Collinsworth Invitational: Reassessing at the halfway point
(Pro Football Focus gave subscribers the opportunity to win a team in the Cris Collinsworth Fantasy Football Invitational, playing alongside celebrities such as Warren Sapp, Jenny McCarthy and of course Cris himself. As the lucky winner of that contest, I will be writing a weekly piece that provides a view into what it’s like playing in a celebrity league and how I will use the PFF tools to give me an edge.)
Once I hit the halfway point of the fantasy football season, I start to look ahead toward the playoffs. In most leagues, less than 50 percent of the teams make the postseason. It is important to take stock of where you stand and what you have to do in the final push. For the lucky ones sitting at the top of the standings, it is about shoring up their team, making sure they have handcuffs for their top players. For instance, that DeMarco Murray owner needs to grab Derrick Henry, even if it means trading away a stronger player from your bench. If you are sitting in the middle of the pack — or even at the bottom of the standings — the strategy is different. You need to look at the next few weeks and do everything in your power to win and win now.
The latter is my situation in the Collinsworth Invitational. In our league, five teams make the playoffs with the top three seeds all receiving byes in the first round. The three-round playoffs start in Week 15 of the NFL regular season and conclude with the championship in Week 17. Right now, my team is 4-3, sitting tied for fifth place with Ric Bucher. Warren Sapp and Gregg McElroy are tied for first at 6-1, while Gary Vaynerchuk and Karen Hunter are tied for third at 5-2. Riding a three-game win streak, Collinsworth is nipping at my heels at 3-4.
For a team sitting in my position, this means the next few weeks are vitally important in order to stay in playoff contention. Week 8 is doubly important as I am facing Karen Hunter in a situation where a win would move me into a tie with her in the standings. Unfortunately it comes during a week where my team is not firing on all cylinders.
Bye weeks and injuries
Going into week 6, I wrote about the positive feelings for my team after a few trades and waiver wire moves. They rewarded that faith by putting up 165.75 points, which still stands as the single highest weekly score on the season across the league. Things can change quickly in fantasy football and Week 8 brings a team that is not quite as strong. LeSean McCoy and John Brown are injured, Jarvis Landry and Eli Manning are on bye, Lamar Miller isn’t at full strength, and Philip Rivers is going against the Denver Broncos in a really tough matchup.
With the win-now mindset for Week 8, those holes bring some tough choices. Starting at the QB position, Rivers struggled just a few weeks ago against Denver when facing them at home. That proposition becomes even more difficult going to Denver, which is why PFF has Rivers ranked as QB21 for the week. With Eli on bye, I decided to pick Ryan Fitzpatrick as my QB for the week. PFF only has him ranked as QB17 this week and Fitzpatrick has a very low floor — the coaches pulling him again is not out of the question. But he’s playing angry and last time he was benched while at Houston, he threw six touchdowns in his first game back. This week he gets the Cleveland Browns, a team that is absolutely being destroyed in the pass game. So I’m going to double down on an angry FitzMagic this week.
Running back is the next problem. With McCoy aggravating his injury, it is unlikely he plays this week. As my backup running back, Bilal Powell was looking like he would take the starting job from Matt Forte but that chance disappeared in Week 7. And since I’m not GaryVee, I couldn’t bring myself to have three Jets in my starting lineup. So instead, I am taking advantage of the injury to Matt Jones and starting Rob Kelley this week. He is largely unproven but the coaching staff of the Redskins are calling him the starter and he has a chance to keep the job the rest of the season given the performance of Jones. It is another roll of the dice play, but one I feel comfortable making considering that PFF had Jones rated as RB21 if he played.
This week will be a tough one but is always is during the bye-week stretch. In fact, Weeks 8-11 will be difficult but not insurmountable. At minimum, I need to split the games but if I can come out of these weeks at 3-1 or better, than I’ll be at full strength as we enter the home stretch for the playoffs. Hopefully at that point, my team will have a chance to return to the high-scoring potential we saw in Week 6.