Westbrook later recounted the flak he caught from his “owners” for playing smart, heads-up football to help his team win.
“I get guys asking me, ‘Why did you have to go and ruin my season?” said Westbrook, a two-time All Pro. “It helped out a lot of people, but it also hurt a lot of people, too.”
Smart, winning football, in fact, is often antithetical to fantasy sports, which are based on numbers that often lie. For running backs, the greatest statistical seasons of all time have almost always come from teams that lacked balance — and didn’t win. Nobody remembers the 1984 Rams, the mid-90s Lions, the 2003 Ravens or the 2009 Titans as great teams, but running backs Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson put up phenomenal numbers in those years.
Last season, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson established themselves as two of the league’s elite players. But their jaw-dropping statistics came in part because the Vikings and Lions had mediocre talent around them, and had to force the ball to their stars on every play. If they played for better teams, their statistics would suffer.
This year, Peyton Manning — the football player — saw his Super Bowl chances take a slight hit when the Broncos lost star pass-rushers Von Miller to a suspension and Elvis Dumervil to a contract snafu. But as a fantasy quarterback, this news buoys Manning in a weird, twisted way; with a less-effective defense, more will be required of him and the offense if the Broncos are to win.
Manning threw seven touchdowns in Denver’s Week 1 win over Baltimore. But lost amid all the Manning fanfare was the fact that Denver needed all 49 of those points — its defense gave up 362 passing yards, 27 points and nearly 34 minutes of possession time.
Is that the kind of football that wins on the frozen tundras of December and January? It’s a moot point; the fantasy playoffs are over by that point anyway.
JUSTIN VERNOLD is a copy editor for The Daily Star. Contact him at email@example.com.