The Fantasy First-Timer Blog

Week Seventeen Preview: The Final Countdown

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?

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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.

How different?

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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.

Looking Up

Well.

Okay then.

Did I mention I would be the underdog here in the finals? Because that’s definitely turned out to be true.

How true?

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More than a little, yeah.

Actually, this isn’t as bad as it could be. Like in the first week of my semifinal matchup, I was far, far behind all throughout the games, only to catch a late wave from my final player that helped to close the gap, even if only somewhat.

At the end of the Saturday games (which was most of them, last weekend, given the Christmas holiday), I was trailing my opponent (I will not type his name – I will not call him by a title he hasn’t yet earned) 105-71. And worse than that, he had three players left to go, including his quarterback, while I had only one. Yes, that one was Ezekiel Elliott, but was Zeke going to close a 34 point gap plus the production of a quarterback and two other guys?

No. Of course not. I never expected that.

But he did produce, 21 points in only about three quarters worth of work. (That’s where the trouble is, both for last week and this week. But more on that when we look at the next week’s matchup.) And my opponent’s quarterback, Matt Stafford, did not. Neither did his defense, who had never gone into negative scoring all year until last week. He could easily have finished at about 135, but he didn’t. That helps me.

Does it help me enough? No, probably not. I don’t want to sugarcoat this. We are in a deep, deep hole. 29 points is not nothing. And the likelihood of him coming back around with another astronomical score is good. Even if I manage to beat him this week, I have to beat him by 30 to take the crown, and that’s asking an awful lot.

But it’s not impossible.

We’re not out of it quite yet. Not quite. Not yet.

This is the moment for an epic comeback, the kind of thrilling victory that we’ll all tell stories about for years to come.

At least it could be.

Stay tuned.

Week Sixteen Preview: Underdog!

Speed of lightning! Roar of thunder!
Fighting all who rob or plunder!
Underdog!
UNDERDOG!

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Actual picture of me this week.

Okay, so, maybe it’s not exactly fighting a supervillain. But I am the underdog, both for this week and for the finals matchup as a whole. And lest we forget, my opponent isn’t exactly a saint in this fantasy football thing. He hasn’t been accused of paying off anybody for his lopsided trades, but he has made some doozies. He’s not outright corrupt like my last opponent was, perhaps, but robbery or plunder both seem like words that fit.

For fun, I went through my trade records to see all the BS trades he offered me over the season.

Brace yourselves: it’s a long list.

  • September 2: My Julian Edelman for his Anquan Boldin. His last draft pick for my third. Oooookay. That was gonna happen.
  • September 13: My Julian Edelman for his Devonta Freeman and Antonio Gates. This wasn’t terrible, in hindsight – Freeman had a great season – but we didn’t know that then. And I didn’t need another RB anyway.
  • September 13: My Julian Edelman for his Devonta Freeman and Eric Ebron. In case I wanted a different TE in that package.
  • September 14: My A.J. Green for his Devonta Freeman. Again, I was RB rich, and we didn’t know then that Freeman was going to be a beast – he was supposed to be in a committee with Tevon Coleman. (Which he was, they just both scored huge for a while there.)
  • September 17: My A.J. Green for his LeGarrette Blount and Devonta Freeman. Since I wasn’t interested in one RB, he offered me two. Two good players, sure, as it turned out, but that wouldn’t have helped my lineup. I had RBs; I needed WRs. I’d have to have been a special kind of stupid to give up the WR I did have for RBs I didn’t need.
  • September 17: My Julian Edelman for his LeGarrette Blount, Devonta Freeman, and Will Fuller. I would have robbed him, as it turns out, by accepting this, but again, I did not need running backs.
  • September 27: My Julian Edelman for his Will Fuller. Cuz he realized that offering me all those RBs as part of the trade would be too much. Okay, fine. But Fuller was not and is not a player near Edelman’s level. Fuller was still on his team until this very morning, by the way, even though he hasn’t scored in double digits since Week Four. I would have cut him ages ago.
  • September 28: My A.J. Green for his Will Fuller and Dwayne Allen. He’s persistent, give him that. But… I’m not insane. Hard pass.
  • September 28: My Ezekiel Elliott for his Eric Decker. Right as Decker was injured. Sure, I was gonna give up my best player for a guy about to get moved to injured reserve.
  • September 28: My Julian Edelman for his Eric Decker. In case I was just worried about the price for his injured guy being too high.
  • September 28: My Melvin Gordon for his Will Fuller and Dwayne Allen. Okay, he went after a new player, but with the same combo of garbage I’d already refused?
  • September 28: My A.J. Green for his Eric Decker. Which I was pretty sure by then he’d already offered me. Reviewing the records shows me that no, he hadn’t offered me this particular iteration yet, but he’d offered Decker for an inferior player and I’d refused. So I was gonna go for this one… why?
  • September 29: Not a trade with me, but this was the point at which he acquired Julio Jones for Eric Decker. I’ve been told by the guy who accepted the trade that he didn’t realize at the time that Decker was injured. I’ve made sure to research any player that’s offered me in a trade ever since, even if I think I already have a handle on who they are and what their performance is like.
  • October 5: My Melvin Gordon for his Matt Forte and Markus Wheaton. Wheaton was also about to go on injured reserve. And Forte’s an inferior running back to Gordon.
  • October 5: My Ezekiel Elliott for his Matt Forte and Markus Wheaton. Before I’d even had a chance to refuse the last one. Just in case I wanted to give up an even better running back for the same garbage package.
  • October 6: My Ezekiel Elliott for his Matt Forte and Jimmy Graham. Little did he know I’d never accept a trade with a Seahawk in it. Although at least this was close to equitable.
  • October 6: My Melvin Gordon for his Matt Forte and Jimmy Graham. Again, so eager to part me with any of my good players that he offered me the same trade for a different player before I even had a chance to refuse. Which I guess is a strategy?
  • October 6: Not a trade with me, but this was the point at which he acquired David Johnson (for Jimmy Graham, Markus Wheaton, and Kamar Aiken – only one of whom is any good and certainly isn’t David Johnson good). This trade was widely decried by the rest of the league as massively unfair.
  • October 11: My Ezekiel Elliott for his Matt Forte and Kelvin Benjamin. Again, he didn’t know I wasn’t interested in any Panthers, but maybe he did know that Benjamin’s best performances were behind him and that’s why he wanted to get rid of him. Doesn’t matter. Not interested. And I’m not interested in Matt Forte, which he also hadn’t seemed to figure out yet.
  • October 12: My Ezekiel Elliott for his Matt Forte and Jeremy Kerley. Owning a piece of San Francisco’s offense is a terrible idea, and I did not bite. Especially not for my best guy. Although I wouldn’t have given up my worst player for this nonsense.
  • October 14: My A.J. Green for his Jeremy Kerley and Giovanni Bernard. I was hurting for TEs during this particular week (Rudolph’s bye), but not bad enough to give up the only reliable WR I had at the time, for any price. Especially not for a bye cover.
  • October 24: My Ezekiel Elliott for his Kelvin Benjamin and Brandon Marshall. Marshall never lived up to who he was supposed to be in the preseason. By this point in the season, that much was clear. So I was gonna part with my stud for him why?
  • October 24: My Ezekiel Elliott for his Kelvin Benjamin and Tyler Eifert. Eifert was just coming back from injury and no one knew how he would be. He’s tuned out to be quite good, but who knew that then. And I was confident I had a reliable TE situation – I certainly wasn’t going to part with Elliott for such a question mark.
  • October 24: My Ezekiel Elliott for his Matt Forte, Kelvin Benjamin, and Brandon Marshall. Just throwing names I’ve already refused at me in the hopes that I’ll say yes. Just throwing trades at me until my finger accidently slips onto the “yes” button?
  • November 14: My Julian Edelman for his Emmanuel Sanders and Robert Woods. I had already cut Woods once by this point. And Sanders is wildly inconsistent. I had and have no interest in relying on him.
  • November 15: My Marcus Mariota for his Panthers D/ST. A quarterback for a defense. And not even a good defense.
  • November 15: My Marcus Mariota for his Emmanuel Sanders. A high-level quarterback for a mid-pack wide receiver, at best, with an inconsistent role in a bad offense.
  • November 15: My Marcus Mariota for his Andy Dalton. A very good quarterback for a less-good quarterback. I really do not understand him at all.
  • November 22: My Marcus Mariota for his Emmanuel Sanders. Cuz a week later I was suddenly gonna see what a good idea this trade was. I actually countered this one. I’ll give you Mariota… for your best wide receiver. Julio Jones. (He did not bite.)
  • December 1: The trade deadline. Finally, blessedly, peace.

There. Are you exhausted from reading all that? Cuz I’m exhausted from pressing “no” on dumb trades all the damn time.

So. If you didn’t have a picture of who we were dealing with before, you certainly do now. He’s relentless. He’s determined to hoard all the best players. And he’d certainly much rather dupe his opponents out of players than play fair.

And he thinks the championship is his already. As I mentioned, he’s changed his team name to YOU WANT IT!!!? COME GET IT. I do see where he’s coming from with that. His team has been dominant for weeks now, and I’m hurting from injuries. It’s no secret that I will be…

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UNDERDOG!!!!

Except, funny thing.

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Yes, he’s favored, but not by nearly as much as I’m sure he hoped he’d be. Not by nearly as much as I’d feared he’d be, either. In fact, this is almost a statistical tie.

How exactly did this come about?

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I’ve got a strong lineup of players facing good matchups, that’s how, while he does have reason to be nervous about the matchups of some of his players. David Johnson is going to be good against Seattle, but can even he be great? Probably not. Ditto Jordy Nelson against Minnesota. Ditto the Broncos defense in Kansas City.

You’ll also notice he picked up Melvin Gordon’s backup to play in his flex. There’s an argument that this is a good move, that Kenneth Dixon is going to get the touches Melvin Gordon had and replicate Gordon’s production. Here’s the thing though: he’s not as good as Gordon. I have no doubt he’ll be productive, but not to Gordon’s level.

I do wish I had Gordon this week though. He’d be matched up against Cleveland. It would be score city for me.

Sigh.

I could have A.J. Green, who is expected to return but not be 100%. But I don’t trust what less than 100% A.J. Green will be. Especially not when I still have the guys I have to play instead. I might risk it if this were midseason, but this is the finals. I need more reliability than that.

So yeah, sure, I’m an underdog. But I’m not without confidence. I’m not without reasons for that confidence. And I’m not without the ability to turn this week’s faceoff into a strong platform for next week’s ultimate victory.

We’re here. It’s on.

Let’s go.

The Very Definition of Narrow

24 yards and a fumble.

That’s Crowder’s stat line from the Monday night game.

24 yards and a fumble means a total of 0 points.

Zero.

None.

I needed 1 point from him. Barely anything. And he came up with less than that.

I knew this wasn’t over yet.

So I finish in a tie with There’s always next year. Which, you know, is great for my stress level. Could this be a little closer maybe? No, literally, it could not. You can’t get closer than the exact same score.

So how did we wind up in this situation?

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Mostly because of TANY’s underperformance, honestly. My team didn’t exactly light the world on fire, but TANY’s laid an egg. All those star performers and not one stepped up big for him when he needed them.

I had a huge step up from Ezekiel Elliott though. Last week it was Brady, this week it was Elliott. I stayed close because of huge performances from those two studs. And steady contributions from Gore and Edelman in both weeks, and smart choices on streaming defenses, and a huge 51 yard kick this week from Kai Forbath. My team didn’t go off like they’re capable of, but they did what they needed to do.

TANY’s, on the other hand, did not. Last week he had Le’Veon Bell go off, and this week Bell had a solid game, but pretty much everyone else on his roster let him down. From Antonio Brown, to the Vikings defense, to – and this is my favorite bit – Mike Evans. Remember when he traded for Mike Evans, and the rumor went that there was collusion there? He gave up his integrity to get the #1 wide receiver, and in the three weeks he’s had him he’s gone for 14 points total.

Cheaters never prosper, guys.

These have been rough weeks in general, and the scores across my league have not tended to be high. That’s what kept this close, more than any skill I can deliver.

Can you say beginner’s luck?

So what happens now?

We go to a tiebreaker. And I’m honestly not sure what the tiebreaker is. Is it total Points For on the season? Regular season record? Higher playoff seed?

Fortunately I own all of those.

Yes, we’re on to the finals.

Barely, but we’re on to the finals.

Now we’re going to face another incredible test. KING OF TRADES has changed his team name to YOU WANT IT!!!? COME GET IT. I don’t know why he’s baiting me, but… yeah, I want it. I’m gonna get it. I’m coming for it.

I didn’t think I had much of a chance to get out of the first round. And I’ll be an underdog here too. But I can do it. Clearly, I can do it.

Holy crap, y’all, we’re in the FINALS!

Where We Are

If you had told me before this playoff matchup started that Le’Veon Bell was going to earn a total of 59 points in two weeks for my opponent, I would have known that there was no way the matchup would be close.

Or if you’d told me that Tom Brady would put up a score in single digits one week.

Or that Melvin Gordon would contribute a total of 0 points.

Or that the highest single performance on my team would come from a guy on my bench.

Well, guess what. All that is true. Bell added 12 points to the 47 he earned last week. Brady only had 7 this week for me. Gordon was injured early on in Week Fourteen and gave me 0 for that week and was out of my lineup for this one. And the best score anyone on Team BlueAndGold had in these two weeks was Ty Montgomery this past weekend, who blew up for 28 points and made me feel both proud for picking him up and disappointed that I left him on the bench.

All that is true. And yet?

And yet?

It’s close.

It’s not quite over, because there’s still one more player about to kick off in the Monday night game.

But it’s close.

How close?

Tied.

TIED.

171-171.

And the player that has yet to go?

Is Jamison Crowder.

Who is on my team.

If he scores 1 point – just one! – I go over and win the matchup.

Guys.

We did it.

I mean, it’s not quite over. Crowder could fumble on his first play and lose me 2 points, and then break his ankle on his second play and be out. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet. But you can hear her warming up in the wings, and the song she’s preparing is a glorious ode to Team BlueAndGold.

GUYS!

WE DID IT!

More analysis when this game is over, when Crowder puts his numbers up and we can look at the team as a whole. For now, watch this game with me with bated breath, waiting for Crowder to get the ten yards or – for extra insurance – a touchdown that would put me over the top.

I’m crossing every finger and toe, holding my breath, waiting on the edge of my seat.

I’ll report back when it happens.

If it happens.

(It’s happening, guys! WE DID IT!!!!!!!!)