By Brett R. Crossley
In the world of fantasy sports, up can often times mean down and left can sometimes really mean right.
It’s in this upside-down existence that we often find ourselves following teams whose regular season life expired after the first couple weeks of the season. It’s in these loveable losers, or just losers, that we often times as fantasy owners find a potential homerun hitter.
The beauty in finding the right guy on the wrong team can often trump the worry and strategy that goes into having a good player on a great team. Injuries always seem to hit at least one contender before the year starts — Brian Westbrook anyone?
The end of the season can also be one of the most problematic when dealing with a successful team. The sit or play questions start to spring up and throw a monkey wrench into what could have been a great fantasy season.
It’s also in these sinking ships the best players, especially quarterbacks, often find they are putting up the biggest numbers. Good teams know how to run a balanced offense that more times than not relies heavily on the running game.
Take last season’s top two passing quarterbacks for example. Drew Brees, who played on the lowly Saints, only managed to get to an 8-8 mark, finished dead last in the NFC South, and missed the playoffs. All this happened to the Saints despite Brees throwing for 5,069 yards with 34 touchdowns to only 17 interceptions. Brees averaged 316.8 yards per game.
The next passer, although he somehow managed to play in the Superbowl, Kurt Warner, fought through the regular season and thanks to playing in the worst division in football, still found a way into the playoffs. The Cardinals were anything but a Superbowl contender through the regular season, it took a couple of extremely outstanding playoff performances to finally shape the team into anything worthwhile.
Even with the problems that accompany playing for the Cardinals, Warner’s year still shaped up to be a pretty good season. Warner passed for 4,583 yards with 30 touchdowns to only 14 interceptions.
Although both of the teams struggled throughout the regular season, one thing remained clear, they didn’t need any help in the passing department. Both Warner and Brees were going for Dan Marino’s single-season passing record and both looked to be well on their way to the 40-touchdown club.
It’s almost crazy to think Warner missed out on his third MVP title because the media said he didn’t play on a contender, another Manning playoff choker anyone?
Cutler, ShamWow, same sentence… read on
Our third example hails from Denver, well I guess the past tense hailed from Denver would be more appropriate, Jay Cutler. Again, nobody was picking the Denver Broncos to win the Super Bowl, but after a hot start and one of the best young guns in the league leading the way, people weren’t afraid to say this team was playoff caliber, except maybe for the defense.
Cutler’s fast start had heads turning as he chopped defenses up like the ShamWow guy fearlessly chops up veggies with his patented Slam Chop, sorry I’m a sucker for infomercials. Cutler passed for 4,526 yards with 25 touchdowns to 18 interceptions.
Unfortunately for Cutler his terrible “D” finally broke, helping Denver put a stake in the claim to one of the worst season-ending collapses of all time. What the collapse hid from the once fascinated public was that Cutler continued to put up big numbers through the ’08 campaign.
Good teams, mediocre fantasy QBs
The point being, don’t let stinky teams hide good players. The counter-point would be guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Jake Delhomme. Again, both teams compiled a 12-4 record and looked to be headed right for the Superbowl in an epic showdown of the two best teams in the league. Maybe so, maybe not, but I played in a handful of leagues last season where these guys were not only finding their way onto rosters, but starting over the previously mentioned quarterbacks.
This could be a case of someone just not knowing or it could be a case of a losing team falling out of sight. Roethlisberger passed for 3301 yards with 17 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. Not bad, but nowhere near what Cutler, Warner, and Brees put up for the year.
Delhomme looked a little better with 3,288 yards and 15 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions, this of course not counting his playoff collapse to the Cardinals in which he threw six picks.
Both Delhomme and Roethlisberger can’t be down graded, because it wasn’t like the teams were bad, but it’s in the team’s success that might create problems with players. Despite playing for a team that is still looking for its’ first win of 2008, Calvin Johnson might be the best receiver in the league. Does the fact that he plays with the worst single-season team of all time scare people away? Who knows.
Rule applies to elite RBs, too
Another diamond in the rough could be the Rams Stephen Jackson. With a new coach and a new offense that is committed to the run, Jackson could turn into next season’s Michael Turner, despite the Rams being the worst team in the league over the last two seasons with a combined record of 5-27.
Hope can come from many strange and unexpected faces, especially in the world of fantasy football. So my point is don’t be afraid of bad teams just bad players. And hey, for me at least throw some love to the bad teams, especially the Rams. They need all the help they can get and if they don’t say it, I will as a fan.