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Reality Check: What to do when you're 2-2

Senior Fantasy Writer
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If you're like maybe half of the Fantasy Football-playing world, you enter Week 5 with a record of 2-2.

Right back where you started. Kind of makes you rethink your priorities, doesn't it?

But progress isn't always measured in wins and losses. I know that sounds like something a lame duck coach would tell a hostile media after a miserable 3-13 campaign, but at the start of a Fantasy Football season, when nobody really knows which of their players they can trust, I've found it to be true.

That's not to say you wouldn't have given yourself a pretty nice cushion by starting 4-0 or dug yourself into a frightening hole by starting 0-4, but chances are unless you didn't know what you were doing on Draft Day or made a brazenly lopsided trade somewhere along the line, you owe your start, however it's gone, to pure, dumb luck.

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I say that not to belittle anyone's achievement but to encourage those of us who have yet to separate ourselves from the pack. I say "us" because all but one of my teams are 2-2. I say "yet" because I couldn't be more OK with it.

The reason? The first four weeks are a crapshoot. With so many unexpected performances happening all at once, distinguishing the legitimate from the aberrational becomes as much of a challenge as the draft itself. And it influences your lineup decisions. Do you start this guy because of what he has done, this guy because of what he's supposed to be doing or this guy because of what he could do with that matchup? If you're like me, you have so many players you could consider starting and so many different criteria for starting them that all you can do is take your best guess.

The thing about guesses is they're often wrong. And if they're wrong enough at the wrong time, you lose.

Ever had your bench outscore your starting lineup? Yep, we've all been there.

Eventually, everything begins to make sense again. Players settle into patterns, and expectations are adjusted accordingly. Lineup decisions become easier, and even though they don't always work out -- a certain amount of randomness is to be expected every week -- you can be confident in your judgment and trust it to pay off next time. I think I've just now reached that point with some of my teams.

By now, I should know Jordan Cameron is a must-start regardless of where I drafted him in relation to Jared Cook. By now, I should know Philip Rivers gets priority over Russell Wilson. By now, I should know just about any wide receiver I might roster is a better choice for my flex spot than Maurice Jones-Drew. Whether or not Cameron, Rivers and that third wide receiver -- we'll call him Kenbrell Thompkins -- have the worst games of their life next time out is irrelevant. They've already proven something to me. I'm no longer just guessing with them, and in the long run, the results should reflect it.

But of course, that won't be true for everybody. Not every 2-2 team can win the league or even make the playoffs. Not every 2-2 team is as good as every 4-0 team. But some are. Particularly at this stage of the season, the record doesn't tell the whole story.

So instead of bemoaning your fate and resigning to mediocrity, the best thing you can do at 2-2 (or even 1-3, really) is to assess why your record is what it is. If you owe a loss to Eli Manning's miserable Week 3 performance and have since decided he's probably not your best bet at quarterback from week to week, you should like the direction your team is headed. Then again, if you owe a win to Danny Woodhead's unexpected two touchdowns in Week 4, you might still have some work to do. And if you can't figure out who you owe any of your wins or losses to because everyone on your team has been equally good and bad for different stretches this season, well, you're in the most enviable position of all, provided you know what to do with it.

If success comes through the natural elimination of choices, which is sort of the picture I just painted, then a surplus of talent can actually work against you. True, a little depth is useful for handling bye weeks and such, but I prefer having too little to too much. Depth is best used not for playing matchups, but as trade bait. If you can put together an attractive enough package of lesser talents to land a greater one -- the kind you couldn't bring yourself to bench, regardless of matchups -- you not only eliminate the potential for choices, but the need for them.

Granted, Fantasy owners have been trying to pull off 2-for-1 deals since the dawn of the Internet. Among seasoned players, it's easier said than done and has become so trite that some might even call it offensive. But that's for offers made in the interest of fairness. Load up the two-fer (or even three-fer) side of the deal enough that the other guy can't possibly turn it down, and hey, maybe he won't.

In case it's not clear, I'm talking about intentionally losing deals, in the most academic sense.

If you haven't checked out colleague Dave Richard's Fantasy Trade Value Chart , you should. It's pretty amazing. How he manages to get the arithmetic to work out so perfectly is ... intimidating, to be perfectly honest. I can't even look him in the eye anymore.

But the danger in a one-size-fits-all sort of guide -- and I'm sure he'd tell you the same thing -- is that it can stifle outside-the-box thinking, becoming the end-all, be-all of trade evaluation. While in theory, Lamar Miller and Julian Edelman should equal DeMarco Murray, if the Murray owner isn't convinced, the deal isn't happening, leaving you with an overloaded bench and no idea who to start. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to get the deal done, pairing Miller with someone a little more established like Marques Colston. Maybe you planned to ride Colston the rest of the way, but if the deal would end your dilemma at running back, couldn't you live with Edelman instead?

In the process of writing this column, I actually pulled off my first trade of the season, swapping Andre Johnson and Knowshon Moreno for Doug Martin. Well, why not? I understand Martin's value isn't at its highest right now, given the state of the Buccaneers' offense, but that's part of what made the deal viable for the other guy. Martin is a sure 20 carries every week and a good enough receiver to emerge as rookie quarterback Mike Glennon's security blanket underneath. Plus, he's just too talented to keep averaging 3.4 yards per carry.

But regardless of who he is and what he has around him, the bottom line is all those carries make Martin too valuable to sit in Fantasy. For a wide receiver with an extensive injury history and persistent touchdown issues and a part-time back -- granted, one of the better part-time backs, but one I still wouldn't be able to trust every week -- he's exactly the type of player I was hoping to get.

Here's the thing, though: I would have been willing to give up more, perhaps even throwing in Darren McFadden if negotiations went that far. Boy, would that have blown up the trade chart. I had the depth to accommodate it, though. It would have been worth it to me to lock in a stable lineup instead of continuing the guessing game every week.

And that's how you win over seasoned Fantasy owners in an all-too-often stagnant trade market. Be bold. Send them an offer that will really knock their socks off. Just be sure you're the one getting the player you trust to be the best the rest of the way.

If it means gutting your bench, so be it. Remember, the waiver wire is still in play. New players are emerging every week. Chances are between now and whenever you need a bye-week replacement, you'll have found someone competent to use, at least in a standard 10- or 12-team league. You don't need to have the rest of your season planned out today. As long as you have the next week taken care of, trade with confidence.

Naturally, if you're not in a position of enviable depth and don't like the direction your 2-2 team is headed, you might want to be on the other end that deal, getting back Johnson, Moreno and McFadden so that you no longer have to start Golden Tate as your second wide receiver or Jacquizz Rodgers as your second running back. If adding a player fills a hole, you're solving a dilemma, not creating one.

A stable lineup -- that's the goal. Once you find yours, that 2-2 start will seem like ancient history.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Facebook . You can also follow Scott via Twitter @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
One way or another, Fred Jackson gets his
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:44 am ET) Trailing early Week 16 at Oakland with their playoff hopes on the line, the Bills didn't stick with the running game for long, attempting only three runs in the second half. But in a way, that worked to running back Fred Jackson's advantage. He's such a good pass-catcher out of the backfield that he still topped 100 total yards, doing so for the first time since returning from a groin injury in Week 12.

Even with the return of C.J. Spiller from a long-term shoulder injury, Jackson still led the Bills in carries, but with only six for 10 yards. He also led the team in catches with nine for 93 yards. He had 10 catches just two weeks ago, so clearly, he's a PPR stud.

Is he worth starting in standard leagues as well? Well, he's also gotten 20 carries twice in five games since returning. He hasn't been as effective on the ground as through the air, but yards are yards, however he gets them.

Their matchup Week 17 at New England will probably force the Bills to go pass-heavy again, so unless you're stacked at running back, you can find a spot for Jackson in your lineup.


Desperation fuels Kyle Orton's performance
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:35 am ET) Bills quarterback Kyle Orton didn't have the most efficient day throwing the ball Week 16 at Oakland, but from a Fantasy perspective, it was a productive one. He threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns but also had two interceptions.

What's crazy, though, is that 196 of those yards came in the second half. The Bills were trailing a winnable game with their playoff hopes on the line, and their desperation showed. Unfortunately, that desperation also contributed to the second of Orton's interceptions.

The Bills have been eliminated, so no matter how much they're trailing Week 17 at New England, they probably won't be quite as desperate. You can expect more typical numbers from Orton -- maybe about 250 yards with one or two scores -- even if the matchup appears to be a favorable one, making him a player better left for two-quarterback leagues.


Kenny Britt clearly better with Shaun Hill
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:27 am ET) Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt caught a season-high nine passes on a season-high 11 targets Week 16 against the Giants, but his 103 receiving yards actually weren't a season high.

That's because he had 128, along with a touchdown, Week 11 against the Broncos.

That was Shaun Hill's first game back under center. Week 16, obviously, was his latest one. In the six games since Hill reclaimed the role, Britt has averaged 3.8 catches for 66.3 yards. In the nine games before then, he averaged 2.3 catches for 34.7 yards.

Britt has been especially good lately, averaging 73.3 yards in his last three games. Hill has also been fond of Stedman Bailey, but he doesn't seem to have a clear preference for one or the other.

Of course, the Rams passing attack isn't prolific enough to sustain both, so if you're going to target Britt or Bailey off the waiver wire, make sure it's in a deeper league. You wouldn't want to roll the dice on either in the season's final week if you can help it.


Andre Williams showing more ability
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:19 am ET) Carrying the load for the third straight game with Rashad Jennings sidelined by an ankle injury Week 16 at St. Louis, Giants rookie running back Andre Williams delivered his second 100-yard effort during that stretch, picking up 110 yards on 26 carries. Of course, just like in Week 14, it wasn't the steadiest performance. He had a 50-yard run in that one en route to a career-best 131 yards. He had a 45-yard run en route to his 110 yards in this one.

But that's true for most 100-yard rushing performances. The best backs break long runs occasionally, which makes up for all the 2- and 3-yard gains in between. It's easy to discount Williams' performance because of a long run here or a long run there because he's been so bad on a per-carry basis this season (take that 45-yard run away, and he averaged only 2.6 yards per carry -- oh noes!), but the fact is those long runs count, too. And he barreled over a couple of tacklers to complete it, which was nice to see.

Because Williams is short on receiving ability, his numbers don't look so great when he doesn't break a long run, but with all the carries he's getting now, his chances are better than not of breaking one. He's worth starting in standard leagues Week 17 against Philadelphia.


Rueben Randle not overshadowed for once
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:08 am ET) Since the emergence of rookie Odell Beckham in Week 9, and especially since his even bigger emergence in Week 12, wide receiver Rueben Randle has been an afterthought in the Giants passing game, averaging 2.3 catches for 31.8 yards in the four games leading up to Week 16 at St. Louis. But quarterback Eli Manning finally had enough yards to go around in that one, delivering Beckham his usual eight grabs for 148 yards and still finding Randle on six passes for 132 yards.

Randle even caught a touchdown pass, his first since Week 5. Of course, Beckham caught two and is now up to eight in his last five games, averaging 9.6 catches for 131.4 yards during that stretch.

You see the problem here, don't you? Manning was able to sustain both Beckham and Randle in this one, but that's only because he threw for a season-high 391 yards. If he regresses to a more modest total Week 17 against Philadelphia, we all know Randle is the one taking a back seat. Beckham has other-worldly talent, and Manning is smart enough to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

Of course, the Giants will probably have to throw a lot to keep pace with the Eagles, which bodes well for Randle, but you should still treat him as no more than a No. 3 wide receiver in Fantasy.


Odell Beckham making Eli Manning a stud
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:58 am ET) Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham had another eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns Week 16 at St. Louis, which has become par for the course for him. It was his second straight game and third game in five with more than 140 receiving yards and multiple scores.

What you may not have noticed, though, is that quarterback Eli Manning has taken off during that same stretch. He had a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns in Week 16, completing 25 of 32 passes. Over his last five games, he has averaged 297.2 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

It stands to reason, of course. Beckham couldn't be putting up all those numbers without someone throwing him the ball. This may be one of those rare cases of the wide receiver making the quarterback as opposed to the other way around. Beckham is clearly a special talent, and Manning has made a point to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

It's reason enough to give Manning another chance Week 17 against Philadelphia if you've been suffering with Matthew Stafford or Colin Kaepernick and are somehow still alive in spite of it.


Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro hits two field goals
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro hit two field goals Week 16 against the Seahawks.

Catanzaro was the only source of the Cardinals' offense during the contest. He managed to convert from 27 yards out and 32 yards out. The Cardinals could not find the end zone, so Catanzaro did not have an extra point opportunity. Catanzaro will take on the 49ers Week 17.


Marquess Wilson may be of some use
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:26 am ET) Getting a chance to play more with star wide receiver Brandon Marshall sidelined by lung and rib injuries, Bears wide receiver Marquess Wilson had a career-high seven catches for 66 yards Week 16 against Detroit. His 10 targets were second-most only to Alshon Jeffery's 15.

Wilson wasn't exactly a game-breaker, with none of his catches going for more than 17 yards, but then again, he was working with a backup quarterback in Jimmy Clausen. With Clausen at quarterback and Jeffery on the other side of the field, Wilson is a long shot for big numbers in Fantasy, but he proved to be a reliable enough target to make an impact in PPR leagues, if you need help there.


Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald held in check Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald was held in check Week 16 against the Seahawks.

Fitzgerald received a team-high 11 targets, but only came up with four receptions. He gained 33 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per catch. Fitzgerald did draw two illegal use of hands penalties during the contest, so was useful on some of his incompletions. 

Fitzgerald will look for more Week 17 against the 49ers.


Cardinals WR Michael Floyd finishes with 41 yards
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:23 am ET) Cardinals wideout Michael Floyd had a rough game Week 16 against the Seahawks.

Floyd received eight targets, but only came down with two catches. Both of those receptions came on the same drive in the third quarter. Floyd hauled in a nine yard pass to start, and then pulled down a 32 yard reception just three plays later. He was able to draw two defensive penalties on his other targets, so he found a way to make a difference even though he only had two receptions.

Floyd will look for more Week 17 against the 49ers. 


 
 
 
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