Monday, October 28, 2013

Debate settled: Calvin, meet Barry


Having lived most of my adult life in the Dallas area, I often find myself begrudgingly acknowledging the Cowboys’ anachronistic title as “America’s Team,” when the football chatter inevitably turns to such things.  Despite having celebrated its last Super Bowl victory nearly two full decades ago, Jerry Jones’ brand still resonates like no other – across Texas, the nation and the globe.

If nothing else, most of us either love the Cowboys or love to hate the Cowboys.  And that’s a pretty powerful combination that fans of the other 31 NFL teams would love to claim.

[Full disclosure: As a young Ladd, I spent many glorious Sunday afternoons in the Orange Bowl, bleeding aqua and orange for my beloved Dolphins.  To this day, I share in the cork-popping jubilation of the ’72 Perfect Team when the last undefeated club bites the dust, even as the rest of you roll your eyes at our “desperate” embrace of ancient history.  Sorry, Kansas City, but most Dolfans stopped worrying last week when the Colts toppled the Broncos.]

So while Dallas fans may have a point when it comes to their irksome nickname, it’s time they acknowledge the truths that Detroit fans – and everyone else beyond the DFW Metroplex – hold to be self-evident.

Barry was better than Emmitt.

And Calvin is better than Dez.

For all his toughness, mind-boggling durability and indispensable role in the Cowboys’ early 1990s dynasty, nobody but a diehard Dallas fan would ever honestly claim Emmitt Smith was a better running back than Barry Sanders.  I know, I know…Barry quit.  Emmitt never did (though many wished he had sooner).  I get it.  But the debate is not about which player had a bigger heart, or was more loyal to his team.

Dez Bryant showed his heart – and, arguably, his immaturity – on the sidelines of yesterday’s shootout in Detroit.  And he likewise flashed the game-changing brilliance that has landed him, justifiably, in the same conversation with Calvin Johnson as one of the best receivers in today’s NFL.

But Johnson’s near-record performance served as an emphatic statement that cannot be denied.  He is in a class by himself.  Hands down.

Decades may pass before Lions fans can lay claim to as many Lombardi trophies as those astride the Cowboys’ star.  But Motown will always have Barry.  And now, Megatron.

Debate over.


FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals – The rookie won’t be available in four out of five leagues much longer, after he torched the Falcons for 154 yards, highlighted by an 80-yard scoring gallop.  The concern with Ellington is his small frame, which keeps the Cardinals from giving him a large number of carries.  His performance Sunday should vault him over the aging and toe-jammed Rashard Mendenhall in Arizona’s backfield pecking order.

Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals – Is there any doubt Jones will be this week’s most sought-after free agent?  Four-touchdown performances tend to grab the attention of fantasy enthusiasts.  It’s just a shame we weren’t focusing earlier, as Jones was amassing 128 yards and 2 TDs over the previous two games.  Cincinnati finally has a worthy complement to A.J. Green.

Kenny Stills, WR, Saints – Though he has the look of a boom-or-bust type of receiver, we’d be foolish to overlook Stills’ 129-yard, 2-TD outing against the Bills.  Drew Brees has now connected with his rookie wideout for three scores in the last two games, so Sunday’s outing was no fluke.  Stills is a decent consolation prize for WR-starved owners that miss out on Jones.

Don’t be fooled

Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs – Though the multi-purpose playmaker has overshadowed Dwayne Bowe of late, that’s more a sign of Bowe’s fading fantasy relevance (and Joe Haden’s blanket coverage) than McCluster’s sudden emergence.  McCluster’s first scoring reception of 2013 leaves him one shy of his career-best showing in 2011.  Move along.  There’s nothing to see here.

Drew Davis, WR, Falcons – The second-year player stepped up nicely with Roddy White sidelined for his second consecutive game.  Davis certainly distinguished himself from fellow benchwarmer Kevin Cone, whose name did not appear in the box score.  But that’s not enough to warrant a roster spot for the youngster, who will likely be rendered irrelevant again once White returns.

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