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Decision time: Matchups matter


Watching football with my wife always helps me see things that I never would have noticed on my own. "Why do guys always try to run through a pile of players rather than around them?" she'll ask in bewilderment. "Do players get itchy in those tight pants? Why are 300-pound men with their stomachs hanging out considered athletes? Why are there so many timeouts?"

I try to explain patiently that it's better to run through a guy than to try and dance around him, that it's too difficult to run fast in baggy pants, that you need really big men to block even bigger men and that when trailing late in a game, you want the clock to move as slowly as possible. Despite my best efforts, I don't think she'll ever embrace football. She prefers baseball even though it's a slower-moving sport with tighter pants and CC Sabathia (though he does wear loose chinos).

After 13 weeks of watching football with her this season, I've come to realize I'm not an expert either. I thought I'd seen it all and knew it all. I thought I knew which players were golden and which were garbage. Unfortunately, my "expertise" didn't guarantee success in all of my fantasy football leagues. I could blame it on bad luck, but I think it really comes down to the unpredictable nature of playing fantasy football.

Take a look at this fictitious matchup in Week 13 and tell me which team should have won:

Team Golden: QB Kyle Orton (Broncos), RB Chris Johnson (Titans), RB Ray Rice (Ravens), WR Randy Moss (Titans), WR Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs), TE Tony Gonzalez (Falcons), Flex WR Miles Austin (Cowboys)

This stacked team has two of the top four running backs going into this season (Johnson and Rice), two of the top receivers (Moss and Austin), this year's breakout receiver (Bowe), a Hall-of-Fame tight end (Gonzalez) and a top-five QB this year (Orton).

Now for Team Garbage: QB Drew Stanton (Lions), RB Chris Ivory (Saints), RB LeGarrette Blount (Bucs), WR Anthony Armstrong (Redskins), WR Earl Bennett (Bears), TE Ben Watson (Browns), Flex RB Javarris James (Colts)

This underwhelming team has a third-string QB with 71 career completions (Stanton), four unheralded rookies (Blount, Ivory, James and Armstrong), a third-year receiver with only five career TDs (Bennett) and an average tight-end in a below-average offense (Watson).

So which team would have won if matched up in Week 13 in a PPR league? It would have been a slaughter -- by the team of misfits. Team Garbage would have scored 139.92 points (117 passing yards, 1 passing TD, 238 rushing yards, six rushing TDs, 23 receptions, 301 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD and one fumble lost). Team Golden would have tallied a lowly 37.78 points (117 passing yards, 91 rushing yards, 12 receptions and 130 receiving yards one fumble lost and amazingly zero TDs).

Although this is an extreme David vs. Goliath example in fantasy football terms, everybody has a story about losing one week to an "inferior" team. This example also doesn't account for game-day injuries or unpredictable kickers and defenses. Sometimes there is nothing you can do. But other times, it pays to examine the matchups and tweak your lineup accordingly. Most important, never underestimate your opponent.

I'm considering letting my wife join one of my fantasy football leagues next season so that she might fully appreciate the fun and anguish I experience on Sundays. However, I don't think my fragile ego could take losing to her.