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Friday 23rd Jun 2017

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

Just some random thoughts before I get to my entry into the SiriusXM Salary Cap Challenge for this week.

If you own Matt Stafford and have a backup that others can start and can upgrade your team at running back or wide receiver, keep in mind that Shaun Hill is a viable fantasy starter and is no doubt available for nothing, so trading away your backup and picking up Hill could strengthen your team.  You will just need a backup for Week 9 which should not be too hard to find.

Speaking of Detroit, if you own Jahvid Best or even if you don’t, jump on Maurice Morris.  I was quite surprised he was available for me at the end of the first round of this week’s waivers in a couple of leagues.  With so many players on bye, any starting running back has value.

With the acquisition of Brandon Lloyd this does not have the same punch, but even before the deal, I felt Sam Bradford was going to enjoy a better second half.

If you are carrying two defenses, drop one as there will be one available on waivers each week, I promise.

Now onto the SiriusXM Salary Cap Challenge.  Last week, I finished 142nd out of about 4000 entries.  For the season, I am 195th which is in the top 5 percent, not bad for a baseball geek.  There are only two SiriuxXM fantasy football hosts ahead of me.  Here is the first draft of the team I will enter this week.

QB: Drew Brees ($8000) – though it was difficult, I decided to switch to Brees from Aaron Rodgers.  I think Brees versus the Colts and Rodgers versus the Vikings is close enough to opt for the slightly cheaper Brees.

RB: Ray Rice ($9700) – the most expensive player in the contest, I love Rice this week and expect him to thrash the Jaguar defense, scoring a couple of touchdowns along the way.

RB: Darren McFadden ($9500) – Love the matchup against the Chiefs.  McFadden has come close to breaking off a few long TD runs.  This would be the week he gets one…..or two.

WR: Miles Austin ($6100) – Austin looked good last week in his return and should be ready to exploit the Rams secondary.  I have a feeling that Tony Romo wants to make a statement and there is no better way to do that than throw a few TD passes to your favorite target, with apologies to Dez Bryant.

WR: Dwayne Bowe ($6400) – This is my least confident pick of the week, primarily because I have yet to see the Chiefs play and I prefer to go with receivers with a QB I trust more than Matt Cassell, but Bowe is ranked quite high this week by those who are supposed to know what they are talking about.

WR: Pierre Garcon ($4000) – The Colts are going to have to throw to keep up with the Saints and Garcon continues to have something going with Curtis Painter, though his fumbling has me a little worried.

TE: Brandon Pettigrew ($4300) – After using the two most expensive RB, I could not fit in Calvin Johnson, but I still want a piece of the Lions’ passing attack and Pettigrew is a major component, especially in the red zone.

FLEX: Earnest Graham ($4000) – The perfect flex at that price, Graham will earn his keep with quantity of touches and if he scores, BONUS!

D: Oakland Raiders ($4000) – Again going on the cheap, the Raiders have a great matchup against the rival Chiefs and should rack up the fantasy points.

K: Dan Bailey ($3800) – I actually burned myself last week by getting cute and switching in John Kasay for Bailey, and while I can afford a slightly higher kicker since I am leaving $200 on the table, I will use Bailey since I like his matchup.

Good luck to your squads this week.

My good friend and ex-partner Jason Grey has a saying, “no one cares about your team but you.”  Sorry Jas, but if you had a week like I just had, you would write about it too.  I play in 5 standard head-to-head football leagues and one all-play where you face all the other teams in your league each week.  My head-to-head record for the week was 5-0 and I went 11-0 in the all-play format.  Best.  Week.  Ever.

Okay, here’s the deal – I know you could care less about my silly little teams.  But this past weekend reminded me why I play fantasy football.  I am still a baseball guy at heart, married to my spreadsheets.  I would not trade the 26-week grind of the baseball season for anything.  That said, there is something seriously cool about the in-the-moment thrill fantasy football provides.  I know there are head-to-head baseball leagues that are decided during Sunday Night Baseball, but the edge of your seat excitement pales in comparison to having Matt Stafford, Jahvid Best, Matt Forte and Nate Burleson active on Monday night in one league, while owning Calvin Johnson in two others.  Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) for my opponents, Megatron sealed the deal for me pretty early so they could just kick back and watch the game.  The guy I was facing with half my still playing was not so lucky, as he had Brandon Pettigrew who has established himself as a favorite target for Stafford on the rare occasion he does not throw the pigskin to Johnson.  I passed him at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the score was close enough that a couple of Pettigrew receptions including a touchdown would have flipped the score.  But at the end, Best was used to seal the deal, resulting in a double digit victory for yours truly.  Sure, I probably would have watched the game anyway, but with three outcomes on the line, this was must see TV for me.

I am sure that you can recall a game where you won or lost on a late TD or defensive play.  To me, this dynamic makes fantasy football a little different than fantasy baseball and adds enjoyment.  When you get right down to it, enjoyment is what it is all about, unless you are amongst the handful of players that are in it for just the money.  I know people like to debate the luck and skill element of fantasy sports, calling football checkers and baseball chess.  Personally, you can debate luck versus skill until the cows come home.  I will play so long as it is still fun and a source of enjoyment.  Right now, weeks like this past one trump the frustration of occasionally getting screwed from bad luck.

Actually, it was not a perfect week as my entry in the SiriusXM Salary Cap Challenge scuffled a bit, finishing 998 out of almost 4000 entries.  But that is not going to stop me.  Here is the squad I have picked to compete this week:

QB: Aaron Rodgers ($8,300) – I am going with the best in a week Rodgers should roll, facing the hapless and defenseless St. Louis Rams.

RB: Darren McFadden ($9,500) – I am usually reticent to use such a high priced player with a history of getting hurt and not finishing games, but with McFadden squaring off against the mediocre Browns’ run defense, I am going to take the chance he goes off and his price tag scares everyone else away.

RB: Fred Jackson ($8,500) – The Giants D is not as stout as it has been so Jackson is a strong play.  As suggested last week, you just have to love guys that contribute to both the running and passing games and are also the goal-line back.

WR: Calvin Johnson ($8,900) – This will be somewhat of a statement game for the Lions and 49ers and the best players usually are called upon to make said statement, and it does not get any better than Megatron.

WR: Pierre Garcon ($4,000) – Especially after last week, Garcon and his minute salary is going be near universally owned, which is all the more reason to take the highest priced guys like Rodgers and Run DMC since they will be scantly owned.  That said, you need to produce regardless of your price and Garcon looks to have something going with Curtis Painter.

WR: Victor Cruz ($4,000) – see Garcon, Pierre

TE: Brandon Pettigrew ($4,300) – In challenges of this sort, it is usually best to diversify so picking a TE and WR from the same team is ill-advised, but Pettigrew appears to be Stafford’s second favorite and should see some dump offs as San Francisco can get after the passer.

FLEX: BenJarvus Green-Ellis ($4700) – When you go top-heavy with stars, you are going to need to take a chance somewhere and that is where the Law Firm comes in.  New England has a plethora of weapons, but only one of them will be called upon to close out a close game and that is Green-Ellis.  Plus, the game with the Cowboys is likely to be a shoot out.

K: Dan Bailey ($3,800) – Though it burned me last week, I still believe as cheap as possible is the way to go with kickers and it does not get any cheaper than Bailey.  That said, I expect Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to score aplenty, giving Bailey some opportunities to score.

D: Cincinnati Bengals ($4,000) – Going cheap at defense also burned me last week, but I am back for more.  I know Curtis Painter looked pretty good, but he is still Curtis Painter and the Bengals defense is looking pretty formidable.

Good luck to you and your squads this week.

 

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please.  Pinch-picking for GaryJ will be Todd Zola.  Yikes, there is a reason why I respectfully decline to play in my buddies football pick ‘em pools – I am not very good at it.  So as David Letterman used to say, “Please, no wagering.”  If you really feel the urge to lay some money based on anything written herein, do us both a favor and donate it to your favorite charity.  That said, hypothetically, if I were to play in a pick ‘em pool, here would be my Week 4 picks.

Detroit at Dallas (-2.5): If home field advantage of worth 3 points, that means most consider the Lions to be just a little better than the Cowboys.  I think they are more than a little better. PICK DETROIT

New Orleans at Jacksonville (+7): That’s a big number and I would feel better about the home dog if they had someone capable of a big play as one fluke touchdown and Jax covers.  That said, MJD has a shot to keep Brees and company off the field, so I will roll the dice on a fluke score.  PICK JACKSONVILLE

San Francisco at Philadelphia (-9.5): Another big number which pretty much necessitates Mike Vick staying on the field to cover.  On the other hand, the way the 49ers have played with the ball, 10 points may be enough to cover.  However, I have a little feeling this is going to be the next step in the transition to Kendall Hunter and SF keeps it close.  PICK SAN FRANCISCO

Washington at St. Louis (+3): Anything more than this and I would have gone with the home team to cover but not necessarily win.  As is, I’ll back the Washington defense which is the best unit on the field in this game.  PICK WASHINGTON

Tennessee at Cleveland (+1): A healthy and productive Chris Johnson and I back the visitor, but I think some teams enjoy more than a 3 point home edge, the Browns on that list.  PICK CLEVELAND

Buffalo at Cincinnati (+3): I wonder when the last time Buffalo was favored on the road?  The Bills’ attack is for real and should be able to outpace the Bengals.  PICK BUFFALO

Minnesota at Kansas City (+3): Imagine sitting at a bar with Fran Tarkenton and Len Dawson while this game is on the tube?  Adrian Peterson is by far the best player on the field, when in doubt, back the best player.  PICK MINNESOTA

Carolina at Chicago (-6.5): The Bears have faced ample running QBs that that they should be able to keep Cam Newton in check.  PICK CHICAGO

Pittsburgh at Houston (-3.5): This is the toughest game on the board for me to pretend pick.  I sense a shootout and often in a shootout, the winner is the team that also has a big defensive score and that is where the Steelers have an edge.  PICK PITTSBURGH

Atlanta at Seattle (+5): Atlanta has more weapons, though the Seahawks are a different squad at home.  But since the Falcons are better on both sides of the ball, I can see them winning by a TD.  PICK ATLANTA

NY Giants and Arizona (+1): I like the Cardinals D to make a difference but would feel better about the home squad if Beanie were 100%.  Now I remember why I don’t usually do this.  PICK ARIZONA

Miami at San Diego (-7): With Antonio Gates, I could see the home team covering the big number, but the Dolphins have showed they can score.  You know, maybe this is obvious to those that do this sort of thing regularly, but each game, I say to myself “the team that scores a defensive TD will beat the spread.  I wonder how close this is to being the truth.  PICK MIAMI

Denver at Green Bay (-12): That’s not enough.  PICK GREEN BAY

New England at Oakland (+6): The good thing about doing this once in a blue moon with no expectations is I can make a homer pick and right now, my homies need something good.  PICK NEW ENGLAND

NY Jets and Baltimore (-4.5): The fact that the Ravens do not have a stud wide-out to get lost on Revis Island plays to their advantage as the best aspect of the Jets defense is minimized.  I like Ray Rice to go off in this one.  PICK BALTIMORE

Indianapolis at Tampa Bay (-10): Really?  Ten points?  I know, the Colts are not very good without what’s his name, but it’s not like the Bucs are great shakes.  Perhaps the biggest bummer about this game is the minimal fantasy aspect it will have for those that have players going in close contests.  PICK INDIANAPOLIS

The folks at SiriusXM are running a contest they are calling the SiriusXM Fantasy Football Salary Cap Challenge.  If you are not familiar with a salary cap game, each player has a fixed salary and you assemble your team so that it falls under the cap.  There are versions akin to the stock market where the player’s salary rises and falls based on their performance.  Some of these stock market contests adjust your cap based on the performance of your team. The SiriusXM challenge does not appear to be of that ilk.  Every week, the participant will be required to put together a squad with a $60,000 limit.  What I do not know, yet, is if the salaries will be adjusted each week – my guess is they will.  While I am talking about the contest, I would be remiss if I did not mention it is powered by www.myfantasyleague.com, which I humbly believe is the best commissioner service out there, for any sport.

The contest is free to enter and SiriusXM is providing prizes, including guest appearances on their fantasy channel and a spot in their celebrity experts league next fall.  The scoring system is pretty standard, awarding 6 pts per touchdown pass, run or catch, 1 point per reception and yardage bonus of .05 points passing and .1 points rushing and receiving.  The lineup is 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB/WR/TE, 1 D and 1 PK.  I am going to give it a shot.  If you are so inclined, register and play HERE.

The key to salary cap games is finding the cheap talent that allows the inclusion of some high-end performers.  The usual approach is to find your inexpensive talent first, add in your top shelf players next and then fill in the middle.  Personally, I prefer to spend as little as possible on my defense and kicker, so I will always start there.  Here is the squad I have entered for the inaugural week of the contest:

QB: Matthew Stafford ($6300) – The Bears’ defense is solid, but at home, Stafford should be good for his usual 250+ yards with at least a pair of touchdowns.  The price of the top-tier QBs like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers would force utilizing a lesser player at either RB or WR and I prefer to roll with Stafford and not have to downgrade one of those spots.

RB: Arian Foster ($7800) – The beast is back! Foster looked fantastic last week and with Andre Johnson out, he could contribute to the passing game a little more as well.  Assuming the prices are adjusted, this is as cheap as Foster will be all season.

RB: Isaac Redman ($4000) – You have to go cheap somewhere and a starting RB for a team with a damaged QB will, at minimum, get a ton of touches.  I am not expecting astronomical numbers, but this is as good a place as any in this format to roll the dice.

WR: Calvin Johnson ($8900) – The man is a FREAK!  Back in the day, I had a philosophy.  I wanted to be big and strong enough to beat up the smaller kids but fast enough to outrun bigger kids.  Unfortunately, I was neither, but I digress.  Megatron was no doubt the type that could beat you up if you stood there or catch you, then beat you up if you ran.

WR: Julio Jones ($5000) – This is probably the pick I am least confident with as at some point, someone is going to remind Matt Ryan that Roddy White is good, but at least presently, Ryan and Jones seem to have a pretty good thing going.

WR: AJ Green ($5700) – My second rookie WR helps keep the total salary in check.  Unlike Jones in Atlanta, Green is Andy Dalton’s primary target and he should be able to find some open space facing the rather weak Jacksonville secondary.

TE: Owen Daniels ($5700) – Following the wisdom of the crowd here as every analyst and the horse they rode in on is citing Daniels as the chief beneficiary with Andre Johnson’s hamstring keeping him out indefinitely.

FLEX: Fred Jackson ($8500) – You can count on one hand the number of RB that contribute to both the running and passing game and are not lifted at the goal line, and Jackson is one of them.  Do not be intimidated by the Bills facing the Eagles as Philly’s defense is not the pillar it has been in the past.

PK: Matt Prater ($4000) – This is the lowest salary for an active kicker and Prater is at home, kicking at altitude, works for me.

D: Tennessee ($4000) - Another wisdom of the crowd choice here as most of the rankings I have seen have the Titans in the top-5 for the week, no doubt because the Steelers are hurting with Rashard Mendenhall likely out and Big Ben working with an injured foot.

TOTAL TEAM SALARY: $59,900

There you go, the official entry of Fat, Drunk and Stupid.  If you are playing, let’s have some fun and post your team in the comments.

 

So it is last Saturday afternoon and I am nearing the end of my Little East Conference fantasy football draft.  For those that enjoy pointless minutia about totally irrelevant things not at all pertinent to them, this league is the first fantasy league of any kind that I have ever played in, starting in 1993.  The following spring, the commisioner asked me if I wanted to help him with his fantasy baseball team, because he thinks “I may get into that sort of thing.”  Three years later, I was booted from the league for “trying too hard.”  To fill the void, I joined a local Boston league where I met Jason Grey.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway, it is the 14th round of a 16 round affair and after all the trash talking and fun I poked at everyone for taking defenses and kickers earlier, I was going to wait for my final two picks before taking mine.  Back in the 5th, I took Jermichael Finley, who in our scoring system scored a very modest four points.  We are PPR, but have modified bonus, starting at 50 yards and awarding 1 point for every 20 yards rushing plus receiving.  My dilemma was to bank Finley’s four points or take a second tight end in hopes of besting that total.  I figured why not take the tight end and sleep on the decision?  So Zach Miller was mine.  When I set my lineup Saturday night, I opted to just take the four points from Finley.  Sunday morning, my opponent’s lineup was in my inbox and I forgot that I was playing the defending champ and panicked a little.  Considering I waited so long for my defense and kicker, maybe I need to take a chance Miller catches five or six balls?  My final lineup included Miller.

By now, you know where this is going.  Miller caught two balls but totaled less than 50 yards, so I “lost” two points.  The final score of my match was 95-93, guess who with 93.  Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for the dramatic effect of this story, we designate a reserve as our tiebreaking player and I lost that 4-3 so even if I put Finley in, I still would have lost.  However, suffice it to say “lesson learned.”  Next year, if in a similar situation, I will bank the points.

Since you are all curious, I had to “settle” for San Francisco and Sebastian Janikowski with my final two picks.  At least I got something right.

I learned something else from this matchup – Darren McFadden is good.  For whatever reason, I had not seen Run DMC play very much and my perception of his body type and running style was completely incorrect.  I envisioned a smaller guy, more or a scat back type.  I was a little surprised he was much bigger than I thought and somewhat awed by his power/speed combo.  If he stays healthy, my late second round pick could be a real difference maker.

But, dammit, why didn’t they let him score after his 47 yard jaunt to the Denver 1?  Curse you Champ Bailey for hustling, bringing McFadden down.  Curse you Michael Bush, for replacing McFadden on the field and especially curse you Jason Campbell for selfishly calling your own number.  Didn’t you see the previous game when the Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez had a 31-yard TD catch overturned by the replay official, being ruled down at the 1, but have Tom Brady reward his TE with a TD catch on the next play?

This segues into my next thought and that is, while I am still a fantasy baseball guy at heart, there are elements of fantasy football that are unique to the hobby, though proponents of head to head fantasy football might disagree.  While I still prefer the thrill of following the rotisserie points the final days of the baseball season, I must admit, the weekly excitement of “what do I need” on Monday night and watching it unfold is pretty cool.  For example, about 45 yards into Wes Welker’s record tying 99 yard reception, I officially beat Rob Leibowitz in a private league.  Previous to that play, I was beginning to wonder if Welker would pick up the remaining 5.5 points I needed to best my buddy.  Going back to the McFadden team, I was down 30 points with McFadden, Brandon Lloyd and Janikowski still left.  I knew it was going to be close, but I had no idea it was going to be because Sea-Bass would tie a record as well, booting a 63 yard field goal.

And as great as the thrill of victory is in fantasy football, the agony of defeat sucks.  I am in five head to head leagues and finished 4-1.  In two leagues, I was the top point-getter, in a third I finished second to that Grey dude mentioned earlier and all I can think about all week is that I would have won this other league if Lloyd did not get hurt, Bailey did not trip McFadden up at the 1 or if the Raiders drove for an insurance field goal instead of being wussies and running out the clock at the end of the game.  Well, at least I did not have to blame myself for benching Finley.

Switching themes, someone once wrote in a fantasy forum I frequent, “arguing with Zola is a pain in the ass, all he does is try to teach you stuff.”  It’s time to be a pain in the ass.  This is actually something I see in baseball as well.  Sometimes I forget what is intuitive to someone doing this for almost 20 years is not so clear to others, especially those making an effort to take in as much information as possible and may be a victim of information overload so they overthink things a bit too much.  Of course, my solution is to give more information, what a pal I am, eh?  Here is the thing.  During baseball drafts we use position scarcity and in football we use value based drafting to amass as much talent as we can on our rosters.  But after you draft your kicker with your last pick (cough , cough), all bets are off and it is all about the points.  It no longer matters how many more points this guy will score compared to the worst starter at the position -- points is points.  The manner this most manifests is the penchant to want to deal from a strong position in order to improve a weak position.  This is fine if the end result is a net gain in points.  But dealing a 20 point RB and 10 point WR for a 20 point WR and 10 point RB to upgrade a weak WR corps is robbing Peter to pay Paul, what I refer to as a parallel move, not yielding a net gain of points.  This is not to say this sort of deal is a waste of time, just the notion of dealing a stud RB to get a stud WR should not be the motivation if the points are a wash.  To me, the objective should be to construct a roster where you can upgrade as many spots as possible.  You know your league and player evaluation skills best so only you can make the final determination with respect to how to execute this, but if you feel there are always wide receivers that emerge or are available in trade, perhaps because your league only starts two, then do not worry about dealing for a stud receiver and instead, look to upgrade from the free agents.  Maybe you notice that you can usually get a running back or two that emerge due to injury or the proliferation of RB committees.  In this instance, you may not want a stud RB as your RB2 so you are better able to take advantage of what emerges as the season progresses.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not call back the theme of last week’s column, good players play good.  To demonstrate this, I chose to suggest that Dallas Clark was a better start than Jimmy Graham.  I think the kids call this “epic fail”.  Yes, I was wrong, at least with this example.  But what if I had chosen Reggie Wayne as my example of a good player that will play good?  I stand by my contention that good players play good.

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