True Fantasy Football

And no, this isn’t the “fantasy football” I mean (Smoking Gun)

I hate to say it, but NFL football has fallen by the wayside a bit this season.

Normally, I participate in fantasy football with some buddies and watch as many games as possible since I always have something riding on them. For those of you unfamiliar with the pastime, it involves drafting real NFL players from any team into set positions—two quarterbacks, two running backs, two receivers and so on, though potential combinations may vary. In an online league with your pals—normally through sports-ready sites like ESPN and CBS Sports—you compete each week for points collected by your players, who are credited or penalized for their actions on the field. Touchdowns and field goals score you points, of course, but you can also score through yardage, defensive stops and other factors. The person with the most points at the end of each week’s games stands victorious—and the scoring leader at the end of the season takes home the grand prize, usually a nice sum of cash.

It all depends on how much you and your friends are willing to gamble. Sadly, I’m not a high roller and neither are my guys, so my league usually involves a $10 buy-in. The most our Big Winner takes home fluctuates around $80-100 each year, but we have been known to split the winnings among our top three scorers. Whatever tickles our fancy.

My performance in fantasy football has been decent and pretty consistent, at least for the last three or four years. I have yet to miss the playoffs—only the top teams in the league go, but smaller leagues sometimes allow everyone into the post-season—and have won twice. My most recent win was last year and—under normal circumstances—this would add fuel to my competitive fire the following year. Unfortunately, a perfect storm of “issues” prevented this and—to be honest—I haven’t followed the NFL as closely as I usually do.

The first issue to suck the football life out of me this season was the “grand prize” I never received for winning my fantasy football league last year. Sadly, our league administrator invited some long-distance players from far-and-wide and failed to get their buy-in up front. So when it came time to pay me—and despite shaving $10 off my winnings to cover next year’s buy-in—there was nothing in the pot. And good luck collecting from people who just got beat. That’s why people who make bets always have someone hold the money for them, folks! Damn!

Gimme that grand prize! (TriStar)

Of course, issue number two robbed me of ten more bucks when our administrator decided not to create a league prior to the 2013 season. None of the other guys were interested—who can blame them after I spanked their asses in 2012?—and since he was already playing in several other leagues, our admin put an end to our four-year streak. Honestly, though, I didn’t care since I was keeping busy both at home and at work. It was the last issue, though, that really sealed the deal.

My beloved Pittsburgh Steelers basically sucked.

Sure, they managed to improve significantly after coughing up the first four games and dealing with a host of injuries and other problems. They even had a chance of making the playoffs, which they missed when the San Diego Chargers took down the Kansas City Chiefs during the final week of the regular season. Regardless, there are some positive things happening in the Steel City. And I look forward to seeing what we accomplish next year, but that’s the problem: I started looking forward to next year after the first two weeks of the season!

Sundays at my house have instead been filled with chores, quality time with my boy, blogging, video games and all sorts of nerd-like pursuits. Hey, that’s what nerds like me do. Sure, I have seen some football here and there. I even cheered on my Steelers during some of their late wins. The difference is that I never felt pressured to watch, to constantly check player statistics or to ponder free agent acquisitions, trades or any other fantasy football stuff. I could just relax and enjoy whatever I chose to do that day… at least until the playoffs started.

Man! Yesterday had to be one of the most exciting Wild Card Playoff days I have ever seen! And it certainly reignited the flame within this NFL fan!

Sorry for all the exclamation points, but those of you who (a) enjoy football and (b) saw yesterday’s games cannot deny they were awesome. Don’t even lie!

Saints celebrate in style (Maddie Myer/Getty Images)

The late game saw the New Orleans Saints square off against the Philadelphia Eagles—a six seed against a three seed, despite the Saints having a better regular season record (11-5 as opposed to 10-6). New Orleans has never been known as a great road team, but on this day they certainly showed what makes them a formidable foe for any team facing them. Quarterback Drew Brees threw a few early interceptions, but bounced back to lead his team down the field on their final possession and into range for the Shayne Graham field goal that ended the contest. The Saints shot down the Eagles 26-24 and secured the first road playoff win in their franchise’s history. They’ll face the Seattle Seahawks in next week’s divisional round.

Although the Saints-Eagles game was exciting in its own right, it can’t touch yesterday’s early game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs. This one was a barn burner in every sense of the phrase and even got into the NFL record books!

The game pitted two of the league’s best quarterbacks against one another—Indy’s Andrew Luck and KC’s Alex Smith—and included a host of electrifying NFL stars and Pro Bowl selections: Jamaal Charles, Branden Albert, Dontari Poe, Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hall, Robert Mathis and T.Y. Hilton, to name a few. Until the third quarter, though—when Kansas City held a 38-10 lead—it looked as if the Colts would be heading home instead of entering round two of the post-season.

Wrong!

Despite throwing three early interceptions—and on the back of a forced fumble by Colts defensive powerhouse Robert Mathis—Luck tossed a fourth-quarter touchdown to Coby Fleener and ran one in himself on what can only be called an amazingly “Luck-y” fumble recovery in the red zone. In an attempt to punch it in, Donald Brown fumbled the ball, saw it careen off the helmet of Samson Satele and watched Luck scoop it up and dive across the goal line. If ever there was a better example of “right place, right time,” this had to be it.

Luck stretches out for the score (AP)

By the time it was all said and done, the Colts had rallied back 28 points to defeat the Chiefs 45-44. This represented the second largest comeback in NFL playoff history—the 1993 Buffalo Bills overcame a 32-point deficit to beat the Houston Oilers and maintain the top spot. Luck secured the first playoff win of his young career and ended the game with 443 yards, four touchdowns and an NFL record.

In other words, releasing Peyton Manning and drafting Andrew Luck wasn’t just the best thing for the Indianapolis Colts—it was the best for everyone involved. Manning’s Denver Broncos currently hold the first seed in the AFC and could end up playing the Colts depending on the outcome of today’s Chargers-Bengals game. That certainly would be an interesting match up, especially since the Colts already beat the Broncos this season.

I guess what I’m saying is “thanks NFL.” I started drifting away there, but the playoffs have pulled me back in. And even though today’s early game isn’t as thrilling as I would hope, I still have a great Packers-49ers game to look forward to… and that’s a feeling I’ve been missing for some time now.

Posted on January 5, 2014, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

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