It's true-- three is the magic number. Just ask the members of Schoolhouse Rock, the three blind mice, three musketeers, three bears and the three little pigs. Granted, I just cited as authority a band that probably spent their prime jacked up on LSD, as well as famous children's book trios, but you get the point. Threes work.
It's about the midpoint of the NFL season as week nine approaches, so let's take a tour of some of the story lines and other bits using threes as a guide:
Biggest Fantasy Disappointments not named Matt Forte:
1. LaDainian Tomlinson- It was a great run, but now Darren Sproles is the more dangerous runner for the Chargers. Tomlinson was obviously on the decline heading into this season, yet "experts" still put him at around six to 10 on the preseason ranks. This is why you have to trust your gut at the fantasy draft and avoid a "consensus" pick if you just don't trust the player. You need to secure a sure thing with your first pick, not a guy on an obvious decline.
2. Greg Jennings- Last year's stat line of 80 catches for 1292 yards and nine touchdowns is a distant memory right now as he's posted only 29 catches for 437 yards and two scores so far. So what gives? The Packers offensive line gives up a lot of sacks. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 31 times through seven games so far. Some blame Rodgers for holding on to the ball too long or not throwing it away, while others point to an inexperienced or injured offensive line. In any event, Jennings hasn't had the same time to get open on deeper routes this year. He accumulated a lot of his yardage last year on big plays, so this drop in production is a predictable result given the circumstances. Jennings has also been hampered by wrist and hip injuries and has faced some double coverage. If the Packers offensive line play improves, so should Jennings numbers.
3. Brandon Jacobs- It seemed early on this season like Jacobs wasn't hitting holes with the same speed, or with his same trademark aggression, or that he was slowing down at the line of scrimmage and getting wrapped up before he could accelerate and plow people over. Maybe his knees hurt. Maybe the holes just haven't been there. All we can do is speculate but the results speak for themselves, and they've been decent but not great: 550 yards on 140 carries and two touchdowns (3.9 yards per carry). Jacobs was a first or second round pick in most leagues, so the output so far is a pretty big disappointment.
Biggest Fantasy Pleasant Surprises not named Miles Austin:
1. Ray Rice-- Wow! Wow! Baltimore's "three headed monster" backfield has turned into a one-man wrecking machine called Ray Rice. Willis McGahee, the goal line vulture, has become an afterthought. If you drafted and kept Rice, your team is probably at .500 or better at this
point. If it's not, you stink at fantasy football.
2. Cedric Benson-- I guess all he needed was a change of scenery. If you're still doubting him at this point, you're just being stubborn.
3. Dallas Clark-- Clark is certainly not an unknown, but he's on pace to shatter his career-highs in catches and yards set last year with 77 and 848. Clark already has 46 and 584 this year along with three touchdowns through seven games. If you drafted Clark, you expected good things, but even with the departure of Marvin Harrison from Indy I don't think Clark owners expected this type of production from him.
Truly Bizarre Things:
1. Braylon Edwards v. LeBron's friend-- Less than a week after punching one LeBron's friends outside of a Cleveland night club (for which Edwards faces misdemeanor assault charges), he was shipped to the Jets, Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini's former club. Yes, this happened.
2. Chiefs fans v. Larry Johnson-- LJ's latest misstep, where he called out and insulted head coach Todd Haley from his Twitter account, further jaded KC's fans so much that they actually started a petition urging general manager Scott Pioli to deactivate Johnson to prevent him from passing Priest Holmes to become the Chief's all-time leading rusher. Seriously.
3. The Redskins v. Common Sense -- The logically-challenged Redskins brought in the accomplished Sherman Lewis as an offensive "consultant" in week five. At the time, Lewis had been out of football for five years and was spending his free time calling bingo games at a senior center in Michigan. Then, the Redskins brass "urged" head coach Jim Zorn to give up his play calling duties (mind you, they brought in Zorn initially as an offensive coordinator before promoting him to head coach for lack of a better candidate). And then, the Redskins decided to hand the reins to Lewis only two weeks after he joined the team. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
1. Rise of the quarterbacks-- Adam Shefter pointed out an interesting figure today, that 10 quarterbacks are currently on pace to have 4,000+ yard season. That's a lot (how's that for analysis?).
2. Fall of the feature running back-- The secret is out: it's usually more productive to distribute the workload among a committee of capable running backs to keep them all fresh and minimize the hits they take from increasingly bigger, faster and stronger defenders. Unless a team has an absolute horse (i.e., Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson), or simply lacks another good option, the decisive trend is towards committee backfields.
3. Dominance of the the dome teams-- The two remaining unbeaten teams-- the Colts and Saints-- both play in domes. So do the 7-1 Vikings. I don't think the NFL has ever had both conference championships played in domes. My research assistant lacks opposable thumbs and summarily answered no when I asked him, so tell me if I'm wrong on that. Good luck to the teams that have to travel to Indy or New Orleans in January. Oh, and here's an outrageous stat that can't get enough attention for its sheer absurdity: the Saints defense has six touchdowns this season, and the Browns offense has five. Chew on that for a minute. If I'm a Browns fan, that would make me: 1) angry; 2) sad; and 3) vomit. In that order.
Annoying or Overused Phrases:
1. "Wildcat"-- This one might not die for a while. Sorry, folks.
2. "Game manager"-- Every time I hear this phrase I imagine the quarterback wearing a name tag from a suburban grocery store.
3. "Short rest"-- Here's a baseball phrase that I had to include. The debate over the Yankees use of three starting pitchers on "short rest" in the World Series got oppressively annoying. As much as I love constant access to sports on TV, radio and online, it comes at a price-- phrases like "short rest" get relentlessly beaten to death.
The three brilliant teams that fired their offensive coordinators just before the season, and how they have fared:
1. Bills-- 3-5, 123 points scored (ranked 24).
2. Kansas City-- 1-6, 105 points scored (ranked 27).
3. Tampa Bay-- 0-7, 96 points scored (T-28).
Better luck next year.
Activist groups do battle with the NFL:
1. PETA-- Obviously, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was not pleased with the Eagles and the NFL's acceptance of Mr. Michael Vick.
2. NOW-- The National Organization for Women is adamant that Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable should be suspended while the team investigates allegations that Cable abused his former girlfriend and ex-wife.
3. NAACP-- The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had a serious problem with Rush Limbaugh's prospective (partial) ownership of the St. Louis Rams.
I'm not going to throw my hat into these debates; I'll just be vague and say that it's quite a storm of negative attention for the NFL this season from activist groups. I wonder what NO MA'AM would have to say. "Order! Order, gentlemen!"
1. Power Rankings-- Yeah, it's an "interesting" debate, but this isn't college football.
2. Dallas Cowboys-- This goes hand-in-hand with the power rankings. It's ridiculous how willing many analysts are to jump on and off bandwagons. People were pretty low on the Cowboys after they lost to Denver and barely nudged past Kansas City. Then Dallas beat Atlanta at home, and then the injured and struggling Seahawks at home, and now the media is back in love with the December-challenged 'Boys.
3. Mark Sanchez-- Well his stock plummeted pretty fast, didn't it? That's why you don't nickname your rookie quarterback "Sanchise" after week one.
1. "The League"-- I'm very happy to plug this show, on Thursdays at 10:30 on FX. It's centered on friends from a fantasy football league. The show does a good job of capturing the dynamic of most leagues with characters such as the idiot, the instigator, the punching bag, etc. Tune in.
2. Baltimore-- The bandwagon emptied pretty quickly, but this squad is talented and coming off a nice win against then-undefeated Denver. Watch out.
3. This Blind Melon cover song as featured by the film Slackers which is likewise underrated.
Check back in here every Friday around lunchtime where Brett Smiley will fill you in on everything in the world of sports and fantasy sports from the bizarre to the practical to the relatively unimportant.