Thursday, September 21, 2017

2017 Week 3 NFL Picks: Next Stop Niche

Enjoy that little slice, NFL
The further along we get into this NFL season, the more that I'm struck by the following.

1) The NFL's popularity is on a clear and likely permanent downturn, and

2) There are just an inordinate number of teams that are terrible to look at, even if they are not all that terrible.

I've spent most of the first two weeks of NFL football putting up with drunken Browns fans, pedalling my way to fitness on a gym bike, or listening to the game on the radio in my car... and getting lost in the game? Just not happening. Maybe that's going to come back at some point, and maybe not, but it's hard to see how the league is attracting anyone but the addicted right now.

This week's slate? Not going to help that situation. But as I'm off to the best start in the history of the column... on to the picks!

* * * * *

LA Rams at SAN FRANCISCO (+2.5)

Terrible Night for Football returns with a California game that seems almost designed to impact as little people as possible. Give me the home team to actually score a touchdown (gasp!), and the road team to continue to not handle prosperity.

Niners 17, Rams 16

BALTIMORE (-3.5) at Jacksonville


These teams might have good defenses, or good offense might have just become like unicorns in the NFL. I'm going to assume that the Raven fan base owns this game, because after a decade of incompetence, who roots for Jacksonville?

Ravens 20, Jaguars 14

DENVER (-3) at Buffalo


Buffalo management is already making noise about not starting QB Tyrod Taylor, as if he's the reason why they have the worst group of wideouts in the league. You have to love Buffalo. Oh, wait, you don't? Yes, you don't.

Broncos 23, Bills 17

New Orleans at CAROLINA (-5.5)


This looks like it's going to be the last year for Drew Brees in New Orleans, and the big hope is that he survives it. This road matchup hasn't been a good one for him in recent years, and the Panther defense is looking like one of the best units in the NFL this year. Notice how all of these games are sliding under the over/under total so far? Might have something to do with the bad ratings...

Panthers 24, Saints 17

PITTSBURGH (-7.5) at Chicago


The Steelers aren't a great road team, but the Bears are just a train wreck right now, and this is a relatively easy road game for Steeler Fan to come out and own. Feel free to start the Mitch Trubisky Countdown Clock.

Steelers 26, Bears 16

Atlanta at DETROIT (+3)


Is it time for the Lions to actually look like they can, you know, beat a playoff team? I want to believe, and the Falcons are due to fail soon, what with the hangover of the Super Bowl loss and the historical record of what happens to those teams. But this isn't exactly a high confidence pick, especially on a short week.

Lions 27, Falcons 24

CLEVELAND (-1) at Indianapolis


Probably two of the worst six teams in the league this year, but the Browns are due for a big running game, not to mention one where their QBs don't commit LOL INTs.

Browns 24, Colts 20

Tampa at MINNESOTA (NL)


This one seems to be off the books because no one knows whether Vikings QB Sam Bradford will play. I'm thinking he will, that Bucs QB Jamesis Winston will continue to frustrate with inaccuracy, and that the loud home dome will come into play. But it'll be close.

Vikings 24, Bucs 23

Houston at NEW ENGLAND (-13.5)


The Texans come into this one with a stout defense, a long week of prep, and the knowledge that their offense is probably going to enjoy playing against the suddenly terrible Pats' defense. It won't matter, because their offense is just that bad, and NE needs the game. Oh, and they've got the game's best coach, rather than whatever Bill O'Brien is.

Patriots 34, Texans 20

MIAMI (-6.5) at New York Jets


How bad is New York Football right now? Nearly as bad as Los Angeles Football. Suddenly the ratings problems seem even more understandable. The Smoking Jay Cutler hype train will roll until they actually play a good team.

Dolphins 30, Jets 17

NY GIANTS (+6) at Philadelphia


The Eagles are the much better team, on longer rest, at home, and could spend most of this game smacking Eli Manning around. So why am I picking the Giants to cover? Because they need the game more, and because Eagles HC Doug Pederson manages games not to lose. He's a force to be worried about, honestly.

Eagles 27, Giants 23

SEATTLE (+2.5) at Tennessee


Expect a big game for both running backs, as neither defense is great at stopping the run. Seattle has only scored one touchdown so far this year, which hardly screams out pick the road team, but I just don't see the Titans as ready to win this game yet.

Seahawks 24, Titans 20

CINCINNATI (+9) at Green Bay


The Packers are really beat up, the Bengals had the longer time to prepare and need the game more, and NFL games just feature lower scoring and less easy covers than they used to. The Bengal defense is also better than given credit, and QB Aaron Rodgers isn't the same without WR Jordy Nelson at full speed.

Packers 24, Bengals 17

KANSAS CITY (-3) at LA Chargers


The Chargers can't draw to the NFL's smallest venue. How's that move working out for you, Dean Spanos? It couldn't happen to a nicer piece of human garbage. Oh, and the Chiefs are actually good, and will exploit the Charger secondary.

Chiefs 26, Chargers 20

OAKLAND (-3) at Washington


Listening to Raider Radio this week in the Bay Area is making me dislike this fan base, honestly. You'd think that defensive coordinators are just ready to slit their wrists rather than play the game against a team with So Many Weapons, and that the roster has So Many Character Guys. I get it, you are all very excited to be 2-0 in a region where the other team is unwatchable. Having said all that, it's going to get worse after this week, because DC under the lights is usually a train wreck.

Raiders 30, Racial Slurs 24

DALLAS (-3) at Arizona


Obvious bounce-back game for the Cowboys after last week's de-pantsing in Denver, and the extra day will help them rev up the Us Against The World mindset that makes for road covers. Oh, and the Cardinals are missing the game's best running back. That matters too.

Cowboys 24, Cardinals 20

Last week: 11-5

Season: 22-9

Career: 903-898-54

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Egles - Chiefs Takeaways: Inevitable And Still Disturbing

Get used to this face
Some stray thoughts about the Eagles' road loss to the Chiefs today, viewed once more through the pleasing prism of 10am PST start time...

> If you're looking to lose a game with better talent and play, Doug Pederson may be your ideal game day coach. For a second straight week, Pederson managed to play a loose conservative style that would be comically predictable if the results weren't so tragic. He's going to abandon the run early, rely too much on aging smurf RB Darren Sproles, allow his defense to blitz on utterly predictable downs, try the big plays between the 40s only, and reduce the impact of special teams by never calling anything that isn't by the book. Oh, and he's going to change offensive tempo only at gunpoint, and give the opposition as much time as they like to swap in ideal personnel on defense. The one saving grace of it is that it allows the Eagle defense to look better than it is, because it's rested, but man alive, is it maddening to watch.

> QB Carson Wentz authored the signature play that put this game out of reach, a fourth quarter deflection to pick that was bad luck at the end of bad execution, but he's still clearly the answer at QB, and developing nicely. The improvisational skills are developing, he makes plays with his legs when needed, he gets to secondary and tertiary wideouts on reads, and he just looks the part. He's not yet ready to win games like this in his second year, and his Q4 performances to date are concerning, but the Wentz Era took another small step forward today, and I like my laundry's chances a lot better in the long run than, well, whoever is employing Alex Smith.

> The final numbers are going to tell you that Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt was a monster, but that's where the stats mislead; he was pretty much bottled up on everything but a major run, in what was a fairly dull defensive game for most of the day. He's still very good, and will win a lot of people some fantasy money this year, but if/when he doesn't keep up world beater numbers, you'll have seen it coming.

> WR Mack Hollins made some plays today and looked utterly at home doing so for the Eagles, and as WR Torrey Smith seems to have bricks for hands at times, might see an increasing amount of snaps later in the year. It's clear that Wentz trusts him, and also clear that Wentz has, like all of the great QBs, no set inclination to force the ball to WR1. If the Eagle RBs had as many solid talents as the WR corps, I'd feel a lot better about this team.

> If you really want to point a figure at who lost this game (besides, of course, Pederson), look to the offensive line. Wentz is bailing them out time and again with good pocket presence and moves, and it also doesn't help that none of the RBs seem capable of picking up a blitz, but this line is really not winning on running plays, and might need to start considering a shake up now, rather than wait for the inevitable injuries. It's also worrisome that when the opposition knows you have to throw, the QB goes down. That's not exactly a sign of a playoff team.

> This club really needs to stop having DBs get hurt. With the possible exception of RB, it's the worst personnel group on the field, even when they have all their bullets. Short players, it's getting officially worrisome.

> There may be no more annoying player in football than Chiefs TE Travis Kelce. Have you ever heard a player described as "emotional" and have it mean anything more than Complete Asshat? Me neither. Great player, but what a drama queen.

> The upcoming schedule (hosting the Giants who will have a short week, then at Chargers, and home for Arizona) is when this team needs to bank a margin. After Halloween, it gets hard, and December is absolutely brutal. At least they close at home. This year is all about Week 17, on New Years Eve, hosting Dallas. If that game means something, the year is a success.

> Finally, this. There were two games on the calendar when the schedule was announced that I pretty much assumed were automatic losses: this one, and December in Seattle. The Eagles led in the third quarter, had the better of line play for most of the game, had the better QB, and didn't let WR Tyreek Hill own them. They lost anyway, because they didn't game plan to win, and they made the big mistake late. They really could have won this, and in some not small way, that's surprising and progress.

Oh, and Dallas got absolutely wrecked in Denver, which means the team didn't lose ground to their likely rival for the division crown. We've all had worse days.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

2017 Week 2 NFL Picks: Old Man's Revenge

Old-school misogyny is sung
The following things happened in Week One.

> My football laundry beat the Washington Racial Slurs for the first time in five tries

> My points fantasy league team had the best week, putting me in first place in that league for the first time ever in ten years of horrific misadventures

> My team in my work head to head league Milton Berle'd my manager (look up what this means on your own, or better yet, don't, because it's all kinds of gross, and Berle really wasn't all that funny, honestly)

> The picks column went 11-4 against the spread, which puts the lifetime mark back to nearly .500.

So unprecedented happiness and beer for everyone, yes?

Well, um, no.

You see, to the rest of the world, like last week was a snooze, or much worse. People who drafted the top pick in fantasy, Arizona RB David Johnson, wanted to go into the fetal position after he got hurt. The closest game with the best comeback happened in the second MNF game, when most of America was already in bed. The SNF game was a low scoring beatdown,the Seahawks and Packers did not entertain, and so on, and so on.

Well, screw you people. Especially all you young people who are suddenly too good for football. (Note: I wish I was too good for football.) I enjoyed myself to an unseemly level, and look to keep the good times rolling, all the way to a comfortable retirement where I get to care way too much about my lawn. And whether you people are on it or not.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

HOUSTON (+6.5) at Cincinnati

Both teams were utterly terrible in dispiriting Week 1 losses. The Bengal OL is just too bad to justify this big of a number, and a full week of practice as QB1 will help rookie QB Deshaun Watson appear competent for a longer period of time. Still, both of these teams are in desperation mode early.

Bengals 20, Texans 17

CLEVELAND (+8.5) at Baltimore

Regression time for both of these clubs. The Browns were closer than you might have guessed last week, especially on defense, and the Ravens defense isn't going to find life quite so easy against an offensive line that employs actual NFL players. I wouldn't be stunned if the road team actually wins this, but a last-second heartbreak is probably more in order.

Ravens 24, Browns 23

Buffalo at CAROLINA (+7.5)

The Carolina defense is for real, and QB Cam Newton looked like he was shaking off rust by the end of the Week 1 game. RB Christian McCaffrey isn't as good as his numbers suggest, but he's still reasonably good, and the Bills just aren't going to be able to run it well enough to keep it manageable.

Panthers 24, Bills 13

ARIZONA (-7) at Indianapolis

A big number for an 0-1 road favorite against anyone, but man alive, the Colts are terrible. If QB Andrew Luck doesn't come back soon and the rest of the division gets a little lucky, this could be a winless team for a really long time.

Cardinals 27, Colts 17

TENNESSEE (-2) at Jacksonville

The Jags aren't sacking the QB 10 times this week, or facing a team with QB issues and a middling run game. They also face a Titan team that needs the win more than they do, and the Jags are too young to handle prosperity well.

Titans 27, Jaguars 23

Philadelphia at KANSAS CITY (+5.5)

My laundry travels to a team with no worse than the league's second-best home-field advantage, with a coach that always does better with extra time, to visit a defense with a superior line, especially for pass rush purposes. Oh, and they do so without their CB1. I'm just hoping it doesn't get ugly.

Chiefs 31, Eagles 23

NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) at New Orleans

Both teams need a win very badly, but the Patriots have extra time to prepare (three days, or an eternity in the NFL) and a history of bouncing back hard after defeats. The Saints may put up some points in this game, but it won't be enough to cover the number.

Patriots 34, Saints 24

Minnesota at PITTSBURGH (-5.5)

Regression time for QB Sam Bradford, who leaves home sweet dome for the vagaries of Heinz Field. More importantly, QB Ben Roethlisberger is a different animal at home these days, and RB Le'Veon Bell is going to remind the world why he's great after a Week 1 hiccup.

Steelers 24, Vikings 17

Chicago at TAMPA (-7)

The Bucs may need to shake off some rust after their Irma-inspired bye week, but the Bears don't travel well, and the defense isn't ready to handle all of these weapons. I don't love Tampa's playoff chances with their bye week ripped away from them, but that won't show up until later.

Bucs 31, Bears 16

MIAMI (+5.5) at Los Angeles Chargers

The home team gets a short week, a tepid home crowd in a small and unfamiliar space, and a Dolphin team that's better on the line than advertised. I think the road team wins outright, with QB Jay Cutler the focus for way too many reclamation / redemption pieces afterwards.

Dolphins 24, Chargers 20

NY Jets at OAKLAND (-13)

A very big number, yes, but the Raiders are ready to smack around a tanking team at home, especially when they bring an offense like this to town. Look for a defensive score, the Jets folding their tents, and a shake up at the QB position for the visitors, because that's what terrible franchises do.

Raiders 38, Jets 13

DALLAS (-2.5) at Denver

The Cowboys are just better, and Denver's offense isn't good enough, especially on the ground, to make this game comfortable. The short week doesn't help them either, along with the fact that Jerry Jones secretly runs the league and games the schedule to make sure his team has advantages. It's part of the reason why they fail in the playoffs, of course.

Cowboys 24, Broncos 17

Washington at LOS ANGELES RAMS (-2.5)

DC's already shown what happens when they run into a good defensive line at home, and now they get a borderline great one on the road. I want to be the Regression Police on this one, especially because the Rams aren't as good as they looked in beating the garbage out of garbage last week, but the line play isn't letting me go that way.

Rams 23, Racial Slurs 16

SAN FRANCISCO (+14) at Seattle

I'm probably going to regret this, but the Seattle OL just doesn't look good enough to cover this number, and the Niners will score a *little*, for heaven's sake. It's a low confidence pick, but suckout covers are still covers.

Seahawks 23, Niners 13

Green Bay at ATLANTA (-3)

Should be a fun game, but the Falcons are just too good at home, and the Pack isn't going to have desperation in their hearts after the Week 1 win against Seattle. Nor will they be facing an offense that can't run the ball and keep the defense honest.

Falcons 34, Packers 30

DETROIT (+3.5) at New York Giants

A simple matter of thinking that one team is actually good, and the other team may be out and out terrible. Especially if WR Odell Beckham is still on the shelf, which it seems like he will be. Look for Detroit to run the ball better than you might expect, and for the Giant defense to show signs of mutiny after the offense doesn't do enough to keep them off the sidelines.

Lions 27, Giants 17

* * * * *

Last week: 11-4

Season: 11-4

Career: 892-893-54

Sunday, September 10, 2017

10 Takeaways from the Eagles win over the Washington Racial Slurs

For The Racist In Your Life
(As always, we don't say the name, and neither should you. If we all don't say the name, the name doesn't exist.)

10) The most striking thing to me in this game was just how predictable / timid / terrible HC Doug Pederson's play calling was. With the better team, he goes up-tempo once -- once -- in the entire game. After bad things happened, safe running plays were called. When the ball was between the 40s, that's when the trickeration happened, usually to disastrous levels. Power formations led to power handoffs, because NFL defenses never do well when they get to defend less ground. And so on, and so on. He played this game not to lose, but his team was so much better than their opponent, they won. But had they choked it at the close, it would have been on the coach. Something to file away for later.

9) I don't know who the guy in Nelson Agholor's jersey is, but I like him a hell of a lot better than tragic Little Nell from years past. We're just going to call him Aggy now. Aggy could actually be a player, and looked for all the world like a better WR3 than Jordan Matthews would have been. The touchdown was broken coverage and easy, but the near second score, where he tipped the high ball to himself? Would have never happened in years past.

8) Did someone trick Zach Ertz into thinking the team was out of playoff contention, and the game was actually in December? Dude was beastly time and again in this game, although still useless in the red zone. Good to see some things don't change.

7) I was sick to my stomach to see CB Ronald Darby go off on the cart, but the word is that it's a dislocated ankle, which means his season might not be over. The back ups played well in his stead, but there's a world of difference between DC's WRs and Kansas City's, who is next up on the schedule, on the road, with extra rest. Jason Peters and Caleb Sturgis were also nicked up, but seemingly, not terminal. With Peters, at this stage in his career, you never know.

6) I don't want to get too ahead of my skis here, but the man crush on Carson Wentz is growing, because the man keeps making me think of Aaron Rodgers. He wasn't perfect today, and the underthrown deep balls are a consistent concern, but the mobility in the pocket while still keeping his eyes downfield is a joy to watch.

5) The Eagles brought LeGarrete Blount here to salt away late leads and bang in short scores, and as he didn't do either of those things today, the RB situation remains worrisome. But at least we're keeping the Darren Sproles use down to its effective level, and Blount's catch and score was a welcome surprise for a guy who almost never contributes in the passing game.

4) I was thrilled and shocked to see the killshot defensive touchdown not get called back on review, because that kind of thing always gets called back in review. Regardless of whether QB Kirk Cousins' arm was moving forward or not, or if the ball was going backwards, at some point you just need to give the defense its due for making a play.

3) This was the Eagles' first win in five (gulp) tries against this DC team, and they may have continued to grease the skids for Cousins to leave town. Dude was awful today, missing a lot of open targets, failing in ball security, leaving himself open to extra hits for meaningless yards and in general, playing the way he does most of the time against the *rest* of the NFL. Good to see.

2) I watched the game in a nice enough sports bar here in Fremont, CA, where I'm living again for work, and as always, 10am football is delightful. I ate a big dumb breakfast, laughed at Idiot Ex-Patriate Browns Fan (dear God in heaven, Ex-Patriate Browns Fan is the absolute worst), then toddled off to the gym to sweat off the breakfast while watching the Niners derp away a game. (Well, that part isn't so great; would have much rather seen the Packers-Seahawks game between Real Teams.) NFL games ending before sunlight goes away makes this seem like much less of a vice, honestly.

1) Next week, the Eagles go to Kansas City to visit the suddenly terrifying Chiefs, who have extra rest, the better coach, a ton of speedy weapons to throw at a team that just lost CB1, and a historic home-field advantage that will be in full throat. For everyone that doesn't ever want to think Week 1 games are must win, I submit that this one... was.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

2017 Week 1 NFL Picks: Don't Get Hurt Out There

Sing It, Al
The early weeks of the NFL season might be the hardest ones to pick against the spread. There's real uncertainty over the fluctu- ations of free agency and draft classes, a ton of talented players have way too much rust from cautious pre-season work, and no one has tape on new offenses or formations. Add in shaky special teams and the usual randomness of turnovers and big penalties, and you get weeks where getting past .500 is an accomplishment.

Where you can make money is on teams that give you a strong feeling of confidence. These are the weeks where you should value your top 5 picks much more than your bottom ones, because until the public gets wind on the breakout team, you can make hay. But don't ride your initial reads past October, because a slow start frequently feeds on itself.

We're also going to throw you a fresh recommendation to check out the latest NFL predictions at Sports Betting Dime - Nice folks, good reads.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

KANSAS CITY (+9) at New England

Andy Reid is a uniquely frustrating NFL coach, partly because he just can't get it together with the same performance when he doesn't have extra time to prepare. Make of that what you will. It won't be enough to win the annual homecoming lack of drama game against the Patriots, but the defense hanging in and a late suck-out cover, with a clock-killing drive that has become the hallmark of Reid teams over the years? Sure, that can happen. 

Patriots 31, Chiefs 24


New York Jets at BUFFALO (-8)

The scary thing for New York is that this might be one of the more winnable games on their schedule. Buffalo will cover despite a rusty QB (Tyrod Taylor coming off a concussion protocol), because RB LeSean McCoy is going to have the last good year of his career, mostly by destroying bad teams like the Jets. (The fact that they traded away their best DL for a WR and picks means that even the run defense is gonna stink.)

Bills 24, Jets 13


ATLANTA (-7) at Chicago

The Falcons on the road after the Super Bowl loss has grind it out and look ugly and worrisome written all over it, but this Bears team isn't good enough defensively to prevent a 30-burger even at half speed. It'll be close for a lot longer than it would have been in 2017, but the Falcons stretch it out and get the cover late.

Falcons 31, Bears 23


Jacksonville at HOUSTON (-5.5)

Emotional day for the Texans in Trying To Get Back To Normal Houston, and it helps that they get the NFL's answer to a bye week to start. Look for the Houston defense to dominate, and for fresh calls to end the Blake Bortles Era when he can't even muster up points in garbage time.

Texans 24, Houston 16


PHILADELPHIA (-1) at Washington

If the Eagles are going to do anything in 2017, it's going to require a hot start, because the schedule at the close of the year is absolutely brutal. DC is suddenly bereft of WRs, and Philly isn't, which is a very nice turn of events from last year. Look for QB Carson Wentz to get out to a hot start, and for the defense to salt it away late, despite HC Doug Pederson's best efforts to derp.

Eagles 24, Racial Slurs 20


Arizona at DETROIT (+1.5)

The Lions are secretly good this year -- the RBs are healthy again, which helps loads -- and Arizona's offensive line is going to get aging QB Carson Palmer out of the league. This one will get surprisingly out of hand as a lot of folks soon remember how Arizona at 10am West Coast Time isn't a great thing.

Lions 31, Cardinals 20


OAKLAND (-2) at Tennessee

Maybe the most interesting game of the 1pm docket, with the defending AFC West champions on the road against an emerging Titans squad. Neither team is much to write home about on defense, and both teams have serious holes -- Oakland's STs are especially worrisome, with lots of uncertainty about K Sebastian Janikowski -- but I like the road team to continue last year's magic in close games.

Raiders 34, Titans 30


TAMPA (-2.5) at Miami - Postponed

This game isn't going to happen due to Hurricane Irma, so the surprise NFC South team of 2017 will have to wait to punch around the Dolphins, who don't have the CB strength to put up with Tampa's new weapons. It's also criminally irresponsible to not move this game to a neutral site and preserve the bye week for later, if only because you've set up your world to have no margin for error in the event of, you know, More Bad Stuff Happening To Florida. (Bad stuff happening to Florida? What are the odds?) Oh, and there's also the fact that no bye week for either of these teams significantly diminishes the possibility that either will have a good year. So enjoy your week, Florida.

(Would have been: Bucs 27, Dolphins 24)


Baltimore at CINCINNATI (-3)

The AFC North starts off with stereo division matchups this year, and the pecking order in the division will get established early and often. Neither team has enough of an offensive line to challenge real squads, but the Bengal skill players are good enough to camouflage in certain conditions, and this will be one of those. I'm also thinking that QB Joe Flacco has three turnovers of rust on him, after an off-season of injury rehab.

Bengals 27, Ravens 17


PITTSBURGH (-8.5) at Cleveland

The Steelers are going to cover this number, because they are healthy with their stars on offense and the Browns don't have enough real DBs to stay in the frame, but it's not going to be a runaway. Cleveland will move the ball and score some points, and Steeler Fan will wrinkle up their faces at yet another year of The Defense Isn't Good Enough. But the cover will happen late, because the Steeler offense is not above padding their stats.

Steelers 34, Browns 24


Indianapolis at LA RAMS (-3.5)

Indy has to try to win a road game against a good defense with QB2 Scott Tolzien, and while he's not a terrible backup, he's still that for reasons. Look for LA to make a couple of plays in the passing game, for RB Todd Gurley to look like he's going to have a bounce-back year, and for LA Football Fan to exist, at least for a little while.

Rams 23, Colts 17


SEATTLE (+3) at Green Bay

Best game of the week, and one that will have standing late in the year. I like Seattle to get the early lead and nearly lose it late, with QB Russell Wilson looking fit and fine, and the Seahawk defense coming up with the killshot turnover to get out of town with the deuce. Besides, unless the Pack gets off to a slow start, Aaron Rodgers can't save their fans from freakout. This really should be the SNF game, but the NFL has traditions, or some such.

Seahawks 31, Packers 30


CAROLINA (-5.5) at San Francisco

The final score will say that QB Cam Newton is back, that RB Christian McCaffrey is the rookie of the year, and that the Niners are still terrible. All of these things will be overstating the case for people who don't watch the actual game in the trenches, but the final score can mislead.

Panthers 27, Niners 17


New York Giants at DALLAS (-4)

The line has moved a half point with the news that RB Ezekiel Elliott will play as his suspension appeal continues, but honestly, his inclusion just means that some of the final numbers will move around, but not too much. New York has an odd history of doing well in this spot, but odd histories have to end sometime, and the Giant defense just isn't that great.

Cowboys 31, Giants 24


New Orleans at MINNESOTA (-3.5)

Time for the annual Vikings and Sam Bradford are good mirage, which will have a lot more to do with a Saints team that isn't good at all, and is even worse on the road. Remember, MNF is usually terrible, and Week 1 MNF is especially so.

Vikings 27, Saints 16


Los Angeles Chargers at DENVER (-3.5)

Here comes the Angry Game for the Broncos, who will have a full week to hear about how they can't be any good with their off-season cost-cutting moves and QB situation that's so bad, they brought back Brock Osweiler. Remember, MNF is usually terrible, and the late game is especially so. 

Broncos 24, Chargers 14

* * * * *

Career: 881-889-54

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Brief and Obvious Notes about the Red Sox Apple Watch Cheating

Masterminds of Deception
> We are shocked, shocked, to discover a Boston sports franchise engaged in under handed acts, and behaved as if the rules did not apply to them.

> Is anyone else mortally tired of the inevitable whataboutism that guilty people go to? I don't care what the Red Sox think the YES Network is doing or how other people steal signs or that the magician's assistant is waving her arms in the air and doing a Sexy Pose. You MFers cheated. Everything else is you not owning up to that. Or, more accurately, still not owning up to that.

You see, when you do something bad, you should not profit from it. You should not get to excuse your behavior by pointing at other people. You should not degrade the world by trying to bring everything down to your own putrid level. Instead, you should make restitution for your actions, spend an inordinate amount of time trying to regain our confidence through good deeds and selfless acts, and endeavor to wash away the stain of your guilt through cleaning. You should also live with the stain for a good long time, because you were morally corrupt enough to get that stain in the first place. Some of the people that did the cheating should no longer be employed in a job that involves the public's trust, and yes, the public here includes gamblers. I realize that this entire paragraph makes me dangerously out of step with how to get ahead in any number of fields right now, but integrity isn't something you do for fun, or that you get out of a cereal box. It's only essential for the long-term survival of the sports and species.

And yes, all of that may sound like an overreaction, but you MFers cheated, and overreacting to people who cheat is something people with integrity get to do. Like white blood cells attacking an infection.

> There is one appropriate punishment for this, and it's very obvious: Boston should be declared ineligible for playoff participation. Leave their record as is, because we have no idea whether or not this amounted to a factor that decided games, and we also don't know how long they've been doing it. Just drop a thousand pound hammer on their feet, create a situation where every other franchise in MLB understands that the integrity of the game actually goddamn matters, and create a zero tolerance zone that is *sorely* needed in MLB, especially after the Steroid Years.

> I also don't know, or care, how far this goes up the ladder. The simple fact that any active player would go along with this is enough of an integrity fail to make the thousand pound hammer to the feet a given.

> The fact that this won't happen, and all that will happen is a seizure of draft picks and money, or pennies on the dollar for the actual cheating involved, is all that you need to know about the integrity of MLB. Who care more about how a major media market means for playoff ratings, and how they can gin this up to get more people watching the inevitable next Red Sox / Yankees game, especially if any of the pitchers throw inside, causing people to mill around on the infield for awhile.

> This is where Red Sox Fan will note that I don't root for his laundry, so my opinion doesn't matter, because Red Sox Fan cares more about the Red Sox than he or she does about baseball. Isn't it nice how the team's lack of integrity and whataboutism goes right from the teat to the spawn? Nature is magical in its way.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2017 NFL Predictions: Praying For Unpredictability

Just Give In
Every NFL season, to me, is akin to Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.

We have such hopes, you see. This will be the year when the fantasy picks work out. This will be the year where the Eagles don't derp all over themselves in winnable games. The year where you don't feel buyer's remorse for caring about the game, the year when you have the discipline to not watch any pre or post-game show, the year that Roger Goodell has the good sense to go hide in a back room and cash his obscene checks.

Which, of course, isn't how it ever works out.

How it works out is the Patriots will run roughshod over their short bus division. How it works is that some NFL South team will rise up and smack everyone else around. How it works is that the teams that are fun to watch will suffer injuries that limit their QBs ability to do cool things, the guys that you went all-in for will fail in fantasy, and the picks will go sidewise on missed field goals and last-minute suck-out covers.

There are three parts to the NFL season for me; my real team, my fantasy teams, and my picks. Going 0-for-3 seems unlikely, and yet it happens all too frequently. But since that was last year, and hope springs eternal... let's get to the picks!

AFC East

New England 13-3
Miami 9-7
Buffalo 6-10
New York 3-13

Let's just tell the Patriots that they've clinched the division already, so they can start resting starters and be ready for the three games a year that they care about... If you are looking for hope, Tom Brady is 40 and wasn't good in 2.5 of 3 playoff games last year. Which means they could be paper tigers, but no one will know that until January... Miami is the only other team with a semblance of a clue here, and Jay Cutler will be better than expected, but in any other division, they'd be under .500... RB Jay Ajayi is overrated due to a couple of stat monster games against bad teams, but it's not as if the schedule doesn't have bad teams... Buffalo will be the second straight year in which Jordan Matthews will be an overmatched and injured WR1... New York is pretty much trying to lose games, which means they will win just enough to screw themselves up. What a train wreck of a franchise and division.

AFC North

Pittsburgh 11-5
Cincinnati 10-6 * (WC)
Cleveland 7-9
Baltimore 6-10

If the Steelers could ever get their offensive stars on the field at the same time, they'd be dangerous, but since they won't, there's no chance that they'll have home field in the playoffs, and QB Ben Roethlisberger isn't good on the road anymore... I have no idea what needs to occur for the Bengals to change their coaching or GM situation, so as always, bet on stasis... Cleveland will actually win some close games this year, excite their fan base far too much, have some promise from their rookie QB, then watch it all go to hell when some catastrophic injury occurs... Baltimore might have the worst offensive line in the conference, and that's not a good thing to have when your QB is injury-prone and stationary.

AFC South

Tennessee 10-6
Houston 9-7
Indianapolis 7-9
Jacksonville 5-11

This division might not be a total dumpster fire anymore... Tennessee has given QB Marcus Mariota some weapons, but the defense isn't quite ready for it... Houston should be better than this, but it's time for the defense to regress, RB Lamar Miller isn't very good, and the QBs will turn it over. But they'll compete for the wild card... Indy could really fall off the table if QB Andrew Luck is out for any amount of time, but the line is better than it used to be, and the WRs are still top-notch... I don't understand why Jacksonville has fans. Honestly, people, Netflix exists, and so does porn. Both have to be a better way to spend your time than watching a no-hope franchise lose double digit games every year. But at least this year, we'll get Angry Tom Coughlin reaction shots.

AFC West

Oakland 10-6
Kansas City 10-6 (WC)
Denver 7-9
Los Angeles 5-11

Last year's fun division will be a little less so, but still the most entertaining one in the conference... Oakland's offensive line is the second-best in the league, which will help RB Marshawn Lynch still look viable... Kansas City's decision to let go of WR Jeremy Maclin will make life way too difficult on QB Alex Smith, who will be looking over his shoulder at Pat Mahomes... Denver's continuing adventures at QB and decision to go cheap in the defensive secondary won't end well... I'm looking forward to both Los Angeles teams stinking up the place for years, just so we can see empty stands prior to new stadiums. That'll be fun. As for the Chargers, the talent is better than 5-11, but the lack of home field and middling defense will keep them back.

NFC East

Dallas 10-6
Philadelphia 9-7
New York 7-9
Washington 5-11

Dallas will regress hard, but the offensive line will keep them from sliding out of the playoffs. Zeke Elliott's suspension situation really doesn't impact this, because 2nd and 5 isn't that different from 2nd and 3... Philly might actually be the best team in this division, but the schedule is brutal, the RBs are middling at best, and second-year QBs aren't quite ready to win divisions yet... New York's offensive line makes QB Eli Manning a short range only passer, and their run offense is even worth than their pass blocking... DC should be better than this, but front office instability has a way of undermining middling QB play.

NFC North

Green Bay 11-5
Detroit 10-6 *
Minnesota 8-8
Chicago 5-11

Green Bay's defense is a little better this year, because it couldn't be worse, and I believe in RB Ty Montgomery... Detroit is, like Green Bay, pissing away the prime years of the best quarterback in franchise history, but since Matt Stafford doesn't overwhelm anyone, it doesn't seem as big of a tragedy... Minnesota is the perfect Sam Bradford team, in that they'll compete and seem OK, but won't get over the hump for reasons that won't resolve the question of whether Bradford, or the team, is any good or not... Chicago has a great RB, some players on defense, and 1-2 years before any of this matters.

NFC South

Tampa 10-6
Atlanta 9-7 *
Carolina 8-8
New Orleans 5-11

It's Tampa's turn to win the division that always turns over, and while QB Jamesis Winston has accuracy issues, the WRs are too good to let that stop them... Atlanta would have won this division if it had simply run the football in the second half of the Super Bowl last year, but hangovers are an absolute killing problem... Carolina could be better than this if the offense can adapt to a new world of Cam Newton not being the power RB, but I have my doubts... New Orleans is in the realm of aging QB who isn't good on the road any more, and the home field advantage has also dropped off in recent years. It's not outside of the realm of possibility that Brees gets hurt and this team is the worst in the league.

NFC West

Seattle 11-5
Arizona 9-7
San Francisco 6-10
Los Angeles 5-11

Still not a great offensive line, but QB Russell Wilson is healthy again, and the defense is still solid... Arizona is trying to get a bounce back year out of a QB (Carson Palmer) who is aging, has a bad offensive line, and has suffered season-ending injuries before... San Francisco might be the best bad team in the league, and after last year's tire fire, it will feel like vintage Montana to Rice... QB Jared Goff will be out of the league by 2020, because he's terrible, and the LA management will want to stop wasting years of good defense. Goff is so bad, I think he's ruined RB Todd Gurley.

Playoffs

Oakland over Cincy, Kansas City over Tennessee
Dallas over Atlanta, Tampa over Detroit

New England over Kansas City, Pittsburgh over Oakland
Seattle over Dallas, Green Bay over Tampa

Seattle over Green Bay
New England over Pittsburgh

New England over Seattle


Awards

MVP: Tom Brady
Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey
Defensive POTY: Khalil Mack
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick

Monday, September 4, 2017

Why NFL Cut Down Day Does Not Matter

Cash That Check
So the Broncos cut a Pro Bowl safety because he was hurt during training camp, expensive during life, and they've got a younger guy they like who played well during the fake games. The safety in question got a new gig in Tampa because he's still good enough to get the next gig, then talked about how unprofessional Denver was for cutting him.

Which is entirely different than the situation in Cleveland, where the Browns cut an aging Pro Bowl cornerback because he's not as good as he used to be, they aren't really planning on winning a whole lot of games this year anyway, and he's expensive during life. Pittsburgh signed that guy because he's still better than what they had, and the Steelers are going all-in to get curb stomped by the Patriots in the least exciting NFL season since the last one.

And Seattle traded a wideout to the Jets for a defensive lineman, and Washington cut its starting running back from last year, and I'd go deeper into the details on all of this, but I think I just microslept while writing this sentence, so I'm kind of amazed you got through the paragraph, too.

Here's the thing about NFL cutdowns; they are a lot like NFL preseason, in that there has never been a moment in your life where anything but a catastrophic injury had more than a half-point of impact to a betting spread. It's just another day on the calendar where Not Game happens, but the NFL gets you to care, because Game is just a fairly rare event, given how short the season is.

The reason why none of this matters is because (a) NFL careers are hysterically short, (b) the prime for such things is mostly unknown due to the inevitability of injury, and (c) the number of players who can actually make a big difference in a game is fairly minute.

So by the time a guy has a brand name, he's pretty much done, and the coaches all know this a lot more than you and me, because they stare down the talent on a daily basis in practice. You and I can fantasize all we like about how we could be GMs, AKA the only job in sports that nonathletic dudes can realistically fantasize about doing, but we don't really have the information, or the statistics.

Need proof? Chris Polk. Polk was a promising RB during the Nero Kelly Era of the Eagles, who combined exceptional speed with size to make a handful of impact plays during his time with the team. Andy Reid signed him during the end times because Polk had injury issues in college that kept him from being a high pick. Kelly got rid of him because he wasn't one of Kelly's draft picks, so that he could keep noted Oregon Duck and Meh RB Kenjon Barner. Barner didn't do a whole lot, Polk went to Houston, and I waited for the latter to join the list of guys that Kelly ran off who had a good career somewhere else.

Polk is now out of the NFL, despite still being only 27. There's no news for him on Google. Barner was in camp with the Chargers, but didn't make the final cut. Neither of them were a real difference maker, both of them never got past fungible, and you will never hear about either of them ever again, outside of a police action.

So, honestly, please don't worry about anything that qualifies as news from cutdown day. It has never mattered before, it will never matter in the future, and its a half hour of your life that you get back to think about Actual Game.

Which is coming in just a couple of days to save us all from not thinking about baseball...

Monday, August 28, 2017

NFL Fantasy Picks: Who's In My Wallet

Tradition! Along with losing.
I've drafted twice this week and don't love my team after either experience, but that doesn't negate the homework or thought process. Here's the handful of guys that I'm ranking ahead of their average draft position at each major position because that's where these things are won and (in my case, usually) lost.

Quarterbacks

> Marcus Mariota, Tennessee. He's got actual WRs from the start of the season this time, a kitten-soft division, and is just coming into his own. Assuming health, he'll still have wheels, and maybe a little bit less of a fetish running game from his slow to turn coach. Put it all together, and there are very real chances of a top 6 finish here.

> Russell Wilson, Seattle. I love QBs who give me a floor with a running game, and Wilson's health brings back the element that was missing in the first half of 2016. The Seahawk line is still worrisome, and his division gets after the QB, but the WRs are secretly good, and the defense isn't as fearsome as before. He'll do more this year, has more to do it with, and is in his prime.

> Jay Cutler, Miami. Yes, I know, Smoking Jay is a punchline of failed potential, but all of that means that you can get him for next to nothing, and he's got a bunch of games this year where the matchup is downright tasty. The line has a bunch of tackle level talents, the high volume RB isn't as good as people think, and the WRs are nearly world class. Finally, the HC trusts him and runs a system he's had success with in the past, and the talent has always been there. Many people will do worse.

> Matthew Stafford, Detroit. No one's idea of sexy, but the floor is 4K yards, 25 TDs, a division where no defense scares you, and a ton of indoor pinball games. Stafford is kind of the living definition of why you can, and should, wait at QB this year.

> Andy Dalton, Cincinnati. I don't love WR Jon Ross for what he'll do on the field by himself, but the influence that he's going to have on AJ Green is nice, and while the Bengal line has never been great, Dalton's managed with worse. Remember, you aren't drafting his terrible playoff performance and inevitable loss, and I think he stays healthy this year, mostly because the NFL rules have been all about keeping QBs healthy. Especially the slow veteran white ones.

Running Backs

> Ty Montgomery, Green Bay. There's concern that he won't hold up under the pounding, but it's not as if he's old, small, or has a track record of getting beaten down. Green Bay RB1 is a role that won't ever give you a ton of short yardage touchdowns -- QB Aaron Rodgers likes to keep it in his own hands down there, for good reasons -- but for consistent 100-yard days, you can do worse.

> Ameer Abdullah, Detroit. Yes, I know, he's never stayed healthy, but he's still young, and he's also the only thing that's close to a 3-down back on the roster. He's also actually good, and NFL history is filled with guys who were seen as injury-prone until they just shake it. (See Gore, Frank.)

> Paul Perkins, New York. I'm not in love with his line, and there are a ton of targets to feed in the passing game... but if you play the Giants this year, you are never putting eight in the box to stop the run, and QB Eli Manning is more than happy to check it down. Perkins will do fine here.

> Derrick Henry, Tennessee. He's already a better back than RB1 DeMarco Murray, and nothing in the starter's bounce-back 2016 keeps us from noting he's a 29-year-old RB who has been ridden hard. I'm in love with Henry's talent; if and when he gets a shot at this job, he's not giving it back.

> Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore. You have to put up with a suspension in September, and starter Terrance West isn't a bad football player, but Dixon is a lot better and more versatile. Stash him late and enjoy RB1 production down the stretch, because the Ravens are going to want to run it, and Dixon's not coming to come off the field the way West will.

Wide Receivers

> Pierre Garcon, San Francisco. He's 29, the closest thing the offense has to a capable WR, and will play for a sneaky bad team that will (a) throw a lot because they'll be behind, but (b) not have jailbreak pass protection, because the line isn't awful and (c) neither is QB Brian Hoyer. Add in his familiarity with a Kyle Shanahan offense, and you've got a 1200 yard / 10 TD candidate. The fact that little of it will be meaningful isn't your problem.

> Corey Coleman, Cleveland. Consider this one a lack of confidence pick in WR Kenny Britt, who is cashing a check and might lose motivation having done so. Coleman was showing sparks last year before the injury, won't get CB1 attention, and might benefit from heavy targets levels in an offense that will throw it a lot. Cleveland has lots of signs of not being awful this year, by the way.

> Willie Snead, New Orleans. He's going to be the #2 in a Drew Brees offense, and their WR depth just isn't as good as it used to be. I like Snead to slide all over the place and become the move the chains guy, because TE Cody Fleener just isn't that good, and the RBs just aren't at Darren Sproles levels of target hoggery.

> DeAndre Hopkins, Houston. Yes, last year stunk and it seemed like the bloom was off the rose for a guy that was immune to bad QB play in the past, but this sorely overstates just how bad Brock Osweiler was. I think he bounces back all the way to top 6 WR status this year, if for no other reason than his division is a dumpster fire, and the Texan QB production *has* to be better this year.

> Marvin Jones, Detroit. He faded in 2016 after a strong start, but I think that had more to do with injuries than the league catching up to him. Anquan Boldin's absence also helps, along with the fact that Kenny Goladay isn't ready yet, and Golden Tate is getting a little long in the tooth.

Tight Ends

> Travis Kelce, Kansas City. With the Chiefs running game in flux, red zone work to the TE will get even more pronounced this year, and there's even an outside chance that he winds up as TE1 this year. If only because Rob Gronkowski is going to spend lots of fourth quarters watching the ends of blowouts in a ball cap.

> Evan Engram, New York Giants. Eli is, actually, a bad QB in good QB's pedigree, and bad QBs work the tight end like a speed bag, because the throw is shorter and safer. Engram is the first competent target at TE that Manning has had in years, and he's also bad at blocking. Which is kind of what you want, honestly.

> Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers. Antonio Gates will get force fed a record in September, but then the Chargers will go with the guy who actually still runs like a football player, rather than a Canton bust. It also helps that the Charger WR corps has such a terrible injury history, which means Henry will get more and more targets over the course of the season.

> Dwayne Allen, New England. He won't provide every-week value, but he'll have plenty of good matchups to take advantage of, and if Gronk misses time (he usually does), he'll go to first-class TE1 status overnight. Allen's a very good football player, QB Tom Brady is 40 and likes to hide his relative lack of arm strength with short and middle throws, and the Patriots are going to score 40 points a game this year. You want to have cheap options in this offense.

> Zach Ertz, Philadelphia. Historically, Ertz has done his best work late in the year with the Eagles out of the playoff picture, and has also come up short in the red zone. He's also had to work with circus animals at WR, which means he's gotten more attention than a TE should. Expect fewer targets this year but more effectiveness, and a little more luck in the red zone than previous. Not a true breakout year, but stasis in a better offense.

* * * * *

Here's the roster for the auction league. Asterisks were keepers.

  Player TM 2017 2018
QB Matthew Stafford * DET 13 16
RB1 LeGarrette Blount * PHL 23 27
RB2 Isaiah Crowell * CLE 15 19
WR1 T.Y. Hilton * IND 45 50
WR2 Willie Snead * NO 8 11
WR3 Stefon Diggs * MIN 21 25
FX Ameer Abdullah DET 38 43
TE Evan Engram NYG 6 9
DEF Carolina CAR 1 4
PK Matt Prater DET 3 6
B1 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 65 70
B2 Pierre Garcon SF 16 20
B3 Robby Anderson NYJ 4 7
B4 Marvin Jones DET 6 9
B5 Kenneth Dixon BAL 28 33
B6 Carson Wentz PHL 1 4
  TOTAL   293 353

This team might be OK, but it's hard to feel very good about it, for two reasons. First, I got caught price protecting Elliott. At $65, it's still a defensible price, especially if the suspension is reduced in any amount because a $70 protection for what might be the best RB in the league is acceptable. Second, I got gun-shy on pricing after that and wound up letting Travis Kelce go for $31 when I had last action on him. Having an extra $30 at the end of the draft allowed me to swoop on Dixon and price out the team that nominated him, but I'd rather have had Kelce with those dollars.

My biggest hope for both real and fantasy football this year is that Wentz becomes a star, and I have QB locked up for the next decade for cheap. There are lesser possibilities. I'm also pleased with the back up WRs, who might get enough targets to be of significant value, and provide protection for Blount continuing to fail to impress in Eagles training camp.

Here are the results from the snake speed draft. As you can see, I'm double invested in Abdullah, Garcon and Engram.

1. (11) A.J. Green (Cin - WR)
2. (14) Jordan Howard (Chi - RB)
3. (35) DeAndre Hopkins (Hou - WR)
4. (38) Ty Montgomery (GB - RB)
5. (59) Ameer Abdullah (Det - RB)
6. (62) Martellus Bennett (GB - TE)
7. (83) Ben Roethlisberger (Pit - QB)
8. (86) Jameis Winston (TB - QB)
9. (107) Pierre Garcon (SF - WR)
10. (110) Derrick Henry (Ten - RB)
11. (131) Samaje Perine (Was - RB)
12. (134) Evan Engram (NYG - TE)
13. (155) Carolina (Car - DEF)
14. (158) Brandon McManus (Den - K)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Five Lessons From A Fantasy League Commissioner

Cross-posted from the business blog. Enjoy, or not.

* * * * *

Twice in the next week, I'll participate in fantasy football drafts; once in the office, the other in a basement that's 3,000 miles away from where I currently live. When these drafts happen, I will act as Commissioner, because this is a thing that I do, and herd the cats who are in the leagues to all come together and do a transparently dumb thing as a single group. I've performed this role for (gulp) over thirty years, in a wide range of leagues, ranging from dear friends and relatives to near total strangers.

Here's what I've learned, over the many years and situations, that have helped to inform the person that I am when working as a marketing and advertising pro. You might find it helpful. (But not as helpful as when to draft Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry, perhaps the best handcuff in the league this year. That's clearly a state secret.)

1) Your worst client will always take up the majority of your time.

Whether it's someone who can't get their protections on time, struggles with the tech, needs an inordinate amount of follow-up requests to pay the dues, takes way more time to make their picks than everyone else, or just finds some other way to throw a wrench in the works... well, this has made for *wonderful* training on dealing with particular clients. Keeping your composure when all you really want to do is spit fire at someone for making things difficult is an incredibly valuable life skill, but it's also kind of like getting to the gym every day for maintenance work. You might need to figure out ways to self-motivate.

2) People are going to make fun of you for the very reasons why you have the gig.

In the league that I run out of the basement, there will be giant labels, several kinds of Sharpies, clipboards and pens and assigned seating, and an inordinate amount of getting things Just So. Owners are appreciative, but they also will make jokes about this, re-arrange things just to see if they can get my goat, and so on.

The point is that if you are a good commish, you have to sweat the details, and sweating the details is just an irresistible softball in the search for humor. I (honestly) don't really mind, because this is just how I'm wired. Making fun of me for this stuff is kind of like making fun of my height or hair color; have at it. I didn't choose it, so I'll probably join in.

3) Bad ideas are like weeds, or zombies; they always return.

If you have an owner or two that wants to change a rule, and it gets voted down or rejected, rest assured that it will return at some point, with as much force and vigor as previous. There is a strong intersection of math, engineering and problem solving in the mindset of fantasy sports, and people like to think they are right about things, otherwise they wouldn't say it.

So the owner in your league that hates kickers, and wants to ban them... will always hate kickers, and will always want to ban them. They might even be right. And they'll ask until they get their way, or the sun burns out. Best to just shrug and move on.

4) Balancing the interests of the league against the interests of your team is tough.

Running my basement league, for me, is a mix of conducting an auction while also trying to make picks for my own club, which leads to mistakes for both sides. It's also my built-in excuse for not having a particularly good team, but what's more likely is that I just don't do as well in football as other leagues. Finally, if you are in a league with especially competitive people, rule changes or innovations that you propose will be regarded with suspicion, because they'll seem like they are in the interest of your team first, and the league second. The only way to overcome this is by building up goodwill and precedent as an honorable dealer. There are no shortcuts to that status.

5) This is all part of your personal brand.

I've had job interviews where the conversation went to personal habits, and I've always felt that this was a competitive advantage for me, because my hobbies... well, speak to my professional attributes. It's one thing to say that I sweat the details; it's quite another to rattle off the particulars of my various leagues. People like to hire folks with good references, because retaining clients is a critical skill in business. I have clients in these leagues that have spent the majority of their lives with me. Innovating in small spaces, learning from outside sources, caring about the happiness of your partners, self-awareness and self-deprecation for when you are nerding out with abandon...

Well, I'm putting data and precedent to these claims, rather than just saying them.

Good luck with your drafts!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Fields Of Privilege

I spend about a quarter of my life driving now. This includes my entire life, so if we want to pull sleep out of the equation, it's probably more like a third.

Driving to work. Driving to the gym. Driving to do laundry, get groceries, get gas. Driving for strangers in my side hustle, because that's what the math tells me to do right now, and arguing with math is rarely a good idea.

Sports? Well, I listen to the A's games on the radio, and I read newsletters that might help me not be quite so terrible and unqualified in my leagues. But I don't have cable (hell, I don't even have a TV), don't go to games, and don't spend nearly the same amount of time and energy thinking about it.

That stuff has been replaced by the day job and podcasts and political concerns, and if I have time left over, maybe playing a guitar or getting on a stage and trying my hand at stand up. Or sitting at a poker table, because sometimes that works out for the math, too. Eventually, I might add in a shift as a security guard, because that money will happen without more miles hitting my car.

Sports has, effectively, been priced out of my market. At least for now.

Not so much on the actual cost, but the time one. I have 126 hours or so of waking life every week to make money, and I pretty much spend about 100 of them doing that.

This condition isn't permanent, because nothing in life is, and you don't have to really follow sports to have opinions about them. (Short take this week: the fact that Colin Kaepernick isn't one of the best 96 quarterbacks in the world is plainly ridiculous on its face, but ridiculous is what the NFL does best, and every day he isn't on a field is a day where that fact gets a little less ridiculous. Because playing football is an insane way to try to make money, and a blood bargain that its fans have to hold their nose to more every day. It's all ridiculous. But since we don't have to currently rank Kaepernick on our fantasy rankings, out of sight, out of mind. Try not to think about what this means to political discourse, or the chilling of speech towards people of color.)

So if simply watching or following sports is a privilege, and one that far too many people pay for whether they do it or not, assuming we don't cord-cut and stop the de facto national subsidy in our cable bills...

Well, that's just the thing, isn't it? It feels like they didn't use to be. It feels like you used to be able to just put on a game without quite such a dent in your actual or mental checkbook, escape the real world for a few hours, think about nothing but what went on between the lines.

I'm not sure I can do that anymore.

But hey, things change, right?

Sometimes for the better?

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