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Fantasy football

Posted by Ed Ryan December 4, 2008 05:54 AM

The NFL has four weeks left in its regular season, but in fantasy football, the playoffs start now.

Head-to-head leagues such as the one Iím in typically begin the postseason after the 12th NFL game; this allows you three weeks for the playoffs, and also allows you to ignore the final week of the NFL season. Including the final week, particularly for the playoffs, is foolish and should not happen. You canít count on a team that has already wrapped things up ó like a division title or home-field advantage ó to play its best players.

Last seasonís Patriots team was a rare exception; the Pats were playing for an undefeated season. But if you have, say, Eli Manning or Brandon Jacobs, both members of the New York Giants, and the Giants have clinched everything going into the final regular-season game at Minnesota, are you going to feel confident playing them? Both could play only a quarter and then get yanked. Why would the Giants risk an injury heading into the playoffs?

Thatís why the last week of the regular season, in both head-to-head leagues and overall point total leagues, should not be part of your seasonís schedule. In my 12-team league, six squads make the playoffs. The top five won-loss records qualify, and the sixth spot goes to the remaining team with the highest overall point total (based on the thinking that if you have the most points, you probably have a pretty good team). In that spirit, if you finish with the high point total of the week, we reward the achievement with a weekly payout.

As for my squad, I finished tied for first and earned a bye this weekend, so Iím guaranteed a spot in the semifinals and need a pair of wins to take the title. We have a rule that there are no waiver moves allowed during the postseason, so Iím scrambling trying to balance out my roster before the playoffs begin this weekend.

Iím not thrilled with that rule (where was I when we voted on it?), but Iím playing by it, so I need backups at each position. Normally I wouldnít carry a backup kicker or a backup tight end, but now, I need them. If my kicker (Matt Prater of Denver) pulls a groin or sprains an ankle and is replaced, and I donít have a backup to insert during a playoff game and lose by a few points, then shame on me.

Iím clearing out space for Giants kicker John Carney, who is available because injured kicker Lawrence Tynes recently returned (it looks as though Carney is the man for the rest of the season). In addition, Iíve put in a claim on Daniel Graham as my tight end backup (Iím dropping the hardly-ever-productive Vernon Davis to make this happen). Hopefully Graham never starts for me; Tony Gonzalez is my starter, and heís having the best fantasy season of any tight end.

My last move is at quarterback. Iíve been set all season with Denverís Jay Cutler as my starter and Jacksonvilleís David Garrard as my backup, but Iíve been reading about Garrard having ďback issuesĒ recently, so Iím figuring itís best to go three deep at such an important position. Iím grabbing Gus Frerotte, Minnesotaís turnover-prone signal caller. I hardly trust Gus, but I also donít trust one of my other quarterbacks staying healthy for another three weeks.

Ed Ryan writes about fantasy sports and betting for OT and can be reached at ed_ryan@globe.com

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