January 04, 2009

Geek Leading Fantasy Football League During Playoff Push

At the end of August, I told you how I manage to take what should be an enjoyable, brainless, activity like fantasy football, and still 'nerd it up', reverting to laptops, Excel spreadsheets and Web-based databases. (See: The Even Geekier Approach to Fantasy Football) Now more than four full months later, the NFL regular season has ended, as have most fantasy football teams, who wrap things up before the playoffs begin. But not the one I'm in. The top four teams in the 12-team league completely start over, redrafting from the playoff rosters, and battle it out in a prolonged contest that lasts through the Super Bowl.

I thought I'd catch you up.

As I mentioned back in August, one of the benefits of not having a favorite team is that I can put my biases aside and pick who I think will do the best, not just who I wanted to do the best. Luckily for me, this led to a quick start, where I scored more than 100 points in 3 of the first 4 games, and at one point had a 10-2 record, having won seven straight head to head contests.

Despite a late-season fade that saw me finish 11-5 overall, a full game behind the league's first-place finisher, I won the division, and was among four teams that got to participate in the playoffs, which started yesterday.

Unlike Yahoo! Sports, ESPN and other online leagues, which use the regular seasons' last weeks as the playoffs, we completely reset and start from zero - adding a new level of strategy, where which teams you pick are just as important as the players. Picking players from teams that get eliminated in the first week means you lose them from your roster, and there are no pickups - so choose wisely...

As a two time winner, having collected trophies in the 2001-02 season and 2005-06 season, I took on this week's draft hoping my experience would have an advantage. (See: Three And Out Takes Fantasy Football Title from February of 2006) But, after taking two full years off from the game, there was always concern I'd had my head so deep in playing tech blogger that I'd forgotten how to do it right. (See: An NFL Season Without Real Fantasy Football?)

Luckily, so far, things look good.

I filled my 13-person roster with three Carolina Panthers, including the red-hot De'Angelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, three Arizona Cardinals, including the veteran Kurt Warner at QB, and a handful of players with huge upside, including the San Diego Chargers' Darren Sproles, who could score points for me as a rusher, receiver and kick returner, the Eagles' Brian Westbrook and the Falcons' Michael Turner at running back. (See: Roster with Scoring History)

Saturday and Sunday's games played out practically as I would have liked. San Diego staved off the favored Indianapolis Colts. The Cardinals beat out Atlanta. And the Eagles defeated the Vikings at home in Minnesota. As our league playoffs progress, this means I've lost a bare minimum of players after the first weekend, as my opponents lost some key talent. And as most sports fans know, Darren Sproles had an amazing game, garnering 42 points (in fantasy land). Warner contributed 18, Westbrook 17, and Larry Fitzgerald a solid 16. This helped propel my team to 129 points in the first weekend, with none of the other three teams breaking 100. (See: Standings)

My previous years in the league tell me that an early lead is good, but not enough. In order for me to sustain the momentum, I'll have to see my players stay active. If next week is a disaster, and is as bad as this weekend was good, it could be over in a matter of hours. But the start is good.

If you played fantasy football this year, how did you do? How did your league handle the playoffs?

See: Kiss of Death League Reloaded Playoffs