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

This article is part of our Breakfast Table series.

––-Original Message––-
From: scott pianowski
To: Mark Stopa
Sent: Thurs, Oct 23, 2014 4:26 am
Subject: Breakfast Table

I want to cross off the Saints as a 2014 contender, I really do. They're 2-4, riddled with injuries, spotty on both sides of the ball. Vegas has them at 30-1 in some shops for the Super Bowl. Football Outsiders gives them less than one percent chance to win it all.

So why are these Saints favored over the Packers this week? Can a weak division, and six of nine games at home, bail this group out?

I'd like a comment about every dysfunctional NFC South team: the out-of-sorts Falcons, the Blinded By McCown Buccaneers, the collapsing Carolina defense. Do you trust any of these teams, be it with a pick or a fantasy play? Could any of these teams become dangerous in January?

I also want your State of Seattle Address. Two straight losses, a defense in shambles, the Percy Harvin deal, Russell Wilson's 300/100 party. This is not the team I fell in love with last year and two months ago. But often times, Russell can take a sad song and make it better. Seattle at Carolina looks like an important game.

Your witness.

––-Original Message––-
From: Mark Stopa
To: scott pianowski
Sent: Thurs, Oct 23, 2014 6:20 am
Subject: Re: Breakfast Table

Did you ever watch a class clown try to change his reputation and fail? NFL reputations can be just as hard to change. The Saints have been dominant at home and on offense for so long, Joe Public assumes that will continue. But look at the numbers. Drew Brees is 16th in YPA (behind such gunslingers as Brian Hoyer and Austin Davis), 15th in QB Rating (tied with Kyle Orton), and despite his bye having passed and enjoying a soft, NFC South schedule, has more interceptions than anyone not named Cousins or Bortles. Brandin Cooks was supposed to make a difference, yet he looks like a poor man's Julian Edelman (not a compliment), and the Saints defense is in the bottom third in every meaningful stat. Vegas didn't call for my opinion, but I'd have set this week's line at Packers -3.

But yes, someone is going to win the NFC South. You're really making me pick? I feel like I'm standing in a voting booth for a political election - there are no good choices. Can I bet on this division winner losing in the Wild Card round as a home underdog? Let's call it now. Lions 24, Panthers 20. The Bucs are such a joke on defense, 111.9 QB rating, it doesn't matter who their QB is. The Falcons have some shiny skill players on offense, but they can't play defense (13 rushing TDs allowed, nobody else has more than eight) or pass-protect (bottom-three offensive line), and they're still giving Steven Jackson meaningful touches. That leaves the Panthers and Saints - both will lose this week, yet Cam Newton or Drew Brees will get one of those teams to 9-7; or, heck, 8-8 might just win the division.

Sea-Car is the poster-child for how one or two players can make all the difference for a defense. For the Panthers, it's Greg Hardy. (Of all things to kill the Panthers defense, Adrian Peterson abusing his child had to be last on the list. But that's what happened - Hardy was flying under the radar, and playing, until public pressure to suspend Hardy mounted after Peterson's case went public. Carolina hasn't been the same since.) For Seattle, nobody paid attention to the free agent losses in the front seven, but it's exposed the whole defense (just seven sacks, five turnovers, 103.9 QB rating). At least now we'll see how good Russell Wilson truly is. An NFL MVP won't happen this year, but it's coming. Fantasy owners, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

Will Seattle rebound and make the playoffs? Are you ready to call Dallas the NFC favorite? Are the Lions for real? What about the Cardinals? Gun to head, Arizona (5-1) or Seattle (3-3) in the 2014 playoffs?

Things sure seem more defined in the AFC, no? Is everything all but decided except the sixth seed? We never talk about the Ravens, yet there they are, leading the NFL in point differential and about to bury the Bengals this week. Or will they? Phi-AZ and Indy-Pit look juicy in a three-game 4:00 pm slate. Are any of those four teams legit contenders? Who you picking this week?

––-Original Message––-
From: scott pianowski
To: Mark Stopa
Sent: Fri, Oct 24, 2014 10:05 am
Subject: Re: Breakfast Table

Cooks is frustrating to me. He's still grossly overrated by the fantasy community. He hasn't scored since Week 1, he's averaging 8.2 yards a grab, and he's the 48th overall receiver in basic scoring. Big deal.

To be fair to the Saints, they've had their share of attrition with skill players. Jimmy Graham's been hurt, Mark Ingram got hurt right as a breakthrough was happening, Marques Colston seems to age six months every week. And they're still scoring: they're ninth in points per game despite a No. 24 ranking in yards per point. They put up a respectable fight against Detroit's outstanding defense last week. Then again, the Saints themselves have no defense (it's ranked dead last in the Football Outsides DVOA ratings). How can they stop Green Bay from 30-plus here? I'm running with the Pack.

Carolina and Atlanta have the easier remaining schedules, so that's where I'd focus my NFC South pick. It's frustrating to see both QBs playing ordinary football, though. I know, the supporting casts aren't ideal, but you can say that about a lot of guys (look at Russell Wilson's new world in Seattle, or the ongoing problems in New England). I know I say this almost every week, but look at Cam Newton's QB rating index for his career: 100, 101, 102, 102. Remember, 100 is average. If he's not dynamic as a runner, no way is he close to the top 10 at the position.

Seattle's played the toughest schedule in the league this far, per the FO guys. They get a cushy 23rd-ranked slate the rest of the way. Assuming Wilson doesn't break running this "make something out of nothing" offense (they need big plays out of structure every week, and that's a tricky way to live), I think they get to 11-5 or 10-6 (more likely). It's going to come down to a tiebreaker, I guess.

Arizona's probably winning the division, a lead means too much. Bruce Arians is the best coach just about no one talks about. But don't you get the idea Carson Palmer is held together by scotch tape and glue? And what happened to that Arizona secondary we all thought was so good?

You laughed at me when I tried to talk about the Ravens a few weeks ago. They're very good in so many unglamorous areas. Well coached, as always. Joe Flacco's having his best year, by far. No one will enjoy playing them, and I'd give them a chance in a one-shot deal against anyone.

––-Original Message––-
From: Mark Stopa
To: scott pianowski
Sent: Fri, Oct 24, 2014 10:05 am
Subject: Re: Breakfast Table

I laugh at you about a lot of things, yet you always seem to laugh last. I still have nightmares about Jordan Todman and Matt Cassel eliminating the best fantasy team I've ever had in an expert league. Sigh.

If there are 32 starting NFL QBs, that makes the 16th-best QB average, right? So if Newton is a little above 100 just from the throwing, he's top 15 just from throwing, right? Why doesn't he jump into the top 10 once you factor in the running and the subpar supporting cast? If that doesn't convince you, then give me your top 10, real-life QBs (like I did last week). As you've said many times, it's easy to fly-speck someone else's rankings when you don't create your own lists.

Arizona's division lead is hardly insurmountable. Remember when we were considering the Texans after Week 2 because of their 2-game lead over the Colts? There are more than enough games left for the cream to rise to the top - whoever that may be.

Ravens bury the Bengals, 27-17. (How's that big contract working out for Andy Dalton? Miss you, A.J. Green.)

Eleven running backs are more expensive than LeSean McCoy on DraftKings this week - that's nuts. With the Eagles offensive line getting healthier, look for McCoy to get untracked. Philly 30-21.

The Colts and Steelers are both overrated; I want to fade them both. But the best part of either team is Andrew Luck, and the worst part is the Steelers defense. Colts 27-20.

Don't forget the Sunday morning game, folks. Matt Ryan will wish he had. Lions 27-13.

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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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