Fantasy Football: Fix your brain, start Alex Smith

Chiefs Alex Smith

This week I am continuing my weekly column to fix one of your biggest fantasy football obstacles, your brain and tell you why to start Alex Smith. I will also examine my picks from last week and present my coin flip choices for week four. Fantasy football players usually spend a lot of time stressing over one close decision. There are few reasons why I think this is a mistake.

In my view, 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.

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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 Alex Smith over Cam Newton. The point here is that I least took a double-take at the easy calls.

Now, let’s review my painful choices from last week. My first 50/50 call on my was at the running back position, Ameer Abdullah vs. Derrick Henry. I started Henry, and we all know how that went. DeMarco Murray wents nuts and Henry didn’t see much action. However, the Sproles-ian Ameer Abdullah didn’t fair much better. Abdullah outscored Henry by 2 points in my league. I won my matchup anyways, so the time I thought about it was definitely a waste. Also, I have now changed my team name to “Ban Running Backs”, because I clearly have no RB1’s.

Martavis Bryant vs. Marshawn Lynch was my next tough weekly fantasy football choice. Well, I was facing a team with Todd Gurley so I woke up Sunday morning being down 30 points. I ended up benching Doug Baldwin, because I perceived his upside as being less than Lynch’s. I turned out to be very wrong about the Washington vs Oakland game. A lot of people were wrong but that doesn’t change the outcome of this analysis. In the end it didn’t matter (RIP Chester Bennington) and I got ran over by more than 100 points. Fun fact, when Martavis dropped that first pass, I screamed my face off.

The last decision was Cameron Brate or David Njoku. Both posted very similar scores with Brate being 2 points higher. No matter, I lost by 34 points. What a fun week!! But the key here is that after my limited analysis I made the wrong decision and it didn’t alter the outcome of my matchup. So let’s review the picks, and it looks like all of my week 3 stress was a wasted effort.

Ameer Abdullah vs. Derrick Henry – INCORRECT – NOT a Factor

Martavis Bryant vs. Marshawn Lynch – NULL, Benched Baldwin (wouldn’t have mattered)

Cameron Brate vs. David Njoku -INCORRECT – NOT a factor

Philip Rivers Alex Smith

Associated Press

Including all six of my close calls this season, only two of have been a factor in my weekly fantasy football matchups. Two also become null for one reason or another. We will keep tabs on this as the season progresses. On to week four’s tough choices:

Philip Rivers vs. Alex Smith

Eric Decker vs. Devin Funchess

Ted Ginn vs. Rishard Matthews

My thought process of looking at player for a week:

  1. Vegas / Total points & point spread
  2. Target / Carries / Snaps [opportunity]
  3. Floor / Ceiling / Ability
  4. [weather only under extreme conditions / deciding between ties]

I am going to go into more depth about how I look at Las Vegas odds because a couple of my readers asked me too. It gets a little math related, but it is pretty simple, and I think it is important skill for fantasy football players to understand. Of course feel free to skim a bit, to where I come back to the player analysis.

I tend to lean on Vegas in these coin flips, maybe even too much so. Actually that means the interpretation of game flow derived from the Vegas odds. Here are the Vegas odds for the players I am looking at this week. You can ignore anything after the decimal point; I just have to use them to make the math work. For the readers, 28.25 can be treated the same as 28. The exact number doesn’t matter as much as its relative value.

KC -7 vs Was. O/U of 49.5

KC projected for 28.25, playing with the lead, high scoring

LAC -1 vs Phi. O/U 47.5

LAC projected for 24.5 close game, high scoring

TEN -1 at Hou. O/U of 44

TEN projected for 22.5 close, not high scoring game

CAR at NE-9. O/U of 48.5

CAR projected for 19.75, playing from behind and not scoring much

NO -3 vs Mia. O/U of 49.5

NO projected for 26.25 close game, high scoring

Circling back to my first choice Alex Smith or Philip Rivers we can see that Alex Smith has the edge in team projected points from Las Vegas. San Diego is also projected to score a decent amount of points, over 24. So the edge is only slight for Alex Smith. Alex Smith is facing the Josh Norman led Washington secondary. However, svelt Andy Reid is clearly quite good at scheming his offense to get the ball of his best weapons in space. Alex Smith has some of the best space weapons in Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. I am not worried about Alex Smith in this game at all. Last week we basically saw Philip Rivers floor, he definitely bounces back this week. But I am leaning strongly to Alex Smith here, because of his weapons and the slight edge in Vegas projections. I don’t think I will be on an island here, there is a lot of information pointing to a strong week for Alex Smith.

When it comes to receivers there are a couple of key data points that I like to look at. The first is the target report, written by Rotoworld’s Justin Bailey, here is the link. The second cool resource for fantasy football players is Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards website, I don’t want to oversimplify what the Air Yards tool does, but you should definitely check it out. These tools speak to both opportunity, and I believe to the player’s ability.


Titans Rishard Matthews

AP Photo – Wilfredo Lee

Receivers and their targets (Rotoworld) and air yards (

Rishard Matthews
Targets – 24
Air Yards – 249                 

Devin Funchess
Targets – 19
Air Yards – 235

Ted Ginn
Targets – 14
Air Yards – 197

Eric Decker
Targets – 13
Air Yards – 165

My second choice is Devin Funchess or Eric Decker essentially in my second flex spot in the Angle of Pursuit Podcast league. With Kelvin Benjamin probably out, Funchess is likely in line for another good week as far as targets go. The Vegas projection for Carolina’s total points is on the low side around 20. However Tennessee is only projected for two additional points, so there isn’t much difference. The biggest takeway to me is that Vegas is projecting New England to dominate Carolina, and likely force them to play from behind. Traditionally this would mean Carolina be forecasted to throw a lot in the second half. We all are worried about Cam Newton, he hasn’t looked right all season, and I think everyone expects the Patriots to make him throw a bunch. Decker clearly has the edge at quarterback. However Devin Funchess should act as his team’s WR1, whereas Eric Decker has been his team’s WR2 and behind Delanie Walker in targets. I am leaning towards starting Funchess, while keeping an eye on players’ health. 

My final choice is in my dynasty league where I have Rishard Matthews or Ted Ginn as options at my flex spot. I choose my coin flips based on general consensus and also website projections. Two separate big name websites project these two receivers to score within one point of each other. To me it is not that close at all, and I think most rankers will have a good distance between them this week. Ted Ginn has 14 targets to Rishard Matthews 24. Matthews has been the Titans number 1 receiver, and I cannot bench him. Ted Ginn gets less than 5 targets a game but is always threat for a touchdown, as long as he doesn’t drop it. The Saints are also getting Willie Snead back in some limited snap capacity it appears. I am going with Matthews unless something drastic changes. 

To review:

Alex Smith over Philip Rivers

Devin Funchess over Eric Decker [keeping an eye on Kelvin Benjamin’s knee]

Rishard Matthews over Ted Ginn

Good luck and thank you for reading.


One Comment

  1. Avatar


    September 29, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    I love the articles by that tom corson guy. He really seems to know his shit! Give use more tommy the gun!!!

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