I would like to start by saying, on behalf of all the fellas (and too-few ladies) that frequent The Shop, we would like to wish all of you and your families a happy Thanksgiving. That being said, Thanksgiving is typically the start of football fan paradise that starts when men are easing into their extra-stretchy Thanksgiving Day pants and runs through January. The college season is winding down and tomorrow’s NFL stars will be on display as the bowl games start winding up and, starting with the Thanksgiving Day tripleheader, it’s when the fantasy football championship season starts and the strong are separated from the weak.
When it comes to preparing my weekly lineup, before I make my final choices, whether it’s an automatic dude or a coin flip pick, I always check The Weather Channel in the days leading up to game day. It may seem a little excessive, but, as we learned on Sunday, a massive storm system can potentially have an impact on a bunch of games and dozens of fantasy players.
I’ve been doing this for years, long before any of the network pregame shows started incorporating Boobarella types in tight blouses to provide weather information prior to games. For me, weather is a consideration on draft day. If I’m looking at a couple of different guys at the same position that are effectively equal, I will take the guy who plays in a dome because I know weather won’t be a factor in at least half of his games.
When most people think of weather impacting a game, the automatic thought is December games that could have snow. But, one of the factors I’ve always looked for is temperature and wind. How many times have seen a team built to put up points like the Saints, Colts and Patriots of past and recent vintage only to get stymied during the fantasy playoffs because of horrible weather that alters their game plan considerably.
I heard some troubling things late last week by checking out my Weather Channel types. There weren’t any huge storms being projected, but there was going to be wind…a lot of wind. Considering how many fantasy owners had players from the Cowboys, Giants, Broncos and Patriots, the unexpected high winds that were blowing their way up the East Coast had a pretty significant impact.
While we don’t have a copy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac in The Shop, if there is a big storm in the Midwest, the Rust Belt or the East Coast, a lot of fantasy owners could be impacted if the Big One hits during the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, 10 games could potentially be impacted by snow or wind. In Week 15, that number drops to four. In Week 16, when most fantasy championships are decided, there are nine. For those who Week 17 means something to you, five games could be impacted by snow, cold or wind. Clearly the most troubling weeks are the first and last of the fantasy playoffs.
Sunday was a wakeup call that usually arrives right around Thanksgiving. Old Man Winter is waking up, he’s a little salty and ready to make an appearance on an NFL field near you. Here’s hoping that, as the Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting, there won’t be the expected brutal weather in New Jersey that could impact who wins and who loses a Super Bowl, not a fantasy championship.
- Somewhere Pete Rozelle is smiling. Rozelle had a dream of parity where all teams would be essentially equal. In the cutthroat AFC playoff race, right now Tennessee would be the second wild card at 5-6. But, the Titans are far from the only 5-6 dog in the fight. That list including the Jets, Dolphins, Steelers, Ravens and Chargers.
- All season there has been chatter that 8-8 would win the NFC East. Now it’s looking like, not only might that happen, the same may happen in the NFC North. All four teams played Sunday and none of them won. That included two of them who played each other.
- Coming into last weekend, Shady McCoy had three of the top six rushing games and two of the other three were by Buccaneers running backs not named Doug Martin. McCoy’s league-leading game was 184 yards. Knowshon Moreno blew those numbers out of the water with 224 yards against the Patriots Sunday night.
- Peyton Manning had never lost a game prior to Sunday in which his team had a lead of 21 or more points. I’m not sure what was more impressive: that he had never lost one of those games or that his teams have had 21 or more point leads in 51 games?
- As hard it was to believe that both Houston and Atlanta, two defending division champs the combined for a record of 25-7 last year, were officially eliminated from division title contention last weekend, the Falcons did the Texans one better (or worse). In the process of Arizona’s win Sunday, Atlanta was eliminated from wild card playoff contention just 11 games into the season, which is almost impossible. Having already lost to 7-4 Arizona, the Falcons could run the table and would still be mathematically eliminated already.
THE RAZOR’S EDGE
10. Just Say No to Geno – Jets QB Geno Smith is actually making Jets fans miss Mark Sanchez. Well, maybe not, but he’s drawing way too many “Non-butt fumble” comparisons. He has completed just 55 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a Blaine Gabbert-like 62.1 passer rating. As bad as things have been, they’ve gotten worse over the last three games. In that span, Smith has completed just 25 of 64 passes (39 percent) and thrown for just 345 yards with no touchdowns and five interceptions. His yardage totals have been 115, 103 and 127 and his passer ratings have been 62.4, 10.1 and 22.3. Can it get much worse? He’s made his entire team poisonous. Gang Green has morphed into Mr. Yuk.
9. Houston Welcomes Johnny Football – Andre Johnson is a disgruntled veteran. Two weeks ago, he was asked if he wanted out of Houston and his response was that he can’t because he’s under contract. Sunday, after falling behind Jacksonville in the AFC South standings, Johnson summed up the state of the Texans by saying, “We suck.” No argument here, pal.
8. K.C.’s Non-Masterpiece – The one thing that differs between good teams and great teams is how they rebound from a loss. The Patriots and Broncos don’t have long losing streaks. It’s not in their DNA. If they lose one week, they tend to rebound the following week. Kansas City gave Denver all it could handle in Week 11, but came back with a 41-38 loss at home to San Diego in which their vaunted defense got shredded by Philip Rivers. With a salty Denver team coming in this week, the Chiefs could be headed in the wrong direction, despite having the first wild card spot locked up even if the lose four in a row.
7. A Mighty Wind – When Chicago got off to a 3-0 start and was rolling up points against what were thought to be stout defenses like Cincinnati, Minnesota and Pittsburgh – all viewed as playoff contenders this season – the Windy City was abuzz. There is something other than the wind that currently blows in Chicago. In their last eight games, the Bears have lost five of them and, after getting owned by the Rams Sunday, one has to wonder if their playoff dream is going up in smoke. They don’t have a cow to blame for this disaster. Considering they fired my man Lovie (the only other person I know of named Lovie other than Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island) the Bears will have to win all five of their remaining games to show improvement from last season. From what we’ve seen recently, that’s far from a given.
6. Ready For the Glue Factory? – No team has been harder to figure out this season than the Indianapolis Colts. When they beat the then-invincible Broncos, it gave the rest of the league the blueprint. They handed Seattle its only loss and crushed San Francisco on its home field. Yet, they have lost by 30 points to St. Louis and 29 to Arizona. What? Will the real Colts please stand up?
5. A Death In Titletown – The expectation when Chicago came to Green Bay earlier this month was that the Packers were going to bury the Bears, win their fifth straight game and get their season back on track. But, when Aaron Rodgers went down, so did Green Bay’s hopes. He’s missed four games and the Packers haven’t won any of them going, putting up a pathetic record of 0-3-1 and dropping to third in the NFC North. With Rodgers expected to miss the Detroit game on Thanksgiving, it could be the kill shot and somehow fitting for a team that started just two quarterbacks (not counting Matt Flynn’s meaningless Week 17 game in 2011) in 21 years. Flynn will be the fourth starter this month for the Packers, who are falling like a rock.
4. The Dynamic Duo Become the Benchwarmers – On draft day, there weren’t many teams that had two wide receivers taken higher in fantasy drafts than Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks Of the Giants. In Week 1, Cruz caught five passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns and Nicks caught five passes for 114 yards. In the 10 games since, Cruz has just one touchdown and five games with 50 receiving yards or less. Nicks has 51 yards or less in seven games and hasn’t caught a touchdown all season. It would be one thing if Eli Manning was hurt, but, of the 398 passes the G-Men have thrown, Manning has chucked 394 of them, just not nearly as often to Cruz or Nicks. Both of them have been marginalized as fantasy starters.
3. 30 Yards In 30 Minutes Of It’s Free – In the second half of their national monthly national nightmare, the Redskins came out of the locker room hoping to respond like New England did Sunday night. All they did was drop a franchise deuce at midfield…which meant in was never in danger of being trampled by the offense. RG3 & Friends gained just 30 yards in the second half. In a division that has been screaming for a team to make a run, it’s not going to be the Deadskins.
2. Detroit Suck City – When the Detroit Lions were 6-3, they were eyeing a three-game slate in which they could run away and hide from the rest of the division. With games at Pittsburgh and at home against Tampa Bay and Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers, there were more than a few people who were convinced the Lions would be 9-3 and in the mix for first-round bye in the NFC. At 6-5 after two brutal games, the Lions’ playoff hopes are up in the air, much less getting a week off. They may end up with the wild card round with a bye, but it might be a bye that lasts until they start training camp next year.
1. Boston TB Party – There were a lot of people who turned off the Denver-New England game Sunday night because the Broncos were up 24-0 and appeared to be in coast mode to put a beating down on the Patriots that would all but lock up the top seed in the AFC with a strong second half Sunday and a strong performance in the rematch against the Chiefs. They could have put a stranglehold on the No. 1 seed. After allowing 31 points to Tommy Boy before answering, suddenly the Broncos have no margin for error, not just as the No. 1 seed, but even as a division champ. You don’t like Peyton when he’s angry and there’s no arguing that he’s mad after a historic second half-overtime crash and burn.