When the boys start to chattin’ about throw-downs at The Shop, there’s a recurring theme in what we hear. When one of the fellas says, “That’s when I put my hand on my knife” the story gets much more interesting.
We are entering the annual fantasy headhunting season. It’s kill or be killed. It’s the playoffs, where it’s one-and-done, son. But, when you lose like Alabama lost to Auburn, it’s a “grab the seeds and twist” moment. When the Tide got rolled, it wasn’t the offense. It wasn’t the defense. It was the special teams, much less the defensive side of the special teams, that made the difference.
The ‘Bama Battle brought back bad memories. Let’s just say it involved Devin Hester dropping a big loose-goose deuce on the first draft of my league championship acceptance speech. I bear no ill-will, although I don’t care if gunners go helmet-to-helmet with him anymore.
In Vegas, they call that condition a “bad beat.” A 6-7 suited cracked your aces. It’s a guy going off for three touchdowns, who, to that point, had scored two touchdowns in 13 games. It’s a Monday night game that has already been decided, but four straight Romo-to-Witten passes in garbage time rob you of your dignity. Bad beats leave scars that last a lifetime.
Tommy Pants still bitches about Brian Westbrook and his hook slide. Fat G still has a contract out on Drew Bennett, who league sources hint has been in fantasy witness protection for more than a decade. Tread lightly, my friend. The bigger the wound, the longer it takes to heal. Pops Watson still maintains Drew Pearson pushed off. Fantasy wounds aren’t badges of honor. They are painful memories of what could have been.
Veteran fantasy ballers know what I’m taking about. A bad beat during the regular season sticks for a couple of days. When a bad beat derails your season? That’s a Kardashian stink that Lava soap can’t exfoliate off of you in a two-hour shower.
The sad thing is that it happens every year, like the discovery of a serial killer who neighbors claim “was a quiet kind of guy who kept to himself.” That’s why, while all the boys in the league like Larry the Mailman, we don’t want him in the league. A disgruntled mailman in mid-December is a volatile mix we opt to tip away from.
As we start the fantasy playoffs, all the boys from The Shop wish you the best of luck. Kick ass and take names. But, if you lose because Martellus Bennett scores a meaningless revenge touchdown Monday with 36 seconds left in the game, take a deep breath. It’s not going to get any better any time soon. But, that’s the world of fantasy football. Bad beats are going to happen. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst because if you spend a lifetime hating Danny Woodhead, Woodhead wins.
- Is there such a thing as a franchise fantasy kicker? There is if you have Steve Gostkowski from the Patriots. Since the start of the 2011 season, his weekly point totals have been 8, 9, 7, 7, 12, 8, 5, 8, 13, 10, 8, 7, 10, 11, 9, 11, 10, 12, 12, 10, 7, 11, 9, 9, 13, 11, 7, 11, 6, 10, 11, 4, 11, 7, 11, 12, 6, 12, 9, 9, 13, 8, 10, 10. The odds of that are incredible and those have the Galloping Gost aren’t complaining.
- Is our man Roddy White finally back? In his first eight games, he caught 20 passes 209 yards and one touchdown, an average of 2.5 catches for 26 yards a game. Sunday against Buffalo, he looked the old In Rod We Trust, catching 10 passes for 143 yards. It has taken three months, by White may finally be back.
- Josh Gordon plays for an ugly offense with multiple QBs, but he had 1,249 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. What makes that more impressive is that he was suspended the first two games of the season and is averaging 125 yards a game. In 10 games, he has 125 or more yards in six of them and, in his last two games, he has caught 24 passes for 498 yards and three touchdowns. That’s the highest two-game receiving yardage total in the history of the NFL.
- The Bengals haven’t been road warriors this season, they’ve lost four of seven road games. But, they’re 5-0 at home and have three of their last four games in front of the home fans. As God as my witness, I think can turkeys could fly…and surprise.
- How bad are the Texans really? They’ve lost 10 straight games, but have lost seven of those games by seven points or less and five of them by three or less. A break here of a break there, Houston would be far from being in line for the No. 1 overall pick. But, you are what you are and Houston is the only team in the NFL that has lost 10 games this season.
- Don’t look now, but the Jaguars have won three of their last four games after dropping their first eight by 10 points or more.
- Watch out for the Eagles, especially on defense. When Philly got off to a 1-3 start, it happened because the team allowed 138 points (34.5 points a game). In the eight games since, they haven’t allowed more than 21 points in any game and are 6-2 over that stretch.
- Perhaps the stupidest line said all year was by NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya during the Thanksgiving night game between the Steelers and Ravens when she said RB Le’Veon Bell was going to be checked out for a “possible concussion.” That’s like saying that, after being snapped like a wishbone by L.T. that Joe Theismann was heading to the locker for a “possible leg injury.” When your helmet goes airborne and ends up about 15 yards from the point of impact and you face-plant the turf, the “possible” is taken out the concussion discussion.
THE RAZOR’S EDGE
10. Bring Back the Replacement Refs – As if it wasn’t bad enough that a national audience had to watch a game that could have been flexed out between the Giants and Redskins, two teams that were playing a postseason elimination game 12 games into the season, Jeff Triplette and his officiating crew climbed out of their clown car and altered the end of the game. One could only imagine what would have happened had a play like that come at the end of the Broncos-Patriots game or, God forbid, a playoff game. Fortunately, with the grades the chimps (they’re no in the zebra fraternity) will receive from the league will likely include them in the five officiating crews that don’t get assigned to a playoff game. For good reason.
9. Don’t Cry Over Spilled Points – C.J. Spiller was a hot property on draft day. When he was made the featured back last year when Fred Jackson went down, Spiller became a fantasy star. Jackson missed all or part of eight games last year. In those games, Spiller ran 132 times for 806 yards and four TDs. In the eight games Jackson played, Spiller ran 75 times for 438 yards and two TDs. With both of them on the field all season this year, Jackson has more carries (152/138), Spiller has slightly more yards (656/633), Jackson has more receptions (37/23) and receiving yards (293/104), but most importantly, he has eight touchdowns to just two by Spiller. The only coaches that can consistently bottle Spiller aren’t opposing defensive coaches, it’s the Buffalo offensive coaches.
8. Percy Harv-out – Fantasy fans have been waiting for Russell Wilson and Percy Harvin to start electrifying the Northwest for a long time, but Harvin sightings have come as often as Bigfoot sightings in Washington. After getting his first two touches – a one-handed reception on third down that kept a drive alive and a 57-yard kickoff return, big things were expected after the bye. But, a flare-up of his hip injury has kept him sidelined again and those owners who either drafted him very late or picked him up at some point have yet to receive anything in return for their modest investment. A dead roster spot is never good, but at least when a guy goes on I.R., you can replace him with a live body.
7. Obama (Doesn’t) Care – The embarrassment for the Redskins is getting even more pronounced as the team lost its fourth straight game Sunday night to the Giants, whether they blame the refs or not. Not only have the Redskins allowed 24 or more points in all but one game this season, in their last three games, they have scored just 39 points. Washington was eliminated from the playoffs after winning the NFC East last year and right now is in line to have the second pick in the 2014 draft. The problem with that is Washington has to give that pick to St. Louis to finalize the RG3 trade from last March.
6. What Can Brown Do For You? – When Cleveland started 0-2 and traded Trent Richardson, the thinking was that the Browns were packing it in on the 2013 season. Then they won three straight games, scoring 85 points. In the seven games since, they haven’t scored more than 28 points in any game and have allowed 27 or more in five of them. Without a running game and a revolving door at quarterback, the Browns are getting closer to drafting a QB every week and are clearly heading in the wrong direction.
5. Jets Offense Grounded – Thanks to parity for the second wild card spot, had the season ended after Week 12, a 5-6 team would have made the playoffs, the Jets had as good a chance as anyone to claim that last spot. But, they’ve lost three straight because their offense can’t do anything. In their seven losses, they have scored 10, 13, 6, 14, 3 and 3 points, including just six in their last two games. You can’t blame the Jets defense for their current predicament, but the offense is as bad as it gets in the NFL and seems to be getting worse.
4. Not-So-High Voltage – The Chargers were in a deep hole early this season when Denver and Kansas City ran away from the pack, but, after getting off to a 4-3 start, there was hope that the Chargers could be the third team from the AFC West in the playoffs. But, with losses to ratty team like Houston, Oakland, Washington and Miami, including four losses in their last five games, it would appear as if the Chargers are sinking fast and once again being a playoff afterthought.
3. A Wily Tom Cat – The Shop was buzzing on Friday about the move Mike Tomlin did on the sidelines of Thursday’s game with the Ravens when he “accidentally” (translation: intentionally) sidled onto the field during a Jacoby Jones punt return, enough that Jones changed his direction on the sideline and allowed him to be tackled. Tomlin is likely going to get hit was a massive six-figure fine (which, if you saw his Cheshire Cat smile, gave the impression he knew exactly what he was doing). But he’s not the only Steelers coach to have punt return issues. Remember when Bill Cowher was ready to punch a Bengal who was bringing a punt return back for a touchdown? Maybe there is something in the water in Pittsburgh that brings that out.
2. NFC North Frozen Out of Playoffs – In September, there was a feeling that the teams in the other three divisions other the NFC North might be competing for three playoff spots, because the Packers, Bears and Lions were flying high. Chicago has lost its last two games and six of its last nine. Since Aaron Rodgers went down, Green Bay is 0-4-1 and now both of them will need a Detroit collapse to have a shot at one available playoff spot because the wild card train won’t be making a stop in the NFC North.
1. Fail To the Chief – When Kansas City became the feel-good story of the 2013 season by being the last undefeated team at 9-0, they didn’t allow more than 17 points a game in any of them. But, in the last three games, all of them losses, the Chiefs have allowed 103 points and are falling fast. Fortunately for them, they may not need another win to lock down a wild card spot, but, for a good team, K.C. is heading in the wrong direction and picking up speed after losing back to back division games at home to San Diego and Denver.