This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.Equanimity
I write about this every year because every year I'm faced with the same emotional turmoil while rooting for my real life team, fantasy team, survivor interest and ATS picks. In Week 4, you could throw in my baseball teams too, a screenshot of the standings for one is here. (Third place in the NFBC Main pays $1600, fourth zero.)
One problem with being in so many contests and pools is you're going to lose often. Every team is a long shot to win its league, and every entry a long shot to win in Survivor. Usually, something will go wrong, either early on - Le'Veon Bell and Leonard Fournette in one league - or later in the playoffs (Alvin Kamara getting hurt early in the Thursday night game last year, e.g.), and I'll find myself aggrieved, enraged and looking to some imagined tribunal for justice. This week it was the Browns coughing up the cover after they had seemingly locked it up twice that set me on tilt - they were not only my best bet, but I had used them in the Supercontest. Plus, I had to stay up for the overtime (1:30 am my time), one last kick in the ass on the way out the door.
It's the nature of what we do - there's a lot of losing involved. As a competitive person who wants to win and wants my calls to be right as often as possible, it's emotionally taxing. (That's not to say my job is hard or stressful compared to most. Obviously, I'm lucky to do what I do, but I'm not of the belief that other people's greater misery invalidates my experience.) I'm usually in a terrible mood if my predictions are wrong, and my teams get crushed, even though the amounts of money at stake are almost never life-changing, and my paycheck in no way depends on my performance. In some ways, it would be the easiest thing in the world to shrug it off and treat it as harmless fun - "Oh well, I got it wrong this time. The fantasy Gods were not on my side. LOL. Maybe next year, things will break my way!"
But that isn't me. I want to win, I want to be right and I don't like losing. I put time and effort into my picks, and making them is part of my job. The day I stop caring about the results is the day I should move into a different line of work. The key then is to find a way to care without letting it ruin my experience. It's to have equanimity, rather than apathy.
When I was in college I read a lot of books on Buddhism - pretty much anything I could get my hands on. It appealed to me because it addressed this question - how do you deal with the problem of suffering? Suffering is defined as either wanting something you don't have, or having something you don't want, i.e., desire and aversion. One of the best sayings (I believe attributed to the Buddha) I read was something along the lines of:
There are two kinds of suffering in this world: the kind that leads to more suffering and the kind that leads to the end of suffering. If you're not willing to experience the latter, you'll certainly have more of the former.
What constitutes the latter kind of suffering that's necessary to move past the cyclical misery of hope and despair, winning and losing, self-satisfaction and self-doubt? To me, it's sitting in my office, enraged at the terrible beat I took, and re-processing the inner turmoil as a sign I'm still in the game. If I could be gutted by that pick six, or a season-ending injury, it means there's something there to gut. If I'm enraged at the things I can't control on the screen, that visceral feeling beneath the "would-have, could-have, should-have" distraction is itself the point.
What was intolerable is now just the new baseline. I'm going from 12th to 10th, 10th to eighth like the future of humanity depended on it. I'm cool in the face of defeat because I'm okay with being tilted as hell about it. The equanimity lies in the calibration, not the suppression, of the emotional environment. I hate losing, but I'm determined to enjoy the feeling of hating it when I lose. I'll mine it for all its worth, and when the ore is exhausted, I'll know it's time to find something else to do on Sunday.
Week 5 Trivia
Apropos of Mitchell Trubisky's six-TD passes this week, can you name all the NFL QBs since 1950 to throw six TD passes in a game?
Guessing the Lines
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL|
|Colts at Patriots||10.5||9.5||10.5||0|
|Titans at Bills||-3.5||-3||-3.5||0|
|Falcons at Steelers||3||3||3||0|
|Broncos at Jets||2.5||1||2.5||0|
|Jaguars at Chiefs||3||4||3||0|
|Packers at Lions||0||-3||-1.5||1.5|
|Ravens at Browns||-3||-4||-3||0|
|Giants at Panthers||7.5||8||7||0.5|
|Dolphins at Bengals||7.5||8||6||1.5|
|Raiders at Chargers||5.5||6.5||6||-0.5|
|Cardinals at 49ers||5.5||6.5||4||1.5|
|Vikings at Eagles||4.5||3.5||3||1.5|
|Rams at Seahawks||-8.5||-6.5||-7||-1.5|
|Cowboys at Texans||2.5||0||3.5||-1|
|Redskins at Saints||7||7||6.5||0.5|
I was surprised to see my lines for the first five games fall exactly on the actual numbers. Other than that, I don't have any massive disparities (the most being 1.5 points), but it looks like I'm on the Lions, Bengals, 49ers, Eagles and Rams. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind for Beating the Book.
Week 4 Observations
• The Ravens offense is actually good and enjoyable to watch. Joe Flacco looks like a different player, and he gets rid of the ball quickly to three different wideouts and three tight ends, as well as his backs. The addition of John Brown has been massive – he's a legitimate field stretcher, and they're not afraid to target him deep. Willie Snead and Michael Crabtree have roughly equal roles at this point.
• I drafted Justin Tucker wherever I could, and I'm happy I did. It's just such a luxury having a kicker who almost never misses, has never botched a PAT in his career and routinely hits from long distance. The team knows it, too, and they use him accordingly.
•Alex Collins and Javoris Allen are in a near 50/50 timeshare. Collins is clearly better, but he lost another fumble Sunday night, and Allen is the preferred goal-line option.
• The Ravens have a good defense, but the Steelers offense was a little out of sync. There were a couple drops by receivers, Antonio Brown was ignored early, and there's not much rhythm, in part because while James Conner is serviceable, he's no Le'Veon Bell, especially in the passing game. Vance McDonald looks like a viable No. 3 target, though.
• It turns out Bell is returning for Week 8 after the bye. That means he's only holding out for two more games. That makes him more valuable than Leonard Fournette at least.
• The 49ers should have been in a position to beat the Chargers and knock most people out of my last Survivor pool, but the turnovers and sloppy play killed them.
• The Giants defense held up pretty well for most of the game, but the offense is putrid. Eliability™ doesn't throw downfield, and if the rush gets there he's hopeless to escape. I've never seen a quarterback so unable to buy time or step up in the pocket. I also thought Pat Shurmur was an offensive mastermind, but it looked like the Ben McAdoo version Sunday.
•Alvin Kamara is a monster, but he was the only Saint who did much, as the Giants defense contained Drew Brees and Michael Thomas all day before the dam broke late for Kamara. I expect Mark Ingram to see his 2017 role when he returns next week, however, keeping Kamara fresh.
•Josh Rosen gave the Cardinals a spark and showed poise in his first start, but it's hard to get excited about this offense. At least David Johnson (22 carries, four targets, three catches) is starting to get his work.
•Doug Baldwin saw seven targets as he works his way back. Mike Davis saw 21 carries to Rashaad Penny's nine once Chris Carson was scratched. Odd for the Seahawks to take Penny in the first round only to make him third string.
•Phil Dawson could be on the chopping block after missing two FGs, one of which might have won the game.
• The Browns (and the refs) gifted the game to the Raiders so many times, it's hard to know where to begin. Baker Mayfield threw two picks (one returned for a TD) and fumbled twice. He still looks very good to me, and at least two of the turnovers were completely fluky.
•Derek Carr made some boneheaded plays and failed to convert from in close on what should have been his team's final shot, but he also made some nice throws to Jared Cook and Amari Cooper, and should have had a big play to Martavis Bryant who was wide open down the field on a play, but dropped the ball. The ball was thrown behind Bryant and much too short, but he was so open, you could argue it was more or less the correct (safe) throw. Even without it, Carr finished with 437 yards and four TDs, something that could happen a few times, given the team's leaky defense.
• Cook (13-8-110-2) is a top-five TE, and Cooper (12-8-128-1) is back to his pre-2017 self.
•Marshawn Lynch still has it, and he's even being used in the passing game (5-3-27.) Say what you want about Jon Gruden, but the Raiders offense is vastly upgraded from last year.
• But for some turnovers deep in their end, the Jaguars would have shut out the Jets.
•Blake Bortles threw for 388 yards (10.2 YPA), mostly on shallow crossing routes that took the place of running plays, even when they were in run-out-the-clock mode.
• Fournette had to leave the game with hamstring tightness after 11 carries in the first half. T.Y. Yeldon had 18 carries and three catches in relief, i.e., Fournette would have had a massive workload had he stayed healthy. It's anyone's guess how long he'll be out, but he's been the biggest Round 1 disaster by far, worse than Le'Veon Bell who won't play a snap before Week 8.
• The Patriots annihilated the Dolphins so thoroughly we got to see Brock Osweiler.
•Josh Gordon made a couple plays, but wasn't a major factor in the offense. Phillip Dorsett made the biggest impact among the receivers, and Rob Gronkowski left in the second half with an ankle injury. Julian Edelman should have a massive role out of the gate in Week 5. Chris Hogan is probably droppable in your league.
• There's nothing to say about the Dolphins who simply did not show up.
•Andrew Luck finally looked like he was back with 464 yards (7.5 YPA), four TDs and no picks.
•T.Y. Hilton (chest/hamstring) got hurt, but returned to go 6-4-115 and could miss Week 5's Thursday night game. Chester Rogers, Nyheim Hines, Zach Pascal and Eric Ebron all saw double-digit targets with Hines, Pascal and Ebron scoring TDs. Hines and Ebron are the easy calls should Hilton miss the game. The Colts still can't run the ball.
•Deshaun Watson had another big fantasy day – 375 yards passing (8.9 YPA), two TDs, 41 rushing yards and a rushing TD, but took a whopping seven sacks and threw a pick.
•Will Fuller always scores when he and Watson are healthy, and Week 4 was no exception, but rookie Keke Coutee (15-11-109) led the team in targets and catches. Mr. Reliable (DeAndre Hopkins) went 12-10-169-1. It's possible he's underrated despite being WR2 per ADP this summer.
•Marcus Mariota has turned a corner. He threw for 344 yards (8.0 YPA) and two TDs, while running for 46 more and a score against a tough Eagles defense.
•Carson Wentz played fine – 348 yards (7.0 YPA), two TDs, no picks but with four sacks. It looks like Alshon Jeffery (9-8-105-1) and Jay Ajayi (15-for-70 and three short catches) are both completely back. Zach Ertz (14-10-112) is more than living up to his draft-day ADP, but Nelson Agholor (12-5-22) isn't making much of his chances this year.
•Josh Allen and the Bills more or less played the way we expected them to in Minnesota last week.
•Aaron Rodgers didn't look like himself – he threw a pick, should have had at least one other, didn't show much pocket awareness or mobility and missed a couple open receivers. Maybe the Bills defense is decent, but if I were a Rodgers owner, I'd be concerned.
• I wasn't sure what number Aaron Jones wore, so I learned to identify him as the guy not going down when swarmed by opposing tacklers. He's clearly the team's best back and went 11 for 65, but Jamaal Williams saw 11 carries (for 27 yards) also. No one knows what Mike McCarthy will do.
• If you're playing the Cowboys, it would be wise to dedicate resources to stopping Ezekiel Elliott. He torched the Lions for 240 YFS, four catches and a score. Dak Prescott (thanks to a long TD to Elliott) had a nice game – 255 yards, 9.4 YPA – but he's rarely throwing down the field or getting wideouts other than slot-man Cole Beasley involved.
•Kerryon Johnson looks like a star, but he saw only nine carries to LeGarrette Blount's seven, despite Johnson vastly outproducing him. With Theo Riddick coming in on third downs, Johnson's role is narrower than it should be.
•Golden Tate had a monster game – 8-8-132-2. Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay also produced modestly, but Golladay saw only four targets. Big plays to Tate and the Cowboys' slow pace cut into the team's offensive snaps.
• I had given up on Mitch Trubisky, so I didn't see a 354-yard (on 13.6 YPA), six-TD game coming. He also ran for 53 yards.
•Tarik Cohen finally lived up to his draft-day billing – 13 carries for 53 yards and an 8-7-121-1 line as a receiver. It's surprising it took Matt Nagy this long to figure out how to use him. Jordan Howard 11 carries/one target had a reduced role as a result, though I wouldn't read too much into that going forward.
•Taylor Gabriel 7-7-104-2 had a huge day, and Nagy seems to love him, but at 168 pounds, he's a long shot to be a consistent contributor.
• Ronald Jones finally got his shot, but the game flow made it moot. He could supplant Peyton Barber going forward, though.
•DeSean Jackson is off to a huge start and had another big game. Mike Evans got his late, and while O.J. Howard left with an injury (alleged to be minor), Cameron Brate, one of Winston's favorite targets, scored the team's only TD. Assuming Howard's okay, it'll be interesting to see the target distribution at TE.
•Matt Ryan's massive year continues – another 419 yards and three TDs in a loss. Julio Jones predictably went 12-9-173 and no TDs. He even caught a hail mary at the end of the game, but short of the goal line. Calvin Ridley caught two more TDs, and Mohamed Sanu went 9-6-111. Tevin Coleman hasn't really cashed in with Devonta Freeman out, and Ito Smith scored the lone rushing TD.
• Gio Bernard has delivered with Joe Mixon out – another 96 YFS, four catches and two TDs this week. Tyler Boyd built on his breakout with a 15-11-100 day, A.J. looked healthy and scored, while John Ross even scored a 39-yard TD, but pulled a muscle doing it. Tyler Eifert is out for the year after breaking his anke – he was off to a great start too. Andy Dalton played well (8.2 YPA), but 337 yards and three TDs just isn't that impressive in this inflated passing year.
• Pat Mahomes led the team to a comeback win, but the explosive plays weren't there – only 6.8 YPA and one TD pass – though he did have 304 yards and ran another one in for a score.
• After a slow start, Travis Kelce got his, thanks in part to a short TD flip near the goal line. Tyreek Hill (13-9-54) was quiet and inefficient, though he did have a big punt return and forced the Broncos to kick to the sidelines the rest of the game. Sammy Watkins injured his hamstring early and wasn't a factor.
•Kareem Hunt had the Todd Gurley game for which we had been waiting – 19 carries for 121 yards and a TD, with three catches for 54 more yards. Hunt had only one catch coming into the game, so this was a major development for his value.
• The Broncos receivers were quiet, as Keenum spread the ball around. Tight end Jeff Heuerman (7-4-57) was their leading receiver.
• Even though it failed, I loved the hook and ladder attempt on the Broncos' final play. There might have been enough time to spike the ball had they not tried it, but between getting lined up and spiking it without a penalty (and run-off) and executing the next play in the end zone, it would have been a long shot anyway. Why not try to get it then and there with a play they're not expecting?
• The Broncos defense was able to slow the Chiefs offense to an extent, but Week 5 at Jacksonville is the real test.