So, for the umpteenth year in a row, I managed to miss the playoffs. I have to admit: it would be one thing if I consistently missed the playoffs by getting eliminated before Halloween (much like Hal this year.) But instead, I seem to get tantalizingly close only to have something like go wrong at the last minute (like Hal beating me on Week 13 last year.) This season’s beating came not only at the hands of Chuck (who spent Sunday afternoon stomping my fantasy nuts) but T.J. and Mike as well. See, even after suffering Chuck’s demolition, I still had a chance of making the playoffs. All I needed was Mike or T.J. to lose (since I had the tiebreaker on both of them) and I’d back in. Mike and T.J., though, BOTH managed to win. Worse, BOTH managed to win by a SINGLE point. Thus, I spent Sunday night slugging bourbon and watching the Fantasy Gods once again take a dump on the front seat of my car.
Hard to believe I’ll have to wait another year to feel like THIS. Let’s move on…
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY GAME OF THE WEEK: Stoner vs Carol
In what could very well be a preview of the Fantasy Bowl, the two division winners met in the final week of the season. The game wound up being closer than I would have thought. Carol got absolutely NO production out of her running backs and a minimal contribution from Julio Jones. Stoner, on the other hand, got beaucoups production out of Antonio Brown, Brandin Cooks and something called T.J. Yeldon (I’ll be honest: when I saw Yeldon in Stoner’s lineup, I was going to chastise Stoner for making up player names.) As has been the case all season, though, Carol got enough production out of Andy Dalton and the F’n Denver Broncos Defense to make the game respectable (a 72-58 win for Stoner.) Is this how the Fantasy Bowl will go? Or will Carol manage to turn things around? Or will either of them even get there? Hard to say, since I’m too bitter to even care at this point.
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Allen Robinson
One of the interesting sidelights of my match up with Chuck was that we each had a Jacksonville receiver who had emerged as a fantasy stud. I had Allen Hurns while Chuck was fantasy-employing Allen Robinson. The match up could very well tell us who, Chuck or yours truly, would emerge victorious. And it certainly did. Robinson caught three TD passes and had over 150 yards receiving. He may have also eaten Allen Hurns, who did not otherwise appear on the stat sheet. I would like to thank Mr. Hurns for his work on my behalf this season. I hope he enjoys the box full of dog turds I’m Fed Exing to him.
COLD WATER MOMENT OF THE WEEK: The Vikings vs The Seahawks
For the second time in three weeks, Vikings fans got to watch their team be completely outclassed by an NFC contender. In this case, Seattle came to town and laid a Russell Wilson-led 38-7 shellacking on the local sports franchise. Robbie, already deep in his cups due to his own fantasy failings, dismissed the defeat. “I don’t care what happened. I still think this team is legit,” he said, just before puking into a potted plant.
Robbie’s not entirely wrong (much as that pains me to admit.) Every season, there’s at least one team that goes on a run and, right around this time of year, everyone questions just how good a team they are. The naysayers pull out inconvenient facts like 6 of the Vikings’ 8 wins coming against teams with a losing record and 3 of their four losses coming against teams with a winning record. And I usually wind up having to make the same point: beating other bad teams does not make a team bad. Good teams beat bad teams. That’s one of the things that makes them good teams. (I’m going to stop there before I sound anymore like Randy from My Name is Earl.) I think if these last couple of weeks have meant anything, it’s this: the Vikings have made that leap from mediocre team to legitimate playoff team. The question, probably beginning next season, will be: can they make the leap from being a playoff team to being a legitimate Super Bowl contender? I know this much, though: Robbie will continue to damage his liver until we have an answer to that question. (And maybe for some time after that…)
PLAY OF THE WEEK: The Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary
Here are my thoughts on this:
- Give Rodgers’ credit: that ball stayed in the air for 70 yards. That’s at least 20 more yards than you’d get out of Teddy Bridgewater after sucking down a combination of Red Bull, HGH and cocaine.
- It was a facemask penalty. An obvious facemask penalty? No, in the sense you can’t really establish intent to grab the facemask. But there are certain realities to football. If an offensive lineman extends his hands away from his body, he’s going to get called for holding. If there’s any contact between a defensive back and a wide receiver and the DB has his back to the ball, he’s going to get called for pass interference. And if a defender comes in contact with a facemask and it results in the offensive player’s helmet being turned, it’s going to result in a facemask call. That is the reality of football.
- Legit facemask call or no, it does not excuse the Detroit Lions from the necessity of having to actually defend the last play.
- On the flipside, the win doesn’t excuse the Packers’ puzzling stretch of two months in which they’ve played down to (or in most cases, below) their opponents’ level.
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart, (soon to be ONCE AGAIN, the funniest man on TV) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: The NFC East Coach Off
In addition to playoff fever, this is also the time of year in which the coaching hotseat comes up for discussion. Ground central to that argument is the NFC East, in which EVERY coach should be at least mildly concerned about this future employment.
As I’ve discussed in this space, there’s every reason to believe that this division will be won by a team with a losing record. (After the last few weeks, 7-9 is starting to look like a BEST case scenario.) Winning the division might be the only thing that saves a coach in this sad horse race.
You remember the scene in Glengarry Glen Ross where Alec Baldwin’s character shows up to light a fire under the salesmen? “First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.” That’s pretty much the NFC East right now. Worse actually, because Tom Coughlin is about the only coach with a shot at the steak knives. Let’s take a glance at this, shall we?
TOM COUGHLIN: While I don’t think there’s much chance of it happening, we’ve seen this show before. Coughlin’s team is under-performing. An increasing number of people wonder if, despite his organization’s historic patience, the Giants are ready to pull the plug. Coughlin’s team sneaks into the playoffs and goes on a shocking run to a Super Bowl victory. Coughlin lands a contract extension. Those two Super Bowl victories are always to be taken into account and the Giants actually seem best-positioned to win the division. Should they fail to do that, the Giants have to legitimately ask themselves, “Do we really think a coach who’s going to be 70 next year is in a position to turn this thing around?” Ageist, I know, but also the reality of the NFL.
CHIP KELLY: After last season, the Eagles gave Kelly godlike powers to recreate the franchise in his own image. If Kelly’s self-image is a bumbling clod, he’s been a runaway success. And yet, Kelly is Tom Coughlin in microcosm. Every time his team seems beyond redemption, they come back and do something. Kelly looked like a dead man walking after back-to-back embarrassing losses to the Buccaneers and the Lions. And yet, the Eagles came back and defeated the Patriots. And much like the Giants, you can’t rule out the Eagles managing to pull out a divisional win. The problem, of course, is that they have to be consistent enough to do that. And nothing to this point leads one to think they can pull that off.
JAY GRUDEN: That Gruden survived to a second season under Washington owner/raving lunatic Daniel Snyder is impressive enough. That the Redskins have been an afterthought for most of the season and are still in contention for the division is equally impressive. That Gruden’s managed to do this while staking his future to Kirk Cousins is mind-boggling. That said, he’s the one mortal lock in this group to get fired if he doesn’t win the division.
JASON GARRETT: I’ll confess: up to last week, I thought Garrett was a shoe-in to get the steak knives. No, the Cowboys have no chance of winning the division, but Garrett had too much going for him. He was one of Jerry Jones’ bobos, meaning he’d always get a longer leash. And he was coming off a season in which the Cowboys came one excruciating (but correct) call away from getting to the NFC title game. And certainly, Garrett couldn’t be blamed for a stinker of a season when his franchise QB was out for most of the campaign and his star receiver missed a month-and a half. All of that went out the window this past week when Jerry Jones used his radio show to openly question Garrett’s inability to coach up their back up QB (the fact they didn’t have a decent back up QB on the roster didn’t seem to occur to the owner/GM.) That put all of my thinking about the Cowboys in a new light. Suddenly, I’m remembering Jones never keeps one of his bobos around very long when he feels there’s another option out there (witness Dave Campo getting tossed for Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips making way for, well, Jason Garrett.) Makes me wonder if Jim Harbaugh’s phone has rung lately…
Well, it’s all speculation at this point. But that’s the life of an NFL coach. If you locked the four of these guys in a room, gave them 2x4s and said only the winner would emerge, it wouldn’t be less dignified than it already is.
Chuck vs The Jock Sniffers
Favre’s Dong vs The Winter Soldiers
-xPeyton’s Heroes (Carol) 10-3
-yChuck (Chuck) 8-5
-yThe Winter Soldiers (Mike) 7-6
The Rat Pack (Me) 6-7
The Sex Machine (Lars) 5-8
-xThe Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 8-5
-yFavre’s Dong (Jack) 7-6
-yThe Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 7-6
Deflated Balls (Robbie) 5-8
The Electric Mayhem (Hal) 3-10