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Tuesday 17th Oct 2017

Each Friday, the inimitable Lord Zola explores the grid iron, fantasy football, and other variations upon the theme.

Please accept my apologies for the tardiness and brevity of this week’s offering, my focus has been on the December 1 launch of our 2012 Platinum product.  I had a comeback week of sorts, finishing 155th out of a little over 2400 contestants in the SiriusXM fantasy Football Salary Cap Challenge.  I probably should not say this but I have a decent feeling about this week’s entry.

QB: Tom Brady ($8000) – Maybe Brady will show some respect for his long-time rivals and sometimes nemesis, the Indianapolis Colts and go easy on them.  And maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.

RB: LeGarrette Blount ($7300) – Blount is running with purpose and has even shown some life in the passing game.

RB: Chris Johnson ($5800) – This week he finds the end zone!

WR: Antonio Brown ($5200) – The Steelers are still perceived as a running team which means Rashard Mendenhall is overvalued and Antonio Brown is undervalued.

WR: Victor Cruz ($6100) – The Giants are going to have to score to keep up with the Packers and Cruz has a nose for the end zone.

WR: Hakeem Nicks ($7500) – Did I mention the Giants have to score A LOT this week?

TE: Tony Gonzalez ($6300) – I am 99% convinced that if I crunch the numbers and do a bang for the buck analysis with this format, the top end tight ends will be severely overvalued and the proper play is to go dirt cheap at the position.  Truth be told, I almost did that this week, if for no other reason than to diversify away from two NYG receivers, but I have this sneaky suspicion the Giants score A LOT of points this week.

FLEX: Laurent Robinson ($5400) – Tony Romo’s new bud keeps getting it done, though I am guessing he does not look so hot in Daisy Dukes.

K: Mike Nugent ($4000) – The powers that be finally adjusted Dan Bailey’s salary upward, causing a collective groan of the 2500 or so participants still submitting lineups as we are now forced to look for another cheap kicker.

DEF: New England Patriots ($4000) – In general, the Pats defense is nothing special, but they are beginning to show some tendencies of a Bill Belichick coached group when playing with a lead, which they should have this week against the hapless Colts.

Good luck to all your teams as the playoffs are almost upon us.  Given that we at Mastersball like to say no one cares about your team but you, I am in the midst of my best fantasy football season ever as I am on the verge of clinching a playoff berth in all five of my head to head leagues, while I am battling my comrades Lawr and GaryJ for supremacy in Kathy League Gifford, an all-play format.

Here’s hoping your Turkey Day was full of thanks and fun spent with family and friends.  Hopefully your spirit was not dampened by spending the majority of your FAAB budget on Kevin Smith to watch him sprain his ankle and perhaps end his season.  If you own Matt Stafford or especially Calvin Johnson, hopefully the tryptophan did not kick in before their garbage time touchdown hookup.

Before I jump into this week’s entry into the SiriusXM Fantasy Football Salary Cap Challenge, here are some observations from the Thanksgiving Day slate of games, with the note I was traveling and otherwise detained from catching much of the Cowboy-Dolphin tilt.

I know there are tons of mouths to feed in Green Bay and it is not like the Packers have had a difficult time scoring, but I do not understand why they do not use Jermichael Finley similarly to how New England uses Rob Gronkowski.  Finley certainly has the physical ability to mimic the role but the defending Super Bowl champs seem content to use their gifted tight end as a decoy and not game plan around his talent.

Speaking of Gronk, he reminds me of playing touch football in my youth, where two completes was a first down.  In order to get enough of the neighborhood kids to play, you had to throw them a pass or two, but when you needed it, you threw to Gronk for the first down.

Next year, I am going to petition for the NFL Network to carry one of the early games.  I swear, if I had not turned the sound down, I was going to barf if I heard “NFL Red Zone presents the top five plays from Sunday afternoon” one more time.  Think about it, after barfing, you could eat all over again!

Ndamukong Suh is an asstard.

Did you know Jim and John Harbaugh were brothers?

Imagine the numbers if Brandon Marshall had Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers tossing him the pigskin.

Good for Laurent Robinson for stepping up in Miles Austin’ absence and good for Tony Romo for recognizing how hard he has worked.  I do not know enough about the X’s and O’s of the game to say shame on Dez Bryant and Jason Witten for not stepping up, but at minimum, they have disappointed their owners from a fantasy standpoint.

Okay, let’s move onto the SiriusXM contest.  Last week was a bounceback of sorts, but still nowhere near the top 5 percent where I resided earlier.

QB: Drew Brees ($7700) – I came real close to breaking the streak of using Brees or Rodgers and switching to Cam Newton, but at the end of the day, I decided to go with the guy I trust a little more, playing at home against the Giants whose pass defense is not at the level of previous seasons.

RB: Matt Forte ($9300) – I love the player and love the matchup against the Raiders, even if it is on the road, but I don’t like how Marion Barber has been vulturing touchdowns.  However, Barber is brought in for only true goal-line situations and Forte is a threat to score from a few yards out so I will hope he manages to reach pay dirt and not get stopped at the one yard line, setting up the Barber plunge.

RB: Chris Johnson ($6000) – This is my swing for the fences play of the week as Johnson has the juiciest matchup on the board versus the Bucs and though it is cliché, if he cannot get it done this week, he may as well hang up his cleats.  At this point, in a competition like this, I am looking for that one big score as competing for the overall went out the window weeks ago and chances like Johnson are necessary.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald ($8200) – Every week, I choose my last player based on how much salary I have left and this week that player was Fitzgerald.  I am going to be honest, I have not seen the Cardinals play this season, so this selection was largely based on Fitzgerald’s placing near the top of most rankings lists this week.  I am hoping my fantasy football brethren know their shizzle.

WR: Victor Cruz ($5000) – If fantasy football were like baseball, we would probably be saying Cruz’ BABIP is lucky, it just seems like he is always in the right place at the right time, catching tips and deflections and taking it to the house.  That said, he has developed a rapport with Eli Manning and as suggested earlier, the Giants are going to have to match the Saints air attack so Cruz should get a bunch of looks.

WR: Greg Little ($4000) – I have had my eye on Little all season, anticipating a late season breakout and I think he is primed to come through for me this week.  He has been getting progressively more involved with the Browns offense and is poised to take off against interstate rival Bengals, though the game is in Cincinnati.  Still, as far as the bottom end salary choices go, I sense it is Little’s time.

TE: Rob Gronkowski ($8000) – Sorry, I had to do it.  I admit this pick is part homer as I am a Patriot fan, but come on, the guy is a flippin’ beast!  My theory is a guy should either be able to beat the other guy up or be fast enough to run away from him, Gronk can beat you up or catch you if you try to run away.

FLEX: Kevin Smith ($4000) – I am obviously not the only one cursing Smith’s plight from Thursday, especially since he picked up where he left off last week.  He was once again a major part of the passing game and was piling up the fantasy points.  Oh well, at least I did not burn a waiver pick or spend my remaining FAAB budget on him.

D/ST: St. Louis Rams ($4000) – The obvious play is to seek the bottom barrel salaried defense with the most favorable opponent and this week, the Rams fit the bill as they take on the Arizona Cardinals at home.

K: Dan Bailey ($3800) – Lather, rinse, repeat.

Good luck to you and your teams this Sunday.  Hopefully, you clinch or are one step closer to a playoff berth.

One of my favorite strategies when it comes to assembling a fantasy football team is to take advantage of the fluidity of the running backs and look to upgrade my RB2 as the year progresses.  The first step in this process is to take some fliers on running backs during your draft and hope you can keep them long enough so they get their chance.  Coming into this season, I identified four targets and at least to this point, I have chosen poorly.  While the likes of Delone Carter and Kendall Hunter populate many of my rosters, my opponents are reaping the benefits of my passing on Roy Helu and DeMarco Murray.  I suppose I should not complain about this, but I will anyway.  In the leagues I could most use help at RB2, I have been at or near the top of the standings and waivers are via reverse standings which means I get my choice of the best available defense every week, not the hot running back or wide receiver.  The good news is we are getting close to the point in the season where the standings are getting striated and teams need to make a desperation trade to compete or in keeper leagues, make a deal to help next season.  I hope I have put myself in a position to take advantage either way and make a deal to augment my running back position.

I was frolicking in the Arizona sun last week and was unable to discuss my entry in the SiriusXM Salary Cap Challenge, which as it turns out was a good thing as my scuffles continue after a solid start.  But that is not going to stop me from plugging away again.  And actually, I feel a little better about this week’s entry as the salaries have been adjusted for the first time this season so we all have to review the inventory to find the bargains.

QB: Matthew Stafford ($6300) – I ended up with Stafford by default as I decided to move away from the very top tier of QB, pick the other positions and see what was left, then decide if there was someone I liked to fit in under the cap.  As it turns out, Stafford fits perfectly.  He has struggled a little the past few weeks so his number has fallen a bit.  The Bears defense is good, but it is not the daunting unit of the past and it can be beaten by the pass.

RB: Arian Foster ($9800) – When healthy, I feel Foster is the most dangerous player in the league, and he is looking pretty spry.  The fact he is a threat both as a runner and a receiver means he is not likely to put up a complete buzzkill game, and with Andre Johnson still out, Foster will be called upon to make things happen catching balls out of the backfield.

RB : Roy Helu ($4000) – I am pretty sure anyone paying attention will have Helu on their roster after last week’s 14 catch explosion.  You don’t need me to tell you he won’t do that again, but it is pretty obvious Helu is now the man in Mike Shanahan’s offense.  And with due respect to the nickname “Shenanigans” when it comes to how the Redskins Head Coach handles his backfield, sometimes you use a committee when you have no Chairman.

WR: Calvin Johnson ($8900) – While there is something to be said for diversifying your portfolio, I have no issue double-dipping with the Lions QB/WR combo.  I used to think the only person that could guard Michael Jordan back in the day was Michael Jordan.  While Megatron obviously does not play defense so the line is not quite the same, you get my point, the only person that can cover Johnson would be his defensive twin.

WR: Brandon Lloyd ($6400) – As the season wears on and Sam Bradford and Lloyd get to know each other better, Lloyd has the chance to be a real difference maker.  If you have a chance to get Lloyd in a deal, he makes a great target for a squad looking to fortify for a playoff run.

WR: Earl Bennett ($4000) – While I do not expect Bennett to go off, he is the favorite receiver of Jay Cutler who has quietly ratcheted up his game lately.  In a PPR league, Bennett will do his job which is important as you need some stable foundation from which to build upon.

Flex: Willis McGehee ($4700) – This is the selection I like the least as it seems too much like a lemming pick, but McGehee is the starter and the price is right.  I am not counting on another long scamper, but a solid day against the Chiefs is likely.

TE: Jason Witten ($7700) – Going rather expensive at tight end hindered the QB slot, but I like the way it turned out.  With Miles Austin out again, there is a good chance Witten has a larger role in the game plan, and he is always Tony Romo’s safety blanket so his production should be quite high.

K: Robbie Gould ($4000) – Again hoping to zag while most everyone else zigs and takes the cheapest active kicker, Dan Dailey.  I can fit in the extra couple hundred and Gould should be good for at least a couple of field goals against rival Detroit.

DEF: Jacksonville ($4000) – So, do you still think Curtis Painter isn’t that bad?

Good luck to you and your squads this week.

Try, try again.

And that is exactly what I am going to do in the SiriusXM Salary Cap Challenge even though the format has been kicking me in the gut the past several weeks.

With the obvious disclaimer that sometimes other priorities take precedence, this is the same attitude anyone playing fantasy sports should take: play it out to the bitter end.  You owe it to the rest of your league to keep plugging away regardless of your team’s plight, just as you expect your opponents to continue to play hard when you are having a better season.  I’m pretty sure that’s what Tim Tebow would do anyway.

Here is the motley crew that is going to right my flailing ship.

QB: Aaron Rodgers ($8700) – I have had the good fortune and pleasure to watch the majority of Tom Brady’s passes over the past several seasons and if Rodgers is considered the best QB in football, he has got to be good to be better than Brady.

RB: Adrian Peterson ($9700) – He comes at a high price, but desperate times call for desperate measures and I am more comfortable with some of the lower-priced receivers this week, so I am going all in with “All Day”.

RB: LeSean McCoy ($9500) – To start with, McCoy is good.  Now factor in the team may be without Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin and who knows how DeSean Jackson will react to last week’s bitch-slap from Head Coach Andy Reid, common sense dictates the game plan will go through McCoy.  Did I mention he is good?

WR: Jordy Nelson ($5700) – Part hunch, part hope, there are plenty of catches to go around in Green Bay and I am hoping Nelson continues to take what most originally thought would be intended for Jermichael Finley.  OK, I’ll admit it, I have Finley going in a league I need to win in and I am willing to sacrifice my SiriusXM entry to play the reverse jinx game and have Finley go off.

WR: Denarius Moore ($4800) – The Raiders are responding quite well to Carson Palmer and Moore has emerged as his go to guy, which is nice since he is a threat to score with every touch.

WR: Laurent Robinson ($4000) – Chances are a huge percentage of entries will be on Robinson after last week’s exploits and the key to this format is being ahead of the curve, but I need some low end salaries and should have enough players at other spots to differentiate my squad.

TE: Jake Ballard ($5000) – As it ended up, I filled this position last so I needed to find someone to give me the best bang for the available buck.  Ballard needs to score to be worth this spot, but he seems to be a favorite red zone target of Eli Manning so I took a shot.  Plus, one of my best buddies growing up was named Ballard so I am hoping he brings me luck.  Yeah, I know, this is analogous to the cute secretary picking winners based on her favorite uniforms, but I will take any charm I can get at this point.

FLEX: Marshawn Lynch ($4300) – Lynch is quietly having a very nice season, finding the end zone in the past five games and getting increasing touches as the season progresses.

D/ST: New England Patriots ($4000) – Coming into the season, it was expected that the Pats D would be behind with the short preseason but improve as the season wore on.  Injuries have curtailed the growth a bit, but things are beginning to gel, particularly with respect to pressuring the opposing QB.  With the Chiefs starting a rookie who is likely to be playing from behind, this should give Andre Carter et al the chance to keep up the pressure.  Add in the stage of Monday Night Football and this is a compelling choice, especially at the rock bottom price.

K: Dan Bailey ($3800) – I have screwed enough trying to go against the grain, hoping the other 6000+ entrants pick Bailey and he sucks while I pick the guy that boots five FG.

Good luck this week.  Hopefully, you are battling for a playoff spot and not playing for just personal pride.

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.

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