Playoffs Time!!! Real Deal Ultimate Football 2017

Playoffs time gents (and/or gals; I realize I don’t know much about some of you)! Let’s dig in!

This week, the last few spots for the second season are up for grabs. Injuries are beginning to stack up for many of us, so what happened during the regular season barely matters anymore. There have been a lot of surprises, so let’s sum up some of the surprisiest surprises and look ahead to who is in the race for the big money!

Surprise No. 1: New Orleans might miss the playoffs

This is nuts to me. Looking at that lineup coming into the season had me scared, with strong depth at critical positions such as RB, TE, WR, DE, and S. All they seemed to need was a healthy season out of ageless wonder Drew Brees and for one of their high draft picks at WR to hit, a box which Cooper Kupp has ably checked.

But as of right now, NO needs to win against Atlanta in order to secure a spot. The Falcons haven’t exactly been a monster this season, but they get Devonta Freeman and Jay Cutler back this week, Julio Jones is looking like Julio Jones again, and, despite a rough sophomore campaign, Vic Beasley could explode for multiple sacks against a potentially overrated Vikings O-line.

It’s not likely that the Dirty Birds win this week, but New Orleans’ roster is so strong that they shouldn’t be in this position. There is no reason to think that the Saints could get hot and run right through to the championship. Teams heading to the postseason will be watching this matchup intently and crossing their fingers for an upset.

Surprise No. 2: Alex Smith is both MVP and LVP

This one hurts me particularly. Alex Smith has somehow gone from the top passer in our game to a total and complete liability that has pundits widely advising the Chiefs to bench Smith in favor of their shiny new toy, Patrick Mahomes. After the disastrous injury to hot new franchise QB Deshaun Watson (then the top scoring QB for the season), Cincinnati consoled themselves by remembering that no. 3 scoring QB Alex Smith was still there. What happened from there is mind-boggling and nearly completely derailed a playoff run for the Bengals.

Smith had been entirely unlike himself early on, which is to say amazing! He was throwing deep, involving a group of athletic freaks like Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, and providing some of his trademarked scrambling. It was like the potential that made him the 1st overall pick had finally all come together. Then, suddenly it just stopped. If you blinked, you’d realized that the Chiefs are in the middle of a 5 game losing streak. And Smith is a big reason.

In terms of fantasy, this has been brutal for a Bengals team that probably (definitely) was feeling pretty good about itself. Smith was a major reason they opened the season on a tear. But with Watson out and the glaring lack of depth and performance at RB, TE, and DE, it’s not likely that Cincy is primed for a long postseason run. Smith may have gotten them the division title and a playoff berth, but he’ll likely be the prime reason for a quick exit.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 13: Quincy Enunwa #81 of the New York Jets celebrates after a tackle in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Surprise No. 3: New York Jets have the league’s No. 1 ranked offense

No joke. Look at the stats. In our game’s scoring, the overall leader in offensive scoring is the J-E-T-S.

Let’s be clear, there was certainly potential here leading into the season. Carson Wentz showed a little bit last season, Evan Engram and Hunter Henry brings big ceilings at TE, and Davante Adams and Danny Amendola play with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. But NOBODY thought Wentz would go full Roethlisberger and jump to MVP candidate in year 2. Engram, despite recent struggles, has been a target magnet, and Adams has excelled even in the absence of his all-pro QB.

The biggest surprise, of course, was the reemergence of Adrian Peterson in Arizona. Combine that with a savvy pickup of Buck Allen and other pleasant surprises like Austin Hooper, James White, and Brandon Lafell, and apparently that is the recipe for the league’s best offensive production.

A below average defense may be the Greens’ undoing, but they must be thrilled with the ascension of their franchise QB. A core of Wentz, Adams, Henry, and Engram is a hell of a way to go into next season as they build towards real contention.

Ok, so there were way more shockers this season like huge injuries, big breakouts, and massive disappointments that we’ll highlight at year end, but let’s give out some arbitrary and completely meaningless awards!

The Toronto Bills Award for Most Wheeling and Dealing

Arizona Cardinals

Ok, so I’m not listing all the assets that changed hands because mah gawd, but here’s some highlights:

Coming in: Kirk Cousins, Carson Palmer, Duke Johnson Jr.

Going away: Bryce Petty, Jamaal Charles, like all of their draft picks for the next two years.

Zona is going for it this season. It might pay off, too. They currently have scored the most combined points so far and show no signs of slowing down. It’s tough to be critical because how could you have possibly predicted that Carson Palmer was going to go down for the season almost immediately after the Cards acquired him. Giving up two 1s, two 3s, a 5, a 7, and a QB project in Petty total to pickup a starting QB will hurt next year. But if they come home with gold, I’m sure he won’t feel so bad about the loss.

The “Wait, What?” Award for Most Confusing Thing

Denver Broncos

So, this is weird. When I was researching this, I noticed that Denver is the lowest scoring team in the league at 1,754. Ok, that’s surprising in and of itself with that roster, but sure. Stuff happens, I didn’t go through all of the weeks so I’m sure I’m missing context, but yeah it’s been a tough season.

Then I noticed that Denver has had 2,705 scored against them. That is a point differential of -951. The only other team that comes close to that is Green Bay, and they are 4-10-1. Denver’s record is 6-9.

How in the world did they win 6 games? I went back and looked and I’m just surprised. I don’t have any analysis here. That just made me stop and wonder what the heck happened there.

The Not My MVP but Damned if That Ain’t Surprising

Jared Goff, QB (CLE)

Jared Goff’s mom didn’t think Goff would turn into a competent QB overnight. Not only that, he suddenly looks like he might be a good QB! Anyone that watched Hard Knocks or, I don’t know, any LA Rams games last season thought there was anything to Goff. Stamp “LEAF” on him and toss him into the Pacific, he’s done. Amazingly, that hasn’t been the case.

Goff has been downright impressive, currently ranked as the 12th highest scoring QB in our game. That number was much better, but recent surges by Philip Rivers, Josh McCown and Dak Prescott have pushed him down. He may not be a super duper star worthy of the 1st overall pick, but he went from having no value to being a young QB with potential and a pretty good supporting staff. The Browns have a real asset on their hands just a few months after it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to consider dumping the young man.

The Secret Defensive MVP

Adoree Jackson, CB (NE)

It’s a not so well kept secret that defensive players that bring special teams value are great assets. I called out Adoree Jackson as a great value in the 3rd round of my draft piece. *Editor’s note: Dammit dammit dammit dammit I wanted him so bad!!!!! The Titans drafted him to be a potential shutdown corner and to contribute as a return man. Even if he didn’t blossom as a corner early on, his speed was such that he was going to continue to see field time by virtue of the return game, ensuring consistent value.

Of course, all Jackson did was blossom into a true star corner and a good return man. He’s scored more than 15 points per game, unreal production for a CB in our game. Now, it’s true that corner production tends to be a little inconsistent, and Jackson himself only scored 4.5 points last week as Jacoby Brissett avoided throwing to him all game long. But since he sees the field on special teams, he’ll have more opportunities to make a contribution. I’m sure the juggernaut Pats will have no problem keeping him in the lineup during the postseason.

I’ll be back on a quick turnaround for a playoff preview because this is already like 1,500 words. But first, let’s do a quick look as to what the playoff bracket will probably look like.

(1) Seed and West Division Champion – Arizona Cardinals
(2) Seed and East Division Champion – New England Patriots
(3) Seed – San Diego Chargers
(4) Seed – Carolina Panthers
(5) Seed – Dallas Cowboys
(6) Seed – Philadelphia Steel Men
(7) Seed – New Orleans Saints
(8) Seed and Central Division Champion – Cincinnati Bengals

I expect Cincinnati to lose to Cleveland this week, but win the division by virtue of a tie breaker with Chicago. They’ll likely be served a quick exit, but the rest of the bracket is really interesting. You’ll notice that many of the teams are very evenly matched, meaning we’ll have a nice suspenseful playoff run. Literally any of the top seven seeds could run away with it.

This will seem lame, and I’ll go into it more detail later, but I expect Arizona to come out on top. They have the deepest and most diverse roster, and they should considering all of the moves they made this season. It might sound boring to go chalk and pick the top seed, but the team is largely healthy and has such explosive players that they’re tough to pick against, especially with a cupcake like Cincinnati in round 1.

I’ll hold the rest of my predictions for the next article, but I’m actually predicting a surprise for the final. I’m pumped for the postseason and I think we’ll all be watching intently to see how it all shakes out.
Thanks a bunch everyone! As always, if you have criticism, keep it to yourself 😉.

2016 Real Deal Dynasty baseball season retrospective and awards

With the 2016 Real Deal baseball season in the rear view, let’s take a look back at the year, which was dominated early and often by just a handful of teams.

2016 culminated in Red Sox vs. Cubs, with the Cubs emerging

First, congratulations to all of those who won money this year, led by the championship-winning Chicago Cubs and runner-up Boston Red Sox. And well done to the division winners, the Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Miami Marlins, as well as the Cubs and Red Sox. Lastly, a tip of the cap to the wild card teams, the Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, and Kansas City Royals.

Real Deal World Series MVP Asdrubal Cabrera

Finish Reading: 2016 Real Deal Dynasty baseball season retrospective and awards

To start, I’ll discuss the divisional races a bit. As a result of team building strategy, patience, luck, and whatever else you’d consider in terms of what makes a fantasy team successful; most divisions were not that close. In fact, four out of the six division winners won by double digit wins: Miami Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, and Houston Astros. In addition, the Cubs won their division by 9, though noting this may not be all that fair, since the runner up Milwaukee had the fifth most wins in the league, and the third most points.

That leaves just the AL Central, which was an interesting to follow in terms of the battle between Kansas City and Detroit. Interestingly enough, the Tigers won the division on the last day of the year despite having scored less points (20,780 vs 21,294) oveall. This was a fun division to watch and should be next year as well, with Cleveland stacking up, a new owner in Minnesota, and a White Sox team that is also making moves in an effort to improve upon 2015’s last place finish.

Despite not being all that close in terms of wins, the NL East was still competitive, as the second place Nationals—a wildcard playoff team—still had 31 wins in the division compared to Miami’s 39, while also scoring more than 23,000 points, a number that I will touch on later in this article. Despite a vast improvement in Philadephia, going from 17 wins to 45, that seems to still be a team that is in the process of rebuilding. The Mets, on the other hand, had a tough go of it, as they went down in wins from 67 (A 1st place finish in 2015), to 45 in 2016. Much like the real-life counterpart, these Mets were bit with injuries to a number of key players.

Unlike last year in the NL West, where the top three teams were within 7 games and less than 1,000 points of one another, this year was not as close. The Arizona Diamondbacks (My team, if anyone is wondering), led the pack with 20 more wins than the second place Dodgers, as well as nearly 4,500 points. Still, things can change quickly, and as I work to get under budget for 2017, nothing is taken for granted.

Next we go over to the juggernaut-led NL Central, which had the highest scoring team, the Cubs, and the third-highest scoring team, the Brewers. While the Brewers were once again a dominant force, the Cubs were something else this year. At 83-10, the best record in the league, the Cubs were also tied for second with Houston (Behind Boston) for division record, at 44-4, while also scoring the most points in the league by 1,365 points. More on the Cubs later, but the two-headed monster at the top of the division didn’t leave much room for the Cardinals, Reds, or Pirates, all of which fell under the .500 mark while failing to reach 19,000 points for the year. Looking torward the future though, let’s not count any of these teams out. If you take a look at the jump that Cincinatti made from 2015-2016 (more on this later), there is room for optimism going into 2017.

Shifting back over to the AL, where the AL East was among the least competitive division in 2015. To put it into perspective, the second-place Rays sold off major MLB-level talent and a slew of prospects all for one top 5 prospect (more on this deal later), and yet still somehow almost made the playoffs. But it’s not really the Rays we should be talking about here, in terms of 2015, as the Boston Red Sox once again had a dominant season, running through the competition all the way until he fell to the Cubs—the second year in a row in which Boston had made the finals, only to fall short. Will 2017 be his year?

Lastly, we had the AL West, which had one of the league’s two 80-game winners in Houston, leading the pack. Behind them was the Texas Rangers, also a 2015 playoff team, who despite having 16 less wins that the division leader, was not a team to be taken lightly. In fact, Texas made it into the playoffs and managed to beat KC in the opening round, then upset rival Houston by less than 4 points in the second round, only to fall to Boston Round 3. Still, an impressive season by both teams. The other teams in the division, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle, will look to improve upon disappointing seasons in 2015.

At this point, I’d like to give out a few different awards from the season. I took a look back at the season from a high level and reached these conclusions, so do try your best to not get mad at me for them!

Let’s get started.

Best trade:

Jonathan Villar likes this

Oakland Athletics send:

Jonathan Villar
Travis Blankenhorn

Kansis City Royals send:

Jorge Bonifacio
Tyler Mahle
Preston Tucker
Mark Canha

For my money, the best trade of the year, and one that helped Kansas City make it into the playoffs. At $1.2 and having scored more than 552 points on the year, Villar may be one of the top value-output players in the league, this side of Mookie Betts.

I should be clear in stating that I think this trade was a win for KC. From the Oakland side, I don’t really understand it is as much, as he received 0 prospects from the top 100. Jorge Bonifacio looks like a decent prospect and is ranked #2 in the KC system, whild Tyler Mahle is likely the second best player coming back in the deal, and he is #7 ranked in the Astros system. Villar, on the other hand, was the 25th ranked overall player last year.

That said, prospect rankings are not necessarily gospel, so who knows, maybe this trade looks nice for both teams this year or soon. But in looking right now, it’s a clear win for the Royals.

Biggest /most controversial trade:

I hate to involve myself in any of these superlative mentions, but I would say that this was most likely, in fact, the biggest and perhaps most controversial trade, given the amount of players.

Dansby Swanson

In the deal, I sent Dansby Swanson over to Tampa Bay, who set back:

  • Zack Greinke
  • Chris Davis
  • Shawn Kelley
  • Christian Bethancourt
  • Johnny Giavotella

As well as the following prospects:

  • German Marquez
  • Andrew Velazquez
  • Jomar Reyes
  • Jake Fraley
  • Dustin Fowler
  • Chris Betts

Now, to put this deal into perspective, Malcolm and I were engaged in trade talks for a while before it got to this. I basically told him I wasn’t going to trade Swanson to him, but he countered with a deal that I just could not refuse.

If you boil this down, I’ve already dropped Bethancourt and Giavotella, and I traded Chris Davis last year for Todd Frazier, who I traded this year for catching prospect Austin Hedges and Jedd Gyorko. I also plan to keep Greinke. But in return, Malcolm has (what we both believe to be) a young, cheap, cornerstone player at a premium position. Yes, it looked big on the surface, and it was, but ultimately, we both though it to be more than fair.

Least active trader:

This award goes to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who made 0 in-season trades, and only one offseason trade that involved the swapping of draft picks. Still, this is a team that won 55 games last year, so maybe with a few strategic moves, they will be right back in the thick of things in 2017.

Most active trader:

This goes to the New York Yankees. Christian Tobler, who took over in 2015, made a whopping 59 trades. This includes activations of players from the minors to majors, but upon closer look, a vast majority of these moves are actual trades. In 2015, the team was 8-85, and this year, 37-56. A 29-game improvement is a big one, and these moves played a big role in that.

How many more games can the Yankees win this year?

Biggest turnaround:

Speaking of big turnarounds, nobody had a bigger one than the Cincinnati Reds, who went from 3-90 in 2015 to 37-56 in 2016.

This was also a team that made a good deal of trades last year. Again, can the rebuild project continue, and gain momentum into 2017? Time will tell.

23,000 club

Lastly, I wanted to recognize the teams that scored 23,000 or more. I chose this number because all teams reaching this mark won money, and were right at the top of the standings throughout basically the entire season. Whether or not this number will be a similar benchmark for 2017 is yet to be seen, but there is no denying that the following teams, which all scored 23,000 or more, had success this year: Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Nationals.

Closing

In terms of making predictions for next year, that will come in a separate article later in the offseason. This article was meant to provide a year-in-review type of retrospective, and to hopefully motivate teams who are either looking to repeat upon past success, or to achieve it for the first time.

Regardless of which category you fall into, the 2016 season is now over, and we are looking into 2017 with new hope and optimism. Good luck to everyone in their offseason preparations, and thanks for a great year.

We’re onto 2017.

Jimmy Carroll (Arizona Diamondbacks)