FANTASY GRIND: Playoff luck - don't depend on it

FANTASY GRIND: Playoff luck - don't depend on it
December 4, 2013, 3:56 am
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Now that you're in the fantasy football playoffs, try to make it so your opponent has to get lucky, not you.

Maybe you got in thanks one or more of several amazing Week 13 performances. Wide receivers Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery, and Eric Decker all outscored Denver quarterback Peyton Manning in standard leagues, and Manning was the top passer with five touchdowns. Running backs Ben Tate and DeMarco Murray had three touchdowns each, while quarterback Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill, Josh McCown and Alex Smith all scored above 20 fantasy points each.

It's more than OK to expect the unexpected - just don't bank on it.

If your starters got you to the playoffs, they've certainly scored enough points for you so far. But to gamble on them again, make sure they deserve your backing.

Fantasy championships are won and lost each year because players simply make bad bets. We're not talking about starting one player over another and you picked the wrong guy. These are tactical, decision-making errors based on a wide variety of factors including overconfidence, banking on repeat performances and - perhaps most harmful - fear of changing things up and losing.

Some fantasy players believe it's best to simply play the players who got you to the postseason. Sure, they got you there, but what does that really mean in Week 14 and beyond? More likely, you got yourself to the fantasy playoffs by making some good decisions and getting a little bit lucky in spots.

Don't stand pat, be ruthlessly honest with your team's strengths and weaknesses and try to head into the games with the upper hand if things play out like a mostly average NFL day.

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UNEXPECTED PLAYS (AT LEAST ON DRAFT DAY)

Remember that if you lose in the fantasy playoffs, you're done for the season. So you shouldn't be waiting on players like Ray Rice, Trent Richardson or Darren Sproles to turn things around from your bench. Here are some moves you might consider if you're trying to get a win.

RB: Drop Stevan Ridley, New England, add Donald Brown, Indianapolis, or a handcuff to one of your top receivers. Brown is owned in fewer than 40 percent of ESPN leagues, yet he's supplanted Richardson as the team's top running back. Ridley, meanwhile, stood on the sidelines in street clothes with a football in his hands as the Patriots beat Houston. You're not starting him in Week 14 - who knows if he will even play - and you're probably better off not even being in a position where you need to make a decision on Ridley. He's had two good fantasy games this year, missed two others and had seven games in which he rushed for 53 or fewer yards.

WR: Drop Percy Harvin, add Julian Edelman, New England. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/1g4ImVG ) that Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he's ''hoping'' Harvin can play soon. But after missing Monday night's game against New Orleans even after a bye week the week before, Harvin's absence mean few reasonable fantasy owners will put themselves in position to play Harvin this week. So why keep him? Edelman, owned in 55 percent of Yahoo leagues and 30 percent of ESPN leagues, has nine catches in each of the last two games. He had 12 targets on Sunday against Houston and 11 the week before against New England.

TE: Drop Jordan Cameron, Cleveland, add Ladarius Green, San Diego. Green is owned in less than 1 percent of ESPN leagues. That will be changing soon. And to everyone who loved Cameron as he scored more than 15 fantasy points in three of the first four weeks, sorry. He's talented but not producing right now.

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RINGER TIME: STEVE OLSON

Statsims.com founder Steve Olson has been working for more than two decades trying to simulate NFL games. And one of the main things he's learned in building an engine that simulates games to determine outcomes and fantasy performances: ''Those matchups really matter.''

Olson makes his fantasy plays by looking at each game in terms of his impressions of each team's running and passing units are on offense and defense. His simulator then plays things out 1,000 times based on those (or any user's) settings and brings back expectations for the games and fantasy scoring for relevant players.

''It's understanding how football is not played in a vacuum,'' Olson said. ''It's not about touchdowns. It's not about the random variables. There's a lot of logic behind football and how football unfolds.''

Olson said in a game with a finite number of events - about 140 in football - it's all about the power struggle between the two teams, with competing goals and stat lines that result.

''It's who expresses their will on the field gets their stats,'' Olson said.

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FULL DISCLOSURE

Favored in all three playoff matchups according to Yahoo and Fleaflicker, but who knows what that means. Big decisions this week include managing Jordan Reed, Jordy Nelson, Knowshon Moreno and streaming defenses. It can be frustrating to play things conservatively, but it's the right thing to do here in each league.

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Oskar Garcia is a news editor in Honolulu who spends way too much time on fantasy sports with too little to show for it. He can be reached at ogarcia(at)ap.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/oskargarcia .

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