"These are the picks you're looking for," as a character in the popular movie "Star Wars" movie franchise once said. Also seriously there are fantasy picks in here.
Photo by Jim Steve-USA TODAY Sports
Star Wars: The Big Film (I believe I have that title right) hits theaters this weekend, which if you happen to be in the niche subset of "all the people living in America" is kind of a huge deal. Whether or not the movie turns out to be great—it is by all indications at least good—a vast swath of fully grown adults on this planet are anxiously awaiting, if not preparing elaborate costumes for, its impending release.
Who could blame the fans, really? There are few things more vital to the human experience than escapism, and if hundreds of faceless aliens congregating in an auditorium of pods to debate tariffs isn't exhilarating enough for you to momentarily forget that your health-care premium went up by 50 percent this year and your knee feels like Dwayne Johnson has been whaling on it with a Stratocaster, well buddy, Point Break is one theater over. It's the new one, though. Sorry.
What we don't discuss very often when these billion-dollar tentpole features get IMAXXED the hell out is: How did we get here, to the place where the seventh iteration of an objectively stupid children's novelty is the most glamorous event of the year? How is it that parents (i.e., grown-ups) are making plans to otherwise occupy their progeny so that they might spend the evening with a bandolier-clad shag rug and a crew of distressingly verbose space wranglers? Whatever happened to drinking a lot and dying in your 50s?
Daily Fantasy Sports
Things that are ostensibly for children yet beloved by adults are terribly en vogue right now, for whatever reason, and as long as DraftKings and FanDuel stay legal, their particular brand of perverted fantasy sports will remain atop the heap. It's one thing to be able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make a movie; it's quite another to be able to just give that much dough away to schlubs with credit cards.
Daily Fantasy is a lottery ticket, as we've said many times, but it's a little bit more than that. When we plunk down our whatever dollars and pick Rob Gronkowski to outscore 36,000 other Rob Gronkowskis yet again, we're not just imagining a world in which we win the jackpot or some nice dinner money. We're also enjoying acting like kids again for a few hours, forgetting about which pharmaceutical company CEO got arrested today or, more relevantly, how terrible this particular sport is to its athletes. For a while, we can naively imagine the players are just numbers on a page, and that the good guys (us) will always win. Even if it takes nine movies.
Last Week's Fistpumps and Faceplants
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers - 13.68pts, 19th QB -
Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars - 27.7pts, 3rd QB +++
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers - 23.00pts, 9th QB ++
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers - 23.1pts, 5th RB ++
Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins - 20.9pts, 6th RB ++
LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills - 14.9pts, 12th RB +
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos - 13.1pts, 18th RB +
Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, Giants - 38.6pts, 1st WR +++
Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers - 5.5pts, 68th WR --
Cecil Shorts III, WR, Texans - 2.9pts, his actual ranking isn't important—what matters is that he outscored Dez Bryant by a point
Obviously, I get a prorated amount of credit for the ODB selection, since dude could score a touchdown in the stadium from The Dark Knight Rises, and all three Cecil Shorts combined to give me marginally more than zippity dip. Still, there's a handful of goodies up there at a variety of price points, which looks like a win to me.
More important, the theory of the Costanza Method continues to make headway even as its most infamous (only) practitioner drops the dang baton over and over. Take a look at the top performers at the running back position this past weekend:
Doesn't that make you want to tear your hair out? Imagine showing this to the version of yourself from August of this year, while you prepared to draft your yearlong fantasy team. Would you recognize it as a listing of the best running backs in football, or would you think the GOP debate undercard looked a little bloated? Tim Hightower is on this list, for crying out loud! That is the ultimate "zag," man. If even seven days ago you had asked me whether or not Hightower was still in the league, I probably would have blurted out, "Of Extraordinary Gentlemen?" Tim Hightower last scored an NFL touchdown in the year when Nickelodeon debuted Gak.
Look, our objective here is to train you to think outside the box when you're setting your lineup, but it ain't Schrödinger's Box. There's a limit, I'm saying, to even the nontraditional prognosticating we advocate over here. Don't beat yourself up for not drafting Denard Robinson, please. That's not your fault.
A.J. McCarron, QB, Bengals - $5,400
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers - $7,400
Rodgers has not been worth his premium very often this year, if at all, and the $400 he will cost you over Palmer and Wilson seems plainly stupid in light of his shortcomings. Stupid like a fox, ideally.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons - $5,700
This is a lost season for the Falcons and that goes double for Ryan, who has dragged an offense with Julio Jones down to 24th in Team DVOA with all the composure of a cat trying to get out of the bathtub. If he can't throw against Jacksonville, who are every bit as thrilling on defense as they are on offense, then he might be a write-off.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons - $7,500
The market remains uncorrected!
Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins - $6,300
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos - $4,300
Coming off a terrible game, facing an even better defense, with a healthier backup in C.J. Anderson, I love Hillman this week as the ultimate contrarian pick.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans - $8,500
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals - $7,300
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars - $7,600
Look, I don't claim to know which Allen is the better receiver in Jacksonville. All I know is, they aren't Justin Blackmon, and so I've probably got time to learn. Robinson (and Hurns, for that matter) has the ideal matchup this week against the Falcons, a defense that DraftKings has inexplicably ranked as the second most difficult to face for wide receivers, but is by more objective measures actually quite terrible. Guess which number the rubes will be using, and which number the very smart and attractive readers of this column will use? (Hint: They are not the same number.)
All my teams are still alive this week, which is terrific and not at all burdensome. I hope you all are still making lineup decisions, as well, and did not mistakenly sign up for a league that only allows four playoff teams or plays in Week 17.
We are coming to the part of the season I call "The Old Guy's Mouth," because while I can't make you give it your attention, you really should, and it wouldn't take that much of your time. The benefits (oral healthfulness, championship bragging rights) far outweigh the costs of your slightly increased vigilance (mouthwash kinda stings, fingers can get tired from dragging and dropping), so the only excuse for not improving your playoff lot is laziness. As you are most likely part of the generation being constantly accused of slothful incompetence by the folks who have turned "Merry Christmas" from a lovely sentiment into a thinly veiled threat, you are probably a little sensitive to being called lazy.
So let's brush our teeth, shall we? Your call-ups:
Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
T.J. Yates, QB, Texans
The ESPN rankers seem to have caught on to the fact that Bortles, Fitzpatrick, & Co. are actually good now, somehow, so I'm going to stop banging that drum. I'm going to bang Alex Smith instead, mostly because I have made a poor choice in metaphors and I don't believe in the backspace key.
I am actually depending on Alex Smith this week in a two-QB, two-week championship round, and although it's due to a spate of injuries and not simply poor drafting, I am starting to understand why an NFL team might employ him. His flaws are obvious—too conservative, can't pull off a turtleneck—and as a result, the things he does very well are often overshadowed. I'm very happy to have him, though, and while some of that may be because Cam Newton is my other starting QB in this league, I am nevertheless very comforted by Smith's high floor.
Meanwhile, the small-sample-size king T.J. Yates gets an Indianapolis Colts defense that couldn't cover leftovers with a tin foil bazooka. If Alex Smith wrapped his Volvo wagon around a tree going 7 miles under the speed limit on the way to the game, I'd feel fine with either Yates or Cousins. Alex would be fine, too, due to Volvo's best-in-class safety features.
Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs
James Starks, RB, Packers
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns
Starks and Ware, though the latter is injured and very questionable for Sunday, are each just one week removed from being at least the equal of a platoon mate who finds himself ranked in the top 10 among RBs for Week 15. Ware may not play, and Starks may again take his higher-than-Eddie-Lacy's YPA and plop down on the bench for 50 snaps, but in the right situation it's worth the gamble that these guys draw the long straw. Crowell, for his part, is coming off an incredible performance in which he outrushed the entire league. Ho-hum!
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs
Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars
Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
Golden Tate, WR, Lions
It is actually possible that the Saints are no longer defending against the pass. According to Football Outsiders, New Orleans is worse than every other team in the league by a country mile, and only slightly better than two geese stretching a bed sheet vertically over the goal line. Asking the Saints to play pass defense right now is like when we told all those kids in the 1950s to hide under their desks if Russia dropped the bomb. Man, the truth is you're getting vaporized anyway; may as well just go get some Gatorade.
In basketball, teams sometimes adopt a strategy of allowing an entry pass or out of bounds pass because they believe they are better equipped to defend with their full complement of players concentrating on stopping the result. There is a basketball team located in New Orleans, and maybe this is the mix-up. Do the Saints think they are playing basketball? Alternately, do they think that they're better equipped to defend the PAT if they take it easy during the drive? If so, there is a math error there that I believe needs clearing up.
Luckily, Golden Tate is a real math whiz.