East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Bloodbath for the Frontrunners
Hope you enjoyed beating up on the rest of the league during the regular season with Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Joseph Addai. Or Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards and Antonio Gates. Derek Anderson, Marion Barber, Reggie Wayne and Kellen Winslow got you in? It was nice knowing you. Too bad you weren't stuck at RB2 - then you would have picked up Aaron Stecker or Samkon Gado out of desperation. Maybe you would have rolled the dice with Laurence Maroney (though I suspect not too many Maroney owners were even in the postseason). What can we say? It was a bloodbath for the favorites in last week's fantasy playoffs.
But that's the nature of the beast - as my colleague Scott Pianowski always says: You draft in August to make the playoffs, and what happens after that is usually a crapshoot. Of the eight teams I was forced to own, five made the playoffs, and three are still alive (two in the finals, one in the semis). That makes it 1 in 16 that I win all three. (Of course, I pretend to myself that I'm somehow better than my opponents and therefore both deserving and destined to win. But then what happened in the two leagues I lost last week?)
One of the Leagues I Lost
The Yahoo! Sports community should be very proud. Your very own Brandon Funston took down one of the true giants of the sport last week - me. Of course, I would have won by two points had I not subbed in a dinged-up Roddy White (zero) for a healthy Reggie Brown (nine) at the last minute, but hey, you don't get credit for your optimal lineup - just the one you're smart enough to set. Just ask Andy Behrens.
I started White in part because I thought the Falcons would play inspired ball to show up Bobby Petrino for ditching them. So much for that idea. It's also a good lesson: It's foolish to read too much into the motivations of teams and players. I probably bet on the Sacramento Kings five years ago without even knowing Keon Clark was wasted.
Congrats to Brandon who really did have the better team.
I said two weeks ago that Calvin Johnson and Jerious Norwood would have an impact on your playoffs, and they might have in deeper leagues. They also could this week. (Of course, I called Johnson a bust last week). Other players to look at if you're desperate: Dominic Rhodes, Marty Booker, Roydell Williams and Kevin Boss.
Around the League
Beating the Book
- Do the Right Thing
Last week I wrote about how Jamal Lewis made a boneheaded play by scoring a touchdown rather than kneeling down after the game-winning first down, and apparently Brian Westbrook was reading. Either that, or he's just a lot smarter than Lewis. (Actually, Westbrook credited Jon Runyan with telling him to kneel down at the half-yard line once the game-winning first down was achieved). Either way, it was refreshing to see a player do the right thing in the context of the game rather than mindlessly acting out of habit. Of course, I was going against Westbrook in my biggest money fantasy league. His touchdown wouldn't have mattered, but the team I was facing also had Romo and Owens, and if Westbrook had scored, there was a good chance that Dallas would have marched down the field against Philly's prevent defense in short order.
On the other side of the coin, Brian Billick's decision to kick the game-tying field goal on 4th-and-goal from the one with 12 seconds left was one of the dumbest and most cowardly coaching displays I've ever seen. Think about it - the Ravens are a decent running team, and Willis McGahee's having a good year. The winless Dolphins have one of the worst run defenses in the league. The odds of scoring a touchdown are certainly better than 50/50, probably closer to 60 or 65 percent. So instead Billick kicks a field goal (probably has a five percent chance of missing) and opts for overtime which is 50/50. It's like folding a good hand in poker when someone raises because there's a chance you could lose. You need to re-raise in that case - take the risk then and there, put your chips in the middle of the table. In the end, that's far less risky than folding and hoping to get an advantage later. Billick folded the best hand and opted to play a 50/50 one in overtime. And he did this with access to his opponent's cards. I'm just glad Matt Stover missed that field goal so that Billick's folly can be fully appreciated. Also, it's worth remembering that the Ravens are out of the playoffs anyway! Even if the odds were even or slightly worse, he still should have gone for it - this is football. Be a man, for God's sake.
- Why Do Coaches Bother To Punt in Blowouts?
In another reprise from last week, the Lions are down 51-14 with two minutes left. They have the ball on their own 25 or so. Naturally, they bring in their backup quarterback, J.T. O'Sullivan, to get him some work. The Lions fail to complete a pass on first, second and third downs. On fourth and 10, they punt. The Chargers receive the punt, take over at their own 30 or so, and run out the clock by kneeling down. Now, perhaps Rod Marinelli or Mike Martz knows something I don't, but what's the difference whether the Chargers kneel down on their own 30 or your 25? If you'd rather just get the game over with, then why not punt on 1st down, or kneel on the ball yourself? Why bother to bringing in O'Sullivan at all? If you want to get him a little garbage-time work, give him all four downs. Don't just punt because you're on some kind of robotic auto-pilot - like Westbrook, a coach should be aware of the situation and act accordingly. In fact, once you're down more than 30 points in the second half, there's no reason ever to use your punter. The punter can practice on his own, but the backup quarterback needs to get his work in when the bullets are flying.
- Why the Giants loss is good for the NFL (And even for Giants fans)
I'm a Giants fan, and I was rooting for them all game against the Redskins, despite the terrible playcalling down the stretch and their painfully lazy pace when they were down 12, and the clock was under eight minutes - why do teams not know to pick it up before things get desperate? You see teams run the no-huddle two-minute drill all the time, but when you're down two scores, you have to start picking it up as early as possible. It's maddening to see them use three-quarters of the play clock play after play... But back to the point - it's a good thing they lost because now they head to Buffalo which they'll hopefully also lose, and in Week 17 face the undefeated Patriots with their playoff lives on the line. Because had they beaten Washington, they'd be 10-4 with a playoff berth locked up and not much to play for (whether it's the fifth or sixth seed doesn't matter much). In that case, they might sit Plaxico Burress, take Eli Manning out after the first half, etc. What a huge dud that would be as the Patriots seek to become the first 16-0 team ever. Even when the Patriots play an eliminated team like the Jets or Ravens, it's exciting because that team wants to make (or prevent) history. But if you add to that a team that's actually playing for its playoff survival (and at home), then you've got the potential for a truly great game. Let's hope it's windy and nasty in the Meadowlands in Week 17. If that's the case, the Giants can do it. If it's relatively nice out, the Pats will probably roll.
We went 8-8 against the spread in Week 15, putting us at 108-107-9 on the year. We were right about the 49ers here last week, putting our record at 6-9 in this forum.
Broncos +9 at Chargers
The Chargers have been rolling over people at home, but we like the Broncos to show up this week against their division rival, especially now that San Diego has clinched the division and is merely playing to be the three seed rather than the four. The Broncos should be able to throw on the Chargers, while San Diego should be able to run on Denver very easily. We'll take the better passing team and the points. Back Denver.
Chargers 31 - 27
The full article comes out on Thursday morning.
Surviving Week 16
We picked Tampa here, but ended up changing our pick to the Vikings, but no matter. It's true the Vikings made us sweat it out a bit, but that was only due to all the turnovers, and that they still won validates the pick. Of course, Tampa was the better pick.
This week, we're probably backing the Titans at home against the Jets, though we're still considering Tampa in San Francisco. Tampa's more sound and less prone to mistakes, but Tennessee's at home, which is a big deal, and the Titans also have more to play for now that Tampa's locked up the division. So for now, Tennessee's the pick - we give them an 80 percent chance to win this game.
The full article comes out on Thursday morning.
Article first appeared 12/18/07