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20/20 Hindsight - Week 11

As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday's "Fantasy Football Confessional."

The qualifying rounds for the FFTOC are near completion and after last weekend I'm going to need a big, week 12 to make the cut.

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB J. Plummer 20.96  Not too bad.
RB J. Bettis 13.2 Original choice was Curtis Martin, but the Bus had a better game.
RB C. Dillon 21.8 The same total I was hoping from Bettis…
WR H. Ward 1.5 Horrible game, but my alternative was Roy Williams…only 0.4 points more.
WR A. Lelie 13.9 Lelie has taken his play up a notch this month.
WR S. Moss 2.5 Stokely was my alternate-should have considered Kennison.
TE J. Wiggins 11.1 I didn't think Gates would burn Oakland again in the same month.
K A. Vinatieri 9  
DEF Falcons 8 Changed from Ravens when I heard McCallister and Sanders were out-my bad.
  Total 101.96  

I was hoping to score at least 17 points above the 102-point average I determined in week 9 that I'd have an easy time making the top 200. After three weeks I've averaged 131 points per contest—still more than 17 points above the 102-point average. It's too bad I couldn't capitalize on week 10's performance where I moved up from 414th to 226th and only 3-4 points away from the top 200, but I still have a decent shot at qualifying for the big money.

Even if I make it to the next round, I've made too many early-round mistakes that have limited my roster and I'll need to make some incredibly astute choices (and get lucky) to be a factor for the big money. With this in mind I thought I'd share some things I've learned in my first season of participation in the FFTOC—especially for those of you considering it for next year:

Don't pay any attention to your ranking for the first six to seven weeks of the season: The difference between being ranked in the top third of the tournament and being in the bottom two thirds isn't as much as it may appear. My rating has fluctuated from 120th to 488th to 226th—and in two weeks I moved up from 488th to 226th! It really takes one consistently good month to pull your self into the top 200. This is the most important insight I can provide you. If you get caught up in your ranking early, you become more apt to ignore this rule and do what I'm about to tell you not to, which is…

Don't start your elite players for the first six to seven weeks of the season: Your elite players are the ones that have highest consistency percentage for scoring fantasy points. You may be tempted to play these guys, especially when they are having great performances early in the season. Unless you just have the luck of Job, you are going to score points with players that aren't considered the best fantasy options. In fact, you'll have some surprisingly good weeks and based on performances we've seen from players such as Mewelde Moore, Michael Pittman, Derrick Blaylock, Jake Delhomme, Muhsin Muhammad, Dan Campbell, and the Lion's defense it's very likely you could close to or among the top 200 without starting your best players. Another point is that the injury bug always strikes and generally there are at least a few marquee players that get bitten. If you don't save as many elite players as you can, your choices get more limited when you really need them. For instance, I saved Priest Holmes for the stretch run, but now that he's hurt, the Chiefs most likely out of contention for a playoff spot, and I've used enough top RBs too early in the tournament, I never got to benefit from one of the best players in fantasy football. This leads to my next point…

Start the following players early:

  • RBs filling in for injured starters—Onterrio Smith, Mewelde Moore, Reuben Droughns, Deshaun Foster, Derrick Blaylock, Nick Goings, Amos Zereoue, and Sammy Morris were all "injury substitutes" this year and had some excellent games. These ten players represented five weeks worth of starting RBs. I'm sure you can list ten RBs that you wouldn't mind saving for later in the season.

  • High-performing veterans with injury histories—Terry Glenn, Deion Branch, Rich Gannon, and Marshall Faulk are good examples of players capable of excellent numbers on any given week, but have a history of missing several weeks at a time. Injuries will automatically narrow the talent pool you'll be choosing from and you'll want as many choices as possible. Starting players like these will not only expand your future roster options, but you'll also have the chance of getting great performances out of them as a bonus.

  • Veteran/Journeyman/Lame duck Quarterbacks—Vinny Testaverde, Drew Brees, and Kurt Warner are all good examples of quarterbacks that had good games during the first six weeks of the season but weren't expected to finish the season as starters. All three had at least two, excellent fantasy performances early on and would have been well worth a start.

  • What to do after week six—determine the average points per week of the 200th ranked team and use this as the baseline score for your next six weeks. You should start using more established stars depending how far above or below you are from the 200th ranked team. You'll also get to see which players are having breakout years and that may also help you determine whether you want to save some of these starters for later as well. I believe week six is the point you want to strategize because you'll need one good month's worth of games over the 200th ranked team's average to make the cut. This will give you extra weeks in case you are either that far behind the 200th ranked team or if you have a couple of bad weeks.

  • Don't be afraid to use some of your elite players between weeks six and twelve—Remember, every year owners run the risk of watching the best players get time on the pine as the best teams in the NFL have their playoff spots wrapped up and don't want to take any chances. That means you should consider starting a player like Ladanian Tomlinson to either help you qualify or very early in the FFTOC playoffs because if the Chargers wrap up the division, Tomlinson could see significant bench time so he'll be well rested for the NFL playoffs. You don't want to wait all year to use a player only to see him get benched in the second half of a game when you need him most.

On to the weekly files of 20/20 Hindsight …

Would've (From The Who Would Have Known File)

Michael Pittman would have a two-touchdown performance? As I said about Pittman for the last two weeks, he's an average running back in the NFL. Pittman warrants a start against run defenses that are below average, but against better units he's an average play at best. San Francisco's defense is decimated from injuries and Pittman was certainly able to exploit this opportunity.

Lessons Learned: It's best to reserve some players for optimal match ups. Michael Pittman is a perfect example.

Could've (From The Who Could Have Known File)

Nick Goings would score three touchdowns? A 3-TD performance against a pretty good Cardinal's defense seems like a surprise. Especially for a back that has neither gained 100 yards, nor scored a touchdown in an NFL game during his 4-year career. I still have a tough time believing anyone would play Goings over most starting running backs unless in a desperate spot.

Lesson Learned: In hindsight, Goings is a great example of how a limited talent familiar with the system can have a good day.

Could've (From The Who Could Have Known File) - Part 2

Mark Campbell would score 3 touchdowns? Campbell matched his season-best total (3 tds in 2002 as a Cleveland Brown) in his game versus the Rams.

Lesson Learned: If it weren't enough of a surprise that Buffalo trounced the Rams, they did it with their tight end leading the way! What is there to learn? You certainly won't see me starting Campbell next week. Then again, if he puts up even half his totals from the Rams game next week I'll re-address it.

Should've (From The I Knew I Should Have File)

Thomas Jones wasn't a good start this week. Jones earned 8 points in one of my leagues. I inserted him into my lineup as a last minute start over Brian Westbrook. Westbrook had over 100 yards from scrimmage and two receiving touchdowns. It was pretty obvious that the Redskins' offense wasn't going to do much but the Colts' prolific offense would keep Jones from making a huge impact on the ground, and Craig Krenztel would keep Jones from doing damage as a receiver.

Lesson Learned: When deciding between two players of equal caliber look at the match up against the opposing offense.

For those of you that made the right decisions this week, congratulations. For those of you that didn't: Hindsight's a …