FANTASY FOCUS: Love, War & Football

Is all really fair in love and war?

A rather infamous quote, yes, but does it apply the same way to fantasy football? I think it should be amended for a 21st century way of thinking. Wait, wait. I think I got it. Is it all is fair in love and war … and fantasy football? Yes. I like the sound of that.

I’m no Socrates or even Matthew Berry, for that matter, but I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about a thing or two. Ya know? Fantasy sports fall into the “thing or two” category. And I happen to think, yes, all is fair in the fantasy world, as well as love and war.

After all, love can make you do crazy things — like start a war over a player you’re infatuated with. One baseball season ago I refused to talk to one of my best friends, Mike, after he fooled me into telling him a player I loved as a sleeper with him picking in front of me. The player? The flame throwing Aroldis Chapman, who was listed as a reliever but still had starting potential in him. Two picks later Mike selected the Cuban-defector. I looked up from my screen to see that Mike was already staring at me with a shit-eating grin.

I was furious.

And since then I’ve never spoken a word before my draft. As it turned out Mike and I were a year early on Chapman, but the moral of the story is timeless: When it comes to fantasy sports there are no morals. Which brings me to this week’s story …

Meet Marc and Allison: A recently engaged couple of five-and-a-half years who spend five of the seven days in the week head over heels with each other. But on Sundays and Mondays heels are flying over heads for the battle of fantasy football supremacy.

Hyperbole aside, the college sweethearts from Poughkeepsie, New York plan to be married on August 23rd of next year. That is, of course, they can get through the football season first.

Both newcomers to the fantasy football world, Marc and Allison joined a 10-(wo)man league started by Marc’s sister and brother-in-law that encompassed the whole family. It started out with purest of intentions, as Allison recalled.

Marc and Allison, who are soon-to-be-married, have bonded (and battled) over Fantasy Football this season.

“They had been in other leagues before and thought it’d be fun to do one with the whole family because we always do Sunday dinner at his mom’s house and watch football. His mom and dad and sisters and brother-in-laws are some other members of our league,” she said.

With little prior interest in football outside of the New York Giants, Allison has since dove head-first in to the fantasy football world. A little beginner’s luck always helps to scratch the fantasy itch. Her Girls Gone Football team is 2-1 — winning her first two games, and is currently in second place with 381 points.

“Now I spend Sunday morning rearranging my team, searching roster trends and score projections, and watching Fantasy Football Today on ESPN. I also obsessively check the scores of my team and the standings all day Sunday and watch NFL red zone with Marc,” she said.

Welcome to the dark side, Allison.

Marc’s Too Much Johnson For You team currently dwells in the cellar at 1-2, ninth in the league with 340 points. His loyalty to New York sports teams will not permit him to draft any Patriots players — perhaps a reason for his early struggles. For him, it was already time to take out the big guns, as Allison retold a story from a Week 2 tiff that drew the line in the sand.

We actually got into a little fight during Week 2. I was debating starting Antonio Gates as my tight end because they said he was probable the week prior. I ended up leaving him in because I thought he was playing and then went shopping. Later when I checked again it turned out his was out and I found out Marc knew he wasn’t going to play and never said anything!

Nicely done, Marc. I can’t blame the guy though. Can you? I identify my masculinity with my wealth of sports knowledge. Pathetic, I know. If my better half — a casual football fan, at that — began kicking my butt in a fantasy football battle royale I’d just might throw some sand in her eyes as well.

Again, all is fair in love and war … and fantasy football.

But the competitive back-and-forth banter has not stopped there. Marc may find himself in the proverbial doghouse after Allison overheard him telling fellow fantasy league members — and family members — that he was the reason for her savvy waiver wire pick-ups of Andre Brown and Martellus Bennett.

You gotta respect the guy’s balls, right?

The best part of this story, however, has yet to unfold as the two lovebirds face off Week 6 for the ultimate head-to-head bragging rights. A little word of advice to you Allison: change the passwords on your computer and phone for that week!

All jokes aside, there’s a sentimental value to this tale of fantasy football feuding. While many men want to keep their significant others out of fantasy football leagues, Marc embraced Allison in this league — and, maybe, embraced losing to her in the process. A very commendable act of love, if you ask me. For a long time, for a lot of people, fantasy football proved to be a divide in relationships — with men scouring over stat sheets, injury reports and waiver wires while their better halves shoot death stares from across the room muttering things I’m not allowed to type on a family website.

To me, it doesn’t have to be that way. Fantasy footbal, like, say, oh I don’t know, pumpkin picking, is a great way for couples to bond together on Sunday afternoons before settling down to watch HBO’s Sunday Night line up (unless you have Eli Manning starting this week, then Boardwalk Empire gets sent straight to the DVR). Fantasy football, now more than ever, is not just tailored to males. It’s really not gender-biased, as Allison has proved in her first three-week waltz through the fantasy world.

And while they have silly arguments about it, Allison believes it has brought them closer.

“I think even though we joke fight about our teams and our scores, it has been fun to both be more involved with football and watching his team lose when my team wins has been really great for our relationship in the end.”

The love she has for Marc doesn’t stop from getting one last jab in however.

“I definitely think I have the better team,” she said snickering.

This means war.

START ‘EM:

  • Matt Schaub, QB, Texans – He’s on what is arguably the best team in the league facing the worst fantasy defense against quarterbacks according to Yahoo! Sports. The Titans have given up nearly 40 points to opposing QBs thus far — a whole five more points than the three next closest teams. Opposing QBs currently average over 2.5 TDs to .33 INTs against the Titans, while Schaub’s 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio is nothing to turn your nose to. Need I remind you that Lions back-up Shaun Hill did a lot of damage in a hurry against the Tennessee secondary? I suspect Schaub should have equal success finding Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels.
  • Cedric Benson, RB, Packers – I understand your reservations to start him, I do. He’s a feature back in a passing-heavy offense. But facing the 32nd-ranked New Orleans Saints defense at home is a good sign. Opposing RBs average 166.7 rushing yards, 1.7 rushing TDs and nearly 50 receiving yards against the Saints — good for an average of 36 fantasy points/week. Granted those numbers are inflated due to Jamaal Charles’ 200+ yard rushing performance last week. Also Mike McCarthy seems determined to get Benson involved in the game — after only touching the ball nine times Week 1, Benson has averaged over 20 touches per game since. He says he’s the type of player who needs to grease his wheels a bit before getting going, and McCarthy seems willing to buy some WD-40.
  • Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers — I’m a believer in Greg Schiano — and his play-to-the-clock-reads-all-zeroes attitude. I’m also a believer in Josh Freeman bouncing back after a horrible sophomore campaign. But I’m not a believer in this Redskins defense they will be facing this weekend. In the past two weeks, the Skins defense has allowed four passing touchdowns to wide receivers. The Rams and Bengals top receiving threats — Danny Amendola and A.J. Green — both hauled in 9+ receptions of over 100 yards and a score. Expect the Bucs top receiving threat to have a similar afternoon.
  • Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings — I spotlighted him last week and just loved what I saw from this guy. At 6-6 & 258 pounds, Rudolph is a huge red zone target for second-year QB Christian Ponder. And why shouldn’t he be? He’s 4-for-4 in red zone targets this year with three TDs. Also the Detroit Lions, the Vikings opponent on Sunday, has trouble handling big, pass-catching tight ends. (V. Davis Week 2: 5/73/2 & J. Cook Week 3: 4/77/1).

SIT ‘EM:

  • Drew Brees, QB, Saints – Perhaps a bit drastic, but I’m not high on most of the Saints players . And I don’t care if Jimmy Graham thinks the real refs will help their no-huddle offense. The fact is Brees is showing a few signs of missing, not only offseason time, but his offense-minded head coach as well. Brees’ 2012 completion percentage of 54.7% is 11 points lower than his career percentage of 64.7%. He’s nearly thrown as many INTs as TDs (5 to 7) and his seven sacks through three games equals out to roughly 36 sacks in 16 games. What does this mean? He may very well struggle against a Packers defense that looks more like their Super Bowl self than last season’s bottom dwelling passing defense. They’re giving up 155.7 pass yd/gm, 1.7 TDs/gm, 1.3 INTs/gm — good for an average of 19.06 fantasy points according to Yahoo! Sports standard scoring leagues.
  • DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys — And it’s not just because I’m facing him this week either. The Bears, per usual, are the third best fantasy team against opposing running backs through three weeks — only allowing one rushing score between Donald Brown, Cedric Benson and Stephen Jackson. After posting 131 yards on 20 carries to start the season, Murray has stalled out, failing to eclipse the 100-yard mark or reach 20+ carries in the last two weeks. The problem? He faced two stout run-stopping defenses in the Seahawks (at Seattle) and the Buccaneers (statistically the best team against the run in the NFL).
  • Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears — Also not because I’m facing him this week. Rob Ryan’s defense — and not Rex’s — currently sits atop the NFL defensive rankings as the best unit in football. That does not sit well with twin brother Rex or Marshall, for that matter. In standard scoring Yahoo! Sports leagues, the Cowboys defense has given up a league low 13. 73 points to opposing WRs thus far. And it hasn’t been against any slouches either. Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Vincent Jackson all were held under six receptions and 60 yards without TDs against the other Ryan’s defense. And after a great start against the Colts, Marshall has done very little with his rekindled flame Jay Cutler (7 rec/95 yards/0 TDs in 2 games).

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