What a difference a year makes. Last season, Washington’s nationally televised Thanksgiving-week game was an exhibition for the league’s most exciting new offense — a 38-31 win in Dallas that was never actually that close and saw Robert Griffin III throw what is still a career-high four touchdowns. With the late-November stage again last night, the results couldn’t have been more different. The win over the Cowboys was the second in a run of seven straight toward the playoffs. Yesterday’s sputtering, almost pitiful performance against the 49ers was Washington’s third loss in a row, and Griffin’s four touchdowns were replaced with numbers like this:
As it stands now, the Tom Brady–Peyton Manning rivalry feels like a colossally rigged episode of Chopped. While Manning has received an assortment of first-rate ingredients with which to cook, Brady is forced to make chicken salad out of a spare tire, some stones, a rabid gerbil, and Rob Gronkowski’s bloodied forearm cast. This sucks for Brady, of course, but it makes for some incredibly entertaining television, especially when Brady single-handedly elevates that chicken shit into something passably gourmet. Sunday night in Atlanta was one of those times.
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It might make sense for the first Redskin in this countdown to be another second-year member of the Washington offense, but I’m sorry to say that’s not going to happen. In fact, his name will not appear in this space at any point. Considering my own sports fandom this year, and a considerable fantasy football keeper investment, that is not an evil I plan to bring upon myself. You’ll have to look for you Bob Half-Lion Half-Eagle the Tertiary takes elsewhere.
Even if there were no superstition involved, any excitement for Alfred Morris’s sophomore season is warranted. His quarterback was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, but in just about any other season, Morris’s first-year totals would’ve been more than enough to take the award home. His 1,613 rushing yards are the third most for any rookie ever. Like, 93 years ever.
With Tom Brady and Peyton Manning still dissecting defenses, this weekend’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins might not produce this year’s Super Bowl winner, but it may still be the key to the NFL’s future. Since their 3-6 start, the Redskins are on a seven-game winning streak, during which their already potent offense stabilized into one of the best in the league. Seattle, on its own five-game winning streak, has coalesced into arguably the best team in football. After outscheming the Chicago Bears en route to a dramatic overtime victory, Seattle pulled off one of the greatest three-game stretches in league history by bludgeoning the Cardinals, Bills, and 49ers, a stretch during which they outscored their opponents 150 to 30.
Among similar dominant stretches in NFL history, one that comes close was by the 1940 Chicago Bears, whose streak culminated in a 73-0 victory over the Redskins in the NFL Championship. That record offensive output followed totals of 47 and 31 points in the previous two weeks. The success was the direct result of a switch in offensive scheme by legendary Bears coach and owner George Halas, a switch that helped turn a 7-3 Bears loss to the Redskins earlier that season into the most lopsided championship game in any major professional sport. Halas, frustrated by his offense, turned to good friend and Stanford coach Clark Shaughnessy for help.
At the time, every NFL team ran the single wing offense, a shotgun-based attack with an unbalanced line where the ball was typically snapped directly to the tailback. Shaughnessy — first at the University of Chicago, where he and Halas became friends, and later at Stanford — had revived the old T-formation, which placed a quarterback directly behind the center. Shaughnessy updated the T to include a variety of motions and misdirection to buttress the running game and bolted on an all-new passing attack. The combination made the offense nearly unstoppable — at least in college. Even as late as 1940, most pro coaches viewed the T formation and its reliance on the quarterback making fakes and dropping back to pass as a bizarre gimmick. That is until Chicago ripped through the latter part of its schedule, and, with Sid Luckman as the prototype for a new era of "T-formation quarterbacks," built a dynasty.
Each week, the Fantasy Island contestants will submit a preview for each of that weekend's games. The best preview from each game will be selected and combined with the others into one comprehensive guide, and points are awarded based on how many individual previews from each writer are selected. Get it? OK. We sorta do, too.
Fantasy owners ogling Kevin Ogletree on the waiver wire after his career night (eight receptions, 114 yards, two touchdowns) against the Giants should look elsewhere this week. The confluence of factors that led to his sensational performance — namely, Miles Austin’s troublesome hamstring and Jason Witten’s lacerated spleen — will soon be quelled by the commendably therapeutic ministrations of the Cowboys’ medical staff, relegating Ogletree back to fifth-option status behind Austin, Witten, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray in the Dallas offense. Austin’s output of 4-73-1 was impressive considering the extended time he missed in the preseason; Witten was just as remarkable for playing at all. Both should see more targets from Tony Romo as their health improves. The Dez Rules, with their moratorium on strip club visits and security detail for Bryant and his rainmaking proclivities, should eliminate the possibility of in-season legal strife as Bryant finally seems poised to blossom into an elite fantasy player (and another obstacle in the way of Ogletree’s sustained success).
This isn’t to say Ogletree isn’t a decent pickup in standard leagues, but there are better options out there: