Why fantasy football is so hard to predict in 2021

Fantasy experts Liz Loza and Matt Harmon attempt to explain why this season in particular is so unpredictable.

Hear the full conversation on the Yahoo Fantasy Football Forecast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.

Video Transcript

LIZ LOZA: Matt, any overriding themes you noticed while watching the games today?

MATT HARMON: I would say that I feel the overriding theme of the entire NFL is just that there's not that much separation between teams, right? We've been talking about that basically all year, that it seems like it's an every-week league where, like, this team-- you know, you feel like they're kind of unstoppable. I mean, the damn Rams have lost, like, three weeks in a row. The 49ers are surging right now. The Bills and Patriots are kind of right neck and neck, in terms of the AFC. So there's all that.

And I also kind of feel like it's bleeding into fantasy a little bit. It feels like there are so very, very few this year, like, "set it and forget it" players. I don't know. Maybe I am just kind of missing players in my mind or whatever. But you know, even a guy like Najee Harris today, who we-- I don't know if we're going to dive deep on that game, 'cause it was an absolute blowout by the Bengals. But like, that's a guy who-- it's just like, ev-- oh, yeah, but the volume. But the volume. But the volume. But the volume. The guy gets, like, 37 scoreless yards today against the Bengals.

It's like, even a guy like that-- you know, those games are going to happen for everybody. But still, it feels like, in terms of just set it and forget it, you have no doubts that this guy is going to come through for you every single week. There's, like, maybe a handful of players like that. And it feels like that's also the case in the actual real-life NFL.

LIZ LOZA: Well, Christian McCaffrey is another example of that--

MATT HARMON: Oh, yeah.

LIZ LOZA: --this particular week, right? Like, 35 rushing yards. And I think what I'm also--

MATT HARMON: Set it and sweat it. That's--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

MATT HARMON: --like, set it and sweat it.

LIZ LOZA: Hashtag that, friend. I think, also, what I'm hear-- like, we always hear about the parity in the NFL, right? And that's a big thing. And it does feel like this year-- I mean, Andy opened a podcast last week saying, like, well, I used to think I knew, by this double-digit weeks of the season, what was going on. But I don't. And I also feel like it's not just-- you know, every year, we say, like, are the injuries this year worse? Don't they just feel worse?

I think it's also-- and I'm curious. I mean, this is just-- I'm brainstorming. But because so much money is tied up into big-name players, there's so little depth. And so when you're dealing, from a fantasy perspective, the way that bleeds in with a team like Tennessee, are you really going to--

MATT HARMON: [INAUDIBLE]

LIZ LOZA: Like, are you going to throw a dart at Nicholas Westbrook-Ikhine, who scores a touchdown but catches two balls this week? Is that what you're really-- or, we talked about Rex Burkhead, right, on FFL, and David Johnson, who looks like dust. So it does feel like what you're scrounging for, you have always, in fantasy, been taught, and for good reason, to avoid. Like, you don't mess with a mess, because it's not going to be fruitful.

And now you're sort of like, well, I have to. And maybe I'll get lucky with Kendrick Bourne or-- and I do think there was some analysis to Kendrick Bourne. But you know, maybe I'll get lucky with Nicolas Westbrook-Ikhine. But when guys like-- when Geoff Swaim is not active, and you're like, huh, I got to factor that in, stuff's awry. Stuff's amiss, you know?

MATT HARMON: Yeah, no, I completely agree. The lack of depth is interesting there. And it's just-- yeah, it seems like this year more than ever, we're-- and again, it's maybe the same thing with the injuries, where it is this way every year. But it just feels like we're talking about goofballs, like, all the time, you know? In these, like, start-sit questions early in the morning, it's like, I don't really want to tell you to start Dontrell Hilliard. And I'm really not--

LIZ LOZA: Yeah, I was getting mad. Could you tell? I think I was--

MATT HARMON: Yeah.

LIZ LOZA: --getting irritated.

MATT HARMON: Yeah. It was like this--

LIZ LOZA: We were all getting irritated.

MATT HARMON: Yeah, it's like the same thing with D'Onta Foreman last week. [INAUDIBLE] just like, why are we talking about D'Onta Foreman in, like, every frickin' question? It's like, I don't even feel bad if a guy like Dontrell Hilliard goes and pops off, and I told you not to play him, because it's like, how can you feel-- it's frickin' Dontrell Hilliard, you know?

If I'm misanalyzing, like, Cam Newton, I feel bad about tell-- and what are you going to do? It's not my fault that he goes out there and plays poorly, right? But at the same time, it's like, man, I feel bad about that one. That's just-- I should have projected this, this, and that. But like, some of these guys that we're talking about-- it's tough. And it's not like-- I'm not trying to sit here and be like, oh, boo-hoo, Matt and Liz. That's not at all what I'm saying. It's just-- it's a difficult year to play fantasy, I think, this year more than ever, because of the lack of just, like, "set it and forget it" guys and the fact that you do have to consider these players in your flex spot, potentially.

It's also like-- I actually kind of feel like, in a way, Liz-- I know we're so off the beaten path at this point. But I tell people every year, like, this is basically how fantasy football is, where usually-- and this is anecdotal evidence. Don't come at me with the numbers. Usually, there's one team that's just absolutely crushing it, right? You know, at this point, it's like 8 and 2 or something. They've been on a dominant run. And then there's, like, the teams that just have no shot. They're dead in the water.

But then there's this big group in the middle there from, like, 2 to 7, or even 2 to eighth place, that is right around .500, one game above, one game below, that still realistically has a shot to make, like, the fantasy playoffs, you know? And those are the ones that are churning through these, like, Dontrell Hilliard, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine or whatever. And that feels like the entire NFL. There's all these groups, like, in the middle. So maybe, in a weird way, the two worlds are blending more than we think.

LIZ LOZA: Are colliding. Correct.

MATT HARMON: Yeah, worlds are colliding, Jerry.

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