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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, Nov 30, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Subject: Lucky 13 Breakfast
To: Scott Pianowski

The Giants have a bit of a habit of beating teams that seem invincible. Any chance they continue their 1998 Broncos, 2007 Pats thing on the Patriots this week?

Two games for stomping on someone when he's down (there's no better time to stomp him, really). Yeesh. I think one game is pretty severe. It was a love stomp, not like he broke the guy's arm. Speaking of cheap shots, when are teams going to just kill Tebow on those read option fakes with about three linemen? He's fair game, right? You can just say you thought he had the ball. WWTSRD? (What would the '70s Raiders do?) Remember, Al Atkinson took Lynn Swann out with a forearm to the head when the pass was 15 yards away from him. And Atkinson was about the eighth dirtiest Raider defensive starter at the time.

Jack Del Rio fired. Good riddance. His teams are so boring. If you're going to be a defensive-oriented team, at least blitz like crazy so I can be entertained. I guess Andy Reid is next, right? Dream Teams never work out in the NFL because player value in a vacuum is almost impossible to accurately assess. Plus, chemistry counts. Cincy-Pittsburgh and Atlanta-Houston are games we have to talk about, though I won't complain if you want to ignore the latter. Is Dan Pastorini playing QB this week for Houston? What's Stabler up to?

Week 13 Breakfast is served.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Dec 1, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Subject: hey thirteen
To: Michael Salfino

I give the Giants a chance because they can rush the passer - well, we'll see who is healthy - and they can throw the ball. Those are two critical things to challenge the Packers. And Green Bay still doesn't have a great plan for salting games away - the running game isn't much. No one tends to notice because they've blown so many teams out.

Suh's suspension seems right to me, not that I'm riveted by the story. He has a reputation and a thick collection of personal fouls. Mind you, I think some of it is a self-fulfilling prophecy from the zebras - he's been a target from Game 1 and some of the calls have been ticky-tack. But you can't do what you did on Thanksgiving, especially when you're more or less on probation already, and not expect the league to react.

I'd like to see the league relax the end-zone celebration rules, in part because we have some very original showmen out there. But the Stevie Johnson thing bugs me for one simple reason - he had to know he was guaranteeing a flag with what he did, and yet he went through with the gig anyway. Sure, the rules are silly, but you're pretty damn selfish if you decide your song and dance is worth the 15 yards you're costing your team. Play with your head, son; keep your cool. And while you're at it, catch the damn ball on the final drive, especially when it hits you in the hands.

I haven't followed the Del Rio firing closely. It was going to be now or Jan. 2. Maybe it's the new ownership talking, maybe they want to see how the assistant handles the big chair, maybe Del Rio put an ultimatum down and got called on it, maybe the players turned on him. That team is so violently boring, I don't want to look at it. Whomever decided to put three Jacksonville games on Prime-Time TV this year (and without flex bailout) deserves to be kicked out of the NFL for life.

Andy Reid is a different cat. The guy wins 60 percent of his games, and he's been successful for over a decade. We can point to specific things - a prolific offense, scheme advancements, player improvements - and know that Reid is the man making it work. He's a dynamite offensive designer, and even with his game-day foibles, a heck of a head coach. But there's a modest shelf life for any pro sports coach today; at some point it's best for everyone to move on. I could see Reid getting the Terry Francona treatment at the end of the year, a breakup that's closer to mutual than it is a firing.

I also think it's insane how some chuckleheads wanted Reid fired in-season. The NFL is the one league where in-season firings rarely make sense, not if you think the season can be saved. Too much infrastructure is ripped up if you can a head coach who also does a lot of game-planning. If the Eagles want to let Reid go, it has to be at the end of the year - not in the middle of a season.

Would the 1980 Raiders have won it all with Dan Pastorini at quarterback, or Ken Stabler for that matter? I still feel a little cheated that the Don Coryell Chargers never made it to the Super Bowl. And while we're at it, why is Coryell not in the Hall of Fame? He dramatically changed the way everyone viewed the passing game, and the fingerprints are still visible today.

I've never been afraid of the number 13, by the way. I actually think it's a cool number; odd, prime, distinctive.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Dec 1, 2011 at 1:40 PM
Subject: Re: hey thirteen
To: scott pianowski

Osi Umenyiora is out though, which hurts the Giants. And Ahmad Bradshaw is in, which will make them run more early and make it more likely they get down 21-3. I think the Giants lose 40-24 (something like that).

Time of possession is so overrated. If you keep the good QB off the field, you increase your chance that their points per possession will not be average, but it could be above just as easily as below. And if you're running, how are you going to reasonably average more points per possession than a passing team. The Giants need to go into that game thinking they have to score five touchdowns and play accordingly.

In case readers aren't aware, you go to the ground during an end zone celebration, and you get a 15-yard penalty automatically. Shooting yourself in the leg, not a problem.

I'm thankful this holiday season that we don't have to talk about Jack Del Rio anymore. What about the Jaguars moving to St. Louis while the Rams move back to Los Angeles? I like it. Jacksonville doesn't deserve football. And St. Louis doesn't care who is there because they are just such nice people who support whoever wears their laundry whole-heartedly. But maybe that makes them saps. It's soothing when you sit in the stands though and watch them cheer a sacrifice fly down 9-1 in the eighth without a hint of sarcasm.

Reid's undoing was hiring a defensive coordinator who hadn't coached defense in 20 years and since high school. Need to have more respect for your profession than that, I think. Hey, can the Eagles get amnesty on that Vick contract? Yikes. But we all saw it coming, right? I sure did. Regression to the mean plus continuous injury risk adds up to a very loud alarm horn. What happens to Vick now? But I agree that the shelf-life for coaches in a town is about five years, plus or minus. Sort of like the shelf life for a rock band (or at last for the band to do anything interesting). The exceptions are few.

The Lions at the Saints is not even close to keeping me away from Dexter this week after what happened last week. But I do think the Lions can win. Odds of Matthew Stafford getting hurt against that Saints constant blitzing seem high. If we're lucky, we get a shootout. But I'll pick the Saints to win and cover, 35-24. I was ready to bail on that show about 20 times this season. Now though, I'm hooked. And you can run into more Walkers at Jaguars games than we saw this season on The Walking Dead. One way to shrink the zombie hoard is to lower the production budget while firing the Hollywood director, it turns out.

Stabler did not age gracefully, so, no, not with him. Do athletes who get gray hair early more rapidly decline? And why did Keanu Reeves get gray hair in Coppola's Dracula? I've been trying to figure that out for 20 years.

Coryell helped develop Apollo Creed, true story. But seriously, he should get in as an innovator. He doesn't deserve to get in as a head coach. But his impact on the game was probably greater than most coaches who have won even multiple championships. It's more than Vince Lombardi's for example. Heck, John Madden was on his San Diego State teams.

Colts cover! The Steelers handle the Bengals easy. And where are all the Tebow-maniacs with the Broncos getting in Minnesota this week. (The bookies know he really stinks.) By the way, credit the Broncos defense. The QB is not important when you hold teams to 10-13 like Denver has the past three weeks (plus they've scored a TD). Teams doing this since 2009 - 125-22.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Dec 1, 2011 at 2:31 PM
Subject: re: hey thirteen
To: Michael Salfino

The Denver defense is the new Tebowism. It's so underrated it's overrated. What has this unit done that's so special? The Broncos held the Dolphins to 15 points, before Miami sort of woke up. Hold me. Then Detroit had a 45-point party. Oakland scored 24 points. And since then the Broncos have held down the Chiefs (who are clearly a joke), the Jets (Sanchez's pick six lost that game; more awful throw than defensive heroism) and the Chargers (a team with a lame-duck head coach, a six-game losing streak, and a struggling quarterback). Sure, the unit is playing well, but this isn't the 1985 Bears. Heck, it's not the 2011 Niners.

And the offense deserves credit for helping the defense out by not turning the ball over and (for the last month) not allowing sacks. If the Broncos had even an average rate of giveaways in the last six weeks, a lot of these wins turn into losses.

Here's the thing with shortening the game and time of possession: if you think the other guys are better, you want a tighter game, less iterations. You also wouldn't mind bad weather if it comes to it. If you're the favorite, you want a clean track, a long game, more iterations. But once the game starts and someone gets ahead and the match has some personality to it, you have to play to the game situation at hand. I will say this: decided underdogs should go for two when they score a late touchdown to apparently force overtime. See Washington against Dallas from two weeks back.

Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar were talking about the Eagles on their podcast this week and had some great takes on the struggles of the defense, especially the secondary. Asante Samuel has to play one side, which means you can't use Nnamdi Asomugha as a dedicated matchup corner. And Asomugha doesn't like playing inside; he's more of an angles corner, not a change-of-direction guy. It's a mistake to assume that every star corner can thrive no matter where you put him on the field. Cosell also critiqued Asomugha's blitzing chops; while you don't acquire a corner primarily for that reason, you'd like your man in the slot to be dangerous in that area (ideally, someone like Charles Woodson). Everyone should play this podcast; get this terrific info from the source, rather than my paraphrasing of it. The Philly stuff is all in the first ten minutes.

Your solution with the Rams and Jaguars is perfect. And Jacksonville, sorry, does not deserve a football team. The area doesn't support it. I've been there firsthand and seen it.

The presence of Bradshaw at least opens your playbook. The other New York offense has that problem too. When Joe McKnight is on the field (or heck, a healthy Tomlinson), you have options. When Shonn Greene is on the field, you're limited. And at least Bradshaw has a shot at making an unblocked defender miss, something Jacobs rarely does. Big power backs seldom age well.

Stabler's Oilers were the first team Oakland defeated on the way to the Super Bowl XV win. The Raiders sacked Stabler seven times in the Wild Card round, with cornerbacks picking up four of the sacks. Bum Phillips had no idea what hit him. The Raiders also picked up on an Earl Campbell tell; when Campbell leaned forward pre-snap, Oakland knew it was a running play.

As we've discussed a few times, I'd still put Stabler in the Hall of Fame - his run in the 1970s with the second or third-best team of the decade speaks for itself. But Stabler's awful close in Houston and New Orleans, and some of his controversies off the field (and run-ins with sportswriters) is keeping him out. Paul Zimmerman, it's been said, has done as much to keep Stabler out as anyone.

Stevie Johnson might have earned a flag had the officials understood what his celebration was. But yes, going to the ground cemented it. Players need to know this stuff. Better yet, do what Dave Casper would do - hand the ball to the official - and you don't take any chances. Real men don't need to shout out "me me me" after they make a play; they let the accomplishment speak for itself.

I don't understand watching a TV show over a sporting event that might be of interest. Dexter has been written and shipped; the story isn't changing. Sports need to be watched live. Maybe it's just me.

Looks like the Vikings are letting Donovan McNabb out of his clipboard duty. Should the Bears ring McNabb? The Texans?

Back to the future: Giants hang around, Packers get the final word and a close win. Patriots roll but they won't cover the gigantic number (keep in mind the 2007 Pats finished the year 1-8 ATS and didn't cover any number over 19). Pittsburgh by one score (defense isn't anywhere near as good as the laundry suggests, and Cincinnati is more legit than people realize). Elway over Tarkenton in the Dome.

I will not predict the Chargers-Jags game on general principle. Everybody loses.