Friday, June 29, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Seattle Seahawks

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Seattle Seahawks
2006 stats at and

Matt Hasselbeck (QB): People don't get too excited about Hasselbeck, but in the last four seasons he's averaged over 200 yards a game and around 1.5 TDs a game. He's not one of the top fantasy QBs (Manning, Bulger, Brady, Palmer, Brees, McNabb) , but he's among the best of the rest of the bunch. If you don't prioritize getting one of the top fantasy QBs (which is reasonable--to get one of them, you have to pass on a good starting RB or WR), then a QB like Hasselbeck is who you should target: steady, consistent, predictable, but not flashy.

Shaun Alexander (RB): From 2001 to 2003, he was one of the underrated stud fantasy producers. In 2004 and 2005, he emerged as one of the clear top fantasy producers. After a decline in 2006, should we consider Alexander on the decline? I'm not sure. I'd be nervous to draft him early (or expensive), but at the same time, he's a clear feature back with a history of production, so you have to be happy with him.

Here's what I do like though: draft Alexander and Hasselbeck and start both of them. Seattle is usually a pretty good offense, and if you start their starting QB and their feature RB, you are going to get a lot of their points.

Josh Brown (K): Seattle's kicker is one of the legitimate starting kickers.

In a deep league, or in a league starting three WRs, you could start Deion Branch or D. J. Hackett. I've never been a fan of Deion Branch as a fantasy WR. Pretend you don't know that he had two spectacular Super Bowl performances, don't look at the name, and just look a the numbers he's put up season by season in his career. Do the numbers you see point to a good fantasy WR? They don't even point to a mediocre fantasy WR. I'd rather start D. J. Hackett: we have enough evidence available to show that Branch is a poor fantasy producer, but Hackett only has two seasons and seems to have the ubiquitously described "upside." Normally, I prefer proven production to potential; however, when the proven production is sub-par*, I'd rather go with potential.

*I don't really get the term "sub-par" in common usage. We use it to refer to something that is below average, but in golf, you want to be sup-par. Par is average, but shouldn't something bad be considered "above par," and something good be considered "below par"? But I like the term "sub-par": it's the most concise phrase to describe something below average. I'm just always self-conscious when I use it (self-conscious enough to use an asterisk, anyway).

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Arguably the Stupidest Post in the History of this Blog

On ESPN's Draft Cast, Corey Brewer just came on to interview on the Live Draft Chat. Predictably, some jackass from Florida asked the weather question: "what's it going to be like to play in a place that is below freezing more often than not during basketball season?"

As a defensive Minnesotan with a geographic inferiority complex, I thought, "You moron. Is that all you think of Minnesota? It's not that damn cold here."

So I checked.

According to, on average November has 23 days below freezing, December 30, January 31, February 28, and March 25.

That's a lot of days, but of course it gets cold at night. Most of those days it's above freezing during the day, right?

According to, on average "the Twin Cities have maximum temperatures of below freezing point on 76 days out of the year." So there are 76 days a year in the Twin Cities when the temperature never even gets above freezing.

Alright, it's damn cold here. Welcome to Minnesota, Corey Brewer.

Fantasy Preview: the Pittsburgh Steelers

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2006 stats at and

Willie Parker (RB): Honestly, when I looked at the 2006 numbers at the end of the season, I was surprised to see Willie Parker among the most productive fantasy RBs in the league (in my league, he was one of three good RBs on a last place team, believe it or not, so I didn't pay terribly close attention to him). But he was, and he will likely be a top-10 pick in 2007 fantasy drafts.

Hines Ward (WR): even after a mediocre 2006 season, he's still a worthy starter. If he's your #2 WR, you should be confident: you can depend on solid numbers, and he could put up great numbers.

Jeff Reed (K): The Steeler kicker has consistently been a solid fantasy scorer for years.

Defense: Under Bill Cowher, the Pittsburgh defense was always a great fantasy unit, getting sacks, turnovers, and touchdowns. I don't expect a lot to change with Mike Tomlin as the coach.

There are other Steelers you should think about drafting, but not as week one starters.

Ben Roethlisberger (QB): a good QB, but you should be able to find 12-16 better fantasy starters at the beginning of the season. He's a good fantasy backup that you could feel good starting a few weeks a season if forced.

Heath Miller (TE): He hasn't piled up yards yet, but he's a talented TE that does get touchdowns.

Santonio Holmes (WR): As a rookie he had 824 yards, so there's definite potential that he could be a fantasy starter midway through the season, or earlier.

There's another advantage to drafting Steelers for your fantasy team: they're on TV all the damn time, so you'll get plenty of chances to watch your players.

Blizzard: NBA Draft!

The NBA draft, I guess, and I'm more excited for this than I was for the NFL draft. Maybe it's because the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves will be tangibly determined in the next 24 hours. Maybe it's because there are so many exciting players in this draft I'm going to want to follow next season. Maybe it's summer and it takes less to get me going than it does in April when the semester is winding down heavy. Maybe it's because I won't be able to watch the draft on TV, and will be following it on the computer like a true jackass. I don't have the answers, man.

Vic Carucci says the Vikes are one of the teams that didn't do enough to improve in the offseason.

How are the Vikings going to use Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor this season? I don't know who has the editorial power at, but the site has a feature on Taylor and Peterson as one of the RB "dynamic duos" around the league. Is this a signal to how the team intends to use them?

As a student of literature, I often come upon world-class writers who have distasteful politics (Pound), messy personal lives (Hughes), or a tendency to act like an ass (Hemingway). There might be all sorts of reasons I want to disrespect the writing, but ultimately, I have to respect the work's quality. That's how I feel about Bill Simmons. Oh, no, it's not that he's that good or anything, or that he's an awful person (I don't know). It's just that his writing consistently annoys me in some way, and yet I keep wanting to read what he writes about football and basketball. Anyway, here's his mock draft with Chad Ford.

Hashmarks is doing some fantasy football mailbags.

Suspension of Disbelief
Via Ballhype, Len Pasquarelli talks with DeAngelo Williams about why he'll be better in 2007 than he was in 2006. Pasquarelli also mentions Tarvaris Jackson and Chad Greenway as second-year players expected to make significant 2007 contributions.

Finally, if this is the sort of thing that interests you, I've got a stupid summer project at Costanza Book Club. I'm re-watching the first eight seasons of Seinfeld (season 9 is not yet available on DVD), choosing favorite quotes and dialogue, and offering a brief comment on the episode. It's a really stupid way to spend a summer, but that doesn't deter me in the slightest.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Denver Broncos

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Denver Broncos
2006 stats at and

Travis Henry (RB): Denver running back, big contract, feature back. Even with Shanahanigans running the team, you have to figure Henry's floor is 1,200 yards and 10 TDs, right? With no conceivable ceiling?

Javon Walker (WR): Walker was one of the best WRs in the NFL last season. You may not find 1,084 yards receiving and 8 TDs (and 123 yards rushing and 1 TD) terribly exciting for fantasy purposes, but keep a few things in mind:

a) The 2006 Broncos ranked 26th in passing attempts, 30th in completions, and 27th in passing yards. Javon Walker put up his very good production on an offense that wasn't throwing the ball a lot.
b) His receiving yardage numbers were double the second best yardage numbers on the team (Rod Smith's 512).
c) The team featured the erratic Jake Plummer (55.2%) quarterbacking for 11 games and rookie Jay Cutler for the last 5 games.

So here's my thinking in 2007: Javon Walker is just as good an individual player as he was in 2006, he's still that much better than any other WR on his team, the Broncos are likely to throw more passes in 2007, and second-year Jay Cutler will be a better quarterback in 2007 than the combination of erratic Jake Plummer and rookie Jay Cutler in 2006.

Jason Elam (K): Elam has been a reliable fantasy kicker for a long, long time.

Defense: Why not? They were solid last season, they've done a lot to try improve the pass rush (their first two draft picks were defensive ends), they've got players capable of forcing turnovers, and they hold opponents to very few points (8th in '06, 4th in '05). It's a solid fantasy unit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blizzard: OK, this week is fun. After that...

We were a little premature in pronouncing sports dead time upon us; the week of the NBA draft is super exciting.

John Hollinger has developed a metric using college numbers to project pro success in the NBA. I love this sort of thing: this type of statistical system gives us something tangible to help us understand the potential of these NBA prospects.

Via ballhype, ESPN says the newest KG possibility is a three-way between Phoenix, Boston and Minnesota.

Ian Thomsen has a 5 minute guide to the draft.

Football Outsiders has taken DVOA back to 1996.

SI fantasy football previews are upon us: former Jeopardy contestant James Quintong ranks the top 200 fantasy players, and Paul Hickey talks about players coming back from injury.

Fantasy Preview: the Washington Redskins

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them. And for the record, I'm uncomfortable with the name "Redskins," but I'm being consistent in my labeling.

Washington Redskins
2006 stats at and

Clinton Portis (RB): last season I had the #2 pick, and I traded down to the #4 pick in order to move up in the third round (yes, when our league can't all congregate in one place for an auction draft and we're forced to do a snake draft, we allow pre-draft trades of picks). At #2, J-Rod selected Ladanian Tomlinson. At #4, I selected Clinton Portis. Take a guess how I feel about that now. But I’d still start Clinton Portis week one if I had him.

Chris Cooley (TE): In his three year career, Cooley has averaged 6.3 TDs per season. The last two seasons he's averaged 754 yards receiving. He's one of the good young TEs in the league, and his current lack of name recognition can make him a fantasy steal.

Santana Moss is not a fun fantasy WR to start. Since he joined the Redskins, he’s played in 30 total games and scored at least one touchdown in just 9 of them. In 2006 he had less than 40 yards receiving in 7 of 14 games. That’s poor production. He’ll get you a few really huge weeks, and a lot of dud weeks; that’s not a WR you want to star the season with. If he's one of my top 2 WRs going into the season, I'll perform a full body dry heave set to music, and by that I don't mean I'll dance, but I'll dry heave while listening to showtunes.

Blizzard: NBA Draft Week

Once again, see I Heart KG for links to various Garnett trade rumors and news. Some of the possibilities have me excited. Obviously McHale is a tubercular problem, and he needs to be removed from the Timberwolves for there to be real hope for the future. But as the team is currently constructed, it will be very difficult to build a team capable of competing for a championship in the next 3-5 years. Because of that, I think it is time to strip down and rebuild any way the team can.

If the Wolves do just sit with their #7 pick, I hope they either draft Joakim Noah or Corey Brewer.

Wages of Wins compares Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

FreeDarko has an NBA mock draft.

Signal to Noise thinks Acie Law is going to be the best point guard from this draft.

Outsports looks at Laurence Maroney chasing cheese.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Chronicle of Cliche: Chad Ford

Reading "Chad Ford's Mock Draft, Version 5.0: Picks 1-14," one notices repeated use of worn-out metaphors and figures of speech. Ford uses some metaphors I like, and a lot of figures of speech that should be written down, put into a bottle, and thrown out to sea somewhere near the Bermuda Triangle.

"this is a time when many GMs are notorious for dropping smoke screens"

I understand the metaphor of a "smoke screen," but how exactly does one drop a smoke screen?

"...they'll drop everything just for the chance."

What are they holding onto that they will drop? A smoke screen?

"...but how much will these workouts move the needle?"

A gauge metaphor like this isn't overused; I like it.

"While the chances of GM Kevin Pritchard's shocking the world and taking Durant have increased..."

We're going to shock the world! Probably not, really, but it's fun to talk about shocking the world! That's quite the hyperbole for surprise.

"New Sonics GM Sam Presti still has the easiest decision of the year: Just take whichever guy Portland passes on and enjoy the ride for the next decade."

"Enjoy the ride"? 1,190,000 google hits. Enjoy the ride of my chronicles of cliche.

"...still needs to find a big man with a pulse."

If he has any big men without a pulse, he should probably call a doctor. Or a mortician. This is an overused metaphor to refer to competence. It's similar to something like "he'll do anything with two legs" (except a bit more discerning, as "he'll do anything with a pulse" discounts necrophilia. Then again, it doesn't discount bestiality. But this wasn't my intention in this parentheses).

"At the end of the day, most GMs..."

I hate--HATE--HATE--the phrase "at the end of the day." "The bottom line" used to be the most overused cliche for "ultimately," but "At the end of the day" has replaced it as perhaps the most overused figure of speech in our era. 3,510,000 google hits. Uff da!

"so I think Ainge swallows hard and pulls the trigger."

LOOK OUT, HE'S GOT A GUN! Mr. Ainge, it's a long-term solution to a short-term problem. The idea of taking Yi Jianlian might...oh wait. He's not really pulling a trigger.

"The Bucks would like to get their hands on Horford or Conley."

Are they going to touch him? Is this like the laying on of hands in traditional church ceremonies? Like all the people touching Mr. Biggs at the end of A Gathering of Old Men?

"...whose offensive skills could give the Bulls some desperately needed points in the paint down the road."

Here's how you know you're using an overused idiom: if you replace the figure of speech with a literal synonym, the phrase becomes unclear. "Up the path" means pretty much the same thing as "down the road." But if you replace "down the road" with "up the path" in that sentence, it becomes a bit confusing--because we're not used to it (it's not as awkward as wikipedia's example of changing "kick the bucket" to "kick the pail," but it has a similar effect). "Down the road" is another metaphor which has lost all power of actual metaphor: when you see that phrase, you certainly do not picture an actual road.

"The word is that..."

I don't begrudge Ford's use of this phrase: he's trying to convey a general idea without giving away his sources. Generally, you want to avoid statements that suggest a general belief without specifying anybody holding that belief. But here, I think it is OK.

"Combine that with concerns about his motor, and he could slip."

Does the player have a pacemaker? Well, I'd have concerns about drafting a player with a pacemaker, too.

"...he has moved into the picture for Atlanta as well."

I would guess somebody or something moving into the picture once had metaphoric power. Now, it's just an everyday phrase: we know what it means without having it evoke an image. And that's fine: it is still pretty clear language.

"Thornton's a scoring machine"

I knew a mad scientist that really did invent a scoring machine; they wouldn't let it play in the NBA, though. There really was an episode of The Twilight Zone where a robot pitcher was dominating until they gave him human emotion. I think so, anyway: I only read the Rod Serling short story. It was pretty stupid either way.

"They'd prefer to get their hands on a guy like Al Horford, Jeff Green or Brandan Wright."

More NBA teams wanting to lay their hands on somebody! Are they medieval highway robbers? And this is really picky, but would they prefer to get a guy like Horford, Green, or Wright, or would they prefer to get Horford, Green, or Wright?

Chad Ford, at the end of the day, this has been fun. Since you are a cliche machine, perhaps down the road I could pull the trigger on another Chronicle of Cliche featuring your writing.

The myth of Peyton Manning's contract

On June 22nd, Pro Football Talk said of Peyton Manning, "Is that a bigger problem than the fact that he gets paid so much money that it's a struggle to put a good team around him?"

This immediately struck me as stupid. Look at the Colts' records since Manning joined the team in 1998. With Manning as the starting QB, the Colts have won 3, 12, 10, 6, 10, 12, 12, 14, and 12 regular season games, and they just won the Super Bowl. There's no other team in the league that has won at least 12 games the last four seasons. If you just look at the three seasons he's played under his current contract, you'll see three division titles and an NFL championship. This means either:

a.) It's not such a struggle to put a good team around Manning (or the Colts' front office is so great they are able to)
b.) Manning is so good that he leads the team to wins despite the struggle of putting a good team around him (meaning he's easily worth the money)

Some people persist in claiming the Colts are hamstrung by having Manning's albatross contract taking up too much of the salary cap. This simply isn't true: the Colts are one of the winningest teams in football, so either they're doing fine building a good team despite Manning's contract, or Manning is a dominant football player that any team would be happy to pay a lot of money to.

And how devastating to the Colts' salary cap is Manning's contract? According to USA Today, Manning's 2007 cap number is $8.2 million. According to, the 2007 NFL salary cap is $109 million. According to my calculator, Manning's contract takes up 7.5% of the Colts' 2007 cap space. Peyton Manning is worth 7.5% of a team's cap space, isn't he? Can it possibly be a "fact" that the best QB in the league hurts his team by making 7.5% of his team's salary cap space?

According to USA Today, in 2005 Manning had only the fourth highest cap value among quarterbacks; in 2005, Joey Harrington had a higher cap number than Peyton Manning. So did Brett Favre and Daunte Culpepper. I don't recall people saying those QBs had contracts making it a "struggle" to put good teams around them. People like Bill Simmons sometimes cite contracts to show that Tom Brady selflessly helps his team while Peyton Manning selfishly hurts his team; however, in 2005, Brady's cap value was only $7,256 lower than Manning's.

In 2004, Manning's total pay was $35,037,700, according to USA Today. But also according to USA Today, in 2004 Manning's cap value was still lower than Brett Favre's cap value. Was Favre's 2004 contract making it a "struggle" for the Packers to put a good team around him? The 2004 Colts, by the way, went 12-4, and Manning was MVP throwing 49 touchdown passes. Was it a struggle to put a good team around Manning that season? If you go back to 2003 on USA Today's chart, Manning did have the highest cap number among QBs--before he signed his new contract. The 2003 Colts went 14-5 including the postseason, and Manning was the NFL's co-MVP.

The Colts' regular season success shows clearly that the Colts have not been hurt by having Manning's contract on the team; rather, there is no doubt that having Peyton Manning in the lineup has helped the Colts win games.

And let's not forget: the 2006 Colts won the Super Bowl. According to Cold Hard Football Facts, the Colts became "the only team in NFL history to beat the league’s three top scoring defenses in the same postseason." In the playoffs the Colts beat the 13-3 Ravens, the 12-4 Patriots, and the 13-3 Bears. Could it really be a "fact" that it's a "struggle" to put a good team around Manning--when the team just won a championship?

So why does Peyton Manning still get criticized for having a big contract that supposedly hurts his team's chances to win? His team has not struggled to win at all (
since he signed that contract, the Colts won three division titles in three seasons, averaged 13 wins a season, and won the Super Bowl), and his salary cap number is actually very reasonable.

If you want to criticize Peyton Manning, you can't use his contract. Maybe you want to mock his commercials? His looks? To criticize the best quarterback in the league, whose team is constantly very good, and who just led his team to a championship, you're going to have to find non-football reasons to mock him.

Being a Viking fan means never really losing faith (blizzard)

There's a lot of pessimism about the Vikings now, you can still find the legendary wild optimism of Viking fans. Skol Vikes predicts the Vikings in the NFC championship game, and the Daily Norseman gets incensed any time a national news source disrespects the Vikings. Honestly, I never go into a Viking season without some vague, obscure hope that this is the year they win the Super Bowl. This season is no different. I don't care how insane, irrational, or incompetent this belief is; I don't care how much respect you lose for me when I say so. But I am going into this season hoping the Vikings win the Super Bowl, and for me "hope" isn't an airy dreamy word. This is the only way I can live.

Football Outsiders looks at the Empty Double Slants.

Moderately Cerebral Bias wonders whether bloggers are really doing any better than the mainstream media covering athletes.

Sports Media Watch looks at what sports ratings actually show and how they are usually perceived.

Bucky Brooks ranks NFL WRs based on how he thinks they'll perform in 2007. I won't tell you what parts of it I find senseless: I do find parts of his list quite senseless, but as I've said, I'm paranoid and I don't want anybody in my auction fantasy league to know how I feel about any of these players.

Wages of Wins looks at the help Michael Jordan had in winning championships.

Fantasy Preview: the Kansas City Chiefs

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Kansas City Chiefs
2006 stats at and

Larry Johnson (RB): If you've got the third pick in your draft, and Ladanian Tomlinson and Steven Jackson have already been selected, you might think you have no choice but to take Johnson. But the pick was not foreordained by God before you were born; you were created with free will and you can make the choice whether you want to take Larry Johnson or not.

And you should not.

Larry Johnson had an NFL record 416 carries last season. Here is what Football Outsiders has found about running backs that have over 370 rushing attempts in one season: "A running back with 370 or more carries during the regular season will usually suffer either a major injury or loss of effectiveness the following year, unless he is named Eric Dickerson."

So there is a notable exception: Eric Dickerson was the freak that had several successful seasons with a grueling number of carries. So it's possible another freakish athlete will be able to withstand such overwork. Do you want to take your chances that Larry Johnson is that guy? I certainly don't. I've heard people say they aren't worried about the carries affecting LJ because he's so young, but the Football Outsiders data suggests age has little to do with this.

There are many solid options at #3. I'm not going to tell you who they are because I'm paranoid and I don't want people in my league to know who I really like. But if you look, you can find that Larry Johnson need not be a default top-3 pick.

So yes, if he's on your roster, you can be happy to start him week one. But I'd try to trade him before week one, and if he's on my team by the end of week one, I would again constantly try to trade him.

Tony Gonzalez (TE): Gonzalez is widely considered to be the #2 TE in fantasy football; just how inferior is he to Antonio Gates? Let's look at their last three seasons

Gates: 81-964-13
Gonzalez: 102-1258-7

Gates: 89-1101-10
Gonzalez: 78-905-2

Gates: 71-924-9
Gonzalez: 73-900-5

The numbers suggest Gonzalez is comparable to Gates in receptions and yards, but that Gates is far superior to Gonzalez in TDs (32 in 3 years versus 14 in 3 years). Gonzalez is actually closer to the rest of the pack of TEs (like Todd Heap or even Chris Cooley) than he is near Gates. And given that Gates is younger, has a much better all-around offense to work in, and has a much better quarterback to work with, the difference between Gates and Gonzalez is just going to keep increasing. Antonio Gates should easily be the first (or most expensive) TE selected. After that, you should either wait a long time or spend a very little amount of money for a TE. Gonzalez is still a very good football player, and in fantasy football he still has greater name recognition than other TEs, but there's little separation between Gonzalez and the other competent fantasy TEs in the league.

UPDATE: You know Priest Holmes, one of the greatest fantasy football performers of all-time, is worth a cheap pick.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A lousy player's football card: 2006 Topps Mark Bradley

The back of Mark Bradley's 2006 Topps card (#226) reads:

Bears coach Lovie Smith called Mark's game against the Lions on October 30, 2005, "his coming-out party." Unfortunately, it was also his going-down party, as the emerging rookie suffered a season-ending knee injury. Bradly had corralled five balls for 88 yards that day, solidifying his starting job. Fortunately, he is expected to be A-OK in 2006.

In my puerile revelries, a couple of interns are sitting around at Topps laughing about the time they got a story about a person "coming-out" and then having a "going-down party" published on the back of a football card.

Too juvenile? If forced double entendres aren't your cup of gin, you probably won't find my pictures of sports cards next to toys very enjoyable, either.

No, Mark Bradley: you're going down!

Fantasy Preview: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2006 stats at and

Joey Galloway (WR): you may not know it, but Galloway has been a good fantasy WR in recent years. He’s not great, and he is getting old, but he’s a viable #2 wide receiver in any fantasy league.

Cadillac Williams has not proven consistent enough to be a starting fantasy RB. In 2005 he had some good games and solid final numbers, but he was maddeningly inconsistent, putting up games of 13, 20, 29, 20, and 23 yards; you don’t want your starting RB giving you so many dud games. In 2006 the dud games were much more frequent and he only scored 1 TD all season (though he was on a team with bad quarterbacking and bad blocking). I do count around 20 RBs I’d rather start than Williams, so in a deep league, that makes Williams a possible starter. But I’m just saying, if I’m the person starting him, I probably want to throw up all over the place (and if Williams is one of your two best RBs, it likely means you got too drunk during your draft to make competent picks, making it all the more likely you’ll want to vomit). Williams would be a good backup RB for you: he’s talented and I still have high hopes for him. But he’s just been too inconsistent and unproductive to be a confident week one start.

Not long ago the Tampa Bay defense was easily the top fantasy defense. I just don’t see it anymore: it’s a solid unit, but not a great fantasy unit.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Carolina Panthers

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Carolina Panthers
2006 stats at and

Steve Smith (WR): it is a joyful experience to have Steve Smith on your fantasy team. You should just smile if he’s on your team, and enjoy the transcendent feeling of having Steve Smith in your lineup.

DeAngelo Williams (RB): I think this is the year for Williams to go bananas, and I’d be willing to gamble on him week one. He’ll break out with a huge fantasy performance right away and keep his spot in the starting lineup all year long.

Defense: statistically, the ‘06 Panther defense wasn’t a great defense. I still wouldn’t throw up if I had to start it.

I’m worried about Jake Delhomme getting benched for David Carr, though that probably shouldn’t stop you from starting him week one (he won’t get benched that quick, will he?). Still, there are at least 12 quarterbacks better than Delhomme. He’s a viable fantasy backup.

Carson Palmer is the second coming of Brett Favre

Brett Favre was an awful actor in There's Something About Mary. Carson Palmer is an awful actor in the John Morrell commercial.

This just proves they both suck compared to Dan Marino, who carried his brilliance in the Isotoner glove commercials into an epic performance in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Last Time I Checked, Overused Figures of Speech Should Be Thrown Under Buses

Don't ever use the expression "last time I checked" when referring to something obvious, well-known, or widely believed. You come off sounding both arrogant (it's a bit of a sarcastic dismissal) and dumbly folksy (it's vaguely self-deprecating--sort of). I see it in discussions, blogs, and sportswriting. It's simply far, far too overused, and therefore should be avoided.

Jason Ivanitz of the Crookston Daily Times (Up North Rube Cred) writes: "Last time I checked, sports were about teamwork and all coming together for a common goal."

The Betting Fool of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: "Last time I checked, a closer's 'job' is to close games, not lose them."

Mark Soltau of Golf writes: "Last time I checked, this was a golf tournament, not an audition for the toughest U.S. Open course in the event's 107-year history."

Adam Schein of Fox Sports writes: "That's the organization known in circles as America's Team last time I checked." I think it is also Schein's response in a mailbag here: "Last time I checked, you didn't have to play football to have an educated opinion on it."

Anthony Arroyo of the Journal-Advocate writes: "Sure, you may say 'it’s only Arizona,' but that same Arizona team does lead the National League West, last time I checked."

Jim Reeves of the Star Telegram writes: "Those of us who live in glass houses--and last time I checked, that just about covers most of us--shouldn't even think about picking up a stone."

The way it looks, everybody is doing a lot of checking, and they're making sure to reference the last time they checked.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blizzardchen 2

Football Outsiders looks at a shotgun option play utilized by the Tennessee Titans and Vince Young. FO's examination of playbooks is a wonderful way to get a football fix in these summer months.

The Fanhouse has Minneapolis/St. Paul's top 5 athletes ranked by Michael Rand (personally, I think any list that doesn't have Kevin Garnett and Johan Santana ranked 1-2 in either order is simply delirious).

Wages of Wins looks at the 1980s Lakers. has an interview with Sidney Rice: his favorite TV show is House.

See I Heart KG for links to any Kevin Garnett trade rumor or news.

This week my fantasy football league was led into revolution by RK: we now use fractional points. We revolutionaries asked the Spirit of Fantasy Football to smile on our endeavor. Of course, we began our league WITH THE GREATEST AND MOST NECESSARY REVOLUTION: the overthrow of the head-to-head standings system in favor of the cross-country standings system.


Football Outsiders is analyzing plays and formations: it's a really good read if you want to understand football better.

Patrick Reusse interviews Brad Childress
(or at least, I think he does: Reusse uses the third person and passive sentences to make unclear who is actually asking the questions).

Conventional "wisdom" has recently been critical of NFL union head Gene Upshaw. Kevin Hench of Fox Sports looks closer, and finds that Upshaw has been a very successful union head. It is interesting how people lambast Upshaw while ignoring the great benefits the union has brought to players in recent decades, and without giving him even the tiniest bit of credit for the massive success of the NFL. Hench makes a good argument: he doesn't just accept the typical media line, but examines the context and details to show how Upshaw has done a very good job.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Oakland Raiders

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Oakland Raiders
2006 stats at and

I've been saving the Raider fantasy preview for a day when I'm lacking motivation. That's because there are no Raider players you can start week one (and I'm not even sure there are Raiders you should have on your roster).

I thought I could make a spirited argument for the Oakland defense, but after looking at the numbers, it's just an average fantasy defense (and besides, I've felt for fantasy defense what Football Outsiders finds for defense in general: "Offense is more consistent from year to year than defense, and offensive performance is easier to project than defensive performance").

Can't you find at least 30 WRs you'd rather start than any Oakland WR? Can't you find at least 30 RBs you'd rather start than any Oakland RB? Wouldn't you be as willing to start any other starting QB in the league as you are to start an Oakland QB (and I like Josh McCown)? Is there any TE you'd want to start?

Oakland will probably be better than people suspect this year; by the end of the year, there might be some Raiders that make their way into your fantasy lineup. But right now you don't know that, and don't know which ones, and there's no way you should start a Raider on your fantasy team week one without spewing your breakfast all over your shirt.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the New York Giants

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

New York Giants
2006 stats at and

Eli Manning (QB): Eli Manning is worthy of criticism as a quarterback. He hasn't been terribly accurate. But look at his number totals in his two years as starter: 3,762 yards and 24 TDs in 2005, 3,244 yards and 24 TDs in 2006. That makes Eli Manning a decent fantasy quarterback. Oh, he'll crush your very will to breathe on any given week. But he actually threw a TD pass in 14 of 16 games last season, so mostly, he's going to get you points.

Plaxico Burress (WR): Two WRs caught touchdown passes in 10 different games last season: Terrell Owens (in 16 games) and Plaxico Burress (in 15 games). He's a very good fantasy start.

Jeremy Shockey (TE): Shockey is probably an overrated player, but as far as TEs go, he's one of the top ten and worthy to be in your fantasy lineup.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide any real insight about the most pressing fantasy question surrounding the Giants: will any RB take over Tiki Barber's production? Will Brandon Jacobs get more of the rushing yards while keeping the red zone carries (either way, he's not likely to match Barber's production receiving)? Will Reuben Droughns be the good system RB he was in Denver (either way, he's never scored a lot of TDs, so Jacobs is still likely to get the red zone carries)? I like drafting proven producers in good situations. Sure, I'll draft a guy with a brief CV and long potential, but late in a snake draft or cheap in an auction draft. For these big questions, I'd rather let somebody else take the risks. I'd let somebody else find out whether Reuben Droughns or Brandon Jacobs or some other RB you've never heard of will be a big fantasy producer. If your draft is held after the preseason, however, you might have more information leading you to start a Giant RB.

Fantasy Preview: the Tennessee Titans

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Tennessee Titans
2006 stats at and

Vince Young (QB): Here’s what I wrote about Vince Young a few days before the Titans re-signed RB Chris Brown:

“In your head, list off all the current Titan WRs, TEs, and RBs. How many did you get to? And did you name a single viable fantasy starter? No. That’s why Vince Young is a risk, and that’s why you should vomit into the bathtub and crawl in with it if you are starting any other Titans. If Young had some other skill position players around him to throw to, he’d be an expensive fantasy pick. As it is, he’ll still be an expensive fantasy pick, and probably a worthy starter, but also a disappointment.”

Chris Brown changes things for the Titans, but it doesn’t really change much about Vince Young’s fantasy status going into the season. Chris Brown may have an effect on Young’s numbers, but I can’t predict that effect in any way that changes how I feel about Vince Young right now. He's a risky high-potential starter that you should let somebody else in your league draft. If somehow he ends up on your team, start him and hope for good tidings.

But now Vince Young isn't the only valid Titan fantasy starter, because I like

Chris Brown (RB): Chris Brown can be a very productive fantasy RB. In 2004, he was a wonderful fantasy player--when healthy. That’s the problem: he was a good fantasy starter in 11 games. He was less productive on a bad 2005 Titan team, and only played in 5 games in 2006. Brown is a weak starter going into 2007, but still a starter. Will he be a decent start by week 4, week 8, week 12? I don’t know. But he’d be a cheap player (he should go very late in any draft) and a reasonable week one starter.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Worn-out Metaphors and Evolving Language: Peter King

George Orwell condemns worn-out metaphors in part because they no longer evoke a concrete image. He condemns this "staleness of imagery" in "dying metaphors" because

"A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. [...] Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact."

This is the problem: a metaphor is supposed to provide an image that helps illuminate the meaning of the idea. But when a metaphor is used again and again, it loses the power to supply an image: instead it is just a word or phrase. If a metaphor is extremely overused, it is worse than that: it hinders clear understanding. A worn-out metaphor contributes to the "lack of precision" that Orwell condemns above all other abuses of language.

In Peter King's MMQB this week, the first paragraph contains the cliches "not much to sink your football teeth into" and "Here's my attempt to stir things up." Naturally, I prepared to write a Chronicle of Cliche (because I never really grow bored with doing so, and I've never seen such egregious use of worn-out metaphors outside of Peter King).

But looking at the second cliche, I reflected on the atrocious nature of wearing out metaphors, on how they transform from evocative image into stale language. "To stir things up" must certainly have once referred to actual stirring, and using the metaphor of "stirring" to refer to something other than mixing a beverage may have evoked the image of just what stirring does. But it doesn't anymore: the cliche about "stirring things up" is now used so frequently to define people causing trouble or instigating debate that when we read it, we no longer picture anything actually being stirred.

As I continued through King's column, I found more examples of these truly dead metaphors. Let's examine some of them to illustrate how a metaphor dies.

"Manning's No. 1 (Surprise!)"

This is the death of irony. When one says "Surprise!" after something that is totally expected, predictable, or obvious, one is attempting an ironic use of the word. However, in writing, I rarely see the use of "Surprise!" to actually mean surprise; when I see it now, it is usually "ironically" used after something that is not surprising at all. If I handed this column to a non-football fan who had never heard of Peyton Manning, and he/she saw the sentence "Manning's No. 1 (Surprise!)," I strongly believe he/she would know that it is not actually a surprise. And so "Surprise!" after an unsurprising statement is no longer ironical, but a straight clear meaning. The word "surprise" in writing is so often used to mean its opposite that it is now a truly weak word.

"I'd take Drew Brees over Carson Palmer if I were starting a team right now. Sacrilege!"

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia says that "Sacrilege is in general the violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object. In a less proper sense any transgression against the virtue of religion would be a sacrilege." And yet in a civilization no longer controlled by the Roman Catholic Church, the term "sacrilege" has lost a lot of its original powerful meaning. It's another word that when used in writing is usually meant ironically. Like a wispy, hazy ghost in Hades, it has the shadow of an image: you probably associate "sacrilege" with some sort of religious debasement.

However, the metaphor itself shouldn't really work. The better metaphor would be "heresy," which refers to unorthodox doctrine of belief, and often a statement of unorthodox belief. In the Catholic Encyclopedia, "sacrilege" does not refer to speech against a sacred object, but physical defilement of some sort. So the religious metaphor King should be looking for is "heresy": he believes and is stating that he'd take Brees over Palmer. Sacrilege refers to physical violation of a sacred person, place, or object. Does this matter to how the metaphor is used? Possibly not--but it's not a precise metaphor because its meaning has shifted. It probably shouldn't be used because we don't know precisely what "sacrilege" actually refers to, but have a vague concept of religious desecration.

"With fewer weapons and..."

"he is the right trigger man for the Lions' offense."

Just keep these one in mind. I'm working on an essay about the images of war or violence used to describe sports (an essay that could will either be a short exploration post, or a longer post that would serve as the magnus opus of this blog). These metaphors are prevalent and will require some deeper reflection before I'm reading to fully explore them. But consider this: when you hear the word "weapon" in relation to football, you don't actually think of a weapon, do you? When you hear about the "battle" "in the trenches," or "trench warfare," you probably just picture the play of the offensive and defensive linemen and not actual armies digging trenches for a battle, right? These images are metastasized into sports.

"As for how I arrived at my picks, other than with a divining rod, I used a few measuring sticks."

Interesting that King doesn't use what he metaphorically calls "a divining rod," but instead uses "a few measuring sticks." When he says "measuring sticks," do you actually picture rulers? No: a "measuring stick" now just means a standard for measuring something, not an actual stick.

"Even if I feel a team is making the wrong move (as in Kansas City going with the very green Brodie Croyle, which it looks like the Chiefs are going to do), the opening day starter is the guy I've rated here."

Do you picture a green piece of fruit, not yet ripe, when you see an inexperienced player called "green"?

"Has Carlos Zambrano blown another gasket yet?"

I'm willing to bet that a lot of people use the metaphor of "blowing a gasket" to refer to somebody losing ones temper, expressing anger, etc., without actually knowing what a "gasket" is or what is actually means to "blow" it.

I do not condemn the use of metaphoric language; indeed, good, original, creative metaphors can evoke images that illustrate or illuminate the meaning of an idea. But worn-out metaphors do not: they are in the process of evolving into mere idioms. You might be able to explain the origin or image of such an idiom, but whether you can or not doesn't matter: you understand what the idiom means without actually envisioning an image.

Blizzard: time for that authentic life you've been putting off

At the Fanhouse, MJD talks about the decline in interesting sporting events and stories in mid-summer. That's why you're getting treated to 32 separate fantasy football previews on this blog (and you'll actually probably actually get a lot more). But this isn't the time to strain and claw at whatever minuscule sports stories you can. You can be a spectator the rest of the sports year; now is the time to do. Take up a sport yourself. I have a cheap, easy, and very fun recommendation: badminton. It's not hard to set up a badminton net in your backyard, or even a park. It's a very fun summer activity--a good workout but not terribly strenuous. Give it a whirl. don't let your summer be spent pining for spectating; make summer your chance to play badminton every day. Slam that shuttlecock!

What other easy yard or park games do you recommend playing in midsummer?

Antoine Winfield and the Vikings like each other again (Star Tribune, Pioneer Press).

VikingUpdate has brief looks at expectations for Adrian Peterson and the changing tone of Brad Childress.

The Science of Football finds the salary cap has no impact on "parity."

Peter King ranks all 32 starting QBs, and Tarvaris Jackson does not come in last!

And finally, via PFT, Steven Jackson is talking about gaining 2,500 yards from scrimmage this season. The rule for a Suspension of Disbelief article is that it must be a national publication; however, this News Tribune article is very much in the spirit of SoD. We love it when the player himself picks out the absurdly high number he's going to shoot for and talks about why he's going to do it. It's also fairly plausible: last season Jackson did have 2,334 yards, fifth highest ever; couldn't he improve and have 2,500 yards? There is a small error in the article: Faulk's record is 2,429.

We also think that yards from scrimmage needs to be a more prestigious number: there should be respect for the record holder and for each season's leader comparable to the respect for the leader in rushing yards (if there were, there's no way Thurman Thomas would have waited until his second year of eligibility to make the Hall of Fame). In today's NFL, yards from scrimmage is a truer sign of a RB's contribution to his team's success than rushing yards.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Cincinnati Bengals

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Cincinnati Bengals
2006 stats at and

The Cincinnati Bengals have joined teams like the Colts and the Rams as fantasy juggernauts: the offense is so potent and versatile that you want as many of their offensive starters on your fantasy team as is reasonable. That may be an exaggeration, but not by much: you should be happy to start the QB, the K, the RB, and either the #1 WR or the #2 WR. Those aren't mediocre reaches on a bad fantasy team; they are very good to great fantasy starters that can help you win a championship. Be happy to start:

The kicker, whose name is evidently Shayne Graham.

Carson Palmer, the fantasy QB second only to Peyton Manning

Chad Johnson, the #1 WR that was inconsistent last season but that many consider the best wideout in the game.

T.J. Houshmandzedah, the #2 WR that started putting up #1 production last season (I’d still only want him as my #2 fantasy WR).

Rudi Johnson, the absurdly consistent RB (2004: 1454-12, 2005: 1,458-12, 2006: 1,309-12).

That’s a deep fantasy squad.

And while we're at it, let's throw out the ridiculous question: could you try draft all five of these players and start them all (not possible in a snake draft, plausible in an auction), and would it benefit your fantasy team?

I'm not sure. With the exception of a few bad weeks, you're going to get good points every week, because you're going to get almost all of Cincinnati's points and yards credited to your fantasy score (some of those yards twice). You might not have as many monster weeks, because it's going to be hard for a bunch of players in your lineup to score multiple TDs.

I think you could do better in an 8 or 10 team league spreading your starters around from different teams. However, in a 12 team league, you could do pretty well starting Palmer-Johnson-Johnson-Houshmandzedah-Graham, or Manning-Addai-Harrison-Wayne-Vinatieri.

The easier move is to look for QB-RB combos on good offenses. Palmer-Johnson, Bulger-Jackson, Rivers-Tomlinson, Manning-Addai, even Hasselbeck-Alexander: these combos are out there. With the great QB-RB combos, you should score big and consistently: you'll have all the passing yards and TDs and the majority of the rushing yards and TDs for a great offense credited to your fantasy team.

So make a courageous move: draft Carson Palmer, Rudi Johnson, and Shayne Graham, and you won't miss out on many of the Bengals' points. Considering the team was 8th in points and 8th in yards last season, that's a solid anchor to your team. You'll still have to support their points with other good starters, but you've got a good core.

Fantasy Preview: the Buffalo Bills

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Buffalo Bills
2006 stats at and

There is one Bill I would be excited to start week one:

Lee Evans (WR): I love deep threat, big play wide receivers, but I'm not always thrilled to have them on my fantasy team. I had sort of envisioned Lee Evans as an inconsistent WR capable of monster games and monster plays, but not consistent enough to be a good fantasy starter (after all, in 2006 he did have 5 games with 2 or less receptions).

But then I looked closer at his game logs. He only had four games with less than 50 yards. He scored at least one TD in 7 of 16 games (he really scored a lot late in the season when J.P. Losman was coming on, and Losman's progress is another reason to be hopeful about Evans). He had 90+ yards in 6 of 16 games. In 2006, Evans' breakout year, he was actually fairly consistent (and capable of monster games, like his 11-265-2 game against the Texans).

I'd love to start Lee Evans week one.

But on this team, that's it. Marshawn Lynch may be the best rookie fantasy player this season, but I'd still consider it a risk to go with him as a starter at the beginning of the year. If he's one of your two best RBs, you are really going to need him to help. J.P. Losman hasn't yet been a good fantasy QB, though he has been playing better and there have been suggestions that new O-coordinator Steve Fairchild is opening up the offense. Losman might be worth a late pick or an early free agent pickup, but you really shouldn't go into the season with him as your fantasy starter.

Start Lee Evans; puke on your shoes if you start another Bill.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the Miami Dolphins

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Miami Dolphins
2006 stats at and

There are only two Dolphin fantasy players/positions worth starting week one.

The Defense: It's not a great starting defense, but usually good enough. There are playmakers capable of turnovers and sacks, and since Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas have been there, the defense usually does pretty well in fantasyland.

Ronnie Brown (RB): he disappointed fantasy owners last season, but I know at least one fantasy owner that was insanely frustrated with the way Nick Saban and his coaching staff used him in the red zone. He might take off this season. He’s still young and extremely talented, and I’d be happy to start him week one.

Trent Green? You‘re living in the past, man. I don’t trust Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, or Ted Ginn, Jr. to do anything for my fantasy team; I’d probably want to bring some antacid if I’m starting any Dolphin WRs week one.

When I look at the Dolphins, I think Dan Marino must be spinning in his grave. Yes, I know Marino is alive, but I’m using a worn-out metaphor and I’m not attempting to make any clear coherent point (in fact, I'm being deliberately vague), so the reality behind the worn-out cliche (which is so worn-out it doesn't even invoke an image anymore) is immaterial to that sentence.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Blizzard: weekend

Via Kansas Viking, Realfootball365 says the Vikes should prioritize extending Pat Williams' contract. I agree: he's been the best player on the team for two years, and the team should ensure that he's on the team until he can't play anymore.

An off-season tradition: Pete Prisco's list of the top 50 players in the league.

Outsports reports on a randomly occurring slur.

Suspension of Disbelief
Len Pasquarelli talks to Orlando Pace and finds "Early signs point to Pace returning to Pro Bowl form."

Adam Schein talks to a confident Chris Simms (alright, I can't even suspend my disbelief for this one).

There's a classic sub-genre to the Suspension of Disbelief articles: the "This player will be great this season if some team would just sign him" articles. Michael Silver talks to Robert Griffith.

Fantasy Preview: the New Orleans Saints

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

New Orleans Saints
2006 stats at and

Drew Brees (QB): Brees is one of the six best fantasy quarterbacks. The problem is there are players just a notch or two below his production that will go much later in snake drafts, or for much cheaper in auction drafts. Is it worth it to pass on a starting RB or WR in order to get Brees, which you’d have to do? I don’t think so. But if you do it, you obviously should be happy to start him.

Marques Colston (WR): There’s going to be too much fantasy hype on Colston; I’ll most certainly be staying away from him. I’m always leery of guys with a great rookie year coming back. Was it a fluke? I don’t know. I’d still be happy starting him, I just don't feel willing to pay enough to draft him.

Reggie Bush (RB): But this is the great dilemma, isn’t it? Bush or McAllister? I’d be willing to start Bush this season; he produces yards because he’s so involved in the passing game, he should do better running the ball, and he’s capable of a TD at any time.

Deuce McAllister (RB): And I’d also start Deuce McAllister happily if I could.

Now the real question: could you try draft McAllister and Bush and start them both? It’s a question you need to ask. There are still plenty of feature backs in the league, but a lot more teams are going to the combination backfield of two very good RBs. You can get burned if you pick one and the other one has a huge game. But is it worth it to start two RBs on one team instead of two feature RBs on two separate teams? Generally, you would expect two separate RBs getting primary back carries to produce more fantasy points than two RBs splitting carries on the same team--there are just more carries going around for two different teams than one. However, because those feature RBs will be in high demand, you may be able to get both of the sharing-carries RBs from one team relatively cheaply. This means you could bulk up your WR positions with elite WRs, then start a combo backfield. It’s a strategy that just might work: Bush and McAllister did combine for 2,562 yards from scrimmage and 18 offensive TDs last season.

In a snake draft, I wouldn’t do it: there’s going to be a lot of hype on Reggie Bush, so he’ll go relatively early. But in an auction league, you might be able to get both McAllister and Bush to be your primary starters and still get elite WRs, too.

The Saints should have a high-scoring offense, so you could also start kicker John Carney.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Articles without Insight

SI's Bucky Brooks has a recent column featuring "Players on the decline: Ten veterans whose production will continue to slide." We might expect some insight here, right? Perhaps Brooks will look at players that we may still think are good but are likely to suffer a decline in 2007.

But that's really not the case: Brooks documents players who declined in 2006, if not earlier.

He talks about Trent Green, who in 2006 missed 8 games with a concussion, threw more INTs than TDs, and was awful in the Chiefs' playoff game. He talks about Jamal Lewis, who in the last two seasons averaged 3.4 and 3.6 yards per attempt (his previous low was 4.3). He includes Rod Smith, who in 2006 had 52 catches for 512 yards, easily his worst season since 1996. You can also learn about Marcus Pollard, who in 2006 had just 12 receptions for 100 yards, and Simeon Rice, who in 2006 played in 8 games and recorded 2 sacks.

Brooks doesn't tell us what players are likely to decline in 2007; he merely reminds us about players that have already begun to decline in 2006. Predicting that these players are on the downsides of their careers is fairly easy.

In his commentaries on each player, Brooks does provide some analysis on why each player has declined. It's not really thorough, unique analysis, but it's something. His choices on which players will "continue to decline," however, don't show a lot of insight or knowledge.

Then again, ESPN's John Clayton has written a Suspension of Disbelief article on Jamal Lewis. This feature includes quotes from Lewis like "Sometimes change is good. I needed a fresh start. I needed one last year," "I'm 27 years old but I'm still fresh and still healthy [...] I had the ankle problems over the past two years, but I had the surgery. Mentally, I'm good. I just needed to get into the right situation," and "I don't buy the thought that people say I'm out of gas and I don't have anything in the tank."

Hell, Lewis has half-convinced me: these Suspension of Disbelief articles are always fairly convincing. I should probably be thanking Brooks for providing the necessary reality.

NBA Legacy Watch: LeBron James and Tim Duncan

LeBron and Elgin
As a rookie, Elgin Baylor led the Minneapolis Lakers to the NBA Finals, where they were swept by the Boston Celtics.

In his career, Baylor helped lead the Lakers to a total of eight NBA Finals appearances. Baylor was All-NBA First Team 10 times in his career. He was in the top-5 in scoring eight times and top-5 in rebounding four times. He's fourth in NBA history with 27.4 points per game.

Being swept in his first NBA Finals will mean little to LeBron James' career.

Tim Duncan: the best player on four championship teams
Here is a list of players in NBA history to be the best player on four or more championship teams:

George Mikan
Bill Russell
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar*
Magic Johnson*
Michael Jordan
Tim Duncan

That's select company.

*Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the best player in the '71 Bucks, probably the best player on the '80 and '82 Lakers, and arguably the best player on the '85 Lakers. Magic Johnson was the best player on the '87 and '88 Lakers, arguably the best player on the '85 Lakers, and possibly the best player on the '80 and '82 Lakers. I've got no desire to debate which player was most important to the Lakers in the early 80s; let's paradoxically put them both on the list. And I don't think Shaq was the best player on the '06 Heat. I'm also convinced Bill Russell was the best player on all 11 championship teams he was on (but at any rate, I'm not sure you could argue any other Celtic was the best player on four different championship teams). This is a longer asterisk than I intended.

Blizzard: it feels like a sauna in here

Insomniac's Lounge talks about why Joakim Noah's life is good. I hope his life is soon good in the Twin Cities. says Cedric Benson is critical to the Bears' hopes this year.

Randball looks at the Mike James-Juwan Howard trade.

Here's an old Pro Football HOF article about left-handed quarterbacks. Show respect for your sinister brethren!

You know sports bloggers don't just talk sports: the Hater Nation defends the Seinfeld season finale and I've Made a Huge Tiny Mistake defends The Sopranos season finale.

And speaking of sports bloggers writing about non-sports, I don't just criticize sports columns; any bad column will do. You can check out Costanza Book Club for my recent critique of the the Strib's Katherine Kersten's column on beggars in Minneapolis.

Suspension of Disbelief
There are two criteria for an article to qualify as a "suspension of disbelief" article.
1. It must be from a national news source (local papers, or course, are always doing something like this about local players; I find it interesting when national newspapers do these pieces).
2. It must involve quotes from the player being discussed (all sorts of writers make predictions; a "suspension of disbelief" article involves talking to the player about why he'll be great).
And remember: I'm not saying the writers or players are wrong when they talk about why they'll be good in 2007; obviously some of them will be right, and every article is plausible.

Today's suspension of disbelief column is from the USA Today and features Matt Hasselbeck.

Fantasy Preview: the Dallas Cowboys

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

The Dallas Cowboys
2006 stats at and

Dallas is a loaded fantasy football team; there are a lot of players you can confidently start the season with. They are one of the really loaded offenses capable of dousing the field with points.

Tony Romo (QB): a decent fantasy starter with great talent around him. He’s a consistent fantasy scorer, and the people he throws to give him the potential for a lot of large games.

Terrell Owens (WR): one of the very best fantasy starters. He’s always a risk to draft because you never know if he’s going to freak out or anything else. I’d draft him, start him week one, and always be willing to trade him if he’s playing well.

Terry Glenn (WR): Glenn is a decent #2 fantasy receiver. Decent--I wouldn’t go bonkers over starting him, but I wouldn’t throw up, either.

Jason Witten (TE): only one touchdown last season was very disappointing, but he produces yards and is capable of more touchdowns. I never consider TE a priority in fantasy football; after the top 2-4 are drafted, you can get a guy like Witten to do well for you.

I’d want to start the kicker if I could know for sure who the kicker is. In our league, this will be the first year we’re required to know the names of kickers; in the past we’ve just drafted team kickers like you’d draft a team defense. I’ve liked only vaguely knowing the names of the kickers, and now I have to learn them.

It might be worth it to start both Julius Jones and Marion Barber: their combined yards and TDs can match up against another combo (last year they combined for 2,076 total yards and 20 total TDs), and if you’ve got Jones and Barber as your starting backs, hopefully it means you are strong at other positions. I’d be afraid to start the season with one or the other, however; perhaps after a few weeks one or the other will emerge.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hope you didn't buy a Mike James T-Wolves jersey

The Star Tribune reports that Mike James will be traded to Houston for Juwan Howard (would it really take much effort for the Wolves to try put the entire Fab Five back together?). More players could be added to the deal.

All I want is for the Wolves to give KG some help in the post. Juwan Howard's a 6'9" forward that averaged 9.7-5.9 in 26.5 minutes per game last season. That's a decent start. If they fulfill my dream of drafting Noah, I will be quite happy to watch the Wolves next year. If they draft a guard, I'm boycotting Kevin Tuberculosis McHale.

Fantasy Preview: the New York Jets

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

New York Jets
2006 stats at and

If you are in a deep 12 man league that starts 3 wide receivers, then Laveranues Coles is a valid fantasy starter.

If you are in a deep 12 man league and have bulked up other positions, then Thomas Jones works as a running back; he's a feature back and so he's bound to get feature back carries, making him a functional fantasy starter.

So there are some Jets worth having on your roster. But honestly, should you be starting any Jets week one? Should you be excited to start any Jets week one? Absolutely not. They are functional players if you are weak at a position, or are dealing with injuries. But I'll still want to throw up if I'm starting a Jet week one.

Blizzard: rk wins the title contest

Via Fanhouse, talks about why the Vikings will be good, using the same argument What was that bang? used in his semi-satirical post about why the Vikes will be great.

One of the great things about the blog: they find creative ways to amuse us during the offseason.

The Starting Five has a discussion about the idea of a "double standard," something I've written about before.

Matt Leinart is a left-hander, and he says "really gay-friendly things." Can I get over the fact that he's a Trojan and just root for him?

Suspension of Disbelief Articles
Clark Judge thinks Jeff Garcia fits in great in Tampa Bay.

Pete Prisco talks with Marques Colston about why he's good, and Keenan McCardell about why he'll be good if he signs with a team.

John Clayton talks about why there's optimism about J.P. Losman in Buffalo.

I chronicle these Suspension of Disbelief Articles out of love; they've got us all through a lot of summers. And they are all plausible: some are bound to be right. It's just amusing how every team has some offensive player ready to talk about why he's going to be great this season, and reporters are willing to write the pieces, and fans are willing to read these pieces, because it's the offseason.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Outlawing another Sports Cliche: "What a difference a year makes"

In John Clayton's article on the Buffalo Bills, he begins by writing about where the Bills were at a year ago. And then he transitions with "What a difference a year makes."

This is not a worn out metaphor because it is not a metaphor; it is simply a worn out figure of speech. It's functional, too: sometimes it is insightful to show how far a team has come in little amount of time. "What a difference a year makes" goes beyond cheap idiom: it's a cheap convention. It's often used as an introduction in a feature article, and it's a fine conventional introduction; I just wish that the exact same phrase didn't have to be used repeatedly, redundantly, again and again.

Here's a recent article about Tiger Woods entitled " What a difference a year makes for impending father Woods." Here's an article about the Cleveland Indians entitled "What a difference a year makes for Indians." It begins by citing the Indians' record a year ago, and then transitions with "What a difference a year makes." There's also a recent article about the Saskatchewan Roughriders entitled "What a difference a year makes" and an article about an Arkansas baseball player drafted by the As that begins with the line "What a difference a year makes."

But here's my favorite: an article about the Oklahoma State golf team that is entitled "A year makes a difference for golfers," begins with the paragraph "What a difference a day makes. A year. A round of golf," and features the phrase "What a difference a year makes" in the third paragraph.

These are all articles from this June.

We get it. A lot changes in a year. There's nobody that doesn't know that in life, and perhaps especially in sports, there are major changes that occur from year to year. Do we have to recognize such changes in sports fortune with the same phrase?

So I'm abolishing any variation of "What a difference (amount of time) makes" from my own use. And I recommend you do to.

Fantasy Preview: the Arizona Cardinals

The premise is simple: I'll tell you what players you can confidently start the season with, and what players should cause your stomach to wobble if you have to start them.

Arizona Cardinals

2006 stats at and

Here are the Cardinal players you should feel good about starting the season with:

Anquan Boldin (WR): Boldin is an underrated wide receiver, one of the best in the league. He is not, however, a great fantasy scorer. If he’s your #1 WR, you don’t have a good WR corps, but you could confidently start him as your #2 WR.

Larry Fitzgerald (WR): Fitzgerald is one of the best WRs in the league, fantasy or otherwise. I put him in the top 6-7 fantasy wide receivers.

Neil Rackers (K) Rackers was tied for seventh last year in kicking points; he’s a decent kicker, and you shouldn’t mind starting him.

You should throw up if you are starting any other Cardinal players week one.

Edgerrin James may return to form as a good fantasy starter this season, but I don’t want my fantasy hopes to depend on it, and neither should you. It’s quite possible that by the end of the year, Matt Leinart will be a deserving fantasy starter and you’ll go into 2008 considering him a top-5 fantasy quarterback. He’s got talent and he’s got talent around him; with Fitzgerald and Boldin to throw to, I expect big things from Leinart very soon. But right now, there are 12 QBs I would rather start Week One with, and another five that I would consider starting before Leinart.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Fantasy Preview: the New England Patriots

These previews are going to go team by team in random order. The premise is simple. I'm going to talk about which players on each team you should feel confident about starting week one. Anybody else should not start for you week one; in fact, if you are starting any other players on the team week one, you should throw up.

I'd like to give you more information: sleepers, game-by-game stats, rigid analysis, etc. I'm doing all that, but I'm in a competitive league myself, and most members of my league read this blog. We don't play for money: we play for the Hazelweird and A.P. Trophies. The point is I have all sorts of fantasy ideas that I'm not putting on this blog, because I don't want anybody in my league to know my real secrets.

Is this a stupid use of this blog? Without a doubt Is this a horrible waste of my summer? Most definitely. Are you a lesser person for bothering to read it? Quite possibly. But last summer I was on technology hiatus; this is my first summer blogging full-time, and since we've never written about baseball, there's not much else to cover. Writing individual fantasy previews for every team in the league seems like a fair use of the summer.

The New England Patriots
2006 stats at and

There are four players/positions on the Patriot roster worth starting on your fantasy team at the start of the season. Here they are.

Tom Brady (QB): Brady is one of the most consistent fantasy QBs. Since becoming New England‘s starter, he hasn't missed a start. He’s led the league in both TD passes and passing yards. From 2002-2006, he averaged 25.8 TD passes (low of 23, high of 28) and 3,743 yards (low of 3,620, high of 4,110). That’s consistency. With additions like Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, and Wes Welker, Brady should at least match his average, and could set career highs in every category.

Laurence Maroney (RB): Last season Corey Dillon had 199 carries and 13 TDs. This season Maroney is the feature back. He’ll be a second-round pick in most of your drafts, so he should be a week one starter.

Stephen Gostkowski (K): as long as I’ve played fantasy football, it’s never been a bad thing to have the Patriot kicker.

The Defense (D): as long as I’ve played fantasy football, it’s never been a bad thing to have the Patriot defense.

If you are starting any other Patriot players on your fantasy team week one, you should throw up. Randy Moss is too questionable--he might score 20 TDs this season, but since he left the Vikings, he’s fully capable of dive-bombing your fantasy football. It’s never fun to start a Patriot WR or TE, since they spread the ball around to so many different people. It's worth having some of them on your roster (Moss, Stallworth, Watson), but there's no reason to start any Patriot WR or TE week one. Well, there are three reasons:
1. You took the risk on Randy.
2. You spent your high picks/money on other more important players, and therefore these are the weakest positions on your team.
3. Your team sucks.

Start Brady, Maroney, the kicker, and the defense with confidence. Nobody else on the Patriots is worth starting week one. You can take your chances with Randy Moss, but he will probably make you cry.