Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, I write this evening to demand that the Dallas police arrest one Drew Bledsoe for triple homicide. With one throw, he killed the Cowboy's chances of winning the game, my prediction that they would beat the Eagles and my fantasy football team's chances for victory. All of my players are done, all of the other cat's players are done. I came up 3 points short.

I like Drew Bledsoe as a QB. I wish him well, but I am seriously pissed at this week's turn of events. I was 3-1, tied for the lead in my division and for best record in the league. Now I'll go to 3-2, the tool who beat me is now in sole possession of said best record. I may stay tied for first, if Tomlinson and Gates are stifled by the Steelers.

A TD pass from Bledsoe would have won me the game. Especially if he threw it to TO or Jason Witten, both of whom were in my lineup. His interception got him -1.8 points on the day. Not only did he bring nothing to the table, he actually took things away. Seven sacks, three interceptions and a lost fumble. That will offset 223 yards passing, 24 yards rushing and a rushing TD.

Every criticism of Bledsoe was present in today's game. The Eagles pressured him up the middle, big time. He held the ball too long, refused to throw it away and took big sacks. Especially on first and second down in the two minute offense. He did make some big throws, too, to be fair. Especially the one to Terry Glenn that drew the pas interference call which brought the team down to the 3 yard line. Ironically, if Glenn had caught the ball it wouldn't have meant a damn thing in the real world but it would have put me in a better position to win the fantasy football game.

And then, he took the jam out of the collective doughnut of Dallas fans, idiots like me who played him in fantasy football, his coaches and his teammates. He found a wide open defender and drilled a perfect pass to him for 6 points. It was a classic Drew Bledsoe moment. I like his competitiveness and his confidence, but I hate the ghost in the machine that makes him make the fatal mistake at the big moment in the big game. Visions of Reggie White devouring Max Lane danced in my head all day today (Super Bowl XXXI, for those with short memories).

I suppose I ought to explain myself and the thought process that cost me the game. If I played Byron Leftwich in a much better matchup against the New York Jets, I win the game. It's that simple. It's a risk you take each week with the decisions you make as a fantasy owner. It's an artificial feeling of power that makes games which might not be so compelling in their own right more interesting. That's why they call it fantasy football, and not the Cincinnati Kid wins.

I took a chance, playing the Jaguars defense after a game where they were shredded by Mark Brunell and Santana Moss. They were facing Chad Pennigton who was ripping it up, throwing for over 300 yards against the Titans and the Patriots. It worked like a charm. They shutout the Jets, sacked Pennington five times, intercepted him three times, recovered a fumble and blocked a kick. All told, they got me 23 points, so I can only complain so much about Bledsoe.

What kills me is that I'm in a league that gives points for return yards. My opponent threw Rock Cartwright, JJ Arrington and Wes Welker at me. Welker got 12 points from his return yards alone (to go with 7 points from his receptions). Arrington and Cartwright didn't touch the ball on offense, but combined to score . I went with a more conventional lineup, Bledsoe, Larry Johnson, Deuce McAllister, Ronnie Brown, TO, Torry Holt, Jason Witten, Lawrence Tynes and the Jaguar defense. In addition to the kick returners, my opponent played Peyton Manning, Kevin Jones, Santana Moss, Robbie Gould and the Saints defense.

It was a brilliant ploy, each time a kick returner touches the ball he's going to get about 20 yards or so. That's 2 points a touch. I have a much more traditional lineup, and I took it for granted today. I didn't even look at my team this week, I just figured my lineup was good enough that I didn't need to tinker with it. That's what cost me the game.

But my fantasy woes this week tie back into the real world issues. I tricked myself into going with the Cowboys this week, and Bledsoe in fantasy football using the same rationale. I thought the Cowboys could handle the Eagle blitz package. The Eagles weren't doing anything particularly exotic. They just sent more people up the middle than the Cowboys could handle. It was a brutally elegant and simply devastating.

The Cowboys thought they could handle the blitz, and didn't communicate well up front. After all, linebacker and safeties weren't the one running free and hitting Bledsoe. The guys hitting Bledsoe most often were defensive tackle Darwin Walker and especially defensive end Dwight Howard. That means the offensive linemen aren't communicating effectively. They have to close down to the inside, that's an offensive lineman's fist responsibility. If one guy has to close down to the inside, some one has to move with him, and Dallas failed to do that time and time again.

It wasn't all Drew's fault all the time. But the big play at the end of the game was all Drew. It looked like he had the time, but just rushed the throw. As for the Dallas defense, I expected them to play more consistently than they did. At times they were great, and at times they didn't execute at all. Ware got caught inside on Westbrook's TD run. I thought LJ Smith held him on the play, but it wasn't called. But it evened out when Greg Ellis forced the fumble Ware returned for a TD thanks to LJ Smith's lackluster effort to tackle him.

Patrick Watkins, the rookie free safety, was burned badly on the 87 yard TD pass to Hank Baskett. He bit on the first part of a double move, and bit hard. Then to top it off, he had a chance to make the tackle, but failed to bring down the Philly receiver. But the flea flicker wasn't his fault. He covered it well enough. Donovan McNabb just made a great throw, and Pro Bowl strong safety Roy Williams misjudged the ball in flight and took the wrong angle. Two mistakes, which added up to 14 points. Dallas had the chance to win. They made some plays, but the Eagles made more plays and made bigger plays.

In the baseball world, rumors are flying fast and furious in the Bronx. Will The Boss fire/buy out Joe Torre? It's should be harder to say this about a guy who's taken his team to six World Series and won four since 1996, but I think it's time for a change in the Big Apple. A month, two weeks ago I would not have said it. Of course, that was before the Tigers quickly closed the Yankees out of the playoffs. The Yankees looked old, tired and listless compared to the Tigers. And now the buzzards are picking at the Yankee failure.

It's time for a new direction. The Yankees haven't won a championship since 2000. They haven't won a postseason series since their tragic collapse in 2004. They looked out of sorts against the Angels last year. They didn't look any better against the Tigers. They will likely lose Sheff, and ARod and Mussina might also be elsewhere next season. That's life in pro sports these days. It will be interesting to see what sort of team they field in 2007.

By a new direction, I don't mean Sweet Lou Pinella. Yes, he has experience and a World Series ring as a manager. Yes, he has historic ties to the Yankees as a player who was on Yankee champions in the 1970s. He's also a Tampa guy, and Tampa is the winter headquarters of the Boss. Does he have the temperament to manage for Steinbrenner? I don't think so. The Yankees will let a team like the Cubs make that mistake. If Torre goes, my money's on Girardi.

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