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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Q & A
Week 7

Last Week's Question: Should Players on Bye Weeks Be Awarded an Average of Their Year-to-Date Scores?

In last week's column, I reported on a new feature at This league-hosting website permits commissioners the option of awarding points (an average based on year-to-date performance) to players on bye weeks. I own Hakeem Nicks in a league that is hosted by RTSports. He has scored a total of 90 fantasy points over the first six weeks of the season. Accordingly, if my league turned this average-score-for-bye-week feature on, I could get 15 fantasy points from Nicks in my week 7 game even though Nicks will be home watching football. (Scratch that. Nicks won't be lounging around in front of a television. He will be lifting weights, working on his endurance, and thinking about how important it is for him to win a championship for my fantasy team.)

This scoring mechanism is apparently a hot-button topic with FFToday's readership, as I was overwhelmed by feedback from commissioners and veteran FFers. I regret that I cannot include all of the comments I received, but the most representative responses are featured below.

I'll start with this response from Kim, who currently runs a league on RTSports:

Our league is on that same site (Real Time Sports), and I also noticed that posting [about bye week scores]. I’ve been commissioner of a league that’s been around for 13 years. For the first 3 years, I calculated the stats for our league each week by hand. During that time, we had a rule that allowed owners to “carryover” a player on a bye. However, we didn’t use an average; nor have I ever heard of any league using an average weekly score for players on a bye. Our system required you to designate that you were carrying over a player prior to the last game before the bye, and then you would get the same points during the bye as he scored in the previous week’s game. So if you wanted to carry over Ray Rice, you would have had to state you wanted to do that prior to his week 4 game, and then you would get the same score from him during his bye in week 5 as he scored on week 4.

We stopped this practice when we moved to automated scoring on websites as none of them could accommodate that setup. I liked our old system and would consider using it again given the opportunity. It was most commonly used for studs (as you might expect) as well as TE’s, K’s & D/ST’s. That being said, I don’t like the system Real Time Sports is offering as it allows the owner to know what he/she will get out of a player on a bye week prior to setting a lineup. Our system made you gamble a bit. You couldn’t be sure how the player would do [before deciding to carry his score over to the bye week], and if he had an awful week or got injured, you were not only going to pay for it on the week he played but also on the bye week. With the RTS system, that gamble doesn’t exist. You know exactly what you’re going to score when you decide to play a player on a bye week, and that just doesn’t sit well with me.

I certainly like the sound of Kim's option for letting owners get bye week production out of players provided they declare their intentions 2 weeks in advance. I hate carrying multiple kickers on a fantasy team, but I have gotten as far as I can go this season with David Akers as my only kicker. It would have been nice to declare back in Week 5 that whatever Akers scored in Week 6 would be my kicker tally for Week 7. Since we have no such rule, however, I must either drop a wide-out to make room for Akers' stand-in or replace Akers altogether if I want an active kicker on my roster in Week 7.

The key distinction between Kim's method and the mechanism at RTSports concerns knowledge at the time of the decision about the bye week player. Kim's method would have forced me to gamble on Akers before he walked on the field in Week 6 if I wanted to replicate that score in Week 7. The RTSports method lets me decide whether I want to use a player AFTER I already know how many points he will earn for my team. The fact that the average is obviously calculated in advance of the fantasy match-up was a sticking point for most of the readers who objected to the RTSports option. Jason speaks for many of those who wrote in:

In fantasy sports, there really isn't a "silly" scoring category or idea. Each league has [its own system]. You just need to adjust your projections, analysis, and strategies accordingly. However, personally, I also feel the objective of fantasy sports is then to take all your information and compare the risk vs. reward about which players to start. This scoring rule would negate that process, which is the primary reason I dislike it.

Here are some other thoughts on this scoring rule. The variance between week 5 bye weeks and week 11bye weeks can be great. Week 5 bye-weeks would be more polarized by fast and slow starts by players. Week 5's YTD average is more of a showing your player's ceiling/floor while Week 11 is more of a showing of who players actually are. Also, if your bye week is late, your YTD average stats will take a hit if you have a mid-season injury that keeps a player out for a week or two. Think Andre Johnson and how big of a difference his YTD average would be at the time of his bye week if it was in week 5 instead of week 11. Speaking of which, can injured players be played during their bye weeks if we just use their YTD averages? Miles Austin couldn't play in weeks 3 & 4 because of his hamstring, but even if he was still injured in Week 5, his owners could start him because the Cowboys were on a bye. All fun things to consider when looking at this scoring rule.

Bryan wrote in to object to the bye week scoring option on behalf of leagues with limited roster moves:

My league places a high priority on the draft process by limiting the number of transactions per season to 10. We do not [award points to players on bye weeks under any circumstances,] which forces owners to make smart decisions on draft day and to use their transactions wisely during the season. If an owner makes a large number of moves in the first few weeks when the trendy “hot” players are plucked from the wire, then they may be penalized during mid-season bye weeks. As an example, I drafted the Patriots D/ST, which has been terrible this year, but I am waiting to drop the unit until after this week so I don’t use 2 of my 10 add/drops to replace a defense. To allow an owner to utilize an “average” score during a bye week is unfair to other owners who 1) paid attention on draft day and 2) pay attention to their team throughout the season.

At the other end of the transaction spectrum from Bryan, we have Marc:

As you already pointed out, bye weeks encourage waiver wire pick-ups and trades. And since my league charges for these transactions, I certainly wouldn't use that option in my league, if for no other reason than to help ensure a decent pot for the end-of-season payouts.

I suppose this scoring option would come in handy in extremely deep leagues (16-20 teams) where the WW pickups are slim to none. But all in all, it just doesn't seem fair, as those with a player in a week five bye could have an advantage/disadvantage if that player got off to a hot/cold start, whereas a team with a player on a bye in week 11 would have more of a realistic "average".

Bottom line, I wouldn't use this setting in a league, no matter how deep.

Although Marc wouldn't use the bye week scoring option himself, he is correct in his assessment of how appealing it could be for owners in very deep leagues. The only owner I heard from whose league already uses the bye week scoring feature (Joe) explained that the bye week option is helpful when there are too many owners and not enough players:

I'm in a 16-team league that utilizes the average points per game for players on bye because in a 16-team league, there aren't many players worth starting on the wire. The rule is as long as the player you use for his bye week was in your starting lineup the prior week, you can use that player's average points per game.

What I like most about Joe's response is the way it hearkens back to Kim's requirement to use the bye week player in the week before his bye. It would be nice to give the last word on this subject to Joe, since he was the only reader who took the time to explain why the bye week scoring option works for his league, but I have saved Brad's response for last because it leads into this week's question:

In my league the exact opposite is going on. Not only zero points for players on byes, but just this week we jacked up the penalty for playing a bye week starter to $20. This mid-season move might spur another worthwhile question: Are mid-season rule changes good or bad for the league?

Given the number of anticipated hamstring injuries related to the shortened camps a number of owners in our league (including yours truly) decided to stuff their benches with handcuffs for their stars. I had 3 handcuffs myself, one of which was Ben Tate. I also have MJD’s backup and Wes Welker’s backup. My team is in 2nd place in a total points league thanks in part to my ability to play Ben Tate during the first 3 weeks of the season (Deji Karim’s day is coming soon). The top team in the league has done similarly with its handcuffs. That’s why we’re on top.

All the handcuffs caused bye week problems. Do owners dump their handcuffs to fill their bye week replacements, knowing the bottom-feeders will snap up those valuable commodities?

At the start of the season, our league had a token $5 fine for starting a player on a bye. So, one strategy could be to play a bye-week player and save his handcuff for a $5 fee. However, in mid-season, a number of owners petitioned the commissioner to vote on a more significant penalty for starting bye week players. Their issue is that in a total points league where 5 points goes to the head-to-head winner, it’s hard to beat another team when one of your spots is guaranteed a zero. In the 12 years of our league, this was the first time a mid-season rule has ever been introduced.

Ultimately the league voted on a $20 fine for starting a bye week player, which puts some of the top-tier teams in a difficult spot. I voted against the fine mostly because I don’t think it’s appropriate to change league rules mid-season. Basically the top 3 teams voted against the fine and the bottom 9 voted for it. Suspiciously, there is a pretty significant point spread between the #3 team and the #4 team- like 60 points already.

How do other leagues deal with mid-season rule changes? Is this common and I’m just an old-fashioned guy, or did some rogue elements in my league successfully hijack the league for their individual benefit?

My thanks to everyone who wrote in (whether I had room for their comments or not). I particularly want to thank Brad for his detailed description of a mid-season rule change, which leads us to . . .

This Week's Question: Under What Circumstances Do Leagues Permit Mid-Season Rule Changes?

I try not to be dogmatic in this column. There are myriad ways to approach fantasy football, and as long as your way works for your league, you don't need to worry much about what other leagues do. When people ask me if this or that rule is "unfair," I usually try to remind them that as long as the rules are the same for everyone in the league, the question should be more about what's fun than what seems abstractly "fair."

However, I have been fairly dogmatic in the past about mid-season rule changes. I took a hard-line position years ago that it is only appropriate to change rules before the season begins, not once it is underway.

A number of commissioners have complained to me over the years about the inflexibility of my position. Sometimes there are developments in the course of a season that require a form of correction not detailed in the existing rule set. What if two owners collude so egregiously that they have to be expelled for the integrity of the league, but there are no rules on how to play out the season with 2 absentee teams? What if the commissioner suddenly lacks the time or inclination to perform his duties and the person who takes over discovers that no one else ever fully understood how certain conditions were handled because the "rules" the commissioner used to govern certain scoring mechanics existed only in his own mind? What if the rulebook failed to account for certain contingencies? What if the league is in danger of falling apart unless a new rule of some kind is implemented?

As Brad explains in the last note quoted above, it is difficult to go along with any mid-season rule change. The temptation (for someone of my temperament anyway) is always to ride out the season with the existing rules and vote on any changes that seem necessary in the offseason. However, I have heard from multiple commissioners who insist that sometimes an immediate rule change is necessary.

I am therefore asking readers to respond to this week's column in one of two ways. The first option is to review Brad's description of the events in his league and to comment on whether the mid-season rule change his league implemented is the sort of thing that should or could happen in their own leagues. The second option is to provide a description of circumstances that actually led to mid-season rule changes in leagues (whether the leagues survived those changes or not).

Last Man Standing - Week 7 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: Atlanta at Detroit

All of the stats for this game point to Detroit winning at home against a Falcons team that hasn’t changed much from last year’s NFC Conference Best 14-2 team. However, the 49ers exposed the Lions last week when Frank Gore ran for over 150 yards and a touchdown. If Michael Turner, who is still considered one of the best at his position, does his homework, he should be able to match Gore’s effort from the week before. The Lions also have to be careful to protect Matthew Stafford as he was sacked in the end zone last week, which highlights some of the troubles that the Lions have had protecting him.

#3: New Orleans over Indianapolis (4-2, PIT, SD, GB, BUF, HOU, CIN)

There is a recurring theme in this year’s LMS picks: Pick against the Colts, Jags and Rams--and use the NFL team that you feel you won’t be able to use in later weeks. Last week in this same spot I chose the Bengals over the Colts because of the incredible amount of injuries that they have incurred this year. Well as they say, there will be “no rest for the weary” when the high-powered Saints march back home after a divisional loss in Tampa (a trap game). The Saints rank 2nd in yards per game, 5th in total point scored, and while they are only 17th in total defense, this unit should have a monster day against a Colts offense that is 31st in total offense. There’s a chance that Freeney and Mathis may be able to create enough turnovers in this game to keep it close, but with a total of 7 turnovers on the season and 9 sacks, it’s going to be a long day in the bayou.

#2: Baltimore over Jacksonville (5-1, SD, AZ, DET, GB, NYG, PIT)

The Jaguars have been playing better than their 1-5 record and are ranked 8th overall in total yards allowed, but they have been unable to create turnovers on the defensive side of the ball and have a rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbert that has the Ravens' perennially strong defense licking its chops. Baltimore is 1st in points allowed averaging a paltry 14 points per game and Jacksonville’s 32nd ranked offense will be severely hampered in their efforts at home against the AFC Central leading Ravens. So take the Ravens on the road in spite of them possibly looking forward to a rematch with Pittsburgh in two weeks.

#1: Dallas over St. Louis (5-1 SD, PIT, TN, PHL, CIN, GB)

Felix Jones is out for the next two to four weeks, but that shouldn’t be a problem for the pass-oriented Cowboys (who are ranked 4th overall in that category). Steve Spagnuola, who was a defensive genius in New York and learned from one of the best in Philadelphia’s Jim Johnson before coming over to the Rams, will try to solve his team’s problem of giving up over 400 yards and 28 points per game. While the Cowboys may use Rookie DeMarco Murray and fourth-year back Tashard Choice in committee, look for Tony Romo to exploit the secondary of the Rams with passes to Dez Bryant and company to remain in the NFC East hunt.

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