Week 12: How Do You Handle the Scoring
of Plays that Blur the Line between Special Teams and Offense?
Last Week’s Question: Does Your League
Make the “Consolation Playoffs” Meaningful to the League
as a Whole?
In last week’s
column, I shared the idea of a reader named R. Jones, whose
league awards the top pick in the draft to the winner of the “losers’
bracket.” As I explained last week, this strikes me as an
excellent way to fend off apathy in leagues with owners who don’t
bother to pay attention to their lineups after they have been
eliminated from playoff contention.
There was one point about R. Jones’ approach that I did
not entirely understand when I shared his message, so he wrote
me back earlier this week to clarify:
After I sent this it occurred to me I didn't
make it clear that we use this approach for all [participants]
in the losers’ tourney. So if you get first you get pick
first. Second place [gets the second pick, etc.]
This year is one of those years. I'm the guy with the most points
scored against me. Despite having Rodgers, Adrian Peterson and
Reggie Wayne and a well maintained and managed rest of my roster,
I'm 4-5-1 and likely to miss the playoffs. But I'm still into
Even if I don't win the losers’ bracket, maybe I can get
2nd rather than 3rd. Or 3rd rather than 4th.
Next year at draft time I'll be glad I kept trying.
Although he made the point about seeding for the losers’
bracket clear enough in his original message, it may have been
lost on readers who were skimming. I will therefore reiterate
that by making seeding important in the losers’ bracket,
the Jones approach provides incentives to owners to remain active
and competitive in Weeks 9-13 (even when it is clear to them that
they will not be eligible to compete for a championship). The
owner who starts 1-7 and who might otherwise be tempted to perform
poorly for the rest of the season (if only to get the first pick
in next year’s draft) will obviously have no such temptation
in leagues that use this approach.
A reader named Paul responded to last week’s column by
explaining that his league uses an approach that is similar to
the Jones model with one important variation:
Our league goes even one step further. The
owner that wins the consolation tourney gets to select where he
would like to pick in next year’s snake draft. 2nd place
finisher selects 2nd, etc. The #1 pick overall is not always the
best choice. We are also a keeper league. We cannot keep anyone
selected in the 1st 3 rounds, and any player you keep will cost
you a draft pick 2 rounds ahead of where he was chosen that year.
Everyone is in it until the last week, and it makes for some interesting
choices the following year.
Paul makes an excellent point. This year, Adrian Peterson was
the clear-cut #1 pick in the opinion of most analysts and FF enthusiasts,
but in past years we have seen two or three legitimate candidates
for the top pick in the draft. If you are having a hard time deciding
between the top 3 running backs in the league, then you might
opt for the third overall pick. That way, you can take whichever
RB is left to you after the first two selections are made and
move up two spots in the second round (in a traditional serpentine
Donovan’s league appears to handle seeding in the losers’
tourney differently than the Jones model (which makes sense for
commissioners who do not mind using ridicule as a roundabout motivator):
The six non-playoff teams in our league compete
in a toilet bowl tournament, where seedings are in reverse order
(so the two worst teams have a bye) and the losers advance each
week. The eventual toilet bowl “champion” pays an
extra $20 into our party fund and takes home a travelling toilet
seat. This is not something you want to win. I’m not sure
how much it helps increase participation late in the regular season,
but they definitely participate during this tournament.
A reader named Tom reports that instead of using the losers’
bracket to determine the draft order for the following season,
his league relies on the results of an all-inclusive tournament:
Don't know if this is unconventional or not.
In our league everybody makes the playoffs, but everybody continues
to play also. The reverse of the tournament results determine
the draft order for the first two rounds next year. By the way,
we are a keeper league—2 players/team but no player can
be "carried over" more than twice by the same team.
Perhaps there is nothing more meaningful than food, so Jon’s
response concerning a “meaningful” losers’ tourney
is worth sharing:
We do a “toilet bowl” pitting
the two teams with the worst records against each other in week
16. The loser of the toilet bowl has to buy the pizza at next
year’s draft party. The downside of this is that we’ve
had a few years where the toilet bowl loser quit, so we didn’t
get pizza out of him.
Based on the feedback I have received from readers over the years,
I don’t think it is unusual for the person who finishes
last in a league to provide beer or food at the next year’s
draft, but I appreciate Jon’s response all the same.
This Week’s Question: How Do You Handle
the Scoring of Plays that Blur the Line between Special Teams
This week’s question comes from a reader named Tony:
In our league we do not award points to individual
players for yards and or touchdowns scored on special teams. It
seems this year we have had more fake punts/fake field goals than
usual—with a few of them resulting in scores. For example,
in Week 8 Josh Brown (the kicker for the Rams) threw a touchdown
pass on a fake field goal. Should this have counted for Josh Brown
as an offensive player, or for the Rams’ defense/special
As is my customary practice, I will refrain from volunteering
my own opinion on this matter until readers of the column have
had a chance to chime in. Since I suspect that most of the people
who write in will agree with each other (and with me) about what
the correct ruling should be on this point, I invite readers (whether
they have an answer for Tony or not) to share
other examples of puzzlers that seem to straddle categorization
as “offensive,” “defensive,” or “special
Wk 12 - Last Man Standing
- (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)
Yuck, tough week. Getting the upset pick correct for the Monday
night game was little consolation after blowing two picks and
escaping in the third by the slimmest of margins.
I was truly floored when I checked the scoreboards on Sunday
evening to see that both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati had lost, to
Kansas City and Oakland, respectively. My only thought was: “What
on God’s green earth happened in those two games.”
An analysis of the box scores reveals most of the story in the
Pittsburgh game. The Steelers dominated most of the game against
Kansas City, and as advertised, the defense played very well.
Ben Roethlisberger, despite putting up some strong numbers, threw
two costly interceptions that were returned for a combined 96
yards, giving the Chiefs great field position. Worse than that,
on the opening kickoff of the game Pittsburgh’s special
teams personnel missed a bunch of tackles and allowed Jamaal Charles
to take the kickoff 99 yards to the house.
I really dislike blowing LMS picks, but it is somewhat reassuring
to know that the reasons I liked a game enough to pick it remain
sound. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you
expect—even if your expectations make sense.
Trap Game: Saint Louis over Seattle
This game would appear at first glance to be an odd upset pick,
given that Seattle absolutely crushed Saint Louis earlier in the
year. However, there are several reasons that I like this game
enough to select it as an upset pick.
First, I like to pick upsets, when I can, that actually affect
people’s picks for the week. When I pick Baltimore to upset
Pittsburgh, sure it’s a nice upset pick, but did anyone
really take Pittsburgh that week? Surely they will play 7 opponents
weaker than the Ravens.
That was the beauty of the Detroit-over-Washington upset pick,
and this game has that same kind of allure for me. As we near
the final stretch of the season, it becomes difficult to find
good teams still available to be selected, particularly if you
are keeping track of 3 separate entries, rather than just selecting
3 games per week. People might actually pick Seattle this week.
More importantly, I think the Rams are a different team than
they were in the beginning of the season. Roughly two months ago
I wrote that the Rams would eventually put things together and
improve under the leadership of Steve Spagnuolo. There are indications
that they have done just that. In the last 3 games, they beat
Detroit, lost to New Orleans by 5 (28-23), and lost to Arizona
by 8, (21-13). In all 3 of those games, Steven Jackson was the
lead rusher, and Marc Bulger was the lead passer.
I don’t think that the Rams are drastically improved on
offense; rather, I think they are deceptively serviceable on defense.
At home, against a struggling division rival, the Rams very well
could walk out of this game with their second win.
3. Atlanta over Tampa Bay
Atlanta is coming off a difficult OT loss to the Giants, a game
they would probably have won had Michael Turner been healthy enough
to play. He isn’t likely to play this week either, but Jason
Snelling did a fine job filling in against a tough Giants front
seven; expect him to have little trouble topping 100 yards against
a dismal Tampa Bay rush defense.
The passing game should continue to succeed as advertised( on
the shoulders of the Tony Gonzalez-Matt Ryan duo). Gonzalez is
extremely difficult to match up with, and if you attempt to double
team him, the Falcons have just enough talent at wideout (Roddy
White) to burn you if you routinely throw single coverage out
There are still some question marks about Atlanta’s defense,
but this week’s opponent is in no position to exploit that
weakness. At home, in a must-win game against an awful division
opponent, I’ll take the Falcons with confidence this week.
2. Cincinnati over Cleveland
I had this pick penciled in over a month ago, and I am not going
to second guess myself. Admittedly, I do not understand the loss
to Oakland last week. I have been saying for weeks that JaMarcus
Russell is terrible and someone else needs to start if Oakland
is going to win, but if you look at the numbers, Bruce Gradkowski
was no all-star either.
At least this week Cincinnati is at home against a much more
familiar opponent. They also caught a lucky break with Pittsburgh’s
loss to Kansas City, but they surely need to recognize that they
cannot afford to blow games against opponents of Oakland’s
caliber. I think last week was a wake-up call, and the Bengals
will come back and pound on the 1-9 Browns at home.
1. Philadelphia over Washington
Let me first say that I cannot believe that I am placing the
fate of my #1 entry in the unsure hands of Donovan McNabb, the
ailing Brian Westbrook, and the extremely underwhelming Philadelphia
defense. It’s just that time of year, and the Redskins are
just that kind of opponent – the kind of opponent that couldn’t
beat an atrocious Dallas team last week.
If this game were not at Lincoln Financial, I probably would
not have selected it. That place is one of the toughest stadiums
in the country to play at, especially for a division rival like
the Skins. It is folly to expect Washington to head into Philadelphia
and play decent football.
Philadelphia is in the middle of a heated division race and simply
cannot lose this game if they hope to have a legitimate shot at
the playoffs. When it comes down to it, the inconsistency of the
Eagles will likely be what does them in this season, but not just
yet. They can afford just a little bit of it on Sunday, and they
should still win. That all said, if this one comes out the other
way, don’t color me shocked.
Sorry for the bummer of a top selection this week. It’s
tough for a diehard Giants fan to get excited about the Eagles.
Have a wonderful holiday this week, eat plenty of Turkey, and
enjoy the full day of football!
For responses to this week's fantasy
question please email me
no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.