Saturday, November 15

Stat Boy Saturday: Looking Ahead to the Playoffs, Part II

Another week with our honorary stat boy, Zach Fein of Fein Sports. A contributor with as much stat muscle as anyone in the business. You may not understand what he's says and use it for your fantasy leagues, but if you're in the mood to be baffled and confused, then boy does he have you covered. Because life is one big spreadsheet. This week he continues last week's article on fantasy playoff performances. It's good to know one of our own isn't falling into the trap. Read Tosten's News From Ball Street one more time. Now read it again. See any mention of fantasy playoff schedules? I'm sad to say that Ken Daube of is the most recent fantasy pundit to fall into the trap of looking ahead to stretch-run and fantasy playoff strength of schedule. As ESPN's own numbers guy, shouldn't he know better? Last week I looked at that topic and indeed found there was no correlation of regular season and fantasy playoff performance. I concluded that just because a team was poor against the pass from Weeks 1 through 12, doesn't necessarily mean that they'd do poor against the pass for the remainder of the year. This week, I did the same for individual players. In the sample I used the top 12 quarterbacks and the top 15 running backs and wideouts from 2005-2007 (not a huge sample size, I know, but the Web site from which I got this data had week-by-week game logs dating back to only 2005). Since some players don't have much playing time in Week 17, I used Weeks 1 through 11 as the "regular season" and 12 through 16 as the "fantasy playoffs." Here are the correlations for each position, in fantasy points scored*:
Fan. Points Correlation
Pos. r r2
QBs 0.30 0.09
RBs 0.23 0.05
WRs -0.04 0.00
As with the previous article on this subject, there's no meaningful connection between regular season and fantasy playoff performance. Wide receivers' playoff production is essentially a pick-a-number-from-a-hat situation—you can't predict it whatsoever. Now, here're the correlations if you split each position up into three tiers—the top 12, middle 12, and bottom 12 in the 36-player quarterback sample, or equivalent to the QBs ranked Nos. 1 through 4, Nos. 5 through 8, and Nos. 9 through 12; and the top 15, middle 15, and bottom 15 in the 45-player running back and wide receiver sample, or equivalent to the top 5, etc. You might want to take this with a grain of salt as the sample size is so small, by the way.
Correlation of Tiers
Pos. r r2
Top Tier
QBs 0.58 0.34
RBs 0.02 0.00
WRs 0.12 0.02
Middle Tier
QBs 0.45 0.20
RBs 0.32 0.10
WRs -0.12 0.01
Bottom Tier
QBs -0.25 0.06
RBs -0.43 0.19
WRs -0.48 0.23
One thing first: All positions in the bottom tier have a negative r. This is most likely due to all the players
(such as Ryan Grant, Earnest Graham, Ladell Betts, et al) whose late-season performance vaulted them into the top 15. The highest correlations go to the quarterbacks, but an r-squared of .34 still is not very significant in predicting a player's playoff performance. What does all this mean, then? It means that there will still be those fantasy playoff flukesBilly Volek circa 2004that raise a borderline playoff team in your fantasy league to the championship. It means that there will still be those fantasy playoff bustsChad Johnson Ocho Cinco Johnson circa 2007—that screw over the No. 1 seed to a first-round loss to the fourth-ranked team. It means that there will be fantasy experts that'll be berated for ranking Player A over Player B, after Player A throws three picks and no touchdowns and Player B throws for 300 yards and two scores, even though the stats say that it's extraordinarily difficult to predict a player's playoff performance. And it means that, once again, you'll lose before reaching the finals due to your No. 1 pick's putting up single-digit fantasy points for the first time all year. It happens.
Keep going...

Week 11 Name Calling

Name Calling is our almost-weekly feature where we help you figure out which name to call for that flex position, #3 wideout spot, or any other lineup conundrum you may be faced with. Our goal is to help you decide on borderline starters by revealing who will hit pay dirt and who will implode. None of this "start Peyton Manning" or "sit Derek Hagan" nonsense. No loving, hating, flaming, or video gaming either. Just a bit of name calling is all. For once, I'm the one asking the questions. I've been watching college football all day on ESPN, and caught a glimpse of some of the NCAA games tonight. I know it's commonplace in college sports, but why do some powerhouses always play a Division III team that has more letters in its name than it will points by the time the games are said and done tonight (case in point, this school)? What do the coaches of the Division III team say when they're going against North Carolina and Duke? What kind of pep talk can the coach of SE Northern Maine State University give to his team? What answer is there? I'm sure you're looking for answers. Probably not to my question, but as to who you should start or sit this weekend. Who You Gonna Call Greg Camarillo/WR Miami: Ted Ginn Jr. is expected to be covered by Nnamdi Asomugha this week , leaving Camarillo to go against whatever No. 2 CB the Raiders can find out of the junkyard. Camarillo isn't going to have a 10-catch, 150-yard day, but he's a solid possession receiver who has had less than three catches a mere one time this season. Tyler Thigpen/QB Kansas City: Geez, I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but Thigpen isn't a bad option this week. After a horrendous start to the year, he's thrown for 250-plus yards and two-plus touchdowns in two of the last three weeks. Those games came against the Jets and Chargers, who rank 27th and 32nd in pass defense respectively. The Saints, who Kansas City faces this week, rank 26th in that category. They also won't have the services of Mike McKenzie, who is out for the season due to injury. DeAngelo Williams/RB Carolina: week, but the same reasons as last. The Lions are awful on defense, and with Delhomme in a bit of a funk, you can bet the Panthers will pound the ball a lot. On Speed Dial (Names you should always, always call, using discretion of course. I don't want idiots saying I told them to start some dude over LDT): RBs against Detroit and Kansas City, WRs against Miami and Seattle, QBs against Detroit and San Diego. Who You Not Gonna Call Maurice Jones-Drew/RB Jacksonville: One defensive line you don't want to face is the Titans'. They're eighth in the NFL in run defense, giving up just over 90 yards per game. And although the Jags will be getting Brad Meester back this week, he'll get the ever so warm welcoming of facing Albert Haynesworth. Here's another fact: MJD has only ran over 70 yards three times this season. And the last time the Jags faced the Titans, he only ran for 13 yards on five carries. In a word, avoid. Steve Slaton/RB Houston: The matchup isn't bad, but it appears that Slaton has hit the "rookie wall"that's when a rookie's body begins to break down because he isn't used to the constant beating each week and the longer season the NFL has compared to college. He isn't a horrible play, but there are safer options than him for this week. Not On Speed Dial (Names you should always, always caller ID check and ignore, once again using discretion of course. I don't want idiots saying I told them to bench Drew Brees): RBs against the Ravens, Oakland WRs, QBs against Indianapolis
Keep going...

Friday, November 14

Straight Outta the Mancavedom: Week 11 Mancrushes

Is there a better activity in the world than chilling down in the man cave discussing football and girls? Red-blooded American males say it in unison, "No." Of course not. This is why every Thursday (or in this week's case, late Friday) FFWWH will let you all in on our own couch talk about football. And girls. And football playing girls.But mostly, football playing guys. So here's our week eleven bromances. Zach Fein They say rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be fantasy worthy. Yet this year, two have debunked that myth—and one is my Week 11 mancrush. Matt Ryan has had 15-plus fantasy points in each of the past five games, with an average of 16.3 fantasy points. In that time frame he’s had 248 passing yards per game, with nine touchdowns and only three interceptions. This week Ryan faces the Broncos and their defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Fantasy gold. Alex Kozora Sure, most weeks our mancrushes are someone fairly obvious: the Kurt Warners, Drew Brees(es?) and anyone playing the Raiders of the world. Instead of that, I introduce you a guy that hasn't been talked about much....yet. That guy is Jason Hill. Who? Wide receiver for the 49ers, and he has an opportunity to showcase what he can bring to the table this week. He started to showcase that last week, hauling in seven catches for 84 yards in the 49ers offense led by Shaun Hill, who will continue to start this week and likely for the rest of the year. [Editor's note: A late stat change lowered Hill's totals to six catches for 82 yards. The missing catch went to Isaac Bruce.] Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson? Teetering towards irrelevancy. Josh Morgan and Arnaz Battle? Injured and not going to play. Dominique Zeigler? Need I say more? The Rams have been torched the past two games with Kurt Warner throwing all over them and the Jets putting up 40 by halftime. Tosten Burks Well....we're still waiting on this one. We've selected our Cabinet.
Keep going...

Wednesday, November 12

News From Ball Street

Ball Street-Wall Street. It rhymes, see what we did there? Here we watch the stocks (ehh, ehh?) of players who are rising and falling, and decide whether you should target these shooting and sinking stars. Clever, I know. In the same way that you scan the free agent pool at this point in the season for guys who will give you reliable involvement down the stretch, it's time to make some deadline deals to stock up on high opportunity, high impact players. You need to search for guys you know will get a chance to succeed and pick a few who you think will follow through on that promise. Think Cliff Bars. You know they'll get the opportunity to produce and you are fairly confident that they will. Savor, or trash, the oat-nutty goodness of the following Ball Street stocks. Stock Up Willis McGahee/RB Baltimore—Twenty-five carries, 112 yards, and two touchdowns shoot McGahee back to fantasy prominence right? Well, the performance didn't seem to excite the Baltimore coach all too much. The Monday after Willis's big game, Jim Harbaugh reinforced that the Ravens plan to continue to vary their running back usage from week to week, all depending on the gameplan. McGahee hasn't shaken the time share yet. Course of Action: Sell Tennesee Titans Passing Offense—So this past weekend the Chicago Bears became the first NFL team to face the Titans with some remnant of resistance towards the two-headed Tennessee backfield touch tandem (alliteration jubilation!). The Bears made Jeff Fisher's crew beat them with the pass—and they did. However, not many teams can stop Chris Johnson and LenDale White, so don't expect the Titans offense to be spearheaded by the pass very often. For Pete's sake, Kerry Collins hasn't had a two-touchdown or a 200-yard game once the rest of this season. Course of Action: Sell Kevin Smith/RB Detroit—Did you really believe Rudi Johnson would be relevant in Detroit for very long? Over the past four weeks, Smith's touches have steadily increased in number and he's been making the most out of it. The only game over that stretch in which Kevin didn't score was against the Redskins, and he climaxed this past weekend with his first career 100-yard game, which he paired with another rushing touchdown, on 23 carries. Plus, there's this from Marinelli: "We wanted to get him a full boatload of runs and I think he showed some real spring and some real life." You can now add Smith to the overflowing group of stud rookie runners. Course of Action: Buy Stock Down Jake Delhomme/QB Carolina—Try your absolute hardest to ignore the 12.3 passer rating against the 2-7 Oakland Raiders and focus on the previous five weeks in which Delhomme had two scores on four different occasions. No, no, I said brush back the 72 yards and four interceptions on Sunday. Hey seuss, bury the 26% completion percentage! Can't do it? I doubt his owner can either. Which is why it's the perfect time to grab his, aside from Week Ten, solid production as a legitimate fantasy starter down the stretch for those in need of one. Course of Action: Buy Julius Jones/RB Seattle—Remember when Maurice Morris was a name worth knowing? Ya, I don't either. And his one carry this past week didn't stir up any old memories. Julius Conehead's 16 carries for 88 yards, a 5.5 average, are helping him emerge as the feature back in Seattle, and with Matt Hasselbeck returning, that's a decent situation to be in. Expect some solid production from here on out. Course of Action: Buy Bobby Engram/WR Seattle—Much like JuJo, Engram will enormously benefit from having Matt Hasselbeck back in the lineup. Koren Robinson can hardly be confused as a solid NFL starter let alone a fantasy starter, so don't let his decent output week 10 fool you. Engram is the guy you want. The epitomy of an underneath outlet, he will rack up the receptions, producing yet unearthed in 2008 fantasy gold during the playoffs. Course of Action: Buy
Keep going...

Tuesday, November 11

Running the Wire

Screwing League Mates Over By Stealing The Missing Pieces Of The Puzzle That They Need 101 You can feel it coming. Playoffs. Whether you're expecting to be looking in from the outside as you knife Steven Jackson in the lymph node or sitting pretty on the top of the standings, riding BenJarvus Green-Ellis (who seriously is in need of a nickname ... I say BenJGe, pronounced Benjee) to a No. 1 seed, you know the final draw is fast approaching. So you gotta prepare. And the most efficient place to gear up is on the wire. Now you are not looking for high potential guys, players who look like they could break out one week. It is about finding diamonds in the rough who are looking to be more involved in their offenses during the home stretch, rushers who are going to carry more of a load for their team, quarterbacks who are being leaned on by their team more, wideouts who are increasingly being targeted. Start mining folks, start mining. Gold Wire Pickups Shaun Hill/QB San Francisco—I liked him before his break out performance on ESPN, I swear. In his first start in J.T. O'Sullivan-replacement duty, he had a passer rating of 102.3 with one score and no picks. That was a good sign. Then on Monday Night he had two touchdowns in the first half before the Niners collapsed. And from the cliché argument logic department, Hill is the starter in a Mike Martz offense, and he seemingly has that role secured. Hill is a cheap option who I think can be a serviceable starteryes, starterin bigger leagues for the rest of the year. Mark Bradley/WR Kansas CityTyler Thigpen has looked amazingly impressive since he's become the full time starter in KC. No, really. Six touchdowns in those three games and a 102.9 passer rating over that stretch to boot. If you ignore the three losses, one could argue that the Chiefs have definitely found their franchise QB. But I'm assuming Thigpen has already been added in most leagues, so I'll move to the next best part of my little KC fantasy mancrush, Mark Bradley. Over the course of Thigpen's starts, Bradley has led all Kansas City wide receivers in receptions. Bowe seems to be the focus of defenses, allowing Bradley to be the main target after Tony Gonzalez. Peyton Hillis/RB DenverHe's the only Broncos' running back who's still alive. You gotta take a flier on the 250-pound, 4.58-running white guy. Copper Wire Pickups Koren Robinson/WR SeattleHe's put up two straight games with four receptions and a touchdown, but with Matt Hasselbeck expected to be back Week 11 I just don't see him remaining the No. 1 option ahead of Bobby Engram. And the No. 2 guy in the Seahawks passing offense is not a guy you want on your fantasy team. Dustin Keller/TE New York (Jets)The rookie caught six passes for 107 yards and a score on Sunday against the Rams, but his second highest yardage total on the year is 41. I suspect that the production was more due to Cotchery's shoulder injury holding him back than Keller emerging as Brett Favre's new favorite underneath option. Jason Hill/WR San FranciscoThe main beneficiary of Shaun Hill's nice little primetime performance was sophomore Jason Hill who put up a nice little stat line of his own, seven catches and 84 yards. Hill, whom Mike Singletary and receivers coach Jerry Sullivan like, may have grabbed the No. 3 spot on the depth chart away from Arnaz Battle, but Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan are still the only two San Fran pass catchers who really have much value. Chicken Wire Pickups Matt Spaeth/TE PittsburghNo. The 6'7'' tight end had six receptions for 53 yards against the Colts. Who cares? He never caught more than one pass in a game the rest of the year. No. Dantrell Savage/RB Kansas CityHe led the Chiefs running game against the Chargers, with 44 yards on 12 carries. You gotta do more than that if you want some touches when LJ returns next week and Charles gets his health back. Good cop is over. You have the right and the responsibility to frickin ask us your fantasy questions.
Keep going...

Monday, November 10

Weekend Recap: Week 10

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of it. I'm tired of Merril Hoge. It's the same every week. He makes the same corny joke every time Adrian Peterson breaks off a nice run. "They call him the cashier because he makes you pay." I think my head will explode if he makes that joke one more time. And how can we forget his obsession with saying the word "factor back". I swear, if there was a Merril Hoge dictionary, that'd be the only word in it. Not to mention his insane Steelers bias. That has its time and place, and I don't always mind someone giving props to my favorite team, but he goes a bit overboard if you ask me. Plus, he's insane. I know one thing fantasy footballers are tired of: poor fantasy advice. Now, you shouldn't take what anyone says and be totally committed to using it. But man, it stinks when someone's advice you've listened to backfires. We've all been there. I'll be giving you the correct fantasy scoop from Week 10 ... I hope. - Let's go back to Thursday, shall we? Kellen Winslow was the main beneficiary the change in quarterback (from Derek Anderson to Brady Quinn, for those who have been living under a rock the past week). Winslow had 10 receptions, 111 yards and hit paydirt twice. The rest of the Browns receivers had 13 receptions 128 yards and zero touchdowns. Kudos to those of you who bought low on Winslow. - Kevin Smith is officially the main back in Detroit. While he isn't the greatest option—after all, he plays for the Lions—the team seems committed to giving him the rock (23 carries on Sunday). It's still going to take a little while for Daunte Culpepper to get comfortable with the offense, so expect a more run-focused gameplan. The last time that sentence could be said by a sane person was ... never! - So much for Kerry Collins being just a "game manager." He fell just shy of 300 yards, something he wasn't done since Week 17 of 2005. I wouldn't get too eager though. Normally, the Titans will be able to run the ball. And normally, Collins won't eclipse the 230 yard mark. - The Seahawks offense showed small signs of life last week, and they should get a boost with the return of Deion Branch and Matt Hasselbeck, both of whom are currently expected to play Week 11. - Jake Delhomme threw four interceptions against Oakland and the Panthers still won by double-digits. Just sayin'. (Hey, I need a section exclaiming how awful the Raiders are to reach my quota.) - The Bills are on a downward spiral. I'd still start Marshawn Lynch, but wouldn't advise the same about Trent Edwards. We'll never leave you for the Jets.
Keep going...

Sunday, November 9

Adam Schefter Gets Something Wrong, Willie Parker Did Not Tear His Labrum, Pigs in California Grow Wings

It rained all day today in San Diego. Two monks got into a fight near the tomb of Jesus Christ. And Adam Schefter reported false information about Willie Parker's injury situation. There is no doubt in my mind that the world is coming to an end. When Schefter blogged that Parker had a torn labrum, I noddingly took note. There was no reason for doubt. No sign of potential wrongness. But now Parker is denying the report, saying that no one has ever told him that he has a torn shoulder muscle. And he, along with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, believes that he will play again next week against the Chargers. Now that is cool and all, start FWP in all your leagues, he was a stud before the injury, if Mewelde Moore can roll then Parker should dominate, ya, ya all that jazz, but the real story here is Schefter's misinformation. Who does the world turn to for reliable NFL news now? Chris Mortensen? I can hear the screams already. John Clayton? Jared Allen laughs at that. Jay Glazer? A guy with a goatee is at the forefront of professional football reporting? May God reincarnate Peter Gammons as an NFL writer. Tomorrow. We'd love to hear about how we won the lottery in Haiti.
Keep going...