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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Q & A
Week 17

Last Week's Question: Did a Marginal Playoff Team Stun Your League by Defeating a Frontrunner for the Championship?

As I pointed out in last week’s column, there is nothing surprising about seeing the best team in a fantasy league defeated by a lesser squad in the playoffs. Part of the excitement in a traditional head-to-head, single-elimination tournament stems from the fact that fantasy owners cannot rest on their laurels. No matter how well the players on your team may have performed all season, you need them to come through in the playoffs—when wins matter most.

But as we saw in Week 16, fantasy studs can become non-entities precisely when their owners are counting on them more than ever. Tony Romo is currently the 7th-ranked quarterback in my primary fantasy leagueóbut a fat lot of good that ranking does for owners who started Romo in fantasy Super Bowls over the weekend.

Ordinarily, the best fantasy teams manage to win even when a couple of key players fail to contribute. When Romo and Adrian Peterson leave the field with injuries, great fantasy teams will feature other players who deliver surprisingly good performances. You can overcome the loss of marquee players as long as you know which unsung heroes to start alongside them. The injury to Peterson was a blow to the Vikings, to the NFL, and to fantasy owners everywhere. But the Peterson owners who also started Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, or C.J. Spiller in Week 16 were able to mitigate the blow to their fantasy teams.

Sometimes, however, juggernauts lose their jugger and misplace their nauts all at once. Teams that roll into the fantasy playoffs firing on all cylinders may suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves firing on none. It isnít a matter of Aaron Rodgers being edged out by Tom Brady or of Arian Foster falling a little short of Steven Jackson. Itís more like Kyle Orton, LeGarrette Blount, and Torrey Smith teaming up to defeat Drew Brees, Ray Rice, and Larry Fitzgerald.

Perhaps these kinds of upsets shouldn’t happen in fantasy football, but sometimes—when the fickle gods of fantasy manhandle the stars into peculiar alignments—they do happen.

I am grateful to all of the readers who responded to my request for details from the most stunning playoff upsets in their fantasy leagues in 2011. I have featured the three most impressive upsets below. Our first upset comes from a reader named Mike, who writes:

I am not sure if this matchup qualifies as a marginal squad against an amazing team, but I believe so. My league uses standard scoring with ½ PPR. My best friend finished the season 14-0 in our 10-team league, and I finished 7-7. He scored 1893 points, 150 more than the 2nd highest scoring team and over 200 points more than me. To put this in perspective, no team has ever finished better than 12-2 or scored over 1800 points in the 8 years [we have been] using these rules. The main reason was that his keepers of Foster and Vincent Jackson counted as very low draft picks from last year.

On the other side is my team, which secured the 4th playoff spot at the very last moment (with serious luck). Hakeem Nicks and Steven Jackson combined for over 40 points, and the #3 team beat the previous #4 team by less than 2 points. I got lucky with Michael Bush and picked up Reggie Bush and Laurent Robinson just when they got hot, but otherwise I spent all season fighting between the 3rd – 6th place teams. The final result was:

Cam Newton (Car - QB) 23.46
Wes Welker (NE - WR) 6.10
Vincent Jackson (SD - WR) 10.80
Maurice Jones-Drew (Jac - RB) 11.80
Arian Foster (Hou - RB) 23.20
Kellen Winslow (TB - TE) 7.70
Brandon Lloyd (StL - WR) 6.70
Billy Cundiff (Bal - K) 2.00
Green Bay (GB - DEF) 3.00

Total 94.76

Matthew Stafford (Det - QB) 38.14
Brandon Marshall (Mia - WR) 13.90
Laurent Robinson (Dal - WR) 10.40
Ray Rice (Bal - RB) 15.70
Reggie Bush (Mia - RB) 25.40
Jermichael Finley (GB - TE) 9.80
Michael Bush (Oak - RB) 17.40
Dan Bailey (Dal - K) 7.00
Denver (Den - DEF) -3.00

Total 134.74

Based on our league rules, we are not allowed to make non-injury moves after week 14. His team lost Matt Forte, so Brandon Lloyd filled in as his flex player. Other than that, he had the same roster that put up amazing, consistent points every single week. The playoff loss was his season low. Based on that and his record, I would say this was a truly amazing team losing to an average team.

Like Mike, Jeremy provides details of a playoff upset along with background information concerning the season-long scoring trends of the teams involved. Readers who feel overwhelmed by the scoring details of IDP leagues should simply focus on the background history in Jeremy’s concluding paragraph:

We have a 12-team PPR league, and include both a defense and 3 IDPs.
1st round of playoffs:

8th seed (5-8)
Matt Ryan
Devin Hester
Rashard Mendenhall
Jake Ballard
Shonn Green
Larod Stephens-Howling
Sebastian Janikowski
Green Bay
Jared Allen
Terell Suggs
Jason Pierre Paul

1st seed (10-3)
Drew Brees
Greg Jennings
Darren Sproles
Jimmy Graham
Dez Bryant
Ryan Mathews
Pierre Thomas
Shaun Suisham
Chad Greenway
Roman Harper
Von Miller

Final Score 8 seed over 1 seed: 157-92.

The winner had only scored over 100 pts 4 times during the season, and their previous high score was 116. The loser had only scored under 100 pts 3 times during the year. Obviously, they were heavily invested in New Orleans. They also had Adrian Peterson on the bench due to his injury. The winner clearly benefited from the performance of his IDPs and defense.

Before we get to our third upset, I want to extend a hearty holiday handshake from FFToday to military personnel deployed all over the globe. This column has benefited tremendously from the commentary of active-duty FFers over the years, and it is gratifying to know that fantasy football can brighten the lives of readers like Brett (and his co-workers aboard the USS Bataan):

My FF league had a big upset in the playoffs. Our frontrunner going into the playoffs ("Winning") had only lost 2 games all regular season, with Aaron Rodgers leading his team to victory (complemented by Welker, Gronkowski, and Jennings). Our marginal playoff contender ("Bud Light Bombers") had made the playoffs by beating me in the second to last game, and squeaking into the playoffs by a draw; this isn't to say that his team was bad, but he had to make sufficient waiver wire acquisitions (notably Helu and Brown) to stop the mid-season bleeding.

There wasn't any single position that imploded for "Winning"—just general under-performance while the underdog's team stepped up its game. (You can see the full box score by clicking the thumbnail on the right). My league consists of coworkers in the US Navy/Marine Corps who are currently deployed on the USS BATAAN, so fantasy football has really been the glue keeping us entertained these last few months.

Most readers who are feeling bitter about playoff upsets in their own leagues should probably feel better after reviewing the upsets featured here. (My heart goes out to the poor owner of "Winning"!) I realize that some readers may have been prevented by holiday travel plans from responding to my Week 16 question. If you believe that a fantasy upset from your league is worthy of special attention, please mail me the details. I may be able to include belated responses to my Week 16 column in June of 2012.

Loose Ends

A number of readers with additional thoughts on scheduling fantasy championships for Week 17 contacted me after I wrapped up the discussion on that topic in Week 16. Because there was so much belated interest in Week 17 championships, I may be able to revisit that topic early in 2012. If you wanted to chime in on the subject but missed your chance, please do send me your insights or questions about Week 17.

That’s a wrap for Q&A 2011. I thank the readers who posed questions as well as those who took time out of their schedules to answer. This column remains one of the most enjoyable things I do each football season because of the participation of FFToday’s readers. I am grateful to all of you, and I look forward to continuing our discussions in 2012. Until then, I leave you with Matthew Schiff’s last set of LMS picks.

Last Man Standing - Week 17 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Readers, be warned that Matthew’s ability to think clearly may be impaired (as he is apparently being drenched by sunshine and drinks with tiny umbrellas):

I am writing this in the middle of the Caribbean Sea on my way from Isla of Roatan (Honduras) to Costa Maya, Mexico with the family on our holiday vacation. That said, I did have the best view of Drew Brees’ record-breaking game against the Falcons on a screen that seemed like it was the size of football field above the pool on the deck of the ship we are on.

Trap Game: (ALL divisional games)
In the early weeks of the season, I usually list a trap game to help you avoid being knocked out of your LMS pool, but this week, all the games are divisional games thanks to the NFL scheduling gurus. As such, if you have to pick a game, try to make sure that it is one where the regulars are playing for something and the coaches aren’t going to pull your star players just when you need that final win for the LMS title. Below are my three best choices this week, but they are far from sure bets based upon the fact that you never want to rely on games where the teams know each other well, the coaches are worried about jobs, and trick plays could be the difference.

#3: Philadelphia over Washington

The Eagles were supposed to be putting the finishing touches on the NFC East Division Championship this week, but the combination of Michael Vick’s midseason injuries and their collapse in the second half of some key games this season have relegated them to an early offseason while the Cowboys play the Giants for that crown this week. This fate is nothing new for Dan Snyder and his Redskins that have not made the playoffs in recent memory, but don’t expect the disappointed Eagles to be pushovers in this long-time rivalry. Washington fans may be used to seeing the Skins fizzle, but the Philly faithful will not tolerate a poor showing from Andy Reid’s team. These teams are statistically rather close except for the fact that the Redskins are 4th-most penalized team in the league while the Eagles are the 7th-least penalized. This should play into the home team’s favor and help Reid avoid a season-ending loss that would almost certainly signal his departure in the offseason.

#2: Atlanta over Tampa Bay

The Falcons might tell the press that they are just happy to be in the playoffs and do not care whether they end up seeded ahead of the Lions or not. But anyone who saw the 45-16 drubbing that they received from New Orleans knows that Atlanta would much rather be seeded 5th and face either Dallas or New York than be seeded 6th and face the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs (assuming that the 49ers can hold off the Rams in order to prevent the Saints from getting a bye). There are lots of complicated conditions, but the simplest formulation is that the Falcons will have a genuine motive to defeat the Bucs if the Packers beat the Lions at home in the early game. No matter what, Atlanta gets a late Christmas present from a Bucs defense that should be no match for them as they are dead last in points allowed per game at 29.9 per game and 30th in yards allowed with more than 392 yards per game.

#1: Denver over Kansas City

Tim Tebow and company need a win and some help from San Diego to get into the playoffs. But here comes Kyle Orton and his new team, the Chiefs, and don’t think this game isn’t personal. Kyle Orton would like nothing more than to knock the Broncos out of the playoffs in the stadium that cheered loudly for him when he was traded for Jay Cutler. Orton knows the Bronco defense. He knows their tendencies. But that hardly means that he will win this game. The Broncos know how to get to him and will be looking to add to their league-leading four interceptions for touchdowns this season. This is not a game for the squeamish and is my #1 choice based upon the fact that I have used my other choices during the season. But if you have to pick a game a game where you’re looking for some divine intervention, why not go with the guy who seems to have that on his side when trying to finish out the season in your Last Man Standing pool.

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