Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Gotta Feeling: Playoff Sit or Starts

In most fantasy football leagues, the playoffs have either already began or will this week. Every decision to start or sit a player is excruciatingly difficult. For example, last week I elected to start Stevie Johnson over Pierre Garcon. Both of their matchups were beatable but Johnson had been more consistent. Well, that was a mistake. Garcon went off to the tune of 6, 93, and 2 while Johnson, who has been unable to recover from his dropping catastrophe against Pittsburg, produced yet another pedestrian performance of 5 catches for 42 yards. This got me thinking.

Let me begin my saying that my belief in any fantasy sport is to never, ever, under any circumstances, bench a top player. The mark of a great player is someone who performs in difficult situations. To bench a great player in a difficult situation is therefore, to deny that player’s greatness. However, for those B, B+ level guys, the decision to sit or start is most challenging. By B or B+ level I’m talking about guys just like Johnson. They’re certainly consistent and 7 out of 10 weeks should be no-brainer starts. As for the other 3, at least one of those occasions you’ll probably bench them, then start them, bench them again, only to insert them into the starting role Sunday at 12:30. That leaves 1 or 2 times, however, where they should be benched. Here is a list, inspired by some of the songs I’m currently listening to, of players with borderline starts and my suggestions.

Mark Sanchez, “Memories”

Memories. That’s all fantasy owners will be clinging to after the Jets take on Pittsburg. That is, memories of how tremendous Sanchez was about 5 weeks ago. Since then, though, the Sanchize has been nothing but pain for any unfortunate owner. Quite frankly, if Sanchez is your starting quarterback and you’ve managed to make the playoffs, you’ve finagled your way to one of the more improbable success stories in recent memory. Mark is totally overwhelmed right now, has no confidence, and throws to receivers suffering from the same plight. Bench him, bench him, bench him. This one is easy.

Fred Jackson, “Like a G6”

A G6 is a Jet. The Jets run the ball well. Fred Jackson has been running the ball well, thus, he’s very much like a New York G6 running back. The newest starting Bills back is beginning to look like an every week start. Miami did a good job defending the actual G6s last week, but I think the imitation will have success this week. The injury to Lee Evans will probably limit the passing attack, which means more touches for the backs. As long as Jackson can stay away from the “sizzurp” there should be no hesitancy to start him.

Thomas Jones, “Waiting for the End”

The Chiefs will have a surprisingly difficult and even more surprisingly meaningful matchup between 2 teams who, if the season ended today, would be in the playoffs. I really like St. Louis and believe they will be legitimate Super Bowl contenders a few seasons from now. However, the only reason they will get in this season is that they play in the worst division in professional sports. KC should be able to dispatch them this week. You’ll be “waiting for the end” of the game because Jones will see the most action in garbage time. He’s been touching the ball much less the last few weeks, but that should change. Jamal Charles is fresh off a new monster contract and Kansas City will want to save their main man for more pressing situations at either the end of the season or the playoffs.

Mike Wallace, “Tonight (I’m $#%!@&$ You)”

At least that’s what Darrelle Revis will be singing to Wallace owners this week. As bad as the defense has been as of late, Revis has been tremendous. There’s a chance that Ryan will elect to play Revis on Hines Ward and let the speedier Cromartie attempt to handle Wallace. In either case, both corners will be saying, “Let’s remove the space between me and you.” This is one of the trickier calls for the week, but if possible, I’d look elsewhere for a different starter.

Felix Jones, “Bat Out of Hell”

Hell, of course, refers to the Wade Phillips era. During this hellish era, Felix Jones’ talents were seemingly neglected. Somehow the fact that Jones has incredible speed and solid power was forgotten. New head coach, Jason Garret, however, recognizes the potential of his talented back. Felix has been on total tear lately and Washington is beginning to look like one of the worst teams in football. Unlike the other songs on this list, Bat Out of Hell is actually good and one of my favorite songs of all time. It is no coincidence that Jones gets it. He will have one of the 10 best individual performances of the week.

LeGarrette Blount, “Kush”

He has a great matchup this week against one of the bottom rushing defenses in the league. Despite the record of Detroit, they have actually played competitively against their opposition this year. I really doubt that this will be a blowout for Tampa, which means they are going to want to control the clock with Blount. Then again, a blowout would also guarantee Blount some end of game touches. More good news for Blount: Detroit has allowed the fourth most rushing touchdowns. Blount has been a master of inconsistency this season and I think this week will be one of his peaks. Why the song? Well, it has the perfect line, “Blunt and get blunted.” For some reason Snoop Dogg spelled “Blount” wrong, but then again, he spelled “Dog” wrong too. So careless…

Here are a few more guys on the borderline.

Mike Tolbert. Still getting his caries, especially at the goal line. Start.

Stevie Johnson. 4 of last 5 games have been mediocre or worse and no more Evans. Sit.

Mike Williams (TB). Detroit’s secondary is iffy but Lions will score, so lots of chances. Start.

Ronnie Brown. Beginning to wonder if he’s lost it but Bills worst run D in league. Start.

Marshawn Lynch. He’s just not very good anymore and showed that last week. Sit.

Austin Collie. The Robot/Wax Figure says he will play, but I’d like to see something from him as he’s done nothing since week 6. Sit.

Pierre Garcon. Doesn’t have the best catching abilities, but in an injury deprived offense he will get plenty of targets and has quietly had 4 good weeks in a row. Start.

Hines Ward. Brutal matchup against Revis or Cromartie and much like Wallace I’d think about looking elsewhere. Sit.


As seen originally at

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Should I React to THAT?

The following article was written following the Jets v Patriots Monday Night debacle. The feelings continue after today's disaster:

A lot is going to be said this week by Patriots supporters. They are the best team in football. The AFC East (and the AFC for that matter) is still theirs. The Jets do a lot of talking for a team that has 1 win over a team with a winning record. As for New York supporters, they can only hope that their fade into oblivion for the week is as taunt-free and painless as possible. It was a game that would have meant so much if they won. It is only fair that their annihilation mean so much too. What can they possibly say after their team got obliterated in every single facet of the game Monday night, leaving absolutely no doubt as to the superiority of New England?

Watching the game Monday night was difficult. In fact, I, a fan who watches every snap of aired professional football, walked away by the end of the third quarter, turning towards Dexter to provide some sort of distraction and relief (At least this was successful, I watched 4 episodes). If it wasn’t difficult enough to watch, the constant bombardment of taunts that I received through text and Facebook made it nearly impossible (thankfully, actually). I couldn’t watch most of the first half last night as I was experiencing numerous delays arriving into the world’s worst airport (Newark). My girlfriend took it upon herself to provide me with updates, even though I was listening to it on the radio. “This is pathetic,” I told her. She corrected me. “I’m sure it looks more pathetic then it sounds… like really sucking” (Bless her soul). My fraternity brother and roommate (Pats fan) wrote me simply, “succkkssss.” I can take that. Simple, neutral, accurate. If the roles were reversed last night, I would have instigated him in a far more superfluous manner. Two female friends, who are supporters of New England, (getting it from them stings a bit I suppose) teamed up against me over Facebook with one saying, “I know you are probably very upset right now... so ill save the victory dance for when you’re over it” (Weak, come on, let me have it!). The other was not so passive, retorting, “I would not be so doing a victory dance right now so u can just imagine it haha” (Sorry, too busy watching Dexter to imagine such a sight). Yet, the best one of all came from a Bills fan.

Brief interjection: Bills fans, more so than any other group of fans on this planet, understand the feelings I had last night. My grandpa is a Bills fan, and I spent the entire Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend with him watching football. The Bills game wasn’t on television, that is, until the original early game ended. We were just in time to see a Steve Johnson drop and a collapse that puts some of their early season ones to shame. This event caused 2 things.

1. My grandpa spent the duration of our Sunday commenting after every catch that if the receiver dropped it, he’d have a spot on the Bills.

2. Every team has a motto in their locker room. I exclaimed the following: “No doubt the Bills’ is, ‘Build em up, stab em in the heart’” (Dexter inspired). The Jets usually follow this credo as well, although they really didn’t this season until last night…

Anyways, back to that final text. “This is very similar to a madden game where I just did not bring my A game,” he wrote. “You should blog that verbatim.” Check. I guess I should take solace in the fact that I am the chosen, worthy Jets fan these people choose to berate. I suppose that speaks to my level of fandom.

There really isn’t much football analysis to be done after a showing like that. I mean, pick any aspect, any decision, any play, and you can probably find something that went horribly wrong for the Jets. It’s hard to pinpoint what was most disappointing. Was it the fact that this defense is looking terrible after losing their safety, Jim Leonhard? Possibly. Is it that Sanchez is turning into his old self, with at least 1 interception thrown over the last 7 games and a few brutal ones last night? Yeah, that’s pretty bad. How can I overlook the ongoing terrible play calls from Brian Schottenheimer, a guy who is supposed to be this brilliant offensive coordinator destined to be a head coach? Wildcat on third down?! What about the fact that Santonio Holmes showboated after every first down while his team is down three touchdowns? The Jets have had some head scratching games this season. They got shutout at home following a bye week. They needed late game heroics to defeat the disgracefully bad Lions. They almost lost a game against Houston when they were up 23-7 in the fourth. But, Monday night’s debacle was a whole knew level. It was a vicious, dandruff-in-the-fingernails, hair-on-the-ground type of head scratching.

I can only hope that the Jets take this as a learning experience. They were getting by with mediocre play and late game heroics against inferior opponents and that will not cut it against the AFC’s best. It’s still a little too early to panic, but remember this: New York was 8-3 in 2008 and finished with 9 wins. They got off to a 3-0 start last year and had another 3 game winning streak later in the season, but finished with just 9 wins again. Another collapse is not out of reach. At 9-3 the Jets would own the number 1 wildcard spot if the season ended today. Eleven is the magic number for the Jets, since the Ravens are the only other AFC team not in first that can reach such a win total. However, there are a slew of 6-6 teams, most notably San Diego, which can still get to 10. The Jets have 2 divisional games and 2 against 9-3 teams. They can certainly win them all, but then again, they could lose them all too. If the Jets go 3-1 they will probably get the 5 seed. Going .500 would most likely give them the 6 spot (Baltimore has only 1 game against a team with a winning record and they beat the Jets in week 1, giving them the edge against the Jets to claim the 5 spot in this situation). If they fall under .500, however, there is a strong possibility New York will fail to reach the postseason, despite being 9-3.

If you told me 12 weeks into the season that the Jets would be undefeated in games in which they scored a touchdown, I would be thinking 11-1 or 12-0. Unfortunately, they have failed to do that 3 times. Let’s just find the end zone every game from here on out, please.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Predicting the Game of the Year

The New York Jets face off against the New England Patriots in what will be the most significant game of the 2010 NFL regular season to date. Disregard the fact that both teams are 9-2 and atop the AFC. Disregard the fact that the winner of this game is in position to get the number one overall seed, while the loser will need to settle for a wildcard spot. This battle means so much more than simple playoff seeding.

The Jets have won 3 of their last 4 meetings with the Pats. In the six games prior to 2008, New York was only 1-5. With a win on the road, one (I) could begin to make the case that such a victory solidifies the Jets as the new dominant AFC East team after years of playing the role of either second fiddle or bottom dweller. New York has already made progress in claiming the division as their own by making an impressive and unexpected postseason run last year. However, this division is still New England's, as it has been for the past decade. Rex Ryan believes his team doesn't receive enough respect, but even he recognizes the recent superiority of the Patriots. If he wants his team to garner the attention he believes they deserves, New York must win the division, and to make that mission easier, must defeat New England in Foxborough, a place where the Patriots are undefeated this season. However, the Jets are the only team to win all its road games this season.

Both sides recognize the significance of this game for the current season as well as what it may hint at for the future. There are many intriguing matchups in this game. Here are the 2 that will determine the outcome.

Matchup 1: New England's Short Passing Game vs. New York's Talented Cornerbacks

People are disappearing again on Revis Island now that the premier cornerback in the league is back to full strength after his early season injury. In the last 5 games, Revis has limited Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, Josh Cribbs, Andre Johnson, and Terrell Owens to a grand total of 15 receptions, 180 yards, and 0 touchdowns. Meanwhile, his teammate and likely fellow pro bowler, Antonio Cromartie, has been playing at a comparable level with his opposition. However, the New England receivers are different than that which the two shutdown corners are accustomed, especially for Cromartie. Cromartie is a tall corner, standing at 6-2, which serves him particularly well against tall receivers who run deep patterns. The small, nimble New England receiving corps of Welker, Branch, Edelman, and Woodhead are the exact type of talent that causes problems for the Jets corners. New England has also utilized all of its tight ends this season. Gronkowski and Hernandez are both viable fantasy starters each week.

I would feel pretty confident starting Welker in this game. He has been one of the few New England receivers to perform well against the Jets during the Rex Ryan era. As for the other wide outs, I'd consider them to be a bit more of a stretch. Branch will probably be matched up either one on one with Revis or in a zone with Cromartie short and Brodney Pool or Eric Smith deep. However, I see the game turning out differently for the non-wide-out-frequent-pass-catchers. The linebackers might struggle defending both tight ends, especially the smaller and more agile Hernandez. However, the player who the Jets should be most concerned with is Danny Woodhead, who they released during the preseason. The Jets have terrific linebackers, but they are dominant because of smart play and good tackling, not tremendous speed. If the Jets rely on them to guard Woodhead they could have major difficulty. If they elect to use a safety on him, things could open up deep. Woodhead will be the X-factor in this game and a very good fantasy start. The Jets' trademark since Ryan took over has been to play tight man coverage and use creative blitz schemes with the linebackers and safeties. However, I think the more judicious move for them this week would be use a healthy dose of short zone coverage, with just a single deep safety.

Of course, the key to the Jets defensive game plan will be to stop Tom Brady, who, like Revis, has been on an absolute tear recently, earning possible MVP recognition. Despite the hair, he appears frightening on the sideline (this really, really speaks to his intensity and desire to win, cause let's be honest, the hair… I mean… As TJ and Keyshawn would say, "Come on Man!"). He is proficient against the blitz and deadly when given time. If the Jets want to win this game, they will need to hit him at least 7-10 times. The Jets D is great, but great fantasy players perform against good defenses, so start Brady this week, although you should be ecstatic if he produces a line like 250, 3, and 1.

Matchup 2: New York's Rushing Heavy Attack vs. New England's Porous Defense

Simply put, this is the worst New England defense we have seen in 10 years. They are young, inexperienced, and inconsistent. They have allowed 288 yards/game passing (worst in the league) and give up an average 110 yards on the ground (16th). Meanwhile, the Jets continue to dominate with a rushing attack that has ranked somewhere from 1 to 4 throughout the season and is currently second. This discrepancy is one that the Jets will obviously attempt to exploit. I know it, you know it, Ryan knows it, Belichick knows it, even Wade Phillips knows it, and he doesn't know anything (sorry, couldn't pass up another opportunity). Regardless of whether or not running the ball will be a surprise, the Jets are going to attempt to do it around 40 times on Monday night. Green seems to be taking over some of the duties he lost to LT earlier in the season, but both should get over 15 touches this week and therefore, are fantasy starts.

The Pats are going to load up the box with 8 guys and make the Jets beat them with Sanchez, who is coming off a pretty awful game. However, the three games prior to the Thanksgiving train wreck were the three best of his career, at least in terms of passing yardage. He is confident, be it warranted or not, and because of this, is especially dangerous. The outcome of this game will probably come down to Sanchez's performance, even more so than it will that of Brady, either team's running game, or the passing defense of the Jets.

Anticipate Sanchez to look towards Santonio Holmes once again this week. Holmes has been one of the best receivers in the league over the last 4 weeks, scoring 4 touchdowns and producing 360 yards. Tis the season of giving and thanks, and Santonio Holmes fantasy owners should be thankful that he keeps giving. However, Holmes' abilities will be tested this week when he goes up against rookie CB, Devin McCourty, who has emerged as one of the best players to come out of the 2010 draft. I still expect him to go for around 60 yards and score in this game.

If the X-factor for the Patriots is Danny Woodhead, then Dustin Keller is certainly the one for the Jets. The coaching staff for New York is going to want to build up Sanchez's confidence early in this game, which means he'll be giving Keller lots of early targets. Prior to the emergence of Holmes, Keller was probably the QB's favorite target, particularly on play action bootlegs. However, fantasy owners are growing frustrated with Keller's role in the offense as of late. This is now the third season in a row that Keller has produced some big games back-to-back and then seemingly disappeared off the face of the planet for consecutive games. I think Keller will be fantasy relevant for the first time in a while this week. I'm confident the Jets will be working him the ball early, so expect something like 30-45 yards in the first half, another 30 or so in the second, as well as a red zone touchdown somewhere along the way.


I would love nothing more than the Jets to win this game and I believe they certainly have the ability to do so. This said, the Patriots have been playing better football recently and I think the Jets will struggle defending all the little guys of the Patriots. Rookie Kyle Wilson, continues to grapple with playing as either the nickel or dime back. Brady loves to spread the ball around the entire field and has an uncanny ability to find the weak link on a team's defense and attack it. Weather is going to play a significant role in the performance of Sanchez, and fortunately for him, the current forecast is calling for temperatures in the mid thirties with a 20% chance of precipitation. You can't really expect anything better given the time of year. If Sanchez can limit himself to only 1 turnover and if the Jets run it over 40 times, I believe they will come out on top. I just don't think that will happen. It pains (PAINS!) me to say this, but I think the Patriots win it 24-21. Then again, maybe this is all just an elaborate voodoo jinx…

As seen originally at: