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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: February 3, 2011 8:37:15 AM EST
To: Michael Salfino
Subject: super breakfast

One last game for all the Tostitos and then we shack up for a scary offseason. Enjoy this one, amigos. There are no promises for the rest of 2011.

I'll let you have first crack on the Xs and Os, but allow me to present some sidebars that might be worth going into:

Ben Roethlisberger's legacy stands to increase significantly in the next few days, rightly or wrongly. Do quarterbacks get too much credit for championships? And where is Roethlisberger currently on the QB pecking order; if you were starting a new team from scratch, at what point do you select him? He's a tricky guy to rank because there's really no one quite like him. It's also interesting to see two mobile quarterbacks in the Super Bowl (Aaron Rodgers is dreamy with his pocket movement); are the Manning/Brady types a dying breed, or are Roethlisberger and Rodgers simply outliers who don't necessarily represent a new revolution?

The Steelers have a significant edge in Super Bowl experience, starting with Mike Tomlin and following through the roster. Does this mean anything at all? Does Tomlin rate an edge over Mike McCarthy, or is it even silly to discuss things like that?

I've always hated the two-week wait for this game, but I suppose that toothpaste is never going back in the tube. Break down the game for us, tell us about your game-day menu in Jersey, and if you have a positive spin on the pending labor situation, share that as well (I, for one, would love a reason for optimism). Super Bowl Breakfast is served.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: February 3, 2011 10:49:39 AM EST
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Re: super breakfast

There's going to be football. The NFL has cleverly set it up so that they declare an impasse and just implement their last best offer, which I guarantee will be attractive enough for the players not to agree to walk. What I mean is, there's no lockout coming. Will there be a strike? Can't see it. Remember, the owners can bite the bullet because their time horizon is enormous on the back end. The players don't have a back end. The money they lose now they can never get back.

Running is always overrated at quarterback. Manning and Brady are mobile in the pocket when it comes to evading pressure. Rodgers has already taken too many hits. The concussions are going to be a major issue for him in the coming years, I guarantee you.

I'd take a lot of guys over Roethlisberger because he's shown incredibly poor judgment at various times in his career and you can't have that from your quarterback. Same with Michael Vick. I will pass, thank you. Not saying these guys should be barred from the game. I'm all for second chances. But I'm not hanging my franchise on them because there's a good chance if you do that your franchise will end up hanged. So, in no particular order, give me Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Romo, Sanchez, Ryan, Eli Manning, Freeman, Cutler and Bradford over Roethlisberger. Peyton is not there because he's too old to give me five years for sure.

Again, either Roethlsiberger is a bad guy or a dumb ass or a little bit of both, but I don't want either anywhere near the heart of my team.

Super Bowl experience is meaningless, I would wager. The Steelers get an edge in coaching. The Packers have better personnel. This is a very tough game. I think the most interesting thing about it is whether the offenses have the advantage. They practice all spring and summer against the other team's defense (the Packers play the Steelers defense, too, courtesy of Dom Capers who created it and then handed it off to Dick LeBeau). We have small sample size problems with their last meeting in 2009, but sometimes small sample sizes can be overcome by incredibly convincing data, and those teams threw for about 900 yards in that 2009 thriller. I think both offenses are very comfortable picking up the blitzes and reading the coverages and in spreading out that 3-4 to make it basically a 3-3-5 with no short corner for the blitzing linebackers. By that I mean, readers, that running backs don't block the linebackers, offensive tackles do. When you line up in a conventional two back, one tight end, two-wide receiver look against the 3-4, the edge rushers run right past the tackle and then only the back is there to stop them in pass protection. That's Murder, She Wrote.

I'll give you a prediction in my next and last reply of the season. But I think this game is going to come down to who has the deeper wide receiver corps. But maybe the better question is, who has the best secondary?

From: Scott Pianowski
Date: February 3, 2011 4:18:00 PM EST
To: Michael Salfino
Subject: Re: super breakfast

I wish I were as confident as you are on the labor situation. I certainly hope you're right. We've seen countless examples of millionaires being stubborn with respect to how to split up a big pile of money. I really wish Roger Goodell would drop the crazy 18-game schedule.

Pocket awareness is what matters to a quarterback. Brady's ability to sense the rush and subtly maneuver the pocket might be his greatest skill, though the Jets obviously took that off the table a few weeks back. Manning seems to benefit more from his pre-snap reads, quick decision-making and the lightning release. Dan Marino was somewhere in the middle of these two.

I don't need (or want) my quarterback to be Randall Cunningham back there, but I like someone who can avoid sacks and extend a play. Ironically enough Roethlisberger falls into a lot of sacks because he's so good at extending plays, but his mobility absolutely killed the Jets two weeks ago.

I like Roethlisberger more than you do, league-wide. There is no way I'd take Freeman (who I do like a lot), Ryan (so underrated he's overrated) or Cutler over him right now. Eli's a coin flip. If the Rooneys could justify keeping Ben and making it work, that's good enough for me.

I attach a *tiny* bit of significance to Super Bowl experience. Football players live a life of routine, and this is the one time where your routine is completely thrown out of whack. The Steelers know what this dance is like, most of the Packers don't. Don't we all do better on the SATs the second time around? But this element doesn't move the needle, and I'm going to pick Green Bay anyway.

I wish I had a good reason for going with the Packers. It's a coin-flip game. At the end of the day I trust Rodgers a lot more than Roethlisberger, I've never really liked Pittsburgh's offensive line, and I think the Packers have the right people to mark Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh's most important offensive skill player.

Pittsburgh's path to winning is tied to a clean Roethlisberger game and another loud effort from Rashard Mendenhall (I was stunned at what he did two weeks ago). The Packers allow 4.7 YPC on the ground, but you get the idea Dom Capers will keep conceding that so long as Wallace isn't running past anyone. Can the Steelers win this game with long drives as opposed to flash scoring? I don't think the football world realizes how much Tramon Williams has improved.

Packers 27, Steelers 23.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: February 3, 2011 5:22:02 PM EST
To: Scott Pianowski
Subject: Re: super breakfast

I have no idea what's going to happen with the labor situation. The players are dumb, generally, and can be led around by agents who have long careers and who thus can/will end up putting their interests ahead of current players. I'm only predicting there will not be a lockout. Maybe there will be a strike - makes no sense from the players' perspective when you do any basic accounting - but dumber things have happened. The lockout, by the way, makes perfect sense for the owners because they get the TV money anyway and can just wait the players out. They're the most popular show on TV so they don't have to worry about alienating broadcast partners either. But this is all one big snore, let's be real.

The problem with Roethlisberger the player - who I like a lot - is you must also take Roethlisberger the person. I need my quarterback to be my hardest worker, most popular player in the locker room, best player on the field and smartest player on and off the field. I have to be confident he can be the face of the franchise. I have to be certain he will never end up in jail or in the morgue due to reckless behavior. Roethlisberger, if we are to put the most positive spin we can on his off-field life - is AT LEAST a moron. How can you volunteer to start your franchise with someone like this? Again, all for second chances, but I do not believe that people change. They can pretend to change, but when the chips are down and things are going bad, they revert to being who they are. Movie-of-the-week BS be damned.

You do better on the SATs if you've done poorly relative to your actual intelligence, and you do worse if you got a little lucky. Simple regression to the mean there. It's a multiple choice test, after all. But experience doesn't help you in the SATs, and it probably has zero impact on who wins the Super Bowl, too.

I think you can throw on both of these defenses. They surprise teams generally, but these offenses have seen all the tricks for countless hours over spring and summer. So we're going to get a shootout. I'll call it 34-30 Steelers, and I want overtime, too, to test the new rules. I want McCarthy to play for the field goal after needing a timeout even to decide whether to kick or receive. Pittsburgh responds with a TD. I want to see McCarthy have to deal with the pressure of making a decision where there is no book to follow because he's too by-the-book to begin with. Tomlin plays to win and doesn't need a book. That's Pittsburgh's edge on Sunday.