I have watched a slew of my playoff teams get whittled down to one lonely squad still battling for a championship. Why still battling on this fine Tuesday? Like many of you, I am still dangling in limbo thanks to Mother Natureâ¦ and Mike "My publicist thinks I'm ready to own a dog again" Vick.
You are either one of the lucky, albeit morally bankrupt few who added Vick to your teamâ¦ or more likely you are on my side of that equation: Trembling at the prospect of yet another 60-point explosion that will single-handedly wipe out your chances of hoisting the gloryâ¦ and cashing a check large enough to pay one month's worth of preschool for your children.
As of today, I am clinging to a pathetic and decidedly unlucky 13-point lead with no starters left on my roster. I know, I know -- Vick poops 13 points before the first quarter is over, which is why I am hoping for more of that merciless force majeur weather to strike in Philly. As King Lear so aptly put it, "Blow winds, crack your cheeks, and knock him out of the game with a strained groin courtesy of slippery turf and all that dead dog karma." Hey, a guy can dream, can't he? (Cue all the erudite "Dogs isn't human!" comments and emails now.)
Relax and huff another gallon of paint, Vick Nation. Yes, he paid his price, yes he is now in line for another nine-figure contract, and yes, my fate is sealed. If you can sleep with him on your roster, the day is decidedly yours. As I twist in the wind, I can't help looking back over another frenetic ride on the wild stallion that is fantasy football. All the excitement of draft prep, the grind of weekly roster management, and crossing the finish line inevitably leads to a time of evaluation. Some of you may roll like the 'Niners and fire yourselves before the plane home from your last loss even hits the ground. Others may prefer a painstaking soup-to-nuts look at every facet of your organization.
Me? I am already mulling over some of the things the 2010 season schooled me on to a fair-thee-well.
Are we drafting QBs too early?
No, but skip the bubble and hunch guys. No one saw Vick coming, and he's a lock for elite ranking next year. But as I write this, 12 points separate the top five guys -- and they are precisely the five top-ranked guys going into the season:
They are money, they do it every year, and you rolled if you had 'em. Meanwhile, 34 points separate Brees from the No. 6 QB -- Matt Ryan, who was there late in your draft.
Twelve points separate Ryan from Josh Freeman, who most likely went undrafted. Very little separates Matt Schaub, highly ranked going in, and guys who weren't even blips on the radar -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Orton, or annual value plays like Eli Manning and David Garrard.
Master of the obvious
Hit your hunches. If you are in a bunch of leagues, like me, you tend to see the same players turn up on team after team.
This goes a long way to explain why I am down to seeds, stems, and one team still "alive." Oh, and avoid running backs with exotic spellings of the name "Sean."
If the QB is weak, run for the hills
Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, and the exception that not only proves the rule but, like the siren's call, lures us to crash upon the rocks year after year: Calvin Johnson. The Lions wideout has 12 TDs and more than 1,000 yards and counting thanks to a cast of unknown thousands at quarterback.
Saints skill-position players can eat my gamederpants
It's Brees or bust here, with an honorable mention to Marques Colston, even though he still goes too early in your drafts to justify the numbers. Which one of these guys teased you just enough with three great weeks to set you up to get buried later on: Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Chris Ivory, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, or even Lance Moore?
Don't draft defenses early
The Jets were this year's "it" defense, and people reached for them early. They certainly delivered solid numbers, but 35 points less than the Steelers, not to mention significantly less than the Bears, Packers, and Pats. Yet another annual event that reinforces a strong message of abstinence.
Salvage these positions later in year?
QB: Yes, you can salvage here. Witness Vick, Jon Kitna, whoever was starting for Detroit any given week, Fitzpatrick, and for your playoff emergency runs, dare I say Tim Tebow?
RB: Dicey. It took half a season to reveal Fred Jackson as a quality No. 2, no one drafted Peyton Hillis, although the genie was out of the bottle early here, but let's face it -- the pickings were slim and if you were bottom eight on your waiver wire order, you were out of the running.
WR: No worries: Brandon Lloyd -- a guy I didn't draft, yet a guy I picked up later -- is No. 1 this year so far. Stevie Johnson, Derrick Mason, Deion Branch, Mike Williams TB, Mike Williams Seattle, even the amazing Dwayne Bowe, were guys you could shag early or late.
So what does it all mean? Do not leave your draft without a top five tight end and running back. Make sure you also land a top five quarterback within the first three rounds, and you are on the right trackâ¦
The over-share era
It's not going to make my teams any better next year, but no "lessons learned" column is complete without a brief look at the havoc the new social network/internet era we live in hath wrought. The founder of Facebook may have hit the cover of Time/biopic/60 Minutes profile trifecta this year, but I say he has only opened up a new ring of hell to our already over-shared lives.
Facebook is nothing more than a trolling ground for unfulfilled ex-girlfriends who suddenly realized their lives aren't all thatâ¦ and guys who want to make sure you know they are "destroying" a plate of huevos at 3:17 a.m.
Twitter is like a blurting mechanism -- people get to share their impulsive thoughts instantly for the whole world to read... provided people give a flying F at a rolling doughnut about the author's mood swings. Talk about a perfect storm of regret.
YouTube reminds us every day why filmed entertainment really should be left to the pros. Rex Ryan had to endure an avalanche of New York Post headlines adorning the front and back pages to learn that lesson. At the end of the day, he did nothing wrong beyond showing us precisely why he digs his wife, and that's great, but why the public over-share, big guy? Yikes, the over/under on when Mrs. Ryan can comfortably stroll down the produce aisle at the local supermarket is 7.5 years.
As for texting? Say hello to the new forensic trail of crumbs leading us back to every guy who cheats on his wife. All the modern horn-dog needs is two thumbs and just enough rope to hang himself. The latest technology has painted Brett Favre's tortured final season in a completely juvenile light. Of course, he seems to have escaped Tiger Woods-level shameâ¦ ish. We call this progress? Yikes. Keep your mouths shut, your texting thumbs at your sides, your cameras off, and your pants zipped. The biggest lesson you could learn from reading Ben Franklin isn't "a penny saved is a penny earned," although that is fantastic advice. No, the real leitmotif is separation of public and private life.
In closing, I would just like to say that you are never too old or too jaded to keep learning how to build a champion. In honor of our constant thirst for knowledge, I would like to break from journalistic tradition and end with a question:
Michael Jordan's Hitler moustache?
Ignorance? Prevarication? Or an ego that says, "I'm the guy who can finally bring this thing back?" I suspect we'll never know, but let it be said: At the end of the day, you're still just selling underpants, mein Fuhrer.