It is fantasy playoff time and, like a certain fat guy in a red pimp suit, they’re all making their lists and checking them twice. The Shop was buzzing more than usual this Monday, as the boys from The Shop league roll in to talk tough or jitter in full panic mode like they’ve had two Red Bulls and a half-dozen cups of coffee (I’m on a bye, so I find more humorous than if I was playing this week).
But what I’ve noticed is that the names being thrown around now as must-play guys weren’t the same names that were being touted so heavily on draft day.
Two of the boys going up against one another are both going to start Saints running backs. There’s a saying that the worst thing for a fantasy owner is to have a running back in time split on his team. But, that’s not the case in New Orleans, where Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are the bomb.
In the first four weeks of the season, they were in a three-way time split that included Adrian Peterson. Since A.D. was shipped away, both have been stone cold killers. Ingram is on pace to rush for 1,229 yards, catch 56 passes for 340 yards and score 12 touchdowns. Kamara is on pace to rush for 808 yards, catch 79 passes for 819 yards and score 15 touchdowns. Between them that is 3,200 yards and 27 touchdowns – numbers that would be bigger if not for Peterson cutting into their time for four games.
I was high on Carson Wentz, but when the story of a man named Brady fell into my lap far too late in the draft, what could I say? Wentz was drafted 14th among QBs in our league and that was pretty high in comparison to other leagues. I commented to the guy who took him that he got a steal and he’s playing him every week, despite drafting him second among his QBs on draft night.
The same goes for guys like Philip Rivers, Zach Ertz, Nelson Agholor, Keenan Allen and Adam Thielen. All of them were drafted at some point, but, on draft day, most of them were viewed as roster depth, not every-week starters.
The combination of injuries to a lot of top-end fantasy guys this season at all fantasy positions and the rise of talents who have shown they can put together eye-popping games on a relatively consistent basis, the team that many thought they had when they were convinced they dominated draft night has changed considerably.
When you look at the lineups that are submitted in the “win or go home” scenario that is the playoffs, just take notice of how many players that fantasy owners are counting in the clutch were mid- to late-round picks or waiver wire pickups. It may surprise you.
Just because you thought you were the smartest guy in the room back in August doesn’t necessarily hold water in December.
- Don’t sleep on the Jaguars. When they’re on their game, there are few better. In their eight wins, they have allowed point totals of 7, 7, 9, 0, 7, 17, 7 and 10. Granted, they’ve lost every game they’ve given up more than 17 points, but they have the potential to be scary down the stretch.
- Want to win a bar bet? Unless you’re talking to hard-core Bears fan, ask them who are the three teams the Bears have beaten on their way to a 3-9 record? Would you believe Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Carolina? They can beat playoff teams, but nobody else.
- How bad have things got for the Cowboys offense? Dak Prescott is hailed as a triumphant hero for completing 50 percent of his passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns – the first touchdown passes he has thrown since Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension began.
- Revenge is a dish best served cold and nobody serves it up better than kicker Robbie Gould. Not only did he not roll over and die when the Bears cut him loose, he came back to Soldier Field Sunday and nailed five field goals, including the game-winner as time expired in a 15-14 win for the 49ers.
THE RAZOR’S EDGE
- I Have a Dream (A Really Dangerous Dream) – On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers took out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an achievement just about every opponent they’ve played has been capable of doing. But, the headlines in Green Bay was that Aaron Rodgers is practicing and is rushing back from collarbone surgery that including the insertion of 13 screws in his shoulder. But, in their delusional world, if A-Rodg can make it on the field, hope remains alive for a playoff spot. The reality is different. Green Bay is a good team because of Rodgers. Without him, they’re mediocre at best. At 6-6, Green Bay is a minimum of two games behind the current NFC playoff field and, if he does come back as rumored, his first two games would be against Carolina and Minnesota – two of the most ferocious defenses in the league. There’s no need putting your franchise player at risk in games that essentially will mean nothing because Green Bay isn’t making the playoffs.
- Grounded Birds – On a day when the Atlanta Falcons had the chance to catch Carolina and remain a game back of division-leading New Orleans, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones had a chance to make a big move and make a statement at home against Minnesota. On their first drive of the game, the Falcons converted their first third-down chance of the game. That wasn’t a surprise. They came into the game leading the league in third-down conversion rate at 48 percent. What surprised them was that the initial conversion would be their only one of the game. Minnesota held the high-octane Falcons to just 275 yards, snapped Matt Ryan’s streak of 30 straight games with at least one touchdown pass and limited Jones to just two catches for 24 yards. When all was said and done, they were humbled at home, remain two games behind the Saints and sit in third place in the NFC South.
- Bear Feeding in the Dumpster – The Chicago Bears have been struggling to find an identity all season, but they saved their most pathetic offensive performance of the season for their worst opponent to date – 1-10 San Francisco. The Bears stunk on offense and defense in a game that John Fox needed to come up with an excuse to save his job. Instead, the defense allowed 388 yards on 73 plays, while the Bears offense ran just 36 plays and gained just 147 yards in a 15-13 loss. Mitch Trubisky has thrown for less than 180 yards in seven of his eight starts and hit a new low with just 102 yards Sunday. He did what he could do – completing 12 of 15 passes for a career-best 117.2 passer rating, but when you’re only on the field for nine plays a quarter, how much can you do? Start getting your office cleaned up, Foxy. It’s over. Maybe you can do Cleveland a favor and give them their first win in a couple weeks.
- See Ya Later, Tater – The fire that encircled Ben McAdoo and his future with the Giants came to its final, stinky conclusion Monday when both Big Mac and G.M. Jerry Reese were shown the door and their scorched carcasses were removed by men in Hazmat suits. A team that won 10 of 16 games last year, has dropped 10 games in 12 this year. It seemed only fitting that McAdoo’s last remembered act as an NFL head coach was opting to unilaterally end the consecutive start streak of Eli Manning at a whopping 210 games. It might have made sense – who am I kidding, there’s no way that move made sense – to bench Manning for Davis Webb to see if McAdoo could buy another year with a strong finish with the rookie QB. Geno Smith? We all know what Geno does. Whatever goodwill McAdoo had left in the locker room went away with the Manning benching. It’s all he’ll ever be remembered for in New York – as much of the dismal nosedive the franchise took in 2017.
- They Are Who We Thought They Were – The Detroit Lions made the playoffs last year and when Aaron Rodgers got hurt, there was reason to believe Detroit could emerge as the favorite in the NFC North. Instead, losses to Minnesota and Baltimore in the last two weeks have dropped the Lions to 6-6 and on the brink of playoff elimination given that the current wild card teams have records of 8-4. The Lions fell behind 20-0 to Baltimore at halftime of their game Sunday and ended up giving up 44 points. The problem with Detroit is that, with the exception of a 14-7 win at Minnesota in which the Vikings gave them their points via turnovers, Detroit beats bad teams and loses to good ones. Their six losses are against Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Baltimore – all teams with winning records. Their five wins outside of the Minnesota game in Week 4 have come against Arizona, the Giants, Green Bay, Cleveland and Chicago – none of whom have a record above .500. The Lions deserve to be on the outside looking in because they simply can’t beat teams with a legitimate playoff pedigree.
- My Kingdom For a Horse – It isn’t a great shock that the Washington Redskins are dead in the water at 5-7, because you simply don’t win without any continuity on the offensive line. The Redskins came into last Thursday night’s game leading the line in different O-line combination used at 21. They added two more to that Thursday when injuries forced them to use guards at tackle. They only have four games left until 2017 mercifully comes to an end for them, but it has been a long road that even Deadskins fans have needed to buy a program at games to know who exactly the five guys are that are trying to protect Kirk Cousins.
- Broken Tyrod Forces Car Off the Road – The Buffalo Bills have been one of the most disappointing and confounding franchises in the NFL this season. The cut Tyrod Taylor, bring him back, trade away his top receivers, bench him and bring him back. After a 5-2 start, the Bills have lost four of their last five and their last three losses have been by 37, 30 and 20 points. They’re not only getting beat, they’re getting beat up and the front office got its wish by getting Nathan Peterman back into action – not because he deserves another shot, but because Taylor got hurt. This is an organization that had a bright future in front of themselves with young talent on both sides of the ball, but it seems like the front office has done everything it can to dismantle any confidence the team has in itself. It’s worked on me. I find it almost impossible to watch Bills games unless I have a rooting interest in the other team.
- Superman Back In Fortress of Solitude – There is no better front-running quarterback in the NFL than Cam Newton. More concerned about celebrations and his off-field look than any QB in the league – I love the ridiculous suits at press conferences following losses when he looks like a cartoon – Newton has been bringing his best to the biggest games for two years now. All the way back in Week 3, New Orleans (0-2 at the time), needed to save its season and came up big with a 34-10 blowout win in Nashville. The Panthers fought back and put themselves in position to pull into a tie with the Saints and say “Game on!” for the final four weeks. Instead, the dropped another big egg, losing 31-21 to the Saints when they had a chance to take over first place with a win they absolutely needed. Instead, they’re now effectively two games back with four to go and have no tie-breakers advantages moving forward. Welcome to the wild card, Cam! You deserve it.
- Rocky Mountain Sigh – In a season where 6-6 is a record good enough for first place in the AFC West – thought by many to be the strongest division in football entering the season – the Denver Broncos continued humbling is something that has become almost impossible to stomach anymore. In their first two games – against the Chargers and Cowboys – Denver scored 66 points and had a lot of steam going their way that the combination of a great defense and an offense capable of putting up points would make the Broncos a force to be reckoned with. Since then, they’ve lost nine of the last 10 games, including the last eight. In their last 10 games, they’ve scored 20 or more points just once (23) and allowed 20 or more in each of their nine losses. It’s one thing for a team that is very young or inexperienced to lost eight straight, but a team two years removed from a Super Bowl with a lot of the same pieces? Ouch!
- And Then There Was None – After jumping out to a 5-0 start in a division where few if any other teams seemed capable of winning half their games, the Kansas City Chiefs were thought to be almost invincible, having put down New England and Philadelphia in their first two games. Since then, the Chiefs have lost six of their last seven games – punctuated last Sunday by a humbling loss to the New York Jets. The offense that was once the talk of the fantasy football world, can’t draw flies these days and their defense has been brutal with losses to both New York teams in their last three, the once-insurmountable division lead has officially evaporated to nothing. Perhaps Marcus Peters has summed up the last two months best when he threw a referee’s flag into the stands in disgust. A team that once looked like a Super Bowl favorite now appears behind the 8-ball in the NFL’s weakest division.