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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

What Will You Do Differently in 2017?

Last Week's Question: Should ties be settled with a push?

My column for Week 15 featured the quandary of a commissioner named Chris, who had no tie-breaker in place when two of his owners tied during the playoffs in his league. Unsure what to do, he asked whether the owners (nicknamed the Cravats and the Windsors) who tied in Week 14 should play a rematch in Week 15 to see which one would be pitted against another team (the Bolos) that had won his game to advance to the semifinals.

My response to Chris' proposal was written before I asked for feedback from the FFToday community. I said that I would share my remarks unless someone wrote in to express my sentiments better than I did. Nolan rose to that challenge:

Hopefully you told Chris that his tiebreak plan was a terrible idea. The trouble is that it makes the Bolos (the team that actually won their game outright) effectively play against two teams in the next round. One of the key aspects of fantasy is that there is a lot of variance in the week-to-week scores. I might have an average score that's 30 points higher than my playoff opponent, but if he scores more in that given week then I'm out. If you flip a coin or use some other method to choose the Week 14 winner, then there is a possibility that team will post an abysmal Week 15 and the Bolos can cruise to victory. Making them play the best of the two scores means that such an easy road would be negated by the higher score from the other team. But a huge performance from either would get passed right on to eliminate them.

Using a coin flip, highest average score from the season, high score from the previous week, head-to-head record, or anything else that determines a winner now is a better solution than penalizing a team that wasn't even involved in the tie. Since there was no tiebreak discussion before the season, probably using a method that picks a winner randomly is the best option. Either of the tied teams might feel like this isn't fair to them, but if they don't like it they should have won their game like the Bolos did.
Bingo, Nolan. Most leagues use single elimination tournaments to determine champions. Advancing to the title game requires owners to beat a single opponent week after week. There's no way it's reasonable to require the Bolos to defeat two opponents in Week 15 just to stay alive in the playoffs. I believe that any other method of breaking the tie (including a coin flip) makes more sense than a push.

Robert, who posted a comment to the column, started with the same premise as Nolan but devised a way of using a Thursday night push to conclude the contest between the Cravats and the Windsors before the Sunday kickoff in Week 15:
Doesn't seem fair for someone who flat out won their first playoff match to essentially have to win against two teams. Maybe a better option is for the teams that tied to do a daily lineup sort of thing using only the players from the following week's Thursday game. That way the winner is known by the end of Thursday night. The regular matchup can still use their players involved in the Thu game.
I don't see anything wrong with a solution like this as long as everyone is amenable to it, and the best thing about it (from the average commissioner's perspective) is that it allows for the matter to be determined by an outcome that can't be known in advance.

Roughly a third of the responses I received came from people who thought that whichever team had the higher seed between the Cravats and the Windsors should get the win. As Leo put it:
Very simple, higher seed wins all ties. Of course you need everyone to know this BEFORE the league year starts, but that's it. You need to specify ALL tie-breaking criteria at the draft. Once playoffs start, they need to be seeded (usually with tie-breakers) , and higher seed wins. Gives regular season meaning.
I completely agree, but I can also see how the owner of the Cravats (if he happened to be the lower seed) could pitch a fit about such a ruling if only because no such tie-breaking methodology was specified in advance. For the sake of making sure that no one feels cheated in this situation, I can understand why some commissioners might want to resort to other methods, so I'll quickly review the other proposals I received.

Even though Chris' league doesn't use decimal scoring (which definitely reduces the number of ties), Bruce pointed out that decimal conversion can always be done retroactively: "We revert the scoring to split stats (.1 pts per receiving/rushing yd instead of 1 pt for 10 yards). This always reconciles the issue."

Bruce also mentioned using bench players to break ties, an approach that Jim dislikes because it "does reward the deeper team, but unfairly penalizes teams with handcuffs, injured 2017 keepers, etc." Instead of using bench players, Jim prefers "the idea of skilled position tie breakers [because it] eliminates the contributions of kickers and defenses (both of which can be fluky)."
I understand where Jim is coming from, but flukiness is part of the fun of fantasy football (especially in the playoffs), so this wouldn't be my choice—though it might appeal to others.

The common denominator between seeding, decimal conversion, bench players, and elimination of kickers and defenses is that the result of the tie-breaking method can be known, in all cases, before the tie-breaker in question is applied. So even though everything I know about the NFL suggests that the higher seed should win the tie, the fact that no such rule exists in Chris' league is why I suggested a coin flip.

Although some of the solutions outlined above might work for you and your league, my thoughts align pretty well with Maxwell's: "At this point in the season, with no previous tie breaker set in the rules, the only fair and equitable way to break the tie for all parties involved would be a coin flip."

If you want to argue that Chris should use seeding, I can respect your position without adopting it.

But if you still think a push is an appropriate way to settle the tie (even though it forces the Bolos to defeat two opponents in one week), I think you're just wrong.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in.

This Week's Question: What will you do differently in your fantasy league in 2017?

Before I pose my question for Week 17, I want to include a follow-up message from Dan, who proposed a viable strategy for multi-year pot accumulation. (For details, see last week's column.) Dan explained that a perfect score in his system would be 300 points, so I asked him what score the winner achieved. He replied: "Champ ended with 197 points, 7-7 year 1, 9-5 year 2, 11-3 year 3. Overall 27-15, and was back-to-back champ years 2+3."

Thanks for answering, Dan. I hope that if anyone out there decides to tinker with your model for a progressive fantasy pot, they'll write in with their experience down the line.

And now, for my final question of the 2016 regular season, I want to ask readers what they expect to do differently in 2017. Will you change your draft strategy? Your approach to trading? Specific rules in your league? If so, what happened that triggered your decision to change?

Please post comments below or email me with your responses.

Survivor Pool Picks - Week 16 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

First off, I want to give a shout out to Mike Davis, my collaborator for the last 15 years. Without anticipating what might come of it, I emailed Mike in 2001 to criticize his picks based upon some empirical data and trends. Next thing I know, Mike roped me into years of collaboration. And I couldn’t be happier.

That said, Mike stepped up for me last week when I was under water on a deadline (because of my day job). For those of you who chose Minnesota, my apologies. Mike and I had discussed the teams still available to me going into the last three weeks. While the Vikings were an option, the Bills would have been my #1 choice (and should have been yours). For that, I apologize. I was unavailable to give Mike my picks, so he interpolated what I might choose. I hope that you are still in your pools in spite of that pick and can benefit from my analysis in the final two weeks of the season.

#3: San Diego over Cleveland: (12-3, JAX, OAK, DAL, MIN, PIT, NE, CIN, TN, GB, AZ, DET, NYG, SEA, HOU, IND, BUF)

San Diego is 5-9 playing a Browns team that hasnít won a game all season. The last time a team went 0-16 was Rod Marinelli's Detroit Lions in 2008. While Cleveland got good news in the return of Robert Griffin III last week, this team needs more than just a franchise quarterback to compete. Meanwhile, the Chargers, while having nothing really to play for, are trying desperately to help Antonio Gates become the all-time touchdown record holder among tight ends. He is currently at 109, two behind Tony Gonzalez, and could easily find himself tied for that record after this week. This isn't a game that will be burning up the Neilsen ratings. But if you like seeing records made or broken, tune into this one on Sunday and see if Philip Rivers can put Gates in the record books. Whether he's successful on that front or not, he and the Chargers shouldn't have any trouble with the Browns.

#2: Dallas over Detroit: (13-2, HOU, AZ, CAR, WAS, GB, TN, NE, MN, SEA, NYG, PIT, BUF, DEN, ATL, ATL*)

If you are one of the lucky few who hasnít used Dallas by Week 16, my hatís off to you. As you can see above, since I choose three games every week without repeating (except last week*), you may have the NFC's premier team available to you (as it is to me in this slot). In spite of the danger of playing a tough opponent, the Cowboys are at home, playing under the Monday night spotlight, with one goal: Beat Detroit to win the top seed in the NFC along with the divisional crown. Take the Cowboys at home in ďPrimeTime.Ē Deion Sanders would live for this moment. The NFL sure is. Why donít you as well?

#1: Tennessee at Jacksonville: (13-2*, SEA, CAR, MIA, CIN, NE, PIT, GB, DEN, DAL, BAL, NYG, NO, SD, DET, MIN*)

Marcus Mariota and four other Titans were named to this yearís NFL Pro Bowl. Compare that to Jacksonville, a team that contributed zero Pro Bowlers, and you immediately see that this game is no contest. Combine that with the fact that the Jaguars' Gus Bradley was fired after a meltdown loss against Houston with the Texans' starting QB (Brock Osweiler) being benched in the second quarter, and there is little doubt that the Titans will win this game regardless of the spread. You don't even have to know that Demarco Murray has an offensive line reminiscent of what he enjoyed in Dallas or that Rishard Matthews has become a rock solid wide-out in 2016. Just pick this game and put your survival pool on auto-pilot. Go Titans.

*Editorial errors made through guesswork. Schiff's record for his top pick would be 14-1 with the Bills in Week 15 had his schedule permitted him to submit picks last week.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can be found here.