Challenge Contests — by Justin Eleff
Elephant crap, then kickers
Posted Nov. 19 at 07:08 AM
I grew up in Tampa, Florida, home of Busch Gardens, which is in turn home of a weary elephant that a few visitors at a time can ride. You sit on the animal's back, its keeper walks it around an oval, and then the ride is over. Kind of. I skipped one part.
Every time I climbed on top of the poor thing, midway through the ride, the keeper took a detour. He backed the elephant up to a garbage can, got it positioned properly and waited for it to crap. Which it did. Every time, without fail.
I thought of this just now, as I sat down to write, because we have an elephant in our virtual room, readers, and it smells. No way to ignore it or wish it away. I have no choice but to open this column with the next three paragraphs:
Last week I ranked the NFL's quarterbacks according to the value I expected each one to provide in the national challenge contests for the rest of the season. Michael Vick was not at the top of my rankings, and as to one set of challenges he was not even especially near the top. I published that column on Friday. Three days later he had the best fantasy game any modern quarterback has ever had. This is quantifiable; Ian wrote about it here.
I own Vick in some games this season, not in others. I have written about him several times previously, always raising the same stink about using him in challenges that count passing average as a scoring category. And what must be written now is this:
Any time a player I do not own has a game like the one Vick had Monday, he will destroy my chances of doing really well in the challenges that season. One game of that dimension can indeed be the difference between a great season and a good one, or even a good season and a relatively bad one. I was wrong about Vick in Week 10, for sure, by a hell of a lot. I did not (and do not!) believe he will sustain the level of performance he had reached before Monday, and I know his performance at Washington is not remotely sustainable. But it is almost certainly too late now, even if he proves me right in the end, for me to have been right to avoid him in the first place. I'm genuinely sorry if you took my advice.
So, then, with the smell of elephant crap swirling about this column, I move forward with steadfast determination to do better. And I begin, naturally, by doing what I seem to do best (read: most frequently) in these cursed football challenges: by buying a kicker. Because avoiding Vick was hardly my only mistake in Week 10; I also dropped David Buehler in Fanball's Football Challenge, leaving my roster -- finally clear of bye weeks -- with only three kickers, one of whom
is was Mike Nugent. Sprained MCL, torn ACL, injured reserve. Yippee.
Buying a kicker in midseason is different than picking one in the preseason. Then we're mostly guessing about which teams will be best -- note that I dropped Buehler; we don't always guess right -- and owning the cheapest kickers among them. Now we have much more information about the teams, and the kickers' salaries mean less. In fact, when you must choose a kicker after Week 10 (and indeed I must; I can't take seven zeroes from Nugent), one good way to do so is by formula -- and my formula doesn't even consider salaries. I rank the kickers somewhat objectively from best to worst, and then I buy the best one I can afford.
From best to worst according to what?
1. Rank all NFL teams, except the two that played last night (whose kickers can't be purchased now), by the number of points they've scored this season. Since they've all played exactly 9 games, just use total points scored.
2. Add 2 points per game played (so, this week: 18 points) to the totals of the teams that play in relatively warm cities and/or in domes. Only add these points once each for Atlanta and New Orleans, as there is no added advantage to playing in a dome in a warm city. And feel free to disagree with me here, but I: (a) added the points for Oakland but not San Francisco, to account for the notorious wind in Candlestick; and (b) added the points for Nashville, which I know has its share of unwarm days. And, yes, you could be more precise about this, accounting for things like the warm-weather Panthers having to play in Pittsburgh on December 23, but the more "sophisticated" you make this analysis, the more time you will waste in performing it.
3. If a team's current kicker has not been its kicker continuously for the entire season, subtract points in varying amounts depending on the circumstances.
IF THE KICKER WAS THE TEAM'S ORIGINAL KICKER BUT MISSED A GAME OR MORE WITH AN INJURY, subtract 1 point per game the team has played (this week: 9 points) for each game the kicker missed. Nate Kaeding missed 3 games, so subtract 27 points from the Chargers' total.
IF THE KICKER WAS NOT THE TEAM'S ORIGINAL KICKER BUT GOT THE JOB BECAUSE OF SOMEONE ELSE'S INJURY, subtract 2 points per game the team has played (this week: 18 points). With Aaron Pettrey now replacing Nugent, subtract 18 points from the Bengals' total.
WHETHER OR NOT THE KICKER WAS THE TEAM'S ORIGINAL KICKER, IF HE GOT THE JOB BY WAY OF A PERFORMANCE-NOT-INJURY-RELATED REPLACEMENT, subtract 3 points per game the team has played (this week: 27 points) for the first such replacement it made, and an additional 1 point per game (9 points) for each additional replacement. Garrett Hartley was the Saints' original kicker, then lost his job, then got it back, so subtract a total of 36 points from the team's total -- 27 because he was replaced, 9 more because his replacement was replaced.
All of the adjustments made in this step are designed to reflect the risk that a team that has already changed kickers once or more, for any reason, may be less hesitant to do so again. Shayne Graham is not the Patriots' guy. Loyalty does not figure into his job security. Conversely, by "trying out" in game action for three weeks, Kris Brown may have made himself one of the Chargers' guys.
4. Once the adjustments described above have been made, multiply the teams' adjusted totals by their kickers' career field goal percentages.
5. The resulting products are your rankings.
For Hartley, for example:
1. The Saints have scored 201 points this season.
2. Add 18 points because they play in a warm dome. Subtotal: 219.
3. Subtract 36 points -- 27 for John Carney having replaced Hartley, another 9 for Hartley having replaced Carney. Subtotal: 183.
4. Multiply by Hartley's career field goal percentage (84.2). Product: 154.1.
5. Rank him against the league's other kickers.
The 30 whose teams have yet to play in Week 11 are ranked below -- and, no, those twin zeroes at the bottom of the rankings are no typo. Call me crazy, but at this point I have no interest in burning a purchase on a guy who has yet to hit a field goal in his career.
Rob Bironas, TEN - 221.2
Adam Vinatieri, IND - 212.5
David Akers, PHI - 209.5
Shayne Graham, NE - 204.8
Nate Kaeding, SD - 199.5
Sebastian Janikowski, OAK - 197.8
Matt Bryant, ATL - 196.6
Neil Rackers, HOU - 185.1
Lawrence Tynes, NYG - 183.3
Ryan Succop, KC - 175.1
Mason Crosby, GB - 170.5
Josh Scobee, JAX - 166.3
Nick Folk, NYJ - 162.4
Connor Barth, TB - 161.2
Matt Prater, DEN - 158.7
Jay Feely, ARZ - 158.1
Ryan Longwell, MIN - 155.6
David Buehler, DAL - 155.5
Garrett Hartley, NO - 154.1
Dave Rayner, DET - 152.6
Olindo Mare, SEA - 149.6
Billy Cundiff, BAL - 146.6
Graham Gano, WAS - 144.9
Josh Brown, STL - 144.0
Phil Dawson, CLE - 143.5
Shaun Suisham, PIT - 136.8
Rian Lindell, BUF - 131.9
John Kasay, CAR - 99.7
Shane Andrus, SF - .0
Aaron Pettrey, CIN - .0
Posted by DAVID DIGREGORIO | Nov. 19 at 09:38 AM
I also had only 3 K's, one of whom was Nugent. I'm in second place in my league, mostly because low k points. The guy in first also only has 3 kickers, two of which we share in commom. His third K is Vinatieri. It made no sense for me to pick him up, since he is well ahead of me in K points. I ended up picking up Hartley because he plays in a dome on a high scoring team which should win a lot of games, and he is cheap. I hope your projections are off!
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Nov. 19 at 11:16 AM
Justin: I'm thinking that this a good week to go with the two highest salaried players in POINTS, Brees @ QB and CJ @ RB. I can see both of them having huge games. I also intend to play Rivers and Vick @ QB and Gore and Charles @ RB. I may have to stay away from the other higher priced options @ RB but it seems like a good week to do so even with guys like Foster and DMC with less then stellar matchups. Hillis, Bradshaw, Tolbert (no Mathews and facing DEN) and Law Firm vs. Indy all look good. I may also have to sacrifice one higher priced WR I could start 2 out of Roddy, Megatron, D-Jack and T.O. with Nicks, Bowe, Wallace and Dez. Is this sound strategy or do you think there are other higher priced options that I definitely should be looking at (or lower priced options, for that matter)? Thanks much.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 19 at 11:41 AM
David: I saw today that the Saints may be bringing Jeff Reed in for a look soon. That's why I was so aggressive about taking points away from Hartley; they're still thinking about dumping him.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 19 at 11:46 AM
Peter: I'm with you on almost everything. Brees, C.J., Gore, Megatron, Bowe are among my favorites at their respective positions this week, and I'd never hesitate to use Nicks or Wallace at WR, and maybe even Bryant too. So the only questions are the cheap RBs, and I'd feel good about Hillis and Bradshaw, and Foster can tear apart any D. You're fine.
Posted by DAVID DIGREGORIO | Nov. 19 at 10:30 PM
Thanks Justin, for more "good" news! And now Gates looks like he will not go, and so I need to burn another pick up.
Posted by DAVID DIGREGORIO | Nov. 19 at 10:35 PM
Justin, Peter, I don't think the flow of the game will help Brees in that Seattle will not put enough pressure on the NO O to score, resulting in more runs. I do think that C Johnson should be the number one RB this week (not 7th!). The Redskins are slow and do not want to tackle. Hanesworth is prone to taking naps during plays.
Posted by Chris Metz | Nov. 20 at 06:28 AM
I trudge on this week even though every pick seemed to backfire last week. I have two more buys and I used one more on a QB. Mistake? Who knows. Got Kitna and am going to bench Peyton. Peyton is nice for yards but throwing it 60 times for 300 yards isn't cutting it. Now, have to hope that Vick loses his mojo, same with Orton, and there is a small chance I could come back. I am saving my final buy even though I had Nugent. I had 4 kickers on my team and am going to juse use Buehler there for the time being. Midseason, I got Vinetari because 7 already had Janikowski. Also need a TE because Moeaki and Gates won't play. Got Vernon Davis. Starting Kitna and Vick at QB along with Rivers on this team. Seems to have the same issues as the full season squad, meaning poor yards per attempt. I am going to blame Peyton Manning for this for the time being and hope it improves.
Posted by Carlos Jackson | Nov. 20 at 06:55 AM
I will also set P.Manning down for this week. I have two picks left in the FC Challage. I don't want to use one on Vick. I think the three Qb's I have E.Manning, A.Rodgers, and Orton can give me what I need in that area. I will put C.Johnson and A.Pete in the line up and might go with Calvin Johnson along with R.White for my Wr's. I am thinking to do the unthinkable and thats taking out A.Forter for this week and try C.Benson one more time. So I can save my last two pick up. What do you think about picking up Vick for the FC Challage or can I get away without him and pick up a Rb like P. Hillis to try and off seat some of Vick's running numbers?
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 20 at 08:46 PM
David: On the plus side, it's not like Hartley can't hang on to the job; he just has to perform. Re Brees, the NFL can be funny. Obviously a shootout (or even a game that merely looks like it was one after garbage time; think NE-PIT last week) is the best scenario for both QBs, but occasionally a team does break out an old-fashioned rout. I mean, it's not like WAS "put enough pressure on the PHI O to score" on Monday, but Vick's numbers came from his arm more than his legs. If I had to bet, my money would indeed be on New Orleans in a blowout today. Maybe that means Brees won't throw in the fourth quarter, but he should total something like 300 yards and 3 TDs in the first three.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 20 at 08:57 PM
Chris: Same story here: my mid-season squad immediately made like my full-season squad, tanking passing average. It's partly Peyton, partly not having Orton, partly the fact that God hates me right now. I've thrown caution to the wind this week in an effort to rally -- I'm starting Rivers, Vick and Kitna at QB, a combination I should have mostly to myself, and I ... also ... bought ... V.D.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 20 at 09:07 PM
Carlos: I see the argument for using Benson this week -- as a Bills fan, I see that argument literally every week -- but I'd have a hard time yanking Foster. It's not like there's any reason to doubt him. He's great; he always looks great; I don't much care what his matchup is; Hillis outplayed this same D seven days ago. On the last question, dude, I am not the guy to ask about Vick this year. But for my money we've already missed our chance to add him. Now you add Kitna instead (if any QB) and hope to catch up in the passing categories, or if what you really need is rushing numbers you hope Vick hurts himself. I never root for an injury. Doesn't mean you can't.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Nov. 20 at 09:19 PM
David: Great point on Brees/NO plus they have to come back on Thur. @ DAL, but I think I still have to take a shot to kind of set myself apart from others. Best TE combo for this week. 1 of VD or Witten and 1 of Gresham, Pettigrew or Gronk? I have $ 3390 to spend. Or a mid priced combo of 2 of Z. Miller (usually try to stay away from guys coming off of injury who put in limited practices), Keller and Marcedes? Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks much.
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