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Week 4

Last Week's Question

Last week I asked readers what to do with Week 17, when teams that have either locked up their spot in the playoffs or locked themselves out of playoff contention routinely opt to keep their superstars healthy by keeping them off the field. Obviously the coaches who make these decisions have the best interests of their teams at heart, but the consequence of such developments for many fantasy leagues is that championship match-ups scheduled for Week 17 are thrown out of whack. I wasn't surprised to receive a number of different answers to my question, but I confess I didn't expect to encounter such a wide range of responses. To illustrate that range, I want to begin with two diametrically opposed answers.

The first, from Simon, gets straight to the point of view of at least one FFer:
Mike, you and the other crybabies who play FF need to get a grip. The only fair way to arrange the season is to have your championship in Week 17. If some stars are riding the pine, so be it. Real NFL owners have to deal with injuries, holdouts, suspensions, and other unexpected developments, so why shouldn't we have a little unexpectedness in our leagues? Ordinarily, only the very best players on the very best teams will be sitting out in Week 17, and these players already gave their owners plenty of bang for the buck. A goose egg from a super-stud just helps to bring that player back to earth. Since there's no way to tell who will be going to the playoffs before the season starts, everyone takes the same chance of a star player being benched in their fantasy football championship. Take your chances like a man and quit whining.
Although I acknowledge that Simon is entitled to his opinion, I will say that the overwhelming majority of those who wrote in shared the feeling that Week 17 is, at the very least, problematic for most head-to-head fantasy leagues. Ron and Matt do a great job of articulating the opposite point of view. Consider Ron's colorful answer:
The answer [for what to do with Week 17] is to treat it like a Pauly Shore movie - avoid it like the plague. Here's why:
  1. There is potential for fantasy owners to be left with a bad taste in their mouths should their potentially solid team be reduced to mediocrity because their stud players are scoping cheerleaders on the sideline rather than opposing defenses. Out of fairness, let the best fantasy team win (or at least have that opportunity) - championship in week 16.

  2. After 13 weeks of regular season and 3 weeks of playoffs, most fantasy league owners have probably had their fill. If they haven't, they should seek therapy. As a commissioner, you owe it to your league members (and their families) to help them transition calmly into the fantasy off-season.

  3. Consistency is key to fantasy league success. Gimmicks such as combining weeks 16 and 17 throws a monkey wrench into a scoring system. If you spent 15 weeks playing/scoring one way, what sense does it make to change your method for the title game? It would be like having the Patriots and Panthers play Canadian rules football in the Super Bowl.
In the end, the best use of week 17 is to get your league together for brats and beer at the guy's house that has NFL Sunday Ticket - and see if you can win your money back from the league champion by betting on the point spreads. If things get boring, I'm sure the local Blockbuster has a copy of Bio-Dome...
Matt skips the (admittedly entertaining) Hollywood references to get straight to his point:
As far as Week 17, we have our championship in week 16. While there are still some issues that week with star players, for the most part everyone is playing. I can't see any other way of reasonably doing it.
Of course, many FFers who hold their championships in Week 16 hate to see Week 17 going to waste. Ron may think that such folks need therapy, but since I myself qualify as one of these imbalanced individuals, I was interested in responses such as Tim's:
I am the commissioner of a 12-team dynasty league. We have 2 conferences with 2 divisions in each conference. . . . Our playoffs start in week 14 (all 4 division winners and 2 wilcard teams per conference). Our super bowl is played in week 16 (both conference winners playing in the championship). In week 17, we have a free-for-all tournament for a small cash prize from the league pot. We create our line-ups by starting players from any team in their respective positions, with scoring based on our regular league scoring system. This practice has worked out well so far. It keeps guys interested in week 17, as they find themselves rooting for players that week that they spent the rest of the season rooting against.

Like Tim, Bobby's league has its championship in Week 16, but they put Week 17 to use in a slightly different way:

My friend came up with a great idea. We created two Pro Bowl teams, one from the Championship bracket and one from the Consolation bracket-and pitted them head-to-head against each other for the final week. This was fun because we allowed the winners of the championship bracket and the consolation bracket to choose their final team from the pool of players in their bracket, but also allowed input from the other managers. I think this was a fun way to end the season on a good note, because even though the Championship Pro Bowl team beat the Consolation team, the match was quite close and gave us all a reason to visit our fantasy website on Monday!
Bobby's solution mentioned nothing about how much "input" the other owners had in the Pro Bowl, but the decisions probably didn't need to be regulated because it sounds like his league went this route simply for fun (and not for any kind of stakes). Other leagues put Week 17 to work in ways that can have significant consequences (either in terms of payouts or of the way the leagues will play out the following year). Another Tim (I'll call him Tim2 for the sake of clarification), clearly isn't sold on just trying to have fun with Week 17:
In our 14-year-old league, we have 10 teams and 2 divisions. Currently, we play a 13-week regular season with the playoffs in weeks 14-16. Week 17 is an all-star game in which the division winners must pick at least 1 player from each team in their own division. The winning division wins $10 each. [Some might like such an arrangement, but] I hate it. I prefer having week 17 mean something.
One of the more innovative suggestions for Week 17 came from Lucas, who turns FF on its head by competing with his league-mates for the lowest score:
I hold my championship in Week 16 and use Week 17 as "Golf Week." Every owner must submit a starting lineup to me of players they drafted on draft day [whether those players are still on their roster or not]. I use the same scoring format as in the regular season, and the lowest-scoring team takes home a fairly significant amount of money. This helps owners that drafted bums, busts, and injured players. It is also interesting to cheer against players that you were convinced on draft would take you to the championship.
I think Lucas' idea is quite interesting, particularly if he allows owners to start stars who are expected to be on the bench because of their teams' playoff scenarios. All of a sudden, having a player who leads his team to assured home-field advantage in the postseason prior to Week 17 would turn into an advantage!

Yet another suggestion comes from Marty:
In our league, we have the championship and chumpionship week 16. Week 17 we have a free-for-all. Each team must submit a lineup with the following 3 catches.
  1. You cannot use any player from your own team. This helps the teams that didn't fare well during the season to possibly win a prize at the end of the season.

  2. You can only use 1 player per NFL team, so you cannot have Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss on your team.

  3. You have to use players from other people's rosters. We close drop/add after week 12.
Everyone stays involved in our league for 3 reasons. First, we only give prizes for weeks 9-13. Second, we have two championships. Third, we have a Week 17 free-for-all.

I'll stop with Marty's response only because I don't want to overwhelm readers with too much information. In next week's column, I'll share a few more of the creative suggestions I've received on how to handle Week 17-as well as some of the responses that point to Week 17 as one of the reasons that head-to-head leagues should be done away with. In the meantime, I'll leave you with what Jim had to say:

I would encourage everyone to find some way to keep playing through to the bitter end. Again, it might be just for a few bucks and bragging rights, but [those who didn't win the championship in Week 16 will look forward to playing against the league winner in Week 17.] If you topple the champ in the final week of one season, it makes you that much more hungry for the next season to begin.
This Week's Question

Gary wrote in to suggest this week's question in his roundabout response to last week's column. When I initially posed the question of how to handle Week 17, I mentioned in passing that it seemed to be early enough in the season for us to consider the question objectively. Gary wasn't so sure.
I'm writing in response to your question about what to do with Week 17-not because I have a suggestion, but because I can already see my league having a problem with any suggestions that we might encounter in your column. The way our league is set up now, we have our championship in Week 16 and leave Week 17 alone. But suppose we see a suggestion from one of your readers that we really like. There's not really anything we can do about it now, is there? I mean the rules that we agreed to can't be altered until next season, right? I guess if all of us agreed to the change, that would be okay. But even then I'm not sure. Rules are rules.

Then again, suppose 11 of us wanted to reduce the championship purse by 10% just to have a little money left over for a small contest in Week 17? If the twelfth guy didn't want to, we really couldn't just say the majority rules, could we? I guess my real question is two questions. The first one is how late is too late to change the rules for your league, and the second is why didn't you write this article in the summer?
I can only answer the second part of Gary's question by saying that even though the summer would have been the better time to ask the question, it would not have been the better time to receive answers. Fantasy diehards read my columns in June, July, and August, but the majority of FFers don't pay attention to sites like FFToday until the season is underway. As for the first part of his question, I leave that to the rest of you.

LMS Picks for Week 4 (Courtesy of Matt)

Mark this as the week that the Last Man Standing Pools have their biggest attrition rate. So many games could go either way, and only a handful of them might be true locks.

Trap Game(s): Miami Over NY Jets:
How many of you last week said, "Matt's crazy not to go with the Titans over the Jags"? Well, now everyone knows why you should avoid divisional match-ups for Survival Pools. Not only did the Jags know the tendencies of the Titans, but they caught a team that was not healthy on offense with an extremely good defensive effort.

So who should you avoid this week? The J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. The Jets have always had problems with the Dolphins in Miami. Forget that the fins have no running game. Their defense was built to stop two teams, the Patriots and the Jets. On the other side of the ball, the Jets' defense is young and can be exploited with the pass and that is all Miami has. Look for McMichael to have a big week in the seams and Miami just might steal one.

#3: New Orleans over Arizona (2-1 This Season):
Arizona's defense is better than you would think, but New Orleans should be able to go into the desert and win a close game. While Aaron Stecker is no Deuce McAllister, the offensive line should be able to open some holes for him to squirt through. As for the Cardinals offense, they're just not good enough to take advantage of the Saints.

#2: Washington over Cleveland (3-0 This Season):
With Cleveland both physically and morally beaten, Washington has a good chance of going into the Dawg pound and winning this game. Clinton Portis should be able to put up enough offense alone to beat Cleveland, and the Redskins' defense should have more than enough to beat the Browns. Just watch for any late injuries, as they could change the outcome of the game.

#1: Baltimore over Kansas City (3-0 This Season):
Last week I said that the Chiefs needed a win against the Texans and picked them (my first misstep in 9 picks so far). This week you will see exactly why Kansas City has no chance to make the playoffs. The Chiefs' defense will make the Ravens' offense look like the St. Louis Rams of 1999, and Jamal Lewis should run for over 150 yards. Sprinkle in some defensive turnovers by the Ravens, and this should be over by halftime. Too bad ABC, most people will be watching the CSI on CBS.

For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your LMS picks, please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.