No doubt FifthLung readers have anxiously awaited the results of Schmazzer Bowl XVII, the Super Bowl for the world-famous Schmazzer Fantasy Football League.
Schmazzer XVII, which took place over weeks 16 and 17 of the 2014 NFL season, pitted FifthLung’s El Blizzardo Diablo versus alert reader Wrathakahn’s Crotch Dogs. These two teams met in the championship game before, in 2002’s Schmazzer V with Wrathakahn’s Mocha Jihad beating my Treesplitters 112-105. Football wags wondered, could El Blizzardo Diablo exact revenge for the Treesplitter defeat? This question was answered in one of the most thrilling finishes in Schmazzer history.
EBD had cruised through the regular season to an 11-2 record and the league’s highest total points. They did so on the backs of Andrew Luck’s breakout season and the league’s three best WRs, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and Jordy Nelson. However, as the playoffs approached, the Diablos were running out of steam.
The Crotch Dogs, on the other hand, finished 7-6 but by the end of the season they were on the rise, with key players like RB Arian Foster and TE Rob Gronkowski coming off injury and scoring big. Crotch Dogs GM Wrathakahn drafts strong and for the most part sticks to his guns. (He made only 16 player transactions versus EBD’s 50). His patience paid off, with Foster and Gronk rejoining an already solid team anchored by RB Matt Forte and WRs Alshon Jeffrey and Julian Edelman.
And just before the Schmazzer Bowl, the Dogs made a key pickup: Matt Asiata, the grinder RB for the Vikings. The irony here was that EBD had won the previous year’s Schmazzer Bowl by picking up Cordarelle Patterson just before Week 17. This allowed EBD to prevail in heartbreaking fashion over the Psycho Whores from Hell, who had dominated the league in 2013. So now in 2014 I was afraid I’d get Asiata’d the way I had Cordarelle’d the PWfH last year.
In the first round of the 2014 Schmazzeroffs (Weeks 14 & 15), the Diablos scored 219 points in defeating Ev’s Austin Droogs and the Crotch Dogs scored 259.9 points in defeating Shikesman’s Wildlings. Given those scores, it’s no surprise that Schmazzer pundits expected the Crotch Dogs to coast to an easy Schmazzer Bowl victory.
After Week 16, it looked bleak for the Diablos. The Crotch Dogs’ RB trio of Matt Forte, Arian Foster and Matt Asiata led them to a healthy lead over EBD: 112.9 to 94.6. A pathetic 4.4 point performance from Andrew Luck absolutely killed my beloved Diablos. The Dogs’ top scorer was Matt Asiata with 21.7 points. I HAD BEEN ASIATA’D! So at halftime of Schmazzer XVII, my Diablos were three touchdowns behind. I was in big trouble.
In Week 17, the Crotch Dogs had 6 out of 9 players in the early games. I had 3 out of 9. Not that I actively try to arrange this but I love it when my guys play later. You get a feel for how the opponent’s team is doing so you can either feel quietly confident or if they do well you can still imagine your guys getting many TDs — and thus postpone the agony of defeat. The Crotch Dogs did not do terribly in the early games but they weren’t great either. They took a devastating hit when Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski was made inactive and they didn’t have time to sub in a replacement TE. Edelman was out too, and then Foster did not play a full game due to injury. He still got a TD but probably would have had at least one more plus many more yards.
So after the early games, I felt pretty good. My chances had gone from horrible to decent. The Crotch Dog core of Forte, Foster, Asiata, Jeffrey and Gronk had gotten only 30.9 points. And I still had my core of Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas yet to play. Earlier in the year I would have felt supremely confident. But by then they were hitting fewer home runs, so to speak.
Because Andrew Luck had been a disaster in Week 16 and was likely to play little in Week 17 in a meaningless game for the Colts, I picked up Cam Newton. He was on the upswing and playing the awful Atlanta Falcons defense. The Crotch Dogs had Russell Wilson against a tougher Rams defense. I hoped they would at least cancel each other out.
In the late games, Jordy and Demaryius had solid but not great games — no TDs. But Newton actually outscored Wilson 19.7 to 10.3. Those 9 points provided a nice chunk of the points I needed to catch up to the Dogs. Cam scored most of those points in the first half. The Falcons were so terrible Cam didn’t have to do much in the second half (and highlighted my poor decision to start the Atlanta kicker). The cruel irony is that Cam had been a Crotch Dog early in the year but had been so bad Wrathakahn cut him.
The early games were over. The late afternoon games were over. And there was one game left in the 2014 NFL Regular Season, the last game in the 2014 Schmazzer League season: the night game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. Going into this last game, the Crotch Dogs held on to a 6 point lead over the Diablos. The Dogs had one player left to play: Steelers WR Martavis Bryant. The Diablos had two: Steeler WR Antonio Brown and Cincy RB Jeremy Hill.
Brown was most likely to get a ton of short passes and occasionally break one into a long gain or TD. Hill was a workhorse back and had become the primary back late in the season but shared time with Gio Bernard. They were steady Eddies with bursts of greatness. Bryant on the other hand was a boom or bust rookie who had scored 7 TDs that year, and his specialty was long TD receptions. 50 yards and a TD was very possible for Bryant, 10+ points in one play.
I hoped for 20+ point games from both of my guys because I always hope for big games. But more realistically, I expected 8-10 points each from Hill and Brown at a minimum. But there was always a risk of Bryant getting a long TD. So he could easily get, say, 14 points. Throw in the 6 point lead the Dogs already had and it was likely to be a very close game. Squeaky Bum Time.
One more thing, and this is very important: ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN FANTASY FOOTBALL.
Steelers v. Bengals
As the game started it was Crotch Dogs 172.1, EBD 166.3.
Pittsburgh got the ball first and had a short drive. No points for Schmazzer Bowlers. The Steelers then punted to the Bengals, who had a three and out. Jeremy Hill had eight yards for 0.8 points on that drive: Dogs 172.1, EBD 167.1. Then, with 11:13 left in the 1st Quarter, Cincinnati punted to . . . ANTONIO BROWN.
Brown caught the ball and ran right. Almost tackled, he reversed field and ran back left around the punt coverage and 71 yards down the left sideline for a TD. As he reached the end zone he executed an ill-advised flip and landed with a bounce on his back. So I was excited and worried at the same time.
We do not score return yards but Brown got 6 points for the TD. Incredible play by Brown and he took EBD into the lead, barely: EBD 173.1, Dogs 172.1.
During the next 20 game minutes, we Diablos built on our lead. Hill and Brown both accumulated yards but neither scored. I was ahead by 9 points and the Steelers and Bengals were tied 10-10 when, with 6:51 left in the 2nd Quarter, Andy Dalton threw high to AJ Green, Green couldn’t pull it down, and the Steelers intercepted. Andy Dalton sucks.
Two plays later, with 5:58 left in the half, Big Ben threw a wide receiver screen to . . . MARTAVIS BRYANT! Bryant ran through the Bengal defense for 21 yards and a TD. This earned the Crotch Dogs 8.1 points: Diablos 181.3, Crotch Dogs 180.2.
For the rest of the first half, through the 3rd Quarter, and well into the 4th Quarter, Bryant, Brown and Hill did not score but Brown and Hill accumulated more yards, again slightly increasing the Diablo’s lead. And the Steelers were leading the game as the second half progressed so they went into kill-the-clock mode. This meant they were mostly lining up in a running formation with Antonio Brown as the lone WR. Martavis Bryant was not even on the field!
With 4:00 left in the 4th Quarter and season and Schmazzer Bowl, it was Diablos 189.8, Dogs 180.2. It appeared the Diablos were bumbling toward Schmazzer victory.
But at that four minute mark, Andy Dalton threw to AJ Green, who got slammed by a Steeler and coughed up the ball. The Steelers recovered the fumble on their 30 yard line. After this change of possession, when the Steeler offense came out on the field, they were not in that running formation. They were in a passing formation. And Martavis Bryant was out there. He lined up wide left.
With 3:51 left on the clock, Big Ben took the snap and went back to pass. He looked left. He wanted to go to . . . MARTAVIS BRYANT. Bryant was streaking down the left sideline. Big Ben threw the pass. If it connected it would be a 70 yard TD throw — 13 fantasy points in one play. If it connected, the Dogs would retake the lead, Dogs 193.2 to EBD 189.8. This throw could win the Schmazzer Bowl for the Dogs.
But Big Ben overthrew Bryant. Three plays later, with 3:01 left, the Steelers were in shotgun formation. Antonio Brown was wide right, Bryant left. Big Ben took the snap and looked right. He arced a long one into the arms of . . . ANTONIO DAMN BROWN.
Brown had outrun his coverage and had a clear path to the end zone . . . except for a Steelers player who was running toward him as if to make the tackle. That Steelers player who seemed intent on preventing Brown from scoring was . . . MARTAVIS DAMN BRYANT!
What was he thinking? Was he trying to save the game for the Crotch Dogs? Bryant ran into Brown and both players stumbled. Then Bryant fell to the turf while Brown stayed upright and ran on to the end zone for a 63 yard TD. The score was now Diablos 202.6, Dogs 180.2.
And that was the final score. Neither Bryant, Brown nor Hill touched the ball again. And so the Schmazzer Bowl came down to two throws in the last four minutes of the last game. Really one throw, the incompletion intended for Bryant. That swung Schmazzer XVII.