Scramble for the Ball
Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: It's time for another season of football, and another season of Scramble for the Ball, with all the award-giving, commercial-mocking, fantasy-updating you can stand.

Mike: Probably more than you can stand.

Tom: Or at least as much as we can stand.

Mike: There is a lot of it, and I think most people are silly-intolerant, but like cheesecake, simply cannot resist.

Tom: I don't like cheesecake. Or most kinds and uses of cheese, for that matter.

Mike: Next year we'll start a sister column about how weird you are.

Tom: You can find lots of co-authors for that one. I'll put you in touch with a couple of my past roommates.

Mike: That would probably make us something like half the total content of the site by number of published words.

Tom: Oh, come on, it's not like our previous article was longer than Audibles this week. Wait, it was.

Mike: Like Dickens, we will smother you with meaning.

Tom: Anyway, I think we're slightly going slightly too meta, which may be the first time I've ever thought that

Mike: Wow. I actually have no response to that.

Tom: I will rather mention, in case it wasn't clear from Audibles, that I made my annual pilgrimage to LP Field this past weekend.

Mike: Was there a tiny meteorite to kiss?

Tom: No, and anyway, I don't buss rocks. I will also remind myself that future visits should be later in the season, to get a better idea of how the offense and defense may have changed. There's definitely a value to seeing a game in person, from an analysis perspective, but it feels muted in Week 1.

Mike: I don't know, it seems to me that the press box is really the only spot where you can get a nice view of everything, at least to the point where you can do real analysis.

Tom: Rex Ryan may be one of those special people who can see what all 11 people on one side of the ball were doing on a single play, but I surely can't. My fourth-row seat (off Ticketmaster) was probably a little too low. I can still see stuff I never would on TV, like Nnamdi Asomugha on pass plays.

Mike: He needs to carry a portable chess set around to give himself and the wide receiver something to do.

Tom: He might as well. Tennessee never tried much in the pass game, and when they did, they didn't look his direction. Anyway, real game attendance is great, but it's kind of anomalous for me.

Mike: It's hard when you don't live in your team's city. I've seen more Browns games than I have Steelers games.

Tom: Next week the real season starts, with me firmly planted on my couch, remote control in hand, satellite TV at the ready.

Mike: And I shall sit here, with my over-the-air broadcast and our crappy CBS reception, and it shall be glorious.

Fantasy Football Update

Tom: It was great. I checked the score of my fantasy game at one point Sunday, and I was up 79-4. Alas, what I didn't notice was almost my entire team had played and almost none of my opponent's had. What looked like an easy win became an 88-86 victory, and one I really had to sweat it out, as he had Jamaal Charles, Antonio Gates, and Nate Kaeding going in the weekend's final game.

Mike: The Monday night effect was doubled this week, so I imagine there were a lot of people stuck in that position.

Tom: Nobody stood out for me -- six of my 10 players had at least 9 points, topped by the Dolphins defense's 17 points.

Mike: During the great Scramble silence, my family league had a draft!

Tom: Was this before or after this weekend's games?

Mike: Before. I won this week in a close game, finishing tied for second and beating the team in fourth.

Tom: Excellent.

The Green Death
QB: 7 (66) Matt Ryan QB ATL; 11 (106) David Garrard QB JAC
RB: 1 (6) Shonn Greene RB NYJ; 2 (15) Rashard Mendenhall RB PIT; 5 (46) Matt Forte RB CHI; 13 (126) Darren McFadden RB OAK; 15 (146) Tashard Choice RB DAL; 16 (155) Kevin Smith RB DET
WR: 3 (26) Greg Jennings WR GB; 4 (35) Steve Smith WR NYG; 6 (55) Dwayne Bowe WR KC; 12 (115) Eddie Royal WR DEN; 14 (135) Anthony Gonzalez WR IND; 18 (175) Legedu Naanee WR SD
TE: 9 (96) Owen Daniels, TE HOU; 17 (166) Kellen Winslow TE TB
K: 10 (95) Stephen Gostkowski K NE
D/ST: 8 (75) BAL DST

Tom: Hmm. I like Mendenhall in the mid-second round. I don't like Greene. That seems early for defense, Daniels, Gostkowski, and Garrard.

Mike: 1. Chris Johnson 2. Adrian Peterson 3. Andre Johnson 4. Maurice Jones-Drew 5. Ray Rice. I don't believe in Jackson, so it was Greene or Turner.

Tom: Turner, easy, or even Mendenhall or Matthews.

Mike: Turner is on a team with a real quarterback.

Tom: The Jets like Tomlinson way too much.

Mike: I don't think that'll last. We'll see.

Tom: Winslow in the 17th is a good value.

Mike: I went with Garrard because I need a second quarterback to play matchups, because there are teams I simply can't play Ryan against. Like the Steelers.

Tom: I just think you could've gotten Garrard five rounds later. Nobody else is nearly as high on Garrard as KUBIAK.

Mike: Kevin Kolb and Matthew Stafford went immediately after, while Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre were taken immediately before. There was a run on quarterbacks in round 11. I was aiming for Roethlisberger, and may have locked in on a quarterback. I will admit that.

Tom: Your wideouts kind of bother me, too. Smith may be beaten out by Hakeem Nicks, Jennings has catch competition, and Bowe has Matt Cassel throwing him the ball.

Mike: Jennings has catch competition in one of the best offenses in the league, but yeah, I'm not in love with my wide receivers.

Tom: What's the lineup, 2/2+1?

Mike: 2RB 2WR W/T W/R.

Tom: Interesting.

Mike: Consistent production is key. That's why I was keen on getting a good defense and kicker, because I'm starting three each of WRs and RBs all starters. I have a decent chance of getting production from any of them.

Tom: I guess that makes sense.

FO Staff Fantasy League Update

Team Verhei 58 def. Team CBORG 57

The good news: Nobody has lost to the control team. The bad news: Four teams came very close. Vince rode Rashard Mendenhall's overtime heroics to a victory over the robot/lizard alliance, but managed to win by only a single point. Braylon Edwards is the real goat here, with no points for Team Verhei, although Kevin Boss and DeSean Jackson hardly helped.

Scramble Forever (Ian & Al) 121 def. Remain in Matt Light (Barnwell) 78

You know that one guy in your league? The one that has a big trophy case full of cheap $5 fantasy trophies won in semi-serious leagues full of people that think Kyle Orton is a great fantasy play? The one that is insufferable after the draft and expects to steamroll everyone, and lets you know it? Sadly, Ian is that guy. And thanks to Arian Foster's absolutely ridiculous 41 points, he and Al steamrolled Barnwell. Squish.

Triple Asian Flu (Doug) 65 def. Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom) 59

One could criticize Tom for starting Kevin Kolb (one of the famed losers this week, a -2 points) against a quality Green Bay defense, but he didn't have much of a choice. Kolb is the only quarterback on the Ringers roster. Doug had a similar game, receiving good scores from Pierre Thomas and Visanthe Shiancoe (14 and 13 points, respectively). The main difference is that his quarterback slot was filled by Joe Flacco (5 points) rather than a gigantic black hole created by the crushed hopes and dreams and batteries of an angry city.

Phanatic CodeBreakers (Tanier) 78 def. That's Great Hustle! (Sean) 70

Our Eagles fan, on the other hand, actually had good production from his lone Eagle, David Akers (8 points). Wes Welker gave a boost with 18 points, but the star of this team was Chad Ochocinco, who threw down 21 points against New England. Ochicinco was coincidentally also the star of the actual Bengals team, sitting on the sidelines watching Tom Brady abuse the Bengals DST to the tune of -7 points. Fortunately for Tanier, Sean had Peyton Manning's 29 points and ... not much else.

Better Call Saul (Rob) 127 def. Equipo Del Jefe (Aaron) 96

ESPN entitled this game Del Jefe at Saul, which is endlessly amusing to your Scramble writer for reasons we all probably don't want to know. The scary part of Rob's 127 points is that unlike Ian and Al's Foster-Fueled largesse, Mr. Weintraub had three players with more than 20 points (Tom Brady, Chris Johnson and Miles Austin) and a low mark of 7 points (Cowboys DST, Devin Aromashodu). To put that in perspective, Vince received over 7 points from only three spots on his nine-slot roster (sorry, Vince). Aaron's team put up a valiant fight with good overall production from Matt Forte (28 points), Jamaal Charles (15 points) and Antonio Gates (13 points), but it simply wasn't enough.

Consensus Picks (Elias) 59 def. Malice Aforethought (Will) 57

This match is actually slightly more sad than CBORG vs. Verhei, because both teams are within 2 points of the dreaded auto-pick, auto-start result. Part of the problem was each team's start/sit decisions. Will left 28 points on the bench between Anquan Boldin and Legedu Naanee, although Naanee is such an uncertainty this early in the season that it's hard to blame him. Elias's top performer, Vince Young, sat on the bench where his 15 points did nothing, but the rest of the team managed to overcome Shonn Greene's miserable -3 points to eke out the win.


Your Scramble writer has also just noticed that the two six-team divisions in this league are "Scramble Alumni" and "Non-Scramble Alumni." This does not give him reassuring thoughts about his job security.


Mike: We chose this commercial because we wanted to start the season off on a positive note! And not at all because Tom didn't watch any TV and Mike is too tired to remember any commercials from Sunday.

Tom: Ray Lewis is an excellent football player, but I'm not really a fan of him personally, so I'm pleased to take any example of him acting silly and run with it.

Mike: Is there anyone who is a fan of Ray Lewis personally, though? He always seemed like LT in that you knew he was bad news, but you'd root for him because football fans ascribe to some bizarre amoral utilitarian nutjob philosophy.

Tom: I'm not sure. I thought not, but that seems to be changing. Apparently he's so attached to the Ravens he has a monogrammed Ravens towel, even though he was talking about leaving them recently if they didn't pay him. We're one second in, and I'm already annoyed. I mean, it took me almost three seconds before I decided Howie Long was creepy in last year's Chevy commercial.

Mike: You really can't hold that against sports figures, though. And nobody is ever going to be as creepy as Howie Long, who spent minutes talking about how a big girl the 12-year-old was and how he was going to drive her away in his truck. Actually, I don't think that's a Ravens towel: I think it is a towel for the Raven, meaning Ray Lewis shares a shower with a giant laser-eyed bird.

Tom: The shower door isn't big enough for the Raven to get through. I praised the Old Spice Super Bowl commercial because it was really well-made and had seamless transitions. Now, you're having them violate the laws of physics because it makes more sense. They've moved from great to a half-step away from babies talking about their golf games and milkaholics.

Mike: To be fair, the other Ray Lewis commercial is great, so let's not start comparing Old Spice to E-Trade. But I do agree -- by comparison this one is lame.

Tom: I'm only comparing them because they made a near E-Trade-caliber commercial.

Mike: First of all, doesn't the Raven understand the havoc it has wrought on the solar system? Who knows what terrible things could happen without Saturn in orbit!

Tom: If we were serious columnists, we'd calculate what the Earth's orbit would be like if Saturn were truly blown into pieces.

Mike: Or call an astrophysicist. Sadly, they no longer return our calls.

Tom: No, that's what we'd do if we were real reporters.

Mike: All we wanted to do was talk about star destroyers vs. the USS Enterprise!

Tom: Oh, please, the star destroyers would blow any of the Enterprises away, but let's not get sidetracked. This saddle ... He just throws it on there and it stays on?

Mike: Yes, because he is awesome. It's also an allegory for getting away with horse-collar tackles, which he does, because the officials are scared of his fully operational space raven.

Tom: I thought the "Swagger" was just allegory for getting away with stuff in general. And it's not a real space raven, it's clearly some audio-animatronic robot, or have you ever tried to install an engine in a real raven?

Mike: Yes, but I had to register it as a motor vehicle.

Tom: Oh, and Ray Lewis apparently has the ability to breathe in an atmosphere-less environment.

Mike: I find that just as credible as someone using E-Trade for serious investment.

Tom: I don't quite follow you. Somebody could use E-Trade to do as their trading platform, while using E-Trade's analytics and charts and whatever else they have and other stuff outside of E-Trade. Old Spice, by contrast, is asking us to ignore physics as we know it.

Mike: That was me using hyperbole to mock E-Trade, comparing the idea that it would be used to the idea that a human could ride a raven-shuttle into a vacuum and survive. Next week: Your Scramble writers discuss the precise GPS coordinates of "the beef."

Tom: What?

Mike: I'm making a joke about literalism.

Tom: Yeah. We seem to be on different pages about this commercial.

Mike: Indeed, this is rare.

Tom: Maybe because you have great affection for Ray Lewis and the talking bear.

Mike: The talking bear is pretty awesome.

Tom: And I think this is E-Trade-level bad, regardless of the talking bear.

Mike: I think we'll just have to agree to disagree over how wrong you are.

Tom: Yes, we'll just have to agree to disagree on how wrong you are.

Loser League Update

Kicker: Apprently there's a tremendous amount of pressure involved with kicking in the season-opening game. Or, at least this year both Ryan Longwell and Garrett Hartley found that to be the case. Longwell missed an extra point, while Hartley missed two field goals, as each ended up with -2 points.

Wide Receiver: Dexter McCluster may have had the longest punt return in Kansas City Chiefs history on Monday night, but that didn't mean he did anything at wide receiver. Joining him with 0 points was Antwaan Randle El in his triumphant return to the Steelers.

Running Back: Remember last season, when Julius Jones ran wild in the first week and KUBIAK looked great for giving him a strong projection? Well, he had 99 fewer rushing yards in this year's first week, only gaining 18 yards on his eight rushes, good for a measly 1 point. (As a bonus, his KUBIAK projection this year was awful and eventually removed before he re-signed with Seattle.) Next were Thomas Jones and Marion Barber with 3 points each.

Quarterback: If we weren't opposed as a matter of principle to making jokes about brain injuries, you'd probably find a joke here about how Kevin Kolb's concussion was a good thing because it knocked a lousy 1-point performance out of his memory.

You can check out the score for your Loser League team in Week 1 here.


First, an early-season reminder of our awards. KEEP CHOPPING WOOD goes to the player or coach who did the most to keep his team from winning each week. The MIKE MARTZ AWARD goes to the head coach who made the most head-scratching decision each week. The COLBERT AWARD goes to the head coach who shows the biggest balls each week, whether going for it on fourth-and-1, calling a fake on special teams, or making a bold decision with the starting lineup.

KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: The normal range for a Hail Mary varies with your quarterback's ability and the degree of desperation. Most teams like to be within 50 or 55 yards. Maybe the second most famous Hail Mary in college football history came from 64 yards out. Normally, though, teams from that far out -- unless they're in a desperation situation -- just take a knee and let the half come to an end. The Dallas Cowboys planned to run a Hail Mary at the end of the first half, but were pushed back 10 yards to that 64-yard distance, which realistically took the Hail Mary out of the question. Nobody bothered to tell Tony Romo, though, who eventually checked down to Tashard Choice in the hopes that he could make a play. Choice fumbled, DeAngelo Hall returned it for a touchdown, and the Cowboys eventually lost by six points.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Here at Football Outsiders, we're part of the football statistical analysis crew. That's a generally diverse crew, but one tenet agreed upon by virtually every member is that coaches should go for it more often. There are limits to that, though. Sometimes it's wise to just go ahead and kick the field goal. One of those times is, just maybe, in the fourth quarter, while trailing, against an offense your team has completely manhandled, in easy field goal range. Yes, Lovie Smith, we're looking at you. Just because you won does not let you escape our derision.

COLBERT AWARD: When you play the game, you should play to win. When you have a team that's won six games the past three seasons combined, sometimes you may want to take a chance to capitalize on a great opportunity. Just ask Steve Spagnuolo and the St. Louis Rams, who went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line at the end of the first half, down 10-3. Sam Bradford hit Laurent Robinson for a touchdown pass, and they went into the half tied. Although the Cardinals eventually won the game, we salute Spagnuolo for his boldness.

He Just Had to Make 11 Guys Miss!

Mike: I will be perfectly honest and admit that I could never come up with anything funnier than this. Sadly, there is no way to embed it.

Scramble Mailbag

Yeah, so, we forgot to make a Scramble mailbag thread. To atone, your Scramble writers will watch comments for any fantasy questions and respond in kind.

Send fantasy questions to Contact Us! Do it! Do it now!


44 comments, Last at 18 Sep 2010, 9:44pm

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

What do you think Jerome Harrison will do this year? I had thought he was a sneaky late round pick and that he would perhaps get the bulk of the carries/production. However his stat line from week one makes me pause a bit. Am I getting cold feet too early? Or should I just hold pat? The rest of my team is as follows:

12 team PPR
QB: Peyton; Cassel
RB: Forte; Mendenhall; Sproles; Harrison
WR: S. Smith (NYG); Harvin; E. Royal; Breaston; Knox
TE: Celek; Breaston

3 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

Eeurgh, your RB depth and WRs are not nice. I think you should try to flip Forte plus junk for a pair of serviceable running backs and a wide receiver of some description. He is not going to repeat his week 1 fantasy performance on a regular basis, so sell high, and acquire the depth you desperately need.

25 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

I'm in the Harrison dilemma myself. I don't want to overreact to National Jump to Conclusions Week, but in a PPR league, he looks like your RB4 and I don't see that as a big deal. Your wideouts are mostly lousy, though, so address that before doing anything rash with Harrison.

34 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

All depends on what the Man-genius does. What Mangini *should* do: play ball control offense, with lots of runs, and high probability passes (although it is disputable whether any ball thrown by Delhomme can fit in this category). That probably also means much less Hillis, since he fumbled last game in a key situation.

What Mangini will do is an open question. One thing I'd note is that when his job was on the line last year, he started using a more conventional gameplan (run Harrison 30x a game, play defense, and hope you get some breaks). Not sure how long a leash he has, but maybe if he feels like he's on the edge again, he'll go back to basics.

2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

3 wide receivers in my "proper" fantasy team: 15 points combined.
3 wide receivers in my loser league fantasy team: 40 points combined.

Fantasy. Is. Awesome.

4 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

That's an awful lot of words devoted to the physics of what was clearly represented as a dream-like fantasy world.

5 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

"Although the Cardinals eventually lost the game, we salute Spagnuolo for his boldness."

Spags coaches the Rams...

22 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

By your definition, the Romo-Choice-Hall fumblerooski for a TD should fall under the Martz award for a head-scratching play call. If Choice just gets tackled, then he's not hurting his team's chances to win. Alex Barron is the guy who should Keep Chopping Wood.

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

7 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

Yes, Lovie Smith, we're looking at you. Just because you won does not let you escape our derision.

If he had kicked the field goal, there is a good chance the Bears lose that game. In the 2 min drill the Lions got into field goal range easily, and the Bears scored the TD on a short field thanks to pinning the Lions on their 1 yard line.


8 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

At wide receiver I'm the break out whore... I have to choose between:
DeSean Jackson @DET
Steve Breaston @ATL
Mike Wallace @TEN
Nate Washington - PIT
Laurent Robinson @OAK
Davone Bess @MIN

In the other league:

Reggie Wayne NYG
Laurent Robinson @OAK
Davone Bess @MIN
Bernard Berrian -MIA
Jeremy Maclin WR @DET

First 3 would be my starters.

16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

Eh, maybe not. It's never a 100% shot, and Romo's wiggled his way out of many sacks before. There's times when holding is acceptable: if it's subtle enough that you could plausibly get away with it, and to prevent your QB from getting killed.

I don't think either fit that situation.

13 Trade Question

I have Foster, CJ2k, Best and Spiller and can start 3 RBs (one is a W/T/R flex). I have Flacco at QB and picked up Ten's D (still have Cinci's).

One team just lost Ryan Grant and is begging for Foster. He has Brees and the Jets D (nothing else on his roster looks very shiny). Should I keep my lineup or make a play for Brees or the Jets?

28 Re: Trade Question

In reply to by dedkrikit

Edit: drunken reading comprehension fail, my bad.

I agree with Tom that a Foster for Brees trade is probably a good idea, especially if you have a strong set of receivers. The Bengals defense is probably as good as worthless, but Tennessee's should be good, to the point where giving up any significant value to get the Jets, rather than just using the roster spot where you currently have the Bengals to play matchups when the Titans face someone strong, is probably an error.

21 Re: Trade Question

In reply to by dedkrikit

Flacco to Brees would be a nice upgrade. I'm not sold either Best or Spiller will be a decent producer with any consistency, so I like this trade a lot better if you have three wideouts you can start. I'm not enough of a fan of defenses to say an upgrade there would be worth cutting your RB depth like that, but if you can get Brees, I'd make the trade.

19 Receiver question

In my draft I didn't make receivers a priority, and thus don't have much to pick from. I won the first week based on solid production from other positions, but feel the need to shore up my receiving corps...

My 4 current receivers on roster:

Dwayne Bowe
Marques Colston
Bernard Berrian
Devin Hester

I have to start two. I can start a third in a flex position, but given what I have I'm putting a RB in there (currently its Ricky Williams). There's not too many available right now, glancing at the waiver wire I can see the Seattle Mike Williams, Mark Clayton, Brandon Lloyd, Michael Spurlock and Roscoe Parrish.

What do you recommend?

20 Re: Receiver question

If you're stuck with those waivers, out of that lot I'd say Mark Clayton's the "best" option. Most established receiver on a bad offense that is likely to be chasing games. In my opinion he's the most likely to be anything other than completely random in his production.

24 Re: Receiver question

I thought about picking up Mark Clayton myself, since he really stands out among the Rams receivers and Bradford threw so many times Week 1. I'm really down on Berrian, as it seems Favre doesn't like him, and don't think he'll be a good play aside from bye week fill-in when he has a favorable matchup.

27 TE Decision

I have Owen Daniels in two leagues. He, somewhat unsurprisingly, put up a goose egg week 1, but did end up playing a good number of snaps. Thankfully I still won in both leagues. Should try to grab a different TE right away or hang on to Daniels for another week? Zach Miller is available in both leagues and has an appealing match up this week and has a soft schedule looking ahead.

The bench spots are especially limited in one league and I have a personal aversion to having more than 1 TE on my roster at any given time.

29 Re: TE Decision

In reply to by Ten Drink Drunk

Even assuming Daniels gets back to 100% at some point, the Texans are unlikely to be throwing anything like as much as they did last season. I'm not really sure that he even has more upside than Miller, and he's certainly a far riskier option.

36 Re: TE Decision

In reply to by Ten Drink Drunk

I'm pretty sure the plan is to ease Daniels back into the offense, since he didn't get very much preseason work. I think he has good starting TE upside, but not until the second half of the season. Miller is probably your better bet for at least 6 weeks. One minor cautionary note on Sunday: TEN seemed to be very conscious of where Miller was on the field.

30 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

One of my favourite time of the year : reading the loser league teams names.

I must say I'm slightly disapponted by this year output, but I've made a quick shortlist of my favourites :
14 Brad Childress Boys Choir
53 Antonio Cromartie`s Day Care Center
54 Bacon Cupcakes
66 Mangini in a Bottle
91 Texas Chainsaw Massaquoi
114 Sabby "Pissed On a Tele-Tubby"
Incredibly Nerdy Football Pun Goes Here
196 Takeo Spikes Neck

This year most trendy topics : Purple Drank, Cromartie's kids, Goddamn Snack, the Browns(as always).

I use this space to point out a great nickname to went a little bit unnoticed in another article's comments : 'the cat in the box is dead (not verified)'. Kudos to the creator.

35 Loser League

I was so excited to have Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford lead my team into 7th place this week. Stupid injuries!

37 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Cheesecake

At least someone talks smack in this league! Sadly though, I do not have any shiny $5 trophies. Maybe I should get that going...