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COUCH TOMATOES: The Sprint to the Playoffs

Warning: Reading this column about fantasy football can be hazardous to your health. If you cannot handle humor and satire, mixed in with a few juicy tidbits of NFL facts, this may not be for you. But if you are ready—read on my friends.

Thanksgiving week is always sort of special. Not only does it give us an opportunity to give thanks for all the blessings we have had bestowed upon us, but fantasy football wise it marks a transition into the end of our season. Over Weeks 12, 13 and 14, I have the regular seasons of all seven of my leagues coming to an end. In one league, I am battling for the #1 seed and in two others I am striving not to be the guy that did not make the playoffs by one game. I am right on that edge, if you know what I mean.

In my dynasty league that I have played in since 1985, I have seen my two year rebuilding project start to blossom over the last month. Through some prudent drafting and robust trading I finally have some balance and things are looking up for 2017.

As for my other three leagues, the curse of injuries and under-performing players proved to be too much to overcome. Collectively though, the year has been a lot of fun, especially with the one experts league team fighting it out for the #1 seed.

On the other side of the Thanksgiving coin, Bonnie and I had a nice day. We fixed dinner, gave thanks and had a very pleasant celebratory day. Toby, Mabel and Mollie sat quietly through most of the day. Bonnie said she had no idea why, but I think it was that Chopped episode she watched Wednesday on the Food Network. The winner cooked holiday rabbit three ways to win.

And of course with my big mouth… I joked to Toby that the roast beef we were roasting was a big old rabbit.

At the dinner table, Mabel asked a question about how we humans can eat meat, but I was chewing too much of the tender beef to answer. Instead, I passed her the carrots and just smiled.

Playing to win with this week’s Couch Six Pack

1) I was reading up on missed extra points again after 12 were missed in Week 11. Now we know that the rule change in 2015 was the beginning of this calamity. In 2015, only four teams ended the season making 100% of their extra points. So far in 2016, there are only eight teams that have not missed an extra point with six more weeks to go.

Under the old method, the total misses in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 were 7, 6, 5 and 8. The odds of going for two points, as we discussed a couple of weeks ago, are tempting. In a game that is won or lost by point spreads in Las Vegas, this extra point fiasco is wreaking havoc. It is hurting both the house and gamblers alike.

2) Coaches oftentimes are the easiest part of an organization to add or get rid of. Why? Is John Fox, coach of the 2-8 Bears suddenly a bad coach after years of success with the Panthers and Broncos? Why can’t he transform Chicago like he did Carolina and Denver and win Super Bowls?

Over the last two years, Chicago has been terrible. They have drafted relatively well, but they have been plagued by injuries. Jay Cutler has been much maligned and he certainly does not have the personality of most of his QB peers. The move from Matt Forte to youngsters Howard and Langford has been smooth.

When you look at the OL, you see injuries galore. They have drafted players and signed free agents, but they have incurred massive injuries. AT WR they have been decimated for the second year in a row.

On defense, the injury curse has been unrelenting. They seem to have the talent, but they cannot stay healthy.

So when you evaluate a team like this, what can you conclude? Is it time to start over with a new front office, coaching staff and players? They’ve had injuries at all the skilled positions that have decimated the team and made them one of the league bottom feeders.

You see coaches like Mike McCarthy who has been tremendously successful and the Packers, like the Bears, are hurting badly and playing like it. Forced to use WRs at RB and missing key players due to injuries, Green Bay is having an abysmal season.

When we look deeply at what issues affect a team’s winning and losing, the coach is oftentimes part of the problem, but seldom is he the only thing that is wrong.

3) Every year we draft what we think is a solid team in August and by the time we reach Week 12 we can sit down and lay the two rosters, past and current, side by side and see all the changes.

Wow! Out of the 20 players or so, how many are the same? Once you have played this game a while you look upon the players as fuel. Some last all year and others fall by the wayside each and every week. You keep making waiver moves week after week as you seek to maintain a winning lineup. Each move becomes more difficult as you proceed from week to week and the odds of success keep falling.

Very seldom do people who do not play the waivers, or make trades to continue to bolster their lineups succeed. You need to stick to your plan and work hard to be a winner. These last few weeks we have to be even more aggressive. Snatch up everything you can on waivers. Even take good players that you do not need and drop your very lowest players.

This hoarding method keeps your opponents from fixing their own problems. That can give you just that little edge you need to win critical games down the stretch of the season and in the playoffs. It is not easy to win championships, but is sure does feel good.

4) We all have that warning on our car mirrors alerting us to the fact that objects appearing in the mirror maybe closer than they look. We have that phenomenon in fantasy football as well. What we draft is not always what it seems to be. The quality of a player’s season varies over the course of a season. We all look for players that are consistent scoring-wise, but there are usually not enough of them to go around.

We look at someone like Marvin Jones, or even Ty Montgomery. We see Lamar Miller and Alshon Jeffery, Tim Hightower and Blake Bortles. We watch Philip Rivers throw until there is nobody left to run down the field. All of them have been very good, as well as very bad, depending on the week.

We draft Cam Newton and Russell Wilson early, thinking we are geniuses. Then we once again kick ourselves for drafting a QB so high. Will we learn our lesson? Heck no! We need to look over a game-by-game fantasy recap over a couple of seasons and determine who is really consistent. Another important thing to do is to note the less consistent players that are likely to give you 5-6 good games.

And when that Marvin Jones cools down, be sure to take him out of your lineup.

5) We all look at rankings, but we have to remember that they are somewhat generic and our own leagues may have rules nuances that distort the rankings a tad. If you have MFL you can easily run a scoring report for your team that gives you the results just for the last 3-4 games.

If you need to select two RBs then you go in and look at who has been hot and who their opponent is this week. Keep your mind in the present tense, not the past. For example, defenses like the Packers may be inviting to offensive opponents right now. The Vikings are the defense du jour in 2016.

Combine the recent results, rankings and whatever other criteria you trust and pencil in that lineup, slot by slot. Don’t pick a flex player carelessly. Who will give you the better chance to score the most points? That can make the flex a RB, WR or TE.

Watch for guys in a slump. Do not assume they will bounce back this week. Other than hope, you have nothing concrete to base that on. In the MFL Power Rankings, we see that top teams score about 88% of their potential lineup points. The higher that key number is, the better your chances of winning each game.

6) We have all been griping about the new injury status designations. Now is the time to embrace them for what they are. They’re a facet of the game we need to overcome to win. Check players with a ‘Q’ carefully. Is it the first week on ‘Q’ status? What have they done recently while on ‘Q’? What do sources like Pro Football Talk (my favorite resource) say?

Ours is a game of knowledge. We need to study and analyze each and every game scenario. Are we going to make mistakes? Heck, yes! This is after all is said and done, a game of luck in many ways. Catches and touchdowns seemingly happen and are taken away. Long plays are often negated by penalties. As Forrest Gump once said, “it happens.”

All I can suggest is read as much as you can. Don’t waste as much time listening to call-in shows and seeing what Joe from Kokomo has to say. Who cares? Take notes and keep track of things. Knowledge, with a little dose of luck, will take you a long way in the fantasy football world.

When we play fantasy football we are so busy with our teams that we forget about the football game as a whole. Be sure to remember that the answers to our fantasy football questions can usually be found within the numbers. And if all else fails, feel free to ask me. You can reach me at All fantasy football questions are welcome.

Good luck! Have fun!

About Mike Nease

Mike Nease is a member of the FSWA and has been playing the game since 1985, while also writing about it since 2001. Over the years he has sampled about all the playing scenarios that fantasy football offers, including re-drafter, keeper, dynasty, auction, IDP and salary cap leagues. He and his wife Bonnie reside in West Chicago, IL You can contact Mike at anytime and during the football season follow him @mikeinsights.