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20 Oct 2005

Scramble for the Ball: Oasis or Mirage

by Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal

Vivek: Maybe it is my New York pessimism, but my low expectations became a reality in Dallas on Sunday. The emergence of Eli Manning might be a wolf in sheep's clothing, because the offense has shunned the running game recently. Take Sunday's loss to the Cowboys -- the Giants did average an impressive 4.8 yards per carry, but on a meager 19 rushing attempts. On all five of the Giants' situations of two yards or less yards for a first down, the Giants opted to pass. Manning was forcing the ball to his receivers, including his new favorite target -- Plaxico Burress.

What happened to this Thunder and Lightning ground game? After six carries in Week 1 against Arizona, Brandon Jacobs has totaled seven rushing attempts during the past four games. Tiki Barber is not taking away Jacobs' touches either; he is averaging only 17.6 rushing attempts and about one reception per game. Compare that with his 23.5 touches per game from 2004, and you can see an imbalance between the passing and ground game.

Al: Thunder needs to learn how to run with the football more effectively. Jacobs is a 275 pound bruiser who runs through an offensive line with perfect posture, like he's trying to balance a book on his head. He needs to learn how to hunch over and compress his body to become an effective battering ram in short yardage situations. By doing so, he'll give opposing defenders a more difficult target to tackle and bring down because of his lower center of gravity. He'll also make it more difficult for the opposition to knock the ball out. Alleged safety Roy Williams easily caused Jacobs to lose the football on the goal line, which almost cost the Giants a chance to tie the game.

Luckily, however, the Giants had Eli behind center to lead them down the field just a few minutes later for the final score. I agree, though, that Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator John Hufnagel have relied a bit too much on Eli to carry the offense. In every game this year, he's looked both like one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a random rookie that has no business being on the field. On Sunday, Manning couldn't find a receiver in the first half, going 5-for-12 for 37 yards. In the fourth quarter, Manning marched the team down the field before Jacobs fumbled at the goal line, and less than 30 seconds of game time later he began the game tying drive where he completed two passes for 48 yards and a touchdown.

This inconsistency shows that it may still be too early to put all the pressure of moving the ball downfield in Eli's hands. Tiki Barber was one of the five best backs in football last year. The Giants need to give him an opportunity to show that he's still at that level. This year, New York has the fourth best rushing offense according to DVOA, with Barber ranked sixth in DVOA among all running backs. The Giants need to put the ball in his hands more often.

Vivek: So Eli is surpassing expectations, but let's take a look at a few other people who are overachieving and see if they will continue or fall back to earth in this segment that we call…

Oasis or Mirage

Al: For those of you just joining us, if we think the player won't be able to keep up their surprising production, we'll call them a mirage. However, if we think the player can keep up their pace, we'll call them an oasis. Yes, I agree it's an incredibly dumb name for a segment.

Mark Brunell

Vivek: Oasis. The Washington southpaw is this year's version of Drew Brees, averaging about two touchdowns and just shy of 250 yards per game. More importantly, he has not been making poor decisions at the helm of the offense.

I admittedly was a bit skeptical about Brunell, even after his fourth quarter against the Cowboys. Brunell was a non factor until those last scoring drives, but has maintained his arm strength and solid decision making since. What surprises me the most is his athleticism, both from his legs and his arm. I do wonder though if we would have been calling for Jason Campbell if the Redskins lost that game against Dallas.

Al: Was Brunell hurt last year? It's the only explanation I can think of for the apparent complete difference in his arm strength between this season and last. In 2004, Brunell averaged 5.04 yards per pass attempt, worst of any quarterback in the league with over 100 pass attempts. The Redskins receivers all had the lowest yards per reception averages of their careers last season with Brunell behind center. This year Brunell is averaging a respectable 7.0 yards per attempt, 14th in the league among passers with at least 100 attempts. Santana Moss is averaging 19.1 yards per catch, the highest average of his career. No reason he can't keep this up. Oasis.

Drew Bledsoe

Vivek: Oasis. Bledsoe has found something with Terry Glenn, as the receiver has recorded 15 of his 20 career 100-yard games from Bledsoe. It's amazing how much better a quarterback is when he is not on his back or eluding a pass rusher.

Al: I'm going to disagree and say this is a Mirage. A huge part of Bledsoe's success this year has been the great pass blocking of his offensive line. Bledsoe has been sacked 2.17 times per game this season. If Dallas can keep that up, it would be the fewest sacks in a full season for the immovable object otherwise known as Drew Bledsoe since he was 25 and defending an AFC Championship in Foxboro. The problem, however, is that I don't expect Dallas to keep this up now that left tackle Flozell Adams has been lost for the year because of injury. It looks like Adams will be replaced by Torrin Tucker, who lost his job at right tackle to sixth round draft pick Rob Petitti in training camp. With Bledsoe getting dumped more often, he'll have fewer chances to hit Glenn down field and put up big fantasy numbers.

Stephen Davis

Al: With seven touchdowns, Davis has been a solid fantasy play this year. I don't see him keeping this up. I've done absolutely no research on this, but I hate having players on my fantasy team that depend so much on scoring touchdowns for their fantasy value. In games when Davis scores a touchdown, he's been worth on average 17 points in a basic scoring system. In the two games Davis didn't score a touchdown, he was worth a total of two points, or six points if you don't subtract points for fumbles. Davis will remain Carolina's primary goal line option as long as he can stay healthy, but I don't see him keeping up his torrid scoring pace all season. Mirage.

Vivek: Stephen Davis has gotten progressively worse each week. 6.1, 3.1, 2.3, 2.7, 2.6 and 2.1 -- Davis' yards per carry for the first six games. Since the season opener, Davis has only broken off two runs of more than ten yards, both of them just 11 yards. Do not hold your breath for a string of 100-yard games. Mirage.

Thomas Jones

Al: Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la, uh huh. Right now Thomas Jones is the funkiest man in Chicago. Because when everybody loves you, oh, son, that's just about as funky as you can be. But can Mr. Jones keep up his 100+ yards and 1+ touchdown per game pace? I didn't think so two weeks ago, after both Ruben Brown and John Tait went down with injuries. However, it looks like both will be back in the lineup next week, and they weren't needed against the awful Vikings defense on Sunday when Jones scored two touchdowns. With four more games against the awful run defenses in the NFC North, and remaining games against the 49ers and Falcons, Jones should be able to maintain his status as a back you have to have in your fantasy starting lineup every week. Oasis.

Vivek: Wow, I thought I stretched for some pop culture references. Jones and the Bears face bottom of the barrel run defenses the rest of the way. Cedric Benson effectively ended his season before it started with his long holdout. He is a liability during passing plays and has written himself out of the playbook. Jones will definitely not have a Long December. There Al, we're even.Oasis.

Al: You're obviously forgetting the column where I included the lyrics to "Living on a Prayer" in each of my comments. 'Round here, no reference can be stretched too far.

Santana Moss

Al: So far, it looks like I couldn't have been more incorrect about the Laveraneus Coles-for-Santana Moss trade. Originally, I thought the Redskins were making a huge mistake by taking a gigantic cap hit to pick up an inferior wide receiver. After watching Moss this year, I've changed my mind. Washington made only a small mistake, adding a player more suitable for their offense while taking a ridiculous salary cap hit in the process. This one is an Oasis. Moss isn't just getting his yards on long bombs from Brunell, like he did in the Dallas comeback in Week 2. In the past two games, Moss has clearly developed into Brunell's go to receiver. Over the next three weeks the Redskins' passing game has plenty of favorable matchups coming up against the 49ers, Giants, and Eagles, all of whom have struggled to stop their opponents' top receiver.

Joey Galloway

Al: The loss of Brian Griese for the season makes this an easy Mirage. Griese was maddeningly inconsistent, but he found a nice rapport with Galloway. There's no reason to expect the same to happen with Chris Simms behind center. Simms didn't impress when given the opportunity to play last season. In Week 2 against Seattle, Simms took over for Brad Johnson in the second quarter, leading two drives that resulted in field goals and two that ended because of turnovers by Simms. Starting a meaningless Week 17 game against Arizona, Simms only completed 50% of his passes, throwing two interceptions and botching an exchange with the center that would lead to half of the Cardinals' points and end the Buccaneers' last scoring chance of the game. Could he develop into a quality NFL quarterback under Jon Gruden? Sure, but I wouldn't bet on it happening too quickly.

Vivek: Mirage. Griese had a knack for forcing the ball to Galloway, overlooking his other options. That narrow focus resulted in some surprising totals for Galloway, but his numbers should drop off now that Chris Simms is taking over.

Al: Late word has Tim Rattay being dealt to Tampa. Even if Rattay starts over Simms, Galloway's numbers are going to take a hit.

Scramble for the Ball Mailbag

You can send us your fantasy questions at scramble@footballoutsiders.com, or fill out the contact form at Football Outsiders.

Tommy S. writes in:

May you please rank the following players for my flex league: C.Chambers, C.Brown, M.Moore, and K.Barlow. Also, please tell me which Tight End would you start: Todd Heap or L.J. Smith?

Al: Nice to see that Reggie Williams' name isn't on that list. Start Chris Brown against Arizona. If a player on your roster isn't startable against the Cardinals, he shouldn't be on the roster. Next, I'd recommend Moore. If the Vikings are going to win a game it will be this week at home against Green Bay. As you would know from reading Pro Football Prospectus 2005, Brett Favre's otherworldly powers seem to disappear once he sets foot in the Metrodome. Combine that with Green Bay's poor defense, and Minnesota could actually get a lead at some point in the game, which will allow them to run the football. Kevan Barlow is a first ballot inductee to the Loser League Hall of Fame. I'd play Chambers against the below average Kansas City defense ahead of him.

At tight end, start Smith. The Bears have been especially tough against tight ends this season .

Randy P. asks:

1) Which 2 of these 4 WR's would you start this week? R.Ferguson, C.Chambers, R.Smith, and J.Jurevicius.

2) Which TE would you start, Ben Troupe or M.Pollard ?

3) I'm pretty sure I should drop the Cleveland defense this week, so which defense should I pick up off the waiver wire? San Diego, Washington, Miami, KC, Detroit, or Tennessee ?

Al: 1) Smith and Jurevicius. Smith should be able to pick up plenty of yards against the Giants' secondary. Jurevicius is Matt Hasselbeck's favorite target with Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram out and hasn't let his QB down, catching 70% of the passes intended for him. At home against Dallas, he should have a nice day.

2) Troupe. Tennessee is playing Arizona this week. Start your Titans. Plus, Cleveland has been very good against opposing tight ends early on this year.

3) I wouldn't be so quick to drop Cleveland. Playing Detroit at home is a damn fine matchup for a defense, especially if Joey Harrington gets benched in favor of "under practiced" rookie Dan Orlovsky.

Vivek: 1) Like Al said, Smith and Jurevicius.

2) Pollard over Troupe -- the other Lions receivers can't stay healthy or clean.

3) The Outsiders will definitely have to write a statistical analysis on starting a top ten defense for the entire year versus playing the matchups. Keep Cleveland and do not waste a waiver claim on anyone else.

Jason asks for some help with his lineup:

Injuries have me hurting for this week and next week.

Here is the current roster:

QB- Palmer, McNair

RB- Tomlinson, C Williams, T Jones, Gore, Tyson Thompson, Davenport (IR)

WR- Holt, S Smith, D Jackson, Houshmandzadeh, Henry

TE- Witten, Troupe

K - Lindell, Janikowski (mandatory 2)

DEF/ST- TB, CHI (mandatory 2)

With my league's scoring rules, RB's and WR's are pretty even in points. A good #1 WR will score more than an average starting RB. Starters are QB, RB, 2 WR, TE, K, DEF/ST, 2 FLEX (RB, WR, TE).

Who should I start at the RB, WR, and FLEX spots? Tomlinson and Steve Smith are the only guarantees at this point. Everyone else is questionable or worse. I can change lineups 5 min. before game time for each, as long as a spot is still open for a switch, so I should know who has been declared out before lineups are frozen.

Vivek: Have we ever had a week where one reader question is longer than the rest of Scramble? I'd go with a starting roster of Palmer, LT, Holt, Smith, Witten and then you have to do the injury report watch on Sunday. Thomas Jones had no ill effects of a bum knee last week and should be a solid FLEX start, even against the Ravens.

Al: I agree that it's not the best matchup with Jones against the Ravens, but he's your best flex option. I'd wait to see Cadillac be effective in a game situation before putting him back in the starting lineup.

Lessons Learned from Week 1

Lesson 1 -- We Will Be Writing More About Ricky Williams Off the Field Than on the Field

Vivek: Ricky Williams looked like a shell of his former self on Sunday, literally -- just the shell without the muscle. He did little to help the Dolphins in this game, and nobody should expect him to average more than 30-40 yards per game the rest of the way. And good old selfless Ricky showed what a team player he was after the game with this gem: “I had a lot of fun out there. I mean we lost, but it was fun.� I'm sure that Nick Saban had a lot of fun too.

Lesson 2 - Yes, It Can Get Worse for the Vikings

Al: After last week's episode of the Love Boat, with Fred Smoot playing the role of Captain Stubing, you might think things couldn't get much worse for the Vikings. But you'd be wrong. First, the team put up arguably the worst performance by a football team this season with their pitiful 28-3 loss against Chicago. Next, it was revealed that suspended running back Onterrio Smith is being sued for an alleged sexual assault of a woman with a “mental impairment.� Finally, authorities in Minnesota are now investigating whether the female “entertainment� on the infamous cruise on Lake Minnetonka were paid to fly into Minnesota from Georgia. That's the interstate transportation of women for the purpose of prostitution. As the folks from BadJocks.com point out, that could be a violation of the federal Mann Act, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in a federal prison. A misdemeanor charge from a local prosecutor is one thing. Having the feds going after you for a felony conviction is much more serious.

Lesson 3 - The NFL Trade Deadline Is As Significant As a Performance in the Preseason Opener

Vivek: Tim Rattay, Toniu Fonoti, AJ Feeley and (Ms.) Cleo Lemon were the only players to change jerseys this year. Why is it that the NFL's trade deadline occurs after Week 6, when every other professional sport has a deadline much deeper into the season? NFL cap rules prohibit player movement, while the early deadline means that no team is in “sell mode.�

Keep Choppin' Wood Award

Vivek: Surprise, surprise -- those Tommy Maddox XFL collectors items on eBay have gone cold after his performance on Sunday against Jacksonville. His 11-for-28, three interception performance was worthy of KCW for this week

But that was not enough to clinch this award….

Then Maddox wasted a 71-yard kickoff return to open the extra session by fumbling at the Jacksonville 27-yard line on the first drive of overtime.

But that was not enough to clinch this award…..

To seal the deal, Maddox had the last pass attempt of the game, and quite possibly his season, intercepted and returned 41 yards for the game-ending touchdown.

And Maddox will not be able to redeem himself, as he has been relegated to third string behind Charlie Batch.

Al: You can always count on an ex-XFL'er to come through with a Keep Choppin' Wood performance.

Loser League Update

Al: Your Week 6 All-Loser Team:

QB: Trent Dilfer, CLE - 1 point (30 passes, 147 yards; 2 fumbles; 1 INT)
RB: Stephen Davis, CAR - 2 points (13 carries, 29 yards)
RB: Kevin Jones, DET - 2 points (12 carries, 21 yards; 2 catches, 3 yards)
WR: Kelley Washington, CIN - 1 point (2 catches, 13 yards)
WR: Amani Toomer, NYG - 1 point (2 catches, 11 yards)
K: Paul Edinger, MIN - -1 point (1/3 FG)

Week 6 saw a dominant performance by Less Cowbell, who easily won the week with 21 points. However, it's looking like the Polish Wonders are ready to run away with the first half title with a 22-point lead over Christ Punchers.

Best Bets

Vivek: (1-3 last week, 8-13 overall)

It is a tough week to pick games (as opposed to every other week that I'm on target) with no lines for a few matchups.

CINCINNATI +1.0 over Pittsburgh

Hines Ward has sat out one game in his entire career, and that was last week. You know that he is hurting if he does not give it a go. Ward remains questionable, and even a 100 percent healthy Ben Roethlisberger needs Ward to prevent the Bengals from stuffing the box. The Bengals have not been a bad pick with the spread once this year, and they will keep that streak going.

ATLANTA -7.0 over New York Jets

Last week Al and I talked about the Jets' woes, especially the disappointing play of the offensive line. To add injury to insult, the team lost Kevin Mawae for the year. This is a week where Atlanta boosts its defensive rankings.

San Diego +4.0 over PHILADELPHIA

This could be the best 3-3 team ever. Seriously. There are only three teams in the NFL that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack -- Indy, Cincy and San Diego. Philadelphia was in that group, but they need to earn the respect back being manhandled by Dallas in Week 5. I'll defer any questions about Sports Hernias to Will Carroll, but from everything I've read, it's going to be a miracle for Donovan McNabb to make it through the season.

Al: (3-0 last week, 14-6 overall)

Say what you will about some of the fantasy advice I've given this year, but when it comes to best bets you can call me Scott Hatteberg. I'm a pickin' machine

Indianapolis -15.5 over HOUSTON

When was the last time you saw a road team as this large of a favorite? When was the last time it happened and you thought the line looked way too low? The NFL record for most sacks in one game is seven by the late Derrick Thomas against the Seahawks in 1990. Dwight Freeney could have that many by the half. If your fantasy quarterback is out this week, I'd seriously consider starting Jim Sorgi. He should be good for at least two touchdown passes after taking over for Manning when the Colts go up by thirty in the second quarter.

CLEVELAND -2.5 over Detroit

I can't take any team seriously that is thinking about starting a rookie quarterback from UConn on the road.

Kansas City +1.5 over MIAMI

The Miami defense was exposed last week against Tampa. If Michael Pittman can average eight and a half yards per carry against the Dolphins, just imagine what a healthy Priest Holmes will be able to do against them this week.

Posted by: scramble on 20 Oct 2005

54 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2010, 3:03am by uggs outlet


by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:08am

First in!

I have Amani Toomer, but my team is plummeting due to Darius Watts, Johnnie Morton, JJ Arrington, etc.

I like the Ravens (+1), the Bills (PK), and the Seahawks (-3).

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 10:31am

re: "Alleged safety Roy Williams"

It would be great to see the stats to back up this kind of respouting of conventional wisdom. Granted he totally blew the Shockey TD, apparently not receiving the play call. But he's made more plays in pass coverage than people give him credit for. And often times the harshest criticism is for plays where he doesn't really deserve it, e.g., the Redskin game: on the first TD pass to Moss he actually made a sensible decision on a play that exploited a weakness in the Cowboys coverage scheme; the second play was more on Aaron Glenn, and Parcells said as much.

It just seems that people are quick to hate on Williams for some reason. I wouldn't argue that he's anything more than avg. in coverage for a SS - but to say he's less than it, well, it'd be nice to see some supporting data, or some original, and more comprehensive, anecdotal evidence, esp. from a site as more-often-than-not brilliant as this one.

by Walt (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 10:38am

Kevin Jones hasn't done much this season and with yet another injury knock this week think it might finally be time to cut him loose. Do I make the following trade or hope that a QB change and the return of his FB will increase Jones' production?

Trade Jones and Kennison for Ahman Green and PIT DST.

Kennison can't get off my bench and I need a DST upgrade over MIA and WAS. I need 2 RBs and my other roster choices are D. Davis and Stecker. I'm sure the other owner will attempt to switch Barlow in for Green but I would not accept that.

by Al (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:04am

Don't trade Jones for Green. As disappointing as Jones has been, Green has been worse. And at least there's hope that Jones will improve with a new QB and an easy second half schedule.

As far as Williams goes, that was a joke. I too believe that his perceived inability to defend the pass has been a bit overblown because of the two big plays against Santana Moss. But even the most stout Williams supporter would have to admit he's much better stopping the run than he is in pass coverage.

Why not at least consider moving him to linebacker? He essentially plays as one in obvious run situations. If he's, as you say, an average cover safety, he should be able to handle the coverage responsibilities at linebacker. Play him where you can best utilize his strengths instead of putting him in a position where teams can exploit his weaknesses.

by adam (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:07am

Start Chris Brown against Arizona. If a player on your roster isn’t startable against the Cardinals, he shouldn’t be on the roster.

Okay, but my first two RBs are Shaun Alexander @ Dal and Brian Westbrook v SD. Do I dare bench either for Brown?

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:24am

re: #2: Dude, maybe you should chill out and have a cup of coffee, maybe take a shower, before you sit down to read these articles in the morning. Your mini-rant is a little misplaced here.

Oh wait, that was my post.

by JG (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:38am

I posted this same question in one of the extra points, but realized it may be more appropriate here. What does the line and the over/under actually mean? I've never placed a bet in my life so I haven't tried to figure it out, but it's getting so common that it is discussed all over the place and I'd kind of like to fully understand what I'm reading. Thanks.

by ZH (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:49am

re:2 and 4: Williams gets big plays and int's but he can't cover consistently in man coverage. Vs. the pass, he is the Deltha O'neal of safeties, a player whose coverage abilities are overrated b/c they come up with the big play more often than your average player, but consistently blow coverages (and not necessarily only on big plays, but even down to down). Admittedly, vs. the run, Williams is among the best safeties in the league.

by ZH (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:52am

re:7: Over/under is the projected total points scored in the game by both teams. The line is the projected margin of victory by the winning team.

by kevin (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 12:06pm

a minus sign indicates how much a team is favored to win by; conversely, a plus sign indicates that a team is an underdog by that many points . . .

so take Indy (-15.5)

if you bet on the Colts, they have to win by 16+ in order for you to win the bet, if you take Houston, they have to lose by 15 or less (or win outright). . .

over/under takes the total points scored . . . so if the over/under is 45, if you take over, if the total score is 46+ then you win . . . and so on . . .

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 12:09pm

A negative number means the team is favored: Cleveland -2.5 over Detroit means the Browns are favored by 2.5, and they're picking the favorite. Kansas City +1.5 over Miami means the Dolphins are favored by 1.5, and they're picking the underdog.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 12:10pm

My previous post was brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.

by TomC (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 12:20pm

On the subject of the Lake Minnetonka Pleasure Cruise:

I think federal prosecutors should make sure they've thought out all the possible repercussions before even mentioning the Mann Act in the context of this case. This piece of legislation has a very nasty history; I think most people associate it with persecution of black men --- particularly athletes --- who dare to consort with white women rather than with legitimate prosecution of human trafficking cases.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 12:41pm

Re: #4. Thanks, Al, for the response. I realized later (see #6) that that line was obviously just a joke, and a funny little one at that, since it was an original way to state it.

Re: #8. That may be true, but the slew of articles this year by the major sports sites (well maybe not a slew, but they've all had at least one) dismiss Williams too easily without providing enough specific examples (which is why most sports reporters blow their assignments - they don't do enough, if any, research).

There have been plenty of games this year where the opposing QB had no where to throw, and Roy was in the game and not blitzing, so I assume he's covering somebody well on those plays. Plus, the Dallas FSs, Davis and Pile, are probably playing just a little over replacement level, which continues to put more pressure on Williams back there.

I expect that the game charting project will go a long way toward establishing just how much of a liability Williams is in pass coverage. Can't wait for the results of that FO endeavor.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 12:47pm


You are 100% correct, and that is one of the reasons that I don't think that they will invoke the Mann Act in this case.

by KSR (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 1:17pm

Kind of an odd question here, who to start at QB, McNabb v. SD or McCown (assuming he starts) v. TEN? I'd ordinarily never consider this, but McCown has done well the last 2 games, and TEN's secondary is pretty bad. What's SD's secondary like? Thoughts?

by BillT (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 1:44pm

"After last week’s episode of the Love Boat, with Fred Smoot playing the role of Captain Stubing"

I think you mean Captain Stabbin'.

by Kuato (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:10pm

Hey Guys, Quick Fantasy question.

I've got Farve and Bledsoe on my Roster and I've managed to pick the wrong one to start 4 of the 5 weeks they have both played this year (of course they are both having monster fantasy years so this is a good thing). Anyway, who to play this week?

Farve goes into his house of horrors in Minn, but they are awful and he should be good for a TD or two. But, Minns DVOA vs. the pass is not too horrible.

Bledsoe is a hot hand right now and faces a Seattle team that is going to score some points so Dallas is going to HAVE to throw the ball a lot to keep up.

Who is your play?


by Aaron Boden (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:36pm

Who would you start in this situation

Mike Anderson or Mewelde Moore?

Anderson is losing touches to Tatum Bell, but Mewelde Moore is on Minnesota. Or should I scrap one of them and pick up Antowain Smith?

by Drew (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:48pm


Another way to think of the spread is this: look at the final score of the game, perform the operation for the team you wagered on, if the team you bet for has a higher score, then you get paid.

EG. Seattle v. Dallas, Seattle by 3.

If you bet on Seattle you have "Seattle -3.0" if you bet on Dallas, you have "Dallas +3.0".

If the final score is Seattle 21, Dallas 20 and you had Dallas +3.0, add 3 to get to Seattle 21, Dallas 23. Dallas is ahead after the transformation, so you get paid.

by Tony D (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:50pm

3) The Outsiders will definitely have to write a statistical analysis on starting a top ten defense for the entire year versus playing the matchups.

Yes, please do this. I have the Bengals defense (DVOA #8) and the Browns defense (DVOA #22), and from week 4 on this has been my exact problem -- play top Bengals defense regardless of matchup, or play Browns defense vs teams like Baltimore, Detroit, etc.

I've tried playing the matchups, but I'm going back to the Bengals defense this week, I don't care what anyone says.

by Bryce (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:55pm

Priest, Step. Jackson, T. Jones, and J. Jones?
Which two would you start this week?

by Tyler (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:23pm

RE 22: With Priest always seeming to find a way to get into the endzone, I think you have to go with him. And NO got tore up by Warrick Dunn last week, so I'd probably go with Jackson. I don't like Thomas vs Baltimore, and I'm not sure how Julius is doing coming back from his injury.

Now i'm not sure who to start at a few spots this week. I'm in a goofy 2 qb league and I have to pick between McCown vs Ten, Palmer vs Pit, and Hasselbeck vs Dallas. Assuming that McCown is the starter for the Cards, I'm leaning towards him and Palmer, even though I'm a big Steelers fan and hate having to hope for a shootout.

Also, my RB's are an area of strength for me with McGahee, Edge, Rudi Johnson and the running back eligible Chris Cooley. Normally I play the first 2 as my backs, and then Rudi as my flex, but with his matchup this week vs Pit, I'm leaning towards Cooley vs San Fran. Which one should I go with?

by fyo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 5:24pm

The constant focus on fantasy football is annoying, imho. I do participate in a couple of leagues, but when I read football news - and especially good analyses like those one might find here, it's to get a better perspective of THE GAME, not some fantasy bs.

by fyo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 5:26pm

Oh, and the two first links in the article are incorrect (and they're to FO itself, no less). The errors are similar, so I'll just show one:


should be


by Catfish (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 5:36pm

This is the designated fantasy portion of the site and fantasy is half the reason this column exists. There is going to be fantasy talk here. Everywhere else is pretty much fantasy free.

by Ferg (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 6:31pm

Re 23: Does your league lets you start Cooley at TE? Problem solved.

(Unless you also have Gates or something.)

by Ludacris, Esq. (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 7:16pm

Re: Vikings
As a lawyer, let me add that if the women on the boat were flown in from Georgia, the federal government would indeed have the authority to prosecute, based on the Constitution's interstate ho-merce clause. Of course, this demonstrates why it's so important to have ho's in not just one but several different area codes.

by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 7:58pm

I have a WR spot and a RB/WR flex spot up in the air in a league where pts for receiving and rushing are the same.

I have:
Rudi Johnson
Willie Parker
TJ Housh(not even trying to spell it anymore)
A. Boldin
Joe Jurevicius
Kevin Curtis

I'm inclined to go with Boldin and Jurevicius based on matchups and they're the only certain "#1 guys" on the list. Anyone got an opinion on this?

by Tyler (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 8:16pm

Re 27:
Yeah, Cooley has TE eligibility but LJ Smith has been my starter there all year and done quite well, and SD has been weak against the TE, so I was prefering to keep him in there

by Kuato (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 10:53pm

Re: #29

I'd play Rudi in your flex spot and Joe or Anquan in your WR spot. RB are just more reliable than WR. Rudi hasn't seen a lot of TDs this season, but he is still 6th in the league in rushing (check my link), so he is getting plenty of opportunities to put points on the board.

Between the two WR, I'd lean toward JJ, but Boldin has a great chance for a good day too and you should go with your gut.

by adam (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:36pm

29: Rudi and Boldin over Jurevicius.

My other Q: Assuming Hines Ward can play (and therefore, I have to start him), who do I start in my remaining slot between Rod Smith @ NYG or Doug Gabriel v BUF?

by jimmo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:50pm

re: the Mailbagger above, I'd start Chambers for sure this week vs. KC, over any of the other three. My only concern would be the weather, but they should be fine Friday night.

Adam #5, don't insert Brown for either guy.

Kuato #18, I'd go with Favre, simply becuase there should be plenty of points to go around. I see Sea-Dallas being one of those 16-13 affairs.

Aaron #19, if by "scrap" you mean drop, don't go for Smith. If you mean merely keep on the bench, maybe consider him. I'd go with Moore.

Tyler #23, benching Palmer is no fun, but rooting for him against your team is worse. Go with Hasselbeck and McCown. Bench Rudi for Cooley.

ABW #29, Boldin for sure starts. I'd lean to Curtis next with the good matchup, even with Martin at QB, though it'd be hard to bench Jurevicius right now. Housh is still hurting and Parker is too unpredictable right now. Rudi doesn't score and should find tough sledding vs. Pitt.

by jimmo (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:55pm

Adam re:32, Smith over Gabriel; Buffalo has a tough pass D, even if slightly below average vs. #2 guys, while the Giants are banged up and have been fairly poor against the pass, both per DVOA and conventional stats.

by michael (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 9:41am

I've just been offered an interesting trade: my Randy Moss for his Jimmy Smith straight up. Smith is on his bye, and Moss may not play. my other WRs are Harrison, Steve Smith, Stallworth (and Hakim). I have enough flex players at RB to fill in for Moss if he can't go this week.

FYI, This is a point per reception league, starting 2 WR, 1RB and 2 WR/RB flex. I'm sorely tempted.

by DD Ohio (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 11:25am

My stockpiling of prospects has led to a dilemna. In a 2RB/2WR + flex league, I've got RBs Jamal & Chester, Ronnie Brown, AntSmith, Droughns and TJones, and WRs Boldin, Jurevicius, Kennison and RoSmith.

Trent Green is my QB, so I usually lean towards doubling up with Kennison every week, but the other WRs all seem like good plays. Do I use a 3rd WR in my flex spot this week, and play TJones & Droughns? My running back match-ups this week just don't excite me.

by Dudeman (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 12:10pm

Who do I start?

Brees/Plummer/McCown? Do I trust McCown to get teh start?

I think Brees is playing Philly, PLummer vs. the Giants, and McCown (if he starts) vs. the Bungles.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 12:18pm

Plummer. He's the best QB facing the worst secondary in that list. It's the safest bet.

Brees could have a big day (if the Eagles pass defense breaks down like it did two weeks ago) but the Eagles are coming off a bye and now have their D-line back at full strength. So I think a mediocre day is more likely than a good one.

I have a standing policy of never recommending McCown brothers.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 12:19pm

McCown is facing the Titans, by the way.

by DD Ohio (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 1:03pm

Oh, man! A follow-up to #36- does Ronnie Brown become a better play on Friday night with less rest for the KC D?

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 1:23pm

Ronnie Brown's value on Friday is directly related to how well you think the Miami D (Possibly without Taylor) can stop KC's offense. Saban will want to run the ball, but he won't be able to if Miami falls behind early.

by MCS (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 2:55pm

I have both Ronnie Brown and Larry Johnson on my bench. I'm going with Step. Jackson and the Wille Parker instead. BTW, I also have C-Martin.

I have some misgivings. Any comments?

by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 2:56pm

Re Fantasy Defenses and matchups. I write part-time for "The Guru Report" doing some stats-based analysis. My last two articles have been on this question. It's a subscription site, so I don't want to give away everything, but here's a long extract:

"First, if you just randomly started a defense each week in 2004, you would have scored about 6.8 points per game (PPG) in this defensive scoring system:

Turnovers = 2 pts; Blocked Kicks = 2; Sacks = 1; Safeties = 4; D/ST TDs = 6.

Points Allowed: 0 = 10; 1-6 = 7; 7-13 = 4; 14-20 = 1; 21-27 = -2; 28-34 = -5; >35 = -8.

If you had known at the beginning of 2004 who the top 10 defenses would end up being, you would have done better than average by drafting one of them and playing them each week: 9.6 PPG on average, from a high of 12.5 (BUF) to a low of 7.7 (WAS).

On the other hand, if you had known who the worst offenses were going to be, you would have done even better picking defenses matched-up with them every week, 10.5 PPG overall, ranging from 8.7 (ARI) to 13.1 (MIA).

Well, lacking these crystal balls, and assuming your draft choice at defense didn’t pan out, how can you beat the average using the Waiver Wire? Going with the hot hand – or against the cold one – seems to work pretty well. (Probably you could have guessed that, but I’ll tell you how much.)

I looked at the four game averages of defenses going into each week of 2004, starting with week five. The top-10 defenses in a four game span prior to any given Sunday averaged 8.3 PPG in that subsequent game, much better than the league average 6.8 PPG. And you can probably find one of these hot teams on the waivers every week.

Doing the same thing targeting bad offenses over the last four weeks was even better: 8.5 PPG. Usually you can also find a defense playing a bad offense on waivers each week."

Needless to say, using past performance fantasy stats do predict future scores is shaky: the correlations are from .2 to .4 depending how you slice the data.

Using DVOA should theoretically provide more accurate results. I'd love to see the analysis. The big problem is defensive scoring systems vary so widely (and don't forget they include a fraction of special teams as well) and they usually value fluke plays (TDs and, to a lesser extent, safeties) so highly that I think even DVOA is going to only get you so far.

by adam (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 3:41pm

MCS, I'd be really tempted to go with CMart over the fading Willie Parker.

by Scott C (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 4:02pm

DD Ohio, for what it's worth, I am benching BOTH Trent Green and Kennison. Both have been disappointments and I just don't see it this week against Miami. My QB choice is hence b/w Brunell and McCown, and while I am sorely tempted for McCown, I am going with Brunell at home against SF. I picked up Brandon Jones of the WW and am using him rather than Kennison. Man do I wish Jimmy Smith wasn't in his bye this week. Moulds is my other starting receiver, another WW grab.

Starting RBs are currently Portis vs SF and Rudi J vs Pittsburgh. Am I nuts to consider putting Droughns instead of Rudi J this week? The defenses have me wondering.

by DavidH (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 5:51pm

I looked at the four game averages of defenses going into each week of 2004, starting with week five. The top-10 defenses in a four game span prior to any given Sunday averaged 8.3 PPG in that subsequent game, much better than the league average 6.8 PPG. And you can probably find one of these hot teams on the waivers every week.

One possible problem I see with that is that this group of high-scoring defenses has teams that have succeeded due to two main reasons:

A) skill of the defense
B) inferiority of the last 4 opponents

I would guess (totally unsupported by any evidence) two things:

1) that the teams from your "10 best" group that are available on the waiver wire are going to be those whose good performance is predicated more on (B) above
2) that the higher average score in the next week is due more to high scores by teams whose previous 4 weeks scores are based more on (A) than on (B).

Did that make sense? I'm having trouble coming up with a smoother way to say that. Anyway...

My point is that teams who are in the "10 best" group mostly due to (B) may actually just have average scores, but the group average is buoyed by the (A)-type teams.

And either way, comparing the performance of this "10 best" group with the league average does not really tell you that much about the performance of teams that are available on the wire, I would think. Because the best teams from the "10 best" group are likely already taken.

by iyyi (not verified) :: Sat, 10/22/2005 - 9:15am

Start Curtis Martin against the Falcons or Chris Brown against the Cardinals?

by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/23/2005 - 12:03am

Julius Jones out this week. Also Marc Bulger and Randy Moss (almost certainly), obviously.
Billy Volek likely to start against Cards.
Burleson will start. Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, and Randle El will as well.
Thomas Jones looks like he'll start.
Ahman Green will play. Kevin Jones will play with a harness.
Plaxico Burress should be able to go.
Holt will play. Bruce won't.
Roy Williams not expected to play. TJ Houshmandzadeh is.

by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/23/2005 - 12:04am

RE: 47

Very tough call. I'd go with Curtis.

by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/23/2005 - 1:09pm

Jeff Garcia is starting, of course.

by Tyler (not verified) :: Sun, 10/23/2005 - 1:11pm

Torry Holt now OUT. So who becomes my 3rd WR here, Moose Muhammad vs Bal or the new #1 in Ten, Brandon Jones vs Arizona?

by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/23/2005 - 1:20pm

I'd go with brandon Jones, although it's hard to say how much Volek will target him. The TEs should get touches this week (troupe and kinney, although kinney is banged up).

by Vash (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 6:39pm

And the Steelers have gained a solid lead in the Keep Choppin' Wood awards with 2.5 (counting the off-the-field award to the Heinz Field clock operators). 1.5 of those have come from backups (one this week from Tommy Maddox and the half from the backup clock operator, since the usual operator was out due to illness).

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