This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.Own Your Mistakes
People who give fantasy football and gambling advice get a lot of things wrong. I thought it was laughable, for example, that Christian McCaffrey got pushed into the first round in late NFFC drafts because why else did the team sign C.J. Anderson (just released) except to give him work? We get things wrong all the time, in part because we make bad assumptions and in part because forecasting the NFL is hard.
On Sunday, I came across fantasy pundits in my Twitter feed dismissing reader complaints about being advised to sit Eric Ebron. They seemed to agree it was unreasonable to criticize the Ebron call because he wasn't projected for much volume.
After the game, Mario Puig, our Senior NFL Writer, put it this way in his Job Battles piece:
I have no idea what to do with this one. Ebron threw down what might be the best fantasy output of a tight end this year – certainly the most novel one, after turning three targets into 69 yards and two touchdowns while adding a third touchdown as a runner – but his job security remains irritatingly unclear.
When Jack Doyle returned from his hip issue three weeks ago, Ebron saw just 17 snaps, fewer than not just Alie-Cox but even Ryan Hewitt. That was a game where Indianapolis trailed for an extensive amount of time, so Ebron's low snap total couldn't be explained by the need for run blocking. Even yesterday Ebron only played 20 snaps.
This isn't like with Arizona and Ricky Seals-Jones last year, where he'd play only 12-to-20 snaps yet remained a clear fantasy option because of extreme target frequency on the snaps he did play. Normally three targets just isn't going to cut it for any tight end in particular, and especially not Ebron with his drop tendencies. Perhaps Ebron's extremely explosive pass-catching numbers of late will force Frank Reich to consider escalating his workload, but in the meantime it's concerning that Alie-Cox once again played more snaps than Ebron, logging 23 snaps to Ebron's 20. Doyle played 48 snaps.
Clearly, there was a good case to sit Ebron as he's not getting a snap count that portends big fantasy production. But that case lost at trial. It was the wrong decision, and the result was terrible for whoever had him on his bench. To appeal to what you believed was likely to happen, then, in the face of criticism for a bad call is off base. It's confusing the role of process and result, cart and horse.
The point of having good process, e.g., using the best indicators to forecast performance, protecting oneself against various biases, etc., is to generate good results in the future. Process is a means to an end, not the end in itself. The reason people care about process is that good process often leads to good future results more reliably than good past results do. But good process cannot explain away a bad past result. The process got the forecast wrong and cannot rely on probability retrospectively to exonerate itself. The probability that Eric Ebron scores three TDs against the Jaguars as of today is 100 percent. To argue that sitting him was the right call is arguing that you want more points on your bench and fewer in your lineup. It's nonsensical.
But surely I can understand that's not what they're arguing. They're saying at the time, the probability of a big game on low volume was low, and therefore it was the right call. But you don't know the probability of Ebron having a big game. You know (roughly) the probability generally of players slated for low volume having big games, and you knew (roughly) what kind of volume Ebron might get, but you obviously did not know where he would get those targets, in what formations, against what defenders and with what degree of success. While generally low volume portends low production, Ebron has 10 TDs in nine games and was facing a team whose strength is defending outside receivers rather than tight ends.
Even if given the totality of factors, you still believe the most important one over the long haul for predicting performance is volume, that is only true generally. It was quite clearly wrong in this specific instance. You could argue that we can never know what's going to happen in every specific instance, so we play the odds - we bet on what's most likely to happen generally and realize variance will sometimes determine the specifics. But then you are conceding the point - you were wrong about Ebron in this case because his performance diverged from the base rate of success on which you placed your bet.
Citing the base rate of success is not a defense to getting something wrong. It is an admission that you will necessarily sacrifice the accuracy of everything that departs greatly from the base rate in order to be more right on average over the long haul. While this process might have merit - and it might even be the best process if you're looking to maximize your average result - it not only failed in this case, but it was designed to fail in this and all other outlier cases. Someone who occasionally predicts big games despite uncertain volume for players might do more poorly overall than someone with a base-rate-centric process, but that person also has a chance to steer someone right in situations like this one rather than getting it totally wrong.
I have no problem with base-rate-centric forecasters - as I said, some of them do very well on average, perhaps better than almost all hunch players. But having a process designed to be right on average is no defense to getting specific things wrong. You can't have it both ways - if you're willing to sacrifice outlier performances to be right more often, you can't claim your totally wrong call on the outlier was in fact the right one because it was an outlier! That's akin to saying you were already right no matter what happened, as if your process by its very design isn't explicitly making this very trade-off.
Bottom line, if you get something wrong, own it. Don't pretend your process (which is future oriented) is relevant to what already happened or that your projected average rate of success insulates you from bad calls.
Week 11 Trivia
Apropos of Ryan Fitzpatrick's fourth 400-yard game in 6! starts this year, can you name the seven QBs to have three or more 400-yard games in a single season?
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL|
|Packers at Seahawks||3||3||2.5||0.5|
|Panthers at Lions||-3||-3||-4||1|
|Bengals at Ravens||4.5||3||4||0.5|
|Cowboys at Falcons||3.5||3||3||0.5|
|Texans at Redskins||0||1.5||-3||3|
|Steelers at Jaguars||-3||-4||-5.5||2.5|
|Buccaneers at Giants||6||3||0||6|
|Titans at Colts||2.5||2.5||2.5||0|
|Broncos at Chargers||7.5||7.5||7||0.5|
|Raiders at Cardinals||8||6.5||4||4|
|Eagles at Saints||7.5||7.5||8||-0.5|
|Viking at Bears||2.5||3||3||-0.5|
|Chiefs vs Rams||2||3||2.5||-0.5|
I have two whoppers, the Giants (six points off) and the Cardinals (four points.) Other large disparities are the Redskins (three) and the Jaguars (two and a half.) Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book.
Week 10 Observations
•Carson Wentz got his – 360 yards (8.2 YPA), two TDs and two sacks, but he was lucky not to throw a second pick and never really connected down the field. The Cowboys pass rush was in his face a lot, but you'd like to see him make big plays with outside receivers.
• The Eagles RB by committee featured an effective Josh Adams (seven carries), an ineffective Corey Clement (five) and Wendell Smallwood as the pass catcher (3-for-30.) Adams (if any) seems like the one to own, but we won't know until the game flow is more favorable.
•Dak Prescott played decently, though he threw a would-be pick that was dropped. He went for 270 and a TD, while also running in a score.
•Ezekiel Elliott had a monster game – 187 YFS, six catches and two TDs. He doesn't have as much wiggle as some smaller backs, but he's fast, always moving forward, and at 228 pounds, hard to bring down. He showed his athleticism hurdling a defender and getting extra yardage before losing his balance on a play.
•Amari Cooper (10-6-75) is the clear No. 1 WR and adds another dimension to the offense. The Cowboys paid a lot (first-round pick) to get him, but he could be the missing piece for them to win the division this year.
• I worked my tail off for that Rams cover, only to see them give it away and then nearly lose the game in the closing minute. Between the weak prevent defense and the poor final offensive series, the Rams botched the end game badly. It was also annoying that two of the Seahawks TDs came on drives that were extended by penalties that didn't affect the play (roughing the passer and unsportsmanlike conduct), both of which occurred off-camera.
•Jared Goff had a solid game – 318 yards (8.2) YPA, two TDs, no picks and two sacks. I wanted the Rams to attack down the field more – a play action, deep pass on the last series would have been great rather than the gimmicky jet sweep Seattle read perfectly.
•Robert Woods (5-4-89 and three rushes for 17 more yards) had his usual day, while Brandin Cooks went 12-10-100 and ran in a TD on a jet sweep. Both might see a slight uptick with Kupp likely out. Both receiving TDs went to TEs, Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee, respectively.
•Todd Gurley had a (pedestrian for him) 16-120-1 line with 4-3-40 as a receiver. He always gets his and has now scored a TD in 13 straight games. (The record is 18.)
•Russell Wilson had a big fantasy day – 176 passing yards, three TDs, no picks and 92 yards on the ground. Because rushing yards are typically worth double, that's the equivalent of 360 passing yards. He did lose a fumble and take four sacks.
• It's time the Seahawks leaned on Rashaad Penny, who had 12 carries for 108 yards and looked faster and more nimble than Mike Davis (11-for-58, 6-4-22-1). Chris Carson might return Thursday night against the Packers, so it remains to be seen whether Davis or Penny will be pinched.
• Who besides everyone except Mike McCarthy knew Aaron Jones (15-145-2, 5-3-27) would be good if he only got the chance? I had some fun trolling Packers fans on Twitter:
you're playing checkers, Greg. McCarthy's playing 11-dimensional chess— Christopher Liss (@Chris_Liss) November 11, 2018
• It's Jones' job now, and he's already in top-12 overall territory. Jamaal Williams had three carries for three yards.
• The original Brock Osweiler (5.8 YPA, no TDs, on pick, six sacks, one fumble) showed up again. DeVante Parker had 11 targets before hurting his shoulder. Danny Amendola led the team with a 10-7-72 line.
• I laid the forest with the Chargers (-10) on the road, and it paid off. Even their B-minus game was enough to cover against the Raiders.
•Derek Carr threw away the Raiders' only chance at a cover when with five minutes left in the game on 4th-and-5th he spiked a ball under pressure. The announcers bent over backwards to justify the decision, implying the play had no chance. Yes, there was immediate pressure, but it was fourth and five with the game over on a stop. Any non-brain-dead QB worth throws it up for grabs there. The booth also insisted Carr was without question the Raiders QB of the future. I've defended Jon Gruden in the past, but if he sticks with Carr beyond this year, I'm out.
•Melvin Gordon (18-for-93, 6-5-72-1) had another monster game. If you ranked him second overall I wouldn't argue with you too much.
•Keenan Allen went 9-6-57-1, while the announcers went on and on about how great he was. Allen is a competent possession receiver, but he'll never be a gamebreaker like Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones or the other true greats of the game.
•Philip Rivers did his usual (8.6 YPA and two TDs), though he did throw a pick. But on the (Derek) Carr scale™ it was a minor one, a downfield throw on third-and-long that served as a slightly below average punt. Tyrell Williams went 6-4-46, while Mike Williams didn't receive a single target.
• Carr is now a caretaker who isn't even covering the spread, and though he didn't throw a pick, he lost a fumble and took four sacks. Doug Martin had 15 carries, while Jared Cook and Jalen Richard combined for 15 targets.
•Ryan Fitzpatrick had his fourth 400-yard passing game of the year, but the Bucs had only three points to show for it. The booth in this game was obsequiously praising Fitzpatrick for his grittiness (he tried and failed to throw a block!), even though he threw two picks, lost a fumble and took two sacks. Chandler Catanzaro missed two short field goals, but most of the red-zone failures were on the QB. Even so, he's been named the starter for Week 11, which means the Bucs might already have moved on from Jameis Winston.
•Mike Evans had a modest 6-3-51 game, while Chris Godwin (7-7-103) and Jacquizz Rodgers (8-8-102) led the team. DeSean Jackson went 8-5-67, catching only short throws. O.J. Howard disappointed with a 2-1-15 line, and Peyton Barber had 13 carries for 61 yards.
•Maurice Harris (5-5-52) again led the team in receiving while Jordan Reed (6-4-51) was a close second. Josh Docston (4-4-46-1) scored for the second straight week. Adrian Peterson had 19 carries for 68 yards.
• The Jets managed to fix the Dolphins defense last week and the Bills offense this week. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, they have a bye in Week 11.
•Real Man behavior here:
Real man walks the walk: pic.twitter.com/d5zbRtmz8d— A Real Man Would... (@Real_Man_Would) November 12, 2018
•Matt Barkley (9.3 YPA, two TDs, no picks, one sacks) looked like Joe Montana. It's never been easier to play quarterback in the NFL, and it shows just how terrible Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen have been.
• Someone named Robert Foster (4-3-105) led the Bills in receiving. Zay Jones saw 11 targets and had eight catches for 93 yards and a score. Kelvin Benjamin, who I started in a league, went 3-0-0, despite at least one target in the end zone.
• The Cardinals covered the 16.5-point spread like bosses, sacking Pat Mahomes five times and slowing down his assault on the record books.
•David Johnson (21-98-1, 9-7-85-1) finally had the game you expected when you drafted him at 1.3. Good riddance to Mike McCoy.
• Mahomes still managed 249 yards, two TDs, no picks and 21 rushing yards. Tyreek Hill (10-7-117-2) led the way and added a 20-yard run. Travis Kelce (7-6-46) and Kareem Hunt (16-for-71, 2-2-25) had modest games.
•Blake Bortles had a nice game – 320 passing yards (8.2 YPA), two TDs, no picks and no sacks. Donte Moncrief (4-3-98-1) scored on an 80-yard bomb, while Leonard Fournette 5-5-56-1 and T.J. Yeldon (6-5-51) made impacts in the passing game.
• Fournette struggled to find room 21-53-1 in his first game back from his season-long hamstring injury, but between that and the passing numbers, he had a big fantasy day. Carlos Hyde had three carries for five yards.
•Andrew Luck had 295 yards (9.8 YPA) against the Jags stingy pass defense, threw three TDs and one pick. He didn't take a single sack.
•Eric Ebron went 3-3-69-2 and scored an odd rushing TD, all in the first half. T.Y. Hilton (7-3-77) led the team in receiving, while Dontrelle Inman (4-4-41) and Jack Doyle (3-3-36) chipped in modestly. Marlon Mack (12-for-29) was a non-factor.
•Tom Brady had a disappointing game before being pulled in the fourth quarter. He had only 6.2 YPA, took three sacks and failed to throw a TD. Julian Edelman (12-9-104) and Josh Gordon (12-4-81) led the way, while James White (8-5-31) did little with his targets.
•Marcus Mariota (9.5 YPA, two TDs) had another strong game, post glove-removal. He also ran for 21 yards, but took two sacks.
•Derrick Henry went 11-58-2 from your bench, while Dion Lewis had only 57 yards on 20 carries. Corey Davis (10-7-125-1) had a nice game, while Jonnu Smith (3-3-45-1) scored for the second straight game.
•Matt Ryan had 330 yards, two TDs and no picks, but only 6.3 YPA, took two sacks and lost a fumble. Julio Jones (11-7-107-1) is a TD machine the last two games. Austin Hooper (11-10-56-1) also scored. Calvin Ridley (5-3-37) and Mohamed Sanu (8-6-47) were minor factors.
•Baker Mayfield threw three TDs (10.8 YPA), no picks and took no sacks. In fact, he had only three incomplete passes the entire game and rushed for 20 yards.
•Nick Chubb was the other offensive star of the game – he went 20-176-1 and 3-3-33-1. No Browns receiver had more than five targets or 39 yards, however.
•Drew Brees barely broke a sweat – 265 yards (10.8 YPA), three TDs, no picks and no sacks. He also had a QB sneak for a TD.
• The Saints big-two (Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas) had their usual massive games. Kamara went 12-56-2 and 5-4-46, while Thomas put up an 8-8-70-2 line. Mark Ingram got in on the action with 13 carries for 104 yards and three catches for 58 yards and a TD. Everyone has their way with the Bengals defense this year, though.
•John Ross, last year's disappointing No. 9 overall pick, went 6-2-39-1 at least. In this QB-rich environment, players like Andy Dalton are fine as one-year rentals, but there's no reason to hitch yourself to them for the long term. There's even less reason to extend a mediocre coach like Marvin Lewis. The Bengals have to be on the short list of teams that are furthest away from future Super Bowl contention.
•Mitchell Trubisky might not be a great real-life QB, but he's pretty good for fantasy. He passed for another 355 yards and three TDs, while running for 18 more and a TD on the ground. He didn't throw a pick and took only one sack.
•Allen Robinson went for 8-6-133-2 on your bench, while Anthony Miller put up a 6-5-122-1 line. Tarik Cohen was useful in PPR with 7-6-29 and a short rushing TD. Jordan Howard was just 11-for-21 and caught one pass for 11 yards.
•Matthew Stafford took another six sacks (16 the last two games) and threw two picks. At some point a bad start becomes a bad year. Marvin Jones went 7-3-55 before leaving with a knee injury in the third quarter, while Kenny Golladay went 13-6-78-1. It wasn't efficient, but if Jones is out, Golladay should see a lot of volume.
• Both Theo Riddick (7-6-60) and Kerryon Johnson (6-6-38-1) saw extensive work as receivers, something that should continue with Golden Tate gone, and especially if Jones misses time. Johnson (14-51-1 on the ground) scored twice, but lost a fumble.
• Despite Odell Beckham's production, Eli Manning managed only 188 yards (6.1 YPA), three TDs, no picks and one sack. He stood in the pocket longer and made nice throws on all three TDs passes, particularly the two to Beckham. But his throws to a wide-open Evan Engram (behind him) and a couple to Saquon Barkley, especially on a near pick, lacked touch. And he missed Beckham wide open at the goal line, opting instead for a failed hand-off to Barkley which forced the Giants to settle for the field goal.
My guess is unless Manning has a three-pick, terrible game, the Giants will ride his carcass until the end of the year, cut Kyle Lauletta, who got arrested last month, and draft a QB next April. But I'd like to see them at least give Lauletta, on whom they spent a fourth-round pick, a shot.
•Saquon Barkley had a quiet game, but still managed 100 YFS and four catches. He had little room to run on most plays. Beckham went 11-4-73-2, but Manning left a lot on the table. Beckham did have one bad drop on the first series, though.
•Evan Engram went 5-4-46, most of it on the final drive. He was virtually ignored for the rest of the game. Sterling Shepard caught the game-winning TD, but went only 3-2-9-1. He did have a 27-yard run though. Corey Coleman did a nice job in the return game and caught one pass for 11 yards. He was the first receiver taken in the 2016 draft.
•Nick Mullens looked reasonably competent, though his numbers – 250 yards (6.4 YPA), one TD, two picks and no sacks – were pedestrian. He hung in the pocket and converted some key third downs, but he's small and not especially mobile. It doesn't look like there's much upside.
•Matt Breida was the offensive star of the game – 17-101-1 on the ground and 4-3-31-1 through the air. He has no real competition for the job, so it's simply a matter of staying healthy. He was too fast for the Giants defense and tough to bring down despite his light frame. If he stays involved in the passing game, look out.