A funny thing happened at The Shop Monday morning. In the world of pugilism, they call it “Boxer’s remorse” – the sinking feeling that you shouldn’t have walked away from the game when you still had something left to give.
In The Shop league, there has been a near-unprecedented amount of owners giving up on players. Maybe it’s just that I’m officially what Millennials would call old – even though I’ve never lost a fight to one of those punks – but I have loyalty to my players.
If a guy gets off to a slow start, I don’t simply give up on him. In recent years, most of the roster pickups I make are out of shock that someone would just dump a player who has value. It’s why I typically end up with a stockpile of players by the time the bye weeks start to hit and you have to start mixing and matching the players in your lineups.
Most of the players in The Shop league are approximately the same age I am – Pop Watson was around when God was a kid, so he doesn’t count – but it would seem that the loyalty younger fantasy players seem to have forgotten or ignored have been catching on.
I scooped up LaGarrette Blount just to let him sit on my bench if need be. I had a chance to pick up Cam Newton, but I was too stocked already to keep a third QB on my roster – I’m fine with a QB close to my own age (Tom Brady) and a young player I was shocked stayed on the draft board as long as he did (Jameis Winston).
The phenomenon of chasing your tail after the Next Big Thing has always eluded me as to why you love a player for months leading up to the draft and cut bait and run two or three weeks into a season.
Among the players just in my 12-man league that have been dumped – Newton, Eli Manning, Blount, Jarvis Landry, Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor, Tevin Coleman, Martavis Bryant and O.J. Howard – or traded for magic beans – Shady McCoy, T.Y. Hilton, Amari Cooper and DeMarco Murray.
Perhaps I’m just a little too old school for my own good, but I’m loyal to my guys. I may put them on my bench, but I don’t just cut and run from them three or four games into the season, especially when rosters are going to get stressed by injuries and bye weeks from now until the weekend before Thanksgiving – a long time in real time and fantasy playing time.
I’m currently letting a disgruntled Julio Jones owner think over my low-ball offer because my welcoming arms are always open to give a player with immense talent come to my house for a free haircut and a shave. If it doesn’t happen, that’s fine. I’m loyal to my guys and, as is almost always the case, a slow start doesn’t mean nothing is going to happen as the season wears on.
If you have players in your league feeling salty about their current squad, keep your eyes and ears open because they may be willing to move them at discount prices and who doesn’t like a discount?
- Suddenly, the reports of the death of the Bengals doesn’t seem quite as certain as it did two weeks ago. After scoring just nine points in two home games that appeared to leave the Bengals D.O.A. in mid-September. After coming close to a road upset of Green Bay in overtime, the Bengals hammered the Browns 31-7. They’re still in a huge hole they’re going to spend the rest of the season trying to dig out of, but at least there is a flicker of hope.
- If you played against Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein in Week 4, you have our sympathies. Kickers rarely make enough of a comparative difference to win or lose weeks for fantasy owners, but when you kicker seven field goals and add two extra points for a total of 23 points, it tipped the balance of power away from quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
- Speaking of kickers, Buffalo got a signature 23-17 win Sunday at Atlanta thanks to three fourth-quarter field goals from Stephen Hauschka, but what made his contribution to the win was that his coaching staff had the confidence in him to attempt field goals of 56 and 55 yards – both of which he made. If he misses either of them, chances are the outcome would have been different.
- There have been a lot of people complaining about the lack of production from running back Le’Veon Bell, who, in his first three games, he rushed 52 times for just 180 yards and one touchdown. In their semi-annual bloodbath with the Ravens, the Steelers let Bell know he was going to need to pack a lunch because it was going to be a long day. He responded with 35 carries for 144 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-9 blowout win and re-established himself as the player so many fantasy owners have come to count on as a dominant fantasy running back in an era where individual running backs are a dying breed.
The razor’s edge
- Hibernating Bears – The Chicago Bears have been a mess for some time. John Fox has finally, in his third season, got the personnel he needs to run a 3-4 defense in Chicago, but not only did he lose linebacker Danny Trevathan for two games for a cheap shot on Davante Adams, the $45 million Mike Glennon experiment last just four games. At 1-3 following a second half blowout at the hands of the Packers, the Bears have decided the future is now and are turning the offense over to rookie Mitchell Trubisky. You knew this was coming sooner than later, but when your starter has been responsible for eight turnovers in four games – five interceptions and three lost fumbles – sooner became even sooner.
- Say It Ain’t So, Joe – When the Ravens started 2-0 by outscoring their two opponents 44-10, there was a realistic reason for optimism – ignoring the fact that those wins came against Cincinnati and Cleveland. In the two weeks since, they’ve played legitimate playoff contenders in Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. The Jaguars hammered the Ravens 44-7 in London and the Steelers built a 19-0 halftime lead on their way to a 28-9 road win in which Le’Veon Bell ran 35 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns. In the last two games, Baltimore has been outscored 80-16 and what initially looked like a team with playoff aspirations now looks like a team capable of getting blown out at home or on the road.
- Stay Classy, San Die…er, ah…Los Angeles – The Chargers knew coming into the 2017 season that they were going to be facing some long odds with pundits hooking their wagons to Kansas City, Oakland and Denver as their picks to win the division. Almost nobody was on the Chargers bandwagon and even fewer are on their side now that they’re playing to half-empty houses in a soccer stadium and are 0-4. There are some teams that just seem to be snake-bit. Eight of the Chargers 11 losses last year were by seven points or less. Three of their four losses this season have been by three or less. There comes a time when a locker room implodes with that kind of misery. It would seem all the “close, but no cigar” rhetoric from last year in San Diego has followed the Chargers up the Cali coast.
- Will the Real Jaguars Please Stand Up? – There may be no more frenetic, unpredictable team in the league than Jacksonville. They’re 2-2. In wins over Houston and Baltimore, they dominated like few others, winning those games by scores of 29-7 and 44-7 – giving the impression that their years of woe and misery may finally be over with a defense that can dominate and an offense capable of putting points on the board. In between those two wins was a 37-16 throttling smackdown of the Jags by division rival Tennessee and on Sunday they found a way to lose to the Jets, who now have a postseason tie-breaker edge on the Jags at 2-2. The Jaguars defense is improved but is allowing 5.7 yards a carry on the ground (more than 165 rushing yards a game). There’s no shame in losing, but inconsistency like that, much less a loss to the Jets, has a lot of people seeing the 2017 team as dumpster fires of recent seasons.
- No Defense for a Patriot – Tom Brady is having another giant season at the age of 40 and nobody doubts that New England will be back in the postseason to defend their title. But, New England has allowed an average of 32 points a game and suddenly made Deshaun Watson and a struggling Cam Newton look like Hall of Fame QBs. As the Patriots start to get into their division schedule, they will likely dominate as they always do, but New England is vulnerable and teams that can keep Brady and his offense in check have a much more realistic shot of knocking them off their perch than seemed possible a month ago.
- A Bad Day to Be an Up-and-Coming Star – The rookie running back class has been making a lot of news – from Kareem Hunt to Leonard Fournette to Dalvin Cook to Christian McCaffrey to Chris Carson. However, the Class of 2017 took a serious hit in Week 4, as both Cook and Carson suffered season-ending knee blowouts that ended their promising rookie campaigns before they could begin and forced the struggling offenses in Minnesota and Seattle – both of which had appeared to turn a corner for the positive with their arrival – back to Square One. Football is a violent game and players suffer horrible injuries, but these two rookies with less than a month of service time were being counted on to lead their teams to division titles or, at a minimum, a playoff run. Now both teams need to recover because the season doesn’t end with their injuries – it goes on without them despite crippling their respective offenses.
- Classic Cutler! – There were a lot of chuckles when the Miami Dolphins signed Jay Cutler to replace the injured Ryan Tannehill. The thinking was that Curler’s familiarity with Adam Gase’s offense would be the critical element to keeping the positive momentum the Dolphins had going in place. After a Week 1 win in which they beat the Chargers 19-17 thanks to four field goals, there were some who thought maybe Cutler was the answer. In the last two weeks, Miami has played one of the league’s worst teams (the Jets) and one of the worst defenses (the Saints). While their defense held both opponents to just 20 points, the Dolphins have managed just six points in those two games – a touchdown to DeVante Parker as time expired to prevent a 20-0 loss to the Jets. There was no such late garbage time TD Sunday in London and they fell 20-0 to New Orleans, making it painfully clear that Cutler isn’t the God-send the Miami offense was so desperately looking for.
- Cowboys and Aliens – When Dallas rolled to a 13-3 record last season, they were the dominant running team in the NFL. Their defense wasn’t elite, but it forced opponents to try to speed up the way they played their game to counteract the Dallas ground attack. With two losses already on their ledger this season, both were due in no small part in allowing opponents to run over their defense. Denver scored six times against the Cowboys, rushing 39 times for 178 yards to set up their passing game in the red zone. On Sunday in front of the home fans, the Los Angeles Rams scored nine times (two touchdowns and seven field goals), thanks to being able to rush 31 times for 168 yards. Thanks to the parity of the NFL, there is no reason to sound alarms, but Dallas is allowing teams to do to them what they did so routinely last year and the result has been obvious.
- Forgetting the Titans – Tennessee appeared to have turned a critical corner early in the season by winning in Jacksonville 37-16 and winning a slugfest with Seattle 33-27 to improve to 2-1 with a date with Houston on the horizon. The Titans had the chance to take control of the AFC South with a win – improving to 3-1 with road wins over both the Jags and Texans. Instead, they lost in record-setting fashion. Houston scored 30 points in the first half and 27 points in the second half, outgaining the Titans 445-195 and assaulting them on the ground and through the air. Making a bad situation worse was that quarterback Marcus Mariota was sidelined with a hamstring injury. What could have been a statement game for the positive – putting space between themselves and the rest of the division – it turned out to be a statement game for all the wrong reasons and has thrown the division into chaos as everyone is right back in the thick of the race Tennessee could have reserved all for themselves.
- Split Out of Luck – The Colts headed into Seattle as a prohibitive underdog, but were putting a lot of stock in their ability to bring their best – offensively and defensively – against the Seahawks and send a strong message that the Colts were going to be on a Suck For Luck 2.0 campaign. They went to halftime in silence, as Seahawks fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The Colts led 15-10 and, in the first 30 minutes, allowed Seattle to run just 22 offensive plays for 140 yards (104 passing, 34 rushing) with a time of possession of just 10:04. In the final 30 minutes, not only did the Colts allow 36 points, Seattle held the ball for 22:08, gaining 337 yards (179 passing, 158 rushing). Four games into a season does not a season destiny make, but the demoralizing second half blowout is a clear indictment of what the Colts are capable of without Luck and with a defense that can be crushed so thoroughly.