Welcome to Week 12, where Brady-Manning XIV is far from the only riveting QB showdown on the docket. We’ve also got Tolzien-Ponder, McGloin-Fitzpatrick, and Henne-Keenum, which we’ll be breaking down in great detail a little bit later, because I know that’s the hard-hitting analysis you crave. In addition, we’ll talk about recipes, the oldest 8-year-old in the NFL, and a disturbing waiver wire trend that must be brought to light. All that and more in today’s fantasy preview, brought to you by Bobby Rainey, Destroyer of Worlds.
1. QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: If we forget about Rainey for a minute (impossible, I know!) and restrict our purview to mere mortals, we'll find that Roethlisberger led the NFL in fantasy points last week. That might seem shocking, seeing as (a) he’s “protected” by a super porous offensive line, (b) Jerricho Cotchery is the key to the Steelers’ red-zone attack, and (c) Megatron was also in peak form this past Sunday, but I swear on Brett Keisel’s beard that it's true. Furthermore, I don’t think it was an anomaly. Following a dreadful 0-4 September, which included a Todd Haley–Antonio Brown steel cage match, a retrospectively ludicrous loss to the Vikings, and ensuing trade rumors involving Big Ben, the Steelers have regrouped to go 4-2, bolstering their overall fantasy value in the process.
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.
Did you know that Denver is the only place in the whole wide world Wes Welker would’ve left New England for? I did, because I read Chris Ballard’s revealing profile of Boston’s biggest traitor since Johnny DamonRoger Clemens Benedict Arnold. Some other crucial tidbits from the piece:
And finally, we get to the champs. Well ... sort of, as Barnwell points out early on. The Ravens rode a highly improbable playoff run to their second Super Bowl win in franchise history last season, but these are preview podcasts. Taking stock of this year’s Ravens means evaluating a different group.
After rehashing Baltimore’s 2012 postseason, we get into all the changes Baltimore has made since winning the Super Bowl (7:09). Gone are Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, replaced (hopefully) by Baltimore’s first- and second-round picks from April’s draft. Playoff heroes Paul Kruger, Cary Williams, and Anquan Boldin are also gone, and although Barnwell has some concerns about how quickly all the new defensive pieces can come together, I chose to put my faith in Ozzie Newsome & Co. (OK, so did Barnwell; he just doesn’t think it happens this year).
One topic on which we’re a little further part is Joe Flacco (15:05). You can read our Flacco conversation in full below, but where Barnwell thinks the playoff Flacco is closer to the real Flacco, I still have my doubts:
Super Bowl champions Ray Rice and Torrey Smith met at video game producer Treyarch's studios in Santa Monica this week to settle an argument: Who would win in a Call of Duty: Black Ops II grudge match? Before they sat down to virtually duke it out on the just-released The Uprising DLC Map Pack (that's as close to a neutral field in video games you can get; oh, and if you're over 35, don't be embarrassed if you don't know what a DLC Map Pack is), we had a chance to ask them a couple of questions:
When I decided to count down the 22 most important players in Sunday’s Super Bowl, I didn’t imagine it was going to be all that hard. I mean, there are 44 total starters; picking half of them should be doable. Then I actually started.
Let me first explain what this list is actually supposed to represent. These aren’t the 22 best players in the Super Bowl or the 22 players I expect to make the biggest impact. This is my best attempt at figuring out which 22 players matter most, and that proved to be more difficult than I’d planned.
Even with some cheating (a few guys at similar positions are listed together, so actually there are 27 players. I'm not sorry), there are some notable omissions that I don’t feel great about. Jonathan Goodwin has been one of the best centers in football this year, but for the purposes of this list, he’s out. Not a single Ravens cornerback is listed, which isn’t to say that Corey Graham and Cary Williams won’t play a part; it’s to say that how San Francisco uses Michael Crabtree doesn’t make one side or area of the field more important than another. Dennis Pitta has been invaluable for the Ravens’ offense since Jim Caldwell took over, but I still think he’s been Joe Flacco’s third most important receiver in the playoffs. With all that in mind, here are the guys who actually did make the final cut.
After a decade of mostly familiar names, Super Bowl XLVII is set to provide some welcome new blood under center. Sunday will mark the first title game in five years to feature two quarterbacks who’ve never been here before, but that’s about where their similarities in experience end. For Colin Kaepernick, this start in New Orleans comes barely three months after the first of his NFL career. For Joe Flacco, it’s the next step in his playoff success. But even with all the pressure young Kaepernick is set to face, in my mind, and in terms of scheme, support, and circumstance, there will be more of it placed on Flacco.
Like the 49ers, previous versions of these Ravens relied on a bruising running game and great defense to buttress a young quarterback as he improved from week-to-week. This year, those areas of strength have lagged. After a long stretch of dominance, Baltimore's famed and historic defense fell to the middle of the pack in nearly every category, and although the Ray Rice–led running game is still formidable, its efficiency and production took a step back.
This means that for the first time, the Ravens have become Joe Flacco’s team, and more than ever, Baltimore has relied on its passing attack. Ray Rice has been a steady bailout option for most of Flacco’s career, but it’s Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Dennis Pitta who will be the keys come Sunday night.
Each week, the Fantasy Island contestants will submit waiver wires detailing their recommended pickups. The best waiver column will be published and awarded points as part of Grantland's ongoing contest to select our fantasy football writer. Get it? OK. We sorta do too.
DISCLAIMER: This column makes big assumptions and expresses strong opinions. Please understand: I do not speak for all the women in the world. Just every woman I know.
As many of you have correctly guessed, I spend just as much time reading gossip rags as I do watching football (OK, fine, it was exponentially more until recently). Having said that, I’m a genuine football fan, and these days, having washed up here on Fantasy Island, I am necessarily required to be equally immersed in football and pop culture. And so every Monday morning, it is both delightful and a total insult when THIS shows up on E! Online’s “Top Stories” (and THIS the week before, and THIS the week before that). Some quick research shows that Comcast — providers of the NFL RedZone package that competes with DirecTV — owns the E! Entertainment network. And there, my friends, is the product I’m supposed to approve in the household budget after I read E! Online’s weekly recaps.
The NFL execs are no dummies (except Goodell). They clearly understand how close they are to doubling their fan base if they can lure women into the tent. They know how much more cash is in play if they turn the ball-busting wives into the same drooling, glassy-eyed robots the husbands are. They offered us nothing but baby clothes for a long time, but they’ve since evolved. Their NFLshop.com product line includes pink hats, jerseys, and baby tees. They celebrate boobies by wearing hot-pink socks a month out of the season. They rent the charming little Manning boys out to me 30 seconds at a time.
In the minutes before the Ravens and Patriots kicked off last night, I was on a stool in a sticky-floored shithole in Hollywood. A couple friends were celebrating a birthday, and I’d managed to beat the party. A few sips in and half paying attention, I looked up to see a shot of Torrey Smith sitting alone on the Ravens bench. His head was in his hands. Through conversations amplified by an afternoon of drinking, I heard Al Michaels, and “younger,” and “brother,” and “died.” It had been a while since I last cried, but as Smith looked up and wiped his eyes, I did too.
Yesterday’s first seven hours of football was a perfect collection of whatever divergent feelings I have about the game these days. Before the first set of games, Jumbotrons across the country paid a near-perfect tribute to Steve Sabol. Lombardi, Butkus, and Elway flashed by to a soundtrack that has defined how so many of us have fed upon the game, and I texted a friend the most eloquent sentence I could manage: “Man, I really love football.”
It wasn’t long after that the brutality started. The violence is never absent, but the cringes seemed more pervasive yesterday — Tony Romo taking a face mask in the earhole, Darrius Heyward-Bey lying in the end zone, Kerry Rhodes disassembling Eagles. As player after player was scraped off the field, I couldn’t remember a Sunday when I was less convinced about the future of the sport. At contact, the most frightening moment came during the third quarter in Denver — Matt Schaub, fresh off a helmet to the chin, lying on the turf, grasping the sides of his head. That’s about when I looked up at the room and said the only thing I could: “How much longer can they do this?”