The post-mortem never ends! After such an interesting football season, there’s no way to limit the discourse to just a week’s worth of posts, so here we are, bleeding into Week Two.
As has been discussed previously, when the Seahawks opened the season with a pass-heavy offensive attack, it was shocking to say the least. Let Russ Cook went from a back-alley, grassroots Internet plea, to our weekly reality! No one could’ve seen it coming; since when do teams ever listen to their fans when it comes to scheme? Literally never. Not one single time in the history of recorded sports (probably; I have no idea, actually).
Of course, not for nothing, but “Let Russ Cook” and all its culinary derivatives quickly became an overused cliche, followed by a detestful reminder of bygone days never to be seen again.
Even if we had let ourselves dream big – that maybe one day Pete Carroll would see the light and turn the keys to the offense over to our quarterback – those ideals were quickly dashed when we ultimately came to the realization that if Wilson ever shit the bed, Carroll would be all too happy to take the power back and assert his dominance.
We had five good weeks. Five weeks of living the dream. Six weeks, if you include the happiness hangover of the Seahawks’ BYE. But, then came the Arizona game.
That was one we should have won, but lost. That was one we had ample opportunities to win, and failed at every turn. To that point, Russell Wilson had thrown 19 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions, and had zero games with multiple turnovers. Against Arizona, it was a 3/3 split. The first interception was that infamous one thrown at the Arizona goalline, that Budda Baker returned for 90 yards until D.K. Metcalf made him his prey. We like to gloss over that one because of how fast Metcalf ran, and because the defense ultimately held the Cardinals to 0 points, turning it over on downs. BUT, the ultimate takeaway (as it were) is that the Seahawks missed out on 7 points on that drive, in a game they lost by 3 in overtime. The second interception was another poor decision, lobbed from the Arizona 30 yard line. Considering our field goal kicker was perfect this year, it’s safe to say that’s another 3 points we were deprived of. And, finally, in overtime, we had the ball with under two minutes to go. That’s a situation where Russell Wilson is supposed to earn his money! You’re a franchise quarterback, so you MUST go out there and win the game in that scenario. We got to midfield and Wilson sealed his fate with his final INT of the game.
The thing is, it’s not like Wilson was on a short leash. This wasn’t a One Strike & You’re Out deal. Wilson came back and threw 4 more TDs against an injury-ravaged 49ers team the very next week.
Then came the Bills game. Two more interceptions, including a failed 4th & 1 play at the Buffalo 5 yard line. Not only didn’t we trust our offense to run the ball for a yard (to be fair, Travis Homer failed in that charge on 3rd & 1 the play prior), but Wilson ultimately couldn’t get the job done with his arm OR his legs. Wilson went on to take a miserable sack with a lost fumble to start the second half (when we were already down by 14) and then threw a desperation INT in the fourth quarter to salt the game away.
To compound matters, the very next week at the Rams, Wilson had arguably his worst game of the season: 0 TDs, 2 INTs. Poor decisionmaking all around in this one. We never had a chance. That effectively made it the requisite Three Strikes & Your Out scenario we’d all been dreading (with that Giants loss a fourth strike to put yet another nail in the coffin of the Let Russ Cook movement).
There were countless instances of Wilson trying to throw the ball into tight windows when he would’ve been better served to check down, run with it, or throw the ball away. There were SO MANY times he held the ball WAY too long, resulting in a sack. As I’ve said repeatedly, he’s not the speedster he once was; he’s not scrambling his way out of these jams like he used to. I don’t know how much of that is on him, vs. how much of that is on the offensive plays that were being called (the plays designed by the fired Brian Schottenheimer), but clearly the coaching staff believes the OC was at fault, and I’m inclined to agree.
What’s more likely: a quarterback on a Hall of Fame track, suddenly turning into the second coming of Matt Schaub? Or, that quarterback trying to make due as best as he could with poorly-designed plays and an offensive coordinator too inept to adjust to the way opposing defenses adjusted to him in the first place? Tack on, admittedly, Wilson trying to do too much (under so much pressure to win, on top of self-imposed pressure to stay in the MVP race), and that’s a recipe for what we saw in the second half of this season, culminating with one of the very worst playoff losses in Seahawks history.
So, maybe Wilson DOES have someone else to blame but himself. But, I’m still under the impression that he would have preferred the Seahawks retain Brian Schottenheimer; Schotty would’ve given Wilson the best opportunity to continue cooking, as it were. I still keep coming back to that Cardinals game. At that point, defenses hadn’t really figured us out yet. And so many of his errors in that one were COMPLETELY unforced! Even if we had gone on to lose to the Bills and Rams, as well as one of our final seven games (a la the Giants), if we’d just swept the Cardinals like we were supposed to, we would’ve been 13-3, the #1 seed in the NFC, and we would have hosted our first playoff game this past weekend (instead of, again, out of the playoffs entirely thanks to last week’s upset). I’m assuming that the Packers or Saints would have taken care of business against the Rams, and we would have faced Tom Brady and the Bucs for the right to go up against the winner of the Packers/Saints in the NFC Championship Game. A game that also would’ve been played in Seattle (had we prevailed against Tampa in this alternate universe).
Instead, we’re sitting at home watching all the action. Russell Wilson STILL won’t have an MVP award in his trophy case. And next year he’s going to have to figure it out with a new man calling plays for this offense. A man, by all accounts, who will push for Pete Carroll’s run-heavy approach. Possibly meaning that Wilson will NEVER get his MVP award, so long as he’s on the Seahawks and Carroll is the one in charge.
So, yeah, ultimately it’s on Wilson. Had he made better decisions – even with the crappy plays that were called – we wouldn’t be in this mess.
Okay, the Seahawks have won the NFC West; now what?
Well, as we all know, there are seven teams going to the playoffs in each conference: the four division winners and three wild card teams. That means instead of the usual top two teams in the NFC getting a round one BYE, there’s only one team with that honor. That makes things that much harder for everyone else.
Here’s what we know: the Seahawks can finish with either the first, second, or third seed in the NFC. Here’s a quick breakdown on how that all works:
#1 Seed – To get this, and the resultant first round BYE, the Seahawks would need to defeat the 49ers this week. We would also need the Packers to lose at the Bears, and the Saints to lose at the Panthers. This is the least likely scenario. While it’s conceivable that the Bears could win – as they are playing for a wild card spot – the Panthers are pretty terrible (with a 5-10 record). It’s encouraging, at least, that all of these games are on the road, as well as divisional matchups (which should come with more familiarity and hatred of their respective opponents), but the talent discrepencies are probably too much for the underdogs to overcome (saying nothing of the distinct probability that it’s entirely possible for the Seahawks to biff it against the 49ers, who just defeated the playoff-contending Cardinals last weekend).
#2 Seed – To get this, the Seahawks would need to defeat the 49ers, and have either the Packers or Saints lose. If the Packers win and the Saints lose, the Packers would be 13-3, the Seahawks would be 12-4, and the Saints would be 11-5; if the Saints win and the Packers lose, all three teams would be 12-4 and by virture of tiebreakers, the Seahawks would land in the middle (with the Saints taking the top spot and the Packers falling to third). I would buy this, but it doesn’t seem quite as likely as the next scenario.
#3 Seed – The Seahawks end up here if they lose to the 49ers, regardless of what happens in the other two games. The Seahawks also end up here if they beat the 49ers and the Packers and Saints both prevail as well.
I don’t have to tell you that being the 3-seed is far from ideal, but I guess it all depends on what happens with the wild card teams.
There are four teams vying for three wild card spots. Tampa Bay is in the driver’s seat for the 5-seed (and the right to go on the road in the first round to face the hapless winner of the NFC East – still, somehow, to be determined), so we’re all but guaranteed to avoid Tom Brady & Co. in the first round. The only way Tampa would fall to a 6-seed (they can’t be lower than that) is if they lose at home to a 4-win Falcons team, and the Rams beat the Cardinals (without Jared Goff).
The Cardinals need to beat the Rams in L.A. to make the playoffs. If Arizona and Green Bay win, then Arizona will be the 6-seed playing the Seahawks (assuming the Saints also win, which I am taking as a given for the rest of this article). If Arizona and Chicago win, then the Cardinals will be the 7-seed playing the Seahawks (sending the 6-seeded Bears to the 3-seeded Packers).
If the Rams and Packers win, then the Rams will be the 6-seed playing the Seahawks. If the Rams and Bears win, then the Bears will be the 7-seed playing the 2-seeded Seahawks. Of all of the scenarios where the Seahawks fail to get the #1 seed, I think this last one is most ideal. That would send a 10-6 Rams team to Green Bay, which is conceivably a matchup they could win (assuming Goff is cleared to return for the playoffs). The downside, of course, is having to face the Packers in the Divisional Round, albeit we’d get the game in Seattle. And, if the Bucs could figure out a way to go into New Orleans and prevail, there’s a world where the Seahawks don’t have to leave Seattle until the Super Bowl.
My prediction for how this shakes out is this: the Packers, Saints, and Seahawks all win (making that the order of the top three seeds). Finally,I’m guessing the Cardinals beat the Rams, to make the first round look like this:
For the first time all year, I actually got moderately-competent quarterback play from BOTH of my quarterbacks! A combined almost-58 points? If I’d been getting that every week, I daresay I’d have a much better win/loss record than I do now! Of course, I refuse to go back and double-check that math, because what could possibly be more of a waste of time? I mean, I’m already playing fantasy football; you can’t get much more time-wastey than that!
With that Thursday Night Miracle in hand, I’ll admit I was feeling pretty confident about winning this week. My projected points increased tremendously and if the rest of my team played according to how they’ve played all season, it should’ve been in the bag. But, you know me, I’m doomed to suffer. Things never seem to go my way. Close but no cigar and whatnot!
If I wanted to, I could blame the Atlanta Falcons for my loss. I could even blame Todd Gurley specifically! If he’d done what he should have done, they would’ve run out the clock and won their football game. Instead, he had to score a meaningless touchdown and that allowed the Lions to drive down and take the lead with a touchdown of their own to win the game. Which – thanks to my opponent having both the Lions’ quarterback and the tight end he threw that touchdown to – gave him just enough points to win his matchup against me, 165.05 to 156.40. Take away just the 12 points he got for the touchdown (6 for his quarterback, 6 for his tight end), and that’s a win for Nobody Beats The Wiz.
I could blame my misfortune on my running back keepers being totally worthless. Josh Jacobs and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 12.2 points when they were projected for a combined 35.63. I could blame my misfortune on the fantasy gods tearing Odell Beckham’s ACL in the first quarter of that Browns game where they racked up 37 points (surely some of those catches and/or touchdowns would’ve gone to their #1 receiver). Even if I’d had the gumption to stick with my three-headed running back hydra (CEH scored an improbable 13.3 points which seemed more flukey than a sign of things to come in that offense), the allure of playing ODB against the Bengals would’ve forced me to sit Deebo Samuel, who had 12.2 points of his own that I would’ve desperately needed to win this game.
The point is, there wasn’t much I could’ve done. If I would’ve played strictly by the projected points, I would’ve lost. Instead, I went by my gut and I lost. There was one combination of players that would’ve worked, and the odds of me figuring that out ahead of time was pretty minimal. This is the way.
I will say it wasn’t all doom and gloom. A.J. Brown had a monster game against the Steelers, getting me 27.3 points. The Rams’ defense was a great pickup, scoring 27 against the Bears on Monday Night. My kicker had his best game of the season, getting me 13 points.
Interesting waiver wire news: late last week, Beasts picked up Antonio Brown, who is headed to Tampa to play for the Bucs. Beasts, at the time, had four high-functioning quarterbacks, three of which already had their BYE weeks. There’s very little reason for anyone who’s fighting for a playoff spot to carry four quarterbacks on their roster when there are no longer any BYE weeks to work around. So, he ended up dropping his worst quarterback, Kirk Cousins. Who, as chance would have it, would be the second-best quarterback on my team had he been here the whole time. So, I put in a claim for him, dropping the most expendable receiver I had, Darius Slayton (who I would like to get back on my roster, if I’m so fortunate, especially thanks to ODB’s injury).
I also put in a claim for Chase Edmonds, because Arizona’s starting running back just got injured, but thanks to the Cousins claim, my waiver priority dropped down to 10th, so I assumed that was always going to be an impossible longshot. But, somehow, I got him! I guess maybe because Kenyan Drake will only be out for a few weeks, and because Arizona is on BYE this week, no one wanted to waste their waiver status. But still, I should get a couple good games out of Edmonds!
Finally, since I dropped ODB to pick up Edmonds, and since Deebo Samuel is in my IR spot for a bit, I picked up Brandon Aiyuk, also of the 49ers. He’s their impressive-looking rookie wide receiver who seems to be filling that Deebo Samuel-shaped hole in their offense. Since they’re going up against the Seahawks this week, you better believe I’m taking advantage!
The defeat drops me to 3-4 and in 8th place in the league. My opponent for this week is The Lance Petemans, who is 4-3 and in 5th place. He has the third-most total points (to my second-fewest), but he’s closer to the middle-of-the-pack than he is to the top two scoring teams. So, you know, it’s not an impossible task, but it will still likely require his team to underperform for me to beat him. Here’s what I’m looking at going with:
Carson Wentz (QB) vs. DAL
Tua Tagovailoa (QB) vs. LAR
A.J. Brown (WR) @ CIN
Brandon Aiyuk (WR) @ SEA
Josh Jacobs (RB) @ CLE
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB) vs. NYJ
Noah Fant (TE) vs. LAC
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) @ PHI
Harrison Butker (K) vs. NYJ
Indianapolis (DEF) @ DET
Fuck it, I’m Ride Or Die with Tua. Daniel Jones is a complete non-starter for me going forward until he proves he’s not totally worthless behind that offensive line (he’s especially impossible to start this week going up against that elite Bucs defense). Cousins is enticing, but he’s at Green Bay, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him play a bad game there. I’d hate to miss out on the Tua bandwagon because I “played it safe” with someone infuriating like Cousins. Believe me, I harbor no delusions about what Cousins brings to the table; I had him on my other fantasy team until about a week ago. He’s had a couple good weeks – largely fuelled by Garbage Time points – but he throws WAY too many interceptions, on top of which he’s leading a conservative, run-heavy offense that’s getting Dalvin Cook back this week (I hope, for my other fantasy team’s sake). Tua could stink! We just saw the Rams’ defense have a field day against the Bears. But, I’m hoping that by playing at home, having two weeks to prepare, and being a complete unknown will be enough to shock the world and lead Tua to have a huge game.
Not for nothing, but Daniel Jones’ first start last year saw him score 4 touchdowns (and over 40 fantasy points in our league), so there is precedent for someone coming from out of nowhere to blow away the competition.
I’m more or less stuck playing my full three-headed running back hydra because I have so many wide receiver injuries this week. ODB is out for the year, and Deebo Samuel strained a hamstring in his game last week; he’s already ruled out this week, and maybe next week as well. That’s a tough loss for me, because I have zero confidence in the Dallas offense whatsoever with Andy Dalton at the helm; the fact that I have to start Ezekiel Elliott is bad enough, but there was no way I could also start CeeDee Lamb. My hope is that CEH – against a putrid Jets defense – gets a lot of love in that one, and maybe Jacobs has a bounce-back game against a less-stout Browns defense.
I’m only starting Indy’s defense because I feel there’s a conflict of interest in playing the Rams against my rookie quarterback. I’m hoping the fantasy football gods see the good mojo I’m trying to throw into the world and reward me accordingly.
No significant BYE week luck this week. The Lance Petemans has Gardner Minshew on BYE, but he probably would’ve been benched anyway. Ryan Tannehill is a must-start every week apparently, and Jimmy G is facing the also-putrid Seahawks defense. When you’ve got someone going up against the Seahawks, you have to play them; it’s a new rule they just brought down. Here’s his projected lineup:
Ryan Tannehill (QB) @ CIN
Jimmy Garoppolo (QB) @ SEA
Tyreek Hill (WR) vs. NYJ
Calvin Ridley (WR) @ CAR
Todd Gurley (RB) @ CAR
Melvin Gordon (RB) vs. LAC
Rob Gronkowski (TE) @ NYG
Miles Sanders (RB) vs. DAL
Ryan Succop (K) @ NYG
Philadelphia (DEF) vs. DAL
I only have myself to blame for trading him Tyreek Hill last year in an ill-advised deal to get the aging Tom Brady (With No Weapons To Throw To), who is clearly different than this year’s Tom Brady (On The Bucs Who Scores Tons Of Points Every Week). So, look for Hill to score 4 TDs. Calvin Ridley has come on as a real stud, which I honestly didn’t see coming. Tannehill, I should point out again, has been a really dominant force (scoring over 30 points in three of his six games). All of his running backs are great, with juicy matchups. He’s probably weakest on defense, and even then there’s a lot to like, because I think even Andy Dalton is hurt and the Cowboys are going with a much less-touted rookie who will probably be overwhelmed.
I don’t see a clear path to victory this week, unless I get lucky with a lot of my opponent’s guys underperforming. We’ll see, though. I don’t totally hate my matchups this week, for whatever that’s worth (it’s probably worth my team scoring the fewest points it has all year).
For the risk-averse, there’s nothing better than a BYE week. Your team can’t lose! There shouldn’t be any new injuries! You hope there aren’t any DUIs or bar fights, but the odds of that happening are mighty low! I guess you can worry about COVID now, but I’m not going to let that keep me up at night.
Being 5-0 during a BYE week is that much better, because you get to enjoy the high of perfection for one more week, with the possibility of other teams around you taking one on the chin. In this regard, the Seahawks had a pretty ideal weekend.
Heading into yesterday, there was one other undefeated team in the NFC. The Green Bay Packers were 4-0, heading to Tampa Bay to take on Tom Brady and the Bucs. They were only favored by 1 or 2 points (depending on where you looked) and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Packers would win, that the line was too low, and anyone betting certain family farms on them might come away pretty happy!
Well, when the Packers went up 10-0, it sure as shit seemed that way! Then, the Bucs scored 38 unanswered to really boring up that one. BUT, what’s bad for the Packers (and my poor, mistreated family farm) is good for the Seahawks, who are now the ONLY unbeaten team in the NFC (the AFC has the Titans and Steelers, but they don’t factor into our getting the #1 seed, so bully for them).
Considering we won’t see the Packers in the regular season, that’s a pretty significant loss. We’re a game up now! More importantly, I think, is the fact that they appear to be mortal again. The Packers had put up 30+ in all of their games before yesterday; Aaron Rodgers looked like a man possessed until the second quarter onward against the Bucs. Now, they look beatable. Of course, it took an outstanding defensive performance to slow them down; I don’t know if the Seahawks have that in them. But, that won’t matter until we get to the playoffs anyway.
In the meantime, the Packers have a lot of tough defensive matchups headed their way. They play at the 49ers in early November (when they should be relatively healthy again), they play at Indy, they host the Titans, and they have two games against the Bears in the final six weeks of the season. It’s entirely possible that the Packers get beaten up a little bit. Whereas, I’ll remind you again that the Seahawks have a relatively soft landing the rest of the way, particularly outside of our divisional games.
Speaking of the division, we got some help there too! Last night, the 49ers toppled the Rams in convincing fashion to hand them their second defeat. That is SO HUGE! I might be one of the few big Rams believers out there, but I can certainly see why you might be skeptical. At 4-2, the Rams’ four wins have all come against the putrid NFC East. Some of those games were close, with the Rams not looking particularly great to boot. Now they’ve lost to Buffalo and the 49ers, two common opponents (which plays into tiebreaker scenarios we’ll get to later in the season).
It’s interesting, because I think the Rams really got the unlucky end of the stick here when it came to their schedule. As the third place team in the NFC West last year, the two games that placement decides are against the third place teams in the South and North from last year. Which just so happens to be the Bucs and Bears, respectively (the two teams currently LEADING their respective divisions). I don’t expect the Rams will lose both of those games, but they COULD; regardless, I expect them to be properly tenderized, as going up against those defenses will be a considerable challenge.
It’s nice to have this cushion against the Rams, because I still see them as the second best team in the division. So, having a 2-game lead should make all the difference in the world, as I don’t think they’re finished losing for the season.
What I’m just a LITTLE curious about is this 49ers team. At 3-3, they’ve been effectively left for dead, but we’ve all seen those Halloween movies; don’t turn your back on Michael Myers! What I want to know is: what will this team look like when it gets back to full strength? Obviously, that will never truly happen this season, as a couple of key components along their defensive line are out until 2021. But, what about all the guys who will return? They’re already starting to get some guys back, and as you can see they looked pretty good last night. Odds are, this is their season from hell and they’ll continue to see guys go down periodically. But, regardless, the times we go up against them will still be dogfights, just as the games against the Rams and Cardinals will be.
I was massively impressed with the 49ers’ offensive line, holding the Rams to zero sacks, and keeping Aaron Donald in check. That will literally NEVER happen when the Seahawks go up against them, but boy is that ever fun to dream about!
The only other NFC teams to worry about are the aforementioned Bucs and Bears, who both prevailed and looked good doing it yesterday. But, they’re not on my radar at all. They might end up with good records, but I don’t think Tom Brady or Nick Foles are quarterbacks who will do anything special at their ages, and on these particular offenses. The defenses for these teams will ensure they make the playoffs; one or both might even win their divisions. But, I don’t think either will be in line for the #1 seed. It would just be nice if these teams continued to help us out by beating the teams I’m legitimately scared of: the Packers, and everyone in the NFC West.
Tonight, the Cardinals play in Dallas. I think the Cards will prevail, but that’s no sure thing. The Cowboys could help us out A LOT by getting a win. Do it for Dak! Do it for America! Do it for the Seattle Seahawks!
There are two keys to Nobody Beats The Wiz that you can bank on most weeks: my non-quarterbacks are pretty solid, and my actual quarterbacks are the fucking worst. That’s not the ONLY way to score in the 160’s in back-to-back weeks (which is a respectable number for our league; 170+ is good, under 150 is bad), but it happens to be MY way.
So, if the 160-range is to be my ceiling (which will be the case, as long as Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones continue to play like dogshit), then I’m going to need my opponents to not go off for crazy-good weeks. Thankfully (and FINALLY), someone obliged when I needed it the most. Nobody Beats The Wiz defeated Sloane N Steady 163.12 to 137.20.
My QBs combined for 30.40 points. That’s an average score for one quarterback having a good week. Wentz was going up against the Steelers and threw a last-second hail mary interception, otherwise I wouldn’t be so upset with his day. But, Jones eked out just over 10 points against a putrid Cowboys defense and I couldn’t be more despondent. Back to the quarterback drawing board in 2021 I guess!
As I alluded to above, the rest of my moves panned out! I made smart fantasy football decisions for once! Darius Slayton was an INSPIRED choice over Odell Beckham Jr. My guy got almost 10 more points over ODB. Including Slayton and Wentz, I had five guys score over 20 points (CeeDee Lamb is a Must Start every week, even with Dak lost for the season). No one else really even deserves to be singled out for poor performance, that’s how pleased I am with my non-QB roster!
Sloane N Steady just had an off-game, highlighted by his quarterbacks also struggling mightily (they combined for 32.10 points to beat my duds, but still vastly underwhelm); he had three guys get under 10 points in this one to seal his fate.
My only roster move actually took place over the weekend. As soon as Yahoo! allowed me to put Noah Fant in my IR spot for the week (because he was ruled out, right before the Broncos game ended up getting postponed to next week), I picked up the Chargers’ defense. Not so I could employ them last week, but absolutely so I could employ them this upcoming week! They’re playing the Jets, and while I like Indy’s defense in pretty much any situation, when you have an opportunity to use the defense that’s going up against the Jets, you have to take advantage! And just like that, the Chargers/Jets game has been moved to Week 11 thanks to COVID schedule shuffling around the league. So, I guess that brilliant idea is out!
This week, Nobody Beats The Wiz goes up against Space Forcin’. This is always a killer matchup for me, as I seem to lose to this guy every fucking time that I play him. It doesn’t matter how good his team is over the decades we’ve been playing against one another, but lately he’s had a lot of elite-level talent as his keepers and it makes beating him a huge struggle.
BYE weeks affect us both, but probably him a little more than me. I will be without Josh Jacobs, so my three-headed running back hydra is down a head. Thankfully, I have my full assortment of healthy receivers at my disposal. He will be without Saints back Alvin Kamara and Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, so I feel like those are pretty huge bullets dodged. But, he does get Davante Adams back from injury which is pretty scary. First, here’s what my lineup is looking like:
Carson Wentz (QB) vs. BAL
Daniel Jones (QB) vs. WAS
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR) @ PIT
A.J. Brown (WR) vs. HOU
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) vs. ARI
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB) @ BUF
Jimmy Graham (TE) @ CAR
CeeDee Lamb (WR) vs. ARI
Harrison Butker (K) @ BUF
Indianapolis (DEF) vs. CIN
My already-abysmal quarterbacks have even MORE abysmal matchups. The silver lining for Wentz is that the Eagles will probably be losing heavily to the Ravens and have to throw to get back in the game; the downside is the Eagles might very well be losing BECAUSE Wentz is throwing picks and otherwise ineffective. As for Jones, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a worse matchup. The Washington Football Team isn’t anything special, but they have a great defensive line that can get a lot of sacks; the Giants have one of the worst offensive lines in all respects, so we’re almost certainly looking at another long day for Jones.
Ezekiel Elliott figures to be my MVP going forward, with Dak Prescott out for the season. I assume Dallas will be riding him all day long. That also puts into question Lamb’s value as the #2 receiver on that team. Andy Dalton is no slouch (well, he’s only SORT OF a slouch), but with the Cowboys defense being as bad as it is, I still expect they’ll need to throw the ball quite a bit. I just think it’ll be a little more balanced going forward, now that their starting quarterback isn’t someone who is trying to re-set the entire quarterback market behind Patrick Mahomes. Lamb is a true focal point for the passing game and I don’t think that will change one iota the rest of the way (unless Dalton gets injured, then I’ll be worried).
I don’t love CEH’s potential against that Buffalo defense; but I DO love Butker’s potential in the kicking game. That could be a game where the Chiefs kick a lot of field goals, so maybe he’ll make up for CEH’s lack of production a little bit.
I’m not super high on my starting receivers. I could see myself flip-flopping a bunch of these guys before Sunday rolls around. Indeed, the flip-flopping has already started, as just before writing this, I inserted A.J. Brown over Darius Slayton. Brown returned from injury and played well on Tuesday against the Bills. That gives me all the confidence I need to roll with him against the Texans. I really want to find a way to get Deebo Samuel into my lineup, but I think patience is going to be the play with the 49ers until their offense gets rolling again.
Here’s what we’re looking at with Space Forcin’ this week:
Patrick Mahomes (QB) @ BUF
Tom Brady (QB) vs. GB
Cooper Kupp (WR) @ SF
Robby Anderson (WR) vs. CHI
Chase Edmonds (RB) @ DAL
Antonio GIbson (RB) @ NYG
Zach Ertz (TE) vs. BAL
Davante Adams (WR) @ TB
TBD (K) vs. TBD
Baltimore (DEF) @ PHI
Well, I thought I MIGHT have caught a break with his quarterbacks not having the greatest matchups, but that was before I saw the Bills let Ryan Tannehill have a career day on Tuesday. Considering Mahomes is coming off of his first defeat of the season, I’m sure he’ll be good and pissed off and ready to throw seven TDs against me the Bills. Also, the Bills figure to be among the top AFC teams vying for that #1 seed, so a Chiefs victory will be doubly important (motivation won’t be an issue, in other words). As for Brady, who knows what we’ll see from week to week? Or from quarter to quarter?! He’s old and has a noodle arm, but he’s also a Hall of Famer and there must still be some magic in that old silk hat he found …
As I expected, as soon as Davante Adams was cleared to play, Space Forcin’ found room in his lineup for him. David Johnson, the Texans’ running back, was benched in his place. In the only game Adams was fully healthy for this year, he put up over 40 points. With the way that Packers offense is humming along, this move will likely seal my fate.
Also, don’t think I’m not HIGHLY annoyed by the fact that he has Zach Ertz – Carson Wentz’s number one target in an offense lacking in receiving weapons – who will probably catch 20 balls and wrangle in all the receiving TDs. Just a little insult to injury in what should be a massive blowout loss for Nobody Beats The Wiz.
Just when I clawed my way into 8th place, with a 2-3 record. I still have the second-fewest total points, but the team with the third-fewest total points is currently 4-1 and sitting in second place in the league. So, there’s hope for me yet! Not this week, of course. Space Forcin’ is 3-2 and has the second-MOST total points (and that’s, again, with a number of injuries to key players throughout this season). I would need a miracle just to keep it close.
Which is why I don’t fully understand why Yahoo! has me projected to win by almost 9 points. Granted, Space Forcin’ doesn’t have a kicker yet – and thanks to his roster construction, might not want to drop anyone to pick one up – but I really don’t think that will matter. On paper, everything always looks fine for Nobody Beats The Wiz! And then the games start, and my team proceeds to get trounced.
I’m not falling for the bullshit lies anymore, Yahoo! You hear me?! So can it!
Oh that’s right, I’ve decided to name my team after the great Seinfeld character!
Anyway, we had our draft last Friday, and of course I opted to go rogue. Look, I don’t know who reads this! I can’t be handing my league-mates possible insights into my fantasy football mind! So, you know, I conveniently left out the part that my top two guys were NOT Mike Evans and Aaron Jones, but rather:
To be fair, I did talk about Sanders last week. In going back and looking at his numbers, I didn’t realize just how many targets he gets in the passing game! Considering I also have his quarterback – Carson Wentz – and they still might not have the best crop of wide receivers in the world, I wouldn’t have thrown that connection out of bed.
But, all along, my true number one was always Clyde Edwards-Helaire (I might just shorten that to CEH even though it looks like an unpleasant search term on Pornhub or something). Remember before when I was bemoaning how there weren’t any great rookie running backs in this class? Remember how I wanted my Saquon Barkley? Well, he might be it! He was looking like a dark horse fantasy candidate before Damien Williams decided to opt out of this season due to COVID, but now that he’s the true #1 on the Chiefs, there’s just no denying him! His potential is through the roof!
Sanders would’ve been the safer pick, because at least he has a year of experience. But, I’ll take upside every time.
Just as I suspected, the guy with the #1 draft pick – COVID Bubble Boys – opted to go quarterback with his first selection: Drew Brees. Definitely a Playing For Now type of guy, and you have to respect that. He’s already got Lamar Jackson, might as well take his shot every chance he gets!
That left me with my pick of the litter, CEH. Sure enough, Miles Sanders went #3. THEN Joe Burrow went off the board! Followed by Aaron Jones, Tom Brady, Mike Evans (to the guy who had him last year, in effect giving him five keepers), Baker Mayfield, Chris Carson, and D.K. Metcalf rounding out the Top Ten.
That D.K. Metcalf pick is an interesting one, because he was CERTAINLY a guy I was targeting (although, I wanted him much later than when he went). That’s what’s hard about being in a fantasy football league with guys who either currently live in the Seattle area or have lived a long time in the Seattle area: the good Seahawks tend to get over-valued. Russell Wilson, for instance, has been on the same fantasy team since his rookie year, kept every single time by the same guy. Chris Carson is certainly an elite running back when he’s healthy, but he’s finished every year of his pro career with an injury, and there’s no reason for that not to continue. Tyler Lockett was kept this year mostly because that guy didn’t have a great fourth option for his keepers. And, while Metcalf certainly looked phenomenal in his rookie season last year, he’s still young and still a member of this offense, that likes to spread the ball around more than just about any other.
Metcalf COULD be the next Julio Jones; he seems to be driven as such. But, in this offense, he’s very touchdown-dependant (and very deep play-dependant). You might see a lot of lines like: 4 catches for 88 yards and 2 TDs. Which, yeah, is 24.8 points in our league, but without those two touchdowns, you’re looking at 12.8 points (which is okay, but nothing to write home about, especially for the first receiver you’ve drafted). In my mind, Metcalf would’ve been an ideal third receiver for a fantasy team, so I was a little disappointed he went off the board before I’d even selected my first.
That brings us to the second round (I won’t go through all of them, I promise); with three RBs on my team, I knew I was going receiver, regardless. Thankfully, some great ones remained! Kenny Golladay ended up going one spot ahead of me, but I was okay with that, because it means I get to enjoy Odell Beckham Jr. for the first time in my fantasy career!
I don’t know how ODB fell to me, but I’ll take him! I mean, I sort of know how he fell to me: he plays for Cleveland. He’s a diva. He could score me 40 points … or he could get so mad, blow up, and retire in the middle of a football game. It’s all on the table! The headache and the constant worry can be a little much, and I get that. If he were my first draft selection, I’d be much more nervous; but, as a second? The pressure is off! I’ve already got the guy I’ll be looking to keep next year. Had I landed ODB back when he was on the Giants, I’d be looking at him with those same eyes, figuring I’d hold onto him for many years to come. But, this way? I see him as a one-year rental. A hired gun to help bring me a championship.
I went back to the WR well in round three. Two top receivers from the 2019 rookie class – Scary Terry McLaurin and A.J. Brown – were both sitting there (among many others, of course). Once again, my choice was made for me by the COVID Bubble Boys, as he nabbed Scary Terry. That was a tough one; I had him last year, and was looking to reinvest! The Washington Football Team is a disaster – and they’re starting with Dwayne Haskins at quarterback, which could be a shitshow – but Scary Terry is a rising star and could help make anyone throwing to him look good! So, I settled for A.J. Brown. Considering I thought he might’ve been a keeper at one point, I think that’s a pretty swell consolation prize. I’m not a believer in Ryan Tannehill, but I’m also willing to be wrong. If he – and the Titans – can recapture that magic from 2019, then A.J. Brown could be even BETTER than a #2 receiver.
A lot of other receivers were taken in that round, but I wanted to get one more just to be safe. So, with my fourth pick, I went with DeVante Parker. It was either him or Robert Woods or Michael Gallup (kinda wish I’d remembered he was out there and grabbed him instead) or Courtland Sutton. Parker has been around for a while, but had a breakout season last year; when he’s on, he’s a bona fide #1 guy. But, I think the risk with him is that he doesn’t totally buy in. That he’s more of a fair-weather football player. Plus, he plays for the Miami Dolphins, and they will likely be breaking in a rookie quarterback at some point this year. Look, I’m not expecting a lot out of Parker; I mostly just took him because Yahoo had him rated so high (and because I REALLY didn’t want to pick LeVeon Bell, who fell REALLY far in this draft because he’s old and on the Jets and it’s pretty apparent the current Jets coaching staff doesn’t like him much). If we look back at where I screwed up my season, I’ll be looking at this pick (and probably wishing I’d gone with Gallup).
With my two quarterbacks, three running backs, and three receivers, I took a couple chances on some guys who might not help me right away; “projects” or “developmental guys” if you will. Cam Akers, rookie running back for the Rams, was my fifth pick. I love a running back from an explosive offense! The Rams sent Todd Gurley packing, so that running back job is wide open. I don’t think Akers will start right away, but he could get the nod as the season wears on. If he proves himself, he could be either a valuable trade chip OR a stud for me in the fantasy playoffs.
Then, with my sixth pick, I grabbed receiver Deebo Samuel. He’s injured at the moment, but has just started practicing, and could come off of whatever injured list he’s on. No one figures he’ll play much in the first couple weeks, but if he heals properly, he could be another boost for me after the season gets going. The downside is, of course, that his injury is to his foot, and foot injuries for receivers are notoriously chronic. Part of me worries that he’ll be dealing with this foot thing all year, which won’t be enough to put him on the IR, but will hamper him JUST enough to be rendered ineffective. I suspect the minute I feel confident in starting him will be the game where he comes out in the first quarter with that foot injury, never to return again.
You’ll notice I have yet to mention selecting a tight end. What can I say? The good ones didn’t stick around, and I always saw a better receiver or running back when it was my turn to pick. Finally, I had to bite the bullet. There were a couple potentially-solid guys left over – Hayden Hurst for the Falcons went in the following round, and Hunter Henry for the Chargers went a round after THAT – but I opted to go with second year player Noah Fant for the Broncos. As a first round pick for Denver last year, CLEARLY Fant is someone they want to feature pretty heavily in their offense. Reports indicate they’re moving him all around pre-snap (from along the O-Line, to in the slot, to out wide like a receiver) and I take that as a VERY positive sign that he has a lot of fantasy upside. I know, Drew Lock is their quarterback, but even mediocre throwers still manage to find a tight end safety valve every now and then. I don’t ask a lot from my tight ends; just get me around ten points per week. Anything more than that is gravy. I have a feeling that I might be eating a lot of gravy this year with Fant in the fold.
With my eighth pick, it was time to buy a lottery ticket. Mecole Hardman, wide receiver with the Chiefs. He’s mostly just a big play wide receiver, but he has the best of the big play quarterbacks throwing to him! He’s also one Tyreek Hill injury away from being this team’s #1 guy (and, with the way Hill plays – always putting his body in harm’s way to make a play – that’s not much of a stretch for me to make).
Confident with the rest of my roster – from a skill position perspective, anyway – I decided to use my ninth pick to take the first kicker off the board: Harrison Butker, also of the Chiefs. Give me as many Chiefs as you got! My man Crazy N8’s Prostates bemoaned the pick – as he had the same idea – and he had to settle for Justin Tucker few picks later.
With two rounds left, I still needed a third quarterback and a defense. Yikes, I know. I was eyeballing a third quarterback as early as that DeVante Parker selection, but none of the leftovers really caught my eye. Down to the nitty gritty, there STILL wasn’t anyone who caught my eye; it came down to Teddy Bridgewater, Dwayne Haskins, Mitch Trubisky, and the guy I ended up going with: Sam Darnold of the Jets. Yeah, I know.
Trubisky was a hard pass, because his career is on the ropes, and I don’t know if he’ll still have the starting job by the time I need him (my starting QBs have BYEs in weeks 9 and 11, so it should be some time before I actually NEED a third guy). Of course, idiot that I am, I didn’t realize until the moment of this writing that Darnold ALSO has a BYE in week 11 (SIGH), but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Anyway, I ruled out Bridgewater because I don’t think he’s good, and that team he’s on has no one but an elite running back to throw to. I ruled out Haskins because he sucks and that team sucks. That’s not saying much, because I also think Darnold sucks (and the fantasy league would seem to agree, considering how far he fell) and the Jets suck, but I do believe Darnold has SOME upside. This will be his third year, after recovering from an injury-plagued start to his career. Love or hate his head coach, the guy at least has a reputation as someone who does well with quarterbacks. I don’t plan on starting Darnold unless absolutely necessary. But, if he proves – with improved play – that he’s viable, I may have to work him in (considering I can’t be totally sold on someone like Danny Dimes at this point in his development).
Regretfully, the New England defense went one spot before I picked Darnold; the Patriots were CARRIED by their defense last year, and by all accounts they should be good in 2020 as well (my only concern was not knowing who on their team has opted out of this season for COVID reasons). With my final pick, I went with the highest-rated defense remaining: the Indianapolis Colts. I don’t have a lot of confidence, but I fully expect there to be a good defense for me to grab on waivers at some point.
Yahoo graded me with a B+ which is good for middle-of-the-road in our league (5th in rankings). However, I’m projected for a second place finish in our league at the moment of this writing! I have the league’s youngest team once again, but I’m hoping it actually pays off this time.
More than anything, I’m hoping my team name proves prophetic. Nobody Beats The Wiz? I sure hope so! It couldn’t be any worse than that year I went as Mr. Poopy Butthole …
Really quick, let’s take a look at this week’s matchup. Nobody Beats The Wiz is facing off against the aforementioned Crazy N8’s Prostates. Here’s my lineup:
Wentz (QB) @ Was
Jones (QB) vs. Pit
ODB (WR) @ Bal
Brown (WR) @ Den
Jacobs (RB) @ Car
CEH (RB) vs. Hou
Fant (TE) vs. Ten
Elliott (RB) @ LAR
Butker (K) vs. Hou
Ind (DEF) @ Jax
Predictably, I’m expected to be carried by my running backs. I think Yahoo is under-projecting Wentz against a terrible Washington Football Team, but they might be over-hyping Indianapolis against the Jaguars, who won’t be good, but could still be a little frisky on offense. Crazy N8’s Prostates is projected to win our league this year, and is favored against me this week. Here’s his lineup:
Dak Prescott (QB) @ LAR
Josh Allen (QB) vs. NYJ
Allen Robinson (WR) @ Det
Keenan Allen (WR) @ Cin
James Conner (RB) @ NYG
Aaron Jones (RB) @ Min
Travis Kelce (TE) vs. Hou
Robert Woods (WR) vs. Dal
Justin Tucker (K) vs. Cle
San Francisco (DEF) vs. Ari
I have … a lot of concerns. I could see that Cowboys/Rams game being a shootout. I think Josh Allen is going to RAMPAGE over a terrible Jets defense. His receivers both have juicy matchups against mediocre secondaries. Kelce should thrive against the Texans. And, even the 49ers could come up with lots of turnovers in taking advantage of a Cardinals offense that’s pretty aggressive.
Thankfully, there’s so many unknowns at this point in the season. Even after the first week, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions. I just need to ride the wave of anxiety and hope for the best. I think I have a pretty solid team from top to bottom. But, teams are rarely as good on paper as they end up being in real life. Who will be the great disappointers this year? I can hardly wait to find out!
We’re back! If you’d asked me a few weeks ago to simply predict whether or not we’d have a football season, I probably would’ve said, “Sure,” but there’s no way I could’ve been 100% unequivocal. Anyway, I say it every year and it still holds true, this is my favorite sports blog post to write, and this time we’re getting a jump on things! But first, a look back at my prior predictions:
Last year, I nailed the Eagles and Saints as division winners and whiffed on the Seahawks and Vikings (though, both made the playoffs as Wild Card teams). I had the Rams and Cowboys as Wild Card teams, but neither made the playoffs (though, they were 9-7 and 8-8 respectively). My worst calls in the NFC were the 49ers and Packers being third in their respective divisions (when they obviously won them and were the top two playoff seeds).
In the AFC, I nailed New England, Houston, and Kansas City as division winners; whiffing on the Steelers (who failed to make the playoffs) over the Ravens (who I pegged as a third place finisher, calling them a 7-win team; I was half-right, since they ended up 14-2). I had the Browns and Chargers as Wild Card teams, who won a combined 11 games (the Bills and Titans ended up making it).
As far as the playoffs go, I was WAY too high on the Eagles, who I had as a 1-seed making the Super Bowl. However, I did have Kansas City winning it all, so bully for me!
Okay, without further ado … here’s some more ado. I should point out I’ve never been so underprepared for an NFL season. So, I’m going to take a few minutes here to reacquaint myself as to what happened last year, see where some key free agents ended up, and I’ll come right back with my predictions. It’ll be so quick, you won’t even know I was gone!
And I’m back! Honestly, I don’t know how much insight I’ll have, but let’s get to it.
I think I like the Cowboys and Eagles pretty equally. Mostly, I went with Dallas over Philly to change things up. It’s hard to repeat as divisional champions, and I didn’t see anything out of the Eagles last year that impressed me to the point that they’d be drastically improved. With Dak Prescott playing for a bigtime contract extension, he’s motivated as all get-out to play well, and that could be the ultimate decider. I think the Giants have enough to improve from Bad to Mediocre, which I figure accounts for a ceiling of 7 wins. The Washington Football Team is a trainwreck in all aspects of football and life; I can’t see them winning more than 4 games.
The Vikings are strong on both sides of the football, with a good coaching staff and a lot of stars. I see a big step-back out of the Packers – who did nothing last year to overwhelmingly impress me, other than taking care of business during an incredibly easy schedule – with the Vikings maybe even contending for the top seed if everything breaks right. The Packers, of course, will be in line for a Wild Card if their quarterback stays healthy. The Bears and Lions both strike me as bad teams heading in the wrong direction.
I’m taking a HUGE swing here! I don’t have a good reason to like the Falcons, but I just do. The sensible pick is to repeat with the Saints, but they (and by “they” I mean Drew Brees) are getting old and I could see a few injuries really derailing things for them. If you were wondering who 2020’s All Overhyped Team is going to be (recall last year, that title went to the Cleveland Browns), it’s Tampa! I think they could get off to a hot start offensively, but I think their defense is a year or two away (famous last words, every time I write them), and I’m not buying Tom Brady’s noodle arm. There’s a lot of turnover on offense, and that can be a lot to square away in one offseason during a pandemic with no pre-season games. Carolina will not be much better with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm; he seems like he’s earning A LOT of money for someone who hasn’t accomplished much in his career.
I’m getting a whiff of a Super Bowl Hangover season out of the 49ers. That should open the door for a Rams team that was snakebitten a little bit last year. It’s not often that a 9-7 team fails to make the playoffs; of course, had they made that last-second field goal against the Seahawks, it would’ve been them advancing instead of us. Color me as drinking the Seahawks Regression Kool Aid, because I have a BAD feeling about this season. It’s a lot to ask to put everything on one man’s shoulders, even if he’s as great as Russell Wilson; ultimately I just can’t see this team being so good in one-score games as they were last year. Arizona should be a lot of fun to watch, but I don’t know if they have anything even remotely resembling a defense.
The Bills have steadily built up that team to be rock solid in most aspects. I think they’ll win a lot of games in spite of their quarterback play; if he can just avoid a lot of turnovers, they’ll probably win around 12 games with relative ease. The Patriots won’t totally fall off the map with Cam Newton in for Brady, but I don’t think he’s winning a division in his first year there. Miami looked to be on the upswing late last year; they’re still young, but I think they too can improve from Bad to Mediocre. The Jets were going the opposite direction, and they could be one of the worst teams in the league as well.
The Ravens and Chiefs look to be the class of the AFC, so they should continue to dominate as long as they can stay relatively healthy. The Steelers were snakebitten by injuries last year, but otherwise were pretty strong across the board. I think the Browns might be a little underrated and could jump to 9 wins this year. The Bungles are who we thought they were.
The Colts were a healthy, quality quarterback away from being a playoff team last year. They have Philip Rivers now, and I think he’ll make all the difference for a team that’s pretty good everywhere else. The Texans are slowly being eaten alive by their so-so head coach who is also the league’s dumbest general manager; I think this year was one inept move too many. They won’t win a division without DeAndre Hopkins, and likely won’t even return to the playoffs. I think the Titans were a flash in the pan and I’m not buying Ryan Tannehill. The Jags will be terrible and will contend for a #1 draft pick.
The Chiefs are the best team in football, period. The Raiders and Broncos are just okay; they could flip-flop spots here and it wouldn’t shock me (but I don’t think either are playoff-calibre). The Chargers are bad. I don’t think Tyrod Taylor will be starting games long, and I don’t think Justin Herbert will be their Quarterback of the Future.
Sign the Seahawks up as one of the first teams to take advantage of the seventh playoff spot! If that isn’t the Seahawkiest thing that’s ever happened, I don’t know what is.
Wild Card Round
Seahawks over Rams
Cowboys over Packers
49ers over Falcons
Ravens over Browns
Steelers over Bills
Colts over Patriots
Vikings over Seahawks
Cowboys over 49ers
Chiefs over Steelers
Ravens over Colts
Vikings over Cowboys
Ravens over Chiefs
Vikings over Ravens
My backup guess is Vikings over Chiefs, but I guess I’m pretty committed to the Vikings winning it all here. Boy won’t they be partying in Minnesota if I’m right!
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:
Russell Wilson, Christian McCaffrey, Chris Godwin, Matt Ryan (all correct)
Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, James Conner, Travis Kelce (Odell Beckham Jr., Mark Ingram, and Keenan Allen all available to draft)
Deshaun Watson, George Kittle, Derrick Henry, Cam Newton (Aaron Jones)
Jared Goff, Drew Lock, DeAndre Hopkins, JuJu Smith-Schuster (A.J. Brown and Raheem Mostert)
Kyler Murray, Saquon Barkley, Michael Thomas, Joe Mixon (Mike Evans)
Aaron Rodgers, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen (Amari Cooper)
Patrick Mahomes, Alvin Kamara, Davante Adams, Tyler Lockett (all correct)
Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyreek Hill, Gardner Minshew, Todd Gurley (Matthew Stafford)
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.
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):
Russell Wilson, Christian McCaffrey, Chris Godwin, Matt Ryan (Tyler Boyd)
Dak Prescott, Odell Beckham Jr., Mark Ingram, Travis Kelce (Keenan Allen)
Deshaun Watson, George Kittle, Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones (Cam Newton)
DeAndre Hopkins, Jared Goff, A.J. Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster (Raheem Mostert)
Kyler Murray, Michael Thomas, Saquon Barkley, Mike Evans (Joe Mixon)
Aaron Rodgers, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Amari Cooper (Adam Thielen)
Patrick Mahomes, Alvin Kamara, Davante Adams, Tyler Lockett (Zach Ertz)
Tyreek Hill, Jimmy Garoppolo, Todd Gurley, Matthew Stafford (Gardner Minshew)
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?
The consensus opinion is that the most important aspect of a dominant defense is its pass rush. Boiling it down to its root: the goal of a defense is to give the ball back to its offense without allowing the other team to score. The best way to do that is to force a turnover; otherwise, forcing them to punt or turn it over on downs will suffice. When it comes to defending the pass, harassing the quarterback seems to be the best way to either generate turnovers or put opposing offenses behind the chains, usually resulting in punts. The sack is obviously ideal; it’s a negative play for the offense that can sometimes result in fumbles. But, just getting in the quarterback’s face – forcing him “off his spot” or otherwise messing with his timing – can lead to interceptions, incompletions, or harmless check-downs that gain little-to-no yards on that play.
The Seahawks – as has been the lament all off-season – are projected to have one of the worst – if not THE worst – pass rushes in the NFL. This is a travesty because as it stood in 2019, the defense was already pretty mediocre; this is also a travesty because we have Russell Wilson in his prime and we seem to be wasting those years by losing in the Wild Card or Divisional rounds of the playoffs.
But, the thing is, the Seahawks clearly haven’t done NOTHING. They’ve tried to mitigate the loss of Jadeveon Clowney by picking up multiple lesser individuals – in free agency and the draft – and they’re hoping that young holdovers from previous seasons make a leap in their development. They’ve also done a remarkable job shoring things up at the linebacker and secondary levels over the last two years, picking up multiple speedy linebackers in the draft, as well as trading for two phenomenal safeties and one troubled-but-excellent cornerback. We’ll see if it plays out as such, but an argument could be made that the Seahawks have the best secondary and the best group of linebackers from top to bottom in the entire league. They certainly have the highest-rated linebacker in Bobby Wagner, and a total superstar in Jamal Adams.
So, my question is: can all of that compensate for a sub-par (or even flat-out BAD) pass rush?
We always talk about how great pass rushes make up for mediocre secondaries; guys don’t have to cover wide receivers as long, because the quarterback has to make his decisions much quicker. But, whenever we talk about the opposite – great secondaries blanketing receivers, allowing the D-Line time to get home – we just dismiss it as a “coverage sack”. As if, A) they don’t count as much as a regular sack, and B) it’s some sort of fluke that never happens. I’d love to know the numbers, but I would argue if coverage sacks are so rare, maybe that’s because teams spend all their resources focused so much on the D-Line and hardly any of their resources on their secondaries.
Around Seattle, we love to talk about the Legion of Boom, and for good reason. That collection of individuals was freaky talented, and from top to bottom the best I’ve ever seen. The Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls with that group leading the way, winning one. Yes, that group also had a pretty great D-Line – helmed by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril – but they were VASTLY overshadowed by the L.O.B. And, not for nothing, but the main reason why we lost that second Super Bowl isn’t because Russell Wilson tried to throw a slant in heavy traffic at the goalline, but rather because the ENTIRE Legion of Boom suffered catastrophic injuries either in the lead-up to or in the middle of that game. Don’t forget the Seahawks had a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, before Tom Brady & Co. marched up and down the field at will. Had we rushed Marshawn Lynch and scored a touchdown on that second down play, they still would’ve had somewhere around 20 seconds or so to get into field goal range (which, the way the Patriots were moving, seemed inevitable).
Which leads me to ask: where was our supposedly-dominant pass rush THEN?! Why weren’t they able to pick up the slack when the L.O.B. was out of commission?!
Now, obviously it’s a stretch to say this seconary is as good as the L.O.B. But, for this incarnation of the NFL, it’s pretty fucking elite. With a couple of lockdown cornerbacks, and a couple of playmaking safeties, I think the Seahawks can provide enough pressure on the back-end of the defense to allow the front-line workers an opportunity to get in the quarterback’s face and do some real damage, regardless of who we’ve got up there.
I don’t know how to do a lot of this research, so a lot of what I’m about to say is pretty anecdotal. But, how many passing plays result in a sack? Not a very high percentage, I’d say. How many plays result in pressure on the quarterback? Obviously, a little higher, but there’s a lot of variables at play: how good is the O-Line? How good is the quarterback? How quick can the quarterback make a decision to get rid of the football? Is the offense set up for the quarterback to make quick, short throws, rendering even the BEST defensive lines inadequate? There’s a reason why more offenses are turning into some version of the college spread offense, and it’s to neutralize the opposing pass rush! Aaron Donald is the best defensive lineman since Reggie White; he’ll be an automatic first-ballot hall of famer. And yet, it’s not like he’s getting to the quarterback on every single play, no matter how it may seem (especially as a Seahawks fan, watching this miserable offensive line over the years).
The Seahawks, in the early days of this era, were lauded for zagging while the rest of the league zigged. We targeted tall, bruising players in the secondary before everyone else, essentially starting that trend by proving the tactic is viable. We opted to hand the offense to a short quarterback who runs a lot when the VAST majority of teams still thought they had to be 6’5 white statues in the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady mold. We’ve featured a punishing running game when the league was clearly going towards a pass-first model, and have won the second-most games in all of football, behind only the New England Patriots.
So, why are we automatically dismissive of the Seahawks zagging once again?
If the rest of football is moving towards a quick passing game to neutralize the pass rush aspect, then doesn’t it make sense to bolster your secondary, so you can get up on those receivers, and force the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer? Everyone talks about how difficult that is, and how much strain it puts on a coverage to follow those receivers around, but it also puts a lot of strain on an offensive line! I don’t care how great you are, it’s hard to block ANY defensive line for 5+ seconds per play!
And even if you discount the quick-passing game, the very best quarterbacks – those same guys you see year-in and year-out in the playoffs – are almost always able to get rid of the football and make plays in the face of even the very best stampeding pass rush. BUT, if you show those guys a mediocre defensive front, they might relax a bit more, and in trying to wait out a hole appearing in the secondary, and that’s when guys like Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin are able to shine. Because, they’ll get there eventually. They might not take over games like Clowney or Donald, but they’re not so incompetent that they’re totally worthless.
There’s no single blueprint to build a champion. Often, it’s the teams doing things a little differently who manage to make the leap, leading a very reactionary NFL to follow their example, instead of setting out on their own courses. Yes, it’s a copycat league, but those ALWAYS come with diminishing returns. Because, while everyone is trying to copy the hot, new trend, everyone ELSE is trying to figure out how to stifle that hot new trend! First it was offenses throwing more than rushing, which led to the meteoric rise in bolstering pass rush as a counter-measure. Then, offenses morphed into throwing quick, short passes, and getting the ball out to playmakers in space, hoping they make plays. I would argue the only natural counter to this method is to have VERY fast linebackers and VERY elite secondary players, to limit that open space as much as possible. This should lead to either the quarterback holding the ball longer than intended, or following through on their game plans, with those plays resulting in short gains or incompletions.
I’m ready to believe in this tactic. If it works, the Seahawks might once again be at the forefront of a new trend the rest of the league chooses to copy in 2021 and beyond.
Of course, if it doesn’t work, everyone will get to say, “I told you so,” and the Seahawks will be made to look the FOOLS! You know what? We’re all just trying to do our best with what we have, and I’m okay with that.