You play to win the game. A concept so simple that even Herm Edwards grasps it enough to turn it into one of the sports quotes of the decade. You play to win the game!
But not the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts play to win a game in January. And to play God with the AFC playoff contenders destiny's. And to screw fantasy owners that were lulled into a false sense of security.
I mean, Colts owners had to feel at least some satisfaction in the knowledge that there was no way in hell the Colts were going to risk that perfect season. No way they were going to bench the starters with such historic implications on the line. No way in hell! Huh?
Peyton Manning couldn't believe it either. He kept his helmet on during the whole second half. Surely the madness would end! But no.
On the upside though, the Colts have effectively "cheapened" the mythic "undefeated season." They didn't want it. There, take that Mercury Morris. The Colts want nothing to do with competing with your prehistoric season on high.
Perhaps Coach Caldwell isn't up to snuff with the protocol in these situations. If you are 13-1, and you have your top seed wrapped up, you can rest your players. Even though it has been shown over the years that such momentum killing tactics can back-fire, it is somewhat accepted that teams can rest their starters.
But when you are 14-0? Playing in your own comfy little dome? You want to protect the quarterback that never gets hit? From what? Legendary status in the sports realm? The right to tell Mercury Morris to shut the hell up once and for all? Holy crap! Are you mad?
I've seen fire and I've seen rain. I've seen this Colts team rest their starters in years past. I've seen them casually let go of their grip on momentum like this before. To me, this could be the death knell for the Colts. The Chargers will have to be contended with at some point, and there is no question which team is playing better and is more focused right now. The Chargers have all the momentum that the Colts voluntarily relinquished.
If I had to put money on that game right now, my money would be on the Chargers. And it is hard for me to say that considering the personal oath I took against betting on Norv Turner in the playoffs.
The Chargers do not fear the Colts. The Patriots do not fear the Colts. But the Colts head coach apparently fears facing either of those teams without a completely rested and healthy team. And they have traded Big Mo' for that privilege. The AFC just got a whole lot more interesting to me.
On a side note, Jim Caldwell has now achieved instant "hated" status among Colts bettors, Colts fantasy owners, every AFC team that got jobbed by the Jets Christmas present, and people in general that ascribe to that philosophy of playing to win the game. Congrats JC!
You play to not lose the game. It just doesn't sound right.
And what of the cream of the NFC crop? The Vikings felled by the dull blade of the Cutler. The Saints getting jobbed by the lowly Buccaneers? At home? You have to be kidding me!
Am I crazy, or did the Cowboys somehow switch mojo with the Saints when they met a couple of weeks ago? They must have got in touch with the right voodoo woman down there in 'Nawlins and turned the December curse around on the Saints.
I mean, losing to a desperate Dallas team I get. I guess. But losing to a team with nothing to play for other than the pride of kicking a superior team's ass all over the field? Wow. That one took me by surprise. The Saints seem to be doing the same thing as the Colts did this weekend except they are just doing it mentally rather than actually leaving the field. Not as unseemly that way I suppose.
Anyway, with all of this "resting" the teams that have been scrapping to solidify their under-card spots in the playoffs are looking better. The Eagles are looking good. The Packers are looking good. The Cowboys are looking good. And who the hell knows what Cardinals team shows up on any given day. In my opinion, the Vikings and Saints are going to have their hands full. They are not playing their best ball, but the teams they will face in the playoffs might be.
This doesn't look nearly as cut and dry to me as it did a few weeks ago. It just feels like we had a bunch of teams peak early, and these playoffs have the potential to be not only very entertaining, but possibly very surprising.
Speaking of surprising, (rim-shot) I won two championships this weekend. I ended up with two first place teams, two third place teams, and two teams I'd rather not talk about. (though my eternal bitterness about will be revealed through any future comments concerning Matt Forte) Not a bad season I suppose. I experimented with the "dog and pony show" at RB2 on several of my teams this season, and one of them actually won a championship. I won a championship with Ryan Grant and a cast of thousands at RB2.
Jerome Harrison showed up just in time for me. I had it all the way. No prob.
Of course, the guy I played against had Peyton Manning and Steven Jackson. Let that sink in. On Sunday afternoon I was handed two gifts. Steven Jackson in a sweatshirt, and a pissed off Manning on the sidelines. Fate took a giant leak on my opponent instead of me.
Things could have gone much differently for me without those golden showers for my opponent. Yes, it was the Christmas miracle after all. And Spagnuolo and Caldwell were in on the whole thing. Thanks guys. I for one don't think you are a couple of a-holes. For now.
Speaking of a-holes, it’s the end of the season, and time for me to remind you all of what a genius I am while conveniently forgetting anything I said that makes me look otherwise. Kidding. Kind of.
Here we go:
The Stud WR theory I've been riding this bandwagon for a few seasons now, and while I did correctly foresee the passing game gaining significance in fantasy football and the NFL, the stud WR theory was maybe not the best idea this season. The top RBs dominated the top WRs in points, and it wasn't even close. Fantasy teams without a top ten RB were really behind the 8-ball.
Problem is, not all of those top ten RBs were drafted in the first round, so it was still possible to go stud WR and fish a gem like Ray Rice at RB later, we will likely see the pendulum go back to the first round RB next year. Of course, as always half of us will pick the wrong RB and be doomed right from the start. So there is that to look forward to.
The 10 players to avoid column I wrote in June.
Deangelo Williams - Williams was being drafted at average 8th, he ends week 16 ranked the 11th RB and was not available to his owners in the playoffs due to injury. I noted in an addendum message that Williams was not a horrible choice at the end of the first round, so he ended up right about as I predicted. Slightly overvalued. Correct
Michael Turner - Do I really need to elaborate? Correct
Steven Jackson - Sjax was drafted around mid first round and ended up 8th ranked running back. Only slightly overvalued as it turned out, but being a late scratch during week 16 stands as the final judgment of this draft pick. I wasn't right by much, but I doubt many SJax owners would draft him over Chris Johnson again if given the chance. Correct
Roy Williams - Roy ends up the 41st ranked WR, far below expectations of those taking him in the 4th and 5th round. I also noted that Miles Austin had my vote for leading the Cowboys receiving corps in fantasy relevance. Wow. Smoking hot! Correct
Joseph Addai - Oops. Looks like the party is over. Addai did not allow the youngster to wrestle his job away after all, and you have to respect that. Good job Joe. I just didn't know. Now, I might be tempted to cheat here and count this one correct since Addai left his owners wanting more with two 10 point performances to close out the fantasy playoffs. I'm not going to say that THAT was what I saw in my crystal ball. I was wrong about Addai, and in the end he turned out to be one of the better fantasy bargains of the season. Oops. WRONG DUMBASS!
Chad Ochocinco - Oh boy, more trouble here. Look, when I wrote the column Ocho had yet to change his tune and decide to start being fun Ocho again. Still though, no excuses here. He ended up the 12th ranked WR in PPR and he blew away his average draft position. If I had written the column a month before the draft he would have probably been left off the list. But if "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. WRONG DUMBASS!
Santana Moss - Moss didn't exceed expectations but he did not miss them either. You got just what you expected with Moss. A few "blow-up" games but mostly not much in between. I can't really call this one right or wrong based on the numbers, but if I saved one person the water torture it is to own him, I consider it worthwhile. Correct-ish
Tom Brady - I pulled the Brady card and scored again. Brady was not a bust this year, but he was certainly not worthy of reaching for. He was bested by Brees and Manning. And he also fell short of Matt Schaub and Aaron Rodgers, both drafted later. Brady finished only a bit above Rivers, Romo, and Roethlisberger in my scoring system. Much better values were to be had, and that is what I was trying to get across. Correct
Brian Westbrook - It didn't take Nostradamus to see this coming. Correct
Matt Cassel - Ended up 20th ranked fantasy quarterback. Certainly not worthy of starter consideration which was the neighborhood in which he was being drafted. Correct
I did it again. Some writers out there will give you one first round bust and pat themselves on the back about it. I gave you three first rounders and none of them met their expectations. How much do you pay for the Huddle? Less than $30? That's less than $10 per first round bust right there! Best value in fantasy football? I would think so.
Of course, I was totally wrong about some stuff. I was wrong about Matt Forte. That's all that really matters. One bad draft pick brought down two of my teams. Where was Matt Forte on the magical list? Oh yeah, genius can't even save himself can he? What a crock!
Ahh, such is the nature of prognostication and this little game we play. All we can hope is to be right more than we are wrong, and pray that Jim Caldwell isn't there to bend us over when we can least afford it. And always, always, there's next year.
10) Vikings: Amazing. This should be a movie. How To Lose a Bye in 30 Days.
9) Giants: The G-men observed a time-honored tradition in America. Getting lit up at home for Christmas. Jimmy Hoffa may have been the first to be buried at the old stadium but the G-Men look to be the last.
8) Browns: Very impressive. You almost played your way out of the Index. I wonder what this offense would have looked like with a little more Jerome Harrison and a little less Jamal Lewis before the thing got trashed. I wonder what would have happened if this potential could have been realized before Jamal Lewis injury forced the situation. I just wonder. Mangini will likely have a lot of time to wonder, while he spends the next several years trying to con someone else into believing that he can be a head coach in the NFL.
7) Bills: When you bring in a raw castaway from the Packers to start at quarterback, and it doesn't affect the offensive prowess of the team whatsoever, I think most would consider that a problem.
6) Seahawks: Break out the bugle. It's time to play taps for Hasselbeck. Hass, you've been a good one. We appreciate all you have done. All the brutal hits you have taken. All the hair you have lost. You have been a warrior. But seriously dude, I think it's over. ESPN is handing out ex-jock jobs like candy from a piñata. Take a whack. Rest your back.
5) Redskins: Looks like Danny is going to dip into the money well to hire yet another high profile head coach. The Rat coming back. You have to love that. Danny and the Rat. Together at last. This is going to be more fun than playing Monopoly with Alan Greenspan and a Scientology discipline session combined!
4) Buccaneers: Wow, you guys really screwed this up. The overtime win against the Saints was just above and beyond. We get it. You don't want a top draft pick. Fine. Be that way.
3) Chiefs: Let’s see now. How can I shed a positive light on this season? Matt Cassel got sacked 42 times and had zero major surgeries. So he should be ready to come back and take another beating next year. Good thing you filled that hole at quarterback first thing. Like buying a Jaguar with mechanical problems and having no garage to park it in, while the rotting trees along your driveway drop limbs on it with every gust of wind. Did you get the full coverage on that thing?
2) Lions: Nobody can say that you didn't try. You just ran up against your equal in those damn lambs. Oh well. If it is any consolation, Matt Millen has sucked at his new job this year just as much as the Lions have this year, and I think the rest of us have learned to dread the sound of his voice just as much as you all have. Any chance you might take him back? Take one for the team as it were? Just for old times sake? Sorry, just asking.
1) Rams: Maybe the Rams figured out that Steven Jackson owners were the only ones watching their games, and removing him from the lineup was akin to pulling the sheet over the corpse at the scene of a fatality. No Steven Jackson. No reason to watch! Or maybe they realized that he is basically the only good player they have, and maybe at this point letting him heal a bit would be the smart thing to do. Now they can go get Mr. Suh, and they will have two good players. Only twenty more and they will have a team. Baby steps. Baby steps.