Monday, September 17, 2012

None of you will care about this, but I'm going to talk about it anyway

Ladies and gentlemen, I enjoy fantasy football. Sort of. It's fun to manage your own team and see how the squad you build would compete, but it is also a game that, like actual football, is frustratingly prone to random variation in small sample sizes that don't really bear out the results you expect or that they should. As a result, depending on how good the people you're playing with are, fantasy sports, which can already be a fairly cruel mistress, are all the more cruel when it's football.

At the moment I have four fantasy football teams, and despite a rather impressive Week 1 in which I somehow won all four of my matches, I did not expect that trend to continue. Of all of these leagues I am in a keeper league that, over my four-plus years as a member, I have developed a carefully cultivated reputation of being, well, not very good at fantasy football. I could explain why this is the case, pointing out the steep learning curve or the sad-sack pool of players I was saddled with in my first two seasons as I carefully built a champion, but that would all be a distraction from the real truth that, uh, I just wasn't very good.

All that said, I have carefully and painstakingly worked for multiple seasons to make trades for proven performers (Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks), make savvy draft picks (Darren Sproles or C.J. Spiller) or make draft picks that wind up just being totally and completely lucky (Cam Newton). After four years of dramatically awful seasons -- and one season where I should have made the playoffs before my team spectacularly collapsed down the stretch -- I felt like this season I finally had a squad that would at least make the playoffs and compete for the money if not win the whole damn thing. How that all plays out remains to be seen, but this week there was still an interesting occurrence that I have not yet managed to grasp the morning after.

If you play fantasy football you might know what exactly that was, but in case you don't, all of the players above that I listed had huge fucking games this weekend. As a result, I had a huge fucking week in fantasy football.

How big are we talking? So glad you asked.

In my fantasy league in which I play with fellow alums of The Daily Northwestern, I had a few of these players in addition to my personal hero Eli Manning, who only threw for 510 yards yesterday in what was almost certainly the most bonkers Giants game I have ever watched, and in that league I had a startling 171.50 points when all was said and done. Granted, if Matt Prater kicks 15 50-plus yard field goals tonight I might have to sweat out the week fearing a stat correction could hand me a loss. I'm not particularly worried, though.

However, that game, which earned me many bitter comments from my opponent, was nothing compared to the show my team put on in my keeper league, the league in which I have been so ridiculed and pigeon-holed -- deservedly so -- for nearly a half decade of utter mediocrity on my best days. Now every fantasy football league has its variance in scoring systems. The debates regarding whether six-point touchdown passes can make quarterbacks too valuable or whether or not PPR leagues give an outsized advantage to top wide receivers can run rampant if people are passionate (or bored) enough. But suffice it to say a decent score in my keeper league is roughly 110-120 points. A great week will put you at 130 or 140. A phenomenal blowout performance and you might crack the 150 or 160 barrier, which does happen a handful of times per season.

However, 200 points is a rarely-trifled with milestone, and certainly one I never had ever considered even remotely approaching. And then something funny happened. Cam Newton was responsible for two touchdowns and 324 yards of total offense, the Patriots remembered Wes Welker existed and and he grabbed five balls for 95 yards, Darren Sproles continued to be PPR dynamite with 13 catches and 128 yards, C.J. Spiller made people forget that Fred Jackson ever played in the NFL three catches, two touchdowns and 170 yards of total offense while Vernon Davis caught five passes with two touchdowns and Stephen Gostkowski booted four field goals.

And then there were Nicks and Cruz.

Now to fully appreciate and understand what, exactly, was going through my mind during yesterday's Giants game, which was certainly crazy and bordered on the patently absurd, would be a lengthy investigation into my own psyche that would leave even the strongest man harrowed and whithered. It was a bizarre game that basically represented my entire tenure as a Giants fan in a nutshell. Frustrating, confusing, bewildering, uplifting, disappointing, but ultimately satisfying in the end. Indeed the game was satisfying at its conclusion and certainly exciting, and Eli Manning's remarkable ability to forget about three awful first-half interceptions and have the biggest day of his career thanks to a 25-point fourth quarter is something that will be talked about in Giants lore for years, but for me the most memorable part of the afternoon will be Nicks and Cruz playing a wild game of "Anything you can do I can do better" with astonishing results.

Each of the Giants' top two wide receivers was hampered by an external force yesterday be it Nicks' still-healing broken foot or Cruz's heavy heart after losing his grandmother this week. But evidently the way they chose to respond was by putting on a show of historic proportions -- and boy was it a show. After one receiver made a big touchdown grab the other would do their best to flex their muscles and in the end what resulted was the only game in NFL history in which two teammates had 10-plus receptions and 170 or more receiving yards in a single afternoon. In this case Cruz turned 11 catches into a 179 yards and a touchdown, including that remarkable 80-yard sprint to the end zone, while Nicks pulled in 10 passes for a touchdown and 199 yards.

It is almost mind-boggling to see two receivers have days like that not just in the same game, but on the same team -- and even crazier to have both of them on your fantasy team in addition to huge outings from just about everyone else on the roster.

In the end my fantasy team turned in a 201.03-point day, which is not only stunning given my track record in that particular league, but just the second time that anyone in the league's 10-year existence has even cracked the century mark in one week twice. Of course while I am still somewhat in shock about this, and no doubt opening myself up to scores of critical and mocking e-mails from anyone who is either a) in that league with me, b) in any other league with me or c) a human being, this really guarantees me nothing other than just a win in Week 2, although it is getting at least a mild amount of attention in the fantasy sports nerd-o-sphere.

It's kind of like how Northwestern winning all of its first three games against BCS AQ schools simply gets them to 3-0 and nothing more. Though, for the record, they are the only undefeated team in the Big Ten with that qualification. Just sayin'.

In any event, now that you've all stopped reading, let it simply be known that whatever happens beyond this week in fantasy football -- or real football -- I am still mildly in disbelief, and I will always fondly remember the one week my ragtag team turned into world-beaters. Then again, knowing my luck, I'm sure Demaryius Thomas and Matt Bryant will combine for 121.46 points tonight and I'll start reacting like this guy.

Either way, I'm proud of my team's performance and proud to say that's it's the biggest accomplishment for anyone I know this week. By a mile.

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