August 11, 2009
Twice a week during the preseason I'll be here to discuss Fantasy Football Strategy with you. If you're a five-time defending champion in your Den of Slack league, you probably don't need to consider strategy that much, but in competitive leagues these are discussions worth having. Let's open the notebook.
I know I'm fighting a losing battle as I rail against Strength of Schedule. I understand it's popular with the fantasy crowd. I recognize the allure of being detail-oriented, I hear the siren singing.
But I also know the NFL is a reshuffle league, and I'm not going to make the mistake of looking too far back or too far ahead. Sure, I want success in the playoffs and I want the glory of a championship, just like you do. But the goal for this month is analyzing the player pool and building the deepest roster possible, not making crazy guesses as to what the landscape of the league will look like in the later stages of 2009.
Every October the mainstream media hits us with the "this is the weirdest season ever" gibberish, but it's nothing but a mad lib. Every season is odd. Six of the division winners in 2007 failed to make the playoffs last year. Four of the last place clubs in 2007 wound up in the post-season tournament. The Patriots had a cupcake schedule entering 2008 and it didn't get them any extra games. (Sure, the Tom Brady(notes) injury played into it, but that's a good reason why you shouldn't play fortune teller – guys get hurt in this tackle football game.) The Steelers faced the schedule from hell last year and it bothered them so much they won the friggin' championship.
Fantasy owners also trip themselves looking too far back at times. When Drew Brees(notes) starts at New England later this year, some pundits are sure to recall the last time Brees went to New England and cut up the Patriots (19-24-248, 2 TDs, 137.5 rating). Of course that game was four years ago and Brees was on a different team and the Patriots had a much different defense, but let's not get in the way of player history, I guess. Don't mess up your head thinking that anything from previous seasons matters very much as we try to analyze what's in front of us today. The NFL doesn't work that way, systems and rosters and coaching staffs turn over far too often.
Change the channel when you hear someone railing about a "killer first-place schedule" or a "cushy fourth-place schedule." Teams in the same division basically face the same challenge on paper. Twelve of their opponents will be identical, and while the first-place team from last year has to take on two other division winners, it also gets the last-place team in division for two games. A last-place schedule was a gift from the gods back in the day, but in today's game it's basically a level playing field for all teams sharing a division.
If you insist on playing the SOS card, at least put the telescope away. Never look past the next 3-4 games on the schedule; for now, all that matters is what's on the September slate. There's plenty of time to size up what's doing in Weeks 14-16. Let's get you into the playoffs first.
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