Well, that was terrible.
I am speaking, of course, about last week's column.
Figured it was a shot at the Monday night officiating crew, the inadvertent whistle and all the terrible calls? Nope. Those were pretty horrific. But not as bad as last week's column.
I've been doing a weekly column for over 15 years now, and to this day, I never know how folks will react to one. And when I turned in last week's Love/Hate, little did I realize I was about to learn a very valuable lesson.
People feel very strongly about pool noodle etiquette.
In general, fantasy football traffic to columns is similar to the season as a whole. The most interest (and traffic) is in the preseason. As the year progresses, the traffic and interest wane as teams are out of it, holidays start and so on and so forth. So it says something that the Week 11 edition was one of the most shared this year. Cousins, college roommates, former co-workers, current co-workers and many, many others who have never commented on a column to me before reached out with opinions. My inbox overflowed, my Twitter and Facebook exploded and there were three times as many comments on the column than there normally is.
All of these notes told me a few things. First -- and this is the headline -- I did a terrible job writing that column. Just brutal. Start to finish, just a bad job by me, and so if you're somehow back and reading this after last week, well, thanks. I had a different column idea planned for this week, but after seeing all the questions, comments and reactions to #noodlegate, I knew I had to address it. So here we go. A TMR FAQ, if you will.
Q: So, you say you did a terrible job with last week's column. How so?
A: Where to start?
Q: At the beginning? Seriously, how bad at this writing thing are you?
A: First, I either totally misjudged the story, was completely off on the tone or, more than likely, both. When this incident happened, I immediately thought it would be a funny story.
Q: Oh, that was supposed to be funny?
A: Yeah, exactly. It was supposed to be and it just wasn't. When I was doing it, I was thinking it was like a "Seinfeld" episode, right? Among the many things that were brilliant about "Seinfeld" was the way they explored the gray areas of social norms and the insanity of minutiae. Like the "Parking Space" episode of the show, in which George and Jerry's friend Mike argue and refuse to move their cars, both feeling they have a right to the last parking space. The idea of two grown men, in a pool, arguing over a pool noodle, struck me as pretty funny. Which it could have been if I hadn't completely botched it.
Q: You did not just compare yourself to Seinfeld, did you, you self-delusional megalomaniac?
A: No, just that the story reminded me of the kind of thing that show might explore. Who has the right to use common pool toys?
Q: You know that the point of that show was that all four main characters were self-absorbed jerks, right?
A: Exactly. I'm not real proud of how I acted and the other guy shouldn't be, either.
Q: Why would you write a story that showed you in such a poor light? I mean, I read that story and now I hate you.
A: Yeah, that was a frequent comment. I don't know. I like to write about myself and I try to be very honest when I do. And the truth is I am a very flawed human being. I've admitted that many times, in this column and on my podcast, and I don't try to whitewash stuff when discussing me or my life. So yeah, I knew I wasn't going to come off in the best light, but thought the story was worth it and thought, frankly, that while no one was a hero in the story, the other guy was worse for yanking the noodle out of my daughter's hands.
Q: But after he asked politely, what was he supposed to do?
A: Well, he didn't, though. He was an aggressive jerk from moment one. I thought my writing was strong enough to make it obvious that he was aggressive from the start, but obviously, it didn't. There were a ton of mistakes I made with that column, but among them was I should have been more clear about some things. Also, I cut out certain details that I thought made the story too long and weren't important. But in taking a beat and rereading it without a deadline hanging over me, I realize I should have included them.
Q: Like what?
A: Well, I should have set up the whole situation better. Not to rehash everything, but quickly:
1. We were at the pool all day long. Because it was cold we spent most of it in the hot tub or eating by the pool. We didn't go to the pool until the afternoon, when the sun came out. But we saw the pool all day and in the shallow end of the pool, all day long (and every single day we were there) there were a lot of toys for kids to use floating in the pool. Noodles, floats, plastic ships, water guns, etc. I was told some were provided by the hotel, some left by guests who had bought them and didn't want to bring them back on the plane with them.
2. All day long kids were coming, using toys, putting them back, other kids came, etc. There was nowhere on the property to buy additional toys, incidentally, otherwise I would have done that.
3. Some toys were by chairs along with towels, books, etc. Obviously I would never take something from someone's chair, but my experience at this pool (and other places) is "in the pool, fair game."
4. It was a fairly small pool area, so you sort of got to know familiar faces, etc. The guy (the noodle owner) wasn't at the pool at all when we started playing with them. In other words, he had left (I assumed for good) and then apparently came back at some point.
All of this, to me, is fairly boring background, but in hindsight, probably should have been mentioned.
Q: So what, if I just leave my car unattended are you just gonna steal that, too?
A: Yeah, that's a weird one and I got a bunch of different versions of that on Twitter and Facebook. It's insane and not at all similar.
Q: But you admit they weren't yours, right?
A: Of course. Never said they were. But by being in the middle of the pool with all the other toys, they appeared to be for anyone to use. The guy even said he had left them there for others to use.
Q: OK, but you also admit that once he asked for them back you needed to give them back, right?
A: Yeah. I was wrong there, too. Another thing I wasn't clear about: He approached me like a jerk -- he was very gruff from the get go, demanding the noodles back and it hit me as weird because I had just seen him arrive, and since I had grabbed them from the "community area" (not from his chair or anything), I was taken aback. His attitude rubbed me the wrong way. The other thing that clouded my judgment of the whole episode was that five minutes after his kid got the noodles back he stopped playing with them and dumped them back in the pool.
To me, it looked like he just wanted to prove he could take the noodles back whenever he wanted. I ignored the noodles at that point because I wasn't dealing with that again. I didn't mention it because I thought it was past the story at that point, but that definitely colored my point of view in hindsight.
Q: Then what was the whole "I think I was right" thing about? Don't try and backtrack now, weasel. Don't forget: One commenter posted last week that "people like you ruin the great good will of humanity." And it got 96 likes, so don't think he's alone, you animal.
A: I'm sure he's not. Look, everyone knows that if there's one thing that's ruining humanity, it's a fantasy football column about pool noodles. Duh. Anyway, once my daughters (or anyone for that matter) were playing with them, he was wrong for taking them away, even if they were his. I said I'd be happy to give them back once they were done. But I stand by that. If you were at a playground and you left your basketball in the middle of the court for anyone to use, you can't just stop the game in the middle and say it's my ball, I'm leaving. If you're not prepared to let folks use it until they are finished, don't leave it.
Q: They were his!
A: Yeah, but my daughters were 3. You don't take toys away from 3-year-olds. I know some disagree with me, but that's the part I think I'm right about. Once you leave them (and leave the area!) and little kids start playing, you have to let 3-year-olds finish playing. And then he grabbed the noodles out of their hands and I lost it.
Q: But then your wife came up.
A: Yeah, that was another thing I screwed up. Thought there was a funny thing about how you're in the middle of something, your wife comes up and totally takes the other side. Thought there was a fun dynamic in the whole husband/wife "Don't you have my back?" kind of thing. And there probably is, I just wrote it so poorly that it didn't land at all, except for the part where everyone wrote to say they agreed with my wife.
Q: Well, she was right.
A: They don't call her my better half for nothing.
Q: Is there anything good that came out of this?
A: Two things, actually: I have to admit it was kind of interesting to me that so many people got worked up over a dumb pool noodle story.
Q: Eh. Slow news week. What's the other thing?
Q: Last question: Between the opening story every week and the advice, should this column be read? By anyone? Ever?
A: Not. At. All.
During Thanksgiving week, thanks as always to anyone who cared enough about me or the column to send reasonable and constructive criticism, to everyone here at ESPN and to two guys who would never yank a pool noodle out of a 3-year-old's hands, Jacob Nitzberg and Robert Nelson of ESPN Stats & Information. Let's get to it.
Quarterbacks I Love in Week 12
Brian Hoyer, Texans: Friend texted me yesterday. "Am I crazy to start Brian Hoyer over Tom Brady?" I told him I had Brady ranked higher than Hoyer this week, but not by a lot and he most definitely wasn't crazy. And frankly, if Danny Amendola is out Sunday night, I'm gonna have to look long and hard at that ranking. Meanwhile, you can fire Rob Ryan but that doesn't mean you're not stuck with a Rob Ryan defense. The Saints are near the bottom of almost every statistical category, including most yards per reception, most passing touchdowns allowed, tied for the fewest interceptions and they have allowed 49 more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than any other team in the National Football League. You wanna know what to buy me on Black Friday? A schedule that allows my quarterback to play them every week. Hoyer had at least 17 points in five straight games prior to his injury and now he's back, getting to throw to DeAndre Hopkins. Yummy.
Matthew Stafford, Lions: I got three words for you: Jim. Bob. Cooter. I got three more for you. Eagles. Defense. TravelingonashortweekaftergivingupfivescorestoWinston. The Eagles have given up 10 passing TDs with just one interception to Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill and Matt Cassel in the past three games. Since Week 9, they have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Averaging 17.5 points in the two games since his bye, Stafford is a legit top-10 play this week.
Eli Manning, Giants: Manning has had 10 days to prepare for Washington's defense, and, quick question, how much of it do you think he spent laughing at the idea that it can contain Odell Beckham Jr.? In the three games since the start of last season where Manning has had eight or more days to prepare, he's averaging 257 yards with seven touchdowns and just one interception. And I wouldn't be shocked if he has more, as the Redskins have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in five straight games and in seven of their past eight. Past three against my boys? He has 829 yards passing and nine touchdowns.
So you're saying there's a chance: I know, I know. Blake Bortles was not good in a nice matchup with the Titans last Thursday. I get it. But the Chargers are 30th against the pass the past five weeks and Bortles has at least 15 points in seven of 10 games this season. I say Sunday he makes it eight of 11. ... Like most quarterbacks, Teddy Bridgewater is actually pretty good when not pressured, completing 72.9 percent of his passes for 8.1 yards per attempt. Under pressure, those numbers drop to 41.6 percent and 4.9 yards per attempt. The Falcons pressure opposing quarterbacks at the second-lowest rate in the league, so I feel he'll be usable against Atlanta. ... At least 28 points for Kirk Cousins in back-to-back home games, and against a Giants team that has allowed the most passing yards per game in the past five, I like his chances for another strong start. Do I like that? Indeed, Mr. Cousins, I do in fact like that.
The Price is Right: For those playing daily, I like all of the players I mentioned above (Kirk Cousins for just $5,400! Brian Hoyer for just $5,000!), but here are a few others I like specific to their prices on DraftKings.com.
When he has been healthy, Josh McCown has been solid and gets the starter's job handed back to him gift-wrapped courtesy of Johnny Football. The Ravens actually have played better defense recently, but at home on Monday Night, McCown won't need to do much to earn his $5,000 salary. ... Ryan Fitzpatrick is also just $5,000 at home, facing a Dolphins team that is 23rd against the pass the past five weeks. Fitzy has double-digit fantasy points in every game he's finished this season.
Quarterbacks I Hate in Week 12
Jay Cutler, Bears: Cutler at Lambeau? No thanks. (See what I did there? Thanksgiving? No thanks? Hahahaha. Oh, what do you know. This is gold, Jerry. Gold!) In four career starts on the road versus Green Bay, Cutler has completed just 51.1 percent of his passes and has thrown three touchdowns and 12 interceptions, with multiple picks in all four games. With the possibility that he'll have no Alshon Jeffery and a banged-up Martellus Bennett ... pass.
Tyrod Taylor, Bills: Hurt, on the road, and falling back to Earth after a hot start. K.C. has not allowed multiple passing TDs in a game since Week 5. The Chiefs have allowed fewer than 250 passing yards in six consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league. They have also allowed the third-fewest rushing yards (77) to opposing QBs this season and have not allowed a rushing touchdown to a quarterback.
Running Backs I Love in Week 12
Eddie Lacy, Packers: Been a brutal year for Lacy owners. It's Lacy, it's Starks, it's Lacy, no, it's Starks. Wait, no, it's actually ... Lacy. Basically, the only way you could tell if you should start Lacy was if he was on your bench. If you sat him, that was the week to start him. Simple. You believe, or you do not. Thought he finally looked like Eddie Lacy last week, and against a Bears team that is 25th against the run the past five weeks, I say he will look like that again. Top-12 play for me. Especially if you put him on your bench.
Chris Johnson, Cardinals: Been a bit of a dry spell for CJ2K but that ends Sunday. The volume is there -- Johnson has a league-high 73 carries in his past three games -- and no doubt, the matchup is right. No defense is allowing more rushing yards per game or more rushing touchdowns this season than the San Francisco 49ers. Second in the NFL in yards after contact average (among running backs with at least 145 carries), Johnson had 150 total yards and two scores the previous time he faced San Fran.
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars: You keep trying long enough and eventually it happens for you. True in the workforce, true in my career, true for T.J. Yeldon. Six straight games with at least 16 touches, only one team has allowed more rushing touchdowns than the San Diego Chargers. With 10 days to prep for this home game, Yeldon is a strong RB2 this week.
So you're telling me there's a chance: What are they going to do, let Matt Schaub throw it? Exactly. Not sure I love his prospects for the rest of the season, but Javorius Allen, the man they call Buck, should find success on Monday Night against the Browns, who have the 26th-ranked run defense in the past five weeks. ... Chris Ivory wore down in the second half last season and whether it's happening again or it was because of game flow, the fact remains Bilal Powell out-snapped Ivory last week and got all three red zone snaps. I have Ivory ranked higher but Powell is an interesting flex in PPR this week, especially against a Miami team that has given up the most PPR fantasy points to opposing running backs. ... With New England's passing game banged-up and teams having a little bit of success running against Denver (well, at least Kansas City did), I could see this being a "LeGarrette Blount game." Have him as a top-20 play.
The Price is Right: Doug Martin is a top-five play for me against the Colts' 21st-ranked run defense, and yet at $5,800, he's just eighth in price. ... It's actually not a great matchup, but at just $4,500, Thomas Rawls' volume of carries should be enough to have him earn that price and more. ... If Charcandrick West misses this game, Spencer Ware at $3,800 will be a strong play against a Bills team that has allowed at least 85 rushing yards to running backs in five straight games and has given up five touchdowns to running backs in that time. ... Mentioned Bilal Powell earlier, but given DraftKings' PPR format and his $3,300 price tag, he'll have a usable floor if you want to punt the position.
Running Backs I Hate in Week 12
Jeremy Hill, Bengals: After last week, everyone will start him, and of course, he will crush your hopes and dreams. The Rams are allowing the fewest yards per rush after contact (1.28) and for a big guy, Hill sure has been easy to bring down this season: He's averaging 1.38 yards after contact per rush, 44th out of 49 qualified RBs. Out of his 132 touches, zero has gone for longer than 15 yards. If you start him, you're hoping he falls into the end zone, which certainly could happen, but it's not something I'd want to bank on.
Frank Gore, Colts: Love Gore in general and hope I'm wrong, but he's banged-up, Ahmad Bradshaw is taking some of his snaps, and very quietly, the Bucs have a solid run defense. Tampa Bay has allowed the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game to opposing running backs in the past five weeks.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins: Why doesn't Dan Campbell love him like I do? Whyyyyyy? So, not only was Miller's snap count down last week (68.8 percent of snaps after having played 81.4 percent in the previous two weeks), but he was asked to block on 21.2 percent of them. Meanwhile, Jay Ajayi's snap percentage is on the rise (10 percent in his first game, 18.6 percent in his second game, 25 percent last week), and when they bring him in, they're not asking him to block (he's played 32 snaps and was asked to block just three times). The Jets are back at home after a tough loss, and I expect them to concentrate on stopping Miller in a nearly must-win game. The Jets have allowed only one running back to score a rushing touchdown this year (to Darren Sproles, of all people, in Week 3).
Wide Receivers I Love in Week 12
Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, Jets: Listed at 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-3 respectively, they face a Dolphins defense that has exactly one defensive back listed at taller than 6-foot-1, and that is rookie Tony Lippett, who has played 29 snaps all season. Marshall and Decker rank second and tied for third in the NFL on targets on passes thrown into the end zone this season.
Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers: Played 77 percent of the snaps last week, and you know I like me some Winston this week. If Vontae Davis plays, I would expect the 6-foot-5 Jackson to run most of his routes at 6-foot-Nothing Greg Toler, who has struggled this year (Pro Football Focus has Toler ranked 80th in pass coverage this year out of 110 ranked corners). With three scores in the four games in which he's caught more than two passes this year, Jackson is a WR2 with upside this weekend.
Michael Crabtree, Raiders: I know, I know. Last week was terrible. Been there, covered that. But I still believe in the guy getting the most targets on the Raiders going against a recently better but still burnable Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
So you're telling me there's a chance: Over the past four weeks, the Jets' defense has allowed eight scores on deep passes (15+ yards downfield), three more than any other team, and it may be without Darrelle Revis. If that's the case, then Rishard Matthews and Kenny Stills, in that order, become interesting darts throws. ... Speaking of deep throws, the 49ers have allowed the third-most receptions and second-most receiving yards on deep passes to opposing WRs this season. So Michael Floyd if he's active, and J.J. Nelson if he's not, should be on your radar. ... Nate Washington has lined up on the right side more often than any other position this season. That would match him up on those snaps with Saints CB Brandon Browner (ranked No. 112 out of 112 corners by Pro Football Focus). ... If Kendall Wright is back, I like him in PPR lining up in the slot against D.J. Hayden, currently ranked 106th out of 112 corners by PFF.
The Price Is Right: As always, I like everyone I just mentioned in daily this week, but specific to their prices on DraftKings.com, I'm on board with DeAndre Hopkins. The consensus No. 1 wideout among all the rankers, he's worth ponying up for at $9,100. ... Washington doesn't have any two people who can cover Odell Beckham Jr., so feel comfy in his $8,700 price. ... With seven catches in consecutive games, Steve Johnson is growing into his "Keenan Allen" role and I expect the Chargers to have a lot more success with Jacksonville than they did with K.C. Johnson's price is just $4,500. ... All Chris Givens needs is one play, and against Cleveland's banged-up secondary (29th versus the pass the past five weeks), it's worth $3,400 to see if he gets one. Wouldn't use him in cash games, but like his upside in tournaments.
Wide Receivers I Hate in Week 12
Dez Bryant, Cowboys: I desperately hope I'm wrong on this one. And if you have him, you gotta start him. But as a Dez owner myself, I'm really nervous. Still doesn't look 100 percent healthy and now faces Josh Norman, who is having a ridiculous year. Overall, the Panthers have allowed a 54.5 completion percentage on throws to wide receivers this season, second best in the league. You're still starting him, but I have him as more of a WR2 than a WR1 this week and I'm not paying up for him in daily except as a contrarian tournament play.
Stefon Diggs, Vikings: Led by Desmond Trufant, the Falcons have allowed the fewest catches and receiving yards, and are tied for the fewest receiving touchdowns (just one!) to opposing receivers lined up out wide this season. Diggs has lined up there on 87 percent of his snaps. Sometimes, it's just not that complicated.
Sammy Watkins, Bills: Tyrod Taylor is banged up and Watkins has been held under 50 yards in four of his past five games. Chiefs are all that and a plate of BBQ lately, allowing the fewest passing yards per game and being the No. 1 scoring defense the past five weeks. Sometimes, it's even less complicated.
Tight Ends I Love in Week 12
Gary Barnidge, Browns: The man they call "Barnkowski" -- and by they, I really mean me, and not even all the time -- is the happiest to see Josh McCown back under center. He's had double-digit standard points in every game they've played together this season.
Delanie Walker, Titans: OK, sure, playing the Raiders helps. They've certainly improved as the year has gone on, but volume and Walker's talent combined with a matchup against a Raiders team that has given up four scores to tight ends in the past five games make him a top-five play for me.
So you're telling me there's a chance: I'm not scared of Seattle when it comes to starting Heath Miller, who's averaging seven targets a game with Ben Roethlisberger under center. The Seahawks are tied for the third-most fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. ... With what's left of the Ravens, I could see Matt Schaub lean even more on Crockett Gillmore against a Browns team that is tied for the second-most receptions and tied for the most receiving touchdowns on passes to opposing TEs in the red zone this season. Of active players on Baltimore, Gilmore leads the Ravens in red zone targets. ... With Martellus Bennett ruled out for Thursday night, Zach Miller is worth a look against a Packers team that allows the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
The Price Is Right: Consider Coby Fleener at $3,000. Didn't really pan out last week in what was a weird game against Atlanta. But as we discussed on Fantasy Football Now, Matt Hasselbeck and Fleener vacationed together on the bye week, Hasselbeck likes Fleener as a football player and given his current arm strength and Tampa Bay's defense against tight ends (over 80 yards a game in three of the past five and three scores in those games), Fleener makes a nice punt. ... Brent Celek has 11 catches for 213 yards in the past two games and Zach Ertz is out against Detroit. He's just $3,200.
Tight Ends I Hate in Week 12
Charles Clay, Bills: If his performance hasn't turned you off him yet, maybe his matchup will. The last tight end to eclipse 25 receiving yards in a game against the Chiefs was Martellus Bennett, who had 32 yards in Week 5. The Chiefs have allowed just two touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season.
Eric Ebron, Lions: For all the struggles the Eagles have had, they actually defend the tight end fairly well, allowing just the second-fewest points to the position this season. Ebron also has seven drops this season, which is the most among TEs, and that includes one in the end zone last week.
Defenses I Love in Week 12:
Kansas City Chiefs: Double-digit fantasy points in four straight and in five of the past six. The Bills are traveling on a short week with a banged-up quarterback. That'll work.
Houston Texans: See Brees, Drew. In addition to Brees' struggles on the road, the Texans have really turned it around recently, with double-digit points in three straight and in four of the past five.
So you're telling me there's a chance: Don't look now, but the Bucs have back-to-back double-digit games, have yet to have a negative point game and, as great a story as Matt Hasselbeck is, he's still a 40-year-old quarterback without a ton of mobility behind a shaky offensive line. ... Given what a hot mess Philly is these days, the Lions are worth a look at home against an Eagles team travelling on a short week.
The Price Is Right: Specific to their price on DraftKings.com, I like the Cincinnati Bengals for just $3,000, the Chiefs at just $2,800 and the Lions at the bargain basement price of $2,200.
Defenses I Hate in Week 12
Denver Broncos: Probably have no choice but to start them, but it's worth noting that opposing defenses have scored a total of 0 points against New England this season, and no team has ever scored more than 6. The Patriots have just eight turnovers this season, tied for the second fewest in the league.
Buffalo Bills: Travelling on a short week into a poor matchup. The Chiefs are the other team with only eight turnovers this season, and Alex Smith has not thrown an interception since Week 3. Opposing defenses have scored in double digits just once against the Chiefs.
That'll do it for this week. Have a great holiday and good luck in Week 12!
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is asleep on the couch as you read this. He is a paid spokesman for DraftKings.com and the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price.