If I Knew Then What I Know Now...
If I could go back to August, this would be my ideal draft (which I would have done in every league):
• 1.1. Rob Gronkowski - Yes, I shocked the world. Yes, I took a TE with the first overall pick. Am I shrooming? You would only notice if I weren't. And yes, I will take all of your side bets.
• 2.14 Jimmy Graham - Doubling up on TE in a PPR because I can use him in my flex. Go ahead and mock me. Doubling up on side bets.
• 3.1 Cam Newton - Yes, I know it's a reach, but I have a feeling he's going to score a few TDs with his legs. Newton vs. Rivers for how much? Done.
• 4.14 Fred Jackson - Buying into the Bills offense this year.
• 5.1 Marshawn Lynch - Year 5 is when running backs typically break out.
• 6.14 Steve Smith (CAR) - Buying into the Carolina passing game.
• 7.1 Willis McGahee - Year 5 or Year 8, that is.
• 8.14 David Akers - Always love to get a great kicker early.
• 9.1 Victor Cruz - Time to get a second WR, kind of thin there in a 3-WR league.
• 10.14 Nate Washington - Love Hasselbeck and don't think Kenny Britt can stay healthy.
There's no point in drafting LeSean McCoy, Wes Welker and Drew Brees with your first three picks - that wouldn't be any fun. And I guarantee you wouldn't make nearly as much in side bets.
How Sunday's National Games (which I watched consecutively) Represented Different World Views
Early Game: Patriots at Redskins - Life is Random and Senseless
This was a compelling game, winnable by either side until Rex Grossman threw a catchable pass to Santana Moss who bobbled it into Jerod Mayo's hands, and just like that, it was over. There was no particular skillfulness involved, and Grossman didn't give the game away, either. The ball just bounced funny, and that was that. The lesson one takes from investing oneself emotionally in such a game is that its outcome is arbitrary and without meaning. All the effort you put in can be undone through happenstance. And then it's over.
Afternoon Game: Bears at Broncos - Salvation Awaits the Faithful (in the Afterlife)
This was a horrible game, borderline unwatchable until with four minutes left and no timeouts, Tim Tebow, Matt Prater and the Broncos pulled out a thrilling and miraculous win. The lesson here is that we must endure hardship and difficulty for as long as it takes, and there will be a payoff at some point. Unimaginable forces (Marion Barber mysteriously deciding to run out of bounds) will come into play, though keep in mind the game was tied at the end of regulation. It was only in the afterlife (overtime) that the Broncos found salvation.
Night Game: Giants at Cowboys - Meaning Derives from Resourceful Adaptation to Circumstances
This was a fantastic game throughout. Both quarterbacks played at a high level, and there were eight lead changes. Eli Manning drove the Giants down for two scores in the closing minutes and overcame an unconscionable dropped pass in the end zone by Mario Manningham. When the Giants got down toward the goal line, they ran the ball to keep the clock moving in case they didn't score, and the Cowboys wisely used their timeouts despite having a lead. The lesson is that through effort and skill, we respond to our circumstances, and in so doing, life has great meaning. (That is, if you're a Giants fan).
2011: Year of the Quarterback?
There have been some historically great quarterback draft classes, from 1983 (Marino, Elway, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason and Ken O'Brien) to 2004 (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub), and I suspect 2011 might at some point be among them.
Cam Newton has already broken QB rushing records, and he's incidentally got 3573 passing yards on 7.9 YPA. Andy Dalton's led his team to a winning record, has 6.8 YPA and an 18:12 TD:INT ratio. Christian Ponder's got 6.9 YPA, 11 TD and 11 INT and has turned Percy Harvin into a top-10 WR. And Jake Locker lit up the Saints in his second game, has 8.7 YPA and seven carries for 47 yards and a score. And maybe Colin Kaepernick pans out eventually, too. Blaine Gabbert can be the Todd Blackledge.
Things to Take Away from Week 14
• Eli Manning now has 4105 yards, on pace for 5052, which would be good for third all time, just 32 yards off Dan Marino's all-time record. Of course, this would be more impressive were Manning not fourth in the league this season behind Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
• Before the 2010 NFL draft, we debated Sam Bradford vs. Ndamukong Suh at length, but right now I'd take Jason Pierre-Paul, the 15th overall pick that year over both. Pierre-Paul had six tackles, two assists, a forced fumble, two sacks, one of which went for a safety, and a game-winning blocked field goal Sunday night and has 12.5 sacks on the year. While he'll almost certainly wind up in the Pro Bowl, some Giants observers think he's barely scratched the surface of his talent, given his 6-6 frame, freakish athleticism and gigantic wingspan.
• Pierre-Paul notwithstanding, the Giants defense is truly abhorrent, and when they scored the go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion to go up three points with one minute left, I was just hoping Dallas wouldn't score a touchdown. That said, the Patriots, Saints and Packers are pretty soft defensively, too, and the Giants have some upside should they make the playoffs if Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Boley, Kenny Phillips and Prince Amukamara are 100 percent healthy/integrated into the defense.
• Minutes before the latest Tebow miracle, I was about to write something half seriously about how the Chargers (6-7) would win the AFC West and make the AFC Title game, getting Norv Turner a disastrous three-year extension in the process. In any event, the Raiders are toast with an average-at-best Carson Palmer, too many injured playmakers and a defense that can't stop anyone.
• Ben Roethlisberger saved a lot of fantasy teams last week by playing through what looked like a severe ankle injury suffered in the second quarter. That said, the game was so profoundly disappointing, I was in a bad mood after it, despite having Roethlisberger and the Browns +14. It helped to learn that Colt McCoy's seemingly senseless game-sealing interception came while he was concussed out of his mind, but that the Browns left him in there just makes you question even further why that franchise exists at all.
• Just finished the last couple episodes of "Boardwalk Empire," and have to say that James Darmody is one bad MF.
• Marshawn Lynch breaks a lot of tackles. It's strange how long it took him to live up to his pedigree.
• It was hard to be angry about losing the CIN-HOU cover a minute after I got the IND-BAL one. Especially since the Texans actually won the game, while Indy just cut the deficit to 14 on the last play.
• The Eagles could beat anyone or lose to anyone by almost any amount, and it would no longer surprise me.
• At one point, Atlanta was down 23-7, and Detroit was on death's door in the closing seconds. Had those teams lost (and had Dallas knocked off the Giants), Seattle and Arizona would have suddenly been very much in the NFC playoff picture.
• Speaking of the Lions, I switched from the Chargers to them in Survivor about 15 minutes before game time. Let's just say I endured some intense feelings of dread, disgust, rage and regret around 1 pm PT before getting let off the hook by bad refereeing. But let's be honest, those emotions are really what survivor (and fantasy football generally) are all about.
• If you're a Larry Fitzgerald owner, you must be very concerned about Kevin Kolb's health. It's a concussion, so he should probably take a few weeks off to make sure he's 100 percent.
• How good would the Texans be with a healthy Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Mario Williams?
Things To Look for in Week 15
• The Clash of Civilizations, aka the model modern franchise (the Patriots) who do everything right against the old school one (the Broncos) - a throwback both in NFL years (1970s) and human history (pre-enlightenment).
• The Ravens take on the suddenly resurgent Chargers in San Diego
• The Jets take on Michael Vick and the Eagles in Philly.
• The Historic Role Reversal: the finesse Pittsburgh Steelers against the Smashmouth 49ers
Beating the Book
Packers -14.5 at Chiefs
The Packers ran roughshod over Oakland while the Chiefs didn't even show up against the Jets. This strikes me as a good time to buy low on Kansas City as Kyle Orton possibly takes over, and the Chiefs should get a lift from Todd Haley's overdue departure and a home game against the undefeated defending Super Bowl champs. Weather could be an issue, and while the Packers are a cold weather team, they're built as if they played in a dome. Back the Chiefs who keep it close enough.
Packers 24 - 17
Last week we won with the Redskins to go 9-5 in this forum, 10-6 on the week and 102-101-5 overall. We were 10-7 in this forum last season and 40-27 over the four years of the column (we skipped Week 17 in 2007). From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 against the spread (53%, not including ties). The full article comes out Wednesday night.
Surviving Week 15
Last week, I wound up going with the Seahawks as my primary pick (the Lions were my secondary one), and Seattle won easily. But aside from Detroit (and maybe Pittsburgh), most of the big favorites coasted, and none of them lost. Let's take a look at this week's slate:
|Team||Opponent||% Picked*||Vegas ML**||Vegas Odds|