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Breakfast Table: Salfino and Pianowski Talk Football

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 1:42 AM
Subject: Week 2 Breakfast
To: Scott Pianowski


Though it ended with a dud on Monday night in the wet dream game for everyone who thinks special teams are really important (they generally are not), Week 1 had many surprising turns.

I said with RGIII that you can't expect a Cam Newton every year. Well, I was right in a way. RGIII looks BETTER than Cam Newton. The Jets showed us all that the preseason doesn't really matter. The Bills showed us that the offseason doesn't, either. Peyton showed us that an off season doesn't matter. And the Saints seem to prove that coaching really does have a huge impact on team performance in the NFL. And all that happened after Big Blue's disappointing defense of their crown against Tony Romo and the Cowboys in the season kickoff that by now seems like it belongs in another week.

What else did you take away from the opening slate that may be lasting? And where should we be focusing our attention now? Week 2 Breakfast is served.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 4:29 PM
Subject: too late the hero
To: Michael Salfino


Sure, preseason doesn't matter - ask the Jets. Sure, preseason matters - ask the Falcons. Preseason means whatever one wants it to mean.

But he's Adrian Peterson!

All due respect to that new Broncos quarterback, the Peterson story blew me away. Peyton Manning had two years, essentially, to get his house in order. Peterson blew out his knee for the holidays and had surgery on New Year's Eve. He's not supposed to look this good this soon. (I also thought Jamaal Charles looked terrific, but he's three months ahead of Peterson on the comeback trail.)

The Griffin tape is too good to be believed. I was impressed in real time Sunday (while watching as many games at a time as I could), but when I reviewed every snap Monday I just about fell out of my chair. He's already a wizard with ball fakes, he keeps his downfield focus when scrambling, he's got a strong and accurate arm, and his speed is incredible, especially on the turf. Maybe he should have gone No. 1 after all.

The Saints-Panthers game will tell us a lot. I was stunned to see New Orleans look so ordinary on opening day. A bunch of procedure penalties on offense, which is not what you expect from a veteran group. Brees was uncomfortable in the pocket all day - the Redskins were creative with their pass rush, the brainchild of former New Orleans man Jim Haslett - and the Saints receivers weren't getting any separation. I suppose it doesn't matter when the target is Graham - just throw the ball in his area code and something good can happen. But Marques Colston looked like he was running in quicksand. (Mark Ingram won a Heisman Trophy? Really? Maybe anyone can look good when they're playing with Nick Saban's talent factory.)

I feel silly for missing the boat on the Cowboys upset. Home field doesn't mean a lot in this division - no one is intimidated to go anywhere, and most of the home crowds will turn on their team after a bad 4-5 minutes. Dallas was smart to shorten Tony Romo's drops, and Romo's dreamy pocket awareness was terrific over the final three quarters. I backed off the Cowboys passing game after seeing their OL play in the preseason, but for one day at least, they found a way around it.

It's a quick put-up-or-shut-up game for Green Bay. I think they're fortunate to draw Chicago on the short week, an opponent (specifically, a defense) they know well. But it looks like they'll have to go without Greg Jennings. I go back and forth on Jennings: on one hand he's one of those No. 1 targets that isn't really above the talent level of the other primary guys. Then again, he almost feels like a sharp bassist to me, someone who's reliable, always in tune, the sort of weapon you miss when he's not around. You take John Entwistle out of The Who, you no longer have The Who. But this Randall Cobb experiment excites me.

Call it Packers, 31-23. I still don't trust Jay Cutler to play a full three hours without 4-5 loose throws. The Sunday games will have to wait - I'll give you first crack at the fresh snow. Can the Jets hang with the Steelers in Pittsburgh? Can Matt Ryan mark his territory on Monday night? Can the Niners possibly be as good as they looked in Week 1?

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Subject: Re: too late the hero
To: scott pianowski


I agree with Peterson. But I think we were right to fade him because expecting this miraculous a comeback, time-wise, was a gamble. And I'll gamble when you pay me to. But I'm not going to pay so close to retail and gamble, too. Now Peterson owners, no matter where they are drafting him, are laughing all the way the bank now. But we also do not have a lot of info regarding how well the knee holds up to the wear and tear so soon after surgery. So, even if he is at or near peak, can he maintain it? Will there be swelling/pain/stiffness as the season progresses? Probably not. He's Superman, I guess.

My point with Manning is that most of the foundation for the Peyton faders has been torn down. Those were, "But he's old." "But he's rusty." "But his arm will never be the same post nerve surgery." "But he's on a new team with new players who don't know his offense." All that now is just washed away completely in light of the Steelers game. The only thing left is the re-injury risk, which always was small according to all the reports I've read. It was very nice that Manning got to answer such big questions so decisively his first week back against the best pass defense in football. If he had not looked like, well, Manning, it wouldn't have proved he couldn't come back. But playing like he did I think completely proves that he is back, skill-wise. And I think, perhaps less decisively, it proves that his players need him, not vice versa.

Yes, Griffin. Completing first eight passes with numerous downfield throws was great. There was a 32-yard throw on third down that mostly got called back for a blocking penalty (still a first down though) that really opened my eyes. The coverage was there. The spies were there. I would have bet that he would have taken off and been 50/50 to make it. But he showed such patience, pulling up and throwing a dart to Moss for a catch and run. Just wonderful stuff. Also let's not forget Mike Shanahan's (and Kyle Shanahan's) game plan. Environment is so important in this game, as you know. And how could you be set up better than Griffin right now? I know we knock Shanahan in the fantasy community because of the fickleness with running backs (and it's been injury of late that's caused switches, not mind-changing), but he's one of the great innovators. Heck, it's his offense in Houston, too.

Romo always kills the Giants, it's just that the Cowboys somehow haven't won often despite his 101.9 passer rating versus Big Blue even before the Kickoff Classic. No QB has ever had a higher rating (minimum five starts) against the Giants. But Roger Staubach in his career was 16-1 against the Giants. Think about that.

Wrote in the Journal today about the urgency for the Packers on Thursday. Bottom line, go 0-2 with two home losses, 7.6% playoff probability. Go 0-2 in any way, 12% playoff probability. But most of these teams stink, right? Five teams coming off playoff seasons have done it and one rebounded to make the playoffs - the 2003 Eagles. So let's say the Packers with a loss have a 20% chance? And how do the Packers know the Bears offense now? It's a new one. Cutler averaged 11.4 air yards (not including YAC) per completion on Sunday. Yes, it's the Colts. But that's a sick number.

What is your take about New Orleans? Are you worried about their offense. Do they have to open a furtive communication channel to Payton? Or do you think they will right the ship regardless. Their offense did not look Saints-like, not remotely (pre-garbage/scramble time).

I think a takeaway from the Broncos game is also that the Denver defense is pretty good and that the Steelers really have a hard time blocking. Now the Jets come into town and the Steelers could go 0-2, too. I think that line is a joke by the way. These teams are pretty evenly matched. I think it's a field goal game and Pittsburgh pulls it out. But Stephen Hill scores again. Amazed about how the touts are discounting his Week 1. He's the ninth guy ever to get two TDs and at least 50 receiving yards in Week 1 as a rookie. The other guys their rookie years average 50-860-9, which I declare is Hill's 2012 over/under.

Quick hitters: Really looking forward to the Lions-Niners. I think we can say the Niners are the best team in football now, but I also say that you never want to be the best team now. But they beat the Lions easy. The Randall Cobb thing may just be a gimmick. Rodgers got knocked around in that game, and I think the Packers are going to want to protect with a back if they also have Finley going out. And why pick Cobb over Finley (who can't block anyway)? You should be excited about Alfred Morris, who really dominated the second half of that Saints game, showing a nice running package. Denver over the Falcons, who picked on a defense without its two best players. Manning will destroy the Falcons secondary. Ravens-Eagles will be fun, too. But Vick is too schoolyard still, and Flacco to me got lucky in having at least three throws that should have been picks fall harmlessly to the ground. Still, I will give him credit and the design of the Ravens offense credit - they look good. And it's worth noting they got some sabermetric guys in there, which I find hysterical because years ago I asked Ozzie Newsome about how important he thinks yards per pass play is and he looked at me like I was from Mars.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 4:55 PM
Subject: one tree hill
To: Michael Salfino


I'm not all the way back with Peyton Manning. It's one game. The Steelers were missing some key defensive personnel. Over a quarter of his yardage came on one play, a play that was more about Demaryius Thomas than anyone else. Manning looked sharp, sure, and he certainly made better halftime adjustments than Pittsburgh did. But if one week tells a definitive story, let's put Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan in the Pro Bowl right now, too.

You might like Griffin's setup more than I do. I love the design and the diversity of the Shanahan offense, absolutely. The Redskins won this game on the chessboard as much as they did on the field. But Pierre Garcon is the only wideout who excites me, and he's hurt. It's a subpar offensive line. I don't see a difference-maker in the backfield. I give the Rams close to a 50-50 shot at winning Sunday.

I'm curious to see how the officials call the Thursday night game. Green Bay's two latest meltdowns came in the playoffs (where all sorts of contact is legal) and in a Week 1 game that was very physical downfield (Rodgers complained about it this week). Now maybe the post-game comments of a frustrated quarterback don't matter much, I get that. But those pretty timing offenses (think the Colts back in the 2000s) don't look so pretty when someone gets physical with them - by hook or by crook.

Most of Cobb's receptions were short passes, tosses no more than 1-2 yards downfield. Those are essentially running plays. I still think he has a chance to be special, eventually (look at his catch rate last year tied to his YPC, small sample and all). But Jennings is the type of guy you miss even when he's not the one catching the passes; the Packers use route combinations so well.

Here's the shocking thing about the Saints offense - the Redskins played primarily zone against New Orleans, dared the Saints skill players to beat someone 1-on-1. Graham won a few times, but no one else did much. Sean Payton must have been going out of his mind at home, like the Jeopardy! whiz who knows all the answers but can't get off the couch and onto the show. Washington's pass rush also disrupted things consistently without having to devote heavy personnel to the task. If the interior blocking can't be fixed, the Saints are in big, fat trouble.

Stephen Hill was brushed aside by a lot of summer touts because of that one public drop he had - the gift interception he handed to the Panthers in the dress rehearsal game. It was NBC's Sunday game, made all the highlight shows - and some of the drive-by mainstream media picked up on it. Never mind that Hill had five catches for 68 yards against Carolina that evening. Never mind that Hill was wide-freaking open for an easy touchdown the previous week but Tim Tebow short-hopped the pass. Never mind that Hill was beating established corners in practice all summer. Outsiders see a quick, digestible conclusion and run with it.

Mind you, I still don't know if the Jets offense is any good. Every Shonn Greene rush is a gift to the opponent. Santonio Holmes is a diva's diva, someone you can't trust week-to-week or even snap-to-snap. It's funny how Austin Howard looks like Joe Jacoby at right tackle, simply because he's not Wayne Hunter. Maybe the Bills are simply a terrible matchup for the Jets - Sunday's game felt like a rerun.

I can't use the word "dominant" and "Alfred Morris" in the same sentence. I tried to trade him this week in a couple of leagues, the "lock in early profits" thing and I couldn't give him away. Reggie Bush, negged. Law Firm, negged. Even Randall Cobb was rejected. Meanwhile, my Twitter friends kept telling me how they snagged stuff like Kenny Britt or Percy Harvin or Eric Decker for Morris. It's all about your room.

I watched the Redskins tape specifically to isolate Morris and I didn't see anything jaw-dropping. He did push a couple of runs outside, but mostly this is a straight-line power back. He did consistently push the pile and gain the extra half-yard, that's nice. Mind you, the Saints did hand out 5.0 YPC last year, so he wasn't doing it against the 2000 Ravens. We'll see how much Morris plays when the Redskins have to play catchup against someone. And let's hope the fumbling bug he had in college doesn't creep up again.

Defense doesn't show as much year-to-year continuity as offense, but when you return 11 starters as the Niners did, maybe it doesn't matter. I hate how Detroit matches up for this game, especially considering how one-dimensional the Lions offense is. You can't ask Matthew Stafford to bail out every game with 45-50 passes, no matter that he dug most of last week's hole himself.

San Fran cruises by at least seven points. Falcons by seven. Packers by more than a touchdown. Ask me for a Jets pick this weekend.