StrategyDecember 10, 2004

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Not Playing With a Full Deck

By Arlo Vander

Sometimes, a small mistake made early in the season can come back to haunt you when the fantasy playoffs roll around. And sometimes, even the best fantasy owners can be guilty of making those mistakes.

I recently came across a situation in one of my leagues that perfectly illustrates this point. The owner in question is the league’s defending champion, a perennial contender who possesses one of the sharpest fantasy minds I’ve had the pleasure of competing against.

Not surprisingly, this owner emerged from the draft with a strong, well-balanced team. And equally expectedly, his team, the Dragons, came out of the gate roaring, winning its first two games. In a 12-team league in which eight franchises make the playoffs, a 2-0 record is already highly reassuring; normally, six wins are enough to reach the postseason.

The Dragons’ kicker was Doug Brien, whose Jets were on a bye in week three. Like the Dragons, the Jets had had a good start into new the season, scoring 65 points in their first two contests. Brien, who had scored 17 of those points, was looking like a very shrewd draft pick.

The Dragons’ owner was therefore reluctant to drop Brien for a replacement kicker, but also didn’t want to release any of the other players from his bench to the waiver wire, particularly since his roster was already spread thin due to byes. In the end, he decided to play without a kicker in week three. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

You can probably already guess the rest. Naturally, the Dragons lost that game by a handful of points. And naturally, any of the top free agent kickers available would have scored enough points to seal the win.

That alone wouldn’t have been so bad. The Dragons recovered nicely from that loss, and after week six, had rolled to a 4-2 record. And that’s when the bottom dropped out of the team. Randy Moss suffered an injury that sidelined him for five games. Quarterback Chad Pennington also missed time, and Tommy Maddox was benched. Kevan Barlow never found his stride. Several key IDPs such as Keith Brooking didn’t quite live up to expectations. As a result, the Dragons lost the next five games.

Now, after 13 weeks, the team is in ninth place with a record of just 5-8. Thanks to the league’s tie-breaker system, the Dragons have no chance of making the playoffs, and will miss the postseason for the first time in the league’s history. With a win in week 3, the Dragons would be in the top eight rather than the consolation bracket.

And all for Doug Brien.

Naturally, not fielding a full lineup won’t always have such dire consequences. More often than not, not even the game’s result will be affected, to say nothing of the season standings. But every once in a while, a mistake like this will come back to bite an owner, hard. Don’t put yourself in this position. If you’re not playing with a full lineup, you’re not playing with a full deck.

Arlo Vander, who happened to be the beneficiary of the Dragons’ week 3 loss, wouldn’t mind having more wins handed to him in this way.

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