This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.For the podcast version of this article, click here.
The Ideal Draft
If I knew in August what I know now, here's how I would have drafted:
Round 1: Stephen Gostkowski - He's money every year.
Round 2: Broncos Defense - They're so loaded this year.
Round 4: Allen Robinson - The Jaguars passing game has as lot to offer this year. Sidebet anyone?
Round 5: Larry Fitzgerald - He's only 32, and besides he was never fast anyway.
Round 6: Devonta Freeman - The Falcons offense is terrible, but I think they'll use him a ton in the passing game.
Round 7: Eric Decker - I'm all in on the Jets pass catchers.
Round 8: Michael Crabtree - Oakland is the perfect landing spot for him to resurrect his career.
Round 9: DeAngelo Williams - He'll be a monster for the first two games, and who knows?
Round 11: Jordan Reed - Injuries are mostly just luck. Reed is a monster when healthy.
Round 13: Carson Palmer - I should be able to cobble something together with the Dalton/Palmer combo.
Round 14: Doug Baldwin - Sometimes you need a low-upside, steady-Eddie.
Round 15: Allen Hurns - All in on the Jaguars and Jets passing games. Keep the side bets coming!
Round 16: Blake Bortles - You can't go all-in on the Jags passing game without the quarterback.
Round 20. Gary Barnidge - The Browns have to target somebody.
With 20/20 hindsight you could obviously draft a better team, but this one would be the most mocked and generate the most sides. And there's no doubt it would be sitting on the No. 1 seed heading into this weekend's games.
Failure is the Biggest Factor
I thought I had a good chance to advance in the $10K Stopa Law Firm playoffs. I just needed decent games from Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant to complement the guaranteed production I would get from Devonta Freeman. Plus, I liked Travis Benjamin's matchup against the 49ers with Johnny Manziel back. The concern was I drew Dalton Del Don's team at the wrong time. He had Jameis Winston going at home against the Saints as well as Brandin Cooks and Doug Martin in that game, and really, T.J. Yeldon getting the Colts, too?
Of course, none of those players did anything, and I won my matchup by 43 points thanks to Jordan Reed, Blake Bortles and Eddie Lacy. We like to think our sharp drafting and keen in-season decision making will make the difference, but it's often just a matter of the other team's players falling apart more completely than your own. As I wrote earlier in the year, the only thing you can do is stay active, keep making moves. No matter how formidable your opponent's roster looks, it can ditch him at a moment's notice. Go to your waiver wire and get someone with a job - even if it's Isaiah Crowell or Tim Hightower - into your lineup every week. Ugly teams with active owners can win championships.
Familiarity Breeds Unders?
My TYT Sports co-host Ben Mankiewicz told me he's been winning money betting the under when divisional rivals meet for the second time, the theory being familiarity helps the defense. While it wasn't the case for the Colts-Jaguars or Steelers-Bengals games in Week 14, it was for the Saints-Bucs, Chiefs-Chargers and Broncos-Raiders. And the Colts-Jags had three defensive/special teams scores, the Steelers-Bengals had a pick-six, and most of the key skill players Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Allen Robinson under-performed.
If Mankiewicz's theory were true, it would have huge implications not only for sports betting, but also for DFS. Fade the Bucs-Saints, target the Giants-Dolphins (the least familiar teams) each week. While a 10- or 20-year study would be necessary to test it rigorously, I did a quick one dating back to the start of Week 7 (the first week two teams met for the second time) and tracked their O/Us and results since then:
|MIN-DET||44.5||28-19 MIN||O||0||Week 7|
As it turns out, 12 games have gone over, 10 under and one was a push. So in a 23-game sample, the theory hasn't been borne out. Moreover, the average O/U for these games was 45.2, and the average total is 46.8, so collectively they've gone over too. But we need a bigger sample to draw any real conclusions. Coming up, there are only two divisional games this week, seven in Week 16 and 16 in Week 17, though Week 17 is likely to be noisy given some teams' lack of incentives. Bottom line, I probably won't make any major decisions based on the theory, but I won't dismiss it without further study, either, because it makes intuitive sense.
Week 14 Observations
• The Dolphins and the Giants have to be two of the stupidest teams in the NFL. The Giants couldn't run the ball to save their lives (3.2 YPC), but kept handing it off (29 runs) even though Eli Manning was 27-for-31, (10.9 YPA), with four TDs and no picks. The Dolphins, by contrast, couldn't pass (5.8 YPA), but attempted 41 throws and gave the ball to Lamar Miller (7.4 YPC, 2 TDs) only 12 times.
• The Dolphins are so stupid not only did they throw 41 times, but they barely got the ball to rookie Davante Parker, whose development should be their raison d'etre the last four weeks.
• Candidates for stupidest team in the NFL include: Giants, Dolphins, Browns, Lions, Chargers, Titans, 49ers, Redskins, Cowboys, Packers (don't be fooled by their record, having Aaron Rodgers masks a lot), Falcons and Colts. I'm probably leaving out 5-6 too.
• I didn't love the blitz of DFS ads this season, but direct-to-consumer drug commercials are an order of magnitude more annoying and also socially more problematic. When the potential side effects of something are paralysis and death, maybe you shouldn't be hawking it over the airwaves.
•Derek Carr and the Raiders never get despondent. Even after getting minus-12 yards in the entire first half, they made adjustments against the league's best defense, moved the ball and won the game. Khalil Mack's dominant five-sack performance didn't hurt, either.
•Andy Dalton's likely season-ending hand injury is awful. The Bengals were one of the elite teams in the league this year, and if he can't return at 100 percent for the playoffs, they're toast.
•Thomas Rawls' broken ankle hurts the Seahawks, to be sure, but they'll be okay, and Marshawn Lynch should be back for the playoffs. It's devastating to fantasy owners, however, as Rawls was arguably a top-five back and seemed in line for a massive game.
•Russell Wilson was a disappointment until the weeks ago, and Doug Baldwin was a moderately useful possession receiver with no upside. Now they're like Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. With Rawls out, the Seahawks could remain pass heavy with Baldwin and Tyler Lockett being the prime beneficiaries.
• Once again the Falcons were given way too much respect by the oddsmakers, but after losing 38-0, I'm pretty sure that's over with. Julio Jones was shut down by Josh Norman before getting a few meaningless catches in garbage time. Jones has only two TDs in his last 10 games.
•Todd Gurley broke out of his slump against a Detroit defense that had been stopping the run of late. Maybe having Case Keenum under center makes a difference somehow. In any event, he's once again a top-five back.
•Johnny Manziel had a strong game albeit against a weak 49ers defense. I watched a lot of it, and he looked sharp and in command. If the Browns bring in a coach who will let him be, I think Manziel will work out.
• I started Blake Bortles over Eli Manning, and after a terrible first half, I was worried. But Bortles threw an 80-yard TD to Allen Hurns early in the second half, and his QB sneak for a TD in garbage time was a gift.
• The Patriots are still the favorites to win the Super Bowl in my opinion, now that Rob Gronkowski is healthy and Julian Edelman is on his way back. This year's team has arguably their best offense/defense balance in the Brady era. With Dalton out, and the Broncos losing today, the Patriots should land the No. 1 seed, and the Panthers have a tougher road in the playoffs with the Seahawks and Cardinals in the NFC. (The Steelers would be dangerous if they make it, but as of right now, they're behind the Jets and Chiefs in the Wild Card race.)
• It occurred to me while watching a McDonalds commercial Sunday that the Gates of Hell are probably Golden Arches.