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Q&A - What mid-season or end-of-season activities have been a hit with your league?
Week 12

Retro-response: I received a belated answer from Mark concerning Mike’s question about quarterbacks and receivers who play on the same team in the NFL but on opposing teams in fantasy leagues. I wish this answer had been available for last week’s column, and I include it here just in case Mike is still looking for feedback:

I have both Brees and Orton as my QB’s. I played a guy whose best receiver was Brandon Lloyd. The rest of his team was off or had bad matchups, so the only way he was going to win was if Lloyd had a career day.

In that situation although Brees is my stud, I could have started Orton. That way if Lloyd has a great game, my QB almost certainly has one too. If Lloyd is off, then Orton might still be okay. As it turned out, Lloyd was my opponent’s top scorer with 22 points. Orton had 19 and Brees had 23. I ran away with the game 109-58.

That’s about the only kind of situation I could see for using fantasy match-ups to decide on starters.

Last Week’s Question:

What do commissioners plan to do with their leagues if the NFL moves forward with an 18-game season?

Evan wonders whether any other commissioners are thinking about changes they might make to their leagues if the NFL extends the regular season to an 18-game format. I look forward to returning to this question if and when we get official word from the NFL on this subject, but I wanted to get some initial thoughts about how commissioners might respond to such a change as the basis for that discussion. Evan’s tentative plan seems simple and sensible:

My current league has a 13 week regular season, with a 3-week, 6-team postseason (two 1st-round byes in first week) from Weeks 14-16. We have 16 roster spots for 9 weekly starters. I think I would make the following changes:

1. Expand the regular season by one week, keep trade deadline the same.

2. Expand the playoffs by one week. This extra week will be used to make the championship and third place matches stretch over two weeks, letting good teams duke it out a little longer for the top spot.

3. I may add one more roster spot, or maybe an IR spot to help owners cope with the increase in injured players.

The first response I received to Evan’s question came from Mike Krueger (who has the advantage of seeing this column before anyone else does, since he is the one who posts it each week):

I wouldn't be surprised if the NFL incorporates two bye weeks for each team if they do expand to 18 games. I'll probably add a roster spot or an IR spot like Evan suggested if these things happen.

Walter hopes the NFL does change the format of the regular season precisely so that he can leave his league untouched:

I won’t change a thing. We currently have our championship game in Week 16, and every year one of the guys in the championship [whines] about how this or that player won’t have a genuine shot to produce because his coach won’t risk injuring him in a game that has zero playoff implications [either because the team has locked up its playoff spot or because the team has no chance of making it into the postseason]. I think over the years every single one of my guys has complained about this, so I won’t even ask them for their input on the question. I am just going to tell them to quit their [whining] and enjoy the last few weeks of the regular season without fantasy teams.

I’m sure a lot of commissioners share Walter’s frustration, but Bill’s model is more consistent with what I would expect from the majority of leagues:

I am commissioner of a 12-team league that plays 13 games with 3 weeks for the playoffs. Although I haven't discussed my ideas yet with other members of the league, here's my thinking right now.

We have split into 3 4-team divisions in which everyone plays their division opponents twice and every other team (except one) once. With an 18-game, 20-week season (two bye weeks per team is what they are discussing now), I would split into two divisions of 6, play each division opponent twice (10 games) and everyone else once (6 games) and still maintain a 3-week playoff (not playing Week 20).

Mitchell agrees with Krueger & Bill about the extra bye week and thinks that FF owners should get a week off as well:

If the NFL really goes to an 18-game regular season, they are bound to give each team an extra bye. Instead of playing 16 games in 17 weeks, I think teams will end up playing 18 games in 20 weeks—which is a really long season even for people who are only putting together imaginary lineups.

I might actually try giving byes to 2 owners each week in November and early December. Most of us have to do some traveling for work or family around that time of year, and sometimes it can be a real pain to keep up with fantasy stuff when you are flying on Saturday night and/or Sunday morning.

We give the best draft spots to the teams that finish last, but maybe we could reward the teams that finish best by letting them pick which week they want off based on their work/travel schedule. It’s something I’ll have to think about.

Len’s league used to have a second draft in November, and he thinks an 18-game season might let him revive that tradition:

Our draft party was the highlight of our season when our league started decades (I’m not saying how many) ago. We liked it so much that we decided to have 2 drafts. We would have one 12-round draft at the end of August to set our rosters for September and October. Owners constantly had to cut quality players just to get their lineups right with a roster of only twelve, but it made for a really active waiver wire for the first two months of the season.

We had part 2 of our draft the first Sunday of every November while watching the games. We didn’t schedule matchups for that Sunday. Owners didn’t even have to worry about their lineups as you would get to submit your starting lineup (QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, Def, K) after the games had been played. The six highest scoring teams all got wins, and the six lowest scores all got losses, and we had rounds 13-18 of our draft while the games were being played.

It was all just an excuse to have a second draft party and watch some football games together as a league, but it was a lot of fun to see what crazy waiver wire moves people would make at the end of October to get ready for that draft.

Unfortunately, people started having schedule conflicts, and we ended up simplifying things by having just one 16-round draft at the end of August. A lot of us still miss the second draft party though, and an 18-game season might be just the excuse to bring it back.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in. I’m delighted to have so much food for thought ready in the event that the NFL opts to extend the regular season.

This Week’s Question:

What mid-season or end-of-season activities have been a hit with your league?

Len’s idea of a second draft party at the beginning of November sounds like a lot of fun. I don’t know how happy I would be with a roster of only twelve players for two months, but bringing the league together at some point in the second half of the season sounds like a good idea for most leagues. Owners of bad teams who might otherwise fail to stay on top of their lineups would presumably have a bit more motivation to pay attention to their players’ bye weeks if only because of an expectation of being face-to-face with their peers at some point before next year’s draft.

I suspect that a lot of leagues around the country have evolved in the same way as my primary league. Back in the early years of the league, all of us made it to a formal draft at the end of the summer, and most of us congregated at someone’s house on the Sunday afternoon or Monday night of Week 16 for our league championship.

Over time, people’s jobs required them to move to different parts of the country. Their kids became active in school activities that demanded parental participation over the weekend. The league doesn’t really watch football as a group anymore. Now we have our draft online instead of at a bar or someone’s house. We certainly don’t watch the games relevant to our fantasy championship together. In fact, I’m not sure that the owners who don’t make the playoffs even know which teams end up participating in the championship.

It’s great that fantasy football is a flexible enough activity to enable twelve men with different jobs and family responsibilities to “play” together for four months without having to pay attention to each other’s schedules. There is absolutely nothing wrong with leagues (such as one that I belong to right now) that require no interaction between owners. Nevertheless, some leagues must have stumbled onto some mid-season or end-of-season activities that owners can enjoy despite their busy schedules. I hope to hear about some of them for next week’s column.

Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of Mark Den Adel)

#1 – NY Jets over Cincinnati
The 5th-ranked Jets rush defense will have no trouble shutting down Cedric Benson. With Darrelle Revis covering Terrell Owens and Antonio Cromartie covering Ochocinco, what can the Cincy offense realistically do? The Bengals are coming off a short week of practice against a Jets team that would be too much for them under ideal conditions, so this game should not be close in the second half. Fantasy owners of Shonn Greene should be advised that in light of his fumble problems late in the Texans-Jets match-up, L.T. should carry more of the load in this game.

#2 – Cleveland over Carolina
Cleveland has had some hard luck losses against the Jets and the Jaguars. Now they come home against a Panther team ranked dead last in total offense (although the Browns aren’t much better at 28th). Look for Peyton Hillis to have his way with the Panther defense—and for the Browns to show why they are much better than their 3-7 record.

#3 – New England over Detroit
The Patriots are too disciplined a team to let a short week of preparation hurt them against the Detroit Turkeys—I mean Lions. Turkey day has not been kind to Detroit, as the Lions have lost their last 7 games on Thanksgiving by hefty margins and hasn’t covered the spread in any of those games. I don’t see them bucking that trend this year. The Detroit offense is hurting with Jahvid Best out, and since their rushing offense is ranked next to last, don't expect much on the ground. If Detroit has any hope, it will be heavy doses of Calvin Johnson, but even he can only do so much against a team as mature and solid as New England.

Upset of the week: Green Bay over Atlanta
I was close (again) in Week 11, but Jacksonville came back to beat Cleveland in the end. This week I'll take my shot with the Pack. Matt Ryan is really good at home (17-1), but Aaron Rodgers has been playing well of late (blowing out Minnesota on the road and triumphing over the mighty Jets-D). Green Bay wants home field advantage for the playoffs, and beating Atlanta will take them one step closer to that goal. The Packer defense has been stunningly effective on the road (recall the shutout of the Jets a couple of weeks ago). If the Packers remember to bring that defense to Atlanta, they will win by a FG.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me.