I always think of myself as a pretty avid reader. But things recently went into a complete standstill once I got about 2/3 of the way through Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about, the part when they get to Colorado and there’s this (spoiler alert) magic screen making a valley invisible where everyone has started a commune… sure.
Now I’m not here to trash the book, and I’m actually almost done with it after picking it back up a few days ago. If anything, it will help guide your own ideals if you disagree with Rand lays forth. But to read 1000+ pages to keep getting hammered over the head with the same point gets a little tiresome. I get it: free markets are good, and taxation and financial aid is bad as those people didn’t “earn” it. Womp womp. I also don’t think Ayn Rand’s personal philosophy of “objectivism” is that different from other, older philosophical schools of thought.
My experience with Atlas Shrugged is exactly what it feels like managing a losing fantasy team. In both of my most important leagues I am 1-4 and 2-3 – leagues which I almost always have been in the playoff push. I know it’s early, but it feels extremely taxing (pun only 30-35% intended) going through the same routine every week: put in the best guys, some do well and others not so much; the other team has a few guys with huge games and it’s yet another L for me.
For everyone that has played fantasy and takes it semi-to-really-serious, you know what I’m talking about. You feel you’re better than the competition and have made the playoffs or top few spots annually and all the sudden you can’t win to save your life. It’s even worse in fantasy compared to real sports or video games because you have absolutely no control over the performance your players’ have (other than your original draft, waiver wire moves, and who you start or bench).
But I’m here to tell you not to give up! I’m not going to sit around and let my teams wallow with inattentiveness. And if I end up with only 3 or 4 wins, at least I’ll know what it’s like going through the experience and be ready for next year. I also can know what not to do and avoid offering ridiculous trades (becoming a proverbial “looter” as Rand would say) to try and get out of the hole (if you’re reading this – you who offered me Kevin Kolb straight up for Ryan Fitzpatrick – I’m talking about you) Once I get through Atlas Shrugged I can appreciate the next book even more; once I get through this tough season, I’ll be ready and more appreciative of the next.
Last week’s picks were pretty split with Andy Dalton not quite having the day I saw for him but giving you 2 TDs and Brandon Pettigrew having a big game on Monday Night. Three of the five guys I thought to bench all were pretty quiet: LaGarrette Blount was stuffed and got hurt, Sproles still did OK but did have his worst performance of the year and first single-digit (in ESPN standard-scoring) game, and Steve Johnson also had his worst game of the year. On the other hand Preston Parker and Stevan Ridley didn’t have nearly the roles I thought they would and Isaac Redman had a lot of missed opportunities with Ben Roethlisberger throwing short yardage TDs and then leaving early with leg cramps. Also, Matt Schaub and DeAngelo Williams had pretty good games if you stuck with them.
With a losing team, it becomes more and more desperate to right the ship, so playing guys with a little higher upside is more crucial. Here are some guys I like that most people aren’t starting and some guys to think about benching (along with their % start figures on ESPN & Yahoo, respectively).
Earnest Graham (41.4%, 31%) LaGarrette Blount is reportedly out for as much as 4 weeks with an MCL tear, opening a huge opportunity for Earnest Graham. Along with taking over Blount’s role, Graham was already the third down back and should see a lot of touches with Blount out. Going against the Saints tomorrow, I like Graham a lot, especially in PPR-formats, to get a lot of work and a few opportunities to score either through the air or on the ground.
David Nelson (34%, 19%) Previous WR2 Donald Jones is now out 4-6 weeks with an ankle sprain, making Nelson a much more attractive option at receiver or as your flex. I’ve said this before with Nelson – I feel his ascent reminds me a lot of Steve Johnson. Both started as third string WRs with the receiver ahead of them falling to injury midway through the season (last year being Roscoe Parrish). Nelson isn’t the raw talent Johnson is and I don’t expect comparable numbers, but he is a legit option moving forward and I think he has a big game this week against the Giants.
Daniel Thomas (20%, 29%) With a game missed with injury and coming off a bye, I feel like a lot of people are coming off Thomas, but I see a big game again for the rookie. Matt Moore is getting the start at QB, and as a Panthers fan, I can tell you with certainty he’s not the answer. Look for Miami to get as much out of the ground game as they can against a porous Jets’ run D, currently giving up the 5th most fantasy points to opposing RBs. He is listed as questionable, but his upside is worth the risk.
Colt McCoy (6.3%, 9%) McCoy has a TD in each game this season, and the Raiders have given up the 4th most fantasy points to opposing QBs this year, sorely missing their former shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha. The Browns’ rushing attack hasn’t been clicking with Peyton Hillis still a little sluggish recovering from a severe strep throat and Montario Hardesty still very raw. I see a big game for the Browns through the air and a big game for McCoy’s soon to be go-to-target (see below).
Greg Little (3%, 6%) Now a starter in Cleveland, I think this is going to be Greg Little’s breakout week. Not necessarily because he’s merely got the moniker of “starter,” but because the playbook is now opened up for him and the Raiders don’t have any film to figure out how to contain him. Little is physically a beast at 6’2” 220, and has had a bye week to prepare for his expanded role while also coming off his best game in week 4. I don’t think he’s going to have a Torrey Smith-type coming out game, but an 80-90 yard game with a TD seems very realistic to me.
Son of a Bench
Javhid Best (89.6%, 71%) Javhid’s coming off a huge game, but that 49ers defense is legit – just ask any of the RBs that have been stuffed against the best run defense in the league. It’d be pretty hard to bench him in PPR leagues, but in standard scoring formats, he’s a tough start. The Lions are going to abandon the run earlier than they usually do and rely on Stafford’s arm to keep them undefeated. Start with caution.
Rashard Mendenhall (72%, 64%) Starting a player coming off a hammy is always stressful, just ask Arian Foster owners. The Jags defense is actually pretty stout, with the 8th least fantasy points given up to opposing RBs. I see a very similar game plan from Pittsburgh as we saw last week, with conservative running plays and utilizing the passing game to put up points. I also see this game getting out of hand pretty quickly and a lot of Isaac Redman with Jonathan Dwyer mixed in to lighten Mendenhall’s load.
Marques Colston (61.2%, 65%) Another star player still easing his way back from injury, I think Colston has a slow game this week. The Buccaneers are searching for answers on both sides of the ball, and this could be another game that gets out of hand quickly. When the Saints don’t need all they can get out of their offense, it’s really scary to start anyone other than Brees, Sproles, and Graham. I’d still start Colston over any of the other WRs, but if I’m struggling, I’d start Little over him this week with a big roll of the dice.
Brandon Marshall (56.7%, 56%) I know what you’re thinking… I’m putting too much into Marshall’s claim that he’s going to get ejected by the 2nd quarter. What a load of @#$%. Marshall is just “trying” to pump up his team, but they’re already 0-4 with probably the least talented QB in the league (except maybe Jimmy Clausen) about to take over the offensive reigns. Add into the fact the Jets can’t stop the run with Daniel Thomas primed for a big workload and Marshall is about to be on Revis’ island, and Marshall’s claim that he’ll be ejected should be the least of your concerns if you’re starting him. Maybe Marshall is hoping his miniscule stat-line will trick people into thinking he actually was ejected…
Matt Schaub (59.5%, 55%) If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again… I don’t like Schaub again this week. Andre Johnson is out yet again and the Ravens are giving up the least fantasy points to opposing QBs. I know you’re probably starting him if you got him, especially with a solid game again last week, but I would again advise looking elsewhere.
If you have any last second decisions, shoot me some comments, or tweet me @jbgilpin. If you’re of the legal drinking age (have to say that due to our legal dept.), keep playing the Twitter “Gruden ‘that guy’ drinking game” (#GrudenThatGuyDrinkingGame) for the ultimate party game that’s primed to sweep the nation. Sorry I didn’t play this past week, I’ve been in hardcore NLCS mode (go Brewers!). If there’s an NLCS game 7, Monday Night Football might take a backseat again this week… Good luck to everyone in week 6!