Rough Day to be a Johnson

For Andre, Stevie, and Chris, it was their most talked about weekend of the season, and certainly not in a good way.

Andre
In light of the penalty handed down by the NFL on Monday evening, Andre will be the one dominating the headlines and talking heads programs leading up to the Texans’ Thursday night game against Philadelphia. Unless you’re one of the 26 Texans fans in the world or you’re in the 10% minority of the fantasy football world that owns Andre Johnson, you’re more than likely scratching your head and wondering why he wasn’t penalized further.

In a league that has spent the past several weeks enforcing penalties and fines for headshots, including fining James Harrison over $125,000 thus far for multiple separate incidents of leading with his helmet, Andre Johnson faces no suspension and was fined only $25,000 for ripping off the helmet of an opposing player and going Manny Pacquiao on his face. Do you even realize how insignificant that fine is? Dude makes $5,525,000 per season. $25,000 isn’t even half of one percent of his salary! Percentage-wise, if you make $45,000 per year, that would be a fine of just over $200. Roger Goodell essentially gave Andre Johnson a speeding ticket for an aggravated assault.

While I don’t think the punishment fits the crime, I’m glad he did it. As a wide receiver, Cortland Finnegan’s endgame in every game is to piss you off by any means necessary. Darrelle Revis will piss you off, but that’s because he’s so damn good that you can’t get free from him. Hines Ward has a history of making dirty hits on run blocks, but he’s well-respected around the league nonetheless because he’s been such a great and humble receiver for his entire career. Cortland Finnegan is just a dick who literally wants to be known as the dirtiest player in the league. This is the 3rd time he’s been fined already this season, and all 3 times were for dirty plays. Who isn’t rooting for that guy to get his ass kicked? He deserves no respect.

I’ve been playing a lot of Call of Duty: Black Ops lately, so let me finish the Andre/Finnegan rant with a video gaming metaphor. There are guys that piss you off but they gain your respect because they’re simply better than you are, and then there are those guys who piss you off because they camp in corners with shotguns, use glitches on maps, and incessantly task trash on the microphone. If you met the first in person, you would probably shake his hand, admit defeat, and maybe even form a friendship. If you met the second in person, you would want to punch him in the head, and I’m glad Andre did.

Stevie
Bad things tend to happen to people who insist on using a nickname. From 2003 to 2007, Chad Johnson had at least 87 receptions, 1274 yards, and 7 touchdowns in each season. Since legally changing his name to Ochocinco before the 2008 season, he’s averaged 62.5 receptions, 793.5 yards, and 6.5 TDs. What happened, eight five? Terry “Tank” Johnson and Adam “Pacman” Jones may have had more disciplinary issues than any other players in the league. Michael Vick insisted on being known as Mike…or perhaps it was the other way around…either way, things really hit the fan for him shortly thereafter. And now we have Stevie Johnson.

You see, 2 weeks ago Steve Johnson was one of the better feel good stories in the league: a 7th round draft pick out of Kentucky who spent the past 2 years wasting away on the bench, unable to even crack the starting line-up for one of the worst offensive attacks in the NFL, all of a sudden gets his shot and more than makes the most of it to the tune of roughly 73 yards and a TD per game. But I noticed during the Steelers game that the announcers had begun to call him Stevie, and he promptly went out and dropped 5 passes, including the game winning TD in overtime. What kind of grown man insists on being known as Stevie anyway? Steve Largent. Steve Owen. Steve Van Buren. Steve Young. Those are football names. Stevie Johnson? Sounds like he should be running routes with Buster Davis, catching (zero) passes from Rusty Smith, and throwing blocks for Cadillac Williams and Beanie Wells on a winless team.

However, what’s really disappointing to see is the people poking fun at Stevie’s reaction after the game, in which he cried out to God in anguish. Maybe his tweet was misinterpreted and it was almost certainly ill-advised, but who among us hasn’t blamed a higher power for things even more trivial than this? I’m willing to bet there are atheists who have blamed God for finishing off their already miserable day with a traffic jam. I’m not trying to turn into the “Leave Britney alone” guy, but seriously, leave Stevie alone. If you’ve been on twitter for more than 5 minutes, I’m sure you’ve made some regrettable tweets as well. Rather than harassing him like everyone else, I actually e-mailed him words of encouragement, because that’s clearly what he needed. He needs to be able to put this thing behind him and move onto this week’s game against the Vikings, and so do we.

Chris
7 carries for 5 yards?! Are you kidding me? Frank Gore BROKE HIS HIP, came back into the game, and carried the ball twice for 9 yards before calling it a season. This is outrageous, and I don’t even have CJ2K on any of my fantasy teams. There is no excuse for putting up Tim Hightower numbers against a defense that had been allowing opposing teams to run for 108 yards per game, especially when it should have been the Chris Johnson show all day with Rusty Smith at quarterback. It’s not as if the Texans jumped out to an insurmountable lead to limit Tennessee’s ability to run the ball; before Houston took a 14-0 lead late in the 2nd quarter, the Titans had given Johnson 3 carries while giving Rusty Smith 10 pass attempts. That is inexcusable. Add this misuse of Chris Johnson to the list of reasons why Jeff Fisher should be fired.

Power Rankings
This may or may not be the last time I post my power rankings this season, but now that we’re entering the final third of the season, the timing feels right.

The Not So Luck-y Division:
32. Carolina

Who would’ve thought that a team would get worse by getting rid of Jake Delhomme? With Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen clearly not working out, this team’s #1 concern heading into next year has to be at quarterback. I have to wonder whether or not they’ll actually take Andrew Luck, though. They need a sure thing, and I’m not so sure they can afford to run the risk of Luck not panning out. I’d love to see a three team trade before the draft…something like the Eagles giving up Kolb and their 1st rounder for the #1 pick and then turning around and dealing it to the Cardinals for Adrian Wilson and a 2nd rounder. I have no idea if it’s even remotely feasible, but Andrew Luck deserves better than Carolina.

Great Receiver; Bad Record:
31. Cincinnati
30. Detroit
29. Buffalo
28. Denver
27. Arizona
26. Dallas

These are the teams making it difficult to gamble this year. The only truly bad team in the league is Carolina. If it weren’t for Dwayne Bowe and Roddy White playing like Jerry Rice and Cris Carter this year, the six best wide receivers in the NFL would arguably be Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Steve Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Larry Fitzgerald, and Miles Austin. Any one of those guys can single-handedly change the outcome of the game, and they play on 6 of the 7 teams in the league with the worst record. Look at the lines this week: Cin +7, Det +3.5, Buf +6, Den +8, Dal +5, and Ari +3. How are we supposed to bet against them with any degree of confidence when you just know that one of those guys is going to score a garbage time touchdown to cover the 6 points that 3-8 and 2-9 teams have to get? Brutal.

Fading Fast:
25. Washington
24. Seattle
23. Tennessee
22. Oakland
21. Houston

At one point or another during the course of the season, I had each of these teams ranked in the top 15, but they’ve each been falling apart ever since. Despite how poorly they’ve all been playing, Washington is the only one that’s 2 full games out of 1st place in their division. What a ridiculous season.

Frisky Four Win Squads:
20. San Francisco
19. Cleveland
18. Minnesota

I cannot believe San Francisco is within a game of making the playoffs. You can piss and moan about TCU not getting a shot at the BCS title game, but there are at least a dozen teams that are better than them. You can’t possibly convince me that the 49ers deserve to make the playoffs, which mathematically asserts that they are better than 20 of the other 31 teams in the league. Better than 12 teams? Sure. But there’s no way they’re better than the other 2 teams in this category, and yet it’s virtually impossible for Cleveland or Minnesota to make the playoffs. It’s sad that Minnesota could go 9-7 and would have less of a shot at making the playoffs than the 49ers would if they get to 7-9. Regardless of their personal playoffs picture, each of these teams has the potential to destroy the playoffs hopes of several others, and should all finish out the season with a 3-2 record.

Feel Good Stories:
17. St. Louis
16. Tampa Bay

At this point last year, both of these teams were 1-10. With 5 games left to play, they’ve each already won 4 more games than they did all of last season. In all likelihood, they’ve both been benefitting from an extremely favorable schedule and have been playing a little over their heads, but if you’re not rooting for Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman, I’m not sure what you’re rooting for.

Not Quite There Yet:
15. Miami
14. Jacksonville
13. Kansas City

They each still have a playoff pulse and they each have the pieces to make a run at it, but you just get the feeling that they’re each going to come up a little short. Jacksonville still plays @ Indianapolis. Kansas City still plays @ San Diego. Miami has a lot of ground to make up and still plays @ New England and @ New York Jets. The Chiefs and Jaguars might both finish 10-6 and miss the playoffs. Shame they aren’t in the NFC West.

All for One and Four for Three?
12. Chicago
11. New York Giants
10. Green Bay
9. Philadelphia

Under the assumption that the NFC West has to send a team to the playoffs and that the Falcons and Saints will occupy the NFC South crown and a wild card spot in one order or the other, here are your four teams fighting for the remaining three NFC playoff spots. Can you pinpoint the city that will be sending thousands of pieces of hate mail to Roger Goodell after their team misses the playoffs despite winning 2 more games than the NFC West champ?

Michael Myers
8. Indianapolis
7. San Diego

No matter what you do to them, they just won’t die, and until proven otherwise, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t survive until the end of the movie.

And the Favorite Is…
6. New Orleans
5. Pittsburgh
4. Atlanta
3. New York Jets
2. Baltimore
1. New England

Each of these teams is getting 7-1 or longer odds to win the Super Bowl, which means that if you’re thoroughly convinced that someone in this group is going to win it all but you don’t know who, just bet $100 on each of them and you’re guaranteed to win at least $200.

Eliminator Suggestions:

With my roommate forgetting to make a pick until after the 1:00 games had started, therefore being forced to rely on the Oakland Raiders, everyone in our group is officially eliminated. But, because I enjoy this segment of the post as much as I do, and on the off chance that I gain a reader who’s still alive and needs some advice, I’m going to keep it going and hopefully improve on my 38-10 record.

#4. Indianapolis over Dallas

Reason for this pick: Peyton Manning defied all odds last week by losing at home, following a loss, on a Sunday night…he never does any of those things, let alone all three of them. There’s no way he lets the Colts lose a 3rd consecutive game. Last week was an anomaly against the hottest team in the league. They’ll bounce back. Colts by 7.

#3. Seattle over Carolina

Reason for this pick: Well, I, uh, found Carolina on the schedule, and just, sort of, you know, picked the other team. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Seahawks by 10.

#2. Philadelphia over Houston

Reason for this pick: Too much drama in Houston, the game means too much to Philadelphia, and against a dreadfully bad secondary, it’s time for Vick to re-enter those MVP discussions. Eagles by 17.

#1. San Diego over Oakland

Reason for this pick: One of the most impressive teams of the past 5 weeks against the worst team of the past 2 weeks. The Raiders are bi-polar, and right now, they’re on a low. Ride it while it’s hot. Chargers by 24.

The Commish’s NFL Upset of the Week:

Cleveland +4.5 over Miami

Thanks to Stevie Wonder’s butter fingers, I missed my upset pick last week, snapping my 6 game winning streak. No matter; I’ll just close the season on a 5 game winning streak. For the second time this season, I’m taking the Browns as my upset pick, and for the second time I’m offering the disclaimer that this pick will be replaced by Washington +7 over the Giants if Jake Delhomme is starting over Colt McCoy. There’s a stat in baseball called VORP that I’ve never taken the time to fully understand, but I believe it measures how much more value you bring to your team by being in the game instead of your replacement player. I assume they can’t really measure this in football because the sample size is 10% what it is in baseball, but I guarantee Colt McCoy would be in the top 5 in the NFL if they did, and he isn’t even yet anywhere near as good as he should be; that’s just how bad Jake Delhomme is. With Colt in there alongside Peyton Hillis, you have someone who can pass efficiently or scramble effectively as the team gradually moves the ball down the field. He’s not going to blow you away or throw many deep balls, but he isn’t going to throw a killer interception either. He makes smart plays to give you the best chance that he can. With Delhomme in there, you’re basically spotting the other team 14+ points because of the brutal interceptions that he throws in every game. With Colt McCoy in there, you can hang with and possibly beat teams with a better record than you. With Jake Delhomme in there, you damn near lose to the Panthers at home.

Fantasy League Standings

#1. Miller’s Chiefs (9-3) 1498 points
#2. Montgomery’s Rams (8-4) 1299 points
#3. Garland’s Giants (8-4) 1246 points
#4. Meyers’ Cowboys (7-5) 1280 points
#5. Nelson’s Steelers (7-5) 1278 points
#6. Duncan’s Packers (6-6) 1321 points
~~~~~~~~~~Playoff Cut Line~~~~~~~~~~
#7. Gideon’s Bears (6-6) 1268 points
#8. Harshbarger’s Chargers (6-6) 1155 points
#9. A’s Bengals (5-7) 1325 points
#10. O’Neill’s Buccaneers (5-7) 1299 points
#11. Yelen’s Texans (5-7) 1033 points
#12. Dincher’s Dolphins (4-8) 1321 points
#13. Travelpiece’s 49ers (4-8) 1230 points
#14. Damn’s Bills (4-8) 979 points

With 2 games left in our regular season, 5 teams with 7+ wins, and 2 of the 6-6 teams playing each other next week, it’s been determined that it will take at least a 7-7 record to make the playoffs, and it’s still reasonably possible that 1 team with an 8-6 record would finish on the outside looking in. That being the case, Dincher, Travelpiece, and Damn have each officially been eliminated from the playoffs, and I’m the only one to have clinched a playoff spot. Kauffman, O’Neill, and Yelen are 1 loss away from elimination, Montgomery and Garland are a win away from a playoff spot, and our other 5 teams are hovering right in the middle where anything can happen. I’ll be interested to see if any of the 10 teams fighting for the final 5 spots will be offering great keeper options to Damn or Dincher in exchange for a maximum of 5 weeks worth of great guys who are almost certainly too expensive to keep next year, like Peyton Manning, Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, or Andre Johnson. I’d be perfectly content with not having to worry about facing any of those names in the playoffs. I doubt anyone makes a move this week, but next week when we’ll probably have 4 or 5 teams fighting for 1 or 2 spots, I bet a couple of those guys start making some serious offers, and I can almost guarantee there will be some ridiculous trade accepted that I’ll have to veto.

Instead of upsets or blowouts, I’ll just be breaking down…

The Most Important Games of the Week

3rd Most Important: Montgomery’s Rams (8-4) vs. Garland’s Giants (8-4)

Projected Line-Ups:

StL: Orton, Rice, Ivory, Moore, Megatron, Ward, Keller, Bears D, Crosby

Vs.

NYG: E. Manning, CJ2K, S. Jackson, Maclin, Bryant, Marshall, Graham, Rams D, Akers

What’s on the Line:
The winner clinches a playoff spot and enters the driver’s seat for 1st place in the NFC and an all-important 1st round bye in the playoffs. But it’s definitely possible that the loser clinches a playoff spot as well, which is why this game has a lot of appeal, but isn’t really important to the other 12 teams in the league.

Montgomery:
With his win over Harshbarger last week, Montgomery broke his 3 game losing streak, but Frank Gore suffered a broken hip. He’s been mostly playing without his 2nd best wide receiver for the past several weeks, and will now be without his best running back for the rest of his season, however much longer it may last. Talk about a team stumbling to the finish line. But because he jumped out to a 7-1 record, he still has a shot at a first round bye. This would be the equivalent of the Steelers having the #2 seed in the AFC without Mendenhall and Hines Ward. Does that team win a conference semi game against San Diego, New York, Baltimore, or Indianapolis? Maybe, but they’re a severe underdog to make the Super Bowl. Anyway, the only way he misses out on the playoffs at this point is if he loses his remaining games, Harshbarger wins his remaining games and outscores Montgomery by 144 in the process, and several other things happen. He can limp into the playoffs, but I don’t see how he limps his way to the championship, so there’s a good chance I just found the strongest candidate for a MJD trade, because his team is all of a sudden a force to be reckoned with again if he’s able to fill the hole left by Frank Gore.

Garland:
By the way, with Eli Manning, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin all going up against bottom 5 defenses, there’s a good chance Garland leads the league in scoring this week, and an even better chance that he wins this game in landslide fashion.

Final:
NFC Champ NYG: 157-102.

2nd Most Important: Miller’s Chiefs (9-3) vs. Harshbarger’s Chargers (6-6)

Projected Line-Ups:

KC: Flacco, Foster, Moreno, Forte, Bowe, Fitzgerald, Gonzalez, Jets D, Bryant

Vs.

SD: Freeman, Jacobs, Blount, Stevie J, Welker, Jennings, Moeaki, Cardinals D, Scobee

What’s on the Line:
A KC win officially locks up the AFC regular season championship and a first round bye, and considering my 200 point cushion over the other 2 guys who could potentially get to 10 wins, all but clinches 1st place in the regular season and the $20 prize that comes with it. It would also effectively eliminate Harshbarger from playoff contention, or at the very least make it impossible for an 8 win team to miss the playoffs.
A Harshbarger win would leave first place in the league up for grabs until next weekend and would keep him alive in the playoff race despite starting the season 2-4, just like the actual Chargers.

Miller:
#1. As has been the case for the majority of the season, I’ll be relying on Arian Foster to carry me to victory, and since the Texans play on Thursday night, I’ll know early whether or not I have a good shot at winning this one.
#2. I’m a little concerned with Flacco against the Steelers on Sunday night because the Steelers have a great defense and Flacco hasn’t exactly had much success in prime time games in his brief career, but his TD/INT ratio at home this season is 10/1, so much like Matt Ryan, I have to presume I can continue to count on him at home until proven otherwise.
#3. There’s no way Forte repeats his Week 1 performance against the Lions, but against the 30th ranked fantasy rush defense, it’s hard to believe he completely lets me down and scores less than 10 points, as he has already done 5 times this season. ESPN’s projection of 90 rushing yards, 3 receptions for 30 yards and a TD is surprisingly about what I’m expecting as well. Very rarely do we agree.
#4. Is there any way to stop Dwayne Bowe? Dear Lord.
#5. -3 for the Jets D? They must be factoring in the great field position the Pats will inevitably have all night since Sanchez can’t throw in the cold or the wind and they’re calling for both in Boston on Monday night.

Harshbarger:
#1. Welker or Holmes? Given what I just said about Sanchez and the way Brady’s been playing the past 3 or 4 weeks, I would lean towards Welker. But because he waited on him through the 4 game suspension, because he’s been playing well for the past 4 weeks, because he never takes my advice, and because he still feels some weird Pittsburgh connection to Santonio Holmes, I’m sure he’ll play him, and I’ll be glad.
#2. Josh Freeman is projected for more points than he’s scored yet this season, and against a respectable Falcons D. If he’s going to venture outside of the 16.3-21.9 fantasy point range he’s been in for 8 consecutive weeks, I think he’ll go low.
#3. Please refer to any other post in which I’ve written about Harshbarger’s team for my thoughts on his pathetic running back situation. A word to the wise in future seasons: if you’re going to focus on either running backs or wide receivers during the draft and just deal with the others in free agency, it’s been obvious for years that you bank on running backs and hope on wide receivers. Considering the scarcity of good running backs and the intrinsic inconsistency of the wide receiver position, I don’t understand why the best running backs are only marginally more valued on draft day than the best wide receivers.
#4. Whether he plays the Raiders against the Chargers or the Cardinals against the Rams, at least I can count on Harshbarger’s D to play as poorly as mine is projected to.
#5. If I lose because of Tony Moeaki, you better believe I’ll be thankful…and also surprised.

Final:
Even though I always seem to make the playoffs, I think after this 133-97 victory, this will be my first 10 win season in our league’s 5 year history.

Most Important Game: Gideon’s Bears (6-6) vs. O’Neill’s Buccaneers (5-7)

Projected Line-Ups:

Chi: Brady, B. Jackson, McCoy, Goodson, Smith 1.0, J. Ford, Winslow, Chargers D, Bironas

Vs.

TB: Rivers, Charles, Hillis, T. Jones, Amendola, S. Moss, Tamme, Giants D, Tynes

What’s on the Line:
A Gideon win eliminates O’Neill and keeps him in control of his own destiny en route to next week’s showdown with Duncan.
An O’Neill win keeps his slim playoff hopes alive, damages but doesn’t quite destroy Gideon’s playoff hopes, and further opens the door for Harshbarger or Kauffman to sneak into the playoffs if they win out.

Gideon:
QB. Brady might be working with a short field for most of the night and have a good looking game with mediocre passing yards, or he could end up being victimized by the Jets defense.
RB. Brandon Jackson should be heavily involved in salting away a big win over the 49ers, or he could end up being shut down by a 49ers defense that held the Cardinals to 13 rushing yards. Goodson’s been good, but he’s increasingly splitting carries with Stewart and may very well be taken out of any game by the end of the 1st quarter if the Panthers are getting crushed.
WR. Steve Smith hasn’t been Steve Smith in a game yet this season and Jacoby Ford has been as unpredictable as the rest of Oakland.

O’Neill:
QB. Everyone is in love with Philip Rivers, but we saw last week what happens to his fantasy numbers if the Chargers get out to a big lead before he’s predominantly involved in the touchdowns, and with the Chargers favored by 2 touchdowns this week, his effectiveness may be neutralized.
RB. I love Kansas City’s running backs and Denver’s rush defense is awful, but what happens if the Broncos miraculously jump out to a 35-0 lead against us again? (By the way, if there’s any team in the league that shouldn’t be deferring to the second half when they win the coin toss, it’s the Chiefs, and yet Haley continuously does it. Between that and our unabashed and indefensible commitment to Thomas Jones, I’ve grown frustrated with some of the decision making on this 7-4 squad because I know it’s going to cost us a crucial game down the stretch)
WR. Neither Moss is reliable for anything other than frustration. Who could have guessed before the season began that Amendola would be starting on this roster?

Result:
Anything can happen. I legitimately have no idea what to expect, aside from a great game from Peyton Hillis and a solid game from LeSean McCoy, which all but guarantees they’ll both play miserably. The only prediction I’ll make is that I end up paying more attention to this game on Sunday than any other in our league, including my own.

 

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