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Here's one way to ease your stress as fantasy football hits its crunch time: Focus only on the decisions you can control.
Some common complaints on social networks this week — paraphrased for clarity (and language):
— I lost by less than five points because Tampa Bay running back Mike James got hurt on Monday night. That Bobby Rainey touchdown should have been mine.
— Of course the week I drop St. Louis receiver Tavon Austin is the week he goes off and scores 31 points.
— Why is Arizona coach Bruce Arians still starting Rashard Mendenhall over Andre Ellington?
The short response for all of them is the same — at some point you just have to shake it off.
On James, you almost certainly had other players under- and overperform this week, meaning you probably lost your match elsewhere and can improve by scrutinizing something else. On Austin, you should have dropped him long ago. Even in keeper leagues. On Ellington — yeah, that's a head scratcher. But Arians did use Ellington in some wild cat formations and turned to him for the Cardinals' final three carries after Mendenhall fumbled in the game.
It's common in fantasy to get caught up in late results rather than early decisions that set up tight finishes. Perhaps getting off to a better start is in order.
That's what the Indianapolis Colts are trying, according to the AP's Mike Marot (@apmarot on Twitter).
Andrew Luck is known as a comeback quarterback. But as Marot reports (http://bit.ly/17SISni), Indianapolis is trying to get out of needing him to come up with fourth-quarter rallies.
Coach Chuck Pagano's approach after a 38-8 loss to St. Louis applies well to fantasy owners.
"We talk all the time, you don't win games in the National Football League, you lose them. We're doing everything possible to put ourselves in these holes," Pagano said. "We found out (Sunday) that we put ourselves in one that we couldn't find the magic to get out of."
So don't blame an injury if you played James over a more conservative, though less exciting option. Chuckle when an opponent picks up Austin and starts him, unless Austin suddenly starts getting thrown the ball more often. And if you're playing Ellington you'll simply have to be patient, despite his exciting talent.
As always in fantasy, you need as many paths to win as possible.
WILL THEY START FOR YOU?
As you look across your roster, you know the players you'll never, ever start. We're all carrying them for various reasons — either experts say they should be owned because they're a starting NFL running back or they have name value even if everything backing that up has vanished.
Fantasy analyst Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports has a good approach. "Take a chance on players that would be starters for you, not players who would be speculative players for you," he says.
QB: Joe Flacco, Baltimore; Alex Smith, Kansas City; or any backups at all in one-quarterback leagues. You can pick the line — Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton and Nick Foles might be good places to start the discussion — and consider any quarterbacks lower than that line as week-to-week matchup plays. Once you do that, the only reason to carry a second quarterback is to fill in for guys like Aaron Rodgers or any late scratches who aren't worth dropping. You'll find more success among lower-tiered quarterbacks if you consider them only on the basis of a single week.
RB: Willis McGahee, Cleveland. I'm guilty of carrying him, too, in a 12-team league with deep benches, based on the fact that he's a starting NFL running back. But even in a deeper league he's a bench guy at best, and getting dropped soon for a handcuff who would start if a better player goes down.
WR: James Jones, Green Bay. It's painful, sure, but he really needs quarterback Aaron Rodgers to be healthy. If you need to win now, he can't help you any better than waiver-available players like Riley Cooper, Rishard Matthews and even his teammate, Jarrett Boykin.
TE: Jared Cook, St. Louis. Cook is still owned in about two-thirds of Yahoo leagues, despite four or fewer points in all but two games this year. You can do better.
RINGER TIME: JAMEY EISENBERG
When you're considering roster moves, Eisenberg says it's important to consider your situation along with your roster needs. Is Week 11 a must-win matchup, or are you positioning for the playoffs?
It all has implications for how you develop a strategy and execute, The CBS Sports columnist said.
For example, Eisenberg said a fantasy player with Jamaal Charles asked him Tuesday whether he should pick up Knile Davis, Charles' backup, or one of the Tampa Bay running backs expected to replace James.
Eisenberg said it depends on whether that fantasy player needs to play the replacement this week in a must-win game.
If not, Davis is the play, in hopes of solidifying your roster and "making sure that whatever your team looks like it's at its optimal level."
"It's team-dependent," said Eisenberg, who is ranked 11th among fantasy experts since 2010, according to in-season rankings from FantasyPros.com.
I blamed a loss on Vincent Jackson underperforming in a PPR league, needing him to score 10 points. And yet sitting on my bench were Boykin and Kenny Stills, either of whom I could have played over Michael Floyd, who had two catches for 31 yards. That's on me.
But 3-2 for the week is OK, as is 4-1 in daily leagues.
Oskar Garcia is a news editor in Honolulu who spends way too much time on fantasy sports with too little to show for it. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/oskargarcia