Monday, December 17, 2012


My name is Alex, and I live in a fantasy world.

No, this isn't one of those fantasy worlds with level 70 paladins going on quests to find obscure rings, staffs, urns, or other trinkets of essentially no intrinsic value.  This is a world in which a "hero" presides over a list of men he will likely never meet and is tasked with choosing the array of individuals who will perform best in their job over the next week.  However, the weekly performance of these faceless individuals is most significantly determined by management decisions as well as the performance of his colleagues and competitors, none of which is controlled and little of which can be predicted with any certainty by the player.  Despite these considerable disconnects between the hero and his list of workers, the hero feels a great pride and interest in the success of the workers, despite the result of their efforts being no more controlled by him than the play of a (hypothetical) 1000-person poker hand. 

I am, of course, referring to the pasttime of fantasy football, in which I have been a fervent participant since 2008.  Since then, I have more often than not spent my Sunday afternoons from September to December sitting in front of a TV for at least six hours watching games that are completely irrelevant to my own life, and even mostly irrelevant to the success of the team I've rooted for since I was a kid, the Eagles.  Much of that time is also spent on some internet-enabled device as I constantly check and re-check the status of other games that I don't have the ability to watch at the time.  For the first few years, I was almost completely indifferent to the actual result of the game (unless it involved the NFC East), but at least now I'm involved in a pool in which I have to pick each game against the spread, so the final score does now have some meaning to me.

Setting aside the sociopathic tendencies that present themselves with this lifestyle, the thing that concerns me about the life I've been living is the fact that an actual net positive result is so rare.  You see, when you play in six fantasy leagues and also have made picks for the games themselves, you find yourself in a situation like with the Eagles-Bengals game this past week.  As an Eagles fan, I was already conflicted, because the team is so bad that losing would help us get a better draft pick, but winning would give me more confidence that they won't be as terrible next year.  I had picked the Bengals to win the game by at least 4 points, knowing that at least if the Eagles lost I would have some degree of benefit.  What makes this really interesting, though, is that I was playing in a playoff matchup in one fantasy league in which I owned the Eagles' running back and the Bengals' defense, while I was facing the Bengals' quarterback and an Eagles wide receiver.  So what constitutes a positive result in this situation?  I would have to see the Eagles run a lot more than they passed in a game in which they either scored few points or turned the ball over a lot, neither of which tend to lend themselves to running the ball. 

And so, I was reduced to watching a game involving my favorite team in which I was both pleased and displeased by almost every play, and in the end felt satisfied overall by a blowout loss because the Bengals' defense scored a lot of points.  I don't think that's very good for me psychologically.  And the above scenario doesn't even scratch the surface of the "I need Peyton Manning to throw a bunch of touchdowns, but only to Eric Decker, but not enough so that Ray Rice stops being involved in the Ravens' offense" scenarios that emerge multiple times a week.  Of course, let's not forget the ups and downs of picking NFL games against the spread, where the whole purpose of that format is to make picking the games as close to a coin flip as possible (and have the masses bet the wrong side of that wager).

This season has been an incredibly trying one, and while I haven't done terribly (I still have three of six teams in the championship game), the strain of constantly remembering which players I need to pay attention to each week is growing.  I can see the frivolity of my ways through the manner in which I discuss the disappointments that come week by week, and the frightening degree to which I feel this disappointment over something that in most cases has no real impact on my life (I only have a financial stake in one fantasy league and the pool).  I realize that I just spent an entire Sunday, literally from 11 AM to 10 PM, watching football games or analysis, punctuated for two hours by a "Good Will Hunting" viewing because I couldn't stand to watch my leads in two matchups disintegrate because the Chargers are terrible.  I didn't leave my apartment once in that span, nor did I see a single other person.  In the past several years, I've seen myself grow more and more desirous of (and dependent on) close, fulfilling friendships, and one of the chief impetuses (impeti?  I'm pretty sure not) is that I want to save myself from myself.  I know that I am capable of spending 11 hours watching football coverage by myself on a Sunday, taking 40 hours of summer nights to analyze, plan, and project my strategy for fantasy drafts in various formats, playing 120 hours of Pokemon in the span of 11 months as a 22-year-old, or eating an entire box of Entenmann's Original Recipe chocolate chip cookies, and with the exception of the latter, I'm likely to regret doing those things.

And so, starting next football season, I'm going to pull back on the reins.  I'm going to play in no more than three fantasy leagues (a lot for most people, but still cutting back), and I will only post on my blog when I feel the urge, because I should be doing this out of passion, not some misplaced sense of duty.  After all, no more than fifteen people will read this, so why do I care about the readers getting two posts a week like clockwork?  It is my hope that this will give me the opportunity to be a little bit more of a real person and a little bit less of a elven mage.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Seder Slate for Week 15

With the weather getting colder, the NFL season being pretty long, and the holiday season approaching, my fervor for all of these biweekly blog posts is waning.  But I've quit before the end of the season before, and I'd like not to do so now.  And besides, this week it's better because I don't have the "opportunity" to preview the Eagles.  Man, was that game brutal for Eagles fans who don't own the Bengals D in their fantasy leagues.  Instead, there are seven games between two teams that have realistic shots at making the playoffs that I can choose from.

Let's go to work.

WHAT? New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons

WHY? As of literally 1 minute ago, I became aware that this is now the third matchup this season between the Giants and a team they defeated in the 2011 playoffs en route to the Super Blech.  They defeated the 49ers and Packers in the playoffs by a combined score of 57-37, and defeated them in 2012 by a combined score of 64-13.  They defeated the Falcons 24-2 in the playoffs last season.  What will happen this time?  Well, the Falcons haven't lost consecutive games since 2009, so something has to budge here.

WHO? As a semi-postmortem for my Frameshmania fantasy team, I will only refer to players who are on my now-eliminated squad in this space.  In this case, it's Giants WR Hakeem Nicks, who has come back from injury to become much more involved in the Giants' offense than he was in the early going.  After his ridiculous 199 yard game in Week 2, he totaled 13 receptions for 153 yards and zero touchdowns on 26 targets in the next four weeks.  However, in his last four games, he's totaled 23 receptions for 262 yards and two touchdowns on 43 targets.  Too bad he was useless for most of the season.

HOW? Anybody got a time machine?  'Cause I would really appreciate having the opportunity to watch this game 11 months ago, but with a different result.

WHATDenver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens

WHY? The Broncos have won 8 in a row, although 7 of those games were against teams who currently have losing records.  They have three losses, but they are against teams with combined records of 32-7.  So how good are they really?  The Ravens are a paltry 9-4 after losing their last two games, and they just fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron despite being in the top 10 in the NFL in scoring.  So how good are they really?

WHO? During the Cam Cameron era, one of the major complaints of the Ravens' offensive gameplan was that Ray Rice didn't get the ball enough.  Interestingly enough, in Cameron's last four games as coordinator, Rice had averaged 18.5 carries for 84 yards, after averaging 16 carries for 73 yards in the first 9 games.  However, the critics do have a bit of a point.  Rice averages 18 carries per game in Ravens wins but 14 carries per game in Ravens losses, and has his fewest amount of carries in the 4th quarter, which is distressing given the context that 10 of their 13 games have been settled by 10 points or less.

HOW? Find some way to get the mic feed from Ray Lewis (who will obviously be mic'ed up in this game given his return from injury this week.  It's gon' get loud up in here.

WHATPittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys

WHY? Old people may relish the idea of this matchup, considering these teams were two of the dominant franchises in the '70's.  From 1970 to 1979, the Steelers won four Super Bowls and 69% of their regular season games, while the Cowboys won two Super Bowls and 73% of their regular season games.  Humorously enough, right now NFL Network is showing a replay of just this matchup in Super Bowl XXX in the mid-90's, no doubt in preparation for this matchup, which, of course, contains none of the same players or coaches other than Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

WHO? I waited all season for DeMarco Murray to come back from injury and give my team the playoff boost it needed, and I get this?  Yes, he's averaging 22 carries per game after only getting 15 per game prior to the injury, and he's scored two touchdowns in the last two games after having only three in his entire career prior.  But he is averaging a sad 3.1 yards per carry in the two games since his return, after a much more reasonable 4.4 average through his first four games, and while hopefully that's just residual injury stuff, it might just be the terrible Cowboys offensive line.  And it's not like it's going to get much better against the Steelers.

HOW? Assuming you have an in with FOX, you should get yourself on the pre-game show so you can compare Lombardis with Terry Bradshaw, and then somehow magically transport yourself to Dallas to join Troy Aikman to compare newer Lombardis.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Week 14's Tanking Teams, Trampled Texans

Now that we're in the fantasy playoffs, you have no choice but to be subjected to the state of my fantasy teams.  In order of my desire to win the league...

Frameshmania (Family, 8-tm) -- lost by 50 in round 1 to my mother as the 4 seed.  No further discussion.
BI (Work, 14-tm) -- as the 2 seed, got a bye.  In the next round, facing the team with whom I traded RGIII, Jared Cook, Mikel Leshoure and Antonio Brown for Percy Harvin, Denarius Moore, and Vernon Davis.  Whoops.
Mad Decent Jawnskies (Friends, 10 tm) -- thanks to the Patriots not kicking a field goal last night, I beat Matt Vogel by 1 point as the 4 seed to face the 1 seed next week.
Random 10-tm ESPN Auction -- as the 2 seed in a two-week first round of the playoffs, I lead 126-112.
Random 10-tm ESPN draft -- as the 2 seed in a two-week first round of the playoffs, I lead 83-71.

Now back to the action.


TRIUMPH: Um, the scoreboard probably told you enough, but there were lots of explosive games from Seahawks players.  Marshawn Lynch had 128 yards and 3 TD on just 11 carries, and actually ceded 27 carries to other running backs, who produced 146 yards and a TD themselves.  The 'Hawks had 8 turnovers (4 fumbles, 4 interceptions), after having more than 2 turnovers just once all season prior.  Of course, that might have had something to do with the abhorrent display of offense spewing from Arizona.

TRAGEDY: The tragedy in this game is that Ryan Lindley actually outperformed John Skelton in this contest, and that was with his second-best ESPN Total QBR of the season (7.7).  Lindley put up a Montanesque 8-for-17, 59 yards, and no touchdowns or interceptions in relief of Skelton, who may have had the worst QB game of the entire season (11-22, 74 yds, 0 TD, 4 INT, 2 fumbles, 0.4 QBR).  When William Powell leads your team in rushing with 20 yards and Rob Housler leads your team in receiving with a resounding 36 yards, you don't have much of a shot.

TREND: How about Larry Fitzgerald's season?  This looks to be rock-bottom for what is, at least I must assume, still a top-five receiver in terms of talent.  In the last four weeks, he has grabbed just 6 of his 37 targets (an appalling 16%) for 67 yards.  In his defense, he does have four individual games with better stats than that this year.  This may be the worst non-injury-induced season from a consensus top-three player at his position fantasy-wise since Randy Moss in 2010, who had just 393 yards on 28 receptions in 16 games.

TRAIL MIX: Once upon a blue moon, the Cardinals were 4-0, including wins over Seattle and New England, and a dominant win over the then-decent Eagles.  They are now 4-9.


TRIUMPH:  Jason Avant seems to only make his hay with backup quarterbacks and/or when starting receivers get hurt, but his hay is pretty good when it's made.  He's been an important part of this team for years now, if only as a stopgap, and in his last two games, he has 11 receptions for 212 yards.  He has these kinds of games every once in a while, with two 8+ reception, 110+ yard games last year as well (and the second one was with Vince Young at QB -- just sayin').

TRAGEDY:  Bryce Brown -- what happened?  After looking like the second coming of Adrian Peterson in his first two starts, Brown laid a massive egg (especially for his fantasy owners), gaining just 6 yards on 12 carries.  If you remove his best run (11 yards), he gained -5 yards on his other 11 carries.  Yes, the Bucs have the best run defense in the league (now by over 10 yards per game), but Brown had been so thoroughly dominant in his previous two games that he should have at least been able to do SOMETHING.  At least the Nick Foles Experience was able to keep the train rolling for the Bucs being the worst pass defense in the league (now by over 20 yards per game).

TREND:  Speaking of which, don't look now, but Foles may actually be half-decent.  Take a look at his Total QBR over his five starts: 34.9, 7.2, 62.3, 71.1, 79.8.  Even if you include his first two starts, his 54.5 average for the season outpaces Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, and Joe Flacco (and this is a stat that takes into account rushing contributions!).  In the last three weeks, he has posted the 15th, 14th, and 5th best QBRs in the league, and if he's going to be middle-of-the-pack in the league soon with even more upside, I'll take that going into next year.

TRAIL MIX: The Eagles entered this game as 8-point underdogs and had been 2-9-1 against the spread, while the Bucs had been 9-2-1.  Regression to the mean FTW.


TRIUMPH: Really, Brandon Lloyd?  Really?  After being a projected top-20 fantasy receiver coming into the year, Lloyd had largely disappointed, especially in the last several weeks.  Since Week 7, he had averaged just 3 receptions and 27 yards per game, after averaging a nontrivial 6 for 67 in the first six weeks (although with just 1 touchdown in those first six).  And now he goes 7-for-89 and a touchdown in the fantasy playoffs?  Harumph.

TRAGEDY: So much for the Texans' defense being good.  In the last three games, they've allowed 30 or more points three times, and the fourth was against the Titans.  And the most recent debacle was with top cornerback Johnathan Joseph finally back in the lineup to cover the above-referenced Lloyd.  Now this unit has two matchups against the apparently destiny-bound Colts in the next three weeks, who have the 7th-ranked offense in the league themselves.

TREND: I know, I've talked about this before, but I'm pretty concerned about Arian Foster as a sorta Texans fan.  He's the 6th leading rusher in the league even after going 15-for-46 in this game, but he has 30 more carries than anyone else, and by Football Outsiders' Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) statistic, he's only the 12th most effective running back in the league on a per-carry basis.  He's delivered top-flight fantasy production by virtue of his 16 total touchdowns, but his combined 84 yards on 29 carries the past two weeks should be a concern.

TRAIL MIX: In their last 21 games in the second half of the regular season, the Patriots are 21-0, winning by an average score of 38-18.  That is all.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wheelin' and Dealin'...?

Well, now that the Eagles have won a game more recently than the Phillies (and I'm just as glad to not have to hear that stat again as I am that it is no longer relevant), it's about time we go back to ignoring the Birds, right?  After all, there have been some moderately-sized wheelings and dealings done by the Phils in the last week. 

The Phillies entered the offseason with major needs in at least one outfield position (particularly CF) and third base.  There had been rumors circulating over the past couple weeks about Angel Pagan, Shane Victorino, BJ and Justin Upton, Michael Bourn, and even Josh Hamilton as possibilities to improve a projected outfield of John Mayberry Jr., Domonic Brown, and Darin Ruf.  There hadn't been as much talk from the perspective of third base, but Kevin Youkilis and Michael Young were generally the ones I heard about.  Many of those options were likely to involve $50+ million contracts and further hamstring a franchise that still has four years to try to get itself out from under the Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard albatrosses. 

They appear to have taken a slightly cheaper route than it initially seemed they would.  In case you missed it, Philadelphia traded 4th starter Vance Worley and pre-2012 top pitching prospect Trevor May to the Twins for outfielder Ben Revere, and also traded reliever Josh Lindblom and pitching prospect Lisalverto Bonilla to the Rangers in exchange for third baseman Michael Young and $10 million of his $16 million contract for 2013.

So how did the Phils do?  Let's take this one-by-one.

For some background, Revere is a 24-year-old former left-fielder who could have easily played center for the Twins if Denard Span were not already entrenched in the position.  He has a career .278/.319/.323 BA/OBP/SLG line, which, combined with his zero career home runs and 68% ground ball rate, profile him as a guy who gets a lot of slap/bunt singles, and that's pretty much it.  He is also quite speedy, grabbing 74 steals in 241 games the past two years and posting a significantly-above-average 16 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in the field.  Given the cost difference between him and Michael Bourn (Revere won't hit free agency for five years and costs under $1 million this year, while Bourn is asking for something in the range of 5 years, $75 million), Revere actually compares quite favorably to the free agent.  Bourn owns a career .272/.339/.365 line with 22 career home runs, a 55% ground ball rate, and an 8 UZR and 103 steals in 313 games the past two years.  Given that Revere is 5.5 years younger and millions of dollars per year cheaper, I'm willing to take that swap.

Dealing May, the team's best pitching prospect coming into the year, doesn't concern me much at all.  Have you seen any of the top prospects we shipped off for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence do anything significant in the majors so far?  And besides, the guy nearly had a 5.00 ERA last season.  Worley, on the other hand, is considered a very solid back-end starter, although I'm sure his recent bout with bone spurs in his elbow concerned GM Ruben Amaro Jr. (and likely had a role in his 1.20 jump in ERA from last season, although the .340 BABIP against him probably didn't help).  I think his value as a solid insurance policy during the next couple years as our aces age may have been slightly disregarded by Phillies management, and while it's unlikely that Worley is anything significantly above average next season, the drop off from him to whoever replaces him (Tyler Cloyd?) is probably sizable.

As for the Young deal, I totally get the intent of snagging a veteran player off a down year while avoiding most of his contract.  However, it should be pointed out that this is no everyday down year -- Young's -1.4 WAR was the worst in the league among qualified players last season.  He dropped by 3 home runs, 9 runs, 39 RBI, 4 steals, .061 in BA, .068 in OBP, and .104 in SLG from 2011, although it should be pointed out that 2011 was his best year since 2006, if you believe WAR.  He hasn't posted even an average defensive season since 2006, which poses a nontrivial downgrade from the departed Placido Polanco.  All that being said, he has experienced alternating increases and decreases in offensive performance each of the past six years, so while age is certainly catching up to him, a significant rebound is likely.  At the current going rate by FanGraphs' standards,  a player should earn about $5 million per WAR produced, so Young would need to improve from -1.4 to about 1.2 WAR to justify his contract.  Considering he didn't have fewer than 2.5 WAR between 2003 and 2011, I think that it's fairly safe to say he'll be worth it.  And trading away an average reliever and a raw pitching prospect isn't much skin off my bones.

So how do the Phillies look now?  To be honest, not great.  We're basically trading the departed Juan Pierre for a very similar player in Revere, and dropping the Mayberry/Victorino, Pence/Brown platoons for a Brown/Ruf/Mayberry trio doesn't sound like an upgrade to me.  Young should give about a one-win improvement at third, and a full season of Howard and Utley should give another win or two (although Howard posted -1 WAR himself in half a season in 2012).  A healthy Halladay should give the Phils a win, but the dropoff from Worley will probably cost a win.  A jump from a bottom-ten bullpen to an average one is worth about a win, based on last year's numbers.  Add 'em all up and you're looking at only about a 4-win improvement, which would put the team's record at an unimpressive 85-77, which in all likelihood won't warrant a playoff berth.  Better keep moving, Ruben.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chanukah Done Took, uh, Over

That title was an abomination.  But really, has anyone ever actually tried to rhyme anything with Chanukah?  I mean who does that?

Anyway, back to the action.  I don't know if you heard (and you probably didn't because it's probably irrelevant to you), but tonight, on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, begins a semi-glorious/semi-oversold holiday season known as Chanukah (or Hannukah (or Hanukkah (or Khannukkah (or khkhhkkhkhh if you really get into that first letter)))).  As Adam Sandler has taught us, it's about a great miracle that happened a really long time ago that we signify by celebrating for eight crazy nights.  I won't bore you with the details.

So, in the spirit of the season, here are eight great miracles that happened this year from the perspective of a fantasy football player, as the regular season winds to a close (and with 5 of my 6 teams in the playoffs, no less).

1. Adrian Peterson is Loose!
In the first week of the season, Adrian Peterson returned to action just 9 months after tearing his ACL and MCL and ran 17 times for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns.  NBD.  Then he hit a "lull," presumably still getting back into real game shape, as he averaged an almost identical 83 yards on 19 carries for the next five weeks, but scored no touchdowns.  Then, all of a sudden, he went bananas, and has averaged 158 yards on 20 carries the last six weeks, scoring six touchdowns.  Oh, and he's on pace for almost 2000 yards with a quarterback who's on pace for barely over 3000.

2. Peyton Manning Neck and Neck With MVP Leaders
OK, he's not really in the conversation for Fantasy MVP because he was drafted reasonably high and is still just the 5th ranked QB.  Despite that, his 4700-yard, 37-TD, 12-INT pace is made significantly more impressive by the fact that he sat out all of last year, had to do significant rehab to get even moderate arm strength back, and joined a new team this season that plays its home games outdoors.  He is on pace to post his second-best season of his career (the first, of course, being the year in which he set the single-season touchdown record at 49 against just 10 interceptions) despite all those obstacles.  Way to go, Mr. Maccabee-ning.

III, Griffin, Robert
Cam Newton set the new standard for rookie QB's, especially from a fantasy perspective, last season, throwing for 4000 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, and rushing for 700 yards and 14 touchdowns.  Griffin is in a position to match that performance, as he is on pace to pass for 3500 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, to go with 950 yards and 8 touchdowns rushing.  Cam posted 352 fantasy points in standard ESPN/Yahoo scoring last year, and Griffin is on pace to score 345.  Of course, last season there were historic performances being put on by other top QB's, so Cam finished fifth at his position, while Griffin is likely to end up at the top of the heap.  How's that for a miracle?

4. The Colts get Lucky
Not to be outdone by the man who was drafted one pick behind him, Andrew Luck joined a non-competitive 2-14 team and has, with four games left, set a record with 8 wins by a top overall pick in his first season.  How do 4700 yards and 23 TD passing, and 300 yards and 6 touchdowns rushing, grab you?  Luck is not only the 8th overall fantasy player himself, but he has elevated Reggie Wayne from an afterthought last season to a top-ten receiver this season, one who leads the NFL in pass targets?  As the 16th-drafted QB in fantasy leagues this year, he has returned a healthy profit, albeit on a lesser scale than that III guy.

5. Rookie Running Backs, well, Running Well
There are always hyped rookie running backs on fantasy draft day that disappoint (e.g. Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram, Daniel Thomas, you get the picture), but few that really get the needle moving after the first couple weeks.  Well, this year, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson are both top-five fantasy running backs, although they've gotten there different ways.  Martin was hyped as a Ray Rice lookalike, but hadn't really done much until Weeks 8 and 9, in which he combined for 486 total yards and 6 touchdowns.  Those outputs represent over 40% of his season output.  Richardson had the better pedigree but was injured coming into the season and was downgraded slightly due to his defensive-minded division.  Despite that, he's on pace for 1600 total yards and 9 touchdowns, and that's with his best game being a paltry 145 total yards and 2 TD.

6. Megatron Slowly But Surely Slaying the Madden Curse
The 2012 season didn't start out quite like 2011 for Calvin Johnson, as his first seven games produced seven fewer touchdowns, despite the yardage total looking awfully similar.  However, the pendulum has swung back the other way, as Johnson has totaled almost 380 more yards and two more touchdowns over the next five weeks as he did in 2011.  Granted, in the last three weeks of '11 he totaled 560 yards and 4 touchdowns to top off a ridiculous season, but who's going to bet against him doing that this year?

7. The Monsters of the Midway
Through Week 9, the Bears' Defense and Special Teams had racked up 141 fantasy points by ESPN scoring.  That's two more points than Dez Bryant and Julio Jones scored all of last season, and more than 26 defenses scored in all of 2011.  Now, that was fueled by an absurd and, as we've observed, unsustainable 8 defensive touchdowns, so they've reduced their average scoring from 17 in the first 9 weeks to 6 in the last four weeks.  This run seems to be the most miraculous of the ones I've mentioned so far, as it's clear that it couldn't be maintained over a full year.

8. Michael Turner Burning Down, But Not Out
Many pundits (and myself) were calling for 2012 as the year that Michael Turner's workload and age caught up with him, and we haven't been as right as we really felt we were going to be.  Turner averaged over 330 carries for 1400 yards and 13 touchdowns in his three full seasons in Atlanta prior to this one (he was injured for much of another one, although still managed 10 TDs).  Prior to an explosive performance against a terrible Tampa defense in the last week of '11, he looked sluggish and ineffective.  He still looks sluggish and ineffective, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, by far the worst of his career, and is ceding a healthy amount of touches to Jacquizz Rodgers (Turner's on pace for just 240 carries this year).  Having said all that, his 8 total touchdowns have him slotted as the 14th best running back in fantasy this year, and when you consider that he's had six games of fewer than 50 yards, two over 100, and none over 103, that's positively miraculous.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Week 13's Tebowless Toiling

Well, at least Bryce Brown looks like the next Adrian Peterson, fumbling problem included...


TRIUMPH: Frankly, the biggest triumph is that this game was not televised in my area.  And really, in a game like this, you have to take stock of the little things that went well.  In this case, I'm going to give props to Jets third-string QB Greg McElroy, who relieved a thoroughly ineffective Mark Sanchez to at least put points on the board.  Sanchez led ten drives, with seven of them yielding fewer than 10 yards, and the other three ending in a missed field goal, interception, and punt.  And then Sir McElroy, the knight in shining armor, led the J-E-T-S down the field on a 10 play, 69 yard scoring drive, which was the difference in the game.  He also led a 13 play, 71 yard drive that ended the game, where they COULD HAVE TRIED FOR A TOUCHDOWN AND COVERED THE SPREAD!!

TRAGEDY: I don't know what Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is doing, but I think it's pretty clear that Ryan Lindley is not the answer at quarterback, unless the question is "How can we make the fans feel better about our QB conundrum with Kolb and Skelton?"  In three games, the rookie has the following line: 40-for-72 (56%), 376 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT.  That's a pretty ineffective single game, let alone having that split over three contests.  Oh, and he has an average Total QBR of 6.8 in that span, which is only ever-so-slightly better than Packers punter Tim Masthay this season.  And yet, somehow, the Cards have covered the spread in two out of three of those games.  Man, who would have thought at the beginning of the season that Cardinals fans would die to have Kevin Kolb's 30th ranked Total QBR back in the fold.

TREND: Man, is this a lost season for Larry Fitzgerald.  The $100 million man only signed with the assumption that the quarterback situation was handled by the Kolb signing, and he has to be massively disappointed.  After a 1400-yard, 8-TD season last year with a 52% catch rate with bad quarterbacking, he's on pace for 900 yards and 6 TD with a 49% catch rate.  It's sad, really.  

TRAIL MIX: Fun fact: Cardinals Safety Rashad Johnson had 40 rushing yards on a fake punt.  The rest of the Cardinals roster had 41 rushing yards on 20 carries.  That was the longest play from scrimmage they had in the past two weeks.

RAMS 16, 49ERS 13

TRIUMPH:  Rams rookie wide-receiver Chris Givens had perhaps his most impressive game of the year, despite having a hundred-yard game last week and a ridiculous five consecutive games with a 50+ yard reception earlier in the year.  His 11 receptions on 14 targets indicates a much more stable and reliable source of offense than the flurry of bombs he was getting earlier in the year.  He's still averaging just a hair under 17 yards per reception (7th in the league), so maybe he could be a poor man's Mike Wallace circa 2010.

TRAGEDY:  The real tragedy here is that this game didn't end in a tie.  After these teams engaged in the first tie since 2008 a couple weeks ago, this game was tied all the way up until 26 seconds were left in overtime.  That would have provided the world with the first pair of teams to tie each other twice in one season since '63, and frankly, I was shocked to find out that it had ever happened before.

TREND:  While there was a little bit of public intrigue about the 49ers' signing of Randy Moss out of retirement in the offseason, he has been just more than irrelevant all season.  He has more than three receptions just once (in Week 1), and has more than 40 yards just three times (and two of those were games in which he had a 40+ yard reception).  However, he hasn't been completely absent as he was in Tennessee last time around, as he has at least one reception in all but two games, and is still averaging a solid 15.6 yards per reception.

TRAIL MIX: Not so excited about that Kaepernick thing now, are we?  I told you so!  


TRIUMPH: Don't look now, but perennial fantasy bust Jermichael Finley might be making a little comeback!  After having 84 yards total in Weeks 5-9, he has gained at least 50 yards in each of the last three contests, including just his second touchdown of the season.  Finley hasn't had a consistent role in the Packers offense over the years (50+ yards in just 10 games in '10 and '11, compared to 10 for Nelson and 9 for Jennings in just 2011), but maybe he's got his groove (back).

TRAGEDY: I'm just going to include the top Packers receivers just mentioned as a pair here.  After combining for 2212 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson have fought the injury imp all season, combining for 15 total games played out of a possible 24 (and Nelson left this game with another injury).  They're on pace this year to combine for 1042 yards and 9 touchdowns, which is worse than both of their individual seasons in '11.  Good thing replacements Randall Cobb and James Jones are on pace to combine for 1613 and 21 in their stead.

TREND: Seriously, someone should check Adrian Peterson for use of illegal substances.  I'm only half kidding.  In a season following an ACL and MCL tear in the last couple weeks of 2011, Peterson is on pace for 1900+ yards and 11 touchdowns, which would represent one of the best running back seasons of all time, and an absurd 6.2 yards per carry, more than half a yard better than his best year in that category.  This is made even more impressive when you consider that he's rushed for 150+ yards in four of his past six games, and Christian Ponder has thrown for just 115 yards per game in those games.

TRAIL MIX: Vikings wide receivers had three receptions on thirteen targets in this game.  The first of those receptions didn't come until under 4 minutes remained in the game.  PERCY, COME BACK!!!