Last Week's Question: How do you keep
yourself from checking out?
In my column for Week
13, I invited readers to share the strategies they use to
motivate themselves to stay abreast of fantasy developments after
their teams have been eliminated from the post-season in the leagues
that matter most to them.
A commissioner named Sam wrote in to echo my point about the minimal
impact of most schemes designed to incentivize participation by
owners whose playoff hopes have been dashed:
As the commissioner of a league in its 17th season, I'll be curious
to hear your suggestions on how to keep owners that have been
eliminated engaged. We have a High Points weekly payout and a
"Toilet Bowl" tournament, but they are band-aids. Most
people become low-interest spectators once their teams are eliminated
and even if they happen to win High Points one week it's not like
it rejuvenates their interest.
I’ve heard the same thing from lots of other commissioners
over the years. One major shortcoming of the weekly high score
payout is that the leagues that can afford such extra prizes tend
to be the ones that charge transaction fees. In the first half
of the season, when everyone still has a chance, most owners are
willing to eat the cost of whatever fees are necessary to give
their teams a competitive edge.
When Jay Ajayi left Miami for Philadelphia at the beginning of
Novemeber, for example, there was no shortage of owners eager
to pay for Kenyan Drake or Damien Williams or both. However, fast-forward
to the beginning of December, and you can find leagues with Mike Davis available on waivers even though there are plenty of teams
that desperately need help at running back. The problem is that
those teams aren’t going to the playoffs, so the owners
don’t feel inclined to blow a transaction fee on a fantasy
football writer—oops, I mean a running back—that they
never heard of. If you blew $5 on Drake in November and he helped
you claim the high point prize in your league in Week 10 or Week
13, that’s great. But you didn’t acquire him to win
that prize. You acquired him to improve your team’s chances
at the playoffs. Once your team is out of the hunt, paying for
player transactions in the hope of winning a weekly prize doesn’t
make a lot of economic sense.
So commissioners like Sam end up in an impossible position: They’re
trying to encourage 100% of their owners to give 100% of their
competitive effort to the league—even after 40-60% of the
participants have a 0% chance of reaching their goal for the season.
Such leagues have done everything possible to incentivize owners
to stay engaged, but it’s simply unrealistic to expect owners
who have no chance at the big purse to remain as engaged as those
So what else can commissioners do?
Honestly, at a certain point, it’s on the owners themselves
to stay engaged. Stop relying on your commissioner to keep you
engaged. Find a way to engage yourself.
But simply deciding to remain engaged won’t be enough. Reading
all the breaking news about the NFL may help keep your head in
fantasy football, but it won’t do anything for your heart.
For me, the best part of the fantasy season is the single elimination
tournament at the end.
Hoping for the best from my own players while dreading the best
from my opponent’s team adds an extra thrill to watching
the games. I enjoy fantasy football more when I’m in the
playoffs because I get a sense of emotional amplification from
Being out of the playoffs means missing out on that fun . . .
unless I recreate it somehow.
One way to recreate it is to start a new, short-lived fantasy
league from scratch in the final weeks of the season. Such leagues,
however, can be difficult to pull off on short notice—and
most of us don’t like to think about being out of the playoffs
until it’s too late to react to being out of the playoffs.
Another way is to rely on DFS websites such as DraftKings or FanDuel.
Simply by continuing to place wagers on fantasy outcomes (even
if it’s just a $1 ticket each week), you’ll be motivated
to read the breaking news in the fantasy world.
But I take things a step further by trying to recreate the feeling
of a team marching towards a championship. Starting from the week
that I’m eliminated from post-season contention, I focus
on the strongest teams in the NFL, and I try to build my DFS rosters
with players from those teams just to recreate that sense of momentum
that all championship teams (whether in fantasy or the NFL) experience
at the end of the season.
As silly as this strategy may sound, it keeps me connected with
real-world teams that are doing exactly what my fantasy team failed
to do. It’s therefore helping me build the kind of emotional
habits that are associated with a winning mindset. If I stack
Le’Veon Bell with the Steeler defense, I probably won’t
be able to afford Tom Brady and Brandon Cooks, but I could grab
Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz and round out the team with the likes
of Adam Thielen and Rex Burkhead. The point is that I want to
find the surging-est teams in the NFL and invest all the emotional
energy in them that I can no longer invest in my fantasy teams.
As of now, those teams appear to be the Vikings, Eagles, Patriots,
and Steelers. But if Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen keep playing
the way they’re playing, maybe the Chargers will be my standard
bearers in DFS.
Another strategy might be to build DFS tickets around the best
players from your own fantasy team or perhaps one that features
the star players from the best team in your league. But the point
is that even though DFS tickets require no advance preparation
and can cost almost nothing (some entry fees are less than a buck),
they still reward players for paying attention and making educated
guesses that happen to be correct—just like traditional
fantasy leagues. DFS contests are readily available, easy to understand,
affordable, and fun. Even if you don’t think they’re
as enjoyable as traditional season-long leagues, they’re
far better at keeping me engaged at the end of the season than
a weekly prize or a toilet bowl tourney.
This Week's Question: How frozen
are frozen rosters?
The question for Week 14 comes from Rudy, who wants to know just
how frozen rosters should be in leagues that suspend all waiver
wire activity for the post-season:
Our league has two contradictory rules. One is that all rosters
are frozen the week before the playoffs begin. The second is that
players can only be kept on IR in fantasy as long as they are
on IR in the NFL. If I have Aaron Rodgers on IR before the playoffs,
what should happen if he starts in Week 17 (my championship game)?
Does he have to stay on IR because my team is frozen? Or is my
team required to “thaw” enough for me to reactivate
Readers with answers for Rudy’s question should either post them
as comments below or email
me with their responses.
Steve Spagnuolo has replaced Ben McAdoo and has reinstated Eli Manning. Will that be enough to rejuvenate a woeful Giants defense
that gives up more than 375 yards per game on average? I think
so. Moreover, if Dak Prescott continues to press as he has been
in the absence of Ezekiel Elliott, the crowd at MetLife stadium
could end up dancing to "Back in the New York Groove"
in an upset of their hated rivals. Remember, survival pools are
about avoiding the upset—and this has upset all over it.
#3: Bengals over Bears (8-5, BUF, TB, CLE,
NE, NYG, ATL, PHI, MN, SEA, PIT, KC, NO, BAL, TEN)
Mitchell Trubisky started his NFL career with a 2-1 record but finds
himself 2-6 and caught in a 5-game losing streak. Over his first
8 games, he has posted 1237 yards, 5 TDs, and 4 picks. Those numbers
don’t scare any defense, and the rest of his teammates only
muster 15.5 pts per game. Combine that with the fact that the
Bengals’ stingy defense only yields an average of 19.1 pts
per game and this is a formula for a Bears loss. Keep it simple
this week, and if you haven't used the Bengals, take them at home
as they rebound from their loss to the Steelers against the tame,
#2: Chargers over Redskins (9-4, NE, SEA,
PIT, ATL, PHI, HOU, TN, CIN, JAC, LAR, KC, WAS, OAK)
Philip Rivers is probably having one of his best seasons. After
starting 0-3, he has led his team back to a 6-6 record and an
opportunity to challenge the Chiefs for first place in the AFC
West in Week 15. Before then, the Chargers need to take care of
business against one of the two NFC East teams playing in LA on
Sunday. Washington's playoff chances are starting to flicker out,
which makes them desperate, which makes them unpredictable, which
is why this choice isn’t perfect. But Rivers is surrounded
by lots of great weapons, whereas Kirk Cousins is surrounded by
injured players (like Jordan Reed) and disappointments (like Terrelle
Pryor). The difference is so stark that Charger fans have more
to fear from wildfires than from Washington this week.
#1: Packers over Browns (10-3 ATL, OAK,
NE, SEA, PIT, DEN, DAL, PHI, HOU*, DET, JAC, CIN, LAC)
Brett Hundley has been doing his best to show fans that the Packers
will be just fine without injured star QB Aaron Rodgers, who is
slated to return in Week 15. This week though, he gets another
easy challenge against Cleveland, the team that we have bet against
in this column for the last three weeks. The only red flag is
that the Packers are on the road against a Browns team that wants
to pass it deep, the Achilles heel for Green Bay early in the
season. True, the Browns aren't that bad. But as they say, don't
fight the trend. Take the Pack on the road.
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.