Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coach to English dictionary: Your guide to cutting through the bull

The old saying goes that you can tell a lawyer is lying when his lips are moving. I think that's outdated. These days the guy charged with spewing the most BS (after a Goldman Sachs exec) is head football coach. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether they are lying to me, lying to their players or just plain lying to themselves, but one thing is clear - they have very little motivation to tell the truth so they fabricate.

Among the most glaring instances of this is Mike Martz's refusal to run the ball - as any Matt Forte owner knows all too well. After week one the bears Offensive Coordinator said he was going to do a better job finding balance between the passing game and the running game. Anyone who knows Martz knows that under the best circumstances that's about 65/35. But last week his offense put the ball on the ground just 11 times vs. 52 passing plays. He has turned Forte from an above average running back into an average receiver. Forte posted just 2 rushing yards against the Packers. Two.
After this ridiculously imbalanced gameplan Martz once again took the podium and declared before God and a million fantasy owners that he would find more balanced attack. What's a fantasy owner to do?
VERDICT: Martz hates to run the ball. Obviously he's lying.

Martz isn't the only coach out there saying one thing and doing another. Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano has made it a weekly practice to come out after his loss on Sunday to tell fans, owners and more than a few Kardashians that Reggie Bush will get more carries. To date Bush has just 69 yards on 27 carries. 11 carries the first game, 6 the next and 10 last week. So he's doing a little better in the rush department than Forte, but if Sparano thinks this counts as getting the ball into Reggie's hands more often he's deluded. After this week's pronouncement that Bush will be more of a factor what are fantasy owners to think?
VERDICT: Despite all of our greatest wishes that Miami would turn Bush into a star, he still stinks. You can't start him, so I don't blame Sparano for going with Daniel Thomas, but he's still lying.

Of course there's always Belichick who may or may not be lying when he talks because he never really talks. And if he did you'd never believe a word he'd sasy anyway so who cares. Unfortunately not everyone is that transparent. Sean Payton for example. While he has built a highly efficient passing offense he still pays lip service to wanting to improve his run game with Mark Ingram. The highly drafted rookie has struggled so far with only 36 carries for 130 yards on the season. Recently Payton said: “He’s going to be a guy we hand the ball to. We’re going to use him on first and second down, on third down." So who do you believe?
VERDICT: Something tells me the Saints coach wants to have a running game and he wants Ingram to be the guy, so it's kind of up to Ingram. He did improve last week, I say start him. Truth.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shutdown Corner - The Revis Effect

Fantasy football can be exactly as hard as you make it. I know a guy who set his lineup in week 1, forgot his password and just rolled with the punches. Not a good way to win a SuperBowl, but an illustration of the minimalistic approach.

On the other end of the spectrum are the guys who check weather reports, injury updates for opposing defenses and, of course, what corners will be facing their receivers on a given week.

After Torry Smith's breakout performance sent shockwaves through the media coverage this weekend someone raised the question to Jets coach Rex Ryan: How are you going to handle this rookie next week?

This is a significant question because the Jets have Darrelle Revis on the roster - the gold standard of shutdown corners and the coiner of the phrase "Revis Island," as a descriptor of where he places those he covers. On an island. Presumably a lonely one into which balls will not be thrown.

Ryan, not one to shy away from bold statements claimed the rookie would not have that sort of success against his defense. But he also has pointed out that Revis would likely not be covering Torry Smith, instead focusing his talents on removing Anquan Boldin from the game. This is an important consideration. With Antonio Cromartie banged up and questionable for Sunday it would appear that one of the Raven's receivers will have a productive day while the other hangs out with Revis on his Island.

From this standpoint while Revis can only take out one receiver in an actual game of football he can potentially take a whole receiving corps out of a fantasy lineup. Since we can't be sure who Revis will cover, we can safely start neither Smith nor Boldin.

The odds are very good that Revis will cover the veteran Boldin, but if Smith starts going gangbusters again you might easily see a switch which could open the field up for Anquan. But is it worth the gamble? Unless y0u have no other options at wide receiver or you are certain to be in the type of shootout which a average score is exactly the same as a crappy score, then I'd keep your Raven receivers on the bench. Of course wiping those guys off the slate will result in a lot more carries for Ray Rice, so if you are one of the lucky Rice owners - cheers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Victor Cruz: Waiver? I hardly know 'er.

If you happened to take a small break from watching Brandon LaFell drown on Sunday, you might have noticed one of the two breakout Performances of the Year, of the week. The first and most impressive, Torry Smith, was mentioned earlier. He of three first quarter receptions for 3 first quarter touchdowns. What!?

So yeah, the only way you get him at this point is if your waiver systems is one of those super fair ones that don't let couch potatoes like myself watch the Red Zone and pick up everyone who scores. If you do have that very forgiving system and you happen to be dwelling in the cellar - then pick Smith up. If that performance doesn't put him ahead of Lee Evans on the depth chart nothing will.

But slightly less brilliant and significantly less well publicized performance was on display in New York where the Giants took to thumping the living bejesus out of the Eagles in what will be that team's magnum performance before they all give up in three weeks. Or they'll win the SuperBowl, you never can tell with the Giants. But I digress. Victor Cruz was the author of this maestro performance throwing up a gaudy 110 yards and 2 TDs on 3 receptions. The sound you may have heard after that game was Mario Manningham's concussed head exploding. If Manningham was smart his first call was to his wife telling her to hold off on buying the second Bentley.

Though of the two standout performances I, along with every highlight producer at ESPN, think Smith is the guy you're going to want on your team. Lee Evans is incapable of putting forth the kind of game Smith displayed on Sunday, Manningham probably still has a job when his head heals and either way, most of the best looks are going to end up in Hakeem Nicks' hands when he feels a little better (which knowing Nicks may be never).

In summation, if you can get one, get Smith. If not Smith spend the pick up on Cruz.

Tuesday Hangover: 99 problems and a Vick is one

Sadly, this anti-Vick tirade is becoming a weekly tradition. But his pain is causing me pain. And that's not cool. Let me briefly put this in perspective: In my keeper league I traded my first round pick this year and my 3rd round pick next year for the rights to draft Vick in the 15th round. So I get to keep this bum forever if I choose. So when he goes out of last week's game in the 4th quarter with a concussion that isn't a concussion and he leaves this week's game with a broken hand that isn't broken, I start to grow concerned. Not concerned that my team will be a pile of stool, because that ship has sailed. But concerned that I've tied my future to a guy who is soft like grape.

Should Vick be getting more calls? Sure. Is his O-line shakier than the DTs? Yes. Do I care about these things? No. I care that my quarterback have the intestinal fortitude to be playing football in the 4th quarter when a QB's points are made.

I have to confess that at this point I want Vick to take next week off (and not just because I'm a 49ers fan). I want him to get his boo-boos all healed up so he can quit complaining and being a wuss the rest of the season. If he plays next week I'll feel like I have to start him. If he sits I can start Jay Cutler with no guilt. Well, with as little guilt as anyone can ever feel when they start Jay Cutler.

Is it at all ironic that the guy with diabetes who was reviled at the end of last season for getting injured and missing a 4th quarter that cost the Bears their season is considerably tougher than the guy who did time in Leavenworth?

Notes from a wild-wacky weekend

- The Patriots scored 31 actual points in their losing effort against the Bills. In fantasy math those points translated into 34 points for Wes Welker, 22 points for Gronkowski and 35 points for Brady in non ppr leagues. I wish I could apply that kind of math to my back account. Brady threw 4 picks and still more than tripled Vick's production this week.

-At what point does the yahoo! fantasy guru stop predicting that Chris Johnson is going to have a 100 yard + a TD week? It's got to be soon, right. The dude hasn't run for 100 yards yet this season. Cumulatively. Over three games. If he keeps up this blistering pace I'm changing his nickname from CJ2K to CJ496. Has a non-injured player ever come out of a winning contract dispute more slowly than CJ? Bernie Madoff investors got a better deal.

-Torry Smith is clearly the greatest wide receiver since Danario Alexander and Eric Decker. I love the waiver wire game and I play it every week but I expect that by then end of the season I will have owned every wide receiver exactly 5 minutes after their 15 minutes are up. Mark my words, I'll pick the guy up and I guarantee he doesn't touch the ball once next week. Though I have to admit there is something fun about watching an unowned player just dominate a game and no one is getting the points. You know, unless you happen to own Anquan Boldin, which I do.

- In case I didn't say this out loud, I'd like to apologize for all the cruel things I've ever said about RunDMC and Ryan Mathews. I was wrong. I'm sorry.

- Ben Roethlisberger finally had a good game. Watch out ladies. Wait. That was against Indy, that doesn't count.

- Speaking of's my Andrew Luck Lottery watch going? Indy is 0-3? I'd say it's going pretty swell. But they'd better not put their foot on the gas now, KC (0-3) is right in the things. The week 5 tilt between Indy and Kansas City will be a game for the ages. I'm not sure if Indy can lose to KC no matter how hard they try. I hope Luck doesn't go and graduate too soon, there's a good chance he's going to want to stick around in college for a senior year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cedric Benson to cool his heels for 3 games

Not that it's ever EASY to draft a Bengals' running back. Lord knows it's never easy. But it's especially difficult when you know Roger Goodell is going to take a turn on him.
Benson was arrested last summer for misdemeanor assault and after a plea arrangement spent 4 days jail prior to the start off the season. If this had been Benson's first run in with the law Goodell might have shown the same leniency he did with Titans receiver Kenny Britt who had an otherwise sterling record when he was arrested - wait for it - three times this summer.
But alas, no. And the AFC North leading Bengals may now spend three games (4 through 6) without the services of their No. 1 ball carrier.
Benson is said to be appealing the decision, but still, best to jump on Bernard Scott while you still can. As strange as that last sentence sounds, the Bengals face Buffalo, Jacksonville and Indy in the weeks Benson is scheduled for suspension, so Scott definitely has potential.

Fantasy vs Reality: two fans debate.

My long-time friend is a diehard Redskins fan. He is one the few people I know in my peer group who has successfully fended off the siren song of fantasy sports. He does this, he maintains, because he doesn't want his fandom to become watered down by fantasy interests. This position is one that is widely held among those who do not play fantasy. So we hashed it out:

* * *

SkinsFan72: good article. And thanks for re-confirming while I'll never play fantasy football. The end results don't matter- only the numbers...

* * *

Me: It's hard right now for me to see both sides since the 9ers have been in such a trench that it's easy not to get your hopes up and hard to stay on a bandwagon after week 5 if they are obviously hosed. This year, as with last, it's been a little more promising - not because they are any good - but because they are surrounded by such pus in their division that hope is pretty much always there.
All this to say: Fantasy football isn't to blame for me toning down my expectations - the team itself bears that responsibility.
I am a loyal fan and always will be. What FF does is make the season interesting across the board. I have an interest in 6-8 games a week. FF has amped up my overall commitment to the sport without weakening my love for my team.
You could ask [our friend] if the Giants SuperBowl run in '07 was dampened by his devotion to fantasy and I think you know what the answer is.
I hate to say it but if you had the time (and it doesn't take much) FF would be perfect for a guy like you who claims to like the Redskins, not football. FF makes you like football. It makes the game very personal. Even though the stakes are relatively small (a $50 league costs you less than $5 a week to play) you can become completely committed because you are responsible for the success and failure of your team.
And above all else it does not detract from devotion to your team.
What you and others base your argument on is that you see so many FF fans who really don't give much of a crap about "their NFL team," and you think - see it's made them not care for their team. The fact is that guy probably didn't really have an NFL team to begin with. He was a very casual fan - but FF has turned him into an NFL freak.
I think you would be very hard pressed to find a huge supporter of an NFL team who will say that his love for his team has been diluted by FF. Thanks for the comment, I'm definitely writing a column about this.

* * *

SkinsFan72: all good points but my comment was based on going with Romo on your fantasy team (smart move by the way) because he puts up great fantasy numbers- not because he ultimately may be the best player for his team. Fantasy football is measured on who is best for your fantasy team not who is best for their 'REAL' team. Romo puts up amazing numbers but he ultimately (so far) has not come through in the clutch. It's stupid to not draft him in fantasy b/c him not coming through in the clutch (i.e. playoff time) has absolutely no bearing on fantasy football. But it has all kinds of bearing on real football. Am I making sense? Fantasy football makes people care about fantasy numbers while they very often now disregard the less quantfiable aspects of the game (offensive line, special teams play etc...)
Look, I totally get why fantasy football rules the roost and many people who play it were casual (or not even) football fans to begin with and this brought them into the fold- b/c they like gambling, the camaraderie, a hobby away from their family, whatever... And good for them and good for the NFL I guess but it ain't for me.
Definitely not questioning you or [our friend's] loyalty but I have seen PLENTY of guys who were once loyal to a team much more concerned about their fantasy team then their real team. Their prerogative, but again totally not for me. I like the game for the game's sake, and I care about 1 team- the Skins. Or 2 teams. The Skins and whichever team helps the Skins by beating another team ahead of the Skins in the standings.
I am confortable in my own myopia. Hopefully you get what I'm saying up above- sometimes it's hard to articulate my jumbled thoughts onto "paper".

* * *

Me: these are two very distinct issues. Is a player good for a team? Is he good for a fantasy team. Right off the bat I have to dismiss your point that Romo is not good for the Cowboys. If Jerry Jones thought he could do better, he absolutely would - and maybe one day soon he will. In the meantime it's your word against Jerry Jones and I'm going with Jerry. And I'm doing so in large part because of what I know about Romo through the lens of fantasy football. He is a tremendous talent who has had some great moments, some low moments and more than a few bad breaks. I don't know how you feel about SABRmetrics but numbers don't lie.
I know you are committed to not playing fantasy football and naturally I respect that. I have, after all, stopped asking you to play. But I think if someone's fanhood gets watered down because of fantasy then I think it wasn't all that watered up in the first place. I have always loved my team, and I still do. now I love the whole NFL and it makes me a better football fan in general. Not only am I more knowledgable because I watch the stat lines, but I watch more games and therefore gain a better understanding and appreciation of what's going on than when I was just watching the 9ers.
Case in point - I have an unnatural desire to have Fred Jackson on my team. Somehwere along the line I got the idea he was a good player and after three years of drafting him it's starting to pan out. So last Sunday I say down to watch the Bills play the Raiders. Without fantasy I would NEVER have picked that game. Turns out to be one of the best games of the year and I enjoyed every minute of it whether Jackson was scoring (which he did twice thank you very much) or not. I have a broader, fuller NFL experience than I ever would have had without fantasy. Later that day I watched the 49ers barely lose to the Cowboys and it was a huge bummer (and not because of Romo's rib). Fortunately I am feeling pretty good about their chances to win the NFC West so losing the Cowboys isn't a huge deal.
Now, generally speaking I don't think most people who play fantasy really care if other people play or not. As long as we've got our leagues we're good. Conversely I think the proliferation of fantasy owners does tend to irritate the avid fans who don't participate. And it leads us to this statement which I've just found a parallel to which I think you will appreciate:
Steelers Fan: I watch football because I love the sport.
The implication here is that fantasy fans are possessed of a lesser love of the sport. Which, I think you will admit will never be taken as a compliment. And while there are cases like I mentioned before were a guy never loved a team but was able to develop a love of the sport through fantasy - well, that's less of an insult but still not true. Love is love no matter what the reason.
Here's the parallel I promised: You know how you, as a music lover, will find yourself ocassionaly talking to a former music lover and they will say - I used to really get into music, but then I had kids and kind of outgrew it.
What they are doing is making an exuse for their non participation in your hobby by telling you that they are too mature for it. Which, of course, you will never take as a compliment.
It's the same thing.

The guy engaged in this debate with me is a king of a man. Not just a huge sports fan but the author of one of the Web's finest music blogs. If you like tunes as much as you like a winning fantasy team give him a read over at

Tony Romo's spare ribs

There are few quarterbacks in America whose play inspires such divisive criticism as does that of Dallas QB Tony Romo. QBs are either fantastic (Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers), they are horrible (McNabb, Kerry Collins, Tarvaris Jackson) or they are OK, but not great - everyone else.

Not so with Romo. It's not so much that people love him or hate him, even the acknowledged greats have fans falling on either side, but no one questions their game. People don't so much love or hate Romo as they think he is great or they think he stinks. Not much in between.

Some of this comes from his being a Cowboy. People love or hate them and those who love them think they are talented and great in spite of their playoff performance over the past, say, generation. People who hate them don't care about the numbers and point only to their playoff relevance.

Like the team he leads, Romo has had many astounding moments through his relatively brief career. He has posted huge numbers and in general has had marvelously productive regular season. You know who likes that? Fantasy owners.

Fantasy owners who have had Romo on their squad will swear by him. Why not, they aren't Redskins fans or Cowboys fans per se. They don't have a stake in his post season play. They wanted regular season numbers and Romo provided.

Now that Romo is a bit dinged up you are hearing a chorus of people shouting how tough he is and how much grit he has, what a field general he is in spite of some very important moments when he failed miserably. Romo is two men. The guy who fantasy football owners love and the guy that your average football fan thinks is a choker.

It's starting to sound a little more questionable whether he'll play this week, odds still are good but perhaps trending downward. I think if he's medically cleared he'll have to play. His ribs might need some rehabilitation but his reputation as a tough guy who gets things done will only be hurt if he sits it out, and Romo knows it's pretty hard to rehabilitate that.

Arian Foster on Ben Tate

This from
" We're fully expecting Ben Tate to start and carry the load Sunday." - Arian Foster "I want to be out there with my team, but this team is looking to advance further than we have before. I want to make sure I'm healthy for the right stretch."

So there you have it. Foster is going to stay on the sidelines until his hammy heals or Ben Tate straight up takes his starting spot.
This comes as a surprise to no one. Arian's got a new book arriving soon from Amazon and he's itching to read about the travels of Paulo Cuelho. Everyone knows the best day to lounge around and read is Sunday. He'd probably play if the game were at a more convenient time. He's got yoga on Monday so that's out. Tuesdays are wide open though, any way we can make that work?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Foster misses practice; turns into your grandma

I like to joke a lot about Arian Foster's hamstring and how funny it is how he generally doesn't take this whole "starting running back" thing seriously, but for real, can someone tell me what's going on in this guy's head?
Foster tweeted this sometime before he settled in for dinner at the old folks home. Now listen, I love to read. I read all the time. And I even understand the desire to share one's reading list with the world. And I'm sure Paulo has put together a transformational book. What I don't get is Arian Foster MISSING PRACTICE on Wednesday while he spends the day tweeting about his beliefs and his summer reading list.
No one expects Foster to make it rain at the local strip club as proof that he's a pro baller, but is it too much to ask that he at least pretends to care about his career?
Foster is essentially turning into Ricky Williams circa 2004. Which is to say very freaking flaky.
At this point it is going to take about 5 back-to-back 100 yard games out of Foster for me to put Ben Tate on my bench. Because every Sunday I leave Tate out of my lineup is a Sunday that I think Foster is going to take the reins, and I'm not sure he really cares to. One of the two of these gentlemen came out this season to play running back, the other wants to tweet about world peace. Hippy.

Can the Panthers play fantasy defense?

Unfortunately as a fantasy owner you don't get to actively work to destroy your opponents' defenses, unless you are Maurice Jones Drew, and even then it's debatable. No, our adversary is going to field a team and the best we can hope to do is field a better one - which is why a fantasy defense is literally just another facet of the offense.

Defenses get the short shrift at the draft, most players waiting until well into the 9th or 10th round to take one. Though every year someone will reach up and grab a Steelers or a Ravens D in an earlier round - depending on who is looking more trendy.

Certainly the Steelers were the trendy pick this year, generally followed by Green Bay, Philly and the Jets. In retrospect the only member of that group worth their salt so far has been the Jets. That the Jets are strong on D is no surprise, that the others are so weak is, frankly, weird. If you took one of the formerly stout defenses that has yet to coalesce, you might just be getting ready to hop onto the Defense Carousel. I know I am.

Having taken the Patriots D at a reasonable position I was excited about their prospects. Two games later I am more excited about catching the clap. The Patriots defense is brilliant in terms of allowing the actual Patriots to win actual games, but less well-versed in helping fantasy teams win imaginary games.

If you are like me you will have no compunction about quickly dropping a struggling D in favor of a stronger option. But what if a long-term stronger option doesn't really exist? Welcome to the Carousel. Last week the Patriots faced the Chargers and only a great fool starts a D against the Chargers, so I picked up the Browns adhering to my new philosophy that any defense that plays the Colts is a good defense. And it worked. This week the Browns face a Miami team more inclined to care about winning so back to the drawing board.

Against all common sense I've selected the Panthers. Certainly not because the Panthers have demonstrated they can shut anyone down, but simply because the Panthers are playing the Jaguars who will either start a McKown (fantasy gold for a defense) or a rookie who's never seen a snap in the pros and will probably not respond the way Cam did to his opening day. This might be the best fantasy matchup the Panthers see for a while, so I'm on board.

The only problem with this approach is that once you get on the carousel it's hard to get off. Picking the D of the week isn't necessarily a problem unless your league is filled with owners doing the same thing - the pickings can get pretty slim pretty fast and eventually you are going to run into a week where you are forced to start a bad D against a good O. But matchups are everything and I think there is more value in shopping the wires each week instead of marrying yourself to a Defense. And of course, the Colts, the Chiefs and the Seahawks each have to play someone every week. Which is a solid starting point.

Michael Vick unconcussed?

ESPN is reporting that Michael Vick looks to be prepared to line up Sunday against the Giants. This is good news for fantasy owners who went nuts taking Vick at extremely high draft positions based on his brilliant play last year. But brilliant play or not, Vick probably should not ever have jumped over Brady, Rodgers or Brees in this years draft. One EPSN fantasy prognosticator who will go unnamed (because I refuse to dig up the article to find his name) projected Vick's numbers over the last 8 weeks of 2010 out across the span of 2011 and decided that Vick would be the transcendent QB this year, posting numbers vastly superior to those of his peers. Well, the guy was right about one thing, there is a QB posting historically sick numbers it's just not a guy in an Eagles uniform.

Don't get me wrong - Vick has been a solid QB but looking back I bet most Vick owners wish they had gone another direction. Especially when they see his bell getting rung by his own player. When I took Vick I made a point to go get a back up a little earlier than I probably would have otherwise. Now I'm glad I have Cutler sitting on my bench just in case this ESPN report turns into hogwash.

I fully expected to wake up Monday morning to reports that Vick's head had fallen off his body overnight and the services would be be next Sunday. But as a Jamaal Charles owner I'm primed to fear the worst, especially when my boy looks dazed and confused and is spitting blood on the sideline.

Fingers crossed for me and all the other Vick owners that this reports is for real and I can take my backup out of the lineup.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster are worthless

Jamaal Charles owners know pain.

They know suffering. They know how hard it is when a talent gets wasted. Above all else they know a thing our two about the Chiefs. As one of the Charles faithful I feel it important to pass along this piece of advice: Just because Jamaal was able to score fantasy points in the Kansas City offense does not mean that anyone else will.

Today there has been a mad screaming rush as people grapple to get their hands into Dexter McCluster and to a lesser degree Thomas Jones. And on the surface it makes sense - Jamaal was going to have success as the primary running back for the the Chiefs, so his replacement will also have value. I call BS.

In two games the Chiefs have amassed 1o whole points. In the same two games they have allowed 89 points to be scored on them. So what we have are the makings of a competition, a true fight to see who can land the services of Andrew Luck. In this corner we have the Kansas City Chiefs who are legitimately the most horrible football team in the league. They've lost their best offensive player (Charles) their second best offensive player (TE Tony Moeaki) and their best defender (safety Eric Berry). If only Todd Haley could get injured these other losses might not matter so much, but alas, he's reportedly in fantastic shape. Add to that the unfortunate fact that they won their division last year and therefore get to play the likes of Chicago, Pittsburgh and Green Bay on top of the rigerous task of pairing up with the AFC East this year (New England, Jets, Buffalo and Miami). Nevermind Oakland and San Diego twice a pop.

The Chiefs are in for a seriously long season, the likes of which hard-ass player hating coaches like Todd Haley get shivved in the locker room 5 minutes after the team completely gices up on him. He'll be lucky to have a job next year.

As far as I'm concerned the game of the year will happen at 1 p.m. Sunday Oct. 9th in Indianapolis when the Chiefs come to town and the two teams with the best chances of landing Andrew Luck face off to determine who is the leasat pretty of them all.

So the answer is NO. Thomas Jones will not be a useful addition to your team. Neither will McCluster. They are two very average rats on a very below average sinking ship. To rush in to acquire their services is akin to getting a blood transfusion from a guy with leukemia just because he doesn't have full blown AIDS. There's a lot of perfectly usable blood out there, don't settle for the tainted stuff.

Week 2 waiver wire - harder than laughing at Ashton Kutcher*

Drafting with prescience is about the best thing a fantasy owner can do. The guy who decided to take Ray Rice in the first round, Tom Brady in the second, Miles Austin in the 3rd and Ryan Mathews in the 4th is doing quite nicely for himself. Yes, quite nicely indeed.

But since most of us do not have that grouping of players, the next best thing a fantasy owner can do is be diligent on the waiver moves. Especially over the first few weeks where unprovens are proving themselves (Denarius Moore) and provens are unproving themselves (Arian Foster).

In leagues with no waiver wire the only proven method of getting the right guy is to never leave your laptop for one second and stay forever glued to the RedZone channel or the gamemix channel. Good luck, it's rough out there.

If you do have a waiver wire that allows you a little time to think about moves before you make them then here are a few names to consider for the week:

The aforementioned Denarius Moore has replaced the injured Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford as the prime target for the Raiders' rejuvenated Jason Campbell. He's turning heads and will not be available after this week. But there's more. David Nelson, the secondary receiver for the all-powerful Buffalo Bills is finding the end zone and good yardage to boot. He might not have the pizazz possessed by Moore but neither does he have to fear being replaced by a returning starter. He's already second to Stevie Johnson and doing quite well, thank you very much. Speaking of Bills, C.J. Spiller is available all over the place and he looked like the better of the two runners between he and Fred Jackson. He's not getting the bulk of the carries so that's a concern, but he looks well-equipped to perform when he does touch the ball. Denver's Eric Decker has been tearing it up in the absence of Brandon Lloyd. He might continue down that path to a fruitful season or Lloyd might step back into the offense and reclaim his position - only Kyle Orton knows.

*Unrelated note about a cruddy show that just broke through the crapmosphere: I happened upon 2.5 men last night, mildly curious about how they would A) Kill off Charlie B) Introduce Kutcher and C) try in vain to make the show funny. Let's start with C. The show was marginally enjoyable in it's infancy when Charlie's boozing and sleeping around were somewhat novel and the kid was a kid. It hasn't been remotely humorous since the kid became a teenager. Why? You could argue that MAYBE teenagers can do angst, but not since Farmer Ted have they been funny (maybe American Pie...maybe). B) Kutcher has never been funny, he happened to be surrounded by talent on that 70s show, but he was never close to being funny, and not surprisingly he still isn't. A) Having Charlie get pushed in front of a train by Rose is pretty good. As was the revelation that he and John Stamos hooked up, as was the premise that Dharma and Greg are now a miserable middle-aged married couple harping at each other. With that last bit I'm convinced the two funniest moments of the season were used up in the first 2 minutes of the season opener. Somewhere Charlie Sheen is laughing and drinking and whoring. And definitely not in that order.

Tuesday Hangover: The day we were all hospitalized

Am I running a little late today?
I have an excuse. I tore my ACL, sprained my MCL, punctured my lung, broke my ribs, got a concussion and pulled my hamstring. No big deal. You know why? Because I wasn't a starter on your fantasy football team this weekend. The same cannot be said for Jamaal Charles (season over), Aaron Hernandez (likely to miss two weeks), Tony Romo (huge stud), Michael Vick and Mario Manningham (conflicting reports about their availability for next week), Miles Austin and Arian Foster (at least one of whom is out next week while the other may be losing his job to Ben Tate if he doesn't get healed up). Of the aforementioned gimps only Austin had the common courtesy to rack up 140 yards and 3 TDs before he aggravated his hammy. Other players please take note.

There were other notable boo-boos: Brent Celek is Q with a back strain, Braylon Edwards hurt his knee at the precise moment Alex Smith recovered from his Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, 5th and 6th year slump. Good timing Braylon, go have a drink.
And don't let me forget to mention DeAngelo and CJ2k who, while not technically injured, both technically suck.
So yeah, it was a brutal weekend for many, many owners. Watching Reggie Bush and Tampa Mike Williams get basically ignored all day Sunday is one thing, you could just bench them if you didn't have to replace all the injured dudes that had been carrying your team (and more importantly my team).
But it'll be OK (unless you were banking on Jamaal Charles to carry your team, which I was) most of those guys will be back in at least two weeks and I find it hard to believe with the reports we're getting that Vick won't play against the putrid Giants this week and Romo finished the game against the 9ers, no way he sits against the (division leading!?!?) Redskins.

But enough doom and gloom. Someone had to have good day, right? Not on my team they didn't but I'm sure some of you started Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Forte, Jahvid Best, VJax, Kenny Britt and Fred Jackson. Yes, the same Fred Jackson I have been touting for the past 3 years has finally had back to back good games. See, I'm not as dumb as you thought I was.

But is Jackson's resurgence the only sign of my brilliance? Hardly. Have I mentioned that the 0-2 Colts are tanking this season? You can't argue with that, can you? They just got mauled by the Browns, at home. Those same Browns got beaten soundly in week one by the Bengals.
-Matthew Stafford is fantasy gold. The 15% of owners who took a shot at Stafford are very excited. Not Cam Newton excited, but you know, pretty happy.
-Julio Jones is not human. Looks almost as if he's supplanted Roddy White as the falcon's number one option. Sure everyone else called this too, but I'm the one with the Tuesday Hangover column so I'm taking my share of credit.
-Oh yeah, and I might have mentioned that Arian Foster was going to reinjure his hammy in a fruitless attempt to save his job. If Ben Tate owners had just listened to me there would be a lot fewer Ben Tates sitting on benches this weekend.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Randy Moss: Straight Cashed Homey*

The transcendent but teamless wide receiver Randy Moss called it quits early this year, long before the season started. But before Tom Brady even threw his first touchdown pass in this year's campaign for a SuperBowl Moss publicly announced that he would love to play with the Pats again.
No big deal. Nothing to see here. Until Brady shouted back that he would love to be throwing the ball to Moss again. Then some heads started turning.

Anyone who has paid attention to Bill Belichick knows the odds of Moss returning to Foxboro was somewhere south of zilch, but still, what if. It's the "what if" that had some risk-taking fantasy owners dropping their worst players and picking up Moss on on the off chance he'd step back on to the field. It was a lottery ticket. And unfortunately the lotto is over and Moss has announced that having gotten no big money offers from teams he's hanging up the gloves. No real surprise here, but with the Brett Favre-style retirement still ringing in our ears it's easy to see why some people would have gotten grabby.

The king is dead. Long live the king.

*You know, unless this whole Ochocinco thing doesn't work out, then you never know. He did make the announcement at a Boston-area golf course after all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Maurice Jones Drew: Toddler Knees

Maurice Jones Drew, fresh off complaining about the number of touches he got this weekend (24 for 97 yards - not too shabby if you ask me) has emphatically stated that not only is his knee no longer a liability, it's better than ever, well almost ever: "It actually feels like when I was 8 years old, or when I was born, fresh out of the womb knee." Which, frankly, would make me want to bench him too. I don't know much about MJD's knees, but I've seen a newborn or two in my day and those knees wouldn't hold up to a 24 carry NFL game. And while there might be some biggish 8-year-olds out there I guarantee there isn't one that I couldn't just cream on the gridiron, no matter what kind of knees he had.

But this is all hyperbole as far as I'm concerned. His motivations are so transparent he shouldn't even bother coming up with a cover story. Everyone knows MJD is a huge fantasy baller, fancies himself something of a legend, has a talk show and everything. Obviously he's in a yardage bonus league and fell short in week one by some margin that three extra yards would have solved. Hey bud, guess what? We're all upset when our starting running backs fall 3 yards shy of our bonus. It's part of the game. You don't see me calling up Todd Haley every weekend and complaining that he might as well strap a sandwich board on Jamal Charles for all the work he's getting. He'd more useful selling concessions, probably get more fantasy points too. But that's not how the game works. There element of chance surrounds every decision we make, if you go fixing games by demanding more carries the whole system breaks down.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What else is Ochocinco in awe of?

The voices of the worldwide leader are capital H hating Ochocinco for being so impressed with the Patriots performance on Monday.
I wonder if they care about the other stuff Ocho is in awe of.
To wit:
1) VH1's T.O. Show has, to date, won ZERO emmys.
2) The best wide receiver on his team is barely a 6" taller than Tom Cruise, and only 9" taller than Suri.
3) Grantland is actually a really good read.
4) Mitch Albom's upcoming biography - Cliff Clavin: 3 People Who Have Never Been In My Kitchen
5) The bark of the redwood tree is fireproof.

Pretty amazed myself, actually. Hopefully Teddy Bruschi won't rip me a new one on The Herd tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Hammygate ad nauseum

Arian Foster doesn't care about stats. That is, he doesn't care about stats until his backup's backup comes in and starts dropping stats all over the place.
Was there any chance after Ben Tate's 116 yard 2TD performance that the hammy would feel way better than it did the day before? Ah the restorative qualities of fighting for one's job strike again. Foster is saying he's not 100% sure he'll go but Kubiak seems to think it's a lock, so it's a lock. Bad new for all the Ben Tate owners out there. Except maybe, just maybe, Foster is coming back too soon (ESPN's doctor did say 3-4 weeks after all, right?) and he cuts to the left and he cuts to the right and pop goes the unhealed hammy. Hopefully for the Texans and Arian Foster owners the team doctors are more aware of Foster's condition the ESPN's doctors are. But I don't see how that's possible.

Hakeem Nicks might just miss 1 week

The Giants wide receiver and former Tar Heel Hakeem Nicks is injured. Again. While he's only expected to miss one week with what is being characterized as a "bone bruise," his trend of being easily damaged is somewhat troubling whether you are a Nick's owner or a giants fan (in case of the latter my condolences - maybe your owner also is tanking to get in on the chase for Andrew Luck - it might be the best possible move).

Nicks missed a couple of weeks last Nov. and Dec. when his leg was diagnosed with Compartment Syndrome and had to have surgery. Which, by the way, proves that you can put the word syndrome behind any anything and make it sound just awful.

So Nicks was originally pegged to be out 3-4 weeks and now they are dialing it back to maybe just one, but still, you get a little tired of counting the minutes before this guy gets hurt and since they are being wishy-washy about his prognosis for return, after this week you'll have to be hawking the injury report every Sunday like it's your job.

In the immortal words of Keyshawn Johnson: "C'mon Man!"

Cam Newton: Waiver Warrior?

Cam Newton will be one of a handful of major waiver pickups and bench promotions today. Along with Rex Grossman, Devery Henderson, Mike Sims Walker, Redskins D and kickers, kickers, kickers.
Of course it's one thing to pick up a player and it's another thing entirely to place them in your starting lineup. So who's a worthy first teamer?

Cam Newton: Panthers fans are understandably beside themselves with the surprise performance of the rookie QB that not only gave the franchise hope at that position but also revived a dormant Steve Smith (who became the ultimate lottery ticket of the weekend). But the Arizona Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers are not exactly equals. What worked against a fairly anemic Arizona D will have a tougher time against Green Bay. But there are some ups and downs to consider. Green Bay did give up a ton of yards through the air, and Steve Smith, Greg Olson and Jeremy Shockey offer Newton three great outlets to spread the offense. On the flip side it was Drew Brees who was systematically took the Saints down the field last Thursday. Very little chance Cam can duplicate that performance. outlook - I wouldn't start Cam unless my alternative was somewhere south of Matt Cassel.

Devery Henderson: Lance Moore is still a question mark and Marques Colston unquestionably has a broken shoulder. That makes Henderson WR 1. Naturally Robert Meachem and Jimmy Graham will get a ton of balls, but guess what? Brees throws a ton of balls, and after Mark Ingram's uninspiring performance last week there's no reason to think the Saints will bother keeping the ball on the ground. outlook - easy WR2 or flex depending on the format.

Mike Sims-Walker: With the entire Rams offense getting injured on Sunday MSW is basically the last man standing. outlook - Sounds like Sam Bradford will play, but that's probably not enough to make Walker a starter on your squad unless your fantasy team is as injured as the Rams are, in which case you might want to throw in the flag.

Rex Grossman: The Redskins QB has had one of the most justly maligned careers of any player who has somehow managed to stay employed for nearly a decade. A decade of Grossman. How? The guy has had exactly one good year and that success was built largely on the team's defensive prowess. The 2011 Redskins D was surprising but not '06 Bears surprising. Of course the Skins get the aforementioned Cardinals this weekend, so maybe Rex has another big day in him. outlook: Unless you have a top 6 qb he's a good option to start.

Redskins D: Speaking of the surprising skins D, should you start them against the cardinals? Well, let's put that win against the Giants in perspective, the Giants are awful. Eli needs to be benched like a donkey. And Arizona may have a flaccid D that allowed the Panthers to throw all over them, but Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells will put up some points. outlook: keep them on the bench until they shut down someone decent.

Obviously there are many other players out there getting snapped up in a hurry, Arizona WR Early Ducet and Packer Randall Cobb. They may be worth grabbing but wait until they repeat their performances unless you have massive holes to fill.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Should we all just fade the Colts?

Colts president Bill Polian has in one week lost Peyton Manning for the season (probably), scouted Andrew Luck and told his fans: "There will b some shocking,dramatic,inspiring,unimaginable things happening n Coltsland the next 18 months...buckle up,stay faithful,BELIEVE."
Now I'm no genius, but obviously he's talking about just tanking the crap out of this season. He's not even being subtle about it. Just basically saying: bear with us while we lose every single game this season. And if Polian's driving that direction who are we not to jump on board? I mean, we'd be crazy to just sit there and ignore this kind of fantasy gold right?
Because once a team president has made up his mind to win the Andrew Luck lottery there's just no stopping him. Read your history. So he's got to just jump in with both feet and really get out front of this thing. They aren't even going to risk winning a game. They are going to get blown out every single week. So call me crazy, but I'm starting whatever defense is playing against the Colts for the rest of the season. Kerry Collins has probably been given strict orders to throw at least 3 picks a game.
So Mr. Polian, I'm not even mad. I'm on totally on board with this plan. I think it might be crazy enough to work.

The new fantasy reality: To air is human

It was only a matter of time before the new rules protecting receivers and old rules protecting quarterbacks and the no rules protecting running backs would reshape the face of the NFL.
It's been all the talk today about the 7,000+ yards that were gained through the air this weekend. It's just the natural fallout from the rules that keep defenders from creaming receivers. Why in the world* would anyone bother running a back into a line filled with huge dudes dead set on crushing him when they could spread it out and let the quarterback go to work with an array of weapons.
How many times on Sunday did the running back turn into the outlet receiver? How many times did tight ends make crucial plays? The future of the fantasy game and football in general will be built around slot receivers, tight ends and excellent quarterbacks.
Was I blown away by Reggie Bush? Maybe not, but he's exactly the kind of back that can have a lot of success going forward. Ditto Darren Sproles. Look at LaDanian Tomlinson, one of the most productive runners of all time, he posted passable fantasy numbers playing, for all intents and purposes, a receiver. LDT's rushing yards on Sunday? 16. Receiving yards? 73.
The Old School backs, AP, CJ2K, MJD, Steven Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall and Frank Gore had middling days at best. Of the bruisers only RunDMC, Cedric Benson and Beanie Wells (naturally) got away with running over opponents. LeSean also had a good day rushing, but he also had a receiving TD to pad out the stats.
On the other hand:
Ray Rice - 107 on the ground, 42 in the air plus a receiving TD
Michael Turner - 100, 40 receiving
Matt Forte - 68, 90 receiving w/ a receiving TD
Mike Tolbert - 35, 58 w/ 2 receiving TDs.
Reggie Bush - 38, 56 w/ 2 receiving TDs.

Granted the league I'm basing this on is ppr, but for the most part these guys posted the best running back scores of the day. This could turn out to be an anomaly and I'll look like a dope. But of the 8 games I paid close attention to, only the Raiders bucked the trend successfully. Every other offense seemed to be in some stage of developing this kind of aerial attack.

*Of course not every QB can manage that kind of pace, but I'm guessing in the near future that's what GMs will be looking for.

$#*! Ron Jaworski says

Sure. Jaws uttered a curse word evocative of doodie.

Sure. He did this while watching Chad Henne play football.
Sure. He said it on Monday Night Football and 6 zillion people probably heard him.

But honestly, what did you expect? Jaworski is just a man, same as the rest of us. A man trapped in an announcers booth with Jon Gruden for hours on end, week after week for what must seem like a thousand eternities. Is there any question that he would lose it on air? The only legitimate question is how did he hold out this long before spewing invectives for all the world to hear? Every time I see the creepy, faux intensity on Chucky's face as his goes over film with some clearly annoyed player, I say exactly the same thing. My 1 year old son's first words were, in this order: "Daddy. Mommy. Go. And $#*! it's Gruden!"

So I say give the man a break. Even better, give him a new color guy before he really flips out.

Tuesday Hangover: The Cam Newtoning

We love fantasy football for many reasons, not the least of which is that decisions you were 100% sure about a week ago have in one Sunday turned in to the rantings of a crazy man. In what world does Cam Newton and Steve Smith combine for more than 60 points and Chris Johnson and Frank Gore have 10. But that's the way it goes. Steve Smith was a starter in just 20% of Yahoo! leagues, Cam just 3. Johnson and Gore are starters in like a million percent of all leagues.
It was a good weekend to be quarterback, unless your name was Manning. Last week I mentioned casually that you needed to have one of 6 or 7 quarterbacks if you were going to be successful this year. Turns out that was a minor miscalculation. Turns out there were like 17 guys you could have started and had a respectable week. It's a little thinner at the tippy top, in that rare air where the truly elite QBs like Brees, Brady and Cam Newton and Ryan Fitzpatrick reside. Brees and Brady alone combine for almost a thousand yards passing. I don't know much about the metric system, but that sounds like a long way.
And while the QB play was pretty much transcendent across the board, some parts of the fantasy landscape were stuck in a very familiar gear. Of course I'm talking to Jamaal Charles owners here. Last year Todd Haley managed to take the best statistical runner since Eric Dickerson and make him practically second fiddle to Thomas Jones, a man who defines: "Yeah, he's OK". This season Charles fans - noticing that Jones is qualified AARP member - held out hope that Jamaal would no longer split time 50/50 with another running back. And on that small count they got their wish, Thomas Jones got less air time than the lottery girl. Did that stop Todd Haley from making Charles a fantasy non-entity? Heck no. He simply decided the Chiefs were going to focus on their passing game, ignoring the run almost completely. Sure, Jamaal did find the end zone late to salvage the day from being a complete loss, but he only got 10 carries from the backfield, not exactly the way to get into a rhythm. I hate Todd Haley like an STD.
The oddest development of the weekend, in my mind, is the shift going on in New England where it appears that 85% of that offense is being run through the tight ends. Every play seemed to be a pass that ended in the hands of a Gronkowski or a Hernandez. Were it not for that massive 99-yard reception by Welker to skew things back toward the receivers, I might be inclined to think that Belichick was in the process of downsizing the offense to three positions to make things easier for Jon Gruden to understand.
So what exactly happened to the running backs? LeGarrette Blount, Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw all suffered from lack of production that had fantasy owners grinding their teeth all day on Sunday. Is the running back no longer the workhorse of the fantasy team? New rules have made the passing game a much easier one to play. And this weekend, at least, the most successful runners were the ones like Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy catching short dump offs and working the ball up the field.
Of course, as always, the worst thing that can happen to your fantasy team is when your kicker injures himself on the opening kickoff of the season and scores a big fat goose egg while a punter does his job for him and you end up losing by 1 point. Yeah, that happened to pretty much everyone who owned Nate Kaeding. Note to kickers: If you are going to blow a tire, do it on the Friday before so we can to pick up a stray Grammatica. Something.
Bonus fact: In case you didn't stay up to 2 a.m. watching Brandon Lloyd not get the 1 extra yard you needed to tie your game, you missed Steve Young comparing Tom Brady to Harry Potter until Stu Scott mercifully cut him off. Listen, I like Tom Brady, and I like Steve Young, and I even like Harry Potter, but mixing those three things together in the same highlight reel is a little like a soup sandwich. Besides, Belichick is totally Voldemort. For real.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Meditations on a 76 point game

Can you see Heisman winner Mark Ingram in this pile? I sure can't. Nor did he make much of an impression on my tote board. While his teammate and presumed has-been , Pierre Thomas, wasn't much of a statistical improvement he at least appeared aware that the optimum direction for the ball to move is forward and that the guys wearing the other colors were fundamentally opposed to making such movement easy. A concept clearly lost on Ingram.
I have a well-documented tendency to bail on a player the first possible moment he disappoints. And I'll perhaps employ a fraction more patience with this particular pick, but watching this game served as an unmitigated reminder to anyone with eyeballs and a television that some teams simply do not care to run the football, do not build scoring schemes around their running backs and likely only field the position because they happen to have jerseys already bearing the appropriate numbers.
In a game where defenses were unwilling to be bothered with defending, running backs came off as useless appendages whose main purpose was to run the clock. So yeah, I'm regretting this move a little. The NFL is an airborne league, it's foolish to draft a landlocked player. We'll see what happens as the weeks progress, but I'm not holding out high hopes that Ingram will be more than a small cog in anyone's wheel, fantasy or otherwise.

Other notes
>>Nice collarbone Colston. They are saying 4 weeks. But they were saying 4 weeks for Peyton until it turned into See Ya!
>> These days you have to have good quarterback to win a game. Rodgers and Brees posted scores of 30 & 34 points respectively in standard scoring leagues. You can argue that in ppr leagues there are some WR's with equally high value, but outside of that QBs are the absolute key. If you don't have one of 6 or 7 guys you are in for a long season. For the arithmatically challenged among us, that's about half your league.
>>I am in two ppr leagues and two non-ppr leagues and I have such an intense preference for the ppr (1/2 ppr really) that I have a hard time getting completely into the methodical scoring of non-pprs. I'm new to one of the leagues so the only incentive I require is the desire not to look like a boob. I've been in the other for years and every year I think the same thing: This league would be 300% better with ppr.
>>Maybe that's because I always draft good receivers.
>> Jimmy Graham anyone?
>> Here's how the kickoff rules affect the game: touchback, touchback, touchback, touchback, touchback, touchback, touchback, touchback, random back-flipping touchdown, touchback, touchback, touchback. I think you see my point.

Here's hoping your offense isn't built around Colston and Ingram. If so, things could get hairy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

HammyGate Part Whatever: Arian Foster hates fantasy owners

There are things we know about Arian Foster and there are things we don't know about Arian Foster. For instance, we don't know if his hamstring is injured, if it's healthy, if he'll play on Sunday or if he'll sit in a huge jacuzzi pounding herbal tea and pondering the meaning of life while every fantasy owner who drafted him, and the 6 known Texans fans curse his name. What we do know is that Arian Foster HATES. Capital H-A-T-E-S fantasy football.

He hates me. He hates you. He hates you extra if you drafted him. And here we see the problem when a guy with a philosophy major becomes a starting running back. When Foster has some time on his hands he isn't just sitting around counting his jing, he's thinking about the state of the world and wondering deep thoughts like: "Do fans really care about ME? Or am I just a workhorse they can ride to a championship?" And of course these are wonderful questions that would never bother the minds of DeSean Jackson and Chris Johnson, but Foster does yoga and writes poetry and I'm sure engages in a variety of fancy activities that don't include drafting a fantasy football team.

Not only does he not feel your pain, apparently he relishes it. And as a potential number one overall pick he wields the kind of power over fantasy football leagues that Ben Bernanke does over the economy. One wrong, misplaced or offhanded remark and Chris Johnson is the number one guy. In my last draft on Sunday Foster fell to like the 7th spot - and I was the 6th spot. I was on the clock looking at Arian Foster and Andre Johnson and I couldn't in good conscience say that Foster was going to be healthy and on the field to start the season (also I believe Andre is one of the baddest men on the planet Earth and I think he's going to kill it this year).

After the reports today that Foster isn't practicing and doesn't know for sure if he'll suit up against the Colts I'm feeling pretty good about my choice. But at the same time I would not be a bit surprised if he came out and rushed for 250 yards and in the post gamer confessed to making the whole thing up and that it wasn't even a picture of his hamstring that he tweeted but satellite photo the Galapagos Islands that he keeps in his study.

Peyton Manning just ruined your draft

There are a few guys in the NFL that are absolute lynch pins, not just to the success of their organizations but to the success of the individual performers who depend on the star to achieve their own great heights.

No one epitomizes this MVPness more than Peyton Manning. Just ask any fantasy owner who drafted Manning, Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon or Dallas Clark - also known as about half the owners in your league. In all fairness Manning's own stock had been sliding steadily over the past month, but in many cases he still went as early as the 2nd round. And Garcon and Collie weren't necessarily considered top level guys at the receiver position, but if you knew Manning was going to call in sick for the first who-knows-how-many weeks you would have let those guys slide even farther.

The real victims here (besides Manning owners of course) are the poor suckers who took Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark in the early rounds. Wayne is by all accounts still a top 10 guy and Clark is easily a top 5 TE, with Manning. Without Peyton he's just some guy named after a crappy TV show. I suppose that's not entirely true, Jason Witten shined last season under the horrific reign of Jon Kitna simply because Kitna was forced to constantly check down off his primary reads unless he wanted to get pulverized. Perhaps there's hope for Clark. But I'm guessing Reggie Wayne owners are inconsolable. And I don't begrudge them that emotion.

On the flip side of this debacle, of course, are all the owners who wisely didn't draft those Colts and now get to play watered down opponents until such time as Pey Pey rejoins the fold. I personally get backups twice in the first week of the season and I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Here's hopin' you didn't draft David Garrard

Because guess what? He's gonzo.

In upholding one of the franchise's greatest traditions the Jacksonville Jaguars have unceremoniously* dumped their starting QB mere days before their first game of the season.

If that smell is familiar it's because it smells like Byron Leftwich who the Jags also not so long ago that my porous brain has forgotten.

Not that it matters, you certainly didn't draft David Garrard and anyone who did was prepping for a colossally bad season, so they don't care. The only question is - does this move of Blaine Gabbert's time frame? I mean, Luke McCown has been tagged as the starter and that's never worked out for anyone. Ever. So Gabbert will probably see some starts this season. So what does that mean to you? Practically nothing. But on the off chance you are in one of those keeper leagues that rewards you for picking up a guy off the waivers and allows you to hold on to that guy forever then maybe you take shot, stick him deep on your bench and hope you don't need the spot later in the year.

The AFC South is just no place to be a quarterback this year. If I were Matt Schaub or Matt Hasselbeck I'd take out extra insurance right about now. There's no way both of those guys make it through the season, right? Hasselbeck has exactly 76 minutes of football left in those old bones and Schaub, well, it's only a matter of time before he posts an MRI of his hammy for ESPN doctors to examine. Maybe I shouldn't have gone so heavy on Andre Johnson.

*My greatest hope is that there actually is a ceremony. And in that ceremony the new QB1 gets to saddle up and ride the old QB1 out of the building like a tired sow to the slaughter. That would be fun to attend. No? Never mind the confidence it would give the new QB.

UPDATE: Apparently they do have a ceremony in Jacksonville. They take the quarterback to the local chamber of commerce where they introduce him around as the starter, make him shake hands and eat crappy chamber of commerce food and 2 hours later, his chicken tetrazzini still undigested, they drop the hammer on him. Stay classy, Jacksonville.

In which I enter my first auction draft

Saturday marked my first auction draft and now I know what many of you have known for years: There are no losers at the auction draft.
Of course, the season will start soon and there will be plenty of losers. Losers galore. But for one glowing day 12 people basically got what they wanted, or at the very least they didn't get what they didn't want.
What does that even mean? Am I starting to sound like Peter King? Perhaps.
It's really quite simple. In a standard draft someone goes first and takes whoever he wants. And on down the line quality players disappear from sight before you ever have a chance to get your mitts on them.
Obviously you can't have everyone you want, but you have a chance to spend your money to procure the players you find the most interesting. If you are dead set on owning Chris Johnson (as many people are) you have the opportunity to at least test your commitment to the cause. And as his price creeps (leaps?) ever northward your commitment is continually challenged until you or a more committed owner names a price that no one else is comfortable with.
This is infinitely better than just losing rights to another owner based primarily on luck of the draw or your prior season's record.
Why? Because even if you don't end up with Chris Johnson you know that he is not worth the final selling price (or you would have offered it) and you know that by chasing the player you helped drive up his price and cost your opponent a lot of money that he can no longer use to take the other players you have your eye on.
Not that this format is without downsides. The biggest in my mind was the total focus it involves. None of the running out to the garage for a beer break when you know you have 30 minutes before your next pick, that I'm used to. You have to stay involved because you never know who the next player on the block will be. Whether you are bidding or not you are constantly paying attention to how much other owners are spending to be able to gauge their future bidding power.
When the draft ends you may not have every player you wanted, but you definitely want every player you have or you would not have bid on them.
The season will separate the quick from the dead, but I know I left that draft knowing that I would win the SuperBowl, and I'd bet almost everyone else in the room felt the same way. Suckers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

HammyGate marches on

Arian Foster's hamstring has struck again. Word now is that he's good to go for week 1. This is a shocking development that throws into question the integrity and intelligence of ESPN's Medical Staff.

It also makes me wonder if Peyton Manning might not also have had miracle recovery if only he had tweeted an MRI of his neck.

Honestly I think this is bad news for Foster owners (and to a lesser degree Texans fans) unless he was literally pulling our collective leg with this one. Which, if he was, then Kudos old chap - you fell to the 6th pick in my last draft which means you had everyone nice and bamboozled.

But on the off chance that he actually does have some anti-awesomeness going on with his hamstring then playing through the pain might get him on the field for opening day, but could hurt his productivity down the road.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Concussion Discussion

NFL says new concussion standard is: Pull the player if concussion is suspected.

Not that I don't care about safety* but I care more about knowing that my guy is not going to get yanked off the field every time James Harrison touches him. Is that selfish? Maybe a little. But that's reality. So in this new age of priceless receivers and QBs who are protected from everything but the IRS, is there a way to know who is less likely to look concussed? Because that's all it's going to take. Someday I'll put together a comprehensive list of players who are Too Wobbly To Draft, in the meantime this should suffice.

1) Desean Jackson - Right off the bat he got smacked around like a rag doll and missed a few clutch games last season. Beyond that he's teensy and he's got a mouth and he plays for the Eagles. He'll probably be dead before their bye week.
2) OchoCinco - I'm pretty sure 75% of his antics are due to being joggled one too many times. He's going to rub up against the goal post the wrong way and Belichick is going to order that his head be examined.
3) Kevin Kolb - Patrick Willis. Twice a year. Book it.
4) Alex Smith - He looks unstable in the best of times. The combination of high winds whipping into Candlestick and the constant threat of being benched should be enough to make him collapse.
5) Percy Harvin - His head hurts when he's not playing football, this new rule should effectively end his career.
6) Ray Rice - He's the only possible running back that I can see putting on this list, which is amazing. Running Backs get cracked on the noggin constantly but no one seems to care. Seriously, did any running backs miss a game last year due to concussion? Had to be, right? But no one is springing to my mind. Well, Ray catches balls and he's on the smaller side, so if any RB is going to look a little concussiony getting up, it's him.
7) Joe Flacco - That guy's 6'6". That's a long way for your head to go to hit the ground. Anyone gets him near the chest and the 3 seconds it takes his skull to hit the turf will be the longest 3 seconds of Roger Goodell's life.
8) Matt Stafford - Hate to have him on here. Really think he's going to have a monster year, that team is just cursed with injuries and he can't stay on the field. My prediction is he leaves at least two games.
9) Bob Sanders - I know, I know, he's not a fantasy player, but c'mon.
10) Jay Cutler - It'll be low blood sugar, but it'll look like a concussion.

SAFEST BET: Peyton Hillis. Guy is built like The Thing. Not saying he's going to have a great year, just saying it'll take more guys than the Bengals have to part his hair, much less give him a concussion.

*I really don't care. Sorry. I'm not hoping to see someone's head fly into the stands or anything, but you know, injuries are part of the game. You don't get into physics if you can't handle a little math, you don't get into the NFL if you want your body to be a lifelong pristine vessel. Just the way it goes.

ALERT! Chris Johnson owners put down your guns!

Smile CJ2K owners. The Sporting News is reporting the Titans have agreed to terms with Running Back Chris Johnson. Something to the tune of a 4-year extension worth $53 mil with $30 mil in guarantees.
You can buy a lot of gold teeth with that kind scratch. Not sure if that makes him the top paid man in the NFL but it makes him something we in the media like to call RICH! I mean, he's not Ponzi scheme rich, but he's doing very nicely for himself. With any luck he won't let all the money turn into sandwiches and cheese fries and he continues to get in the open field.
Either way, between this and Arian Foster's wayward hamstring, we have a clear No. 1 guy again, and folks who already drafted CJ can step off the ledge.

Hammy-Gate, part 2: Who's more full of it?

Let's play the Who's more full of it game.

Foster says he's joking. Naturally. I mean, I know humor. And a man who is willing to get an MRI as part of an elaborate set up is a man who is committed to his comedy.
ESPN's in house doctor, Dr. Kaplan, he can tell from the screen grab that we're dealing with a Grade 1 or 2 tear, which experts say could equal 4 weeks of Madden. From a screen grab? Can I email my doctor a picture of my throat the next time I think I have strep? This kind of remote service could revolutionize medicine and get the nation out of our healthcare crisis.

Wow, this is a toss up. On the one hand you've got a player who tweets that his hamstring is busted, gets some blowback from the front office and all the sudden it's a joke. On the other hand an ESPN "doctor" (I wonder if they make him wear scrubs when they interview him they way Dr. Oz does) looks at a screen grab and forms a medical opinion? Just so much stink to wade through it's hard to know where the biggest pile is.
Judgment: He's out.