So this past week, I spent an hour of my life going over different tiebreaker scenarios for the league playoffs, beginning with the dreaded “Five Way Tie at 7-6” scenario and working backwards. I was shocked to discover I’d already clinched a playoff spot; that there was no scenario which denied me one. And yet I was completely distrustful of what I was looking at. You see, good things don’t happen to me in this league. Let me explain.
This league’s been in operation for 10 years. For the first four, I was unstoppable. I made the Fantasy Bowl four seasons in a row and won twice. And on those two occasions I CLEARLY had the best team in the league. It was a magical run. I can say without hyperbole that I was Vince Lombardi, Bill Belichick, George Halas, Theo Epstein, Vince McMahon, George Martin, Elon Musk and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ all rolled up into one. But what the Fantasy Gods gave in abundance, they took away brutally. I’ve made the playoffs once in the last six seasons and that was a one-and-done appearance four years ago. Worse, all the seasons I missed the playoffs, I missed in the most excruciating way possible. Take last year for example. I was 6-6 going into the final week. I didn’t even have to win my game against Lars. I just needed EITHER Mike OR T.J. to lose. I kept my end up by getting my ass handed to me by Lars, but BOTH Mike AND T.J. won (BOTH by a SINGLE POINT). I was left out in the cold. Staring a vehicle that wouldn’t start. That a homeless guy had taken a piss in.
So you’ll excuse me if I wasn’t willing to do a tap dance about my playoff prospects this year. I was certain there was SOME scenario I had overlooked, SOME way that I would again be denied the playoffs. But I didn’t have to worry. I whipped Mike’s ass and ended all the suspense by late Sunday afternoon. In fact, the only tiebreaker I needed was determining Lars getting in over Robbie for the final spot. As expected, I pretty much wasted that hour of tiebreaker research. But I’m back, baby! I’M BACK!
(Incidentally, this means Robbie- after years of dominating our league and not being shy about reminding us of that- has now missed the playoffs two years in a row. I’m guessing he’s facing his own existential crisis. Sorry to hear it, Robbie. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody…except maybe you.)
Okay, now that we’ve popped the champagne corks, let’s get to it…
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: Chuck
Chuck made an attempt to emulate Stoner’s “juggling just the right lineup every week” approach to fantasy football this season. He was successful in juggling his lineup; less successful in actually winning games with it. This week, though, let’s give Chuck props: he finally had a solid RB lineup, decent production out of his WRs and a formidable QB. And he barely beat Carol, giving her a taste of her own medicine. No, Chuck finally finding the right formula will not result in him making the playoffs. But hey, let’s forget that he came late to the party and just be happy that he showed up at all.
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE WEEK: David Johnson
Johnson is one of the reasons Hal’s team is so frightening going into the playoffs. This past week, Johnson scored two 2 TDs, had 27 total touches (18 rushes and 9 receptions) and 175 yards of total offense. While the Cardinals season hasn’t been particularly memorable, Johnson has been one of the year’s breakout stars. The only thing that could mess up Hal’s chances would be if Cards coach Bruce Arians decides to protect Johnson and just pack it in for the season. That would be a shame. It really would. We, uh, we certainly aren’t hoping that happens. Really.
THE ONION “MAN LOSES COWARDLY BATTLE WITH CANCER” AWARD: Mike
Granted, Mike had absolutely nothing to play for this week, but it might have behooved him to check the injury report and note that his kicker, Chris Boswell of the Steelers, was not likely to play. Mike left Boswell in his lineup. It probably wouldn’t have made a difference. In fact, it almost certainly wouldn’t have. But I like to see teams play it out to the finish. When I brought this up to Mike, he countered by giving me the finger and asking me for another beer. Mike has a strange way of negotiating.
ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK: The NFL
Proof once again that even when the NFL gets something right, they manage to get it wrong. This season, in an attempt to put a shine on their fascist, corporate-egg-sucking-dog image, the NFL granted their players one week in which to promote any cause they wished to promote on their cleats. (It’s a little sad that the NFL has to tout ONE week in which they allow their employees some self-expression, but hey, this is the new normal.) To further their image as a collection of clueless clods, the NFL scheduled this for a week in which two teams (the Titans and the Browns) were on bye…and then initially denied those teams the right to promote their causes the following week. While the NFL eventually relented, the way in which they bungled this whole thing shows what happens with thin-skinned, out-of-their-depth, control freaks are running a billion dollar enterprise. Thank God, though, that this is confined to just the NFL…
KICK IN THE NUTS AWARD: Gronk is out
It was announced this week that Patriots TE/Idiot Man-Child Rob Gronkowski will miss the remainder of the season with a back injury. While the Patriots didn’t seem to miss Gronk in their 26-10 win over the LA Rams, it may get tougher down the road when they play actual professional football teams. Regarding his injury, Gronk was quoted as saying, “Gronk have bad boo-boo. Mean coach call Gronk girlie-man. Make Gronk cry. Pretty man yell at Gronk. Say Gronk can get better. Just have to be tough. Maybe need help. And go to corner of Mass Ave and Melnea Cass Boulevard. Ask for man named Rupert. Tell him Golden Boy send me. If he ask for cash upfront, Gronk supposed to tell him, ‘It cool.’ (Pause) Perhaps Gronk say too much.”
GOAT OF THE WEEK: Matt Ryan
Matty Ice (a nickname I’ve never been able to figure out because the dude does NOT personify it) found a new favorite receiver in Eric Berry. Unfortunately, Berry is a CB for the Kansas City Chiefs. Ryan tossed a TD to Aldrick Robinson with just over four and a half minutes to play to put the Falcons on top 28-27. The Falcons decided to go for two, at which point Ryan found Berry for the second time that day. Berry, who had no defenders between his own end zone and Chattanooga, promptly ran it all the way back for a defensive PAT, putting the Chiefs back on top, 29-28; which turned out to be the final score. When asked what was going through his mind, Ryan replied, “It was a little stronger than ‘Oh darn.'” He then issued a Lewis Black-sized cry of, “SON OF A BITCH!”
(BTW, raise your hand if you knew the NFL had such a thing as a defensive PAT….put your hand down, you lying sack of s**t.)
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (Jon, we need you right now, brother) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: Jack Del Rio and the Raiders
While I got my share of punchlines at his expense over the years, I was genuinely sad when longtime Raiders owner Al Davis passed away in 2011. Al wasn’t just the last of a dying breed, he was the last of a long-dead breed; an owner whose principal source of income was his franchise. A guy who ran the team because he genuinely felt it was his responsibility, not because he could add “General Manager” to the nameplate on his corner office. In a league full of stuffed suits, Davis was all sunglasses, gold chains and swagger. It was like Burt Reynolds owned a football team. He defeated legendary NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle in a court battle over moving the Raiders to L.A., essentially telling him, “Hey, if I want to move my team to the parking lot of a Stuckey’s, I’ll do it and you can’t stop me, you pencil-necked pr**k.” Davis was, well and truly, one of a kind.
And if he’d retired in 2002, after the Raiders had made their 5th Super Bowl appearance and 20th playoff appearance in the Davis era, he’d have been remembered as an unequivocal success. But then the years from 2003 to 2011 were marked by questionable coaching hires, even more questionable player personnel moves and a string of losing seasons. In fact, the Raiders became the first team in NFL history to post seven consecutive seasons of 11 losses or more. If he cared at all, Davis discovered what many others have: that the qualities people laud you for when you’re successful are the same ones they criticize you for when you’re not. In Davis’ case, he’d gone from a brilliant maverick to an out of touch dictator. Still, Al hung in until what turned out to be the bitter end.
When Al’s son, Mark Davis, took over, there wasn’t much reason to be optimistic if you were a Raiders fan. Yes, a 50-something man with a four-year old’s comically bad haircut certainly kept the humor quotient in tact. But Mark did something his father never dreamed of doing: he hired a general manager. Reggie MacKenzie, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, had the thankless task of turning around a franchise that was in shambles. MacKenzie slowly rebuilt the roster through the draft and prudent free agent pickups. While his first coaching hire, Dennis Allen, wasn’t exactly inspiring, he struck gold with his second, Jack Del Rio.
It’s impossible to watch the work Del Rio’s done with MacKenzie’s roster and not realize how far this franchise has come. Al Davis came to the Raiders as a young coach with an offensive background and practically every hire he made as GM and later owner was cast in that same image (John Madden, Tom Flores, Art Shell, Jon Gruden). Even when a defensive coach would have been the best hire (the players were DYING for DC Rob Ryan to take over the head coaching job in the mid-00s) Al refused. He only rarely hired coaches with any previous experience (and guys like Norv Turner and Joe Bugle weren’t exactly inspiring.) Watching a former DC and seasoned head coach like Del Rio author the Raiders’ first winning season in a decade-and-a-half, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true: this wouldn’t have happened under Al Davis.
Still, Mark’s got the bad haircut and he’s bungling the team’s attempt to move to Las Vegas, so the apple doesn’t fall TOO far from the tree…
PLAYOFFS- FIRST ROUND
The Dropkick Murphys vs War Machine
The Rat Pack vs The Flaming Envelopes
-xBrian’s Song (Carol) 9-4
-yThe Rat Pack (Me) 8-5
-yWar Machine (Jack) 8-5
Teddy’s ACL (Robbie) 6-7
The Winter Soldiers (Mike) 3-10
-xThe Electric Mayhem (Hal) 10-3
-yThe Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 8-5
-yThe Flaming Envelopes (Lars) 6-7
Chuck (Chuck) 4-9
The Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 3-10
-x = clinched division
-y = clinched playoff spot