From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 11:16 AM
Subject: Week Four Breakfast
To: scott pianowski
Once you're into the byes, you know you have a season. 2009 officially doesn't matter anymore.
Two undefeateds - Steelers and Bears. [Ed. note: and Chiefs]. Is Chicago a fraud? It was Dumb and Dumber those final two minutes on Monday night. Why do 10 year olds playing Madden have better end-game strategy than NFL coaches? I'm tired of talking about this! Figure it out.
What about the winless - Bills, Lions, Panthers, Niners and Browns. Mike Singletary is in over his head. How many great players have been even good coaches? Ditka. There has to be some others. Who am I missing?
Here's my NFL Top 10 right now, in order:
Like I said, 2009 no longer matters. The Saints look terrible right now and could easily be 0-3. Week Four Breakfast is served.
From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 10:19 PM
Subject: heinz 57 waltz
To: Michael Salfino
I blame Mike McCarthy more than Lovie Smith on Monday night, though both coaches deserve the flag. It's harder to see the unusual situation when you're in a position that almost always wins. Necessity being the mother of invention, McCarthy's out to lunch for not seeing his move. But at the end of the day, you're right, the fifth-graders at home understand these situations, why don't the guys on the sideline? Where's Grandfather Clock when you need him?
Pittsburgh's defense could be the best in the game right now, but they need to fix a lot of things on offense. They barely skirted past Atlanta and Tennessee the first two weeks, and those Charlie Batch-to-Mike Wallace connections last week were pennies from heaven. You can't rely on stuff like that. How many weeks will Ben Roethlisberger need to get sharp?
The Niners got what they deserved with Jimmy Raye, a coach who's got a long history of mediocrity. Still, the division could come down to 9-7 or even 8-8. San Francisco probably deserved a win over the Saints. The shape of the Niners schedule has worked against them. What happend to the 2009 version of Michael Crabtree?
Stop me if you've heard this one before - Norv Turner doesn't have his team ready in September. I know it's a little unfair to kill the Chargers for return touchdowns - those things are mostly flukes - but you can set your watch by Turner and Company flagging the opening month. Would you bet on Kansas City winning that division? How do the Chiefs keep winning when Matt Cassel absolutely stinks? Philip Rivers is going to punch someone before we get to Halloween.
Unless Bill Belichick does his best coaching job ever, I don't see where New England is headed with that lousy defense. Buffalo doesn't put up 30 points in a week of practice. It's a good year to own Tom Brady; this will go down as his second-best fantasy season.
What's our takeaway from the Jets and Dolphins? When did Dustin Keller turn into Papa Winslow? Did anyone expect LaDainian Tomlinson to chuck Shonn Greene out of the way like this? Why can't the Jets stop Chad Henne?
It will be interesting to see if the Packers move for the running back they so desperately need, though I wouldn't mind watching Aaron Rodgers throw 600 passes (provided he doesn't get killed in the pocket). Brandon Jackson can't play. I'm also worried that Jay Cutler is going to get crucified at some point this fall - the Bears can't run it or protect the pocket - but he's adapted to the Mike Martz scheme awfully quickly, and it sure is pretty to watch when it's humming.
You've got Dallas too high. I don't see how they make the playoffs up against that nasty schedule. But I give you credit for not falling for the Texans; that leaky secondary will keep them at nine wins or less.
From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 12:32 AM
Subject: Re: heinz 57 waltz
To: Scott Pianowski
Roethlisberger's return is a fascinating lab experiment. He not only has early season rust but hasn't even been practicing with the team. He is allowed to go to team meetings though, which I did not know. I'd love to predict what's going to happen, but I have no idea. There is significantly more risk though than most analysts and all Steelers fans are thinking.
Why can't we hold Mike Singletary accountable. The man is goofy with his crazy quotes and pulling down his pants and firing Mike Martz off this season (see the chart). You don't want to do things as an adult that would have caused the vice principal to call your parents when you were 10. Not admitting I'm talking from experience here as the parent on the receiving end of such a call. My football widow wife always changes the names to protect the innocent.
Crabtree is a jerk who's disliked by his teammates, apparently. He seems to want the star treatment before earning it on the field. I don't care what guys do when they're good. But the sense of entitlement without results bugs me.
Return touchdowns like the two Leon Washington burned the Chargers with last week aren't mostly flukes, they're completely flukes. The one exception is kicking the ball to Devin Hester after he's already burned you once (like the Packers did Monday night, to their regret). You know, Washington is such a great kickoff guy that maybe he's earned that, too. There were questions about the leg, but those were answered with the first one, right? So on second thought, Norv deserves some blame there for not ordering that high, short kickoff the second time. But the Chargers have played well and been unlucky. They have not looked 1-2, irrespective of last year. The Saints, for example, have looked 1-2 at best to me.
I don't know yet if I buy the Chiefs defense. That's my reservation there. But Matt Cassel doesn't stink. I thought he was overhyped and overpaid last year. He's average probably now but not bad by any measure. If the Chiefs prove not to be for real, I predict it will not be due to Cassel or their offense.
The Packers running game right now is short passes to Jermichael Finley, who just looks HUGE on the field. When you see him standing in the slot he just does not seem coverable.
You're too down on the Patriots. Bill Belichick will figure out something scheme-wise with the defense. They're not going to be bottom five in YPA and TD passes allowed, I predict. They beat Miami this week in a shootout.
Why is Dallas too high when they should have beaten the Redskins on the road easy - plus-130 yards from scrimmage and that stupid return TD on the fumble before the half (monumentally stupid decision by Tony Romo, I know)? Then they destroy the Texans in Houston. You think the Eagles are better than Dallas? No way. Wade Phillips is a problem, and there's no leadership on that team. But Phillips is about as good as Andy Reid in-game, don't you think?
The Jets are third in the Massey-Peabody rankings this week. Dallas is fourth. The Chargers seventh. The Chiefs eighth. This is only 2010 data, hence the Saints at 17th. Would you be going long on New Orleans now? This season has 9-7, typical Super Bowl hangover written all over it. Why does Sean Payton hate fantasy football owners so much? But I have to say a reader made a great point about Robert Meachem, who many of us loved but who you ranked lower than just about anyone, IIRC. Meachem did squat in the entire postseason. Why did I miss that? I spend a lot of time looking at what guys do in January, but I missed in this case what a key guy did not do.
My take on the Jets is that they are well positioned now and in the Super Bowl mix for sure. There's nothing about them now that rules them out. But you can say that about seven teams or so, maybe 10. They need a statement game in Buffalo this week. Total domination - like 31-3. (Sorry Mark Stopa.)
Why don't you close this week and I'll hit you and the readers up in the comments. I have floors and appliances tomorrow and Friday on the heels of today's counter in this unending and way over budget kitchen project. (A refrigerator just for wine? I don't even drink wine! Let my Football Widow just try and complain the next time I buy a new bowling ball or lose a parlay.)
From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 12:51 PM
Subject: strawberry letter 23
To: Michael Salfino
Singletary made a double-jump to the head coaching spot, never getting work in as a coordinator. Does that ever work out? Jim Zorn, anyone? As for Crabtree being a diva, that's just the modern receiver at work. It's the one position where you're directly in snap-to-snap competition with your teammates, and that breeds a certain kind of personality.
The Monday Night crew doesn't work for me. Mike Tirico is forever a pro, but the inflection wars between Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden drive me nuts. I urge everyone to listen to at least one quarter in the car some week; you'll discover that the best Monday Night analyst is Boomer Esiason, by a mile.
Gruden goes crazy after every long return, but I don't see a good alternative. If your going to sell out to eliminate giant returns, you're going to hand away good field position as a rule. I don't want to do that.
Matt Cassel's pocket awareness never arrived. You can't learn it standing on the sidelines at USC (some would say the clean pocket at USC doesn't teach much either), and even in his one season in New England he was lost in this area of the game. For all the things they measure at the combine, the ability to stay calm and process data in the pocket (and gently move around if needed) is what separates ordinary from good, and good from great. You need some physical gifts to play quarterback, of course, but so much of this position is tied to your brain, your heart rate and how you play in space.
Sticking with the pocket game, I'm amazed at how much Aaron Rodgers has improved in a year. The early-season sack problem last year was largely on him, but now he negotiates the scrum beautifully. He might be the NFC's best player right now; he scares me more than Drew Brees (and you know I'm a Brees sympathizer from long ago).
We've got the book on Reid by now. A fantastic Monday-to-Saturday coach. The improvement of Vick is a feather in Reid's cap, and Marty Mornhinweg's, too. But has there ever been a head coach who made you more leery with his game-day decisions? I'm smelling a Washington upset. (If you had a Connect Four tournament with NFC East coaches, who wins and why?)
Go through Dallas's schedule, find the easy games. What are there, three? I can't rule out any potential loss in the division. They'll probably go 9-7 or 8-8, and if everything comes together, 10-6. Should they win 11 or more games, I'll walk barefoot to Jerryworld and congratulate Wade Phillips personally. Too much hat, not enough cattle.
With me and Bobby Meachem, it came down to his toe and the gridlock there. But you know how the Saints operate, he could go for 159 yards this week. Sean Payton doesn't just want to beat you with his offense, he wants you to remember it's *his* creation. I love their screen game, but the designer label is always showing.