From: Michael Salfino
Date: November 23, 2010 9:02:05 PM EST
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Thanksgiving Breakfast
Have to work fast as kickoff is quickly approaching. I know this because Catherine has already started cooking.
When the fantasy season is ending, the real one is just starting. I wouldn't want to be the best team today. Would you? (Not that I have any clue as to who the best team is.)
Other questions from me:
The Cowboys seem to be surging. I have heard from someone in the know that the Cowboys indeed were sold on Jason Garrett as head coach beyond 2010 even before these two wins. So forget all those rumors about Jeff Fisher and whoever else. Still think Dallas is in decline, or was it all Wade Phillips' fault?
Did you catch the note about how the Broncos have the best play action passing attack in the league. They average a league-low 3.26 yards per carry. Please explain.
Who is luckier: Jets or Pats? Before you answer, consider that New England is 28th in yardage differential and 17th in yards per game while being No. 1 in points scored.
How are all these bad passing defenses - Jacksonville, New England, Atlanta - in first place (well, sort of for New England)?
Is Colts-Chargers an elimination game for the loser?
Since the turkey is defrosting, let's condense this as smartly as my grandmother did her brown gravy. Thanksgiving Breakfast is served.
From: Scott Pianowski
Date: November 24, 2010 9:30:46 AM EST
To: Michael Salfino
Subject: when I ruled the world
The Jets are the luckiest team I've seen since the 2001 Bears; all of these Houdini escapes are coming with gift-wraps from the other team. The Broncos take a fourth-down pass-interference chunk, lose game. The Lions hit LaDainian Tomlinson somewhere in Canada and mismanage the clock. The Browns fumble in plus territory, then play for a loss rather than accept a tie on their own friggin' 3-yard line at the end of overtime. Houston covers Braylon Edwards like he's doused in radioactive waste, playing the worst 39 seconds you can play to throw away a victory.
The Jets are also damn good, of course. Mark Sanchez has been fantastic of late, showing pocket awareness and movement, guts, leadership. Santonio Holmes was a fantastic addition, a game-changer and a clutch player they got for almost nothing. And we know all about the New York secondary and the offensive line, two elite groups.
Yeah, statheads, I called Holmes a clutch player. It frustrates me to no end when the number-crunchers try to deny the existence of clutchness because it can't be perfectly quantified; failing to prove something exists is not the same thing as proving that something doesn't exist. Being clutch doesn't mean you get better when the lights are brightest and the pressure is greatest, it means you maintain greatness (and occasionally elevate) in those instances. No one seems to have a problem accepting the choke theme, so let's open our minds to what stands at the opposite spectrum.
The Cowboys have been one of those "good" bad teams all year. Five of their losses were by one score or less. They posted gigantic yardage advantages against the Redskins and Vikings. Their only terrible showing came against the Packers, arguably the best team in the conference. The Pokes were never as bad as the Panthers or even the Cardinals, say. Sometimes a coach succeeds just because he's selling something different (and in a different voice) than the last guy.
You've answered the play-action question for me before. Defenders instinctively react to run action, even if your running game stinks. Quarterback deception matters. I still think defenses would be smarter to cede the cheap rushing yards and focus on the downfield stuff; the Dungy Colts seemed to play that way. Don't chase the rabbits; the elephants will kill you.
I still see the Colts and Chargers both being in the playoffs, in part because of their competition. Indy would give someone the division but there's no one to take it. The Titans are down to their third quarterback, the Jaguars aren't going to hold up against better competition, and I'll just get angry if I try to take the Texans seriously. I suppose the Chiefs have a shot to outlast the Chargers, but I can't see how anyone is going to stop the Chargers offense once they get 1-2 weapons back. Philip Rivers is having one of the best seasons I've ever seen, dominating with a collection of scrubs. He's the MVP by a mile. (I'm also sick of the Ryan Mathews Mafia bitching every week - why can't we just enjoy Mike Tolbert? That guy can play.)
My mom's side of the family is all Italian, so it's a pasta feast for us. My stomach is already in countdown mode. I'm thankful football brought us together, amigo.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
From: Michael Salfino
Date: November 24, 2010 10:23:21 AM EST
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Re: when I ruled the world
Can't give certain QBs any chance, and teams are giving those chances to Sanchez, who is that kind of QB, clearly. And the winners are always lucky. The 2001 Pats were luckier than the 2001 Bears, let's be real. The 2010 Jets aren't even the luckiest team in 2010 - the Patriots are. Those numbers I cited back it up. Regardless, remember even how the 2000 Ravens won those playoff games. Almost every great team has had some important games gift-wrapped somewhere along the line, quite often in January. Just win, baby.
Excellent take on choking/clutch. We define clutch incorrectly. It's just maintaing peak performance when it matters most. But if you're Brian St. Pierre, it doesn't really matter if you are clutch.
No, Jacksonville was terrible for the Cowboys, too. They were shredded on defense there. Dallas's offensive line still stinks. The defense is way overrated - no secondary, the linebackers are old or terrible. The only guy on defense who looks plus to my eye is DeMarcus Ware. So I think this team is very poorly constructed, and I expect they will lose badly tomorrow against the Saints. I have it on solid authority that the Cowboys were 100 percent sold on Jason Garrett long-term before he even coached a game, so it's safe now, it seems, to put the Cowher, Gruden, Fisher rumors to rest.
I think Detroit-New England will be far more competitive. Jets-Bengals? This simulation is a joke, right? Jets win on a Hail Mary to Edwards with four seconds left? That's so ridiculous. Everyone knows it will be to Holmes.
On the play action, I agree (with me, I guess). But it's so cool that we have the ultimate lab experiment that 100% backs this theory up. Of course, expect to continue to hear announcers state that the running game must get going to set up the play action game. It's a better story. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. (Everyone should see "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" at least once.)
I don't know about Chargers-Colts both making it. Chargers win (my prediction) and the Colts are 6-5 and will need to hold up with that terrible run defense (not usually important, but everything can be at the extremes) versus Chris Johnson twice and at Oakland. So then I can see 9-7, but, yes, that still might win the South. The key is going to be Jacksonville this week at New York to face the Giants who have lost four wideouts and thus may not be able to exploit that terrible Jaguars pass defense. You know, that was a really big loss last week for Houston.
Okay, so if Colts lose, they're probably still the No. 4 seed.
Now, Colts win. Chargers now 5-6. But they very likely run the table to finish 10-6. So what about the Chiefs? Even if you give the Chiefs two more losses (already gave them at San Diego and then have to expect them to lose at Seattle or at St. Louis or home against the Titans or Raiders or Broncos in that big revenge game). That's not terribly likely. But the Chiefs are 1-2 in the division. So they will lose the tiebreakers. I predict the Chiefs will finish 11-5. So, way more important this week for the Chargers than the Colts, but not an elimination game, weirdly.
Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, bro'. We're both very lucky to do what we do and it's always fun to do it with you.