Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» 2017 Offensive Personnel Analysis

It's a three-receiver league, but for the first time since 2010, the frequency of 11 personnel actually went down last year. Was it a blip, or sign of things to come?

Scramble for the Ball: The Best Losers

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: Each year, twice a year, your Scramble writers pick out the best, or at least their favorite, Loser League names. When you signed up for a Loser League team, you did remember to pick a witty, timely, relevant name, did you not? If not, you'll just have to do it when you sign up for the second half of Loser League.

Mike: Amazingly, there seem to be a higher percentage of new names this half-season. Perhaps our intelligent and also handsome readers have finally started listening!

Tom: At the same time, though, it's nice to see old favorites like Winston Justice Security Systems still around.

Mike: Indeed. It wouldn't be the Loser League without Winston Justice Security Systems. So, for those readers who are unaware, let's explain our grading criteria: We don't have any. What we do, however, is highlight the team names that tickle our fancy through a combination of timely references, clever wordplay, and a third thing that I forgot. This is an extremely scientific endeavor.

Tom: I actually have a slightly conflicted feeling about Loser League names. The ideal name is a take-off of something new and funny. Comedic material. Too much of the off-the-field material that would be prime comedic fodder is too sad and serious to be so.

Mike: Cheer up, Tom! Just remember that other sports are just as full of horrible people as pro football!

Tom: Is that supposed to make me feel better?

Mike: ... Maybe?

Tom: A name I'm conflicted about is "DARE: Just Irsay No to Drugs." I like the punnery, and Jim Irsay's public persona has him perfectly placed for fodder. Drug addiction, like physical abuse, is a serious issue, and Irsay seems like a man with serious problems. Maybe I'm just in a too-serious mood, but while I appreciate the effort I don't like it as much as I should. "Ennui of Hoomanawanui," on the other hand, is a name I can get behind.

Mike: Humor is how we cope with the tragic and the absurd. Also: funny-sounding names.

Tom: Maybe I just have a weird approach to humor, where the only things I value are punnery, black comedy, and the deeply absurd.

Mike: I think "Deceptively Fast Mollies" probably hits all the criteria for an all-star Loser League name. Particularly the one I forgot. But it's topical, it's targeting a player that is eminently mockable, and it manages to make fun of the NFL commentariat in the process. Along with the usual deadpan mockery and clever wordplay, we often see names that just make no sense. Like "Lake Toews." Wrong sport. Not sure what you're going for, there.

Tom: "Danny Watkins Glen" isn't a bad one, but it would have been more relevant if it had come a couple years ago, when Watkins was an unhappy NFL player instead of a happy firefighter. "LaGarrettes Blunts": good, or too obvious?

Mike: Just obvious enough. Some of the deadpan mockery works, too, as long as it hits it on the nose. Like "The Detroit Lions Secondary."

Tom: "Dallas Cowboys Defense" and "Worse Than the Cowboys D" count for you, too?

Mike: The latter is too wordy and the former is just sad. We can all laugh at Detroit's secondary because the rest of the defense is actually all right.

Tom: "EJ Manuel Labor" and "Flacco Seagulls" are names I approve of.

Mike: I think "Troubled Over Bridgewaters" is a good example of trying too hard. You have the joke, but in trying to convey the most meaning with your word choice, it became too awkward to serve as an effective joke.

Tom: Also, if "Ring Around the Mosi Tatupu” is from the same person who had “Mosis Pu Pu Platters” in a previous Loser League, I commend your self-imposed limitation. A better 1960s music-inspired name than Bridgewater is "This is the dawning of the Age of Ladarius, Age of Ladarius."

Mike: I quite like that one, also. Also in the "trying too hard" category is "Emmitt Smith Thinks the Broncos Will Get Blowed Out Without Wes Worker." Emmitt Smith is an extremely easy target. You do not need 12 words to get there.

Tom: Debacling is a good Emmitt short cut.

Mike: Indeed. The last one I want to highlight is actually an impressive multi-player name. Quite a rarity for the Loser League, but they pulled it off well: "Gerharter Foster Stronger."

Tom: I'm just assuming "Balkes Bail Bonds" is from a Seahawks fan. My absolute favorite name of this session of Loser League comes from one of the fertile grounds for team names -- rookies -- and it combines two of them in a way I appreciate. Specifically, "Devonta Free Manziel Poster."

Mike: I have long since given up trying to figure out your sense of humor. For my favorite, I'm going to loop around to the top, with "Deceptively Fast Mollies." It's just too good and pokes fun at three things at once.

Tom: Lo, readers, glory in the praise of your Scramble writers in the comments or mock us for our terrible taste and tell us which wonderful names we missed.

Lessons Learned

Mike: Do you want to start us off with your lesson learned?

Tom: What did I learn in Week 2? Not to trust the darn New York Giants, that's for one.

Mike: I second that!

Tom: From my Philip Rivers fantasy points, I'm tempted to argue that you should give your key players a chance to perform even against tough matchups. That feels more like over-reacting to a small sample size, after Aaron Rodgers owners the week before didn't enjoy a 25-point game.

The lesson I think we learned is that the New Orleans Saints are now the New England Patriots of the South when it comes to fantasy. Start the quarterback, start the tight end, and you're playing roulette with the rest of them. Sean Payton isn't as week-to-week as Belichick with his player usage in general, but you're still spinning a roulette wheel and hoping it lands in the right place. Looking at Drew Brees' numbers throwing to players other than Jimmy Graham, though, you might be better off actually playing roulette than starting a non-Brees/Graham Saints player, especially now that Mark Ingram will be out for a month or more with his hand injury. Oh, yeah, and for the second week in a row Pierre Thomas had as many targets as rush attempts. He's New Darren Sproles, receiving back and runner. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Mike: Yeah. Beyond everyone's new lesson to not trust the Giants, my lesson is that we as a community have no idea how to talk about football. We've managed to absorb a million little pieces of jargon and classifications prized from coaches. We have come up with hundreds of categories for players of varying accuracy, efficacy and racism. As far as actual game action, however, we really have no idea what we're saying. Long passes are bombs. Short passes that wildly succeed are catch-and-runs. We have scrambles and scampers. But it seems that increasingly we're just calling plays "explosive."

Tom: Is there anything this week in particular that brings this up?

Mike: After the Seahawks loss to the Chargers, Richard Sherman, who was actually thrown at (albeit ineffectually), skipped the post-game press muddle and instead sent out a tweet implying that the three catches recorded against him in coverage were meaningless, particularly because they included zero "explosive plays."

Tom: Oh, I saw the hubbub but missed, or at least read over, that particular detail.

Mike: Explosive used to be primarily a player description, particularly players who had physical tools but were actually bad at football. Guys for whom "you need to get the ball in their hands and see what happens." Devin Hester, based on his impressive special teams history, has always carried that descriptor. As a player description, it does vaguely tell us something about the player. As a play descriptor, it's worse than useless.

Tom: I think it can be useful, but you have to be working on a particular set definition, which must be known to the audience.

Mike: I don't want to start yelling at clouds, but if we've hit the bottom of the barrel to the point where we think "explosive" actually describes anything about a football play, perhaps we should crack open our collective thesauruses and come up with some words that actually describe the action on the field beyond "this play gave me warm fuzzy feelings."

Tom: Right now, you're right, it's nearly as inchoate as saying a player has to "step it up." Do you have a definition of "explosive plays" you'd like to see used, or should we stop using the term altogether?

Mike: I would like to see the term banished. If you want to emphasize the excitement of the play, talk about the play itself. Crushing runs, gracefully accurate throws, dragons, and even phrases like “beast mode” all convey a sense of what the players actually did, and that's what people care about.

Tom: I'm sure the sports commentariat will do at least as good a job as listening to you as teams have done heeded our over/under calls.

Loser League Update

Quarterback: On the whole, it was a good week for quarterbacks. Only one was in single digits, and Ben Roethlisberger was that player. With no touchdowns and an interception to go with 217 yards passing, he ended up at a respectable 8 points.

Running Back: No joke: Giants running back Andre Williams caught more passes against the Cardinals than he did his entire final season at Boston College. If only he could average more than 1.5 yards per carry, he could have had more than 1 point. Chris Johnson (pro tip: wait until he is good for three weeks in a row before declaring he is "back") and Lance Dunbar were also among the low scorers with 2 points each. Oh, and if you picked Darren Sproles, you earned a cool 38 points, including the 15-point bonus for not having at least eight carries.

Wide Receiver: Donnie Avery, A.J. Jenkins, and Marqise Lee were each among the first 40 picks in the NFL draft. Each also had multiple receptions on Sunday for between 11 and 14 yards and 1 Loser League point.

Kicker: Good news if you picked Nate Freese: you got -3 points after he missed a pair of field goals against the Panthers. Bad news if you picked Freese: the Lions spent Tuesday auditioning kickers.

Click here for Loser League leaderboards and full results for Week 2 and the season overall.


Keep Chopping Wood: The Jaguars might have a good offense some day. That day was in not in Week 2, when the Jacksonville offensive line and Chad Henne worked together to give up 10 sacks in a general display of offensive futility.

Mike Martz Award: There is plenty to be said about Marty Mornhinweg's timeout on a crucial fourth-down play late in the Jets' game against the Packers and the role of coaches in the NFL, but all you need to know is he saw something that had him frantically calling for a timeout, and the Jets scored what would have been a game-tying touchdown on the play that almost nobody realized had not officially happened.

Lock of the Week

Tom: Evidence from last week: we are bad at betting. The Giants failed to cover. The Seahawks not only did not cover, but lost outright. As is always the case, odds come courtesy of Pinnacle Sports and were accurate as of time of writing. All picks are made without reference to the FO Premium picks.

Mike: If only we were FO commenters from 2004 and had unbeatable systems.

Tom: Cycles, that's it!

Mike: Can't go wrong, there! My Internet connection is about as unstable as the Pirates' bullpen right now, so I'll be brief. I think the Packers are a good team, filled with genuine talent and a smart quarterback that can cut a bad secondary to ribbons. I think the Lions have a glaring weakness ripe for the Packers to exploit and have no real running game to speak of, so Green Bay can get away with quintuple-covering Megatron. Even granting an extra 3 points to the home team, the fact that the Lions are favored boggles the mind. Green Bay Packers +2.5 over Detroit Lions.

Tom: The Jacksonville Jaguars have been outscored 75-10 in their last six quarters of football. I don't care that the Colts are 0-2. I don't care that the Jaguars are playing at home for the first time. I don't care if you think the Jaguars are entering into a bullish A-B-C Up pattern. I'm laying the points. Indianapolis Colts -7 at Jacksonville Jaguars.

Scramble Mailbag

Steve: Zac Stacy has been pretty abysmal so far this season but is about to be paired up against an historically crummy Cowboys D. Frank Gore has been what we expected him to be (getting robbed of a 50 yard td run on Sunday, even) but is playing a pretty impressive so far Cards run D. Help me pick my RB2 for the week, thanks.

Tom: Stacy's gotten volume against the Buccaneers, where the Rams were able to continue to run the ball. The risk of playing him against the Cowboys is that the Rams, if they don't play good defense, will fall behind quickly, and he won't get the volume necessary to be a solid back. Tony Romo has not looked right this season, so I'm not too worried about that. Given how stout the Cardinals have looked on run defense and that I'm more concerned about Carlos Hyde stealing carries than Benny Cunningham, I'd go with Stacy.

Mike: I think you're putting too much stock in two weeks of data regarding Romo, Tom. We have a pretty big book on him and even I admit that he’s a good quarterback with more than enough talent to drive up and down the field against mediocre defenses. Considering the Rams are all defense, any weakness there will lead to the game turning into a really ugly shootout for the Rams, and Stacy ignored. Gore is a significant risk against a good run defense, but I think Stacy is an even greater risk. I’d go with Gore.

David: I have Peyton Manning as my quarterback. That's great. Except he doesn't play every week - most notably week 4. Here are the free agent QBs available. Whom should I go with?

Derek Carr vs. Miami
Geno Smith vs. Detroit
Eli Manning @ Washington
Chad Henne @ San Diego

I'm thinking it's got to be Eli Manning or Chad Henne. Manning is ostensibly the better QB, but Henne has a better matchup.

Mike: Avoid Carr at all costs. Henne is at least an NFL quarterback, but the pieces surrounding him are so sketchy I wouldn’t touch him, either. That leaves Smith and Manning. Manning has much higher upside, but as we saw last year, much higher floor. If this were a question about finding a desperation starter after a catastrophic Peyton Manning injury, I'd definitely go with Manning. But in this case you’re just bridging a gap in your roster's schedule. You don’t need pro-bowl performance, you just need your quarterback to garner some modest fantasy points. Believe it or not, against Detroit’s crummy secondary, I’m going with Geno Smith.

Tom: I'd wait for signs of actual good play from the Jaguars offense before I'd think too strongly about touching Chad Henne as a fantasy quarterback against any NFL team. I would grab Eli because I don't trust Washington's pass defense to play well. My second choice among those four would be Geno Smith, because I think he's a very good bet to deliver at least a workmanlike fantasy total, and that's all I'm looking for out of a waiver wire bye week fill-in.

Send your questions to Scramble-at-Footballoutsiders.com!


by BretU :: Wed, 09/17/2014 - 7:20pm

2012 Season 2: Bryan Anger Management
2013 Season 1: Maybe the Mingo ate your baby
2013 Season 2: Riley Cooper's problems just went Incognito
2014 Season 1: DARE: Just Irsay No to Drugs

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride...

Early front runner idea for 2014 Season 2 submission is "If being Jamaal Charles' back-up is cool, consider me Knile Davis."
I'm sure I'll come up with something better by then though.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 09/17/2014 - 7:27pm

I don't think I really get "Deceptively Fast Mollies". I mean, I assume it's a Welker reference both for the Deceptively Fast part, and the Mollies part. But what's one got to do with the other? Where's the funny?

by Shylo :: Wed, 09/17/2014 - 8:51pm

1) MDMA ("molly") is a stimulant.
2) If you look at it on a different level, it's describing a team of sneaky-fast girls named "Molly", which is also pretty amusing.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 09/17/2014 - 9:02pm

EDIT : I was going to delete my previous comment, but what the hell - I'll own my stupidity.

I wasn't thinking of "Fast" going with "Molly" at all. I read it as "Deceptively Fast" + "Molly", so while I knew Molly was ecstasy, I didn't make the stimulant - or SPEED - connection. That makes all the difference. (i.e. Molly is speed, speed means fast, Molly that Welker takes is therefore deceptively fast.)

Previous stupidity :

I got all that. Maybe I'm not missing anything. Just "Welker + White guy being deceptively fast trope + the drug he took is also a girls name" seems random and unconnected.

I guess I feel like "Deceptively Fast Molly" needs something other than being random things relating to Wes Welker.

Like, if we found out that Welker's nickname was now Molly, that would tie it all together. Or maybe it needs a pun or something.

by facw :: Wed, 09/17/2014 - 11:17pm

I might have gone with "Deceptively Speedy Molly" I think the white guy receiver meme is still there, while it makes the amphetamine connection a bit more obvious.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 5:32am

Huh. I've always heard it referred to as "Mandy". Transatlantic terminology gap strikes again?

by DEW :: Wed, 09/17/2014 - 10:19pm

The Loser League giveth, the Loser League taketh away. I finally crack the top five, but I have a feeling I'm going to be getting the penalty for Jonathan Dwyer for the rest of the (half)-year...

by Blak :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:15am

For what it's worth, according to Field Gulls, the Seahawks define explosive plays as runs of 12+ yards and passes of 16+ yards. So presumably that's what Sherman was referring to.

Source: http://www.fieldgulls.com/seahawks-analysis/2013/11/20/5127576/seahawks-...

by The Hypno-Toad :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 1:04am

Huh. 16 yard passes don't seem all that explosive. But they, unlike me, have a codified definition of explosive, so I should probably defer to them. Also, they, unlike me, are very good at being an NFL defense (hey, I'm just one really unathletic guy) and thus don't give up a lot of 16 yard passes, so maybe it seems more explosive to them.

by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 11:38am

Going by things I remember from research I half-did 3 years ago, 16 yards on a pass play is around the point where each team will reliably get two per game. The combination of yardage and reliability is probably where the seahawks' coaches are coming from with that definition.

by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 11:36am

That is really interesting. I still think it's a useless term, but apologies to Mr. Sherman, he clearly had something in mind other than gloating.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 6:33pm

I believe that is the same definition the Packers use for explosive plays as well. My quick search turned up http://www.espnwisconsin.com/common/page.php?feed=2&id=166&is_corp=1 which isn't the first place I've seen it. That article seems to indicate it's fairly standard in the league.

Most NFL coaches define “explosive plays“ as any run of 12 or more yards and any pass of 16 or more yards.

I've gotten used to seeing it in terms of how bad the Packers defense is.

by Jerry :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 2:40am

It looks like Loser League scores are the total of the entire roster, not 1 QB/2 RB/2 WR/1 K.

And Mike, aren't you enjoying the Holdzkom era?

by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 11:35am

Yeah, it's like your car breaking down and walking home only to find that some distant relative you never knew about randomly sent you a Mercedes for no reason. The difference adding one reliever made is astounding.

After expressing my disgust at the Steelers' most recent performance I sighed and said "well, at least there's baseball." The mixture of puzzlement and amusement on my wife's face was priceless.

by Jerry :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 4:15pm

LOL. It was really nice that win #81 last night wasn't a big deal.

On topic, we'll find out the hard way if the Steelers' weaknesses overwhelm their strengths.

by tunesmith :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 4:04am

Troubled Over Bridgewaters is actually the only one I laughed out loud at, oh well!

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 09/19/2014 - 9:35am

Same here.

Who, me?

by fb29 :: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 10:53am

In the bad taste category...

Goodell Rules AP and RR too explosive for NFL

by dryheat :: Fri, 09/26/2014 - 8:03pm

I wanted to give a couple of shouts out...but there are so many that I think are inspired. Good job this year, FO readers.