What a brutal week 12.
I started Chris Johnson in both leagues and the 2,000 yard man rushed for a whopping 7 yards. That's just unthinkably awful. The worst part is, in the A League I traded Peyton Hillis straight up for CJ. Hillis had 190 yards and 3 TDs. Worst trade EVER. But amazingly, I still have a chance to win in the A League (If Gore stays under 21 points) and that's largely due to a scandalous issue which I'll address in a moment. First, on to the picks:
Lions 24, Pats 45
No surprise here. Got the pick. Although, believe it or not, Detroit led 17-10 at the half. Then they allowed 35 points in 30 minutes. I mean ... what can you say? Detroit played a near-perfect first half (only 2 penalties, no turnovers) but then ran out of gas after the half. How does a team lose focus midway through a home game on national TV when they're winning by 7 against one of the best teams in the NFL? That's got to be coaching, right?
It's not like I expected to win. Brady is Brady, and he did his thing, and he got the win. But I didn't think he would make it look so effortless. The Lions' defense went from stout to shit almost immediately after the half. That was the difference. No pass rush, and Alphonso Smith getting embarrassed over and over and over.
One of my favorite parts of the game was the interview with The Rock. When they asked him about the game, he basically said that Detroit is better than their record indicates (no duh) and that they have some good building blocks such as Suh and Calvin (no, really?!). That prompted Phil Sims to say "Wow, that's some great analysization." Which prompted me to say: "You mean analysis you moron?" That made even my father-in-law laugh.
Ugh. What a painful second half. Jim Schwartz isn't in any danger of losing his job, but he is in danger of losing the fans' confidence. Which means his job could be gone after 2011 if we don't win at least 7 games.
Mlive's Tom Kowalski summed up Jim Schwartz pretty well. He basically says that any guy can stand on the sidelines, yell at the refs, look angry, throw the red flag in obvious situations, and scream obscenities after penalties. Anyone could do that. I could do that. But Schwartz doesn't call the offensive plays (Linehan does) nor does he call the defensive plays (Cunningham does), so what is Jim Schwartz's role as head coach? Just to stand there and look pissed off? What does he bring that makes him truly worthy of his salary?
If he's not going to call the plays, he should be the guy responsible for motivating, focusing, and leading the players. He should be inspiring when he needs to be inspiring and harsh when he needs to be harsh; and he should know the difference. So far, I don't think he has any of those skills. He's a football man, and better suited as a defensive coordinator. He has done nothing to change the culture of losing. He's talked about it a lot, but talk isn't translating to wins.
All that to say - these next 5 games are important. I know we aren't going to the playoffs, but 5-11 looks a whole lot better than 2-14. Those wins will inspire the players and the fans to believe in Schwartz, believe in the Lions, and believe in 2011. It isn't going to be easy. We've got Chicago next week, then Green Bay, then @ Tampa, @ Miami, and then home for Minnesota. Each of those games is against a team fighting for the playoffs. They have something to play for, and we do not. It's up to Schwartz to inspire the team and win at least 3 of those games.
That could make all the difference between Schwartz coaching this team in 2012 or starting the rebuilding process all over.
Saints 30, Cowboys 27
Saints were favored by 3.5, so I missed this pick by half a point. Blast!
But really, I'm lucky they won at all. If you watched this game, you know Dallas should have won and in fact would have won if Roy Williams had a brain. With 3 minutes left, Roy caught a pass at midfield and ran all the way to the Saints 11 yard line. If at any point he just slid to the ground, the Cowboys were in field goal range, up by 4, with 3 minutes left and the Saints had just 1 timeout. Three kneeldowns later and then a 30 yard field goal, and the Cowboys are up by 7, kicking off to the timeout-less Saints with 1:10 remaining. Game essentially over. Instead, Roy stupidly held the ball in one hand, was stripped from behind, and Drew Brees promptly led the comeback. Saints finally clinched the win when Dallas missed a 59 yard kick. Great game.
Afterwards, Roy Williams wasn't done being stupid. He said the thought of sliding to the ground crossed his mind, but quote: "going down isn't in my repertoire." Really you jackass? Is winning games in your repertoire? Apparently not. Only an arrogant idiot would defend their decision to keep running in that situation, when going down clearly gives Dallas the win. He lost the game for his 52 teammates and millions of fans, and didn't apologize; instead he used it as an opportunity to promote his greatness and ferocity.What an absolute buffoon. No words for how stupid that man is.
Jets 26, Bengals 10
Pretty sure the Jets remaining schedule is: Bills, Panthers, Bills, Panthers, Panthers, Grand Valley, Panthers, and my old middle school. Seriously. Have they played an actual team in the past 2 months?
Falcons 20, Pack 17
Another game I missed by half a point. Matt Ryan's home dominance continues.
Green Bay should have won, but failed to convert on 3rd and 1 three seperate times. Aaron Rodgers ran the ball for 51 yards. Atlanta now has the fast track for homefield in the playoffs.
Steelers 19, Buffalo 16 - OT
UGGH. What a frustrating game for so many reasons.
Firstly, I missed the pick badly.
Secondly, I had to spend the past 5 days in the dumbest city in America sleeping on an air mattress with a bunch of nincompoop Steelers fans who say things like "Them Stellers ergunna pond um and pot um dawn air"
(Translation: The Steelers are going to pound them and put them down there.")
Thirdly, the Bills should have won. Multiple times. Including a dropped touchdown pass in overtime. So frustrating.
So if all the "elite teams," such as New England, Pittsburgh and the Jets, are struggling to beat cellar-dwellers like Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo on a regular basis, that tells us two things:
1) The elite teams aren't all that good.
2) The bad teams aren't as bad as we think.
Parity is alive and well in the NFL. Just check out this incredible Circle of Parity. Every team in the NFL has beat a team which has beat a team which has beat a team all the way around. The most stunning thing about that circle - how in the world did Baltimore lose to Cincinnati?!
Browns 24, Panthers 23
People have been comparing Peyton Hillis to Mike Alstott all season. You know what. That's an insult to Hillis. His current season (1,300 yards, 13 TDs) is MUCH better than any season Alstott ever had (his best was 900 yards and 11 TDs). And Hillis still has five games to play. Alstott has the advantage in longevity and is probably the best fullback in NFL history. But Hillis is the better rusher, the better receiver, and is having a far better season than Alstott ever had.
But that leads me to another point. Peyton Hillis isn't really a running back. He's not. He's a fullback who gets 20 carries and 5 catches a game. He's got only 2 runs all season of more than 25 yards. He's a power back with very limited speed. And yet he runs for 4.5 YPC and a stunning 9 YPR. Why was Denver willing to trade Hillis this offseason for third-string QB Brady Quinn? Because they didn't think they were trading a franchise running back; they thought he was a fullback, which is in fact what he is. The best dang fullback of the past decade.
It should be noted, probably extensively, that Hillis would not be having his monster season without a certain left tackle named Joe Thomas. Take Thomas off the Browns, and Hillis's production gets cut in half.
Texans 20, Titans 0
Wow. I didn't expect much from Rusty Smith, but seriously? And Chris Johnson, are you kidding me? I'm going to chalk this game up as a new phenomenon called The Randy Moss Effect. It goes like this:
A crazy diva receiver joins the team, and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose. The sometimes-troubled QB is throwing his pads into the stands, then apologetically texting the coach who refuses to accept his apology and tells him to "be a man", and then the star running back is suddenly useless, and the offense gets shut out by the league's worst defense, and the QB is named Rusty and the cornerback gets in a fistfight with an opposing receiver. All of those things can be blamed directly on Randy Moss. And probably Brett Favre. Glad I finally was able to trade Moss just days before the deadline.
Giants 24, Jags 20
When I heard that New York would be without 3 starting offensive lineman, I almost changed my pick. Turns out I should have, because the Giants didn't cover the 7.5 spread. But they did win outright, which shows how overrated and un-playoff-worthy the Jaguars are.
For the fourth game in a row, Eli Manning did not get sacked. Remarkable.
Vikings 17, Redskins 13
Blah blah blah Favre Favre McNabb McNabb Drama drama Blah blah
I just realized ... Brett Favre is the Sarah Palin of football. Everyone wants him to just go away.
The only noteworthy story from this game was Adrian Peterson's ankle injury. Will he miss next week? It's probably worth noting that in the A League I just traded Moreno, Moss and Mike Williams (SEA) for Peterson. If this injury ends up ruining my season I might eat a handful of paperclips.
Oh, the other somewhat meaningful story from this game. Mike Shanahan, the master of pissing off fantasy owners, started running back Keiland Williams in this game, who I contemplated starting over Ben Jarvus Green Ellis. But after 3 carries, he pulled an UN-injured Williams from the game and gave the rest of the handoffs to James Davis. W H O ?
On behalf of fantasy owners everywhere, we hate you Mike Shanahan. And I didn't even play Williams. I just hate you on principle.
Fins 33, Raidahs 17
So much for that Oakland playoff run.
Darren McFadden had 8 carries for 2 yards. Just 4 weeks ago, people were calling him the best running back in football. It's amazing how people get so overzealous. I'm sure I've never done that. Miami continues to beat mediocre teams. They might win their next 4 games (Browns, Jets, Lions, Bills) and end up sneaking into the playoffs if New England rests the starters week 17. It's going to come down to the Jets-Dolphins game in 2 weeks. That's a big game.
Chiefs 42, Seahawks 24
Hmm ... can't figure out either of these teams at all. Is KC actually good? Or can they only beat bad teams? Is Seattle bad? Or are they worse than bad? I thought they were supposed to be competitive at home?
Now that Chris Johnson appears to be a numskull and Adrian Peterson is injured and suffering from BrettFavreitus, can we safely call Jamaal Charles the best running back alive? I mean, strictly talent-wise. He shares carries with Thomas Jones (which is smart, because they're saving Charles's legs for a hopeful playoff run) and yet has the second most rushing yards in the NFL now, after Sunday's whopping 173 yards on just 22 carries. His YPC (6.3) is absoluetly sick. And it's no fluke - last year his 5.9 led the NFL. He's also a pass-catching maniac with 32 catches for 359 yards this season. The best barometer of a running back's greatness is the YPC statistic.
Jim Brown - 5.2
Barry Sanders - 5.0
Adrian Peterson - 4.9
As opposed to overrated guys like:
Thurman Thomas - 4.2
Emmitt Smith - 4.2
LaDanian Tomlinson - 4.3
For his career, Jamaal Charles currently has a YPC of 6.1. And don't forget, KC doesn't have a good offensive line or a great passing game. Well, except for Dwayne Bowe who has now caught 7 TDs and 465 yards in his past three games. Only 21 wide receivers have scored more fantasy points THIS SEASON than Bowe has scored over the past THREE WEEKS. That might be the stat of the week.
Ravens 17, Bucs 10
My only good beat of the week. I picked the Bucs to cover the 7.5 spread and they did. Barely.
Tampa did a great job to hold Baltimore to 17 points (none in the second half) but couldn't get their offense moving. Mike Williams was held to just 20 yards. His Rookie of the Year stock takes a hit. Speaking of which, Dez Bryant had zero catches. So Sam Bradford's first place status is a little more secure. Speaking of which ...
Rams 36, Broncos 33
One of my better picks this week. It was tempting to take Denver by 4 but I trusted the rookie to win a much needed game on the road. And he gutted it out. Despite having literally no NFL-caliber receivers and falling below 10-0 early, Bradford went 22 for 37 for 308 yards and 3 TDs. He threw touchdown passes to guys named Billy Bajema and Michael Hoomanawanui. No joke.
I don't care how bad the defense is, when you put up a QB rating of 113 on the road as a rookie ... that's pretty dang impressive. Bradford's passer rating is now at 82. I'm not even going to bring up Stafford's career 67.1 rating ...
Another great fantasy game for Orton, Lloyd and Moreno, but Denver's defense just can't get it done. And Josh McDaniels, who I hated, and then tried to forgive after one of his players died, has now been fined $50,000 for cheating. Again. Remember, he was the offensive coordinator for New England during Spygate I. Now he's the leader of Spygate II. Though he claims he "had no idea." Ha. Don't be surprised if this is his last season in the NFL. He's been caught cheating twice (I'm OK with the cheating, but don't be stupid enough to get caught ... especially not twice) and is 5-16 in his last 21 games. That's almost as bad as Jim Schwartz!
Oh by the way, the Rams are tied for the division lead.
Chicago 31, Eagles 26
Yeah, so I failed miserably on my Lock of the Week. Chicago won. The defense contained Michael Vick, and forced his first interception of the season. Good for them. Julius Peppers is amazing. But I've gotta say - Chicago is definitely the worst 8-3 team in the history of the NFL.
Chargers 36, Colts 14
Watched this game from start to finish, and was shell-shocked. Not even sure what shell-shocked means, but I know I was it.
Let me set the scene for you - I was leading by about 10 going into this game, and I have Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne. My opponent has Rivers, and Frank Gore on Monday. If I win, I clinch the division, a playoff spot, and a shot at $300. If I lose, I'm tied with my opponent, and that's not an acceptable scenario. So I watched this entire game on the edge of my couch, shaking nervously every time Rivers dropped back to pass. And despite Manning's 4 interceptions and Wayne's 3 dropped passes (two of which were 40+ yards), I am leading by 21 going into tonight. Still not confident, but hopeful. Why? Because Phillip Rivers, the PR Machine, the potential league MVP, the winner of 4 straight games, was reduced to a game manager. He didn't throw a single touchdown pass. Let me say again - Rivers did not throw one TD pass. Despite 36 points for the Bolts. It was amazing. Amazingly awesome.
What happened was smart coaching and lucky defense. Smart coaching because every time the Chargers got the ball, they ran as much time as possible off the clock. Mike Tolbert was effective running through the middle and converting first downs, and Indy couldn't tackle him. Chris Collinsworth almost had a hernia talking about fullback Jacob Hester who was laying down some sick blocks and opening up holes for Tolbert, who ended up rumbling for 103 yards on 26 carries. Rivers only threw 23 passes (though he completed 83% of them) and passed for just 185 yards, severely crippling his chance of breaking Dan Marino's single season yardage record. He was on pace to smash it. Now he's on pace to miss it by 160 yards.
But the story of the game, aside from San Diego dominating time of possession 35 minutes to 24, was the Chargers defense. They got pressure on Peyton over and over, dominating the offensive line and reducing the running game to a joke. Although part of that should be blamed on Donald Brown, who made the absolute least of his 11 carries. He looked like the least inspired running back I've ever seen. Just took 3 steps into some lineman's back and fell down. He was awful. If not for an 8 yard run in garbage time he would have run 10 times for 16 yards.
Being constantly pressured, Manning was forced to throw tough passes in a hurry, and that led to two costly interceptions. The over two interceptions were not his fault - one was a horribly missed pass interference call (Eric Weddle pushed down Reggie Wayne, then caught the pick, the looked around for an inevitable flag, was shocked that he didn't see one, ran the ball into the end zone, and instead of celebrating he turned around and looked everywhere for a flag and couldn't believe his luck. The Indy crowd booed for about 15 minutes straight after this egregious play which truly changed the game and probably cost Indy a win. The moral of the story - coaches should probably be allowed to challenge non-penalty calls in obvious situations) and the other interception was a desperation heave with 1 minute to play in a 22 point game - not sure why Manning threw that ball or why he was on the field in the first place. So all that to say ... Indy lost badly, but I'm not giving up on them come playoff time. They'll be okay. They just need to figure out the offensive line and get Joseph Addai healthy. And what the heck is up with Reggie Wayne's hands. He had 5 catches for 42 yards but would have had 8 catches for 150 yards if he didn't let the ball bounce off his hands. Peyton was visibly upset with him and rightfully so. I was too.
Random subplot from this game - Vincent Jackson finally returned after a long holdout and a league-mandated suspension, and played about 5 plays and then got "hurt." He sat out for the rest of the game, but instead of being taken to the locker room, he stood on the sidelines with a curious smirk on his face. I'm 98% sure he's faking the injury to piss off his GM. As a Malcolm Floyd owner, I couldn't be more excited.
Monday night -
49ers @ Arizona. Should be a stunning matchup between 3-7 teams with horredous quarterbacks. Please join me in rooting against Frank Gore.
(EDIT* Gore got hurt after 50 yards. Heck yeah!)
Now I want to change gears a litle bit and talk about ethics.
Let's call this: A Brief Discussion Regarding the Ethics of Fantasy Football.
Here's the stage again: playing my closest division rival, in a money league where there's $300 at stake. Needing a win badly to secure a playoff berth. Two starters - Gates and Floyd - are hurt. My opponent has Rivers, Turner and Gore - three fantasy megastars. He also has a curious gap in his roster - no defense. Well, he had a defense. The Patriots. Thursday, against the Lions. And he left them on the bench. How very strange. 8 points, wasted.
So Thursday night I looked at the available defenses on waivers. Nothing special. No great matchups. But just to be safe, I picked up the top option (Jags). All I had to do was drop Ryan Torain. But then I had a thought. If I dropped the Jags, they would be placed on Waivers until December 2nd. Wednesday. A few days after Sunday. Rendering them unavailable to my foe.
So I did it, and then I picked up another defense and did it again. A few more, until the only choices were Indy, Atlanta, Buffalo, Arizona, or Carolina. I was going to force him to pick a lemon. That's when the moral dilemma set in.
Is this cheating?
Is this a game within the game, or a bogus loophole outside the game? Am I disregarding the spirit of the game (actual football)? Am I being a total snake?
Well, I wasn't actually "cheating" persay. I didn't log in under a false account and drop Frank Gore. I didn't rig the league rules to give him negative points for every touchdown. I didn't do anything against the rules. All I did was exploit my opponent's mistake. Right?
I don't know ... but I picked up the remaining defenses until there was one left. Arizona. They were set to hit waivers on Sunday morning. So I couldn't get them.
I didn't even know when my opponent would see the scandal; would he be outraged? At himself, or at me? What if I woke up early on Sunday and snagged the Cardinals before he could, forcing him to play an empty roster and take a goose egg at the DST position? Is that worth my integrity? Would I steal a loaf of bread to feed my family?
Apparently ... I would.
I asked my wife - she said with no uncertainty in her voice "do it. You can win us $300 right?"
I asked Crazy Keith - he just laughed at my desperate moral dilemma. But he said to do it as well.
I asked my brother - he said there would be reprucussions but it was worth it.
I asked my cousin-in-law - he didn't have much to say other than "dem stellers er goonuh beat dem bells."
Long story short - I set my alarm for 4:05 AM on Sunday, woke up, picked up the Cardinals defense, and went back to bed. My opponent, the Primetime Heroes, ate a big fat zero at the defense position, and he now trails me by 21 going into Monday night. That could easily be the difference between the playoffs or not. Between money and bragging rights, and between nothing.
So I ask you - did I cheat? Am I just as guilty as Josh McDaniels? Or did I simply play the game in a brilliant way? Did I fairly exploit the system to my advantage, or did I screw over my opponent in a needlessly malicious manner?
Week 12 Picks: 8-8
That's all for now. Go Lions.