How High Can These Seahawks Fly?

The big questions heading into week two are: was Week 1 an aberration, or a sign of things to come? And, if it’s a sign of things to come, how good can this Seahawks team really be?

All you can really do – heading into a new season – is review any roster changes and see how they might fit with what you’ve seen from that team in the past. Generally, you would compare this team to what it was in 2019, but we have ten years’ worth of Seahawks teams to look at with respect to Pete Carroll, eight of those years with Russell Wilson. Knowing what we know, having seen what we’ve seen, it was sensible to expect more of the same: a balanced offense, relying on the defense to keep it close, and hope our All Pro quarterback can pull it out in the fourth quarter. For a team that’s only missed the playoffs twice under Pete Carroll – and only once with Russell Wilson at quarterback – clearly “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” comes into account.

That’s why last week was such a shock – a welcome shock, don’t get me wrong – because it was SO unexpected. Part of me saw them throwing on that first drive and thought, “Well, they’re just doing this to shut the fans up; they’ll get back to a run-heavy approach on the next drive.” But, the passes kept coming, and coming, and coming, and before we knew what hit us, the Seahawks turned into the 2019 Chiefs!

You’ll recall that’s a team that won the Super Bowl. So, in answer to the second big question listed at the top: that’s how good this team can be. With Russell Wilson playing out of his mind, with this offense putting up that many points every week, it doesn’t really matter what the defense does; as long as it’s not dead-last in all of football, this team will win 12+ games, the NFC West, and could very well advance to the Super Bowl if things go right in the playoffs.

BUT, remember that caveat: if Week 1 was a sign of things to come, and not just a one-time treat.

I’m going to stick with my cautiously-optimistic stance for a bit here (instead of full-blown elation), for two reasons. For starters, Pete Carroll was already quoted this week complaining about how few carries the running backs had against Atlanta. 16 carries split between the three of them. Chris Carson is still one of the best running backs in football – as evidenced by his two receiving touchdowns – but he only had six carries! That’s not good enough. In a game we won by double-digits, it’s weird that we didn’t have more of a running game presence in the fourth quarter. So, I would expect Carroll will get his way as early as this week in pounding the rock more than we did last week.

The other cause for concern is our opponent: the New England Patriots. Their defense is crafted much like ours, in that their biggest strength is in the secondary. While I don’t expect the Seahawks to completely revert back to their 2019 form, it would make sense to neutralize things a little bit by hitting the Pats where they’re weakest: defending the run.

That isn’t to say the Pats are bad at defending the run; I can’t say with any certainty one way or the other. Against the Dolphins last week, they held them to 87 yards and a 3.2 yards per carry average; however, the Dolphins’ top two rushers combined for 62 of those yards on 14 carries, for a 4.4 yard average. The Dolphins were playing from behind for most of the game, so they didn’t have the luxury of working that part of their offense in more.

It’ll be REALLY interesting to see what how the Patriots gameplan the Seahawks’ offense. Bill Belichick famously creates a new scheme every week, based on his opponent, to take away whatever it is they do best. Now, he’s a smart man, and he surely knows Russell Wilson is what this team does best, so I don’t expect him to neglect defending the pass in any way. But, will he see this Seahawks team through the lens of what happened last week, or the previous ten years?

The Seahawks offense has been built around two concepts: running the ball and completing deep passes. Last week, the Seahawks completed exactly one deep pass (the 4th down touchdown to D.K. Metcalf), and as I mentioned, hardly ran the ball at all. Most of these were short-to-intermediate routes, which is completely counter to everything we’ve ever done before. Pete Carroll prides himself on his offenses taking care of the football. Running, and throwing deep balls to guys in one-on-one situations, are the safest things you can do. As long as your running back isn’t a fumbler, with a guy like Wilson chucking it, you feel like you have a minimal risk of turning it over on a bomb (either your guy gets it, or it’s incomplete; even in the rare instances where it’s picked, that’s still sort of like a punt in the field position game). The odds of turning it over increase when you throw it a lot, and throw it in those short-to-intermediate routes (where there are lots of different defenders running around, some in areas you wouldn’t expect them to be).

Ultimately, I don’t think the Seahawks are going to totally revert to what they’ve always done, but I do think it will be difficult to run that same gameplan out there for a second week in a row and have the same level of success. I think the running game will have to be incorporated more, for the simple reason that I don’t think the Patriots’ coverage will be as soft as the Falcons’ coverage was last week. If their corners start bullying our receivers at the line of scrimmage, or if the Pats play significantly more zone – while their D-Line does everything it can to keep Wilson in the pocket – I think that’ll open us up to switch to running plays at the line of scrimmage. It won’t be the coaching staff asserting their dominance, it’ll be Wilson doing the smart thing and checking to what the defense is giving us.

It has never made sense to continually pound the running back into 8-man boxes. I think what we saw against the Falcons had to do with exactly that: giving our quarterback the freedom to make smart decisions on the fly.

I actually like the Seahawks in this one. It’s a night game, for one, and you know how we always show up for those. While the home-field advantage won’t be there – with no fans in the stands – I would argue that hasn’t been as effective in recent years, as most teams have adapted to playing on a silent count. I just think we’re better than them at this point.

Now, that isn’t to say I believe we’ll blow out the Pats (though, I’m not throwing that concept out of bed either). I kind of see this as a normal Seattle/Carolina matchup, only with a better coaching staff. Cam Newton is the star of that offense (an offense that is pretty bereft of talent, even by Cam Newton standards); he’ll be the man we need to beat. The Patriots have built an offense that features his skillset (meaning: lots of designed quarterback runs) that might end up being even better than some of those elite offenses he ran with the Panthers (having him on a one-year deal makes this more palatable, as if you run him into the ground or get him injured, it’s no long-term risk to your franchise). With Julian Edelman being the only guy that scares you from that receiving corps, it’s never been more The Cam Newton Show than it will be this year. And, for as savvy as Edelman is, I think our cornerbacks won’t have trouble keeping up with him, for the most part.

It’s almost like the Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams with this game in mind in particular. As we all saw, Adams was all over the place last week, frequently up at the line of scrimmage pre-snap, and also frequently diving into the backfield to chase after the quarterback or running back. He was often successful, and more importantly, he punished anyone that he ended up hitting. My biggest concern in this game isn’t the pass rush; it’s the run defense. The Falcons, when they did run the ball, were pretty successful, including a number of chunk runs through considerable holes created by their otherwise so-so offensive line. It’s been YEARS since the Patriots have had an alpha dog at running back; they usually have three or four guys they like to work in there throughout every game. So, it doesn’t really matter who they hand it to, if their O-Line is able to do to our run defense what the Falcons were able to do, they’re going to have an easy time moving the ball down the field (made even easier by the fact that Cam Newton, when healthy, is in the top two among rushing quarterbacks with Lamar Jackson).

That’s where Jamal Adams comes in. Cam is an elite runner; we need an elite defender to shadow him. Bobby Wagner has traditionally been that man for us, and he’ll certainly play a significant role in following Cam around and keeping him in check. But, as we saw last year, Bobby can’t do everything by himself. Having Adams right there with him should be the difference-maker in keeping this Patriots offense from blowing up.

I’ll also be very interested in seeing what Bruce Irvin and L.J. Collier can do in setting the edge on either side of the line. Keeping Cam contained as a scrambler is just as important as stopping him on those designed runs. Irvin didn’t seem to do a whole lot last week, but as the game went on I thought he did a good job of setting that edge (of course, where is the statue that is Matt Ryan going to run to?); he’s going to be vital in this one, and I think he has what it takes to step up in a big way.

I’m a little over 50% convinced the Seahawks win in a close game. I also think there’s a reasonable chance we prevail by double-digits again (in which case, go ahead and lump us in with the Ravens and Chiefs as the best teams in football, because it’ll be Go Time, my friends!). The only way we lose is the same way most elite offenses like ours end up losing: by keeping them on the sidelines. If the Patriots convert an insanely-high percentage of 3rd/4th downs and dominate Time of Possession, they could steal a close one late in the game. There’s an infinitesimal chance the Pats blow us out, so small as to not even be worth thinking about.

I am SOOOOOO excited for this game! Even more than I was last week, and that had all the juice of being the first game of football I’ve seen since the Super Bowl (not counting the Thursday Night game, of course). I think we’re all holding our breath and crossing our fingers and rubbing our lucky rabbit’s feet that this offense will come out slinging it just like we did last week (and, not only that, but producing a similar type of production from a points perspective). All of our collective worst nightmare is if we continue to throw the ball and it fails; we endure multiple 3 & Outs and turnovers in the process. Because then, you seriously have to wonder about the coaching staff abandoning it and going back to what worked before.

Our enjoyment of football is on the line, people! On the biggest stage, against history’s best-ever football coach, and the team that has far-and-away won the most football games over the last two decades! If we succeed here, the rest of 2020 shapes up as one of the most fun football seasons we’ve ever seen. If we fail, the cost will be enormous.

I know I sound like those lying politicians who say this election is the most important in history (how can they ALL be the most important?), but I’ve never been so on edge for a Week 2 football game in my life. I’m 1-0 in both of my fantasy football leagues, yet all I can think about is the actual football team I follow? You KNOW this is a big one!

The Seahawks Beat The Falcons Convincingly, Making Me Exceedingly Happy

I don’t know if it was a matter of Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer “letting” Russell cook, or if Wilson barged into the kitchen, shoved everyone else out, barricaded the doors in a huff with tables and chairs and whatever else he could get his hands on, and started whipping up soufflés and quiches and gumbos like a man possessed! Is this anarchy? Do we have a mutiny on our hands? God save the queen, I could not care less! That performance was a sight to behold, and I’ll take fifteen more of those if he’s got ’em in ‘im!

31/35 (with at least two pretty awful D.K. Metcalf drops that I can recall, which would’ve made his performance even more special) for 322 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. I will say this, if I may nitpick a tad: there seemed to be a high percentage of high-percentage short throws; wide receiver “bubble” screens, actual honest-to-goodness regular ol’ running back screens, and some iffy designed dump-offs to the tight ends when it looked like he still had time to find something better. But, I mean, listen, this is me at my most pedantic here (and, you know, we’ve been clamoring for the running back screen game to return to Seattle since 2012!), and there’s a very good reason for this sort of game plan in this situation.

This was the first game of the season in a year with no pre-season and very little in the way of a Training Camp (as has been stated, ad nauseam, for the last month or more). On top of which, we were breaking in a new offensive line from center to right tackle, and clearly that was an issue. The running backs – Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, and Travis Homer – combined for 43 yards on 16 carries (an average of 2.7 yards per carry). Imagine ten more frustrating carries tacked onto that total – at the expense of Wilson’s passing attempts – and it’s clear the Seahawks wouldn’t have scored nearly as many points, and very well could’ve lost the game. On top of which, the line surrendered 3 sacks for 23 yards, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but could’ve been much worse if Wilson wasn’t as mobile as he was. So, getting the ball out of his hands quickly – even if there might’ve been time to find something better down field – was certainly advisable. As it was, I thought Wilson took more hits than normal, which comes with the territory of allowing Wilson to explore his inner Boyardee. I do think the line showed some promise – Pocic seemed to stay out of trouble, Lewis had a couple penalties but was otherwise fine, Shell might be a problem, but we’ll wait and see on him – but obviously there will be growing pains through the first few weeks.

While this was a convincing 38-25 victory for the Seahawks, it wasn’t total domination. The first touchdown drive required a pass interference penalty on 3rd & 23 to prevent us from opening the game with a punt. And the defense was the epitome of Bend, Don’t Break all day.

Atlanta’s run game was held in check by the simple fact that the Seahawks were so far ahead in the second half – making the score 28-12 midway through the third quarter – that they simply didn’t have time to run the ball anymore. While the team average doesn’t look great, I thought Todd Gurley looked pretty close to his usual self from when he played for the Rams. There were large, gaping holes to run through that the Seahawks will need to clean up in a hurry.

Also, maybe it comes with the territory of going up against the likes of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but I didn’t think the secondary looked too elite in this one. That wasn’t all due to the garbage-time yards and points the Falcons racked up. I thought Quinton Dunbar looked pretty rusty (at least, I’m hoping it’s rust, and not just an ill fit with this defensive scheme), and I don’t know if Shaquill Griffin was at a Pro Bowl level in this one (though, his PI penalty was pretty ticky-tacky). The Falcons had three 100-yard receivers in this one; that’s probably two too many.

As for the dreaded pass rush … I’m going to give them an “incomplete”. With Matt Ryan dropping back a whopping 54 times, you would THINK the Seahawks should be able to muster more than a measly two sacks (one from an actual member of the front seven), but for now I’m going to chalk it up to Ryan being a veteran who knows how to get rid of the football quickly. We did manage to hit him eight times, which is better than nothing.

Benson Mayowa got the defensive line’s only sack, and at the best possible time: on fourth down, right after we’d just taken that 28-12 lead. I thought L.J. Collier looked pretty impressive – at least, compared to his non-existent rookie season – and I thought Bruce Irvin looked pretty spry (though, both of them disappeared for long stretches in this one, getting swallowed up by Atlanta’s O-Line).

The real stars of this game on defense were, shockingly enough, our two best players on defense: Jamal Adams and Bobby Wagner. I mean, get ready to read a shit-ton about these guys, because they figure to be pretty important every single week! Adams led the team with 12 tackles and was ALL OVER THE PLACE in this one. My goodness! If you were worried the Seahawks wouldn’t blitz him as much as the Jets did, rest assured, I saw him crashing down the line repeatedly all day. Which came in handy when you consider Adams had our other sack, as well as 2.5 tackles for loss and 2 hits on the quarterback. He was simply amazing, there’s no other way to describe it. He’s like if Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas had a baby who was possessed by the devil, but then that baby was slimed with that pink ooze from Ghostbusters II while uplifting soul music was playing from the loudspeakers, leading to his good side shining through and … you know what? This explanation is getting too unwieldy. Jamal Adams = Great.

Also Great = Bobby Wagner. He added seven tackles (one for loss) and had two big pass breakups. I noticed Wagner was doing a little bit of everything – including a healthy chunk of pass rushing – which is really what we were all hoping for. Adams is freeing Wagner up to not have to do EVERYTHING, which in turn should see a spike in some of those really special numbers, like sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, and the like.

Shout out to Marquise Blair, who got considerable playing time as advertised. He showed solid coverage, also netting seven tackles, and he had a critical forced fumble on a fake punt in the second half that was otherwise going to be converted for a first down had we not recovered the ball. There were smashing hits all day, and that’s exactly the sort of impact this team needs to change its reputation on defense from the softest of cheeses into something more akin to the outer crust of a stale loaf of sourdough.

Of course, it might not matter if the offense keeps wheeling and dealing the way it did in this one. Chris Carson didn’t have a lot on the ground, but he caught six passes for 45 yards and two touchdowns. Tyler Lockett led the team in receptions with 8/8 for 92 yards, and D.K. Metcalf had an up-and-down affair with 4 catches on 8 targets, for 95 yards and a VERY impressive 38-yard touchdown on 4th & 5 to start the second half on the right foot. Newcomer Greg Olsen also showed up with 4 receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown to round things out.

This is rather new territory for us as Seahawks fans. It seems like every other year in the Russell Wilson era, our first game out of the box is some ugly 16-12 slugfest with lots of sacks, turnovers, and penalties. I’ve NEVER seen the offense come out of the gates looking this elite! Usually it takes about three months to get going, but here we go! This is what we’ve been waiting for! Sure, last year the offense clearly outplayed the defense, but this year, it seems like the offense is finally ready to take over games.

As for the Falcons, it’s hard to say. They might be bad, but they could’ve also just run into the buzzsaw that is the Seattle Seahawks. I highly doubt they schemed for us to be as pass-happy as we were, so in that sense maybe they got bitten by it being the first week. If there was ever a good year to unleash a brand new offensive attack, this would be the perfect time!

There’s going to be a lot of talk about, “Do We REALLY Need A Pre-Season?” Honestly, I’m finding it a little difficult to say we do. Obviously, I didn’t watch every single game, but I watched a lot of football yesterday, and by all accounts the games weren’t as ugly as we expected. Penalties didn’t seem to be any more of an issue than in any other season. It looked like a regular week of football (aside from the lack of fans in the stands, and the players being pretty gassed). I do think the pre-season serves a purpose, in that it allows teams to get a better look at their younger guys. But, at the same time, with the increased practice squads, and the fact that other teams don’t have tape on your young guys, you’re able to retain more of your draft picks who aren’t quite good enough to make the 53-man roster, but still have potential in the next year or two to take the next step in your program. So, I dunno. I can go either way with having pre-seasons. Maybe, as has been discussed, split the dif: just take it down to one or two games from now on.

Regardless, if the Seahawks are going to play this well on offense the rest of the season, it won’t matter who we play nor how well our defense performs. I just hope it’s a sign of better things to come, and not a one-week anomaly.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2020: Corona-Draft Prep

  • Pre-Season Week 1 HERE

Well, the keepers are set in place, and now I get to look forward to our draft this Friday. There were some minor surprises – and a couple big ones – so without further ado, let’s take a quick glance at how wrong I was about my projected keepers for the rest of the league:

  1. Russell Wilson, Christian McCaffrey, Chris Godwin, Matt Ryan (all correct)
  2. Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, James Conner, Travis Kelce (Odell Beckham Jr., Mark Ingram, and Keenan Allen all available to draft)
  3. Deshaun Watson, George Kittle, Derrick Henry, Cam Newton (Aaron Jones)
  4. Jared Goff, Drew Lock, DeAndre Hopkins, JuJu Smith-Schuster (A.J. Brown and Raheem Mostert)
  5. Kyler Murray, Saquon Barkley, Michael Thomas, Joe Mixon (Mike Evans)
  6. Aaron Rodgers, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen (Amari Cooper)
  7. Patrick Mahomes, Alvin Kamara, Davante Adams, Tyler Lockett (all correct)
  8. Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyreek Hill, Gardner Minshew, Todd Gurley (Matthew Stafford)
  9. Lamar Jackson, Julio Jones, Austin Ekeler, Kenyan Drake (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold)

I remember being MUCH more successful in predicting my league’s keepers before last season, so I don’t know what that says about me or the state of the NFL right now, but it makes the upcoming draft more interesting!

Until I saw the actual keepers, I wasn’t too thrilled about my prospects as the guy with the #2 overall draft pick. It just seemed like there wouldn’t be anyone really dominating for me to select. BUT, I see two guys among the leftovers who are VERY exciting! Not just for 2020, but for many years to come potentially!

Of this group, Mike Evans and Aaron Jones are both VERY enticing to me. Either one of them could fall to me and I’d be ecstatic with whoever I get. I know I bemoaned Tom Brady’s noodle arm last week, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be interested in the weapons he has to throw to. For starters, Brady isn’t totally inept; he hasn’t fallen completely off the cliff just yet. While Mike Evans has been mostly a deep threat thus far in his career, he still has a ton of value as a red zone target, and should thrive with someone like Brady throwing jump balls his way. If, by the grace of all that is holy, both Evans and Jones were to fall to me, I’d have to go with Evans simply because the drop-off at receiver is so steep among him and the rest of the leftovers.

Odell Beckham Jr. is, of course, one of those leftovers. I can’t say that I agree with exposing him to the rest of the league while keeping someone like Josh Allen, but you know, there’s a reason why I haven’t won a league championship in the fantasy trophy era (2010-Present). I think the Cleveland Browns – and by extension, their players – are pretty underrated in 2020, after being so very OVER-rated heading into 2019, so there could be some good value in guys like ODB and Baker Mayfield. If I picked lower in the first round, I’d be over the moon if someone like ODB fell to me; someone is going to get an absolute steal.

Aaron Jones was one of the best running backs in all of football last year, at least from a fantasy perspective. So, it’s shocking to see him available. But, it’s telling that he is, because the owner who exposed him is also a lifelong Packers fan. If HE’S not keeping Aaron Jones, there must be a reason (he’s also the reigning league champion, but that’s in spite of him auto-drafting last year, as well as never checking his e-mail, so we’re all in agreement that this was a fluke, and if his wife weren’t cc’d on all league e-mails, we’d probably never hear from him again). I have to believe Aaron Jones still has a lot of value, though, so if Mike Evans goes to the guy drafting #1 overall, I’m okay with nabbing Jones, even though I’ve already kept two running backs. There’s still the FLEX spot, and there are only so many bona fide, workhorse running backs in the league, so you really can’t have too many.

That would, of course, necessitate my drafting wide receivers in both the second and third rounds (which might see me needing to reach for some lesser players, but that’s the price you pay, I guess).

As I stated before, I still haven’t done a ton of research heading into the draft, as my objective at this point is still to mostly go by what Yahoo tells me. But, to pique my curiosity, I checked the season projections and found some surprising guys among the leftovers.

Miles Sanders, running back for the Eagles, is rated VERY high. Even higher than Aaron Jones! I can’t remember the last time an Eagles running back was worth more than an in-season free agent pickup (probably Shady McCoy), because they so often are in a time-share with multiple backs. But, he’s been definitively named the starter by the head coach, which is saying a lot but also not saying anything at all. Why would the head coach be motivated to give away such news for free to the rest of the league? Also, there’s no saying he has to stick with that, if Sanders under-produces or gets hurt. Sanders was really good towards the end of last year though, so I think that’s where the hope lies.

Not ODB nor Mike Evans is the highest-ranked wide receiver remaining; that falls to Allen Robinson of the Bears. I don’t totally get that, but ESPN also has him ranked pretty high, so I guess I have to believe it. With Chicago’s quarterback situation being what it is, I don’t have ANY faith in any of their players, but if he somehow falls to the second round, I might have to take him anyway.

Kenny Golladay is also rated above ODB and Evans, and he seems like a safer pick. He has elite talent, and Matthew Stafford is healthy again. It’s looking highly likely that MANY wide receivers are going to fly off the board in the first three rounds of our draft, so I’ll be interested to see who I’m able to grab.

Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, and Darren Waller are the three tight ends I’m looking at right now. Andrews is probably the only guy worth reaching for (maybe in the second or third round, if he’s still there), but if the draft doesn’t fall the way I want it to, I have no problem waiting until the end of the draft to pick up a tight end. There will be someone on waivers worth claiming in the first week or two of the regular season.

I need to resist the urge to get a third quarterback too early, but there are LOTS of veteran options out there (who I would anticipate get snapped up before I have a chance), including Drew Brees, Brady, Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill, and Tyrod Taylor. There’s also Baker Mayfield, who still has a lot of potential to be great, as well as Darnold and Dwayne Haskins (who stunk last year, but is still young enough to turn it around). And then, of course, there are the rookies. The more I think about it, the less inclined I am to want to reach too early for any of them. I also wonder if Joe Burrow won’t be the first overall player taken in the draft, considering the guy picking there and how badly he’s been looking to shore up his QB spots. Having Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow for the next generation might be too tantalizing to pass up.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2020: Here We Fucking Go Again

If you want to read about my 2019 fantasy football season, click HERE and you can see all the prior links at the top. And, if you want to read about my 2018 season (which has a lot of good info at the beginning about how our league works), click HERE.

Note: please don’t go back and read all of that. There’s a reason why this series is called, “Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team”. You’ve been warned; this isn’t necessarily a generic fantasy football column like you may be used to, this is specifically about MY team, and if the players I write about happen to be relevant to your situation, then all the better, I guess.

Just a quick reminder: this is a 10-team, 2-quarterback PPR league where quarterback points are slightly inflated compared to standard leagues (20 yards per point, 6 points per TD, -4 points per INT). So, you know, it’s pretty important to have a couple quality quarterbacks.

We had our annual fantasy football meeting last week, without much tweaking of the rules. For our purposes, the league season only counts – as it relates to the championship and related prizes therein – if the NFL completes nine regular season weeks. I don’t think that will be much of an issue, but apparently we have to account for these things in these COVID times. We also are allowed one extra IR spot (on top of the IR spot we already get) specifically if someone is diagnosed with COVID and placed on leave accordingly. Seems unlikely that anyone super good will catch it, so I’m not too concerned.

It’s another year with four keepers, so here are mine:

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

The only holdovers from my 2018 squad are Wentz and Elliott. I made an ill-advised trade for Tom Brady midway through last year – costing me Tyreek Hill in the process – and for that I have much regret. Nevertheless, Danny Dimes looks like he has true stud potential, and as someone I held onto all year in spite of not playing him very regularly, I’m pretty devoted to seeing how he plays out in his second season in the league. Josh Jacobs, from the moment I drafted him, was someone I eyeballed as a potential keeper for years to come (and someone I see has a HUGE upgrade over LeVeon Bell, who was mired on a terrible Jets team with a God-awful offensive line).

The only other serious contenders as keepers were the aforementioned Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell. Brady is REALLY intriguing, as we all know he’s now in Tampa, with a ton of weapons, and with an offensive-minded head coach in Bruce Arians. Like many around football, I’m not totally sold on Carson Wentz. The bloom is off the rose with him, even though he played in all 16 games, had a career high in passing yards (4,039) in spite of having no great wide receiver options to throw to, and still had a very commendable 27:7 TD:INT ratio. I don’t know if the weapons situation is all that much improved, but they went after wide receiver HARD in the draft, and hopefully will see some younger guys from prior seasons step up. So, there was a serious look at Brady over Wentz, but in the end Brady is just so old, and that noodle arm looked SO feeble last year. The offense under Arians tends to feature a lot of deep downfield plays in the passing game. I could see Brady starting off the season on fire, but when I would need him the most – in the fantasy playoffs – I just don’t think he’ll have it. Besides that, Wentz is obviously still very young and should still be viable for many more years; Brady is on his very final legs and could be forced into retirement at any time.

As for Bell, I couldn’t tell you what the Jets have done to bolster their O-Line (other than pay a lot of money to George Fant to be their left tackle, a position he’d rarely been asked to play as a member of the Seahawks). I don’t know if I totally buy Bell as still having it. He was a steady fantasy player last year, but he’s getting up there as well, and if that offense continues to struggle, I don’t know if I see him having a lot of TD opportunities. I’m of the opinion that Jacobs will be a superstar, and Elliott already IS a superstar. Kind of a no-brainer there.

In coming in second place in the Consolation Bracket last season, I earned the second overall draft pick in the upcoming draft on Friday, September 4th. This presents me with a unique opportunity. The deadline for everyone to declare their keepers is this Friday, August 28th, so before next week’s column, I should know who’s available to me.

Since there isn’t a ton to write about this early in the pre-season, I’ll try to take a stab at guessing who the keepers will be for the other nine teams (with guys in parentheses being alternate options):

  1. Russell Wilson, Christian McCaffrey, Chris Godwin, Matt Ryan (Tyler Boyd)
  2. Dak Prescott, Odell Beckham Jr., Mark Ingram, Travis Kelce (Keenan Allen)
  3. Deshaun Watson, George Kittle, Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones (Cam Newton)
  4. DeAndre Hopkins, Jared Goff, A.J. Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster (Raheem Mostert)
  5. Kyler Murray, Michael Thomas, Saquon Barkley, Mike Evans (Joe Mixon)
  6. Aaron Rodgers, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Amari Cooper (Adam Thielen)
  7. Patrick Mahomes, Alvin Kamara, Davante Adams, Tyler Lockett (Zach Ertz)
  8. Tyreek Hill, Jimmy Garoppolo, Todd Gurley, Matthew Stafford (Gardner Minshew)
  9. Lamar Jackson, Kenyan Drake, Baker Mayfield, Julio Jones (Austin Ekeler, Sam Darnold)

Honestly, I’m not in love with any of these potential leftovers. I’m tempted to more or less auto-draft. I’m happy with my keepers, but I was REALLY hoping there’d be someone super exciting for me to select with my #2 overall pick. Thankfully, we have a straight draft, so I’m #2 in every round. By auto-drafting, I figure I can’t do much worse than I’ve been doing over these last dozen or so years.

I haven’t done much of any research so far this off-season, and I don’t know what I’ll end up getting to prior to the draft. My hunch is: not much. Again, being prepared hasn’t done a damn thing for me; my name sure as shit isn’t on that league trophy, I’ll tell you that much!

One idea I’ve been mulling over is using my #2 overall pick on one of the incoming rookies. I have three players in mind, two of them being the most prominent rookie quarterbacks: Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. Gun to my head: I like Tua more than Burrow. But, he’s projected to start this season as Miami’s backup, and their BYE week isn’t until Week 11. So, either Ryan Fitzpatrick sucks and Tua’s thrown to the wolves prematurely, and without a proper BYE week to prepare, or FitzMagic continues to do his thing and we don’t see Tua until very late in the season. The point being: there’s a great chance Tua doesn’t help me much at all this year, and I’d be throwing away yet another season trying to get my shit together when it comes to the quarterback position (with a very small, but important chance that Tua is the next Mahomes and I’d be missing out on my one and only opportunity at getting in on his ground floor).

It just figures that I have this great draft pick for the first time in YEARS, and there are no real stud running backs that would change the course of my fantasy franchise for years to come. Where’s MY Saquon Barkley?!

We’ll see, though. Once the keepers are locked in place, I’ll hop back into the league site and see who Yahoo thinks I should take. It does seem kind of idiotic to have a third quarterback on my roster before even getting ONE wide receiver. At some point, I need to stop playing for the future and start playing for today.

How many times have I admonished myself the last few years by saying that very same thing?

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2019: Thank God It’s Fucking Over

I lost the Consolation Bracket Championship Game, because of course I did. NEWSFLASH: Guy Loses To Guy Who Has Lamar Jackson; WEIRD!

I’m happy for one thing and one thing only: Danny Dimes scored me 48.80 points this week. That’s four weeks out of a possible 11 games where he scored 39+ points, which for a rookie is something to build upon.

So, all I’ve got to do now is figure out who my four keepers are going to be. Dimes is one of them, no question. Zeke Elliott and Josh Jacobs are also back, no question. Well, maybe some question. It depends on how injured Jacobs is, and what the Raiders do in the offseason. But, if they’re ready to hand him the keys to that backfield (and don’t do something stupid like draft another running back in an early round in 2020), then I think he’s a no brainer.

That leaves me with my fourth keeper. I have to keep in mind that I’ll be drafting second in next year’s fantasy draft. My opponent – the guy drafting first overall – will definitely be keeping Lamar Jackson. His other possible QB keepers are Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold; you can’t be really happy with either of those options, so it wouldn’t shock me to see him get Joe Burrow, or whoever ends up being the best-looking rookie quarterback prospect.

The point is, I can settle for the second-best rookie quarterback next year and try to build some sort of juggernaut around a couple of young, exciting quarterbacks. So, I don’t HAVE to keep someone like Carson Wentz, even though he’ll likely be around a Top 10 scoring QB for our league this year.

Behind him, I don’t have a receiver I love (Cooper Kupp is the closest thing, but I dunno). Le’Veon Bell is a longshot, again, unless his situation drastically improves. I don’t think either Scary Terry or Darius Slayton are ready to be keepers; I could definitely draft both of those guys fairly late in next year’s draft.

So, in that sense, Carson Wentz probably HAS to be the keeper play here. Also, that doesn’t prevent me from also using my #2 pick on a third quarterback. Draft whoever the best rookie quarterback is on the board, stash him on my bench, and then start working on my wide receivers in the second round and beyond.

The thing is, part of me doesn’t want to give up on Wentz. I went to a lot of trouble in hanging onto him since his rookie season, essentially building my team around HIM the last time I did one of these step-backs or rebuilds or whatever. I’ve also done this before, where I’ve let go of quality QBs after disappointing seasons, and they’ve immediately bounced back in big ways (most infamous was me giving up on Matt Ryan the year before he was the league’s MVP). So, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see Wentz put up major production in 2020.

With injuries and all the rest, it never hurts to have a third quarterback.

Plus, I mean, our league this year has been won by the only guy who auto-drafted his entire team (minus last year’s keepers). On top of that, his four keepers included THREE quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Deshaun Watson, and Drew Brees) and a team defense (Rams).

Fantasy football is literally the stupidest thing invented by man, and I’m including the Chia Pet.

I Don’t Really Know What To Make Of That Seahawks Victory Over The Falcons

I mean, I’m definitely not impressed! I think we can all agree that was a pretty underwhelming effort – particularly in the second half – against a pretty crappy team that’s about to fire its head coach and start going through some sort of rebuild in the near future. But, at the same time, it’s another win on the road, and in the NFL that’s tough to do no matter who you play.

So, yeah, the Seahawks are 4-0 on the road. I don’t know if that’s more mystifying, or if it’s the Seahawks being 2-2 at home.

The first half of this game – that saw the Seahawks methodically climb to a 24-0 lead – was exactly what I was expecting. Matt Ryan was out, Matt Schaub was starting, he’s terrible, their defense is still somehow worse, easy peasy! The Seahawks weren’t lighting the world on fire, but we had three consecutive touchdown drives to pretty much put this one away. D.K. Metcalf had a couple of wide open catches in the endzone, and Carson plunged one over the goalline from a yard out. Nice.

Then, I dunno. I mean, it was always unrealistic for this Seahawks defense to get a shutout, but to fall apart so absolutely was truly a sight to behold. Matt Schaub threw for 460 yards! Garbage time or not, that’s ridiculous! With that quarterback, we should’ve had more than 2 sacks on the game. I know the Falcons put a lot of resources into their O-Line, but those are young guys, and we had Clowney and Ansah in there; they should’ve had no trouble beating guys off the edge!

Seattle’s offensive struggles were a little easier to understand. Justin Britt maybe did something serious to his ACL; he looks to be out for the rest of the year and maybe has played his last snap in a Seahawks uniform. He’s counting over $11 million against the cap next season – the last year of his deal – and there’s around $8 million in savings to be had there, if we opt to go with Hunt or Pocic at center going forward. On top of Britt, Duane Brown looks like he was rushed back into action – he missed a few plays when he probably should’ve just taken another week or two off to get right before the 49ers game – and Fluker looks like a step down from Jamarco Jones at right guard. I think Iupati also missed some snaps in the second half, so we were banged up across the board.

That translated into the Seahawks only having one drive that was longer than a 3 & Out in the second half. It turned out to be a game-clinching nearly 7-minute field goal drive, but it was rough sledding. The Falcons outscored Seattle 20-3 in the second half and it would’ve been a lot worse if they had more time. Julio Jones had a monster day, but all their guys were wide open throughout.

So, like I said, what do you make of this one? You probably just try not to think about it too much and move on to next week, where this defense will likely be shredded by another mediocre quarterback in Jameis Winston.

Russell Wilson had an okay day – 2 TDs on 182 passing yards with 0 INTs – but nothing that will move the needle on his MVP candidacy. Chris Carson had a pretty quiet 90 yards and a TD on a 4.5 yard average. It was rumored that Penny would be active over Prosise to try to showcase him ahead of the trade deadline this week; he boosted his stock marginally on 8 carries for 55 yards, but I can’t imagine he has anything more than a 7th round value on the trade market, which would be supremely demoralizing since we took him in the first round. I’m guessing the Seahawks wouldn’t mind giving Travis Homer a look in the backfield, but it’s hard to let Penny go for peanuts (especially knowing Prosise’s injury history, and the fact that this is the final year of his rookie deal; do you really want to extend him with free agent dollars?).

It was cool to see Metcalf get wide open for a couple easy TDs. Tyler Lockett continues to be one of the best wide receivers in all of football. But, David Moore was featured pretty extensively and caught 1 of 4 balls for 23 yards. I don’t know if this is gonna be his year; he can’t get open and he hasn’t been able to make many catches in traffic. If he can’t do either of those things, he can’t play in this offense, period.

Defensively, as I noted, there were the two sacks. The tackles for loss made an appearance, which was nice; the Falcons only ran for 69 yards on 17 carries, which is something. We forced a couple fumbles (one was at the end of the first half, with no time to do anything with it) and Mychal Kendricks had a nifty interception when he dropped into zone coverage. But, as I noted above, hard to get too excited when you give Matt Schaub 460 yards passing. Tre Flowers was out with injury, and Akeem King looked like he belongs in the XFL. Shaquill Griffin still continues to play well, but he can’t do everything.

K.J. Wright was benched briefly in this one, and Cody Barton made an appearance in the base defense. That’s definitely something to watch out for, as this team needs a spark at every level. Marquise Blair had some good plays in this one, so that’s encouraging. But, safety continues to be a triage unit with guys shuttling in and out constantly.

The good news is the Seahawks are 6-2 at the midway point in the season. The bad news is the 49ers are 7-0, and our schedule gets considerably harder in the second half of the season (including the 49ers twice, the Rams on the road, the frisky Cardinals at home, the Eagles and Panthers on the road, the Vikings on Monday Night, and the Bucs this week who could throw for 700 yards against our defense). Buckle up!

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2019: All Hell Breaks Loose

I feel these sorts of weekends in my bones. It usually starts with the Huskies losing on Saturday. I wake up as hungover as can be on Sunday, there’s no Seahawks game, and I’m up against a buzzsaw in fantasy. In this case, I’d go on to lose in all four fantasy games I’m involved with, so I avoided watching football entirely (for Family Guy and Brooklyn Nine-Nine reruns in bed).

I kept track of the score on my phone for a while, but at some point it became too sadomasochistic to continue. Beasts, my opponent, started off his week with Russell Wilson going off for 40+ and Chris Carson beating expectations to get nearly 20. Then, he had Christian McCaffrey score almost 50, Matt Ryan in a shootout, Chris Godwin picking up all the slack for the Tampa offense, and for good measure Edelman and Boyd having huge days.

I, on the other hand, benched Josh Jacobs (almost 30) for David Montgomery (10) and Minshew (almost 30) for Dimes (12). Not that it would’ve mattered; Wentz, Hilton, and Waller were all mediocre, and I had absolutely no one in the realm of Beasts’ best guys.

I was crushed 253.66-150.05. I’d be complaining about my bad luck, but someone else in the league dropped 260 on the poor sap who’s still winless on the year. My defeat drops me to 2-3 and 7th in the league. I’m down to just the 6th-most points, but the 2nd-most points against (the last place team has the most points against at 950.65 and I’m at 940.77; the 3rd-most points against is only 793.14, to give you an idea how unlucky we’ve been).

***

What’s worse is that I’m setting myself up for another loss in week 6. I have a tight end and defense on BYE, with no backups to put in their place. Furthermore, Jacobs, Hilton, and Montgomery are all on BYE as well, which is a huge setback.

I’ve got Wentz at MIN and Minshew hosting the Saints; I fully expect two mediocre games from them (Dimes is at New England and is unstartable in this Thursday Night matchup). My Big 4 of Kupp, Tyreek Hill (looking on pace to return for the first time since Week 1), Zeke and Bell are all set to start for me, which is nice to finally have back. But, my FLEX is a little iffy with Scary Terry being my choice over Chris Thompson. They’re playing the Dolphins, so if there’s any time to load up on Redskins players, this might be the week, but with their coaching & quarterback shuffling, who the fuck knows? Can Justin Tucker score 30 points somehow?

My opponent – Crazy N8’s Prostates – will be fielding a full team. They’re, of course, better than me even when I’m at full strength, so I really expect to get killed for the second time in a row. He’s got Dak in a juicy matchup against the Jets, with Cousins in a potential shootout against the Eagles. He has Keenan Allen, ODB, and James Conner; with David Johnson, Ingram, and Kelce rounding out the offense. He could also toss Sammy Watkins into his FLEX if he so desires. And, since he actually has roster flexibility, he was able to grab Dallas’ defense off of the scrap heap, who figure to murder the Jets this weekend; it’s certainly risky to bench Sacksonville’s defense, but when you have a chance to field a defense going up against one of the worst teams in the league, you have to do it.

I’ve just gotta weather this storm and hope for better days in the second half of the regular season. There’s still a lot of time to get right, but I’m in desperate need of Carson Wentz to pick his game up. I also need to figure it out when it comes to Minshew vs. Jones; I somehow make the wrong decision every single week, even though I feel like my judgment is sound. Dimes didn’t have a great matchup last week, but Carolina’s defense to date had been murder on opposing quarterbacks. Maybe it just boils down to Minshew being the real deal and Dimes being a flash in the pan? I can’t help but feel I’m about to have the rug pulled out from under me; that I’m going to finally start Minshew and that’s the week he turns back into a pumpkin.

Regardless, if it wasn’t clear before, it’s all but assured I won’t get to enjoy a Top 2 finish to the regular season (and a first round playoff BYE). It’s hard enough to win ANY week in fantasy, but having to win three in a row during the playoffs is damn near impossible. This week, I’m going up against the last person in our league to do it (I think). Maybe I can get some of that magic to rub off on me.

The other hard truth I might have to face as the season progresses is that my team just isn’t very good this year. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time focusing on the future and not enough time on getting better in the short term. It certainly doesn’t help that I made Roethlisberger my first draft pick, that I got unlucky with Hill getting injured in week 1, and that I drafted T.Y. Hilton over Tyler Lockett, among many other disasterous decisions. This year is a learning experience. Of course, I could say that damn near every year, where I continue to remain off of the championship trophy entirely.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2019: Man Down!

So, in hindsight, maybe I should have traded Danny Dimes for Stafford & Godwin? It certainly would’ve made my Week 4 a whole lot less stressful.

I was heading into some deep doo-doo as it is when I originally set my Week 4 lineup. T.Y. Hilton had left his Week 3 game prematurely with a nagging injury he’s been dealing with all year. Then, Scary Terry McLaurin popped up on a mid-week injury report for a quad or something. Whatever it was, he did it in practice, and it’s especially brutal because they were – in theory – going up against a terrible secondary in the Giants.

What was even worse for me is that with those two guys eventually declared inactive, I was down to just one healthy wide receiver. I’ll explain.

The person who picked up Wayne Gallman last week (and left him on HIS BENCH no less!) dropped David Montgomery (Chicago’s rookie RB) to get him. In my opinion, TheGangUnderperforms was a little short-sighted in this move, as Gallman will eventually be relegated to his usual backup role, whereas I’m of the belief that Montgomery is only getting better, and will continue to see his snaps increase with each passing week. If I were him, I probably would’ve dropped Matt Breida, but that’s me and I could easily be wrong in this thing. Regardless, I wanted David Montgomery, so that took up the bulk of my Wednesday-Thursday, obsessing over who I should drop.

It was down to Chris Thompson or Christian Kirk. I was 4th in waiver priority, and while I felt pretty good about my chances (that the top 3 guys wouldn’t put in a claim, or even notice he was out there), I couldn’t let him pass and see someone with a lower priority make the claim. So, I used mine. The claim would go through on Friday morning, and at this point in the week I believe Hilton was still pretty doubtful, but Scary Terry (from reports of Washington beat writers) was looking a little more probable than he had the day before. Since I’ll see Tyreek Hill and A.J. Green eventually returning from their injuries at some point this year, and I’m already rostering Kupp, Hilton, and Scary Terry, I had a hard time justifying Kirk’s existence. Particularly when – while I do have a pretty loaded backfield – running backs are notoriously injury prone, and I like playing Thompson in case of emergency, over some waiver wire scrub.

So, I dropped Kirk, and I crossed my fingers. With my luck, neither Hilton nor McLaurin made miraculous recoveries, which left me with two options: leaving the spot open and only playing one receiver, or leaving the spot open and seeing how the weekend went. I just so happened to be going up against the worst team in the league (who was also, thankfully, minus one of his regular QB’s in Jimmy G), and even minus one player, I was still in the thick of things heading into the week. I had a good game out of Wentz on Thursday, so I rolled the dice.

I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done, because as Sunday progressed, the pool of available wide receivers – for lack of a better word – sucked. When I woke up Monday morning and saw that Zeke Elliott had an okay game, I was up 131.35 to 117.7. I had no one in the Cincinnati/Pittsburgh game; he had Andy Dalton. Could Pittsburgh’s defense hold him to under 13 points? I didn’t LOVE my chances, but I thought they were reasonable enough. My other option would’ve been picking up either James Washington (the person I was leaning towards, who ended up with 0 points) or Diontae Johnson (who ended up scoring over 17 points and would’ve easily sealed the deal). See, my other thought was, with the Steelers having a backup QB, the odds of someone like Washington getting zero points were very legit, and I would’ve had to waive someone I REALLY didn’t want to waive to get those zero points.

In short, I was willing to take the Week 4 L to preserve my roster for the long term. The me of 5 years ago would’ve panicked; I’m proud of my restraint, and I was rewarded accordingly. I won’t say I deserve this victory, but after last week’s bullshit, I think I earned it.

***

Yeah, as it turns out, Danny Dimes kinda stunk in his second start. Meanwhile, Gardner Minshew once again tore it up, this time in Denver of all places. I was strongly considering rolling with the Mississippi Moustache in Carolina this week, but their defense has savagely limited QB production this year, whereas the Vikings can be thrown on. So, Dimes gets one more week.

I otherwise got just okay games from the rest of my lineup, minus Kupp who REALLY saved my bacon. The Lance Petemans had pretty much everyone else on the Rams (Gurley, Woods, and Cooks) who combined for 68.5 of his 121.05 points. I was most worried about having to play Buffalo’s defense against the Patriots, but they did me an okay 7 points. On top of which, they kept Brady out of the endzone and limited him to 3.20 points for my opponent (he got a combined 6.55 points out of his two quarterbacks, which ultimately sealed his fate).

This victory brings me back to .500 at 2-2. I’m in fourth place (currently tied with three others at 2-2), I’ve got the fourth-highest total points and the second-highest points against.

***

Apparently Cooper Kupp is now a Must Start wide receiver. It’s weird! I don’t know how it happened – especially coming off of his injury last year – but he’s got more points than any other Rams skill position player! By kind of a lot, after four weeks.

As for my other receiver, it’s Wait & See once again. I don’t know if I can throw away another WR spot this week, so I’ll probably be forced to make some kind of move if my guys don’t get right. I prefer T.Y. Hilton (@ KC) over Scary Terry (vs. NE), but at this point I’ll take what I can get (and hope that Dwayne Haskins doesn’t get the start).

I get Le’Veon Bell back this week to pair with Zeke, which is always comforting. Darren Waller is locked in as my starting tight end as long as he’s breathing. For my FLEX, it’s down to Josh Jacobs (vs. CHI) Thompson (vs. NE) or Montgomery (@ OAK). The Raiders/Bears game is actually in London, so throw location out the window. Jacobs is a no-play for me against that Bears defense, so it’s down to Thompson vs. Montgomery. I like Thompson particularly in this matchup, where you figure it’ll be nothing but check-downs to running backs no matter who’s playing quarterback for the Redskins. But, I’m rolling with my new pickup Montgomery.

Montgomery is now, finally, getting the lion’s share of the carries in their base offense. His snap counts have improved from 38% in Week 1, to 44%, then 67%, then 69% against the Vikings last week. I’ll be the first to admit, his fantasy numbers still aren’t great, and he’s useless if the Bears have to throw a lot to get back into the game. But, I expect their defense to really sit on the Raiders and I don’t think it’ll be too hard for the Bears’ offense to move the ball. Game script being what it should be, I like Montgomery for a lot of second half points in this one.

I’m pretty lukewarm on the matchups my players are facing this week. I’m also a little terrified to be going up against one of our better fantasy players (he’s got his name on the league trophy multiple seasons). Beasts has got Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. He’s got McCaffrey and Chris Carson. He’s got Edelman and Godwin. He’s got Tyler Boyd going up against Arizona’s shitty defense, and he’s got Baltimore’s defense going up against Pittsburgh’s shitty offense. I’m nervous. With Seattle’s kicker, he’s got three Seahawks going up against the Rams; last year both of those games were shootouts and I see no reason why that won’t continue now.

As it stands now, Beasts is a 57% projected favorite in our matchup, but I’m used to playing the underdog. I don’t think Yahoo has a good handle on a lot of the younger players I have on my team; as they keep exceeding expectations, I figure my projections should start to change in the coming weeks.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2019: Trade Hijinks

The question on my mind this week: should spouses be allowed to trade with one another?

This is a story about a different league I’m involved with – one that I’m the commissioner of – so don’t get this confused with what I’ll talk about later. I’ll take you back to last Thursday. My team was playing someone who has Drew Brees. It’s also a 2-QB league, and her third QB (the only other healthy one she had on her roster) was Marcus Mariota, who was going up against Jacksonville on Thursday Night Football. She hadn’t updated her lineup all week – so Brees was still in the starting lineup; Mariota was on her bench – as kickoff came and went. I wasn’t about to say anything, because she was my opponent! If you don’t look at your roster by Thursday night, that’s on you! I figured she’d make a free agent claim over the weekend and we’d all have a good laugh.

Instead, on Saturday, I got a text asking me to push a trade through so she could set her lineup.

There aren’t any rules about trades in my league. Not really. I’ve never vetoed a trade in my life and I wasn’t about to start now. I legitimately don’t believe in it. Part of it has to do with trusting people to do the right thing. Part of it is you never know how these things are going to shake out in the long run; you can easily overreact in the moment (if you think one person is fleecing another), but then it turns out to be more even than you expected as the weeks go on. Part of it also has to do with the fact that pretty much EVERYONE has very intense reactions about pretty much every trade that’s ever happened, and by and large they’re largely just that: overreactions because they’re just bitter they didn’t have a chance to make a better offer.

I like trades. I like wheeling and dealing with other people. I like trying to come up with terms that someone else will accept (while at the same time secretly getting something over on someone else with my “brilliant fantasy football intellect”). I like shaking my team up and getting new guys to play around with. And, I generally find the reactions of others pretty amusing when I’m involved in a trade that’s perceived to be one-sided. The funniest parts of the TV show The League are when cries of “COLLUSION” are bandied about, because it’s so true to real life.

That having been said, this trade – on paper – looks pretty bad. It’s not the worst fantasy trade I’ve ever seen (that would still be when I got Shaq in his prime for Erick Dampier one year – which may or may not have been legitimate collusion, I can’t remember – but pretty much destroyed the entire league as a result), but it’s far from equal right now, and I think it’ll look a lot worse over time:

  • “Team Fleeced” Got: Mason Rudolph (QB) and Cleveland’s Defense
  • “Team Fleeced” Gave Up: Damien Williams (RB) and Chicago’s Defense

Now, if the defenses were reversed, and it was Rudolph and Chicago going one way, with Williams and Cleveland going the other, it might be more reasonable. But, just going by draft projections, we’re talking about Chicago (generally the number one defense selected, alongside maybe Baltimore) and a running back that was considered to be in the top 10 of fantasy backs, if not in the top 10 of all players (in standard leagues); whereas we’re talking about an okay defense in Cleveland, and Big Ben’s backup making his first career start. It’s a bad look. To her credit, she already had Minnesota’s defense on her roster, and Cleveland’s defense has a lot of talent, so the Cleveland/Chicago comparisons should probably line up pretty close by season’s end. But, if you polled fantasy football players, I feel like well over 90% of unbiased voters would choose the Bears over the Browns for their own teams, if given the opportunity.

As for Rudolph vs. Williams, it’s no contest. Rudolph looked awful against the 49ers; Williams is the starter on an offense that scores the most in football. He’ll be out for one week, maybe two? Then, he’s dialed in as your starting RB for the rest of the season as long as he remains healthy.

I said up top, we won’t know how this looks until season’s end, but I have a pretty good feeling there will be a clear winner, and with it potential changes to the league’s rules heading into next year.

I don’t want to pick on spouses, because I don’t believe for one minute that this was done with the intent to collude to win a league championship. I’ve known these people for years, so believe me when I say that I trust their intentions. But, I mean, you’ve got two people living in the same house, who’ve got nothing but time to discuss their rosters (I assume that’s what married people do? Talk about their fantasy football teams all day every day?). Why reach out to the rest of the league when it’s so much easier to trade with someone right in front of you? Also, time was of the essence; she had one day to roster a second QB, and Rudolph probably seems like a better option than whoever’s left as a free agent; so there’s not a lot of time to put feelers out to the league on a Saturday when people have lives and things going on.

But, we’re talking about a guy who has been playing fantasy football for over two decades and who’s been watching football his entire life, against a gal who is on her third season in the game (all in this particular league) and is just a casual football observer. In that case, regardless of whether he intended to or not, it’s one person taking advantage of another’s inexperience.

This isn’t the first time a questionable trade between spouses has happened in this particular league. Two years ago, a husband – again, in need of a quarterback – gave up Todd Gurley & C.J. Beathard for Blake Bortles & Kelvin Benjamin. That was arguably Bortles’ best season of his career, but I mean come on. Gurley was the best offensive player of 2017. His wife, who already had a good, playoff-bound team, went on to win the league’s championship, largely on the back of Gurley crushing opponents.

Again, I’m not against trading, but there has to be an argument that both people are getting something at least CLOSE to equal. But, in each of these deals, we’re talking about one person taking advantage of another’s desperation. Being desperate is no excuse for flipping the whole league into one person’s advantage.

So, I dunno. I might have to make a change for next year. I don’t want to outlaw trades entirely, and I don’t want to be the sole arbiter. So, maybe it has to fall to a league vote on every trade. That runs the risk of – again – people being bitter and voting against every trade because of their own biases, but we’ve got people of varying skill levels in this league, and something has to be done to level the playing field.

I really hate my gut reaction to this, because as I said before, most of the time these things are overblown. But, as commissioner, I’m torn. I take that role seriously, maybe definitely too much so. I take things to heart in a situation that’s totally ridiculous and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Football itself doesn’t matter when compared to real life events and whatnot; fantasy football, by its own definition, doesn’t matter to the Nth degree. I don’t like calling people out, because I’m not really interested in shaming people for something that doesn’t matter. But, I also have a responsibility to the league as a whole, and a need to ensure things are above board. Trades are a slippery slope; they breed resentment. Retaliations generally come in the form of even MORE lopsided trades, this time with actual collusion in intent. Then, the league blows up and you’re left with nothing but hurt feelings and randos as your opponents.

***

My worst-case-scenario came to fruition last week, as my Space Pirates! lost to Space Forcin’ by a score of 222.46-198.95. His score was the highest that anyone has posted all season long. My score was the second-highest that anyone has posted all season long. Of course this happens to me. I can’t be allowed to have nice things! Perish the thought!

It’s pretty rare that both teams in a weekly matchup can get A+ grades, but this is what happens. Cooper Kupp went off for over 30 points. Four other guys got over 20 points, and Buffalo’s defense wasn’t far behind with 19. Everyone on my team except for Justin Tucker scored in double-digits. But, I mean, it just wasn’t even a contest! Mahomes, Kamara, and Lockett each scored over 30 for his team; two others scored almost 30. Only if I had the option of going back and replacing guys in my lineup with higher-scoring bench guys (Danny Dimes had 41, for instance), I still only would’ve BARELY beaten him by less than 1 point (and, seriously, who in their right mind would play someone like Chris Thompson over Le’Veon Bell?). It was the perfect storm, and one that I could see from about 5,000 miles away.

As a result, my team falls to 1-2 on the season, in fifth place in the league. Much like my unlucky streak from a year ago, I find myself with the fourth-highest point total, and the first-highest points-against total. Can’t catch a break. Just gotta find a way to stay in the playoff hunt (top 6 advance, with top 2 getting a first round BYE).

***

I made a waiver claim for Wayne Gallman in every league I’m in, and I got him in every league except this one. Ehh, it happens. I didn’t totally need another running back just yet anyway, and in the long run I still have Chris Thompson on my bench, who is a pretty solid plug n’ play guy if you’re desperate (PPR leagues only).

Some interesting news, as I woke up this morning to check all my waiver claims (much like a survivalist goes around the camp checking all his traps for stray rabbits and rodents and whatnot), someone proposed a trade! To me! This so rarely happens, I feel like the prettiest girl at the ball. I’m almost always the one throwing things out there to mix it up.

This one, I’ll admit, is pretty interesting to me. Beasts is asking me to give him Danny Dimes, and in return he’s willing to give me Matthew Stafford and Chris Godwin.

I’m just running it all through my head right now. Dimes is a rookie quarterback who has made all of one start in his young career. Of course, in that start – by our league’s scoring – he got over 41 points, which is pretty remarkable. Nevertheless, it was his only start, and there’s still so much we don’t know about him. What we do know is that Tampa’s defense is pretty mediocre. We know his offensive line is pretty shaky, and he doesn’t have a ton of weapons (reduced all the more impactfully by the injury to Saquon Barkley). His value might literally never be higher than it is right now; he could be the next Christian Ponder or Jake Locker or take your pick (name any terrible first round bust). In return, I’d be getting a legitimate veteran starting QB and a #2 receiver in an offense that has to throw it a billion times a game.

But, I’m obviously torn. For starters, I don’t love Stafford. I don’t love how that offense is being neutered into a more balanced attack. He’s only had one good week and that was against Arizona, who might have the worst defense in all of football. Now, Beasts picked the right week to offer him up, because he’s facing Kansas City, and you would expect the Lions will need to throw the ball a ton. But, with that comes the obvious risk of him throwing interceptions. Stafford isn’t reliable to me. As for Godwin, you just never know. He can blow up in some weeks, but he can also disappear. That offense has a ton of different people to throw to, with Mike Evans being the clear #1 focus. Plus, I feel like my team is full of Chris Godwin types. Cooper Kupp, Christian Kirk, Scary Terry, T.Y. Hilton, these are all boom or bust types, albeit ones with higher floors than people you’d see on waivers.

In looking at Beasts’ team, it’s an interesting move. He’s already got Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson as his starting quarterbacks, but I have a hard time figuring he’s doing this to shore up his bench. I’m wondering if he’s maybe starting to sour a little bit on Ryan?

On the flipside, in looking at my team, I’m reluctant to do any 2-for-1 deals when I’ve still got Tyreek Hill on the bench and A.J. Green on IR; I’m not letting those guys walk. And, honestly, I think I like the rest of my depth guys more than I’d want Godwin on my roster. I mean, I literally just blew my #1 waiver priority on Scary Terry, so if I don’t keep him around, I’m a huge fucking idiot.

My biggest concern, though, quite frankly, is the chance that Dimes might turn out to be one of the best five fantasy quarterbacks in the entire league. He has that stink of someone who was drafted WAY too high, and that’s still in the backs of everyone’s minds. Let’s see how he does against Washington, then Minnesota, then the Patriots. Later on he plays Chicago and Green Bay to boot. He could come crashing down to Earth so hard it’ll make all our heads spin, and all the doubters will be out in force with their I Told You So’s.

But, I mean, who scores 41 fantasy points in their first-ever start? This isn’t just a controversial rookie tearing up the pre-season. This isn’t just comparing him to the corpse of Eli Manning. This is a regular season game, on the road, playing for the country’s #1 market for that market’s #1 football team. The closest comp for those kinds of fantasy numbers would be Mahomes’ first start in 2018, when he threw for 256 yards and 4 touchdowns (but even he had a mediocre & meaningless start in the final week of 2017 after the Chiefs had clinched).

I mean, if I trade Dimes for Stafford and Godwin, I could be the guy who traded Manhattan for $24! This is a decision that could affect the fantasy league for the next decade!

Part of me wants to counter his offer with a request for his best player, Christian McCaffrey. I don’t think he’d accept that offer, but what if he did? What if he’s so sure about Dimes being the next Mahomes that he accepted it in a heartbeat? I think I’d be terrified to even throw that out there!

When you’re in a league with 4 keepers, as I’ve said before, you’ve always gotta have at least 1 eye toward the future. The way my team’s set up right now, I’ve given myself a lot of options: Wentz, Dimes, Zeke, Bell, Hill, Jacobs, and maybe even Kupp or Scary Terry if they continue to really kill it. The funny thing is Dimes might end up being the best of that bunch, and the guy I decide to keep around for his entire career. I got in on the ground floor of something potentially special. The last time I made this kind of move, it was Wentz in his rookie year, and so far you’d be hard-pressed to say it’s paid off for me. He’s been injured a lot, and he really doesn’t have a lot of those supernova blowup games where he goes off for 40+ points. You need those in our league, especially when you’re playing against a top team like Space Forcin’.

So, I’ll give it some thought. I’ll let it sit out there and think about it a bit. As soon as Dimes goes down with a season-ending injury this week, I’m sure I’ll want to crawl into a hole and die. We’ll see how it goes.

***

This week, I go up against The Lance Petemans, who are currently 0-3 and in last place. He’s had a rough go the last season and a half, but he’s also got his name on our Championship Trophy more times than anyone else in the league, so no one is feeling sorry for him.

I’ve obviously got Dimes in my lineup with Wentz; my receivers are Kupp, Scary Terry, and we’ll see (T.Y. Hilton if he’s playing, probably Christian Kirk if he’s not); Bell is on BYE, so I’ve got Zeke and Jacobs (hoping for a bounce-back week for the rookie, now that he’s over his illness); Waller is a locked-in Top 10 TE in football, which is a fun thing to have grabbed off the free agent pile a few weeks back; I’m hoping Tucker has a better game against the Browns this week; and with my bench being so stacked, I’m forced to roll with the Bills’ Defense at home against New England. I’m just hoping for maybe a few sacks or something, I dunno.

The Petemans are down a Jimmy G, so they’re rolling with Andy Dalton in primetime. He’s still got Tom Brady, who’s still pumping out the points in the early part of the season, so that could do a ton of damage to my defense. His skill guys include all of the Rams that I don’t have (Gurley, Cooks, and Woods), but I don’t know if he’s playing all three of them or not (he currently has Woods on his bench). The rest of his guys are … far from ideal. He’s got Houston’s Defense going up against Carolina, so that’s a real wild card with the Panthers going with a young QB.

At the moment, Yahoo has me as a slight favorite, but their projections are usually bad. They’re shorting Dimes about 20 points, for instance …

Can The Seahawks Win With Russell Wilson Making A Million-Billion Dollars?

There are two schools of thought dominating the NFL landscape nowadays:

  1. You can’t win without a Franchise Quarterback
  2. You can’t win with a Franchise Quarterback taking up too high of a percentage of your salary cap

Which essentially boils down to:

  1. You can only win with a Franchise Quarterback on his rookie deal, or
  2. You can only win if you have Tom Brady and you cheat the salary cap in some way that has yet to be exposed

So, that’s great if you’re the cheatin’-ass Patriots, but otherwise it’s a pretty minuscule window of opportunity for the rest of the league. For starters, how many Franchise Quarterbacks are there in the league right now? Let’s count ’em out, in no particular order:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Ben Roethlisberger
  3. Andrew Luck
  4. Patrick Mahomes
  5. Philip Rivers
  6. Aaron Rodgers
  7. Matt Ryan
  8. Cam Newton
  9. Drew Brees
  10. Russell Wilson

I think that’s pretty much it. You could make an argument for Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and Kirk Cousins, but I think you could also make plenty of arguments against those guys as well. Anyone I haven’t listed here is on that next tier down; doesn’t mean you can’t win a Super Bowl with those guys (see: Eli Manning, Nick Foles, Joe Flacco), but obviously you need to hit on a roster full of studs around them.

Regardless, we’re talking approximately a third of the league having bona fide Franchise Quarterbacks. Everyone else has some variation on a question mark. Everyone else needs to be special in other ways (like the Rams, with their coaching staff) or they’re selling out to find that elusive game-changer at the game’s most important position.

So, let’s pull it back to just the cream of the crop; how many are Tom Brady or on a rookie deal? Well, Tom Brady is Tom Brady, so the Pats are set. Other than him, you’re talking about Mahomes, Watson, Wentz, the Rams (in spite of Goff more than because of him), and let’s throw in the Browns for shits n’ giggles. We’re talking about 6 teams who are in a prime position with their quarterback and salary cap situations; should we just lop off the rest of the teams in the league?

Or, do the Seahawks have a shot?

It’s funny, because in the days leading up to Russell Wilson’s contract extension, everything I read was some variation on: DON’T BE STUPID, YOU HAVE TO EXTEND WILSON BECAUSE HE’S AMAZING! Then, as soon as Wilson announced his signing, everything I’ve read since was: THE SEAHAWKS ARE PAYING TOO MUCH FOR THEIR QUARTERBACK, THEY’LL NEVER WIN!

Ostensibly, the argument is: if you’re going to run all the damn time, what’s the point in paying a quarterback $35 million a year? Pay someone adequate like Case Keenum to be a game manager, and use the rest of the money to bolster other areas.

The first knock against that line of thinking is that you’re never going to build the perfect team. The 2013 Seahawks were a fucking unicorn; being able to draft or otherwise acquire that much Hall of Fame talent in one roster is nearly impossible. There are always going to be holes and weaknesses, even on the best teams, and that’s before you get into the injury attrition that nearly every team faces every single year.

The second knock against that line of thinking is that, even on the best teams, you’re still going to need your quarterback to put the team on his back and win you a handful of games. Even the 2013 Seahawks needed some Russell Wilson magic against Carolina, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game (before The Tip, there was the 4th down bomb to Kearse). Could you envision that team with the likes of Case Keenum winning it all? Because I can’t.

In fact, I would argue that it’s even MORE important to have someone as clutch and efficient as Wilson on a team like the 2018 Seahawks, where running on 1st & 2nd downs were the norm. There’s so much more strain on Wilson to do more with fewer opportunities than there is on someone like Mahomes, who threw it 36 times a game compared to Wilson’s just under 27 attempts.

Ultimately, in the reality we’re living in, would you rather have Wilson on the deal he got, or whatever’s behind Door #2 (maybe trade him for draft picks while he’s got the most value, then either try to acquire whatever semi-competent veteran is still on the market, suck for a year with Paxton Lynch, and/or draft a new QB in this year’s questionable class)?

For me, I’ll take the certainty that Russell Wilson provides.

The obvious trade-off, though, is that there’s not as much money left to spread around the rest of the roster. Which gets us back to the topic of this post: can the Seahawks win with Russell Wilson making a million-billion dollars?

The answer, of course, is yes. How likely is it? I dunno, but let me flip it back on you: how likely is it for ANY team to win a Super Bowl? Because, that’s what we’re talking about, right? The worst nightmare of any NFL fan is ranging anywhere from 8-8 to 10-6 and at best winning a Wild Card berth while going nowhere in the playoffs and constantly drafting in the mid-20’s. If that’s what we’re doomed to be for the next 5 years with Russell Wilson under this contract, then I’ll admit to being pretty disappointed. It’ll further fuel the fire of those who list off all the Super Bowl champion teams with quarterbacks making under such-and-such percent of their team’s cap (conveniently ignoring the cap status of those teams who lost their respective Super Bowls, though they were just as capable of winning those games had certain things broken their way).

Ultimately, it’s all randomness! There’s no one blueprint to winning a Super Bowl (unless you cheat and get away with it like the Patriots). You need a good quarterback, we know that. Beyond that, you need the strengths of your team to overcome the weaknesses. You don’t NEED a dominant defense, you can easily overcome that the way the Chiefs did last year by scoring a ton of points. Even the Pats never really have super great defenses, but the coaches scheme the shit out of their opponents and ultimately those D’s do just enough to put Brady & Co. in position to win (the fact that the Pats constantly get to coast to a division championship every single year because the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets are all inept notwithstanding).

I would argue, the Seahawks have a Top 5 quarterback. The Seahawks have a Top 5 coaching staff. The Seahawks have enough skill position players on offense to move the ball and score on the regular, as well as an offensive line that can keep the whole thing moving. The question at this point would be: do the Seahawks have enough talent on defense to take it to the next level and compete for a divisional title? Or, conversely, do the Seahawks have enough on offense to mask their defensive deficiencies? That ultimately remains to be seen.

More than anything, if the Franchise Quarterback is 1-A most important, luck is 1-B. Good luck with injuries. Good luck with hitting on draft picks and free agent signings. And good luck with key roster guys making big leaps from year to year. And, quite frankly, good luck in those 50/50 games that keep a 10-6 team from being 12-4 or better. The Rams were 3 games better than the Seahawks, but beat us by a combined 7 points in two games. What happens if we find a way to win those two? What happens if we beat the Broncos in week 1, or the lowly 49ers in week 15? Just a couple bounces of the football here or there. What happens if we keep Dak from scoring on that insane 4th down run in the Wild Card game?

Sure, you need the Franchise Quarterback to put you in a position to win those 50/50 games, but it’s luck more than anything else that decides if you’re going to be 13-3 or 10-6.

My thought process, heading into the 2019 season, is we’ve got the most important piece locked in. Luck will hash out the way it hashes out. But, beyond that, I think the Seahawks have a winning formula they can follow. I believe in this team running the football, using its giant goons up front to punish opposing defenses. Running the football keeps the clock moving, keeps the defense off the field, and limits the punishment Wilson has to face (especially when you factor in how our O-Line still isn’t super great at pass protection).

The Seahawks were 6th in points per game with 26.8. That’s with a new offensive coordinator, a new offensive line coach, and a lot of new pieces on that side of the football. Sure, it ended crappy in Dallas, but I think with the continuity in place, this coaching staff learned a lot about what this team is made of. I think they’ll be able to tweak things enough to improve upon those points per game and be even more efficient going forward, without the need to drastically increase the number of times we throw the football. Having all of this set and ready to go TODAY – as opposed to learning on the fly and figuring things out heading into Week 3 last year – puts us at a greater advantage over the 2018 squad. From there, I’ll trust that this coaching staff and front office knows what it has to do to improve the defensive side of the ball.

Plus, let us not forget, we’ve got a Pro Bowl kicker now. You scoff, but let’s go back to that whole luck argument: how many games did a kicker cost us in 2017?