Who's the best team in football/who would you would bet on to win the upcoming Super Bowl would be a fun, hours-long discussion that would never find a clear winner.
Exactly a month ago, the matter had already been resolved – The Patriots were going to go 16–0. A threat to the undefeated Miami Dolphins of yesteryear...that was until they lost their very first game of the season. Now they've lost again falling to 2-2 this season…tied with the NY Jets, just like we all predicted, right? They are a Brandon Cooks miracle catch/footwork from being 1–3 and in last place in the AFC East…with all the losses coming at home.
Something ain't right with the Patriots.
Something ain't right with the Patriots. Something ain't right with Seattle. Something ain't right with the Packers. Something ain't right with the Falcons. The Steelers don't look like world beaters. Dallas is losing to good teams left and right. Oakland is a fraud. Tennessee just embarrassed themselves. Most everything we thought would be or could be great…isn't great.
Buffalo, Philadelphia, the L.A. Rams are out of fast starts – but does anyone seriously believe any of them will win the Super Bowl?
Denver looks pretty good but held off last minute drives to be 3–1 instead of 1-3.
Kansas City is the obvious choice for 'best team in football' – but what happens if they get knocked out by Washington tonight? Then all of the top contenders will have fallen, shown a weakness.
Which circles us back to the Patriots. What's wrong with the Patriots? And don't you think in the back of your mind that they'll figure it out and make a run anyway?
It's a fantasy football lesson as well as an NFL one…
We all secretly think the Patriots will get it together and make a run at the Super Bowl. Why? Because they're the Patriots – they have Tom Brady. We assume Bill Belichick will mastermind changes to fix a leaky defense and somewhere around mid-season they'll reel off 7–8 wins in a row and will be back to the old Patriots. Don't you think that? In a year of non-dominant teams, a path to the title is -- hanging in there early on, figuring out your assets and liabilities, and fixing the liabilities a piece at a time so that you could push ahead of the contenders to get to the prize at the end.
I just defined the fantasy football plan for many 2017 title runs among those reading this.
Just like in the NFL, there are no dominant fantasy football teams – all of you that I've built a great dynasty squad over the years using some of our scouting…you lost David Johnson. I could list others we've/you've lost. Just when we think we've got it all figured out, an injury out of nowhere happens. An offensive line injury affects our running back or quarterback. It's becoming a very strange fantasy year riddled with injuries to key players – and they seem to be happening more and more in-game ruining scoring potential week to week.
So how do you overcome it?
You overcome it the way the Patriots are going to. You keep making assessments weekly/daily, you keep making adjustments, and some of those adjustments are going to be lineup changes and others will be full roster changes. You'll see the Patriots grab some nondescript player from another team and we'll all in unison say, "There goes Belichick being a genius again." He'll trade an icon at almost the perfect time – and everyone will freak out because of the name value but in reality it was near perfect timing for a bold move…sometimes maybe a hair early, but definitely the right move. Remember how much losing Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins was going to destroy them? They don't call them the defending Super Bowl champions for nothing. They overcame them just fine. How are Arizona and Cleveland doing with them?
We thought the path to the Patriots winning the Super Bowl was them assembling an All-Star team of player names we loved and that they would go 16–0. In reality, they are 2–2 right now and not even in first place in their division…and maybe you are the same in fantasy. The Patriots are going to have to make adjustments and turn their roster and possibly flirt with a .500 record for a few more weeks until they spin the Rubik's cube in all the right directions and take off.
That's our lot in life in fantasy football 2017 if we've taken on various injuries, etc. The beauty of this game we call fantasy – moments like this. Capturing the elusive greased pig. Figuring out how to outsmart the crowd when you've taken a momentary setback via injury, etc.
We are not going to win every week no matter how brilliantly we planned. Marcus Mariota pulled a hamstring midgame this week – and it could ruin everything for a win for you this week; the best-laid plans of mice and men. We have to do what the Patriots are doing in the midst of the storm – acquire talent/acquire depth and keep making adjustments and figure out which icons are secretly killing us/are wildly overvalued, and what young/other players are being overlooked that we can snag from other teams.
Bill Belichick is not going to go out and make a trade for Odell Beckham or whatever other big-name player might make a difference in tabloid headlines. What Belichick is going to do is go out and find value at a discounted price – trying to plug up the unplanned holes and buy time in-season to eventually figure out his best starting lineups and roster. It might be a few more wins and losses, hovering around .500 until he figures it out. You won't see him panicking. You shouldn't panic either.
If you're 1–3 now, you're probably only one game away from the 2-2 playoff spot team. One game out with like nine weeks to go. Why are you depressed? If you're heading towards 0-4 but have a decent enough team, just some bad schedule or sit/start luck, etc. – a win next week get to the 1–4 and the final playoff spot in your league might be 2-3…even if it is 3-2 you're only two games behind with like eight weeks remaining. The season is not over in fantasy football 2017 because 2017 is the year of the adjusters. There are no dominant teams.
The person with Kareem Hunt that sitting fat/dumb/happy is probably going to get their legs clipped out from under them soon enough. Even if you're 4-0, you need to keep churning as if you're 1-3. You may have lucked out on injuries to this point… but it probably means your luck is going to run out.
2017 is going to be won by the fantasy GMs that read the tea leaves more correctly than others and make the quickest/smartest adjustments, mixed with a little bit of luck. Which is exactly the way the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl this year… It just doesn't seem like it now, but we all know it's coming. You have to treat your fantasy football team the same way. Perpetual domination is just the silly advertising fantasy marketers use the push fantasy products. It's not reality. We need to adjust our way to the to the playoffs sometimes. We need to take losses and not panic about it on our way to the title. The champion in your league this year is not going to be the person with Kareem Hunt or Todd Gurley…it's going to be with a player(s) we don't even see coming and they probably won't arrive for a few more weeks.
Don't give up – we've only just begun. It's all about adjusting and what the rosters going to look like in a few weeks not what it appears to look like right now. Stay chasing a playoff spot if you’re down, and act like you are if you are up right now – take advantage of the panickers, don’t be the panicker taken advantage of.
The "Patriots Way."
So, what's the deal with the Patriots? They're bottom 10 in sacks by the defense and bottom 10 in Brady getting sacked. In a league where the line play creates gods or destroys them at the skill positions – the Patriots are suddenly human. I've seen this story before though. A tweak here, a change there, a free agent grab and a trade for someone's bench player…and suddenly the Patriots are 'fixed'. The talent is here, in theory, but something is off right now. We celebrate all the 'changes' the Patriots made but I see cornerbacks miscommunicating on coverages, and Brandin Cooks not connecting with Tom Brady at all…Brady still leans Gronk-Amendola-White and now Hogan (where Hogan wasn't connecting at first either). Where has the big name, established player joined new club worked? Terrelle Pryor? Brandon Marshall? Ted Ginn? Adrian Peterson? Jordan Matthews? Sammy Watkins? Latavius Murray? Marshawn Lynch? Memo to self for next year…
It's not 'new surroundings', I don't think. Because why is it that rookies walk right and take over? The changing of the guard…the college players so far advanced over their predecessors may be more here/arrived than even I realized.
Carolina didn’t luck their way into this win. They were lucky to have won in the end, but they dominated, to a degree, most of this game. No one is afraid of the Patriots anymore. Hell, they made Devin Funchess look like a great WR! Carolina led 17-16 at the half. Led 30-16 at one point. The Patriots, as they do, stormed back with Brady miracles…it was 30-30 with two minutes left. Carolina's ball and it was quickly 3rd & 7 – and then the Patriots sacked Cam and stole total momentum…and then a flag. A touchy defensive holding on a Pats DB reversed the 3rd-down stop and the momentum. Carolina got into a long FG position and hit it at the buzzer.
New England is going to keep giving up 30+ points a game and scoring 30+ and playing in shootouts until they get their defense back in order. Once they figure out how to get the defense to hold teams under 30, that's all it takes, then the Patriots will reel off a bunch of wins. This is a defense that led the league in lowest PPG allowed last year – it's not like we're talking about the Colts or Packers defense here. This is a top defense from 2016 that added more pieces in 2017.
New England is allowing 32.0 PPG and scoring 32.5 PPG on the season.
Last season -- 27.6 scored per game, 15.6 PPG allowed. The offense is working, the defense not yet.
Fantasy player notes…
-- I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into Devin Funchess's (7-70-2/9) performance here. The Patriots are allowing teams huge passing days every week. It's a Patriots thing more than a Funchess-Cam thing.
-- The Patriots did focus on Christian McCaffrey (6-16-0, 4-33-0/6) which was smart, but the Panthers were smarter by using him more as bait that the Patriots took.
It also shows the Panthers can win without McCaffrey as any type of lead guy…which means the mystique is quickly wearing off 'every touch to McCaffrey' for the Carolina O-C…which means your McCaffrey stock is nowhere near worth what you paid for it a month or so ago. He still has the name, so I'd try to sell it if you could get a strong RB1.5+ value. You don’t have to dump, but the hype bubble on him is/has burst. He's just a man who is not any better than James White (1-7-0, 10-47-0/12) or others of that same ilk.
In Carolina's three wins this season, McCaffrey has averaged…
9.0 carries, 24.3 yds rushing (2.7 ypc), 4.3 catches for 35.0 yds receiving and no TDs (5.9 FF PPG, 10.2 PPR).
His 10-catch game came in their lone loss.
James White's 2017 YTD:
4.5 carries, 15.8 yds rushing (3.5 ypc), 5.5 catches for 43.3 yds receiving and no TDs (5.9 FF PPG, 11.4 PPR)
-- Brandin Cooks (1-4-0, 3-38-0/6) is not really working full capacity right now. I think it's going to eventually but it's not clicking yet. There are little flickers of hope but nothing special yet. The targeting is not there – 7-4-7-6 targets in his first four games, 6.0 targets per game. That's not a special connection. That's not going to help push Cooks to top 5 at fantasy WR.
Cooks can be a WR1 on those limited targets because of what he does with them. He was a top 5-6 WR for fantasy YTD after Week 3. When he hits fully…it will be with a flourish.
I couldn’t tell you not to trade him. And I wouldn’t stop you from buying low. I think everyone loves the name and is hoping for the same turn so there's usually not a deal to be had. Even if you get him now…it may be weeks before 'the turn'. You'll have to be patient and not hopscotch him in out of the lineup. If you don’t have the time or constitution for patience right now…trading him now to not have to wait isn’t crazy.
I'll just say this will 'hit' at some point and it will be glorious but, and Cooks will wind up a WR1 but it's going to be a tricky ride of wild scoring swings to get there.
-- I'm not having the debate on QBs worth redrafting/dynasty drafting in the first-round argument ever again – the elite ones are worth it and I refuse to think otherwise, as I have for a few years now. It's not a feeling it's a mathematical and circumstantial fact.
Tom Brady has 10 TDs/0 INTs and 349.8 passing yards per game. About 29 PPG in 6pts per pass TD leagues. Three of 4 games over 300+ passing so far. Mostly matchup proof and less likely to get injured of any RB-WR-TE you could compare.
No matter what happens with your team at not-QB, injury, etc. – you’re always in it/have time to course correct all the other positions (including my great Patriots DST suggestion preseason) with Brady-Rodgers as your QB.
You can give up the ghost on the Pats defense. They are going from bad to worse right now. At some point down the road, they will a defense we'll be touting because 'fixed', but not now. It looks totally discombobulated right now. So run away and never speak of it again…until a few weeks from now.
-- Kyle Van Noy (8 tackles, 1.0 sacks) continues to become one of the MVPs of this bad Patriots defense –7.3 tackles per game in 2017, and just added his first sack. His upside is that he can rush the passer. His other upside is the Patriots are giving up a lot of plays/opportunities for Van Noy to make tackles.