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Breakfast Table: Pianowski and Salfino Talk Football

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Scott Pianowski

Scott Pianowski writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: November 30, 2010 9:50:20 PM EST
To: Michael Salfino
Subject: crunch time breakfast

I'm still buried in mag work (kudos for getting to the finish line on your chunk) so my Table contribution will be limited this week. You'll have to carry us. Won't be the first time.

I want to stop and appreciate the AFC West, which is becoming my favorite dysfunctional division. Forget firing Josh McDaniels, let's extend this guy for 10 years, just for the entertainment factor. I love Todd Haley pointing to McDaniels a few weeks ago; nothing wrong with coaches disliking each other. The Raiders always have something wrong with them, of course. And the Chargers are the ultimate hole-in-the-bucket group - no matter what Philip Rivers does, you get the idea it will eventually be done in by Norv Turner or those nightmare special teams. Still, any team that waxes the Colts in Indy deserves to be feared.

I'm getting a little sick of the Packers narrative - whenever they lose a close game, everyone aims at Aaron Rodgers's head. We're blaming the wrong guy. The game-tying drive at Atlanta was a thing of beauty. It's not his fault someone grabbed a facemask on the ensuing return. It's not his fault the defense couldn't make a stop. It's not his fault Mike McCarthy isn't a smart in-game coach. I want some respect for the NFC's best quarterback.

I was thinking about Peyton Hillis, Brandon Lloyd, Steve Johnson and Michael Vick today and it got me to thinking - have we seen more fantasy surprises than usual this year, or are we around the usual amount? It also had me pondering an experiment - say you made a fantasy team pick its entire roster after the rest of the room drafted, but you also allowed that rogue team to get waiver priority every week. Would such a team make the playoffs? Would the waiver exemption prove to be an unfair advantage, despite starting with a bunch of players no one wanted? Are surprise free-agent finds the fun part of the game, or the frustrating part of the game?

Given our blood ties we have to handicap the Jets and Pats; I'm less excited for the Ravens and Steelers but we can also go there if you wish. And maybe you have a stray fantasy nugget for anyone who desperately needs a win in Week 13, being on the eve of the playoffs and all. It's crunch time, and December Breakfast is served.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: November 30, 2010 10:27:04 PM EST
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Re: crunch time breakfast

Well, I was given the pitchers, who are more fun given that they have a lot more hidden secrets that can be uncovered beyond the standard categories. Have to give a shout out to Rob Steingall for his big assist, especially with all the prospects. He's the go-to guy right now with minor leaguers.

McDaniels is the Cortland Finnegan of coaches. Seems like a total punk ass to me. Everyone hates the guy except Pat Bowlen, who reportedly might not be qualified to have an opinion. McDaniels is one of many from the Belichick stable who seem convinced they have earned genius status by riding in the back seat.

I hope Haley beats McDaniels by 30, and he may well do it. My pet peeve this week is how everyone has written Kansas City off. The Chiefs are a damn good team. What's their weakness? You're telling me that they can't go to San Diego and beat a Chargers team that is doomed to be badly wounded at WR all year? Maybe the injuries have finally taken a toll because Philip Rivers and company looked awful against a very sub-par secondary. Stat of the week is CB Tandem Rankings based on completion percentage (only fair measure, along with YPA). The Colts came into that game ranked 25th in completion percentage and 13th in YPA allowed. Okay, they're ordinary. They're not bad like the Patriots (I love New Englanders talking about Devin McCourty like he's Revis Junior, mountain of evidence to the contrary be damned).

The Chiefs tandem (Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers) are ranked fourth in completion percentage and ninth in YPA. Matt Cassel is playing as well as any QB right now by any measure you want. The running game is great, as is the offensive line. You're telling me this physical team can't walk into San Diego and slap around the Chargers for 60 minutes? Even if it was a layup, Turner could iron it. And no way this game is a layup. The Chiefs win that game, and San Diego is out of the playoffs.

Who the heck is slamming Aaron Rodgers except me? And I acknowledge his stat greatness but merely point out that you can't be a great QB until you at least win a division. I'm not applying a Marino "must win the Super Bowl" standard here. What's wrong with it? Greatness at the game's most important position is largely measured in wins, and Rodgers comes up short there. Have to deal with that fact. Ryan's career seems to be mirroring Tom Brady's pretty well. Underwhelming statistically to start but able to win at a rate beyond his numbers rather than below them. Remember even Rodgers' great statistical game last year at Arizona when he missed a wide open Greg Jennings for a game winner and then held the ball too long and literally fumbled the game away in overtime? Some of that has to be on him, no? I realize he got them to overtime, but you have to close the deal.

That fantasy question is one of the best I've ever heard. It would have to be 12 teams at most. And it would have to be shallow benches - no more than four non-starters every week. I don't think it's reasonable to expect that team to win, but I think it could end up league average in points, which is incredible when you think about it. You'd still need to be a very savvy owner because it's not like these free agent guys are so obvious right away. There's still speculation involved.

You move first on Jets-Pats. I'll save mine for the closer. I will say this, though. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are very unique guys. They only rank second in completion percentage allowed on their targets and seventh in YPA allowed. But since Revis was fully healthy on Halloween (after the Jets bye), their YPA allowed is 5.7, which would be second best for the full season. The Jets' dynamic duo also get bonus points for playing totally on the high wire with hardly any safety help. About 80 percent of snaps are man-to-man. I want to see Tom Brady deal with that and I want to see where Rex Ryan allocates these coverage weapons.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: December 2, 2010 11:35:39 AM EST
To: Michael Salfino
Subject: Re: crunch time breakfast

Wednesday was all baseball, all the time, so I had to leave the Table in the fridge. Now I'm microwaving it, and things might get soggy.

I'm not saying I like McDaniels, I just like having him around. I like seeing him lose. I loved it when the Raiders threw 59 at those guys. I'm pumped for the Chiefs and Broncos because you know both teams really want to beat the snot out of each other.

I guess I should feel the same way about the Steelers and Ravens but I don't. I have boundless respect to both teams, but the Ravens specifically, there's something I don't enjoy when I watch them. Maybe it's the way Ray Lewis is worshipped in the mainstream media. Maybe I have some Art Modell issues that I've never worked out. I'm picking Pittsburgh, and I can't give you a good reason why.

Now Buffalo, there's a team I love watching every week. This has to be the most exciting 2-9 team in sports history. Three overtime losses, all against quality teams (KC, Baltimore, Pittsburgh). Ryan Fitzpatrick is a helluva story, brainy, erratic but occasionally great, that mountain man look. It's refreshing to see Fred Jackson get the rock. I think they can win at Minnesota.

Maybe next year I'll run one of those crazy, gimmicky side leagues and we'll let one team be the guinea pig with free agents. I think this year has more juice to it with respect to difference-makers off the street, but obviously there's free stuff to be had every year. To me it's almost like a version of the Monty Hall Problem - when faced with the option of switching your last bench player for a free agent, you should always switch. The winners in every league are going to find money, somewhere.

I have to side with the Pats on Monday. Tom Brady is finding a way to make things work with this rag-tag group of skill players, and most importantly, he's not allowing negative plays. He's got four picks all year (one was a throwaway at the end of a half), two fumbles, 15 sacks allowed. His pocket awareness never seemed to make it all the way back last year but he's got it now; he negotiates the chaos of the pocket as well as anyone that's ever played. New England needs the game more. Foxboro is quietly becoming a legitimate home-field advantage again, especially at this time of the year.

Okay, the Jets have an elite corner and a second guy who's really good, but how much does that help you against a team like New England, which has no dominant target? Brady's just going to throw to the guy with the easiest matchup, no matter if it's Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch, one of the tight ends. He doesn't care. The offense doesn't have a must-eliminate guy, it's a worker-bee approach.

Of course, I'm just making a pick because we have to. The Jets obviously have a good chance to win, and they're as talented as anyone in the conference. Mark Sanchez's play has really impressed me, and he's developed that pocket awareness knack as well. I wasn't sold on him a year ago, I am now. Santonio Holmes scares the crap out of me.

It will come down to the final possession. New England by three.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: December 2, 2010 12:39:00 PM EST
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Re: crunch time breakfast

McDaniels for you Dexter fans is Jordan Chase. Take it now!! But maybe that's just the slime I'm seeing and not the face.

I don't think the Steelers or the Ravens are serious contenders right now. I think the Chargers are probably the most complete team right now, but they have the coaching fleas. The Jets have everything, but there are some questions at QB. The Patriots have no defense so they are out, especially if they are unlucky enough to get bad weather at home. I'd rank them right now: Jets/Chargers, Patriots, Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers and then I do not know. The AFC South is terrible. The Colts are the Panthers plus Manning right now - at best.

I owe an explanation on the Steelers. I don't like their offensive line at all with both tackles on I-R. And their pass defense is overrated - corners are 19th in YPA on my CB Tandem Chart (only updated through Thanksgiving). If I can't believe you can throw it well or stop the pass well, I can't pick you. Yes, I know the Jets don't stack up in YPA either. But they will throw it better than their opponent most weeks, I can guarantee it. (Including this week.)

Fitzpatrick is really going out of his way to look less Ivy League, don't you think? If he was a No. 1 pick, the Bills would be beside themselves. But instead they are thinking of drafting a QB. No one wastes more high picks than the Buffalo Bills.

Of course, the Monty Hall Problem is like our Free Agent Team only in the sense that the results appear absurd (stipulating that the free agent team can be good). But switching in Monty Hall to another door only increases your odds if the host knows where the car and goats are. If the host is clueless, it doesn't matter at all whether you stick or switch. I say all this to illustrate that the knowledge of the owner (the Monty Hall, I guess, in our example) is paramount to it working. Flipping guys wily nilly won't get you anywhere.

You have the "quietly" thing right about Foxboro. The place is quiet as a morgue. To me, home field is noise. If you don't have it, you don't have an advantage. The Jets do not have it either, by the way. Don't get me started on the "Brady has won 25 straight home games" nonsense given that they were blasted in January by the Ravens.

The Patriots are picked to beat the Jets for no football reasons that I can tell. The Jets have beaten New England three of the last four and two of the last three with Brady. What matchup on the field is New England likely to win? The Jets backfield is better than the Patriots receivers by a mile. Maybe Brady makes up for that, but I don't see it. If the Jets want to take Welker out, he's out. Same for Deion Branch, who is just a guy. The rookie tight ends and Danny Woodhead are going to win the game for New England? You know the Patriots will not run on the Jets. And New England's entire defense is just terrible. The Jets win all the individual matchups there by a wide margin. Brady is going to have to be perfect. But these ain't the Lions. AND the Patriots also need to be at least plus-1 in turnovers.

The Jets ability to take out two guys one-on-one is a big deal. Then it's a nine-on-eight game, which means the Jets get a clean rusher or get to double one of your other guys. Danny Woodhead is going to be a non factor on third downs because he's going to have to block. If not, one tight end is in to block. Take your pick. Then it's three on two in coverage and who are the Patriots two? All ham and eggers.

Jets 31, Patriots 17.

Ravens 24, Steelers 20.