ongratulations to O’Neill for winning the league.  He rode a commish-endorsed season-ending wave as only Nelson had done before him.  And my apologies for leading Damn astray in Week 17.  If I would have known the weather conditions in Buffalo, it would have made the Bills the obvious choice of the week. Better luck next season.  Hopefully next time around more than one of us will survive beyond Week 10.

Now that our 2009 season is over, there are two football-related things standing in the way of our 2010 season: a preview of the playoffs, and a public service announcement on what you guys can expect from me and what you guys should be doing in the next 8 months to prepare for September.

~~~The Playoffs~~~

This section will still be updated on a weekly basis until the Super Bowl, but the other section will remain as is.

I’m still going to make my picks in order of confidence, only now, instead of making them based on the Eliminator Challenge, I’ll be making them according to the Vegas lines.

#4. Baltimore (+3.5) over New England

I don’t know where they ended up against the rest of the league, but the crazy thing about Baltimore’s schedule is that you could look at it and decide they had one of the easiest schedules in the league, or one of the hardest.  They played six games against Kansas City, Cleveland, Oakland, Chicago, and Detroit which they won by a combined score of 188-50.  They also played six games against teams who won their respective division (SD, IND, NE, MIN, and 2 vs. CIN). They lost five of those games, but they were competitive in all of them, losing by an average of less than five points per game.  I’m going to pretend that trend combined with Brady and Welker’s injuries is more important in deciding this game than the fact that the Ravens were 3-5 on the road, the Patriots were 8-0 at home, it’s supposed to snow, Flacco hasn’t thrown for 300 yards since Week 6, and that the Patriots have only allowed six rushing TDs all season.  I’m banking on a low scoring game.

Final score: Ravens 17-14.

#3. Dallas (-4) over Philadelphia.

Dallas won both of the regular season games between these teams, and they have absolutely shut down DeSean Jackson in both of those games.  However, as Bill Simmons points out in his latest column, crazy shit just seems to happen in the Saturday night games in the playoffs.  Plus, I frankly don’t like the idea of picking a team to cover a four point spread when they’re trying to make a three game season sweep of their opponent.  But when it comes right down to it, Philadelphia has been an overrated team (11-1 against teams which didn’t make the playoffs; 0-4 against teams which did), and Dallas has been gearing up for crunch time, having played 8 of their final 9 games against teams who either made the playoffs or were divisional foes.  Neither team has much of a running game, but I think Dallas has the better passing game, the better defense, and the home-field advantage, which should be enough for them to win this game by a TD.  Of course, I’m neglecting the fact that Philly has a much better special-teams, and this will inevitably lead to a DeSean Jackson KR for a TD and a game decided by a field goal, but I’m taking Dallas anyway.

Final score: Cowboys 31-24.

#2. Green Bay (+1) over Arizona

The only way Green Bay doesn’t win this game by two touchdowns is if we’re somehow dealing with the Cardinals as the “Nobody believed in us” team for the second consecutive season.  Green Bay is my new NFC Super Bowl pick (Indy in the AFC), so I have to go with them in this one.

#1. Cincinnati (-3) over New York Jets

I’ve got three reasons for this pick:

1 – Quoting myself from about a month ago, since my past judgment is the easiest way to predict my future judgment:

“It’s been awhile since Cincinnati has gone up against a formidable foe at the QB position.  They faced Favre last week, who has been declining for a few weeks now, and before that, it was the Lions, Browns, Raiders, Steelers, Ravens, and Bears.  Any of those quarterbacks scaring you?  But way back in week 6 they went up against the Texans, and Matt Schaub went all PHILIP RIVERS on them.  Go back a few more weeks and we find more Browns, Ravens, and Steelers before getting to Aaron Rodgers, who had a pretty decent game.  They aren’t so great against the good quarterbacks, so I expect Rivers to do just fine.”

Well, Rivers did just fine, but Mark Sanchez is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL.

2 – Quoting myself again from something I wrote on a friend’s wall right after the line’s came out:

“EVERYBODY is jumping on the Jets after last week’s game. Gonna be a completely different ball game in this one. The Jets wasted their element of surprise with Brad Smith last week. Last year when Miami pulled out the Wildcat and blitzed New England, they followed it up in their next matchup with the Pats by rushing for a total of 66 yards. I think we’ll see something similar in Cincinnati on Saturday.”New England, they followed it up in their next matchup with the Pats by rushing for a total of 66 yards. I think we’ll see something similar in Cincinnati on Saturday.New England, they followed it up in their next matchup with the Pats by rushing for a total of 66 yards. I think we’ll see something similar in Cincinnati on Saturday.

3 – The Bengals are one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL and Thomas Jones is worn down, having rushed the ball more times this season than anyone not named Chris Johnson.  That’s a recipe for disaster.

So in summary:

Cincinnati shuts down bad quarterbacks and the Jets have one.

Cincinnati shuts down all running backs and the Jets have a tired one.

New York already wasted the ace up their sleeve by revealing gadget plays last week.

How is New York going to score?

Final score: Bengals 17-3.

~~~What’s Yet To Come~~~

My game plan for drafting next season is as follows:

  1. Even though it’s still a keeper league, ignore when ESPN asks you to select your keepers.  Because we drafted offline and ESPN gave me no options of entering draft prices, and because there is a tax system, there is no sense in even selecting your keepers on the website.
  2. Unfortunately, it will almost have to be an online draft, which will complicate things.  I fear it will be too difficult to get everyone back together again next year, but I’m going to try.  At the very least, I will be attempting to set up a common place for as many as possible to get together with their computers to still share the camaraderie of draft day.
  1. You must let me know your 1-3 keepers at some point three days or more prior to the draft date, which is still yet to be determined.  I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to make it work, but I’ll figure out a way to put those guys on your team before the draft starts at their taxed price.  And just so you guys don’t think I’m giving myself an unfair advantage by finding out everyone’s keepers and then picking mine accordingly, I will post my decision at some point before the deadline.  I’ll tell you right now, though, that I’m leaning towards some combination of Philip Rivers, Maurice Jones-Drew, Beanie Wells, Justin Forsett, Pierre Garcon, and Jabar Gaffney. I may pick 1, 2, or 3 from that list.
  2. As far as I’m concerned, you have until the Super Bowl to make add/drop transactions, at which point I will be recording who has who on their team, because I’m not sure if I can lock transactions.  However, the website may decide before then that you aren’t able to add/drop guys anymore.  Also, as far as I’m concerned, you have until three days before the draft to make trades.  If the website keeps you from being able to propose or accept trades, feel free to work out the trades independently of ESPN, and if you both inform me of the trade you wish to execute, I will use my awesome commish powers to make it happen.
  3. If making all this keeper and tax business work online is too much of a pain in my ass, there’s an outside chance I’m going to call this past year a practice run, and we’ll just start this next season fresh with an online auction draft.  My hope is that it won’t come to this, but if this is the case, I’m going to try to get Shaver back in the league, since the only reason he had to leave our ranks was on account of distance.  Actually, in either case I want Shaver back, so if any of you feel strongly about not wanting to be in the league again next year or just straight up don’t care, please let me know.

Assuming I am able to figure out the nuts and bolts of this offseason, here are the prices paid for each player at last year’s draft in order of price by position, followed by the tax structure that I talked about on draft day.  If you are unable to find a player, look again.  If on your second pass you still don’t see him, it’s safe to assume he was either $1, or undrafted, at which point he assumes the price of $1.

QBs:

Brees – 50

Manning – 44

Brady – 42

Rodgers – 28

Warner – 27

Roethlisberger – 26

Rivers – 22

McNabb – 21

Romo – 18

Palmer – 16

Ryan – 16

Cutler – 14

Schaub – 13

E. Manning – 9

T. Edwards – 9

M. Cassel – 8

J. Delhomme – 7

J. Flacco – 7

B. Favre – 7

D. Garrard – 6

J. Campbell – 5

M. Sanchez – 4

M. Hasselbeck – 4

K. Orton – 4

C. Pennington – 4

Sh. Hill – 3

M. Vick – 3

M. Stafford – 3

RBs:

Peterson – 65

Turner – 61

Jones-Drew – 58

Forte – 57

D. Williams – 51

S. Jackson – 48

C. Johnson – 47

F. Gore – 47

Tomlinson – 45

S. Slaton – 41

C. Portis – 35

B. Jacobs – 33

K. Smith – 32

M. Barber – 32

B. Westbrook – 32

R. Grant – 24

R. Rice – 24

R. Brown – 23

D. McFadden – 22

P. Thomas – 21

T. Jones – 20

S. Morris – 20

L. Johnson – 19

M. Lynch – 19

R. Bush – 16

J. Addai – 15

K. Moreno – 14

J. Stewart – 13

Ju. Jones – 13

B. Wells – 13

F. Jones – 12

L. White – 12

W. Parker – 12

D. Sproles – 11

A. Bradshaw – 11

D. Ward – 11

C. Taylor – 11

C. Benson – 10

L. McCoy – 9

D. Brown – 8

T. Hightower – 8

J. Lewis – 8

F. Taylor – 8

W. McGahee – 7

L. McClain – 7

E. Graham – 7

F. Jackson – 7

G. Coffee – 7

L. Washington – 6

R. Mendenhall – 6

S. Greene – 6

R. Williams – 6

J. Davis – 5

P. Hillis – 5

L. Betts – 4

T. Choice – 4

M. Bush – 4

L. Maroney – 3

C. Buckhalter – 3

M. Moore – 3

R. Jennings – 2

J. Norwood – 2

P. Cobbs – 2

C. Williams – 2

J. Fargas – 2

WRs:

Fitzgerald – 50

C. Johnson – 48

A. Johnson – 47

R. Moss – 43

Ochocinco – 40

Wayne – 33

Smith 1.0 – 33

Jennings – 33

Boldin – 31

R. White – 29

Colston – 29

Houshmanzadeh – 24

Welker – 23

Owens – 21

Marshall – 20

V. Jackson – 19

Roy Williams – 18

D. Bowe – 18

D. Jackson – 17

B. Edwards – 16

L. Evans – 15

B. Berrian – 14

H. Ward – 13

A. Gonzalez – 13

E. Royal – 13

S. Holmes – 12

S. Moss – 11

D. Driver – 10

K. Walter – 10

A. Bryant – 9

D. Hester – 9

H. Nicks – 9

L. Coles – 9

S. Breaston – 9

L. Moore – 8

T. Holt – 8

J. Morgan – 8

M. Crabtree – 8

T. Ginn – 7

D. Hixon – 7

J. Cotchery – 7

D. Mason – 6

J. Maclin – 5

N. Washington – 5

P. Crayton – 5

J. Gage – 4

P. Harvin – 4

D. Heyward-Bey – 4

J. Galloway – 4

D. Henderson – 4

E. Bennett – 4

D. Avery – 3

L. Sweed – 3

K. Curtis – 3

K. Britt – 3

M. Austin – 3

C. Chambers – 3

M. Jenkins – 3

B. Engram – 3

N. Burleson – 3

J. Walker – 2

Smith 2.0 – 2

TEs:

Witten – 30

Gonzalez – 17

Gates – 16

Clark – 12

Cooley – 8

Olsen – 7

Winslow – 7

Boss – 7

Daniels – 7

Z. Miller – 5

Shockey – 5

Heap – 5

Shiancoe – 4

Carlson – 4

Pettigrew – 4

Fasano – 3

H. Miller – 3

Keller – 3

Scaife – 3

V. Davis – 2

D/ST:

Steelers – 20

Giants – 16

Ravens – 13

Cowboys – 7

Vikings – 6

Eagles – 6

Titans – 5

Jets – 5

Packers – 5

Chargers – 4

Colts – 3

Texans – 3

Patriots – 3

Redskins – 3

Panthers – 2

And kickers who went for $2:

Akers

Bironas

Crosby

Gostkowski

Longwell

Rackers

Vinatieri

For everyone who’s upset about the fact that our defending champ is going to get to keep Jamaal Charles for virtually nothing, here is a list of notable RB or WR who finished the season in the top 40 at their position, but who aren’t listed because they are $1: Jamaal Charles, Jerome Harrison, Justin Forsett, Jason Snelling, Mike Sims-Walker, Sidney Rice, Robert Meachem, Austin Collie, Mario Manningham, Mike Wallace, Pierre Garcon, Davone Bess.

And for good measure, here’s a list of guys who went for $20 or more, and didn’t finish the season in the top 20 at their position: Michael Turner ($61), LaDanian Tomlinson ($45), Steve Slaton ($41), Clinton Portis, Brandon Jacobs, Kevin Smith, Marion Barber, Brian Westbrook, Ronnie Brown, Darren McFadden, Sammy Morris, Calvin Johnson ($48, douchebag), Anquan Boldin, TJ Houshmanzadeh, Terrell Owens.  For those of you counting at home, all seven running backs purchased between the prices of $32-$45 failed to finish in the top 20…mostly due to injury, but my point is you never know what might happen, so don’t be discouraged by the fact that some people have the option of getting good, cheap keepers.

By the way, I know at one point a week or two ago I said I would include in this season ending post a list of the most valuable guys and least valuable guys on a fantasy point per auction dollar basis, but considering Drew Brees only scores a 7.4 FP/$ while Jamaal Charles scores a 211.7, I decided to give up, and I’m just going to make a list of who I personally think were the biggest steals and biggest busts at each position in the draft.

QB:

Steal – Brett Favre ($7; 357 fantasy points) Who knew?

Bust – Matt Ryan ($16; 242 fantasy points) Which is ironic, because I thought he was an absolute steal at this price at the draft.

RB:

Steal – Jamaal Charles ($1; 212 fantasy points) Duh!

Bust – Michael Turner ($61; 149 fantasy points) Just a brutal fantasy season in Atlanta between Ryan and Turner’s injuries. Somehow, Roddy White quietly finished 8th among wide receivers, though.

WR:

Steal – Miles Austin ($3; 238.3 fantasy points) All hail Matthew Berry.

Bust – Calvin Johnson ($48; 165 fantasy points) It was the four games in which he was questionable, then refused to sit out and was listed as active, then went on to tally 8 receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown in those four games combined that really chapped my ass.  At least Michael Turner usually did us the favor of not playing when he was injured.

TE:

Steal – Vernon Davis ($2; 214 fantasy points) When you consider how many guys were drafted in the $3-$8 range, getting the 2nd best TE in the league for $2 is impressive.

Bust – Tie between Jason Witten ($30; 162 fantasy points) and Chris Cooley ($8; 60 fantasy points) When it came to drafting tight ends this year, there were 4 really good options, Cooley as a potentially really good option, and then a whole slew of guys who looked exactly the same on paper.  Cooley missed the last 9 games of the season due to injury, so it sucks if you drafted him, but you didn’t really pay much more than people paid for Kevin Boss or Todd Heap, even though you expected more out of Cooley.  And even though Witten finished 6th among tight ends and Corey clearly paid too much for his Boy, he had a downright underwhelming season.

And now here is the tax system that I drew up in the pre-season:

Considering this is an auction draft, and will be one for the foreseeable future, there is a caveat in the keeper system.  There will be a tier-based tax placed on keepers, with tiers being based upon how much the player went for in the previous year’s draft.  The best way to explain is by using an example, which I will do shortly.  The tiers are as follows:

>$50 – 10% tax

$40-$50 – 15% tax

$30-$40 – 20% tax

$20-$30 – 30% tax

$10-$20 – 50% tax

<$10 – 100% tax

My hope is that this will make the most coveted players available as keepers for a year or two before reinserting them into the draft pool.  And even though it goes against my conservative point of view, I don’t want a flat tax system, because it would either make the studs impossible to keep, or the sleepers impossible to get off of some teams.

Examples:  suppose I draft Adrian Peterson for $60.  If I want to keep him the following year, it would cost me $66 (110% of $60 for you non-math people).  The following year, he would cost $72.6, but we don’t do nickels and dimes, so he would be $73, but still documented at $72.6.  If another year is desired, he would cost $79.86, or $80.  At this point, he would probably be way too expensive, and then re-inserted back into the pool of available players.  But at any tax amount greater than 10%, it’s nearly impossible to keep him for even one year, thereby defeating the purpose of a keeper league.

The purpose of the tiered system is so that guys like DeAngelo Williams, who probably would have gone for $5 in an auction draft last year, don’t get “locked in” at absurdly low prices.  If we were on a straight 10% tax system, guys at $5 would go from $5 à $5.50 à $6.05 à $6.655 à $7.3205 à $8.05.  So after 5 years, he would only cost $8, and would obviously stay on that person’s team basically until he retires.  With the tiered system, DeAngelo would go from $5 à $10 (100% increase) à $15 (50% increase) à$22.50 (50% increase) à $28.99 (30% increase) à $37.69 (30% increase).  If Williams continues to put up numbers like last year, he’s still a steal after 5 years at that price, but he is at least somewhat closer to his actual value, and not as much of a no-brainer decision as a keeper.  It is my opinion that this tax system will keep people from lucking their way into dominating the league 5 years in a row, without entirely discouraging people from taking sleepers.  With this system, a $1 guy will only cost $24 after 5 years, so if you think a Shonn Greene or Glen Coffee type guy is going to be a pro-bowler for 3 of the next 5 years, he’s still absolutely worth purchasing and hanging onto.

Good luck in your offseason…I hope to see at least a trade or two between now and August.  I will be sure to keep you guys informed about draft information, but I am now allowing myself to become fully immersed in college basketball, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything from me for at least another four months.  I’ll probably start trying to set things up again in June, which is probably when I’ll post my predictions/suggestions of who each team will be keeping.  I prefer to draft late in the pre-season so that we’re drafting with as much injury and depth-chart related knowledge as possible, but we’ll see how it goes.  Once again, thank you guys for a great season.  For your entertainment, here were my pre-season playoff predictions, and if you really want to look over what my pre-season predictions were for individual players and for our league standings, let me know and I’ll e-mail it to you.

Done shortly after the start of the Pittsburgh/Tennessee game at season’s beginning:

As far as my NFL predictions are concerned:

NFC:

East: Philadelphia (10-6)

North: Green Bay (11-5)

South: Atlanta (10-6)

West: Seattle (12-4)

Wild Cards: Chicago (9-7), Washington (9-7)

Just misses: New York (8-8), Minnesota (8-8), Carolina (7-9)

Last place: Tampa Bay (2-14)

NFC Championship:  Seattle over Green Bay

AFC:

East: New England (13-3)

North: Pittsburgh (12-4)

South: Jacksonville (10-6)

West: San Diego (11-5)

Wild Cards: Baltimore (10-6), Tennessee (9-7)

Just misses: Indianapolis (9-7), Denver (8-8)

Last place: Cleveland (3-13)

AFC Championship: Pittsburgh over New England 

Super Bowl: Pittsburgh over Seattle

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