Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shame On This Debunker

I have an apology for all of you who have been patiently waiting the next installment of "The Debunkers," the weekly fantasy-football podcast featuring Brad Rutta and myself. We were felled by a combination of illness and technical malfunctions, meaning that this week's cast could not possibly be accomplished in time for the firset games this week. Again, I apologizee, and offer in humble supplication my script for this week, which will get you some of the way there.

what makes this week's problems doubly painful is the fact that I had prepared a special mashup of Patsy Cline and Jim Mora Sr. for your listening pleasure. That at least will hold until next week.

My recommendation, lest you wonder: Play Patriots. Even if you don't have them.

And now, without further ado, the script:

Hey, and welcome one more time to the oft-imitated but never duplicated Debunkers, the fantasy-football podcasters who dare to ask the question, “Will Derek Anderson be the next Cardinals quarterback to wind up on a reality show, this time, 'Whose Quarterback Job Is It Anyway?'” I am Kit Kiefer, founding editor of Fantasy Sports magazine and little else, and over there is professional poker player and part-time thesis writer Brad Rutta, and Brad, how is that thesis coming along?


You know, Brad, something very strange happened this past Sunday, and you know what that is?


Well, let me tell you. The very strange thing that happened this past Sunday is – are you ready for this? – I was right.

That doesn’t happen much I know, but I was right. And here’s how I was right. You remember last week when we were talking about Vernon Davis and Troy Smith, I said that for Vernon Davis to play a role in this offense he has to be sent further down the field because Troy Smith is not a good intermediate-range passer and he does not as a rule look for his tight end, and you know what? That’s exactly what the ‘Niners did with Vernon Davis. I went to the game and made a point of watching Davis. They sent him further down the field, they lined him up off the ball standing up, and he had a great day – the day that all those Vernon Davis owners were hoping he’d have had a whole lot sooner.

Now, there a couple of things I want to talk about with this. First, Vernon Davis’ success came at the expense of Michael Crabtree, who had three catches for 45 yards. Next, all you ‘Niner fans who haven’t yet realized this need to know that one of the reasons Troy Smith does not throw the ball down the middle and does not throw the ball off the bootleg is that he’s really bad at it. Troy Smith is a collection of quarterback parts as opposed to a true quarterback. And then finally, if I am of one brainwave-length with one of the most antediluvian offenses in football I don’t know what that says. I mean, I’d much rather be dead-on with an offense like the Patriots.

So now we have Alex Smith back at the helm, and Smith is an intermediate-range passer, though still no more effective at it than Troy Smith is at throwing the long ball, so what does that mean? Based on everything I saw last week and what I know of the ‘Niner offense, I’d say play Davis, sit Crabtree if you can, and sit both Westbrook and Anthony Dixon. I don’t see enough there to merit playing time.

Speaking of the Patriots, what do you think? Is what we saw from the Patriot offense against the Jets on Monday night what we’re going to see from the Patriots offense the rest of the season?


Elsewhere, it finally seems like some of the running backs that people expected would have good seasons are starting to have those seasons. We’re talking about Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner who you mentioned earlier, and Brandon Jacobs. Is this what we can expect from these guys the rest of the way down the stretch – and is this that running time of year, when teams try to run the ball more?


Oh, and by the way, I should point out that teams do not run the ball more the last month of the season, which makes sense when you think about it. A team’s offense is its offense, within parameters. They may be better at running the ball from one week to the next, but their basic underlying philosophy doesn’t change as much as they’d like you to believe. Just because a team rolls up 207 yards rushing against the Indianapolis Colts does not make them a running team, the same way that rolling up 70 yards rushing against the Steelers does not not make them a rushing team. Football teams do what they do within the philosophy of their offense with the goal in mind of maximizing their return on the number of offensive plays they have. That can be dictated by the weather or the opponent, but it is not dictated by the time of year.


Brad: Is Sydney Rice the man in Minneapolis again? He went from two points to 30 in one week. How does the QB situation change the dynamics of his role. Does Rice have the chance to outperform Moss for the year in the last 4 games of the season? He's roughly 50 fantasy points behind.

I’d rather have Rice, for a simple reason. The Titans don’t know how to use Randy Moss. That’s apparent from last week’s game. They haven’t yet figured out how he figures in an offense that’s already in turmoil. Oh, and by the way, can we please put to bed the idea that adding a top-shelf gimme-the-ball kind of receiver makes a stud running back even studier? It didn’t happen for Adrian Peterson in Minnesota when Moss arrives, it didn’t happen in New York when Santonio Holmes got healthy, and it hasn’t happened in Tennessee. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen – I think back to Herman Moore with the Lions when Barry Sanders was the guy – but it’s just as likely to fail as it is to succeed.

But back to Rice. Last game he was in I believe the X slot in the Vikings’ offense where he was so successful last year, and he had a great game. He’s back in his comfort zone with whatever QB is throwing to him, and the Vikings know what they have and how to use him. Rice is going to have more points than Moss because he’s always been in a useful place when he’s been on the field.


Now, I have one for you. Let’s suppose Dez Bryant is on your team. Happy happy joy joy – right? But now he breaks his ankle. Your league plays three wide receivers and for whatever reason your best backup wide receiver is Chansi Stuckey. And believe it or not, you’re in the playoff hunt. Who do you pick up at this late date? Answer that question, and then we’ll go around the positions and name our All-Stopgap Team.


My wide receiver? Robert Meachem. Available in our league, playing for a productive offense. Hey, it’s always a crapshoot with those New Orleans wide receivers, but the good news is they all get some action – just not always as much action as you’d like. Otherwise available in our league, Roy Williams. Dez Bryant’s gone and Williams has always thought of himself as Dez Bryant Sr.

Running back?


You like Michael Bush and Tashard Choice, my guy is … no one. Those are the two guys. John Kuhn if you like cheap touchdowns. That’s it.



Well, Ryan Fitzpatrick is still out there in our league. So, surprisingly, is David Garrard. You know, sometimes the best passing performances come when you don’t have to throw, and that’s the situation Garrard finds himself in. He has people he likes throwing to in Sims-Walker, Mike Thomas, and Marcedes Lewis, and you know about the running game. So my vote right now is for Garrard over Fitzpatrick – and if I said the exact opposite last week, well – that was last week.

Tight end?


Still a lot of depth out there, and that includes Rob Gronkowski. I really like the Patriots down the stretch, and I really like Gronkowski against some of the teams the Pats will be facing. I know in some leagues there are guys like Jermaine Gresham available, but I really like Gronkowski.



The Atlanta defense is still available in many leagues, and with some favorable matchups down the stretch, they’re my pick.

Finally, Kicker?

If you can get Josh Brown down the stretch, he’s my choice. They have a lot of dome games left, and I like kickers in domes at this time of year.


In many leagues it might be time to evaluate keepers for next year. Now we don't have this option, however, we should discuss. So give me a list of potential keepers at each position.

Running back: Peyton Hillis. If you’re in a bidding league – and I know not many of you are – you’re probably not into Hillis for a huge amount. So you can afford to pay any upcharge (if your league works that way) to keep him around. One note on Hillis: next year’s role for Hillis may be colored by the presence of Montarrio Hardesty, who had a very good preseason before going down with an injury. So I would guess that Hillis will put up around 80 percent of this year’s numbers, which is still plenty good. Lagarrette Blount and Arian Foster are keepers for the same reason, with slightly different particulars.

Wide Receiver: Steve Johnson. This is a slightly more tricky category because the teams with low-cost breakout receivers are in a state of flux. I went with Johnson because Buffalo has so many other needs – both lines as well as linebacker – that my hunch is that they’ll leave the running backs and wide receivers alone. If they do that Johnson is the top guy and Lee Evans is No. 2, much like the situation with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver in Green Bay.

Tight end: Brandon Pettigrew. Undrafted in many leagues and in the best situation to garner catches and TDs over time.

Quarterback: Sam Bradford. I know he was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft but went undrafted in many leagues because of concerns about his supporting cast. Let me tell you: the supporting cast is not bad already, and next year Donnie Avery comes back. Right now I would rather have Sam Bradford than any other young quarterback in football. Yeah, even Tim Tebow.

Brad: Give me your receiver of choice of these situations:

1. Roy Williams - Dez out with injury, is Roy a pick-up and play going into the playoffs. Roy Williams is a good play for someone, but not for me. I am so over Roy Williams. We talked about this earlier, but he’s a very good stopgap. He’s nothing more.

Chad Ochocinco - Has the TO show taken over OCNN? Would you play Ocho over Roy, Moss, or Kenny Britt?

Ocho is going to get four catches a game the rest of the way with 50 yards a game and no more than two TDs. Is that better than the three guys you mentioned? It’s better than Moss, certainly, and probably better than Roy Williams and Kenny Britt. So yeah, you’d rather play Ocho over those guys if that’s your choice. But Ocho over Deion Branch, Donald Driver, Mike Thomas, even Jacoby Ford? Not in my book.

How do the tight races for division championships and playoff berths impact fantasy playoffs? No teams beside the Pats have a real concern here in my opinion

You look at the division races, and the team with the largest lead is the Kansas City Chiefs. No matter what that team does to rest its key players for the playoffs, it’s not going to have a major impact on fantasy football the way the Colts had an impact last year when they shut down Peyton Manning. Otherwise, the plethora of close races means more key players playing hard all the way to the end, which is good for the fantasy playoffs. After all, the playoffs should be about the best roster winning, not the roster with the most players still playing the entire game.

Okay, let’s talk about this week. Who do you like?