I know that many of you have some great stories about wins and losses during the Championship week past for most leagues. Each Championship is special, and each loss gut-wrenching. This is just one such tale.
10 team keeper league. A late run had catapulted me from outside the playoffs to a 5 seed. I won the first two weeks of the playoffs. Now on a 6 game winning streak but big trouble for week 16. I had been leaning on Edge and Chris Brown as my starters most weeks at running back. As many of you know week 16 was a mad scramble in many leagues for a decent starting running back. With Chester Taylor, Dominick Rhodes, and Maurice Morris as options I knew it was the waiver wire or bust for my team. I had finally dropped Jamal Lewis 2 weeks earlier just so I would never be tempted to start him again and secretly hoping one of the contending teams would take the bait. My opponent had picked up Lewis and rode him into the Championship game last on Lewis' one decent game of the year. To add to my problems, I had been flying with Bledsoe on a wing and a prayer since Bulger went down. Against the Panthers I did not like my chances there either. Top 3 spots in the lineup need waiver wire saviors. Not a good spot, but considering I had steered this wreck of a team to a Championship game had me thinking miracle. There were some decent options that were available. I could patch this Titanic one more time.
I picked up Marshall Faulk and Travis Henry, thinking at the very least these guys probably wouldn't goose egg me in the points per reception format. And in a moment of great desperation the likes of which I have never been party to in a Championship game, I nervously plucked Kyle Boller off the waiver as well. Hey, he had been on a roll, and that's the guy you need at this time of the year. So despite the fact that I had bashed him mercilessly early in the season in this very column, I swallowed my pride, went with my gut, and plugged Kyle Boller into my lineup. The rest of the team looked decent enough with Chambers, Housh, J. Stevens, Graham and Jacksonville. Jacksonville. Against the Texans. I'm feeling alright. I'm thinking I might pull this off after all.
Then as kickoff approaches I start to second guess myself about Housh. I'm looking at Bobby Engram who was not on the injury report and had been solid down the stretch. Going against Indy's second stringers for a large portion of the day Engram seemed in a decent enough spot. But I'm leaving in Housh. Then a defining moment minutes before lineup deadline Chris Mortenson announced that the Bengals were concerned about T.J. being able to finish the game. Ok. that does it. I'm taking the sure points with Engram. The last minute lineup change. It's a classic in fantasy lore.
The rest of the story is as you might imagine if you know my fantasy fortunes of the past. Jacksonville's defense took the day off. My opponent had Torry Holt. 32 points or something ridiculous like that after spending the last month hibernating. I lost by 10 points despite being correct on all my waiver wire moves, because I made probably the most elementary mistakes you can make as a fantasy player. The "oh my God I can't believe I did that" last minute lineup change. Devastating for some. Just another day at the office for me my friends. Just another day at the office. I don't need a therapist to tell me why I hate myself. I am capable of idiocy on a grand scale. I hold these truths to be self evident. I took in one tidbit of information too much, and it cost me a season.
In my other Championship game I won by an excruciatingly slim margin. It was down the the Patriots D against me on Monday night. I had the game in hand with 4 points to spare late. Then, in came Vinny. My blood ran cold, and I felt like the guy in an old west gunfight that knows his opponent can outdraw him. But alas, the Patriots had mercy on Testaverde and my last prayer. Testaverde nailed the door shut by staying upright and throwing to the right colored jerseys, including one in the end zone. Thanks Testy. The unlikely hero. You are alright by me. Look me up, I'll buy you dinner.
So I took some pain. I dished out some pain. I laughed. I cried. It was a whirlwind of emotion. It's the ride that makes it all worthwhile. At least that's what a former nymphomaniac girlfriend of mine was fond of saying. To everyone.
Okay, it's the end of the year. I need to take an accounting of some of the ideas I have presented this season. I wrote a lot of pretty smart stuff that not many people agreed with. Like that Chad Johnson would be the number one receiver on everybody's draft card next year. Moss was going to bomb. Gates was going to outperform Gonzalez again. and so on, blah blah blah. But after devastating playoff losses, I feel more compelled to beat myself senseless in an attempt to thwart future idiocies. So here is some Crow that is getting cold and needs to be eaten while I'm in the mood.
The Redskins are a fraud. I said it without blinking. But in the end it was only my statement that was fraudulent. The Redskins are not a fraud. They beat the teams they had to beat, when it was all on the line. The won convincingly. While I am painfully smooch-festing with the 'Skins I must say I have been quite impressed by the relative non involvement of owner Daniel Snyder, who apparently figured out that football is like any other business. Surround yourself with people that know what the hell they are doing and let them do what they do. Unfortunately, riding Daniel Snyder mercilessly in my column made up approximately 25% of my content, so the suffering may be over for the 'Skins, but it goes on for some of us.
Jeremy Shockey: I didn't buy into Shockey's new-found settling down and taking care of business mentality. I expected he would be injured as usual, fade in and out of relevance, and have a season about like he has had lately. I was wrong. Until this last weekend and his moment of "Shockness" breakdown arguing a call instead of chasing a defender with the ball, Shockey has delivered a solid season. Bonehead? Maybe. But a productive one.
I called the coach up in Minnesota Dawber. I like it. It fits. But to tell you the truth, after the run the team went on after they looked dead in the water early on, I have to give Dawber some credit. As a matter of fact, I think he is actually more like Luther. And if he just didn't sound so much like Dawber I might feel compelled to stop calling him Dawber. But it just fits. It's out there now. We can't put it back in the box. Sorry Dawber. Congratulations on saving your job. Maybe. It's great to have you around.
I said the Bears looked like a first game out team in the playoffs. But then I look at the competition and I'm thinking they might be as good as anybody in the NFC with that new fangled thing they call a passing game. I don't want to get too overdramatic, but the addition of Grossman's passing game to the Bears attack suddenly gives them more than a punchers chance. The NFC playoffs might be interesting after all.
I'm still not convinced that there is any real drama left though. In the end, the NFC teams are all a shade above mediocrity. I would still probably pick any of the AFC teams to beat the Bears or the Seahawks in the Superbowl. I know there is no hard evidence to support my theory, but other than the Bears and Seahawks these NFC teams are all cushy. Fluffy. Like a little kitty wandering on the freeway. Splat.
Crazy as Hell Pick of the Week: Speaking of road kill, that's what has become of my once sterling record with the Crazy Pick. We now sit in the middle of sweet mediocrity at 5-7, after a stunning and tragic third correct pick in a row. I finally realized that I was up against it last week. My mid-season zone turned stone cold in December. Last week I tried to trick myself into being right by picking the most crazy turn of events I could find and just betting on that to happen. I couldn't have been more wrong if I had tried. Last weeks pick was so correct, that I am embarrassed to even show my face around here. And if I thought there were more than 10 of you still reading the column, I would have probably just never come back.
I don't know what to say. I have been burned by every NFC "contending" team I have bet on or against lately. Carolina, Dallas, the 'Skins. I can't get any of them right. The NFC is really urinating me off right now. At this point I am off the NFC upper crust. Ideally in the last week you might want to target a team with something to play for, maybe against a team that has the golf clubs loaded up in the trunk in the parking lot. Like I said last week this is probably the second hardest week to predict. In that spirit let's use the final Crazy as Hell pick to size up the showdown between the Texans and 49ers. This game has about as much relevance as any this week, and I have had it in my sights for quite awhile now for the Misery Index Championship.
The Texans, sporting the worst record in the league find themselves a 2 point road favorite. This development alone is enough to boggle the mind, but these oddsmakers are quite good at what they do so who am I to question. The 'Niners despite their one win lead over the Texans are probably a less talented team. There could be some real gamesmanship in this one. Each coach may be under pressure to make sure this one goes down as an L. It is pure folly to speculate how this game will turn out. Luckily that is my neighborhood. I think the Texans are the better team, and so do the oddsmakers. But how can you take the Texans on the road and lay points. It just doesn't seem right. It stinks to high heaven. I like the 'Niners to find a way to win this thing and bestow Reggie Bush and the Misery Index Crown upon the Texans. After coming this far, Houston can't screw this thing up now, can they? Texans -2.
10) Falcons: It would be hard to figure how the team that looked so good kicking around the Eagles back in week one on Monday Night Football. Remember the hype? Remember the glory? It was on now! Oh yeah. Here come the Falcons. It was basically downhill from there. Not that the NFL didn't seem bound and determined to get Vick into the playoffs. Against the Buccaneers with extinction hanging in the balance the Falcons could not cash in on many gift wrapped opportunities. And that's what it takes to end up here.
9) Chargers: This is the team of the year for personality disorder. The Charger are actually two separate teams. One team capable of beating the Colts handily at Indy the week after getting their ass handed to them by the Dolphins. Then, stomped by the Chiefs last weekend, and the playoffs disappear. A surprising end to a team that looked so good sometimes, but looked so bad one too many times. As usual, as a fan of a former Marty coached team, I'm going to pin the whole thing on him in the end. Pedal to the metal Marty. When you've got the horses you need to sprint. Close the deal. The great ones do it. The good ones don't. This team was probably one conservative coaching decision away from the playoffs. As a matter of fact I know they were. There, that lost season was easy to explain after all.
8) Eagles: What can you say? It happened. Another Superbowl team bit the dust. But in all fairness, I don't think the Eagles run as a contender is over. They can patch this team and make another run. It is only the NFC after all. During the off season it will be interesting to see if the endless parade of nut-jobs calling out Donovan McNabb in the media will snowball into a Dateline interview with a man claiming McNabb is the Anti-Christ. Complete with a phone in segment from Terrell Owens who will serve witness. Anything less than that wouldn't be a surprise. The Chunky Soup Curse. Not only does it work, it gains strength over time.
7) Saints: Ok, let's be real. Even before Katrina, nobody expected much of the Saints this season, and considering the circumstances I think the team should be commended on some level just to pull themselves together and complete a season. They put in some competitive games under trying conditions. But, they were just about as bad as I expected them to be. Probably won't be a lot of players lining up to go to the Saints this off-season, not that the management would know how to improve the team anyway.
6) Packers: It would have been hard to imagine how far the organization would fall this year, but everything has just come apart at the seams. At the end Favre has resorted to just winging it downfield, which is much more effective at age 25 than 35. Favre has nothing to prove. He is clearly not as effective as in the past, and his supporting cast is not going to get much better. Hopefully Brett will make the right choice this off-season and end his hall of fame career.
5) Lions: Let's face it. In reality this team is every bit as horrible as the teams hogging all the glory in the Index. But they have the fortune of playing in a bad division (okay, except for the Bears). It is easy to pinpoint the problem with this team. Here is a list of the things they do not need: (chirping crickets) . But until the number one need is taken care of, this franchise is doomed. It's too bad Detroit fans will be mostly shut out of the game scheduled there in February. It sure would be nice if they could see how the game is supposed to be played close-up for once.
4) Rams: Back in the 'Niners heyday, they beat the Rams like a rented mule for years. Lately the tables had been turned. But this year the Rams managed to single handedly screw the 'Niners out of Reggie Bush, by getting swept by the Misery Index pre-season darlings. Truly pathetic. The Rams come full circle and back to the Misery Index. Welcome back. Oh the names have all changed since you hung around and those dreams that remained crushed into the ground. We knew Martz was gonna lead ya, back here where we need ya. Well we tease you a lot, but you got a nice draft spot, welcome back.
3) 49ers: How can you do this? How can you win a game when you are this close to Reggie Bush. Its Reggie freaking Bush!! You've got Kevan freaking Barlow and fragile Frank Gore. Ok, ok. You like those guys and you don't want to pay Reggie Bush. Do you know how many good defensive players you could get with that pick? Is anyone at all paying attention? Can't you see the Rams evil plan? This team should not have won a single game this year. Now they sit at 3 and are in a must lose situation. The 49ers have been outgained by their opposition to the tune of 2700 yards. Let that sink in. That's 150+ yards a game average. Yet this team somehow ranking dead last in offense, and dead last in defense, somehow managed to win 3 games. This team is a travesty.
2) Jets: Have refused to give up on the losing front. The Jets are now sitting pretty to tie for the number one position with just one more loss and an unlikely but possible Texans victory. The Jets are back in it. I just can't believe the AFC might get Reggie Bush. This is a stunning development. How the hell did that happen? Sometimes you just have to lose and hope.
1) Texans: Despite their efforts to throw away the first draft pick, the 49ers will have none of it. The Texans looked doomed to that first pick in the draft. They will need to just lose one more game and they have the Misery Index Crown. A win in this game of the year, and it all goes to a giant clusterf*&%. The Texans just need to take care of business and lose this game. For Reggie Bush, and the Misery Index crown. That's how it sets up now. The 'Niners are in trouble unless the Jets win the Texans destroy them at home. The Texans hold their own fate. Best of luck Texans. I know you can do this.