by Neal Kitterlin
The playoff push has ended unfavorably for me in two out of four fantasy leagues. In my work league I couldn’t overcome an injury to Aaron Rodgers (though Phillip Rivers ended up being a more than adequate replacement), and the one-two punch of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, combined with Drew Brees at QB, from my playoff opponent.*
My 14-team league continues to be the most fun overall, though. After losing four games straight and almost sliding out of the playoffs, my lineup is back on track. Sometimes variables slide into place at exactly the right time in ways we don’t always expect. One thing happens and combines with another and the words lock into place in exactly the right order, the lyrics and melody come together in just the right sequence, or your fantasy lineup performs at a level above what they’ve done the entire season.
OK, maybe those first two examples are a bit more exciting and important than the last. Or maybe not – the things that give us happiness, that cause the light to effuse from our faces and the weight of our days to fall from our shoulders, our peculiar to each of us, and we can’t, and probably shouldn’t try to, choose what does it for us at any particular moment.
For me this Sunday it was Kansas City’s defense putting up an incredible 26 points while my opponent’s defense, Oakland, put up a single negative point.** Jimmy Graham got healthy at exactly the right time, putting up a nice score, while his opposite number, San Diego’s tight end Ladarius Green, was blanked. And while my opponent’s QB, Phillip Rivers, had a nice day, my QB pick-up, Josh McCown, put up an astounding 47.52 points against a horrible Dallas defense. Double digit performances by Vincent Jackson, Andre Ellington, and Matt Prater (who broke an NFL record for longest field goal in the process) helped seal the victory. Even some missteps (both Cordarrelle Patterson, who is an absolute must start this week against Philadelphia, and the struggling Hakeem Nicks outscored Andre Holmes, who I was suckered into starting at WR), weren’t enough to do any serious damage.
There was still some drama, though, and victory was not assured, which made the Sunday night and Monday night games, where each of us had some prominent players (I had Jimmy Graham and Josh McCown, my opponent had Carolina’s kicker and Matt Forte), even sweeter. The Saints bounceback performance started out worrisomely for both my fantasy team and the Saints, with Carolina kicking field goals, but soon Brees was hooking up with Colston and Graham at will and had the Saints back on track and my team with a comfortable 15-point lead headed into Monday night.***
And then there’s walking around all day on Monday in a mostly happy but just a little nervous haze, waiting for that night’s game to cement your playoff win, and hoping for both the sake of the Bears and your team**** that Josh McCown doesn’t break his leg or something early in the game, and then feeling a little weird that the actual health and well-being of Josh McCown, an actual human being, and by all accounts a pretty decent one at that, hasn’t really entered into the equation of your thinking, but then basically being OK with that because you are ultimately hoping for a good result for McCown anyway.
And then the night comes and the song is recorded, the poem is written, the Bears make it through the game without even having to punt once, the blight on organized professional athletic competition known as the Dallas Cowboys has been easily vanquished, Matt Forte has done well but McCown has done even better, and both Adventure Team and the Chicago Bears have lived to fight another day.
And as I write this it’s late on a Thursday and my opponent underperformed with Peyton Manning and the Denver defense (why is he still starting the Denver defense? It’s one of those mysterious things that I would care more about if it didn’t benefit me, but because it does, I accept it without question), my sole player, Matt Prater, has overperformed slightly thanks to a cheap end of the game field goal (but remember, in fantasy, a point is a point is a point and standard ideas of garbage time or cheapness do not apply). Things seem on the right track, but there is uncertainty until the final player plays, and Jay Cutler is back to throw a monkey wrench in the works, and the clock is ticking, the dog contorted in sleep, the rest of the house silent, and perfection elusive, but victory possible.
*This league has a two-week playoff match-up, which I love and will advocate for in any other league I play in from now on, as it really does give a greater chance of the best team winning. For me it also meant two monster games from Jefferey though, whose emergence gives the Bears probably the best wide receiver duo in the league.
** There is a special kind of pleasure in dominating a particular single-position match-up like this. Not only does it give a little cushion for the later-starting players, it’s an unambiguous showing of superiority in at least one area of the game.
*** We can add “hooking up” to phrases that have dual sports and sexual meanings that are quite different but not really all that different if you really think about it in the right way, and chances are you are now going to think about it at some length with varying results depending on how you feel about casual sex and football.
**** Somehow I have gone this entire time without telling you that my team is called “Adventure Team,” which, as you probably have already guessed, is a play on “Adventure Time,” a show that makes me consistently happy and smile, even when watching it without my daughter, and which is secretly the best show on television in terms of awesome things per minute.