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 24, 2014 at 4:33 PM
Subject: enjoy every sandwich
To: Mark Stopa

The AFC East pisses me off.

I'm not sure how Joe Philbin survived the Richie Incognito scandal last year, but he returned - and now he's making a mess of the Dolphins. Messing with Ryan Tannehill is short-sighted. Quarterback isn't an effort position, it's a skill and preparation position. I rarely think in-season firings make sense, but Miami should consider it after they're done with the Werewolves of London.

You have the silly Jets, with their Michael Vick tinkering. Apparently they learned nothing from their Tebow mistakes. Tom Brady doesn't have much to work with, but what's happened to his dreamy pocket awareness? And then there are the Bills, with two sports cars (and a Toyota) but no one to drive.

Did we just see the game of the year in Seattle? The first three quarters were pedestrian, but the finish made up for it. What's good this time around. Niners and Eagles? Packers and Bears? The weekly Baltimore slobberknocker?

Your witness.

From: mark stopa
Date: Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 10:56 AM
Subject: Re: enjoy every sandwich
To: scott pianowski

Why are we talking about the AFC East? If those four teams merged into the CFL, would anyone notice? Tannehill, Manuel and Geno Smith belong in Canada, and Tom Brady looks like the game manager we saw in 2001, not the inner-circle Hall of Famer who emerged in subsequent years. Only 5.5 yards per attempt? The Pats are ripe for the picking, yet nobody else in the East seems capable of doing it. (Somewhere, Jersey is throwing bowling balls off of rooftops.) I have half a mind to bet Blake Bortles throws more TD passes than Brady for the rest of 2014.

Last week's ending in Seattle was fun, but how can it be the game of the year when Denver never scared a win? Remember Denver at Dallas last year? High score, fourth-quarter lead changes - that's what I want to call it a "game of the year."

Have you watched much San Diego tape yet? I was uber-impressed with how their offensive line (even minus Nick Hardwick) dominated a terrific Bills front four. Philip Rivers is making all the right decisions, too - he's playing as well as anyone at the position (and at least a half-notch above Brady, no matter what the mainstream media says.) You buying in on the Bolts? They could easily be 6-1 heading into Week 8 at Denver (Jax this week, then NYJ, @Oak, KC.)

What in the name of Greg Hardy happened to Carolina on Sunday night? They'll rebound against those pretender Ravens, right? Should Packers fans heed Aaron Rodgers advice and "relax," or is there trouble brewing in Green Bay? Will the first team to 40 win in San Francisco?

The more I study the NFL, the more questions I have. Make things clear for us, amigo.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 4:55 AM
Subject: Re: enjoy every sandwich
To: Mark Stopa

You're shooting holes in Denver-Seattle? Silly man. The narrative has to mean something. It's a Super Bowl rematch, it's the best offense and the best defense (until someone proves otherwise), it's an electric venue, and it's play at a very high level. Denver's winning percentage was down to 1-2 percent in the late stages of the fourth period, and it needed the full eight points in less than a minute, no timeouts, enemy stadium. The execution was gorgeous en route to the tie, and then Seattle assembled another gorgeous drive to win it. In a league where so many games come down to fluky things and spotty calls, I felt satisfied by that result.

Say this for the Patriots - Bill Belichick has a history of coaching up his teams as a season goes along. Early-season Patriots obits have been written many times. Worst case scenario, I still think they cobble together 10 wins and take the division. And I say that while I still respect the other three teams here.

The AFC East is an easy bash because Brady is in decline (on some level), and there's no other major quarterback here. But every other team has something it does well. I could see anyone here going 8-8 or 9-7.

I think the Ravens might be pretty good. They crushed Pittsburgh, found a way against a pesky Cleveland team (on the road), and a loss to Cincinnati is an excused absence. I don't know who the Panthers are. Cam Newton clearly doesn't want to run, the backfield is a mess, and while I like the upside of Kelvin Benjamin, he's still raw. Greg Olsen helps, but there's no second option here. Ravens by three.

I picked the Chargers to win the division, so you bet I'm in. Rivers was lost at the end of the Norv Turner era, but otherwise he's had an elite career. Eli and Big Ben have the rings, but Rivers has been considerably better during the regular season. In three of Rivers's seasons, he's been slightly above the league index in rating. In his other six seasons, he's been considerably above the norm. The most underrated superstar in the game today.

I love that they're winning even with Keenan Allen in a slump. They should have won the Arizona game, too. The defense has improved significantly. The sooner they unleash Ladarius Green on the world, the better (teams must wet their pants when they see him on tape.)

Pats over Chiefs, even if I'm just being dogmatic about the coaches. Packers over Bears - take the more desperate team. Jets trip the Lions. Eagles scare San Francisco, then let them off the hook - done in by all those offensive line injuries.

I'll leave Buffalo-Houston to you, the Ryan Fitzpatrick Bowl.

From: mark stopa
Date: Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 9:59 AM
Subject: Re: enjoy every sandwich
To: scott pianowski

Denver-Dallas 2013 had us on the edge of our seats for all 60 minutes. Did Denver-Seattle even hold our attention for the first 59?

I don't think Keenan Allen is "slumping." He's not dropping passes a la Demaryius Thomas. The Chargers just aren't force-feeding him because they're winning with ball-control. Let's see if their defense can remain good enough to avoid the known passing situations in which Allen performed so well last year. (Sorry, fantasy owners - it might with that schedule.)

I hear you on the Patriots and the early-season struggles. I remember last year, Brady was struggling so badly (5.9 YPA, 74.9 QB rating through 8 games) that some of us were ranking Jake Locker above him in fantasy, yet Brady turned it around in the second half (7.85 YPA, 99.2 QB rating in games 9-16). Something about this year feels different, though. Maybe it's that he's a year older, or maybe it's that Gronk is there this time. It sure does seem strange, too, that the Patriots haven't been able to develop a young receiver with Brady. It's too easy to blame only the receivers - Brady and, yes, Belichick, deserve blame, too.

I don't know what to make of the AFC North teams. Are the Steelers the team who couldn't score for 8 quarters, or the team with young studs at RB and WR who blew out the previously unbeaten Panthers? You like the Ravens? Ugh. What do they do well? If you were starting a team from scratch and you looked at Baltimore, is there anyone you'd look at and say "I want him"? No, Justin Tucker doesn't count. Carolina at least has a few such players (Kuechly, Benjamin, Cam). Panthers 24-20.

We never root for injuries, but if Nick Foles gets hurt behind that makeshift Eagles line (I should say "when" given the beating Foles took last week), it sure would be fascinating to see if Chip Kelly could make Mark Sanchez a serviceable quarterback. You're right about taking the desperate teams. Niners 31-20, and Packers by a TD.

EJ Manuel has me almost missing Ryan Fitzpatrick. Almost. We can't all enjoy inner-circle Hall of Famers for a decade-plus. Texans. 23-17.

From: scott pianowski
Date: Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Subject: Re: enjoy every sandwich
To: Mark Stopa

Everyone thinks Denver and Seattle will make the playoffs again, and that's part of what makes last week's game special. When's the last time anyone expected anything from the Cowboys? The quality of the opposition matters to me.

The Ravens are second in run blocking and third in pass blocking this year, per Pro Football Focus. There's nothing glamorous about strong OL play, but we know how important it is. I wish some of these linemen were on the Patriots. Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Jimmy Smith, they could play for anybody. And I wish everyone wanted it as bad as Steve Smith does.

If Cam Newton isn't healthy enough to run, how good is he really? The question won't go away.

Variance comes with the story at wide receiver. If Keenan Allen had this slump in October, it would be screened by all sorts of other things. A poor start always looks worse than it really is. I still think he's a top-20 receiver at minimum, with the upside to be a WR1. Recency bias messes with everyone.

And maybe it messes with me. Off to find some Larry Donnell rookie cards.

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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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