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Week 11: Does Your League Make The “Consolation Playoffs” Or “Losers’ Tourney” Meaningful To The League As A Whole?

Last Week’s Question: How does a fantasy diehard deal with watching just one game on Sunday?

In last week’s column, I asked for a miracle. I wanted to know what a guy who is used to flicking between channels with the NFL Ticket is supposed to do when the urge to check on players around the league strikes while he is at a live NFL game.

I should probably take this opportunity to say that I was asking only for myself. I was not attempting to paint a portrait of the average FF participant. Don’s remarks on this subject warrant particular attention:

This is why real sports fans hate you fantasy geeks. You can’t just enjoy a sporting event without reducing it to a bunch of numbers and statistics. You might as well send your tickets to me. They are wasted on fantasy diehards.

Don seems a little grumpy, and I doubt that I can say anything to change his mind about “fantasy diehards,” but I want to stress that my compulsive channel-hopping with the NFL Ticket is really the culprit here—not fantasy football. I have admitted in the past that the NFL Ticket and fantasy football complement each other wonderfully, but even if I stopped playing fantasy football, I would still switch channels on Sunday in an effort to follow more than two games in an afternoon.

I suspect that “fantasy diehard” is just as misleading an epithet as “real sports fan.” I know an incredibly bright guy in Philadelphia who thinks of himself as a true football fan and of me as some kind of fantasy varmint. We were talking before the season about who might really be considered the best QB in the league apart from Manning and Brady. When I told him he should pay closer attention to Drew Brees, he asked me who that was. What he really wanted was for me to agree that Donovan McNabb is the best QB in football. I love McNabb. His jersey is the only official NFL product I ever bothered to buy, but I think a “real sports fan” should be able to take off the home-team blinders and see talents around the league for what they are.

All of that, of course, is a digression from the question of what I can do when I find my right hand pointing at Wade Philips and attempting to press an imaginary remote because I do not want to watch the referees around him consult for three minutes about offsetting penalties. The answer (based on the responses of those who bothered to write in without chastening me for my interest in fantasy football0 is to drink more at the game than I do at home on Sunday. Here is how Daryl put it:

I feel your pain. I love finding the most emotional games on Sunday (however many there are) and trying to watch every play from those games. I find that when I go to a stadium for a game, the pauses between the plays are far more frustrating than they used to be. You just have to drink through the frustration. At half-time, try to find some place with different television screens on different games. If you can pay attention to those other games, you have to drink more.

I specifically mentioned that I did not want to become the guy who misses the game going on right in front of him because he is checking his blackberry for updates on his fantasy squad. Tim, a kindred spirit of Daryl’s, had this to say on that front:

The answer is simple. Whenever you get a desire to check your blackberry for scores, take one gulp of beer. I tell myself that I will do that the whole game if necessary, but I am chilled out and completely [absorbed by] my one game for the day by the end of the first quarter.

Monte approached matters more philosophically:

There is no sense in saying you don’t want to be the guy who checks his cell phone for scores. You are who you are. I bet you are that guy (like it or not), but you don’t want the people you are attending the game with to know. So just be sneaky about checking your cell phone. Problem solved.

I think Monte’s answer is pretty funny, but I am going to try Tim’s solution. I am paying more for tickets and transportation to the game than I have paid for the NFL Ticket and all my fantasy leagues, so I intend to leave my cell phone at home. (Or maybe I am just telling people that, eh Monte?)

This Week’s Question: Does your league make the “consolation playoffs” or “losers’ tourney” meaningful to the league as a whole?

Lots of leagues structure some kind of alternate postseason competition for the teams that do not make the playoffs. The league I am in that has done this the longest awards a cash prize to the winner of the “losers’ tourney” that is equal to the entry fee for the league.

A reader named Jones wrote in to let me know that his league actually makes the outcome of the losers’ tourney meaningful for the league as a whole:

We do something in my league that keeps most owners involved until the end, and I didn't see it mentioned in the side-bets discussion.

Those that don't make the playoffs go to the losers’ bracket for a 3-week tourney. The winner gets the first pick in the draft the following year. This is in contrast to most situations in which the owner with the worst record gets next year's #1.

Even those that clearly aren't in playoff contention by week 9 or 10 stay interested because they can always improve their seeding in the losers' tourney.

Anyway....It's worth playing for, keeps things interesting for those who are eliminated, and provides incentive to keep winning vs. trying to lose out to improve next year's draft position.

That really sounds like another brilliant solution to the apathy problem. If your leagues does anything unconventional with “consolation playoffs,” please let me know what that is and how well it has worked.

Wk 11 - Last Man Standing - (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Circumstances compel me to keep the analysis short this week. The three assignments I have due on Monday have combined to make for a sad, tired, and busy Marc.

Trap Game: Tennessee over Houston

I absolutely love this trap game pick. Tennessee does have to travel to Houston, a divisional rival, but it’s a short trip and Houston isn’t a particularly difficult city for Jeff Fisher and the former Oilers to play in. The records of these teams may be deceiving (Houston is 5-4, Tennessee is 3-6); they appear to even be deceiving odds-makers because Houston is favored by more than a field goal.

Tennessee has played nothing but solid ball, winning 3 games in a row after a dismal (and somewhat perplexing) 0-6 start to the season. Chris Johnson said in his interview after last week’s thrashing of the Bills that the team intends to win its next seven games, go 10-6, and make the playoffs. Those are lofty goals for a 3-6 team, but an inspired Titans club is very dangerous and could be too much for the Texans.

3. Cincinnati over Oakland

There is one team every season that comes out of the blue and becomes a reliable pick at some point, even though most folks did not take the team seriously in September. That team this season is the Cincinnati Bengals. They are 5-0 in their division with two wins over Baltimore and Pittsburgh each. Although Cincinnati does have a penchant for losing to bad teams (e.g. Houston), a road trip to Oakland shouldn’t cause much concern. That said, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with them as my #1 pick this week. There’s something about the awfulness of Chad Johnson and Chris Benson last year that I just haven’t gotten over yet.

2. Pittsburgh over Kansas City

Another AFC North team heads West to face another bottom-of-the-barrel opponent. Pittsburgh, however, has earned my trust after years of consistently solid (and sometimes spectacular) defensive play. Coming off a tough loss last week at home against the Bengals, the Steelers have to know that they can’t afford to lose any more games, given that they are now essentially one and a half games behind Cincinnati in the playoff race. I expect them to take out some frustration on the lowly Chiefs this week, who will likely be without their two most talented players, Larry Johnson (cut and signed with Cincinnati) and Dwayne Bowe (violating NFL drug policy).

1. Dallas over Washington

The only thing not to like about this game is that it is a divisional matchup, and Washington will really want to come out with a W. That said, The Redskins just don’t have the firepower to match Dallas in a game featuring two “used to be good but now mediocre” defenses. Clinton Portis may not play because of injury, Chris Cooley is gone for the season, and Jim Zorn is likely headed out the door pronto. Dallas, on the other hand, has essentially been handed the division lead by the inconsistent Giants and Eagles. If history is any indication, the Cowboys are unlikely to let that lead slip away casually. A loss . . . at home . . . against the Redskins? It just seems out of the realm of possibility.

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