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Week 12

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I invited readers who are proud of their fantasy websites to share the links to those sites (provided they were not password protected) with other readers who are on the lookout for new ideas.

Craig’s response is fairly representative of the most promising feedback I received:

I’m pretty sure that you do not need a password/username to view our site.

Obviously, being done on ESPN’s site there probably isn’t a whole lot that is unique enough for other leagues to copy. However, the one feature that we have every year is posting of “faux news stories” on the front page each week (or almost each week), where we tear into certain teams, that week’s games, upcoming games, etc. In our 11-12 man league, it’s usually only 3-4 of us that actually put in effort to make one up, but everybody usually enjoys reading them, and it sort of adds a fictional history to the league to go along with the actual history of us playing together. Some examples would be creating mascots and spokespersons for other teams (usually something that’s embarrassing or silly like Grimace from McDonald’s fame), throwing around ‘rumors’ as to why one team did well one week, or just some good old fashioned ribbing. Inevitably we’ve always brought up references to previous years, created ‘rivalry’ match-ups between opponents, and even division loyalty (South division is superior to North division). Maybe most will see this as a waste of time, but in the several leagues I’ve played in over the past 5 years, this one has been my favorite mainly for this added effort which intensifies the feeling of ownership in the league.

I had the same experience with Craig’s link as with many of the other links I received. Since I already had an account with ESPN, I was able to get into the site itself, but unable to access Craig’s private league.

Craig does a great job of describing the feature of his league that he thinks is worth sharing, but it would certainly be easier to sell most readers on his idea if they could actually see the website itself. (Perhaps readers who are savvier than I am are actually looking at Craig’s website now, but I’ve decided against sharing more links to error pages.)

Another problem that I encountered (in part because I am out of my technological depth when it comes to html) was the link to a placeholder page. In some cases, no matter what address I used to access a fantasy website, I ended up on a limbo page with a bunch of links to other pages, only one of which was my destination. Patient readers willing to work through a 2-step process might have benefited from these links, but if I know one thing about the habits of internet readers, it is this: Skimming reigns supreme. Posting the links along with directions for the following step would only have frustrated most readers.

I also received some interesting notes from readers like Chad, who explicitly asked me not to share his link with FFToday community, but wanted to make a case for the backup website that his league uses:

My site is very generic, but I think something can be said of this. I'll link it just for you to see how basic it is, although I wouldn't want you giving it out to anyone else: [link deleted]

It's simply a site hosted by my ISP, and I use a FTP service to upload excel sheets and word docs.

As a league, we use cbssportsline. However, in case all hell breaks loose and the internet fails, or there are technical issues with cbs, or if there are ever any discrepancies that for some reason I cannot override and change with the cbs site, we revert back to my generic website for our "official scoring and league rules."

I think too many fantasy owners take for granted their league service provider—without considering what might happen should they have issues with that site. I think the fact that our league rules are clearly laid out and we have a record of everything that has occurred with our league (outside of the site we end up paying for) is to our advantage.

So basically we just use cbs for our live scoring and all the features it provides, while establishing an official record outside of that scope.

Chad makes an excellent recommendation that most leagues would do well to heed, but he also speaks for a number of readers who are only comfortable having me talk about their sites—and specifically requested that I not post links to those sites publicly.

Since accessing fantasy websites (whether password protected or not) appears to be a bit more complicated than I expected it to be, I will invite readers who want to cut and paste pages (or sections of pages) from their websites to do so—as long as they can be mailed in the body of an email message (since I do not open attachments). I hope to collect these “snapshots” from websites for the remainder of the season and cobble together a selection of highlights in Week 17. My thanks to everyone who responded even though we have come up against a temporary setback.

This Week’s Question

When is the trading deadline in your league? And why did you settle on that particular time?

Most leagues impose a trading deadline on owners to prevent collusion. If I am 1-9 in Week 10 and the playoffs in my league are scheduled to start in Week 13, then a trading deadline at the end of Week 9 keeps me from giving Adrian Peterson and Anquan Boldin to another owner who is still “in the hunt” for a championship. I have heard stories of owners who have written off the season and traded away marquee players for a flat fee or for a cut of the purse. But money isn’t the only motivating factor. Spite comes into play as well. In my first year in fantasy, I saw Owner A give two of his best players to Owner B simply because he wanted to see Owner B beat Owner C (who had beaten Owner A twice in the season).

As a general rule, the earlier a league’s playoffs start, the earlier the trading deadline in that league is likely to be. I’ve heard from readers on this question in general before, but Dan wrote in this week to ask how it relates to league structure, so I am soliciting responses that specifically address either 1) the best process for changing a trading deadline within a league from one year to the next; or 2) why trading deadlines have different implications for redrafter vs. keeper leagues (or serpentine draft vs. auction leagues).

Here is Dan’s question as I received it:

I was wondering how different leagues set up their trade deadline dates.

I guess it depends on when their playoffs start, and whether they’re keeper leagues or redrafters. I just had something come up in a friend’s league where they moved up the trade deadline this year because they moved to a keeper league. They also employ an auction draft if that matters.

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Last Week’s Bust: Cincinnati ties Philadelphia, 13-13
This was a pathetic tie by Philadelphia. It’s not necessarily so bad that they tied Cincinnati, as the Bengals have been improving steadily over the past couple of weeks, and Ryan Fitzpatrick finally figured out that his offense runs through T. J. Houshmandzadeh. What’s awful about this loss is that the Eagles could not manage to put up more than 13 points, the lowest total the Bengals have allowed all year. Joe Flacco, in his first game ever, led the anemic Baltimore offense to more points against the lowly Bengal defense. I absolutely did not fathom that Cincinnati would keep Donovan McNabb and Co. under 30 points, let alone under 15—especially in light of the fact that they put up 31 on the Giants the week before!

As of right now, the Philadelphia offense does not function unless Brian Westbrook has the ball. It is inexcusable that he had only 17 touches in 75 minutes of football. Inexcusable. When he got opportunities, he was effective (4.3 yards per carry). Perhaps those are not his normal gaudy numbers, but he has to get the ball more often.

On another note, this is a perfect example of why the Eagles must invest in a go-to receiver. Sure, T.O. caused major problems when he was in Philly, but he also put up absolutely huge numbers. DeSean Jackson is super-talented, with blazing speed, but it doesn’t look like he is the kind of marquee receiver that is the hallmark of the most powerful passing attacks, certainly not yet.

A quick word on Green Bay blowing out Chicago: Normally, I will not address errant trap game picks here, as I do not hold myself to as high a standard for those picks as the eliminator picks, but this pick was just atrocious. I thought Chicago would dominate the running game on both sides of the ball, and while Matt Forte still had a decent game, he was held out of the end zone, and the previously ineffective Ryan Grant torched the Chicago front seven. I definitely overestimated Chicago’s ability to stop a two-way offense after watching them bottle up the Tennessee running game the week before. Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings are not Kerry Collins and Justin Gage. Not even close. Lesson learned.

Trap Game: Kansas City over Buffalo
I am really high on Kansas City right now. I was high on them two weeks ago, and explained why to some of you in emails that questioned why I did not pick San Diego as one of the top three two weeks ago when they hosted Kansas City. Tyler Thigpen has made spectacular adjustments to the NFL game that many people, myself included, thought him incapable of just a short month ago. The emergence of Mark Bradley as a versatile weapon opposite man-child Dwayne Bowe has made the passing attack a legitimate threat—and has opened up many opportunities for the running game. The Chiefs gave San Diego all they could handle without Larry Johnson, and L.J. looked decent in his return to action last week, even against a much improved New Orleans rush defense.

On the other side of the field you have the Bills, who looked absolutely atrocious on the national stage this past Monday night. Aside from a kickoff returned for TD and Marshawn Lynch going into “beast mode” in the 4th quarter, the Bills did a fantastic Seattle Seahawks impression, and Trent Edwards looked every bit as awful as Charlie Frye in his lone start this year. Lee Evans did not touch the ball. The Buffalo offense was totally out of sync against a fairly unimpressive Cleveland defense, and the defense played just well enough to keep the game close against a struggling Browns attack. This week’s matchup pits an upstart Kansas City team with nothing to lose against a Bills team with their backs against the wall, on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention. My guess is that Edwards and the Bills will topple like a house of cards.

3. Chicago over St. Louis
I’m sure the first thing that went through your head when you saw this pick is “He must be nuts.” Yes, I picked the Bears to upset Green Bay, and they got blasted. St. Louis is not Green Bay. With Steven Jackson already ruled out, I am confident that the Chicago defense will absolutely handle Marc Bulger. In the last 3 games, all without a healthy Steven Jackson, the Rams have lost by margins of 19, 44, and 21 points, and the defense has given up a grand total of 116 points. That’s an average of almost 39 points a game for you math wizards. In that stretch, St. Louis QBs have thrown twice as many interceptions as TDs (6-3), and the Rams turnover ratio is an abysmal -9. (11-2). It is also noteworthy that the opposing QBs that the Rams failed to pick off even once were Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, and Shaun Hill.

Need I say anything about Chicago?

2. Washington over Seattle
Remember when I compared the Bills’ awful Monday night performance to that of another NFL team? Remember who that was? That’s right, I was talking about the Seattle Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck, in his first game back since very early this season, threw three interceptions—and still looked better than his backups have for the past several weeks! The offense did not even manage 200 total yards against the sometimes very generous Arizona defense, particularly their secondary. The rushing game topped out at 41 yards on 22 carries, for an average of less than two yards per carry. The defense was decidedly mediocre, allowing the Cardinals over 450 total yards, but they did force 3 turnovers.

This now struggling team hosts the Redskins, who will be hard pressed for a win to stay ahead of the pack in the NFC wildcard race after a tough loss this past Sunday night against Dallas. Clinton Portis should be more effective with another week of rest after his injury, and Jason Campbell should have little trouble against Seattle’s 31st ranked pass defense. Jim Zorn will have this team ready to go this coming Sunday. I anticipate Washington will try to make a statement in this game, and the Skins could very well win by 20+ points with a healthy Clinton Portis.

1. Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Yes, this is a division matchup against an improving Bengals squad. However, look what the Steelers did to the Bengals just over a month ago in Cincinnati. That game was a 38-10 trouncing, and this one should be much of the same. To be fair, Pittsburgh has been struggling on offense as of late, with Ben Roethlisberger suffering through the worst season of his career, and perhaps Cincinnati’s defense isn’t as bad as it seems at first glance (see the Philadelphia Eagles discussion above).

That being said, Pittsburgh’s defense is nothing short of dominating. As a diehard Giants fan, I appreciate teams that play physical, hard-nosed, in-your-face defense, and this Steelers team has been putting on defensive clinics week after week. Troy Polamalu’s interception last week was absolutely spectacular. Polamalu’s pick is merely one example of the kind of game-changing plays that this defense makes on a routine basis. This defense is tied for the league lead in sacks, is second in points allowed per game (15.0) only to the Titans, and leads the league outright in both passing and rushing yards allowed. Cincinnati’s offense is going to struggle, and struggle mightily; Pittsburgh will likely only put up something like 17 points (with the outside chance of running up the score), but that very well might turn out to be a comfortable win.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.