NFL Week 4: Maybe they aren't who we think they are.

How many weeks into the season does it take before we adjust our preconceptions to match our actual perception?  3? 4? 12?  Even if you give the Packers a 12-7 victory instead of a 14-12 loss, their point differential goes from +3 to +10, which would be 11th in the league and still less than Seattle's +11 (also adjusted down from +18).  This means that if they were to play again this week in Seattle, with the new old refs, I would still say the Seahawks had a better than 50% chance of winning the game outright.  Maybe the Packers aren't as good as we thought they were.  Maybe the 49ers aren't as good as we thought they were.  Maybe the Saints aren't as good as we thought they were.  Maybe the Cardinals, Bears, and Seahawks are better than we thought they were.  Maybe it's just too soon to tell.

EPL or BPL? Striker watch

Changes have been happening in the EPL (BPL).  The transfer deadline finished and Fulham was the fulcrum for two of the most interesting changes from a fantasy perspective: they sent striker Dembele and midfielder Dempsey to Tottenham, and they picked up Berbatov from Man U to play striker for them.  Additionally, the top teams' striker situations are changing: Aguero and Rooney are coming back from injury, changing the outlook for all of the Man City and Man United strikers.

NFL: 2012 Week 3 - Option A or Option 1?

Right now, Kevin Kolb is the most important player in the NFL.  That's right, you heard me.  I went there.  There are two potential narratives that have played out so far and will continue.  If the 2-0 Cardinals are good, led by an underrated defense and 2009 NFC Player of the Week 3, Kevin Kolb, then maybe the Patriots loss wasn't as harmful.  And the Seahawks could be better than we think.  Which makes the Cowboys loss a little more palatable.   So maybe the Giants are a little better than we thought.  Which could mean that the Bucs lost to a good Panthers team, instead of losing to a slightly less bad Panthers team.  And the Saints and Redskins have some hope.  And the Lions barely beat a good Rams team.  And finally, the 49ers could be the best team in the NFL, but having the Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams in the same division could cost them a first round bye.

OR... Option 1, the Cardinals have been bad, but lucky, which means the Patriots inability win when favored by 13.5 points indicates some bigger flaws.  Which could mean the AFC is wide open.  After the Texans, you could argue that the Patriots, Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Colts, Jaguars, Broncos and Chargers all have a chance at a first round bye.  That's 13 teams!  In the NFC you ahve the reverse of everything above.  The Seahawks > Cowboys > Giants > Bucs > Panthers > Saints aren't very good.

The second most important player in the NFL is Robert Griffin III as the Redskins < Rams < Lions < 49ers > Packers > Bears > Colts > Vikings > Jaguars.  You see what I did there?  If not, you need to go study semantic logic and the transitive property.

NFL 2012 - Week 2: Small sample sizes

Welcome to week 2 of the 2012 NFL season.  Where every team that won last week is a proven winner and will maintain their success on their way to 2-0.  And every team that lost has some fundamental flaws that will persist as they tumble once again.  Might was well write them out of the playoffs.  I really thrive later in the season with larger sample sizes and usually struggle in the first few weeks as I try to translate last year's team plus offseason changes to this year's team.  One of these years, I'm just going to take every underdog in week 1 on the idea that no one really has any idea how good these teams are and I might as well take the extra points for every game.  Although that strategy would only have gone 9-7 this year, so there may not be much to it.  Are the 49ers the best team in the NFC or are the Packers a little weaker than we thought?  Did Brandon Marshall turn the Bears into an explosive offense or is Jay Cutler still going to throw four interceptions?  Are the Browns a little better than the past or does God hate Cleveland and the Philadelphia Michael Vicks are the same disappointment they were last year? Is the Buccaneers' defense really that good or has Carolina wasted more money on running backs than the money wasted on JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch, and Ryan Leaf combined?  Here we go in our quest for 55%...

NFL 2012: Week 1 Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things.

Ok, new plan.  I was very concerned coming into the season that I was getting a little stat heavy.  Basically every week I was telling you what the spread should be based on their point differentials and comparing it to the actual spread and looking for value.  That's right, my entertaining, free, widely-read NFL column degenerated to reading numbers off a spreadsheet.  I didn't like it either.  But alas, Grantland has provided new inspiration.  I applied to be one of their fantasy writers so that I could quit what I am paid to do, to focus on what I actually spend my day doing.  I wasn't accepted.  Then I read their collective Week 1 preview and was sorely disappointed.  So my new goal is to quickly give you the numbers (which will be very inaccurate in the first several weeks), then get to my fantasy analysis for each game.  I will then email this post to  Every week.  If Bill Simmons doesn't appreciate the Shawshank Redemption parallel, I wasn't meant to write for Grantland.

Lazy preview of the NFL

I'm not even using a picture, that's how lazy this is going to be.  But, it's going to be finished before the first game, so that has to count for something.  There's a 30% chance that I forget one of the teams, because I am not going to consult any other site.  I used up all my linking ability yesterday.

The Patriots and Packers look like the two best teams in the NFL.  The Giants aren't even close.  I doubt they'll make my personal top 10.  And I usually only drop them one or two spots because I don't really like Eli Manning, more on that later.  Green Bay and New England have two of the top three fantasy quarterbacks and if Sean Payton didn't want to take a break to spend more time with his family, the Saints might be in the discussion a little more.  My top two teams have incredible passing attacks, shaky defenses and questionable running games.  Even three years ago, I would have been concerned about their lack of balance, but the NFL passing game has evolved so much in just the last three years that you need a truly great, elite, potentially Hall of Fame quarterback, a good pass defense and not much else to win.  This evolution has happened so fast that no one is really ready to even consider the idea of making an adjustment.  When you only need ten yards for a first down and quarterbacks are averaging 8-9 yards per pass attempt (not completion, attempt), then you almost start to wonder why teams aren't throwing on every play.  Fantasy football hasn't quite caught up either.  A 4000 yard passing season scores the same number of points as a 1600 yard rushing season.  Off the top of my head, I think there were about ten quarterbacks who threw for 4000 yards and only 1 running back to rush for 1600 yards.  Then you throw in the crazy number of touchdowns quarterbacks are throwing against the rushing touchdowns scored and it starts to feel like two different games.  As I mentioned yesterday, everything I'm going to look at will be the passing offense vs. the passing defense.  First, because it really is that important and second, because it is more predictable and less random.  Finally, I will be focusing on efficiency.  Passing yards per attempt are one of the better indicators of a quarterback's throwing ability, as it tends to favor quarterbacks who are capable of completing downfield passes.  One of the most annoying phrases I have heard sports announcers use has been "When ___ gets 25 carries, this team wins more games, so they need to make sure to feed him the rock early and often."  This is completely ass-backwards and doesn't really seem to have any insight into how actual football games are played, which is surprising, because most of these guys have supposedly played or watched a lot of football.  The team did not win because he got 25 carries.  He got 25 carries, because the team was winning.  Passing yards tend to be inflated by the number of attempts and many times the losing team is throwing late to try to score quickly, while the winning team is running the ball to run out the clock.  At least, this is how it was three years ago and earlier.  Now passing games have become so efficient and completion percentages are so high, that teams can effectively run out the clock despite an occasional incomplete pass.

Patriots and Packers...check. through all the divisions in my head... AFC & NFC West, no.  The two south divisions?  Maybe the Saints and Texans... North divisions, maybe the Steelers, but they look worse than they have in several years, Lions can't be the third best team...East? Giants, Eagles, Cowboys...hhmmmm.... You know what, I'm don't really think there is a third best team.  I'm going to make one big tier of the Saints, Texans, Steelers, Ravens, Lions, Bears, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys...OH! I almost forgot about the Falcons.  The two West divisions will produce a division champ, but not a wild card, and I already gave you the Packers and Patriots, so of the 10 teams I just listed, 6 or 7 will make the playoffs.  The last one or two playoff spots will come from the Panthers, Buccaneers, Bills, Jets, Bengals, Vikings, Redskins, Titans, or Jaguars.   And the Browns, Dolphins, Cardinals, Colts, Raiders, and Rams will not make the playoffs.  That leaves the Chargers, Broncos and Chiefs fighting for the AFC West and the 49ers and Seahawks fighting for the NFC West.  So my dirty, non-scientific odds for each team making the playoffs are:
Patriots, Packers: >90%
Falcons, Saints, Texans, Steelers, Ravens, Lions, Bears, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys: 60-70%
49ers, Seahawks: 50%
Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos: 33%
Correction:  Chargers, Broncos: 40%, Chiefs: 20%
Panthers, Buccaneers, Bills, Jets, Bengals, Vikings, Redskins, Titans, Jaguars: 11-22%
Browns, Dolphins, Cardinals, Colts, Raiders, Rams: <5 p="p">
I think that adds up to 1200% or so.

You know what is convenient?  Those odds tend to match up pretty well with the talent level of the quarterback.  Every team with odds above 40% has a pretty good quarterback and every team with odds below 40% has a question mark at quarterback.  Either bad, or young.

Discussing the NFL

Football writing is at a crossroads.  We have gotten so used to stories written by crotchety old writers who kept getting cigar ash in their keyboards. Joe Montana is the greatest leader ever because he looked up in the stands and said "Is that John Candy?" Their victory had less to do with all the talent own the field and the play calling and was the result of Montana being the quarterback and the leader and calming his team down so they could execute and wouldn't buckle under the pressure.  These stories are still interesting and fun to read, but we have a better understanding that they don't quite explain wins and losses as well as certain statistics, but statistics are very boring.  I've even noticed this as a writer.  Its a lot more fun to make things up and dive into the complexities of line play, than to read to you the results of my statistical analysis.  Any article trying to used statistics has to use half the words recapping Statistics 101 and how the writer is using them.  I agree with you, it's boring and it sucks.  But to have a better understanding of what leads to wins and losses, you need suck it up and take your medicine.  Trust me it gets better...towards the end, we have to get through our statistics lecture first.

Fun.: Some Nights

This song is what I would expect if the guys from Rise Against wrote a song for The Lion King.