Monday, October 16, 2006

A Funny Thing Happened

I'm the commissioner of a fantasy football league. I refuse to submit to the columnist regulation that requires me to label it my "East Coast Fantasy Football League." It's just a bunch of people from around the country who I know through law school or work. Respectable people all, managing teams with names like LiLo Loves the Spocker in a league called You're With Me, Leather. I'll never cease to marvel at the power of fantasy football to reduce us to the age of 13 again.

But I was marveling at something else this morning as I perused the league's scores. Almost every game in the league hinges to some extent on players in the Monday night game. That is not so uncommon an occurrence. And, in a game featuring Edge James, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Kurt Warner, even before the season began, this would have been a week one expected Monday night to matter. Although, if one were looking ahead at key Monday night match-ups for fantasy purposes, one might need to get a life.

But that's not the point. Larry Fitzgerald is out, Kurt Warner is benched, Edge James is still relevant, but not the fantasy force he once was. No, this Monday night matters because the Chicago Bears have suddenly become a fantasy powerhouse. Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, Thomas Jones, Desmond Clark, Robbie Gould, and the Bears' defense are all in starting line-ups for teams tonight. They're all on good teams, and the owners depending on these players are probably feeling pretty good right now. Grossman is the 4th ranked QB, Jones is among the top-25 RBs and gaining after a slow start, Berrian is the #6 WR, Clark is the 8th best TE, Gould is #1 at K, and the D trails only the Ravens.

It's hard to explain how odd this is. Kyle Orton, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Kordell Stewart -- these are not names that sent fantasy owners scrambling to make a waiver claim. While Thomas Jones was a top-10 back last year, he wasn't exactly a fantasy force as recently as 2004. And, Anthony Thomas and James Allen weren't exactly the kind of guy carrying teams to championships before that. Muhsin is coming off a down year, and Justin Gage, David Terrell, Bobby Wade, and Dez White is almost as impressive a list as the QBs.

No, Bears' players just aren't supposed to be exciting fantasy commodities. And yet, Team Mandlebaum waits to see if Bernard Berrian and Robbie Gould can overcome a 15 point deficit. And he's got to be feeling pretty confident. Just one more reason why this season might finally be different than the last 20.


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