2016 Writers' Bold Predictions

Updated: July 22nd 2016

Training camp is just days away! Only a short few weeks till the Hall of Fame Game which means that it’s time to start making some projections. The writers here at RSO have passed around five (5) topics about what we are keeping an eye out for in 2016. The list includes players to stash, players to be wary of as well as one bold prediction for fantasy this season.  Let it begin!

Interesting team/position group to watch for in fantasy

Matt Goodwin: I like the Cleveland Browns receivers to be better than advertised. Let’s not underestimate head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns will likely be trailing in most games and the team invested high draft capital in Corey Coleman, who I peg to eclipse 1,000 yards and 80 catches and 6 touchdowns this season. Andrew Hawkins is healthy and while the team will throw to running back weapon Duke Johnson and tight end Gary Barnidge plenty (don’t expect a steep drop-off in targets for Barnidge), this offense will be considerably better than people think. If Josh Gordon manages to come back too (the Browns brass seem like they’ve moved on and would likely trade their maligned star wideout), this offense could be somewhat dare I say, dynamic.

Coaching Changes

A change in Philly could be good for two cities

Luke O’Connell: The most fascinating fantasy position group has to be the San Francisco 49ers and their ragtag band of WRs: Torrey Smith, Deandre Smelter, Bruce Ellington.  Owners salivate over the projected negative game scripts for the 49ers and the sheer volume that Kelly might generate. Monopolizing these players at the beginning of the year and dropping the losers of the fantasy gold rush seems a viable strategy for owners.

Bernard Faller: Perhaps no team completely remade their offense as much as Houston did in the offseason.  The Texans instantly transformed from one of the slowest offensive skill position groups to one of the fastest.  Hopkins and Miller have top-5 potential plus Oz could be a sneaky play in 2QB and Superflex leagues with all the new weapons around him.

Dave Sanders: 49ers’ passing game under Chip Kelly is intriguing. As one of the slowest paced teams in 2015, they’ll see a drastic increase in snaps per game. For the 2016 season, I’m buying Torrey Smith as a low-end WR3 and whichever QB lands the job as a QB2.

Nick Andrews: Maybe it’s because I have actually conversed with Doug Pederson in the past (who is hilarious by the way) but I want to see what he can do running the show in Philadelphia. Being very different from former Eagles coach Chip Kelly I want to see what he can get out of his skilled positions, specifically Ryan Matthews, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. We know what he could do with the Chiefs last year making Maclin a seriously underrated WR1 each week and turning any RB into a fantasy commodity. Assuming either Wentz or Bradford can be an average, stable QB (à la Alex Smith) we could see a better-motivated offense coming out of PA.

Rebound/Comeback Player of the Year

Goodwin: Obviously Jordy Nelson brings the vertical threat back to the Packers and should once again thrive in Green Bay. Seems too obvious. Going out of the limb for me would be Victor Cruz. I rightfully get the Sterling Shepard hype, but with Cruz slated to be the Giants #3 receiver, I think his price is so low that he represents significant value and upside, especially if injuries occur. Cruz has always been a solid route runner and if the calf if really healthy, can easily exploit weaker defensive backs in the slot.

Dez and Romo

Big things cooking in Big D this year?

Luke: The last ride of Tony Romo is one in which fantasy owners should be interested.  He has a stacked line, an explosive rookie RB as a pressure valve, and the enigmatic Dez Bryant catching passes.  He could, perhaps even should, be the comeback star.

Bernard: You could put any Packer here but I will go with Eddie Lacy.  The consensus “safest” RB last season struggled with poor offensive line play, injuries, and poor play due to weight issues.  Lacy ended 2015 as the RB47 in PPR PPG.  Look for a contract year Lacy to be in prime condition and improve greatly, along with the rest of the Green Bay offense, with the return of Jordy Nelson.

Dave: I’m all in on Jordy Nelson this year.  He’s my WR7 this year in PPR leagues after having a full calendar year to recover from his torn ACL.

Nick: There will be a lot more “X” being thrown up in the end zone in 2016. Dez Bryant said he is good to go this season after missing half of last season with a foot injury and missing his QB for the other half. Before last season Bryant had three straight seasons with 1,200+ yards receiving and 12+ touchdowns. The man plays the game with a competitive fire that won’t let him have back-to-back down seasons. Throw that “X” up!

Who do you think the fantasy community’s Overvalued POTY will be?

Goodwin: Thomas Rawls and it isn’t close. The Seahawks secret sauce in the past has been pounding Beast Mode. However, with a different offensive line and receiving weapons, the Seahawks seem better equipped to turn the keys over to Russell Wilson like they did down the stretch in 2015. I feel Rawls resembles a 2014 C.J. Anderson and while I agree that if I’m paying lots of money for running backs, I want them young; however, if I’m buying young I want the pedigree too (high draft capital) or a larger sample size. Rawls has neither of these while the Seahawks invested in C.J. Prosise in the draft and Rawls is coming back from a significant injury. To invest long-term in him with $20+ million a year when the Seahawks can so easily walk away from him seems to be incredibly irresponsible.

Luke: Le’veon Bell rapped “I’m at the top and if not I’m the closest/Ima need 15 a year and they know this,” in his track “Focus.”  Viewed by many as the top RB in fantasy, the risk is starting to outweigh the reward.  Rumors of missing drug tests, a reconstructed knee, and contract negotiations via albums dropped on twitter…Le’Veon Bell will not toll for this GM.

Bernard: This is Donte Moncrief for me.  I spoke to many people who expect Moncrief to take over as the #1 WR in Indianapolis and possibly produce low-end WR1 numbers.  Many people will be disappointed this year.  Moncrief was quietly one of the most inefficient WRs in the NFL last season with or without Luck.  T.Y. Hilton is still the #1 target in Indy and will be for some time.

Dave: Count me out on Jordan Matthews.  According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s currently going 27th among WRs in PPR, but places 47th in my PPR WR rankings for this season.  After OTAs, Matthews is expected to remain a slot WR in Doug Pederson’s offense that will operate at a much slower pace in 2016.

Nick: Running back is one of the trickiest positions to understand as a fantasy player. New names seem to come out of the woodwork each week only to disappear before you can even put in a waiver claim.

Unproven RBs

Two sophomore RBs that may be too good to be true

This year’s hot name is David Johnson who took the NFL by storm with a 3 TD, 200 total yards performance against Philadelphia in the fantasy playoffs. Last I checked though Chris Johnson is coming back for another season and before CJ2K’s injury in week 12 David had seen a total of 27 carries. I’ve been burned one too many times from early round redraft RBs (Zac Stacy, C.J. Anderson) to invest heavily in another.

 

Who do you think could be the Underrated POTY?

Goodwin: Tyrod Taylor. While there seem to be a multitude of options at quarterback this season, Taylor’s versatility with his legs and another year of experience in a contract year will only benefit him. The Bills have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, a now healthy Robert Woods and assuming Sammy Watkins’ health; I expect huge things from this tandem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor finishes as a Top 5 fantasy quarterback this season.

Underrated QBs

A pair of waiver wire QBs that could be a cap saver in 2016

Luke: Alexander the Great, while rolling and conquering much of known world, had time to learn philosophy from Aristotle and drop lines like this one: “As one lion overcomes many people and as one wolf scatters many sheep, so likewise will I, with one word, destroy the peoples who have come against me.” The lion that may prove to overcome many this year is Matthew Stafford.   In traditional redraft leagues His ADP puts him down in 14th round. However, with a ceiling that projects favorably to Big Ben and Drew Brees (5/6th round picks) you can save crucial salary cap money and destroy the league that comes against you.   If analysis based purely on cost isn’t your cup of tea, know that Jim Bob lets Stafford sling it inside the 10 yard line.  Stafford led all passers in the NFL with 21 touchdowns last year and was by far the most efficient, completing 75% of his passes inside the 10 yard line despite being one of the league leaders in attempts.

Bernard: Dwayne Allen is currently coming off the board as a mid-range TE2.  He could finish much higher.  Coby Fleener and Andre Johnson left Indianapolis with 162 targets.  Expect Allen to pick up a big chunk of those targets.  Allen is also a nice target near the goal line on a team without much in the way of red zone threats.  Do not be surprised if Allen hits double digit TDs on a high powered Colts offense.

Dave: I’m higher on Kevin White for this season and in dynasty than much of the fantasy community.  He’s currently going 37th among WRs in PPR leagues this season (30th in my rankings) and 21st among WRs in July dynasty startups according to DLF July ADP. If Jeffery misses time, White could quickly jump into the WR2 conversation.

Nick: If Giovani Bernard isn’t the ideal buy low target in fantasy this season I don’t know who is. The Bengals lost over 150 targets in Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu and Tyler Eifert looks like he could miss games to start the season with yet another injury. With only A.J. Green to help Dalton consistently in the passing game I can easily see a scenario where Gio becomes the number two. A schedule that includes the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Bills and Broncos along with two divisional games against the Steelers and a better Ravens squad will make for close scoring games.

Your 2016 Fantasy Bold Prediction

Goodwin: I felt like I just gave one with Taylor, but I’ll go something different. Here goes-Charles Sims outscores Doug Martin in fantasy points this season. Sims is already slated for more carries than his 107 totes in 2015 (higher than you’d think given Martin’s season) and is the Bucs receiving back. While Martin got the big money deal, Sims to me is too talented to keep off the field, especially if the game script is in his favor.

Luke: Perhaps it’s just too much “All or Nothing” on Amazon, but my bold prediction is that David Johnson will be the highest scoring RB in all formats this upcoming year.  His starting workload from last season projected over an entire year is a Cardinal virtue for BA’s team.

Ryan Matthews is the new Jamaal Charles

Ryan Matthews is Doug Pederson’s new Jamaal Charles

Bernard: Ryan Mathews finishes as an RB1.  Mathews has been a very productive back throughout his career, averaging 4.5 YPC, despite playing with some bad offensive lines.  Injuries have also been Mathews undoing far too frequently.  The former Charger is by far the most talented lead back on the roster mixing prototypical size, speed, and power.  He is the clear #1 back on an offense that will be run heavy with new head coach Doug Pederson.  Mathews stays mostly healthy on his way to a big year.

Dave: Adrian Peterson will not finish 2016 as a top 10 RB in PPR scoring.  Peterson’s never been a huge part of the passing game and is now finding himself on the sidelines often in 3rd and long situations according to Pro Football Focus.   Entering his age 31 season, I’d rather be out one year too early than one year too late.

Nick: The new NFL features more passing and requires versatile running backs that can both run between the tackles and catch passes down the field. Because of this I boldly predict that Giovani Bernard will lead all running backs in receptions while simultaneously having the most scrimmage yards of any running back in 2016. Management and the coaches clearly saw Bernard being a big part of their offense by extending his contract through 2019. They could have just as easily let him play out the season and see what’s available in free agency as well as the 2017 draft. With the inconsistencies of Jeremy Hill on the ground and the lack of receiving options in the air, Gio should be used in the same role as fellow AFC North running back Le’veon Bell.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

2016 Writers’ Bold Predictions

Updated: July 22nd 2016

Training camp is just days away! Only a short few weeks till the Hall of Fame Game which means that it’s time to start making some projections. The writers here at RSO have passed around five (5) topics about what we are keeping an eye out for in 2016. The list includes players to stash, players to be wary of as well as one bold prediction for fantasy this season.  Let it begin!

Interesting team/position group to watch for in fantasy

Matt Goodwin: I like the Cleveland Browns receivers to be better than advertised. Let’s not underestimate head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns will likely be trailing in most games and the team invested high draft capital in Corey Coleman, who I peg to eclipse 1,000 yards and 80 catches and 6 touchdowns this season. Andrew Hawkins is healthy and while the team will throw to running back weapon Duke Johnson and tight end Gary Barnidge plenty (don’t expect a steep drop-off in targets for Barnidge), this offense will be considerably better than people think. If Josh Gordon manages to come back too (the Browns brass seem like they’ve moved on and would likely trade their maligned star wideout), this offense could be somewhat dare I say, dynamic.

Coaching Changes

A change in Philly could be good for two cities

Luke O’Connell: The most fascinating fantasy position group has to be the San Francisco 49ers and their ragtag band of WRs: Torrey Smith, Deandre Smelter, Bruce Ellington.  Owners salivate over the projected negative game scripts for the 49ers and the sheer volume that Kelly might generate. Monopolizing these players at the beginning of the year and dropping the losers of the fantasy gold rush seems a viable strategy for owners.

Bernard Faller: Perhaps no team completely remade their offense as much as Houston did in the offseason.  The Texans instantly transformed from one of the slowest offensive skill position groups to one of the fastest.  Hopkins and Miller have top-5 potential plus Oz could be a sneaky play in 2QB and Superflex leagues with all the new weapons around him.

Dave Sanders: 49ers’ passing game under Chip Kelly is intriguing. As one of the slowest paced teams in 2015, they’ll see a drastic increase in snaps per game. For the 2016 season, I’m buying Torrey Smith as a low-end WR3 and whichever QB lands the job as a QB2.

Nick Andrews: Maybe it’s because I have actually conversed with Doug Pederson in the past (who is hilarious by the way) but I want to see what he can do running the show in Philadelphia. Being very different from former Eagles coach Chip Kelly I want to see what he can get out of his skilled positions, specifically Ryan Matthews, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. We know what he could do with the Chiefs last year making Maclin a seriously underrated WR1 each week and turning any RB into a fantasy commodity. Assuming either Wentz or Bradford can be an average, stable QB (à la Alex Smith) we could see a better-motivated offense coming out of PA.

Rebound/Comeback Player of the Year

Goodwin: Obviously Jordy Nelson brings the vertical threat back to the Packers and should once again thrive in Green Bay. Seems too obvious. Going out of the limb for me would be Victor Cruz. I rightfully get the Sterling Shepard hype, but with Cruz slated to be the Giants #3 receiver, I think his price is so low that he represents significant value and upside, especially if injuries occur. Cruz has always been a solid route runner and if the calf if really healthy, can easily exploit weaker defensive backs in the slot.

Dez and Romo

Big things cooking in Big D this year?

Luke: The last ride of Tony Romo is one in which fantasy owners should be interested.  He has a stacked line, an explosive rookie RB as a pressure valve, and the enigmatic Dez Bryant catching passes.  He could, perhaps even should, be the comeback star.

Bernard: You could put any Packer here but I will go with Eddie Lacy.  The consensus “safest” RB last season struggled with poor offensive line play, injuries, and poor play due to weight issues.  Lacy ended 2015 as the RB47 in PPR PPG.  Look for a contract year Lacy to be in prime condition and improve greatly, along with the rest of the Green Bay offense, with the return of Jordy Nelson.

Dave: I’m all in on Jordy Nelson this year.  He’s my WR7 this year in PPR leagues after having a full calendar year to recover from his torn ACL.

Nick: There will be a lot more “X” being thrown up in the end zone in 2016. Dez Bryant said he is good to go this season after missing half of last season with a foot injury and missing his QB for the other half. Before last season Bryant had three straight seasons with 1,200+ yards receiving and 12+ touchdowns. The man plays the game with a competitive fire that won’t let him have back-to-back down seasons. Throw that “X” up!

Who do you think the fantasy community’s Overvalued POTY will be?

Goodwin: Thomas Rawls and it isn’t close. The Seahawks secret sauce in the past has been pounding Beast Mode. However, with a different offensive line and receiving weapons, the Seahawks seem better equipped to turn the keys over to Russell Wilson like they did down the stretch in 2015. I feel Rawls resembles a 2014 C.J. Anderson and while I agree that if I’m paying lots of money for running backs, I want them young; however, if I’m buying young I want the pedigree too (high draft capital) or a larger sample size. Rawls has neither of these while the Seahawks invested in C.J. Prosise in the draft and Rawls is coming back from a significant injury. To invest long-term in him with $20+ million a year when the Seahawks can so easily walk away from him seems to be incredibly irresponsible.

Luke: Le’veon Bell rapped “I’m at the top and if not I’m the closest/Ima need 15 a year and they know this,” in his track “Focus.”  Viewed by many as the top RB in fantasy, the risk is starting to outweigh the reward.  Rumors of missing drug tests, a reconstructed knee, and contract negotiations via albums dropped on twitter…Le’Veon Bell will not toll for this GM.

Bernard: This is Donte Moncrief for me.  I spoke to many people who expect Moncrief to take over as the #1 WR in Indianapolis and possibly produce low-end WR1 numbers.  Many people will be disappointed this year.  Moncrief was quietly one of the most inefficient WRs in the NFL last season with or without Luck.  T.Y. Hilton is still the #1 target in Indy and will be for some time.

Dave: Count me out on Jordan Matthews.  According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s currently going 27th among WRs in PPR, but places 47th in my PPR WR rankings for this season.  After OTAs, Matthews is expected to remain a slot WR in Doug Pederson’s offense that will operate at a much slower pace in 2016.

Nick: Running back is one of the trickiest positions to understand as a fantasy player. New names seem to come out of the woodwork each week only to disappear before you can even put in a waiver claim.

Unproven RBs

Two sophomore RBs that may be too good to be true

This year’s hot name is David Johnson who took the NFL by storm with a 3 TD, 200 total yards performance against Philadelphia in the fantasy playoffs. Last I checked though Chris Johnson is coming back for another season and before CJ2K’s injury in week 12 David had seen a total of 27 carries. I’ve been burned one too many times from early round redraft RBs (Zac Stacy, C.J. Anderson) to invest heavily in another.

 

Who do you think could be the Underrated POTY?

Goodwin: Tyrod Taylor. While there seem to be a multitude of options at quarterback this season, Taylor’s versatility with his legs and another year of experience in a contract year will only benefit him. The Bills have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, a now healthy Robert Woods and assuming Sammy Watkins’ health; I expect huge things from this tandem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor finishes as a Top 5 fantasy quarterback this season.

Underrated QBs

A pair of waiver wire QBs that could be a cap saver in 2016

Luke: Alexander the Great, while rolling and conquering much of known world, had time to learn philosophy from Aristotle and drop lines like this one: “As one lion overcomes many people and as one wolf scatters many sheep, so likewise will I, with one word, destroy the peoples who have come against me.” The lion that may prove to overcome many this year is Matthew Stafford.   In traditional redraft leagues His ADP puts him down in 14th round. However, with a ceiling that projects favorably to Big Ben and Drew Brees (5/6th round picks) you can save crucial salary cap money and destroy the league that comes against you.   If analysis based purely on cost isn’t your cup of tea, know that Jim Bob lets Stafford sling it inside the 10 yard line.  Stafford led all passers in the NFL with 21 touchdowns last year and was by far the most efficient, completing 75% of his passes inside the 10 yard line despite being one of the league leaders in attempts.

Bernard: Dwayne Allen is currently coming off the board as a mid-range TE2.  He could finish much higher.  Coby Fleener and Andre Johnson left Indianapolis with 162 targets.  Expect Allen to pick up a big chunk of those targets.  Allen is also a nice target near the goal line on a team without much in the way of red zone threats.  Do not be surprised if Allen hits double digit TDs on a high powered Colts offense.

Dave: I’m higher on Kevin White for this season and in dynasty than much of the fantasy community.  He’s currently going 37th among WRs in PPR leagues this season (30th in my rankings) and 21st among WRs in July dynasty startups according to DLF July ADP. If Jeffery misses time, White could quickly jump into the WR2 conversation.

Nick: If Giovani Bernard isn’t the ideal buy low target in fantasy this season I don’t know who is. The Bengals lost over 150 targets in Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu and Tyler Eifert looks like he could miss games to start the season with yet another injury. With only A.J. Green to help Dalton consistently in the passing game I can easily see a scenario where Gio becomes the number two. A schedule that includes the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Bills and Broncos along with two divisional games against the Steelers and a better Ravens squad will make for close scoring games.

Your 2016 Fantasy Bold Prediction

Goodwin: I felt like I just gave one with Taylor, but I’ll go something different. Here goes-Charles Sims outscores Doug Martin in fantasy points this season. Sims is already slated for more carries than his 107 totes in 2015 (higher than you’d think given Martin’s season) and is the Bucs receiving back. While Martin got the big money deal, Sims to me is too talented to keep off the field, especially if the game script is in his favor.

Luke: Perhaps it’s just too much “All or Nothing” on Amazon, but my bold prediction is that David Johnson will be the highest scoring RB in all formats this upcoming year.  His starting workload from last season projected over an entire year is a Cardinal virtue for BA’s team.

Ryan Matthews is the new Jamaal Charles

Ryan Matthews is Doug Pederson’s new Jamaal Charles

Bernard: Ryan Mathews finishes as an RB1.  Mathews has been a very productive back throughout his career, averaging 4.5 YPC, despite playing with some bad offensive lines.  Injuries have also been Mathews undoing far too frequently.  The former Charger is by far the most talented lead back on the roster mixing prototypical size, speed, and power.  He is the clear #1 back on an offense that will be run heavy with new head coach Doug Pederson.  Mathews stays mostly healthy on his way to a big year.

Dave: Adrian Peterson will not finish 2016 as a top 10 RB in PPR scoring.  Peterson’s never been a huge part of the passing game and is now finding himself on the sidelines often in 3rd and long situations according to Pro Football Focus.   Entering his age 31 season, I’d rather be out one year too early than one year too late.

Nick: The new NFL features more passing and requires versatile running backs that can both run between the tackles and catch passes down the field. Because of this I boldly predict that Giovani Bernard will lead all running backs in receptions while simultaneously having the most scrimmage yards of any running back in 2016. Management and the coaches clearly saw Bernard being a big part of their offense by extending his contract through 2019. They could have just as easily let him play out the season and see what’s available in free agency as well as the 2017 draft. With the inconsistencies of Jeremy Hill on the ground and the lack of receiving options in the air, Gio should be used in the same role as fellow AFC North running back Le’veon Bell.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Ups and Downs of the RSO Playoffs

Updated: December 24th 2015

golden-tate-nfl-new-orleans-saints-detroit-lions-850x560

They say it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. To win Reality Sports Online league titles, it seems like you have to be a bit of both. Hit on your rookie draft picks, don’t spend big dollars on busts and get your multi-year deals right, don’t have player injuries and then have it all align in the playoffs.

So, after being in my main league for three years and the Writers League for two years, I can honestly say I haven’t won a championship and am still after that holy grail. As someone who is their own worst critic, and who writes strategy pieces for the website, that makes me feel like a little bit of a fraud. I know I’m beating myself up on this, but let me share my two league circumstances with you this year.

I welcome any of you who suffered a similar loss to Tweet me or contact me as some form of therapy. I have writing about this experience as my therapy, so let me be the one you vent to after reading this if you are in the same boat as me.

First, I’ll start with my Writers League with folks who I write with at Reality Sports Online and numberFire mainly (some have moved onto other sites like Rotoworld and ESPN). I finished 11-2 in the regular season with the highest scoring team by far. That earned me the #2 seed and a matchup against my friend @GrahamBarfield, the #3 seed in the league, while 12-1 #1 Seed @LeoHowell8 played upstart first-year owner and Baylor Law Professor and late summer league addition #4 seed (brought in via Twitter to compete against writers) @RoryRyan in the other playoff matchup.

Buoyed all season by a Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski stack, Devonta Freeman and Eric Decker, my team was stacked and I have most of these players (and Todd Gurley, Demaryius Thomas) for several more years. In round one however, I went into Monday Night Football with a 16 point lead and Graham having Lamar Miller remaining. Miller scored two touchdowns by halftime and my highest-scoring team in the league (and second highest among 10 teams that week) was toast.

On the other side, Howell, who has lost exactly two regular season games in two years in the league, put up a dud and lost to Ryan, who inherited one of the worst teams in the league mid-summer, was awarded T.Y. Hilton by the league on a two year, $40.0 million contract and left to his own devices to turn the rest around. He slid into the playoffs behind some good moves and then, wouldn’t you know it, won the whole thing while Howell and I put up very high totals in the third place game.

Rory Ryan Shocks the Writers League

Basically, Ryan capitalized on being healthy and opportunistic,  and a few solid moves. Here’s his summary of what lead to his success (in his words):

“As I looked around the locker room before the championship match, I decided we needed to do something unusual. We went around the room and introduced ourselves–as six of the ten starters were waiver-wire pickups. As I drove my family back from the Polar Express train ride during Monday’s finale, I kept getting SiriusXM updates that were good. Then better. Then — victory. To say the team I inherited was in “rebuilding mode” would be an understatement. But we were able to scrape out just enough wins and ride a whole lot of luck to the title. “

“Although (to quote Nuke Laloosh) “winning is like . . . so much better than losing,” the year was great either way. As I told folks on social media, it was fun playing against the guys whose advice I use when setting my lineups in other leagues. And the RSO format really does make even traditional dynasty leagues seem primitive. The contracts, waivers, salary cap, etc., make up the way fantasy ought to be played. “
“The opportunity to play this format against these guys was too much to pass up — despite my (formerly) firm rules against not playing in leagues with kickers, defenses (if I can help it), and true decimal scoring. But I’m still looking forward to next year, where hopefully my roster will be slightly more settled. “

“So what was my strategy? When I entered the auction, there were few (no) stars and plenty of money. So prices were inflated. I went after some grinders who I’d always feel OK inserting into the lineup: Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, and Doug Martin (didn’t get him). But I spent little money. Instead, I saved most of my cap room, knowing that injuries and sleepers would emerge, and I would have the big bankroll. DeAngelo Williams, Danny Amendola, Antonio Gates, Dion Lewis, and Zach Miller all played important roles during the season.

“As for the future — we will see if my strategy works. Since there were no stars to lock down, I went after a group of guys who I thought were more talented than their projections, hoping that at least one of them ends up in an ideal situation. The prices are low enough that hitting 1/3 and cutting the other two will more than pay for itself in savings, despite the cap penalty, as I’ll avoid waiting for the player to demonstrate the market value. So, Golden Tate, Torrey Smith, and Markus Wheaton — please answer the phone if the Patriots call.”

A Rivalry Is Continued in Reality Sports Online

Let me set the stage for you a bit with some history. My best friend since our freshman year at Miami University, @MarkPesavento and I have been in fantasy football leagues together since 1996. He is my biggest rival and our fantasy matchups have quite a history of craziness as you can imagine for anyone playing against each other for that long. Since he works in sports and I don’t, there is an extra layer of who is the smarter football mind is between the two of us.

With that in mind, Mark and I left an ESPN keeper league a few years ago in search of something bigger, something more challenging that was fully customizable. As part of his work at the time, he discovered Reality Sports Online and we’ve been hooked ever since. Together we are co-commissioners of the Not Quite Gentlemen’s League, a super-customized PPR league with 12 teams and lineups consisting of only one required running back, three flex positions, and where turnovers are heavily punished (-5 points for interceptions, fumbles) and the 5th and 6th playoff seeds are determined solely based on total points scored.
RSO Co-Founder and Chief Operating Office Stephen Wendell is now in our league too, which adds to the competitiveness. Pesavento finished first overall at 11-2 with the highest point total (he won the league in 2014), newcomer Wendell finished 9-5 and was the #2 seed. I was the second highest scoring team, but finished 7-6 and got the #5 overall seed.

My high-scoring team proved no fluke in the opening round of the playoffs, winning 321.54-179.99 and a Week 15 rematch with Pesavento, who I was 0-2 against on the season, loomed.

Setting the Stage-Week 12

First, though, let me take you back to Week 12 where Pesavento and I squared off in an epic battle. He staked to an early lead behind Odell Beckham Jr., Philip Rivers, and Spencer Ware that seemed insurmountable at the time. Then late in the late games, my quarterback Russell Wilson hooked up with Doug Baldwin for an 80 yard touchdown, en route to a 72 point fantasy performance.

I was close going into the Sunday night game where I had Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots DST to his Broncos DST. Behind a Gronk touchdown and subsequent Gronk-spike and an inteception by the Patriots D, I staked out to a fairly decent lead (like 20 points). As the clock turned to the 4th quarter, I instant messaged Pesavento saying this game seems like it is over.

And then the collapse happened. The Patriots muffed a punt, Denver’s running game started picking up steam and the Patriots were bleeding out yardage allowed and points scored. The game was getting much closer. All I needed was another Gronk catch and I’d be fine.

Then Gronk got called for offensive pass interference on a big catch that was nullified. A few plays later, then he was carted off with a knee injury. So my happiness of likely winning the game turned into losing my key league advantage (and someone I’d like to franchise tag on a good deal for 2016) for the season, and potentially this game as well.

The Broncos scored to take the lead and all I then needed (while I was frantically worried about Gronk’s health for the rest of the season) was the game not to go to overtime. Well, we all know Stephen Gostkowski is fantasy gold and the game went to overtime. In overtime, as long as the Broncos didn’t score a touchdown, I’d win.

I think you know the rest. C.J. Anderson scored on a 48 yard touchdown scamper to end the game and Pesavento beat me by .25 points, continuing a series of close calls in recent match-ups.

The Worst Possible Way To Lose?

Heading into the Week 15 playoff matchup of the two highest scoring teams in the league, Pesavento was favored, yet he had some of his best players with tough matchups (Beckham Jr vs CAR, Antonio Brown vs. DEN DST, DEN DST at PIT) while mine on paper seemed favorable (A.J. Green @SF, Wilson vs. CLE, Devonta Freeman @JAX, Gronkowski vs. TEN, NE DST vs. TEN).

I staked out to a decent lead as Beckham Jr. didn’t have any catches through three well-documented quarters vs. shutdown corner Josh Norman. While I was watching on the NFL Game Mix (8 games at once on a not so-huge TV on DirecTV), I noticed that things were getting super chippy and was waiting for OBJ to get ejected by referee Terry McAulay’s crew for the punches thrown and the cheap shots.

I usually don’t get “holier than though” watching football, but by the time the Giants started their comeback and OBJ started racking up fantasy points I was on my high-horse and stark-raving mad that Beckham Jr. hadn’t been tossed. Heck, I’ve been tossed from rec-league basketball games for way less.

However, his Alshon Jeffery only had one catch for 10 yards and a touchdown, my Patriots DST had a good game and I was hanging in with him heading into Wilson’s huge matchup against my hometown Browns. Knowing that Wilson was hot and the Browns defense is porous, I knew Russ would deliver for me.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Brown scoring 70 points against his Broncos DST. So as the Steelers/Broncos game wore down and I was hoping the Broncos would give up more points, I was hoping that another player would score the final touchdown of this game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and when Ben Roethlisberger threw an egregious interception on a terrible pass to his Denver defense right before the two minute warning that I coined the “Class of 1998 Miami University Fantasy Football Scholarship”, I knew that 5 points for the Broncos would loom large.

And as Brown caught another ball, I found myself down 15 points heading into Monday Night Football where it was my Golden Tate vs. his Tim Hightower for the right to survive and advance. Tate was coming off his best game of the season and was facing the porous Saints secondary. Hightower was coming off a solid game. Game flow seemed to favor Tate, but I figured the 15 points would loom too large for Tate to overcome.
As the game started and Tate scored two early touchdowns I found myself up in the game. Hightower scored right before half, but the play was called back on a lineman failing to report. The two of us went crazy over IM the remainder of the game.

At one point, unsolicited my wife and 5 year old son and 1 year old daughter started chanting “Golden Tate, Golden Tate!” pleading for him to get the ball when the Lions were on offense. It was super cute to see my daughter who talks but doesn’t know too many words saying this.

I was clinging to a slight lead and game flow took Hightower out of the game mostly. As I watched the Lions fumble away a few possessions that Tate could’ve had opportunities and the Lions DST unable to force punts to Tate as the returner (we get punt return yards for individual players in our league), I knew this was going to come down to the wire.

With five minutes left and me clinging to an ironic .26 point lead (basically the Week 12 margin of defeat), I paced around knowing that if Hightower got one more carry I would lose. I made it basically to the end of the game where the Lions were running out the clock unscathed. Alas, they didn’t have the ability to run off the entire clock and in came Matt Prater to kick a chip-shot field goal to end the game. Prater then missed, and I knew anything could happen.

The Saints had a few plays left and surely would be setting up for a Hail Mary after gaining a little bit of yardage. Initially seeing C.J. Spiller as the receiving back in the game, I figured I was fine. On a play with 14 seconds left, Drew Brees looked and pump faked at Hightower, but threw elsewhere. With six seconds left to go, folks in my league (including Pesavento) were congratulating me on the win.

Talk about Dewey vs. Truman. The last play should have been a Hail Mary. Instead, Brees decided to pad his completion percentage and throw a dump-off to Hightower. The yardage didn’t matter-I had lost after overcoming a deficit, in another crushing close defeat to Pesavento. Again on the last play of the game.
I wish this writing was fiction and not fact. I had seemingly overcome some poor performances by Green, T.Y. Hilton (who I started over Danny Woodhead based on recent history, Matt Hasselback starting, and Hilton’s history against Houston). I think back to all the dynamics of the matchup- Beckham not getting ejected and missing a for sure deep touchdown early in the game, two straight fade routes to Gronk in the end zone late in the Patriots/Titans game that came up just short, pass interference calls covering my Randall Cobb in the end zone, the Broncos late interception, and finally Hightower’s catch with the Saints down 8 points on the last play of the last game of the week, and I realize that the Reality Sports Online holy grail is a temptress. I easily could have lost by 50 points, won by 20 points or won by .26 points, but instead I lost by a few points and now wish Pesavento good luck in the finals (without Beckham and potentially Jeffery) while I play Wendell for third-place this week.

Only a combination of luck, health, and solid roster moves will result in winning this thing and I hope that my championship window with the same core I have locked up through 2016 will bring me better results next year. There’s always next year.

Please feel free to reach out to me with similar stories, start/sit questions for your big week 16 championship, or to call me a fraud via Twitter @Mattgoody2.

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