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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, Dec 8, 2010 at 9:12 AM
Subject: Week 14 Breakfast
To: Scott Pianowski

Sigh... Okay, here we go: Mark Sanchez and the Jets were completely outclassed by Tom Brady and the Patriots on Monday Night. I could not have been more wrong in predicting the outcome.

I'd add Bill Belichick versus Rex Ryan in there, too, but Little Bill is like the neighbor who was convicted of embezzling and now has a brand new Rolls and a Catalina 470 Yacht sitting in his driveway. Color me as paranoid as Peyton Manning.

To be clear, I'm not saying there's any evidence Belichick is cheating again. I'm just saying, to be safe, I'd use mobster-under-FBI-surveillance rules when playing the Patriots in New England. Petition the league to let me fly up the day of the game. Then have all conversations outdoors with umbrellas opened even on sunny days to prevent lip reading. Make sure no lower-level employees have had large sums of money wired into their bank accounts. Hey, maybe the Patriots had the answer for everything the Jets were doing because they are so smart. Perhaps the Patriots defense suddenly decided to become the Steel Curtain after looking Charmin Soft for 12 games. We'll never know; Belichick is too smart to tell his assistant coaches again.

As for the rest of the slate, Manning is having trouble against everyone now, for sure. There's a chance it could be the beginning of the end. But he's completed 71% of his passes while throwing all those picks. Are those interceptions fact or fluke?

The Bears are looking very good to me. Where are all the Mike Martz bashers now? But how can the Patriots be beaten now? New England doesn't travel nearly as well though (hard to get spyware through airport security). Kansas City at San Diego should be good, but are the Chargers finished? Why do they flub so many easy games? When do we start blaming Philip Rivers for this?

Other than that, Week 14 is a terrible slate, do you agree? If not, tell me what I should be watching. Week 14 Breakfast is served.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 2:14 PM
Subject: love and a 45
To: Michael Salfino

I'm not going to take these bug issues seriously. First of all, consider the source - Bill Polian is paranoid enough to be called paranoid by the paranoid. He's got Nixon genes in his blood. Mind you, football people are suspicious on all levels - I got a lot of dirty looks and pointed questions tossed at me back when I was a newspaper scribe covering high school sports (carry a steno notebook onto someone else's turf, and the alarms sound). But when you lose to someone 45-3, your problem is execution, not design.

How much do we take from one game? The 49ers had a 40-8 loss in the fifth week of 1994 - they went on to win the Super Bowl. I'm sure there are several other examples. We saw New England at its peak and the Jets at their nadir. I'm still trying to figure out what it means.

Darrelle Revis apparently wasn't thrown at during the game (source: D. Revis), which returns the question: is a no-star passing attack a better fit against the Jets, since you're not forcing the ball to anyone? I also wonder if it's too late to throw a dome over the new Meadowlands - Mark Sanchez doesn't strike me as a cold-weather guy. But it's a small sample, and he's got time to figure it out.

As for Ryan vs. Belichick, it certainly had that checkers vs. chess feel. Ryan is still figuring out strategy on the go. The early challenge he wasted, the 53-yard field-goal try into a nasty wind, those are giveaways. I also think Ryan should have challenged the Brandon Tate score, though Mike Pereira claims the play would have been upheld anyway.

I suppose the MVP discussion ended around 11:30 Monday night. Unless Tom Brady gets hurt or has a gigantic slump, he's going to win. Philip Rivers will lose traction from his team's record, and Michael Vick's partial season will cost him votes.

The Bears are doing it with a very un-Martz scheme, more quick drops, more running plays, and just about zero fantasy juice. So I guess we should give Martz credit for adjusting his scheme to his personnel, something he's generally been reluctant to do. We saw what happens when you try to force the square peg into the round hole - Jay Cutler got sacked 57 times in New Jersey. I still don't see this team as any kind of a deep threat in the NFC playoffs, but Lovie Smith strikes me as one of the more underrated head coaches around.

Manning is the OCD quarterback of the league; he needs everything to be in place, everyone to be on the same page. Throw this much personnel chaos at him, and it's to be expected he might eventually float out of his comfort zone. I also think it's ridiculous when some suggest that Jacob Tamme isn't that much of a drop down from Dallas Clark. Tamme is posting some decent numbers through volume, and he's not a bad player, but he's leaving plays on the field every week. And he certainly doesn't dictate coverage like Clark did.

The schedule is funny over the next two weeks - the Thursday and Monday games would be flexible if the option existed, while the Sundays ones have plenty of buzz (Vick vs. a resurgent Dallas team, then the Brady-Rodgers throwdown). Watching Tennessee, San Francisco and Houston in prime time doesn't sound like fun, and there's a potential Brett Favre game in Week 15 (I better watch that in a bar, or with my iPod on, because the audio will be intolerable). I know I've said this before, but I'll make the point again - the Sunday Night broadcast is far and away the must-watch production of any NFL week. It's not even close.

Rivers has a 93.3 rating in the first half this year (still good), and a 111.5 number in the second half (ridiculous). What's the meaning to that? Junk stats against umbrella giveaways? Bad play calling in the first half? Does it take him too long to get into a flow? I still don't blame Rivers for most of San Diego's losses, though the last defeat to Oakland was a poor game for him. The Chiefs and Chargers deserve a dedicated set on Sunday.

There's more to discuss but my reply is long enough as is. Over, out.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 5:07 PM
Subject: Re: love and a 45
To: Scott Pianowski

I've been trying to avoid this all day. But it's just so sad watching TV and listening to the radio. The Patriots are at the epicenter of that day, too, because many of us heard the news while watching their Monday Night game at Miami. Bruce Springsteen summed it up so perfectly when he took the stage the next night in Philadelphia:
"It's a hard world that asks you to live with a lot of things that are unlivable. And it's hard to come out here and play tonight, but there's nothing else to do."

Hopefully, I won't think about his for 10 more years. Because it's a real bummer.

There's no transition from there, but I needed to say why my heart really isn't in this right now and don't want anyone to think it's because of the game. But soldiering on, because what else is there to do, Jets-Patriots could be:

- Jets are a lot worse than we thought, and the Patriots a lot better

- The Jets and Patriots are more or less evenly matched but one team played their 10th percentile game and the other their 90th percentile (one percent probability of that)

- The Patriots were one step ahead of the Jets, legally or illegally

Cold weather doesn't matter. I've seen the data. Neither does rain or snow. The only thing that matters with passing/scoring is wind.

This does not include this year, and the source is STATS, Inc. and it's since 2000:

- Games with 20+ MPH wind velocity regardless of temperature: 100 games, 36.51 total PPG

- Games with 34 degree temperature or lower and 10 mph wind or less: 106 games, 44.22 total PPG

- Snow games with 10 MPH wind or less: 15 games, 48.0 total points per game

- NFL games average about 45 points.

So just ignore cold weather. The announcers like to talk about it because either they are idiots or because they want us to empathize with the players so we care more about the game (probably a little of both).

Regarding Martz, Cutler is at 8.0 YPA. Sack-adjusted, the Bears are average. But when they aren't getting sacked - and they haven't been of late - this team has some Martz-like explosion.

Rain Manning is your Peyton headline? I like it. Is it true? I don't know. The picks are the only thing wrong with his play, but his completion rate is 71 percent. Off the top of my head, I'd say 40% of interceptions are the QBs fault, 30% the credit of the defense and 30% just random luck. How many times does a guy make a bad play or wrong read and end up where the QB doesn't expect him to be? I bet it happens a lot, and we never hear about it at all because who has the incentive to tell us?

Who gives a crap about the Cowboys? You don't believe they have juice right now, admit it.

Rivers has to win that game or at least get them back in the game at this stage of his career. I like him, always have. But leading your team to victory when things go screwy at home against inferior teams has to happen 90% of the time, and Rivers' rate seems a lot worse than that. Okay, I'm done. You close.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 6:42 PM
Subject: late, great johnny ace
To: Michael Salfino

Yeah, it's been 30 years since we lost John Lennon. I was a little too young to fully comprehend the shock of December 1980, on the eve of turning 12. My full exploration and appreciation of the band didn't happen until after the man was gone. (Of course by the time I was a senior in high school, I was writing 25-page papers - the assignment called for five - on The Beatles. Sometimes I think my teachers graded me favorably so they could avoid having to argue with me.)

A damn shame. He had so much more to share with us. And Lennon really seemed to be in a great place in his life when he was taken away, the cruelest irony of all.

You're right on the weather, of course; it's wind that we worry about. But I wonder if some warm-weather QBs suffer until they get used to playing in off conditions; there's no way to practice for this sort of thing at USC. Obviously we're looking at a tiny sample with Sanchez in the NFL, but all of his cold-weather stats are horrendous. He'll figure it out, but it's going to take a little while. (He also needs to stop staring down his primary receiver, something he did repeatedly Monday night.)

I can't imagine the Pats are doing anything nefarious, not after 2007, not with the media scrutiny of today, not with what it would do to Belichick's legacy if they caught him again. Come on, give them their just due in the comments. Remember everyone who thought they'd get schooled in Pittsburgh? Instead, it was another Brady masterpiece. Do the Patriots have 16 bugging devices in 16 AFC stadiums?

One final thing about the Pats and Jets, and then I'll mercifully move on. The extra lead time for the game seemed to play in New England's favor. I can't imagine the Pats being better prepared, or sharper in their execution. This feeds to a broader point - in my mind, level of preparation and focus is not a static thing week-to-week. Look at the Brady and Belichick record after losses, it's outstanding; and I don't think that's an accident. And I also don't think it's coincidental the Pats played their best game of the year with extra time on the eve of a critical divisional showdown. I know, you want to win all 16 games, beat everyone, make a statement every week. But humans take the snaps, not algorithms. (Flip it around, and I'll also suggest the reality of "trap games." Not that we can be sure when focus will fade and when it won't, but I don't believe teams maintain the exact same quality of prep and focus over 17-20 weeks. I can't imagine how that would be possible.)

It's been a tough week for Manning - even his home-town announcer is (privately) throwing him under the bus. Silliness. He's the best or second-best quarterback we've seen in the past 30 years, and I say that as someone who has rooted against the Colts for the balance of Manning's career. But we can't trash his legacy for three spotty weeks. He's too smart, too dedicated not to rebound.

The Chargers caught a break with Matt Cassel's appendectomy. Brodie Croyle isn't ready for this assignment. I picked the Chiefs in the staff picks (before the Cassel news broke), but now I'm thinking it's going to be a home-team blowout. And if that happens, the AFC West gets interesting down the stretch.

Missed you in the Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball Auction today. There was no one to bid up a crazy price on Jason Heyward. We'll give you another chance soon, amigo.

I guess we didn't rally on the Week 14 slate. So it goes. Some weeks, it's more about looking back.