This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
Some of you are probably familiar with the Pareto Principle wherein 80 percent of the outputs come from 20 percent of the inputs and vice-versa. For example, 20 percent of a restaurant's customers might account for 80 percent of its revenue, or 20 percent of the population might have 80 percent of its wealth. I don't know how precise it is, but it seems true that a small percentage of causes account for a large percentage of effects.
It struck me while watching the 40-minute version of the awful Rams-Bears game that this principle could be applied to the import of NFL games. I had the Bears plus 6.5, and as I watched the cover slip away, I thought there isn't much to take away from this. Just like the Chargers-Chiefs Monday night didn't say much about the relative strength of either team. It could have gone either way but for a few calls and bounces. Of course, the games might mean quite a bit for the NFL playoff picture, but had Philip Rivers thrown a TD on that last pass instead of a pick, and then lost by a FG in overtime, it wouldn't have said anything different about the teams.
We can quibble about which games have meaning and which don't, and how much is knowable at the time, but my thought was maybe 20 percent of games actually tell us something important about the teams, where the market price was wrong and has to be re-set going forward. Or, put differently, that 20 percent of the time there's a side to be on, whereas the other 80 percent, the market was roughly correct, with the results (even if ostensibly lopsided) turning on a couple calls or odd bounces.
That would mean for 80 percent of the games it doesn't matter which side you picked – even if variance makes it seem important in the short run – but where you really make your money is on the 20 percent where something meaningful happens, something that yields new information and understanding about the teams.
I've already thought this with respect to drafting in fantasy football (and baseball.) Let ADP/projections be your guide on most players, but decide which 5-10 you'll push up and which 5-10 you'll avoid. Injuries will distort the results on many more than that, but if you were on Dalvin Cook and Michael Thomas and off Le'Veon Bell and Odell Beckham, on Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott and off Baker Mayfield and Aaron Rodgers, your teams are probably contending right now, given an average smattering of hits and misses elsewhere.
In some ways it's more satisfying to be dead wrong about a game, than wrong in the result, but justified in your position. With the former, you get something for your money – new information, an opportunity to clean up your process, the closure from ditching a bad idea. In the latter, you still lost the money and have nothing to show for it.
It's something I'm trying to keep in mind when I'm rooting for a backdoor cover or garbage-time PPR points for my fantasy teams. That discerning meaning is the real purpose of this exercise and once the cover is blown or the fantasy contest over, it's not worth another moment's thought.
Week 12 Trivia
Apropos of Lamar Jackson's insane year, can you name the players who have averaged more than 22 fantasy points per game from the QB position (minimum five games), with a 25/10, 6/4 scoring system (minus 2 for interceptions.)
Guessing the Lines
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL||O/U||Actual O/U||MO-AO|
|Colts at Texans||3||3||3.5||-0.5||43||45.5||2.5|
|Broncos at Bills||3||3||4.5||-1.5||40||37||-3|
|Giants at Bears||3||6||6||-3||44||40.5||-3.5|
|Steelers at Bengals||-2.5||-3.5||-6.5||4||43||39||-4|
|Dolphins at Browns||10||9.5||10.5||-0.5||51||44||-7|
|Buccaneers at Falcons||4||3||4||0||47||52||5|
|Panthers at Saints||8.5||9||9.5||-1||47||47||0|
|Seahawks at Eagles||-4.5||-3.5||1.5||-6||48||49||1|
|Lions at Redskins||-2.5||-3||-3.5||1||43||42||-1|
|Raiders at Jets||-2.5||-1.5||-3||0.5||47||45.5||-1.5|
|Jaguars at Titans||6.5||5.5||3||3.5||43||41.5||-1.5|
|Cowboys at Patriots||6.5||6.5||6.5||0||44||46||2|
|Packers at 49ers||3.5||3||3||0.5||46||46||0|
|Ravens at Rams||-3||-3||-3||0||46||46.5||0.5|
I was way off on the Dolphins-Browns over-under – without Myles Garrett, that defense is bad enough for Ryan Fitzpatrick to move the ball, I'd think.
Based on these numbers, I especially like the Bengals, Titans and Seahawks. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book.
Week 11 Observations:
• How is Eddy Pineiro still the Bears kicker? The field goal is not even an option outside of 40 yards.
• Mitchell Trubisky is probably a lost cause, but why won't they design some bootlegs and scrambles for him? It's the one area where he's actually good.
• So much for the David Montgomery hype this preseason. He runs hard, but there's no wiggle and not much burst.
• Todd Gurley looked okay, but more importantly he looked healthy with 25 carries and three catches. Has his knee really been an issue this year, or have the Rams just been babying him, and now that their backs are too the wall, they're rolling the dice?
• Derek Carr is good. He's accurate and makes smart decisions most of the time. His fantasy upside is capped, though, as it seems like the Raiders run the play clock below five seconds almost every play.
• It was frustrating to lose the 10.5-point cover in this game because the Raiders were up four with first-and-goal from the one with 11 minutes left, when the Bengals jumped offsides, but they called it a false start on the Raiders, backing them up to the six, eventually resulting in a field goal, the last score of the game.
• The Patriots' dink and dunk offense could not move the ball. They scored their only TD on a third-and-11 TD pass from Julian Edelman, i.e., they needed a trick play to get into the end zone against one of the weaker pass defenses in the league. They couldn't run the ball, either.
• As bad as the Pats offense is, at least they mix it up with tempo, their receivers can catch, and they don't take sacks or turn the ball over. The Eagles attack without DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery had nothing. It didn't help that Carson Wentz kept missing open receivers over the middle on the team's penultimate drive, or that Nelson Agholor dropped a catchable Hail Mary.
• The only redeeming part of that game was Tony Romo's commentary. He says the things we're all thinking and validates them because he's obviously been in those situations many times. It makes you feel closer to the game.
• Three years ago, anyone in their right mind would have taken the top-two QBs (Jameis WInston/Marcus Mariota) from the 2015 draft over the top-two from 2016 (Jared Goff/Wentz.) But two years ago, it switched, and the 2016 crop was the no-brainer. Today? All of them are just guys, and the right play was taking Amari Cooper, Joey Bosa or Jalen Ramsey instead.
• If you had the Cardinals +10, that was an all-time bad beat on an absurd final play. I thought briefly I was in that boat, but it turns out I had 11 and 11.5.
• Kyler Murray had only two 20-yard plays from scrimmage, one TD run and one pass. The 49ers defense did its job even though the game was in doubt until the final minute, and from the point where they were down 16-0, they outscored Arizona 36-10 (well, 30-10 if you take away the junk final TD.)
• Dak Prescott was supposed to be the modest-upside, solid-floor-due-to-his-running pick in the double-digit rounds. Instead he has 8.8 YPA, leads the NFL in passing yards by a wide margin, and is second in TD passes to Russell Wilson.
• I wish horses had a gear beyond gallop because then I could make a Michael Gallup joke. When he struggled last year, Michael Trot and Michael Canter were in play.
• Had Marlon Mack not broken his hand, he might have had a game for the ages. Instead Jonathan Williams went off in the second half, and with Jordan Wilkins battling an ankle injury, Williams could get a shot next week too.
• Kallen BaLOLage.
• John Brown has had at least 50-yards in every game this season. So odd for an injury-prone deep threat on the Bills to emerge as one of the league's paragons of stability. Brown (14 targets) looked awfully spry and healthy in this game.
• I had the Broncos plus 10.5, they were up 23-7 in the fourth quarter, and still the cover wasn't entirely safe – the Vikings were up four for the game's final six minutes.
• The conversation around Kirk Cousins has certainly changed over the last seven weeks. He now has 21 TDs, three picks and 8.6 YPA – if the Vikings catch the Packers and secure a first-round bye, he'll be in the MVP conversation.
• A screen shot of the Broncos' final play, an end-zone fade to TE Noah Fant, showed the DB was pulling on his jersey. Still, I'd rather a sin of omission with the game on the line than one of commission.
• You have to feel for Winston – at least one of the four picks wasn't his fault, but he compiles them the way Frank Gore does meaningless stats.
• O.J. Howard had only one target, which he bobbled, and it looked almost as though he were doing a behind-the-back basketball move, except that it wound up in the hands of Saints LB Demario Davis. Howard was never heard from again, while Cameron Brate got 14 targets.
• As Michael Thomas nears the single-season receptions record (he's got 96 in 10 games), the Saints will be conscious of it, and I bet they'll make sure he gets it, irrespective of game-flow. He and Christian McCaffrey are the only locks in fantasy football.
• Alvin Kamara (13 carries, 10 catches) is a top-five fantasy player again.
• Dwayne Haskins might have trouble securing backup work in 2020. He's killing Terry McLaurin's value, though McLaurin made one big play – a nearly impossible catch over a DB – and had another called back due to a penalty.
• How bad at calling the defensive plays must Dan Quinn have been? Since he relinquished DC duties, the Falcons defense has dominated the Saints and Panthers on the road. And it's not just the Falcons doing it for the second straight week, but the Saints bouncing back completely in Tampa Bay, i.e., the explanation for last week's upset now seems less likely the Saints were suddenly bad than that the Falcons are suddenly good.
• It's probably just a coincidence, but ever since the team turned to a Younghoe, its vitality has returned. (Yes, I know his name is not really pronounced that way, but it still works in print, just like this joke: "Your children might be kind, but German children will always be kinder.")
• McCaffrey arguably had his best fantasy game of the year, relative to his team's output. Despite the Panthers scoring only three points, he had 11 catches and 191 YFS, good for 30.1 PPR points. Nothing bodes better for your star back than a monster game when his team does nothing.
• So much for the DeShaun Watson-Lamar Jackson duel. Jackson got another 9.3 YPA, four passing TDs and 86 rushing yards without any turnovers, and he took only one sack for seven yards.
• Carlos Hyde's day was salvaged by a 41-yard TD run late. His signing was largely trashed in my Twitter feed, but he's running at a 4.9 YPC clip this year, even if he has only six catches.
• Patrick Mahomes looked like 2018 Mitchell Trubisky – nifty on the scrambles, but shaky as a passer. Andy Reid's play design hasn't been fooling anyone lately, either. Maybe the Chargers' familiarity with the Chiefs was a factor, and obviously losing Tyreek Hill early didn't help, but the early-season crispness of the offense is gone. I also think they miss Kareem Hunt a good deal as their current backs aren't great pass catchers.
• Damian Williams left early with a rib injury, so two of the top four Chiefs fantasy starters (Williams and Hill) essentially got you zeroes. You can gamble with LeSean McCoy or Darrel Williams on waivers, but it's been a crap shoot all year.
• The Chiefs ignored Travis Kelce in the first half for God knows what reason, before letting him dominate in the second. He was the lone bright spot for the offense.
• Philip Rivers still has his arm strength, and he made a few nice throws, but no one in NFL history has thrown more soul-crushing picks, and he's taken it to a new level this year. It's positively Winston-esque.
• Austin Ekeler must be the greatest route-running back of all time. No one gets easier yards out of the backfield. Melvin Gordon ran hard, but had a terrible drop. He also got stuffed inside the red zone.
• Watching the edited version of the game, I see penalty calls, but not replays of the penalties themselves. Judging by a scroll through my Twitter feed, that's probably a good thing – the game was annoying enough even assuming the penalties were legit.