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?
19 Sep 2012
by Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower
Mike: Every half-season, we at Football Outsiders throw a friendly competition we call the Loser League.
Tom: And every half-season, your Scramble writers du jour (that's us!) pick out a few of the more memorable names to praise, honor, and/or insult. The ideal Loser League name is clever wordplay on a recent humorous NFL event or player.
Mike: I wouldn't go so far as to say "ideal," but that is a noble goal.
Tom: The non-ideal Loser League name probably includes a "yo momma" joke. And nothing else.
Mike: Another good one is singling out a particular player deserving of scorn, such as one of our past favorites, Winston Justice Security Systems. Or, really, anything involving Norv Turner.
Tom: Alas, there is only one Loser League name containing "Norv" this time around, "Norv Turner Face." I also see Winston Justice Security Systems is around for another go-round. While we're on the subject of not very good tackles, Guy Whimper has inspired a name.
Mike: I'm not sure how you can build upon the name "Guy Whimper," but let's hear it.
Tom: You'd think a name like that would be fertile ground for a great Loser League name, but I find "Guy Whimper & Co." relatively uninspiring.
Mike: Wow. Moving to a different part of our test, really dated memes and pop-culture references will only get you points with the EIC. Pet Detective? Really?
Tom: True. Referencing an old player, though, can earn you points. Kelly Stouffers Pizza may be a repeat (we should really save lists so we can double-check), but it's a good name. I like the old Browns quarterback reference in The Unforgettbale Zeier, but it's not as good a name.
Mike: Saving lists would imply a degree of professionalism that the Loser League simply does not deserve.
Mike: I suppose we should also leave some space for sentimental picks. There's nothing funny about Ze Flaming Redheads, but any reference to Dr. Z is welcome. Although now I've remembered we're no longer reading Dr. Z and I made myself sad.
|We All Had a Sad.|
Mike: I do like the metaphysical questions posed by Spreadable Cheese Product? Is the team itself a question? Is there confusion as to the actual contents of the product? Is the owner indignant? Such a cryptic nickname. Perhaps that owner and the creator of " " can meet up to discuss philosophy sometime.
Mike: And my favorite, which actually encapsulates the most ridiculous story of this year, 28-Year-Old Rookies.
Tom: Michael Lewis was 30 as a rookie and ended up with a decent career.
Mike: ... And?
Tom: It's not so much being a 28-year-old rookie as spending a first-round draft pick on one.
Mike: Wait a minute. We're discussing humorous names of fantasy football teams designed to lose, and you want to have a serious discussion about Weeden's draft position.
Tom: I don't find 28-year-old rookies as inherently humorous as you do.
Mike: That's because you are a strange person.
Tom: If the name had been "Spending a First-Round Draft Pick on a 28-Year-Old," I would've found it funnier. Oh, I should have mentioned Tannehill Street Blues. That's a good one, too, though not as good as Driving While Blackmon.
Mike: Sticking with the "so close" category, we have a near-classic in The MNF Third Mic Position which is a brilliant idea but somehow fails in execution. I just can't put my finger on it. And a likewise chuckle-worthy but not-ready-for-prime-time Good Thing Officiating Is Not Important. Just missing something.
Tom: As a Steelers fan, what do you think of Rainey Days and Mundys?
Mike: I think it's a solid title, hits all the right notes and does what you expect a nickname to do, but just doesn't have enough oomph to make it down the stretch. Much like the Steelers!
Tom: I want to think "Jeff Ireland Built This Roster" could be a "We Built This City" reference, but I'm not sure about that.
Mike: I have to say, I have somewhat of an unintentional winner this year in Christian Ponder in the Slough of Despond. I'm pretty sure the owner was going for "Despondance," but didn't realize he had run out of characters. I think that sums up the Loser League pretty well.
Tom: I'm really disappointed the team named "The Miami Dolphins" doesn't have Ryan Tannehill on it. While I wonder what A Gabbert of Blaines might look like, and whether it would make a better offensive line than what the Jaguars rolled out there last Sunday, I think my favorite name from this installment of Loser League is the aforementioned Driving While Blackmon.
Mike: At this early point in the season, I'm near the top of one league and near the bottom of the other. I actually have the highest point total in the former, although I lost a very close game in the first week, so I am behind the league's sole 2-0 team. This is somewhat astounding, because I despise my auto-drafted team. But hey, lemonade and all that. I'll take a 158-108 victory any day.
Tom: I had a big start-sit decision this week, going between Jonathan Stewart and Ben Tate with Ryan Mathews still out. I went with Stewart, who had a fine day though not as big as Tate's. Meanwhile my opponent got 26.5 points from Trent Richardson and 17 from kicker Stephen Gostkowski. My opponents have now gotten 33 points from their kickers in two weeks.
Mike: In the other league I lost to this week's high scorer. Amazingly, it was the back-benchers that decided it. While he had Eli Manning (34 points), Dwayne Bowe (24) and Marshawn Lynch (20), I had Robert Griffin (32), Vincent Jackson (20) and Roddy White (18). Unfortunately, I also had the Jets' DST, Steven Jackson and Darrius Heyward-Bey. The last one because I am apparently insane.
Tom: I went into Sunday night needing a huge game from Matthew Stafford, My Autodrafted Second-Round Quarterback. He did not have one, and I got blown out.
Mike: What is it with kickers this year? Usually points are pretty uniform, but a handful are just blowing everyone else out of the water, thus far.
Tom: My opponent this coming week has Justin Tucker. If the Ravens kick eight field goals, consider yourselves forewarned. Oh, and I also did not join another fantasy league, so I'll just have the team I hate to kick around.
Mike: That's a shame, I suppose. It's always nice to have a backup plan for when your league invariably goes to pot.
Tom: Unless I find another league, my streak of making the championship game every year I play fantasy football appears to be over at three.
Mike: To be fair, that's a really good streak.
Tom: I was in multiple leagues every year, typically three, So it's not that impressive. I did like it, though. Pity.
Mike: You know, Tom, it's interesting to see marketing in product markets where the products are, for all intents and purposes, completely identical.
Tom: Well, normally where the product is identical, it's a commodity, and companies make price claims. We've featured a couple car insurance commercials on here, and those commercials were part brand-awareness, part talking about how much money they could save you.
Mike: Good point. While platforms for services are normally sold for a premium, however, due to their ubiquity and rather strong competition (plus a significant presence by the open-source community), the principal web browsers are all free. Meanwhile, the internet has largely standardized; gone are the days where pages simply would not load if viewed in the incorrect browser. In fact, while slow to be adopted, HTML5 looks to standardize everything even more. So the browsers can't really compete on price or features. What is an enterprising ultra-rich mega-corporation to do?
Tom: Stop making browsers and starting making products that might actually make them money?
Mike: No, spend millions on an ad campaign with a bunch of flash and sizzle and hope everyone is so impressed that the trend of your rapidly eroding market share reverses.
Tom: I don't know about you, but every time I've switched browsers, it's been because I found my current browser inadequate in some way and started looking around for alternatives.
Mike: Being a ridiculous nerd, I do frequently try out different browsers, just to see what I'm missing out on. There are some very technical reasons to go with one or the other, but in the end those only arise if you are committing some sort of computer abuse. The only one I really dislike is Safari, because it has some strange key mappings. In the end it always comes down to something trivial like that. Unfortunately for Microsoft's marketers, we haven't quite gotten to the point where they can programmatically figure out which features in particular annoy each individual television viewer.
Tom: And install them on the competition?
Mike: ...and inform that consumer of their presence on competitors' platforms.
Tom: Yet I didn't notice a reference to "normal key mapping" in that commercial.
Mike: ...I just said they couldn't do that yet.
Tom: Ah, true. I presume the creator of the commercial is, like my father, a fan of Cut the Rope, since they included it in the commercial.
Mike: I actually think that is a response to Chrome ads heavily featuring Angry Birds. When Chrome made its first steps toward being an online software platform rather than just a web browser, that was the focal point of their marketing.
Tom: I see.
Mike: Anyway, there's really nothing left to advertise that is special to Internet Explorer so you have absurd tricks like taking a 2D image and cutting it into 3D layers with a fly-through, all in an attempt to make a relatively pedestrian web page (that renders the same in almost all browsers) seem lively and exciting.
Tom: In a way this reminds me of Domino's ad campaign.
Mike: Plush it up with some vaguely in-context quotes fawning over the fractional second speed advantage or small percentage less RAM used by your product, and you have a formula for making something completely unexceptional feel exceptional.
Tom: "We know we were terrible, and you stopped using our product, but now we're really trying to improve. Please give us another shot."
Mike: Honestly, this is a gorgeous bit of marketing. It is also kind of the dark side of marketing, if something like Old Spice is the light side. I can see the similarity to Domino's, but they got a lot of credibility for their new product through that campaign, whereas Microsoft here is just advertising the new hotness.
Tom: The dark side? I'm not quite following you.
Mike: The dark side in that it uses a lot of clever tricks that aren't quite misleading but still move you to a factually tenuous conclusion.
Tom: Again, I don't know about you, but pizza (and the larger class, food) purchasing decisions happen regularly and are subject to regular reexamination. I don't change my browser nearly so frequently.
Mike: The web didn't get "more beautiful." You're still looking at the same web pages. You're looking at them in the same way. They play a lot of visual tricks to make the mundane seem exciting, and then run quotes like "IE9 is one massive performance jump" without explaining over what it is jumping. The commercial is completely devoid of substance, purposefully, because there's simply nothing there. At least, nothing compelling us to use their product over others'. Which moves us back to your earlier point ... if they don't have anything to say and they're giving their product away, why are they spending so much time, money and energy on this? I'm sure they have some good reason, but as it is, this is just another in a very long line of bad Microsoft commercials.
Tom: Spreadable Cheese Products?
Mike: I'd hate to see the EULA on a can of MS brand spreadable cheese product.
Quarterback: Poor Jay Cutler. Your offensive line does a miserable job of protecting you, you yell at one of your offensive linemen during a game, and you're a miserable person. 3 points is not a particularly miserable Loser League score, but it was this week's low.
Running back: Ryan Williams and Chris Johnson are currently engaged in a bit of a suck-off, as both have had miserable weeks. Williams' fumble gives him the edge at the bottom of the running back VOA table and in Loser League this week at 0, but Johnson is close behind him. Joining CJ with 2 points were Shonn Greene and Danny Woodhead.
Wide Receiver: It was a wonderful week for low wide receiver scores. Two players you might have started in actual fantasy football, Anquan Boldin and James Jones each had 0 points, but there were five players with 1 point, seven with 2, and eight more with just 3.
Kicker: The Jaguars and Cowboys each scored one touchdown, and both Josh Scobee and Dan Bailey each ended up with 1 point for one made extra point.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: How much wood can you chop on one play? Redskins receiver Josh Morgan tried to find out in Sunday’s game against the Rams. He started off by catching a pass short of the sticks on third down, a good move, then started screwing up. First he eschewed getting the first down to try to run out of bounds, even though there were 80 seconds left in the game. Second, while he tried to get out of bounds, he failed at that. Third, after some post-play argument, he decided it was a good idea to throw the ball at Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. As a result, instead of running a play from first-and-10 at the Rams 28 or so with over a minute to play, the Redskins faced fourth-and-16 at the Rams 44, forced to either convert or force a tie with a 62-yard field goal.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Trailing 10-0 in the second quarter of Monday night’s interminable-seeming contest, the Denver Broncos drew a five-yard dead ball penalty for having too many men on the field. John Fox challenged. Challenging a five-yard penalty may be a worthwhile move, in the right circumstances. However, (a) it was Denver's last challenge of the game unless they were right, in a game where the officials struggled at times; (b) the penalty merely turned first-and-10 into first-and-5, rather than extending or ending a drive, so it was a very low-leverage situation, and (c) the Broncos did in fact have 12 players lined up on the field, suggesting Fox's challenge was inspired by his coaching staff's inability to count as much as Fox's vituperation over the call. The challenge ended up costing Fox and the Broncos little over the rest of the game, but it was precisely this sort of frivolous low-reward, high-risk challenge that got this award named after Mike Martz in the first place.
Jason: My weekly debate...
Eli Manning @ Carolina...only real concern is it's on a Thursday, but he threw for 510 yards last week so he's red hot. Carolina has actually been ok against the pass because they are getting gashed like hell by the run, but Bradshaw could be inactive for this game...
Tom: It's shocking, but through two weeks Carolina's pass defense, lousy last year and with no major personnel changes, is better.
Mike: Vick is kind of a nightmare for owners right now. Of course, this is nothing new.
Tom: By our metrics, though, Arizona's pass defense has been almost precisely as good (VOA of -0.8% as opposed to -0.1%). Opponent adjustments will change that somewhat, but maybe not that much. The big difference is Arizona's had a much more impressive run defense compared to Carolina. Neither the Giants nor Eagles are really that much of a run-oriented team, though. The Giants might like to be, but they aren't.
Mike: Honestly, though, it's still early in the season. One or both might be a mirage. I'm more inclined to believe in Arizona over Carolina, however. Especially with such an inconsistent quarterback. Go with Manning.
Tom: I'm more a fan of reliable production than hitting the home run, so I'm philosophically more inclined to agree, but yeah, I concur, go with Manning.
Mike: Can you play both of them? Because those are both pretty bad pass defenses. Honestly, it's a good problem to have. I'd probably lean toward Austin, just because I'm wary of New Orleans at the moment.
Tom: I haven't watched the Chiefs-Bills game yet, so I don't know if Kansas City's pass defense is still that good. As a frustrated Colston owner, I'd point out the Saints' general lack of productivity among the wide receivers and start Austin, who's put up 25 points this year. Maybe that's pique on my part, but that's what I'd do. As Mike said, though, both players should put up good point totals.
Tom: Your weekly reminder: All lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing, though not necessarily as of post time or game time, and all picks have been made without reference to the FO Premium Picks.
Mike: Well, last week didn't quite pan out for me. I picked Giants -9, and of course they win by a touchdown. That makes me 0-1 for the season.
Tom: I probably could have done worse than taking the Jaguars +7.5 at home. I could have picked the Titans, for instance, and missed by like 22 points instead of just 10. In other words, it was an inauspicious start to the return of Lock of the Week to Scramble. Mike, what's your flavor this week?
Mike: Looking over this week's odds, we have a lot of really close match-ups on tap ... nine games at 4 or under, plus one at 4.5. Thankfully, this isn't a suicide pool! I think I have the best feeling for Buffalo -3 over the Browns. Buffalo is a somewhat confusing team, but I'll stick with an old stand-by: when in doubt, always pick against Cleveland.
Tom: Always a fine option. What stands out to me is the line in Dallas. The Cowboys are probably a little bit better than the Buccaneers, but I'm far from convinced they're significantly better. Week 1 was a nice win, but it came against a depleted Giants secondary. I'm taking Tampa Bay +7. It may blow up in my face like the Jaguars did last week, but it wouldn't shock me if the Bucs win and that's good enough for me.
Be sure to send your questions, hopes and dreams to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com or drop in our forum thread. Tom has been informed that the beatings will continue until it is posted in a timely manner.
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