Down to the Wire

I’m a novelist, not a screenwriter. They’re very different skill sets. But if I ever do write a screenplay, it will be about the 2007 New York Giants, winners of Super Bowl XLII. Quite frankly, I’m shocked that no one has made this movie before now, because it writes itself.

The Giants in 2007 were not a team of whom greatness was expected. But that’s kind of been Eli Manning’s life story. His father Archie was a beloved NFL legend; his brother Payton was a golden child. But Eli, while a capable quarterback with NFL-level talent, never had the reverence attached to him that followed his big bro. Payton had finally won his first Super Bowl, after many years of underperforming in the playoffs, at the end of the 2006 season. Eli had joined the league in the 2004 season and was now starting his fourth year in the NFL. The Giants had made the playoffs each of the prior two years but had lost in the Wild Card round both seasons.

The Giants started the 2007 season 0-2, had injury concerns (including at quarterback), and were down 14 points at halftime of Game Three when they started turning their season around. They won that game, and the five that followed it. These weren’t pretty wins, but they were wins. They struggled in the last half of the season, losing three of their next seven games, and were 10-5 going into their final regular season game against the New England Patriots.

The Patriots, by contrast, were the embodiment of pretty. Not only were they 15-0 heading into that final game, but they weren’t squeaking out those wins. 12 of those 15 wins were by double-digit margins. The Patriots were the dominant team of the 2007 season, and they went to New York in the final week of the season trying to go undefeated, something which hadn’t happened since 1972.

Of course, the Patriots did go undefeated. They beat the Giants that day, 38-35. But the Giants made the playoffs anyway, as a wild card. They were not considered a good team, at 10-6. But they eked their way into the playoffs, and they made it count, beating three teams on the road, three teams ranked higher than they were, to reach the Super Bowl.

If you didn’t watch Super Bowl XLII, you missed out on football magic. If you did watch it, of course, you’ve never forgotten it. The game stayed close and low-scoring through the fourth quarter, when the Pats and the Giants traded the lead back and forth on a series of improbable touchdowns made possible by insane catches. David Tyree’s helmet catch is the most famous of these, and it set up the final TD by the Giants with less than 30 seconds to go.

The Giants beat the unbeatable, undefeated Patriots to win a Super Bowl. After a really poor start to the season.

You see why I bring this story up now. Not just because I love it – and I do love it. It’s the embodiment of everything that’s amazing about sports. I’m barely scratching the surface here of the drama of that final quarter, of the characters involved, of the family dynamics upset by little Eli earning the Super Bowl ring that his brother had fought so long for. It’s hard to explain just how big a deal it was for the lowly Giants to defeat Goliath. But I take inspiration from this story now because it gives me hope that I can turn my fantasy season around, like the Giants turned their 2007 season around, and use guts and grit to earn an unlikely championship.

To do that, I need to fix a lot of roster challenges. And that starts today, on the waiver wire.

The waiver wire in fantasy sports works similarly to the waiver wire in real sports. Each team has a position in the waiver order, which in my league’s case is reset each week based on the standings. I’m in last place after last week (*sob*), so I had first position in the waiver order. Waivers clear on Wednesday of each week, one day after the games conclude. So I can put in a claim for a player on Tuesday, and it processes on Wednesday. If no one ahead of me in the order claimed the same player that I did, then I get him. If someone ahead of me snagged him first, I’m SOL. Once everyone’s waiver claims have been processed, the players that weren’t claimed become free agents, and any team can pick them up immediately.

Last week I made one waiver claim, for Jacob Tamme, and waited for free agency to pick up my streaming quarterback. I felt confidant doing that because I had several quarterback options, and if my first choice disappeared from the waiver wire, I had backup plans of who else I could take. I got lucky and my first choice, Ryan Tannehill, made it to free agency. But if he’d been gone and I’d been stuck with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who turned out to have an abysmal week, I could have been screwed.

So this week, I decided not to take the same chances. I can put in more than one waiver claim, because the list circles back to the top once it cycles through every team and their picks. So I had pick #1, but I also had picks #13 and #25 (and so on). I had to be strategic, because if the guy I had as my second waiver pick was picked up in the first pass by someone else, then, tough break for me. But I had three main holes I wanted to address, and three pretty clear targets that I wanted, so I put in waiver claims for all three and hoped for the best.

w3-4-waiver-shot

First up, tight end. Tamme was only a streaming option anyway, and he underperformed, and he has to go against Carolina this weekend, so I’m ready to cut ties with him. Kyle Rudolph, by contrast, should not be available on the waiver wire. Sure, I get it, no one knew coming into the season what to make of Minnesota’s offense once their primary QB got hurt in the preseason. Even when they traded for Sam Bradford, even when Bradford became the starter in Week Two, no one really knew what to expect. But at this point, at 3-0, we can agree that Minnesota is good, right? And Rudolph is involved in that offense. He’s not just a streamer, he’s a borderline Gary Barnidge replacement. (And believe me, nothing would make me happier than to never have to worry about Barnidge or the Cleveland Browns offense again for the rest of the season.)

I had the first pick, so I knew I was getting whoever I claimed first, and I needed it to be Rudolph. Odds were good that a player that talented, in an offense that’s proving it’s worthy of trust, would get picked up by somebody. So I jumped on him to make sure that somebody was me.

Next up, quarterback. Tannehill was good for me last week, but it’s not as though he’s such a rock-star quarterback that I can count on him week-in and week-out. He gets Cincinnati this week on Thursday night, in Cincinnati. Pass. Maybe he’ll end up with good fantasy numbers this week, but better, safer matchups surely exist.

cousins
As a matter of fact, no I don’t, but you’re taking on Cleveland so I’ll roll with it anyway.

The one I settled on is Kirk Cousins. Kirk “You Like That?” Cousins. Not my favorite guy, but I’ll get over it if he produces for me. Washington’s offense didn’t look great to start the season, but last week they showed what they can be. And this week they face off against the Cleveland Browns. Taking the QB against the Cleveland Browns worked out pretty well for me last week, so what the heck, let’s try it one more time.

(Fun fact: The Patriots get Cleveland in Week Five, aka the first week Tom Brady is back from suspension. I’ll have the QB against the Browns three weeks in a row. I’m not complaining.)

And lastly, wide receiver. I have three wide receivers worthy of starting consideration, for two spots. So why, do you ask, did I feel the need to pick up another one? Well, look closer. A.J. Green gets the start – Miami’s defense is very light-up-able, he should produce big. But the other two guys are not no-brainer starters. Randall Cobb is on a bye week this week, so he’s out for sure. (Ah yes, bye weeks have started. Yet another puzzle piece to play with as I try to patch lineups together, since I was having such an easy time of it before.) And I cannot say with confidence who Julian Edelman’s quarterback will be this weekend. Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett are both nursing injuries, although they’re both possibilities to come back for Week Four. The next best QB option on the Patriots is, in fact, Edelman, who played QB in college. I’m going to monitor this situation all week, but I want someone in my back pocket to play if by Sunday I don’t think Edelman’s the way to go. And that someone is Jamison Crowder. I’m betting on Cousins to pass the ball, I may as well bet on the guy he’s going to be passing to.

I’m definitely nervous about this idea of tying two of my biggest scoring positions to one team’s fortunes. It’s what I’m going to be doing in Week Five and going forward, where I have Tom Brady and Julian Edelman going together. With them, it makes me a little uneasy, but not disqualifyingly so. The Patriots are a safe bet to perform well every week. But the Redskins are not the Patriots. I don’t love the idea of going all in on them, not even after they way they performed last week against the Giants.

Except… they’re going up against Cleveland this weekend. And as I think I’ve mentioned, I’ll buy stock in The Team Against Cleveland any time I have the chance. The Browns are a terrible football team, and they’ll make any team against them look good.

It’s not a situation I’d tolerate every week, but for this matchup, I’ll consider it.

So I put in my three waiver claims, expecting that I’d probably hit two and miss one. I had contingency plans in mind – maybe Dax Prescott or Sam Bradford at quarterback, probably sticking with Julian Edelman at wide receiver. But I didn’t need them. I hit on all three of my waiver picks, and I’m the proud owner of Rudolph, Cousins, and Crowder.

With that, I’m saying goodbye to Tannehill, who did yeoman’s work in his one week on Team BlueAndGold; Tamme, who did not; and Mohamed Sanu, who rode my bench and kept me nervous with his constant is-he-or-isn’t-he injury status. He’s the one I’m sorry to see go, but honestly, he wasn’t a contributor to my team. Still, he’ll be missed.

And with that, my roster is set. Not my lineup – I’ll probably debate Edelman vs. Crowder up until the last moment – but my roster.

Is this the roster that’s going to (finally) take me to victory? Stay tuned and see. I’m primed for a turnaround.

Because if the Giants were able to work their miracle in the 2007 season, then all things are possible.

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