Five different teams from last year's DVOA top eight rank in the bottom half of the league through four weeks of 2014. What can we learn from other teams with similar starts in the past?
02 Jan 2013
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. Mike- Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
2. Rivers- Tom Brady, QB, New England
3. Tom- Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
4. Danny- Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle
5. Aaron- Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota
6. Sean- Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
7. Sean- Stevan Ridley, RB, New England
8. Aaron- Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
9. Danny- Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver
10. Tom- Arian Foster, RB, Houston
11. Rivers- Eric Decker, WR, Denver
12. Mike- Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore
13. Mike- A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati
14. Rivers- Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England
15. Tom- Andre Johnson, WR, Houston
16. Danny- Wes Welker, WR, New England
17. Aaron- Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver
18. Sean- Roddy White, WR, Atlanta
19. Sean- Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay
20. Aaron- Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco
21. Danny- Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle
22. Tom- Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay
23. Rivers- Sidney Rice, WR, Seattle
24. Mike- Alfred Morris, RB, Washington
25. Mike- Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis
26. Rivers- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati
27. Tom- Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
28. Danny- James Jones, WR, Green Bay
29. Aaron- Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco
30. Sean- Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta
31. Sean- Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
32. Aaron- Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England
33. Danny- Broncos Defense
34. Tom- Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta
35. Rivers- Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis
36. Mike- Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington
37. Mike- Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati
38. Rivers- Golden Tate, WR, Seattle
39. Tom- Jacob Tamme, TE, Denver
40. Danny- Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England
41. Aaron- Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore
42. Sean- Matt Prater, K, Denver
43. Sean- Seahawks Defense
44. Sean- Brandon Stokley, WR, Denver
45. Aaron- Patriots Defense
46. Aaron- Steven Hauschka, K, Seattle
47. Danny- Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore
48. Danny- DuJuan Harris, RB, Green Bay
49. Tom- Mason Crobsy, K, Green Bay
50. Tom- Packers Defense
51. Rivers- Josh Brown, K, Cincinnati
52. Rivers- 49ers Defense
53. Mike- Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore
54. Ravens Defense
As a recap, here are the rosters:
|FO Playoff Fantasy Rosters|
|QB||Aaron Rodgers||Tom Brady||Peyton Manning||Russell Wilson||Colin Kaepernick||Matt Ryan|
|RB||Ray Rice||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||Arian Foster||Marshawn Lynch||Adrian Peterson||Frank Gore|
|RB||Alfred Morris||Vick Ballard||Michael Turner||DuJuan Harris||Knowshon Moreno||Stevan Ridley|
|WR||A.J. Green||Eric Decker||Andre Johnson||Demaryius Thomas||Michael Crabtree||Roddy White|
|WR||Reggie Wayne||Sidney Rice||Randall Cobb||Wes Welker||Brandon Lloyd||Jordy Nelson|
|WR||Pierre Garcon||Golden Tate||Julio Jones||James Jones||Torrey Smith||Brandon Stokley|
|TE||Jermaine Gresham||Aaron Hernandez||Jacob Tamme||Dennis Pitta||Rob Gronkowski||Tony Gonzalez|
|K||Justin Tucker||Josh Brown||Mason Crosby||Stephen Gostkowski||Steven Hauschka||Matt Prater|
Mike: Picking first in these things is counterproductive since, as we have established before, the optimal strategy is to pick teams you think are going to get to the Super Bowl and run with them.
Mike: But with such a wide gap between early picks, that makes stocking up on players from quality teams difficult. Well, the Packers were the favorite in most of our minds to win the Super Bowl last year. They are again this year, and Green Bay has no running game to speak of. So Rodgers is a no-brainer.
Tom: I think the NFC is a big hodgepodge this year. The Packers have as good a shot as anybody, aside from the fact that they have to play an extra game, though of course that just means a possible fourth game for Rodgers. And, yes, I still wonder about the odd series of events that let me overload on Colts and Saints, the two top seeds, in 2009 and crush everybody on my way to the championship.
Mike: In the end, I put together a pretty good list of talent, so if I'm ever going to win with a balanced strategy, this, I think, would be the year. I'm not optimistic.
Tom: I don't like the Redskins to win their opening game, so I wouldn't have gone with Morris or Garcon. If they put up good numbers against a good Seahawks defense and get a second game, I think you'll have a chance. If only because, well, nobody's really overloaded on a particular team this year.
Tom: It's interesting our resident Texans fan goes with a couple Bengals in BJGE and Brown.
Mike: The wrong Bengals, in my opinion
Tom: Well, Green-Ellis drew a dishonorable mention in the year-end Quick Reads, while you'll see Ballard's name later in this column. We've seen in the past the difference between the right quarterback and the wrong one makes a ton of difference. Brady could certainly be the right one, but he'll need an upset-filled AFC playoffs and the Seahawks to put up big wide receiver fantasy numbers. I don't like either to happen. Sorry, Rivers.
Mike: Yeah. And the first-line guys he has, aside from Brady, are on teams that feel like long shots. I don't like this team at all.
(Editor's note: I think if I had this all to do over again, I probably would have picked Marshawn Lynch second. I also am not enamored with this team. In the end, I'd rather have had one of the second-tier quarterbacks that could go far and a real top-end running back. -- Rivers McCown)
Mike: Why did you pick Mason Crosby? We spent the entire year talking about how awful Crosby has been.
Tom: As we discussed, the Packers have a chance to win multiple games. He's still their kicker.
Mike: Yes, multiple games in which he can miss multiple field goals.
Tom: And he's only been really, really bad from distance. With Shayne Graham, the Texans do not even attempt long field goals. Plus, check the rules. Made field goals = points. Missed field goals = no effect.
Mike: Lost opportunity.
Tom: I didn't really like any of the other kickers that much.
Mike: Anyway, you seem to have put your chips largely on Houston and Atlanta. I like the former. I dislike the latter.
Tom: I want to bet heavily on Denver, but Thomas was off the board and thought Foster was better value than Decker. I like Jones and Turner as upside plays. I'm not a huge fan of Atlanta's prospects, but if they do come through, I could benefit.
Mike: I agree, although I think that leaves you with half of a good team, which is really good enough in playoff fantasy football.
Tom: Yes, this is the sort of team that has an excellent shot of letting me finish in third place. Though unlike most "you will finish in third," teams I think the right circumstances could give me the win.
Mike: And here we have something approaching a Broncos/Patriots strategy. Shame they both have byes and they're in the same conference.
Tom: Plus a pair of Seahawks and Packers. Since my team feels like it finishes third, this team feels like it finishes in fourth.
Mike: I'd like this team a lot more in a PPR league.
Tom: Jones is an interesting pick. He led the league in touchdowns this year, but was the third Packer receiving selected in this draft. And neither of the players who went before him was Greg Jennings.
Mike: I think his star has fallen somewhat. The issue with all of the Packers receivers is that we're never sure exactly on whom Rodgers will hone in on. That's why I just took Rodgers!
Tom: Exactly. So, Danny says go Seahawks, I guess.
Mike: I think Aaron benefited greatly by waiting on quarterback.
Tom: All of these picks were individually very reasonable, but I feel like this team perhaps more than any other exemplifies what a complete mishmash all the teams are this year.
Mike: Peterson is likely one and done, but he should have a great one, and if he gets more than one he's probably the most valuable player in the draft. His receivers are all top targets and (Smith aside) on promising teams. Gronkowski will be a red-zone monster, of course. To an extent I agree, but it is an awesome mishmash.
Tom: That it is. He has a number of high-upside players, and even Smith is on a team that's a clear favorite in their opening game. Plus he has a pretty favorable personnel matchup, with Vontae Davis struggling much of this season and Cassius Vaughn a pigeon. If the Wheel of Flacco is spinning right, that could be a huge game.
Tom: Two lead backs on bye teams and the quarterback and two of the top three targets from another bye team. Yes, the team whose passing combination he dominates is the Falcons, and none of us, I think it's safe to say, loves the Falcons.
Mike: It's really hard to love the Falcons, they way they have played lately.
Tom: Yes, one of those lead backs saw his carries fluctuate a lot from game to game depending on how the Patriots decided to play that week.
Mike: That said, this is probably the closest we have to a "pick the winner" team this year. So if the Falcons win the Super Bowl, Sean's team is going to be fearsome.
Tom: As we've chronicled on the site before, winning close games against mediocre teams is not a sure-fire formula for playoff success.
Mike: It just seems remote. His other talent is good, but somewhat hampered by byes.
Tom: But, yes, if we see chalk in the conference championship games this year, Sean has a good shot at winning.
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!
Keep Chopping Wood: To beat the Minnesota Vikings this year, the top thing on the defensive gameplan is to limit the damage Adrian Peterson does. The Green Bay Packers run defense manifestly failed at that task. When an offense scores 34 points like the Packers did, against a limited passing team, they should expect to win the game. A win which, by the way, would have secured a first-round bye. The only thing the Packers run defense succeeded at was holding Peterson short of Eric Dickerson's single-season total rushing yardage record, and as a result they play Saturday instead of getting a week off. A week in which they could not lose.
Mike Martz Award: Fine, Mike McCarthy, we could have overlooked the low-reward challenge from early in Sunday's game against the Vikings, but seriously, why did you throw the challenge flag on an unchallengeable play? But for the kindness of fate and the wisdom of Jordy Nelson, you could have cost your team. Yes, the Packers still ended up losing, but the coach tried to make it harder for them to do so. NFL coaches should not have to recite the Hippocratic Oath when it comes to the management of their own team.
Quarterback: Brady Quinn became the very rare Loser League leader to play the entire game at quarterback, not turn the ball over, and have the worst Loser League score. Then again, he only had 49 yards passing for 2 points, so what would you expect?
Quarterback, Weeks 10-17: We will make this short and simple. If you did not have Mark Sanchez or Brady Quinn, you had basically no shot at winning the second half Loser League. Sanchez had 50 points, Quinn 58, and no other quarterback had fewer than 98. If you managed to pick those two passers, your highest score in the final eight weeks was 5 points.
Running Back: Bryce Brown rushed for 18 yards in the Eagles' blowout loss for 1 point. Montario Hardesty, Shane Vereen, and Mark Ingram all had between 37 and 39 yards rushing for 3 points each.
Running Back, Weeks 10-17: Have a timeshare back? Don't want to sell him for cash? Keep him for your Loser League team! Jonathan Dwyer was your clear second-half winner, putting up only 41 points. Lagging behind him with a still-respectable 67 points were Bernard Pierce and Vick Ballard. Yes, the Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Josh Gordon, Doug Baldwin, and Andre Hawkins all had 1 point, though Gordon was the only one who used a fumble to get there.
Wide Receiver, Weeks 10-17: Remember when Brian Hartline was leading the league in receiving yards? It happened in 2012, really! That was before he was your second half Loser League leader, obviously. Harry Douglas finished in second, seven points behind him, followed by Dexter McCluster and T.J. Graham, then a cast of others.
Kicker: Alex Henery is your second Eagles player on the Loser League leaderboard this week, making an extra point and missing a field goal for -1 points.
Kicker, Weeks 10-17: Former rookie sensation Greg Zuerlein had a terribly unproductive second half of the season and finished with no more than five points in a given week, finishing several points clear of Nick Folk, who finished several points clear of Ryan Succop.
Congratulations to Jake of Warsaw, Indiana, and The Phil Simms All-Stars! While not the greatest name, it is definitely the greatest team:
Jake will take home a fabulous new edition of KUBIAK for the 2013 season.
Congratulations also to Sam from New Orleans, Lousiana for placing second in the second half en route to claiming the overall Loser League championship! He'll win a copy of FOA 2013 and his own copy of KUBIAK for 2013.
38 comments, Last at 26 Apr 2013, 11:51am by Tamatha Heaps