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Breakfast Table: Good Girls Don’t

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Henne Given Sunday (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: Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 9:23 AM
Subject: Week 6 Breakfast
To: scott pianowski

It's weird to wake up to the Jets being the trending story. I feel like I've just been down this road with a young quarterback who flashed and so I'm not quite sure what to make of Geno Smith. Obviously, quarterback is far and away the most important NFL priority. But watching Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson raises two questions: Would I trade Revis straight up for Richardson now irrespective of money? Probably not, but I'd think about it. And what part of a team after quarterback would you most like to luck up with top five skill level? For me, it's defensive line, no question. Offensive line is important, too, of course, but I think I can finesse that with scheme and coaching.

The Giants and Steelers being winless is weird. Jets fans should be worried about Pittsburgh this week, especially since Smith is still capable, I bet, of wetting the bed against anyone. Eli is playing like a rookie, let's just say it. He is panicking now when pressured. I refuse to pick up Brandon Jacobs in fantasy because I have principles. The Steelers have pretty much collapsed around Ben Roethlisberger's feet.

The Jaguars are the first team since at least 1978 to be 19-plus-point underdogs twice in the same season. The bookies will say that you never take the points unless you think the team can win straight up. But what are the rules for plus-28 points? Saints-Patriots are the game of the week. Brady has seven TD passes and had eight last year through five games. But the Patriots had three hundred more rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs compared to one this year. The problem with the Patriots hasn't been the passing, per se, it's that defenses aren't worried enough about it to concede the run. We'll see if Gronkowski can quickly change that.

The games this week just seem putrid. Packers-Ravens? Okay, I guess. Lions-Browns? Come on. Titans-Seahawks should come with three free cups of coffee to keep everyone awake. The Monday night game looks tastier than usual. I did my Andrew Luck apology. I promised to reevaluate after five games. He has gotten much better and clearly had more to do with Bruce Arians's success last year than vice versa. But what about Mike McCoy, who has been like one of those ironmen, swimming for miles with the dead weight of Tim Tebow on his back. Then the 112-mile bike ride helping Peyton Manning post-injury with all new players and now the full marathon of rebuilding Philip Rivers, who everyone thought was shot, back into a Pro Bowl-level QB. Is he the league's latest and maybe greatest offensive guru?

Finally, some free Massey-Peabody pro tips: Chiefs are a 5-0 fraud and should be sub-.500 going forward. The Panthers are a top 12 team the rest of the season. Agree? Violently disagree? Let's discuss. Week 6 Breakfast is served.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 11:39 AM
Subject: Re: Week 6 Breakfast
To: Michael Salfino

The team structure question is a great one. Obviously any defense is ahead of the game if it can generate a pass rush through its front four - no gimmicks, no extra people. Not that the Jets are afraid to be exotic or devote men to the pocket, of course.

I still think I'd take the offensive line or the secondary over the defensive line, but I'm not dug in on that opinion. Running back is the last thing I'd worry about. (And Trent Richardson cranks out another three yards. Compared to Richardson, Joey Knish is Adrian Peterson.)

Marty Mornhinweg is going a terrific job with Geno Smith, and I've been writing Mike McCoy sonnets all year. Look at some of the players who thrived in Denver under McCoy's watch: Kyle Orton, Brandon Marshall (okay, good anywhere), Brandon Lloyd (receiving title), Tim Tebow. Last year's Manning story, okay, that's going to happen with anyone. But the Philip Rivers rebuild has been fantastic.

The Jets were initially underdogs for the Pittsburgh game, though it turned after New York beat Atlanta (see you next year, Falcons). I'm not sure the Giants are that awful. Despite a slew of turnovers, they almost beat Dallas on opening night. The Denver game was competitive for a while.

Teams getting 21 points or more are 7-1 against the spread. Usually when you see a big number in the NFL (and I'm talking anything in double digits), you grab the spot. But with Denver almost a lock to score 40-plus, the Jaguars can't cover this game in an ugly way. They'll need to score their share of points. At least Chad Henne gives you a shot. Blaine Gabbert has no idea how to negotiate a muddy pocket, and that means you can't play. Everyone looks great when the protection is crisp, the read is defined, the separation is there.

The Chiefs don't feel like a 5-0 team but I'm more sold than you are. The defense is easily one of the five best in the league (and the AFC's best for sure). Call Alex Smith a game manager if you want but he's a very good game manager. Andy Reid is having a ball with Jamaal Charles and that offensive line. Holding serve means something in the NFL, too. If you don't trust their record now, how will you feel when they're 7-1 or 8-0? They get Oakland, Houston and Cleveland at home the next three weeks, which should be a winning sequence.

I refuse to back the Panthers because I think Cam Newton is a scam. Great quarterback if you want another touchdown to pad your 31-0 lead. But win a close game, son.

I'll give you first run on the Patriots and Saints (and anything else on this skimpy slate), I want to watch a little more tape. Obviously Gronkowski is the key puzzle piece to it all. It's frustrating to watch Tom Brady with all these JV options, albeit he hasn't played well for most of the season. But New England teams tend to improve as the season goes along, that's a very consistent trend.

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Cade Massey, not Mossy Cade (Philly.com)

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 4:40 PM
Subject: Re: Week 6 Breakfast
To: scott pianowski

Any team that drafts a running back in the first round needs to have their head examined. You know the Bills wish they had the Spiller pick back even. Maybe Spiller is going to be the Dwayne Bowe of running backs, a one-hit wonder. It was a big hit though. The "My Sharona" of running back seasons. (I know the Knack had another hit, wise guy; okay, if you're going to be a stickler, the "Come On, Eileen" of running back seasons.)

Yep, you were on McCoy first. Great call. it's too bad the defense is so bad and he has no real star to build the offense around, except maybe Rivers. More underrated: Romo or Rivers? Few know that Rivers has a higher career rating than Drew Brees and a career YPA of 7.9. Of course, no rings, like Romo, too. Here's a fascinating breakdown of why Romo "choking" isn't remotely the case one his interception on Sunday. Science will save us all.

The Jets STILL are smallest home favorite ever with winning record against winless team after at least four weeks. But I can easily see a Pittsburgh victory. I mean, Ben Roethlisberger versus Geno Smith. What more do you have to say? Steelers 20, Jets 16.

The Jaguars are definitely making a case against parity. Broncos 41, Jaguars 13.

I hear you on the Chiefs and Panthers. You make sense. But I'll fade what I think, as I generally do, in favor of a model and figure the Chiefs finish the year losing most of their remaining games. That puts their ceiling at 10-6. But I'll take the under even on that. Raiders 24, Chiefs 17.

The Panthers will win most of their remaining games, which puts them at least at 8-8. Why aren't the Panthers the Jets with a better QB? The division is just as bad, probably worse. It's hard to get on Cam given that supporting cast. I'll leave it there and eschew (gesundheit) the full-throated defense. Panthers 28, Vikings 17.

Here are the playoff probabilities and end of season standings as simulated by Cade and Rufus. As you know, I'll take these guys over everyone when it comes to NFL analytics.

The Saints are far better than the Patriots. I don't think Gronkowski will do much for about a month. But it's just a bald guess because this is unchartered territory. Generally, I'll fade the player who has not had a real training camp and comes right into the middle of a season. But I do like Percy Harvin, so maybe it's all the injuries that Gronkowski has had and the vagaries of back woes. Or maybe I just root against the Patriots. The other issue though is that a guy like Harvin can play in space but Gronkowski you figure is going to be in line at least half the time and getting roughed up by everyone given the big bullseye on him. I'll go 30-17, Saints.

I don't know if we'll get it up in time, but the key issue with the Giants is third and longs. Check out these numbers. You can't have nearly 60% of your third downs be 10 yards or more. That's just absurd. But the Bears are next to last in creating penalties and 30th in sack rate so I think the Giants and Eli get easier third downs and take advantage of a name-brand-only Bears defense. Giants 30, Bears 21.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 5:06 PM
Subject: Re: Week 6 Breakfast
To: Michael Salfino

The Knack have one legitimate song, and it's Good Girls Don't. I will not debate this.

The schedule clearly gangs up on the Chiefs eventually, we can see that. Football Outsiders says KC has played the easiest schedule thus far, but it will be the sixth-hardest going forward. Interestingly, the Broncos, Seahawks and Colts have all played cushy schedules - and will continue to do so. I see Terrelle Pryor's improvement, but I dare him to do that in Arrowhead against this nasty defense. Chiefs by 10.

Gronkowski at any level of effectiveness will help the Patriots. He's a matchup dicatator, and a lot of people forget what a fantastic blocker he is. I dare any other team to be 4-1 despite losing its four best offensive skill players to various injuries. (I'm not going to make a big deal about the Wilfork injury - it's a loss, but he's no longer a dominant DT. I probably said that last week, too.) It's very hard to pick Brady over Brees right now, even in Foxboro. Saints by three.

I love watching Roethlisberger, even when things aren't working out. There's no one else like him, doing that Godzilla bit, extending plays. Getting Heath Miller back to full throttle is a huge thing - it's an offense that clearly was missing something (Bell also helps). I picked the Jets because I want to respect the first month of the year, but I agree it's a toss-up. Jets being at home with a better defense, they get the nod. Don't bury Bilal Powell on me, New York.

Chris Liss compares the Panthers to Ricky Nolasco - a peripheral darling that doesn't hold full value on the field. I can see that. A major chunk of Carolina's spreadsheet cred is that 38-0 victory over the Giants. I know, the Panthers had Seattle beat before the DeAngelo Williams fumble, but the Seahawks are a different team on the road. I wouldn't let Ron Rivera manage a lemonade stand. The Panthers love to hoard running backs, but they refuse to add major receiving threats on the outside. Your blueprint is 37 years old, idiots. Vikings by seven.

I refuse to completely give up on the Giants (just two games out in the division, heh). They almost won opening night despite a slew of turnovers, and the Denver loss was competitive for three periods. It's a shame they have a late bye week because what this team could really use is a new direction on offense - switch the play-calling responsibilities or just sack Kevin Gilbride altogether. I don't want to hear about firing Tom Coughlin - that move almost never makes sense in the middle of an NFL season. You have to dig up too much infrastructure. But a coordinator change is worth trying. Heck, it worked for the Ravens. Either way, I give Big Blue a chance here. Chicago 27, New York 24.

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