Some thoughts gathered while every fantasy football server on the web melted down under the panic rush of Tom Brady owners scrambling to type in "Player Search: Available Free Agent QB."
"Is it Cassel with one 'L' or two?"
We may have only played one week of football, but some things have already blowed up. Yessir, they blowed up real good. I may not have a sixth sense that lets me see dead people, but I sure as hell see dead fantasy teams. Lots of 'em. I'm in seven leagues again this year. It's a source of pride, shame, and one of the many reasons my wife inevitably turns to me before the first Sunday of the season kicks off and says, "Well, see you in February…"
The world of fantasy football took a big hit in Week 1, as Tom Brady sustained a knee injury that will force him to miss the rest of the season. Michael Fabiano examines the impact for fantasy owners. Full Story ...
» Video: How do the Pats respond?
» Video: Belichick on Brady's injury
» Video: Was the hit on Brady dirty?
At least I'm not alone. Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to give the opening comments for the third time at the World Championship of Fantasy Football, in beautiful and still enabling Las Vegas, Nevada. It's the big daddy of all fantasy football tournaments, and once again, the Hilton Convention Center was jammed full with more than a thousand dreamers drafting en masse, with other drafts happening simultaneously in Dallas, Orlando and Atlantic City.
The event is all the proof you need to know that fantasy has changed the way millions of fans watch the game, and, once again, I saw how the elite minds in the FF world often have a great sixth sense about the fortunes of players and teams.
Players who were consensus high picks dropped (and Sunday's games backed up the truth of the gut instincts and research on display): In draft after draft, Steven Jackson slipped well down the line in Round 1. Sure, the Giants' big showing last Thursday saw Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs rise up and Clinton Portis fall, but if you want to see a show of real acumen, consider this: If you didn't draft Titans explosive rookie Chris Johnson in Vegas by the fifth round, he was gone. That's acumen.
Matt Hasselbeck also slid big-time, and that was before he lost Nate Burleson for the season. Now he faces the prospect of throwing to his new primary receiver, backup QB Seneca Wallace. Seriously.
Of course, nothing could hold a candle to Brady as the lead story of every draft. All day long, I saw fellow drafters walking up to their friends during periodic breaks with an ashen look on their face as they confessed, "I don't know what got into me, but I drafted Brady." Then their friends would look at them in disbelief and say, "… but you swore you wouldn't!" The reply was always the same: (SHAKING HEAD IN DISMAY) "I know. I just couldn't help it."
And just like that, you see a red K.C. jersey lunging low at knee level (the same hit, by the way, that the Pats deployed to knock J.P. Losman out a year ago - Karma? Hmmm…).
Their worst fears were realized when Brady got knocked out for the season. You need to understand that no one in their right minds ponies up big money in a fantasy draft without a ton of knowledge and experience. Every WCOFF draft I have witnessed was mercilessly well executed - you simply won't be blessed to draft in a league with a couple of fool owners making the classic rookie mistakes of picking a defense in Round 6 or loading up on players from their favorite teams. Nope, you goof in these leagues and you are in for a long season. Hence the ashen faces and the remorse - Brady's 50-TD potential was so intoxicating it lured good drafters like sirens coaxing them to crash on the rocks.
And I am relieved I didn't draft him in the WCOFF, despite seeing him available when I was at bat with the No. 3 pick… but I am not impervious. In fact, I drafted Brady in the Urkel League (the surviving version of the NFL Network Hollywood League) - and why not?! Last year, you could win your league with a backfield of Brady and two RBs who retired in 1998. Now? Shtoink! Not only did I lose to Rich Eisen in Week 1, but now I've lost my bell-cow QB. Things are so bad, I just put in a waiver-wire bid for Jason Campbell … when I saw that J.T. O'Sullivan wasn't available! This one could sting.
The Pats scoring machine of Brady and Randy Moss had super-inflated value going in - you had to reach for them early or miss the boat. Drafting Brady in Round 1 skewed your team balance because you knew you'd spend the rest of your draft chasing RBs. Brady represented that much output, but the fear was based on a simple, time-tested adage: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. As for the people who picked Moss in Round 1, and there were plenty of them, the blow isn't quite as catastrophic, but the smart thinking says you can say goodbye to 20 TDs.
One Sunday in the books, and all those pale, sweaty brows are now curled up in the fetal position.
Week 1 read and overreact
» Of course, the flipside of every tragedy is the elation it can breed in the enemy. Week 1 also whips up a silo full o' Kool-Aid for the nation to sip. Brady may be done … but the Buffalo Bills are going to win the AFC East. (I'll get more worked up about the Jets if they beat an actual NFL team next week.)
» That being said, when I saw John McCargo was sitting out the Bills' opener, I had one knee-jerk reaction: This lad is officially stealing money.
» All those early reports that the Eagles are back and ready to roll are true. Or is just that the Rams really are as terrible as they looked in preseason? It made me feel so smug about running away from Torry Holt in all of my fantasy drafts … until I realized I actually picked him for my team in the ESPN SportsCenter special. If it's any consolation, I got him in the eighth round. Still, this situation looks so bad I'm already thinking about dropping him when my kicker is on his bye week.
On the rise:
The Pack are gonna be okay.
Carolina … where did that come from?
Atlanta? Really? I think it's safe to say that in his first game as a rookie on a rebuilding team, Matt Ryan already looks like a better NFL quarterback than Mike Vick ever did. Please note I didn't say running back. I like a QB who can pass.
Vince Young … I saw Merrill Hoge call him "soft" right there on national television -- we got trouble here.
As for Willie Parker's explosive performance, all you have to do is check last week's Manly House to see my "I told you so!"
On the decline
I am reserving judgment on the Jags - the Titans are a tough, underrated divisional foe, but the red flags are blowin' in the breeze.
With Brady, Alex Smith, Jeff Garcia, Brodie Croyle and Vince Young all targeted to hit the whirlpool for tours of non-duty, do you get the feeling Daunte Culpepper might have wanted to wait a week before he retired? Although I'm sure he'd be willing to defer his pension for another shot at hooking up with Randy Moss in New England…