From the archives: December 2008
I get a lot of questions about the name of this blog. TRUM, in case you skipped the lead-in above, stands for "thoughts, ramblings, useless information and musings," and that description has probably never been more accurate than today, with a perfectly nutty Week 17 finishing off an insane year.
So here are a bunch of random thoughts as I watched today's games and, as a treat to you readers, I'll finish with what I believe is the first set of fantasy football rankings for next year.
So let's go back to one of my favorite catchphrases with a little
That Week 17 tends to be like a high school reunion. Or being on Facebook. There are a lot of old, familiar names you haven't thought about in years. Oh wow, you think, Michael Clayton is still alive?! He had 87 yards receiving, and I'm as surprised as you to report it was not in an Arena Football League (RIP) game.
Also, DeShawn Wynn, who was a trendy pickup for one week last season, had 122 total yards and a score for the Packers. Thanks to Pierre Thomas being scratched, Deuce McAllister had one last day of fantasy relevance, with 81 total yards. There was a Ryan Moats sighting; he had more than 50 total yards and a score. Moats plays for Houston these days, in case you were wondering. Or didn't know. Or, more than likely, didn't care. Najeh Davenport, a member of the Colts these days, had 80 total yards, and midseason darling Donnie Avery had 40 yards and a score while sitting on waiver wires.
That in a week in which a lot of studs didn't play much (both Mannings, Pierre Thomas, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Johnson, Brandon Jacobs, Anquan Boldin, Frank Gore) or didn't show up even though they did play (the Patriots' passing game, Larry Johnson, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Tashard Choice, Brian Westbrook), we should applaud the studs who did show up, including: Andre Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Le'Ron McClain, Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Turner, Clinton Portis, Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson.
That Pacman Jones made it rain for the Eagles.
That I said on Fantasy Football Now this morning that Brett Favre is an overrated choke artist.
That Tony Romo is the new Brett Favre.
That I saw my first previews of the "new" "American Idol." You know how we have that "countdown to kickoff" clock on "Sunday NFL Countdown" and Fantasy Football Now? Well, having seen what the new female judge looks like, can we go ahead and start that clock on "Idol"? The countdown to Paula's last show, that is.
That the most surprising performance in an already-shocking day was Michael Bush's. The third-string running back, on the road against a Tampa Bay team that had yet to give up a rushing touchdown at home all year, ran for 177 yards and scored twice. He was started in 0.6 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
That for the third straight week, Michael Jenkins had more yards than Roddy White. White, however, got the score. Jenkins finishes the regular season with at least 50 yards in nine of his last 11 games.
That Bill Simmons wrote the following in his mailbag column Friday: " the Celtics' 19-game winning streak came to a screeching halt on Christmas Day, thanks to Kobe Bryant and a gritty 15-man Lakers team (I'm including the refs)."
That Bill and every other Celtics fan should note that after Game 2 of last year's NBA Finals, in which the Celtics had 38 free throws to the Lakers' 10 -- backup center Leon Powe had three free throws more than the entire Lakers team -- and the Celtics won by just six points, you are all banned from whining about ref calls in any Lakers-Celtics game from here 'til the end of time. And you're certainly banned from whining about the refs following a regular-season game in which Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo shot a combined 6-for-20 from the field. Seriously. The Lakers shot seven more free throws than the Celtics. Not something crazy like 28 -- in a Finals game.
That you should consider these numbers from the past three weeks:
Running back A: 462 total yards
Running back B: 360 total yards
Running back C: 377 total yards
Running back C is DeAngelo Williams. Running back B is Adrian Peterson. And running back A is Cedric Benson. This doesn't include touchdowns, but still
That Detroit's Kevin Smith scored in his last three games, and on Sunday, he finished 1 yard short of posting his third straight 100-yard game. Nice sleeper for next season.
That JaMarcus Russell finishes the year with two touchdown passes in each of the last three games, the last one coming on the road at Tampa Bay.
That second only to Michael Bush's performance in weirdness was Jamal Lewis'. On the road at Pittsburgh, he managed to run for 94 yards.
That I love that fantasy commercial with all the sad fantasy teams, promoting postseason fantasy football -- which we have for free right here on ESPN.com. Compete with me and all the other ESPN fantasy analysts in Gridiron Playoff Challenge. You can sign up to play here.
That it was a week too late for Donald Driver, DeShaun Foster, Lance Moore and Dwayne Bowe, among others, to help us. They had nice games, but we really could have used those last week. A lot of people got burned by Foster, especially, last week.
That it was nice to see Carnell Williams get two scores. Not as nice, though, was seeing him clutch his knee in pain. Again.
That despite all the crap I took when I called Frank Gore a second-rounder before the season, he will finish the year as no better than the 14th-best fantasy running back. And he once again killed owners down the stretch, with two goose eggs and three single-digit-fantasy-point games in his final six games.
That I'm sick of the commercial in which the crazy-hot blond bartender says, "Let's talk about commitment," and the guys freak out until she says something like, "Relax, I'm talking about the beer's commitment to excellence." And she proceeds to lecture them on how great the beer is. First off, I've never been lectured by a bartender in my life, at least not about how good a beer I've just ordered is. The guys just ordered it -- they're convinced it's good. Plus, not one guy in America would freak out if that girl started talking about commitment. These guys have "tool" written all over them. Trust me, they'd be thrilled to get attention from a girl like that.
That those who want to hear my preseason predictions -- what I nailed and what I whiffed on -- should tune in to an upcoming Fantasy Focus podcast Nate and I will do. Be sure to look for it.
That it has been a blast, a privilege and occasionally a pain in the butt (not gonna lie) to write for you every week. I appreciate all of you taking the time to read. Even the haters; your page clicks count the exact same as the nice folks! I'm taking a good long break and will see you back around these parts for baseball season.
But I will leave you with my top 10 at quarterback, running back and wide receiver for next season, just off the top of my head. It's never too soon to think about it:
2. Tom Brady (if healthy at the start of camp)
3. Kurt Warner
4. Peyton Manning
5. Tony Romo
6. Aaron Rodgers
7. Jay Cutler
8. Philip Rivers
9. Donovan McNabb
10. Tyler Thigpen (if he plays all 16 games, he'll run for 700-plus yards)
(Sorry, I just don't think DeAngelo Williams or Thomas Jones will score the way they did this year, and I think LT gets healthy and gets a true fullback and offensive line in the offseason.)
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has a birthday on Monday the 29th. He has always hated having a birthday this close to the holidays. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend
Vul-ture (noun) [Latin vultur]
2: a person who profits from the misfortune and weakness of others
It was a weekend of large birds of prey feeding on the flesh of dead animals. Er, I mean the other definition.
No guy enjoys being "blocked" from scoring. Not at a nightclub, and certainly not in his fantasy football championship (or semifinals, depending on your league settings). We all know that guy at the bar who has no interest in helping you out. Or the "platonic best friend" who you know really likes a girl, but she can't see it, and all he does is kill everyone else's game.
Well, in Week 16, a lot of those guys showed up. Here are the top 10 worst offenders:
10. Bill Belichick
Ever since he ran up the score on Joe Gibbs last year, I've thought of Belichick as a bully. He has been called a cheater by the NFL, and he has been karmically cursed ever since. But a little fantasy help sure would be nice. New England scored 47 points, including three scores by running backs, and Sammy Morris had none of them. Morris still had a nice game (133 total yards) but it should have been awesome. The weather played a big factor in this game, of course, but it was interesting that both Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald did absolutely nothing, and yet both got bailed out by huge touchdown plays.
In a game in which fantasy owners were starting LaDainian Tomlinson, and many had both Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams going, none of these players scored, yet Askew and Sproles got in. Oh, and Brandon Manumaleuna got a score, keeping Vincent Jackson from having a truly amazing game. And the Bucs defense, after being so tough against the pass at home all year, didn't show up either: Philip Rivers had an amazing game, with 280 yards and four touchdowns.
7. Nate Ravitz and Cedric Benson
I'm sure we will discuss this on Monday's Fantasy Focus podcast, but these two guys combined to make the Bengals-Browns game truly horrific for me. My hatred of Benson is well-documented. But I've had to begrudgingly admit that he has been good of late. I even had him in my "Love" section in Thursday's "Week 16 Love/Hate" column. But what does Nate do? He calls me this morning to go over one of his championship decisions: Leon Washington, Warrick Dunn and Cedric Benson. The jerk forces me to talk him into Cedric Benson. Do you have any idea how painful that was for me? Then Cedric goes off. He carries 38 times for 171 yards. In fact, he's so effective that he blocked T.J. Houshmandzadeh from catching even one pass.
He's a rookie guard from Boston College. He's on the offensive line for the Lions. And when he was called for illegal procedure in the first quarter, he erased Calvin Johnson's 43-yard touchdown catch. Speaking of that game
5. Mike Shanahan and lawyers
Stupid Mike Shanahan and his revolving running back door Shanahan releases Mike Bell, in a year when the Broncos could have really used him. (Look, he's better than Tatum). So Bell signed with the Saints -- and somehow found his way into the end zone this week in Detroit. He ended up with 40 total yards and a score. And stupid Deuce McAllister, who wouldn't even be playing if not for the appeal of his suspension, also stole a goal-line carry from Pierre Thomas and scored. Thomas still ended up having a good game (103 total yards and a score), but it should have been an amazing game against the Lions when you consider the Saints scored 42 points and Drew Brees threw only two touchdown passes.
If I told you the Dolphins had 168 rushing yards and scored two rushing touchdowns, and that Ricky Williams had only one of the scores and just 34 yards rushing, then you'd think Ronnie Brown had a pretty good day, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong. Ronnie had 32 yards rushing. I was playing Nate in the championship game of an internal ESPN league, and he had Brown, so I'm very happy to report this one. And unless Mason Crosby scores 32 points on Monday night, I'm winning this league. Not gonna lie. Feels pretty good.
3. The Chiefs
Someone explain to me how Tyler Thigpen throws for 320 yards and the Chiefs put up 31 points, and yet Dwayne Bowe has only three catches for 28 yards? I was happy to see Thigpen go off again, of course, with 57 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown as well.
2. The New England weather and the Cardinals' offensive line
I was the lowest among our rankers on Andre Johnson this week, and I got a lot of flak for having him as a "Hate" in my Love/Hate column. Among my reasons for having him lower than Kevin Walter was Nnamdi's coverage skills, the fact that Johnson had been a lot worse on the road than at home this season (he had not had a 100 yards and a touchdown in a road game), and finally, prior to last week's monster game, he had had only one 100-yard game in his six previous games. But still, I said that you should start him, but lower your expectations. But no one expected this: Two receptions, 19 yards.
Others receiving votes: My crappy Redskins, showing up a week too late and stopping Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook; the Raiders, who shut down Matt Schaub (man, I loved him this week); the Vikings, who managed to turn the ball over so often that Adrian Peterson became very human and Chester Taylor's four-game scoring streak ended; Jerious Norwood, for stealing a short receiving touchdown from Michael Turner or Roddy White (you pick); and, of course, Mike Holmgren, who once again shut down Brett Favre. (Brett now has only five touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in five career games versus his former coach.)
Here are some e-mail examples of why fantasy football is a cruel mistress:
Rob (Dallas): "I am in a fantasy league in which we decided to create a 'bye-week' team comprised entirely of undrafted players because there were an odd number of owners in the league, and we thought it would be a nice way to offset having one team sit out every week. Needless to say, this bye-week team made it to the playoffs without ever making a single roster change (even when the starters had bye weeks) and went so far as to eliminate me in the first round of the playoffs. My question is: Why should I ever, ever, ever play fantasy football again if a team that never made a single roster change and was comprised entirely of undrafted players can do better than me?"
TMR: Free fantasy baseball, with free live scoring, fully customizable options and auction draft capabilities, will be available in early 2009, right here on ESPN.com!
Shawn (withheld): "Regarding [an earlier] complaint about you whining: Is that guy serious? He's really serious about a guy whining after his fantasy team has been knocked out of the playoffs for the year? A simple, more appropriate response would have been, "Dude, you just don't get it!" My fantasy season is now over, and I get it. There are only two teams I care about: The Indianapolis Colts and my Skoal Bandits. Now the Bandits have been eliminated. When your fantasy team wins, life is good. All of it. When it loses, things turn south. You want whining? Even my food doesn't taste as good now. I don't even think the [lovemaking] is as good at my house anymore. Losing sucks. Losing to some [loser] with a team that went off at the worst possible moment is worse. OK, I'll admit, I like your column. Do every week. So I may be biased. But you go ahead and whine this week. Some of us out here completely get it. My name is withheld for fear the wife might read the [lovemaking] comment."
TMR: Hold that thought. I'm about to make you feel worse.
Jay (unknown): "TMR Which Williams do I start? Cadillac at home versus San Diego or DeAngelo on the road versus the Giants? Help! I gotta win this championship game!
TMR: Wait a minute. You're in the championship game and you seriously are wondering which one of these two guys to start? I think I'd rather lose to a bye-week team.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is writing just one column this week (a Love/Hate on Wednesday) due to the holidays and it being Week 17. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend
For me to have a good weekend during the NFL season, three things need to happen:
1. My Redskins need to win.
2. My fantasy teams need to win.
3. Most importantly, my picks need to pan out correctly.
I've had better weekends.
I've been a Redskins fan since I was 5. That will never change. Apparently I was an evil person in a former life. How else to explain the torture I must go through? I am so disgusted by their loss to the Bengals that I can't even speak.
It was just one of a number of bizarre things that happened today. I'll whine about my fantasy teams in a moment, and I generally had a pretty good week with my picks, but I did have Matt Cassel on my "Hate" list. Yeesh.
Throughout the day, I kept hearing John McEnroe's voice in my head. Remember Johnny Mac back in the day, yelling at the chair umpire?
"You can't be serious! You cannot be serious!
That's what I kept thinking as I watched football all day.
My Top 10 "You Cannot Be Serious!" Week 15 performances:
10. Cedric Benson racks up 161 total yards against a top-10 run defense. I still hate him, but you have to give him some consideration next year if he stays in Cincinnati.
9. Ryan Grant gets 21 rushes against the Jags' 19th-ranked run defense -- and averages just 2.7 yards per carry. Thanks, Ryan. We'll come back to you. He gets that many carries and averages so few yards per carry, and yet
8. Chris Johnson averages 5 yards per carry against Houston -- and gets only 13 carries.
7. Speaking of that Titans-Texans game, Andre Johnson had gone over 100 yards receiving only once in the past six weeks. This week he gets more than 200 yards, plus a score, against the No. 3 pass defense in the league.
6. Playing against each other, David Garrard has more fantasy points than Aaron Rodgers. Brian Griese more than doubles up Matt Ryan. And Peyton Manning has just one fantasy point more than Dan Orlovsky.
4. Consider these two wide receivers:
Player A: 428 yards, 3 TDs.
Player B: 223 yards, 0 TDs.
Player A is Torry Holt at home this year. Player B is Torry Holt on the road. The big surprise, of course, is that I am even writing about Torry Holt. But Holt did have 12 fantasy points Sunday.
3. Twelve fantasy points is pretty good, especially when you consider the following wideouts got five points or fewer this weekend: Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Marvin Harrison, Anthony Gonzalez, Lee Evans, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Anquan Boldin, Santonio Holmes, and Derrick Mason.
1. In the Arizona-Minnesota game, there was a quarterback who threw for four touchdowns. And it wasn't Kurt Warner. You cannot be serious!
So, so frustrating. I don't know if you saw it, but there was this whole campaign from Verizon in which you could enter to play in a league with me. I'm in the semifinals in that league, and I won my division with a 9-4 record. Because of the way the divisions were set up, I played the other 9-4 team, which is owned by ESPN colleague Tristan Cockcroft.
| Think you know who will win all 34 bowl games this season? Put your prognosticating skills to the test in College Bowl Mania, featuring both confidence-style and straight-up selections.
Sign up and play for free|
I've gotten tons of sob stories as well, so I know I am not alone in this nutty year. I was in a 12-team "expert" league and another 14-team internal ESPN fantasy editors and writers league. In each league, I was fourth in total points. In each league, I led in points against and did not make the playoffs. I made the playoffs in every other league but have fallen victim to DeAngelo Williams a few too many times.
Seriously now. You cannot be serious!
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has starred in more than just this blog in the past week. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend
Fantasy football is both exhilarating and frustrating, wonderful and horrible. It has highs and lows it's a roller coaster of emotion every week, and probably no more so than in the playoffs.
This TRUM is going to be even more rambling and all over the place than normal, because no real definitive themes or ideas came to me while watching football today. That's just the kind of day it was. As always, though, be sure to read Eric Karabell's Instant Replay on Monday for a more comprehensive reaction to Week 14.
For this blog, I wrote down three words: frustration, rookies, Michael.
The frustration part for me was trying to determine the most frustrating emotion caused by fantasy football. Is it when your opponent has scrubs that go off? Is it seeing your starting running back get tackled on the 1-yard line, or seeing a goal-line vulture come in and take away his potential score? Is it seeing big days from players on your bench, such as Darren Sproles, who was sitting on a good number of his owners' benches Thursday night? How about seeing a guy you traded away -- or even worse, dropped because they were terrible -- go off later in the season?
All of them are horrific, but to me, the worst is when your studs -- the guys you count on -- don't show up in the playoffs. You fight all season long, you get into the playoffs and then, when you need them, they don't do anything and you lose.
I made the playoffs in four of my six leagues, with one league still to be decided. The only league in which I officially didn't make the playoffs is our own internal ESPN Fantasy league with our editors and writers. It's a 14-team PPR league, and I was fourth in total points. First overall, of course, in points against. What are you gonna do?
Anyway, back to the studs not showing up. I play in a longtime keeper league in which I co-own a team with a former college roommate, Chris Lindsay, and the league also features fellow ESPN Fantasy columnist AJ Mass. Chris and I went 9-4 during the regular season. AJ's team was 7-6, and we actually beat him last week, but in a weird scheduling quirk, we had to play him again this week.
Joseph Addai not showing up is gonna cost us, and Donald Driver and Kevin Curtis didn't do much for us either. Meanwhile, AJ had everyone go off. Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner, Reggie Bush, John Carlson sigh. We have studs like Chris Johnson, Steve Slaton, Kurt Warner, Brandon Marshall -- they all showed up. But no Driver, no Addai, and then there's the stupid Green Bay defense -- again, it's a longtime keeper league, and there's very little available on waivers -- which had negative points for the third straight week.
So Addai is on my angry list. Who else didn't show up this week?
Marques Colston: Just when I really needed you
Eli Manning: The second-half-swoon trend continues.
Donovan McNabb: On the road at New York isn't the same as being at home versus Arizona on a short week, now is it?
Brandon Jacobs: It's not really his fault; he got hurt. Meanwhile, Derrick Ward needs to be picked up immediately if he is available. Same for Ahmad Bradshaw.
Packers defense/special teams: And they had a return touchdown called back. Aaarrrggghh!
Who did show up? Who deserves our fantasy praise?
Well, there's Roddy White and Matt Ryan. Devin Hester continued his nice run with Kyle Orton back, with five catches for 80 yards. Pierre Thomas proved that having Bush back helps, not hurts. Brian Westbrook made up for lost time. Matt Forte is the man. Welcome back, Matt Schaub. Thank you, Ryan Grant. And Tony Gonzalez. And how about Deion Branch sticking it to his former team?
The other two words I wrote down? "Rookies" was one of them. I don't remember a year in recent memory when so many rookies have made such an impact.
I normally don't like any rookies except for running backs, but this year has proved to be the exception. And when you look at who carried the day for fantasy playoff teams, you'd be hard-pressed to find a team in the playoffs that has not gotten a significant contribution from a rookie this season.
The last thing I wrote was "Michael," which refers to my ESPN colleague, Michael Smith. He told me he now has a "never own again" list. No matter what else they do for the rest of their careers, he won't own them. Too frustrating, too up and down, burned on too many occasions.
Reggie Wayne, Brett Favre, Greg Olsen, Marvin Harrison, Brandon Marshall, all the Browns and Jaguars and Steven Jackson are all on his list. Addai just made mine. Same for Terrell Owens. Who is on yours?
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is a little bitter. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend