Ian Allan's Mailbag
Posted Jan. 15 at 03:22 AM
Publisher Ian Allan fields your questions on strategy, how to run your league, player ratings -- and whatever else you think of. Updated every Friday during the season; Tuesdays and Fridays during the last two months of the preseason. You must be registered and signed-in to submit a mailbag question. After you sign in at the top of the page, the link to submit a mailbag question will become visible.
What do you think about Tim Tebow's career in the NFL? I was listening to a so-called expert on the NFL Network that predicted he was a third round pick. If that's true, I hope my Vikes grab him.
Duane Stay [ZIMMERMAN, MN]
If I were running an NFL team, I wouldn't be interested in selecting him with a first-round pick. I don't think he'll translate well to the pro level. I don't think he throws well enough -- accuracy and touch could be problems for him. In the National Championship game against Oklahoma, I saw him miss a wide-open receiver on what would have been a long touchdown. And some of those run-pass option throws at the goal-line look like almost a running back throwing the ball -- like he doesn't even have his fingers on the laces or something. More importantly, can he read defenses and recognize where to go with the football? I'm not sure that he can. He's been running that unconventional offense down in Gainesville.
As a runner, he's different king of guy. He doesn't look like he's particularly fast or elusive. Instead, I'm seeing him looking to deliver the blow against defensive backs, relying on his size and power. You consistently see him get into the secondary and then drive smaller defensive backs backwards on contact. That kind of style, I'm confident, won't fly at the pro level, where everyone is bigger and faster and there are more games. In the NFL, you want your quarterback sliding and running out of bounds. If Tebow tries to run over safeties like Brian Dawkins and Adrian Wilson, he's not going to stay healthy for long.
You'll want to check out an article on Tebow that was written by Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated. Layden writes that a number of NFL coaches, including Bill Belichick and Chan Gailey, have interest in Tebow not as a conventional quarterback but operating a Wildcat-style offense. So in the first two years of his career, you may see Tebow used in a part-time, change-of-pace role.
Can you address the conference championship games for this weekend?
I am in a league where each team drafts each week through the playoffs. You lose your out. I have been lucky enough to win this week and have first pick each round.
Josh Blain [Bardstown, KY]
It might be the weakest Final Four of the Super Bowl Era. There’s no team here that can make any case to be one of the top 20 teams in league history. Of the five teams that won 12-plus games in the regular season, all but one of them is gone. Pittsburgh becomes just the third team in the last 30 years to make it to this level without ranking higher than 20th in scoring. And Arizona ranked 28th in defense in the regular season – lowest ever for a team in a conference championship game. The Cardinals and Eagles went a combined 18-13-1 in the regular season, which is the worst-ever combined win-loss mark for a conference championship game. But the games will be played, and fantasy action will occur.
Philadelphia at Arizona
According to the betting line, the Eagles should win this game by about 26-22 (they’re a 4-point favorite, and the over-under is 48). But I see the game as being more closely contested. Arizona’s defense may have been horrible during the regular season (allowing a league-worst 36 TD passes, the most ever by a playoff team), but it’s been playing better recently – has done a nice job against Atlanta and Carolina the last two weeks. And the game will be played in Glendale before a jacked crowd (the Cardinals have never played in a conference championship game before).
I don’t envision the Philadelphia offense marching the ball up and down the field. Trying to play with a knee injury, Brian Westbrook looks like just another running back. He hasn’t averaged more than 2.0 yards per carry in either of the team’s playoff games (Correll Buckhalter might be a better running back right now). So the Eagles probably will have to rely more on their passing game. Donovan McNabb and his cast of receivers are capable, but I don’t see them as a standout, upper-tier group. Neither DeSean Jackson nor Kevin Curtis is a true No. 1 receiver, while McNabb has never been overwhelmingly accurate (he’s a career 59 percent passer) and isn’t as mobile as he used to be. I’m putting them down for about 23 points.
The key in this game, I think, will be how Kurt Warner handles Philadelphia’s blitz. Over the years, we’ve seen him rattled at times when defenses have been able to consistently put someone in his face. The Eagles have a top-4 defense and a top-4 pass rush, so that’s certainly a possibility. But Warner, to me, looks like he’s on top of his game right now; I think he’s going to be OK. I think he’ll be able to hook up for some big throws to Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is in a zone right now, and he poses a matchup problem for Philadelphia’s cornerbacks – he’s the best receiver in the league at pulling down high throws, and all of those corners are 5-foot-10. Plus Arizona will have Anquan Boldin back. I see the Cardinals also scoring about 23 points, making this a toss-up type game. (If you’re going to make me take a winner, I’ll take Arizona).
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
I see this matchup as similar to the Eagles-Giants game of last week. Both teams have excellent defenses and know each other’s personnel, so I expect a low-scoring alley fight. In the two regular-season games between these teams, each offense scored only 2 TDs (composite score: Pittsburgh 36, Baltimore 29). If the Steelers aren’t on their game or get some bad breaks, I think the Ravens will steal it.
Willie Parker ran for 146 yards last week against San Diego, but I’m not sure that he’ll be much of a factor. Baltimore ranked 3rd in run defense in the regular season and has never had much trouble with him; in his last five games against the Ravens, Parker has averaged only 2.6 yards per carry and under 40 rushing yards per game). The Steelers may have to rely more on Ben Roethlisberger, and he tends to hang onto the ball too long at times, resulting in sacks and interceptions – Steelers fans better hope he’s sharp. At wide receiver, it’s worth noting that for whatever reason, Santonio Holmes has been big in this series, scoring in four straight games. He’s caught 5 TDs in his last four games against Baltimore; Ward has caught none.
For the Ravens, I don’t see them having a lot of success on offense. But then again, they don’t need to score a bunch of points. Their hope is that their defense can do the jump, maybe get a couple of turnovers, and they can make enough plays at the right time to get the job down. Joe Flacco keeps getting better. Their offense certainly was good enough in the first half of the Monday night loss at Pittsburgh. LeRon McClain was surprisingly productive in both of the earlier meetings against the Steelers’ tough run defense, banging out 150 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries.
Ultimately, though, I’m going with the Steelers in this game. They’re playing at home, and last week they looked like a fresh, well-rested team that’s peaking at the right time. I was surprised, on the other hand, how many yards Baltimore’s defense gave up in the game at Tennessee. The injuries might be starting to add up. Before getting hurt, Chris Johnson ran for 72 yards on 11 carries in that game, and Kerry Collins shockingly passed for 281 yards – the Titans were the much better team.
QB: Warner, McNabb, Roethlisberger, Flacco.
RB: Westbrook, McClain, Parker, James, Arrington, Buckhalter, Moore, McGahee.
WR: Fitzgerald, Boldin, Ward, D.Jackson, Mason, Holmes, Breaston, Curtis, Clayton, Washington, Avant.
TE: Miller, Heap, Celek, L.J. Smith.
I'm in a league that has separate redrafts for each round of the playoffs and wanted to get your opinion. In general, would you draft the best players, no matter how many you may have on one team or in one game? Or do you think it's better to spread your players around?
Paul Owers [RIVIERA BEACH, FL]
With these four teams, I think you have to grab whatever you can get. There's not a lot of good players to go around. I don't like any of the running backs. Westbrook is hurt, Parker and McClain are going against awesome run defenses, and Edgerrin James isn't really viable (Arizona ranked last in rushing in the regular season, and he won't carry at the goal line). Heath Miller looks like the best of a lean, lean group of tight ends. I don't see much difference between the kickers, other than making Matt Stover the No. 4 guy. The quarterbacks could be OK; I think Warner is the top one, but McNabb looks pretty good and Roethlisberger might also pan out. The player who appears to offer the most bang for the buck, however, is Larry Fitzgerald. He looks a lot better than the other wide receivers. If I were confident I could get McNabb or Roethlisberger in the second round, I would go with Fitzgerald in the first round of a mini-draft for this weekend's games.
No Defenses left in my playoff league, so i wanted to draft a wide receiver who returns kicks (so i get the points for a kr or pr for that def. What's the scoop on Figurs on baltimore? depth chart shows some defensive players are in front of figurs, but he has a lot of returns during regular season ... lost his job? does he return much any more? all the other possibilites are taken except J.J. Arrington, and I'd have to start him over Edgerrin James or Pittsburgh's Gary Russell, who I think will score. Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks dude.
JEFF FOSTER [CHICO, CA]
I see the Eagles as by far the most likely team to score on a kick return this week. They've got DeSean Jackson, who's very good on punts, and Arizona is a lot weaker at covering kicks than anyone else in the postseason. In the regular season, the Cardinals tied for 3rd-worst in the league at covering both punts and kickoffs. The other three remaining teams, on the other hand, were all in the top 8 at covering punts and top 15 against kickoffs. (But DeSean Jackson, of course, isn't going to be available to you in your league, and the Eagles' main kickoff returner is a defensive back -- Quintin Demps). I imagine Arizona's and Pittsburgh's main punt returners, Steve Breaston and Santonio Holmes, are also off the board. Which brings us back to Yamon Figurs. He split the punt-return duties with safety Jim Leonhard in the regular season; in the last three games, they've used just Leonhard back there, and he had a good return in the Miami game. Figurs doesn't play much as a wide receiver; he's caught only 2 passes in the past two years (they've gone for 36 and 43 yards, but he just doesn't get out there much). Run a check on Nate Washington, Hank Baskett, Jerheme Urban, Reggie Brown and Limas Sweed (in that order). I consider all of those guys more likely to score than Figurs. Washington is actually a very productive No. 3 receiver. I would also rather go with Marcus Smith of the Ravens; he's never caught a pass as a pro, but I saw him on the field in some three-receiver sets last week. Early in the Tennessee game, you may recall, Smith made a terrific catch of a pass that was deflected by Cortland Finnegan. It went for 15 yards but was nullified by a penalty.
Great site! I do have a question about the 1/12 trivia question, which asked: “If the Cardinals and Ravens win their games on Sunday, the Super Bowl will feature two teams that previously played in different markets under different names. The Cardinals were previously based in Chicago and St. Louis, while the Ravens were originally the Cleveland Browns. This has happened only once before in the Super Bowl; who were the two teams involved?” The answer provided was the Rams/Titans Superbowl after 1999. However, the Chicago Bears spent their first year known as the Decatur Staleys, before moving to Chicago in 1921. Thus, both Super Bowls involving the Bears could also be valid answers (after 2006 vs the Colts who previously called Baltimore home), and 1985 (technically, weren’t the Patriots called the Boston Patriots for the first few years before being called NE?). In addition, weren’t the Redskins originally in Boston, during the 1930’s? This would also mean that the Super Bowl after the 1983 season would also qualify, as the Raiders had recently moved to LA from Oakland.
Terry Walsh [USA]
I overlooked the Washington-Los Angeles Super Bowl following the 1983 season, and I apologize. But I'll give you half credit at best for the Decatur Staleys. The question contained the stipulation that the team must not only change names but also change markets -- must make a significant geographic switch. I'm not sure that an in-state move from Decatur to Chicago is big enough to qualify. Certainly not by today's standards, though I'll concede that in the pre-TV '20s, that move would be more significant. In regards to the Patriots, I don't think they so much as moved as expanded -- Boston is contained inside the New England area, and that's still Boston's team. Nevertheless, thank you for keeping me on my toes.
Hey Ian, just wanted to say thanks for another great year. I've been buying your magazine for the past 15 years or so, and your analysis never lets me down. This year was no different as I finished 1st, 2nd and 2nd in my three leagues. Keep up the great work and you'll always have me as a customer. Bonus thanks for Forte, Calvin Johnson and Rodgers who I took in the middle rounds in every league and who carried all three of my teams throughout the year.
Joe Cartan [SAN FRANCISCO]
Glad to hear you had a successful season. Best of luck to you in 2009.
Question 1: What do you think about...
Posted by SCOTT COSGROVE | Jan. 16 at 04:58 AM
Ian, Nice breakdowns. The only thing I would like to comment on is the powerback of Arizona, Tim Hightower. I've watched a couple games this year and I truley believe this guy is a Bettis type of back. He is a little inconsistent,but that is dictated from the coaches selling him out before the ball is even under center. In this game I see them running James as the decoy and featuring Hightower for the scores. I see 75 yards for James. Hightower with the same and two scores.This is coming from a Steeler fan who loves big backs. I won 5 of my 7 leagues this year with your help, keep up the good work. Scott from Churchville. P.S. How did you like my poll Idea?
Question 1: What do you think about...
Posted by Donald DeKeyser | Jan. 20 at 11:55 PM
the Super Bowl matchup ? I'm in an elimination format pl;ayoffs starting a QB, K, 2 RB's,2WR/TE's,and a FLEX scoring TD + Yardage. I have Hightower & Fitzgerald & Reed and the 2nd pick. He has Warner,Russell, & Breaston. Do you feel like that there are enough good options at WR/TE to grab James or Parker with my 1st pick ? Matt will probably drop Breaston and maybe Russell. For instance, if he takes Parker 1st and I go with James that leaves me with only one of Holmes, Miller, or Boldin all of whom I think have a chance to score more fantasy points than the RB's in this one. However if I don't take James I will probably end up choosing between Arrington or Moore as my #2 RB. I was the top team in all 4 leagues this year but so far have placed second in every championship match. This is my last chance to take home the big enchilada.
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