Weekend Updating the NFL Offseason News

offseason

It’s been exactly 50 days since the confetti fell from the University of Phoenix Stadium roof during another New England Patriots Super Bowl Celebration. And it’ll be another 170 days or so until the first meaningful game of the 2015 NFL season takes place.

But, c’mon, it’s the NFL. They’re almost never out of the news entirely. True to form, football free agency dominated the sports headlines in early March. The buzz around big ticket free agents like Ndamukong Suh and Darrelle Revis we saw coming from a mile away. Some surprise trades around that same time we couldn’t foresee (Chip Kelly, I’m glaring specifically at you).

But what about all the other comings and goings of the league, its teams and its players over the past month? There are only so many hours in a day. We can’t keep up with everything, especially if we enjoy other sports besides football.

So what I’ve got for you today is my best attempt at digging up some of the less notable, but still impactful news that’s transpired since Tom Brady became the Greatest QB of All-Time less than two months ago (Please feel free to read the following headlines in your best Saturday Night Live ‘Weekend Update’ voice):

The Minnesota Vikings acquired former Packers tight end Brandon Bostick off waivers on February 18th. In the team’s subsequent press release they stated, “Hey, if we’re in position next year for Brandon Bostick to bungle an onsides kick recovery that costs us a HUGE January football game, that’s major progress for our organization. We’ll take it.”

Brandon Marshall and Percy Harvin seem to be having a heated competition, and they forgot to invite the rest of their marshall harvinwide receiver brethren. In the battle for which uber-talented receiver can be traded or released by his team the most often in the shortest amount of time, it’s not even close. Marshall has been traded three times in the past five years (the Jets will be his fourth NFL team since he came into the league in 2006). But Harvin has been traded or released three times in only the past two years (He’ll be working on team #4 with the Bills in 2015)! With Marshall in the quarterback dead zone of New York and having a noted volatile personality, could we see Marshall retake the lead during the 2015 season? All signs point to…who cares?

The Buffalo Bills not only traded for LeSean McCoy, but they also gave him an enormous contract extension. Because that’s definitely what you want to do with a running back coming off a down year who is already under your contractual control. But I get it, Bills. I’m the same way. In the first year of living in Los Angeles, my apartment got broken into, I discovered a bunch of things I didn’t like about my complex, and I realized the neighbors were kind of assholes. So obviously I called up my landlord and asked him to extend my lease for five more years even though I still had eight months remaining on my current agreement. Only two more years and I’m out of this place!

Jake Locker retired after a five-year stint in the NFL, saying that he no longer has the burning desire to play the game. The game of football responded by saying it no longer had the burning desire to be played by Jake Locker. The game of football, seemingly thin-skinned, also added, “Hey Jake, if that’s how you perform when you do have a burning desire, I’d hate to see the aspects of your life where you are just kinda sorta into something.” So harsh, football, so harsh.

Question: Why do seemingly mediocre quarterbacks like Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford get locked up with huge deals by their respective teams?

Answer: Because if you don’t have someone at least average playing your team’s most important position, you get into a game of offseason Quarterback Russian Roullette / Sad Musical Chairs like this flurry of transactions from early March:

  • Bills acquire Matt Cassel from the Vikings
  • Jets acquire Ryan Fitzpatrick from Texans
  • Texans signs Brian Hoyer to compete with Ryan Mallett
  • Rams acquire Case Keenum from Texans
  • Browns sign Thad Lewis
  • Bills sign Tyrod Taylor
  • Raiders sign Christian Ponder

Or, you could go the route of puzzling mastermind Chip Kelly and stockpile a ton of quarterback assets that no one wants. chip kellyThere’s a chance the Eagles go into training camp with the following QB’s on the roster: Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Tim Tebow and Terrelle Pryor. I know reports have just come out that Cleveland is the most likely candidate for this year’s HBO Hard Knocks, but wouldn’t the unintentional comedy be through the roof if we got to watch one hour every week of these five quarterbacks competing for a starting NFL job? Everyone loves a “open tryouts for a fan to win a roster spot” gimmick, and this doesn’t sound any different to me.

A Report came out that the Browns offered their 19th overall pick in the upcoming draft for Sam Bradford, which just goes to show you that NO ONE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO HAVE THE KEYS TO THE CAR IN CLEVELAND! In fact, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Josh Gordon is hands down the best decision maker within the Cleveland Browns organization at this time.

The Colts waived Trent Richardson and five days later, the Raiders picked him up. So the big splashes Oakland made with all bellcowits cap room were Richardson and Christian Ponder? Got it. After the trade, Richard said, “The Raiders say if I come in and work, I can be the bell cow.” In the Raiders’ defense, their “bell cow” the last seven years has been a guy who averaged 606 rushing yards per season. If Richardson has a career year, he could totally hit that number.

Jameis Winston decided he will stay home on Draft night. When Roger Goodell finished off the blowjob he had been giving Peter King earlier this week, he told the longtime football reporter that he’s OK with Winston’s decision. Fine, but you just know the main circuit board in Goodell’s chest was overheating upon hearing this news. If Goodell stays consistent with how he handles discipline, Winston will be suspended for the first year of his career for such insubordination.

San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland abruptly retired, and while this stunning move has been attributed to his knowledge and fear of potential head injuries, it might just be that Borland looked around the 49ers’ roster and thought retiring’s what everyone does when your team goes from having Jim Harbaugh as its head coach to the football equivalent of Stan Van Gundy:

San Francisco 49ers Introduce Jim Tomsula

Collusion in sports is most often associated with teams conspiring to keep a player off their rosters (for instance, when Barry Bonds couldn’t get a job in 2008). But what are we supposed to think of the fact that literally every free agent or every major player that was traded found their new homes in the AFC East? Perhaps 31 teams are jealous of a certain team’s continued dominance and came up with a brilliant new plan to end that reign (since framing that team for low ball pressure doesn’t seem to have worked)?

The Pouncey brothers, Mike and Maurkice, ripped Mike Wallace’s character after the wide receiver was traded from Miami to Minnesota, calling him a coward…and if anyone is worthwhile to judge character, it’s these two high-character guys:

pouncey

Yes, those are the Pounceys wearing “Free Hernandez” hats a couple years ago. As in, Aaron Hernandez, the most obviously guilty murderer in American History.

Bernard Pierce of the Baltimore Ravens was released after his DUI arrest last week, becoming the third player on the Ravens to be arrested and released this offseason. But I gotta assume this is just random coincidence and bad luck for the Ravens organization. There’s no way there’s a pattern of them having lots of criminals on their team year in and year out or anything. Wait, what’s that? Here’s a headline from the 2014 offseason: Ravens offseason arrests stick out like sore thumb on NFL’s improved hand. Hmm…Am I the type of person to go back through my Twitter account and find all the Ravens fans from January who were talking trash about the Patriots and how they once employed Aaron Hernandez? Depends on how many episodes of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt I have to get through today.

Philip Rivers doesn’t want to sign an extension until after the 2015 season when his contract expires. Part of the reason is the riversuncertainty around the Chargers possibly moving. He said it would be tough to move his wife and SEVEN children to a different city. Philip, I totally get it. I organize a reunion vacation with 10 of my college friends every year and it is HELL to find a house that big on VRBO or Airbnb. You’re preaching to the choir here.

NFL Owner Meetings are underway in Phoenix right now, and while there were a whopping 23 new rule proposals from different teams, this is really the only one worth talking about: The Colts are proposing that if a team successfully converts a two-point attempt following a touchdown, that team should be awarded a bonus point attempt in the form of a 50-yard field goal try. This would mean a team can potentially get nine points at the end of a touchdown drive! What this really means, and it’s probably why the Colts are wanting to implement it, is that instead of needing an additional five touchdowns plus a field goal to tie the Patriots in January’s AFC Championship Game, Indianapolis would have only needed four touchdowns plus four successful two-point conversions and four bonus point conversions plus a field goal to BEAT THE PATRIOTS BY ONE POINT IN THAT SAME GAME! If this rule was in place last year, oh man, the Colts would have been thisclose to finally beating New England.

The owners are making it sound like expanded playoffs are still happening, but it’s on the backburner for at least another year. Here’s my idea for expanded playoffs: Expand it to all 32 teams. Have each team play 16 games in the “playoffs” in a round-robin type format where they are broken out into eight separate “divisions.” Whichever teams have the best record after that, move on to the “Final 12” where those 12 teams play one-game playoffs against each other until there’s a lone Super Bowl Champion remaining. I know it’s a risky proposal, and I know it might take some getting used to, but I think it just might work.

The Bucs are stockpiling punters, adding a third one to their roster this weekend, which means they are finally embracing that role as the NFL’s version of your sad sack buddy in fantasy who always has a couple punters and defenses on his bench.

Matt Moore decided to stay with the Dolphins, noting that if any coach is going to randomly pull his starting QB who happens to be playing really well to insert the backup on a whim, it’s definitely Joe Philbin.

Darren Sharper, he of the rape charges in a handful of states, has apparently agreed to a global plea deal. This is the criminal’s equivalent to buying products at a wholesale price. By raping more women in more states, Sharper was able to package it all up into one neat little crime and could serve as few as nine years in prison instead of a life sentence. We should all be so lucky.

Adrian Peterson and his agent continue to try to get the Vikings to release the Pro Bowl running back, but the Vikings aren’t budging. It may come down to Vikings management telling Peterson he can either play for them this year, or he can retire. But it’s not quite checkmate yet because Peterson could respond by viciously beating one of his other children, which would almost definitely get him released. And who would be waiting with open arms to scoop him up?

jerry jones

The Steelers are mum on the status of veteran defensive back Troy Polamalu. Sources close to the team said Mike Tomlin “Harry and The Hendersons”-ed Polamalu last week but they’re concerned he’s going to make his way out of the forest and show up at Steelers training camp. And for those of you who don’t know that classic film reference, this is precisely what Tomlin did:

The NFL sent an investigator to the Jets’ facility earlier this month to investigate the charge that owner Woody Johnson was in revis woodyviolation of anti-tampering rules when he was on record earlier this year saying he’d love to bring Darrelle Revis back to the Jets. But in a shocking twist, the NFL has decided to punish the Patriots for reverse tampering. It’s a little known corollary in the NFL’s rulebook that states the following: “Any team that signs a player with the knowledge that the team’s biggest rival covets that player is in effect baiting that rival into tampering, which goes against the integrity of the game.” There’s another minor addendum to this rule that states, “This reverse tampering rule only pertains to teams located in the six states of New England.”

Quarterback Pat White, a former second round pick by the Dolphins, retired from football after spending one year with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. In a press release, White said, “I’ll always cherish my time up in Edmonton with those guys. By the end of last season, it truly felt like we were a team of Eskimo Brothers, not just individual players.”

And finally, ESPN.com reported last night that Johnny Manziel is expected to check out of rehab and return to the Browns on April 20th to be part of their offseason workouts. Sounds like a plan to me. The worst thing that could have happened with Manziel’s reintroduction to the real world was for it to fall on a date famous for a dangerous substance, you know, like St. Patrick’s day on 3/17. What a disaster that would have been. But I’m certain there are no built-in temptations on the very innocuous date of 4/20. But just to be sure, let’s take a quick look at the google results when I search “4/20″…

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.50.15 PM

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Browns organization, when photos surface of Johnny Football hanging out with Josh Gordon, Michael Phelps, Woody Harrelson and myself after his workout on that date.

Thank you, all. You’ve been great. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

Advertisements

2013 New England Patriots Preview (By A Guest Blogger Who’s A Real Life Journalist!)

[Editor’s Note: As I mentioned in my “What To Expect” blog post yesterday, I’ve commissioned the services of a real life journalist (read: someone who doesn’t just sit at home and blog in his undies) to preview the New England Patriots for us. Matt Blanchette is a Sports Anchor at ABC in Providence, Rhode Island. And unlike me, Matt has actually been attending Patriots training camp all summer so he’s a much better resource to update us on what’s actually taken place up to this point. Take it away, Matt.]

tom brady 1

I volunteered to be a guest blogger for Ross to provide a less biased opinion of the Patriots as we head into the 2013 season. I’ll do my best.

I am hardly the first to say it, but despite losing Rob Gronkowski to frailty, Aaron Hernandez to murdering, Wes Welker to Peyton Manning, Danny Woodhead to the Chargers and Brandon Lloyd to a local car wash, the Patriots offense will be fine. It is very simple. As long as Tom Brady is taking snaps, this offense will put up points. Sure, they won’t break records like the 2007 team, but the idea here is to win a championship, and you do that with a balanced offense and defense. Here is a position by position breakdown.

Quarterback

Tom Brady has only thrown one incompletion in two preseason games and seems to be “clicking” just fine with his new weapons. Despite the twitter meltdown last week after he left practice with a knee injury, TB12 looks as good as ever, and will be counted on perhaps more than ever. Ryan Mallet is developing and proving to be a worthy backup, though maybe not the trade bait some want him to be. And for anyone who thought Tim Tebow would elevate himself to #2, you are mistaken. Tebow has looked awful in camp and in the two preseason games. The Pats have actually changed the offense for him, and when he does run their typical offense, he continues to look lost. I still think he makes the team, but he will never be the starter.

Running Back

The Patriots deepest position on offense. I could see them keeping six players here. Steven Ridley is a beast, and if he cures his fumbling woes could be a top five back in the league. Shane Vereen is Kevin Faulk 2.0 and will be ideal on third downs. He has also proven he can run the ball in addition to catching it out of the backfield. Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount has been one of the biggest surprises of camp. The former 1,000-yard rusher looks like he did when he was the starter for Tampa Bay. He is huge, and will be used on 3rd and short and goal line situations, but showed with his 51 yard touchdown run against Philly he can still bust the long one and is capable of finishing off runs. His emergence could cost Brandon Bolden a spot, but the second year player has also impressed in the limited time he has seen the field. Leon Washington hasn’t shown much as a RB, but with Welker gone, he will play a pivotal role as a return man, and his roster spot should be safe. Which leaves fullback James Develin. The college linebacker seemed like a long shot to make the team, but performed well in the second preseason game, and could take the spot of a tight end. 

Tight End

Which leads me to the TE position. There is no indication Rob Gronkowski is going to be healthy anytime soon, and will likely miss the first 6 weeks of the season, or more. Currently I would put undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld at the top of the depth chart. He stands out in practice almost every day, and proved he can make a catch in traffic when he hauled in a TD against the Bucs. He is like a mini Gronk, has the 6-7 height and could grow into a great player. This leaves Jake Ballard to be primarily the blocking tight end on the two TE sets. He is proven, though his pass catching ability has been suspect at camp. Daniel Fells has dropped, and Michael Hoomanawanui could be a roster casualty in lieu of the aforementioned Develin.

[Editor’s Note: “Studfeld” is suddenly the cool nickname for undrafted rookie TE Zach Sudfeld, but I’ve got a pending copyright on Gronk Jr. and Baby Gronk. Based on the catches he’s made in preseason, get ready to hear a lot about Baby Gronk during the regular season.]

 Offensive Line

Brady will have his most solid unit in years. Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Dan Connolly are all mainstays. Ryan Wendell, Marcus Cannon and Will Svitek provide depth. This unit should not be an issue.

Wide Receiver

This is the most talked about unit on the team. Who is going to replace the production of the departed? Danny Amendola has shown an immediate chemistry with Tom Brady and the comparisons to Welker are accurate and just. If he stays healthy, Amendola will be a Pro Bowler. The rookies have all looked good, but not consistent. At this point undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins is leading the pack. He’s shown the ability to be in the right place at the right time and has already earned Brady’s trust. Aaron Dobson is the best deep threat the Patriots have had since Randy Moss. He has the size, speed and hands to be a big time player in time. Julian Edelman and Josh Boyce are also in the mix.

Defensive Line/Linebacker

This could be the Pats’ strongest unit. Tommy Kelly has a lot left in the tank and could team with Vince Wilfork to be a force in the middle of the 4-3 defense. Chandler Jones is healthy again on one end, and is poised to have the breakout season everyone predicted during his rookie campaign. On the other end is Rob Ninkovich, who continues to make plays and is one of the leaders of the D. The linebackers are solid with Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Donta Hightower. Rookie Jamie Collins is in the mix and is an athletic freak, but part of me doubts he has that natural football instinct to ever be a star in the league.

Defensive Back

This unit has the most question marks. Alfonso Dennard has missed most of camp and has pending legal troubles. If healthy, he is a lock to start at corner, but that remains a question. Aqib Talib will start at the other corner, and should be motivated as he returns to the Pats on a one-year deal. He will almost always lock up with the opposing team’s number one. If Dennard plays, Devin McCourtry will start at safety. He too is dealing with an injury and has sported the red no-contact jersey for most of camp. Much like last year I expect him to rotate between corner and safety. Kyle Arrington can pick up the slack there, as well as subbing in nickel and dime packages. The other safety position will go to either incumbent Steven Gregory or veteran Adrian Wilson. Two former high-round picks Tavon Wilson and Ras-I Downling have looked shaky and appear to be complete misses.

So back to where we started, and maybe I am biased too, but playing in a weak AFC East, the Patriots should easily get to 12-4 again this year and put themselves in a position to make noise in the playoffs. How far they can go will depend on how quickly the new-look offense gels, and if the defense can keep from giving up as many big plays as they have the past two seasons. But once again Pats fans have plenty of reason for optimism in Foxboro.

Going Once, Going Twice, Sold: Auction Fantasy Leagues Are Far Superior To Those Sleep-Inducing Traditional Leagues

gavel

With only seven weeks remaining until the 2013 NFL Season kicks off, you’ve probably noticed that your fantasy football commissioners have begun reactivating the leagues, sending out emails about rule changes, and trying to find a good time on the calendar for all the team owners to do the draft.

(It never quite works out perfectly though, right? Some idiot claims he can’t even find two hours over the entire month of August where he can sit down and draft. Or one of your friends who smoked too much pot in college forgets about the draft entirely even though you texted him seven times on the days leading up to the draft.)

Before you automatically accept all the invitations back to your leagues, do yourself one huge favor: Strongly urge your commissioner to turn his league into an auction format.

If you truly love fantasy football and want to have the best experience possible, you will do what it takes to graduate from the standard snake draft format to the addicting auction format. Blackmail the commissioner, organize a boycott of his league, hold him at gunpoint until he makes the change…WHATEVER IT TAKES.

You won’t be sorry.

[Side Note: Debating between a standard draft league and an auction league is like picking sides in a bacon versus pork belly argument. They’re both delicious and everyone’s a winner. It’s just a matter of personal preference.]

I broke free from the grip of the snake draft only two years ago, but already I could never imagine a time when I wasn’t all-in on the auction. The more I talk to people about fantasy football, the more I realize that auction drafting hasn’t caught on with the masses.

I look forward to this opportunity to try to sway some of you auction league holdouts because I know you’ll enjoy fantasy season that much more.

But first, it feels necessary to quickly set the stage for my arguments by giving some details on the rules.

[Side Note #2: While I’ll touch on some of the rules and strategies of an auction league in this post, I won’t cover everything. You can find a lot more details on the logistics of it HERE.]

In an auction draft, each team is operating with a set budget (call it $200 per team). This money can only be used during the draft period to bid on the players you want on your team. As you’d expect, you’ll be bidding in a live auction against other owners who may want that same player (the entire thing is automated via ESPN’s draft application). An owner will nominate an available player by bidding at least $1 on him, and then the rest of the owners can jump in and bid increasingly higher amounts on that player. If the cost of a player exceeds the amount you’re willing to pay for him, you simply stop clicking the “bid” button. A player is awarded to the owner with the highest bid once no other owner is willing to go at least $1 higher than that bid.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

This process goes on until all teams have filled all required roster spots. It doesn’t matter if you have extra money leftover. Once your roster is filled, you’re done with the draft. And whatever website you use for the draft will automatically make sure each team has enough money at all times to fill up their roster spots with at least $1 players. So a team can’t spend all $200 on five players and then have 11 empty roster spots that they get to fill via free agency.

Those are the only parameters enforced on you during an auction draft. The rest is your choice. Want to spend 95% of your budget on four studs and then fill in the bulk of your roster with $1 scraps? Go for it. Want to create a communist team where all 16 players cost you $12? You’re free to do as you please.

This leads to my first point…

1). A sense of control – In a traditional snake draft, you really have little control over what your team ultimately looks like. Yes, you can abandon the ESPN draft rankings and reach for a player you like who isn’t rated as highly as you think he should be, but for the most part it’s luck of the draw in terms of which “best players” are available once it’s your turn. On the contrary, you can walk into an auction draft saying “I’m getting these four players no matter what” (assuming you’re being reasonable and not targeting the four best running backs or something equally ridiculous). Nothing can stop you from getting your favorite players.

Now let me be clear: fantasy football is still a crapshoot regardless of your drafting format. But an auction draft gives you more control over that crapshoot. For instance, last year I spent $103—51.5% of my total budget—to acquire LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte. They combined for 304 fantasy points, or just four more points than Adrian Peterson had on his own (and Peterson only cost his owner $29). In that same draft, one of the owners grabbed Alfred “Who the fuck is Alfred Morris” Morris for $1 towards the end of the auction. While my $103 worth of “studs” was busy getting injured or being inept, this guy’s $1 no-name ended up as the fourth-ranked fantasy running back in 2012.

So yes, it’ll always be a crapshoot for the most part, but don’t you want to feel more responsible for your gems and busts?

2). Strategy, strategy and more strategy – Let’s face it, a standard draft has almost no strategy to it. You might want to pay attention if there’s suddenly a run on a specific position, but that’s pretty much where outsmarting your fellow owners begins and ends.

In an auction, when it’s your turn to nominate a player for the bidding, you may choose to select a guy who you do not want on your team under any circumstances. For instance let’s say you’re a Patriots fan and there’s a certain quarterback who’s burned your team in two recent Super Bowls. You may be thinking, “I’d rather have Aaron Hernandez pick me up in a rental car at 3 a.m. than end up with Eli Manning on my fantasy team.” In a snake draft, you stay far away from him. But in an auction draft, you nominate him right away for $1. Eventually the bidding ends and another owner shells out $12 for Manning. You just helped yourself out because that owner now has $12 less to bid on the guy you actually want, and he has one less roster spot available.

When you start researching auction strategies, you’ll see everyone recommending that you never spend more than $1 on a defense, a kicker or an individual defensive player. This is going to seem counterintuitive, but it’s not the worst idea to nominate the defense or kicker you actually want at the first chance you get. Why? Because either you get exactly who you wanted for the minimum bid, or someone goes over the top and bids $2 on that player. At which point you can laugh as your rival owner wins that player. I looked at one of my auction leagues from the 2012 season, and I found one owner who paid a combined $9 for his defense, kicker and three individual defensive players. He should have paid exactly $5 for those five positions. And trust me when I tell you that he could have used those wasted $4 towards the end of the draft when decent running backs and wide receivers were going off the board for only a couple bucks.

Bad strategy in an auction draft will come back to bite you in the ass, hard.

3). No reward for the guy who doesn’t check his roster – Seriously, how come the guy who doesn’t even check his team after the draft always gets the best player year after year? Oh, because he’s consistently the worst team. Right, got it. Why should that loser get first dibs on Adrian Peterson this year? With the auction he can still have him if he wants him, but now he’ll have to fend off nine other owners and be willing to pay a ransom.

Everyone should get a chance at every player. Outbidding your buddies with fake money to put together the best fake football team is your god-given right. Instead of treating the fantasy draft like an actual sports draft, we’re treating it like what would happen if tomorrow the NFL said, “You know what, this is boring. Every player in our league is now a free agent. Have at it, owners.” And that’s a lot more fun than just picking the player with the best value when it comes to your turn. BOOOOOORING.

4). No more waiting – Speaking of boring, how much does it suck when you have either the first pick or the last pick in your snake draft? You pick a player, and then you wait upwards of 30 minutes before it’s your turn again. I’ve actually fallen asleep during this downtime in the past (with the help of a sleep-deprived night before a morning draft).

With an auction, you can be in on every player. No more impromptu naps. And if you’re an adult with real world responsibilities who can’t justify sitting online for three hours drafting a fake football team, you’re free to spend all your money within the first 30 minutes and then leave the draft. It’s probably not a wise way to build a winning team, but you’re welcome to do it.

5). Auction chaos is the best kind of chaos – Have you ever been to a live auction in your life? It’s pure insanity. People start bidding absurd amounts just because someone else is doing the same thing. People go way over their preset budget for an item because they fall in love with the idea of having it. And people try to drive up the price for other bidders and end up stuck with something they never wanted in the first place.

This all happens in a fantasy football auction too. When people have money to spend and the pressure’s on, they just can’t help themselves. There’s absolutely no downside to this…unless you’re the guy who ends up with Drew Brees for $73.

That actually happened in my league last year. Someone bought Brees for more than 35% of his $200 budget. As a comparison, Tom Brady went for $53 and Aaron Rodgers for $61. So what happened with Brees? This owner apparently decided he was the last elite quarterback and he was getting him, balanced roster be damned.

6). Unintentional comedy is unmatched – By now you should be getting the sense that an auction draft is frantic. During a snake draft you have all that waiting time to plan your next move and some contingencies, but during the auction, things move at a ridiculous pace. Your best laid plans go out the window in a flash, and suddenly you’re sitting there with no backup plan. This is when hilarity ensues.

In my 2012 draft, Michael Vick got nominated and his price was hovering in the mid-teens with only a couple people in on the bidding. Keep in mind that most of the top QBs were still available. All of the sudden an owner jumps the highest bid by nearly $40 and “wins” Vick with a $55 price tag. Why did this owner go from $17 to $55? I have no idea, but it was the second funniest moment of the draft.

The funniest moment also comes with a word of caution to all owners because this will happen in every auction draft. You will be minding your own business, planning your next move, and then you’ll see that Adrian Peterson has just been thrown into the ring. You will say, “Obviously AP is gonna go for a lot, I’m gonna open the bidding in the thirties.” So you’ll up the current bid on Peterson to $35. And then you’ll get briefly confused when no other owner bids on him. And then the anger will set in. Because, buddy, you just paid $35 for the OTHER ADRIAN PETERSON…the free agent Adrian Peterson. Yes, that owner is a complete asshole, but you’re the one who just blew his load on a player who isn’t even signed to an NFL team.

This is a dangerous game we play. It’s fast-paced and unforgiving. Take a deep breath and make sure you’re looking at all the information. Otherwise you could end up with Michael Vick and the wrong Adrian Peterson for $90.

But I promise if you can avoid being that guy who accidentally spends all his money on two players who won’t combine to outscore Mark Sanchez in fantasy, then you’ll have the most enjoyable fantasy draft (and season) of your life.

Here are three more considerations to maximize the fun potential of your fantasy football season:

1). Bring on a co-owner – I’m not kidding. The league I’m in where I share a team with my brother is the one that’s most fun year after year. Why wouldn’t you want a partner to celebrate the victories with, lament the losses with, strategize about waiver wire moves and trades with. You know how everyone hates your fantasy football stories? If you didn’t know that, I hate to break it to you…nobody likes listening to other people’s fantasy stories, even if that other person is an owner in your league. But if you have a co-owner, you’ll actually be able to have lively conversations about your team and all the other teams. And of course, if you play fantasy football for money, it isn’t the worst thing to have somebody splitting all the costs with you.

2). Increase the winner’s pot with waiver wire money – In an auction league, the waiver wire process works differently than you’re used to. If you want to pick up a player, you’ll be submitting a blind bid in hopes that your bid is the highest. If you aren’t playing for real money, you’ll have a limited waiver wire budget so that each team has to be somewhat disciplined (i.e. so someone doesn’t bid $150 on Kirk Cousins after RGIII goes down in week 2). But if you’re playing in a money league, why not make the pot even that much sweeter by turning the waiver process into a real money situation. Sure, you can bid $25 to pick up Matt Barkley after Vick and Nick Foles get injured in the same game, but you’ll be putting $25 of your real money into a pool for the league’s eventual champion. Not only is this a decent way to police the waiver wire from ridiculous bids, but it also gets more money into the league. More money is almost always a good thing.

3). Make it a keeper league – There are a million different versions of keeper leagues out there. But here’s one way to do it in the auction format: Allow teams to keep up to three players from their previous year’s roster, but for each keeper they must pay the price they got that guy for the previous year plus 10 additional dollars. (Example: I drafted Andre Johnson for $32 in 2012. I’d say he was worth that money since he was the eighth best fantasy wide receiver. But if I want to keep him on my team for the 2013 season, I’ll have to pay $42 out of my $200 budget. Is he really worth more than 20% of the salary cap?)

Doing keepers this way means every couple years even the best players will be thrown back into the draft pool. No one’s going to keep Aaron Rodgers on their roster if it costs them $85.

I’m not saying this is the only way or the best way to do keepers in an auction league. I’m just saying it’s the way we do it, and it works.

Ultimately you may choose to ignore this article and stick with your old standby bacon, but I think you’ll regret not sampling the pork belly.

Coping With the Latest Boston Sports Loss By Reminiscing About Past Disappointments, and Looking for Silver Linings!

As experienced as Boston fans are at celebrating our teams’ big wins, we’ve also become equally adept at dealing with their catastrophic losses. That gives you an indication of how successful Boston sports have been over the past 12 years. On one side we have three Patriots Super Bowl Titles, two Red Sox World Series Championships, a 17th banner for the Celtics and most recently a Stanley Cup for the Bruins. But on the other side there are two Patriots Super Bowl losses (one while chasing a perfect season), two Patriots AFC Championship Game losses (with the Pats leading both those games at halftime), two Red Sox ALCS losses in seven games (including the 2003 Grady Little/Pedro game), a Celtics NBA Title loss in seven games (after being up in the series three games to two), and a Celtics Conference Championship loss in seven games (ditto).

Side Note: Holy Shit. Can’t we ever just lose a playoff series in five games? Maybe get swept in four games? Why do all our losses come in the most dramatic fashion?

Anyway, the first side of that coin makes it impossible for anyone to empathize with us on the second side of the coin. And that’s fair. But it doesn’t mean that these playoff losses hurt us any less than they hurt fans of other teams.

I don’t have a recap of Sunday’s games for obvious reasons (A full bottle of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey + a mind-boggling Patriots loss). But what I do have is a smorgasbord of disjointed thoughts on coping with tough sports losses.

Until just a couple years ago, I always took my teams’ losses extremely tough. And I always thought it was my god-given right to react as poorly to these losses as I wanted. When I say “extremely tough” I’m talking about drowning my sorrows in whatever cheap booze I could find, holing up in my bedroom for days, refusing to talk to people, and even crying. Yes, crying!

Here’s an incomplete list of some of those poor reactions I’m talking about:

  • After the Red Sox lost to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS, I walked into my kitchen, lined up four shot glasses and took down half a bottle of shitty Vodka in about three minutes. I proceeded to walk the streets of Boston by myself for hours that night, alternating between looking for a Yankees fan to punch in the face and crying into the sleeve of my sweatshirt.
  • Also after that ’03 disaster, I wouldn’t talk to my oldest brother (one of the bigger Boston sports influences in my life) for three weeks. He didn’t wanna talk to me either. It would just be too painful to have to rehash the details…actually I think we would have set the world record for longest phone call without any words spoken. So for 20 days my poor Mom had to act as a go-between for us whenever we wanted to tell each other something.
  • When the Patriots lost to the Giants in February 2008, me and my other brother had to walk home from my oldest brother’s apartment. On the way (keep in mind it was a one-mile walk), we split eight beers and a bottle of champagne. Apparently this loss was too painful to simply drown our sorrows in alcohol. For this loss, we needed to be destructive. So we went out into the street, threw my Patriots hat on the ground, doused it in lighter fluid and set that thing on fire. Thinking we had proved our point, I turned away from the flames to walk back inside. When I turned around one more time to say “see you in hell” to the hat, I found my brother pissing on the burning hat. It was a perfect exclamation point.
  • After that same Patriots loss, I strolled into work at 11am the next morning with a pounding headache. This awful co-worker (a pompous, conniving, little shit) was waiting at my desk just so he could be the first person to scream “18-1” in my face. Ever since that day, I’ve always hoped he would contract a deadly disease. After Richard Sherman and Terrell Suggs, I think he’s the person I’d most likely kill if I was guaranteed to get away with it (If I knew back then that I didn’t want a career in software sales, I probably would have thrown him out of our office’s third story window).
  • And after last year’s Super Bowl loss I simply walked through the Mission District in San Francisco looking to talk trash to, and possibly get in a fight with. anyone wearing New York Giants gear.

So after the latest edition of “Patriots choke in the playoffs” on Sunday, how did I react? By taking my dog for a long walk with my girlfriend and then drowning my sorrows in chocolate. I’ll admit I had one moment on that walk where I started stomping my feet and whining that “it isn’t fair, why can’t they just win one more Super Bowl while Brady’s around…”

Is my lack of a childish reaction to this latest loss a sign that I’m growing up? Actually, I think it’s just more of a realization I had over the past couple years when it comes to sports: Let’s say you have a favorite team in each of the four major sports. Most people are lucky if they get to see two or three championships among their four teams in a lifetime. Let’s say you live to be 85 years old and the first 10 years of your life don’t count because you were too young to be affected by your teams’ wins and losses. That means 75 years of actually caring about sports, multiplied by four teams per year. You have 300 different sports seasons that have to come to an end at some point. Even the luckiest among us are going to see 290 of those seasons end in bitter disappointment.

That’s where my realization comes in. Can I really spend a lifetime having meltdown after meltdown whenever my teams lose? Because they’re going to lose a lot. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care. I’m just saying we have no choice but to put it behind us and move on with life. Much like a football team does after a regular season win when they say they’re going to celebrate for one night and then move on to the next opponent, it’s OK to spend one night being miserable after a playoff loss, but then the sun comes up the next day and it’s time to get over it.

My advice is to wait two days before reading your local newspapers, watching sports programming on TV or listening to any sort of sports talk radio. Two days is enough time for you to cool off and go to your happy place. And for the people living in Boston, you should feel lucky. You get to go to work this week surrounded by mostly fellow miserable Boston sports fans. There are Boston fans all over the country who had to walk into work yesterday morning and deal with fans of other cities who couldn’t wait to rub this loss in their faces. Trust me, it’s as helpless of a feeling as you can have.

In the spirit of getting over this latest setback, here are some silver linings for New England fans:

  • Having Wes Welker back next year would be huge, of course, but let’s not forget that the chances of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez missing time with injuries in 2013 are very slim.
  • The running backs will only get better. Stevan Ridley is their best pure runner, but Shane Vereen was the surprise in the playoffs, establishing himself as a capable runner and receiver.
  • The offense is as good as it’s ever been, and there’s no reason to think it’ll slow down anytime soon.
  • There’s absolutely no indication that Tom Brady is slowing down. He was still a top-10 quarterback in every important category this year. If you think the Championship window is only open as long as Brady is playing at an elite level, I’d say we have at least three more seasons of opportunity.
  • There’s also no indication that Bill Belichick is regressing as a coach or losing his desire to run the Patriots (if you mention the two times Brady/Belichick screwed up clock management at the end of a half this year, I will stab you. Name a coach or QB who hasn’t made those one or two gaffes this year).
  • The defense improved this year, and it’s young enough that you can expect more improvement next year. They were a top-10 defense in points allowed per game this season, they increased their takeaway-to-giveaway differential from +17 in 2011 to +25 in 2012, and they’re heading in the right direction in terms of yards allowed per game (from 31st-ranked in 2011 to 25th in 2012).
  • Remember how the Patriots thrived as a “no one believes in us” team 10 years ago? Maybe now that they’ve choked away playoff games four years in a row, when next January rolls around, they can play the “no one believes in us in a big game” card.
  • It could be worse, we could be sports fans who have to pretend to enjoy rooting for Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.

When you finally emerge from the dark hole you crawled into after Sunday night’s game, you may be wondering who you should root for in the Super Bowl. That’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of this blog. You root for the 49ers, hard. You do not root for the team that doesn’t know how to be a gracious, respectful winner (Suggs and other Ravens just couldn’t contain themselves after the game. They just had to take more satisfaction in the Patriots losing than in their own team winning). You don’t root for the team that has one of the biggest headhunters in the game (Bernard Pollard). You don’t root for the team who, if they win the Super Bowl, would probably say something like “This one title means more than the Patriots’ three titles because of SpyGate.” That’s not a team that deserves to win anything. But if the Ravens do win, I won’t freak out and throw a tantrum. I’ll just look forward to the regular season meeting between them and the Patriots in 2013.

Week 12 NFL Picks: Molly Settles the Great Thanksgiving Debate, the Jets Get Embarrassed in Front of a Comatose Nation and Much More

This seems pretty unfair, right? Making picks for the weekend games almost five days before they happen? But that’s life for a professional football blogger. You’ll notice two games below where I’ve declined to pick them at this point in the week because we have absolutely no clue who will be playing quarterback on Sunday for a couple teams. You’ll have to check me out on Twitter Sunday morning to see who gets the nod in those games.

This week of picking early seems to fit right in with the second-half swoon I’m experiencing. I’ve now had three consecutive weeks of a 7-7 record picking against the spread…by far my worst stretch of the year. My season record against the spread now sits at 88-67-5. I guess it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I finish the season 20 games over .500, but I’m convinced I can knock out a 12-4 or 13-3 week eventually. No promises about this week because everything seems off between picking the games on Wednesday morning and having three games played on Thursday.

Don’t get me wrong, I love three Thanksgiving Day games. Nine hours of a built-in excuse not to speak to anyone at your family gathering. Who could ask for more?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to provide you all with some gambling information as a token of my appreciation for your loyal readership. Hopefully it’ll help guide you to backing the correct teams in week 12 and beyond:

Through 11 weeks of football, these are the teams with the best record against the spread:

1). Tampa Bay (7-2-1)

Tied-2). Houston (7-3-0), Seattle (7-3-0**) **should be 6-4-0

Tied-4). Atlanta, New England, Denver, San Francisco, Indianapolis, New Orleans, St. Louis (all with 6-4-0 records)

Out of those 10 teams, nine of them have a shot to make the playoffs. Just thought that was interesting.

And here are the four worst teams against the spread so far this year:

1). Philadelphia (2-8-0)

T-2). Kansas City (3-7-0), Oakland (3-7-0)

4). Detroit (3-6-1)

And as you can probably guess, none of those four teams have a shot to make the playoffs.

If I’m having trouble picking a game that involves one of the best teams agains the spread vs one of the worst teams against the spread, I tend to use their against the spread records as the tiebreaker (like this week’s Houston at Detroit game).

Anyway, let’s fly through week 12’s full slate of games (home team underlined):

Houston (-3.5) over Detroit: I think this line is low because of how quick the turnaround is for these teams that played a 1PM game on Sunday to have to play the early game on Thanksgiving Day. But I don’t see any logical reason why the Texans wouldn’t win, and they haven’t won any of their games by less than six this year. If you’re really trying to create an argument for why someone should take the Lions, I guess you could say two things: 1). Detroit’s out of the playoff picture so maybe this is the last game they “get up” for this year, you know, since it’s their traditional Thanksgiving game on national TV, and 2). This is the first of three consecutive road games for the Texans…after Detroit it’s at Tennessee and then at New England, so maybe they’re going with very basic game plans in the next two games so that they’re ready for the Patriots, a relatively important game for seeding purposes. But I’m not taking one of the worst teams against the spread this year (Detroit) over one of the best teams against the spread (Houston) when the line is this small.

Washington (+3) over Dallas: Let’s say the Redskins win this game, the Giants lose to Green Bay, and Philadelphia handles Carolina on Monday night (all conceivable outcomes, right?). With five games left in the season, the NFC East would look like this: Giants 6-5, Washington 5-6, Dallas 5-6, Philadelphia 4-7. Then you have the Redskins playing for first place in week 13 when they host the Giants. I love the idea of this division somehow coming down to the final couple weeks when the Giants had a three-game lead over everyone else just as recently as two weeks ago. I love even more that my midseason bet of the Redskins to win the East is somehow still in play at this point. For these reasons, I’m picking the ‘Skins to upset Dallas with a huge, HUGE Thanksgiving debut for RGIII.

New England (-7) over NY Jets: I’m spitting in the face of logic on this one…the logic that says, “Don’t give seven points in a divisional road game when the team you’re backing just lost its second best offensive player.” There’s a long list of reasons not to take the Patriots with a big spread this week—short week of preparation, Thanksgiving distractions, Gronk out and no certainty around Aaron Hernandez’s health, Jets treating this game like their Super Bowl, needing overtime at home earlier in the season just to eek out a three-point win against these bastards… But I think the Gronk injury will actually motivate the offense to show the league that Gronk alone isn’t the reason they’ve been dropping 50 on everyone lately. Plus, it’s the Jets on Thanksgiving in front of a national TV audience who literally can’t move off the couch. The Patriots have the country’s full attention on Thursday night. Is there a better time to embarrass Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the rest of this helpless team?

Side Note: Did I just pick all three road teams to cover on Thanksgiving Day? I think I did. Which one do I feel the worst about? The Patriots, as usual.

Buffalo (+3) over Indianapolis: If you’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, this line seems low. Indy’s 6-4 and they’re at home against a 4-6 Bills team that’s looked terrible on the road,” be careful. The whole world knows the Colts have been overachieving for the last seven weeks, and Vegas probably knows they’re due to come crashing back to earth (an action that was jumpstarted in New England last weekend). So by making the line lower than expected, Vegas can cash in on all the idiots who think the Colts really are a playoff-caliber team. I know Andrew Luck is good (and he’s going to be unbelievable in a year or two), but in this game, the best player on the field will probably be C.J. Spiller. I can absolutely see the Bills running Spiller a ton because first of all it’s the best offensive strategy for them, but also because it’ll help them put together long drives that keep Luck and the Colts offense off the field. Give me Buffalo in the minor upset.

Miami(+3) over Seattle: This is the game where after it ends, people go “Oh yeah, how did I not remember Russell Wilson is garbage on the road?” The Seahawks are averaging 15 points in their five road games this year, putting up a 1-4 record. And because I hate them and I’m always looking for reasons to pick against them, that’s good enough for me to roll with Miami.

Molly’s 7-4 record against the spread this season has earned her the right to choose a very important game in week 12. No more Oakland, Jacksonville or Tennessee for her. This week she gets Atlanta (-1.5) at Tampa Bay. Huge playoff implications. A Bucs’ win would put the NFC South in doubt for Atlanta for the first time since week 1. Let’s see what Molly thinks about her biggest responsibility of the season:

 

Oakland (+8) over Cincinnati: The Carson Palmer Revenge Game!! I know it’s not getting a lot of play in the media, but don’t you think he’s more than a little motivated to end his former team’s playoff hopes? The question is, can he do it? Actually, I don’t care who wins this game, I just need to know if the Raiders can keep it to one touchdown or less. Now I know the Raiders have lost their last three games by a combined score of 135-69, but that was against Tampa, Baltimore and New Orleans. Those are three of the best offenses in the league if you only count Baltimore’s home games. Needless to say I don’t think the Raiders D is giving up quite as many points to the Bengals. I’m picking the Raiders because I do think it would be funny to see the Bengals’ playoff hopes come to an end at home against Palmer.

Cleveland (Pick) over Pittsburgh: Charlie Batch against Cleveland in Cleveland and the Browns aren’t favored? Yes please. I would never rule out a Steelers win regardless of the circumstances, but I refuse to be the idiot who picked Charlie Batch on the road.

Jacksonville(+3) over Tennessee: Is anyone else ready for Jacksonville to build on that unexpected-yet-super-exciting game against Houston last week? They put up 37 points on one of the best defenses in football! And let’s not forget a couple other exciting moments they’ve had this year, specifically Cecil Shorts’ amazing catches towards the end of their week 1 loss in Minnesota and their week 3 win at Indy. With Justin Blackmon maybe emerging as a relevant receiving threat, this Jaguars team suddenly has some playmakers. And with Blaine Gabbert’s poor quarterbacking out of the way for the time being, Chad Henne gets to step in for a full game and show us what the Jags have been missing all year. I’m randomly excited for this Jaguars team! C’mon, Jags, let’s take care of that boring Titans team and get on a little roll to end our season!

Denver (-10.5) over Kansas City: Earlier in the season I kept doubting the Broncos’ ability to win on the road, and they responded with three straight road wins by 11, 8 and 22 points. Even though Denver pretty much has the division locked up at this point, I think the AFC race in general is motivating them just fine right now. Peyton and the Broncos know as long as they keep winning, they’re just a couple Baltimore and New England slip-ups away from getting a bye. And we all know Kansas City blows, right? Would you even take the Chiefs if it was a 17-point spread? Probably, but you’d have to think long and hard before you did, right?

Minnesota at Chicago: NO LINE

Can’t really pick this one yet because both Jay Cutler and Percy Harvin’s statuses are uncertain. I’ll post my pick and the spread I’m taking it at on Twitter before kickoff Sunday.

Baltimore (-1) over San Diego: Like I said in my week 11 recap blog post, these Ravens are the luckiest 8-2 team ever. And the luck continues when they get to play a Chargers team that’s clearly given up on the season. You think I’m exaggerating about them giving up? Have you seen the video of Philip Rivers walking off the field with 10 seconds left in a one-touchdown game when his team had the ball? Check it out HERE.

San Francisco (-2.5) over New Orleans: If I’m holding off on picking the Bears game, then I’m allowed to hold off on this one until everything is crystal clear with the 49ers’ QB situation, right? I’m not even sure which QB would inspire more confidence for me to pick the 9ers right now, but I need to give it some more thought later in the week. I’m inclined to take San Francisco regardless, so if I forget to update this pick on Twitter by Sunday morning, that’s who I’m going with.

St. Louis (+3) over Arizona: I famously predicted the Cardinals would go on a six game losing streak way back in week 4, and even though it took them one extra week to start the streak, they finally achieved my prediction with last week’s loss in Atlanta. Thanks to Ken Whisenhunt’s reckless substituting and benching of his three struggling quarterbacks, I’m confident that the beat goes on and Arizona loses its seventh consecutive game. Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, it doesn’t matter. By the way, fun fact: Did you know that I was 9-0 against the spread in the Rams’ first nine games this year? So naturally I put everything into them as a 3.5-point favorite last week at home against the Jets (suicide pool pick, biggest bet of the week, highest weighted pick in my Pick ‘Em leagues). This tragic week 11 mistake almost caused me to quit the football blogging all together…but that would have been way too Philip Riversy of me.

NY Giants(+3) over Green Bay: Picking the Giants and not sure why. I guess because I don’t think the Packers are quite as good as they’ve been playing lately. And I don’t think the Giants are as bad as they’ve shown recently. And because I’ve seen a lot of games this year where the Packers had trouble blocking and Rodgers was on his ass all day long (something the Giants D does often to quarterbacks, right?) Also because I haven’t picked one of the teams coming off a week 11 bye yet, and doesn’t one of those teams have to come out strong from the two-week break. I say it’s the Giants.

Philadelphia (-2.5) over Carolina: Well, if my dream scenario of a clusterfucked NFC East is gonna come true, I guess the Eagles have to win this game. If this line was a point higher, I’d be taking the Panthers, but I think the Eagles—even with Nick Foles—are good enough to beat Carolina by a field goal. It may be Andy Reid’s final prime-time game as the Eagles’ coach so you gotta figure they’re going to win big for him. Wait, what? The Eagles have two more nationally-televised games after this one? And we’re gonna sit through both of them because we’re chumps? Great.
Looks like I’m picking at least nine road teams and eight underdogs this week. Let’s hope a little Thanksgiving magic gets me back to my winning ways. Happy Thanksgiving to all my loyal readers (and a Miserable Thanksgiving to all my non-readers)!

Satan’s Deal with the Mannings, Fun Times with Referees And the Rest of the NFL’s Week 2 in Review

Here’s how we’re gonna play this: I have some thoughts on the NFL officiating, but because every person reading this post has probably had their fill of bad refereeing talk already, I’m going to save it for the end. That way you’ll know it’s the last section and can skip it if you’re sick of hearing about the situation.

In week 2, there were no crazy signs or bad omens before kickoff that had me thinking a disastrous week was looming. But that’s exactly what I got (and I’m sure the same goes for many other degenerate gamblers). I only went 7-7-2 in my picks against the spread, I got slaughtered in both fantasy leagues (with the bonus kick-in-the-sack being possibly losing Matt Forte and Aaron Hernandez for multiple weeks), my dog got her pick wrong, and of course my Patriots were on the wrong side of the biggest upset this week. Dumb luck kept me from choosing New England as my suicide pool pick, but that’s a small consolation.

But enough about me. What non-refereeing-involved news went on around the league in week 2?

-Let me be the first to wonder if Green Bay’s offense is in a little bit of trouble through 1/8th of the regular season. They’re averaging 22.5 points so far, and I know it’s a tiny sample size, but we’re talking about a team in 2011 that went 15-1 while averaging 35 points per game. You can argue that facing the 49ers and Bears in the first two weeks put them up against two of the better defenses in the league. But don’t forget they were at home in both games. And in 2011, they averaged 31 points in their two games against the Bears. Just something to keep an eye on because if that offense takes a step back, their defense will have to play as good as it did against Chicago almost every week.

-I made a note at halftime of the first games on Sunday that Eli Manning had already thrown three interceptions, including one of the worst throws I’ve ever seen when he tossed it directly to a Tampa defender standing nine feet in front of him, but somehow this is the same guy that makes multiple impossible throws at the exact right time in the two biggest games of his life. As you know, Eli went on to lead the Giants to a great comeback over the Bucs, and then I made the following note: Isn’t it interesting that around the exact same time that Peyton’s deal with the devil ran out—2007 after he finally won a Super Bowl—Eli’s even more ridiculous deal with the devil seemingly kicked in? If nothing more, I guess we should all be thankful that Satan is only willing to help out one Manning at a time.

-It feels like we’re heading towards a weekly installment of “things Julie shouldn’t bother me with during the Patriots game.” This week was her attempt at showing me ridiculous Halloween costumes on Amazon that we could buy for our dog. There’s probably only two dog-related comments that could get me to remove my eyes from the TV during a Pats game: 1). “Our dog is gushing blood out of her [fill in any orifice ],” and 2). “Our dog is going into labor.”

-I won’t bother to do the research, but I wonder if any player has ever won both the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award and the Defensive Player of the Year Award in the same season. I’m holding out hope that Chandler Jones could be the first.

-In the same week that the media will finally stop jamming the Harbaugh vs Schwartz “handshake and pursue” replay down our throats, fucking Tom Coughlin and Greg Schiano have to go and create a whole new postgame incident clip to get overplayed for the next year. Perfect timing, fellas. God forbid ESPN and the NFL Network has to waste its precious airtime showing clips of actual football being played.

-As bad of a week as it was for my gambling habits, I’m happy to say my first season-long bet paid off. The bet was “which rookie QB starter will be the last to win a game.” I obviously chose Brandon Weeden, so I’m a winner. But the odds were -22,000 on him, so I won something like 1/550th of a penny. But the real good news is that my gambling website is letting me roll this bet over into next year. I got odds on all of next year’s rookie QBs getting their first win before Weeden does. I feel great about this bet.

-I found a funny yet miserable way of figuring out the status of my fantasy teams on Sunday afternoon without having to look at the scores on my computer or phone. Just look at the rolling fantasy leaders that every network shows on the bottom of the TV screen during games. Usually they go through the top 10 at each key posistion…QB, WR, RB, TE. If you don’t have a single player in any of those top 10’s, there’s a 100% chance you’re screwed. It’s science.

-OK, I can’t resist. One refereeing comment before the end. When the real refs do eventually come back, I’m most looking forward to each of their first explanations over the stadium PA systems. I feel like they will get the loudest ovations from the crowd that any officials in any sport have ever gotten. Right?

-The thing I’m being most vigilant about this season is the “QB replaced due to ineffectiveness” winner. Nkilla and I both predicted John Skelton from Arizona would be the first, but an injury ruined our chances of getting that right. I think the new frontrunner has to be Blaine Gabbert of Jacksonville fame. He actually left this past week’s blowout loss because of an injury, but the Jags offense overall put up a lofty 52 total passing yards. There’s a legit chance they start the season 0-8 now with only this coming week at Indy as their one shot to not be 0-and-half-the-season. When they do drop to 0-and-whatever, they’ll have to make a change to Chad Henne (Jesus, just realizing this is the franchise most likely to relocate to LA if we’re ever gonna get a team around here. Do we really want this specific team?).

-I want everyone to know that Peyton Manning is the best n0-huddle quarterback the NFL has ever seen. Analysts have been saying that for years. But I also heard this year that Joe Flacco is the most unstoppable QB when running the no-huddle…And isn’t it true that analysts are always saying Tom Brady is the scariest QB when he’s running that hurry-up and not allowing a tired defense to make changes? But Eli’s pretty awesome at the no-huddle too, right? That’s what he uses to complete so many of his amazing 4th quarter comebacks? But I swear I just heard Jon Gruden say that Matt Ryan is the master of the no-huddle offense. I rewound my DVR just to double check. Am I supposed to believe that the NFL is comprised of about 12 QBs who are no-huddle experts and 20 QBs who can’t possibly be trusted to run a hurry-up offense? Or is it more likely that every analyst is just full of exaggeration and bullshit every time they get the chance to speak?

-Now on to this delicate officiating situation. I’m not going to rehash every little controversy that’s come up because you’re all capable of reading quotes from the players and tweets from some of the most-respected football journalists—all of whom are saying this situation has got to end now. People are questioning the legitimacy of the league at this point. On Sunday afternoon I got a text that said, “you need to watch only the STL/WAS game and write an entire blog about the officiating debacle going on there…in fact, you should pump out 5 blogs this week on these debacles in general.”

And that was before Monday night’s disaster (where the first quarter lasted for two-and-a-half hours because of the refs). It doesn’t help when ESPN announcer Mike Tirico refers to them as the current refs (huge stress on the word “current”) every time they’re making a call.

I have no idea what the real refs are asking for in their negotiations because I like watching football, not reading about avoidable drama, but they should feel confident as of Tuesday morning to ask the NFL to quadruple their initial demands. Because if these real refs don’t return soon, we just might see the first on-field murder in NFL history. I’m 95% sure that John Fox was close to snapping the neck of the replacement referee in Monday’s game vs the Falcons.

Final thought: Would you all agree that officiating in the NBA is pretty horrible? You would, and you’d agree without having any real stats to back up just how bad it is. But that’s life in the NBA—it’s a league that’s sometimes more known for horrible refereeing than for the actual basketball. It’s a stink that follows them around, which means everyone (fans, media, players and coaches) is constantly overanalyzing every call or non-call looking for reasons to scream about the officials. I guarantee at this point it’s more perception than reality, but it’s still what everyone believes. The NFL is running the risk of this big time. I know I’m already going into my Sunday viewing looking for mistakes the replacement refs are making. Does the league really want a situation where the public essentially puts an asterisk next to the entire 2012 season? I doubt it, but I’m also the guy who guaranteed the real refs would return by week 3, and that seems like an impossibility now. Let’s just hope these current refs continue to get booed off the field every week. That’s all we can ask for now.