Scramble for the Ball: It'll Be A Breeze
by Bill Barnwell & Alex Carnevale
Bill: Welcome to the Week 17 version of Scramble for the Ball, the week when Scramble throws its hands up in confusion. A fantasy and betting column is difficult to do when most fantasy seasons are over and no one really has an idea of who will and won't be playing in Week 17. In fact, likely with this in mind, Ian's abandoned me this week and next for a vacation. I'm even going to Vegas myself next week. With all that in mind, I needed to draft in a reinforcement worthy of the excellence contained within Scramble. I tried using an online dating service geared toward the members of a particular faith, but they were strangely unresponsive to my passes. Having failed that, I brought in Alex Carnevale. Please, Alex, carry the column this week. Ummm ... talk about your fantasy team.
Alex: There's a certain beautiful chaos to a fantasy locker room after a championship. Antwaan Randle El and Brian Dawkins are debating whether or not the birthmark on Drew Brees' right cheek looks like the Falkland Islands. T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Frank Gore are poring over PFP 2006 comments ("Jay Cutler is SO a workout warrior!!!") and giggling. Pac-Man Jones and Shawne Merriman are snorting cocaine off Wes Welker's protruding rib. It's a beautiful scene, in other words.
How did you do it? It's the question you're all asking, and for good reason. Finally, I'm here to offer my three step plan for fantasy success. First, play in IDP leagues. (IDP leagues, of course, are leagues in which individual defensive players record points for tackles, sacks, pass defenses, etc.) It's easier money than betting against Art Shell. Pretty much all fantasy players know to draft LT, but how many knew who Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans was even halfway through the season?
(Ed. note: No promises, but we're hoping to have IDP projections in PFP 2007, so winning IDP leagues will be even easier.)
Secondly, and this sinks me even lower on the fantasy ethics scale, make a trade that makes it look like you're insane so that everyone will deal with you. In my case, I decided to move Donovan McNabb early in the preseason for a running back, satisfied that Brees would be fine as quarterback. I initially "tried" to deal McNabb for Deion Branch, craftily knowing it would be vetoed. That was roundly rejected by everyone, and my plan spiraled into motion. Then there was the three week fight to swap him for Frank Gore. By the end of this people were offering me Maurice Jones-Drew for Keyshawn Johnson. There's a herd mentality in fantasy -- trade with the dumb guy. Be that dumb guy, at least for the opening weeks.
Third and last, base your draft completely on Pro Football Prospectus. Any of this sound familiar? "If Addai proves ready for the NFL, Rhodes is going to be on the field less and less as the season progresses." "[Reggie Bush's] rushing numbers might not be overwhelming, but the overall package will be." "Jennings lacks top size and speed, but he should be productive. Only Chad Jackson is going to a team with a more open depth chart at wide receiver." "Don't be surprised if Randall Godfrey and Steve Foley begin to lose playing time in 2006." "Kennison's numbers will drop this year, but he'll still be productive." "Don't make the mistake of taking [Vernon] Davis too early in your fantasy draft." "It will be close, but [Marvin] Harrison should manage double-digit touchdowns for the eighth straight season." "Eagles fans, if you thought the team was bad last year when Donovan McNabb got hurt, we've got news for you: An injury to McNabb this year could be even more painful." Hey, nobody's perfect. And come on, how else would you know that Kellen Clemens is white?
(Ed. note: Don't get me started on Matt Hasselbeck's 2006 pick-o-rama, but we're happy with the projections overall.)
Bill: That's about right. I actually think that comment you mentioned about Vernon Davis also applies to all Davises. Certainly Andra wasn't getting too much burn this year. Andre'? Also sorta busted. You could draft Hubert if you're playing 40-and-up fantasy senior basketball, I guess. I digress.
Loser Leaguers of the Week
QB: Andrew Walter. Would a Billy Joe by any other name suck as much? Throwing for 226 yards is a solid day, but being responsible for five turnovers will bring you down to Earth. Or whatever Walter occupies. One point. And, as it turns out, Joey Harrington isn't that solid. He was subject to the field conditions -- he played about as effectively as Chad Pennington did -- but when the rain died down after halftime, Harrington was on the bench. He's mustered 62 yards passing over the last two weeks, and he very well may have seen his last significant chunk of playing time. Two!
RB: Want to slow down Willie Parker? Don't let him get outside the tackles, and go up early against his team. Want to really slow him down? Make him put the ball on the ground. 29 yards and a fumble leaves Parker with the low score of the week at nil. His backup? A similar player, Warrick Dunn, who earned a two.
WR: Zeroes for Braylon Edwards, Reggie Williams, Laveranues Coles, and Bethel Johnsion. In all fairness though, if you drafted Bethel Johnson, your team has bigger problems.
K: For all the fellas out there with ladies to impress, it's easy to do. Just follow these steps:
1) Draft a cold-weather kicker
2) Let him miss a field goal
3) Only let his team allow one extra point
And that's the way you do it -- it's a -1! Congrats Phil Dawson.
|Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.|
Keep Choppin' Wood
Alex: Unlike the regular writers of this column, I was born with the pity gene. When reviewing the Keep Choppin' Wood candidates this week, several possibilities stood out. The Cincinnati Post writer who penned the headline "Schedule has hurt Bengals" after Brad St. Louis and Kyle Larson snapped away the population of Cincinnati Correctional Facility's playoff chances? Possibly, just possibly. Larson and St. Louis themselves? Too easy. Joey Harrington? You got the feeling Saban was solely trying to destroy his offseason market value. Then there's Yalie Dick Jauron. Give the guy a break, he was flashing back to freshman chemistry when a delightful young ingÃ©nue showed him the meaning of, you know. With all those swirling winds, who's to say what would or would not have ... they weren't getting in anyway. No, I think the Keep Chopping Wood Award has to go to the entire New York Giants squad.
With the body language of a young Mark Ratner and a coach running out of people to blame for giving playoff hope to six out of their last seven opponents, Tom Coughlin and his team of ne'er do wells get the Keep Choppin' Wood Award this week. After all, catching a ball in the snow with the game on the line is tough. But losing six of seven in the NFC is hard.
Bill (2-1 last week, 27-20-1 overall)
Finally assured of being above .500 for the season, I can rest happy. Now I go to Vegas and place a bet on Baltimore for the Super Bowl so I can pay for Ian's Vinny T jersey. These bets are for fun.
Detroit (+13) over DALLAS
This bet is for MDS. It's been a good week for the man -- he's undoubtedly going to have a couple thousand more Myspace buddies by the end of the week and he'll certainly be blowing away Tanier's account. Let's say the Lions upset the Cowboys here.
Oakland (+13) over NEW YORK JETS
This bet is for Al Davis in what very well might be his last game as Raiders owner. Hopefully not, of course.
Buffalo (+9.5) over BALTIMORE
This bet is for a giant day from "Mr. December" Lee Evans and some meaningless stat-padding to make J.P. Losman a legitimate selection in fantasy drafts next year. It's a weird thing.
Alex (14-2 this year betting the over on times "This Is Our Country" has appeared during nationally-televised games)
In Pro Football Prospectus 2005, Michael David Smith looked at teams who went 6-2 or better in the second half of the season but missed postseason play as a way of looking at how the Carolina Panthers would come back in 2005 after going 6-2 and missing the NFC playoffs. Of course, that Panthers team went to the NFC Championship game. Of the 11 teams he looked at, five made the playoffs the following year. The quarterbacks of those five teams? Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Brett Favre and Chris Chandler.
This would seem to bode well for Vince Young and his Tennessee Titans, who experienced a similar second-half resurgence, and likely won't be going to the postseason. After going 2-6, the Titans lost a tight game to the Baltimore Ravens at home on a Steve McNair TD with 3:35 left to go to drop to 2-7. They have not lost a game since. MDS also noted, "When a team's boffo second-half finish is not followed by a playoff year, small margins of victory tend to be involved."
|11||W 31-13||Philadelphia Eagles|
|12||W 24-21||New York Giants|
|13||W 20-17||Indianapolis Colts|
|14||W 26-20||Houston Texans|
|15||W 24-17||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|16||W 30-29||Buffalo Bills|
With an average margin of victory of 6.3 points, the Titans have hardly rolled over their opponents. The best comp of the five successful teams MDS mentions seems to be the 1992 Green Bay Packers. In Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren's first season in Green Bay, Favre took over in Week 3 for Don Majkowski. Just like the Titans, the '92 Packers started winning in Week 11 and never looked back.
|11||W 27-24||Philadelphia Eagles|
|12||W 17-3||Chicago Bears|
|13||W 19-14||Tampa Bay Bucs|
|14||W 38-10||Detroit Lions|
|15||W 16-14||Houston Oilers|
|16||W 28-13||Los Angeles Rams|
Average margin of victory? 11.6 points.
In their final week, the Packers lost easily at home to an 11-5 Vikings team that had Sean Salisbury at backup quarterback, 27-7. These Titans face an 11-4 Patriots team, and they're the favorite. The Pats still have seeding to play for, and they'll win easily, say 27-7. So...
New England over TENNESSEE (-3)
New England is the seventh-ranked offense and the seventh-ranked defense according to DVOA. Tennesse is the 24th-ranked offense and the 23rd-ranked defense. They could be playing in Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium and I'd still like the Pats.
Pittsburgh over CINCINNATI (-6)
Home teams as favorites dominate Week 17. Off the shame of enduring another brutal beating at the hands of the Ravens, six points is too much to give up to a Cincinnati team that's probably already looking forward to a brief offseason sojourn before returning to their respective cells.
WASHINGTON (+1) over New York Giants
I'll avert my eyes at the revolting sight of a division champion (Seattle) being a dog to a 4-11 team (Tampa Bay) on the last day of the season, and take out one last nail in Tom Coughlin's coffin.