Begin sarcasm ... now
Thank you, Clinton Portis. Thank you, Ryan Grant. Thank you, Roddy White. Thank you, Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler and Eddie Royal. Thank you, Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Thank you, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
Your timing was so perfect.
|Jay Cutler picked a poor time to throw for just 172 yards with a TD and a pick. (Getty Images)|
And last but not least, a big, fat thank you to Terrell Owens and Jason Witten for being in the media all week for an alleged "near altercation" (we're seriously reporting near altercations now?!), then totaling 82 yards on eight catches in a game where all eyes are on you.
Just in time for Week 15. Thanks a whole heaping ton.
End sarcasm ... now
Fine, I promise you I'm not bitter. In fact, only a couple of these thank yous apply to me. The above was done to represent all of our frustrations. If you made it through Week 15 without even one of these guys sinking your Fantasy production, then it's lottery ticket time because you're feeling lucky. I played in three leagues Sunday and had at least one of these guys on each of my teams.
And the truth is that we could come up with a list like this every week (thank you oh sooo much, Bernard Pollard in Week 1), but Week 15 was when we needed players to step up the most ... well, until Week 16 anyway. It's almost Murphy's Law that stud players who carry our lineups for most of the season drown themselves in a kiddie pool of poor play in the one week we didn't need it to happen.
The most glaring performance is the one turned in by Clinton Portis, though it's not entirely his fault. In the nine games prior to Week 15 where he had at least 20 carries, Portis had 100 yards in six of them with 96 yards in another. Also in those nine 20-plus carry contests, he had seven touchdowns. Give any running back 25 carries against the Bengals and he should have a field day. Portis had 77 yards thanks in part to a second-string offensive line that played like a third-string O-line and couldn't pry open holes, and he didn't get his name called on two consecutive goal-line plays that ultimately sealed the Redskins' fate. Of course, the biggest problem here is that there's nothing we can do about it. Sit Portis at Cincinnati? There wasn't a person under the sun who thought Portis would do poorly against these Bengals, even with his line's woes. Very often you'll hear "start your studs" and "dance with the ones who brung you," but it's pretty clear that at this point you're dancing with the most effective players who have the best matchups, just as you would in any given week.
So if you lost, it's not like you did anything wrong (unless you benched your starter for J.P. Losman or something like that). You put out your best lineup and let the chips fall. I realize this isn't exactly consolation, but that's just how Fantasy Football goes. If you don't like it, there's probably a fun Fantasy Tiddly-Winks League somewhere out there for you to join.
Fantasy & Reality
Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) during the week's action.
Fantasy: Tarvaris Jackson kills the Fantasy value of Bernard Berrian. To be fair, Berrian did only catch one pass, even if it did go for a 41-yard touchdown. And Jackson wasn't perfect, but he did make some nice throws against the Cardinals' awful pass defense. Jackson should receive some consideration for Week 16 vs. Atlanta -- if he remains the starter -- but there's nothing in his past play that suggests he'll keep this up. Owners can't make the same mistake with Berrian.
Reality: Philip Rivers is a gamer. Down by 11 points with five minutes to play, Rivers led his team on two touchdown drives without the help of Kansas City penalties (just Kansas City defense). He drove them to their first score when he hit Malcom Floyd from four yards out, then after the Chargers recovered an onside kick, drove them again and connected with Vincent Jackson on a 10-yard pass with under a minute to play. In his first 55 minutes, Rivers had just over 200 yards passing and two turnovers. In the ensuing five minutes, he added 138 passing yards and two touchdowns. The way Rivers has collected his stats over his last two games (he had three touchdowns on just 10 completions vs. Oakland in Week 14) has been absolutely mind blowing.
Fantasy: The Buccaneers run defense is one that should be feared. Four touchdowns and over 300 yards on the ground allowed to the Panthers last week, 152 yards and a score yielded to Falcons rusher Michael Turner this week. LaDainian Tomlinson coming to the Pirate Ship next week and the Raiders the next. Monte Kiffin leaving the Bucs after the season. It's all starting to pile up for a Bucs team that was down a defensive tackle on Sunday and couldn't get in the Falcons' way.
Reality: Sammy Morris and Dominic Rhodes will help Fantasy owners. Fine, both played against really awful run defenses, but this is an example of matchups dictating Fantasy success. Morris torched the Raiders for over 110 yards and a score and was pulled for LaMont Jordan, who also ran for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown. Rhodes had two touchdowns and 100 total yards. Morris gets the cross-country traveling Cardinals at home next week while Rhodes, if he starts, should enjoy facing the Jaguars on Thursday night.
Fantasy: The Lions can't hang with the Colts. As one ardent Indianapolis fan who works in the office pointed out to me, the Colts have seemingly played down to their competition. They just got done with a three-game stretch at Cleveland, vs. Cincinnati and vs. Detroit and scored only one blowout win in the process. The good news is that so long as they don't play a team with a 6-foot-4 double team-busting machine at wide receiver, they'll be fine. Next up for Indy: Jacksonville. They should win by 14 ...
Reality: This season isn't over yet, but next year will have some incredible challenges. Through 15 weeks, there are 11 running backs and 11 wide receivers with 1,000 yards or more. Of the running backs, maybe three were first-round material (Adrian Peterson, Clinton Portis, Marshawn Lynch). Of the wide receivers, three were considerations in the top 25 (Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne). The other 16 players involved weren't high-profile Fantasy picks. That was last year; next year, we'll see them all in there -- in what order remains to be seen.
I'm playing for a league championship in Week 16. Any words of wisdom?
Even at this late stage in the game, there is something you can do with your roster to boost your chances of winning. Simply put, you have to make the most out of every single spot on your bench.
For many owners, Week 16 is the end. Win or lose, there is nothing significant left to play for. That said, if there are any players on your bench who you know won't produce big stats and you know you won't use, cut 'em loose. Players such as backups to your studs (assuming you are confident that your stud player is healthy and will start next week), backup Fantasy quarterbacks, kickers and DSTs. For instance, if you are carrying Ryan Moats as insurance for Steve Slaton, you can let him loose. The only way you keep one of your backups is if you think your opponent might start them.
Use the same logic to attack the waiver wire and grab players your rival might need. We're talking about any players who might be of use in Week 16 -- Tarvaris Jackson, Brian Griese, DeShaun Foster, P.J. Pope, Maurice Morris, Cedric Benson, James Jones and so on.
Moreover, if your opponent has been doing a balancing act at a certain position, go after players at that position. This includes DSTs, by the way -- snaring Week 16 choices like the Saints (at the Lions), 49ers (at the Rams), Broncos (vs. the Bills) or Bengals (at the Browns) take those players off your opponents' table. Remember, they cannot count against your squad if they're on your squad.
The other thing you can do is set your lineup on Tuesday afternoon and just keep an eye out for news during the week, not making changes unless something pushes you to do so (a defensive injury to a player's Week 16 opponent, for example). This isn't rocket science -- go with your best lineup of players with the best matchups.
Last week, I wrote about a roster decision that turned out to be inconsequential, but in the process I ran down my roster. No one cared about my third receiver dilemma -- instead, everyone was curious about how I built a roster that included the guys listed above. Here is my story.
I had the 11th pick out of 14 in our serpentine draft, held in late August. The league starts one quarterback, two running backs, three receivers (tight ends included), one flex and counts receptions. My draft went as follows:
Round 1: Clinton Portis
Round 2: Maurice Jones-Drew
Round 3: Calvin Johnson
Round 4: Steve Smith
Round 5: Chris Johnson
Round 6: Brett Favre (I passed on Jay Cutler. Ugh.)
Round 7: Steve Slaton
Round 8: Joey Galloway
Round 9: Owen Daniels
Round 10: Vincent Jackson
Round 11: Kevin Curtis
Round 12: Ladell Betts
Round 13: Panthers DST
Round 14: Jacob Hester
Round 15: Ryan Longwell
I found myself rich at running back pretty quickly and realized that I needed to make a move or else find myself making tough lineup decisions down the road. But before I could trade two for one, I had the chance to deal off Slaton straight up for Westbrook before Week 6. While it meant that I had to wait two weeks to use Westbrook since he didn't play at San Francisco that week and had a bye the next, I had the depth to make such a move. So that's how I got Westbrook.
Still needing to make a two-fer, I negotiated myself to the brink of a deal following Tomlinson's bye week. The deal was essentially Chris Johnson and Jones-Drew, who was in a mini-slump around Week 9, for L.T. and DeSean Jackson. After reviewing the second-half schedules of all running backs involved, I put my money on Tomlinson. While the deal has backfired from a statistical point of view, which I knew would happen seeing as how I was trading off two running backs, it made setting my lineup easier -- I avoided some pitfalls involving Jones-Drew and Johnson over the last couple of weeks. Plus, DeSean Jackson has helped my receiving corps.
What I did try to do was trade off one of my running backs for a quarterback, especially since I am platooning between Brett Favre and whomever I can find off the waiver wire. Nevertheless, I did something right as I'm on the brink of the league championship. A nice game by Westbrook and Jackson against the Browns and I'm in the finals.
Cliff's notes: I drafted really well and made timely trades.
I'm out of my Fantasy league. My season is over. I want to get better at Fantasy Football. What can I do? Help!!
Before I did this for a living, I played Fantasy Football annually and couldn't win. From 1997 until 2000, I never did any better than the semifinals of a league. I was tired of losing.
So I spent the offseason before 2001 studying football every day. I built my own depth charts and player rankings, and I formed my own opinions about players, occasionally cross-referencing them with the wisdom of Fantasy writers around the web. Remember, at that time Fantasy Football was still developing on the Internet (heck, the Internet was still developing) and there weren't a lot of places to go for daily Fantasy news and notes like there is now.
And like anything else, the studying and paying attention paid off. I not only won my league in '01, but I began a string of four straight years of winning leagues. And, it put me in a position to do this professionally and share with you how to get a leg-up on your competition.
Simply put, and this is as much a fact as it is a shameless plug, if you want to win your league next year, you need to stay plugged in to Fantasy Football all offseason long. One of the best parts of my job is that I'm plugged in to Fantasy Football all offseason and it is my job to keep you updated not only on the news around the NFL, but news that could impact how you draft next summer.
Use the CBSSports.com message boards as a place to start conversations. E-mail me and Jamey Eisenberg. Listen to our podcasts, read our stories and Q&As with players and coaches. We're not doing our job if we are not helping you win your league, and it's as true now as it is in the dead of March.
So keep in touch.
• I doubt it was done on purpose, but if it was, huge kudos to Tony Romo and Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett for not involving Terrell Owens and Jason Witten much against the Giants. It's almost as if they took a page out of the Giants' playbook with Plaxico Burress (pre-inflicted gunshot) and said, "If you're gonna be a pain in the rear in the media, we're not going to use you much and still win." Again, I don't know if that was Romo's intention or Garrett's intention, but if it was, the message should have gotten through loud and clear.
• I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a TV show that I'd like everyone to try and remember to watch. This Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, Dan Rather Reports on HDNet (channel 79 on DirecTV and channel 9422 on Dish Network) will run a feature on Galveston Island in Texas, how it was ravaged by Hurricane Ike and whether or not the city should be rebuilt. As many regular readers know, my parents live on Galveston and my Mom is a native. The island, which was a hopping tourist spot before the storm, has seen damage beyond anyone's imagination and could lose its hospital, the University of Texas Medical Branch. We live and play in a Fantasy world here, but this is the real thing. Also, this is not a call for handouts or charity. Simply put, if you're interested in seeing the devastation caused by one of the largest storms in U.S. history (including at my parents' house), and the ramifications of the said storm, watch the show. Thank you.
• If I were a Steelers fan, I'd be worried. Pittsburgh may have won their last two games, but both of the game-winning scores were kind of fluky. You've got DeShea Townsend's interception-return for a touchdown vs. Dallas last week and Santonio Holmes' questionable score at Baltimore this week. The Steelers offense has been responsible for 13 points in each of their last two games, the running game has hit a snag and Ben Roethlisberger's been sacked eight times in his last two games. Methinks the O-line in the Steel City is a wee bit leaky. I like Pittsburgh's chances against an Albert Haynesworth-less Tennessee club in Week 16, but there's no guarantee that he'll still be sidelined if they meet in the playoffs about a month later.
• The Steelers aren't the only ones -- the Giants have been exposed in their last two games against division rivals. Suddenly, running backs are picking up long gains on this defense and Eli Manning can't connect with all of his receivers as easily as he could when he had Plaxico Burress taking coverage with him down field. New York desperately needs Brandon Jacobs to be healthy for Week 16 -- their matchup with Carolina is for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Panthers have the defense to really hinder the Giants, especially if they're not getting bruised by Jacobs 20-25 times.
• But the Steelers and the Giants aren't alone -- the Titans are also exposed! This was the first time this season that Tennessee allowed a 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver (a 200-yard receiver, actually). How did Houston do it? Taking advantage of single coverage with a tall, physical receiver and then barreling away with the running game. Then on defense, Houston did a nice job stacking up against the run and playing tight against Kerry Collins. Though Collins did hit some deep throws (he also missed some), putting pressure on him made all the difference. Sounds like these are things the Steelers could do next week, doesn't it?
• Two weeks ago, we were lauding the Steelers, Giants and Titans as the best in the NFL. Are they still? Predicting the Super Bowl at this point is completely useless because there isn't a team you can really make a case for. I suppose the Steelers have a shot, especially if they get home-field advantage, but as I've mentioned, they have a pretty big weakness.
Go ahead -- make a Super Bowl pick now, even with more than half the league eliminated from playoff contention. The team that's hot one week is not a week later. There's nothing that makes any pick look more promising than the next. It's all up in the air right now.
Sort of sounds like Fantasy Football, doesn't it?
Do you have a question for Dave? Send your thoughts to DMFantasyFootball@cbs.com and we'll post the best responses. Be sure to put Attn: Fantasy & Reality in the subject field. Include your full name, hometown and state.