DPD Fantasy Football Friday: Eliminating Doubt


I have a fantasy football buddy in my office. We play in different leagues so we’re free to exchange our true opinions and strategies. We spend a lot of time by the coffee maker swapping stories and asking each other questions.

He’s got major running back problems. He’s lost Ryan Grant for the year, and now has a Michael Turner injury to mull over. He was wise enough to acquire Jason Snelling, and is now trying to figure out who to play this week against New Orleans. We went back and forth over how good Frank Gore looked against the Saints on Monday night, and how good Snelling looked against the Cardinals after Turner left with his injury. Then he voiced a concern that I think we all wrestle with in fantasy football:

You have two guys on your team, you can only play one, and you have this sinking feeling that the guy you sit will blow up, and the guy you play will suck. What do you do? Or…

How do you manage doubt on your fantasy team?

Snelling has looked great in relief of Turner. He tore up the Cardinals last week, and scored huge last year for the Falcons too. Jerious Norwood is on IR, so Snelling looks like a sexy play.

But Turner is Turner. The Falcons paid the guy big bucks to control their offense, not Snelling, and you drafted him in the first round to play every week, not platoon him with other players based on match-ups.

And there is your answer. Obviously the situation could be simpler – Watch the injury report right up until kickoff and if Turner is OUT, then it’s easy: start Snelling.

But the reason that decision is easy is because there is no doubt over who you play right?

However, it looks like Michael Turner will be active come Sunday, and the Falcons might give Snelling a chunk of the carriers. I was tempted to suggest my coworker roll the dice with Jason Snelling, but in reality that is the risky play. Starting Michael Turner is the smart play.

Coaches in the NFL are not playing fantasy, they are playing for real, so concealing their game plans until the last minute gives them a competitive advantage. Injury management, or reading into a coach’s game plan overall, is what gives us the most headaches in fantasy football, but that’s also what makes it great. It’s complicated.

But the more you try to out-think an NFL coach, the more you are going to beat yourself. Eliminating doubt position by position is what I think every fantasy manager is trying to do.

You want to isolate guys for every position that you start without question, regardless of match-up, week in and week out. That way there is no second guessing, there is no doubt.

I don’t want to be doing research the night before game day, trying to figure out if I should play Joseph Addai against the Broncos, or Jamal Charles against the 49ers. No. I want Adrian Peterson like assurances.

Not everyone has an Adrian Peterson, so you’re going to have to trust who you do have – Dance with the girl you’re taking to the prom. Sure you might get beat today playing Michael Turner, but over the course of the long season your goal is to be right more than you are wrong.

Wouldn’t you feel worse starting Snelling, and seeing Turner blow up on your bench, than the other way around?

And that’s not to say Snelling isn’t going to score more points. Everyone gets beat in fantasy football with a decision like that, but the good managers get beat by it less.

You spent your first round pick on Turner for a reason, leave it at that. When the difficult choice comes, you’ve got to aim small to miss small.

Bengals @ Panthers
This is an interesting match-up because the Panthers remind me a lot of the Browns right now. They have a decent defense with no real household names, and will be playing with a replacement quarterback. The Browns and Panthers both want to run the ball and can’t really pass it at all. They both get the Bengals at home over the next two weeks.

This could be a preview of how the Bengals handle a team like the Browns on the road.

I think Cedric Benson makes up for his past two games in this one. The Bengals were behind the Patriots by 30 points at halftime so they abandoned the run in that game, and the Ravens have a terrific defense. This seems like a match-up the Bengals were all about last year: Grinding a team down with their running game, and playing aggressive on defense.

I don’t think the Bengals will need to throw a ton in this one, so I wouldn’t be shocked if Chad Ochocinco and TO have underwhelming games.

On the other side the Panthers are giving Jimmy Clausen his first NFL start against a terrific pass defense. Start the Bengals’ Defense/Special Teams if you can, and watch to see if Clausen has a crush on an unknown receiver, like Dwayne Jarrett, David Gettis, or Brandon LaFell. The Panther running attack should suffer from all the factors already mentioned.

Steelers @ Bucs
The Steelers play the Bucs on their home turf just like the Browns did, but somehow I have a feeling the heat index on the field won’t be 105 degrees. This will be a good test for the Buccaneers. They’ll have home field advantage and the better quarterback, but they’ll also see the best defense in the league. If they get blown out, the Browns are in serious trouble. But I think this one winds up being close, which would be better for us.

Not a lot of fantasy firepower here otherwise. The Buccaneers have given Cadillac Williams the second most touches of any back in the NFL so far, and his 2.6 yards per carry average is awful. And they’ve played the Browns and Panthers. Other than that I can’t endorse anyone playing with a fourth string QB, or anyone playing against Troy Polamalu.

Cowboys @ Texans
Was I only the person who didn’t know Dez Bryant was returning punts for the Cowboys? Sweet…

Anyway, the Texans turned their game against the Redskins into a shootout, so the odds of this one going that way are even better. Both teams have played excellent against the run thus far, making Miles Austin and Andre Johnson possibly the two best WR plays out there for Week 3.

The Cowboys reek of despair, so they might try to cram two wins worth of points into this one if they can. Plus, I think that means Felix Jones has a good game. He’s their most electrifying player next Austin, and I just get the feeling Jerry Jones has been in Wade Phillip’s ear about getting him the ball these next few games, or else…

Arian Foster could struggle in this one. Despite their record, the Cowboys rush defense has been pretty sturdy so far. Ditto for Marion Barber: the Texans are not an automatic run friendly match-up anymore.

Eagles @ Jaguars
The Eagles are such an enigma right now. Michael Vick is hot, but who has he played? The Packers in garbage time, and the Lions. And what does this team have on defense? I keep reading they are soft in the secondary, but I thought this team churned out good corners and safeties like butter.

Jahvid Best wrecked them in all facets last game, so you’d have to think Maurice Jones Drew will do the same, especially at home.

We also might forget that, for as good as Michael Vick is playing right now, he’s always been a high and low guy. He’s had great passing games before but has never been consistently good at it. In his heyday nobody could defend his legs, so the field was sort of unusually open for him – sort of like LeBron James having an unusual amount of space to shoot jumpers because everyone is so afraid of his drive.

The season before he went to prison, Vick had grown tired of everyone grumbling about his lack of passing growth. Week 8 of 2006, he had a huge game against Cincinnati on the road, throwing for 291 yards and 3 scores, no interceptions, and a rating of 142.7. The win got the Falcons to 5-3, but instead of being happy, Vick went on a tirade in the locker room, telling every reporter within earshot to shut up and never question his throwing ability again. Next week against Detroit he tossed up a stinky egg: 17-32 for 163 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, leading to a 30-14 loss.

Vick didn’t get better at passing in jail, believe me he got worse, so there will be games when he just doesn’t have it. I like the Jaguars at home here is what I am getting at.

Packers @ Bears
Both teams are 2-0 in the NFC North which suddenly makes this a huge game. My gut says shootout. The home team on Monday Night Football usually gives you the best game they have with their crowd behind them (see San Francisco and Kansas City playing way over their heads on MNF already). Jay Cutler should have a good game for that reason alone, not to mention behind Michael Vick, he’s statistically the hottest QB in the league right now.

Aaron Rogers is no slouch either, and the same defense that gave Derek Anderson the starting job for Arizona will be ripe for the Packers to pick.

Random Stats

(1) Raise your hand if you had the guts to reach for Miles Austin over Roddy White, Brandon Marshall, Reggie Wayne, or Andre Johnson even. If you did he has rewarded you thus far as the league leader in receiving yards, receiving yards per game, plays of 20 yards or more, catches, and 1st downs.

(2) Roddy White leads the league with 35 receiving targets through two weeks. The first running back on that list? Jahvid Best with 20 targets, he’s tied for 11th overall.

(3) The longest receiving plays of the year so far have been turned in by running backs. Matt Forte has the longest at 89 yards, and Jahvid Best is second with a catch for 75.

(4) Chris Johnson has the second longest run of the year at 76 yards. He has only gained 100 total rushing yards in his other 42 attempts. That 76 yard run brings his yards per carry average from a dissatisfying 2.3, up to an acceptable 4.1.

(5) Michael Vick leads all runners with 7.4 yards per carry average. Naturally he leads all QBs in that category too.

(6) Seattle rushing earners – Justin Forsett has 87 rushing yards and 0 TD; Julius Jones 30 rushing yards and 0 TD; Matt Hasselbeck has 25 rushing yards and 2 TDs.

(7) Three QBs have completed better than 70% of their passes: Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and David Garrard?

(8) Jay Cutler leads the league in QB rating. He’s also tops in yards per pass attempt, which makes sense since he threw the longest pass of the year.

(9) Josh Freeman has a higher QB rating than Aaron Rodgers, Donovan McNabb, Matt Ryan, and Toni Romo. He’s also thrown more TD passes than Carson Palmer and Drew Brees.

(10) Did you realize Browns’ kicker Phil Dawson has missed both of his field goal attempts this year, giving him the worst conversion rate in the league at 0.0%? Couple that with the fact the Browns lost one game by three points, and another by two.