January 5-6 — Wild Card Playoffs
January 6 — Assistant coaches under contract to playoff clubs that have byes in the Wild Card weekend may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of the Wild Card games.
January 12-13 — Divisional Playoffs.
January 13 — Assistant coaches under contract to playoff clubs that won their Wild Card games may be interviewed for head coaching positions through the conclusion of Divisional Playoff games.
January 15 — Deadline for underclassmen to petition for special eligibility for the 2013 NFL Draft.
January 19 — East-West Shrine Game, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida.
January 20 — AFC and NFC Championship Games.
January 24-25 — Regional Combine, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii
January 26 — Senior Bowl, Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama.
January 27 — AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii.
January 27 — An assistant coach, whose team is participating in the Super Bowl, who has previously interviewed for another club’s head coaching job may have a second interview with such club no later than the Sunday preceding the Super Bowl.
February 2 — Texas vs. Nation College All-Star Game, Eagle Stadium, Allen, Texas.
February 3 — Super Bowl XLVII, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana.
February 9-10 — Regional Combine, Orange Coast College-Lebard Stadium, Los Angeles, California
February 16 — Regional Combine, Methodist Training Center (Texans), Houston, Texas
February 17 — Regional Combine, Cleveland Browns Training Facility, Cleveland, Ohio
February 20-26 — Combine Timing and Testing, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
March 2-3 — Regional Combine, Atlantic Health Jets Training Facility, New York/New Jersey
March 9 — Regional Combine, One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, Florida
March 10 — Regional Combine, Halas Hall (Bears), Chicago, Illinois
March 9-11 — Clubs are permitted to enter into contract negotiations with certified agents of players who will be Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of the current League Year.
March 12 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must exercise options for 2013 on all players who have option clauses in their 2012 contracts.
March 12 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit Qualifying Offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.
March 12 — Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit a minimum salary offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2012 contracts and who have fewer than three seasons of free agency credit.
March 12 — All 2012 player contracts will expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.
March 12 — Top-51 Begins. All clubs must be under the Salary Cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.
March 12 — The 2013 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.
March 12 — Trading period begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, for 2013 after expiration of all 2012 contracts.
March 16-17 — Regional Combine, Atlanta Falcons Training Facility, Atlanta, Georgia
March 17-20 — Annual League Meeting, The Biltmore, Phoenix, Arizona.
March 23-24 — Regional Combine, Virginia Mason Athletic Center (Seahawks), Seattle, Washington
March 23-24 — Regional Combine, Baltimore Ravens Training Facility, Baltimore, Maryland
April 7-8 — Super Regional Combine, Cowboys Stadium, Dallas, Texas
April 25-27 — NFL Draft, New York City, New York.
May 20-22 — NFL Spring League Meeting, Hyatt-Harborside, Boston, Massachusetts.
September 5, 8-9 — NFL Kickoff 2013
January 5-6 — Wild Card Playoffs
It is weeks like this one that try my sanity — and even cause me to question my acumen as supposed fantasy expert.
In one of my leagues I was done-in this past week by a guy who was forced to start Matt Schaub at QB because his usual starter, Eli Manning, was on a bye. Now, I suppose with the way that Eli had been under-performing the last few weeks, my opponent may very well have started Schaub against the lousy Jacksonville defense anyway. True enough. But what hurts is that this guy had very little else in his fantasy lineup this week — yet was able to beat my team thanks almost exclusively to Schaub’s contributions. Schaub passed for 527 yards and 5 TDs, which was good enough for 35 points in this league.
For my part, I whiffed on a couple of my own players in this same league.
It seems that I had the good sense to pick up Marcel Reece off the waiver wire. However, I did not have the cajones to start him over resident stud LeSean McCoy. What am I always preaching? Start your studs every week, right? Of course, Reece racked up almost 200 yards in total offense, and McCoy looks to be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future after sustaining a concussion in a situation in which he probably should not have even been on the field, given that the Eagles were long out of the contest against Washington.
It gets better.
I was so convinced that Denarius Moore was going to have a great week against the Saints’ lousy pass defense (last in the league in most fantasy circles), that I started him over Andre Johnson. This was actually a close call, but I trusted my player rankings. I had Moore ranked 10th and Johnson 15th at the WR position.Moore rewarded my confidence with one measly catch for 9 yards. Considering that Moore also had one rushing attempt for negative 5 yards, he netted me a single catch for 4 yards. Ugh! After the game, reporters asked Palmer why he didn’t get Moore more involved. Well, he tried — 7 targets, which is reasonable — but Palmer said that he and Moore had some communication issues during the game. They promise to work on that together this week. Thanks, fellas.
I did not hate Johnson, I just figured that Arian Foster and the running game would have so much success that neither Schaub nor Johnson would be a huge factor. And who could have guessed that Chad Henne — who did not even start the game, mind you — and Justin Blackmon would FORCE Schaub and AJ to do what they did by rolling up their own collection of insane stats against the Texans’ vaunted defense?
Bet many of you are regretting starting Houston’s defense too, huh?
Like I said, it was just one of those weeks.
Every week, we post our Fantasy Heroes from the previous weekend’s games. Today I am feeling a bit ornery and would like to post a list of some of the biggest Fantasy Villains — or guys who horribly under-performed — from this past weekend.
Let’s start with a couple of quarterbacks.
Andy Dalton. Yes, we knew that he had an unfavorable match-up against the Steelers, who had a few extra days to prepare and were sure to be in a foul mood after last Thursday’s loss to the Titans. However, we did NOT expect Dalton to pass for a mere 105 yards! Dalton is becoming less and less trustworthy as a fantasy QB.
Matt Hasselbeck. Yes, he threw the game winning TD pass. Yes, he avoided the big mistakes. Yes, he engineered an offense that managed to score 35 points against the hapless Bills’ defense. Still, from a fantasy perspective, he was not especially effective. With so many key players on a bye in Week 7 (Ryan, Rivers, Peyton…) many fantasy owners plugged Hass in Sunday expecting a Sleeper-like performance— and instead got the typical 205 yards and 1 TD pass that was merely ho-hum.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger.
Now, the running backs.
Trent Richardson. The burning question all week long was whether or not Richardson would be able to suit up and play with injured ribs. By Friday it was pretty clear that he was going to play possibly with a protective jacket and that he may split carries with Montario Hardesty. I was not too worried about the shared backfield; after all, the opponent was the lowly Colts who had just allowed Shonn Greene to rush for 160 yards the week before. Also, I thought once Richardson got on the field, the adrenaline would get him through the pain. Well, Richardson managed just 20 total yards (only 8 rushing) — and was on the shelf by half time. Hardesty did little better (28 yards) subbing for him.
David Wilson. With Ahmad Bradshaw nursing a foot injury and Andre Brown less than 100%, many fantasy owners took a flier on Wilson last week as a bye-week fill-in. Wilson managed to touch the ball 4 times — all as a kick returner. He did not get a single carry or record a single reception on offense.
William Powell. Arizona has had a real problem with keeping their RBs healthy, and Powell has been no exception. However, on Sunday against a pretty decent Viking run defense, LaRod Stephens-Howling actually posted some quality numbers. Meanwhile, Powell (projected by many to be the better fantasy option) racked up just 18 yards in total offense.
Felix Jones. He was one of the hottest acquisitions off the waiver wire last week, given the injury to DeMarco Murray and the quality match-up against the Panthers. Jones was not terrible (74 total yards), but he was not the stud fill-in that many fantasy owners clamored for when they blew a sizable portion of their bid dollars to acquire him.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew
Plenty of chaff among the WRs.
Brandon Lloyd: I was down a bit on Lloyd last week, and we even listed him as a “Sit” in our weekly Sit or Start column. But we certainly expected more than 1 catch for a mere 6 yards!
Justin Blackmon. I have to admit that I went into last week with the feeling that this just may be THE week for Blackmon to have something resembling a breakout performance. The Jags were coming off a bye, and they were facing an Oakland defense that had been very kind to fantasy WRs. Blackmon rewarded my faith in him with a single reception of just 7 yards. I know Gabbert got hurt early in the game, but still…
Dez Bryant. Speaking of breakout performances, that is exactly what Bryant had in Week 6, when he caught 13 passes, two of them for TDs. Too bad he could not follow that up with another stellar performance. The entire Dallas offense looked out of sorts against the Panthers on Sunday, and Bryant managed just 2 harmless receptions for 14 yards.
Larry Fitzgerald. Early on, it looked like Fitz was going to have a career game against his hometown team in Minnesota, as he caught 3 passes early on. However, Skelton inexplicably quit looking his direction, and he ended the game with just one more reception. The total was 4 receptions for just 29 yards. Not good.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Kenny Britt, Torrey Smith, Mike Wallace
Not a great week for tight ends.
Vernon Davis. If you started Vernon Davis (which you probably did if he is on your roster), he rewarded you with a big, fat goose egg.
Fred Davis. He managed just one catch for 13 yards before leaving the game (and the rest of the season) with a knee injury. Chris Cooley anyone?
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Scott Chandler, Jermaine Gresham, Jermichael Finley, Greg Olsen, Dennis Pitta
Should I even mention kickers?
Jay Feely. Last week Feely made good on a 61-yard filed goal late in the game to tie the game and eventually force overtime against Buffalo. On Sunday against the Vikings he failed to kick a single field goal, missing the only one he attempted. He made good on two extra points, which is not exactly pay-dirt in terms of fantasy.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Blair Walsh
As we head into Week 3 in the NFL, allow me a few moments to look back and vent a little about Week 2.
Antonio Gates? The Chargers told us all that he was going to be healthy enough to start — and he wound up not getting on the field at all! Liars!
One thing that stands out to me is the under-performance of so many key fantasy studs.
For example, here were the top 10 fantasy QBs (using traditional scoring) last week:
1. Robert Griffin III
2. Eli Manning
3. Cam Newton
4. Sam Bradford
5. Andy Dalton
6. Philip Rivers
7. Michael Vick
8. Brandon Weeden
9. Ryan Tannehill
10. Andrew Luck
That is really an amazing list when you look at it. There is no Aaron Rodgers, no Tom Brady, no Matt Stafford — all of whom were first round picks in many fantasy leagues. Instead, four rookies made the list — two of whom (Tannehill and Weeden) are unowned in the vast majority of fantasy leagues.
The poor performance from Rodgers is especially troubling. Last season he was a perfect 15 for 15 (remember, he sat out the season finale in which Matt Flynn exploded) using our modest Quality Fantasy Start formula: a combination of 300 all-purpose yards and/or multiple TDs for a QB. Last Thursday’s stinker against Chicago, a team he has historically posted good numbers against, was most certainly NOT a Quality Start. Of course, Rodgers did not get much help from his receivers, especially James Jones who dropped a TD pass and ran a bad route resulting in an interception.
The RBs proved to be an interesting bunch too:
1. Reggie Bush
2. C.J. Spiller
3. Trent Richardson
4. Willis McGahee
5. Ben Tate
6. Arian Foster
7. Jackie Battle
8. Marshawn Lynch
9. Andre Brown
10. Frank Gore
Three guys on the list — McGahee, Lynch and Spiller — are all former first round picks of the Buffalo Bills. In one of my leagues, I lost to a guy who “foolishly” loaded up on WRs and TEs early in his draft — but seriously neglected the RB position. The only RB of note he had was Fred Jackson, who of course went down with the knee injury last week. Fortunately, for this foe of mine — and unfortunately for me — he had the good sense to snatch up Spiller as a handcuff to FJax.
I have to admit that I was not especially high on Spiller heading into the season, as I was sure that the team would center the offense around Jackson. Through two games, Spiller is averaging over 10 yards per carry. And that is with a decent number of carries, so the average is not skewed by a single run or two. The last RB to rush for such a high YPC was the great Jim Brown — 50 years ago!
The Giants’ RB situation is puzzling. If you started Bradshaw (as I did in one of my leagues), you were expecting a good performance against the Bucs. The fact that Andre Brown rushed for close to 100 yards and a TD helps to validate that expectation; too bad Bradshaw went down so early in the game! The Bradshaw injury does not sound serious, but given that the next game is a Thursday night one, we have to expect that the Giants will err on the side of caution and sit him this week. With Brown having played so well, wonder where that leaves rookie David Wilson, who looked so good in the preseason?
1. Hakeem Nicks
2. Victor Cruz
3. Dwayne Bowe
4. Danny Amendola
5. Vincent Jackson
6. Roddy White
7. Demaryius Thomas
8. Mike Wallace
9. Reggie Wayne
10. Brandon Tate
Megatron, woher bist du? By this point last year Calvin Johnson already had 4 TDs. So far this year? Exactly the same number that my toothless puppy George has.
Instead, we have two Giants receivers at 1a and 1b, which is no great surprise given that Eli passed for 510 yards against the Bucs — much of that in the 4th quarter. However, Nicks hobbled off the field after his last catch, clutching his mending foot. Might that be a burden for him all season? And, again, the Giants do not have a lot of time to rest him in time for Thursday night’s game.
Speaking of Thursday night games… I am beginning to hate these Thursday night games. In messes with us from a fantasy perspective. Wonder if Greg Jennings would have been healthy enough to play a Sunday game, rather than being a Thursday night scratch last week? These games also introduce marital strife within the Lackner household:
Mrs. Lackner: “So what are we watching tonight?”
Mrs. Lackner: “What?!? You mean I have to put up with it all day Sunday, Monday night and now Thursday night too?!?”
Me: “Yep. I got Aaron Rodgers going tonight against the Bears”.
You can imagine what happened next.
Last year, really for the first time, I advised fantasy owners to eschew the tried and true “2 Stud RB” strategy and focus on drafting an elite QB early. That was partly because I saw a significant drop-off in RB projections after the top 3-4. Also, I saw greater value when drafting in the top 20 to select a top 5 QB rather than the 8-12 ranked RBs. I feel even more strongly about that this year, as I fully believe that at least 3 (and maybe as many as 5) QBs could (and SHOULD) be drafted within the top 15 picks.
I see the upper tier of fantasy QBs to be in the 5-6 range. Those players include Rodgers, Brady, Newton, Brees, Stafford, and possibly Vick. There really isn’t much that separates them. With the exception of Vick, they all have the potential to pass for over 4000 yards and 30 TDs; Vick’s rushing acumen, coupled with solid passing production, elevates his status — although his fragile physique pushes him down a notch below the other 5. I’ve chatted with 5 different fantasy writers, and all five of them have these QBs ranked in different order.
After this top tier; however, questions begin to crop up. Rivers, Romo, Eli, Big Ben, Matt Ryan, and possibly Matt Schaub will all be drafted as some fantasy owner’s starting QB. Then there is the draft’s biggest wildcard: what to do with Peyton Manning? Each either comes with significant risk or low upside. Fantasy owners who wait too long to address the QB position, may find themselves hoping to hit pay dirt with players like Cutler, Freeman or RG3. If you have stocked up on the RB and WR positions, it is possible that you could make do with one of these young QBs as your starter – but all three would best serve as top drawer backups. And exactly how wise is it to stock up on RBs early this year?
Everyone wants an Arian Foster or a Ray Rice — but if you can’t get one of them, your odds of landing a decent RB in the later rounds may not be as bad as you think. Taking a close look at the RBs who finished in the top 10 in fantasy scoring last year, only six of them (Foster, Rice, MJD, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, and Michael Turner) were drafted in the first two rounds in typical 12-team fantasy leagues. While some first rounders were disappointments (Matt Forte, Frank Gore, Mendenhall), others were outright busts (Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, McFadden, Ryan Grant, etc.). Meanwhile, guys like Marshawn Lynch, Darren Sproles, and Michael Bush were taken in the later rounds (and even went undrafted) in many leagues — but out-performed many of the aforementioned RBs who were drafted in the first 2 rounds.
Here is a practical scenario:
Let’s say you are picking toward the end of the first round. Conventional wisdom would dictate that you take care of your RB situation by taking two of them with your back-to-back (or at least near back-to-back) selections. Assuming that you definitely go RB with one of those picks, let’s say that your choice is between the 9th ranked RB (in our case, Darren McFadden) and the 3rd ranked QB (Cam Newton per our rankings) for the other pick. The key here is to look ahead to what will likely be available with your next 2 picks. Looking at our overall rankings, that would put you in the situation of choosing between the 7th QB (Eli Manning) and the 16th RB (Michael Turner).
Glancing at our trusted GCAM, we can see that the projected output for the #3 fantasy QB is 358.75 points, and the projected output for the #8 fantasy QB is 308 points. That is a 50.75 point separation. Meanwhile, the #9 fantasy RB projects to score 203.75 points, and we get 171.5 points for the #16 fantasy RB. That is a difference of just 32.25 points – not nearly as significant a drop-off. Since the name of the game is to score the most overall points each week, it makes sense that you would rather miss out on a shade over 32 points by waiting to address your 2nd RB than lose out on nearly 51 points by waiting on your top QB. To pass on a QB over a RB there would cost you nearly 20 points.
Food for thought.