Fantasy Doctor: The guessing game

There is only so much we can predict.

When it comes to guessing outcomes, we’re all guilty. Sometimes it’s easy to predict, like the Jags losing to the Seahawks. Other times, we’re incredulous that the Giants could ever allow the Panthers to pitch a 38-point shutout against them.

We get these gut feelings, and then we choose to either accept or reject them. After a few seasons of average and sloppy writing, it was pretty clear the “Dexter” series finale was going to be about the same. I fought against the idea because I loved the show, but ultimately, it was a disappointment.

The truth, though, is that we don’t know everything. I could have guessed Peyton Manning was going to be a rock star quarterback this season. I may have predicted Philip Rivers would let me down each and every time I relied on him. But no matter how much we may try to deny it, we can’t be sure of anything.

And that’s not a bad thing, either. Not knowing is part of the fun of fantasy football. When those week-to-week matchup projects pick me to lose by 20 points and my wide receiver gamble pays out a big W, I’m elated and drawn in by the sheer excitement.

It still works the other way, too. Your team can disappoint you next week just as much as it impressed you this week, but that’s a risk we all agree to take as fantasy owners. It’s the thrill of any outcome and all possibility that pulls us in.

Owning a fantasy team is similar to having a gambling addiction. You’re playing the odds. You stand to lose more than you can gain. Excessive investment can leave you estranged from your family, friends and girlfriend. The only major difference is there aren’t lasting consequences, which allows you to step back and appreciate the fact that you’re playing a game of chance.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Fantasy football should be about having fun. It’s why I write about it every week, because I love talking about the NFL and doing my best to give advice and analysis. After three weeks of great takes and heartbreaks, here are Week 4’s pickups and drops.

Pickups

Brian Hartline (wide receiver, Dolphins, owned in 43.4 percent of ESPN leagues) The addition of Mike Wallace was expected to stifle Brian Hartline’s stardom, but Wallace has busted two of three weeks while Hartline has stayed a constant, under-the-radar threat at 18 catches for 283 yards and two touchdowns. Miami will be looking to make a statement against the Saints on Monday night, which likely means a pass-heavy performance from Tannehill. Also, Wallace’s last-season resume still earns him the bulk of the defense’s attention, making Hartline a reliable grab when looking to fill a hole in your lineup.

Bengals D/ST (98.2 percent) — Minnesota may have been embarrassed by Hoyer-led comeback for the Browns, but don’t expect the same from the Bengals. After downing the Packers and snagging two picks from Aaron Rodgers, the Bengals secondary will be looking to abuse Hoyer’s inexperience. That packages well with an improving pass rush, which held Rodgers to 244 yards last week and resulted in four sacks (six on the season). Add in the fact that, well, it’s the Browns, and the Bengals defense looks like a hot choice for Week 4. They’re probably not available, but if they are, grab them. And if you have them, start them.

Drops

Eli Manning (quarterback, Giants, 100 percent) Shutout by the Panthers? C’mon, Eli, you can do better than that. You will do better than that. But Kansas City isn’t going to be the place. Manning has thrown eight picks in three weeks and only produced 931 passing yards, but it’s not Manning himself you should be worried about. It’s the 15 sacks the Chiefs have made so far and the Giants’ poor offensive line. Good pass rush is going to make an already-rocky Eli even worse, so keeping him around isn’t going to do you any good.

Montee Ball (running back, Broncos, 95 percent) — For a guy who was hyped in the preseason, Ball has turned out some of the poorest numbers around. In three games, he’s only generated 99 rushing yards, no touchdowns and a measly seven points. Plus, when splitting the carries with Knowshon Moreno (30 points) and Ronnie Hillman (16 points) who both offer more pass protection, it’s hard to expect frequent handoffs. It doesn’t help when you have a legend of a quarterback making pass plays work with everyone and anyone he can. Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker — these are all reasons why you should drop him right now.

J.J. is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Wilsonable07.