Fantasy Football: Fix Your Brain, Start Marshawn Lynch

This week I am continuing my weekly column to fix one of your biggest challenges, your brain, and I am going to tell you to start Marshawn Lynch. Hopefully you were lucky enough to draft or add him. I will also review my picks from last week and see if they were really worth stressing over. Fantasy football players usually spend a lot of time agonizing over one close decision. There are few reasons why I think this is a mistake.


Instead of that approach, last week I wrote that you should be using your brain to think about challenging some of your assumptions elsewhere in your lineup and not draining it on one decision with little difference in player projections. I suggest the following approach. Early in the week, set your lineup right away. Don’t overanalyze, just go with your gut.  During the middle of the week, read up on research and articles here at and elsewhere. Thursday, you clearly need to check your Thursday night players and make your decisions early on those players.


Then late in the week, on Saturday or Sunday, revisit your lineups with the latest injury and analysis information from your mid-week reading. Make your decisions on your tough calls that were on your brain. This way you aren’t spending all week thinking about it. That switch on your brain is really hard to turn off. I suggest you also think about the “easy” decisions you made and challenge them. One example of an easy decision for me this week would be playing Isaiah Crowell over Jacquizz Rodgers. The point here is that I least took a double-take at the easy calls.


Now, let’s review my choices from last week. I know no-one cares about other people’s leagues, but this will illustrate my point as the season progresses. After a few weeks it will likely be very clear that thinking about these was kind of a waste of time. My first 50/50 call on my was at the flex, Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas.  I went back and forth on this one a lot, and I discussed my thought process in last week’s column. Well, the reason had to make this choice was because I had Stefon Diggs locked as my #1 flex. As you recall, Sunday morning news broke that Sam Bradford would not be playing. Like most other analysts, I recommended on twitter benching Stefon Diggs. Therefore, I did not have make the Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas choice at all. This is a really good example to illustrate another way you could be wasting your analysis time. I was almost happy that it happened, only because I won the matchup.


Another tough choice came down in my PPR league, Martavis Bryant or Jeremy Maclin. Well I went with Martavis Bryant (18.8) v. Jeremy Maclin (13.1.) The match was close and I won 102.6 to 98.7, a margin of only 3.9 points. This is a rare case of me making the right call, and it being the deciding factor in my victory.  I have to note, that in my article I said maybe I should be re-thinking the “easy” decision of Cam Newton over Eli Manning. They were both pretty marginal, but Eli did outscore Cam 16.95 to 14.1. To reiterate, I am not saying I should have known to start Eli Manning, just that foregone conclusions need to be at least thought about when you are reviewing your lineups.


My last coin flip call was starting Jared Cook over Jacoby Brissett in my QB Superflex. Jared Cook only scored 2.5 and was a complete flop as the Raiders trucked the jets. Jacoby Brissett scored 12.84 points, and would have helped me win if I had started him. Fun stuff! Well, maybe one of my premises about the decisions not being as important, will be proven wrong by season’s end. Only time will tell, but I still think this is worth tracking, both the percentage I great and whether or not they matter or get voided out. I am also thinking of throwing in some consensus (easy) calls to track those also as a baseline.


So my three spots for overthinking in week 2 were:

Demaryius Thomas vs. Dez Bryant -NULL, benched Diggs

Martavis Bryant vs. Jeremy Maclin – CORRECT + a FACTOR

Jared Cook vs. Jacoby Brissett (QB Superflex) – INCORRECT + a FACTOR


Let’s say I spent an hour on each of those decisions. Was it worth it? Clearly not on the first one. The second would be a yes, but the last one is either a no – or I should have only spent half the time (the time when I was thinking about starting Brissett over Cook.) If you think a long time and make the wrong choice you are really making several errors. This is another lesson I learned at the poker tables of Atlantic City. So many players at the end of a poker hand, will take forever on making the decision to call or fold. And quite often, they would make the wrong decision. I am not advising you to go to Vegas and make snap gambling decisions everywhere because you would be broke in an hour. Just don’t fall into a trap of overthinking a borderline or 50/50 decision.  I am getting a little Bran and the ravens here, but I need to close this loop and the door…So out of the 3 hours I spent only 1 hour or 1.5 hours max was justified. The actual amount of time doesn’t matter. I am just trying to say and prove that you are not being efficient in your thought process. It is worth thinking about it, analysis is good. Just don’t go crazy with it.


We are on to week 3 and here are the choices I am thinking about the most.


Ameer Abdullah or Derrick Henry

Martavis Bryant or Marshawn Lynch

Cameron Brate vs. David Njoku


Ameer Abdullah’s game on Sunday has a Las Vegas line of  50.5 total points, with Detroit as a three point underdog at home. Ameer Abdullah has never scored two TDs and has only topped 100 hundred total yards once. This would put his ceiling at roughly 16 points in standard scoring. Last week he had 17 rushes for 86 yards 0 catches [week 1 –  41 total yards]. So that means Ameer Abdullah has a low floor and only middling ceiling. In name recognition, Abdullah has an easier opponent to rush against, the Atlanta Falcons. However I am very concerned with Abdullah’s floor and the game flow here. Atlanta could likely be ahead the entire game. If so, that would inevitably lead to more work for Theo Riddick in the passing game. Even in a points fest, Ameer Abdullah may not be the play.


The Titans / Seahawks game has a line of 42.5 total points, with the Titans as 2.5 point favorite at home. Game flow projects to favor Derrick Henry according to Las Vegas. The Seahawks are a strong defense, but the underrated Carlos Hyde did run for 125 yards on them last week. Last year, Derrick Henry had a 56 yard 2 touchdown game. If you call that his ceiling it would be 18 fantasy points in standard scoring. Last week he scored 15 points, so I think 18 is very much within his reach. Comparing the two players it seems Derrick Henry would have the higher ceiling by around a touchdown. That is obviously significant. That means Derrick Henry would have a better game flow projection and a higher ceiling; with the only negative being a much lower Vegas over / under. Derrick Henry’s floor a bit of an unknown here. Especially with the health of DeMarco Murray being a bit cloudy. Please read this FakePigskin column by Ken Wang. Also, the Titans receiver corps is slightly banged up. I will be keeping an eye on the practice status of Corey Davis and Eric Decker. Although, it might be overstated how much this would impact Henry’s projection. The Titans have a number of other weapons in the passing game. That being said, as it stands now I have Derrick Henry starting over Ameer Abdullah.


Martavis Bryant is only 25 years old and that is why I am comfortable looking back at his 2014 and 2015 game logs on Pro Football Reference to estimate his ceiling. Martavis Bryant has had three games (out of 23) with two receiving touchdowns. One of those games he had 6 catches for 137 yards and one rush for 8 yards. That is 27 fantasy points in most standard formats. He has topped 100 yards receiving in five out of 23 games. A major point to note, is that the Pittsburgh Steelers offense is loaded with more scoring options than ever before. This limits Martavis’ ceiling, or at least makes it less likely to hit on a given week, in my eyes. We already saw his floor last week, it is basically zero. Recency bias is so real in fake football, everyone usually only remembers last week. Well here’s the thing, Xavier Rhodes a fantastic cornerback shadowed Antonio Brown. He does not play for the Bears, the North remembers. The Vegas line has the Steelers favored by over a touchdown and total projections of 44 (ten points below the Raiders’ game.) This would lead to a lot of Steelers running plays in the second half. However it the Steelers have quite a recent history of travelling to bad teams and playing down to their level. If it stayed close, that would benefit Martavis Bryant.


Marshawn Lynch is on the wrong side of the age curve so I don’t want to go back to his pre-retirement game totals. It is important to know that he has a long history as a really good fantasy running back. This season, Marshawn Lynch in game one had 92 total yards no TD for 9 points, and in game 2 had 49 yards and a TD for 11 points. Strictly looking at this season, in his current role, he hit the point range of 9-11. That is a pretty narrow range of outcomes and I think was largely determined by two wildly different game flows and isn’t necessarily predictive. I think this game against Washington projects very well for him because of the total points projected at 54, and the Raiders being favored. If that projection holds, the Raiders would be playing with a lead and allegedly feeding Beastmode goal line carries (Attention Seattle? sorry..). In this coin flip, I project Marshawn Lynch to outscore Martavis Bryant but Martavis has a higher ceiling. In the matchup where I have the choice I view myself as an underdog. Come Sunday morning I may decide I have to gamble on Martavis Bryant’s upside versus the relative safety of Beastmode.


Everyone knows how desperate the TE landscape is this week. In one league I am left to choose between Cameron Brate and David Njoku. Note, Xavier Rhodes will likely blanket Mike Evans, as much as that is possible. The first stop for me is checking the Las Vegas line for the point spread and to the over / under for the total points. Tampa Bay vs Minnesota has no line currently posted at multiple websites. This is due to the questions surrounding Sam Bradford’s balky knee. The entire point of this article is to get you to stop wasting time over decisions. Right away when I see no line I immediately table the thinking until later in the week. You can’t compare players without all of the information, and for me at least the Vegas pieces are critical. So in real life I am just going to come back to this later.


However I need to have a default position in case nothing substantial changes, and because I am writing this glorious article for the people. For me as of right now, I don’t expect Bradford to play. The Vikings are in a tough spot with presumptive future backup QB Teddy Bridgewater still on the shelf for a few more weeks. I don’t think the Vikings want to risk long term damage to Sam Bradford right now. I will be monitoring practice reports to see if Sam Bradford practices fully and to see if Case Keenum is getting time with the starters. If that is the case and Case Keenum plays, the Buccaneers will likely be favored by around six points. This would point to a run heavy approach as they would be playing with the lead for most of the game. All of that is bad news for Cameron Brate. David Njoku for the Browns is facing similar game script concerns due to their opponent being the horribly overmatched and injury riddled Colts. If nothing changes the game scripts kind of cancel each other out.


I really like the play David Njoku scored on in week 2. Much ballyhooed deep ball “DGAFer” DeShone Kizer threw an endzone target to Njoku from roughly the 22yard line (basically the Redzone.) Njoku appeared to be covered with safety help as well, but he pulled it down. It also appeared to my old man eyes that Njoku was Kizer’s first read. With Corey Coleman (RIP) out with a broken hand and with David Njoku getting more familiar with the playbook, I expect an uptick in his targets. On the other hand Tampa Bay’s usage of the passing game is kind of concerning to me. This gets a little narrative street-y, but on Hard Knocks there were a number of times the coaching staff talked to Jameis Winston about gambling less. As a fantasy player and overall degenerate, I hate to hear that. Winston is still going to throw deep, but I think Brate will remain behind Mike Evans and Desean Jackson in targets, even when accounting for facing shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes. Whereas the Browns just lost their number #1 and Kenny Britt has somehow faded into oblivion. Who killed Kenny? I am leaning to start David Njoku unless Sam Bradford plays, and even maybe still go with Njoku if he does.


So remember, do some initial analysis, don’t agonize over the coin flips, trust your gut, reassess other position choices, review late in week with new information, and set your lineup to destroy and demoralize your foes. Good luck this week!


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