It’s the very first playoff edition of the fantasy football preview post! Let us start by acknowledging our patron saint, Jim Mora.
We do want to talk about playoffs, Jim, because there is so very much to discuss. For instance: Is Andrew Luck’s recent slump a cause for concern? (Kinda.) Should I start Ryan Fitzpatrick over Luck? (NO.) How about Carson Palmer? (Yeah, as crazy as it sounds.)
There’s more: I know friends don’t let friends start Jets, but isn’t Chris Ivory in line for a big game against the Raiders? And what to make of Drew Brees, who’s on a short week and coming off his worst outing of the season? Hell, how plump is Eddie Lacy looking these days?
As you can see, only the most important questions will be answered in our Week 14 preview. Here's hoping your postseason starts off with a W instead of a Mora-esque rant.
As long as Chip Kelly is around, the Philadelphia Eagles will be defined by offense. When Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy came out playing at warp speed on Monday Night Football in Week 1, we were in. There was a lull in the middle of the season, but with the arrival of Nick Foles and the Eagles’ four-game winning streak, Philly is back to third in offensive DVOA. This team can score, and that’s the reason the Eagles are sitting at 7-5 and are currently the favorites to win the NFC East.
Quietly aiding that run to the playoffs, though, is what Philadelphia is doing on defense. A third of the way into the season, the Eagles were among the worst defensive teams in the league. Those first six games included a 52-point performance by the Broncos (no shame in that), 33 from San Diego, and 26 by Kansas City. Even the Week 1 fireworks display was followed by a bundle of second-half points from Robert Griffin’s offense. After surrendering 20 points to the winless Bucs in Week 6, the Eagles were 30th in defensive DVOA. Today, they rank 25th, but by Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA, which gives more value to recent performances, that ranking jumps to 21st. The point is the Eagles are getting better, and that may go a long way in turning a happy-to-be-here trip to the playoffs into one involving a win or two.
For every football player, the helmet does a little something different. It turns some, like LaDainian Tomlinson, into superheroes. It felt like LT was from the future in part because he looked like he was. For others, it seems almost obligatory. I’m not sure how we’d even notice if Tom Brady played without one.
There’s a select few, though, for whom the helmet seems to make all the difference, and Nick Foles is one of those. Without it, the NaFoleseon Dynamite jokes are inevitable and apt, but with it, Foles looks like a 6-foot-6, strong-armed quarterback who belongs in an NFL huddle. It doesn’t hurt that every time he puts it on, he plays like one, too.
In case you were busy being thankful for Moises Alou's Hall of Fame candidacy, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Jordan Lynch broke his own FBS single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 321, as Northern Illinois finished its regular season undefeated with a 33-14 win over Western Michigan. "No! My record is gone," Lynch said after the game. When told he still had the record, Lynch shook his head and said, "Sure, but it's not the same. I loved that old record like a son. This one I'll never tell it how much I love it. I'm just gonna put a ton of pressure on it to make up for my lost relationship with the old record. Even if it means this new one is gonna grow up to be all weird and maladjusted." Lynch then looked at a picture of himself setting the original rushing record and let a single tear trickle down his cheek before yelling, "You're nothing to me!" at a TV playing a highlight reel of Tuesday's game.
Despite being down Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, Golden State held on late to edge the Pelicans, 102-101, in New Orleans. "I didn't want to play either," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said after the game. "I mean, have you seen that Pelican mascot? Pure intimidation. But with those two out I knew I'd have to fight through it, no matter how many nightmares I'm sure to have tonight."
In case you were busy trying to solve the Heat's chemistry issues using stoichiometry, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
It was a weekend of big comebacks in the NFL as contenders Seattle and Indianapolis mounted stunning symmetrical rallies behind their Pro Bowl second-year quarterbacks to beat Tampa Bay and Houston, respectively, 27-24. When asked if they were disappointed to have fallen behind relatively poor opposition, both Seattle's Russell Wilson and the Colts' Andrew Luck replied, "It's easy to look at records and dismiss an opponent, but every team in the league is good." Then both men said, "There are no excuses in this league. Sure, we lost a top receiver to an ACL injury last week, but every team deals with injuries, and it's on me to avoid mistakes," before both said, "But what's special with this team is its belief and resolve." When asked if they were considering a presidential run after their careers were over, both men laughed and replied, "Well, I don't want to get ahead of myself but who knows?" Then both men pointed directly at the camera and said, "But I do know this: There's only one man standing in my way. And he knows who he is. And I will stop at nothing until I am the most powerful man in the world." Then both men let out uncharacteristically evil maniacal laughs, before clearing their throats and adding, "Go Hawks," and, "Go Colts."
In a battle of ACC unbeatens, Florida State throttled Miami 41-14 as they narrowly moved back to no. 2 in the BCS standings. "Don't worry, folks," said Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher after the game, "we're not gonna run up the score for no BCS computer. No siree, Bob." Fisher then pulled his sunglasses down to the tip of his nose, peered out over them, and said, "We're gonna run up the score because scoring lots of points is real fun."
Every now and then, we will attempt to write the worst sports column on earth. Today: Let's talk about Chip Kelly and the oldest story in the world.
PHILADELPHIA — Just once, wouldn't it be nice to get an apology from one of these college coaches?
I just want one of these know-it-alls to admit that in the end, the NFL knew better.
You know the story before I've even written a word. The hotshot college coach who thought he could outsmart pro football. Teach the experts a thing or two. Save his quarterback's career. Spread out his receivers and conquer the big leagues. Press conferences full of hype all summer, then fall arrives, and … crickets. The coach came, he saw, he got conquered. He promised to reinvent the wheel, he left with the engine on fire.
You could throw 15 names into that story over the last 25 years, but this week it's the Eagles mastermind we're talking about. I've started calling him Chump Kelly.
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
Sunday Dead-of-Night Football
Robert Mays: Of all the things to get used to about the West Coast, watching sports comes last. The first time you roll out of bed at 9 a.m. on a Sunday and kickoff is only an hour away, it’s hard to not wonder why everyone doesn’t live here. But six months later, when playoff basketball tips at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, that question is answered pretty quickly. I’m not sure if that part will ever feel right. It hasn’t yet.
When the news came out that the Raiders and Chargers would be kicking off at 11:30 ET last night, part of me was a little disappointed that I’d get to watch it three hours earlier. We love novelty in our sports watching. Think of how many times an extra-inning baseball broadcast has flashed the shot of the clock hitting midnight. There’s something about staying up past our bedtime that will never go away, no matter how old we get. Watching live football until 3 a.m. is almost like playing hooky for Opening Day. Knowing you shouldn’t be doing it is most of the fun.
I found out about the Trent Richardson trade as I was driving home last week, and I responded the same way I think a lot of people did: “Holy shit.” That’s exactly what I said, loudly, happy to be in the privacy of my own car. The news triggered a series of texts and tweets that no NFL news has in a long time, and through it all, it was clear that as popular as football is, moves like that one are just too rare. We love trades, and we want more of them.
There’s a reason, though, that NFL trades never happen. Well, there are several. One is that NFL GMs seem to love their draft picks as much or more than they love their children. The draft is the cheapest, most efficient way to improve, and mortgaging that opportunity is a risk — one that rarely works out. Another hurdle is that football is not baseball, or even basketball. The difference in schemes, terminology, and even the subtlest difference between positions means that sticking with in-house players feels like the safer choice. There’s also the issue of parity. The league’s deadline is still too early for teams to know if they have a shot at the playoffs, and too many times turnarounds come in just a couple years. The 2-14 Chiefs were probably right in not having a fire sale last season.
The Thank You for Not Coaching docket was pretty much all booked up by the time the 1 p.m. games were over on Sunday. Bouncers weren't letting any silly timeouts or fourth-down blunders into the column unless they had showed up for the early session. Plays that would normally be locks couldn't find a table unless they slipped somebody a 20. Pete Carroll calling for a spot challenge against the Jaguars? Nope. Mike McCoy's pair of fourth-and-1 punts inside Titans territory? Not this week. Rex Ryan's pair of spot challenges on consecutive plays? Believe it or not, we're all full up. It's a full #TYFNC slate for Week 3.
Let's start, though, with some of the better decisions from last week's action before working our way down to the three worst calls.
THE THREE NIFTIEST DECISIONS FROM WEEK 3
3. The Packers go for it on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter.
How can a play that quite possibly cost Green Bay the game be a good choice? Well, because you have to evaluate the decision based upon the process that went into the call without evaluating it based upon its one outcome. And, in this case, the Packers were right to attempt a fourth-and-1 conversion: They were up 30-27 with 4:01 left and had the ball on Cincinnati's 30-yard line. They had been very effective running the ball in the second half with Johnathan Franklin, in for an injured James Starks, and had a chance to possibly seal the game by not handing the football back over to the Bengals.
In case you were out accidentally revealing that you named a loved one Cosmo, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
The Dodgers clinched the NL West title with a 7-6 road win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, before angering the Diamondbacks' organization by celebrating in the pool at Chase Field. "You can't have a pool party at our pool and not invite us," said disappointed Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, as he stood in a pair of bright blue bathing trunks holding two pool noodles. When asked why he had two noodles, Goldschmidt hung his head and said softly, "One for me, and one for a new best friend." Goldschmidt then exploded, saying, "His name is Yasiel, and now that's never going to happen, is it? Is it?"
Despite Kansas City's failures in clock management and third-and-short situations, the Chiefs moved to 3-0, prevailing over a sloppy Philadelphia Eagles team, 26-16, in Thursday Night Football action. Which is to say that on the binary football scale of "Andy Reid" to "Not Andy Reid" by which all football games can be judged, the game scored an "Andy Reid."
Am I crazy or is this our first entertaining Thursday-night game, like, ever? Even if it's difficult to think of "The Andy Reid Bowl" being anything other than a plastic bowl overfilling with beef brisket and BBQ sauce, let's figure out how Skunk of the Week can bizarro-improve to 0-3 this season.
The Case for Philly Covering: It's impossible to prepare for Chip Kelly's nutty offense in four days Kansas City's 2-0 record is actually "we killed the horrific Jags in Week 1, then barely beat the mediocre Cowboys at home in Week 2” Michael Vick is strangely frightening to wager against in night games, for no real reason whatsoever far too much of Kansas City's playbook seems to be "What about a designed rollout for Alex?" the Chiefs have punted 16 times (tied for third-highest in NFL) and tallied 10 points and nine punts in two second halves they've had three drives all season of more than 50 yards can they score 30-plus points to keep up with Philly? and doesn't Reid's return to Philly HAVE to produce a sloppy, disjointed game that Reid's team blows in the final few minutes?
Week 1 is finally behind us, and with it the first-day-of-school nervousness that accompanies all new beginnings. Yes, Adrian Peterson can still make a 78-yard run look very, very easy. And yes, Brandon Weeden remains wholly averse to avoiding triple coverage.
This isn’t to say Week 1 lacked its share of surprises: Chip Kelly offered fans a glimpse into the future with his warp-speed playbook, and the dynamic duo of Geno Smith and Kellen Winslow led the Jets to a startling upset. But by and large, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and Week 1’s fantasy scoring leaders were virtually all familiar faces.
Robert Mays and Bill Barnwell break down four games from Week 1, answer reader questions, and recap the winners of their weekly bets.
Mays is then joined by former Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman to discuss his thoughts on Week 1 in the NFL and the origins of his "Lights Out" nickname and sack celebration. Video of that conversation can be seen below.