The following is an unpublished column from this Grantland Fantasy Football contest I’m in.
My waiver wire scouting notes headed into Monday:
Ripe, third-year Giant Andre Brown went for 113 and two touchdowns (figure out why David Wilson sucks).
Life allocates 17 precious, full service NFL Sundays. Inevitably, we have to play one on the road. Mine was a classical wedding away weekend complete with replacement ref-based icebreakers and low battery mobile phones. Steven Jackson was a conservative sit and the lesson here is that Shonn Greene remains a joyless errand. Greene’s steady carries would be great if the Jets didn’t turn goal line arrivals into exclusive Tim Tebow freestyles. There was an astute appreciation for Matt Ryan’s elevated game, but this pro football chatter differed sharply in that guests rooted for Mark Sanchez’s fade route interception-prone, t-shirt cannon arm. I was in Cuernavaca, the state capital of Morelos—about an hour from Mexico City.
South of the border weddings are almost standardized American fare (ceremony, cocktail hour, reception); the difference is that three hours of merengue dancing come before the four hours of secular Western pop. After the Flo Rida and Isley Brothers, red pozole is served to sober up patrons. Then mariachis take the stage around three. If you’ve been to a Latino-funded celebration of life during the last 20 years, Dominican singer-songwriter Juan Luis Guerra’s “La Bilirrubina” has been a jump-off linchpin. Bilirubin is a yellow breakdown of normal heme catabolism, and increased traces are signs of disease. The hook goes, “My bilirubin levels go up when I look at you and you don’t look at me.” The song is about Andre Johnson.
After a day of customs and mezcal side effects from this one over-the-counter drug that kills indirectly consumed food parasites, I’m on the northern end of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway taking in the Patriots and Ravens. Problem: my wife is a die-hard Pats fan and we’re sitting behind the first tenor in the no huddle offense jeer chorus. Someone uses M&T Bank Stadium’s emergency text service that summons Baltimore City’s finest to rowdy fan behavior and reports a lonely guy in a bright red Steve Grogan throwback whose only crime is enjoying Chesapeake fries.
This week I’m doing two things: Shopping double-coverage magnet Rob Gronkowski because the Patriots are back into their circa-Jabar Gaffney five-wide sets, and giving a hard look at Pats not getting steady rotation in most leagues. Julian Edelman caught four passes, scored, and dropped a second touchdown only because Ed Reed led with his helmet. Danny Woodhead carried 15 times and capitalized on a goal line carry. In roll the dice bye situations, Woodhead could be aggressively relevant to that week’s New England menu. Kellen Winslow and Deion Branch had third-world numbers (three combined catches for 23 yards), but it suddenly feels like a guns blazing Tom Brady year and they’re just getting started. Wes Welker benefits most without the two tight end sets, and vintage ’07 eight hauls for 142 performances will be a recurring box score.
Other stuff happened.
C.J. Spiller’s three weeks in heaven were beautiful, and now you need to target Tashard Choice because the lead back in Chan Gailey’s offense is a versatile queen Chess piece. When not concussed, Daniel Thomas proved himself a capable deep league starter. Ryan Williams fought the fumble demons, effectively ended the Beanie Wells era, and will only need 15 touches to get to 100. T.Y. Hilton flashed in the pan for the Colts. Mikel LeShoure is a faster Rashard Mendenhall with smoother upfield cuts, and Kevin Smith slipped to third-string on the Lions’ depth chart. If you can finagle Andy Dalton, commit to him and trade Aaron Rodgers.
Baltimore is otherwise a perfect NFL town: games take place in the sponsoring city and not a low rent parking lot 20 miles away; the team is a reflective metaphor for the urban decay plight of its city limits; pre-game music is ‘70s classic rock seamlessly followed by three straight Rick Ross songs; player intros are only for defenders. And you gotta catch Ray Lewis live—that iconic shuffle splashed into telecasts is a full blown ballet set to the sublime, self-knowingly dated “Hot In Herre.”
Frank starts the Pats defense. I roll out emotional favorite Justin Tucker. The upright-grazing field goal breaks my wife’s heart but I take Fantasy Island’s first instant classic one-on-one. It’s the kind of wolf, blood, hunter’s sword moment that makes you thankful archaically European points chase roto leagues are behind us. Our roommate lifts spirits with an unintentionally hilarious fantasy woe shared via iMessage, “I have a soft D.”