This could have been another horrible week, but it wasn’t. I was playing for third place in the Stopa Law Firm league, and I had hedged with finalist Scott Pianowski, who had the most points. The rule in that league is if you win it and also have the most points, you get everything. If the owner with the most points does not win, then payouts go four places deep, i.e, to all the semi-finalists.
Scott won easily, so the hedge paid off. All I had to do was get third place and I’d win $1125. (Third is worth $2250, but Scott and I agreed to split it, regardless of whether he won or lost. I didn’t hedge the $1,000 fourth-place haul, so if I lost I’d have gotten nothing.)
Unfortunately, I’d started Corey Coleman over Ted Ginn, costing me 17 points, and Andy Dalton over Jay Cutler (it’s a QB-flex league), costing me five more. Heading into Christmas Day, I was up 14 with Nick Foles going, but my opponent had Le’Veon Bell, Jesse James (two-TE league) and Michael Crabtree. Yahoo’s software had him winning by 10.
It was nice to see James get ignored for most of the game (one target, no catches) with Vance McDonald being the TE du jour, and Bell getting vultured on the Steelers first rush TD was even better. But rooting against Bell is miserable. There are so many little dump-offs to him, and he broke a longer run for a TD late in the game, after a senseless facemask call extended a drive. Bell was at 17 of his projected 22 points with most of the fourth quarter remaining, but the Steelers wisely subbed in Stevan Ridley to close out the blowout. Instead of getting 30-odd points combined, the duo had about 17, and I was only down three heading into the late game, with Foles against Crabtree.
The late game was too late for me to stay up and watch (I’m in Portugal), and the worst outcome would have been losing and also wrecking my week with lack of sleep. So I watched the condensed version of it this morning. Zero catches for Crabtree, and Foles’ painful, ugly showing was enough (his only TD was on a 17-yard screen pass, though Alshon Jeffery dropped what should have been a second one.) Who cares, though? The uglier, the better, especially with a bad team that was bottom-half in points, had Andrew Luck as its most expensive player and set the all-time record-low in scoring Week 1 with 59 points. A Christmas miracle if there ever was one.
• The Eagles are toast in the playoffs. Their defense is okay, but having Carson Wentz extend drives he had no business extending protected them. You can’t be life and death with the Giants and Raiders and get anywhere. It was nice of them to push ATS on that last-second defensive TD, though why not kick the PAT and cover outright?
• Derek Carr would make for a solid backup QB, roughly Ryan Fitzpatrick level.
• Marshawn Lynch still has it. It’ll be interesting to see whether he comes back in 2018.
• Amari Cooper had the easiest TD of all time, probably on everyone’s bench given his status, YTD performance and that he was playing Monday night.
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• If Antonio Brown is himself in time for the Divisional round, his injury might have helped the Steelers. Martavis Bryant and Juju Smith-Schuster are both good receivers, and Bryant looks engaged and focused again. This is the best receiving corps in the NFL, especially given McDonald is an upgrade at TE, and Bell is obviously top-tier at RB.
• Alfred Blue had the rare 100-yard game in a 34-6 loss. Congratulations to him.
• DeAndre Hopkins always gets his, even if he has to create a catchable deflection to himself.
• It’s so great the Giants brought Eli Manning back. Losing 23-0 with two picks and a fumble is so much more dignified.
• Jason Garrett was rightly pilloried on Twitter for throwing the ball at the goal line rather than handing to Zeke Elliott, but Garrett’s cowardice seems to have affected Dak Prescott too. Prescott holds the ball too long, never takes shots down the field and checks down to sluggish Jason Witten on every play. I once thought Prescott was Russell Wilson 2.0, but now he looks like peak Jason Campbell.
• Dez Bryant has probably lost a step, but it’s hard to know because the Cowboys so rarely even try for a big play.
• It was another surprisingly bad game for the Seattle passing game. Russell Wilson got 4.4 YPA, and that’s not including three sacks. Jimmy Graham is a goal-line specialist only, basically Benjarvus Green-Ellis, circa 2011.
• Jimmy Garoppolo is somehow exceeding the substantial hype. He had 8.1 YPA, two passing TDs and a rushing TD against the Jaguars, while the 49ers put up 44 points. There will be a lot of pressure on whoever the Patriots take with that second-round pick, especially after the 49ers beat the Patriots in the 2018 Super Bowl.
• Blake Bortles made some egregious picks, but still put up massive fantasy numbers. The Jaguars aren’t the 2000 Ravens because Bortles has more upside and downside than game-manager Trent Dilfer. I’d still bet on the Jaguars to do damage in the playoffs, though.
• Jameis Winston had a massive 13.6 YPA in Carolina, but the Bucs still found a way to lose the game. The Panthers are such an ugly team, though.
• I don’t have anything to say about the Broncos-Redskins game. There’s nothing interesting about either team.
• The Jets always compete, even with Bryce Petty slinging it for 4.3 YPA and a pick. Congratulations if you had Bilal Powell – your bench crushed it.
• The Saints and Vikings are the NFC’s two best teams. The Rams are good too, but Greg Zuerlein’s injury was significant for them. I’m still rooting for Seattle to secure the last spot. Despite their underwhelming play, I always feel Wilson gives them a puncher’s chance.
• The Bills hung with the Patriots until Sean McDermott for God knows what reason tried a 50-yard FG on 4th-and-1, down seven with 13 minutes left in the game. Stephen Hauschka missed, and the Patriots scored on the next drive, putting the game out of reach.
• Alex Smith had a Year 13 breakout after all. It’s beyond bizarre a former no-upside dink-and-dunker like Smith would finish as the QB2 in fantasy.
• Jay Cutler and the Dolphins really believe in DaVante Parker. He had 10 more targets in Week 16, giving him 22 over the last two weeks. Parker’s production was modest, however.
• Todd Gurley is probably on a higher percentage of fantasy league winners than any back in league history. Not only was he a top regular season player but he’s had 270 rushing yards, 13 catches, 176 receiving yards and six TDs the last two weeks in your fantasy playoffs. And his Week 14 – 135 YFS, three catches and two TDs – was a big lift too.
• Joe Mixon looked good early before getting hurt again, and Gio Bernard had a massive game – 168 YFS, seven catches and a TD. Mixon has a future, but Bernard has always been good when healthy. If the Bengals can improve their offensive line, the duo can be a poor man’s Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara.
• Eric Ebron will go into 2018 with a new round of hype. I’d bet he delivers this time – TE is the skill position that typically takes the most time to learn.
• The DeShone Kizer experiment was not fun while it lasted, especially if you started Corey Coleman over Ted Ginn in a high-stakes matchup. In my defense, Coleman (one catch, three yards) had more targets (six) than Ginn (five.) It turns out Kizer targets in Chicago are less valuable than Brees targets at home against the Falcons. Who knew volume wasn’t always king?
• I watched maybe 5-10 minutes of the Packers-Vikings game on my phone in the aftermath of a boozy Christmas party I attended in London. I was nearly blacked-out during the party and have nothing to say about the game.
• For similar reasons, I didn’t watch any of the Ravens-Colts, but it was nice having Justin Tucker in a couple key places.