"Is there anywhere you'd rather be than right here, right now?" Marv Levy used to say that to pump up his Bills on Sundays, but that's how I felt as I turned on my TV shortly before 1pm on Sunday and saw snow in several stadiums. Even with my Bills in town against Tampa, going to the stadium was never really an option. There's nowhere I'd rather be than my couch - it's just not worth the risk of missing the finishes we saw on Sunday.
Rob Gronkowski's injury made me wonder - shouldn't offensive players have some input on whether defenders hit them high or low? Why is the league the sole arbiter of what types of hits are worse for the players? To be fair, some players probably prefer high hits and others prefer low ones, so it would be impossible to regulate if every player got to choose. But what if each team could choose before each game? "We are allowing hits to the head - we agree not to enforce any such penalties; just don't go low." If given this option, would any coaches do this? Should this be an option?
If your fantasy team lost Gronkowski, here's how I'd rank some viable waiver-wire replacements: Dennis Pitta, Delanie Walker, Garrett Graham, Jacob Tamme, Charles Clay. I don't want to overrate anyone after playing the Vikings, but Pitta looked like the TE1 we thought he'd be before getting hurt. With the Lions and Patriots on tap and the Ravens unable to run the ball even a little, I'd argue Pitta is as high as fourth among all TEs for the fantasy playoffs (Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, Julius Thomas). Walker gets the Cardinals this week and should be good for double-digit points if he can return from injury. Garrett Graham has 47 targets the last four weeks with at least 9 targets each game. The Texans defense won't improve these next couple of weeks. Tamme played 45 of 46 snaps after Welker's concussion on Sunday and with Welker already declared out on Thursday night, Tamme looks to be in line for another big snap count against a bad Chargers defense. As far as sleepers go, Tamme is as likely to score as anyone.
Making waiver claims now might feel a little weird, but it's actually my favorite time of year to do so. Three-quarters of your league won't try to claim anyone, and you can generally tell those players/positions your opponents will be targeting. Gronk owners will be searching for a tight end. Wes Welker owners want Da'Rick Rogers. Adrian Peterson owners will go after Toby Gerhart or Daniel Thomas (from "out for the year" to a juicy matchup against the Patriots, particularly if Lamar Miller is out). Even if you don't need these players/positions, it's not hard to predict your opponents' needs and block them accordingly.
Peyton (45 TDs, 9 INTs) vs. Eli (16 TDs, 20 INTs) is no longer a sibling rivalry. Peyton is Mike Tyson in his prime; Eli is Michael Spinks. For a team with so much talent, it's crazy to see the Giants play this poorly. I'm not sure what epitomizes their fall best, Eli's stats, Nicks not scoring a touchdown in a calendar year, Cruz going two months without a good game, the defense being 31st in sacks, or giving up a completion on a jump ball to Danny Woodhead.
When I grow up, I want to be Alshon Jeffery. Or Josh Gordon.
The Steelers loss in Week 14 on a close sideline play is an appropriate irony after Mike Tomlin's sideline fiasco in Week 13. Lost in the craziness of Antonio Brown's near-TD, though, was one question: What the heck was the Dolphins defense doing? It's not like the Steelers lateraled the ball to the other side of the field quickly, a la the Music City Miracle. Pittsburgh took several seconds with multiple laterals to switch fields, yet the Dolphins defense was completely out of the play, with just one defender there to stop Brown. Awful. The more I think about Miami's total collapse, the more I wish Brown scored.
We can watch the NFL for 30 years and never see an ending like Vikings/Ravens. It was 12-7 with 2:09 left on fourth and goal yet finished 29-26. The final 2:09 saw just 10 offensive snaps but four touchdowns.
Seattle was up 17-16 on the 49ers with 2:39 left and no timeouts, but the 49ers had first and goal. The recipe for Seattle winning was clear - let SF score. Being down 22-17 (or 24-17 if the 49ers converted the ensuing two-pointer) with 2:20 left is far better than being down 19-17 with 25 seconds left. Conversely, the formula for a 49ers win was clear - three kneel-downs, a field goal, and avoid catastrophe in the final 20 seconds. Perhaps predictably, both teams got it wrong, as the Niners tried to score and the Seahawks stopped them. Sometimes, NFL game theory is as simple as what you'd do playing Madden.
When the Panthers committed defensive holding on a first-down play where the Saints gained seven yards, Sean Payton had a choice. Accept the penalty and it's 1st and 10, or decline the penalty and it's 2nd and 3 from two yards further upfield. Declining the penalty is a no-brainer, right? You're two yards further upfield, plus 2nd and 3 is better than 1st and 10, so you're better off on both fronts. That's what Peyton did, but it prompted harsh criticism from Chris Collinsworth, who couldn't understand the decision. Both he and Al Michaels argued they couldn't even give us a reason why Peyton would decline the penalty. Really? What part did they not get, that it was better to be two yards further upfield, or that 2nd and 3 is better than 1st and 10? Why are so many people so mesmerized at the prospect of first down?
Even with that, I still prefer Collinsworth over Aikman and Simms. The mute button is gaining ground, though.
The Redskins look so bad, especially on special teams, I'd consider playing the Falcons D/ST at home this week, even with their NFL-worst 104.3 QB rating allowed. Alfred Morris may run all over Atlanta (don't sit Morris this week, please), but the Redskins are such a give-away right now, anything is in play for that game.
Sunday marked the second time in four weeks since returning from injury that EJ Manuel laid an egg. With four INTs and seven sacks against a beatable Bucs defense in a game with no weather concerns, it was a Geno-esque performance. EJ's home/road splits look like Geno's as well, and while Geno can point to an awful supporting cast, Manuel's is at least close to league average. A good QB crop is coming in the 2014 draft, and from where I sit, the Bills and Jets shouldn't let their 2013 draftees stop them from getting a franchise guy in 2014.
In five years, we might look back at the 2013 QB class and realize the best guy was undrafted Matt McGloin. Heck, he might be already. Let's hope the Raiders stop mixing in Terrelle Pryor and let McGloin play.
I hated the Ravens most of 2012, feeling like they were an overrated fraud. This year, I feel completely the opposite. Their defense has good players on all three levels and Pitta adds an important dimension to the offense - a "move the chains" guy to complement the deep threats. Baltimore's offensive line is bad, but how much does the run game matter nowadays? If they can grab that sixth seed, Flacco has proven he can up his game on the big stage. I can see the Ravens beating the Bengals in the WC Round and giving the Broncos a game in Denver.
It's really bizarre how the Colts are playing so poorly yet are all but locked into the fourth seed. Is it too soon to bet on KC -3 in Indy? Heck, at this rate, it could be -3.5. The only scintilla of hope for Indy fans is if the coaches scrap the running game the rest of the year, open up the offense, and Da'Rick Rogers is the next Josh Gordon or Alshon Jeffery. That would let TY Hilton slide back to his role as a complimentary receiver; he's really been exposed as the main guy. It could happen for Rogers - he was undrafted based on character, not talent, and Bills castoffs have a way of coming back and sticking it to their loyal if misguided fan base.
There was something appropriate about Peyton Manning leading his fantasy owners to victory in Week 14 and carrying all the complimentary Broncos with him. Rooting interests aside, there's something right and just about the best players coming through in the fantasy playoffs. You know, the opposite of what happened to Calvin Johnson owners.
If you had a bad beat in Week 14, or a fortunate victory, share your story in the comments. We share your glory/pain. (Well, not really, but it sounds nice.)
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