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East Coast Offense: Reality to the Rescue

Chris Liss

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

Long Live Tim Tebow

After Tebow took seven sacks for 55 yards and generated just 4.4 YPA against the Lions last week, Yahoo!'s Michael Silver wrote about the game, quoting an unnamed Lions defender who called Tebow a "joke," and made reference to "various coaches, executives and players" (also apparently unwilling to attach their names), using words like "atrocious," "terrible" and "completely exposed." Bill Maher also mocked Tebow on his HBO show, saying among other things that he "throws like a girl" and is "in over his head." I also expressed doubts and used herculean restraint not to compare him to David Koresh along the lines of "Not all those who have faith and inspire others are necessarily leading them in the right direction."

As a result, I dropped Tebow from my 14-team YF&F team for Tarvaris Jackson about a minute before kickoff, and picked the Raiders as one of my survivor pool entries (the one that was down to 12 people for $32 K though the Raiders were one of two teams I had to pick in Week 9 per a quirk in the rules).
Naturally, Tebow had 12 carries for 118 yards Sunday (9.8 YPC), took just two sacks, threw for two touchdowns and no picks and bounced me from my pool.

The Raiders defense was horrible, no doubt, and I'm not sure whether Tebow will keep it up this week against the Chiefs. But it goes to show how little attention we should pay to the opinions of front office types who disparage a player anonymously as if they have any clue. Thirty-one teams passed on Tom Brady through five rounds, Fred Jackson was undrafted and Aaron Rodgers fell to No. 24 overall while Alex Smith went No. 1. (And Matt Leinart would have been No. 1 had he come out that year). These are the people purporting to say with so much certainty that Tebow will never amount to anything as a pro. It is they who are repeatedly "exposed", while Tebow, who's started just four career games, still has a chance to show he belongs.

So I'm rooting for the guy, both because he's an exciting player to watch with a unique style of play and because I like seeing the apologists for the conventional wisdom proven wrong yet again. And who cares what his religious beliefs are? I'd root for a guy who worshipped Satan if he were fun to watch and produced for my fantasy teams. Especially if he worshipped Satan.

Reality 1, Fantasy 0

It would be one thing if merely five of my six fantasy teams lost (and the one that won was my least important). I could live with that. But then I lost four of my five survivor entries. And I went 5-9 against the spread, losing my best bet, the Chargers. But Eli Manning, playing without his starting center David Baas, his No. 1 wideout Hakeem Nicks and his top running back Ahmad Bradshaw, led the Giants on two fourth quarter drives to beat the Patriots in Foxborough, and it was hard to be in a bad mood. Don't get me wrong, I'd have to take the dough over a Giants win if given the choice, but I wasn't given the choice. I was just watching my financial investments slip away, while a big emotional one, into which I've made deposits since childhood, paid out big.

I'm still beside myself, especially given the disastrous moves I made during Fantasy Football Live, less than 10 minutes before kickoff (not only dropping Tebow for Jackson but switching one of my survivor pools from the Cowboys to Eagles). But having renewed faith in my real-life team, and the renewed association with Manning beating the Pats in the Super Bowl, is enough to keep the football endorphins flowing for another week.

To Hedge or Not To Hedge?

As a general rule, I hate hedging. I realize you need to do what maximizes your expected return in each situation, and not be partial to your rooting interests, but being a "glass half empty" type of person (actually, more like "glass all empty"), any loss infuriates me. And when you're in six leagues, six survivor pools, picking pools, weekly contests and giving out advice and arguing with 10 different colleagues and writers, you're going to be wrong about a lot every week. You're going to lose a lot every week. And you're going to be annoyed when someone somewhere is in your face about it. But if you align your interests go all-in in Survivor on one team, have many of the same players on as many of your fantasy teams as possible, etc., then maybe you can have one of those rare weeks where almost everything goes your way. But if you hedge, there is zero chance of that happening. Sure, if you have totally different players on all six of your teams, you're almost guaranteed one or two go deep into the playoffs, but where's the skill in that?

The question is how much expected return are you willing to give up for the emotional benefit of undivided rooting. On Sunday, I didn't think I was giving up any (I had Jackson facing Dallas without top cover corner Mike Jenkins ahead of Tebow, who I thought could be benched in the second half), and I thought the Eagles were the better survivor play than Dallas given how many people were on Dallas. So I thought I was actually gaining value, but simply taking on a bigger risk of catastrophe.

When it comes to real life like buying health insurance or diversifying your investments it's sometimes worth sacrificing expected value for catastrophe avoidance. But in fantasy football, it's just the opposte. If anything, I'll sacrifice a tiny bit of expected value for the enjoyment of undivided rooting and the remote chance to have the perfect week. (Of course, had the Raiders, Seahawks and Browns won Sunday, I would absolutely have flown to Vegas and put a huge hedging wager on the Bears Monday night because there's some point where Survivor gets large enough to transcend fantasy and very much constitute reality.

Things to Take Away from Week 9

The Jets defense is easily the best in the NFL, and in my opinion they're the favorite right now in the AFC, especially with Mark Sanchez taking a step forward this year. The Steelers' D had a case before Joe Flacco drove 92 yards against them Sunday night. The 49ers need to play better competition, though this week's game against the Giants should be a decent test. If I had to pick an AFC team to beat the Jets, it would probably be the Texans.

The Patriots' inability to stretch the field limits their ceiling.

Matt Moore could easily be this year's Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Cowboys passing offense is a huge disappointment given their personnel. Imagine if Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten were on the Patriots, Saints or Packers.

Do the Browns serve any function whatsoever? (This question stumped Jeff Erickson on the air Monday).

Normally, by midseason I don't put much stock in what happened during the season's first couple weeks. The Chiefs might make me rethink that.

Maybe Eli Manning was right. Manning has made quality players out of previously unknown Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard this year, the hallmark of a good QB.

Both Colquitts (Dustin and Britton) attempted passes Sunday. The former on a botched fake field goal, the latter on a muffed snap.

Graham Gano kicking a 59-yard field goal at the end of the first half was like Juan Pierre hitting a 500-foot home run.

Just as it was time to pick up Roy Helu, Jr. after Ryan Torain's breakout, it's time to pick up Daniel Thomas after Reggie Bush's. You always have to be a week or two early.

Why did the Seahawks sign Zach Miller to a 5-year $34 million deal if they were never going to throw to him? He's a poor man's DeAngelo Williams in that regard.

When did Philip Rivers turn into Brett Favre?

Jay Cutler is a top-10 NFL QB, something that's more readily apparent now that the Bears are blocking for him. Earl Bennett will be a consistent producer in the second half.

If Peyton Manning is the MVP by subtraction, then Kenny Britt (two years running) is the runner up. The Titans are only marginally more relevant than the Browns now. The Redskins are halfway in between.

At one point during the fourth quarter of the early games, no contest was within 13 points. So I rooted for the Browns to get the backdoor cover (they failed), the Saints to get a final first down and run out the clock (they instead kicked a spread-covering FG) and Tarvaris Jackson to salvage his miserable showing (he did not).

The Eagles defense played one of the worst games I've ever seen. Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel et. al could not cover anyone, and that game in Philly was not nearly as close as the score. The Eagles will need to go 7-1 to make the playoffs, a major long shot.

The Bears' pass defense is just average, but somehow they do a better job than almost anyone of slowing down Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers.

Things to Look for in Week 10

The Steelers give the Bengals a major test in Cincinnati.

The Bills go to Dallas for what could be an elimination game.

The Saints travel to Atlanta in a "pick 'em" game.

The Bears host the Lions after crushing the Eagles in Philly Monday night.

Eli Manning takes on the Niners defense in San Francisco.

The Pats travel to New York another game that started as a "pick 'em," (though the Jets are favored now).

Beating the Book

Broncos +3 at Chiefs

I know I said a bunch of nice things about Tebow earlier, but it's time to buy the Chiefs low off the blowout loss to the Dolphins and sell the Broncos high again. Tebow might get it done and as I said I'm rooting for him but Denver's defense isn't good, and Kansas City should be able to bounce back at home. Back the Chiefs who roll.

Chiefs 34 17

Last week we lost with the Chargers to go 5-4 in this forum, 5-9 on the week and 61-64-5 overall. We were 10-7 in this forum last season and 40-27 over the four years of the column (we skipped Week 17 in 2007). From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 against the spread (53%, not including ties). The full article comes out Wednesday night.

Surviving Week 10

Last week was a brutal one as our top pick, the Eagles simply didn't show up against a very game Bears squad. The Raiders, Chiefs and Pats also took down some entrants as well. If you had the Cowboys, Texans or Falcons, you didn't have to sweat it out much. Let's take a look at this week's slate:

Team Opponent % Picked* Vegas ML** Vegas Odds
EAGLES Cardinals 65.50% 925 90%
PACKERS Vikings 10.90% 700 88%
Ravens SEAHAWKS 9.00% 275 73%
CHARGERS Raiders 5.50% 290 74%
DOLPHINS Redskins 1.70% 185 65%
Jaguars COLTS 1.60% 155 61%
PANTHERS Titans 1.20% 175 64%
CHIEFS Broncos 1.20% 160 62%
COWBOYS Bills 0.60% 220 69%
BROWNS Rams 0.60% 137.5 58%

Home Team in CAPS
* according to
** average of the two moneylines

The Packers are the no-brainer pick if you have them available, given that only 11 percent of the pools are on them, and they're 88 percent favorites, according to Vegas. But assuming you don't, then it gets interesting.

The Eagles are 90 percent favorites at home against Arizona, but 66 percent of pools are on them. That means if you had 10 people left at 10 units apiece, and the Eagles lost, there would be only 3 people left. Your equity stake would go from 10 to 33. So the question is whether any other team is less than 3 times as likely to lose as Philly. In other words, any team that's 70 percent or better (30 percent chance or less to lose) is a better pick than Philly.

According to Vegas, that leaves the Chargers and Ravens, in that order. The Cowboys are on the bubble at 69 percent. I've picked all three of those teams and the Cowboys in my lone remaining pool, so I'll probably be going with Philly, even though I could hardly be more disgusted with them after Monday night.

I reserve the right to change my mind when the full article comes out Wednesday.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Chris_Liss