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East Coast Offense: 2008 East Coast Offense-Week 14

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

East Coast Offense

By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor

Confirmation Bias

It was easy to imagine the Titans-Lions Thanksgiving game going the way it did. Whether or not you predicted it, you had to know there was a pretty good chance of a blowout. But the Colts-Browns game, in which Cleveland's offense outscored Indy's 6-3, was harder to foresee. It happened, so we know what it looked like, but if we go back and put ourselves in the mindset we had a week ago, it's seemed unlikely that Peyton Manning wouldn't throw at least one touchdown.

The Browns game is far more instructive than the Titans one. The latter was obvious - and because it played into our preexisting beliefs about the teams - we tend to remember it better, and it tends to inform our belief about what happens when a really good team plays a terrible one. We tend to forget games like the Browns-Colts - or at least write them off as anomalies and not incorporate them into our NFL world view. That's because they negate rather than confirm our previous beliefs, and we all tend to have a confirmation bias. (Hat tip to Mike Salfino for introducing me to the term in an old column).

So how do we free ourselves from emphasizing the game-day events that support what we already thought and overlooking those that upset our assumptions?

By constantly looking at the games that shocked us and reflecting back to what we had thought going into them. If we repeatedly flip back and forth between the crazy result and the mistaken pre-game mindset, we eventually erode our false assumptions. Because once you realize you felt just as strongly about the games you got wrong as the ones you got right, you'll have a least some doubt about all of your predictions.

After a while, you create some space between what you think and what you know. In other words, even if you have a hunch or a belief, you need to make room for the possibility that it's false. You might think a player with a certain matchup will go off, but you shouldn't necessarily start him over a superstar with a bad matchup - even if you expect that superstar to struggle. Just because you think something doesn't make it so, and so you respect the objective facts, e.g., that superstar x has 13 touchdowns this year, and the guy you have a hunch about has been up and down. If you don't make this separation, you end up as the fantasy football equivalent of this guy.

Doing this can be unpleasant - there's a comfort in certainty, and doubting the content of your thoughts makes your job as a fantasy football owner harder. Who to start or sit won't be as clear cut as you'll be able to imagine the games playing out in many conceivable ways. But in the end, I'd argue, it will make you a smarter and better owner - more apt to see possibilities early and pick up a key free agent on a team that others have written off, and also better able to avoid putting too much stock in recent results and chasing last week's stats.

Betting the Lions was Torture

Here's what we wrote in our Beating the Book article about the Lions-Titans game last week:

Damon and I are both incredibly sick of backing the league's worst teams. As Damon said: "If we go Tennessee, there will always be hope they cover late in the game. But if we back Detroit, it's very likely to be over by the second quarter, and watching the game will be miserable." I completely agree. Moreover, Tennessee, coming off a loss, is sure to be more focused, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We shudder to think about what it would be like rooting for Daunte Culpepper to succeed against that unit... All that said, we've got to go Detroit. Who cares if you're miserable while watching the game? The misery is part of the enjoyment. And you can't pick scared. Maybe Tennessee rolls, but a few bad weeks aren't going to push us off our contrarian perch. To hell with the 11-point road favorite. We're backing Detroit. Give the locals some joy amidst the miserable economic situation this holiday season. Titans 20 - 16.

I'll admit it - we underestimated the misery of betting on the Lions. It's Thanksgiving - what's supposed to be a joyous day with family, but on the second play from scrimmage, Shaun McDonald fumbled, and Rod Marinelli threw a senseless challenge flag, burning one of his two, and wasting a timeout when the replay showed the ball was clearly out before McDonald went down.

The next play (the Titans' first from scrimmage) was a 28-yard reverse, and the next after that (Tennessee's second), an eight-yard touchdown scamper. The Titans added a 58-yard TD on their next series, and two series later, Culpepper threw a pick six. On the next series, the Lions went three-and-out and managed only a 13-yard punt.

And all these disasters happened in the first 15 minutes of the game.

Things to Take Away From Week 13

  • The Jaguars are a mess

    I can't remember how many times I thought that during the Monday night game, but the kicker was when center Brad Meester stepped on David Garrard's foot for the second time, on a crucial fourth down play in the fourth quarter. Garrard was on his back before the play could even develop. Talk about shooting yourself in the thigh.

  • Eli Manning will not be distracted by the Plaxico Burress situation

    Don't get me wrong, the Giants might very well miss having an elite receiver (which Plax is when he's right) if they're in a tight game during the playoffs. But Eli Manning's not going to get flustered by it, and in fact, said that he's mostly just worried about Burress as a person and that he hopes Burress comes out of this okay. In the meantime Domenik Hixon becomes a worthwhile pickup, and Amani Toomer, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss should have expanded roles. Even Sinorice Moss could be heard from again.

  • The Chargers and Packers are a lot better on the stat sheet than in real life

    Until two weeks ago, San Diego and Green Bay looked like sleepers you wouldn't want to face in the playoffs if they got hot. Now neither one has much of a chance. At least the fantasy elements are producing in Green Bay. In San Diego, it's hard to get consistent performances out of anyone but Philip Rivers. And though some think LaDainian Tomlinson's toast, I'm still agnostic. A bad or demoralized offense can really bring a back down - see Jones, Thomas, 2007. I wouldn't be surprised if Tomlinson had a Jones-like resurgence down the stretch or next year.

  • Adrian Peterson's ceiling is still limited by Brad Childress/Chester Taylor

    Peterson is living up to preseason expectations for the most part - he's certainly looks every bit the back we saw during his rookie year, plowing over people and almost never going down on first contact. But in Sunday's game against the Bears, Chester Taylor scored a touchdown and got stuffed twice at the goal line during a subsequent series before Peterson replaced him and ran in for the easy score on third down. Peterson's still on pace for 1700 yards and 12 TDs, but his lack of use as a receiver and Taylor's occasional use at the goal line (3 TD - on a pace for 4) limit his upside. (Peterson's overall carry total is not limited, however - he has 270 so far - on a pace for 360).

  • Brian Westbrook is back (sort of)

    Westbrook's 110 yards and four total touchdowns last week are encouraging, but he still caught just three passes for 20 yards. And while Westbrook missed two games entirely (and was limited in others), it's still surprising to see him 21st in receiving yards among running backs, trailing players like Chester Taylor, Ray Rice, Patrick Cobbs, teammate Correll Buckhalter and Darren Sproles.

Things to watch for in Week 14

  • Will the Giants put aside the distractions and tie an NFL record by winning their seventh game in a row against a winning team?

  • Will the Cowboys prove they're truly back against a very tough Steelers team?

    (As brutal as the Giants schedule has been, take a look at Dallas' next four opponents: @PIT, NYG, BAL, @PHI. The Cowboys will have to go at least 2-2 to have even a shot at making the playoffs).

  • Will the Redskins salvage their slim playoff hopes by generating some offense in Baltimore?

  • Will the Buccaneers muster a quality win on the road in Carolina?

Beating the Book

Going ugly with the Browns panned out for us last week, putting us at 8-5 in forum. We're 96-91-5 overall.

Vikings -9.5 at Lions

We're going to back the Lions here, because no one else will, and that means it's time to buy. Don't expect me to explain how Detroit will pull it off - it's never about imagining the specific how - only knowing three things: (1) Past performance does not guarantee future results; (2) That even the Lions are a half-billion dollar organization filled with its share of the world's greatest atheletes lifting weights, playing and practicing every week; and (3) Vegas has millons of dollars riding on the Lions this week (they know the majority of the money will be on the Vikings), and they chose not to set this line higher. Finally, the suspensions to Kevin and Pat Williams are significant as that removes Minnesota's main strength on defense. Back Detroit... but don't watch the game (or if you must, warm up with some waterboarding first).

Vikings 23 - 16

We were 6-10 in this forum last year, but 127-120 on the season overall. From 1999-2007 we're 1184-1018 (53.8%, not including ties).

The full article comes out on Thursday morning.

Surviving Week 14

Last week, Dallas and the Titans won easily, but our third choice, the Jets, got blown out at home. (We did switch our No. 3 to the Dolphins in the Thursday column).

This week, we'd take the Titans first, the Colts second and the Cardinals third. We don't have to explain why the Titans at home against the Ken Dorsey-led Browns or the Colts at home against the Bengals is a good pick. Arizona worries us slightly more against the Rams because we trust Arizona less than those top AFC South teams. But any of the three would do. If all three are gone, we'd probably prefer Denver over Kansas City, rather than the Chargers against the Raiders or Vikings at Detroit. We reserve the right to change our minds before the full article comes out Wednesday night.

Article first appeared 12/3/08