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Week 6

Research Tip

Before I address the responses to last week’s question, I want to share Shaun’s tip on the quickest and easiest way to get information on players if you already know who you are trying to find out about. When Shaun is curious about anything pertaining to the NFL, he starts by going to Google, then selects the “News” option (which hovers over the Google search bar at about the halfway point), and then enters the name of the player that he wants to find out about. This spares him the trouble of having to go to the websites of local papers and scanning articles that may or may not be of interest to him. I hope Shaun’s advice will be helpful to those who were unaware of this quick and easy research method, but I still recommend reading local papers in order to find out what’s going on with the surrounding cast of fantasy stars (as well as the teams that they match up against each week). Even if a Google news search on Fred Taylor is sure to provide me with some great information on the Jaguar running back, it won’t necessarily direct me to an article that is strictly about rookie left tackle Khalif Barnes—and I think it’s hard to appreciate Taylor’s value for the remainder of the season without understanding the kind of upgrade that Barnes appears to be over Ephraim Salaam (who is nearing retirement) and Mike Pearson (who is not 100%).

That caveat aside, however, Shaun is certainly on target when he calls Google News the “killer app” for sports news. My thanks to him for writing in.

Last Week's Question

In last week’s column, I revisited a topic that readers bring to my attention with some frequency: the problem of collusion and various methods for preventing it. Since I don’t know that I’ve ever actually addressed the outrageously unsportsmanlike quality of this practice, I’m happy to let Gary get up on a soapbox for me:

I’m absolutely fortunate. Even though I am the commissioner of my league, I don’t veto trades. The league has been around 17 years, and there isn’t anyone in our league that would trash their own team just so another could benefit. We all play spoilers. Also, on the last regular season game of the year, we do a free-for-all instead of our championship match-up. This also helps, since the owner with the best score gets his back his entry fee. Thus, in my 10 years as commish, I haven’t had to nix a trade.

I know that collusion happens in other leagues, however. Once, I was on the elevator at work, talking to a friend of mine in a different league (10 teams). His brother was on the elevator, as well. As I was walking back to my cubicle, I heard his brother say something to the effect of trading back and forth so they can have the best teams.

I know this stuff happens, but I was still aghast. I was taught sportsmanship at a very young age. Even if I haven’t won anything, I will try my damnedest to win one game. It truly sickens me when I hear of adults that do that. It truly does.

I think Gary’s league has found an excellent way to put Week 17 to work. I particularly like it because it goes hand-in-hand with a rant against collusion. We all know collusion is rotten, but it makes sense to say so from time to time—particularly when we take measures to prevent it.

Don wrote in to point out that sometimes what looks like collusion is simply one league member taking advantage of another. I know exactly what he means, as we already had an instance in my league of one owner trying to get a rookie to trade him Chad Johnson for Brett Favre. The method Don uses requires a lot of judgment calls, but there are obviously circumstances in which it makes perfect sense:

In the league I commission, we have about four to six rookie owners each year, due to turnover or growth. Accordingly, there is always a potential for some veteran franchise owner to try to snow a rookie. For that reason, I rule trades with an iron hand. All trades are submitted to me as commissioner. Those trades are reviewed and judged once a week. For each trade, I look for fairness. If someone is trading a stud RB, they better be getting fair market value in return. There have been times where a trade may be questionable. On those occasions, I will contact the respective owners and ask them to provide me with reasons why the trade is acceptable. Of course, I do not reveal to each owner what the other has said to me. In the eight years of commissioning leagues, I have never needed to veto a trade.

One of my biggest concerns for trades involves my own team. In an instance where I am trading with another team owner, the trade will be submitted to two other owners for review. One owner will be from my own division to represent a competitive, vested interest, and the other will randomly picked. These owners will have to use the same criteria I would use. Though none of my trades have ever been denied, I did have to put up a good defense of a trade once. All in all, it’s a good system, but it is made so mainly by the integrity and honesty of the league members.

Mike wrote in to explain his league’s reliance on what is probably the most widely used anti-collusion measure: a trading deadline:

In the 30+ years of our league's existence, it has rarely happened that two owners conspired to load up one team in an attempt to share a year-end pay-out. One very simple thing that we did is adopt a rule: there are NO inter-owner trades after Week #12 (because collusion is only likely to happen during the last quarter of the NFL season, when an owner has more or less given up). Prior to Week #12, we would leave it up to our 3 Commissioners to veto any suspicious trades; however, I am not aware that it has ever happened earlier in the year. I would know, because I have been a Commissioner almost every year since inception.
I don’t know how the playoff schedule is set up in Mike’s league, but a Week 12 trading deadline has obviously worked for his league for a while. In other leagues, such as Stewart’s, Week 12 is too late:
Collusive trades happen when leagues do a poor job of structuring incentives. Example: if you let your trading deadline occur in week 12, there's an excellent chance that some 3-9 team (clearly out of the playoff hunt) may agree to jettison star players to a front-runner for a couple of retreads. How can a 3-9 team have a star player at all? It’s pretty easy in head-to-head leagues, where an owner can have the 2nd-highest point total in the league and still lose. Contrast this with a league which has a week 6 or 7 trading deadline. It's still early enough that owners may feel that they can turn it around and won't be willing to dump stars at bench prices.

Now that said, dynasty leagues pose an interesting wrinkle. Teams out of the running this year may decide to hold a fire sale to turn things around next year. Given that teams in professional sports do this all the time, why shouldn't fantasy owners in dynasty leagues be allowed the same opportunity?

Whether I had the space to include your response or not, I want to thank all of those who wrote in. I hope some of these ideas are helpful to leagues as they fight the good fight against collusion.

This Week's Question:

Does your league have any special mechanism in place to help teams that get hit by injury?

Apart from allowing owners to free up a roster spot by putting injured players on IR, my league does absolutely nothing for owners who get bitten by the injury bug. In this respect, I think we are representative of most fantasy leagues. For example, I lost my top draft pick (Deuce McAllister) for the season thanks to a torn ACL. It cost me $2 to put him on IR because all transactions in my league cost $2. I tried to claim Antowain Smith on the waiver wire, but Smith was awarded to another owner whose record is worse than mine. It’s too bad that I couldn’t get Smith, but I think most FFers regard injuries as an integral part of the game—an obstacle that they simply have to overcome without special consideration.

But maybe I’m wrong. On my way into my office this morning, I struck up a conversation with a co-worker who is in another fantasy league. He said he was looking for a running back, and I asked if he had considered Antowain Smith. “I’m not eligible to request him until the owner of Deuce McAllister passes him up,” he said.

“Do what now?” I asked.

He explained that when injury strikes in his league, the backups are always offered first to the owners who have just lost the injured players.

“You mean that no one in your league could draft Larry Johnson except for the guy who had drafted Priest Holmes?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “You can draft anyone you want.”

“So if you had drafted Antowain Smith at the beginning of the year, then you could use him now? But if you waited until McAllister went down, you couldn’t pick up Smith until Smith’s owner declined him?”


“Wait a minute. What if you wanted to pick up Jon Kitna on waivers? Could you pick him up this week if you wanted?”


“But if Carson Palmer gets injured next week, then everyone has to wait until Palmer’s owner passes on Kitna before they can snap him up?”

“Exactly. Injuries are all about bad luck, and we want our league to be as much about skill as possible.”

I didn’t follow the logic then, and I don’t follow it now. In fact, the more I think about that conversation, the more I think he must have been pulling my leg. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe other leagues do generally think that owners who lose key players to injury deserve some kind of special dispensation from the league. If your league takes special pains to help out owners in case of injury, I want to hear about it.

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt & Stewart)

Matt’s Picks

Trap Game: Minnesota @ Chicago:
The monsters of the midway are back, at least on defense, and the Vikings may very well struggle on the natural grass. Chicago is ranked third in overall yards given up, and the Vikings have had a hard time putting points on the board. But these divisional games are always tight and could go either way.

#3 Atlanta at New Orleans (3-1):
No team is in more disarray than the New Orleans Saints. Everyone knew that this would be a tough season after Hurricane Katrina, but last week was just demoralizing for the Saints. It may be difficult to regroup after a 52-3 shellacking, a game in which they lost Deuce McAllister for the season—and Aaron Brooks sat a large part of the second half. On the other side of the field, Matt Schaub proved that he could more than step in for the late scratch of Michael Vick even though the Falcons did not win the game. The Saints are not going to play nearly as well as the Patriots did last week, and as long as the Falcons remember to show up, they should win this one handily.

#2 Denver over New England (2-2):
There are so many other games that are easy picks, but in looking at the schedule of games this week, this is the one that everyone will be watching. Tom Brady and New England were able to beat the Falcons on the road, but the Broncos have been playing great football ever since their season opening loss at Miami, which is starting to look understandable. On the Broncos’ side of the ball, the two-headed monster of Bell and Anderson should be able to establish the run for some play action passing to Smith and Lelie. Combine the return of Champ Bailey with some early season snow that arrived earlier this week in the Mile High city and you can look for the Broncos to squeak by the Super Bowl champs in battle with a playoff atmosphere in October. This game will be important for home field advantage and/or a playoff spot come December.

#1 Seattle over Houston (2-2):
The Seahawks finally got the monkey off their backs with the Rams and should easily win this game. The number-one ranked offense will come home and face a Texans secondary that is better than it was last year, but anything would have been an improvement over the 31st ranked defense it had in 2004. The combined rushing of Alexander and receiving by Jurevicius should make this Sunday night game boring very early.

Stewart’s Picks

#3 Atlanta (3-2) over New Orleans (2-3) (at San Antonio)
The Saints' two wins have come on big emotional lifts...the 1st game of the season, and the 1st quasi-home game of the season. You can't sustain that kind of emotion all season long, and last week the team basically quit on Jim Haslett. Minus the Deuce, the Saints are depending on Aaron Brooks, which is a scary thought.

#2. Chicago (1-3) over Minnesota (1-3)
The Bears like to run the ball, and Minny can't stop anyone from running the ball. On top of that, there are rumblings about Mike Tice's job security. And of course it’s a Vikings road game, so you have that going for you, which is always nice.

#1. Seattle (3-2) over Houston (0-4)
Seattle's D is not generating much of a pass rush, but then again, Houston's offensive line isn't generating much protection either. It's a fascinating case of the resistible force against the movable object. But Seattle's offense is playing lights-out, and I think both Hasselbeck and Alexander will have big days.

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.

Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live, on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived programs are also available.