LeSean McCoy: Weather was a theme all over the league yesterday, but what happened in Philadelphia was something entirely different. I can’t remember a game in which diving for the ball meant players temporarily disappearing.
When McCoy did this to Glover Quin in his (ridiculous) second half, part of me was worried it would end with Quin buried deep enough that he’d never be found.
This was the McCoy game that has seemed so close all year but has never quite happened. His 184-yard debut came on 31 carries, but since Nick Foles took over, there have been plenty of underwhelming outings. Apparently it took a blizzard to finally bring McCoy’s open-field advantage to an unfair place. McCoy has led the league the past two seasons in broken tackles, according to Football Outsiders, and I’m guessing he will again this year. His 1,305 rushing yards now lead the league, and if he somehow managed to string together a couple more big games and got to 1,600 for the year, I don’t know who would be surprised.
This is our reward. For everyone who kept the faith through weeks of Titans-Rams and Ravens-Browns, the days of meaningful, excellent football are finally here. Along with the underappreciated marquee game of the week, we have a pair of hugely important, season-defining matchups to boot. Carolina–New England, San Francisco–New Orleans, and Kansas City–Denver would probably have been the best game from any of the past four weeks. Some might say it’s too much all at once. I disagree. To get you fully prepared, we decided to break down the (possibly) deciding matchup from the weekend’s three best games. Enjoy, everybody. We deserve this.
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.
Come As You Are
Robert Mays: When the Colts traded for Trent Richardson, part of the collective shock came from how unprecedented the move seemed. Without considerable extenuating circumstances, teams don’t give up on 23-year-old first-round picks. From the Browns’ side, it really was a deal that was almost unheard of, but not for the Colts. They’d done this before.
Anyone who watches Hard Knocks will remember the scene from last summer when Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland called Vontae Davis into his office and informed his fourth-year cornerback that he had been traded to the Colts for a second-round pick. Davis’s reaction wasn’t surprising, given what we knew about him at that point. Taken 25th overall by Miami in 2009, Davis was one of the more physically impressive cornerbacks you’ll ever see. Brother of famed pre-draft workout star Vernon Davis, Vontae was a 5-foot-11, 205-pound, 4.5 corner who looked like he could handle 20 carries a game if a team were so inclined. His issues in Miami had more to do with the other side of things. He struggled with maturity, with the day-in, day-out call for consistency of the pro game. When Ireland told Davis he’d be headed to Indianapolis, Davis’s first response was that he wanted to call his grandma. He was polite, he was gracious, but at 24, he was still a kid.
I don’t know about you, but I often find fantasy football to be an endless well of disappointment. Injuries, surprise benchings, and Mike Shanahan tend to make this impossible to avoid. Metaphorically speaking, I sometimes feel like I’m just trying to throw the ball away and live for another down. Then my pass gets intercepted and I sob uncontrollably.
With that in mind, we might as well embrace the disappointment. What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, right? It’s about time we held fantasy football’s most heinous underperformers accountable, and grouping them into one easy list of shame is a start. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the All-Disappointment Team. Please try to contain your tears.
Fantasy Football All-Disappointment Team (So Far)
QB: Colin Kaepernick RB: Ray Rice RB: Trent Richardson WR: Julio Jones WR: Roddy White TE: Zach Sudfeld
Before we talk about the upcoming slate of games and their fantasy implications, a quick note of mourning:
HOYER THE DESTROYER is dead. Long live HOYER THE DESTROYER.
From a fantasy standpoint, Brian Hoyer’s torn ACL slightly decreases the value of Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon, because Brandon Weeden is Pete Wheeler from Backyard Sports (minus the speed). No, the transition from Hoyer back to Weeden will not be seamless.
It’s that time of year — when snakes, auctions, ADPs, keepers, and sleepers start to rule our football hearts and minds. This season, last year’s Fantasy Island contest winner, Matt Borcas, will be providing some fantasy insight, starting with the tools you need for a league-winning draft.
1. Let’s do something no self-respecting fantasy football analyst has ever dared to try: begin with Blaine Gabbert. On Monday, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley officially crowned Gabbert his starting quarterback. To his credit, Gabbert has performed well this preseason, particularly in Saturday’s battle royal with Mark Sanchez, where he went 13-for-16 for 165 yards and a touchdown, and also suffered a fractured right thumb that will keep him sidelined until the regular season starts.
Has Gronk gronked his final gronk? Tuesday's news that Rob Gronkowski will undergo back surgery continued a disastrous eight-month run that has seen him already go under the knife four times for the forearm injury he first suffered in Week 11 and a subsequent infection. The forearm issues (and the high ankle sprain that hobbled Gronkowski during 2011's Super Bowl loss to the Giants) are one thing, but this back injury has the potential to be far more devastating.
This is a shoe that's been waiting to drop — or the back that's been waiting to drop, I guess — since Gronkowski started his professional career. After a promising sophomore season at the University of Arizona, Gronkowski missed his entire junior year with a back injury. As I documented in this article on the health of tight ends (notably Gronkowski) before last season, that injury started as a "strained back" that had Gronkowski day-to-day, before becoming a season-ending injury in late September. Gronkowski then underwent a microdiscectomy to shave a disc that was bothering his sciatic nerve. (This injury is reportedly to a different disc.) Rumors that Gronkowski suffered from spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal column that ended Michael Irvin's career, were denied before the 2010 draft. After rehabbing, Gronkowski then decided to turn pro without reestablishing himself in school, a move that screams, "I need to get paid while my back still allows me to do so." OK, maybe not in Gronk's voice.
In case you were busy listening to Steve Winwood, wondering when you would be back in the high life again, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Despite being denied a late winner in regulation because of a delayed concurrent penalty call, Brent Seabrook's overtime goal gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 Game 7 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks advance to the Western Conference finals, where they will face the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. If they beat the Kings they will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they will be forced to forfeit after being held by the Kingsguard for attempting to usurp the throne. Justice will come quickly, as the Stanley Cup monarchy does not wait for due process or jury trials, and punishment will be severe. The Kings' public enemies are few at this point, and while many may support the Blackhawks, when the guillotine falls those supporters will stay silent, lest a similar fate befall them. Hope is a forgotten word in the NHL, but, futile as such wishes may be, best of luck to all four conference finalists!
While recovering from his fourth wrist surgery of the offseason, sources are reporting that Rob Gronkowski will undergo back surgery that will put his participation in the New England Patriots' training camp in doubt. While many are concerned about Gronkowski's long-term ability to contribute in the NFL with his continued injury issues, personally, I am concerned that Gronkowski is abusing his deductible. We get it Rob, you blew past your annual maximum on arm surgery no. 3. You don't need to rub your ability to receive quality medical care in our faces.
Every now and then, our boss, Bill Simmons, will forward some of his reader mail to me and fellow Triangle editor Chris Ryan. Most of the time, it’s to troll us about our favorite teams (Brian Urlacher’s pre-draft ascension was entirely legitimate, and I won’t hear otherwise), but occasionally, one of the notes has an idea so insane that it actually makes a lot of sense.
Following the NFL draft, Jonathan from Suitland, Maryland, sent an explanation of why it often sucks to root for the Eagles around draft time. His reasoning for this was a series of draft trades made during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. It started with a trade in April 2009, when the Bears traded Kyle Orton, the 18th pick in 2009, a third-rounder in 2009, and their first-round pick in 2010 to the Broncos in exchange for Jay Cutler and Denver’s 2009 fifth-round pick. Now, watch carefully. This gets confusing fast.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had surgery on his forearm last week to clean up an infection. These are the kinds of things that happen when your arm is operated on three times in three months. But Gronk being Gronk, we feel like there are some extra-medical reasons for his infectch. Here is a list of those possible reasons:
Prolonged exposure to Tryst air-conditioning condensation, stripper glitter, taking an inadvisable amount of Mountain Dew baths, a splinter from a Tower of Terror malfunction, gator sweat, stuffed animal fur, sourdough bread crumbs that had been in Logan Mankins's beard since 2010, stagnant Typhoon Lagoon water, a little bit of price-sticker glue from the shrink-wrap of a recently purchased copy of Ministry of Sound's The Sound of Dubstep, over-application of complimentary Harvard-branded body lotion, Funyun dust, uncared-for Capri Sun straw stab wound, a little bit of Aqib Talib's homemade kimchi, the enormousness of Tom Brady's personal sacrifice.
With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the latest in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
The AFC Championship Game featured a pair of offenses that for most of the season could not have been more different. As was brought up countless times during the playoffs, Joe Flacco was the best deep-ball thrower in football in 2012, but the Ravens struggled in their intermediate passing game and in manufacturing first downs. For the Pats, manufacturing first downs is all they do. They had 444 in all, 62 more than any other team.
Much of this middle-of-the-field dominance was — and has been — a product of Wes Welker. The 31-year-old receiver has caught 627 passes in his six seasons as a Patriot, and as every other piece of New England’s backfield and receiving corps has turned over, Welker has remained a constant for Tom Brady. Welker had another typically outstanding season in 2012, catching 118 passes for 1,354 yards while Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski missed significant time with injuries, and Brandon Lloyd, well ... didn’t do anything.
This steady production is what’s made Welker’s treatment by the Patriots and Bill Belichick a bit puzzling. Before the 2011 season, Welker, coming off his worst year as a Patriot, was offered a two-year, $16 million contract. He turned down that deal before getting the franchise tag that spring. Last offseason, coming off his best season as a Patriot, Welker was given a lesser offer, which he again turned down before getting the franchise tag. In total, Welker brought home more than he would’ve by signing the original sheet, but what had become clear was that to the Pats, Welker’s value had been defined. In New England, that usually means a line in the sand. When it came time this week for the Pats to decide whether to again use the franchise tag on Welker, they declined, meaning that Welker will likely become a free agent when the league year begins.
In case you were out getting arrested while rehearsing your Les Misérables flash mob, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The Chicago Bulls held the Atlanta Hawks to 20 first-half points en route to a 97-58 win in Chicago. It was the fewest points the Hawks had scored in a game since 1955, the year the shot clock was introduced, when they scored just 57 against the Boston Celtics. "I can't believe you clowns," joked Bulls coach and amateur insult comic Tom Thibodeau after the game. "One fewer basket, and we would've really stuck it to that old nincompoop Red Auerbach. He hasn't been had that bad since someone replaced one of his stogies with an exploding cigar. I guess you kidders will just have to win nine championships now to make it up to me. Am I right? Now which of you buffoons wants to get silly and see this ol' wisecracker work out some new material down at the Chuckle Bin?" There were no immediate takers, but Thibodeau thought he could get Kirk Hinrich to bite if he picked up the tab on the club's two-drink minimum.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been ruled out for the remainder of the postseason after reinjuring his broken arm in New England's game against Houston on Sunday. "I thought it was worth playing through it, and Coach thought playing was the right choice." Gronkowski said to the media. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick quickly interjected, "Thinks. Not thought. Coach thinks playing is the right choice."
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.
Bills at Patriots
Buffalo hemorrhages 169.5 rushing yards a game and there’s a toddler-with-permanent-marker glee in Tom Brady’s eyes when he gashes open wounds, even if it means doing so via hand-offs (40 carries, 247 ground-game yards when these teams met in Week 4). There won’t be six New England turnovers this time; coupled with the running game, I’m expecting sub-par receiving lines for the Pats’ aces. Stevie Johnson has been leaving behind a data trail of ghastly box scores, including a three-catch-for-29-yards showing last week. This is largely because Ryan Fitzpatrick loves wheel routes to running backs and third-read safety-valve tosses to Scott Chandler. Donald Jones has scored every three weeks this season, and these migration patterns point to a touchdown this week.
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, where points are awarded based on how many individual previews from each writer are selected. Get it? OK. We sorta do too.
Buccaneers at Cowboys
The Bucs are legit. They fell victim to a little Eli magic this Sunday, but I think we all know Tony Romo is about as magical as David Blaine. (Sorry, buddy. Standing in an ice cave for two days isn't magic.) The 'Boys haven't been able to stop anyone, so I like Doug Martin a lot this week; I think he finishes as a top-10 RB. Vinnie Jackson is always a boom-or-bust play, but an interesting sleeper in this game is Dallas Clark. America's Team of 1992 has given up TDs to TEs (that's a weird phrase) in two straight weeks, and Clark is better than either Martellus Bennett or Anthony McCoy (my apologies to the McCoy family, who may be the only people who knew who Anthony was before this week).