Breakfast Table: Funk 49

For the last decade or so, Michael Salfino and Scott Pianowski have been putting together an email exchange centered around (but not limited to) the NFL. You might enjoy listening to them haggle. You might prefer a swift kick into the stomach. The Table isn't for everyone; we hope some of you enjoy it.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 1:13 PM
Subject: Week 13 Breakfast
To: scott pianowski

The fantasy football seasons are mostly coming to an end. But the NFL season is really just beginning.

It's very odd to have a conference favorite like San Francisco being so unsettled at quarterback. How do you think Jim Harbaugh has handled this? Maybe you can't screw up two guys with a 100-plus rating but he sure seems to be trying. You get straighter answers from Senators in the halls of Congress.

We had a couple more refereeing fiascos. But the Lions challenge flag is just a stupid rule. I'd like someone to explain to me how munchkin Ray Rice could have his ball in his chest and his knees down at the 35 but have the ball spotted at the 33.5 yard line. There seems to be some physics defying spotting going on there. How are the Ravens 9-2 even with that break though? Do you take them seriously at all? Them ending up as the No. 2 seed over the Broncos and Patriots seems unjust to me. At least Denver gets a crack at Baltimore next week. But then they need New England to lose one more time, too.

Who is the fun team you're rooting for to make the playoffs? Mine is Washington, over Seattle and Tampa Bay for sure (I can't even mention Minnesota as a playoff team, it seems so absurd). Will the schedules cooperate? I think the Redskins-Giants game on Monday night is going to be very Pistol heavy and quite epic. What will you be watching this week? Week 13 Breakfast is served.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 1:44 PM
Subject: boots of danger
To: Michael Salfino

I'm not going to give Harbaugh plus points in the interview room, but the performance speaks for itself. Kaepernick did the Humpty Dance on the Bears and was good enough at New Orleans. Two good wins. That's all anyone cares about.

Are the best coaches media darlings? Bill Parcells always played "us and them" with the writers, though eventually the scribes were won over. Harbaugh, Belichick, they're always suspicious of anyone with pad and pen. Do you remember what Bill Walsh did in front of a microphone? Say this for the Steelers, they've been forthcoming for a couple of decades (Cowher and Tomlin are firm but fair).

I'm not sorry to see Jim Schwatz fall on the arrogance sword last week. Suh and Schwartz deserve each other - intelligent men out of battle, but they're constantly out of control when the bullets are flying. I know the spreadsheets hate the Colts, but I'm expecting an Indianapolis cover this week and I could also see a flat-out upset.

A dangerous team or two will be left out of the NFC dance. The Redskins are the hardest team to match up with in the conference, with the Griffin Effect and all the Shanahan bells and whistles. The league is lucky Washington doesn't have any Grade A playmakers riding shotgun. I wish it were possible to root for the Bucs but not for Schiano - I love the team, hate the mentality of the coach. But they're physical and opportunistic, and have 2-3 difference makers on offense. Remember the public panic when Carl Nicks got hurt? You never sweat the loss of an offensive guard. You can usually scheme around that.

That all said, it's going to be difficult to take down the Broncos in Denver. That's one of the last home-field advantages left. Everyone knows about Manning and the offense, but this defense can cover and get to the quarterback without gimmicks, and that's a huge advantage,

Even with all the injuries, it feels like the 2012 Ravens were born under a good sign. Cleveland could have beaten them twice. The win over New England was a zebra special. A 9-6 win at Kansas City? Come on, guys. Last week's San Diego collapse is an all-timer. The Ravens are nothing past the fourth-best team in the conference.

The Saints-Falcons game should be fun for the fake footballers, I guess, but I really don't trust either team. Even if the Falcons get the No. 1 seed, is anyone going to pick them to win the conference? I'm more excited for the Bucs-Broncos and then the Griffins and Mannings on Monday night.

You take the fresh snow, first.

From: Michael Salfino
Date: Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 4:06 PM
Subject: re: boots of danger
To: scott pianowski

I disagree. Two good wins for Harbaugh with Kaepernick, but now what? You can't take the job away from someone who has played as well as Smith. Harbaugh should have said, "I expect Colin to play well but when Alex Smith is healthy he's our starting quarterback." Yes, I have gone back and forth on this. But he should be thinking about it a lot more than me.

For the record, through Game 11, this is the third pair of QBs who had a 100-plus rating with 70-plus passing attempts. The others: Bubby Brister and John Elway in 1998 and Kurt Warner and Trent Green in 2000. Would the 2000 Rams been better off if they stuck with Green? Only one pair FINISHED a season with a 100-plus rating, interestingly enough -- Steve Young and Joe Montana in 1989.

I think the Colts are one of the fraud teams of all-time. I'll take the Lions and spot the points. I agree with you on Schwartz and Suh. Seriously with the kick to the groin? I've seen moves more subtle than that in WWF. Do quarterbacks wear cups? I sure would. Suh, more importantly, is going to get his QB killed. Because defensive lineman are a lot like this guy when you mess with something that matters to them. (Note Comedy Central cleaned it up for the kids. Now it, "See what happens, Larry, when you fight a stranger in the Alps?" Seriously.)

A see your sly shot at my man Alfred Morris there. I don't know what "Grade A" means. He's not Adrian Peterson, that's for sure. But he has a lot of really good qualities and actually is better than I thought, in reality (and worse in fantasy, due to the unlucky lack of goal-line carries -- not remotely explained by RGIII's running).

Yeah, I think we should force Schiano and Schwartz to spend a month together in a house with the cameras running. One of them will be dead in about 90 minutes and there would be one less person in the NFL who reminds you of every kid (and gym teacher) you hated in high school. I guess we can say Doug Martin is Grade A though. I was very wrong about him when I projected him off his slow start, which in retrospect may have had more to do with the adjustment of the entire offense to a new system. But as Yogi Berra said (or should of said), "Predictions are hard, especially of the future."

Yes, the Bucs should get spanked in Denver, I agree. But here's some fun with a stat I like -- yards per point. League average is ALWAYS 15 and change and this year is 15.2. Not surprisingly, the leader in offensive efficiency is NE at 11.8. And I guess it makes sense for the Bears to be second given their eight defensive scores (two less than the 1998 Seahawks NFL record, as best as I can tell). But third is Tampa Bay at 13. There's nothing really gimmicky about it with a bunch of return TDs, I do not believe. That's a stat that I think augers well. So I am a little conflicted. Note the Chiefs at a point every 23 yards! That has to be record for inefficiency.

The Bears by the way have given up more yards than they've gained and have somehow outscored opponents by 100 points. Only 56 of that is explained by the defensive TDs. They also are second in average starting position on drives -- the Giants are first.

Only one other fourth and 29 or more has ever been converted -- a Rob Johnson TD pass to Peerless Price. Maybe the refs figured if they got that close, give it to them. The Ravens can't even toy with the Steelers and terrible Charlie Batch if Ben Roethlisberger doesn't play, but he's talking like he could because there's no longer a "major worry" that his rib can puncture his aorta. See, for me, a minor worry that this could happen would be reason enough not to play.

I think we may get to the point where with guys like me and you the Falcons are so overrated, they're underrated. (And, yes, I think I've quoted Yogi again.) But this is not a championship-caliber team, no way, we agree. Of course, you don't have to be championship caliber to win a championship, which is the beauty of sports. Not to start trouble with Giants fans, but Big Blue wasn't a team that anyone could have taken seriously in either Super Bowl year. So you never now. I do think it's critical for Atlanta to get home field advantage with the No. 1 seed, not that this helped them against the Packers in 2010/11.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 6:01 PM
Subject: funk 49
To: Michael Salfino

I love that Harbaugh is thinking outside the box on this. I love that he's not letting fortune-cookie logic dictate his decisions; he's not signing up for the friendliest loss. "You can't lose your job due to injury." "Always start your studs!" "Don't make any major changes if you're winning!" Never let dogma get in the way of thinking things through. Every new situation presents unique parameters.

There's nothing wrong with kicking the tires and seeing if the Kaepernick thing is real. Heck, you might lose your locker room if you don't try it. The Harbaugh group inherited Smith; it hand-picked Kaepernick. You can't blame them for being excited for their guy.

I still don't like Smith when a game situation calls for the Niners to junk the running plays. I don't trust him in a catch-up mode. Remember the Minnesota loss? You need a higher theoretical upside if it turns into a "here we come" game, if the playbook gets cut in half. I salute the Niners for finding out what they have with the unknown guy.

I'll grant you the fraud feel of the Colts, but what the heck has Detroit proven? The offense has some intriguing pieces, but the defense stinks. The Lions give up 4.6 yards a carry, for starters. More importantly, opposing QBs have a 92.4 rating. Where's the signature win? Taking down Philadelphia, as we learned, means nothing. The Lions have also beaten Seattle (barely, and at home), Jacksonville and St. Louis. Enjoy your 6-10 season. What's the penalty for a coach waving a white flag?

I always want to see head coaches out of their element. The NFC East Connect Four Tournament has been a passion project of mine for a while. Tom Coughlin would want green checkers. Andy Reid would challenge the coin flip. Jason Garrett would run out of pieces in the endgame.

I'm not dissing Morris, actually. He's a solid back, good enough to commit to every week for at least 10-15 touches. That has a value to it. You can't let the other guys attack the pocket and punish your quarterback on every snap. But how many other contending clubs have worse skill talent than Washington, the backs and receivers? Every solidified AFC team laps the Redskins in this area (only the Colts could be debated). Seattle versus Washington could be a discussion, though I side with the Seahawks. Chicago and Minnesota are top heavy but they also have some elite pieces (Peterson, Harvin, Marshall). There's nothing to discuss with the other teams, it's not even remotely close.

So take another bow, Bob Griffin. Take another bow, Pop Shanahan and Kid Shanahan. You're making chicken salad out of, well, you know.

The NFL literally had a "just give it to them" game, the Patriots and Bills from 1998. Flutie vs. Bledsoe. Coincidentally, it was 14 years ago today. The Pats had a sketchy conversion on the game-winning drive, a fourth down where an official was heard to say "just give it to them." New England later picked up a PI call in the end zone (a total gift) on what would have been the final play of the game, then scored on a Bledsoe to Coates touchdown with the untimed play.

The Bills were so ticked off, they left the field and wouldn't contest the extra point. The Patriots decided to let Adam Vinatieri rush in an uncontested two-pointer. I know fantasy playoff slots that were decided by that Vinatieri deuce; it came in Week 13. (Don't blame Belichick, he wasn't the head coach yet.)

Broncos by six. Colts outright. Seattle shocks the Bears. Dallas ekes past the Eagles (can we please get Andy Reid off National TV? The Eagles are the freakin' Truman Show this year.)

Washington 31, New York 30. And let's enjoy every snap of it.