Tag Archive: NFL


A Fantasy Football Post

imagesHere’s the thing about most of the fantasy football articles I read (I’m looking at you, Matthew Berry); they all have long-winded introductions. All I really want is to find out which quarterback I should target, but first I have to wade through several self-indulgent paragraphs written by some blowhard who thinks he’s funny. He’ll probably tell some dumb story about how he is really short, and one time he met this really tall guy, and boy was it funny to see them standing next to each other. You keep reading because you want to be sure you are paying attention when the actual fantasy advice comes along, but deep down your frustration is growing because you can’t believe the guy is still going on and on and on,but hasn’t told you a thing about how to handle your draft or who to target as possible undervalued players that you can steal later. Truthfully, I suppose the system is to blame. I mean, if a person is getting paid to write, he or she feels a certain obligation to provide some style to the information, not for the readers, mind you, but for the editors and supervisors. Anyone who obsesses over fantasy football can just say “Arian Foster is a risky bet this season”, but websites don’t hire just anyone; they hire writers. Writers have to demonstrate how clever they are in addition to their grammatical prowess. Smart editors know that the average consumer really hates it when bloggers disregard the basic rules of written English. You wouldn’t want to read this at all, for example, if I did things like wrote in the first person, would you? No self-respecting fantasy footballer would dare take advice from a writer who bounced from first to second to third person pronouns, right? Having said all that, I want to assure you that this will not be one of those fantasy football blogs that has copious introductions with no real point, or one that uses a cornucopia of flowery prose just to try and impress you. No sir or ma’am; it is straight to the fantasy advice. Wait, what?

So, without further doo-doo, here’s my list of certain things you need to be knowing about before you draft because they are so important that you need to be knowing them:

1. Cam Newton is your starting quarterback. The schedule counts. The schedule is everything. Most respectable fantasy leagues hold their playoffs in weeks 14-16. Newton plays New Orleans twice in the fantasy playoffs. New Orleans. Twice. Not only will the Saints score at will, forcing Carolina to throw early and often in order to keep up, but the Saints defense was historically bad last year. So to fix it, they hired Rob Ryan. Ryan runs a complicated, gambling defense that just doesn’t work needs great players at a lot of positions. He doesn’t have them. Sure, getting Drew Brees would be great, but you have to address other needs first. Cam’s the top tier quarterback you can wait for after others have grabbed Rodgers, Brees, Brady, and Manning.

Other reasons you can wait on a QB: Matt Stafford will be around, and Detroit chucks the pigskin more often than a professional pig-thrower at a county fair (just go with it.) Tony Romo will be around too. He’s the perfect fantasy storm: a pass-happy head coach who’s job is on the line, receiving weapons galore, and an O-Line that opens less holes than the sewer maintenance guy who’s job it is to open sewer manholes and check them for stuff (taking a class in similes, starts next week).

2. Guys I’d rather have than Arian Foster: Jamaal Charles. Matt Forte. Ray Rice. LeSean McCoy. And I wouldn’t blame you for taking Doug Martin ahead of him as well.

Guys I don’t want to risk my season on (draft them only if they fall): -C.J. Spiller (we’ll see if he can handle this workload, and Fred Jackson is still around)
-Trent Richardson (hard to wrap my head around a Cleveland player being as a lead offensive weapon)
-Alfred Morris (Shanahan changes his mind about RBs more often than Waffle McNotsure©)

3. Dez Bryant is better than Calvin Johnson. This year. In Fantasy land, at least.
-Receivers tend to break out in their 3rd year. This is year 3 for Torrey Smith. His average expert ranking puts him in the 3rd tier of wide receivers with guys like Steve Smith, Pierre Garcon, Eric Decker, Stevie Johnson, and DeSean Jackson. Of those guys, he’s the one you want.

4. Don’t draft David Wilson, Darren McFadden, Steven Ridley, or DeMarco Murray and expect them to start for you every week.
These are guys I want on my team, but not as one of my top 2 RBs. The guy you do want only because he is way undervalued right now: Ahmad Bradshaw. If Bradshaw stays healthy, he’s the kind of guy that puts you over the top, and you are better off taking a flyer on a guy like that than a mid-tier wide receiver.

5. Vernon Davis is lining up as a wide receiver in San Francisco.
But don’t waste a high pick on a tight end, even someone the likes of Jimmy Graham. Wait for Cameron in Cleveland.

6. Denver’s Defense is probably overrated on your chart.
Now that Von Miller is suspended for the first 6 games and Champ Bailey is hurt, this is a weakened option.

There. Turns out it was 6 things, but there’s a lot more.

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There are those in the media who playfully mock fans who get excited about a preseason game, but educated fans knew that Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, and Tony Romo had something based on their alleged “meaningless” performances in these games. With that in mind, here’s what mattered from last night’s game:

Denver’s opening drive against the first team defense

Cover art for a fat-fetish erotica novel

There will be severe growing pains as the defense tries to absorb the new, complex Rob Ryan defense. Even when all 11 players have sufficiently grasped the concepts, assignments, and terminology, there will still be several big plays surrendered because of the gambling nature of Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. In the preseason, Sensabaugh will be late a few times when asked to cover a corner blitz and pick up the receiver. I don’t put much stock in the fact that Dallas had some blown coverages against Denver, because I think that is merely the product of learning a new system with no off season. What concerns me about Denver’s opening drive is how the Cowboys simply got manhandled up front against the run. The fact that the Bronco’s young offensive line frequently overpowered the front three for Dallas has to be cause for concern. This was not a product of learning a new scheme; it was simply power and skill, and the Dallas front three looked less than competitive. Certainly plugging Ratliff back in the middle will help, but he has his biggest impact on the passing game. I believe that this defensive line will tell us a lot about Garrett as a coach. He appears to be the kind of coach that does not believe in the “incumbent starter”; if that is true, then Igor Olshansky will not be on the field for the Jets’ opening drive on September 11. In fact, one wonders if, at $3.34 million this season, Olshansky should even be on the roster. The only justification I can see is Hatcher’s injury history, but that seems like an expensive insurance policy.

The kicking game

David Buehler’s value took a serious hit when the NFL decided to move kick-offs up to the 35 yard line. (Doesn’t it seem like kickers should spend more time trying to increase kick-off hang time and force the receiving team to field the ball around the 3 yard-line?). With touchbacks now a foregone conclusion, Buehler is no longer needed for his big leg or his kick coverage. The days of keeping a kick off specialist are over, which means that the kicker’s sole job is to make field goals (and extra points, which I guess we shouldn’t take for granted based on last year). From most reports, rookie Dan Bailey has at worst kept pace, and at best out-kicked Buehler at camp. Though Bailey did not get a field goal attempt in the first preseason game, Buehler did. Is it splitting hairs to say that even though Buehler made his 42 yard kick last night, the fact that it barely, and I mean barely, sneaked through the uprights concerns me? Here’s the bottom line: this team should be favoring younger players at every position. If the talent is close to a push, then the younger player should get the nod. That’s what 6-10 teams do. Buehler was handed the job last year and did not deliver, and he has shown little improvement in camp this season. Again, I’d love to see Garrett favor youth in this situation.

Opportunity is knocking; let the Butler get it

Victor "Jeeves" Butler

I don’t know if Victor Butler is a difference maker, but he was clearly the best player on the field against Denver’s second team. He has shown flashes throughout his Cowboys career, and as far as I can tell, is held down only because of 5-6 good games from Spencer in 2009. I’m not saying I’m ready to replace Spencer with Butler, but I would love to see what Butler can do against a first team offense at some point in the preseason. I do believe that if Rob Ryan decides he wants more Butler, he won’t be told no just because Spencer was a 1st round pick and Butler was a 4th.

Banned from the Arboretum for staring lustfully

Kevin Ogletree will not make the final roster. Harris is still raw, but his speed makes him a potential difference maker as a slot receiver. Garrett specializes in using pre-snap motion in order to get players in space, and while Harris polishes his route running ability, he can contribute with plays like last night (Harris can also be a major factor when Romo decides to improvise). The 4th receiver on any roster must be able to make an impact on special teams, and Ogletree can’t. This is another case where Garrett and Jones need to think of themselves as a 6-10 team that has an opportunity to favor youth and upside over a decent player who has hit his ceiling. Even if Dallas wants to think of itself as a Super Bowl caliber team, cutting Ogletree will likely not be the difference in a playoff game.

On the Hot Seat: Holland is sitting in a Dutch Oven

I liked the starting offensive line last night, and noticed no real difference between what Arkin brought to the table at left guard and what Holland brings at right guard. This is another opportunity for the Cowboys to develop Arkin by starting him. It’s not as though Holland will be missed at guard. At least Arkin is someone who could have a future here, whereas Holland continues to grow older and more injury prone. For that matter, the Cowboys better be ready for Costa to play significant time at center. Gurode is expected to return soon, but a 32 year old offensive lineman less than two months off of arthroscopic knee surgery is a recipe for disaster. Will he trust his knee? Will he be able to generate the same power from his legs? This is a case where I’d rather have a healthy Gurode than the young Costa, but I’m not betting that Andre will make it through a 16 game season.

Back that Thing Up

Does this team still need Jon Kitna? Has McGee shown enough that the Cowboys can save themselves $2.6 million by jettisoning a 39 year old back up quarterback who can only get the ball to his tight ends and running backs? Isn’t Dallas better served having McGee get the 2nd team reps and continuing to develop him? I like what Kitna did for this team last year, now that Garrett is in charge, Kitna’s leadership is not as vital to the offense as it was last year.

Ta-Shardly had a Chance (thought I’d go different way there, didn’t you)

Jason Garrett clearly does not believe in Tashard Choice. I have no idea why, but the fact that Dallas took Murray in the third round when they had so many other holes to fill tells us all we need to know. I’d have been happy with a RB rotation of Felix, Choice, and Miller, but if Choice is cut/traded, then the team is left with two injury prone players (Murrary and Jones), and a very young and unproven Lonyae Miller (or Phillip Tanner, based on last night’s game). I think the team would be crazy to get rid of Choice, but it feels inevitable at this point.

A good start for the Ginger-Bred Man

The bottom line is this: the more I look back on last night’s game and reflect on this team, the more I see them as a 6-10 team that should be favoring youth at every position. I think they can be competitive with Bailey instead of Buehler, Arkin instead of Holland, Harris over Olgetree, McGee as the back up, and so on. Perhaps the most exciting thing about these 2011 Cowboys  is the general vibe that now surrounds the entire organization. It feels like this team has finally been humbled, and for the first time in years, there seems to be no sense of entitlement or unearned arrogance. This feels more like a team than a collection of talented individuals, and Garrett has brought a much more organized and purposeful feel to practices and games. Despite being the first preseason game, penalties were kept to a minimum. I love what Rob Ryan brings to this team, and I love the fact that Garrett wanted him despite their incredibly different personalities. Watching Garrett laugh and playfully slap McGee around at the end of last night’s game spoke volumes to me about his ability to relate to players while still maintaining his authority. I still worry about Garrett as both head coach and offensive coordinator, but the guy did go to Princeton, after all.

It has been a while since the Cowboys entered a season flying under the radar. I’m not sure if they have built a playoff team, but I am confident that this team won’t embarrass its fans the way they often did last year.

Fantasy Football

The sh*t is hitting the fans

Fans of the NFL, it’s time to admit the ugly truth; we are in an abusive sports relationship. Whenever this lock-out finally ends, players will be able to get more money and have less required of them; no more training camp two-a-days, fewer OTAs, limited workouts in full pads, and so on. The owners will be better off because of rookie wage scales and lowered salary caps. The fans? We’ll still be required to pay full price for preseason games. And we will. The owners know it. The players know it. We know it.

That’s why the attempts by the owners, players and media to portray the use  fans’ “good will” as a bargaining chip is ridiculous. ESPN tries to kill time on SportsCenter by debating on which side of this stand off the fans’ sympathies lie. Do we blame the owners or the players for this mess? (submit your answer online now!). Yesterday, the owners apparently (and I say apparently because I don’t really care enough to find out the fine details) voted to approve a proposal that the players hadn’t seen yet, allegedly as a way to put the onus on the players in the eyes of the public. The NFL may have done this for strategic reasons, but I can assure you “public perception” isn’t one of them. How do I know? Because both the players and owners know that whenever, however they decide to settle this, we’ll be waiting with open arms wallets. Public perception has zero affect on either side, and for the NFL and media to pretend otherwise is adding insult to injury. Yes, we know that no matter how the NFL treats us, we’ll be back when they tell us to be, cash in hand. It doesn’t matter who we blame; it doesn’t matter if we are anti-owner or anti-player; tell us when to be there, and how much it’ll cost, and we’ll pay it.

Aren't we cute?

I’m not asking for an attitude adjustment from the fans. Maybe one day in some alternate universe, fans will actually pull off a “fan strike” and leagues will have to take us into account. All I’m asking is that ESPN, the NFL, and the NFLPA stop mocking us by pretending that public perception means anything to the union or the owners. If and when we have our first preseason game, the stadium will be full, and people will be so grateful that the lock-out is over that any sort of anger or resentment towards the NFL will be forgotten. We will happily buy our $10 beers while we sit and cheer Joe Something-ton lead the Bengals’ third stringers onto the field.

So please, NFL, stop pretending that you give a damn about the fans, and just get this thing done. Stop acting like any sort of public pressure could intimidate one side or another into making a deal, when both sides are well aware that when the NFL snaps its fingers, we will come running. We’re not proud of ourselves for it; please stop taunting us. Please don’t say it is important to get this done for the fans. You care about the fans because they pay your bills, and you know that you could cancel the September 11 game in New York on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, and would (at worst) have to deal with a light smattering of boos before the kick-off of the next game. What we think doesn’t matter; certainly not to you. Stop using the media to negotiate. Stop sending out press releases. Stop trying to paint yourselves as martyrs. At this point, we hate all of you. But we’ll be there.

Please get this done so you can take our money and we can go back to pretending that you care.