Anatomy of a winning team

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In my "big money" fantasy football league we play two eight-week seasons, meaning the first half ended on Monday night. I love the two-half system for a number of reasons. Did I tell you I won the first half?

Here are the arguments for a two-half system.

First off, everyone enjoys Draft Day...the camaraderie of meeting the guys over a few "cold ones," the excitement of selecting a new team, and the chance to out-wit the competition. If one is good, two must be twice as much fun.

It's also good insurance to prevent a "lost season." An injury to your No.1 choice can ruin an entire year of watching NFL games if you play a single season. I remember losing my top draft choice, Seattle star running back Curt Warner back in 1984 in the first game of the season against Cleveland. With my team hopelessly behind, I barely paid much attention to my fantasy lineup or the NFL for much of the second half of the year.

More recently, think back to 2008 when Tom Brady went down on Opening Day. Or if you drafted Jamaal Charles in the first round this past August, you might already be thinking about giving up on this year's team.

Not in a two-half system.

Under our rules, the disappointment of the first half of the season is wiped away and you can start fresh beginning in Week 9.

I brought back an "old school" strategy to win the first half.

The NFL may be called a "passing league" these days, but I didn't stock up on quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. No, I did it the way we used to back in the early years of fantasy football. I drafted what I thought would be the two best running backs.

I bypassed Arian Foster and his preseason injury problems, tried to warn off everyone from drafting Chris Johnson with numerous stories on this site and ignored up-and-comers Ray Rice and Charles. Instead, I put most of by budget on Mr. Consistency - Adrian Peterson and a grossly undervalued Fred Jackson. Between the two, I spent 45% of my budget.

With that much invested in two starting backs and a total of 51% of my total budget in running backs, I made the decision to gamble on my ability to choose between two middle-of-the-road quarterbacks each week - Kevin Kolb and Eli Manning. I ended up using Kolb just twice (Week 1 and Week 7) as Manning played like a top-10 quarterback. And as it turns out, Kolb averaged a solid 21 points in the two games he started for me - against Carolina and Pittsburgh.

My receiving corps was an underachieving group as a whole, but scored just enough to get me over the top. Roddy White was my largest expenditure, but failed to live up to expectations. I don't believe he's been completely healthy all season. My No.2 receiver Marques Colston missed two full games and was slow to return to full throttle. Steve Johnson of Buffalo limped through much of the first half, never once cracking the 100-yard mark.

Fortunately, my tight end Rob Gronkowski, more than made up for my receiving mediocrity and is No.2 at his position. And the best news was that I only paid $1 for the Patriots tight end.

I made one major error at the draft, but it didn't hurt me at all. I drafted two teams with the same bye week - the Jets and the Bears. It was easy enough to drop one (Chicago) and I made the right pickup, selecting Buffalo for the Week 8 game against Washington, which of course ended up being a 23-0 win for the Bills, including nine sacks.

I also made one other key pickup which helped me through the bye weeks. That was Dallas Cowboys rookie running back DeMarco Murray. I started him the final two weeks and he totaled 327 rushing yards and a score worth 45 points.

Evaluating the first half, I made three key decision which led to victory. I choose the correct two running backs to anchor the lineup. I spent very little on my tight end, but received top-two value. And the two pickups I made performed as well as the starters they replaced.

Now the only question is...can I do it again when we re-draft on Friday?

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at

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