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.
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: We sort of glossed over the second half Loser League a couple weeks ago when we gave the results, mostly because we were concentrating on the Playoff Fantasy draft. This year's first half produced what we thought were some unexciting team names, which I blame on the lockout. I feel like the second half produces a better crop of names than the first half, because there are normally some good in-season memes that can be used to create better names. Mike, what do you think?
Mike: Some of these are just incomprehensible. Tebow The Letter? What?
Tom: Unfortunately, I need to start saving these team names, so I can weed out duplicates.
Mike: Yeah, that would make a lot of sense. ... --- ... is somewhat clever. At least, I'm pretty sure it's never been done before, which is actually surprising.
Tom: Maybe I'm just in a better mood, but I feel like these nicknames are a gargantuan improvement on the first half of the season. Raheem's Youngry Soup is good, just because "youngry" was such a dumb little phenomenon.
Mike: I don't know ... anything that reminds us collectively of "youngry" is probably a bad thing, no matter how well-intentioned.
Tom: As timely as the Penn State-related names are, I think those are more in that category.
Tom: I like Phantom Manning.
Mike: I'm going to single out #fantasyfootballproblems.
Tom: #hashtag problems?
Mike: Just because I am really, really sick of seeing hashtags show up in all contexts. I will punch you in the face.
Tom: I will at this point note Mike is one of the few FO writers not on Twitter, and he's unfairly overlooking "#losing."
Mike: Hashtags are a stupid kludge that worked out of a system that initially failed to do even the most trivially basic of aggregation functions. They have now morphed into a mixture of identification, pretentious wink-and-nod, and condensation of greater ideas. If you are trying to convey some theme through a hashtag, get off Twitter because you have clearly run afoul of the ridiculous and arbitrary constraints of the medium.
Tom: Eh. They're an imperfect tool, but I find them useful.
Mike: As for the second, putting a sarcastic one-word half-liner at the end of your equally sarcastic post does not make you funny.
Tom: Perhaps the most unfortunately prescient name is The Second Half Collapse of the Buffalo Bills.
Mike: I think Benched By Week 12 is another good one along that vein and clearly many of them have been, considering his place in the standings!
Tom: After eight weeks, the Buffalo Bills were the No. 2 seed in the AFC. After the ninth week, they were the No. 5 seed. After 17 weeks, they'd won one more game and were at least three wins removed from a playoff berth.
Mike: I do wonder if Los Pollos Hermanos: Loser League Edition is the sister of Los Pollos Hermanos: Staff Fantasy League Edition.
Tom: Judging by the name and location, I'm guessing not.
Mike: I like this one, since it jives well with my contempt for college football: Andrew Luck's Non-Accredited Architecture Degree
Tom: Is Stanford's architecture program not accredited? I must admit I know little about architect regulation in general.
Mike: I think it's more a statement about his participation in said program.
Tom: Ah, I see from the Stanford architectural engineering webpage that it is indeed not ABET-accredited.
Mike: Holy cow. That is an impressive reference, so extra points for ALN-AAD!
Tom: Well, at least he's in the school of engineering. As we discussed long ago in the case of Chauncey Washington, any time a football player takes an actual math-y or science-y major I'm surprised and impressed.
Mike: True, but that does not make it any less of a great name.
Tom: True, and informative. I wonder if No One Can Succeed Like Andre Roberts is a disgruntled KUBIAK user.
Mike: Honestly, I assume all Loser League players are disgruntled KUBIAK users. In the second half, at least.
Tom: You're probably right.
Mike: One name also confuses me. Painter > Jesus > Tebow. Have we found the one Curtis Painter fan? An angry atheist? Or is this person suggesting that Painter will somehow later become a world-renowned leader who will be remembered for millennia?
Tom: Alas, it is not Richard from Oxford, UK. And no, that's obviously Jews for Purple Jesus, which I believe is a name we've praised before.
Mike: Stop coasting on prior success!
Tom: As somebody who keep using the same fantasy football team name, I'm not listening.
Mike: The difference is that your fantasy football team name was never a success.
Tom: Not everybody can come up with a name like CJ650 Tears a Hamstring. Besides, 1941 Orange Bowl Loser has gone championship, finalist, championship. I'm keeping it. My staff league name, Wagstaff's Ringers, is going away next year.
Mike: Interesting. Any early favorites?
Tom: As I've mentioned, Wagstaff's Ringers comes from the Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers. I have the even older Harold Lloyd movie The Freshman sitting on my DVR, so I'm guessing my next name will come from that.
Mike: Sounds like a great name that approximately three people will understand, much like the majority of these Loser League names.
Tom: That's never stopped me before. Does Svitek You Out to the Ball Game really care if you've never heard of the Falcons' left tackle, Will Svitek?
Mike: It just doesn't work, no, especially since Svitek is, for obvious reasons, not available in the Loser League.
Tom: I enjoyed Suck for Luck but More for Moore.
Mike: It's all right.
Tom: Timely and punny.
Mike: I suppose so, but it lacks a certain oomph.
Tom: Fair enough. I just look at many of the names and see neither or a repeat. I'm surprised there aren't more making fun of Hue Jackson's trade for Carson Palmer. There's Two 1s for Palmer, but that's it.
Mike: I think the Raiders are just too sad to mock, at this point.
Tom: I feel like they actually have some hope for the future at this point, but it's been a long and unpleasant journey getting there.
Tom: We'll see. I'm cautiously optimistic that they're ready to move into the modern era of the NFL, but it'll take time and some good decision-making from new general manager Reggie McKeznie to build a consistent winner.
Mike: At least he has a more solid foundation than, say, Mike Holmgren had when he came to Cleveland.
Tom: Yes, but Holmgren at least had the benefit of Tom Dimitroff on a bender ... er, convinced that the Falcons had to trade up to draft Julio Jones.
Mike: Oh, alcohol. The cause of -- and solution to -- all of life's problems.
Tom: Now all we have to see is see how the Browns screw up having two first-round picks. After all, if they use them correctly, we might not be able to make fun of the Browns next year, and that's a world too depressing to contemplate.
We're starting to see some separation now, both in the total standings and in terms of players remaining. Right now it's probably Danny's to win, as he currently leads the standing (though Rivers only trails by two points) and is only one of two players with his quarterback remaining. With at least one member from each conference finalist, he is also guaranteed to get at least two more games from two roster spots. By contrast, Aaron and Mike only have one roster spot left, and one of them is guaranteed to have no players remaining next week. With five players remaining, Rivers is far from out of it, but he needs Victor Cruz to show some of his regular season magic and for Hakeem Nicks to stop catching so many touchdown passes.
|FO Playoff Divisional Round Results|
|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|
Best of the Rest
After double-checking all scores, former Scrambler Al Bogdan was not high on the radar after last week's game, but wagers on Alex Smith and Vernon Davis paid off in a big way to the tune of 62 combined points. He currently leads Best of the Rest with 140 points. Picking Davis helped the K stay close at 128, but he has no hope of passing Al without negative scores from probably all of Smith, Kyle Williams, and the Giants D. Podge is in a more distant third with Best of the Rest's top wideout in Mario Manningham, but needs Manningham to become Eli Manning's only target to have a shot at the top prize.
Al’s former writing partner Ian Dembsky has put together a chart of Best of the Rest scores which you may access here; note that the Giants defense has 17 points in the official standings, as I am giving them credit for not allowing any points to the Falcons' offense or special teams, and the Falcons defense has -2.
Tom: Inanimate objects don't talk in real life. Why do ad agencies think having them talk to people in real life is a good idea rather than Nightmare Fuel? (Consider yourself warned not to click on the link if you have anything else to do today.)
Mike: Because they assume we all have the emotional maturity of five-year-olds, complete with the ability to apostrophetize basically anything? Generally, they're correct. That's the sad part.
Tom: Seriously, though, I have no idea who thought this was a good idea.
Mike: Remember earlier in the column, when we were discussing alcohol?
Mike: The worst part is, not only are they hanging out with this thing, they are eating its innards. As they spill out all over the table, even!
Tom: Note that the Fiesta Bowl has been the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl since 1996. If the Fiesta Bowl wasn't named after the Tostitos until after Tostitos Bag supposedly left school, then they're apparently eating (at least) 16-year-old innards, even! Also, please note there's a fourth person in the room who never talks and is visibly trying to pay attention to the football game while the other three people have a conversation with a talking bag. That's me, or "why Tom started watching the Super Bowl alone at home instead of going to a party."
Mike: I imagine that's a fairly common occurrence in college football viewing parties.
Tom: I'm sure. I do appreciate the verisimilitude. The people playing football are another nice touch. Another good way to avoid conversing with people you don't want to talk to.
Mike: You do realize that not everyone loathed their classmates the same way you did?
Tom: I was thinking more about some family gatherings. Loathed classmates and I mutually opted out. From associating with each other, that is.
Mike: I'm surprised you haven't offered your family a similar opt-out agreement, though I wouldn't hazard a guess at what terms and conditions apply.
Tom: I do. It's called "living at least 100 miles away from all relations." Fortunately, I can watch my family, or at least my darling baby older niece any time I like, and so can you.
Mike: Aww, that is adorable.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: What's one of the big keys to victory in a game between two evenly-matched teams? Turnovers! What's a good way to turn the ball over? Turn handling punts into an adventure! What's a good way to redeem yourself from special teams misadventures? Make big plays on offense. Jacoby Jones went 0-for-2 this weekend on our little quiz, and the Houston Texans are left to ponder what might have been had Matt Schaub not gotten hurt.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Facing second-and-10 in the third quarter of Sunday's game, the 49ers, who led 20-14 despite having trouble moving the ball, tried calling a pick play. It alas, didn't work, as Alex Smith's pass sailed out of bounds and Ted Ginn was flagged for offensive pass interference. Probably knowing that officials seem to dislike calling the same penalty on subsequent plays, Jim Harbaugh and/or offensive coordinator Greg Roman opted to try their luck and called another rub route. The result was an incomplete pass to Michael Crabtree, and another flag down for offensive pass interference, this time on Kyle Williams. Officials' mettle tested and verified.
COLBERT AWARD: When your offensive line has had trouble picking up the blitz and your receivers have had trouble winning against man coverage, what do you do? If you're 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, you bust out the quarterback crack sweep. Touchdown, Alex Smith.