Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Smiles & Frowns: The Power of Ed

An hour before the Patriots-Bills game on Sunday night, I asked one of the guys in my league if I “was safe.” But at that point, I was already done, and I knew it.

I had Lee Evans, Ben Watson, a 16-point lead, a collection of expletives and a typical scoring system guarding me against Randy Moss version 3.0. Actually, Terrell Owens’ four-touchdown performance earlier in the day troubled me as much as Moss’s freakish abilities. Do they try and one-up each other? Maybe, maybe not. But when Moss has the ability to do almost anything he wants on the field, it seems, the prospect of an unspoken wide-receiver rivalry is scary when your team is on wrong end of it.

Of course, Moss blew up and caught four touchdowns in the first half, Evans managed only 40 yards on four catches and Watson even got a touchdown of his own. But Moss was too much to overcome, and my team—Ed Hochuli’s Biceps—got crushed. What can you do? What could I do? Nothing. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do but laugh.

The point here is that no lead, and I repeat—no lead—is ever safe. Just ask the guys who got “Grossmanned” in week six against Arizona last year, where Rex recorded several negative points in scoring systems that allowed it. So, friends, sometimes you just have to laugh. Ed Hochuli is only so strong.

A couple of important roster decisions from Week 11:

Decision #1: WR Laveranues Coles or WR Reggie Brown

Theories: 1) Go with your guy, and don’t worry too much about the “matchup”
2) Beware of inflated numbers

The Scenario: The Steelers are notorious for blitzing the quarterback, in particular, young quarterbacks. Jets QB Kellen Clemens is a young quarterback. Goo! That did not bode well for Jets WR Laveranues Coles, coupled with the fact that Coles was recovering from a concussion. Further, my colleague Matt Cohen warned you earlier this week to “stay away” from Coles. Still, I was not enthused with my alternative, Reggie Brown.

Reggie Brown has broken three catches only twice through ten games. In five games, he has two or fewer catches. Looking at the most recent two weeks (leading up to week 11), Brown had 55 yards in each of them, but in both of those games the total was inflated by a 45 yard catch. Some guys are “big play guys”, and that’s super, but you can’t count on a big play every week, at least not this year with Reggie Brown. Not even against the Dolphins. He’s had too many goose-droppings games; I’d almost rather a goose egg.

So, I decided that Coles was my guy. Now I am aware there is no real sense of “loyalty” felt between players and managers of a fantasy football team. I am also aware that my players don’t know when I bench them to send them a message that I expect better production. But, I maintain that you should not stray from the guys who are simply the better players on your team. That, in some sense, is loyalty.

The Aftermath: Ironically, Coles’ only reception was a “big play”, a 56-yard catch. Coles was forced to leave the game though after injuring his ankle. Reggie Brown managed only two catches for 18 yards. Brown’s fate may have been different too if McNabb wasn’t forced to leave with an injury.

Verdict: Coles netted the greater point total. I think I made the right call, although better health on both sides would have provided a better sample for the two theories. In addition, I need to learn how to spell Coles’ first name without looking it up.

Decision #2: WR Wes Welker or WR Muhsin Muhammad

Theory: Don’t leave points on the bench

The Scenario: The only reason this was a decision is because Welker’s status was questionable/unknown/mysterious throughout the week. He was inactive because of a “team decision.” I had no idea what that meant. So just as a head coach never wants to leave timeouts in the pocket, I wanted to avoid leaving Muhammad and the points on my bench, given the risk that Welker might not play. Still, I decided to go with Welker.

Truthfully, I expected Welker to play, and the Patriots removed him from the injury list before game-time. But this is a good place to discuss the “game-time decision” problem. When in serious doubt, take the points, unless the alternative would be such a drastic drop-off that it’s worth taking a risk on the questionable/probable/doubtful guy. You have to consider the type of injury, how important that player is to the team, the player’s injury history and so on in evaluating the likelihood that he will play. But, you really only know what reports reveal, and reports are not always accurate.

I was fortunate the find out about Welker before the game. If his status were still in doubt, I might have gone with Muhammad. I probably should have if that were the case, but have you seen Wes Welker’s high school statistics? He was an all-state running back in Oklahoma and rushed for 3,235 yards and 53 touchdowns on 495 attempts; he caught 174 passes for 2,551 yards and 27 scores; he recorded 22 interceptions and returned seven punts for touchdowns for a total of 90 touchdowns in his prep career. He also kicked a 57-yard field goal! It’s hard not to start the guy, no matter what.

The Aftermath: Welker played, catching seven for 78 yards, and Muhammad had three receptions for 71 yards.

Verdict: Given the news, Welker was the right play. Welker was probably the Homecoming King, too.

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