FANTASY GRIND: Crunch time cool, XN Sports' Carter
Fantasy footballers hoping for the playoffs this week are a lot like
poker players trying to reach the money in the World Series of Poker
That bubble can be brutal — and it can make good players make bad
In no-limit Texas Hold 'em that comes in the form of some players
folding every hand — even pocket aces — until they're guaranteed to
cash from the $10,000 buy-in, or doing the opposite and playing
recklessly in hopes of building a nice stack of chips toward winning
the title worth millions of dollars.
The truth players seem to forget? The decisions you make should be
exactly the same whether you're betting $10,000 or nothing but pride.
And if you change things up when you're close to the end, it shouldn't
be because of pressure — it should be a purposeful, strategic choice.
C.D. Carter, a fantasy writer who wrote a book comparing fantasy sports
to poker, "How to Think Like a Fantasy Football Winner," says it's
natural for even good fantasy players to get conservative at this point.
"Evaluation should be the same in Week 2 as it is in Week 13 and 14,"
said Carter, who writes for XNSports.com (We'll hear from him more
below on waiver-wire streaming).
Evaluating things the same way is hard when you won't have time to make
up for a loss. But it's the correct play and the way the card sharks do
Part of why Carter's poker comparison works enough to fill a book is
because cards and fantasy sports both require players to make decisions
with limited information, then watch things play out among varying
degrees of luck.
And just like in poker tournaments, where players respond many
different ways to being on the cusp of making money, sometimes fantasy
players see making the playoffs as good enough.
It's OK if that's your goal — titles aren't always possible. But like
in poker and other games, playing scared in fantasy rarely leads to the
A conversation I had on Reddit (http://bit.ly/Ibhght) about
points-per-reception versus standard leagues was a good reminder that
not all fantasy players really take into account their unique scoring
systems when they're making decisions about players to pick up and
Remember, only 24 percent of CBS Sports leagues use standard offensive
scoring, the rest are modified in some way. PPR is the most popular way
to do that, and it's used in 28 percent of leagues on the site.
It's easy to assume that giving points for receptions simply makes all
ball-catchers more valuable, but it's more complicated than that. More
importantly, it changes the relative value of players compared with
others at their position.
Here are some players to keep in mind as PPR starters (or potential
last-minute trade targets) the next few weeks, even if they're not as
exciting in standard leagues.
RB: Pierre Thomas, New Orleans. In a somewhat down year for Darren Sproles, Thomas has 56 catches on 62 targets. It's unexpected, but he's
easily a No. 2 running back in PPR formats.
WR: Julian Edelman, New England. You might consider Edelman an
unexciting bench player on your fantasy roster. True enough in standard
leagues, but he's a worthy flex player in PPR leagues or leagues that
require a third wide receiver. He has 89 targets, the most on the
Patriots, and his 61 catches are tied for 10th among wide receivers.
TE: Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta. If you have Vernon Davis, Gonzalez's owner
may be willing to part with him as part of a package deal that improves
you in two or more areas (without the other guy knowing it).
RINGER TIME: CD CARTER
If you've been playing matchups and piecing together your weekly
fantasy lineups based on who's available on the waiver wire, don't back
off now that the playoffs are looming.
Many fantasy players stream their defenses and kickers — or at least
wait to the last rounds to pick them — but Carter has taken weekly
waiver plays to a new level. The past two seasons, he's drafted with
the strategy of streaming his quarterback and tight end, reasoning that
it's viable to find one player at each position each week capable of
putting up a start-worthy performance.
Carter says the strategy lets him load up on running backs and wide
receivers early, then look for value opportunities in other spots.
"I win a lot of these games because I have big, fast, red zone-relevant
wide receivers and running backs that get the ball a lot," Carter said.
It's much different than a "go with who brought you" approach, which
usually ends up more like "set it and forget it."
But even if you're not streaming or comfortable with the idea,
challenging yourself to compare your players against one-week
opportunities is a good start to honestly assessing your fantasy chops.
Clinched the playoffs in a second of five leagues and got a crucial win
in my two-quarterback keeper league to all but clinch a playoff spot. A
win this week would do it and I'm far enough ahead in points scored to
sustain a loss. But let's keep things simple. Went 4-1 for the week and
2-3 in daily leagues after putting too much stock in Case Keenum. Hey,
so did the sports books in Las Vegas, so not much to feel bad about.
FANTASY GRIND: Crunch time
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