The Fantasy First-Timer Blog

Third Team’s The Charm

The nice thing about having three teams to juggle (and it is three now – more on that in a minute) is that one can have a truly catastrophic week without it ruining the entire fantasy football experience.

By Thursday night, it was pretty clear I was going to lose my matchup in the FFT Original league. Team BlueAndGold had two players in the Thursday night matchup: Brandin Cooks, who had 8 points and didn’t necessarily disappoint, and the Patriots defense, who had -4 points and disappointed very much. There’s also the fact that my first round draft pick, Mike Evans, suddenly had this week off when the Tampa Bay game was postponed. And my opponent’s team this week is pretty stacked, so I’d be headed uphill no matter what.

I wrote this one off, pretty much, after Thursday. Now it’s gotten more complicated since then – as I write this, the games are in progress, and although my team is not exactly kicking ass, she’s made some lineup errors as well and we’re pretty neck and neck. Final results for this matchup, as for all matchups, won’t be known until after the Monday night games. But even if I do eke out a win here – and that’s still a pretty big if – I’m only on track for about 75 points and I’m not going to be proud of this lineup’s performance.

But I don’t have to fear the very mention of fantasy football, even with this disappointment. Win or lose, underperformance or not, I’m not completely hopeless. I have two other shots at fantasy glory this week. The first is with my new FFT Remix league and my new team, Turn Down For Watt.

Yes, I named my new team Turn Down For Watt. If you’re surprised, welcome to the blog.

I like this team and I like the players I ended up with here. There’s a lot of crossover with Team BlueAndGold, which you can understand when you realize I had almost no notice to put this team together. I relied on the same research; therefore I liked the same players. I have Mariota, Fournette, Rudolph, and, of course, Perkins and Forbath in both leagues, to say nothing of Terrance West and Eric Decker on both benches. My big difference is the WR corps – Odell Beckham Jr. and Alshon Jeffery instead of Mike Evans and Brandin Cooks – and the second RB – Frank Gore instead of Ty Montgomery. And I have the Texans defense, of course, as you must do if you name your team Turn Down For Watt.

This league is where I had the most interesting start-or-sit dilemma of the week. I drafted OBJ really high. Like first round high. So of course I intend to start him if I can. Trouble is, can I? He’s been questionable with an injury all week, and while the word is that he was improving and could possibly start, there are equally good indications that the Giants won’t start him unless he was 100% healthy, which he probably isn’t quite yet. And this is the Sunday night game, so the Giants don’t have to commit to whether or not they want to play him until about 4:00pm, by which time most other players would already have gone (and I’d already be at work). I’m writing this Sunday afternoon well before any facts are known here, but it would behoove me to already know what I plan to do about OBJ.

So I made plans to go without him, but I’m filling in for him with a WR I had on my bench who plays Monday night anyway. So if OBJ ends up playing – and I end up being able to sneak away at work and make lineup changes – I could swap him in, but if he doesn’t, which seems likelier, then I’ll be set with Ted Ginn Jr.

I headed into a matchup here with my friend, the FFT Original commish, and all indications were that the game would be tight. I like his team a lot too – he’s got my dream QB, for one. But as the day has shaken out, my team has held up its end a lot better. I wouldn’t say I’ve overperformed – with one exception which I will get to in a bit – but his has not impressed. I’m in line to win this one at the moment, 86 to 67 – although he’s got a lot of players currently playing, and I’ve got a lot lined up for Monday night, so much is still possible.

That one exception, by the way? Leonard Fournette. Rookie running back. Where have we heard that one before? He stepped out this week and had 18 points in his debut. It’s not the 39 points another rookie RB, Kareem Hunt, had in his first game for Kansas City, but it’s damn respectable – and probably more sustainable. It’s early in the season, of course, but drafting a rookie as high as I did in two leagues is a risk, and so far it’s paying off. Fournette’s going to be an MVP for me this year, I can feel it.

And as for that third fantasy team I mentioned at the beginning?

The third one’s not really mine. It’s my dad’s. He was invited to join his first fantasy football team this year, and – I hope – inspired by the fun I had last year, he accepted. But he brought me on as his co-manager and ringer. It’s his team, he’s calling all the shots, but I’m advising him. I’m putting as much work into these recommendations as I am into my own lineups, and I feel pretty proprietary about this team, even though it’s definitely his and his alone. Anyway, you get to be subjected to me ranting about them too.

He calls his team Rookie Mistake, although he has yet to really make one. I love the team we put together – David Johnson, Amari Cooper, Matt Ryan, Jordan Reed, lots of good quality mid-pack guys (many of whom are, surprise surprise, similar to the ones on my other two teams).

And so far, they’re looking in solid shape. Sure, Jordan Reed underperformed, and the Washington offense looks like such a mess that I’m not sure he’s going to be able to get it on track in the long run. And yes, David Johnson took an injury that may or may not be season-limiting – no one knows the severity yet. But for this particular week, for this particular matchup, he’s on track to win handily. Part of that is his opponent’s mismanagement, but a bigger part is that he’s got a stacked set of powerhouse players, most of whom have high floors even when they don’t reach their super-high ceilings.  He’s tracking towards a score of 86, and his team could easily do 90 or better on a week to week basis.

So it’s about halfway through the first weekend, and I’m about halfway confidant on all three of my fantasy matchups. Sounds about right.

Wish me (and my dad!) luck for the rest of the weekend!

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Double The Pleasure, Double The Fun

Why have one when you can have two?

I got a text last night, late, after my draft had been completed, from my league commissioner/former coworker. Apparently he’s in a league with yet another former coworker, and that league was one person short with one hour to go before their draft. He thought of me and sent me a last-minute text. “We’re looking for one more, want to play with us?”

So now I’m in two leagues.

And just like that, I’m the Fantasy First-Timer again. Only this year it’s the first time juggling multiple teams, multiple combinations of players against multiple opponents.

Which is exactly what I needed in my life. Another fantasy team to eat up my time and energy.

But if I was worried about that, I wouldn’t also be spending time blogging about it. So here we are. If you thought last season was a roller coaster, buckle in. Now we can potentially experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat within the very same day!

More immediately, what this means is that I have two drafts to wrap up and tell you about. I won’t overwhelm you with rounding them both up at once. We’ve got a week and more to kill before the football season starts, so we’ll have time to get to a wrapup of the second draft. For today, let’s start with the first one, or FFT Classic: Team BlueAndGold.

Round One

Last year I drafted 10th of 12, so a lot of the superstuds I had wanted were gone by the time I got up to bat. I ended up with an unknown commodity in Ezekiel Elliott, which, you know, turned out okay. But I was hoping for a higher draft pick this time and the opportunity to draft a known superstud of my own. I had dreams of the number 1 pick and David Johnson. And then my draft pick was…

8th of 10. So much for dreaming.

This actually turned out to be one of the hardest decisions I made in this draft, because although a lot of the best-of-the-best guys were gone, a few elite-tier players remained, including two I had my eye on. I could have taken Mike Evans, WR in Tampa Bay. He’s a top-level stud in a productive offense. Or I could have taken Melvin Gordon, RB for the Chargers and former member of Team BlueAndGold. You know how I love this guy. He has a first round grade on the back of what he did last year (when, remember, I got him in the 8th).

It was tempting to bring Gordon back for another go-round. But I had a lot of other RBs that I liked still on the board. The list of WRs I feel comfortable with as an elite week-to-week guy is much shorter. So I couldn’t pass up Evans. I had hopes that perhaps Mr. Gordon would fall into the second round – where, because of the snake draft format, I would pick relatively quickly – and perhaps I could come back to him.

Round Two

Which, of course, did not happen. Gordon came off the board with the very next pick. No real surprise.

What was a surprise was that Leonard Fournette had lasted that long. I get it – he’s a rookie, and there’s built-in risk with that – but as we learned last year, a rookie running back with elite skills in the right offense has potential to be huge right away. Fournette is playing in Jacksonville, with quite possibly the worst professional quarterback I’ve ever had the misfortune of watching play. Even his coach has stated publicly that he’d be thrilled if his QB never once threw the ball. So they’re going to run it a lot. A lot. Fournette is going to get the lion’s share and more of that work. I’m super high on him and was very happy to pick him up.

Round Three

I felt pretty good about waiting until Round Three to get my QB, even though the one I desperately wanted was one of the tippy-top ones who was likely to go early. By my pick in Round Two, no QBs had come off the board. Odds looked pretty decent that Matty Ice could slide all the way to my third pick.

But he didn’t. Lesson we’re learning here, folks: don’t get your heart set on any one particular player in the draft. Forces will conspire to make sure you don’t get him.

I could have taken a different QB instead, but none of the ones remaining were worth such a high draft pick. The ones I liked would still be on the board later. Instead, I used this pick to snatch my second WR. The Matty Ice disappointment left me scrambling a bit, and I chose one I wasn’t sure that I was totally happy with, Brandin Cooks of New England. The more I think about this, though, the better this decision looks to me. Yes, as we learned last year, there’s danger in relying on the Patriots’ weapons – which one breaks out game to game is often a dice roll. But Cooks is a very good WR, and Edelman’s out for the season. You know Brady has to throw it to someone. Cooks will rack up yardage. He’s a good addition.

Round Four

And in the fourth we get our second running back. I wanted a reliable veteran to go with my explosive rookie risk. I didn’t quite end up with that, but I really like Ty Montgomery and I think he’ll have a great year in a Green Bay offense that’s poised to step up.

Round Five

I do not want to do what I did last year and wait until the middle of the draft to get a tight end. I do not want a repeat of The Gary Barnidge Situation. So this was the round to target one. A few of the top flight guys – the Gronks of the world – were off the board, but several other very good ones were still available to me here. So I took Kyle Rudolph, former Team BlueAndGold-er. I loved what he did last year and I see no reason that he won’t keep that ball rolling.

Round Six

We’re starting to fill in our starting roster pretty nicely, but as you’ve probably noticed, there’s a pretty big hole at the top. Since we didn’t get Matt Ryan, I didn’t want to overdraft my QB. But since we didn’t get Matt Ryan, I also didn’t want to let any of the other guys I liked slip through my fingers again. So I didn’t take the risk of waiting another round and a half to get to my next pick, even though it was just a touch high to take Marcus Mariota. I don’t regret it. I liked what he did last year, this year should be even better, and the Titans are poised to do good things with him at the helm. Hopefully Team BlueAndGold is too.

Round Seven

We’re now at the point where we’re bulking up our WR and RB corps with good week-to-week or future-development type options. And a great candidate for that is another Team BlueAndGold vet, Jamison Crowder. So I welcomed him back to the team.

Round Eight

Paul Perkins is officially the starter for the New York Giants this year. Now, he probably won’t be an every-down guy, which is why he’s an 8th round choice instead of a top-round choice. But I definitely had to have him again if possible. And I didn’t want to let him go too late, because I’m not the only one who recognizes that he could be productive anymore. So I took him here. Arguably high, but honestly, I’m not even sorry.

Right after I took this pick, however, I noticed something worrying. I now had three running backs on my team through eight rounds. And all three had the same bye week, Week Eight. I remember what it was like to have all my wide receivers take a vacation at the same time. I did not want to go through that again. For sixteen weeks out of the year, I’m going to be glad to have these guys. But the time to start thinking about what to do in Week Eight is now. I resolved to look for running backs I liked who did not have Week Eight byes. I have to pick a few more options anyway, they may as well be guys who I know I’ll have a use for.

Round Nine

You’d think, having resolved this, I’d have taken a running back in the 9th round. And yet. Eric Decker was on the board still. Coming off of injury but healthy now (relatively – he’s taking it easy on a twisted ankle in the preseason but I’m betting he’ll bounce back from that). On a new team this year, but one with an offense that I think will go – Tennessee’s; you know I believe it them or I wouldn’t have taken their quarterback. And a reliably talented performer. I foresee a lot of good coming from this pick in the future. I foresee this was a value, if not an outright steal.

Round Ten

And now we get that running back we were hoping for. And it’s an interesting one. Doug Martin is a great, great player. Why, then, is he still available in the 10th round? Well, he’ll be serving a three-game suspension for the start of the season, and the guy filling in for him during that time is good enough that there’s speculation that Martin will have to fight for his job back in Week Four. I’m not worried about it though. I’m looking for a Week Eight guy. If Martin does what I think he’ll do, he could earn his way into my starting lineup before then, and stay there long after. But I don’t need the first three weeks, I’m covered there. So the suspension doesn’t scare me. Welcome to the team, Mr. Martin.

Round Eleven

Remember how I didn’t want to get a defense too early? Or maybe even at all until the last round or two? About that. The Patriots are a standout defense. And their special teams captain is Matthew Slater, who is still my favorite UCLA player ever. It was early to get them, but, you know what, I don’t feel bad about it.

Round Twelve

So we have four rounds to just pick up interesting backups, and then we’ll close out with our kicker. This round’s interesting backup is a second tight end, Jack Doyle of Indianapolis. I like Doyle’s potential. He could take over for Rudolph for a week or two.

Round Thirteen/Fourteen

I’m still in the market for running backs with strong potential. I’m still gonna need another Week Eight guy, at least. So with that in mind, I picked up Terrance West, from Baltimore in the 13th, and then backed him up in the 14th with James White, from New England. Both of these guys could have potential during the season, and I’m glad to have them on my bench if and when I need them.

Round Fifteen

I intended to take one more wide receiver here. But I did not. I got down to the moment and went a different way. Carson Wentz isn’t a top-flight quarterback – he’s coming off a good-but-not-transcendent rookie season, but he’s poised for a breakout this year. Even if all I’ve accomplished is that I’m keeping him from one of my competitors, then it’s worth it. And if he breaks out like I think he could, I may have a use for him myself.

Round Sixteen

If I could, I wouldn’t even draft a kicker. I’d pick him up off of waivers just before the first games kick off. But that’s not an option – I have to have a complete roster when the draft ends. So I got Kai Forbath. Now, it’s not 100% clear that Forbath will have the starting job in Minnesota when all is said and done, although I believe strongly that he will. And if he’s kicking, I want him on my team – news flash, I love this guy. But the worst that could happen is he loses his job, I have to cut him, and I pick up another guy off of waivers right before the games kick off. So it’s a risk with no actual risk. Sign me up.

And that’s it! That’s the sixteen guys I ended up with for this season on Team BlueAndGold. Can I conquer my league with them the way I did last year? Time will tell, but I feel good about this group. There’s a lot of potential here, a lot of strong performers and a lot of ways to combine them week-to-week into a powerhouse. I think we’re looking strong, and I’m excited for the season ahead.

Now, did my second draft attempt go as smoothly? Stay tuned to find out!

The Fantasy First-Timer Rides Again

It’s Draft Day, everybody! The most wonderful time of the year!

So, because I know you’re wondering: I built a spreadsheet. Shocker, yes? I feel you judging me although you really shouldn’t. This powerful tool was key to my success in the draft last year. Why wouldn’t I use it again for this one?

Although, quick note about my success in the draft last year. Because the more I think about it, the more I realize that all that “success” wasn’t due to any kind of skill or knowledge on my part, but just pure, dumb, beginner’s luck.

I hadn’t looked at Ezekiel Elliott at all. I had different first round targets. But my late draft position meant everyone ahead of him was gone, so I rolled the dice. I didn’t feel good about it, either. He was a rookie, supposed to be good but who knows. Well, it worked out.

Melvin Gordon was a backup when I drafted him. One that was going to get work, but not a star-of-the-show top-5 type. He’d had huge expectations the previous year, in 2015, when he was a rookie, and he’d failed to live up to them. I didn’t know this, so it didn’t bias me. And he stepped up when the starter got injured in the first or second week (can’t recall exactly) and became the stud we knew and loved. It worked out.

Almost none of the position players I drafted after the eighth round or so played a single down for me. This probably isn’t that uncommon, but a good use of these draft picks would eye sleeper-type possible-breakout picks that might have a good week or two later on and could be useful. Kind of like eying the waiver wire for guys several weeks in advance instead of only for that week, which is something we learned to do last year. I did not do it effectively in the draft, but by eventually cutting those guys and picking up others who did fit my needs in the moment, I worked around it. It worked out.

Picking Tyrod Taylor was a monumental mistake. If I had it to do over again I would never have even drafted a second QB to back up Tom Brady, or I would have taken him way later, or I would have drafted the guy I wanted to stream for Week One only in one of the very late rounds. Picking him where I did could have hobbled me, but it didn’t. Luckily, it worked out.

All of that is luck. None of that is skill. And honestly? It’s not even beginner’s luck, it’s just luck.

You can know all you need to know about the draft (and I did, and I do), and still you have to hope you get lucky.

So let’s hope we get lucky again.

So who are we hoping to get lucky with?

(Football, guys. Just football. Stay with me.)

I’ve got some targets. I’ve got some ideas. I’ve got some plans.

So let’s do the traditional (in that it’s the second year we’re doing it – that makes it a tradition, right?) comparison of the Expert Ranking (which involves averaging the rankings of the experts I like) to the Highly Scientific FFT RankingTM (which involves that, plus my totally subjective feelings of teams that I like or don’t like, players that I like or don’t like, and if a guy went to college in the good part of LA or the bad part of LA).

Position: Running Back
Experts: David Johnson (ARI)
FFT: David Johnson (ARI)
Thoughts: Damn do I want David Johnson. Almost every expert has him ranked #1 overall, though, so the only way I’m getting him is if I end up drafting first (or maybe second, depending on how the guy ahead of me feels about Le’Veon Bell). I have others in the top five I like, including our buddy Melvin Gordon, but damn, would it be great to end up with David Johnson.

Position: Wide Receiver
Experts: Antonio Brown (PIT)
FFT: Antonio Brown (PIT)
Thoughts: And yet no force on earth would make me spend a first round draft pick on Antonio Brown. That’s just how highly he’s ranked, that even me grading him down because he plays with Big Ben (who, let’s remember, I haven’t forgiven and never will) doesn’t shake him out of first place. This is honestly fine though. Because I’ll be targeting a running back in the first round (see Johnson, David), so I’ll get my top WR in the second, when Antonio Brown will – oh, shucks, really? Too bad – be drafted already.

Position: Tight End
Experts: Rob Gronkowski (NE)
FFT: Rob Gronkowski (NE)
Thoughts: By a lot. Gronk is graded as the 21st best player overall in both my board and the experts’. The next tight end is 39th on my board (and just a hair higher on the experts’). That’s almost two full rounds of difference in their draft grade. That’s how good Gronk makes any team he’s on. I think he’ll go in the first or second round though, and I’m gonna fill different needs there, so I won’t end up with Gronk. I should still end up with a top-5 guy though. So long as I don’t put off drafting one until late like I did last year, when I ended up with Gary Freaking Barnidge. I have other later guys to target though, so when their time is ripe, I’ll be there to nab ‘em.

Position: Quarterback
Experts: Tom Brady (NE)
FFT: Tom Brady (NE)
Thoughts: The experts are pretty close between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. My ranking has a little more space between them. But it doesn’t matter because I don’t want either one of these guys. (They’ll go in the first round, probably, way over their value, and I want to fill other needs there). The guy I want, though, might also go earlier than his value. And this is where I may end up taking the biggest risk, because if he’s still on the board in the third, I may go against what I know I should do and pick him up anyway. Who is this man, you ask? Matt Ryan. Matty Ice. Mr. Make Defeat Your Fuel. If we’re gonna make that into our mantra this year, then who better to lead us then the guy who introduced us to it? If it works out. I’m hoping so hard on this one.

Position: Defense/Special Teams
Experts: Minnesota Vikings
FFT: Houston Texans
Thoughts: The return of J.J. Watt. Turn Down For Watt. I think they’re going to be good this year. Minnesota will be good too. So will a handful of others. So why am I not stressing this position? Well, remember last year when we had to stream almost every week, and it worked out for us? Honestly, that streaming strategy probably lead to more success than just picking a defense and riding it out. Unless they’re truly elite – and I don’t see any earth-shattering defenses in the NFL this year, just a few who are quite good. I’ll have to draft somebody because I have to draft somebody, but I’ll do it late and I’ll probably do it based on who I want to stream Week One. The Browns kick their regular season off against the Steelers, so… that might be a way to go.

Position: Kicker
Experts: Justin Tucker (BAL)
FFT: Justin Tucker (BAL)
Thoughts: Like D/ST though, I’m not sure it’s worth spending a draft pick, even a mid-level one, on a kicker. This is a position I can stream pretty effectively. Or there’s Kai Forbath, who is secure in his starting spot in Minnesota and who no one else on earth – or at least no one else in my league – is going to take. Kicker is likely to be the last pick I make tonight. So it’ll be a dice roll who I get depending on who’s still there, but it doesn’t matter. Because streaming.

So there we have it! The rankings are compiled and ready to go for the draft tonight. Are you ready? Because I’m dancing-up-and-down-excited for this thing to kick off.

The Fantay First-Timer Rides Again.

FFT 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Let’s do this.

See you on Twitter tonight (@megthinksaloud) at 6:30 for the livetweet of the draft, and see you back here when it’s all over for a report of how it went down!

Guess Who’s Back?

Didja miss me?

It’s football time again, and that means The Return Of The Fantasy First-Timer. (Second-Timer. Or something. This blog definitely has a name problem now, but oh well.) We’re gearing up to top the 2016 season with a repeat of all the heart-pounding, non-stop action you could ask for from watching numbers on an app go up or down.

First things first, though: how’d it go at the end of last season?

Yeah, sorry for dropping the ball on the update. You can probably assume what that means. I needed some time to process the loss, and then other parts of life took over, and, well, here we are eight months later. But no time like the present for a report.

So: cast your mind all the way back and remember the hole I was in going into that last week. I was facing a team of (mostly shadily acquired) superstars. I was behind, 92 points to my opponent’s 121. And three of my four best players were out for the week – AJ Green and Melvin Gordon out with injuries, Ezekiel Elliott out with end-of-season rest.

So yes, I lost. Closing a 29-point gap with the roster I could put together, versus the roster he had, was basically impossible.

Although, as it turns out, not that impossible.

W17 Results Shot

I did beat him in Week Seventeen. I did close the gap. Just not quite enough. And the real disappointing thing here is that the win was, remarkably, within my grasp. He couldn’t really have improved his roster with his bench, but I could have. If I had gone with nostalgia and started Paul Perkins just out of love for him instead of streaming Jacquizz Rodgers, I would have picked up Perkins’s 10 points instead of Rodgers’s 7. And if I had used Rishard Matthews as my flex WR instead of streaming Adam Thielen, no matter how much I wanted to use the “hooked on a Thielen” pun I’d been eying for weeks, I could have had the 17 Matthews put up instead of the goose egg I did get.

I could have had 20 extra points. Should have had 17, that shouldn’t have been a hard call to make. And I lost by 11.

This defeat was crushing in the moment – hence me dragging my feet to blog about it. I could have had, should have had, the championship. And I lost it. I wasn’t outperformed, like I was prepared to be. I, myself, by my own decisions, lost it.

But in hindsight now, I’m not upset about this. Because it proves to me that I can do it. That I’m capable. That I can compete. That I’m not actually that bad at this fantasy stuff.

So that’s the spirit I’m taking with me into the 2017 season. Kinda like the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl last year. They should have had it but they choked it away right at the end there. And yes, that sucks for them and it’s painful, but this season they have to know how close they were, and that they’re worthy of a championship. No one’s standing in their way if they themselves go out there and take it.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan is in a Gatorade commercial right now – along with other athletes, but he’s my favorite part of it – where they talk about their huge losses and how they drive them. The slogan of the commercial is “Make Defeat Your Fuel”. And that’s going to be our motto too for this new season.

We’re all fueled up and ready to take on the league once again.

I’m excited for it. I hope you are too.

Week Seventeen Preview: The Final Countdown

Do do do do…  Do do do do do!

Man, it’s hard to write a synthesizer line in words!  Just imagine I’m singing the opening to the Europe song from the 80’s, will you?

Can you believe we’re here, you guys? It’s the finals, and we’re still playing for the title. Would you have ever believed when we started this thing that we’d make it this far?

Well, we’re here now. And we’re facing a huge deficit in the final matchup.

But how will today shake out?

W17 Lines Shot.png

Yeah… this is about what I’d expect to see, quite frankly. My opportunity isn’t in the projections for these players, it’s in how many of mine could overperform. Hopefully.

But the challenge this week has been intense. And you’ll notice that, as a result, my lineup looks a little different than it has in the past.

How different?

w17-preview-shot

You’re seeing that right. No A.J. Green, of course, no Melvin Gordon. And no Ezekiel Elliott.

Wait – no Elliott? The man who’s done the most to get me here?

This all boils down to the reason this week has been such a nailbiter. And it’s not just because of the 29 point hole I’m staring up from. There are four teams who are already locked into their positions in the finals and have no incentive to play their hardest this week. They’re about resting starters and being ready for a Super Bowl run. Giants, Steelers, Texans, and Cowboys.

Yes. Ezekiel Elliott’s Cowboys.

All week there was the question: Will the Cowboys play their starters? For most of the week there was no clear answer. Probably they would, some, but not the whole game. But even one half worth of Ezekiel Elliott could be major. I picked up another running back who would play the whole game in a starter’s role: Jacquizz Rodgers, who just got the starter’s job in Tampa Bay with the sidelining of Doug Martin and was productive with it last week. He’s now my RB2, and Frank Gore gets promoted to RB1. And I moved Elliott to the flex spot, where I could move him out of quickly if it turned out I needed to.

And then all week I stared at it. I had picked up another wide receiver this week too, Adam Thielen. I had him on my roster for a while earlier this season, if you’ll recall, but I never did use him, and I cut him for Rishard Matthews. And of course, as soon as I did that he blew up (with one week off for injury in there). Last week he had 32 points. I don’t think he’ll do that again, exactly, but he should be a huge contributor this week. But there wasn’t room for him in my lineup, exactly, when I wanted to go with Edelman and Montgomery also.

So I debated it: Elliott or Thielen? Thielen or Elliott? One half of Elliott can be worth more than a whole game of many other players… So should I ride him? Or hedge my bets?

Then, as of this morning, the current scuttlebutt is that Elliott won’t play very much. A series or two, but that’s it. He could still go off in a series or two, but that limits him much more. I pulled him out, and now we’re hooked on a Thielen.

(I have waited an entire season to use that pun. It was so worth it.)

So that handles one type of Week Seventeen team: the Team With Nothing To Play For Except Injury Prevention. There are several other types too, unusual to the rest of the season, that make putting together a lineup in this last week an extra challenge:

  • The Team Locked Into The Playoffs But Playing For Seeding (Seattle, Oakland, New England, Atlanta, Kansas City, Miami): These guys will probably start everybody like a regular week, but might go into resting their starters mode if the game gets out of hand one way or the other. I have Brady and Edelman in this mode. And I do think they’ll play enough to produce, especially since they play Miami who also falls into this category and won’t lie down without a fight.
  • The Team Who Controls Their Own Playoff Destiny With A Win and/or Needs To Win And Have Something Go Right To Make The Playoffs (Washington, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Green Bay): These guys have to fight and fight hard, just like usual, because they don’t make the playoffs without a win. Although if Washington loses before Green Bay kicks off, the Packers get locked in already and suddenly don’t have to go so hard. Still, they’ve been planning all week to go full steam ahead, and they won’t flip that on a dime necessarily. I have Jacquizz Rodgers and Ty Montgomery in this mode, and that’s why I expect them to have big games. They can’t make the playoffs without them.
  • The Team Who Is Out Of The Playoffs And Is Playing Either For Professional Pride Or To Screw Up The Season Of The Rival They Are Facing This Week (everybody else): Gore’s Colts are in this mode. Their game against Jacksonville is meaningless for playoff potential. All that’s on the line is pride. So they’ll play for that. They won’t rest starters because the season is over. They might not play as hard, but at least Jacksonville is a rival. And they’re pros, they’ll go hard because they’re paid to. The Minnesota Vikings (and therefore Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen, and Kai Forbath) are also in this mode, with a meaningless game against the rival Chicago Bears. They’ll go hard for that. And both Jacksonville and Chicago are pretty terrible teams who I don’t expect to do much to offer resistance, despite their own pride. We also find this week’s streaming defense, the Tennessee Titans, in this mode, with a twist: the team they are playing is the Texans, who have nothing to gain this week since they are locked into their playoff seed. They will rest most of their starters, which should make it easier for the Titans defense to put up points against them. That’s why they became our streamer, and I expect that move to pay off.

Now, as for my opponent? His players are a mix of Motivated To Get Into The Playoffs and Already Totally Out Of It. And he didn’t have to do a lot of shuffling to achieve that mix like I did. This is our weakness this week, because his stars will still play like stars, while mine will probably sit for most of the game.

Still, I like the potential of the guys I’ve got in their stead. I think I’ve got the potential to have a big day.

Will it be the huge day I need? Hard to say. I can’t deny that it would take almost a miracle to pull this off.

But remember the 2007 New York Giants? I told their story earlier this year, because it’s been an inspiration for me. Their season looked all but done early on, but they came back and beat the previously unbeatable New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. And they came from behind in that game to do it with late-game, miraculous heroics.

We can do it too. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and it ain’t over yet.

It’s time, gang. Last day of the season, last day to put it all out on the line.

Team BlueAndGold’s final ride.

Hold your breath, cross your fingers, and wish us luck.