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

Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Musical Chairs

Tom: So, Mike, the rosters for the 2011 Pro Bowl were announced today.

Mike: Isn't it still the 2010 Pro Bowl?

Tom: The NFL refers to it as the 2011 Pro Bowl, since the game is played next year.

Mike: That is ... rather silly, but all right.

Tom: The idea of a football All-Star game strikes me as kind of silly.

Mike: Why is that? The league clearly has stars. Superstars, even, who clearly add significant value to their team.

Tom: Football is a game that depends on intensity, and isn't nearly as good when players aren't trying hard to win and are trying to avoid injury.

Mike: That is true, although it seems that it would be lame to just announce a list of All-Pros and leave it at that.

Tom: The stakes for the Pro Bowl tend to be minimal, so players don't try hard except late in a close game, when they realize the difference between winning and losing is breaking even or coming out ahead for their trip. And, yes, it probably would be lame to just have a list of the best players from each conference, but if we're going to go ahead and play a silly game, the silly game needs to have silly rules. The NFL doesn't want to develop a completely separate rulebook for a single game, so we have to do other things.

Mike: Such as?

Tom: And, as much as I hate to suggest it, the NFL should consider taking a page from baseball and other all-star games, and mandate that every team have a representative.

Mike: I don't see why you would hate to suggest that. I think that's a great feature of the MLB All-Star Game.

Tom: Well, taken to its most extreme, it inevitably yields results like Scott LaChance, NHL All-Star.

Mike: It gives fans of even the most awful teams a reason to watch and a warm fuzzy feeling that their best player is recognized despite the fact that their team is pathetic. As a fan of an awful team, I can tell you from experience that is one of the few highlights of the year.

Tom: The Islanders only had one good player, Ziggy Palffy, and since he was injured, the Fish Sticks needed a representative. So they chose maybe the league's 125th best player, who just happened to be the team's second best player.

Mike: Yeah, once in a while you get something silly, but that's extremely rare.

Tom: Well, I wouldn't be too hasty to make that declaration. The announced Pro Bowl rosters actually were pretty inclusive this year, as 28 of the 32 teams had at least one player selected. That means we need to find a roster spot for a player from Buffalo, Cincinnati, Seattle, and Tampa Bay. And, before you suggest it, I'm going to pre-emptively veto adding extra roster spots. As a reminder, here is a link to the rosters.

Mike: I'd say that Terrell Owens is as fine a choice for the Pro Bowl as Brandon Lloyd was. You wouldn't be losing any prestige with that switch.

Tom: Unfortunately, Brandon Lloyd is our lone Denver representative.

Mike: Yes, and if I had five hours to sit by and work it all out, I'm sure we could fit the jigsaw puzzle together.

Tom: I'm not sure exactly how well he's played this year, but we could give Leon Hall a spot at corner after being snubbed last year and drop Devin McCourty.

Mike: You act as if this is some Herculean task, but it's trivial, if time-consuming, much like creating the schedule.

Tom: Well, the issue with making the schedule is not producing an actual schedule, but making it an attractive one.

Mike: True.

Tom: For Bills, I don't think you can find a roster spot for Steve Johnson.

Mike: I'm also not claiming that a better player wouldn't be snubbed.

Tom: Instead, I'll suggest Kyle Williams at defensive tackle, dropping Richard Seymour.

Mike: Sure, that works. I think the Bucs are actually the hardest, if we are going through and picking out potential charity Pro Bowl spots.

Tom: I'd mention Aqib Talib at corner as a possibility, but he's on Injured Reserve.

Mike: LeGarrette Blount is a good option, but it would be hard to sell Michael Turner, Adrian Peterson or Steven Jackson off the team.

Tom: I don't think much of Blount as a player, but that's a separate issue.

Mike: Ah. Kellen Winslow, instead of Tony Gonzalez.

Tom: The one name I've seen is Donald Penn at tackle. That said, Winslow is a good choice.

Mike: Yeah, he's having a better year on a vastly inferior offense.

Tom: Now, the hard one, the Seahawks.

(Tom goes off for a couple minutes, trying to find a good Seahawks player.)

So, Mike, how much are you willing to incur the wrath of Bears fans?

Mike: When have I ever shied away from that?

Tom: The Seahawks rank second in the league in Special Teams DVOA. The single most valuable component of their special teams play -- the category where they top the league -- is Kickoff Returns. They're also a well above-average punt returning team. Are you willing to kick Devin Hester off to make room for Leon Washington?

Mike: Yes. As you said, they top the league in kickoff returns, and more to the point, selections for returners is a group selection for the coverage teams, when you get down to it.

Tom: The Bears are slightly ahead on combined value from punt and kick returns in our ratings. But it's close enough that choosing Washington is reasonable.

Mike: And Seattle is basically neck and neck with Chicago. There you have it, then. That wasn't even nearly as time consuming as I thought it would be, and we came up with candidates that can stand up on their own, even.

Tom: If you Bears fans want Hester to have another trip to Hawaii, find us another Seahawks player to put in the Pro Bowl instead of Washington.

Mike: Well, he's not getting the trip. We don't actually control the selection. You do realize that, Tom?

Tom: Not yet, we don't. Not yet.

Mike: Attention players: don't let this go to your heads. In the latest installment of "Insane things I heard on Bears radio postgame," they were talking about how choosing awards during the season is stupid, because then players and coaches get the awards and lose "the edge."

Tom: Homina?

Mike: Because obviously the players were playing just to get the award. I also learned that having a first-round bye is bad, because you lose your momentum. And watching your opponent make plays in the wild card round makes you sad or something. There may have been extra crazy after that bit, but I turned the radio off in disgust.

Tom: And on that note, I can launch right into my fantasy football travails!

Fantasy Football Update

Tom: So, after we did last week's column, I decided to make a bunch of lineup changes in my fantasy team for our championship game. I benched Jacob Tamme and decided to pick up another tight end. Because the Packers were bad against tight ends, I grabbed Kevin Boss over Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski had 17 points, Tamme had 13 ... Boss had zero. I grabbed Cowboys DST and dropped Chiefs DST. Chiefs 19 points, Cowboys five. I picked up Vincent Jackson and benched Johnny Knox. Jackson five points, Knox 21.

Mike: Mastermindering: It's not just for coaches.

Tom: I lost by 16 points, 88-72.

Mike: That has to be rough.

Tom: I actually got lucky. My opponent started Andre Johnson, who didn't play, and Wes Welker, who only had one point. He left Matt Forte's 22 points and Miles Austin's 15 on his bench. (Forte could've started at flex.) I got 16 points each from Ben Roethlisberger and Adrian Peterson, but most of my team was very meh. My opponent got 24 from Patriots DST, 17 from Michael Vick, and had three other players in double digits. And thus my streak of winning a championship every year I play fantasy football ends at one.

Mike: A shame.

Tom: I will, somehow, survive and carry on, I'm sure. But I will have to do so as a humbled, chastened man.

Mike: C'est la vie.

Tom: Let this be a lesson to you, the reader. I'm just not sure what the lesson is: (a) don't overthink your fantasy football teams, or (b) fantasy football is a cruel, cruel mistress, and one to whom you should not entrust any of your affections.

FO Staff Fantasy League

Equipo del Jefe (Aaron, 8-5) 140 def. Scramble Forever (Ian & Al, 9-4) 98 (Championship)

I have to say, I am extremely surprised by this result, and by the players that powered it. Aaron received 20 or more points from three different players. Josh Freeman is plausible, but 29 points is still somewhat nutty. Matt Forte with 22 points against the stout Jets' run defense? Jamaal Charles with 23 points against what was supposed to be a similarly strong Titans' run defense? That said, even if you cut their totals in half, Aaron still wins, albeit in a much more close game, thanks to good production from Kenny Britt, Rob Gronkowski and Steelers DST (14, 17 and 15 points, respectively).

Ian and Al just kind of fell flat. Michael Vick produced with 20 points, and so did Arian Foster (19), but those were the highs, and half the team scored single-digits (Chargers DST actually ended with -2 points). They left 12 points on the bench by starting Vick over Aaron Rodgers, but that wouldn't nearly close the gap.

So congratulations to Editor-President-Overlord-In-Chief Aaron Schatz, this year's FO Staff League Champion! We shall see how he fares in the FO Staff Playoff league, starting ... when the playoffs start.

Once, All of This Was Trees

Scramble is getting into the holiday spirit this week by giving beleaguered ad agencies a respite from the usual mockery. Just a one week respite, though, so be warned.

Loser League Update

Kicker: David Buehler, despite earning one of this week's awards, did not top the list. Neither did any available player, actually. The winner was Clint Stitser, who missed an extra point but made four others, for -1 points. Instead, one of the all-time greats, David Akers tops the list with two made field goals and one missed, for 0 points.

Wide Receiver: Jerricho Cotchery. Again -- 0 points. Raise your hand if you're surprised.

Running Back: And why did your Scramble writers have such a hard time coming up with a Seattle Pro Bowler? Because it's a team who plays Justin Forsett, that's why. Forsett had eight carries for 12 yards and 1 point.

Quarterback: It's hard to make fun of Jimmy Clausen because he's a young player on the worst team in the league, and this week he played one of the best defenses in the league. That said, 23 attempts for 72 yards with an interception is pretty horrid, and 1 point is low enough to put him into the loser league leaders.


KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Doink! Cowboys kicker David Buehler missed the simplest kick in football, an extra point, with 1:41 to play on Christmas night, leaving Dallas with a two-point lead. A two-point lead that could be overcome in regulation by a mere field goal, which Jay Feely was kind enough to provide.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: While in the end it was the drop that did it in, the fake punt that the Jets ran had pretty much the entire first-team offense in, including Mark Sanchez taking a direct snap lined up as a protector. While this was not the first time the Bears had seen an opposing quarterback in the game on special teams, there's a slight difference between Mark Sanchez in an obvious fake punt and Cody Pickett lining up as a gunner in kick coverage. Rex Ryan, what were you thinking?

COLBERT AWARD: If your team is likely to lose, you might as well take risks to see if you can tip the balance. We credited Jeff Fisher for doing this last week, and credit Bills coach Chan Gailey for only punting twice, both times inside his own 20, on a dozen offensive possessions.

Scramble Mailbag

Tom: So, through Tuesday evening, there were no questions in the Scramble thread on the message board, nor had we received any e-mails, and the fantasy section of the greater FO board was a ghost town.

Mike: No questions for any of our leagues, no questions from the staff, and no questions from any friends. This week, fantasy football is dead. This is actually a very good thing, considering it means that people's leagues have ended

Tom: As all leagues should.

Mike: And the world is becoming a more enlightened place.

Tom: I wouldn't go quite that far.

Mike: And so this week, we rest. But next week begins the staff playoff league, and our annual best of the rest challenge.

Tom: Yes, that wonderful task again. Don't let your fantasy skills atrophy too much in the meantime, readers, and we will answer fantasy questions in comments if your league is so benighted as to have actual competition Week 17.

Are you ready for some (largely meaningless) football? The playoff teams are largely set, so get a leg up on the rest of your playoffs fantasy league by e-mailing your questions to Contact Us


16 comments, Last at 01 Jan 2011, 6:18pm

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

I'm a Bears fan, and I'd be OK with Leon Washington making the Pro Bowl over Hester in an every-team-must-have-one setup. It stinks, since Hester's having a terrific year, but you'll get some more outrageous snubs with a system like that.

2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

I may have missed the reason since I've been busy at work, then on vacation the last couple weeks. But any idea when the new Loser League stats come out. I keep seeing up to week 14 when I check. I know I'm out of the running (not even close). Just curious whta the results will be.

5 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

Week 15 posting was delayed because of the holiday, and LL scores for Week 16 couldn't be calculated until today instead of the normal Tuesday because of the game postponement. I will post a comment when I know more or that they're up.

4 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

Hey guys,

Won my championship and wanted to thank you guys for the advice through the playoffs.

Didn't actually end up using any of your advice last week; I had to put Steve Johnson in and put Tolbert to the bench because Andre Johnson was a game time decision in the 4 o'clock game and Tolbert was my best only other player playing at 4. Those changes then forced Matt Forte in. Someone in my league dropped the Bears defense the week before and I failed to get them off of waivers - my finals opponent did so I went with KC. Tebow worked out well but only .02 points separated him from Big Ben.

Basically, I did everything possible to lose the championship but had my hand forced into a winning situation. Fantasy football is fickle.

6 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

You won't punt very often when you turn the ball over 7 times. I'm not sure how much credit Gailey gets when you consider he only went for it on 4th a couple times, with the first occuring when the Bills were already down by 3 scores.

7 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

Scott LaChance was an Olympian, back in the day. He looked like a potential star at BU, but he didn't develop like that expected.

10 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

My league's championship is this week and I was hoping you guys could help me with a few choices.

I start 2 RBS, and have Mendenhall, Hillis, LT, Shonn Greene, and Woodhead. I've been starting Mendenhall and Hillis, although have some concerns about Hillis at this point, and was thinking about making Greene my number 2.
Desean Jackson has been one of my wrs - should I still start him, or go with someone else because of injuries. My other starters have been Bowe and Williams from TB. After that I have Ward, the other Williams, and Hester.
On defense, I have Arizona and Baltimore. I have consistently chosen wrong on them, although I am leaning towards using Arizona this week. Your thoughts?

15 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

Ugh, Week 17 is even more of a crapshoot than the rest of the season, in fantasy terms.

I'd go with Mendenhall and Greene at RB. Woodhead will have Hoyer for too much of the game, and Hillis against even semi-motivated PIT does not seem like a good matchup.

With Kolb playing, I think Jackson loses a good bit of his value even if fully healthy, simply because the Eagles probably won't be throwing deep as much. Mike Williams-TB should be a good play for a team that needs a win and has a decent matchup. I don't know how much to trust Whitehurst, but would probably lean Mike Williams-SEA. Who knows how much the Bears will play Cutler, but probably not more than a half, and the Packers have a good pass defense. I don't know how much Bowe will play, and wouldn't trust anything out of Todd Haley's mouth either. Hines Ward is too likely to get you 0 points.

It feels bizarre to say it, but after last week's good week by Carson Palmer and San Francisco's offense, I'd say starting Arizona's D over Baltimore is the way I would go as well.

11 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

Can I say this? I always want to say this when the subject of the first-round playoff bye comes up (I realize Tom and Mike were not the ones badmouthing the bye.) Okay then.

By far the most important benefit of the first-round bye is not the chance to rest players for a week or even the home-field advantage in the divisional round. It is instead that half of the teams that don't get the bye lose. I know, I know, your team wouldn't be the one to lose in the first round, Bears call-in talk radio fans, but then again, everybody thinks that.

14 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

Winslow is a solid choice for Tampa, though I'd vote Penn in first. He's has a really excellent year on an otherwise not-good line..

16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy's End

I have Shaun Hill going against Minnesota on a short week. Everyone seems to have him ranked low. I don't see why. He is putting up great points in every game he plays in. Does someone know something I don't? Bradford is also available, as well as the other usual suspects, Trent Edwards, Kolb, Smith, Tebow, Skelton, McGee. Anyone have any idea why they are all ranked ahead of Hill?

I asked this on the discussion link as well since this is a ghost town. The other side of the argument for fantasy football in week 17 is that it adds a whole lot of challenge to the championship game. You can't just ride your horses but must prepare several weeks in advance to anticipate who is going to mail it in or sit and who is desperate for a win.