Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Hangover: You've got one last chance

Presidential elections and Thanksgiving should never fall in the same month. But they always do. And this conflagration of parties, relatives, deadlines and picking up campaign fliers off my door can really take my eye off the ball. And now that it's over and I'm able to settle into checking my lineup and seeing how many guys have big red crosses by their names I realize that going 4-0 last week was probably not enough to get me into two of my 4 playoffs. While I'm not technically out of the running, it'll take a biblical scale miracle for me to move these two teams past the first week in December.

And while I will manage to get two teams into playoffs, it's always sad to say goodbye to the guys I drafted not so long ago, and to look at those rosters and know that as much as I failed as a GM, they failed me even more by not living up to my expectations and in some cases (I'm talking to you, Anquan Boldin) shaming me so thoroughly that they'll probably never get on my roster again.

On my 6-6 team, Dr. Noisewater, I would like to thank A.J. Green for a tremendous season. If I'd had as much faith in Andy Dalton as I did in Philip Rivers this year we might be going to the playoffs. Though I don't know how. DeMarco Murray and DeSean Jackson were straight busts. Sure, there were some injuries but they were busts before the injuries. At least Fred Jackson contributed before he got injured. Malcolm Floyd? I misjudged how effective your team would be. I thought the Chargers would score points. I was wrong. Brandon Lloyd? Why did I think Belichick would go vertical? Why? Why? Why? I hate that dude so much.

Things are even worse for the 5-7 team James Westfall. Tony Romo is pretty far along the road to being dead to me. Chris Johnson was the biggest auction bust I've ever had. He owes me a gold tooth. Darren Sproles could never really get it going, even before the injury. Can you believe I have Boldin in this league too? You can? Of course you can. I probably wasted Stevan Ridley by playing him in the games were he sucked (which was half of them) and sitting him on the bench every time he went off. But mad love for my receivers Brandon Marshall, Victor Cruz and T.Y. Hilton. Just goes to show you how one Chris Johnson can completely ruin your whole fantasy season.

I'd discuss my winners but if I did there's no way it wouldn't just jinx the crap out of them. I've made that mistake before. But we can look at who have been the biggest fantasy surprises of the year and speculate on what their value will be going into 2013.

1) Peyton Manning: This is an easy call. I was not alone in thinking that his neckostomy was going to turn him into a crusty old thing who would ruin the Broncos. Instead he looks like he's got another good 2-3 years in him. Even Coach Fox couldn't hold him down.

2) Matt Stafford: Considering how much that team struggles Matthew has been outstanding. No one can turn 3 quarters of worthlessness into a 40-point fantasy day in 15 minutes. It's magical. Lotta good years left in that guy.

3) AndrewLuck/RGIII: Do I really need to talk about them? I think we've heard enough.

4) Two of the top three running backs in my CBS league are Doug Martin and AP. The computers that NASA uses to study Mars could not have picked that. Arian Foster - well, my two-year-old saw that coming.

5) Brandon Marshall: I wanted this guy so badly in all of my leagues, and I got him in 2. But even then I never imagined he'd become the foundation of a pretty decent Bears offense. It will be very difficult to draft him in more than one league next year. He's been better than every receiver other than A.J. Green and Calvin. And he's only 8 points from topping those two.

6) Reggie Wayne: Did you know that while in college Ed Reed killed Reggie Wayne's Burmese Python?

7) Michael Vick : OK, no surprise here. Everyone who drafted Vick did so knowing there was a 98% chance he would never repeat his 2010 performance. And he didn't. Only way Vick ever regains value is if he gets traded to someone with an O-line.

8) Jamaal Charles has both delighted and disappointed in very short time frames. He's had two of the biggest fantasy weeks any back has had, but the long stretches of underutilization make him a sketchy guy to rely on. This weekend he asked for Peyton Manning's autograph - I think what he was really doing was asking Manning to get the Broncos to trade for him. Pretty please?

9) Trent Richardson: So two rookie RBs defied my absolute rule on drafting rookie RBs in the first 4 rounds. I'm sticking with my rule, but I do think it's fair to recognize when I've been trumped. I'm a fair guy.

10) Randall Cobb: He's the highest scoring fantasy receiver on the Green Bay Packers. Chew on that for a minute.

There are many others worthy and deserving of mention, feel free to plug your favorites into the comments.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday Hangover: Where QBs come for a good concussing

"No Marcus, you still can't tweet about me."
Having suffered through an ear infection for the past few days I think I can speak with both accuracy and empathy when addressing the legion of starting quarterbacks who endured head injuries this weekend. Difference is I'm working through the pain and they are not, so you'll forgive my bitterness.

Also, when I said I'd employ empathy I'm afraid that I meant I'd put myself in the shoes of fantasy owners who are experiencing three distinct stages of suffering.

Stage 1) Alex Smith level suffering - Oh, did you hear that Smith left the game? Yeah, I heard something about that, too. But not only do I not need to check my line up to see if I started him, I don't need to check my opponent's line up, since neither he nor any other rational person started Smith this week.

Stage 2) Jay Cutler level suffering - Unless you are a bears fan, a relative of Brandon Marshall or you spent the first 7 rounds of your draft stockpiling running backs and wide receivers - then you aren't starting Cutler. So unless he's backing up RG3 or Double Check (in which case you were expecting a pretty huge drop off and were thus mentally prepared for it - he's playing the Texans' D after all) then this shouldn't impact your life much. Our apologies to all 16 people in America who got dinged by starting him.

Stage 3) Michael Vick level suffering - This might not be as bad as it sounds. Let's deconstruct the psyche of the Michael Vick owner. There are only two types of fantasy owners when it comes to Vick, those who are willing the bet the house that he's going to blow up with 2010-style numbers and have deluded themselves into inflating his value into that of a top tier QB, and then there are those who would rather wear fiberglass boxers than have Vick anywhere near their team. At the very least the fanatics who drafted Vick have come to realize that he's not getting that step back, and they've been preparing for the moment when Vick took a digger into the mud. In all honesty the moment he limped off to the locker room should have been a huge relief for Vick owners. The dream finally died and it's time to move on to the next phase. Whatever that phase is, as long as it doesn't include clenching your teeth every time Vick gets blindsided, cold-cocked, laid-out, beat-down and lambasted, then it's a more comfortable place.

Personally I traded Vick for Matt Stafford 6 weeks ago so I can attest to how liberating it is to have the anchor removed from my team. No one delivers the constant worry that Vick did this year. Will he throw a pick? (probably). Will he get buried under a pile of defenders and get up looking like my grandmother? (definitely). Do I have to continue to start him since you never can tell when he's going to go all week-6 and drop 300-yds and 2 TDs? (affirmative). At least now everyone can take a deep breath knowing that short of a complete meltdown Nick Foles is probably the Eagles starter from here on out.

This week's performances brought to you by ailments of the cranial region

 It's just a shiner, son. Throw a ribeye on it.
1) Adrian Peterson - talk about a guy who rubbed some dirt on an injury and made it go away. AP's last 4 outings have each been 20+ point fantasy days. He has both scored and run for 100+ yards in each of those weeks and his busted ACL isn't even a year old. And while the stats are huge - it's the sense of confidence he runs with that makes you believe every time he touches the ball it's going yard.

2)  Calvin Johnson - Megatron hasn't been exactly beat up, but he hasn't been exactly Megatron-y either. Well, he put that behind him with a 200+ yard, 1 TD fantasy day. And this is one of the teams that really illustrates the difference between fantasy owners and team fans. Team fans were delighted with the Lions bland but effective performance last week against the Jags - owners were outraged at the lack of production. This week the Lions fell back into their typical 3 quarter rut, sprang to life in the 4th and salvaged a good fantasy day for owners everywhere (well, maybe not Mike LeShoure owners) but they lost the game. I feel bad for Lions' fans.

3) Tony Gonzalez - read above.Congrats Gonzalez owners. Sorry about that Falcons' fans.

4) Jimmy Graham -Probably no one in their right minds ever benches a tight end of this caliber. But he's had his share of sketchy games this season. But 146 yards and 2-TDs against the Falcons wasn't one of them. Like the Saints he's rounding in to form at the exact right time for a playoff run. 

 That ringing in your ears means a week off, son
1) Joe Flacco - My buddy was big on the Flacco train this season. And things looked OK until about week 5. Since then he's assembled a string of positively mundane performances that have led to a mass fantasy benching. Which is a shame for those owners who left him on the bench while he was busy crafting his best performance of the year. He'll probably soil the bed next week in Pittsburgh.

2) Chris Johnson - Talk about your internal clocks.CJ must be part bear. Part reverse-bear that is. He hibernates well into the fall and then when the leaves change and the Titans are all but mathematically removed from contention he wakes up and starts chewing great defenses into the ground. He's killed the Bears, the Texans and now Miami. He's got a bye next week, hopefully he can keep himself awake.

3) Greg Olsen -Is there a trustworthy Panther? Show me one. You can't, as Greg Olsen owners learned this week. When you give up on the guy he takes it personally and almost triples his previous high score. In all fairness it's impossible to start any Panther except Cam Newton, and even that's not a great idea.

Your head's still in your helmet, son. But where'd your body go?
1) Andre Johnson - I think if I were going to draft Andre Johnson I'd try very hard to figure out how to draft Arian Foster too. I know that's probably impossible on the scale of rebuilding the transmission of a car that's falling off a cliff. But it's exactly the kind of check and balance system you need. Either one goes nuts, or the other goes nuts - and frankly it's almost always Foster this season (and last season, and the season before that). I'm a patient and trusting guy, and I love me some AJ, but after three seasons of watching Foster's taillights I'm getting the sense that Gary Kubiak would just as soon run the ball than not.

2) Miles Austin - Should you start Miles Austin? Should you sit Miles Austin? Austin and Dez Bryant are trapped in the gravitational pull that warps all reality around the Cowboys. Both are incredibly talented pros, as is their QB Tony Romo, but things happen to that offense that are often inexplicable and detrimental to good fantasy performances. The problem is that the most gifted receiver on the team is the least reliable. So Dez is getting end zone looks (then dropping every single pass - I don't care what the replay team ruled this week, that ball hit the ground.) It's like he's got 99% of it figured out, he hits the route, he makes the play on his defender, he secures the ball for a minute then right as he's about to hit the ground he wonders what's happening on Homeland, or if his mom will let him come over for Thanksgiving, or if Jerry Jones will let him go to his mom's for Thanksgiving, then he puts his hands out of bounds, or lets the ball move around a little. It's always something. I'm going to blame it on ADD (maybe if Jerry Rice grew up playing video games and sexting the way the kids do today he'd have spent his first 3 seasons dropping balls instead of making highlight reels). And for Miles Austin all that's left is some decent slot routes and that feeling of being replaced by a malfunctioning unit that needs constant care and maintenance. No wonder his hamstring aches.

3) Michael Turner - He's had exactly two good games this year and he managed to get completely stiffed by the Saints who are contractually obligated by the league to give up 400 yards a game. Time to pull the plug on that guy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NFL Thursday: Jaguars breath prime time air

Despite the incredible upsides to Thursday Night Football (my wife can watch Grey's Anatomy in peace, The NFL is the best show on any channel almost all the time, excuse to order wings) there are some down sides.
I consider this opportunity to watch the Jaguars one of those downsides. In the best of times the Jags can boast a healthy run game behind the cannonball express named Maurice Jones-Drew. But MJD has been noticeably absent these past two weeks and will remain absent tonight against divisional rivals the Colts.
Without MJD the  Jags boast exactly zero fantasy starters (with apologies to owners in 16-team formats where even Justin Blackmon is a start).
Blaine Gabbert rivals Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kolb for fantasy value, and frankly besides TE Marcedes Lewis and WR Cecil Shorts I can't name a player on the whole team.
 On the other side of the ball we do get some plays in Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne and the nascent Ty Hilton. Luck seems to have wrestled the starting job away from Eli Manning in one of my leagues, so that's just one more vote against Manning - and I always appreciate that. Luck has legitimately become an interesting person to watch and those without the NFL Sunday Ticket probably don't get a lot of opportunities to see him in action. And with the Colts potentially making a playoff run and facing a division rival this game at least holds promise (unlike last week's Chargers vs. Chiefs). In fact I thing I'm going to go out and fetch Indy's D to play tonight just to have something to care about. Don't worry, they can't be any worse than the D I've been starting all  season. In fact I'm pretty sure that's why we have defenses in this particular league - just as a place holder for when you have a prime time game with no action. Don't laugh.

Whatever, it's better than  watching the X Factor.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Hangover: I think Doug Martin is still scoring

Doug martin rampages over the Raiders
First, the bad news. Since fantasy football blogging doesn't pay for my mortgage, or even my coffee, I'll be forced to keep this week's edition tight as I turn my attentions to covering this little election you might have been hearing about.  And for the readers who keep hoping I'll go away, the bad news is that I plan on being back on my regular schedule next week.

The good news, of course, is that in something like 24 hours, political ads will be replaced with beer ads and we won't have to hear about our nation's bleak future for another 3 years.

Because while our nation's future may be bleak, Doug Martin's future is hotter than Bubba The Love Sponge's home video collection. It goes without saying that I personally take no thrill from Martin's rapid ascent to NFL dominance, since I like to go on and on about how much I hate rookie RBs. But like I've now admitted a couple of times - DMart is the exception to the rule. In my PPR/Bonus league he racked up a season-topping day of 66 points on 251 rushing yards and 4 TDs. He personally outscored two of my other fantasy teams. The guy who owns him also owns the Bears D, so you can imagine the kind of part he was having yesterday. He's probably not alive anymore.

Fortunately there were other bright spots on the day for the rest of us poor Martinless owners. Chief among which I include Andrew Luck who simply marauded the formerly stout Dolphins D for 430 yards and 2 TDs, posting the week's second best fantasy outing behind Carson Palmer who likely had his best fantasy outing of the last 7 years with 414 and 4 TDs. And since I started the Bucs D I could have told you that was definitely going to happen. My defensive ranking is dead last in my league, I've yet to start a D that doesn't surrender 30 points and 400 yards. At least the Bucs got some late INTs to keep my head above water.

Brandon Marshall and Adrian Peterson also did a lot of work keeping owners' heads above the waterline. You know when you are watching a game and it starts to get a little out of hand for all the wrong reasons and you say to yourself: well, they are going to the ground and I can kiss my receivers and QBs goodbye? The Chicago game reeked of that - the Bears so completely strangled the hapless Titans that I half expected to see BMarsh and Cutler playing with an Xbox on the sidelines. But then something evil crept into the Bears gameplan and they unleashed the type of massacre usually reserved for Game of Thrones season finales. Body parts everywhere. Cutler throwing TD after TD to Marshall. I kinda felt bad for the Titans. But not really.

And AP, well, you know it's going to be a good day when the first time your guy touches the ball he drags it 80 yards down the field for a opening drive TD. Sure Seattle won the game but their D - usually a monster at home - just opened wide for Peterson who ran around like a toddler at Monkey Joe's. That's wild running, man, I'm here to tell ya.

And one more shout out. Well, not really a shout out, more like a plea. I've come to count on exactly one thing from the NFL. ONE THING! That thing is the Detroit Lions falling 20 points behind and slinging the ball so much in the last 20 minutes of the game that Stafford turns a 12 point day into a 40 point day. It's been like death and taxes, you didn't even need to watch the first half, and you certainly didn't have to worry about a running back slithering in there and stealing Stafford's precious points. Well, this week the Lions showed us what it looks like when they jump out to a lead - and I think I speak for 100% of Matt Stafford owners when I say we disapprove. Fortunately I think we just saw the one soft spot in the Lions' schedule. With @Minny, Green Bay, Houston, Indy and @Green Bay on the horizon - we're sure to see a nice reversion to the tried and true.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NFL Thursday: Moveable object vs. stoppable force

"My backbone's connected to your - headbone..."
Without using any complicated system of mathematical equations that have fancy acronyms - I can say with absolute certainty that last weekend the two worst teams in the NFL were the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
And tonight we lucky fans are promised an eyeful of both of them. As a fantasy owner who is invested fairly heavily in Malcom Floyd, Jamaal Charles and Philip Rivers you can imagine my delight as I prepare to enter the week 9 fray with something like 6 points in my favor. But wait, just because I don't own Antonio Gates and Ryan Mathews doesn't mean they've been setting the world on fire either.

Let's look at the recent outputs:

1) Philip Rivers had his best game of the season in week 5, amassing 354 yds and 2TDs against the Saints, because who exactly HASN'T done that against the Saints? Last week when he faced the mighty Browns of Cleveland he managed to go 18/34 for a whopping 154 yards in a game where the only TD was scored by the Brown's Trent Richardson. And that was coming off the bye week for Chrissakes! The week before their bye Rivers put up a monster 1st half only to get roasted in the 2nd half by the Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Sure - Rivers isn't responsible for playing defense against Manning, but he is responsible for throwing 4 picks in the game. sheesh.

2) Antonio Gates is not only no longer Antonio Gates, he's not even Scott Chandler, or Brandon Myers. Two receptions for 14 yards against the Browns. Need I say more?

3) Ryan Mathews  is all promise and no production. His biggest game of the season - wait for it - came against the Saints (do you see a trend?) and even that wasn't an earth-shattering day. Oh, he also missed the first two games of the season. To think, I have a co-owner with whom I almost had to fight to keep this guy off our team. Don't worry, Mathews will be a huge name - if you don't mind waiting until next summer when analysts will resurrect his career the way they do before every fantasy draft.

4) Malcom Floyd isn't so much suffering because he's horrid, he's had a few good games, including a couple of 100-yd outings, unfortunately he's going ice cold in the huge shadow cast by his under performing QB. Not saying the guy couldn't hold on to the ball a little better - he's catching less than 65% of the balls thrown his way - but Rivers is the water on which this team rises and falls. If he turns to dirt, so too do his receivers.

5) And finally Jamaal Charles on whom I depend so much. The man I've staked my fantasy limbs to time and time again. The man who I am pretty sure is going out of his way to piss off offensive coordinators and head coaches alike. Do I have proof? Hardly. But what I do know is that going in to last week against the Raiders, Charles had not only the most yards-per-carry in the league, he had one of the most in the history of all of football. The only way there is to stop him is to shred his ACL, to sit him on the bench or to put him in pass protection. And the Chiefs managed two out of three last week. KC is the worst team in football, this much is obvious. And when you are the worst there is usually a reason. KC's reason is that they are stupid and they don't run the legs out of Charles. Either that or Charles has been caught making out with Romeo Crennel's wife. Those are the only two possible explanations.

There's no reason to go into the rest of the Chiefs, if you are starting any of them you know exactly what your expectations are, and I'm not here to rub salt in your wounds. Enough of that will be done on the field tonight.

Chargers over Chiefs 3-0.