Gladiator: Fight To The Death
As we come to the culmination of another great season, many of our dreams were shattered; many dreams rest on the shoulders of Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree or even Roddy White; and many victory celebrations have already begun. Regardless of how you got to this week, it was an epic quest. For me, I entered the week leading the way to six championships. I still have players in all of them, but really need epic performances from Frank Gore and Vernon Davisto bring me to the promise land in more than one of them.
I did the work. I fought the battles. It was an epic fight to the death every single week for all my teams and that made me think of the epic Russell Crowe film from 2000 called Gladiator. Brilliantly directed by Ridley Scott with virtuoso performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Sir Richard Harris, Gladiatoris the story of a Roman General, Maximus (Crowe), who after the death of the Emperor is selected to be the successor over the Emperor’s son (Phoenix). It is a power struggle that ensues that brings Maximus and his family to their death. Maximus brilliantly says this early in the movie and I find it poignant during this week of so many losses:
So, we will take a quick look at the players that killed you when you made it to your championship.
There were so many bad Quarterback performances that if you had Peyton Manning or Andy Dalton you ended with a huge edge at QB. The rest of the group, really let people down and likely made more losses than victories. We won’t name all of them as those of you who trusted a championship to Kirk Cousins or Ryan Tannehill should be ashamed of yourselves, but here are three players that might have fooled you. The first one sure fooled me badly.
It is not the 15 points necessarily, it is the expectations. Many salary cap and daily players were banking on the matchup against a defense that gives up tons of yards and TDs to the passing game. Cutler never got started as the Chip Kelly offense was as crisp and well-oiled as any offense that we have seen in years. This made it impossible for the gun slinger to get his colt out of his holster. I played Cutler with confidence in many daily leagues and believed that I would be rewarded with a HUGE performance and alas, a walk through the wheat field to see my family in heaven is what I got.
Just for a second, let me say that when your team scores 41 points, it is almost always fueled by the QB. Look at the Bengals game. They had defensive TDs and good RB play, but Dalton did the damage in the air and A.J Green was magnificent in the victory. In this game Amendola and Brady were statistically pedestrian although their team had 41 points. This is not something that you usually see and if you went to battle with Brady as your QB after the up and down season that he had, maybe you deserved this fate.
When we looked at the matchups before this week, we saw gold in them hills. The Raiders allow the 4th most points per game to QBs. Rivers is the number six QB for the season and started the game ahead of Dalton as number 5. He averages more than double the number of points he achieved and wasn’t playing the Raiders every week. Rivers just never got it going with Gates or Allen and the ground game was working for FGs on the late possessions with the lead so they didn’t push it. They won the game, but teams with names like “Cry me a Rivers” got let down.
Week 16 was another week with only seven RBs scoring more than 20 PPR Points. It is unnerving for the SMART system that pushes RBs and the full house backfield. Running Backs are selected early because you can find WRs to be able to fill in to those last spots and many teams who drafted a lot of Running Backs are cashing checks this week. That said, there were a lot of disappointing performances that surely cost people championships. These are three guys that got me.
See Cutler above. This was a function of the game and how it went. The Bears could not convert any third downs and then they got behind 21-0 before they knew what hit them. This effectively took Forte out of the game as he only carried the ball 9 times. Then, they took Forte out of the game as the game got away. Forte was a bargain for a lot of fantasy teams, taking him on the wheel or even in the early second round. Even with the bad game, he is the third overall RB with close to 300 PPR Points.
Listen to this…Peterson was the 7th highest scoring RB this year. One more time…Peterson was the 7th highest scoring RB this year. THAT IS CRAZY. He performed so hot and cold that it is hard to believe that he did win many a week for his fantasy owners. However, he did put up a number of sub-10 point performances and in the weeks that his owners needed him most, he laid egg after egg after egg. Peterson scored a total of 8.4 PPR Points in the three weeks of the fantasy playoffs. OUCH. The fact that his team was out of it by halftime yesterday didn’t help. Like Maximus, he is a gallant warrior who gives it everything he has, but every team that had him, picked him first and didn’t get to the promise land.
After a strong 18 point performance in the week 15, owners started Reggie Bush with confidence. When he fumbled in the 2nd quarter, Bush had 7 touches already. He was on his way to a 22-25 touch game and an explosion for his fantasy owners. The Lions kept the Giants in the game instead of allowing Reggie to continue to crush them. Bell did a nice job while Reggie was out, but got caught in traffic on chip blocks/screens and simply is not the explosive playmaker that Bush is. When Bush went to the bench, it was bad for the Lions AND bad for fantasy owners.
The WRs were maybe the worst offenders in the bunch. With lop-sided games taking players from both teams out, great players ended up with awful statistical lines. Larry Fitzgerald let his owners down with 3 Rec for only 18 yards. Some others: Jordy Nelson 3-46; Mike Wallace 4-38; Andre Johnson 4-63. We needed big days from our best players and for the most part, the players who blew up at WR were from the blow outs. Here are three guys that got me.
The Eagles got way ahead fast and the Bears tried to take away DeSean. If the score had not gotten out of hand, D-Jax would have had about 5-6 more of those “fake hand-off turns into a screen” play that he made one of his two catches on. Cooper was wide open and McCoy with backup Bryce Brown did most of the damage. This is not his fault, but fantasy owners had to send him out there as the play maker only had four games with less than 10 PPR Points this season.
Why is this one here you might ask? There are tons of WRs who were less than par that were on a lot more fantasy teams. Well, this one is for me. The last 3-4 rounds of all my drafts had a handful of WRs in them. Kendall Wright was targeted 20 times last week and the PPR darling was on three of my six Championship teams. I had good WRs on the bench that I could have played, but Wright seemed like a great shot to have 8 catches or so and really give me a boost. Wright is now dead to me. Done.
I saved the best for last. Johnson owners were taken right up to the edge of game time to decide whether or not he would play. Many, like me, made moves to acquire players like Michael Crabtree who played after Calvin so that we could switch to them if he didn’t go. Then the news came that he was playing in the game so we started him with confidence. Ut oh. Here comes only 3 catches against one of the worst defenses against the pass. Calvin averages 20+ PPR Points per week and only got 1/3 that much. You can’t win when your first round pick craps the bed.
Fight to the Death
So, if you have not yet been eliminated and are rooting for 49ers, do not give up. Many a championship has been won with a great performance on a Monday Night in Championship week. Way back in 1993 in my first fantasy football league that had started two years earlier, I was winning by 45 with only Natrone Means and Anthony Miller to play for my friend Bob. It was a Christmas weekend and we had just gotten done celebrating. My oldest son was two months old and in every way it was a great time with family and closing in on my first championship. Well…BOOM goes the Chargers with the most incredible explosion of fantasy points from the only two players who could beat me. The Chargers crushed the Dolphins 45-20.Natrone Means had18-118-3 TDs and Anthony Miller had 7-110-2 TDs. That was the first time that I realized that anything can happen to win or lose that Championship. So in the words of Maximus: "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."
So tonight I will have VENGEANCE!
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Rick Wolf is a leader in the fantasy sports industry. Wolf is a founding Board Member and one of only fifteen FSTA Hall of Famers including Bill James, Ron Shandler, Glenn Colton and Matthew Berry. Wolf is the Co-Host of Colton & The Wolfman every week on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio. With college friend, Glenn Colton, he has won three LABR Expert baseball titles and four FSTA Expert football titles. Twitter: @RickWolf1
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