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Six secrets to winning your fantasy football league

They don’t just hand these suckers out. Actually, they sell them at Old Navy.

But you don’t want a t-shirt that you didn’t earn.

That won’t save your self-esteem after a subpar finish this fantasy football season.

In my league, finishing last means hosting next year’s draft party, which also translates into picking up a good-sized bar tab.

Not wanting to dip into the kids’ college fund to pay for my buddies’ beer again, I had to succeed in 2009. But how?

Before my disastrous, dead-last finish in 2008, I won the league in 2007. So, I started recalling strategies that bred success back then.

But it would take more to win in 2009. The league was deeper. Aside from one guy winning 12 regular season games and another losing 11, we had crazy parity.

So, I mixed my old tricks with a new approach and won a tough league in 2009.

Yes, I did start the Browns D/ST in my championship game, but that’s just part of one of the six secrets I’m about to share.

1. Defense wins championships?

My ass.

In my 14-team league, the difference between the defense averaging the most points and the one averaging the fourteenth-most was just 3.5 points.

On draft day, the usual suspects went like a pack of firecrackers (Ravens! Broncos! Vikings!). When my turn came, I opted for offense over the Chargers, Panthers or Seahawks D/ST.

Instead of feeling defenseless, I looked for matchups all year and swapped defenses accordingly. When the matchup opportunities weren’t there, I chose to not start a D instead of picking up a team that might go negative on me.

Playing D/ST roulette allowed me to grab the 26th-ranked Browns when they had two great matchups (Chiefs, then Raiders) in back-to-back weeks.

In the last three games, I either started the Browns D/ST, or none at all. I won all three games.

2. Be monogamous

Feel the need to double up? Ask Tiger Woods how that works out.

It’s not impossible to dominate more than one fantasy football league at a time. People like @plamorte, @MuchAdo1, @GrantKamin and @KenNutter all did it this year.

But with all your focus on one league, your chances of success are better simply because you’re not having to keep up with an exponential amount of moves.

I’m sure plenty of you will disagree with me on this one, but I tried three leagues last year and just one this year. You already know what happened.

3. Get a second opinion

Whether someone says you have a terminal illness or you’ve won the lottery, chances are you’ll seek a second opinion.

If you’re wondering why all those two-league winners listed above have names that start with “@,” you probably haven’t ever used Twitter, which means you’re missing out on a goldmine of fantasy-football information.

My voice of reason in the Twitterverse was @FantasyDaddy. Others, like @Thefantasynerd and @daverichard also proved to be valuable sounding boards for game-day decisions.

No Twitter for you? Try FantasyDaddy.com, CBSSports.com’s Fantasy Football Today or ESPN’s Fantasy Focus.

4. Chief concerns

Since the Kansas City Chiefs are my hometown team, I’ll catch heat for this one, too.

If you have the opportunity to start a big-play threat against the Chiefs, do it.

Rewind to Week 5: Dallas at Kansas City. Miles Austin, a known burner who had only scored 11, 2.8, 0.8 and 3.9 the previous four weeks in my league would turn the fantasy football world upside-down.

I had actually drafted Austin, but dropped him after Week 2, only to pick him up again at the right time.

Upon hearing that Dallas’ top WR, Roy Williams, would not play–I grabbed Austin that Sunday morning. He scored 37.8 points, and my opponent basically accused me of practicing voodoo.

Bonus point: A week later, I sold high–giving up Austin in a four-player trade that netted me Vincent Jackson, who averaged 16.1 points for the next four weeks. I went 3-1 in that stretch, losing only to the guy with whom I made the aforementioned trade. Jackson outscored Austin by 6.5 that day, though.

5. Get by with a little help from your friends

This one is simple: if you have the opportunity to start the WR from the same team as your opponent’s starting QB, do it.

Of course, this is a no-brainer when you have Andre Johnson and your opponent starts Matt Schaub. It can be a tougher decision when you have Deion Branch and he starts Matt Hasselbeck.

Perhaps you remember the story about that time I started the semi-unknown Miles Austin. Guess who my opponent’s QB was that week.

The reality is, you’re getting points when his QB throws to your WR. Amazing how many people don’t give extra consideration to lesser receivers in this situation.

6. Move it or lose it

It’s easy to make move after move when your league has no limit or penalty on transactions.

This year marked our move to pay-per-transaction, an unsettling change that would ultimately pay the bills for the online management of the league.

For the first two weeks, I tried hard to be conservative. I lost both games.

Then I put blinders on to the transaction fee. I decided “losing” half as much on transactions as I would funding the draft party would probably put me in a better situation, in terms of wins and losses.

From there, I won 10 of 13. Losses came to the league’s highest single-game scorer (158.8 to my 104.2), the regular-season win leader (12-1) and the team to whom I traded Miles Austin.

You’ve got to spend money to make money.

The secrets are out

Guess they’re not secrets anymore. Best of luck to you next year. Hope you don’t have to host the draft party.

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