Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Ugly Duckling

Well, this is unexpected.

My three fantasy teams performed so poorly this year that I never broached the possibility of playing in week 16 -- championship week.

But here we are and somehow I've found myself in the Big Dance.  This is my third season in the Borderless Fantasy Football League and it's my first in this league's Super Bowl.

And at the beginning of the season, of my three fantasy squads, this was the team I liked the least.  In fact, I hated this team.

Yet, it was my only team to finish the regular season with a winning record (7-6), and the only one to make the playoffs (although it came down to a must-win game in week 13).

And now, the only one to make it to a championship game.

Just goes to show how much I know.  But there was no reason to be optimistic about my prospects at first.

This team was an ugly duckling at the beginning of the season, but it has grown up to be something reasonably attractive... thanks a lot of plastic surgery (i.e. waiver wire/free agency gymnastics).

This league allows one keeper; if you choose to keep a player from the previous season, you sacrifice your first round pick.

Jimmy Graham has been my keeper for a couple of seasons now.

Don't get me wrong, Jimmy Graham has had a great season by tight end standards (782 yards, 9 touchdowns so far); however, he's had a disappointing season by the Graham Standard.

I drafted Colin Kaepernick as my starting quarterback.  He's been horrendous this year.

Luckily, I scooped up Tony Romo with the 100th overall pick, ostensibly as a back up (remember, this draft was back on August 24th when Romo was still recovering from back surgery and no one was sure what he would -- or could -- do).

It turns out that Romo quickly became my starter and has saved my backside more than once this year.

I completely whiffed on running backs, having drafted Toby Gerhart and Ray Rice (projected starters) with back-to-back picks.  Remember, this was when Gerhart was the slam-dunk bell cow in Jacksonville and Rice was out on a quick two game suspension... (what a difference a few months make, eh?).

Yeah, I gambled and lost the farm on running backs.  Go ahead, laugh.  I'm laughing too.  But can you see why I hated this team?

Joique Bell has been my only consistent starter.  My second running back has been a constant carousel of guns for hire, including Bobby Rainey, Terrance West, Storm Johnson, Jerick McKinnon, Knile Davis, Carlos Hyde, even Knowshon Moreno.  Remember him?

Jonathan Stewart has filled the RB2 role most recently, and has done so quite nicely for the last two weeks.

My wide receivers have been my savior on this team.  Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Kelvin Benjamin have been kicking butt and taking names all season.  I claimed Harry Douglas from free agency last week and he filled in admirably for Jones last week.

My independent defensive player, J.J. Watt, has been a difference maker for me as well.

But as you can see, for the most part, this team has been nothing to write home about.  It has been a source of frustration all season long, but constantly working the waiver wire and free agency has paid off.

So now I'm guaranteed no less than a second-place finish in this 12 team league with a team I thought was absolutely crap at the beginning of the season.

This, my friends, is why I love fantasy football.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Soap Opera Begins

The NFL is a never-ending soap opera.  It has twists and turns that make Days of Our Lives look silly.

A great example: two teams which I thought would be playoff teams just 14 weeks ago are, instead, a complete mess.  Namely, the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins.

The rot has clearly started in the Windy City.  Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer has gone on record saying the Bears crap season isn't his fault, it's Jay Cutler's fault.  

This is bad enough.  

But taking the coward's path, Kromer went to the media and made his critical statements "anonymously."

He has since admitted doing so.

How Marc Trestman does not fire Kromer immediately is unknown to me.  This is junior high girls basketball locker room drama.  It's a chump move; a violation of coach/player trust.  When that's gone, the relationship is dissolved.  The Bears are a mess.  

The Bears are, perhaps, the most underachieving team in the league... with the possible exception of the Washington Redskins.

The big question in Washington is this:  Can Jay Gruden, Robert Griffin III, Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder survive a second season together?  Honestly, I thought big things were in store for the Redskins before the season started.  But it is abundantly clear that this is a dysfunctional foursome.

Gruden has already gone on record saying he "doesn't need to see anymore" of RGIII to form his opinion about him.  Those are powerful words... or perhaps what is left unsaid is more even potent.

It is beyond obvious that Gruden does not want Griffin as his starter.  Yet, the Redskins organization sold the farm, a golf course and a couple of townhouses to get Griffin.  I doubt the powers that be within the organization (i.e. Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder) will be inclined to lose face so easily.

You see, men with a lot of money have big egos.  I think this is less about winning and more about being right.  It's Snyder versus Gruden.  Who do you think is going to win??

So a massive decision must be made this off season: either the Redskins admit they really screwed up and try to trade RGIII (I bet the Houston Texans would love to have the Texas native on their roster, although they wouldn't love his contract)... or the Redskins move on to their third head coach/offensive system in as many years, trying to find a fit for their quarterback.

The problem with trading Griffin (aside from finding a trading partner) is who the heck would be Washington's starter next year?  Kirk Cousins played himself out of a starting spot and Colt McCoy is not the answer.

The problem with firing Gruden and going on to head coach #3 in the RGIII reign is this: it's back to the drawing board once again.  Starting over with a brand new system, philosophy and coaching personnel year after year is not conducive to winning.

This is dicey and it is going to be very interesting to watch.


At around 6:00 PM last Sunday, I finally exhaled.

You see, there is a reason it is called the More Beer Fantasy Football League.

This 10-team league, active since 1992, is divided into two divisions, five teams each.  The top four teams in each division go to the playoffs.  The bottom two play in the Toilet Bowl.

The loser of the Toilet Bowl must buy the 16 gallon keg for the next year's draft party.

Well, I was in the Toilet Bowl this year, friends.  It was nerve-wracking.  I said a lot of bad words on Sunday.

But I ended up with the highest score in the league.  I crushed my opponent, a dear friend but also a long-time fantasy football rival, who infamously announced at last September's draft "I've never bought the keg and I never will!"  

Yeah, that big slice of humble pie made victory even sweeter.  I won my last fantasy game of the year, which is always a good thing.

But I'm always one to look at the dark side.  Because had high score in the league, I obviously would have won the first round of the playoffs if had I gotten to the damn playoffs.  In case I haven't mentioned it before, I missed the playoffs by 1.9 points.  But it's okay; I'll get over it someday.  But not today.

It just goes to show how fickle fantasy football can be.

In my second league, I've advanced to the semi-finals.  In fact, my team had high score in that league as well (yes, I had a good week).  Now my season hangs in the balance on the hip of Julio Jones.  If he's a go, I stand a chance.  If he's in street clothes, I'm done.

Yet, with running backs like Jonathan Stewart and Joique Bell, I feel like I'm playing with scrubs in that league, but I'm winning.  

I'm not going to fix something that's not broken, certainly not at this point.

On to round two...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Little Genie...

I am preparing myself for the big let down, friends.  All of you fantasy footballers out there know what I mean.

It's that end-of-the-season, now-what-am-I-going-to-do-for-the-next-eight-months feeling when your last fantasy football game of the season is in the books.

It's the hollow, deflated realization that winter hasn't even started yet and the fantasy football season is over.  (And considering the kind of season I've had... well, let's just say it is going to be a long, cold winter, indeed.)

But I wonder...

What would it have been like if I had a fantasy football genie with a crystal ball back in August?  What if I had been told that if I followed his advice, as crazy as some of it would have sounded, I would win a championship?

Knowing me, I would have never believed my little genie friend, because some of the stuff would have been deemed complete, utter foolishness.

But, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

I think that imaginary conversation might have gone like this:

"Master, follow these words of wisdom, all of which shall come to pass.

Do not draft Adrian Peterson for any reason whatsoever.  He will play only week one, then shall be banished from the league.

I know you've never heard of Larry Donnell, master.  Draft him anyway.

Do not draft Ray Rice.  He shall not return after week 2, despite the promise of Commissioner Goodell.

All that hype about rookie Eric Ebron?  Ignore it.  Don't touch him.

Justin Forsett will be one of the best running backs in fantasy football this season.  (Yes, the same Justin Forsett who toiled in obscurity with the Seahawks, Colts, Giants and Jaguars over the past seven seasons.)

Do not draft Montee Ball.  I know all the experts are salivating over him, but don't do it.

DeMarco Murray shall be fantasy gold.  Draft him in the first round.  Don't laugh, master.

Drop Riley Cooper waaaaay down your draft board.  Last year was a fluke.

Rob Gronkowski will be back with an exclamation point.

Cordarrelle Patterson will be a big, stinky bust.  Stay away.  You would do just as well drafting Jarius Wright.  But don't do that, either.

Do not worry yourself about LeGarrette Blount sniping carries from Le'Veon Bell.  It shall not come to pass.  Blount will be cut from the Steelers for quitting on the team.  Bell shall flourish.

Jordan Cameron shall make you smash your head into a brick wall.  Don't do that.

DeAndre Hopkins shall have a break out year.  Draft him late and reap the benefits.

Do not draft Doug Martin.  Did you hear me?  Don't draft him.  He shall not have a "bounce back" season.

Do not draft Ben Tate.  The Browns shall cut him mid-season.  Instead, select Isaiah Crowell.  Never heard of him?  Just trust me.

Jeremy Maclin and his knee will be fine.

Percy Harvin is poison.   He shall be traded to the New York Jets mid-season for a baloney sandwich.  Don't touch him or the baloney sandwich.  Both are stale.

Mike Evans shall be the star receiver in Tampa Bay.  Draft him.  

Toby Gerhart shall not be the bell cow for the Jaguars.  Not even close.

Yes, Emmanuel Sanders is for real.  Yes, he shall flourish under Peyton Manning.

Golden Tate shall have more receiving yards than Calvin Johnson through the fantasy regular season.  Yes, you heard me.

Vernon Davis and Kyle Rudolph are going to be train wrecks this year.  Avoid both at all costs.

Want an excuse to drink heavily this fantasy season, master?  Draft Robert Griffin III.  Then draft EJ Manuel as his back-up.  Or vice-versa.  Have plenty of Wild Turkey on hand.

You will jump off a 20 story building if you draft the over-hyped Zac Stacy.

If your league has independent defensive players, be sure JJ Watt is on your roster.  Trust me."

Oh, genie.  I should have listened to you!

Good luck in the playoffs, everyone.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week 13 Woes

This site is evolving into a therapeutic sounding board for my fantasy football woes.

After thinking about it, why not?  Believe me, I need a fantasy football shrink to talk to.

Heck, we all do.

After all, there are thousands upon thousands of fantasy football sites out there designed to tell you who to start, who to sit, who to drop and who to add.

And most of them are wrong.  Dead wrong.  The fantasy football community doesn't need another one of those sites.

Certainly I have opinions regarding fantasy football (and yes, most of them are wrong) and football in general (and yes, most of them are misinformed).  That will continue, for better or worse.

But maybe this particular site should be different?  Maybe it should be more personal?  A play-by-play, week-by-week adventure (or misadventure, as it were) of the highs and lows of a fantasy football owner.

The misadventures of a fantasy football fool, if you will.

It's certainly an intriguing idea.  It leaves me something to ponder in the off-season.

Speaking of the off-season, the 2014 fantasy campaign is drawing to a close.  The end of week 13 means the end of the fantasy regular season in most leagues.  And this year has been a tough one for me; there have been far more lows than highs.

Honestly, most of it has been brutal.

Just brutal.

I've mentioned before that I am in three leagues this year.  I've gotten ulcers from all three.

The good news is I was victorious in two of my leagues this week.  Unfortunately, it was just my second victory of the year in one of them (this is the infamous league in which I drafted both Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice).

In that particular ten team league, only four teams advance to the playoffs, so I have been eliminated from post-season contention for many weeks.  Still, at least I won my last game of the year.

I am fairly sure that Moe could have managed a fantasy team better than yours truly this year.
Further good news is I squeaked into the playoffs in my second league, finishing with a 7-6 record.  Despite starting Joique Bell and Anthony Dixon at running back, names which don't necessarily instill fear into the hearts of fantasy opponents, I managed a victory.

I was in a must-win situation and I needed help.  I ended up winning... and I got help.

But the one that stings is in my third league, which I refer to as my "big money" league.  This league has been together since 1992 and the rivalries and pride run deep, and the competition is intense.

In a miserable downward spiral which started last October, I simply could not right the ship this year.  This was another situation where I had to win this week in order to get into the playoffs... the classic "win and you're in" scenario.

Even Josh Gordon couldn't help me this week.

Worse yet, I found myself pulling for the hated Green Bay Packers defense yesterday, hoping they could stave off Brandon LaFell and Tim Wright.

It was the worst of both worlds.  The Packers won and LaFell had a good game.

And I ended up losing by 1.9 points.

That's 19 yards.  The difference between the hopeful light of the playoffs, and the dark, wretched fantasy abyss.

In retrospect, the kill shot in that league came back in week 9, when I lost by 1.5 points.  That loss put me behind the eight ball.  I never recovered.

Put another way, 3.4 points changed my entire fantasy season.  Over the course of 13 weeks, that's splitting hairs.  

I am now in the Toilet Bowl.  The loser of the Toilet Bowl must buy the keg of beer for next year's draft.  The stakes are high.  And my opponent in the Toilet Bowl has a team which is starting to peak.

I'm in a lot of trouble.

Don't even wish me luck.  I need much more than that.

A curse on the other team would be nice.