Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2021: Some Good & Bad In A Week 1 Win

Part of me feels like I had no business winning that first game; that’ll happen when you score the 4th (out of 5th) most points in victory (and when you score the 7th most points in total). There were only three teams I would’ve defeated, and I was lucky enough to have gone up against one of them.

But, as a seasoned fantasy football veteran, I know shit like this happens. And, at some point, my team is going to be held WAY under its expected total points, and I’m going to lose to a team that was Just Okay. The fantasy gods giveth, and the fantasy gods taketh away.

Snoopy & Prickly Pete defeated Car Talk With Josh Allen 161.88 to 123.35.

I woke up on Sunday to find that Trey Sermon was inactive. That had me scrambling to my computer to put Raheem Mostert into my lineup over Clyde Edwards-Helaire. When you roster Mostert, you know time is of the essence; there are precious few weeks in a season where he makes it through a game unscathed. In striking while the iron was hot, I figured what better opportunity to enjoy a completely-healthy Mostert?

It turns out, he was good for two carries before he injured his knee, sending him to the IR for the rest of the year.

I’m a pretty rational human being. I know, for instance, that I wasn’t the only person who was duped into starting Mostert this past week. I know I wasn’t the only person to make a last-second lineup change that backfired. But, I believe wholeheartedly that I’m the only person in the world who gets so consistently fucked over by these moves every single time. Either I make the switch, and it backfires, or I stick to my guns, and I leave points on my bench. EVERY. FUCKING. TIME.

In this case, it was hard to be too upset, because CEH only got 10.2 points – pretty much what I expected him to get against the Browns – but that’s not the point. The point is the potential of what Mostert represented, in a cupcake matchup against the Lions’ inept run defense. That was a 20+ point game in the making!

The fantasy gods, knowing they did me dirty, decided to help me out in this one. My opponent had Ryan Fitzpatrick going as one of his QBs; he made it all of 6 pass attempts before going down with an injury. That one probably hurt Car Talk more than it hurt me, but if Mostert would’ve had the monster day I was expecting, I think it might’ve been close.

Anyway, the highlight of my day was Jameis Winston throwing for 5 touchdowns and getting me 41.1 points. He REALLY carried me, though I had some good performances elsewhere. CeeDee Lamb got me 23.88, Jimmy G got me 19.9 (and had a TD pass stolen from him at the goalline by the backup, FML), D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and the Rams’ defense all got me in the teens.

Meanwhile, Car Talk had 25-point games out of Kelce and Mixon, but Josh Allen struggled in a tough matchup against the Steelers’ defense. On top of that, he had four guys NOT named Fitzpatrick who also got him under 10 points each (compared to just Elliott and Mostert for me).

Late last week, after Gus Edwards went down, I picked up Ty’Son Williams, dropping Zack Moss (who was another surprise inactive on gameday). Williams looks to be going up against Latavius Murray (who I also just picked up on waivers this week) for carries in that backfield; he had a solid game on Monday Night, but the splits were pretty even between the two. I’ll continue to monitor them, while still looking to shore up the position. In the meantime, Mostert lands in my IR spot.

This week, I go up against Hahmez Wah 360 Allstars. Here’s my projected lineup:

  • Jameis Winston (QB) @ CAR
  • Jimmy Garoppolo (QB) @ PHI
  • A.J. Brown (WR) @ SEA
  • D.K. Metcalf (WR) vs. TEN
  • Ezekiel Elliott (RB) @ LAC
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB) @ BAL
  • Noah Fant (TE) @ JAX
  • CeeDee Lamb (WR) @ LAC
  • Justin Tucker (K) vs. KC
  • L.A. Rams (DEF) @ IND

I have at least one friend in my league who thinks Winston might’ve been the best pick in the entire draft. After one week, who am I to argue?! But, I’d like to see it over a consistent basis before I crown my ass. Nevertheless, the Panthers’ defense looks like a pretty good landing spot for his second week. Jimmy G, I’m a little more concerned about. Maybe the Philly defense is better than we thought? Or Atlanta is just terrible? My alternative is Mac Jones at the Jets, which seems like a no-brainer. But, the Jets do have a pretty good D-Line, I’m told, and again it’s only his second game. My hunch is the 49ers will need to throw the ball more to put up points to keep up with the Eagles (especially if the 49ers’ defense is as bad as we saw in the second half against the Lions last week). I’m really just biding my time – and THOROUGHLY on the Bench Andy Dalton Bandwagon – until Justin Fields gets the starting job full time. Boy did he look good in limited action against the Bears!

Zeke is locked in at running back, and I fully expect him to have a much better game against the Chargers. CEH is up in the air …

As usual, my three receivers are locked in, so I won’t be throwing any running backs into my flex spot just yet. Ty’Son Williams is still in too much of a timeshare to trust at this point.

I’m reasonably happy with Justin Tucker against the Chiefs, though that could be uncomfortable if the Chiefs start racking up the touchdowns. I still don’t know enough about Noah Fant or the Jaguars to know if I’m happy with that matchup, but my gut tells me it should go well for me. I’d like to think the Rams could do just as well against the Colts as the Seahawks did, if not better; here’s hoping Aaron Donald can make Carson Wentz’s life miserable!

The lineup Hahmez Wah is throwing out there looks quite formidable!

  • Jalen Hurts (QB) vs. SF
  • Matthew Stafford (QB) @ IND
  • Stefon Diggs (WR) @ MIA
  • Diontae Johnson (WR) vs. LV
  • Chris Carson (RB) vs. TEN
  • D’Andre Swift (RB) @ GB
  • Robert Tonyan (TE) vs. DET
  • Tyler Lockett (WR) vs. TEN
  • Rodrigo Blankenship (K) vs. LAR
  • Buffalo (DEF) @ MIA

Hurts looks like a Top 5 fantasy quarterback, and if the 49ers’ defense is as bad as they were in the second half against Detroit, that could be a 40-point game in the making. Stafford, of course, I’m super-high on, and Indy’s defense is beatable, as we just saw with Russell Wilson. Diggs is a Top 5 wide receiver and Buffalo loves to throw the ball, so that’s always scary. Johnson is a little boom-or-busty for the Steelers, but nothing I know about the Raiders’ defense leads me to believe they can stop a top-flight passing attack. Carson was held out of the endzone against the Colts, but I wouldn’t expect that to continue against a truly wretched Titans defense. Swift had a GREAT first week and could very well find himself the beneficiary of lots of checkdowns as the Lions try to come back against the Packers on Monday night. Tonyan is solid, though I imagine Rodgers will look to get all his receivers going this week. Lockett had a terrific first week, so hopefully this time he hangs back and lets Metcalf take the lead. Miami’s offense stinks with Tua, so I fully expect Buffalo to blast them.

All told he’s got some great looking players and matchups this week, so I’m going to need a bundle to keep up. It’s not totally impossible for me to do so, but I get the feeling my team is probably a 160-ish point team at best most weeks. Jimmy G is too much of a burden, and that might make all the difference if he shits the bed. I’m predicting a loss, maybe even a total blowout.

Splinter League Round-Up!

Dude, fuck me, I don’t know what happened. I was projected to be the top scoring team in the league this year, and came out and scored the fewest points in week one. That’s thanks in large part to Aaron Rodgers laying a fucking EGG and getting less than one point. Najee Harris was also disappointing, getting less than 6 points. And Mark Andrews didn’t do me any favors on Monday night either (though, by that point, I was rooting against him in other leagues, so it was okay). I’m chocking this up to a fluke occurrence and we’re On To Cincinnati.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2021: Snoopy & Prickly Pete

Also, check out the Fantasy Football tag for all my past ramblings on the subject.

Last year ended as horribly as can be in my Main League. I made the 6-team playoffs, but then promptly lost in the first round. That means I missed out on the 4-team consolation bracket – which plays for the top 4 draft picks the following season – and was saddled in the 5/6 game, playing for the 5th/6th draft pick. Of course, I lost that game as well, and here I was, heading into this season drafting 6th out of 10 teams, in a standard (non-snake) draft.

Last year, we were up to 4 keepers, having steadily increased that number over the last few years, with the ultimate goal of turning the league into a Dynasty League. Finally, there was enough discontent that the talk at this year’s rules meeting centered on, “We either need to go full dynasty, or blow it all up and eliminate keepers altogether.”

I don’t mind telling you I was lobbying hard to go with the dynasty league. I’ve been spending the last few years suffering mediocre finishes all in the name of trying to find the best keepers possible to carry over (with the primary goal of finding one or two quality quarterbacks to finally cement that position once and for all). I didn’t want all of that work to go to waste. Thankfully, by the thinnest of margins, we were able to vote in the dynasty.

Our set up is like this: we have to keep all of our starting positions. 2 QBs, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 K, 1 DEF. Easy peasy. We’ll get to wait until about a week before our fantasy draft next year before declaring who those keepers will be. Then, at the draft, we’ll select our 5 bench spots out of whoever’s left over, plus any incoming rookies.

This all starts NEXT year, meaning that we’re still only carrying over 4 keepers from last season. But, with our draft – that took place last Thursday – it’s officially on. If you’re not going all-in on the dynasty aspect with regards to who you’re drafting, then that means you like your team an awful lot and are pushing to win the championship within the next 1-2 years.

I didn’t love my keepers heading into our draft, because – SPOILER ALERT – I had no quarterbacks among the four. My keepers were:

  1. A.J. Brown (WR)
  2. CeeDee Lamb (WR)
  3. Ezekiel Elliott (RB)
  4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB)

That’s the ranking of how much I liked them, 1 through 4. I was waffling back and forth on CEH until the bitter end, before I read enough pundits who think he’s due to have a bounce-back year in his second season in the league. I can buy it. He doesn’t appear to have a lot of competition at the spot in Kansas City; even though they throw the ball WAY MORE than they run it, he could sneak in for some more touchdowns and still catch a lot of balls.

I had zero interest in keeping Josh Jacobs. He was supposed to be my horse last year, but he underwhelmed, and then the Raiders brought in Kenyan Drake (the bane of every fantasy owner’s existence wherever he plays, because he’s always stealing carries from someone more promising). I had a lot of fringey receivers I was mulling over (Jerry Jeudy, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, D.J. Chark, and Rashard Higgins), but all of those guys are players that could easily be had in any fantasy draft.

As for my two quarterbacks, I had Kirk Cousins (who’s a non-starter for me, since he’s not vaccinated – which means there’s a high likelihood he misses games this year – and he’s just overall mediocre), and Tua Tagovailoa. I made a HUGE to-do about picking him up on waivers last year, thinking his Alabama pedigree might translate to NFL success. But, he just looked too shitty as a rookie last year. More often than not, you can see which rookie quarterbacks are going to be studs, and which ones are going to be Marcus Mariota. Tua looks like he’s going to be a left-handed Mariota.

In the end, my final keeper came down to CEH and Tee Higgins. I was THIS close to keeping Higgins, because I freaking love that dude, and I think in that Bengals offense he’s going to be steadily productive for the next decade. But, the Bengals also went out and drafted another elite receiver really high in this year’s draft, plus they still have Tyler Boyd, who’s solid. There ended up being too many cooks in that kitchen, and I was scared off. I still think Higgins will be the best of those three this year, but going forward, it’s iffy.

Plus, let’s face it, there are tons of solid wide receivers all throughout the league. Keeping three of them seemed like overkill. I would’ve been effectively handing over my FLEX spot to Higgins, and if for whatever reason he struggles, then I’ve wasted one of my keeper spots for a fringe fantasy starter.

***

I had a couple plans heading into the draft with my 6th overall pick. Trevor Lawrence would obviously be off the table (he, indeed, went #1 overall). I assumed Najee Harris would also be off the table (he ended up being taken with the third pick, for reasons I’ll get into in a moment). I ranked my top six players, and my third choice would’ve been Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (who very well might’ve fallen to me, as he was ultimately taken 7th), followed by Matthew Stafford (who did fall to me, though I ended up trading him – SPOILER ALERT AGAIN), and then the Washington and Indy running backs as 5th and 6th (they ended up going 5th and 4th respectively).

I would’ve been elated to have Matthew Stafford, because I think he’s going to have an awesome year with the Rams. Plus, he’s only 33 years old, which means he could have another 7-10 years ahead of him if things break right!

My general plan was to load up on quarterbacks – taking lots of flyers on rookies, after Stafford – and running backs (to try to load up on depth in case of injuries and BYEs). This was always going to be a quasi-throwaway year for me, in hopes that I’d find the two quarterbacks I’d be rolling with for the next 5-10 years.

That was thrown out the window when Hahmez Wah 360 Allstars (don’t ask) texted the entire league saying his keepers were available for trade (in exchange for players and/or draft picks).

He actually had four pretty good keepers (Derrick Henry, D.K. Metcalf, George Kittle, and Stefon Diggs), but for whatever reason, he was looking to shake things up.

I didn’t want Henry because he’s being run into the ground and probably has 1-2 more years MAX before he begins his slide. I didn’t want Kittle because he could be an injury risk with the way he plays the game and how hard he is on his body. D.K. Metcalf is obviously a huge draw for me, as a Seahawks fan, and I think he’s someone who could be the #1 scoring wide receiver as early as THIS year. Plus he’s young and should be good for another decade. Sign me up!

I made Hahmez Wah 360 Allstars a lowball offer (I think a second rounder, or a fourth rounder plus A.J. Brown); he countered saying he needed my first rounder. I took a bit to think about it, before ultimately concluding that D.K. Metcalf with the 6th pick would be guaranteed to be better than anyone who might fall to me (there would’ve been the potential for higher upside with someone like Pitts, but there’s always a risk with any rookie).

I’m lucky I accepted the offer when I did, because by the next day someone had offered him the #2 overall pick for D.K. I told that guy (with the #2 pick) if Trevor Lawrence somehow – by the grace of God – fell out of the top spot, I’d trade him D.K. for Lawrence (which he agreed to, since he already has Russell Wilson and Justin Herbert as his keepers), but of course that was never going to happen.

Hahmez Wah, in the end, turned his aforementioned keepers into Jalen Hurts (#2 overall) & Chris Carson (he traded his #9 overall for the #2 overall, while also giving away Derrick Henry in the deal), Matthew Stafford (in the Metcalf deal), Tyler Lockett (in the Kittle deal, where he got the first pick in the second round), while still hanging onto Stefon Diggs. I wouldn’t love that for my team – if I were him, I would’ve stuck the keepers I had – but I understand the impulse in making a radical change. Also, it IS a game, after all; it’s supposed to be fun, right? What’s more fun than a crazy slew of trades?

***

So, heading into the second round, I had three receivers and two running backs. It was time to start looking into the quarterback position.

No other QB was taken after the three I already mentioned. Next up on my private dynasty rankings was Justin Fields, so I grabbed him with my second pick. No, he’s not starting right away, but the stories I’ve read about him were phenomenal, and I think he has real breakout potential. Trey Lance was going to be my next choice, but he was taken from me two picks before my spot in the third round, so I settled on Mac Jones. Also hearing great stories about him! Less of a running threat, but in a better team situation than Fields, so I like that.

Then, for good measure – because I needed someone to start right away in week one – I nabbed Jameis Winston. He’s been on and off my fantasy team for years, but he had last year off (for the most part) and has been learning the Saints’ system. If he’s even remotely more careful with the ball, he’s a guy who’s capable of throwing for 5,000 yards and 30+ touchdowns. We also forget: he’s also only 27 years old; so if he does change his entire career around, that could be a steal for me.

As chance would have it, Cousins was around for my fifth pick, but I zagged and went with the Rams’ defense. I feel like they have the potential to be solid for the duration of Aaron Donald’s career, so why not? Then, with my sixth pick, Noah Fant was still available. I had him as a rookie and it sounds like the offense is going to be vastly improved in Denver, so I like the idea of having him for the foreseeable future. Also, the drop-off after Fant was pretty considerable (the next guys taken were Goedert and Tonyan; I’m good with my choice).

Then, I finally had to break down and get a third running back. Obviously, my plan to load up on the position was a failure. It was down to Chase Edmonds or Raheem Mostert in the 7th round. Edmonds went one pick earlier, so Mostert it is! I like Mostert; when he’s healthy, he’s dominant (in many ways, he’s like Chris Carson). He just can’t stay healthy. But, if I can squeeze a few weeks out of him, I’ll look to hopefully address the running back position next year.

In the 8th round, I nabbed Justin Tucker. He’s only 31 years old and he’s the best kicker in football. He could be around for another 10-15 years if he takes care of himself. After that, I went back to the quarterback well, grabbing Jimmy G. Obviously, the 49ers drafted their quarterback of the future. But, if you look at the 49ers’ schedule, it’s pretty damn easy the first few weeks of the season. I’ll mix and match with him and Mac Jones for a while until Jimmy G ultimately gets benched, and hope he has enough pride to force the 49ers’ hand in benching a guy playing well. At the very least, he has a soft landing against the Lions in week one, where I expect him to be a Top 10 fantasy quarterback (for just that one week, anyway). Yes, I know there’s potential for Lance to snipe some snaps from him, but I don’t care. As long as he’s not getting entire chunks of plays in the red zone, I’ll be happy.

With my next-to-last pick, I took a chance on Buffalo’s Zack Moss. He was a rookie last year and the team obviously liked him enough to draft him in the third round. Maybe this is the year he assumes the starter job! Of course, even then, it’s not like Buffalo runs the ball all that much. I’m hoping they get such huge leads early in games, that they’ll be running the ball exclusively in the fourth quarter.

Finally, for my super sleeper, I picked Jordan Love, backup quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. I’m going to do my damnedest to hang onto him all year. The way I see it, if none of my rookie QBs pan out this year, and are not keeper-worthy in my eyes, I’ll just keep Love and roll the dice. They obviously drafted him to be Aaron Rodgers’ replacement sooner or later. If I have no one better, why not keep him and see if he’s elite?

***

There’s obviously a lot wrong with my team at this point in my dynasty. The quarterback situation is a mess and my running back depth is nil. But, I have just the three receivers: D.K., Brown, and Lamb, and I think all three of those guys are Top 10 calibre players at the position. I’m set! In non-BYE weeks (and, in non-injury situations), I have my two WR spots and my FLEX spot all locked down. Not having any receivers on my bench affords me the luxury of carrying extra RBs and QBs. If I’m ever able to lock down the quarterback spot to my satisfaction, that leaves me more room on my bench for even more RBs, as well as potential backups to tight end or defense (which always comes in handy).

I think I’m done making RBs a priority. Unless some super-stud rookie falls to me in the first round of the draft next year, I’m just going to do my best to either stream running backs or carry enough in those second-to-fourth tiers to play matchups and hope I get around 10 points from each. If my QBs and receivers can carry me, I think that’s a championship formula. Running backs are just too damn fickle and too injury prone; it’s impossible to rely on them to be 20+ point workhorses anymore. I’d rather go for elite receivers, hope they blow up a few times a year, and just get steady-if-unspectacular production from my RBs. Plus, if I’m able to find someone on the free agent scrap heap that comes from nowhere to crush it, all the better.

***

Now, it’s time to talk about this week. My team is Snoopy & Prickly Pete (Seinfeld reference, for the second straight year!). I’m going up against the reigning league champion, Car Talk With Josh Allen (guess who one of his quarterbacks is). He’s projected to finish third in our league (one game ahead of me), and – not for nothing – he’s projected to beat me in week 1.

Here’s my week 1 lineup, barring any unexpected last-minute COVID issues:

  • Jameis Winston (QB) vs. GB
  • Jimmy Garoppolo (QB) @ DET
  • CeeDee Lamb (WR) @ TB
  • A.J. Brown (WR) vs. AZ
  • Ezekiel Elliott (RB) @ TB
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB) vs. CLE
  • Noah Fant (TE) @ NYG
  • D.K. Metcalf (WR) @ IND
  • Justin Tucker (K) @ LV
  • L.A. Rams (DEF) vs. CHI

As I said, I love Jimmy G against a nothing Detroit defense; Mac Jones is my only other option and I’d rather not start a rookie in his first game, against a defense as good as Miami’s. As I also said, all my receivers are locked in, which means the only other choice was my #2 running back (though, I don’t love Zeke against that Bucs defense, with their All Pro guard out for this game). I briefly considered Mostert against Detroit, but I’d really like to see what the 49ers’ offense looks like, with their two quarterbacks, plus their new rookie running back angling to steal snaps. I’m rolling with all my keepers, at least for now!

Car Talk looks like he’s got the following:

  • Josh Allen (QB) vs. PIT
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB) vs. LAC
  • Allen Robinson (WR) @ LAR
  • Julio Jones (WR) vs. AZ
  • Aaron Jones (RB) @ NO
  • Joe Mixon (RB) vs. MIN
  • Travis Kelce (TE) vs. CLE
  • Robert Woods (WR) vs. CHI
  • Tyler Bass (K) vs. PIT
  • Baltimore (DEF) @ LV

Our teams are pretty much even (he’s a little better at QB, I’m a little better at WR) except for the difference in our projected points from the tight end position. Kelce is the best in football; mine is just okay. That’s always a huge advantage and I hope I’m able to one day have something similar on my team. In the meantime, I’ll just have to hope the Chiefs run the ball more and throw their TDs to their wide receivers. That’s a tall ask.

I’m guessing I’ll lose this game. I’ll be down in the dumps on Sunday, but a dynasty league isn’t about just one week, or even one season. This is a transitional year, and I hope to be better at the end than I am at the beginning.

In the meantime, PATIENCE! I need to practice extreme patience, and accept losing for what it is: a temporary means to an end, that will one day result in my name on that championship trophy. Maybe not this year, but one year soon. Let’s fucking go.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2021: Return Of The Splinter League

My fantasy column (which is really just an excuse to complain about my fantasy teams, but also lets me provide my analysis on a variety of players and matchups on a weekly basis) has been a regular feature on my blog since 2018. You can catch up on the types of leagues I’m in HERE. I mostly just talk about my Main League, one I used to be commissioner of since its infancy back in the 2003-range. I’m still in it – with a group of my oldest friends – though I’m no longer in charge. I went and started my own Splinter League with some friends who are in the Main League, as well as some other friends, and it’s much more lowkey and casual. Both are 2-QB leagues that heavily skew towards more points for the quarterbacks (since they’re the most important players in the real NFL, I feel this is valid for fantasy as well).

The Splinter League is much more QB-friendly (15 yards per point, compared to 20 in the Main League; both are 6-point touchdowns and -4 points for INTs). Anyway, I’ll have more to say about the Main League at another time, but my Splinter League team just had its draft on Sunday night, so let’s get into it!

This year’s Splinter League team name is BUCK FUTTER, from the infamous SNL Jeopardy! sketch. It’s an okay name, but I didn’t have a lot of inspiration this year, especially after trying to compete with last year’s Pound Some Cunth, which was *chef’s kiss*.

I’m mostly just excited because I drafted a really good team. I’m not the only one who thinks so, as Yahoo – on draft day – pegged me for a 14-1 record this season. Just a day removed – even though Yahoo has tinkered with the projected standings of other teams – I remain with that 14-1 prognostication. I was also the only team to get an A grade by Yahoo (the next-highest was a B; then there’s a B-, with everyone else in the C-range in our 10-team league).

I logged on 30 minutes prior to find I was drafting 9th. That means that – again, with our scoring system being what it is – most of the top tier quarterbacks would be taken. The guy with the first draft pick never showed and had his team auto-drafted by Yahoo; as a result, Yahoo drafted him a team the way it would in any old league (i.e. eschewing quarterbacks early for running backs and receivers). CMC was the first overall pick. Then it went: Mahomes, Allen, Brady, Dalvin Cook, Wilson, Kyler, and Lamar (the Cook guy also temporarily forgot about the scoring system, but that’s not a bad alternative for him).

So, I was left with the guy I picked – Aaron Rodgers – among players like Tannehill, Dak, Herbert, Hurts, Stafford, and Lawrence. The 10th pick in the snake went with Zeke Elliott and Tannehill back-to-back, which left me in the illustrious position of getting Alvin Kamara with my second round pick. Outstanding! I’ve never had him on a fantasy team before and I couldn’t be more thrilled that he’s with me now (with no Brees, and lots of question marks on that Saints offense).

I had the usual LONG wait before I got to my third and fourth picks. I opted for Matthew Stafford over Trevor Lawrence to close out the third round (I never considered for a second going with either Baker Mayfield or Matt Ryan, who both went later in the fourth round). I’ll say this: if the Splinter League were a keeper league, it would’ve been Lawrence all day. But, we do full redrafts here, and I’m not willing to jump on the Lawrence bandwagon if there’s no long-term benefit for me. There will be lots of yards thrown, but I also anticipate lots of turnovers that will hurt him. I also wanted to go with Stafford because – like Rodgers – he’s on a team that’s going to be in the running with the Seahawks for the top seed in the NFC. If I have any bad mojo on me, and it carries over to those guys, all the better for my beloved Seahawks. Otherwise, if they play as well as I expect them to, I should have no problems at the quarterback position in 2021 (for this league, anyway).

With my fourth round pick, I nabbed Najee Harris. This is a guy I LOVED in college, and desperately wished my Seahawks could’ve somehow gotten in the real NFL draft. I was burned last year in my Main League with rookie running back CEH, but Harris seems like a slam dunk as long as he stays healthy. I can’t remember the last time I had two running backs I was so fond of! If you let me hand-pick any two running backs for my fantasy team, it would’ve been Kamara and Harris. I know guys just say things like that all the time, but for me it’s true. I think both will be durable, as well as points hogs both in the running and passing games. Plus, they’re just fun players to watch (unless they’re going against your team, then you’re never more miserable, particularly when they’re going off).

With another long wait between picks, a lot of good receivers were going off the board. I had no shot at the upper tier guys (Tyreek, Davante, Kelce, D.K., Hopkins, Diggs, and Ridley all went in rounds 2 and 3 between my picks), and players I was potentially eyeballing for the end of the fifth round, like Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson, and particularly CeeDee Lamb, were all swiped from me (Lamb one spot prior). I could’ve gone after the Rams guys – Kupp & Woods – to pair them with my quarterback; I could’ve had Tyler Lockett, Amari Cooper, or even Julio for that matter. But, inspiration struck, and I decided to ride the bandwagon of another prominent Seahawks opponent in the NFC in the Tampa Bay Bucs. I got Chris Godwin in the 5th, and swung around and took Mike Evans in the 6th. People are down on Evans, but I still like his touchdown potential if he stays healthy. Godwin is playing for a new contract next year and I expect him to be fired up to make a big splash this year, statswise. I’ll put both of them in my starting lineup together and hope Tom Brady can give it another run (big “if”, I know).

With my next two picks, I was looking for Best Skill Position Available, as the Splinter League has two flex spots (and no mandatory tight end spot, though you could play TE at either/both flex spots if you wanted). Adam Thielen was sniped from me one pick prior, so I settled for Tee Higgins, who is a guy I really like anyway. I had a chance to make him a keeper in my Main League, but was ultimately scared off by the two other quality receivers they have in that offense. Nevertheless, I expect Higgins to continue to produce as long as Joe Burrow is healthy. When the draft whipped around, I got the other running back I wanted: Darrell Henderson. With Cam Akers out for the year, Henderson seems like a strong bet to break out in the Rams’ offense. There’s a chance Sony Michel takes some of his carries (particularly at the goalline), but there’s a reason why the Patriots gave up on Michel: he stinks. I might end up handcuffing the two at some point, but for now Henderson is the safer bet.

I opted to continue going Best Skill Position Available in the 9th & 10th rounds, settling on Mark Andrews first. I’m already iffy on that, but Gus Edwards was sniped from me one pick prior (seriously, that guy who drafted 8th fucked me no less than three times). I also didn’t love the value I was getting on defenses at that spot (the elite defenses were already taken, meaning I had some questionable ones left over), nor did I love the value on a backup quarterback (which I’ll talk about later). Andrews gets a lot of looks around the goalline with the Ravens, so he’s very TD-dependent; he also can get a case of the dropsies which is frustrating. Nevertheless, he’s a fringe flex guy for me until I can find someone more dependable. When we whipped around to the 10th round, Michael Thomas was still sitting there and I jumped on him.

Michael Thomas is one of the biggest question marks of this year’s fantasy football drafting world: when do you take a chance? He’s injured, he’s unhappy with the Saints, and they have a non-Brees starting quarterback heading into a season for the first time in forever. When will he be healthy enough to play again, and how will he fit into the offense? I’m hoping he’ll be back by October, and I’m hoping he returns to being one of the most dominant players in football. For a 10th round flier? Absolutely! Plus, I can stash him in my IR spot until he plays again. No brainer whatsoever.

By the 11th and 12th rounds, it was time to get a defense and a third quarterback. Somehow, the 49ers’ defense was still there, so I grabbed them. But, waiting until the 12th round meant I had slim pickins for QB. I opted for Zach Wilson, not because I believe in the Jets rookie, but because he seemed to be the best of a bunch of terrible options (including Sam Darnold, Jared Goff, and Jimmy G).

The thing with quarterback for me was: Stafford has a BYE in week 11, and Rodgers has his in week 13. Some of these guys – like Jimmy G – might not have their starting jobs that late into the season! Zach Wilson isn’t going anywhere, unless he gets injured or is supremely inept. If he’s halfway competent, he’ll give me the two games I want out of him. Teddy Bridgewater would’ve been a perfectly fine option, but he has a week 11 BYE as well, so that defeats the purpose. I didn’t have room to keep a fourth QB, nor would I want to if I did. I’d rather have a second defense, if anything, just in case!

The guys who ended up on the free agent scrap heap include Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, the aforementioned Jimmy G, Andy Dalton, and, of course, Taysom Hill. Rookies who aren’t even starting yet were drafted ahead of all these guys! It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. I have zero faith whatsoever in Zach Wilson, though. If anyone else even remotely interesting becomes available, I won’t hesitate to waive him.

In the 13th round, D.J. Chark was still available; that’s excellent value, in my book. That meant I missed out on snagging the Patriots’ defense (which I think will be good this year), who was taken with the very next pick, but oh well. With my 14th and final selection, I took a flier on a lottery ticket in Darnell Mooney, wide receiver for the Bears. He has strong sleeper potential in an offense that could be better than we give it credit for. I don’t know if he’ll be long for my roster either, but that’s okay. You can’t make an omelette without scrambling some eggs, or some damn thing.

One thing that leaps out about this team is how razor thin I am in my depth at quarterback and running back. Rodgers and Stafford just can’t get hurt, period, end of discussion. If they go down for any length of time, I’m probably screwed. Similarly, I only have Kamara, Harris, and Henderson. I need to play a minimum of two running backs every week. Thankfully, they all have different BYE weeks, but what are the odds they play every single game? Slim-to-none. So, I’ll have to work my magic on the waiver wire at some point (I have #2 priority after the draft, so I’ll want to use that to my advantage).

I get an extra roster spot with Michael Thomas on IR, so that helps. I have a couple players in mind as we get into the week that I’ll be looking to snag. Then, it’s just the long wait until the regular season starts!

I don’t know how this column is going to look this year, but I imagine it’ll be heavily discussing my Main League. However, I’ll also devote a section in each one to my Splinter League team. It’s too good and interesting to just ignore completely!

I’m also joining a third league – ran by my brother’s friend – but it’s going to be too confusing if I bring a third into the mix, so we’ll let that one go, unless I absolutely get a bug up my ass about it.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2020: Thank Fucking Christ I Don’t Have To Think About Fantasy Football Again For Another Year

  • Pre-Season Week 1 HERE – Here We Fucking Go Again
  • Pre-Season Week 2 HERE – Corona-Draft Prep
  • Fantasy Draft HERE – Nobody Beats The Wiz!
  • Week 1 HERE – Crisis Averted!
  • Week 2 HERE – Everything That Could Go Wrong
  • Week 3 HERE – Some Nobody Did, In Fact, Beat The Wiz!
  • Week 4 HERE – Literally Everyone Beats The Fucking Wiz
  • Week 5 HERE – Signs Of Life!
  • Week 6 HERE – And Tua All A Good Night
  • Week 7 HERE – Tua Be Or Not Tua Be, That Is The Question
  • Week 8 HERE – Tua Thine Own Self Be True
  • Week 9 HERE – Tua The Window, Tua The Wall!!!
  • Week 10 HERE – Tua Infinity & Beyond!
  • Week 11 HERE – Tua Err Is Human
  • Week 12 HERE – Although We’ve Come Tua The End Of The Road
  • Week 13 HERE – Tua No Avail
  • Playoffs HERE – It’s Time To Pound Some Cunth!

Piss on this game and anyone who plays it!

Nobody Beats The Wiz lost its 5th Place Game to conclude things, meaning I’ll be drafting sixth overall next season. What’s worse, Pound Some Cunth just got ANNIHILATED by Vinegar Strokes, 197.13 to 151.17 in the Splinter League this week. It was (fantasy) bad all around this weekend! The less said about it, the better.

Actually no. First, let me reiterate just how FUCKING STUPID fantasy football is! My all-world stud quarterback, Russell Wilson, should be a no-brainer when we’re talking about who to start in a 2-QB league like mine. What does he do? He goes up against a stout Washington defense and gets me 15.27 points. Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts – a rookie making his second-ever career start – goes on the road to Arizona (with a defense that can do a lot of damage to an inexperienced quarterback with their disguised blitz packages and whatnot) and absolutely fucks their (fantasy) shit up to the tune of 52.83 points. And I’m supposed to use my fucking crystal ball to predict this, to win a fucking (fantasy) playoff game. Who would EVER come to that conclusion ahead of time?! It’s IDIOTIC! WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE EVEN DOING HERE?!

How an entire season can hinge on a decision this asinine is beyond me. In real life, you would NEVER in your WILDEST fucking dreams consider benching Russell Wilson for Jalen Hurts. Yet, in fantasy, you’re a fucking pissant moron if you don’t somehow read the tea leaves and sense this. Unbe-fucking-lievable.

All right, rant over. Probably. I could always have another aneurysm between now and the end of the post.

Getting back to the intention of this column, let’s now re-forget about the Splinter League and get back to Nobody Beats The Wiz, the latest in a long line of huge, buttfucking disappointments. I have decisions to make between now and the start of next season (so, thankfully, I have many months before this decision will be official), namely: who will be my four keepers?

Remember my keepers for this year?

  • Carson Wentz (QB)
  • Daniel Jones (QB)
  • Ezekiel Elliott (RB)
  • Josh Jacobs (RB)

Two of those guys (the quarterbacks) weren’t on my team any longer by season’s end. Ezekiel Elliott was a tremendous disappointment once Dak Prescott went out injured. And Josh Jacobs was an okay player, but obviously not a difference-maker. Not someone who ever single-handedly swung any games for me. Neither was he someone who consistently got me around 20 points per week (those would be the two hallmarks of QUALITY keepers in our league).

The fact that I made the playoffs at all is almost impossible to fathom, and speaks to how very lucky my team was this year.

So, here are the players I have on my roster at press time:

  • Kirk Cousins (QB)
  • Tua Tagovailoa (QB)
  • Ezekiel Elliott (RB)
  • Josh Jacobs (RB)
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB)
  • Rashaad Penny (RB)
  • A.J. Brown (WR)
  • Brandon Aiyuk (WR)
  • CeeDee Lamb (WR)
  • Tee Higgins (WR)
  • Jerry Jeudy (WR)
  • Deebo Samuel (WR)
  • Rashard Higgins (WR)
  • Irv Smith (TE)
  • Harrison Butker (K)
  • L.A. Rams (DEF)

You can cross out Smith, Butker, and the defense, as well as Kirk Cousins right off the bat. They are non-starters in the keeper game. From there, let’s look at the running backs.

Ezekiel Elliott is a really interesting one for me. 2020 is just his fifth season in the league. I did not assume that this would be his last year with me, coming in. But, he signed a huge deal before last season and already appears to be suffering the consequences of Overpaid Running Back Syndrome. He looked mediocre this year! Even before Dak went down, he didn’t look quite right. Now, a lot of that might have to do with the injuries along the Cowboys’ offensive line. If they can get that fixed up ahead of next season – and, of course, if Dak returns by Week 1 – then I think he’s a candidate for a bounce-back year. But, at some point – and some point relatively SOON – Zeke is going to fall off the cliff. And when he does, he will be totally unstartable. In the NFL, it’s usually better to cut someone a year too early than a year too late. I might want to adopt that for fantasy as well.

Josh Jacobs would be a “safe” choice to be one of my keepers. I imagine we’ve seen what his ceiling looks like, and it looks like his 2020 season. Through 13 games, he has 907 yards and a 3.7 yard average. He doesn’t catch enough balls to be elite, and his fantasy numbers are propped up by the 10 rushing touchdowns he’s accrued. That, and the fact that the Raiders haven’t drafted someone to significantly eat into his carries, leads me to lean towards a Yes when it comes to keeping Jacobs.

CEH is probably out for me. As my top draft pick, I was hoping for a long and fruitful (fantasy) career with him as one of my lead guys. But, the shame of it is that the Chiefs just don’t run the ball enough (especially at or near the goalline), and they’ve got too many viable running backs who are all basically the same. Unless I read reports that Kansas City is going to make a concerted effort to declare CEH their lead back, I think I’ll expose him to the rest of the league to snap up.

Finally, I picked up Rashaad Penny – the Seahawks’ running back who just returned from injury this past week – on the off-chance we let Chris Carson walk in free agency and Penny becomes the #1 of this team. I don’t think that’s very likely, but anyway it’s more important for me to make sure these types of guys aren’t kept by OTHER teams. I want Penny available to be drafted (by me) if it turns out he is the starter.

In the last couple weeks, I made a big push to pick up a lot of young receivers, so that’s what I find most interesting among my options.

A.J. Brown feels like a definite keeper to me. He’s the only guy I feel REALLY good about.

There are three other guys I’ll be watching VERY closely in the offseason, to see how their teams look and how their prospects will be in 2021: Tee Higgins, CeeDee Lamb, and Brandon Aiyuk. It took Aiyuk about half of this – his rookie – season before he was really incorporated into the 49ers’ offense. But, once he assumed lead receiver duties (helped by Deebo Samuel’s injury-plagued year), he’s been quite effective. Other than a week missed to COVID, Aiyuk has averaged in the 20’s or high teens in 6 of the 49ers’ last 8 games. What’s unknown is how Aiyuk will look next to a fully-healthy Deebo in 2021. But, presumably Jimmy G will be back at quarterback next year, so that should help both of those guys a lot. Lamb was one of the better-looking rookie receivers until Dak went out; assuming Dak is healthy, Lamb might be a no-brainer. And, Higgins was ALSO one of the better-looking rookie receivers until Joe Burrow went out; assuming Burrow will make it back, Higgins should return to his former glory (and maybe then some).

None of my other receivers are likely to be kept by me, but again, I just want them among the draftable talent pool for next year. I don’t know what the rest of my league is thinking with their keepers, but there’s no point in helping them out when I don’t have to.

Finally, to Tua or not to Tua? That is the biggest (fantasy) question.

Going into a season with zero fantasy keepers at quarterback seems reckless. But, let’s look at it realistically here: I went into 2020 with Wentz and Dimes and came out with Cousins and Tua and still managed to make the playoffs. What I NEED more than anything else is talented players I can rely on – week-in and week-out – to provide me steady points. Keeping four receivers seems idiotic, but keeping two receivers and two running backs might be something to consider! Likewise, keeping three receivers and one running back could be an option (though, a little overkill, since we have just the one FLEX spot, and none of my receivers are what you would call super-elite).

I would need to see quite a bit more from Tua than what I’ve seen so far this season. At this point, Tua has started seven games. He has four games over 20 points. That’s pretty terrible. He has two games over 25 points (which is kind of the baseline average you’d want out of a QB in our league). And, of course, just the one game over 30; no 40 or 50-point explosions you see out of some of the game’s best. Those are the types of games that single-handedly swing weeks in your favor.

Now, Tua is young. He’s still getting his feet wet. He’s on a team that’s contending for a playoff spot and it’s pretty clear they haven’t taken the training wheels off of him. Nevertheless, if they do make the playoffs, I’ll be watching him VERY closely. At some point, they will be down late in a game, and I’ll need to see him do something remarkable to make me a believer.

Otherwise, if this is all he is – what we’ve seen from him in his almost half-a-season – then I feel more than confident exposing him to the draft next year. I highly doubt anyone in the Top 5 picks will snap him up, so if I REALLY want him, I should be able to get him back.

But, keeping guys based on potential? Fool me once, Danny Dimes, shame on you. Fool me twice, Tua?

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2020: Tua No Avail

  • Pre-Season Week 1 HERE – Here We Fucking Go Again
  • Pre-Season Week 2 HERE – Corona-Draft Prep
  • Fantasy Draft HERE – Nobody Beats The Wiz!
  • Week 1 HERE – Crisis Averted!
  • Week 2 HERE – Everything That Could Go Wrong
  • Week 3 HERE – Some Nobody Did, In Fact, Beat The Wiz!
  • Week 4 HERE – Literally Everyone Beats The Fucking Wiz
  • Week 5 HERE – Signs Of Life!
  • Week 6 HERE – And Tua All A Good Night
  • Week 7 HERE – Tua Be Or Not Tua Be, That Is The Question
  • Week 8 HERE – Tua Thine Own Self Be True
  • Week 9 HERE – Tua The Window, Tua The Wall!!!
  • Week 10 HERE – Tua Infinity & Beyond!
  • Week 11 HERE – Tua Err Is Human
  • Week 12 HERE – Although We’ve Come Tua The End Of The Road

Well, I lucked out winning the previous four weeks, because if I’d bungled any one of them I’d be relegated to the Consolation Bracket. Instead, with my 7-6 record, I managed to sneak into the playoffs as the sixth and final seed. I really had no shot against Sausage Shaped Pest, who annihilated me 193 to 136.45.

He got almost 40 out of Derek Carr and 45 points from Carr’s tight end Darren Waller, with another 27.3 from Justin Jefferson (remember when I had him on my team oh-so-briefly, earlier this season?); those three guys alone practically did enough to beat me! As for my team, I’m still getting great effort out of Kirk Cousins (28.45), and my kicker finally had a huge game (17). But, my sweet, simple Tua only got me 21.1, and I took a full-on goose-egg from CEH (who I had to throw into my second running back spot, because Josh Jacobs was injured).

In Nobody Beats The Wiz Bench News, Carson Wentz has finally been replaced at quarterback by the Philadelphia Eagles, in favor of Jalen Hurts. So, he’s now useless to me. I’m down to Cousins and Tua, but I probably have to hang onto Ryan Fitzpatrick just in case Tua has to sit again. What a nightmare! Wentz has SO MUCH guaranteed money left on his contract; I don’t know what the Eagles are going to do.

So, here’s how the playoff seeding works: the top two teams (Sloane N Steady and The Lance Petemans) get a BYE this upcoming week. Then, the 3-seed plays the 6-seed, while the 4-seed plays the 5-seed. The top two teams ended up with 9-4 records; third place is 8-5, and the rest are 7-6 (including me, who has the fewest points scored among all the playoff teams).

Everyone in the “Wild Card” round was trying to scramble to not play Space Forcin’. Somehow, through my sheer incompetence, I managed to do just that! As the 6-seed, I play Colinoscopy Time, while Crazy N8’s Prostates (who leapfrogged me this past week) has the ill-fortune to get Space Forcin’. The winner of my game plays 2-seed The Lance Petemans; the winner of the other game goes up against 1-seed Sloane N Steady.

Last week I promised you a rundown of all my season finishes dating back to 2003, when we started running a Yahoo! league. I’ll list them out really quickly here, noting for the record that 2010 was the first year we had the trophy (as you’ll see, my only championships were in years BEFORE the trophy, which has been a constant source of misery for me):

  • 2019 – Space Pirates!: 8th Place
  • 2018 – King Flippy Nips: 4th Place
  • 2017 – Mr. Poopy Butthole: 4th Place
  • 2016 – Shittin’ Clits: 8th Place
  • 2015 – Catalina Wine Mixer: 6th Place
  • 2014 – Honky Hoedown: 4th Place
  • 2013 – Wanna Kiss Dicks?: 5th Place
  • 2012 – Leaky Submarine: 10th Place
  • 2011 – The Jake Sucks: 7th Place
  • 2010 – Macho Headgames: 2nd Place
  • 2009 – Hot Beef Injection: 1st Place
  • 2008 – The Vers Stopper: 3rd Place
  • 2007 – Washington: 6th Place
  • 2006 – Goodnight Honeytits: 8th Place
  • 2005 – Titty-Fuck Jake’sMom: 7th Place
  • 2004 – Ray Finkle: 1st Place
  • 2003 – Must Win Out: 5th Place

A few notes: for starters, there’s a 20-character limit on team names, so keep that in mind when you see some creative spellings/line spacings. Also, after the first few years, the league had to institute a rule – due to my shenanigans – where the name you choose at the beginning of the year is the name you’re stuck with; I would often change my team’s name from week-to-week depending on if I was losing or not. I’ll never top Hot Beef Injection as a team OR a team name (though, I have a fondness for Wanna Kiss Dicks?, as I feel that made everyone REALLY uncomfortable to ever have to say or read on their screens).

I should also point out that 2014 was the first year we expanded the playoffs from four to six teams (a rule that I recommended at the start of the year, I might add, thanks to Wanna Kiss Dicks?’ heartbreaking finish on the outside-looking-in). Honky Hoedown went into the playoffs as the #1 seed; we were a JUGGERNAUT! The sixth place team, on the other hand, barely limped into the playoffs, yet he got hot at the right time and won three games in a row. Had the playoffs been limited to just the four teams (oh yes, I went back and did the math), my name would’ve been on that trophy for that season. Instead, it continues to be my white whale …

All right, so let’s get into the playoff week. Unless Colinoscopy Time totally falls on his face, breaks his nose, and simultaneously shits his pants while suffering a brain aneurysm, I’m going to lose this week. Losing this week means I’ll be playing for 5th place next week (and, as such, the right to draft 5th overall in next year’s draft; the highest I can possibly draft since I made the playoffs). It’s actually a curse to be the worst team to make the playoffs, so I don’t know why the fantasy football gods decided to put this on me. I mean, obviously they hate me! That much is clear. But why? And what can I do to atone for my sins?

Anyway, here’s my shitty roster with my even-shittier matchups:

  • Kirk Cousins (QB) @ TB
  • Tua Tagovailoa (QB) vs. KC
  • A.J. Brown (WR) @ JAX
  • DeVante Parker (WR) vs. KC
  • Ezekiel Elliott (RB) @ CIN
  • Josh Jacobs (RB) vs. IND
  • Dallas Goedert (TE) vs. NO
  • Deebo Samuel (WR) vs. WAS
  • Harrison Butker (K) @ MIA
  • L.A. Rams (DEF) vs. NE

And here’s the list of guys who are going to murder me:

  • Deshaun Watson (QB) @ CHI
  • Ben Roethlisberger (QB) @ BUF
  • D.K. Metcalf (WR) vs. NYJ
  • Stefon Diggs (WR) vs. PIT
  • Derrick Henry (RB) @ JAX
  • Ronald Jones (RB) vs. MIN
  • Robert Tonyan (TE) @ DET
  • Jamison Crowder (WR) @ SEA
  • Zane Gonzalez (K) @ NYG
  • Tennessee (DEF) @ JAX

He’s also got James White and D’Andre Swift at running back, Marquise Brown as an alternative at his FLEX spot, and Cam Newton at quarterback if he wanted to get cute with his matchups (going against my defense). I don’t know if I love a lot of his matchups either, but his players are SO MUCH better. Derrick Henry alone will surely score 30+, and don’t even get me started on D.K. Metcalf!

Well, it’s been an improbable run so far, but we finally made it. The playoffs are everything you imagine them to be. It’s exciting, because you never know who will get hot at the right time. It’s also a huge source of dread, because I know it won’t be me.

I guess there’s always my other league, where I’ve been on a 3-game losing streak, yet somehow still hold onto the #2 spot in the standings. I’ll still make it into the playoffs, but it doesn’t feel good to limp in, I’ll tell you that much!

The Seahawks Should Steamroll The Eagles Tonight

I wanted to start this off saying that I’m weirdly confident in the Seahawks going to Philly and kicking some ass, but I don’t even think it’s that weird! The Eagles are fucking terrible. Carson Wentz is so bad (HOW BAD IS HE?) that I had the option of starting him in fantasy football this week – against a Seahawks defense that has given up more passing yards than anyone else in NFL history to this point in the season – and I ended up getting cold feet, benching him for Kirk Cousins of all people! Carson Wentz is so bad (HOW BAD IS HE?) that he just signed a huge $128 million contract last year, and the Eagles are already talking about giving (as well as ACTUALLY giving) rookie Jalen Hurts practice reps with the first team offense this week. Hurts, of course, couldn’t prevent Tua from stealing his job at Alabama, so it’s tough to say what his professional career is going to be (I would bet probably not great), but this is a pretty serious indictment of how far Wentz has fallen in not even one full season’s worth of sucking.

How the mighty have fallen, when it comes to the Eagles, though. Remember it was as recent as the 2017 season when they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl and everyone was predicting that they’d be the new dynasty in the NFC. Since then, it’s been a couple of 9-7 finishes and early playoff exits, as well as whatever this abomination has been in 2020 (are they REALLY going to blow the NFC East to the 4-7 Giants or the 4-7 Washington Football Team?!).

This is a really perplexing team in that regard, because so many of the same pieces are still in place. Obviously, injuries play a significant role in their struggles the last two seasons, but at what point do you stop blaming injuries and start blaming the fact that they haven’t filled in the back of their roster with improved talent? Then, you look at the coaching staff and you wonder how this is (minus Frank Reich) the same group that out-coached the greatest coach of all time in Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl? They can’t seem to figure ANYTHING out, not even how to win the absolute worst division in NFL history!

The thing is, there’s talent there. The defensive line has some guys, anchored by Fletcher Cox in the middle; Brandon Graham has 7 sacks, Derek Barnett has 4.5, Josh Sweat has 4. They can get after it! I don’t know if the secondary terrifies you, but Darius Slay was a lockdown corner for the Lions and presumably hasn’t fallen off too far. Offensively, they’ve got some great weapons at running back in Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Dallas Goedert is a quality tight end (as is Zach Ertz when he’s healthy). It even appears they’ve FINALLY managed to develop a good receiver in Travis Fulgham. The point being: they shouldn’t be THIS inept! And yet, here we are.

I think you have to point to the offensive line woes as the primary culprit. I still contend that Wentz wasn’t that bad a season ago (and last year, the talent level really was pretty bad, especially at receiver). But, this is two years in a row where injuries along the offensive line have made his life miserable, and it’s starting to get in Wentz’s head. He’s making some of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen from a quarterback, and that falls on his utter lack of confidence that he won’t get destroyed behind that O-Line. You see this happen (though, usually the guys are a little on the older side; it’s a little shocking to see it with someone who’s 27 years old and in the prime of what was once a great career), and when it does, it’s hard to recover from. He could turn it around next year, if they bolster his blockers up front, but I don’t envision much in the way of improvement in 2020.

And certainly not this week. I think this is a great place to start in on the Seahawks, because we’ve seen significant improvement out of our pass rush in the last few weeks. Indeed, in the three games Carlos Dunlap has played in, the Seahawks have had 13 sacks; in the first seven games of the season we had only 12! We went from being at or very near the bottom of the entire league, to tied for 13th (with, again, a game to play tonight to rise up the rankings). You can downplay Dunlap’s importance in that turnaround all you want, but he has 3.5 sacks in 3 games, which is already good for second-most on the team (behind Jamal Adams’ 5.5). He’s not only getting it done by himself (which is more than we could say for Clowney last year, forget the goose egg he’s giving the Titans this year), but he’s freeing up those around him to succeed at getting to opposing quarterbacks as well. Jarran Reed looks like a new man! L.J. Collier (at least, when he’s rushing from a defensive tackle spot) looks ALMOST like a guy who can play in this league (which is a far cry from where he was in his rookie season). If the Seahawks don’t win along the defensive line tonight, I will be legitimately shocked, because this is the first time all year I can say WITH CONFIDENCE that we have the upper hand at this position group.

The Mini-BYE comes at the perfect time, of course. I would say the Seahawks have had good BYE placement this season. We had one after going 5-0 (when we had a lot of injuries to recover from), and now at the 10-game mark I think we’re finally going to see most of guys back and playing again. The only serious blow is losing Brandon Shell for this one. Given how much time we’ve had off since our last game, I’m hoping we’re just being extra careful. If there’s one spot I’m worried about, it’s that one, and whoever is coming off the edge to abuse Cedric Ogbuehi.

But, that’s really it. Chris Carson is back! Carlos Hyde is still here! Ethan Pocic should return to snap the ball, which moves Damien Lewis back to his natural right guard spot, and all is otherwise right with the world when it comes to the O-Line (save the aforementioned RT spot). If the Seahawks don’t score the easiest 31 points you’ve ever seen, then I dunno, some freaky shit must be going on.

I mean, I hate to pull this card out, but the Seahawks have the NFL’s highest winning percentage on Monday Night Football. That might be a coincidence, or a fluke, but who cares?! We get it done on the NFL’s second-brightest stage (I think it’s safe to say Sunday Night Football has well supplanted MNF as the game of the week). The Seahawks are favored by 6.5 points and I don’t think even that line is high enough. I think this game will end up being a total laugher by the end.

And if it isn’t, then the Seahawks will have some ‘splaining to do …

Monday Morning Long-Snapper: What I Did Over My Christmas Vacation

Almost Famous goes from being the perfect movie to watch on a long, cross-country flight, to maybe one of the worst?  On my way home, I watched it for only the second time in my life.  It should be – and absolutely IS – right there in my wheelhouse, so I try not to watch it too much.  Better to stave off yearnings that I’ll ever be a William Miller, or that I’ll ever find myself a Penny Lane to pine over to my last breath.  Now that I’m sensibly in my 30s, those naive pie in the sky dreams are sucking fumes in the wake of my lost 20s, so maybe I won’t wait another decade or so before watching this movie again.

Hey there blimpy boy, flying through the air so fancy-free …

***

My break started earlier than anticipated, and on much more of a downer as a result, as I had a funeral to attend in the days leading up to Christmas.  The alcohol was endless and my hangover was relentless, but it was a lovely ceremony and it was good to catch up with family I rarely get to see, in snowy Yakima no less.

This led into Christmas Eve, and a Seahawks performance we’d all rather forget.  That night, we played beer pong and listened to Christmas music like our lives depended on it.  A good time would be had by all, if it fucking killed us!

The next few days harbored a lot of sleep, up to 12 hours per day in many cases.  Almost like a year’s worth of working 5 days per week, with diminishing returns on slumber had finally caught up to me.  Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so refreshed.  Some people need to work or else they feel their lives have no meaning; I just need a fucking paycheck.  I could EASILY spend my days doing absolutely nothing, as long as I can live as comfortably as I do right now.

***

I bought my plane tickets and hotel reservation the day it was announced the Huskies would be playing in the Peach Bowl.  I’d made a promise to myself that I would FINALLY go to a Husky bowl game this year, as long as they made it to either one of the playoff games, or the Rose Bowl.  And, unlike a lot of people, I didn’t want to hedge and say I’d only go if the Huskies made the National Championship Game.  It didn’t matter to me that the opponent was Alabama.  It didn’t matter that we’d be facing probably the best Alabama defense of all time – and maybe the best Alabama team in general of all time – nor did it matter that the game was taking place in their backyard.  It didn’t even matter that every fiber of my being was screaming out that the Huskies would lose this game.  As I’ve said before, this isn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve gone to plenty of Husky road games where we had no chance of winning.  Much worse Husky teams have been blown out by many more points than what would eventually transpire against Bama, against much worse opponents to boot!

None of that mattered.  All that mattered was that Washington was there.  They were in the thick of things.  They were one of four teams remaining in the chase for the college football championship.  They were the talk of the nation (even if the overwhelming majority of that talk was how they had no chance of winning) in the weeks and days leading up to the game.  And, quite frankly, even though I didn’t believe the Huskies would win, I had to acknowledge there was still a chance, however remote.  There’s a reason why they settle these things on the football field.  On any given Sunday Saturday and whatnot.  And IF the Huskies could pull off the upset, I had to be there.  I had to see it in person.  It would be the greatest win in the history of the program, one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NCAA, and the single greatest sporting event in my lifetime.  I’d give ANYTHING to be there in person, to share in the joy with thousands of other die hards who braved the trip.

Well, “ANYTHING” ended up being about $900 for the plane tickets, another $600 for the 3-night hotel stay, $175 for the seat, around $80 for the Atlanta City Pass (so I could get into all of the touristy things I wanted to see while I was there), and various other expenses for food and whatnot while I was in the city.  It should prove to be a pretty lean January when it comes to the ol’ budget.

***

My dad dropped me off at SeaTac the morning of the 29th, where I realized I’d forgotten to pack my ticket to the game.  I knew right where it was:  on the front seat of my car, parked in front of my dad’s house.  But, since I don’t think I ever left the house after Christmas Eve, I never got into my car, and as such I never noticed it was still in there and needed to be packed into one of my bags.  Seriously, I had at least 4 days to do this!

I called my dad when he got home, and he was able to get the ticket and scan it for me.  So, that was one crisis averted.  The flight to St. Louis was uneventful (if a little bumpy upon entry), the layover was relatively short, and the flight to Atlanta was relatively short and uneventful (if a little bumpy upon exit).

By the time I touched down, I was into the 6 o’clock hour.  I flew Southwest, which I haven’t done in quite some time, so I forgot about the whole thing with the groups and no assigned seating.  I gather that some people don’t like this feature, but I think it’s great!  Usually, you have to pay more for a seat in an exit row; with Southwest, you just have to be in the A-group (or at the top of the B-group) and as long as you’re flying solo, you should be able to get the extra leg room you desire.  That was the case from St. Louis to Atlanta, and it was a G.D. delight!

Took a cab to the hotel in Midtown, ordered a room service burger and apple crisp, and called it an early night.  This was always pegged to be a wasted travel day, considering I was losing 3 hours on the flight, and considering we’re talking about a lot of hours on a plane and walking through airports.  Plus, since I was going it alone, I could do what I damn well pleased.

Be it ever so humble …

Travelling alone has its benefits and draw-backs, as you can well imagine.  Having total control of the itinerary is nice, because I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.  But, having someone else do all the planning and logistics is nice too, considering I’m a lazy, lazy man.  But, given the shortness of this trip, I really only had to plan activities for one day, and then I could go with the flow the rest of the time.

Flags and whatnot …

I woke up at 6am on Friday, walked over to Walgreens to pick up some deodorant and a razor that I’d also forgotten to pack, printed off my game ticket at the little office next to the hotel lobby, and settled into breakfast at the hotel restaurant.  From there, it was about a mile’s hike to Atlanta’s Olympic Centennial Park.

Isn’t it Christmassy, you guys …

First stop:  the Georgia Aquarium.  I can’t recommend this place enough (as long as you try not to think of it like an aquatic animal prison).  Lots of different fish exhibits to walk through – including one area with a moving floor, and glass all around, so it’s like you’re moving underneath the sea – as well as a bomb-ass dolphin show.  I spent the most time here, and even had lunch in their little cafe (pulled bbq chicken, spinach, mac & cheese, and corn bread).

Hi guy …

Next stop:  World of Coca-Cola.  Upon entry, they herd you into a lobby where they hand out free mini-bottles of a Coke of your choice.  This is where having the City Pass comes in handy, as I was ushered around the long line of people waiting outside and got right in.  From there, you wait a bit in this giant cluster of people until they open the doors to the next room, which has a ramp and a little open area at the bottom.  There, one of the employees talks you through all the memorabilia on the wall and gives you a bit of a history lesson on all things Coke.  After a few minutes of that, we were led through some more doors, where there was a movie theater.  We sat through, I want to say, a 5-minute Coke commercial.  Once that was finished, more doors, and the rest of the 2-story museum.  Lots of memorabilia, an opportunity to take a pic with a guy in a polar bear costume, a giant gift shop, and probably the main reason to go:  a big room full of soda fountains, with Coca-Cola products from around the world.  It was pretty overwhelming, to be honest, and absolutely jam-packed with people (mostly kids), so it was tough to get to most of the sodas you might want to try.  I did end up trying something called Beverly soda, which is a (discontinued?) European product and tastes like dead asshole run through a puke factory.  I ended up cleansing my palette with some pineapple Fanta before calling it.  I mean, this room would’ve been my jam when I was in my teens; I’m pretty sure I would’ve made it a point to try absolutely everything they had to offer had I been 20 years younger.  As it is, who has the time?  Plus, I had other things I wanted to do that didn’t involve shoving a bunch of kids out of the way as I plowed through the sugar-water orgy.

One of MANY pics I took of all the crazy crap on the walls …

Next stop:  The Center For Civil & Human Rights Museum.  I chose this over the Atlanta Zoo mostly because I find the civil rights movement much more interesting.  Plus, I’d already been to an Aquarium that day, and anything to get away from another giant throng of kids.  Lots of cool info laid out in a really cool way; I highly recommend it, particularly now that we’re fully into Trump’s America.

Next stop:  Coffee.  Because I was fucking exhausted from walking around all day, dehydrated as all hell (got a bottle of water too), and needed some time off my feet to recharge and re-energize.

Next stop:  College Football Hall of Fame.  I chose this over the Natural History Museum because I’ve already been to the New York Natural History Museum, and there’s no way Atlanta’s version would be able to top it.  This was pretty great.  There was a mini-Fan Fest going on, what with the Peach Bowl happening the next day and whatnot.  You could run the cones, kick an extra point, throw footballs through a hole, the whole deal.  They also had all the trophies (from each major bowl, as well as the Heisman, among others), an interactive part that showed each College Football Hall of Fame class, where you could use the giant touch-screens to find the coach/player of your choice and read about their achievements.  They had all the helmets of all the college football teams.  Lots of old memorabilia, you name it.  It was pretty sweet.  Not a lot of Husky stuff there though, which I found odd, considering they were playing in the God damn city’s bowl the next day, but what are you gonna do?

So many helmets …

Next stop:  Stats Sports Bar.  Because I didn’t feel much like doing the CNN Tour (which is the final component of the Atlanta City Pass), which is just another hour or more on your feet walking through their giant building.  Considering I don’t even like WATCHING the news on TV, there really wasn’t a great interest to see how the sausage is made.  Also, let’s face it, I needed a beer and some fried pork dumplings!  I needed to sit down, watch some sports on TV, and gather my thoughts.

I ended up leaving around 4:30pm.  I had many options at that point, one of which was a live broadcasting of Softy’s radio show at the German bar next door to Stats.  But, that wasn’t going to start until 6pm.  Which would have been fine under normal circumstances, but I didn’t totally feel like sitting in a bar by myself getting shitfaced for 90+ minutes.  On top of that, I kinda had to poop, and that’s not really an enticing practice at a sports bar, what with all the piss everywhere on the floor and on the seat and whatnot and so forth.  This really ended up dictating my entire evening, as I had planned on going to a bar/restaurant that was playing jazz music, which was closer to all the touristy stuff I was seeing than it was to my hotel.  Given how tired I was from walking around all day, as soon as I made it back to my room, I knew I wasn’t leaving again the rest of the night.

So, I ordered some pizza from a local place, kicked off my shoes, and watched a lot of football and South Park in the room.

***

I opted to sleep in and eat leftover pizza for breakfast on gameday.  Considering the damn thing cost $40 with tip, I was going to make sure that large pizza lasted me a few meals the rest of the way.

When I was finally ready, about two hours before kickoff, I hailed a cab, who got me close to the Georgia Dome.  From there, it was relatively painless getting in.  Frankly, I’d expected more of a hassle getting through security.

I got my ticket through a friend who has season tickets and wasn’t going to the game.  I had no idea where it would be or how much it would cost until it arrived at his home in the days before Christmas.  It ended up being in the Club level, 3rd row, just above the Husky band.  I opted to keep it sober at the game, primarily because I wanted to actually REMEMBER the game, but also because stadium beers are fucking expensive as hell and they were cutting off beer sales at the end of halftime.  Not having to get up to pee and buy more beer every 30 minutes was also a nice little draw.

I guess you could call where I was sitting the “Husky section” of the stadium, but there were still plenty of Alabama fans scattered throughout.  If I had to pull an estimate, I’d say it was 75/25 Alabama fans in attendance overall.  It’s really interesting to see how they watch a game, compared to what I’m used to.  Now, this might have been a result of them playing a Washington team they had no fears for whatsoever, but they were pretty quiet when Bama was on defense.  I’d say if anything, they sort of got it up whenever the Huskies were faced with a 3rd down, but other than that, the atmosphere wasn’t really overwhelming.

That is, until Alabama scored, at which point the place erupted and my eardrums throbbed.

I didn’t run into any unruly or rude Bama fans.  They were mostly friendly and chatty and generally curious about a Washington team they knew absolutely nothing about.  What can you do?  They’re an SEC team whose entire world revolves around the SEC.

The funniest part of the game was listening to the Alabama fans bitch about Lane Kiffin.  “God dang it, Lane!” was shouted whenever Bama went away from the run game.  Suffice it to say, they like Lane Kiffin about as much as any other fan base who has had to have him as their coach/coordinator, or any other fan base who has had their team go up against his, or just anyone else in general, because Lane Kiffin seems like he’s really unpleasant as a human being.  I’m sure Florida Atlantic will regret hiring him in no time.

***

So, all right, let’s get into the game itself.

To start, I couldn’t be prouder of this team and especially this defense.  The 2016 Huskies have, without question, a world championship-calibre defense.  Are they better than Alabama’s defense?  Probably not; that was probably the best defensive effort I’ve ever seen in my life.  What Alabama was able to do with five and six-man fronts in stopping the run, while doing what they did to shut down our passing attack, was legendary.  Nevertheless, Washington’s defense wasn’t that far off.  Had our offense come to play, we had a legitimate shot at winning this game.

I’ll always wonder “What If” with this one.  I mean, it’s absolutely remarkable how we were able to march right down the field in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead, followed by how we were totally and completely shut down the rest of the way!  We went 64 yards on 8 plays, in just under 4 minutes, and at that point – when Pettis made the fantastic catch in the endzone – it looked like the Huskies had the blueprint to beat this Bama team!

Then, Alabama showed everyone why they’re so highly regarded.  On the very next drive, they ran on 8 of their 9 plays, moving the ball at will to tie the game at 7.  From there, you had to wonder if we’d ever stop their run game.  I mean, they did it like it was nothing!  Like we weren’t even standing there!  If they would’ve replayed that game and just ran the ball on every down, you could’ve talked me into Alabama winning by 50 points, just based on that one drive alone.

But, it’s a testament to how stubborn Lane Kiffin is that he’d continuously go away from the one thing that was working for his offense.  Alabama’s quarterback, Jalen Hurts, wasn’t able to do much through the air, completing 7 of 14 for 57 yards; and we even held him in check on the ground, with 50 yards on a whopping 19 carries!  If you’d told me he’d have that type of output before the game, I would’ve bet on the Huskies shocking the world.

This game came down to field position and 3 key plays.  There wasn’t much we could do about the field position.  Our offense couldn’t do a damn thing to flip it, and even the few times we did, Alabama was able to get enough yards to get to around mid-field, where their punter was able to pin us inside the 10 yard line more often than not.  I mean, I get that Alabama gets all the best high school players from around the country, but how is it fair that they also have the best punter in college football to boot?

On a related note, the one thing the Alabama fans around me were impressed with when it came to Washington’s football team was our own punter.  They were mesmerized with how many yards he was able to get – with his rugby style of punting – on the bounce, when their return man kept coming up short on the fair catch.

The field position thing could’ve been overcome – I’ll always believe that – had we not suffered the 3 key plays I referenced above.

Play 1 – The John Ross Fumble.  We’ve since come to learn what was plainly obvious all year:  John Ross has declared for the NFL Draft.  It was pretty brutal how much of a non-factor he was in this game, considering he’s the best player on our team (I was honestly shocked it didn’t come out that he’d already declared for the draft midway through the first half of the game).  Compared to all the athletes on the Crimson Tide, John Ross looked slow as shit on his kick returns; no impact there.  He ended up with 5 catches for 28 yards on offense; no impact there.  And, with Washington once again moving the ball near the end of the first quarter, immediately after the Alabama touchdown to tie the game, near midfield, Ross caught a short pass and had the ball knocked out of his 1-handed grasp.  It was obviously pretty demoralizing – because all anyone is thinking about if you’re a Husky player or a Husky fan, is that you CAN’T CAN’T CAN’T turn the ball over against Alabama if you expect to win (indeed, you probably have to play a perfect game, and even that might not be enough) – but our defense was able to hold Bama to a field goal, so it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  At that point, as a Husky fan, all I was thinking was, “John Ross will make this up to us somehow.”  Of course, he would not, but I don’t know how much of that was his fault necessarily.

Play 2 – The Pick Six.  This was the back-breaker.  I’m going to have nightmares about this one for a good, long while.  The Husky defense had settled into their dominating performance, having forced three punts on the last three Alabama possessions.  You had to believe, from a Husky standpoint, that if we’d just kept it a 1-possession game, we’d be able to break through at some point.  Then, Jake was pressured, and threw out into the flat before taking the sack.  Unfortunately, he was throwing to Lavon Coleman, who isn’t an ideal target in that scenario.  And, he was wildly off-target on top of that, throwing it right into the waiting arms of the defender who had an easy touchdown in front of him.  When you factor in we were under 2 minutes left to go in the half, and we had a little momentum with a couple of first downs to that point in the drive, and there aren’t any words to describe my despair at that moment.  Scoring on that drive would’ve been huge, but going into halftime down just 10-7 would’ve at least given us hope for a second half run!  But, going into halftime down two scores felt like the game was over.  I wanted to go home right there.  At that point, it felt over to me.  Alabama’s defense had hardly given an inch aside from our lone scoring drive, there was no way we’d be able to make up the difference unless there was some freaky defensive score on the horizon.  But, I mean, Bama could’ve just knelt down three times and punted on each of their second half drives and let their defense do all the work and it would’ve ended up with nearly the same result.  Nevertheless, I stayed all the way to the bitter end, which was made all the more difficult after Play 3.

Play 3 – The 68-Yard TD Run.  Bo Scarbrough was the offensive MVP of this game without question.  He had 180 yards on 19 carries and 2 TDs.  Even without this run – where he broke about a million tackles en route to crushing our hopes and dreams – he still averaged over 6 yards per run the rest of the day.  And, mind you, that’s a day where – as I said before – the Husky defense played out of their minds!  At this point in the game, we still had most of the 4th quarter left to go.  Had we stopped him, I don’t think the Huskies could’ve come up with the 10 points they needed to tie the game.  But, we didn’t stop him, and with that it was decided.  A 17-point lead for Alabama with a little over 11 minutes to go is absolutely insurmountable.

I should’ve left right there and gotten a jump on the nearly 2-mile walk back to the hotel, but I sat and suffered.  I mean, when would the Huskies ever get back to this point again?

***

It’s at this point that I’d like to take a minute to address all these Husky fans who keep saying that we’re “ahead of schedule” in this thing.  Look, I’m as guilty as anyone of “just being happy to be there” when it comes to being in the final four and in the College Football Playoffs.  I could never honestly believe that Washington was going to beat Alabama, and quite frankly it was hard to even imagine a way we’d win this game without the Crimson Tide starters suffering simultaneous heart attacks on the way to the stadium.  And, aside from that, I can appreciate how far we’ve come from how low the program was after the 2008 winless season.  Chris Petersen has done a PHENOMENAL job in his three years, and I absolutely believe he’s the right man for the job.

We came into the 2016 season hoping for some improvement – maybe even an outside shot at the Rose Bowl – but we never expected all this.  We set our sights – probably wrongly – for the 2017 season as the target season to start thinking about national playoffs and whatnot.  In that sense, sure, you could say we’re “ahead of schedule”, but the thing is:  there IS no schedule.  There’s no guarantee the Huskies will even be within a game or two of the Pac-12 Championship next year!  There’s certainly no guarantee we’ll be better next year than we were this year!  Sure, you figure the guys we’ll still have around – particularly Browning, Pettis, and Gaskin, among many of our young studs on defense – will be improved with another year’s experience.  But, do you realize the impact we’re going to face with all of the guys leaving for the NFL draft?  On top of John Ross, and the obvious outgoing seniors, we’re also talking about almost the entire starting secondary!  That’s the strongest part of the team we’re going to have to fully refurbish!  In a conference that prides itself on its high-flying passing attacks!

The 2016 Husky defense is the best defense we’ve had since those early-90s Don James teams.  It’s certainly the best one we’ve had since I’ve been a fan, and it might be the best defense Chris Petersen EVER has!  Which is why it’s so frustrating to have to look forward to next year, when our chance was NOW!  It’s fine to be pleased with the direction of the program and look forward to the coming seasons.  Husky football should be in the national conversation for at least the next two years, if not much longer (however long Coach Pete wants to stick around, anyway).  But, these playoff appearances don’t grow on trees.  You have to grab your opportunity by the horns when it comes, regardless of whether or not you’re “ahead of schedule”.  Even if the Huskies win the Pac-12 next year and even if they somehow manage the same record in the process, there’s no guarantee we’ll be invited back, considering it’s still a committee of human beings who decide the top four teams.  This might be the ONLY team Coach Pete ever takes to the college football playoffs; we won’t know for many years probably!

That’s why I’m taking the loss as hard as I am.  Even though this Alabama team was a lot like the 1996 Bulls and our Huskies were a lot like the 1996 Supersonics, this still may have been our only opportunity for a National Championship in my lifetime, and to get so close, only to have three plays dictate your defeat … it’s just a lot to take in as a sports fan.

***

In the closing minutes of the game, a couple of Huskies were taken out by some cheapshots from a couple Alabama players during an interception return.  I didn’t see what happened, but it looked pretty shitty to see a couple of our players on the ground in a game that was clearly over.  It was doubly shitty when the majority of Bama fans in the stadium were chanting something afterward (S-E-C, I would come to learn later).  I was too demoralized to really get in much of a huff about it, though.  It was pretty funny to see a very large individual, with a very large red beard, in a Husky jersey with the number 69 on it, and his very large father, with very large white hair, both standing in the first row of our section, saying nothing, but holding two furious middle fingers in the air towards the Alabama bench.  I don’t know what they were hoping to accomplish – getting on the jumbotron maybe? – but I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen two people quivering with so much rage.

It should probably come as no surprise after the clock reached double-zeroes, and the confetti started blowing around the stadium, when a drunken Alabama couple ran down the steps of our section, waving their red & white pom poms around, dancing next to the large front row seat dwellers, when the younger one – like a rampaging rhino – bulled into the couple, knocking the female over in the process, as he ran up the stairs and out of the stadium.  It happened in an instant, and I was too flabbergasted to turn around and see if anyone stopped him, but if I’m being honest, I don’t know if anyone – or even a group of anyones – could’ve slowed the beast.  It was quite the spectacle, to be sure.

I didn’t stick around much longer after that, so I don’t know what came of him or his father.  It was a long, cold, hilly walk back to my hotel.  By the time I got there, the Fiesta Bowl was on and Ohio State was in the process of getting blown out twice as worse as we did.  So, you know, at least they knocked the Huskies off the front page.  And, in the end, more people came away impressed with our defensive performance than they did rubbing it in about how we “didn’t belong”.  Considering Michigan and Penn State both lost their bowl games as well, it’s hard to make much of an argument for the Big 10 this year.  Were they the nation’s best conference?  Hardly.  They just had the most highly-ranked batch of over-rated losers come bowl season.

I spent New Years Eve in the room, with two bottles of wine and more leftover pizza.  I couldn’t move.  Not after all the walking the last two days.  Not alone in a strange city, where quite frankly there were more nearby police sirens going off on the reg than I like to hear.  But, it’s okay.  I wasn’t really in a partying mood, and New Years Eve is the Big 10 of holidays.  Plus, I had a flight to get up for the next day.

I was up by 8am, no worse for the wear from the wine, and I left shortly after to get to the airport for breakfast and sitting.  A short flight to Baltimore and an insanely long flight to Seattle later, and my dad was picking me up.  They DVR’d the Seahawks game for me, so I got to see us settle for the 3-seed while enjoying a few holiday Bud Lights.  Not much of a consolation, but it’s better than nothing, I guess.

Scouting Alabama: The Ole Miss Game

I’m not really a scout.  I don’t regularly sit around watching game tape or the All-22’s or whathaveyou.  I’m just a fan with a semi-coherent knowledge of the game beyond the Washington Huskies.  I don’t know if I’ve seen a single Alabama game this whole year!  I might have had part of the Iron Bowl, or the SEC Championship Game, on in the background, with the volume off, on a second television, occasionally glancing over to see Alabama do more Alabama things en route to convincing victories.  So, you know, it’s not like I’m some expert or anything.

In looking at their schedule, it appears there were only two games one might consider “close”.  In early November, Bama went down to LSU and came away with a 10-0 victory.  I have a vague recollection of that game being 0-0 forever before Alabama scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and it feeling like that was all they needed.  So, if you’re looking for a way to hang in there with Bama, shutting them out for three quarters behind a strong defensive performance is one way to do it.

The other “close” game was much earlier in the season, as Alabama travelled to Ole Miss and came away with a 48-43 victory.  “Close” in quotes because Bama went up 48-30 late in the fourth quarter before giving up some quick garbage-time points.  Nevertheless, Ole Miss was in this one, and very well could have prevailed if it weren’t for some untimely turnovers and even untimelier special teams breakdowns.

At one point, very late in the second quarter, Ole Miss was up 24-3.  A personal foul on the previous touchdown they scored meant that Alabama had excellent field position on the subsequent drive.  It took Bama 3 plays and less than 40 seconds to score a touchdown, which allowed them enough time to force a 3 & Out, which led to Ole Miss giving up a punt return touchdown.  It was 24-17 at halftime, and things got much worse for Ole Miss from there.

On their first drive of the second half, Ole Miss was sacked and the fumble was returned for a touchdown to tie the game.  Ole Miss would go on to give up a go-ahead field goal before mounting a significant, game-changing drive.  In this game, Bama gave up a number of deep balls through the air, which bodes well for a team like Washington.  Ole Miss would get the ball down to the Alabama 1-yard line, trailing by 3 points, for first & goal.  A run for no-gain, a false start, and a loss of two yards put Ole Miss at 3rd & goal from the 8 yard line before a 7-yard scramble by the quarterback put the ball back at the one, at which point they settled for the field goal and the tie.

Bama scored a quick TD behind a long run, followed by an Ole Miss field goal to make it 34-30.  Bama would score another TD behind a long run by their quarterback, before Ole Miss mounted another drive into enemy territory.  They ended up coughing the ball up and Bama returned it for a 75-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Or so it appeared.  Ole Miss got a quick TD, recovered an onside kick, and scored another TD in one play.  That made the game 48-43 with Ole Miss holding all three of their time outs.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, as Bama killed the rest of the clock on seven consecutive runs.

Alabama ran for 334 yards in this game on 48 carries.  Their quarterback, Jalen Hurts, led the way with 146 yards on 18 carries; running back Damien Harris had 144 yards on 16 carries.  Alabama held the ball for over 35 minutes and I feel like that’s what’s going to have to happen if the Huskies want to beat this team.

Ole Miss was able to force Alabama to punt 5 times.  And they REALLY made them work for a lot of their offensive scoring drives.  17 plays to get a field goal in the first quarter.  Another 9 plays to miss a field goal.  Another 10 plays for a field goal in the second half.  You’re doomed to be overwhelmed by Bama if you let them gash you for big plays.  And it’s going to be even worse if you turn the ball over or give up huge plays on special teams.

You don’t get to where Alabama is by playing sloppy.  The Huskies will have to keep it clean.  Pristine.  That means, as I just mentioned, not giving up huge plays on defense (those huge plays are more likely to come from the running game, so that’s something to keep in mind); not giving up huge returns on kickoffs or punts.  That also means not shooting yourselves in the foot with penalties.  Ole Miss didn’t have a ton of penalties – 6 for 65 yards – but on some of their punting drives, they had penalties that put them behind the sticks.  You’re not going to get very far if you’re constantly behind schedule.  And particularly on that drive I talked about above – where they got to the 1-yard line – you’ve got to get that ball in the endzone.  Settling for field goals against Alabama is a great way to ultimately lose to Alabama.

But, like I said, there are yards to be had.  Ole Miss’ quarterback threw for 421 yards on the day, completing only 26/40, with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.  Ole Miss had completions of:

  • 25
  • 44
  • 63
  • 32
  • 22
  • and 37 yards

You pick nearly any successful Husky football game this year, you’re going to find performances much like this.  Jake Browning completing multiple deep balls.  The offense efficiently picking apart teams and putting points up in bunches.  With the run game unlikely to gain much traction – Ole Miss only managing 101 yards on 33 carries – as I’ve said before, the Huskies are going to have to win this one on the arm of Browning.  Ole Miss damn near did it, and that gives me hope because our defense is better, our special teams SHOULD be better, and even though it’ll be tough sledding, our running game is better than that of Ole Miss.

It sounds like a simple formula:  hold their running game in check, limit the big plays, take care of business on special teams, and hit them deep through the air.  But, I’m sure that’s what most teams aimed to do against Alabama, and look at where it got them.

The Ole Miss game proves they’re vulnerable.  That’s what we’ve got to keep in mind here.  It’s up to the offense!  And, if they’re up to the task, we should hang with ’em.  Had Ole Miss protected the football better, they likely would’ve escaped with a win.  You’re not going to score against Bama every time; there will be plenty of punts by the Huskies.  So, you’ve got to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that you create.

And, as the Huskies are one of the best teams at forcing turnovers, just know that those are at your disposal as well.  For as solid as Bama is offensively, they still fumbled a ball against Ole Miss that led directly to points for the other team.  If we can force Jalen Hurts into lots of passing situations, we should hopefully force him into some ill-advised decisions.

For anyone who’s interested, the game is on YouTube.  In under 41 minutes to boot!