and the logistics would be way off.
Tom: And this commercial embraces the weirdness. That's what gets me. "Oh, it can get a lot weirder."
Mike: True, not like it's Japanese. I will say, I'm surprised to see a buy one get one free for an actual sandwich. It seems like they'd have no margin at all.
Tom: I don't know fast food economics. Beyond soda, I don't know where they make their money. But I'm pretty sure it's not from targeting creepiness.
Mike: I dunno, have you been to a McDonald's lately?
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: The St. Louis Rams have a deeply limited receiving corps, one not particularly suited to exploited a team's deep coverage weaknesses. Their only particularly fast receiver is Danario Alexander, and, well, as we saw on Sunday night, he's not very good at actually catching the football.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to official: "I don't want to call timeout." Official: "Timeout, Seahawks." Pete Carroll: "I said I didn't want to call timeout!" Scramble writers: "Then why did you even say 'timeout'? Just keep your mouth shut, and you won't have this problem in the first place."
COLBERT AWARD: How much, exactly, do fans like NFL football? NBC decided to test that by showing a 6-9 team against a 7-8 team in prime time. Not just any 6-9 and 7-8 team, but teams that couldn't even finish over .500 in the dreadful NFC West. But, hey, we're NFL fans, and we watch games, especially if they're played for stakes, and the Peacock Network realized it. At least they didn't give us more Favre.
Kicker: If I were Dan Carpenter, and you were the Dolphins, would you bring me back anyway? Joining Mr. Carpenter at -1 was Loser League-ineligible but repeat loser Clint Stitser.
Kicker, Weeks 10-17: Dan Carpenter may have had one of the worst Loser League scores ever with -6 in Week 15 and also had low honors this week, but he made enough kicks in other weeks. Graham Gano's consistent mediocrity beats him out for low man honors.
Wide Receiver: Anquan Boldin, Danny Amendola, and Golden Tate have all been valuable for their teams at various times this season. Those times did not include Week 17, in which they combined for 0 points, with a high of 0.
Wide Receiver, Weeks 10-17: Laurent Robinson was once a promising wide receiver prospect. That was before he put up a hugely impressive 29 points over the final eight weeks of the 2010 season. His high total was eight, and four times he put up two points or fewer. Just as impressively, Steve Smith, Esquire put up only 35 points, including a 15-point penalty for Week 15, though I would say that probably has a great deal to do with somebody else appearing on this list.
Running Back: Attention Todd Haley: Thomas Jones had 1 point this week. Nobody else was as ineffective IN THE ENTIRE NFL. Ahmad Bradshaw had 2 points.
Running Back, Weeks 10-17: Have you wondered where the Jets' two-headed rushing attack went? Well, they're at the top of the second half Loser League standings. Yes, even though Joe McKnight got the carries in Week 17 and both took the penalty, Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson were low men up.
Quarterback: Oh, Brian Brohm, your -3 points would have been a great Loser League score if only you were eligible. Instead, Matt Cassel's and Chad Henne's 1 point each were the low scores.
Quarterback, Weeks 10-17: I can't tell you quite how many times I've seen this video, but I can guarantee you it was more time than the Carolina Panthers did before the 2010 draft. There were 13 quarterbacks with between 99 and 113 points. Then there was Chad Henne, with 88 points. And then there was man who launched 1,000 videos with "Yakety Sax," Jimmy Clausen.
Congratulations to Rich Gazon and his Flying Eagles, who made like the Air Force mascot and flew away from the end zone to walk away the second-half Loser League Champion! And even bigger congratulations to Bradley Momberger of Marlborough, MA, who captured the full-season trophy for highest score in both halves of the contest. Gazon will get a copy of KUBIAK 2011, while Momberger will get a copy of both KUBIAK 2011 and FOA 2011, and meanwhile this sentence will simply pretend there is no labor problem whatsoever.
46 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2011, 12:09am by Sid