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Breakfast Table: Reshuffling for 2013

Scott Pianowski
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Let's get this party started (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 3, 2013 at 6:54 PM
Subject: Christmas in September
To: scott pianowski

The wait is almost over. But before Kickoff 2013, we have to preview the season, Breakfast style.

Every NFL Season preview can be condensed into two questions. Each year since the realignment, an average of six teams that made the playoffs do not make the playoffs the next season. So who is out among New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis, Denver, Washington, Green Bay, Minnesota, Atlanta, San Francisco and Seattle. I know last year there were only four (only one team turned over in the AFC). But we need to bounce six teams. Who will they be? I'll start.

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Out of the playoffs this year: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Washington, Minnesota, San Francisco.

The other big question is who will be in the playoffs in their place? First, we have to examine another fact of NFL life: at least one last place team every year makes the playoffs the next season. So we have to pick from official last place teams (after tiebreakers) Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Arizona. I'll say Kansas City sneaks in.

So now we need five other teams who were out in 2012 to be in this season. I will defend these choices in my next reply: Pittsburgh, we already had KC, the other AFC team seems impossible but, screw it, Dolphins. In the NFC, Giants, Cowboys and Saints.

Now give me yours. I can be swayed very easily because this seems REALLY hard. But it's like the puzzle for the season is already laid out and we just need to fit the pieces.

We covered fantasy last week, but I like player props. Here they are at Bovada.lv. From that list, I like:

Carson Palmer at 50/1 to have the most passing yards. Dalton and Bradford are 50/1 for cryin' out loud and have no chance to get that. I know we need a Brees injury to cash.

Can't believe I'm saying it but I LOVE Matt Forte at 33/1 to have the most rushing yards. That's Frank Gore, Steven Ridley and Steven Jackson odds and those guys need about six major injuries to be in the mix. AP is 11/4, by the way, followed by Marshawn Lynch at 8/1. Can Forte average 5.0 yards on 320 carries (with two rushing TDs)?

Larry Fitzgerald at 16/1 to have most receiving yards seems okay (Megatron 5/2). But what about Pierre Garcon at 50/1, same as Tavon Austin. I think those odds are seriously inflated given that Garcon is the No. 1 Washington receiver by a mile and you have to figure RGIII won't run as much.

Straight over/under I love: Fitzgerald at over 1,100 receiving yards. Only injury prevents it.

2013 Season Kickoff Breakfast is served.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 2:30 AM
Subject: shakedown street
To: Michael Salfino

To be clear, this isn't the way I'd construct my playoff teams. But sure, I'll play along. Let's start with last year's Tournament 12.

Minnesota is the easiest playoff team to bounce for 2013 - Christian Ponder puts them at a disadvantage just about every week. Adrian Peterson is obviously terrific but how can he possibly match 2012? Vegas has the Minnesota win total posted under .500, which tells you all you need to know. I'll pick Green Bay in the NFC North, as I always do. And I'll pick against Jim Schwartz, because I like seeing him get all ticked off.

The NFC East always feels like a reshuffle - any projected standing, picked at random, would probably make sense. Dallas is the Charlie Brown-duped-by-Lucy pick, but I can't stop dreaming of those 20 touchdowns Dez Bryant is going to score. Washington misses. There's no logical way to project Robert Griffin III right now. I can't take the Chip Kelly thing on spec, I need to see it first.

The Falcons won the NFC South in a boat race but they're not that hard to pick against. Fun passing game, but the offensive line is leaky and I don't like the defense at all. And isn't everyone leery of the Saints now that Sean Payton is out of detention? Tampa doesn't interest me - something is wrong with Josh Freeman. I'm not sold on Cam Newton either (why do they never add receivers?), nor am I falling for the late push Carolina showed last year.

The Niners and Seahawks are so ridiculously deep. It's hard to expect two teams from the same division to make the tournament - especially with a solid Rams team lurking - but I love both of these quarterbacks and I love both of these defenses. Jim Harbaugh might be the best coach in the league, and Seattle is certainly the hardest place to play. Sorry, Arizona, you've got 3-13 written all over you (and good luck to Carson Palmer behind that offensive line).

[Watch: Terrelle Pryor tops list of Week 1 pick-ups]

New England and Denver are in paper-soft divisions. They're both playing postseason, probably clinch early. The AFC North seems wide-open, but take Baltimore out - too many things went right for those guys last year. Cincinnati is overdue to win that division, but in order to get six playoff teams bounced I can't pick them. So give me Pittsburgh by default.

Houston gets back, Indianapolis doesn't (despite Luck's improvement and a modest schedule). Give Miami and Kansas City the wild cards.

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Act II for Andy (USAT)

Yeah, the Chiefs. Andy Reid gets such a bad rap - all he did was make nine playoffs in 14 years, inheriting a Philly team that stunk at the end of the 90s. Alex Smith is no star but he's certainly serviceable, and the Chiefs could go 4-2 in that division. Thanks, Oakland. Appreciate you, San Diego.

Yeah, the Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill's solid rookie year was screened by the Holy Trinity. Beating up on the Jets and Bills sounds like a good gig. If we didn't have restrictions, I'd have Cincinnati in this slot (if not at the top of the AFC North), but I need to reject a half-dozen. (I was tempted to do something with Cleveland - we all love Norv Turner as a coordinator, right? But it's hard to push chips on Brandon Weeden.)

Okay, so the Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Packers, Seahawks and Niners go back. The Ravens, Bengals, Colts, Redskins, Vikings and Falcons don't. Kansas City jumps into the dance.

I don't want to throw red ink on longshot props - they're long odds for a reason - but I don't think Forte has a chance to win the rushing title. Marc Trestman loves to throw to his backs and the Bears know how terrific Forte is as a pass-catcher. I'm also going to fade the Fitzgerald theme, worried about Palmer's health

Brees at 10-1 for MVP doesn't seem bad. That's a QB-driven award and he's obviously a yearly pinball machine. Normally you can't get anything realistic on a public player and I'm not saying it's an overlay, really, but it's reasonable.

Romo for most passing yards at 18-1, why not? He dialed up 4903 last year. Chris Johnson for the rushing title, 16-1 - at least you know they'll try to run the ball there, and the line has been upgraded.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Subject: Re: shakedown street
To: scott pianowski

Yep, betting against Ponder is a layup. Really, you just need to look at the QBs if you are in doubt with this playoff turnover.

I put two new teams in from the NFC East. The Giants basically are the same teams they've been and they seem to bounce in and out every other year. Of course, they highly leverage those playoff appearances. We're on the same page with Dez. He's a beast. No way he runs a 4.52 40 as timed in a draft workout. He is Megatron fast. Why is Romo so criminally underrated? I get the playoff woes but there have been only four games. Peyton also struggled in the playoffs, continues to. There were murmurs for years about Peyton being a choker but it never took off like it has with Romo, not that it should have with Peyton, mind you. And Romo is even underrated in fantasy. Why do fantasy football owners care about Romo's postseason struggles even if that was real and not random?

I had the Falcons as out. They are not really a 12-win type of team, meaning a powerhouse that can dominate even a good opponent. But the NFC South plays the AFC East this year and so it's hard to not take two playoff teams from that division. The Falcons (and Saints) are going at least 3-1 in those games, right? I think every team in the division last year was 3-3 though against one another, or at least it seemed that way. Maybe that's the trouble with taking two NFC South teams.

This approach really cuts out talking about teams that either are going to stay good (remain in the playoffs) or stay out. But I don't get why you think the Cardinals are so hopeless. Do we ever know about offensive lines at this point of the season? Bruce Arians is a solid offensive coach. The defense could be good and is solid against the pass. I bet they don't finish in last place and certainly are not going to be 3-13 now that they have a professional QB and coordinator.

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Quarterback Underground (USAT)

Bouncing either the 49ers or the Seahawks is a really tough case to make. The reason I like this season-preview approach though is that it forces you to think like you otherwise would not. Look at all the preseason power rankings -- all last year's playoff teams on top basically when we KNOW that's not going to be the case this year. Same with the terrible teams from last year being on the bottom. I love Kaepernick I think as much as I love Wilson and it's a QB league. So why should I care that the Niners skill players are sub-par and that their pass defense has holes? Maybe this is just going to be a down playoff-turnover year where you have five new teams instead of six (there were only four last year, just one in the AFC). Perhaps the key to avoiding playoff turnover is to have a bunch of teams with really good and probably great QBs.

But no, that doesn't make sense. The trouble/fun in the NFC is that there are just too many great QBs in reality (and fantasy, too, because as I've said the circles tend to overlap at the position). Wilson and Kaep are great already, I'm calling it. Ryan is at least very good. I think Romo is great, sue me. Brees of course. Rodgers is the best of them all. And then you have Eli and RGIII who are at least very good even if RGIII isn't quite the running threat he was in 2012 for the entire season. So there is definitely going to be turnover in this conference. I can't say there are going to be four repeaters. So then who has the worst supporting cast? Seattle's defense is better than San Francisco's. Lynch is better than Gore, too. Washington's supporting cast is mediocre at best but we've already bounced them. Eli is the worst of these quarterbacks but has maybe the best supporting cast (with Ryan), at least on offense. I have to put San Francisco's as the worst among the remaining playoff candidates and that alone is the basis of my anti-Niner stance. I do not expect Kaepernick to struggle at all. In fact, he'll soar and the NFL's new ultimate weapon.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 8:06 PM
Subject: Y control
To: Michael Salfino

I finally got Bryant in my final draft, took him over Calvin Johnson in fact. He's always had the ability to be the best receiver in the league, now we add the smarts and the maturity. Plug him in and watch him go.

It's been said many times and it's an oversimplification, but Manning/Brady has that Marino/Montana feel. The QB Wins stat is overflowing with flaws, but Manning still has that messy 9-11 postseason mark on his ledger, just one title. His legacy needs one more boost out the door. The setup was perfect last year; damn you, Jacoby Jones (or Rahim Moore, if you please).

[Watch: Receivers with easy Week 1 matchups]

Yes, the Cardinals are hopeless - because the Seahawks and Niners are loaded and the Rams are a dangerous team. I'd pick the Rams to win the AFC North right now, or go 10-6 in the AFC East. No one talks about that defense, but they're nasty. I still think something good (maybe special) can happen for Sam Bradford.

What is Carson Palmer at his best right now, the 20th QB in the league? Slightly higher? I can't see how he lasts all season. Arians loves those deep drops. Look at all the hits Andrew Luck took last season. Mark it down in red ink, Arizona will be terrible.

No one really knows how good of a pure pocket passer Griffin can or will be. I'm interested to see how good Washington is if all the bells and whistles go away. Say this for Shanahan, he ambushed the league last year and was two steps ahead of everyone (starting with the upset - which really wasn't one - at New Orleans). But it's a lot harder to do this sort of thing after a year of prep. Vince Young wasn't much fun after the first year (mind you, RG3 beats Young at just about everything - plus he works his tail off).

Pats over Broncos. Seahawks over Packers. Brady over Wilson.

Let's do this thing.

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