Early in the season, The Shop is always a hotbed of activity. The fellas come in to talk up their teams, talk down their teams and throw out potential trade proposals to see if anyone is buying what they’re selling. What has always made the business going on at The Shop so profitable was that there was always something to talk about – what players you’ve picked up that you may be putting in your lineup, complaining about a bad beat last week, that sort of thing.
But, there is a stink in the air that old-schoolers like me aren’t even a little bit happy with. It seems like you can’t turn on a TV or radio or even pick up a magazine in the waiting area when we’re three-chairs deep with customers without seeing something for either Draft Kings or FanDuel.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about making money, playing fantasy football and doing business. But, when you hear that they’re bringing in something on the order of $75 million a week, the odds of you winning are like hitting the lottery and those who obsess on fantasy football can now get in a dozen leagues every week and contribute their money for one guy to hold up a big novelty check – the next person they will probably use in their never-ending supply of commercials.
The hardest part for me to wrap my head around is that this is gambling. Twenty years ago, my pastor sat me down to talk about my involvement fantasy football – the wife has always been a little too chatty at choir practice – saying that gambling was the wage of sin. I did my best to explain to him that it isn’t really gambling because all of the money that goes in goes back out. Clearly, this isn’t the case with FanDuel and Draft Kings. They’re making money. A LOT of money.
Being naturally suspicious by nature, I always figure there has to be a fix in. I’ve associated with gamblers before and they tend to share one trait – they’re crooked as dog’s hind leg. I can envision 10 percent of the entries being metric-generated combinations that are submitted by the site owners themselves in hopes of pulling in the big prize themselves and keeping it in-house – in the same way me and some of the fellas in the league each throw in $10 and buy 100 Powerball tickets to increase our odds in hopes of hitting a $300 million jackpot.
Whenever there is gambling and big money involved, there are always going to be people looking to rig the game and fix the odds. It’s human nature. It’s why we have casinos. It’s why we have lotteries. The dream of a quick buck, especially when it’s something everyone believes that they’re smarter than the average fish in the pond, is enticing. It’s why people have gambling addictions and, more times than not, they know they’re probably going to lose.
With fantasy football, it’s a different animal altogether. Because of the influence of Draft Kings and FanDuel, names like Allen Robinson and Leonard Hankerson were getting as much chatter last week at The Shop as players like Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson. They’ve taken over the fantasy sports landscape in a way that I’m still not 100 percent sure is legal – authorities just haven’t caught up with them yet. Any time there’s big money involved, you know that federal, state and local governments will be looking for their taste, so things may change as quickly as they have since these two rose out of nowhere to quickly get hooked into TV networks and major media giants.
What saddens me most is that the talk around The Shop hasn’t been nearly as much about our league as it has been finding a $3,200 flex player that will complete the roster of dominance. It keeps people ringing the bell on the door when they enter, so I can’t complain too hard. The till is full every night at closing time, but it seems like so many other things I grew up with, technology and the promise of big money is squeezing the joy out of things that I’ve held dear for a long time.
You won’t see my name on a leaderboard at either of those places – SuperCutts19 dies with me. But, you will see millions of others willing to chase the rabbit down the hole in hopes of hitting the number and cashing in heavy. As for me, I’ll keep dominating my friends in The Shop league and let it go at that. You can have your Draft Kings and FanDuels all you want. You just won’t find me at the party.
- Of the 13 games played Sunday afternoon, 11 teams scored 27 or more points, making for some massive scores for individual players throughout the league and yet another sign that the NFL isn’t a fan of defense.
- Can Julio Jones be stopped? In his three games, his stats line has been ungodly – 9-141-2, 13-135-0 and 12-164-2. At this rate, he will catch 181 passes for 2,347 yards and 21 touchdowns.
- Not far behind is Antonio Brown. He has caught 29 passes for 436 yards and two TDs, which projects out to 155 catches for 2,325 yards and 11 TDs.
- Is anybody happier today than Jared Allen? Not only does the pass rusher get to keep the signing bonus money he was paid by the 0-3 Bears for 18 games work, he goes to a Carolina team that is 3-0 and the two-time defending NFC South champion. Not too shabby, young man.
- The Turf, The Turf, The Turf Is On Fire! With the NFL trying to make player introductions look more and more like a WWE entrance, it seemed like just a matter of time before somebody would start a field fire, but I have to admit, until Sunday, I didn’t know Astroturf could burn.
- Let’s hear for the old guys! It’s been 15 years since three guys over the age of 30 on the same team (the Raiders) had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver in the same game. Arizona got the trifecta done in Week 3, as Carson Palmer threw for 311 yards and two TDs, Larry Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 134 yards and two TDs and Chris Johnson ran 22 times for 110 yards and two more scores – striking a blow for guys over 30 that they’re still relevant.
THE RAZOR’S EDGE
10. 51-Pick Up – Pretty much everyone thought that the Jaguars were going to get housed in New England, but it’s rare when a team is so brutal that it can give up 51 points, but even more troubling was how they did it. The Patriots had the ball 10 times on offense Sunday against Jacksonville. They scored touchdowns on six of them. They scored field goals on three of them. They took a knee twice on the last one to mercifully end the carnage. Beating a team is one thing. Humiliating them is another.
9. Controversy? What Controversy? – Jay Gruden needs to learn the definition of the word “controversy.” Kirk Cousins’ stat line didn’t tell the whole story of his brutal performance last Thursday. He finished with 316 yards with one TD and two picks, but a lot of his yardage came at garbage time after he helped the Giants build a 19-point lead. After the game, Gruden said there is no controversy as to who is the starter – and who isn’t (RG3). Hey Jay! Ask your fans if there’s a controversy, because nobody wants to keep seeing Cousins stinking out the joint. The clock has begun ticking until Washington drafts another quarterback. At this rate, they won’t have to trade to move up.
8. They Got Legs. Do They Know How to Use Them? – Around The Shop, we’ve blamed Trent Richardson for running backs no longer being viewed as first-round prospects. It took four years for teams to bite again, with Todd Gurley going 10th overall to the Rams, Melvin Gordon going 15th to San Diego and T.J. Yeldon going 36th to Jacksonville. Gordon hasn’t stunk it out, but, in three games, he has averaged just 15 carries for 63 yards and a game and has no touchdowns. Yeldon has averaged 16 carries a game for just 51 yards with no touchdowns. In his first game after sitting out the first two, Gurley made his dynamic debut Sunday and carried six times for nine yards, finishing fifth on his team behind two running backs as well as a QB and wide receiver who ran one time each. It’s a young man’s game, but, to this point, not these young men.
7. Leaving On a Jet Plane – In their first two games, the Jets were looking like a team that could make a legitimate run at New England, with a strong defense and a quarterback who looks like The Lorax, the Jets had all the looks of a team turning the corner – beating Cleveland by 21 and at Indianapolis by 13 – giving up a combined 17 points. With the struggling 0-2 Eagles coming to town, the Jets had a chance to make a big statement that this could be their year. Instead, they gave up the game’s first 24 points and Brandon Marshall made the worst play at MetLife Stadium since the infamous Butt Fumble. Any team that allowed just seven points in the second half of three games should be 3-0. The Jets aren’t one of those teams.
6. Send In the McClowns – Fans have become accustomed to seeing the Manning brothers start games in the NFL. Both were No. 1 overall picks. Both have rings. Fans for their respective teams have purchased millions of jerseys with the Manning name on the back. In what may be the latest sign of the impending apocalypse, the Mannings weren’t the only brothers starting NFL games in Week 3. We also had the McCown (or McClown) brothers making starts – 13-year man Josh McCown for Cleveland and 12-year backup Luke McCown for the Saints. The Manning brothers both won. The McClown brothers both lost. Who would have guessed that? If Drew Brees can’t go next Sunday night (and it doesn’t look good), how many fans are going to glued to the Sunday night game pitting QBs Brandon Weeden and Luke McCown? I won’t be waiting all day for Sunday night.
5. Smoking Weeden – The Cowboys had a 14-point lead at home three times during their game with Atlanta Sunday. They averaged six yards a carry every time they ran the ball and scored four rushing touchdowns. Yet, they lost. Brandon Weeden was the king of the check-downs, with just four of his 22 completions to wide receivers (all to Cole Beasley) and his one interception gave Atlanta the ball on the Dallas 23-yard line that became a touchdown that kept the Falcons alive while down by 14. It wasn’t all Weeden’s fault. Dallas allowed Julio Jones to light them up for 12 catches, 164 yards and two touchdowns and allowed Devonta Freeman to run 30 times for 141 yards and three TDs. Atlanta scored the final 25 points of the game and turned a three-time 14-point deficit into a 15-point blowout win. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant can’t come back soon enough.
4. The San Francisco Bleat – A lot of the talk around The Shop before the draft about how low were 49ers players going to go on draft day? With players and coaches jumping ship in droves following a disappointing 2014 season, the value of the Niners players still around took a major hit – to the point where all of them were available when the draft hit the middle rounds. When San Fran throttled Minnesota in the Monday night opener, skeptics were backtracking. Since then, the 49ers have taken their show on the road and allowed 90 points in two games to Pittsburgh and Arizona, being outscored 90-25. Colin Kaepernick completed 13 of 19 passes and threw two touchdowns. Unfortunately, four of those passes caught and both of the touchdowns were to Arizona defensive players, who had a pair of Pick Sixes. That first win looked impressive. It may be a long time until the second win comes along.
3. Boos Over Miami – Miami made an enormous investment this offseason to beef up both sides of the ball in hopes of making a run at New England. With a win over Washington on the road in Week 1, it looked like they might be on their way. Then they lost to Jacksonville, which, in some circles, is rationale to abandon playoff hopes, but, they were coming home Sunday to face division rival Buffalo in hopes of knocking them down a peg in the division standings. Instead, they got trucked 41-14, falling behind 27-0 in the first half and leading the home fans that stuck around for the second half to do nothing but boo the home team. They were able to stop Shady McCoy (who hasn’t?), but they allowed Tyrod Taylor to post a passer rating of 136.7 (almost 80 points higher than Ryan Tannehill) and Tannehill’s three interceptions in the first half led to 13 Buffalo points that blew open the game. At least they won’t be home for a month. By then, hopefully their fans will forget Sunday’s ugliness.
2. Less Than Zero – The Bears were hopeful that John Fox and his crew would change things up in Chitown. They were looking for a fast start with their first two games at home. They played about as good a game as they could against Green Bay in the opener, but still lost. They followed that up by giving their home fans a chance to see a 25-point loss to the Cardinals that saw Jay Cutler go out with injury. They followed that up by getting shut out for the first time since 2002 in a 26-point loss to Seattle. Things have gotten so bad that they traded away Jared Allen for magic beans. If Cutler isn’t the answer, it looks like the Bears may be in line to draft his replacement very, very early in the first round of the 2016 draft.
1. Playoff Hopes for the Ravens? Nevermore – The Baltimore Ravens entered 2015 with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. It doesn’t matter that they’ve lost their three games by a total of 14 points with no loss of more than six, the stark reality is that the Ravens are allowing 300 passing yards a game, they can’t run the ball on offense, are 0-3 in the conference and 0-1 in the division. Just three games into the season, they are technically four games behind Cincinnati because they have a home loss in hand to the Bengals that currently serves as the first potential tie-breaker. They still have 13 games to go, but have already been forced to hope for injuries like the one the sidelined Ben Roethlisberger and scoreboard watch in hopes that 8-8 or 9-7 can win the division, because, if it doesn’t, they’re cooked.