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Think fast, check the weather, but don't overmanage

If you're still managing your fantasy team, you've had a good year.

For most leagues, Week 15 is either the first or second weekend of playoff matchups. So if your team is still alive you've done a great job steering your ship. Now is not the time to slip up.

Here are a few things to be aware of as the NFL's season winds down:

*Those terrible Thursdays: Sure, they help keep the NFL's coffers full because of the prime-time advertising. But they're a beast for fantasy owners. From Weeks 12 through 16, we're all forced to accelerate our brains at an uncomfortable rate.

If one of your players gets dinged on Sunday and his team plays again on Thursday night, good luck getting any meaningful updates in the interim.

Most leagues now allow lineup decisions not involving those in the Thursday games to be made at the normal deadline but some don't. If you're among the latter group there is absolutely no time to dally.

*Keep an eye to the sky: This is the time of the year when the elements can factor into some lineup decisions, though probably not this mild weekend. December normally means snow, ice and howling winds in the Northeast and Midwest, a detail apparently lost on the NFL last spring when it scheduled half the Buffalo Bills' home season after Thanksgiving.

This is a sensitive area because you shouldn't allow the threat of bad weather to influence common sense. Your stars are your stars whether it's snowing or San Diego sunny. Nobody is saying to sit Peyton Manning or LaDainian Tomlinson. (L.T. did pretty well on a crummy day at Ralph Wilson Stadium two weeks ago, scoring twice and rushing for 178 yards.)

Your fringe players, specialists and rotating starters are where the weather may become a factor.

Say you've got Miami's Olindo Mare and Mike Nugent of the New York Jets as your kickers. Since the Dolphins are at often-windy Orchard Park on Sunday while the Jets face the Minnesota Vikings indoors at the Metrodome, logic says go with Nugent.

*Don't overmanage: If deciding which defense/special teams to start is keeping you awake nights you're taking this stuff way too seriously.

You didn't get this far by using a Ouija Board did you? So give yourself a little credit and trust your first instincts, then live with the results.

You've had 14 weeks to identify your studs and duds. Don't let one game -- say the four touchdown passes by Kansas City's Trent Green in an overtime loss at Cleveland in Week 13 -- vault him past a more reliable option like New Orleans' Drew Brees. Ditto for the four TDs scored by Saints rookie running back Reggie Bush that same day against the San Francisco 49ers. If you've got Bush and Saints teammate Deuce McAllister to choose between, the smart money says stay with Deuce. After all, Bush had scored just twice -- one coming on a punt return -- in his first 11 games, and the injury-marred Green didn't throw a scoring pass before seeing the Browns, who rank among the bottom third in scoring passes allowed with 18.

*Enjoy the view: All that draft preparation in August has already paid dividends. So the real pressure has already passed. Though the money normally comes from playoff success, the true measure of fantasy knowledge (or luck) is measured over the course of the long regular season. If you're still standing rest assured that those who are not have been duly impressed.

Most owners are still fans first. Don't let your fantasy matchup ruin your appreciation of Sunday night's showcase between two of the NFL's top running teams when the Chiefs (who rank seventh with 133.3 yards per game) and Larry Johnson travel to San Diego to face L.T. and his Chargers (No. 3, 152.3 per). Or Monday night's beauty matching up two of the NFL's best passing attacks -- Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and the Cincinnati Bengals (No. 4, 249.5) at Indianapolis against Manning's Colts (No. 2, 272.2).

Don't root against the Bills just because a big day by Chris Chambers helps your fantasy squad. (Remember last December when he was a Buffalo killer with a team-record 15 catches for 238 yards and a score in Miami's unlikely 24-23 comeback victory?)

Don't tear up the living room if a fantastic catch by Indy's Marvin Harrison makes the bell toll for your fantasy team. Hey, there's always next year.

If you really want to punish yourself take up golf instead.

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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