Water Cooler Shorts – 8/30/2015

Latest edition of my Water Cooler Shorts…giving you the quick updates you need to know from this weekend’s game before you go into work on Monday morning.

My “conspiracy” might have been on the money

If you missed the article, check it out here. But basically, I theorized that Jay Gruden was trying to get RG III hurt intentionally.  Well, reports have surfaced that he and his coaching staff don’t want Griffin around and even kicked the tires on potential trade opportunities (according to ESPN).  So they’ve already named Kirk Cousins the week 1 starter – even though Gruden tried to back-pedal after that was reported.  Simple fact is, RGIII is not in his long-term plans and there’s a good chance that both sides part ways before the season starts.

Packers should boycott preseason

A week after losing Jordy Nelson for the season, Mike McCarthy was smart enough to sit out Aaron Rodgers for their preseason game on Saturday. They were down three offensive linemen and McCarthy didn’t want to roll the dice. Makes sense – but he still played his other starters and right on cue, Randall Cobb landed awkwardly on their first offensive series and was seen walking to the locker room with a shoulder injury. Early reports are an injury to his AC joint, and it’s not considered severe. All the Cheeseheads can take a deep breath now, but the Packers should think long and hard before they play anyone that matters in their final preseason game.

Brady played and looked…un-Brady like

All preseason the Patriots have been in a tough spot while they wait for resolution to his ‘Deflategate’ suspension. They want Brady to get reps, but obviously need Jimmy G to be ready to roll week 1 if Brady’s not available. So I was curious how much run Brady would get in this game, one that is commonly referred to as a “dress rehearsal” for week 1. Well, Brady played the entire first half and looked pretty terrible for most of it. He threw two really ugly picks trying to hook up with Aaron Dropson, I mean Dobson…and didn’t build any rhythm for the first 28 minutes of the game. Thankfully, he ran the 2-minute drill to perfection and engineered an 80-yard TD drive at the end of the 1st half that should calm the nerves of Pats fans.

The real question, whoever is QB week 1, is whether they’ll have a complete stable of weapons around them. Edelman is still nursing an ankle injury and hasn’t been a full participant in practice, and Brandon LaFell was in a walking boot and has yet to participate at all. They signed Reggie Wayne this week, but that’s an addition that sounds better than it actually is. Wayne’s got nothing left in the tank, so if they’re relying on production from him to replace either LaFell or Edelman, they’ll be seriously screwed.

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Eagles’ offense looked unstoppable

I know it’s just preseason, but the 1st half of their game against the Packers on Saturday was pretty impressive. If you missed it, the Eagles put up 39 points in the first half behind a perfect 10-10 effort from Sam Bradford (121 yards and 3 TDs), and a solid effort from Mark Sanchez in relief (13-19 for 150 yards and 2 TDs). They spread the ball around, got lots of different receivers and backs involved and Chip Kelly’s up tempo offense looked great. If Bradford can stay healthy (which was always the big question mark) he has big-time potential this year. Chip Kelly made a concerted effort this offseason to put his stamp on this roster…and he definitely did. So this is a big season for him to prove that his system works…so far the early results have been extremely positive.

That Tyler Lockett kid is FAST

It’s not like the Seattle Seahawks had major holes going into this season (after back-to-back Super Bowls), but their only criticism has always been the relative lack of weapons around Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. Well, they traded for Jimmy Graham this offseason and then they drafted this kid…Tyler Lockett. Not sure how involved he’ll be in the offense, but he’s already made his presence felt on special teams with a kickoff returned for a touchdown in week 1 and a punt returned for a touchdown this weekend. Kid must be wearing his PF Flyers…

Julio got paid $$

The Falcons locked up star receiver Julio Jones with a 5-year contract extension worth $71.25M on Saturday. He then promptly sat out of their preseason game that night. Smart move – you locked up your stud…no reason to trot him out there anymore in games that don’t matter. He’s one of the best in the game and now it’s possible he’ll be doing the Dirty Bird and A-Town Stomp until 2020.

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Water Cooler Shorts – 8/24/2015

What you need to know from the weekend (and last week) in the NFL:

Injury News

The big news from this weekend is coming out of Green Bay, where the Packers lost star wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Initial reports are a torn ACL and he’s lost for the season. He’ll have an MRI today to confirm the prognosis, but it’s a tough pill to swallow. If any team is equipped to handle this kind of injury though, it’s the Packers. They seem to constantly churn out productive receivers from every draft and Davante Adams will slide right in to fill Nelson’ s role on the outside. Plus, they still have that guy named Rodgers at QB, so they’ll be okay. The other big injury happened earlier in the week when the Panthers lost their young stud receiver – Kelvin Benjamin. He went down in practice, also with a torn ACL and is officially done for the year. Any time a guy goes down without contact, you know it’s not good and in both of these situations it appears to be worst case scenarios.

One other injury nugget – not as flashy, but still worth noting, is that the Steeler’s Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey injured his ankle yesterday and was carted off. He will require surgery and the timetable for his return is still unknown at this point. Either way, it’s a big loss for a team that wants to establish the run and needs to protect Big Ben.

Jimmy G Update

For all those Pats fans who were on the ledge after week 1 of the preseason, you can step down and relax. Yes, I understand that Garoppolo was facing 2nd and 3rd stringers on the Saints. But he was also playing with 2nd and 3rd stringers on his side of the ball and did what you would expect from a capable quarterback…he led the offense on 5 scoring drives and was efficient doing so: 28/33 for 269 yards and 1 TD (also 1 INT), which I consider impressive considering his top receiving threat was undrafted rookie Chris Harper. Assuming that Brady is out for the first 4 weeks, as I said last week…I think the Pats will be just fine.

No other major news. Week 3 of the preseason will be the ‘dress rehearsal’ for most teams, so expect the starters to get lots of action in preparation for week 1. Knock on wood if you’ve already had your fantasy football draft and pray that your guys make it through in one piece.

Conspiracy Theory Time

As if dealing with the endless saga of Deflategate wasn’t enough for Patriots fans, now they’ve had to listen to other nonsense like Peyton Manning believing the visitor’s locker room at Gillette is bugged. The suspicion dates back to his time with the Colts, but resurfaced this week when Dan Patrick interviewed Tony Dungy on his radio show. It’s just a ridiculous notion…but even as a Patriots fan I have to admit that I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility. Either way, it’s obvious that Belichick had (and probably still does have) a good chunk of real estate in Peyton’s head.

Anyway, it got me to thinking…The Office Sports Guy can do conspiracy theories too! So here it is, my first conspiracy theory of the 2015 NFL season:

Jay Gruden hates RGIII and secretly wanted him to get hurt

Honestly, after watching last night’s preseason game between the Redskins and Lions I feel pretty good about this theory. Even if you just caught the highlights on ESPN, it was blatantly obvious that the Redskins offensive line played horrendously and left RGIII constantly running for his life. He took some huge shots…stuff that would have been primed for the ‘Jacked Up’ segment on NFL Countdown (if ESPN hadn’t pulled it once they finally realized they should be more sensitive to player safety and concussions).

It’s week 2 of the preseason and you’ve got your starting quarterback, arguably the face of your franchise (although there’s obviously some questions on that now) out there taking shot after shot because your offensive line can’t protect him. Any head coach who gave a crap about their “franchise QB” would protect him by either: (a) making more conservative play-calls – i.e. more run plays, max protection, etc. or (b) just pull him from the game because IT’S PRESEASON!!. Get that shit figured out in practice when there aren’t 250-300 pound defensive lineman from an opposing team trying to obliterate him.

But instead, Jay Gruden left him in the game to take a beating. The end result: RGIII left the game with what has now been diagnosed as a concussion, creating questions about his availability for the rest of the preseason and going into week 1.

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So the only conclusion that I can draw is that this is exactly what Jay Gruden wanted. Maybe he secretly loves Kirk Cousins and wants him to be the starter. Maybe he’s upset that RGIII did Subway commercials with Jared back in the day.  But Gruden definitely doesn’t want him to be his starting QB week 1 or moving forward. Gruden is on a mission to destroy what little faith the Redskins fanbase and locker room has in RGIII (and probably his self-confidence at the same time). If I were RGIII, I’d hire some extra muscle and definitely look both ways when I walk out of the Redskins facility…Jay Gruden might he lurking around the corner, ready to “accidentally” hit him with his car.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance – NFC North

Continuing my series of divisional previews; if you missed the first two you can check out the NFC East and NFC West. Next up…the NFC North:

Chicago Bears

Why they should be optimistic: They’ve still got Matt Forte, who is arguably the most versatile running back in the entire NFL. You look at his rushing stats from last year and it’s nothing that makes you giddy…just over 1,000 yards at 3.9 YPC and 6 TDs. Good, but nothing special – until you factor in what he did as a receiver out of the backfield: 102 receptions for over 800 yards and 4 TDs. Sum it up and you’ve got over 1,800 yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs, which is why he’s still one of the best in the league.

The only other reasons for optimism are that you’ve got some other weapons on offense too. Alshon Jeffrey has proven to be a playmaker in his first three seasons and should step right in to the WR1 role vacated by Brandon Marshall (although he’s already dealing with a nagging calf injury). You’ve also got Martellus Bennett still lurking at tight end, and you added one of Jay Cutler’s favorite security blankets from back in the day…Eddie Royal…to man the slot. If Cutler can get his head out of his own ass, the offense should be just fine.

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Why they should be concerned: Da Bears should be concerned because they’re still stuck with Jay Cutler as their quarterback, and the dude is total muff-garbage. That’s why they couldn’t find any takers this offseason when they were reportedly “shopping him”…he’s not a good quarterback AND he’s had issues with prior coaches and teammates. As long as he’s your QB, the ceiling on this team will be pretty limited. Frankly, the only thing Cutler has in his ‘Win’ column is his wife.

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Not sure how you pulled it off Jay, but kudos

The Bears also traded away Brandon Marshall this offseason. I know he’s got a screw loose, but the dude has boatloads of talent. And the kid they drafted in the 1st round to replace him – Kevin White – is already out with a shin injury. He’ll go on the PUP list and best case miss the first 6 weeks; still a chance he misses the entire season…so that’s a good start after 1 week of the preseason.

What are their chances:  As long as Cutler is their QB, their chances are about as good as the odds of me watching the next Fast and the Furious movie (what are they up to, #7 now? – who still watches that shit?). They have some talent around him on offense, but the offensive line is shaky and the defense looks poised for another down year. I think John Fox will be able to right the ship, but not this quickly. They’ll take their licks in 2015 in a difficult division, and with a tough out of division schedule. My official prediction = they finish last in the division at 6-10.

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Yeah, I thought that shit was hilarious too

Minnesota Vikings

Why they should be optimistic: Adrian Peterson is back!! That’s all you really need to keep in mind if you’re a Vikings fan. The Purple Jesus is back and Viking fans everywhere will get to see the big 2-8 steam-rolling over poor defensive backs on his way to endzone, and all will be right with the world again. You can put me down as being in the camp that AP is going to come back with a vengeance and punish the league this year.  Struggling to remember just what this dude is capable of, enjoy…

You’ve also got a young, promising QB leading your team in Teddy Bridgewater. He made strides at the end of 2014 and definitely has more weapons around him in 2015 (the aforementioned AP is just a minor upgrade over Matt Asiata) and the Vikings traded for Mike Wallace this offseason to pair him with the emerging Charles Johnson on the outside and tight end Kyle Rudolph. If that group can stay healthy and if Teddy can keep progressing, the offense should be rock solid. His growth should definitely be eased by the return of AP, as teams will stack the box to slow him down – leaving 1 on 1 matchups on the outside.

Why they should be concerned: Personally, I’m a believer in Teddy Bridge, but he’s young and doesn’t even have a full season under his belt yet. So there’s the very real possibility that he has more growing pains and this season doesn’t go real well for the Vikes as he still develops.

There’s also the issue of their defense, which showed signs of improvement last year but didn’t make enough big plays to be a difference-maker. They had 41 sacks as a team last season, but didn’t generate enough turnovers (only 13 INTs and 6 fumble recoveries; 19 turnovers in 16 games just won’t cut it) to help create opportunities for their offense.

Lastly, the offensive line was a huge problem last year as Vikings QBs were sacked 51 times. That’s over 3 times per game. We’ll assume that improves with AP back in the fold, but reports are that the Vikings already lost starting right tackle Phil Loadholt to a season-ending Achilles injury in their first preseason game…that won’t help the cause.

What are their chances:  I think the Vikings are the dark horses in this division. They were better than people realized last season, and I think the return of AP is going to have a massive impact on their offense – I honestly can’t overstate how important I think he is to this team. Their defense isn’t great, but I think they’ll be good enough. They don’t have enough to overtake the Packers this season…but they’re building in the right direction. My official prediction = 10-6, fighting for a wildcard spot.

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Detroit Lions

Why they should be optimistic: They still have the man known best as Megatron. He’s struggled with some injuries the last two seasons, but when healthy he’s still the most unstoppable receiver in the NFL.  They finally found a Robin for Megatron last season, as Golden Tate had a tremendous season and stepped up huge when Calvin went down with his injury. Plus, there have been rave reviews coming out of camp so far about the young back they drafted…Ameer Abdullah. And for once the hype might actually be worthwhile because there is at least one Jets defensive player in the trainer’s room with broken ankles after their preseason game. Kid can cut on a dime – now the early comparisons to Barry Sanders are just insane…but he did immediately remind me of Shady McCoy, which ain’t too shabby.  In case you missed it…

Why they should be concerned: For starters, they haven’t gotten consistent play from Matthew Stafford. He’s got all the physical tools, but has regressed the past few years and his mechanics are just terrible. He reminds me of Nomar Garciaparra with his side-armed throws…and they’re both equally inaccurate. He’s got to be better for the team to have any real success, and he hasn’t shown any signs of taking that step into the upper echelon of QBs.

The larger concern is that it took the Lions over a decade to build any semblance of a defense. They finally had some success, culminating with last seasons’ top-5 defensive unit and right on cue…say goodbye to Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh.  They brought in veteran Haloti Ngata to fill the gap, but it’s not enough, and the trickle-down effect should hamper their secondary in a big way.

What are their chances:  They’ll be competitive, so they’ve got a chance to keep things interesting heading into December. But that’s all I expect from them – and it’ll be a definite step backwards from last season’s playoff appearance. I don’t expect Dan Orlovsky bad from them again…but with their lousy defense it’ll be more like the days of old with Stafford chucking all day. Keep your arm loose homie. My official prediction = 8-8 record.

Green Bay Packers

Why they should be optimistic: For starters, they have the best quarterback on the planet (right now) leading their team. Aaron Rodgers is in his prime, and the Pack can ride his golden arm as they chase another Super Bowl title. They’re also stocked with one of the best receiving corps in all of football – Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams; and they’ve got the human bowling ball at running back in “I’m not fat, I’m big-boned” Eddie Lacy. Simply put, assuming health, offense will not be an issue for the cheeseheads this season. They’ll continue to be one of the top offenses in the league and put up points at a high clip.

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Why they should be concerned: Their pass rush couldn’t generate any consistent pressure on the quarterback last season outside of Clay Matthews and occasionally Julius Peppers. They need more consistent play up front and are hoping a healthy B.J. Raji can be part of the solution.

They should also be terrified if a game comes down to recovering an onside kick again, because that botched play has to be terrorizing the minds of every Packers player, coach and fan. My guess is that they’re spending some time with the “hands team” this training camp.

What are their chances:  As far as I’m concerned, you can lock up this division now for the Pack. As long as Aaron Rodger’s arm doesn’t fall off, they’re winning the NFC North going away. I did give the Vikings some love, and they could stay within arm’s reach of Green Bay, but at the end of the day it’s their division to lose. My official prediction = they steam-roll through the regular season schedule and finish 13-3, get a top seed and first round bye in the playoffs. They end up facing Seattle in a rematch of last season’s devastating loss in the NFC title game.

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Water Cooler Shorts – 8/14/15 Edition

First post in a new segment here, as all football season I’ll be sharing my quick-hit thoughts on the NFL. I’m calling it Water Cooler Shorts, because it’ll be dedicated to giving you all the key news you need to know to carry a conversation when you run into Bob from Accounting at the water cooler in the morning. So with the first major preseason action last night, let’s get to it.

Tell Patriots fans to CHILL OUT

Jimmy Garoppolo got extended action in last night’s preseason game (as expected) and to be fair, he looked pretty terrible. But tell Patriots fans to turn off ESPN and relax. Remember that those are the same guys that overreacted and said Tom Brady was “done” after the Chiefs game last season (how’d that turn out by the way dipshits?); so don’t fall into their trap. I know it feels like the sky is falling down…the Pats are going to be 0-4 if Brady’s suspension is upheld, AND all of our favorite comedians are going to sucked into a giant hole in the ground.

But try to keep it in perspective…Jimmy G was playing with a second-string offensive line and his best receiver option was Josh Boyce – a guy who has maybe a 2% chance of making the final roster. No Edelman, no Gronk, no LaFell, no Amendola. If, and it’s a huge IF at this point, Brady is suspended at all, Belichick will come up with a game plan to maximize the skills that Garoppolo does have and they’ll be just fine. Remember that they went 11-5 with Matt Cassell at the helm, and I firmly believe that Jimmy G has more talent.

Jets fans should be doing cartwheels

We all got a good laugh when news came out earlier this week that Geno Smith was missing 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw, courtesy of getting popped in the face by his own teammate. Only the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. The truth is, Jets fans should be thrilled right now. Geno might have been their “starter” and maybe you can argue that he has untapped potential. But he’s not the best quarterback on their roster and definitely doesn’t give the team it’s best chance to win right now. Plus, he’s a giant tool, as evidenced by him getting popped in the face by a teammate and witnesses saying that he totally deserved it. I haven’t heard a single person defend Geno in all this…not a good sign.

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The simple fact is that Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a more than serviceable quarterback in his time with Buffalo, Tennessee and Houston, and is good enough to keep this team in games. They’ll need to rely on their defense, which should be one of the best in the NFL with the addition of Revis, Cromartie and Skrine to their secondary, but Fitzy won’t lose them games.  Which cannot be said for Geno. So don’t shed any tears Gang Green, you’ll be better off with the Harvard grad.

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Plus look at that beard…that’s instant credibility
Ameer Abdullah was impressive

Last night we saw the debut of Melvin Gordon, but it was another rookie running back that caught my attention: Ameer Abdullah was the most impressive player on the field in the Lions-Jets game. The cuts he made would make Shady McCoy proud – 7 carries for 67 yards. He’s getting rave reviews so far in camp, especially for his receiving skills. So if he can be productive in the run game too, then he could be a major weapon for the Lions to go with Golden Tate, Joique Bell and of course Megatron.

Health was the most important objective

The common theme throughout all of the preseason, but especially week 1, is just to keep your key guys healthy. That’s why you saw the Patriots resting Edelman, Gronk and Jerod Mayo. That’s why Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Joseph Randle didn’t play at all for the Cowboys, and why Drew Brees was standing on the sideline all night for the Saints. The simple truth is that 4 preseason games are way too many – these key veterans don’t need that much time to get up to speed, especially with the reps they get in practice. So there’s nothing they can gain from 4 preseason games, but a lot they can lose. Not worth the risk, so the theme over the next few weeks will be: KEEP THE STUDS HEALTHY.

10 Commandments for Fantasy Football

Training camps are underway and the Hall of Fame game tonight will kick-off the Preseason schedule. NFL football is finally close enough that you can taste the beer and smell those tailgates. Okay, to be fair that might just be your hangover from yesterday’s barbecue…but nonetheless it’s almost time for some football.

With that, I’ve started my divisional previews – in case you missed them I’ve gone through the NFC East and NFC West so far. Now, I want to shift gears to the topic occupying the second largest portion of every man’s daily thoughts (second to sex of course)…Fantasy Football. Right about now you’re trying to cleverly hide that ESPN Mock Draft you’re doing with an excel spreadsheet cued up on your second monitor at work. You’re checking the rankings, reading the training camp reports, doing whatever you can because…

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So I’m here to drop some knowledge bombs on you. This won’t be a post about my predictions for this upcoming season, draft strategies or tips for success. Not because I don’t have strong opinions on all of those topics, but because at this point probably half of my readership consists of people who might be in a fantasy league with me this season. So screw you guys, I’m not telling you squat! What this post will be is my 10 Commandments for fantasy football. 10 rules that every self-respecting man or woman should follow when participating in the pursuit of fantasy football glory.

1. Thou shall give thought to the actual league format:

You should take the time to think about the league and format you want to play in. Seems like a minor detail, but the format you’re playing in will make a huge difference in your draft strategy. Most people start out with the traditional “standard” scoring format, but I’d highly recommend a Points Per Reception (PPR) league once you get your feet wet. Makes the player pool a little deeper and adds a wrinkle to the draft. Unless you’re an infant, you shouldn’t be playing in a league with less than 10 teams. 10 or 12 are both legit – and once you’re feeling on top of the world…think about a Keeper league. Having that extra layer of building your team for the future in addition to that season makes it feel more important. No matter what the format is, just be sure to understand what you’re getting yourself into so you don’t look like an idiot at the draft. Which brings me to…

2. Thou shall not be a jamoke when Draft Day arrives:

Do the research and prepare for your draft. Don’t be the guy who shows up to the draft with nothing and then is asking if ‘anyone has an extra printout of the rankings’. Show up with rankings of your own and be prepared for the big day. Do your own research – know the rookies that could be late-round sleepers, know the offseason moves that impacted player values; do some mock drafts so that you’re ready for any situation that unfolds in your real draft. The point is, you do not want to be the jamoke who takes Randy Moss when he’s retired, or drafts Jhavid Best in the 4th round when he just got another concussion, or drafts a RB who just tore his ACL last week in a preseason game. Be the guy who calls him out and laughs in his face instead…it’s way more fun.

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Keep calm on draft day, even if things don’t go according to plan
3. Thou shall do the Draft the right way:

I know most people do their drafts online because it’s easy and convenient. I get it. Not saying that you’re wrong per se, but unless you’ve got a league where everyone is spread out across the country AND it’s impossible to plan a destination draft that everyone can make, well then you’re a bunch of pussies. Get together in person and make the draft what it really is…something you’ve all been waiting on for months. Get some food, some drinks, an actual draft board and have a live draft in person. If you’ve never done a live draft, I cannot begin to explain how much more enjoyable it is than sitting at your laptop making picks through ESPN or Yahoo.

Plan it for a weekend afternoon; block it off on the calendar and tell the wife way in advance. None of this garbage of drafting online on a weeknight after work. You’ve got the dog barking at you because it needs to go out and pee. Your wife is barking at you because one of the kids needs a bath. And meanwhile, you’re trying to figure out if you should wait one more round or whether you’ll miss the “run on tight-ends” as a friend of mine likes to say. That’s just not good enough; you deserve better and so does your fantasy team. So sack up, and draft in person where nobody can hide behind their laptops and ESPN rankings. Where everyone’s exposed to immediate public ridicule if they make a stupid pick (just as God intended it) and they can’t rely on autodraft to make their picks. Or as the best sports commentator once put it, “where we separate the men from the boys, and the awkwardly feminine from the possibly Canadian.”

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4. Thou shall be prepared to feel like an addict and hate thyself:

Fantasy football has an inexplicable impact on all of us. It gives us a reason to be interested in the worst games on the NFL schedule each week, because we now have a rooting interest in teams other than our own. It’ll get to the point that you’ll be watching a Jaguars – Titans game, screaming at the television as if you’ve got twenty grand riding on the outcome.   All because you need Bishop Sankey to do something, ANYTHING to get you the points you need for a win. It’s unavoidable, so frankly just accept it and learn to love it. At least you’re not an actual degenerate gambler who bet $20,000 on a Jaguars – Titans game, right? You didn’t, right?

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5. Thou shall say no to “Tinker Stinker” time:

We’ve all been burned by it before, and yet we will all inevitably do it again at some point…but try to avoid tinkering with your lineup. The longer you stare at that matchup your WR1 has vs Darrelle Revis and the Jets, the more you’re going to want to replace him with that ‘boom-or-bust’ receiver on your bench going against a friendlier defense. In the end, nothing good comes from tinkering because you will always choose wrong and kick yourself for it later. A friend of mine has this affliction, so we’ll call this the “Buddy Curse”. He could hold a filibuster recounting all the times his tinkering backfired on him. So don’t be “Buddy”. Stick with your gut and resist the temptation to grab that iPad before you go drop a deuce at 12:30pm on Sunday afternoon.

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6. Thou shall be creative with your team name:

Don’t be lame…take the opportunity and come up with a creative team name that you can be proud of and that will hopefully give your league at least a chuckle.  I’ll pick on “Buddy” again. Don’t name your team something lame like “Buddy’s All-Stars”. This isn’t middle school. You can do better than that. So take some time and put actual thought into your team name. Something that has meaning to you and your leaguemates is always good, or you can’t go wrong with a name that’s absurd and hilarious. The point is, have fun with it.  Some of my personal favorites from past seasons (and from The League):

  1.  Miley’s Side Boobs
  2.  Fear Boner
  3.  Pete Top Kevin Bottom (customized to people in your league of course)
  4.  Discount Belichick
  5.  You Sankeyed my Battleship
  6.  My Ball Zach Ertz
  7.  2 Mannings 1 Cup
7. Thou shall not be a slime ball:

We’re all in it to win it, but have some morals while you do it. Don’t get this confused with my commandment below – getting the best of someone in a trade doesn’t make you a slime ball. You know the difference. Want to add a player that you don’t really need because your opponent this week has a glaring need at that position and is just below you in waiver priority…nothing wrong with that. That’s just good strategy and I commend you for it. I’m trying to draw a clean and clear distinction between that and the classless acts that I’m referring to with this commandment.

What I’m talking about it is obvious ‘roster-churning’. Don’t add/drop every team defense on Sunday morning so that the rest of the league can’t pick any up before kick-off. If you come to a verbal trade agreement with another owner, don’t back out because you got a better offer from someone else or because the guy you’re acquiring just pulled his hammy in practice. You made a deal – be a man of your word and stick to it. You get the idea…don’t do anything that you’d be embarrassed to tell your mom about later.

8. Thou shall not veto a trade just because it makes your opponent better:

This is probably my biggest pet peeve. When your fellow owners reach a trade agreement, don’t use that little ‘Veto’ button – or ‘Vote against the trade’ – or ‘Contact the Commissioner’ just because you’re pissy that one of your competitors just acquired the missing link to their team. That’s a coward’s way out. To be fair, I hate the trade veto in almost every situation. Short of obvious and blatant collusion between two owners, a trade is a trade. Your opinion on the perceived value that each owner is getting from their end of the deal DOESN’T MATTER. IT’S NOT YOUR TEAM, IT’S THEIRS!!! Think they could get a lot more for that running back? Not your place to decide. Unless your buddy was literally trade raped because your other friend slipped him a roofie, stay out of it and worry about your own team. They’re both consenting adults and they made an agreement; they’ll have to live with the consequences – good or bad.

Which also brings me to another point…even if the trade isn’t fair and one team is obviously getting the better side, THAT’S PART OF THE GAME. Being able to wheel and deal and take advantage of other owners is part of the strategy of this glorious game. So don’t be mad that ‘Joe’ beat you to the punch and got the best of “doesn’t know any better Timmy”. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. If you can’t resist the urge to vote against those trades, then maybe you should try Fantasy Golf…I hear the etiquette may be more to your liking, you pansy.

9. Thou shall have fun, but talk lots of shit while you do it:

I get that at the end of the day this is a game and it’s meant to be fun, yadda, yadda. I understand, but respectfully think that fantasy football isn’t nearly as much fun if your league isn’t active in the trash-talking department. Listen, most fantasy football leagues are playing for money so the cash on the line is a great incentive. Even better motivation to win is laying a pounding on your co-worker so that you can show up on Tuesday morning with a huge grin like…

U mad bro

Yes it’s a game, and yes you should have fun no matter what happens. But trust me, it’s WAY more fun to win if you’ve been trading garbs with your friends all season and then that WR that he gave you shit for being a “huge reach” on draft day, goes off for 2 TDs against him. That’s just sweet poetic justice, and being able to rub it in his face will make that W so much sweeter. So have fun, but don’t be afraid to talk some smack all season. Think your buddy made a terrible trade, let him have it! Think you’re going to steam-roll your opponent this week…light up that discussion board! Always keep in mind certain untouchables (like wives and mothers) but otherwise everything is fair game. Believe me when I say that everyone in the league will enjoy it more with some healthy trash talk.

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Okay, that might be too far
10. Thou shall follow through on your commitment:

If you’ve played fantasy football for long enough, we’ve all had a season (plural for some poor souls) where everything goes wrong. Your stud RB goes down week 1…or decides to use a switch to discipline his kid…and suddenly your hopes of glory are dashed. It happens to the best of us. You’re 0-5 with no sign of hope and know that your season is lost. But here’s where my commandment comes into play. Follow through and finish what you started. Because you know what’s worse than having no chance at the playoffs, and knowing as much with several weeks left to go in your season? Being a COWARD and throwing in the towel. We’ve all been in leagues where THAT guy gives up and stops checking his team. He’s starting guys on their bye weeks, guys that are injured, and meanwhile your competition is picking up easy wins against him week after week because he didn’t have enough self-respect to man up and follow through. Don’t be THAT guy.

Personally, I just don’t get it – I’m not wired that way. Because even if I’m out of it, I have enough pride that I still want to destroy my opponent each week and play the role of spoiler as my buddies try to make the playoffs themselves. That’s why I love keeper leagues AND why I’m a huge fan of punishing the last-place finisher with some form of public humiliation. Keeper leagues give actual meaning to the phrase “there’s always next year”, because you can actually start planning for next year before your 2016 draft day. And if the owners in your league don’t have my level of personal pride, well then punishments like these for finishing in the basement should do the trick…

XNoOCnc-mI

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Pretty ruthless, but I’d be HONKING for sure

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…NFC West Preview

Continuing my series with my divisional previews for this upcoming season where I’ll outline why each team and fan base should be optimistic, whey they should be concerned, and ultimately what their odds are for this season.  Some dumb fans will undoubtedly take my predictions of a “one in a million” chance as well as this guy did…

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In case you missed my first preview, here’s the link to the NFC East Preview.

Next up in my divisional previews is the NFC West…thought that was fitting given how active the Seahawks have been this week, and with the Niners in the news today. So let’s get right to it.

St. Louis Rams

Why they should be optimistic: After a disappointing start to the season last year, the Rams finished pretty strongly in a very tough division and seem to be well-stocked with young talent. So there’s plenty to be excited about if you’re hanging out by the Gateway Arch. Their defense started to show signs of the promise that had Rams fans giddy before 2014 started, and going into 2015 their defensive line is absolutely stacked: Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald and Nick Fairley. That makes five 1st rounders in their D-line rotation, which is unheard of (especially given the actual talent level of these guys). Gregg Williams should have fun with his defensive play-calling given the pressure they should generate up front this year.

On offense, they traded for Nick Foles in the offseason so his transition to a more traditional offense (coming from Chip Kelly’s scheme) will certainly take time. But at least he has talented running backs to share the backfield with. Tre Mason showed his explosive ability in a huge performances late in 2014 (164 all-purpose yards and 3 TDs vs Oakland), and the Rams added Todd Gurley with the 10th pick in the 2015 NFL draft – a guy who’s been compared to AP. Gurley is coming off a torn ACL and will be eased back in slowly, but Rams fans have got to be salivating at the thought of a Gurley-Mason 1-2 punch.

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Just imagine how fast he’ll be when someone isn’t holding him back, literally
Why they should be concerned: Their offensive line was in shambles last year, so they invested 5 draft picks this offseason on offensive line prospects. They’re clearly committed to improving in that area, but all of the youth would certainly be a concern for me (especially considered none of those prospects were taken in round 1). Nick Foles’ entire right side of the o-line is projected to be filled by rookies…and I’d expect them to have a learning curve early on this season.

Speaking of learning curves…Nick Foles himself will have to learn a brand new offensive system and playbook. Not to mention that he wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire before his injury in Philadelphia. So once he learns the system, he’s still got to deliver and perform up to the abilities some people see in him. Personally, I’m not a believer. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid after his ridiculous finish to 2013…so I knew he’d come crashing back to Earth. I think the Foles we saw last year is the real Nick Foles, and that won’t be enough to carry this offense.

It’s particularly true given the lack of proven receivers on the Ram’s roster. They’ve got guys with speed and talent – see Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, and Kenny Britt. But none of them have lived up to their potential, and none can be counted on to deliver in a big game. So it’s a complete crapshoot in the passing game this season…roll the dice and hope it doesn’t come up snake eyes.

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What are their chances:  They’re in a really tough division, so it’s an uphill battle out of the basement that they’ve occupied for so long. But I think this is finally the year the Rams get back above .500 and at least sniff the playoffs. They’ve got a defense that could be top-5 in the NFL, a capable starting QB and a great RB tandem.  Ultimately, I think they come up just short as their offense lacks the firepower to pick up the slack on days when the D doesn’t show up big and force turnovers. My official prediction = 9-7 record, on the outside looking in for the playoffs but building momentum and excitement going into next offseason.

San Francisco 49ers

Why they should be optimistic: The hope should center around their offense and the guy who thinks he can be “the Man”, Colin Kaepernick. He’s shown the flashes in the past and obviously has the talent. He’s a dual-threat that has torched defenses with his legs or his arm, so there’s got to be hope of a rebound from him. Plus, the Niners did a solid job of replacing the talent they lost this offseason on the offensive side of the ball, as Carlos Hyde should step right in for Frank Gore and Torrey Smith provides a much more dynamic threat downfield than the departing Michael Crabtree. They also added Reggie Bush – a curious fit to be fair – but Kap needs all the weapons he can get.

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Keep those headphone handy bruh…you’ll be hearing more boos this season
Why they should be concerned: This doesn’t have the look of the Niners that we’ve becomes accustomed to over the past few years. It was clear last season that the players had completely tuned out Jim Harbaugh and they fell apart down the stretch. Preseason Super Bowl aspirations became an 8-8 finish, so a change was desperately needed there. But this once vaunted defense has so many question marks now that it looks like something left behind by the Riddler. Patrick Wills, Justin Smith and Chris Borland all retired this offseason. (Starting OT Anthony Davis also retired – making it 4 starters they lost to retirement…most of whom were unexpected given their age) They also lost starting corners Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver in free agency.

Plus, reports have come out today that Aldon Smith was arrested AGAIN last night on DUI, vandalism and hit and run charges. This coming after he missed 5 games in 2013 for a DUI (and he voluntarily entered rehab) and was suspended 9 games last season. The Niners were smart enough to restructure his contract so that Aldon is only paid if he’s on the field, but I have to assume they’re going to think real hard about cutting bait right now (they’ve actually already cut him since I drafted this post earlier today). The kid has boatloads of talent and can definitely rush the passer, but his decision-making ability makes Josh Gordon look responsible. At least he didn’t pull a Ricky Jarrett and punch a dude in the club right? (seriously, if you don’t get the reference…here is why you should be embarrassed and get caught up on Ballers real fast)

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I know…I can’t believe these fools aren’t watching either
The offense isn’t without questions either…they lost starting offensive lineman Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, and watched Crabtree and Gore leave for greener pastures. Now, as I said above, I think they’ve done a good job of replacing those offensive skill players…but the o-line would be a concern. During their heyday that was a major strength of the team and it allowed them to ground and pound, letting Kap utilize his strengths to get outside the pocket and destroy defenses with play-action looks downfield. That all backfired last season when the line couldn’t block and Kap was running for his life, rather than for first downs. He took more hits, and took 13 more sacks last season than he did in 2013. Protecting their franchise QB will be a key for the Niners in 2015.

What are their chances: They’ll be competitive, but this is one of the toughest divisions in football in my opinion. I think the defense is really going to struggle and don’t think the offense has enough firepower to carry the lunch pail. So, I think this is the start of a rebuilding process in San Fran. My official prediction = 6-10 record, good for last place in the division.

Arizona Cardinals

Why they should be optimistic: The Cardinals finished 11-5 last season and made the playoffs, despite losing Carson Palmer AND then Drew Stanton – leaving them with Ryan Lindley at quarterback by season’s end. They were 9-1 before the wheels fell off the wagon, and frankly they were serious contenders to make a run at a Super Bowl before all of the injuries derailed their season.

Going into this season Carson Palmer is healthy again, and they have good weapons surrounding him in an aging Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Josh Brown and Andre Ellington. They also had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, and return the core of their secondary with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.  Had a couple of losses on D (to be discussed later) but they did bring in Sean Weatherspoon and LaMarr Woodley to help solidify their pass rush.

Why they should be concerned: While the core of the defense is mostly intact, they did lose some key pieces in Darnell Dockett and Antonio Cromartie. That consistent production won’t be easy to replace, so the defense could take a slight step back. Which in this division, any step back leaves them leaps and bounds behind the Seahawks and fighting for a wildcard spot.

They’re also banking on health from two guys who couldn’t stay healthy last season…Carson Palmer and Andre Ellington. People assume that Ellington is young because he’s only spent 2 years in the NFL, but the dude is already 26 years old. Not saying that’s old…because conveniently enough that’s also the age of The Office Sports Guy…but he’s got less tread left on the tires than most people assume. And Carson Palmer has had issues staying healthy dating back to his days in Cincinnati. Not saying it’s impossible for him to make it through 16 games, but pardon my French when I say this…if he goes down, they’re royally fucked.

What are their chances:  I love Bruce Arians as a coach, and think he’s done an amazing job with this franchise just as he did when he stepped in for Chuck Pagano back in Indy. Even with the injuries they went through last season he guided them to double-figure wins and I think this season will be the same. Everyone talks about the home field advantage Seattle has at the Link, but the Cardinals have a great run going at home too. My official prediction = 10-6 finish and they make the playoffs as a wildcard, but lose in the 1st round on the road. Come up just a little short on the defensive side of the ball.

I wouldn't take fashion tips from Bruce Arians, but I'd trust him with my football team
I wouldn’t take fashion tips from Bruce Arians, but I’d trust him with my football team

Seattle Seahawks

Why they should be optimistic: Well, they’ve been to back-to-back Super Bowls…so there’s plenty to be optimistic about if you’re a Seahawks fan. You just locked up Russell Wilson long-term, and one of your only weakness last season was a lack of offensive weapons around him (outside of Marshawn)…well here comes Jimmy Graham to fix that. So now you’ve got the best dual threat quarterback in the league, a ferocious running back that has deservingly coined the nickname Beast Mode, coming off another 1,000+ yard season, AND the second best tight-end in the entire league (sorry gotta give the edge to my boy Gronk on that one). Almost seems unfair.

Plus, you’ve still got the core of what has been one of the best defenses in the NFL the last 2 years. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor form the Legion of Boom – doesn’t matter who that other corner is because their job is cake with the other three guys around. Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin are creating havoc up front, and Bobby Wagner is running the show at middle linebacker. Enjoy this run while it lasts Seahawks fans, because the core you’ve got in place right now is special…and it doesn’t last forever (speaking as a truly spoiled Patriots fan who just assumes this based on what I hear from fans of other franchises).

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Why they should be concerned:  Well, if I’m a Seahawks fan…I’m pretty sure the first time the Seahawks have the ball on the 1-yard line, 2nd down and goal to go, I would have a serious case of PTSD and lose my shit. “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, RUN THE BALL!!!!” is what the entire 12th Man will be shouting at their TVs across the pacific northwest. So I guess their biggest concern is Pete Carroll continuing to be an utter moron and make decisions like throwing a slant from the 1-yard line in the waning seconds of the Super Bowl. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist taking one last shot at that…by the way, I don’t think I’ve thanked Pete Carroll enough for that decision…I love you bro. You keep doin’ you Pete. 

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Okay, one more and I’m done…

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I lied, but this is the last one, I swear…

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What are their chances:  Short answer is…pretty damn good. There’s a reason why they’ve been to back-to-back Super Bowls. BREAKING NEWS: they’re one of the best teams in the NFL. That won’t change this year. They’re almost impossible to beat at the Link and even if they go .500 on the road (which won’t happen), that’s a 12-4 record which would be enough to win their division. My official prediction = 13-3, will win the division and have the best record in the NFC meaning the road to the Super Bowl will go through Seattle and that means a 3rd straight trip for Russell Wilson and the gang. Book your tickets now.

It's cute that you really thought I was done before
It’s cute that you really thought I was done before

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She looks pissed, I’d listen to her Pete