Fantasy Title Week: Caution’s Last Stand

If your fantasy squad is still alive and fighting for that make-believe crown this weekend, it’s time to toss a bag over Caution’s head and beat him with chains and sledgehammers.

Colin Kaepernick
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick 7 looks to pass the ball against the New England Patriots during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium The San Francisco 49ers defeated the New England Patriots 41 34 David Butler USA TODAY Sports

This is no time for Caution. This is fantasy championship week.

Don’t mistake this for treaties on why you should make a bunch of low-percentage plays in fantasy’s most critical weekend, or some sort of total abandonment of the strategies that got you through the minefield of this season. I’m not telling you to rethink starting Adrian Peterson. I’m not advocating for a second look at Megatron’s startability in Week 16. I am telling you, however, that rolling with you safest players probably is not how you made it to the title bout.

Maybe I can illuminate things by giving you a fantasy championship conundrum I’m dealing with this week (and no, the birth of my first child has not served as the methadone for my fantasy obsession that I hoped it might. I still have no perspective, as evidenced by my football related dreams/nightmares this week).

I own Colin Kaepernick and Matthew Stafford in my keeper league, a very quarterback-friendly league, awarding one point per 20 yards and six points for passing touchdowns. My instinct was to plug in Kaepernick, who I consider a safer play, since even his so-so performances have been buoyed by rushing yards and touchdowns.

Even though Stafford is my keeper, and a guy whom I’m proud of drafting in 2011, I want to move away from the risk inherent in a quarterback who is coming off the worst performance of his professional career, a total dud in Arizona caused, in part, by an almost total lack of offensive weapons outside of Calvin Johnson. He looked awful, flinging the ball into double coverage and falling off his back foot even without blitz pressure.

I want points though, and in this format, with a quarterback who will likely throw 40 passes Saturday night at home against the Falcons – with a dozen of those attempts aimed at the game’s best pass catcher – I know that Stafford has more upside. Fat Face, as he’s so widely known, also has a hideous downside that Kaepernick probably can avoid. The eyeball test is also key here: Stafford threw a late touchdown to 53rd string wide receiver Kris Durham last week — a score called back because of a holding penalty. Stafford was also picked off in the end zone. Fat Face had his chances, and even in such a dismal performance, tallied 246 yards.

Caution, muttering through the dried blood and cracked teeth and broken bones after his merciless sledgehammer beating, told me to choose Kaepernick and never look back. I shoved Caution back into his pitch-black closet filled with hungry insects and told him to please shut the hell up.

I’m rolling with Stafford because Week 16 is not the time to be frightened, to play it safe. My championship opponent is stacked, bursting at the seams with studly running backs and wide receivers poised for monster Sundays. Even if Stafford tanks, I will have made the right play.

Travis Rowe, a writer for GoProFantasySports who you should be following on the Twitter Machine, last week suggested a book titled, “Poker Winners Are Different.” The book explains how human nature can dull a poker player’s willingness to use only cold calculations in her card playing decision making.

If you simply replace “poker” with “fantasy football,” I think you’ll see the following excerpt as a clarion call for how fake football title games should be approached.

There aren’t a lot of people for whom maximizing their expectation in [fantasy football] games comes naturally. Human beings are social animals who are naturally included to try to get along. Our instincts are to feed our basic and immediate needs. Playing winning [fantasy football], on the other hand, is about ruthlessly pushing our edges, waiting patiently for the right moment to strike, and taking full advantage of any weaknesses exhibited by our opponents. For all but the least skilled [fantasy football] players, I believe one could argue that the primary difference between winning and losing is that the winners have the discipline to suppress their urges and make the plays that gain money, not those that feel good.

Be savvy enough to know that you’re inclined to make decisions on what feels right, not what is right, in the days before your fantasy championship. Target players in potential shootouts, don’t rely on guys with limited – or nonexistent – big play potential, and lock Caution away in that bug-infested closet. His utility has run its course.

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