Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday Hangover: In search of common sense - the case of Jamaal Charles

File Photo - photographers couldn't find Charles to shoot him last week.
On the pain scale of stubbed toe to jumping-off-a-cliff-into-a-pool-of-frozen-glass-shards, fantasy football offers a lot of different ways to be tortured. At the very top of that list is when your team (down by a surmountable number of points) has one guy left and it's a receiver (or tight end), and every play you see him line up at the top or bottom of your screen and every snap you see your QB immediately commit to a) looking the other direction, b) handing the ball off, c) getting sacked, d) throwing the ball to your guy only for a holding penalty to bring the yards back. Because of course there was a hold the one play your guy was open.
And while receivers are at the mercy of the QBs' often flawed discretion, running backs seem a much safer play because it's them against a defense. Until it's also them against the coaching staff.
The punditry made a lot of hay this weekend discussing LeSean McCoy's involvement in the Philly offense as it may relate to Michael Vick's future employment and the team's overall struggle to win games. Ultimately Vick can say what he wants - but unless he is changing the play call 60 percent of the game then it's Andy Reid or his coordinator who simply aren't putting the ball in the hands of one of the best running back in the running back business (If that were an actual business that would be sweet, they'd all have business cards they'd hand out after touchdowns, they'd cold call your house asking if you are happy with your current running back provider).
But it's not just the Eagles who are guilty of this naked baffoonery. They are not even the most egregious offender, and with an offense like that it's easy to see where you may want Vick throwing the ball down field to the likes of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
But what about Kansas City? For years I (and other bitter Jamaal Charles owners) have screamed bloody murder every time Todd Haley yanked the most explosive player in the league for some crotchety old guy or to showcase his non-existent aerial attack. But with Romeo Crennel at the helm things would be different, right? Sure looked that way. Coming back from the ACL surgery Charles was slow out of the gate until week 3 when he erupted for 233 yards and a TD, followed that up with a, 88-yard 1 TD game and a 140 yard romp in week 5. He was slowed by the defensively stout Bucs in week 6, then coming off a bye, owners had every reason to believe that playing  at home against Oakland's modest run D he'd get back to form. Instead he was awarded 5 carries, picked up 4 yards and 3 receptions in a home divisional game where the Chiefs could have easily run the ball 3 times as much as they did. Crennel's explanation for the reduction of Charles' touches?
"I'm not exactly sure."
That's the explanation.
It's also the explanation for why thousands of Charles owners got a beating this week by the 10 or 15 points they were pretty certain a normally utilized running back would net. The NFL trade deadline is Thursday. If there is a God of fantasy football then certainly the Lions can make the Chiefs an offer that can't be refused. Or someone. Anyone. Please save Jamaal Charles from the KC Chiefs and coaches who aren't sure when their best players are going to be on the field.

This week's outstanding performances brought to you by idiot coaches

The Andy Reid - in spite of faults, moments of greatness Award
Matthew Stafford (could anyone be more deserving of this award?) - Stafford spends more time coming from behind than the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs. If I were to do the math (and I won't) I'd say in 7 hours of football his team has had the lead for 36 seconds. But even still Stafford has owned 4th quarters - this week his game-winning drive included 10 completions for almost 80 passing yards and a TD. Some more please, Matt.

Doug Martin - For all of my ranting and raving about rookie RBs, DMart stuffed my words down my throat with a 200-yd 2-TD game. He'd been merely serviceable until Thursday nights curb-stomping of the Vikings. His next three games: @Oakland, San Diego, @ Carolina. Things are looking up for Martin owners.

Rob Gronkowski - In the world of Tight Ends he's pretty solid. In the world of stupid end zone theatrics he has no match. All the same, he went for 146-yds and 2-TDs. There's my big Gronky smile.

The Romeo Crennel - I have no idea what's going on Award
Stevan Ridley - Ridley's fantasy cadence is the most troubling kind. He's either great or he's worthless. No average. He's on your bench in week 5 when he goes for 150+TD, start him the next two weeks gets you 10 fantasy points - combined! Bench him in London, 120+TD. I hate Belichick.

Vernon Davis - Speaking of playmakers who inexplicably disappear for a few weeks, Davis is like their king. Through no real fault of his own VD has managed to accumulate 8 points in the last 3 weeks. Call it double coverage. Call it Michael Crabtree. Call it whatever you want - he's one of the strongest, toughest guys at that position and he needs to be used. You hear that Harbaugh? Two targets in two weeks isn't getting the job done.

Michael Crabtree - (read above) Guy had 72 yards and two TDs and just destroyed whatever the Cardinals threw at him in clutch situations. But do you feel safe starting him when he comes off the bye? I sure don't, and I'm a huge 49ers fan.  Is this the future of coaching in the NFL - do weird stuff all the time so no one ever knows what's coming, even if it means you are going to lose a game or two to weirdness? This is bad news for fantasy owners.

The Norv Turner - The incompetence becomes incontinence Award
Philip Rivers - It would have taken 8 total points to beat the Browns this weekend. The Chargers have reached a new low. Between Rivers and Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd a total of 15 fantasy points were scored. The worst part is that someone is going to give Norv Turner an offensive coordinating job next year.

Michael Bush - when I want a one back system (Kansas City) - I get a complete circus run by a out-of-touch, soon to be retired coach. When I want running back by committee (Chicago) I get all Matt Forte all the time. The only good news here is that Forte is just too fragile for this kind of workload. Every play he gets up and he holds a different part of his anatomy. At some point in the not-to-distant future he's just going to fall apart like humpty dumpty. Until then, Bush has regressed to worthlessness.

Jermichael Finley - Let's look at his fantasy totals since week 5 (ppr) 2.5, 2, 4, 3. Wow. As Candace Flynn-Fletcher would say: "So busted!" (That reference is for the kids, I'm trying to diversify my readership). Finley is a prime example of why you never, ever, ever, ever blame your struggles on your QB. In relationship terms Finely is the lucky guy and Aaron Rodgers is the hot girl. If Finley gets rude Rodgers is going to ask another girl to the prom. Every single week. The saddest part is the two prettiest girls in class (Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson) are grounded - and still Rodgers has no use for Finley. So Busted.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NFL Thursday: Josh Freeman, popular all over again, and what it means to Carolina

"That's the guy who took my bike, get him!"
Remember in 2010 when Josh Freeman was awesome and owners were falling all over themselves for a piece? And the guys who had him in keeper leagues were all like: "I'm gonna win 5 super bowls because I've got Josh Freeman in the 15th round."? Then remember when the next year came and Josh Freeman looked like a drunk version of pin the tail on the donkey? And everyone dropped him like a hot potato covered in herpes? And then remember the last two games where Freeman dropped a combined 750 yards and 6 TDs and you could almost feel the collective hamstring pull of a million owners rushing to the waiver wire?

What's the point? The point is that Carolina fans and Cam Newton owners need to chill the frog out. It is not irrational or weird for a young QB to start out hot his first year in the driver's seat then come back down to earth when the league figures him out and he realizes just being huge and awesome isn't enough. So they do some more work and get smarter and start getting back to form. This is also a warning to all the saps who are going to draft Andrew Luck and RGIII WAY too high next year. Don't do it. Let some other poor bastard roll the dice on a second year regression. Because it's really not about the guy's workout regimen, or his will to win. It's about his experience. And the only way to get that is to play a bunch of games and see what works and what doesn't. So to the handful of radio turds who were suggesting yesterday that the Panthers should trade Cam for Mark Sanchez or some such nonsense, please return the mic to it's rightful owner. This is the year the Panthers pay for Cam to learn stuff, both on and off the field. Everyone will be back to slobbering all over him next season (maybe even later this season when the pressure is off). No one seriously thinks he's going to be a bust.

Tonight we'll get to see if the FreeJax movement has legs when Freeman and the suddenly resurgent VJax take their video game mode to Minnesota to test the waters against the on again off again Christian Ponder and his posse of Peterson and Percy. Wham! (Could I have thrown "purple" in there and made it more awesome? Maybe. But in alliteration, as in life, it's important to know when enough is enough.)

Since I'm starting half of this game in half of my leagues I'm figuring it will turn into a defensive struggle with neither AP nor Mike Williams being able to get much going but with the Vikings D getting absolutely schooled. Mark it down.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Hangover: Midseason Retort

Curse you Reggie Wayne!
The kids grow up so fast these days. Seems like just last weekend I was drafting a little bundle of new fantasy awesomeness. But turn around and all they sudden the leaves are brown and little baby FreeJax is bringing home the fantasy bounty of the season.
FreeJax, I just made that up. Just now. I wonder if anyone actually had the temerity to own and start both Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson last weekend in what was probably one of the finest QB/WR performance since Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson lit up Houston last week.
Has Freeman found his groove? Has VJax finally found a place to cradle and nurture his enormous ego? Can Mike Williams still be a viable WR if Jackson gobbles up targets like a toddler in a cotton-candy factory? Can I ask more unanswerable questions?

I learned last week that Bill Simmons and NFL players agree that they hate Thursday night games because the shortened week is so detrimental to player safety. And greedy NFL owners who don't care about safety are pandering to their pocketbooks by forcing this gladiator-like product on the football-watching world.
It's hard to disagree that players have gotten injured on Thursday night. What I can't tell -- so hamstrung by my limited patience for research -- is if Thursday creates more injuries than any other day. People who spend their lives running face first at 350 lb muscle factories are bound to see more time on a stretcher than your average customer service rep. What I do know is that for me the Thursday night game has been a transformative addition to my TV viewing habit. Limiting my football-less nights to Tuesday and Wednesday, sort of an anti-weekend. With this new gift my weekend ends on Monday night then starts again on Thursday - a very manageable two-day hiatus I can use to reconnect with my family, or compose nasty emails to the other owners in my league. So tidy is this arrangement that I have a hard time understanding why Sports Guy dislikes it so much. He's taking the high-road and all, which is nice, but I suspect he's got a standing poker game or he has a Thursday date night written into his marriage contract or his kid's got soccer practice and he's forced to miss the action. Or maybe his cable provider doesn't offer the NFL Network. Something. I mean, I love the players, but it's their job to worry about not getting cracked in half and it's my job to watch to see what they've come up with. That's how it works.

The mid season retort brought to you by the World Series:

The Home Runs - The Tom Brady Award
Aaron Rodgers - The mid season award for the best QB would have gone to RGIII two weeks ago. But in a mere two weeks Aaron Rodgers has not just won two big games, but he's done so in astounding fantasy form. Admit it, we love to watch a good game and we want our favorite team to win, but we also want to see lots of scoring and (unlike Matt Stafford and Philip Rivers) Rodgers has been delivering in spades.

Honorable Mentions - Drew Brees, RGIII, Tom Brady. The only surprise on this list is RG, and frankly this national swoon seems vaguely reminiscent of last year's swoon. Exciting new QB with great strength and rushing ability is going to transform the position. And he does (RGIII). Until he stops (Cam Newton). And we are left yammering about Brees and Brady and Rodgers again. I feel bad for my buddies who love the Redskins. They've jumped back on the bandwagon so fully, and have given their hearts and minds so completely to their new QB it's going to be a little sad when nature runs its course and they have a down year next season. Stay firm guys, year three is bound to be better.

The Double Plays - Did I say you should draft Chris Johnson Award?
Arian Foster - This is not a second place award. This is an award for making me eat my words about Foster not being the best available RB and best overall no. 1 pick. Shame on me, shame, shame. Foster doesn't get the ink, but let's face it, he is super reliable, always good for a TD or two and pretty durn close to averaging 100 yds a game. He hasn't had one of the wacky Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles weeks, but on fantasy scoreboards he's the clear winner.

Honorable Mentions - Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Frank Gore. Two surprises on this list, Gore and AP. Where's Run DMC? Where's LeSean McCoy? Where's Demarco Murray? Frank Gore is almost as old as Steven Jackson but he's carrying the load for a pretty successful 49ers team. And AP? Well, what can be said about AP that hasn't already been said about Mego Elastic Super Hero? He's unbreakable. I gave him zero chance for this type of return. But I also traded for him after week 3, so at least I'm able to see things that are right in front of my face.

The Broken Bats - The Calvin Johnson Award
Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Dez Bryant - A three-way tie! Here we have three of the top 10 receivers on the board, with Calvin being the no. 1 WR taken anywhere receivers are sold. And currently he's hanging on to a top ten ranking by the skin of his teeth. Sure he's still great, but between the dropsies and Matt Stafford and having little in the way of a running game, he's not Calvin Johnson-great. And Andre, it seems, may simply have lost a step, plus they really like to run the ball. And Dez, well, no one can be too surprised to see this coming. He's got the hands of a late-career Terrell Owens and the killer instinct of Rex Grossman.

The non losers - Victor Cruz, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall. Thanks to Hakeem Nicks being injured 100% of the time, Cruz is just salsa-dancing his way into our hearts. If that Giants team weren't so well-rounded and never playing from very far behind, he might be the most valuable non-QB in fantasy. But since the Giants are all of those things, and Eli needs about 5 seconds to close the book on opponents in the 4thQ, he's only the best WR.  Marshall's comeback this year just goes to show you if you put the right talent in the gentle, loving hands of Chicago sports fandom good things can happen. Unless you are Jay Cutler who is always one defeat away from getting slapped with a rotten sausage on Lake Shore Drive. And Reggie Wayne - drafted out of a retirement home Wayne is probably the biggest value pick of the season. Curse you Reggie Wayne.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NFL Thursday - West Coast Defense, plus a prayer for Jon Gruden

Commentate so hard!
Before we get into what promises to be a lock down defensive struggle, I'd like to mention a rumor swirling around some football circles that could be great news for anyone who loves Monday Night Football but  doesn't love the sound of a fork being scraped continuously across a china plate.

University of Tennessee fans, apparently dissatisfied with losing close games to both superior and inferior teams, are calling for coach Derek Dooley's head and have swallowed the little red pill that makes a fan base think that Jon Gruden is willing to step down from his Monday night pedestal and charge to the rescue (since apparently his wife was a UT cheerleader).  There are so many flaws in the validity of this rumor that I'd never mention it except the prospect of not having to see his squinty face or listen to his hyperbole every Monday is too juicy a bone to leave unchewed.

All six people who regularly read this blog know that, for me, Jon Gruden is the pinnacle of Monday Night Buffoonery. Worse than Dierdorf. Worse than Dennis Miller. Worse than Ron Jaworski. Way worse than Tony Kornheiser (who everyone else hated but I loved). Gruden is fancied as the NFL insider who can break down the plays, highlighting the offensive and defensive formations so we, the humble viewers, can better grasp the intricacies of the sport we spend nearly 20 hours a week watching. In ESPN's imagination he is John Madden incarnate. The difference being that Madden had a rough lovability about him, a sense of humor and a way of making the plays we just watched fun to re-watch.  All Gruden does is praise the living daylights out of whatever gritty QB happens to be holding the football, then drops inane codes for the schemes we're seeing: Banana left, 30-squat! Triple cookie rubber cat! A-Flap, sweaty hooker!
Maybe I'm just not enough of a student of the NFL, but knowing the arcane names for defensive formations doesn't seem to be doing enough to advance my enjoyment of the game for the tradeoff of having to listen to Gruden rant them at me. I assume Mike Tirico invests heavily his ongoing emotional therapy. So to the Vols I wish you the best of luck. Gruden may or may not be a good football coach. And I personally won't believe myself free of him until I see him strolling the streets of Knoxville in hand-me-down, orange pants, but I sure am pulling for you.

Tonight's game:

As you all know, 60% of the time I'm 100% wrong about my Thursday night forecast. Which gives me great hope that my fear of the Seahawks can only be a good sign for the 49ers. But like Gruden in orange pants -- I'll believe it when I see it. The 49ers have a lot going for them in general, but much of it is based on their ability to run the ball, to run the clock, and keeping opponents from doing the same. Unfortunately Seattle is pretty good at those very things, plus they have one of those wacky young QBs who is just as apt to throw a pick as they are to scramble for a 60-yard TD, which when mixed with a clinically insane coach leads to meth-lab levels of volatility. Volatility is not something that plays into the 49ers game plan. For proof re-watch the Giants delivering large whuppings on the 49ers who, unable to figure out if they should clamp down the run or the pass, clamped down on neither.

I'm still starting the 49ers D b/c you just don't bench star players not named ARod. Keeping Gore on the bench against a smothering Seattle run D, starting VD and crossing my fingers. If Russell Wilson is smiling at the end of the night I'm probably not. Unless Gruden calls to confirm that he's headed to Knox-Vegas, that would help ease my suffering.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday Hangover: It's not easy owning Greene

"See what I did there?"
Playing fantasy football means you're going to have to taste defeat every now and again. Some of these games are going to be nail-biters that you lose when Andre Johnson fails to touch the ball in the 2nd half of the game. Some you will lose because your opponent goes full metal jacket on you with Robert Griffin III running wild, Larry Fitzgerald remembering he's Larry Fitzgerald and the Bronco's D catching more of Philip Rivers' passes than Malcolm Floyd did.

When your opponent just empties his barrels right in your face while you're wondering if Jacob Tamme can get a few PPRs in the garbage time it just feel inevitable, and therefore better.
The second best way to lose is to be in a tight game and you happen to glance down at your bench and see a former struggling starter go all nuclear while you've started William Powell, or some such nonsense. Sure, the whole world had written off Shonn Greene after 4 games of sub-crappy performances. And so to the bench he went - and then right before your very eyes he mounts a 161-yard, 3-TD offensive and there you are with a pile of useful points stacked weightlessly in the corner with a little shrugging look that says, "serves you right."

But that's not the worst way to lose. No, the worst way to lose is when you think that the Bears defense is playing when they are actually on a bye week. It could be any player, but for the sake of this reenactment we'll go with the Bears as our example.

You see, in many leagues, rosters lock and waivers idle once Sunday games start, and the administrative business of running a team must wait until Tuesday, or Wednesday. And in these leagues if an owner, say a guy who goes by the name of Hicks, were to keep his bye-week defense on the roster he'd be in deep trouble if he hadn't planned for a last minute substitution on his bench. Nope, a guy like that who once sat atop the league, might find that he's now lost two in a row, is sub .500 and in very, very real danger of missing the playoffs, much less make a return trip to the Super Bowl. So while we all enjoy competitive contests in which the best team wins, sometimes it's enough to see someone manage his team with all the finesse of Shakes the Clown. Keep it up Hicks, we're all pulling for you.

And this week's winners and losers brought to you by the Philly Eagles

The Eagles D Award
3rd place award: Stevan Ridley. In weeks 4 & 5 Ridley rushed for 266 yards and 3 TDs and he was the exception that proved the rule that you just can't trust Bill Belichick when it came to running backs. In week 6 he was the rule the proved the rule that you can't trust Belichick with running backs. How many poor bastards chose the exact wrong moment to hop on the Ridley Bandwagon just in time for the Bandwagon to smash into the side of a mountain?

2nd place award: Vernon Davis. I hate the Giants. I hate the Giants. I hate the Giants. I'm not sure if this qualified as an Actual Big Game, but it sure was a Theoretical Big Game and the niners just got molested by the Giants pretty much across the board. I'm not really singling VD out, Frank Gore was ho-ho-rrendous, as was Alex Smith and the Defense as a whole blew it. But VD is my own personal game changer and he almost changed my game into a losing one.

The Eagles D Winner: The Eagles D. The descent of this defensive unit's scoring this season looks like the guy who jumped out of the space balloon a few days ago, unbelievably dramatic and record-breakingly fast. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if the space jump guy had called Juan Castillo last week asking for tips on the best way to plummet to Earth. There were some bad Ds out there this week, but the only one to get their D-coordinator fired was the Eagles, so congrats.

The Michael Vick Award
3rd place award: Michael Vick. In an incredible turn of events Michael Vick is such a loser he couldn't even win his own award. Yes he scored well in many league formats, and yes he is dynamic, but the turnovers. Oh my God the turnovers.

2nd place award: Ben Roethlisberger. How did Big Ben manage to out-Vick Vick with a tremendous 363-yard performance that somehow looked like he was playing with two chimps tied to his arms? The interception, the way he was harried, the way he just looked like he was in trouble all night to the horrible Titans. For this gut wrenching performance he gets 2nd place.

The Michael Vick Award winner: Matt Stafford. And the clear winner is the guy who can, at this point, be counted on to have close to zero yards and zero fantasy points coming into the 4th quarter and then magically turn that into a 300-yard, 2-TD performance. He is exactly what makes fantasy horrible and wonderful at the same time. He pokes you with interceptions and wayward passes that even Megatron can't reach, then in 15 beautiful minutes he opens up the throttle and whammy! 30-point game.

The LeSean McCoy Award
3rd place award: Ahmad Bradshaw. Against the toughest run defense in the history of time, Bradshaw not only knocked down 116-yards on the ground but also achieved the impossible by rushing for a TD. The first time this year the Niners let one in. Did I mention that I hate the Giants?

2nd place award: A.J. Green. Sometimes you wonder whether the QB is making the receiver great or vice versa. In this case it's pretty clearly versa. Andy Dalton is becoming a must-start fantasy QB because pretty much every week you can rely on AJ to come up with 100 yards and a TD. AJ is the essence of unbenchability.

1st Place award: Aaron Rodgers. Welcome back ARod. That was a first class, grade A whupping you put on the Texans. The best part about it is that we no longer have to hear the pundits tell us the Texans are the best team in the NFL for at least a week. Rodgers went for 6 freaking TDs against a top rated D. Next week he gets the Rams and then follows that up with the Jags. I firmly believe the Packers will win every game in which Rodgers tosses 6 TD. I'll stand behind that.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

NFL Thursday: The Rise of CJ0K? Nah.

"I don't want that thing! You keep it."
I've been struggling to determine if there is any competition at all for the Biggest Fantasy Bust of the Year award. Discounting injuries to the likes of Steven Jackson and Ryan Mathews (natch) I can't locate another pick in the first two rounds who has underperformed as dramatically as Chris Johnson has. It could be said that CJ has taken underperforming to the next level. The way he runs into the pack, the way he never avoids being immediately wrapped up, the way he stops and waits while mediocre defenses like the Chargers and Detroit hold him to a combined 41 yards and a decent defense like the Vikings held him to a single fantasy point -- which he only got in PPR leagues.

In my office auction league where I cracked open the vault and made Johnson my most expensive draft pick, I am a morbid 0-5 and the guys in the league just shake their heads and give me a sad, condescending look as I pass them in the office. Their interior monologue screams: "How do they let this guy write about fantasy?" Thanks primarily to Chris Johnson I spend half of my water cooler discussions trying to convince people that I have two teams that are in first place in other leagues...no, really! I swear!

But why would they believe a person who so stoutly endorsed Chris Johnson? So is tonight's game pitting the Steelers' 6th rated rush D against the Titans going to be a spring board for CJ2K? Doubtful. Due to bye week issues I'm forced to start him, thankfully in another league my opponent must do the same, win some, lose some.

Despite this game being played in Tennessee, and despite the Steelers not really being all that awesome, there is no indication that Pittsburgh won't destroy the last fragments of the hope the 1-4 Titans may be holding on to. When they are 1-5 and miles removed from the playoff race, Chris Johnson can feel free to mount his mid-season return to form and no one in Tennessee will care, and neither will any of the fantasy owners who sacrificed their seasons for the worst top pick of all time.

On the plus side these Thursday games have been competitive and better viewing than playoff baseball or anything on NBC. But maybe not as good as Archer reruns.

Gotta Play Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers D - obviously.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday Hangover: The Trade Heard Round the World

My keeper team's annual battle with Team Hicks is almost always marked by an uninterrupted string of players on bye week. The result of this scheduling phenomenon  has, for the past 4 years, been a "L" delivered to yours truly from one of the loudest mouths ever to escape from Philly to the south.
The emails, the phone calls, the restraining orders, all part of this guy's full frontal assault on my peaceful nature.
This season promised to be no different. My starting lineup would be without my best player (Calvin Johnson) and my starting tight end (Brandon Pettigrew) and my QB (Mike Vick) was playing a pass-rush happy Giants team bent on hospitalization.  Team Hicks let me hear it from every available platform, which for him is a generous text messaging budget and the league's message board. He even went out of his way to pick op Vick's backup off the waiver wire just to taunt me with the promise that when Vick breaks in half, Hicks would benefit from the otherwise outstanding Philly offense.
It was at that moment that our league's most trade-crazed owner stepped in with an offer I couldn't refuse. He'd give me Matt Stafford (one of my favorites), Adrian Peterson and Vernon Davis - his 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks - for Vick, Megatron and Pettigrew, both removing my bye week blues, giving me a top tier TE and relieving me of having to constantly worry about Vick's fragile grasp on life and limb. The price - Calvin Johnson. I love CJ, but I can live with that deal.
The outcome? After a grueling match that lasted late into the night on Monday, I emerged with my first ever victory over Hicks, the lead in my division and a spirit lifted by the removal of the constant worry that dogged me ever since I traded for Vick 2 season ago. I also got my tail whipped in every single other league I'm in, but for this one victory it was all worth it.

This week's winners and losers brought to you by vanquished, annoying foes:

The Bloodied:

Cam Newton (courtesy of Team Hicks): The promise with which Cam entered this season was rivaled by almost no one. Few pundits even mentioned the possibility of a sophomore slump since Cam's freakishness surely was enough to thwart any such mystical nonsense. Or not.  Until this week Cam has been at least average and last week in Atlanta we can agree that he was downright startable. But when Hicks needed him the most, Cam came unglued. At home. To the tune of 12 completions in 29 attempts and 141 yards. That's practically Sanchezian in its ineptitude. The key play, of course, being the dead, rotting duck he threw into the end zone which fell was short of its target. Thanks Cam.

Andre Johnson (courtesy of Team Hicks): My love of and devotion to AJ has been well-documented. And no one has mocked me more for said devotion than Team Hicks - right up until this year's draft that is. You can't imagine my fear going into Monday's game with a 28-point lead facing Andre and Owen Daniels. When the first drive ended with a Daniels TD and 12 points chipped from my lead, I literally started watching reruns of Family Guy rather than witness a redux of past seasons' defeats. Imagine my delight when I checked back in after midnight to find the initial flurry of activity was the only flurry of activity. Watching the remaining 3 quarters needing only 16.5 points to win must have been infuriating. Sorry, Hicks. I feel your pain.

Tight Ends Everywhere: Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham,  Antonio Gates. What happened to the most touted TEs in the league? This was supposed to be the dawn of the tight end, was it not? After last year's TE revolution and the way that Bill Belichick stockpiled TEs in the offseason it seemed safe to assume that we were one step closer to a league that consisted of linemen, QBs, TEs and Kickers. Guess that idea got tabled.Glad I didn't overspend for Gronk or Graham.

The Beaten

Michael Crabtree (courtesy of Team Hicks): If only. If only the 49ers' breakout performance of the year hadn't been sitting on my opponent's bench. Bummer, big guy. You hate to lose by 12 while you have a solid 24 points resting harmlessly off to the side. To be fair, only an insane person would have benched Andre Johnson for Michael Crabtree - but to be fairer, Hicks' sanity is questionable.

Stevan Ridley: Seriously Ridley, pick a side. Three out of five weeks including the last two weeks in a row Ridley has been outstanding. But how do you trust a RB who plays for Belichick? It's asking a lot. Of course he's leaving a lot of points on a lot of benches lately. I might be tempted to trade Ridley for Julio Jones (call me Hicks.)

Ahmad Bradshaw: Don't feel too bad. You were a little worried to start Bradshaw coming off that injury. And then he promptly fumbled and you thought: "Whew, good call leaving him on the bench." Then he ran for 200 yards and a TD and now you'll never forgive yourself. Live an learn. Little known fact: Bradshaw's High School Mascot was "The G-Men." Littler known fact: mine was too.

The Unbowed

The Bears D (courtesy of Team Hicks): If every thorn has its rose, then the Bears D was that rose. Just a dominating performance against a worthless Jaguar team. Every time I looked at the TV I saw the Bears defense running the ball into the end zone. On top of which they very nearly pitched a shutout. Adding in 2 picks, 3 sacks and a fumble recovery, the Bears D was almost enough to make up for Cam and Andre Johnson. But not quite. Sorry bud.

Jamaal Charles: We are now three weeks into his reign of terror. The biggest fear Jamaal Charles' fans had coming into this season was Peyton Hillis and how strong he looks and how he's going to split carries with Charles and dominate in the red zone. Well. Whatever.

Marques Colston: It seems like its been a long time since Colston lived up to the Hype. But in his last two starts he's been just about the best receiver in the league with almost 280 yards and 4 TDs. If the Saints can continue to keep him fed they may be able to hold on to the ragged edge of relevance. But probably not.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

NFL Thursday: Fantasy deadzone

Welcome to the fantasy apocalypse: Rams vs. Cardinals in prime time.
The NFL Network's expanded schedule of Thursday games is without doubt the greatest addition to my weekly TV habit since Archer came on the air. But with it came the potential for great frustration when non-marquee match ups are featured in marquee slots due to scheduling limitations. Last week we were treated to the Browns (breathing prime time air for the first time in, well, a very long time) vs. the Ravens in what turned out to be a gosh darn good game of football. But going into it who wouldn't have rather seen Green Bay v. New Orleans or San Fran. v Jets as the Thursday night game?

At least going into the Ravens/Browns game last week there were fantasy implications, even if they were mostly clotted on one side of the field. Between Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Ray Rice, Ravens D, Dennis Pitta there was a lot of fantasy interest on the Ravens. This week we might as well be watching the Alouettes  play the Blue Bombers for all the fantasy action going on. The Rams have Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson is questionable because of a lingering groin injury, and Sam Bradford is questionable due to being Sam Bradford. On the Cardinals' side you've got Larry Fitzgerald and the D. And that's pretty much it unless bye week woes have forced owners to start Kevin Kolb, or a kicker.

Across four leagues and 35 positions I have not one player going tonight, and with 4 opponents and their corresponding rosters the only nugget of interest I could dig up was one guy starting Rams' kicker Greg Zuerlein. Not a whole lot to tune in for there in spite of the Cardinals being undefeated to this point and the Rams not being horrible. I'm a 49ers fan so I'm deeply interested in the Cardinals not going 5-0, so I'll tune in. But if you aren't an NFC West fan or Kevin Kolb's mom I can't imagine what allure this game will hold for you. Hey NFL, did you know Philly is playing Pittsburgh at 1 on Sunday?

Next Thursday: Pittsburgh @ Tennessee? C'mon!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday Hangover: The day we left it all on the bench

Few things sting worse then coaching your way out of a win.
I remember the last thought I had before Sunday's kickoff was: "I need to swap Vick in for Andy Dalton, Vick always plays the Giants well. I wonder if I should put Stevan Ridley in for Malcolm Floyd, I probably should..." But then I didn't. And for the rest of the day the only sound I could hear was the sound of the Bills begging for mercy as Ridley ran all over them for 106 yards and 2 TDs while Floyd amassed 23 yards receiving. Between Dalton, Ridley, and a nice day from the re-emergent Mike Williams I left 49 points on the bench, and lost my game by 10.
That level of charitable giving should result in serious tax breaks - but neither presidential candidate has addressed writing off horrible fantasy outings. It's an untapped market if you ask me. The candidate that comes out in favor of me getting a full refund for all of my unprofitable fantasy undertakings gets my vote. It's as simple as that. Which raises the bigger question: Are fantasy commissioners job creators or bookies? Probably bookies.

This week's roundup brought to you by your regrets:

GOB Bluth level regret: "I've made a huge mistake"

Anquan Boldin: Just when you think you're out, he sucks you back in. In a Thursday night game that was much closer than anyone imagined Boldin emerged from the shadows of rising star Torrey Smith to produce a 9-reception, 21-point game. Last year Boldin's presence was a boon to Smith, this year the tables are turned and Smith is drawing coverage down field leaving Boldin in favorable one-on-one match ups.

Jason Witten: Guess that spleen is all healed up, huh? In a game overshadowed by enormous miscues by the Cowboys, there were actually some good fantasy performances. Witten's 112 yards and  TD stands out. Witten wins by being the only offensive player not to make enormous mistakes. I mean, Romo threw for 300 yards and a TD, a solid night if you take away his 5 picks and the 55 balls that hit Dez Bryant right in the hands before falling harmlessly to the turf. And in spite of these incredibly costly drops (to both the Cowboys and fantasy owners) Bryant still managed a 100-yard game. If you're a Dez owner (which we've warned you against) I'm not sure which feeling is more overwhelming - the potential he has, or the potential he wastes.

Cam Newton: Cam is blaming himself for Sunday's loss. And I guess we should be too. If he were anywhere near that 60-yard bomb to Roddy White he would have knocked the ball down. He is 9 feet tall after all. But in reality you're only filled with regret because you kept this guy on your bench and he bounced back like something that bounces back like crazy, with his best game of the season. No matter how many Hello Kitty cartoons get associated with your star, you can't sit him.

Jagermeister's inevitable regret: "I'm going to pay for this"

Brian Hartline: How can you possibly regret not starting Brian Hartline? You'd never even heard of him until you noticed his name infecting the waiver wires like some kind of plague. 253 yards and a TD will do that for a guy. And since only 1% of fantasy owners have any interest in watching the Dolphins play, the odds of you witnessing this explosion and reacting quickly are about the same odds of you finding a burlap bag filled with krugerrand's in grandpa's barn and using one of the coins to scratch off a $1 million lottery ticket. But when you score that many fantasy points, you get to be on the regret list whether you ever stood a chance of starting or not. Way to go Brian.

Chris Johnson: Don't hate yourself. It's not your fault. CJ gives you no choice. You know how when your kid has a day where it's one intentional boneheaded screw up after another, and finally you give him an ultimatum: "next thing you screw up you are going to your room!" And what happens? A screw up that's 85% out of his control. You've got to send him to his room on principle, but it hurts both of you as he heads down the hall wailing about the unfairness of it all. That's what CJ was. Eventually he was going to have a good day, but he needed to be sent to his room for a while to get the picture. Now the question is: Is he back or is he being good just to get a chance to screw up everyone again?

Doug Martin: Rookie running backs. What more is there to say? You should never have drafted him and you definitely shouldn't start him until you are forced to do so.

No regrets: "I did it, and I'd do it again!"

Brandon Marshall: Did you have the feeling watching that game that if the Bears focus on keeping Marshall running crossing routes he'll have 1,000 yards by the middle of week  6? He needs to knock it off with the "no show" performances, but there's no reason a guy of his size and ability can't be putting up Calvin Johnson-like numbers, especially considering....

Calvin Johnson: You can never regret starting Megatron. Even on a day when he can't seem to hold on to the ball. It's an actual fantasy crime to not start him. So a couple of days a year you just have to take your medicine as he drops countless 30-yard pick ups and easy-TDs.

Drew Brees: If the Saints keep losing there is a point on the horizon where one of two things will happen - Brees will say to himself, "forget the team, I'm throwing for 6,000 yards this year I don't care if we ever win a game....OR he'll pack it up and keep his body fresh for next season's campaign. He already has almost  1,500 yards through 4 games and there is no indication that the Saints aren't going to be trailing every team by 2 touchdowns for the rest of the year. Why oh why did I ever draft Mark Ingram?