Brett Favre Retires: What It Means for the Vikings’ Fantasy Values

ESPN reports this morning that Brett Favre plans to retire rather than rejoin the Minnesota Vikings. He managed to keep the Vikings on the hook until training camp before finally dropping the hammer. What a team player. IF and when Brett Favre actually takes the stage and says…for the third time…that he plans to retire, his absence will cut into the value of all the Vikings’ fantasy studs.

ESPN is bringing in the whole cavalry to cover the situation (Oh boy!), but here’s my take on the fantasy impact of losing the man, the myth, the legend, and the bane of offseason news.

Fantasy Impact on Vikings

Favre was the engine that got this offense moving in 2009. Without him, everything grinds to a halt. It remains to be seen how much Tarvaris Jackson can do to get it going again.

Jackson is no Brett Favre. He won’t be as creative with the offense, and I don’t see as many first downs in their future. That means fewer touchdowns for the entire unit, including newly anointed stud wide receiver Sidney Rice and running back Adrian Peterson.

Now there’s a chance that Sage Rosenfels, forgotten quarterback on the Vikings payroll, gets a shot. Many NFL minds lift him up as one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league, worthy of starting on a team somewhere. Despite rumors that he would have been on the roster bubble if Favre had returned, he could win the job as starter.

Last season, prior to Brett Favre’s decision to return to football, I covered the Vikings’ fantasy potential without Favre and argued that Rosenfels might be able to do just as well. With Rosenfels under center, Sidney Rice could still be a champ. Rosenfels has the arm, and he kept Andre Johnson fantasy relevant in stints as the starter in Houston.

But Tarvaris Jackson is a downgrade in the passing game. Unless Jackson has truly found his way as a quarterback and mastered Brad Childress’ offense, I don’t know that you can trust him to keep the Vikings in it this year.

Some would argue that Adrian Peterson stands to benefit from this blow, but I don’t see it. As I mentioned in my arguments for taking Chris Johnson at No. 1, A.P. had 18 touchdowns and 1,383 rushing yards last season with Favre. In 2008, he had just 10 touchdowns and 1,760 yards. Without Favre to open up this offense and keep defenses honest, A.P. will struggle.

And as A.P. gets worked into the ground game after game, there’s also a chance he could be injured. His running style is unforgiving, and he doesn’t avoid contact. A.P. could be this year’s Steven Jackson. He’ll get plenty of yards, I’m sure, but his touchdowns will be way down from his 2009 numbers.

I’d consider both Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew before A.P. with this development, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking the safe out with one of those two rather than taking a chance on Peterson this season.

For Real?

We’re all assuming that these text messages to teammates and sources within the Vikings administration have it right. We’re taking their word that Favre is done. I’m not sure I buy it just yet. At least not until I hear it from the old man’s mouth.

Favre may just want to get us all writing about him two or three more times this offseason. He could wait out training camp and change his mind. So I’ll believe it in…let’s say Week 2 when Brett Favre isn’t in purple.

Until then, there’s always a chance “the most magical player to ever play the game” (Seriously, Hoge?) returns for a final campaign. I, for one, have made peace with the fact that he is going to play until 2025.

Whether you think Favre is really done or not, there’s one thing we can all agree on, he is one helluva drama queen.

NFL Draft 2010: This live blog will not be Tebowed

Last year’s live blog of the draft was so incredibly enjoyable that we’re doing it again this year. Only this time, we’re going to wear pants.

You’re welcome…but I’m not doing it for you, America. I’m doing it because Cameron and I will be blogging from a secret draft headquarters located deep inside Mel Kiper Jr.’s underwater hair gel storage lair.

We do this for you.

This live blog will be a rockin’ a few minutes before Tim Tebow is most likely not announced as the first overall pick, and you can sign-up in the CoverItLive widget below if you’d like to get a notification to come a knockin’ when we start at 7 p.m. EST/6 p.m. CST.

We don’t want you to miss this. You’ll want to be around while our commentary is mostly sober… Make sure you get here before pick 15.

Top 15 Fantasy Football Storylines You Missed Since the Super Bowl

Congratulations on escaping from that rock you’ve been trapped under for all those long months since the Super Bowl. Hopefully, you weren’t trapped in this thing. After you get a good, warm meal inside of you, I’m sure you’ll be wondering what happened in the world since you departed.

Or if you, like me, took a little break from the world of football between the Super Bowl and the NFL draft, you might just need to get a quick overview of what’s happened in the NFL since you started caring about other sports like March Madness college basketball and NBA playoffs. What? Hockey? Well, let’s just get back to football, shall we?

1. Donovan McNabb is a Washington Redskin. In one of the most surprising moves of the offseason, the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb to the NFC East rival Redskins. The Eagles have decided to put their trust, and their future, in Kevin Kolb. The fantasy impact won’t necessarily be felt by McNabb on this one, but it will boost his Redskin teammates, especially Chris Cooley as a fantasy tight end. But don’t go thinking that the Redskins have all become fantasy elites. The Eagles, on the other hand, will take a bit of a step back with Kevin Kolb learning the ropes. They may run more with Mike Bell and LeSean McCoy to take the pressure off Kolb, which could inflate their fantasy values, but I see them keeping the passing game lively. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Kevin Kolb might be a fantasy phenom trio in just a few years.

2. Brandon Marshall is a Miami Dolphin. “Baby T.O.” just didn’t like his situation in Denver. His off-the-field issues almost got him benched last season with Josh McDaniels, and with his contract coming to an end, McDaniels, who must hate everything not put together by Bill Belichick, sent him off to Miami so that the Dolphins could make him “the highest-paid receiver in the league” for at least one season. His fantasy stock should remain at a high level. The Dolphins have desperately needed a No. 1 receiver for years, and now they have Marshall and a great supporting cast of receiving talent around him. Chad Henne will benefit from having a receiver he can feed the ball to every week, and Ronnie Brown should get a little relief now that teams have to worry about covering deep. Marshall leaves behind a mess in Denver. Eddie Royal will be expected to takeover as the No. 1 and is plenty talented enough to hold it down if he someone can get the ball to him, but Kyle Orton may not be able to carry the torch at QB without a receiver of Marshall’s abilities. Royal isn’t as much of a go-up-and-get-it kind of receiver, lacking Marshall’s dominant size. So we might even see Brady Quinn get a chance this year. Oh, and I guess this quiets that Patrick Turner talk.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson is a New York Jet. The running back of fantasy legend was released by the Chargers only to sign with the New York Jets. There’s talk of him getting up to 15 carries per game, which would seriously piss off a lot of Shonn Greene owners. Personally, I think his ship has sailed, and his fantasy value with it. L.T. will be a mid-round pick in many a league just by reputation, and I think that might be a mistake.

4. Thomas Jones is a Kansas City Chief. Before L.T. showed up in town, Thomas Jones was let go by the Jets. I guess he just wasn’t the veteran running back they desired, but he set up shop in Kansas City rather quickly. That puts a bit of a damper on the Jamaal Charles hype that was building this offseason, but he’s probably still going to be one of the more electric backs in 2010. Just look at what Chris Johnson was able to do in his rookie season while still sharing the rock with LenDale White.

5. Tony Scheffler is a Detroit Lion, and the Broncos hate themselves. Josh McDaniels just wants to get rid of all the talent in Denver. It must be a team-building exercise. I just don’t know when he’s actually going to start building the team. Scheffler was one of the more dynamic threats in the Broncos’ arsenal, especially without Brandon Marshall. Now he’ll be helping Matt Stafford mature as an NFL passer and working alongside Brandon Pettigrew. The trade could mean that the Lions fear Pettigrew may not be at 100 percent to start the season as he recovers from his ACL injury, but it’s more likely they just realize they need every weapon they can get to free up Calvin Johnson this season.

6. Santonio Holmes is a Jet…and suspended for the first four games. Screw up once, shame on you. Screw up twice, shame on us. Screw up three times, get off our roster. Holmes screwed up, he got suspended for four games, and the Steelers just wanted to be done with it. They traded him for a fifth-round pick, and now Holmes will try to find a role (most likely out of the slot) for the Jets when he gets on the field in Week 5. This trade hurts his fantasy value, as he is probably not going to establish himself as the No. 1 in New York. But it also threatens Braylon Edwards. He’ll now have to compete with Holmes throughout the season in hopes of keeping his job. At least Mike Wallace is happy.

7. Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first six games…or maybe just four. If you’re an NFL quarterback, it’s probably best that you just avoid hanging out in small-town nightclubs with throngs of drunk girls. That’s all I’ll say about that. But if you do, you’ll probably get suspended for shaming the NFL shield like Roethlisberger has. The Steelers have brought back Byron Leftwich to fill in while Big Ben on his shame suspension, but that’s probably not going to scare anyone but Charlie Batch.

8. The Rams have released Marc Bulger. I guess Sam Bradford’s pro day was so good that Bulger just didn’t want to be around anymore. That, or he just decided he’d need a whole offseason to find a new home. Still waiting on that one. Unlike Jake Delhomme, now in Cleveland after being cut by Carolina, Bulger has no home. Happy Birthday, Bulger!

9. Charlie Whitehurst will get a chance to start in Seattle over Matt Hasselbeck. So the job may not be as secure as Hasselbeck would hope it is. Granted, Whitehurst doesn’t have a long NFL resume just yet, but he may be able to push Hasselbeck more than Seneca Wallace did in recent years. We’ll see.

10. The Jets defense is looking really scary. They have Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis at corner, and now Jason Taylor, you know, just for line depth. If all the bets the Jets made this offseason pay out, we could be looking at one of this year’s premiere fantasy defenses.

11. Ted Ginn Jr. is a San Francisco 49er. They watched game tape of this guy’s hands first, right? Ginn adds a certain explosiveness in the kick returning game, but he’s most likely nothing more than a slot receiver when the offense takes the field. Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Josh Morgan should all keep their spots as the 49ers’ top targets.

12. Alge Crumpler and Torry Holt are now Patriots. As they do every offseason, the Patriots are collecting a set of veterans and trying to plug them into their system. Holt didn’t pan out as a Jaguar, but he might do better than Joey Galloway as a Patriot. He can at least lend a hand until Wes Welker is back up to speed.  Crumpler gives the Patriots a solid tight end now that they are without Chris Baker and Benjamin Watson.

13. Flozell Adams released. The Cowboys LT got a fond farewell on his way out of Dallas, but when it came down to it, he just wasn’t worth the cost. The Cowboys could lose a little bit of their production in the running game as a result depending on whether Doug Free fills in adequately as a LT or if they take someone else in the draft.

14. Ryan Torain is now a Redskin. Normally, a backup RB move like this wouldn’t be big news, but it is when Mike Shanahan praises him as much as he has Torain since drafting Torain as coach of the Denver Broncos. This move most likely means that the old boys’ club of Larry Johnson, Clinton Portis, and Willie Parker that currently makes up the Washington Redskins running back corps will probably see one or two of its membership leave Washington before Week 1.

15. Rex Ryan lost 40 pounds. Yes, that’s big news. 40 pounds? That’s like…a whole little Ryan bear cub. I’m concerned. Will we even recognize him on the sidelines? Besides, you don’t really want to hear that Neil Rackers is a Texan and likely the new starting kicker, right? That’s just kicker talk. No one likes kicker talk.

If you were not trapped under a rock so far this offseason, feel free to throw your own input into the mix. I probably missed at least two moves involving Rex Grossman and David Carr…on purpose.

And while you’re kicking yourself for not drafting these guys in the first place

Here’s a look from Sports Data Hub at the top fantasy performers at each position as of the beginning of December. [Update: Link no longer available]

We all wish we could go back to the draft and change something, whether we want to draft Miles Austin or not draft Matt Forte, but looking at the cold, raw numbers after almost an entire fantasy football season shows us many of our mistakes (and in bar graph form, which makes it slightly less depressing).

Where did we get surprised?

Quarterbacks

The big surprise at quarterback this year for me was Brett Favre, who not only joined the ranks late but also became a fantasy stud down the stretch. He may be fading now, but he still established himself among the top at the position for another year. As much as I loathe him, I’ll give him credit for that.

Jay Cutler, on the other hand, bottomed out more than expected. Clearly, the receiver situation in Chicago isn’t to his liking, and he’s not comfortable in that offense just yet.

Time will tell whether the team takes a new direction by getting a new offensive coordinator or makes a move to acquire a top talent at wide receiver like Anquan Boldin. The only problem with the latter solution is all the picks they gave away to get Cutler in the last offseason.

Cutler’s performance against the Vikings on Monday Night Football could be a good sign that they’re getting on track for 2010.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson was an iffy top running back prospect to start the year. Some took the chance and were greatly rewarded. Others warned that LenDale White would still steal all his scoring opportunities. It’s clear he’s become a fantasy force, one who will continue to be highly drafted. He’s probably the No. 1 overall pick in your draft next season.

But the big surprise was Ray Rice (even though I predicted he’d be good, I didn’t know he’d be this good). He jumped from a murky Baltimore running back situation to become one of the top backs in fantasy, and he’ll probably stay among the elite with Willis McGahee on his way out.

Ricky Williams and Thomas Jones certainly have more staying power than any of us realized. They’re still getting it done, even at their advanced age. Williams owes his scoring chances early in the year to Ronnie Brown, who made the Wildcat a legitimate threat at the goal line throughout his reign of terror until he was injured.

It’ll be interesting to see what Miami and New York do in the offseason. Ronnie Brown is likely to assume the starting duties again once he is healthy, but New York could part ways with Jones if they so choose, opting instead to ride Leon Washington and rookie pounder Shonn Greene.

In recent weeks, they’ve given Greene more than his usual number of carries to see what they have behind Jones for next season.

Wide Receivers

DeSean Jackson came up in the world in a big way as McNabb’s favorite target this season. Is it finally safe to start a Philadelphia receiver? It seems that way for 2010.

The hot names to add to the list of the elite are Miles Austin and Sidney Rice. Both were touted for their physical attributes and explosive talents, but neither had lived up to expectations, falling victim to injury or being buried on the depth chart the past two seasons.

Rice broke out this season as the Vikings’ biggest threat in the passing game, and he’ll only get better, regardless of who comes in to quarterback Minnesota once Favre finally leaves — but will that EVER happen?

Austin should continue to be one of Tony Romo’s favorite, most trusted targets, and that’s extremely valuable with a quarterback as determined to make a play as Romo is every down.

Tight Ends

Vernon Davis, we hardly knew ye. He did it. He finally did it. All it took was a new coach and a new offense geared around his ability to separate from mismatches. Well done, sir.

Brent Celek also proved that the Eagles had really been missing L.J. Smith’s contributions in recent years when injury and ineffectiveness kept Smith from playing the part. Celek’s role at tight end in the Philadelphia offense only adds to the stockpile of weapons at Andy Reid’s disposal.

Kickers

Ha, just kidding. Nothing’s drastically shifted here, but there was a lot of musical chairs being played around the league as certain kickers lost their leg and teams were forced to make a change.

This year has been a surprising one once again, at least for me. A lot of players that we’d looked forward to seeing finally made a show of themselves. It’s safe to say I wish all my leagues were keeper leagues. The young talent we’ve seen this year should be a factor in fantasy football for years to come.

So now, armed with the knowledge of what’s altered the fantasy landscape this season, what can we say? Better luck next year?

Why the Colts Won’t Win the Super Bowl

I usually don’t write these kinds of posts, the ones that look at just one particular team’s chances in the NFL playoffs, but considering the fantasy season is winding to a close, I felt compelled to share my take on one of this week’s big storylines.

In the midst of a 15-10 third quarter with the Jets this week, the Colts, on the path to perfection, decided to sit their starters, Peyton Manning included, rather than push through to finish the game with a chance to go undefeated next week. The Colts had the lead at the time, but they by no means had the game locked up, especially not when their backup quarterback, rookie Curtis Painter, was ill-prepared to control the clock against a New York Jets team fighting to remain in the playoff hunt.

Coach Jim Caldwell had to know what would happen if he pulled his team out of the game with the score still so close.

The Colts lost in brutal fashion. First, Painter was stripped for a fumble that the Jets recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Painter would later be intercepted, and the Colts never scored again. The Jets just ran away with it, right in front of the Colts’ starters’ eyes as they watched from the bench.

All the while, the highly competitive Peyton Manning stood on the sidelines, helmet on, brooding over what might have been had he stayed in the game.

It’s one thing to sit your starters. It’s another to spit in the face of a record that’s almost impossible to reach.

Earlier this season, Michael Irvin said that he would trade all three Super Bowl rings and his Hall of Fame membership for one undefeated season, a notch on the belt that only one NFL team in the history of the game has ever had.

But the Colts, just a little more than five quarters away from being perfect through the regular season, decided it wasn’t worth another quarter of play. It wasn’t worth the risk of injury.

Without any consideration for the fact that when the Manning-led Colts won a Super Bowl, the Colts were coming off a regular season in which they didn’t rest starters and entered as a Wild Card, Caldwell opted to let his primary players take a breather for the big one.

I don’t think that players get rusty. Some NFL stars don’t practice much in the offseason and come in Week 1 ready to dominate, but there’s something to be said for playing it out all the way to the end, especially when you have something to accomplish. I think the teams that have the momentum on their side should keep that momentum by at least playing until a win is secured in their final games.

By giving up on a historic record, and doing so in such a brutal fashion by feeding a rookie quarterback to the wolves of an attacking defense, the Colts got their spirit broken, their dreams crushed, and no lollipop when it was finished.

Peyton Manning had to watch as a rookie quarterback blew apart his perfect season in just a little less than two quarters of play. In his entire career, Manning may never get another chance to do that.

So don’t tell me that all the players agreed it was the best idea, Caldwell. Don’t tell me that the record doesn’t matter, Colts. To your fans, to your players, and to the many NFL icons around the league, the Colts looked like an unstoppable force because they were undefeated, and now, they’ve become just another team.

Look at the Saints. One week after losing to the Cowboys, they lost to the miserable Bucs. Sure, they’re still the No.1 seed in the NFC, but the Saints are exposed. They’re no longer the monster they seemed to be weeks ago. They can lose. They can give up.

And for the Colts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them lose again — maybe not against the Bills next week, but to Chargers in the playoffs? Yes. San Diego has far more hype than the Colts now that Indy doesn’t have an undefeated streak at their backs, and the Chargers have had the Colts’ number in the postseason.

Once you give up, even in a game that doesn’t matter, it’s easy to get caught doing it again. Maybe it will strike in the playoffs; maybe it hits them in the Super Bowl. It’s only a matter of time before this morale-killing loss catches up to the Colts.

If you want to win a Super Bowl ring, something that takes a no-quit attitude, you simply can’t quit — not in any game, not on any record. You have to keep the wind at your back. You have to keep the momentum in full swing.

And that’s why the Colts won’t win the Super Bowl, no matter what they say these next two weeks. They quit in the third quarter. They quit too early, and they can’t forgive themselves for doing that.

Jerome Harrison’s Week 15 Fantasy Playoff Surprise: A Tragedy in Three Parts

There’s no way someone in the fantasy football playoffs was starting Jerome Harrison this week, is there? If so, you must have just received your Christmas miracle.

Did you save an old woman trying to cross the street? Donate an organ to an ill friend? Give a dollar a day to a child in a third-world country? Develop the swine flu vaccine? Whatever you did, it worked, my friend.

No one expected Jerome Harrison, the recently forgotten back in Cleveland, to get a significant amount of carries in Sunday’s not-at-all-playoff-relevant battle between the Browns and the Chiefs. The Mangenius himself hinted that Cleveland’s electric special teamer Josh Cribbs could play a larger role in the running game. Chris Jennings had gotten the 20 carries against the Steelers for 73 yards and a touchdown just one week ago. If anyone was going to be the “traditional” running back in Week 15, it was surely going to be Jennings.

But no. It was Jerome Harrison that stole the show with the third-best rushing performance in NFL history, behind only Adrian Peterson and Jamal Lewis. He also passed up Jim Brown’s single-game team record of 237 yards with his 286-yard, three touchdown blowout. Harrison added 12 receiving yards just because he could.

Outside of a few phenomenal quarterback showings, including Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Joe Flacco, no one even came close to scoring as many points as Jerome Harrison’s 47.8 in standard fantasy scoring.

Josh Cribbs got his, two kick returns of over 100 yards for the NFL record eight he now has, but he didn’t factor into the running game as some suspected he might.

Both Cleveland’s Week 15 stars will be remembered in Canton for these performances, but fantasy football owners will struggle to recover from the depression that comes with losing to the rare, brave soul who started Jerome Harrison this week or be haunted by the self-loathing that comes with losing by just a few points in the fantasy football playoffs while Harrison added 47.8 points to your team’s bench.

And the most tragic part of this tale? Harrison may not even be a good start in Week 16 against Oakland. Would you dare?

Feel free to vent if Jerome Harrison wasn’t your Christmas miracle.

Fidelity fires four for fantasy football, forces fantasy fans from future fortune

Fidelity fired four employees in October for playing fantasy football. And yes, I really did want to see how many F-words I could use in the title (without even having to use the F-word, if you didn’t notice). I just love alliteration.

While many of us daily contemplate how many hours of our day we will have to spend reading fantasy football research and waiver wiring potential sleepers before our bosses finally realize we haven’t filed a TPS report in over three months, all these employees had to do was play. They didn’t even play in the office.

They got caught because the company intercepted instant messages about how poorly Trent Edwards was playing and because one of the captured fantasy footballers ratted out several of the other leagues (banning himself from the league for life in the process, I am sure).

It’s one thing to be caught talking about fantasy football, but talking about terrible Buffalo quarterback play? That’s a national pastime in some parts of the country, Buffalo mostly. How can you punish a man for that? For simply stating how nice it would be if someone actually made Lee Evans and Terrell Owens worthy fantasy plays?

Cameron Pettigrew, the identified victim of the Fidelity firings and no relation to Brandon Pettigrew, got the real grilling from investigators when it was discovered that, believe it or not, fantasy football was happening in a corporate environment.

According to Pettigrew, he was questioned by two company investigators for an hour and a half, where they wanted to know everything he knew about fantasy sports at the Westlake site. “They were insistent upon knowing about everyone involved, especially leadership, and whether those persons even mentioned a league,” said Pattigrew. [sic] “I kept thinking, ‘All of this over a $20 fantasy football league?’ ” (via  Fanhouse)

Has Bob in accounting ever mentioned fantasy football? Because I really can’t stand that guy. He stares at me over the wall of his cube, and he never lets me get away with charging my hotel movie-on-demand purchases to the company account.

The whole story is just a little sad. How can a company really consider fantasy football equivalent to gambling? And if they do, why not fire all the employees that participated? Instead, they only fired the commissioners, the people that were go-getter enough to organize a league in the office in the first place.

If they were more open to the idea, Fidelity actually might benefit from allowing employees to play fantasy sports. After all, wouldn’t we get the same satisfaction destroying Bob’s chance at the playoffs as we would getting him fired? And he’s probably right about that movie-on-demand policy anyway. At least if you beat him in fantasy sports, you get to see his sad face in the hallway for weeks…and weeks.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association identified the good that Fidelity is missing:

Additional research commissioned by the FSTA via Dr. Kim Beason at the University of Mississippi indicates that:
54% say fantasy sport participation increases the camaraderie among employees in their workplace.
37% say fantasy sports participation is a positive influence in their workplace.
16% say fantasy sports participation has allowed them to make valuable business contacts.

Business contacts? Positive influence? Camaraderie? All good things to most companies, but apparently, the proliferation of a widespread (and noble) hobby within the office was too much for Fidelity to stand, too dark a behavior to embrace. But at least it wasn’t being practiced by anyone in upper management, right?

Interestingly, Pettigrew says he never played fantasy football before coming to Fidelity. “Last season I was approached by one of the managers who asked that I be in his league. I knew vaguely about the policy at the time but figured that if a manager was involved than the rule was probably just something of an outdated law, like how it’s illegal in Michigan for a woman to cut her own hair without asking her husband first.” (also via  Fanhouse)

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Women can cut their hair in Michigan without asking their husbands? What kind of forward-thinking mumbo jumbo is that nonsense? Women should not be allowed to cut their hair without the approval of a jury of their peers. And dyeing their hair? Changing the color is just plain banned.

Fidelity, from what we can only assume from thorough research, doesn’t allow any employees, male or female, to cut their hair without the permission of their manager.

I guess it’s safe to say that I’ll never work for Fidelity. Too bad.

The Team That Knocked You Out of the Playoffs in Week 14

The playoffs are truly fickle. Just like your high school girlfriend (well, if you had a girlfriend), they tire of you after about two weeks.

If you lost in Week 14, you can probably identify a few names on your new hate list, updated daily while you rub lipstick on your face and cry, from the “Team of the Week” that the FF Geek Blog assembled.

At least they were big name guys. It’s not like you wouldn’t see Ray Rice or Chris Johnson coming. Well, you might not see Chris Johnson coming, but that’s only because he breaks the speed of light every now and then on his way to the end zone.

Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson, and DeSean Jackson have all been phenomenal this season, and Dallas Clark is a fixture of the Indianapolis Colts’ offense. No unknowns there.

True to their form of yesteryear, the Titans won off their kicking game (Rob Bironas) and defense. That’s easy to do when you play St. Louis and have to sub Kerry Collins in for Vince Young mid “wrecking shop.”

No, the only two potential “surprises” that I can identify are Eli Manning and Ryan Grant. Grant because he has never quite regained the hype he had at the end of 2007 when he complemented Brett Favre deep into the playoffs, and Eli Manning because… well, he’s the dopey Manning brother we all love to hate, right? He’s not supposed to be the one pulling out all the stops in the passing game.

In truth, the defense of the week was San Francisco’s opportunistic performance against the Arizona Cardinals Monday night, but that was after the FF Geeks put together their list. The Cardinals couldn’t hold onto the ball at all on the MNF stage. Something tells me that Arizona will no longer serve popcorn or any other butter products in the locker room.

But you have a good right to be mad if you lost to Quinton Ganther or Devin Aromashodu. They truly came out of nowhere in the final weeks of the season — and by nowhere, I mean the depths of the depth chart.

Ganther, a name that sounds about as horrible as you want it to be, was the “next name on the list” for the Redskins. He wasn’t even on the roster at the beginning of the season. Now, he probably ate your babies in Week 14 if one of your opponents took a chance on starting him. Two touchdowns in just his first NFL start? That burns. It really does. But remember, it was the Raiders.

Devin Aromashodu is not, as I learned today, a samurai warrior destined to roam the hills and valleys of the Windy City battling the power of scent. He is, in fact, the “other Devin” on the Bears roster.

And yes, I lied about not knowing who Aromashodu was for the sake of using that joke. I have no boundaries. I’m like Richie Incognito.

The “other Devin” is a big target the Bears haven’t been able to use thus far this season, but it looks like he might be worth keeping on the field. Against the Packers, Aromashodu racked up 76 yards and a touchdown. Just the kind of performance a desperation playoff opponent would have loved to supply, but it’s hardly likely that anyone in your league did it.

Ganther, though, we can all hate freely.

Along with these good days, there were a couple of notable bad performances: Aaron Rodgers and Randy Moss.

I was lucky enough to have a bye for the team on which I own them both — whew — but if you weren’t as lucky, you might not be in the playoff hunt any longer.

This week, I have to believe that both will get on track. Rodgers faces the Steelers spirit-less secondary, and Randy Moss gets the Bills. As long as the weather is not “kind of frightful” in Buffalo, I think there’s a good chance we see more of the Randy we’ve been used to in Patriot blue.

Foolish Thoughts: My Beef with Fleaflicker’s Coach Rating

It’s one of the most frustrating occurrences in fantasy football.

It’s not a Baltimore fan complaining about the refs or John Carney missing three kicks when just one would have won the fantasy game you lost by a point.

No, the most sickening feeling in fantasy football hits you when you start the wrong guys. There’s nothing more infuriating than watching the points pile up on your bench only to flap in the breeze next to Percy Harvin’s or Justin Forsett’s stat line.

You can do your research. You can ask an expert. You can pray to the fantasy football gods and tweet the players themselves to ask them if you should start them.

At the end of the week, you’re still going to end up starting the wrong guys more than once in any given season. And if you could project exactly how a given football player was going to perform each week, why would you waste that skill on fantasy football? Vegas, son. Go to Vegas!

But there’s one thing that makes the “started the wrong guys” regret even worse: Fleaflicker’s Coach Rating.

While your self-loathing grows, the Fleaflicker Coach Rating judges you with a percentage based on how well you set your lineup. You only get 100 percent if you started every single one of your highest performing players at each position.

It’s one thing to lose because you set a bad lineup. It’s another thing for an automated computer system to mock you.

I don’t need your 75 percent rating thrown in my face, machine. Why don’t you just turn into the Terminator and kill me now? I need not your silly completion bar.

I can go outside right now, and I can talk to women. What can you do? Make charts? Graph things? Good. You do that. When I come back, I want you to explain to me when you earned the right to judge me in line graph form, and it better have something to do with fantasy games won.

*The rest of this column was written after fifteen minutes of listening to Enya

It’s fine. I’m used to automated mockery. It’s why I have friends anyway, right? Every fantasy football league is practically an automated mockery tool when you lose.

My real beef with Fleaflicker is that it doesn’t judge itself. Aren’t computers supposed to be self-aware, Skynet?

Sure, I sat Percy Harvin and Laurence Maroney. I regret that, but even your nice little projection system within Fleaflicker told me that Joseph Addai and Roddy White were better starts. Where’s your little 65 percent correct bar for that poor prediction?

Not that I would listen to you blindly. I did my research. I started the best lineup, and I don’t need your abuse. So take that, Fleaflicker mockery rating. I won’t have it anymore. From now on, I’m putting electrical tape over that part of the screen and never scrolling, and I’m giving myself a gold star for every starter I pick correctly.

Damage Done This Week

What is with you people? You talk about how few injuries have happened this season and now they’re piling up before Christmas like Santa’s toys.

Matt Ryan stubbed his wee little toe, and Jake Delhomme broke a finger. I’d say the NFC South lost half their quarterbacks, but let’s be honest. Drew Brees counts double, or even triple, the value of any other quarterback in the NFC South.

Atlanta fell off in a big way because they also lost Michael Turner, who returned from his ankle injury a bit too early and immediately went back on the shelf with Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook, and Kurt Warner.

Big Ben sat out after all, but he should return in Week 13, just in time to concuss himself again before the fantasy playoffs. At least Cedric Benson will be back… Those are words you just don’t see yourself saying in the preseason.

For owners who were relying on his big fantasy booms, DeSean Jackson may sit out this week after sharing in the concuss party the NFL has been throwing. There’s no telling when you’ll get him back, so here’s to hoping that you’re already a lock for the playoffs.

Studs in Strange Places

Julius Jones sat another week and allowed Justin Forsett to score twice against the Rams. Jamaal Charles had another big week for the Chiefs alongside Chris Chambers. Looking ahead, I like Charles better than Forsett. That’s whether Jones returns this season or not. Charles just has too lovely a playoff schedule to turn down.

Larry Johnson became a part of the Bengals offense in Week 12 and shared the rock with Bernard Scott. L.J. Had 107 yards while Scott had just 87. Let’s all hope that this one game doesn’t mean that Benson will have to share with others when he returns. Cincy may not be sure, but fantasy owners sure would like to see Benson get all the work against the Lions in Week 13.

Vince Young reenacted the 2006 Rose Bowl on Matt Leinart’s face late against Arizona, much to my excitement as a Texas fan and Vince Young apologist, and Miles Austin found his way to 20+ fantasy points again. If you sold early on Austin based on the belief that he would be a fluke, well, sucks to be you, my friend. I bet the Fleaflicker Coach Rating tore you apart for that one.

Turn the Lights Out When You Go

This week is the last one to make a move and be relevant in the fantasy football playoffs. I hope you’re all playoff-bound (as a result of my sage advice, of course), but if not, do it up this week and see what you can make of your team. There’s always next season.

If you get the chance this week, do your best to ruin someone else’s chance at the playoffs. There’s nothing that makes me happier than making someone else sad. You have to try it. I find taking candy from babies to be a great way to practice.

Foolish Thoughts: Forsett, Snelling, Scott, and McCoy offer instant gratification

When one of your fantasy football studs gets injured, fantasy owners usually face a tough decision. Should you go get that backup, the one who hasn’t seen more than five touches in any game this year? Or should you just find another running back or wide receiver on the waiver wire who’ll get it done until your stud returns?

Especially early in the fantasy season, I’ve often avoided taking the backups and gone the other way. Why? Well, I like instant gratification.

In rare cases, NFL backups outperform the former starter as Steve Slaton did last season, and it’s not easy to expect them to match the production of the starter they replace. Most of the time, backups need a week or two to get accustomed to their new role in the offense and to gain the trust of the rest of the team.

But in Week 11, you didn’t have to wait.

Ricky Williams, Justin Forsett, Jason Snelling, Bernard Scott, and LeSean McCoy all went off for the owners of Julius Jones, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, and Brian Westbrook who were able to find some help on the waiver wire.

Even those who started desperation-play Jamaal Charles against the Steelers or Beanie Wells as a good-on-paper start against St. Louis were rewarded.

The only bad replacements this week were Chris Simms, who was pulled for a still-injured Kyle Orton after failing to score on the Chargers, and Ladell Betts, who tore both his ACL and PCL against the Cowboys and will miss the rest of the season.

In the case of Forsett and McCoy, this week could be a changing of the guard. Julius Jones has never lived up to expectations since signing with the Seahawks, and Westbrook might never see the field again this season after suffering his second concussion.

For Charles’ and Wells’ fantasy owners, this sets up a nice looking playoff picture.

Williams seems like he’ll be okay without his Wildcat partner Ronnie Brown as he secured the top spot for running backs in most fantasy scoring formats. His performance should serve as a reminder of how much you can benefit from stocking your bench with guys who are just one small injury away from a lucrative starting job.

Scott rushed for 119 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards against the Oakland Raiders defense in a loss, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get a shot against the Browns and the Lions since Benson could return.

Snelling’s in the same spot. Despite scoring twice and coming in second in fantasy scoring for running backs, Snelling could see Jerious Norwood cut into his carries if Norwood’s healthier in Week 12. There’s also a chance that Michael Turner could make an early return.

But you can’t be disappointed with this kind of late-season “early bloomers.”

Maybe it’s a good sign for those owners who suffered more injuries this week.

Kurt Warner bowed out at halftime after suffering a couple of blows to the head. With that playoff schedule, Matt Leinart would be in high demand if Warner misses a game.

Big Ben “fall down, go boom” in overtime against the Chiefs with a hit to his noggin, and soon after, backup quarterback Charlie Batch injured his wrist enough to keep him out the rest of the regular season. That leaves Dennis Dixon sitting in the quarterback seat unless Big Ben is healthy enough to start on Sunday.

With Betts out, Rock Cartwright ran for 67 rushing yards and had seven catches for 73 yards in the loss to the Cowboys. The Redskins might soon regret not taking a shot at Larry Johnson. Without the services of Portis, Washington may be forced to go get Shaun Alexander as depth at running back.

Heaven forbid you were counting on Marc Bulger for your team, but he’ll miss the rest of the fantasy regular season with a fractured tibia. Kyle Boller takes over, which could be a blessing or a curse for Steven Jackson’s owners.

Just for the sake of noting a tree falling in the forest and not making a sound…Terrell Owens caught nine for 197 yards and a touchdown, most of that on one long touchdown strike. You leave that guy open and he’s dangerous.

But how often will the opposing team make that mistake against the Bills?

In what might qualify as a charity game, Matthew Stafford and Brady Quinn had multi-touchdown days. Stafford threw for five touchdowns; Quinn had four. It must have seemed just like practice for them to play against such terrible defense. At least leading receivers Calvin Johnson and Mohamed Massaquoi had a good time with it.