Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fantasy league 2018 -- week 2 recap

** Sunday’s Packers/Vikings tie game was the second non-win, non-loss of the year so far, tying (get it?) the record for the most ties in an NFL season since 1974 (when the league adopted the sudden-death format). The league now has a mere 224 games left in the season to break that record, and both of the ties involved teams who will play each other again this season.

** In the last 44 years, there have only been 24 ties across almost 10,000 games. But amazingly, this season is the fourth time over that span ties have happened in consecutive weeks. It’s also the third time in that span that the Packers and Vikings have played to a tie. And remember, the Packers and Vikings still play another time this year.

** Having two ties early in the season with three teams expected to be in the playoff race (the Steelers, Packers and Vikings) means that figuring out playoff scenarios will be screwed up All. Season. Long. Think the playoff tiebreakers are confusing now? How does common opponents work when a tie gets in there? What happens if one of these teams picks up a second tie? What if the Packers and Vikings tie again?

** Right now, a Packers bow tie costs $19.99 on NFL shop. A Vikings traditional straight tie costs $24.99. The actual game tie could cost one of these teams a playoff spot.

** The Sunday after Thanksgiving is also known as National Tie One On day, where individuals are encouraged to give back to their community after the gluttony of the holiday. This year, that falls on Nov. 25 … the same day as the Packers/Vikings rematch. National Tie day producing a record breaking tie? Sounds likely to me.

QB: Pat Mahomes, 50.84 pts — on Ant’s bench
WR: Stefon Diggs, 27.13 pts — started by Joel
RB: Todd Gurley, 29.77 pts — started by Bob
TE: Travis Kelce, 22.77 pts — started by Jo
K: Mason Crosby, 19.00 pts — started by Bob
DEF: LA Rams, 18.00 pts — started by me
D: Kevin Byard, 12.14 pts — on the wire

The most amazing thing on here isn’t that Mahomes tossed six TDs in his second start. It’s that WR AJ Green, who caught three TDs on his first three receptions of the Thursday night game, wasn’t the top wideout of the week. His line (5 catches, 69 yds, 3TDs) fell short of the ridiculous one that Diggs produced (9 catches, 128 yds, 2 TDs). And Digg’s teammate, Adam Thielen, had another 12 catches for 131 yds and a TD in that game. Nice work by Kirk Cousins, I guess.

Also Mahomes tossing six TDs in his second start is pretty amazing.

“Mom’s defenses” edition

3rd place: Carolina, -1.00 pts — on Mom D’s bench
2nd place: Baltimore, -3.00 pts — started by Mom D
1st place: Kansas City, -5.00 pts — on the wire

Some weeks you’re lucky, and some weeks your backup defense gives up almost as many points as your starting defense (34 for the Ravens, 31 for the Panthers).

By the way, if you bet that Leonard Fournette (41 yds) and Devonta Freeman (36 yds) and LeSean McCoy (61 yds) would have fewer combined rushing yds than undrafted, third-string Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay (152 yds) through two weeks, then you’d have a lot of cash … and be burned at the stake for being a witch.

** Headline in Saturday’s Washington Post: “Expect Maryland to go with what works today vs. Temple.”

Bold strategy there. “Don’t try to fail.” Surprisingly, though, the plan didn’t work, as the Owls annihilated Maryland 35-14.

** As the Giants trailed the Cowboys 20-3 late in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game, NBC talking doll Cris Collinsworth let loose this gem: “If you’re looking for good news, it’s that the Giants offensive line isn’t being beaten physically. It’s that they are getting beaten by the schemes, and they just haven’t played together enough.”
As, so it’s not that the players aren’t strong, it’s just that they’re not good and not coached well. That is good news … for the rest of the NFC East.

** After Sunday’s win over the Eagles, NFL.com asked the question of whether or not the Buccaneers and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick are a legit contender with a story titled “Do you believe in FitzMagic?” Later in the day, it was announced the Tampa franchise owner has applied for a trademark for the phrase.

Ratings for the NFL immediately dropped 97 percent, as they should.

** Chiefs QB Pat Mahomes is on pace for 80 TDs this season (10 through two games), which would destroy Peyton Manning’s current record of 55 set in 2013.

** Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson is on pace for 2,200 receiving yds this season (275 yds through two games), which would destroy Calvin Johnson’s current record of 1,964 yds set in 2012.

** 49ers RB Matt Bredia is leading the league in rushing and is on pace for 1,472 yds this season (184 yds through two games). That’s on pace to be the second lowest total for a league leader since 1990, when Barry Sanders only managed 1,304 yds but grabbed the rushing title. The only other time no one passed 1,400 yds in the last 27 years? It was 2017, when Kareem Hunt led the league with 1,327.

** The Arizona Cardinals are on pace to score 48 pts this season (6 pts through two games) which would threaten the league’s all-time record of 37 pts by the 1934 Cincinnati Reds (who became the St. Louis Gunners midway through the season). But that team only played 11 games that year, which would work out to 53 pts in a 16-game schedule.

** The Giants are on pace to win zero games this year (0-2 through two games), which would tie the record set by the Cleveland Browns last year. QB Eli Manning is on pace for 320 pouty Eli faces this year (40 through two games), which would tie the record he has set every single year his dumb face has been in the league.

Another new addition to the Cowboys team this offseason was Texas native, University of Texas dropout, and longtime Cowboys fan Connor Williams. Questions about mental fragility have long surrounded anyone who plays for or roots for the most despicable team in all of football, but Collins stands out even in that crowd. Consider what his name clearly spells out:

** Dallas rookie offensive lineman Connor Williams
Insane, evil, ill man was off meds. No loonier airlock.

Of course, if that really surprises you, I have some bad news…

** Dallas offensive lineman Zack Martin
Insane animal. Caveman led folks’ fritz.

** Dallas offensive lineman La'el Collins
Insane fool. Villain smells of dance ale.

Hell, their starting center is named “Joe Looney.” It’s a whole collection of mental patients out there.

** We could talk about how I’m already five games down to Dad in our weekly picks here, but that’s not really the important news. The big headline is that Dad and I both got losses in that Packers/Vikings game, because a tie means neither of us picked the right team to win. I feel like this has happened to us once before (in the 20 years we have been making picks) and it left us both cranky.

For the record, Dad also predicted a tie one time, but he was wrong, and got a loss in that game.

** Worth noting, in case you missed it. The Eagles lost 27-21 in their second game of the season this year. The Eagles lost 27-20 in the second game of the season last year. And last year turned out OK. So...

** Of course the Patriots traded only a fifth-round pick for talented but troubled WR Josh Gordon. They traded only a fourth-round pick for talented but troubled WR Randy Moss back in 2007, and he promptly became a Pro Bowler again. Get ready for this to work out great for New England and Boston fans to still complain that it didn’t happen two weeks sooner.

Week 2 standings

1 — Kneel Armstrong (Sam), 274.82 pts
2 — Nick 'MVP' Foles (Capt. Awesome), 274.48 pts
3 — For Who? For Wentz? (Ant), 270.63 pts
4 — Witch Hunting (Jim), 259.41 pts
5 — The Garoppolo Gamble (Joel), 258.42 pts
6 — Philly Special (Joanna), 227.81 pts
7 — Character Limit? WTF (Paul), 224.15 pts
8 — Blue Collar Killers (Joel), 223.63 pts
9 — Kiss A Fish Today (Dad), 209.97 pts
10 — Last Exit 2 Kutztown (Bob), 209.87 pts
11 — We Love the Mud (Mom D), 207.42 pts
12 — SweatpantsEnthusiast (Mike), 179.51 pts

Less than half a point separates me from my rightful place atop the standings, but good work by Sam keeping that seat warm for me for another week.

For the record, the gap between first and last place in week 2 of 2017 was 102 pts, so things are actually closer than last year. Mike and his squad can take comfort in that.

Remember to set your rosters for this week’s exciting Browns/Jets contest on Thursday night, a game so captivating it’ll only air on NFL network. And even those folks will be watching replays of last year’s Super Bowl instead of paying attention.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fantasy league 2018 -- week 1 recap

Let’s step into the mind of Atlanta coach Dan Quinn for a moment: Your 2017 season ended in Philadelphia in a playoff game where you held the Eagles to 15 pts but could not convert four goal-to-go downs inside the game’s final minute. You had almost nine full months to think about that before your rematch with the Super Bowl champs in the opening Thursday game.

Now that you’re in the game, your team takes the opening possession down inside the 10-yard-line and gets 1st and goal. And three plays later, you’re faced with the exact same dilemma. So you throw all caution to the wind, skip the FG attempt and go for the TD on 4th down. And you get stopped. Again.

Then, down six with a minute left in the game, you’re back at 1st and goal again. And then you miss a TD on that down. And 2nd and goal. And 3rd and goal. And 4th and goal, but a penalty gives you one last play. And as you fail to convert on 5th and goal, you look up and realize that if you had just kicked a FG in the beginning of the game, you could have tied the score on this play with a simple FG.

I guess my question is this: How many times do you think Dan Quinn walks into his kitchen, looks at the stove and thinks “I bet that’s not hot like last time” as he touches the burner?

Credit to Super Bowl champion coach Doug Pederson for, you know, watching the game in front of him and making enough adjustments to win that game. I’m not sure if he’s a genius or if everyone else is amazingly dumb.

QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, 50.28 pts — on the wire
WR: Tyreek Hill, 35.07 pts — started by Sam
RB: Alvin Kamara, 34.87 pts — started by Jo
TE: Jared Cook, 16.50 pts — on Ant’s bench
K: Greg Zuerlein, 17.00 pts — started by Joel
DEF: NY Jets, 27.00 pts — on the wire
D: T.J. Watt, 16.00 pts — started by Jim

First, some bookkeeping here. Koy Detmer has graced our Top Performers banner since 2009, bringing credibility and gravitas to the section each week. And while he will always have a spot there, we cannot ignore the contributions this year of greatest backup QB in Eagles history, and the only man to ever throw a TD and receive a TD in the Super Bowl. So Nick Foles joins our own Mt. Rushmore of greatness up there from now until the end of time.

Second, dear gawd. Kamara and Hill were top 20 picks, so they weren’t a big surprise. But journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick (who was not among the 24 QBs drafted by our teams) posting a stat line of 417 yds passing, 36 yds rushing and 5 total TDs was … unexpected. For comparison’s sake, Fitzpatrick collected 88 fantasy pts in all of 2017. But, yeah, drafting a QB early in fantasy is a good strategy.

Also, I’m pretty sure the Jets having the league’s top defense, even through a single week, is a sign of the apocalypse.

Also, having three of the top performers all play on Monday night makes too much extra work for my recap.

“Starting off strong” edition

3rd place: Nathan Peterman, -2.94 pts — on the wire
2nd place: Chargers, -5.00 pts — started by Paul
1st place:New Orleans, -6.00 pts — started by Ant

Don’t worry, Tony Romo crying still stays atop the worst performers section.

The Saints come out the gate with the worst possible score for a defense, allowing 48 pts and recording no turnovers, sacks, or positive vibes of any sort. The Chargers at least got one sack along with their four quarters of suckitude.

And congrats to Buffalo starting QB Nathan Peterman, who recorded a QB rating of 0.00 in his one half of work in the Bills worst opening-day loss ever. He went 5-18 for 24 yards with two interceptions. As always, for comparison, your QB rating on Sunday after you dropped the remote (0-1 for 0 yds, no TDs or INTs) was 39.6. It was the 68th time in league history a QB achieved that dubious honor. But that list includes Peyton Manning, Archie Manning, and Eli Manning, so he’s in good company.

** I’m a little late on this one, but did you know there’s NFL Red Zone channel coverage in the pre-season? During the regular season, the Red Zone channel is great, switching between games to show every score and big play. During the pre-season it’s … utterly pointless, really. Watch the fourth-string QB toss a TD to the 5th-string TE before both get cut the next day.
I’m not saying I didn’t watch it. I’m just saying it’s fairly dumb.

** CBS commentator Trent Green said at the start of Browns-Steelers game that the day before, Pittsburgh RB James Connor said “he likes to run up the middle, between the tackles. And interestingly, that’s how they opened this game, with a run up the middle.”
Trent, that’s not interesting. Interesting would have been Connor opening the game throwing a pass, or spontaneously combusting. What you’re describing is “basic game planning” and “obvious use of available personnel.” Try to bring something better next week.

** Congrats to the Sporting News, which predicted a Saints win over the Chargers in Super Bowl 53. There’s still a lot of games to play, but both teams lost in embarrassing upsets in week 1, so couldn’t start any hotter.

** Browns coach Hue Jackson finally ended his team’s 17-game losing streak … with a tie against the Steelers that featured a Browns’ turnover at the end of regulation in FG range and a blocked FG at the end of overtime that could have won the game. But hey, a career record of 1-31-1 is an improvement, right?

** After throwing his third INT of the game (that one returned for a TD), Lions QB Matt Stafford suffered a knee injury on 2nd and 10 in his own red zone. After he left the game, the Lions punted two plays later, and saw it returned 78 yds for a TD. Despite his pain, Stafford returned to the game on the next series … and threw his fourth INT of the game.

** Seven teams opted to switch head coaches after last season. Those seven teams went … 0-7 on Sunday, in a unanimous display of futility.

** The Titans and Dolphins played the longest game in NFL history on Sunday (thanks to two lightning delays, it took 7 hours and 8 minutes) and the teams rewarded the fans with … three quarters of football with 13 combined points. It wasn’t until the teams passed 5:30 p.m that the squads started scoring, and even then, 14 of the 34 points totaled in the fourth quarter came on kick returns that took less than 13 seconds each.

Another year has begun, and another new crop of Dallas rookies have experienced what it means to be a Cowboy: losing while sacrificing your soul on the altar of evil. And the first one in that line for the 2018 season was Dallas’ top draft pick, LB Leighton Vander Esch. So let’s learn a little more about what kind of person he is:

** Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch
He likes a balding, retrench coven.
** Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch
He loves a blackening cretin herd.

** Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch
He likes blanching a reverted con.
** Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch
He loves breaching a neck tendril.

** Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch
He likes a concerning veld breath.
** Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch
He loves a cerebral denting. Chink!

Sounds like a Cowboy to me.

** Dad opened the 2018 picks campaign by stealing two right off the bat from me. Why I had faith in the Cardinals and the Chargers, I cannot explain. I may not pick a team starting with C for the rest of the year now.

** The Eagles worked out former first round pick QB Paxton Lynch this week because … someone’s scrabble board fell onto the scouting chart? I don’t know, you have a better explanation?

** The Eagles travel to Tampa this week to face the aforementioned, unstoppable Ryan Fitzpatrick. If the birds can beat the Bucs, they’ll have the inside edge to the NFC South title, with two wins in the division already.

Week 1 standings

1 — Kneel Armstrong (Sam), 138.51 pts
2 — The Garoppolo Gamble (Joel), 136.16 pts
3 — Blue Collar Killers (Jeff), 127.24 pts
4 — Witch Hunting (Jim), 125.47 pts
5 — For Who? For Wentz? (Ant), 125.14 pts
6 — We Love the Mud (Mom D), 123.16 pts
7 — Nick 'MVP' Foles (Capt. Awesome), 122.64 pts
8 — Kiss A Fish Today (Dad), 110.94 pts
9 — Character Limit? WTF (Paul), 101.47 pts
10 — Philly Special (Jo), 98.94 pts
11 — SweatpantsEnthusiast (Mike), 91.61 pts
12 — Last Exit 2 Kutztown (Bob), 91.34 pts

Solid scores and solid name changes on that list (took you long enough). Sam lands the top spot after week one thanks to Tyreek Hill’s ridiculous game (and no thanks to QB Matt Stafford and WR Marquise Goodwin). Joel comes in second despite a terrible, terrible game from QB Marcus Mariota, and Jeff ends up in bronze position with his patented “never gonna start two active defensive players” strategy.

The good news for everyone else? All these scores are pretty even for a change — I can’t remember the last time the first and last place team on a week were less than 50 pts apart.

Does that mean that Bob still has a chance to win? No, of course not. But it’s still early enough to dream. Don’t forget to set those lineups for the Thursday game and hit the waiver wire to plug those holes.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Fantasy league 2018 -- preseason rankings

The draft is over, the teams are ready, and your future is already decided. Here’s how the fantasy league is going to play out this year:

Team: Last Exit to Kutztown (Bob)
Projected Yahoo finish: 2nd, 1934.24 pts
Real finish: 12th, 1645.72 pts
Yahoo may love Bob’s team, but he’s gotta prove that he can climb out of the cellar before I’m gonna rank him any higher. He’s running out there with Todd Gurley, the top RB from last year (posed for a big drop off this season), as well as fantasy stalwarts QB Russell Wilson and RB LeSean McCoy (both poised for big drop offs) and six players already listed as questionable or inactive. On the plus side, there’s a lot of Philly on here, including the Defense and top two WRs (Jeffery and Agholor).

Team: Kiss a fish today (Dad)
Projected Yahoo finish: 9th, 1814.89 pts
Real finish: 11th, 1701.01 pts
Oh boy. Dad’s gonna have an uphill climb with this one. His top three RBs are interesting (Kenyan Drake, Jordan Howard and Ronald Jones) but his WR corps doesn’t feature a single #1 target and his TE (The Eagles’ Dallas Goedert, who we will refer to as Philly Goedert from now on) is also a backup. His QB combo of Andrew Luck and Jimmy Garoppolo could be the best in the league, but he can only start one at a time. Better hope that Jacksonville D is good again.

Team: Cosby’s Sleepers (Mike)
Projected Yahoo finish: 8th, 1851.64 pts
Real finish: 10th, 1740.17 pts
Want a team to hate? Mike’s got one for you! Meet QBs Tom Brady and Dak Prescott. Say hello to Mr. Reliable-but-Boring TE Kyle Rudolph. Welcome back perennial disappointment RB Isaiah Crowell. And there’s just something about WR Marvin Jones Jr. that I just don’t trust. On the plus side, K Matt Prater is … old? So it’s nice that he still has a job.

Team: Witch Hunting (Jim)
Projected Yahoo finish: 12th, 1749.69 pts
Real finish: 9th, 1749.68 pts
Jim gets the best team name of the year but just a so-so roster to pair with it. QB Aaron Rodgers will be awesome until he inevitably gets hurt again. TE Zack Ertz is gold. But RBs Alex Collins and Bilal Powell as your top two rushers? Two more TEs thanks to Yahoo’s screwy rankings? And a Pittsburgh safety as a defensive starter is never a good idea. Best to stay away from those unreliable Steelers entirely.

Team: Blue Collar Killers (Jeff)
Projected Yahoo finish: 5th, 1862.84 pts
Real finish: 8th, 1873.81 pts
Eh? I may draft this exact team in my work league tomorrow, and yet there’s something that feels off. RB LeVeon Bell is always good (holdout right now), TE Rob Gronkowski is a game-changer (when he isn’t injured), QB Cam Newton racks up points (except for the years where he disappears for weeks). And the Minnesota defense is great unless they’re playing the Eagles in the NFC championship game, in which case they’re hot garbage.

Team: For Who? For Wentz? (Ant)
Projected Yahoo finish: 3rd, 1912.33 pts
Real finish: 7th, 1918.17 pts
Ant’s decision not to set his draft order earlier nets him Giants all-pro loudmouth Odell Beckham, so he’ll have to live with himself for that all year. But RB Melvin Gordon and WR Adam Thielen should help ease his woes. He also drafted a WR named Juju and a CB named Adoree, which I assume are some sort of Yahoo typos. But the rest of his team includes a Walker (TE Delanie), a Miller (RB Lamar), a Fuller (WR Will), a Cook (TE Jared) and a Moore (WR D.J.), so the team roster call won’t be too taxing.

Team: We Love the Mud (Mom D)
Projected Yahoo finish: 4th, 1866.61 pts
Real finish: 6th, 1944.99 pts
A lot of oooooold folks on this team. WR Jordy Nelson, K Matt Bryant, and WR Julian Edelman are all deep in their career. QB Drew Brees is approaching 40. WR Larry Fitzgerald turned 45 this offseason. TE Greg Olsen has the body of a 60-year-old now. RB Nick Chubb is a rookie but has the name of a 1930s gangster. But Mom’s top three of RB Kareem Hunt, WR Julio Jones and WR Doug Baldwin are about as good as they come. It’ll be interesting to watch this one unfold.

Team: Dat CTE Lyfe (Sam)
Projected Yahoo finish: 10th, 1814.71 pts
Real finish: 5th, 1979.11 pts
I feel like I always predict Sam will finish lower than he eventually does, so this year I’m picking him much higher than his team deserves. RB Ezekiel Elliott should be a solid points producer until his next suspension, WRs Keenan Allen and Tyreek Hill usually feel like they’re going to be good, TE Jordan Reed and RB Jay Ajayi may or may not be dead. If they are alive, that’ll be great news for Sam’s squad. WR Golden Tate is also here, and someday I will believe that name is for real.

Team: The Garoppolo Gamble (Joel)
Projected Yahoo finish: 7th, 1853.80 pts
Real finish: 4th, 2002.77 pts
Joel gets an automatic 100-pts deduction for not drafting Garoppolo on his team — that’s just false advertising. But, he still fields an impressive alphabetical squad of the Atlanta Defense, RB S Barkley, QB K Cousins, WR S Diggs, S N Ebner, and K G Zuerlein (I may have skipped a few letters in there). On the minus side, there’s not way he’ll be able to pronounce the names of TE David Njoku and S Chris Prosinski after a few drinks.

Team: Nick “‘MVP” Foles (me)
Projected Yahoo finish: 1st, 1950.05 pts
Real finish: 3rd, 2033.34 pts
I felt a lot better about this team before Yahoo picked it to win the league, since those idiots have no idea what they are doing. But I do have the deepest WR class of any squad (AJ Green, TY Hilton, D Thomas, Allen Robinson and AND Randall Cobb) plus the 2016 fantasy MVP RB David Johnson. And let’s not forget that if QB Matt Ryan goes down, I have the best backup in the game: TE Trey Burton, the passer on the Philly Special. Gotta love that.

Team: Philly Special (Joanner)
Projected Yahoo finish: 6th, 1855.65 pts
Real finish: 2nd, 2112.09 pts
The Yahoo fantasy gods did everything they could to screw over Joanna, drafting four TEs for her team (which would be great for our “all TEs” league next year, but not so much here.) And yet his team still looks solid. RB Alvin Kamara and QB Deshaun Watson together may break the network highlight reels (we’re still using film reels, right?). TEs Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham may be a viable double TE starting set. K Jake Elliot? Hello 50-yard FGs and XP misses. And the New England defense should be better set up this season, given the … sorry, they somehow just gave up another passing TD to Nick Foles.

Team: Character Limit? WTF (Paul)
Projected Yahoo finish: 11th, 1804.58 pts
Real finish: 1st, 2112.11 pts
All the greats know winning is about two things: talent and attitude. Does Paul’s squad have talent? Of course: WRs Antonio Brown and Chris Hogan, five viable RBs (C McCaffery, J Mixon, C Hyde, Duke Johnson, M Breida) and sleepers at TE (George Kittle) and DEF (Chargers). But is that what is going to drive this team to the top? No, it’s the leadership factor. Paul grabbed all-world QB Carson Wentz to shepherd his team this season, and even though he won’t record any fantasy points in week one, you can already feel the winning attitude taking over his group. It’s inspiring. It’s magical. It’s the stuff that wins fantasy championships.


Speaking of championships, the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles open the 2018 season this Thursday evening. Don’t forget to clean up your rosters before then, and get your players ready for the grueling grind ahead.

Remember: Even though we all can enjoy the season ahead, only one of you will walk away with the Awesome Cup at the end of the year (And by “one of you,” I obviously mean me.) Good luck out there.

Here's one more reminder of what you are playing for:

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fantasy league 2018 -- draft order announcement

It seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating Nick Foles’ brilliant, MVP-worthy, game-winning performance in Super Bowl LII. But as the days of summer dwindle down, the leaves are beginning to change, the new NFL season is approaching, and … we’re still celebrating Nick Foles’ MVP performance. Hell, we’re going to be doing that all year long. Maybe deep into 2019 if things don’t go just as well this year.

We’re also getting ready for a new year of fantasy football greatness, and the annual quest for the Awesome Cup. Hard to believe that trophy is entering its 17th year. For perspective, that’s just five years younger than the Cowboy’s 22-year streak of not winning a second round playoff game (the Eagles have six and a Super Bowl win over that span). We already have a storied history of the trophy, from my triumphant first victory back in 2004, to my two wins in three years from 2010 to 2012, to my dominating title romp last year. So many great memories.

But, now it’s time to dust off the trophy and get ready for the grind of a new season. All of the teams have been autorenewed this year, and we’re still waiting on updated names for most of them. For the annual draft order selection process, we have the awesome children ready to pick names out of the hat and working off our much beloved modified NBA draft order system. And we have special Nick Foles photos this year working as everyone’s proxy.

So the top four finishers from last year go into the hat (me, Ant, Joel and Dad) and the first name out is…

** Pick #12 — Dad
Ooooh, tough break for Pop, who just got the lowest possible pick thanks to his eldest grandson. Remember that at Christmas. Nick Foles reacts with exasperation on Dad’s behalf, but somehow still exudes confidence that everything will work out.

Mom Doyle’s name goes into the hat, and the youngest grandaughter makes the next pick.

** Pick #11 — Mom Doyle 
Wow, it really is gonna be a bad Christmas this year. First two picks out of the hat screw over both of the grandparents in the league. St. Nick shows a little frustration but also stares down the bubbling signs of despair, knowing that champions sometimes have to overcome adversity.

Sam’s name goes into the pot, and the next slot is awarded to…

** Pick #10 — Ant
Ant’s strong finish last year gives him a later pick this season, but he has displayed surprising consistency in recent years. It’s the short of solid play that burst into excellence that we saw last year with good old Nick, who takes a moment to warm up here after displaying such coolness all last post-season.

Uncle Mike’s name is next into the hat, and the kids make the next selection.

** Pick #9 — Mike
Well, I hope the kids get a good birthday haul at least, because they’re not doing favors for any relatives. Mike gets the lowest draft spot he can, as his niece gets excited that she recognizes another name. Nick Foles has no discernable reaction, since #9 only means one thing to him: Super Bowl MVP.

Joanna is next on the list, and she’s more than a little concerned that the kids seem to be targeting relatives for bad picks here. Although one family member is happy and suspiciously quiet.

** Pick #8 — Joel
The 2016 Awesome Cup champion — still our biggest league upset ever — settles down with a middle-of-the-road pick after a third-place finish last year. That’s a win in my book. Nick Foles looks on knowingly.

Jim’s name goes into the mix, and the next name that comes out is…

** Pick #7 — Jim
Much like the Steelers in the playoffs last year, that’s a disappointment. Foles knows disappointment too. He also knows what it’s like to overcome those feelings and pull yourself all the way up to the Super Bowl MVP. He’d be happy to tell you about it.

Three coaches left for the hat, and Paul’s slip goes in.

** Pick #6 — Sam
Sam could be upset with this pick, but he’s probably preoccupied with his new baby. You know who had a baby at the Super Bowl? Nick Foles, that’s who. That kids is going to grow up in a world where her father has been a Super Bowl champion nearly her entire life. Think about that for a moment, and smile.

Jeff’s name goes into the pot next, and then the kids select the next victim.

** Pick #5 — Joanna
OK, maybe the holiday presents won’t be as bad. Joanner gets a pleasant surprise in the form of a good draft boost thanks to the kids’ blind picking. I mean, it’s not a surprise like the Philly special, where Nick Foles caught a TD pass in the Super Bowl, but it’s still a good surprise.

Bob’s name is the final one into the hat, and now we’re in the stretch run.

** Pick #4 — Paul 
That’s a solid landing spot for Paul. Fourth puts him on the outside of the top three RBs in the draft but gives him his choice of wideouts, and we all know he loves WRs. Nicky gives Pauly a fist pump for staying on brand.

Three names left, and at least one is sure to cause controversy.

** Pick #3 — Capt. Awesome
THESE KIDS ARE GETTING WHATEVER THEY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS!!! Finally, after all these years, this screwy draft order system pays off for me. I jump up nine spots with my pick and get a chance at snagging one of the much coveted top three RBs. Nick Foles hold aloft the Lombardi trophy much like I held aloft the Awesome Cup last year. In a lot of ways, we’re the same.

Only two names left, so the first-runner up in this beauty pageant is…

** Pick #2 — Jeff
Last year’s second-to-last finisher picks second in the draft. That’s reliable and expected, like a Nick Foles pass over the middle to Zach Ertz. The 2005 Awesome Cup champ is hoping the 13th year anniversary of his glory is good luck this season.

And that leaves just one name

** Pick #1 — Bob
This is the third year in a row Bob gets the top spot, and I’m making a proclamation now that he will not be allowed to repeat that in 2019, no matter what his finish is this season. We can’t just keep repeating the same stuff over and over. Now, if we’re talking about Nick Foles championship repeats with the Eagles, that would be allowed.


Congrats to the one winner and 11 losers in the group above. I’m planning to switch the autodraft on this Friday night (Sept. 1). This is your last warning — the default rankings on Yahoo are terrible this year. If you don’t adjust them, you will end up with a QB as your first pick. And probably not a good one. Like Eli Manning. It’s that bad. Go set your rankings now.

And good luck out there this season. May the spirit of Nick Foles be with you.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Fantasy league 2017 -- special emergency edition

Ranking the QBs in Super Bowl LII:

1: Nick Foles — Only one QB in NFL history has caught and thrown a TD pass in the biggest game of the year. Foles 373 passing yds are fifth all time in Super Bowl history, and he was the unquestionable MVP of the game.

2: Trey Burton — Consider that the third-string TE completed 100 percent of his passes for TDs, and did all of his work inside two minutes of the end of the half. That’s not bad.

3: Carson Wentz — Sure, he didn’t actually throw any passes in the game. But the offense ran like he never left, so he deserves credit for that.

4: Tom Brady — He did throw for 505 yards, a Super Bowl record, but he also had a fumble that clinched the game for the Eagles. That’s pretty much a wash.

5: Nate Sudfeld — I mean, he gets a ring.

6: Eli Manning — Dude threw one practice pass to Odell Beckham in the third quarter and acted like they won the Super Bowl. You guys finished 3-13. Cut the celebrations.

QB: Nick Foles — team scored 41 pts
WR: Nick Foles — caught a TD, in case we haven’t mentioned that
RB: Corey Clement — undrafted RB had 100 yds receiving
TE: Zach Ertz — Gronk had better stats, but he lost, so...
K: Jake Elliott — Eagles won every game where he missed an XP
DEF: Nevermind
D: Brandon Graham — One sack, one fumble, one win

“New England defensive coaches” edition

1st place: Matt Patricia — Allowed 41 points

Dude, the other team gave up 613 yds of offense and you were the one that couldn’t make a stop when needed. How is that possible?

** Chris Collinsworth believes that every single Eagles play is not a catch. If you listened closely, when he talked about the team fighting the flu late last week, he wouldn’t even say that they caught a cold.

** Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, was quoted by USA Today as telling her children after the game that the Patriots didn’t win because “You have to let someone else win sometimes.”
Weird that Brady’s version of letting another team win is throwing the ball until his arm falls off, but whatever.

** The New York Post front page on Monday had the headline “Giants win … best ad” instead of actually acknowledging the Eagles. And I get it, I wish I could ignore New York all the time too. But don’t you guys want to make fun of Brady instead of reminding everyone that the Giants were a joke this year?

You know we couldn’t skip this:

The Philadelphia Eagles are the Super Bowl Champions
* Pep, holier hero. Weep again, Dallas chumps. Hail the best

FYI, Nick Foles has more playoff wins this season (three) than they Cowboys have in the last 21 years (two). But, America’s team, sure.

** Valiant effort by Dad, Who did a good job picking the post-season games but chose the under in the Super Bowl and fell short in his quest to unseat me this season. That's a clean sweep on football for me: Weekly picks, playoff picks, and fantasy season title. On the other hand, neither of us really care about that right now.

** Folks, I don't want to alarm you but ... I think that actually happened. I think the Eagles won the Super Bowl

Week 21 standings

1 — Philadelphia Eagles, 16-3 (Coach Doug Pederson) — 41 pts
2 — New England Patriots, 15-4 (Coach Bill Belichick) — 33 pts
3 — Everybody else

It’s no Awesome Cup, but I think that Lombardi trophy will look just fine hanging around Philadelphia for the next year.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Fantasy league 2017 -- final season recap

Good season all around ... if by good you mean “every team underachieved compared to past years’ point totals.” Fantasy football is a cruel hobby, and this year the football gods confused all of us by delivering enjoyable football to watch and frustrating fantasy stats to follow. But, in the end, someone has to go home with the Awesome Cup, and we get to have 11 other lucky losers.

Here is the official final look at how you all did, with an added tally of how often my predictions and Yahoo’s guesses were within one place of the final rankings:

Last Exit 2 Kutztown (Bob)
Yahoo projected finish: 1885.73 pts (5th place)
My projected finish: 1985.73 pts (5th place)
Actual finish: 1487.00 pts (12th place)
NFL equivalent: New Jersey Giants
Bob barely avoided the record for fewest points ever scored over the course of a season, outpacing Paul’s 2015 campaign by 70 pts. That doesn’t make his second consecutive last-place finish any nicer, though. He single-handedly killed RB David Johnson, WR Allen Robinson and RB Spencer Ware in the early weeks of the season and fell apart from there. On the plus side, unlike the Giants, at least he knows what state he works in.

Blue Collar Killers (Jeff)
Yahoo projected finish: 1878.25 (7th place)
My projected finish: 1868.58 pts (8th place)
Actual finish: 1509.52 pts (11th place)
NFL equivalent: Indianapolis Colts
Jeff should have had injured QB Andrew Luck on his team, because he was an even more impressive angel of death for his players than Bob. WR Odell Beckham, RB Dalvin Cook and RB Ty Montgomery were all potential first-round picks that ended up being liabilities on his squad. His QB combo of Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning produced more duds than successes this season. Unlike the Colts, though, Jeff can’t be fired for his mistakes.

SmartyPants on Fire (Paul)
Yahoo projected finish: 1865.58 pts (8th place)
My projected finish: 1800.01 pts (10th place)
Actual finish: 1513.15 pts (10th place)
NFL equivalent: Oakland Raiders
Nailed it — take that, Yahoo.

I’m still not sure how Paul ended up down here. He drafted — then cut — the top fantasy QB on the year (Russell Wilson) and held three of the top wideouts (Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks and Tyreek Hill). Sure, his RBs were beyond awful. But much like the Raiders, who got to the playoffs last year and missed it by a mile with the same squad this year, something just doesn’t add up. Blame coaching.

Tiny Trump Gloves (Jim)
Yahoo projected finish: 1898.71 pts (4th place)
My projected finish: 1842.88 pts (9th place)
Actual finish: 1640.70 pts (9th place)
NFL equivalent: Cincinnati Bengals
Me 2, Yahoo rankings 0

If Ezekiel Elliott had played the whole year, Jim’s team may have amounted to something. But, that’s kinda like saying “if Vlad the Impaler had stayed away from drinking blood, he could have been a great ruler.” Basing your team around pure evil has consequences. Marcus Mariota and Adrian Peterson turning into total duds didn’t help much either. At least he didn’t totally break Antonio Brown...

Foles v. Sproles (Joanner)
Yahoo projected finish: 1958.17 pts (3rd place)
My projected finish: 1901.07 pts (6th place)
Actual finish: 1762.61 pts (8th place)
NFL equivalent: Houston Texans
Only about 130 pts separated Jo from second place, which is also about the amount of points she left on her bench over the last five weeks by not setting her roster. Much like the Texans, she stopped trying after November rolled around. Accidentally dropping her first-round pick (Devonta Freeman) didn’t help much either. On the plus side, her apathy destroyed Terrelle Pryor and the Maryland Racial Slurs’ season, so it wasn’t all a waste.

Cosby’s Sleepers (Mike)
Yahoo projected finish: 1885.58 pts (6th place)
My projected finish: 2034.03 pts (2nd place)
Actual finish: 1780.90 pts (7th place)
NFL equivalent: Miami Dolphins
This is the lowest I’ve seen a Todd Gurley-led team finish in any of the leagues I’ve watched. His 2,000-plus all-purpose yds weren’t enough to overcome the disappointments of RB Jay Ajayi, TE Greg Olsen, TE Jordan Reed, and WR … wait, did he have any wideouts? Not a single one he drafted was on his end-of-year roster. And WR Josh Doctson got multiple starts in their place. That’s a lot for Gurley to overcome.

Dat CTE Lyfe (Sam)
Yahoo projected finish: 1810.55 pts (12th place)
My projected finish: 1871.53 pts (7th place)
Actual finish: 1837.78 pts (6th place)
NFL equivalent: Detroit Lions
It’s almost like the Yahoo predictions I called off-base at the start of the year were … off base.
Sam’s decision to drop the Jacksonville defense before the start of the season proved disastrous, and that poor coaching trickled down to the rest of his squad. Were WR Mike Evans and QB Kirk Cousins still good? Sure. But were they winners? No. And most unforgivable was his move to jettison S James Ihedigbo in September. True, he didn’t play a single down this year. But isn’t that the kind of name you want on your roster, especially one that ends up being middle of the road?

Animal Crackers (Mom Doyle)
Yahoo projected finish: 1850.11 pts (9th place)
My projected finish: 1755.05 pts (11th place)
Actual finish: 1880.26 pts (5th place)
NFL equivalent: Baltimore Ravens
Mom finished 12 points out of second place … and all the way back in 5th. That’s the kind of margin that will haunt you for the whole offseason, especially when the team that finished ahead of her did so with the help of Rob Gronkowski, the TE she drafted in the second round and then dumped unceremoniously midway through the year. All he did after that was score 113 pts over the next 10 weeks, more than all but four other TEs for the whole season. But my count, she lost 77 pts with that move alone. Sorta like giving up a 46-yd TD pass on 4th and 14 when the playoffs are on the line. Ouch.

The Pigskin Predators (Dad)
Yahoo projected finish: 2056.65 pts (1st place)
My projected finish: 1563.22 pts (12th place)
Actual finish: 1881.43 pts (4th place)
NFL equivalent: Buffalo Bills
If we had a playoff, Dad would carry the Bill’s spirit into our postseason: All luck and no rational reason why. His decision to go all in on QB Aaron Rodgers blew up when he went down with a shoulder injury, but Dad replaced his lost player with an impressive cast of castoffs (see Freeman, Gronkowski, Jacksonville D) and free agents (WR Juju Smith-Schuster, WR Marquise Goodwin) to stay respectable. He also won the “most transactions” contest for the third time in four years. It’s a small consolation prize, but it’ll have to do.

Gronky Tonk Man (Joel)
Yahoo projected finish: 1810.99 pts (11th place)
My projected finish: 1987.65 pts (4th place)
Actual finish: 1887.62 pts (3rd place)
NFL equivalent: Atlanta Falcons
Seriously, Yahoo, I’m available to do made-up pre-season predictions next year.

Last year’s Awesome Cup champion has to settle for bronze this season. At the halfway point Joel appeared set for a repeat, but diminishing returns from QB Dak Prescott, RB Melvin Gordon and RB Kareem Hunt sunk him down the stretch. Still, Joel proved his ascendance last year was no fluke with a solid campaign this season, leaving him with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Well, maybe not accomplishment, since you get nothing for third. But pride, I guess.

For Who? For Wentz (Ant)
Yahoo projected finish: 2038.17 pts (2nd place)
My projected finish: 2115.51 pts (1st place)
Actual finish: 1891.42 pts (2nd place)
NFL equivalent: Los Angeles Rams
At best, this is a push for Yahoo. I’m up 4-1-1 against the web site by my count.

In my pre-season rankings, I praised every part of Anthony’s team as sneaky good: His starting QB, his top wideouts, his backup and starting RBs. The one spot I didn’t highlight: his backup QB, a one Mr. Carson Wentz, the fantasy steal of 2017. When Ant finally made the switch to bench QB Drew Brees in favor of the actual MVP of 2017 (get lost, Brady), his team started to gel and make a run for the top. And when Wentz went down and he cut him from the team, it was the end of his championship chances. In the end, he gets to take home the title of first loser, while the rest of the glory goes to...

Foles me Wentz (Capt. Awesome)
Yahoo projected finish: 1831.36 pts (10th place)
My projected finish: 2033.33 pts (3rd place)
Actual finish: 2117.08 pts (1st place)
NFL equivalent: Philadelphia Eagles
The experts would tell you you can’t start you own fantasy football league, control the draft rules and scoring settings, write up all the league happenings and be a consistent winner. But they would be wrong. This is my fourth Awesome Cup title since the league began, my third in the last eight years, and final proof that after 15 years on Yahoo I have finally mastered their autodraft process. My strategy of grabbing great RBs early (LeSean McCoy, Jordan Howard), sleeper RBs in the middle rounds (Keenan Allen, Jarvis Landry), forcing an early TE pick (Zach Ertz in the 7th) and completely ignoring QBs (I drafted Andrew Luck and Jay Cutler, and never started either) paid off handsomely. Gambling on the Philly defense early helped too.

My margin of victory — more than 225 pts — is the largest in league history, cementing my dominance and genius. Behold, the Awesome Cup is once again back home:

Sorry to spoil the start of your 2018, folks, but you have eight months of gloating from me before you can do anything to stop the situation. We’ll be back here again in August to do it all again. As always, thanks for reading and playing.

And if the January games turn out better than the pundits expect, maybe I’ll have a few more updates here in the weeks to come. We can only hope.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Fantasy league 2017 -- week 17 recap

Thanks to a series of improbable events (mostly, the Bengals winning a game), the Buffalo Bills snuck into the wild card round on Sunday and ended the NFL’s longest postseason drought. The last time Buffalo played a meaningful game in January was 1999: They were the only franchise not to play a single playoff game in the 2000s. But even that doesn’t state just how long in football years their streak of futility has been:

** Only eight players on the team’s 53-man roster had reached high school the last time the Bills had a playoff game.

** That last appearance by the Bills was the infamous Music City Miracle. Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed were still members of the team. On the other side of the field, the Titans squad included Eddie George and Kicker Al Del Greco, whose career began in 1984.

** When the Bills were last in the playoffs, the Patriots had never won a Super Bowl.

** No player that was active in the league in 1999 is still playing today. Three players who were drafted the spring after the Bills’ playoff game are still in the league: P Shane Lechler, K Sebastian Janikowski, and QB Tom Brady.

** At the time of the game, Doug Pederson had more career starts for the Eagles (9) than Donovan McNabb (6).

Top performers of the year

3rd place: Carson Wentz, 348.24 pts — 13th QB drafted (Ant)
2nd place: Tom Brady, 359.88 pts — 1st QB drafted (Mom D)
1st place: Russell Wilson, 419.42 pts — 4th QB drafted (Paul)
Neither Paul or Anthony ended up with those QBs on their teams at year end. Meanwhile, the 4th ranked QB (Alex Smith) was the 22nd QB picked in our draft, while the 2nd QB picked (Aaron Rodgers) ended up as the 28th best fantasy passer of the year. Weird year all around.

3rd place: Keenan Allen, 189.77 pts — 17th WR drafted (Capt. Awesome)
2nd place: Antonio Brown, 209.92 pts — 1st WR drafted (Jim)
1st place: DeAndre Hopkins, 216.87 pts — 13th WR drafted (Mom D)
Not too many busts in this category besides Odell Beckham, who was drafted 2nd but finished 108th due to injury (behind Torrey Smith even!). Worth noting as always that the 7th-best RB was still better than the best WR, but all the fantasy experts will still tell you that taking a wideout first is smaht.

3rd place: Alvin Kamara, 259.31 pts — undrafted
2nd place: LeVeon Bell, 277.27 pts — 2nd RB drafted (Ant)
1st place: Todd Gurley, 325.03 pts — 7th RB drafted (Mike)
Gurley was the player owned by the most championship teams this year, but Kamara was the real shocker. As the #2 back on his own team, he led all RBs in receiving yds (826) and threw in 347 return yds just for good measure. And he made the pro-bowl with teammate RB Mark Ingram. Hope teams I root for don’t have to see him in the playoffs...

3rd place: Zach Ertz, 138.93 pts — 7th TE drafted (Capt Awesome)
2nd place: Rob Gronkowski, 157.27 pts — 1st TE drafted (Mom D)
1st place: Travis Kelce, 157.90 pts — 2nd TE drafted (Jo)
A huge drop off in this category this year: Only nine TEs topped 100 pts for the season, and the difference between the #1 and #12 TE was 68 pts. Either you got a good TE this year (or picked up the #2 guy after he was inexplicably dropped) or you struggled with this position all year.

3rd place: Robbie Gould, 170.00 pts — undrafted
2nd place: Stephen Gostkowski, 172.00 pts — 2nd K drafted (Mom D)
1st place: Greg Zuerlein, 182.00 pts — undrafted
Not only did Zuerlein come out of nowhere, he also missed the last two games of the season and still ended up the best kicker of the year. The real news here is that someone drafted a kicker that mattered, a rarer feat than a Bills playoff appearance.

3rd place: LA Rams, 206.00 pts — 9th DEF drafted (Joel)
2nd place: Baltimore, 216.00 pts — undrafted
1st place: Jacksonville, 230.00 pts — 12th DEF drafted (Sam)
Coming in 4th was the Eagles, whose defense was expected to be middling to poor this year. But 31 turnovers, five blocked kicks and five TDs will boost your fantasy value. Jacksonville, meanwhile, accounted for more points than Eli Manning, Joe Flacco or Jay Cutler on the year.

3rd place: Bobby Wagner, 72.50 pts — undrafted
2nd place: Reshad Jones, 74.50 pts — undrafted
1st place: C.J. Mosley, 75.70 pts — undrafted
Someday we’ll draft one of the best defensive players. Someday.

“Worst performers of the year” edition

5th place: John Ross, -0.80 pts — on the waiver wire
4th place: Jake Rudock, -1.04 pts — on the waiver wire
2nd place: (tie) Tyler Bray, -2.00 pts — on the waiver wire
2nd place: (tie) Donatello Brown, -2.00 pts — on the waiver wire
1st place: Teddy Bridgewater, -2.30 pts — on the waiver wire

Ross was the #9 overall pick in the draft last spring. Needless to say, that didn’t work out.

Rudock and Bray are allegedly backup QBs. I’d never heard of either of them before five seconds ago. Brown, a CB for the Packers, is the only defensive player to finish the year in negative points.

But our worst player of the year this season was one-time franchise QB Bridgewater, back from a devastating knee injury two years ago. He only appeared for two plays for the Vikings, the first being a -3 yd rush, the second being an interception. The Vikings have to decide whether to renew his contract after their playoff run this month. That inspired return probably can’t help much.

** During the Ohio State/USC bowl game last Friday, play-by-play: Bob Wischusen was giddy when the Trojans finally scored a TD to make the game a little more competitive. As RB Ronald Jones took the handoff on a sweep play, Wischusen shouted: “He gets the ball and walks into the end zone … with speed!”

We have a word for walking with speed. It’s running. It’s even in the name of the position. It’s worth looking into.

** After the Browns on Sunday became only the second NFL team ever to go 0-16, owner Jimmy Haslam assured reporters that he does not plan to fire coach Hue Jackson. “I don’t think Hue’s lost his magic on how to call plays or how to run an offense or how to coach a team.”

The team is 1-31 under Jackson over the last two years. I don’t think he has lost any magic either. You can’t lose things you don’t have.

** Yahoo came out with our fantasy football grades this week. Without spoiling how I finished, the site gave me a “B” grade for the season. The breakdown was an “A” for end results, “A” for in-season management, and a “D” for pre-season draft analysis. So, even though my team did great, they effectively dinged me because my results didn’t match their guesses of how the season would go.

I’d complain more about how stupid that methodology is, but this is essentially how the entire college football season and playoff is conducted.

We’re just a day out from the end of the regular season and already six coaching jobs are open for next year (with at least one more expected by the end of the week). Rumor is that ESPN analyst Jon Gruden is already the favorite to fill the open Oakland Raiders job. But who are the perfect candidates for the other spots?

** Chicago Bears — Mike Ditka
Can the man who won the 1985 Super Bowl with the Bears return them to glory? No, of course not. But people would care about the Bears for the first time in a decade if he returned. Plus, no one else wants to weather those winters.

** Indianapolis Colts — Andrew Luck’s doctor
It’s simple: If Luck is healthy enough to play, the Colts can be great. If he’s not, they should forfeit. So, why not cut out the middleman here and save a few bucks?

** New York Giants — Joe Girardi
He’s beloved in NY for slapping together an overachieving Yankees team, so why not give him another shot in New Jersey this time? When Beckham comes back healthy next year it’ll probably mean another three or four wins, and he can claim credit as a genius again.

** Detroit Lions — Hue Jackson
This team hasn’t been interesting since it went 0-16, and now the Browns spoiled that by matching their achievement. So why not go for broke again? Sure, Jackson is technically still under contract with the Browns, but it wouldn’t take much to pry him away.

** Arizona Cardinals — Larry Fitzgerald
He’s 100 years old and the only member of the Cardinals you can remember (sorry, David Johnson doesn’t count, he doesn’t have legs anymore). Give the poor guy a cushy retirement gig where he decides which fellow teammates have to go over the middle and get smacked instead of him.

True, the Eagles’ season finale was a nearly unwatchable game, and it was the team’s third loss of the season. But remember it was mostly backups playing with nothing on the line, so it says little about the boys in green. But it did give the young Dallas players a chance to see what a real division champions looks like, since they saw their fraud of a team repeatedly exposed this year in their quest to earn another playoff berth. For folks like backup safety Xavier Woods, it was an important learning experience:

New Dallas Cowboys rookie free safety Xavier Woods
** Ever woe: Fool crooks exit season awed. Fly away, birds.

Remember to tune in next fall for another crop of new soulless, evil Dallas rookies whose names unveil the evil within. I’ll stop doing these when it stops being easy to use these players own names against them.

** Valiant effort by Dad, who went 6-3 against me in our picks this week. But sadly that still leaves him four down for the year, giving me the title of the family’s best football brain. It’s the third straight year I’ve grabbed the title (after three straight years of Dad wins). I also had a near identical finish to last year, posting a pick percentage of 65.6 (last year it was 65.4 percent). Next year, I should do this for money.

** The Big Ten went 7-1 in bowl games this year, with the only loss coming when Michigan blew at 16-point lead on New Year’s Day. So, maybe bowl season isn’t all bad.

** The Eagles are 10-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, tied with the Saints and Rams and behind the Patsies, Steelers and Vikings. Meh. The 2008 Phillies weren’t favored either.

Week 17 standings

The official final week standings — and the crowning of the latest Awesome Cup Champion — will be unveiled later this week.