Challenge Contests — by Justin Eleff
Kickoff Weekend, take two
Posted Nov. 05 at 12:20 PM
Maybe this NFL season hasn't gone quite the way you expected. Maybe it hasn't gone quite the way anyone expected. So here comes Week 9, and your annual shot at demolishing one roster and constructing another. I don't always play Fanball's Mid-Season Football Challenge, and I haven't yet decided if I'll do so in 2010. But here's my best advice for those of you who will.
Please note that some of what follows will plainly and directly contradict columns I wrote earlier in the season. DO NOT MISTAKE THIS FOR ADVICE THAT APPLIES TO THE FULL-SEASON CHALLENGES. DIFFERENT GAMES, DIFFERENT STRATEGIES.
The biggest difference, of course, is that while the mid-season game uses the same salaries as the full-season Football Challenge, it doesn't use the same salary cap. There you get $30,000 to spend; here you get $28,000. Otherwise you could build a monstrous roster by starting with all of the studs you wanted -- Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson, Roddy White, your choice of kickers -- and filling in with the best of the season's emergent cheapos.
Cutting the cap down makes the game more challenging -- perhaps as challenging, in its own way, as the full-season game usually is. (Although probably not as challenging as the full-season game has been this year. The sheer wildness of this season has kept me bouncing around the standings instead of climbing steadily as I'd obviously prefer; my full-season team is presently 5th in league, 39th in division and 378th overall, with virtually all of my recent dropoff owing to an almost inconceivably bad passing average.)
The biggest difference in how you should play the mid-season game?
(This is not easy for me to type.)
You should own Michael Vick.
Never mind that I still see Vick as the key to my season in the full-season Football Challenge. (How I make up ground in passing average: Vick comes back and eventually craps out, while presumably I have better passers going the rest of the way.) Here, in the mid-season game, you just can't pass him up at $1120. But that has less to do with his salary than you might think. It has more to do with the fact that he'll be owned by nearly 100 percent of the teams in the contest.
One of the best rules of thumb, always, is that instead of picking a cheap player you might have to yourself at the start of any fantasy challenge, you're better off owning one you know will be popular. In this case, there's zero risk in owning Vick; everyone will, so if he plays badly this weekend (and he may well), you'll lose nothing to the field. But if you own Jon Kitna instead, even though he could easily prove to be better than Vick in this format the rest of the way, you'll be much more exposed. Either Kitna outplays Vick on Sunday, or you kick off the contest by getting your teeth kicked in. I do recommend rostering Kitna, but for now I recommend taking your starting-lineup chances elsewhere.
My full recommendations:
Own Vick. Own Kitna. Now is a good time to avoid at least one and maybe both of Turnip Cutler and Kyle Orton. I would probably use Ben Roethlisberger as one of my more expensive QBs, would certainly use Aaron Rodgers as another, would fill in around them with the best guys I could afford.
(This is not easy for me to type.)
You should own Rashard Mendenhall.
I know that's even farther out there for me than telling you to own Vick, but it's the same theory. You need cheap RBs in this game -- you need cheap players at every position -- and if nothing else you know Mendenhall will be widely owned. Also own Ahmad Bradshaw, Arian Foster (duh) and at least one of Darren McFadden and Peyton Hillis. Now is a good time to avoid all of the rookies. You could probably beat the field by owning and using Johnson and Peterson, but good luck fitting them in.
Largely the same strategy I advocated last week in writing about the full-season game. Mike Wallace, Pierre Garcon, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin and Johnny Knox all look indispensable to me. I would probably roster Calvin Johnson and White, and would certainly roster at least one more WR at or around or below Knox's salary. Brandon Lloyd could go either way, but he's another you-know-they'll-all-own-him guy.
I'd absolutely roster Antonio Gates, because I suspect he'll be unpopular and you can kill the field with him if he's ever near 100 percent again. But he'd be my No. 3 for now -- he'd open on the taxi squad -- with two much cheaper options active in the meantime. Aaron Hernandez for one. The other might have been Jacob Tamme if not for his $1000 "unlisted" salary. As things stand, I'd probably bet on a big second half from Jermaine Gresham ($500) or Tony Moeaki ($300, same as Hernandez), but you can expect this second TE spot to be filled by many different players on various rosters. Which is one reason why I really like the idea of having Gates in reserve, even despite his $1060 salary. Some teams will get lucky and beat your No. 2 -- but they shouldn't beat Gates.
Beggars can rarely be choosers at the infernal position when the cap is $30,000. At $28,000, you'll own whichever cheap Ks happen to play for decent teams (Matt Bryant for sure), and you'll pretend to like it. And do still own four of them. Even with most of the byes behind us, this is not a position that looks especially stable to me in 2010. I hate to burn purchases on kickers, and I can't even promise that you'll have three playable ones a few weeks from now if you do start with four.
The prize structure in the mid-season game is fair but hardly generous. Paying the $99.95 up front that both enters your team and covers all transaction fees helps; you need only finish 2nd in your league to turn a profit. Ordinarily I enter this game (when I do) only because I'm certain I'll win a challenge eventually -- having finished in and around the top 25 many times in many games through the years -- and I do like the idea of throwing $99.95 at $10,000.
But, honestly, this wacky season has me throwing my hands up. If I did enter this game, and did happen to win, that would have little to do with how good I think I am at playing the challenges. 2010 is the year of random chance around the NFL. It isn't just that Vick and Hillis and Lloyd are pivotal players.
Marcedes Lewis has 7 touchdown catches.
I know nothing.
Posted by Chris Metz | Nov. 05 at 10:17 PM
I signed up because, may as well...100 isn't that bad and my team in reg. season isn't that bad either except for the horrid QB play. I think I am in league 23? says mf23 on mine, if we all want to avoid the same ones since we will all finish top 10 overall. ;) All of this sounds good, I may avoid Aaron Rodgers in favor of Philip Rivers. Or I may avoid Kyle Orton and get the two previous. I put a roster together that I'm happy with and it's possible to fit Gates in, actually. I will probably give him a week off due to his injury, but we shall see. Knowing what we know now it's possible to have a loaded roster in this game....
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Nov. 05 at 11:59 PM
Justin: Regarding the full season game (POINTS), I think this may be a week to go expensive at QB and really cheap at RB and TE. IMO, the QB's with arguably the best matchups are Peyton, Rodgers and Rivers. I hesitate with Rivers, but it doesn't seem to matter who's playing. The guy seems to put up 300 yds and 2 td's no matter what and they are playing Houston and this game has the highest total in Vegas. With CJ, MJD, Gore and S-Jax on bye, I'm looking at AP, Turner and 4 cheapos (Foster, DMC, Bradshaw, Hillis) to start with them. Mendy, Charles and McCoy are other potential options, but not in same salary range. With Gates and Z. Miller out (allegedly) and guys like VD and Cooley on bye, I'm thinkin maybe Witten and a cheapo but since I think Dallas will lose, I'm not sure he can justify his salary either. Do you agree, and what moderately priced to cheapo TE's (Tamme not added) do you like this week? Thanks much.
Posted by DAVID DIGREGORIO | Nov. 06 at 01:03 AM
I signed up to. I just love the action, even if it is a bit pricey. Charles is a must own for me, at only $150 more than mendenhall. He'll help a lot in ypc category.
Posted by Chris Metz | Nov. 06 at 02:59 AM
I agree it's potentially a good week to catch up in QB stats. That's if the crowd plays along and uses Vick. The Colts are a bad matchup for him (I believe) because they play zone and they will force him to throw it. They will make him sustain long drives, which he cannot do. Combine that with the three studs having good matchups, and us having the ability to play all of them together, it could add up to something.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Nov. 06 at 03:37 AM
Chris: Thanks for jumping in. My plan may also require using a cheapo combo of four out of Nicks, Wallace, Knox, Collie, Garcon and possibly even Breaston in order to use two higher priced options (White, Wayne, Jennings, Andre, Megatron, Austin). Any thoughts on a WR strategy?
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 06 at 03:37 AM
Chris: "Knowing what we know now" may be famous last words this year. Otherwise, I agree with virtually everything you wrote above.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 06 at 03:38 AM
David: Agreed re Charles. I did wind up signing up; he's active for me.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 06 at 03:42 AM
Peter: If there's ever a game in which Rivers fails to match expectations, this is probably the one. Nothing to do with him or the matchup, but this week it looks like he's without Floyd AND Naanee AND Gates. Jackson still suspended, Davis done for the season. Down to Crayton and Ajirotutu and no one. That has to count for something. So I'm not at all convinced he beats Vick in points in Week 9.
Posted by Chris Metz | Nov. 06 at 06:45 AM
Justin: Probably. How about "What we THINK we know"? Even with all of that said I think I still like Rivers more than Cutler in categories this week.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 06 at 12:51 PM
Chris: Agreed on that. In fact, I actually DROPPED Cutler a week ago.
Posted by Chris Metz | Nov. 07 at 12:37 AM
I will probably drop him this coming week, we'll see.
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