John Lanfranca
JL's Observation Deck - Week 8

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“The Observation Deck” was off the grid last week as I was nowhere to be found in the mainland United States. On my way there, though, I swung by Cowboys Stadium to watch the Dallas Cowboys live on Sunday Night Football against the Washington Redskins in Week 6. Do yourself a favor and get to a game there in the near future. It is quite the spectacle. It may not be as loud as the stadium you are used to (Arrowhead for me, but then again that is the loudest stadium in the NFL), but you will never feel less cramped being around 90,000 other people.

Onto your fantasy team. It is quite possible these may be the last few days available for you to make a season-changing move by trade in your fantasy league. If that is the case, remember these three things:

1) Just because your team has a good record, does not mean you shouldn’t consider making a move.

Don’t be the guy that gets offered an upgrade to your starting lineup, but responds with ‘well I am doing pretty well so far, and I don’t think it would be smart to change anything.’ This is not a real football team you are managing folks, these are players’ stats. It is a game of scoring points, and the only thing that matters is acquiring whatever players will score the most points from this point forward. Last year at this point, Adrian Peterson only had two 100-yard rushing days in his seven contests with only three total touchdowns. Things change a lot quicker than you might realize.

2) The schedule is your friend.

Almost halfway through the season, the data gathered on defenses has started to paint a more clear picture on which matchups you can take advantage of. Before the season starts in the NFL, it is a very bad idea to draft players based on their late-season schedule because a defenses’ effectiveness changes a great deal from year to year. Carolina, Kansas City, Tennessee and New Orleans might all have looked like juicy matchups 10 or so weeks ago, but now after seven weeks of football we can much more accurately assess which teams and players to target moving forward if you need a boost.

The Tennessee offense is the first team that comes to mind. There is not a player on this roster that is fantasy relevant that you likely could not get on the cheap right this minute. What is
Chris Johnson's value right now? Probably not that high. He won’t be facing the New York Jets, Seattle, Kansas City, San Francisco and Houston any longer. He does, however, draw St. Louis’ porous run defense after his bye this week and then follows it up with Jacksonville twice (including championship Week 16), Oakland and Denver all still to come. I am not saying go out and target Johnson and Jake Locker , but if you need an upgrade at wide reciever, trading a solid performing back of today like Frank Gore , Knowshon Moreno , Alfred Morris and Fred Jackson for Johnson to make that upgrade happen is a very sharp idea.

This point can and will be essential for you if you are going to improve your team one last time through trade. Using the schedule is the biggest key in extracting value from another manager because it creates the illusion they are upgrading at a certain spot, when in reality you have acquired a player of lower value for only the time being, and upgraded at another spot. A few more players to consider targeting using this philosophy and technique:
Robert Griffin III , Victor Cruz , Arian Foster , Colin Kaepernick and Antonio Brown .

3. In order to win a fantasy championship, you will need elite players.

Sounds obvious, right? Probably not as evident as you might assume. Somebody asked me on Twitter, ‘I have been offered Adrian Peterson for blank and blank, should I take this trade.’ As I looked at those two blanks, I saw two middle-of-the-pack players. Solid? Yes. Season-changing? Absolutely not. You take the upgrade to the elite player each and every time and worry about the rest later. If you are looking for cheap replacement level wide receivers to fill out the back end of your roster, this is the season to be in that market. Guys like Jarrett Boykin , Darrius Heyward-Bey , Harry Douglas , Marvin Jones , Riley Cooper , Jeremy Kerley or even Brandon Gibson, in points per reception leagues, can rack up a few valuable starts for you if that is what it takes for you to acquire a talent that might allow you to take the next step to success in your fantasy league.

Quick Hits:

Since the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 5 bye, they have called passing plays on more than 80 percent of their offensive plays. If anything, you can assume
Christian Ponder will inadvertently bring balance back to the play calling.

The 2000 Baltimore Ravens vaunted Super Bowl winning defense registered a total of 35 quarterback sacks during the regular season. The 2013 Kansas City Chiefs have racked up 35 sacks in seven football games. This may be a defense you can establish a bit of a running game against, but throw it enough, and your quarterback won’t be too pleased with you.

Tampa Bay running back
Doug Martin didn’t carry the football once inside the opponents’ 5-yard line in 2013. Mike James , his backup, already has three attempts inside the five just in relief of Martin last game alone. For all the people out there who drafted Martin high, just know that it wasn’t your fault. A combination of putting players in the wrong situations to succeed added to the biggest dropoff in offensive line run blocking effectiveness from 2012 to 2013 is the reason Martin will be deemed a bust this year. If you are just strictly a fan of Doug Martin ’s, don’t you worry. He will have plenty of huge bounce back years to come in his career.

Miami Dolphins tight end
Charles Clay is having one of the quietest breakout seasons you will ever see right about now. He is averaging more fantasy points per game than both Jason Witten and Antonio Gates . Clay has only seen less than six targets in only one game he has played and remains one of the most targeted red zone options for a team that has thrown the football 66 percent of the time on the season.

Thanks again for reading this week and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @JohnnyLFootball. Ask me for any advice you might need regarding trades in the coming weeks. Have a great week and good luck.