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.
28 Sep 2011
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Mike: So, I was thinking about zombies the other day (as is the fashion of the time) and it occurred to me how ill-suited football players are for surviving a zombie apocalypse, at least compared to other athletes.
Tom: How so?
Mike: Baseball players have ample access to effective anti-zombie weaponry and are used to swinging said weaponry for hours on end.
Hockey players generally have roller blades and are therefore quite mobile, basically anti-zombie cavalry. Soccer players are conditioned to run constantly for basically forever because soccer's substitution rules are insane.
Tom: And basketball?
Mike: Basketball locker rooms are full of firearms.
Tom: Football locker rooms aren't?
Mike: When was the last time you heard about two football players pulling guns on each other in a locker room?
Tom: Okay, fair enough. I just remember seeing interviews that insinuated something like 80 percent of NFL players own at least one firearm.
Mike: Tennis players also have fairly extreme conditioning. While a racket may not be the best anti-zombie weapon, they would be able to adapt quickly to a bat or bat-like object. Football players, on the other hand, have no readily accessible weaponry or expertise, and are either trained to be big huge slow dudes or shifty little (relatively, of course) sprinters.
Tom: I have to confess, I don't really know much about the zombie menace. I did read Max Brooks's World War Z, which I found to be a very clever takeoff of General Sir John Hackett's The Third World War.
Mike: Well, the main strengths of zombies are numbers and endurance. Resistance to firearms is possibly also a strength, but not really a defining one. The main thing about zombies is that there are tons of them and they never stop chasing you. This is problematic because football, more than any other sport, is for sprinters. Quick bursts of action are followed by periods of relative rest. Even the big heavy dudes in the trenches are trained for this pattern.
Tom: And football players get that kind of training. They go play after play and have to have that kind of endurance. Short bursts of extreme energy, but also the endurance. Remember what Bill Walsh said about a fourth-quarter pass rush?
Mike: I don't think they do compared to other sports, especially soccer and tennis, where they are literally running miles around the court. Or grass-field, or pitch, or whatever you play soccer on. Football players of course have far more endurance than any normal person...
Mike: But not compared to other athletes.
Tom: You don't have to be faster than the bear, just faster than your friend.
Mike: I'm not talking about other people, though! We're talking about which sportsmen will survive the apocalypse, and how I think that you and I would be out of a job.
Tom: Football players won't be locked into an arena with all the other professional athletes when the zombies attack. They'll be out among the rest of the living, with people like you and me.
Mike: ...And? You are thinking far too critically about this.
Tom: Not only will we be out of a job, we'll pre-decease all the football players. Most of them, at least.
Mike: ...Let's just talk about fantasy, all right?
Tom: Screw you, Nate Clements. If you hadn't lost a fumble, I would have won a fantasy game by 146 points instead of 136.
Mike: Oh, you poor dear.
Tom: And I would have had the top score in the league by 64.9 instead of 54.9. In the quarterback-heavy league, another good game by Drew Brees made him my top performer, but I also enjoyed the benefit of Wes Welker's big day.
Mike: Everyone should take a mental snapshot (or an actual snapshot, with computers!) of this bit, here, for when we break down the staff league. Please, continue!
Tom: I once again have a horrible team in Staff League. At least I have two other good teams to console me. Even though I am 2-1 after last week's cruel loss, I have the most points in the league by 93 points. I do have one cautionary note about that league: I've been starting Reggie Bush. We start two running backs, and I have three: Bush, LeSean McCoy, and Jacquizz Rodgers. I am going to be the Green Bay Packers in last year's Super Bowl and say fie to conventional wisdom and fie to the running back position!
Mike: Haven't we already had our Reggie Bush intervention?
Tom: We have. I'd upgrade, but the waiver wire is ridiculously bare. I wish I could trade myself a running back from my other league, where I started Ben Tate over Joseph Addai and Ahmad Bradshaw. I still managed a close win, thanks primarily to Ryan Mathews' standout performance.
Mike: What was the score?
Mike: Picking up Rob Gronkowski in one of my leagues meant I basically destroyed my opponent.
Tom: Yup. With Aaron Hernandez out, there's no need for hesitation: play Gronk and watch your foes writhe in pain at their defeat.
Mike: His 27.4 points, however, could not beat my perennial "there's a team in Oakland" pick, Darren McFadden. He came through for me again with a monster 31.3 points. Throw in 26.7 points from Brees and 22.9 from Mike Wallace, and that's a 168.2-108 drubbing.
Tom: I'm glad my doubting him earlier this year inspired him to lead you to fantasy football victory. Just think, if I hadn't been skeptical of his performance this year, you might have only won by 35 points.
Mike: I know! It's like chaos theory, but angrier.
(Tom makes a terrible joke. Mike mercifully cuts it out.)
Mike: Anyway, I'm now in sole possession of first place in that league, one win and 50.4 points ahead of my closest competitor. I was going to yak a bit about my Dutch friend who is playing in our league, but he lost in a heartbreaker on Monday night, so that will be saved for someone else's future humiliation. Unfortunately, my other team did not fare so well. While Brees had a huge game and Ray Rice (16.4), Julio Jones (12.6) and Robert Meachem (11.1) performed admirably, I was thrown into the wood chipper of Tom Brady, Wes Welker and BAL DST. I would've had a shot if Rice had a bigger share of that blowout or if Philadelphia's defense hadn't completely imploded, but it was a tough week. I really need Steven Jackson back. The only question to which Jonathan Stewart is the answer is "is there any way to make fantasy football even more painful?"
Tom: It's nice to have a team with depth.
Mike: I have depth at receiver. I complain, but Stewart isn't a terrible RB3. He's just not an RB2.
Tom: Just be glad you don't have to play Reggie Bush!
Mike: I am glad that I had the foresight to not draft Bush, yes! Anyway, it was a depressing loss but hardly deadly. I'm still in third place, six points behind second (the team I lost to) and 36 behind the leader. I'm not panicking by a long shot.
Tom: It's Week 3, far too soon to panic. Except in Staff League, where I'm already resigned to being one of the league's worst teams.
Mike: Oh, buck up, Tom. Don't sell yourself short, you are in sole possession of the title of "league's worst team!" Don't let anyone try to take your title from you!
Tom: I didn't even end up with that last year, I know I can lose that again!
Mike: We'll bring you up to date on all the happenings in the staff league later, when Tom has stopped sobbing.
Reverse Jinxes (Elias, 2-1) 76 def. Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom, 1-2) 69
Oh hey what is this here? Tom losing at fantasy again. One could say that the Ringers were betrayed in this close game by Frank Gore's pathetic 2-point performance. Then again, the Jinxes left 33 points on the bench between Vernon Davis and LaDainian Tomlinson, so really this should have been a bloodbath. The difference in the end was Brady (23 points) and Fred Jackson (21), which really isn't surprising at all.
Discalculia Plus One (Will, 3-0) 93 def. Intentional Rounding (Danny, 0-3) 44
Hooray! Someone did worse than Tom! The auto-draft team. Danny could have scrounged up 13 points with optimal starts, but it really didn't matter. This game was over when Michael Vick's final (poor) performance clocked in. Will's team wasn't too impressive, either, but Welker's 34 points went a long way to plastering over the bad stuff. Unfortunately for the Plus Ones, Will caught Newton Fever and benched Eli Manning (26) in favor of Cam (14). Still, a win's a win.
Known Chumpsky (Rivers, 2-1) 121 def. Edmonton Eulers (Tanier, 1-2) 111
A rough week for Tanier, who put up pretty good numbers compared to the rest of the league, but drew the high score of the week. The big letdowns were CHI DST (5 points) and Matt Forte (8). Marshawn Lynch only had 7 points, but really, that's to be expected. Ben Roethlisberger had merely a mediocre outing for the Chumpskys, but an overall above-average performance from everyone except Shonn Greene (9 points) and Brandon Marshall (4) handed Rivers a solid victory.
That's Great Hustle! (Sean, 3-0) 107 def. Parts Unknown Mufflers (Ben, 0-2) 80
It is the Detroit Lions' world, and we are just hearing Dan Patrick tell us that we are living in it. It was actually an NFC North beatdown for the Hustle, with Detroit's dynamic duo of Matthew Stafford (23 points) and Megatron (22) reminded us that we need a neat nickname for Stafford now. Finley also abused the Bears to the tune of 26 points. Sean started Jahvid Best, who actually put up a decent (for him) eight points. Ben simply did not have anything to answer with, earning double-digit points on only two of his nine roster spots: Wallace provided 20 points, and Connor Barth pulled himself away from Faris long enough to put up 11.
Mike: WHAT ARE THEY BRUSHING!?
Tom: How do they eat and digest their food? How do they not notice the cars when they got the newspaper?
Mike: Once again, the comments throw things into relief: "I actually registered a YouTube account for the sole purpose of commenting on how creepy this commercial is."
Tom: Maybe the teeth are like dentures, and are only inserted when it's time to brush the teeth. That said, there's this useful stuff you can drop dentures in and clean them overnight that'd be better and probably less wasteful than brushing.
Mike: Lord help me, I am loading this in 720p to check. OH MY GOD THEY PUT WHITE GOO ALL OVER THAT MAN'S LEG! Why? Just, why? Did you REALLY need a teeth-brushing scene that badly?!
Tom: It's probably just CGI, like the Friskies cat. Who I think I need to formally dub The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.
Mike: Except it didn't walk through any walls. Also, they put a LOT of thought into this commercial, as during the early scenes as creepy Prius-man is waking up, all the component acrobats are wearing pajamas, and then after he's dressed, all of the acrobats are also individually dressed.
Tom: It walked through an interdimensional portal. That's close enough to a wall for me.
Mike: Ooo, reader contest! Best name for the Freaky Friskies Cat in comments wins ... uh ... their name in next week's Scramble. Sure, why not.
Tom: We're clearly dealing in an Alternative Universe here.
Mike: This is extreme attention to detail for a 60-second piece that will have most of your audience staring blankly at the television in wonderment and terror.
Tom: The clothes are acrobat-sized, not giant-sized.
Mike: But everything else is giant-sized, including the paper, which is actually fairly amusing and another example of attention to detail. "The Something Something." "Something On the Back." "Somebody did Something."
Tom: And the cars get a kind of ambiguous perspective. This house does have an anomalously large driveway, though. Actually, check that, the cars are the right size, though the driveway really is unusual.
Mike: Also, I don't believe this is CG. I imagine a lot of this is green-screen, and there's probably some superposition. More to the point, what is the message here? That before that had to fit into one massive Prius? And now they don't have to? But that doesn't make any sense, since they were always individual people. Witness the racks of individual-person clothes.
Tom: Nightmare Fuel: before when that thing went to work, only part of it could go. So now it's a complete giant once it gets wherever it was going.
Mike: Also, my wife just walked in and went "Why on Earth are you watching that creepy commercial?" Success.
Tom: Just so long as your daughter didn't walk in. We don't want to be responsible for scarring her. I guess I do like the extreme attention to detail in this commercial, since that's something I've criticized plenty of other commercials for. But, yeah, there's now more than one type of Prius. So what?
Mike: Well, it's important, because now there's a bigger one (maybe) and a smaller one (maybe). Because, of course, these aren't production models yet, so Toyota has given us an extremely creepy commercial to vaguely wave at the idea that at some point they might produce slightly different models of an existing car. It's like getting a penny stock in exchange for kissing Cthulhu. Sure, it's some promise for the future, but at what cost?
Tom: Hundreds of thousands of horribly scarred people. I can only assume this will be part of some future plot to take over the world, but I don't want to know when or precisely how. Can I take that Cthulhu deal instead?
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: The "hut-hut" on fourth down that tries to draw a defense offside is one of the most incredibly tiresome plays in football. Your Scramble writer audibly groaned when his team tried it this weekend. Still, teams keep trotting it out there because sometimes it actually works. Yes, we're looking at you, Corey Peters of the Atlanta Falcons, for falling for it and letting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers run out the clock.
MARTZ AWARD: It's not a bad idea sometimes to line up on fourth down and try to run a quick sneak. It's another thing to try to do it when the defense is already set, there are still 21 seconds left on the play clock, and there are only 97 seconds to play in the game. Maybe it wasn't completely Norv Turner's fault, so consider this a team award if you will. It could've cost the Chargers the game if not for Eric Weddle's anticipation and Matt Cassel's inability to throw a screen pass.
COLBERT AWARD: If the New England Patriots are an offensive juggernaut and they're already up 14 points in the first quarter, then maybe you should try matching them touchdown for touchdown. Chan Gailey certainly thought so, and instructed his Bills to go for it on fourth-and-14 in the first quarter. Most coaches would punt or try the long field goal, but Gailey knew his team would probably have to score and score a lot to win. Yes, the Bills failed, and won the game anyway, but those don't matter for the purposes of our award.
As a reminder, you can access the full results here.
KICKER: No shutouts this week meant no easy 0, so Jay Feely had to get his the hard way by missing two field goals to go with his made field goal and extra point.
WIDE RECEIVER: Pity Kenny Britt, low man honors for his -1 this past week to go with his torn ACL and MCL. Second place went to Kevin Ogletree for his 0.
RUNNING BACK: Poor James Starks, chopped off at the leg with 17 total yards but no points for them, so his fumble leaves him at -2. Reggie Bush and BenJarvus Green-Ellis each had 1 point.
QUARTERBACK: This week's low belonged to Curtis Painter's flowing locks at 1 point, but he wasn't eligible for our contest. Your bottom eligible candidate was Andy Dalton and his 3. Painter can console himself by shouting at peasants from his burger palace.
MJ: I'm in a standard PPR league (full point per reception, 2 WRs, 2 RBs, 1 W/R). I have Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, Mike Tolbert, Darren Sproles, Santonio Holmes, Steven Jackson (sigh), and I'm trying to pick up Victor Cruz off of waivers. I was not particularly impressed by the Pitt pass defense Sunday -- if Pierre Garcon can burn them with luminaries such as Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter throwing to him, then I'm thinking Andre Johnson can win matchups with Matt Schaub throwing to him. I don't think Oakland has an answer for Wes Welker, and Sproles should have fun against Jacksonville. It looks like Mathews is challenging Tolbert more and more for red zone touches, so I'm concerned whether if I should start him over Jackson if Jackson is healthy. As for the flex spot, Holmes really disappointed last week; even if the Ravens secondary is depleted, I'm wondering if Cruz would be the better start since Arizona's secondary is just that awful. Plus, he still has the better quarterback throwing to him.
Tom: The development of the San Diego running back situation is interesting, and worth keeping an eye on. Right now, I'd be concerned enough about Tolbert that I'd start Jackson if he's healthy. That said, I'm not sure Tolbert is permanently out of the mix. In terms of the wideout situation, I have a hard time getting over thinking that Santonio Holmes is a much, much better player than Victor Cruz.
Mike: The Ravens' secondary isn't just depleted, their pass rush also isn't that great, and while we knock Mark Sanchez a lot around here, if he has time and doesn't freak out, he can make throws. Plus Holmes is a much, much better player than Victor Cruz. While I wouldn't guarantee a big game, he certainly has enough potential to warrant a flex start. I think Jackson will be healthy, and if Jackson is healthy he is an automatic start, especially against Washington. So that's really down to what the team says early this weekend. Even if he's only 75 percent, I'd still start him over Tolbert, just because he's a presence in both the passing and running games and Cadillac Williams isn't so impressive that St. Louis will use him instead of Jackson unless they have to.
jabrch: Lots of choices...lots of confusion. : I already am set at RB (Adrian Peterson and Ryan Mathews) but need my flex player and my 2 WRs. Here are the options (standard scoring):
Arian Foster (Active? How active? Can I trust him yet?)
Cedric Benson (Will he be suspended?)
Percy Harvin (Will Donovan McNabb squeeze all the value out of him -- even in a good matchup?)
Steve Smith (Is there a blueprint to stopping Cam Newton now?)
A.J. Green (Lots of touches -- lots of talent....lots of questions...)
Mario Manningham (How's his head?)
Dexter McCluster - can be a WR or a RB - (It's probably not his time - YET.... or is it?)
Tom: First point: If Arian Foster is healthy, he's playing and he's getting the red zone work. Ben Tate and Matt Schaub have struggled in the red zone. Foster was great last year and has excellent vision. Don't overthink that. In terms of wideout, I'd lean to Harvin and Steve Smith Esquire mostly, but wouldn't be afraid to start Green or Manningham based on matchups and health. I personally don't trust any Chiefs offensive players.
Mike: Manningham is too much of a risk to start, to my mind. Even if he does play, he's been banged up and needs some time to get back to full speed, which at his best is WR2-level.
Tom: Well, I'm not sure you can think of any of his wideouts as better than WR2.
Mike: I agree. I'm saying that Manningham is sub-WR2, because that's his peak and he's hurt, so he's not at that peak.
Tom: Fair enough.
Mike: Anyway, I actually like Green this week. Buffalo's defense was a combination of good and lucky last week, but I'm still not at all scared of them. So while Cincy has been atrocious on third down, I think he's worth a flier in what could easily be a shoot-out.
Tom: I didn't think Andy Dalton's Week 2 game was as good as most of the praise would lead you to believe, and his statline wasn't impressive against the 49ers. Green is a phenomenally talented player, but I still think he's a huge risk as a fantasy play.
Mike: I think his receivers are such that it's worth a risk. I don't trust the Vikings offense at all this point, and McCluster is barely worth mentioning. That leaves Steve Smith, Esquire, and Green. If Green has a bad game, so what? You gamble all the time in fantasy football.
Tom: And every time you stick your face in a fan, too!
Not Anonymous: My team is Matt Ryan, LeSean McCoy, Ahmad Bradshaw, DeSean Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Deion Branch, Stevie Johnson, Scott Chandler, Billy Cundiff, Detroit D as my usual starters, including flexes. My bench is Matt Hassselbeck, Michael Bush, Chicago D, Pierre Thomas, Devery Henderson, C.J. Spiller, Ed Dickson.
Which QB would a better start? And with Vick getting hurt, my WR depth being (I think) pretty good, my RB depth being craptastic, and his lack of targets, I'm trying to swap D-Jax for an RB that can be a consistent starter/flex. Jahvid Best, and Shonn Greene, among others, have been dangled. Bad idea?
Tom: As frustrated as I am by the Falcons' offense, I wouldn't start Hasselbeck with Britt out.
Tom: I feel like I've seen Shonn Greene in the Loser League standings too often this season. Plus, the Jets' offensive line right now is a mess.
Mike: You're right that you do have a RB problem, though. I might actually wait for a big game from Jackson and try to trade him straight-up for a RB2 after that. Maybe throw in something you don't really need like Pierre Thomas to sweeten the pot.
Tom: That sounds like a better idea.
Mike: As for quarterbacks, Ryan is the clear start, I think. Even if Britt were playing, Ryan's upside is much higher, especially as Jones continues to get more with the program.
Tom: Britt has a torn ACL and MCL. I don't think he'll be in the rest of this year.
Mike: Oh, yeah. So never Hasselbeck, then. Easy question! Sorry, Tom. Then again, it's Kenny Britt.
Join us next week when we run a hard-hitting expose on Curtis Painter's past as a lord of a medieval English fiefdom. In the meantime, send your fantasy questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com, drop us a line in the forum, or post your question in the comments and either your Scramble writers or one of our lovely readers will chip in with possibly non-awful advice!
41 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2011, 3:25pm by Tom Gower