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?
03 Oct 2012
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: So, Mike, we're now at the quarter pole of the season for all of the league save two teams. As we did last year, it's time to see which runners and receivers might make it to the "magical" 1,000-yard benchmark for the first time in their career.
Mike: It's an exciting time for the NFL, when the year is new and hope springs eternal. Let's bask in the autumn glow before we hit the winter of Cedric Benson's discontent.
Tom: Looking at last year's results, we did reasonably well aside from both underestimating Jimmy Graham's productivity. We both picked him to go under 1,000 yards and he instead ended up with 1,310, largely because he in fact ended up with 99 catches after what we both thought was an unsustainably high 24 catches in the first four games. Your list of possible pass-catchers: Brent Celek, Percy Harvin, Davone Bess, Lance Moore, Brian Hartline, Danny Amendola, Torrey Smith, Demaryius Thomas, Greg Olsen, Malcom Floyd, Dez Bryant, and Eric Decker.
Mike: I'm surprised that Olsen is on this list.
Tom: Well, you only need to have had 250 yards thus far. Olsen has 20 catches for 256 yards. His career highs are 60 catches and 612 yards, both from his 2009 season with Chicago.
Mike: I think we can safely put him at under.
Tom: That seems like a fairly safe assumption. Under
Tom: Bryant is one of a couple players on the list who's had over 900 yards in a season without cracking the four digit threshold. He had 928 yards last year on 63 catches.
Mike: Where is he at now?
Tom: As is normally the case with these players, he's on pace for more catches. He has 21 catches for 269 yards, meaning he's on pace for 84 and 1076.
Mike: I don't know. That whole situation is just ridiculous.
Tom: With the Cowboys' lack of receiver depth, and despite his occasionally maddening inconsistency as a player, I think he'll get there. Even if Tony Romo gets hurt, the Cowboys have a relatively credible backup quarterback in Kyle Orton. Over.
Mike: Although I am secretly hoping for Return of Orton II: The Garbage Timening, I think Romo is going to be in it for the long haul. Bryant may have lapses, but considering the attention Austin is getting from secondaries and the several steps Jason Witten seems to have lost to the dreaded Turf Monster, I think Romo isn't going to have much choice. Over.
Tom: Lance Moore is another member of the fraternity of players with a 900-yard season but without a 1000-yard season. He had 928 yards on 79 catches back in 2008. This year, he has 19 grabs for 287 yards, a pace of 76 catches for 1148 yards.
Mike: The problem with Moore is that his team just has too many weapons.
Tom: It's not just that his team has too many weapons. In the three years he's had a significant role (50-plus catches), his average yards per catch has been between 11.6 and 12.1.
Mike: That is oddly consistent.
Tom: Right now, he's averaging 15.1 yards per catch. It's not just one long catch (his long is 34), but that figure seems unsustainable.
Mike: It probably points to a very specific use in that offense. Although it is interesting if he continues to be used just past the sticks in whatever offense they're using after the Paytopocalypse.
Tom: I haven't watched him specifically enough to tell. Perhaps his role has changed, especially with the other receiver problems they've had. I still think he's going under even if he does get to 80 catches.
Mike: I think that, unlike the market, past performance does indicate future returns. I don't think things have changed radically enough to get him over the hump this year, so I agree with the under.
Mike: Brent Celek is another interesting question, largely because nobody is entirely certain which Michael Vick we'll be getting. Money is on Bad Vick, but obviously he's thrown well enough to get his tight end on the list.
Tom: I wouldn't have thought he had 971 yards, but he did back in 2009. Like Moore, Celek currently enjoys a particularly high yards per catch compared to the rest of his career (17.5 against a previous career-best 13.1).
Mike: I think Celek is stealing a lot of production from Jeremy Maclin, really. Which seems odd and makes no sense considering what I know about Philadelphia's offense, but there it is. That could explain his abnormally high YPC this year.
Tom: Friend of FO Sheil Kapadia noted Celek averaged almost 70 yards per game the final ten games of last year. The high YPC seems odd, but I think he might be able to do it.
Mike: Aw, crap, someone has numbers? Stupid facts getting in the way of our rampant speculation. I can hardly talk about past performance and just ignore that, now can I? Over.
Tom: I didn't expect to say this, but I'm now leaning towards over as well.
Tom: Unlike the spate of receivers, there are only four players on pace for 1,000 yards rushing who have never rushed for 1,000 yards before. Two of them are on the same team. Your quartet is Stevan Ridley, C.J. Spiller, Alfred Morris, and Robert Griffin.
Mike: The Morris/Griffin combination is intriguing.
Tom: I thought Griffin was pretty straightforward. He's barely on pace (252 yards thus far) and seems likely to get hurt if he gets another 117 carries. Under
Mike: Not intriguing in the sense that Griffin has any shot of getting to 1000 yards. Cam Newton only had 706 yards on 126 attempts last year, for reference. More that you have that combination of players. Under.
Tom: I dunno, I'm not that surprised by it. The Shanaclan can put together an effective run game, and Morris is just your plug-and-play back. RG3 is more sui generis and the interesting part of it.
Mike: That is true. I'm not sure what to think about Morris other than that he's a generic Shanahan back. He'll probably manage to get to 1000, though, just because he's in the right place at the right time. Over.
Tom: I struggle with the idea how good Morris is, but he's on pace for 1500 yards. Unless he develops major fumbling issues really quickly, he'll make it. Over.
Mike: Stevan Ridley seems much less straightforward.
Tom: Maybe, maybe not. He only needs 661 more yards over the course of the season to make it.
Mike: So he does. I didn't realize he had accumulated so much so soon.
Tom: The Patriots are still a good team, and like every other good team there will be games where they'll at least try to run the clock out in the second half. The big question will be whether he'll lose any of those carries to Brandon Bolden (or Shane Vereen), and if so, how many. If he maintains the same share of workload and his current 4.6 yards per carry, and the Patriots run at roughly the same rates they have the last two seasons, he'd have had 1088 yards last year and 1128 yards the year before. (Note this is an incredibly crude assumption and very unreliable math. Do not rely on it.)
Mike: Well, the whole thing is a crapshoot. I'm somewhat sanguine about his production preserving leads and the fact he already has so many yards already. I'll go with a cautiously optimistic over.
Tom: I'm a bit more confident than you but agree he'll go over.
Tom: C.J. Spiller's career-best before this year is only 561 yards rushing. He's just 220 yards short of that mark. Of course, his career high in carries is only 107. He has 41 this year. I bet he won't keep up his current 8.3 yards per carry average.
Mike: You think?
Tom: I think it's somewhat likelier than that Arizona's 6-for-6 display Sunday means their opponent won't recover a fumble the rest of this season.
Mike: Their remaining schedule isn't exactly a murderer's row of rushing defenses. In fact, They're probably going to be more than happy running at the Colts and Seahawks, considering passing against the former means Ryan Fitzpatrick being plastered and the latter probably means a bushel of interceptions.
Tom: Even when Fred Jackson was out the second half of last season, though, Spiller never had more than 19 carries in a game.
Mike: The other thing to consider is that Tashard Choice, a thoroughly unimpressive back, is also averaging 4.3 yards per attempt over 34 attempts. I suppose this split, along with last year's experience, does mean Spiller and Choice are going to be something resembling a committee this year. But those are pretty gaudy attempt stats for a starter and his backup. There has to be something to it if Choice is getting 4.3.
Tom: If Spiller can keep up a 4.5 yard per carry average, he needs to average a bit over 12 carries a game to get to 1000. He only averaged 14.3 in the games without Jackson last year.
Mike: More to the point, he's only averaging 10 carries per game this year.
Tom: Well, he had 14 and 15 in the two games before his shoulder injury.
Mike: Ah, right. That's still cutting it awfully close. Under.
Tom: This could end up with me looking silly as Spiller has a Jamaal Charles-like season, but I think he's going under as well.
Tom: Did you want to talk about our fantasy football teams?
Mike: Do we have to? Sure ... sure .... but it was an awful week for my teams.
Tom: It was an awful week for me as well. Marques Colston finally had a good game and Autodrafted Second Round Quarterback Matthew Stafford did as well, but Kyle Rudolph, Stevie Johnson, and "I'm done with you" Detroit defense all put up disappointing numbers. Meanwhile, my opponent had Tom Brady, plus five other players who had at least 11 points.
Mike: I finally had a very winnable game in my competitive league. Everything was looking great. Vincent Jackson had a good game, Roddy White had a phenomenal game ... Unfortunately, every player other than Buffalo DST significantly overperformed for my opponent. Dez Bryant with 14.5, Darren Sproles with 12.4, Alfred Morris with 18.9, Jason Witten with 19.2. Et cetera. Paired with a hideous day by Jeremy Maclin (0.7) and the collapse of Atlanta's defense against Carolina, of all teams (4.0), I lost. So now I am in last place. I still have the third-highest point total in the league. The other league was even worse. Only two of my opponent's ten roster spots scored under 12 points. Drew Brees had 29.8 points, while I was left muddling through with the suddenly impotent New York Giants DST and, again, Jeremy Maclin. Just an ugly week, all around. One of the other owners is offering Peyton Manning as part of a larger package deal. I need to come up with a deal I am happy with, because the status quo is unacceptable.
Tom: Okay, I just did the math. By Yahoo's projections, I should have been outscored by 1.7 points on the season. I have been outscored by 71.7 points.
Tom: It is what it is, and that's all that it is.
Mike: The only thing worse than a commercial that references a previous marketing campaign is a commercial that references a really, really, bad marketing campaign. Generally this is the purview of GEICO, but here we see Kia has similar aims. Who, one might ask the heavens, liked the stupid Kia hamsters enough to bring them back? "You know, we need to make an even weirder and more nonsensical follow-up for this!" Asking the heavens is pointless, however, because this commercial is proof that no sympathetic deities reside there.
Tom: I'm sorry, Mike, but do you or do you not want a car that has warp drive? The warp drive also may or may not be a time portal.
Mike: To be fair, they're at least consistent with their crackpot physics.
Tom: Yes, and that sort of thing is incredibly important.
Mike: Of course, you need to have that imprimatur of academic rigor when making a commercial about giant hamster furries going back in time to break-dance in an opera presumably composed for such an occasion. The question, of course, is what libretto they used, and why anyone would write something approximating a Kia commercial.
Tom: I wonder why nobody recognized that the conductor was a hamster. Unless this is a Quantum Leap-type thing where the hamster "jumped into" the conductor's body, maybe after the opening shot.
Mike: I think even Quantum Leap is a bit too well-thought-out for this commercial, sadly.
Tom: I just checked, and it does seem to be consistent that the conductor has a mask. Rather than Quantum Leap, this is instead like The Naked Gun, where our bipedal hamster instead replaced the conductor the same way Frank Drebin replaced Enrico Pallazzo.
Mike: You know what I'd like to see more than this? Anything related to The Naked Gun or Quantum Leap. Where on earth did the hamsters even come from, really? The original campaign, I mean. Was the Alvin and the Chipmunks reboot really so popular that driving hamsters was going to get some coattails 3-4 years later?
Tom: I think this is the original commercial. In it, there appear to be no people at all, only hamsters. It was only in subsequent commercials the hamsters were introduced into a primarily-people universe.
Mike: That is somewhat interesting, in a "How exactly does a bridge collapse on top of an orphanage?" kind of way.
Tom: By building an orphanage under a bridge in the first place, perhaps?
Mike: WHO COULD HAVE KNOWN?!
QUARTERBACK: Remember the first six quarters of the season when Mark Sanchez was suddenly good at converting third downs and seemed like he might be a more serviceable game manager-type quarterback? That seems like an awful long time ago. Three turnovers and barely 100 yards passing left him with -1 points this week.
RUNNING BACK: Pierre Thomas and C.J. Spiller are players you could have conceivably started in real fantasy. If so, I'm sorry, as each recorded just 1 Loser League point.
WIDE RECEIVER: Dexter McCluster was your low man of the week with 0 points, even without a fumble, while Keshawn Martin, Michael Crabtree, Malcom Floyd, Jacoby Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Arrelious Benn, Josh Cribbs, and Derek Hagan each put up 1 point without the benefit of a fumble.
KICKER: Folk legend Billy Cundiff earned his Loser League performance on Sunday, missing three field goals before making the game-winner. Nick Folk matched Cundiff's 0, but came by his more traditionally, by playing on a terrible offense that barely crossed midfield and fumbled away their only legitimate scoring chance.
After Washington finished an upset of Stanford last week, David Pollack, who called the game for ESPN, credited the Huskies for their willingness to "keep battling, keep chopping wood." Apparently he has not yet made Chris Hanson's acquaintance, or he would well and truly recognize the dangers of continuing to chop wood.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: When the Atlanta Falcons got a big play in Sunday's game, chances were pretty good that Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura was one of the culprits responsible. None of them was bigger than Roddy White's 59-yard catch in the final minute, and Nakamura was the most responsible party for that. There was more to the loss than what he did, but he still chopped much wood.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: We have already discussed Ron Rivera's unwise fourth-and-1 decision. Rather than highlight his name in this spot, we will instead highlight Tom Coughlin's conservatism at the end of Sunday night’s contest against the Eagles. Ahmad Bradshaw's one-yard run took up 24 seconds, half the time remaining in the game, and cost the Giants a valuable down. Following Ramses Barden’s offensive pass interference penalty, the Giants faced a 54-yard field goal attempt and needed more time to get to a more makeable distance, time they had just squandered. Coughlin then decided to attempt that field goal, one longer than his kicker had made in several seasons, on third down, with potentially enough time left to run another play. Coughlin may be a veteran coach, but he apparently needs to attend the suddenly popular Marv Levy Seminar on the Wisdom of Voluntarily Settling for Long Field Goal Attempts.
Joe: Team Defense question. Is it too early to start freaking out over Jets Defense with no Darrelle Revis? (0 points in week 4) I have Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New England available to possibly pick up from waivers this week. Thanks.
Mike: It isn't. New York has an anemic pass rush, which works fine when they have Revis eliminating one side of the field. Without him, that liability is greatly amplified.
Tom: Hey, I just typed basically that same thing. Without Revis, the whole defense doesn't work as well, in part because it isn't good enough. Of the defenses you listed, the only one I see with a good matchup this week is Minnesota, which faces Tennessee's mostly punchless squad.
Mike: Those waiver choices aren't fantastic, but I agree that Minnesota might be a decent start this week against the Titans. Going forward, Atlanta will probably be a better play (Robert Griffin will give them issues this week), and Pittsburgh should be good once they get healthier. I'd go with Minnesota and reevaluate after next week.
Tom: With the Steelers coming off a bye, is it worth carrying two defenses if you can spare the space?
Mike: I think the upside potential of Pittsburgh's defense is high enough that they're worth carrying if you absolutely have the space, yes.
Jesse: I have both RGIII and Matt Ryan on my fantasy team (standard ESPN scoring), both of whom have been unreal so far this year. Should I trade one of them, and which one (this is NOT a keepers league)? The thing is I don't really need either a RB or a WR (my RBs are Ray Rice, Maurice Jones Drew, Ryan Matthews and DeAngelo Williams, WRs are Roddy White, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, Nate Washington, Antonio Brown and Justin Blackmon). Is it worth trading one of them to upgrade at TE and D/ST, my only real weaknesses (Brandon Pettigrew and the Giants, respectively. I drafted the Jets and dropped them after Revis' injury), when I could probably just play the waiver wire all season for those positions? I was thinking of offering a guy who's QBs are Michael Vick and Matt Schaub the trade of Ryan, Pettigrew and the Giants for Schaub, Tony Gonzalez, and the Seahawks. Is that a good trade for me?
Mike: Did you write in just to brag? Short of Jimmy Graham and a good fantasy defense, I can't see any useful trade for Griffin or Ryan that doesn't include a wide receiver or running back.
Tom: Pretty much.
Mike: Just pat yourself on the back for picking a league full of saps, and play matchups between the two to maximize scoring.
Tom: Any trade you make sounds likelier to improve your opponent more than it does you. With your embarrassment of riches, it's tempting to polish the jewel up a little more. I wouldn't do it. Save them in reserve in case you suffer a key injury at RB or WR or just get an overwhelming trade offer.
ALauff: RB2 dilemma for this week (PPR): BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. MIA (#1 in DVOA vs. run), DeAngelo Williams (vs. SEA), Donald Brown (vs. GB), or Pierre Thomas (vs. SD). I don’t see any upside in Green-Ellis’s matchup; am leaning toward Williams or Brown (yuck). In years past, given this decision, I would play Pierre and like it, but his usage patterns, and the Saints’ running game, seem way too volatile this year to trust.
Tom: "Yuck" is a good way to put it. Williams' role in Carolina's offense frustrates me, and like you I'm frustrated by Thomas's role this year. I lean Brown since he's been the Colts' lead back, even though PPR does not make him more valuable (only one catch in the first three games).
Mike: Bess is the definition of fantasy depth. That said, Roberts is having a genuinely good start to the year. I'm not buying into Arizona nearly so much as others, but he has shown potential to actually put up points when you need him to, and that's all you can ask for benchers. I'm not willing to put my money on anybody involved with the Colts this year, so I have to disagree on Brown. Yes, Thomas has been misused this year, but he's still playing San Diego and he's still the best of your options. I think you need to bite the bullet and start him.
Tom: With Miami's lack of depth at receiver and Ryan Tannehill's willingness to throw the ball, I think Bess is a useful spot play in a PPR league. I like him better than Roberts, in part because my guess is Michael Floyd may play more as the year goes on. On Brown, I'll point out the Packers defense is 28th in Adjusted Line Yards, while San Diego is 9th.
conman111: 10 team, 2 QB, standard scoring. I went QB and TE heavy in the draft and went pick-em for RBs. So I have Michael Turner starting at RB#1, ? Wilson on bye. For RB#2: Do I dare start TWO ATL RB's against the sketchy Wash D and put Jacquizz Rodgers in there or play Michael Bush and basically hope for a TD or a blowout vs the Jags?
Mike: Wait, what? You went tight end-heavy in the draft?
Tom: Maybe they start multiple tight ends or have a lot of flex slots. Either way, his RBs seem very weak. Here's what Jacquizz Rodgers has done this year in terms of fantasy points (non-PPR): 3.5, 0.3, 12.7, 3.3. Aside from Week 3 where he scored a touchdown, he's been near-worthless. Bush has not been great, but he's been better than that. And he has three touchdowns, compared to Rodgers' one.
Mike: Yeah, Bush is going to be getting the majority of the goal line work, especially with Forte's lingering injury. Considering how useless Rodgers has been, this is a no-brainer.
Tom: If it's PPR, Rodgers is somewhat more valuable and Bush really isn't, but I'd still start Bush.
Matt: Steven Jackson - Will he keep limping out there or will Daryl Richardson get some more snaps anytime soon?
Fred Jackson - What should we expect to see from him this week?
Greg Jennings - If he sits, which Packers receiver benefits most versus Indianapolis?
Hakeem Nicks - Should I expect him to play anytime soon, and how awesome is the name Ramses?
Rashard Mendenhall - With Dwyer and Redman stinking it up, how much will Tomlin play Mendenhall?
Tom: Having to psychoanalyze what coaches will do is the worst part of fantasy football. Steven Jackson will get carries if he's healthy, and be in a timeshare at absolute worst. Fred Jackson, your guess is about as good as mine. If Jennings is out, it's whichever Packers receiver the Colts coverage suggests will be thrown the ball, as it's possible any of them will be good options. Nicks, your guess is as good as mine; I'm reading Jene Bramel for info. Mendenhall I wouldn't play unless and until Tomlin announces him as the starter or he has some good production, which could be sooner or it could be later.
Mike: I think Mendenhall will play as much as he is absolutely able, but I don't think that is much. Considering Dwyer and Redman's performances to date, the Steelers aren't going to risk aggravating his injury or unduly shortening his rehab. Mendenhall will be a good start if and when the Steelers say he's 100 percent, which will be a week or two after he is actually 100 percent. With regard to Fred Jackson and Greg Jennings' replacement, nobody knows. I think those statements include all four teams involved. If Steven Jackson is playing, he's a start, because even busted he's still a top-10 back. As far as Nicks goes, if you have any information, I'd like to have it. We're all basically in the dark.
Tom: Well, you warned me and I didn't listen to you. I picked the Jaguars last week. I was wrong. I'm now 1-2. Both misses have come when I picked the Jaguars. Jacksonville, you are dead to me. You were right. You were also right when you went with Washington instead of Seattle. You are now 2-1. Go you.
Mike: Go me!
Tom: As always, lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of the time the picks were made. All picks are made without looking at FO's Premium pick for the game.
Mike: Wow, Green Bay only gets 7 over Indianapolis? That game is going to be a slaughter, one of the best teams in the league against one of the worst, and Indy doesn't have any of the tools you need to take advantage of Green Bay's weaknesses. I have no idea who is drinking the Indy Kool-Aid, but it certainly isn't me. Green Bay -7 over Indianapolis..
Tom: The most interesting game to me is Arizona-St. Louis. DVOA may be underrating the Rams somewhat, but this maybe should be more of a tossup than it is. That's the same logic I used in picking the Jaguars last week, but that was too much blind faith. The Rams are a better matchup, especially with Chris Long and Robert Quinn against whatever Arizona is trotting out there at tackle. I expect this to be another low-scoring Rams game and think they can pull off the win at home on a short week. St. Louis +2 over Arizona.
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29 comments, Last at 05 Oct 2012, 3:24pm by BigCheese