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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Q & A
Week 16

Last Week's Question: What Measures Can Fantasy Leagues Take to Salvage Week 17 of the Regular Season?

Last week's column featured a proposal from Tim, who wants his league to continue scheduling its championship game for Week 17--but would like to take the stress out of setting lineups for owners of NFL players who may sit out (or see limited action) because the Week 17 game is meaningless for their franchise.

Tim has considered changing to a "team player" concept for the final week of the season--seemingly as a direct response to an owner who was annoyed that Michael Vick sat for Kevin Kolb in Week 17 of 2010. Tim's argument for the "team player" model is that it would relieve stress from owners who are too busy traveling over the holidays to keep up with whether their players are going to start or not.

My own response to Tim's idea appears near the end of last week's column, and the readers I heard from this week only reinforced my opinion that the "team player" approach is not a particularly useful answer for the problems presented by Week 17.

Michael does a nice job of covering the objections of most readers before moving on to his own suggestions for Tim:

First, in my opinion, 'teamQB', etc. is a bad idea in the first place (eliminating not only backups, but then also shifting value of QBs who have more viable backups). Also, I have seen 'teamTE' in the past. With so many teams going to 2 TE systems (NE most famously), I would urge against this practice as well.

Ok, with that out of the way, I do not think you can change the ownership rules in the last week. It is highly unlikely that the team owning Kolb and Vick last year would oppose each other in Week 17, but it is possible and therefore must be taken into account. Here are some ways I think you could [take some of the stress out of setting lineups for fantasy championships in Week 17]:

  • Designate alternates: Allow an owner to start Vick, but if he does not play, then the alternate player automatically moves up. The owners would have to be transparent about who their initial starter is. This does not help though if the starter plays 1 series and leaves (in which case the switch to the alternate would not happen)--a risk that would have to be weighed.

  • Move the trade deadline closer to the playoffs: This would allow owners to potentially trade guys who may be sitting in Week 17 before they get into the playoffs. There are always teams fighting for that last playoff spot that would gladly take an initial upgrade in points even if it may cost them in the playoffs (since they have to get there first). This also gives an extra advantage to owners who wrap up a playoff bid early.

  • 2-week scoring: Instead of making the playoffs EITHER wk16 or wk17, make the championship wk16+wk17. This allows an accumulation of points, and that Vick owner likely gets at least 1 week of Vick (starters can be independently assigned for each week as normal).
The third option is my favorite, but I think you can combine all three.

Although readers like Michael wanted to help Tim out of his bind, most readers who still cling to a Week 17 championship think that Tim's league should simply "suck it up" or "deal with the challenge." Shaun manages to speak for this crowd without sounding antagonistic:

My 14-team PPR league has been playing together with our championship matchup in week 17 since our inception. Some complain, but for the most part we love it this way. This separates the good fantasy players from the bad ones and makes you care all the way to the end. People need to be more proactive and start thinking 3-4 weeks in advance and pull from past experience which dictates that NFL teams that have secured their playoff spots will be resting their key players after the first half of those Week 17 games.

I can remember being beaten by the likes of a Matt Hasselbeck 300-yard, 4-td explosion that felt like it came out of nowhere. I learned a valuable lesson and now make the proper provisions for Week 17. I have Greg Jennings on my team this year and prior to his injury was planning ahead for Week 17 which (for the record) never had me putting Jennings in my lineup.

Furthermore, I noticed last week that an owner released Kendall Hunter on waivers, and I immediately scooped him up with full intention to play him as a flex or 2nd rb in Week 17. SF plays the Rams that week, and I know Gore will be lucky to get 5 touches (if any) in a meaningless game against the league's worst rush defense.

These [decisions are] what fantasy is all isn't it? And when it is fun, shouldn't we try to make it last as long as we can?

With the advent of smart phones with twitter these days, is there really an excuse for not being able to manage the last-minute information needed to make the right line-up call moments before stepping on that plane or tuning out for a second with the family for taking a bite of that stuffed turkey? I didn't think so. I think folks need to stop complaining and just embrace week 17 for what it is. I know I do now.
There may be something to the idea that owners who need to impose special rules in order to make Week 17 palatable probably should not be playing in Week 17 at all. Leagues that want to try making adjustments in Week 17 can start with any or all of Michael's suggestions. However, since Michael is merely pitching ideas (instead of speaking from experience), I would like to hear from any commissioners who experiment with his ideas.

This Week's Question: Was There an Upset in Your Fantasy Playoffs Akin to the Chiefs' Upset of the Packers?

Most fantasy leagues have a clear frontrunner that emerges as the consensus favorite fairly early in the season (by Week 6 or so). These frontrunners almost always make the playoffs, but tend not to win championships as often as we might expect. Maybe the owners become complacent and fail to be as active on the wire as they should be. Maybe a couple of injuries to key players reduce a great fantasy squad to mediocrity. Or maybe the best team in the league just happens to have its worst performance against an ordinary team on its best day of the season.

There are so many variables at play that no one is really shocked when the best team in the league fails to take home a championship. Being the best team only means having the best shot at the trophy. Nothing is guaranteed in fantasy football (just as there are no guarantees in the NFL).

But even if there is nothing surprising about seeing the best team in a fantasy league eliminated from the playoffs by a lesser squad, some fantasy upsets qualify as genuine stunners. These upsets cause the kind of jaw-dropping that we saw with Kansas City's upset of the Packers. The Packers are the consensus favorite to win the NFL championship, and they have looked like the best team in the league for most of the season. Considering how difficult it is for teams to go undefeated in the NFL, it isn't surprising that the mighty Packers lost a game--but the fact that the loss came against the lowly Chiefs has left a number of fans scratching their heads.

This week, I am calling upon readers to send me the scores from the most surprising upsets in their fantasy playoffs. I am not interested in games in which great teams lost to mediocre teams. I do not care about bad teams that managed to squeak past mediocre teams. I am after the scores (and more importantly the lineups) from fantasy playoff matches in which marginal playoff teams managed to defeat truly impressive fantasy squads.

I will be particularly grateful to readers who can provide me with a means of corroborating the scores/lineups/rosters they send--such as links to their league websites or contact information for the owners involved. It might be a fun exercise for some readers to come up with hypothetical matchups between imaginary fantasy squads in Weeks 14, 15, and 16, but fantasy teams are already imaginary enough for my taste. I am interested in genuine fantasy playoff upsets, not imaginary fantasy matchups.

If all goes according to plan, my Week 17 column will feature the single greatest playoff upset of 2011 in the world of fantasy football. The numbers from that game may have a palliative effect on those of us who feel we were robbed of the championship by a team that did not deserve to beat us. Perhaps the bitter taste in many of our mouths will be less bitter when we see which owner out there was even more outrageously robbed than we were.

Last Man Standing - Week 16 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

To all of you who have remained alive in your LMS pools to this point in the season, you have done exceptionally well. Our LMS pool in our normal fantasy league was won this week by yours truly with his Arizona pick. The irony is that the other team owner left in the LMS pool went with my #2 choice last week (Tennessee). Oh well, you can’t get them right all of the time...

#3: Washington over Minnesota

This game isn’t high on NBC’s list to “flex” to the Sunday Night Game of the week, but if you are stuck and have used my first two choices as well as the NE, PIT, BAL, etc. picks by this point in the season, Mike Shanahan and his shenanigans might be just the pick for you. This game will not be flashy, but players like Santana Moss and Percy Harvin may break a catch or two for long touchdown runs respectively. Some players, like Rex Grossman and others, may just be starting/playing their second-to-last game on their team or possibly in the NFL in spite of what transpires in the last few weeks. They’ll be giving it their all to earn the right to return in 2012.

#2: Houston over Indianapolis

Indianapolis may have caught Tennessee “napping” last week, but don’t look for Arian Foster to take any plays off against this divisional rival. Houston is 10-4 with a chance at the #1 seed (most likely the #2 with NE in front with only MIA and BUF to play), so the chance of a new winning streak in Lukoil Stadium is slim to almost nil. The Texans have a strong defense (3rd in total points per game and 2nd in yards allowed per game). Put that defense up against an Indy offense that is 31st in total yards per game (283 yards per game) and the formula for a blowout is established. Take the Texans as a surprisingly safe road pick against a normally challenging division rival.

#1: Carolina over Tampa Bay

Cam Newton is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the NFL for many years to come. And unfortunately for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they will get to face him twice a year for probably the next 7 to 10 years (barring injury). That said, this game will be more about what each team’s defense is lacking than what each offense is capable of. The Bucs' defense has given up the 2nd most points and 3rd most yards per game in the league--something that is unheard of for a normally stingy Tampa Defense. And while the Panther D is average at best in every statistical category (17th to 25th), Josh Freeman and company don’t seem to present nearly the matchup problem for them that Newton presents for the Bucs. Take the Panthers at home as these up-and-comers start to get comfortable winning games in December when they mean the most.

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