By Brian Spencer
I should have known better.
Heading into the Patriots’ Week 10 matchup with the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Tom Brady had been performing like your everyday, run-of-the-mill fantasy quarterback. Since Week 3 against the toothless Buffalo Bills, Goldie Locks had thrown more than 2 TD passes just once and had yet to top 300 yards passing in any game, period. Real-life wins and losses matter not in the ratings driver that is this imaginary sport: while Brady was leading his Patriots to the top of the AFC, he was simultaneously barely keeping millions of imaginary teams above water, including mine.
Detroit Lions backup Shaun Hill, on the other hand, had become a viable low-end QB1 for over a month after stepping in for the injured Matthew Stafford (he of the golden throwing arm with a throwing shoulder made of Pyrite). During a four-week span before he suffered an injury of his own (broken left forearm), Hill posted the highly useful totals of 1,130 yards passing (including two games with over 330 yards), 8 TDs, and 6 INTs. The picks limited his value, to be sure, but two or three of those were the receiver’s fault, not Hill’s.
You know where this is going, right?
Fast forward to Week 10, which saw Brady travel to Pittsburgh to take on one of the best defenses in the league, and Hill make his return behind center for the Lions at Buffalo, which was fielding one of the statistically worst defenses in the league. Things hadn’t been the same in New England since Brady lost his lone, consistent playmaker in Randy Moss; things also hadn’t been the same–in a good way–in Detroit since Calvin Johnson began flexing his muscles, Nate Burleson came back to the lineup, and Brandon Pettigrew had developed into one of the NFC’s leading pass-catching tight ends.
In the end, I went against my best judgement (and my own fantasy advice) and got cute: I played the matchup and started Hill. That didn’t work out so hot:
Brady: 30-43, 350 yards, 3 TDs, 1 rushing TD, 35.87 fantasy points
Hill: 29-50, 323 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 17.64 fantasy points
That’s a difference of about 18 points; I lost my matchup by 23, but that’s besides the point. (Adrian Peterson, I don’t appreciate that performance, buddy.)
In getting cute and benching the guy I drafted with my second-overall pick for a guy I picked up on waivers, I rode short-term logic and ignored long-term results. Real-life results like the fact that Brady has a higher career QB Rating against the Steelers than anybody else, and that Brady has beaten Pittsburgh six of seven times and four of five times in Pittsburgh. And that Brady has proven he can step up in big games regardless of who he’s throwing to. Hill? Well, Hill has a YMCA physique, journeyman’s pedigree, and wears honolulu blue for a team that never, ever wins on the road.
I don’t expect you to care about my fantasy team’s fate, specifically, but there’s a moral to this story: don’t bench your studs, especially this late in the season. Don’t outsmart yourself. You drafted these guys in the first, second, and third rounds for a reason, and even if they’ve underperformed up until this point, you can’t turn back now as long as they’re healthy. Roll with ’em and hope for the best.
Tom Brady Photo Credit: Icon SMI