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Rick Weegman's picks: The real pioneers of fantasy football

The News Tribune ran a story in Wednesday's Sports section on the formation of the first fantasy football league in 1963. When I made my first foray into the world of fantasy football in 1983, I thought I was on the ground floor of the venture, n...

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Rick Weegman

The News Tribune ran a story in Wednesday’s Sports section on the formation of the first fantasy football league in 1963.
When I made my first foray into the world of fantasy football in 1983, I thought I was on the ground floor of the venture, not realizing it had begun two decades earlier.
One thing leagues had in common back then was the simplistic scoring system that awarded points only for touchdowns and field goals. Final scores resembled actual football games, not the 120-100 scores seen nowadays.
You had to do your homework back then, too, scouring box scores in the Monday newspaper and listening for news of any injuries or trades. No Internet existed and there was only one book devoted to the subject - Cliff Charpentier’s “Fantasy Football Digest” - which every owner brought to the draft.
But that was before fantasy football became big business and vital to such entities as ESPN (how else do you explain Matthew Berry?).
Now you can’t get through a commercial break on SportsCenter or an NFL game without hearing how you can win millions on DraftKings.com or FanDuel.com, the most popular of the burgeoning one-week fantasy leagues. And considering how much advertising they are buying, undoubtedly with their clients’ money - a Sunday Night Football 30-second ad costs more than $600,000 - business must be good.
The net effect is that it ruins the experience for traditionalists. Instead of investing just $20 or $30 a year, people are betting tens of thousands per week. That’s not geekdom, that’s gambling.
Yes, I plunked down my $30 again this year, but when fantasy football becomes more important than the game itself then it’s time to turn off Matthew Berry and rejoin the real world.
Setting one’s fantasy lineup this week was made easier by knowing not to play any of your Vikings. Week 2 selections:
Detroit at Minnesota: Vikings looked lost in Monday night opener and now face the team that previously held them to three points (17-3 home loss in 2014). Expect Adrian Peterson to play a bigger role, but the Vikings’ woeful play at the line of scrimmage is not something that can be fixed in five days. Detroit blew another game it should have won, but rookie Ameer Abdullah looked explosive in his debut and the former Nebraska star has played at TCF Bank Stadium more than some Vikings.
Line: Vikings by 3
Rick’s Pick: Lions 23, Vikings 17

Seattle at Green Bay: Seahawks have pulled out back-to-back amazing wins over Packers thanks to incompetent replacement officials and an inability to hang onto an onside kick. That kind of karma usually doesn’t last in the NFL and now Seattle must travel to Lambeau Field on a Sunday night to face the league’s top QB and likely do so without holdout Kam Chancellor. Though there might be a few scattered Russell Wilson No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers jerseys around, the Packers’ No. 12 will dominate in the crowd and on the field.
Line: Packers by 3 1/2
Rick’s Pick: Packers 34, Seahawks 17 (best bet)

Denver at Kansas City: Peyton Manning has had the Chiefs’ number since coming to Denver, but this isn’t your father’s (or your grandfather’s) Peyton Manning. Age is taking its toll on the 39-year-old, making the Broncos rely on a stiff defense and a kicker with a booming leg. K.C. hasn’t won at home in this series since 2010 but has the edge on a short week in a low-scoring game.
Line: Chiefs by 3
Rick’s Pick: Chiefs 17, Broncos 13

Houston at Carolina: The Brian Hoyer Era began so shakily in Houston that it may become the Ryan Mallett Era this week. Without injured RB Arian Foster, the Texans are challenged at the skill positions and must rely on J.J. Watt to make a game-changing play. The Panthers aren’t flashy, but if Cam Newton hangs onto the ball the defense will be up to the task.
Line: Panthers by 3
Rick’s Pick: Panthers 23, Texans 13

San Francisco at Pittsburgh: Carlos Hyde and the Niners owned the line of scrimmage against the Vikings, but that should be tougher to accomplish this week. San Fran will need to bring pressure to disrupt the Ben Roethlisberger-to-Antonio Brown connection, and that’s a tricky proposition.
Line: Steelers by 5
Rick’s Pick: Steelers 27, 49ers 17

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Tampa Bay at New Orleans: Well, that wasn’t very pretty was it? Jameis Winston’s debut definitely was no cause for an all-you-can-eat crab legs celebration. Plus, pitting a porous defense against Drew Brees doesn’t make for a good combination. Fantasy owners can expect a big game from Brandin Cooks as the Saints win their eighth straight in the series.
Line: Saints by 9 1/2
Rick’s Pick: Saints 34, Bucs 16

Arizona at Chicago: OK, I’ll admit to not seeing a 300-yard game coming from Carson Palmer. He could do it again against an ailing Bears’ defense. The home team hasn’t won in this matchup since 2003 and Chicago has dropped four straight overall at Soldier Field, but streaks are made to be broken.
Line: Cardinals by 2
Rick’s Pick: Bears 27, Cardinals 24
St. Louis at Washington: Nick Foles (297 yards, no interceptions) was sharp in leading Rams to 34 points against Seattle. He should only improve when he has a full complement of healthy running backs. Kirk Cousins (two interceptions) didn’t get off to a good start and loses DeSean Jackson to a hamstring injury. St. Louis won 24-0 in the nation’s capital last December.
Line: Rams by 3 1/2
Rick’s Pick: Rams 24, Redskins 0
Atlanta at N.Y. Giants: Week 1 might foretell these teams’ seasons ― Falcons squeaking out games they perhaps don’t deserve to win and the Giants blowing games they have in hand. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones should torch a secondary that allowed 356 yards passing to Cowboys. Giants, minus pass-rushing star Jason Pierre-Paul, won’t be able to get to Ryan. Two thumbs up for Atlanta.
Line: Giants by 2 1/2
Rick’s Pick: Falcons 30, Giants 24
Tennessee at Cleveland: Marcus Mariota (four TDs, no interceptions) won the matchup of the last two Heisman winners in dominating fashion last week and likely will face another recent Heisman winner in Johnny Manziel (three turnovers in relief of injured Josh McCown). Browns defense won’t let this become a rout but where are their points going to come from?
Line: Browns by 1
Rick’s Pick: Titans 19, Browns 16
New England at Buffalo: Is one of the NFL’s most one-sided rivalries about to become more even? Rex Ryan’s arrival in Buffalo is sure to make it interesting. Patriots own 18-2 edge in last decade. Emotion will be on the Bills’ side, but games usually are won at the quarterback level and that means take Tom Brady over Tyrod Taylor.
Line: Pick ’em
Rick’s Pick: Patriots 27, Bills 21
San Diego at Cincinnati: Lost in another Philip Rivers comeback is the fact that the Chargers fell 18 points behind the Lions. Can they rely on Rivers (404 yards passing) and Keenan Allen (15 receptions) to have big weeks again vs. Bengals’ stingy defense? Jeremy Hill is a pounding back who will keep the chains moving. Chargers, however, are 11-1-1 vs. spread in first three games of season since 2012 so take the points in a close game.
Line: Bengals by 3 1/2
Rick’s Pick: Bengals 27, Chargers 24
Baltimore at Oakland: Ravens’ Week 1 offense was even more anemic than Raiders. Joe Flacco (117 yards, two interceptions) should find the going easier against the AFC’s worst team. Derek Carr’s hand injury temporarily took this game off the Vegas board. Baltimore has dominated series and will do so again, especially if Mitch McGloin plays.
Line: Ravens by 6
Rick’s Pick: Ravens 27, Raiders 10

Miami at Jacksonville: Even Floridians hope this game won’t be televised. Defense should carry Dolphins all season and especially against a team that has scored only 26 points in last three games of series.
Line: Dolphins by 6
Rick’s Pick: Dolphins 23, Jaguars 10

Dallas at Philadelphia: The line is surprising considering last weekend’s results and the fact that Dallas has posted back-to-back-to-back double-digit blowouts at Lincoln Financial Field. Tony Romo (356 yards passing), despite not having Dez Bryant, and Sam Bradford (336) could light it up. Cowboys ruin DeMarco Murray’s hopes of beating his former teammates in another comeback win.
Line: Eagles by 5
Rick’s Pick: Cowboys 34, Eagles 29

N.Y. Jets at Indianapolis: Chris Ivory will give Colts defense trouble and, conversely, Indy has no running game. But Colts, despite the loss of T.Y. Hilton, are a different team at home and especially on Monday nights, where they are 9-0 vs. spread as a favorite.
Line: Colts by 7
Rick’s Pick: Colts 27, Jets 14
Last week (season) -straight up: 11-5; against the spread: 9-6-1; best bets: 0-1.

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