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Skill or Luck? In Week 10 Starts, Sits & Bluffs

Jake Ciely Senior Writer November 8, 2012 8:16AM EDT
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I am a big poker fan/player. Wait, what? Oh, now the article themes, nickname, Twitter avatar (@allinkid), etc. all make sense!

Half of the reason I use poker terms and analogies is because it’s all too similar to Fantasy Sports, especially football. No matter how much research, practice, knowledge or skill is involved, sometimes luck still trumps all. There is just no way to eliminate the luck effect altogether. It’s frustrating.

It’s also why I don’t invite a certain acquaintance over for all of my poker nights. We’ll call this guy Frankie. For whatever reason, Frankie just oozes luck when it comes to poker. I’m not talking he hits a hand or two, when it’s a coin-flip play. I’m talking you shouldn’t be in the hand, you spent oodles more money than you should have, the cards staring you in the face have you dominated and the entire table wants to kick you’re a** types of hands.

Just this year, we had a night where Frankie caught a straight flush on the river, beating a four of a kind. A four.of.a.kind. Beaten by a straight flush! Do you know how rare both are? On that same night, he took out pocket aces with a Q3, won a hand playing down to the river, beaten by the board itself, until luck struck again on the river and he took out trips. It just went on and on. At the end of the night, Frankie had eliminated all but two players – it was a cash game.

Want to know the worst part? The guy has the same luck with women.

Hitting up one of our locale “hot spots” (I don’t know if that’s what the kids are still calling them – I am the farthest thing from being connected in the night scene) we had one eye on the MLB playoffs and another on the women, of course. There were plenty of attractive girls there, but for whatever reason, the one Frankie decided to chat up had a boyfriend – he just hadn’t arrived.

Hold on Jake, I thought you said his luck was everywhere. Hold on, just be patient…

As some women do (I’m not saying “all” women! Just talking about those attention-hungry-Kardashian-types – don’t want to offend any female readers I have… the whole two of you) this lady enjoyed the attention and didn’t mention her relationship. Well, when the boyfriend showed up, things got heated pretty fast. Honestly, it felt so cliché. The bigger, jealous boyfriend getting in the face of the guy who was oblivious to the situation. Instead of being angry at his girlfriend who should have been a good relationship partner and said something. But alas, all me and another friend were left to do was attempt to cool down the boyfriend.

Details aside, after a bit of chest puffing and yelling, we walked away unscathed. Relishing his “luck” from not getting decked, Frankie suggested heading to the bar to grab some drinks and just watch the game. Apparently, the bartender, who was extremely attractive, had noticed and asked what happened. Frankie gave her the details, and a little while later, the bartender handed him her phone number. The bartender folks! I’m sure every guy who has ever walked into a place with a bar knows how impossible it is to get the number of a bartender.

Frankie just falls bass ackwards into his luck!

As I said, the truth is that Fantasy Football can have the same result. I can’t count the number of frustrated tweets I received from owners who faced Doug Martin, Brandon Marshall, the Bears defense, Phil Dawson, or a mix of those in Week 9. Where was the skill involved for the opposing owner?

Was the owner any smarter than we are for taking Doug Martin when he was the best RB left on the board? Is that owner more skilled in having that Bears defense, a unit that was actually the fourth highest defense drafted on average? And don’t even get me started on the insane amount of luck involved in selecting kickers (I’ve been campaigning since 1999 to eliminate them)!

For all of the fortune involved with those players, the same amount of reverse luck (see: bad) falls onto the poor sap who faced any of those players, or even three of them (happened in two of my leagues).

Why am I telling you all of this? It’s not to dissuade you from playing or from still doing your damndest to win. It’s solely to make sure you realize that, sometimes, there isn’t anything you can do. You can listen to the experts, plug in Carson Palmer, Mikel Leshoure and Brandon Myers (as I did and even suggested that many do the same last week) and still lose. Or, you could have a bunch of home run plays all come through at the same time and take out a team with Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson and Victor Cruz.

In the end, I’m not going to stop playing poker, and not one of us would ever give up Fantasy Football. Just enjoy it more, and realize that sometimes your best just can’t top crazy luck.


TOP PAIR (Guaranteed a Good Week): Aaron Rodgers, GB; Doug Martin, TB; Brandon Marshall, CHI – Another big game for more proof of why Rodgers was drafted in the first round on average… How do you follow up a 32-point effort? Oh, just by going ape nuts on Oakland for 51 points!…

If you didn’t need more proof that the Titans defense is terrible against the pass, just check what Jay Cutler and Marshall did.

RIVER RAT (Surprising Top Performances): Carson Palmer, OAK; Mikel Leshoure, DET; Golden Tate, SEA – Okay, I liked Palmer as a solid Week 9 fill-in, but even I didn’t expect 414 yards and four TDs… Leshoure was another player I touted a good amount last week, but also someone who I didn’t expect to score three times… The Vikings defense is actually half decent, and Tate only managed four catches for 28 yards – but two of them went for TDs.

GUT SHOT (Let Everyone Down): Eli Manning, NYG; Jamaal Charles, KC; Hakeem Nicks, NYG – Okay, Eli, this is now three weeks in a row here. That’s also two straight five- FP-or-less games… Check this: 4, 0, 5 – no that’s not the area code to reach Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, it’s Charles’ Fantasy Points the past three weeks… Okay, these Giants need to get off the shnide as Victor Cruz was here last week, and Nicks caught just one pass against the Steelers.

Breakdown: Hold ‘Em – start them and/or players I like more than most rankings have them. Fold ‘Em – outright sit them; don’t consider them start-worthy in standard-sized leagues. Bluffs – still start them, but I like them less than most rankings and they will disappoint.



Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (KC) – MR 6: For some reason, people are still tweeting questions about whether to start Big Ben. I’m sorry, what more do you need from the man? Not one week under 12 FP, at least one TD pass in every game and oh, the Chiefs have given up seven passing TDs over the past three games, which included Josh Freeman, Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers – not exactly the top tier of QBs there. Maybe this week more will listen.

Andrew Luck, IND (@JAX) – My Ranking 7: With a half season under Luck’s belt, let’s check the numbers. Luck is on pace for 380 completions, 4,808 yards, 20 TD and 16 INT. Just for kicks, Peyton Manning’s rookie year: 326/3,739/26/28. Luck is obliterating Manning in yards, but has a way to go in TDs. However, Fantasy Points are Fantasy Points. Luck also has just two games under 15 FP and threw for 313 yards and two TDs in the first matchup against the Jags.

(Update: Of course, Luck goes and rushes for two TDs on Thursday night! Hey, check out the second to last sentence above… still Fantasy Points, and even better from the rushing variety.)


Reggie Bush, MIA (TEN) – MR 10: Looking back over the past three weeks: Matt Forte – 12 carries, 103 yards; Donald Brown/Vick Ballard – 26/135; Chris Johnson 18/195. Those are the numbers put up against the Colts the pass three games, and there is little doubt over Reggie Bush continuing that success this week.

Matt Forte, CHI (HOU) – MR 11: Look, it’s a bad matchup, but it’s not the worst side of the deal in this one. Even if Forte was facing his own team, there are certain running backs that you don’t ever bench no matter the matchup (see: Lynch, Marshawn versus the 49ers). Over his past four games, Forte has 71 carries for 376 yards and two rushing TDs. That comes out to 5.3 YPC. Are you really that worried?


Wes Welker, NE (BUF) – MR 8: Earlier this season against Buffalo, Welker posted nine catches for 129 yards. Buffalo allows 24.4 FPPG and the only team whose WRs didn’t combine for at least 18 FP was Houston. Welker is primed for a big day.

Mike Wallace, PIT (KC) – MR 11: Big Ben is rolling, Wallace is explosive, Antonio Brown is questionable (and likely limited if he plays)… oh, and the Chiefs have allowed 25 receptions, 521 yards, six TDs and 83 FP to WRs over the past three games. It’s time to feast.

Stevie Johnson, BUF (@NE) – MR 17: As long as Stevie’s thigh is okay, he’s primed for a big one. The Pats are the fourth most favorable defense versus WRs and have four games where they allowed 31 or more FPs. That included their first matchup with Buffalo, where Stevie was left out of the action (two catches, 23 yards). Unless he’s still hurt come game time, he won’t be left out again.


Aaron Hernandez, NE (BUF) – MR 5: You’re worried about the ankle? Don’t be. The Pats won’t risk Hernandez if he’s not ready. Worried about the numbers of weapons on the Pats? Don’t be. The Bills allow the third most yards to TEs, and remember how Tom Brady was still in and passing late against Buffalo the first time? Yea, Bill Belichick can kinda be a, well, you know.


Denver Broncos (@CAR) – MR 8: One, two, three, four… fiiiiifth!

I fail to see why the Broncos defense has a low 38.4 percent ownership (NFL.com leagues) when they are the fifth best Fantasy defense. Over the past three games, Denver has six INTs, two fumble recoveries and three D/ST touchdowns. Cam Newton has eight INTs so far, and the Panthers have lost four fumbles on the season. Denver has a good chance to force at least one turnover.



Sam Bradford, STL (@SF) – MR 25: It’s not just the 49ers run defense this year, but the pass D should be feared as well. San Fran is tied for the league’s best in TD passes allowed (just six). For note, Bradford has only thrown two more TDs than that. To be honest, I may need to move Bradford lower… into obscurity.


Michael Bush, CHI (HOU) – MR 44: Remember when Michael Bush was normally a good bet for a touchdown? That hasn’t been the case since Week 3, and it’s far from likely against Houston. Quick. Take a guess how many rushing TDs the Texans have allowed? Yep, zero!

Delone Carter, IND (@JAX) – MR 47: I’m sure some owners will attempt to get cute and use Carter if Brown is out, but there are a multitude of better options. With Ballard being the lead back with Brown out, Carter might have value if he could catch. However, the man doesn’t have a single reception this season and just five in all of 2011. Don’t get cute.


Golden Tate, SEA (NYJ) – MR 45: Back to that recap, Tate luckily turned two of his four catches for TDs. If not for that, Tate goes unnoticed. The Jets haven’t missed a beat since losing Darrelle Revis (so much for all of that lost impact talk) and hold WRs to a measly 9.9 catches, 123.8 yards and 13.3 FP on average. That’s total WR output folks.

Stephen Hill, other Jets WR not named Jeremy Kerley, NYJ (@SEA) – MR 51/UR(39): On the other side of this Jets-Hawks matchup, the Jets wide receivers don’t have it much better. Kerley finds some use checking in at 39, as he’s the focal point of the passing game, but even he is a risk against a Seattle team allowing just 126.0 receiving YPG. The Seahawks held Minnesota and San Fran to two and five FP for all WRs in their matchups. Why those two teams? They’re fairly similar: shaky QB play with a mediocre receiving group (one man does not make the group – sorry Percy).


Jared Cook, TEN (MIA) – MR 21: Cook has topped six FP just twice, and both times it required a TD catch. Oh, and the man notched a negative two last week. NEGATIVE two! The Dolphins are half-decent against tight ends, and even if they were near the bottom, Cook has only topped 45 yards once since Week 3. And again, negative two points… that’s just sickening.


Cincinnati Bengals (NYG) – MR 21: Yes, Eli has struggled, but do you want to risk using a mediocre defense against an offense that could wake up and explode at any time? The Bengals have one D/ST touchdown and have only reached double-digit FPs once – against the Jags.



Matt Schaub, HOU (@CHI) – MR 21: Early, we touched on the 49ers pass defense, and guess which team is tied with them for just six passing TDs allowed? Yep, Daa Bears! Chicago is also the only team allowing under 10.0 FPPG to QBs. For comparison, the Jets are in the Top Five against the QB and Schaub managed just 10 FP against them. Don’t risk it.


C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, BUF (@NE) – MR 20/26: By now, you know I hate split backfields. Go ahead, try to guess which RB will have the better day. You actually might have a better shot at that than guessing that the Pats are the third toughest team against RBs for FP allowed. The Pats allow just 10.9 per game and just 75.8 rushing yards on average. Pretty sure the math is easy here, as even if you split those numbers 70/30 AND guess the correct back, you’re still in for a subpar performance.

Steven Jackson, STL (@SF) – MR 28: That 49ers run defense, yea, it’s still really good. San Fran has allowed just one rushing TD and has held team RBs to single-digit FP games five times already.


Dwayne Bowe, KC (@PIT) – MR 26: If it weren’t for Bowe’s ability to sometimes buck the matchup and find the end zone, I’d rank him lower. That said, when it comes to the Chiefs receiving game, it’s Bowe and… and… uh, aaannnddd… exactly. The Steelers just gave Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks fits. Think Matt Cassel, Bowe and… seriously, do they even have a second option… can do any better?

Chris Givens and Brandon Gibson, STL (@SF) – MR 43/53: Danny Amendola (rank: 38) is back and might find his way into some lineups given how much Bradford turns to him, but even he is a risk against San Fran. As for Givens and Gibson, stay away. Reasons why? See: Bradford, Sam.


Owen Daniels (@CHI) – MR 9: I know Daniels looks like he found Marty McFly’s car and went back in time because he certainly looks like his 2008 self.

One small problem. The Texans head to Chicago, a team dominating on the defensive side and who hasn’t allowed more than four FP to a tight end since Week 4.

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