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East Coast Offense: Preseason Fantasy Props

Preseason Fantasy Props

I was cleaning out my desk the other day and came across a Caesars Palace prop sheet from the preseason:

Player with Most Passing Yards

Player Line
Aaron Rodgers 5/1
Drew Brees 5/1
Philip Rivers 5/1
Tom Brady 13/2
Matt Schaub 7/1
Peyton Manning 8/1
Matt Ryan 12/1
Eli Manning 18/1
Tony Romo 18/1
Matthew Stafford 18/1

So far, QBs have largely performed according to this list with Brees, Rodgers and Brady in the top three and Rivers in the top five. In fact, of the top-10, only Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub didn't make it, with Schaub narrowly missing the cut before he got hurt. Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger took their places. Michael Vick, curiously was 25/1 before the year, a sucker bet, which has also been the case in fantasy.

Player with Most Rushing Yards

Player Line
Adrian Peterson 4/1
Arian Foster 5/1
Jamaal Charles 6/1
Chris Johnson 8/1
Michael Turner 8/1
Maurice Jones-Drew 10/1
Ray Rice 18/1
Frank Gore 20/1
Rashard Mendenhall 20/1
Daniel Thomas 20/1

Not surprisingly, this list looks nothing like the current rushing leaders. LeSean McCoy, who was 30/1, leads the NFL, Matt Forte (50/1) is third and Fred Jackson (not listed) is fifth despite missing the last game and a half. Running backs are notoriously hard to predict, and at this point, the best chalk bet looks like MJD who at 10/1 is second, 10 yards behind McCoy. I have no idea why Daniel Thomas was higher than McCoy, Forte and so many other proven backs.

Player with Most Receiving Yards

Player Line
Andre Johnson 7/2
Roddy White 4/1
Larry Fitzgerald 5/1
Greg Jennings 8/1
Reggie Wayne 10/1
Vincent Jackson 12/1
Chad Ochocinco 15/1
Hakeem Nicks 18/1
Miles Austin 20/1
Wes Welker 20/1
Calvin Johnson 20/1

Welker and Johnson are first and third, respectively, while Steve Smith (30/1) is second. Jimmy Graham and Victor Cruz (both unlisted) round out the top five, and Mike Wallace (30 to 1) is sixth. Of the top five Vegas favorites, only Fitzgerald and Jennings are in the top-10, with Roddy White 11th. It's strange to see Ochocinco so high, but given his name-value and that he was a top-25 WR on most boards despite not being a red-zone threat, it makes some sense for Vegas to have set the line there for yardage.

These props measure yardage only, so of course Welker's PPR numbers or Calvin Johnson's TDs alter the landscape. But most players produce fantasy points in fairly close proportion to yardage, and significant deviation from it is often due to luck. Moreover, these lines are about upside only as finishing second in these categories doesn't pay. But often it makes sense to target players with the greatest upside, especially in leagues where less than a third of teams make the playoffs. I'd consider them a decent counterpoint to ADP next year. Incidentally, the one bet I really liked (but didn't get a chance to make for logistical reasons) was Eli Manning at 18/1 to lead the league in passing.

Inadmissibility of Hearsay for Use in Lineup Decisions

This week's pre-game report from CBS about Ryan Mathews is a good illustration of how unreliable so much available information is. Apparently Dan Fouts spoke to Norv Turner the night before, and Turner told him Mathews would be limited with Mike Tolbert getting most of the work. Fouts passed this onto CBS, and everyone (including us) passed on the CBS info. But this information was "hearsay," i.e., it was based on what Fouts heard Turner say, and CBS didn't have occasion to cross examine Turner directly. In other words, there was no way for us to know whether it was an offhand remark by Turner, or a set-in-stone game plan. (Let's leave aside the question of whether Turner is competent to execute any game plan at this point). It's much better when a beat writer reports on something directly observed, e.g., a player limping in warm-ups at least we can know that he saw something and don't have to wonder if anything was lost in translation. In this age of everyone running to Twitter to break news, you have to be as discerning as possible about what information is reliable. The hearsay rule designed for determining the admissibility of evidence in a court of law is a decent guide.

Is Tim Tebow's Run Sustainable?

It still boggles my mind that the Chargers were seven point favorites over the Broncos last week. Believe what you want about Tebow (many do) but the Broncos with him under center have consistently made key plays down the stretch while the Chargers have pioneered ways to fall apart. In other words, for these Chargers to cover a seven-point spread, they'd have to outplay them by 30 or more. And for those of you who think stats are better indicators of future performance than scouting reports, it's worth re-examining Tebow's body of work at Florida. (Hat tip: RotoWire reader TDavis3341).

Of course, many such as Yahoo!'s Jason Cole believe Tebow's run is unsustainable. Cole cites Denver's meager scoring output in Tebow's wins and that NFL teams that score less than 20 rarely come out on top (21-111 this year). But that line of reasoning is a little misleading as the Broncos under Tebow run the ball far more than any team in the league. That keeps the clock moving and leads to fewer possessions for both teams. While that's not necessarily an advantage, it does lead to lower scoring games and increases the likelihood that Denver will win while scoring less. Rather than the low scoring, the better argument against Tebow's sustainability would be to show how rarely teams win with his per-play efficiency. But if you do that, you have to factor in Tebow's lack of turnovers (1 INT, zero lost fumbles) and only three sacks in four games since John Fox installed the "read option" offense.

Why Can't Darrelle Revis Guard Stevie Johnson

Having taken the Jets, a team I almost always root against, in Survivor this week, it was curious, i.e., infuriating, seeing Darrelle Revis unable to cover Stevie Johnson. Johnson is shifty he made a great move to score a touchdown against Corey Webster in the Giants matchup but Revis has handled receivers from Wes Welker to Andre Johnson without a problem. Thankfully Johnson shot himself in the foot, so to speak, by dropping what would have been the game-winning touchdown twice.

Things to Take Away from Week 12

Matt Stafford's play on Thanksgiving made me thankful the Giants have Eli Manning instead. But Tony Romo made some sensational plays, escaping sure sacks in the second half against a game Dolphins defense. In fact, the level of play in the second half of that game seemed very high to me, not that it means anything going forward. Between Stafford, Sam Bradford (and of course JaMarcus Russell), a lot of recent No. 1 overall QBs haven't exactly set the world on fire.

I didn't get to watch much of the Ravens-49ers game because of Time Warner's inability to do a deal with the NFL Network. It's a disgrace that every NFL game isn't available either on every major cable operator or online for a fee. The DirecTV monopoly needs to end.

After Roy Helu, Jr. torched the Seahawks' stout run defense, Mike Shanahan's decision to waste an extra game and a half with Ryan Torain is even more unconscionable. This was after Helu had already broken out against the one of the best defenses in the league in San Francisco. I get that Shanahan's won two Super Bowls, but at some point you need to get something right in this century.

Why wasn't Ryan Mathews on the field for the team's final two offensive snaps (Tolbert two runs for -3 yards, setting up a missed FG)? Apparently, Norv Turner didn't know, either.

Having the Colts +3.5, it was beyond frustrating they couldn't score on first and goal from the three with 43 seconds left. For God knows what reason, Jim Caldwell didn't dare run the ball against the league's worst rushing defense, instead putting it in Curtis Painter's hands which resulted in a pick (Hat tip: Peter Schoenke). They were down eight, and I would actually have been ectastic had they scored and failed on the two-point conversion. The beauty of having Caldwell as a coach is the Colts can guarantee themselves the rights to Andrew Luck without overtly tanking.

Tampa Bay's rushing defense is one of the league's worst, allowing 190 yards and 8.3 YPA to Chris Johnson Sunday. Don't overrate Johnson on account of that showing, and be sure to start backs against the Bucs whenever possible. Of course, the same can be said for a banged-up Beanie Wells and the Rams.

Don't give up on C.J. Spiller just yet. The Jets have been awfully tough against the run of late, stuffing Willis McGahee and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the two previous games.

Tom Brady passed for 361 yards (10.6 YPA) against the Eagles Sunday, but all his completions went to just four receivers (Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez).

That Vince Young shot-putted the ball for 400 yards Sunday and Michael Vick finished second in the MVP voting last year shows the upside quarterbacks have in Andy Reid's system. In fact, considering how horrible Donovan McNabb's been since leaving it, one wonders how much of his success was due to Reid. Reid might be gone at the end of the year, but if he winds up as an offensive coordinator somewhere, bump up whoever his quarterback is significantly.

That the Giants were still trying to establish the run down 18 with a few minutes to go in the fourth quarter is an indictment of their coaching staff. Never mind that they're the worst running team in the league and missing their best back the game situation required urgency and passing, regardless. That Da' Rei Scott fumbled on the play was fitting.

I'm not against celebrating after a score, and I'm not overly sensitive to taunting at the pro level after all, if you have a thin skin you probably shouldn't play tackle football in front of millions every week. But Brandon Jacobs going nuts after scoring to cut the deficit to 11 in a borderline must-win game for his slumping team is just embarrassing. You're not having a good year, and your team isn't playing well. STFU and encourage your abysmal defense to make a stop. It would be nice to see defensive coordinator Perry Fewell rush more than three on occasion, too. When Drew Brees has 10.0 YPA, 350 yards, 4 TDs and no picks through three quarters, you might want to switch it up.

The Saints are more loaded than they've ever been with a healthy Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore, an emerging superstar tight end in Jimmy Graham and a dangerous receiving back in Darren Sproles to go along with a power runner in rookie Mark Ingram. Their defense isn't very good, though, but that's only going to push Drew Brees toward breaking Dan Marino's record for passing yards.

Things to Look for in Week 13

The Texans' top rushing offense against the Falcons' stout rushing defense

The Bengals' rematch against the Steelers in Pittsburgh

The Patriots as 20-plus point favorites over the Colts (only the fourth time since 2000 a team has been that heavily favored).

The Packers look to go 12-0 against the reeling Giants

The Lions try to bounce back in New Orleans

Beating the Book

Packers -8 at Giants

The Giants have been an abomination of late, while the Packers are without question the league's best team. Still, New York can't but be up for a must-win contest against the undefeated defending Super Bowl champs, and the Giants have the personnel at least in theory to hang around. Unless Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride waste half the game trying and failing to establish the run, the Giants keep this one close enough. Back New York.

Packers 30 - 24

Last week we won with the Broncos to go 7-5 in this forum, 8-8 on the week and 83-88-5 overall. 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 against the spread (53%, not including ties). The full article comes out Wednesday night.

Surviving Week 13

Last week, I nearly bit it with the Jets, but all's well that ends well. Almost nobody else lost as every sizeable favorite handled its business fairly easily, with the exception of the Steelers who held off the Chiefs. Let's take a look at this week's slate:

Team Opponent % Picked* Vegas ML** Vegas Odds
49ERS Rams 33.90% 600 86%
BEARS Chiefs 22.90% 310 76%
PATRIOTS Colts 20.40% 2000 95%
Ravens BROWNS 5.90% 260 72%
SAINTS Lions 5.00% 370 79%
STEELERS Bengals 2.00% 260 72%
BUCCANEERS Panthers 1.90% 175 64%
Cowboys CARDINALS 1.70% 200 67%
Jets REDSKINS 1.70% 150 60%
Chargers JAGUARS 0.80% 135 57%

Home Team in CAPS
* according to OfficeFootballPools.com
** average of the two moneylines

The Pats are the obvious play here, given their ridiculous 95 percent chance of winning, but most of you have probably used them by now. My choice is between the 49ers and the Bears. The Niners have a 14-percent chance to lose versus the Bears' 24 percent chance, but 34 percent of the field is on the Niners, while 23 percent is on the Bears.

If we use our hypothetical 100-person, 10-unit pool, a 49ers loss gives you 15.15 units of equity, while a Bears loss gives you 12.99 units. That ratio is 1.17, i.e., taking the Bears offers a 17-percent better payout. But Chicago is more likely to lose by a 24 to 14 ratio, i.e., they're 71 percent more likely to go down. So my pick is the Niners. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind before the full column comes out on Wednesday night.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Chris_Liss