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?
13 Sep 2012
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: Welcome back for another year of regular season Scramble, Mike.
Mike: Welcome back, yourself, Tom! And apologies to our readers for this belated start to the Scramble season. And an exciting season it is! Rather than the same slate of features each week, Tom and I have spent literally minutes of our time coming up with a stable of rotating features that we can pull out for your football goofing pleasure. Nothing stale, nothing forced. We are a lean, mean ... what was that, Tom? This draft is 4000 words? OK, maybe we're just mean. But we are a machine. Dedicated to making fun of things and helping you survive the fantasy season.
Tom: I'd like to open this season by quoting Phil Simms from Sunday's Titans-Patriots telecast, "Did he catch it, go to the ground, and enough time elapse where it is a catch?"
Mike: Phil Simms is a font of wisdom, for sure. One you will be hearing from with alarming frequency this year. But we'll get into that later.
Tom: Perhaps I missed this in the officiating columns you've done lately, but do you know what rulebook section "time elapsed" is in as far as determining what is and is not a catch?
Mike: Interestingly enough, "time elapsed" is probably the only stupid phrase not included in the rulebook. Then again, I doubt Phil Simms has read the rulebook, or my columns. Cris Collinsworth has! (Or done something similar, I suppose.) I was tremendously impressed by his comment that there was an official watching each eligible receiver at all times. So props to him.
Tom: To be fair, Sunday Night Football on NBC has probably been the most rules-cognizant broadcast to not employ a clear official participant like Mike Pereira or Gerry Austin.
Mike: Well, I was told by a woman in a black dress that Al and Cris are the best on TV. Why on Earth would she lie? But we digress.
Tom: Indeed we do. We have years of evidence as to whether Al and Cris qualify as the best on TV. We do not, however, have years of evidence to determine the future usefulness of NFL players who had notable standout games. Still, let's jump to some conclusions! We'll discuss some players we think might be able to keep up their surprising success from Week 1 or continue their past history of success despite a Week 1 disappointment. Alfred Morris is a who guy might be very useful, if you're willing to risk Mike Shanahan roulette.
Mike: The really nice thing about Shanahan's roulette, I must say, is that people will often convince themselves that one big game means that back is "the guy" and are willing to grossly overpay.
Tom: Right now, Morris seems to be the apple of Shanahan's eye, having already been named the starter in Week 2. Of course, being named the starter and actually starting aren't quite the same thing, as we've learned with Shanahan before.
Mike: Even if you aren't willing to take the risk on starting him, Morris might be interesting to pick up if he's still available (he is in only 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues, at this point) and hold as trade bait.
Tom: Who knows, he may end up getting a lot of carries. Shanahan has had clear-cut RB1's before, and you may end up getting a top-ten fantasy back.
Mike: On a similar note, Dennis Pitta is intriguing. Asides from a few truly elite tight ends, they are largely interchangeable. So generally fantasy players have a bit more leeway to experiment with different matchups and quasi-sleepers. Pitta had a great game: five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. He clearly had Joe Flacco's eye.
Tom: I can't help but remember Pitta and Ed Dickson having good games in last year's opener, then having much more inconsistent seasons.
Mike: I suppose it depends on whether you're a believer in Flacco. I know I'm not, but many people are.
Tom: I was just about to say it depends on how much you believe in Flacco and Baltimore's general offensive improvement. With Cam Cameron's general history of mediocre offense, I'm going to be skeptical.
Mike: On the flip side, it's way too early to panic on Cincinnati's offense in general, and Andy Dalton in particular.
Tom: That said, I generally agree with you about tight ends. Aside from the Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski-type superstars, there's only a moderate predictable difference among them. I said this when we talked about the Bengals in our over/unders column, but I think there are good reasons to be skeptical in general of the Bengals offense outside of A.J. Green, especially from a fantasy perspective.
Mike: Dalton had a pretty miserable game, but it came against a good defense. While he is in the same division as the Steelers and the Ravens, he is also in with the Browns, and Cincy's schedule isn't that bad. While you might be low on everyone except Green, someone has to actually throw the ball to Green. That man in Dalton.
Tom: Last year Dalton was fifteenth among quarterbacks in fantasy value. He's not, or at least shouldn't be, your regular starter.
Mike: No, but he will be a terrific matchup player. In a particularly deep league, that could be enough for a bench spot.
Tom: I think terrific is a bit over the top. Maybe in the right circumstance he's useful. Then again, maybe Andrew Hawkins is the WR2 the Bengals need.
Mike: ... The right circumstance is all I'm talking about! Anyway, Tom, do you have any players you aren't willing to abandon, despite bad first weeks?
Tom: Of course I jump on the Adrian Peterson bandwagon in KUBIAK, expecting him to have a down opening week, and he goes out and puts up 20 fantasy points.
Mike: Because he's Adrian Freaking Peterson. You were all insane.
Tom: I said a bunch of snarky things about how Chris Johnson's bad day rushing was mostly a result of Chris Johnson. He ended up with four fantasy points, but I think that's what he is. He's a low-floor back with massive upside potential who will be very inconsistent from week-to-week. But he's still the back who'll get the lion's share of the workload and the red zone carries, plus he has very good PPR value.
Mike: That said, he is owned in literally every single fantasy league on Yahoo!, so that's not terrifically helpful.
Tom: I think it's useful insofar as setting reasonable expectations.
Mike: Fair enough. In any case, take a deep breath, stick to your guns, and we'll all get through fantasy Week 2 just fine.
Tom: Sad news, or perhaps not: our readers will not have Staff League to kick around anymore.
Mike: Screw the readers, I won't have a staff league to kick around anymore! That was one of my favorite parts of the week.
Tom: I thought about pulling a Barnwell and seeing how I could craft the league in an attempt to make it more interesting and give myself a better chance to win in the process, but ultimately decided it wasn't enough of a priority. With the fantasy league I dominated last year falling apart, I have only one fantasy team right now. Though I might add another one this weekend if somebody is still drafting.
Mike: There are heathens who draft after Week 1?
Mike: Anyway, how did your current league go?
Mike: Oh lord. I am so sorry.
Mike: That would have been a nice setup. How did your backs pan out, post-Stafford?
Tom: I still got Mathews in the third round, though of course he didn't play Week 1. I took Rashad Jennings later, planning to play him for the first two weeks if need be, but of course he had a lousy game against the Vikings and got hurt. The Stafford auto-pick thing threw off my whole strategy and player after player I wanted went off the board right before I picked. I hate my fantasy team. And yes, I lost Week 1. My team underachieved its projected points by 20.
Tom: I ended up losing by almost 29. My opponent got 16 points from his freakin' kicker, David Akers.
Mike: In all fairness, Akers' kick was glorious. Myself, my wife, and my two-year-old daughter were just cheering and clapping. So much fun.
Tom: And how did your fantasy teams do, or dare I not ask?
Mike: I'd rather you not, but I think you're contractually obligated to do so. I ended up auto-drafting one team because we had a scheduling disaster and the only time left was when I was unavailable. That team is ... not great.
Tom: I can imagine. The lousy auto-drafted team is the one thing I miss from Staff League.
Tom: Does that team have Stafford too?
Tom: I assume you've heard Campbell didn't play any defensive snaps in Week 1. Do you get points for special teams penalties? You might not be too badly off then, if you haven't already dropped him.
Mike: Yeah, he's gone. Great job, Yahoo! It also drafted two defenses. I will say, I think it did a great job getting Philip Rivers in the 12th round. That said, Rivers' inability to get into the end zone buried me, as did the Packers' inability to be stopped within field goal range. 13 points for Rivers, two for Mason Crosby. I lost by one point to my friend Jenn, who just discovered football last year and knows basically nothing about fantasy football. So there's that.
Tom: Did she use KUBIAK for her draft?
Mike: Of course she didn't. She got a good week out of Demaryius Thomas. Unfortunately. As for my other league, I missed the first and second rounds, and ended up with Matt Forte and Jimmy Graham. I am convinced Forte is getting zero goal-line carries this year, but I may be jumping to conclusions.
Tom: That's probably a bit jumpy, but that he's in more of a committee role than you want your RB1 to be seems to be the case.
Mike: Regardless, I really like my team. I have Ben Roethlisberger, but I also have Robert Griffin to swap in if he keeps putting up big numbers. Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin are quality starters at wideout. Forte should be fine, and I have Steven Jackson. My biggest issue is RB3. My choices are basically Isaac Redman and Jacquizz Rodgers. It's not pretty.
Tom: I survived last year with Rodgers as my RB3 on my great team. It's possible if you're good enough around him, and you seem to be.
Mike: Redman's ineffectiveness probably cost me the game. Of course, it didn't help that I went into Monday night with a 40-point lead, only to see it evaporate in the face of the Baltimore DST's 33-point onslaught. I lost by two points.
Tom: That stinks.
Mike: I have high hopes for this season, however, so we'll see. Hopefully Griffin keeps the train rolling, or the Steelers' offensive line gets it together, and I can start cashing in at quarterback.
QUARTERBACK: Brandon Weeden, 118 yards passing, 25 yards rushing, and four interceptions, -1 point.
RUNNING BACK: Ryan Williams had 26 yards of offense, but only nine rushing yards yields zero points and his fumble takes him down to -1. Cedric Benson was the runner-up with 1 point for his 18 yards rushing.
WIDE RECEIVER: It's a Big Game tie at the bottom, as Stanford man Doug Baldwin and Cal wideout Lavelle Hawkins tied at 0. Honorable mention to Kevin Walter, Wes Welker, and especially Eddie Royal, whose 1 point came from rushing and not receiving.
KICKER: It wasn't really a terrible week for any kicker. Adam Vinatieri is low man with 1 point for three made extra points and one missed field goal.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: You were having a great game, man. You were tearing up the Bears' awful offensive line, you were terrorizing Jay Cutler, and you were keeping your secondary safe. Why, man? Why? But, no, Dwight Freeney's Ankle, you just had to make your presence felt. Once you happened, Cutler started getting more time and the rest of your team looked the worse for it.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Your quarterback is having trouble completing his passes to the guys wearing the right colors. Your running back is ripping off huge chunks of yardage almost every time he touches the ball. As an offensive coordinator, what do you do? Tell me, Marty Mornhinweg, what color is the sky in your world?
We bid a fond farewell to the Colbert Award's weekly appearance in this section, though you may see it a couple times this year if a coach makes a decision that needs additional highlighting. We also have cooked up a few new awards that we'll bring out when the situations merit it.
Tom: In this section, we'll be highlighting some of the announcing moments from the previous week's action whose only shot at appearing in an NFL Films document would be in a blooper reel.
Mike: The great thing about Simms' line is that it severely misapprehends the rules, but in a way that makes the audience think he's put some thought into it. I'm sure he has, actually, because he's had to deal with "continuous possession going to the ground" along with the other minutiae of possession on a reception. I'm willing to bet that he's actually thought, "well, how can we tell if he is going to the ground, or if the player already established possession? I bet he has to hold on to the ball for a certain amount of time for that rule to not apply."
The problem with that reasoning is that while it might be a good device to help Phil give a gut-check reaction to the play, it isn't the applicable rule. There is no timing aspect. It is his job to educate the viewers, and he hasn't even bothered to educate himself. That is the problem.
Tom: Beyond Simms' highly idiosyncratic understanding of the rules surrounding what constitutes a catch, we're sure to pick up on more half-truths and ridiculousness-spouting by the commentators every Sunday. If you find a choice one, send it our way to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com. Remember, stupid hilarious things go to TWIQ, stupid wrong things go to Scramble.
Sifter: I've got a question: where does one go to get snaps played and # of pass targets data? I see sites like Yahoo or NFL.com provide random lists of the top 10 in targets or whatever, team sites seem to count for their own players, but I'm looking for somewhere that lists the data for every player. Google is not helping me at present :(
Also, I lucked out by drafting Fred Jackson in both my leagues this year :( So yeah I'm joining the waiver wire line for Alfred Morris like every other man and his dog...Any RBs out there that played a bit more than expected that I might be able to target? I'm in PPR league and I also get return yards counted so Darius Reynaud of the Titans was one guy I found (he is designated WR/RB in Yahoo leagues).
Tom: FO of course is presenting the snap data now, and we'll have that weekly. For targets, the best source I've found is the Gamebooks available on NFL.com under the Game Info tab for each page. A player injured this early when you have marginal depth is a big loss. Jackson and Jennings are the only real injuries, and C.J. Spiller and Maurice Jones-Drew are already owned in your league.
Mike: Michael Bush might be an option, depending on how much you believe in Chicago's offense and whether you're willing to take a chance on a vulture. Aside from guys like that and the ocassional phenom like Morris, it's hard to get good running back performance off waivers this early in the year
Tom: Unfortunately, it's hard to find a player who's likely to be of immediate use.
Mike: Nobody is dropping anyone, because they're not sure whether poor performance is a fluke or a trend. And people are buying backs and receivers like crazy in deeper leagues on speculation. Like Morris. So sadly, that's really the best I can give you. If you need someone now, look for a vulture. If you can wait a bit, wait and see what becomes chum in the next few weeks, especially when byes start.
Mike: McCluster is probably a safer bet for consistent performance.
Tom: In the long term, I think Dwayne Bowe and then Jonathan Baldwin are the two Chiefs receivers most likely to have value.
Mike: Kansas City's offense isn't anything to write home about, but he's a dynamic player with decent big-play potential. He also has some small chance of adding return touchdown value.
Mike: I disagree. I don't think there's any way Ogletree keeps this up. I think he absolutely snuck up on a mediocre Giants' secondary on a night where Dallas' pass protection really exposed that unit.
Tom: The Cowboys have, or at least had, both a big need and a void at WR3. Ogletree, at least for now, will be that guy. I have a lot easier time getting behind him than I do McCluster.
Mike: I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.
Tom: So we shall.
evenchunkiermonkey: Worrisome week one for Michael Turner and Vincent Jackson. Tell me how frightened I should be on a scale from "My daughter's started dating" to "waiting for my daughter's pregnancy test results"?
Mike: I don't see how Antonio Cromartie plays into this question.
Tom: If you have Michael Turner, I think you have to live with a little bit of inconsistency. The Falcons offense seems to be transitioning away from him. He'll probably have games like Week 1 interposed with more games more like 22-85-1. Jacquizz Rodgers is clearly a better fit for the no-huddle and pass-oriented offense they may be transitioning towards, but Turner will probably still get the goalline carries.
Mike: With regards to Jackson, I'd say a good level is "daughter picked up by nice-looking man with thick Eastern European accent." Simply because it's Tampa Bay's offense and good lord who knows what's going to happen there.
Tom: Jackson is clearly the top receiver in that offense and is by far the best bet of any Bucs receiver.
Mike: On the other hand, he's an elite talent, so maybe everything will work out really well!
Tom: To the extent they can, I expect the Bucs to try to run the ball. When they can't, either because of ineffectiveness or because the game situation dictates throwing the ball more, he'll be the target. I'm not sure he'll be a top-10 fantasy wideout, but I do expect him to end up somewhere in the top-20. He just won't be a high scorer every week. Think Dwayne Bowe.
Mike: I think you're wrong about Turner. I think he'll get consistent production. The problem is, it will be rather low production. Be worried, and if you can, start looking to move him if he has a good week.
Tom: See, I think Turner is likely to be one of those backs who's a more valuable fantasy back than "real" runner.
Mike: Perhaps, but I think he's going to be a more valuable name than a player. And hence is a good target for export.
Tom: Yeah, if you can find a sucker who likes Turner as a name or for what he is, feel free to export him.
Nate Jones: I'm in a 12-team PPR league and in the process of stocking up my QBs, WRs and TEs, I ended up with Fred Jackson and Darren Sproles as my RBs (with J. Stewart and P. Thomas as my backups). After Jackson's injury, is there any way for my to salvage my RB position through the waiver wire? Or should I try to target a Stevan Ridley-type by trading off one of my WRs?
Tom: I don't think adding PPR changes any of what we said already about the lack of new running back options.
Mike: You're never going to get quality waiver players this early in the year in a 12-team league. I think your only real option is to try and cut a deal using your receivers. Sadly, you didn't include any of them, so I can't give you much guidance on who to fish for.
Tom: Bill Belichick is as week-to-week as any coach in the NFL. Ridley had a great game against the Titans and seems to have some of the traits that made BenJarvus Green-Ellis a useful player for the Patriots. As I wrote for an article that ended up in ESPN the Magazine this summer (gratuitous self-plug alert!), though, there are more backs than ever that get carries but no receptions. While Ridley was thrown the ball thrice on Sunday, the Patriots were one of the teams where that trend was pretty pronounced. They had the pass-catching back and the running back, and ne'er the twain met. That's just something to keep in mind when you're looking at backs to trade for.
David Hudson: I own Darrius Heyward-Bey...he'll probably sit on my bench most of the year. I also just picked up Dexter McCluster for some dead weight. Another owner dropped Denarius Moore for Kevin Ogletree. Should I drop DHB or McCluster for Moore?
Tom: I swear we don't make these questions up. Anyway, as I mentioned in the Staff Predictions, I'm not sold on Moore, mostly for health-related reasons. Jumping to conclusions, the Raiders' passing game could also be much less downfield-oriented this year, which depresses Moore's value even more (no pun intended).
Mike: I'm not even sure that's jumping to too many conclusions. The team just isn't very well-suited for an all-out vertical passing attack. More to the point, you already have a Raiders player. Do you really want to deal with having two?
Tom: Carson Palmer clearly likes Denarius Moore a lot more than DHB. Whether that preference is intelligent is beside the point, you have to deal with it. Moore is a higher-upside play than DHB. If DHB is just going to sit on your bench all year, it's probably worth the swap.
Mike: I'm not convinced that Moore will be effective, regardless of how much Palmer likes him. While it's the lesser of two evils, I say stand pat.
Niclas Ivarsson: Hi, I've got Vick, Rivers and Schaub - in which order do I play them? Vick got the start last week, correctly, but I'm leaning Rivers week 2 as Vick is facing Baltimore.
Tom: I would have started Vick last week as well, and I think he's probably the best option most weeks. This week, though, the Ravens are not a great matchup, plus Rivers is playing a Tennessee defense that got shredded last week by Tom Brady. I have some concerns about the offensive line's ability to protect him, but still have enough confidence Antonio Gates will have a big game against a Titans defense that hasn't been able to handle good tight ends. As to Schaub, he was down there with Alex Smith in the fewest attempts per game last year. If the Texans can run the ball well, they're content to do so, which makes Schaub a low-ceiling fantasy play most weeks.
Mike: I ... basically agree with most of that, actually. I disagree on Matt Schaub. I think, despite last year's numbers, that this is his offense this year, and he's going to ride it. Expect a cool start to the season, though, as things kick into gear and they get more comfortable with him lighting it up. Honestly, I think Rivers is your strong start, with Schaub and Vick situationally. Then reevaluate near the middle of the year, pick the two that are working best (which I expect to be Schaub/Rivers) and try to move the last one. You have three good quarterback options, be sure to leverage that to patch up areas of weakness on your team.
A Scramble tradition returns, as your two writers each pick one game against the spread, without looking at FO’s Premium picks. Lines are courtesy of Bovada.lv.
Mike: It's tough, but I think I'll go with Giants -9 over Buccaneers. These two teams are simply on two different levels, both on overall talent level and execution. I think New York's pass rush is going to tear Tampa's offensive line apart, and they won't have the same problems they had against the Cowboys. Even with those issues, I'd note that the Giants still played a very close game against what is probably an opponent clearly superior to Tampa. I was considering the Patriots, but -14 is just way too far. I think the Giants are a safe bet at this line. PICK: New York Football Giants -9.
Tom: While the Houston Texans are clearly a better team than the Jaguars, and the line surely incorporates the Jaguars' key defensive injuries, to Derek Cox and Daryl Smith. Given what I believe are the relative strengths of the two teams, 7.5 points is an awful big number for me to lay in Jacksonville. I'm not convinced these two teams are that far apart. PICK: Jacksonville +7.5.
Tom and I hope you enjoy the new format for Scramble, and the promise of some new features to shake things up going forward. If you have any fantasy questions or misinformation spread by commentators, send them along to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com.
10 comments, Last at 14 Sep 2012, 5:57pm by Paddy Pat