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Commentary From the Edge - Week 17
Kevin Ratterree
December 27, 2006

Dear reader, I was almost forced to retire from fantasy football on this Championship week 2006.  I almost got my ass kicked by Ron Dayne.

Oh sure, it was only a third place game.  Not much on the line but bragging rights in a long time keeper league rivalry, against an opponent I seem to meet every year in the playoffs.  A mere blip on the radar screen of fantasy football as a whole.  But there was more at stake that just third place, and keeping my playoff winning streak alive against this particular opponent.  For as I checked the live scoring the first time on Sunday afternoon, it was then that I knew my fantasy football career itself was also on the line.  My opponent had played the Ron Dayne card.

My blood ran cold as I saw Dayne's name on the scoring grid, and the already impressive numbers he was putting up.  Yes, I had been watching the game.  Unknowingly chuckling under my breath as Dayne ripped off 9 yard runs on the Colts.  Those crazy Colts were at it again.  They managed to make Dayne look like Tomlinson, the way they do every running back that they face.  It is like a bad movie you see over and over again every week.  My amusement over the Colts inability to stop Dayne turned to horror when I realized all those points he was piling up were against me.

And as the afternoon wore on, Dayne continued to punish the Colts and their aversion to tackling, turning the dagger in my gut with every gash up the middle.

And I would imagine I am not alone.  Somewhere out there in fantasy land there are championships that were won or lost on the thigh scraping legs of the legendary Ron Dayne.  I don't mean to be melodramatic, but if you lost a championship game at the hands of Ron Dayne I really don't blame you if you never play the game again.  Or even show your face in public again.  That is a kick in the nuts that you just might not ever recover from.

I took it like a man when I got racked up by Tomlinson in week 15.  But to back that up by getting busted up by Ron Dayne in the third place game very well may have pushed me over the edge.

I won my game by 9 points, so disaster was averted for me.  But that was a dirty trick by my opponent that I shall not soon forget.  He wasn't just trying to beat me.  He was trying to humiliate me and brand a giant "D" on my forehead with that last minute lineup switch.  And it almost worked.
The fantasy playoffs have their amazing twists and turns every season.  Just ask the Steve Smith owner.  Smith put up a giant goose egg with Weinke tossing the rock in week 16.  Another almost unthinkable scenario that put a tragic ending to fantasy teams across the land.

You don't need the best team to win a fantasy championship in head to head competition.  You need to have a team good enough to qualify for the playoffs, and then you need some serious luck in week 15 and 16.  There is just no denying that fact.  The best team does not always win the championship in head to head leagues.
Week 17 will have some drama left for the sub .500 teams scrapping for that last playoff spot, and even most of the upper echelon teams still have seedings at stake.  Just the way the league likes it I'm sure.

Well, I resisted the temptation to gush over the Eagles last week.  But they proved my restraint unfounded.  Folks, this is the team playing the best ball in the NFC right now.  I told you in a previous column that Garcia was convinced that he was going to the Superbowl.  He just had that look, and was exuding that kind of confidence.  Now it appears he has convinced his teammates as well.  The win over the Cowboys was convincing enough for me.  Three wins on the road down the stretch?  I would have bet almost anything against it.  Back in week ten, I said they needed to go 4-2 to make the playoffs.  They are 4-1.  Mission accomplished.  Watch out for this team.  The NFC is wide open in the playoffs as far as I am concerned.  Why not the Eagles?  I can't answer that question right now.

I suppose this would be the proper time to lay my chips for the playoffs.  I hate making playoff predictions in today's wacky NFL.  But at least this year I have increased my odds significantly by eliminating the Colts from consideration.  I should not mention this again, but I am completely a non-believer.  Manning will never win 2 games in January.  The Colts will not play in the Superbowl.  That is what I am saying and have been saying since wide right last January.  So, with that being the case, this might actually be their year.  I'm completely off the bandwagon.  They do not have a prayer.  Okay Colts, there is your chance to make me look like a giant ass.  Yet again.  Like you have so many times before when I actually believed in you.

I still see the Chargers and the Ravens as the class of the AFC, and as 1-2 seeds they are definitely my favorites.  Tomlinson seems destined to drag Schottenheimer kicking and screaming to his first Superbowl, but somehow I just can't get past the mental block in my mind I have created.  I remember other teams Marty has taken into the playoffs that looked similarly unstoppable.  But were stopped.  Painfully.  Always painfully.  I've been on the wrong end of betting on Marty in the playoffs too many times to fully let myself believe that this is going to happen.  I just can't get past it.  It just isn't going to happen.  I can't quantify it.  I can't tell you how, and I can't tell you why.  But somehow, Marty will fall short again.  Even though he clearly has the best team in all of football going into the playoffs.  Some things are just not meant to be.
So I am left in quite a conundrum.  Logic tells me that the Chargers are the best team in football, and should win the Superbowl.  But I have accepted a truism about their head coach that precludes them from doing so.  I guess I'm going with the Ravens by default.  Unless the Titans make it in somehow.  Talk about a team nobody would want to take on in the playoffs...........................

As for the NFC?  Why do I even bother?  I think the Saints and Eagles are the teams playing the best right now, but it is really a toss-up.  I'm kind of leaning toward the Saints, but the Eagles improbable late season run has me very interested.

Ravens v. Saints.  But I may change my mind by next week.

Well, as another season draws to a close, I would like to do a year in review of some of my proclamations in this column.  Yes friends, it's time to take a trip in the way-back machine to the land of accountability.  It is time to pat myself on the back, and eat crow where necessary.  It's the best and the worst of Commentary From the Edge.  In chronological order.

The Worst

* So, since I am dead tired of predicting a Colts Superbowl and being wrong every year, I will remove the curse and pick the dark horse Miami Dolphins from the AFC.  With that pick I avoid looking like an idiot for not getting off the Colts wagon yet again, and if it pans out I'm one of the few people outside of Miami that goes with the Fish.  All upside and no downside with that pick.  Unfortunately, whatever team from the AFC emerges will lose to the Carolina Panthers in the Superbowl.

* Add to that the 5 man running back by committee the Jets will see through the course of the year, and a general lack of talent overall, and you have the makings of a team that could rival the 1976 Buccaneers.  God help you if you were forced to draft any offensive player from this team.

* A season opening loss at home.  Willie Roaf changed the number on his phone.  Larry Johnson found little room to roam.  Trent Green has an aching dome.  Up next is Denver’s opener at home.  Having Huard as a back-up I do not condone.

* Vince Young is going to be rushed onto the field too soon, and there is a very good chance that his career could be ruined as a result.  But other than that, everything is fine in Tennessee.

* Is Jeff Fisher some kind of genius?  Because if he guides this team to anything more than 4 wins I'm afraid we have to assume he is.

* Just in case you have any remaining doubt, let me put your mind at ease.  Jamal Lewis is toast.

* When you get jacked up by the Titans in your own house, that is a bad day.  When your starting quarterback goes down for the season in the progress, that is a tragic day.  The Eagles are now 5-5, face a rough schedule, and are now in 3rd place in their division.  They probably need to go 4-2 to make the playoffs, and they probably need a miracle to do that.  With Westbrook, the Eagles can remain competitive, but I can't imagine Garcia leading you to the promised land.  And as an added bonus, the Colts are up next.  We will get to see real quick how the Eagles stack up minus McNabb.  I am leaning non-optimistic.

The Best

* Yeah, I know your team won some games in pre-season.  And if preseason counted the Raiders might end up with 7 wins this year.  But it doesn't.  Someone needs to grab Al baby and give him a good shake, maybe see if you can slap him back into 2006.  The poor devil thinks it's 1996.  The Raiders might not end up with the worst record in the league this year, but if they do, they certainly got it the old fashioned way.  They earned it.

* The Antonio Gates situation does not look good.  He is still the most solid play at the position, but until the game plan expands he just isn't going to get enough opportunities to be a huge play most weeks.  Looks like drafters may have overpaid, as he looks only slightly better than the rest of the field.  The glory days are over for the time being anyway.

* Here is a short list of the guys I do not think are going to pull out of the tailspin:  Culpepper, C. Benson, C. Brown, Droughns, -ALL RAIDERS-, Lee Evans, Burleson, Bradford, Gates, and possibly C. Williams. 

* Raiders:  I should just disqualify this team from the Misery Index competition right now, so we can keep it interesting for the rest of the season.  Because they are going to run away with it.  Season ticket holders are going to find out what the baby-faced new guy in prison must feel like after "shower time".

* The Saints are going to the Superbowl this year.  I'm not sure if I really mean that or not, but I thought I would get it on record just in case.  America just can't get enough of a feel good story.

* If this game was a measuring stick as to how far the Giants are from contending for the NFC crown, I think we might need to use two sticks.

* Cotchery, Berrian, and Colston are all in the top 12 among wide receivers in PPR leagues after 4 weeks, and show no signs of slowing down.  So far they look like one of the best bunch of waiver wire pick-ups I remember in a long time.

* Speaking of useless things, this is the week to trade away Lamont Jordan.  His value will not likely be any higher this season than it is right now.   The same can be said for Randy Moss.  This Raiders "team" will only get uglier and less motivated as the losses pile up.  Dump these guys like a bad burrito and flush twice.  And if you get lucky enough to pinch one of these turds, make sure to send a thank you note to the Browns for providing the Ex-Lax
* I think we can declare a winner.  The correct answer in the "who do I take with my first overall pick" question is Ladainian Tomlinson.  LT2 is a one man wrecking crew carrying his team, and most fantasy teams that drafted him to weekly glory.  I don't have him on any of my teams, and he certainly does look like a huge boulder between me and a championship.  Non-Tomlinson owners can only hope that his week 14 match-up against the Broncos, or his week 16 game against the Seahawks might offer relief.

* week 11:  Chester Taylor has put up some impressive numbers to this point.  He has been worth every bit where he was drafted in PPR leagues.  But I still feel that the crash and burn is inevitable.  And now is the time to sell.  The team just isn't that good, and now Taylor might be hitting the wall.  My gut is still telling me to tell you to dump Taylor now, while you can still get good value for him.  (Taylor had good games the following 2 weeks, then tanked through the fantasy playoffs)

Crazy as Hell Pick of the Week

The Titans came through yet again, pushing the Crazy as Hell pick to a record of 6-12, and an astounding 1-8 since midseason.  As a result of this turn of events, I have decided to only do the Crazy as Hell pick after week 8 next season.  Okay, not really.  But it is definitely a thought.  It seems that I always do better down the stretch, once I have seen enough of all the teams, noted the trends, and have a base of information to make decisions.  The league changes so much from season to season it takes half the season just to figure out what the hell is going on.  Just a theory.  Or an excuse.  Take your pick.

Some of you might be looking at the futures lines for the playoffs.  To win the NFC title, there are 4 teams to consider.  The Bears 11-10, Saints 2-1, Eagles 5-1, and Cowboys 6-1.  Take the Rams 75-1 and throw it out the window.  Please.  To me the value play here is the Eagles.  They are playing every bit as good as the Bears and Saints right now, and have proven they can win tough games on the road.  If you feel nervous about doing that, I would suggest playing the Saints and the Eagles for equal units.  If the Eagles win you profit and if the Saints win you are even.  If both teams make it to the championship game you can hedge your bets as necessary if you wish.  Sorry Bears fans, I just don't see it.  And at basically 1-1 odds the Bears are a terrible risk/reward futures bet in this spot.  Even if they win, what have you accomplished?  You might as well wait and make sure they win that first game before you lay your cash on the second.  Sure, you'll have to give a few points most likely, but at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing at that point that they will actually be playing in the championship game.  And deep down, you know that is not a given.

The AFC championship line is Chargers 6-5, Ravens 2-1, Colts 4-1, Pats 9-2.  Nothing there really excites me, but if I were to pick one from the group I'd go 2-1 on the Ravens, and dare Marty to beat me out of it.  Though some might use the hedging theory in this situation.  Case in point:  I really think the Chargers will find a way to lose this thing to the Ravens.  So, I make a fairly substantial wager on the Chargers right now at 6-5 to win the championship.  Then, if I am correct and the Ravens do indeed meet up with the Chargers for the title I am in an interesting hedging position.  I have a 6-5 bet on the Chargers to win the game.  But I suspect the Ravens might win.  So I make a similar sized bet as the futures wager on the Ravens and whatever points are being offered in the championship game.  I am now in a position of having no money at risk, but the very real possibility of a big payday if it all comes together, the Chargers get the win, and the Ravens cover the spread in a game that comes down to the wire.  Not exactly a pie in the sky scenario I would say.  A grind it out technique that isn't for everybody, but I find quite intriguing in situations like this.

Now, onto the matter at hand.  It is week 17, and all bets are off.  Week 17 can be a tough one.  Aside from all the usual variables, we have playoff scenarios which may affect the outcome of several games.  For instance, the Giants are right now set up to clinch a playoff berth with a win at Washington.  There are a slew of 7-8 teams sitting behind them, waiting for them to fall.  The one saving grace in this situation is that the Giants play first this week on Saturday night, so that should clear up the picture for the rest of the 7-8 teams before kickoff Sunday.  I would advise against betting on any of those teams before the Giants are finished Saturday night.  It is always good to factor motivation into the equation when handicapping games, and that is an unknown factor at this point so I advise caution if not abstinence.

I notice that bookmakers have finally made the Titans a favorite this week, by three points over the Pats.  I guess they finally got tired of getting clubbed over the head by moneyline bets on the Titans and have finally given in.  The bookmakers have finally tired of playing baby seal to my club.   I have begged you not to bet against them over the last few weeks, yet last week it seemed everyone was on the Bills.  By now, even the most stubborn players should have grown tired of betting against this team.

A few numbers to chew on for this week:  The Bears have won only one out of the last twelve home games against the Packers.  The Jaguars were a 4 point underdog the last time they played and beat Kansas City at Arrowhead.  The Panthers have covered the spread the last 5 times they have played at New Orleans.  The Eagles have covered the spread in 7 of last 8 against the Falcons.  And the Steelers have failed to cover the spread only once during the last 10 road games at Cincinnati.   

I don't want to make a pick for this week, and put my stellar 1-8 streak on the line for the whims of week 17.  But a pick I must make.  So I will take the game with the fewest variables as  I see it.  The Giants are 2 1/2 point favorites on the road at D.C.  The Giants need a win.  The Redskins only motivation is to make sure their hated rivals don't get it.  The Giants who have spent the better part of the last half of the season pissing away opportunities, find themselves with yet one more "must win" game.  The term "must win" should be eliminated from the discussion when talking NFC football, because there are scenario's that the Giants would still make the playoffs even if they lose.  But I don't think this downtrodden bunch of underachievers is finished yet.  Yeah, I know they look done.  And a road trip to Washington is a tough one.  The Giants have only covered the spread 4 of the last 10 at the Redskins.  All the pressure is on the Giants.  None on the Redskins.  The Gaints are a 2 1/2 point favorite. This one has crash and burn written all over it.  But I don't care.  It's the last week.  It's the Crazy as Hell Pick of the Week.  So I'm going crazy to finish off the season.  The Giants win the game.  They cover the spread.  They think they're going to the playoffs at 8-8, until the Packers beat the Bears on Sunday and win on the 10th tiebreaker.  My pick Redskins +2 1/2

Misery Index

10) Colts:  RON   FREAKING   DAYNE?????????????  The Colts certainly have lowered their fans expectations.  I think they should go the extra mile and just call the commissioners office right now and surrender their playoff spot.  We don't need any further embarrassment here. 

9) Cowboys:  What a tank job.  Romo and the Cowboys started believing their own press just about the time the league got a good read on Romo.  Against a bad team?  Good. Against a good team?  Not so good.  Add to that the fact that Romo has attracted the attention of Hollywood hotties that I assume are throwing themselves at him on a regular basis.  So he might have his head turned all around.  Both of them.  Owens is leading the league in dropped passes and unbelievably asinine comments.  Now the Eagles have shoved them out of the division lead, and the Cowboys faithful will not be treated to live football in Texas this season.  Considering that appeared a near certainty just 4 weeks ago, that is a pointy toed cowboy boot kick to the groin.

8) Giants:  The G-men have been taking on water since midseason, yet the mediocrity of the NFC just keeps them afloat in the cesspool.  In the bigger picture, the Chargers have Merriman and Rivers.  The Giants have Eli.  That trade is looking like one of the greatest fleecing in the history of the league right now.

7) Falcons:  Well, the season that looked so promising at the halfway point went to the crapper faster than a belly full of Ex-lax.  Now the Falcons face a must-win game against the hottest team in the NFC on the road.  And they need about three games to fall in their favor as well if they hope to go to the playoffs.  That is about as likely as Mora staying onboard after his comments concerning his loyalty to the team.

6) Cardinals:  Well, the preseason sleeper team finally woke up after their season was virtually over, winning 4 of their last 6.  The Cardinals went 4-2 against their own division.  So basically, not only did they tank themselves this season, they also brought down the whole division with them.  See there, it wasn't a wasted fall after all.  Here's a little known fact:  The Cardinals are the oldest franchise in the NFL.  The Cardinals:  Spreading misery since 1898.

5) 49ers:  The late season run certainly did look legitimate.  They had the Seahawks in right in their sights.  And then came the mighty Arizona Cardinals, dragging the 'Niners back down to their level once again.  The 'Niners might want to find a way to beat the Cardinals.  That was the difference between the 6-9 they are, and the 8-7 they could have been.  Sad.

4) Redskins:  Joe Gibbs might still be a viable NFL head coach.  But as a head coach/GM, working under the specter of the delusional Danny Snyder's spending habits of the past several seasons, he is an utter failure.

3) Buccaneers:  No team fell further, faster than this years Buc's.  They looked bad with Simms under center, but with Gradkowski they were truly putrid.  The offensive line never came together for this team, and reportedly the team is not necessarily sold on Cadillac Williams going forward.  The Buccaneers have the look of a team that will be blown up in the off-season and rebuilt.  The good news is, they can't get much worse than they were this year regardless what happens.

2) Lions:  Matt Millen's leadership and vision has led to a 23-72 record for the Lions.  Note to the Lions ownership:  This is not a communist society.  Incompetence does not have to be tolerated.  We live in a society that rewards excellence and sends excrement to the curb.  At least, that's what happens out here in the real world.

1) Raiders:  The men in black have an unusual opportunity coming up this week.  They can ruin two seasons with one game.  The Jets need a win to guarantee a playoff spot.   The Raiders need a loss to have a chance at the first overall pick in the draft.  As impossible as it seems, the Raiders still have a chance to spread even more misery for themselves and others.  And just for being in that position, I award them the Misery Index crown.  Congratulations Raiders!!

Thanks to all for a great season!!