Challenge Contests — by Justin Eleff
Down to the Last Man
Posted Dec. 11 at 01:22 AM
So there are three weeks left in the season and you have one new player purchase remaining, right? Odds are pretty good; just scanning through my own leagues, the teams that don't have zero purchases remaining have one and one only.
So who's the lucky fella?
I'm still hanging near the tops of all leagues (2nd in league, 4th in division, 21st overall in the Football Challenge; 1st in league, 10th overall in Fantasy Football; 3rd in division, 8th overall in Free Fantasy Football, where transactions work differently), so on the one hand, I'm in attack mode. In the Football Challenge especially, I know exactly which categories I need to improve (passing average and receiving average), and maybe the last purchase should go toward one of those.
On the other hand, I'm playing defense, too. Aaron Rodgers, bane of my existence, remains a week-in-week-out starter, a guy I can't replace simply because he's so cheap. Not that he's playing badly, mind you -- most weeks he's been terrific -- but my hands are tied with the last purchase. I can't use it, ever, for fear that once I do Rodgers will go down and I won't be able to field a complete lineup in successive weeks.
Rodgers is the key to most of these decisions this year. If you own him, and you don't already own Matt Cassel or Tyler Thigpen to go with him, you can either buy one of those guys or hold the purchase in reserve. Do anything else and you're gambling on Rodgers' health -- and now that the Pack are out of the playoff picture, they might sit him down over any minor ding. He's the franchise, which is good, except that right now you'd rather have Thigpen, no? KC has to decide whether to draft a replacement in a few months; Thigpen's sure to get 100% of the snaps from here on out.
Even if you do decide to gamble, figuring Rodgers will play till the bitter end, you have to go cheap. Don't like Cassel or Thigpen? Need a running back? You're looking for a guy at the bottom of the salary lists, because -- again -- if Rodgers goes down you'll be squeezed no matter who you've purchased.
In Fantasy Football I decided to gamble last week. Used my last purchase on Peyton Hillis, hoping for a rugged finish to what had been a revelatory season.
Already I'm seeing the downside of gambling: My roster includes not only the I.R.ed Hillis but Marion Barber (gimpy) and Brandon Jacobs (gimpy and post-playoff race). One more injury and I'll have a hard time putting six healthy bodies on the field at the single most important position in these games. My other seven RBs are LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte and Steve Slaton. I figure Johnson's spotty after this week; if Peterson and the Vikings happen to clinch their division early, I'm stuck.
So assume, as I did to start this column, you're sitting on one purchase. And assume you're starting Rodgers every week, and your next-cheapest QB is not exactly cheap. I say you sit on the purchase until you have to use it -- which is to say, you sit on it until Week 17. And then use it on whom?
Looking ahead, all factors considered, Week 17 looks good for these offenses:
1. Atlanta is home against St. Louis. Weather is obviously no factor in the Georgia Dome.
2. Indianapolis is home against Tennessee, a good defense that will have much less than usual to play for. Weather, again, is obviously no factor. TEN gets momentum points for wanting to keep its division rival out of the playoffs, but IND gets many more for wanting to play its way in.
3. Tampa Bay is home against Oakland, with weather less a factor in Tampa than it would be in almost any other city. It's never really cold here, and there's never any wind. If it happens to rain that weekend, stay away from the passing game. Of course, after Monday night's debacle, it looks like the Bucs won't be playing for much come the end of the year. They'll have the Wild Card locked up and no chance at the division.
4. Arizona is home against Seattle, with weather again no factor, but the Cards are certain not to be playing for anything ... except maybe the single-season passing yards record. If Kurt Warner happens to be around 300 yards shy of the record, and you don't already own him, you have to figure he'll play until he gets his numbers.
5. San Diego is home against Denver in what might -- very unlikely, but might -- be a one-game playoff for the division. It's something like a 2% chance.
Bottom line: Depending on what you need, you're looking at spending a last-week purchase on Peyton Manning or Kurt Warner or Michael Turner if you've somehow made it this far without him or Roddy White or Antonio Bryant or Neil Rackers or ...
Maybe it's silly to plan this far ahead, but it's not silly to plan on deferring your decision until this far ahead. Check the standings closely, pick the categories you need most, and if you're fully dependent on Aaron Rodgers, don't burn the last purchase until you're sure he's playing out the full length of the string.
And that's it, almost certainly, for another year of columns. I hope you've enjoyed them; I look forward to discussing (and debating) our games with you a year from now.
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Dec. 11 at 08:05 AM
"scanning through my own leagues, the teams that don't have zero purchases remaining have one and one only." Now that's insulting. He pulls ahead 100-some points, and so now my 2nd place team with 2 purchases left is apparently no longer in his 'own league'. grrrr. Just for that I'll have to overtake you.
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