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Breakfast Table: Salfino and Pianowski Talk Football

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Scott Pianowski

Scott Pianowski writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: September 8, 2010 3:30:13 AM EDT
To: scott pianowski
Subject: Kick Off Breakfast

Let's hope we file before kickoff on Thursday.

I'm thinking my failure to feel an allure for summer is rooted in my view of it as the interminable pause between fall and these precious weeks of Sunday football (Thursdays are okay, too, but in very small measure, Roger Goodell). There are so many possible menu items in Week Zero. But how about some over/unders that jump out. First note that my new friend, Yale's Cade Massey who I'm working with on a Wall Street Journal project, says that the formula for projecting records is six wins for every team to start plus .25 wins for every year-before win. In other words, he sees lots of random luck in W-L record and a strong pull for everyone to be average. Except if you're Peyton Manning, I guess.

Since we do a lot of player picking, especially on Yahoo! and especially by you, we owe the faithful a rundown of some fantasy forecasts that are noteworthy, either for the strength of our conviction or for how out-of-step they are with the industry at large.

We also can't let the Jets Mania gripping the nation escape notice. I like Vinny Chase a lot more on Hard Knocks than on Entourage - how about you? Are the Jets all hype, or are they really good? Who is ahead of the Jets right now in the Pianow NFL Power Rankings? Should I make a reservation for Dallas this February? Week Zero Breakfast is served.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: September 8, 2010 2:43:10 PM EDT
To: Michael Salfino
Subject: i feel the earth move

Entourage walks away on Sunday and amen to that. It's had a modest rebound this season but it's still living on rep. I wish they'd let Alan Ball write and direct an episode so Eric could get mauled to death by a puma.

They lost Drama years ago, and while Turtle is likeable, no one is that lucky. Adrian Grenier can't act, Kevin Connolly really can't act. The only way to save the show is to have Ari get declawed and divorced, then come back and rip through the town. If Jeremy Piven ever leaves this show, you've got absolutely nothing.

I'll put the Jets on the GPS but I'm not stepping on the bandwagon. I admire Darrelle Revis just as much as you do, but you can work around one shutdown corner (Asomugha hasn't elevated the Raiders, has he?). Mark Sanchez didn't look improved to me in the summer, and how much can you like a team if you don't like the quarterback? They also have too many talented receivers, and that almost never works out.

No one wants to say it but the Colts are the once and forever favorites. It's boring, like picking Pujols to win the NL MVP, but they get so many things right. Offensive continuity. Indifference to rushing defense. August as one big walk-through. They've won 89 games in seven years, which is just absurd, and as much as people want to come up with challengers to Peyton Manning as the best player in the league, truthfully, no one is close. I say that with no personal stake in the guy - I'm a Patriots fan for crying out loud, and I was on the Brees story from way back. But when you're handicapping the AFC, you put the Colts into a bye slot and then worry about everyone else. Indy's number is 11? Punch the over.

Baltimore strikes me as a little overrated. Don't trust the secondary, don't like the schedule. They added major receiving help but how often do those guys hit the ground running in a new city? Look for Pittsburgh to weather the early storm and take this division, in part because the defense is totally different when Troy Polamalu is on the field. Steelers sail past their 8.5 number.

I'll get trendy with the Niners - they remind me so much of the 2009 Jets. Strong personality out in front. Team constructed around defense and the ground attack. A high-pedigree quarterback that no one completely trusts. The rest of the NFC West is a wasteland - I hate almost everything Arizona has done of late, I don't trust Seattle, St. Louis needs a bridge season. The Niners might not be that good in actuality, but a cushy schedule pushes them to 10 wins. Over.

It's cheating to say the Packers are an over play at 9.5 because you have to lay mad juice. But this looks like the best offense in the world to me right now; the ball never hit the ground in August. Aaron Rodgers finally got his full pocket awareness working in the second half of 2009, fixing the sack problem. I like the pass rushers and the secondary. The NFC is filled with decent teams (everyone in the East might be decent), but the Packers have the right mix of talent and timing to win the conference.

Dallas could be one of those teams where the whole doesn't match the sum of the parts. Three running backs could be a problem, and I don't like the offensive line. A lot of Dez Bryant buzz, but it's been two years since he really played. Wade Phillips will give away a game or two somewhere. The 10-win number is probably right, but a murderous schedule and contrarian theory pushes me under.

I like the Pats offense for fantasy because they can't stop anyone - Tom Brady will need a new rotator cuff after the season - but there are no easy secondaries to attack in the division. I like Jabar Gaffney as an opportunity play, Joseph Addai as a "no one else wants him" play, Jerome Harrison now that the Browns have to play him.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: September 8, 2010 4:39:43 PM EDT
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Re: i feel the earth move (use this one)

You are wasting awesome Six Feet Under references five years too late on an audience I predict is not hip to that show. But maybe they'll surprise me. I put it on here in the office as background on some afternoons when the NFL Network is on interminable exhibition game mode.

I think Entourage is as bad as it ever was. Maybe Eric can get hacked to death by the same mad surgeon who attacked Jerry Jones's face (there goes the job as the PR Director for the Cowboys).

Note, readers, how Pianow has scheduled our one money league together during the explosive finale of Hard Knocks. This is like the M*A*S*H finale for Jets fans. That was a very ruthlessly reptilian move. So much for the better angels of your nature.

I fully admit to once thinking that no team could possibly stop Wesley Walker and Lam Jones. But I was older then, I'm so much younger than that now. How can you say the Jets are a one-shutdown corner team when they've added Antonio Cromartie and Kris Wilson. Cromartie might the best athlete in football and is in his physical prime (insert joke here). Hey, Cromartie just said the Jets are the "Miami Heat of football." You can't do it unless you believe it yourself. Name a No. 1 receiver now capable of beating Revis man-to-man. A number two who can best Cromartie. And from what I've seen from Wilson, I'll take him over just about any slot receiver this side of Wes Welker, who can't really be close to 100 percent.

Sanchez is a work in progress, but he has three two playoff pelts on the wall and had the sixth best QB rating of the 50-something QBs who qualify since 1970 in their first three road playoff games. This is not meaningless. Those who say it doesn't matter while pointing at exhibition season stats have lost their minds. I think it reasonably outweighs all of his 2009 regular season, but that's debatable. I think the Jets defense is going to be nasty against the pass in a way we've never really seen. Old school man-on-man and seven or eight guys flying at the QB on every snap. Can't see them winning less than 10 games, and I expect 11 or 12 even if Sanchez is middling between '09 regular- and '09 post-season.

If we used our Yale formula for the over/unders, we'd go Rams over 5 wins (formula says 6.5), Chargers under 11 (expected 9.25), Raiders over 6 (expected 7.25), Lions over 5 (6.5 expected). There are a few others, but those seem the best. The formula says to go against the Colts, but Peyton Manning clearly is not randomly great but "true skill" great. And if you think all great QBs are necessarily never randomly great, consider Brett Favre. I sense a Bad Favre year (20-plus INTS), so I'll go under on Minny, too.

Fantasy guys who I like much better than the market and especially the touts - Legedu Naanee (he'll outperform Malcom Floyd, who remember wasn't even invited to the combine and has pretty limited playmaking speed compared to Naanee's textbook size/speed), Matt Cassel (if 4,000 yards and 24 TDs grab you), Jermichael Finley (will score more fantasy points than Greg Jennings, who I like - that's how much I love Finley), Kevin Kolb (not a 12-team starter), DeSean Jackson (see Kolb, also see that porous Eagles line), Knowshon Moreno (zero explosion), Dwayne Bowe (see no big difference between Bowe and Roddy White, and I like White). Donovan McNabb IS a solid 12-team-league starter and will be in the top 10 in points this year on a per-start basis. Of course, we can say, "I really like Finley but don't reach for him above the sixth round." Or "Bowe would be an excellent WR4." Or "DeSean Jackson is an elite playmaker but be wary of the Eagles summer struggles in pass blocking." But then we'd be part of the problem and not part of the solution in being more edgy than hedgy in our touts.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: September 9, 2010 8:38:06 AM EDT
To: Michael Salfino
Subject: holidays in the sun

I make no apologies for draft scheduling. Real life comes before taped life, especially something we can watch on DVR.

I suppose Cromartie is unstoppable in a sense; he's a matchup problem for any lady that strolls down his path. But are the Jets getting the 2008 Cromartie or the 2009 Cromartie? And can the Jets improve a pass rush that only had 32 sacks last year? You want to sell me on Jason Taylor? I know this unit can execute, but I'd like to see a little more mayhem. And yes, I'm picking the Patriots to eke out the division, even with that messy defense.

Let's slow down on Sanchez. He attempted all of 38 passes in those two wins. He played very well at Cincinnati and San Diego, sure, but he was just along for the ride in those wins, he wasn't steering the ship. He's still the strongest argument against the Jets in 2010.

You've hit plenty of over-unders I like, especially the Rams, Lions and Raiders. San Diego's under I'm a little leery on because their division is rubbish, but they're going to miss Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill a ton (another tour de force job by A.J. Smith), and you never know how many games Uncle Norv might throw away. The Chargers remain the worst return on a dollar in pro football.

Floyd's an interesting guy - he never got into the end zone last year, and now the Chargers need him to be a star. I'm optimistic about Cassel and the Chiefs, provided Todd Haley doesn't incite a mutiny by the middle of the year. I pretty much went 0-for-Packers in my drafts this summer, which makes me want to throw up. I did get a few Moreno shares as a volume grab, but I agree with you, there's nothing really special about him. When you draft a skill position guy in the first round, he should flash the moment he steps on the field. I don't see that with him.

Let me give you the magic twelve and then you pay the check: Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Chargers by default, with the Jets and Ravens cleaning up. Giants, Packers, Falcons, Niners, with the Cowboys and Saints also qualifying. Rodgers wins the MVP and gets the Pack down to Jerryworld in February, but they can't outscore the Colts.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: September 9, 2010 9:23:12 AM EDT
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Re: holidays in the sun

I did not see Cromartie get beat last year in coverage. Plus the Chargers do not man up like the Jets, who keep it simple, stupid. Tom Brady is a matchup problem for gullible super models, by the way.

Sanchez was not remotely along for the ride in Cincy. He played perfectly even without the Braylon Edwards drop on what would have been another long TD pass and given him a 5/2 postseason TD/INT split. Quibble with the attempts, but that was four less than Eli Manning in his road Super Bowl run - so do we take that away from Manning, too? And it's seven less than Tom Brady's. Teams don't throw a lot on the road unless they're losing big, which the Jets were not doing until late in Indy.

The Patriots have 8-8 written all over them. Remember how inept they were when we last saw them at home in Baltimore in January. Brady gave up and started thinking about his personal safety, not something that bodes well for the Jets games. No running game to take pressure off their defense when they jump to a lead, too shaky in pass protection without holdout Logan Mankins, horrible secondary, no pass rush as far as I can tell. Maybe Brady and Bill Belichick get them to 10-6 by the strength of their respective greatness. But it's a tall order. Jets win that division because the 2009 postseason is the foundation for '10 for Sanchez. And the defense is so good that they even win the division with the 2009 Sanchez, neutered version. Really, Sanchez making a leap is gravy.

Other division winners: Ravens, Colts, Chargers, Cowboys, Packers, Falcons, Niners. Wildcards: Redskins, Saints, Texans and Bengals. Super Bowl: Jets vs. Packers - best defense in the league vs. the best offense.