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Ameche/Abitz Memorial League: Vegas Odds 2005


OK, gang, here it is, the 12th annual Ameche League Vegas Odds show.  Surely you all remember the first one, standing around the hardware store window, watching the small flickering black and white image on the Philco in the window….waiting 5 minutes for the freakin’ thing to warm up, taking the time to rotate the antenna on the roof to optimize the signal with that dial that sat on top of the box…well, you get the idea.


After their five-star performance in Foxboro this past Monday, I don’t think there is any question that the Indianapolis Colts are the class of the NFL.   The Colts being 8-0 this year to start the year isn’t that much of a surprise, given that as an organization they seem to know what they are doing, they are well coached, their offense is state of the art and their defense is solid and aggressive.  Like Brett Favre needed to finally get past the Cowboys, the Pats needed to bury the ghost of Sugar Bear Hamilton and Ben Dreith, like the Red Sox needed to beat the Yankees in a game and/or series that mattered, so did the Colts need to get past the Patriots.  And even though these Patriots are not The Patriots, they are still the Patriots and the Colts did well to finally beat them.


It is good to see that, after having the first pick for what seemed like every other year (and, one year, THE TOP TWO), the Colts finally got it right.  The first time, as we all know, was 1983, when John Elway was the Colts’ man.  Clearly this was the right pick.  Elway, however, had no desire to play in Colts gear (which, by the way, featured those super-sharp silver pants with the horseshoe at each hip), saying “I don’t want to be a jerk but…I’m not playing in Baltimore”. (Translation: I’m just trying to piss off a certain junior at North Haven High School.)  The Colts made a trade for him that actually worked out fairly well – they got Chris Hinton and a draft pick that would become Ron Solt – but it was 50 cents on the dollar, at best.  How many Super Bowls did Chris Hinton and Ron Solt lead the Colts to?  Who even knows who those guys are anymore?


The next time they got the #1 overall was after the 1989 season, when they traded for it.  After acquiring Eric Dickerson for the 1987 season and actually winning the AFC East after losing their first 13 games in 1986, the Colts actually ran off a couple of decent seasons.  And as productive and utilitarian as Jack Trudeau was, the Colts figured they could not get to the Super Bowl without a primo quarterback.  So it was that, for the third time in the decade, the Colts took a Quarterback first, Jeff George.  And the third time was the charm.  Well, sort of…..George played and, for a year or two, actually did fairly well before alienating everyone in Indianapolis – epitomized by his defining moment, standing on the sidelines against the Jets all hacked off because his coach pulled him from the game.


Next time the Colts had the #1 overall was 1992.  And they not only had the #1 overall but the #2 overall as well.  Now, how can you screw THAT up?  Well, the Colts did, taking Steve Entmann and Quentin Coryatt 1 and 2 overall.  Granted, the 1992 first round was hardly the best draft class ever – among the first round selections that year were such future Hall of Famers as David Klingler, Tommy Vardell, Eugene Chung, Tommy Maddox (by Denver!!!), Vaughan Dunbar and Alonzo Spellman – but you HAVE to do better than the Colts did with the 1 and 2.  Sean Gilbert went #3 and he panned out better than either of those guys.


Since then the Colts have done much better with their #1 picks.  In 1994 they took Marshall Faulk #2 overall, and that panned out.  Even though they took Trev Alberts #5 and that didn’t work out (which led to Bill Tobin’s “Who the hell is Mel Kiper JR” rant on ESPN) the guy that Kiper thought they should have taken – Trent Dilfer – probably would not have made the Colts much better than they were, and probably would have made the Colts just good enough that they would have missed out on Peyton Manning.  So, maybe in an odd and twisted way, the Alberts pick DID work out for the Colts.  Kind of like how, when David Lee Roth left Van Halen, VH became more of a straightforward rock band with Sammy Hagar on vocals, and were better for it.


And let the record show that, through all the turmoil, through the 1-15 years and Craig Erickson and Jeff George being a baby, and the fact that it is STILL next to impossible to find Colts gear in this state, TONY has been there every step of the way, rooting for his boys, being a true fan.  No bandwagon hopper is he!  (More on this shortly.)  For all his loyalty to his teams, in the time that I’ve known him only twice have his boys won it all: the Mets in 1986, and UCLA men’s basketball in 1995.  That’s it.


And now, for the Vegas Odds, in predicted order of finish.  All odds are presented based on a wager of 100.  Please turn all cell phones off, refreshments can be purchased in the lobby, and in the event of an emergency, run like hell….



11. Benham Brawlers

To win: +10,000

To finish in the money: +5,000

NFL team most resembled: Minnesota.  Some high notes over the years, but no rings, and right now….well, the less said the better.


Not only have the Brawlers mirrored the Vikes over the years, but that analogy is especially appropo this year.  Aside from Peyton Manning, right now their team is a mess.  Like Daunte Culpepper went down with a devastating injury, Brian Griese also went down with a devastating injury.  The Vikes don’t have a top-shelf go to back, Walt and Bruce don’t have a top-shelf, go-to back (Corey Dillon comes closest, and he’s more of a cap hog than anything else at this point.)  And receivers?  Between injuries and ineffectiveness none of the Brawlers’ receivers would be anything more than a bye-week start on most teams.  In other words, just like the Vikings.


Which brings us to our next question: Hey, Bruce, you got any Super Bowl tickets?


If Peyton Manning were putting up the kind of numbers he was putting up last year, it would be a different story.  The fact that Manning was off the chain can camouflage a lot of underachieving players.  With Manning back down to earth, you need more out of your supporting cast, which hasn’t happened to a large degree, at least not yet.  There’s still a chance, but time is starting to run out.


As far as the whole thing with the Vikings on the boat, yeah it wasn’t exactly the best of all possible moves.  At the same time, I have to ask: is it REALLY that big a deal?  I mean, it’s not like the Vikings generated fraudulent financial statements and balance sheets causing stock prices to skyrocket and ultimately bring a company to its knees, driving tens of thousands of people out of work and depleting the college funds and retirement funds of thousands more, while lining their own pockets with filthy lucre on Aruba and the Cayman Islands.  Right?


BTW Bruce I would not be looking to hop off the bandwagon just yet.  The Vikings have “10-6 in 2006” written all over them.  They clearly have enough talent, they will have a new coach, and they are in a weak division there for the taking. 


10. 99 Yarders

To win: +5,000

To finish in the money: +1,000

NFL team most resembled: Miami.  A lot of early success – including two rings – but not much in recent years.


Another team killed by injuries, most of all by Priest Holmes.  Although he played well while Bob had him, Holmes’ season-ending injury not only hurts Bob JR’s chances for climbing back into the race this year, but also removes the one guy who, besides Peyton Manning, might have changed the course of the pennant race with a single trade.


Andre Johnson’s season-long injury problems have also hurt Bob, as well as taking another name out of the trade mix.  (Sidebar: on Madden 06, Andre is listed as an “NFL Icon”, however his team is listed as the Tennessee Titans.  Uh, can anyone say “Quality Control”?)  Still, Tiki Barber is an excellent value, Troy Williamson has good upside and Keenan McCardell might make a good sweetner in a trade. 


As far as the real Dolphins, I like the direction the team is going in.  It seems like Nick Saban will be closer to the Jimmy Johnson side of the equation as far as “high-profile college coaches who try to coach in the NFL” rather than the Steve Spurrier and (shudder) Lou Holtz side of the equation.


9. Coin Tossers

To win: +1,000

To finish in the money: +500

NFL team most resembled: New England.  A model franchise, consistent year after year, and the hardware.


This is an off-year for Craig, but he’s entitled.  Over the years no one in this league has been more consistent and more steady than Craig.  He has finished first, second and second the past three years.  He drafts well, especially running backs (McAllister, Portis, Julius Jones) and takes good risks on rookies (Ben Roethlisberger)  He picks Free Agents especially well (Tom Brady, Domanick Davis.)  And he trades with the best of them. 


Craig’s problem this year has simply been injuries.  His running backs, always the linchpin of his teams, have let him down big time, between McAllister’s, Jones’s and Davis’s injuries.  His receivers have been OK, although Reggie Wayne hasn’t brought in points relative to his big salary and TJ Houshmandzadeh (of whom I still expect big things) has been injured.  Ben Roethlisberger has also missed considerable time, but between Brady, Plummer and now Collins, Big Ben is not as much of a factor.


There is still enough talent here and underachieving players that I would not rule out a climb to the lower reaches of the money.  Watch out next year, though.  Craig traded for Kerry Collins who, even though next year will be a quarterback-rich draft still gives Craig a damn good one for $8.  Plummer will presumably also be back.  Add that to Julius Jones and (maybe, just maybe) Ryan Moats, and Craig should be back to his winning, dominant ways before too long.


8. D&B Roadrunners

Odds to win: +900

Odds to finish in the money: +300

NFL team most resembled: Detroit.  Issues at Quarterback, high-profile but underachieving talent at receiver, and haven’t won much.  Yet. 


If nothing else, this is the team that, as of right now, is the odds-on favorite for 2006.  To have Steven Jackson and Larry Johnson as your top two running backs for $18 is nothing short of fantastic.  Both guys are only getting better and would go for probably $140-150 if the draft were today (that’s both guys.) 


There are some decent receivers here as well.  Plaxico Burress could become the Giants’ first Pro Bowl wide receiver since 1968, when most of you guys were in diapers watching Captain Jack, Officer Joe Bolton and the Ranger Station on Saturday mornings and dribbling all over yourselves (insert wisecrack about this still being relevant to TONY here). 


The disaster here is at quarterback.  Yes, Bledsoe is having a good season and the appointment for him to be fitted for a Dunce cap has, at least for now, been suspended.  However, $41 is an awful lot to pay for someone of whom Craig Morton said, “Man, dude needs to get some wheels”  Not to mention the defining moment of this season for Bledsoe will in all likelihood be his interception in the last minute against the Seahawks, leading to Josh Brown dialing long distance for the win.  I’m sure that Patriots fans would have taken that in stride, pretty much.  Well, either that or started chanting “We Want Cassell!” while looking for Bledsoe’s head on a stick.


The rest of his QBs are a mess.  When Kyle “Reverse Al Bundy but with five interceptions” Orton is your no-brainer second QB, you have issues.  When Joey Harrington is at the ready as your bye-week guy, you have issues.  When you have JP Losman….well, that’s just a cry for help.  Why, David Carr took one look at the absolute mess Dave and Brandon’s quarterbacks were and was heard to say, “Shit, even getting knocked down 38 times a game I would be better than these stiffs!” 


This year is so tight, though, that even with all the problems Dave has he can still climb into the race.  Stranger things have happened.


7. PGia Panthers

Odds to win: +750

Odds to finish in the money: +250

NFL Team most resembled: Tennessee.  A really good look at it some years back, and some decent and sustained success, but in the middle of a rebuilding right now.


Another reason that trades in football are totally unpredictable: this offseason PGia traded Marc Bulger to TONY and Phil for Carson Palmer and Cracker Barrel Chad.  The logic was easy to follow: quarterbacks were at a premium in this year’s draft, so to get two decent ones for a really good one was a good way to go.  Unfortunately, Chad didn’t keep up his end of the deal, going on the IR the first month and proving that, in at least one way he was following in the footsteps of Broadway Joe.  Unfortunately, that way was chronic injuries and being more sizzle than steak.


Fortunately, Carson Palmer has turned out to be a stud and a revelation.  For a franchise which has had a number of great quarterbacks pass through – Greg Cook, Virgil Carter, Ken Anderson and of course Boomer Esiason – Carson Palmer has a chance to be the best out of all of them.  He has a good head, his teammates love him, he has weapons and he has great coaching.  Plus, in the NFL, cold-weather teams that have a high-octane and balanced offense are damn hard to beat.  As much as anything, this is what made the Bills teams so dominant in the early 90s.  Simply put: if you can run that kind of offense in the bitter cold, you can run it anywhere.


Pete’s downfall this year is running backs.  Simply put, no one is putting up any kind of numbers other than Brian Westbrook.  When you look at Pete’s lineup, you can’t say he didn’t draft well – Jamal Lewis was as good a bet as anyone out there, Marshall Faulk has done it before, and guys like Frank Gore and Greg Jones sold themselves – but none of it worked out.  {Sidebar: on, one of Sports Guy Bill Simmons’s readers pointed out that, while Jamal Lewis was in jail, he might have been subjected to a relatively poor diet and limited conditioning that would adversely affect him this season, and it looks like it has come to pass.  Yes, I told Pete about this already.)


There’s always a chance that one of these guys pans out, and a chance that one of his cheap receivers may go off the chain.  Maybe the win is out of the question, but there’s hope for some success and a possible money finish here.



6. Anthonyapolis Colts

Odds to win: +500

Odds to finish in the money: +190

NFL Team most resembled: Chicago.  In the past 40 years, a single season for the ages; and some scattered successes here and there, but other than that, a whole lot of nuttin’.



First of all, let’s start out by singing TONY’s praises in these leagues.  No one – and I mean, NO ONE – has been as solid, for as long, and is as good putting together winning teams in a number of different leagues.  He drafts well, he trades, he knows how to work the standings.  He makes trades that help himself, and rarely are these trades where the mark says “Why the hell would I do that?”  If you are good this long it’s not just luck.


At the same time, football has long been exposed as TONY’s Achilles heel, his Kryptonite, Ava Gardner to his Frank Sinatra.  Although he has won a ring (albeit with the capable and steady Phil Ryan at the controls) he has not been able to make the splash that he’s hoped.  Some of this is because that, unlike our other leagues, this isn’t a big trading league, and never has been.  Another part of it is that this league, unlike most of our other league, is straight points as opposed to rotisserie style, which is subject to myriad manipulations. 


That’s only part of it though.  Next to me in the American League, no one has been cluster-effed with as much bad luck in ANY of these leagues as much as TONY.  Always has been that way.  Remember when Vinny Greenhead snapped his Achilles in Game 1 of the 1999 season?  He was TONY’s guy, after he traded half his team to get him.  Then he made a bunch of trades before the 2000 season for a number of players (including Emmitt Smith) after which when they backfired, he came thisclose to dropping out, only staying on as a limited partner with Phil Ryan. 


This year, however, may have been the worst of all.  No one in any of these leagues has lost two-thirds of their Opening Day salary to injuries before half the season went by.  And even before Daunte Culpepper and Ahman Green went out, they hadn’t been anything special.  Compounding the issue was the fact that Phil and TONY went 60 on Antowain “AARP” Smith, and while he has done fairly well for the boys it has so far prevented them from getting one of the better pool QBs left.


Even with all of this, it is TONY and Phil’s trades, and the back half of their draft, that is now giving them a good look at the money.  The Menudo LaMont Jordan trade was nothing short of a heist.  Getting Dilfer and Charlie Frye for a total of $11 was a good move, especially when you consider that players that went for a lot more have done a lot less (AHEMjoeyharrington!  AHCHOOmichaelvick!)  Keyshawn Johnson has delivered the goods for 2 bucks, and guys like Chris Henry and Antwaan Randle El are good chip in/upside guys.  Not least of all, when you have cheapies like Rudi Johnson on your roster, it allows you to make a couple of big mistakes and get away with it.


Either way it says a lot about Phil and TONY’s management skills that they lost what they have lost this year and are still in this.


5. Nippers

Odds to Win: +180

Odds to Finish in the Money: Even

NFL Team most resembled: Pittsburgh.  One of the best franchises, year in and year out and has the rings to prove it.


The way this year has gone, with it being tight, I would say anyone from this point on has at least an outside shot to win it all. 


A strong argument can be made that Bob SR, of all the owners, has had the most success in this league.  Just ask the guy who went 27 for this jamoke)  He doesn’t trade a lot but drafts well and makes good moves with free agents. 


Bob goes three deep at quarterback, with Eli Manning, Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Delhomme.  Kurt Warner was a good gamble but just didn’t work out.  At running back the pick of Carnell Williams was an excellent get.  Even though he’s been hurt he’s The Man in that offense and will easily bring in the 36 dollars.  In the meantime, Michael Pittman fills in the cracks.  Mike Anderson is getting some good work in Denver and Thomas Jones, at least for now, is working out good in Chicago.  His receiving corps, already solid with Hines Ward and Kevin Curtis, will also be much better when Randy Moss comes back.


You wonder about the running game – can Carnell stay healthy, can Kevan Barlow squeeze out some production for a team clearly in transition.  Barring a trade a ring may be a reach but it’s certainly not out of the question.  The horses are here.


4. Bushwackers

Odds to win: +175

Odds to finish in the money: Even

NFL Team most resembled: New York Jets.  A big splash and a ring early on but not too much in the years that followed.  Through solid management the team has been competitive in recent years and has had a good look at it but has been thwarted by injuries and bad luck.


As you all remember Greg started last year as the team to beat.  He had the running game, the passing game, and all the stars.  Unfortunately after that his team turned into an E! “True Hollywood Story,” with TO breaking his leg, Priest Holmes going on IR and the rest of his team unable to finish.  It was like watching the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994 start the season 7-2 and then lose their last seven to miss the playoffs.  Except, fortunately for us, Richie Kotite is nowhere to be found.  Right, Greg?  Uh….that IS right, Greg isn’t it?


Trent Green has underachieved and not earned his $71 but has put up somewhat decent numbers.  There were some good gets at running back, ESPECIALLY Ronnie Brown, who is a fantasy stud in the making (alas, not this year).  Chad Johnson is worth the $34 and Larry Fitzgerald has come into his own.  Jeremy Shockey was also an excellent get at TE and has an excellent shot at the Value Team this year. 


Which brings us to T.O. (or, as Jim Rome calls him, Two), everyone’s best friend. And for what seems to be an annual tradition, a mini-essay about Two in the Vegas Odds.


The year 2005 is, and ever shall be, the Year of Two, for all the wrong reasons – doing situps in his driveway, yelling at the coaches, playing in the Super Bowl with a broken stick not quite 100% healed, throwing Donovan McNabb under the bus.  Everything, that is, except having Kim Cattrall (in character as Samantha from Sex and the City) drop a towel and jump into his arms, naked.  (and you know she would do it.  BTW yes, I know the show isn’t on anymore, but if the criminally underappreciated Adam West can still make appearances as Batman, and Haywood Nelson can still make appearances as Dwayne from “What’s Happening!!”, why the hell not?)


The thing I think that we all have to keep in mind here, is that Philadelphia is where Two WANTED to go.  The Eagles wanted him – they wanted his swagger, they wanted his talent, they wanted an ace receiver for Donovan McNabb.  And Two wanted the Eagles for a shot at a ring and added visibility and green stuff.  He wanted it so bad, in fact, that after his agent MISSED the filing deadline (which is really, really, REALLY bad and, at most companies, grounds for dismissal) he filed a case in arbitration to try to get away with it anyway, so as to avoid going to Baltimore (to whom SF had executed a tentative trade.)  Amazingly, it appeared that TO and the Players’ union would have won in front of the arbitrator, so SF cut its losses and traded him to the Eagles, with Baltimore getting the equivalent of Samsonite luggage and Jolly Time popcorn for not appearing on stage (a fifth round draft pick.)


Some people say this is the end of the Eagles as we know it.  That it’s back to the days of Marion Campbell and Richie Kotite.  This is bullshit.  Yeah, this is a black eye.  Yes, this is a sad chapter in Eagles history and I’m sure Chuck Bednarik is probably pounding holes in his wall as I’m writing this.  Yeah, this season is starting to look like a lost season for the Eagles and their window is closing.  But the organization came through this just fine.  They didn’t back down to Two.  Andy Reid, and Donovan McNabb and Joe Banner, held to their principles and didn’t back down.  The team grew together.  With Brian Westbrook signed to a nice new five-year deal, the Eagles demonstrated with deeds what will be rewarded.  The Eagles aren’t finished yet, and they’ll be a Super Bowl contender again soon.


Actually, what the Eagles went through with Two, is parallel to what I went through in 1991 with the “Thing from Hell.”  Some of you guys were there back then and know about this already.   For the rest of you: despite being deathly ill from eating Little Caesars’ pizza the night before, I hooked up with this girl at Boppers after the H&R Block banquet.  My brother was there, TONY was there, I was hooking up, it was good times.  (Sidebar: legend has it TONY bought her a drink before I got there, giving “getting lucky” a whole new meaning.  And yet I digress.)  At the time, she was definitely quite a bit of alright and interested in me.  Usually a good combination.  Anyway, not long after that we hooked up, and the first month and a half went swimmingly, despite a few quirks.  Then, on Memorial Day weekend, I saw the wheels starting to come off.  She started to get clingy, and she would get into these funks for no reason.  Despite this, I stuck around, figuring it would blow over.  Unfortunately, it got worse.  And this doesn’t even get into her father (stubborn, loud, non-listening yeller, enough said.  R. Lee Ermey in “Full Metal Jacket”, by comparison, was a sweetheart.) 


For all these parallels, there is one key difference.  When the Eagles had had enough with their Thing from Hell, they cut ties immediately.  Me, I waited seven months.  Seven months!  Which is better than waiting 20 years, I guess, but still, about six months and 30 days too long.  And she didn’t help me get to the precipice of any Super Bowls, I’ll tell you that.  I quickly realized, however, why I got sick on Little Caesars pizza the night before: it was destiny, and fate, trying to keep me from going to Boppers that night.  Kind of like Baltimore was trying to keep Philadelpha from getting Two.  Or, for that matter, TONY buying the Thing from Hell a drink before I got there.  Some friend I am!


In retrospect, maybe the guy of suspect character the Eagles should have gotten was Corey Dillon.  Like Two, Dillon would have given the Eagles something they desperately needed (a power running game).  Unlike Two, however, Dillon was a joy last year in New England – almost too much of a joy.  Even this year, with the Pats being somewhat less than successful, he has not been a distraction and has blended in, quite nicely, with the rest of the team.  The icing?  Without looking on the Internet, tell me who Corey Dillon’s agent is.


And besides, we all know you win the Super Bowl on the ground, not in the air, the 1981 San Francisco 49ers notwithstanding. 


Oh well.  I guess all that is missing is Two going on ESPNEWS making a speech saying that we “won’t have Terrell Owens to kick around anymore.” 


3. Tom’s Turkeys

Odds to Win: +150

Odds to Finish in the Money: -110

NFL Team most resembled: Denver.  A proud history and a pair of well-earned rings.  He hasn’t won it all in a while but is a solid player, and he’s right in the thick of it again.


A lot of times when I think of these leagues, I think of “The Hustler” or “The Color of Money” (but not, “The Hustler of Money,” the short film that was on SNL where Ben Stiller did a wicked Tom Cruise imitation and John Mahoney did the Paul Newman character. Mahoney: “You’re a flake”.  Stiller: “I’m a flake!”  Mahoney: “Stop saying what I’m saying” Stiller: “Stop sayin’ what you’re sayin’!”  Freakin’ brillant.)


I think of this because we all have our characters, our approach, how we go about our business.  For some of us, the act is talking up your guys and pretending that you’re taking on all the risk.  (Hmmm, who might THAT be.)  Some of us are as subtle as sledgehammers, some make Dr. Mel (who I truly believe is perhaps the nicest man on the planet) look like Scrooge, some wait until approached and then become the aggressors.  And, for some of us, it’s not doing anything – in other words, as Bridget Fonda said to Cameron Scott in “Singles”: “I think that, a, having no act, b, IS your act.”


And then there’s Tom.  During these drafts he sits there with his briefcase and notes and whenever a player comes up: “Oh, who’s he?  Oh, OK, Seven dollars.”  But, you know what, it WORKS!  Crazy like a fox, I think they call it.  He’s got two rings in this league (including 1994, when none of us knew what the hell we were doing, i.e., the jamoke who bid 27 for this future Hall of Famer), a ring in the American League (the hardest of all the leagues) and he’s had solid finishes and acquitted himself very, very well.  Not only that, but he’s boys with my cousin Lou (who was also my Confirmation sponsor in 1980).  Can’t beat that.


Nice team this year.  Donovan McNabb is excellent, Two or no Two.  Edgerrin James is having an excellent year, probably the best year so far relative to his position by any Colt.  Even though he is banged up now, Willie Parker may have been the steal of the draft (how did we all miss that?) and Clinton Portis is very good.  At receiver, Steve Smith is on pace to have a record-breaking season, getting the catches and points that Mushmouth left behind in Chicago and Santana Moss is fantastic, giving Tom not only a Redskin but a guy who puts up points.  The secret ingredient this year is the defense, the Giants have been one of the best.


One downfall is second quarterback.  Anthony Wright is terrible, and Gus Frerotte should not be anything more than a bye-week guy at this point in his career, on that team.  There are also some questions about depth at wide receiver, but those can be addressed.


Overall a pretty good team, one that should finish in the money comfortably and has a shot for the win.


2. Peteriot Nation

Odds to Win: +165

Odds to finish in the money: -125

NFL Team most resembled: Tampa Bay.  Embarassing beginnings, including the equivalent of a winless season (1996).  From these beginnings, and despite some occasional high profile missteps, the franchise has evolved into one of the steadiest franchises with a number of high finishes and a ring.



Does anyone remember one of the most notorious bidding wars ever in this league?  It was 1995, our second year of business.  The player on the board was Craig Erickson, newly acquired quarterback by the Indianapolis Colts.  After a very good year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, big things were projected for Erickson in Indy as the Bucs were set to go with Trent Dilfer.  Anyway, the bidding got to 17, with TONY having the bid.  Going once, going twice….


Then, in the back of the room: “TWENTY!!!”  It was the Artist Not Yet Known as Black Pete, injecting himself in the bidding.  The bidding went up.   21, 22, 23, 24….all the way up to 32, after which TONY threw his papers up in the air, said, “He’s yours”, and so he was.


What did Erickson do?  His first game that season against the pitiful Bengals, he stunk it up in the first half and was pulled for Jim Harbaugh.  Harbaugh nearly led the Colts to victory before losing 24-21.  His second start that season, was against the pitiful Jets.  Again, Erickson stunk it up in the first half, and again he was pulled for Jim Harbaugh, who led the Colts to a dramatic 27-24 win.  This time, the benching was permanent, with Harbaugh going the rest of the way for the Colts.  Consequently, due to that and a number of other questionable judgement calls, Pete eventually dropped to last place, where he would spend much of the next season as well. 


Pete learned from these pastings and beatings, however, and applied the lessons learned to eventually have his greatest successes in these leagues to date.   We see this again this year despite a number of decisions this year that appear suspect – keeping Brandon Stokley ahead of TJ Houshmandzadeh, drafting Ashley Lelie and Darrell Jackson instead of someone like Randy Moss, starting David Carr ahead of Kerry Collins in Week 1, the list goes on.


However, Pete did draft Ladainian Tomlinson, who has been the biggest stud in this league this year, so far.  He has so far come as close as anyone to being this year’s Peyton Manning.  Willis McGahee has been very good, and Drew Brees as good as he was last year.  Joey Galloway has been a very solid receiver (even though Pete missed out on a big week from him as well), and Joe Jurivicius was a nifty pool pickup.  However, Ashley Lelie has, so far, underachieved, Mike Vanderjagt isn’t all that and Tony Gonzalez and the Patriots D have been major disappointments (even though PGar going 6 for the Pats defense during the draft was the most popular decision of the night.  Maybe this was why!)


The X factor is Pete’s trade with Craig.  In two separate deals he got Tom Brady, Cedric Benson and Dominack Davis for Kerry Collins, TJ Duckett and Ryan Moats.  Obviously the deal is better for Pete this year – especially the acquisition of Tom Brady - but Benson has accomplished relatively little and Dominack the Italian Christmas Donkey has been banged up all year playing on an underachieving franchise.  If, however, those guys step it up and LT remains LT and Pete remains free of injuries, he might have the best shot to knock Derek off.  Hardly a sure thing, but not implausible.


Oh and by the way, TONY, two follow-ups from this past Monday night:


  1. A win in football gets you full admission to the Big Boy Table.  True, to an extent it’s like winning the Australian Open, and maybe not a big deal like winning Wimbledon or the Masters.  But it’s still a major, and it still gets you off the hook and access the Big Boy Table.  Besides we let Greg in after 1998 when he won football.  So make way.
  2. No, I was not a full-bore Patriot fan until 1994, when my brother moved up there and I got season tickets.  Actually, I had started to really like them in 1993, when they were 1-11 but they seemed to really be headed in the right direction.  So, no, I wasn’t a fan all along.  Guilty as charged.  But then again, neither was anyone else.  I challenge you to find me 10 people in this area that were diehard Pats fans before 1990.  You can’t, because they didn’t exist.  Shit, even when the Patriots went to the Super Bowl in 1985 no one cared about them.  And in 1990 when Victor Kiam owned the team, they were just a joke.  “They both have seen Patriots missles up close.”  Yuk, yuk.  “I did not call Lisa Olson a b***h”  Yeah, sure, Vic; whatever YOU say.   Bad team, playing in a bad stadium with bad access wearing bad uniforms.  Yeah, that’s an easy sell.  You also forget how I could have easily jumped off the bandwagon in 2000 when the Giants made the Super Bowl, the Pats were coming off a 5-11 season after a number of subpar seasons, and Bill Belichick still looked like a humorless misanthrope.  But, I’m just a bandwagon jumper, flitting around from team to team depending on how good they are at that specific moment.  No loyalty.


1.      D.A. Dolphins

Odds to Win: Even

Odds to Finish in the Money: -200

NFL Team Most Resembled: Carolina.  A team that maybe hasn’t been in the race that much, but that has had enjoyed some high points, and right now looks to have as good a shot as anyone to win this year.


As 1995-96 was the Year of Bob JR (with his “Chapin Slam”), 1999 was the Year of Todd, 2000 was Tom’s moment in the sun, and 2001-02 will forever be known as the era Joe McCabe turned into the National League Marcellus Wallace, 2005 seems destined to be known as the Year Of Freakin’ Derek.  Already he’s got a win in the National League where he lapped the field a couple of times, punching his ticket at the big boy’s table and grabbing a plate. 


The two guys who are clearly driving the bus here are Shaun Alexander and Antonio Gates.  Next to LT, Shaun Alexander is THE stud in this league, maybe the best guy overall to have.  Even though he’s in his last year, he’s solid, he’s cap friendly and one of the few players you can reasonably rely upon for 20 points a week.  Fantasy stud number one-A is Antonio Gates.  How much of a stud is this guy?  The record for tight ends in this league is 140, which Gates set last year.  He’s got 90 through Week 9 – and keep in mind that he MISSED Week 1!!!  Yikes!  At a position where you’re happy getting 40-50 points all year, this is borderline Gretzky-esque.


Many of Derek’s other starters are also very good.  Warrick Dunn is an injury risk like Brian Westbrook, but the Falcons love him, and he is very good in that offense.  Torry Holt is an elite receiver, and Curtis Martin is an excellent #3 back.  Aaron Brooks is scary, but he does seem to deliver the goods to an extent, and having the Tennessee quarterback (especially Billy Volek) is an excellent thing to have, even though Steve McNair is banged up.  Adam Vinatieri is having an average season but he’s reliable and hopefully will shine now that the Pats are through the hell part of their schedule.  Ernest Wilford also looks like a good get.


Oddly enough the best thing that could happen to Derek might just be Billy Volek taking over in Tennessee.  As Greg could tell you, last year he stayed in it as long as he did primarily because Volek was just so good in a number of games filling in for McNair (who in this league has never really been an elite fantasy quarterback).  With Norm Chow running that offense, you know it’s a matter of time before Tennessee’s offense becomes an especially rich breeding ground for fantasy studs.

This has a chance to be a special season for Derek.  It’s one thing to have two horses like Alexander and Gates.  It’s another thing to surround them with quality players who produce, which he’s done.  Whether this will be a team for the ages remains to be seen; but right now it’s looking like it’ll be the Team for 2005 and that’s plenty good enough. 


Now, if Derek would invest some of his winnings in a plane ticket to come to Wallingford next September 5th, and participate in the draft in person, we’ll be all set.