Only a fool goes several months without learning anything new. Fortunately, I picked up a few things along the way. Here’s what I learned this season:
I learned that going all-in pays off for NFL teams. Last season, Brady + Gronkowski + Brown + Fournette = title. This season Stafford + Beckham + Miller = title. You need to have a good foundation of players, but short-term thinking is earning Lombardi trophies. Congratulations to the Rams. It will be interesting to see which team tries that strategy next season.
I learned that nostalgia drives everything. The Super Bowl halftime show was an impressive display of decades-old hip hop, and we saw commercials involving actors from The Sopranos, Jim Carrey's Cable Guy, and Austin Powers, among others. It was entertaining, but most of the time I couldn't tell exactly what the commercials were selling. Something about cars, usually.
I learned that having 17 games in the regular season was pretty great. More games that actually matter is good for football, and fantasy football.
I learned that the 4th-and-15 thing instead of an onsides kick is pretty dumb. Thanks, Pro Bowl.
I learned that the Pittsburgh Steelers made the playoffs. Can anybody confirm that? It seems like 100 years ago, and before the slate of excellent playoff games we experienced later. Apparently, they played in a game against Kansas City. I'll take the box score's word for it. Congrats to them for constantly making the playoffs, and to Big Ben for an outstanding career.
I learned that poor New England fans had to wait a whole year in the wilderness before getting back to the postseason. How did they endure such embarrassment? There are toddlers in the northeast who were mere newborns the last time the Patriots went to the playoffs. That poor, long-suffering fanbase. I'm sure Jets' fans feel your pain. /sarcasm
I learned that Amazon Prime memberships are going up $20 a year. And in a totally-unrelated development (wink wink), Amazon gets exclusive rights to Thursday night games next season. The deal is for 11 years, so expect a few more increases during that time. Nothing is truly free, after all.
I learned that T.J. Watt is for real. I mean really for real. He tied Michael Strahan’s sack record (which had its own controversy, anyway) but he played in just 15 games. Kudos to Watt.
I learned that kickers matter. In the age of extreme parity, making the playoffs, succeeding in the playoffs and possibly winning a title might depend on how reliable your kicker is in pressure situations. The Bengals have a lot of young talent who are critical to their success, and you have to include Evan McPherson in that group.
I learned that “1,000 yards in a season” definitely still matters off the field. Not that it’s really a heroic accomplishment on it (it’s now less than 60 yards a game) but it’s a big part of contract language and six-figure bonuses. So when running backs and receivers make it a priority, you’ll know that there are usually financial incentives to do so.
I learned that I can finally listen to network game coverage again. After years of keeping games on mute (except for some occasional Tony Romo analysis) I really enjoyed the Peyton and Eli broadcasts on Monday nights. Granted, they often ignored the game itself, but it was interesting, funny, and had entertaining guests. They’ve already reached a deal to do 10 games a year for the next three years, so while some people might disagree, I’m glad there will be something interesting to hear while the Monday night game is on.
I learned that the Chargers might be the next Bengals. They seem to have the pieces in place to approach (if not duplicate) Cincinnati's success. I'm looking for big things from them next season.
I learned next to nothing about Trevor Lawrence this season, even though he started every game. Is he a bust? Does he have what it takes? Nobody knows. Maybe the starting experience was good for him. We'll find out next season, I guess.
I learned that the wheels have completely come off the Saquan Barkley bandwagon. A running back only has so many good years, and some of his best ones have been unproductive. I really don't know what he has left. I do know that somebody will either get a draft-day steal, or be stuck with dead weight on their fantasy team. Either way, it probably won't be me, but I hope new coach Brian Daboll can revive his career.
I learned that when I draft a quarterback, I'm usually looking to pair them with that team's best receiver. I'm not saying you should always do that; I'm saying it's a tendency I have. I looked back on some old drafts, and I do it nearly every year if they're available. Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham. Even Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. This year it was Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Some of those duos helped me win titles. Others (like Allen and Diggs) were okay and led to a just-okay season. But I think all fantasy players have tendencies, and that's clearly one of mine.
I learned that everybody seems to hate the "Commanders" nickname for Washington's team, but nobody minds that there are five bird nicknames and four cat nicknames in the league. I’m fine with the name. The truth is, if they aren’t going with my preferred choice (Mandalorians), I don't really care what they chose.
Finally, I learned that, after all these years, fantasy football can still be fresh and interesting. I played in new leagues with new people, and really enjoyed it. There’s always a new format to experience, so I suggest you try something new in the fall.
As always, thank you for your support and enthusiasm. Enjoy some time off, and let’s see if the Lightning can three-peat in the NHL. See you in the summertime!
What did you learn this season? Share your thoughts below.