East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
It's Week 16, and I've just gotten home from the Fantasy Football Live show, and as usual, I'm flipping channels on the Sunday Ticket and checking the box scores online. How did the Bengals score, I'm wondering, since I had Cedric Benson going. Leon Hall interception. How did the Saints get their three TDs (I had Brees going in a key league). Robert Meachem run, Deuce McAllister run, Mike Bell run. The Pats? LaMont Jordan got both scores. I notice San Diego and Tampa tied 7-7 - maybe it'a Antonio Bryant and Antonio Gates. Nope, BJ Askew and Brandon Manumaleuna. The biggest name scorers by 1:20 pm ET were Ted Ginn, Jr. and Justin Gage (both good enough to occupy an inactive roster spot in most leagues).
In the end, Brees, Pierre Thomas, Matt Cassel, Randy Moss, Sammy Morris, Gates, Bryant, Tyler Thigpen, Tony Gonzalez, Chad Pennington, Larry Johnson and Chris Johnson all got theirs, but for a while I thought it was going to be a totally random finals week. It's one thing to get personally screwed by circumstances, e.g., the Giants game going into overtime when your opponent has Derrick Ward (fortunately, I was that opponent, and "you" were the guy I was playing), but quite another for the whole finals week to have zero relationship to anything that's happened the 15 weeks prior. For the sake of the game (and our collective sanity), I'm glad things normalized in the second quarter.
The Cardinals Mail It In
I'm hardly the first one to mention this, but I won't feel whole until I express my thoughts on the subject, too. First off, I had originally bet the Pats, and later switched my pick to the Cardinals when I saw the public was still on the Pats despite the big spread. That was beyond retarded, but I could have lived with it if Arizona showed the slightest effort. And the weather was not the issue. Matt Cassel threw the ball fine, and it wasn't particularly windy. The problem was Arizona simply refused to block or tackle. Now one could argue that the weather made it hard for them to get their footing, or that they were uncomfortable in it, but this is an NFL team that's headed to the playoffs. Practice outdoors, do what you have to do. But don't ever put out a product like that to the viewing and betting public. Ever. Roger Goodell should fine Ken Whisenhunt and the organization for that display. It was a disgrace.
On the flip side, I felt myself bizarrely drawn to the game, despite the blowout. For one thing, snowy, whited-out fields make for great TV - it's just pleasant and comforting to look at. But also I had Randy Moss going in several leagues, and when the Pats were up 31-0, and he had no catches, it looked bleak. But New England kept throwing downfield, and finally got the ball to Moss on a short screen, which he took 76 yards to the house untouched. It was a miracle of sorts - that never happens. Only the rare combination of the Pats continuing to throw, up 31-0 in a blizzard, and the Cardinals totally mailing it in made that possible. It's easy to be a Pats hater, but sometimes you have to admire the way that team bucks the conventional wisdom and plays the game on its terms.
Oldest Living Hall of Famer
At one point in the Sunday night broadcast, Al Michaels mentioned Sammy Baugh's passing, acknowledging that Baugh was the NFL's oldest living Hall of Famer before he died. I almost expected him to say to his colleague John Madden. "Now that makes you the oldest living Hall of Famer, John." (Incidentally, Madden's only 72, so he's probably not in the top five).
"Joe Flacco Needs to Prove Himself"
One of the best moments of the weekend was during the Saturday night Dallas-Baltimore game when the Cowboys scored to make it 19-17, and the Ravens were set to get the ball back with 3:32 left. One of the announcers said something to the effect of: "This is where Joe Flacco needs to prove himself in the NFL." And the next play Willis McGahee runs for a 77 yard touchdown.
The funny thing about it is that Joe Flacco has been incredibly poised for a rookie all season. Maybe it's the Dallas defense, that the Redskins ran roughshod over in crunch time earlier this year, that needed to prove itself. Maybe it's the Cowboys resilience as a team that needed proving. Of course, the announcers will focus on the rookie, but this is Week 16, and Flacco's started every single game.
And the subsequent Le'Ron McClain run pretty much cemented where the "proving" emphasis should have been all along.
Things to Take Away From Week 16
Bears +2.5 at Texans
On the surface, you'd think the Bears were the right play since they have a potential playoff berth on the line, while the Texans have nothing at stake. But the only teams that truly have nothing at stake are ones whose playoff seed is locked. If you're out of the playoffs, you have pride, future contracts and overall morale at stake, and no one wants to go out on a losing note. That the Texans lost in Oakland last week should only reinforce that, and we expect them to show up for this one. Because they're laying less than the full three at home, we think they're a good value. Back Houston.
Texans 27 - 23
We were 6-10 in this forum last year, but 127-120 on the season overall. From 1999-2007 we're 1184-1018 (53.8%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Thursday morning.
Surviving Week 17
Last week, our top choice, the Patriots won, but our next two, the Texans and Broncos both lost (for what it's worth, we downgraded both in the full article on Thursday).
This week, there are a lot of good choices, starting with the Falcons at home against the Rams - Atlanta can earn a first-round bye with a win and a Panthers loss. After that, we like the Ravens at home against the Jaguars (Baltimore's playing for a playoff berth) and then the Buccaneers at home against Oakland - Tampa also has a potential playoff berth on the line. We'd put the Packers at home against the Lions fourth. We reserve the right to change our minds before the full article comes out Wednesday night.
Article first appeared 12/24/08