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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 19, 2011 at 8:09 PM
Subject: Week 7 Breakfast
To: Scott Pianowski

Scoring took a breather last week - the games were finally played to old-timey scores. Given the explosion that preceded it, you have to ask if defenses are catching up with offenses. Maybe the lockout hurt the defense more, which would have gone against all conventional wisdom. But maybe it's the brief calm during the passing storm.

Massey-Peabody isn't out yet officially. But I have it. There are seven teams that seem to be at a point where they can plausibly be called Super Bowl contenders. (And remember, with M-P, it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.) They are: Patriots, Ravens - gap - Packers - gap - Niners, Steelers, Saints. Those Harbaughs can freakin' coach, can't they? I guess we have to get into the whole handshake thing. My bottom line: Schwartz looks like a putz. Lions are ranked 13th, by the way, right between Philly and Cincinnati.

What team do you think can play a lot better than they have to date? The Chargers or Jets perhaps? I know the Jets have not succeeded against quality opponents, but who have the Chargers beaten? The Raiders score poorly in yardage defensively, but can dominate. I have no idea what to make of Carson Palmer coming in cold at this stage of the season, even after the bye next week. Is Palmer still any good? There was talk on sports radio about the commissioner having to come up with a rule that punishes teams for tanking in order to get Andrew Luck. Really? I think he's ground zero now in whether we can really know about what makes a NFL QB. I know he was raised since birth to play the position. So was Todd Marinovich. What are we watching this week? Week 7 Breakfast is served.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 1:55 PM
Subject: face dances
To: Michael Salfino

In the Pianow Power Ranks, Green Bay is miles ahead of everyone else. The Packers should be on National TV every week. I know it's easy to throw the ball in Pinball 2011, but Aaron Rodgers has a 122.4 QB rating, which is almost 18 points ahead of second-pace Tom Brady. The receiving group is crazy deep. The defense hasn't played great but there's still a lot of talent on that side of the ball. What's the over/under on wins? Thirteen? Fourteen? Can they run the table? Do they want to?

I realize the Pack will have trouble salting away close games - the ground game is nothing special - but to exploit that, you have to get into a close game with them. That's why Rodgers has such a so-so record in close games - he's too busy beating you by 20.

Tough slate for the viewer. Worst bye week group for the fantasy players, too. The resting teams are a collective 24-12, and that's including Philly's deceiving 2-4. And watch out for the Eagles, who are 12-0 under Andy Reid after the bye week (at least the Sunday nighter in Week 8 is a tasty one, Dallas and Philly).

I'll be watching Tim Tebow for the sideshow in Miami, but the most interesting early game is San Diego at the Jets. I know I'm preaching to the choir when I complain about the Jets offense - you know the flaws as well as anyone. A Madden-savvy teenager could call out their plays before the snap. Mark Sanchez is getting a lot of the blame here, but he's far down my flag list. How many quarterbacks could play well tied to this boring offense and mismatched parts?

And then there's San Diego, weird team. Last year they were spreadsheet darlings who couldn't win - this year they've got surface wins and no stat cred. What's eating Philip Rivers?

Cincinnati hit the Carson Palmer lottery over the last week. The Raiders were the only team likely to overpay for him given all the Palmer confederates in the organization. But did Oakland have any other choices? It bugs me to hear some suggest that Oakland should have dealt a mid-round pick for Kyle Orton - sure, I like the idea, but wouldn't Denver be paranoid about trading in division? If Oakland thinks it can win the division - and it can - you can't let Kyle Boller decide your season.

At least the trading deadline gave us something. I think Palmer will be a league-average QB for two reasons: the Oakland offense has plenty of help for him at all levels (strong running game, plus offensive line, deep receivers), and the messy endgame in Cincinnati was largely due to Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens doing all that freelancing. Consider what Palmer did late last season when Jerome Simpson finally got on the field for meaningful snaps.

I respect the Ravens, but I've never enjoyed watching them. Ugly stadium, gawky quarterback (wake up Joe Flacco, the league is making it easy for you), all the endless Ray Lewis canonizing. I might skip the Baltimore-Jacksonville Monday nighter completely. Who came up with the Monday schedule, David Stern?

The weird thing about the Patriots is that they're 13th in scoring defense despite allowing the most yards (and the most passing yards). Are they lucky? Is this a fluke? Is Belichick crazy like a fox?

The Marinovich takeaway is simple - let your kid eat Big Macs. Predictions on the flip side.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 3:57 PM
Subject: Re: face dances
To: scott pianowski

The Packers are peaking at the wrong time, I think. How do they get better? Rodgers regresses a little at the wrong time, and they will be beat, and regression from where he's at now is almost inevitable. Let me check your Rogers winning by 20. Roughly looking at the splits about a 25-to-30 percent of his career attempts have been in wins by 15 or more points (those are attempts for those entire games). That's a lot, but doesn't explain the close game issue, not that this needs explaining anymore. But since you brought it up.

Dallas is better than Philly, much better I believe. I don't like those historic stats because what does that have to do with this team? I'll fade that and pick the Cowboys, expecting that trend will move the line.

The one bright spot for the Jets offensively - and I mean that literally - was the play of the offensive line on Monday night. But Miami hasn't been able to pressure the QB all year. Still, Wayne Hunter actually manhandled Cameron Wake, who is not chopped liver. I wrote all about the Jets offensive misery on Just go to the home page and start scrolling, readers. The problem with the Chargers is that their pass defense stinks. Can the Jets make them pay? That's doubtful, mostly because the Jets won't even TRY to make them pay until it's too late.

What's the fascination that the world has with Tebow? I don't even think he's going to be a viable fantasy player. He can't throw it at all. He's an okay runner, but he's more like a fullback. It just takes him so long to get rid of the ball, and the NFL game is won or lost - and passes are completed or not - by milliseconds. Tebow loses those on every throw. I see lots of knockdowns and passes defensed or even picked when he happens to be on target, which will not be at a league average rate for sure.

Kyle Orton is a backup QB, so who wants him? Maybe Palmer can recapture his former near greatness in a new place. It's possible. It's not possible for Orton to be a QB on a team that needs a QB to be at least good. I think the odds are against it, but giving up a mid-round first rounder and a conditional second rounder is not much of a price to pay. The most overrated thing in football is a first-round draft pick, but admittedly slightly less now with the new contract rules.

The Ravens never underachieve. That's coaching in a nutshell.

Jets lose in overtime. I can't think of another game worth predicting. You don't have one winning team playing another winning team unless I'm missing something. But I'll take Tennessee over Houston, too.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 5:34 PM
Subject: world leader pretend
To: Michael Salfino

I buy into the Andy Reid bye-week stat because I buy into Reid as a terrific six-day coach. He's as good as it gets until you need common sense and clock management and game-theory while the bullets are flying. But with respect to assembling a game plan and attacking the weaknesses of next week's defense, he's brilliant - and doubly so when the preparation time is increased. There's too much of a sample to ignore it.

How can sporting outfits control when they peak? What can they really do? What's the secret of the St. Louis Cardinals? Should Rodgers throw a few intentional picks just to keep the rating down? Look, the odds of anyone winning the title in any given year aren't good. "Field" is always the play. But I'd take Green Bay to go deeper than any other singular pick, and I'd spot some odds, too.

The Jets could have lost Monday if not for the Revis interception runback from the goal line - and he probably got away with illegal contact on that play. As terrific as Revis is - without a doubt the cover guy in the game - he's getting Maddux/Glavine respect from the officials these days. Every defensive back interferes now and again.

The funny thing about the Palmer deal is that the Raiders weren't bidding against another team or market value; instead, they had to come up with an offer that was big enough for Mike Brown to drop his spiteful grudge. Oakland finally moved into a price point where even a stubborn mule like Brown had to say yes. Desperation might help teams on the field, but it's a virus in the negotiating room.

Tebow will be a fantasy factor if he continues to run aggressively. Look at the game logs again: he was a fake-football overlord in Weeks 15-17 last year, and he's scored a rushing touchdown in his last seven games. No heavy lifting required on this one, it's just algebra. Tebow more than anyone underscores the difference between real-life value and fantasy value.

I'm suspicious of John Fox's motives in Denver. He demoted Tebow to third string before the season and refused to put a Tebow package into the offense. It would not surprise me if Fox really wanted Tebow to fail when he made the change against San Diego: go ahead kid, fall on your face so I can wash my hands of this. Instead, Tebow rallied the Broncos - it wasn't pretty but it was effective - and now Fox has no choice, he has to play the lefty. How does the Brandon Lloyd giveaway make sense from Denver's perspective?

But to make a successful offense out of an unorthodox quarterback (or even an average one), you need a brilliant coordinator and a creative scheme. Is Mike McCoy capable of that in Denver? I know he was with the team last year, but obviously Josh McDaniels ran the offense. Bottom line, I'm rooting for Tebow because of the story and because I like the kid. And he's easy to defend as a fantasy play because of how he runs the ball and how we score things. But I also have to agree with all of your scouting observations on Tebow in the pocket; he might never be an average passer, let alone a great one, and it's hard to imagine him driving a team to the playoffs someday.

The new rookie rules pump up the value of first-round picks, and even under the old system picks were valuable because they're a currency (especially on draft day). You can always prey on the scouting vanity of other teams in April. The smartest guys in the room are usually trading down.

I'll take the Chargers over the Jets - so long as the Jets keep giving Shonn Greene 20 wasted and predictable touches a week, I can't back them. Tennessee over Houston, because I'm so sick of Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub. I have no idea what happens in London, but if I were the Bucs, I'd be ticked to lose a home game. Rangers rally to beat the Cardinals, in spite of Ron Washington.