Fantasy Football Introduction

Please allow me to re-introduce myself. I’ve been trying to unearth so many fantasy baseball sleeper prospects that I almost slept on America’s new pastime (or present time?), football. Or more accurately, fantasy football and gambling. I’ve already covered my Addiction to NFL Redzone last year. I hope my New York Jets can forgive me, but when I have so many friends I’m trying to beat down in various fantasy and pick ‘em leagues, I just can’t get enough of my Scott Hanson fix. And the Jets are about to thank me for my fandom with more Geno Smith, so I feel only so bad.

As you know from my fantasy baseball prospect stuff, I like to let my results speak for themselves. I started Imaginary Brick Wall in December of last year, just in time for the NFL Playoffs, and began with Complete Positional Rankings for fantasy football playoff leagues. I then shifted into gambling mode, going 6-4 (1 tie) with my playoff bets, and sounded like Nostradamus himself in my prophetic Championship Round Picks article and Super Bowl Pick article. I also looked to continue my supernatural steak of hitting on the “First Player to Score TD in the Super Bowl” bet, but unfortunately, my powers failed me this year, completely missing on my Prop Bet article.

As much time and research that I put into all of this, I’m still not immune to the inherent luck that comes with fantasy football. Or Un-Luck. I banged out this article when my frustration with Andrew Luck spilled over, and wrote another one on NFL Running Back Roulette when the late season RB clusterfucks in Seattle, New England, and Carolina just got too much to take.

So there you have it. The good, the bad, and the ugly of last year’s football coverage. I’ll definitely be coming out with complete positional rankings during the pre-season, and will have some kind of gambling column every week as well. The Minor League Baseball season ends right around the time the NFL season starts, so I’ll probably shift my Monday Prospect Rundown into a Monday Fantasy Football Rundown. We all know Dynasty Baseball Leagues never end, though, so my fantasy prospect coverage will be year round too. And it is really an addiction at this point, I couldn’t stop searching for under the radar prospects if I tried. (Update: I couldn’t pull myself away from prospects to put the proper time in to cover fantasy football)

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings

If you were not tortured enough by fantasy football during the regular season, have no fear, there is fantasy football during the playoffs too! Added bonus is that you not only have to predict player performance, you also have to predict how many games they will play in. What can go wrong?

1) Cam Newton CAR – 35 pass TD’s. 10 rush TD’s. 15-1 record. Don’t overthink it.
2) Tom Brady NE – Best QB and the best team in a suddenly weak AFC.
3) Ben Roethlisberger PIT – Weak AFC leaves door open for Big Ben and Pitt to make a deep playoff run. Extra wildcard game could play in his favor.
4) Russell Wilson SEA – High upside play. If you believe the two-time NFC champs have one more run in them, move Wilson up.
5) Carson Palmer ARI – Likely matchups with Seattle and Carolina dampens upside.
6) Brian Hoyer HOU – Sleeper alert! Houston came together when nobody was watching, and they throw the ball a ton.
7) Aaron Rodgers GB – Against my better judgment, still believe Green Bay might be a sleeping giant. High risk, high reward.
8) Peyton Manning DEN – Ground and pound is the new rallying cry in Denver. Still think we see flashes of vintage Manning at some point this postseason.
9) Kirk Cousins WASH – Sneaky strong fantasy QB this season. Forgive me for not believing in Washington though.
10) Alex Smith KC – Low upside. On the road against a strong Houston pass defense.
11) Teddy Bridgewater MIN – At home vs. Seattle. Believe in Minnesota if you want. I don’t.
12) AJ McCarron CIN – Strong Cincy team could carry AJ for a game or two. I wouldn’t bet on it though.
13) Andy Dalton CIN – Should be healthy in time for the golf course.
14) Brock Osweiler DEN – Played himself out of the starter’s job. No reason to think he gets it back.

1) David Johnson ARI – Enjoyed huge breakout in 2nd half of season. Dual threat back on powerhouse offense.
2) Jonathon Stewart CAR – Safe pick. Lead back on Super Bowl favorite.
3) James White NE – Came on as Pats passing-down back in 2nd half.
4) Fitzgerald Toussaint PIT – Sleeper alert! If DeAngelo Williams doesn’t play, Toussaint has a chance to breakout. Even if Williams plays, he should have a role in the offense. Update: Williams still in a walking boot. Unlikely to play on Saturday.
5) Adrian Peterson MIN – #1 RB talent. Will likely play only one game, two at best.
6) CJ Anderson DEN – In a true timeshare with Ronnie Hillman. Both should get plenty of work though.
7) Eddie Lacy GB – One more opportunity for Lacy to disappoint you this year.
8) Ronnie Hillman DEN – See, CJ Anderson.
9) Alfred Blue HOU – Houston bell cow back.
10) Alfred Morris WASH – Only RB you can trust in Washington’s crowded backfield.
11) Charcandrick West KC – The strong side of a timeshare with Spencer Ware.
12) Christine Michael SEA The Feminist broke out in a big way Week 17, and could get carries even with Lynch healthy. Update: Marshawn Lynch ruled out for Sunday’s game. Michael will get the start.
13) Jeremy Hill CIN – The strong side of a timeshare with Giovanni Bernard.
14) Giovanni Bernard CIN – If Cincy falls behind early, Gio has chance to rack up garbage time points. On the flip side, that would be the only game he plays.
15) Spencer Ware KC – See, Charcandrick West.
16) James Starks GB – Everyone’s favorite Lacy spoiler. GB won’t hesitate to use Sparks if Lacy falters.
17) Brandon Bolden NE – Good luck guessing what Bill Belichick is going to do.
18) Stephen Jackson NE – Look up one centimeter.
19) Marshawn Lynch SEA – Beast will be unleashed for the playoffs. Update: Lynch ruled out for Sunday’s game. Beast will have to wait for next week to be unleashed.
20) DeAngelo Williams PIT – Day-to-day with foot injury. #1 RB upside if healthy. Update: Unlikely to play Saturday. Still time to get healthy for next round.
21) Matt Jones WASH
22) Cameron Artis-Payne CAR
23) Andre Ellington ARI
24) Mike Tolbert CAR
25) Jonathon Grimes HOU
26) Fred Jackson SEA
27) Jerick McKinnon MIN

1) Antonio Brown PIT – 136/1,834/10. Draft first overall.
2) DeAndre Hopkins HOU – Least hyped stud WR in football. Pass up at your own risk.
3) Doug Baldwin SEA – Blew up down the stretch. No reason to think that shouldn’t continue into the playoffs.
4) Demaryius Thomas DEN – He feels riskier than his numbers indicate.
5) Larry Fitzgerald ARI – Slowed down in the 2nd half, but is still the safest WR choice in the pool.
6) Julian Edelman NE – #1 WR upside. But will he be limited in his first game back from a broken foot?
7) Tedd Ginn CAR – Newton’s favorite WR target. A long postseason run could make Ginn look underrated in hindsight.
8) Michael Floyd ARI – Finally became the player everyone was waiting for in the 2nd half. Has a chance to make the playoffs his coming out party.
9) Emmanuel Sanders DEN– How much do you trust Manning’s deep ball?
10) AJ Green CIN – Losing Dalton tanks Green’s value. Even this might be a generous ranking.
11) John Brown ARI – Might be ranked 3rd out of ARI WR’s, but wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with the most fantasy points.
12) Martavis Bryant PIT – Had flashes of dominance this year. High upside pick.
13) Randall Cobb GB – I just can’t quit GB skill position players. More name value at this point.
14) Jeremy Maclin KC– Faces tough matchup on the road vs. Hou.
15) James Jones GB – Inconsistent regular season. Gut feeling, Jones will have his moment this postseason.
16) Tyler Lockett SEA – Quintessential boom or bust pick. Type of pick that can win you the league.
17) DeSean Jackson WASH– Has been banged up and could be facing a one-and-done. High risk.
18) Brandon LaFell NE – Low risk, low upside. Should see his share of targets, but don’t expect anything special.
19) Devin Funchess CAR – I’m going to keep riding that Carolina bandwagon.
20) Markus Wheaton PIT – Can I ride the Pitt bandwagon and the Carolina bandwagon simultaneously?
21) Danny Amendola NE
22) Davante Adams GB
23) Pierre Garcon WASH
24) Stefon Diggs MIN
25) Jermaine Kearse SEA
26) Philly Brown CAR
27) Keshawn Martin NE
28) Nate Washington HOU
29) Cecil Shorts HOU
30) Jerricho Cotchery CAR
31) Marvin Jones CIN

1) Rob Gronkowski NE – Argument can be made he should be the #1 overall pick.
2) Greg Olson CAR – TE’s drop off a cliff after Olsen.
3) Jordan Reed WASH – 2nd best TE in fantasy, but will his team make it out of the first round?
4) Heath Miller PIT – Banking more on Pitt making a run than Miller dominating.
5) Richard Rodgers GB – High upside pick. Big red zone target for Rodgers.
6) Travis Kelce KC – If you are high on KC, I can see moving Kelce up. That can be said for all KC players I ranked.
7) Tyler Eifert CIN – It really is a shame Dalton is hurt. This Cincy team would have been a force.
8) Owen Daniels DEN
9) Kyle Rudolph MIN
10) Jermaine Gresham ARI
11) Scott Chandler NE
12) Luke Willson SEA
13) Cooper Helfet SEA
14) Vernon Davis DEN

1) Stephen Gostkowski NE
2) Graham Gano CAR
3) Steven Hauschka SEA
4) Chandler Catanzaro ARI
5) Brandon McManus DEN
6) Chris Boswell PIT
7) Mason Crosby GB
8) Cairo Santos KC
9) Nick Novak HOU
10) Blair Walsh MIN
11) Dustin Hopkins WASH
12) Mike Nugent CIN

1) Seattle
2) Carolina
3) Denver
4) Arizona
5) New England
6) Pittsburgh
7) Houston
8) Green Bay
9) Kansas City
10) Washington
11) Cincinnati
12) Minnesota

By Michael Halpern

NFL Running Back Roulette

In what can only be described as a big win for feminism, Christine Michael finally took hold of the Seattle Seahawks lead back role and … oh wait, Christine Michael is not a woman? Just a guy with a woman’s first name? Still, this should be considered some kind of half win, right? Either way, The Feminist led the way with 16 carries for 84 yards. The experts told you to pick up Bryce Brown, which should have had you scrambling to the waiver wire to pick up Michael, because the experts don’t know shit. Brown lagged behind with only 9 carries. The Feminist will be the preferred play next week vs. the St. Louis Rams.

If you missed out on The Feminist because you thought a woman just did not have the strength to be a starting NFL running back, which is reasonable, but also, shame on you, New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden seemed to be the safer choice. After LeGarrette Blount got hurt last week, Bolden dominated the carries. He was the only between the tackles runner on the roster, in a game New England was sure to pound the football. But Bill Belichick does not only hate playing by the rules, he also hates your fantasy team. Joey Iosefa was signed off the practice squad the day before the game, and immediately out carried Bolden 14-10. Both players averaged 3.6 yards per carry, just in case you thought Belichick did it for any other reason than to piss you off. Bolden is not to be trusted next week vs. the New York Jets. Neither is Iosefa. And neither is Belichick, under any circumstance.

If you decided to stay away from Brown and Bolden yesterday, maybe you tested your luck with one of the Carolina Panthers running backs. In which case, it probably did not work out any better. Early in the week, the experts told you the easy handcuff for Jonathon Stewart all year, Cameron Artis-Payne, had been passed on the depth chart by Fozzy Whitaker. Then they said it could also be Mike Tolbert. And by the end of the week, they said it could be Artis-Payne after all. So the experts narrowed it down to one of the running backs on the roster. Thanks guys. Whitaker ended up with 2 carries, and Tolbert 5 carries. Artis-Payne led the way with 14 carries for 59 yards, adding 2 catches for 34 yards. If Stewart misses more time, Artis-Payne should continue to see the most carries, and is the preferred play next week vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

Tonight’s Monday Night Football game, the Detroit Lions vs. the New Orleans Saints, will have major fantasy football playoff implications for every league. The experts say New Orleans running back, Tim Hightower, is the best play tonight …

By Michael Halpern

Fantasy Football and Luck

Can we all just admit fantasy football is mostly luck? And by mostly, I mean like 99%. It makes betting on the coin toss at the Super Bowl look like a chess match.

We all pretend we are mini, fantasy Bill Belichick’s in our mind, but by the end of the season, it always comes down to whose ligaments are still attached, or which players can even still see straight.

In one fantasy league I’m in this year, my team is in the semifinals of the playoffs. In the other, I already finished second to last. So should I be patting myself on the back for my superior fantasy skills in one league, while scolding myself for not knowing crap about fantasy football in the other?

The reigning back-to-back champion in one league missed the playoffs this year. The team who made the finals three years in a row (winning one championship) from 2010-2012, finished dead last for the last three years, with a combined record of 6-33. What happened?

Even drafting Luck, could not guarantee luck would be on your side, as every Andrew Luck owner found out this year. Luck has been sidelined with a lacerated kidney for most of the season, injuries which one doctor described as, “not very common,” and similar to, “motor vehicle crashes or motorbike crashes.” Good luck trying to predict Luck would be so unlucky.

So if you find yourself curled up in the fetal position this Sunday after being eliminated from the playoffs, bemoaning the decision to bench (insert player here) who would have won you the week, take solace in the fact it was not your fault. It is just your fault for thinking you had anything to do with the outcome in the first place.

By Michael Halpern