and Ian Millman
Last Updated: Jul 14, 2010 7:34 PM
Fantasy Football University – Class VIII
Who Should You Start?
The most important decision in Fantasy Football, after the draft, is WHO DO I START? It is so important to start the right guys each week, because otherwise you are not optimizing your roster. How many Mondays and Tuesdays have you been kicking yourself, saying, “I would have won, only if I had started him?”
We were tired of that, now we never kick ourselves because we created a formula, called the FFCPI. It stands for the Fantasy Football Champs Performance Index, and it accurately orders fantasy football players according to their expected output for the upcoming week. Players are assigned ratings (from 1-99), the higher numbers representing a better probability of higher fantasy performance. But more about the FFCPI in a moment. Let's get one thing straight: When you submit your starting lineup for the week, on Saturday or Sunday, you can only by definition choose from a pool of your current existing players. You drafted your team, made some trades and picked the waiver wire clean. These are the guys you are going to war with! The decision on which to start each week is the most important decision you make in fantasy football!
Relying on the FFCPI to Win
Back in 1999, (after winning several league championships); the Fantasy Football Champs formally invented the FFCPI. We wanted to put together a computer application that would more efficiently do what we were doing. We were looking for a system, a mathematical, computer driven formula that would accurately forecast expected fantasy output. It had to be not only unemotional, but also take into account other features about the players, other than just their natural ability.
We decided that most other experts made one crucial mistake. They put too much emphasis on the individual level of talent of the quarterback, the running back, wide receiver or tight end and never factored in things like: strength of schedule, bye weeks, whether the team was coming off a win or a loss, home field advantage, how performance was affected by the field temperature, grass or Astroturf and the level of skill of the opposing defense. By not plugging in these other variables the experts were missing the boat. So we created the definitive formula and have used it ever since. The result is the most accurate weekly cheatsheet you can get your handd on. As a matter of fact, the weekly cheat sheet is so accurate; it's unfair to the rest of your league!
The FFCPI takes the guesswork out of who you should start each week. It takes the emotions out of your selections. Simply stated, do not make another move without consulting the FFCPI first. This is the system that has propelled us to numerous league scoring titles and championships, not to mention losing one league in 2000, when another owner used our beloved FFCPI against one of us in the Super Bowl to make a roster change. He has since been barred from subscribing to our site.
Remember, that in order to win on a consistent basis you must maximize your starting roster each week. The system (the FFCPI) has two major steps. Firstly, our expertise is utilized because we assign every player a raw “relative strength”. These ratings are reviewed every week and tweaked as things change. The second part is a proprietary formula. Once again, the FFCPI takes into account everything from the level of competition, home field advantage, player's tendencies, to what they ate for breakfast. All this is plugged into a computer and spat back to us in the order that you see every week.
The FFCPI is released on Wednesdays and updated right up until game time on Sundays. The major strength of our system is that it is unemotional. The FFCPI doesn't have any favorite players. The FFCPI doesn't have a player that helped it to a championship last year. It jumps on players who are going to be hot and sends them to the bench when they are going to be cold.
Most owners will ride a hot player all the way to the North Pole. The FFCPI doesn't do that. Most people hate to admit they are wrong, and benching someone you drafted high would be doing just that. So they fall in love with the players that they draft, and they fall in love with the players they labeled as sleepers. So when they don't perform as expected, they stick with them and say, “They'll come around. I have a gut feeling about him.” The FFCPI can help by taking the emotions out of your selections. It flat out tells you who has the best odds of succeeding in a given week, with no human emotions attached.
Ok, I am about to make a major point here- so listen up! No one has to tell you to start your studs each week. No one has to be told to start Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson. The FFCPI is really designed to select your 2nd and 3rd tier starters. When you are looking for your second or third wide receiver or your second running back and it's a toss up, the FFCPI's effectiveness is immeasurable. Remember you “Always Start your Studs”, but you maximize the amount of points you put up every week by making as many as possible of these secondary decisions correctly each week.
Although most league scoring systems vary, let's agree to the following (at least for illustration purposes): Most winning fantasy football teams (for the week) put up between 100-150 total points (in typical performance scoring leagues) … and … Most losing fantasy teams (for the week) put up between 80-100 total points. The difference between beating your weekly opponent and losing to him is usually within about a 20-point range (10-20% either way) and sometimes (most of us know this all too well) it's much closer than that (a matter of a few points). If winning teams average about 125 points a week and losing teams average 90 points that's a difference of 35 points.
Now, I'll agree that 35 points is a lot to make up, not that many players score that much in a given week (maybe only 2 to 3 times in a given week). However, there are dozens of players that score between 20-30 points in a given week. Chances are if you were able to change just two of your decisions each week, after Sundays results, you might go 16-0 at the end of the season. If your league starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker, one defense (9 players total that means that each player is averaging about 15-20 points per week). We already stated that the difference between winning and losing is about 20 points a week. That means in order to win you have to only be right on one or two more of your starting decisions!
This is where having the FFCPI can really help. It can help you make those two extra incremental starting decisions each week. Players listed above (with a higher number, i.e. ranking on the FFCPI) other players generally outperform players listed below them about 70-80% of the time. That means you have about a 3 in 4 chance of making the right starting decision by consulting the FFCPI. This system should easily allow you to pick up between 2-3 extra wins per season if followed correctly. That could turn a mediocre 8-8 season into a tremendous 11-5 campaign with a trip to the playoffs and then to a possible championship season! Remember what Vince Lombardi said, “The difference between being great and being average is just giving an extra 10%.” In baseball the difference between being a career .300 hitter (going to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown) and being a mediocre .250 hitter (and possibly getting sent down to the minors) is an average of 2 hits a week over the course of a 500 at-bat season.
The FFCPI is the only weekly cheat sheet available that holds itself accountable. Every week it is reviewed on the website. It is uncanny as to how accurate it has been; in terms of not only gross output of the players but also the degree to which it correlates to the order of their rankings. We know you will be very impressed with the results. We are very proud of them. You will also find that a lot of players (particularly earlier in the season) that were considered sleepers early, were more highly ranked then some more popular names. For example, we picked up on Ray Rice and Miles Austin in the preseason last year. Two years ago it was Matt Forte. That's why we say “the FFCPI picks your starters and uncovers more sleepers!”
Generally speaking, studs and “A” players are ranked higher on the FFCPI because they have so much more individual talent than “B” players. But, also remember that the raw relative strength numbers we input into the model consistently change as the season progresses. We do months of work before the season starts, computing all the variables. We spend about 40 hours a week constantly monitoring all the changes that happen, when they happen. Now, is this something you could do yourself? Well the truth is, maybe some of you could. But do you really want to do all that work yourself on 200 players when we do it for you for less 2 bucks a week? Oh yeah, one more thing: The FFCPI gets it right!!! It's our secret weapon for winning.
Start Your Studs
Always start your studs, especially early in the year. It is less painful for your stud to underperform in your lineup, than watching him blow up with a huge performance in the week that you decided to bench him. Start your studs, even if your backups have a great match-up. Just remember that your stud is in that class by consistently doing well against the best defenses in tough match-ups.
What to Look for in the NFL Schedule
Look for teams that have favorable match-ups, namely in Week 14-16, which is the fantasy playoffs in most leagues. An average player can post better numbers in a season if his team plays an easy schedule. This is also where you can stash some players late in fantasy drafts, and employ them in your lineups for a good match-up. Again, do not bench a stud to get these players into your lineup though. This plan is best utilized for your No. 3 receiver. You have to look for advantages anywhere you can to be successful in fantasy football. For example, Pierre Garcon is a player worth stashing, as the Colts have favorable match-ups against poor pass defenses in Week 14 (Tennessee), Week 15 (Jacksonville) and also Week 16 (Oakland).
Adverse weather conditions could directly impact fantasy production. A team is going to have trouble throwing in the snow or rain, which in turn will result in that team pounding the ball more on the ground. We at FF Champs update the weather conditions around the league on game day, advising which players are worth holding out. This is also very important to monitor for kickers, which is why we like to draft ones that play their home games in a dome.