East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Running Backs Are a Dime a Dozen
It's an odd season when it means little that I have LaDainian Tomlinson (thanks to a trade) and Joseph Addai as my backs in RotoWire's 14-team Staff League. I'm not better than the team with Ryan Grant and Justin Fargas. Or what about the genius with Earnest Graham and Kolby Smith. That Jamal Lewis/Andre Hall/Selvin Young team is doing just fine also. No, the difference this year is at the receiver and quarterback positions where the dropoff between the superstars and the rest of the pack is most severe. The key to winning so far this season is to have two stud receivers, a great quarterback like Brady, Favre or Romo and some waiver wire backs that are getting 20 touches a game.
And what's happened exposes the flaw in the conventional wisdom that you should always get running backs first because their 20 touches per game make them so much more reliable than receivers. Because that fact cuts both ways - 20 carries is 20 carries, so any starting running back will do. But receiver production is hard to forecast from game to game or even month to month, so you had better have one or two of the rare reliable ones - otherwise you're stuck mixing and matching with the Roddy Whites and Kevin Curtises.
Past Performance Does Not Guarantee Future Results
Heading into Sunday night, it seemed almost inconceivable that Philly would outplay the Pats (New England won by only three despite having home field advantage, getting spotted seven points at the start of the game and winning the turnover battle 2-0 - the third pick on the last drive was inconsequential). But even if you have the perfect metric for measuring how well the Patriots and Eagles played over the first 10 games (Net YPA isn't a bad start), and that metric tells you that New England is 25 points better, you don't have the complete picture about what will happen in Week 12. Past performance obviously has predictive value, but there's always uncertainty as to whether teams will maintain their typical output for another week. But because past performance is all we have to go on, we tend to project it into the future indefinitely - what else is there?
For starters, we can look at the broader history of the NFL, and, in this case, we see that no team has sustained the Patriots' level of dominance over an entire season. People have been quick to argue that that's because this is the best team in the history of the league, but that's begging the question, i.e., by saying they're the best team ever, you're assuming that somehow their past performance does in fact guarantee continued dominance. Of course, it doesn't. Whether they sustain it will determine if they're the best team ever. They didn't on Sunday night, and that regression to the mean somewhere along the line should have been expected. In fact, New England was lucky to win two of its last three games, and I'd be surprised if they didn't have at least three more scares the rest of the way including the playoffs. Even at 11-0, the odds of a 19-0 season are far less than 50 percent.
With Cedric Benson out for the year, Adrian Peterson is the obvious get, but he lacks the burst to run outside, so also expect to see rookie Garrett Wolfe in the mix.
With Ricky Williams out for the year due to a chest injury, and Jesse Chatman also dinged up with neck and ankle injuries, Patrick Cobbs should be in line for some carries against the Jets. If Chatman can't go, Cobbs has a very good matchup and is worth a look if you're in a pinch.
Fred Jackson could see the bulk of the work for the Bills this week if Marshawn Lynch and Anthony Thomas are unable to go. Jackson runs with good power and was effective as a receiver out of the backfield last week.
With Brandon Jacobs unlikely to play Sunday, Derrick Ward (groin) is worth a look if he's healthy enough to play. Reuben Droughns will also be in the mix, but Ward has more speed, quickness and burst, and he's also a better receiver out of the backfield. We'd expect Ward to get the bulk of the carries if he can play.
A.J. Feeley could get another start this week against the Seahawks. We don't expect him to repeat his performance from last week, but this is an experienced quarterback who knows Andy Reid's pass-happy system.
Around the League
Beating the Book
We went 5-11 against the spread in Week 12, putting us at 84-83-9 on the year, and we were wrong against in this forum with the Ravens, putting our record at 3-9 here. (25 percent gets you sent to the poor house, and probably kneecapped at some point). But stick with us - the contrarian plays will bear fruit eventually - it's the nature of the NFL, this season's anomalous sample of disparity notwithstanding.
Browns +1 at Cardinals
The Browns are one of the great stories of the NFL this year, while Arizona just lost at home to the 49ers. But that's what makes the Cardinals a good buy-low and the Browns a good sell-high. Back Arizona who shreds Cleveland's pass defense down the field.
Article first appeared 11/28/07
Cardinals 27 - 20
Surviving Week 13
We did stick with Arizona last week and don't have to tell you what happened - they lost in overtime thanks to a missed 37-yard field goal by Neil Rackers. But that's no excuse because they needed a hail mary at the end of the first half even to get to that point, and besides, once you're in overtime, you're asking for trouble in survivor. Fortunately for us, the other player left in our pool also had Arizona.
This week is horrendous if you've used up all the usual suspects (New England, Pittsburgh, even Indy, Washington and San Diego). Given what we have left, we're tentatively going with the Broncos in Oakland. While we hate to take a road team, our other choices were Tennessee (inferior passing game), Minnesota (poor pass defense), or the Eagles (good opponent). Denver can get the ball down the field, and while neither team can stop the run, the Broncos' advantage in the passing game and their status as a contender in the AFC West tip the balance. We give Denver a 60 percent chance to win this game.
The full article comes out on Thursday morning.
Article first appeared 11/28/07