Thursday, September 24, 2009


Whether you’re a fantasy football rookie or veteran, you may have noticed that this sport provides all sorts of challenges: who to start, who to bench, who to pick up off the waiver wire, and who to drop from your squad. If you are one of the few who gets to sit on your butt and enjoy the entire 12+ hours of live NFL programming each weekend, my hat is off to you in admiration. To others that have significant others to attend to on the weekends, you have become aware of an additional challenge: balancing your love life with your football life. Since it’s now Week 3, your enthusiasm for fantasy football has probably placed a dent in your enthusiasm to shower your sweetie with affection on Sundays, and he/she has probably taken notice by now. This quandary places you at a crossroad. Do I maintain my current path and blow off romance on Sundays and Monday Night? Unless you’re dating Paul Aufiero, you probably need to somehow budget your time so that your sweetie doesn’t dump you by Columbus Day. Below are some strategies for keeping all parties happy:

1. EXPECT TO MISS 2-3 SUNDAYS – You can lay some ground rules to your mate about how important watching Sunday football is to your emotional well being, but you need to mentally prepare for the occasional Sunday away from football. Such reasons may include: a wedding, a family gathering, or time spent getting out of your girlfriend or boyfriend’s doghouse. Sacrifice is often viewed the ultimate gesture in maintaining a relationship, so keep a Sunday or two reserved for that moment when you feel your relationship may reach critical mass. In fact, look at the schedule for the week when half your team is on bye, where you’ll probably lose anyways, and reserve that week for some one-on-one time.

2. MAKE FUN PLANS SATURDAY NIGHT, EARLY SUNDAY MORNING, SUNDAY NIGHT – If your significant other and you share similar work schedules, then you should maximize your time spent together on your off days when football is not in session. In fact, bookending a football day between a breakfast date and a late dinner/movie is something I would recommend to avoid neglecting your loved one. Make plans for Saturday night followed with a breakfast and possible activity (religious services, a walk/hike/bike ride) the following morning. Before you separate for your day on the couch, think of a movie you’d like to see or a restaurant/particular dish you’d like to try for dinner. This will let your sweetie know that plans are on tap for later, and you’re thinking about him/her even as you immerse yourself in NFL action.

3. TRY TO EDUCATE, BUT DON’T PUSH IT – Unless your loved one outright detests football, try to gradually educate him/her if they are not familiar. If they have demonstrated a curiosity with what goes on during a game, describe the action in each play (but don’t overwhelm him/her with extraneous information) so that he/she will feel like you’re attempting to include him/her in an activity you love. Start with the explaining the quarterback’s role (since there’s a pretty good chance he/she has heard of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Joe Montana), then your favorite players or players on your fantasy team, run through the down-and-distance terminology (this tends to be one of the first concepts lost on football novices), the scoring system (why touchdowns are so important), explain how the big guys block and the skinny guys run, and this will lay a foundation of understanding for your mate so that you may fill in the blanks as you continue to bring him/her up to speed. If you gauge a willingness to learn from your significant other, then continue the education at a gradual rate. However, if your partner seems to lose interest, or is not enjoying the learning process that may bring the two of you closer, then don’t push football on him/her and respect the fact that you have fundamental differences in your hobbies.

4. LAY DOWN THE GROUND RULE THAT MNF IS A BONDING EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR BUDDIES – When Monday Night Football was conceived 40 years ago, it was intended as a night for football fans to focus on football, and gently settle into the new work week. At some point early in your relationship, it would be helpful to clarify that MNF is a special tradition that you have shared with your friends and fantasy league mates for a long time, and after so many years of friendship, this is the lone tradition that has stood the test of time. If you took my advice and showered your girlfriend or boyfriend with affection the preceding 36 hours, then you can probably get a reprieve to join your buddies at the pub for some Monday Night gridiron. However, if you didn’t employ the Saturday Night/Sunday Morning/Sunday Night strategy, or your loved one happens to start their break from their work week on Monday Night and would feel neglected if you were to step away from him/her at that time, then you may need to resort to the next strategy…

5. TIVO IS YOUR FRIEND (RECORD AND MINIMIZE WATCH TIME) – Sometimes, watching your favorite game is simply not in the cards if you want to maintain your relationship. Personally, I hate being that guy who records a game on TV at home and is yelling at everyone around them, “DON’T TELL ME THE SCORE! DON’T TELL ME WHO’S WINNING!!” Of course, human nature dictates that your so-called friends/coworkers/acquaintances will do everything in their power to spoil your suspense. However, there are times where you can shut out the world and share an evening in the comfort and solitude of your loved one. To help ensure this isolation, turn your phone off to avoid malicious scoring text updates from your network of acquaintances. Because you can skip the commercials, replay challenges and halftime shows, TiVo/DVR is a great tool that can get you up to speed in less time when you simply don’t have time to watch a particular game.

6. BE REALISTIC: YOU CAN ONLY HAVE ONE DAY AND ONE NIGHT OF FOOTBALL PER WEEK – Sometimes, you have to look at life through your partner’s eyes. He/she made the concession in your relationship to give you all of Sunday afternoon and Monday Night with your friends. In December, when college football ends and the TV time slots become reserved for NFL broadcasts on Saturdays, you can understand your sweetie’s frustration when you suddenly tell him/her you can’t go on Saturday date night because the Saints are hosting the Cowboys in a critical matchup for your fantasy football playoffs. “Wait..there’s football on Saturday now?!?” These games take place with the holidays fast approaching. To preserve domestic tranquility during the playoff stretch, you may need to record some Thursday, Friday Night and Saturday Night games later in the season.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


The 2009 NFL Regular Season kicks off in a couple hours, and while most of you have already drafted your fantasy teams, I have made a few observations about various players around the league. Some are established or future stars, others have been past disappointments, and others could be new on your radar. If you feel your team has holes at different positions, then read below for some input on a few players who could positively impact your season down the road.

(QB) Kyle Orton – Call me crazy, but I am optimistic Kyle Orton will have a solid fantasy season in Denver this year for several reasons: First, the Broncos, by and large, have an offensive line superior to the Bears and will provide better pass protection than Orton received in Chicago last year. Second, Denver’s receiving corps trumps Chicago’s in talent, experience and depth. Brandon Marshall is a beast, Eddie Royal showed great promise after a 91-catch rookie season, Brandon Stokley provides a steady veteran presence and has no fear of going over the middle, and even Jabar Gaffney, as Denver’s WR4, has impressed coaches early on with his toughness. In Chicago, the wide receiver talent gets a little murky after Devin Hester (although I am a fan of Earl Bennett as a sleeper - you'll see below). Third, the Bears run more of a ball-control offense behind stud RB Matt Forte. Denver will not be as likely to feed rookie RB Knowshon Moreno the ball 25 times every game, yet Moreno will establish enough of an on-field presence that should keep defenses honest more so than, say Selvin Young, Michael Pittman or Peyton Hillis did in 2008. Finally, Denver plays in the god-awful AFC West, a once-proud division that currently sports three of the ten worst franchises in the NFL. This means a relatively easy divisional schedule, and in virtually every other game, the Broncos will be forced to pass more than previous seasons since they’ll be trailing more often in 2009.

(RB) Steven Jackson – Jackson can re-establish himself as a poor man’s Marshall Faulk this season if he can stay healthy for 16 games. While Jackson is more of a power runner than Faulk was, he has equally soft hands, plays behind an improved Ram offensive line from a year ago, and will be the focal point of the offense, much like Faulk was in his heyday. Although the Rams’ NFC West foes have improved defensively, 60-70 catches for Jackson, 1500 total yards and a dozen touchdowns should not be considered out of the question as far as projections go. The Rams should at least double, if not triple their win total (two) from last year, and Jackson can expect to play with more leads in 2009 than he did in 2008. Finally, the lack of depth at running back in St. Louis means that Jackson will be relied on to carry a bigger load than most feature backs, which are a dying breed in the brutal NFL. A repeat of 2006 may be a little much to ask for, but I would expect Jackson to at least approach those numbers this season.

(RB) Kevin Smith – Even though the Lions as a unit were as bad as their 2008 record would indicate, it would be difficult to pin the blame on then-rookie Kevin Smith. In his second season, Smith plays for a Lion team that is not only hungry and angry after serving as both the consummate NFL punching bag and laughing stock, but has improved as a team and faces a last-place schedule this season. First, #1 draft pick Matthew Stafford can’t be any worse a quarterback than Dante Culpepper was last year, and Stafford has already established a nice chemistry with Calvin Johnson, the one wideout drafted by the Lions in the first round that the front office can actually be proud of. This newfound success of Stafford-to-Megatron would keep opponents from stacking eight in the box against Smith. With Scott Linehan (who coached Steven Jackson in his magical 2006 season) calling offensive plays for the Lions, Smith will be an integral part of the short passing game, and could easily surpass his 2008 total of 39 receptions. Also, Smith is similar to Jackson in that Smith is an every-down back with a shortage of talent behind him on the depth chart, he excels at picking up the blitz, and is not afraid of a large workload. Furthermore, Smith is reportedly looking quicker after dropping to his college playing weight of 210 pounds. Last but certainly not least, Smith gained the trust of the coaching staff when he only fumbled ONCE last year in spite of 277 touches for a winless team.

(WR) Earl Bennett – I’ll go ahead and say it now: Earl Bennett could be 2009’s Eddie Royal. At 6’0” and a shade over 200 lbs, Bennett has both the size to muscle for the ball, as well as the quickness to get open downfield. He played together with new Bear QB Jay Cutler at Vanderbilt, and has rekindled that relationship on the practice field. Devin Hester looks to be the burner that stretches the field, but Bennett could establish himself as a legitimate possession threat given that defenses will be likely keying on Hester and TE Greg Olsen. Cutler will open up the Chicago offense in 2009, and Bennett will be a direct beneficiary. If you’re not happy with your WR4 or WR5, pick up Bennett off the waiver wire, and watch him mature week by week this year.

(TE) Jermichael Finley – This may be your last chance to hop on the Jermichael bandwagon before you’re forced to spend a waiver pick on him. After the Packers engage in a possible shootout with the Bears Week 1, Finley may be gone from the free agent pool. While Jermichael still has some learning to do in his blocking game, he has wowed the Packer coaching staff with his receiving abilities and his athleticism. He is still locked into a timeshare with incumbent starter Donald Lee, but the depth chart appears to be trending toward Lee establishing himself as more of a blocking TE, while Finley becomes a favorite mid-range and red zone target for QB Aaron Rodgers. RB Ryan Grant hasn’t really been established as a prototypical goal-line back thus far in his career, and based on what we’ve seen in the 2009 preseason from the Packers, fireworks are in store this season in Titletown. Finley may not have TE1 value as I type this, but keep him on your radar, because you may need him down the stretch.