OUCH!! Fantasy karma bit me in the butt hard last week as I had a gigantic turd of a week in the SiriusXM Salary Cap Challenge. If it was not for my decision to switch to Drew Brees after riding Aaron Rodgers for several weeks it would have been worse. And it is not like Rodgers stunk up the joint, just that Brees had a game for the ages with five touchdowns.
Part of my woes was the injuries suffered by Darren McFadden and Earnest Graham. McFadden’s was particularly painful since the week previous, I specifically stated I was reticent to use the Raiders tailback in a challenge format since he has a propensity to start but not finish games due to injury. I got greedy and should have continued to practice what I preach. Graham was just dumb luck, of the bad variety.
It was not all injury, however, as I picked a couple of guys who simply spit the bit in Ray Rice and Miles Austin and, to a lesser extent, Pierre Garcon. I am not kicking myself too much over Garcon as you really cannot expect much from the lowest priced players. Another poor choice was the Oakland Raider defense which has led to a new rule of thumb for challenge formats, and that is try to play defenses and marginal skill position players at home. In baseball, if you look at a player’s skills home versus away, you will find that on the average the player is about 10 percent better at home. While I do not know if a similar impact can be quantified in football, I do know the guys who are partially responsible for constructing those big hotels with all the pretty lights in Las Vegas give a three-point advantage to home teams, so it stands to reason the players perform better in their more comfortable digs.
With that as a backdrop, here is my army of ten that I will take into battle this week.
QB: Drew Brees ($8000) – While he is on the road, Brees will be in a dome, facing the defenseless Rams. Until I see evidence that it is not wise to expect consecutive stellar performances, I will look at the matchups in a vacuum and not get spooked by being concerned he “can’t do it twice in a row.”
RB: Fred Jackson ($8500) – Dear Fred, I really missed you last week when you were on bye. Hopefully you still remember that you are really good and can run really fast and can catch lots of passes and stuff.
RB: Arian Foster ($7800) – Probably a challenge fixture going forward, Foster is cheaper than the top running backs and could be the most productive going forward. It remains to be seen how Andre Johnson’s return impacts his touches and effectiveness as Foster has been catching a ton of balls, but as of this writing, it sounds as if the Texans' ace wideout will miss another week.
WR: Hakeem Nicks ($8300) – Early reports are that it could be raining in Northern New Jersey, so I may switch out of this pick come Sunday, but for now, I like the matchup versus the Dolphins, especially because Eli Manning is one of those players I would prefer at home, so it follows that Nicks would prosper there as well.
WR: Steve Smith ($7200) – I don’t love this pick as it is obviously dependent on Cam Newton remembering his Superman cape, but at home versus a vulnerable Viking pass defense, I will roll the dice.
TE: Jermaine Gresham ($4000) – Taking a pair of high priced RB and WR forces me to go on the cheap with tight end and Gresham is the best of the frugal lot. That said, it is not like he is a scrub. He is in most top-10 positional rankings this week and he fits the new dictum, playing borderline players at home.
FLEX: Darren Sproles ($4000) – Like TE, I am forced to look at the low end of the salaries to fit under the cap and Sproles sticks out like a sore thumb. The point per reception nature of the contest keeps him from being a total bust and he is always a threat to scamper a long way every time he touches the ball.
D/ST: New Orleans ($4300) – Oh well, so much for playing defenses at home, I guess even rules of thumb were made to be broken. My rational is partly price driven in that I only have $4400 to spend on this spot, but the matchup versus an injured Sam Bradford or healthy AJ Feely screams “Pick-6.” The Saints should be ahead, allowing their D to tee off and get some sacks and force some turnovers.
K: Dan Bailey ($3800) – Cheapest kicker in the league and even though everyone is playing him, I will continue to follow suit. In theory, if you are in one of these things and are competing for the overall prize but are behind, at some point you need to go against the grain and pick players who are not widely owned. I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it. Right now, I need to recover from last week’s debacle so I need to hope Bailey continues to rack up points and I use the extra cap space better than everyone else.