Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fantasy Football Week 2: The Creeper Report

Peyton Manning starts the season by making Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas into fantasy beasts. The running backs were afterthoughts.
The trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) practically cares for itself. It is so easy to care for, if you have problems, you should give up gardening.

How Were My Predictions?

Last week I said: “Receivers yes, runners no in Denver.” 462 passing yards and 7 touchdowns compared to 21 rushes for 67 yards. Three guys shared those carries. Knowshon Moreno got the start and saw most of the reps. Montee Ball got the bulk of the garbage-time running. Ronnie Hillman was there, too. Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas all scored twice. Eric Decker was left out in the cold and his hands looked a bit frigid, but he should get his points next week.

I also said Seattle would feel no East Coast slump in week one, yet they came out sluggish and unfocussed. The Seahawk offense was dragging their tails in the heat and humidity. Four other 10am East Coast games for Seattle this year. It will be a tough road.

And never forget to look at the weather. I remember one year I started Shane Graham on a day the winds were swirling nutty in Cincinnati. He scored almost nothing for me. Watching the highlights on TV, kicks were going about ten yards before spinning off into the maelstrom. Maybe I should have started someone playing in the Superdome.

Tampa Bay defense versus the Jets? New York is the team to pick on this year. Tampa Bay got five sacks and two turnovers, giving up 16 points. Not a bad result, so I won't regret it.

I also suggested the defenses of Kansas City and Miami. Both dominated against bad quarterback play by Jacksonville and Cleveland. Who plays the Jags and Browns this week? Raiders and Ravens.

I doubted CJ Spiller and Stevie Johnson, especially if EJ Manuel couldn't play. EJ played and did okay. CJ had 55 total yards and a fumble while Fred Jackson produced 108 yards. Stevie had only three catches for 39 and a score. Next week, they get the Panthers, who made it very tough on the Seahawks. Follow up on the shot to the head CJ took and keep your hopes low.

I predicted a shoot-out between Minnesota and Detroit, though I'm not sure what actually happened. Adrian Peterson took his first carry 78 for a score, then got 15 yards on his next 17 carries. Jerome Simpson gained 140 yards receiving while the whole rest of the team shared 96 yards.

On the other side, Matthew Stafford threw for 357 yards and two scores. Reggie Bush gained 191 all-purpose yards with one touchdown and two injuries (dislocated thumb and groin) so will that be his best game of the year? Joique Bell vultured away a pair of TDs. Somehow Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew combined for only six catches and 43 yards.

I should say something smart here, but I don't know what to think. Trust the big names on both of those teams and take your chances with the rest.

Pickups for Week Two

Julius Thomas showed he is a big play guy on Thursday. Peyton Manning's trust in him should only grow. Probably got snacked up by your league-mates that night if you didn't get there first. I got him.

When Jacoby Jones was crashed into by his team-mate Brynden Trawick, it created an opportunity for Marlon Brown. The Ravens had a tough first game in Denver, but expect better of them at home against Cleveland. Joe Haden should eat up Torrey Smith like he did Mike Wallace, making space for Brown.

Terrelle Pryor showed he can throw and run against Indianapolis. At home against Jacksonville, he should do even better. Because I play with my head and not my heart, I picked him up as a backup in my Euro league. I still hate the Raiders.

Rueben Randall had five catches for 101 yards against Dallas. I expect a shoot-out this week against Denver. They can't cover him, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks at the same time. And Randall looks ready to break a punt return also.

Jared Cook is finally out of Tennessee. It looks like he and Sam Bradford will be a good thing. Seven catches for 141 and two scores. He's big, fast and could be available.

Julian Edelman is the most experienced and most healthy receiver for New England. Tom Brady needs smart receivers, which is why rookies rarely click. Cagey veterans do, even if they're not particularly big, fast or flashy. Right Wes?

Defenses for Week Two

Dallas was unowned in most of my leagues. Although the Giants looked very sloppy and made it easy for the Cowboys to collect turnovers, Dallas was still flying to the ball. DeMarcus Ware looks healthy, strong and fast. I think they do some damage against Kansas City, who looked improved this week. But Jacksonville makes everyone improve.

Who's playing the Giants, Steelers, Jaguars, Browns and Jets this week? (Yeah, they won, but I'm still picking on the Jets.) Broncos, Bengals, Raiders, Ravens and Patriots are the answers.

With a crack and a cut on his throwing hand, I think Blaine Gabbert is out, meaning the Jacksonville team that managed two points against the Chiefs is starting Chad Henne. If your kid's ballet group was playing the Jags, I'd start them. This week it's the Raiders, and though I hate them, I'm still using them. That's a Raider QB and defense on one of my teams. Use the head, not the heart.

Different Leagues, Different Rules, Different Strategies

Being in four leagues reminds me that they're not all the same. The size, lineups, depth and scoring all add a twist to how you should play them.

My Euro league is huge. Sixteen teams. I drafted with my normal strategy of waiting on a quarterback. Suddenly I realized Mike Vick was the best one available. Preseason, I just thought he was too much a risk, but I had to take him. After Week One, it looks like a good call, but I had no backup. Post-draft, I realized Blaine Gabbert was the best #2 QB I could get. Wow, Mike. Stay healthy. This week, I swapped Gabbert for Terrelle Pryor. Have to move quick on free agents in this league, because with sixteen benches out there, no one is a free agent. George Blanda got drafted in this league.

Andy's league has the 2 RB, 2 WR, 2 Flex lineup I like. Lots of flexibility. Draft with balance. Start four runners and two receivers one week and the opposite the next, if match-ups dictate. Ten teams, so talent is not too deep and not too shallow.

Nate's league starts 3 WR and 2 RB with one Flex. I realized this a bit too late in the draft. I'm stronger at RB than WR and should be the opposite. I'll be making up for that mistake all year. Also the only league I've ever been in with IDP. I got NaVorro Bowman as a free agent (somehow) and I'll just roll with him all year. Because I've never thought much about IDP. Does being on a team with a bad offense help because you're always on the field making tackles? What happens when you cross an elephant and a rhino? Ellafino.

The TPF league auto-drafted, so all we could do was adjust our ranks. Being that I love depth at running back and wide receiver, I put every tight end, defense and kicker on my “do not draft” list and ended up with Peyton Manning, RG3 and a slew of runners and catchers (including Demaryius, which was a nice one-two punch). After the draft, I tacked on Zach Miller, Steven Hauschka and Indianapolis. I dropped Chris Ivory, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Williams. Only the TB WR made me hesitate, but a fellow needed a defense.

Now the craziest part about the TPF league is the small lineup: 3 WR and 2 RB with no flex. Only two backs? This week I chose David Wilson over Reggie Bush, but Peyton bailed me out of that.

My Thoughts for Week Two

David Wilson might be terrible. I don't know what Tom Coughlin or myself is going to do with him. He fumbles, can't gain tough yards and can't block. The only thing he probably can do is break off a long touchdown just before you give up on him. Fantasy headache defined. I have him in two leagues and don't think I can play him.

It's good for your QB to be behind. In this game, there are no points for winning. Great passing performances come around when your quarterback is down early. Meanwhile, the guy with the lead is milking the clock and handing the ball off. I'm looking at you this week, Eli Manning, Phillips Rivers and Carson Palmer. Especially if Chip Kelly's Eagles come out quick again and cool off in the second half. RG3 almost pulled of the comeback and Rivers can too.

DeAngelo Williams and who else? Jonathan Stewart and Kenjon Barner are out. Mike Tolbert has a bad hamstring and spent most of Sunday as a lead-blocker anyway. Cam Newton is his own goal-line back, but other than that, it's DeAngelo's show. Before a costly fumble, he had 100 combined yards against the Seahawks. Expect the Panthers to have easier running against the Bills.

I told you not to trust the PatriotsTom Brady had a satisfactory day, finishing between EJ Manuel and Geno Smith in fantasy points. If you drafted him early, you're disappointed. Danny Amendola caught ten passes for 104 yards, but missed part of the game with a groin injury. How do you feel about him for Thursday? Rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld did very little despite lots of hype. I'm happy I ignored all the Stevan Ridley talk preseason, because he fumbled and was benched. Shane Vereen took over, racking up 159 total yards before breaking a bone in his wrist. Which Belichick back do you want to start now? Julian Edelman, with seven catches for 79 and two scores, is the Patriot I trust most. Plus you never know when he might return a punt all the way or even get an interception.

Creeper of the Week

Da'Rel Scott will get his chance for the Giants at running back. David Wilson is in the doghouse, Andre Brown is out with a broken leg and New York is trying out Brandon Jacobs again. Do it or don't, Mr. Scott. It's up to you. Hold on to the ball, pick up blitzes, keep your pads low and run north-south. Do the dirty work and you'll put up numbers.

What I'm Smoking

1876 Reserve Churchill, Dominican, 7.2 x 50. I got a couple for under two bucks a piece. Quite worth it. A lighter wrapper and a mellower taste than I normally choose, but I can't smoke squid ink all the time. It started light and smooth but grew in flavor. It hit the sweet-spot halfway through and had a rich leatheryness like my favorite bomber jacket. The burn was nice and even. The finish was non-bitter. Even after half a foot of cigar, I didn't want it to stop.
I think this is a great smoke for the newbies. Convert them from the machine-rolled, flavored, infused, pencil-sized crap they've been puffing. For the price of a soda, damn good.

Your Limerick for the Week

There once was a QB named Joe
Who pocketed most his team's dough.
But despite all his wealth
Couldn't throw to himself.
Last year might have been their plateau.

Until next week, good luck and happy creeping.

Due to editing delays, David Klenda's content for The Penalty Flag is being posted on his Eighty Six the Poet blog.  Click to see more of his TPF work, including last week's Creeper Report.  Find his books at

Tough Win in Carolina Makes the Seahawks Stronger

On a hot, humid late-summer day in Charlotte, North Carolina, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks ground out a 12-7 victory.

I'd rather have seen Marshawn Lynch go beast for a hundred-plus, leaving a wake of crushed Panther helmets. I'd be happier if Russell threw a touchdown each to Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Zach Miller. I'd be ecstatic with a shutout and a couple of defensive scores.

But what I got was a sweaty, nasty win that took a whole team to create.
I thought on the first week of the season, traveling way back east and playing at 10am wouldn't be a big deal. Yet the Seahawks did come out sluggish and unfocussed. Luke Wilson had a first-possession false start, pushing Seattle back into their own end-zone where Russell was nearly sacked for a safety. On the next possession, Marshawn dropped a pass and they went three-and-out. Carolina's pass rush came out wicked and the Seahawks couldn't get in a rhythm.

And the muggy, sticky southern weather was no joke.

When all else fails, go deep. If that fails, go deep again.

Down 7-6 with ten minutes left in the game, Russell let one fly down the right sideline to Stephen Williams, who stretched out and nearly caught it. Would have made my Creeper of the Week call look really good. On the next play, he sailed another down the same sideline to Jermaine Kearse, who jumped over two defenders to grab the ball in the end-zone.

After the Seahawks failed to convert the two-pointer, Carolina went on the attack. They drove the ball into the Seattle red-zone before Earl Thomas punched the ball away from DeAngelo Williams at the ten. The Seahawks recovered and snuffed the clock.

It wasn't pretty. It wasn't decisive. I wanted to confirm all the Superbowl hype by stomping a mud-hole in Carolina. But it was the type of win that brings a team together.

Week Seventeen of last year, Seattle beat Saint Louis with a brilliant Russell Wilson two minute drill. Following blowouts of the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers, the close victory over the Rams grounded the team and reminded them winning any NFL game is hard. I feel the Rams game put the Seahawks in the proper playoff mindset to beat the Redskins and almost defeat the Falcons.

If all the “Seahawks to the Superbowl” talk has made any Seattle player think a deep playoff run is inevitable, the Panthers game should bring them back to Earth. This road is going to be tough, with more 10am games back east against the Texans (9/29), Colts (10/6), Falcons (11/10) and Giants (12/15). Seattle has the #11 toughest schedule overall and the #2 most difficult road schedule. Denver has the easiest schedule.

The Broncos are a popular choice to represent the AFC in the Superbowl. Chalking up a bunch of blowout wins should be easy, with the Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers in the division, plus games against the Jaguars and Eagles. Peyton Manning could throw seven touchdowns a lot.

But ask the 2007 Patriots if going 18-0 prepares you for a trench fight in the Superbowl.

Give me and my Seahawks the dirty, potholed, ugly road and we'll slog through the ditch all the way to the Superbowl. On offense and defense, I know we have guys who'll make plays when they count in the fourth quarter. Even if it feels good all year, I don't want the high-scoring easy wins. Give me the nasty ones with a couple tough losses to keep everyone humble.

Well, I will take another 42-13 punishing of San Francisco next week without complaint.

Due to editing delays at The Penalty Flag, David Klenda's content has been posted at his Eighty Six the Poet blog.  View David's other TPF work here, including last week's Creeper Report.