The 2013 Fantasy Football Survival Kit

Have you ever seen the show Naked and Afraid? I sure hope not.

There’s a show on Discovery Channel called “Naked and Afraid”, where a man and a woman – strangers – are dropped off in a remote location, told to take off all their clothes and wander into a questionable wilderness for three weeks. Their goal? Survival.

It’s not the most pleasant show in the world to watch. I’d rather not see the bare backside of Jared from Alabama. And watching the contestants eat snakes really isn’t my favorite way to spend a Tuesday night.

The idea of “Naked and Afraid” is survival of the fittest at its finest. There’s no outside communication – no calls for help (Kind of. I mean, there’s a film crew and medical staff on site, I’m sure). There’s only one person to rely on when it comes to decision-making, and that, in and of itself, can be a daunting thing.

If Jared had to set his fantasy football lineup, he’d be screwed. Not just because he has no connection to technology, unable to access, but because he has no fantasy analyst to rely on. He would have no idea how to approach the game in a given year.

There’s no reason for you, Mr. I Live in a Civilized America, to make blind decisions throughout the NFL season. That’s what we’re here for. You’re not in a barren wasteland eating coyote. You’re next to a computer making lineup decisions, probably munching on some Chex Mix.

If, for whatever reason, you venture into an Internet-less adventure throughout the fantasy season – perhaps you’re going on “Naked and Afraid” yourself or traveling to a remote island – remember the things below. They’ll help you make in-season decisions without anyone's help.

Of course, if you can, you should always come back to numberFire for second opinions.

Never Bench Your Studs

The phrase “never bench your studs” is the most common among fantasy circles, and started back in 1977 when one of the fantasy football early adopters benched Walter Payton just before his 275-yard rushing game against Minnesota. (Not really.)

It’s true though: Don’t bench your studs. You drafted them in the early rounds for a reason, and their weekly predictability is unmatched. Taking a chance with Kenny Britt over Brandon Marshall – even if Marshall is seeing Richard Sherman that week – isn’t a worthwhile thing to do. Trust me.

Don’t bench Drew Brees. Don’t bench Adrian Peterson. Don’t bench Calvin Johnson. I don’t care what their matchup says – you’re over thinking it.

You Can Always Rely on a Defense Playing the Raiders

If you had played the defense that matched up against the Chiefs each week last season, you would’ve compiled the third-best fantasy defense. And it's not as though they played against ownable, relevant fantasy defenses either. Perhaps this season’s team to target is the Raiders.

Last year, the Raiders ranked 26th in terms of adjusted net expected points per play. This number looks at how many points an offense was adding on a per play basis, adjusted for matchup. The Raiders, last year, were losing -.04 points on each play.

The only reason the Raiders weren’t ranked lower was because their passing offense wasn’t atrocious with Carson Palmer under center. He’s gone, and the inexperienced Terrelle Pryor is now throwing passes. The passing NEP per play metric is bound to go down, making them anything but a matchup nightmare.

Playing a defense against the Raiders should – at the very least – give you a high floor in your D/ST lineup slot each week. When you need help, look for their opponent off the wire.

When in Doubt, Go Running Back

Your start or sit decisions often come down to flex plays, and that can sometimes be as tricky as building a fire in a swampland on “Naked and Afraid”. The advice here is simple: If you’re in between a receiver or running back, as long as both will be seeing fairly significant touches, go with the running back. They’ll be guaranteed to get you at least a few fantasy points, while the receiver is quarterback dependent.

Now, don’t take this to the extreme. There are certainly instances where a wideout is more valuable in a given week compared to a running back, especially in PPR leagues. But if you want to play it safe, go with the runner.

2-for-1 Deals Are Your Friend

A great way to strengthen your lineup is by trading depth. Almost always, 2-for-1 deals favor the person getting the “1”.

People often evaluate these deals by thinking, “Alright, the two players I’m giving away combine to score 18 points per game, while the one I’m getting only gets 14. I shouldn’t do it.” The obvious problem with this logic is that it’s not as though you’re not filling the now-vacant spot. In order to exceed trade value, you’re only going to need to find a player who can get you four or five points per week. That can be had on the waiver wire quite easily.

Depth matters when bye weeks and injuries hit, but don’t feel bad about giving away two of your guys for one of his. Your lineup – the thing that matters most – is only going to get better.

Don’t Get Cute at the Beginning of the Season

I can’t stress this enough: You need to play it safe at the beginning of the season. The NFL is fickle, and pretending to know everything about a team before the regular season even starts can get you in a lot of trouble.

When you’re making your early-season lineup moves, go with the veterans over the rookies. Go with the proven over the potential. It may not be a sexy way to approach the game, but it’ll get you wins.

You Don’t Need to Back Up Every Position

One thing I often tell folks is to think of the waiver wire as your bench. Though you don’t completely own those players, they’re usually just a click (and a 24-hour wait) away from being on your squad.

Typically, the lower-in-demand positions – quarterback, tight end, defense and kicker – are always going to be readily available in standard, 12-team leagues. You don’t have to back these positions up in your lineup, especially if you’ve got plug-and-play starters on your team.

Why have another tight end on your roster when Jimmy Graham is in your lineup? You’re only going to play that other tight end if an injury occurs. And if an injury does occur, don’t you think there will be viable options off the wire?

Use your bench spots for high-upside running backs and receivers that you can sell high in those 2-for-1 deals I talked about earlier. There’s no need to back up a stud.