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Bad Decisions

We all make them, but some people make more than others.

I didn't expect this week's column to dovetail with the one from last week. Way back then (things change quickly in fantasy football) I said that there are different types of winless teams, and undefeated teams. What kind of team you have provides insight about how to react to your record.

So with that as a setup, let me declare that the Los Angeles Chargers are the worst 2-2 team in recent memory, and they're a shining example of what not to do as a fantasy football manager.

It's not that the Chargers don't have talent; quite the contrary. They play hard and all their games have been close. The problem is their (for now) coach keeps making decisions to try and give the game away. Against the Vikings, with a four-point lead with less than two minutes to go, they went for fourth down on their own 24. They failed to convert and gave the Vikings great field position and a chance to win.

The following week, up seven points with less than four minutes left, they did the same thing on their own 34. Another failure, and another chance for the opponent to win. Never mind that the Raiders were giving a rookie his first start on Sunday, so it wasn't like they were facing Patrick Mahomes. Never mind that they failed both times when the Eagles have a short-yardage play some people want to ban because it always works. The Chargers have game film of Jalen Hurts always getting positive yards with it, don't they?

The only reason Brandon Staley still has a job is because his defense bailed him out both times and they won both of those games. And this opinion is not judging by hindsight. Neither decision cost them and I still think they were dumb moves. Even if they had converted, I would have been against it. You don't put your opponent in scoring position with a chance to beat you. If you hate your defense that much, get better players. But risking everything on those plays makes no sense.

To be clear, I'm fine with strategic gambles. When the Bears went for fourth-and-1 at the end of their game, there was a reason they didn't want to leave more time on the clock for the Broncos. Denver had scored three touchdowns in a row, two on long offensive drives. It makes sense to work the clock before kicking a potential game-winning field goal. They're a winless team that lost momentum in a game they were once dominating, and they wanted to get over the finish line. And when they missed it, the Broncos still had to drive nearly 50 yards to take the lead. That's a gamble that can be defended.

And when the Commanders tied the game on the last regulation play against the Eagles, I think they should have gone for two. Don't give Hurts, Brown and Swift a chance to win in overtime. They're stuck on the sidelines, so keep them there. You automatically win if you convert. Take the chance to beat the division favorite on the road. Even if you lose, you show you're not afraid to take chances. Smart, strategic chances.

Okay, so what does this have to do with fantasy football? As a manager, you're also going to have an opportunity to play it safe or take chances. Strategic risks are part of the game. But nonsensical gambles can cost you a win. If you bench an established starter for a flavor-of-the-week waiver pickup, you'd better have a good justification for doing it. Don't get too cute with your lineup decisions. Don't put too much importance on weather or an injury to the OL or a matchup that could be better. Don't undo your earlier good decisions by leaving them on the bench.

I'm talking to you, but I'm also talking to myself. This past Sunday I benched Garrett Wilson, and it cost me a game. I just hear the name "Zach Wilson" and I want to avoid the whole situation. Instead, I started an inferior player in a PPR league because I wasn't willing to accept that he might be serviceable with inferior quarterback play, even though I saw him do exactly that last year. I took an unnecessary gamble and it cost me.

In another league I benched Jakobi Meyers and it helped me win a game. I didn't like a rookie with no experience behind center, and Meyers isn't the top option, anyway. I figured they might lean more on the guy who won the rushing title last year, and that's exactly what they did. Taking that risk made sense, and it worked in my favor.

So in one league, my record is partially the result of not getting out of my own way. In another it's partially from making good lineup decisions. Both of those teams are run by the same person, but they're not the same. I have to recognize that, and try to do better next week. So should you, and I know the Chargers won't make any bad gambles on Sunday; they're on the bye. Good luck this week.

Have you made bad decisions that have cost your team? Do you think Staley made the right calls? Do you tend to take risks or play it safe? Share your thoughts below.

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