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Breakfast Table: Pianowski and Salfino Talk Football

Michael Salfino

Michael Salfino writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Scott Pianowski

Scott Pianowski writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 12:19 PM
Subject: waiting game breakfast
To: Michael Salfino

The waiting is the hardest part, especially when it comes to the Super Bowl off-week. But we've got a few things on our plate to digest in the meantime. We'll have plenty of time to break down the big game next week. Let's get to those cleanups on Aisle 7.

It took me a solid day to debrief and come down from the disappointment of the Patriots loss to Baltimore. Nothing artificial about the result - the Ravens outplayed, outhit and outcoached the Patriots. New England wasn't able to maximize its scoring in the first half (that's so often a killer, not getting a knockout when it's potentially there), and then it simply got dominated in the final two quarters. One of the strangest games Bill Belichick's ever coached. The man who understood the controversial calculus at Indianapolis (going for it on 4th-and-2 in his own territory) all of a sudden loves to punt in plus territory. What's happened to these guys? How much longer is the Patriots window open? Is it that hard to pick competent defensive backs in the draft?

I'd like some quick thoughts on the departed Falcons and Broncos, too. What's the over-under for Matt Ryan titles? Same question for Peyton Manning and Brady, while we're at it. Did the Falcons give away the Niners game, or did San Francisco take it from Atlanta? If you had to pick a 2013 NFC favorite right now, who would you go with?

We've also got an anniversary of sorts on the calendar - 10 years ago we broke down our first Super Bowl in the Table, the Raiders and Buccaneers. That game is getting a lot of attention this week as the jaded Oakland receivers are hurling all sorts of crazy accusations at former head coach Bill Callahan. Good grief. Clifford Branch never did that to John Madden. I don't think there's a lot to the story - there's no logical incentive for Callahan to throw a freaking championship game - but I know you've spent a lot of time breaking this down on Twitter. Did the Al Davis Trust put you on the payroll?

All of these themes are in play, or go off the board if you like. Waiting Game Breakfast is served.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 1:32 PM
Subject: Re: waiting game breakfast
To: scott pianowski

I don't know if Davis would defend Callahan. But obviously this story is just a disgrace. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown did more to damage the game than all of the Saints' bounty people combined. They are worse than the athletes who seek an advantage via drugs. They threw a man under the bus and ran him over and over again, and now Brown at least says he was misunderstood when there is blowback and threats of lawsuits. But the damage is done. And there is no misinterpreting either his words or Jerry Rice's. Neither Rice nor Brown should be allowed to get within 100 feet of an NFL stadium or training camp facility again and should be blacklisted from the sport by the NFL explicitly until they recant everything they said, apologize for saying it not just to Callahan but to all Raiders fans, to Jon Gruden, to fans of the Buccaneers and to all people who love the great game of football and had to see it dragged through the mud by disgruntled Hall of Famers during Super Bowl week. This is like standing up at a wedding and calling the bride a whore. The bouncers should toss them into the street.

But enough of those clowns. And on to the Patriots. Tom Brady really disappointed me with that cheap attempt to kick the Raven defender in the groin. Clearly he was frustrated. I don't think it's fair to criticize Manning's playoff record and feel the same way about Brady; but those who disparage Manning for being a .500 playoff QB have to take issue with Brady similarly over the past eight years, which is a long time. Belichick I think has to take himself out of the player personnel side of things. The Patriots lack talent as you say, especially on defense and especially in the defensive backfield. This idea that the Patriots were doomed when a guy who wasn't even on their team two months ago got hurt (CB Aquib Talib) is actually a searing indictment of Belichick's player-picking acumen. I think to a large extent the game has passed him by, defensively. How long has it been since the Patriots have had a good defense? About as long as it's been since they won a Super Bowl, right? He likes a lot of size in his front seven, and the game is too fast for that now. New England was beaten badly by Dennis Pitta and Ray Rice in key moments, and that's because their linebackers are big and slow and can't really cover. Punting from the Ravens' 34 was nuts. And the third and two run early was a crazy bad call, too. But that has to be on Brady, at least partially. The Ravens did not fall for their hurry up crap and thus did not give up a half dozen or more free plays. Maybe that was a key. But scoring 13 points against an average at best Ravens defense at home is a joke. Still, the Patriots' window is open for as long as Brady is at the top of his game, which he clearly is. So, reports of the Patriots' death are grossly exaggerated.

I'm not going to pick on Matt Ryan this week. I thought he was stellar against a good 49ers defense (though an overrated pass defense). I feel a lot better about Ryan after these playoffs than before. But you look at the Massey-Peabody numbers at the Wall Street Journal and see that in the two playoff games the team played less than a point better than an average one on a neutral field. And is there any doubt that this is pretty much what they are, talent-wise - a 9-7 type team in 13-3 clothing? They have a good QB, great receivers and are average or below everywhere else. The Niners played great football on Sunday - about five points better than league average on a neutral field. That's championship caliber. They took the game for sure. San Francisco is so much better than the Falcons. If you were to draft a starting 22 from both teams, how many Falcons would you have? The two receivers (though Crabtree is close now to Roddy White) I'll concede. I'd still take Davis over Gonzalez. Is that it? 20 out of 22 Niners? How are you going to beat a team that is this much more talented than you?

You want me to predict Ryan titles with this roster right now? None. But they can get some impact guys on defense and then the calculus changes quickly because I do now think he's good enough. Probably no more for Brady because the supporting cast has to ascend while he doesn't descend, and that's probably too much to ask. I think Manning given his health issues has one more peak year left, and the odds are really bad for any team winning in one year so, I'll go under one more Super Bowl for him, too.

We've been doing this for 10 years? Well, good for us, I guess. Notice how so many people have the Breakfast Table e-mail format now in sports? Just about all the big sites. But I admitted early that I stole this idea from Slate when they would review Soprano's episodes every Monday morning. You know that somewhere, Christopher Moltisanti had everything on the Falcons last week. But at least he pushed. He's been through enough.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 12:53 AM
Subject: Re: waiting game breakfast
To: Michael Salfino

The strange element about the Oakland story is the timing - it's one thing to say something wonky in the heat of the moment, but the freaking game was 10 years ago. And this wasn't a couple of rogues talking, this is Brown and Rice. Okay, anyone in Oakland black is potentially a rogue.

JaMarcus Russell, make it all better.

Talib's injury was a major hit to the Patriots because the secondary had no depth and could easily be exploited when players were forced out of position. Anquan Boldin had a field day in the second half when Jim Caldwell finally let the ball fly. But you're 100 percent right that the Patriots need to draft better in the secondary, and Belichick has culpability here.

In a sense, the current Patriots remind me of the Colts in the mid-2000s, the regular-season timing offense that gets punched in the mouth during the playoffs. It's a different game in the playoffs, and maybe New England hasn't adjusted that well. Then again, if the Giants don't make two miracle plays in two Super Bowl games, this "slump" isn't even a story. I do think it's time to let Welker Scissorhands go, and it's clear adding Brandon Lloyd was a major miss. If I'm the Patriots, I meet with Mike Wallace as soon as free agency opens.

An over-under of one-half probably works for Ryan, Manning and Brady - any of them individually, I mean. With Ryan it's a flat number; maybe you have to lay some juice if you take the older guys. Ryan has age on his side, but the NFC has more good teams. For all the flaws of the Falcons, having a plus quarterback and two difference makers at wide receiver is a significant head start. They'll miss Tony Gonzalez if he retires as expected, but I always respect an athlete who's balanced and centered enough to realize there's a life after competition.

What's the 10th anniversary, anyway? The Tin Anniversary? Is that still current? Pushing Tin? Ah, I'll just get you a slice of pie and a beer when I see you in March. Enjoy the Pro Bowl, amigo.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Subject: Re: waiting game breakfast
To: scott pianowski

The Pro Bowl is viewed as a joke, but, incredibly, the rating last year was higher than the finals of the U.S. Open and about the same as for the Kentucky Derby.

Why does a timing offense get punched in the mouth in the playoffs? I repeat, the Ravens are not even a good defense. They are good in the red zone, if you believe in such things. Maybe that was the difference. Wallace makes sense for the Patriots on paper, but Brady is not a deep thrower. Getting rid of Welker can't be good though, even considering the drops in NE''s last two postseason losses. The bottom line is that Brady just has not played well in many of these big games of late, and everyone seems to want to look for some other over-arching reason why the Patriots have lost. Even the Welker drop in the Super Bowl was not a good pass, let's be honest.

I can't really put any stock in the teams that appear good and bad today because the chess board gets swept pretty well every year. When we hit the reset button next year, who knows? And never mind two and three years down the road. RGIII is a who knows now. And Kaepernick, as good as he looks, can be schemed out of running when the cycle shifts to the defense and teams get big corners who can cover in press and play run support like Seattle. Even the Rams can cover and play that way and look how lost Kapernick looked in those games.

Next week, Super Bowl picks and lots of analysis and no lip synching like Beyonce.