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Breakfast Table: Pianowski and Salfino Talk Football

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Scott Pianowski

Scott Pianowski

Scott Pianowski writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 1:12 PM
Subject: Week 8 Breakfast FIX
To: Scott Pianowski


A Vegas connection sent me up to the minute projected win totals and playoff odds. So let's start there. Most controversially, Dallas is the favorite in the NFC East. The Niners have a 99% chance to win the NFC West. Super Bowl favorites in order are Green Bay (22.8% chance to win), New England (18.4%), New Orleans (12.8%), San Francisco (10.2%) and Houston (9.9%). The Dream Team? 0.4%. That's slightly worse than the Jets (0.5%), slotted behind the Bills who are given a 66.2% chance to make the playoffs. We're getting ahead of ourselves, and I've been down on the Jets as you know, but there is no way the Jets lose in Week 9 in Buffalo and the over/under for yards from scrimmage for the Bills is 270.

But first, Week 8. Another slate of crappy games, which forces us to ask if we're having a crappy season. What's "must see" this week? New England at Pittsburgh on paper, but the Steelers defense never matches up well against Tom Brady's tight-end heavy offense. By the way, the numbers on tight ends are just incredible - catches up 39% from just 2000 with yards up 54% and touchdowns 59%! I know some may say, "Well, there's more passing." But passing yards are only up 21% from 2000. As for the slate this week, I guess Cowboys at Eagles is good enough on Sunday night, but not good enough to keeping me away from recording it while I watch The Walking Dead live. Heh.

Speaking of things that go bump in the night, it's Halloween. I've been posting my all-time best horror movies on SNYWhyGuys.Come to think of it, I don't know in all this time if we've ever talked about horror movies for even a minute. What would top your list? Or are you only in it for the candy corn? Week 8 Halloween Breakfast is served.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 3:38 PM
Subject: candy everybody wants
To: Michael Salfino


We'll have a good chat on the Jets and Bills next week. The DVOA ranks on Football Outsiders have the Jets second, the Bills fourth and the Patriots fifth. Anyone who wants to prop against New England winning this division, get me backstage (and please don't borrow La Russa's bananaphone).

I don't know if it was a happy accident or by design, but the Pats were ahead of the curve on this tight end thing. Last year the detractors said you couldn't be an elite offense with Wes Welker and two tight ends as your main targets. No one's saying that now. This is not to suggest the Patriots are some all-knowing entity; they've missed in the draft as much as anyone. But clicking on Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez looks fantastic now.

To identify decent overlays in the Super Bowl odds, you have to think backwards. Figure out how the fringe teams can go deep in January, and worry about them making the playoffs later. I wouldn't want to draw the Eagles or the Jets in January; they're one level of cleanup away from being very dangerous. Dallas is also in that group. I can see why the Cowboys are the NFC East favorites; the Giants schedule is insanely difficult (after Miami this week, they enter the schedule from hell).

What's the takeaway from Baltimore at Jacksonville? Just a random hiccup? Maybe the Jags defense is better than we realized?

Don't let the slate sour you on the season. Everything's fine. The six teams on bye this week all have winning records (and are a collective 27-15), and last week you had a similar take-out. On the flip side, I'm not buying the new bye-week concern - teams are 3-9 after a rest this week. Mike Lombardi thinks it's because of the new practice rules, but I think it's more about bad teams still being bad after their week off. The 12 teams that combined to go 3-9 after their bye are 25-35 in all other games. That doesn't move the needle for me.

I'm going to disappoint you with Halloween. Despite getting an A in Gerry O'Connor's Horror Story (man I miss college), I've never been into the genre. Halloween to me is candy, girls playing dress up, and a pretty good night to go out and carouse (did I mention girls playing dress up?). Okay, that's the 1990 Pianow talking: next week I'll be staying home, handing out Peanut Butter Cups, and trying to figure out if Philip Rivers is hurt. Suburban life in the 40s.

Growing up in New England, the true freak show was October baseball. There's a famous story about video stores shelving the 1986 Red Sox Highlight Tape in the horror section. But true Boston fans know the 2003 stomach punch was worse; the 1986 team was playing with house money after the Anaheim escape, but the 2003 team had the hated Yankees dead and buried before Grady Little fell asleep.

The 1 pm games are terrible this week (the worst early card I can remember), but I see four later games I'm looking forward to: Pats-Steelers, Cowboys-Eagles (Andy Reid, maestro of the bye week), Chargers-Chiefs (maybe I'm grading loosely) and Broncos-Lions. I love the Tim Tebow story, I don't care how illogical it is. Actually, I think I love it because I know it's illogical, crazy, ass-backwards. You don't have to hit me with your clipboard, I see all the flags and the flaws, too. But I still enjoy watching him.

Better get to the candy aisle before there's a run. What, you're out of Reggie Bars already?

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 10:39 PM
Subject: Re: candy everybody wants
To: scott pianowski


Rufus Peabody I know really respects DVOA. I respect Peabody, but still - the Jets second? Crazy. Maybe they're weighting special teams too much.

Who said that about the Patriots? They had those guys last year and were an elite offense. No one was saying that this year, so are you going into the archives for those quotes back when Moss was first traded? The Pats haven't drafted well but draft success is lucky, I'll bet. Almost purely lucky - maybe 10% skill, tops. No GM or scout in a million years will admit that. But it's no skin off our nose to speak the truth to that. We know this about the mutual fund managers who are in charge of billions - that's been studied a multitude of ways. So of course GMs are the same when it comes to picking players. Stocks, players, what's the difference?

The Eagles? I can't see that at all. I can maybe see the Jets. Remember, Vick was not going to play like last year in 10 or even 20 attempts at a 2011. The Jets are a little more dangerous because Sanchez can play and actually is playing better.

I've thought the Jaguars defense has been good for a while. They were ninth in my rankings a couple of weeks ago and sixth this week. These are not sophisticated stats for general projection purposes (except for red zone possessions). But the circles overlap with fantasy (we're talking there about how they matchup against offenses, not how they score for fantasy). But the story of that Ravens-Jags game is that Joe Flacco isn't good, and I do not think he ever will be. Not saying he's bad. But it's his fourth year, so what you see is what you get, mostly.

Good point on the byes. We've been looking for deep meaning in bye weeks ever since they've been created. I've never bought it. If you're banged up, it's good to get the extra week. Otherwise, it's probably a neutral. You can over-prepare in these games, too. Put in too many plays. Think too much.

Yes, I am disappointed. How can you not like horror movies? The best scares though are the haunted houses with the live actors. My daughter begged me to take her into one in Lake George two summers ago, and I have to tell you, the pulse quickens. She wanted to trail and I told her that was a very, very bad idea because the trailer always gets the big scares like the guy in the Ed Ginn makeup with the chainsaw. But she's a better person for it.

The Patriots beat the Steelers easy as always. Brady will fall short of 400 yards passing only if he gets bored. Note the Steelers are a league worst minus-9 in turnovers and are 5-2. Now turnovers are mostly random and not predictive. But they tend to be very descriptive of why teams win or lose. So the Steelers have survived a real stiff headwind so maybe they are better than we think. The Cowboys are better than their record and thus better, I think, than the Eagles. So Dallas by a TD. The Eagles are a big play team again, but the big plays are now made by the opposing defense off Vick's turnovers. Chargers-Chiefs? Both teams are overrated but I do not think the Chargers are better than 8-8 talent wise even aside from Norv Turner. Rivers has been average at best. The long balls have not been there, which is shocking because he's done that so well despite the below average NFL arm. The Lions can't pass protect, and their defense is extremely overrated - I see them being .500 for the rest of the year but I'll be dramatic and say they finish 8-8. The Bengals are better than the Lions by the way. Cincy is two plays away from being unbeaten. And they are very sound on defense.

Tebow tests the faith of his disciples for 55 minutes (or more) every week before resurrecting at the wire. Let's give him credit for beating the Dolphins at the tape after doing everything possible to hand them a win. Tebow had nothing to do with that onside kick recovery either, by the way. He's like those twisted nurses who purposely just about kill their patients so they can get the credit for saving them. He's an affront to everything I value in sports - objective excellence, the incontrovertibility of (the right) statistics and the fact that it's one of the few true meritocracies. I'm not rooting for him to fail, really, because I don't have to. Tebow stinks. And from a fantasy standpoint, we have to start subtracting sack yards from rushing yards. Even there - he costs you 40 and gets you 65. Big whoop.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Subject: cinema paradiso
To: Michael Salfino


I'm not saying there was a marching picket of doubters on New England's tight end offense last year, but there were dissenters. Maybe there are dissenters on everything. It's a moot point now.

In the fair-play structure of the NFL, we have to give credit to the organizations that can remain competitive for an extended period of time. Some of this is luck, of course, if you hit onto a franchise QB, but there are other common threads with the best organizations. Two things jump out to me: smart clubs are very picky at what players they retain after the player jumps into a new salary bracket, and smart clubs seem to understand how to handle draft-pick currency. The second element might not matter as much in the new system, but if you're in a crazy talent-grab exercise where the top players are treated as automatics (and get paid as such), you might as well go the volume route with cheap picks later as opposed to attacking early. This is why I'm on Cleveland's side on the Julio Jones deal; it's easier to be wrong than right, so run your business as such.

We see the same element in fantasy leagues. Sometimes the worst thing you can do is think you know anything; it locks you out of early and valuable moves because you thought you had the answer key two weeks ago. In so many areas of football, your best asset is a short memory.

Vick was an easy regression call, but that's not a stopping point. Regression to what level? If he's a Top-10 quarterback, how good are the Eagles? I'm not predicting this will be salvaged, I'm merely identifying it as salvageable. There's so much talent here on both sides of the ball, and Andy Reid has earned the benefit of the doubt. Philly is an interesting No. 16 on the current DVOA chart, ahead of seven teams that are .500 or better. How many times are you going to significantly outgain your opponent and throw it all away on turnovers?

If the Eagles had an ordinary opponent this week, I'd pick them to cruise. But I think Dallas is a damn good team. They had Detroit buried under 10 feet of snow and they had no right losing that Jets game either. The New England result could have gone either way but Jason Garrett's endgame spinelessness didn't help the cause. I wouldn't be surprised if both the Eagles and Cowboys finished ahead of the Giants; either way, this will be a three-team battle to the death.

I don't like a lot of popular movie genres, I guess. Action movies bore me to tears, too. I like character studies (think Michael Clayton - no, not the wideout) or nuanced casseroles like the Alexander Payne collection. I'll watch a documentary on almost anything. Or give me something quirky, like the early Wes Anderson stuff. I've never been led around by plot so much; I want a character to take apart and put together again.

Now you know why I usually go to the movies alone. Everyone else wants to see something else. I recognize I'm the problem.

Pats by 3, mostly because I think Pittsburgh is fraudulent on defense, and the Pats had all that time to figure it out. Chiefs hold serve at home - I really don't think Rivers is healthy. Last team to score in Philly wins; call it Eagles by 3. But be honest, you can see either quarterback heroically saving the game or throwing it away with something moronic. Trick or treat.

Tebow didn't recover the onside kick, no. He didn't stop Miami on third and short on possession one in overtime. He didn't get the crucial strip-sack later. And the Broncos didn't let him do anything on the final possession; they played for the lengthy field goal. That's telling. I'm not saying any of your scouting notes and instincts are wrong here.

I'm still not sure John Fox's staff wants Tebow to succeed. The initial game plan - off a bye week - wasn't Tebow-tailored as much as it needs to be. The pass protection was a joke in Miami, and Detroit's defensive line rotation is a major problem. Even if Matt Stafford can't go, Detroit has too much on both sides. Lions get six sacks and a victory.

The Bengals are a "good bad team" - their resume leaves me cold. Seattle has one of the last remaining home-field edges. If Tarvaris Jackson can play (I can't believe I'm saying that), the Seahawks win.

Time to get in character.