Don’t overthink when setting lineups

Clinton Portis faces the Giants in week 1. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)

Clinton Portis faces the Giants in Week 1. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)

There is some definite excitement around the NFL office here in Culver City, Calif., not only for tonight’s season-opening Titans-Steelers game but for the start of another fantasy football season.

Spending all day yesterday researching and writing the Week 1 edition of Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em definitely got me fired up (as if I could be more fired up) for another exciting NFL season. But with the release of this popular column and the start of the regular-season schedule also came the traditional questions:

“Michael,you have Chris Johnson listed as a sit ’em. Should I bench him in favor of Mike Bell,” or “I have Clinton Portis and you have him as an owners beware pick! Should I bench him?”

These questions are perfect examples of over thinking your starting lineup.

In writing the starts and sits for 10 years now, I’ve learned a lot. First, it makes little sense to advise people to start elite players like Drew Brees or Adrian Peterson. If you don’t know to start those players week in and week out, well, I hope you don’t have anything significant at stake in the league!

Second, advising owners to sit players like Byron Leftwich or Demetrius Williams isn’t helping anyone. Who’s starting those guys anyways? Even if it’s a player you’d almost never bench, I’d rather tell you that Portis has just 485 rushing yards (69.3 YPG) and three touchdown runs in last seven games against the Giants.

While it’s true that Chris Johnson and Portis both have unfavorable matchups (based on the numbers, trends, etc.) in Week 1, that doesn’t mean you should bench them. In fact, you’d have to have some serious backfield depth to ever reserve either of these runners outside of injuries.

Don’t make the easier lineup decisions more difficult.

You should instead be choosing between Matt Ryan or Donovan McNabb as your starting quarterback, or Derrick Mason or Donald Driver as your No. 3 wideout. What about Visanthe Shiancoe or Jeremy Shockey at the tight end position?

Those are the choices you should be researching — not whether or not to bench a player you invested an earlier-round pick on in your draft.

So when you look at Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em and see one of your elite players listed with an unfavorable matchup, don’t fret. Remember, even when your stars face tough opponents, chances are you should still keep them active.

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