Week 6: Themes for Naming Teams?
Last Week’s Question: Are Commissioners
an Endangered Species?
In last week’s column, I shared
Larry’s concerns about the impact of automated league-hosting
services on commissioners. Larry foresees a time when he will be
commissioner “in title only,” though he does not appear
to miss the days of calculating scores for his league on a legal
If any readers really believe that the fantasy football commissioner
will go the way of the dodo bird, none of them bothered to send
me a note to that effect. The responses I received this week were
generally from commissioners who were amused (not threatened) by
I want to focus on the responses from Donovan and Dave—partly
because Donovan’s response is representative of what commissioners
generally seem to think, but mainly because these two readers are
both involved in leagues that started in the 1980s. Kudos to both
of them on their longevity!
Donovan covers the topic clearly and succinctly:
League hosting services
are not eliminating the commissioner; they just make his job much
much easier, since he doesn’t have to collect lineups or calculate
scores like the good ol’ days.
Nowadays the commissioner only has three critical roles:
#1) Help get everyone organized for the draft, which includes helping
#2) Handle the money, or appoint someone to do so
#3) Take control when really weird things happen during the season
that the league rules don’t cover. Our league has operated
for 20 years, so our written rules are pretty thorough, but strange
things still come up that haven’t happened before. The commissioner
helps deal with these situations, usually by organizing a quick
rules vote [so that things go more smoothly the next time]. One
example of this that immediately comes to mind is the Donovan McNabb
pass play a few years ago that wasn’t ruled a TD pass by the
NFL until Wednesday or Thursday. Due to that play, we amended our
rules to handle late statistical changes by the NFL. The website
alone simply was not equipped to make that change. A good commissioner
handles these dilemmas without ruffling too many feathers.
Dave’s response stood out because he reminded me of
the dying art of writing a league newsletter:
have had a league for 20 years now. 75% of the owners are originals!
The commissioner’s duties have certainly become less over
the years with on-line scoring, but we are nowhere near obsolete.
I still have to arrange the draft party, handle waiver requests
(our waivers are silent bids each week using $100 cash) and trade
requests. However, to the guys in my league, the most important
job I have is to write the newsletter every week. No, I don't have
to mail it out like I used to since everybody's got e-mail, but
as the owners in my league will attest, there is nothing like getting
the newsletter each week to see what owner made a bonehead move
that cost them a win (such as starting Devery Henderson over Sanatana
Moss two weeks ago when Moss went off for 175 and a score). [Owners
also like to get their props] for a great move or waiver pickup
(like Mike Sims-Walker when he scored 2 TDs last week...to beat
me!). The bottom line is in my league my "job" will never
be obsolete. A league without a newsletter has no personality. And
as any other commish that writes a newsletter each week will confirm,
it's not easy to do it when your own team bites the big one for
that given week!
Dave’s claim that “a league without a newsletter
has no personality” is likely to strike some readers as an
overgeneralization, but I know what he is getting at. In one of
my leagues, the commissioner who was in place when I joined did
not send out a weekly newsletter to the league, but on Thursdays
he always emailed the entire league a lengthy, smack-laden explanation
of why he was going to beat the next team he was scheduled to face.
When he bowed out of the league and his replacement was appointed,
I didn’t even pause to consider how much I would miss those
I didn’t realize I missed them until I read Dave’s note.
This Week’s Question: Themes for Naming
Teams (and Other Ways of Adding Personality to FF Leagues)
Not everyone has the time for leagues with personality, but in my
experience they are decidedly more fun than the leagues that are
simple number-crunching affairs with a payout at the end for the
winner(s). One reason that Dave’s point about the newsletter
hit home with me is that for two years I looked forward to reading
the newsletter that one of my co-workers received in his league.
He didn’t write the thing. I never met the person responsible
for putting it together, and I had no desire to join the league
because I thought the scoring system was absurd. So why would I
set aside a few minutes each week to read the newsletter of a fantasy
league that I had no desire to be a part of?
Because it was fun.
If you are a serious student of the NFL and your idea of fun is
scoring more points than your opponents and taking their money at
the end of the season, that is perfectly fine. I know lots of people
who fall into this category, and I enjoy competing against them
in various leagues.But if your idea of fun is being in a fantasy
league that sets itself apart from other leagues in some way, this
is the week I want to hear from you. I am therefore posing a more
general question than Tim, who wrote me this week to ask:
Here's a question for you: do you know of any
leagues that use themes when it comes to naming teams and posting
news items? My league has used a different theme every year since
we began in 2002, just to give the league a little flavor. All owners
are required to consider the theme when naming their team for the
year. Those who don't are not usually invited back.
I don't want to make this too lengthy, but here are the themes (and
league names) we've used:
2002 - The Simpsons (Springfield Pee-Wee League)
2003 - Our Own World League (Global League of Football)
2004 - Star Wars (Galaxy Far Far Away League)
2005 - Comic Book Super-Heroes (Justice League of Football)
2006 - Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Pigskin)
2007 - James Bond (Her Majesty’s Secret Football League)
2008 - Axis & Allies/World War II (Day of Infamy League)
2009 - AFL/Defunct League Tribute (All-American Football Conference)
Answering Tim’s question, I have not ever heard
of a league that requires (or encourages) members to name their
teams with a theme in mind. It sounds like fun, and I will be happy
to pass along the responses of any readers in leagues that engage
in such a practice. However, what I liked most about Tim’s
question was the phrase “just to give the league a little
flavor.” Whether your league has a theme each year or not,
I am opening the floor for a discussion of what
people do to spice up their leagues.
Last Man Standing - (Courtesy
of Marc Mondry)
Quick Recap From Last Week
Atlanta beat San Francisco by 35 points. WOW. I picked the
upset, but even I didn’t dream of a 35-point win.
On a somewhat unrelated note, this is also the second time in three
weeks (DET over WAS) a reader has taken a game as an LMS pick that
I wrote up as an upset and been burned. Ladies and gentlemen, you
may not agree with everything I say, and I’m not always right,
but I have correctly picked 3 out of 5 upsets so far this season
(in addition to a near miss in Week 1 when I took Oakland over San
Diego). At least take a moment to reconsider your selection if I
recommend it as an upset game; it probably is not as safe as you
think it is.
Put another way, there is no way anyone is successful in LMS competitions
if the team they pick to win has a 60% chance of losing each week.
Statistically speaking, if you pick against my upset every week
(and therefore have a 40% of picking a winner), you will finish
the season undefeated 1 out of every 5,820,766 seasons. That may
be a gross simplification based on a five-week sample, but the point
is made: pick against my upsets at serious risk to your LMS
Reader’s Week 5 Picks
Great picks again readers! The leader board after 5 weeks:
| Top Prognosticators
- Week 5
||Last Week's Picks
|Mark Den Adel
||PIT, PHI, NYG
||DAL, MIN, PHI
||MIN, PHI, NYG
||MIN, PHI, NYG
||DAL, PHI, NYJ
||DAL, PHI, PIT
||NYG, PHI, MIN
||IND, CHI, NYG
Remember to email your
picks to me by noon on Sunday! Lots of people forgot last
week because I did not send a reminder. Get those picks in to
keep your name in the spotlight. If you miss 3 weeks in a row,
you will be dropped off the board!
Trap Game: Denver over San Diego
Let me first say that I was tempted to pick Arizona, Baltimore,
Kansas City, and even Detroit here (in that order). Even I don’t
have the cojones to pick Detroit as a 13.5-point dog going into
Lambeau, but don’t think I didn’t consider it. In
the final analysis, I think Denver is the right choice for the
trap game for several reasons.
Let’s start from the beginning. Denver is 5-0. Since the
Broncos’ fortuitous win over the Bengals in week one, they
pounded on Cleveland and Oakland, then beat Dallas 17-10, and
most recently bested New England.
Folks, these guys are for real. Josh McDaniels, whom we all thought
was an imbecile forletting Jay Cutler get away, has put together
a very strong team, particularly on the defensive side of the
Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise us given that he was Bill
Belichick’s understudy while in New England. Many analysts
assumed that he was simply the offensive mind behind the Pats,
but clearly he picked up some defensive strategy while there as
well. The Broncos are the top-ranked defense in the NFL, allowing
a meager 8.6 points per game. Perhaps even more impressively,
they only allow opposing offenses an average of 252 yards per
game—good for second in the league behind my Giants (210
That’s a surprisingly strong defense from a team that has
been plagued by a porous rush defense and an inconsistent secondary
for the past several years.
On the other side of the ball, Denver has put together a fairly
strong rushing attack behind the well-rounded youngster Knowshon
Moreno and veteran Correll Buckhalter. Kyle Orton has performed
well and is (slowly) developing rapports with WRs Brandon Marshall
and Eddie Royal. Thanks to the Denver defense (which must remind
him of his days with Chicago), Orton hasn’t had to play
from behind much all season.
In fact, my only fear about this game concerns San Diego getting
off to an early lead. If Philip Rivers can strike early with a
big pass to Vincent Jackson or Antonio Gates, enabling San Diego’s
defense to bring the heat, the Chargers could embarrass Denver.
Most assuredly this is what the odds-makers were thinking when
they made the 2-2 Chargers a 4.5 point favorite over the Broncos.
If Denver can keep San Diego’s passing game in check, the
Broncos have a pretty good shot at pulling off an “upset”
on Monday night.
3. Jacksonville over Saint Louis
“You’re picking the team that just lost by 41 points
last week to the Seahawks!? Are you kidding me!?” I expect
that was your first thought upon reading my third pick for the
week. Most likely it was followed by the word “You”
and a long train of expletives. Much thanks.
But seriously, it’s a good pick.
No, really, it is.
First and foremost, the Jags host the worst team in the NFL,
bar none. Worse than Oakland, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland,
and the hard-luck 0-5 Titans. The Saint Louis Rams are . . . honestly,
I can’t think of a word that conveys just how bad they are
– and I’m a law student, I’ve got words for
I wrote to a couple of readers two weeks ago about how I had
faith in Steve Spagnuolo and how convinced I was that he would
at some point in the season turn that defense around and shock
someone. I thought it was going to be the Niners in Week 4. Boy
was I wrong.
I have since revised my prognosis for the Rams . . . or at least
postponed it. They are 100% not ready to beat anyone, on either
side of the ball. Perhaps later in the season they will put together
a competent offensive attack or defensive performance, but certainly
(On a totally random note – where is the parity that
characterized the NFL for so long? Look how many teams started
0-5: Titans, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Rams. Maybe that’s why
our LMS pick percentages are so high at this point?)
In contrast to the Rams, who are just inept, the Jaguars are
merely inconsistent, looking terrible one week and serviceable
the next. I’m willing to bet that the Jaguars come back
this week and take out their frustration on the Rams. Jacksonville
had what had to be a feel-good win over division rival Tennessee
two weeks ago and clearly looked past Seattle and felt entitled
to a win.
Last week had to be a wake-up call for David Garrard, Maurice
Jones-Drew, and the Jaguar defense. Known around the league just
a few years ago for its stinginess, the Jacksonville defense has
a lot to prove this year. Look for that unit in particular to
restore at least a little faith in itself against Saint Louis
2. Pittsburgh over Cleveland
The Steelers, one of the safest LMS picks year in and year out
(strong defense and running game), are hosting a team that hasn’t
beaten them since October 5, 2003. And remember, that team gets
two shots at Pittsburgh each year!
Sounds like a safe pick to me.
Under normal circumstances, taking Pittsburgh to beat Cleveland
at home is savvy, but this year it’s even more so.
The Browns are almost as bad as the Rams. Almost. Brady Quinn
proved to be ineffective, leading to another QB change and Derek
Anderson being re-installed as the starter, for now.
Good move Mangini (Eric Mangini, Head Coach, Cleveland Browns).
With a grand completion percentage under 12% (2-17) for a total
of 23 yards and an interception, Anderson’s performance
last week was downright ghastly. How Cleveland beat Buffalo last
week, 6-3, is beyond my comprehension.
Buffalo had another crucial turnover at the end of the game to
set up a Browns FG for the win, more than slightly reminiscent
of Buffalo’s loss to New England on Monday night in Week
1. That said, the fact that the game was tied 3-3 with 3 minutes
to go, in my opinion, explains more about the loss than the fumble
did. The coaches may try to deflect blame onto the players, but
the fact is that the game shouldn’t have even been close
enough that three major errors, never mind one, could lose the
game for the Bills.
For our purposes, it is worth noting that beating the Bills last
week resulted in the Browns’ first win of the season . .
. and potentially their last.
1. Philadelphia over Oakland
This choice requires zero explanation. Literally, you could copy
and paste my analysis of the Giants-Raiders game last week, changing
“Philadelphia” for “New York” and “Eagles”
for “Giants”—and you have your analysis.
To reiterate, Oakland is incapable of moving the ball, and the
defense is not what we (I) thought it was going to be following
the week one game against San Diego. Richard Seymour is talented
and was a good addition, but he’s not a miracle worker.
To win this game, the Raiders will need a miracle worker. Does
anyone in the “Black Hole” of Raider Nation have a
direct line to the big guy upstairs? I doubt it – in fact,
I can’t think of many groups less likely to have one . .
In the end, Philadelphia’s offense should overwhelm Oakland.
Star corner Nnamdi Asomugha might shut down DeSean Jackson, but
who is covering upstart Jeremy Maclin (2 TDs last week) and massive
TE Brent Celek? Let’s not forget RBs Brian Westbrook and
LeSean McCoy, who although contained last week, are both liable
to pop a big run at any time.
And wait – what about Mike Vick? Who’s got him?
Okay, that last one wasn’t so serious. 1/3 for 1 yard passing
and 10 yards on 4 carries doesn’t strike fear into anyone.
On the other hand, Philadelphia’s massacre of Oakland might.
For responses to this week's fantasy
question please email me
no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.