What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next month and a half providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
I know what you’re thinking. Most teams don’t even open training camp until Friday, so choosing the winners of the league’s highest-profile position battles before these guys take a single snap is a fool’s errand. To that I say that you obviously aren’t aware of my never-ending quest to embarrass myself. For the next few days, we’ll be anointing starters around the league based on nothing but speculation and guesswork. Because here at the Triangle, we’re all about science.
Kevin Kolb vs. E.J. Manuel, Bills
Five years ago, this is Kolb’s job, no questions asked. With a new GM and a new head coach in place, Buffalo is far from win-now mode, and using Kolb as a stopgap while bringing along an admittedly green quarterback makes a lot of sense.
Could there be a more fitting final play in the 2012 NFL season than Tony Romo clinching defeat with a horrific interception? No, there could not. That super Romo-ish floating Christmas gift to the football fans of the beltway not only marked the end of the Cowboys' season, but the ends of both the BQBL season and 2012. Each year, December 31 provides us a moment to look back at what has passed and pay tribute to those who passed to the wrong team. So this year, at the end of this column, I'll be handing out the first set of BQBL Awards for lack of achievement at the quarterback position. But before we get to that, there’s plenty of carnage from Week 17 to address — namely, the work of Mr. Chad Steven Henne, who seemed eager on Sunday to secure the no. 2 overall pick for the Jags.
Three and Out
Jaguars (Chad Henne), 67 points: Chad Henne threw four touchdown passes against the Titans on Sunday: one to Justin Blackmon, one to Jordan Shipley and two to Zach Brown. The only problem is that Zach Brown is not on his football team. Details.
This is when one feels like the quiet teenagers in the cafeteria with an earnest passion for Magic: The Gathering. No more than four people on the planet care about your fantasy team, and they are all bloodthirsty adversaries. The waiver wire is an analog channel of lonely, scattered transmissions and Davone Bess reruns — but no lingering contender can afford to forfeit their turn at the well when buckets of upside linger.
Nerves tangle and overwhelm because it’s rarely Aaron Rodgers or Jimmy Graham on a white horse galloping across beaches while you gleefully reach for the title — it’s falling into the arms of Montell Owens. After the scattered fortunes, your difference makers are mostly in-house, and the start/sit game magnifies — T.Y. Hilton is a high-reward burner, but Nate Washington’s 13 targets at Indianapolis can’t be overlooked — until you read too much Bryce Brown propaganda and start him over Marshawn Lynch.
You have to trust the process and carry on — plug in the five lineup stalwarts, ignore kickers, start a matchup-based defense, and look into filling those lineup holes with one of these shiny new wire guys.
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.
It is said that the amino acid tryptophan in turkey (along with undue exposure to the Detroit Lions) makes you drowsy and disoriented on Thanksgiving. I consumed a behemoth of a turkey sandwich Sunday, so I was immediately skeptical when ESPN.com’s handy fantasy points leader board listed Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon among Week 11’s top scorers. Possible explanations: a rogue coalition of tech-savvy Jaguars fans hacked into Bristol’s servers for mysterious reasons, or my groggy, tryptophan-fraught eyes were failing me. Two days later, it appears that Henne and Blackmon were actually responsible for two spectacular fantasy performances. [Insert Mayans joke here.]
What angered me most about the Jags-Texans game was Blaine Gabbert’s elbow injury. Not because I’m Blaine’s distant cousin (I’m not), but because I had money riding on the Texans -15.5. Facing the very real prospects of a post-Gabbert world, it dawned on me that Jacksonville’s offense might play competently enough to cover the spread, my wallet be damned. With Henne under center for the remainder of the season, they might even play competently enough to harness Blackmon’s absurd talent into fantasy superstardom. Adding this beast to your roster will be as satisfying as Thursday’s plate of turkey, minus the subsequent fatigue.
So the fifth pick in this year’s NFL draft is currently first in the hearts and minds of fantasy owners nationwide. Blackmon, available in 55.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues, is the crown jewel/Thanksgiving turkey of Week 12’s waiver wire. But which players are Grandma’s best side dishes?
T.Y. Hilton, Colts WR, available in 96.7 percent of ESPN.com leagues
This slippery rookie isn’t the main dish — the distinction of being Andrew Luck’s no. 1 target belongs to Reggie Wayne — but Hilton is a serviceable WR3/flex, and he’s earned his spot at the table.
Danario Alexander, Chargers WR, available in 95.5 percent of ESPN.com leagues
Every football fan with a mouth has spent the past month lambasting Norv Turner, Philip Rivers, and the Chargers organization as a whole, but real-life wins and losses matter naught in fantasy. What do matter are Danario Alexander’s impressive stats from these two outings: 12 receptions, 230 yards, and three touchdowns. He’s supplanted Malcolm Floyd as Rivers’s no. 1 target. Claim him while you can.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Patriots TE, available in 99.8 percent of ESPN.com leagues
Fair warning: Aaron Hernandez could play on Sunday, rendering this waiver wire suggestion moot. Bill Belichick probably doesn’t want to start a dude best known for having his genitalia on national television, but he’ll deal with it. Remember that whoever lines up at tight end remains the most important member of the Patriots offense not married to an underwear model.
Player to Avoid: Beanie Wells, Cardinals RB, available in 52.1 percent of ESPN.com leagues
Beanie Wells is not the solution to your running back woes. I have nothing against the man — we both came of age in Greater Cleveland and matriculated to Ohio State. This is more a condemnation of any team with the audacity to start Ryan Lindley against the Cardinals meat grinder of a schedule, which features upcoming tilts against the Seahawks, 49ers, and Bears. Opposing defenses will stuff seven men in the box and dare Lindley to pass, leaving Wells with no room to run. I’d rather start a Browns receiver than have to rely on Wells down the stretch. If you need a running back, try Denver’s Ronnie Hillman.
“This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” That’s the first line from Ford Madox Ford's novel, The Good Soldier. It’s about a disintegrating marriages in early 20th Century Europe. I am going to write a new version of that novel, using the same first line. It’s going to be about Chad Henne and his disintegrating career.