@UpRootCha1 was straight and to the point.
"@MatthewBerryTMR I miss the love/hate column. Was so awesome over the years. (Three heart-eye emojis)."
@UpRootCha1 is not alone in their sentiments.
@BragantheRules tweeted: "Bring back Love/Hate please. These aren't doing it."
@rex_johns said, "I miss the Love/Hate column! Bring it back!"
And so on. I have gotten many positive and supportive tweets over the past four weeks about my new 50 Facts column format and certainly, people are still reading it, for which I am eternally grateful. But I would also be lying if I said that every week, after every column post, I don't get replies like these as well.
In tweets, texts, comments on my posts in the Fantasy Life app and in conversations with friends, I have heard the same refrain for a month now. "I get why you did it, but man, I really miss Love/Hate."
The challenge, of course, is that all of the same issues that caused me to retire the column in the first place still exist. Due to some boring internal things and some extenuating circumstances, the truth is my schedule is actually even more hectic and compressed than I originally anticipated.
So why am I writing about this? Isn't the solution to just ignore the comments, put out the new column and go about my life? Numbers are still good, ESPN is happy with me, and as I just said, I'm busier than ever.
All of which makes sense and would work perfectly fine except for one small issue: I miss it, too.
Make no mistake: I really enjoy the 50 Facts column. I love the process of the research, of figuring out which stats I want to use, of fitting the puzzle pieces together, as it were, to put them in the right order to build my case.
But it's not Love/Hate. Love/Hate was a part of my life for 20 years. If you choose to do something for 20 years and don't miss it, something's wrong.
But still ... is there any way to do this?
After talking to a bunch of people -- an informal focus group, if you will -- I zeroed in on what I think people like about the column. Everyone takes something different, of course, but I believe for the most part one of the big things people like about the column is the intro. Well, I can do that. I've already been doing that all along with 50 Facts. The other big thing they like are many names -- just knowing which players I "love" or "hate."
Could I do that? And maybe give a stat or two about each guy, but not go into the in-depth analysis like I used to? Because after the intro, that's the part that takes the most time. The long paragraph about each player.
So when I would make predictions, especially in written form, each of them was like a mini-thesis. Even if I got it wrong, I felt, I wanted you to see at least a decent chunk of all the thought process behind it and the research that went into creating that prediction.
Every week, from 1999 until this past August, that's what I did. As my role changed and I got the opportunity to do more and more at ESPN, I never stopped that process. Five thousand-plus words, every week, rain or shine. Some columns better than others, of course, but all of them with blood, sweat, tears, thought, worrying, writing and rewriting until the early morning the following day. One of my favorite authors, the late, great Douglas Adams, used to say, "Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds."
And that work habit carried over to other areas of the company as well. It was a hard lesson I learned as I started doing more and more television. I would spit out all these stats -- too many to process for someone watching -- but it was an ego thing. I had done the work and, well, I wanted to prove it. Which I did in my mind, but to the viewer at home it probably just sounded like a ton of numbers all mashed together.
As I reflected on all of this and the lessons I've learned from TV -- that sometimes less is more -- I wondered if maybe that was the solution. Look, I've done the work. I do it all day, every day, 24/7. I live, eat, breathe and sleep fantasy football. But condensing a page of all that research -- about every single player -- into one robust paragraph takes forever.
As I talked with my editors, the question was raised: What if I just ask the audience to trust that I have done the work? They have watched, read and listened to me for almost 20 years professionally, the last 11 on ESPN. If they don't trust me by now, they're never gonna.
So how about if we made rules, we thought? Rules that we explained to the audience. Bring back the old format -- players you love, others receiving votes and players you hate, sorted by position. Still do the intros, but make them a bit shorter. Try to do more players, but with shorter analysis; no more than three sentences on a player. Skip the explanation of the premise we did every week and add in the ESPN point total projection to each player, so that readers know a "LOVE" means I think they meet or exceed the projected points and a "HATE" means they fall short. That simple. Bingo, bango and be done with it.
Basically, a "good parts" version of Love/Hate for you, less writing for me. We'll call it Love/Hate 2.0. Or, as I prefer: Love/Hate 2: Electric Boogaloo.
I thought that would work. It's still going to mean a long night at the office, but it seems more doable, and it gives the people what they've told me they want. So, then, the only reason not to do it was, honestly, ego.
I mean, come on. Six weeks ago, I wrote a 14,000-word teary-eyed goodbye to Love/Hate. And now I'm coming back? Who am I, Mike Francesa? If I do this, am I saying 50 Facts is New Coke? Remember when Michael Jordan tried baseball and then had to go crawling back to hoops? That's what it'll look like, right?
But then I thought, "Well, that's dumb." To not do the column just because of ego? Look, it's embarrassing and stupid and I'm sure I look silly to some. But that seems like a dumb reason not to do it. And I did give myself an out in the retirement column, saying I reserved the right to bail on the whole thing and come back. So make fun of me all you want on this. I know it's coming and I get it. Quick, someone make a meme of a computer hanging over a phone line a la Marshawn's shoes.
But I'm giving the people what they want. I miss Love/Hate and want it back, even if it's in a shorter, "to-go" version. And hey, from Marshawn Lynch to Magic Johnson to Michael Phelps to The Eagles to George Foreman to Letterman ... to guys like Nick Saban and John Calipari, who coached in the pros for a nanosecond only to scurry back to college ... to The Who to Mario Lemieux to, yes, Mike Francesa, the Coca-Cola corporation, the GOAT Michael Jordan and a zillion others I am sure I am forgetting ... I'm in pretty good company with my waffling.
Did you know George Washington unretired TWICE? Once to lead the Continental Army against the British and another time to become, you know, the PRESIDENT. So yeah, just like G-Dubs, I'm back, baby. Let's get to it.
NOTE: All projection values below are from late Wednesday and are subject to change.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 5
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Falcons (ESPN projection: 19.9): Through four games, the Falcons' pass defense has allowed the eighth-most passing yards, seventh-most touchdown passes, fifth-highest completion percentage and the second-most completions. They are missing four defensive starters and the over/under for this game is 57 (highest for any game this season). My No. 1 QB this week.
Matt Ryan at Steelers (ESPN projection: 19.2): Through four games, Ryan has more fantasy points than he did in the first four games of 2016, when he won the MVP and was the No. 2 QB in fantasy. Good times roll along this week while facing a Steelers defense that has allowed a league-high 21 deep completions and seven deep TD passes. Ryan is top six in the NFL this season in deep completions, deep completion percentage and deep TDs.
Jared Goff at Seahawks (ESPN projection: 17.9 points): Coming off a Thursday night destruction of Minnesota, Goff has had a long week to prepare for a Seahawks team that will be without Earl Thomas and has allowed 22 total passing TDs and 1,301 yards on deep passes over its past 16 games. Top-five play for me this week.
Others receiving votes: Matthew Stafford is averaging 313 passing yards in his past six games against Green Bay and has 14 touchdowns in those games, and the Lions refuse to give a ton of work to Kerryon Johnson. ... Playing on a short week after a road game, the Chiefs have yet to allow fewer than 23 points in a game this season and have coughed up the second-most passing yards in the NFL. As streamers go, you could do worse than Blake Bortles. ... For the truly desperate, it's worth noting there are only five quarterbacks who have at least 15 points in all four weeks this season: Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers, Jared Goff and ... Joe Flacco. The Browns' defense is better, but it's not legendary. Expect Flacco to get at least 15 points here.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 5
Russell Wilson vs. Rams (ESPN projection: 16.6 points): He's just not running this year (42 yards total in four games) and he is coming off back-to-back games with less than 200 total yards. The Rams create pressure 36.1 percent of the time this season, the second-highest rank in the league, and when pressured this season, Wilson has completed just 47.2 percent of his passes for zero touchdowns and one interception.
Andrew Luck at Patriots (ESPN projection: 18.3 points): When the Patriots have been leading this season, their defense has the second-best completion percentage against. Traveling on a short week to Gillette with no T.Y. Hilton, no Jack Doyle and no Marlon Mack, Luck is outside my top 10.
Baker Mayfield vs. Ravens (ESPN projection: 14 points): I'm all-in on Baker season-long and for the Browns, but the Ravens are allowing a league-low 53.8 percent completion rate with only five passing touchdowns allowed in four games, and four of those were to red-hot (see what I did there?) Andy Dalton when they were traveling on a short week.
Running backs I love in Week 5
Christian McCaffrey vs. Giants (ESPN projection: 20.5 points): Since the beginning of last season, the Giants are allowing a league-high 5.84 yards per catch after the reception. Since he entered the league, McCaffrey ranks fourth in yards after the catch (trailing only Todd Gurley II, Alvin Kamara and Golden Tate).
James Conner vs. Falcons (ESPN projection: 20.9 points): The Falcons are missing four defensive starters from a defense that has given up the most receptions to opposing running backs. Conner is eighth among running backs in targets this season, and his 9.7 yards after the catch per reception is fifth among running backs. I want as much of this game as I can get. Giddy up.
T.J. Yeldon at Chiefs (ESPN projection: 16.3 points): When he gets at least 15 touches in a game, he averages 15.04 PPG for his career. That his AVERAGE. And now he gets a Chiefs defense on a short week that allows a league-high 5.73 yards per carry.
Sony Michel vs. Colts (ESPN projection: 13.7 points): Michel has touched the ball on 77 percent of his snaps this season, the highest percentage in the NFL. He's tied for the sixth-most carries in the NFL since making his debut in Week 2, and the Patriots have run the ball 43.4 percent of the time this season, the third-highest rate in the league. New England is a 10-point favorite.
Matt Breida vs. Cardinals (ESPN projection: 12.7 points): No team in the NFL is being run on more than the Arizona Cardinals. Thirty-five times a game, the highest rate since the 2010 Buffalo Bills. On the road with a young QB, expect 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan to lean on his running game, led by Breida, who is averaging 7.6 yards per carry this season.
Others receiving votes: Nyheim Hines leads the Colts with 22 receptions this season and Indy is the second-pass-heaviest offense in the NFL thus far. Did I mention the Colts are 10-point underdogs? ... I have been on record since early this summer that Aaron Jones is the most talented Packers running back and would be the one you want by midseason. But I think it happens sooner than that now, starting this week against a Lions team that allows the third-most yards per carry. ... I already mentioned Matt Breida, but I kind of think Alfred Morris gets enough run here in a great matchup to be flex-worthy for the desperate. Remember, Morris still leads the team in carries and Arizona has given up eight touchdowns to opposing running backs, most in the NFL. ALF still gets the majority of red zone work and has a decent chance of falling into the end zone here.
Running backs I hate in Week 5
LeSean McCoy vs. Titans (ESPN projection: 10.6 points): There have been 101 instances this season in which a player touched the ball at least 14 times in a game. McCoy is not one of the players who have. It's hard to expect heavy volume, and now he faces a Titans defense that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season.
Dalvin Cook at Eagles (ESPN projection: 12.9 points): Obvious health concerns and the offensive line is doing him no favors, but his 36 carries have netted just 98 yards this season and he hasn't had a 10-plus-yard run since the first half of Week 1. The Eagles allow the fewest rushing yards per game and third-fewest yards per carry.
Lamar Miller vs. Cowboys (ESPN projection: 11.8 points): Miller has fewer than 15 carries in three straight games (and six of his past seven), and the Cowboys allow just 3.62 yards per carry this season (fifth lowest) and rank third in preventing yards per carry before first contact.
Mark Ingram vs. Redskins (ESPN projection: 13.2 points): It's not as easy a matchup as you might think (the Redskins are seventh against the run), so you're basically praying for a touchdown here. Given how well Alvin Kamara is playing, I find it hard to believe he comes off the field to give significant snaps to Ingram.
Pass-catchers I love in Week 5
Marvin Jones Jr. vs. Packers (ESPN projection: 13.2 points): You're already starting Golden Tate and Kenny "Babytron" Golladay, but did you know Jones leads the NFL with 10 end zone targets (all other Lions have a total of two)? So, I like his chances of getting a score here. Jones also has eight targets at least 20 yards downfield, tied for the sixth most in the NFL. The Packers have allowed eight such completions this season, tied for the sixth most.
Calvin Ridley at Steelers (ESPN projection: 11 points): He has to come back down to earth at some point, but you're not benching him now. Not this week, not this matchup. The Steelers have allowed a league-high 21 deep completions this season. Ridley has turned six deep targets into 138 yards and three touchdowns in the past three weeks.
Tyler Boyd vs. Dolphins (ESPN projection: 12.7 points): Here's the list of players with three straight games of six catches and 90 receiving yards: Adam Thielen, Brandin Cooks and ...Tyler Boyd. It's skewed a bit because A.J. Green got banged up in one game, but Boyd leads the Bengals in receptions (26), targets (35), routes (145) and receiving yards (349).
Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor vs. Vikings (ESPN projection: Ertz 15.9 points, Agholor 11.9 points): With Xavier Rhodes expected to shadow Alshon Jeffery, Carson Wentz should attack the slot the way the Rams did last week (9 completions for 165 yards and 3 TDs to the slot). Both Ertz and Agholor are top 10 in the NFL in targets and receptions from the slot.
Julian Edelman vs. Colts (ESPN projection: 12.9 points): Tom Brady can't welcome him back fast enough. Including playoffs, Edelman is averaging more than 12 targets per game in his past 10. Facing a beat-up Colts defense that is allowing the fifth-highest completion percentage this season, I'm firing him up Thursday night.
Jimmy Graham at Lions (ESPN projection: 11.1 points): With Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison all in various stages of banged up as I write this (Wednesday night), expect Rodgers to lean heavily on Graham against a Lions team that has allowed opponents to complete 75 percent of passes to TEs this season (sixth-highest rate). Over the past two weeks, Graham has been responsible for 30 percent of the Packers' red zone targets.
Others receiving votes: Quincy Enunwa continues to get major target share and this week faces a Broncos team that has allowed the second-most yards per attempt to the slot, not to mention the third-highest completion percentage when the slot is targeted. ... Another week with Evan Engram on the shelf, another productive week for Sterling Shepard, who ranks seventh among WRs in red zone target share this season (40 percent). The Panthers are the only team in the NFL yet to stop a red zone drive from resulting in a TD this season. ... Very quietly Dede Westbrook is fifth in the NFL in yards after the catch. This is worth noting considering the Chiefs allow the fifth-most yards per catch after the reception this season (6.66). ... With Corey Davis expected to be shadowed by Tre'Davious White, even more love should go to Taywan Taylor, whose 22.6 percent target share over the past two weeks ranks in the same range as Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill and Emmanuel Sanders. ... I've said I want as much of the Falcons-Steelers game as I can get and that includes Vance McDonald, who is averaging 16.7 yards per catch ... and much more yards per Conte.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 5
Corey Davis at Bills (ESPN projection: 13.2 points): As noted above, I expect a shadow by terrific young corner Tre'Davious White. Since the beginning of last season, the Bills have allowed the third-fewest deep completions, the third-fewest deep touchdowns and the ninth-lowest deep completion percentage. More than 45 percent of Davis' career receiving yards have come via the deep pass. Also, I'm not convinced yet that Marcus Mariota is any good.
Devin Funchess vs. Giants (ESPN projection: 11.1 points): Among the reasons I like Christian McCaffrey this week (outside the obvious) is that I expect Janoris Jenkins to shadow Funchess and be fairly successful at it. For all their struggles, the Giants have the fourth-best red zone defense this season and that matters because 77.8 percent of Funchess' career TD receptions have come in the red zone.
Amari Cooper at Chargers (ESPN projection: 12.2 points): Inconsistent as all get-out, this strikes me as a "down" game against Casey Hayward and the Chargers. Cooper has three or fewer catches in seven of his past nine games, and this is more than likely a big Jared Cook/Marshawn Lynch game. And without the volume, you're hoping for a touchdown. How lucky do you feel?
And there you go. Thanks as always to Kyle Soppe and Damian Dabrowski for their help with this column. Good to be back.
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, is in a deep league and has to start another guy who left and came back, Antonio Gates. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app and FantasyLife.com.