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.

Fantasy Football Week 3 Recap

Both of my teams now stand at 2-1 as we enter the Bye weeks. The Yahoo team suffered its first defeat while my ESPN team continued its winning ways. Here’s how things went down.

Vancouver Volcanoes (2-1) 134
Virginia Beach Polish Pride (1-2) 108

I had some challenging lineup decisions to make this week, and while my trust in Joe Flacco over Carson Palmer paid off, my flex spot was a much tougher call. Ahmad Bradshaw has been looking solid, but I couldn’t be sure he’d get enough touches. Lee Evans was a tempting matchup with Buffalo sure to be down and throwing a lot. Ultimately, I put my trust in a healthy Pierre Thomas, and though he made me sweat the decision through the first half, he paid off in the second half. While my margin of victory might suggest that any of these guys would have won me the game, I could not afford to take chances against the team that recorded the highest total of the season in Week 2. This week I enter a matchup with the Wyoming Ball-Busters with Michael Turner on my bench and Fred Jackson having his workload potentially cut in half.

PDX Prowlers (2-1) 69
The Pomeranians (2-1) 82

My backfield of Slaton and McFadden continues to disappoint, but Jonathan Stewart isn’t giving me much reason to sit either of them. Though the decision to replace Nate Washington with Chansi Stuckey cost me a little, the blame for this loss can surely be laid at the feet of Drew Brees, whose season-low 172 yards and 1 lost fumble negated fine performances by DeSean Jackson and Vernon Davis. The Pomeranians 3-headed Horse attack of Manning-Wayne-Addai nearly won this matchup on their own. Up next, Orton’s Neckbeard, looking surprisingly loaded for an 0-3 team (even with Steve Smith on a bye.) They’ll try to exploit the Giants matchup against KC while I hope the Texans and Raiders engage in a brutal ground war.

Fantasy Football Week 2 Recap

There were some mind-boggling numbers put up this week by the likes of Chris Johnson, Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Dallas Clark and Frank Gore. I don’t have any of these guys on either of my teams, but fortunately, I didn’t have to face them either.  So even though my point totals were down from last week, I came away with two close wins.

Vancouver Volcanoes (1-1) 111
Death By TD (1-1) 95

Michael Turner was back to his expected numbers and Fred Jackson and Chad Ochocinco had great games, more than making up for Reggie Wayne’s disappearing act Monday night. The decision to go with Flacco over Carson Palmer cost me a few points, and Matt Prater’s missed FGs negated the ones he made. Still it was enough as Devin, already burned by the decision to start Nate Burleson over Vincent Jackson, saw all hope for a comeback pull up lame along with Marion Barber. Next up: Virginia Beach Polish Pride, who snagged Team of the Week honors this week thanks to Clark and Andre Johnson.

PDX Prowlers (2-0) 84
Buck an Ears (1-1) 83

Drew Brees’ big numbers and DeSean Jackson’s 71-yard TD catch were the highlights of an otherwise unspectacular effort. Still it looked like I had things sewn up going into Monday night’s game with an 11-point lead. My opponent, perhaps earning his Bort handle “crazylilmofo,” had one more chance to catch up with Pierre Garcon. For nearly 57 minutes, I enjoyed the very strange Colts-Dolphins game without even thinking about the possibility of losing. Then, when Frenchy turned a 2-yard sideline pass into a 48-yard score, my mind started racing. Is this a PPR league? Did he make any plays earlier in the game that I missed? Thankfully, Indy didn’t get the ball back and my lead held up. Despite him not being on my team, my game ball goes to Dallas Clark for crossing midfield before stepping out-of-bounds on the previous play. Next week, the Pomeranians’ Colts-heavy lineup is all that stands between me and a 3-0 record.

Fantasy Football Week 1 Recap

There were outstanding performances on both of my fantasy teams in week 1, but only one of my teams emerged victorious. 

Vancouver Volcanoes (0-1) 129
Couver Crusaders (1-0) 151

Reggie Wayne and John Carlson helped the Volcanoes rack up the highest losing point total in the league. Unfortunately, it was not enough to overcome Danny’s NFFL defending champions, who racked up an incredible 53 points from Philadelphia’s defense alone. Michael Turner was underwhelming and Carson Palmer has earned himself a spot on the bench for week 2. I also missed the news that Steve Breaston would not play, but as it turns out, my other flex options (Lee Evans, Ahmad Bradshaw, Earl Bennett) would not have made a difference. Coming up this Sunday, I face Death By TD, and we’ll see if Devin can dominate the fantasy gridiron like he can the saxophone.

PDX Prowlers (1-0) 102
Der Bluten Kats (0-1) 71

Once again I found myself squaring off against the defending league champions, but this time I had Philly’s defense on my side. Scoring in this league is a bit more conservative, but the combo of the Philly D and Drew Brees helped me rack up the highest point total in the league. DBK’s best performance came from the over-achieving Cedric Benson, while LT’s early exit due to an ankle injury kept him from catching up. Up next are the Buck an Ears, relying heavily on a bounceback performance from Arizona’s potentially lethal combo of Warner and Fitzgerald.

September – It Begins

September always feels like the beginning to me. Sure the calendar turns to a new year in January, and nature springs back to life around April. But once Labor Day has passed, and with it the Summer, new things start happening. Many years ago, that meant school, marching band, and new TV shows. Nowadays, it means a heavier gigging schedule, more new TV shows, and Fantasy Football.

This year I’ve gotten a reasonable handle on my addiction to America’s most counterproductive national pastime. I only signed up for 2 leagues this year, and ended up with two very different teams. I’ve been starved for blog content lately, so I’ve decided to chronicle my teams’ progress here. I’ll introduce the teams and leagues in this post, and post my Week 1 results later today. Each week, I’ll try to post my results by Wednesday and hopefully, this exercise will get my creative juices flowing so I can get back to more compelling subject matter.  

First up, the Vancouver Volcanoes (in draft order):

Hoping for a repeat of last year's dominance (
Hoping for a repeat of last year's dominance (

Michael Turner, RB, Atl
Reggie Wayne, WR, Ind
Pierre Thomas, RB, NO
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Cin
Carson Palmer, QB, Cin
Lee Evans, WR, Buf
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, NYG
Fred Jackson, RB, Buf
Steve Breaston, WR, Arz
Joe Flacco, QB, Bal
John Carlson, TE, Sea
Redskins DEF, Was
Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ
Earl Bennett, WR, Chi
Colts DEF, Ind
Matt Prater, K, Den
Martellus Bennett, TE, Dal

This is a 14-team head-to-head PPR league run by my drummer buddy Jason on The rest of the owners are his friends and family, some here in Portland and the rest in New Orleans. I had the #4 pick in the draft, which was held at his house on August 23rd. Twelve of the 14 owners were in attendance, which was a first for me, so it was a lot of fun heckling questionable picks and owners who let the clock tick down to :02 before making their pick.

My other league drafted later that night. This is my second year in the Bort league, a 16-team Yahoo league for fellow Umphrey’s McGee fans. This draft was sort of an afterthought, and when I learned I had the 16th pick, I figured I would not get a quality team. I was very pleasantly surprised – here are the results, copied from Yahoo!

PDX Prowlers
1. (16) Drew Brees
2. (17) Steve Slaton
3. (48) T.J. Houshmandzadeh
4. (49) Jonathan Stewart
5. (80) Darren McFadden
6. (81) DeSean Jackson
7. (112) Philadelphia
8. (113) Sammy Morris
9. (144) Nate Washington
10. (145) Vernon Davis
11. (176) Hakeem Nicks
12. (177) Chad Pennington
13. (208) Malcom Floyd
14. (209) Chansi Stuckey
15. (240) Jerramy Stevens
16. (241) Neil Rackers
17. (272) Shaun Suisham


Suisham was an autopick at the end, I have sinced dumped him to add a backup Defense (Houston has a good matchup vs. Oakland on Philly’s Bye Week.) Also unloaded Stevens in order to add James Davis. I should note that this league plays 2 RBs and 3 WRs with no flex position. It will take some solid performances from young players to make this team a winner, but I like my chances. Good luck to all of my leaguemates – have fun!

Brother Ray

Ray and Mike share a brew, Red Bank, 2002
Ray and Mike share a brew, Red Bank, 2002

On May 28, Ray Ashley passed away after a long battle with cancer. You can read his obituary and explore some of his music and writing by clicking his name above. I’ll remember him as a good friend, a masterful musician, and an inspirational influence on my own musicianship.

In early 1993, I worked in a record store with a fellow named Jan who played guitar. He invited me over one day to listen to him jam with some new friends, bassist Ray and drummer Joe.  I ran into Ray and Joe later that Spring at a Phish show, where I was shocked to learn that Joe worked with my Mom!

Over the next few years Ray and I forged a friendship from our common love of adventurous music. Ray introduced me to God Street Wine and his own creative compositions, while I in turn hooked him up with thE otheR waY and turned him on to my hero, J J Johnson. As was his way, Ray immersed himself in these new discoveries, playing bass with the former and transcribing a dozen songs by the latter.

I had the honor of collaborating with Ray and Joe on a project called the 9-Volt Smoke Detectors, an eerily prescient name as our first and only gig was nearly thwarted by an electrical fire. Ray and I would later play a few gigs as a duo – Ray on Warr Guitar and me on the congas he sold me, which I still play to this day. These were my first public performances since graduating college in 1992, and I credit Ray with rekindling my creative spark.

Ray is gone, but he will be remembered through his music, which bears his personality throughout. Technically proficient yet passionate, structured but open to improvisation, lyrically hopeful with a hint of sly wit. His songs painted pictures of a better world.

Mike and Ray at the Downtown Cafe, 1999
Mike and Ray at the Downtown Cafe, 1999