Thursday, October 31, 2013

zombies! aliens! vampires! dinosaurs!

I considered a Scooby Doo musical sequel this year as I know how much everyone enjoyed the first one. But it's just such a work of art I think I'd rather leave it undisturbed to fascinate avant-garde fantasy football minds for years to come. That being said, I couldn't let Halloween come and go without looking at what's haunting the league this week so let's get to it.

The carryover storyline from the weekend of course is The Commish getting monster mashed out by The Institute. And the predictable reaction of the league to this crushing and humiliating defeat.

The unlikely sudden popularity of VZ in league circles was enough to match the ratings for one AMC cable drama hit featuring moaning reanimated carcasses and lots of head shots. But that's not the only thing that The Institute has in common with The Walking Dead. His team is back from the dead.
Obviously, I have enjoyed the down year so far for my rival (and still hope to get two wins out of it).
And I don't have much of a beef with a manager choosing to pursue a strategy that I would not adopt for my own team. You don't get to tell me how to manage my team and I don't get to tell you how to run yours. Those are the rules and when everyone is trying to win that sovereignty leads to the most entertaining league.

What I have worried about is the fire sale coming before the trade deadline for The Institute's best assets that don't have any value going into next year. (The name "Calvin Johnson" comes to mind.) Now VZ is at least ostensibly a contender for the playoffs. A game and a half out of the playoffs with 8 days before the trade deadline hits, The Institute is some inexplicably in the mix. I could even make an argument that he has a better shot at the playoffs than some teams above him because other squads have a definite ceiling while VZ at least has the upside of players coming back from injuries in the next few games.

There's every reason to believe that The Institute will have a stronger second half of the season than first half given the realities of his roster. Much to The Commish's chargrin, VZ will have a say in who makes the playoffs whether he manages to sneak his own team in or not. I just hope his effect is felt as a spoiler on the field and not as a kingmaker through trades.

The Commish was not the only team to suffer a fantasy tragedy this week however. As black is for sunday's hopes of a five game win streak succumbed to a grisly death at the hands of the Jason Voohrees of ties of our league: the KRabbits. In the history of our league, there have been 16 ties. Kris has been a manager involved in 5 of them. He is well overrepresented as a serial offender. In 2004, the KRabbits managed to tie The Commish in both of the teams' meetings. In sum, I should have been on the lookout for Golden Tate on Monday night. No one is the master of the come from behind tie like Kris.

We don't have to live this way. We don't have to spend our seasons in fear that our teams will be dragged from our beds by unseen demons of ties that would edge out otherwise worthy teams from playoff contention.

It's bogus. And it's unfitting for the greatest fantasy football league in America.

There are leagues that have fractional points. For each 1/10th of a point added to the decimal place of scoring, you make ties ten times less likely. Every year this situation affects one or more teams that may be jockeying for playoff position. It's only a matter of time before someone ties in a playoff game, or even worse, the championship.

I've seen this happen in a league where I am the commissioner. I tied with someone in a semi-final game. I was determined the winner through the normal Yahoo tiebreaker procedures and the next week my team went on to win the championship. There was some bitterness. Needless to say, the league by unanimous vote adopted fractional scoring before the next season began and we haven't had a tie since.

Every year that we go through the offseason not addressing this issue in our rules we are running a risk. We have had at least one tie in this league every year of its existence except for two and four times we have had multiple ties in the same season. How long until one of this is in the playoff rounds?

We need to fix this rule in 2014 to adopt fractional points. (Or at the very least declare some other system rather than the Yahoo tiebreaker will determine who is the official champion.) We should not wait until there is a blemish on our trophy before we put this issue six feet under.

The talk of the NFL this week has been Dez Bryant and his sideline tirade during the latest heartbreaking loss to beset the Dallas Cowboys franchise. Many were tricked into thinking that Bryant's treatment of Tony Romo and other teammates was a sign of disrespect. But if you watch the video, you'll see that Bryant really was just trying to pump up his teammates and stoke their competitive fire. Now, yes, he was doing it very demonstrably and very confrontationally but he was not doing it disrepectfully. His basic message was, "We're better than this." (A sentiment I'm sure The Commish was yelling at his players on Sunday as well.)

There's nothing wrong with being competitive. If Tom Brady barks at his receivers or his coaches, it's treated as leadership and a will to win. If "diva receiver" Dez Bryant does it, then he just must be complaining that he's not getting the ball enough. First, he wasn't. Second, he should be getting the ball more. Bryant may not be Calvin Johnson. But he's as Calvin Johnson as the Cowboys have on that roster. And catches like this are not going to be had by any other player taking the field on Sundays in Jerry World.

So I say go for it, Dez. Let out that competive spirit. Even if it looks more like Carrie than Casper the friendly ghost. The Cowboys can only benefit from someone pushing them a little harder. Romo, Witten and Jason Garrett just don't strike me as the rah-rah type.

Happy Halloween, everyone! Have fun! Hope the kids are safe trick or treating (hopefully, they don't go too close to Kris' house). And I hope at least one of the league's junior members is dressed like one of these guys.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

the meme team

"You know on Sundays like this that he'd do this for free!"

"It's like watching a little kid out on the field for the first time!"

"He's just having fun out there!"

No, those aren't quotes about The Institute ruining The Commish's weekend by winning his second game of the season. They're about this guy:

I know. Favre has come back more times than Jason Voorhies and this is all a media stunt perpetrated by ESPN to get clicks and views during the long stretch of bye weeks during the NFL season. But it's still fun to speculate, particularly when Favre's agent is saying things like this:

His arms look like a blacksmith's arms. He rides a bike probably 30-50 miles a day. He runs four or five miles a day. He's coaching at the high school and they're undefeated. He loves it. His body fat is 7.5 percent and he weighs 225 pounds. He could play today, better than a lot of them out there today.
Who is coming back? Brett Favre or Paul Bunyan? Is Bus Cook the agent for a quarterback or a mythical greek alien deity? Even John Madden never gushed about the old gunslinger quite like that.
Here's the question. Is Brett Favre at 44 really better than many NFL quarterbacks currently playing in the league? I often hear and have said myself that it is amazing that in the population of the entire world we can't even find 32 guys who can competently play quarterback at the highest level. But I decided to do a little experiment. A power ranking of the quarterback situations of the 32 NFL teams.

1. Peyton Manning, Broncos
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
3. Drew Brees, Saints
4. Tom Brady, Patriots
5. Andrew Luck, Colts
6. Tony Romo, Cowboys
7. Matt Ryan, Falcons
8. Matthew Stafford, Lions
9. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
10. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
11. Robert Griffin III, Redskins
12. Joe Flacco, Ravens
13. Eli Manning, Giants
14. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
15. Cam Newton, Panthers
16. Philip Rivers, Chargers
17. Jay Cutler, Bears
18. Michael Vick/Nick Foles, Eagles
19. Alex Smith, Chiefs
20. Andy Dalton, Bengals
21. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
22. Sam Bradford, Rams
23. Terrell Pryor, Raiders
24. Jake Locker, Titans
25. Geno Smith, Jets
26. EJ Manuel, Bills
27. Carson Palmer, Cardinals
28. Mike Glennon, Buccaneers
29. Matt Schaub/Case Keenum, Texans
30. Chad Henne/Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars
31. Jason Campbell/Brandon Weeden/Brian Hoyer, Browns
32. Christian Ponder/Matt Cassel/Josh Freeman, Vikings

You don't have to agree with my slotting of all of the potential QBs to understand the point of this exercise. It would be tough to argue that the top 19 haven't earned the right to start for an NFL team. If the standard is they give their teams under the right circumstances a chance to compete for a Super Bowl, I think these guys fit the bill. And I could make a pretty solid argument for 20-28 that we need more time before we can make a definitive decision (with the exception of Carson Palmer who is done). That leaves only four teams with a truly awful QB situation that will require a fix as soon as the 2014 draft.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the NFL quarterbacking situation is ideal. I still think there are at least 32 men on earth capable of doing the job. However, what would the teams situation look like if we did a similar list for running backs? Or tight ends? Or left tackles? Would we consistently find 20 teams with highly stable situations or only four teams with a desperate immediate need at those positions? I doubt it. We perceive quarterbacking to be weak because we focus so much on every mistake and foible, however I doubt the state of other positions is any different. Name me 20 "shutdown" cornerbacks in the NFL. You can't. They don't exist. In all likelihood, quarterback is the deepest position in the league. And I couldn't slot Brett Favre in any higher than 27 on the above list. That's not at an elite or even serviceable level. He doesn't need another shot at the league. We need to move on.

While we're on the topic of once great players well past their prime, let's turn to the BackwoodCrazyCajuns.

It seems once again he has not been able to outrun the fantasy gods. In a season that began with such promise, Brandon actually showed up to the draft. (With a woman! Who actually came to draft... Most of it.) Step one in his rehabilitation complete.

As he continued his penance, the Cajuns had by almost all accounts their best draft in years. (Even if also the slowest.)  Getting two of the consensus preseason top 5 RBs and Dez Bryant in what many expected to be an elite season for his production seemed like enough to put Brandon back in contention after so many disappointing finishes in recent years.

Then the Cajuns were who we thought they were when they took the damn field. Rolling to a 4-2 start, looking good for a playoff spot and nearing the halfway point, hope sprang anew in Brandon's locker room.

Then things took a dark turn.

First, it was a shoulder injury to Doug Martin knocking him out of the game early and draining his value for the week. CJ Spiller's struggles continued as his multi-week fight against an ankle injury resulted in one of the poorest games of his career. And just when it was clear week 7 and the momentum was lost? The death blow. Reggie Wayne. Heart and soul of the team. Veteran leadership. Nationally televised game with monster ratings. Torn ACL for all of America to cringe from.

And now I worry if Brandon can recover in time for this week's game. When a team gets rocked like that, it's important to get right back on your feet and keep fighting. Brandon made no pickups  on the waiver wire, no trades, not even a change to the starting lineup. Dead silence coming from Cajun HQ. Meanwhile, he has two QBs on bye, two RBs unlikely to play this week and a WR spot that must be solved both in the short and long term. He also has a winnable game against 40 Acres & a mule who is dealing with their own bye week issues. (And has 3 TEs currently on the roster. Go for the record! *crowd starts to quietly chant "Quinn Sypniewski"*)

After last week, Brandon may not be a champion again following this season but we will get to see if he still has a champion's heart over the next few weeks.

Following on the theme of questionable decisions by team authorities, there's a column I enjoy perusing every week by Bill Barnwell on Grantland called "Thank You For Not Coaching." Basically, it's a review of the best and worst decisions of the week by NFL head coaches. It goes well beyond the obvious choices and really attacks those few crucial moves that will actually affect the outcome of a game on any given Sunday. (BTW, if we listed the 32 NFL teams by their coaching situations we would not get even close to 20 relatively stable coaches. It's a hard job but that's no excuse to be bad at it.)

If I have to give out my own Thank You For Not Coaching Award this week, it goes to Leslie Frasier of the Minnesota Vikings. Not only have you jostled your quarterback position all year and already burned through three QBs, including the one who got you to last year's playoffs. You went Josh Freeman just two weeks after signing him. Freeman is not exactly legendary for his meticulous study of the playbook and you dialed up 53 passes in his first start? It's not as if the score dictated such a game plan. The Vikings were within two touchdowns going into the fourth quarter.

There have been reports that Adrian Peterson is dealing with a hamstring issue. But it wasn't severe enough to save him from running a meaningless play at the end of the first half as Barnwell points out.
For those of you who incurred hazard pay in watching the Giants-Vikings on Monday night, sorry about the Vikings handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson for a meaningless draw just before halftime. Peterson might be more likely to break a big one than just about anybody, but this draw was of little consequence and could have possibly led to a Peterson injury, which nobody wanted to see.
Unfortunately, that was one of only 13 carries for Peterson on the night as Freeman flung the ball all over the field and off the field in completing just 20 of his 53 attempts. (To be fair, he completed 21. It just so happened one was to the Giants.)

That kind of ineptitude can't be explained by injury or game plan or poor preparation. It's inexplicable that any coach would have a talent the level of AD on his sideline and not think within the confines of a 60 minute game that he should putting the ball in his hands far more than a quarterback still trying to learn all of his receivers' names.

This is the game we choose to play. And the Leslie Frasiers of the world will decide our fantasy fates.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

btn live blog week #7


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

unicorns! show ponies! where's the beef!?!

Six weeks into the fantasy season and although I still have no idea why this guy suddenly gets verbal Tourette's on live television, I think we can all sympathize. It's been an up and down season for just about every manager in the Playoffs!?! fantasy league this year. Yes, even VZ, as he won what will probably be his only game this season in week 1. Even the to date dominant Commish squad started slow at 1-1-1. So while confusion might cloud much of the fantasy realm, it's time to pierce the dark skies with the light of logic.


A mythical, reportedly beautiful creature used to shield children and their joyously enraptured hearts from the truly frightening implications of apocalyptic scenarios, the unicorn symbolizes a sense of longing for the unknown and impossible. This longing is not to be outdone by the pangs felt by Chris Umphlett for Matthew Stafford.
I do realize that the northern Midwest can be a cold, hard, desolate place with brutal winters and dwindling economic prospects. Certainly, no one would claim East Lansing falls into this category. (Insert name of obscure "celebrity" who was born/lives there but isn't famous enough to even be recognized from obscure, low-rent reality shows.)

Jerry's Belt Buckle was loosened as his inner desire spilled forth in a questionable trade this week.

Drew Brees and his second to only Peyton Manning point total for the season was sent to Pirates like he was Tom Hanks looking to get back in Academy Award contention. In return, Umphlett's prized show pony, Stafford, boarded his boat just as a defunct Ray Rice washed ashore alongside him. It's not fair to call Rice washed up but it his fair to declare his now-31st ranked run blocking unit DOA. Rice didn't get that much worse just because Ray Lewis is wearing suits on the sideline. But too many Ravens' offensive lineman are now injured and sharing that sideline for his fantasy fortunes to change much going forward.

All in all though I'm not as down on this trade as I might be. Jeff has officially turned the page on the RGIII era as I don't see how he can ever regain the trust of his supposed franchise player after this vote of no confidence. This locker room and relationship could quickly turn uglier than the Shanahan-Griffin relationship.

On the one hand, Brees is likely the only QB with the potential to duel with Manning in a weekly shootout (now that Aaron Rodgers has lost one of his top weapons in "Reggie" Cobb). But on the other, we're all chasing The Commish this year at the QB spot and we're going to lose that fight. The only question is by how much. Jeff needed to make up some points from the loss of his WR1. He did that and more with this trade and the pickup of Keenan Allen.

And Umphlett won't have to suffer through the brutal winter of Siberia--or wherever he lives--alone. (Sidenote: How many weeks will it take for Stafford to adjust to the time difference?) Watch out little sweetener family, papa's got a brand new bag (of sugar).

(I'm starting the lobbying now. If gay marriage becomes legal in Michigan and Chris walks the aisle with Stafford, I say we nickname him "Equal.")


Started from the bottom, now we're here/Started from the bottom, now the whole team here/...We don't like too much explainin'/Story stayed the same, I never changed it

So croons Drake, the rapper/wannabe singer and all-around hype machine on his new Nothing Was the Same album's first single. (Available for purchase on Amazon. I'm a company man! Does Amazon have a theme song?) Parlaying a pretty decent mixtape and a start on Degrassi into hip hop stardom seems unlikely, but Drake's "lady-friendly" beats have made him a new school Ladies Love Cool James. It might not be a career path you want to retread if you want to make it to legendary MC status but it's not bad for paying the bills.

Some hype trains set their tracks toward greatness, however.

Since the beginning of the year, yours truly, black is for sunday has been hoping nothing will be the same.  Unfortunately, it started out exactly the same as for the fourth time in franchise history my squad dropped our first three contests of the fantasy football season.

Then, Jeff posted this picture.
And the win streak began. Now having scored the third most points in the league to this point, I'm right back in the thick of the playoff hunt while my star players are beginning to hit their stride after various slow starts out of the gate.

I never changed my goals for the year. I still plan to see The Commish engraving my name into the side of that trophy right about next February. And you all can thank the KayakPirates for awakening a sleeping giant and filling him with a terrible resolve.

The Hype Train Cometh.


I'd say there's a lot of common legend between the triumvirate of unicorns, The Commish and Peyton Manning. Much like the proclaimed managerial genius of The Commish and his dwarf-like minions, EVC and SVC, the prowess of the unicorn is more mystical than factual. But for a few fortuitous pickups in recent years, The Commish would have already gone the way of the unicorn--disappeared from this earth, more a tall tale than a real champion. A reminder that all magic in the end is but smoke and mirrors.

Meanwhile, his beloved Peyton Manning has even less hardware to base his mythology on. A fact that Jim Irsay may have ill-advisedly brought to the forefront in an interview this week when he said:

You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love (rings).

I'm sure this could leave Manning none too pleased. But instead of firing back himself, he allowed his coach to do his dirty work for him. What does Fox say?

Well, not exactly. Actually, he said:

To me, in my opinion, (Irsay's comments) were disappointing and inappropriate. I mean, Peyton would never say anything. He's too classy to do that. But they sounded a little ungrateful and unappreciative to me for a guy that has set a standard, won a Super Bowl, won division titles, won four MVP awards. I'd be thankful with that one Super Bowl ring because there's a lot of people that don't have one.

There are a lot of people who don't have one. Including John Fox... who is hoping to ride the arm of his 37-year old quarterback to his own ring this year. But look back at what Irsay said again. What exactly out of that has Manning himself not been quoted as saying in the past? Are we really supposed to believe that Manning prefers huge numbers to Super Bowl rings? Where's the beef?

This is the classic case of the story not unfolding as the establishment would hope. Manning is supposed to be the greatest of all time. Cut from the cloth of stellar QBs, the first family of football, challenging records from the moment he stepped on a field but not enough hardware to justify all the sound and fury of his career. Manning can beat the Colts by 50 on Sunday night but it's not going to change the fact that decades after his career is over and his most ardent defenders aren't around any longer to skew the facts of his playoff failures people will ask one question consistently about his career, "Why didn't he win more?" In other words, "Where's the beef?"

Coincidentally, The Commish could be asking the very same questions by season's end.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

btn live blog week #6


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

btn #707

The Commish joins the podcast to discuss the current state of The Institute franchise and other fantasy football disappointments.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

btn #706

This week's podcast features the manager of the K Rabbits as we discuss feuds, fall beers and fantasy football predictions.