Football Fridays continue as Michael David Smith of Football Outsiders talks NFL conference semifinals.
Michael David Smith (Football): Greetings and welcome to today's chat, as we talk a little football here at Baseball Prospectus. There's a good case to be made that this is the single best weekend to be a football fan, so let's get right to the questions.
Chris (Austin, MN): Do the Seahawks increase their chance of winning on Saturday if Shaun Alexander doesn't see the field?
Michael David Smith (Football): I don't know if I would go so far as to say Alexander shouldn't see the field at all, but he certainly shouldn't be a big part of the Seahawks' offense. I suppose Mike Holmgren could give Alexander five carries a game or so, but really, any more than that is a mistake. The other running backs, Maurice Morris and Leonard Weaver, are better players at this point.
kingofstyle (New York): Did you have a chance to watch Derek Anderson closely this year? Is he the answer for the Browns? With a fairly weak quarterback class in the draft this year, the browns could pick up a bevy of picks from teams looking for a young, cheap, experienced QB.
Michael David Smith (Football): I did get some good looks at Anderson and I liked what I saw, although I should note that toward the end of the season it started to look like defenses had figured him out. I think he has a good arm, he's good at scanning the field, and he's a better athlete than he gets credit for -- he can make things happen with his feet.
Is he the answer for the Browns? Brady Quinn has a lot of promise, but I think Anderson has to be the starter in 2008. I don't see any type of blockbuster deal happening this off-season, and if you're a Browns fan, there are worse things than having two good young quarterbacks.
Or (Dallas): Do the Giants really have this mythical momentum? They played one good half in Buffalo, came close to winnning a meaningless game, and beat the Bucs-who frankly, I've never been sold on. What have they done to become the nation's weekly love interest?
Michael David Smith (Football): The funny thing about them being the nation's love interest this week is that there are a lot of people, myself included, who think the Giants have looked good lately and the Cowboys have looked bad lately. And yet I haven't heard anyone actually pick the Giants to beat the Cowboys.
I think the Giants are playing well. I wouldn't call the Patriots game meaningless, and they didn't just beat Tampa Bay, they dominated most of the game. But no, I don't think the Giants will beat the Cowboys.
Eli (Elazar, Israel): Likelihood of Pats not winning the Super Bowl: >50%?
Michael David Smith (Football): If I had to put a number on it I'd say it's about a 60 percent chance the Patriots win the Super Bowl, so yes, greater than 50-50. Could Jacksonville win this weekend? Yes. Could Indianapolis or San Diego win in New England next weekend? Yes. Could an NFC team beat New England on a neutral field? Yes. But none of those is likely.
Billo (Illinois): Since my favorite team is already out of it, I'm really more interested in the draft than the playoffs. Are there any guys you think can improve their stock with a great combine?
Michael David Smith (Football): North Carolina State safety DaJuan Morgan is one guy who could help himself with a big combine. He's definitely not in the first tier of safeties right now, but based on his public comments about the work he's going to do at the Athletes' Performance Institute, he seems to understand what he has to do, and I think a big part of impressing scouts at the combine is simply showing that you're taking the transition from college football to the NFL seriously enough that you're training hard for it.
mattymatty2000 (Philly, PA): I know this is supposed to be a playoff chat, but I wanted to ask you what you think of bringing Jim Schwartz on as the head coach in DC?
Michael David Smith (Football): Schwartz is the defensive coordinator in Tennessee right now, and one report indicated that he's the favorite for the Redskins head-coaching job. More than any other NFL coach, Schwartz understands sabermetrics and has given thought to how statistical analysis can be applied to football. And he's clearly doing something right, considering how well the Titans' defense played this year despite losing Pacman Jones.
I think Schwartz would be a good choice for the Redskins, although I have a feeling Dan Snyder is going to end up going for someone with a bigger name.
Doug (York, PA): Is Patriots-Colts even better than Yankees-Red Sox? Is there any mathematical way of figuring that out?
Michael David Smith (Football): If there is a mathematical way of figuring that out, it's far beyond my comprehension.
Honestly, though, I don't think you can argue that Patriots-Colts is better than Yankees-Red Sox. There's so much more tradition in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry that even though I personally would rather watch Patriots-Colts, I wouldn't call it a better rivalry.
Jimmy (Atlanta): Does Arthur Blank know what he's doing? I'm sick of getting embarrassed with Vick, Petrino, Parcells, McKay, etc.
Michael David Smith (Football): Blank strikes me as a nice guy who genuinely cares about the Falcons and the fans, but also as a guy who's far too trusting.
With Vick, the enormous contract he gave him was too much money from a football perspective, even before you realize that Blank didn't do enough checking into Vick's off-field activities. With Petrino, he trusted a guy who always had his eye on the next job to suddenly make a long-term commitment to a team. With Parcells, he trusted a guy with a long history of coming close to joining one team only to bolt for another not to do it this time.
I hope Blank gets the right people in place because I think he's a good owner who deserves to have a good team.
Bill (Nashville): I agree with you that Shaun Phillips had a huge game against the Titans, but was it really that Phillips had a good game or was it that the Titans had a bad game blocking him? The way the Titans were blocking I have a feeling a lot of linebackers would have looked like all-pros in that game.
Michael David Smith (Football): You're referring to my Every Play Counts article from this week. I agree that the Titans did a bad job blocking him, and I mentioned that they never seemed to figure out what to do with their tight ends in that game. But I wouldn't brush Phillips off as just someone who happened to be playing against a bad offense. He was outstanding. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does against the Colts.
Or (Dallas): I realze they're different positionally, but is the Cowboys combo of Ware and Ellis superior to the Giants' Strahan-Umenyiora duo?
Michael David Smith (Football): Yes. Ware is the best of the four players you mention. He's a phenomenal talent and was a great draft pick by, depending on who you think was calling the shots in the Cowboys' war room, Bill Parcells or Jerry Jones. I'm amazed at how good a season Ellis had. He's 32 years old and coming off an injury, and I thought he was just about done.
coleman (Pittsburgh): If you were putting together a coaching staff, which assistants would you definitely want to get?
Michael David Smith (Football): My first two calls would be to Hudson Houck, the offensive line coach who was recently let go by the Dolphins, and Kennedy Pola, the Jaguars' running backs coach. Houck has a long track record of success with offensive linemen, and I'm really surprised Pola doesn't get more attention for how well the running backs in Jacksonville are playing. With those two guys on my staff, I'd be very confident in my running game.
mike (DC): What QB in the upcoming draft do you see fitting best with the Ravens? A lot of mock drafts have them getting Brohm...
Michael David Smith (Football): It's tough to say until we know who their coach is, but I think Matt Ryan of Boston College is the best quarterback in this year's draft. I'm not totally sold on Brian Brohm. For most of the 2007 season everyone was just assuming that he'd be the first-round pick of the Falcons because of his experience playing in Bobby Petrino's offense, but without that connection, I think he could slide on draft day.
mattymatty2000 (Philly, PA): Of the remaining teams in the playoffs, who do you think has the best shot of beating New England and why?
Michael David Smith (Football): The Colts, for the simple reason that they're the second-best team in the league. If the Colts can go to New England and keep their special teams from losing the game, there's no reason their offense and defense can't win the game.
sid (elk park): Who's the Bears' QB next year? Is drafting one really a good idea with Grossman killing me softly for another year? McNabb?
Michael David Smith (Football): I think it might very well be Kyle Orton. A lot can change between now and the moment in April when they're on the clock, but right now I do not think drafting a quarterback is the right move for the Bears.
mattymatty2000 (Philly, PA): Where do you see McNabb playing next year?
Michael David Smith (Football): Philadelphia. I'm just not convinced that there's a compelling enough reason for the Eagles to get rid of him, or that there's a team desperate to acquire him.
Frank (Florida): If Parcells is neither coach nor general manager, what is he? Who's really calling the shots in Miami, including deciding who they pick first in the draft?
Michael David Smith (Football): There is no doubt in my mind that Parcells will be the one who ultimately decides how they use that first-round pick. I think he'd prefer to trade down, but if he doesn't get a good offer he'll stay put and take one of the top defensive linemen, Glenn Dorsey of LSU or Chris Long of Virginia. One player I can't see Parcells drafting is Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, who is generally recognized as the top prospect in this year's draft but who doesn't fill a need for the Dolphins and just doesn't seem like a Parcells guy to me.
shamah (NYC): What's the Jets' biggest need going into the offseason? Linebackers that fit the 3-4? Another OL?
Michael David Smith (Football): I'd say either linebackers and defensive linemen who fit the 3-4 or a defensive coordinator who can fit the players they have into his schemes. They got a good player in last year's draft in David Harris, but too many players in 2007 didn't look like the right fit for the defense.
Michael David Smith (Football): That'll be all for today. Thanks a lot for your questions, and thanks to Baseball Prospectus for letting us talk a little football. I love that there are so many forward-looking fans of the 24 teams not left in the playoffs that I got more questions about the draft and free agency than I did about the playoffs.
Bill Barnwell will be here with you to talk more football next week. Until then, enjoy the games.