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12 Oct 2005

Scramble for the Ball: Vinny and the Jets

by Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal

Vivek: The Jets-Ravens game two weeks ago should have had the disclaimer: “Do not watch while operating heavy machinery.� And this week's Jets-Bucs game could have had one that read, “Do not watch immediately after eating� because it was enough to make anyone sick to his stomach. Muffed/fumbled kickoff returns, three interceptions overturned by penalties and a non-existent running game made this a very difficult game to watch.

Sure, Vinny Testaverde filled in admirably for the Jets and led them to a much needed win, but the offensive line that rejuvenated Curtis Martin's career last year (if you can say that for a back who has always topped the 1,000-yard mark) suddenly looks a lot older, especially on the left side. The Jets have been averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per carry on the season, and the loss of Derrick Blaylock adds injury to insult. I might have been a year off in my prediction of the demise of Curtis Martin.

Al: The Jets did a nice job of protecting Testaverde, but you're right, their run blocking was awful, especially Mawae. They rarely pulled with him, which was a staple of the Jets running game in past seasons. When they did ask him to pull, he wasn't able to get out in front of the play and lay a helpful block on a defender. When he was just asked to move the person in front of him out of the way, Mawae didn't fare much better. Chris Hovan and Booger McFarland were both able to resist Mawae and clog up any holes that the Jets were trying to create.

In many ways, it's just dumb luck that we're here talking about a Jets victory and not slamming Herm Edwards for his decision to go for a touchdown early in the third quarter when the Jets were facing fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line instead of taking the lead with a chip shot field goal. True, with the way Mike Nugent was kicking on Sunday, there was no such thing as a chip shot. But with the way the Jets offensive line was getting manhandled, I didn't agree with the call to have Curtis Martin try to plow his way from a yard away.

Fate was on the Jets' side on that play, however. The offensive line did get dominated by Tampa at the line of attack. The Jets didn't create a single hole for Martin to run through, giving him only one place to go -- up. Derrick Brooks hit Martin in midair short of the goal line, but instead of pushing him backwards, Brooks spun Martin's body in such a way that the running back ended up across the goal line for six points.

Vinny looked decent, and he may have given Jets fans hope that their team's season isn't over just yet. But if the offensive line can't find a way to open up some holes for Martin to run through, it won't matter who lines up behind center.

Vivek: Moving over to the Jets' divisional counterparts in the NFC, the Redskins' loss, coupled with the Cowboys' dismantling of the Eagles, made the NFC East title picture a bit cloudier. The Broncos exposed several holes in the Redskins defense on Sunday, first and foremost being their inability to tackle. This is uncharacteristic of a Gregg Williams defense, but so is the inability to create turnovers (surprise, surprise, a strength of Lavar Arrington).

Tatum Bell had free reign all day, breaking off touchdown runs of 34 and 55 yards. During the past two games, the Redskins defense has allowed 5.6 yards per rushing attempt. The schedule does not get any easier as Washington visits Arrowhead Stadium for a matchup with Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson and one of the best offensive lines in the game.

Al: Maybe it's living down in D.C. that's getting to you ,Viv, but I'm not down on Washington at all based on their loss in Denver. The Broncos were a top 10 defense according to DVOA going into last week, and the Redskins were able to move the ball against them in the air and on the ground. Washington lost five points because of a blocked field goal attempt and an overturned safety (more on that later). The defense had trouble stopping Tatum Bell, but completely took Jake Plummer out of the game. Not counting the final Denver possession where they knelt on the ball three times, Washington held the Broncos to three-and-outs on six of their eleven possessions. Washington didn't have a single three-and-out all game, although their performance on third down declined greatly from only one week ago.

Vivek: Sure enough, right after I praised the Redskins for their 13-for-18 performance on third down conversions, the team regressed last week. Mark Brunell started 3-of-11 on third down passing attempts, including an 0-for-6 stretch. If not for some interesting officiating, Brunell would never have had the chance to boost his third down stats.

Al: I was surprised at how often Washington had Brunell throw the ball on third down. The Redskins only ran on third down three times, two of those scrambles by Brunell. Clinton Portis was having success running the ball most of the game. The Redskins had eight third downs with five or fewer yards to go and only handed it to Portis once, when he gained four yards on a third-and-1.

Scramble for the Ball Mailbag

Al: As always, send your fantasy questions our way at scramble@footballoutsiders.com, or use the Football Outsiders contact form.

Tommy writes in:

Since I'm in a flex league, will you kindly rank these following players for me: C.Chambers, J.Jurevicius, C.Brown, K.Barlow, and Mewelde Moore. Also, I have to drop N. Rackers this week, who would you advise that I'd pick up in his stead? Tynes, Edinger, Dawson, Scobee, Bironas, or Hanson? And lastly, which QB would you start this week? D.Brees or K.Holcomb?

Al: Tough call between Brown and Jurevicius. The Bengals defense showed last week that they still struggle against the run. Jurevicius excelled on the road against St. Louis in the starting lineup last week, and has a potentially better matchup this week going against the Texans at home. I usually favor starting a RB over a WR at the flex spot, so I'd go with Brown, but it's a close decision. None of those kicking options are that great. I'd go with Tynes. No question you should start Brees against the Raiders over Holcomb.

Randy P. asks:

1) I currently have the Chargers Defense. Should I drop them in favor of Giants, Cleveland, Detroit, or Washington?

2) At TE, should I start Marcus Pollard or Ben Troupe ?

3) Which two of these 3 RB's should I start: K. Jones, C.Brown, C.Benson?

4) Please rank the following WR's in the order you would start them: C.Chambers, R.Smith, J.Jurevicius, and T.Glenn.

Vivek: 1) Al and I have both preached playing the matchups on defense, and Week 6's winner will be the Browns. How often do we push someone to start anyone (or anything) from Cleveland? Well, we do when the defense is matched up against Baltimore. Brian Billick has lost this team (see last week's 20+ penalties as evidence). Last week we talked about the brutal play of the Ravens offensive line and Jamal Lewis' inability to break free. Did you ever think that people would say, “Maybe Kyle Boller will jump start this offense when he returns?�

2) Troupe – he has turned into an effective red zone weapon for McNair.

3) Jones and Brown. Benson has still not learned the offense and is a liability during passing situations. That will limit the amount of touches he will get.

4) Glenn, Jurevicius, Smith and Chambers. Glenn and Bledsoe together again have been terrific. 15 of Glenn's 20 career 100-yard receiving games have come from Bledsoe. Jurevicius gets the second slot by default – Hasselbeck is void of targets. If you have to play a third wide receiver, Smith is my pick against the banged up Patriots secondary.

Al: I'm with Viv on all of these, with a slight caveat on number three. Benson hasn't looked very good in his limited playing time, but he has a great matchup against the Vikings at home. With Thomas Jones potentially out with a knee injury, I'd go with Benson over Brown.

Ross from Boston writes:

Are the Cowboys consistent enough to rely on Terry Glenn and Drew Bledsoe week-to-week? I have both of them on my team and neglected to start them this past week, given they were playing Philadelphia.

Al: I think you'll be fine sticking with Bledsoe and Glenn for most of the season. A quick glance at the rest of Dallas' schedule shows plenty of teams that struggle stopping the pass. This week against the Giants secondary should prove to be no exception.

Reader Zac was one of the fantasy owners burned by the rash of running back injuries in Week 5:

My fantasy season is ruined! Well, maybe not, but I am reeling after the news that Deuce McAllister is out for the year. With that in mind, who should I replace him with? I'm in a 10-team league where each owner has 4 or 5 RBs, so we're talking Antowain Smith, Tatum Bell, Marcel Shipp, and Michael Bennett (plus any sleeper candidates you care to name [Tyson Thompson?]). Also, I'm seventh in the waiver priority, so please rank them for me, if that's not too hard.

Al: I'm going to assume that Aaron Stecker is also available. As of press time, it looks like, at least for this week, Smith is going to get the first crack in New Orleans/San Antonio/Baton Rouge/East Rutherford to be the primary ball carrier. Playing the Falcons, who weren't stopping anyone from running the ball even before they lost Edgerton Hartwell for the season, he'd be the best play for this week. However, I don't see Smith hanging onto the job for too long. Aaron Stecker, and potentially the recently acquired Jesse Chatman, will end up taking away most of Smith's carries within a few weeks. If you need a starter for this week, Smith should be your first choice, followed by Bell, Stecker, Bennett, Thompson, and Chatman. If you're looking for depth, or someone to help you later in the year, I'd bump Smith behind Bell and Stecker.

As for other sleepers in a league where 40-50 running backs already on teams, let me suggest Tony Fisher. With Najeh Davenport done for the year, he'll be Ahman Green's primary backup as soon as Green is healthy enough to play. Hopefully for you, if you pick up Fisher, that will be more than two weeks from now when the Packers take on Minnesota's terrible run defense.

And to close this week's mailbag, Dan B. from Medford, MA asks:

Am I the only one left in the world who hates fantasy football?

Here's my issue: Let's say your home team is one win away from making the playoffs and it is the last game of the season. If they win, they're in, but if they lose, they're out. Say they're up two and the other team is lining up for a game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. Now, let's say you have the opposing kicker on your fantasy team and if he hits the field goal, you win the fantasy prize money. Here's my problem: Most fantasy geeks would be rooting against their team because they would win the fantasy league. I have a serious problem with that: Winning fantasy should NOT be more important than your team.

Vivek: Yes, Dan, you are the only one left. May God have mercy on your soul.

Lessons Learned from Week 5

Lesson 1 -- The Tuck Rule Should Be Abolished

Vivek: I was at a bar on Lansdowne Street when Tom Brady escaped with a win against Oakland courtesy of the tuck rule. Because of how ludicrous the rule is, I think I will remember where I was during Tuck Rule Part II, when Jake Plummer “threw an incomplete pass.� This rule has to be changed. Yes, it is in the books, but when a quarterback is trying to cover the ball with his non-throwing hand, it is pretty evident that this is not a pass attempt.

Lesson 2 -- Alex Smith Getting the Starting Nod Was a Good Move

Vivek: I have been hearing lots of sports talk radio callers and some columnists knocking the 49ers for supposedly throwing Alex Smith to the Lions against Indianapolis. Unlike most of the organization's decisions, I agree with this one. The team is going nowhere, and waiting until after the bye week would have had Smith facing the Washington defense. After his four-interception performance against the Colts, Smith will have the bye week to review the tapes and build on his NFL debut. Tim Rattay was not going to lead this team to more than four wins, so please stop hammering this decision.

Al: I completely agree with you Viv. And for the same reasons, it was a terrible move for Mike Mularkey to bench J.P. Losman in Buffalo in favor of Kelly Holcomb. Sure, Losman has looked terrible, and the Bills beat Miami thanks in part to Holcomb's nice first half. But where does that get Buffalo? Maybe if Holcomb starts the rest of the year they have a better chance of squeaking into the playoffs as a wild card, so they can get blown out on the road in the first round. In the meantime, you've learned little to nothing about Losman's ability to be the team's quarterback for the future. I say give the ball to Losman and see how he develops over the course of the year. Maybe he really isn't good enough to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but you won't learn that when Kelly Holcomb is guiding your team to an 8-8 record.

Lesson 3 -- Drafting a Kicker Early in the NFL Draft is Not a Wise Move

Vivek: Remember Nate Kaeding in the playoffs last year against the Jets? Or how about Sebastian Janikowski's 22 for 32 rookie year? Jets kicker Mike Nugent's two missed field goals could have cost his team the win against Tampa Bay, and it is only a matter of time before he does. Nugent is 4-for-7 on field goal attempts so far, and he is hurting his team with weak kickoffs. His touchback in Week 5 was his first of the season, and the Jets need all the help they can get.

Keep Choppin' Wood Award

Vivek: How in the world did this week's recipient, Brian Griese, lead the Buccaneers to a 4-0 start? Donnie Henderson's defense played Griese perfectly, pressuring him into making bad decisions. In his defense, the offense was out of sync without Cadillac, but a veteran should not have made the mistakes that Griese did.

The box score does not accurately depict Griese's performance, as Ty Law was his favorite target for the afternoon. Two penalties negated what would have been the second and third interceptions for Law. As the Bucs starter, Griese has averaged more than 1.5 interceptions per game, and a good portion of those picks resulted from bad decisions instead of bad throws.

Al: An honorable mention goes to wrestling legend Hacksaw Jim Duggan for his spectacular performance in the New Smyrna Beach, Florida charity bus race. I guess there are people willing to pay money to see celebrities get in school buses and race around an oval. Normally, watching a bus drive around a race track is boring. Not when Hacksaw is behind the wheel! Duggan lost control of his vehicle, causing the school bus to flip on its side. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. No truth to the rumor that the Iron Sheik was found in the back of the bus with cocaine and marijuana in his possession.

Loser League Update

Al: Your Week 5 All-Loser Team:

QB: Alex Smith, SF -- -7 points (23 passes, 74 yards; 2 carries, 3 yards; 1 fumble; 4 INT)
RB: Marcel Shipp, ARI – 2 points (13 carries, 22 yards; 2 catches, 6 yards)
RB: Willie Parker, PIT – 3 points (10 carries, 26 yards; 1 catch, 14 yards)
WR: Bryant Johnson, ARI – 0 points (2 catches, 8 yards; 1 carry, 0 yards)
WR: Josh Reed, BUF – 1 point (2 catches, 13 yards)
K: Mike Nugent, NYJ – -2 points (0/2 FG; 2/2 XP)

Not only did Alex Smith put up the worst performance in the brief history of DPAR, but we believe he also put together the greatest performance ever in the even briefer history of the Loser League. The closest performance that we could find was a -6 point game from former Dallas Cowboys kicker Billy Cundiff in Week 1 of 2003.

Best Bets

Vivek: (2-2 last week, 7-10 overall)

For the second straight week, I'm going with all the road teams.

Atlanta –4.5 over NEW ORLEANS

Atlanta is 4-0 with the lines this year (there was no line for Week 2), so I'm going with them against the Deuce-less San Antonio Saints. I was one of those Donte' Stallworth owners salivating when I saw Joe Horn on the sidelines, but last week's six-yard performance confirmed all our suspicions – Stallworth will never be a reliable option.

Cincinnati –3.0 over TENNESSEE

Chris Brown might be able to get some yardage, but expect Chad Johnson to check the Titans' cornerbacks off on his list.

Minnesota +3.0 over CHICAGO

This is going to be ugly for Culpepper and the offense, but I have a hard time seeing Chicago piling up much offense now without Thomas Jones.

St. Louis +13.5 over INDIANAPOLIS

This will be the week where a team finally scores more than ten points against Indy.

Al: (3-2 last week, 11-6 overall)

I'm not crazy about any of this week's lines, so I'm just taking three home favorites. Nice to see we're picking against each other in two of the games. It'll just make it easier for me to pad my lead.

SEATTLE -9.5 over Houston

The Texans are fed up with their poor offensive line play that has plagued them throughout their franchises history. What are they doing about it? That's right, they're inserting a rookie drafted in the fifth round at center, and shuffling the rest of the line around to different positions. Insert joke about deck chairs and the Titanic here.

INDIANAPOLIS -13.5 over St. Louis

The Rams allowed 37 points against Seattle last week at home. On the road, where Mark Bulger has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in his career, the Colts should be good for at least 40.

CHICAGO -3.0 over Minnesota

Perfect matchup for the Bears coming off their tough road loss to Cleveland. Kyle Orton won't have to worry about the other team's pass rush forcing him to make quick decisions. He can sit back in the pocket and wait for one of his receivers to get wide open. Mike Brown should be good for at least one interception return for a touchdown.

Posted by: scramble on 12 Oct 2005

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


by Adam (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 4:17pm

Start/bench question for Westbrook's bye:

CBrown v CIN or
MMoore @ CHI?

by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 4:21pm

I actually disagree about the tuck rule. The whole point is to remove ambiguity. Yes, there are cases where the QB is obviously trying to tuck the ball, and maybe if he drops it then it should be a fumble. But there are also cases where it is not obvious WHAT he is trying to do. Do we really want more rules where we are asking ref's to make a difficult judgement call where different people might have very different opinions? How about we allow refs to ask QB's what they were intending when the ball came out (yeah, that would work).

As it is now, there's no ambiguity. Arm moving forward when ball comes out = incomplete pass. No arm moving forward when ball comes out = fumble.

Eliminating the tuck rule and asking refs to make judgement calls would be like counting as fumbles cases where the ball comes out AFTER a player's knee touches the ground, if the ref judges that "it would have come out anyway".

by J-Diddy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 4:24pm

I would have loved to have been able to watch Jets-Bucs. Let me tell you what I got...

EVERY SNAP of Packers-Saints. My local affiliate refused to cut away, even when it was 52-3 in the 3rd quarter. I even called to complain, and they said they had no control over which game they showed... it was all in a master computer. I would have loved to see the endings of the Jets-Bucs or Rams-Seahawks, but no...

Then I got EVERY SNAP of the Cowboys-Eagles game, even when it was 30-3 in the 3rd quarter. What made me maddest was that when this game was over, there was still 4 minutes in a close Broncos-Redskins game. But they did not cut to the end of that game, instead they just showed highlights.

I get maybe 1 Sunday a month off of work to watch football, and I was very dissapointed. Maybe one day I'll be able to afford NFL Sunday Ticket *Counts pennies in penny jar*

by Mike M (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 4:38pm

Who would you drop?

I have LJ Smith on bye this week. Troupe, Graham, Cooley, and other decent TE's are available on the waiver wire. I only have 4 WR's so they're sticking around. I'm carrying six backs and can certainly afford to drop one of them but I know whichever one I choose will decide to start actually being good, so I'll leave it up to you guys so I can blame you instead of hating myself. I have Alexander, Julius, Barlow, Mewelde, Ronnie Brown, and Ricky Williams. Obviously Alexander and Julius are my starters. Barlow and Mewelde are on seemingly hopeless offenses. Ronnie/Ricky look to be doomed to RBBC and who knows what will come of that. Please solve my dilemma! Or, if I can get Troupe (unlikely, as my waiver position is #8), should I just drop LJ?

I'm not concerned about my team - I'm feeling okay with my RB corps - mostly I just hate putting one of these guys on the waiver wire where another owner will benefit from him. I've looked at potential trades and can't come up with anything.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 4:52pm

Who should I choose for my suicide pool? I've already used Indy, Seattle, Cincinnatti, and Denver. I'm leaning to Atlanta on the road, despite the fact that I hate taking teams on the road in suicide. They just seem to have the best matchup this week.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:10pm

Am I the only one left in the world who hates fantasy football?
Yes, Dan, you are the only one left

no, Dan B., you're not; maybe we should start a support group or something

Lesson 3 – Drafting a Kicker Early in the NFL Draft is Not a Wise Move

back in the day, it was a well-established fact that college kicking records meant nothing because you could kick from a flat, 1 inch high tee in college. So Erxleben, Steve Little, Tony Franklin had those enormous distance records in college, but no one expected that that would translate into the NFL

BUT--they abolished the tee in college, what, 20-25 years ago? So WHY do college kickers have such a hard time acclimating? I would think that, of all the football skillz, kicking would be the least affected by the move up in level.

So why is it?

(and don't say "pressure")

(OK, you can say "pressure")

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:10pm

Take Chicago. I don't see them losing at home to The Vikings, and you'll never want to take them again.

by Adam (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:12pm

Pawnking, how about going Buffalo at home against the J-E-T-S-JETS-JETS-JETS?

by Mahatma Kane Jeeves (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:15pm

Back on 11/9/2003 Brian Griese was 15/27/131, 0 TD/3 INT, with 2 fumbles (both lost). How would that have scored in the Loser League?

I remember this because he was my bye week fill-in and scored -8 points for me that day. I've vowed never to put him on any of my teams again.

by Ian (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:20pm

Re: #1: It's a real close call, but I'd probably go with Chris Brown. Fred Taylor ran for 130+ on Cincy last week, and the Bears D is usually strong at home.

Re: #5: I'm in a similar situation, but I'm going with Kansas City at home vs Washington. Coming off a bye week, you'd have to imagine that KC will gameplan to get Tony G the ball, and I'm not convinced that Mark Brunell can win anywhere on the road.
Atlanta's a tempting pick, but I always try to stay with home teams in survivor leagues.

by fyo (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 5:27pm

So when do I dump Darrel Jackson? I picked up Joe Jurevicius in time for last weeks game and I have Keenan McCardell and Chris Chambers occupying roster spots in this standard 12 team league (14 roster spots, 1 QB, 2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR, 1 K and 1 defence/special teams). I really need to make room on my roster before the upcoming round (among other things, I have NO kicker atm - I started with Akers and everything's gone to hell in a handbasket ever since).

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 6:10pm


I'd definitely take Atlanta. You've already used up Seattle, so my suicide strategy ("bet using the strongest team vs. SF/HOU") doesn't work there. My "backup tier" would probably be NO/BAL, and Atlanta is definitely a safer bet over the Browns.

Atlanta's on the road, but the Saints don't know if they have a running back yet. I wouldn't take Buffalo over the Jets. That game's just a tossup. Will Vinny survive? Will Holcomb survive? You don't know!

by TMK (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 7:05pm

Take Atlanta; you can take Chicago next week at home against Baltimore, where the Chicago line ought to be able to give Benson some room to run.

by VinnyMurphSully (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 7:57pm

Is it King Kaufman or Gregg Easterbrook who often says something like - 'NFL coaching is about minimizing the margin of defeat'?

This would explain the benching of Losman and the playing of Holcomb.

It also explains why any team would ever hire Marty Schottenheimer.

by DavidH (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 8:04pm

I’m in a similar situation, but I’m going with Kansas City at home vs Washington. Coming off a bye week, you’d have to imagine that KC will gameplan to get Tony G the ball, and I’m not convinced that Mark Brunell can win anywhere on the road.

Plus Willie Roaf is supposedly playing, so KC should be able to run again.

by krugerindustrialsmoothing (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 8:05pm

RE: the tuck rule.

I personally don't think the arm action of the qb should have anything to do with the call. in keeping with the keep it simple stupid philosophy, ball comes out of qb's hand moving forward - forward pass, ball comes out moving laterally or backward - live ball. We all seen enough replays to know that a hand can be moving back while the elbow moves forward for the briefest moment, so what is the call there?

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 8:08pm

Two comments.

First, Beattie is a little bit off. Bollinger may have caused the injury to Braylon Edwards, everyone else is my fault. I can't help it, but one of my fantasy teams is an all-injury all-star team. Chad Pennington, Rex Grossman, Eric Johnson, Javon Walker, Deuce McAllister, Najeh Davenport, Mike Vick, Isaac Bruce, Arnaz Battle. Yikes. If anyone is wondering, I also have Aaron Brooks, Drew Bledsoe, Brian Westbrook, Tiki Barber, Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, Santana Moss, Drew Bennett, Andre Johnson, Donte Stallworth, Stephen Jackson, Mewelde Moore, Antonio Gates, Jeff Wilkins, and the Tampa Bay defense. Steer clear, they're all doomed.

Second, can someone please explain something to me. How are the Colts favored by 14 against the Niners starting a QB getting his first NFL start, and then favored by 13.5 a week later against the Rams? Are the Niners with Smith at the helm really only .5 points worse than the Rams?

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 8:50pm

"Or how about Sebastian Janikowski’s 22 for 32 rookie year?"

Well, 18 of those 32 attempts were from 40 or more yards out, which is a high rate for any kicker. Since then he's connected on 103 of 125 FG attempts (82.4%) and 158 of 160 PATs and his kickoffs routinely land inside the opponents ten or for a touchback.

by IzzionSona (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 9:32pm

RE: Kibbles

Don't forget, the game vs. SF was @ Candlestick, where as the game vs. StL is in the Dome. So, you have the track bonus, plus the home field bonus, which probably accounts for at least 6 points in favor of Indy.

by Brad (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 10:28pm

Fantasy Questions:

QB: Bledsoe or Hasselbeck?
RB: Parker, Barber and D. Davis
WR: Glenn, Plax, Jurevicius, McCardell, Porter


I'm leaning towards hasselbeck because I don't trust Bledsoe and Barber+D. Davis because of the Bettis factor. Probably, Glenn, Plax and Jurevicius for WR.

by Brad (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 10:29pm

I forgot to ask, Parker or McCardell for flex? I'm leaning to Parker but he's done nothing for me the last two weeks.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 12:37am

Is it King Kaufman or Gregg Easterbrook who often says something like - ‘NFL coaching is about minimizing the margin of defeat’?

"Coaches play not to lose."

It's probably the most misunderstood thing about football strategy - that this is not the same as maximizing your chance to win.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 2:17am

"in keeping with the keep it simple stupid philosophy, ball comes out of qb’s hand moving forward - forward pass, ball comes out moving laterally or backward - live ball."

So a muffed snap would be an incomplete pass?

by Jim Haug (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 10:29am

I've been playing fantasy football for 26 years, and been a Steeler fan before that. I say this, any fantasy player who puts "His team" ahead of the NFL team that he roots for is an idiot.

by Jersey Jets fan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 10:40am

Cartoons making fun of Brooks Bollinger? What have we come to? Talk about kicking you when you're down . . .

As far as the Jets offensive line - let's consider who they have faced in the past 2 weeks. Baltimore and Tampa Bay, (now I'm admittedly no pundit) -but isn't it elementary that a running game just might struggle against those 2 defenses? & I would think it would be tough sledding against Sam Adams and the Bills this week, but I don't see that as a surprise. The Jets offensive line usually starts slow, but shows up at the end of the season. I don't think Mawae has dropped off that much. He still has to be one of the top 5 centers in the NFL.

by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 12:05pm

"...I would think it would be tough sledding against Sam Adams and the Bills this week, but I don’t see that as a surprise.

Well surprise! According to the defensive line stats the Buffalo Bills are overwhelmingly the best at stopping runs to the offenses left end side. They are 21st on runs up the gut. They are 22nd and 28th respectively on runs to the offenses right tackle and right end, where Sam Adams is...

Buffalo is terrible against the run and great against the pass. I see the Jets having some fun sledding this weekend but not a lot of passing.

by Jersey Jets fan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 12:53pm

I'll keep my fingers crossed Jerry!

I just think Buffalo is better against the run than their numbers show, just as I think the Jets are a little better at running the ball than their numbers show...

But I sure hope you're right !!

by TMK (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 12:55pm

Still can't sort this one out --

Bulger on the road against Indy or Eli at Dallas? Is it time to take a one-week plunge on the "second gretest thing since sliced bread"?

(And what was the greatest thing before sliced bread, anyway?)

by Led (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 2:06pm

"I think the Jets are a little better at running the ball than their numbers show…"

Well, if you take away the KC game, I'm sure the Jets' numbers against the run would be very good. But then again, KC is the only real offense they've played....

by Matt (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 2:35pm

To Dan B. from Medford, MA,

You should "have a serious problem" with poverty in the third world, not football. Lighten up.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 3:14pm

(And what was the greatest thing before sliced bread, anyway?)

a bread slicer

(and it was RIGHT before)

by TMK (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 3:57pm

Thanks, princeton!

But now to the tough question -- Bulger or Eli?

by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 4:02pm

The only problem with making a comment to the effect that the left side of the Jets line is looking old is that Adrian Jones, the youngest player on the line, was playing left tackle. He and Fabini switched halfway through the Baltimore game, and the switch is permanent.

by co (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 4:07pm

Tuck rule: The onus is on the offense to produce a positive play. I think everything should be a fumble unless it travels past the line of scrimmage. Even if blocked by the d-line. On the other hand intentional grounding between the tackles is a joke. If a QB has sense to throw it away and he can get it past the line let him.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 4:23pm

But now to the tough question – Bulger or Eli?

that's easy--a bread slicer

by James (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 5:08pm

I actually disagree about the tuck rule. The whole point is to remove ambiguity. Yes, there are cases where the QB is obviously trying to tuck the ball, and maybe if he drops it then it should be a fumble. But there are also cases where it is not obvious WHAT he is trying to do.

I agree completely.

However, I heard it said the other day, perhaps on PTI that it should be considered intentional grounding; that way, the offense doesn't effectively get a bonus for the fumble.

It certainly would have been a reasonable outcome in the Denver game.

by James (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 5:09pm

Oh and by the way, the Raiders lost the game against the Pats because of "minsy, fraidy-cat" playcalling for the last 10+ minutes of the game, not because of the immaculate incompletion.

Prevent defense and uber-conservative offense for more than a series or two ain't going to cut it in the NFL.

by James (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 5:10pm

hehe one more:

I meant mincing :)

by TMK (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 6:05pm

Just acquired Tom Brady and Randle-El in a trade for Eli and Joey Galloway.

Brady starts against the Broncos, and Bulger in Indy's dome -- I'll go with Brady.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 12:43am

Who's reading who here? If you click the link on my name, to Sea Misting, a blog linked to from the FO page, go to NFL Random Thoughts #2...now go back up and read Lessons Learned #2 in this column. Eerily similar, is there really that little to write about or does someone take me for a total idiot...don't answer that...anyway, just thought it veeeery suspicious.

by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 1:12am

Down to 28th in the Loser League standings. Toomer, Morton, and Watts are killing me at WR. Does Watts even get on the field? I thought he was the 3rd WR in Denver?

by Vivek (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 8:46am

For those of you who want to see straight up picks, you can see mine at http://www.themirl.com/writers_nflpicksweek6.html

Will be back to answer questions later today.

by Al (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 11:06am

1: Moore over CBrown

4: Barlow is never going to start for you. Even on byes you'd start Mewelde or one of the Miami backs over him. Drop Barlow. You can probably pick him back up next week if you need to.

5: Tough week for suicide pools if you've already used Seattle. If you're willing to go with a road team, though, I'm more confident in Carolina beating Detroit than in Atlanta beating the Saints.

9: That Griese game would have been worth -4 loser points. I'm guessing your league only gave a point for every 50 passing yards if Griese was worth -8.

11: Don't be afraid to drop Jackson now. Could he come back to hurt you in the middle to end of November? Sure, but you have to get to that point first. If you keep him on your roster and don't pick up a viable WR that you can play until then, you could end up so far out of it that it doesn't matter what Jackson does around Thanksgiving.

20: Go with Hasselbeck. The Giant secondary is bad, but Houston is just an awful team. The Seahawks are going to put up 40.

21: With Bettis back, I'd actually lean towards McCardell.

32: Eli over Bulger. Bulger on the road is always dicey, and the Colts have been very solid against the pass on top of it.

40: I write my portions fo the column on Monday and Tuesday, so I didn't see that before I wrote the Holcomb part. Not surprising though, that two peole wrote about the dumb decision. I've seen and heard it mentioned elsewhere as well. A bit of a coincidence that it's #2 in both sections, but I don't think it's anything more than that.

41: Looks like Charlie Adams is getting the #3 WR touches in Denver. He's had some great loser numbers so far this year. I picked him up in our weekly league this week. He'll be on my team in the second half contest.

by Adam (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 11:51am

Al, thanks on #1 -- I still think I'm sticking with Brown, just because I'm not crazy about the Vikings on open-air grass against the Chicago D.

by TMK (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 12:07pm

Thanks, Al, for confirming my suspicions on Bulger. I was nervous enough about Eli in Dallas that I pulled a trade for Brady, who'll start, even though it's in Denver.

by JMM (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 4:01pm

"but when a quarterback is trying to cover the ball with his non-throwing hand, it is pretty evident that this is not a pass attempt."

That is my take as well. Since when is the non-throwing hand not part of the body? This past week it lookd to me as if the non-thowing hand did touch the ball. Therefore, it should be considered "tucked." In the Oak-Pats case, the ruling on the field was fumble, and I still haven't seen a replay which clearly shows that the left hand did not touch the ball. Therefor the ruling on the field should have not been overturned.

by SJM (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 6:09pm

I was sure that the competition committee would change the tuck rule in the offseason after the Pats-Raiders game. Somehow they didn't. Ever ince then, every time a tuck or almost-tuck has happened, pretty much everyone has seemed to agree that this rule has to go. Yet there has been no change.

Now as a Skins fan I was on the wrong side of the rule, and I was astonished because the rule seems so obviously bad. On that particular play I'm not even sure the tuck rule should have applied, since Plummer's hand was moving down, not forward. In any case, the rule has got to go.

Somebody please change this rule.

Now on to the inevitable fantasy question: Caddilac or K. Jones?

It hardly matters because I'm matched up with the worst team in the league, and I have Hasselbeck and Alexander hosting Houston, but I'm curious what the rest of you think. Both have tough matchups, Caddy has been a lot better than Jones but he's hurt and has a better backup in Pittman.

by cjm (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 8:53pm

Speaking of the tuck rule, here's something mostly unrelated: what did you all think about Al & John agitating to get the fair catch rules changed after the Chargers' (non)muffed punt on Monday night? The Chargers' punt returner waved fair catch, the ball hit his face mask and bounced up and away. As he was reaching for it (but it was pretty clearly out of his reach), before it hit the ground, a Steelers gunner grabbed it out of the air and ran right through the returner. After some consultation, the ref called the Steelers for fair catch interference and gave the ball to the Chargers. Al & John thought that the bounce out of his arms should be all the chance he gets, then it's fair game. I think they're wrong - if you open that up, then it becomes a total judgment call. If the returner bobbles the ball a little bit, at what point does that give the coverage team license to pop him? Simplest rule is, the opportunity to catch the ball continues until it hits the ground.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 11:21pm

I didn't get a chance to tweak my algorithm this week for the latest injury dump, but since there's a guy who comes in here who wants my picks, so be it.

Bet wisely by not betting. I do these solely for my column (and NOT very often).

Oh, yeah, "Plus, this year’s rash of injuries explained" (...)

Ahem. I didn't spend countless hours last year in Canton digging through injury reports over the last 40 years for nothing!

Every single blankety-blank year, the only "rash" of anything is a "rash" of reports that come out this time of the year talking about a "rash of injuries."

It's a load of crap. Over the past five years, injury rates have remained relatively steady. While there is a large rise in various types of SERIOUS injuries since 1978, there is no real difference this year compared to last.

By the way, the injury component that was divined through linear regression methods has been added to the algorithm, which is why my lines are a bit different from the initial Vegas magic (and why I beat Vegas overall).

Atl will win by 6, 8 if Vick plays
Bengals by 10. Chicago, 2 TDs. Lions by 6. Cleveland by 9. TB by 10. Cowboys by 6. Seattle, 2 TDs.

Kind of sound boring, don't they? The "better" games will be Steelers by 2 if Maddox plays at his usual speed, EVEN if Batch plays. I smell an upset. Batch really is the wildcard here.

Bills squeak by another (1). San Diego in a great game by 1 over the best 1-3 team in football. KC by 2.

Denver will beat NE by at least 5. I was tempted to make it a TD, but then I would get death threats again.

by JMM (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 12:30am

RE #48 and the fair catch rule: the super ref dude interviewed on Total Access, and quoted by Dr Z did say that if it were clearly not recoverable, then it could be recovered as a fumble.

I agree with your view that the receiver clearly could not have recovered it, and as a Steeler fan am dismayed over such a bad judgement call from the ref.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 11:44am

Re 48&50:
The whole point of a fair catch is to give the returner a clear opportunity to catch the ball. It shouldn't be a ref's job to make a judgment call on how easy the opportunity is.

Re 49:
If the Bears win by anywhere near that much it will be a very exciting game. I'm starting to wonder if the NFC North is the black hole of coaches. Tice is clearly not a very good coach, Sherman and Mooch have been very underwhelming over the course of their tenures and Lovie Smith still has the benefit of the doubt because he was willing to axe his offensive coordinator. I'm starting to wonder if Saban's going to be the real deal and everyone in Chicago will yell for Angelo's head.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 1:02pm

Doosie of a problem, now that Dillon has been downgraded to questionable. That means that now BOTH of my starting RBs (Jones and Dillon) are questionable, and I have very little depth at the position.

Uh... help?

by fyo (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 1:20pm

Carl, I'm calling you on the Lions game. No way do they beat the Panthers. Heck, they can't even score 20 points unless the opposing team makes 21 penalties ;-)

I think I'll go with the "ignore your gut at your peril" advice this week and chalk your Lions-prediction up to lack of datapoints and a Baltimore aberration.

by fyo (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 1:33pm

Fnor, who's available on the waiver wire? And who's your backup (you did say "little depth, not NO depth)?

According to NFL.com, Mewelde Moore is still available in 11% of their leagues. Shipp is available in 33% of their leagues, although that won't help you THIS round.

You might also want to take a look at Dallas. Odds are that Julius Jones won't start, with Tyson Thompson taking over his spot (although Anthony Thomas is bound to get some carries as well). Thompson should be available in most leagues.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 2:08pm

My backups are Warrick Dunn and Deuce Staley. Thomspon is available, but I'm not sure about him vs. the giants' run defense. Aside from that... uh... hey, there's Tatum Bell. He should play, but how well will he play....

by fyo (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 2:48pm

Opposing primary running backs have done quite respectably against the Saints, so Dunn is a safe choice:

Primary RB against NO, yards/TDs
Stephen Davis, 81/1
Tiki Barber, 83/1 (+1TD receiving)
Mewelde Moore, 101/0
Willis McGahee, 84/1
Najeh Davenport, 54/2

Not great, but certainly not bad either. The one worrying thing about Dunn is that he doesn't seem to score many touchdowns.

Give up Duce Staley *immediately*. He isn't doing anything in Pittsburgh this year, solidly stuck behind Willie Parker - and with the Bus and FB Veron Haynes getting most of the remaining carries, there's just not anything left for Staley.

Tatum Bell had a monster game last week against Washington. NE hasn't been good at stopping fast running backs like Bell, surrendering 211 yards and 5 touchdowns to Stephen Davis and LT (combined, rushing only). That makes me think Bell is going to get the most carries and not Anderson.

I would go with either Bell or Dunn. You certainly should get rid of Staley, IMHO, and swapping him for Bell wouldn't be a bad move, even if you decide to start Dunn.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 3:00pm

Sounds like good advice. Starting Bell and Dunn, the other two are on my bench. Picked up Amani Toomer because Houshmandzadeh probably won't do anything. What a crappy week.

by Adam (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 4:05pm

Answer: Fnor, go with what you're saying.

Question: Assume that I will only have until 10:30am tomorrow to determine whether to bench (Hines Ward or Drew Bennett) for Shaun McDonald, and that we won't know any more tomorrow morning than we do right now. Do I make a change, or take the chance that both play?

(Rod Smith is my other starting WR -- we start three -- and it's TO's bye. Theoretically, could also drop McDonald or Greg Lewis for Finneran, CHenry, Bradford, Hackett or El Randel.)

by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 5:40pm

Vibe is that Ward won't play. He didn't practice yesterday, and he was actually talking about how staying healthy to the end of the season was more important than playing every day, which for someone who hasn't missed a game seems like a pretty big deal.

Just my thoughts, though.

by SJM (not verified) :: Sat, 10/15/2005 - 9:19pm

I'm leaning toward K. Jones over Caddy as my RB #2, but I'm not 100% sure. Help?

by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/16/2005 - 11:23am

Michael Vick (at New Orleans) or David Carr (at Seattle)?

by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/16/2005 - 11:25am

RE: 60

I think I'd go with Jones.

by Adam (not verified) :: Sun, 10/16/2005 - 11:26am

Sid, I'd drop Carr for a better FA QB and start that person instead. Like Holcomb.

by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/16/2005 - 1:09pm

Looks like Pittman will play and Cadillac won't.

Big Ben will be the #3 QB, and Maddox will start. Hines Ward is inactive.

Fred Taylor may not be able to go.

Steve McNair is going to play with back spasms. Housh looks like he won't go for Cincy.

RE: 63

No can do. No starters are available on the WW. Not even Maddox or Losman.

by Zac (not verified) :: Sun, 10/16/2005 - 2:08pm

Awesome week! I get my question answered, plus Evil Spock returns to the annoucing both in Jason's cartoon.

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