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Breakfast Table: Super Bowl Served

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Scott Pianowski

Scott Pianowski writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 11:33 AM
Subject: Super Breakfast
To: scott pianowski

I keep getting blindsided with pain. I needed a discogram, which sounds so "Have a nice day" 1970s that I didn't give it a second thought. But here I sit, feeling like Skip Thomas (Dr. Death, for the readers benefit) just clothes-lined me in my throat. So, it's another sleep-deprived Breakfast for me.

We have a great game coming. There were no bad possibilities once we got to the Final Four. The Saints advanced despite being minus 14.5 points in yardage from scrimmage (the formula is one point of predictive differential for every 15 yards). The Vikings lost three of their unconscionable six fumbles, Favre threw two picks and that adds up to a three-point Saints "bounces of the ball" win. The Colts advanced more cleanly against my Jets with Peyton Manning playing at his personal 95th percentile, when you are just never going to beat him. Chris Liss says the Jets defense allowed him to play so well. I think Manning operates in his own universe, as do all truly great players never mind the most dominant player now in all of team sports.

So, we have Colts minus-five points, a line that's tough to figure unless you think Manning is five points better than Drew Brees. Or am I missing some other key differences?

In addition to picking the game, let's highlight our favorite prop bets, from the ridiculous to the sublime. Here's a nice history of the Super Bowl Halftime Show, which leaves out the best one - Prince the last time the Colts played in the game. Maybe we should have a prop bet for which songs the Who should play, too. And who is most deserving of a future invite to perform even if we accept the criteria of being a mutli-generational pop/rock star? Don't go all Steve Moyer on me and come up with Turbonegro or a Stooges reunion.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 10:42 AM
Subject: odds and sods
To: Michael Salfino

Maybe you can help get me up for the game because I need a boost. The Saints and Colts aren't interesting enough to carry two down weeks (I know more about the Mannings than I do most of my family members), and I've got a bad taste in my mouth from the last weekend of real football. I know we're against look-backs here, but I need to do this.

The public and media needs to rethink how to feel about and file teams that get close but don't win titles. The stomach punch isn't getting to the Final 4 but losing, the stomach punch is the Browns or North Stars losing their franchises, the stomach punch is rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the last 16 years. Sports leagues are populated with a lotta teams - you can't take a "title or bust" mentality to things. A team that goes deep into the playoffs is to be celebrated.

It's too easy to file Minnesota's loss as another defeat by the hand of that wacky Favre and his ill-timed interceptions. The game wasn't lost by that pick. Had Favre thrown the ball away, what happens then? Is Ryan Longwell going to make a 55-yard field goal? Does Brad Childress punt? We're probably headed to overtime anyway. The horse was already out of the barn. And if you're going to cheer Favre for his five-yard laser to Sidney Rice in the end zone - when Rice wasn't really open - you have to accept that his nerve and professional vanity is going to lead to mistakes, too.

I don't want to hear any whining from Jets fans (not you, of course). You developed the best defense in the league, you've got a young quarterback who shows promise, you've got a running back everyone is scared of, your coach is candid and wonderfully refreshing. The fridge is stocked, you've got a chance to go on a run for a few years. The Colts beat you with the most beautiful thing there is, perfect offensive execution beating what was for the most part excellent defense. No shame there. Forget about your ghosts (and your Gholstons), start getting excited about 2010.

All I know to this point on Super Bowl 44 is that I'm picking the Colts. The extra week of preparation is a major edge to Peyton Manning, and while Super Bowl experience isn't a huge deal, it's not completely meaningless either - this game is a circus unlike any other event, and a lot of the Colts have already been through the big top. That helps.

We know Manning will eventually figure out the Saints defense, be it from the jump or as the game goes along. What can we definitely say about the New Orleans offense? We know Sean Payton will put his flair out there (it seems pretty obvious that he doesn't just want to win, he wants to win with his stamp all over it). We suspect Pierre Thomas will get underused. We're not sure how reliable the Saints are in pass protection. And Drew Brees has been a week-to-week guy of late; he clearly wasn't healthy at the end of the Minnesota victory, and the Saints were lucky they could cobble together that messy little game-winning drive.

I'll get more under the hood with the game and props when you write back. Best halftime show? U2 in 2002, by far. I've never bought into Prince like everyone else seems to (Moyer will unfriend me before his paragraph ends); not that Prince is without talent, but he's not a pantheon guy to me. Watching him masturbate on National TV was pretty weak.

I saw The Who a year ago, expecting nothing, and was pleasantly surprised. The beginning of the show was a little bittersweet - they were showing clips of the band in its heyday, with the young Moon before he destroyed himself, The Ox, Daltrey's flowing hair, Townshend at full throttle. That band was formidable. There's still something left, but how excited can we really get about 60-year-old rock bands?

We're not going to be tabling in 20 years, right? I hope there's something better to read by then.

That's enough Old Man Pianow for one morning. Here come the high numbers.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 11:23 AM
Subject: Re: odds and sods
To: Scott Pianowski

Okay, I'll lead with the prop bets. I like plus-160 on the first TD being non-passing. I like plus-190 on the first score being a non-TD. I'll go under 4.5 Saints having a rushing attempt because Payton figured out that Thomas was the man when his life finally depended on it. I'll go over 789.5 net yards for both teams. Over 285.5 passing yards for Brees (no Dwight Freeney). Over 52.5 rushing yards for Thomas.... This thing really goes on for 16 pages? I'm bored with it already. No prop bets on the Colts, I've decided. You cover them if you wish.

So, what are the odds of Favre retiring now? Looking at his wife in the stands in Week 20, I'd say their 3-to-1 against, at least. You made the point last week that the Saints probably ended the careers of two Hall of Fame QBs in successive weeks with some pretty vicious and arguably dirty hitting. Will they lay a glove on Manning?

Prince gets debited for that stupid Vikings fight song, but he's in the pantheon, especially as a guitarist. Most underrated guitar god ever, because he's black and funky I guess. Mick Ronson is second probably because he's so glam. (Note to future rock guitarist - do not ever wear blouses.) Elton John is the guy who deserves a Super Bowl under the current criteria, but he's gay so he's out, I guess. John's 1970-to-1975 catalog is so epic that it's practically Beatle-esque (so said the Beatles themselves).

My prediction for the Who: Pinball Wizard (John's version is WAY better), Baba O'Riley, Long Live Rock, Who Are You? (abridged). Yes, we can do better, but the format is what it is. I'm hoping they don't embarrass themselves with My Generation. Notice how light the Who's catalog is given their career span? Townshend was never prolific.

I have to move first on the game, too. Boo. I previewed it so long ago it seems like last year. Do I stick with that pick, or go in another direction (I reserve that right). I do think experience is important and that gives Manning/Indy a couple of points. But losing Freeney takes all those points back, at least. Outside of QB, which roster is better? My key stats say the Saints are better by about 4.5 points on a neutral field. Even if you discount that completely, you can't reasonably say the Colts have the edge overall. So how many points better is Manning in this super-charged environment than Brees?

I'll summarize my Football by the Numbers piece here. If you use career, sack-adjusted YPA, Manning is about 4.6 points per game better than Brees. Manning is about another point per game better than Brees when you account for lost fumbles (Brees lost six in 2009; Manning hasn't lost one since 2007). So there, basically, is your Vegas spread, as Vegas has the teams, outside of QB, being equal. But I'm going to go with my Index and say that the Saints are better elsewhere, but just not quite better enough. Colts 28, Saints 27.

From: Scott Pianowski Date: Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 12:09 PM Subject: Re: puncture proof To: Michael Salfino

We'll start with the tunes, then get to the game. I wonder what Damone wants for a couple on the 50-yard line.

Tell me the five Prince songs that will resonate for decades. I have no idea what they are. Not that he's untalented, but to me he's just another guy with a jar of honey trying to screw Kim Basinger. (I'd rather watch Dave Grohl mow his lawn than sit through Purple Rain again. Oh, and Will Carroll *loves* Prince. Coup-Fourre.

I thought the set list for The Who was already public, a mash of Baba O'Riley, Pinball Wizard, Tommy, Who Are You (I suspect we'll lose the edginess), Won't Get Fooled Again. It's a par for the course list but not altogether bad. It's kind of a joke they get just 12 minutes given how interminably long the halftime will be. (Meher Baba died the day I was born, I recently discovered, which kinda creeps me out. All that mystical stuff creeps me out, actually.)

In a perfect world I'd stump for Behind Blue Eyes, Eminence Front or maybe the conclusion to A Quick One While He's Away (used perfectly during Rushmore) to replace the Tommy stuff. My Generation doesn't work without Moon to bring the avalanche of drums at the end (say what you want, but he was a great player as a pup, albeit it was a very short run).

I don't think EJ's personal life keeps him out of Super Bowl consideration; the Stones brought baggage to the table and let's not even think about examining Townshend's life. I'd have no problem with John getting the call if he's up for it, but Moyer's safe rock rant would also apply here. Is it possible to find someone who's best work isn't three decades old?

You sold me on the PT Cruiser prop. For the Indy side, I'd look away from Reggie Wayne again (Jabari Greer isn't a lockdown, but he's legit) and try to get frisky with Pierre Garcon props (my preference) or Austin Collie numbers. Garcon should go over 55 yards, Collie might top 45 yards too.

Selfishly, I'd like to see Favre come back, but the smart move is walking away - actually, run while you still can. Leave while everything still works. Your John Wayne legacy is secure, you'll trade off your name forever. Sure, one title seems a little light given how many good teams you eventually were on, but at least you didn't get shut out. There's no reason to abuse your body any further.

Manning's a good reminder that quarterback sacks are more about the QBs pocket awareness than anything else; a lot of Indy linemen got rich because of the franchise guy standing behind them. Every blitz has a pre-snap indicator tied to it; some guys learn how to decipher that stuff, some guys don't. There's a skill to knowing when to get rid of the ball, when to turtle and live for another day (if Manning knows a sack is unavoidable, watch how he protects himself and the ball). If the Saints can find a way to confuse or dominate Indy's pass blocking and get to Manning, I'll be stunned.

The Saints are a power-rating darling because they collected so many blowout wins. Big deal. Beating the snot out of someone in September and October means nothing now (ask the 2007 Patriots). Let's not forget that New Orleans scored 60 points in its last three significant games during the regular season, and last week's victory was one of the greatest playoff flukes ever when you compare total yards from scrimmage (when you're outgained by 218 yards, you're supposed to lose).

It will be interesting to see if weather gets involved Sunday night. Generally bad weather helps the underdog but given the finesse elements to the Saints offense, I see rain as pretty close to neutral. It drizzled a little bit on the Colts three years ago, but it didn't matter. It won't rain on their parade Tuesday morning. Indy 31, New Orleans 24.