Pops Watson was in all his glory Monday when he showed up for his weekly Occupy The Shop sit-in and he was giving me a full ration of chirps all morning long. We played each other over the weekend in The Shop league and he started Carson Palmer as his quarterback.
I was giving him the anticipated needle about that decision, reminding him that the Panthers were coming off their bye week legitimately angry and, in my humble view, were going to hammer the Cardinals. That was exactly what they did, but as Pops wouldn’t let go of, that was exactly what he expected would happen.
Pops is the unquestioned master of Garbage Time. He makes a point to draft or acquire players who are on teams that are struggling. Last year, he had Blake Bortles, the King of Garbage Time in 2015 and made a point to draft Matthew Stafford late this season because, with their respectively bad defenses, fantasy points follow in a big way.
I had Matt Ryan going against him and felt good about my chances given the two matchups – Matty Ice at home with a high-octane offense and Palmer on the road against a Carolina defense that is struggling, but looking to put the boots to somebody. As Pops predicted, both came true. He got more points from Palmer than I got from Ryan.
Week 8 provided two prime examples of how Garbage Time can make a ratty team in reality into a stone-cold killer in the fantasy world.
If you go back and look at the Thursday night game, the Titans were laying down an epic beating to the Jaguars, blowing them out 27-0 at halftime. Bortles was almost as big a reason for the problem as the porous Jacksonville defense. He completed just eight of 16 passes for 64 yards and, with a four-score lead, Tennessee knew it simply had to bleed the clock in the second half to win.
Enter Garbage Time.
In the second half, Tennessee threw just four passes, showing a willingness to run and let the clock keep running. Meanwhile Jacksonville was firing pass after pass – each time providing Bortles owners with points. After a dismal first half, in the second half alone, Bortles threw 38 passes – completing 25 of them for 273 yards and three touchdowns.
On Sunday in Carolina, when Graham Gano hit a field goal with 2:45 left in the first half, the Panthers had a 24-0 lead and Palmer had completed seven of 11 passes for 65 yards and no touchdowns. With nothing to lose, the Cardinals would run the ball just four times in the final 33 minutes. Like Bortles did on Thursday, it was all Palmer, all the time. In those 33 minutes, Palmer threw 35 passes – completing 28 of them for 298 yards and three touchdowns.
Whenever I’m looking at matchups for the players in my lineup, I try to find the ones that are the most favorable – anyone playing Cleveland or Chicago or Jacksonville or Indianapolis always get my attention. Not everyone does. Pops had the choice of which quarterback he thought had the best chance of playing from 20 points down and he chose what appeared to be the worst of two options.
In the real world of football, he made the wrong choice. In the fantasy world of football, he made the right choice – and hasn’t let me forget about it.
For those of you who have been burned by Garbage Time, you have my sympathies.
- It looks like both AFC wild cards could be coming out of the West Division. The hard-luck Chargers are stuck at 3-5, but the Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs have combined to post a record of 17-6 – the three best AFC records this side of New England.
- Since Week 7 of last season, the Chiefs are 15-2.
- Could Tom Brady win the MVP despite missing four games? The Patriots are 4-0 with Brady and he has completed 98 of 134 passes for 1,319 with 12 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 133.9. Pushed out over a full season, he is setting a pace that would see him throw for 5,200 with 48 TDs and no picks.
- The “Patriots way” has always enjoyed its share of success, but is also can be pretty ruthless. With linebacker Jamie Collins, the team’s leading tackler and fumble producer the last two years, in the final year of his contract and talking about looking for Von Miller money when free agency hits, New England traded him to Cleveland – the equivalent of sending him off the Siberia. It’s hard to question their decision, but is a Pro Bowler worth a compensatory pick at the end of the third round? There’s still a lot football to play this year to ship him off like that.
The Razor’s Edge
10. Taking Your Ball and Going Home – In the last week, two borderline Hall of Fame players, both of whom made their bone with the Houston Texans, announced their midseason retirements – Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Johnson seemed like he was hanging on too long making the tour of the AFC South after being bounced in Houston, going to Indy and then Tennessee. Foster seemed to want to get revenge against the Texans for their signing Lamar Miller by going to Miami. When he got hurt, he lost his job to Jay Ajayi and never got it back. It’s unclear whether either of them would have been cut, but walking away midstream in a season never sits well with fans. Foster and Andre 3000 both had tremendous NFL careers, but their endings were just sad.
9. Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy – Cam Newton made some valid arguments that he isn’t afforded the same protections following Sunday’s game, where he clearly took a hit that merited a flag. But, there were two problems with his story. If he isn’t hit, he runs and that’s when he is at his most dangerous. Secondly, the last time I saw a postgame suit like that – pink satin with and a Peter Pan-with-a-stable lid – it was the Godfather from WWE. Hopefully he had a different suit if the Panthers had lost…again. If you want to be taken seriously in your one-on-one with the Maha Roger, dress down a little bit, son.
8. The Lords of Discipline – Sure, the Raiders are 6-2. But on Sunday, they outgained Tampa Bay 626-270/ That should have been a game that had a final score of 42-7, not an overtime win where friendly fire sprung the winning touchdown. We always known the Raiders motto is “Win if you can, lose if must, but always cheat.” On Sunday, they took that to a new level, committing 23 (accepted) penalties for 200 yards. If you have a team that undisciplined, you’re 6-2 record is fraudulent. Then again, the last time Oaktown was 5-0 in the road, Madden was their coach and their QB was a Snake.
7. The Embarrassment of Titletown – Cleveland ended its championship drought this summer when the Cavaliers brought home a NBA title and the Indians are one win away from a World Series, but the Browns dropped to 0-8 in about as painful a way as possible. The Browns jumped out a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and led 20-7 at halftime against the Jets, only to allow 24 unanswered points in the second half. There aren’t many games the Browns are going to have a chance to win. Blowing a double-digit lead isn’t the way to entertain the home fan base. A winless season looks possible.
6. Kissing Your Sister? – I’ve never understood that phrase, but it’s what we’ve heard twice in the last eight days and something that has made every kicker in the league seemingly get the yips. First we had the dual kicker botch that led to the Cardinals and Seahawks tie. The American Dream Dusty Hopkins shanked a 34-yard field goal Sunday that may have been the death blow to Washington’s hope of repeating as division champs. Cincy’s tie was a good tie. Washington’s tie was a loss in disguise.
5. No Sweep In Buffalo – The only blemish on the Patriots record this season was a 16-0 loss against Buffalo where the Patriots had to use their third quarterback. That didn’t keep the Ryan brothers from talking tough after the game, saying things wouldn’t have been all that different if Brady had been at QB. They got their chance to back up the bragging Sunday. Instead, Brady carved them up for 315 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-25 win that wasn’t that close. The Beady-Belichick ownership of Buffalo continues and the Ryans once again get to eat crow – they’ve eaten a lot worse over the years.
4. The Bucs Stop Here – On a day when their division rivals beat Green Bay, Seattle and Arizona at home, Tampa Bay got the upstart Raiders at home with a chance to make a statement and move to 4-3 in the division and keep pace with Atlanta. Despite being the beneficiary of 23 penalties that gave the Bucs almost as many penalty yards (200) as they gained on offense (270), Tampa gave up the game-tying touchdown with less than two minutes to play and lost in overtime when two defenders collided and allowed the winning touchdown to score. No team has ever been given the gift of 23 accepted penalties. The fact they didn’t blow out Oakland says more about the Bucs inability that it does about the Raiders lack of obeying the rules.
3. Epic Foles in Indianapolis – The Colts keep trying to convince everyone (and themselves) that they are a legitimate playoff contender, but fell to 3-5 Sunday with a home beat-down at the hands of the Chiefs. What made things even worse is that the Colts defense got carved up by backup Nick Foles, who came in relief of Alex Smith twice and posted a passer rating of 135.2. How bad have things become for the Colts? There are only two teams in the AFC that have a worse record than they – the winless Browns and the2-5 Jaguars.
2. The Sun Sets in the West – Coming off a tie in which they had two chances to win the game with field goals, the Arizona Cardinals, who lost just three games last season, have already exceeded their loss total from last year with a record of 3-4-1. Looking to provide a knockout punch to the Panthers, Arizona fell behind 24-0 and were never in the game. Much like they got blown out early by the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game, the Cardinals proved they have matchup problems with elite teams. This time around, however, if could come back to bite them because their second half of the season may require a record of 7-1 or better just to make the playoffs.
1. How the North Was Lost – The Green Bay Packers haven’t looked like a team primed to win a division title. It can be argued that they have played three quality teams all year – Minnesota, Dallas and Atlanta – and lost all three. Aaron Rodgers finally got back to doing that Discount Double Check thing Sunday when he led the Packers on a fourth quarter drive that took 13 plays, covered 86 yards and took 8:33 off the clock. But, with less than four minutes to play, the Packers defense allowed Matt Ryan to drive 75 yards on 11 plays to score the game-winning touchdown with 37 seconds left. With three of their next four games on the road, where they only win was a 27-23 squeaker over Jacksonville, Packers don’t need to R-E-L-A-X. They need to P-A-N-I-C.