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Daily blurbs from the Guru
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Go forward to more recent blurbs.

12/31 - Planning an offensive strategy for your playoff team is much trickier than for the regular season game. With the four best teams all sitting out the first week, and half of the remaining teams dropping out after week #1, failure to think ahead could leave you with some unproductive slots, early and often.

It seems to me like there are two ways to play the first week. You can draft a balanced roster, or you can "bet the winners". With a balanced roster, you would have an equal number of players from opposing teams, ensuring that you have no more than six slots dropping out (but also no less than five). With a "bet the winners" strategy, you overweight the players from the teams you expect to win. This may allow you to preserve a trade or two in the second week, but also risks going with some dead slots if your winners don't pan out.

In general, if you're aiming to win in a fantasy sports game, then it behooves you to take some bets, as the safe strategies tend to avoid disasters at the expense of high-powered successes. That may also be the case here, although I'm less certain, since many of the more desirable players don't go "on-line" until week #2.

The other strategy which seems to make sense is to pick a few players who are dirt cheap. If you have a couple of players worth less than $1 million, then you'll have more flexibility as the game progresses. At some point it may make more sense to buy an expensive player while retaining a cheap, dead player. There are a few reasonable cheap players available - players who might even produce some points in week #1. Seems like they could be good draft choices.

Finally, if you have the time and energy, it makes sense to think about next week's trade possibilities NOW. Once you have a tentative draft roster, see what the "art of the possible" will be for different combinations of surviving teams. You may have some low cost bargains on your draft roster, but can they be reasonably replaced if an unfortunate combination of winners emerges? I may sound like I'm contradicting my advice from the prior column, but I'm not. Cheap players have value - in the right circumstances. But, for example, if you go with two low priced QB's in week #1, make sure you'll have enough funds available in week #2 to replace them. Admittedly, you can get a brain cramp working through every conceivable permutation, but I think a few "what-ifs" can help detect some bad combinations.

And, if all else fails, spring training starts in less than 2 months! Happy New Year, Gurupies!

12/30 - Today I'll comment a little on team defenses for the playoffs. Tomorrow I'll focus on the offensive picks.

Loyal Gurupie and dedicated statistical archaeologist Steve Houpt provided some interesting analysis of playoff defenses for the last two postseasons (excl. the Superbowls). Steve was specifically looking at the disparity between home and visiting team defenses. During the regular season, home defenses averaged 71 SWP better than away defenses, about a one TD advantage. However, during the last two playoffs, the average difference has exceeded 180 SWP. This is not totally surprising, since the seeding process ensures that the better teams get home field advantage. But it does point out the importance of considering that advantage on the defensive team selection. In fact, although visiting teams have only won 6 of 20 games, the visiting defenses have fared even worse, doing better than their home counterparts only 4 times out of 20.

Steve's analysis helped me to identify a couple more nuggets:

  • Only 4 out of 40 playoff defenses did worse than -700 SWP. During the regular season, 42 defenses (out of 480) did worse than -700 SWP. This suggests that picking a bye defense is a losing alternative.
  • The average playoff defense has produced -387 SWP. During this regular season, the average was -425 SWP, and last year's regular season was very comparable.
  • Thanks for the analysis, Steve.

    I'm not going to get the RotoGuru team and division rankings updated until Sunday, after I get home. I need the use of my fast modem to make the update process reasonable. However, the best RotoGuru team was "BJB's #2", which ranked 17th worldwide at the Smallworld Site. This team was managed by Gurupie Brian Butvin, who lives in Cleveland (and roots for the Tribe!) Brian will be enshrined in the Guru Hall of Fame some time next week.

    12/29 - My flight out of Connecticut was cancelled yesterday, so I'm flying out Tuesday morning instead. Thus, I'm scrambling to get stats updated late Monday night, so I don't have to mess with that on Tuesday. So pardon me if my blurb is a bit light today.

    I started working on my playoff roster Monday night, and there are some interesting angles. I'll try to discuss some of these on Wednesday.

    I'm not sure when I'll get the team and division rankings updated. However, it looks like the team "BJB's #2" will win the RotoGuru rankings with a strong final week. If the manager of that team will please send me an email, I'll make arrangements to induct him/her into the Guru Hall of Fame.

    12/28 - Welcome back. First, thanks for your suggestions for the last poll of 1998. I had to decide which to include and which to leave out. Stories which I omitted (because the poll format only permits 8 choices) were the end of Ripken's streak, Jeff Gordon's 13 NASCAR wins, Terrell Davis' 2000+ yard season, the resurgence of "washed-up QBs" (Cunningham, Flutie, Testaverde), and the USA hockey team's woeful Olympic performance on and off the ice. For this poll, you may vote as often as you wish. You can also choose multiple selections for each vote.

    As to the weekend games, I finally picked the right defense, going with Tampa Bay for my best team. Even my second team's pick, the Giants, did reasonably well. Unfortunately, I out-thunk myself on offense. I should have just left in the regular horses - Young, Cunningham, Davis, Anderson, and Sharpe - instead of pulling them in favor of players who I thought were more likely to be going all out, or playing all game, like Manning, Plummer, Hearst, Edwards, and Brady. The original five produced 1600 SWP, while my brilliant subs produced only 645 SWP. So, while I won the battle with my defensive pick, I feel like I lost the war on offense. Oh well, it's not like I was in contention for anything important.

    Now, on to the playoffs. It seems to me that the most critical element of this game will be anticipating and managing your trading needs. Since you have only 5 trades each week, and half of the players playing each weekend will exit the field, you'll need to be thinking ahead to make sure you can keep your roster as productive as possible. Also, some of the teams most likely to advance into the late rounds - Minnesota, Denver, Atlanta, and the Jets - have byes in the first round, so you don't want to draft players from those teams. And defenses will need to be carefully managed, since inactive defense will cost you -700 SWP. I haven't thought through all of the angles yet, but as I do, I'll use my blurbs and feedback page to update you on my latest thinking.

    In today's updated tables (and also in the Assimilator), the prices are those for the playoff game. A price of zero indicates that the player is not listed for the playoff game. I hope I've got everyone listed properly, but if you notice something wrong, please let me know.

    Finally, I'll be away this week as well. Late this afternoon, I'm winging out to the buckeye state, spending a few days in Mansfield and a few in Columbus. I'll have my trusty laptop with me, so I'll keep the site updated with stats, feedback, and blurbs, although I may be less responsive than normal.

    12/23 - First, let me share the tally of last week's defensive picks for the 700 RotoGuru teams:

    Defense          % held     SWP
    Atlanta           16.8%    -283
    San Diego         15.8%    -322
    Oakland            9.2%    -250
    Minnesota          8.4%     -87
    Dallas             8.0%    -401
    Pittsburgh         6.3%    -603
    Miami              5.5%    -319
    Denver             4.0%    -611
    San Francisco      3.8%    -472
    Green Bay          3.7%    -496
    Seattle            2.7%    -482
    Arizona            2.4%    -405
    Buffalo            2.4%    -429
    Kansas City        2.3%    -569
    Tampa Bay          2.0%    -286
    New York J         2.0%    -376
    Baltimore          1.1%    -631
    New England        1.0%    -435
    Carolina           0.6%    -191
    New York G         0.4%    -129
    Washington         0.4%    -232
    Cincinnati         0.4%    -341
    Jacksonville       0.4%    -907
    St. Louis          0.1%    -361
    Detroit            0.1%    -468
    New Orleans        0.1%    -568
    Teams not chosen: 
    Chicago (-141) 
    Indy (-606) 
    Philadelphia (-258)
    Tennessee (-632)
    The average defensive score for the 700 teams was a very respectable -357 SWP.

    RotoGuru team and division standings were updated last night. I've decided to grant an automatic entry into Guru's Hall of Fame for the top finisher in the regular season standings. If you finish first, please contact me via email next week so I can get a brief write up for your enshrinement blurb. I haven't checked the relative rosters, but it looks like at least 5 teams should still have a very realistic chance.

    Speaking of standings, if you're playing Central Plaza's Touchdown game, you will note that the Gurupie presence is really starting to dominate. There are five RotoGuru divisions, and all five are now included in the top nine divisions! Also, five of the top ten individual teams are Gurupies, including #1, #2, and #4. No, I'm not one of them. My best team is only ranked #76, with an outside chance of cracking the top 50. But it's still an awesome all-around showing for the Gurupie community.

    I see that there are already 11 RotoGuru divisions started for the playoff game. Keep 'em coming. All teams in RotoGuru divisions will automatically be listed in the playoff standings. If you're in a non-RotoGuru division, you can still submit your team name and division name as before. But that can wait until next week.

    For those who are anxious to avoid my defensive picks of the week, I've decided on Tampa Bay for my best team, and the Giants for the second team. For more ideas on team defenses of the week, check out the recent feedback letters.

    Here's my schedule for the balance of the week. Later today, I'll update the Assimilator with today's price changes, as well as the summary tables. (I doubt if the new prices have much relevance to anyone, but I might as well do it for the sake of completeness.) I probably won't get the RotoGuru team standings or the individual player pages updated for the new prices, though, because I'll be leaving tonight for a brief Christmas vacation. So, there will be no further site updates until next Monday. On Monday, in addition to the regular stats for the week 17 games, I'll post playoff prices in the summary stats tables and the Assimilator, so you can start planning your playoff draft.

    Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to you all!

    12/22 - Before I get going with my thoughts on the next week, let me point out that Smallworld will be offering a free football playoff game. Click on the banner at the left for information and registration. RotoGuru Divisions have already started forming. Find them by searching for divisions that start with the letters "RotoGuru" (and feel free to create a new one if the existing ones are full). I'll comment more on the rules later, and I'll get some stats and price tables up before drafts must be completed (but not necessarily before this weekend). By and large, you can wait until next week to start drafting - unless, of course, you'll be away from your internet access port next week, in which case, you'll probably have to get that roster drafted without my support. ("Roughing it" - just like the pioneers!) Suffice it to say that I'm glad to have something to keep the RotoGuru site breathing through the month of January. Thank you SmallWorld!

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch....   If you're still vying for something this week, then you should be thinking about the playoff implications of each game. Only one playoff slot remains to be settled, but several teams still have home field advantage up for grabs. I think I've got it figured out here, but if anyone thinks I have something incorrect, shoot me a note.

    • Only five games have definite playoff implications:
      1. Green Bay at Chicago - Green Bay needs to win to have a chance at home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Since they will play the 49ers in the first round, and SF can't seem to win at Lambeau field, this is an important consideration.
      2. Miami at Atlanta - Miami can clinch home field advantage in the first round with a win. Atlanta has nothing at stake.
      3. New England at NY Jets - other than the Tuna factor, the Patriots must win to have a shot at a first round home game. A Patriots win and a Dolphins loss would give the Pats a playoff opener in Foxboro. Since this game takes place at the same time as the Miami game, the Pats will be assuming that it matters. If Miami goes out to a bog lead, though, the game may become moot before it's over. Meanwhile, the Jets are already guaranteed a first round bye.
      4. Tampa Bay at Cincinnati - TB must win to have a chance at the last NFC wild card slot.
      5. San Diego at Arizona - A Cardinal win clinches the last playoff berth. Arizona could also get in if both Tampa Bay and the Giants lose, but the Giants play at the same time, so Arizona will have to assume it's do or die.
    • Two games have possible implications, depending on the outcome of earlier games:
      1. NY Giants at Philadelphia - if Tampa Bay loses the 1:00 game, then the Giants can claim the last playoff berth with a win at Philly. If TB beats Cincy, though, then this game has no playoff implications.
      2. St. Louis at San Francisco - if Green Bay beats the Bears in the early game, then the 49ers must win to secure home field advantage for the first playoff game.
    So what are the implications for player performances this week? For openers, Brett Favre, Jake Plummer, Dan Marino, Trent Dilfer, and Scott Zolak will all probably play "normal" games. (Be aware that Favre has a sore hip, though, so if the Packers get a sufficient lead, expect him to sit down.) Steve Young will also need to go for it if the Pack beats the Bears - which is likely. If the 49ers get a big lead on the Rams, though, it's quite possible that Young would sit down. So having Steve on your roster this week carries that risk. I'll let you figure out the comparable implications for the other positions.

    Meanwhile, Denver, Minnesota, Dallas, Buffalo, and Jacksonville have nothing at stake, since their playoff status is secured, and their opponents have no open playoff implications, either. (The Jets and Falcons have their first round byes clinched, but since they are playing teams with something at stake, they may be more likely to stick with their front-line players.) Playoff teams with nothing at stake are more likely to play their regular starters for less than a full game, not only to give those guys some rest &/or to protect them from injury, but also to give their backup players some extra game experience. So you may want to reconsider players like Terrell Davis, Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, and Fred Taylor.

    As to what you should expect from games with two non-playoff teams - you be the judge. Could go either way. Some players may be striving for personal goals, or for their very jobs. Others may just "mail it in".

    Finally, I haven't figured out my defensive picks yet, though I've narrowed the likely list of contenders down to Oakland, Green Bay, Miami, Atlanta, NY Giants, San Francisco, Arizona, or Tampa Bay. Some help, eh?

    12/21 - First of all, many if you noticed a strange phenomenon when you tried to come here, either late last night or this morning. Unfortunately, I had a transmission problem when updating my home page, which resulted in a blank page which couldn't be deleted or overwritten. The server evidently decided that this meant that a password should be required to access the site. I don't understand why, but hopefully you realized that all other rotoguru pages were working fine. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: You should bookmark at least one rotoguru page in addition to the home page, so that when something goes awry with the home page, you can still "get in". 'Nuff said.

    A few performances of note from yesterday's games:

    • The two best QB totals occurred in the snow with a wind-chill factor of minus-1, in Green Bay. In fact, I saw a note on ESPN this morning that Brett Favre is 24-0 in his career in home game where the temperature is below 35 degrees.
    • Jake Plummer passed for 394 yards, and ran for an additional 38 yards - but accounted for no TDs! Throw in his interception, and the day didn't even amount to 400 SWP.
    • Ricky Watters and Robert Edwards came up big. Hopefully, you dropped Marshall Faulk to pick up one or the other. I didn't.
    • Antonio Freeman rewarded all of those managers who picked him up last week - and as his price gain indicates, there were a lot of you who did just that. I actually thought about dumping him when I heard about the impending frigid forecast, but fortunately I decided not to second guess myself.
    • Tight end produced more big games than usual - but not from Ben Coates, and especially not from Mark Chmura, who left the game after just two snaps. (What Freeman giveth, Chmura taketh away. Actually, Freeman scored enough for the two of them, I suppose.)
    • On defense, Minnesota was the team to have. My idea to pick a defense which would be facing a seldom used backup QB was correct - except that I had San Fran vs. Scott Zolak, instead of the Vikings vs. Quinn. In other words, the typical below-average Guru defensive performance. My other defensive pick, San Diego, did OK, but of course, I had them on my weaker team. At least I didn't have Pittsburgh, like my wife did. She wouldn't let me talk her out of the Steelers, after the experience of the past two weeks. Unfortunately, it looks like her picks only do well when I talk her out of them!
    This week, you'll need to be wary of teams that may be resting their regulars in anticipation of the playoffs. Young and Cunningham are probably two obvious examples - although SF will want to make sure they retain home field advantage if they have to face the Packers. More on that tomorrow.

    12/18 - If you're still stuggling with your defensive pick for the week, I found one more web page that might offer some perspective. It's from ESPN's site, and shows the offensive vs. defensive stats for each of the week's matchups in a convenient, side by side format. It's probably been there every week, but for some reason, I first noticed it yesterday.

    Now, you don't have to tell me why this type of analysis, based on full year averages, isn't the proper way to analyze matchups. For openers, many teams are much different now than they were early in the season, due to injuries, or even due to improvement. But it does provide an interesting screening device, to help identify matchups that might otherwise go unnoticed. Because the page is conveniently formatted, it was very simple to read it directly into an excel spreadsheet and calculate projected SWPs for the weekend, using a 50/50 average of each defense's stats with its opposing offense's stats. (One caveat - the table shows only touchdowns, not points scored. So my calculations use -70 pts for a touchdown, but ignore field goals.) Here are the Q&D results of the top ten:

        Rank  Defense           SWP   Opponent
           1  Oakland          -251   San Diego
           2  San Diego        -277   Oakland
           3  Dallas           -295   Phila
           4  Arizona          -307   New Orleans
           5  Pittsburgh       -316   Cincy
           6  Kansas City      -317   NY Giants
           7  Atlanta          -322   Detroit
           8  Baltimore        -328   Chicago
           9  Seattle          -335   Indy
          10  Green Bay        -339   Tennessee
    The top two, Oakland and San Diego, are obviously already on everyone's radar, and there are all sorts of reasons why you might want to pick these team or avoid them. Dallas benefits from a matchup vs. Philly, but as I mentioned earlier this week, neither team has recently played like its full year averages would indicate. But next comes Arizona - a team that I would have totally overlooked except for the fact that one Gurupie suggested them to me earlier in the week. Then comes Pittsburgh, which my wife picked - and who she's sticking with. The other team on the list that I wouldn't expect to see is Baltimore, obviously helped by a matchup against a weak Bears offense.

    Incidently, the average points for all 30 teams using this method works out to be only -363, vs. the actual season average team defenses of -425. I assume the discrepancy relates to field goals.

    I'm sure many of you already use quantitative screening techniques like this. Clearly, it shouldn't be the sole basis for picking defenses. But it can help to point out opportunities that might otherwise escape the light of day. And besides, it's a Friday, so there's not much else for me to comment on.

    One final reminder: Get your roster finalized by tomorrow morning, since there are two Saturday games. I see that the Yahoo weather forecast for Buffalo calls for rain. Oh no! - another team defense consideration!

    12/17 - I know there are a fair number of Gurupies who, along with Dave Meggett, are also in the midst of prepping for finals. Don't you wish you could just "take an incomplete" so you could go return kicks for the Jets this weekend?

    Speaking of which, before I forget, there are two Saturday games this week (including the Jets/Bills), which means that your rosters will be frozen on Saturday morning. Don't get caught with an invalid roster.

    Yesterday's price changes were about as unremarkable as they were inconsequential. A healthier Antonio Freeman was reclaimed by a lot of managers, with Terance Mathis running a close second after his huge outing last weekend. Ed McCaffrey was the primary casualty, probably due to a combination of his poor showing in the Meadowlands and his impending matchup against the stingy Dolphins defense. Re-injured Terry Glenn also took a significant price dive. And Jerry Rice plummeted to a season-low price.

    Meanwhile, the one-game absence of Ben Coates was evidently not missed by many. It is interesting that Mark Chmura was the primary beneficiary, rather than Shannon Sharpe. Interesting, and astute, it would appear. I wonder whether people will reverse back to Coates for this weekend, or just go with Chmura, who seems to have become a favored target of Favre in the last few games - which is also not surprising, given the number of injured Packers receivers.

    However, defense is still the spot that seems to be commanding the most attention. It's impossible to know how much of the Miami selloff came in advance of the Jets game, and how much was in anticipation of next Monday night's matchup with the Broncos. Some of each, I'm sure. Atlanta seems to be the new team getting the most widespread respect, evidenced not only by their $900,000 price gain, but also by the emails I've gotten in the last couple of days regarding defensive selections for the week.

    While most of my emails regarding defense have not found any significant fault with my picks of SF and SD, I did get some good analysis on why a few other picks also look like good opportunities:

    • Atlanta seems to be coming on very strong, and although they are on the road this week, they will still be in the comfortable confines a dome. The big question is which Detroit team will show up. Or whether a potential Falcons blowout could lead to the SWP devastation of a "prevent defense" in the second half.
    • Oakland is also a possible pick, since they face a Chargers team that is dead last in net turnovers.
    • In fact, several considerations have caused me to reconsider my SD pick. If the Chargers persist in turning over the ball, this can lead to points scored by the Raiders defense - which still count against the SD defense SWP tally. Also, it has been reported that Jeff George may play for Oakland this weekend. If so, that at least has the potential to jack up Oakland's otherwise punchless offense. Hmmm....
    • Dallas gets the benefit of facing Philly this week, but Dallas has really stunk lately - in part, I presume, due to Deion's absence. And the Philly offense has shown some signs of life the past three weeks, with Koy Detmer at QB and Duce Staley showing some late season resilience.
    • Minnesota has the benefit of a home game against Jacksonville's third-string quarterback. But I've been burned twice by the Vikes this year, and I can't bring myself to do it again.
    • Even Arizona has been suggested (at home vs. New Orleans), in spite of averaging worse than -600 SWP over the past five weeks. I'd tend to discount this choice, except that the proponent is one of the leaders in average defense this season. So if you're looking for a real sleeper pick, that may be the one.
    Bottom line - I'll probably stick with my original selections, mostly because I'd hate to second-guess myself. If you want to go with the consensus pick this week, Atlanta is probably the choice, though I suspect it's less of a consensus than Miami has been of late.

    Finally, in case you didn't notice, SW added two quarterback IPOs yesterday: Koy Detmer and Jamie Martin. Martin was injured last weekend, so I don't know why they added him. And I can't figure why anyone would pick up Detmer, either. But, I've included those players in the updated stats tables, for what it's worth.

    12/16 - RotoGuru managers were still clinging to Miami last weekend, although not quite as heavily as the prior week. Here's the breakdown of the defense selections for the approximately 700 teams for week 15:

    Defense          % held     SWP
    Miami             22.0%    -433
    Denver            14.6%    -492
    Atlanta           10.4%    -196
    Minnesota          7.7%    -277
    Buffalo            7.5%    -158
    Green Bay          7.0%    -352
    New England        6.4%    -447
    Oakland            6.1%    -746
    Arizona            4.8%    -492
    New York J         3.0%    -377
    Seattle            2.6%     -47
    Kansas City        2.1%    -317
    San Diego          1.1%    -463
    Tampa Bay          0.9%      47
    Jacksonville       0.6%    -404
    San Francisco      0.4%    -410
    Pittsburgh         0.4%    -358
    Carolina           0.4%    -679
    Baltimore          0.4%    -735
    Cincinnati         0.4%    -728
    Washington         0.4%    -450
    Dallas             0.3%    -583
    Detroit            0.3%    -704
    St. Louis          0.1%    -373
    Teams not chosen: 
    Chicago (-533) 
    Indy (-608) 
    New Orleans (-609)
    New York Giants (-414)
    Philadelphia (-514)
    Tennessee (-306)
    Tennessee has had two good weeks in a row, but no one has picked 'em. I should've. Oh well. The average defense score for these 700 teams was -388.

    12/15 - If you hadn't seen the game last night and I told you that one quarterback threw for 281 yards (and 2 TDs), while the other threw for only 82 yards (and 1 TD) yards, you'd probably get the names wrong. Ditto if I told you that one running back rushed for 198 yards. The answers, in order, are Frank Reich (not Steve Young), Steve Young (not Charlie Batch), and Garrison Hearst (not Barry Sanders). Young's game, although below average by his standards, wasn't quite the disaster you might expect from double-digit passing yardage, since he also rushed for 66 yards and ran for one TD, good for a total of 251 SWP.

    As promised, I'll give you my defensive picks for the week, so that you'll know who to avoid. Actually, make your own decisions - but realize that my picks have been doing pretty poorly. In fact, if it hadn't been for that early string of good Oakland outings, I could easily be averaging worse than what you'd expect from throwing darts. Since I have two teams, I'm picking two defenses:

    1. San Francisco: I decided on the 49ers even before watching last night's game. Interestingly, although they looked pretty tough last night, they still surrendered 410 SWP. However, I like San Fran against the Pats in Foxboro for the following reasons:
      • SF has had trouble defending against the long pass, but the Patriots will be going with Scott Zolak at QB, and will also be missing Terry Glenn. New England's passing attack was pretty anemic earlier this year when Glenn was sidelined, and that was with Bledsoe at the helm.
      • SF has been average against the run, but with a suspect Patriots' passing attack, the 49ers should be able to do to Robert Edwards what they did last night to Barry Sanders.
      • The 49ers have been a much better defense on the road than at home, and have also played pretty well on artificial turf.
      • The game matters. The 49ers are still trying to catch Atlanta.
      • Given their lofty price and mediocre averages, I doubt that many managers will pick them this week. My best chance to rally late in the season is to have a good defensive week from a team that isn't widely held.
    2. San Diego: I guess this is my "San" week. Here are my reasons for going with the Chargers as my second defensive pick:
      • This is really more of a pick against the Oakland offense than for the S.D. defense. Oakland's offensive output has been pathetic for two straight weeks, with less than 250 SWP combined against their last two defensive opponents.
      • SD scored -134 SWP vs. Oakland in their first matchup this year. If anything, Oakland is a weaker team this time around. And, in spite of a bad offensive day against Seattle last weekend, I think the S.D. offense can stay on the field much longer than the Oakland offense can.
    Sorry if I picked one of the teams you were going to pick. For what it's worth, my wife is picking Pittsburgh this week. I'm not quite sure why, but I suspect it's more of a contra-Cincy pick. For Pittsburgh to work out this week, though, I probably have to talk her out of it, and after the comparable experience of the past two weeks, that seems pretty unlikely.

    Once SW updates team points today, I'll rerun the team and division rankings.

    Pretty interesting poll results so far. This may be the most balanced poll we've ever had.

    12/14 - If nothing else, yesterday certainly demonstrated how clueless I am when it comes to picking defenses. I had Denver and New England, both which came in well below average. I did, however, talk my wife into picking Buffalo for her team. (I decided not to go with Buffalo for my own teams only because I had already picked Denver and New England, and didn't want to second guess myself.) So at least she should be happy, right? Well, she originally had Seattle, and that's who I talked her out of. Argh! (Fortunately, today is my birthday, so she has to be nice to me.) I think the biggest service I can provide on defense is to let you all know my picks of the week, so you can avoid them. Last week I talked her out of Miami, and into Minnesota. So maybe I should also tell you what her picks are!

    Meanwhile, on the offensive front, here are some of yesterday's highlights and lowlights:

    • Overall, there were fewer standout performances than normal, as indicated by the fact that the best possible roster so far has only 3200 SWP, vs. a more typical week of about 3,800 SWP or more.
    • No quarterback topped 400 SWP (although Steve Young and Charlie Batch could still get there tonight). It's been four weeks since there weren't at least two QBs topping the 400 SWP mark, and five weeks since there were no QBs above that level. And the best QB total yesterday belonged to Kent Graham, who out-Elwayed John Elway himself? Go figure!
    • As long as you stayed with the leading RBs, you probably stayed out of trouble at that position, although Fred Taylor's performance was a bit weak. If you had Robert Edwards, I congratulate you for your insight and tenacity, since Edwards hasn't had a particularly good outing since week 7. And if you had Bam Morris, then you're either a genius, an idiot, are a diehard Chief's fan (which doesn't rule out one of the first two choices, I suppose).
    • Terance Mathis eclipsed his previous high game by almost 140 SWP. And who is this Albert Connell?
    • I did get tight end right yesterday, picking up Mark Chmura to replace Ben Coates, who was absent as advertised.
    • And at defense, I picked New England in part because they looked so strong in Pittsburgh last week. But after Tampa Bay's defense posted a rare positive score against the Steelers yesterday, I suspect it was Steeler ineptness that faked me out. Meanwhile, as long as you didn't have them, Miami helped a lot of you by having a very mediocre outing vs. the Jets. If you had one of the good defenses yesterday, you should have been able to gain some ground in the standings, since I suspect that Miami remained the most widely held defense yesterday.
    Don't forget to tune in tomorrow for my defensive picks of the week.

    12/11 - One Gurupie (I forget who - sorry) recently asked how the "dream draft" team would be faring through 14 games. You may remember that I worked up best performing roster that could have been drafted (for $50 million or less), using points through nine games. Using the Assimilator, it was easy to determine that this roster would now have accumulated 24,865 SWP. That would still put it in the top 50 worldwide teams, but down from it's week 9 ranking, which would have been second or third, as I recall. I'm a little surprised it would have performed that well, since this roster includes the Oakland defense, Antonio Freeman, and Cameron Cleeland, all who have had been less than stellar the past month.

    I took a quick stab at redoing the exercise from scratch - that is, putting together the best $50 million draft team, defined using points through week 14. As expected, a few of the roster slots are changed. Fred Taylor replaces Garrison Hearst. Moss and Owens replace Freeman and Ismail. And most critically, Miami replaces Oakland. The revised roster looks like this:

    Name                Pos    Draft Price 
    Young, Steve        QB       8,450,000   
    Cunningham, Randall QB       1,340,000   
    Davis, Terrell      RB      10,800,000   
    Anderson, Jamal     RB       6,300,000 
    Taylor, Fred        RB       2,550,000
    Moss, Randy         WR       3,830,000
    Moulds, Eric        WR       1,350,000  
    Owens, Terrell      WR       5,690,000
    Cleeland, Cameron   TE       1,330,000   
    Anderson, Gary      K        3,030,000   
    Miami               Def      3,890,000
    This revised team would have produced 26,581 SWP, which would currently rank #2 at the CNN/SI site, and pretty high at the Smallworld site, too. (The SW site is currently down, so I can't check it out.) It also beats the best Gurupie team by 1584 SWSP. Wow!

    12/10 - At this point of the season, price changes are rather anticlimactic. Most teams have the value they need, and the focus is on getting the points for the stretch drive. However, price changes do provide a good indication of the trade flow, so that if you're looking to mimic or differ from the masses, it's worthwhile to review.

    That said, I thought the biggest surprise yesterday was the lack of movement in Fred Taylor. He dropped the max the week before, but followed that up with the best day for a running back last Sunday, so I expected an uptick greater than $90,000. Granted, some buying activity is probably obscured by offsetting his excess sales from the prior week. But even so. . . .

    The most critical position for the last few weeks is probably defense. So what do the prices changes suggest about this? It looks like Miami is getting more and more of the action. They're at home this weekend, which is favorable, but are going up against a strong offense in the Jets. Based on the price changes, it looks like the favorite contenders are Arizona (the "contra-Philly" strategy), New England, Minnesota, Denver, Atlanta, and Buffalo. Bufflo is particularly interesting, because bad weather is forecast, though now it looks more like rain than snow. You may want to wait until the last minute to check it out. If you're looking for the unpopular choices, Green Bay (hosting the Bears), Kansas City (hosting Dallas), and Dallas (at KC) are all trading at their low prices of the year, which implies that fewer teams own them now than at the initial draft. Remember that last weekend, no Gurupie teams owned Tennessee or New Orleans, so lack of buying activity hasn't been a good predictor of performance.

    One late week player alert. This morning's local paper reports that Ben Coates will miss Sunday's game in order to attend the funeral of his mother. Forewarned is forearmed.

    Finally, after improving all week, Flycast's ad banner server seems to have totally collapsed this morning, rendering much of my site painfully slow to access, if not totally unreachable. I removed the ad banner from this page temporarily, so you should at least have been able to get here with torture. Hopefully, the problem will resolve itself shortly, because removing the banners from all pages would be a royal pain in the butt.

    12/9 - Here is the breakdown of defensive choices for the 700 RotoGuru teams last weekend:

    Defense          % held     SWP
    Miami             28.2%     -89
    Minnesota         22.9%    -439
    Oakland            8.7%    -485
    New York J         8.4%    -497
    Denver             7.1%    -491
    Green Bay          5.8%    -468
    Atlanta            4.2%    -319
    Kansas City        2.0%    -671
    Arizona            1.9%    -484
    Seattle            1.3%    -673
    Dallas             1.0%    -438
    San Francisco      0.9%    -554
    Philadelphia       0.7%    -415
    St. Louis          0.7%    -424
    San Diego          0.7%    -408
    Buffalo            0.7%    -329
    Pittsburgh         0.7%    -452
    New England        0.6%    -174
    Jacksonville       0.6%    -503
    Tampa Bay          0.4%    -384
    Carolina           0.4%    -684
    Baltimore          0.4%    -406
    Cincinnati         0.4%    -623
    Washington         0.4%    -434
    New York G         0.3%    -363
    Detroit            0.1%    -786
    Team not chosen: 
    Chicago (-893) 
    Indy (-534) 
    New Orleans (-192)
    Tennessee (-256)
    Note that two of the teams not chosen were ranked #3 and #4 for the week, and the Patriots, who were the second best, were only picked by four teams.

    If you were to fill a roster with the top producers at each position, that roster would now cost about $102 million. 377 of the RotoGuru team can now afford that roster - roughly 53% of those teams. The most expensive possible roster is now worth about $113.5 million, and more than 200 of the RotoGuru teams can now afford that, too. The implications of this rampant inflation are that the game has become notably different than other SW games. Most competitive teams are now unconstrained by value, and virtually unconstrained in number of trades. It is a game of picking the best defense for the week, identifying and exploiting attractive player matchups from week to week, and avoiding injuries.

    Speaking of the best players, I did some quick analysis of the hottest players over past four weeks. Here are the highlights:

    • Quarterbacks - the best performer (at any position) over the last four weeks has been Randall Cunningham, who has produced 1715 SWP. This is more than 200 SWP better than Steve Young, at 1492. The next three, all around 1400 SWP, are Jake Plummer, Trent Green, and Vinny Testaverde.
    • Running Backs - Marshall Faulk is way ahead, with almost 1400 SWP over the past four weeks. The next two might surprise you, though. Garrison Hearst, on the strength of several long TD runs, has accumulated 1176 SWP, and Fred Taylor is third with 1147 SWP. Taylor's total is all the more remarkable since it includes the 20 SWP game from two weeks ago, when he missed most of the game. The next three are Jamal Anderson (1,099), Curtis Martin (1,084), and finally, Terrell Davis with 1,063. There is then a big drop off, with Darick Holmes #7 at only 892 SWP.
    • Wide Receiver - No surprise at #1. Randy Moss has virtually lapped the field with almost 1500 SWP. The only other two receivers with more than 1000 SWP are Eric Moulds (1,034) and Keyshawn Johnson (1,014). Derrick Alexander, Terrell Owens, and Rod Smith are ranked #4-6, all with points in the 900's.
    • Tight End - Ben Coates has been the best producer with 654 SWP. Wesley Walls and Freddy Jones are in the low 500's, and then Shannon Sharpe shows up with 464 SWP. No one else is over 400.
    • The top five kickers over the last month have been Al Del Greco, Steve Christie, John Hall, Mike Hollis, and Gary Anderson, all in the mid 300's.
    • Defense - Miami has totaled only -891 SWP over the last four weeks, and that includes their -615 disaster at Foxboro (the only game I had them for - argh!). The next two best teams have been Atlanta and Denver, with -1201 and -1203 respectively. Only five other teams have averaged better than -400 SWP per game over this period: Buffalo, Green Bay, New Orleans, NY Jets, and Pittsburgh. Early season favorites Kansas City, Oakland, and Dallas have all averaged worse than -500 per week over this period.
    Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the establishment of this web site. On December 8, 1997, the site was launched, consisting of one article on strategy and a few stats tables for Smallworld Hoops. Obviously, there's been a lot of growth since then, not only in breadth of content, but also in Gurupie readership. Thanks to all of you for following and supporting this site. In spite of the lack of an NBA season, I expect the second year will continue to show growth in all aspects.

    12/8 - If you watched the game last night, it's hard to imagine that Brett Favre actually had an above average game in SWP terms. His total of 324 SWP was marred by only one turnover, in spite of 6 fumbles. And he was sacked 8 times. Still, the boxscore shows that he threw for 262 yards on 29-41, with 2 TDs and no interceptions. A classic example of the boxscore not telling the whole story.

    I did some preliminary checking on defensive points in the RotoGuru team rankings yesterday. If you had Miami last weekend, you had lots of company, as over 27% of the RotoGuru teams had them. The second most popular choice was Minnesota, at 22%. So those two defensive teams accounted for half of all rosters. I'll post the complete defense tally tomorrow, after the team ranking are updated.

    I also noted that 16 RotoGuru teams had an invalid roster last weekend, probably getting surprised by the Thursday game. A few of those teams were invalid the prior week as well, so these guys either don't get it, or else they've thrown in the towel - or both. The good news is that there are no more Thursday games this season. However, the last two weeks of the season have Saturday games, so you still need to stay alert to the schedule if you're one of those managers that likes to wait until the last minute to fill your roster.

    With just three weeks remaining, it's time to be thinking about your objectives for the remainder of the season. If you are in a close race with your competitors, think about how you want your roster to differ from theirs. And if you have a lot of ground to make up - say 1000 SWP or more, then you're probably going to have to look to your defense selections to save the day. Frightening, isn't it? Of course, if you're running slightly ahead of your competition, then consider immunizing your relative standing by mimicking key slots vs. your competitor's roster. Wimpy, perhaps, but also effective.

    Team and division rankings will be updated after SW posts the points from last night's game.

    12/7 - With a few exceptions, yesterday didn't produce too many scoring surprises:

    • Steve Young had a sub par day (258 SWP), but Randall Cunningham smoked the Bears for 549 SWP. And Vinny Testaverde, aided by his phantom TD at the end of the game, put up a very strong 514 SWP, though he needed 63 pass attempts to do it. The day's disappointment was Mark Brunell, who essentially missed the whole day after getting injured on the second play of the game.
    • Fred Taylor bounced back as the big kahuna at RB (462 SWP), probably partly aided by Brunell's misfortune. Most of the premier backs did well, although Barry Sanders remained mired in mediocrity, Priest Holmes returned to earth, and Emmitt Smith was reduced to dog snot, garnering only -18 SWP while rushing for 6 yards on 15 carries vs. the Saints.
    • Wide receiver continued to be a difficult position. Eric Moulds had a monster 500 SWP day, now that most SW managers have dropped him. And Terry Glenn picked apart the porous Steeler secondary for 428 SWP. At less than $1 million in price, he should be on a lot of value-challenged teams. Randy Moss had another (ho hum) big game, but since so many SW teams have him, his performance isn't likely to help you gain much ground in the standings. Jerry Rice continued to be the odd man out for the 49ers, and probably ranks as the disappointment of the day for wide receivers, along with Cris Carter who was injured early and watched most of the game from the sidelines (in a very dapper suit).
    • Shannon Sharpe salvaged his day (and the Broncos' day as well) with his late game TD reception, that one play amounting to 106 SWP. Cameron Cleeland got shut out again, though.
    • Jason Elam missed a 37 yarder, leaving him with only 20 SWP for the day. But who really cares about kickers?
    • Defense. Hopefully, you disregarded my home/away analysis, and went with Miami on the road, rather than the Vikings at home. The Dolphins just smothered Oakland from beginning to end, racking up 7 turnovers and 8 sacks. Meanwhile, after a stifling first half against the Bears, Minnesota's defense went of cruise control throughout the second half, surrendering almost all of the yardage and all of the points after the game was out of reach. Thank goodness for the two late turnovers, or it would have been an unmitigated disaster. Argh!
    So, if you had a lineup something close to Cunningham, Testaverde, Taylor, Anderson, Moss, and Miami, you probably had a pretty nice total for the day. And if you had Brunell, Barry Sanders, Priest Holmes, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Cameron Cleeland, and Minnesota, then you have my condolences. Fortunately, other than Minnesota, I did pretty well, with a 2300 SWP day. Could've been a monster, though, if Minnesota would have kept up the intensity.

    And then there were a few of you who suffered through an invalid weekend, having forgotten about the early freeze on Thursday. C'mon guys - pay attention! I even mentioned last week that we had two Thursday weeks in a row.

    I won't update the team or division rankings until after the results of tomorrow's games have been posted at the SW site. Be patient, if you sent me a new team or division to include over the weekend.

    12/4 - I saw bits & pieces of the Eagles/Rams game last night, but I was flipping back and forth between the game and "Forest Gump". Thus, I can't comment too much on the game action, although I did see Duce Staley running alot, and I also saw Irving Fryar's first TD reception of the season. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the game for Gurupies was that neither team defense did much different than the league average, with the Eagles getting -415 vs. -424 for St. Louis. So if you were using the contra-Eagle defense strategy this week, it didn't work very well.

    As of 8:30 this morning, Yahoo had not updated their stats for last night's game. If they don't come through, then I won't update mine either. Just eyeballing the boxscore, here are the results for last night's better players: Irving Fryar was the big kahuna with 248 SWP, Koy Detmer had 207 SWP, Tony Banks had 181 SWP, June Henley had 180, Duce Staley had 178, Amp Lee had 168, J.T. Thomas had 150, . . . and if you're still interested, your lineup is in trouble this weekend.

    Speaking of defenses, one byproduct of tracking defensive points for the RotoGuru team rankings is that I can figure out (after the fact) which defenses were held for last weekend's games. So, for week 13, here is the breakdown for the almost 700 RotoGuru teams:

    Defense        % held   SWP
    Green Bay       41.9%  -372
    Miami           14.2%   -17
    Oakland         13.1%  -518
    Denver           5.4%  -247
    Minnesota        4.9%  -873
    New York Jets    4.5%  -331
    Atlanta          4.1%  -244
    Kansas City      2.9%  -438
    Seattle          1.3%  -393
    Arizona          1.2%  -651
    San Diego        0.9%  -442
    San Francisco    0.7%  -304
    Tampa Bay        0.7%  -284
    Dallas           0.6%  -876
    Baltimore        0.6%  -785
    New England      0.6%  -628
    Carolina         0.4%  -936
    Cincinnati       0.4%  -652
    Washington       0.4%  -366
    Pittsburgh       0.4%  -343
    Jacksonville     0.4%  -335
    Buffalo          0.1%  -424
    Detroit          0.1%  -313
    Seven teams were totally absent from these rosters: NY Giants, Indy, New Orleans, Philly, St. Louis, Chicago, and Tennessee. Tennessee did the best of these seven no-shows, with -433 SWP.

    Based on the latest price changes, I expect the distribution to be a bit more balanced for this weekend, although Gurupies did have the benefit of my home/away analysis prior to trade time, while the majority of SW managers didn't see it until Wednesday afternoon (at the SW site). So I suppose it's possible that Minnesota may be as heavily owned by Gurupies as Green Bay was last weekend. We'll find out next week.

    The first cut of Division Rankings was posted yesterday afternoon, and I've gotten a few more divisions to add since then. I had excluded divisions with less than 5 teams in them, but then one division was submitted last night that had only four teams, but the fourth place team had over 20,000 SWP. It's a strong enough division that I think it warrants inclusion. But it would be unfair to just average the four teams, since all other division use a five team average. Similarly, it's seems a bit draconian to assume a score of zero for that division's fifth place entry. I'm thinking about adding a fifth score which is something like the 25th percentile fifth place score for all of the other divisions. This would be a below average fifth place team, but would not be unduly punitive by sacking them with the worst fifth place team from other divisions. Seem fair? On this basis, I think the division in question ranks within the top five divisions, but would not be not be #1 - although that could still change by season end. Anyway, I'll update the rankings later today.

    Finally, a note on site access. A few of you have reported (and I'm sure many of you have noted) difficulty in accessing the RotoGuru site over the last week or so. The problem related to the server for the advertising banners, and not the RotoGuru server itself. AOL accounts, as usual, may have had more problems than most. Flycast, the ad provider, upgraded their server capacity yesterday, and thinks the problems should be corrected today. So, if you're still having access problems today (e.g., long delays in loading, "connection refused" errors, "timed out" errors, etc.), let me know. Otherwise, I'll assume the problems are fixed for the time being. Thanks for your patience.

    12/3 - Today, I'll get caught up on the team rankings, and put out the first division rankings. I'm also a little backlogged on feedback, so I should have some more letters posted later today.

    Don't forget the early roster freeze deadline this week. Rosters must be set by 10:00 CST this morning, thanks to tonight's barnburner between the Eagles and Rams. I wonder if I'll even watch it?

    No big surprises in yesterday's repricing, other than perhaps the magnitude of so many changes. One of my teams went up almost $10 million again. This is getting ridiculous. In SW Hoops, I had one of the top 2 or 3 franchise values, and I could just barely afford the best possible roster. The teams that were just behind me in value generally had to go with one or two slightly inferior players, and that was ultimately my success story. In baseball, I had a pretty high value, but throughout the season, I typically had some price constraints to deal with. I don't think I was ever able to afford the "ultimate dream team". But in football, it's not difficult to find teams that are consistently carrying cash in excess of $10 million from week to week. It's become a game where value management is inconsequential for many, and the challenge is to just pick the best players from week to week. Trades are so plentiful that they aren't a material constraint either. Too bad, since my competitive strengths are in value generation and trade management - but not necessarily point anticipation. Oh well. . . .

    Tomorrow, I'll probably update the Assimilator with the points from tonight's game, so those of you with Duce Staley, or Tony Banks, or Ricky Proehl - check in tomorrow. (I'll bet that will really boost traffic!)

    12/2 - Sometime overnight, SW updated team stats. Accuracy is a big problem, however. On my higher ranked team, only 4 player are correctly scored for last week's game. I can't figure out the cause, although the players that are off are generally high by exactly 10 points or a multiple of 10 points, which seems odd, since there aren't any scoring categories worth ten points (other than kickers). On my other team, Brett Favre is high by 90 points - probably missing his two interceptions from last weekend. Team defenses seem to be off by 45 points in either direction, probably the result of misdirected turnovers. So, the points as posted this morning are obviously going to have to be revised.

    Fortunately, the weekly trade allocations were doled out yesterday afternoon (at the SW site, at least) - in spite of the opening message to the contrary. (Looks like the right hand didn't realize what the left hand had done!)

    I decided to go with Minnesota's defense for one of my teams this weekend, based primarily on the home/away analysis I posted yesterday. I'm going to keep the Jets for my second team. Now, before you go and mimic my choices, let me remind you of my mixed results this season on team defense. Caveat emptor.

    I won't be updating the team rankings, or initiating the division rankings, until the point problems are cleaned up. If the points aren't corrected in the next few days, I'll do a run using the incorrect tallies, but I'm hoping the problems can be solved fairly quickly.

    Assuming prices are updated at the usual time, I should have updated tables available by late afternoon. Happy trading!

    One side note for Gurupies who are playing Central Plaza's Touchdown FF game. As of week 13, four of the top ten leagues are Gurupie leagues, and the only other Gurupie league is ranked 18th. The cream is rising to the top! For individual team rankings, there are now ten Gurupies in the top 50, including the teams ranked 1, 2, 5, and 10! Wish I could say I was doing better, but my two teams are each ranked only fifth in their respective leagues, with my highest team ranked #218 overall. Comparable to my standing in the SW game, I guess. Go Gurupies!

    Note: New article posted at 1pm - Home Cookin'. Something to think about.

    12/1 - Pretty much vintage Steve Young last night. He generated 114 of his 454 SWP by running, and one of his TD passes was actually a 2 yard swing pass that Terrell Owens "juked" into a 79 yard run. In the boxscore, through, it's the same as if Steve launched a deep one.

    This was a weekend where your running backs likely made a big impact one way or the other. If you had Faulk, Anderson, and any of Darrick Holmes, Garrison Hearst, Priest Holmes, Curtis Martin, Napoleon Kaufman, or even Emmitt Smith, your backs piled up a total of 1300+ SWP. Conversely, if you had Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, and Fred Taylor (and I've heard from one Gurupie who did), you got a grand total of 190 SWP. Yikes!

    One stat breakdown that I haven't been tracking is the home/away differentiation. For some teams - particularly team defenses - it doesn't seem to make much difference. But consider the Vikings. They've played 6 at home, and 6 on the road. On the road, their defense averages -584 SWP, and their best road games were in the -390's. At home, however, they average -217 SWP, and the worst home performance was only -355, which is better than any road game. That's a phenomenal disparity. It could be a dome factor, too, since the one road game in a dome - at Detroit - was a -396 SWP game. In fact, the dome/no-dome difference in SWP average is -242 vs. -622, almost as striking. Strength of scheduling may have something to do with it. I'll have to drill down a bit more. Looks like a topic for some more research. In any event, the Vikes are at home this week, vs. the Bears. In Chicago, the Vikings defense surrendered -677 SWP to a Bear offense that has only averaged -334 SWP vs. its opponents. So it's certainly a gutsy call - but one that you should consider, in a week where picking a defense is going to be tricky.

    Gurupie Matt (he didn't give me his last name) wrote to suggest that I promote the Fantasy Football show which airs on the Fox Sports Channel every Friday (at different times). It's called NFL Players Fantasy Football, and is hosted by Brady Tinker, Tony Dorsett, and Bob Golic. Matt says it's a very good show where they give tips and players to watch. Check your local Fox Sports listings for the time in your area. Of course, with a Thursday game this week, the show will be on too late to matter, since the freeze period will be on Thursday morning. Still, there are enough programs around where fantasy sports are ridiculed, so it's good to find some that support the fantasy sports enthusiast. Thanks for the heads up, Matt.

    As of 9:30 am this morning, the weekly allocation of 4 new trades still hadn't been posted, at least at the SW site. Hope that gets fixed before long. I don't have quite enough leftover trades to get everything accomplished for the week, and I suspect some of you are bone dry until you get your next dosage. I wrote to SW to alert them this morning. I assume this isn't related to their "stats server" difficulties.

    Click here for prior daily blurbs, by month:

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    RotoGuru is produced by Dave Hall (a.k.a. the Guru), an avid fantasy sports player. He is neither employed by nor compensated by any of the fantasy sports games discussed within this site, and all opinions expressed are solely his own. Questions or comments are welcome, and should be emailed to Guru<>.