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» Futures: Josh Rosen

UCLA's quarterback clearly has the talent to succeed as an NFL starter. The question is whether or not he can avoid enough mistakes to become a superstar.

22 Dec 2010

Scramble for the Ball: Holiday Wishes

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

In Addition to the Pony, Of Course

Mike: I thought we could do something this week about holiday wishes, particularly things we wish would change in football and football fandom. The chief one in my mind is the phrase "made the mistake of kicking to X." It's probably the most result-oriented comment one can possibly make.

Tom: This is, of course, invariably said after Player X has a long return, and not after Player X runs around for eight seconds trying to make a play only to lose four yards.

Mike: Exactly, especially since a lot of these guys are home-run hitters. Devin Hester in particular.

Tom: Home-run hitters in the Rob Deer, 25 homeruns, .179 batting average style.

Mike: Yeah. Let's actually take Hester as an example. He gets two or three returnable punts per game, which is average for a returner, since "returnable" means not out of bounds and not fair caught. There really aren't many per game. In his career, he has had 175 punt returns and 10 punt return touchdowns.

Tom: Yup.

Mike: So every 17.5 returns, he has a touchdown. That is ... very infrequent.

Tom: On his 56 returns in 2008 and 2009, he didn't have any touchdowns. So if you throw out those years, he's averaging a touchdown every 12 attempts, or one every 4-5 games. (Because after all, those returns don't really count.)

Mike: Less infrequent, but still pretty infrequent. If there is an actual argument around, it's that by kicking to a good returner, you're risking extra yardage on the return.

Tom: You're missing the sheer excitement value of the returns.

Mike: I acknowledge it, and agree that it is exciting, but we really need some perspective.

Tom: Perspective? How do you feel about ratatouille then?

Mike: What?

Tom: I'm assuming you haven't seen Ratatouille. In that case, don't worry about it. And yes, absolutely, punt returns for touchdowns are very rare events, and we shouldn't overrate them.

Mike: Fair enough. Anyway, just browsing the P-F-R entries for punt returners, the divide between elite and mediocre punt returners seems to be 3-4 yards per return. Aside from the extremely rare touchdown, which of course can happen with any returner, are we really that scared of 3-4 yards? Especially since those 3-4 yards come with some -- albeit low -- chance of a fumble.

Tom: Well, here's the issue. The 3-4 extra yards generally aren't lots of returns 3-4 yards longer, but instead the rarer extremely long run.

Mike: True. Then again, the difference between .250 and .300 is one dying quail a week.

Tom: It's like the distribution of running back carries. People value the ability to break off 60-80 yard runs, not consistently get four yards instead of two. It's just that unless you can break off the really big play at insanely high rates, the latter is more important.

Mike: True, but if you're getting extremely long runs and only have a slightly higher average, you're either having a lot of negative runs to offset a lot of extremely positive runs, or your extremely positive runs are also really rare. My wish is that people would stop treating every punt as a momentous event and certain returners as sacrosanct god-men who will end games. Teams have lost kicking to elite returners. Teams have also won doing the same. Teams have been burned with touchdowns, some teams have been granted huge breaks by negative plays or fumbles

Tom: Even by one of those great return men.

Mike: If you don't have enough faith in your coverage team to kick to an elite returner, you shouldn't kick to anybody. In reality, the difference on that particular play is overwhelmingly likely to be minimal. So announcers, please shut up about it. Do you have a wish, Tom?

Tom: Yes. The NFL should be willing to admit it has rules, and help make those rules available to the public. If you're going to sell rules, do not sell us a digest of the rules, and only make the actual rulebook available to the media.

Mike: Would the public having the rulebook really help anything? I mean, the rulebook is arcane and incredibly dense.

Tom: Sure, it generally is, but not everywhere. Take, for instance, the recent memo Ray Anderson sent out about the sideline restrictions, specifically where people could stand. On page vi, there's a very simple diagram showing the area six feet back from the sideline is for "CHAIN CREW AND OFFICIALS ONLY." The next six-foot area is "COACHES AND SITUATION SUBSTITUTION PLAYERS ONLY."

Mike: Those lines are never obeyed, just as a practical matter.

Tom: Well, yes. But I saw people react as though the idea that the NFL would have rules about such things is an incredibly arcane point no one would ever think of.

Mike: I guess it would be good for people to have access. I'm just concerned that nobody will read it until something comes up, at which point it's probably too late since people will go with their gut reaction before reading the actual rule. And then the rulings. And then flip back to check any points of emphasis.

Tom: I admit I haven't really sat down and read the whole rulebook. But when a situation comes up, I can go to my computer, open up the PDF, and see what the rule is. More people should have that opportunity.

Mike: Fair enough. It's true that more information can't hurt. Things can hardly get more confusing than they already are.

Tom: I'm not sure I would go quite that far, but please, NFL, tell everybody the rules.

Fantasy Football Update

Tom: I hate Leslie Frazier. I hate our stupid league settings.

Mike: I'm out of my league, although it looks like the Nos. 1 and 3 seed will be playing for the championship. Both were beatable in the run-up to this week. I hate Denver. The end.

Tom: Despite those, I got lucky and headed off to the championship.

Mike: Woo.

Tom: Our lineup locks on Thursday, and I forgot to fix it from last week.

Mike: That is pretty much insane, as I have said before.

Tom: So, I ended up sitting Ryan Torain, who had 15 points, and Santana Moss, who had 19. And Adrian Peterson gave me zero. Fortunately, I got 17 points from Chiefs DST and 13 from Ben Roethlisberger. Plus, my opponent was kind enough to bench Cedric Benson's 21 points and got five points from Steelers DST with Bears DST's 26 on his bench. I only had 74 points, but that was more than my opponent's 66.

Mike: Like I said about your team before, better to be lucky than good.

Tom: Yup.

Mike: Then again, luck has very un-ladylike way of running out.

Tom: The other semifinal's score was 114-113. Either, of course, would've destroyed me. I'll likely lose next week, but, hey, my streak of making the finals every year I've played fantasy football is still alive.

Mike: Not bad.

Tom: Well, it's only been two years, and I've played in multiple leagues both years. Wait another five years, playing only one league at least some of the time, and then I'll make you all bow down in obeisance.

FO Staff League Update: The (Semi) Final Countdown

Equipo del Jefe (Aaron, 8-5) 104 def. Remain in Matt Light (Barnwell, 11-2) 85

There is a Scramble Mailbag special below that deals with this game and the personnel decisions made by Bill. As for Aaron, Vincent Jackson just lit it up, rewarding Aaron's patience with 29 points and a spot in the staff finals.

Scramble Forever (Ian & Al, 9-4) 110 def. That's Great Hustle! (Sean, 9-4) 96

This one was a bit closer than the other semifinal, but Ian should be worried for a different reason: 38 (over a third of his team's total) points came from Michael Vick. Granted, Vick is a great start and the magic might continue for another week, but relying on one player is never good. Ian and Al can take solace in the fact that they won't have to deal with another zero from T.O., who was injured in the middle of last week's game and is now on IR. Whether Ian and Al start Steve Johnson or Greg Jennings is going to be a question weighing heavily in the next week. Sean put up a good fight, with great overall production (double-digit scores from five of his roster spots), but he just couldn't get over the hump.

Better Call Saul (Rob, 6-7) 76 def. Consensus Picks (Elias, 7-6) 51 (Consolation)

I think this is the best-ever finish by a team that lacks a kicker. While a kicker would have helped, it definitely wasn't the difference: Elias received zero points from Justin Forsett, Knowshon Moreno and Eddie Royal. Rob's team didn't have that great a week, either, but he did have enough to win the day and claim his crown as king of the losers!

Truly, Today We Are All The Pizza

Mike: Haha, guaranteed second date with Pizza Hut pizza? Just because you have a woman say it, Pizza Hut marketing people, doesn't mean even the dimmest of men will believe it.

Tom: So, you're the married guy and I'm not. But let's assume that it's actually right. Would you want to date the person for whom Pizza Hut guaranteed you a second date?

Mike: This is an important consideration.

Tom: That's really what drew me to this commercial in the first place. That said, I must applaud Pizza Hut for their truth in advertising. After all, one of their employees does mention "This isn't a pizza."

Mike: Food commercials really shouldn't try to get too metaphorical. It never ends well.

Tom: I also don't get the happy worker bit at the end. You have the employee montage where they say, "My favorite thing is serving you your favorites." If your product was really good, employees' favorite thing would be eating the employer's wonderful food, not getting rid of that food by giving it to customers.

Mike: I'm not sure that you can create a viable business model by having your employees eat all your food, so I don't think that would be a great advertising point.

Tom: You do have a point there. It's just like the people who work at places that serve food and how they try to discourage anybody from ever eating there. It feels like Pizza Hut is backhandedly doing the same thing in their own advertising. We hit this last year in the Howie Long car commercial, where the people at the advertising agency had clearly never driven the kind of car Howie was advertising and came up with ill-conceived notions of what made the car good.

Mike: Yeah.

Tom: Also, "This will make the best sleepover ever?" The supposed delivery driver who says that is driving around in what from the bright sunshine outside the car appears to be mid-afternoon. Is Pizza Hut supporting the vampire population?

Mike: Well, you know how people enjoy pizza the day after, when it's cold? This is just the latest development in that trend: You order the pizza at noon and then eat it at 11!

Tom: See, I thought the reason people ate cold pizza the next day was because they were too hungover to operate the microwave, whereas I tend to associate the idea of slumber parties with giggling tween girls, who I tend to assume are not hungover.

Mike: You live such a sheltered life.

Tom: Yes, I do. This is not news.

Mike: It is interesting how we have a pizza culture, though. I mean, maybe McDonald's could pull this commercial off, just because it's so ubiquitous, but because pizza is quintessential group and celebration food, one fish in a big pond can make the claim that their food is somehow this important.

Tom: I guess.

Mike: I guess it's because it's extremely cost-efficient to feed large numbers of people with it, so people tend to get pizza in groups.

Tom: I think the national pizza chains are stuck by trying to be national pizza chains, and their goal is to satisfy relatively large numbers of people. That's roughly true of all national chains, but some handle it by having a more diverse menu.

Mike: True, although I'm not sure how pizza can really be that specialized. Even in Chicago, where we have a strong and proud tradition of (superior) stuffed pizza, we still have plenty of thin-crust.

Tom: Well, you do tend to see regional variations in pizza. It's tough to find quality Chicago-style deep dish pizza outside of Chicago in my experience.

Mike: True.

Tom: Even when Uno's tried to go national, after a couple years of presumably disappointing results, they de-emphasized Chicago-style deep dish pizza in favor of a more casual bar/restaurant-style menu.

Mike: But again, the inverse isn't true. It is easy to find non-Chicago-style pizza in Chicago, and they do quite well with it.

Tom: Sure, pizza, it's great. There was even a time in life when I greatly enjoyed going to Pizza Hut. That happened to be the woebegone days called "living in North Dakota." Sorry, I'm now burned out on almost all pizza. Just today, at lunch, I went out and bought a sandwich instead of eating free pizza.

Mike: That is kind of depressing. Thankfully, I am never burned out in any food, and I live within easy driving distance of two of the best pizza parlors in the world, one specializing in thin-crust, the other in stuffed. So yay for me.

Tom: Congratulations. Which two?

Mike: Great Lake Pizza and Art of Pizza. Great Lake was recently featured in GQ and Art of Pizza regularly wins city-wide awards.

Tom: Ah. I am juuuuuuust out of Gino's East delivery range.

Mike: Curses.

Tom: They deliver to the southeast and southwest corners of the stoplight near which I live, but not to the northwest corner.

Mike: That's ... pretty lame.

Tom: Yup. I've considered trying to get them to deliver it to the guy standing on the corner on the south side of the street, but I haven't actually tried it yet.

Mike: Have it delivered to the broom closet and pose as the cleaning lady.

Tom: Am I missing a reference?

Mike: Seinfeld.

Tom: Yup, that's a reference I would miss.

Loser League Update

Kicker: OK, now this is embarrassing. Missing a field goal? Sure, bad luck, things happen. Missing two? Not unheard of. How about missing four? This is Dan Carpenter's new reality. Add in two extra points, and you get -6 points.

Wide Receiver: Laurent Robinson comes in just above the penalty line, with two receptions for eight yards. No scores, so that gives him a big 0 on the week and the hearts of loser league fans everywhere.

Running Back: Why is Chester Taylor getting carries? Seriously. Forte has about 200 carries, late in the season, so it's no longer about keeping him fresh. For some reason, Martz seems to love the guy, even though he doesn't have any skills that Forte doesn't, and averages about two yards fewer per carry. The coach's devotion was rewarded with ... 11 carries for 5 yards (roughly half a yard per carry), and his owners netted 0 loser league points.

Quarterback: Usually there is a bit of a logjam near the bottom of the quarterbacks board, but this week Matt Hasselbeck pretty much has it all to himself. While even Sam Bradford put up decent yardage in a relatively miserable performance, Hasselbeck managed a paltry 71 yards with an interception and two fumbles. That's -3 points, for those keeping score at home.


KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: The Giants had multiple failures in losing a game they led by 21 points with eight minutes to play, but Keep Chopping Wood this week goes to punter Matt Dodge for failing to punt out of bounds at the end of the game.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: With his team trailing 24-10 early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, Michael Vick hit DeSean Jackson for a 31-yard gain. Jackson, though, was ruled to have fumbled, and the Giants took over at midfield. It was a questionable call, but despite the big benefit of a challenge and an already unfavorable game situation, Andy Reid decided to save his two challenges and three remaining timeouts for a rainy day. Well, the Eagles still won, so I guess we can't criticize him too much, right? Former NFL officiating czar Mike Pereira also points out Reid missed two other successful challenge opportunities on Sunday.

COLBERT AWARD: When your chance of winning the game may be doubtful, one thing you can do is take high-risk gambles that, if successful, improve your position. Packers coach Mike McCarthy may make other mistakes, and if not for Reid could've taken the Martz Award this week, but he gets this week's Colbert Award for the surprise onside kick to open Sunday night's game against the Patriots.

Scramble Mailbag

MCS: Hey Guys, Championship Game and looking for a little advice. I had some lucky breaks and managed to build a pretty strong roster. Unfortunately, that means I leave a lot of points on the bench.

I need 2 RB: Rashard Mendenhall vs. CAR, Jamaal Charles vs. TEN, Ray Rice @ CLE, and Peyton Hillis vs. BAL

Need 1 WR: Brandon Lloyd vs HOU, Dwayne Bowe vs. TEN, or Santana Moss @ JAC

Mike: I think Mendenhall is the clear start there, the question is whether to start Rice or Charles.

Tom: I would've said Rice was the auto-start. He's been putting up some incredible numbers lately.

Mike: Wow. Tennessee's rush D is a lot better than I thought it was. You're right, Mendenhall and Rice.

Tom: Bill's written about the great year Charles is having, and he could go off against Tennessee, but he's too risky when you have guys who are great plays and you know will get more carries.

Mike: Yeah.

Tom: Oh, wideout. This is a tough one. I lean in favor of, and will be starting myself, Santana Moss.

Mike: I can't in good conscience recommend starting any receiver who has Rex Grossman as his quarterback.

Tom: Tim Tebow looked less awful than I thought he would, but not enough for me to start a Denver wideout, even against the Texans.

Mike: Tennessee's pass defense is pretty good, but I have to go with Bowe. He has an actual quarterback, and he's the quarterback's safety blanket.

Tom: I think Tennessee's pass defense is worse than you, and DVOA thinks it is, so Bowe is definitely a solid option.

Kyle Turley's Flying Helmet: I've improbably reached the championship as the No. 6 seed in my league, but I have to face the top team -- and I could use a lot of advice. At the QB position, I need to make a decision between Matt Cassel and Matt Ryan. In my opinion, the latter probably has a tougher matchup, but I'm concerned about Cassel after his recent surgery and his relatively mediocre performance last week. Finally, for my WR flex spot (the league is a PPR format), I'm faced with a choice between Danny Amendola, Davone Bess, and Lance Moore. Which one should I go with?

Mike: While I think Bowe will do well fantasy-wise, I'm not sure Cassel himself will do all that well, so I'd probably go with Ryan. He might have lower upside, but he's extremely consistent.

Tom: I don't think Ryan has that much tougher of a matchup. He's a better quarterback, and he will probably be throwing more. At wideout, I'd go with Moore. St. Louis's limited passing game is being exposed right now, and I trust nothing in Miami.

Mike: You're really just rolling the dice with these three, but I agree, Moore is the most likely to actually do something

DNy: Hey guys, two questions this week for the championship: (1) I picked up Jon Kitna to spell Aaron Rodgers this past week because my backup was Matt Cassel. Now I have a quarterback controversy: Rodgers, Kitna, or Cassel? (2) Tebow's top target Brandon Lloyd or Thomas Jones for a flex play?

Mike: See my earlier comment about actual quarterbacks. Lloyd may blow up and have a great game. On the other hand, there is a relatively high chance that Tebow gets absolutely nothing going. So if your options are Lloyd or Jones, I'd have to go with Jones, sadly.

Tom: I would concur, especially with Haley's affection for Jones. At quarterback, the Giants are No. 1 in pass D DVOA, or at least they were before the Eagles game. They've also knocked several quarterbacks out with injuries this year. That worries me.

Mike: They get a lot of quarterback hits to go with their impressive sack totals.

Tom: I think Rodgers is still an OK play, but I will once again suggest starting Kitna in the fantasy playoffs.

Mike: As much as I want to go with Rodgers (and I love Green Bay's offense), I have to agree.

Ian Dembsky: So what do you think -- Did Bill intentionally start Kerry Collins, Hines Ward and Mike Williams of Seattle over Eli Manning, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Jacoby Ford last week in an effort to let the boss win, as if it was some kind of corporate golf outing? Or did he do it to avoid having to face Scramble Forever in the championship?

Mike: Snap.

It's championship in most normal leagues, so send your questions in to Scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com, and we guarantee that we will complain about Denver!

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 22 Dec 2010

60 comments, Last at 24 Dec 2010, 12:21pm by Mike Kurtz


by Eddo :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 6:20pm

Art of Pizza is awesome. Best deep dish pizza in the city.

For chains, I like Giordano's deep dish. And their thin crust is always excellent, as well.

Personally, I find Gino's East overrated.

by TomKelso :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 6:47pm

Suparossa -- end of discussion.

by TomC :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 6:53pm

I live within easy driving distance of two of the best pizza parlors in the world

Ohh, I was so close to triangulating on Kurtz's location, allowing for a surgical counterstrike the next time he says something I interpret as hating on the Bears. Is there perhaps one more pizza parlor you are in easy driving distance of, Mike?

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 11:01pm

I live in a country where Pizza Hut actually represents the best deep pan option locally accessible to me or the vast majority of the populace, and if I want the finest thin crust option this side of the Pond that I know of, it's at the far end of another country with near-freezing salty water in between.

Québec in Nice, however, is ace.

Far away, but ace.

by Paul R :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 12:58am

When someone says "pizza," one can't help but think, "Indianapolis."
We have some great pizza just 220 minutes up interstate 65.

Seriously though, Basbeaux makes a great pizza.

by Eddo :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 6:24pm

As for the opening segment, regarding "teams shouldn't kick to X", I'm not sure I agree totally. On average, as Aaron figured a few years back, it's always better to kick to even the most dangerous return men. However, in a discrete situation, like a football game, one huge return could wind up being the winning margin.

You even acknowledge this by giving Dodge the KCW award. He really should have avoided kicking to DeSean Jackson, and instead it ultimately cost the Giants the game.

Now, I would love if commentators actually thought about the statement before they said it. But I have little hope that will happen.

by TomC :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 6:49pm

In my opinion, Dodge earned KCW by being told to kick out of bounds, trying to kick out of bounds, and failing miserably. But I'm not sure kicking out of bounds was actually the right call. If you take the "best returners take it to the house 1/15 times" from earlier in the article, then you have a 1/15 chance of losing the game by kicking to Jackson. But how much are you increasing your chances of losing by kicking out of bounds (presumably) many yards short of where the average return would end up plus taking no time off the clock (vs. at least 4 or 5 seconds for the return)?

I also wonder how much the return-for-TD chances are increased when #1) the coverage team expects the ball to be kicked oob, and #2) the returner initially muffs the punt, allowing everyone to get way upfield.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 7:10pm

If "allowing everyone to get way upfield" makes it easier to score on a return, why don't returners just stand there for a second or two after catching the ball?

by TomC :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 7:13pm

That's a fair point. I would guess that it significantly lowers the average return yardage but might allow for a slightly higher instance of breaking the big one.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 7:15pm

Exactly... I've seen it stated that in some cases punting teams will call a "safe" return where they actually keep a couple of guys back in case it looks like the returner may break one. In this case, with the Eagles only needing a FG, that wasn't much of an option and standard kick coverage was probably correct.

by dbt :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 7:19pm

When Hester was a step faster than he is now, he used to reverse field and run around a whole lot, and this definitely opened up lanes. You saw this in the MN kick where it was relatively short and to a specific spot, so most of the coverage team was converging there. The result was that he only had to make one guy miss (and oh boy did he miss) and then once he was through the seam there was nobody to stop him.

The downside is that this does make you into a boom and bust returner. He used to occasionally lose 5-10 yards on returns where he did get tracked down. Also I think [strictly superficial impression, no data] there are more illegal blocks when you reverse field without having a specific play called to do so.

by tuluse :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 10:40pm

Sometimes they do actually.

by Theo :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 12:21pm

Coverage team players somehow totally forget their lane when the ball is muffed because 'fumble!' jumps into their brain. So they abandon their lane, and go straigth to the ball. Which is the wrong thing to do.

by MurphyZero :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 7:18pm

Yeah you can see from the video that Dodge had turned so that he would kick it out of bounds. But it went off the side of his foot, which in this case meant it went straight down the middle. If he hadn't turned to the right, that ball kicked that way would have gone out of bounds.

by Dales :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 7:27pm

IIRC, the Eagles were out of timeouts which would significantly reduce the risk of Vick running them into range. I think there is less than a 1-15 chance of the Eagles getting into FG range and hitting it (or getting a TD) if he punts it out of bounds.

by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 6:34am

Why not just max protect, have Eli run around for as many seconds as he can manage and then either hurl the ball out of bounds downfield near the one receiver you sent out on a pattern, or take a sack. As long as you run off the 10 seconds? or so that were on the clock what does it matter if you don't convert the 4th down

by Eddo :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 11:20am

I thought of that, too, but it's really, really hard to run 14 seconds off the clock. And an incomplete pass or a sack or any sort of failure to convert leaves the Eagles with a chance at a long field goal.

With eight seconds left? Might be worth a try. With four seconds? Absolutely (and I remember the McNair-led Titans doing something like this once, where he just heaved a high, long pass downfield to Drew Bennett). But fourteen seconds? Too much time.

by witless chum :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 12:37pm

The Lions did that to preserve their win over the Packers, just had Stanton throw deep and out of bounds near a wideout. I think it was four-five seconds or so.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 2:34pm

As an example of 14 seconds, Dan Connolly's 71yd kickoff return against GB took 14 seconds.

So envision how long that was. There's no way you could have a QB run 14 seconds off the clock.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 10:55am

Not to mention a 0/15 chance of running it back for a TD if it's out of bounds.

by Adam B. :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 7:39pm

Forte v NYJ or Tolbert @ CIN? Is there a straight-up answer, or is it (as I suspect) Tolbert if I'm confident and just need 10-12 pts, but Forte if I don't like my chances and want the potential upside?

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 10:38pm

A lousy red zone rushing team against the #1 Rush D as opposed to a decent red zone rushing team against the #31 Rush D. I don't think Forte's upside is nearly high enough to overcome those disparities.

by Adam B. :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 10:51pm

Thank you much. My thinking with Forte was more based on his guaranteed number of touches compared to the uncertain division in San Diego more than anything else. But you're right -- in the end zone, that ball's not getting handed to Forte successfully.

by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 7:42pm

A minor nitpick, but: "Former NFL officiating czar Mike Pereira also points out Reid missed two other successful challenge opportunities on Sunday."

This statement implies that Reid failed to challenge on three occasions. However, one of those plays occurred in the last two minutes of the first half, and therefore could only be challenged by the officiating booth. Moreover, as the booth was slow to call for the review, Reid correctly called a time-out to give them more time. That play was then reviewed, and upheld.

Of course, both of the plays where Reid legitimately failed to challenge would have been pretty clear-cut reversals - and both led to scoring drives by the Giants, so Reid's failure to use his challenges could easily have cost the Eagles the game.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 10:57am

Reid has a long history of bad challenges - I guess it's to be expected that he'd have some bad non-challenges.

by Spielman :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 8:34pm

"Wide Receiver: Laurent Robinson comes in just above the penalty line, with two receptions for eight yards. No scores, so that gives him a big 0 on the week and the hearts of loser league fans everywhere."

I honestly have no idea why the Rams continue to insist on starting the guy. Oh, right, all the other wide receivers are injured. Never mind.

by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 6:37am

He's crap though, even by Rams receiver standards. He's not fast enough to run deep routes and he can't catch or actually run routes to run short/intermediate routes. I'd rather see Gilyard and Danario Alexander given reps.

by Hari-Kari Bengals Fan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 8:36pm

What bugs me most about that Pizza Hut commercial--aside from the seal impersonation, which nearly gave me nightmares--is how they've "simplified the menu." I live in the middle of nowhere, and, as such, I go to Pizza Hut fairly often. I'm assuming that some focus group told them the old menu was too complex, which makes me feel bad for humanity. (Moreso than being a Bengals fan, anyway.)

by dbostedo :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 9:15pm

I'm going to assume that simply because in many cases customers are happier with less choices. It's not that they can't understand a more complicated menu, but that they have an easier time deciding and a more positive impression of the restaurant if things are simpler and clearer.

This happens in other fields as well. This is the same reason - at least to some extent - that Honda has very limited options, for instance. (They have lots of features, but all wrapped up in a small number of packages you can pick from.)

by drobviousso :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 2:06am

Yup, they aren't the only chain to do so, either. Customers say they want lots of options so they can pick exactly what they want, but in practice they want just a small group of good options.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 8:48pm

Ummmm, the full rulebook is for sale:


And use the "look inside" feature to look at the initial pages. Judging by comparison to the 2009 PDF I have, it definitely is the full rulebook and not just the digest.

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 10:34pm

Huh, I (obviously) didn't realize that. They sold a digest only for a few years, even for what was purported to be the actual rulebook, but that does look like the real thing.

by nick_thunderdome (not verified) :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 9:51pm

Hey guys - I missed putting in the request for help in the forum yesterday.

Made the finals in part thanks to you guys. So now I've got a few questions:

1) QBs - I picked up Tebow vs TEX and have Ben vs CAR. Basically I fear Ben having very few passing yards due to CAR's offense being totally ineffective vs PIT's D. If Tebow gets a passing TD and a rushing TD he might out point Ben. Yeah, the safe pick here is Ben.

2) Pick two guys out of:

Stevie Johnson vs NE
Matt Forte vs NYJ
Mike Tolbert @ CIN
Hines Ward vs CAR

WR get .5 PPR, RB do not. 4 point bonus for 100 yards receiving or 100 yards rushing (but not combined). Long TDs are worth 7 or 8. TDs under 50 are worth 6.

3) Defenses. I have KC @ TEN. JAC (vs WAS) is available as is DET (@ MIA).

Scoring is more heavily weighted towards stopping yards and points as opposed to getting turn overs.

Thanks for the advice so far!

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 11:07pm

1. Trust Tebow at your own risk. I'll be starting BenR.
2. The backs are your more reliable point-scoring options, even in a PPR league. Ward has had a couple good games, but too many lousy games and isn't making up for it with volume. The question in my mind is whether Johnson's big day potential outweighs Forte's lower downside. I lean toward yes.
3. Kansas City is the best of those three defenses, and I don't think they have a clearly worse matchup than JAC or DET (bad rush D). I dropped KC to pick up DAL (v. John Skelton) myself.

Since we did the column, I also dropped Steve Smith-NYG and -CAR to add Vincent Jackson and Kevin Boss, and will be starting both. With my stupid league setting, AP's status worries the heck out of me and I may be starting Ronnie Brown or Santana Moss instead of him.

by Mike Kurtz :: Fri, 12/24/2010 - 12:21pm

Stupid Thursday games. I need to check these threads earlier.

2) The Bears offense isn't good enough to thwart the Jets' excellent rush defense, so I think Forte's out. Assuming that you did start Ward, I'd probably go with Johnson, because I'm pretty sure that game is going to be a shoot-out and Johnson is going to at least a few opportunities against the Pats' mediocre secondary.

3) TEN's strength (rushing) matches up against KC's weakness, so they're out. Jacksonville's defense is really, hideously, atrociously bad; their pass defense is worse than Houston. Seriously. I guess that means you're stuck with Detroit. Good luck.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 10:21pm

Mike: But again, the inverse isn't true. It is easy to find non-Chicago-style pizza in Chicago, and they do quite well with it.

This is not true at all. I haven't had a good NY-style slice in over five years.

by Eddo :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 11:30pm

Pizza being non-Chicago-style doesn't have to mean it's another city's style. I do agree that it's difficult to find New-York-style pizza in Chicago. However, it's not like you can only order deep-dish pizza here. You can get plenty of "regular" pizza, if you will.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 5:12pm

Yeah, but it's terrible.

I'm from upstate NY, so in my mind there's Pizza (which is NY style) and there's Chicago-style, which if you ask me should be considered an entirely different category of food, and then everything else is just trying and failing to be [NY style] pizza. I'm not sure any other place has done enough to distinguish itself into its own style... they just end up being poorly executed NY-style.

Not that I find it all inedible. While most have too much cheese, several places are tasty. But they're just a pile of ingredients on some bread that I can do without. It doesn't all come together the way a proper pizza does.

by Eddo :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 7:38pm

Non-Chicago-style pizza available in Chicago is not New-York-style. That is, other than being a crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings. The pizza I'm referring to would be something like Giordano's "thin"-crust pizza.

Is it as good as authentic New-York-style? That depends on what you want. It will be cut into small, square-shaped pieces, not large, foldable ones. Considering that to be poorly-executed New-York-style is a bit New-York-centric. You act as if New-York-style is the one-and-only pizza type, superior to all. It's good pizza, don't get me wrong, but there are many different varieties, and they don't have to match up with New-York-style to be good pizza.

by tuluse :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 10:52pm

Devin Hester is averaging 16.4 yards per return this year, 6.7 yards better than the league average of 9.7. Unless you like handing the other team almost 7 yards of field position, it may indeed be a bad idea to punt to him.

As for your other point that long returns skews the average, that's actually kind of the point. If you punt to a guy and he has a 25 yard return, it was bad, but you can overcome it. When you punt to a guy and he takes it back for a TD, you're screwed.

So every 17.5 returns, he has a touchdown. That is ... very infrequent.

That actually sounds rather frequent to me. Especially considering the distance traveled. Tom Brady is leading the NFL in passing TD%, at 6.9%. However, that generally includes him driving into position for a score. How often do offenses score a TD in a single play from 50+ yards out?

by Eddo :: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 11:32pm

Good points, tuluse. Hester definitely used to have issues with dancing and running horizontally, but the past couple of years, he's really cut down on that. He still does have excellent patience, as well; you don't have to catch the ball and run forward immediately to consistently gain yardage. In Hester's case, he's great at catching the ball, quickly seeing the blocking set up, then picking his lane.

by Marko :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 12:48am

Dear NFL Teams (other than the Bears):

Devin Hester is an awful return man. He rarely runs a kickoff or punt back for a touchdown. And when he doesn't reach the end zone, he never has a runback that sets up the Bears in the red zone or even in field goal range or close to it. So his returns hardly ever have a huge impact on the game. If anything, his returns end up being a net positive for the Bears' opponents.

If you don't kick to him, you will only give more opportunities to the juggernaut that is the Bears' offense. You are much better off trying to tackle Hester in the open field than you are trying to stop the Bears' incredible offense, which has an impenetrable and powerful offensive line.

In conclusion, Hester is the worst returner in the history or returnering. You would be advised to kick to him at every opportunity.

Every Bears Fan

by Eddo :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 11:18am

This is awesomely hilarious.

by tuluse :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 5:58pm

Some fun Devin Hester stats.

He's leading the 2006 draft class in pfr's approximate value.

His TD% this year-10%-scores a TD more often than the Panther's offense does.

He has reduced his fumbling every year, and hasn't lost the ball once this year.

Merry Christmas Bears fans.

by starzero :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 1:40am

A) What is the signal for a fair catch?

B) There is no such thing as bad pizza.

C) In re: A), yes I am still confused about that Jacksonville punt return for a TD.

D) In re: B), Edwardo's is pretty good.

hail damage

by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 10:27am

A) Hand raised above the head, waved in at least one arc (back and forth). A FAKE fair catch signal (something that simulates a FC but is not technically one) is an unsportsmanlike penalty. In practice, this is never called because the NFL allows returners to wave their hands HORIZONTALLY to wave off coverage and avoid touching the ball, which means there's a big grey area where the arm is slightly elevated and nobody's sure whether they're waving teammates off or calling for the fair catch. The back judge will almost never throw a flag because of that ambiguity, and sometimes (like the Jacksonville return), a team gets burned by it. That's why you run up to the returner and surround him if you're not sure it's a fair catch or not.

B) I'm tempted to agree. Pizza is like bacon: it cannot be bad. That said, there is definitely a hierarchy.

C) Your organizational scheme is strange.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 11:01am

Re: B,

Never order bacon in Japan - it's VERY undercooked. Almost like smoked pork sushi.

by Travis :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 11:08am

A) A fake fair catch signal isn't an unsportsmanlike penalty, it's an invalid fair catch penalty - 5 yards from the spot of the signal.

For a truly terrible invalid fair catch non-ruling, see the Louisville-Connecticut game from 2007.

by Eddo :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 11:18am

B) Yeah, that's probably the case. Even some pizza I don't like, say, Domino's (even the new style), isn't terrible. It's edible if I'm hungry.

Whereas a bad burger, or fish, or Chinese food, etc., is inedible if it's bad.

by NT (not verified) :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 3:03am

Hi guys,

Could really use your help with a couple lineup choices for the championship game.

Which 2 of the 3 RBs: Fred Jackson, Shonn Greene, Pierre Thomas?

Which 2 of the 4 WRs: Braylon Edwards, Hines Ward, Robert Meachem, James Jones?

Forever in your debt,


by idembsky :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 1:00pm

Wow, those are some awful choices to have to make.

1. Jackson and Pierre Thomas. Shonn Greene is in the running for the Loser League MVP this season- He just doesn't do anything. the Bills will try to get Freddie J to 1,000 yards on the season (he's currently in the high 800s). Huge game in Atlanta, it will be all hands on deck for New Orleans, and there should be a lot of points scored.

2. Hard to make that choice, other than "NOT Braylon Edwards". Sanchez apparently has an injured shoulder, and big throws are less likely to be a part of his game, which are the only things that give Braylon a chance at fantasy value. The other three are really a crapshoot, though I like Hines Ward at home in primetime against a weak opponent. Meachem and James Jones... Really, it's anyone's guess. Flip a lucky coin.

by Adam B. :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 1:10pm

I'd bench Thomas, who hasn't done anything impressive since his long-delayed return, and of the WRs I'd start ... ugh, because they're all inconsistent. Edwards and Meachem, but with no confidence in the latter.

by Mike Kurtz :: Fri, 12/24/2010 - 12:14pm

I am truly sorry that this is your lineup for your championship game. Good luck, sir!

RB: Thomas is a must, and while I think Jackson is normally a great start, I'm not sure how many carries he's actually going to get in what I assume will be a shoot-out. Normally I would never tell anyone to go with Greene, but Chicago's defense is league-worst against red zone rushing, so there is some significant potential that with a shaky Sanchez, it'll be all LT in the open field and then Greene in the red zone, should they get there. Both are pretty speculative, I think, but the edge goes to Jackson.

WR: Assuming you didn't start Hines Ward, I would stay away from Edwards, both because of Sanchez's situation and because Chicago's pass defense is pretty league-average against No. 1 receivers. Average is a bad matchup for the Jets passing offense.

Assuming you did start Ward, I'd probably go with Meachem. Even if Rodgers comes back strong, there's some non-zero chance that New York just lights him up and re-concusses him (they've knocked out what, 3 quarterbacks this year?), which can't mean good things for the team's No. 3 receiver.

by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 8:28am

McCarthy may have won the Colbert Award with his bold onside kick to start the game, but he must hand the award back for a goal line series later in the game. With the Packers leading 24-21 (after giving NE two gift TDs), the Packers faced 2nd and goal at the NE three yard line. Kuhn lined up at fullback and Brandon Jackson filled the halfback slot. QB Flynn handed off to Kuhn on a quick hitter. Kuhn mustered two yards. I didn't mind the call because the defense was spread a bit for a possible pass and Kuhn is a good inside runner.

On third and goal from the one, McCarthy ran the same play. This time, however, NE was in a goal line set up - everyone down in a 3 or 4 point stance, every Packer lineman covered with a defender. Kuhn was stuffed. I don't mind the running call, but the lead fullback has no space or time to seek a hole or make a cut. This running play, based on the NE formation, had to be to the halfback, who could have followed the fullback, cut off the FB block, or had time and space to go over the top. The fullback dive was a dead play as soon as NE lined up.

Finally, on fourth and 1, McCarthy settled for 3 and a six point lead. I felt at the time that was a huge mistake. Brady had a quarter and a half to play; he was going to generate another TD. McCarthy needed the TD to go up by 10 and two scores; he settled for three instead of seven and lost by four. Even if the 4th down attempt fails, the Patriots are highly unlikely to drive 99 yards for a TD.

McCarthy rolled the dice on the opening kickoff; later in the game at the NE goal line, he took his chips off the table and walked away a loser.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 5:18pm

I agree. Leaving them at the 1 is just as useful as extending a one score lead to a still one score lead, plus there's a good chance you get 7. You can't settle for a 6 point lead against that offense with plenty of time left. Kicking there was basically conceding the game.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 11:04am

I'm very disappointed you chose not to use the Hyundai Christmas commercials this week. Noone deserves mocking more than the incredibly perky couple in those ads.

by NJBammer :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 11:19am

I say this as a long time reader and respecter of what FO tries to do: Any math which says punt returners are not a big part of the game is bad math.

by Eddo :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 12:24pm

Mike: I acknowledge it, and agree that it is exciting, but we really need some perspective.
Tom: Perspective? How do you feel about ratatouille then?

This prompted me to re-watch Ratatouille last night. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. Thanks, guys.

by Red Hedgehog :: Thu, 12/23/2010 - 10:12pm

Ugh. In the championships, I have to choose between one of the following as my QB: Kerry Collins, David Garrard, Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman. The scoring is non-standard: 1 point per 20 yards passing, 6 per passing TD, -3 per INT, -1 per sack, -2 per fumble (additional -1 if recovered by the other team).

I'm leaning toward Garrard. But all of them kind of blend together for me.

by Mike Kurtz :: Fri, 12/24/2010 - 12:06pm

Garrard is a no-brainer for me. He's definitely the best of your four quarterbacks, and he's playing Washington's truly hideous pass defense. The rest of them are a resounding "meh," playing against average-ish opponents.