Flights of Fantasy (football) -- My last gasp


It hasn't been the most successful fantasy season, and I went into Sunday's games needing a win and some help to even have a hope. Read on to see what happens.

I'm planning to spend Thanksgiving in Florida this week, which means a road trip Wednesday of about 10 hours in the car with my brother, his girlfriend, and four kids between the ages of 9 and 12. I moved to Oklahoma briefly a couple years ago, and tried to keep a running diary of my drive.

(Yes, this meant that I was driving a U-Haul, towing a car, and occasionally writing. I never said I made the best choices.)

I never published this running diary, primarily because my internet didn't get hooked up in Oklahoma until several days after the move, at which point the diary was outdated. There isn't too much relevance to this little story, except that I like road trips, I like running diaries, and I didn't have a great intro to this week's piece.

Odds are, I won't keep a running diary of my drive Wednesday. More likely, I'll be driving a good portion of the time and, maverick though I am, I'm unlikely to do that while six loved ones' lives are in my hands. Nonetheless, I'll be thinking very interesting and clever thoughts for 10-or-so hours (and another 10-or-so hours on the way back Saturday), and you'll be missing out.

And if you're going to miss out on that, all the more reason you should not miss out on my running diary from Sunday's games:

12:36 p.m. - So I lost last week, ending my maybe-season-saving surge back to fantasy relevance. I really can't lose any more games, and I'll still need some help to squeak into the playoffs as our six-seed. But I finally got a good omen! Heath just texted me that, if he wins and my buddy Greg loses this week, he locks up the last playoff seed. Which is not true, because I could still win out and, if I make up our modest point differential, I overtake him! If there's anything a lifetime of TV and Disney sports movies has taught me, it's that the second an opponent counts you out, you are set to make a run. Sorry, Heath, you counted me out. I'm outscoring you by a friggin' billion the next two weeks.

12:39 p.m. - I'm starting Sunday behind by 44 points already, as BHays had both Drew Brees and Steven Jackson playing in Thursday's game. I didn't see the game, choosing instead to go with the family to see Catching Fire that night. (By the way, good movie, really good sequel.) I came out of the showing to a bunch of texts from BHays talking about how good his team was doing. But Yahoo! still thinks I'll win. So bleedin' nervous.

12:40 p.m. - It occurred to me while I wrote that, but ... if Heath, Greg, and I all lose this week, they both lose next week, I win, and can still somehow make up the point differential between Heath and me (I'm already outscoring Greg by like 300), I can make the playoffs at 5-8. If that happens, I kind of think I should forfeit just on general principle.

12:43 p.m. - Meanwhile, Dixon (who, if you've read half of what I've written this year, is my biggest rival in all leagues, and someone who I would pay to see lose most weeks) is 9-2 and has locked up a playoff spot. I'm 4-7 and almost certainly done for. Yet Dixon is outscoring me by eleven bleedin' points on the season. Seriously, 1322.62-1321.28. The fates have not been kind.

12:45 p.m. - Fantasy Football Now just did a segment on waiver-wire pickups, touting Michael Crabtree as a great idea for a pickup who could make a late-season run. It's true, of course, but for me, it's just too late in the run to worry about Crabtree. Percy Harvin and Mario Manningham made sense, to me, because they were coming back earlier, and fantasy owners would have a chance to see how they performed upon their return before they had to decide whether to run them out in the playoffs. Crabtree, though, probably won't return until we are in the fantasy playoffs. That means that you'll burn a pickup on a guy that you'll have to run out there with your season on the line. I'm not even worrying about Crabtree, even in my leagues where I feel safe.

12:48 p.m. - I'm watching football at my house this week, sitting on the couch by myself. I'm sure Jeremy will come down to complain about football at some point, though. For no reason, he just likes to complain. Martyr complex in overdrive.

12:56 p.m. - I fell down the "Watching the SB Nation War Room" wormhole for a few minutes there. It's as good as fantasy prep show that exists, and the fact that it's online is a feature, not a bug. Sorry, I know that makes me sound like a company man, but it's good stuff.

12:57 p.m. - Just realized my only local TV options today are Steelers-Browns and Panthers-Dolphins. Um ... thank god for Sunday Ticket on my phone. What a sad couple of games.

1:02 p.m. - Literally, the only players who have been on my fantasy roster all season are Alshon Jeffery and Doug Martin, and I'm only holding on to Martin because why not have your IR slot full?

1:04 p.m. - My team has 14 quick points! Of course, that's only because my defense's game just started, but you take what you can get, y'know?

1:06 p.m. - Oh look, another big touchdown for Tavon Austin. Where did this come from?

1:10 p.m. - Touchdown for Maurice Jones-Drew, who has been averaging a touchdown and, like, a quarter of a yard a game for a month and a half now. He's somehow fantasy relevant.

1;12 p.m. - I just switched my TV to NFL Network because I honestly had no idea what they showed during football days. It's like, how do you run counter-programming to that? Apparently, they don't even try. It's ... radio football, I guess? Along with a live scoreboard? Why would anyone watch this on purpose? I did discover that QB Ricky Stanzi is among the Jacksonville Jaguars' inactives this week, which might be the funniest "update" ever.

1:17 p.m. - Touchdown Zac Stacy! Eat it, BHays. Also, I have the Bears as my Eliminator pool pick this week, so ... uh oh, 14-0.

1:19 p.m. - Wait, that made me sound smart. I'm not actually still alive in my Eliminator pool, I just like to keep picking even after I'm done. I had Minnesota over Cleveland (Brian Hoyer and no Trent Richardson) in Week 3, and Tennessee over Jacksonville a couple weeks ago. I'm pretty decisively not still alive. But still, come on, Bears.

1:20 p.m. - Scott Tolzien just ran about 25 yards and made some genuinely good football moves on a 6-yard touchdown run. That's a weird sentence.

1:21 p.m. - Wait, Bobby Rainey went to Western Kentucky? I live in Lexington, you'd think I'd have heard that before today. (Not sarcasm.)

1:28 p.m. - It's been several weeks since I've watched at home, and I had forgotten the oddity of my various delays. My computer updates an event, then I look at the TV and see it happen, then I hang out for a few minutes, than I look at my phone and see it happen.

1:30 p.m. - Touchdown Martellus Bennett, and BHays is starting him! What the hell, Bears, you hadn't done a dang thing with Bennett in weeks and weeks. Damn it.

1:31 p.m. - I watched Love It Or List It on HGTV this morning, and think that would be a hilarious crossover program with pro sports teams. "The Atlanta Braves have only been in their home for 17 years, but already think it doesn't suit them. Liberty Media, are you going to Love It ... or are you going to List It?" And then at the end of the episode, the hosts are like "Sorry, this is ridiculous, you have to stay here or pay for your new place your own damn selves."

1:36 p.m. - Names currently showing up on the Yahoo! StatTraceker: Chris Ogbonnaya, Kellen Clemens, Zac Stacy, Daniel Thomas. Just like we all figured at the start of the season.

1:39 p.m. - I was microwaving a piece of pizza when Zac Stacy broke off a 35-yard run. Rest assured there was celebration.

1:41 p.m. - I keep seeing these ads for Homefront. Or HomeFront. Or Home Front. I'm honestly not sure. But is Jason Statham playing a country dude? Or is he still British, just living in the country? Or what? I'm perplexed.

1:42 p.m. - Ever wonder if Andrew Siciliano has even been to an NFL game in person? Like, I'm honestly not sure.

1:48 p.m. - Yep, I've already complained about the Bears in Eliminator to two people, and both were like "Wow, you're still alive in Eliminator??" Maybe I shouldn't bring it up.

1:53 p.m. - Update from the Baltimore game: "Player rushed up the middle for 8 yard gain." That's a tech glitch, right? There's no dude named "Player" on the Ravens?

1:54 p.m. - For real though, how does Tiquan Underwood get his helmet on?

1:57 p.m. - Zac Stacy had almost 14 fantasy points in the first quarter, but every time I see the Rams doing something, I'm still like "Y u no give ball to Zac he good!" I'm kinda greedy.

2:00 p.m. - And now, on StatTracker, I see Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Cahrles, Matt Forte, Cam Newton. Sometimes things do go like normal.

2:02 p.m. - The more NFL players' names I have to learn how to spell, the more I think we made a mistake not following Teddy Roosevelt's lead to phonetic spelling. I want to spell everything like it sounds. Wud mak my job mor ez.

2:04 p.m. - Okay, I apologize, that was an awful running diary entry.

2:07 p.m. - Brandon Weeden is in for the Browns. He's like Michael Myers.

2:11 p.m. - Next time that "iPad Air or pencil" commercial comes on, take a look at the rooms the iPad and pencil are sitting in. There's the largest personal library in the world, there's a room with at least two piano-like instruments, there's a ceiling that would comfortable house two different Shaquille O'Neals standing on each other's shoulders. Basically, that commercial says "iPad Airs are great, and only the richest people in the world can have them."

2:12 p.m. - Wait, "iPad Airs"? Or "iPads Air"? Now I'm confused.

2:16 p.m. - Oh wait, it's Scott Hanson on the RedZone Channel this week. Oh well, same point as my Andrew Siciliano one.

2:25 p.m. - This is a dull fantasy day so far. The two biggest fantasy performances include a two-catch game from Mike Wallace. Nothing like Calvin Johnson or Bobby Rainey from a week ago at this point.

2:31 p.m. - "That is the very definition of ‘hitting a defenseless receiver,' the announcers said about Luke Kuechly's hit on Rishard Matthews, right before the officials ... picked the flag up.

2:37 p.m. - The most exciting play in the last ten minutes or so was Brandon LaFell sprinting for extra yards before time ran out on the first half so Graham Gano could kick a closer field goal. I got bored writing that sentence.

2:41 p.m. - When scoring plays like Tolzien's first-half TD run happen, announcers are like "He hit the circle button!" I am absolutely not a video-game guy, so I could never pull that sort of talk off believably. "What a play! He used his joystick and hit the ... trigger? Is that a thing he might have hit?"

2:42 p.m. - Aaaaaany time you want to start accumulating fantasy points, Alshon Jeffery. Any time.

2:44 p.m. - I drafted Keenan Allen late in my draft this season, as a "I think he could be a sleeper" play. Two days later, I dropped him for someone I thought had more sleeper potential. Quinton Patton. Do you know who Quinton Patton plays for? Bet at least half of you don't. In other words - L

2:45 p.m. - I mean, I appreciate the Rams giving Zac Stacy another four rushing yards before the half on a little meaningless run play before halftime, but I'm with Bill Barnwell - I don't understand meaningless end-of-half runs. Is there some positive aspect to it I'm missing? Why not throw the ball a long way and hope? Surely that's not more likely to turn into an opponent touchdown?

2:52 p.m. - I keep wondering, if I get eliminated from playoff contention or whatever, what I'll write about that won't be completely banal, at least to me. I've decided that my secondary goal is to lose out and fall to 4-9, but still outscore Dixon. I want him to get to 11-2, me at 4-9, and me outscore him. If I can't actually win, my consolation prize will be the opportunity to whine about rotten luck all offseason.

2:56 p.m. - Matt Flynn in for the Packers, which reminds me that we're not there, technology-wise, yet, but I would absolutely pay like $15 a month for a RedZone Channel-style ticker of the in-game thoughts of certain players. Like, what is going through Matt Flynn's head right now? Wouldn't you pay good money to find out?

2:59 p.m. - Stop trying to not play Brandon Weeden, Browns. You'll keep getting other quarterbacks hurt. Eventually, you just have to succumb, and know that Michael Myers is unkillable.

3:01 p.m. - As I trail by 51 points, but am still basically 50-50 to win according to Yahoo!, I am reminded how much I prefer it when my quarterback and my opponent's quarterback play at the same time. It's like he got a head start with Drew Brees, while I have to wait until 4 to see if Andrew Luck can close the gap. (And yes, that 51-point gap isn't just Brees-Luck. I also have a wide receiver, a running back, a tight end, and a kicker to go later, while all he has is Dez Bryant and might-be-hobbled Michael Floyd.)

3:09 p.m. - Did the Bears hear about my plan to make "Alshon" baby Owen's first word, and they had voted for "E*trade" or something? C'mon guys, give him the ball.

3:10 p.m. - Well, they tried to throw it to Jeffery there. I am growing ever sadder.

3:13 p.m. - My best fantasy play in the last half-hour was the touchdown the Ravens just scored, because BHays started the Jets' defense. When does fantasy baseball start?

3:18 p.m. - I'm going to Florida for Thanksgiving next week, so of course I'm getting sick right now. I have more sneezes today than I do fantasy points.

3:24 p.m. - Um, so Greg, Heath, and I are all losing right now. That 5-8-and-in-the-playoffs thing is still possible.

3:29 p.m. - This is literally the least exciting fantasy day I've ever had. I'm still only at 33.31 points, Zac Stacy is hurt, Alshon Jeffery has returned to his home planet or something, Brandon Weeden is playing so Josh Gordon can't do anything, and the Browns' defense hasn't amassed a single statistic. No one is having a huge fantasy day across the league, RedZone Channel is showing the Bears, down 13, on second-and-ten around midfield, my TV is showing the Steelers beating the Browns by 17 points, and I keep sneezing.

3:32 p.m. - Since the Bears-Rams game went to halftime (if you don't want to scroll up, that was at 2:45), I have negative-1.83 fantasy points, with Josh Gordon adding a few points, but the Browns' defense losing more. I don't have any points, positive or negative, in thirty full minutes.

3:38 p.m. - Josh Gordon with a 47-yard reception! I accumulated points! My Yahoo! StatTracker wasn't frozen!

3:40 p.m. - Immediately thereafter, Weeden turned the ball over, which means I can't get any more Gordon points right now, but hey, progress.

3:46 p.m. - Brandon Weeden just threw a pick-6, taking the Browns' defense down to exactly zero fantasy points, so you are a sucky sucky friend, Mr. Weeden.

3:49 p.m. - BREAKING NEWS: Browns sign Keanu Reeves, under the thinking that Footsteps Falco can't be worse than Weeden. And they're probably the same age.

3:50 p.m. - Does "Weeden the bed" work as a headline? Or is it too bodily-function-y, or is "Weeden" to far from "wetting"? I think it works. I'm using it.

3:51 p.m. - Bears are in the red zone! GIVE THE BALL TO ALSHON JEFFERY.

3:52 p.m. - Another 42 yards from Josh Gordon, so he's still my best friend.

3:54 p.m. - All of a sudden, I'm right in this, because Josh Gordon is the best football player ever.

3:56 p.m. - In the last fifteen minutes or so, I've gone from a 60-40 underdog to a 70-30 favorite, because Josh Gordon had yards and a score in the fourth quarter.

4:00 p.m. - All right, time to go do some work. Update, for the three of you who are actually invested in my fantasy fate: I'm down 30, but still a 70-30 favorite because of the no-quarterback-yet factor. Greg is down 80, and is absolutely going to lose, because his team is awful. And Heath is down 40, but is a very tiny favorite. Um ... I might not be able to breathe the rest of the day. But good luck to the rest of you.

4:04 p.m. - Wait, had to return, because now it is Andrew Siciliano on RedZone! Do they always switch? Was it him all along and I got confused? WHAT IS HAPPENING.

4:05 p.m. - Okay, leaving on that cliffhanger.

EPILOGUE: Okay, this didn't go well (Thanks, Stevan Ridley). So I'm probably done for. Here is what I need to happen over the rest of the season for me to sneak into the playoffs at 5-8. Keep in mind that my running backs are Zac Stacy (injured), Ryan Mathews (injured), Stevan Ridley (benched), and Donald Brown (two carries Sunday), so ... this ought be fun:

  • I need Dixon to come back against Heath Monday night, meaning Alfred Morris has to outscore the 49ers' defense by at least 5.3 points. (Chances: decent)
  • I need Greg to lose tonight, which means Anquan Boldin has to score 31.2 or less. (Chances: strong)
  • I have to beat Nate, who is pretty solidly our 3-seed, in Week 13. (Chances: middling)
  • I need Heath, Sean, Greg, and Luke to all lose in Week 13. Plus side, they all play good teams. Down side, that's four losses. (Chances: really effing small)
  • I need to outscore Sean by about 10 and Heath by about 80. (Chances: Hahahahaha)

Okay, so I'm probably not going to make the playoffs. But screw you guys, I still have a chance!

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