The hat and the hoodie (USAT)
On a weekly basis during the football season, old friends Michael Salfino and Scott Pianowski discuss (and argue about) football and a series of other random topics. You might enjoy the exchange. You might prefer to be mauled by polar bears. The choice is up to you.
From: Michael Salfino
Date: Tue, Sep 10, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Subject: Jets-Pats Breakfast
To: scott pianowski
AKA, Week 2 Breakfast. But whenever you have two division-leading teams facing off, you have to pump it up.
Let's get it out of the way quick: Pats-Jets opened at Pats minus-10 and now has expanded to minus-12. Far be it from me to question the oddsmakers, but the Jets are better than last year, I believe, and this is the worst Patriots team Tom Brady has ever helmed. By far.
It's one week, but the NFL seems more pass-happy than ever. We had 19 100-yard receivers and just thee 100-yard rushers -- one a quarterback Terrelle Pryor. That's the second-biggest differential in a week since the merger. And the NFC, which, remember, used to be the boring, old-school black-and-blue conference, averaged 283.3 yards passing. That's the most in any conference in any week in the merger. The AFL -- the wild, passing mad AFL -- averaged more yards passing in a week one time -- 1964, Week 8. Maybe fantasy players should have loaded up on receivers this year.
Even the QBs who were supposed to be runners are now lights-out passers. Russell Wilson was his usual sublime self and what can you say about Colin Kaepernick other than he's maybe the best QB prospect we've ever seen. Wilson-Kaepernick on Sunday night, too. It's not quite Brady vs. Geno Smith, but we'll take it. The rookie QBs did nicely, actually (EJ Manuel had the fourth-highest Week 1 rookie rating ever). But just like the preseasons was proven not to predict rookie performance, Week 1 results are pretty meaningless, too. Remember Wilson looking almost lost last year in Week 1? That hardly seems possible now.
Redskins-Packers is on my schedule for the 1 p.m. games. I think Robert Griffin III snapped out of it pretty well, all things considered. It's hard to judge the Redskins defense after the Chip Kelly blitzkrieg. How long can Michael Vick and even LeSean McCoy hold up in that system? This isn't college where you have 90 athletes on scholarship. Vick said when the first quarter was over, he thought it was halftime, that's how tired he was. Are there similar issues in Detroit with Reggie Bush, who does not seem built for 30 touches a week. I thought C.J. Spiller was going to be given the ball "until he throws up," not Bush.
And there's also a Manning Bowl this week. Manning Face times two. Are we going to have Coughlin face, too? Guess how many games David Wilson has fumbled in during his career? What do you think about coaches benching running backs for fumbles. Do coaches just think these are mental errors?
Take us wherever you want. But I want this baby filed well before the Jets shock the world on Thursday night.
From: scott pianowski
Date: Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Subject: hatfields and mccoys
To: Michael Salfino
Were receivers the play in fantasy this year? That's a chicken-egg thing for me. If everyone's passing, that doesn't make the (few) dominant runners more valuable? Didn't you want Pedro Martinez at the height of the steroid era? (My RB-RB-RB play did fine in Yahoo Friends & Family - second high score in the league. Unfortunately, Andy Behrens scored like a prep recruit on his Oklahoma State visit.)
A Jets upset wouldn't surprise me. The Patriots offense is damn frustrating, what with all the injuries and the incessant refusal to add a major wideout. Okay, they thought Brandon Lloyd was going to make an impact last year and that fell flat. But just once I'd love to see Brady get the benefit of a first-round wideout on his roster, something the Colts were constantly throwing at Manning in the Indy days (Harrison, Wayne, Clark at tight end, even el-busto Anthony Gonzalez). The Edelmans of the world are useful, but you can't live on them.
The Niners and Seahawks are the best rivalry in the game right now. Psyched it's given a solo stage. The Niners have better pieces on offense (especially with Vernon Davis unlocked), but Seattle has the best home field edge in the game. Some of that goes back with Jim Harbaugh, the best coach in the league (and I don't think anyone's close). I'm picking the Seahawks, but I didn't like much about their opening win at Carolina.
I hear you on the David Wilson fumbling thing. I'd hold in fantasy. They fixed Tiki Barber, they can fix Wilson. And as you point out, maybe it's not a problem anyway - we're just talking about three fumbles, period. And heck, look at Adrian Peterson's first three seasons. You have to cut your playmakers a little bit of slack.
I'm a little sick of the Mannings, honestly. Peyton's wondeful, but Baltimore's give-up in the altitude and Denver's willingness to keep throwing (if Belichick did that, queue the outcry) fueled the seven touchdowns. Did any Ravens try during the Demaryius jaunt? I was more impressed when Aaron Rodgers threw for six touchdowns at Houston last year.
The Philly ambush at Washington reminded me of what the Redskins did at New Orleans in last year's opener. I've never seen a Mike Shanahan team less prepared than on Monday night. But how long can Michael Vick stay healthy? Same question for DeSean Jackson. And the Eagles didn't do that much on offense in the second half. It's going to be a blast, but there's a lot of downside here. I don't know how you can make the league afraid of Nick Foles.
Last call for the Steelers? Is anyone in the AFC any good? I'll firm up predictions in my next send.
Gotham City, back in the day
From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 12:02 AM
Subject: Re: hatfields and mccoys
To: scott pianowski
Well, Brady did have Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Batman and Robin. Now he has a bunch of Robins and that's not going to really get you out of tight spots, is it? What I'm trying to say is, the Patriots have to sign Ben Affleck.
A Jets upset would be surprising. They are 12-point underdogs. That matters. What's their outright-win probability? This calculator says about 11%. I watched the coaches tape with the Jets game. I'm shocked by how well Smith looked. Nothing great, mind you, but competent against a pretty good defense when Revis was on the field. (How stupid is that town in Florida changing their name to Revis Island? What the heck is wrong with Florida?) But games usually come down to the QB who is going to play best and how could you take Smith over Brady? The Jets' defense helps here. It's very solid. Dangerous even, especially on the defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson is a game wrecker and Sheldon Richardson is a playmaking, penetrating tackle/end tweener in that 3-4 look. The Jets are even going 46 defense a lot, which is cool given its father is also Ryan's. And when Wilkerson is walking around like a safety or linebacker or whatever, look out. I mean, you can't just assign your back protection with him coming at you at 100 miles an hour. But I say 20-17 Patriots. It will be a fun game.
I guess Packers and 49ers can't be a rivalry, right? But I wish those teams played every week. Figure out a way to put them in the same division because Kaepernick and Rodgers are fun to watch. I was going to challenge you on the home-field edge for the Seahawks. I mean, I know it's loud. But I figured the point differential was meaningless, but you're correct.
I don't know why you weren't impressed with the Seahawks. The Panthers aren't bad. It was a home game for Carolina. Seattle's running attack was completely neutered. And Wilson still made plays via the air. Seattle needs some real receivers, too. Maybe Luke Willson will end up doing something; Wilson raved about Willson in camp and "Double L" runs a 4.5 40 at 250 pounds. The Seahawks are a playmaker (Percy Harvin) away from being great. I thought Golden Tate would step into that role but he couldn't separate in Week 1. I have to stick to my prediction that the 49ers will be one of the six teams that get bounced out of the playoffs every year. I think this is a very tough matchup for the 49ers no matter where the game is played. The Seahawks have the kind of physical corners who can play press man and disrupt the read option and the Niners defense has trouble with the Seattle running game. Seahawks 27, 49ers 20.
Are you going to make me say Bill Belichick is a better coach than Jim Harbaugh, because of course he is. So there, I said it. Belichick is the best coach in the game, come on. Don't make me do this. It's cruel.
At least with David Wilson, the Giants brought in Zombie Running Back Brandon Jacobs instead of someone who could conceivably earn some carries. I think this is a bullish sign for Wilson owners. These coaches are out of their minds with fumbling. Why not bench shortstops for booting a grounder or take out a basketball player after he misses a free throw or bounces the ball off his foot. Why didn't Coughlin bench himself for playing anyone who could conceivably be important in the last preseason game, which typically doesn't even rise to the level of a mere dress rehearsal. It's like a dress rehearsal for understudies.
How can you be sick of the Mannings? Peyton is incredible. Eli is like Peyton's lucky little brother, but he's pretty good, too. This game is going to be a blast. Neither coach really wants to play to his team's personality, but they have to just sit back and accept it. Peytons 38, Elis 35.
I don't know how you pin Monday night on Shanahan or anyone really. It was the defense, first of all. Shanahan isn't the guy who prepares the defense. And how prepared could anyone have been? The Eagles weren't even prepared for it, if you believe Vick. No one really practices anymore in the summer. It's more camp now than training. They're working hard in meetings and film rooms, but on the field? Not so much. Shanahan can be blamed for not having the offense prepared, but how prepared could it have been given RGIII's timetable?
But the interesting thing this year is that the game is now pretty much completely finesse. Look at Philly and Washington and even San Francisco and Seattle. These teams want to run but see how they run? It's all deception. There's no power to it, really at all. I don't mind that at all, as I'm sure you can guess after all these years. But I enjoy that the ground and pound game is, what? Fake and shake? Something very unmanly sounding in the Lombardi context. And look how the old guard has to adapt -- by laying around faking injuries. That's what old-tiimey football is reduced to: Poor acting. The war is over. The skill players have won. The trenches are dead.
Like I've said, the QBs make the game and most of them now are in the NFC. Who are the best ones in reality? Let's say Peyton, Rodgers, Brady, Brees -- pretty even so far -- but now Kaepernick, Wilson, RGIII, Roethlisberger, Romo, Ryan, Eli. That's 8-3 for the NFC. I don't know who'd next. It's a tier. Maybe I've forgotten someone (but it's not Andrew Luck). I know Roethlisberger is in trouble now, and the Steelers, too, of course, but he's proven to be special. I still believe the Steelers get back into the playoffs after missing out last year.
Sunday Night Special (USAT)
From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 4:33 PM
Subject: biff, pow, zowie
To: Michael Salfino
The Patriots don't even have Robins anymore. Heck, I'd take Alfred, at least he had decent size. Even The Riddler has a fumble problem now.
Gotta take the Jets and the points tonight, and hope the New York offense doesn't tilt the field. The Patriots personnel is not designed for a blowout, no splash plays likely from the offense. Can the Jets be patient on defense, and avoid any special teams gaffes? Is the weather going to mess the game up? I like your final score, 20-17 seems right. Note the time and place, we never agree on this sort of stuff.
The Packers and Niners can turn into a rivalry if they keep playing every year, similar to how Brady and Manning seem to (you need to finish in the same division slot, otherwise it's 1-in-3). I wish we had seen the Seahawks and Niners in the NFC Championship Game, though. Remember the last time they met - the Seattle beatdown in Week 16. Juicy matchups all over the place: Boldin and Davis against the physical Seattle corners, Kaepernick against the environment, Seattle's offensive line (which was terrible in Week 1) against San Francisco's defensive front. I'm calling for Wilson to make one more play, and Seattle to escape by three.
I'd take Jim Harbaugh over Belichick because he's younger and more in touch with offensive football. But I also have Belichick down as the best coach of his generation, so we're not really debating anything here.
I don't understand signing Brandon Jacobs. How bad did Willis McGahee look? Wilson owners have to be thrilled. Jacobs wasn't much of a factor even at his peak. One funny takeaway from the Dallas-New York game - the Cowboys almost found a way to lose despite a plus-five edge in turnovers. I do like Coughlin teams when they're backed into a corner. Giants 31, Broncos 30.
Yes, the chess players have won - that's a terrific point on how running games have shifted. I just wish it were the same on the fantasy football field. The draft is a here-we-come exercise, so much of it known before the snap. The auction is the thinking man's game, the designer's game.
We didn't disagree on much here, but I think you're wrong on the Steelers. The offensive line is in shambles and it's another offense missing playmakers. Tennessee didn't need to do a lot to win opening day, at Heinz Field of all places. Roethlisberger can't do everything. I'd take Mike Tomlin over Marvin Lewis 10 days out of 10, but at the end of the day the better players usually win. Bengals comfortably on Monday, and the Steelers don't finish with a winning record.
Obviously we don't disagree on Luck, but that debate was televised on Twitter. I'm not going to cram it down anyone's throat.
Time to ship, the red phone is ringing. (I know it's not Batgirl, she only texts these days.)
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