Fantasy Football 2012

With apologies to non-sports/football fans, but this is my annual fantasy football post. Previous posts included: Fantasy Football (2008), Life Lessons from Fantasy Football (2009), Fantasy Football 2010 Underway, and Getting Ready for Fantasy Football 2011.

This is my fifth season playing fantasy football (all in our church league at Centre Grove). My strategy has evolved over the years. This year, I’ve tried to streamline my preparation and research even more than in the past, and the following is my current strategy.

Twitter
I follow a number of fantasy football experts on Twitter (my Fantasy Football list). I’m currently following 41 people, but it’s changes periodically, as I add some and remove others to keep the list manageable.

RSS Reader
This year, I started using an RSS reader to subscribe to my favorite fantasy football articles. I subscribe using Google Reader and then quickly skim the articles in Mr. Reader (an iPad app).

Rotoworld Player News
I also like the Rotoworld Player News iPad app.

FantasyPros.com
For rankings, I rely almost solely on FantasyPros.com, which compiles around 100 or more expert rankings each week. Their free service, My Playbook, where you can import your fantasy team, is a must-use resource. FantasyPros.com is a major time saver!

NFL Fantasy Live
I don’t often get to watch NFL Fantasy Live, but it’s a good program that airs on online (and on NFL Network) Monday through Friday, as well as Sunday before game time. When I have some spare moments, I try to watch parts of an episode or two online (picking and choosing among segments listed in the sidebar).

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!

Getting Ready for Fantasy Football 2011

On this blog, we write mostly about leadership and other ministry-related areas. We sometimes post family updates, especially throughout the adoption processes for both Ethan and Sarah. But I’ve also been known to write an occasional post about fantasy football—Fantasy Football (2008), Life Lessons from Fantasy Football (2009), Fantasy Football 2010 Underway (2010).

The thing that makes the 2011 season interesting is the fact that the NFL lockout that lasted 130+ days finally came to an end last Monday (with all the season and pre-season games, except the Hall of Fame game, intact). Immediately, teams and players began scrambling as teams signed draft picks, cut some players, signed other players, acquired free agents, and orchestrated trades. It’s been (and continues to be) a wild week. And all of this will have huge implications for fantasy football!

Time will tell how the lockout will effect the season in terms of team preparedness as well as injuries (because of the lockout, players missed out on all of their team’s offseason organized training and conditioning activities). Injuries make life much more challenging for fantasy owners (not to mention the real teams)!

In my first fantasy football-related post, I listed several of my favorite fantasy football sites. My list of favorites, as well as my strategy, is always changing. As we head into the 2011 season, here’s my basic strategy (which will continue to evolve over the course of the year) …

Follow football and fantasy football experts on Twitter (see my Fantasy Football list, which currently follows 49 people/sources).

Two of my favorite sites for fantasy football research/advice include: Fantasy Football Librarian (daily links to recommended articles at other sites), Fantasy Football Pros (for custom consensus rankings from the experts). I also occasionally watch some of the brief video segments/reports from ESPN, Yahoo, and NFL.com.

During the NFL playoffs last year, I participated in a group sponsored by Pro Football Focus, a statistics analysis site. I finished in first place among 184 participants (and finished in the top 0.1% among hundreds of thousands in the ESPN playoff challenge) and won a premium membership to their site for the coming season (it was a $90 value at the time, but prices were reduced recently to $29.99) – obviously, I was very lucky, but we’ll see if it helps in 2011.

I enjoy fantasy football for the research, the competition, and connection with league-mates at Centre Grove. Probably the thing that I enjoy most is finding the breakout player few expect. In last year’s draft, I drafted Aaron Foster for both of my church teams (I was in both church leagues so everyone has a chance to beat the pastor!). This year, Aaron Foster is the consensus #1 pick (so far).

As I’ve mentioned before, I began playing fantasy football at Centre Grove UMC, where the church began a league when I arrived in 2008. Last year, in our third season, we expanded to two leagues, and soon, plans will be laid for the 2011 season. It looks to be an exciting, unpredictable season!

Game Night

Tonight, we watched the Steelers play in the AFC Championship game. Well, actually, the kids went to bed at their usual bedtime which was just before halftime. But before they did, they got to do a little cheering (there was a lot more cheering to do in the first half, anyway). They also got to make and decorate a special treat.

The next big game will be Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers!

Fantasy Football 2010 Underway

IMG_1889Last night was pretty wild. It was draft night for third season of fantasy football for some people from Centre Grove (and beyond). We had 12 players (or “teams”) the first year, 14 last year, and this year, we’ve gone to two leagues of 12 teams each! (I wrote about my first season of fantasy football in December 2008, and I wrote a post on Life Lessons from Fantasy Football last year.)

I’m playing in both leagues to give “everyone a shot at the pastor” and both drafts were conducted at the same time, which means I had a pretty intense 90 minutes last night (15 rounds and up to 90 seconds per selection). Making it even more challenging was the fact that I had to watch Sarah as well.

I set up “draft central” in the kitchen so I could stand at the counter, limit Sarah’s movement to one room, and hang out with Sarah in between selections (while also planning my next moves). I also brought in several toys to keep her busy.

During the 30 minutes before the draft(s), Sarah showed signs of tiredness/fussiness but actually did very well once the draft started. She must’ve sensed the importance of situation!

The big concern going in to last night was keeping the two drafts straight. Also, if I was on the clock at the same time in each league, that could’ve been a problem. But it went pretty well. Conducting two drafts at the same time, though, prevented me from paying too much attention to what other “owners” were doing; I had to focus so much on my next draft picks.

It was pretty intense. I’m curious how I’ll like playing in two leagues. Conceivably, players who help me win in one league could, at the same time, cause me to lose in the other league. But it’s fun to interact with others from the church and some new friends outside the church that I might not connect with otherwise.

It should be interesting!

Finish Strong

On Super Bowl Sunday at Centre Grove, I focused on the theme, “Finish Strong,” wearing the Saints’ Finish Strong t-shirt from Finish Strong. “Finish Strong” was the motivating theme for the New Orleans Saints this season. But it’s also an important theme for followers of Jesus!

Here’s a sampling of sports references from Scripture …

1 Corinthians 9.24-27
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

Philippians 3.13-14
13 … but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

2 Timothy 4.7-8
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Do you hear the drivenness in Paul’s language? He’s driven to finish strong! The truth is, nobody accidentally finishes strong. It takes drive to overcome one of our biggest enemies: apathy/complacency.

Only the driven finish strong!

If there was a Hall of Fame for the people of faith, Hebrews 11 includes a list of those who might be among the first enshrined into the Hall, people like Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Enoch, as well as a number of others.

In Hebrews 12.1-3, the writer suggests that this list of incredible people of faith ought to inspire us to finish strong.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12.1)

Of course, the greatest example of someone finishing strong is Jesus. The writer adds …

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. (Hebrews 12.2-3)

All these people of faith, as well as Jesus, himself, should inspire us to stay the course and finish strong. It takes motivation to strip off every weight that slows us down, to run with endurance, and to keep our eyes on Jesus so that we may finish strong!

Saints’ coach, Sean Payton, used this idea of a “crowd of witnesses” the night before the NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings. According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Coach Payton projected “great moments in sports history went by in rapid-fire order” while Aerosmith’s “Dream On” blared through the speakers.

King describes it …

Babe Ruth homering, Michael Jordan scoring, Pete Maravich floating, Roberto Clemente fielding, Tiger Woodsfist-pumping, Eddie Robinson coaching, Wayne Gretzky scoring, Jim Valvano leaping, Larry Bird shooting, Muhammad Ali punching, the Bears Super Bowl–shuffling, Doug Flutie passing, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team celebrating—on and on, as goose bumps rose to the pulsating chorus: ‘Dream on, dream on, dream on….’

And when the lights came up, there was Ronnie Lott, a four-time Super Bowl champion … and said, ‘What I wouldn’t give to have the chance to go out there, just one more time, to do what you’re going to do tomorrow. To become a champion again.’

The images and stories of those who’ve gone before us have a powerfully motivating effect on us.

On Sunday evening, the New Orleans Saints definitely finished strong. They were outscored in the first quarter (they were outscored in the first quarter all season), 10-0, but in the other three quarters, they dominated, 31-7, to win the championship game, 31-17.

I think it was the “finish strong” attitude that made the difference in championship game.

During the regular season, when the Colts were 14-0, they stated that a perfect season wasn’t one of their goals (according to team president, Bill Polian, having the longest regular season win streak and the most wins in the decade were more important to them :roll:).

Incidentally, resting players hasn’t worked out real well for the Colts, historically. As I understand it, the one year they won the Super Bowl was the year they couldn’t rest their starters at the end of the season because they had to play all 16 games to get into the playoffs. It could be argued that because of that, they maintained their momentum/intensity until the end and finished strong that year. Peyton Manning’s post-season record is now 9-9.

On the other hand, the Saints, at 13-0, publicly stated that they were going for a perfect season. While they didn’t achieve that goal, that finish strong mentality was evident.

People who exhibit tremendous drive inspire us to be driven, too. As the Scriptures illustrate, we should learn from their example and be equally driven in our quest to follow, and be like, Jesus!

Life Lessons from Fantasy Football

Last year, I wrote about my first year of playing fantasy football in a new league at Centre Grove UMC. We’re playing again this year, and I’m learning that some of the tips for playing fantasy football are also good life lessons.

Do your homework.
Doing your homework begins in the preseason. A numbers of fantasy football sites/sources publish/print “draft kits,” which include preseason rankings and projections of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers, and team defenses.

In fantasy football, doing your homework is important so that you are able to draft the best team possible. Preparation is crucial in life, as well. For Christ-followers, it means constantly being intentional about developing your spiritual growth. It means developing your God-given gifts/talents. Preparation is about doing today what will make you more productive/fruitful tomorrow.

Sort through all the information.
In fantasy football, you have to guard against information overload. A Google search on “fantasy football” returns nearly 68 millions results! You could easily spend every spare moment browsing fantasy football sites, even good ones. So, you have to learn to sort through it all to find the information that’s most helpful to you. Last year, I listed some sites I relied on at the time. Some are the same this year, but, really, one of the best sites is Fantasy Football Librarian, which provides (daily) links to good fantasy football sources.

Life can get pretty complicated, too. And there’s all kinds of knowledge and advice out there, much of it conflicting. You have to learn to sort through it all to find what’s most helpful!

Go with your gut.
After doing all of your homework and sorting through all the information to find the best advice, you still have to make your own decisions in setting your lineup each week and about which players to drop and/or add. Sometimes, you can make informed decisions (decisions based on research), but other times, it’s simply a gut call!

Similarly, in life, you pray and seek God, gather all the good information/advice you can, but in the end, you have to make the decision!

No regrets.
This one’s tough. In fantasy football, it doesn’t matter how good you are, how good the information, or how lucky you are, you are going to make decisions that blow up in your face. Maybe they were bad decisions. Many times, they may be good/right decisions, but it just didn’t play out the way you thought it would.

Last week, I agonized over whether or not I should pick up a running back who was expected to fill in for an injured starter. I still think I made the right decision by not picking him up or playing him based on the available information at the time, but it didn’t play out according to the information and the player had a great day (he’s on my roster this week).

It’s that way in life, too. We can’t spend too much time wallowing in despair because a decision we made didn’t turn out well or even made things worse. We have to move on and be ready for the next challenge.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Fantasy football is a game after all. But for those of us who are competitive, it’s easy to take it too seriously! Someday (hopefully soon), I want to John Ortberg’s, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box.

In life, as in fantasy football, there’s only so much you can control. You make the best decisions possible, based on what you’ve read, or what think or feel, but in the end, there’s only so much you can control, so don’t take yourself too seriously!

Stay alert.
Things are constantly changing in the NFL. Players get injured and backups become starters. Players don’t live up to expectations. Players get suspended. To make sure you roster the best team possible each week, you have to stay on top of things. In life, too, things can change in an instant. We have to stay alert. Incidentally, that was a lesson Jesus drove home to his followers on more than one occasion!

Be patient … but not too patient.
This area is tricky because it’s a matter of timing. It deals with the question when do you give up on a player who’s not performing. It’s about putting together the best possible team for (1) the immediate future, AND (2) down the road.

Sometimes I’m not patient enough with my players. Last year, I led our league in “moves,” which means I dropped and added more players than the other 11 teams in our league. I’m leading again this year as I’m always looking for those players who are breaking out or who are given new opportunities to play. Sometimes those decisions turn out well, sometimes they don’t (or at least not right away). Sometimes, they produce later in the season but usually by then, they’re on someone else’s roster! 😉

It’s a bit of a balancing act and there’s a fine line between being patient and being too patient.

Well, I’m sure there are other life lessons (and fantasy football tips). Feel free to add your lessons/tips in the comments below.

Ready for Some Football

As you can see, Ethan is ready for some football (well, after his nap, which is now underway!).

Tonight, on Ethan’s first Super Bowl Sunday in the States, the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Arizona Cardinals.

IMG_2116

Go-To Receivers

One of the things that I particularly became aware of during my first season of fantasy football was the value of individual players. For example, when choosing a wide receiver, ideally I wanted to choose one who was considered the quarterback’s primary go-to receiver (which might change over the course of the season, depending on a player’s health or performance).

A go-to receiver is one whom the quarterback goes to, especially in critical situations. During the course of a game (and season, for that matter), a go-to receiver gets the most targets and catches on the team (and for fantasy football teams, more fantasy points!).

Now God has a pretty big team, so he has a lot of “receivers,” people whom God is able to use in the world. But what does it take to be one of God’s go-to receivers?

Trustability. When the game is on the line, you ultimately throw the ball to a someone you trust, someone you think is going to catch the ball. In critical situations, can God trust you?

Consistency. Go-to receivers are not only trustable, they’re steady and consistent. They show up, they do their part, and they give it their all.

What other character qualities do you think God’s go-to receivers might have?

Fantasy Football

I played my first season of Fantasy Football (FF) this year, and have enjoyed it.

Shortly after arriving at Centre Grove in July, I was asked if I wanted to be part of a new fantasy football league made up mostly of guys from the church. I like to watch football and thought it would be a good way to connect with others so I said yes.

Our 12-team league began the year with a live online draft (which happened to be on the first night of our vacation in NJ, so thanks to a wireless internet connection there I was able to participate in the draft!). We each drafted 15 NFL players. Each week we selected 9 players from our roster (1 quarterback, 3 wide receivers, 2 running backs, a tight end, a kicker, and a team defense) to be in our lineup based on who we thought would produce the most fantasy points for us that week (points are determined by their on-the-field performance).

Throughout the season, team owners are able to drop players (who are injured or underperforming) and add other players (from the list of available players in our league). Interestingly, only 6 of my current players were on my original roster (and two of those I had dropped and added again somewhere along the way).

I made the most moves (drops and adds) in our league. Looking back, I think I was always looking for the player who wasn’t on anyone’s radar but surprised everyone. One of my best pickups this year was Steve Slaton, a rookie running back who has played extremely well for the Texans.

It’s been an interesting process and has definitely changed the way I watch football. Rather than simply rooting for one team, I also follow the players on my fantasy team. And you really have to pay attention to injuries (and suspensions) so that you can fill the roster spot if your player isn’t playing!

Our season is coming to an end. In our league, the regular season lasted 13 weeks. Eight teams advanced to the playoffs, a 3-week process that culminates in the championship game. In the championship game this week, I will be going up against the one youth player in our league.

It looks to be a good match-up but it’ll be a long weekend. I have 1 player playing Thursday night (my opponent has 4 — he’s a Colt’s fan!). I have 1 player going on Saturday night and the rest on Sunday. But the week’s not over till my opponent’s last player plays on Monday night.

I’ve enjoyed the friendly competition and the online interaction with guys from church (some of the guys in our league are really good at “smack talk”! 🙂 ).

I’ve also enjoyed researching player stats and reading various fantasy experts for their opinions on each week’s upcoming games. There are tons of fantasy football sites, but these sites tend to be the ones I like the most …

My favorite Fantasy Football resource and the one I follow most closely is ESPN. They do a daily 8(ish)-minute video called Fantasy Focus Football that I really like. A few fantasy experts write weekly columns — my favorite is Eric Karabell’s “Instant Replay” on Mondays which reviews Sunday’s games from a fantasy perspective. They rank players at each position and I find their composite rankings (rankings of 4 experts) helpful. Stephania Bell’s injury reports are helpful, too.

ESPN has a nice fantasy stats section, Points Against, that I like for basic stats. When I want more detail I like FFToday.com.

I like Yahoo! (the host of our FF league), but they’re advice is not quite as extensive as ESPN’s.

Beyond those sites, I will occasionally check other sites if I have time or need a little extra guidance/info, especially advice for player news, player rankings, and sit/start lists, including …

CBS Sportline

Rotoworld.com

NFL.com especially the blog during the Sunday games.

KFFL

Fantasy Football Nerd (for composite rankings from around the internet)

Sports Illustrated

Fantasy Football Librarian (for links to helpful resources around the web)

One thing I learned about Fantasy Football is that even after you do all the research and make an informed decision and have a good sense of who is going to play well and produce the most fantasy points, there are no guarantees those players will actually live up to expectations, no matter how good the match-up! Some weeks it seemed that my team was doomed to under-performance.

And having a good team is no guarantee that you’ll win. Most weeks my team was projected at or near the top in projected points, but I don’t believe there was ever a week that my team scored the most points in our league. I take that to mean that I have a team with more talent than consistency. We’ll see how they do this Sunday in the championship game, which gets underway tonight!

So, if you play fantasy football, what have you learned? What sites have you found helpful?

Marshall University

On our way home from Asbury, we stopped in Huntington, WV for a couple days. While there, we checked out some of the memorials related to the plane crash that killed most of the players on 1970 Marshall University football team.

Ever since we saw the movie, We are Marshall, we’ve noticed the exit signs for Marshall University on I-64 near Huntington, WV. So, on our final trip from Asbury, we finally got to stop.

Last November, we watched the movie, which is based on events surrounding the plane crash, and particularly, the rebuilding of the team in the months that followed. We enjoyed the movie and I wrote about it in this post (one of the more popular topics from search engine traffic, especially when the movie was still fairly new).

The story is a great example of leading during times of immense adversity. Coach Jack Lengyel, who was hired to rebuild the program, did a magnificent job!

For more on the 1970 tragedy, see Marshall University’s memorial page.

What we did …

  • We ate lunch at the Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe.
  • We visited the memorial at Marshall University.
  • We traveled to the Spring Hill Cemetery to see the memorial and the burial places of six of the players whose bodies were unidentifiable (as seen in the movie).
  • We saw the memorial at the football stadium.
  • And, finally, we visited the site of the plane crash on a hillside near the Tri-State Airport.

It was an interesting experience, especially after having watched the movie. Now, I want to see the movie again!