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JL's Observation Deck - Week 10

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In most standard fantasy leagues, you are going to get 12 managers participating in a 13-week regular season. It is very likely that only a couple of managers in your league feel completely comfortable with their playoff position, and only a couple managers looking to 2013, already. In leagues that are more advanced, you might see a larger chunk of weeks designated for the playoffs, and might only have one to two more weeks in your fantasy regular season. Here are a few tips that will keep you from agonizing in the coming weeks.

1. Do what it takes right now to get you into the playoffs. Sounds very simple, I know. But far too many managers hold on to injured players or non-contributors in hopes of hitting the home run in the fantasy playoffs. Every move you make, you should weigh the goal of making the playoffs heavier than any other factor. There will be no possibility of long-term success if you don’t take care of business right now.

You obviously have to play the risk vs. reward game in your mind when pulling the trigger on any given move in fantasy football. If that risk involves you not even gaining the opportunity to compete in your playoff format, then your decision should be made for you. If your trade deadline has not passed, and you are sitting right in the thick of the playoff race, don’t be afraid to make the trade that helps you in the short-term first and foremost. Even if that means making a trade giving up a Victor Cruz, who is on bye this week, take the necessary steps to give yourself a chance to make a run. The manager who just sits on his roster, plays it stubborn and then misses out on the playoffs will always wonder ‘what if?’ I highly recommend not being that guy.

2. Don’t overthink it. Dance with who brought you. Start the players who have been the most consistent and are the healthiest. Don’t try and pull the start you think will make noise in your league, just do what you know works. It is another simple concept that I see people have trouble with on a consistent basis. A good example this past Sunday would have been if you had a decision between keeping Steven Jackson in as an RB2/flex or starting new Oakland ‘starting’ running back Taiwan Jones.

You probably felt pretty good when you picked up Jones, and you might have even thought it was an instant upgrade because of Jones’ speed and the new opportunity he was getting. You knew Jackson would get his 15 touches against San Francisco going into the game, with the possibility of a short touchdown. Using hindsight, you might say to yourself right now, ‘there is nobody that would have started Jones over Jackson.’ Well, you might be very surprised because not only does that kind of thing happen all the time, but it costs managers wins all the time, too.

Lastly, as far as overthinking it goes. The quarterback position around fantasy leagues might be entering some turmoil right about now. Michael Vick is injured, Ben Roethlisberger is out a few weeks, Eli Manning is falling apart, etc. There are only a handful of players at the position that you start without thinking twice. If you are playing the match-up, my piece of advice to you would start and end with telling you to start the quarterback facing the more vulnerable pass defense.

I might sound like captain obvious in saying that, but you will have plenty of options in choosing players who are on similar tiers. Maybe it is a Ryan Fitzpatrick or a Joe Flacco decision. Maybe it’s Jake Locker and Carson Palmer. There will tough decisions on the horizon if you are playing the quarterback carousel game. Just remember, you can be successful at it. The quarterback position over every other in fantasy football has to do with matchups rather than the player themselves. Big names will cloud your judgment, but in today’s passing league, just ask yourself how many times you expect each to throw the football that given week and how sound is the defense he is going up against. The decisions might become easier than you first think.

3. Don’t be completely results oriented. This one has more to do with me helping you to stay sane, and less to do with actually helping you win fantasy football games. Hypothetically speaking, if you choose to start Michael Turner over Andre Brown at your flex because you believe Turner will get more total touches - and that happens - but Brown punches in a fourth quarter 1-yard touchdown in garbage time because Hakeem Nicks got tackled at the 1-yard line - thus leading to Brown outscoring Turner for that week - you can’t go on beating yourself up about the decision.

Fantasy football is a cruel game, it really is. Luck plays out in mysterious ways. At some points, you’ll have to laugh it off and realize you made the decision before the games played out, that you thought would give you the best chance to win. After the results come in, even if you cost yourself a win or prize, you can’t be so results oriented you forget the difference between a bad decision and dumb luck.

Quick Hits

Speaking of the New York Giants and running back Andre Brown, if you watched their offense lately, it has been stale as a month old bag of Doritos. Brown, though, is part of the solution in my mind. When he enters the game, he brings something that Ahmad Bradshaw does not bring at this point. Bradshaw is no longer a creative runner. With his injuries adding up, he not only doesn’t possess the explosiveness he once had, but he lacks the ability the find other openings in the defense when the designed hole of the running play is plugged up. Brown has better vision at this point, and his style fits better for this team. Andre Brown can take a little pressure off of Eli Manning’s ‘tired arm’ and could/will give them back the identity of a team that can move the chains with their ground game.

On Monday Night Football, the Kansas City Chiefs actually played like a professional football team against the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers. I was glad to see the nation finally see what 2011 First-team All-Pro linebacker Derrick Johnson is all about. There are only three All-Pro linebackers each season, and in 2011 it was Johnson, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis that were recognized as the cream of the crop. I imagined many fans from bigger markets saw that team come out last year and wonder how Johnson was put ahead of so many other very good backers. Monday night’s game showcased how he has the ability to make game-altering plays and will be the key cog in a defense that could go from massively underachieving to living up to potential in a year from now.

In case you don’t watch much college football and are just the type that sticks with watching your football on Sunday and Mondays, I feel it is my duty to let you know what exactly is the story of the season in the collegiate ranks. So often when listening to the talking heads on radio and TV, you hear cliches regarding the game of football and how it should be played. What does not happen very often is that you actually see it come to fruition on the field. But that is exactly what is going on at Kansas State University right now.

Coach Bill Snyder, the scheme doctor, has his team playing what I like to call ‘sound’ football. And when I say sound football, I don’t mean they are good players using their talents to play good. These are average to above average players who are not only being put in the right positions by Snyder, but are doing exactly what they have been taught to do. How often do you see players on defense stay disciplined and not make any mental errors? You can’t go a quarter, or even a series, without seeing a missed assignment, a missed tackle or a undisciplined mental error. Synder has done the most remarkable job in our generation of taking middle-of-the-road talent and turning them into a collective force known as an elite football team. No other coach in the collegiate ranks has that ability, period.