Monday, November 22, 2010

When Will Favre Quit?

It's seemed like a pretty good bet ever since the Vikings started their season badly that Brett Favre will not finish the season with the team. His comments after the Vikings' seventh loss yesterday furthered this impression, and Brad Childress's firing today only underlines the instability in the organization. It's a matter of when, not if Favre quits in mid-season. So when will it be?

1. This week?

Why it might be: He just got beat down by the Packers. More importantly, Childress's job security was the best weapon Favre had. There were endless debates on Sunday-morning-type shows about whether Childress should bench Favre; this was a stupid question because whether he should have, he was never going to. His job was in danger, and the only chance he had to keep it was if Favre turned the team around. Tarvaris can't do it, and even if he could, Childress had pushed in all his chips on Favre. Interim coach Leslie Frazier doesn't have any chips in on Favre, and if Brett keeps playing as badly as he has, Frazier would be more able to bench him for performance.

Why it might not be: Favre got beat-down score-wise by the Packers, but not physically beaten as much as he has so far this season. Furthermore, it was no secret that he didn't like Childress, so he'll probably want to give it another shot with Leslie Frazier at the helm--especially considered how this season's other interim coach, Jason Garret, has apparently worked a miracle with the Cowboys.

Odds: 1 in 10

2. Next week?

Why it might be: Again, Leslie Frazier may well be willing to bench Favre if he plays badly (which he has been doing quite a bit this season). Favre would be livid if he were pulled from the game, and would probably refuse to play for Frazier ever again.

Why it might not be: They're playing the Redskins, a team bad enough that they might make the Vikings look good.

Odds: 1 in 7

3. Early December?

Why it might be: If the Vikings keep losing, and if the Bears and Packers and New Orleans and/or Tampa Bay keep winning, the Vikings could be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs as early as the night of December 5th. With the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl finally, officially over, Favre would have no reason to keep playing.

Why it might not be: The Vikings might win a few games with Frazier (they do get to play Buffalo right after Washington), and the Bears and Packers have tough ones coming up. In all probability, the Vikings will technically stay alive a little longer than this. (But is "technically" enough?)

Odds: 1 in 3

4. Right before the last game of the season?

Why it might be: The reason Favre came back at the beginning of the season instead of waiting until Week 5 (as would have been a good idea to keep healing the various and sundry body parts that are giving him trouble) must be that he's really invested in his consecutive starts streak. If he played through the Philadelphia game on December 26th, he would get to 300. Much like Bobby Knight quitting in midseason after getting to 900 wins despite insisting numbers didn't matter, Favre might just skip the season finale at Detroit after getting to a nice, round number.

Why it might not be: Either because at that point, he might as well finish the season (although it would depend on how much Philly's D hit him) or because he will already have quit.

Odds: 1 in 20

If anybody wants to start a betting pool, I'm taking December 6th. (Although I'm worried that's too late.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Defense of Defense

I was going to write a post about different things I've learned in this, my first season of playing fantasy football. But then I went off on a rant on the number one thing I've learned--that IDP blows team defense out of the water--and I decided I needed to devote a whole post to it.

I cannot fathom why it's more popular to draft team defenses than Individual Defensive Players. Well, OK, I know why: it's easier. However, the small amount of work that goes into drafting and then keeping track of defensive players is far more than worth it.

Playing IDP is much more rewarding, because you can't predict how a team defense will perform. A stat you can hear from any fantasy advice professional is that top-drafted defenses never finish at the top of the stats at the end of a season. Drafting individual players instead of team defenses rewards knowledge and research instead of luck.

Playing IDP is less risky, because there are smaller point swings from week to week. A team defense only takes up one of your roster spots, but it can bring your entire team down. Maybe it'll score 15, maybe it will score -10. (Oh by the way, thanks a lot for last week, Chiefs D.) DeAngelo Hall isn't going to score you 29 points every week (like he did that one time), but he's never going to wipe out the points scored by your other players.

Playing IDP is more educational, because it makes you learn about the guys on the less-glamorous side of the ball. A few weeks ago, Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback column wrote that he liked "Cleveland defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (bet you didn't know Ahtyba) beating a Pro Bowl-caliber guard, Stephen Neal, for a sack of Tom Brady." Au contraire, Peter. I both know and adore Ahtyba Rubin, because he's on my team and he's a stud.

Most of all, playing IDP is more in keeping with the spirit of fantasy football. With a team defense, your fantasy team's performance hinges on how well a real-life team plays. And who cares about that?! I care about individual guys making great plays and racking up the best numbers they can! If I benefit from Carson Palmer throwing for a ton of yards even if the Bengals lose, why shouldn't I benefit from Clay Matthews sacking the QB over and over, even if the Packers lose? Fantasy football is about celebrating the achievements and stats of Individual Players. Case closed.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What's Going on in the Big 12?

Ah, parity. It's just the boring way to say "Everything is crazy!"

The South
Remember last week, when Baylor was all alone at the top of the division standings, and we were all like, "Whaaaaaa?" This week restored a little--a little--normality there, with Baylor falling to Oklahoma State on the field and in the standings. Of course, that leaves us with Oklahoma State as the favorite to represent the South in the championship game, which is still pretty weird.

Here's the thing about Baylor: they're better than we're used to them being, but they're still not great. Good for them for winning their entire North slate and a very, very down texas team, but losing to TCU, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State shows that they're not a brand new team.

As for Oklahoma State, I guess it turns out Mike Gundy is a better head coach than head coach/offensive coordinator. And that he made an excellent hire in Dana Holgerson as his new, external OC.

Speaking of great hires! I LOVE TIM DERUYTER, YOU GUYS. I'm not ready to dust off the Wrecking Crew name, but those multiple amazing goal-line stands make my heart go pitter-pat.

Ryan Tannehill has been good too, although frankly I'm relieved he hasn't been so mind-bogglingly good as to drag me into another Aggie QB crush. I've had my heart broken too many times. Too many times.

The team has clearly done better with Tannehill at the wheel than with Jerrod. However, I don't think it's because he's flat-out better than Jerrod. My theory is that Tannehill realizes that his job is to help the team win, whereas Jerrod may have been convinced that he had to carry the team. That in turn made him try too hard and force passes he didn't need to make. (It might be something else, like that the hype went to his head and he stopped working hard in practice, but I hope it's my more generous interpretation.)

As for our collective confusion over how t.u. is so bad, maybe we're overthinking things. It's possible that their weaknesses have been this big, or close to it, and that the weaknesses were just masked by excellent quarterback play. Vince Young and Colt McCoy are not just NFL players, but successful NFL starters. (I know Colt is just a few games in, but he's beaten Drew Brees and Tom Brady already. On a team that won five games last year. That's impressive.)

And then there are OU and Texas Tech, which both quite good at home and not as good away. It happens.

The North
The North division is much less topsy-turvy. As we expected, Nebraska's at the top, with Missouri as a solid second.

However, the Big 12 North did bring us yesterday's single craziest game, in which an abysmal KU team scored 35 points in the last twelve minutes of the fourth quarter to go from being down 45-17 to beating Colorado 52-45. Totally insane. Dan Hawkins should never get another head coaching job.

In other North news, both K-State and Iowa State are coming along nicely. It now seems reasonable to hope that they will not be dead weight in next year's 10-team conference. Thanks and gig'em, guys.

The future!
Which is to say, the near future. There are three weeks left of regular season conference play. Here are the standings as of today: knows I like the Aggies the best.

There are fifteen conference games yet to play. I went through them and made my predictions, picking the apparent favorites (my most arguable conclusions: A&M over Baylor and t.u., Oke State over Oklahoma), and this is what I think the final standings will be:

Nebraska 7-1
Mizzou 6-2
K-State 4-4
Iowa State 4-4
KU 1-7
CU 0-8

Oklahoma State 7-1
A&M 5-3
OU 5-3
Baylor 4-4
Texas Tech 3-5
t.u. 2-6

So the only big change I see is Baylor continuing to fall--they may well beat A&M and/or OU in Waco, but I think it slightly likelier that they won't. That would give us Oklahoma State vs. Nebraska in the championship game, and while it's hard to beat the same team twice, it's still looking probable that Nebraska walks away with a championship in their last year in the league. Dang.

The only teams already out of the South race are Texas Tech and t.u. Okahoma, even though they're fourth right now, is in a better position than A&M and Baylor because those two need Oklahoma State to lose twice. Oklahoma just needs to win out, because if they beat Oklahoma State in Bedlam (presuming Oke State has continued to win up to that point), they'll have the same conference record, and OU will own the tiebreaker.

In the North, it's hard to imagine Nebraska not winning. Mizzou, since they already lost to Nebraska, needs the Huskers to lose twice. With NU's last three games being against A&M, KU, and Colorado, that's pretty much an impossible dream.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Joe Pa Conspiracy of Silence

If you want to talk vast media conspiracies, let's talk Joe Paterno.

He does not coach the Penn State football team, at least not in any sense that matters for their on-field performance. He doesn't carry a clipboard. He doesn't wear a headset. When he got injured during a game and moved up to the press box, he didn't even wear a headset up there. I'm not saying that an 84-year-old man can't coach a football team; I just saying this particular one doesn't.

And you know what? That's fine. If Penn State loves him so much, and they do, that's totally fine that they keep him around as a figurehead/mascot. And if he's up for that, good for him.

The problem is that everyone--everyone--in the sports media bends over backwards to avoid acknowledging the truth. They talk about his game plans and his strategies and go out of the way to cram in anecdotes about him showing his linemen proper stances.

I get that Joe Pa is a representative of a bygone, romanticized era. And that it's nice to be nice to old people. I suppose that if there's one person who should be exempted from the sports media's job to tell the truth, it's him. That's just a huge, gigantic "if."