“A family doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be united.” – Unknown
Football and Family. Two integral parts of my weekly column. It’s in the title. For the first time this season, those two things finally came together in a way they hadn’t in a few years. Let me explain.
Yes, football is always on our minds and we watch as much as we can. In the years before my wife, Jen Polvogt, and I had Jackson, we would ceremoniously set up three televisions in our living room on Sunday mornings. We would bring our workout TV up from the basement and bring our bedroom unit down to the main level, as well.
We managed to finagle Sunday Ticket for free most seasons – we didn’t steal it, it was always legitimate – and the only way to fully enjoy that is on multiple screens.
Sundays were a day full of bliss and football, beer before noon, unhealthy snacks and pizza for an early dinner. They were an event. When Jen’s sister and her husband moved back to Colorado briefly, we spent every Sunday with them watching the games and razzing each other about our fantasy scores.
In 2017, Jen was fortunate enough to have gotten some equipment from her job that was going to be thrown away – an HD, 100-inch projector, a fancy television receiver and a surround sound system with speakers. It lit a fire under us to get our basement turned into football central just ahead of the season. We bought permanent wall-mounts for our other televisions, a new couch for the basement and a bar table for maximum seating.
We finished just in time for the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight in August of that year, which just so happened to be the day before Jen was due to give birth to Jackson. We had friends over for the fight and it was glorious. We couldn’t wait to watch football in our basement.
That first season was tough with a newborn. We had the games on, but watching was pretty much next to impossible. Jackson was fussy and had Colic, an issue when a baby cries for a long time for no reason. He required more care than either of us expected. At the end of the season, we decided to cancel our satellite television service and with it went the Sunday Ticket. We simply couldn’t justify the cost.
The next few seasons we watched when we could. As you would assume, we only got the nationally televised network games. It was fine, albeit kind of a bummer for two people who just wanted Sunday to be football madness in our faces from the morning games until bedtime. But we dealt with it.
We watched a lot of “The Herd” and “NFL Live” to make up for what we missed on Sundays. NFL Network was on constantly all week. We still got our fix, just not the way we wanted. The basement became a forgotten storage wasteland.
Then, in 2020, we began our journey of fantasy football analysis. We needed something more, but again, could not justify the cost to have all the games at our fingertips. So, we tried out NFL RedZone. It wasn’t the same. We limped through the season feeling like we were missing out on too much. Watching highlights and clips wasn’t the same. We needed the full monty back.
In July of this year, we had a serious discussion about what we needed to be the best analysts we could be and to fully enjoy our Sundays. We decided we had to get Sunday Ticket back. We bit the bullet and signed up for the minimum satellite TV package that would get us what we needed.
But of course, as the travelers we are, we missed the first three weeks of the season in the basement between a camping trip and vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Life happens. We kept up with everything as much as we could, but we desperately wanted to immerse ourselves in every game.
This past weekend was the first we had been home since the season started. Our basement was still a mess come Sunday morning. With everything going on, we hadn’t even considered that we could finally plant ourselves in the basement and watch football. But Jackson was at his grandparents’ house, so it was the perfect opportunity.
After hosting In-Between Media’s “The DFS Tailgate” with Bo McBrayer, I got to work. Moving boxes, putting toys away, cleaning relocating and connecting TVs. After some technical difficulties and minor issues, we finally had our four glorious screens of football back. I whipped up some Queso con Carne, cracked open a beer and we just sat and watched.
We knew we had the early slate all to ourselves. Jackson would be with Jen’s parents until at least the very end of the first wave of games. We knew those games and that time was ours. What we didn’t know was if our now 4-year-old son would cooperate and let us keep going. Honestly, I think we both assumed he would not.
Then, the most amazing thing happened.
Jackson arrived home as the afternoon round of games began. Jen’s dad dropped him off, we spoke briefly and then he was on his way home to rest after what had to be a long 24 hours with a hyper child. Upon his departure we headed to the basement with our tired little guy, fully expecting to be back upstairs watching a single game. But that didn’t happen.
He walked into the basement almost amazed by what he saw. Football surrounded him. And he just sat there, in awe, soaking it all in. It was truly an incredible moment. We three, as a family, for the first time, all in our basement watching our favorite sport for the first time really since he was born. Jackson was even cheering for our hometown Broncos. It was a proud moment for both Jen and me.
Of course, as will happen with tired kids, the meltdowns began. We managed to stick it out until late in the fourth quarter of the final four games of the afternoon, which was our best-case scenario. That aside, it was probably the best Sunday we have had as a family in quite a while. We came together over something we love and we got to share it with our son. It is not a moment I will forget anytime soon.
Getting to zone out on the full NFL slate this weekend wasn’t the only thing I won’t forget any time soon. It was a wild Sunday with some great games. Along with those great games came injuries, underwhelming performances on the field, unexpected successes and the inevitable fantasy football disappointments.
We also had a few breakout performances that are worth noting for your waiver wires. Are we seeing a changing-of-the-guard in Philadelphia? Does Green Bay have another viable weapon for Aaron Rodgers to toss the ball to? And are the New York Jets becoming fantasy viable?
Let’s find out in this week’s “Hot, Medium & Mild!”
Hot, Medium & Mild: Week 5
HOT — Red Sabina Habañero
Kenneth Gainwell (RB, Philadelphia Eagles)
For those out there who have running back Miles Sanders rostered, you probably don’t want to hear this, but it has to be said. Kenneth Gainwell, the rookie running back out of Memphis, could take the former Nittany Lion’s job this season. Since Sanders’ Week 1 performance that netted him 17.3 Points Per Receptions (PPR) fantasy points, he hasn’t managed to eclipse even 10. The last two weeks have seen him get two and seven touches with decreased looks in the passing game.
Meanwhile, Gainwell is trending the opposite way. While he only had three carries this last Sunday in a loss to Kansas City, one of those was a red zone opportunity he turned into a touchdown. On those three carries, he averaged 9.6 Yards Per Carry (YPC). On top of that, he saw eight targets, six of which were catches, for 58 yards receiving.
It’s clear that rookie head coach Nick Sirianni is beginning to favor the young and agile Gainwell. With second-year quarterback, Jalen Hurts, at the helm, this offense is of the run-first mentality when they can be. While Sanders may continue to get work in the backfield, the meaningful opportunities are sliding over to Gainwell.
He is rostered in just 35.7 percent of ESPN leagues. Now is the time to clear a roster spot and snag him. Use your waiver priority. And Don’t be afraid to spend a bit of your Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) on him too. He won’t be around after waivers run.
MEDIUM — Aji Amarillo
Randall Cobb (WR, Green Bay Packers)
I’ve written about Randall Cobb before. I think we can all agree that we saw him breaking out much earlier than Week 4 this year. I certainly did. We can’t be right all the time. Don’t be mad that it didn’t happen sooner, just be happy that it’s happening now.
After three weeks of disappointing output from Cobb where we saw him put up fantasy point totals of 4.6, 5.8 and zero, quarterback Rodgers finally found his old friend who returned to Green Bay at the insistence of the future Hall-of-Famer.
He was targeted six times which he turned into five catches, two touchdowns and 23.9 PPR points. Those numbers were good enough for third on the team in targets and second in catches.
This wasn’t a flash in the pan. Rodgers reportedly made the acquisition of Cobb from Houston a condition of his return to the team for this season according to multiple sources. Whatever it was, Marquez Valdes-Scantling being out, Cobb finally becoming comfortable with the playbook or it simply being a match-up opportunity, he cemented his role in this Green Bay offense.
He is currently rostered in 15.1 percent of ESPN leagues. He is there for the taking. This would be the week to get him while you still can. It will most likely require a higher waiver wire priority or a decent amount of FAAB, but it’s worth it.
MILD — Sport Pepper
Jamison Crowder (WR, New York Jets)
This mild selection is a little different than most I throw out in this column. This week, I’m not telling you to stay away from Jamison Crowder. Just be cautious. Week 4 was his first action of the 2021 season.
He has never eclipsed over 1,000 yards or 89 catches in a season. He has never produced double-digit touchdowns. You shouldn’t roster him expecting him to be flashy. He won’t be a league-winning addition.
What he will be, it appears, is a reliable target for a struggling rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson. He’s a veteran presence who knows how to get open and take advantage of opportunities. In his debut, a win against a struggling Tennessee team, he managed to grab seven passes on nine targets, 61 yards receiving yards and a touchdown, all amounting to 19.1 PPR points.
Wilson looked comfortable with Crowder on the field. Though he isn’t going to replicate what we saw against Tennessee every week. Corey Davis is still the WR1 in New York. Crowder could very well be the WR2 and is someone you should be able to get post-waivers.
But he won’t be a weekly plug-in to your lineup and he looks to be matchup dependent. With all the injuries we are seeing this season, some strange additions you wouldn’t normally consider are becoming necessary and he could be one of them.
I think the longer you are a dad, the worse the dad jokes become. Let’s test that theory out with this week’s #dadjoke!
How do you follow Will Smith in the snow?
You follow the fresh prints.
As always, thanks for reading. For more fantasy and life content, find me on Twitter @JeNateJackFF.