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The Week Ahead, Part 1 - The Schedule

There is inevitably one week during each half of the season that turns out like this. What do I mean by "this"? I mean hard to figure. Usually there are match-ups you feel fairly good investing in like last weekend's Arsenal vs. Blackburn and Manchester City vs. Fulham matches. In both cases the home team had the dual advantages of being far more talented AND playing at home. This makes a great case for heavy investment in players like Robin van Persie who, despite being very expensive, was an obvious choice for fantasy managers everywhere. That turned out pretty well for all of us and those who were even more optimistic and went with Theo Walcott and/or the Ox saw that investment pay off in spades.

This week, the conversation gets a lot tougher. As you have no doubt seen as you started looking at the match-ups last weekend, there isn't even one single stand-out match-up that just begs you to invest in it. The good teams that are playing at home (Manchester United and Tottenham) are playing strong opposition (Liverpool and Newcastle respectively) and the rest of the good teams (City, Chelsea, and Arsenal) are playing solid, mid-table teams on the road (Aston Villa, Everton, and Sunderland respectively).

Sadly, there isn't even a great match-up featuring a strong mid-table team playing at home against a real bottom-feeder. Bolton and Wigan are facing off against each other while Rovers and Wolves are at home against modest opposition in the form of underwhelming-despite-the-reinforcements QPR and West Brom respectively.

Perhaps the most interesting match of the weekend for me will be the mid-table clash between newly-promoted surprise packages Swansea and Norwich which will be fascinating for those neutrals like me who have been captivated by both teams' ability to thrive despite a lack of big name acquisitions last summer or even in January. The excitement aside, this match doesn't involve a clear mismatch so it doesn't really inspire investment over-and-above the norm.

I feel the same way about Fulham vs. Stoke minus the pleasant surprise that goes along with Swansea and Norwich exceeding all expectations.

Given all of that, I'm going to do something I almost never do in looking at the schedule before starting to think about my player picks. You'll have to continue beyond the jump to find out what that is.

The first thing I'm going to do is defer to outside expertise. My "gut" and analysis of the match-ups doesn't lead me to any particularly useful conclusions so I'm going to draft one of our frequent FanPost contributors Rodeo and dive into the realm of advanced statistical analysis for some insight. You can find his complete analysis of the Week 25 match-ups here. The important take-aways are that Manchester City, Tottenham, Blackburn, and Bolton are the best bets to win with the Rovers vs. QPR match looking particularly fertile from an overall goals scored stand-point. I encourage you to read the entire post to find some additional wisdom.

The second thing I'm going to do for those of you who are skeptical of advanced models like the one that Rodeo has created is give you the following piece of advice - play it straight. Look for the players who are consistently strong and give you a good point-to-cost ratio. If the match-ups aren't your friend then you should revert to quality. I'll be back later with some specific recommendations but this is the frame of mind you should be in as you look to adjust your roster.