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Week 13

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I asked readers for feedback on trading deadlines and the rationale for having them as early as most leagues do. I was particularly interested in learning about trading deadlines in keeper/dynasty leagues, so it is appropriate to begin with the very cogent response I received from DJ:

We are a 12-team, salary-cap, keeper league that's in its 11th year, and our easy-to-remember trade deadline is always the day before Thanksgiving (Wednesday @ 5PM). We always have a pretty competitive field. This year, for instance, we have 6 teams at 6-6, a couple at 5-7 or 7-5, and one each at 9-3 and 3-9 (the 3-9 guy has Cassel, LT, Megatron, and Turner). We allow it to be so late because 1) the league is always so competitive, 2) the keeper component is always the great equalizer in making trades work, and 3) we've never had to veto a trade in 11 years. We also still have 2 weeks left in our regular season after the deadline—all divisional match-ups, which only adds to the intrigue.

My main question for everyone would be this: In non-keeper league formats, why would you allow ANY trades after say Week #7 or #8? If I'm 2-6 and clearly out of it, how does a trade that ANY of the contenders would likely propose to me, really help me out? It helps them out for sure, because they are playing for right now, but how does it help me? I contend that 80% or more of trades in these type of leagues DON'T help the team that is out of it in any way, and is likely the reason why so many owners complain about wanting to veto every trade that comes along. Owners will ALWAYS perceive value differently, but if you are building for the future (which a keeper league allows—as long you as you HAVE TO GIVE UP SOMETHING to keep a guy, [such as losing a pick 4 rounds earlier] than the one you drafted him in, a salary increase next season, etc.), you can often justify it. Last week, a guy in our league traded away B. Jacobs to a contender for T. Thigpen and L. Moore. Thigpen and Moore have VERY low salaries for next year, while Brandon's will be pretty high (i.e. keepers require a 20% in salary over the previous season - and you can only keep them for a max of 3 years). I'm not sure how this Jacobs trade would have been perceived in a non-keeper league.

The trade deadline should always be related to the likelihood of equitable trades being conducted in the league. The date we use works very well for us, but we've had the same 12 owners for 9 years now. They all know their stuff; everyone has made it to a championship game at least once; and no one has won more than two titles. Our cap and keeper system prevent dynasties, foster parity, and allow teams to quickly rebuild if they understand talent—much like the NFL, except that we don't have a Raiders, Lions, or Rams franchise, as we replaced those owners 9 years ago.

I’m grateful to DJ for explaining the salary cap-based incentive that the owner of Brandon Jacobs had to make the trade for Thigpen and Moore. I also like the implicit case that he makes for postponing the trade deadline for as long as possible in keeper leagues. Some of the best FFers I know excel at identifying talent that comes along in the second half of one season and that seems likely to shine from Week 1 on during the following year. Keeper leagues are particularly suited to reward owners for having this kind of insight, so it’s easy to see why the folks in DJ’s league can stand to wait until after the Week 12 games for their deadline.

The qualifier that I would add to DJ’s remarks concerns his dismissal of late trading deadlines in redrafter leagues. He is right to suggest that in most cases, there simply isn’t any rational incentive for a team that is 2-6 to be wheeling and dealing for new talent going into Week 9, but redrafter leagues are increasingly going out of their way to provide owners with incentives to win even after they are out of the playoff hunt. I have heard from commissioners who award purses to the teams that put up the most points in Weeks 9-12 just to keep everybody motivated to play their hardest at the end of the regular fantasy season. It’s also fairly common for leagues to require the person who finishes with the worst record to pay a fee at the end of the season or to provide a keg of beer at the next draft. So to answer DJ’s question about how making a trade when I am 2-6 can help me, it can help me an awful lot if one other owner is also 2-6, and I just need to finish the season ahead of that guy so as not to have to wear a toilet seat around my neck at the end-of-the-year league party.

The key point that leaps out at me in DJ’s response is that he likes and trusts the other members of his league, which is precisely why the late trade of Jacobs can go through without eyebrows being raised. Sam wrote in to address the trust factor explicitly:

I think setting the trade deadline depends on what kind of league you are in. In all of my private leagues, every owner knows every other owner. If people try to collude and do clearly unfair trades, the trades get vetoed and the trading partners get punished/ridiculed in real life. We make the trade deadline pretty late (after week 10) in those leagues since we trust each other not to let any shenanigans happen.

I am also in a keeper league, and it makes sense for teams at the bottom of the league to trade good streaking players (like Lance Moore) to a team that has good keepers that may not perform down the stretch this year (like Tim Hightower) but have bright outlooks. I play this league on Yahoo!, and we set the trade deadline as late as allowed (Nov. 28) so that people can get creative with their trades and with building their team for the future.

The other responses that I received concerning trading deadlines in keeper leagues essentially parroted the remarks of DJ and Sam. Owners in keeper leagues want to allow trading until the last possible moment because there is always ground to be gained for next season even if there doesn’t appear to be anything left to play for in the current season.

I was also interested in hearing why particular redrafter leagues had chosen to stop trades in Week 9 as opposed to Week 10 or Week 8, and most of the responses that I received on that point focused (as one would expect) on collusion. It doesn’t seem like oversimplification to say that leagues that start their playoffs early call a halt to trading early and that those that start their playoffs late allow trading to go a bit later.

Jeff, however, wrote in with a response that focused on something that actually exists in the NFL (bye weeks) rather than the arbitrary beginning of an imaginary post-season:

Our league trade deadline has typically been at the end of all of the bye weeks, which is at the end of Week 10 and prior to the beginning of Week 11. Therefore, at 5pm on the Thursday of the Week 11 Thursday night game, all trade requests and processing must be complete. Since our playoffs begin in Week 14 and run through Week 16, this trade deadline affords the teams in our league a chance to maneuver through all seven bye weeks and then have a final chance to analyze their teams for upgrades for that final three week push before our playoffs begin. Furthermore, this three-week period acts a "buffer" to prevent collusion or "trickery" amongst the teams. This standard trade deadline date works well for our league and I recommend it to all commissioners for their leagues in order to maintain yearly consistency.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in. I hope the selected responses were helpful to Dan (the reader who posed the question); I certainly think they will be helpful to readers in general.

This Week’s Question

What sort of goofy side bet action goes on in your league? Do you actually incorporate anything that might seem like a side bet into the formal scoring system of your league?

These are the two general questions that I think might be productively related to the very specific question I received this week from Zach:

I think our league may be unique, so I wanted to know if you had ever heard of another league that awards bonus points the way we do. Each week, we have to get our final lineups submitted 1 full hour before the kickoff of the first game of the week. Then, between that point and the actual kickoff, we each have to send the commish an email that specifies with fantasy match-up in our league is going to be the biggest blowout and which one is going to be the most tightly contested. After the games are played, everyone who picked the most lopsided game gets a 10-point bonus, and everyone who picked the tightest game also gets a 10-point bonus. The way the commish sold this to the league is that fantasy is all about evaluating matchups and talent, so why not give people points for evaluating the matchups and talent on other people’s teams? Have you ever heard of a scoring system that does anything like this?

To answer your question as succinctly as possible, “No.” I have ransacked my memory for anything remotely analogous to what Zach describes—and have drawn a complete blank. That’s not to suggest that I have anything against this sort of bonus system. I am all for leagues doing whatever they think will make the experience of the owners more fun and rewarding, but I have never played in or heard of a league that used anything close to the bonus system detailed above. If any readers out there know of anything similar, I want to hear from you. However, since I am prepared to meet a deafening silence on that front, I’ll be happy to hear about any kind of side betting that goes on in fantasy football.

Last Man Standing - Thanksgiving Day Edition (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Happy Turkey Day! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and gets to spend quality time with their families—and perhaps watch an interesting football game. Unfortunately, I think that the latter is unlikely, but it’s the NFL, so you never know.

Last Week’s Bust: None

Trap Game: New Orleans over Tampa Bay
At first glance, this game seems to play to the Bucs’ favor; the Cover 2 defense should contain Drew Brees (as well as any defense can), and Jeff Garcia is probably licking his chops thinking about the Saints’ banged up secondary. Well, that’s exactly how Green Bay was thinking going into last week’s game against New Orleans, and I hope you all had the pleasure of watching that exciting game. (For those that did not, the Saints pummeled the Packers 51-29—and did most of their damage through the air against Green Bay’s Pro Bowl corners).

This week could go just the same way. With the injuries to their RB corps, Joey Galloway a non-factor, and a defense that at least seems to be underperforming (although the numbers still look good), the Bucs could struggle to even keep this one close. Brees looked to finally get in a rhythm with his WR corps, Lance Moore looks like the real deal, and the most electrifying player in football (Reggie Bush) will be making his much anticipated return to the field this week. I sure would be nervous if I were a Tampa Bay fan.

Pick 3: Tennessee over Detroit
Tennessee looked bad against the Jets last week, as Favre executed the West Coast offense to perfection, with much help from Thomas Jones and the very expensive offensive line the Jets bought this off season. Detroit, on the other hand, has been steadily improving, with the emergence of Kevin Smith as a capable RB and with Culpepper seemingly settling down.

That all being said, the Titans should get back to form this week, as they will be able to establish the run very early. No matter how much the Detroit offense improves, the defense is still atrocious. Even Lendale White (with -1 total yards last week) should have his way with them. Once the running game gets going and the Titans build a lead, the Tennessee defense will become much more aggressive, the offense will chew up time on the clock, and Jeff Fisher’s crew will pound the opposition into submission. Game over.

Pick 2: New York Jets over Denver
(TENNESSEE, dallas, CHICAGO, new york giants, TAMPA BAY, san francisco, Jacksonville, CAROLINA, philadelphia, WASHINGTON)
See above for a brief commentary on the Jets’ offense this past week. The success of Favre and company came against Tennessee, a consensus top 5 defense. This week the Jets host Denver, a consensus bottom 5 defense, known far and wide for being weak against the rush. Last week, the Broncos let the woeful Raiders rush for over 150 yards and 2TDs; by the end of the game, Oakland had put up 31 points, by far the Raiders’ best performance of the season. In addition to defensive weaknesses, for some reason Cutler and his WR corps cannot seem to put it all together in a single game. At the start of the season, it looked like Denver was going to be an offensive juggernaut. Of course, the Broncos have had massive injuries to their RBs, so that certainly plays a role, but Peyton Hillis has filled in effectively over the past two weeks. For weeks now, we keep expecting the Denver passing game to correct itself, but it continues to underwhelm—and that probably won’t change this week.

The Jets look like the real deal. However, I am not ready to pronounce them the favorite to win the AFC, even after they completely handled the Titans last Sunday. They very well may be the team to beat though. Everything is clicking: Favre has been taking care of the ball, Thomas Jones has been extremely effective, and Leon Washington, when he sees time, relies on breakaway speed that makes him one of the most exciting players in football to watch. Even the defense has looked effective; the Jets shut down the Tennessee running game, and they have contained their last several opponents’ passing games just enough to win. Look for them to take it to Denver this weekend.

Pick 1: Dallas over Seattle
Dallas is going to absolutely embarrass Seattle on Thanksgiving Day. Sure, the Cowboys have had their struggles, but they looked quite good this past Sunday, though admittedly against the 49ers. Tony Romo looked like he was getting back in sync with his WR corps (particularly T.O.); Marion Barber was effective, particularly in the passing game; and the defense, though not spectacular, looked good against San Francisco. Luckily for the Cowboys, they draw a very similar opponent this week in Seattle. However, Seattle is even less dangerous than San Francisco, if only because they do not have a man named Frank Gore on their team.

It’s at least one step down from Gore to Julius Jones, who will be starting on Thursday. And even though Jones may have a Galloping Gobbler trophy to his name, he will not find success this week against his former team. Think 17 attempts for 53 yards. That might be his upside, assuming he doesn’t break off a big one, which is unlikely. Matt Hasselbeck is going to need more time to get back into form, and he might very well need a couple of wideouts that are actually talented in order to be productive. He did hook up with the disappointing John Carlson last week for a TD, but the Seahawks simply don’t have the weapons to compete with the Cowboys.

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