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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 15, 2010 7:20:07 AM EDT
To: scott pianowski
Subject: Week Two Breakfast

We all instinctively feel the urge to declare success or failure already. There's so much pent up anticipation in the season and then that orgy of games.

But in working with Cade Massey of Yale (and of "Loser's Curse" fame) on NFL Power Rankings for the Wall Street Journal and getting his emails and charts with his backtesting of 2009 data, you can see how radically the season evolves for so many teams. We're nowhere near where we're going to end up. And it's no different with the players, either. Think of how many 2009 stories weren't remotely on the radar at this time last year. So it's too early to be writing 2010 obits for the Jets, Colts, Cowboys, Chargers, Niners, etc. The Texans aren't officially over the hump - yet. And I can't accept congratulations for writing how the Redskins will win the NFC East. The player picking is no different. I'm resisting the urge to publicly declare success on Shonn Greene and Hakeem Nicks (though I'm privately torturing Chris Liss, I confess) or failure on Matt Cassel and Wes Welker.

But maybe I'm just telling myself this because I don't want to acknowledge that the 2010 Jets are going to be an Epic Fail, in the language of my son. What do you think? Week Two Breakfast is served.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: September 15, 2010 2:24:29 PM EDT
To: Michael Salfino
Subject: conversation 16

Some of the Week 1 disappointments are easy to write off. Dallas and San Diego lost division games on the road and in prime-time; those are ambush games. The Chargers lost despite an 192-yard edge in yards from scrimmage; the Cowboys had 130 extra yards. Flash scoring went against them. There's no reason to go into deep analysis on either situation.

The Niners have such an odd fit on offense - Alex Smith needs the shotgun to play his best, but the team isn't built like that. Still, a divisional loss on the road, in a hostile environment, is something I can excuse. The Niners had a yardage edge, too, crazy in a 31-7 loss. The Saints are a tough assignment this week, but then the schedule opens up for San Francisco. They're still the overwhelming division favorite.

The Colts are fine. The baby brother has to win a game eventually, and again, it's a divisional thing on the road. It's interesting to see them lose a game because of their terrible rushing defense; normally they give you those 4-5 yards and dare you to beat them with 1,000 cuts. But Arian Foster absolutely gashed them, and it was beautiful to watch (other than the fact that I have zero stake in him; no fun).

We have to talk about the Jets, but I'm trying to forget. The Monday night opener set football back about 15 years, all those penalties, all the horrendous offensive execution. Do we blame Mark Sanchez or the straight jacket they put him in? Is Antonio Cromartie going to stop grabbing at jerseys? Should Shonn Greene owners be leaping off the roof? I'd move him in the Friends and Family, but you said no to Brandon Jackson (you're an evil genius), and the best offer I've gotten thus far is Brent Celek (thanks, Dr. Liss).

I suggested a sell-high ticket on Wes Welker, and the tomatoes started flying. Didn't Gordon Gekko teach us anything? Should we be excited about Money Never Sleeps, worried, or apathetic? What do we make of Randy Moss, bitching after a big win? That's the ultimate in poor form, and now he heads to Revis Island.

Did Michael Vick's relief bit do anything for you? What do you tell Kevin Kolb owners today? I was impressed with Sam Bradford, who had the good sense to wear No. 8. I blame the screwed-up two-minute drill on the sideline.

The Jets and Patriots are the main course of Week 2. Peyton should beat his little brother, right? The Texans and Redskins want to justify their first step. Minnesota better show something against Miami after a messy debut.

Let's pop the hood and see what's what.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: September 15, 2010 4:08:32 PM EDT
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Re: conversation 16

Honestly, I forgot I drafted Jackson in your, um, units league. I thought I was ghouling Ryan Grant like in Friends and Family. Sometimes it pays to be a ghoul. Got lucky there, but Jackson is interesting because he's starter-plus, not starter-minus like most backups are expected to be when the first- or second-round starter goes out. Jackson is Grant plus about 55 catches.

I wonder if you're right about Alex Smith. It makes sense, but let's check the numbers (I feel like a jerk whenever I do this, but it's my nature). Yahoo! gives me three-year splits, which I love. But not shotgun. Can't call in any favors from the Wall Street Journal for Smith. Can we assume third downs are shotguns? Mixed bag - 86.7 QB rating but 5.7 YPA (not sack adjusted). That YPA is putrid. QB rating is too complicated but also gives short shrift to YPA, though it at least considers it.

Speaking of YPA, Liss challenged me to grade QBs above/below average the same way I graded running backs. Remember, running back leaders/trailers in yards per rush were determined to be (last two years) 77% random/team factors, 23% true skill for the population of leaders and trailers. QBs graded out more than the reverse - about 90% true skill and 10% random/team factors, or at worst 80/20 depending on what you want to do about the trailers in 2008 being collectively even worse in 2009.

When you were talking about baby brother with Peyton, I assume you were setting up Eli. The Giants have a chance if they open things up. Their running game last week was very ordinary and will remain so. I don't trust their secondary when the rush fails, either. But let's call it 30-27 Colts.

You're going to force me to write about the Jets. You were in my inbox grill about two seconds after Dustin Keller drifted out of bounds. That's not necessary, bro'. Quick thoughts that I have to expand on greatly later this week. Rex Ryan is a contradiction now with playing all out on defense, risks be damned, while neutering the offense. Mark Sanchez has played three road playoff games, performing quite well. Jets players reportedly were livid in the huddle with the playcalling because those calls were not the game plan. Evolution of a QB - (1) just play, (2) don't play stupid, (3) play smart and (4) trust your instincts and take chances. Sanchez is holding at Stage 2. I thought he'd be in Stage 3, and he might be if they let him.

Michael Vick still is not a capable QB. This is the Eagles nightmare and something I hinted at in the Journal. "Mr. Kolb's journey will be made more difficult because of Mr. McNabb's trade to the division-rival Redskins. This sets the stage for head-to-head comparison assuming Mr. Kolb can hold the job at least until the first matchup between the teams in October." Ignore those WSJ "Mr.s" but I was sent a bunch of emails after that saying there was no chance Kolb would be benched by October. If you had a team vote it would be about 44-1 for benching him right now. Vick is a terrible fit for Andy Reid and DeSean Jackson. He will not run near a 200-yard pace this week when the defense is ready for his nonsense. My over/under is 50 rushing yards.

You know, I picked the Redskins but they got their asses kicked on Sunday night, let's be honest. The Cowboys gave that game away. The Washington offense was terrible. They were the Jets if Antonio Cromartie took that pick back like he should have. I like the Texans, but I don't trust them still. If McNabb doesn't have a big game on Sunday, I'll worry about the 'Skins.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: September 15, 2010 10:35:27 PM EDT
To: Michael Salfino
Subject: you know i'm a 2000 man

The thing I like most about Brandon Jackson is his supporting cast, followed by his pass-catching ability. I see nothing special about him as a runner, but maybe he can be one of those Joseph Addai types that wins the context lottery. Either way, well-played, Jersey.

I like any elite team when pushed against a corner, as the Colts are. Peyton is ridiculous in stand-alone games, too. I didn't like New York's run blocking last week. I agree with you, Indy gets past 30 and takes it.

You misinterpreted my Jets email to you Monday night. I wasn't mocking anything, I was trying to stay sane after watching the ugliest game I've seen two "good" teams play in a long time. There should be blood on Brian Schottenheimer's hands; he's the man who screwed up the Jets offense that night. The Ravens grasp that a lot of good things can happen when you throw the ball downfield, no matter if you complete the pass or not.

I think the Jets tricked themselves into thinking their defense was so nasty they could win without pushing the envelope on offense at all. You can't play that way and have realistic championship aspirations. People forget how good Brad Johnson really was in 2002, or how good the Ravens defense was at its peak. I'm still not sold on Sanchez, but I know this - the Jets won't go anywhere if Schottenheimer doesn't wake up and smell the cat food.

I was surprised at what Vick did but I agree, he'll never be a pocket guy. He still needs to see plays develop before he's comfortable pulling the trigger, and he's never had a very accurate arm. I feel sorry for Kevin Kolb, who deserves to grow on the job without someone looking over his shoulder and stealing a snap here, a series there. It's like the stupid Pat White experiment the Dolphins tried to force while Chad Henne was getting his feet wet; don't let your inner cuteness get in the way of developing the cornerstone of your franchise.

I wish someone would make me a legit Shonn Greene offer, because I don't want to do this dance for three months.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: September 16, 2010 8:39:00 AM EDT
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Re: you know i'm a 2000 man

What does Kevin Kolb deserve? He's already been given too much by being the impetus for moving Donovan McNabb out of town. Based on what? A half of garbage time against the Saints and a good game against a then moribund Chiefs' secondary?

I know you weren't rubbing it in. But just leave a man alone when he's trying to suffer silently in agony in the aftermath of a football tragedy. I needed to process.

Legit offers are few and far between in the expert world. We're playing a different game where the public implications outweigh the win probability ones. So in a lot of ways we're like NFL coaches. Why risk looking like a sucker three weeks down the road? So just make only offers that border on larceny. Better to lose quietly than risk losing loudly. That being said, how about Braylon Edwards for Shonn Greene?

For all those who stuck with us until the end, here's the first Massey-Peabody NFL Power Rankings. Yale meets Las Vegas sports analyst. (In all the hubbub, they forgot my byline but that meager copy is far from the story here.) These are based only on 2010 data so there is a much smaller top-to-bottom variance than there will be as the season progresses and also, of course, lots of volatility. Teams this week were compared to all teams who played versus Week 1, so it's possible for now for teams who played each other to both be positive or negative in the key output - points better or worse than the league average team.