It's a big day for pretty much everyone but me.
Dec. 24 is my kid brother's birthday, so happy birthday to Jonathan Berry of Los Angeles. And it's my parents' anniversary as well. They are still together, thus proving that someone can still be completely crazy even when coming from a stable family environment.
Growing up, I hated the 24th. I'm Jewish, so today and tomorrow have no special significance to me and the 24th was always a day celebrated by everyone but me. And growing up in Texas, no one was ever around on my birthday, which is Dec. 29 (not a lot of Jewish kids in College Station, don't cha know).
As a result, I've never been a big fan of my own birthday. It's always fairly sparse, friends- and family-wise, and the 24th is a day that sort of always starts those feelings for me. So I'm a bit melancholy today. Or maybe I'm just bitter at Jon Gruden.
What in the Shanahan was that? After a week of saying he wasn't going to rest his starters, Gruden does just that and a lot of folks who rode Earnest Graham to the finals were left with nothing. This is me, the Bitter Mr. Roto.
I had Graham going in the GMC Professional Grade League where I am playing Eric Karabell for the title. Now, those who have been following the league through Tristan Cockroft's column already know this, but I should, by all accounts, win this thing.
I was the No. 2 seed coming in and Eric was eighth (of 10) in scoring in the league and just squeaked into the playoffs on a tiebreaker. He had a bunch of bad-luck injuries, while things pretty much went my way all season long. But thanks to Graham and Willie Parker getting me a combined three points, I trail Eric by six heading into tonight, and he still has LaDainian Tomlinson and Chris Chambers. I have Brandon Marshall, and am very thankful ESPN standard scoring allows for a two-week playoff.
But if he wins, does it mean he's the better fantasy analyst? No, just as it doesn't mean the opposite if I win. "Expert" leagues are among the most meaningless barometers of the quality of fantasy analysts at their jobs.
And I say this while proclaiming that, unless Nate Kaeding has negative-10 points tonight, I am the champion of the Fantasy Sports Magazine Expert League, having defeated Andy Behrens, who writes for another site. In fact, in addition to Andy, I defeated William Del Pillar, John Hansen, Matt Pitzer, Michael Fabiano, Adam Caplan, Greg Ambrosius, Dave Richard, the Rotowire guys and Tom Kessenich, plus our own Eric Karabell.
So it's as legit an "expert" league as you will find, with many if not all the top names in the industry and I'm telling you, as champ, it means nothing. Glad I won, of course, but the mark of an analyst is his or her advice, analysis and how it is presented.
While I downplay my league title, I will pat myself on the back for a very strong Week 16 in terms of calls. My "five sleepers" on "Sunday NFL Countdown" were Jeff Garcia, Kenny Watson, Kolby Smith, Kevin Curtis and Santana Moss. Stupid Jon Gruden keeps me from going five-for-five. Chris Redman was my "Alone on an Island" pick as I had him rated much higher than anyone else and had to defend myself in our weekly column.
Other good calls? Adrian Peterson of Chicago, Dwayne Bowe, Roddy White, Kurt Warner, Jerricho Cotchery, LenDale White and Donovan McNabb were among the not obvious "Loves" and Calvin Johnson, Anthony Gonzalez, Donald Driver, Tony Romo and Brett Favre were among the "Hates" (as you'll see in the mailbag).
Normally I do quick thoughts from the weekend here, but if I do, I'll have nothing left for Tuesday's TMR column. That's right. I'm still doing a Talented Mr. Roto column on Christmas day, which will detail pickups for Week 17. And probably more mail. But that's why they call this blog "Thoughts, Ramblings, Useless information and Musings."
So I'll just say the following stars from this past weekend are legit (as far as Week 17 is concerned) and you can expect to read more about them Tuesday:
Jeff Abkowitz, (Raymond, N.H.) I'm not really sure if you'll actually end up seeing this e-mail, but I believe it's about time that you start a "free DeAngelo Williams" campaign. Yes, I know of the crush that you have on Jerious Norwood. And yes, the YPC [yards per carry] Williams has doesn't quite compare to Norwood's. But isn't it pretty obvious at this point that Williams possesses more explosiveness and is simply a better player than DeShaun Foster? Of course, it's difficult to gauge how good a backup running back will be from a small sampling. I remember when everyone thought that Kevan Barlow was going to be a star. Yeah that didn't work out, did it? However, we'll never know if Norwood or Williams can be stars if they aren't given more carries. I do have a question for you, though. Do you feel that coaches are reluctant to make a switch at a position because of loyalty to a particular player? Keep up the good work with your articles. You're obstinate and brash, but very entertaining.
TMR: Jeff wrote this before this past weekend's games, so nice call there and yes, I do think loyalty and contract status have something to do with playing time. Free DeAngelo!
Jay Emerson (Millbrae, Calif.) I must tell you I became an ESPN insider because of you and Nate. The podcasts and "My Football Heroin" as my wife calls 'em (Fantasy Football NOW!) are the reason I purchased. I realize it's free but I figured it was like a PBS contribution and maybe my few bucks would go to give you guys a bit of job security I can't thank you guys enough for the entertainment, weather, bad advice, etc. Let 'em know they got my forty because of you guys and Karabell and, well, the fact that Nate is obviously the most intelligent person on your staff! M GO BLUE! Happy Holidays and best regards I think you're funny as hell.
TMR: You had me until you talked about Nate being the most intelligent.
Bob (Houston) Thanks for another fantasy football championship for my team that I achieved by doing the exact opposite of your advice all year.
TMR: So you're saying you read me every week?
Dan (Waukesha, Wis.) Past seven starts for Favre huh? Interesting, because guess who has the best winning percentage in the history of Soldier Field? That's right, the legend himself, Brett Favre. And don't think for a second the Pack won't be out for blood against bitter rivals who beat them on national television earlier this year. Expect a huge game from the defense against whoever the Bears have at quarterback, especially in the wake of Chuck Woodson and Nick Barnett's Pro Bowl snubs. I think you underestimate the bitterness of this rivalry. We have a term for those from Illinois here in Wisconsin, and it cannot be printed on ESPN.com.
Coy (unknown) Matthew: in your love/hate article which I love/hate, you mentioned that brete favre usaully plays poorly against Chicago. Please do a little more research. I beleive Brett has had one bad game "at" chicago (1993), and another loss. Otherwise he's won all but two games there since '92! And some very good ones at that. you might want to love him this sunday!
Gobucky79 (from the ESPN Conversation pages of my "Love/Hate") Brett Favre traditionally struggles against Chicago? I'll bet there are some Bears fans that would disagree with you there! Recently, when they have had a top defense, everybody struggled against them. They don't have that anymore. But, "traditionally," Favre has been a Bears killer. There's a reason why all the passing records in Soldier Field don't belong to a Bears quarterback, they belong to Favre. He certainly didn't struggle against them in the earlier game this year. He played well aside from a couple mistakes. Our team had the dropsies and fumblitis. Nor did he struggle against them the first 13 years of his career when we beat them 80 percent of the time. Do your homework, Bub.
TMR: Favre's line: 153 yards passing, no touchdowns, two interceptions. Just saying
Lorie Cox (from the ESPN Conversation pages of my "Love/Hate") Brett Favre rules and you are just mad.
TMR: Well, I can't argue with that.
Brandon (Bellingham, Wash.) TMR, I must say you may have gotten me to the Super Bowl of fantasy this year. Thanks to your Love/Hate column, I started Brandon Jacobs instead of Joseph Addai. So glad that I did! I don't care what they say about you. You're okay in my book.
TMR: Take that, Lorie Cox.
Shane (San Antonio, Texas) Shouldn't Kevin Curtis be credited with a touchdown for his fumble recovery in the end zone?
TMR: Different leagues play with different rules, but if you are asking me, personally, what I think? Yes, no question.
Tony (Glendale, Ariz.) Hey , how can you ever like Jerricho Cotchery? Two last names?! Never a crowd-pleaser. Also, you mentioned Tara Reid and attractive blonde. Are we partying like it's 1999? That's pretty much the last time she was an attractive blonde. Much love for you, sir!
TMR: Look, I wasn't saying you'd want Cotchery over, say, Braylon Edwards, but if it were closing time at the bar, and you were in a pinch, you could do a lot worse than Jerricho Cotchery. By the way, Tara Reid had 152 yards and a touchdown against the Titans.
Jeff Erpelding (Chanhassen, Minn.) Talented?! Talented?! Because of you, I started Willie Parker and left Najeh Davenport in the clothes hamper!! Now I'm going to lose my championship game. Thanks a lot!
TMR: Another satisfied customer.
Jeff (Hartford, Conn.) "Look back at any historic event and somewhere, somehow, there's an attractive woman involved." Then you mention the Lewinsky scandal?
TMR: See Reid, Tara.
cowboysdidi (from the ESPN Conversation pages of my "Love/Hate") Let me get this right, bench anyone having to do with the Panthers, ok i get that. Start T.O., OK, I get that too. Start barber, yup I'm still with you. Then bench Romo, lol, you don't want nobody to use anyone from the panthers because Dallas has a good D, so that means our offence is gonna have the ball alot, you know Witten is gonna do his thing, you already know T.O. is gonna do his thing, not to mention Barber running and catching and you want people to bench Romo. Lol. Everyone listen to the Talented Mr. Didi. Start Romo: 24-31 315 4 TDs. Hey Mr. Roto, watch and learn young grasshopper.
TMR: Romo's line was 257, one touchdown, two turnovers. Just saying.
Nash (Long Island, N.Y.) I have to say, I can't make heads or tails of your female dilemmas lately. I'm starting to wonder if "playing Madden" is code for a topic less than appropriate for a Disney-owned company. On one hand, I can't imagine any girls going back to some guy's hotel room after a night of partying to play Madden. On the other side, you're Matthew Berry, so they can't be that into you to begin with. I think the important thing is to just be comfortable with yourself, and if the goose won't play with the gander, then the gander will have to play [one player]. Thanks for all the enjoyable columns and keep up the good work.
TMR: This is either the most intelligent e-mail I've ever gotten or the dumbest.
You can be my cyberfriend and read my personal blog here: myespn.go.com/MatthewBerry.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy in charge of content. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner and the only writer in the industry with wins in multiple sports (NFL, MLB, NBA). Be sure to check him out every Sunday on "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" at 11 a.m. ET.