East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
How Am I Doing?
For the year, I'm 35-22-3 picking games against the spread - which is good, despite the small sample. How do we know that? Because on average you'll beat the spread about 50 percent of the time. If you factor in the vig, you need to hit 52.5 percent to break even. That record above is 61 percent. That's profitable. Can I keep it up? I don't know. But if I do, the RotoWire readers will be happy with me. How am I doing in my fantasy recommendations? I have no idea. Not only do I not keep track of the hundred-odd owners I give recommendations to every week, I have no idea what the benchmark is. Is 60 percent good? And what constitutes being right - a hundred yard game by a back I recommend? What if he gets 40 yards, but two scores? And am I recommending obvious players like Peyton Manning every week, or am I digging for players who might be available like Charlie Frye? I surely don't deserve the same credit for telling you to start Donovan McNabb against the Packers as I would for telling you to start Santana Moss against the Jaguars OVER Chris Chambers against the Texans...
The bottom line is there are no standards by which to measure my performance, and as a result, I think I'm just going to swing for the fences from now on. Chester Taylor - total bust the rest of the way - look for him to get hurt or lose carries to Mewelde Moore. Jamal Lewis - bust - Mike Anderson or Musa Smith will take his job. Stick a fork in Chris Chambers, but expect Reuben Droughns to earn his late second-round status by season's end if his shoulder holds up. This is the beginning of the end for Shaun Alexander - deal him while he still has value. Terrell Owens will score double-digit touchdowns, Braylon Edwards will be a top-10 receiver on everyone's draft board next season... Do I believe all of this? A little bit. And if I'm right about it, I can let you know what a genius I am. If I'm wrong - well, I can't be right ALL the time (Jeez, give me a break), so I'll just point out some things I WAS right about... You see where I'm going? Giving good measured advice is like getting a base hit. Making a bold claim that turns out to be right is like hitting a home run. But since we're not keeping track of batting average, only highlight reels, I have an incentive to swing for the fences even if I'm doing you a disservice. Just something to be aware of... And I really don't know whether Shaun Alexander is going to be himself when he gets back... Instead of making a bold statement, I could just admit that and say: "I'd pay about 80 cents on the dollar for him."
Around the League
Let's get caught up quickly on the major developments of the last few days:
Alexander, sidelined with a small fracture in his foot, is expected to sit out Seattle's Week 6 game in St. Louis, then return to face the Vikings the following week. Nothing's set in stone, but considering the Seahawks have a bye this week, that means he'd miss just one more game. The question here is whether Alexander's bone bruise which turned into a fracture is a sign of the heavy workload he's endured finally catching up to him, i.e., the beginning of the end. RotoWire's Orthopedic Clinical Specialist Stephania Bell has argued on our XM show that an injury like this which likely resulted from someone stepping on his foot, or him planting oddly, is different from one like Brian Westbrook's swollen knee, which is due to wear and tear. And she knows far better than I do, but few running backs come back strong after 370-plus carry seasons (not including 60 more carries in the postseason), especially ones approaching 1800 career carries. Even if the foot injury was a fluke, Alexander is in a high-risk demographic for sure.
This was a bit of a shock since Westbrook had been able to sit out practice and play effectively during the first few weeks of the season. It turns out Westbrook's knee had to be drained a few weeks ago, and the Eagles might have to do it again. With a player that's missed time with hip, triceps and more than one foot and knee injury over the years, you should be concerned. If Westbrook were to miss more time, Correll Buckhalter would see the bulk of the carries with Ryan Moats likely providing a change of pace. Buckhalter lost two fumbles Monday night, but one was due to a bad exchange with Donovan McNabb, and he ran for 49 yards on 11 carries and caught two passes for 37 more yards.
Owens caught five passes for 88 yards (including a 46-yarder) in Sunday's win over the Titans, and it looks like he's able to play effectively with a fractured hand. His alleged suicide attempt on Tuesday looks more like an overreaction from a panicky publicist hell bent on testing the adage: "All publicity is good publicity." In any event, expect Owens to be a top-5 receiver from here on out, and upgrade Drew Bledsoe accordingly.
This time Dennis Green won't go back. It wasn't all Kurt Warner's fault - the offensive line couldn't run block to save it's life, and it's pass blocking in obvious passing downs wasn't much better. But Warner's an awful fit for an offense that can't block. Granted most QBs are, but Warner is especially helpless in the face of a rush. Not that Leinart is all that nimble, either, and he'll take his share of beatings this season. But for some reason, I find myself unable to downgrade Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald all that severely - Leinart throws a nice ball, and the team will be throwing a lot regardless. And if I can't downgrade the receivers too steeply, then I'm implying Leinart will produce, even though very few quarterbacks - even ones who turn out to be great - do much in their rookie seasons.
Below the Radar
Looking at the Yahoo! numbers from Saturday, it turns out that the Jerious Norwoods (4.5 percent), LenDale Whites (16.8 percent) and Michael Turners (7.1 percent) were still not owned in most of your leagues, though they should be - these are the kind of reserves who can win you a title if things (or, more specifically, particular players) break a certain way.
Here are a few more:
With Ahman Green nursing a sore hamstring, Morency rushed 26 times for 99 yards Monday night and caught six passes for 19 yards. If Green (1663 career carries) is out for any length of time, Morency, a shifty runner with good speed, would take over the job. Yes, the Packers are bad, and not likely to be running clock in the second half of too many games, but Samkon Gado had three 100-yard games and six touchdowns in essentially seven weeks last season, and this year's Packers are no worse than last year's bunch.
With Matt Jones still nursing a groin injury, Williams has emerged as Byron Leftwich's top target - Williams is 15th among receivers in receptions and tied for first in touchdowns (three). He's only averaged 11.8 yards per catch, but Williams has the size and toughness to be effective in the red zone.
With Cedric Houston hurt, and Chad Pennington displaying his form from three season ago, Barlow will continue to get carries close to the goal line. He's currently tied for the league-lead in rushing touchdowns with four, despite averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.
Beating the Book
We had another good week, covering easily with the Patriots, who we predicted to win outright. We went 9-4-1 against the spread in Week 4 to put us at 35-22-3 on the season, though only 2-2 in this forum.
Dolphins +10 at Patriots
This is totally insane, but I like it for that reason. I like that Miami lost to the Texans while the Pats annihilated the Bengals on the road. It just means that Miami will play as if its season depended on it, while New England is just trying to win another game. Moreover, these teams have had a few close games in recent seasons. I realize Daunte Culpepper could be in trouble facing a Bill Belichick defense, but I'm going to suspend disbelief about the how, and trust Culpepper to play with some modicum of poise under adverse conditions, however unlikely that might seem. Back Miami who keeps it close enough.
Patriots 24 - 20
For the rest of this week's slate, check out Beating the Book
Surviving Week 5
All three of our suggestions won last week, but so did everyone else's so there's no point in rehashing.
For this week, we'd take the Colts for sure, but since we used them up (something we recommend doing as so much changes from week to week), we're looking at the Panthers and Bears. I'm leaning Panthers as of this writing, but I reserve the right to change my mind on Thursday when our Survivor column runs on RotoWire. At 2-2, the Panthers need to beat the Browns at home, and for that reason there's little chance of a letdown. The Bears should handle the Bills fairly easily, but after beating Seattle last week, we could see Chicago easing up ever so slightly against a team that's better than Cleveland. We're probably going with Carolina and give them a 77 percent chance to win this game.
For the complete take on Survivor, strategies and rules, check out a Surviving Week 5
Article first appeared 10/4/06