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Week 7

The three finalists in our Last Man Standing contest (Michael Bode, Walt Kindelberger, and Marc Mondry) made things very difficult for our judge (the beloved Matthew Schiff) because of their clear talents as writers as well as the overlap in their picks for Week 6. All three of our prognosticators took Minnesota over Detroit (huzzah!) and Washington over St. Louis (ouch!).

Bode, Kindelberger and Mondry have all been great sports for the past few weeks. I have not met any of them in person, but I have gotten to know all of them a little bit through their predictions, and I was very glad not to have to be the person who would choose Schiff’s successor from the three finalists.

As the judge, Schiff agonized over his decision. He reviewed the contributions of the three finalists going back to Week 3, and he contacted me on Tuesday evening with the rationale for his final decision:

Dear FFToday Readers,

First off, let me take the opportunity to thank all of the readers over the years for putting up with my rants about divisional matchups, home underdogs and team letdowns the week before big matchups the following week. It has been extremely fun. I also want to thank Mike Krueger and Mike Davis for allowing me to contribute to one of the most informative fantasy football websites in existence. And lastly, thanks to all the prospective LMS writers for the kind things they had to say about my work over the years.

That all said, Mike Krueger has asked that I choose a single replacement from Michael Bode, Walt Kindelberger, and Marc Mondry (each of whom I believe is extremely qualified to take my place). It is very tough to have a perfect week (let alone a perfect season) when you are picking three games per week as well as a trap game over a 17-week season. So being right was only part of what went into my decision (though it was obviously an important factor). It was equally important that the person provide statistical analysis along with unique insight into each game.

When writing my column over the years, I wanted the readers to have as much information as possible to make a decision. After all, some Last Man Standing pools offer purses worth thousands of dollars. You (the reader) were looking for help from me (a guy who has played fantasy football since 1990 and has run a league since 1995). I didn’t want you to be eliminated from the LMS Pool because my facts were wrong. Moreover, I thought it was important enough to go into depth on such issues as injuries, field conditions, prior meetings between the teams, and the current line. I hope that the person I have chosen will continue to provide this type of insight and add to this legacy. I think Jimmy the Greek would have been proud of the work done over the years.

So which writer did I choose?

I selected MARC MONDRY in spite of his love for the Giants—an affliction that usually occurs at birth for most New Yorkers not living on Long Island (and one that I share).

Marc, if for some reason you cannot fulfill your duties once in a blue moon and know a day or two before Davis’ deadline, feel free to reach out to me to fill in— because the readers deserve something better than Mike Davis’ prognostications (just kidding, Mike). I wish the best for everyone in their pools if you are still in them (and it has been tough this year).

Now that Schiff has spoken, I want to congratulate Marc Mondry for having been selected as the new LMS guru at FF Today.

I also think it’s only fair to point out that I suspect Schiff chose Mondry not in spite of his #2 pick last week, but because of it. Mondry took the Giants over the Browns as his second pick in Week 6, and since Schiff’s #2 pick was the one that most often backfired (as was pointed out last week), I suspect that he saw a lot of himself in Mondry.

As for Bode and Kindelberger, they both deserve praise for their sense of humor as well as their insights over the past few weeks.

Bode perceived the talent of the Falcons well before most analysts were willing to give them a second thought (as attested by his carefully considered trap game pick of Atlanta over Green Bay in Week 5). He offered us plenty of other insights as well—and invariably embedded those insights in prose that was accessible and funny without being mean-spirited. I knew I liked Michael the second I saw his response to the opportunity I gave contestants to address the judges in this contest (Krueger and Schiff) as sycophantically as they cared to. Bode’s response (“Since both Matthew Schiff and Mike Krueger are truly noble football people who undoubtedly take more satisfaction and pleasure in reading football analysis than sycophantic rants, I will take the high road”) was simply a taste of the wit that characterized all of the writing he contributed to this column.

Kindelberger’s trap game pick of Arizona over Dallas in Week 6 was simply one of many excellent calls that he made concerning the games. His football savvy would have been enough to set him apart from the crowd all by itself, but his self-deprecating sense of humor is something that I will look forward to seeing more of when (not if) he lands a steady gig as a fantasy football writer. As he wrote in the column for Week 5, “I am likely as worthy as most other football ‘experts’ on the internet, which means I probably rank somewhere between your bartender and your lawyer. I will let you determine which of them offers the more reliable advice.” Walt, I have fired both my bartender and my lawyer. I’m coming to you for football analysis, restraining orders, and single malt scotch.

I want to extend a hearty welcome to Marc Mondry as he takes over Matthew Schiff’s role for the remainder of the season. I also want to thank Matthew once again for his remarkable contributions to this column over the years and for serving as the judge in this contest.

Mondry’s picks for Week 7 appear at the bottom of this column, but the conclusion of the LMS contest means we can return to our traditional focus on questions relating directly to fantasy football.

This Week’s Question

Should leagues take measures to ensure participation by owners who become too apathetic about their teams to bother making changes to their lineups?

Most of us have been involved in at least one league in which an owner who gets off to a 1-5 start feels no incentive to keep up with his team any longer. I am sure that there will be a few fantasy owners in Week 7 that use Donovan McNabb as the starting QB even though he is on a bye. I have asked in the past about the various strategies that some leagues use to keep owners active all the way through the season (e.g. issuing a small payout to the team with the highest score on a weekly basis), and I will be happy to share any new strategies that leagues have devised to ensure the participation of owners.

However, I am primarily interested in readers’ thoughts about whether leagues really ought to be in the business of providing apathetic owners with incentives for overcoming their apathy. A reader named Don encountered a column in which I dealt with this question in the past and felt compelled to write me the following note:

Why do you assume that it’s a good thing for leagues to keep owners active all season long? Apathy is just part of the deal in fantasy football. I make the playoffs every single year thanks mainly to the fact that there are always two or three people who just give up by Week 8. I don’t want my commissioner changing the structure of the league to keep people interested, and you never explain in your article why you think universal participation is so great.

In all honesty, I guess I never really looked at the issue of owner apathy from Don’s perspective, so I don’t know that I can give him a very satisfying answer. Can any readers of this column make sense of the case for giving owners an incentive to be as active as possible for as long as possible, or is there a general consensus that “apathy is just part of the deal”?

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Trap Game: New Orleans over Carolina
Carolina is favored by 3.5 points at home. Those of you who have been following this column for the last couple weeks are probably thinking, “This seems like a recipe for a game Marc would love”. Interestingly enough, it’s not. Carolina’s defense may be vastly overrated, inflating its numbers with games against the Chiefs, Falcons, and Bears (before Kyle Orton remembered how to toss the pigskin), and their much touted (even by me) running duo hasn’t looked dominant lately, save for the aberration against KC. On the other side of the field are the Saints, led by Drew Brees and his 70%+ completion percentage. As of right now, Brees is on pace to break Marino’s season record for passing yards (5,084). Imagine how scary he could be with Colston and Shockey back in the lineup. No, I wouldn’t count on the Saints as an LMS pick, but they’re great to root for in an upset.

3. Pittsburgh over Cincinnati (Past picks: SEAHAWKS, JAGUARS, GIANTS, VIKINGS)
Let me begin with a disclaimer: I don’t love this game. I considered Houston here, and then let the coke flush out of my system, and I’m settled, reluctantly, on Pittsburgh, because there frankly aren’t a lot of good options this week. If you have used up all of your powerhouse teams, you could do worse than taking a gamble on Houston at home against an Orlovsky-led Detroit Squad.

Ok, back to business. This pick is a complete and utter indictment of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s inability to run the offense, and his propensity for awful-looking turnovers. I was high on this Bengal offense coming into the season. I have Housh on 3 of my 4 fantasy teams, and I thought Perry was going to be the answer toting the football. WRONG. Luckily for me, Marvin Lewis still has his head lodged tightly between his cheeks, and continues to run Perry out there, even though he has looked consistently bad—not mediocre, but 2.6 yards per carry bad. Pittsburgh, hasn’t looked great this season either, and they are on the road against a division opponent. Fortunately, they get Fast Willie back this week, and Roethlisberger has had enough rest to make me confident that he will play the whole game with his injured shoulder. The fact is that Pittsburgh’s D should dominate this game, and if they don’t, there is a wide open AFC North again.

2. Tennessee over Kansas City (Past picks: TITANS, cowboys, BEARS, giants)
I really missed watching Chris Johnson in action last week. I think he may be the most exciting rookie in football. The Titans, led by Johson (hopefully LenWhale keeps his injured rear on the bench this week) should go into Kansas City and make a statement this week, after barely edging out Baltimore before their bye. Kansas City has a penchant for playing teams tough in Arrowhead (think Denver in Week 4), but the Titans’ running game and stalwart defense should be too much for the Chiefs. Tennessee is allowing a league-best 11.2 points per game, and it might better that average this week. The only way KC has been able to stay competitive is on the back of Larry Johnson, who gained a grand total of 2 yards on 7 carries against Carolina. If Kerry Collins doesn’t turn the ball over 3 or more times (admittedly a distinct possibility), Tennessee will run away with this one.

1. Tampa Bay over Seattle (Past picks: BILLS, broncos, PANTHERS, giants)
I love this game. Period. End of story. Those of you who have Tampa Bay still available in your LMS, this would be the time to pick them. They have some other good matchups later in the year (@Detroit comes to mind), but they are very hot right now, at home, and will be facing a Seattle team that managed 83 yards passing behind Cleveland castaway Charlie Frye. Seneca Wallace is still hurt, and it looks like Holmgren will trot Frye out for at least one more week. The Bucs gave Jake Delhomme fits last week, forcing him into 3 picks (he had only thrown 2 all year). If Tampa Bay continues to play defense at this level, Charlie Frye may need to see a psychologist to deal with his repressed memories of the afternoon of Sunday, October 19th. This one could get real ugly . . . fast. On the other side of the ball, the Seahawk defense allows an average of 30 points per game, and the Buccaneer running game has looked great since Warrick Dunn joined Earnest Graham in the backfield. All signs point to a blowout in the bay.

That’s all I have this week. The analyses were a bit longer, given you only have to suffer through my picks this week. I’m certainly new at this, and have some big shoes to fill, and would love some feedback from you guys – after all, this column’s for you. Any questions, comments, concerns, bitches or gripes concerning the LMS portion of this column are welcome. I’d love to chat anything football or fantasy football; just shoot me an email. Good luck this week!

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