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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, Oct 5, 2011 at 9:20 AM
Subject: Week Five Breakfast
To: Scott Pianowski

I thought this was going to be Jets-Pats breakfast, but with New England favored by double digits, it doesn't seem to be a game worth talking about. They've won 29 straight at home under Brady, as you know (with a couple of catches).

We're four weeks in, and passing yardage is up about 17% from the 2000-2009 average. Total yardage is up about 9%, and so you can see how rushing yardage is down. Is the NFL now officially a passing league?

I think we have to talk about the 1-3 Eagles. How do you spend all that money on defense and give up 440 yards to the Niners of all teams? So much for the Dream Team: "Is the nightmare black or are the windows painted?" (Any excuse to link some of the best guitar work ever by the late, great Mick Ronson.) We should also discuss whether the Steelers really are too old as Tennessee rolls into town Sunday. Philadelphia at Buffalo looks good on paper, but the Bills can't stop a nosebleed right now. Other than that, the slate seems very weak to me, maybe one of the worst ever. I do not think the Falcons are any match for Green Bay on Sunday night. So I'll be watching the season finale of "Breaking Bad" which was "Breaking Great" for a while for Walter White and family, but no more. The floor is yours. Week 5 Breakfast is served.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Wed, Oct 5, 2011 at 11:57 AM
Subject: juliana hatfield, colt mccoy
To: Michael Salfino

Every Jets-Pats line I've seen has been 9 or 9.5, not double-digits, but it's a moot point. The spread is insanely high (I'm positive I'll be on the Jets, both for Rotowire Staff Picks and in the Throwing Darts Yahoo! blog). Andre Tippett isn't walking through that door, Steve Nelson isn't walking through that door, Rodney Harrison isn't walking through that door. The Patriots have to outscore teams, and no lead is safe with them.

Then again, maybe no lead is safe in today's NFL. Look at all those crazy Detroit comebacks, the season of the Cowboys to this point, the second-half collapses that the Vikings script ahead of time. What are the comebacking teams doing right? What are the giveaway teams doing wrong?

Back to the Jets, I don't understand Rex Ryan and the "ground and pound" talk. If I were Oedipus Rex, I meet with Mark Sanchez on Monday morning and say this: "Look, forget Baltimore. It's over. We'll worry about them in January. Let's go look at the Pats film, and figure out how you're going to throw for 430 this week against those knuckleheads." How can you play "ground and pound" when your offensive line stinks, and your feature back is a dud? And why wouldn't you want to chuck it 40-plus times against this horrific New England secondary?

And it's not like the Jets defense played poorly in Baltimore. Joe Flacco had a terrible game, and Ray Rice went nowhere. In a league where most teams can't get stops, the Jets are still very dangerous.

I boil the Eagles down to a few things: too many turnovers and mistakes on offense, no reliable ground game when you need it (with a lead, late, and at the goal line), a disorganized defense, and a pinch of Andy Reid. Mix well, serve hot, serves 8-10. There's no way to prove it concretely, but I think the league results to this point show that it takes longer for defense to jell than offense. The Philly defense looks like 11 men that randomly met in the parking lot five minutes before game time.

I like the Week 5 slate because we finally get rid of the stupid Colts in prime time. The Indy quarterback shuffle finally makes sense to me now: the Colts made the move for Kerry Collins because they mistakenly thought this team had a shot to go 9-7 and sneak into the playoffs. It was a case of overrating the core parts outside of Peyton Manning. Now that Indy knows the score, might as well develop Curtis Painter as a capable backup and write off the season.

I wouldn't mind watching the Packers play on prime time every week. Is this passing game better than any of the Favre teams? I hope Aaron Rodgers wins another ring and stuffs a sock in yippety-yappety Favre once and for all. What's Green Bay's over/under on wins? How many teams have a good shot at beating them?

Of course, sliding doors is always the story in sports. What if the Niners had drafted Aaron Rodgers, not Alex Smith? Would Rodgers have succeeded there? What if the Dolphins gamble on Drew Brees and his balky shoulder, not Daunte Culpepper and his makeshift knee? What if Mo Lewis doesn't collapse Drew Bledsoe's lung? What if Eli Manning had been willing to play in San Diego?

At the end of the day, we'd rather be lucky than smart. But if you can find a way, it's best to be both.

You get the first shovel, should you want it, on the Steelers. And I'd like to see how you handicap the NFC East going forward.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 9:57 AM
Subject: Re: juliana hatfield, colt mccoy
To: scott pianowski

The interesting thing about the Jets game is whether they will play defense like they did in the playoffs, eschewing blitzing and dropping eight into coverage on most plays while Revis handles someone one-on-one, making it seven on four elsewhere. Remember, in the second regular season game last year, Brady was blitzed 13 times and was sacked twice but has a 154.4 QB rating with 18.1 YPA on his attempts. The blitz rate that game was 44.8%. In the playoffs, they blitzed Brady (five or more rushers) just 16%.

Obviously, the Jets can completely take Wes Welker out of this game if they choose to with Revis, too, which would be a new paradigm for the Patriots. Welker is amazing in playing at 100 miles an hour on every play and somehow still playing with such control and precision. But he's no match for Revis, who is such a freak and easily the best defensive player in football. He's had one penalty called on him since 2010 (it was declined) and hasn't been flagged or pass interference since 2007.

But the Jets offense is a mess right now. People here want to talk about Sanchez, but if you can't block you can't pass. It's fundamental. So even the Patriots defense would scare me. Who says the Jets line can block even them? I also think it's time to see what Joe McKnight can do from scrimmage. The Jets are too slow in the running game.

Teams are passing more so they're probably passing better late when they need to. Maybe practice makes perfect. I wrote about this for the Journal this week. So far this season, nearly two-thirds (66%) of winning teams have trailed at some point in the game, while 42% of winners in every game have battled back from second-half deficits. Those numbers are up from 58.6% and 35.5%, respectively, in 2010, according to Stats LLC.

Michael Vick says the Dream (Team) is Over. John Lennon said that once. Vick and Lennon have a lot in common. The Eagles made too many changes on defense, as I intimated back in August. But the kicker is that new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo last coached on the defensive side of the ball in 1989 - at Kingsville High School in Texas. I think the Eagles biggest problem is that they can't stop the run. Again, nine out of 10 times this can be overcome. But if your run defense is a complete joke, it puts too much pressure on the rest of your defense. The Giants are the best team in the NFC East, but their running game now is very problematic. The Cowboys have a real problem with Dez Bryant disappearing after the first quarter because he's too tired. Who ever heard of such a thing? The Eagles are already shot. And I refuse to believe in Rex Grossman.

The Colts have actually been close to winning the last two weeks. But maybe that says more about the Steelers and Bucs. Pittsburgh has no offensive line, and that's not something you can fix now. Plus their defense is way too old with nine guys over 30.

Favre is just crazy with the backhanded compliments to Rodgers, who is so clearly a great player combining all of Favre's explosiveness without the brain farts. But Favre can't let his career go and so has to settle with preserving his legacy. It's funny how quickly Rodgers has surpassed him even in that regard. Well, obviously it's not funny and instead infuriating to Favre. I'm playing Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson every week in one league and have no worries about that kind of doubling down at all, especially given that the league rewards distance scoring. But not picking Rodgers ahead of Rashard Mendenhall was really stupid. The bigger the distance bonus, the more valuable QBs are.

Alex Smith actually looked pretty good last week. This shocks me. But clearly that's the biggest draft blunder since all those teams passing on Marino in 1983 - yes, including the Jets. But Ken O'Brien would have been a very good QB for a long time with an offensive coordinator who didn't subject him to needless beatings by refusing to max protect ever. Reminds me of a current Jets offensive coordinator, actually.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM
Subject: rocky mcintosh
To: Michael Salfino

If I were the Jets, I'd absolutely devote Revis to Welker and dare Brady to beat me with his other targets. A healthy Aaron Hernandez would come in handy here, but no one knows if he'll go. I'm tempted to pick a Jets upset because I'm that down on the New England defense; the Ravens defense confused Sanchez as much as it intimidated him, things that are unlikely to happen this week. But Belichick is a Mac guy, Ryan is a PC guy (good old Rock, nothing beats that. Every Shonn Greene handoff is a gift to the hosts (and I'm with you on McKnight). Pats 30, Jets 24.

Here's a curious news item: Michael Oher had no idea who the late Steve Jobs was. Puts the Blind Side in a new perspective. Maybe it's time for Oher to switch from 74 to 64, a nod to the Commodore people.

The good news about shoddy offensive line play is that it's easier to mask in the passing game, especially if your quarterback is mobile. So I'm not ready to dump the Steelers, at least until they take both feet away from Ben Roethlisberger. I'm stunned at what Matt Hasselbeck is doing in Tennessee, though the Kenny Britt loss is gigantic, and last week's long Jared Cook score was a fluke. Tennessee's defensive stats have been built against three weak sisters (Jags, Broncos, Browns). Maybe it's a laundry vote, but I'll be the sucker: Steelers 24, Titans 20.

Rodgers handled the silly Favre comments perfectly, crediting his teammates and avoiding a direct conflict with Favre. Smart. Rodgers gets it. Divas and attention whores are all around pro sports, but Favre has ascended to a new level of assclownery. I'm astounded that he's still seen as a viable pitchman; by my unofficial survey, most of America is sick of him. But if a mediocre back like Reggie Bush can sell sandwiches, I guess a washed up Brett Favre can sell stone-washed jeans. I'll pass on both, thanks.

It's a good time to swipe in and grab Romo for fantasy - he's still posting delicious numbers, and the Cowboys have ridiculous skill talent when everyone is close to healthy. Miles Austin should return in Week 6, and New England and St. Louis are waiting on the schedule. Yes, please.

I'm picking the Eagles on desperate-team theory, and also knowing that their speed is going to give Buffalo fits. Philly will really have to mess up to not get to 30 points here. Atlanta should be able to hang with Green Bay to a point - the Falcons play a lot better at home - but the Packers will score last and laugh last. Chargers roll in Denver, now that it's October. Lions kick the tar out of Jay Cutler. Indy sneaks past Kansas City, much to the delight of the resting Dolphins (who would love to be Lucky come April).

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