A Tale of Two Leagues

Football season is underway and once again I am playing in two highly competetive fantasy football leagues. The same two leagues, in fact, in which I led my teams to the playoffs last year. Although neither is a keeper league, both had most of last year’s owners return for the 2010 season. I probably won’t be posting weekly blog updates – I’m already off to a late start – but I’ll mention my teams periodically over the next few months. For now, here’s how the 2010 season began for me.

NFFL (My 2nd year in this ESPN league)
Team Name: Rose City Rock Show
Draft Position: 7th (out of 14)
QBs: Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb
RBs: Ray Rice, Ryan Grant, Jahvid Best, Tashard Choice, Kareem Huggins, Jason Snelling
WRs: Greg Jennings, Michael Crabtree, Bernard Berrian, Austin Collie, Kevin Walter, Sidney Rice
TE: Brent Celek
D/ST: Cincinnati Bengals
K: Ryan Succop

Though all of the Portland owners had a great time drafting at Bottles, the draft didn’t go exactly how I had hoped. I wanted a top WR and QB early, but just couldn’t pass on Rice falling to me at #7. I’m glad I got Jennings in the third, but in this QB-crazy league, the top 10 QBs were already gone by then. I rolled the dice on Kolb in the 5th, but had I taken Eli instead, I might not have been so eager to grab McNabb as a backup in the 8th. The boldest pick of this draft was Ed’s Round 2 (18th pick) snag of Arian Foster, who went on to make him look like a genius as Player of the Week.

Week 1 was brutal for my team, as you might have guessed. Aside from the two high-profile injuries, Cincy’s D was a disaster and Rice, Celek, and Crabtree were major disappointments. Luckily I was able to get help on the waiver wire, dropping Grant for his backup Brandon Jackson and even scoring Fred Taylor (cutting Snelling loose shouldn’t hurt too much.) Looking forward to better matchups for my guys this week.

Bort Footbal League (My 3rd year in this Yahoo League)
Team Name: PDX Prowlers
Draft Position: 11 of 12
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith
RBs: Shonn Greene, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Reggie Bush
WRs: Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Steve Breaston, DeMaryius Thomas, Kevin Walter, Arrelious Benn
TE: Jason Witten
D/ST: Philadelphia Eagles
K: David Akers

The Bort itself is no longer around, but we were still able to carry on with this league, albeit down to 12 owners from the previous 16. I was pretty pleased with this team after the draft, getting the top QB I wanted. The trade of Housh to Baltimore complicated things a bit since I already have Boldin, so I dropped D. Thomas and picked up his teammate Jabar Gaffney, who bumps T.J. down the depth chart.

The Prowlers dominated week 1 with the top point total in the league and a 40-point margin of victory. Greene’s matchup against Baltimore scared me enough to bench him and start Forte in his place (this league plays 2RBs, 3WRs, with no flex position.) Despite Greene being my #1 pick, I think he sits again this week against New England, with Forte and Charles looking like solid plays.

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Fantasy Football Update

Well, I took a few weeks off from blogging about my Fantasy teams. After impressive starts, my teams were winless through weeks 9-11 and in serious jeopardy of slipping out of the playoff hunt. While my Yahoo team turned things around to clinch a playoff spot in Week 12, my ESPN team kept me on the edge of my seat until week 13’s Monday Night showdown between Baltimore and Green Bay. Here’s how the fantasy regular season finished for the Prowlers and the Volcanoes.

PDX Prowlers 8-3-2, 3rd seed in the playoffs, Bort Football League

Six of the sixteen teams in this Yahoo league make the cut, so to do this well in spite of TWO frustrating ties was a pleasant surprise. Even more surprising perhaps is that I won so many games with such inconsistent production from my RB and WR positions. A Week 10 trade of DeSean Jackson brought me Ryan Grant, who has helped a bit. Luckily, the Prowlers have been carried by Drew Brees, Vernon Davis and the Philly Defense, so even modest production from RBs and WRs has usually been enough to put me over the top. Unfortunately, my first-round playoff matchup is against the 7-5-1 Well Hungarians, who in Week 9 handed me my worst loss of the season. My opponent’s potent core of  Brady, Gore and Andre Johnson face tougher defenses this time around, so a solid effort from my backs and wideouts should keep me in the game.

Vancouver Volcanoes 7-6, 5th seed in the playoffs, NFFL

After a 6-2 start, the Volcanoes dropped from division front-runner to win-and-you’re-in bubble team. I lost four matchups in a row, two of which were heart-breakingly close. This cold streak had me less than optimistic entering my week 13 matchup against the Viking-heavy Portland Pimps. A loss would have tied me with the Pimps and at least one other team at 6-7, with none of the tie-breakers going my way. With Michael Turner out, and many of my matchups looking weak, I knew a desperation play was in order. Not trusting the Colts D vs. Tennessee or the Skins D vs. New Orleans, I played the matchups and snagged Carolina’s D for their game vs. Tampa Bay. This move, combined with Ochocinco’s stellar play kept me slightly ahead through the day games. On Sunday night, Arizona kept the Vikings in check, but Peterson, Rice, Shiancoe and Longwell gave the Pimps a 17-point lead nonetheless.

My only chance for the playoffs was a win, and my only chance for a win was getting 18 points from my tight end, Jermichael Finley. Things were looking up when Finley put up 5 catches for 56 yards and a score in the first half. But as I sat one point behind, Mike Tirico announced that Finley had been taken to the locker room for x-rays on his knee. Fate is indeed a cruel mistress, and for me to get so close, only to lose, seemed unfathomably harsh. But Fate, I guess, also has a cruel sense of humor, as Finley returned in the third quarter to get me the 4-yard catch that I needed to win, and then added a second touchdown catch for good measure.

Thank goodness I had started Carson Palmer on Sunday. He only gave me 5 points, but Joe Flacco’s negative-8 point performance would have shot Finley’s effort in the foot and knocked me out of the playoffs. Instead, I advance to face the 8-5 Wyoming BallBusters in the first round. While I’d love to have Michael Turner back, I need him at full health, not hobbling off on a reinjured ankle like two weeks ago. My flex options (Breaston, Lee Evans, Ahmad Bradshaw and Shonn Greene) have all been shaky the last few weeks, so maybe it is time for another move. I’ll keep up the blog posts for as long as I remain in the playoffs.

Fantasy Football Week 9 Recap

Both of my Week 9 matchups were looking like tough ones. It would take the right combination of lineup decisions and outstanding production to put either of my teams over the top. Things did not work out in my favor this week, but one of the matchups was just close enough to hurt.

High Mountain Widowmakers (4-5) 121,
Vancouver Volcanoes (6-3) 118

Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. My gut was telling me that Carson Palmer had earned back my trust and was safe to start against Baltimore. My head was telling me that Joe Flacco got the better of their previous head-to-head showdown and would be the less risky play. I let my head make the conservative call and watched Flacco fall apart against Cincinnati’s surprisingly dominant defense. Still, I had a slight lead going into Monday night’s game, and if Denver had given Matt Prater a few more scoring opportunities, I could have salvaged the win. But of course, if I had only trusted my gut, it would not have been that close. Next week, I face Jason’s brother Nick, whose Guantanamo Bay Guerillas have sat atop the standings all year, but have lost 2 of their last 3.

Well Hungarians (6-2-1) 96,
PDX Prowlers (6-2-1) 65

My opponent is a savvy trader who added then-injured Frank Gore to his already potent core of Tom Brady and Andre Johnson. Add a tasty matchup for Seattle’s Defense, and it was clear I would need more than a few of my guys to step up with big games. Unfortunately, Drew Brees’ mediocre outing was the highlight of my team’s output this week. Even if I had had the foresight to start James Jones, I still would not have overcome Jonathan Stewart and DeSean Jackson’s combined 3 points. It was a sound beating and there was nothing I could really do to prevent it, which ultimately makes it a little easier to take. Next week, we’ll see which of my  scrap-heap running backs fills in for Steve Slaton against my opponent, the Indy Colts.

Fantasy Football Week 8 Recap

Two weeks in a row with two winning fantasy teams. This weekend’s matchups weren’t particularly thrilling, so it’s hard to write anything too interesting about them. But this whole recapping exercise was really just an excuse to get me writing again, and it’s working. I’ve got a few other blog items I’m working on that I’ll post soon, so let’s get this one over with.

Vancouver Volcanoes (6-2) 135,
Madisonville Maggots (4-4) 83

Every week I stress a bit about who to play in my flex spot, and that decision was made all the more difficult by the emergence of Shonn Greene last week. I went with Breaston over Bradshaw, Fred Jackson and Greene, and it was the right choice, but it really didn’t matter in the long run. Wayne, Turner, Thomas and Flacco combined for enough points to win this matchup for me, as my opponent didn’t get much from Eli Manning, Ronnie Brown or the injured Owen Daniels. Up next, the High Mountain Widowmakers, a team with lots of options. If I were him, I’d have a hard time deciding between Roethlisberger @ Denver or Hasselbeck vs. Detroit.

PDX Prowlers (6-1-1) 76,
TwoManningsOneCup (0-8) 49

Having Drew Brees in the Monday night game was a nice ace to have up my sleeve, but he put up a few stinkers earlier in the season. So I was a little concerned when, at the end of the early games, I trailed an opponent who had failed to replace Kerry Collins, Muhsin Mohammed and Calvin Johnson in his starting lineup. My concern faded as Jonathan Stewart turned in his best performance of the season against the #1 Arizona rush defense. His 20-point performance offset the -1 I got from Steve Slaton, who was benched after an early fumble. While Slaton’s issues didn’t cost me this week, they did cast further doubt on an already suspect backfield. Not a good time to be facing my next opponent, the Well Hungarians, who are building a contender with some very shrewd trades.

Fantasy Football Week 6 Recap

Last Sunday should have been a forgettable day. Both of my teams were involved in lopsided matchups, one winning and one losing. But after weeks of sick and/or lazy Sundays, I was ready for some fun. I watched the early games at a great sports bar, then had quality rehearsals with two of my bands, Mystic Canyon and Harmless Eccentrics. Turns out the best way to get over a crushing loss for the Giants is to jam late into the night.

North Coast Greenleaves (4-2) 162,
Vancouver Volcanoes (4-2) 120

Jason and I had been looking forward to this matchup for a few weeks, as it also happened to be the week that his Saints faced my Giants. We met at the Cheerful Bullpen for the 10am start. While the game was painful to watch, the breakfast was tasty and the Spanish Coffee strong! Drew Brees gave Jason an early lead, and Randy Moss sealed it later in the day. Like the Giants, the Volcanoes put up enough points to win against a lesser team, especially during the bye weeks. But there was no catching Jason, even if Pierre Thomas had managed to be one of the 7 Saints to score a TD.

Things don’t look too good for Pierre this week either against a stiff Miami defense, but the rest of my team looks solid going into Sunday’s matchup against another New Orleans native, Steve, and his Amite Steelmakers, who are gonna need to make some moves due to injuries and byes this week.

PDX Prowlers (4-1-1) 111,
Degoba Green (1-4-1) 55

It was a small consolation as my Giants went down in flames that Drew Brees’ huge game was at least helping me in this league. But the Prowlers’ biggest point total of the year went to waste as my opponent didn’t even show up. Greg Jennings remained on his bench from the previous week’s Bye, and he never picked up a Defense to replace the ones that weren’t playing this week (Miami and SF.) At least I got the Toyota Biggest Fantasy Blowout award for the week, a new feature on Yahoo’s league page. This weekend’s matchup holds a lot more promise as I look to break a first place tie with TDs ‘N Beer.

Fantasy Football Week 5 Recap

As much as I love this game, it can be quite frustrating. I like to let my victories speak for themselves – smack talk has always been bad karma for me – and I like to think I am gracious in defeat, especially if I can’t pin the loss on a poor personnel decision on my part. The most infuriating thing for me is a tie, so for the last 36 hours I have been driving myself crazy with all of the ways I could have scored just one more point, praying that a miraculous stat correction from the league could sway the result my way. You win some, you lose some, and I can deal with that, but you tie some? Aaarrrrggghhhh!!!!

Vancouver Volcanoes (4-1) 136,
Team Johnson (0-5) 118

All of Jimmy’s players were playing in the early games Sunday, so he got off to a great lead despite the injury to Calvin Johnson and a Baltimore game plan that mostly ignored Willis McGahee. But my RB tandem of Turner and Bradshaw put me in great position to catch up with 5 TDs between them. By the time Sunday night came around, all I needed was a few points from Reggie Wayne and/or the Indy Defense to put me over. Fred Jackson’s production is tailing off as expected, but with my crucial bye weeks passed, he has served his purpose. Another highlight was a showdown between my two QBs; although Carson Palmer won the battle on the field, Joe Flacco proved to be the wiser choice for our scoring system, which rewards a high completion percentage.

Next week’s contest will be huge; not only am I playing Jason, commissioner of the league and the other half of the Mystic Canyon percussion section, but Jason’s favorite team, the Saints, will be hosting my Giants. I wish my boy good luck, because after last week, when he dropped Jeremy Maclin and started Mike Sims-Walker, he’s going to need it!

PDX Prowlers (3-1-1) 78,
Krest Street Killaz (0-4-1) 78

My fretting about this matchup began early in the week, when I realized I had no QB. With Brees on a bye week and Pennington done for the year, I needed to spend my #1 waiver priority on a decent backup. My best option by midweek was Seneca Wallace, so I picked him up, only to learn the next day that Matt Hasselbeck would be back under center for Seattle. I briefly considered sticking with Wallace, assuming he’d get some work, but I took a no-guts-no-glory gamble on Daunte Culpepper that paid off. In this 16-team league, it was either him or JaMarcus Russell, and I wasn’t going there.

I guess I can’t be too upset, as our lineups were quite evenly matched. I got a big game from Houshmandzadeh, while he got a slightly better performance from Nate Burleson. My DeSean Jackson put up a zero, but so did his Laveranues Coles. Defenses, kickers, tight ends and running backs were all within a point or two of each other. In the end it came down to Sunday Night – the Killaz were done and all I needed from Nate Washington was 40 yards. He went for 37. And dropped an 8-yard pass in the 4th quarter that would have won the game (for me, certainly not for the Titans.) Still I have to take the blame myself, because had I stuck with my original plan, going with Hakeem Nicks instead of Washington, I’d have won.

My next opponent, Degoba Green, has tasted the bitterness of deadlock as well. At 1-3-1, this team looks to break out huge next week with a trio of hot receivers (Marshall, Jennings and Edwards) in favorable matchups. This matchup also has a heavy Giants-Saints element, as Eli Manning faces my returning Drew Brees. It might be a close one, but please, no ties! There can be only one!

Fantasy Football Week 4 Recap

My lineups required some minor tweaking to account for the absence of Eagles, Falcons, Cardinals and Panthers from the Week 4 schedule. But roster depth and foresight prevailed as both teams won in relatively easy fashion.

Vancouver Volcanoes (3-1) 120,
Wyoming Ball-Busters (2-2) 71

As the score suggests, there was not much drama in this matchup. My WRs, Wayne and Ochocinco, were solid and the Redskins Defense has been a steady contributor. Pierre Thomas more than made up for off-weeks from the other RBs (Fred Jackson and Ahmad Bradshaw.) The Ball-Busters got solid performances from Matt Forte and the Denver D, but single-digit scores from everyone else. Had he started Rodgers or Favre over Schaub (and yes, he does have all three!) things would have been a little closer. Week 5’s game is against Team Johnson, a perennial playoff team looking to turn around a winless season at my expense.

PDX Prowlers (3-1) 77,
Orton’s Neckbeard (0-4) 55

This one had the potential to be a lot closer, as Drew Brees turned in another lackluster week, and I got zeroes from McFadden and Stuckey. Thankfully, my gamble on the Texans paid off as Steve Slaton got in the end zone twice while the Texans D held the hopeless Raiders to 2 FGs. I had snagged the Texans D right after the draft knowing I would need to cover Philly’s Bye Week, so that foresight was a game-winning strategy. Oddly, both of my opponents started Matt Schaub this week, but because this Yahoo League doesn’t penalize sacks and incompletions the way the ESPN league does, Schaub was Neckbeard’s most productive player. My next match-up is against the Krest Street Killaz, another winless team that has a much better lineup than one would think. With Brees on a bye and Pennington done for the year, the search is on for a starting QB.