Thursday, September 30, 2010

LWFL NFC Power Rankings Week Three

Eagles Fly High, Face Another Stiff Test

In the NFL, going up against the "Williams Wall" of the Minnesota Vikings is usually an exercise in futility for anyone hoping for success. #93 Kevin Williams and #94 Pat Williams are perennial All-Pros who are considered the best tandem at defensive tackle in the NFL today.

In the LWFL, defending league champion Rebecca Newkirk and her Team Eagles will face her own version of the Williams Wall as she moves from meeting (and beating) the Rescue Rangers Al Williams in a high-powered showdown to playing the Islamic Socialists, currently ranked second in the league in scoring, coached by Mark Williams.

This will be the second consecutive #1 vs. #2 showdown for Team Eagles.

Now, the similarity between the NFL's Williams Wall and the LWFL Williams Wall pretty much ends at the waistline, but the analogy is clear--if one Williams doesn't knock you around on Sundays, there's always another one waiting for the same chance.

So far, the Eagles are responding to all challenges and defending their crown with the heart of a champion, but look for them to face another stern challenge in week four.

The winner of the Eagles vs. Islamic Socialists game will determine next week's top spot in the Power Rankings.

#1 Team Eagles

In the first #1 vs. #2 match up of the season, the Eagles were actually underdogs against the Rescue Rangers but pulled thru with a 21 point victory behind great performances by Peyton Manning and DeSean Jackson. With 5 players in double figures, the Eagles showed good balance thru out the lineup with a very solid effort.

The Rescue Rangers normally have 5 or more players in double figures, but only had 4 players with 10+ points last week, and were especially hurt by poor performances from their mainstays at RB and WR. Pierre Thomas, MJD, Reggie Wayne and Miles Austin all scored in single digits with very disappointing efforts. It's hard to win when your studs play like backups.

While 115 points is good enough to win most weeks in the LWFL, it might also be said that the Rangers lost this game more than the Eagles won it. But give credit where it's due--in their first big game of the season, the Eagles won handily.

#2 Islamic Socialists

The Islamic Socialists have led the league in scoring in each of the last two weeks, and are now the #2 scoring team in the league by rolling to a 46 point victory over Team Falk.

Once again, the Socialists spread the production around the entire offense with a total of 6 players hitting double digits and that's with Anqoun Boldin's 32 points left on the bench. This team has solid players at every position and should remain in the top 3 in scoring all year long, although they may have face some difficulties against the Eagles in Week Four because of bye issues.

#3 Rescue Rangers

Despite their loss against the Eagles, the Rescue Rangers remain the #3 scoring team in the league. When your team scores 'only' 94 points on a bad day for your top 4 players, you're not really hurting.

Barring injuries, the Rangers will be a serious contender for a championship, although the lack of production from Maurice Jones Drew could prove problematic down the road. Without better quarterback play from David Garrard, opposing defenses will continue to stack the box and make it very difficult for MJD to produce.

Keep an eye on MJD's performances, because the Rangers bench isn't very deep and they will probably need to play the waiver wire for spot starters as we enter into bye weeks. The Jacksonville star might prove to be the Achilles heel for the Rangers during the stretch run.

#4 Mr. Al Davis

Mr. Al Davis claims the #4 spot with their win over the Dreaded Mercenaries, although this won't be the last time this season these two evenly-matched teams trade positions in the Power Rankings.

Mr. Al Davis scored 115 points last week, with outstanding results from their stars Tom Brady and Chris Johnson, with LeSean McCoy and the Eagles DEF also contributing in a major way.

Owner Justin Rocha made a shrewd move in picking up Austin Collie off the waiver wire this week, especially in light of a toe injury to their #2 RB Jahvid Best. The move will allow McCoy to slide into the RB2 position and Collie to play as their regular flex player. McCoy will be an inconsistent performer as long as Michael Vick is playing at his current level, so Collie's steady performances will bring some stability to this lineup.

If you're Mr. AD, it's a little troublesome that 75% of your scoring came from 45% of your lineup--with 3 players scoring more than 20 points and one right behind at 18. They continue to get 50+ points from Brady and Johnson every week, but relying on that kind of production on a regular basis from top players will prove to be disappointing on many weeks too.

Still this team embodies it's namesake--it's a high-risk, high-reward team that can score mega points in any given week. Look for them to continue their high-scoring ways in week 4.

#5 Dreaded Mercenaries

You know what Dreaded Mercenaries owner Sarah Snow has in common with Minnesota Vikings running back Toby Gerhard?

They are both recent Stanford grads who excelled in college but find themselves competing against superstars in the pros and come up a little bit short. For now. And it's got to be killing both of them to lose a little lustre off their star power.

Gerhard, of course, is the back up to Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and only sees the field for maybe 5-10 plays in any given week.

The Mercenaries remain one of the better teams in the league, but were simply outmatched against Mr. Al Davis in week 3, although they kept the game closer than expected. Still, their balance was on display with four players in double digits. Dreaded Mercenaries RB's Steven Jackson and Knowshon Moreno are hit with the injury bug right now, so this team could struggle some in the next few weeks.

On the other hand, 95 points in an 'off' week is an indicator of the strength of this team, and if they can play .500 ball for the next few weeks while their RB's get healthy and play the waiver wire well, this team will be formidable down the stretch and can be a championship contender.

#6 Heavenly Rampagers

Whatever prayers the Rampagers sent towards heaven must have paid off as they break thru not only with their first win of the season, but their first score over 100 as well.

The Heavenly Rampagers are going to be a 'tweener' team all season long--in any given week, they are capable of playing with any other team, but there is a clear distinction between the top 5 teams in the league and the bottom 3 in how consistent their scores will be. While the top 5 are scoring 95 points or so on an average-to-bad day, teams like the Rampagers are scoring 100 points on a good day.

Frank Gore will anchor this team along with Tony Romo, but after that, the rest of the lineup is an exercise in hope every week. Ray Rice is a puzzle thus far in the season and now has a bruised knee to add on top of that. If the Baltimore Ravens air attack continues to produce like it did last week, Rice will see fewer defenders in the box and find a little more running room as the year goes on.

The WR's on this team are all solid but at their best, will score 8-9 TD's over the course of the year, which means that they will not all produce every week. In some weeks, 2 of the 3 WR's will produce, and in some weeks, none of them will, and the Rampagers just don't have the firepower at other positions to make up for any lack of production.

This is a team that needs to fire on all cylinders in order to compete with the top 5. But when they ARE on--they can beat any team in the league.

#7 Team Damages

The Damages avoid the basement for a second straight week based on a better showing in their 102-82 loss to the Heavenly Rampagers. This is a team that is showing signs of coming to life.

Once again, #1 pick Aaron Rogers did his part to carry the team, and got support from Cedric Benson and Ladanian Tomlinson, but were let down once again by DeAngelo Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith and the SF DEF. Each of these players were projected to be among the best at their respective positions at the beginning of the year, but for various reasons are underperforming and are likely to continue to underperform on a consistent basis in the forseeable future.

There's no question that Larry Fitzgerald is among the top 3 pass catchers in the league, and Steve Smith is one of the most explosive and exciting WR's in the NFL. However, both suffer from poor quarterback play--and a receiver whose QB can't get him the ball isn't much of a help to either their real team or the FF owners.

This could be one of the better teams in the league if the players on this team had some support on their actual NFL teams. Don't be surprised when Team Damages busts out with a 120 point performance, but don't expect that every week quite yet.

#8 Team Falk

The Falkians had the bad luck to run up against the rabid Islamic Socialists last week AND had nearly half their players going against each other in the Bears/Packers game on Monday night in what turned out to be a low-scoring affair.

Team Falk is another team plagued by inconsistency--each of their players have had outstanding efforts at some point so far this season, but owner Susan Falk hasn't gotten more than 3 players with good efforts from her team in any given week.

Team Falk will need to work the waiver wire and trade route in order to upgrade their team--they are solid at 7 of the 9 positions, but lack depth and consistent performers at the other two, which puts added pressure on the other players to give noteworthy efforts. The RB2 position is a particularly glaring weakness.

Due to bye week issues by their opponent, Team Falk stands a decent chance of grabbing their first win of the season in week 4.

Week Four Predictions

Last week predictions: 3-1
Season Record: 3-1

Marquee Matchup: Team Eagles vs. Islamic Socialists

Another high-scoring affair is predicted in this game, with the official spread favoring the Islamic Socialists by a single point. Both teams are projected to score 130+ points, but I don't think the actual game will be that close or that high scoring.

Team Eagles catch this game at the right time, with the Socialists starting RB tandem of Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles on the bench with a bye. These two players are significant weapons for the Socialists, currently ranked as the #1 and #13 ranked RB's in the FF right now.

Still, the Socialists have depth and can plug in Darren McFadden and Joseph Addai. McFadden is currently #5 among fantasy RB, and while Addai is not a threat for big yardage days and only ranked 26th, he is usually good for 100 total yards running and receiving and a TD, making him a solid one-week replacement running against a weak Jacksonville defense.

The Eagles will have a definite advantage at QB with Peyton Manning facing the pitiful Jaguars secondary, while the Socialists will have slight advantages at RB and WR and a definite advantage at TE. DEF and K are about even.

The key matchup in this game will be at the flex position with the Socialists Jeremy Maclin facing Arian Foster. Maclin is likely to get 100 yards and a score in his game against the Redskins, but Foster--who ran for 200+ yards and 3 scores against Indy in week 1--is running against an Oakland Raider defense that ranks among the worst at defending the run.

The Socialists win if they can squeeze double-digit scoring out of 7 of their players, and the Eagles win if Arian Foster runs for 125 yards and two scores.

Prediction: Socialists by 4

Watch Out For: Dreaded Mercenaries vs Team Damages

This is one of those games where the individual player match ups could go either way. The DM's start Drew Brees at QB and the Damages counter with Aaron Rodgers, so those two should cancel each other out.

When it comes to RB's, both teams feature RB's who get the ball a lot in their respective offenses and are considered workhorses. The Damages will start DeAngelo Williams and Cedric Benson against the Mercenaries Rashard Mendenhall and Peyton Hillis.

The problem here is that all four RB's are running against stout run defenses this week, so expectations should be tempered.

The Mercenaries have an edge at WR, if for no other reason than they actually have quality QB's throwing them the ball, while the Damages have to rely on Kenny Anderson and Jimmy Clausen to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith respectively.

At the bottom of the lineup, the Mercenaries have a slight edge, which leaves the flex position and an intriguing matchup of the Mercenaries Calvin Johnson vs. the Damages LT. LT should have the edge here, running against a weak Buffalo defense, BUT…it's a divisional game, and the Bills tend to play well within their division.

Calvin Johnson is one of the best receivers in the NFL, but has faced consistent bracket coverage and tight defenses the first few weeks. The coverage tends to ease up late in the game, so Johnson is always a threat for a big play and a score, even if that score comes in garbage time.

I'm going to say that the deciding factors in this game will be the RB 1 matchup along with WR2 and TE. Whichever team wins 2 out of those 3 positions should win the game.

Prediction: Dreaded Mercenaries by 12

Mercy Kill of the Week: Mr. Al Davis vs. Heavenly Rampagers

Mr. Al Davis is favored to win this game by 30 points, and I'm not sure that it's even going to be that close. Mr. AD has favorable match ups thru out his line up and the Rampagers simply don't have the fire power to keep up. I can see the Rampagers going down by 40 in this game.

One caveat that could make this game a LOT more interesting and deliver a huge upset for the Rampagers is that Mr. Al Davis has 3 players from the Eagles game against Washington, representing 1/3rd of his team.

The Redskins are currently ranked among the worst defenses in the league, but they always play well against division rivals. Philly is playing at home where their own fans have been known to boo them, so if Washington DEF can get a couple of early stops and turnovers, they just might burst Michael Vick's bubble and could turn into a low-scoring game.

If that happens, the Rampagers might squeak out an upset. It's not likely, but hey, just like a UFO landing in a remote area of the Nevada desert, it could happen.

Prediction: Mr. Al Davis by 34

Upset Special: Rescue Rangers vs. Team Falk

This could be the week that Team Falk breaks into the win column as they take on a Rescue Rangers team with two key players on a bye.

On paper, the Rangers should win this one without much worry--almost all of their starters are playing home games against teams that are ranked far below them and that's usually a recipe for a high-scoring affair and fantasy success. Don't be surprised if this team scores 115+ points this week.

So what makes me think that Team Falk could pull off an upset?

The Falkians are also playing against teams they should be able to exploit, so I look for them to break the 100 point barrier for the first time this season in this game. Given that MJD and Pierre Thomas have underperformed the past couple of weeks for the Rangers, that makes them a little vulnerable.

Pierre Thomas is one of my favorite players and is capable of putting up 15 points every single week, but his ankle is a little banged up and the Saints are thin at RB, so he might not see as much work as usual this week. New Orleans won't need much of a contribution from Thomas in order to beat Carolina. So he could wind up with only 5 points or so.

MJD normally runs well against the Colts (who doesn't?), but opposing defenses have done a good job of shutting him down so far this year, so it wouldn't be much of a shocker to see him only contribute 5-7 points too.

And while the Rangers are in the enviable position of having two outstanding #1 WR's in Reggie Wayne and Miles Austin on their roster, they will only have one available this week, with Austin's Dallas Cowboys inactive on their bye this week.

If these two teams played 10 times, I'm sure the Rescue Rangers would win 8 or 9 times out of 10, so this isn't a matter of Team Falk suddenly becoming a great team…but rather, the Rangers are ripe to under perform.

Call this one a gut feeling, but if Chicago scores more than 30 points against the NY Giants this week, and Falk finds a better RB2 than Brandon Jackson off the waiver wire, AND both Rangers RB's turn in performances similar to last week, then Team Falk could pull off a stunning upset.

So just for fun…

Prediction: Team Falk by 3

Best of luck to everyone this week…unless you're playing ME!

--Da Commish

Thursday, September 23, 2010

LWFL NFC Power Rankings Week 2

Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle" was one of the most awesome rock songs of the 70's and defending LWFL champion Rebecca Newkirk's Team Eagles are one of the most awesome fantasy football teams the LWFL has ever seen.

Time will tell whether they become golden oldies and fall off the charts or can keep on rockin the fantasy world.

#1 Team Eagles

The Eagles will remain atop the Power Rankings as the top scoring team in the league until someone can displace them, but showed some vulnerability last week, narrowly escaping with an 8 point victory over the Heavenly Rampagers.

Led by Peyton Manning and DeSean Jackson, Team Eagles once again had 4 players score in double digits, but slid back in total score to an 'average' week, as Arian Foster came back to earth and Michael Turner left his game with an injury after only 9 carries.

Still, at 102 points on an average week, Team Eagles are in an enviable position and are a formidable champion. They face a tough battle to retain their top ranking when they take on the Rescue Rangers in Week Three. With both teams projected to score more than 130 points, this game is sure to be an exciting slugfest, with the winner claiming the #1 position for next week.

#2 Rescue Rangers

The Rescue Rangers move up a notch to #2 on the strength of their 110 points in their victory over the Damages.

The Rangers got an exceptional effort and 3 TD's from QB Phillip Rivers, but what's impressive about this team is that they had SIX of their nine players score in double digits, and none of them had especially outstanding games, while their RB tandem of MJD and Pierre Thomas had below-average games. This might be the first team in league history to have all nine of its players score in double digits at some point during the season.

The Rescue Rangers will take on Team Eagles in week three in a battle of the two highest scoring teams in the league, with the winner taking an inside track on the path to a league championship.

#3 Dreaded Mercenaries

The Mercenaries slide down a notch to #3 this week, turning in an average performance by scoring 93 points in their victory over the hard-luck Team Falk.

The Mercenaries once again showed excellent balance in their team, with five players scoring in double digits, and no player having a particularly exceptional day. They left a few points on the bench (and apparently did not heed the advice to consider playing Knowshown Moreno in their flex position), but all in all, a very solid result from a very solid team.

The Dreaded Mercenaries are currently 4th in the league in scoring and sport a 2-0 record, but that could change with a tough match up against Mr. Al Davis this week.
The DM's can be expected to put up another 100 points this week, so there is little chance they will get embarrassed, but this is one of those weeks where there isn't much they can do--their opponent simply has better match ups with their key players.

#4 Islamic Socialists

America's terror lived up to its promise for at least one week, putting up a 64 point whup-ass on Mr. Al Davis.

This was the second week in a row that the Islamic Socialists were projected to score more than 130 points, and for a change, they delivered. The Socialists spread the scoring around with SIX players in double figures, and a seventh player left on the bench who reached that landmark.

While Matt Schaub, Antonio Gates and Garret Hartley had better-than-expected games, the rest of the team was mostly average--so don't be surprised to see this team score in the 130's several times this year, and they *might* reach 150 in a game or two.

The Islamic Socialists are currently the third-highest scoring team in the league, just 3 points behind the Rescue Rangers and 29 points behind the Eagles, but are ranked #4 until they can show some consistency.

#5 Mr. Al Davis

I warned last week that Mr. Al Davis would be a streaky, inconsistent team capable of putting up big numbers some weeks and a couple of low-scoring efforts, and last week, they proved me right by stinking the joint up in their game against the Socialists.

As a finance guy in his day job, it's hard to tell which irks owner Justin Rocha more--having his carefully selected team underperform, or getting beat by a bunch of socialists.

In week 3, I expect this team to prove me right again and put up big numbers in their game against the Mercenaries. Mr. Al Davis is currently 6th in the league in scoring, but I expect them to rise to either #3 or #4 by next week. Look for this team to score between 120-140 points this week.

#6 Heavenly Rampagers

Roy Sniffen's team almost pulled out a thrilling Monday night victory, but fell victim to four San Francisco turnovers against the New Orleans DEF--which happened to be their margin of defeat.

The Rampagers got a great effort from Frank Gore, but need to get Tony Romo and their flex position on track if they are going to be a contender in this league. They played a slightly better-than-average game by scoring 94 points, but with half the teams in the league averaging 100 points per game, that's not going to get the job done on a consistent basis.

This is a team that can do some damage when all of its players perform up to their capabilities, so don't take them lightly. It's a strong lineup that has under-performed to date.

#7 Team Falk

Team owner Susan Falk might be looking for a new coach this week as she lost a heartbreaker against the Dreaded Mercenaries by 16 points, with not one, but TWO players sitting on her bench who would have brought her team a victory had they been active.

While the Falkians scored a below-average 76 points, they left Jay Cutler's 29 points on the bench, as well as the Pittsburgh DEF and their 31 points. Either of these players would have brought Team Falk a victory and nudged them over the century mark, so clearly, this is a team with firepower.

Still, it's a team with question marks at RB, WR and Flex that will struggle to break 90 on most weeks. Like the NFL, the axiom "on any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team" rings true, so I wouldn't look past Team Falk. If they make a QB switch and play the waiver wire well, this is a team that can sneak up on you.

#8 Team Damages

The Damages selected Aaron Rodgers with the #1 pick in this year's draft, and so far, he is the only player to produce on this under-performing team.

Last year, the Damages built their offense around Larry Fitzgerald, who was disappointing for a #1 pick, and this year, not only do they have Fitzgerald playing below his billing again, but they have added DeAngelo Williams and Cedric Benson as players who are performing far below expectations.

Add in mediocre performances by Shonn Greene (projected to be a top 12 RB) and Jason Witten (taken out of his game with a concussion) and its easy to see why this is the lowest scoring team in the league thus far.

On the bright side, it's also a team that scored 88 points with terrible performances from most of its players, so the upside is there. If Carolina can find a QB that can make opposing defenses respect their air attack, then DeAngelo Williams will start to find running room again.

As the season goes on, Cedric Benson will start to come around and get his numbers too--the biggest question is whether the Damages can grab a couple of wins while their stars struggle.

Look for this team to rack up points by midseason, and hope that they aren't out of the playoff hunt by the time the team starts to perform.

Week Three Predictions:

The Marquee Matchup: Team Eagles vs. Rescue Rangers

I look for a very high-scoring game here with both teams scoring 120+ points. Both teams are very evenly matched, but this one will come down to the match ups at RB. With the Eagles Michael Turner coming off a groin injury and the the Giants Ahmad Bradshaw going on the road against one of the better run defenses in the league in Tennessee, I'm going to give the edge to the Rangers tandem of MJD and Pierre Thomas.

Look for Thomas to have a huge game and be the deciding factor for the Rangers.

Pick: Rangers by 8

Keep An Eye On: Dreaded Mercenaries vs. Mr. Al Davis

I once took a psychiatric evaluation where I was asked the question "would you rather kill someone with a flame thrower or run them over with a tank?"

I'm not sure what that question was supposed to reveal, but it's a good metaphor for what the Mercenaries are facing this week in Mr. Al Davis--any answers they come up are probably not going to be good ones.

The Mercenaries have a powerful lineup and should score a 100-120 points this week. But the problem is that Mr. Al Davis has more favorable match ups through out his lineup and will probably score 130+ points.

If everyone does what they are supposed to, Mr. Al Davis wins this game easily. The Mercenaries have to pin their hopes on Rashard Mendenhall running wild against Tampa Bay for 150 yards and two scores (not likely), Ocho Cinco getting two scores against Carolina (possible but not likely) and Mr. Al Davis' Jahvid Best getting shut down by the Minnesota DEF (possible) or Brandon Marshall getting shut down by a Jets DEF missing Darelle Revis to eke out a win.

Pick: Mr. Al Davis by 18

Somebody Will Remain Winless: Damages vs. Heavenly Rampagers

Both teams are 0-2 and in desperate need of a win--will this be the week these teams put it together?

On paper, the Damages have the better team, but some of their key players are facing difficult matchups. DeAngelo Williams will find it tough running against the Cincinatti DEF, and top WR Steve Smith will have a rookie QB trying to get him the ball. Look for both players to have sub-par days.

In addition, the Damages have LT running against a stout Miami DEF and WR Larry Fitzgerald going against perhaps the 2nd shut-down corner in the league in
Nnamdi Asomugha. I hate to be harbinger of bad news, but look for this team to under-perform yet again.

The Heavenly Rampagers won't win this by default however. The Rampagers appear to be benching Tony Romo and will send Josh Freeman against a stout Pittsburgh DEF, so look for the Damages to have the edge at QB. While Ray Rice has a favorable match up against Cleveland at RB, the Rampagers other RB's face difficult DEF and will find it tough to get points.

The Rampagers win this one if they get production out of their WR and TE, the Damages win if they get production out of their RB's, and Aaron Rogers puts up 25+ points.

Pick: Rampagers by 9

They Still Have To Play The Game: Islamic Socialists vs. Team Falk

On paper, this one is no contest--the Islamic Socialists should win handily over Team Falk. But a football takes some funny bounces and this could be one of those dangerous games where a play here and there could add up to a major upset for Team Falk.

Susan Falk will have a lot riding on the Green Bay v. Chicago game, with 4 of her 9 players involved in that contest. The problem is that Team Falk will play 3 Bears against one of the better DEF in the game. Now, Chicago can definitely score a lot of points, so if this turns out to be a high scoring game, Team Falk will look like they are coached by a fantasy football genius.

If defense dominates this game, then Team Falk will be embarrassed. But then again, the Islamic Socialists are well balanced and have favorable player match-ups at nearly every position, so the Falkians are backed into a high-risk, high-reward strategy this week.

Look for this game to be closer than the projections indicate--the two QB's should perform about the same, as should the #2RB, #1 WR, TE, DEF and K. Which means this game will more than likely be decided at the #1 RB and Flex position.

Adrian Peterson should run for 125 yards plus 1-2 scores against Detroit for the Socialists and Darren McFadden should go for 100 yards and a score against the Arizona Cardinals. Team Falk counters with Matt Forte running against a stout GB DEF and Steve Smith (NYG) going against the top-rated pass defense of the Tennesee Titans. Forte is likely to catch enough passes out of the backfield to be a threat, so this game will hinge on Steve Smith for Team Falk.

Pick: Islamic Socialists by 14

Thursday, September 16, 2010

LWFL NFC Power Rankings, Week One

(Note: Among my many interests, I am the commissioner of the LiveWorld Fantasy Football League, comprised of 16 LiveWorld employees, past employees and friends/family of LiveWorlders. The league is split into NFC and AFC conferences. I publish the Power Rankings for the 8 teams in the LWFL NFC. Briant Laslo publishes Power Rankings for the AFC)

LWFL NFC Power Rankings
Week 1 Sep. 12, 2010

#1 Team Eagles
Rebecca Newkirk's defending Super Bowl (and scoring) champions from last year started right where they left off with a league-high 130 point effort on opening day.

Led by monster performances from Arian Foster and Peyton Manning who accounted for 76 points between the two of them, the Eagles dominated in a 64 point win, extending their streak to 4 consecutive games in which they've won by a margin of 50 points or more.

While the Eagles are not likely to get 40 point efforts from the running back position very often (consider that Foster's effort came against the always woeful Colts run defense), they do possess balance thru out their lineup, with 4 players scoring in double figures, despite key players like Michael Turner and DeSean Jackson having poor showings. This is a high-risk, high reward team that can score a ton of points in any given week but still reasonably expect to put up 90-100 points per game on an average week.

The Eagles are still the team to beat until someone does, and they appear to have all the right pieces to be the first to repeat as LWFL Super Bowl champions.

#2 Dreaded Mercenaries
Sarah Snow's Dreaded Mercenaries were the third-highest scoring team this week, but get the second place nod for the overall balance in their lineup.

Even with Drew Brees having a sub-par game, the Mercenaries tied for the league-lead with a total of FIVE players scoring in double-digits, led by a vintage effort from Chad Ocho Cinco with 21 points.

Overall, the Mercenaries were only a couple of plays and bad calls away from having 9 out of the 10 starters in double digits and it's very tough to beat a team that can put up big numbers from ANY position on the team. The Dreaded Mercenaries are the fantasy football equivalent of the 1927 Yankees--they have stars at every position with Drew Brees, Steven Jackson, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall and Vernon Davis filling out their lineup. Even their DEF (NY Jets) and K (Ryan Longwell) are among the best at their position. The weakest position on this team is its flex player--who just happened to lead the team in scoring this week. If the Mercenaries make the right choice between playing Knowshon Moreno and Ocho Cinco every week, they stand a good chance of going undefeated.

The Dreaded Mercenaries are not as explosive as Team Eagles, but are more consistent through out the lineup. I expect these two teams to be battling for the points title all season long.

#3 Mr. Al Davis

Like his famous name-sake, team owner Justin Rocha doesn't give a **** about his Power Ranking, as long as he just wins, baby.

Mr. Al Davis is led by the tandem of Tom Brady and Chris Johnson, who are both capable of putting up astronomical numbers every week and went for 56 points on Sunday. Look for those two to consistently put up 50+ point between them on a weekly basis.

After those two, however, Mr. A.D. has a lot of players who *could* put up good numbers in any given week, but their stats and projections suggest they are only going to give a fantasy-worthy performance every other week. My prediction for this team is inconsistency.

Besides Johnson, Mr. Al Davis will rely on two rookies and a 2nd year RB to tote the rock, and two very talented WR's who unfortunately are playing in systems where they should not expect to get a lot of TD's like other elite receivers. Both Brandon Marshall and Marques Colston are immense talents, but New Orleans spreads the ball around pretty equally to all of its receivers, and while Marshall is the focal point of the Dolphins passing attack, he's limited by his QB and the lack of strong complementary wideout. Both receivers should get 1100-1300 receiving yards this season, but only 8-9 TD catches.

This team is like the homeless guy you meet on the streets who could either be a really interesting person to talk with or just batsh*t crazy. Mr. Al Davis will be a tough team to beat in any given week and is easily capable of putting up 120-140 points. But I wouldn't be surprised to see them with a few meek 70-80 point efforts either.

#4 Rescue Rangers
The Rescue Rangers, coached by Al Williams, made their league debut in impressive fashion, scoring a come-from-behind victory on Monday night led by Phillip Rivers 23 points.

The Rangers tied the Mercenaries by having five players scoring 10 or more points, and are also built for consistency, with Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Wayne, Miles Austin, Jermichael Finley and Pierre Thomas rounding out their starting lineup. Their most glaring weakness is at the Flex position--they lack a consistent performer in that position. They might guess right in some weeks, but that's the one spot in their roster that will keep this team from being one of the elites.

Just like the NFL, any team can beat any other team in any given week, but the Power Rankings are all about which team is the strongest and would win most of the time. The Rangers will have to play the waiver wire well or coach this position well each week to compete with the teams above them in the rankings.

Still, 96 points in their debut is a good solid start and right around where I think this team will perform on a weekly basis.

The Bottom Half

#5 Heavenly Rampagers

Roy Sniffen's Rampagers must be doing some Hail Mary's to atone for the curses they swore at their team last Sunday. With 84 points in a losing effort, the Heavenly Rampagers needed a little help from above--or from Frank Gore and Ray Rice, who both under-performed in a big way.

Still, 84 points on a bad day isn't too bad and should have the Rampagers seeing some encouragement. Their lineup is strong at the top with a near-elite QB in Tony Romo and 3 near-elite RB's in Rice, Gore and Ronnie Brown. The WR core is solid with Wes Welker, but they are lacking a true #1 WR who can be explosive on a regular basis. Maybe something to pray for?

The bottom of their Rampagers lineup is solid, if unspectacular--this is a team that should regularly put up between 80-100 points per week, and will occasionally score in the 110-120 range.

#6 Team Falk
The Falkland Islands are a small set of islands in the Southern Ocean off the coast of Argentina. It is a cold, windy, desolate and craggy land inhabited by more sheep than humans. Argentina and England fought a war over possession of the archipelago in 1982. No one really knows for sure what it is they were fighting over.

I mention this, because Susan Falk's Team Falk is a bit of an enigma too--no one really knows what to expect from this team. An 84 point effort in their opening game isn't bad, and that's with their star QB Brett Favre under-performing badly, #1 RB Ryan Grant getting hurt early in the game, getting no contribution from #1 WR Andre Johnson and flex player Jonathan Stewart all but disappearing from his teams game plan when he was projected to do well.

On the other hand, Matt Forte is not the kind of player you expect a 30 point effort from either. About the only predictable result from this game was the 14 points from Dallas Clark, who can be expected to provide 10 points or so on a regular basis.

I think that Team Falk is in for a roller-coaster season--it's a team that will probably average around 80-90 points per game, and 3-4 times this year will probably throw down 120 points on someone. But replacing their #1 RB is not going to be an easy task, and there are question marks at QB--Favre looked very average against New Orleans and Jay Cutler will be streaky-- the Flex position is filled by two RB's who are #2 on their own team, and the #2 WR position will be inconsistent on a weekly basis too, unless team coach Susan Falk guesses right each week with which WR to start.

#7 Team Damages
The Damages scored a woeful 66 points in week one and Jenna Woodull was hurt by her prized #1 draft pick, Aaron Rogers.

Rogers tossed 2 TD's, but turned in an otherwise pedestrian 15 points to go with his 2 INT's and under 200 yards passing. This in an aberrant performance from Rogers--he's an elite option at QB who should regularly score more than 22+ points per week and can easily go off for 40.

The rest of the Damages lineup was equally disappointing, with DeAngelo Williams, Shonn Greene, Jason Witten and the 49ers DEF all playing well below expectations. Despite the lack of production from key players, the Damages still had 4 players score in double digits, so clearly, better days are ahead for this team.

Look for the Damages to average in the 80-90's, with a couple of games around 110-120, but don't be too surprised by a couple of stinker games like this one either. The lineup is generally solid, and filled with players who might score and get good yardage in any given week, but except for Larry Fitzgerald, they lack explosive players who can score multiple times in a game with any regularity.

#8 Islamic Socialists
What's in a name? Well, Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. While there's nothing more feared in America than extremist Muslims and socialism, there's no such thing as an Islamic socialist in the real world and apparently not in fantasy football either.

The message is clear--be careful what you name your team.

Commissioner Mark Williams must have been busy with other league duties, because his Socialists either forgot or refused to compete last weekend, getting sub-par performances from EVERY position on the team except #2 RB Jamaal Charles, TE Antonio Gates and the Green Bay DEF. QB Matt Schaub--projected as a top 5 QB by most pundits--,RB Adrian Peterson and Joseph Addai, WR Randy Moss and Dwayne Bowe all failed to score more than 10 points, leading a very disappointing effort. This team was projected to score 139 points in this game and didn't manage to score half that total.

While the Islamic Socialists scored more point than Team Damages, I'm ranking them dead last in the league so the Socialists gets the message. This is a team that *should* be averaging 100 points per game and by the end of the season, I expect this team to compete for both a scoring and Super Bowl championship.

Good luck to all next week! (unless you're playing me)

--da Commish

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Movement is LIFE

I'm a kinesthetic actor.

I like to mooooooooooove and feel the energy flow. I'm a better actor when I'm out of my head and in my body, even if I do consider all the head work absolutely necessary to get me to where I can just feel the part.

Tonight's rehearsal was about working on making Joseph real through movement, paying more attention to communicating with my body and energy more than the words. It's been a struggle to explore the physicality of the role so far--we've generally only run thru the play once per night and I sit thru the entire scene, so there hasn't been much time to play.

But I finally had a night off last night and took some time playing at home exploring the movement vocabulary that is available to Joseph while sitting.

A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane...

The exercise brought back fond memories of acting classes with Jack Clay at the UW. Our studio was in Hutchinson Hall, a 75 year-old gymnasium with a wooden basketball floor, sunlight streaming in from windows 14 feet in the air, a playing area ringed with heavy black curtains and topped with a mish-mash of steel pipes suspended from the ceiling to create a light grid. This was my lab, my temple, my sanctuary, my love for many years.

In one of our very earliest classes--we (a class of 12) did an exercise to see how many different ways we could sit on a chair. It was a mad, frenetic dash of joyful creativity--each of us running up to the chair, trying a new way of sitting on it that gave an 'attitude' or expressed something. We'd try 1-2 poses and then hop off, the next person racing to the chair until we finally ran out of ideas and started repeating ourselves.

I don't recall our final tally, but it was in excess of 100. Something like 113, but I wouldn't swear to that, and it doesn't matter. The lesson was to explore the possibilies that exists for expression even in such a confined space as a chair, and not to limit ourselves to convention.

So tonight's rehearsal was for exploring my expressiveness while sitting...


One of the most important things I do in building a character is pick a character movement shape and personality type using Laban dance movement.

In a (very small) nutshell, Laban revolutionized the dance world in the 1920's and 30's with the publication of his theories analyzing the qualities that constitute dance (life) movement and defining 8 types of action movements: Float, Punch, Glide, Slash, Dab, Wring, Flick, and Press.

These descriptions are essentially the ONLY 8 movements that constitute the entire vocabulary describing how living things move. (and Laban also devises a movement notation system for choreographers that is still used today)

That's probably a little too ethereal a description, so go ahead and do some of those gestures while you're sitting at the keyboard right now. Make a "glide" motion with your hand.

Now make a wringing motion.

And finally, make a "flick" motion.

Did you notice how the quality of each movement felt differently? Making a gliding motion might feel light, but the wringing motion feels more labored and heavy.

Or flicking something is a very indirect action, like shooing a fly, but one glides in a direct line. (and if a glide moves in an indirect motion, it's called a float)

Now...take a leap of faith with me and embrace that all those types of movement shapes (Float, Punch, Glide, Slash, Dab, Wring, Flick, and Press) are also types of personalities.

Are You My Type?

Are you short, blunt and to the point? You're a Punch. Can you focus for long periods of time on difficult problems? You might be a Press. What would we call someone who acts like a stereotypical 'dumb blonde'? A Float. A silly little twit might be a Dab. A person who worries all the time--a wring.

And so on, for each of the 8 movement/personality types.

So part of my process is to pick which type of action/personality shape my character might be.

Once I know which personality fits, I automatically get a whole vocabulary of movements to try out. How do I gesture? Quickly? Deliberately? With great purpose or seemingly nonchalantly? direct and to the point, or wildly?

If I know the personality type, I now know the quality of the character's movement. And that's what I was exploring tonight in rehearsal...what type of Laban shape and personality is Joseph?

Try it out for yourself--it's fun!

Do this:
  • actually make gestures with your hands and arms in each of the 8 motion shapes.
  • Float, Punch, Glide, Slash, Dab, Wring, Flick, and Press
  • walk around the room as if that gesture fills up your entire body and changes your walk
  • What would it feel like to have a walk that floated across the room? Walk like that.
  • Or flicked across the room? Walk like that.
  • Or slashed? (make sure there is no furniture in the way)
It's a little abstract I know, but try it...and you'll start to feeeeeeel it. What kind of attitude do you get when you glide? Is it different than when you wring? Or dab?

Each of us is one of these 8 personality types, more or less. I won't say which one I'm choosing for the play, but as for myself personally, I like to think of myself as a glide...

...but I think the truth is that I'm really a press.

Would you agree with that or not? Which personality/movement type best describes YOU?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

CONNECT with the words

Good rehearsal tonight--enjoyed a nice lingering afterglow and gathered some momentum from the last 'over-acting' rehearsal.

The direction to go over the top really blew out the cobwebs and has freed me up to be bolder, follow impulses and really clarify my point of view. The director really likes what I'm doing--I'm no judge of myself, in any event. (it's very, very rare when I'm pleased with my work.) Some of what I'm doing feels right, and some of it feels like I'm floundering, but if the director likes it, then I'm happy.

Using my sculpting analogy, I'm lopping off huge chunks of clay right now so the shape is recognizable. I have a week yet to polish and maybe add some fine detail.

The detail, of course, is what makes a thing beautiful and transcendent. I strive for that in my work--I'm sure I miss it more often than not, but it's all I know how to do, is to chase it. It's my motivation for being in the theater--that moment when everything congeals into something beautiful on stage and my body and soul are part of an amazing, transcendent experience. You can feel it on stage and oh yeah... it is an addictive drug.

Transcendence happens...

... when the actors connect to the character's feelings, with the words that they say, with each other and with the audience. When the audience is drawn in to the characters, the cycle is a tsaheylu connection in Avatar.

When you don't have it, you want it. When you have it, you want it to last longer. As soon as it's over, you want it again. But it's powerful enough to tide you over for quite some time.

Performers of all stripes know this feeling.

And the difference between being beautiful and being transcendent is sooooooo fine that it's barely noticeable, but it makes all the difference in the world. Check out the two vids below of the song Suddenly Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors. (I'll bet you didn't know that more famous 1986 version starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin was a remake of Roger Corman's film from 1960)

In the first video, pop star Mandy Moore and Broadway vet Adam Pascal sing the song. Pascal gained his fame as one of the leads in Rent, and Mandy Moore has been a touring staple for years. She once turned down the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, so she is well-thought of as a live performer. They both have serious vocal chops.

So yes..they sing the hell out of the song--there's no doubt that both of them have beautiful voices if you close your eyes and just listen. But...they are both more in love with their voices and themselves in the song than each other.

It's not quite transcendent. They don't connect with each other, and the audience doesn't really connect with them. It's lovely and some people will mistake it for something incredible. It's a very pretty song.


Check out this version sang by Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene. Technically, they don't have anywhere near the voices of Pascal and Moore. They are both what would be called 'character' voices. But they sure can act.

Note the *connection* between the two...even when they move apart, you still get the feeling that they are connected to each other, no? The camera work is better in the film version of course, but can you feel yourself sucked into the story...and notice that you start to feel what each character is feeling?

More importantly...the actors connect simply with the words of the song. They don't go for the pretty sounding note--we feel like they actually mean what they are saying. They just happen to be saying it to a tune.

By the end...we are totally connected as an audience with the characters and the actors and the song. We haven't just heard a pretty love song, we watched....and participated in a transcendent event- the very instant when two people fell in love.

Subconsciously, by bearing witnessing to that moment we actually transport ourselves to the moment (or moments) when WE have fallen in love. If we were in a theater with someone, we might squeeze the hand of the person we're with, or cast a glance their way. It's a poignant moment we want to share.

Imagine that...a whole audience falls in love at the same time--that's pretty transcendent.

It's a good reminder for me, this most basic of all acting lessons: CONNECT with the words. If I'm lucky, something beautiful and transcendent might happen.

Just mean what you say. How hard is that?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Overacting is Fun!

Tonight's rehearsal was all about overacting on purpose. With purpose. And was lots of fun!

The director has been asking for more...More...MORE in the past few rehearsals. In my case, it's been a struggle because I haven't necessarily found what's right yet (I've only had 5 rehearsals), but that doesn't really matter. She doesn't care whether my choices are right--she just wants to see them played bigger.

The rest of the cast has been struggling with that too, in large part because we've been rehearsing in intimate spaces--a living room cleared of furniture, a small dance studio and a church classroom. Our playing area for the actual performance is much larger, so we needed a kick in the pants to get us to play to fill the space.

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

We moved rehearsal outside tonight, where we had to compete with the sounds of airplanes arriving at the San Jose airport (Marie's house is directly underneath the final approach for landing), dogs barking and children playing next door in order to be heard and make our point.

To help get us out of our heads and into our more impulsive state, for one night only, the director gave us permission to play big, broad stereotypes and to see where that took us.

I loved it, because the deeper I get into this script, the more I want to play it like it's a Dario Fo or Joe Orton play. To me, the play is a wild, absurd farce set in a courtroom, but we're playing it straight as a realistic, serious courtroom drama.

The problem is that play was written in the 1950's and it shows. Picture an early Perry Mason courtroom scene, and you'll have an idea of the style of the play. But we're not setting it in the 1950's. We're trying to set in a contemporary period without defining it as contemporary--sort of an ageless period.

Words, Words, Words

It should go without saying that words are powerful little things. It's almost a cliche by now, but if you open yourself up to words, they can lead you places where you had no idea of going.

In grad school, I was taught to learn how to give myself over to a script. How to let the and the rhythmsounds of the words take me out of my head, and into my body. To let the words define my character and guide my journey, free of any rational or intellectual choice of mine own.

So tonight...when asked to overact and cut loose of any inhibitions or rational thought, a middle-aged Jewish man who loved and admired Jesus emerged.

And boy, was he pissed.

Tonight I wailed...howling my anger at the death sentence, puking my disgust at the proceedings in which I partook, and dove into the shock, sorrow and bewilderment at how everything turned into a clusterf**k so quickly. I felt the tenderness I had for Jesus preparing his body for his burial.

And then pushed that vocally and with energy to the back of the yard, 75 feet away.

Okay. So I lost some of the truths that I had been working on...but found new ones instead. I lost some focus on the crispness of the words and 'pushed' more than I just let it flow, but that's part of the process too.

More importantly, I got back into the habit of putting my energy out to an audience that is a fair distance away. I felt tired at the end of rehearsal, like after a good workout, which is a good sign.

That's how I want to feel after every rehearsal or performance. It was nice to feel that way a visit with an old friend.

I'm rounding into shape. Another week to go!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The AHA! Moment

One of the things I love the most about the rehearsal process is the arrival of AHA! moments. We all get them...those bursts of clarity that explode in your head and clear the fogginess of a problem that you were musing on, revealing a golden light pointing out the new direction.

I live for those moments of creativity and clarity.

Sometimes, I feel both good and foolish when I catch myself literally saying "aha!" in that moment of discovery. I feel foolish because it's such a cliche, and who goes around saying "AHA!" any more outside of a melodrama?

But then I feel good, because cliches come from somewhere. The AHA! moment is a timeless connection to artists and great thinkers throughout history. Socrates or Aristotle probably said it first, but I can imagine Da Vinci...Michaelangelo...Shakespeare...Moliere...Mozart saying AHA! just before they put pen in hand and started creating their masterpieces.

My most recent AHA! moment on The Case of Humanity vs. Pontius Pilate came during a phone conversation with my good friend Rachel. Our relationship began when she wandered into one of my acting classes nearly 15 years ago, and since that time, she has taught me far more than I ever taught her.

When in doubt, call a friend.

So I've been working thru some of the blocks I've been running up against in the play, trying to really understand and feel the strength of faith that Joseph must have had to get Jesus' body from the cross, clean his body and prepare him for burial in his own tomb.

There are so many layers of human emotion running thru that act, and I'm trying peel each layer back to feel the deepest possible truth of what motivates Joseph and what his personal perspective was on the series of crucifixion events.

My biggest obstacle and challenge has been to find the love of Jesus that Joseph must have felt. An extraordinary love for....*something*....that made him risk his reputation and welfare by doing something that could cause great harm to him and his family.

Now, Rachel and I talk maybe every couple of years, usually when one of us is doing a play or needs someone to bounce some creative thoughts off of, so it was time for a check-in. I needed some help.

And Now, A Few Words from our Master

I mentioned my difficulty feeling what Joseph must be feeling to Rachel, and once again, her response was an example of the student schooling the teacher.

She reminded me of the teachings of Stanislavsky, and the "magic IF". I laughed as soon as she said those words--those are the same words that I teach in every acting the very first class. I was the first person to introduce Rachel to Stanislavsky...and here she was re-introducing him to me for the first time again.

It's funny how things work like that.

You Can't Always Feel What You Want to Feel

In the theater, I believe that it's always better to actually feel what your character feels. I like it when a character takes over my body--I get to see the world thru a whole new set of eyes and experience things that I wouldn't ordinarily do.

But hit a block. You're not feeling what the character is feeling...what the script says he's feeling. What to do then?

The Magic IF

You break out the "magic IF". The power in the magic IF is that you don't HAVE to feel what the character is feeling. You just have to act AS IF you were feeling what the character is feeling.

As Stanislavsky explains, that little "if", makes all the difference in the world. The actor playing Hamlet has probably never killed 3 people in real life, as Hamlet does in the course of the play. So he can't really feel what Hamlet does with each death, yet he must act AS IF he has killed these people.

The "if" allows the actor to go to those hidden places in their soul--we are all human, and therefore we come hard-wired with the same set of emotions. Which means as humans, we can ALL kill. Feel lust. Feel rage, jealousy, hatred, intense sorrow or joy, etc.

And as Rachel pointed out...that "if" makes it safe for us to live in those hidden places inside ourselves in the's not really 'me' doing those things the character is...I'm just doing or saying those things as if I were that other person.

The beauty of a play is that the lines stay the same every night and the story always ends the same way. The actor keeps his (or her) identity...their own sense of self strong, precisely because they know that they can give over to the 'if' and by 10:30, its over. That other person leaves and you return to yourself again.

It's an out of body experience...a trip, if you will. Except you know how it will go every night, so you can just ease into it and let it flow.

The AHA! moment is...

All a long-winded way of saying...I don't have to love Jesus. I have to behave AS IF I love Jesus. Now I have a starting point and lots of thoughts, feelings, and choices suddenly spring to mind.

(and yes, I did say "AHA!" when that light bulb went off)

Don't you just LOVE that feeling of clarity? Do you have a story to share about your last AHA! moment?