A look at fourth-down decision making in 2014 highlights Sean Payton, Marc Trestman, and... wait, this can't be right... Jim Caldwell? Plus: Chip Kelly may be less aggressive than you think he is.
04 Jan 2012
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 quarterback, two running backs, three wideouts, one tight end, one kicker, and one defense. 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. Sean- Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
2. Rivers- Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
3. Tom- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh
4. Danny- Arian Foster, RB, Houston
5. Aaron- Tom Brady, QB, New England
6. Mike- Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore
7. Mike- Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans
8. Aaron- Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh
9. Danny- Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay
10. Tom- Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh
11. Rivers- Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans
12. Sean- Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay
13. Sean- Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans
14. Rivers- Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
15. Tom- Wes Welker, WR, New England
16. Danny- Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit
17. Aaron- Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay
18. Mike- A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati
19. Mike- Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati
20. Aaron- Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta
21. Danny- Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
22. Tom- Ryan Grant, RB, Green Bay
23. Rivers- Stevan Ridley, RB, New England
24. Sean- Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
25. Sean- Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
26. Rivers- Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
27. Tom- Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans
28. Danny- Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
29. Aaron- Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
30. Mike- Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans
31. Mike- Steelers Defense
32. Aaron- Isaac Redman, RB, Pittsburgh
33. Danny- Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England
34. Tom- Andre Johnson, WR, Houston
35. Rivers- Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore
36. Sean- Willis McGahee, RB, Denver
37. Sean- Torrey Smith, WR, Batlimore
38. Rivers- Roddy White, WR, Atlanta
39. Tom- Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh
40. Danny- Ravens Defense
41. Aaron- Donald Driver, WR, Green Bay
42. Mike- Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati
43. Mike- Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta
44. Mike- Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
45. Aaron- Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay
46. Aaron- Packers Defense
47. Danny- David Akers, K, San Francisco
48. Danny- Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco
49. Tom- 49ers Defense
50. Tom- Shaun Suisham, K, PIT
51. Rivers- Billy Cundiff, K, BAL
52. Rivers- Texans Defense
53. Sean- Bengals Defense
54. Sean- Mike Nugent, K, CIN
As a recap, here are the rosters:
|FO Playoff Fantasy Rosters|
|QB||Aaron Rodgers||Drew Brees||Ben Roethlisberger||Eli Manning||Tom Brady||Matt Ryan|
|RB||Ahmad Bradshaw||Darren Sproles||Ryan Grant||Arian Foster||Michael Turner||Ray Rice|
|RB||Willis McGahee||Stevan Ridley||Pierre Thomas||Frank Gore||Isaac Redman||Cedric Benson|
|WR||Jordy Nelson||Victor Cruz||Antonio Brown||Greg Jennings||Mike Wallace||Marques Colston|
|WR||Hakeem Nicks||Anquan Boldin||Wes Welker||Calvin Johnson||Julio Jones||A.J. Green|
|WR||Torrey Smith||Roddy White||Andre Johnson||Michael Crabtree||Donald Driver||Lance Moore|
|TE||Jimmy Graham||Rob Gronkowski||Heath Miller||Aaron Hernandez||Jermichael Finley||Jermaine Gresham|
|K||Mike Nugent||Billy Cundiff||Shaun Suisham||David Akers||Mason Crosby||Matt Bryant|
Tom: A couple Saints players to start off, a couple Pats, and a bunch of hodgepodge.
Mike: Sproles was a really surprising pick.
Tom: It seems like the big theme of this fantasy draft is that FO staffers like the Packers and Saints in the NFC, and then there's a lot of uncertainty in the AFC.
Mike: I think everyone likes the Packers and Saints in the NFC. Their offenses are just too good, and while San Francisco has a quality defense, their offense is putrid.
Tom: I certainly didn't mean to suggest FO staffers were at all unusual or wrong for thinking that.
Mike: I think the Giants are the only team that is balanced in this lot, which means I should favor them, but I just can't rely on Eli Manning.
Tom: You can worry about Eli. I'll worry about the defensive back seven.
Mike: I'm nowhere near guaranteeing it. But if the front four play at their peak, especially with Jason Pierre-Paul the way he's playing, it could not matter.
Tom: True. The pick of Stevan Ridley in the fourth round ... I wouldn't have gone there.
Mike: I don't think anyone would have. I was really surprised by how this team turned out, although White was a pretty good bargain. I don't particularly like it, but between Brees and Gronkowski the rest might not matter, provided those two teams win at least a game each.
Tom: Yup. I concur.
Mike: I'm not a fan of your receivers.
Tom: Obviously, I like the Steelers.
Tom: I think they have the best chance of playing four games of any of the wild card teams, and that would give me a great chance to win. I'm not a huge fan of any aspect of my team, to be honest.
Mike: Brown is a No. 2, Welker is a great fantasy play but his probable opponents are Cincinnati, which plays pretty good man coverage, and Pittsburgh, which plays great man coverage, as evidenced by this year's Steelers-Patriots game.
Tom: Obviously, I'm higher on the Texans' chances than you are, or else I wouldn't have taken Andre Johnson.
Mike: That is true. Which saves me the trouble of bringing up Andre Johnson!
Tom: Brown is also not really the No. 2 in terms of target volume. I probably would have taken Wallace over him, but he was off the board.
Mike: Brown is by far the best No. 2 in the playoffs, but he's still a No. 2.
Tom: The Texans' hope for a better passing offense is essentially "Help me, Andre Johnson, you're my only hope."
Mike: And if Ben is healthy, which you seem to be banking on, the Steelers will have a very heavy vertical gameplan, due to Rashard Mendenhall's injury and the defenses they will be facing should your scenario play out.
Tom: There's a chance my team blows up in my face, just like my Patriots-heavy strategy from last year's draft. If the Steelers win a couple games, though, I should have a great shot at winning. That's all I'm really looking for in a draft like this.
Mike: Unfortunately for you, Andre Johnson, unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi, is not the Most Awesome Person in the Galaxy. So I think you'll be hurting for that pick, even though it was late.
Tom: It's a high-upside third wideout. I'm fine with the risk.
Mike: Fair enough.
Tom: Thanks, Danny, for drafting Gore and Hernandez right before I was about to take them. And Akers, though I won't begrudge you your late-round 49ers homer selections.
Mike: I was actually wondering which of Eli and Ryan Danny would take. My wife asked me why I hadn't chosen a quarterback after the first few rounds, and I told her that Danny and I were the only ones who had not yet drafted one. My two choices, I explained, were Eli Manning and Matt Ryan, so I was basically happy with whichever Danny didn't take. Considering the quality of quarterbacks available this year, it is a shame I wasn't able to get one of the top guys, but waiting on a quarterback at least gave me some flexibility.
Mike: Hernandez is a good tight end pick if you don't believe in the Bengals, so I like him near the end since Gresham was the only notable tight end left on the board past him.
Tom: My constant in looking at these is figuring out what teams winning will let this player win the championship. For Danny, the Texans and 49ers, I guess ...
Mike: Not everyone follows that strategy, however, so that might not be the most accurate analytical tool.
Tom: True, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't!
Tom: I feel like I like Aaron's team more than I should. If the Pats, Packers, Steelers, or Falcons do well, he has a chance to get a good number of points.
Mike: Yes, but that does rather go against your preferred strategy.
Tom: I win if the right team does well. He needs multiple teams to do well to have a shot at winning, but it's not like he's perfectly balanced. He has a shot if a couple of those teams end up with multiple games.
Mike: True. I have no strong opinions about Aaron's team, although I find the Packers defense ... questionable.
Tom: The lesson from years past seems to be that defenses just don't matter that much.
Mike: Probably true. Still, Green Bay has the potential to give up tons of points.
Tom: Sure, but they've been getting interceptions and some sacks. I'm not expecting more than zero.
Mike: The quality of offense they will be playing in the postseason will be far higher than during the regular season. I have no confidence that they will generate an above-average number of interceptions.
Tom: Really, the kind of differential there, between the best defense and the worst, pales in comparison to the difference between what you get between the right and wrong quarterback.
Mike: That is true.
Tom: We touched on your quarterback situation earlier, and I think you made the right call given your alternatives.
Tom: Unfortunately, Excel's RAND function, which I used to generate the draft order, must hate you. Sixth was a bad place to pick.
Mike: Yes. I went early on defense because there were no great tight ends left, Danny had taken Eli at that point, and I wasn't about to take a kicker that early.
Tom: I don't have much to say about your team, to be honest. You had to make the best of a bad situation. It could work out, or not. I'm betting on not, but we'll see.
Mike: I did go with Bengals, though, because I think the Bengals will win two games. Which I recognize is probably a radical opinion.
Tom: We shall indeed see about that one. But, hey, now some Best of the Rest person can't ride their best players to a win.
Mike: Sean, of course, got the prize of the litter in Aaron Rodgers.
Tom: Two guys who could be game-changers relative to their positions in Rodgers and Jimmy Graham.
Mike: Also, Bradshaw is certainly no slouch.
Tom: With Rodgers, Nelson, Graham, and the two Giants, all he needs is for the NFC to win every playoff game.
Mike: Why didn't we think of that?!
Tom: Oh, wait, there's only one interconference playoff game. Sorry, bowl season had me confused.
Mike: I am endlessly confused by the existence of the bowl season, so you have company.
Tom: Really, though, Sean should have a good team, but this is the team that feels like it finishes third to me. Rodgers almost certainly can't win it all for one (fantasy) team like he did last year, and even if he plays nearly as well, I feel like some other team could edge out Sean.
Mike: Yeah, he's not as hot as he was last year. And even if he is, there are too many high-flying offenses in it this time around.
Tom: Plus he tops out at three games this year. Sorry, Sean, way to waste the top pick!
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! Also, make sure to check out a completely different game, the FO Playoff Fantasy Challenge!
Mike: It is painfully clear this song was written by a marketing drone and then given to a singer they auditioned to perform it.
Tom: Isn't that how almost all songs work these days?
Mike: First of all, there have always been songwriters. Sinatra didn't write any of the songs he is famous for.
Tom: Yes, but he was supposedly the inspiration for something in The Godfather, so we forgive him anyway.
Mike: More to the point, this was clearly not written by a songwriter, but some copy editor. The lyrics are just ... a disjointed jumble of "holidays bad/Hyundai good."
Tom: He also looked an awful lot like King Hassan II of Morocco. Yeah, but how many old songs have schmaltzy lyrics that we kind of gloss over because they're familiar? I mean, have you ever listened to the lyrics of "Baby, It's Cold Outside"?
Mike: Seduction is schmaltzy. Or at least, it was back then.
Tom: Then again, I guess there wasn't a production placement in that song. You have to go to "Lola" to find that insidious practice starting up in a commercial song.
Tom: (For the unfamiliar, "Lola" describes champagne as "tasting like Coca-Cola" in the original version. The BBC refused to play this commercial advertisement, so that portion of the song was re-recorded so that the champagne tasted like "cherry cola.")
Mike: This whole commercial is all over the place.
Tom: Yeah, and this is an annoying song with dumb lyrics that exists solely because of a commercial jingle. Mike, tell us what car commercials should be like.
Mike: Yes. It seems to me that car companies have forgotten how to sell cars. Asides from some of the higher-end makes, we get a lot of nonsense, often loosely related to price, along with varying ways of sussing up fairly standard sales that dealerships run basically year-round. Even this holiday, we saw Very Serious Man trying to sell Hondas, various clever ways of drawing the number six, and Dennis Leary constantly shouting in our faces. Toyota (the one with the sixes) is by far one of the worst. If you recall, Toyota was responsible for the "Giant Mechanical Deathtrap" series of Tundra commercials, possibly the most stupid commercials ever broadcast nationally.
Tom: Well, they can't just re-run "dogs love trucks" every year, can they? Never mind, that was Nissan. Sorry.
Mike: Toyota's trucks are well-known for their ... well ... invincibility.
Tom: Invincibility? That seems like a bold claim to make.
Mike: Yet they try to go about showing this ruggedness by talking dryly about awards and/or having a gravelly-voiced narrator who wishes he was Sam Elliot mouth some vague platitudes. This is despite the fact that a Toyota truck has been driven to the Magnetic North Pole. Those of you familiar with the British television program Top Gear are familiar with that one. But more famous (and also from Top Gear) is what happened when the presenters attempted to destroy an already-ancient Toyota Hilux. Yes, Top Gear is essentially one-third Motor Trend and two-thirds "Idiots Doing Insane Things With Cars."
Tom: Blowtorch plus dynamite worked, surely?
Mike: Well, they tried. And they tried. And they tried. I've been watching the show for a while now, but only recently found that it -- and this series of episodes -- was on Netflix. My first reaction is that Toyota should immediately fire every single person in their marketing department and simply run montages of the horrible things the Top Gear presenters did to that truck.
But this brings us back to our actual commercial for this week: what does this commercial have to do with the Hyundai? And what does the Hyundai have to do with the holidays? Cars are not fashion accessories, and no matter how hard Volkswagen tries to convince us otherwise, they are not impulse buys. They are also strikingly different between makes and models. This is not a light beer situation, where three awful and nearly identical specimens are competing for the same space. So please, please, please, car manufacturers, give us more demonstrative advertising. Even if it is just showing us how many cup holders your sedan has. We like cupholders! We can put smoke grenades in them! Please tell us!
Tom: Indeed. Listen to Mike, marketers, or find your commercials in this space!
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: A veteran quarterback like Carson Palmer should be an asset in the two-minute drill at the end of the half. Instead of, say, throwing a dumpoff pass short of field goal range with no hope of going out of bounds, forcing his team to burn their last timeout, and then following that up with another pass into field goal range that leaves his wide receiver with no hope of going out of bounds.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Is Ben Roethlisberger injured or not? This seems like a silly question, as we all know he's injured. Judging by the way Mike Tomlin has handled his quarterback the last couple weeks, though, it's not really clear. Playing him against the Browns in the second half. Playing him against the 49ers even though he was clearly hobbled. Playing him a lot against the Browns on Sunday, even though he wasn't playing well and the Ravens took a big early lead. Either he's the key to the team's playoff hopes, in which case you should rest him, or he's not, in which case you should rest him because Charlie Batch isn't much of a downgrade.
COLBERT AWARD: Coaches whose teams have been eliminated in Week 17 should feel free to coach aggressively, take risks they might not otherwise, and do things just to make a point. For examples, see Chan Gailey on Sunday against the Patriots: faking a punt, going for it on fourth down, and benching one of his best players because he did something stupid after talking about how he was going to stop doing stupid things.
Below, both the biggest losers of Week 17 and the biggest losers from the entire Part II of the contest, Weeks 10-17.
KICKER: Normally, when a kicker finishes on the bottom of the Loser League rankings, his team loses the game. Not Ryan Succop, not this week. -1 from a made extra point and a missed field goal, and his team won. All hail the power of Tim Tebow!
KICKER, WEEKS 10-17: You'd never guess this, but a kicker for a terrible team who had a -4 finished last. Yes, Josh Brown, I'm looking in your direction, despite a good 9 this week. You just edged out Nick Folk.
WIDE RECEIVER: Mohamed Massaquoi, Lavelle Hawkins, Earl Bennett, Jacoby Ford, and Brian Hartline each had 1 point.
WIDE RECEIVER, WEEKS 10-17: Oddly enough, both of the bottom receivers were so bad it didn't matter that they took the penalty in Week 17. Jarett Dillard has the excuse of being on a horrible offense. Legedu Naanee, what's going on with you?
RUNNING BACKS: Joseph Addai had 1 point to finish in last by his lonesome, while teammate Donald Brown, Madden cover man Peyton Hillis, healthy ACL-less Rashard Mendenhall, and Daniel Thomas had 3 points.
RUNNING BACK, WEEKS 10-17: Running backs by committee are a surprising and generally positive development in the NFL. Unfortunately, some teams have trouble figuring out the RBBC, and the Kansas City Chiefs seem to be the master of screwing that up. Last year, it was that Jamaal Charles didn't get enough carries. This year, it was that Thomas Jones and Jackie Battle didn't do anything with the carries they did get. Yes, teammates Battle and Jones were the two bottom-ranked Loser League rushers, and nobody was very close to either of them.
QUARTERBACK: Look over Ponder / what do you see / one interception and / just twenty-eight yards. Christian Ponder, -1.
QUARTERBACK, WEEKS 10-17: Despite Ponder's effort the last couple weeks, this is still Blaine Gabbert by a wide margin. By now, your Scramble writer is at the point where he feels bad for Gabbert more than he finds his struggles amusing, so insert your own joke here.
Congratulations to our Second Half Loser League champion, Matthew Rosamond of Brooklyn, New York! Matthew's team, the Bear Sloths, consisted of Colt McCoy and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback; Cedric Benson, Jackie Battle, and Marshawn Lynch at running back; Jason Avant, Davone Bess, and Steve Breaston at wide receiver; and Phil Dawson and Josh Scobee at kicker. Matthew wins a free copy of the 2012 KUBIAK fantasy football projections.
Our winner for both halves of the year combined is Jonathan Weaver, who also was our first half winner. He wins both 2012 KUBIAK and a copy of Football Outsiders Almanac 2012.
Have fantasy football questions? Then something is wrong with you, because you clearly have some kind of temporal dissociation! Sadly, neither of your Scramble writers can help, but we can tell you to gear up for another postseason of (mostly) harmless fun leading up to our annual Super Bowl Prop Bet Extravaganza, which we super-double promise not to start writing at 11 p.m. this year!
30 comments, Last at 11 Jan 2012, 5:08pm by idembsky