Week 13 was the time of retribution in most fantasy leagues across the land. I know what it's like to be hanging on the fringes of the playoffs coming into the last regular season fantasy game. You sit there that last week, staring at your team lineup on the computer. Hoping that if you stare at it long enough you can convince yourself that you have the horses to win.
You set and re-set your line-up 5 times from Tuesday to Sunday. You might reluctantly join in on the smack in your league message board, but your heart isn't really in it. That's if you are lucky enough to be in an internet league with lively message board smackery.
You scour the waiver wire praying divine intervention gives you a sign as to which player you can pull out of the muck that will catapult you to a championship, but you know in your heart that at this point in the season the waiver wire has few crumbs of hope left, and almost certainly no saviors.
Then comes game time Sunday. You see what Mort has to say, you scour the internet. You make sure all your bases are covered. Then the minute after line-ups are due that free agent you scooped up and stuck in the lineup for a prayer is a late scratch. And the guy you benched him for goes off.
And you miss the playoffs by .5 points when Akers kicks a junk time field goal.
We've all been there.
Of course for some of us the last week of the regular season is stress and worry free. We already have our bye week sewed up. We've tucked away some good late season free agents and backed up our starters where necessary. We have built the perfect monster. Two weeks of relaxation. Life is good. Just waiting for the check.
Of course, on the way to the big trophy we all know that one the underlings in the playoffs can take down our monster with a slingshot.
But of the two I think I prefer having the monster. It's tough to build one but when you do it's a thing of beauty. Probably not to the guys who paid you for your efforts it isn't, but to each his own.
While fantasy leagues may be clogged with close finishes, the real NFL seems to hold little if any ultimate mystery at this point. The NFC has the Eagles, and then a masquerade party of teams dressed as contenders. In the AFC there is at least some intrigue. Here are the only questions that really matter going forward:
Indy looks bound to play a road game in the playoffs eventually. So the question is will their season end at Pittsburgh or at Foxboro.
Will the Eagles finally win an NFC championship game? Or will some team rise out of the muck like the Panthers last year (or this year) and leave them standing at the alter yet again?
Ok, let me admit this. I just want to see a Colts /Eagles Superbowl. There it is out in the open. That would be a fun game. But deep down I know that probably won't happen. We'll get New England and Tampa Bay (after Tampa rises out of the muck and stuns Philly in the NFC Championship game). You think I'm talking crazy? Maybe. Just maybe.
I know I just pissed off the entire state of Pennsylvania by not calling for a Pennsylvania Turnpike Superbowl. That would be pretty cool. But cool stuff just doesn't happen when it comes to our Superbowl match ups. Nope. We get New England and Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers finally wake up around the opening kick-off and realize they have no business there and get blown away 45-3 in front of a disinterested nation.
Now obviously I have gotten carried away trying to make a point. I do not think Tampa will stun Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game. (well, I'm pretty sure.....I think) But at this point how much would that really surprise any of us? Ideally you like to see the best two teams in the Superbowl, buts let's face it the two best teams aren't always the best game.
Barry Bonds is finally facing the music about his steroid use. I guess he isn't really facing any music because as Bonds says, he did not know he was taking steroids . That's what he says alright. That's like on Cops when they pull a baggie out of a guys wallet and he claims it isn't his. As if Bonds' size 9 head wasn't proof enough already. They will need to build a second Hall of Fame for baseball now. One for the juicers at Love Canal, and one for the real record holders at Cooperstown. Bonds is a joke. Baseball is a joke. Bonds single season home run record is about as useless as his testes must be by now.
Jerry Rice caught a touchdown pass on Monday night while getting away with a push-off. Talk about a blast from the past.
I happened to be watching the end of the Chiefs / Raiders game Sunday. The Raiders were driving down the field with a little more than a minute left on the clock. The announcer informed the audience that Sebastian Janikowski was capable of making a 55 yard field goal. Which would have been useful information had the Raiders not been down by 7 points. Sometimes I wonder if some of these guys are really paying attention to the games they are calling.
10) The NFC: When I look at the quagmire that is the NFC, I can tell you with certainty that salary cap and the resulting parity is working. But when I see the prospect of 8-8 division winners and a few 8-8 wild cards thrown in, and the actual possibility of a 7-9 I get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Kind of the same feeling I used to get around playoff time back when the NHL was still in existence. But, who am I to talk. I have squeaked out a playoff appearance in a fantasy league or two with a team with a .500 record. Still, in the larger picture, the battle for supremacy among the two conferences goes to the AFC, game, set, and when they win the Super Bowl, match.
9) The NFC West: Mediocrity at it's very worst. The underachievers and undertalented. The worst of the worst.
8) CARDINALS: While we are on the subject. Denny Green has gone above and beyond trying to toss this teams chances of the playoffs in the garbage disposal, but the rest of the league just won't let him. Maybe Green sees things the rest of us don't. Maybe McCown was a hopeless slacker. But what I see is a team that has only gotten worse since the personnel moves. Surely it isn't possible Green is being force fed decisions from above, he doesn't seem like a guy who would take to that. But it certainly would explain the seemingly unexplainable. The Arizona fans certainly would enjoy one of those token 8-8 playoff appearances. Not gonna happen.
7) TEXANS: At 5-7 this team would be in the thick of it in the NFC. Unfortunately expansion placed them in the superior conference and their first winning season will probably have to wait. But they have at least given their fans their money's worth, and hope.
6) SAINTS: And then there are the Saints, who have removed every shred of hope and have not given the fans their money's worth. Unless those fans thought they were buying tickets to a circus clown act.
5) PACKERS: Did the Packers take in the Philly nightlife a little too hard Saturday night? What the health was that? Were the Packers even in the building? I heard pundits all week pumping this match up. It seemed the general consensus was that the Packers were that team with the magic bullet that could, just maybe take down the Eagles. Well, if the Packers were the best challenge the Eagles will face, the Eagles are going to be mighty sleepy and bored on their way to the big one.
4) VIKINGS: The NFC West doesn't have much on the East as far as mediocrity. The Vikes and Packers are playing hot potato with the division lead while Detroit and Chicago lurk in the shadows. Randy Moss still isn't right, and neither are the Vikings. And yes, they still have to play Green Bay and Detroit so their position is about as comfortable as the middle seat in coach on a trans Atlantic.
3) RAIDERS: 500 yards of offense allowed against the Chiefs and now second in the league for most points allowed. And to top off the home loss to the hated Chiefs, their blossoming offensive star Ronald Curry was carted off the field. Another dark season for the Black Hole. Al Davis is not just taking this sitting down, he has decided from now on it's jump suits for everyone.
2) DOLPHINS: I have to give the Dolphins some credit. They played the Bills hard. They haven't quit. Hopefully the future management will avoid giving perfectly good money to 260 lb. 'roid monster wide receivers, and running backs who can't wait to be on a box of Weedies.
1) 49ers: I guess the good news is...................wait a minute, there is no good news. The ownership is dodging questions about firing Dennis Erickson, because considering their situation they are probably just praying Erickson doesn't walk. HELP WANTED: National Football League Head Coach. Long hours. Lots of travel. Weekly media roasting. No money for talent development. Little prospect for advancement or wage increases. Miracle work experience preferred.