Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pyongyang Pikas Postgame: Weeks 2 and 3

It's been a tough couple of weeks for the Pikas.  After a strong start in Week 1, the Pikas have lost back-to-back matchups.

Week 2 saw the Pikas matched against Josh's Team, and it was a disaster from the outset.  Josh's Team showed up much stronger than they had in Week 1--and the Pikas were apparently busy gathering fresh grass to dry.  It was one of those blowouts so disastrous that literally no combination of players among my starters and bench would have given me the win.  Aaron Rodgers held up his end, and Michael Turner turned in a nice rushing performance against the Eagles, but it wasn't enough.  Chris Johnson was weak enough at running back for a second straight week that he earned a ticket to the bench for Week 3.  Antonio Gates earned literally zero points at tight end, and somehow the vaunted Ravens defense pulled off a negative score.

Final score: Josh's Team 138, Pikas 97

Week 3 was closer, and things could have turned the Pikas' way at any time, but Tom's Breesus Christ edged out the win.  This one was entirely on my bench management; one better choice at any of a few positions would have given me the game.  Aaron Rodgers, who had reliably scored 20+ points in both of the first two games, was "projected" to earn fewer points than my backup quarterback, Phillip Rivers--and that made sense; Rodgers was facing the competent Bears defense, while Rivers had the much more favorable matchup against the Chiefs.

It didn't matter--Rivers scored a mere 6 fantasy points owing to a skewed stat line of 2 interceptions and no touchdown passes.  Rodgers scored a consistent 21 points that I wasn't around to collect.  Wes Welker raked in a monstrous 34, but I never strongly considered starting him over Roddy White (14) and Mike Wallace (20) at wide receiver.  And based on another ESPN projection, the Pikas played entirely the wrong kicker--Josh Brown scored 1, while Steven Gostkowski hammered out 7 on the bench.

Week 3 wasn't as bleak as week 2, with several Pikas starters turning in solid performances.  Mike Wallace's brilliance was outdone only by Jermichael Finley's 26-point fluke at tight end.  And the Ravens defense was back in form, piling up five sacks, two turnovers, and once defensive touchdown, scoring 20 fantasy points.

Final score: Breesus Christ 103, Pikas 99  Pikas record: 1-2 (1-0 in division)

Week 4 features a slightly revamped Pikas offense, benching both Johnson and Frank Gore at running back in favor of new acquisition Fred Jackson, and starting Welker at receiver in place of Roddy White to take some eggs out of the Atlanta basket.  I'm projected to lose by 14, but my projected victories in Weeks 2 and 3 didn't actually project much of anything, so there remains hope.

Currently listening: "The Authority Song," Jimmy Eat World

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pyongyang Pikas Postgame: Week 1

A couple of months ago, my friends decided to start a fantasy football league.  Not knowing the first thing about the NFL, I of course decided to join, joking that I was going to make a team entirely composed of former Georgia Tech and current Falcons players.  The draft came, and luckily ESPN's projections were around to let me know how bad an idea that would have been (though I did pick up both Roddy White and Michael Turner).  If you're interested, you can check out my full roster.

The most critical part, of course, was what to name the team.  After some consultation with friends, I decided I liked the irony of picking a location where American football was incredibly unlikely to be played combined with a mascot that was about as unassuming as UC Santa Cruz's.  Thus were born the Pyongyang Pikas (the alliteration is a nice bonus).

My first matchup was against my roommate Zach, at the helm of the imaginatively named "Beat Tom".  (His stated goal is, regardless of final record, to beat our friend Tom's score every week.)  The Thursday night season kickoff proved to be a fantastic start to the Pikas' season, with Green Bay quarterback (and Cal alumnus) Aaron Rodgers scoring 19 points before halftime.  Rodgers was so solid that at one point, my projected total for the weekend was an improbable 155 points, but on the shoulders of some poor running performances, that was not meant to be.

In the draft, my first pick was a fellow named Chris Johnson, running back for the Tennessee Titans.  I picked him first not because I'd ever heard of him (much less knew him to be good), but because told me to.

Thanks, guys.

Mr. Johnson, "projected" to have something crazy like 19 points, got me a whopping 4.  You know something is wrong when your kicker (nothing against the St. Louis Rams' Mr. Brown) outscores your first-round draft pick.  Frank Gore didn't do much better at 6.

I played the Bears defense/special teams, which between Brian Urlacher and an amazing kick return unit, seemed like a solid bet.  The odd part was that I started my two Falcons offensive players against them, setting up a weird hedge that actually ended up scoring me 35 points.  The Bears D/ST, oddly enough, ended up as my second-highest scoring player behind Rodgers.

So, after a stellar performance at quarterback and on defense, some passable scores at wide receiver and tight end (#unintentionalsportspun), and not much at all out of my running backs, Sunday ended with me having gotten all the points I was going to get and holding a 17-point lead over Beat Tom.  The match was far from over, as Zach still had a trump card in the form of the Raiders' Darren McFadden, a star running back on a not-so-terrific team.  (Zach's logic is that he likes playing good players on awful teams because all the offense is likely to come from that guy, and that reasoning is making more and more sense from a fantasy perspective.)

I watched the Monday Night Football game between the Broncos and the Raiders, not because I care at all about either of those teams, but merely because I wanted to see McFadden not score any points.  When the Broncos had the ball, I didn't care if they scored or not--I just needed them to take as much time as they could doing whatever they were doing.  And when Oakland had the ball, I didn't care if they scored or not either--I just wanted the plays to involve anyone but McFadden.  It's an odd way to watch a football game, but it made me realize exactly how golden fantasy football is to the NFL because it makes you glued to the television for games that you otherwise wouldn't know existed.

McFadden had a fine first half and was on pace to score just under the 18 points he needed to turn Beat Tom into Beat Matt for a week.  That was fine.  Then came a mammoth run in the third quarter, with McFadden stepping out of bounds literally at the 1-yard line.  One more yard, and his touchdown windfall would have sunk my team.  But fortunately for the Pikas, the Raiders did the remainder of their scoring--and most of the rest of their offense--without McFadden, and I scraped by with a 2-point win.

Final score: Pikas 95, Beat Tom 93.  Pikas record: 1-0 (1-0 in division).

Check back next week to hear about my first match with Josh's Team (apparently he hasn't gotten around to naming it yet).  I'm "projected" to win by 17 points, but as they say (and as I very nearly learned the hard way this week), there's a reason they play all the games.

Currently listening: "Might Find it Cheap," Blitzen Trapper