Breakfast Table: Pianowski and Stopa Talk Football
Breakfast Table: Pianowski and Stopa Talk Football

This article is part of our Breakfast Table series.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 9:10 AM
Subject: september table
To: Mark Stopa

I can't remember an NFL August that hinted as much chalk as this one did. Do you know anyone who didn't pick the Patriots, Colts, Packers, Saints or Seahawks to win their respective divisions? Through two games, none of those teams are in first (okay, Green Bay would lose on a tiebreak - they're technically tied).
Yeah, it's just two games. But as that Jersey guy used to say, it gets late early around here.

And look at some of the frisky teams - at least I see some frisk here. Carolina looks like they were massively overlooked and underrated for some reason. The Bengals posted two emphatic wins. Houston and Buffalo, two surprise 2-0s there. The Cardinals haven't looked dominant but they're 2-0, too. I'm rooting for the city of Buffalo, that area deserves a win.

We're not going to talk about the chaos off the field today, but we can try to make sense of what's on the field. I make three requests of you: Give me one surprise 2-0 team you believe in, and give me one slumping name-brand team you think is in trouble. And for the final assignment, give me your State of the Andrew Luck address - he's become polarizing awfully quick, full of apologists defending him and critics throwing rocks at him. Heck, maybe we can revisit the 2012 Quarterback draft, one of the three watershed QB pools from my lifetime (not quite up to 1983, but surpassing 2004).

September Breakfast is served.

From: ‪mark stopa‬
Date: Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 10:10 AM
Subject: Re: september table
To: scott pianowski

The Bills have been my team my whole life (the four Super Bowl losses corresponded with my four years of high school), but things have been so bad for so long that when I told my three kids (ages 11, 9 and 8) the Bills were undefeated and in first place, they didn't believe me. Thanks, kids. To be fair, I'm not sure I believe it, either. I still think New England will take that division, but I'm mighty curious to see if the Bills can beat San Diego at home this week. How's that Sammy Watkins trade look to you now? Who you picking there? What other Week 3 games have your attention?

Forced to choose a surprise 2-0 team to make the playoffs, I'll go with the Texans. The NFL sees a worst-to-first team almost every year, that defense is legit, and while Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the guy you want slinging it down two scores, he can manage a team in hitter's counts. That said, my Texans endorsement might be more an indictment of the Colts. Does Indy have one above-average player on either side of the ball besides Andrew Luck? Vontae Davis and T.Y. Hilton, arguably. Otherwise the cupboard is pretty bare.

I'm also worried about the Niners. With all the injuries and personnel losses, that defense is nothing like what we've seen in recent years. Colin Kaepernick should have put away a bad Bears defense in the second half, but he didn't. With Seattle taking the division, I see trouble in San Fran, and growing speculation about Jim Harbaugh's future as the season proceeds. Are they still the name brand you worry most about? What about the Saints?

The most fascinating part of the 2012 QB class, for me, isn't that it gave us two future Hall of Famers in Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson (forced to choose, which guy would you start your franchise with today?), or a couple of frisky guys at 88 and 102 overall (Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins), but the quarterbacks who went before Wilson. Robert Griffin III at No. 2 overall (with the Redskins mortgaging the franchise for him). Brandon Weeden at 22. Brock Osweiler at 57. Yes, even the top-level NFL talent evaluators strike out often at this position.

I got Carolina at 50:1 to win the Super Bowl in the offseason ... so, no, I'm not sure why everyone was so down on them. Still don't see it.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Thu, Sep 18, 2014 at 6:40 PM
Subject: Re: september table
To: Mark Stopa

The AFC East has taken a lot of shots over the years, but I don't see a bad team in the division. The Bills have a very solid team other than the quarterback, and EJ Manuel has actually played well to this point. Geno Smith might be the most improved player in the league. Miami finally has a chance on offense now that Mike Sherman is out of town. I still think the Patriots have too much back class for the title, but it will take them all 17 weeks.

Two games mean an awful lot in the AFC South, where the Texans are now the division favorites. Consider the playoff odds on Football Outsiders: they have Houston 47 percent to win the division, followed by Tennessee (35 percent) and Indianapolis (13 percent). I don't see the gap being quite that wide, but a two-game lead is enormous in the short-season NFL. (FO also has Buffalo as the AFC East favorite, and 66 percent to make the playoffs. That should put you in a good mood. I'm ready to prop against those things, backstage.)

I picked the Niners to miss the playoffs before the year, and while I try to watch without prediction prejudice, I can't help but root for the story. I'm a Seahawks guy. I still can't decide how I feel about Colin Kaepernick. Their defense will be a lot better in the second half of the year, but what will their record be when they get there? Heck, the Dallas game might have been competitive had Tony Romo not gift-wrapped the result in 20 minutes.

Here's what I don't get about the Saints: Drew Brees didn't have crazy home/road splits before the last couple of years, and everyone seems to like their coaching staff. We don't need them to scorch the earth on the road, just win three or four games, then mix it in with the Mardi Gras madness. To be fair, they're two plays away from being 2-0. I'm giving them a wild card and expecting a 40-14 type of game this weekend.

It will be interesting to see which QB Wilson is compared to most over the next 10 years, Luck or Kaepernick (not a 2012 kid, but he's obviously in the same division, and it's the NFL's best rivalry.) I flip-flop betweem Luck and Wilson on a weekly basis. I know the numbers all support Wilson, but Luck's getting crushed by his supporting cast and coaching staff. This is the beauty, and the agony, of NFL debates. Context is everything.

Heck, how good is Nick Foles? Remember how Marc Trestman made Josh McCown a viable QB last year? I could see Chip Kelly doing the same with Mark Sanchez, if needed. Kelly's still a step ahead of everyone, and Philly's depth of skill guys is ridiculous.

If I were drafting the 2012 class all over again, put me down for Luck, Wilson, big gap, then Foles, then another gap, then Tannehill, then a gap, then Griffin and Cousins. I want to like Cousins, I really do. But he strikes me as a guy who's more about smarts and preparation than he is about raw ability. I hope he's a souped-up Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Carolina's a team built on defense and that side of the ball tends to regress more than offense. I can see why they were faded in so many areas. That said, the defense looks just as good, maybe better. And I'll admit I was completely wrong on Kelvin Benjamin.

Seahawks by seven. Saints by as many as they want. Colts eke by Jacksonville. Chargers over Bills.

From: ‪mark stopa‬
Date: Thu, Sep 18, 2014 at 11:02 PM
Subject: Re: september table
To: scott pianowski

Those Football Outsiders playoff predictions seem off; they're putting too much weight on current record. There's no way the Bills are 66 percent likely to make the playoffs or that the Colts are only 13 percent. I know I criticized Indy, but in that division, losing to the Broncos and Eagles is hardly a death sentence.

Everyone seems to like Nick Foles more than I do. He looked terribly inaccurate on Monday night, repeatedly missing simple throws. At some point, Chip Kelly brings in his guy to run that offense, right?

I put $500 on the Niners to miss the playoffs at 2:1 odds, my biggest bet this offseason, so I hear you on the objectivity concerns. This week is a good test for San Fran; the version we've seen in recent years would easily take care of Arizona in this spot (coming off a loss, Carson Palmer hurt). A loss here spells huge problems.

I lean Luck over Wilson because we've seen Luck take an entire team on his shoulders and succeed. As much as I love Wilson, the Seattle D and Marshawn Lynch have kept him from ever having to do that. We'll see that again this week - Seattle 31, Denver 17.

You like Tannehill more than I do. He can't throw downfield and, to steal one of your terms, the clock in his head is a grandfather clock (most sacks in NFL in 2013). As a Bills fan, I hope he sticks with the Dolphins for the next decade. Heck, I'd rather have Geno or Manuel.

It's hard for West Coast teams to come East and play at 1pm EST, and the Chargers are coming off a huge win. Bills 24-17. Panthers bury the Steelers; why's that line only 3.5 points? 31-13. Browns over the Ravens, Cleveland gets noticed as a contender. 27-21. Bills and Browns? Yeah, it's been that kind of NFL year.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Subject: Must Flee TV
To: Mark Stopa

These tables usually end with four missives, but I need to add one final one.

When I am King, Thursday Night Football will not exist. Okay, the Thanksgiving games can stay. That's it.

There's a Fellowship of the Miserable aspect to these Thursday games. It's the worst time to be on Twitter. The teams and players are seldom ready to play, which makes sense when you consider the tiny turnaround window. Football is a game that demands a significant comedown/rest/recuperation period, in addition to planning. You ask teams to play without adequate prep time, you're going to get crummy games. Most football fans saw this a long time ago.

And there's so much negative energy surrounding the way America consumes these Thursday games. The Fantasy Freakouts are ridiculous. Bobby Rainey owners were suicidal for two hours last night, and it shouldn't be that way. It's a game. Funky things happen. You have 15 more games this week to fix whatever hole Rainey put you in. And geesh, let the game breathe - Rainey's final score was about three-quarters of what he was projected for.

The Sunday night and Monday night games are also standalone games, but for some reason they don't seem to produce the same angst. Maybe it's because they're so close to the heavy package of Sunday's day action. Maybe it's because some fantasy owners have already won or lost their games regardless of what happens Sunday night or Monday night. Maybe it's because Sunday night and Monday night games are usually of a better quality, which lessens the frustration people feel.

Maybe this is all Phil Simms's fault. I don't know. But I'm starting to think I need different plans for Thursday night.

Where are Sam Malone and Alex P. Keaton when you need them?

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Scott Pianowski
Scott Pianowski writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire
Mark Stopa
Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.
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