Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Four Downs: AFC West

There's a serious need for defensive help in Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Oakland. In Denver, meanwhile, the Broncos must determine whether or not Case Keenum can really be a long-term solution at quarterback.

24 Dec 2009

Scramble for the Ball: The Clutch of our Lives

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

If You Prick Him, Does He Not Clutchly Bleed?

Tom: So, consideration has begun for this decade's all-decade team.

Mike: I appreciate his candor, but I disagree that 53 players out of everyone who played the game over a decade means there is a lot of fluff.

Tom: In the past I think they picked a 22-player all-decade team. It seems that the process is more inclusive, giving more people honors.

Mike: That is true, and it's a good step, although all-decade teams must be a nightmare at the returner positions, since returners by and large have one or two huge years and then disappear.

Tom: Most players have a six-year peak. Good returners either fade away or become good regular players.

Mike: One concern that I have with figuring out an all-decade team right after the decade is that you run into a lot of the same problems that you have with draft analysis. They're different, but similar biases. A great player who played at the start of the decade will not get the same treatment as one that played his best at the end of the decade.

Tom: I think Gosselin's less prone to that than most. He has La'Roi Glover, Mike Alstott and Will Shields, for instance.

Mike: True, that is more of a general criticism than aimed at Gosselin in particular. On the other hand, he also falls into the "great moments" trap. Adam Vinatieri is on the all-decade team, I ather from the article, because his team put him in position to kick memorable kicks.

Tom: Who would you put on there instead? Somebody asked me last month who I'd put there, and Vinatieri was the first name that popped into my head.

Mike: I'd go with David Akers. He's a model of consistency and a good all-around kicker.

Tom: Matt Stover is another possibility.

Mike: The problem with kickers is that it's hard to gauge greatness, so you can excuse a good writer like Gosselin for relying on great moments and a team's situation, especially when advanced statistics are still not mainstream.

Tom: Yes. New England with Vinatieri was No. 1 in field goals and extra points in 2002 and 2004, but No. 31 in 2003. On the other hand, the first half-decade FO stats don't show Vinatieri as being clearly worse than Akers. Akers hasn't been above 0 lately, either, before this year.

Mike: Not clearly worse, no. But yeah, kicking is insanely random.

Tom: So it is. I think it's actually closer than your anti-Vinatieri bias thinks it is, and that makes him a very reasonable choice.

Mike: I'm not sure where this accusation of anti-Vinatieri bias comes from.

Tom: You just seemed to have an immediate negative reaction to the idea.

Mike: Vinatieri is an above-average kicker who is given a lot of credit for a small number of kicks his team's situation put him in. If there's any bias it would be dislike for the whole idea of "clutch," which, granted, is a concept fairly intertwined with Vinatieri.

Tom: Well, when you're choosing among fairly close candidates, I think that's a reasonable tiebreaking factor.

Mike: I think it hurts more than it helps. It obfuscates what you're talking about. We're supposed to be talking about great players, not great teams.

Tom: If you had two identical kickers, only Vinatieri had the opportunity for four playoff game-winning kicks and made them all, and the other guy played for the Raiders and never made the playoffs, you'd pick the Raiders kicker.

Mike: In that case you admit they are identical. I don't see how you can look at two admittedly identical players and say that one should get the edge because of factors almost completely out of his control. There is no personal greatness in that.

Tom: Fine, Raiders kicker made his four kicks while down 47-6. Vinatieri made his in the playoffs to win games. I hate that I'm doing this, since I normally agree clutchiness is grossly overrated by most fans, but it matters.

Mike: Again, that tells us nothing about the players. It matters because we try to create narratives about players and teams, instead of assessing them as players and teams. This is a fine way of discussing things, but if we're saying we're doing candid appraisals of players, we should do candid appraisals.

Tom: That's what I'm doing. You're just saying one of the factors I'm using in my candid appraisals isn't valid.

Mike: I'm saying that if they are identical, you could switch in the Raiders kicker in place of Vinatieri, and the same result would occur. If you made two sandwiches with the same ham but one had better mustard and cheese, you wouldn't say that the second sandwhich's ham was better.

Tom: No, but I'd say it's a better sandwich.

Mike: But we're not talking about the sandwich. We're talking about the ham. That is my entire example. Everyone understands the sandwich is better, but that's not helpful information about the ham.

Tom: I dispute your entire example.

Mike: I don't see how you can possibly say that one thing is better than another thing because of something extrinsic to that thing. It doesn't logically make sense.

Tom: I don't believe it's extrinsic to that thing. That's the whole point.

Mike: You admitted they were identical in every way except their situation, their team, which for this example is fixed and outside of their control.

Tom: Yes, and that makes them not identical in my eyes.

Mike: So a player should be considered better than he is because he's on a better team? Because if you stuck Vinatieri on the Raiders, he'd be kicking those good kicks in blowout losses, and he would be the exact same player he was in New England.

Tom: We make hugely contextual judgments of players all the time. Every player's career depends upon the team that drafted him. If Peyton Manning had been drafted by a dysfunctional Chargers team led by Bobby "I'm 15 years out of date" Beathard, rather than Bill Polian, I doubt he has the same career.

Mike: If we were talking about quarterbacks, I would admit that there is far too much going on, both in development and play, to ever figure out how good a player "really" is. On the other hand, kickers are by and large not developed. They're isolated from most of the team, which includes the coaching staff. They come in and kick.

Tom: Special teams coaches? Do they matter?

Mike: They have a huge effect on coverage.

Tom: And that's it? No advice to kickers and punters, just "go out there and kick?"

Mike: Compared to the amount of work "skill position" players get, it's negligible. You don't have kicker or punter projects. You only very rarely have kickers reworking their kicking style or, after running into a breakdown in fundamentals, doing anything other than being cut and replaced. Kickers and punters are expected, more than even running backs, to immediately come into the NFL and perform.

Tom: That just suggests that kickers aren't valuable, and they shouldn't be on the all-decade team.

Mike: It also suggests that little coaching is needed or expected. If there were gains to coaching up a kicker as opposed to grabbing some random guy off the street, we'd see more hands-on coaching. If there were gains similar to talented quarterback tutelage, we'd see the emergence of "kicking gurus" or "punting gurus" similar to "quarterback gurus." The well-known special teams coaches are all known for exceptional coverage and return blocking. Not for exceptional work with kickers.

Tom: It suggests little coaching is expected, because the range of kicker variability isn't high.

Mike: Which in turn suggests that the team's situation has little to do with the development and performance of a kicker. If coaching gave some sort of advantage, wouldn't someone be expending effort on it?

Tom: For the record, I'm not perfectly confident Vinatieri should be on the all-decade team, and yes, we should have taken kickoff distance into account.

Fantasy Update

Tom: Does your league have consolation games?

Mike: Yeah.

Tom: I had a consolation and regular game this week and won both of them. I won the championship bracket game thanks to a couple of key waiver pickups. I dropped Robbie Gould and picked up Matt Prater, who gave me 16 points in contrast to Gould's 1. I also dropped Dustin Keller to pick up Fred Davis, who put up 12.5. My third move was grabbing Quinton Ganther and playing him instead of LaDainian Tomlinson, but that actually cost me 1.7 points. Still, I came out 23.7 ahead of my roster from last week, and won by 15.6. Thankfully, my opponent played Michael Turner and left Jerome Harrison on his bench, or else I would have still been sunk.

Mike: Harrison is always a weird play, as was mentioned last week.

Tom: Yeah, he had a 3 percent start rating on Yahoo! and around 1.4 percent on ESPN. That's just the cruel mistress that is fantasy football playoffs. Still, it's on to the championship game for me and the third-place match for him.

Mike: Very nice. Who else is in the championship game?

Tom: The fourth-place team, powered by Matt Scaub and Andre Johnson. Go Dolphins defense! In the other league I'm in, the No. 5 and 7 seeds are in the championship, the former after knocking off the undefeated top team.

Mike: A similar thing happened in my Yahoo! league. Not quite as extreme, but the fourth and third seeds knocked off the first and second seeds in the semis. The No. 3 seed at least finished the season third in points behind the second seed and myself.

Tom: Well, that is something, good teams being rewarded ... or at least less deserving teams being punished.

Mike: I'm actually rooting for the third seed.

Tom: Family fued?

Mike: Survey says no. The fourth seed won a few years back, and the third seed beat me in the playoffs. You always want to lose to the eventual champion.

Tom: Oh, sure, I guess. Honestly, I'd rather win the loser's bracket than see the team that beat me win it all.

Mike: True, but if you're going to lose, you want both.

Tom: And a pony.

Mike: I suppose in most leagues that's mutually exclusive, however. Losing to the champion and winning the loser's bracket. Not losing to the champion and having a pony. Unless your pony is in your fantasy league.

Tom: I really have no use for a pony. Give me the loser's bracket championship. There aren't many things I really know, but one of them is this: Winning kicks ass. I want the championship. If I can't have the real championship, give me the loser's bracket championship.

Mike: Ponies also kick ass. Where exactly does this pony rank, then?

Tom: Third. I don't really ride, and ponies require upkeep.

Mike: I think I'd rank ponies second.

Tom: I'll be sure to remind you of that should you ever have children.

Mike: Consolation wins won't help you drive your enemies before you and crush their fallen corpses.

Tom: Sure, it's small favors, but at least it's not a drag on resources like a pony.

Mike: This is why stats will never rule the sports world. Ponies have intangibles off the charts.

Tom: Plus, they'll be eatin' when the zombiepocalypse comes!

Mike: Yer-huh. Astoundingly, this is the week where my patched-together CBS team would've absolutely destroyed. Ben Roethlisberger, Jerome Harrison, Randy Moss, Nate Washington, to some extent Mewelde Moore. Of course, I didn't make the playoffs in that league, due to playing all of those players!

Tom: Cruel, cruel fate.

Mike: I'm going to take that as evidence of my prescience and move on. Similarly, after taking a week off, my Yahoo! team put up great numbers. Unfortunately, the egg they laid last week ejected me from the playoffs. Putting up a great score when there is no game really doesn't mean much.

FO Staff Fantasy Update

by Bill Barnwell

Ian/Al 89, Bill 83

I knew I was up against it when Maurice Jones-Drew picked up 26 points on Thursday night, and while I took a 83-80 lead into Monday night, hoping that the Redskins would hold Lawrence Tynes to two points or less was naive. I was done by the end of the first half.

In the long run, my midseason moves to deal Brett Favre and Reggie Wayne for Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, they of the great fantasy postseason schedules, failed me. I would've started Donovan McNabb (18 points) over Warner (13), and Wayne (19) blew away the production of a clearly hobbled Fitzgerald (9). Even the Cardinals defense failed me with five points, while the Giants picked up 23 on my bench. Starting Matt Forte (2 points) and Mohamed Massaquoi (0) in my flex and WR2 spots were the wrong moves; starting Santonio Holmes (7) and Hakeem Nicks (6) instead would've given me the win.

It's even more frustrating because, well, I had a chance. Ian and Al's team mostly tanked on Sunday, with Matt Hasselbeck scoring four points against the Bucs, Cedric Benson finishing with six, and no one besides Chad Ochocinco heading into double digits. They left Carson Palmer (18), 89 (21), and Mike Sims-Walker (12) on his bench. Of course, they also left Arian Foster there, which ended up being the wisest move of all.

Elias 110, Will 93

I thought I was in trouble against Ian and Al, but Elias was in real dire straights as Sunday morning approached. Will picked up 74 points from five players (Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Miles Austin, Reggie Wayne, and Jason Witten) by the end of Saturday night, setting a pretty difficult target for the regular season champs to hit.

And then, Elias smashed that target. Ben Roethlisberger scored 32 and Rashard Mendenhall added 16 in the Steelers' dramatic win over the Packers. Andre Johnson had 19. Derrick Mason chipped in with 14. He had the confidence to bench DeAngelo Williams and start Mason, a move which ended up being wise when Williams went down with an injury. He got his lineup absolutely right -- while I left 74 points on my bench, Ian and Al left 62, and Will left 57, Elias left only 32 points from seven players on his bench, and 19 of that came from Vince Young. His "optimal" lineup was the actual lineup he put in by Thursday. Get that right and you'll win most weeks.

Consolation Bracket Scores:

Aaron 107, Vivek 47

Rob 72, Pat 54

Sean 82, Doug 65

Mike 87, Vince 82 (despite starting and getting 47 points from Jerome Harrison)

This week, No. 1 plays No. 2: It's tech guy Elias versus ex-Scramble duo Ian and Al for the FO League Championship. Elias is currently favored by three according to ESPN's projected lines for the game, but he's listed as the home team, so it's a wash.

I play Will for third place. The loser's consolation ladder sees Aaron play Rob, Vivek play Sean, Pat play Mike, and Doug play Vince.

Adeste emptores/pensate suppellex nostram

Mike: Every year, Christmas carols take over the airways. Every year, someone thinks they have come upon a new and clever idea of redoing them with lyrics flogging their stuff. Every year, it makes the audience cringe.

Tom: Hey, I like the barking dogs! Although, me liking something still does not mean I will argue it is good. I also object to the characterization of staring at the TV frozenly. My eyes my be captive to the television screen, but I'm animated.

Mike: It's true, these are football fans we're talking about. They are anything but passive.

Tom: HDTV and 1080p is a pretty sweet deal, though.

Mike: $800 for a 46-incher? No.

Tom: Well, sure, don't buy your TV at Worst Buy.

Mike: It's another interesting view of what we as a society consider masculine.

Tom: Actually, I'm not sure whether this commercial is directed towards women or men.

Mike: Both.

Tom: That's where I was leaning. That, or people with high tolerance for annoying things (e.g, parents).

Mike: Men want a big television because for some reason that is now manly. Women are reminded that men are now obsessed with this new kind of status symbol. It's actually very effective, or would be if its delivery weren't so annoying.

Tom: Effective in the same way "Our Country" is, in that it's impossible to ignore.

Mike: I suppose that's true, but "Our Country" is pretty universally reviled, even among non-FO readers. Every time it has come in conversation with anyone, no matter whom it was with, it was panned. It is also worth mentioning how that basic marketing campaign has continued, but with the music greatly de-emphasized. I do like the clutch triangle. The "moo," however, ruins everything. This is serious stuff. Animal sounds are verboten.

Tom: Yeah, the moo just goes to underlie the incredible lameness of this commercial, though perhaps we're not appreciating Best Buy's holistic brand image. They have a unit called the "Geek Squad." Clearly, only a social nincompoop would make that "moo" noise. Only social nincompoops know computers or electronics. Best Buy, therefore, knows technological things.

Mike: I thought the point of all that was to make nerds cool. Remember, fancy technology is now a male status symbol.

Tom: No, owning fancy technology is cool.

Mike: I disagree. Nerds are like your technology sidekicks. Even testosterone-washed NCIS: Los Angeles has a prominent role for the nerdy sidekick, who is viewed as not as awesome as the guys with guns, but useful and awesome by association.

Tom: ONI has the JFK assassination conspiracy theories, NCIS has the nerds.

Mike: The other problem is that they don't even rewrite the songs in their entirety, they just have snippets. Which they then string together randomly. It's not just a bad idea, it's a bad idea with really sloppy execution.

Tom: Which means it could have potentially been good in some hypothetical world. Which takes us right back to the pony.

Mike: Which is, sadly, one of the things Best Buy would not recommend as a gift. This shows how bankrupt the entire process is.

Tom: Come on, would you buy a pony from a bunch of nerds? They'd tell you about its bloodlines and ability to run fast instead of how gentle and pretty it is.

Mike: Perhaps some manner of ROBO-PONY, which combines both excellent breeding and prettiness.

Tom: Yes, but prettiness would mean 可愛い, which adds a whole new level of disturbing if you're not careful. These are nerds, remember.

Mike: We must always be vigilant against the Germano-Japanese pervy threat.

Tom: Always.

Mike: Both cultures seem to have recovered from the horrible revelations of what they did in World War II by throwing all their energy into sexual deviancy, so let's avoid any more talk of ponies.

Tom: I think we need to pull the plug on this. See what you have wrought, Best Buy? Do you see what you have done?!


KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: NFL Rule 4-6-5 provides, in relevant part: "Other examples of action or inaction that are to be construed as delay of the game include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a) a player unnecessarily remains on a dead ball or on a runner who has been downed."

If someone would please notify Gene Steratore's crew, who missed such a delay in the last minute of the Browns-Chiefs game, and Albert Riveron's crew, who missed such a delay at the end of the Raiders-Broncos game, your Scramble writers would be most appreciative.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: With the game tied at 24 late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, the Tennessee Titans punted the ball away, pinning the Dolphins at their own 2-yard line. Holding all three team timeouts, the Titans stood an excellent chance of getting the ball back in good field position if they were able to stop Miami. After a four-yard gain on first down, with about :50 left to play, Jeff Fisher elected not to call time out. After all, as he said in the post-game press conference:

"My gut feeling a lot of times I make decisions like that, I gut feel. What I didn't want to do was call timeout, send a signal to them and force them to take a shot and make a big play down the field because then they had three timeouts."

There is one problem with that, though: the Dolphins only had one timeout, not three, making the use of a timeout a much more palatable proposition. This serious lack of situational awareness is unusual from the longest-tenured coach in the NFL, but that makes it no more defensible or explicable.

COLBERT AWARD: The Pittsburgh Steelers kicked a field goal to take a 30-28 lead with 3:51 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Packers. Following the touchdown, Mike Tomlin, having seen his defense fail to protect fourth quarter leads several times this season and probably knowing the Packers had already used two of their timeouts, elected to call for an onside kick. Surprise onside kicks tend to be successful, and the downside was a defense that had struggled might give up a score quickly and leave the Steelers enough time for a comeback. Or maybe because that's just what happened, it seems likelier than it was. Either way, kudos to Tomlin for the attempt. (You can find more discussion of this here.)

Loser League Update

Kicker: Akers and Vinatieri you are not, Messrs. Kasay and Feely Jay missed two field goals en route to his -3 points, whereas John took the more exotic route of a missed extra point.

Wide Receiver: Jacoby Jones should actually be honored by his inclusion in this list; by showing up here, he has successfully avoided the non-performance penalty, which means he was at least part of the game. On the other hand, he didn't do much in his time to distinguish himself. Pierre Garcon is the exact opposite, a decent performer who just couldn't get it done this week. This antipode is joined with Bryant Johnson and Brad Smith at 1 point.

Running Back: While running the ball and stopping the run as the end-all, be-all of football success is outdated, its opposite, sucking at running offense and defense, definitely doesn't help. We're looking at you, Buffalo, Marshawn Lynch and that 2-point Loser trophy. Shonn Greene at least has the excuse that he's not nearly as established a back to hide behind when the subject of his 3 points is broached.

Quarterback: It's almost over, Jay Cutler. It's almost over.

Otherworldly Occurrences

Scramble Mailbag

patriotsgirl: Should I start 2 of Snelling (BUF), Holmes (BAL) and Bush (TB) over Reggie Wayne in my .5 PPR? Reggie's normally a no-brainer, but the combination of Revis and Caldwell's ambiguous statements on the Colts' starters gives me pause, particularly given that Holmes was great against Baltimore last time, and the Buffalo rush defense is weak (this is assuming Turner isn't able to go, obviously). Am I overthinking? Thanks in advance!

Mike: If the Steelers are going to have any chance of winning this week, Holmes will need a big game. Which doesn't really help with the underlying question, I suppose.

Tom: If Turner is out, and it seems likely he will be, Snelling is a no-brainer.

Mike: Yes, that is a great matchup.

Tom: Consistency of production is also a concern ... I don't trust Wayne to put up points this week.

Mike: And I'm concerned that he'll see just enough snaps to keep him sharp, but not enough to put up a huge game, especially in a PPR league. If Turner is in, though, I would see Holmes and Wayne being your best plays.

Tom: Yeah, in that case it's probably best to roll the dice with Wayne.

Mike: Nothing like obsessively watching the injury wire for fantasy purposes.

Tom: At least all the relevant games are on Sunday.

49ers4tw: Championship time. Should I start Ochocinco vs. KC or Sims-Walker @ NE? All things equal, I would probably prefer Ochocinco, but KC is sneaky good against top WR's (#8 DVOA). Sims-Walker has a great matchup @NE (#32 DVOA vs. top receivers), but hasn't done much on the road. Thanks for the help!

Mike: Ochocinco is usually a good play, but has a frustrating habit of disappearing.

Tom: I've been satisfied with him this year.

Mike: As have I, but he hasn't been dominant, and Kansas City has a glaring weakness against not-passing. Which means LARRY JOHNSON REVENGE GA -- oh lord, my head hurts. All signs point to Sims-Walker.

Tom: Never trust a Jaguar. I'm still going with Eight-Five.

(Since this is Championship Week for so many folks, questions posed right before this article goes to press will be answered in the comments section Wednesday evening. Truly, your Scramble writers are beneficent!)

We know some of you are in (completely insane) leagues that end in Week 17. Your Scramble writers strongly suggest dropping that league like something that is heavy and easily dropped. These poor, unfortunate souls (crazy people) can e-mail questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com, or drop in on the Scramble board for help.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 24 Dec 2009

60 comments, Last at 30 Dec 2009, 12:05pm by Noah Arkadia


by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 1:03pm

Discussion on clutch kickers ... if I recall the most accurate kicker of all-time is Mike Vanderjagt ... if we discount clutch why wouldn't you pick him?

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 1:32pm

The primary reason would be he only played in 7 seasons this decade.

in 9 seasons(1998-2006) Vanderjagt made 230 of 266 attempts 86.466% all but one of those seasons while playing in a dome. During those same 9 seasons, Matt Stover made 255 of 294 attempts 86.735% while playing for an outdoor team.

So the argument could be made that even when he was playing Vandejagt wasn't the most accurate kicker in the NFL. :)

by Remy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 1:55pm

Actually, it's Nate Kaeding. Look it up.

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 2:11pm

To be fair he recalled correctly the status at the beginning of the season. Nate Kaeding is NOW the the most accurate kicker.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 6:34pm

1. Raw field goal percentage is a terrible measure of field goal kicking performance. It doesn't take into account environment, which is important - Vanderjagt played his home games in a dome and his divisional away games in warm weather cities - but even more crucially it doesn't account for distance. Vanderjagt had a weak leg and seldom attempted long field goals, which are more valuable and lower percentage. FO's FG/XP stat is a much better statistical measure of kicking performance (though still not perfect, of course). I suspect that the most valuable goal kicker of the decade taking everything into account was Stover, but I can't really be bothered to look into it properly.

2. Vanderjagt was an absolutely atrocious kick-off man. Kicking off well is probably at least as valuable as kicking field goals well, and Vanderjagt was simply awful at it. FO don't publish the individual kicker numbers for this - only ones for the kickoff unit as a whole. At their peaks, Akers and Vinatieri were both pretty good at kickoffs, though neither of them has been for a while.

Kaeding's honestly not such a bad shout. He's only played six seasons this decade, it's true, but over that six year period he's probably been the best kicker in the league overall.

by Bobman :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 2:28am

How can you say "Kicking off well is probably at least as valuable as kicking field goals well"??? What's the yardage differential between a good KO and a bad one? 10 yards? (Opponents start at the 20 vs the 30) 12 yards on average?

Are you seriously saying that 10-12 yards on the wrong side of the field is of greater value than 3.0 points? I suppose you can say the alternative for a FG is a shot at a TD or 1st down and a shot at turning the ball over... but overall, foregoing the FG may be worth something positive... 1.5 pts? 2.0? So the 10-12 yards only have to be worth 1.0 - 1.5 pts to have KOs be more important than FGs... but I think that's a tenuous argument to make.

And yes, Vandy's KOs did suck. Even worse was his public petulance when the Colts signed on a KO specialist--what? He couldn't tell that he sucked? That's scary. Maybe his 600 lb aunt has big bones, and his narcoleptic uncle "isn't very active" too.

by zlionsfan :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 2:49pm

He may not be saying that, but someone else is.

In fact, Burke's suggesting that an average difference of 10 yards per kickoff could be worth significantly more than 3 points. For average teams, with a 65% chance of getting a first down on a series, an average of 3.7 first downs needed to score a touchdown, and an average of 12.4 drives per game, conceding an extra 10 yards per kickoff could cause that average team to give up 9.5 more points per game.

It's not as simple as that – for one thing, shorter kicks don't necessarily mean shorter returns, as the coverage plays a significant role there – but it is a factor. I'd love to see average kickoff distances somewhere, but I couldn't find them easily. I have the raw data with me, I just haven't dumped it into SQL Server yet. Maybe that should be my Christmas project.

by JetfanMike (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 1:09pm

I strongly disagree with Mike's claims about being "clutch." It is one thing to kick a 52 yrd field goal in practice 10 times out of 10, and it is another thing entirely to do the same in front of a stadium full of fans to win a super bowl. I may be wrong, but Mike seems to be assuming that psychological factors such as fortitude and toughness are not valid components of a players ability. The corollary to this would be that it is impossible to "choke," or at least, that it is not true to say that a player has a tendency to "choke" in pressure situations. This seems to me to be patently absurd.

by Noah Arkadia :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 11:38am

I agree with you, but this site was born at least partly as a reaction against overvaluing such factors on the part of media and fans. Balance has yet to be achieved.

by Whatev (not verified) :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 1:47am

At the professional level, players who don't have fortitude and toughness don't become usually good players who suck in critical situations. They just suck all the time.

by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 12/30/2009 - 12:05pm

I suppose the same argument would apply to any other activity. If you are a professional and you're good at it, you may not, I repeat, you may NOT suck in critical situations! Or exceed! Because Big Brother is Watching You. An you know it!

It's common sense that people do different in different situations. Because we're not robots or machines. Not even if we're professional football players, as much as we'd like to think of the good ones nearly as gods. And "pressure", if we acknowledge it is a real thing and not an invention of sports announcers, is a different situation.

by John (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 1:30pm

There's also the problem that, while we can assert that random FG kicker X is as accurate as Y, and thus would have made the same game-winning field goals as Y in the same situation, nonetheless X wasn't there, and we don't know that.

Y was, Y succeeded, and rightfully Y gets the credit for not blowing his opportunity. Hypotheticals are pointless.

by Temo :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 1:51pm

Yes, so maybe if you have identical kickers then one benefits from being given the opportunity to prove himself, while the other is largely forgotten for reasons beyond his control.

But we know that Vinatieri does not have the best overall record as a kicker this decade. (For another thing, Vinatieri's kickoffs suck). So why should we make him the kicker of the decade over someone who has had better FG success and kicks off better?

by John (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 5:15pm

Well, Vanderjagt is/was the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, IIRC, and as a Colts fan, I wouldn't want him back unless we were desperate.

Should a guy who can't get a gig on any team be the kicker of the decade?

by Temo :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 7:10pm

He's most accurate by total %, but in actual field goal value he's not. In any case, like Vinatieri, he doesn't kick off.

Give me Neil Rackers, Jason Hanson, or Olindo Mare for kicker of the decade.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 6:43pm

Vanderjagt was the most accurate kicker because

1) The Colts tended to end up with really short field goals, so the majority of his were short (and thus easy).

2) His leg strength completely fell apart faster than just about anyone could've anticipated. If any team was stupid enough to give him a season at kicker, he'd fall very fast. His career was very short by kicker standards - only 9 years. Good kickers have careers that are a lot longer than that.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 12/27/2009 - 8:10am

Interesting point about making the short kicks.

For kicks inside the 40 here's how some kickers stack up:
- Jason Hanson - 259/273 - 94.8%
- Matt Stover - 316/335 - 94.32%
- Vanderjagt - 143/153 - 93.46%
- Morten Andersen - 245/263 - 93.15%
- Sebastian Janikowski - 131/142 - 92.25% (he's not just a big fat bald bloke)
- Adam Vinatieri - 233/260 - 89.6% (remember he's kicking in New England).

(Bear in mind those could include blocks and noticeably there's a few dome kickers there).

The more I look at the stats the more I think Stover may be the best ever. To compile those kind of stats kicking in Cleveland and Baltimore for the first 18 years of his career is tremendous.

Given that Stover arrived the same time as Belichick did, I wonder if that's a factor. After all New England's kicking game has been fairly seamless in its transition from Vinatieri to Gostkowski ...

by Flounder :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 1:44pm

Why isn't Jason Hanson in the discussion for best kicker of the decade? He hasn't been good this year, but home games in a dome or not, my impression is that he's been darn good every other year.

by zlionsfan :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 2:57pm

Yes, Hanson is finally having an off year, which I suppose is his right: he can probably have one or two every eighteen years.

From a cursory examination, it seems that Vinatieri is more accurate from 40-49, but Hanson is significantly better from 50+ (including 8 of 8 last year and 27 of 42 this decade).

I'd guess no one talks about him because he's played for one of the worst decade-teams in the history of the NFL.

It's a shame. I think he is one of the best kickers in NFL history, and thanks to idiots like Millen, he'll probably never get his due.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 4:51pm

Interesting Hanson fact (taken from Wikipedia) ... he is the last NFL player to still be playing on the same team as he was prior to the advent of free agency and the salary cap! (Obviously not too many 17+ year veterans in the league).

Say one thing about Detroit ... they've been pretty solid with just two kickers in thirty years ...

by Flounder :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 1:43pm

I tend to think the gut reaction against Vinaterri is a residual from the couple of years that Peter King was flogging the "Adam Vinaterri is a hall-of-famer" horse.

by Temo :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 1:47pm

Not to speak for Mike, but I think the essence of the argument is to wonder whether it is valid to give credit for Vinatieri for making clutch kicks when he was in that position so many times only because of forces outside of his control-- ie, that his teams were so good as to get to highly visible FG situations so many times.

by JetfanMike (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 2:13pm

Right, and the point is that he did make them, and that it is valid to consider the circumstances surrounding those kicks in evaluating the value given to a made (or missed) kick. And the reason for this is psychological. And that to say otherwise is to say that psychological factors are not relevant in determining value.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 2:29pm

I seem to recall reading that while Vinatieri kicked about 20 game-winners ... all but one or two of them were in circumstances where the game was already tied.

Psychologically there's extra pressure when you know the team can lose, to when missing just means your defense have to come back on the field or that you're headed to overtime. For example both missing either of his SB winners would have resulted in overtime compared to the fate of Scott Norwood and the Bills.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 2:59pm

If you want some idea why the Pro Football Hall of Fame is far less than what it could be, Gosselin provides a good example. He is supposed to be a knowledgeable guy, and thus is one of the small group of people who act as selectors. His knowledge of what he gets paid to cover is such that selects Alstott for the all-decade team, at the fullback position. He does this despite the fact that Alstott played a huge chunk at the tailback position. He does this despite the fact that Alstott was never considered a superior blocker for a fullback, one of the primary roles, perhaps the primary role, for the position. He does this despite the fact that, as a runner, he averaged about 3.7 yards per carry. He does this despite the fact that Alstott averaged a fumble about every 50 touches, which is high for the era he played in.

Thus, Gosselin has selected a player at the fullback position, for the all decade team, who really wasn't clearly predominantly a fullback, who didn't run extraordinarily well, wasn't a clearly superior blocker, and fumbled a lot. I suspect Gosselin chose him in good part because he liked Chris Berman's sound effects when narrating Alstott highlights on ESPN.

I suggested in a thread the other day, a little sarcastically, that the Hall of Fame players should be elected via phone call-ins by fans during playoff game halftimes, with whichever six or seven players who had their 800 number dialed most getting in. I'll remove the sarcasm now, because it would be better, once and for all, to remove the pretense that the Hall of Fame is anything other than a popularity contest, with voting by people who don't know all that much.

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 4:55pm

Or maybe he had a brainlock while trying to spell Lorenzo Neal's name.

by Bobman :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 2:20am

Don't get me started on Neal, underrepresented positions, and the HoF again....

If you kinda squint, their names look almost the same.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 4:16pm

Re: Jason Hanson
I/we just didn't think of him.

Since Scramble didn't go up until Thursday, supplemental fantasy football question answering will occur Thursday evening rather than the mentioned Wednesday evening.

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 5:00pm

For the decade, Hanson's and Vinatieri's field goal numbers are nearly identical.

Hanson 228/276 82.609%
Vinatieri 228/ 275 82.909%

Excluding the whole clutch discussion, I would give Vinatieri an edge for kicking outdoors.

To my mind the underrated kicker of the decade is Phil Dawson.

215/257 83.658%

by Flounder :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 6:46pm

I mostly suggest Hanson because I'm a GB fan. I'm too lazy to look it up, but it seems like he's got to be 95%+ against GB.

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 7:01pm

92% for his career against the Packers 58/63.

by Temo :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 7:16pm

Until old age took his legs a bit, Hanson was annually among the league leaders in touchback % and in total kickoff length. Vinatieri didn't do kickoffs or did them badly.

by Snowglare :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 5:57pm

Dawson is Cleveland's Player of the Decade, not that that's saying much.

by Disraeli :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 4:26pm

It should be said that kicking gurus do exist, they just tend to be hired on an individual basis by kickers, rather than employed by teams. Look up Doug Blevins, for example. Or read Stefan Fatsis' book.

Other than a reasonably strong leg, the other key to kicking is accuracy. And that comes from developing a technique that can be used with metronomic consistency, in all conditions. No different to a golf swing, really.

by Jeff Feagles is God (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 5:06pm

FANTASY QUESTION: I'm in the championship. No PPR, standard ESPN rules. For my 2 RB, flexRB/WR and 2 WRs, I need to start 5 of:

Jones of NYJ playing at IND,
Maroney of NE playing vs JAX,
F. Jackson of BUF playing at ATL,
Ganther of WSH playing vs DAL,
Williams of CAR (prob. hobbled by injury) playing at NYG,
Moss of NE playing JAX,
Jackson of SD playing at TEN,
Driver of GB playing SEA and
Rice of MIN playing at CHI.

Thanks gurus and prognosticators!

by Tom Gower :: Sun, 12/27/2009 - 12:14am

Jackson's already played. Moss has a potentially very good matchup, particularly if NE is still looking to get him the ball to keep him involved. SEA and CHI have both given up, though I'd lean against Rice for weather-related reasons.

Jones I'm always eh on, but could have a decent day, I hate NE's RB roulette but Maroney may have gotten out of that lately and there's a nonzero chance JAX just rolls over, Jackson has a reasonable matchup but his QB may be Brian Brohm, Ganther, or Williams and the injury risk. I'd lean Maroney and Jones over Ganther, but could flip-flop those last two. Ganther getting yo-yo'ed like he did Monday worries me.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 7:03pm

I think that's mostly quite a decent job by Gosselin, though Alstott is a horrible choice and I disagree about the wide receivers. I would pick:

QB: P. Manning
RB: L. Tomlinson
FB: L. Neal
TE: A. Gonzalez
WR: R. Moss, T. Owens
T: J. Ogden, W. Jones
G: W. Shields, S. Hutchinson
C: C. Wiegman

DT: W. Sapp, C. Hampton
DE: J. Taylor, M. Strahan
OLB: K. Bulluck, D. Brooks
MLB: R. Lewis
CB: C. Bailey, C. Woodson
S: E. Reed, B. Dawkins

K: N. Kaeding
P: M. Scifres
KR: J. Cribbs
PR: D. Hester

Coach: B. Belichick
Offensive Co-ordinator: T. Moore
Defensive Co-ordinator: C.R. LeBeau
Special Teams Co-ordinator: B. April

One more great year from Asomugha would probably have been enough for me to put him in over Woodson. I simply don't believe zone corners are capable of having as much value as elite man-to-man guys, so Barber isn't particularly close for me. I don't buy his argument about left versus right tackles at the level of an all-decade team: the very best left tackles are dominant run blockers as well as great pass protectors, and play left tackle because it's a more important position, not because they wouldn't be dominant on the other side. Scifres versus Lechler is an incredibly difficult call. Harbaugh and Dave Toub merit honourable mentions for special teams, and Jim Johnson for defense.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 7:38pm

From the Start/Sit board, Ten Drink Drunk asked:
My biggest dilemma is at running back. I have AP and consider him a must start. My RB2 options are a toss up, all with appealing match ups (on paper at least)-- not a bad problem to have I guess. Here are my options and thoughts pro/con. Standard Yahoo! scoring, no PPR.

Thomas Jones (@IND)
Upside: Indy's beaten up defense and the Jets rookie QB indicate a potentially big game for Jones.
Downside: Jets may be playing from behind and throwing a lot.

Beanie Wells (STL)
Upside: Last I heard, Wells is moving into a starting, featured back role. He's playing the Rams
Downside: Fumble prone, does he get relegated to the bench if he coughs it up? Potential time share still

Jerome Harrison (OAK)
Upside: Put up and an astounding 47 point performance last week as we all know by now. Appealing match up against Oakland
Downside: How much of a fluke was last week? He plays for the Browns. Oakland also only yielded 7 points to Moreno last week, leading me to...

Knowshon Moreno (@PHI)
-Probably the least appealing option.
I'm really struggling with the first three options and who to start as my RB2. Any input is appreciated as always. Thanks.

Harrison's performance was of course somewhat of a fluke, but the Raiders are still an appealing matchup, and I'd have to think he'd get a lot of carries once again. I'd probably put Wells behind him-the Cardinals are still bad against the run, and he put up 14-74-1 against them the previous game, and I could easily see him matching that total. I don't much like Jones as a player, so I tend to underrate him, but IND's run D is, first half of the HOU game excepted, better than you expect (16th in yards allowed, 17th in rush D DVOA). I agree Moreno is your least good option.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 7:44pm

From the Start/Sit board, island girl asked:
I am dealing with a similar RB dilemma and a more serious issue at WR...trying to preserve my lead in a 16-team, points only, PPR league.

Due to injury to Jeremy Maclin, I'm starting a RB in the flex position. I have 3 RB spaces to fill and four players to choose from: Thomas Jones, Jamaal Charles, Jerome Harrison, and Knowshon Moreno.

I'm leaning towards Jones, Charles, and Harrison. The return of Derek Anderson as the Browns QB makes me think Harrison is a more appealing option; though Mangini's reluctance to actually stick with him is far from comforting.

My second, bigger issue, is at wideout: What to do with Pierre Garcon (WR3)?
Initially looked like a good matchup, with Wayne the likely recipient of Revis' affections. But the hand injury, combined with the uncertainty regarding Caldwell sitting the starters or only playing them for a portion of the game...I'm at a loss. Given the depth of my league, my only other option is Brian Hartline (on my bench), and lackluster free agent prospects including: Ted Ginn, Jr., Bryant Johnson, Chaz Schiliens, Kevin Curtis, and...well...... you get the idea.
Thoughts and advice are very much appreciated. Good luck to everyone else in their playoffs!!

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like we end up with a lot of the questions dealing with the same players. I agree with you on Jones and Harrison, as I indicated in my response to Ten Drink Drunk. I'm a little wary of starting Charles, as the Bengals are actually 6th in rush yards allowed even though they're only 20th in rush D DVOA-they've only allowed the opposing team 100 yards rushing once in the last 10 games, that against the Vikings. With Buckhalter still out, Moreno will get the lion's share of the carries against the Eagles, who are 10th in yards allowed in 15th in rush D DVOA. Maybe I'm underrating Charles, but I'd actually lean Moreno.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 8:12pm

From the Start/Sit board, mrapollinax asked:
Championship game. I've moved Reggie Wayne into my flex spot for now and I am torn between starting him there or rolling with Jacobs after a very disappointing outing against WAS. I've only benched Wayne once this year (bye week) and have rolled with my studs every week. But the ambiguity of how the Colts will handle this along with Revis make this a very scary start for a championship. My team is below in my sig.

QB Tom Brady; David Garrard*
RB Maurice Jones-Drew; Cedric Benson; Brandon Jacobs*;
WR Reggie Wayne; Wes Welker; Marques Colston; Antonio Bryant*; Roddy White*;
TE Dallas Clark*; Fred Davis*;
DEF Bengals*; Ravens*;

I'm afraid I don't remember your league settings. I'm guessing it's 2W/2R/1T/flex, so correcting me if I'm wrong.

I know Caldwell and the Colts have made noises they'll continue to play their starts, but that and the Revis matchup makes Wayne's results too unrpedictable for my liking, even in a PPR league. Welker is an auto-start against a lousy (30th DVOA, 27th yard) pass D, ditto Colston against a bad Tampa team. White has a very unattractive matchup against a BUF team that's been excellent in pass D and great against #1 WRs. Bryant's almost certainly a mediocre play, so I'd take Wayne's potential upside over him. Jacobs has indeed been a frustrating play, but the Panthers have allowed over 135 yards a game 5 of the past 6 games (not the last game vMIN), so he has a good matchup. I'd lean to him over wideouts beyond the top two guys.

by mrapollinax :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 9:51pm

Thanks for the input. That is what I am leaning towards right now. Our league starts 2RB, 3WR and 1FLEX. I think I will start Colston, White and Welker with Jacobs at Flex. If Caldwell indicates that Clark will get less playing time I have Fred Davis available as a last minute stand-in.

by c_f (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 10:23pm

Duking it out for fifth place (ugh):

Yahoo standard, NO PPR

FWIW, my opponent has good matchups so I need players with higher ceilings rather than high floors

Flacco @ Pit OR Vince Young (!) vs SD?

S. Rice @ Chi OR Steve Smith @ NYG OR Steve Smith vs Car OR Antonio Bryant @ NO? (Pick 1)

Chris Wells vs StL OR Mendenhall vs. Bal?

by Tom Gower :: Sun, 12/27/2009 - 12:22am

I already commented on VY. You either got your 10 points out of him or decided to play Flacco.

Sidney Rice I'd be worried about for weather reasons and because of Lord Favre's tendency to spread the ball. Steve Smith (NYG) shouldn't get shut out but I never count on him for a big total. Steve Smith (CAR) is dealing with Matt Moore playing in a windy Giants Stadium-I don't trust his arm strength at all in that environment. NO has been excellent against WR1's this year (#2 in DVOA). Forget the matchup issue, just play Steve Smith (NYG) and hope he hits TD roulette.

I'd lean Mendenhall, as an RB1, even though he has the tougher matchup.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 10:41pm

Of course Vinatieri's the Kicker of the Decade! Haven't you seen his commercials!? He kicks a freakin' SATELLITE out of orbit! With the power of Snickers! I love Snickers! WOO!


CAPTCHA: xerox Nashville. No, thank you.

by Bobman :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 2:32am

Sure, but how many points is that really worth on the scoreboard?

AND.... whathappens when nougat is added to the list of banned PE substances? No more satellites, Adam, that's what! Just like Tony Mandarich and roids, he will shrink into insignificance without his nougat fix.

by wtmartin :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 11:17pm

Should I start Peyton Manning or Vince Young this week for the Championship?

Also - has anyone heard whether or not M. Turner is going to play? I need to choose between Snelling, Cad. Williams and K. Moreno.


by Tom Gower :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 1:28am

Personally, I'm worried like heck Peyton may play 2 series and simply be done for the day and am starting Alex Smith in his place. VY vSD isn't as attractive a matchup, but this one probably depends on your risk comfort level. I'd rather get the sure points, plus the peak no. of points available from Peyton isn't as high as it is against the Jets as it was against the Jaguars.

by Snowglare :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 6:07pm

Turner hasn't practiced all week, so he probably won't play. I'd go with VY and Snelling.

by 4tuna (not verified) :: Thu, 12/24/2009 - 11:55pm

Mike: It also suggests that little coaching is needed or expected. If there were gains to coaching up a kicker as opposed to grabbing some random guy off the street, we'd see more hands-on coaching. If there were gains similar to talented quarterback tutelage, we'd see the emergence of "kicking gurus" or "punting gurus" similar to "quarterback gurus." The well-known special teams coaches are all known for exceptional coverage and return blocking. Not for exceptional work with kickers.

John Carney was retained by the Saints as a kicking consulant today.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 12:11am

Hi guys. If you're still answering fantasy questions, I have one (and if not, input of commenters is also welcome).

At WR, I have:

Vincent Jackson
Roddy White
Miles Austin
Robert Meachem
Santonio Holmes

Need to start 3. Vincent Jackson is definitely starting, but other than him, I'm not sure who to pick. Where Miles Austin is concerned, as a Redskins fan, I feel weird starting a Cowboy when we're playing them. Also, more logically, the Cowboys didn't do anything offensively last time these two teams played. Roddy White is always somewhat boom-and-bust; Matty Ryan is back, so that's good, but he's matched against Buffalo's defense, who are good against the pass and bad against the run, which might mean he won't get many targets. Meachem is against Tampa, so he seems like a good pick, but Brees spreads the ball around so much that he might not get any points even if NO stomps the Bucs. Holmes is against the Ravens and playing for a Steelers team in the midst of a meltdown. I don't think I'll be starting him, but I figured I'd mention him since the option is there.

What do you guys think?

by Snowglare :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 6:29pm

Austin's a must start. Even in that Redskins game where the Cowboys were terrible, Austin managed 47 yards on 4 catches. He's had at least 4 catches every week since 10, and he's only dipped below 40 yards once as a starter. He's also the best bet the Cowboys have for a receiving TD each week. I wish I had him on one of my teams.

I favor Holmes for the third spot. He has 50+ yards in all but one game, something none of your other WRs, including V-Jax, can claim. He hasn't been much for scoring or outrageous yardage totals, but he's consistent. Meachem, like you said, has all manner of circumstances conspiring against him, though those same circumstances could result in a huge game. Most likely, his upside is 70 yards and a TD; he's only gone above that twice, and below it several times. Last game against TB, he had 2 TDs... and 10 yards. Matchups don't mean much unless your WR is facing a shutdown corner.

White is still one of the best WRs in fantasy, but he's iffy for all the reasons you say. Also, the Bills seem unlikely to do anything on offense with Brohm starting, so it'll be that much easier for Atlanta to focus on the ground game for a quick win.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 10:55pm

I'd already come to the same conclusion about Austin, him being a Cowboy or not. As for Holmes, I'm certainly taking your advice into account, though I'm still a bit on the fence about whether to go for the potential upside (Meachem) or the medium-grade consistency. I'm thinking, though, since VJax didn't do anything spectacular last night, that I should go with your advice. Better to have two middling point totals than one middling and one terrible--and terrible is definitely Meachem's potential downside.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Sun, 12/27/2009 - 9:14pm

20/20 hindsight: shoulda started Roddy White instead of VJax. Coulda picked Holmes or Meachem, would have come out about the same. Also, for the record, should have started Jonathan Stewart instead of Ricky Williams. Oops.

Now my championship hopes come down to Miles Austin, in a game against my favorite team, vs. Adrian Peterson. Sigh.

by Snowglare :: Sun, 12/27/2009 - 11:03pm

I'm sorry I didn't push for White. I keep getting tripped up expecting teams to run all game when they don't need to pass. They could've won that way, but it's rare anymore for teams to stop passing in any situation. Also, I ignored my own mantra about disregarding matchups; the Bills have a tough pass D, but no dominant corner.

by Tom Gower :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 1:44am

General fantasy comments on SD-TEN, since I probably won't have the chance to answer any more specific questions until Saturday...
In terms of TEN players, the only guys I think of as non-marginal starters are CJ28 (duh) and VY, whose point total will be somewhat unpredictable. Start Scaife, Britt, Washington, Gage at your own risk, and don't expect Gage's stats last week.

SD has some potentially very attractive matchups-with both TEN OLBs out for the year, I'm guessing the Chargers may attack the middle of the field more than they otherwise would. That probably means good stats for Antonio Gates (though they may just put FS Michael Griffin on him) and maybe better numbers for Darren Sproles. On the outside, neither Finnegan nor Harper (questionable) is particularly big, so VJax and Floyd both have big size advantages (no pun intended). I feel like SD could put up a lot of points this game, but who other than Rivers has the biggest game is a little bit of a crapshoot.

by Key19 :: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 2:32am

Keep Chopping Wood, Nick Folk! You missed a 24 yard field goal to nearly blow the Dallas Cowboys' entire season! And to top it off, you've been so horrible lately that you were fired in order to make room for a different kicker who missed a 23 yard field goal against that same Saints team!

Good column as always guys.

by JuridianSantaal... :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 3:39am

Kind of late to the party, but if people are still answering questions:

Which D would you recommend - Baltimores @ Pittsburgh or New Englands vs Jacksonville?

by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 12/26/2009 - 4:16pm

very tough to say. maybe Baltimore wins 23-17 and patrisots win 24-17, so what dififenerce really? flip a coin. if heads use Ravens if tails use Pates

by Tom Gower :: Sun, 12/27/2009 - 12:25am

I thought GB, who's been a good fantasy start for me this year, would do well and they put up 1 friggin' point and could have cost me a win. JAX may self-destruct, which could be a fantasy bonanza. Go with the Pats.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/28/2009 - 5:08pm

At one point, I was planning a grass roots movement to make "Our Country" the new national anthem. I figured that, if it passed, I'd only have to hear that crappy song once a game instead of every five minutes. Thank God they got rid of it.