Reprinted from David Dorey's columns in USA Today this week.
Entering into your fantasy championships means that you need to make optimal choices about who you put into that starting line-up. Get it wrong and you are just another team in your league. Get it right and you can create your own insufferable victory dance.
The old axiom of “always start your studs” is never more important than at the end of the season. Making starting decisions based on player match-ups made sense during the season but at the end of the year when NFL teams are vying for their own playoff spots, the stars always shine. There are no players that surprisingly come to life in week 16. It’s all about relying on the most talented players on the team. Consider that in week eight, the top scoring wideouts included Santana Moss, Ted Ginn Jr. and Donnie Avery. Last Sunday it was back to Andre Johnson, Steve Smith and Calvin Johnson. Don’t over think your starting line-up. Stick with your best players unless there is a very obvious reason to switch.
Keeping an eye on weather is critical but worry about wind more than snow or rain. A wet ball is not that much harder to catch and a frozen field doesn’t affect traction much. But a good 20mph wind means that passes sail high and field goals end up in the corner of the end zone. Obviously temperature extremes should be avoided but none are expected for this weekend. Freezing rain may fall during the Patriots-Cardinals game and would impact the passing stats, particularly for Arizona who will be playing in dramatically different conditions than they have at home. Late season is always hardest on teams without a sound ground game largely because weather conditions impact passing far more than rushing.
2008 is a fortunate year in that week 16 does not have any teams who have clinched playoff spots and have nothing accomplish this weekend. There should be no players rested or held out any differently than would happen in any week of the season. For leagues which extend into week 17, that prognosis is never true. Not only will the final week always contain teams that have clinched, but it is the final chance teams have to look at either young or borderline players before heading into the offseason. It should not impact team stars too much, but for non-playoff teams there is always a risk that teams want to get a look at a particular player. That decreases the workload for all other players.
Start your best players in confidence this week thanks to NFL parity preventing the luxury of sitting a healthy player. Check out the weather for ice and wind which could be a factor in several games this week. And wish your opponent the best of luck – it ends up that it won’t impact what actually happens and yet it makes you look like the league nice guy.