Maybe it’s the reason I am so good at Fantasy sports, or even at analyzing and talking about them. Maybe it’s that I love sports so much (I am even a bit saddened by no NHL season) and was never the best or most talented player that I ended up living vicariously through the pros and instead now critique and try to predict their performances.
After all, I’m 6’-1” and 170 pounds. I’ve never had blazing speed, raw power, cat-like agility, etc. I’m that guy that was always good enough to be a fringe starter in most sports (never basketball, although, I was a great off-the-bench 3-point shooter), but I was never the star.
That didn’t stop me from taking part in one of the most memorable comebacks I’ve ever witnessed, or in this case, actually experienced.
I was a junior in a very small private high school. Put it this way, our graduating class was 33 students. That’s right, our class didn’t have enough boys to play 11-on-11 football in gym. Sad. Our school was so small that our baseball team practiced on a city community field and never had a “home” game. I know, because I was the starting second baseman. Where else does a no-power, good average, great fielding player end up? That is not where I would finish playing the game where history was made (at least in our minds).
Needless to say, our school didn’t win many city or even league titles. We did manage a state championship in basketball when I was there, but that was because we recruited some big-time ballers. Yes, recruited high school to high school… even though my school still vehemently denies it. So, our baseball team was no different. Yearly sub-.500 record, but in order to fill an entire schedule, we played some top-notch opponents. This was one of those days.
Before we knew what happened, we were staring at an 18-0 deficit in the second inning. This team had power, we were committing errors and our pitcher couldn’t find the strike zone if it had flashing lights and 10 arrows pointing to it. As we’ve seen for MLB teams before, when managers know it’s over, instead of wasting or risking another pitcher, they call in a position player. Guess who got the call? This guy.
I could never throw a curve or a slider, so my pitches consisted of a mediocre (at best) fastball and decent change up (it was a circle change after all). So here comes Jake Ciely, Mr. everyday-man second baseman in to pitch. Here comes the shock, most everyone from the other team started making outs. I compare it to MLB’s Home Run Derby. Even though hitters know an 80 mph meatball is coming, they still hit into “outs.” Whether it was because the other team tried crushing the ball, I don’t know, but my teammates also stopped making errors.
On top of that, we started hitting… a lot. Top of the third, we batted around and plated seven runs, even one from yours truly. Top of the fourth, five more. Now, I wasn’t dominating the competition, so the other teams still tacked on a few, but we scored three more in the fifth and were five runs back with the score 20 to 15!
This story doesn’t have a dreams-come-true or The Natural type of ending. We only squeaked out three more runs, but I held my ground from there on out and we lost 20 to 18. It was kind of a heart-breaking loss given how fun it would have been to come back from 18-0, but life isn’t a fairy tale… and to be honest, no one but the people in attendance would likely believe the story years later anyhow.
The point is, you can’t give up just because the outlook is bleak. Just because you are 2-5 or 1-6 doesn’t mean your season is already over (sorry, 0-and-7’ers, but I’ll admit you’re done). Just look at my high school baseball team; we nearly erased an 18-run deficit, and technically, we kinda did.
Sure, you can say, well real life and Fantasy are different, and you’re right. Fantasy Sports are even more unpredictable and luck is a bigger factor. I see teams, year after year, come back from 2-5 or 1-6 records to squeak into the playoffs. I’ve even been part of a league where a team pull a New York Giants, got in as the sixth seed at 7-6 and won three straight for the title. It can happen.
Don’t give up yet, make some bold moves, trade for some risks, shake up your team, heck, even play a guy you never would think to otherwise like when my coach asked me to pitch. You never know what might work and start you on the way to a big-time turnaround. Just hope you don’t fall short like we did.
TOP PAIR (Guaranteed a Good Week): Drew Brees, NO; Chris Johnson, TEN; Vincent Jackson, TB – I think maybe now everyone realized what I said all offseason, “Brees doesn’t need no stinkin’ coach.”… There is a good chance that at just 6’-1”, 170 with so-so speed that I could break the century mark rushing against Buffalo… It helps when your QB has a monster day. With 216 yards and a TD, VJax was to be feared if facing him in your league.
RIVER RAT (Surprising Top Performances): Josh Freeman, TB; LaRod Stephens-Howling, ARZ; Randall Cobb, GB – Admittedly, Freeman had one of the best matchups, but no one expected 420 yards and three TDs… Forget that William Powell fumbled the job away. LSH topped 100 yards against a Minnesota D that had bottled up most RBs, and ones with much more ability… Cobb is doing quite well without Greg Jennings in the lineup. His ability alone makes every target a threat for a big play.
GUT SHOT (Let Everyone Down): Eli Manning, NYG; Ray Rice, BAL; Calvin Johnson, DET – Manning also had a great matchup with the Skins on tap, but he managed just a mediocre 13 Fantasy Points (FP). Not terrible, but we expected more… Now, Rice, he had a bad matchup with Houston. But! Rice is supposed to be matchup proof… I could have chosen Dez Bryant too, but I selfishly picked Megatron, as I went into Monday night’s game down five points with Calvin and Jason Hanson to play – I lost… I still can’t believe it.
Breakdown: Hold ‘Em – start them and/or players I like more than most rankings have them. Fold ‘Em – outright sit them; don’t consider them start-worthy in standard-sized leagues. Bluffs – still start them, but I like them less than most rankings and they will disappoint.
Eli Manning, NYG (@DAL) – My Ranking 8: Eli still owns Cowboys Stadium; he’s 3-0 there and that included its grand opening. Since then and including that game, Manning has 2,209 passing yards and 16 TDs against Dallas (averaging 315.6 per game and actually 332.7 per game before this season’s opener, which was his worst game since 2009 against them). Manning simply loves to play Dallas.
Andrew Luck, IND (@TEN) – MR 9: Who would have thought Luck would be the one running for more TDs than Robert Griffin and Cam Newton combined in Week 7? That also wasn’t too hard since neither ran one in, but Luck managed two anyway. Luck won’t need to run as much this week as no team has allowed more passing TDs than the Titans (16). Just ask Ryan Fitzpatrick how nice of a matchup Tennessee can be.
Willis McGahee, DEN (NO) – MR 7: The Saints defense is putrid! New Orleans allows 24.7 FPPG and 133.0 rushing yards per game to RBs. This game has the makings of an epic shootout, and you want every part of all players involved, especially McGahee.
Vick Ballard, IND (@TEN) – MR 20: I liked him last week, and now I like him even more this week. After all, both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson both totalled over 100 all-purpose yards against Tennessee in Week 7. Ballard doesn’t have a Spiller or Jackson to share so many touches with.
Editor’s Note (see: Ciely, Jake): This was before the news that Donald Brown was a full participant in practice. Gotta hate those late week updates.
Michael Bush, CHI (CAR) – MR 29: With a 29 ranking, Bush is only here as a go big/risk play at flex. Carolina’s run defense is improving, but it’s still one of the league’s lesser units, and any time Chicago gets in the red zone, you know Bush is going to have a chance at a goal line carry. Touchdown or bust.
Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, PIT (WAS) – MR 8 and 16: Sure, Wallace appeared to have hands of granite last week, but he still caught eight balls. Meanwhile, Brown caught seven of his own for 96 yards. The Redskins pass defense, especially Fantasy wise for WRs, is abysmal even after the Giants had a mediocre day (Victor Cruz highlight included). Roll both of these Steelers out with confidence. Just ask this guy about the Redskins D.
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, DEN (NO) – MR 1 and 12: Did I mention the Saints defense stinks? I’m sure Peyton Manning is well aware.
Hakeem Nicks, NYG (@DAL) – MR 18: Quick, who’s the No. 1 WR in New York? No, not Tim Tebow, sorry. It’s clear that this is now Cruuuuuz’s team receiving wise. So why did I put Nicks here? It’s because (to remind you yet again) Dallas does a great job of shutting down opposing No. 1 WRs. Nicks is now second fiddle to Cruz, so while Dallas tries to stop the salsa dancing, Nicks can use his near-100 percent healthy body to put up good numbers.
Heath Miller, PIT (WAS) – MR 7:I’ll stop pushing him on you when more start realizing how good Miller is doing. Miller ranks fourth at TE despite already having a bye week. The Cincinnati matchup last week was good, and now, the
matchup against Washington is even better. Miller is a must-start in any league.
San Diego Chargers (@CLE) – MR 10: Can any of you say “Chargers” without doing an Arnold voice or also saying, “Go Chargers go!” I surely can’t. In any case, the Chargers likely face the Browns without Trent Richardson, and after that, what threat can they possibly pose. Josh Gordon? Please. I think the league is starting to pay attention to him, finally.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA (@NYJ) – MR 23: In you still have those “Jets without Darrelle Revis” stats running through your heard, I’m here to warn you about using Tannehill even in a deep league during the byes. The Jets defense has held form with Revis and even limited Tom Brady to 259 yards and two TDs – a good day, but not Brady-like. Now, the Jets run defense is another story, and Miami can run the ball well, especially with a healthy Reggie Bush coming off a bye. Miami won’t pass much, and when they do, it could be difficult for Tannehill.
Joique Bell, DET (@SEA) – MR 44: Bell actually ranks fourth for RB receiving yards, but unfortunately, Seattle allows just 41.0 receiving YPG to opposing RBs and is the third toughest Fantasy run defense overall. Plus, he foolishly fumbled that goal line attempt against Chicago. Bell will have a tough time finding any value against the Seahawks.
LeGarrette Blount, TB (@MIN) – MR 49: Smart Fantasy owners took notice that much of Blount’s Week 6 value came on garbage touches. Smarter Fantasy owners never wasted their time with Blount in the first place. Hopefully, no one is at this point, especially against a strong Minnesota run D looking to make a statement after letting LSH run over them.
Brandon LaFell, CAR (@CHI) – MR 51: You’ll soon see why I don’t even like Steve Smith much this week (ranked 29th) either when we get to Bluffs. While you can still start Smith is most leagues, LaFell and his 50/50 approach (three good games, three disappearing acts) don’t warrant use in most leagues.
Devery Henderson, NO (@DEN) – MR 54: Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore are back. Simple as that; there goes Henderson’s value… unless you really want to bank on a HR catch. You don’t.
Chris Cooley, WAS (CLE) – MR UR: Sure, some owners might recall the days when Cooley was a great Fantasy tight end option. But, we’re talking about a player signed off the couch who doesn’t have the explosiveness he had a few years back… or even most of it. There have to be a few better options on the wire at the least. I’m not sure why anyone is thinking of using Cooley already.
Philadelphia Eagles (ATL) – MR 17: There are certain offenses to fear, and Atlanta is now one of them.
Cam Newton, CAR (@CHI) – MR 14: If it weren’t for his rushing ability, I’d rank Cam even lower. I warned during drafts that when teams force Cam to pass, it’s not often a pretty picture. The team is in turmoil, fans are starting to realize just how much Ryan Kalil meant to the offense line and Cam is both struggling and griping about it. Now, the Panthers head to Chicago? That Bears defense is one bad… shut your mouth.
LaRon Stephens-Howling, ARZ (SF) – MR 31: Go ahead, try to tell me LSH has a prayer against the 49ers defense. What was that? “Well, Ahmad Bradshaw and Marshawn Lynch did well against them.” Okay, now tell me LSH is even on the same plane as those two and has any chance of mimicking their success… WITH a straight face!
Andre Brown, NYG (@DAL) – MR 37: It’s clear that Brown is the backup to Bradshaw since his return. Nevertheless, Brown needs garbage time carries, and those won’t come against Dallas, as the Giants won’t be blowing them out.
Titus Young, DET (@IND) – MR 41: Not only does Seattle present a tough matchup for running backs, it does for receivers too. The Seahawks allow the second fewest receiving YPG at just 131.3. Young is a good waiver wire grab with Nate Burleson done for the year; just don’t expect value until after this week.
Santana Moss, WAS (@PIT) – MR 42: Moss doesn’t have more than three catches in a game this year, which means he needs to get behind a secondary to have significant value (see: big TD receptions against Atlanta and New York). The Steelers allow just 140.2 receiving YPG and have given up just six TD receptions. Don’t expect Moss to have that big-play success in Pittsburgh.
Vernon Davis, SF (@ARZ) – MR 8: Maybe Davis was already in Arizona prepping for this week’s game. Not sure how else we can explain where he went last week. I rank Davis eighth at TE based on talent alone, but don’t be surprised if he has a tough time cracking the Top 10 when all is done. Arizona is the toughest defense for tight ends, and as we saw last week, sometimes Alex Smith might forget he has a beast of a tight end on the field.