July 25, 2008
There's a time and place for detailed strategy talk, and goodness knows we've got a few, shall we say, loquacious chaps at Y! Fantasy Sports (Pianow raises hand). The aim of Tip Drill is a little different - a quick-hit strategy note five times a week, longer than a fortune cookie, shorter than the "So You've Decided to Get Cable" pamphlet. Like today's tip? We're glad. Not into it? Give us a shot next week. As always, one size does not fill all leagues, and your mileage may vary.
Staying in the moment can be a tricky thing. You birdie the first hole and immediately start dreaming of a round in the 70s. The local team makes a lottery pick, and the fans and media put him in the All-Star Game before the end of the year. Your dream girl smiles at a red light, and you fast-forward to where things are headed.
Fantasy football owners are often guilty of a look-ahead, too. Drafting in August, they start planning for the playoffs, looking to acquire horses who will pay off big in Weeks 14, 15 and 16. Forget the regular season, gotta get me ready for a championship run. Who's got the easy schedule in December? Who's got the tricky slate?
I beg you to stop doing all that. Worry about today and tomorrow and the next few weeks. By the time the second half rolls around, the league will look vastly different than it does today. It's ridiculous to think we can really do a strength of schedule analysis in the summer that will be relevant in December.
No league reshuffles quite like the NFL, where chunks of teams perform far better or worse than we expect every year. Did anyone see Cleveland's spike coming last season, or the ascent of Derek Anderson? Heck, the Browns had Anderson in-house for two years and even they didn't realize how good he was - they aggressively moved for Brady Quinn and started Charlie Frye Week 1, for crying out loud. How many scouts knew in August that the Jets were going to drop off six wins, or the Broncos and Saints would have losing records? Who knew that the Bears defense would completely fall apart?
Fantasy owners also trip themselves looking too far back at times. Matt Hasselbeck threw five touchdown passes the last time he met the Giants - two years ago. Does that really mean anything when Hasselbeck gets the Giants in Week 5 this year? Forget it. Half of Seattle's offensive personnel has changed, while Big Blue has a different scheme and several new parts. Two years ago might as well be two decades ago. (One reason why so many pundits misjudged Super Bowl 42: they put too much stock in what New York's defense and New England's offense did in September and October. Come January, none of that was relevant.)
Around midseason you'll see the "this is the weirdest season" articles that come out every freaking year. It's become an annual Mad Lib, just fill in a few blanks. Every season is weird, every season has nuance, every season is tricky to decipher. The skill of it all is figuring out the new season quicker than your opponents.
Bottom line, here's your Friday tip, clip and save: strength of schedule is vastly overrated as a fantasy tool if you're looking months in advance. If you want to incorporate it on a smaller scale, consider the three or four games ahead of you and take your best shot. But don't trick yourself into thinking you know today what defenses will be easy targets in Week 14, and which units you should avoid. Players improve and decline, schemes jell and fall apart, injuries are constant in this league. I'm all for handicapping the fantasy playoffs a few weeks in advance, but not until all the Halloween Candy has been passed out. Maybe your fortune teller can get you wins in the fantasy playoffs, but I'd like to see some games before I set up my plans for the final quarter.