Tuesday, September 25, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 4

Time to get real about replacement officials. (cbssports.com)

FAABulous will recap the week of football activity and point fantasy owners where to spend their hard earned (not really) FAAB or waiver priority. Players will be owned in at least 30% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

Well that was a nice dream.

The idea that these replacement or SCAB officials could step in for proven or veteran NFL officials officially was lowered into the ground and covered in terra firma in week 3 of the NFL season. The cherry on top was of course the monstrosity of a miss-call on the game ending Hail Mary from Russell Wilson  to M.D. Jennings Golden Tate.

There will be more than enough reaction pieces, pundits screaming, and treating the NFL's inability to find some change in their $9 billion budgets to pay the actual refs. By the afternoon news cycle Skip Bayless is going to need to be hooked up to an IV to replenish the fluids he's going to lose screaming all morning. Around the Horn will probably cut the wire on the Mute button, and Pardon the Interruption will bring things home with Michael Wilbon in utter disbelief while Tony Kornheiser brings everything back in perspective with his intense stare, open palm down on the PTI table and telling all of America this has to be the end of the line for the NFL's posturing with the real officials.

Like Weezer said, "If you want to destroy my sweater / pull this tread as I walk away...".

That call was the errant thread on your finely-knit sweater and fans, players, and NFL intelligencia are starting to pull, and the whole system is breaking down.

People will talk about player safety and greed as factors for why this is or isn't getting done, but after last night, what we've really seen is the degeneration of the replacement refs, and the realities of week in, week out calling NFL games catching up to these refs who mean well and try hard, but in reality are completely unqualified for this job. A job where hundreds of millions of people watch you perform every week, everyone thinks they know as much or more than you, and there are a dozen cable channels whose jobs are to talk about sports and more than likely pick you apart even more. It's a no win for the refs, and now a no win for the NFL.

Above all, once the integrity of the game is called into question, you have to react. More than injuries, more than money, more than anything if the sport you put out there isn't deemed legit?...well, that's a big problem. The NFL isn't going anywhere. They could send an email to every season ticket holder in the league with two big middle fingers and say tough shit and it would survive. But it is embarrassing that the most lucrative and popular sport can seemingly let this pass.

Roger Goodell has been contradiction thus far as NFL commish. He is known mostly as a disciplinarian. Trying to clean up the players off the field as well as on it. Stricter fines and closer examination of hits that may lead to concussions. However, as the link and Jason Whitlock's piece beautifully illustrates, he's also been looking to endanger players vis a vis Thursday night football every week, an 18 game regular season, and while throwing some money at brain studies or trying to eliminate kick returns (still never understood that) sounds good, ultimately compared to what he's tried to implement, they are empty gestures.

This all brings us to fantasy football, where let's face it, with poor officiating, affects points. Players are getting or being denied opportunities based on the poor discretion of the officials. If you had Wilson last night, that TD is a gift. If you lost by 2 and you had the Packers D, well that should have been a tick in the W column.

Integrity of the game, both real and fantasy, is why Goodell needs to do something.

Let's see what players need some cash splashed on them...

Hip hip hooray for big plays. (Getty)

Nate Washington, WR - TEN (64% owned)

Granted spectacular catches and blown coverage aside, Washington owns the best receiving yard average in the NFL through three weeks at 26.4. Washington has always had ability, but now with Jake Locker more relied upon in the Titans offense since Chris Johnson is laying an absolute stink bomb, you can count on a couple of deep plays getting called for #85 in the coming weeks. Plus, you can't begrudge a receiver some luck. It worked for Victor Cruz last year.

Kyle Rudolph, TE - MIN (40%)

I'm going to try not to repeat people on this, but Rudolph has a special place in my heart. This is the last stop on the bandwagon. Food and drink carts will be coming down your aisle shortly.

Jerome Simpson, WR - MIN (11%)

Strike while the iron is hot in the Twin Cities. Simpson is coming off his 3 week suspension, and with the Vikings looking more than competent with Christian Ponder delivering passes at a high efficiency, Simpson could add a deep threat to all the ruckus Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin cause underneath coverage. SKOL!

Ronnie Hillman, RB - DEN (9%)

I can't tell you why I like the 5'9 tailback from San Diego State. The 3rd round pick hasn't made an impact yet, but with Willis McGahee nursing some bruised ribs and the mercurial Knowshon Moreno serving as back-up, I find it hard to believe that Hillman doesn't fit what Peyton Manning needs more than Moreno or anyone else on the depth chart. Work on that play action fake, Ronnie.


Jake Locker, QB - TEN (38%)

The first three weeks have been kind for Locker. He's put up big numbers and looked good doing it. However, even with playmakers in the route running department, the biggest crux of Locker's success is the dreadlocked one in the backfield. It's still early in the season, so teams preparing for the Titans probably have Chris Johnson on their mind. Three weeks in and he's produced zero. This may be a Jamaal Charles situation where Johnson could bust out in a big way, but probably not. Johnson just has to be somewhat effective at some point this year, but starting now, I would imagine a defensive coordinator would be a lot more focused on pressuring Locker, forgetting about Johnson. An increased focus on taking away potential targets for Locker at the expense of Johnson potentially gaining more that 2 yards will be well worth it.

THE 1%

Damaris Johnson, WR - PHI (0%)

This would be a total speculative add. Johnson is the 4th WR on the Eagles, but with Jeremy Maclin battling injuries already and DeSean Jackson waivering between wanting to play and not, a spot could open up for Johnson to get on the field and make plays. He did have 84 yards against Arizona, and his speed could make him a tasty option for the struggling offense.

Also, should Michael Vick be replaced or more likely injured from the punishment he is taking by a pass first offense behind a depleted offensive line, then Johnson does have a lot of reps with back-up/potential savior Nick Foles 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 3

The last person to arrive on the Danny Amendola band wagon was Danny Amendola.(Getty)

FAABulous will recap the week of football activity and point fantasy owners where to spend their hard earned (not really) FAAB or waiver priority. Players will be owned in at least 30% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

It's only been two weeks, but that's been enough time to subsequently shatter our concepts of what we thought 2012 fantasy football was going to be.  The top point producer is a rookie QB in Washington whose filmed more commercials than TD passes thrown. Two consensus top 10 RBs have less rushing yards combined than one Reggie Bush game, or just 7 yards (21 feet) more than the 1,831st ranked player in Yahoo. And a team that was a favorite to be the worst team in football is 2-0 and just defeated a pre-season favorite to win the Super Bowl in their home debut. Oh, and their best player had 1 catch for 4 yards.

Crazy enough? That leaves plenty of us searching the waivers. Let's see who is deserving of your time.

Danny Amendola, WR - STL (52% owned) 

The diminutive WR draws lazy comparisons to Wes Welker was late to his own fantasy football party. Coming off an 85 catch season in 2010, Amendola was pegged to be quite Welkerish in 2011. Well, that ended rather abruptly as Amendola suffered a season ending injury in week 1. While he was certainly forgotten by many pretend pigskinners, he's come back to remind us that his 2011 hype was more than just some experts grasping at straws.

Through the first two games, Amendola has been targeted 25 times and after a huge week 2 ranks 3rd in the league in receiving. He's worthy of a hefty portion of your FAAB because he gets the looks, he gets open, and... 

Sam Bradford, QB - STL (22%)

Sam Bradford is his QB. Remember Sam? #1 pick. Threw the ball all over the field. He too was hyped up in 2011 before he too was injured and limited to 10 games. Injuries are nothing new to Bradford's game, but with new found health, he has the talent and the time in the film room to take a big leap this year in the Gateway to the West.

His skill players are lacking, and he doesn't have the big arm of another former #1 pick who was injury prone in Matt Stafford, but could a poor man's Stafford performance be out of the question?

Andrew Hawkins, WR - CIN (12%)

You thought Amendola was short? At 5'7, Hawkins would be up to the 5'11 Amendola's shoulder. But, the great equalizer in sports is speed, and Hawkins is crazy crazy fast. I was thinking about putting him in last week's FAABulous column, but I wanted to see if the Bengals would continue to utilize Hawkins' strengths. It appears his touches will only be growing. People may be waiting for Randall Cobb to break out, but Hawkins is there already.

Andre Brown, RB - NYG (15%)

Tom Coughlin doesn't have a dog house to put the players that catch his ire. When you get in trouble with Coughlin his version of a dog house more closely resembles Bane's prison in Dark Knight Rises. And deep, buried down there is rookie RB David Wilson. After a fumble in the first game of the season, he's been, well under utilized. Ahmad Bradshaw picked up a neck injury, opening the rushing duties to Brown.


Donnie Avery, WR - IND (8%)

Avery got some Andrew Luck love on Sunday, but Avery has never been a consistent force. I don't expect him to develop on a young Colts team where Reggie Wayne still owns the targets and Colby Fleener has great chemistry with Luck. Close your pocket books and look elsewhere for catches.

THE 1%
Brandon Myers, TE - OAK (1%)

There's not much anyone can take from what Oakland has done thus far. Coming off a short week and flying cross country ended up costing Oakland a brutal loss to Miami, but the 6'3 6th round pick has done enough to gain Carson Palmer's attention. While you would think this team would be built around a vertical passing game utilizing Denarius Moore, Darius Heyward-Bey, and Rod Streater with Darren McFadden storming up and down the field, the passing and running game has been very muted. Myers has averaged 75.5 yards per game thus far, and while he hasn't grabbed a ball in the painted part of the field, he does appear to be building trust with Palmer which can translate to red zone opportunities when they happen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Looking for a Fight: Will You Be Entertained at UFC 153?

Aldo and Rampage's injuries almost dealt another blow to the UFC. But then something different happened...

From the ashes of UFC 151: Never Happened and on the verge of another Popeiian disaster, the UFC was at risk of probably not cancelling UFC 153 in Rio, but rather putting together a shaky card at best. At best because with both the main event and co-main event fights being pulled due to injures to Jose Aldo and Quentin "Rampage" Jackson, even the myth of Glover Teixiera couldn't pull in the PPV buys or fan excitement Dana White would be looking for.

It hasn't been a great year for White or the UFC. With all the hype surrounding the FOX deal, injuries swept through the UFC like a glacier coming out of the ice age.

The two top PPV fighters of 2011 have been gone all year. Georges St-Pierre to an ACL tear, due back in November, and Brock Lesnar is back to being BROCK LESNAR, although he got to keep the gloves.

All the next top PPV fighter did in 2012 was become the youngest, most dominant champion on LHW history, crash his Bentley and get a DUI, sign a Nike sponsorship, get an entire PPV cancelled for the first time in the UFC's 12 year history, and become the most polarizing (as in probably just as many fans hate him as like him at this point) fighter in the UFC, and get publicly roasted by White during a media conference call. So, yeah.

From a business standpoint, sometimes it's good to be Dana White (from a business standpoint because, personally, it must rock to be Dana White). When you have the best fighter ever on speed dial, and the stars align just right, he was able to make some phone calls and save the card. White recruited middleweight kingpin/champ/overlord/God/whatever...Anderson Silva to take a fight with Stephan Bonnar in a 3 round main event fight at 205. Along with finding a replacement for the hyped Teixiera and Antonio "Big Nog" Noguiera hopping on board, this trinity of Brazilians assembled like Voltron to form, not a more powerful PPV, but as entertaining a card as one could have hoped for with a month left to go.

People are already complaining. Comments of "are you serious?" or "why would I pay to see Bonnar get KO'd in a minute" were already flooding message boards. Personally, I have no idea what people could be complaining about.

Let's take a moment to think about what has to take place for this to even come together. First off, if this isn't in Brazil, I'm not so sure these fighters get on board. Silva mentioned fighting someone to save UFC 151, but on 8 days, no one was too eager to face the baddest man on this orb. Big Nog scored a big win his last time in Brazil, so he's eager to get back. For Teixiera, this will be his big coming out party. It's not Rampage, but a lot of eyes will be on him.

Kudos need to go out to all of these fighters, especially Stephan Bonnar who took on the biggest challenge of them all. He will truly earn his "American Psycho" nickname with this one.

Critics of the new UFC 153 will be quick to throw out names, and play matchmaker, but with a month to go, fighters are normally well into training at this time. No one of Silva's quality would come in unprepared to fight a guy like a Rashad Evans. He took this fight because it was in Brazil, he could do 205, and a guy like Bonnar isn't likely to give him issues.

Ah, ha! So you know where I fall on the whole Jon Jones fiasco at 151. Not exactly. Bones had 2 distinctly different things from Silva.

  1. Jones was training, healthy, and ready to fight. He was ready to fight Dan Henderson but still ready. Silva was probably training and marginally healthy, but he wasn't supposed to fight again until 2013 (possibly in a super fight against GSP).
  2. There have been ups and downs with Silva regarding fans, but for the most part (the whole part if you're asking me) he's must see television. The fans love him. One of the overriding reasons JBJ declined to fight Chael Sonnen was to protect his brand. Which, as rational as I try to be, annoys me to no end. This concept of branding.You know what's a form of branding? How people think of you. Whether it's Dwight Howard, Jones, or LeBron James. Jones wasn't scared of Sonnen, but rather, I think, he hinged his decision on if I lose, then what?
This is still a combat sport, so anything can happen. So it does take on some risk to step into the Octagon with anyone, and as much crap as Bonnar is getting, he's a fighter. The fight will be entertaining no matter what.

I have no doubt Dana opened up the roster to Silva and said, you pick, we'll see if we can get him, and Bonnar was loony enough to say yes. 

Ultimately, what we received yesterday when this news broke, was a chance to see the Spider in the Octagon another time. I'd head to my local bar and pay a $10 cover to see Silva fight a garbage can as the main event, but for a chance to see him let loose? To fight carefree against a soft hitter like Bonnar, who if you gave him 3 clean shots to Silva probably couldn't wobble him, who knows what can happen? Will it be like Silva against Forrest Griffin? Awesome. I watched that fight over and over and over again. Silva's performance was a spectacle. 

Put that along a still strong card, man, if you can't see paying $54.99 for that, I don't know what to tell you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 2

You win this round, RGIII. (wjla.com)

FAABulous will recap the week of football activity and point fantasy owners where to spend their hard earned (not really) FAAB or waiver priority. Players will be owned in at least 30% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

Like most of you, I was eager and more than happy to hunker down on Sunday for the first full slate of NFL games for the 2012-2013 season,* but as one heralded rookie put on a show in New Orleans, I'm pretty sure I had a more unique experience watching this go down. Now, I have Robert Griffin III as my back-up to Tom Brady in my money fantasy league, so I can't say I was bummed I didn't start him, but rather happy to have him on board. Of course, this experience can be shared with hundreds of thousands of other RGIII owners. Where my experience becomes unique is that my initials are R.G. and I also just so happen to be the 3rd.

*Can we all just agree to "Madden" any sports years that aren't all encompassed in one calendar year? When Madden comes out, it's not Madden 12-13, it's Madden 13. This is the 2013 football season. Sorry to all the hyphen lovers out there.

So, not that he hasn't taken the moniker of RGIII more than rightfully over your humble narrator, I was just reflecting on two things.

  1. How did I never make better use of the RGIII, RG3 nickname?
  2. If I had, man I would have been able to make at least some money off of it.
The answer to the first question is much easier and more palatable. I had a better nickname growing up. Using my last name as the springboard, it initially became G-Lock, which streamlined to Glock (unbeknownst to me or any of my friends at the time a glock is also a pistol, so not trying to be all gangster or anyting). Then another incarnation, the Glockness Monster or just Glockness. To this day, I say much better than RGIII.

The answer to the second question gets to be a bit harder to swallow. For the longest time, at least in the early '00s when rap was exploding everywhere and I had realized that Glock is the name for a handgun, I was solicitous that a rapper would take my coveted nickname. Then from that point on, my nickname, which I liked, would be compared to/inspired by that rapper or it would become obsolete. Little did I know that around that same time, an 8th grader was going to blindside me for the rights to RGIII. 

Needless to say, in an era of 2Chainz, Maino, Tyga, Wiz Khalifa, and any other ridiculous rap names there are, Glock appears to be safe.

Where my RGIII connection comes in is that when Twitter first came out, I had to pick a handle. Glockness Monster was too long, Glock was not allowed due to the aforementioned affiliation to a firearm. So I tried RG3. Too short. Twitter requires 4 characters. Ok, RG_3. Eh, don't like the way it looks. What about...RGIII? Available, works, but eh, I don't know, let's go with TheRealGlockness (or something completely stupid and not funny). For a moment in time, I had Robert Griffin III's Twitter handle, and while I'm no economist I'm pretty sure the rights to that would have netted me a nice chunk of change from the RGIII camp. If only. Not to make matters any better, I've switched my name 2 or 3 times to the current one, which I'm fine with. 

As RGIII laid down after his 88-yd TD pass to Pierre Garcon, he had plenty of things whistling threw his helmet. Me? I only had one. "Shit."

Onto who you should be opening your wallets for.

Joe Flacco, QB - BAL (70% owned)

Perhaps no one took a leap in Week 1 quite like Joe Flacco (Audubon Green Wave, what!). The now unibrowless and fu-man-chuless QB opened up his brand new offense, and the no huddle seams to treat him just fine. With more control over play calls and having play makers like Dennis Pitta, a healthy Anquan Boldin, and burner Torrey Smith, Flacco can utilize Ray Rice as a runner, pass catcher out of the backfield, and most importantly excellent play action threat to open up deep balls that Flacco actually throws extremely well. Flacco has always been a better actual player than fantasy player, but after last night's performance he bumps up a tier to solid fantasy QB2/spot starter. By the end of the year, it could be higher than that.

Owen Daniels/Jared Cook/Kyle Rudolph/Dennis Pitta/Marcedes Lewis, TE (All 65% and under)

If you were pissed you missed on Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, or Aaron Hernandez, maybe you shouldn't be. This appears to be Year II of the Tight End. All those guys (minus Gates who *gasp* got a little dinged up) put up solid Week 1 numbers, but the group of widely available TE's look to be up to the challenge.

Daniels we know about. He's had great success in Houston, and he has been productive. With Schaub back, it appears things are back to normal for him, however, I would still put him in the old school class of TEs. The next couple guys are a new wave.

Rudolph was highlighted in my failed Grantland submission as my sleeper, and when I was researching that position, a lot of what I liked in Rudolph you could say about Dennis Pitta. 

Kyle may not have won me a Grantland gig, but I still like him.(media.scout.com)
The thing that stood out for Jared Cook and Marcedes Lewis was easily how they were utilized on Sunday. @MikeClayNFL tweeted that the Titans called a pass play on 48 of Cook's 60 snaps. Out of those 48 pass plays, the TE stayed back to pass block all of zero times. He was out there running routes and looking for catches. The athletic TE has been a 'sleeper' pick for so many years I'm sure he's burned some bridges, but with Kenny Britt still recovering from his knee surgeries and a young QB in Jake Locker, the Titans certainly look to be turning to Cook.

Lewis did have 10 TDs two years ago, but the mess that Jacksonville was last year and some dropsies by the big man caused an unbelievably horrid year. He too became the apple of Blaine Gabbert's hair eye in Week 1 and was able to get a lot of look as well was haul in a TD.

Alshon Jeffery, WR - CHI (35%)

Titus Young was a popular sleeper pick at WR this year. People saw Calvin Johnson, people saw match-up issues, people saw a lot of one-on-one coverage for the young receiver. Well, things didn't exactly go as planned for Titus in Week 1. When you're the dumb one out of a confrontation with Janoris Jenkins, that's a problem. One Lions head coach Jim Schwartz probably won't tolerate much more of.

Another team in the division though, may have been a quiet sleeper in utilizing the Johnson-Young dilemma, the Chicago Bears. Brandon Marshall looked to be on the same page as Jay Cutler, which is a good thing for each of them, and potentially a great thing for Jeffery. The rookie wideout caught a touch and had 80 yards. If Cutler, Marshall, and Forte/Bush get motoring, it might be wide open spaces for Jeffery.


Alfred Morris, RB - WAS (5%)

Well, that didn't take long. The Redskins RB situation has created the first line in the sand moment of fantasy football 2013. Either people are going to be right or wrong in saying claim him or not. For me, I'm staying away. A tiger can't change their stripes and Mike Shanahan hasn't had a steady back in quite some time. If Alfred Morris is Terrell Davis, then I was way, way wrong, but I'll opt and say he isn't. Morris will be decent, maybe an RB4 or decent flex play given the match-up, but with RGIII at the helm, Shanahan will want to keep a back in there that can run, pass block, and pass catch. As far as I can tell, Morris can only do one of those things. That equals a RB shuffle akin to what we've all been known to hate about Shanahan.

Also, let's just say RGIII becomes a better version of Cam Newton last year? It wouldn't surprise me at all to see the run game minimized in that circumstance, along with the times when the 'Skins are trailing in the ball game. If I have a top 5 waiver claim, sure I can see doing that. But unloading half or more of my FAAB? No thanks.

THE 1%

Bilal Powell, RB - NYJ (1%)

I'm pretty sure no one is overreacting to the Jets offensive explosion on Sunday. Things would be a lot quieter in Gang Green land if Mark Sanchez could consistently do what he did against either an underprepared or overrated Bills defense. Odds are, they are going to have to turn to the run game, and while Shonn Greene looked to have a good game, he did fumble twice (both were recovered). This isn't great for Greene, who has continued to underwhelm the fantasy community for years. We all know Tim Tebow is lurking in weird packages that probably won't work, or in cases like Sunday, aren't needed, but with Joe McKnight being Joe McKnight, there is an opportunity for Powell to take some carries with the first team offense.