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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: Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 9:42 AM
To: Scott Pianowski

We're at the point where the season is getting old before our eyes. It was once filled with unbounded promise for so many teams and players. But now reality has set in for most, and we can more firmly classify the haves and have nots.

Let's focus on the very strange NFC. I have no problem with the Giants as the No. 1 team there. They are good. But in talking to Rotowire's Chris Liss backstage yesterday about his Giants vs. my Jets an interesting point was raised. Would you rather have the best offensive line in football or the best defensive line? Think of it as an August proposition. You can have only one.

The Falcons are viewed as being in the legitimate championship contender conversation. But they're 30th in YPA allowed, and I say that's an automatic disqualification. Bill Polian seems to agree with me (hat tip to Rotowire's Pete Schoenke).

On offense, the two that count the most are points and yards per passing attempt. That's with sacks adjusted. Beyond that, there really are no statistics that I have found that are really relevant in terms of certain correlation to victory.

So it follows that stopping YPA really matters on defense.

Do you believe at all in the Bucs and Seahawks?

Are the Saints merely regressing to the mean, or are there structural problems now in New Orleans?

I'm glad I noted on Sirius XM last week that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the league-leader in TD percentage (of pass attempts). But sad that I didn't follow through and pick him up in our Yahoo! Friends and Family league.

There were no receivers blown up last week above the shoulder, and the game seemed fundamentally different... not.

What do you make of Steelers-Dolphins? Football crime? I say the Dolphins need to look in the mirror at the golden opportunities they blew early. I've always believed that most field goals get you three points closer to losing. I almost made it through without mentioning Brett Favre, the NFL's biggest drama queen. Week 8 Breakfast is served.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 9:17 PM
To: Michael Salfino

Give me the dominant defensive line. You're pretty much guaranteed a great defense if you can generate a consistent pass rush without gimmicks, and that sort of team will travel well and fit any situation. A mediocre offensive line can always be camouflaged. The elite quarterbacks make their offensive lines look a lot better than they really are, anyway.

Josh Freeman is a fun watch, but the Bucs are easy to discount. They've been outscored by 30 points, and they failed both of their tests at home (blowout losses to Pittsburgh and New Orleans). They've got a crummy offensive line and no pass rush (six sacks). Maybe they sneak into the playoffs given the current shape of the NFC, but they're not going deep.

Seattle certainly snuck up on me, and I have to give the new regime some credit - it made shrewd calls on T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the older Mike Williams and Marshawn Lynch. In every instance they've been proven right. The Seahawks also have a legitimate home-field advantage, one of the few teams that can say that in 2010 (the modern design of a stadium is about maximizing cash, not craziness). But Matt Hasselbeck isn't even league average these days and the Seahawks traditionally don't travel well. They'll probably make the playoffs and lose the first road game.

Something about the Falcons seems artificial to me. They went to Philly two weeks ago with a vanilla defensive plan, and Kevin Kolb picked it apart (contrast this to what the Titans did to Kolb, battering him back to the bench). Roddy White is marvelous, but there's no second vertical threat. Has Matt Ryan improved one iota since his rookie year? I'll take the NFC East in January, you can have the rest of the conference.

Maybe the Saints regressed to the mean on defense - there was a fluky element to last year's turnover bonanza. The offensive dip comes under a different umbrella - the Payton/Brees offense had four elite seasons into this year. That's not an outlier, that's a brand. Could Brees's sore knee be a bigger problem than they're letting on? It's amazing they've done so much over the years with a downright pedestrian group of receivers. No one is talking much about Pierre Thomas's absence, but they certainly lack bite without him.

Everyone knows that the Miami-Pittsburgh finish stinks, but how to we fix it? Players shouldn't be asked to carry through plays after they've been emphatically told the down is over (such as with the touchdown signal). That's the sort of thing that leads to injury, too; one guy stops trying and shelves his awareness while an opponent gets ready to knock his block off.

At least the Ben Roethlisberger carry at the goal was a legitimately-difficult call for the officials. There were some horrendous gaffes in the prime time games that never should have needed replay to fix (the last-second Percy Harvin non-touchdown is only the most glaring example).

I'm a little annoyed at all these cries to fire head coaches in the middle of the year. The only hire that would make sense now would be a coordinator, and to promote a coordinator now is to take a skilled tactician (in theory) and elevate him out of a role where he can probably help you the most. Like it or not, most head coaching changes (and staff overhauls) have to happen outside of the season.

Are you buying the Chiefs? Do the Packers have a shot in Jersey? Is there any saving the stat-darling Chargers? Who do you like Halloween night in New Orleans?

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 10:46 PM
To: Scott Pianowski

Well, elite offensive lines block well against the pass, too. In all things in the NFL, give me offense over defense. Offense controls outcomes. Defense - with very few exceptions - is mostly along for the ride. What I mean is, if the offense executes, the defense is beat 95 times out of 100. I don't care who the defense is. But some do make it much harder to execute - the Giants pass rush, the Jets blitz/corners....

I will take the elite offensive line over the defensive line every time. No one wants to pass more aggressively than me, but you need to be able to beat the clock once you're up by two or more scores. That's where you need that top-shelf running game. So what I'm saying is that if the Giants and Jets played this week, the Jets would control the Giants defensive line, and then what do the Giants do defensively?

Massey-Peabody is held over because of late ad buys in the Wall Street Journal (maybe this recession is ending). So no link, but readers can search for it easily enough. This week, the Bucs were 30th, Seattle was 16th. That's predictive, not descriptive. So the Bucs have the profile of a team that will win no more than two games going forward. Seattle should be about .500 going forward, probably enough to hold onto the NFC West lead. I agree they don't win a playoff game.

I have a soft spot for Ryan. I'd take him in a heartbeat over about 25 QBs if I were starting a team right now. But if you can't stop the pass, you have no chance. The thing the Falcons do really well - run the ball especially with Michael Turner (more churner now than burner) - doesn't overcome their glaring weakness. I like the Giants over them easy. And maybe the Packers, Eagles and Saints, too.

Brees's play has been disappointing. He should be carrying that team over the Browns at home, no matter what happens everywhere else. (Way to kill about 60 percent of survivor pools, Drew.) Peyton Manning (Eli too) turns every receiver into gold. Brees can't get anything going with anyone now. He has no bread and butter. But it's up to him to establish that. Perhaps this is the price of offensive diversification.

I hate to "me too" you, but you are right about the Pittsburgh-Miami conundrum. You can't play through whistles, and you can't delay whistles and give guys a free shot against players who figure the play is over. You know, this idea that all outcomes have to be clean is a little silly. Bad calls are part of the game, too. The idea is to win by enough so that one bad call won't beat you. The coaches aren't perfect, nor the players. So why should the refs be? The thing that really chafes me is the reversal in Green Bay on that Visanthe Shiancoe should-have-been-TD where they made the right call and then reversed it to the wrong one. Someone should get fired for that. That goes beyond human error to rank incompetence.

Speaking of Favre, what a joke these "ankle fractures" are. This is just an ankle sprain by any other name. Favre has that hero complex: "I sure want to play if you want me to." Peter King of course buries the lede as always, never bothering to ask the obvious question of why the Vikings with Favre's consent (players have to authorize the release of detailed medical information) would so grossly misrepresent the actual injury. Favre can't step up and take the criticism along with the bouquets, so this is his way to short circuit that.

You're right about coaching changes. Don't want to spoil another piece I'm working on, but let me just say that no team post-1970 merger has made the playoffs the same year as a mid-season coaching change. If you fire the head coach, you have to fire most of the staff (or the change is essentially meaningless) and where are you going to get another staff mid-year?

I like the Chiefs. They play hard-nosed football. They can run it explosively and have enough in the passing game. The defense looks at least serviceable. I do not think they fade like I thought last year's Broncos would fade. The Packers always have a shot, but Aaron Rodgers is sort of a bully QB. When he's going well he'll run it up. But if the game is close, he usually loses (8-13 in games decided by seven or less points). Also, I just noticed he's 4-5 in games decided by 8-to-14 points. So unless you get blown out by the Packers, you're probably going to win. The Jets are not losing to anyone by more than two TDs. So, Jets.

The Chargers are just a joke the way they lose games now. It's like they're in on a fix, except they are so obvious about it that no one could be that stupid. (Right? Right?!?) The Steelers are a little overrated. They win though, and rarely beat themselves. But when in any doubt back the much more desperate team. That's the Saints, big easily. Now close up shop while I grab the check and throw the readers some of your barely chewed on fantasy bones.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 2:21 PM
To: Michael Salfino

There's no defense for perfect offensive execution, I'll give you that. And your hypothetical unit has five men to my four. Maybe I'm biased because I don't like how offensive lines get too much credit or blame for the skill players they're plowing for. And I get a bounce in my step when I see a dominant defensive tackle hit the scene (think Baby Sapp, or Richard Seymour or Ndamukong Suh).

Your Ryan pick is betting on the come; maybe he'll justify that rank in a few years, but not today. Either Manning, Brees, Brady, Rivers, he's nowhere close to that group. He's probably a wash with Joe Flacco. Maybe I can't be rational about Sam Bradford right now, but I'd probably take him over Ryan.

It was refreshing to see Brad Childress toss Brett Favre in the vicinity of the bus - maybe Childress isn't quite as milquetoast as we thought. This final Favre scene reminds me more and more of Cal Ripken by the day, and that's not a good thing.

The Chargers are doing all they can to break every computer-based evaluator; most of their problems are tied to special teams or the sorts of errors that you can't quantify. If you grade them strictly on their ability to gain yards and prevent yardage gained, they look like world beaters. But you wonder how deep the hole can get before you lose the locker room, and people start mailing it in. Even with the Chiefs likely to lose in San Diego later this year, I still have Kansas City holding onto the division.

A lot of Jon Kitna jokes going around this week but what do people expect? A backup quarterback is a spare tire, just something to get you through a few weeks; it's not a permanent solution. At least Dallas fans can feel good about Dez Bryant, who looks like the next dominant receiver.

Week 7 gave us ridiculous scoring, 52.6 points per game. That's the highest number in 27 years. Could this be related to the league's response to the Week 6 carnage, or was it just a coincidence? Let's toss it around in the comments.