Challenge Contests — by Justin Eleff
General confusion (and rules for new player purchases)
Posted Sep. 23 at 02:42 AM
I had an excellent year in the challenges in 2008; finished top-25 overall in literally every game I entered. And I'd been pretty good before then, too, for the most part. But not in 2006, and not in 2007.
Those two years I'd make my weekly changes, then flip on the games and feel over and over again like I was watching a different sport than the one I'd been reading and thinking about. Best-laid plans came to nothing -- or worse. Every week some stunningly bad performance stung me. Those were my years in the wilderness.
Week 2 didn't take me all the way back there, but let's just say it was a few miles removed from proper civilization.
Chris Johnson, perhaps the player I was most outspoken about coming into the season, showed you why: 197 yards rushing, 87 receiving, 3 TDs.
Chris Johnson and Greg Jennings, perhaps the player I was most excited about coming off of the preseason, combined for these numbers: 197 yards rushing, 87 receiving, 3 TDs.
Jennings had been slightly affected by a wrist injury all week, but HE PLAYED.
AND DID NOTHING.
FOR SIXTY MINUTES.
I am lucky to be able to say that Jennings didn't quite kill me this weekend. Nor did Josh Morgan, also active for me, also catchless in sixty minutes. Week 2 didn't kill me, so here's hoping it makes us all stronger.
I'd planned to give you a whole-NFL rundown this week. I promised to start talking about using the new player purchases most challenge games allot their participants, and I planned to go around the league at the same time, tell you both how to use the purchases and on whom you might use them.
But let's scrap that last bit for a week or two. My teams are still fine -- sitting at 5-29-256 in the Football Challenge and surging in various points games (the live scoring in Fanball's $50K game has me up to 6th overall, although the more official results pages haven't yet been updated through Week 2), even winning in my office leagues. I'm good. But I'll be the first person to admit (in this space, anyway) that I'm not sure what to make of the new information this young season has presented so far.
What's real and what isn't?
It seems clear that Tom Brady's layoff has fouled his timing a bit, and he'll need to see everything at least once before he's back to full speed. This week it was the blitz; I'm not sure I've ever seen a team blitz as frequently as these Jets have done in 2009, and I'm certain it will bite them if they keep it up, but right now Tom Terrific isn't ready for a new blitz on every down.
(That said, one of these next few opponents will have watched too much tape, will think it has a formula for beating the new Brady, and will get itself destroyed. Actually, maybe better than that: The Pats' defense is bad enough that we may start to get some shootouts, 300-plus passing yards week in and week out for a while, which I kinda need right about now.)
It seems clear that the Bengals have something going on D. That wasn't a bad Aaron Rodgers on Sunday -- that was a good defense, and one that had played very well in Week 1 as well. If Carson Palmer works back into form (like Brady, he seems rusty), Cincy looks like a Wild Card team and Marvin Lewis like a coach with some future left. Also, running back _______________ is not a bad player. Lord help me, he really isn't.
It seems clear that both Steve Smith (the other Steve Smith) and Mario Manningham can play, and the Giants are therefore better for categories-game purposes than we'd imagined. Better for categories-game purposes, that is, than for general fantasy purposes, because while both Smith and Manningham look great between the twenties, they're both listed at 5'11", and the Giants' FG-not-TD scoring is directly attributable to missing Plax Burress' size in the red zone.
And past that, I'm laying off of the pronouncements business a little longer. Maybe I'll do an around-the-NFL thing next week or the week after, or next week and the week after, but not today.
Today, the rules for making new player purchases, regardless of what you think you've learned about the league in two weeks, and therefore regardless of whom you actually purchase:
1. LESS -- I.E., FEWER -- IS MORE
You only get a couple of handfuls of purchases in most games, and your rosters (please, remember this) are not that bad. You don't need a major overhaul -- using the purchases is about adjusting, not starting over. If you can use one purchase instead of two, do that. Two instead of three or four, do that. You'll thank me later.
And in a classic instance of do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do, I'm still waiting for the glorious season when I'll heed this advice myself. I always figure my teams will be in contention for overall prizes coming down the stretch (let alone league and division prizes), and I really can't wait to be in the mix one year when I've actually saved two purchases and can field a fully functional roster in Week 17, when so many real teams sit their stars while crippled challenge teams (try to) fight it out.
(Also: Note that the field seems to be getting better at heeding this advice. There were zero -- count 'em -- new player purchases used in one of my Fanball leagues this week. Not a one, among 25 teams.)
Rule 1 goes hand-in-hand with …
2. REMEMBER: BYE WEEKS ARE COMING
Another reason to burn through as few of your purchases as possible early on:
Forget Week 17. What about Weeks 7 through 9, when six teams each week will be on their byes? Week 7 in particular looks like a treat: BAL, DEN, SEA and TEN are all off, so almost any cheapo QB you've been using will be on the bench.
Bottom line for present purposes: If you don't think you'll need at least one new player purchase (and probably more like four) just to get through the various bye weeks, you either haven't played these games before or haven't played them well.
So, again, hold purchases in reserve whenever possible. Again, you'll thank me.
3. A PURCHASE ISN'T ONLY ABOUT THE PLAYER WHO JOINS YOUR TEAM
It's also about the one who leaves it. So be smart about both ends of the process; buy the right guys and drop the right ones, too.
Whom to drop?
You generally want to start with injured players. If a guy you still like will miss two weeks, hold him. If he may miss eight, though -- and I mean you, Anthony Gonzalez -- he starts to look expendable no matter how much you like him.
Again, bye weeks are coming -- and so, no doubt, are more injuries. Shortening your taxi squad in anticipation of some hero's triumphant return (which might come next week, or the week after, or the week after that, and maybe he won't be quite what you expected before the injury even then) is making needless problems for yourself.
Look, I like Gonzalez a good bit better than Kenny Britt. I've only really been excited about two rookie receivers ever: Randy Moss in 1998 and DeSean Jackson a year ago. But Britt made some of my rosters for his cheat game numbers, and he'll stick around longer than Gonzalez does if the injury news on the latter doesn't get better quick-snap. I'd rather have a chance at some numbers for the next few weeks (if I'm forced to start Britt) than no chance at anything. That simple.
After injured players, drop your underachievers for the next few weeks, then make drops accordingly to the upcoming schedule thereafter. Once all of your kickers' byes are behind them, probably no need to carry four of them. Once all of your tight ends' byes are behind them, certainly no need to carry three.
Unfortunately, of course, in the NFL you're rarely going to get down to subtler considerations. Within two or three weeks half of your roster will be walking wounded. By then, drop-according-to-injuries is probably the only rule you'll need.
4. IT'S OK TO START CERTAIN PLAYERS ON THEIR BYE WEEKS
Say what? Didn't I just say I'd rather have a shot at numbers than no shot at all?
Well, sure. But what kinds of numbers are we talking about?
I'd never start a kicker on his bye, or a quarterback -- you only get three of each, and those three by themselves control either one (in the case of Ks) or two (QBs) whole stat categories.
Except in points games -- I'd start a cheapo kicker on his bye there. And I'd start a cheapo tight end on his bye week anywhere.
Think about this. What does a TE give you? 40 yards? A TD every second or third week?
It's not that I'd go out of my way to do without those numbers -- 40 yards and .33 TDs ain't nothing -- but we aren't talking about just making out a weekly roster here, deciding who starts and who sits. We're talking about burning new player purchases, which are among these games' most treasured commodities.
It's no slam dunk that you should start Jermichael Finley on his bye week just to get a more expensive WR active if you could pair a non-bye-week TE with a non-bye-week cheaper WR instead.
But if the choice is between starting Finley on his bye or purchasing another TE to field a complete roster, that's no choice at all. You start Finley and pocket the purchase.
Really, all four of these rules could be collapsed to one -- to Rule 1, above, that FEWER IS MORE. When in doubt, don't.
I watched the Pierre Thomas news very closely last week, because I'd rostered Mike Bell as a one-week cheapo in points games, and I figured using him in Week 2 was pressing my luck. If Thomas was healthy enough to play, I figured I'd dump Bell. The Saints had a very tough matchup for RBs, at PHI, albeit one that figured to be easier with Kevin Kolb filling in (because the Eagles didn't figure to lead big in the second half, which kills the opposing running game).
I made a bit of salary room for myself, locked in my roster at $59,250,000 (the cap is $60,000,000) and kept scanning for headlines on Thomas.
I wanted to dump Bell, and I wanted to dump him for Darren McFadden, whose matchup (at KC) I really liked.
So Sunday morning comes and various websites have Thomas as active and inactive, and everyone agrees he won't play much if he plays at all. Still, I'm nervous.
I spend an hour trying to make up the salary difference between Bell and McFadden -- it's $850,000, just more than the $750,000 I've cleared -- and finally decide I can't do it. Bell stays on the team and in the lineup; I leave that whole $750,000 on the table, more salary than I've ever left off of one of my active rosters.
McFadden finishes Week 2 with 14.5 points, including the 3 for Oakland's win.
Bell finishes with 18.5, including the 3 for New Orleans' blowout win.
Shows you what I know so far this year.
So no schedule rundown this week -- I'd just be talking from that confused place I reached on Sunday afternoon. Instead I'll defer (as ever) to Ian Allan; if you aren't reading Fantasy Index Weekly, right about now you really should be.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Sep. 23 at 04:11 AM
Justin: Great work. I have been a challenge contest player for about ten years and its nice to see a column devoted exclusively to the contests. I agree with your advice regarding saving purchases. It helped me win a league and finish in the top 25 overall last season in the Fanball Internet Challenge when I was able to pick up three productive players for week 17 who put me over the top. I have not made any purchases yet this season but am considering picking up Brees. Seems like he will be far and away the top producing QB this season and the difference between his salary and Brady's is $ 1.12 million which is exactly how much cap space I currently have. Do you agree? Also, it looks like the Josh Morgan cheapo experiment is over so I'm considering dropping him also. Manningham, Sims-Walker, L. Robinson and Schilens (should be back soon) are all priced cheaper. Do you think I should drop Morgan and if so, which wr do you like best long term? Thank you in advance for any consideration you may give these questions. Regards, Pete
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Sep. 23 at 04:49 AM
Process of elimination is edging me toward Brees, too. Elimination, like: I don't think Brady can be used now until after he breaks back out, and I need some passing numbers and don't know that I trust another big-dollar QB to put them up every week. On Brees I think it's now or never; either add him and do what else it takes (and that means multiple cheapos either at WR or WR and RB) or take your beatings at QB and hope you beat the field by enough at the other positions. The key to using Brees is picking the right cheapo WRs; the key to not using him is trusting that those who do have the wrong cheapo WRs. I'm torn almost in two - will try to make a decision and then let you know here what it is ... but not today. AND I ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT ADD BREES IN POINTS GAMES.
Posted by James Baker | Sep. 25 at 08:29 AM
Who do I drop, Lance Moore, Josh Morgan, Anthony Gonzalez, Mike Bell, or Chris Henry? I have 3 bench WRs and 4 bench RBs. Which of those players will produce the least between week 4 and 17? Morgan plays in the west and there's some nice matchups and he's suppose to be WR #1, but should I cut him. I might just go by height... the shortest guy gets the axe since the tallest guy is getting picked up. Laurent Robinson 6'2" 4.3 40 on a team that will play from behind.
Posted by James Baker | Sep. 25 at 08:42 AM
I hate to start Favre, but buying Schaub and using 2 burns before week 5 is unacceptable... I've considered doing nothing and going with these WRs Holmes, V. Jackson, D. Jackson, Henry, Morgan, Gage and starting Brady over Favre. WRs on the bench Lance Moore, Randy Moss, and Gonzalez... so my hands are tied without a buy. My question comes down to this Which group will score more in week 3 Morgan, Gage, Brady, SD DF or Moss, L. Robinson, Favre, PHI DF?
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Sep. 25 at 08:32 PM
I'd always tend toward the cheaper QB in points, rather than the cheaper player at RB or WR. But it sounds like you may be spending too much elsewhere - at DEF. Really, what's the upside to paying a defense like San Diego when (a) it isn't (and was never going to be) one of those all-time dependable 10-or-fewer-points-allowed units, and (b) the other ways DEFs score in these games are essentially random, freak events? If you have an extra cheapo DEF you should start it. If not, I hate to say it but maybe you should buy one. Makes life easier elsewhere.
Posted by James Baker | Sep. 26 at 01:57 AM
Buying SF and Colston forces me to sit CJ for ____________ (as you call him) and my WRs are Moss, Colston, V. Jackson, D. Jackson, Holmes, and either Gage or Henry. In the past I've used all my buys by week 8 and wonder why I win at Baseball, but never football. Not sure what to do here but Colston, L. Robinson, and Moss is much more appealing then Henry, Morgan, and Gage. 70th overall, but I bet you wouldn't trade me teams.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Sep. 26 at 05:40 AM
Fact is, at this point, ANYTHING can happen. Any team around the top 500 or so overall can win. If you got more of your roster right than I did mine - and we don't know much if anything yet - then you'll win for 17 weeks. But, right, don't use them all by Week 8. Save a few purchases if at all possible. And toward that end, I like the SF defense but I'm not sure I'd buy Colston. Good move for now (with Moore out), but long-term there are several WRs I'd rather have for similar or less money, including Roddy White, Chad Ochocinco, Vincent Jackson for sure, Wes Welker if and when healthy.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Sep. 26 at 05:43 AM
In the Football Challenge, I indeed pulled the trigger on Brees. Which meant buying a cheapo RB with Moreno hurting again, which to me meant Felix Jones. I held Morgan for another week, but didn't start him. Wait and see there.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Sep. 27 at 06:04 PM
Today made a lot more sense. Guess I got what I deserved out of Brees, but I look at the roster I ran out there in Week 3 and it looks right to me. Back on top of things, looking forward to the next few weeks to see if I'm right to have the feeling ...
Posted by James Baker | Sep. 30 at 02:41 AM
Had to start Brees against a defense that had allowed the 3rd most qb fantasy points. 49th overall after 3 weeks, thank you Jones-Drew. Bought Laurent Robinson dropped Gage, so ughhh. New Orleans line is one of the best, so Pierre Thomas for LT... I stashed LT with plans to start him in games against the AFC West. It's Wednesday and worn out a bit from NFL network and reviewing those 16, 10 minute game films on comcast. I'm loving this year. No backup TEs should I buy Olsen or take 2 zeros this year? NFL RedZone is almost as great as your column.
Add a Comment
Already a registered user? Please sign in to add comments.
To add comments, you must become a registered user of our site. To register, please click here.