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20/20 Hindsight - Week 3

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."

Great players make big plays in big games. Who said this? I don't know whom to credit, but to an extent it's true. I'm starting to realize that one of the more common mistakes with Start'em/Sit'em decisions is to start playmakers in games against really bad teams. It's either that, or Michael Vick's guardian angels have taken an extreme disliking to me and are making sure I will never benefit from his best efforts in a fantasy football situation. Since I tend to believe mistakes result from my own misguided decisions rather than some spiritual entity's vengeance, let's use an error I make this week to unearth a better strategy in the future.

The FFTOC is a great vehicle to discuss lineup decisions, because the structure provides an owner the ability to use any player in the league once during the season. Here's the roster I chose for week three:

FFTOC Week 3 Lineup
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB M. Vick 11.4 My greatest mistake and the subject for the remainder of this segment. Originally started Favre.
RB B. Westbrook 7.6 Not great, but was a yard short of a touchdown and a respectable day--I can live with the decision.
RB D. Davis 2.5 Was off to a slow start then rolled his ankle a couple of times. Good choice--bad result.
WR A. Johnson 9.6 Satisfactory choice against KC's defense. Would have liked a TD, but can live with the result.
WR D. Jackson 9.7 Originally had Koren Robinson, but changed to Jackson when Robinson fell ill.
WR R. Smith 13.5 Never wavered and I am happy with the results.
TE L.J. Smith 7.4 Was on his way to a terrific game before getting banged up. I'm still happy with his production.
K S. Janikowski 12 Gave someone from my email bag advice to start Carney…still did well with this selection though.
DEF Seattle 22 I originally had Pittsburgh's defense, but the possibility of losing out to a postponement resulted in a great adjustment.
   Total 95.7  

My defense and kicker saved my lineup from being a total disaster, but my point total has decreased for the second consecutive week. In hindsight, the decision to start Vick was clearly the worst choice. Although neither of my running backs selections panned out, I felt my logic for selecting them was sound and I will continue to attempt to exploit a defense that is weak in a specific area until that defense shows improvement.

Starting Vick was a total lack of judgment. Vick came off an impressive performance against the Rams in week two where he threw for 179 yards and a td plus another 109 yards on the ground. I completely misread this situation in the scheme of things and figured that Vick was starting to come to life as a fantasy player and the San Francisco game was just attributable to a slow start.

The fact of the matter is that San Francisco and Arizona are bad teams on both sides of the ball. St. Louis isn't the team they used to be, but is still capable of winning every week against any opponent. The Falcons still view the Rams' as a "big game," on their schedule.

Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying here. It's not that Vick plays only to the level of his competition—although someone might create a justifiable argument here. It's that the Cardinals' offense did not do enough for the Falcons' offense to respond with their A-game. Atlanta is not a team with the total talent and understanding of how to put teams away early in the way Philadelphia is learning to do (and Tennessee is forgetting-much to my regret) when they get a lead.

In contrast, anyone could have predicted that there was about to be a shootout between Favre and Manning. Both teams' have excellent offenses and inferior defenses. Did I expect, 9 touchdowns to be thrown between them? If I did, I wouldn't have even entertained the idea of starting Vick. The problem is I didn't look at this decision with the right perspective. Top name quarterbacks put up good numbers when facing an opposing quarterback of similar or greater talent. Let's just look at this year alone This is based on a standard scoring system of 4 pts per passing td, 6 pts per rushing td, .1 pts per rushing yard, and .05 pts per yard passing:

 Top QBs vs Top QBs
 Wk  QB1  FF Pts  QB2  FF Pts
1 Brady 28.75 Manning 22.6
2 Bulger 18.25 Vick 23.85
2 McNair 19.85 Manning 21.2
3 McNabb 31.8 Culpepper 25.55
3 Favre 33.9 Manning 39.65
3 Bulger 29.8 Brooks 22.5

These quarterbacks averaged nearly 26.5 fantasy points in a "marquee match up." Would you have considererd Vick vs. McCown a potential shootout? Absolutely not!

From an FFTOC perspective, I would have earned 38.32 fantasy points with Favre under center, rather than the pedestrian 11.2 points I got from starting Vick. That's nearly twenty-seven points that I lost in week three—enough to keep me in the top two hundred and possibly move up in the rankings. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like week four has any clear-cut, quarterback match ups of this variety.

The closest appear to be Jacksonville-Indianapolis, Oakland-Houston, and Carolina-Atlanta. Leftwich is gaining confidence and playing against a decimated Colts secondary. Manning will likely force the Jags into a more aggressive game offensively. In Oakland, the passing game looks like it's gaining momentum with either Collins or Gannon under center. Plus, Houston's secondary made Trent Green a fairly productive option in week three—something he hasn't been as of late.

The Falcons-Panthers match up is a big divisional game. The Panthers' front seven should stop Warrick Dunn and force Vick to throw (and scramble). Although Delhomme isn't an elite fantasy option, he's proven to be a productive quarterback. He and DeShaun Foster to keep Atlanta's blitzing defense more honest. In hindsight, I would have started Vick this week for my FFTOC lineup.

Now, to the weekly files of 20/20 Hindsight...

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

Onterrio Smith would have such a great all around game:
The signs where there for the first two weeks of the season. Smith has already proven in 2004 that he is an excellent runner, but his receiving stats against Dallas and Philly show that he's an every-down option. The Bears were even more vulnerable to the run with Brown and Urlacher out. After his 94-yard rushing and 104-yard receiving performance, one can understand why Mike Tice would want to strangle the former Oregon star. Smith ruined the Vikings' ability to make a trade involving him or Michael Bennett the moment they learned of the failed a drug test and imminent suspension. If you had Smith for the first few weeks of the season and didn't get any use out of his skills, you might as well say goodbye for the rest of the season unless Bennett goes down again—which isn't out of the realm of possibility.

Chris Brown would gain a C-Note against the Jaguars' defense:
Brown now has three, 100-yard games in his first three starts—tying former Cardinals' back, Stump Mitchell for the NFL record. I still can't believe I got this guy in round eight of a draft. In this particular league my choice was between Brown and Onterrio Smith as my second RB this week (Tomlinson was my #1 RB). I chose Brown because I trusted Jeff Fisher to find ways to utilize Brown more than Tice would use Smith. Obviously I was right and wrong. Brown did get some short passes—one long gain was called back on an Erron Kinney holding penalty—and the Titans did a good job exploiting the weak areas of the Jacksonville run defense (the left side). But the Vikings got it right and exploited Smith for all that he was worth this week.

Lessons Learned: Chris Brown is a rapidly entering must-start territory for a fantasy RB. Some day, Onterrio Smith will be a must-start player if he keeps his nose clean.

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

Domanick Davis would score less than three points against the Kansas City Defense:
Talk about a player poised for a big day that didn't deliver! Davis may have been the most disappointing player for fantasy owners this week. I'll be very interested in finding out if he was one of the higher percentage starters for FFTOC owners

Lesson Learned: The injury bug can strike at anytime.

Aaron Stecker would have been a good start:
The former World League MVP had 18 carries for 106 yards-including a 42-yard touchdown—and added 20 more yards through the air. From a glance at the last two weeks of results, I can't say Stecker was a more attractive RB option than Emmitt Smith or Warrick Dunn—both players that didn't do as well as the Saints' backup. I thought Kijana Carter would be more likely to surprise than Stecker.

Lesson Learned: It's always worth taking a chance on an RB that's replacing an injured starter.

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

Started Brett Favre against the Colts
Other than 358 yards and 4 touchdowns against a Colts' secondary that is second to none in giving up passing yardage, what else is there to say?

Started Peyton Manning against the Packers
Other than 393 yards and 5 touchdowns against a Packers' secondary that is second to none in giving up passing touchdowns, what else is there to say?

Lesson Learned: Although neither secondary looked as bad statistically entering week 3 as they do leaving it, the numbers weren't good. This was prime shootout material and lived up to the promise.

Fred Taylor would finally wake up against the Titans
Edgerrin James looked good against the Titans and the Dolphins were actually in the game for most of the opener. With this in mind, the Titans let Fred Taylor run over and around them in the second half. This opened things up for Leftwich and cost Tennesse the ballgame. This was slated as a tight game, and running backs usually thrive in these types of contests where they can make an impact in the fourth quarter.

Lesson Learned: The Titans are no longer the defense they were. The starting LB's are banged up—Peter Sirmon was a big loss in the preseason—and Odom while learning fast, still has a ways to go. If Schluters is out for an extended length of time, the defense could be in big trouble because as talented as Lamont Thompson is, he doesn't have the veteran experience. This makes the offense easier to run on, and I wouldn't be surprised if Tomlinson has a big game next week with Brees playing decent football. The Titans will be better next year but teams will begin to take advantage now.

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

Hindsight's a...