Family, Football & Prime Time
“Family, Football & This Adventure We Call Life” is a year-round column by Nate Polvogt that shares a Colorado dad’s outlook on life and his weekly advice for fantasy football waiver wire pickups. Nate enters the Week 14 waiver wire run in his third season of writing, sharing what the hiring of Coach Prime means for his favorite college football team.
“I expect to be great. I expect to do what hasn’t been done. I expect to provoke change.” – Deion Sanders, New University of Colorado (CU) Head Football Coach
Being a football fan in Denver has been rough as of late. The Denver Broncos, outside of the Peyton Manning era, haven’t been good since Jake “The Snake” Plummer was cast aside in favor of a young rookie named Jay Cutler. Starting a season with the hope we all had this year has made the team’s ineptitude all the more crushing.
College football hasn’t been great, either. Colorado State University has mostly been a middle-of-the-road program that threatens to be relevant only to go back to mediocre. Air Force is always competitive, but like most military academies, it’s all relative.
And then there’s the CU Buffaloes. The school, which was about as obscure as they come, burst onto the scene in the 1980s thanks to a new head coach, Bill McCartney. He took the team from a 2-8-1 record in 1982 to winning the Orange Bowl and a College Football National Championship in 1990.
One of the more fantastic things about my childhood was the frequency with which I could attend CU games. If you are unfamiliar, the campus is in Boulder, Colo., just northwest of Denver. So we could be at Folsom Field, the Buffaloes’ home stadium since 1924, in under 30 minutes by car.
It also happened that my grandfather, a Nebraska native and successful businessman, had season tickets for CU’s home games. He was a huge University of Nebraska fan, and rather than travel to Lincoln, he would go every other year when the Cornhuskers came to the front range on Black Friday. The other tickets didn’t go to waste. He used them for business clients and gave the remainder to my dad and uncle, both big Buffaloes fans.
When there were extra tickets, I got to tag along with them. I vaguely remember seeing Barry Sanders play for Oklahoma State University and Jeff George for the University of Illinois. I witnessed the greatness of the late Rashaan Salaam the year he won the Heisman Trophy, and Kordell “Slash” Stewart tear it up before the Steelers faithful knew what he would do for their franchise.
As mentioned, McCartney took the reigns in Boulder in 1982. He took a 2-8-1 team that season to an 11-1-1 co-national championship season in 1990. McCartney remained with the team through 1994, finishing his tenure with an 11-1 season and a consensus No. 3 overall ranking after winning the Fiesta Bowl. Unfortunately, his departure was followed by a series of lousy coaching hires that jettisoned the program into irrelevance again.
The last time I was excited about CU Football was 20 years ago. There have been flashes of relevance, like when Sefo Liufau had the team looking like they might be contenders again. But every time I’ve gotten my hopes up, the school bungles things, and they’re back to square one.
Truth be told, I haven’t watched a CU game in six years.
I want a reason to cheer for my team. I never stopped loving CU football, but watching it was too hard. You know you’re in for a bad time when a team enters a game as an underdog by more than 30 points. Not surprisingly, the Buffaloes finished the 2022 campaign dead last in the PAC-12 and a 1-11 record, firing head coach Karl Dorrell mid-season.
There was little hope from the fanbase for this program when they wrapped the season on Nov. 27. However, shortly after the loss to 14th-ranked Utah, reports surfaced that the university had offered former NFL great and current Jackson State University head coach Sanders the vacant position in Boulder. It seemed like a long shot to draw away a larger-than-life personality and successful coach like Sanders. Still, it was a sign that the athletic department was getting serious about making the Buffaloes a contender.
Then, it happened. Sanders announced late Saturday that he had accepted to position with CU. I found out via text from a friend, and the excitement I felt at that moment for CU football was something I hadn’t felt in years.
Back in the Spotlight
Hiring one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history could be the beginning of a resurgence of a once proud college football program, but it could also be much ado about nothing. I am choosing to believe it’s the former. While there is a lot of work to be done, and a coaching change doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fixed, this is more excitement than Colorado football fans have had since Manning rode off into the sunset in February 2016.
The school now has a big name capable of recruiting five-star prospects, something they haven’t had since the early 2000s. It could end two decades of frustration for CU fans and give us something to cheer about.
This fantasy football season has felt like being a CU fan: endless frustration and hopelessness that’s roughly 20 years long. However, great struggle breeds a remarkable comeback.
Unfortunately, you can’t roster Coach Prime. But you can revive your chances by having faith and combing the waiver wire for players who can jumpstart your playoff chances.
On To Football
If your league is like most, this week is the last regular season contest before the fantasy football playoffs begin. Unfortunately, a lot went down in Week 13 with profound fantasy implications.
Here’s what you need to know heading into Week 14.
• It was revealed over the weekend that Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford suffered a spinal contusion in Week 11, ending his season.
• Baltimore eeked out a win over the hapless Denver Broncos on Sunday behind backup quarterback Tyler Huntley, who looks to be in line for a few more starts with Lamar Jackson considered week-to-week with a knee injury.
• The Tenessee Titans fired general manager Jon Robinson after the team got torched by former stand-out receiver A.J. Brown, who Robinson traded way to Philadelphia at this year’s draft.
With Week 13 in the books, let’s get after it in this week’s edition of “Hot, Medium & Mild: Week 14 Playoff Insurance.”
Hot, Medium & Mild: Week 14 Playoff Insurance
Now is crunch time to prepare our rosters for the fantasy football playoffs. No position has been hit harder by injury as of late than quarterback. So this week, I am highlighting two signal-callers forced into action by injuries that could keep you on a roll. I also have one I have no interest in considering for a playoff run.
HOT — Bishop’s Crown Pepper
Brock Purdy (QB, San Francisco 49ers)
It’s not often you see a team in playoff contention forced to pivot to their third starting quarterback of the season. However, with Garoppolo suffering a broken foot, effectively ending his season, that’s precisely what is happening in San Francisco.
Garoppolo exited Sunday’s contest against the Miami Dolphins in the first quarter, forcing 2022 Mr. Irrelevant, former Iowa State University quarterback Purdy, into action. The last pick in the most recent NFL draft effectively led the team to a 33-17 victory, completing 25 of 37 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
That performance was enough to make him the overall QB18 in Week 13. It also likely cements him as the starter for the remainder of the 2022 season.
While Purdy was close to being undrafted, he couldn’t be in a better situation. Not only does he have weapons like Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel at his disposal, but he is also on a team with playoff aspirations.
What To Do
It isn’t easy to replace a starting quarterback in fantasy this late in the season. So this is a rare opportunity to snag an under-the-radar backup who has been thrust into the limelight. Barring injury, Purdy will be the starter in San Francisco for the rest of the season. With the talent around him, he is more likely to succeed than not. He could be your man if you need a quarterback in short order.
MEDIUM — Guajillo Pepper
Tyler Huntley (QB, Baltimore Ravens)
If you felt like you had deja vu this week seeing Baltimore Ravens quarterback Jackson go down with an injury in Week 13, you’re not alone. The mobile signal-caller, likely picked up early in drafts, left the game in the first quarter of a win over Denver this past Sunday after hurting his knee. His replacement was Huntley, who filled in for Jackson in four starts late last season.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Lamar Jackson was “week-to-week” with the injury. Huntley will now likely be the starter for at least one to two weeks. When starting last season, Huntley averaged 17.3 fantasy points per game. He showed the ability to be a dual-threat weapon, peaking in Week 15 against the Green Bay Packers. He completed 28 of his 40 passing attempts and had two passing touchdowns. In addition, he had 13 carries for 73 yards and two more rushing touchdowns.
When Huntley entered last week’s game in the second quarter, the Baltimore offense didn’t miss a beat. He was incredibly efficient against a solid Denver defense, completing 27 of his 32 pass attempts for 187 yards. He also logged 10 carries for 41 yards and the team’s lone touchdown. His 16.6 fantasy points were good enough to make him QB15 on the week.
What To Do
Should Jackson miss extended time, the playoff schedule for Huntley is very enticing. Weeks 14 and 17 have the Ravens up against the Steelers. Pittsburgh allows the league’s ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Between those matchups, they head to Cleveland in Week 15 and host a Falcons defense right behind the Steelers in fantasy points allowed. So if you have any Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) remaining and have been hit hard at quarterback, now would be time to spend up. When he’s on the field, Huntley will have QB1 upside and could save your championship hopes.
MILD — Italian Sweet Pepper
Baker Mayfield (QB, Los Angeles Rams)
No one could have possibly seen the downfall of the Los Angeles Rams coming. Especially after a convincing victory in Super Bowl LVI. However, a combination of lackluster play and injuries have them at the bottom of the NFC West and in survival mode. This week, the team got more bad news. Stafford suffered a spinal contusion in Week 11 and will miss the remainder of the season.
The news broke today that the Rams claimed quarterback Baker Mayfield off of waivers after Carolina released him. Given that the teams’ other choices were John Wolford and Bryce Perkins, who have spent more time on the practice squad than active, it makes sense. In addition, it’s a low-risk acquisition for a team out of playoff contention. However, it doesn’t mean that Mayfield should be on your fantasy rosters.
What To Do
Having just been claimed today, it would be dicey for Mayfield to start this week. He likely gets the nod in Week 15. However, he wasn’t good before being released and is in an arguably worse offense than he had in Carolina. In seven games with the Panthers, he had as many interceptions as touchdown passes and had only two games with over 15 fantasy points. It feels like any warm body in your lineups will do right now, but don’t buy into the Mayfield trap. Even in 2QB and Superflex formats, he should remain squarely on the waiver wire.
I hope you find my spicy and not-so-spicy Week 14 waiver wire pickups and notes useful. Until next time!
The weather is getting frosty, and holiday decorations are all around. So, as promised, here’s a cheesy Christmas #DadJoke to brighten your winter mood!
What do reindeer say before they tell you a joke?
This one’s gonna sleigh you!