As a kid, I would watch soap operas daily. One of my all-time favorites was “The Days of Our Lives.” I know, I know. What’s a child doing watching soap operas? Well, I don’t have a legitimate answer for you. Moreover, I really don’t care what you think anyway. So, for those that are familiar with the popular daytime soap, the introductory line to the show went something like this, “Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.” Well, this notion is sadly similar to my beloved California Golden Bears. Fresh off a super-sized beat down from the #4 Washington Huskies, Cal is left picking itself off the turf at Memorial Stadium.
The night’s festivities couldn’t have begun any sweeter, Cal alum Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch whipped and swerved his way across Kabam Field in a golf cart as he did 10 years ago after an overtime win over these same Huskies. This time, Marshawn was accompanied by his mother for the first few whips about the field, but she soon got out and was replaced by none other than Bay Area Hip Hop legend, E-40. With the crowd in a frenzy, this was on the verge becoming something special. Could lightning strike twice, albeit 10 years apart? Let me put it to you this way, it was close for a few moments, literally, but in the end, the Golden Bear secondary was abused, torched, burnt, etc. in rout to a 66-27 drubbing. What a waste of a Beast Mode and E-40 sighting! Their mere presence alone should have garnered at least 50 points from the Bears in pure hype. Alas, all we were privileged to was just another dismal performance from the ever-suspect Cal secondary.
Cal (4-5, 2-4) is now down to its final three games of the season in hopes of winning at least two to gain bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year under head coach Sonny Dykes. Oh, and just in case you were wondering who those next three opponents are, let’s see. There’s #23 Washington State, The Big Game with Stanford, and UCLA. Luckily, the last two games are in front of the home crowd. At this juncture last year, Cal was 5-4 with only one more win to secure a bowl berth. Now Cal is faced with the un-enviable task of taking two wins from these three teams that have a combined record of 124-136 (Cal owns a 46-16 record over Washington State).
I swear, and I swear quite often and frequently, but why oh why must Cal’s bowl chances come with so little margin for error? Yeah, I get it. It’s clearly a sign of a mediocre team. But this is my mediocre team, dammit! I know I should be looking at this situation with the “glass half-full” approach, but why? This is ridiculous! When are we going to learn? Hell, I’m five seconds from reaching out to Nnamdi Asomugha to re-enroll and man the secondary again. Geesh! I don’t ask for too much. Or in Cal’s case, maybe I do.
Time is of the essence and if there ever was a time when Cal needed to play out of its mind (in a good way) and snatch at least two more victories, now is the time. The road isn’t going to get any easier and it would be a travesty to see the Golden Bears regress after they have made steady progress under Coach Dykes. Unless something miraculous occurs on defense in the next few weeks, we’ll be watching bowl season with Oski and friends at the local bar–and the clock will again be ticking on the Sonny Dykes regime.
Although I’m a loyal fan, I can’t escape the reality in which I live. Cal is not a good team overall. There are some bright spots and a lot of glaring deficiencies. These do not have overnight solutions. These are systemic issues that may take some time to correct. Unfortunately, it takes a change in staffing and/or culture to bring about desired results. Let me be clear, I’m not calling for Coach Dykes’ job. I am calling for a change in recruiting strategy. There’s plenty of talent offensively, but for Pete’s sake, can we please hang our hat on somebody on defense?
Football, unlike soap operas cannot be written and rewritten at the drop of a hat. For Cal to make the necessary changes, it will take time and patience. With the “win now or else,” mantra in full bloom among collegiate programs, dutiful program development under a coaching staff is a notion that has run out of sand.
Did the Patriots win the Super Bowl or did the Seahawks lose it? A ridiculous question, but one that has been frequently asked in the past two days. Following any game, reasonable people can criticize a team’s poor performance or question a coach’s decisions but must also remember to recognize the team that won. Always focus on awarding credit, not assigning blame.
Congratulations are in order for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of the New England Patriots. They are victors of a truly incredible Super Bowl. After a slow first quarter, this game had nothing then it had something and by the end it had everything. With so much to cover, let’s concentrate on the game’s most powerful moments, the ones that made it truly super.
Fitting that Tom Brady added to his legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time with what was perhaps his best performance on the biggest stage in the game. Brady orchestrated a methodical attack that moved the ball down the field with a series of carefully executed timing patterns. New England’s game plan was to take advantage of mismatches in man coverage. Brady did just that. He consistently identified single coverage on Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and burned the defense with precise throws.
After trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, Brady elevated his game even higher. He dissected the dominant Seattle defense for two momentous touchdown drives. Brady finished with 321 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, a victory, and an MVP.
Brady’s brilliant work was nearly all for naught when Jermaine Kearse secured a circus catch down the right sideline with 1:06 remaining in the game. At this moment, Brady must have had flashbacks to his previous two Super Bowl appearances, which both ended in defeat, due in large part to miraculous late-game completions. Alas, the heavens smiled on Tom Brady this time around.
Two plays after the Kearse catch, rookie defensive back, Malcolm Butler, intercepted a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone. On second and goal from the one, Ricardo Lockette ran a quick slant. Wilson delivered the ball on time and in the right spot. Butler simply made a spectacular play to jump the route and snatch the ball away from Lockette.
All of this was made possible in no small part due to Bill Belichick’s clever decision not to call a timeout following Seattle’s first down run. The common thought was that the Patriots needed to stop the clock to leave themselves enough time to answer the Seattle touchdown with a field goal of their own to force overtime. Instead Belichick played through. Precious seconds ran off the clock, which may have influenced the personnel package that Seattle chose for the next play. Whether it did or not, Belichick’s decision led to a victory, so he must be given credit for his gutsy call.
Here it is. We have all heard it a hundred times by now. “The Seahawks should have given the ball to Marshawn Lynch instead of attempting a pass,” says most of America. I hate to even mention the play call again, but with something that bad, I must.
I heard Pete Carroll’s explanation of the play call after the game. I understand his reasoning about the mismatched personnel; I just do not agree with the decision. At all. Too many things can go wrong with a quick slant in a congested field at the one yard line. With 20 seconds and one timeout, Seattle had time for at least two rushing plays. That’s two servings of beast mode. He scores on one of those runs. I am certain. Then again I was certain that The Hangover Par II was going to be as funny as the first one. Just as Pete Carroll was certain that Russell Wilson‘s pass would not be intercepted. We all make mistakes. Seattle just happened to make its mistake in the worst possible moment.
Incredibly, Seattle had a glimmer of hope following the turnover. The Patriots needed to take a knee to run out the clock and end the game. The problem with that: they were at their own one yard line. Seattle had one last chance to muster up some magic and somehow stuff Brady for a safety. Then Michael Bennett jumped offside.
Unfreakingbelievable. Did he really think that Brady was not going to try a hard count? Even though Seattle’s aggressive style is part of what makes them great, this was a time for discipline and Bennett displayed none. Chances are that the Patriots would have won anyway, but this was still a pitiful mistake.
Following one of the most shocking turn of events ever to happen in the Super Bowl, a handful of players lost their composure. This was type of indiscretion is understandable given the circumstances, but nonetheless disappointing.
Who exactly instigated the fight is unclear. We saw that Gronk was right in the middle of the mayhem. Bruce Irvin was ejected. Many others participated in the skirmish as well. The players’ lack of restraint led to a brawl that left a black mark on what was an otherwise fantastic day of world-class competition.
Shortly after a handful of the Seattle and New England players shamed themselves by taking part in the tussle, two of the game’s most polarizing figures had their own moment. In stark contrast to their previous post-game exchange, both Sherman and Brady were pure class. It was a beautiful sight: Sherman, the infamous trash talker, displaying ideal sportsmanship on the heels of a crushing defeat and Brady graciously accepting the gesture. In a game full of great moments, this was one of the best.
Amid the inevitable questioning of the final offensive play call for Seattle, Pete Carroll absorbed all the blame. He was completely incisive, and he ensured that criticism would not be directed at anyone but him. That’s the mark of a great leader.
Even Lynch took a break from his tired repetitive shenanigans by responding with class and without placing blame. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe I do want to hear more from Marshawn Lynch. His answer was selfless, short, simple, and totally free of any bitter feelings. Well done, Marshawn.
I’m glad this moment happened to Russell Wilson. I have no beef with the guy; actually, I like him quite a bit. From all accounts, he seems to be a wonderful young man and an impressive football player. I’m glad that this happened to him (if it had to happen to someone) because he can handle it. I could not hand pick another player in the NFL that is better suited to deal with the backlash from something as devastating as that final interception. Russell Wilson has already displayed resilience and grace in the face of what may go down as the most heartbreaking loss in the history of the Super Bowl.
In his post-game interview, Wilson mentioned that he doesn’t question the final play call and he gives the Patriots a lot of credit. He continued his showcase of unflappability Monday morning when he sent out a tweet stating that he will not allow that play to define his career.
How can someone who just threw an interception at the one yard line to seal the Super Bowl victory for the opponent possibly come away looking impressive? Only people who possess it, that ineffable quality that defines a champion, can possibly pull off something like that. These rarest of individuals always seem to thrive under intense external pressure, responding to adversity and returning to the top of their field. They eventually bear hands heavy with rings.
Russell Wilson has tremendous confidence in himself. He believes that he will return to the Super Bowl. I, for one, see no reason to doubt him. Because Russell Wilson has it.
Seattle is back, and you could say not much time has passed since the Patriots played for the Lombardi Trophy themselves, so the Super Bowl is familiar ground for the principal players on both teams involved. Chris Green and Jeff Rich take a look at the game ahead.
In overtime of the NFC Championship on Sunday, Jermaine Kearse hauled in a long touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to cap one of the more improbable comebacks in NFL playoff history, sealing the victory with a perfectly poetic ending and sending the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl. After the game ended, Wilson and some teammates gathered in a circle, took a knee, and let the moment sink in. The Seattle quarterback, visibly overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment, lowered his head and cried. A few minutes later, Wilson, with tears still streaming down his face, took part in one of the most genuine and moving postgame interviews in recent memory.
Wilson managed to gush, “the fight, the fight, the relentless fight… three minutes left in the game, four interceptions, and they just keep playing, these guys just keep believing in me, man.”
This would have been a memorable moment from any player, but it meant even more coming from Russell Wilson. Normally the epitome of composure, he was barely able to speak as he was helped into his NFC champions t-shirt during the interview. He typically conducts himself with near robotic politeness in all dealings with the media. But this was different. In that moment, he changed from black and white to color like the characters in Pleasantville (an underrated movie, by the way). His guard was finally down. He was vulnerable. It was everything that fans long to witness—a rare glimpse inside an athlete.
Cynics often criticize athletes for not caring enough about the game, but even they had to respect this. For that beautiful instant, everyone was reminded what sports are all about. And in this moment, not a single fan, player, or member of the media was wondering, “what does Marshawn Lynch have to say?”
The emotion of the Wilson interview made it special. What else made the interview special? Russell Wilson. Some guys are articulate; they have interesting things to say. Some prefer to answer every question with “yeah” or “thanks for asking.” There is a reason Erin Andrews approached Wilson instead of Lynch for the postgame questions. She anticipated that he would make meaningful comments and she was right. His thoughts and feelings captured the gravity of the moment. The experience became more real and more memorable for everyone watching. An interview with Lynch would have accomplished none of this.
Lynch is a tremendous football player, completely deserving of the nickname, “beast mode.” But off the playing field he is about as entertaining as a shoelace. So why is Lynch continually pestered by the media? It’s awkward watching him uncomfortably shift and sweat his way through a series of questions from reporters. Honestly, I feel bad for the guy.
For the time being, Lynch must continue to answer questions. He must deal with the media, or he will face league consequences. That policy should change. Let the Cam Newtons and Russell Wilsons of the world answer the questions. They enjoy the attention. They enjoy interacting with the media. The media enjoys interacting with them. It’s a delightful pairing. The reporters ask these players questions, gain some insight, and go write their articles. No reporter has ever picked up a crucial tidbit of game analysis by talking to Marshawn Lynch, so they should just let him be. Yet they inexplicably continue to barrage him with questions.
The NFL should see Lynch’s suffering and look for a way to help. The league should care enough about its players to mitigate their anguish. We even have video evidence of Lynch’s misery during interviews. Though given how well Goodell normally deals with video evidence, appropriate changes are unlikely (maybe he would claim that he didn’t see this video either). Regardless, the league should change the media requirements for some players. Make them fair, not equal. Let speak those who want to be heard, and allow the others to let their games to do the talking.
Unfortunately, the NFL has opted to take the opposite approach. Instead of empathizing with Lynch, they have targeted him. In November, he was hit with a ludicrously large fine for his repetitive answers, and this past weekend he was threatened with a game ejection if he wore his new gold spikes. Normally a uniform color violation such as nonmatching spikes warrants a fine, but the NFL, apparently sour about Lynch’s behavior in interviews, vindictively asserted its power with the threat of ejection. This is just further evidence that the league’s dealings with Lynch are becoming a pattern of mistreatment.
The league needs to wake up and realize the error of its ways. The NFL should allow individual players to personalize their own media requirements. Players like Lynch could have their media requirements reduced, limited to, say, three questions before leaving the sidelines after games. After these questions, he can head to the locker room. His locker then becomes a safe space for him to relax instead of place at which he is bombarded with questions.
The Marshawn Lynch interview act is played. He is tired of it. The media is tired of it. The fans are tired of it. The NFL has the ability to end the charade, and it should do so. Then the media can stop wasting time with the players who have nothing to say, and instead talk to the players that do. As we saw from Wilson on Sunday, an interview with the right player can really be something special.
Rumor has it that a suburban St. Louis town is going to hear from a Grand Jury about a relatively controversial incident, but we’re not going there. Across the state, the Royals were in the playoffs for the first time, and we came very near getting an all-Missouri World Series, but Giants from the left coast swooped in and stomped on all championship dreams from Branson to Effingham. At least baseball fans have some decent barbeque to eat this winter.
Speaking of the state missing out on things, Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium was initially slated to be the site of this season’s Super Bowl, which was ultimately awarded to the dome named after the University of Phoenix in Glendale, Arizona. While both the Rams and Chiefs have been to the big game twice apiece as residents of Missouri, they’ve each only come away with one victory and I’m sure fans will agree they’d prefer to see their team win the damn game than to see their stadium host it.
Last year, the part of New Jersey that hosts the New York professional football organizations also hosted the champions of the AFC and NFC. On Sunday, the state of Missouri had the honor of hosting the reigning AFC Champion and the defending champions of the World. Unlike Rocktober or whatever MLB Marketing renamed the tenth month of the year, teams from time zones west of the Central Standard, did not get their pound of flesh from Abraham Simpson’s favorite state.
Game I Anticipated Most
The best thing about Brady versus Luck is that it’s not Manning versus Luck. The Colts have turned the page and they’re writing a new chapter with a new character; dare I say a potentially better character? Meanwhile in New England, it’s business as usual. The Patriots have one or two big names on both sides of the ball, but quite a few anonymous figures that make big plays at the right times.
This week and arguably this season, the unknown figure has gone by the name Jonas Gray. In my former life as a College Football guy, I vaguely recall Gray getting a few touches at the school in South Bend, Indiana, but there was nothing remarkable about him then. His last season with the Fighting Irish was under Brian Kelly, but he was recruited to Notre Dame by Bill Belichick’s old buddy Charlie Weis. He’s now played in 4 NFL games, all this season, but he ran for 199 yards in New England’s 42-20 win over a decent Indianapolis team.
Not All Thursdays Are Created Equal
Thursday night football has been a target of ridicule in 2014, but it was worse early in the year when the average margin of victory was in the high 20s and low 30s. In every sense of the phrase, they were “throw-away” games. Things got better when you put division rivals on the field in games that meant something towards who we’ll see on Saturdays and Sundays in January, but close scores don’t always make for decent watching.
If you like kickers, last Thursday offered a game for you. The highlight of the evening for you kicker-lovers came on Dan Carpenter’s 46-yard shot, which put the visiting Bills up 9-3 in Miami. The Dolphins managed a 3rd quarter touchdown and were awarded an additional 2 points for Kyle Orton’s intentional grounding ways, helping them cling to a 12-9 lead entering the game’s final 15 minutes. A Miami touchdown and field goal represented all of the fourth quarter scoring and the Bills headed back to Buffalo with a notch in the L column after a 22-9 defeat.
Losing is one thing, losing track of time is a different story altogether. Viking head coach Mike Zimmer went as far as to say, “Clocks here are bullshit”, after not having the time remaining made available to them in the second half of their 21-13 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday. Can you really blame the clock operators at Soldier Field for giving the Bears a little aid? Chicago had given up at least 50 points in each of their last two outings, both losses.
Watt The Hell
In the NFL, there are certainly times you don’t like hearing your number called. If you’re an offensive lineman, it means you’ve been penalized. If you’re a defensively lineman, it could be much of the same, unless your name happens to be JJ Watt. I’ll give him this much credit; he’s done more than Redskins linebacker/GEICO commercial guy to earn the publicity.
In the Texans 23-7 win over the Browns in Cleveland, the giant man from Wisconsin gave Browns’ right tackle Mitchell Schwartz fits all day, hence aggravating quarterback Brian Hoyer and the Cleveland fans in the process. In his day job, on the defensive side of the ball, he made three tackles for loss, registered a single sack, recovered a fumble, and hurried Hoyer all day. Moonlighting as a tight end, he split out from his standard spot as a tight end and caught the first touchdown pass of Ryan Mallett’s NFL career. You could see it coming before the ball was snapped when he drew one-on-one coverage from Browns linebacker Chris Kirksey.
11 Men Will Be Just Fine
Seattle fans will tell you about how important their 12th man is in an effort to pat themselves on the back for the success their team has had at the place they demolished the Kingdome for. It has a name, but it’s one that is constantly changing, so we simply refer to it as House of SeaChicken. They’re still pretty good up in Washington state, where they haven’t lost more than one game in a season at home since 2011.
Sunday, they had to go to Arrowhead. And while I’m sure the fans didn’t make it easy on Russell Wilson when the SeaChickens had the ball, the 11 men on the field are to be praised for stuffing Marshawn Lynch on 4th-and-1 late in the fourth quarter. The two men who carried the ball for the Chiefs, Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, put in work on Sunday, picking up 169 yards on the ground and combining for all three touchdowns in a 24-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champs.
What’s Wrong With Denver?
In some weeks, the Broncos can do no wrong, but get them out of the Rockies and away from the pot dispensaries, and all bets are off. Everyone beats the Jets and the Raiders, regardless of venue, but after that, the fighting Elways are 0-3 away from Sports Authority Field. In their previous road defeats, Manning and company put up 20 in Seattle and 21 in New England, but the Rams held them to a single touchdown in their 22-7 loss in the dome on Sunday.
You don’t want to freak out too much about a 7-3 team dropping a game in a season where the playoffs and a Super Bowl run are inevitable, but Emmanuel Sanders future is in doubt with a concussion and the Broncos are very much the walking wounded right now.
Credit the Rams Kenny Britt for making the most of his 4 catches. The former Tennessee Titan hadn’t done much in nine games before Sunday’s action, but he picked up 128 yards against Denver, 63 on his first quarter touchdown to put the Rams up 10-0. The second half belonged to Greg Zuerlein, who solely owned the second half scoring with kicks of 22, 55, and 53. He scored 16 of the game’s 29 total points. Hope you bet the under in this one.
Who is randy for Randy?
Do yourself a favor and watch Nebraska play the next couple of weeks, specifically #4 on the defensive side of the ball. Randy Gregory could be the guy for Oakland at #1, unless they really think Marcus Mariota is that much of an upgrade from Derek Carr. PS: I do not.
There’s a possibility that Gregory returns to Lincoln for his senior year, and no matter what his college coach says, it’s not going to happen.
Acutal Worst Game
A year ago today in Houston, the Raiders won a game. They failed to do that in San Diego on Sunday, or any other time in the last 365 days, and they fell to 0-10 on the year. It doesn’t get much worse than a 13-6 game that includes Oakland, but I’m sure the Chargers will take it.
Dirty Laundry Award
Nothing special or devastating about this week’s most penalized team, Tampa Bay, who was penalized 11 times for 111 yards in their 27-7 win over the Redskins at FedEx Field. What’s remarkable is Kansas City’s 3 penalites for 6 total yards, that’s 5 yards for Ron Parker’s illegal use of the hands, a half-the-distance yard on Mike McGlynn for a false start on his own 2, and negligible yardage was marked off when the Chiefs false started on the next snap.
For The Degenerates
Pittsburgh is headed to the Music City to rebound from their wet fart against the Jets last week. Somehow, the Titans beat the Chiefs in Week 1, and then squeaked one out against Jacksonville in Week 6. They’re not a very good football team. I say Pittsburgh covers the 6 and a half, but this one stays under the 46 because Tennessee won’t score enough to put it over.
Random, Perhaps Unimportant
Nice play by Joe Haden to take a touchdown away from Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. That’s what fans expect to see from their $60M shutdown corner.
Now, the Packers look weird in their Acme throwbacks always, but seeing Julius Peppers wearing any Packers jersey is strange to me.
The Lions caught the Cardinals sleeping at the wheel when Jeremy Ross picked up a ball batted out of the endzone by their punt coverage team and ran it back to mid-field, but the officials bailed the home team out, saying Arizona “possessed” the ball inside the five. I call bullshit.
How are Carolina and Atlanta both this bad? Both entered Sunday’s game in Charlotte seeking their fourth win in Week 11 of the season. Neither team ran the ball very well on Sunday, and these quarterbacks just aren’t good enough to win with their arms, if they don’t get the requisite ground support.
I no longer believe the Eagles are among the NFC’s elite. On the strength of their 53-20 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday in Wisconsin, I appoint the Packers to join the Cardinals on that plane.
Cross me off the list of believers in this year’s 49ers. The Giants aren’t very good this year, and San Francisco doesn’t appear to be much better. Consider the window of opportunity to be closing in Northern California.
Shame on the Saints fan who stole the ball from the female Bengals fan at the Superdome. Just because Good Andy Dalton comes to the Bayou and smokes your team by 17 points doesn’t mean you can abandon all decency.
I was having a hell of a time compartmentalizing all of the nonsense in my brain into a well-organized column with good flow. So, I’ve decided to breakdown all the top stories in the fantasy football world division by division. If I was a betting man – which I am – I’m still putting my money on this coming out very messy and chaotic – just a notch above William S. Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” in the sense-making department – but here goes…
We are going to start in the NFC West, and in doing that we might as well start with the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. For me, there is very little fantasy appeal in this offense – the defense on the other hand promises to be the highest scoring DST in fantasy this year – but who cares, it’s a DST. Marshawn Lynch reported to training camp July 31st after holding out for a little under a week. I have to imagine he reported due to the ‘Hawks cavalier attitude to his absence – plus the 1.5 million dollar raise he received. Russell Wilson, when asked about Lynch’s holdout, seemed alarming at peace with the idea, focusing the conversation more on Robert Turbin and the ultra-talented second year back Christine Michael, because they were the backs that HAD reported to camp.
Nevertheless Lynch is there and will again push for 300 carries IF he remains healthy. It’s a big if considering Lynch has toted the rock 901 times the past three seasons and will turn 29 in April. He remains locked in as a first rounder and a strong RB1, those concerns and the ‘Hawks wanting to pepper in more of Michael, keeps him out of top five considerations for me.
Doug Baldwin is probably the safest bet of the WR corps, which is a shame. He will be thrust into playing the X receiver in this run-first offense now without Golden Tate, and look to improve on the underwhelming but solid 50-778-5 line he posted last year. As for Percy Harvin, he is supremely gifted, but won’t see the volume of targets you would want in a guy you’ll more than likely have to draft in the 5th or 6th round. Coupling that with his injury history and that he is penciled in as Seattle’s kick returner makes him a low upside WR2/3, unless of course you’re in a kick return yardage league, which is dumb.
Russell Wilson remains a low-ceiling QB1, considering he’s thrown the ball just 393 and 407 in his rookie and sophomore seasons respectively. The fact that Wilson should flirt with 100 carries 500 rushing yards and 3-5 rushing touchdowns is the only thing keeping his name out of the QB2 conversation. Jermaine remains a guy to keep an eye on taking over as the Z receiver in 3-wide sets, 4 of his 22 receptions last year went to touchdowns, he also caught touchdowns in the AFC championship game and Super Bowl. His stand alone value is there but capped by lack of volume, although if Harvin or Baldwin were to go down, the 6’1″ 210 pound 24 year old could be in for a breakout season being an every down receiver.
The San Francisco 49ers are a team that also does not intrigue me much from a fantasy perspective. Except for Colin Kaepernick, and he was even one of the more disappointing quarterbacks in all of football last year, speaking in fantasy terms. After putting on the performance of a lifetime against Green Bay in the 2012 playoffs, and then opening the 2013 season against those same Packers, lighting them up again to the tune of 412 yards and 3 touchdowns on 27 of 39 passing – Kaepernick was on his way to Canton. And then… ugh. He failed to throw over 200 yards in his next four games, completing under 50% of his passes in 3 out of 4 of those games while throwing 4 interceptions and contributing very little with his legs. He ended up righting the ship a bit and took the Niners to the NFC Championship game while posting very Russell Wilson-esque regular season line. Still what sets Kaepernick apart, and frankly puts him above Russell Wilson is his massive arm strength and gazelle-like break-away speed, which makes him a threat to score from any part of the field at any point in any game. Any. The guy has a gear that a lot of players – not quarterbacks… players – just do not have. Throw in the anomaly of Stevie Johnson, a hopefully full-time Michael Crabtree and their brand new toy from Columbus, you have Colin Kaepernick as a steal as his current ADP projects him as the 10th QB off the board in most drafts.
As for San Francisco’s new toy from Columbus, I am referring to the young man Carlos Hyde. The Niners have made no bones about their plan to scale back Frank Gore‘s carries this year, going as far as putting a number to it. Bill Williamson reported from Niners camp that they plan to shave off about 50 carries from Gore’s regular workload, putting him right at that 220-230 mark, leaving Hyde to pick up that work considering he and Jewel Hampton are the only other healthy running backs on the depth chart as it is currently constituted.
San Francisco has been weary of Gore and his age even though he has played all 16 regular season games the past 3 seasons. This is evident because they have spent round 4 or higher draft picks on running backs the past four years – Hunter, James, Lattimore, and Hyde in that order – what sets Hyde apart from the others is that he a legit feature back at 6′ and 235 lbs. While he will serve primarily as Gore’s handcuff in most formats, Hunter being lost for the year and James missing 4-6 weeks makes Hyde’s standalone upside higher than anyone else available at his current 10th round ADP. You do not have to have Frank Gore in order to draft this kid.
What do ya say we stop in St. Louis for a cup of coffee…?
Not much to see here kids. As I continue to write this column I’m finding it less and less sensible to have started with the super boing NFC West. Oh well, I’m not turning back now and please allow me to quote the great Kumar of White Castle, “We’ve come too far.”
I’m only going to touch on a couple players here because for me the Ram’s offense as a whole leaves a lot to be desired. The star of the show is Zac Stacy. The Rams RB situation was a muddled one at this time of the year last year and quite frankly one to avoid in St. Louis’ quest to find Steven Jackson’s successor. With Daryl Richardson, Benny Cunningham, and Zac Stacy all seeing first team work and failing to stand out one way or the other. The picture became clearer week five against Jacksonville when Stacy received 14 carries after handling a total of 1 in the previous four weeks combined. He ran aggressively and decisively for 78 yards behind an improved but still very confused offensive line. Stacy did pretty much the exact same thing the following week in Houston and after catching a ball in the flat and converting it into his first NFL touchdown week seven against a stout Carolina Panthers defense, Stacy was ready to make a name for himself.
The next four weeks, Stacy compiled 91 carries for 410 yards and 4 touchdowns, while also snatching 10 grabs for 62 yards. He continued to run the ball effectively for the rest of the year despite playing through a host of injuries and is locked in as a 3 down back for St. Louis and a high end RB2 in 2014. The offensive line is still a bit of a cause for concern for Stacy but he didn’t have much trouble running through it last season and you also have to wonder about the front offices confidence in him given that they selected Auburn star Tre Mason in last mays draft but he apparently has a long ways to go and is buried behind Cunningham on the depth chart. The job is Stacy’s and I expect him to prove that he deserves it this year, if he already hadn’t.
Now before we head to the desert I simply have to talk a little bit about Kenny Britt. With a new knee, new team, old friend and old cuts Kenny Britt could be one of the candidates for fantasy’s bounce back player of the year award – if such an award existed, of course. Britt has fled the seemingly toxic situation in Tennessee and rejoined his old coach Jeff Fisher in St. Louis and apparently looks as good as he ever has. At 6’3” 223 pounds and still only 25 years old, Kenny Britt’s routes at Ram’s camp has looked crisp, his cuts have been quick and very strong, he looks like the player that got off to a insanely hot start in 2011 posting lines of 5-136-2 and 9-135-1 in the first two games with Fisher before tearing his ACL. If Britt can get back to even within shouting distance of that physical form where in which he was simply over powering and dominating every corner that dared to line up across from him, he can flirt with WR2 status, especially with such a lackluster group of wide outs competing for targets. There aren’t too many players in the 15th round that offer upside even close to Britt.
Now things get a little less boring…
The Arizona Cardinal’s position players are the ones that excite me most out of any in the NFC West, and quite frankly maybe in all of football. Let’s start at RB with Andre Ellington. Drafted in the 2013 draft out of Clemson, last year Ellington started primarily serving as a change of pace option for Rashard Mendenhall, playing mostly obvious passing situations and third downs – I threw “obvious” in there because using the term “passing situation” when in reference to a Bruce Arians coached offense is the epitome of ambiguity.
In weeks 1-7 Ellington totaled 28 carries and 20 receptions for 179 yards and 190 yards respectively, being used in that role. In seeing the explosiveness Ellington displayed in Dabo Sweeney’s high powered offense translate to the NFL seemingly without issue for him, the Arizona coaching staff then made an effort to guarantee they got the ball in to Ellington’s hand in the form of more carries. After Exploding in week 8 for 154 yards on 15 carries, Ellington continued to handle about 10-12 carries a game from there on out on his way to 118-652-3 and 39-371-1 rookie lines, averaging 5.5 yards for carry and 9.5 yards per reception. Oh yeah, and without losing a fumble. With Rashard Mendenhall out of the picture, a somewhat improved offensive line and 8-10 more pounds packed on to his 5’ 9” frame, Ellington should be in store for close to a full workload right around 200 carries and 65 catches in a pass-happy offense. Bruce Arians’ “bell cow” is screaming up draft boards, and with good reason.
Another guy I look to benefit greatly from Arians’ aerial attack is 3rd year wide out Michael Floyd. We’ve all heard it by now that Floyd is turning heads left and right at Cardinals camp and has been the unequivocal standout star thus far. With Andre Roberts off to D.C., Floyd becomes the unquestioned number two option for Carson Palmer leaving Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie Jaron Brown duking it out for reps in three wide receiver sets. Larry Fitzgerald figures to play a lot of slot and work underneath the coverage, coverage that Ginn has the ability to blow the top off allowing more room to work on those short and intermediate passing routes, leaving Floyd in my mind to play somewhat of a featured role in this offense, with Ginn and Fitzgerald working primarily as specialists. At 6’ 2” and 220 pounds Floyd has shown incredible strength and superior high-pointing ability in the two years he has been in the league and I believe the stars are aligned this season for Floyd breakout. He is firmly in the cream of all the WR2s and given his stature, talent, and assumed volume, he is likely to produce as a WR1.
That’s it, that’s the NFC West and its impact on Fantasy Football. To see the all of the conference Fantasy Football Forecasts, check out my author profile!
If I was Marshawn Lynch, I might find myself a life coach, stat. I’d pay this life coach a considerable amount of money[1. Not too much, mind you, I am, after all, mulling retirement because the Seattle Seahawks want to pay me ‘only’ an average of $5.25 million per season over the next two years. I gotta cut corners where I can.] to teach me how to shut my pie hole and appreciate the good things that I have in life. Namely, that I’m a celebrated ‘superstar’ for an NFL franchise that is the defending Super Bowl champions. I’ve had 8 fairly productive seasons in the NFL[2. Sure, critics could point out that I average ‘only’ about 924 yards per season, but that’s still pretty good. I also might point out that any time I get the rock at least 250 times in a season, I’ve always get to 1,000 yards rushing.], and I’ve still got enough left in the tank to make it through the time I have left on my current deal, and I expect to put up numbers comparable to what I’ve done over the last few seasons.
It seems you can’t talk about the Super Bowl without talking about the weather and I know you are all tired of it. So I am going to talk about the weather.
One of the many things I love about football is that it is one of the few sports that will play in the elements. But for some reason weather is one thing that the NFL constantly tries, until now, to eliminate from it’s biggest game of the year.
I suppose the argument is that the weather won’t allow the players, mainly the quarterbacks, to properly showcase their talents. To me it is more impressive if a team goes out there and gets the win in the elements rather than winning in controlled conditions. The Super Bowl is supposed to prove who the best team in the NFL is so if a team can’t make the proper adjustments to their game plan for “inclement” weather, with 2 weeks to prepare, they don’t deserve to be playing in the Super Bowl anyway. Now all of this is very moot.
Despite the media hype, the weather shouldn’t really even impact this particular game all that much. Obviously things can change from now until Sunday but currently the forecast is calling for nothing more than slightly above or slightly below freezing temperatures and only a 10% chance of precipitation. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t strike me as extreme by any means, yet the hype around the weather still remains. All it comes down to is the media over hyping something because they are looking for something to talk about. When you really think about it the Super Bowl will still make the NFL an obscene amount of money so our opinions and the media’s opinions are not even a factor.
Now the time you have all been waiting for. My meaningless prediction.
All year this has been the matchup we have all secretly wanted. Everyone wanted to see the leagues best offense go head to head with the leagues best defense to finally see what team comes out on top. It is the perfect matchup to get the fans excited and is filled with a ton of storylines.
This game could really go either way but Seattle was my preseason pick to win it all this year, so I’ll stick with them. I think the Legion of Boom and the rest of the Seahawks’ defense will capitalize on whatever small mistake(s) Peyton Manning or his teammates might make. On the other side of the ball I think the Seahawks will be able to control the ball and Marshawn Lynch will be able to find the end zone, he is about that action. Also Percy Harvin has the potential to be a huge factor in this game and all of that will ultimately help the Seattle Seahawks come out on top.
Below are links to the Tecmo Bowl and Madden predictions based on their respected simulations, if you are into that sort of thing.
There is very little of interest going on in the NBA right now. I figure I could bang home some more Celtics thoughts or talk again about the 2014 draft, but it just feels wrong to do that to anyone kind enough to be reading this. And if I’m going to do you wrong, I’d rather do it on an epic scale by talking about fantasy football and television. I hope no one is offended if I drive outside my normal lane.
First things first, a couple of items I really just have to get off my chest.
If you argue about politics on Facebook, and then get mad when you don’t affect hearts and minds, I’m probably not letting you babysit my kids. I’m not a big Facebooker, but I know a guy who “defriended” another guy because the other guy disagreed with him on whether a local city should or should not get a casino. Both of these fellas are in their mid 40’s.
If you dress to the nines when you go play 9 holes of golf after work at the local muni, I’m probably not letting you watch my kids. Nothing funnier than watching a guy in a $300 outfit play like me.
Thank you. I’ll let you know when more stuff bothers me – I’m sure you’ll be counting the minutes.
You don’t see a lot of fantasy sports talk on More Than A Fan (by design?). Maybe someday I’ll write an article that speaks to the very loud minority of football fans who despise its very notion, but for today I’m simply going to talk top 10 players.
There are a million different ways to set up a league – some leagues use bonus points for yard markers (hate it), some leagues start 2 QBs per week (intrigued by it, never tried it), and some leagues are even starting to use team running backs rather than individual guys (offended by it, think those leagues should die). The below list is for a standard rules league that I’d guess 95% of the 32,000,000 fantasy players play by. I’m not breaking any ground, I’m just giving my thoughts on what will (probably) be your most important pick of (probably) your least important activity all year.:
Top 10 picks in a standard fantasy draft:
Adrian Peterson – Peterson’s getting a lot of headlines for coming out and saying when he’s going to break the all-time rushing record. I don’t care a lot about that either way, but from a fantasy perspective it’s nice to see a running back with confidence. It’ll mean he’s going to demand the ball. And with Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder being the only things that could keep him from getting the call whenever he wants, I’ve got a lot of faith in AP as the best player in fantasy this year. Not much faith in the Vikings, but who really cares about the Vikings.
Arian Foster – I can’t really come here and say I expect him to get injured, but I’ve got that injury feeling on Arian this year. He always seems to dance around the edges of something major, there were rumors about a messed up knee (remember when he tweeted his social security #?), I don’t know. He’s good, but I know I wouldn’t end up with him.
Doug Martin – 1500 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving, and 12 TDs would be outstanding numbers, and all that would mean is that he doesn’t regress in his sophomore season. Potential inconsistency is the big thing to worry about.
Drew Brees – I wanted to rank him first. Here in New England we’ve seen what happens when the NFL pisses off an outstanding coach / QB combo. Brees and Sean Payton will be out for blood this year. Guys like Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham should greatly benefit from the NFL suspending Payton last season.
Ray Rice – No Anquan Boldin, no Dennis Pitta in Baltimore means that they’re going to rely heavily on Rice for the 7-12 yard chunks. Huge volume season coming up for Rice, the only question is how many TDs he’ll manage.
Marshawn Lynch – I’ve never been a big Lynch guy, but it might be time to admit I was wrong. He rarely has those games that win you the week on their own, but he’s as consistent as they come. And with Percy Harvin going down, Lynch’s touches increase even more.
Aaron Rodgers – The consensus best QB in football has to have a place on the list. I’m just flummoxed by the lack of weaponry they’ve surrounded him with in Green Bay. Randall Cobb had better step it up, because Jordy Nelson and JerMichael Finley are not big-time guys. That said, Tom Brady’s had some pretty damn good years without big-time guys, so maybe that’s the right formula.
Calvin Johnson – Toughest one in the league to rank, I think. He keeps getting stopped on the 1 yard line, or somewhere nearby. Almost 2000 yards last year, but he had almost as many fumbles (3) as touchdowns (5). Talented, but if you draft him you’re probably punting on either RB or QB and that’s a little unnerving.
C.J. Spiller – I don’t know. I have Spiller as the last RB in my top 10. Could be him here, could be Alfred Morris, could be LeSean McCoy, could be Trent Richardson, could be Tom Brady or AJ Green. I wouldn’t want the 9th or 10th pick in any draft this year. Much rather 14 and 15 (in a 14 team league) or 18 and 19 (in an 18 team league).
Last thoughts are around the Emmy awards. I’m a guy who has been firmly in the TV camp in the TV vs. Movies debate that’s been raging since HBO started pumping out shows like Oz, Deadwood, and the Sopranos. I love to argue about the best tv shows of all time almost as much as the best NBA team, left-handed hitter, or quarterback.
So the Emmy awards bother me. That it’s possible the awards are being voted on by people who’ve potentially only seen 1 episode is ludicrous. Do the Oscars only require their voters to watch a 15 minute clip of each movie? Anyway, maybe I’ll rant more about this some other time. For now, here are my Emmy picks without explanation or justification. Thanks for reading.
Lead Actress Drama: Claire Danes (Homeland)
Lead Actor Drama: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Supporting Actress Drama: Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)