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Week 13: What Measures Can Keeper Leagues Take to Prevent Lopsided Advantages from Lasting Too Long?

Last Week’s Question: How Do You Handle Plays that Blur the Lines between Offense, Defense, and Special Teams?

In last week’s column, I shared a question 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 teams?

I suspected that the answers to Tony’s question would be unanimous, and they were (which is not surprising when only a handful of readers provide the rationale for their responses). This is what Clifford had to say:

I can imagine some plays that blur the line between special teams and offense a lot more than the example in your column. If a kicker attempts a field goal and the kick is blocked and the opponents recover the kick and try to run it back, but they [fumble—and then] the kicker recovers it and runs it in for a touchdown, that might be a headscratcher.

But I don’t see anything confusing about the Josh Brown example. Maybe some leagues treat kickers differently because they do so much on special teams, but for us they are just like any other skill player. They get points for doing things outside of their ordinary roles just like anyone else. When running backs make catches, they get the same points for yardage and scores that receivers get. Whenever LaDainian Tomlinson throws a TD pass (and he has had a few), he gets exactly the same points that a quarterback would get.

I can’t see any difference between Josh Brown throwing a TD pass on a fake field goal and a running back throwing a TD pass on a gadget play. If you started the running back, you should get the points for the TD pass, and if you started Josh Brown, the same logic applies.

In addition to soliciting feedback on Tony’s question, I asked for readers to share any examples of plays that might blur the lines between offense, defense, and special teams. Perhaps the reason I didn’t receive any examples is that FF participants rely so much on their league-hosting websites to resolve these sorts of questions for them, as Chad’s answer suggests:

I don’t have any opinion on how that Josh Brown throw should have been handled, but I can tell you that our website credited him with the pass the same way it would have credited a quarterback. I don’t think FF players need to worry about this stuff any more than NFL players need to worry about the calls the refs make. You just let the officiating crew make the calls and live with [their rulings] whether you like it or not.

The only reader who seemed to be at all sensitive to Tony’s plight was Barry, who clearly paid attention to Tony’s caveat about his league not awarding points to any players on special teams:

Most people think of a field goal unit as a special teams unit, but 4th down is still an offensive down. I would say that for the purposes of Tony’s question, the guy who returns a punt or a blocked field goal is on special teams, but the guy who punts or kicks it is still on offense.

Perhaps Tony is hung up on the personnel who were on the field, so maybe his league has to do a better job of defining what a special teams play is. Maybe they should add a qualifier that says, “A kicker is on special teams on kickoffs, but on offense for field goal attempts.” I bet his league gives kickers points for their field goals, so they must not define field goals as special teams if that is the case. For my money, a fake field goal that happens on 4th down is still an offensive play.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in. I emailed Tony my own answer last week, and it was consistent with the opinions offered here (as I suspected it would be).

This Week’s Question: What Measures Can Keeper Leagues Take to Prevent Lopsided Advantages from Lasting Too Long?

This week’s question comes from the same Barry who responded to Tony’s query:

I get invited to join one or two keeper leagues every year, but the ones that seem most interested in grabbing new owners are the ones with serious imbalances in talent between teams. One league, for example, treats any player acquired on waivers as if he was picked up in the final round of the draft. Since the owners in that league only have to give up a pick one round higher than the one in which they acquired any given player the previous year, the owner who used the waiver wire to grab Tom Brady when he took over for Drew Bledsoe won’t even have to burn his first round pick to keep Brady until 2014!

It isn’t really tempting to buy into a league in which one of my competitors would have that much of an advantage. Even so, those guys keep asking me every year because they can’t get any new people to stay with them. I think they should change their rules so that new owners are at less of a disadvantage, but I don’t know what I could propose that would be fair. I know some leagues set a limit on the number of years an owner can keep a player and others make you give up a pick two or three rounds higher than the one in which the keeper was acquired. I’m writing in the hope that you and your readers can tell me a good mix of rules to help imbalanced keeper leagues that can’t really attract new owners because things are just too lopsided.

It’s certainly a tricky situation to say, “Yes, I would like to join your league, but I need you to review these rule changes.” Can any readers help with this quandary?

Wk 12 - Last Man Standing - (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Well, we are getting down to the nitty gritty, and it is becoming exponentially more difficult to find three teams I like each week that I still have available, especially because this year a lot of teams have played Jekyll and Hyde with us (looking dominant one week—and losing to Oakland or Kansas City the next). Parity is obviously important to the NFL, but this season has made Last Man Standing feel like Russian roulette, thanks in large part to the inconsistency of teams such as Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Arizona, Baltimore, Denver, and the New York Giants. Wildly erratic play makes this part of the season very difficult. Good luck to you; I know I’ll need it!

Trap Game: Tennessee over Indianapolis

I liked Houston as a trap game pick last week, but ultimately thought that Indianapolis was too good to lose to them. Most of us suspected that Peyton Manning would find a way to score a bunch of points at will in the second half and win the game. Well, that’s more or less what happened, with one small difference: Peyton didn’t beat Houston; Houston beat Houston with terrible defense, bad penalties, and offensive ineptitude in the second half.

This week, things will be different. The Titans are as hot as ever, as I mentioned when I picked them two weeks ago to beat Houston, and they are really playing some inspired ball behind Vince Young. I never thought he would be a great NFL quarterback, but he sure is running that team well recently. It helps to have an unstoppable running back like Chris Johnson.

The other thing going for Tennessee this week is that the Colts have been struggling, despite their spotless record. Peyton has faltered of late, matching his career high for consecutive games with 2 interceptions. The last time that happened was 2001. He sometimes looks uncomfortable in the pocket and is doing things that are generally beneath his caliber of play. For example, against Houston for most of the game he had tunnel vision for Pierre Garcon, at one point throwing 5 or 6 consecutive passes to him, multiple times into double coverage. At his best, Peyton never does that; he usually spreads the ball around.

If the Colts don’t clean up their act, they very well could see their first loss of the season on Sunday.

3. Chicago over Saint Louis

I have more confidence in this game than its #3 spot suggests, but I have already selected Chicago as a #1 and #2 this season. I am convinced that it would just be too much for Saint Louis to head into Chicago and win a game.

As usual, Chicago can only hope to contain Steven Jackson. Luckily for the Bears, however, the Rams don’t have a single offensive weapon other than Jackson. Even though the Chicago defense is uncharacteristically weak this season, and the offense is inconsistent, the Bears should be able to move the ball at will against the Rams. This pick isn’t as safe as it normally would be, but there’s just no way that the Rams keep up with Cutler & company in a scoring race, and no way Chicago fans could stomach losing at home to a St. Louis team that obviously needs to be rebuilt.

2. San Diego over Cleveland

In contrast to my #3 pick, I have less confidence in this selection than its #2 designation might suggest. San Diego is traveling into Cleveland, and away games always seem to give the Chargers trouble. Perhaps they have grown accustomed to the beautiful weather out in SoCal, but whatever the reason for their missteps, I try not to pick them for away games.

That said, the Browns are playing such consistently terrible football recently that even if their opponent is no better than mediocre, one cannot afford not to select the team playing against them. They have no offense, a defense riddled with injuries, and very little hope of winning this game. I don’t wholly trust the Bolts, but I trust they can stomp on one of the worst teams in the NFL.

1. Cincinnati over Detroit

I was on the Detroit bandwagon for a while this season, but the injuries to Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson have proven too costly for the Detroit offense to overcome. When you can assume your defense will allow 28+ points per game and your two most talented offensive players are injured, it’s pretty difficult to win games.

Cincinnati, though sometimes Jekyll (sweeping Pittsburgh) and sometimes Hyde (losing to Oakland), should manage to win this one handily. Their defense has drastically improved over the last couple of years, with a young, talented secondary allowing the front seven to get very aggressive and go after opposing quarterbacks. Chris Benson has resurrected his career and is leading a reinvigorated Bengals offense; even if he doesn’t play, Bernard Scott should have no trouble topping the century mark against the Lions. Pick the Bengals this week with confidence.

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