The 2021 NFL season has been a nightmare for fans, fantasy owners, and bettors alike. Between the league’s parity so far to critical players missing multiple games and the randomness of players added to the COVID list, figuring out your weekly and daily lineups has been a nightmare.
If you came into the year claiming that you knew for sure that New England with a rookie quarterback would be the #1 seed in the AFC at week 14, I’d be asking you for guaranteed stock advice.
The early odds for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl were +3000, so again, if you told us that you knew that they’d be the leader in the AFC, I’d doubt your sanity, but here we are.
Or take a look at the AFC West, where all 4 teams are in the playoff picture with the (always referred to as the San Diego) Chargers and Chiefs “in” right now and the Raiders and Broncos on the outside looking in.
At the Week 14 juncture, the forecast of teams to make the NFL playoffs is unclear, so let’s take a look at where things stand.
In the AFC, you have the Patriots leading at 9-4, with Tennessee, Baltimore, and Kansas City all one game back at 8-4. The Chargers (originally from SAN DIEGO), Cincinnati, and Buffalo are all at 7-5.
The AFC playoff picture as of Week 14:
- New England Patriots
- Tennessee Titans
- Baltimore Ravens
- Kansas City
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Buffalo Bills
On the bubble: Colts (7-6), Raiders (6-6), Steelers (6-6-1), Browns (6-6), Broncos (6-6), Dolphins (6-7).
As you can see, the AFC playoff picture is a bit of a mess and should shake out in the last couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, in the NFC, the depth of quality teams (and players) seems much more top-heavy, with the Arizona Cardinals at 10-2 being the top seed at this juncture, followed closely by the Packers (9-2) and Buccaneers (9-3).
The playoff picture is a little more clear except for the craziness of the NFC East division where the Cowboys currently lead at 8-4, but Washington (6-6), the Eagles at (6-7), and even the Giants (4-7) are mathematically potential NFC East qualifiers.
The NFC playoff picture as of week 14:
- Arizona Cardinals (10-2)
- Green Bay Packers (9-3)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-4)
- Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
- Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
- Washington Football Team (6-6)
- San Francisco 49’ers (6-6)
Teams on the bubble; Vikings (6-7), Eagles (6-7), Carolina Panthers (5-7), Falcons (5-7), and Saints (5-7).
To say that it’s been a crazy, unpredictable season would be an understatement.
Just take a look at the recent reappearance of Minshew Mania in Philadelphia. The Eagles only played the lowly Jets, but Philadelphia is still sitting at the 9-spot (of 7 teams) and still has a chance to qualify for the postseason.
Who would have predicted that at some point Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffery, Saquan Barkley, and Chris Carson would miss some considerable time with Ezekiel Elliot and Aaron Jones having less than dominating seasons?
That’s the top 5 running backs out, and the top 7 running backs overall end up being overvalued based on fantasy points scored this year.
So what does the craziness of the 2021 NFL season’s craziness mean for fantasy owners?
It means you have to have a little luck and delve even deeper than usual into match-ups to try and predict the optimal lineups.
In addition, you may need to look into using a tool like an NFL optimizer for lineup suggestions and free-agent acquisitions or trades (if your league trade deadline hasn’t passed).
The NFL is a match-up-driven league and determining that every week is difficult unless you have the research and tools available to you.
On the other hand, fine-tuning your fantasy football roster requires you to know each week’s key matchups, especially if you lost one of your top draft picks at RB or have an underperforming player (Zeke, Allen Robinson, and Tyreek Hill, hello?!!).
How a team defends against the run, the pass, versus the slot or tight-ends is only the very first thing you need to know.
So utilizing an optimizing tool for your lineups, one that considers explosive plays, tendencies, and how they defend certain positions, will give you a leg up in your league.