Last Week’s Question
In Week 6, I posted Colin’s
question about using defenses defensively. If Mike Krueger and I
were in Colin’s league and had a head-to-head matchup against
each other, then Krueger wouldn’t get any points based on
his own defense’s performance. However, the performance of
Krueger’s defense would have an effect upon the points earned
by my offensive players. If his defense played poorly, my offensive
players would get a bonus. If his defense played extremely well,
my offensive players would get a deduction. If his defense played
at an average level, the scores of my offensive players would be
left unmodified. My own defense would have nothing to do with my
score, but would have a similar impact on the score awarded to his
Colin wanted to know why more leagues don’t use such a
system, and a number of readers were kind enough to write in with
their responses. I’ll start with those who liked Colin’s
idea enough to ask for particulars on the scoring technique.
John asked: “Can you please find out how the defenses are
ranked each week in Colin’s league? Is it by points allowed,
yards allowed, etc.?” Ward had a similar question: “I
like the idea and might suggest it at my league’s end-of-season
meeting, but I was wondering how many teams were in Colin’s
league and if they use just the starting defenses or if a bench
defense goes into determining the rankings.”
Obviously, those interested in adapting the system used by Colin’s
league can do so in any way they like. For the curious, however,
Colin’s league uses the yardage rankings of all NFL teams
that play in any given week. The top 5 NFL defenses are those
that allow the fewest total yards; the bottom 5 NFL defenses are
those that allow the most yards. There are no bonuses for sacks
or defensive scores or any of the other categories routinely used
when awarding points to defenses in fantasy football, though I’m
sure there are plenty of readers who could revise Colin’s
system to include such factors.
Although some readers seemed curious about how to implement Colin’s
system, others were skeptical about the utility of the approach.
Paul spoke compellingly for this group:
In my league, the defense does get points for sacks,
interceptions, fumble recoveries, blocks, etc. and touchdowns
resulting from any of these things as well as punt/kick returns
for touchdowns. What also happens is points are deducted for points
against. The D/ST starts with 10 points for a 0 PA score. If you
shut out the other team, that's a good defense. It's worth 10
points in itself. Mediocrity results in fewer points (up to 17
PA). Between 17 & 22 PA, 0 is the PA score. After 22 PA, the
point subtractions start up, so the defense that ranks at the
top of the list gets bonus points instead of deducting points
from the other team's offensive players, none of which may have
played that defense. So Chicago, which not only limits opponents’
scores to low numbers, but also contributes to their team's offense
by taking the ball away, gets great scores. The Titan D, which
seems to let opposing offenses just waltz by, often gets points
subtracted from the score. It in effect does give bonus points
to the other team if your defense sucks.
Mike was another critic:
In essence, you are affecting your opponent’s scores
by having a good or bad D in play. A good D gives you the extra
points, which is equivalent to deducting points from the other
team's offense. A bad D does the opposite. You get points subtracted,
which is equivalent to giving your opponent's offense points.
If both defenses are mediocre, they potentially equal out in
points, so no one is penalized. The top 5 defenses last week
scored 26, 20, 19, 17, 16 points for their owners. The bottom
5 scored 0, -1, -2, -2, -6 points for their owners. Yes, the
+ points seems lopsided compared with the - points, but when
the minus points team could have scored 6-10 points in mediocrity,
you see the penalty.
All it seems is that you (Colin) are creating a lot of
extra work and delay in getting your scores. Calculating the
ranks and then manually adjusting the scores is already factored
into many league's automatic scoring systems – you just
need to configure them that way. It doesn't sound like you are
doing anything that isn't already being done, and perhaps you're
doing it in a worse way.
If your opponent’s offensive players played tough
D's and didn't score many points, why should they get double
penalized because the D sucked too? Weren't they already penalized
enough? Week 4: Hasselbeck scores me a whopping 4 points. Seahawks
D scores me -6. Opponent had Ravens D scoring him 9. In this
scenario, my opponent gets 1 bonus point and I get 1 more point
removed. It's it bad enough that I already got beat by 11 points
by just his D? That's where the flaw in your system comes into
I would really look hard at your league’s
scoring system heavily before even attempting this. 20% knocked
or added to a team, depending on defensive performance, would
drastically affect your scoring system and throw every other position
way off base.
Most readers didn’t seem to mind the complexity of Colin’s
system or the fact that (as Paul points out) the system could easily
lead to teams being double penalized (if the offensive starters
happened to be playing against a tough defense like Chicago and
San Diego on the same week that the fantasy team was matched up
against the Broncos or Seahawks). However, there was fairly widespread
concern over the delay that Colin’s system would introduce
into the scoring of most fantasy leagues. It seems that most FFers
these days are fans of instant gratification. The complaint that
was common to almost all of the other responses I received was that
no one wants to wait until all the games have been played to figure
out what sort of bonus or deduction their quarterback will receive.
Colin’s system (which requires participants to wait until
after the Monday night game to see where defenses are ranked prior
to the adjustment of offensive scores) is certainly not for the
Does your league really favor maybe picking a defense in the 1st
round? I myself still like the points for sacks, picks, fumble
recoveries, defensive TDs, safeties, shutouts, etc.
This Week’s Question
Can we construct an “average” league as a point of reference?
Like many of the writers here at FFToday, I often end up on radio
shows dedicated to fantasy football—shows in which the hosts
ask me questions about whether one of their listeners should trade
Donte Stallworth for Tiki Barber. I know that people just want quick
answers to their questions, but I often find that I have to preface
my remarks in exactly the same way as many other “experts”:
“Well, it depends on your league’s scoring system. In
scoring-only leagues, Barber appears to be a bust this year; in
many performance leagues, he’s still quite valuable; in performance
leagues that weigh scoring quite heavily, he’s in between.”
Yikes. That insight isn’t very helpful, but at least it takes
a long time to articulate!
There’s nothing wrong with trying to be accurate (which
is what I am trying to be when I issue such disclaimers), but
I think it’s safe to assume that such disclaimers leave
most audience members thinking that many so-called fantasy experts
are simply sputtering nonsensically. I go through a similar process
when a caller asks what receiver he should pick up to replace
the non-producing Jerry Porter. “Well, it depends on who
is available in your league,” I begin. The caller is confused.
I’m supposed to be an expert, so he wonders why I don’t
have a pretty good idea of who should be available in his league.
Again, that has less to do with the productivity or promise of
a guy like Matt Jones than with the number of teams in his league,
the number of receivers allowed/required in a starting lineup,
the limitations imposed on flex players, roster size, and other
factors that the caller really couldn’t care less about.
The positions of the caller and myself both make perfect sense.
He just wants me to give him some names, and I can’t give
him useful names without knowing far more about his league than
the other listeners care to hear. I suspect that most experts
would like to keep things just the way they are—because
it’s difficult for us to be held accountable if we never
really make our positions clear. It’s still possible to
be wrong, of course. For example, I was one of many experts who
went into the season flat wrong about what to expect from Chris
Chambers in 2006. But most things in fantasy football aren’t
nearly that clear cut. By midseason, almost everyone can tell
the top 5 running backs from the bottom 5, but the truly competitive
players are trying to figure out which of the RBs ranked 14-16
in Week 8 will finish the season ranked 9-11 and which of them
will finish ranked 19-21. It is a simple matter of fact that deviations
in scoring systems will have a great deal to do with those distinctions.
The experts aren’t trying to be evasive when they say such
things, but they aren’t being very helpful either.
The most thorough solution to the problem is obviously to have
those who ask questions provide the scoring systems of their league
along with the questions. This would make the answer of the expert
extremely relevant to the person with the question—and potentially
meaningless to everyone else tuning into the program.
Another solution to the problem would be to encourage the standardization
of fantasy football leagues. As I’ve indicated before, I
think that is a horrible idea. Perhaps the single most appealing
thing about fantasy football is that it can be customized to the
interests of 12 drinking buddies in Detroit who have only a passing
interest in anyone who doesn’t wear blue and silver or to
16 executives across the country who want to prove that they have
their fingers on the pulse of the entire NFL in all its complexity.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Let a
thousand fantasy football flowers bloom!
But I think there is a third option. Since many fantasy football
players participate in multiple leagues, I think we might be able
to put the idea of a “standard” league to use. Casual
fans can stick to the leagues they know and love, but those who
really want to get a sense of how the game is played “on
average” could participate in the sort of league that I
think we, as a community, are sophisticated enough to define as
a useful “composite.” This composite league wouldn’t
be anyone’s favorite league; it would simply be a league
that one could talk about as a point of reference that would be
understood by others in the fantasy football community.
If we could define such a league and talk about it, then the
lessons we might learn from it could serve as the foundations
for conclusions tailored to our own leagues. Even unsophisticated
owners could presumably learn what sorts of stats to ignore when
translating a player’s place in the composite league to
his place in the owner’s favorite league.
I therefore want to propose a project to the fantasy football
community. I think that the best way for us to reduce the difficulty
that we face in talking about the average fantasy football league
would be to define that league as precisely as possible. I think
we can construct a composite league that reflects enough about
the world of fantasy football to be useful as a reference point
whether your league is an 8-team, points-only redrafter or a 14-team,
head-to-head keeper. This composite league cannot hope to be perfect,
but it can be fair, fun, and simple. Let’s call
it the FFS League for kicks (especially since “FFS”
is what runs through my mind whenever I hear myself or another
fantasy expert going into the standard preface about how there
are a million and one correct answers to every conceivable fantasy
I’m sure that many of you will want to write
in to explain why this project of mine can’t work. I’m
certainly ready to hear those opinions. If you express them forcefully
enough, I suppose you might manage to talk me into abandoning
the project. However, I’ve served on enough committees at
my university to know that the key to building a consensus from
any body (no matter how large) is to focus on facilitating the
discussion rather than attempting to impose one’s own agenda
on that discussion. I have no agenda apart from the construction
of the model that you, the readers of this column, can most forcefully
persuade each other to accept.
To that end, I want to begin by settling three points about the
- How many participants?
- Points-only, head-to-head, or a hybrid? and...
- Redrafter, keeper, or some other model?
We’ll get to other details in the weeks to come (lineups,
roster size, scoring systems, etc.), but for now I am interested
only in feedback on these first three points. If our host Mike
Krueger is so inclined, he may set up polls
for feedback on these three questions in the FFToday forums.
Readers who do not care to register with FFToday in order to participate
in the polls can still contact me via my
email address. Please don’t think that I am simply trying
to put things to a vote. I am far more interested in why
you think that the FFS league should be an 8-team, points-only
keeper than I am in how many of you think so. As always,
I will be including the most cogent responses to this question
in next week’s column. Please remember that I am not asking
you to advocate your favorite league model; I am asking for the
model that you think is a fair, fun, and simple version of your
own best sense of the average league.
For all those fans that chose any of our picks in a Last Man Standing
or Survival Pool last week, let me just say, “Sorry.”
Michael and I went a whopping 0-6. I mentioned in my Jags pick
that I was very skeptical; this should have been my TRAP GAME.
In fact, I should have said that the whole week looked like a
trap week instead of just leaving it out as I did. Hopefully you
avoided this game since it screamed sucker bet. If you were lucky
enough to pick against us and are still alive in your pool, then
here are some picks for this week:
#3: Chicago over San Francisco (5-2
This is no-brainer, but so was the Bears over the Cardinals. Until
the last minute heroics of the Bears defense, a lot of Survival
Pool fans were biting their nails. If you didn’t use them
then, now would be a good time. Most likely there are only a few
people left who haven’t taken the Bears.
#2: Pittsburgh at Oakland (6-1 Season):
Big Ben is questionable for the game, and Charlie Batch will step
in. While this may seem like a formula for disaster if you remember
Charlie in Detroit, the Steelers will not miss a beat against
a team that took advantage of a demoralized Cardinals team coming
off a heartbreaking loss. The Steeler defense will not be lit
up again this week even though they will travel coast to coast
because Coach Cowher will not let it happen.
#1: Giants over Tampa Bay (5-2 Season):
I usually have a hard time picking the G-Men in any game because
I follow this team so closely. Unlike the Manning Bowl in week
1, the Barber Bowl won’t have as much hype. While the G-Men
came out of Monday night’s game beaten up, this is a game
that should not get away from them. The Bucs quarterback, Gradkowski,
is mobile but probably will have a hard time reading the Tim Lewis
disguised defenses that he will face. Jon Gruden will try to take
the pressure off the rookie with Cadillac Williams, but he will
have a hard day against a team that has really shut down the run
in the last few weeks. The Giants won’t put up a lot of
points, but as long as Manning and company protect the ball, they
won’t have to.
Brutal Week 7--and probably the end for many players, if not the
end of many pools. How silly of me not to foresee record October
heat in Tampa Bay to help a kicker, who going into the game hadn't
made a field goal of over 28 yards all season, nail a near record
62-yard winning kick! Let's pretend that didn't happen and keep
the picks coming.
3 - (4-3) - Giants over Bucs - I'm
going against pesky Tampa Bay again. The Giant defense is stepping
it up, and the Bucs start a rookie QB. The offense is well balanced
to find opportunities against Tampa's defense. And I haven't heard
of any expected heat wave in New York this week.
2 - (6-1) - Steelers over Raiders -
A classic matchup of a once great rivalry. Pittsburgh may need to
start Charlie Batch, but he's done fine for them this year. Oakland
is getting more banged up to go along with the bad play. I like
the Steeler defense to redeem itself after the Falcon shootout.
1 - (6-1) - Bears over 49ers -
At Chicago, the Bears have had time to get back to business after
their emotional comeback against Arizona. The defense showed in
that game they can win almost single handedly. The offense should
produce better against the Niners to help out in what should be
an easy win.
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
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.