Friday, October 7, 2011

lies, damned lies and statistics

The famous phrase from Mark Twain was meant to illustrate that numbers can mean anything we want them to mean. But in the age of Moneyball and in the context of fantasy sports, numbers have become more than just critical. They’ve become next to gospel. Fantasy football doesn’t lend itself to Sabremetric analyzation quite like the sport of baseball does. (If it did, I’m pretty sure Umphlett and Jeff would win our league every year.) Sure, there is DVOA and DYAR, but ultimately the only numbers that really matter are yards and touchdowns. That’s why fantasy football is equal parts science and art, numbers and intuition, statistics and equivalents.

What follows is a relatively unscientific look at what teams in the Playoffs!?! fantasy league mirror the most from their NFL counterparts.

Jerry’s Belt Buckle (3-1) = Buffalo Bills (3-1)
Not considered to be a real threat by many coming into the season, there were murmurs that this team would be “better than we expected.” After a somewhat shocking loss to another team performing better than most expected early in the season last week, the questions may be coming for this formerly great team. Still these players in place here are better than we expected. There is a certain chip on the shoulder of this team for being underestimated, disrespected, and forgotten for so long (even if it was at times deserved.) I like this squad to make a playoff push but a surprisingly light schedule so far might have them at their high point already.

black is for sunday (3-1) = Houston Texans (3-1)
This squad’s uncharacteristically fast start has the hype train buzzing all across the league especially as perennial favorites have stumbled out of the gate. But you still have to wonder if this team can get out of its own way. A temperamental personality as a game manager, their head coach has a tendency to outthink himself going into important games. He’s been on the hot seat so long at this point it would be hard to believe he can even recognize the temperature anymore. The team has struggled with injuries to this point but has emerged mostly unscathed and found different ways to win. You just can’t underestimate the ability of this snakebitten lot to come up small at the worst time.

The Commish (2-1-1) = Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
A shocking underperformance to a hated rival seems to still be echoing in the ears of this team from early in the season. Yeah, this team looks largely the same as previous years and we can never underestimate the pedigree of the man (and boy) in charge here. They know how to build champions. Yet, still we know something isn’t quite right here. Running the ball, fundamentals are the hallmark of this proud franchise as traditionalism runs through the DNA of this organization. The fundamentals are off and it’s too early to tell if the adjustments can be made to get this team on track or the flaws will be fatal this time around.

K Rabbits (2-1-1) = New York Jets (2-2)
Come from behind (moral) victories can only hide a team’s flaws for so long. Astute observers knew going into this season that this team was just not as good as in previous campaigns. The trademark bluster and swagger may still be in place but the goods are not. This squad has pretender written all over it and while they may stay in the playoff hunt deep into the season they are destined to come up just short this year.

showmedamoney! (2-2) = Atlanta Falcons (2-2)
The buildup to this season and some surprising but smart drafting put this team in the position that many analysts were predicting a deep run in the playoffs for this squad in the preseason. Then the games started. And while this team undoubtedly has the talent in place to contend, for whatever reason things have just not come together so far. A suddenly old-looking veteran running back and an oddly timed underperformance from Roddy White are causing difficulties for this team. With the talent this team has at the skill positions, you have to like their chances to turn it around but that turnaround needs to come sooner rather than later.

SHolstonKayakPirates (2-2) = Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Isn’t every year this team’s year at this point? And yet, it seems like the man quarterbacking this squad is destined to be ever close to greatness and yet never quite close enough to reach it. Come from behind losses, interceptions, fumbles, this team is never short on finding ways to lose. Erratic but dangerous is the tone this team has seemed to take this year. Still, I expect a push from this team coming out of the bye weeks. With non-dominant teams on top of the standings and the path to the playoffs wide open, anything can happen.

The Institute (2-2) = Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
With the talent this group has in place and the ever-slipping sands of time burying their former championship further under the deluge of history, you have to wonder how many chances these guys have left with the current gallery of rogues. They’ve already shown early in this season they are capable of turning in dominant performances and then the every next week putting in a subpar effort. The scariest part is this team may go as far as Joe Flacco can take it. That’s just not the kind of sentence you want to hear when you think you can contend for a championship.

40 acres & a mule (2-2) = San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
It would be safe to say that no one expected anything from this team coming into the season. A new head honcho (or at least one who acts like he’s new) was still trying to break out of his probationary status. An injury prone running back as the franchise player made a big deal in the preseason. The team came into the year with an unproven and constantly underperforming quarterback. Yet, still somehow, this team is solid. Any given Sunday, this squad can beat you. And for them, that is progress. I’ll tip my hat to them. I was wrong about my preseason prediction of your incompetence.

the icon (1-3) = Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
Some big preseason and draft editions had some prematurely referring to this lot as a “dream team.” But it looks like some of those predictions came a bit too soon. A coach who constantly puts his team in a place to compete but can never really get over the hump has created years of mounting frustration. Following the model of last year’s Eagles team, an early season quarterback change could be the spark to set this team back on track. Still, every loss that mounts is going to require that much more scratching and clawing to get back into the race.

BackwoodCrazyCajuns (0-4) = Indianapolis Colts (0-4)
This team lost its franchise player way too early this season to hope to compete. It does show the flaw in building your team so profoundly upon the foundation of one player. But when that player has the talent level of these respective stars, it can be a formula for success. An 0-fer season is not out of the question here as though this team has been to the heights of victory it is also well acquainted with the depths of disappointment. There is only one option now. Suck for Luck.

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