Like the young rube spending his first New Year's Eve in the big city, the NFL is stumbling, precariously and headlong, into 2016. The playoffs are nearly upon us, the fantasy playoffs mostly past. A stunning Panthers loss to the Falcons in Week 16 has extinguished any lingering intrigue in the NFC, while the AFC, which has yet to determine whether Houston or Indianapolis will be the Divisional Round sacrificial lamb, is not much better positioned for a thrilling final coda.
As is typical for this time of year, more teams will be jockeying for draft position than playoff seeding, and veteran players are already choosing spectating over participating. Apparently unwilling to break the mold, the final week of 2015 should be nothing short of forgettable.
A forgettable Week 17 would probably be just fine with NFL brass. They are weathering, quite nicely, the release of a film that at least attempts to accurately portray the literal life-and-death shell game they have been—and still are—playing with the long-term health of their athletes, but the game has been besieged by a stockingful of negative press in recent days.
Odell Beckham vs. Josh Norman was more exciting (and featured more contact) than the last dozen or so welterweight title fights. The enormous, untapped, and probably largely ambivalent market of Los Angeles is passively managing to play homewrecker for three franchises and their heartbroken fans. The cherry on top of this shit sundae? The league's longstanding, large-foreheaded standard-bearer and a handful of other All-Pros have been implicated in a drug scandal that could erupt into the courts at any moment. It has not been a December to Remember for Roger Goodell and the NFL. Hell, it's barely been a Toyotathon.
Daily Fantasy Sports
And yet, that exhaustive barrage of NFL bad news excludes arguably the most pervasive boondoggle of the year: daily fantasy sports. The overnight billion-dollar industry may very well find itself cinched up by the UIGEA fantasy games loophole before it has even finished crawling through it. In retrospect, the ubiquitous and grating ads from the beginning of the season look less like the exuberance of a youthful market and more like the result of a Brewster's Millions-esque spending directive. The gettin' was undeniably and unexpectedly good for DraftKings, et al., in 2015; next year's forecast is significantly hazier.
Why does that matter for the NFL? It doesn't, in the sense that the daily fantasy sports ship could sink tomorrow and the league would sail right on by. Laughing, probably. Gambling, or anything that smells a lot like it, will not be the iceberg that sends the NFL down into the darkness.
Fans find fantasy football relatable in a way that chronic traumatic encephalopathy and human growth hormone don't emulate, though, and fantasy team management is a foot in the door for many fans who would otherwise just as soon go apple-picking on Sundays. In other words, losing DFS could mean losing significant access—access to young people, to casual fans, to women. As powerful as the NFL is, it can never afford to lose those things. They need only ask Major League Baseball how valuable that access can be.
This Year's Fistpumps and Faceplants
Rather than rehashing picks from before Christmas—now that the world's living rooms are stacked to the ceilings with hoverboards and drones, who even has the time?—let's review the entire season all in one go. Exactly how many times did deploying the Costanza Method result in a joyous, Woodsian Fistpump? Surely the number of Faceplants is tragically, hilariously low by comparison, but I will indulge my audience and count them up regardless.
The statistics below reflect where players placed in weekly DFS points at their position. They are accurate to the best of my ability, but look, if I were a numbers guy I'd be in Monte Carlo, not writing about fantasy football in an unmade bed at midnight.
Rankings can be verified here, if you wanna be a chump about it.
Number of picks ranked 1-3: 12
Number of picks ranked 4-10: 21
Number of picks ranked 11-20: 22
Number of picks ranked 21-awful: 28
Total number of picks ranked: 83
Granted, sometimes the Method was about spending money freely (and therefore getting a highly valued player) because we augured that other team owners would be thinking economically. Additionally, there are probably some guys missing in the 11-3,000 range because I couldn't find anything interesting to say about the pick when I was originally grading. Still, though, a 14 percent hit rate on drafting a top 3 player, simply by being a bog-standard contrarian? A roughly 40 percent chance to get a top 3 guy?
Again, when someone says "Texas Instruments," I think acoustic guitars, not exponents, so I may be way off base, but those results seem pretty damn good to me. I'm giving The Costanza Method the ultra-rare and highly coveted "five bold plus signs" rating for annual performance this year. Congratulations to me, the guy that thought of it.
If you used the Costanza Method, then you won big in daily fantasy. Look, the math says it right up there. You may send any yachts purchased with your prodigious winnings to my PO Box, c/o Big Man Industries. Other recreational vehicle donations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
On the other hand, if you ignored the Costanza Method all year long, watched it suspiciously from a distance with your leg in a cast, or let its mere existence torture you nightly from beneath the floorboards, you missed one hell of a ride. The same applies if this column has been chosen for permanent archival in a time capsule or earthbound terra pod, and you are trying to decipher its strange symbols in a future world very different from the one I know today. I'm sorry that humanity died off thousands of years ago, and I'm sorry you never won $3.25 clicking buttons online.
Either way, you're not getting picks for Week 17. I love gambling as much as the next deadbeat scrounge hound, but come on! It's New Year's Eve. Buy a pair of highly regrettable novelty sunglasses. Go to bed early. Throw your computer down a well.
The traditional fantasy football season is over at this point; if you're battling for a title in Week 17, know that should you prevail, your victory will be hollow, and it will turn to ash in your mouth. There is no honor in setting lineups this late in the year. Week 17 is the Coward's Week, and any league that extends the courtesy of scheduling it should be contracted, its assets donated to an unconscionably wasteful charity.
So it has come to this: we must now discuss our fantasy team showings. Did you win? Did you make the playoffs? Did you place? Was your season a tour de force of shame, starting in the mud and finishing with you showing your ass to anywhere between nine and 15 of your coworkers and cousins? I'm sorry. I tried! I kind of tried.
My season, I must say, was a very mild success, something on the order of a 2 Chainz album or dining out at a chain restaurant. One league capitulated totally to my expert draftsmanship—I am the reigning champion for a second consecutive year. Another league saw me choke away the title match in pathetic and predictable fashion. In a third, I fell just short of the final game. For most team owners, simply being in the conversation for three out of three leagues is satisfactory. Winning a title, two years in a row no less, would put these average Joes over the moon.
Luckily, I'm one of them. This year was a fantastic success beyond my wildest dreams, aided no doubt by the unconventional strategy outlined in this column, and also by a tremendous amount of performance enhancing pharmaceuticals.
Betting big on Alex Smith, Doug Martin, Allen Robinson, and other would-be also-rans paid off in various degrees this year, and two of just those three are now good enough that they will absolutely not be candidates for Costanzaing in 2016. Whether or not that will become a theme for some of our most undervalued favorites remains to be seen; the perceptions we attempted to work against for guys like Blake Bortles and Travis Benjamin have yet to crystallize in the minds of experts and trendsetters.
If there's one thing to take away from the Costanza Method, though, it's that zigging when everyone else is zagging can and will pay off. You just have to pay attention to the trends, stick with the plan, and get a little lucky. Or do you? Maybe not. Maybe that's just what I want you to think. What if this whole column was a red herring? An enormous, goofy timewaster of a dastardly-as-hell red herring?
That is, as they say, the ultimate zig, folks. See you all next year.