And then there were three.
It has been a pleasure for me to review the weekly picks of the
eight semi-finalists in our Last Man Standing contest. All eight
contestants (Michael Bode, Anthony Catalano, Spencer Coffey, Jeff
DuBransky, Walt Kindelberger, Doug Lecorchick, Marc Mondry, and
Scott Morrison) deserve a round of cyber applause for their willingness
to put themselves and their football savvy on the line for the
past three weeks. If you listen carefully, I’m sure you
can hear the internet clapping.
After the Week 5 games, Mike Krueger (owner and editor-in-chief
at FF Today.com) reviewed the prognostications of all the participants
by way of preparing a short list of candidates—one of whom
will be selected by Matthew Schiff next week as the newly anointed
and freshly appointed LMS guru for FF Today.
Here is the message that I received from Krueger on Tuesday:
My rationale for narrowing down this list to three
was fairly simple. Quality of analysis, writing style and accuracy
of picks were key. I must say this was a very difficult process,
and we have more than three worthy candidates. I really enjoyed
everybody's analysis of the games and enthusiasm for the contest.
I think we have some future FF Today Staffers in this group, and
I can't thank everybody enough for participating. With that being
said, I've selected (in no particular order) Michael Bode, Walt
Kindelberger, and Marc Mondry to be on Mr. Schiff's short list.
Now he can do the honors of selecting his replacement.
I have asked Matthew Schiff to let me know of his decision by
Tuesday, March 14th. He has not authorized me to reveal his email
address to the general public, but if any readers of this column
want to lobby for a particular choice, they can send their thoughts
to me. As long as the thoughts reach me by the end of the Monday
Night Football game on the 13th, I will forward them to Mr. Schiff
for his consideration.
I cannot promise that Schiff will read such input or be influenced
by it, but I can promise to include any particularly amusing or
insightful feedback from readers in next week’s column.
(If you are thinking—and I know some of you are—that
it’s easy to be amusing when you are mean, don’t bother.
I will be happy to include messages of support for Bode, Kindelberger,
or Mondry, but there will be no room in the column for “negative
The three candidates on Krueger’s short list all took a
little time earlier this week to review the work of the five contestants
who were eliminated this week. I invited them to select two or
three excerpts from their competitors that were particularly deserving
Anthony Catalano received some love from Marc Mondry, who praised
him for understanding how important transcontinental travel is
in the NFL:
“The other thing I would stress is I like
to try and avoid teams that are traveling across the country.
There are many games in which good teams have traveled a long
distance and lost to bad teams, so I try and stay away from those
matchups as well.” –Catalano
Anthony – Bullseye. This may be the one factor that experts
and amateurs alike ignore the most when picking games. I know
I certainly wasn’t thinking much of it until you wrote it.
Here’s the list of teams just from last week that traveled
far distances to play and vastly underperformed:
San Diego at Miami (L 10-17)
Seattle at NYG (L 6-44)
Buffalo at Arizona (L 17-41)
Right on, Anthony.
Spencer Coffey also scored points with Mondry for his no-frills
Spencer wasn’t flashy. He didn’t dazzle
you with fancy vocabulary or unnecessary frills. He got you the
facts. And in week 4, where most of us faltered (Michael, Walt,
and I were a combined 2-7 – atrocious), Spencer came up
huge and picked the following 3 games:
3. Tampa Bay over Green Bay
2. Buffalo over St. Louis
1. Carolina over Atlanta
Spencer – As I say far too often for my own good –
CASH MONEY! You were the only one to escape the Week 4 debacle
unscathed. The Tampa Bay pick was right on, and gutsy to boot.
They were only favored by 1.5 points. Bravo friend, bravo.
Jeff Dubransky won admiration from Walt Kindelberger, who was
both impressed and amused by his work:
In Week 3, Jeff gave us the upset special of Jacksonville
over Indianapolis—and assured us that Chris Henry would
not be named NFL Man of the Year!
Doug Lecorchick impressed all of us by getting all 4 predictions
right in Week 5, but he was singled out for praise by Michael
Bode for another reason:
Doug Lecorchick deserves much credit for picking
Cleveland to win twice during this contest (once as a trap-game)
just because I am a fan of the Browns and like to see others have
faith in them.
Scott Morrison did extremely well as a prognosticator (7-2 in
9 picks over three weeks), but Mondry’s praise indicates
that he had a solid sense of style to go along with his substance.
According to Mondry, Morrison’s Soap Box rant was one of
the highlights of the contest:
“An insightful football commentator once
called the ball spotting and chain stretching routine ‘a
very precise measurement of a completely arbitrary ball placement.’
Bingo. The entire process is akin to having your carpet installer
guesstimate the room measurements by looking in your windows,
then cutting the rug with a laser accurate to a thousandth of
an inch.” –Morrison
Scott – Fantastic rant! This analogy was money, and I wholeheartedly
agree with just about everything you said. Out of all of the soap
box rants, I found yours to be the most entertaining and certainly
worth reading. I’d love to discuss this one over a beer.
I want to thank all of our contestants for their participation
thus far. I also want to thank Mike Krueger for selecting our
three finalists, whose picks for Week 6 appear below.
Michael Bode’s Picks
Trap Game: Baltimore over Indianapolis
Despite the Colts being at home and coming back from an emotional
rally in Houston, this matchup should continue to expose the Colts’
weaknesses. The Ravens allow a league-best 2.8 yards per carry,
while the Colts give up a generous 4.9 yards per carry. And the
Ravens are also the best in the NFL against the pass. Joe Flacco
should have trouble moving the ball downfield against the Colts
disciplined secondary, but the Ravens will only need for him to
protect the football to obtain the victory this week.
#3: New Orleans over Oakland (Past
picks: minnesota, philadelphia, jacksonville)
The New Orleans rush defense can be as good as holding Adrian
Peterson to 32 yards rushing or as bad as their 4.5 yards per
carry (including the Minnesota game) shows. The key to the Saints’
rush defense, however, is their pass defense. The New Orleans
secondary is so weak that against teams with a competent passing
attack, they have to leave their nickel defensive back on the
field most of the time, which weakens their rush defense. Against
the Vikings, the Saints left their base package in place and were
effective. There is no reason that the same plan will not be put
in place against the Raiders, which will force JaMarcus Russell
to have to win the game. From a statistical standpoint, the Saints
have the best offense in the NFL, which will be too much for the
mediocre Raider defense.
#2: Washington over St. Louis (Past
picks: BUFFALO, JACKSONVILLE, CAROLINA)
Sometimes the numbers do not tell the whole story. The numbers
say that Washington is mediocre against the run and in the bottom
third against the pass while in the bottom half of NFL pass offenses.
However, the Redskins have been able to win games against tough
opponents because they are following the oldest gameplan in football.
They control the clock and do not beat themselves. They are tied
with the Titans with a +6 in turnover differential and have a
top-5 rushing offense. On the flip side, the Rams are in the bottom
third in turnover differential, and they have to overcome the
added turmoil of the firing of Scott Linehan. In addition, the
Rams and Lions are the only two teams in the league giving up
more than 9 yards per pass attempt. I believe the Rams will eventually
be able to dedicate more of their offense to the run and squeak
out some wins, but this should not be one of those weeks.
#1: Minnesota over Detroit (Past picks:
NYG, denver, DALLAS)
The Lions are giving up more than 9 yards per pass and 5 yards
per run. It stands to reason that an offense that is built around
the run and long passes would give their pathetic defense the
most trouble. The Vikings happen to have that exact offense. Moreover,
the Vikings’ offensive line will be looking to show that
the poor run-blocking performance against the Saints was a fluke.
Don’t forget that the Vikings are tied with the Ravens for
first place in rush defense (2.8 yards allowed per rush). Finally,
the Lions have been in a noticeable tailspin since the beginning
of the season, and there have been no signs of Detroit snapping
out of that tailspin any time soon.
Walt Kindelberger’s Picks
Week #6 offers what appears to be a treasure trove of FFL and
LMS/Elminator goodness. There are four games that on paper look
to be easy picks this week. Of course that means that at least
one of these "obvious" games is probably too good to
be true. I hope to have found three winners for you this week.
Keep in mind, however, that these picks are made on Tuesday—and
a lot can change prior to Sunday.
Trap Game: Arizona over Dallas
Dallas has not looked stellar two weeks in a row. Washington handled
them Week 4 and then last week Cincinnati gave them more game
than anyone could have expected from an Ohio team. I know that
history is on the side of Dallas in this one. Traditionally, a
trip to Arizona has meant a 9th home game for Dallas. Nevertheless,
this year I believe that things will be different. Arizona has
an offense that can score with Dallas and a defense that, with
the exception of the Jets debacle, has been much improved this
year. The new mentality that Wisenhunt and Grimm brought with
them from Pittsburgh seems to be paying dividends this year. Look
for Arizona to either win this one or play it very closely.
#3: New Orleans over Oakland (past
picks: ATLANTA, dallas, CAROLINA )
New Orleans lost a tough one on Monday night, in one of the stranger
games that has been played in recent memory. New Orleans should
have had the game put away in the first half, but they failed
to do so. In fact, they only had a chance in the second half because
of two electrifying Reggie Bush punt returns. New Orleans playing
at home should simply have too much offense for Oakland to hang
with. Add in the fact that Al Davis should have fired himself
instead of Lane Kiffin and you have a recipe for a New Orleans
win. I would be comfortable giving the points with the current
line set at 7.
#2: Minnesota over Detroit (past picks:
BUFFALO, cincinnati, DALLAS)
I really thought Matt Millen leaving would be enough to give the
Lions a big boost last week. In short, it didn't. Detroit's football
team and their auto industry have a lot in common. Just as the
auto industry is clearly overmatched year to year by foreign competitors,
so are the Lions. Their competitors are playing NFL football,
while the Lions are still working on the Edsel. If you are a pessimist,
you could point to Adrian Peterson’s performance against
New Orleans and the fact that this is a division game as reasons
to worry. I don't think either will keep Minnesota from handling
Detroit in this one. The current 13.5 point spread seems a bit
#1: Washington over St. Louis (past
picks: NY GIANTS, denver, atlanta)
Washington has been super the past two weeks in beating division
rivals Dallas and Philly both on the road. They could be primed
for a let-down at home this week. Thankfully, however, they are
playing St. Louis, so even a tepid effort should be enough to
down the hapless Rams. Sanity has returned to St. Louis with Haslett
and Bulger, but the problems there run deeper. Their defense is
giving up 30+ points on a week to week basis. Going on the road
to a tough stadium against a hot team from the best division in
football is not a scenario in which the Rams’ fortunes are
likely to turn. Look for Washington to have a fairly easy time,
but possibly not as easy as the current line of 13.5 would suggest.
Marc Mondry’s Picks
There is a theme to my picks this week: strong defense along
with a strong running game. Just as I said in my Spotlight (see
Q & A week 5) – these are your bread and butter LMS
teams, and this week, there are 4 teams that fit this mold well
in addition to having excellent matchups. One of them just happens
to be a trap game.
Trap Game: Baltimore over Indianapolis
I first considered San Francisco over Philadelphia. That game
has a lot of the characteristics we should look for in an upset
(see Mr. Coffey’s strategy note above). However, this matchup
is an upset made in heaven. Indianapolis, with struggling Joseph
Addai, has the worst rushing attack in the NFL, averaging less
than 70 yards per game, and also happens to have the worst run
defense in the league, allowing just under 190 rushing yards per
game. On the other side of the field is Baltimore, touting the
league’s 4th best rushing attack (153.8 ypg), championed
by 260-pound human bowling ball Le’Ron McClain. The Ravens
also have the league’s leading rush defense, allowing just
64 yards per game. I had the privilege of watching the Ravens
in person last week, and man, that D looks even better in person
than on television. Peyton will have to beat the Ravens through
the air, which wouldn’t have been easy for him circa 2004,
and certainly won’t be this week.
3. Minnesota over Detroit (Past picks:
SEATTLE, JACKSONVILLE, NYG)
Minnesota hasn’t looked quite like the dominant defense
and rushing team that we anticipated that it would, but they have
made improvements over the course of the last couple weeks, particularly
on defense. They held a very strong Saints team to 27 points,
14 of which came on Reggie Bush punt returns. The Vikes should
build a lead early on Sunday, allowing the defense to be aggressive;
that’s when it is most effective. The running game struggled
last week against an average Saints rushing D, but we should assume
this was an anomaly until proven otherwise – Purple Jesus
has generally looked sharp, even against some tough rushing defenses
in Tennessee and Carolina. And just look what he did to Indy and
GB (48 carries, 263 yards). Detroit fits right in with the latter
two teams, ranking 30th in rush defense, allowing 180 rush yards
per game. The only chance Detroit has to keep this one competitive
is for Kitna and Co. to put up something like 400 yards passing
and 3 scores, in Minnesota no less, and even that might not be
2. New York Giants over Cleveland
(Past picks: TENNESSEE, dallas, CHICAGO)
They earned it. I was skeptical of picking the Giants all year
long – they have an ugly history of blowing games they should
win by large margins, and that demon almost reared its head against
Cincinnati. Last week, I went with them as my number 3, and they
flat out took care of business. Unlike in past years, the G-Men
have uniformly crushed bad teams (league leading point differential
of 78 points in just 4 games), and this week, they get to face
the Browns, who are dead last in offensive yards per game, and
second to last in points scored per game. This game should be
an absolute blowout, no matter who starts at QB for the Browns.
In fact, bold prediction: David Carr comes into the game in the
second half and scores at least half the fantasy points scored
by either Cleveland QB. Assuming all goes according to plan, this
prediction will be the only thing on your mind if you pick the
Giants in your LMS pool this week.
1. Washington over St. Louis (Past
picks: BUFFALO, denver, CAROLINA)
I must say I did not think Washington would ever be my #1 selection,
but the Skins have been playing fantastic ball. They are a different
team than the one I watched play my Giants in Week 1. Campbell
has demonstrated a lot of maturity. No turnovers in 5 games!?
That’s extraordinary. On the other side of the ball, the
defense, while not flashy, has neutralized the strongest offenses
in the league, allowing an average of 19.6 points per game (11th
best), after having faced the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 7th, and 10th highest
scoring offenses in the league. The question can appropriately
be asked: are the Redskins a defensive juggernaut? I laugh out
loud as I write, but those numbers are impressive. The Skins host
the struggling, winless Rams, who rank dead last in both points
scored and points allowed – making this the no-brainer top
pick of the week.
For responses to this week's fantasy
question or to share your LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football