Yesterday before the “Aerial Preview” as I call it, Mark compared Fantasy Football to Fantasy Baseball. He drew some really good analogies; in particular that Fantasy Football is a lot like poker. I’d like to piggy-back off that and ramble a little bit myself.

I have been playing cards ever since I can remember; it’s just part of being in my family. I have been playing No-Limit Texas Hold’em for about 10 years and have put quite a bit of table time in as well as reading, discussing, etc. In September I went to Las Vegas for the first time (I have played quite a bit at other casinos) with a friend. Basically we wanted to find out if we were any good compared to the rest of the world.

Most other times when I have gone to casinos (Atlantic City mostly) to play poker it’s been for one or two night stints. The one complaint I have with that is the luck doesn’t have the opportunity to even itself out. This keeps you from getting a really good idea of how well you played which is what I am most interested in to begin with. What was exciting about Vegas was that we played poker for four days (basically all day long) so we knew there’d be no complaining about “luck” because in 60 hours of seat time it all evens itself out.

My friend and I found out in Las Vegas that we are a lot better than average at poker. I have no delusions/pipe dreams about being a professional or anything. But I did find out that when the luck has a chance to even itself out I am going to do better than most people.

You can always tell the inexperienced/weaker players because they fixate on luck and the cards. Typically the more people talk at the table the less skilled they are at the game. When they talk a lot they are either exceptionally good or very bad (but they don’t think they are). “Fish” love to brag about having idiotic “favorite hands.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard “dude I hate pocket Aces, I would rather have Queen-Ten suited. I ALWAYS win with that hand.” See to them poker is truly a game of chance just like Blackjack, Roulette, or Caribbean Stud. What they don’t understand is that in poker you get to control when you take chances and to what extent.

The second huge giveaway that you’ve got a weak player on your hands is that they obsessively complain about bad luck and they freak out if someone draws out on them. In their minds they are better than everyone and “luck” just ruins their right to victory. What they fail to realize is that if luck weren’t involved it would be a lot harder to win because only skilled players would participate.

It’s a lot like Chess. People don’t play Chess habitually if they are horrible at it. There’s basically no luck involved in Chess so the only people that want to play it often are people that are highly skilled at it.

Is Fantasy Football random? Yes, of course it is. Is there a ton of luck involved? Yes, there is. We have all seen leagues where some idiot who has no idea what he’s doing just gets extremely lucky and wins the whole thing. When I see that happen I get excited because I know that guy will stay in my league for years to come because he thinks he is good. It works the same way at the poker table; when I watch a weak player win a big hand by making the wrong play I get excited because I know that person thinks s/he is doing the right thing.

If we are playing Fantasy Football, particularly for money (or even a lot of pride), be thankful that luck is involved. Think about it this way- you can’t be smart if all the dumb people disappear. The truly astute, skilled Fantasy Football (and poker) players don’t sit around and complain about luck all day. They begin with the premise that it’s part of the game and that it might cause them to lose. But they let go of it as an emotional hang-up. Then when you do get unlucky you’re prepared to just move on immediately. So next time you feel like complaining about bad luck or idiots in your league try to look at it a little differently.

1PM Games

Washington (22nd) @ Atlanta (23rd)

Clinton Portis hasn’t delivered on his ADP this season but he looked like a prime candidate to be a total flop. Thank your lucky stars that he’s still healthy. This game should be a prime candidate for him to go 20+ but I wouldn’t put it past the Redskins to totally flop. Ladell Betts is not much of an option for you.

Redskins: Portis +2, Betts +1

Michael Turner is really starting to pour it on. This should be another opportunity for him to score a big week against the steadily-slipping Skins defense. Snelling and Norwood are both battling injuries now which really negate their value other than for stashing purposes.

Falcons:Turner +2, Snelling 0, Norwood -2 (may not even play)

Green Bay (9th) @ Tampa Bay (30th)

I put the hex on Ryan Grant several weeks ago. Since then all he’s done is rip it up. Sometimes you’re wrong and I may have to concede that about Ryan Grant if he stays healthy all year. All I can do is continue to put the pins in the voodoo doll, stash Jackson, and cross my fingers. Tampa Bay is an embarrassment to the NFL. Their offense is so horrible that people overlook the futility of their defense.

Packers: Grant +4, Jackson +2

There’s nothing positive to say about the Bucs rushing attack. Williams has been better than we thought but he is hit or miss. Derrick Ward has been a colossal disappointment. A lot of times crappy teams will at least have just one running back and that player will be valuable because he gets all the touches. Tampa Bay doesn’t even give you that. There will be few matchups where you should feel good about playing anyone on their team- especially in that division. The Packers need a win right now and odds are they are going to stomp the Buccaneers out.

Buccaneers: Williams -2, Ward -2

Miami (6th) @ New England (15th)

I loves me some Wildcat! I probably don’t drool all over it like Jon Gruden does on MNF but still there are lots of reasons to be optimistic about the Dolphins running the football. They actually debuted the formation last season against the Patriots and they steam rolled them with it in both games last year. You can bet that Belichick has had his minions of film nerds working on this one for a long time. Both Brown and Williams are must starts in this game, but I just have this feeling that the Patriots will find a way to shut Miami down on offense.

Dolphins: Brown 0, Williams 0

Did anyone else see that “puppeteer” gig about Joey Porter on Sportscenter a few days ago? That was soooo creepy. YouTube it if you haven’t watched it. I double down on Maroney when the Patriots are facing a weak defense because I figure that he will punch it in the end zone a few times. That could happen here but I don’t like his chances of getting a lot of yards. Odds are they are going to put the ball in the air and Faulk could benefit from that. He is a marginal start in deep PPR leagues as a flex guy.

Patriots: Mauroney-2, Faulk +1

Kansas City (26th) @ Jacksonville (25th)

Like Phil Collins said: “I’ve been waiting for this moment, for all my life.” I was thinking about legally changing my name to Jamaal Charles just so I could say “I loves me some me.” My fingers are crossed that Larry Johnson will offend someone/get in a fight at a strip club/be released, etc. Charles is going to get all the looks out of the backfield both in running and receiving. If you were cagey enough to stash him congratulations, I hope we both reap the rewards.

Chiefs: Charles +3

I’m not sure there is a ceiling in this game for MJD. If he doesn’t get 20+ points I will be totally shocked. As an aside I don’t have Rashad Jennings on here because MJD looks 100% healthy so Jennings is basically just a stash in real deep leagues at this point.

Jaguars: Jones-Drew +3

Houston (20th) @ Indianapolis (17th)

I tried to think of something less corny than “Houston, we have a problem!” Alas, there was nothing out there. I’m not that angry about this situation because I refused to draft Slaton (thought he was ranked too high) and didn’t have a high enough waiver claim to get Ryan Moats. If I owned either player I would be very leery of starting them. The two scenarios that could unfold are Kubiak might begin a system of splitting the carries between them or he might exclusively feature Moats again this week. I’ll be shocked if Slaton gets his “top dog” role back again so soon. Brown is basically a poor man’s LenDale White at this point (I know, that’s pretty shabby). I can’t envision a scenario where I’d start him unless I was getting wrecked by injuries/bye weeks and had no depth. In that case your season is over anyway.

Texans: Slaton -1, Moats 0, Brown -1

Donald Brown should play this week. The Texans defense has steadily improved but it’s Peyton Manning time. Addai and Brown are both startable as this “ho hum” offense is good for about 5 touchdowns every week seemingly. Often both of them end up with one somehow or other.

Colts: Addai +1, Brown +1

Baltimore (4th) @ Cincinnati (5th)

Ray Rice totaled over 140 yards and a TD against the Bengals last time they met. The Bengals rush defense is statistically tough, but that doesn’t account for the 74 yards Rice put on them through the air in that game.  Rice may not total those yards again at Cincinatti, but he is a must start against anybody right now.

Ravens: Rice +1, McGahee -4

Do I think Cedric Benson’s  going to run for 120 yards again? No. But I do think that Benson has had an entire week to rest his legs and he should be good for 70-80 yards and a touchdown. What’s wrong with that? Nothing.

Bengals: Benson +1

Arizona (8th) @ Chicago (16th)

If you are in a PPR league and drafted Tim Hightower then you have to be excited at what he’s giving you so far. The Bears are faux-stout this year and I’m buying the Cardinals offense all day to let loose on them. Both Hightower and Wells should be starters for you unless you’re deep at running back and sitting them in favor of better players.

Cardinals: Hightower +2, Wells +1

I said for weeks that the Cardinals defense wasn’t that good, especially against the run. They got exposed last Sunday. Do I hear Dennis Green in the background screaming “they were who we thought they were?” Matt Forte isn’t going to carry your Fantasy squad nor will he ever. He is a must start week in and week out. This is a vanilla matchup for him. Keep stashing Garrett Wolfe just in case….

Bears: Forte 0, Wolfe -2

4PM Games

Detroit (21st) @ Seattle (10th)

Kevin Smith is allegedly healthy after getting half-dinged up last Sunday. It’s too bad because I’ve been stashing Maurice Morris like nobody’s business and he came in and played well. So add yet another starting running back to the list of “dudes I’m hoping get hurt” and yet another stash for you in Morris. Seattle’s defense is 10th against the rush which is surprising because they aren’t good at football. I think this is clearly another case of “this team can’t defend the pass so we’re going to let our quarterback pad his stats against them.” Keep an eye on the injury report but if Smith is active I’d put him in there. Leave Morris on the bench for now.

Lions: Smith +1, Morris 0

Normally I try to find a reason to hate Julius Jones but there isn’t one this week. The Lions love to make marginal running backs on the other team look like Barry Sanders. Depending on your situation Justin Forsett could conceivably be in there as a flex start in deeper leagues.

Seahawks: Jones +3, Forsett +2

Carolina (24th) @ New Orleans (11th)

You might be tempted to start Stewart as he’s coming off a solid performance but I’d be wary of this game. If he gets in the end zone then you’re good to go, otherwise I don’t see him being that productive. DeAngelo is an obvious must-start every single week. This isn’t a great matchup for him.

Panthers: Willams -1, Stewart -3

Here we go again- it’s time to play that game where we try to figure out who is going to be productive in New Orleans. This is the one backfield in the NFL that can legitimately and consistently have three productive backs in it. Both Thomas and Bush (in PPR) are solid starts for this game and I can see Bell squeezing his way in to your lineup if you’re short on running backs.

Saints: Thomas +2, Bush +1, Bell +1

Tennessee (18th) @ San Francisco (2nd)

I was astounded that Vince Young looked so serviceable (dare I say good) last Sunday. If that offense can start moving the ball more effectively expect Johnson’s numbers to improve. I discussed LenDale last week. He let me down. Again. The San Francisco defense has been really solid vs. the run this season so I’d leave him on the bench for now.

Titans: Johnson 0, White -5

Frank Gore has been impressive since coming back from that injury. There aren’t a lot of running backs in the NFL that set themselves apart; my theory has always been by and large you can plug in the backup on most teams and it won’t matter. But there are a few elite guys who are just flat out difference makers. This is a great matchup for him to really explode against a sub-par Titans defense. At this point Coffee is nothing more than a stash in case Gore gets injured.

49’ers: Gore +2, Coffee -1

San Diego (27th) @ NY Giants (19th)

Just a few short weeks ago I regarded the Giants as the best team in the NFL. Early on their defense looked like they were going to finish the year as one of the best in Fantasy. Come to find out a lot of that was due to the weak opponents they’d faced and they have spiraled down on the field and statistically. This could be the week they turn it around but even so you have to give Tomlinson and Sproles upgrades for the matchup until the G-Men start to step up.

Chargers: Tomlinson +2, Sproles +2

The Giants are likewise benefiting from a favorable matchup with the soft Chargers defense lining up across from them. We keep waiting for that big game from Brandon Jacobs; maybe this is the week we’ll get it. Ahmad Bradshaw’s “broken foot” has been downplayed by the Giants as not a big deal but I’m not buying it. I’ve already begun stashing Danny Ware in deeper leagues and recommend you do the same if you have an open spot. I’m still giving Bradshaw positive marks for the matchup because he’s going to play.

Giants: Jacobs +3, Bradshaw +1

8PM Game

Dallas (13th) @ Philadelphia (12th)

The Eagles run defense has been somewhat inconsistent this season. They are one of those teams that seem to either shut the other team down or give up explosive plays. Much of this is due to their aggressive, blitz-heavy scheme. I am going to downgrade all three of these backs (really, at this point, Choice is no more than a stash anyway) because the Cowboys offense has gotten shut down by the Eagles recently.

Cowboys: Barber -1, Jones -2, Choice -3

As of right now it looks like Westbrook will play. It’s difficult to say how much of a workload he’ll get but you have to assume 12-15 touches, perhaps more. The Cowboys defense has really improved as of late and this will be good test for them against a dynamic Eagles offense. Westbrook is a slight downgrade because of the unknown touches, McCoy a slight downgrade as well because it’s uncertain how many touches he’ll lose.

Eagles: Westbrook -1, McCoy -1

Monday Night

Pittsburgh (1st) @ Denver (3rd)

This is a game to look forward to. I hate it when the Monday Night game is some crappy matchup and you’re forced to get into it because it’s all there is. Denver’s defense was slightly exposed by the Ravens last Sunday but they didn’t necessarily get torched so there’s no reason to think the Steelers will light them up. Mendenhall’s still healthy and running strong. Parker is supposed to be getting healthy but he just hasn’t looked good all season. Moore is strictly a deep-league PPR flex type of guy only.

Steelers: Mendenhall -2, Parker -5, Moore -2

Troy Polamalu is back in Pittsburgh and the defense is looking very sharp once again. Moving the football is going to be a challenge for the Broncos and I can’t see them breaking out for a lot of yards and/or scoring a lot of points. It’s tough to sit Moreno since he’s the featured back there; just make sure you’re aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Buckhalter is what he is- slightly more valuable in PPR but not an enthusiastic start either.

Broncos: Moreno -2, Buckhalter -3

  1. Eric says:

    I have LT, Benson, Hightower, and Julius Jones… pick 3 of 4, cuz I sure as hell can’t…

  2. adamh says:

    Forsett or K Faulk in 0.5 PPR flex spot?

  3. Harley says:

    Witten, Gates or Vernon rest of the year?

  4. jamiesonmj says:

    As a flex play in PPR, who would you start: brandon marshall or jamaal charles

  5. mgeoffriau

    mgeoffriau says:

    Great, great stuff Drew. Your intro captured a lot the thoughts I was having but was unable to put into words. Last year I started out extremely unlucky, scoring a ton of points but always facing (and losing to) the 2nd or 3rd highest weekly scoring team. I didn’t make any desperation moves and got all the way to the championship game.

    Speaking of desperation moves…I’m staring at S-Jax, Lynch, and Fargas all on bye weeks. Rice is my RB1, and I need a RB2. I’ve got Derrick Ward and Maurice Morris on my roster, and Forsett, LenDale, Willie Parker, and Kevin Faulk are available. No PPR, but we do get return yardage (20y = 1pt, 5pt bonus at 100y).

    Any recommendations? I’m hoping Kevin Smith gets downgraded to Out, but Detroit plays after TB so I can’t wait for a gametime decision to know whether or not I need to play Ward. I was thinking of swapping out Ward for Forsett for that reason — if Morris is starting, play him, if not, stick Forsett in there.

    Sorry for the novella.

  6. Josh says:

    Really enjoyed the intro, Drew. Couldn’t help thinking while I was reading it about how Bill Simmons whines like a little bitch about his bad luck at poker AND fantasy football. I’d pay good money to see you at a table or in a league with him!

  7. Jeff says:

    So if you don’t like Stewart or Maroney as my Flex, would Sims-Walker do better?

  8. xopchipili says:

    re: Jamaal Charles, do you not think Kolby Smith will be part of the offense?

  9. stumanji says:

    Best Flex (PPR)? Bradshaw, Maroney, or Collie.

    Best Flex (Non-PPR)? Mendenhall or Housh.

    Great write up, Drew.

  10. Doc

    Doc says:

    @Eric: I’d sit Hightower unless it is ppr.

    @adamh: I like Forsett

    @Harley: Gates

    @jamiesonmj: Charles

    @mgeoffriau: I’m getting a feeling about Forsett. I may just be coming down with something though.

    @Jeff: I see Sims-Walker having a rebound game. It’s a tough call. Stewart probably can’t repeat last week, but he’s not going to be totally useless. I like Stew.

  11. Doc

    Doc says:

    @xopchipili: They are reporting that Charles will get the bulk of the work. It seems like Smith would still get some work, but probably not enough.

    @stumanji:I like Bradshaw and Mendenhall

  12. Beau says:

    Pick 2 rb and a flex: LT, JJuice, Charles, and Driver…leaning towards sitting DD

  13. Josh says:

    is it worth dropping Mike Bell to pick up Julius Jones to use this week? or should I hold on to Bell and start either him, Bradshaw, or Beanie?

  14. Smashin Pumpkins says:

    Hi Guys,

    Always loving your insights – Thank you for all the help really. Now I have 2 questions for you for a PPR league – Should I go with Kevin Walter or Malcom Floyd? Second question is the one I’m really torn about. Should I go with Jason Witten or Vernon Davis? Please do not hesitate to drop any thoughts.

  15. Beau says:

    @Smashin Pumpkins: Id roll with walter, especially with daniels out, and witten.

  16. mgeoffriau

    mgeoffriau says:

    @Beau: Either Driver or Charles…I’d lean toward benching Driver.

    @Josh: Absolutely worth it. Bell’s carries seem to be dependent on how much mop-up time there is, not something I’d want to rely on every week.

  17. mgeoffriau

    mgeoffriau says:

    @Smashin Pumpkins: I think Beau’s right — Floyd’s an unproven commodity at this point. Great potential but Walter’s situation is better right now. I’d take Witten by just a little…it’s pretty close though.

  18. adamh says:

    Anthony Gonzalez underwent arthroscopic surgery. Out at least another few weeks, if not the whole season.

  19. Beau says:

    Think Ive already made up my mind, but does anyone care to talk me out of playing garrard over matty ice this week?

  20. Drew

    Drew says:

    @mgeoffriau: keep coming up with good ideas so that i can steal them! I agree with Doc about your dilemma- ride Forsett.

  21. mgeoffriau

    mgeoffriau says:

    @Beau: I think you have to go Garrard…even if the Jags are starting to put the clamps down on his freedom, you’d still got to expect at least 1 TD, either throwing or running, in this game. Ryan will probably get 1 TD too, but the odds him throwing a couple picks is pretty high too.

  22. Beau says:

    @mgeoffriau: Yeah, thats what i was thinking, hopefully MJD ‘s tds will be on screen passes he busts or something…

  23. david says:

    I like the poker talk. In the ff format, it’s head to head–you could essentially put a win percentage based on your players and your opponent’s. This is like a poker hand, where (say, after the flop) your straight+flush draw has a percentage chance against your opponent’s pair. You may not win the hand, but you’ll win more times than not.

  24. Drew

    Drew says:

    @david: agreed. Beyond giving yourself the best opportunity to win, there’s not much you can do. Focusing on things you have no control over is totally pointless because it won’t change the outcome positively.

  25. denzik says:

    @Drew: great post today,skill will prevail more times than not but luck is needed usually to win also,we all try to grab and stash rb`s with a chance via injury or anothers failure hoping our bench rb is the one to break out,i traded mendenhall after he was downgraded and in the doghouse,next thing you know he is a keeper,i have charles in 1 league and really hoping he puts up a good couple of games.Thanks alot,now you have me itching for a good game of hold-em

  26. david says:

    @Drew: Yeah, I think that’s the key point. Even if you lose with your best players (given the matchups, etc.), that’s the best you could have done. It’s amusing to hear someone say, “Damn, I should have put in Maclin. Fitzgerald didn’t give me anything!” Yeah, well, sure: THAT week. But who could have predicted that? Play that week over a hundred times and Fitzgerald gets the better numbers over half the time.

  27. Joel says:

    romo @ philly or cutler v. arizona?

    leaning romo, but don’t like @ philly for anyone, nevermind him.

    best waiver option is cassell

  28. Joel says:

    jamaal charles or julius jones? leaning jones, though he sucks.

  29. Drew

    Drew says:

    @denzik: sounds like you’re making a lot of cagey decisions, hopefully it’ll pay off for you now and in the future!

    @Joel: tough one…. romo?
    i really like Charles this week… I feel compelled to go out on a limb and tell you to go with him.

  30. cleaver596 says:

    start R. Brown, Charles, Welker, Andre, Wayne, Smith (nyg), leaving slaton on the bench this week right? Also, should I consider Flacco over Schaub, since Schaub is facing Indy?

  31. Kristina says:

    Should I start Westbrook and Rice or Rice and P.Thomas this weekend? I was leaning towards Westbrook but am considering Thomas might not be too shabby this weekend. Also, Rivers or Alex Smith. I know Alex Smith is kind of iffy right now, but given the match ups this weekend he could be a sleeper. Your thoughts?

  32. Drew

    Drew says:

    @cleaver596: yeah, I like those as starters. Starting Flacco wouldn’t be a bad play; Schaub is prone to inconsistency. The Colts just lost a Cornerback (and Bob Sanders is out) so their passing defense may be less formidable than usual.

    @Kristina: Rice & Pierre. Rivers.

  33. Bill says:

    The truly astute, skilled Fantasy Football (and poker) players don’t sit around and complain about luck all day. They begin with the premise that it’s part of the game and that it might cause them to lose. But they let go of it as an emotional hang-up. Then when you do get unlucky you’re prepared to just move on immediately.

    Same thing with trading the stock market.

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