Challenge Contests — by Justin Eleff
It's called "craps" for a reason
Posted Dec. 30 at 02:46 AM
Week 16 was just OK for me -- my best team is up from 6th overall to 5th overall, other teams largely unmoved -- but I sure wish I had just one more purchase remaining than I do. With the NFC playoff teams locked in and many AFC playoff positions set (or close enough), there will unfortunately be several key teams going the way of the Colts on Sunday. At least you know that if their stars ain't playing for you, they ain't playing for anybody.
Most start-or-sit decisions this week will be made of necessity, as -- for instance -- I may well conclude that playoff-bound QBs like Drew Brees (position set), Tom Brady (position not entirely set, but the difference between No. 3 and No. 4 is negligible in most teams' eyes) and Aaron Rodgers (position not entirely set, but ditto for the difference between No. 5 and No. 6) won't play more than a few series. Which will leave me starting not only regular options like Matt Schaub (still vying for a spot) but also on-and-off-but-mostly-off options like Joe Flacco (still vying for a spot) and Matt Ryan (eliminated in Week 15). I don't actually own the exact mix of six QBs I just named on any team -- but I don't own more than six QBs on any team, either. I think you get the point.
So we're all down to the dregs of our rosters at some positions, and it's anyone's guess how some of this mess will turn out. If I wanted to start Schaub with Flacco and Ryan, as I may well do on the aforementioned 5th-overall team, I would have done so before now.
Bellyaching aside, though, the league did us a big favor by moving CIN at NYJ to Sunday night; with the Jets in control of their destiny, every other AFC playoff contender needs to win earlier in the day -- especially because BAL and DEN (the two teams with the next-most amount of control) both play in late-afternoon games (separately, not against each other).
All told, that's:
- • HOU, JAX, MIA and PIT all needing wins at 1:00 Eastern, when HOU hosts NE (good weather, opponent not motivated), JAX plays at CLE (enough said) and MIA and PIT play each other -- at MIA (good weather). Good news all around.
• BAL and DEN both needing wins at 4:00 Eastern, when BAL plays at OAK (good weather, otherwise enough said) and DEN hosts KC (enough said). Again, good news all around.
• NYJ needing a win at 8:00 Eastern, and hosting CIN (opponent not motivated).
When I say good news all around, I really mean it.
So the best player to add with any purchase you have remaining could be almost anyone on any of seven different teams -- there's no shortage of candidates, and there will be no lack of diversity among the candidates actually purchased by owners trying to nudge their teams upward in the standings.
Among my favorite candidates:
If you need a QB, go with Schaub (although you probably already have him), Ben Roethlisberger (best player among those I'll mention), Flacco (you probably have him, too) or Kyle Orton (not the best option yardagewise, at least not typically, but you never know against KC).
If you need a RB, play the matchups with Maurice Jones-Drew (you have him), Ray Rice (him too) and maybe ... gulp ... Knowshon Moreno.
A knote on Knowshon: I've had him all wrong all season. I was too excited before the season, ignored an uninspiring preseason (preseason football may generally be meaningless, but that's not necessarily true for rookies), carried him everywhere, soon dropped him everywhere, repurchased him in some games and then dropped him again in those games. It's been mess after mess. He's been down when I expected up and up when I expected down. I'm probably about to be wrong again, right now:
But he's home against KC (31st against the run), and he somehow has 897 yards on the season. I kinda think he'll get 103 or more.
One other matchup you might try: Donald Brown at BUF. The Bills are last against the run, and with no Peyton Manning, no Reggie Wayne, no Dallas Clark ... someone has to carry the offensive load for the officially-not-really-trying Colts.
If you need a WR, go with Andre Johnson, Santonio Holmes (both great and very busy lately) or perhaps especially Brandon Marshall (hoping for another of his signature 18-plus catch games).
If you need a TE, you must also need a player at one of those other positions; spend your purchases elsewhere. On a wholly unrelated note, Vernon Davis will no doubt bury me with the 124 yards he still needs to reach 1,000. Maybe he'll catch 8 TD passes while he's at it, push his total to an even 20. [Insert expletive of your choice; they wouldn't let me print mine.]
If you need a K (categories games only), pick the still-in-contention team you're most certain will win, and buy its guy.
I hate to say it, but I can't do any more to narrow the field for you. Week 17 is a crapshoot almost by design; this year's staggered schedule makes it a crapshoot by intelligent design. It should make for a great day of football-watching, but if I were you I'd do my best to refrain from live-scoring-watching at any of the fantasy sites. You'll make yourself completely crazy.
It's been a great ride; I hope you've enjoyed reading this season's columns even half as much as I've enjoyed writing them.
I'll try to scribble out some kind of postmortem in the comments section once the final standings are locked in. Let's do it again -- and better -- next season.
Until then -- for one more week -- kick ass, my friends.
Last thing: I mentioned many weeks ago that I've moved from Tampa to upstate New York, and have adopted the Bills as my new favorite team. It's been kind of a long season that way, but rookie safety Jairus Byrd (now on IR) has been a great joy to watch throughout, and I'm pumped that he made the Pro Bowl. Try to get your eyes on him sometime in 2010.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Dec. 30 at 11:35 PM
Justin: I still have a shot at 2nd place in my points league (7 pts out of 2nd, 90 pts out of 1st) but as I have stated previously, I am reluctant to spend any more money on roster changes. I have 2 changes remaining (incl. 2 purchases). My lineup from last week is Warner, A-Rod, Schaub starters (Brady and Hasselbeck on bench); CJ, MJD, Grant, Mendy, Rice, Ricky starters (Moreno, Turner (doubt he's playing), Forte on bench); Colston, Fitz, Moss, A. Johnson, D-Jax, V-Jax (Holmes, White, MSW on bench). I am not considering any changes at K, TE (despite the fact that Clark will play sparingly, if at all) and D/ST. The most likely candidates to bench for this week IMO are Warner (I doubt NYG beat MIN), A-Rod, Grant, Ricky (injured shoulder, bad matchup), Fitz (same comment as Warner) and V-Jax. Need 2 moves to maximize points. Make 2 purchases or insert two bench players into starting lineup? For whom? Gore is probably best purchase, but 2nd place owner has him so that would not make much sense from a competitive advantage standpoint. I have 1.3 mil in cap space to work with. Thanks in advance for any advice.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Dec. 31 at 12:56 AM
First thing is to think hard about how likely you are to catch up. 7 pts is nothing ... unless the guy who's up has more than your two purchases remaining. Pretty much every purchase you make should be a great-matchup in, won't-play-much-if-at-all out purchase, so each one SHOULD, in theory, be worth between 10 and 30 points. If the guy in second place has three purchases, that should be enough for him to hold his edge unless his roster is a disaster. If he's out of purchases, you absolutely MUST spend the money, because you really should beat him. Second thing: Just be smart. QBs score a lot of points, and I'd be very worried about Warner and Rodgers and Brady on your roster, so you probably need one of those. RBs score a lot, but you're probably better there: CJ, J-D, Mendenhall, Rice, Ricky, Moreno are a solid six; maybe Forte for Ricky if you're really worried about the shoulder, but I think he plays and if he plays he should be fine. But WR could be a mess. Starting AJ, Holmes, White and S-W leaves you two short; I don't see any of Colston, Fitz, Moss or either Jackson playing much, so there you go. IF the other guy has two or fewer purchases remaining, then you buy a QB and a WR and hope Gore has an off day. But not so off that it costs ME money. Balance.
Posted by James Baker | Dec. 31 at 03:20 AM
Justin, I have Favre, Warner, Rodgers, Brady, Brees and will buy either Schaub or Roethlisberger... who should I start between Warner, Rodgers, and Brady. I'm 3rd ovr, down by 38 pts in budget... figure he'll start Schaub, Brady, and Rodgers.
Posted by James Baker | Dec. 31 at 04:10 AM
just a little bit of research tells me Schaub, Favre, and Rodgers should start over Brady or Warner. Why are projections for other fantasy sites showing Brady #1 or #2 qb? I started noticing about a month ago that fantasy sites list guys based on popularity, more so then raw stats.... there's no reason Brees was ahead of Brady last week. Tampa passing D isn't bad and their run D is awful... who makes these ranking list? Obvious Brady was a better choice than Brees last week. 38 pts is quite a bit, so starting Warner and hoping the Vikes lose is appealing... GB is suppose to have a "normal" game and Brady wants the starters to play. This is a crap shoot... Brady could play one half and still score the most points for a qb, Moss could score twice before half-time... I think it's dangerous to sit Brady or Moss when the leader has them.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Dec. 31 at 06:39 AM
Justin: The 2nd place owner also has 2 purchases and a solid roster with enough flexibility that he should be able to start enough productive players. He may also have more roster changes than me. I can only make 2 changes (bench/switch or purchases) without buying more. Regarding D-Jax (DeSean Jackson), I see no reason why he wouldn't play the entire game as the game is for the NFC East championship and possible 1st round bye. James: I wouldn't start Warner and hope the Vikes lose. I don't see that happening and Whiz has said that the result of that game will dictate what he does with his players. And GB may not have a "normal" game vs. AZ. I don't think GB can improve their playoff position any and you also have to take into account that there is a good possibility that GB and AZ meet the following week which would make A-Rod risky as well. They're certainly not going to show each other much if there's a chance they will meet in a playoff game the following week. I would start Favre, Schaub and Brady. It sounds like Brady may play quite a bit although you never know.
Posted by James Baker | Jan. 01 at 02:48 AM
I wonder if Roethlisberger is a better pick up than Schaub? I have a lot of cap space when starting Brady, Favre, Schaub... not enough to start Forte over Mendenhall or Moss over Mike Sims Walker, though.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 01 at 08:59 AM
All: I worry that we're hearing a bunch of crap right now re who will play how much. I figure you HAVE to start anyone on the AFC might-be playoff teams ahead of anyone else. After that I think you're pretty much playing your own gut more than any real logic. Might Brady play four qtrs, e.g.? Sure. And would it surprise me if he was actually scratched on Sunday morning? No. I haven't made my own changes yet, but I'll tell you what I'm doing as soon as I make them. Best I can really do; I don't know anything more than you're already seeing reported. Check back.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 01 at 11:35 PM
Just saw a report from Peter King that Brees will be the #3 QB on Sunday. If they're sitting Brees, gotta think that most Saints regulars will sit or play limited minutes.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 02 at 06:04 AM
FC: Bought Schaub with last purchase. Starting: Roethlisberger Schaub Flacco / Peterson Johnson Forte R.Williams Rice Mendenhall / Moss D.Jackson Hester Austin Sims-Walker S.Smith (NYG) / Gates Celek / Longwell Carpenter Tynes. Not all of this is by choice. Remember all those columns about saving purchases? Erm ...
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 02 at 06:27 AM
Midseason: Bought Roethlisberger and Schaub with last two purchases. Starting: Roethlisberger Schaub Flacco / Jones-Drew Johnson Jones R.Williams Rice Mendenhall / A.Johnson D.Jackson Austin Rice Sims-Walker S.Smith (NYG) / Celek Finley (also have Clark - anyone see an argument for him ahead of Finley?) / Graham Carpenter Tynes. This one was an absolute mess; I'm playing categories catchup to try to steal the league.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 02 at 06:54 AM
Points: Bought A.Johnson with last purchase. Starting: Brady Flacco Schaub (also have Ryan and would go to him were there a last-minute Brady surprise) / Peterson Jones-Drew Gore Johnson Rice Mendenhall / Moss A.Johnson D.Jackson Rice S.Smith (NYG) Sims-Walker / Clark Celek (also have Finley - in points I see the argument for Clark: Peyton will play long enough to throw 1-2 TDs; maybe Clark will catch one of them; 6 pts is plenty from a Week 17 TE) / Prater Carpenter Tynes / CIN SF (also have HOU, but with the Pats' stars possibly playing that isn't a great matchup, and even if CIN rests its defensive frontliners I can maybe steal a return TD going against Sanchez). This one really hurts - all the uncertainty here - because at 5th overall each move up or down the standings is worth several hundred dollars minimum. Wish me luck; same to all of you.
Posted by James Baker | Jan. 02 at 09:11 AM
Forte/Moss combo better than MJD/MSW combo? I'll ask it because someone else has thought it Brunell??? More and more Roethlisberger looks better than Schaub to me. Well here's my lean Tynes, Longwell, Reed, Favre, Schaub, Brady, AP, Forte, Mendenhall, CJ, Gore, Rice, Moss, Holmes, Austin, S. Smith, AJ, D Jackson, Celek, Finley, PHI, SF bench Warner, Brees, Rodgers, Ricky, Turner, Benson, D. Williams, MJD, MSW, V. Jackson, L. Moore, D.Clark... 38 points off the leader and the combo of Holmes, SF, PHI, Favre, Finley, J. Reed probably won't outscore MIN, NO, Welker, Rodgers, Vernon Davis, Carpenter by 38 pts... still thinking about starting Warner out of desperation.
Posted by James Baker | Jan. 02 at 09:12 AM
Wish you luck, Justin.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 02 at 10:13 AM
That Forte/Moss vs. J-D/S-W question is EXACTLY why I hate Week 17. On top of all the other questions we'd ever want answered, now we need to know what the truth about Belichick's intentions are - and we probably won't know until about 2:15 tomorrow afternoon. By then it's too late, obviously, and there's a very real possibility that some neck-and-neck race will be decided by that very decision. I look at the combos you posted and wish (for you) that you had V.D. - the TE, not the affliction - because Finley vs. V.D. is your weakest point I think. I'm like you in a couple of these games; Ricky on the bench despite his being mostly viable tomorrow, because I finished with 7 useful RBs and 5 WRs. Wish there were flex spots in these contests. I'm gonna try not to pay any attention to the games tomorrow, just hope for the best and see how it came out, past tense, once it's over.
Posted by James Baker | Jan. 02 at 11:14 AM
History tells us new england plays the starters... GB on the other hand sat the starters in the 2nd quarter in 2007 after promising to play a full game. I dislike Finley so much this week I was going to buy Brunell, so I can start Clark. Haven't done anything yet, hoping things are less hazy tomorrow. Brady should sit and that leaves me with Warner.... but, doesn't sound like it. I am still a Steeler fan, so go Pats.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 02 at 11:24 AM
If you go by past history, you would have to think that Belichick plays to win the game tomorrow. He has done so on other occasions in similar scenarios. That makes starting Brady, Moss, etc. more palatable. Justin, I don't see the Peyton playing long enough to throw 2 td's scenario playing out. I hope I'm wrong for your sake. I'm actually gonna watch football for the sake of watching football tomorrow. What a novel concept for a change. Good luck to all of you.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 02 at 08:50 PM
I think Peyton throws two TD passes on his two drives, and tries his damnedest to do it one short pass at a time to Wayne or Clark. They're both within a few of 100. Or, you know, maybe that isn't right, but Clark vs. Finley is just garbage this week, and I have no one else. If I lose actual money because V.D. goes off I may have to write one more column just to vent. Except that they'd never print the column I'd write.
Posted by James Baker | Jan. 03 at 01:32 AM
I started 0 Patriots... Warner, MJD, MSW over Brady, Mendenhall, Moss. Let's go Giants and Favre and Peterson!!!
Posted by James Baker | Jan. 03 at 01:34 AM
Any week to gamble is this one... who knows.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 03 at 01:37 AM
Decided to go for it. My points lineup: Longwell, Tynes, Carpenter, Brady, Roethlisberger, Schaub, CJ, MJD, Forte, Mendy, Rice, Moreno, V.D., Olsen, Holmes, R. White, Moss, A. Johnson, D-Jax, S. Rice, SF, NYJ (buys were Big Ben and Rice). Benched Hasselbeck, A-Rod and Warner @ QB, Ricky and Grant @ RB, Colston, Fitz and V-Jax @ WR and NO D. Any comments?
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 03 at 01:50 AM
I hope I haven't misread the Packers situation. Benching A-Rod and Grant could prove to be a killer if they play to win. Only time will tell. Good luck to all.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 03 at 02:35 AM
Almost can't believe how right I turned out to be about all the short passes to Wayne and Clark, but the more I think about it now, the more sense it makes. Peyton doesn't care where his numbers end up, but he'll be sure to get his guys their milestones. It really is hard to hate him. (Hey, especially because he lost to Florida so consistently at Tennessee.)
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 03 at 03:34 AM
Justin: Are you sure you don't have connections in Indy to get the game plans? Lesson learned for me. Never trust "The Hoodie". I guess seeing Welker get hurt scared the crap outta him. Looks like my decision to play Pats and sit Packers may turn out to be the wrong one.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 03 at 06:14 AM
I guess GB thinks they have something to play for afterall. Apparently, you can't count on anything in the NFL. This really sucks.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 03 at 09:17 AM
Sitting at 307.15 with Jets D remaining. Hopefully they hold CIN under 10 and get a DEF or ST TD. Worst move was benching A-Rod for Brady. Best moves were benching Clark for Olsen and Ricky for Moreno. Benching Grant for Forte didn't hurt since Forte had a productive yardage game. MJD and Rice were disappointments but I think everybody had that problem. How did you guys make out?
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 03 at 12:30 PM
J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS!!!!
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 04 at 02:29 AM
Postmortem: I've had bad Week 17s before, but never anything nearly like this. No move really worked, but worse, I wound up being passed - several times - in a few close leagues by teams that had given up and therefore left Aaron Rodgers in. MY OWN STRATEGY: DO NOTHING AND DO BETTER. It's bloody everywhere: Slid from a close 2nd in league in the FC to 5th! (But still top 25 in division.) Slid from tied for 2nd in league in the midseason to 9th! Slid from 5th overall in points to 12th! Down hundreds of dollars in each case, maybe thousands when you consider how I might have finished with better luck. And that's just it - rotten luck. No one can tell me Finley was clearly a better play than Clark in points - but it turned out that way. No one can tell me HOU's DEF was clearly a better play than CIN's - neither did anything except that HOU happened to score. No one can tell me Rodgers clearly should have been active - I just guessed wrong, and things were apparently much more tightly bunched challenge by challenge than I'd realized when frontrunning. So ... lesson learned? Not really. I wish I'd had another purchase or two per game, but extra purchases wouldn't have changed yesterday terribly much. I already owned guys who could have helped. They were just on the bench. So ... angry at the gods? Not really. I can find a silver lining one way (less money to pay taxes on) or another (second straight year with at least one team in the top 25 overall, fourth year in the last six). I'll laugh about yesterday the year I finally break through and win a football challenge. Just not, you know, today. Hope literally every one of you did better. I know Kevin is disappointed, too.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 05 at 12:37 AM
Justin: Thanks for talking me into going for it. In hindsight, I probably should have bought the additional roster changes sooner. I probably could have made additional moves in weeks 15 and 16 that would have benefitted me. Are you playing Playoff Fantasy Football? If so, will a column be forthcoming? Hopefully, we can keep this dialogue going for the playoffs.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 05 at 06:51 AM
I almost never play the postseason games because I hate having my rooting interests predetermined in the playoffs. But I'm happy to chat about them. This week I like GB best, then CIN, then I think the other two games are coinflips. NE with Welker, but dunno without. And PHI is the biggest mystery in the league to me. That team can lose any game by 15 pts. or win the SB. Really, any of 5 NFC teams could make & win the SB - just not ARZ, I think - and you kinda have to guess right to win at the postseason games. You must have the SB pegged correctly or you'll run out of purchases. AFC I think it's pointless to go against the top two seeds; NFC I'd avoid DAL and MIN just because most players will have one of those two, I suspect, and I'd play my favorite of GB/NO/PHI. Which one? Not certain, but here's something that works for me in NCAA tourney pools: Ride the coach you think is the best among those who've never won a championship. In the NFL, to me, that's Andy Reid and it isn't close. Sean Payton maybe - maybe - second.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 05 at 07:53 AM
BTW, picking the coaches has worked for me four times in the last ten tourneys: Izzo in '00, Boeheim in '03, Roy Williams in '05, Self in '08. (It's not just picking the best coach who's never won; it's the best coach who's never won among the handful of teams I personally consider most likely to win each year.) Next guys on my list are Calipari and Howland, but I also think the world of John Beilein and Jamie Dixon. It ain't equally easy to recruit everywhere, though, which is why (a) having a good team is a prerequisite to being selected by what I will loosely call my "method," and (b) Boeheim is the pick I'm proudest of by far. Especially living in Ithaca now - do you have any idea how difficult it is to convince young kids to spend the school year in Syracuse, NY? Move Boeheim to Austin (except that he'd be miserable there, no doubt) and Texas would instantly be the best program in America.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 06 at 01:14 AM
Justin: My daughter would have given her right arm to spend the school year in Syracuse, NY. Unfortunately, although she was accepted to the 'Cuse, she did not get into Newhouse which was her dream. I'm not as sold on Reid as you are and it would not surprise me if this weeks' rematches go the same way as the week 17 games. I realize that the losers had nothing to play for (save Philly), but clearly DAL, NYJ and GB appeared to be the superior teams with the way they dominated the games. Then again it's the NFL so you never know from week to week. I see you're a College Hoops guy like me. Gets me through the winter months every year and March Madness is IMO, the best 3 weeks on the sports calendar. Like your coaching list save Calipari, but he has so much talent at UK that his shot may be coming. Howland has to reload after losing what seems like about 10 lottery picks in the past three years. Here's another name for you who grew up in my neck of the woods, Bo Ryan. He'll probably never be able to recruit the type of athletes needed to win a national championship, but you can always rest assured that his coaching will produce solid teams capable of beating anybody every year.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 08 at 01:49 AM
I should have said so - my method is heavily weighted for recruiting. Agree on Cal and Ryan if you gave them the same players.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Jan. 10 at 02:50 AM
End of the first quarter of BAL-NE and I just thought of another reason I don't play the postseason challenges: Apparently, I don't know a thing about the NFL. Cincy's loss I find almost stunning. Philly's failure to show much of anything, same thing. But this blitzkrieg the Ravens just opened with - this is something else entirely.
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