As we enter the second week of byes, it is interesting to note how much has changed in the NFL and thus in Fantasy Football since this time last year. An inordinate number of early Fantasy draft picks have, so far this season, fallen short of their projected performances. And some of these players are not likely to turn it around anytime soon either. There are Fantasy follies in every season, but with the unpredictability of the early NFL season, having a few on your roster is nearly unavoidable.
When comparing the expectations held before 9/8/2011 with how the 2011-12 season has played out, one of the most shocking mismatches is undoubtedly the Tennessee Titans and their 32nd ranked rushing offense –that’s right, DEAD LAST in rushing in the NFL. Chris Johnson was projected to be one of the top running backs in the league, if not the very top depending on where you projected Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. Johnson was within the first 5 players selected in almost every single Fantasy Football draft this year. While some did postulate that his hold out for contract negotations would influence his early season production, no one could have foreseen the Titans with Chris Johnson active and actually playing to be last in the league when it comes to carrying the rock. If someone had walked up to you before the season started and said, “I bet you 20 bucks that 5 weeks into the season Tennessee will have the worst-ranked rushing offense,” wouldn’t you have taken it? I know I would have.
And I will keep it rolling with the preseason hypotheticals: if I had asked you to pick which team offense would be ranked 5th and which would be ranked 30th between the Panthers and the Colts entering Week 6, what do you think you would have said? The Colts’ glitch of a Peyton Manning-less season is not as much of an enigma as the Panthers and their record-breaking beast of a rookie quarterback, Cam Newton, but this just goes to show how important quarterbacks have become in this pass-happy league.
Other anomalies of this season include both the Bills’ and Lions’ winning records (the latter more impressive by a game), the Packers shoddy pass defense, and the Texans’ complete 180 on both defensive fronts (kudos to Mr. Phillips). Whether these are just prolonged deviations from the norm or long-term transformations must be proven on the gridiron, but the clock is ticking faster for some than others.
One of the most publicized stories throughout the offseason, and perhaps the best example of the volatility of this year, was the Eagles’ acquisition of several top-notch players to work alongside Michael Vick and the Vince Young coined “Dream Team.” As we all know, and 800 sports analysts have so uncleverly remarked, the dream is over (make that 801). But what I think is interesting is to consider where the Eagles stand now as compared to last season heading into their match up Sunday with the (my) Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, and what is widely thought of as a “make or break the season” game.
As all Fanagers who owned Michael Vick last season remember (myself included), his performance at FedEx against the ‘Skins was that of Fantasy legend, ultimately setting the record for the most points scored by a quarterback in Fantasy Football history! This year, well, it is not looking so good. To give my guys some credit, the Redskins have significantly improved in multiple areas, but their defense is looking especially impressive. They have allowed only the 27th most points to opposing QBs and haven’t allowed more than 10 fantasy points to any opposing quarterback since week 2. Not only are the Redskins playing well, but they are also well-rested. Last week they had a bye and undoubtedly put some extra emphasis into preparing for the division rival who absolutely humiliated them in their own house last year.
With all of these factors working in the Redskins’ favor, there is one thing to remember, this is not just a “make or break” game for the Eagles. The Redskins have just as much to prove or, as in recent decades, disprove.
The time to define the season is here and some teams have already taken the reins (glad to see you finally showed up, Pittsburgh). As the formidable separate themselves from the flukes, some players will step up and others will inevitably fall behind, but the successful Fanager is prepared for both.