Scramble for the Ball: So Long and Good Riddance
Andrew: Hello and welcome to the final Scramble for the Ball of the 2020 season. After a year in which a laundry list of unprecedented things happened both in the world of sports and elsewhere, even as a Saints fan I found it ... almost oddly comforting to see Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi Trophy. A lot has changed this year, but some things seemingly never will. I am deeply amused that Brady's most convincing victory in the title game came at the end of his first season away from the most dominant franchise of the past two decades. Against a quarterback of Patrick Mahomes' quality, you don't get a much more convincing victory than the Buccaneers delivered on Sunday night.
Bryan: That is one of the positives of the Chiefs-Buccaneers Super Bowl. In a year as unusual and unprecedented as 2020, it would be easy to dismiss this year's champion as a fluke, a forever-asterisked conqueror who only won because the world was on fire around them. It would have been hard to place that label on a back-to-back champion had the Chiefs won, and nigh-impossible to place it on Brady's seventh ring. Did the Buccaneers have good fortune to get where they were? Sure -- they got to play multiple teams missing key offensive linemen, for example. But that's true of every Super Bowl champion, to one extent or another. So, congratulations to the Buccaneers for a long-awaited Super Bowl victory. And good luck to Brady as he attempts to win one more ring to catch Bill Belichick as the human being with the most Super Bowl rings in history.
It's a pity the game wasn't competitive, though. Like, at all. I suppose the only way 2020 could have ended was with sort of a wet thud, though.
Andrew: Speaking of wet thuds, given that there's not a whole lot more to say about the game -- and what there is, we'll cover in our awards section -- we're instead going to rewind time to the middle of the pandemic year, when even the integrity of the regular season was in doubt, and take a look at just how much we got right, or wrong, about what was to come. As always, we got some things very right, and some extremely wrong. We're not shy about that, though. And it's probably just as well.
Andrew: Almost every year, Scramble returns with a quartet of preseason articles looking at betting lines for the coming season. Almost every year, those coincide with actual preseason action, so we can get a fleeting glance at new coaches and new players, and how they might do. This was not a normal preseason.
Bryan: We couldn't even be sure that there would be 16 games played per team when making these picks, so picking over/unders on a 16-game line was ... interesting, shall we say. We both did finish over .500, though not by enough to make us fabulously wealthy or anything.
Andrew: In hindsight, some picks were obvious. We both called the Chiefs over 11.5 wins, which was as safe a bet as you could find assuming a healthy Patrick Mahomes. The return of Ben Roethlisberger in place of Mason Rudolph made the Steelers a safe bet too. I never doubted Philip Rivers would have the Colts over 8.5 wins when Jacoby Brissett would probably have had them at 9-7 the year before. We made some good calls on unders too, both taking the 49ers, Eagles, Vikings, and Broncos.
Bryan: Our biggest weakness, it appears, seemed to emanate from Lake Erie -- we were both highly dubious about the Bills and Browns getting to double-digit wins. We actually laughed at even the basic concept of the Browns getting to 9-7 -- and while their DVOA wasn't as good as you'd expect from a 9-7 team, they did in fact make us look like fools.
Andrew: That was one of our typical "believe it when we see it" calls. Now that we've seen it, I'm still not sure I believe it. I suspect I'll be on the under again next year, depending how high the line is set.
Bryan: Elsewhere, we had too little faith in Ron Rivera and too much faith in Bill Belichick. We didn't anticipate Dak Prescott's injury wrecking the Cowboys' season (although we did worry about Mike McCarthy wrecking the Cowboys' season). We thought the Dolphins' rebuilding project would take an extra year or two to fully flower, but no, there they were, competing for a playoff berth at the end. We also had gave just a little too much benefit of the doubt to Dan Quinn and Adam Gase, neither of whom are still employed by their previous teams.
Andrew: I struggle to believe that I could have given too much benefit of the doubt to Adam Gase, but it's right there in black and white. The more interesting teams are those where we disagreed, and one was proven right ahead of the other. Tampa Bay is going to come up quite a lot in this article, much to my chagrin.
Bryan: There were seven teams where we disagreed. Technically, Andrew is the winner here -- he got four of them right, where I had only three. I'd argue I got the bigger three, but raw numbers are what they are.
Andrew: You can say you got the bigger three, but you picked the under on the eventual NFC No. 1 seed and the over on the eventual No. 1 draft pick. I think those might qualify as fairly significant hits for me.
Bryan: These are both true. I didn't see Aaron Rodgers' bounceback coming at all, and while I said I wish I could have pushed at 9-7, I did end up going out on a limb and taking the under. And, to be fair, all Rodgers did was ... uh, win MVP. I guess a poor draft doesn't matter so much when you have a Hall of Fame quarterback doing Hall of Fame quarterback things. As for Jacksonville, well, all I can say is it takes a truly exceptional team to finish under a five-win line. The Jaguars were certainly exceptional this year.
I thought Pete Carroll's interminable conservatism would cripple the Seahawks. It only highly damaged the Seahawks, after half a season of Russ Cooking led to a back half of Russ Reheating Last Night's Dinner But, You Know, The Microwave Has Never Worked Quite Right (not a catchy acronym, that one). That was too little, too late to get them under a 9.5-win line. And then I wasn't sure that Ryan Tannehill would be able to repeat his 2019 form in Tennessee -- I'd argue that he didn't, quite, but he was good enough to provide another data point in the "Adam Gase ruins everything" category. Take heart, Jets fans.
Andrew: Meanwhile, I made the smart bet on a 43-year-old quarterback not having a better season than his 42-year-old self. Whooooops. At least the teams I picked the under on were just wild cards rather than whiffing on three division champions. That's small comfort though, when one of those wild cards was the eventual Super Bowl champion. Never bet against the GOAT, I guess.
I could not believe that Bill O'Brien would have sabotaged the Texans so badly that a healthy Deshaun Watson wouldn't still have them in the playoff race. So I underestimated Bill O'Brien's destructive potential and overestimated Adam Gase's ability to save his own skin. I'm not quite sure which of those is worse.
Bryan: Oh, you're still the over/under champ for this year. And again, both of us were right more than we were wrong. It's just that when we were wrong, we tended to be laughingly, embarrassingly wrong. This is the downside of putting your predictions onto paper! Sassafras Aaron Rodgers, looking like a million bucks once again.
Andrew: All things considered, I think we did OK here. This was a tough year to call.
You can read the 2020 Staff Predictions here.
Andrew: I'm going to begin this segment by ripping off the Band-Aid. I again picked Tampa Bay to fall short of their projection. That might be the worst staff prediction since Bill Barnwell wrote at length about how terrible the Giants would be in 2007, then watched them go on to upset the 18-0 Patriots to win the Super Bowl. At least it wasn't just me! Vince picked the Buccaneers too.
I also picked the Texans to beat their projection. This was not a good year for me. Rivers joined me on that one. I think it's safe to say that he feels worse about the eventual result than I do.
Bryan: Yeah, while there are some other contenders, I don't think we can get past "picking the Super Bowl champs to underperform." And they didn't just get lucky in the postseason, either; their DVOA was over 20 points better in real life than in the projections. To be fair, we did acknowledge that Tampa Bay had the widest range of potential outcomes before the season started. They just very nearly hit their max, while you and Vince were less charitable.
Full credit to Scott for picking Washington to outdo their projection, though slightly less credit for saying it would be on the back of a Dwayne Haskins revival. Picking the defense to have a 49ers-esque revival was spot-on, however. And we're not just saying that it's a good pick because Washington won the laughingstock that was the NFC East; Washington's DVOA was 16.8% better than projected. We thought they'd be very, very, very bad. They were only kinda bad, and that counts as improvement.
Andrew: Rob Weintraub is usually good at these guesstimates, and he nailed his two this year. The Browns were indeed better than we expected, and the Lions were indeed worse. Aaron might have been even better: he joined Rob in picking the Browns, and was clearly persuaded by my argument in the book (cough) that Jacksonville's defense was not set to rebound this year.
Bryan: The worst pick to do better is a tough call. Tom took Dallas, thinking their playmaker-stacked offense would easily blow past 8-8. The Dak Prescott injury threw that one out the window fairly early, so maybe he gets a pass for that. If so, Carl taking Cincinnati might be the worst one, as even Joe Burrow couldn't fix everything for the Bengals this year.
Note that three of us took our home teams as teams to beat the almanac's projections. Explicitly subjective picks are prone to homerism, apparently!
Andrew: The player section was quite interesting. The problem with player picks, naturally, is the unpredictability of injuries. Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas were good picks, but it's hard to quantify whether that was just because both got hurt and missed more than half the year, or because of the reasons given by our writers.
Bryan: For the record, McCaffrey was on pace to blow past his KUBIAK projection after three games, though usual caveats apply about small sample sizes and the inherent conservatism of projections. Thomas would have fallen short of his projection even if you prorated his stats to 16 games, but it was close, and you have the argument of Thomas playing hurt if you want to discard him as well.
If you ignore them, my pick of Ke'Shawn Vaughn might be the best pick to underperform -- he went from RB30 in the projections we used to RB97 in real life. Of course, that pick itself comes with a big hanging asterisk -- our staff predictions went live on the very day that Leonard Fournette signed with Tampa Bay, and "team signing a big running back causing a rookie to tumble down the depth chart" isn't exactly the world's most insightful pick. For the record, I had picked Vaughn before the Fournette news went through, but Playoff Lenny helped it go from a decent pick to an obvious one.
Andrew: Rivers and Vince picked Tom Brady to fall short -- Vince doubling down on his Bucs skepticism -- and yeah, not so much. I'm quite content with Todd Gurley, who was eventually benched in Atlanta. The best pick to outperform his projection was Dave's pick of Antonio Gibson. Gibson was projected in the low 60s. He finished in the top 15. The worst was Vince, again, with Will Dissly. Tight ends suck in fantasy, unless you can somehow grab one of the top handful. I'm hereby petitioning all commissioners to make all their WR and TE slots WR/TE flex.
Bryan: Figuring out the best pick for our Super Bowl winner/loser is a tough call. Scott was the only one of us who picked Tampa Bay to win the NFC, taking the Ravens over the Buccaneers as his pick -- he couldn't quite bring himself to taking Tampa Bay to go all the way, but none of the rest of us thought to put them in the big game. Five of us had the Chiefs going, with Aaron, Vince, Carl and myself all taking some combination of Saints-Chiefs as our game. Aaron and I both went with "NFC South team, led by an aging Hall of Famer, defeating the Chiefs in the Super Bowl," so I guess I'll give that award to the two of us, but that's very much a tossup.
All of us had at least one playoff team in our Super Bowl picks, which is good to hear. The worst pick probably goes to Tom, who had the Cowboys beating the Colts. Again, we can give the Cowboys a bit of a pass thanks to the Dak Prescott injury, but the Colts barely squeaked in as the seventh seed. Wrong aging quarterback leading a new team to glory!
Andrew: At least none of us did something silly like pick the Eagles against the Patriots or something. On the whole, these were mostly within a reasonable margin for error.
Our choices for the No. 1 pick were a little less within margin for error. Well, some of them at least. Two of us picked an eventual division-winner to finish with the No. 1 pick. I'll defer to you to state the case for the defense.
Bryan: Well, to be fair, both Tom and I picked the NFC East division-winner to finish with the top pick, and one could argue that the division was closer to being in the market for a top spot than a Super Bowl title in general. Again, it cannot be overstated what a good job Ron Rivera did with what most of us expected to be castoffs and developing prospects, a franchise caught in turmoil. Just righting the ship would have been a phenomenal job in and of itself; winning the division, even one as poor as the East, is worthy of note. I'll spot myself as being worse than Tom, because I suggested that not only would Washington earn the top pick, they'd trade it to Carolina. In reality, I suspect they would take 0.4 seconds before making their selection.
Andrew: The indisputable best pick here was Dave's. He and Derrik both called the Jaguars getting the top draft pick, but it's not just about getting the team right -- Dave went above and beyond with his prescient description of how it would transpire. Just look at this work of art:
There's plenty of talk that the Jets are angling for this, but they're the Jets. They'll find a way to screw it up. While I agree with Mike Tanier that the Jags are the kind of team that could easily screw up a tank, there's just nothing in the cupboard at all there. I love me some Gardner Minshew, but he's not ready to be the best player on his team and carry them to victory. This could be a two-win team. (Now watch as one of these wins comes in Week 1 against the Colts...)
The Jaguars were only a one-win team, but that win did indeed come in Week 1 against the Colts. I can only dream of calling something that well.
Bryan: No matter which team we had making the initial selection, all 11 of us had Trevor Lawrence going first overall. I cannot remember a draft ever where the top pick was so obvious -- the consensus best player in the draft playing the most important position in the sport, Scouts Inc's best-rated prospect at any position since Saquon Barkley, and a significant gap between him and the next cut down.
Andrew: For me, the crazy part isn't just that the pick was obvious, it's that it was obvious two years ago. That's how long people have been talking about teams being ready to Tank for Trevor, and nothing has changed in the meantime. That's nuts.
Bryan: Sometimes, the obvious pick is the right one.
Award and Stat Predictions
You can find our 2020 Awards and Stat Predictions article here.
Andrew: Speaking of obvious picks, there's not a whole lot to say about our best pick for the passing yards and passing touchdowns title. Both of us took Patrick Mahomes as the favorite. Mahomes finished second in yards and fourth in touchdowns. Neither of us picked the eventual winner in either category: Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers.
Bryan: Taking Mahomes as the favorite will probably be the easiest selection for the next decade, and neither of us can be accused of not taking the easy way out.
For these predictions, we both make three picks -- a favorite, a best bet, and a longshot. Our worst picks for the passing stats goes to my longshot, as I took Teddy Bridgewater for both yards and touchdowns; he finished 17th and 24th, respectively. Just like Andrew was swindled by Carolina's offense last year, this year it was my turn to put too much faith in the Panthers. In retrospect, the right longshot would have been Josh Allen for both.
Andrew: Neither Kyler Murray nor Matthew Stafford, my non-Mahomes picks, finished in the top 10 in either category. Can't win 'em all.
Bryan: Both of us correctly predicted Derrick Henry would have a great season. I had him picked to have the most rushing yards; Andrew had him to score the most rushing touchdowns. Henry pulled off the duo, so we both look at least a little smart here. I don't think I'd make the same pick again next year, considering the workload Henry has been under, but he has been phenomenal, and given plenty of opportunities to be phenomenal.
Our worst picks were Christian McCaffrey for both -- injuries can kill you here, and it turns out that three games of Run CMC isn't enough to approach the top of a leaderboard.
Andrew: James Conner was not a great pick either, and I also had him as a longshot in both categories. You picked Todd Gurley as your touchdowns long shot, and he's an even longer shot now. Dalvin Cook was a very good value pick though, so kudos for that.
Bryan: The best longshots weren't even on the board when we picked -- James Robinson was fifth in rushing yards, and Cam Newton actually tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns! Robinson, undrafted out of Illinois State, is this year's example of being able to find quality rushing play without having to spend a lot of capital. Newton is a reminder that the dude was once the most electrifying quarterback in football.
Andrew: Last year, I picked Travis Kelce to lead the league in receiving yards. This year, I took George Kittle. Oh, how I wish I could flip those picks. I would look like a genius! Kelce finished second, which is incredible value for a tight end.
Bryan: Neither of us came close to sniffing out the receiving yardage leader. Our best guess was my pick of Mike Evans, who finished 18th. He was the only one of our six picks to top 1,000 yards. Injuries did us in -- your pick of Michael Thomas was the worst, but Kittle and Julio Jones both missed significant time as well.
Andrew: Had you foreseen Jones' injury and instead picked his teammate Calvin Ridley, that would have worked out better. Similarly, I was right to look to a Vikings receiver for value, but unfortunately I took the ever-reliable Adam Thielen instead of the outstanding rookie Justin Jefferson.
I did, however, nail the touchdown leader.
Bryan: Yup, Davante Adams did in fact lead the league, and you nailed it -- another beneficiary of the Rodgers Renaissance. I did not, in fact, nail it. I thought Kenny Golladay was insanely undervalued at +2500 after leading the league in 2019 with the Chuckle Brothers at quarterback for half the year. Instead, he finished the year with just two touchdowns, good for a tie for 124th place. So, uh, that didn't work well.
Andrew: Stefon Diggs was a good pick, except I picked him in the wrong category. Thielen was a better pick here than in the yardage; my value option finished third behind Adams and Tyreek Hill.
Bryan: The best underdogs, again, weren't on the board. Justin Jefferson finished fourth in receiving yards in what feels like the beginning of a long, productive career. Robert Tonyan finished tied for fifth in receiving touchdowns which feels more like a fluke.
Andrew: Ah, speaking of the Rodgers Renaissance, and people correctly calling it ... I think we can safely say that yes, Rodgers was a very good value pick for MVP at +2200.
Bryan: Yeah, yeah, you got me there. We both did take Patrick Mahomes as the favorite, and he got votes, so neither of us look like too much of an idiot, but you believed in Rodgers; I did not. Advantage: you. Our longshots (Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan) didn't even come close, but the worst pick might have been my selection of Drew Brees, who missed time with injury and didn't look like he was capable of throwing the ball more than 24 inches for much of 2020. Rest in retirement, Drew.
Andrew: We got another fun quote in this section too: "Tom Brady as MVP at 43 years old is a proposition so ludicrous it could only possibly occur in this thrice-cursed mess of a year." Add the words "Super Bowl" in front of MVP, and I'm not sure my opinion would have changed much. Whaddaya know...
We diverted away from players for a couple of awards: coach of the year and first coach to lose their job. Boy, were we better at calling bad coaches than good ones.
Bryan: While neither of us picked Kevin Stefanski for coach of the year, we had a pretty good list of picks. I took Bruce Arians as the favorite, with Sean Payton as best bet; Payton got votes and Arians won a Super Bowl, so those look good! Just, uh, ignore Matt Patricia as the longshot. I mean, he was a longshot, to be fair!
Andrew: File my three picks -- Bill Belichick, Kliff Kingsbury, and Mike Tomlin -- in the box marked, "meh." None of them was terrible. None was Matt Patricia either.
Bryan: One of us should have at least taken Ron Rivera, in retrospect. He was the longshot who ended up doing the best, and he beat cancer at the same time, so, you know, not a bad year.
Our "first coach fired" selection was much better. Technically, I win, because I took Bill O'Brien -- gone after four weeks. But Andrew took Dan Quinn, gone after five. Both of us took Doug Marrone, and he was gone minutes after the season ended. We kind of nailed this. Not even our longshots -- Matt Nagy for Andrew, Jon Gruden for me -- exactly enjoyed ideal job security on their way to 8-8. I'll call Gruden the worse choice of the two, but I don't think there is any shame in any of these picks.
Andrew: We have a clear winner in the offensive player of the year category, and honestly most of these picks are pretty good too. Christian McCaffrey's injury kept him out of the conversation, as did Michael Thomas', but the three picks who weren't crocked were all good choices: you had two of the league's three leading receivers, and my value pick was the eventual winner, Derrick Henry. We might suck at predicting injuries, but we did well here.
Bryan: Picking the defensive player of the year is fairly simple -- you take Aaron Donald, and then throw in some "well, what if Donald does bad?" selections alongside it. So we both get credit for that. None of the other players we picked ended up with votes -- I took J.J., not T.J., Watt -- but Chris Jones had another fine season as my longshot. The worst pick here was probably Chandler Jones, but again, that was due to injury -- a torn bicep in Week 5.
Andrew: As for rookies, we weren't a million miles away with our top picks. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor were very valuable rookie running backs. Joe Burrow looked all set to win this until his knee was torn asunder, and Cam Akers was a very valuable player on the Rams.
Bryan: The frustrating thing for me is that I mentioned that I was kind of all-in on Justin Herbert in the Chargers over/unders, but I didn't pick him here -- I didn't think he'd get enough playing time this season to win. I did not foresee the Los Angeles medical staff puncturing Tyrod Taylor's lung. I forgot the Chargers were eternally cursed.
Andrew: You underestimated the Chargers' ability to find new and exciting calamities to endure in the middle of a global pandemic? That's almost as bad as doubting Bill O'Brien's ability to lay waste to the Texans!
Michael Pittman might have been a much better pick had he too not succumbed to the injury bug. But no, he was not particularly close to the leader at his position, never mind the overall winner.
Bryan: Defensive rookie of the year was easy -- the edge rusher who went No. 2 overall won. Chase Young was the most prohibitive favorite for any award, we both took him, and we both were right. In fact, we both doubled down -- we took him as favorite and best bet, because of course Young was going to win this award. No question in either of our minds. For worst pick, I think my selection of Jaylon Johnson outplayed Andrew's pick of Jeff Okudah, who had significant rookie struggles, but c'mon. We both were on Young all the way, and threw out another name for conversational fodder more than anything else.
Andrew: The same was true of Comeback Player of the Year. We both agreed that all Alex Smith had to do was step back onto the field and he would win. He did more than that, and won handsomely. You picked him, and you were correct. While I didn't pick him, I did state that I was making alternative picks while acknowledging that if Smith takes the field, he would win.
Bryan: I do not get why he wasn't a unanimous selection -- one voter picked Ben Roethlisberger over Smith. There was a point where Alex had a real chance of dying! He was hours away from getting his leg amputated above the knee! And then he came back and played professional football for a playoff team! They should rename the dang award after him.
Andrew: Absolutely. And it's just as well we were clear on Smith, because the other picks sucked. DeSean Jackson played five games, totallng just 236 yards. A.J. Green had the worst receiving DYAR in the league. After a false dawn in September, Cam Newton played the rest of the season in his usual recent manner, with a giant fork sticking out of his back. He's unlikely to be back in a Patriots uniform next year.
Our final category was Super Bowl-winners, which we've already covered somewhat above. Neither of us picked the Chiefs, which with hindsight is weird. I tipped Dallas to surprise some people, which I think it's fair to say they did, just not in a good way. I feel like I made up for it with my longshot pick of the Bills, though. If I had gone all in on my impression of the Packers as a value pick, that would also have looked pretty good.
Bryan: I think neither of us picked the Chiefs because they had the shortest odds. DVOA had the Saints as the favorites, and we both do enjoy our DVOA. And you can't make an argument for the Chiefs as a value pick or a longshot. If we were listing our top three teams to win the Super Bowl, I'm sure both of us would have had the Chiefs right there. The Seahawks looked like a good shout as best bet for the first half of the season until the Great Regression, but you don't get points for half-awards. And the Vikings? Well, maybe next year, guys. The closest true longshot on the boards were the Rams at +6000, but neither of us were crazy enough to dip down there for our picks. At least the Vikings made the second column of teams, though yes, your pick of the Bills is a long enough shot to be worthy of praise and adoration.
Andrew: All in all, then, this was a pretty fun year. As always, we looked very smart in some areas, and very silly in others. The most important thing, however, is that we made it to the end. Every game was played. Every result counted. There was some reshuffling along the way, but we made it!
Football: a game in which 22 grown men chase a ball around for 60 minutes. And in the end, Tom Brady wins.
Bryan: That's as good a note to any to end this season on, but I'd like to indulge myself for just one moment here. 2020 was a terrible year for most of us, and I've had to deal with personal struggles above and beyond the ongoing horribleness of the pandemic during the course of this season. I just wanted to thank all of you for reading and commenting; Scramble has been a welcome and much-needed respite from, y'know, all of this that has been going on. Believe me, after dealing with years with comment sections elsewhere on the Internet, getting to talk to and be goofy with a community this thoughtful and well-spoken is much appreciated.
Take care of yourselves, and we'll see you around this offseason!
Playoff Fantasy Update
Bryan: It was a bit of a nailbiter of a finish, but we have a winner.
|2020 Staff Playoff Fantasy Challenge|
Bryan: Yes, loading up on a team that got to play three games ended up being a winning strategy, as Andrew takes home the staff fantasy crown! The trio of Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and Chris Godwin ended up just too much for anyone to handle, but it took a pair of touchdowns from Rob Gronkowski in the Super Bowl to ultimately ensure he finished ahead of Aaron. Betting heavily on a Tampa Bay-Kansas City Super Bowl nearly paid off for Aaron; he just ended up choosing the wrong running back. If he had taken Leonard Fournette instead of Ronald Jones, he'd be raising the title today. Instead, he just manages to hold off Vince and the ageless Tom Brady to hold on to second place.
In fact, if Aaron, Vince, or Dave had selected Fournette, they'd be the champion. If Scott had taken Fournette instead of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, he would have won.
As for me? Well, sometimes there's glory just in participating, right? Right.
Best of the Rest
Bryan: ARandom was basically uncatchable going into the Super Bowl and ended up running away with everything. In fact, his final score of 284.45 nearly would have won the staff tournament, as Leonard Fournette's 86.8 points and Ryan Succop's 42 both led all fantasy players this postseason. It should be of no surprise our top four finishers had both players as well as Lamar Jackson and John Brown -- there were some fairly clearly right answers, in retrospect, and if you twigged on to them, you had great results.
ARandom's entire roster was as follows:
- QB Lamar Jackson (36.05 points)
- RB James Conner (19.7 points)
- RB Leonard Fournette (86.8 points)
- WR Allen Lazard (28.8 points)
- WR John Brown (18.6 points)
- WR Mecole Hardman (24 points)
- TE Dawson Knox (28.5 points)
- K Ryan Succop (42 points)
- DEF Seattle Seahawks (0 points)
There were a number of closer races downtable, and so we present our top five finishers!
- ARandom (284.45 points)
- Bronco Jeff (236.35 points)
- Eddo (226.65 points)
- Surebrec (224.65 points)
- Alec B (203.25 points)
The best possible team for the Best of the Rest would have been as follows:
- QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (38.95 points)
- RB Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay (86.8 points)
- RB Darrel Williams, Kansas City (30 points)
- WR Jarvis Landry, Cleveland (35.2 points)
- WR Allen Lazard, Green Bay (28.8 points)
- WR Robert Woods, Los Angeles (27.3 points)
- TE Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay (37.5 points)
- K Ryan Succop, Tampa Bay (42 points)
- DEF Packers or Titans (5 points each)
That's 331.55 points, or enough to have won the overall league. That's mostly Fournette going crazy, but it's good to note that if you believe in a wild-card team making the Super Bowl, you have a great chance in future Best of the Rest competitions.
And finally, the best team, including players taken by the staff league, would have been:
- QB Tom Brady, Tampa Bay (92.75 points, Vince [Round 8])
- RB Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay (86.8 points, undrafted)
- RB Cam Akers, Los Angeles (44.2 points, Scott [Round 8])
- WR Stefon Diggs, Buffalo (63.1 points, Andrew [Round 2])
- WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City (60.9 points, Aaron [Round 2])
- WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay (45.8 points, Andrew [Round 4])
- TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City (85 points, Dave [Round 1])
- K Ryan Succop, Tampa Bay (42 points, undrafted)
- DEF Tampa Bay Buccaneers (19 points, Vince [Round 7])
Prop Bet Extravaganza Results
Bryan: This was a pretty good year for both of us, honestly. As we both took Tampa Bay +3.5 and the Buccaneers on the money line, with many of our following bets following suit, we both ended up in the black. It is not a surprise that we ended up with similar outcomes because we agree all the dang time; it turns out there were only 13 props where we differed meaningfully (i.e., we weren't both wrong).
Andrew won seven of those 13 props. Most notably, he predicted that neither team would score three straight times; the Buccaneers scored twice in a row twice, but never three times, earning Andrew 155 Latverian Francs. Picking a pass as the first play from scrimmage was also a sizeable winner for him, worth +110 (and a net of +260, as I paid extra in order to bet on a run, to my dismay). Andrew also correctly took the under on Tyreek Hill's yards and the over on Travis Kelce's first-half yardage; figured Patrick Mahomes would throw more interceptions than the Premier League would issue penalty kicks; figured Super Bowl LIII Brady would outduel Super Bowl LV Brady, and had the national anthem going for longer than two minutes -- a prop that was spoiled by a reporter, but not until we had already made our picks. Unfortunately, Andrew also picked six different celebrities to appear on stage at halftime with The Weeknd, and none of them did, a huge -600 blow that put him into the negatives in our competitive props, but that did not end up swinging the outcome.
I only got five competitive props correct, and four of them aren't worth very much. I figured Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers would punt first, and that they'd have a drive shorter than the national anthem (thank you very much, closing seconds of the second half). I correctly predicted no touchdown to be overturned by replay and no successful two-point conversion as well. Add up the results from the 12 props we've mentioned, and Andrew would have won by 280 Francs -- a tight-fought contest, but one with Andrew ultimately on top, even after thinking there'd be massive celebrity presence during a pandemic.
But no, there was one more prop remaining. Andrew took Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the first player to score a touchdown; it would have won him 1300 Francs had it succeeded, but the Chiefs ended up never scoring, so that's -100 for him. Me? I gambled on a throwback game for one Robert James Gronkowski at +1600, and…
BRADY TO GRONK IN THE #SUPERBOWL
— NFL (@NFL) February 8, 2021
I win by 1,420 Francs. GRONK SMASH PUNY PROP BET EXTRAVAGANZA.
Keep Choppin' Wood
We had a choice between either a single blunder or a game-long wreck for this award. On fourth-and-5 in the first quarter, the Buccaneers kicked a field goal, but Chiefs special teamer Mecole Hardman jumped offside to give Tampa Bay a fresh set of downs instead. Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown on the next play to extend Tampa Bay's lead. That was a pretty major blunder, but it was rendered insignificant by the mess that was the Chiefs offensive line. The last time left tackle Mike Remmers started a Super Bowl, the edge rusher across from him (Von Miller) was named MVP. This year, Shaq Barrett was very close to the same achievement. Remmers and the rest of the line were whipped like so much meringue, with hobbled quarterback Patrick Mahomes pressured on a Super Bowl-record 29 of his 56 dropbacks. Mahomes did just about everything humanly possible to create success in spite of that pressure, but in the end it was too much even for him.
Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game
The most aggressive in-game strategic decision by either side saw Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 up 7-3 in the second quarter. Though they did not convert, they still benefited from the excellent field position, forcing a punt and starting their next drive in opposition territory and taking a 10-3 lead. However, the real award for playing to win goes to the game plan, which saw both offense and defense reinvent themselves and overwhelm the Chiefs in every facet of the game. The offense slowed the pace and controlled the ball against a floundering Chiefs defense, while the defense broke all of its tendencies to confound the Chiefs offense.
John Fox Award for Conservatism
On the first drive of the second half, with the Chiefs trailing 21-6, they drove to fourth-and-7 from the Buccaneers 34-yard line. This is a makeable but challenging 51-yard field goal, but the Chiefs had only stopped the Buccaneers once in the previous four drives, and even that required a stunning goal-line stand. The Chiefs needed a touchdown, and this was the time to be aggressive. Instead, Andy Reid kicked the field goal -- as it turned out, his team's final points of the game -- and the next time they had the ball, they trailed by an even larger 28-9 margin.
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching
We're going to allow Arians and Reid to share this award for their interesting timeout usage late in the first half, where both teams conspired to call and not call timeouts in the worst possible places.
Arians opted to not call a timeout when the Chiefs had the ball. Specifically, he had an opportunity with about 1:50 remaining -- Mahomes had just completed a pass to Kelce, setting up third-and-6 inside the red zone. The Chiefs' primary goal here was to score with as little time left on the clock as possible, and Arians obliged by letting them run nearly the entire play clock off before their next snap, wasting 40 seconds that might have come in significant use on the Buccaneers' ensuing drive.
Or, at least, those 40 seconds would have been necessary if Reid hadn't called timeouts of his own when Tampa Bay had the ball. Hoping his defense could get a quick three-and-out and get the ball back before the half, the Chiefs called timeout after both first and second down. The first timeout makes sense -- they had stuffed Leonard Fournette for no gain, and second-and-10 is a spot where the Bucs might try to take the air out of the ball and go into halftime with a 14-6 lead. The second timeout, however, was a gamble that didn't pay off; it came after a Chris Godwin catch that brought up third-and-2. The Buccaneers converted and went on to score with six seconds left on the clock -- basically, Reid's timeouts made up for Arians' lack of one on the previous drive. Not a great example of clock usage by either team, though if we had to pick one, we'd put more blame on the conservative Arians than the gambling Reid.
'As Usual, We're All Idiots' Fantasy Player of the Week
Rob Gronkowski led all players with 24.7 PPR fantasy points this week, a fitting total for the former WWE 24/7 Champion. However, per the rules that we have been arbitrarily following this postseason, this award goes to the player with the most points who went undrafted in the Staff Fantasy Challenge. Once again, that's Leonard Fournette, who was just behind Gronk with 23.5 points of his own. Not bad for someone who was cut by the Jaguars just before the season began, huh?
— NFL (@NFL) February 8, 2021
Garbage-Time Performer of the Week
Bryan called "game" after Leonard Fournette's touchdown midway through the third quarter, and even if you think that's a tad too early to count out a Patrick Mahomes-led offense, Kansas City never scored again after that point. The Chiefs player who was most effective from that point on was Travis Kelce, with four receptions for 78 yards, resulting in three first downs. Kelce's 133 total receiving yards broke Rob Gronkowski's record for Super Bowl yards by a tight end, and he has moved to second all-time (behind Gronk) for career Super Bowl yards at the position. It's just a shame that so much of it came when the game was well out of hand.
— NFL Brasil (@NFLBrasil) February 8, 2021
Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week
It's easy to find comfort for a team as good as the Chiefs. Their superstar quarterback is just 25 years old. They've ranked in the top three in offensive DVOA in every season in which that quarterback has started more than one game, and they've reached at least the conference championship game in every one of those seasons. The only one of their star offensive players who is over the age of 26 is 31-year-old tight end Travis Kelce. They are likely to be very good for a very long time. We fully expect to see them back. Hopefully, they'll have a somewhat intact offensive line next time.
Game-Changing Play of the Week
In a game that was never very much in doubt, picking a game-changing play is more art than science. Andrew suggested Rob Gronkowski's second touchdown, midway through the second quarter, as the moment that the game flipped from a close contest to a one that at least leaned in Tampa Bay's direction. That would be a fine choice, but I'll go one play earlier: the Tampa Bay field goal attempt, overturned by an offsides call. Ryan Succop hit a 37-yard attempt that would have made the score 10-3, only for Mecole Hardman to line up offsides and give Tampa Bay the fresh set of downs which led to the Gronk touchdown.
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) February 8, 2021
And yes, Hardman was definitely, definitively offsides.
Was Mecole Hardman offsides on the field goal? Who can be sure pic.twitter.com/B1uTswYYGq
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 8, 2021
I chose this for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Chiefs were destroyed by penalties. Yes, some were ticky-tack, and the game was called tighter than I'd ideally like a Super Bowl to be called, but they weren't phantom calls, and they happened in the worst possible situations for Kansas City. The Chiefs did not hit the Super Bowl record for penalties or penalty yardage, but the Buccaneers' six first downs by penalty, all in the first half, was a Super Bowl record. That in and of itself didn't doom the Chiefs, but it certainly didn't help.
And secondly, this is not the first time that Tom Brady has beaten Patrick Mahomes in the postseason thanks to a player lining up offsides.
TOM BRADY IS PICKED OFF ... but the Chiefs are offsides pic.twitter.com/ZYGovaDpyJ
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) April 18, 2020
History repeats itself.