FIWK the NFL: Week 4

The NFL right now is a volatile muddled middle. Remember that week in August where the stock market had four consecutive days of triple-digit movement and at the end of the week we were right back where we started? That's the NFL so far. Overall the teams are really close in quality, but that doesn't mean you can just take the underdog and the points because the games are much more volatile. You're going to have underdogs winning outright and one point favorites winning by double digits. You're going to have Team A beat Team B by two touchdowns, Team B defeat Team C handily and then Team C takes care of business against Team A. Go ahead and look at Tennessee, NYJ, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Oakland and figure out what's going on there. I'm pretty sure there is a Super Bowl contender and 6-10 team in that group. Go ahead and add Washington, Dallas, NYG, Philadelphia (wait, that's all the same division), New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Atlanta. I would only feel confident picking 3-0 Green Bay and against 0-3 Kansas City and 0-3 Seattle...wait, no Seattle beat Arizona last week, who beat Carolina, who beat Jacksonville, who beat Tennessee, who beat Baltimore, who beat Pittsburgh, who beat Seattle. See that vicious little circle we're dealing with? For no particular rhyme or reason, I'm going to use point differential unless I have some reason not to.

BPL or EPL? Filling out your lineup

After the Rooney scratch last week, I've become hyper sensitive to unexpected injuries taking a toll on our players. Fantasy NFL owners of Jamaal Charles and Peyton Manning know all too well how injuries can drastically change your fantasy team. In the vein of using your bench of effectively, make sure that you are actively checking the Guardian Squad Sheets the night before game day. As of right now they and other fantasy sources are saying that both Rooney and Chicharito are going to play for Man United tomorrow.

That being said, I'm skittish enough about their injuries to yank my captaincy from Rooney. I'll be giving it to either Silva or Aguero since Man City faces hapless Blackburn this week. This is going to explode in my face when Rooney has 4 more goals against Norwich this weekend. I'm not quite ready to go 3-5-2 out of striker-injury fear though.

BPL or EPL? Use your bench players intelligently

Before the Premier League season started, Aaron had a theory that he'd roster attacking players from the teams that scored the most goals last season - Chelsea, Arsenal, and United. (Click the 10/11 pull-down for last year.) Similarly, defenders from the teams that allowed the fewest goals were ranked highly. Using this same logic, take a look at the high-scoring teams for this season - United has 21 goals, City has 17, and the next closest team is Chelsea with 8. The lesson, as always, is roster all the Manchester players.

For fantasy purposes, consider your budget to be $81 and lock in Rooney (9 goals) and Aguero (8) for $19.1. They are the two highest scorers on the two highest-scoring teams; if you don't roster them you give yourself lower odds of keeping pace. How you treat the rest of your lineup, however, depends upon whether you're rolling out a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2 formation. The reason it's different is because of the way the ESPN fantasy game treats subs.

FIWK the NFL: Week 3

Yeah, I did pretty bad last week. I guess I took my own theme of not overreacting just a little too far and ended up underreacting. (Why is overreact a word, but underreact gets the red spell check squiggly?) I may have ended up underreacting all the way back to 2009. So let's try and find a happy middle ground. Let's start considering strength of opponents. The Bills and the Lions are both 2-0, with huge point differentials. But I'm pretty sure that's more an indictment of how bad the Chiefs are (L 41-7 to the Buffalo and L 48-3 to Detroit) than an early proclamation those two teams are going to the playoffs. In fact, I kind of like Royce's early "Always pick against KC and SEA" rule. So, with just the right amount of reaction...

Beer Wednesday: Cherry Chocolate Stout by Stone, Jason Fields and Kevin Sheppard, and Troegs

A new beer is available from the Stone collaborations series, and I was really excited to give it a try. You don't see an ambitious flavor mix like 'Cherry Chocolate Stout' every day, so I was pretty excited about this one. The short version: it tastes a lot like a beer version of a Cherry Coke. Make of that what you will.

FIWK the NFL: 2011 Week 2

Ok, this week is going to be fast. And my overarching theme is to not overreact to Week 1.

Oakland (+3) over BUFFALO: It's the Bills. You're going to take the Bills and give points? The Raiders showed some toughness last year and last week. If the Bills win by 30 point this week, then maybe I'll take them as the favorite next week. Darren McFadden is the only non-QB to get 10 fantasy points.

Kansas City (+8) over DETROIT: The Chiefs won the AFC West last year. The Lions went 0-16 a few years ago. Let's not start sucking each other's popsicles yet. Calvin Johnson gets two TDs...again.

Baltimore (-6) over TENNESSEE: Man, Baltimore looked really good last week. But if I've learned one thing from Football Outsiders (and then again from Bill Barnwell) it's that fumble recoveries are very random. Interceptions are not. So, the Ravens looked better than they are and the Steelers looked worse because the Ravens recovered every fumble. Still, they looked damn good. I'd even considering switching them with the Steelers in my season preview, BUT we're not overreacting to Week 1 so I am just going to take them to beat the Titans. Ray Rice has the best day among all fantasy running backs.

INDIANAPOLIS (+2.5) over Cleveland: Let's see something from the Browns and the Bengals before we determine what really happened last week. And same for Kerry Collins. Kerry Collins throws more touchdowns than Colt McCoy.

Tampa Bay (+3) over MINNESOTA: Tampa Bay did not look that bad and Minnesota looked way too dependent on Adrian Peterson. Good for fantasy, not good for the Vikings winning games. Neither quarterback gets over 200 yards passing.

Chicago (+7) over NEW ORLEANS: At the very least, this game should be much closer than 7 points. The Bears may not be as good as they showed hosting the Falcons and the Saints defense may not be as bad as they showed visiting the defending Super Bowl champs on Opening Night. I'll take the 7 points and re-evaluate next week. Darren Sproles scores a touchdown.

Jacksonville (+9.5) over NYJ: I'm just going to type NYJ and NYG for those two teams from now on. Well maybe not permanently, but at least for the time being. You know who did not have a good fantasy day against the Jacksonville defense? Chris Johnson and the Titan's running game. Who know who is a little extra dependent on the run and actually got a little lucky last week? The NYJ. While the Jets are the better team, the spread is way too big. Maurice Jones-Drew has more fantasy points against the Jets defense than Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson combined.

PITTSBURGH (-14.5) over Seattle: The Steelers lost 34-7 last week. They are favored by 14.5. Actually that feels about right because the Seahawks are just that bad.

WASHINGTON (-3.5) over Arizona: Arizona's defense made Cam Newton look really good and I think they do the same favor for Rex Grossman.

Green Bay (-10) over CAROLINA: I say Cam Newton throws for 200 yards less than he did last week. Green Bay has four different guys score touchdowns.

Dallas (-3) over SAN FRANCISCO: The Cowboys actually looked pretty good against a good Jets team. Despite Tony Romo's idiocy, I am going to put Dallas in the lead of the group vying for the NFC wild card. Felix Jones, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant all score more fantasy points than Alex Smith.

Cincinnati (+4) over DENVER: Nothing I saw from the Broncos gives me any confidence to pick them. And nothing I saw from the Bengals last week makes me think they will be horrible. But we're not overreacting. I think both of these teams are bad and I'm taking the points.

Houston (-3) over MIAMI: I don't think either of these teams are that bad. But I think Houston looked a little more ready to take care of business than the Dolphins who had more of a "Let's give it our best shot and see what happens" feel to them.

San Diego (+7) over NEW ENGLAND: I'm not a homer. Both have great offenses and Philip Rivers is going to throw for a ton against the Pats. And the Chargers defense is probably better than the Pat's defense. I'm not a homer. Well, I'm trying to be objective at least. Seven points is too big a spread. Yeah, I can't convince myself I'm objective either.

Philadelphia (-2.5) over ATLANTA: It just feels more fun to pick the Eagles here. No other reason in particular.

St. Louis (+6) over NYG: Both these teams are 0-1. And some supposed playoff contender is going to be 0-2. Of course the Rams are only in that discussion because of their division, which they could still win even starting 0-2. The only other game with two 0-1 pre-season playoff contenders is Tampa Bay @ Minnesota. I think the Giants are the better, but injured team. The Rams take this seriously and keep it close.

BPL or EPL? Just roster all the Manchester players

I'm legitimately not even trying to bring anything original to the table anymore. The Manchester teams are incredible and score a ton of goals - just roster as many of their players as possible. Additionally, you have to keep Rooney in your lineup and captain him. Seriously, you have no other choice. It's a baseline requirement just to keep up with the Joneses in the ESPN fantasy game.

By far the most important advice I can give you: listen to the Men in Blazers podcast on the Grantland Network. Best thing I've ever put in my ears.

In lieu of providing any original or worthwhile analysis this week, I want to take a moment to rage at the ESPN Premier League Fantasy player prices. Who the hell is running this game?? Anybody? As just one example from the many, look at the price of Phil Jones for $6.0 (speaking of the Joneses, I guess). He appears to be a safe starter for the best team in the Premier League, has played the full 90 minutes in each of the past three games, has two clean sheets in those three, and in the most recent game got an assist and displayed some attacking dribble skills that rivaled most midfielders. He's a double-threat for a fantasy fullback - can rack up clean sheets for a top squad, and can come forward and attack and get bonus points that way. He currently has the 11th-most points at that position in ESPN fantasy. ESPN, WHY DOES HE COST ONLY $6.0?! That is cheaper than the cost of such immortal defenders as Fulham's Brede Hangeland and Everton's Phil Jagielka. Jones' teammate in the backfield, Chris Smalling, costs $6.5 even though he was benched in the most recent game but Jones was not. Also David Silva still costs only $7.0, which I think is just about the funniest thing I've ever seen in any salary game. Great work, ESPN.

Anyway, until Rooney and Aguero cost $20 and $15, respectively, you need to keep them in as your strikers. For your 3rd you might have some flexibility, although to me it really comes down to Luis "Anne Hathaway" 'Suarez' Suarez or Javier Cheech & Chong Hernandez. Sure there are other good strikers in the league, but the others seem MUCH more volatile in terms of appearances and performances than those two.

Any other EPL fantasy thoughts? What other salaries by ESPN that are particularly heinous?

Music Tuesdays - Perth by Bon Iver

Another song from the recent Bon Iver album, which I've enjoyed quite a bit. If you didn't like any of the previous Bon Iver songs, don't bother listening to this one (Aaron).


The first game of the season was yesterday and I couldn't be more excited. I mean, it's one NFL team playing another NFL team. There's a pretty good chance I would have watched the game, no matter who was on the schedule. But the fact that it was the last two Super Bowl Champions made it all that much more enticing. I have a standard policy that any time there is a relevant untimed down, it was probably a great game. But that's not really the point of this post. I'll get to all the week 1 predictions later. Today I'm giving a quick hit on every team in the league. I will probably end up focusing on which teams have new quarterbacks and head coaches and which players I like from a fantasy perspective. Now, based on my random number generator, I will be starting with the AFC North.

Packers vs. Saints

Tomorrow I'm going to have a NFL season preview AND a week 1 predictions. But I want to get my Packers (-4) pick published tonight. The Super Bowl champ at home, week 1 with the fans all excited. Should be a good game, but I think the Packers take it.

For more detailed analysis, I think both teams have great quarterbacks, but the Packers have a better defense. I like to look at interceptions and I think Brees is more likely to throw more interceptions than Aaron Rodgers.
Bold prediction: Ryan Grant and James Starks both score touchdowns for the Packers.