FANTASY GRIND: Targeting targets, Peyton's monster day, using Vegas to predict defenses

One game into the NFL season, time for the real fantasy tinkering to begin. But as you're looking at a single win, loss or tie in your standings column, know that your team probably isn't overwhelmingly strong or weak.

No matter how much you won by, all reasonable rosters have room for improvement. And if you lost, your team is probably salvageable with a combination of patience and savvy roster moves.

It all involves assessing your situation with new information, balancing what you thought you knew before with what you think you've learned after one week of games.

If you're planning to bench or trade running backs like C.J. Spiller or Stevan Ridley because they fumbled and didn't score many points, make sure your logic is solid (it's likely not). If you're aching to get wide receivers like Leonard Hankerson or Eddie Royal into your lineup, think about how probable it is that either will get two touchdowns in a game again (Hankerson had three all of last year, and Royal's career high is five in 2008).

Part of winning in fantasy is managing frustrations — seeking scenarios you can reasonably count on rather than depending on long-shot performances, even if they're possible and have happened before.

According to CBS Sports, 83 percent of fantasy teams who had Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning won their Week 1 matchups. He threw seven touchdowns and immediately became the front-runner for the NFL's MVP award.

What's it mean for those more than four in five fantasy owners? One win. No more, no less. On to Week 2.



Players don't get points for opportunities in fantasy sports, but the more often they touch the ball, the more points they're likely to score.

Look at David Wilson, the Giants running back who fumbled twice on Sunday night and didn't get any carries or passes thrown his way afterward. Among the many running backs with more carries and more fantasy points were Arizona's Alfonso Smith and Philadelphia's Bryce Brown.

Wilson vented his frustration at fantasy owners and angry Giants fans on Tuesday night on Twitter, saying in part: "ur irrelevant to me!!! Nobody wants me to succeed more than ME!!!"

The truth: What Wilson wants is irrelevant if Giants coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning decline to give him the ball.

Here are some widely available players who had good opportunities in Week 1, with a reasonable chance to keep getting chances going forward.

QB: Terrelle Pryor, Oakland. Pryor is the latest example of the funny relationship quarterbacks have with fantasy scoring. Mobile quarterbacks who are weak passers can often make up ground by running, as Pryor did in Week 1 with 112 yards on 13 carries to go along with 217 yards passing. Pryor will keep piling up statistics on Raider plays that don't involve Darren McFadden rushing.

RB: DeAngelo Williams, Carolina. Likely sitting on someone's bench in your league. But with Jonathan Stewart on injured reserve, Williams is more than a committee back. He had 17 carries in Week 1, tied for 11th in the league with Marshawn Lynch, McFadden and Spiller.

WR: Brian Hartline, Miami. Hartline was third among NFL wide receivers with 15 targets against Cleveland, finishing with nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Mike Wallace, new to the Dolphins with a $60 million contract, was visibly upset Sunday after having only one catch on five targets — enough to warrant a meeting Monday with coach Joe Philbin.

TE: Dallas Clark, Baltimore. That's correct, he's 34 years old in his 11th season, with only two seasons with more than 800 yards (2008 and 2009). Clark led his team with 12 targets, one behind Cleveland's Jordan Cameron for the league lead among tight ends. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco relied heavily on Dennis Pitta last year, who is out for most of the year on injured reserve. Clark has averaged less than six targets per game over his career, but during his best year, a 100-catch, 1,106-yard season in 2009 with Indianapolis, Clark averaged 8.3 targets per game. Baltimore is thin among receivers and Clark will likely be available for a tryout without a waiver claim, as others in your league jump for Julius Thomas or Kellen Winslow.



A former online poker grinder is approaching fantasy football defenses with a simple assumption: Sports books in Las Vegas and elsewhere know more than you do about how NFL teams will perform.

Each week, Dylan Lerch posts defensive rankings on Reddit ( ) and Nerdball Magazine ( ), derived by a formula combining point spreads and totals with turnover statistics to generate weekly rankings that look far different from the season-long cheat sheets of many fantasy experts.

It's a next-level argument to streaming, and the age-old assumption you shouldn't draft a defense or kicker until the last round.

The consensus? They're hard to predict and score comparably by the end of the year. But in practice many fantasy players respond by playing whatever defense or kicker they get late in their draft and considering the positions an afterthought during the year.

That creates a hole for savvy fantasy owners to pick up valuable points each week, without the investment of a draft pick.

"These lines, they might not be 100 percent perfect, but for essentially our imprecise fantasy football purposes they are far better than any other predictive model that we have available," Lerch said. "They reflect injuries ... they reflect weather, they reflect every single scenario and variable that can describe a football game."

Lerch, who approaches fantasy football as a game that can be solved, said the effort is an attempt to gain an edge on information, as teams try to guard their plans on the field and fantasy players try to predict what's going to happen.

"You're trying to exploit your opponent's lack of information," he said.



Entered Monday ahead in all five leagues. Ended the night 2-2-1, with the tie coming on the last play of the Houston-San Diego game when Randy Bullock made a 41-yard field goal for my opponent. One loss was by 2 fantasy points to an opponent who scored 16 points with Texans tight end Owen Daniels, while the other was to a first-time fantasy player who scored a combined 27 fantasy points with Chargers running back Ryan Mathews and the Washington Redskins defense.

Both wins came in leagues with Manning.


Oskar Garcia is a news editor for the AP in Honolulu who spends way too much free time on fantasy sports, with little to show for it. He can be reached at and on Twitter at