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Week 11

Last Week’s Question

In the first two weeks of the Point of Reference League project, we established that for the league to be useful to the greatest number of people, it would feature:

  1. 12 teams;
  2. Head-to-head scoring;
  3. A redrafter format;
  4. Team defenses/special teams (instead of IDPs);
  5. A lineup of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3WRs, 1 TE, 1 kicker, and 1 defense; and
  6. A roster of 16 players.

I’ve received late responses from numerous readers who want to argue against the utility of one or more of these features. That is to be expected; the nature of compromise is to make everyone more or less unhappy. Even so, the quibbles concerning the first six points were generally minor in the face of the overwhelming consensus.

Then came the three questions I raised last week:

  1. Should the PoR league award points per reception;

  2. Should the PoR league award bonus points for 300-yard passing performances, 100-yard rushing performances, and 100-yard receiving performances; and

  3. Should the PoR league award bonus points for long TDs.

Consensus? We don’t got no steeeenking consensus. Although the poll that Mike Krueger set up for us didn’t attract as much attention as the other polls associated with this project, the votes on bonus points for high-yardage games and long TDs were split down the middle. According to the poll, there was a slight preference for awarding points per reception, but in the email responses I received, there was a slight preference for not awarding points per reception. I thought the tough calls in this project would come on 60-40 splits, but the splits I see on these three questions are closer to 51-49. Those of you who said that once I got to the hard questions, I would get nowhere—well, maybe you were right.

Most of the email responses I received were simply votes one way or another, but a few people took the time to explain their positions. According to Dan (who’s chimed in every week so far I believe):

I think there should be points per reception. However, I would like to see less points awarded for a RB than a WR/TE, for obvious reasons of keeping it fair with regards to the higher % of passes to RB's, than to WR/TE. The p/per/rec option opens up the waiver wire a bit on those possession receivers and low total yardage RB's who end up with more catches than yards. Just as important as getting a tough first down, as catching a long bomb. Otherwise I think it reduces the number of quality fantasy players, or even makes some of the higher quality players even more elite. No p/per/rec could be an option in a smaller league though!

Definitely bonus points for yardage! I would like to see a stat not used in any league that I know of yet, which is YAC. Yards after the catch is much more representative of a player's individual effort, and I would chose to use that in place of p/per/rec.

Bonus points for long scores is cool, but in the interest of keeping it simple, I say just having standard yardage ranges for set # of points.
Dan was not alone in his desire to award points per reception, but once you decide to award those points, you have to consider how to award them. Whereas Dan advocates awarding reduced points to RBs for receptions, Tom has this to say:
I like points per reception, but only for receivers. The best thing about PPR is that it makes receivers competitive with running backs in some scoring systems (like the one my league uses). But if you give running backs points for their catches, then you are right back to having a huge gap between the two positions.
In addition to one guy who advocates no PPR for RBs and another who advocates reduced PPR for running backs, I heard from plenty of people who are in favor of PPR, but seemed to think that all players should get the same points (or at least that is what I assume, since they didn’t mention anything about adapting the scoring to specific positions). As if that weren’t enough, there are plenty of folks who are dead set against the PPR concept—most of them for the reasons outlined by Bubba and Scott. As Bubba put it:
Let’s say I am a tight end two yards behind the line of scrimmage with a defensive lineman on either side of me. Now let’s say that all the downfield receivers are covered and my QB can’t throw the ball away because he is still in the pocket. He is about to get sacked, so he throws the ball to me to avoid an intentional grounding call. What’s the right thing for me to do? Catch it and get hammered by the two linemen for a loss (at best) and/or a fumble (at worst)? Or shouldn’t I just pretend to try to catch it and actually swat the ball to the ground so that we can get back to the original line of scrimmage? The right football move is obvious, but in a PPR league, you end up awarding points to a player who makes the wrong decision here.

Think about it. Do you want to give points for successfully handing the ball off to a running back? Do you want to give points to a center and QB every time they successfully execute a snap? I can understand giving points for yardage (since a WR who gets 150 yards worth of catches obviously has a positive impact on the game for his team even if he never finds the end zone). But you can’t just start awarding points for anything that happens in the course of a game without knowing whether it’s positive or negative.
I follow Bubba’s complaint, but I’m sure he would acknowledge that there are times when gaining yardage is counterproductive for a team. If a team is leading by one point and one of its defensive players intercepts a pass with no time left on the clock, he should obviously just kneel down and let the game be over. However, if he manages to run the ball all the way to the end zone for an unnecessary TD (the wrong decision, in Bubba’s terms), his defense will probably still get points in most fantasy leagues. My point is that even Bubba probably isn’t willing to stick by his logic uncompromisingly. But I also understand that we all have to draw the line somewhere—and I respect Bubba’s decision to draw it where he has. However, I think Scott’s point on PPR will resonate more powerfully with readers:
I’ve been in leagues with [PPR rules], and they’re fun. But I prefer leagues that stick to the simple category of scores and yardage. When I’m traveling on a Sunday, I can check the TVs at any airport with a good chance of seeing how many yards and TDs Marvin Harrison had, but I’m not likely to see how many catches he has made unless I’m actually watching the game he’s playing in. The same goes for newspapers. On Monday morning I can get yards and scores from just about any newspaper, but I’ll probably have a hard time figuring out how many catches my guys had. I know lots of people are practically hooked up to their computers by some kind of umbilical cord, but there are some of us who like to play fantasy football and don’t spend every working minute in front of a computer screen tracking down all kinds of crazy NFL stats. I like to be able to guesstimate my team’s score from the stats that I’m likely to come across on Sunday, so I say keep the scoring system as simple as possible for folks like me. A bonus for a 100-yard game is fine. Yardage info is easy to come by. But points per reception can be a chore for some of us.
On the matter of bonus points for long scores, I heard from lots of people who agree that that scoring method is “fun,” but Ryan had this argument against the concept:
Sure, big plays are fun, but if you’re already getting points for yardage and scores, then a 60-yard TD is already worth way more than a 20-yard TD. Throwing in an extra bonus is just an unnecessary complication.
I see Ryan’s point, but I’m more inclined to reach his conclusion via Scott’s logic (which means alienating roughly half of those who responded). In the interest of keeping things simple, I would have to go with no points per reception, no bonuses for long scores, and some kind of bonus for 100 yards rushing/receiving and 300 yards passing. And now that I’ve lost half my audience, let’s change the subject.

This Week’s Question

The question for Week 11 is about the locking of rosters for the final part of the season. We’ll temporarily suspend the PoR discussion to address this question because it is time-sensitive for many readers. The matter was first brought to my attention by a reader named Shawn last week:
Help! I am new to fantasy football, but it looks like I am going to make the playoffs in my league. I’m getting advice from other owners to make room on my roster for backups that I don’t really care about because all rosters in my league are locked the week before our playoffs begin in Week 12. In the regular season, our commissioner [either approves or vetos trades]. But apparently the previous commissioner for the league made some questionable calls about roster moves in the playoffs a few years back, so the league adopted a rule that no roster changes are allowed from Week 11 to Week 16 (when we have our championship). I’m being told that I should carry 3 quarterbacks into the playoffs because I won’t be able to use the waiver wire if my first 2 QBs get hurt. This seems nutty to me. No matter how many QBs I take, it’s possible that all of them can get hurt, and I won’t be able to go to the waiver wire for a replacement. I could advance all the way to our championship game and find out that I am unable to start a QB—any QB at all!—in the Super Bowl. Do other leagues have this crazy rule?

I’ve received two follow-up questions on the same subject from other readers this week, so I suspect it is a matter of some importance in the FF world. The first comes from Bradley:

Our league playoff structure is pretty simple. Of the 12 teams in the league, six make the real playoffs for the super bowl, and the other six finish up by playing in a toilet bowl competition. This means that all teams remain active into the playoffs, and it created some problems for us last year. It looked to me like a couple of the toilet bowl teams were cutting key players (not high-profile players, but players with really favorable matchups) for questionable replacements just so that the guy who ended up winning our super bowl could pick the players up on waivers. It wasn’t like Team A was cutting a player at 11:53 a.m. and Team B was picking him up at 11:54. There were always a few hours between the cut and the pickup, and any one of us could have picked up the player in the meantime. But somehow, this one guy just happened to be the first one to notice these players week after week. A couple of other owners thought there was something funny going on, so we voted on whether his acquisitions were acceptable or not. If they had been stars, we might have voted down the acquisitions, but most of us decided that the evidence for collusion was too flimsy, so we approved the acquisitions (the vote was something like 10-2 or 9-3—not really close). That’s all water under the bridge, but now I’m wondering how we can make sure not to have the same thing happen again. I know a lot of leagues lock the waiver wire during the playoffs, but it seems like that would create a bunch of headaches. Maybe the best thing is to have an impartial commissioner rule on the acquisitions, but I’ve never understood how a commissioner who plays in a league is supposed to be impartial.

I had this message from Cedric waiting for me this morning:

As soon as you finish with the PoR thing, would you please ask people how I am supposed to make sense [of roster lockdowns]? In my league, we lock rosters after Week 9. [The argument seems to be that 1) most teams have a pretty good idea of whether they will be competitive in the playoffs or not; and 2) those that are out of the running will make arrangements to give their best players to friends who look as if they might] go the distance. I can see how that might happen, but it seems really unlikely to me. Nobody in my league is that much of a ****. So just because it might happen, I’m stuck with the team I have now for the rest of the season. The commissioner has always said that this is how things are in the NFL. Well I have two words for him and anyone else who thinks that [roster lockdowns] have anything to do with the NFL: Vinny Testaverde. I can’t get a new QB from the waiver wire even if I need one, but somehow the Patriots can sign Vinny after the Week 10 games even though Brady is healthy. Locking rosters makes no sense.

I’m sure there are more ways than I can think of to handle this problem. I don’t doubt that some of them are much better than roster lockdowns in certain contexts, but I can also understand why some leagues would opt to go the route of the roster lockdown (though I have to say it seems a bit extreme to lock down rosters in Week 9, especially with Week 10 as a bye week). One solution that suggests itself to me is the possibility of allowing owners to use the waiver wire to pick up any player as long as he hasn’t been on any other fantasy team in the past three or four weeks, but I’m sure there are better compromises than that. I look forward to sharing some of those better compromises next week.

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt & Michael)

Matt’s Picks

Trap Game: Pittsburgh at Cleveland – The Steelers by all means should have this game in the bag, but no games this year are as they seem. Cleveland’s offense is going to get better now that someone other than Maurice Carthon is calling the plays. Braylon Edwards is stepping up his game and the Browns would love nothing more than to beat their biggest rivals at home as an underdog. The Steeler defense is not as strong as it was last year and the offense may have some trouble in the snow that is predicted for Sunday. Look for this to be a close game where anything is possible.

#3: Kansas City over Oakland (7-3 Season):
The Chiefs may be knocking on the door of San Diego and Denver, but they have more than those two teams to worry about on their remaining schedule. Next week they play Denver at home, and they might be excited about that game, but they need to take care of business against an Oakland defense that is ranked 3rd against the pass. With Tony Gonzalez out they might find themselves hard pressed to mount a passing attack and they will rely very heavily on Larry Johnson so that they don’t fall behind early. The good news for Chiefs is that Oakland is ranked dead last in offense and the fans in Kansas City know that what this game means. The Chiefs fans are going to be load and if Aaron Brooks comes back, he is prone to mistakes which the Chiefs defense should capitalize on.

#2: Miami over Minnesota (7-3 Season):
The Viking offense is so bad right now and while Brad Johnson can still execute the throws needed in the NFL, the team’s lack of quality receivers prevent them from lighting up the scoreboard. Chester Taylor is averaging over 4 yards per carry, but when he is shut down by opposing defenses, or more importantly, if Minnesota gets behind, there is little chance of them coming back. Against a Dolphins defense that is ranked 2nd overall, the Vikings are going to find it hard to score points against a team that is finally starting to live up to the hype. Joey Harrington on the other hand has won his last two games, throwing for 5 touchdowns in those games. Combine that with Ronnie Brown not having to deal with 8 man fronts because of Harrington’s mobility and the formula for the Dolphins to win their 4th game of the season is set. Don’t look for a shootout, but you have to like the way the Dolphins are playing.

#1: Arizona over Detroit (8-2 Season):
Okay, I am now officially off my rocker. The Cardinals are 1-8 playing against the 2-7 Lions at home and are favored by 2. This game will be watched only by those diehard fans from each of their home markets and fantasy football fanatics focused on stats for Larry Fitzgerald and Roy Williams. This game will most likely be decided by who has the ball last. It doesn’t help the Lions’ cause that Detroit’s defense has held their opponents under 20 points only twice all season, those being the last two games, but I don’t see that trend continuing this week.


Michael’s Picks

3 - (5-5) - Seahawks over 49ers - Even with key injuries, Seattle has shown they can win, even though some of the opponents haven't been great. The Niners are one of those not-so-great teams. Hasselbeck may still be out for this game, but Wallace has gotten the job done and should continue to do so if he's the man this week. Alexander may finally be healthy enough to play, but expect him to split time if he does.

2 - (8-2) - Eagles over Titans - The Titans aren't the mess they were earlier in the year, but they still aren't close to Philadelphia's level. With Stallworth back and the Eagles committing to a more balanced offense, they will be harder to predict and harder to stop.

1 - (9-1) - Chiefs over Raiders - It's easy to pick against Oakland, but I really can see Larry Johnson piling up a ton of yards against the Raider defense. Huard has played well and should feel comfortable spreading the ball around by now since he won't have the injured Gonzales to lean on. With homefield advantage, the KC defense will be able to thwart the disaster zone known as the Raiders offense.

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.