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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 22, 2010 at 9:30 AM
Subject: Week 16 Breakfast
To: Scott Pianowski

Week 16 is also famously fantasy championship week, which I will not play in because of you - twice. You're Bill Belichick, and I'm Rex Ryan. Tight ends killed me in the end. Lost Dallas Clark in the one league and Antonio Gates in the other and then flubbed my Aaron Hernandez vs. Rob Gronkowski decision. But in truth my team wasn't very good. You found the QB (Vick) in Friends and Family, and I really never did, treading water at the position all year. Make the Breakfast Table a champ in both leagues this week.

I can't remember a Week 16 where the playoff race is this limited. For all the talk of parity, there really are just two teams jockeying for a spot in the AFC (Chiefs vs. Chargers) and two in the NFC (Giants vs. Packers). I know - the NFC West. But that falls under "parody." Do you see the Chiefs losing at home to the Titans and Raiders? They look like the three seed to me. But they have karma working against them. How could Jamaal Charles be the all-time leader in single-season yards per carry (minimum 200 carries) and not even lead his team in attempts?

Giants-Packers is huge, thanks to Michael Vick's fourth-quarter heroics. That did me in our game, too. He had 90 yards rushing and 130 yards passing the last seven minutes. Good lord, what were the Giants thinking blitzing the house on every play? And these defensive backs who blitz need to forget about blocking passes or running at Vick as fast as they fear Vick can run. Just calmly line him up at his belt-buckle - the only part of the runner's body that can't fake you out.

Is it just a two-game slate this week or is there something I'm missing. Are you watching St. Louis and Seattle or, like me, do you just not care? Week 16 Breakfast is served.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 5:16 PM
Subject: Re: Week 16 Breakfast
To: Michael Salfino

I was lucky to win both of my matches against you. You had the better team most of the year in the F&F, and your 01824 team was better than mine in the final quarter of the year. But the skill of fantasy football is qualifying for the playoffs (the long haul), while the luck of the game is what happens to you in the playoffs (the short run).

How can we put more skill into the game? I like the idea of rewarding seasonal points, be it with playoff spots (and seeding) or payouts for the leagues that play for cash. I also love leagues that require jumbo starting lineups and shorter benches - force people to make difficult decisions every week. And the more men you start, the less any one player can help or hurt you in a given week.

I certainly got lucky with Vick, but it wasn't like he was left at my doorstep - I spent $27, if I recall correctly, on a hunch in September. FAAB is mandatory for any league that wants to take itself seriously, though I do like the FCFS period that follows the bidding.

The NFL has some reorganizing to do too - it's a joke that any division winner gets a home game in the playoffs. If the league instituted reseeding on the eve of the playoffs, it would also bail out some lame-duck Week 17 games - more playoff-secure teams would have something to play for.

Oakland's got a chance against the Chiefs - the Raiders haven't lost in the division yet, bro. The Raiders are a junkyard dog, they play very hard for Tom Cable. There are some interesting skill players on this offense, too. But the Chiefs haven't lost a home game yet, and Matt Cassel's back after his one-week hiatus. The AFC contenders are likely to get the best of Christmas presents - no Chargers in the playoffs.

I do like the way the slate is set up this week, even if I don't like the games themselves. We get football on four nights and four stand-alone games - but those prime time games include the Panthers, Cardinals and Vikings. I hate to question effort, but it sure looked like the Minnesota defense quit last week against Chicago. I suppose the Saints and Falcons should put a bounce in my step, but there's something about Atlanta that leaves me cold - I can't quite put my finger on it.

Any interest in the Jets at Chicago? How much does the Mark Sanchez injury hurt them? Do you see the Bears doing any damage in the NFC playoffs?

Spike the egg nog, we need something to talk about.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 11:55 PM
Subject: Re: Week 16 Breakfast
To: Scott Pianowski

Nope, you earned it with Vick. I was still a skeptic at the time.

Remember a few weeks ago when we were arguing about whether you can be a bad cold-weather QB when cold weather doesn't really impact passing? Turns out that since 2006, QB rating (too complicated a stat, but a decent barometer if you don't care about that) is down about seven percent in freezing weather. Some guys are off way more than that, though there are very few games for most (need to supplement with playoff games). Notably, Michael Vick's QB rating career is down 36% in freezing weather (combining his one regular-season freezing weather game with his three playoff games). Does nothing Vick did pre-prison matter any more?

Also, Eli Manning, incredibly, has never thrown a TD pass in freezing weather and only has two regular season games in those conditions. Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger are the best if you factor in sample size and especially if you add in playoff games (Roethlisberger is best among QBs with more than one playoff start in this weather, otherwise he's second behind Mark Sanchez - one game). So, if we like the stat, we have to like Rodgers on Sunday over Eli. Also, home field might end up being a pyrrhic victory for the Eagles if Vick flubs it again in the cold (assuming it's cold in Philly come Jan. 14 or so). Matt Cassel, interestingly, is the best in the league with a 105 freezing weather QB rating (just three games). Tom Brady is solid in the regular season and subpar for him in the postseason (though not the Manning - both of 'em - or Flacco class). Flacco, by the way, is 16.1 in freezing playoff weather in two games.

I sort of like the quirkiness of having division winners get home games. Division strength is usually cyclical. And this cuts both ways. Sure, a 12-win team might have to travel to 7-9 to play a playoff game, but they are playing a 7-9 team and to advance in January, I'd play a losing team on the moon. Basically, I think this is much ado about nothing. Home field ain't helping any of those NFC Worst teams.

Is Oakland a better bet to beat the Colts this week or the Chiefs next week? I say the former. Last game, teams with nothing to play for tend to pack it in. The Colts get a break against these running teams because how many times do you remember a big running team facing a bad run defense late in the year and steamrolling them? Most times, to my recollection (as imperfect as memory is), the Jaguars-type team lays an egg against the Colts-like team (also, always the Colts). The 150-yard rushing team goes for 75 yards a lot more easily than the 280-yard passing team goes for a buck fifty.

The Bears sort of stink - can't pass block and can't run. They can win ugly, I guess, but not being able to protect the passer scares me against good teams. I see them going out quickly. I think Sanchez is fine and will play. But I'd like to see Mark Brunell in there in this game that doesn't really matter much just to better gauge if the big problems with this offense (and there are big problems still) are QB or coordinator related. I suspect it's the latter, but Brunell coming in and similarly struggling to find open receivers would seal the deal for me.

Close up shop. Merry Christmas to you. Happy Holidays to everyone.

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 11:31 AM
Subject: christmas in hollis
To: Michael Salfino

Thanks for the research on that, Snow Miser. But let's accept that we can throw out Vick's entire pre-Philadelphia career. Truth be told there's never a reason to look back in the NFL for individual cases; context and personnel change so quickly. The collection of league-wide data has plenty of value, of course, but on an individual basis the stuff doesn't hold.

So you're an embrace-the-quirkiness guy with the NFC West situation, eh? This surprises me. There's a logical fantasy tie-in here - don't you want to see points scored rewarded over the flukiness of wins and losses? In my mind the pre-playoffs re-seeding is a nice blend that everyone can live with - you still get the divisional rivalries and the importance of the groups, but teams that barely sneak into the tournament don't get rewarded. I also think, emphatically, that the top seeds should get to pick their opponents all through the playoffs. That idea is never going to fly in a major pro sports league, but maybe someone will try it in the bushes somewhere.

When you say Colts and Raiders I think Ghost to the Post, which happened on this day, 33 years ago. Why isn't Ken Stabler in the Hall of Fame? I know his terrible end game in Houston and New Orleans collapsed his stats, but he was one of the 2-3 best quarterbacks for the balance of the 1970s, and the Raiders were a juggernaut. Okay, just one title and one Super Bowl appearance, but we overrate that angle sometimes. John Madden (justly in the Hall) retired with a .763 winning percentage, which is just obscene.

I could see Indianapolis losing in Oakland this week. The Colts are ballerinas, all about timing, repetition, synchronicity. A pretty team. The Raiders punch you in the mouth and cheap shot you below the belt. A lunch-pail group. We might see rain and a wet track on game day, which in theory helps the Raiders - the lesser club should always want fluky conditions.

Do you agree that the Chargers are screwed? It's a shame. They might be the best team in football right this second - not the team that's accomplished the most, but the team that's the most dangerous. Philip Rivers probably has no shot at the MVP now, but you can argue that he's had the most impressive season.

For poor saps like me who aren't done shopping yet, it's Black Friday. Happy Holidays to you and yours, Jersey.