He was so excited. That's the thing I remember most.
My 13-year-old step son Matt is a middle child, not just in chronological order of being born, but stereotypically in terms of his personality. He is the quietest of the three boys, only really talking when he is with close friends or family. He gets stuck between wanting to be older and trying to hang with his high school brother, and not totally ready to leave kid mode by playing with his 9-year-old brother.
He's got great discipline. Every other kid I know begs, pleads, borrows and steals to stay up later. This kid, every night at 10, says good night and walks up to his room. We'll be watching a game together or something and I'll say to him, "Come on, it's tied up, why don't you stay till the end of this quarter?" And he's always like, "No. I need my sleep." I bring that up because he has a very strong sense of what is wrong and right and lives by this. And that's important to our tale today.
As is this: Sports come easy to him -- he's been the fastest kid in his grade for quite a while now, and even though he likes being the eighth-grade team's starting running back, he's never that excited when the team wins. He also is not that upset when he loses. In fact, he rarely gets upset or excited about anything. He is a quiet, reserved, even-keeled kid.
Which is why I noticed that he was excited.
He never gets excited. His uncle had recently given him a brand-new pair of expensive shoes for his birthday, but since they didn't quite fit right and the gift had been from out of state, returning them wasn't the simplest thing. So he decided to sell them online and use the money to buy himself a different present.
We encouraged him, because of the whole entrepreneurial aspect of it, and because we had never really seen him this excited before.
So he set up an account and tried to sell the shoes online. He was so meticulous, taking tons of pictures of the shoes to get just the right angle. And then he researched similar shoes on the site, setting the minimum bid price just under competing pairs of shoes. The kid was proud of himself, and when the shoes quickly sold, the smile was a mile wide.
You should have seen him packing these shoes up. It was like he was shipping a Fabergé egg. Or an organ. Wrapping and re-wrapping, making sure it's just right, extra paper and padding, bugging his mom and I to take him to the post office immediately. So we did, he sent it off, and two days later, we got the confirmation that the guy had gotten the package and signed for it. The money was in the account and the kid started going through his old video games, trying to find something else he could sell. He had a new hobby.
Until, just over a week later, Matt notices the money in his account is now gone, replaced by an online notice. The purchaser said the shoes never got there. He'd filed a complaint and he got a ruling in his favor. He got his money back and kept the shoes.
My son is confused, I am confused and I can't seem to find additional information.
The kid emails the guy who bought the shoes asking what the issue is? No answer. He messages him through the website, he emails again, nothing. No response. The guy is a ghost.
The kid doesn't get it. Why won't this guy answer? He got the shoes, why would he complain? Is Matt really out his new shoes and his birthday money?
With nowhere else to turn, I tracked down a phone number for the site. I need to talk to a human being. I wait on hold for more than an hour only to be told it's another site that I need to talk to about this issue. Sigh. So now I'm talking to the other site. They look it up and say they ruled in favor of the other guy because they didn't hear from me. What? Yes, apparently, they emailed me to say they ruled in favor of the other guy and, because they didn't hear from me, they returned the buyer's money.
I look. Yep, spam folder.
OK, I say, you're hearing from me now. I'm told the matter was closed after 14 days. And today is, wait for it, day 15. Of course. I ask for common sense. I have the tracking number and proof the guy signed for the package. They say policy is policy. I ask if I can appeal. She says sure, but you'll be turned down. Policy is policy and they have ruled. I appeal. I'm turned down.
The kid is beside himself. Filled with questions that his right-and-wrong world can't reconcile. "Why would someone do that? But didn't you tell the company we had proof? But what about ... I mean ... Can't we do anything? What about... Did this guy always want to rip me off? What if you called again? ..." Every question, and I have no good answers.
Eventually it sinks in. He's been ripped off and there's no remedy. And he's completely, totally, 100 percent crushed. The enthusiasm is gone. The smile forgotten. The shoulders slump.
He is back to not caring. Aloof. I do what I can. Does he want to go get some ice cream? See a movie, we can go out to dinner and he can pick? I'll buy him any pair of shoes he wants.
Whatever, he says. He no longer gives a damn. About anything.
And this kills me. If you saw how his face went from excited to sad, you'd be furious, too. I am so angry. Angry at this guy for stealing from my kid. I'm angry at the obscure rules and the fact they won't satisfy me. I'm angry that I have no recourse and that there seems to be no logic here. Angry that I had to see that expression on my kid's face. Angry that they made a sweet kid a little more hard-edged and a little less trusting. Angry at everything.
I have what is called "impotent rage." It's an actual term. It describes how I have anger toward this situation and I can't do anything about it. I can't take it out on the company or the individual. I mean, I could -- I know the guy's name and address -- but there's a certain way to act when you're a grown man in the public eye, and re-enacting the final scene of "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" isn't actually an option. So I'm just stuck, angry, confused, bitter and nowhere to go with any of my feelings. I know the feeling well. And so do you. Because impotent rage might as well also be called fantasy football. You draft your team. You do everything right and by the rules. Logic says you should do well. You're happy and filled with hope. And then it all comes crashing down in a way that makes no sense and you have this terrible frustration that you don't know what to do with.
What the hell happened, C.J. Spiller? Doug Martin and Ray Rice, are you serious with this? Thanks for nothing, Roddy White. Maybe if you sat out a game you'd be better by now. And your 1-4 team might actually have a chance to dig itself out. Any day now, Trent Richardson, Colin Kaepernick, Maurice Jones-Drew! Hey, Alex Smith, could you at least try to throw it to Dwayne Bowe? You know, the guy your team pays $56 million to run around out there? Dying to play, Gronk? Really? At this point, I'd rather start your mom. David Wilson (and you, Berry, for continuing to prop him up), Marques Colston, Chris Johnson, Jared Cook ... arghhhhhhh!
There's nothing to do. Because there is nothing you can do. Is it unfair that these studs are underperforming? That you're the one stuck with the bum? That some guy ripped off your kid instead of another? Yes. But as Springsteen once sang, you gotta learn to live with what you can't rise above.
You stop whining, you make some trades, you get more active on the wire, you spend a little more time on setting your lineup. You're 0-6? Well, 7-6 has a shot at making the playoffs. A long shot is better than no shot. Instead of the bitterness, try to focus on the positives, hard though it may be.
You still have a stud QB. You just picked up Keenan Allen. In the grand scheme of things, there are many worse things that can happen to one of your kids, and you can help take the sting out of it by buying him the gift he was going to get himself with that money. You try to move on and you hope for a better tomorrow. Here's to yours starting in Week 7.
And with that, we meander slowly in Love/Hate with all the usual caveats. Not a start-sit column; use my rankings for specific player-versus-player questions. And I am trying to avoid the obvious players: The loves are mostly about guys outside the top 10 or so unless there is a specific reason to discuss them; the hates are more risky, as I'm not hating on guys who are low-ranked -- the fact that they are not that good is why they are lower-ranked. The hates are good players you might be starting or considering starting, but for whom I have lower expectations.
One guy who always helps me rise above is Zach Rodgers of ESPN Stats & Information, so a big shoutout and thanks to him and the gang over there as we get to it.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 7:
Tony Romo, Cowboys: In case you're gun-shy after last week: Romo has more than 500 yards and five scores in his past two games against the Eagles, and with DeMarco Murray expected out for this game, the Cowboys will have to rely on the pass game even more -- which is fine when it's against the 31st-ranked pass defense. Romo is second in the NFL in touchdown-interception ratio, he's completing 75 percent of his passes when throwing from an empty backfield (again, expect less running), he's thrown a TD pass in 19 consecutive games and only two quarterbacks have a better completion percentage on throws 20 yards downfield than Tony. And since it's not like the Cowboys are a stout defense, I see this being a high-scoring game.
Nick Foles, Eagles: Well, if this is going to be a high-scoring game. ... A week after being the highest-scoring quarterback in fantasy, Foles gets a Cowboys defense that gives up the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. I have Foles as a top-12 option this week, ahead of some much bigger names. The number of possessions along with the need for scoring is a recipe for fantasy goodness (and, oddly, s'mores), and nothing changes this week for these teams.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: Am I really starting Rivers over someone like Tom Brady this week? I am. He's thrown for more than 400 yards in three of his past five games, and the emergence of Keenan Allen adds further incentive to start him. No team has allowed more passing touchdowns this season than the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If you're desperate: I wouldn't call Matt Ryan a desperate play, but I did just want to put something in here to say that, while losing a player of the quality of Julio Jones, and having Roddy White at less than 100 percent isn't ideal, it's still going to be a pass-first offense and he's still a very good quarterback. He'll be fine; use him if you normally would. ... Did you know that Eli Manning is fifth in the league in passing yards and tied for 10th in passing touchdowns? Of course, he's also turning the ball over every other play, but against a Vikings team that gives up more than 300 passing yards per game, it might not matter. He'll be solid Monday night. … At home, off a bye, Ryan Tannehill is a good bet for a solid game against Buffalo.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 7
Tom Brady, Patriots: This changes if Rob Gronkowski is healthy, but assuming he isn't, Brady falls outside the top 10 for me. Now, I have him just outside my top 10, so it's not like I'm expecting him to be terrible, but, as the wise man once said, "curb your enthusiasm." In 22 regular-season starts against the Jets, Brady has averaged just 241.4 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. He put up just 11 points against the Jets earlier this season, and he has 15 points or less in every game but one. I see this as a low-scoring game, and Brady will be fine but not putting up monster numbers this week. [Editor's Note: With the news that Rob Gronkowski has been cleared to play, Berry has inched Brady back into his top 10.]
Sam Bradford, Rams: I know, he threw three scores last week. He's the sixth-highest-scoring quarterback in fantasy. But I'm not sure how sustainable the touchdowns are; even in last week's blowout win in which he threw for three touchdowns, he had only 117 yards. In fact, over the past four weeks, Bradford has averaged 195.3 yards per game. And don't look now, but that Carolina defense we talked about in the preseason? It's still legit. No team has allowed fewer passing touchdowns or fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than your Carolina Panthers.
Joe Flacco, Ravens: Not Wacco for Flacco this week; this is a bad matchup. In five career games at Pittsburgh, Flacco has three games under 200 yards passing, has never had more than two touchdown passes, and for all of the Steelers' struggles this season, they're still statistically the fourth-ranked pass defense in the NFL.
Running backs I love in Week 7
Alfred Morris, Washington: Obvious name, but putting him here in case you were worried about Da Bears. Don't be. They aren't your daddy's Bears run defense anymore. Per the ancient proverb that "If Brandon Jacobs can do it ..." you're starting Morris and you aren't thinking twice about it.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals: His touches have increased in all but one week since the start of the season and Cincy is finally realizing what we all have known since the preseason: He's the best guy they've got, and it's not even close. A career-high 21 touches in Week 6 for the friend of the podcast, and you know you love this matchup. The Lions have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, the most yards per carry, and are tied for giving up the most receiving touchdowns to opposing running backs as well.
Eddie Lacy, Packers: Now do you get what I've been talking about? Over the past two weeks, no running back has more carries than Lacy, who is also second in the league in rushing during that span. The Browns have allowed eight rushing touchdowns this season, most in the league, and with Randall Cobb out with injury and James Jones possibly missing this game, expect the Pack to lean on the run even more.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers: Very simple. We know Williams will get a ton of work and it doesn't get better, matchup-wise. The Rams have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, and since Week 4, no team has allowed more rushing yards than St. Louis. And, gut call here, but I say Williams also gets his first rushing touchdown this year.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins: Two last names, not often a crowd-pleaser. Except when they play Buffalo.
If you're desperate: Despite the splitting of carries, it's hard not to like either Ryan Mathews or Danny Woodhead against a Jaguars team that has allowed seven rushing touchdowns this season, tied for the second-most. ... Since losing Vince Wilfork two weeks ago, the Patriots have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards, making Bilal Powell an interesting flex play in a low-scoring game. ... Brandon Jacobs? Brandon Jacobs. You saw what he did last week, he's the only guy they've got, and the Vikings are tied for fourth in terms of most rushing touchdowns allowed. … I expect more throwing than running, but Joseph Randle should get enough carries against a bad Philly team to be worthy of a flex start. ... Given everything I wrote about the Lions run defense, I wouldn't be shocked if the Law Firm punched one in in this game either.
Running backs I hate in Week 7
Chris Johnson, Titans: My impotent rage at Chris Johnson knows no bounds, especially since I've had him since his rookie season in a deep dynasty league, where I have no choice but to keep him. He has yet to score a rushing touchdown this season, his carries keep going down (just 12.3 carries per game and 1.9 yards per carry over the past three), and Johnson's coach was quoted recently as saying the Titans missed Shonn Greene. It doesn't get more insulting than that. It's actually a good matchup, as the 49ers are top-10 in most fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs and have given up more than 100 total yards and six scores to running backs in their past five games, so Johnson, based on matchup and touches, is in flex consideration, but ugh. I don't feel good about it. At all.
Le'Veon Bell, Steelers: More fun to say than to spell, Le'Veon is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry this year, and I don't see him doing much against a Ravens squad that has allowed just one rushing touchdown this year. Not a top-20 play for me.
Willis McGahee, Browns: Remember when I was all fired up last week about that trade that was offered to me and then, 15 minutes after it was offered, I went to accept it and was told the guy had made a deal with someone else? Well, the deal that was offered was Vincent Jackson for Willis McGahee. In a PPR. That was how little this guy thought of Jackson. Adding insult to injury, he traded Jackson for Joique Bell. I was bummed because I felt Jackson would bust out against Philly last week (he was in last week's "loves") and I knew McGahee would struggle. Which he will again against Green Bay's third-ranked run defense. McGahee is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry and is getting replaced on passing downs by Chris Ogbonnaya. I'm afraid my window to flip McGahee has closed. Sigh.
Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, Falcons: Just in case you were thinking they'll lean on their run game more with the injuries to Julio and Roddy. They might, but I don't think it matters. The Falcons averaged just 60 yards per game last season against Tampa, (by comparison, they averaged over 90 yards against everyone else) and the Bucs continue to play a tough run defense. No team averages fewer rushing yards allowed per carry after contact than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Wide receivers I love in Week 7
Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers: See McGahee, Willis. Hashtag BitterBerry. Since Mike Glennon took over in Week 4, Jackson has averaged 12.5 targets per game, most among wide receivers during that span. Meanwhile, your Atlanta Falcons rank in the bottom seven for the most receptions, yards and touchdowns per game allowed to opposing wide receivers.
Pierre Garcon, Washington: I swear, I'm not a homer. I'm going back to the well on Garcon because of the volume of targets. Seventeen times Garcon has been targeted on throws at least 15 yards downfield this season, more than twice as many as any other Washington player. When they throw deep, they throw to Pierre. Meanwhile, the Bears have allowed the second-most receptions at least 15 yards downfield in the league. Morris will run well, setting up play-action, and I think Garcon gets deep for one on Sunday.
Steve Smith, Panthers: At least seven targets in every game this year, the Rams are tied for the fifth-most fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. This, class, is called "when quantity meets quality." Yummy.
Justin Blackmon, Jaguars: Ha! Like you were ever gonna sit him after last week. Throwing him in here just because I like this stat: Over the past two weeks, Blackmon leads the NFL in targets, receptions, receiving yards and yards after the catch. Small sample size, but from the "He's all they've got" division, it's not like anyone is real scared of San Diego's 25th-ranked pass defense.
Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, Dolphins: I like guys off bye weeks, especially someone like Wallace, who can hopefully develop more chemistry with Tannehill. Matchup play here, as the Bills have allowed the third-most receiving yards on throws at least 15 yards downfield and are tied for third-most touchdowns allowed on such throws. Both guys are deep threats -- I have Wallace as a top-20 guy this week and Hartline in flex territory.
Josh Gordon, Browns: Since he returned in Week 3, no one has more targets or receiving yards in the league. At least 12 fantasy points in three of four games this year. Browns won't be able to run it against the Packers, so they'll be throwing. Green Bay has given up at least one touchdown to an opposing wide receiver in every game this year. They'll do it again on Sunday, and the player who gets that touchdown is Josh Gordon.
If you're desperate: Not only did Julian Edelman crush the Jets in their last meeting, but it's worth noting that the Jets have allowed the second-most yards after contact to slot receivers this season. ... Since Week 4, no wide receiver has run more routes than Keenan Allen's 119. During that span, Allen is tied for second in receptions and third in yards, and plays the stinky Jaguars. ... Since Ryan Fitzpatrick began starting in Week 5, only Reggie Wayne has more targets out of the slot than Kendall Wright. The 49ers have allowed two touchdowns to slot receivers in the last three weeks.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 7
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: Yes, he was on the hate list last week, too. And that did not, as the saying goes, work out for me. Got a lot of grief about this last week, especially after we all mentioned, both on "Sunday NFL Countdown" and on "Fantasy Football Now," that we were getting "bad vibes" on his availability to play. The source of Fitz probably not playing was a very, very good one, but a lot can happen between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and Fitz apparently felt good enough to give it a go. And you know what? I still say it was the right call.
Fitz was a beast, but much of that came on one big play that was a bit of a fluke in terms of coverage and missed tackles. Given how ice-cold Fitz had been, the matchup and his injury status, the odds said he wasn't a great play. Doesn't always work out, but you play the odds and many more times than not, the results fall in your favor. And the odds say Fitzgerald is a not a great play again this week. In his past six against Seattle, Fitzgerald has averaged just 4.8 receptions for 66.5 yards per game and only one touchdown. He's still banged up, it's a short week and the Seahawks, even on the road, are generally a tough defense. They're top-three in the NFL in both fewest receptions and yards per game to opposing wide receivers this season. You probably don't have better options so you're playing him, but I have him outside my top 20 this week. No matter how it turns out.
Anquan Boldin, 49ers: Six fantasy points or less in four of the last five games, he's not a consistent part of the offense as San Francisco goes to more of a power run game. Less than 30 yards in two straight, I don't like him against Tennessee, as the Titans have allowed just two touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this year, tied for second-fewest in the league.
Steve Johnson and Robert Woods, Bills: Johnson is banged up, they might have Matt Flynn throwing to them, and the Dolphins are the only team in the NFL yet to allow a touchdown to opposing wide receivers. No thanks.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: I'm sorry, America. I have no idea why Kansas City paid this guy so much money if it's not gonna try to get him more involved. I don't buy the "He's washed up and slower" talk. Just seems this offense has gone super-conservative, which, sadly for Bowe owners, is working for KC, so I don't see this changing. Bowe has yet to catch more than four passes or go for more than 58 yards in a game this season. Sigh. Brutal matchup as well, as no team has allowed fewer receptions or receiving yards to opposing wide receivers than the Texans.
Torrey Smith, Ravens: Now, I own him in two leagues, I'm starting him in both and I have him ranked inside the top 20, so understand that I'm not telling you to bench him (unless of course you have two better receivers, per my rankings). But normally I think he's a low-end top-10 guy. Last season against the Steelers, Smith averaged just two catches and 20 yards per game with no touchdowns. Only the Texans have allowed fewer yards to opposing wide receivers than the Steelers. And in fact, Pittsburgh held both Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green to 52 yards or less with no touchdowns this season. Ike Taylor is having a nice season and should be on Smith most of the game, so yeah, based on talent, I'm starting him, but I'm not using him in salary-cap leagues or our Gridiron Challenge one-and-done game.
Tight ends I love in Week 7
Jermichael Finley, Packers: The biggest beneficiary of Randall Cobb's injury, Finley had all of his 75 yards last week in the second half. With no Cobb, and James Jones at less than 100 percent (if he even plays), Finley should have a strong game against a Browns team that just struggled to cover Joseph Fauria.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: Generally speaking, I can't stand Rudolph as a fantasy player. But this week is one exception. I'd like him even more if Matt Cassel was the starting quarterback, but even if it's Josh Freeman, the Giants have allowed the fourth-most receptions and are tied for fourth-most in touchdowns allowed to opposing tight ends. Plus, new QB, not totally familiar with the playbook, I can see him checking down a decent amount to a big target in the middle of the field.
Heath Miller, Steelers: At least 70 yards in each of the two games since he came back. Ravens allow the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
If you're desperate: Jordan Reed has been targeted six times and tallied at least 50 receiving yards in his last two games. They like him in Washington and are trying to get him more involved. ...Over the last two weeks, since Mike Glennon took over, Timothy Wright is second only to Vincent Jackson on the Bucs in targets, receptions and yards. ... With no Julio, and Roddy either out or at less than 100 percent, lots of attention will go to Tony Gonzalez, which means I could see big Levine Toilolo scoring in this one.
Tight ends I hate in Week 7
Garrett Graham, Texans: Obviously, the quarterback situation in Houston is, shall we say, not ideal. Add in the fact that the Chiefs have allowed the fewest fantasy points, yards and are tied for the fewest touchdowns (zero) to opposing tight ends this season and you have yourselves an entry on the "hate" list.
Jared Cook, Rams: Last time I put him on the hate list, he went off, so maybe this will spark him to have another big day. Kyle Rudolph certainly did last week against the Panthers. Because otherwise, there's not a lot here. Under 50 yards receiving in five straight games, no scores, inconsistent blocking and route-running, he's not even the best fantasy tight end on his team these days, as Lance Kendricks has scored in three straight games. Can freely be dropped in 10-team leagues.
Team defenses I love in Week 7
Carolina Panthers: Available in over 60 percent of leagues, and only the Chiefs have held opponents to fewer points per game than Carolina this season. With Zac Stacy potentially less than 100 percent in this game (he missed Wednesday's practice) and the passing game in St. Louis still a work in progress, Carolina should have a solid day at home. The Panthers are also one of three teams holding opponents to fewer than 300 yards per game (the Texans and Seahawks are the other two).
Miami Dolphins: At home, off a bye, they might be playing against Matt Flynn.
If you're desperate: The Buffalo Bills are third in the league in sacks and tied for the league lead with 10 interceptions. Tannehill has been known to throw a pick or two, and no quarterback has been sacked more.
Team defense I hate in Week 7
Indianapolis Colts: Duh.
Houston Texans: Remember when they were the Texans? The Chiefs don't turn the ball over, the game is at Arrowhead ... no, don't see a lot of potential here.
St. Louis Rams: Last week was a fluke, I'm not buying them on the road at Cam & Co.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- still hasn't given up hope of getting revenge on the company or the guy, somehow. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. You may also have heard: He's written a book.