Catching Fire – NFL Week 12 Representatives
Holy Crap! This is getting sooo much easier. As the season goes on, more and more data is in and available to figure out the trends in the NFL. We watched more and more film and know what players can do week in and week out. The news services are so deep with information about game plans, injuries, weather and playing time changes. Cycling kickers and defenses is so much easier. Analyzing the matchups to understand which players will play better versus their opponents is a helluva lot easier. But hold on. There is one strategy that we have not ever talked about on our radio show, Colton & The Wolfman: what NFL players are “catching fire” as they come into the playoffs? Simply put, the strategy is to use your last roster spot to carry a player who is emerging or could emerge based on schedule, playing time changes or talent rising. I learned this in 1993 on my way to my first Fantasy Football Championship. Keenan McCardell caught fire in the fantasy playoffs scoring 2 TDs in the semi-finals and 2 TDs in the championship game. Boom. Fantasy Nirvana.
This weekend, the family went to the movie theatre to see the hottest movie to hit the silver screen this year, Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The box office numbers are through the roof this weekend with a whopping $161.1 M in just three days making it fourth all-time for an opening weekend. This chapter in the saga of Katniss Everdeen (played by the energetic and talented Jennifer Lawrence), gives us a great plan for how to view Week 12 performances and for our teams to “catch fire” as we go towards a Fantasy Football Championship.
For those who don’t know how the Hunger Games work, here are the basics. The Hunger Games are set in North America in the future in a place called Panem. Panem is surrounded by 12 Districts. To flex its Dez Bryant sized muscles, each year Panem demands that each District send two representatives to compete in the Hunger Games. They are given weapons, set free in the wilderness to live on their own, fight to stay alive and kill their opponents until there is one child left. In each District when someone is randomly selected, others from the community can volunteer to take the representative’s place as their “Tribute”. So we use this movie today to review the action from Sunday of Week 12 and to highlight the necessary strategies that you need to employ in order to win your Hunger Games, your Fantasy Football Championship.
Choosing Our Representatives
We select two NFL Players to represent each Division (our Districts) for Week 12. In each Division, we then select a Tribute to replace one of the selected NFL Players for the rest of the season to have you survive your Hunger Games and win your Fantasy Football Championship.
Feel free to hit me on Twitter (@RickWolf1) with your Representatives and Tributes from each Division.
Tribute: Tom Brady – Patriots – 344 PYds 3 TDs – peaking at the right time.
Tribute: A.J. Green – leads the league in targets and over 1000 yds already. In the Fantasy Playoffs, Cincy gets IND, PIT & MIN.
Tribute: Kendall Wright – Titans – 6 Rec 103 yds 1 TD – PPR machine and since you shouldn’t be playing without PPR, every week starter.
Tribute: Keenan Allen – Chargers – not playing like a rookie. Allen is producing every week. Look for it to continue. In the Fantasy Playoffs, the Chargers get NYG, DEN and OAK. Game on.
Tribute: Dez Bryant – Cowboys – 9 Rec for 102 yds on 16 targets. There were a lot of drops and a fumble last night, but he is clearly their star and you can ride him to a championship with matchups of CHI, GB and WAS in your Fantasy Playoffs.
Tribute: Calvin Johnson – Lions – 7 Rec 115 yds. If you are lucky enough to have him, ride him to a championship. His teammate Nate Burleson will get Calvin’s overflow so invest there too. The schedule is PHI, BAL, NYG in the Fantasy Playoffs. Rejoice.
Tribute: Jimmy Graham – Saints – he has been as reliable as anyone this season. If you grabbed him, he will take you home with performances like this week: 5 Rec 100 yds 1 TD plus a slam dunk that turned the goal post into the leaning tower of Pisa.
Tribute: Marshawn Lynch – Seahawks – Skittlesman has 925 rushing yards and 9 TDs and gets going this time of year as the Seahawks fight to make sure they keep home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Count on the Beast.
Winning the Hunger Games
Now that the competitors have been selected, it is time to discuss the strategies to being the last one standing and win your Fantasy Football Championship (our Hunger Games). Here are some things that matter when figuring out who to pick up and who to start. Look at these things with the lens of “all” positions including Kickers and DTs.
Talent Matters - Dance with the guys that got you there. Make sure that in these last weeks as you fight for a playoff spot and as you go into the playoffs that you are playing your most talented players. It doesn’t matter if they have had a couple of bad games. You want to play the best players in the best position to score. Many fantasy owners will panic when a good player has a couple of bad weeks in a row. Then, they will sit him against a tasty match up and all is lost as they not only lose, but have the guilt to go with it. Tom Brady is a good example. People were giving up on him. He just needed all the pieces in place to succeed.
Trends Matter - Play the hot hand. When looking for that last player to play, review what your choices have done in their last three games and home/away. I know that this sounds counter to the first rule above, but this is for the last player on your roster and not for your stars. We look and determine this for all players and that helps us with our decisions.
Weather Matters – Ground attacks work better in bad weather and wind. Watch for the snow storms, swirling winds and any weather that may affect the performance of the players and the game plan. This is especially important for kickers and DTs. Kickers have a tougher time when the weather is bad or extremely windy. Games in general, are lower scoring when there is wind, rain and snow. This helps the defenses.
Matchups Matter – The data is in. Now we can analyze what each team defense does against each position that we play in our scoring system. We can look at how many yards, receptions, touchdowns and even field goals the defenses give up and select accordingly. The waiver wire almost always has a kicker and a defense that is facing a bottom five defense. For the rest of the season, I will tweet out an image of the chart for PPR leagues.
Splits Matter – I havefound recently that trend of the last three home or away helps enormously in figuring out if a player is capable of performing at a high level. The game is very different at home vs on the road. Also, the trend of recent games is a solid indicator of the direction that a team and the player are going together.
Game Plans Matter – I will give you an example. This week on ESPN before the 1pm games, they were saying that Miami was working on their deep game. Went immediately to change and add Mike Wallace to a couple of salary cap teams. When looking for the best players, I review the Game Plans on the local news sites. For instance, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Preview had this gem: “Flash Gordon. He has four touchdown catches of 37 yards or longer and needs to test a defense that has allowed six pass plays of 50 yards or longer.” Josh Gordon was in many of my lineups.
News Matters – Reading is fundamental. I read all the news. I get alerts from FantasyAlarm.com. I stream the news from RotoInfo.com. The key thing is to not overreact to the news and look multiple places to make sure that what you are hearing is true. We read that Nate Burleson was 50%, but looked at the local news and found that he was practicing as well as he did before week two and with Tampa Bay giving up points to the slot receiver, we installed him in salary cap lineups and grabbed him on waiver wires.
The point of all this is that now is the time to make decisions based on information that is statistical and empirical. Go with what you have seen, what the data reveals and your gut. In Catching Fire, Katniss asks Haymitch (a former Hunger Games champion played by Woody Harrelson), “Any last advice?” He gives us the answer that all Fantasy Football players need this time of year…
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Rick Wolf is a leader in the fantasy sports industry. Wolf is a founding Board Member and one of only fifteen FSTA Hall of Famers including Bill James, Ron Shandler, Glenn Colton and Matthew Berry. Wolf is the Co-Host of Colton & The Wolfman every week on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio. With college friend, Glenn Colton, he has won three LABR Expert baseball titles and four FSTA Expert football titles. Twitter: @RickWolf1
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