Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Pyongyang Pikas Postgame: Week 8 and Midseason Analysis

The Pikas were destined to lose their Week 8 game from before the season even started, when the Pyongyang front office noticed "there sure are a lot of players on bye in Week 8."  With Aaron Rodgers, Michael Turner, and Matt Forte not playing, an average of 58 points evaporated from the Pikas scorecard, and it proved impossible to fill the holes.

With backup quarterback Philip Rivers not producing this entire season, the Pikas turned to the free agent market to replace Rodgers, and the best option available was Eli Manning.  Eli, to his credit, threw together 21 fantasy points, suggesting that he has a future as Rodgers' backup on the Pyongyang bench.  The resurgent Frank Gore had a nearly Matt Forte-esque game, earning 19 points, but Chris Johnson once again derailed the Pikas at running back, scoring only 3.  (Fortunately for the Pikas, Chris Johnson should never have to start again.)

At wide receiver, neither Mike Wallace nor Wes Welker seemed interested in playing against each other's team, with the Steelers/Patriots game only netting the Pikas 10 points between the two.  One bright spot was Antonio Gates at tight end; despite having to come back from injury and a lackluster Phillip Rivers throwing to him, Gates looked good and scored respectably.

But against Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson scoring 27 points each, the Pikas' replacement-filled roster really couldn't compete, and they suffered their fourth loss of the year.

Final score: North Dakota Narwhals 129, Pikas 95 Pikas record: 4-4 (3-0 in division)

With any luck, and maybe some help from a Calvin Johnson bye, the Pikas will break the "Tom's Team" curse next week and finally defeat 2MuchJohnson4U.

Now that it's the middle of the season, what's working and what's not on the Pikas roster is finally taking shape.

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers has been the Pikas' most consistent and most prolific scorer, never slipping below 20 and averaging 26.  He's the league's highest-scoring player in terms of points per game; because he's already had a bye, barring a disastrous injury, there won't be a reason to start a quarterback besides Rodgers for the rest of the season.  It's a good thing, because backup Philip Rivers hasn't impressed at all this season.  At other positions, or for other teams, it makes sense to have a backup in case of bad matchups.  Rodgers has shown that there is no bad matchup against him.

Running back: RB has turned into a strength for the Pikas, though the depth chart looks a little different than it did in the preseason.  At the beginning of the season, the Pikas started Chris Johnson, Frank Gore, and Michael Turner, with Matt Forte as a nice bench option in case of an injury, bye, or bad matchup.  But when Johnson proved totally ineffective, and Gore sustained an injury, the Pikas were forced to look elsewhere.  Simultaneously, though, Matt Forte decided to have a breakout season, and the Pikas were able to make a key acquisition of Fred Jackson.  Now, the Pikas start Jackson (the league's #2 scorer in terms of points per game), Forte (#5), and Turner (#6), with Gore as the bench option now that he's healthy and playing like he's supposed to.

Wide receiver: Falcons star Roddy White was supposed to be the Pikas standout at WR with Mike Wallace backing him up.  They're a fine combination, with White disappointing a little but Wallace scoring in the league's top five wide receivers.  But the Pikas got an unexpected boon early in the season when Tom's team released Wes Welker, who has had a solid season interspersed with a couple of monstrous games to become the league's #2 wide receiver.  The Pikas plan going forward is to start wide receiver by committee: choose the two most promising of those three in any given week.

Tight end: TE has been one of the few real disappointments for the Pikas so far.  Starter Antonio Gates missed most of the first half of the season due to injury; backup Jermichael Finley, taking away one colossal 26-point performance, has been a little flat.  The good news is that Gates is healthy and playing like the athlete he is, but if any doubt lingers, it's that Philip Rivers' season has been considerably less than impressive.  Gates is a playmaker catching the football, but he needs a playmaker throwing the football to be effective.

Kicker: This is a tough position to analyze in fantasy because there's so much variance, but Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been fine so far.  An offense that gets a lot of yards needs a lot of placekicks, either from field goals or PATs, and Gostkowski has done his job well.

Defense/Special Teams: The Ravens defense can do it all: prevent a team from scoring, force fumbles, get a half-dozen sacks per game.  It's a fun defense to watch, with (alleged) murderer Ray Lewis leading the way and getting fired up about all sorts of things.

Outlook: The Pikas have a roster built to win football games.  As long as everyone does their part, shows up each week, and doesn't get hurt, Pyongyang is a legitimate title contender.

Currently listening: "Younger Than We've Ever Been," Kathryn Calder

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