By Harold Studer
Follow me on Twitter @hstuder36
Starting the fantasy football season off with the cancellation of the HOF game has left fantasy diehards with nothing to cling to besides coach speak and training camp storylines. Now, these two sets of narratives typically steer how some fantasy owners approach their drafts, but the events of this past weekend have left everyone hoping to see some football yearning for a chance to see the players out on the field. Realistically, the HOF game wouldn’t have told us a whole lot about either team and probably would’ve only given us a slight look at some of this year’s rookie skill players on either team, but what it does do is satisfy the thirst for football which hasn’t been played for six months.
So, without the opportunity to see actual action, all fantasy owners have to keep them going, until the rest of the preseason schedule begins, is the hopes and dreams of their teams and the speculations of fantasy pundits. The coach-speak and training camp narratives distract and subdue the desires of some, but I typically take all these “news” drops with a grain of salt and have started contemplating the craziness that may ensue this year. Whether or not you want to admit it, there is always some craziness that happens and storylines that blindside everyone in the industry. The craziness can be contrarian, counter initiative, and even down right absurd, but may prove to have the slightest sliver of basis in reality. So step off into the fantasy deep end, throw all caution to the wind, and examine some storylines that may embrace the term “fantasy” more than any of the assumptions and speculation we’ve seen so far this offseason.
The “Buddy Ryan” Effect
Everyone who follows football knows about the recent passing of the legendary defensive genius behind the ’85 Bears. His two sons both coach up in Buffalo these days, and no doubt have had their own shares of turmoil over the past couple of seasons. This season feels primed for the Ryan brothers to take it to the league in honor of their father’s memory. What would make a better underlying story as the season rolls on? The Bills employing a 4-6 defense variant, creating a defensive juggernaut with pieces like Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus up front, Preston Brown and Jerry Hughes at linebacker, and Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby in the defensive backfield.
The reports out of Buffalo indicate they are more than intent on forcing their defensive will upon opposing offenses, reminiscent of the ’85 Bears and their father’s punishing tactics. Assuming the Bills can survive the season without continuing their unfortunate injury luck from this offseason, their defense can take on the “bully” mentality Rex Ryan boasted about last season. To also aid in bringing this sort of mentality to the organization, we all must remember the Bills also brought in Ed Reed, one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in NFL history, to provide assistance. Their defense should have more than enough attitude if their coaches and assistants are rubbing off on them any.
Maybe this storyline isn’t all that crazy yet, but let’s take it up a notch. Their offense finally takes a step forward and Tyrod Taylor utilizes the weapons around him in McCoy, Watkins, and Clay. The offense begins to take the shape of Rex’s playoff teams from his tenure in New York. Not terribly flashy, but they rely on the running game and the down field ability of their number one receiver to utilize and attack every area of the field. This offense runs on efficiency and constant production, taking care of the ball, and capitalizing on the turnovers created by their defense. Can anything other than this honor their father, who will be remembered in the annuls of football history?? A Super Bowl maybe?
That’s right, I said Super Bowl. Only the most important game of the year. Also, the bane of the Buffalo Bills existence. Not only will Rex get the Bills to the playoffs, for the first time in about 20 years, he will get them past the championship game and Win the Super Bowl, a first for him and the organization. Rex and his brother Rob, honor their father by playing lights out defense and steamrolling through the playoffs to a championship. The story line would set the NFL ablaze with feel good articles and cement the coaches place in history, just like their father 31 years ago.
Brady Getting the “Bledsoe Treatment”
This is an actual storyline I’ve been thinking about for a while, because I’m old enough to remember Drew Bledsoe being drafted by the New England Patriots and being proclaimed the QB to turn around the organization. Bledsoe was able to steer the ship away from the mediocrity it had been before only to then be torpedoed by injury and replaced at the helm by Tom Brady. This whole situation, at the time, created a lot of buzz about whether starters should lose their jobs due to injuries or the performance of their replacements while they were out. Well, I’m sure we all know how that played out.
Now we are staring down the four game suspension of Brady, due to the Deflategate debacle and melodrama stemming from the 2014 playoffs. If I can take this moment to say, it’s about time this crazy storyline is coming to an end, enough about the psi of footballs and who knew what, especially after taking it to the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court. How did we get to that point? Ridiculous. But now, that storyline, which I remind you no one would’ve guessed, will be known as the beginning of the end f or Brady, and the reason for this situation being able to play out.
Pretend that all the time Jimmy G has spent behind Brady in New England, hasn’t been a waste of time. Is it crazy to think he understands the concept of the offense by now? He has only been there since 2014, I would hope he knows something by now. The Patriots also spent some time last season preparing for this same possible scenario, so there is a game plan involving Jimmy G already in play. So, saying he has learned something, he should be an effective placeholder in Brady’s absence; and if he decides to take advantage of his situation he could surpass all expectation and shine brighter Brady’s fading star.
Now this is a storyline that would mark the end of an era, which I don’t think some people in the business want to see happen. This is primarily why Belichick is dismissive of the idea and it has been suppressed from being a topic of conversation this off season. I’ve been contemplating this possible scenario since I heard of Brady’s initial suspension and how I could write a piece about the end of the Brady era, but I can’t claim to be the only one with these thoughts. For a good piece and a more dedicated examination of this seemingly “fantasy” scenario, I suggest you check out an article written by Leo Kaliski, titled “Dear Fantasy Football: Jimmy Garoppolo is Going to Brady Tom Brady.” It is definitely an entertaining write up and will possibly open your mind to the chance that this season will be dragged through the wringer of talk, similar to last year (Manning), about superstar quarterbacks being replaced with younger models.
These are only a couple possible crazy storylines that could engulf the NFL this season. How would these storylines effect fantasy football? Who knows, but I assume it would completely turn any notion about what we think we know on its head. Maybe, just maybe, we need to realize that these scenarios really show us all how much we don’t know about what might happen. That is why it is called fantasy football, I assume. Then again, maybe storylines like this only fester and surface from the AFC East because of the hopelessness and anguish felt by the fan bases of all those teams not named the Patriots.