Fantasy Football Fast Forward: Right decisions can still go wrong
Sometimes it takes more guts than preparation to win a fantasy championship. Those with the guts to start the likes of Russell Wilson or Kirk Cousins, James Jones and the Cardinals D/ST are happy they made the right decisions.
Those owners should feel more fortunate than brilliant, though.
Congrats to them, but there will be plenty of reminders down the road how bitterly cruel fantasy football can be. Just ask the many of us who have a laundry list of Fantasy Enemy No. 1s.
We lead with those Week 15 pariahs in the Fantasy Football Fast Forward, outlining the 10 things we learned by simultaneously cursing those that let us down.
1. You can make the right decision and it can go terribly wrong
Who thought about sitting Doug Martin against the worst run defense in the NFL? No one. The result: Nine carries for 16 yards and three catches for 19 yards.
How many seriously considered sitting their first-round pick Ray Rice in crunch time? Very, very few. The result: 12 carries for 38 yards and three catches for three yards.
This one is Murphy's Law for Jamaal Charles owners who know his disappearing acts all too well, but how could anyone sit him against the suspect Raiders defense? They just couldn't have better alternatives, right? The result: Nine carries for 10 yards and three catches for 18 yards.
And those are just the busts among the top 10 running backs. Their owners should rest assured they made the right decision. They should not feel like they're a weaker fantasy football player than those that started the likes of Mike Tolbert and Mark Ingram, who starred despite facing the best run defense in the NFL.
2. Late-round QB theorists have to be lamenting
There are many drafters who wait on QBs every fall, but they might be questioning their judgment with the results in Week 15.
Sure, you can make a case the Seahawks' Wilson, Redskins' Cousins and the Rams' Sam Bradford make that strategy a winning one, but the amount of owners benefitting from those starts are fairly low compared to those who were choked out by the inconsistent Josh Freeman, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer.
Freeman, facing the worst team in fantasy versus QBs (Saints) and enjoying a renaissance, had his worst performance of the season with four interceptions. He was active in 47 percent of CBSSports.com leagues.
Manning, coming off a four-TD day against those Saints, had another stinker as the Giants were shutout for the first time in years. He was active in 69 percent of leagues. His fantasy owners won't be setting a lineup for the holidays.
Rivers, mostly inconsistent this season but surprisingly spry last week at Pittsburgh, snuck into 30 percent of lineups. Regrettably.
Palmer, active in 29 percent of leagues because of some of the big performances he has had this season, failed to throw a TD pass for just the second time this season.
3. QBs lead to the way
In contrast to those Fantasy Enemy No. 1s, it should be reminded how important the QB position is in fantasy. Those with Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Cam Newton are all likely moving on to championships. They were first-rounders in many leagues, many in lieu of backs like Rice and Charles.
RBs require the most of our fantasy preparation and attention, but it is the QBs who lead the way. It is the highest-scoring position, and while it might be tough to find another Adrian Peterson, a well-played QB can hide many other mistakes on a weekly basis.
The sketchy results of this week are going to help many fantasy owners move toward drafting one of those elite and consistent QB monsters more in the early rounds.
4. One-week wonders are no good, either
David Wilson looked like he was a perfect championship catalyst for those needing a shot in the arm. We trumpeted the potential of Ryan Mathews, Tony Scheffler and the Lions D/ST as surprise performers in the SI.com Cheat Sheet.
The matchups looked favorable. The opportunities appeared to make them ideal starts in preparation for clutch performances. And, the logic went all out the window.
It points back to the theory of sticking with what has gotten you there and only use matchups to break ties among your fantasy regulars.
5. Dez Bryant can play with a broken finger
It was one of the most common questions of the week: Do we start Bryant with his broken finger, or is he going to test it early and bail on the game and his fantasy owners?
His performance made it clear he is a must-start WR in crunch time, even at something less than 100 percent. Bryant came through with four catches for 59 yards and a TD. He draws the two worst secondaries in the NFL against WRs in the Saints and Redskins the final two weeks.
6. Cowboys are alive and well
Tony Romo has had his frustrating moments this season, but he was great against a still-tough Steelers defense and looks like he could lead a number of incredibly loyal fantasy owners to championships.
It not only helps that Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten are consistent producers for fantasy owners, but Dwayne Harris has emerged as a threat and your first-round RB pick of DeMarco Murray is paying off at precisely the right time.
All of your Cowboys are fantasy gems now, especially with the upcoming matchups.
7. Big Ben does the same for the Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger already showed how capable and important he is with that triumphant return a week ago, but despite Sunday's overtime interception, he is a star that makes everyone around him better -- if not great.
Mike Wallace and Heath Miller are a potent must-starts again, Antonio Brown came alive with a late TD and Jonathan Dwyer is a plodder, but an effective passing game gets him opportunities to salvage his fantasy performances with short TDs like he did Sunday.
All of these guys look trustworthy in that pivotal game against the Bengals next week.
8. Packers' Jones is too promising to sit
You can take away Jordy Nelson (hamstring); you can hobble Greg Jennings (sports hernia surgery); you can forget about Jermichael Finley; you cannot stop Aaron Rodgers.
James Jones' three TDs give him 12 on the season and make him easily Rodgers' favorite red-zone threat. Jones is a viable start in all leagues, no matter the health of Nelson, Jennings and the bulk of the targets going to slot receiver Randall Cobb.
9. Try to ignore Beanie Wells' three TDs
Beanie Wells has been a TD machine in a bad, bad Cardinals offense. It makes you have to consider him an option in fantasy championship games the next couple of weeks.
Wells is going to be facing the Bears and 49ers in the next two weeks. Those defenses are going to embarrass the Cardinals and take away the one thing they had going for them: Their running game.
10. Darren McFadden is healthy again
We were skeptical McFadden could take advantage of the Chiefs' defense this week. Well, he responded with 110 yards rushing and four catches for 39 yards.
It sets him up to be a must-start against the Panthers' porous run defense. McFadden runs the risk of being the next Ryan Mathews (broken clavicle) injury-plagued Murphy's Law back against the Panthers, but you drafted McFadden (or traded for him) to help you win late. You have to allow him the opportunity to carry you next week.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. Track his weekly starts and sits every Thursday, his last-minute Cheat Sheet on Sunday mornings and his Fantasy Fast Forward on Sunday nights. You find also him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice or challenging him to a head-to-head fantasy game @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).