Challenge Contests — by Justin Eleff
Loading Up for Down the Stretch
Posted Oct. 21 at 02:56 PM
We’re not there yet, but it’s coming: Within the next two or three weeks you have to decide if you’re in or out, if this is your season or not, if you’re playing through Week 17 or getting out while the getting’s still mostly good.
I’m well-positioned: 2-16-212 in the Football Challenge; 1st in league and 24th overall in Fanball’s Fantasy Football; 1st in division and 2nd overall in Free Fantasy Football.
The free game works differently -- you get 120 moves for the whole season, so one main goal is to hold a bunch of them back for Weeks 16-17, when playoff teams rest their stars and you need to be able to turn your roster over -- but everywhere else the story is the same. About half of your purchases gone now. Hanging, I hope, somewhere near the tops of your respective leagues.
If you’re too far down the standings, you may not have the stomach for what I’m about to suggest. It may be too little, for too much money, too late.
If not, though, this is the moment. A little more than half of the season remains. If your roster has a gaping hole in it, even two or three holes, find plugs right now. Other players are doing the same thing. It’s time to press your luck.
Of course, there are two different approaches to picking your plugs, so let’s run through them quickly.
One, maybe you’re fully convinced by what we’ve seen so far. LaDainian Tomlinson, sitting at 14th in total rushing yards (and with just 3.6 per attempt), is no longer a fantasy force. There still aren’t (m)any viable cheapos at WR, but enough have emerged at RB to let you go high-dollar with much of the rest of your roster: Michael Turner (3rd), Chris Johnson (4th), Matt Forte (8th), Julius Jones (12th) and Earnest Graham (13th) have all exceeded Tomlinson’s yardage.
Two, maybe you’re not convinced we’ve seen everything there is to see. Someone new is coming to the leader boards, in a hurry, with a bullet.
Look, I’m not working any miracles at WR this season. Scheduling doesn’t affect the position nearly as dramatically as it does at RB, and there are zero -- zero! -- breakout candidates on the horizon.
But at RB?
Let’s have another look at the schedules, shall we?
Based on this year’s numbers alone, there are ten good teams to run against. Actually, there are nine, and then there’s Kansas City, against whom no runner can ever be benched. On a scale that runs from 1 (worst team in the league to run against) to 10 (best), KC is an easy 10.
The other nine are:
So looking at KC’s opponents is doubly useful: They’re the pits, and DEN and OAK in the same division are down with them.
And the other team in that division? The one that hasn’t played KC yet?
That other team is LaDainian Tomlinson himself, who has games remaining against KC, IND, OAK, KC a second time and DEN among our top (er, bottom) ten.
KC also plays:
New York Jets (games remaining against KC, STL, DEN);
Tampa Bay (games remaining against KC, DET, OAK);
New Orleans (games remaining against KC, GB, DET);
Buffalo (games remaining against CLE, KC, DEN);
Oakland (games remaining against DEN, KC, HOU);
Denver (games remaining against CLE, OAK, KC);
Miami (games remaining against DEN, OAK, STL, KC); and
Cincinnati (games remaining against HOU, IND, CLE, KC).
So start there. Every team with a game left against KC has at least two other games against the other nine -- you want to start collecting backs like Thomas Jones and Ronnie Brown right now.
Jones plays KC at home this weekend, STL at home November 9, DEN at home November 30.
Brown plays DEN on the road next week, OAK at home November 16, STL on the road November 30, KC on the road December 21.
Beyond those two I’m particularly interested in the situations in DEN and CIN, where new runners may yet emerge. If there’s to be an Earnest Graham or Ryan Grant in 2008 -- an out-of-nowhere back who dominates down the stretch -- my money’s on Ryan Torain, the injured DEN rookie who (a) has started to practice; (b) has his best matchups in Weeks 10, 12 and 14; and (c) should be stepping into a real opportunity, given his size and the skill he showed before injuries wrecked his senior season at Arizona State, and given the fractured state of the team’s backfield. Put it this way: I refuse to believe that Mike Shanahan wants to employ a perpetual committee; if he had Terrell Davis right now, he’d ride Terrell Davis. What he has, though, is Michael Pittman.
And Torain. Soon.
Elsewhere around the league I’m looking hard at three divisions, each home to two of our nine targets: the AFC North (CIN and CLE), AFC South (HOU and IND) and NFC North (DET and GB).
Among the other teams in those divisions, check especially:
Baltimore (games remaining against OAK, CLE, HOU -- over the next three weeks! -- and CIN);
Chicago (games remaining against DET, GB, STL, GB again, HOU);
Jacksonville (games remaining against CLE, CIN, DET, HOU, GB, IND); and
Tennessee (games remaining against IND, GB, DET, CLE, HOU, IND again).
If you don’t already own Forte and Chris Johnson, buy them now.
I have both, so the guy who intrigues me most is Willis McGahee. Baltimore’s playing for a Wild Card berth, they can’t pass, and McGahee finally had a good game the other day. Problem is I’d have to pull the trigger right now -- it’s buy him for OAK at home this week or forever hold my peace -- so ...
I’m not telling you to pick up all of these players. I’m telling you to pick your spots, and to make sure you don’t lose for simple failure to act.
Taking a big-picture view of all of the foregoing, I see Brown, Forte, Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Tomlinson as the likely second-half elite. And maybe Torain.
Mix those guys with Adrian Peterson and a bunch of matchup-by-matchup cheapos and you’re doing all you can. So if you don’t already own them ...
Not to mix metaphors, but this is a family-friendly column. Fish or get off the pot.
Posted by Richard Loppnow | Oct. 22 at 03:36 AM
Thanks especially for the 'schedule' analysis. Quibble I would add is that I think it's reasonable to expect contenders (GB, Indy) to shore up their run 'D's.
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