Saturday, December 16, 2006

FANTASY NFL: Entering the Playoffs with a Team of Hacks

By Dustin Hockensmith

Owning an undefeated record and pursuing a perfect season isn't what it's cracked up to be. Ask Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts or me and Gandhi's Good Guys what a late first loss can do to team morale. Only in that situation can a 12-1 team feel like it has failed, and only in that situation can a team lose all of its built-up momentum. Playoff failure is such an expected result that it requires a language of its own to describe.

Indianapolize – v. (to indianapolize) – to lose one's swagger and only look like a playoff team in the regular season standings; to follow the lead of a star who says "Aw shucks" under pressure; to fade; to crumble; to collapse; to get torched on defense; to have an inconsistent running game. My fantasy football team has been indianapolized by injuries and poor play.

Gandhi's Good Guys started the regular season 12-0 and finished 13-1, but are in bad shape at the wrong time of the year. The top three running backs on the depth chart – Ronnie Brown, Clinton Portis and Laurence Maroney – have gone down and given way to the Hack Unit of Sammy Morris, Ron Dayne and Cedric Benson. Quarterback Tom Brady is coming off the worst start of his career, and Santana Moss is playing more like his cousin Tito Santana.

This team has been covering up its weaknesses in large part because its manager was the only person in the draft who knew that kick return yards earned points. So, finding gems like Dante Hall, Bobby Wade, Chris Carr and Justin Miller have kept the team afloat. In a complete representation of how flawed the scoring system is, Carr, the second-best defender in our league (to Miller), has a total of 11 tackles this season.

Throw in free agent pickups Dayne, Morris, Vince Young, Vernon Davis and linebacker Bart Scott, and virtually the entire team is comprised of non-union scabs and replacement players. The way I see it, the pressure is now on everyone else to not get completely outmanaged and lose to a second-rate team. We'll see on Sunday when the league's regular season champion enters the fantasy playoffs with something to prove.

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