CHICAGO — As millions of fantasy football managers are preparing for the first week of the playoffs, Lakeview resident Kevin Baldwin will instead be focusing on his home's renovation.
Baldwin, 36, manages a team in a fantasy football league with fraternity brothers he met at the University of Illinois, and committed a feat experts say is nearly impossible when his team scored a measly 16 points in a game last month, costing him a shot at the playoffs.
"It's pretty extraordinary," said Michael Beller, Sports Illustrated's lead fantasy football writer, and a former Chicago resident.
"I wouldn't have thought it was possible to field a full lineup and [score] 16 points," he said. "I've never seen anything like this."
"It was legendarily awful," said Andy Schelitzche, a fraternity brother of Baldwin's and his opponent in the game.
"Ridiculous," conceded Baldwin.
To understand how Baldwin achieved what may be one of the lowest-known fantasy football scores recorded, you've got to look at his lineup, picked with precision by a manager who plays in two fantasy leagues a season and wanted a team stacked with wide receivers.
The ESPN fantasy football flex league awards six points for every touchdown, one point for every 10 yards earned by a running back or wide receiver, and one point for every 25 yards a quarterback throws. It takes away seven points if a defense allows 34-45 points.
Baldwin said he felt good going into this season, and by Week 12, his team was 6-5, poised to make the playoffs. But his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, was injured earlier in the season, causing Baldwin to fall back on Houston's Case Keenum. And, as Beller points out, Baldwin's roster was full "third- or fourth-tier players."
"That's not going to win most weeks for you," he said.
Even so, Baldwin said, the team consistently did well, scoring 80 or 90 points some weeks. The lineup wasn't stellar, but it was good enough to win six games to that point.
"I felt like I could have won any given week," he said.
Even when he lined up against Schelitzche in Week 12.
Keenum started at quarterback. Baldwin had the Colts' Donald Brown and the Panthers' DeAngelo Williams at running back. At wide receiver were Denver's Wes Welker, the Ravens' Marlon Brown and Jerricho Cotchery of the Steelers. Charles Clay of the Dolphins started at tight end. The Chiefs and their stingy defense anchored the team.
Schelitzche said Baldwin's team was projected to score 100 points that day.
But then, something — many things — went wrong.
"I thought there was something wrong with my phone," said Schelitzche, who was checking for updates throughout the day. "He had 10 or 15 points early and it never changed. I thought something was messed up."
"At first, I thought something didn't refresh, this can't be right," said Baldwin, as the team tanked, losing 91-16. "I said, 'Oh my God, you've gotta be kidding me.'"
Keenum threw for 169 yards and zero touchdowns, earning just four points. Donald Brown and Marlon Brown scored .5 points each, each with 1 yard of offense. Clay caught four passes, earning 4.5 points. Welker's four catches for 31 yards were good for five points. DeAngelo Williams ran for 31 yards, yielding a team-high 5.5 points. Cotchery laid an egg, scoring absolutely nothing.
The Chiefs got toasted by the Chargers that day, netting -7 points. Even Baldwin's kicker, Detroit's David Akers, disappointed, as he earned only three points.
At this point, some fantasy football managers might be wondering what went wrong, checking the players on their bench, kicking themselves for fielding a lineup that didn't produce.
"That's the funniest part of it all," Baldwin said. "I'm looking at my bench this week. I didn't leave anything on my bench."
Two of his players had a bye week, and didn't play. Baldwin kept Rodgers on his roster, looking forward to keeping him for another league in the future.
"Of the other three people on the bench, [they scored] a zero, a zero and six from Tony Gonzalez, who did a point-and-a-half better than Charles Clay. There's no explaining this. It's ridiculous," Baldwin lamented.
It wasn't just ridiculous. It's virtually impossible, said Beller, the Sports Illustrated guru, who estimated there's a "less than 1 percent" chance such mediocrity could be attained.
"To score 16 takes almost as much [effort] as someone who puts up 200 points," he said.
"I would have not believed that was possible, actively putting in a full, active team," Beller said. "That's a really, really bad week."
As for Baldwin's lineup, the historically low-scoring group that cost him a playoff spot?
The next week it put together 120 points.