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Week 15: Is the Grass Greener at Some Other League-Hosting Website?

Last Week’s Question: How Should the Scoring Be Handled for the Robert Meachem Fumble Recovery vs. Washington?

Please let me begin by thanking Paul, the reader who suggested that I bring the Robert Meachem play up for discussion just two weeks after we had already examined a scoring question about distinguishing offensive players from defense/special teams. I thought the topic might be received coldly by the readers of this column, but I cannot recall ever having received so much feedback on a question this late in the regular season.

The majority of those who wrote in used the short and simple rationale of Roger, who explains:

Our league is with Fanball, which scored this as a defensive fumble recovery & touchdown, and we supported the logic. Here's why:

Once Washington gained possession of the ball, New Orleans was no longer on offense. Since Meacham was playing defense from that point, his FR and TD are defensive in nature. Had there been no change of possession, and had Meacham picked up a loose fumble by his own team, his score would have been offensive, as with a tight end falling on a running back's fumble in the end zone.

Not everyone accepts this logic, and many of those who accept it do so reluctantly (e.g. a commissioner named Doug who had to rule against himself):

I'm glad you posted this question. I know you'll receive quite a few responses on this subject this week.

I am a commissioner of a 14-team money league ($1000 for first place) powered by I hadn't heard about the Meacham controversy until late Monday night. I was just about to set the playoff match-ups and realized that had awarded the Saints D/ST the points on that play. Wow. As commissioner, I have to make decisions on certain things, and this was one of those things. I really had to think hard about this. My decision literally determined whether a team made it into the playoffs or not.

Personally, I don't think the Saints D/ST should get any points at all. So, do I take the points away from the team that has the Saints D/ST or not? If I do, that team is out of the playoffs. Hmmm. I didn't like being in that position. So I decided to go with on this one and keep the peace in the league. Next year I will address this with the league members and make the proper adjustments in the scoring.

There is one thing I forgot to mention. IF I had decided to adjust the scoring and take those points away from the team with the Saints D/ST...MY team would now be in the playoffs instead.

A number of commissioners may disagree with the way the play was scored by, but many league charters call for disputed scores to be resolved by the ruling of a disinterested third party (such as or any of a number of league-hosting services). If your league charter calls for to be the arbiter of each owner’s statistical fate, then there is no point in arguing about how the play should have been scored. Owners in such leagues simply have to abide by the judgment of the specified third party—though swallowing that judgment was hard for some of the members of George’s league:

I am the owner of a Fanstar football league, and we agreed at the start of the year that whatever has for stats is what we will run with. In this case, Meacham had one earlier score based on, but [he is NOT credited with a] rushing or receiving TD for the second one. Instead, lists the score as a fumble return, which we consider a defensive TD. Of course this still raised hell with the team that was playing against the New Orleans Defense as well as the team owner who had Meachem, but too bad.

Some owners might get their feelings hurt by commissioners that simply say, “Too bad,” but there is really nothing else George can do in a league that is bound by the rulings of a third party.

Avery was one of a number of readers who found the argument about offense switching to defense troubling. After all, such readers argue, if Meachem became a defensive player the second that Washington gained possession of the ball, then didn’t the same thing happen to the Washington players the second that Meachem got the ball back for the Saints? By this logic, Meachem started the play on offense, became a defensive player for as long as Kareem Moore (the Washington safety) had control of the ball that he intercepted, and went back to being on offense as soon as he (Meachem) got the ball back from Moore. The logical extreme of this line of thinking is that a defensive score is impossible, since the team that has possession of the ball is always the offense, no matter how many times possession switches on a single play. Although many readers wrote in to insist that I clarify this point, Avery handles the question in the most balanced way:

It's not an easy ruling. I think the end result is what matters: the NFL official scorers and marked it as a defensive TD. See this link and look towards the bottom for Meachem. Therefore since our league scores all defensive TDs to a team and not an individual, it has to go to the Saints DST.

The explanation does leave things a bit confusing with the change of offense and defense, etc. rules it as a defensive fumble recovery and thus a defensive touchdown for the Saints DST because technically Meachem was a defender following the change of possession. By rule when there is a change of possession via turnover, the offensive team becomes the defense and the defense becomes the offense.

Some people have argued that if you look at CBS' explanation, since offense goes to defense and defense goes to offense how can a defensive touchdown ever get scored? Yet, I think that it works like this: For the purposes of a change of possession (fumble recovery/interception), if the TD is scored on the change of possession, then the touchdown has to go to a team defense, even if multiple change of possessions occur.

Conversely, let's say there wasn't a change of possession. Let's say Devery Henderson caught a pass but fumbled and Meachem picked it up and scored. Since Meachem gained possession as an offensive player and not a defensive player, the TD is awarded in fantasy scoring to Meachem individually.

Originally, I was torn on the matter and could argue both sides. However, after thinking about it more, I really felt that we had to go with the Official Scoring by the NFL. If we start deviating from the official scoring, it would leave things subjective and without a clear cut answer.

Leagues that have been around long enough have had questions like this one come up before (as with the controversial Keenan McCardell score for Tampa vs. Indianapolis in 2003). In such cases, if there are rules in place that directly contradict the ruling of the NFL, then the only problem might be explaining how those rules came into being. Chuck’s league is an excellent example:

I have been in the same keeper league for 12 years now. A few years ago there was a play like the Meachem fumble recovery (TB vs Indy) which caused us to have a meeting and vote on a rule for this.

First, we all agreed that there can only be 1 defense on the field at a time. In this case it was the Redskins. If they had returned the INT for a TD, the Redskins D would have received credit, so there is no way New Orleans D could be on the field to get credit. Even though we hear people say “when an INT is thrown the offense becomes the defense,” we realize that is just a [way of saying] those offensive players now have to make a tackle.

In our league, no points are allowed to the New Orleans Defense or to Robert Meacham. We are, however, going to discuss counting this fumble recovery as a TD for the offensive player.

A reader named Bernie wrote in to confirm that Chuck’s league is not alone:

We used to argue these cases endlessly every year or so, but we solved [the problem] with a one-line addition to our section on rushing, passing and receiving TDs that "Fumble recoveries and scores on plays where possession changes from offense to defense and back to offense don't count.”

Since the rule is so specific, it also prevents the owner of the Saints D/ST from claiming that the play should count as a defensive score, which is crazy since the New Orleans defense did not set foot on the field during the play.

Of course, this could get even wilder if Meachem in turn had the ball stripped from him by another WAS defender, who ran it in for a TD. But that's easy. It would be a defensive TD for the WAS D/ST, which was on the field from start to finish.

We haven't had to have a rules committee in all the years since we put this in.

I have little doubt that many leagues around the country will be adding rules just like Bernie’s before the 2010 season. However, in leagues that are willing to allow for individual defensive player (IDP) scoring, the approach that Erich’s league took could be the ideal solution:

In my league we utilize IDP’s and therefore have scoring for any defensive play on the field. Every week, there are points gained here or there by an offensive player who ends up on defense making a tackle after a interception or fumble recovery. In the Meachem example, Meachem was credited with a tackle, forced fumble, fumble recovery, and a defensive touchdown.

While different (and possibly very weird) to many owners, I would advise all leagues to use at least one IDP slot, and assign values for all defensive plays made. That way, when your offensive player suddenly becomes a defensive player, he is treated as such, and there’s an agreed-upon scoring system already in place. Like I said, this kind of thing will then happen every week (on a much smaller scale, obviously), so league owners are already accustomed to it, and pretty much know how the play will be scored.

As with almost every league this past week, the Meachem play decided a playoff fate for us. The only difference in our league was that there was actually NO DISCUSSION on the play afterward. Being commish for me is about laying things out so you don’t have to explain or make changes later, lest you have upset owners. The fact that everyone is freaking out in every fantasy chat/article while our league acts like it was just any other play means, to me, that our league might have the correct approach on this issue.

I hate to bookmark my own columns because it seems kind of arrogant, but I will be bookmarking this piece just to have immediate access to Erich’s solution, which is an idea I expect to pitch in leagues that have trouble with plays such as the Meachem TD. As Erich says, even leagues that don’t want to go whole hog on the IDP front can include a single IDP slot if only to make the scoring on plays such as the Meachem fumble recovery more intuitive for owners.

This Week’s Question: Is the Grass Greener at Some Other League-Hosting Website?

This week’s question comes from a reader named Jeremy:

I have been commissioner of my league a majority of the 16 years it's been around. As soon as the web started offering free scoring, I jumped all over it. Like most of your readers, I was excited to eliminate the manual scoring using the USA Today newspaper. However, we started with Yahoo and have been with that service since 2002. At this point, [inertia seems to have taken over,] and we seem to be resigned to stay there. I'd like to know what your readers think are the highlights to running leagues on other free hosting sites. Are we missing the boat by staying with Yahoo?

I posed this same question a few years ago, but most league-hosting services have evolved since then, so I do not object to renewing this discussion. Jeremy appears to be curious only about free services, but readers who want to share the pros and cons of services they pay for are welcome to chime in. I am particularly interested in hearing from readers in multiple leagues that use different services, as they will be in the best position to explain what makes one service more informative or user-friendly or reliable than another.

Wk 15 - Last Man Standing - (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Trap Game: Tampa Bay over Seattle

I can’t say I love this trap game, but there aren’t a lot of good options this week. The lines-makers get better and better as the season goes on, making upsets extremely difficult to pick this late in the year.

The other reason I pick this game is because both readers that are still actively participating in the competition picked the Seahawks to win this week. Go big or go home.

Tampa Bay, much to my surprise, is a more dangerous team with Josh Freeman at the helm, though they didn’t exactly show it last week against the Jets. The team is in the hands of a questionable coaching staff and is clearly demoralized at this point in the season.

So why would I pick the Bucs for an upset, especially when they travel all the way across the continent this week?

It comes down to the fact that Seattle is just as awful. The Seahawks have 5 total wins. Their opponents in those games are a who’s who of lackluster squads: Saint Louis Detroit, San Francisco, and Jacksonville. It doesn’t help that their leading receiver, Nate Burleson, won’t be available this week.

Ultimately, you just don’t win LMS pools by picking terrible teams, no matter who their opponent happens to be in any given week.

3. Denver over Oakland

Denver is hot. Brandon Marshall’s selfish appetite has been at least temporarily sated by his record-breaking afternoon last weekend. Knowshon Moreno has turned out to be a more effective back than most experts envisioned, and the defense has been superb.

This week the Broncos draw a familiar opponent, lowly Oakland, and they get to play at Mile High stadium. In the midst of a tight playoff race, one game behind San Diego (who draws Cincinnati this week), Denver isn’t going to approach this game with anything but a devilish grin and twenty-two eyes on each side of the field locked in on first place in the AFC West.

Oh, and did I mention that Charlie Frye is starting for Oakland this week? Pardon me for chuckling out loud.

2. New England over Buffalo

The last time I selected New England to beat Buffalo this season, it didn’t turn out so well. (Remember that infamous Leodis McKelvin fumble? I’m sure Bills fans do.) This time, the Patriots have to travel to Buffalo, but it shouldn’t be more than a mere inconvenience.

The Patriots have been playing solid ball lately and always play well in December; their defense thrives in the cold, wind, and snow. Buffalo is obviously no stranger to weather concerns, but I have no faith in the Bills’ ability to move the ball, snow or no snow, especially against the Patriots ‘slower-than-normal’ but still intimidating defense.

1. Houston over Saint Louis

This one is obvious. Saint Louis gives us the same thing every week: 100+ yards from Steven Jackson with the chance of a TD along with a complete failure to contain the opposition’s offense. That doesn’t bode well for the Rams, facing an inconsistent but explosive Houston offense that was a top 5 unit last year. They have had their struggles this year, but the Texans should abuse the Rams this coming Sunday.

Saint Louis will eventually “get theirs,” but they are simply outmatched this week. I know I’ve said multiple times that you don’t want to put your LMS life in the hands of a team’s offense, but this late in the season, you sometimes have to do just that.

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