Five Burning Questions

Jeff Miller


I don’t know what it is about this season, but at the time of year where I should be all fired up for the playoffs, I just sort of want it to be over. I’ve had a solid enough year, making the playoffs in five of the seven dynasty leagues I had hope for. The rebuild of an orphaned team I took over is going pretty well, and despite a rough year in redraft leagues (playoffs in only three of five), I did extremely well in the one with the most at stake (straight cash, homie).

The ultimate question in this column where I’m supposed to ask questions is, “Why are you ready for the season to be through?”

As a Bears fan, I’ve suffered through a few rough patches over the years. This one is different. This team has so much offensive talent, I can’t help but be bitterly disappointed with the way the season has gone. I think I’m actually so bitter it has wrecked the season for me.

I’ve always been a pretty level-headed fan. I’m definitely not the kind of guy to carry the loss of a sports team with me beyond the final whistle. But then again, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a sports related disappointment (I knew Chicago wasn’t winning a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman at quarterback). This year, I expected them to win ten games and be in the playoffs with an offense capable of giving anybody fits in January. Reality has been somewhat less gratifying.

So there you have it. In an otherwise fine season, I’ve allowed my mood to be ruined by a stupid team with a stupid quarterback, a stupid head coach, and the NFL’s stupidest defensive coordinator.

Bah, humbug.

1.) Which seven-win AFC team will most embarrass itself this week?

The AFC is funny. There are a handful of teams who’ve looked like world beaters for a couple weeks then laid ostrich egg sized, um, eggs when they had the chance to seize the lead in the wild card race.

Let’s run down the list:

Steelers – Won three in a row during Ben Roethlisberger’s historic two-game stretch, then lost to the Jets and Saints (and barely beat the terrible Titans) in their next three outings.

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Ravens – Opened the season 5-2 but have gone 2-3 since, losing to three teams with winning marks and beating the Titans and Saints, whose combined record is 7-17.

Dolphins – After a nice three game run to get to 5-3, they’ve gone 2-2 with near misses against Detroit and Denver (lost both games on the road by a combined seven points)

Browns – Went from 7-3 to 7-5 on the strength of an ugly loss at home to Houston and an uglier loss in Buffalo.

Bills – With a 4-2 record in their last six games, they’ve actually gotten better as the season has worn on.

Chiefs – Five consecutive wins were followed by a laughable loss in Oakland and another at home against Denver.

When you factor in the difficulty of the 8-4 Chargers’ schedule (NE, DEN, @SF, @KC), there are two spots up for grabs. I like the Dolphins to beat the Ravens this week and finish at 10-6. The final spot will be decided Week 17 in Baltimore where the home team will topple the resurgent Browns to sneak in, also at 10-6.

To answer the question I asked above, I pick the Chiefs. In a close contest, coach Andy Reid will forget Jamaal Charles is a deity and ignore him the entire second half, only to apologize after losing a game they could have won.

2.) This is a fantasy football website. Why have you written almost 600 words about anything other than fantasy?

I’m trying to mix things up a little. It’s been a long season, and, let’s be honest, you’ve read so many fantasy football columns you can’t tell the difference between Josh Gordon and John Goodman at this point. (Hint: Gordon is the guy with the bigger appetite for things that are bad for him. Also, he doesn’t wear flannel. Unless he does, in which case ignore that last sentence.)

It is either that, or I’m a power hungry tyrant who intentionally ignores the convention of a fantasy column in order to spread a subliminal message about my pending reign of dark terror over all the land (but mostly just DLF and Funyuns).

2b.) What is the difference between dark terror and non-dark terror?

It is the same as the difference between Honey Smacks and Golden Crisp.

3.) What is Brandon LaFell’s value next year?

Much of the early-career hype around LaFell was based on the post-Cam Newton projection for the Panthers. People saw an amazing young quarterback and an aging WR (Steve Smith) ready to cede his spot to the young LSU Tiger alum.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to his ascension.

The big, soft handed, athletic receiver became a really good blocker and not much else. Those soft hands didn’t help as LaFell made numerous inexcusable drops. He spent a ton of time in the slot, a position that didn’t seem to suit him. And that Steve Smith guy just kept going and going.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the scrap heap.

It took some time to get up to speed in New England, but once he did… LaFell has topped 17 PPR points four times in five games and in five of seven. Just as impressive, he’s eclipsed 20 points four times in nine games. The kicker is when you watch him on tape he actually looks like a good NFL player.

Certainly much of this success can be traced back to an excellent Tom Brady. But as easy as it is to pin LaFell’s success solely on the future HOF’er, Brady isn’t the only force at work. His new favorite reciever has really come into his own, flashing the size/athleticism combo that had us excited three or four years ago. As such, I’ve moved LaFell up to 51st in my wide receiver rankings. I could easily see him jumping another ten or more spots if he finishes the season strong.

4.) How worried should I be about the future of DeMarco Murray?

Since I first wrote about this subject back in Week 9, Dallas has done nothing to assuage my concerns. At the time he was on pace for 464 regular season touches. Five weeks later, Murray is staring at a 459 touch pace. You can read the data I presented in my previous column to get an idea what that sort of workload means, but the one thing I failed to address at the time was the potential for additional touches in the playoffs.

Dallas is shaping up to be a potential wild card team – that means a near guaranteed 25 or more additional touches, bringing us to around 485. Heaven forbid they win that game, or another, or a third.

It is totally conceivable the Cowboys find their way into the Super Bowl, and if they do, Murray would easily blow through the FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY touch plateau. His actual pace would put him at 574, but I digress.

Regardless of how the season turns out for Murray and America’s Team (barf), if you aren’t selling the Las Vegas native this off-season, you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself when he blows up (the bad kind) in 2015.

5.) Jeff, you were right about Cordarrelle Patterson.

OK, so that wasn’t a question. I just felt the need to gloat about what I said about Patterson months ago. Here’s a query though: Now that Patterson has been benched for long-time Football Twitter favorite, Charles Johnson, is there any hope he isn’t a bust?

Yeah, I think so.

Despite unkind (and not totally unfair) comparisons between Patterson and other fantasy teases such as Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester, I believe Patterson still has the ultimate upside to be a dynasty asset. If nothing else, he is much bigger and stronger than the aforementioned special teams specialists as well as another player we see frequent comparisons to in Percy Harvin. Size at the wide receiver position can be overrated, but when it comes to young, raw players, I’d much rather have one who is 6’2” and 220 pounds than a little guy like Hester.

If you go back and read my Case Against Cordarrelle piece from April, you’ll note the overarching theme was his ADP (eighth wide receiver off the board) was pricing in 100% of his upside and ignoring his extremely low floor. Now that we’ve seen that floor, Patterson’s November ADP has him down at WR20. I have him ranked lower still at 39, a number I expect him to get closer two once Ryan McDowell rolls out his December data.

With Patterson’s ADP becoming more commensurate with the level of risk involved, I wouldn’t be at all opposed to poking around and seeing if his owner has put aside their pride and allowed the sourness of his awful 2014 to make them want to wash their hands of the youngster altogether.

Oh, and if you were one of the many, many folks who mocked my opinion of Patterson, feel free to apologize by contributing to the DLF Toys for Tots fundraising drive. I’d really appreciate it if you did.


jeff miller