Competent Quarterback Play Isn't Hard to Find
Rex Grossman, Matt Flynn, Drew Stanton, Kerry Collins and Tim Tebow all played well on Sunday. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jason Campbell, David Garrard and Jon Kitna have been good for weeks now. Arguably the league's best player, Michael Vick was an afterthought heading into the year and could have been had for almost nothing before 2009.
While every team wants to draft a Sam Bradford or a Matt Ryan – and for good reason – having a terrible quarterback situation is by far the exception, not the rule in today's NFL. The Cardinals, Panthers, 49ers, Bengals, Vikings, Redskins and Dolphins have had problems all year. But just about every other team has gotten its share of solid QB play.
The Typical Fantasy Playoffs Are Not the Best Way to Settle It
If you had Dwayne Bowe, Arian Foster and/or Peyton Hillis – players who produced all year – you probably lost to teams that had Mario Manningham, LeGarrette Blount and/or Vincent Jackson this weekend. Most people just accept this as part of what makes fantasy football exciting – that anything can happen in the playoffs. But it's also pretty arbitrary. I once had a team that had the most points and best record all year that had a bye (during which it scored the most points in the league), lost in the semis and then in Week 16 also scored the most points in the league while playing for third place. Sure, the guy who won the league did so under its rules and got the 1st place payout, but it was clear he just got lucky.
While we can't eliminate all the luck in fantasy football, my old home league had a great way to settle things that preserved the head-to-head excitement but also rewarded the best teams come playoff time. We went all 17 weeks for our regular season, and in the real playoffs, the 3-6 seeds would play in the Wild Card round and redraft among those eight teams. Except that the third seed would pick first at every position, the fourth seed would pick second, etc., etc., and it didn't snake. But there was one exception: if you owned a player during the regular season, you could freeze him for the playoffs, e.g., if you were the six seed, but you had Peyton Manning on your regular season team, you could use him as your playoff QB.
The winners would advance, and the semi-finals would work the same way in the divsion round with another re-draft. And the finals would be during the conference title games.
The great thing about his is that (1) the top seeds had a huge advantage – on a par with getting the bye and having home field in the NFL (but still were upset once in a while; and (2) You never ran into NFL teams resting players or not going all out in meaningless games – a huge benefit of aligning your biggest games with the league's. It's a little more work to hold three postseason drafts, but two of them are four-man drafts, and one's a two-man draft, so it's only about 15 minutes.
You're an insane, degenerate piece of filth. And you deserve to die.
- Walter White in Season 2 of "Breaking Bad"
Those words cheered me up Sunday night when I skipped the first half of the Pats-Packers game for two episodes of my new favorite show.
I almost never miss live football – even if it means I'm sitting on my couch for nine and a half hours and watching every Monday night and Thursday night game – no matter how terrible. But this Sunday I needed a break.
It started out well enough. Thursday night, the Chargers covered. And it got better. The Redskins (who I had plus six) were mounting a furious comeback behind Rex Grossman, the Chiefs (+1) were pulling away from the Rams, the Lions (+6) were neck and neck with the Bucs, Cincy (-1.5) was en route to a two-point win, the Titans (-2.5) were rolling, and even the Panthers (-1.5) were rewarding me for taking them as favorites! Even better the Jaguars (+5) scored to pull within three – another glorious backdoor cover in the making, the Saints (+1) were making a late run at the Ravens and of course, the Giants (-3) – forget about the spread – this is my team, and they were destroying Michael Vick and looking at a No. 2 seed.
I told a friend over the phone I might be undefeated through 11 games, and dared to dream of the holy grail of holy grails – an undefeated week against the spread. (Each game is 50/50, so to win all 16, it's 1 in 2 ^ 16 = 65,536). But once you're through 11, it's only 1 in 32 from that point on.
Eventually, it looked like the Saints would fall short – no problem 10-1 still puts me in great shape to win the weekly cash prize in my pool and cleans up my disappointing season record. Then the Colts return the friggin onside kick for the touchdown! Are you kidding me? Okay, 9-2. Still pretty good. And then the unthinkable happened.
On our Sirius XM show (11 am – 2 PM ET daily XM 147, Sirius 211) I described the Giants shocking collapse in a number of ways. One was like coming home and finding your wife in bed with your best friend AND your worst enemy. Something that undermines your basic sense that life has meaning and makes you wonder whether it's just a bunch of molecules and atoms smashing around at random.
Somehow I sat through the dreadful afternoon games. The announcers (whoever they were) heaped praise on Tim Tebow's work ethic and toughness to the point where I thought I was watching an infomerical. Tebow played well enough, but the Broncos (+7) did not cover. Neither did the Seahawks (+7). And the Steelers (-6) not only failed to cover, they lost outright to the Jets, the team I hate most.
At 4:30 PM PT, I had had enough. Like Walter White I had been imprisoned by events beyond my control, and at the mercy of arbitrary and tyrannical powers. When he finally blurted out the truth to the thug who had been terrorizing him, I felt a little better and was able to watch what was actually a decent second half Sunday night. Of course, the Pats (-11) did not cover, either, and after dreaming of perfection, I went 8-8.
Things to Take Away from Week 15
• Ray Rice finally earned his money as an early first round pick – for the 10-percent of Rice-owned teams that were still alive in the playoffs. Same goes for Brandon Marshall.
• No one on the planet benefitted from popular sleeper Donald Brown's breakout game.
• A healthy Austin Collie is the Colts' best receiver. Unfortunately, he wears a helmet magnet in his helmet, and we probably won't see him until next year.
• Tim Tebow reminded me of Vince Young during his rookie year – not a bad thing, despite the odd, slowish release.
• Darren McFadden should have had another monstrous day against the Broncos, but the touchdown Gods decreed otherwise. Head to head Fantasy football, as noted above, can be painfully arbitrary. Those of you who started Terrell Owens or Adrian Peterson probably know that, too.
• The Patriots should still be considered Super Bowl favorites, but showed they are not prohibitively so.
• The Jets are back off the mat – as much as I hate to admit it, they shook off the last two weeks' disasters pretty well in a tough environment – though for some reason the Steelers are not remotely the same team the last couple years when Troy Polamalu doesn't play.
• It occurred to me on Thursday night there has to be some unlucky bastard who drafted Vincent Jackson, kept him in a bench slot all year, activated him for his first game back, got a zero, cut him due to the calf injury, faced him in the playoffs this week and lost because of him.
Things to Watch for in Week 16
• The Giants at the Packers in what's essentially a playoff game. It looks like Aaron Rodgers (unfortunately) will be back.
• The Saints coming off a loss and taking on the Falcons in Atlanta on Monday night.
• The Jets against the Bears at Soldier Field (game is a pick 'em).
Beating the Book
Colts -3 at Raiders
This game sets up poorly for the Colts off their big win against Jacksonville. Oakland is a tough, physical team that runs the ball, and Indy's got to travel to the West Coast and play on what could be a muddy track. Back the Raiders.
Raiders 20 - 19
We won with the Titans last week to go 9-6 in this forum and 108-111-5 on the season. We were 10-7 in this forum last season, 131-122 overall. We were 12-5 in this forum in 2008. From 1999-2009 we've gone 1439-1262 (53.3%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Wednesday night.
Suriving Week 16
Last week, the Pats barely got by, the Chargers, Falcons and Raiders won easily, but the Steelers, Dolphins and Buccaneers went down, probably taking a least a few people with them.
Normally, I'd put the chart with the most picked teams here, but in Week 16, it doesn't mean a whole lot, and you need to pay closer attention to who's taken which teams in your own pool.
In any event, here are my top few choices: (1) Eagles vs. the Joe Webb Vikings; (2) Steelers vs. the Panthers; (3) Chargers at Bengals; (4) Patriots at Bills; (5) Bucs vs. Seahawks; (6) Cowboys at Cardinals; (7) Jaguars vs. Redskins; (8) Chiefs vs. Titans.
Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind when the full article comes out Wednesday night.