Fantasy Football: what to do with a losing team

Oakland Raiders Derek Carr

Life comes at you fast. Week seven is already in the books. What should you do with a losing fantasy football team? Our minds tend to polarize things, so you’re probably not as bad off as you think. Even if you’re winning, this article should still help you this week and in future weeks. It is time to think about the meta-game. And so, like travelers to Westworld we venture off the grid. Please don’t shoot the robots.

First we will cover your winning teams:

If you have a team in first or second place everything seems to be fine. Yet, this may not be the case. Owners need to be review things here as well. If you are high in your division but have less points than (almost) everyone else in the other division, you’re really not that safe (It me.) You will need to improve your weekly ceiling, look to upgrade your flex or bench players via waivers or a trade. This is a simplification, because you always look to improve, but it requires weekly aggressiveness on the wire. In most leagues, not all of your opponents will be even LOOKING to making moves each week. If you apply the weekly microscope to your team you can gain an advantage. In a lot of leagues only 2-4 owners try to make waiver / FAAB claims each week. Maybe there aren’t any better players out there this week, but at least you’re looking. You can upgrade your kicker or defense most weeks.

Check out @notoriouskro ‘s waiver wire article.  Working the Wire

If you are in the bottom half of the playoff or money spots, that is definitely a good place to be. That is where I like to be this time of the season. If you’re here you probably have a pretty good team. But you may be tied with four teams on your record. It is precarious spot, but you hopefully have been banking good point totals. If they win and you lose next week, you will be dropping down the standings, but the points can act like life preserver. Scan the waiver wire for even a minor improvement to your team. Don’t make a move just for the sake of making a move. You want to win it all, and be the 1st overall player at season’s end. Take a look at wins and losses or your point differential from 1st and see how realistic it is for you to catch them. Much like a single table poker tournament, you’re playing to win.

What if you’re struggling so far?

First we need to address a few questions to gauge the severity of the situation. You can definitely still make the money even if you are out of the fantasy football playoffs right now. It isn’t as bad you think, probably. The logic used here can be repeated in future weeks as your situations evolve. In the reassuring words of Landry Jones, “don’t panic!”

How many wins are you out of a tie for a playoff spot? How many weeks are left? Obviously if you need to make up more wins than there are weeks left, your season is over. You have my deepest sympathies and I will not @ you during this difficult time.

Obviously, if you are only one or two wins out of the playoffs do not give up. You are right in the mix. With five or six weeks left (depending on format,) three or four games back is definitely doable. However, five or more games back will be very difficult to overcome. There is an important note though, if your fake team has significantly changed (Brady or Bell, etc.) it makes sense to be slightly more optimistic.

In points leagues, obviously the points matter more than your rank order. So, if you’re 300 points out but fifth position that isn’t much better than being ninth with the same points. This is a very league specific thing as some league’s score an average of 200 points a week. I am going to use my home league to walk through how I think about scoring and long-term outlook. This is a bit wonky, but I think it may help.

In my home league I am dead last, but only 89 points out of the money and 150 points out of first. Also, I have Le’Veon Bell back. My average weekly score so far is 122 points. This is not a great average but what we are looking for here is the distance from me to the money. Specifically, that distance, relative to a week’s usual score. In this case I am roughly one week’s score out of 3rd and 1st. This league also runs through week 17 (I know.) Gaining one week’s average score over the ten remaining weeks is definitely possible. If I had 50 more points I would be in fourth. 50 points can be made up in one week. It is not likely, but possible. If I were 240+ out of the money I would be pretty much toast. That is roughly two weeks of scoring for me. I am considering my team still alive here, but with significant improvement needed. I must admit, this is a case where the numbers changed my mind. I really thought I was much further behind than this. The fake sports can play tricks on your mind.

Where is the cut-off? It is league specific of course. If you’re more than two weeks of scoring out of the money, you’re facing a very steep hill. This is especially true if the league/season ends in week 12-14.

Being the eternally pessimistic optimist, let’s say your team is still alive after this review. That is great news! Be aggressive on the FAAB / Waiver wire. Mash that trade button. Get fired up and keep digging for touchdowns.

Let’s say you have reviewed the standings and concluded you’re probably toast. What do you next? You have a few options. You can be uber aggressive for one more week just to see if you still have some fight in you. That is my recommendation but I have alligator blood.

Dante Moncrief

You can go all out for weekly prizes in fantasy football, if your league is cool enough to have those. Maybe dig deep on the wire for some second half breakout candidates. It is technically possible Donte Moncrief, Corey Coleman, and Tyler Lockett became second half all stars. All of the tears are running down my face as I type this.

Keeper and dynasty league members that are out of it for 2016 can start looking way down the wire for potential keepers into 2017. Martavis Bryant? Kevin White? I think you get the idea. Also a good move is to work a few trades to improve your roster for next year.

Make sure you don’t become the complacent fantasy player. Even when you’re eliminated you still want to compete and try to win. It makes it more fun for you and keeps the league overall more competitive.

In summary you are probably not doing as well or as badly as you thought in your fantasy football leagues. The strong owners will review their outlook every week or two, and adjust strategy if necessary. There are leagues out there that shame the last place finisher. I am do not advocate this penalty for a lot of reasons. However, if you are in a league that does, you should probably avoid having to get a tattoo of the winner’s face on your inner thigh.

Never give up.

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