Fantasy Football Week 2: The Worst Time Ever to Have to Make Meaningless Picks

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell: Sit or play? Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports/Reutesr

I don't think any intelligent sportswriter wants to write about the actual gameplay in the National Football League today. Following the announcement that former FBI Director Robert Mueller will run an independent investigation of how the league handled the Ray Rice domestic violence case, it seems flippant to bloviate about how Philip Rivers will deal with the Seattle Seahawks' fearsome secondary, let alone hand out lineup advice for what is essentially a betting scheme scaffolded over the successes and failures of individual men as they stretch their bodies to their physical limits.

I owned Ray Rice in one of my leagues. I didn't really want to. But it's a team I co-own with a friend who's a Baltimore Ravens fan, and he took on our drafting responsibilities. After the draft, he told me that, like so many football fans, he essentially held his nose, looked away, and then raised his Ravens foam finger high in the air. Rice was a potential steal—with no one else wanting to even say his name, we may have gotten 11 weeks of a No. 1 RB for the price of a fourth-stringer.

Of course, that changed on Monday, when TMZ released video footage showing Rice punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in the elevator of an Atlantic City Casino this past February, then dragging her unconscious body across the door jamb like a smelly bag of garbage. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ramped up Rice's suspension from two games to "indefinite," and the Ravens cut the 27-year-old superstar. EA Sports announced it would drop Rice from "Madden 2014."

I, too, cut Rice. I could tell you whom to pick up in his stead, but if you don't already know by now, it's too late.

Yesterday, my friend told me he wasn't sure he could keep rooting for the Ravens. In fact, the whole thing was making him consider giving up the sport entirely this year. The truth of the matter, as Newsweek's John Walters wrote two days ago, is that none of the facts of the case have changed since the knockout footage was released, except for the optics of the whole situation. What sounded bad now looks really, really bad. Even more dismaying (or disgusting) for a Ravens fan: Team officials concede that the latest video held no surprises (or shocks) for them, that Rice had told them precisely what he had done in that elevator.

At this point, it's hard to imagine a solid argument against ousting the man who has turned the league into an economic entertainment behemoth. Roger Goodell is, as Grantland's Andrew Sharp has argued, "either incompetent and irresponsible" (if they didn't track down a video that TMZ was able to find), "or inhumane and reprehensible" (if they did in fact see the video, but chose to ignore it and then deny its existence).

We'll find out which kind of bad Goodell is soon. The NFL claims it will fully cooperate with Mueller's investigation, which will be overseen by New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney, both of whom are lawyers, and the report will be made public.

However, Mara and other owners have already endorsed Goodell. Mara, in an official statement, said that "the notion that the league should have gone around law enforcement to obtain the video is, in my opinion, misguided, as is the notion that the commissioner's job is now in jeopardy."

Firing Goodell would require the vote of 24 of the league's 32 owners, all of whom have prospered immensely in the eight years since he took over as commissioner.

Last week, Chuck Klosterman, The New York Times's ethicist, attempted to answer the question "is it wrong to watch football?" He focused mostly on the concussion issue, but this current moral dilemma is of the same stripe. His conclusion: "We love something that's dangerous. And I can live with that."

With Klosterman's backing, I'll keep making my picks, but let's be clear: There is a dire and dangerous schizophrenia in supporting the NFL since we know all too well that the men running the league care little for the welfare of their players, their families and their fans.


Start: Jake Locker, TEN

If you're looking for a waiver wire pickup, Locker's your man. He threw for 266 yards and 2 TDS (no interceptions) last week in his first game in Ken Whisenhunt's new offense, and this week he gets to go up against the terrible Cowboys pass defense.

Sit: Philip Rivers, SD

Though Rivers ended up with 238 yards, he struggled to get there. He also had trouble finding the end zone, with his only score coming on a short pass to Malcom Floyd in the third quarter. Don't bet on an improvement against the league's best defense; if the Seahawks can hold Aaron Rodgers in check, Rivers should be cake.

Running Back

Start: Chris Johnson, NYJ

I'm doubling down on CJ2K. He had a solid week 1, touching the ball 18 times for 91 yards and a score. I think the Jets offense will continue to showcase Johnson. And, after the Seahawks ran roughshod over the Packers run defense last week (207 yards and two TDs), Johnson could be in for a big Sunday.

Sit: Zac Stacy, STL

After only running the ball 11 times in the season opener, Stacy is looking more like a fifth-round pick and backup than the budding star he seemed last year. I didn't think he was an RB1 at the draft, and it seems like the Rams might agree: Teammate Benny Cunningham lined up at halfback more often than Stacy in Week 1. Keep them both on the bench for Week 2.

Wide Receiver

Start: Victor Cruz, NYG

Don't get cute. Just because he only caught the ball twice in Week 1 is no reason to put Cruz on the bench. The Giants need him to be heavily involved to win games this year, and Eli Manning will almost certainly look to Cruz early and often on Sunday in the hopes of getting him going.

Sit: Michael Crabtree, SF

Crabtree, on the other hand, might have a Week 1 repeat. His calf injury is still healing, and the 49ers have enough extra weapons that they might be satisfied with using him primarily as a decoy to keep Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis open.

Tight End

Start: Zach Ertz, PHI

Even though he only caught three passes in Week 1, he collected 77 yards on them, and he even found the end zone once. And if I was able to figure out that last week the Colts let Julius Thomas score three times (!) on them, imagine what Chip Kelly knows. Ertz may not touch the ball more than five times, but he'll pick up points in the red zone.

Sit: Martellus Bennett, CHI

Bennett had a nice Week 1, but last week the 49ers shut down Jason Witten almost entirely, and Witten is a much better route runner and pass catcher than Bennett. Bennett isn't the worst Week 2 option, but there's better out there.


Start: St. Louis Rams

They were pretty horrid in Week 1, and they did just lose defensive end Chris Long for the next two months. But at the same time, Tampa Bay starts Josh McCown at quarterback, and they now have a massive question mark at RB after Doug Martin left last week's game with a leg injury after gaining a total of nine yard on nine carries. This could be an ugly offensive game on both sides.

Sit: Minnesota Vikings

Don't get too excited by their Week 1 output against the St. Louis. The Rams were starting backup Shaun Hill, and he had to leave the game after the first half with an injury, leaving third-stringer Austin Davis running the offense. Tom Brady he is not. The Patriots will score at will in Week 2.


I chose kickers the first week, but I'm going to call it for the second. Until proven otherwise, I see no way to predict this category.