When you first started playing fantasy football, the idea of being an amateur GM probably seemed easy. You drafted a team of players you liked, you made some trades and each week you set a lineup with the hopes of outscoring your opposition. Sounds simple, right?
It is, if you can predict what is going through the minds of 32 different coaches and coordinators. Lineup decisions can be difficult, and deciphering the information you are given, coupled with the need to be predictive, is what drives fantasy owners to the brink of insanity.
When the Colts’ Marlon Mack broke his hand last Sunday, Jonathan Williams replaced him in the game and put forth a performance that was equally strong. Fantasy owners in need of a running back immediately ran to the waiver wire, grabbed him and hoped to start him in Week 12 without concern. But coming into Thursday’s game, there was talk of a shared backfield in which Williams would split touches with Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, and suddenly the decision to use him wasn’t so easy.
As it turned out, it was. Williams carried the ball 26 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, offering up a fantastic reprise of his Week 11 performance. Hines had just nine carries and two receptions while Wilkins — who many speculated would, at the very least, handle the goal-line and short-yardage work — logged just one snap all night. Colts coach Frank Reich showed you how he would handle his backfield last week and those who tried to overthink it got burned.
Welcome to Occam’s razor — the math principle that states how the right answer to a problem is, most often, the simplest one. Do I start Williams this week or do I try one of the other two? Reich gave you the answer, and yes, the decision was that simple.
Now it is up to you to apply the same principle to your decisions for Sunday. Jaylen Samuels has been the Steelers’ lead back with James Conner on the sidelines. But what about the return of Benny Snell? Or what about Trey Edmunds? Should you get cute or do you listen to Occam’s razor, which tells you to stick with Samuels? Learn from the Colts.
What about in Detroit? Bo Scarbrough emerged from the shadows to lead the Lions backfield against Dallas last week. Was it just a revenge-game narrative or something the Lions have been looking for ever since Kerryon Johnson got hurt? Are Ty Johnson or J.D. McKissic going to get a chance to lead this backfield again against Washington? Learn from the Colts.
Don’t be a victim of paralysis by analysis — too many options, too many scenarios, too much thinking. After a while you’ve talked yourself into a new plan 20 times over. Lineup decisions shouldn’t be this complicated. Learn from the Colts.
Howard Bender is VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays at 4 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice and NFL player rankings.