The following is a lightly edited extract from a back and forth I had with Nick Yusko. We like to challenge each others ideas as we figure out what we think. Here, we went in on some NFL topics.
Coming of a surprisingly entertaining 41-39 victory to move to 2-1…
Josh: Are the Rams a playoff team?
Nick: No I can’t see that happening. The Rams, granted their offense has looked much much better than a year ago, but they’ve beaten the Colts and 49ers. And lost to the Redskins. None of those teams are playoff teams in my mind and none of those teams play much defense either, which I think attributes some to the offense looking better.
Josh: I went back and forth on this team before the season, and eventually settled on the under for their wins. But a couple things have changed my mind. One, while I agree the teams they’ve beaten aren’t juggernauts, they did manhandle the Colts and the 49ers might be an underrated challenge. Plus, their schedule doesn’t get too much tougher as Jaguars, Giants and Saints all look like winnable games. The biggest thing though is how bad the Cardinals look. That really could be 2 wins (certainly 1) I didn’t see coming. Plus, the Seahawks are struggling and the Rams have had their number anyway. I think they are going to be right there for a playoff spot.
Nick: Just remember, this was a team that started 3-1 last year with wins over Seattle, Tampa, and Arizona. Then lost 11 of their last 12 (only beating the Jets) the rest of the season. The offense is better, but they still like to turn the ball over. Gurley has 4 fumbles (lucky to have only lost 1 in 3 games) and Goff threw a bad pick in against the Skins in their only truly big pressure possession. Even worse question marks are on the defense. The Rams rush defense has been absolutely shredded the past 2 weeks by a Redskins team that can’t run the ball and by a 49ers team that hadn’t scored a touchdown yet before last night. The next 2 weeks will be telling of their playoff potential in my mind as they travel to Dallas and host Seattle (2 playoff teams). You mentioned some winnable games but the 2nd half of their schedule looks pretty rough down the stretch with a 6 game stretch of @Minnesota, vs Saints, @Arizona, vs Eagles, @Seattle, @Titans.
Josh: You’re right, they need to stockpile some wins early. The Goff pick is concerning, but y’know what helps? Not having Jeff Fisher–that guy was just out of touch and really held this team back (this is a fun video). I think they get to 7-2 or 6-3 and then grind to 9 or 10 wins. That might be good enough
Nick: Ah, well Jeff Fisher–tied for the most losses in NFL history–certainly wasn’t helping. I think their ceiling is probably an 8-8 team, but even if they somehow eclipsed that with 9 wins… you mentioned 10 which I think is a stretch… I don’t see them winning that division still with the Seahawks and Cardinals. Over the last 5 years the average NFC wild card team has averaged 10.6 wins, including 3 teams that have been left out with 10-6 records. With a number of competitive teams in other divisions – ATL, TB, CAR, DAL, PHI, GB, MIN – I don’t see them eclipsing that number.
Josh: Imma say they go 9-7, second in their division and will need help from two of Carolina, Minnesota and Detroit to get a wildcard. Playoff caliber–may come up short.
Nick: I’m gonna say they go 7-9, still a year away from being a real contender.
AFC vs. NFC
Josh: So you kind of hinted at another thing I want to get into in talking the depth of the NFC. I think the AFC is the stronger conference this season, what’s the NFC’s case?
Nick: Right now if you just look at records, the AFC does seem stronger, especially the AFC West, plus the Patriots and Steelers looming. But honestly how strong is this conference? I’d like to point out I am basing my thoughts on projected growth over the year and then potential in the playoffs. Between the AFC South and East, you have the Patriots and maybe the Titans; I don’t think you are very high on them but someone has to win that dreadful division. The other 6 teams are trash. In the North, the Steelers look legit and the Ravens defense is scary but is anyone actually going to be afraid of Joe Flacco over the course of the year? And in the West, I see the Raiders as legit SB contenders but regular season stud QB Alex Smith (he wins a lot of games somehow) and Trevor Simian doesn’t strike fear into me come playoff time. Overall I’ll cede that the top 3 teams are very very good, but the lack of overall depth and absolute garbage at the bottom – Jets, Bills, Browns, Colts, Jags and even the Bengals and Texans – make me believe that the NFC is stronger.
Josh: To stay with listing negatives: The NFC has maybe one good looking division. The NFC West’s contenders have looked like a mess. The East was supposed to be good, but Dallas just got rolled, Eagles/Redskins have a lot of questions and the Giants look awful. In the North, there may be 3 good teams, but there’s a lot of injuries for Vikings and Packers and I don’t trust the Lions. I like the Buccs and Falcons down south, but am worried about the Panthers. So, I see falcons and Buccs with Packers and Seahawks maybe hanging around. Gonna have to see a lot of progression to believe they can put forward even 4 legit playoff squads.
Nick: I think overall though you have greater depth in the NFC. I’m a believer that the Seahawks will figure out their offensive line and I think Arizona will figure out how to regroup without David Johnson. I think in the East, at least 2 of those 4 teams will be playoff caliber. The Cowboys are still my favorite but I think Wentz could make a 2nd year jump like Mariota and Carr did. And if the Giants figure out their line they still have a very good defense that they rode to an 11-5 record last year. The North has the Packers, who everyone knows and respects, and the Lions have looked pretty solid so far. We’ll have a better idea about them maybe after this week. The Vikings have a solid defense and their offense looks more promising if Bradford can stay healthy. And down South you have the Falcons and Bucs, who are both very good teams, and the Panthers defense seems healthy and ready to dominate again this year. If Newton shakes off the cobwebs and gets fully healthy I think they are a dangerous team like a few years ago. My point being, while the NFC does not have a team that stands out as elite, like I think the top 3 in the AFC, they have better overall depth. Once the 6 teams are set in the AFC playoffs, people will pick the Pats and then a few die hard fans will pick their Steelers or Raiders to reach the Super Bowl. In the NFC playoffs, I think a case could possibly be made for any of the 6 teams that make it have a chance to make a run and reach the Super Bowl.
Josh: A lot of ifs in the NFC. Sounds like we agree the top of the AFC holds up, but I would argue the AFC has depth too. Out West, I think the Chiefs are Super Bowl contenders and Broncos are playoff threats (Chargers would be if they can find the snake venom antidote). Pittsburgh and Baltimore should capitalize on the Bengals and Browns’ woes and use their strengths (Steelers O, Ravens D) to coast to the playoffs. In the East, Miami can be a playoff caliber team and Buffalo and the Jets have not been as terrible as thought. The South is trash, but Watson and Mariota are exciting QBs who might can pull an upset if they make the playoffs. The depth is right there with the NFC and I’d take Chiefs, Raiders, Steelers, Patriots before all but Falcons and maybe Packers Super Bowl wise.
Thursday and London
Josh: So, which is worse, London Games or Thursday games?
Nick: Ahaha that’s actually a pretty hard one in my opinion. I don’t like either, but Thursday’s are worse… barely
Josh: I think both are brutal, London usually gets sub-par teams and Thursday is just too short of a turn around. I like the London idea–but its execution is a bit off
Nick: The only redeeming factor about London is that since both teams are bad the games are usually fairly close. There are exceptions, i.e. the Patriots have been there 2x and slaughtered both opponents. But there’s also last year’s joke, a tie between the Redskins and Bengals. I don’t like the London idea at all.
Thursday nights aren’t fun for anyone. It messes around with the resting period between games and usually are of an inferior quality. The majority of people who tune in are fantasy football fans. No one else gets excited to tune in and watch the Bengals vs Texans, Rams vs 49ers, Jets vs Bills, etc. The only Thursday that is acceptable is Thanksgiving.
Josh: We agree on Thursday–bad all around, Thanksgiving only please. London I get. You want international fans and they give teams the option to take the next week off. So, I get what they’re going for and I think it means a lot across the pond
Nick: I think the NFL wants to eventually move a franchise over there though. And I don’t like the thought of that. If you wanna have a few games a year over there, especially to expand the audience (and in the Jags case actually make more profit from a home game there than in Jacksonville), I guess it’s alright. The bye week afterwards isn’t that much of a reward still. The Ravens requested to have a later bye week because a week 4 bye is very early and means you have to play 13 straight to end the year. The NFL was like “sure no problem guys, we’ll give you a home game against your bitter rivals the Steelers the following week and then have you go to Oakland the week after that.”
Josh: Haha, i guess it worked out better for the Jags…who get the Jets. I’m with you that I can’t see a franchise there with current technology, but it’s good to try and make the game more international. That’s pretty brutal for the Ravens though…
Nick: I read that they are debating using games like that in London or Mexico City (or China for the Rams and 49ers next year) as a punishment for teams that are relocating. It seems the globalization is inevitable but that’s considered a “punishment” because it forces them to give up a true home game as well as the effects on the players body clocks.
Josh: Well…that’s interesting. Shocking to see the NFL with such vindictive management tactics...
Josh: Fantasy football has been a huge reason the game has grown like it has–and is one reason guys like us watch as many games as we can. But, you have some things to say on Fantasy Trades, right?
Nick: I don’t even want to get started on this lol. Some people just are absolutely clueless when it comes to a player’s value. If that’s the case, you should just keep to the waiver wire and your own team. I hear you’ve had some pretty fun offers made to you this past week?
Josh: Yea, i got offered Rex Burkhead for Mike Evans…. so that was cool. I will say, people don’t wanna look stupid when the trade goes through so they are overly cautious. I mean i made what i think was a pretty fair trade: gave Demaryius Thomas, Jordan Howard, Devante parker; got OBJ, Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr.. And you still get questions and you still worry. So everyone wants to dominate trades and thus offer some lame ones.
Nick: Yeah the jury is still out on that one but it seems pretty even on the surface. I also don’t understand why the guy who has scored the 2nd most points so far would be looking to trade. Obviously his team is pretty solid; I would expect that people seek him out for trades and not the other way around. I also hate trades where people basically try to buy a player from you so they offer 2 for 1 or 3 for 2. Cause most leagues, but ours in particular, people carry a full roster so you immediately have to drop one of the guys you’re receiving in the trade or someone else on your roster. Which if they’re on your roster you must feel something about them.
I’m also pretty against trades in general too. Just my style of fantasy,
Josh: Yeah, both of us are more waiver wire centric. So I have enjoyed at least attempting to bring the negotiation dynamic into play. But yeah, it’s tough when your not on the same page or people clearly don’t have valuations correct. In general, with unlimited waivers you are probably better off just looking there. Less hassle and can get similar value. If you limit waivers, trades become more crucial.
Nick: I enjoy the prospect of talking about trades and proposing deals. But then never actually following through on them.