Wait...who the hell's this schmuck in the college uniform? Patience, all will be explained later.
Somehow, despite a first-round pick who couldn't hold onto the ball, a quarterback who got a boo-boo on his wittle toe and took a month off, and a stud WR who's being accused of taking some games off, the Mooby Mafia has once again reached the 3FL playoffs and has a chance of defending its title. (Looks like that might be more than we'll be able to say for the Steelers.)
Usually, in this league, we have one clearly dominant team and everybody else is scraping to find that one waiver-wire pickup that'll spend the last three games getting hot, usually off the really shit teams. Worked for me last year, when I was able to ride the likes of Cedric Benson, Fred Jackson, and Johnnie Lee Higgins to a title.
This year, though, we have three teams that were just either beautifully drafted or lucky to dodge injuries, and as a result, there are three legitimate bad-ass teams that I just didn't want to play. Thankfully, I worked up to the #5 seed, and I don't have to play one of them in the first. Excellent.
But first, a moment of silence for our fallen comrades who'll have to catch the playoffs from the couch:
12. Valhalla (0-14)--Our first ever winless team, Jason's boys didn't go down without a fight, as six of those losses were by less than eight points. Waiver pickups like Mario Manningham and Andre Caldwell helped, and Matt Schaub and Larry Fitz were dominant, but it couldn't make up for the fact that Steve Smith (Carolina version) decided to take the season off and Willis McGahee got his job ripped from his grasp. Only three of Jay's opponents failed to break 100 points, and it's hard to pick up wins when that happens.
11. Lady Shark (4-10)--Mireya had a great QB duo with Romo and Favre. Unfortunately, when Calvin Johnson started having injury issues and her #2 overall pick, Brian Westbrook, got his squash rattled against the Redskins, she didn't quite have enough big scorers to fall back on. She did start a three-game winning streak before ending the season being crushed by her hubby.
10. God'sRightHand (6-8)--Adam looked like he was going to roll heavy behind the duo of Jacobs and Forte, but neither one of them ever got on track. His 14th-round pick of the Doobie Warrior, Ricky Williams, turned out to be absolute genius. And luck, as it often seems to do, carried him quite a long way, as he had five games where his opponents failed to break 80. Only one other team had more than three such games, and it was one of the teams who needed it the least. More on that later.
9. Gutter's Tools (6-8)--It looked like Tim was in, as I was up by only 12 points in Week 14 with him having Kurt Warner and me having VD (that's Vernon Davis, not some kind of infection...perverts) left to play on Monday Night. Only when Warner and the Cardinals went paws-up was I able to relax and enjoy a playoff berth. Contrary to my preseason speculation, Adrian Peterson didn't get completely ignored this season, and Tim rode him, Warner, and Antonio Gates to some solid wins. However, I was right on when I called Clinton Portis over Chris Johnson as a shaky pick. Little did I know that Fumbleupagus Slaton would be just as bad.
And, that leads us to our playoff matchups:
#1 Salsa Shark (11-3) v. #8 Kirbdogs (7-7)--Drafting Peyton Manning is a dangerous game. You know that he'll be crunching fat points all season...until playoff time. By then, the Colts usually have at least a division title in the bag, and you're casting that anxious eye to the sideline, praying that Jim Sorgi isn't warming up. Good news for Kirby is that he doesn't have to worry about that this season...since Sorgi's on IR. Now it's Curtis Painter that he's got to watch out for. It's tempting to write Kirby off as a one-man band, but he's gotten production out of Percy (DUDE, NOT SO LOUD!...get it? He has migraines? Ahem) Harvin, Tony Gonzalez, and his big waiver score Rashard Mendenhall. He's even gotten good production out of Marion Barber at the right time, as his two TD's last night and Peyton's four on Thursday have staked Kirby to a big lead early.
Justin's been both lucky and good this season. He had the highest-scoring team in the league, plus being that team I mentioned earlier with six opponents failing to break 80. Tom Brady, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, and Ryan Grant have all come up large for him, as well as the GOOD Steve Smith. It's good for him that injuries haven't been a big issue, because the bench has featured the likes of Correll Suckhalter and Ol' Dirty Sanchez. Of course, no sooner do we observe this point than Kevin Smith gets stuck on injured reserve.
If Belichick takes his foot off Brady's throttle and decides to rely more on Laurence Maroney against Buffalo's weak-sauce run D, Justin might have to sweat. But, I'd be sort of surprised if that's what happens. That game will also be interesting for the way the Bills use Marshawn Lynch, as Justin may be forced to use him for the first time in a month. Last time, Lynch exploded for...-0.2.
Shark: Brady-Welker-Johnson-Grant-S. Smith (NYG)-Lynch-Longwell-Vikings
PREDICTION: Shark by 12, much closer than one might expect.
#2 Blue Rookie Monsters (10-4) v. #7 PopNLochNessMonsters (7-7)--Steve's BRM's were every bit as good as predicted, as his only shaky pick this season now appears to be Michael Turner. Normally, a first-round pick racking inactives at playoff time is the kiss of death, but in a league where one can go 4-WR, there aren't too many better crews to assemble than Anquan Boldin, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, and the waiver-wire success story of the year, Miles Austin. Fred Jackson's kept his RB position from being a total black hole, and the Rodgers-Palmer duo has been surprisingly sturdy. Even Derrick Mason started becoming relevant, as the Ravens remembered that, oh, yeah, we can throw this thing more than 12 times per game.
Jon's universally-panned draft actually paid some dividends. Jason Campbell steered Jon through Donovan McNabb's early-season injury woes, Donald Driver and Chad GrandeChalupa scored more than expected, Ray Rice became the Sleeper From Hell, and he scored big with a late-season grab for Robert Meachem. Losses of Ronnie Brown and Chris Cooley left a 6-2 start circling the drain, and only his accumulated early points kept him from having to seriously sweat Week 14.
Both these teams were able to score points, as Steve only had three sub-100 games and Jon had five. Even during his 1-5 finish, Jon still broke 100 four of six games. There are some deceptive matchups this week that might play into Jon's favor, too. With Donald Driver going against the suddenly-catatonic Steelers and Ray Rice lining up against the Bears, big points might be there. Bummer for Jon that Rodgers will get Steve a piece of any Driver production. With Miles Austin already banking 24.4 for Steve, though, and Meachem only going for 6.8, there's a hill to climb. The key might be whether or not Detroit can make Anquan Boldin as miserable as the 49ers did. (I can't even type that with a straight face.)
BRM's: Rodgers-Boldin-Austin-F. Jackson-D. Jackson-V. Jackson-Crosby-Packers
PREDICTION: BRM's by 30...Jon needs to pull hard for his RB's to dominate, but DeAngelo against the Vikings will be some rough sledding.
#3 Mules (9-5) v. #6 SuicideSquad (7-7)--How does one go 7-7 with two of the four highest scorers in the league? Amanda took most teams' best shots this season, having only one game (Week 1 v. her hubster) where her opponent failed to score 80 and only five where the opponent fell short of 100. Sitting on three solid reserve RB's when you can't count on production from any WR's other than Reggie Wayne (and even he only scored 22 points total from Weeks 12-14) certainly didn't help. Thomas Jones nearly broke 200 for the season, Knowshon Moreno's come up solid for a rookie, and Jonathan Stewart's recorded some occasionally strong (albeit maddeningly inconsistent) production. Any one of them could have brought a solid WR in a league that only saw two (TWO?!?!?) trades made all season. That is, if anyone ever bothered to respond to trade offers...but maybe I'm the only one who had that problem.
In the preseason, I mentioned that a lot of Dave's hopes rode on his RB's, Steven Jackson and MoJo Drew. They produced strongly, with MJD currently standing sixth among all scorers, albeit with an extra game in hand. Brandon Marshall certainly got his head out of his ass, setting records and generally going back to being a beast. And Dave's big waiver score was the Jags' Mike Sims-Walker, who kept looking like he'd come out last year before getting hurt. Dave knew when to make a move, even benching Hines Ward last week against Cleveland when anyone else would have banked hard on a turnaround. Ward's 4.1 instead of the 14.9 he got from Brent Celek would have cost him the win and dropped him to #4. Of course, he'd be playing my banged-up outfit instead of Amanda's stud-laden group, which he's actually admitted he'd prefer. Can't say as I blame him.
Lots of guys have already played in this matchup, with Dave's two Jags, Brees, and Wayne already being in the books. Dave has a slight lead, and with Chris Johnson and Thomas Jones running into fairly tough matchups, he's got a reasonable chance to keep it. His downfall may be if Hines Ward lays another egg, since his WR/TE spot has already been filled by Sims-Walker, and there's no sliding Brent Celek in this week. The defenses could also tell a story, as Amanda has the Eagles against San Francisco, while Dave's gambling on the Texans. Although, maybe it's not such a gamble, since Houston's playing the Lambs.
PREDICTION: Mules by 20...seriously, I think the 12 of us could line up and stop the Rams, and that's with a free safety who goes a buck-oh-five soaking wet and a strong safety who's four months preggo.
#4 Carpet Munchers (9-5) v. #5 Mooby Mafia (8-6)--In the preseason, I was discussing how there were 10 or 12 TE's with the potential to be worth something, and Bill was certainly listening, as he drafted three. The best of the bunch, he got as a result of the entire league having a colossal brain-fart and letting Dallas Clark nose-dive into the 10th round. The second-best of the bunch, no one even drafted and Bill was able to score off waivers...and it may have saved my season when he traded Vernon Davis to me. Bill got a nice dose of good karma, as only four of his opponents broke 100 (three of those ending in losses), but his team was deceptively strong. Eli Manning is our league's #13 scorer, and Dallas clocks in at #25 for now. He got strong seasons from Frank Gore and Marques Colston, plus quietly solid work from Pierre Thomas and Tim Hightower. His waiver-wire score, since it seems we all had one, was Sidney Rice.
My problems have been sort of documented already, as I rode the roller coaster that was Steve Slaton's season and lived and died with the Falcons' passing game. Ced Benson helped me out for the second straight year, and my best draft pick may have also been my best waiver score, as I picked Jamaal Charles in Round 14, dropped him, then raced to get him again once Larry Johnson officially ran himself out of Kansas City. Four of Charles' last five games, he's broken 20, even as the Chiefs continue to suck harder than Sasha Grey. Bill helped out tremendously in our midseason trade, sending me three guys who I'm starting this week (Matt Hasselbeck, Santonio Holmes, and Vernon Davis). I sent him Greg Olsen, Shaun Hill, and Steve Breaston. It seemed fair at the time. To quote David Byrne in the Talking Heads' classic "Once In A Lifetime," "How did I get here?" As of last week, I'd had more points scored against me than anyone except Jason, and how I'm over .500 at all is beyond me. I have only one 200-point scorer, that being Randy (There's a Difference Between Hot Doggin' and Just Doggin') Moss.
This week, I'm rolling dice bigger than Indiana Jones' favorite boulder. I've got Roddy White getting thrown to by a backup QB AND being covered by the Human Force Field that is Darrelle Revis. Santonio Holmes is as big a wild-card as the rest of the Steelers, and Cedric Benson is iffy on a grieving Bengals team going against the playoff-motivated Chargers. Enter Arian Foster, the guy pictured at the top of this post. He's had so little NFL work that Google only had pictures of him in college at Tennessee. But now, he's apparently going to be The New Man in Houston. If he's ever going to have a big game, it HAS to be against St. Louis.
More than half of Bill's lineup has already played, and once Dallas hauled in his second TD catch on Thursday, I was fully expecting to be screwed. However, with five of his eight players done, I'm only down 57-0, which is a pleasant surprise. If the Redskins hold down Eli like they've done a lot of other teams this season, the Eagles jump out fast against the Niners, and Sidney Rice stays queasy, I might have a very good shot at this one. However, I need Foster to prove he deserves a job, and Moss to decide he wants to do his.
Munchers: E. Manning-Rice-Colston-Gore-Clark-Thomas-Stover-Saints
PREDICTION: Mafia by 25...as I said, after Thursday, I thought I was screwed. Now, it's doable...and even though my head says I'll likely be conceding this one, expressing my glee at playing Bill instead of "one of the three good teams" (my exact words) would really seem hypocritical if I didn't pick myself.
Next week, I'll dig back in and check out some of the season's interesting statistical nuggets while I prepare for another playoff game. Hopefully, I'll still be playing for first instead of fifth.