The Felix Jones and Reggie Bush Delusion
Did people really count on these guys as third- or fourth-round feature backs this preseason? I'm no stranger to making player evaluation mistakes – I was big on Randy Moss last year – but there's a certain kind of mistake for which one should never forgive oneself: Believing in Something That's Demonstrated to Be False.
Reggie Bush has been in the league a long time – so long that it's beyond question the Texans did the right thing in ignoring conventional wisdom and selecting Mario Williams over him. This isn't a "wait-and-see" situation like Sam Bradford vs. Ndamukong Suh. It's decided: Bush is a pass-catching back who can handle 10 carries a game and provides some added value as a returner. A poor man's Darren Sproles, if you will.
Felix Jones is only in Year 4 – but his yards per carry have diminished in exact proportion to the increase in his workload, bottoming out at 4.3 last year, a poor showing from a back that's almost never used in short yardage. Unsurprisingly, 26 carries into the season Jones is already hurt, and even if he does play this week, he'll be doing so with a handicap and behind a poor offensive line.
Why did people forget Bush's well-established role-player credentials and Jones' inability to carry a heavy load several years into his career? Because both players looked good in the preseason. And this despite the common knowledge that the preseason means virtually nothing from a performance standpoint when we're talking about established players. Always ask yourself whether three weeks of preseason games should outweigh several years of real-game data.
Finally, I find it bizarre that so many people buried Daniel Thomas because he was urged to stop tip-toeing on certain carries during the preseason. Coaches complain about players – especially rookies against whom you can complain with virtually no locker room repercussions – all the time. The complaint about Thomas was in earshot of a reporter apparently. Big deal. My only regret is that I ever moved Thomas down at all as a result, and still had to hear crap for not moving him down far enough!
If there's any hope for Bush and Jones this year, I've just given it to them because another unforgiveable mistake is: Prematurely Concluding Something After Two Games. But I'd be surprised if either were top-30 backs in standard leagues this year.
Too Many Conflicts, Horrifying Resolution
Heading into Monday night, three of my six leagues hung in the balance. The problem was I had the Giants Defense in two of them, but was going against the Giants Defense in one. And I had the Rams defense in that one, but I'm a Giants fan. And I picked the Rams to cover the 6.5-point spread.
So you can see I was hoping for something nearly impossible: a just-good-enough game by the Giants Defense to win two leagues but lose the other, a Giants win and a Rams backdoor cover once the win was out of reach. I also had Ahmad Bradshaw going for the team with the Rams defense. And my opponent in one of the leagues (YF&F) where I had the Giants Defense had Mike Sims-Walker.
In any event, after Sims-Walker went off, it became increasingly clear I needed to root against the Giants Defense and for the Rams'. At least I could salvage a win in the 14-team $100 K NFFC championships, in a week when I had Fred Jackson on the bench and Jamaal Charles in my starting lineup, Kyle Orton on the bench for Joe Flacco and Jerome Simpson on the bench for Lee Evans, switching any of which would have easily won me the week.
As it turned out Bradshaw got just enough yards/receptions, and the Rams defense enough sacks to put me up half a point with two minutes left. As the Giants drove to run out the clock, they wisely went for it on 4th and 1 from the Rams 30 or so, but Brandon Jacobs got stuffed. If he makes it, they take a knee, and it's over. Instead, the Rams offense got the ball one last time, enough for the G-Men to record a sack, and I lost the NFFC by half a point, lost in the YF&F, lost in the FSTA experts league and lost against the spread.
At least the Giants won the game, but it was hardly a performance that portended serious contention.
The Importance of Preventing Kneel-Downs in Your Territory
After the Giants had harrassed and sacked Sam Bradford on the Rams' final series, it was 4th and 28 with about a minute left, the ball inside the Rams' 15, the Rams down 12, no timeouts left. For God knows what reason, coach Steve Spagnuolo elected to punt. While the likelihood of converting 4th and 28 is slim, and even if you do, the likelihood of scoring a TD on the drive, getting the onside kick and scoring another TD is slimmer still, the chances of winning after a punt are essentially zero. The punt simply determined the part of the field on which the Giants would take a knee. Of course, maybe Spagnuolo knows something about Aaron Ross from his days as the Giants' defensive coordinator. Ross fielded and fair caught the punt for no possible reason other than to validate Spagnuolo's decision to kick in the first place, on the off chance he dropped it. Incidentally, a muffed punt/fumble recovery would have won me my game.
Things to Take Away From Week 2
• Cam Newton didn't just own the rookie record for passing yards over his first two games – I imagine he owned the overall record for opening a season (854 yards). That is until Tom Brady (940) broke it that afternoon.
• Ryan Mathews has top-10 upside even if Mike Tolbert stays healthy all year. He has top-1 upside if Tolbert were to get hurt.
• Speaking of which – why are the Chargers ignoring Antonio Gates and throwing so many passes to the RBs? (27 receptions between Mathews and Tolbert over two weeks). In fact, Tolbert leads the NFL in receptions with 17.
• Darren McFadden is a top-3 fantasy back, maybe No. 1 overall. Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy are the only others in the conversation right now.
• Ben Tate leads the NFL in carries. I don't see Arian Foster getting his full time job back all year unless Tate gets hurt again, and even then, someone else might be in on the share.
• Buy low on DeAngelo Williams – the environment is a big upgrade, he's healthy and they didn't give him all that money not to use him.
• Jeremy Maclin is healthy and looks like the Eagles No. 1 receiver (D-Jax will always be a big-play guy, but never a volume one). Of course, the presence of a healthy Michael Vick would help, but that system will make Maclin valuable no matter what.
• Steve Smith is a top-15 receiver. Kenny Britt is top 10.
• I don't know what to make of Matt Hasselbeck. Maybe being banged up and stuck in Seattle held him back, and he's going to re-emerge as a poor man's Kurt Warner (former Pro Bowl QB getting a second career act) in Tennessee.
• John Kuhn is really making the James Starks/Ryan Grant question less interesting. Between him and Aaron Rodgers stealing some goal-line looks, there probably isn't top-10 upside for the GB feature back.
• Matt Forte had more catches than the rest of the Bears' receiving corps combined. He also had 10 of the team's 12 carries. This is not sustainable, but I have no idea who will share the workload.
• Shonn Greene had 16 rushes for 49 yards and a score and two catches for six yards in a 32-3 blowout win at home over the Jaguars. He makes Cedric Benson and Willis McGahee look like upside plays.
• I no longer know the difference between a top-five and top-15 tight end.
Things to Watch in Week 3
• Cam Newton's performance at home against the Jaguars
• The Texans reality check in New Orleans
• The Pats' trip to undefeated Buffalo/Tom Brady's insane passing-yard pace
• The Giants potentially Kafkaesque trip to Philadelphia
• Chris Johnson's numbers at home against Denver
Beating the Book
Lions -3.5 at Vikings
The Lions have looked strong to open the season, but now's probably a good time to sell their stock high, especially after a blowout win over the injury-decimated Chiefs. The Vikings held their own in San Diego, and they don't strike me as a doormat, even if Donovan McNabb is a below-average caretaker at this point in his career. Back the Vikings.
Lions 21 – 20
We barely covered with the Raiders last week to bring our record to 1-1 in this forum. We went 6-9-1 on the week to bring our season record to 14-16-2. We were 10-7 in this forum last season and 40-27 over the four years of the column (we skipped Week 17 in 2007). From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 (53%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Wednesday night.
Surviving Week 3
Last week was uneventful. We won easily with the Steelers, but virtually nobody lost unless you were crazy enough to take the Ravens on the road. This week, there's one overwhelming favorite in the Chargers, and two other double-digit options in the Pats and Steelers.
Let's take a look at the numbers:
|Team||Opponent||% Picked*||Vegas ML**||Vegas Odds|
Home Team in CAPS
* according to OfficeFootballPools.com
** average of the two moneylines
Let's assume, for the sake of simplcitiy, there were 100 people left in your pool. If the Chargers lose, and you survive, that means 45 people would be left. If you had 10 units of equity through Week 2, that would balloon to 22.2 units in Week 3. If you take the Chargers, and the Steelers were to lose, then there would be 84 people left, and you'd have 11.9 units of equity. So the ratio of the Steeler payout to the Chargers' is 22.2 to 11.9 = 1.87.
But according to Vegas, the Chargers have a 12 percent chance of losing, while the Steelers have a 17 percent chance, i.e., the ratio is merely 17:12, or 1.42.
So in sum, the Steelers are 42 percent more likely lose than the Chargers, but should the Chargers lose and the Steelers win, it offers an 87 percent better payout, than if the Steelers won and Chargers lost. Bottom line – this is the week to gamble on the Steelers.
As you can see from the Vegas Odds column, the Pats, Titans and Panthers (the next most common choices) are far too likely to lose to compensate for the slight benefit of even less people being on them.
So my pick this week is the Steelers. Except there's one problem: I used the Steelers last week. So in my pools, I'm taking the Chargers. But if you have the Steelers available, they're the best value. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind when the full article comes out Thursday night.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Chris_Liss