The finality of the end of a season is something that can eat away a little piece of your soul. We all have them. The playoff loss that dashes your dream and there’s nothing you can do but watch it.
I always try to take the high road when it comes to losing, even when it’s crushing. Last year, I rolled through my division and got a first-round bye in the playoffs with the No. 1 record. Downtown Red had no business even making the playoffs. He was lowest scoring team in the league and only won enough games because he would catch other teams in their worst week of the season. The talk around The Shop the week of the game was that it was going to be a blood-letting. Even though my main man Peyton Manning had the least production he had in any game all season in the Thursday night of our Week 15 semifinal matchup, but my young Sunday squires came through for me and, when the Sunday night game was over, I was ahead by 17 points and all Downtown Red had left was Justin Tucker.
I still refer to him by a similar sounding, but not identical, name. In one of the more painful nights of my life playing fantasy football, Tucker hit a 61-yard field goal with 38 seconds left, which gave Downtown Red the points he needed to win. Tucker kicked six field goals – two of them worth an extra point for being from 50-plus. If he misses, I win by one. He made it. I lost by three. The following week, in our championship game, my team put up a monster score that would have almost equaled the score of the two teams combined that played for the title.
It was depressing. I grabbed a bottle in the third quarter and was damn near finished when he hit the bullet that did a clean in-and-out through my chest.
Monday at The Shop, Downtown Red was reminding me of that fact, bragging up that we were going to have a rematch of last year’s game. He was is rare form. To the point, he got under my skin and I reminded him of what a ratty no depth-having squad of trolls he has, that, when he meets me, the beating will be complete and with malice.
He had reason to be cocky. His team came through for him like a champ, giving him his second highest point total of the season. He was ahead by 66 points going into the Monday night game. He was done and Tommy Pants, who backed into the playoffs, had his hopes pinned tightly to the chest of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
I think you smell what I’m cookin’.
By our scoring method, at halftime, Julio was living large with 100 yards, which gave him 13 points. Ryan, however, had done nothing non-Julio. He had just 122 passing yards and scrambled once for 15 yards. In our league, he had five points at halftime. Julio was doing his part, but the game was a blowout – 31-7 Green Bay – and he was still 48 points behind. It would take something epic.
He got epic.
It was like a horrible slow-motion garbage time dream. The Packers began playing passive defense and Ryan and Julio just kept on grooving. The texts started coming in from the other fellas. “You seeing this?” “The lead’s down to 12.” “Red’s going down!!!”
I’m not sure if they were cheering for Tommy Pants or against Downtown Red, but everyone was watching. Julio went down with his lead sitting at one point. Fat G was quick to point out our playoff tie-breaker rules. Downtown Red had more bench points and wins the tie-break.
As Atlanta had a fourth-and-goal from the 2 yard line, the game was tied. When Harry Douglas caught the pass, it put Ryan at 375 yards and five points went like five knuckles across Downtown Red’s lips. Ryan finished with 36 points. Julio had 35.
Who says lightning can’t strike twice?
I grabbed a bottle after that game, too. I didn’t damn near finish it this time. I just enjoyed it. I guess that’s what you call fantasy closure.
- Don’t sleep on the Rams. After starting the season 1-4 after a gauntlet of elite teams, St. Louis has won five of their last eight, allowed 10 points or less in four of the five wins and are coming off back-to-back shutouts. They won’t make the playoffs, but they could end up with a big impact on who does, considering they play Arizona and Seattle in the final three weeks.
- Le’Veon Bell topped 200 yards from scrimmage for the third straight week. That put him in some pretty high cotton. The last guy to accomplish that feat? Walter Payton in 1977. Well done, young man.
- The Jets have lost 11 games, but six of them have been by one score or less, including a seven-point loss at Green Bay and a two-point loss at New England. For a team that is going to get blown up, their problems have, in many instances, been self-inflicted and made a middle-of-the-road potential team into one of the league dregs.
- Does this sound familiar? Dallas may need a Week 17 win to make the playoffs? Despite getting over .500 for the first time since 2009, Dallas is currently on the outside of the playoffs. How quickly the mighty can fall in the NFL.
THE RAZOR’S EDGE
10. Fisher Nuts – As if it wasn’t bad enough that Redskins fans have to consider every week how much they gave up to draft Robert Griffin III, Jeff Fisher made a move that was hotly debated Monday at The Shop. He sent out six captains to the opening coin toss – the six players drafted by the Rams with the picks acquired in the RG3 trade. Some of the fellas thought it was hilarious. Others thought Fisher was a classless turd for rubbing Washington’s nose in it for no understandable reason other than to mock them. I fell in between because I thought it was funny, but also thought it was a little unprofessional to mock a team you made a trade with.
9. Are You Mile High? – O.K. We get it. Denver is capable of running the ball and scoring touchdowns on the ground. But, what has made Denver a dominant team over the last three seasons isn’t that they eat game clock and shorten the game. It’s worked for them so far, but the farther they get away from doing what they do best – chuckin’ the ball around – the closer they get to getting too cute and have it come back to bite them in the butt.. The offense wasn’t broke. Quit trying to fix it. For those who played Manning, Demaryius, Manny or Orange Julius in their playoff lineups, they’re not amused.
8. Hail To the Deadskins – In the middle of their second four-game losing streak of the season, Washington may have hit bottom Sunday. Colt McCoy played he did in his Cleveland implosion, Alfred Morris ran eight times for six yards and they got shut out – the ninth time this season they’ve scored 20 points or less and the third time they’ve scored seven or less. Two four-game losing streaks get coaches fired and players moved. The Redskins may be at that point with this downward spiraling mess.
7. Run, Run Rudolph – Just when you thought Miami was going to make its move and work its way into the mix as legitimate playoff contenders, they’ve lost two of their last three games because their run defense has allowed more than 600 rushing yards over the last three games. You don’t win games when you allow that many ground yards, unless you’re playing the Jets.
6. The Chicago Fire Starts Early – The Bears are dead and gone in the NFC playoff race after starting the season with high hopes of dethroning the Packers from their perch. Not only haven’t they done that, the Bears are in last place because, as they showed once again last week, the Bears got into a monstrous hole too deep to dig out of. After making history by giving up 106 points in consecutive games against New England and Green Bay, the Bears were at it again, falling behind 35-7 after three quarters before bringing new meaning to the phrase “Garbage Time” in the fourth quarter.
5. It’s Not Always Sunny In Philadelphia – The Eagles have been trying to make their case that they should be viewed seriously as a Super Bowl contender, but after being humbled by Seattle, the Eagles had best hope they win their division because they don’t want to get into any wild card tie-break scenarios, because they already have losses to Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle and Green Bay. The only playoff caliber teams they’ve beaten are Indianapolis and Dallas. Fortunately for them, their final three games are against NFC East opponents, where they own their only tie-breaker edge.
4. Send In the Browns – The Browns have been a laughing stock for years, but when they were briefly in first place in the AFC North, nobody was laughing. Since then, however, they have assumed the position. In the basement of the division, where they’ve got their mail for years. They had a chance to make a statement with a win against the Colts and had a 21-7 lead because the defense brought home two touchdowns. But, Brian Hoyer stunk out the joint again, completing just 14 of 31 passes for 140 yards with no TDs and two picks. Where’s Johnny?
3. Cincinnati Bungles – The Bengals had a chance to bury the competition in the AFC North and stay in the conversation for a first-round playoff bye. Not only did they lose to the Steelers at home, but they got doubled up 42-21, allowing the Steelers to score 32 points in the second half and Le’Veon Bell to go off on the ground and through the air. For a team that has yet to make a dent in the playoffs once they get there, Cincinnati blew a golden opportunity to distance themselves from the Steelers and put a stranglehold on the AFC North title.
2. Bay Area Bombing – With only one win this season, the Oakland Raiders have been a team that others have used to pad their record. San Francisco has been on the outside looking in at the playoffs for the last month, but their humbling 24-13 loss to the Raiders may have been the death blow that takes them out of the running. With six teams already with nine wins, the Niners needed this win badly. With Seattle, San Diego and Arizona remaining on the schedule, Jim Harbaugh might actually have something to whine about because his team is a dead man walking at this point.
1. The Really Big Easy – There was always the belief that New Orleans would win the woeful NFC South because they hadn’t lost at home with Sean Payton as their coach in two years. Not only have the Saints lost four straight games at home, they were soundly hammered by the Carolina Panthers, a team that has been sleepwalking much of the 2014 season. They’re still technically tied for first place, but with Atlanta 4-0 in the division (and 1-8 outside the division), the Saints will likely have to win one more game than the Falcons to win the division. Given the way this thing is going the only win they might get is when they play each other in Week 16.