The NFL season is rapidly winding down, there are only two weeks left in the regular season. While there will still be some playoff contests after the regular season, now is a good time to start planning on how you will approach the off season. The reason I bring this up this week is week 17. Perhaps you do not want to play week 17 since there is the potential for good players to see limited playing time. Your goal this week is still week 16, but in week 17, you want to start working on improving your team building for next season. As I have often mentioned in this space, your goal each week is to become a better owner, which should also be your goal for each season. You want to end the season knowing more about building good teams each week than you started the season out knowing.

I think the most important thing you can do is look at your winning and losing teams for the season, and try and find any similarities. No, every week will not be the same – if it were winning would be much easier – but a full season worth of contests does provide an ample sample size to start evaluating your team building. Start by looking at your winning teams. Are there any trends that you notice? For example, did you seem to win in weeks where you spent less at quarterback, but more at wide receiver? Were you able to win despite missing a pick or two? Did you only win when you nailed all of your picks? Really, the questions are endless, and you need to ask and answer as many as you can.

One question to consider asking is what contests did you do well in? Did you do better in 50/50’s than in GPP’s? Did you do better in contests with a full slate of games? Did you do better in late games? For me, I did better in late games. That is perfectly understandable since once of my columns is “NFL Late Game Picks” which means that I spend more time looking at those games, and thus should do better. If you are consistently doing well in a certain type of contest, you will strongly want to consider entering more of that type of contest next season. I am not saying that you ignore the other options, just that you play what you are best at, thus increasing your chances at winning money.

You also need to look at all of the times you lost, and try and determine the reasons you did so. Again, your first goal is to find any similarities. Sure, you do not want to find any, but if you do, it is actually a good thing. If you have been making a correctable mistake in your loses, that means you can correct the error; correcting that error means you will be in a better position to win in the future. I am not talking about missing on a player once in a while, I am talking, first and foremost, about similarities in roster composition that are a common theme in your losing teams.

For me, I have not done well when I invested in an elite quarterback this season. It is not that I missed on the quarterbacks in most cases, since I did not. The problem was, that splurging for the higher priced quarterbacks meant spending less at other position – most notably wide receiver. I did much better when I spend $6,500 – $7,000 for my quarterback than when I spent $7,500+ for my QB. Also, I did not do well when I went cheap – less than $4,500 — with one of my starting running backs. Sure, I did manage to hit on a couple cheap RB during the season, but I missed more often than I hit, and the misses ended up “costing” me money.

Make no mistake, this is not going to be a quick process. You are not going to be able to do this in an hour or even two. You need to look back at all your contests in the off-season, the more time you can spend the better. The more trends you can find among your winning and losing teams the better. Winning takes work, getting better takes work. You will never get better if you cannot figure out why you are winning or losing. This process will be much easier if you have been keeping track of your winning and losing teams during the season, but even if you did not, you do have a long time to look back at your teams. There is no need to rush through the evaluation process, the key is simply to find the time to do so. Taking that time, will make you a better owner next season.