The 2016 fantasy football season has been building to this point and, as the fantasy playoffs begin, there is excitement in the air that at times can get as heated as Black Friday shoppers fighting over the last big screen TV.
At The Shop Monday morning, there was a line waiting at the door when I arrived and by the time the first cup of coffee was going down, the conversation was already getting a little heated.
Suddenly, everybody is a fantasy expert. People who could spell analytics if their lives depended on it, are somehow pulling numbers and trends out of nowhere and making outrageous claims about how good or bad a particular matchup is.
This isn’t my first trip to the dance of the fantasy playoffs. About half the fellas in The Shop league have been playing since they lost games because Dan Marino completed a late touchdown to Mark Duper. I’ve consistently won money, to the point that I kid that our league trophy should be called the Cutts Cup because it has ended up in my possession so often.
When it comes to the playoffs, I have one simple battle plan – who am I willing to live and die with? During the season, if I see an especially juicy matchup, I will bench one of my stud players who is in my starting lineup almost every week and roll the dice on a hot take, a gut feeling or just a hunch.
The playoffs? That’s a different animal completely. The problem with the fantasy playoffs is that, once you lose, there’s no wait until next week to exact your revenge. You’re done until next September. As such, I’m sticking with the people I rode with to the party.
That isn’t always the case with most fantasy owners. Someone who is hot – did the Tyreek Hill owner in your league play him this weekend? – can force a steady, consistent fantasy producer to the bench because the owner is willing to roll the dice and forget why he drafted his stud player and has been keeping him in the lineup all season.
The numbers crunchers will be spouting off all week about why this guy should be at the top of your rankings simply because they’re at the top of his. The problem with that is that the so-called “experts” aren’t held accountable when they run their predictions down their leg. Like those gambling sites that say they have a guaranteed winner in the Thursday night game, they’re quick to toot their own horn when they’re right. They also get amnesia when they’re wrong, which is more often than they ever admit.
My advice to fantasy owners heading into the playoffs is to look at your roster regardless of matchups and pick the best lineup based on that. If you have a position or two that could be a coin flip, make note of that and then look at the matchups and decide between them accordingly.
If you’re going to win, it’s likely because the players who brought you to the dance earned your confidence. Nothing makes a playoff loss sting longer than having someone on your bench that you brain said should be in your lineup, but your heart overruled that decision.
Ride your horses, people. If you go down, at least you go down fighting with the guys who got you this far and you won’t have the regrets that other owners who cast their fortunes to the winds and hope they get lucky.
- Who knew the Lions could win a game without being behind in the fourth quarter. But, two games clear of both Minnesota and Green Bay with just four to play, you may have to get used to the sound of hearing, “Detroit Lions, NFC North champions.”
- A couple of weeks ago, we said not to sleep on Tampa Bay. They were playing the best football on both sides of the ball and were looking decent even in losses. At a time when the other teams in the division are floundering, the Bucs are the only team with the needle pointing in the right direction.
- Speaking of the Bucs, Jameis Winston continued to stretch his own record. He has yet to have a game where he hasn’t accounted for at least one touchdown – throwing or running – to start his career. He ran that streak to 28 Sunday.
- Hats off to Larry Fitzgerald. He has spent much of the season climbing the all-time receiving charts, but never has it been more impressive than Sunday. In the span of a half hour, he passed Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison to No. 3 on the all-time list.
- Cam Newton didn’t start Sunday night because of a dress code violation? Every time I see him in one of those too-flashy suits, I consider it a dress code violation. Considering backup Derek Anderson threw an interception on the play Newton was forced to sit, Riverboat Ron may want to rethink that policy in the future.
- Jeff Fisher could celebrate Sunday that he team lost to New England 26-10. The previous two games pitting a Fisher-coached team against a Bill Belichick coached Patriots team, Uncle Bill’s squad had outscored Fisher’s team by a count of 104-7.
The Razor’s Edge
10. Taking a Knee – Seattle safety Earl Thomas brought social media to a momentary standstill when it was learned he has suffered a lower leg fracture in Sunday night’s game with Carolina. From the locker room after hearing the news, while the game was still being played, he thanked the fans and hinted that he might retire as a result of this injury. Seahawks fans hope he has a change of heart, but we’ve reached a new immediacy about retirement plans that the modern era can provide like no other time in our history.
9. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow – Many has been the time that weather has been a deciding factor during the fantasy playoffs. Mother Nature reared her ugly head Sunday along the Great Lakes, as games in Green Bay and Chicago to have as many running plays as passes because of the unpredictability of passing the ball when the flakes were flying. In the 49ers-Bears game, the two teams combined to throw just 33 times. Each team ran than ball more than that total by themselves – San Francisco running 34 times and Chicago running 40 times.
8. Shut Up and Play – Wide receivers have been dubbed divas because they too often come off as spoiled and pampered and complain constantly if they’re not treated like they’re the best thing going today. Perhaps at no point this season has that been as true as the constant hissy fits being thrown by Odell Beckham Jr. Sunday. He caught 10 passes for better than 100 yards, but every time he didn’t catch a pass thrown his way, he went screaming and crying to the officials, who didn’t throw flags because either there was no interference or the passes he was whining about were uncatchable. He too his rants to the locker room with him and railed on officials after the Giants humbling loss to the Steelers. Perhaps it was the competition between him and Antonio Brown that led to his tantrums. One can only imagine what will happen Sunday night when the national spotlight is put on the Giants and Cowboys.
7. The Eagle Has Landed (On Its Face) – Remember when the Philadelphia Eagles were the talk of the NFL and Carson Wentz was being hailed as the king of South Philly? Not so much anymore. Over the last two months, Wentz has been the lowest rated quarterback in the NFL and the Eagles have fallen flat and been an afterthought in the NFC East. Sunday things got downright ugly against a Cincinnati team long since dead in the playoff water. The Bengals led 29-0 before allowing some pity points to the Eagles, scoring on their first six drives of the game. The Eagles have a young core of players that will help them down the line, but, for now, they’re playing out the string and taking their lumps.
6. You Got Flacco’ed – Just when the Miami Dolphins were feeling good about themselves and putting themselves in the discussion as a potential playoff team, they headed up to Baltimore with big plans of showing the world that they have what it takes to contend for a wild card. Instead, they allowed struggling QB Joe Flacco to throw for 381 yards and four touchdowns and gave the anemic Ravens running game a boost by allowing 110 yards and another TD on 20 carries. This one was done early, as Miami fell behind 24-0 at halftime, on their way to a 38-6 beat-down that made it clear that Miami may not be ready for prime time just yet.
5. The Endangered Buffalo – Every team on the rise has a signature game that they can point to that marked the turning point in the direction of the franchise. For Buffalo, which hasn’t made the playoffs this millennium – we’re 17 years into this millennium – they had that opportunity Sunday. Buffalo went cross country to take on the high flying Oakland Raiders and, when Mike Gillislee scored a touchdown with nine minutes left in the third quarter, the Bills led 24-9 – having forced Oakland to settle for three Sebastian Janikowski field goals. What followed was a smackdown of epic proportions. The Raiders outscored Buffalo 29-0 over the next 15 minutes, 27 seconds for a blowout win that wasn’t the signature moment Rex and the boys had anticipated.
4. Ay, It Saint So – At a time when Atlanta is allowing the rest of the NFC South to hang around and make a run at them, the New Orleans Saints had the chance to put themselves back in the discussion with a home win against Detroit. Instead, the much-anticipated battle of the quarterbacks turned out to be a joke. Matthew Stafford sliced and diced the Saints defense for 341 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Drew Brees didn’t have any touchdowns and got picked off three times, leaving the Saints two games behind both Atlanta and Tampa Bay and likely having to win all of their remaining games to even have a glimmer of hope to make it to the playoffs.
3. The Ship Is Taking On Water – Although the Minnesota Vikings defense was largely praised for its containment of the Dallas Cowboys offense last Thursday, there are no moral victories in the NFL. The Vikings blew a fourth quarter lead and gifted Dallas with a red zone turnover that allowed the game-winning points to be scored. With six losses in seven games, the Vikings ship continue to sink and no bailing of water can seemingly stop the descent.
2. The Chart Was Wrong – There are a lot of ways to lose games, but the Falcons pulled a new one out of their hats. We had already seen a two-point conversion gone wrong change the direction of game earlier this year in New Orleans. But, never had a defensive two-pointer be the game-winning points…until Sunday. Trailing the Chiefs by five points, the Falcons scored a touchdown with 4:32 to play to take a 28-27 lead. The two-point chart all teams have said the smart play was to go for two points to take a 30-27 lead if successful. Instead, Eric Berry stepped in front of a Matt Ryan pass and brought it back for a defensive two-pointer, giving the Chiefs back the lead at 29-28. Atlanta still had to kick off the Chiefs, who ran out the clock and never gave Ryan and the Falcons a chance to get the ball back – a first in the NFL and a gut punch for an Atlanta team trying to hold on to first place in the NFC South.
1. Big Cat Hunting – A year ago when the Carolina Panthers were constantly celebrating, showboating and showing up opponents on their way to a 17-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance, two of those wins came against Seattle – one in front of the 12th Man in October and a crushing defeat in the playoffs that wasn’t nearly as close as the 31-24 final would indicate. Apparently, Pete Carroll and the Seahawks didn’t forget that. Seattle wasn’t content just beating Carolina Sunday night, the pounded them 40-7, including a pair of drives in the fourth quarter in which they refused to take their foot off the gas and kept kicking the Panthers when they were down. At 4-8, you need a math expert to devise a way that the Panthers return to the playoffs. Hopefully, this humbling will get the Panthers to recognize that what goes around comes around and when you disrespect opponents when times are going good, you had better expect that they have a receipt and will be looking for payback when they get the opportunity.