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Fantasy-Dynasty Game Recap 2016-17 Playoffs: Steelers v. Patriots

Date:
January 16, 2018 1:51 AM
January 25, 2017 7:48 AM

As I was watching this game unfold and as the Patriots slowly increased their lead step by step – I thought, of course, the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl. Why did I think the Steelers had a chance? I thought that not because the Patriots are a war machine and the Steelers are some kind of inept football team – it hit me that God loves the Patriots and nothing is going to stop them.

One of the main complaints people like me have had about the Patriots is what an easy schedule the Patriots faced this year. How fortuitous the schedule went for them. (And know that I would consider the Patriots my favorite team in football…if I had a favorite team…and I’m just talking the team I most admire in terms of how they’re run). I complained about their strength/ease of schedule despite being on their side.

The Patriots drew the Steelers in the regular season…and, of course, Big Ben was hurt and didn’t play.

For their end-of-the-season game, of course, Miami lost its starting quarterback, center, and cornerback.

The Raiders were hot on the Patriots’ heels for potentially stealing the #1 seed – so, of course, Derek Carr is suddenly done for the season with an injury a couple weeks before the season ends.

Worried about Houston in the first round of the playoffs? That’s OK. The only thing the Texans had going for them was the possibility Tom Savage had a breakthrough, confusing the Patriots because of the lack of tape on him – plus he’s the more talented quarterback on the Texans. What happened? Savage suffers a concussion and cannot be ready in time for the first playoff game so the Patriots get Brock Osweiler, again.

The Steelers were rolling with a big win streak into this playoff game against the Patriots. Perhaps it was going to be the Steelers time. No worries for New England. The Steelers’ best player, who carried them on their win streak, gets hurt early in the game and never returns. For good measure, let’s make sure the Steelers get a touchdown pass early on to pull themselves back into the game – but then it’s reversed upon further review, and then they can’t score from one foot away (because their best player/RB was hurt). Also, so as not to take any chances at a Steelers comeback, when Tom Brady fumbles a quarterback sneak and replays show that his fumble was recovered by the Steelers – the call is NOT reversed under further review. A key turnover and shifting momentum that was starting to rise up with Pittsburgh was taken away quickly without fanfare on that Brady nonfumble.

You can’t beat the Patriots.

Teams should just give up trying.

I fully expect pianos to fall on the heads of both Matt Ryan and Julio Jones during Super Bowl week. Separate incidents, because together would be too statistically probable…both gone way too soon via piano moving mishap. If not that, then I’m sure there is some quicksand they will fall into and never be seen again. While everyone else is arguing X’s & O’s and matchups with the Patriots and Falcons, I’m not even doing any commentary – I’m just picking the Patriots in any game for the rest of my life as long as Belichick and Brady are together. Logical arguments have no need in my life when it comes to the Patriots.

The Patriots were 13–3–0 against the spread in 2016…15–3–0 when you consider the two playoff games.

 

— This might’ve been the Steelers’ last best chance for a while to win a Super Bowl. Pittsburgh feels like a franchise that is like that buccaneer ride at an amusement park – that one where the giant ship swings back and forth like a giant pendulum. It feels like the Steelers hit their highest point in the 2016 season, are hanging in midair, and now they are about to slowly descend back the other direction…turning into a rapid drop in a few years.

I believe this descent is coming because I think we’re starting to see the gradual decline of Ben Roethlisberger (31-47 for 314 yards, 1 TD/1 INT). If there’s any quarterback that’s not going to age gracefully, it’s probably Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have done absolutely nothing as a Plan B to get ready for when the Big Ben drop hits…and it may be right around the corner.

I went heavy on Roethlisberger for fantasy in 2016 because it looked like they were committed to an offense that just wanted to score 30+ points a game and make you beat them in a shootout. As soon as the opportunity presented itself midseason they quickly became an all-run game attack. Smartly so, given their running back and offensive line. It’s wasn’t good for fantasy football purposes with Ben as the season wore on.

Referencing that pendulum swing and hanging in midair – I feel like that sensation is moving faster with Ben Roethlisberger’scareer just in the 2016 season. To start the year, the amusement ride with Ben seemed like it was racing to the edge taking us higher and higher – Roethlisberger was putting up huge numbers early in the season (15 TD passes in the first five games with three 300+ yard efforts). And then he got hurt, and we all were stuck in midair with no more momentum to go higher. Then the Steelers discovered again that they can win running Le’Veon Bell 30 times, and that pirate ship was in fantasy free fall. Just 17 TD passes in his last 12 games (including the playoffs). Ben threw for less than 225 yards in a game in five of his last nine games.

I don’t think Ben Roethlisberger is washed up, but there is a huge risk that he turns back into the Joe Flacco-like production numbers he has put up for most of his career, barring one or two terrific stretches. It’s not a talent thing as much as an offensive philosophy thing.

I think the talent degradation is starting to become a debate point as well. I noted it a few times during the season – Ben doesn’t look very good, not very precise. Too many times he was sloppy and taking too many risks on throws – several near/dropped interceptions. In his last six games, he has thrown for 7 TDs/9 INTs. When the offense is freewheeling it’s exciting to watch Ben go to work, but as the offense has become less radical and more run-oriented – Ben’s throws just seemed head-scratching the last half of the 2016 season.

Ben makes $18M+ in 2017 and $23M+ in 2018. I’m not sure we’ll see 2018 with Ben in the NFL. Heck, we may not see him in 2017…he’s been hinting at retirement, which means he’s been thinking about it. I wouldn’t want in on a guy for 2017 fantasy with one foot out the door.

There’s only one thing that would reignite my excitement about Ben Roethlisberger for Fantasy 2017+, and that is…

 

— Will Le’Veon Bell be back with the Steelers in 2017?

Early in the 2016 season, I would’ve said no. NFL teams are ridiculous to build their offenses around and chew up big payroll on a running back. It’s even dumber to do so if that running back has a history of poor choices including a failed drug test and suspensions for just blown-off/skipped drug tests. The Steelers are too smart for that, right?

The Steelers just had a gun put to their head by Le’Veon Bell in 2016. He went from a guy who is a great part of the ensemble offense to being the main thing that leads their offense. The thing defenses are scared of the most. The Steelers can have an entire off-season consoling themselves that they would’ve beat the Patriots if Bell had not gotten hurt (they will say this in their mind, whether true or not). The easy thing to do is to franchise-tag Bell and give it a go for one more run in 2017 – keep the same offensive structure and hope your defense matures. If it doesn’t work in 2017, then get ready to blow the whole thing up in 2018…and let Bell walk.

I think the Steelers are going to put a lot of chips on the 2017 season, signing a bunch of veterans to one-year deals or players to back-end-loaded contracts to go all in on 2017. If/when that doesn’t work, they’ll be forced to blow the entire thing up in 2018 – including Mike Tomlin getting canned. 2017 is the go-for-it season and 2018 is the nuclear option to go into a valley of darkness for a few years.

Assuming Bell is back in 2017, just for the one year, and he’s not suspended for more drug problems, then you can’t like Ben Roethlisberger for fantasy 2017. You sure hate Ben’s 2018+ outlook because of age and the condition of his body. The guy has been hurt quite a bit the last few seasons…and he comes back fast, but it has to be taking a toll.

Ben Roethlisberger might quickly become Philip Rivers for fantasy, a more injury-prone version of Rivers…a fantasy QB you get excited about for a few weeks and then not…and who drives you crazy trying to stream him week to week.

If Bell leaves, for whatever reason…it could be back to freewheeling, gun slinging Ben and his 300+ yards games and 2-3+ TDs per contest with Antonio Brown racking up crazy numbers. The only way I want Ben for fantasy 2017 is if Le’Veon is gone.

 

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— Has Chris Hogan (9-180-2/12 targets) arrived? Probably not.

You know I’m a fan of Hogan and have been so for years. However, why would I believe that Hogan would go from 4+/- catches on 4–5 targets for 20–40 yards per game (like in most games with Brady)…with occasional pops to 100+ yards and an occasional TD…and now this one big playoff game erases all that? It’s like when Martellus Bennett had the 3 TD game soon after Gronk got hurt…and everyone went wild for him in fantasy, and then Bennett fell off the face of the earth, statistically. Hogan is really good, but I don’t think there are the makings of a fantasy star here – a better pro than fantasy asset.

I hope I’m wrong, but all year it’s been ‘good’/OK/not noticeable with Hogan. Malcolm Mitchell was a rookie and came on with a frenzy with Tom Brady while Hogan was in the backdrop midseason…and that momentum got derailed when Mitchell got nicked up late in the season.

I love Hogan, but I don’t think this was an announcement of his arrival as Brady BFF and budding fantasy producer. He’s good. Let’s leave it at that for now. I don’t rule out an uptick for Hogan, but I’m not sold on it yet.

 

— On Monday of this week, Colin Cowherd discussed an interesting twist on the Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo future…

Colin has been discussing the possibility that Bill Belichick might move on from Brady if there is a sense he is in age-related decline. That the team could put their fate in Garoppolo’s hands…because a major decision on it would have to be made after 2017 when Jimmy G. becomes a free agent. Colin thinks Belichick would entertain a shift away from Brady if warranted – and it makes sense if a Brady tail-off happens, and at Brady’s age, these things happen quickly with QBs. So far it hasn’t.

However, I am moving into the camp that Belichick will not replace Brady. I believe he’ll go as long and far as Brady wants to go. In fact, I subscribe to the theory floated on Colin’s show Monday: Brady and Belichick are going to ride off into the sunset together. When Brady is done…Belichick will retire as well.

What does Belichick have to gain by hanging around longer? He’s got plenty of money. He’s going to go down as the greatest coach ever. He could walk away on top and enjoy his life. He could stay in football as an advisor if he wanted. I think Belichick is going to ride Brady to the end…and then ‘poof’ they’ll both be gone.

If that’s true, don’t you think Belichick will trade Garoppolo this offseason? Never.

Why would he? Garoppolo is more valuable as an insurance chip for 2017. He’ll give JG a franchise tag in 2018 if needed. By the end of 2018, it should/could be the end of the Patriots dynasty with Belichick and Brady. Belichick can hand off the team to his successor and hand that person Garoppolo as well, and ride off into the sunset.

Why not trade Garoppolo for draft picks then…if it’s all about ‘the now’? Why would Belichick do that? So he can draft a quarterback for the future? So he can get great prospects? The draft is filled with great prospects in the middle rounds, plus other teams just hand Belichick guys like Eric Rowe and Kyle Van Noy and Jabaal Sheard…so why sweat the hit-and-miss draft process? Just pick up Dion Lewis off the scrap heap, make him viable, and move on. You don’t need first round picks to build a war machine in the NFL. The almighty top pick in drafts is a media and fanboy’s philosophy. The best players in most drafts are in rounds 2–5, in my book. Belichick doesn’t need 1st round picks. He needs a Brady insurance chip and future replacement…he has that in Garoppolo.

Garoppolo stays, wasting his career (to a degree) on the bench in New England. Brady runs ’til he’s dry and then he and Belichick leave at the same time. The end of 2018 is the likely target date of my theory – and all new Patriots in 2019.

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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is a fantasy football player analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics and College Football Metrics. 

Email rc4metrics@gmail.com

Learn more about RC and the Fantasy Football Metrics system >>