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This will be forever known as ‘the Brandin Cooks game‘ for me because I’ve been a massive proponent of Cooks for three years, but then sounded the alarm for trouble a few weeks ago, and then we all saw the zero-target game and crap got real. After a few snooze weeks, Cooks has a career high game this week…and was probably on a lot of FFMers’ benches because of my recommendation. So, between outright angst sent to me after/today and the unspoken outrage of most others…it’s a Brandin Cooks day. I’m going to get into all of that at the end of this after I clear out the other game notes.
As far as the game goes – two of the worst-run, worst-coached teams in the NFL had a game and tried to see which coach had the least amount of players who had effectively quit on them in order to try to beat the other uninspired team this week. The Saints’ superstar QB, and stat whore in meaningless games, prevailed over the other QB who is two games away from retirement.
As far as games go – it was an embarrassment. It was half regular season game, half Pro Bowl/laissez-faire affair. If you have fantasy assets facing either of these two teams next week…play them. These teams’ defenses have rolled over and are awful. This looked like a scrimmage game for the most part.
I think I’m going to sell everything I own and bet on Seattle at home over Arizona next Saturday. I don’t even know what the line is and mostly I don’t care…I’ll pay it. I can’t wait for all the ‘these two teams hate each other‘ stuff to sell viewership of Seattle-Arizona. I’m sure they do hate each other…but one of these teams has a lot to play for and the other has been a joke the entire season and quit on everything weeks ago. The Cards are not going to rise up…just like they didn’t late last year when Seattle humiliated them when Seattle was in a must-win situation and Arizona wasn’t.
Perhaps, you think it’s crass of me to denigrate these coaches because – ‘what do I know’? You’re not 100% wrong on that, except it is my job to understand coaching impact on players and outcomes for fantasy and wagering. I’m a food critic that didn’t wake up decide to be a food critic yesterday. I put in as much work studying as they do every week, and I’ve been doing it for years. One thing I learned – I used to just ‘think’ NFL head coaches were awful, but after years of getting closer to the sun…now, I know they’re awful. They’re not awful humans – actually, some are – but they are just awful at their jobs. That’s not a crime. How many truly great bosses are at your workplace…or have appeared in your lifetime? You’ve had a million teachers in your educational career…how many teachers would you label ‘elite’ at teaching? Go watch the eight-part Amazon documentary on the Arizona Cardinals if you think I’m being too critical. I used to wonder why Pittsburgh just let the ‘genius’ Bruce Arians go. He had that good moment in Indy and then a nice 2016 with Arizona. Now, we know it was a blip…this Cardinals team is melting before our eyes. I think Arians and the GM are still forlorn about settling for David Johnson and not getting the awesome Ameer Abdullah.
First, the non-Cooks stuff…
— I do believe Carson Palmer (28-40 for 318 yards, 2 TD/0 INT) will retire after this season. Several people are speculating the same. I think Bruce Arians may retire as well, for health reasons – and I’m hearing that from sources. Arians probably could be coaxed into one more run if they land Tony Romo, but I think he might retire regardless and go into TV.
If Arians goes – left behind will be a team with no QB and filled with Arians’ needy-children type players. Between him and the GM, they’ve destroyed this team…only, they don’t fully realize it yet. The Cards will hire whomever Arians tells them to, so he’ll bequeath that to long-time trusted assistant Harold Goodwin – or Arians will make a deal to stay one more year with Romo acquired, but with the understanding that it is Goodwin’s team after.
Getting Romo may keep Larry Fitzgerald from retiring for one more year as well.
This Cardinals team is built on quicksand, and might could squeeze a title run in 2017 because of Romo + Fitz + DJ + Patrick Peterson, but likely not. The whole organization is an issue starting with a lapdog GM and desperate-to-be-in-the-cool-kid’s-club Team President/son of the owner. They have lucked into some talent, but they threw it away this year…and I don’t think 2016 is a one-off. It is the new reality. Their 2016 draft was a joke. 2015 would have been if they could have only gotten their hands on Ameer Abdullah.
No Romo, then no Arians, then no Fitzgerald, but with an Arian-ite as the new coach trying to do the same things with a flawed, needy roster outside of a few stand-up men who will want to leave the second they hit free agency – the cupboard is about to become barren and expensive. If you’re an Arizona fan, you might have a ray of light in 2017…but your world is about to go dark for many years after. It will take a few years of post-Arians to clean up the mess being created right now.
— J.J. Nelson (5-38-1/11 targets) is very fast.
J.J. Nelson is an awful wide receiver.
The fact that Nelson is like a #2 WR for Arizona shows the issues with this team. They were ridiculous to pick up Michael Floyd’s(or draft him in the first place) extra year in 2016. They were silly to release him because now the Patriots will keep him, and then let him go via free agency…AND THE PATRIOTS WILL GET A COMPENSATORY DRAFT PICK whenever Jacksonville, Cleveland, Buffalo, or Arizona signs Floyd as a free agent. Basically, the Patriots got a free mid-draft draft pick adding Floyd for a few weeks (if I understand what will happen properly).
I don’t know why Arizona didn’t just de-activate Floyd the final games or suspend him…then let him walk and get the compensatory pick? Someone correct me if I am off on my understanding of the rules.
Back to J.J. Nelson…
4 TDs in his last three games. He’s a poor man’s Taylor Gabriel…except Gabriel is a good WR and Nelson stinks. JJN is only good for the occasional surprise deep ball or end-around. He’s thin-framed/fragile with small/poor hands. His speed is an asset, but his hands and skills are a liability. In this game, he blew past coverage (as most every WR did in this game) and was blazing down the sideline open by 5+ yards. Palmer hit him right on the money, right in stride. Nelson let it clank off his chest and blew a 60+ yard TD…what would have been his second in the game. I actually used Nelson over Cooks in some spots this week…and that catch/score could have taken the sting out of the Cooks performance on my bench.
This game was a good matchup for Arizona’s pass game. Next week, not so much. Different animal in Seattle. Palmer is not going to have time waiting for Nelson to sprint deep, and Seattle has better cover guys all over. The recent good times with Nelson likely halt for a week in Week 16.
— OK, Brandin Cooks (7-186-2/8 targets).
To the folks in a quiet rage because they sat him on my advice – no apologies. Zip. Zero. Nada. I feel really bad. Hell, I play this game too…it cost me several wins because that’s a crazy amount of points I left on the bench. I don’t want any of us to lose. You have my sympathies. I’m pissed, but I’m not sorry for my wrong projection.
Who was playing Cooks with confidence this week? The fact that it was a question for you or me means…’it was in question‘. Why was it ‘in question‘? Because five of the previous six Cooks’ FF performances before this were ‘meh’. In PPR numbers Cooks had 12-19-12-0-14-11 (8.3 PPR PPG) scoring the last six games before this one. I believed Patrick Peterson would be on him, which would shut him down…on top of the saga/soap opera that has been unfolding with Cooks and the teams the past few weeks. If you think this big stat game solves the soap opera issues…you didn’t watch the game. I’ll explain in a moment.
The Cardinals started out with Peterson on Cooks…and that meant nothing for Cooks – just as I planned. Barely a look from Brees. Then mid-second quarter, Peterson led Cooks into the safeties, who didn’t pick up the coverage, and Cooks went wide open for his first long score. Cooks went on to make three big plays – when Peterson was off of him…because Arizona’s coaches are geniuses. Actually, they might have been gambling that Cooks was in a doghouse, and thus felt OK with Peterson on the far inferior Michael Thomas…or Arizona just buys the media con on Thomas, like they do with their own albatross Tyrann Mathieu. Either way, Cooks had a field day. More wide open than he has been all year on a handful of occasions. When you aren’t smart enough or talented enough as a defense to cover Cooks…especially after he burns you – this Cardinals’ team is hopelessly bad or gloriously stupid. Either way – bet on Seattle next week, and bet on Tyler Lockett having a similar day as Peterson covers Doug Baldwin.
Many of us had options we thought could equal/beat Cooks this week. Hell, Cooks has been getting a mediocre/decent 11–14 PPR points in games for the most part…I was trying to beat that. I could not have scouted or guessed this to be a Cooks’ explosion game no more than predicting Matt Moore as the #1–2 QB for fantasy in Week 15.
I’m sad we all got burned yet again by Cooks…zero points a few weeks ago, when we needed him, and a million points on our bench this week. I’m sad and mad, but keeping it in perspective. No one could see this happening from a guy under 75 yards in seven of his last eight games before Week 15…against what was the #1 rated pass defense in the league. When you have extra talent on your fantasy roster, sometimes you’ll sit/start the wrong talent. It happens…just a painful week for it to happen. It’s a negative ‘creative memory’ you’ll have of this 2016 season…for some who lost, where Cooks could have helped you win. These things happen when you have a lot of talent and are in one-week all-or-nothing playoff games. It’s the beauty and tragedy of fantasy. Just like the real game. Regret and sadness are a part of running a football team.
OK, all the emotional stuff aside. I had to address it because I feel it 100x more than you know. Cooks has been ‘my guy’ for years. Defending him for years. Taking/pushing you to take him higher than his ADP for years. I benched him in several spots and it cost me, plus it looks like 50-50 win percentages in playoffs for FFM’ers this year (which is way down off last year’s monumental Week 15). I got accustomed to so much playoff winning last year that even Donald Trump was sick of it. I’m sick to my stomach over the losses for me and for everyone who had a potential win on the bench with Cooks. I’ve got your pain and my pain wrapped up in a nice holiday package to chew on during the ‘happiest time of the year’. Not so happy today. You know how it is in fantasy – Can’t enjoy the wins, ever, and belabor the losses for years. The life and times of a gambler. But there is juicy stuff we need to get into on the Cooks drama…
Let me just hit you with some of my notes, in order, I had from the Cooks-centric re-viewing…
Kinda quiet for targets again. One target, first quarter. One target in the second quarter until the lightning strike, wide-open TD with 6+ minutes left in the second quarter. Until that TD we had Cooks as ‘just a guy’ in the offense again. Part of that was Brees avoiding him due to Patrick Peterson. But then the TD…
Cooks scores his first TD, and there is barely a celebration in the end zone. Note that Cooks scored a 65-yard TD…he’s 50-60-70+ yards further downfield than everyone post-score. Tim Hightower is the only one who (I see) goes down, that I can see, to greet him and slap his helmet in congratulations. The camera cuts to Brees racing to the sidelines getting hugs and high/low fives from several players. I’m not sure Brees and Cooks made contact on the sidelines after the score. Very odd, but not crazy. Cooks seems to me to either be isolating himself from the team a bit…or has built that lonely island over time and no one knows the depth of it.
A few minutes later, Cooks drags across the middle and catches a pass and leaves Mathieu in the dust (because Mathieu is so awesome) and runs untouched for a 45-yard TD. His second TD in four minutes. This time, more people go down to celebrate with Cooks and Brees does too for a moment. All seems ‘better’. After the replay, the camera cuts to Cooks sitting on the bench looking like an MMA fighter about begin a fight. He looks like…I don’t know how to describe it. The announcers say “look how focused.” I’m not sure what Cooks was doing, but he had a crazed/odd look as he sat and stared at the ground (post second TD). A few players came up to him, as he sat with his head down, and they were jawing and whooping it up (in a good way). Including Mark Ingram jawing the most (remember this moment for later in the story). I mean, Ingram is going nuts in Cooks’ ear…as Cooks just sits on the bench ‘brooding’ (is all I can think of)…brooding like Mr. T in Rocky III (was that the right one? I’m not looking it up). Ingram is screeching at him in the sense of how great he or the TD was…like a hype man. Like Cooks’ own Flavor Flav (box checked, I used Flavor Flav in a football article in 2016).
Two long TDs in four minutes and I’m not sure Cooks went past Sean Payton or Drew Brees to talk about or re-celebrate on the sidelines. Cooks is on the bench ‘brooding’ with a group of players, mostly the WR group, while Drew Brees is away from all this Cooks area over with the backup QBs drinking Gatorade. It was like an odd distance or separation between Cooks and Brees…and between Brees and the WRs….and between Cooks and the coaches.
This game goes back and forth. With the score tied 34–34 into the fourth quarter, the Saints drive down to the 12-yard line…and Cooks is not in the game. How is Cooks not in the game in this critical spot? Just a few minutes later, after an Arizona turnover, 41–34 Saints ahead, New Orleans is in the red zone again to put away the game. They run three plays with WRs in…Cooks is out-in-out. In just one time. For the Saints’ last five plays run within 15 yards of the end zone, Cooks was in the game only once (by my count)…but all the other ‘names’ were in. Again, the game was still tight. After that, the Saints take out all WRs, and run a heavy package and run for the score…and Mark Ingram ‘loses it’.
I mean, really loses it.
Mark Ingram was pulled on the final Saints TD play in favor of Tim Hightower after just falling short of scoring the final Saints TD the play before. Hightower already got on for one goal-line score; now Ingram was pulled for another one…and he ‘lost it’. Like, it should be a huge thing in the media, but it’s the New Orleans Saints so no one cares and the NFL will cover it up if they can. Ingram is going ballistic on the sidelines (as the Saints went up by 14 with 3+ minutes left). Like he’s going insane. So loud and so demonstrative that Sean Payton if forced to go over to talk to him, mostly because Ingram is shouting at Payton (I think), and I’m not sure how many expletives Ingram screamed at Payton’s face but it was shocking to watch. Payton put his arm around him and tried to talk, but Ingram pulled away and just yelled in his face and then walked away still jawing.
There is something wrong with the Saints behind the scenes. Cooks is brooding after TDs. Ingram is screaming at the head coach without any care of repercussions…and the coach never screams back or seemingly does anything about the insubordination (not that we see anyway). Drew Brees is over drinking Gatorade as far away as he can get.
Something is very wrong with the Saints behind the scenes. Brandin Cooks wants to be traded. Jimmy Graham was moved out last year. Mark Ingram is in Sean Payton’s face. I don’t see Drew Brees, face of the franchise, hanging with the guys/cool kids or getting in the middle of things to calm tensions…he’s off like an aloof elitist with the other backup QBs safely away from the bench for brooders. I’m not saying who is right or wrong or anything – I’m just telling you there is massive tension on that team…and Cooks-Ingram-Payton-Brees are characters in this Shakespearean event. Don’t be surprised if Cooks and Ingram are gone in the offseason.
I will say, if I were on the Saints, and we keep losing the past three years (and they have) while Hightower comes in for Ingram and Thomas is seeing more touches than Cooks, I’m going all Richard Sherman and questioning my head coach/coordinator, even if just in my own mind. Why aren’t the best players getting the ball in key spots?
This story isn’t over.
Hopefully, your fantasy season isn’t yet either!