This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.The Team I Wish I Had Drafted
Now that all eight of my fantasy teams are officially dead (the Keenan Allen/Aaron Jones/Kareem Hunt squad was looking good a few weeks ago!), I'd like to focus on what might have been. If I only knew on draft day what I know now, here's the team I would have assembled:
Round 1: Patrick Mahomes - I know everyone's doing the wait-on-quarterbacks thing, especially this year with the position so deep. I mean, why reach when you can get Matthew Stafford in the 10th or Alex Smith for free? But I love Mahomes in this system, and I'm willing to pay to get him. Sidebets? Bring 'em.
Round 3: Travis Kelce - I don't think Gronk will hold up this year, and besides I need someone to stack with Mahomes, and Tyreek Hill just got taken. Now the David Johnson owner wants a piece? No number is too high.
Round 4: Derrick Henry - Running back is getting awfully thin in this PPR, so I better grab Henry who has a soft playoff schedule. Not worried about Dion Lewis because they'll use Henry when it counts.
Round 6: James Conner - Can you believe the audacity of the Steelers to franchise Le'Veon Bell twice? If I'm him, zero percent chance I'm risking injury unless I get a QB-size contract. Bell owner wants to bet more? Name your price!
Round 7: Robert Woods - I need a receiver, and Woods gets you some extra rushing yards in that system.
Round 13: Mike Williams - You have to pick your spots with him, but I love the playoff matchup against the Chiefs, and he could be a monster in the red zone.
Round 14: Dante Pettis - The Niners are thin at receiver, so he could emerge down the stretch. Going volume at WR now, trusting I can do a good job at lineup setting.
Round 15: Dak Prescott - Mahomes has a bye in Week 12, and I like Prescott in the Thankgiving Day game against the Redskins.
Round 17: Michael Badgley - Who? Obviously some of you don't do as much research as I do, but he was a stud kicker at Miami, and I expect him to land in a good spot later in the year. I might need him for Week 14 of the playoffs because I don't love Fairbairn's matchup.
Round 18: Josh Allen - People underrate this guy's wheels, and Mahomes has some tougher playoff matchups.
Round 19: Chiefs Defense - The Bears are off Week 5, and the Chiefs get Blake Bortles that week.
Round 20: Falcons Defense - They're terrible, but they draw the Cardinals at home in Week 15.
This obviously isn't the best possible team I could have drafted, but I'm positive it would have made the playoffs and crushed in the first two rounds. And the sidebet revenue would probably exceed whatever the league prize is.
Week 16 Trivia
Apropos of DeAndre Hopkins recording his 500th career catch Saturday, can you name all the *active* NFL players who have eclipsed that mark?
Guessing the Lines
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL||O/U||Actual O/U||MO-AO|
|Redskins at Titans||5.5||6.5||10||-4.5||37||37||0|
|Ravens at Chargers||3.5||4.5||4.5||-1||43||44.5||-1.5|
|Falcons at Panthers||0||1.5||4||-4||46||50||-4|
|Bills at Patriots||13.5||13||13||0.5||45||45||0|
|Bengals at Browns||7.5||7||7||0.5||47||45.5||1.5|
|Packers at Jets||-2.5||-2.5||1||-3.5||47||43.5||3.5|
|Texans at Eagles||3.5||0||-1||4.5||46||45||1|
|Jaguars at Dolphins||5.5||5.5||4.5||1||39||39.5||-0.5|
|Vikings at Lions||-4.5||-4||-5.5||1||42||43.5||-1.5|
|Giants at Colts||7.5||9||9.5||-2||47||46.5||0.5|
|Buccaneers at Cowboys||7.5||7.5||7||0.5||44||46.5||-2.5|
|Bears at 49ers||0||-3.5||-4||4||46||43||3|
|Rams at Cardinals||-6.5||-8||-14||7.5||45||47.5||-2.5|
|Steelers at Saints||4.5||6.5||6||-1.5||48||57||-9|
|Chiefs at Seahawks||-2.5||-3||-2.5||0||54||53.5||0.5|
|Broncos at Raiders||-3.5||-3.5||-2.5||-1||44||44.5||-0.5|
The lines that shocked me the most were the Redskins getting 10 in Tennessee (I predicted it would be 6.5 and made it 5.5), and the Rams laying a whopping 14 in Arizona (I predicted 7.5 and made it 6.5.) I guess the market still thinks the Rams are the team we saw during the first half of the year and simply have to snap out of it. Granted, the Cardinals are horrible, but that is a massive line on the road. Other large disparities include Bears-Niners (the line was close to what I thought it would be, but I like fading Chicago off their cathartic win over the Packers, and the 49ers are scrappy, the Falcons-Panthers (Cam Newton looks injured to me), the Texans-Eagles (The Eagles attacked downfield again with Nick Foles and looked more like themselves) and the Packers-Jets (I know the Packers have been bad on the road, but unless Aaron Rodgers sits out, they should be favored.)
Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book.
Week 15 Observations
• It's funny how everyone seems to think Sean McVay's a genius when he hasn't yet won a playoff game. So what if he can remember every play since 1996? Chip Kelly was a genius his first year too before the league caught on.
• I hope the Eagles can sneak into the playoffs so this tweet (made entirely in jest) ages well:
Every time the Eagles shut down Wentz for Foles they win the Super Bowl
— Christopher Liss (@Chris_Liss) December 14, 2018
• Why did the Eagles not use Alshon Jeffery (8-8-160) until Week 15? Why couldn't Carson Wentz run the offense the way Nick Foles (8.7 YPA, no sacks, one pick) did? Unless Foles were to go on another highly improbable run in the playoffs, I imagine Wentz' job is secure, but it's bizarre to discover the unwatchable dink and dunk garbage he was doing all year might have been on him and not the system.
•Jared Goff had a bad game. What was he doing on the key play where he slipped and didn't immediately spring to his feet? He actually had time to make a play if he hadn't started to give himself up. The Rams offense looks pedestrian other than Todd Gurley (who seems to leave with a phantom injury every other game now) and a scrappy, but hardly game-breaking Robert Woods. If the Saints lay an egg Monday night, the NFC is wide open.
• Whenever the narrative gets too obvious, e.g., the Rams will shred the Eagles secondary at home, it's a good time to fade it. Not only does the point spread compensate for it, but teams are also aware of their weaknesses and will often make adjustments.
• I don't know what Tom Brady was up to on the final series, lofting long passes out of bounds, but he didn't look washed up to me, despite the bad pick on the penultimate series. His arm looks fine, and the Pats will be tough in the playoffs if they get home games, though the divisional round in now in jeopardy as they're one game behind the Texans.
•Nick Mullens is a player, but Kyle Shanahan's offense does wonders for everyone except C.J. Beathard. The 49ers will be exciting next year with Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis (5-5-83) and whoever they draft.
• The one healthy week all year I left Doug Baldwin (6-4-77-2) on my bench in the Steak League was this one. It's not just what stats a player puts up, but what usable ones.
•Chris Carson (22-119-1) is a bull, scoring on a third effort after being stuffed by half the Niners defense at the goal line.
• The Ravens at least had the good sense to commit to Lamar Jackson and send Joe Flacco packing after this year. I hope the Giants see the light and do the same with their "glory days" QB too. Granted the Ravens are playing 1970s style football, but give me outdated schemes that work with the surrounding personnel over modern ones that fail:
Ravens became the first NFL team to rush for 190 yards in five consecutive games since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers.
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 17, 2018
•Jameis Winston might be worth a flyer for a QB-needy team, but he's a mediocrity in Tampa's current system. Of course, Tampa will almost certainly have a new coach/system next year too.
• I'll skip the Redskins-Jaguars game.
• After an abominable game against the Titans, Eli Manning is down to 7.3 YPA (below league average) with 46 sacks taken (4th.) It's one thing when a mobile QB like Deshaun Watson or Dak Prescott (Nos. 1 and 2 in sacks) takes a sack while buying time to make a big play, but statues like Manning should be near the bottom of the the league with Drew Brees (14) and Tom Brady (19.) At worst he should be like Philip Rivers (29.) Manning threw another pick and fumbled away a game that the defense (and a bad Marcus Mariota) had kept within range.
• I took the Giants minus 2.5 in this game (before Odell Beckham was scratched), but even then I knew it was a mistake. Tennessee (running game, tough defense) was the better team all year and a bad matchup for the finesse Giants who could not get Saquon Barkley (14-31-0, 10-4-25) going.
• Who is this year's Todd Gurley in the playoffs? It's Derrick Henry, who had 170 yards and two more TDs. He now has 408 rushing yards and six TDs over his last two games and is the leading PPR back over that span despite catching one pass for zero yards.
• Maybe Kalen Ballage (12-123-1) is good, or maybe Adam Gase astutely saved him for Week 15. It looks like Frank Gore might be out with a foot injury, and if so I'd be shocked if he didn't call it a career. What a career it was – no one other than Eli compiles stats (and with such class!) the way Gore did – and both will almost certainly reach the Hall of Fame in the Harold Baines-era. They'll even take Jason Witten with them too!
I wrote about Gore's non-"character" qualifications for the Hall a few weeks ago:
• Nice of Dalvin Cook (19-136-2, 2-1-27) to help people flat-out crush the consolation bracket. He'll get drafted in the second round again in 2019.
• I made the Colts minus three my best bet even though I thought the Cowboys were the better team. Sometimes, the set-up (Colts at home, fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys on the road after an overtime, having essentially locked up the NFC East) makes a difference. Or maybe it was just a coincidence, and I'll selectively remember this narrative because it happened to coincide with the result.
•Aaron Rodgers didn't do much against the Bears, but Davante Adams (13-8-119) is like a poor man's DeAndre Hopkins – he always gets his. Aaron Jones left the game early with a possible MCL sprain, unleashing Joe Philbin's and Mike McCarthy's greatest dream – to use Jamaal Williams (12-55-1, 5-4-42) as the team's feature back, and Williams delivered! Depending on who gets the head coaching job next year, the Aaron Jones-Jamaal Williams saga might get a third season.
• The Bills lost all their running backs, but it's kind of like a baseball team losing all its first basemen. You'd rather have a person who practiced at the position play it, but it's not the end of the world if a WR or TE had to take some handoffs. (And I'm a person who believes good running backs matter.)
• After disappearing for a month, Kenny Golladay (8-7-146) lit up the Bills vaunted secondary on people's benches. Robert Foster (5-4-108-1) had another good game and likely goes into the offseason as the team's top receiver, for whatever that's worth.
• The Falcons had been such a doormat the last month, when they finally found a team they could beat on, they didn't hold back. Tevin Coleman (11-145-1) came out of the woodwork to dominate bench scoring, and Matt Ryan came out of hibernation to throw two TDs and rush for one. Julio Jones (8-6-82-1) is now up to six TDs on the year too.
•Cam Newton obviously isn't right. He dinked and dunked his way to 131 yards (4.5 YPA), no TDs and one pick while taking four sacks. He threw several balls into the turf when targeting open receivers and didn't even look that spry as a runner (five rushes, 15 yards.) The Panthers should shut him down.
•Christian McCaffrey had 15 carries for 53 yards against a tough run defense and went 11-8-67 as a receiver. He also threw the game's only TD pass, a 50-yard catch and run. It pains me to say it because I was dubious, but he's a top-five fantasy player this year, and better in real life than I gave him credit for. Even on the running plays, he was patient, but decisive and did a nice job of inching forward for the extra yard, i.e., he looks like a natural between the tackles, and the guy never even shows up on the injury report.
• Thomas (9-7-49) is a nice intermediate receiver, but he's not a threat to take the top off the defense. The Saints actually miss Ted Ginn in that respect.
• The two-point conversion return was a cool play you almost never see and a key four-point swing for ATS purposes.
• One odd note: on a 3rd-and-1, Brees tried a sneak and got totally stuffed by the Panthers, something you never see as Brees is one of the best sneakers in the league. But the Saints had a false start, the play didn't count and the Saints went back and converted the 3rd-and-6, so the false start actually helped them. That should never be the case.
• One other note: Sean Payton called a fullback run on 2nd-and-1 to Zach Line who was stuffed. Set aside that for God knows what reason he was given the first down, but why on earth do you call such a low-upside play on 2nd-and-1? Obviously, 2nd-and-1 is better than 1st-and-10, so converting only one or two yards up the field lowers your chances of scoring on that drive. It was a play with literally negative upside.