Do do do do… Do do do do do!
Man, it’s hard to write a synthesizer line in words! Just imagine I’m singing the opening to the Europe song from the 80’s, will you?
Can you believe we’re here, you guys? It’s the finals, and we’re still playing for the title. Would you have ever believed when we started this thing that we’d make it this far?
Well, we’re here now. And we’re facing a huge deficit in the final matchup.
But how will today shake out?
Yeah… this is about what I’d expect to see, quite frankly. My opportunity isn’t in the projections for these players, it’s in how many of mine could overperform. Hopefully.
But the challenge this week has been intense. And you’ll notice that, as a result, my lineup looks a little different than it has in the past.
You’re seeing that right. No A.J. Green, of course, no Melvin Gordon. And no Ezekiel Elliott.
Wait – no Elliott? The man who’s done the most to get me here?
This all boils down to the reason this week has been such a nailbiter. And it’s not just because of the 29 point hole I’m staring up from. There are four teams who are already locked into their positions in the finals and have no incentive to play their hardest this week. They’re about resting starters and being ready for a Super Bowl run. Giants, Steelers, Texans, and Cowboys.
Yes. Ezekiel Elliott’s Cowboys.
All week there was the question: Will the Cowboys play their starters? For most of the week there was no clear answer. Probably they would, some, but not the whole game. But even one half worth of Ezekiel Elliott could be major. I picked up another running back who would play the whole game in a starter’s role: Jacquizz Rodgers, who just got the starter’s job in Tampa Bay with the sidelining of Doug Martin and was productive with it last week. He’s now my RB2, and Frank Gore gets promoted to RB1. And I moved Elliott to the flex spot, where I could move him out of quickly if it turned out I needed to.
And then all week I stared at it. I had picked up another wide receiver this week too, Adam Thielen. I had him on my roster for a while earlier this season, if you’ll recall, but I never did use him, and I cut him for Rishard Matthews. And of course, as soon as I did that he blew up (with one week off for injury in there). Last week he had 32 points. I don’t think he’ll do that again, exactly, but he should be a huge contributor this week. But there wasn’t room for him in my lineup, exactly, when I wanted to go with Edelman and Montgomery also.
So I debated it: Elliott or Thielen? Thielen or Elliott? One half of Elliott can be worth more than a whole game of many other players… So should I ride him? Or hedge my bets?
Then, as of this morning, the current scuttlebutt is that Elliott won’t play very much. A series or two, but that’s it. He could still go off in a series or two, but that limits him much more. I pulled him out, and now we’re hooked on a Thielen.
(I have waited an entire season to use that pun. It was so worth it.)
So that handles one type of Week Seventeen team: the Team With Nothing To Play For Except Injury Prevention. There are several other types too, unusual to the rest of the season, that make putting together a lineup in this last week an extra challenge:
- The Team Locked Into The Playoffs But Playing For Seeding (Seattle, Oakland, New England, Atlanta, Kansas City, Miami): These guys will probably start everybody like a regular week, but might go into resting their starters mode if the game gets out of hand one way or the other. I have Brady and Edelman in this mode. And I do think they’ll play enough to produce, especially since they play Miami who also falls into this category and won’t lie down without a fight.
- The Team Who Controls Their Own Playoff Destiny With A Win and/or Needs To Win And Have Something Go Right To Make The Playoffs (Washington, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Green Bay): These guys have to fight and fight hard, just like usual, because they don’t make the playoffs without a win. Although if Washington loses before Green Bay kicks off, the Packers get locked in already and suddenly don’t have to go so hard. Still, they’ve been planning all week to go full steam ahead, and they won’t flip that on a dime necessarily. I have Jacquizz Rodgers and Ty Montgomery in this mode, and that’s why I expect them to have big games. They can’t make the playoffs without them.
- The Team Who Is Out Of The Playoffs And Is Playing Either For Professional Pride Or To Screw Up The Season Of The Rival They Are Facing This Week (everybody else): Gore’s Colts are in this mode. Their game against Jacksonville is meaningless for playoff potential. All that’s on the line is pride. So they’ll play for that. They won’t rest starters because the season is over. They might not play as hard, but at least Jacksonville is a rival. And they’re pros, they’ll go hard because they’re paid to. The Minnesota Vikings (and therefore Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen, and Kai Forbath) are also in this mode, with a meaningless game against the rival Chicago Bears. They’ll go hard for that. And both Jacksonville and Chicago are pretty terrible teams who I don’t expect to do much to offer resistance, despite their own pride. We also find this week’s streaming defense, the Tennessee Titans, in this mode, with a twist: the team they are playing is the Texans, who have nothing to gain this week since they are locked into their playoff seed. They will rest most of their starters, which should make it easier for the Titans defense to put up points against them. That’s why they became our streamer, and I expect that move to pay off.
Now, as for my opponent? His players are a mix of Motivated To Get Into The Playoffs and Already Totally Out Of It. And he didn’t have to do a lot of shuffling to achieve that mix like I did. This is our weakness this week, because his stars will still play like stars, while mine will probably sit for most of the game.
Still, I like the potential of the guys I’ve got in their stead. I think I’ve got the potential to have a big day.
Will it be the huge day I need? Hard to say. I can’t deny that it would take almost a miracle to pull this off.
But remember the 2007 New York Giants? I told their story earlier this year, because it’s been an inspiration for me. Their season looked all but done early on, but they came back and beat the previously unbeatable New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. And they came from behind in that game to do it with late-game, miraculous heroics.
We can do it too. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and it ain’t over yet.
It’s time, gang. Last day of the season, last day to put it all out on the line.
Team BlueAndGold’s final ride.
Hold your breath, cross your fingers, and wish us luck.