Last Week’s Question
In last week’s column, I
shared the responses of various readers to a particular case of
collusion. I concluded by recommending that leagues not try to anticipate
every form of cheating—and that it is usually a good idea
to permit commissioners the latitude to respond appropriately to
circumstances as they arise. What I failed to state was that we
shouldn’t need elaborate rules to prevent cheating because
fantasy football should mainly be played for fun. Brian wrote in
to remind me of this point:
In response to the laundry list of poor fantasy
football behavior, if it’s that freakin serious, it’s
time to find another hobby……it’s supposed to
be first and foremost fun and a way for friends to get together……competitive,
yes, but not to the point of being a [jerk] by stashing healthy
players on IR…..I’m the commissioner of our 8-team
league……we’ve rotated commish duties, but I’ve
had the job for the last 3 years…..our league has been in
existence for 14 years, and we’ve never gotten to the point
where someone quit because of foolishness on another owner’s
Fair enough, Brian.
As for last week’s question, Rus gives quite an insightful
I’ve boldfaced the key component of Rus’ remarks because
he speaks, in my estimation, for the vast majority of the fantasy
football community. If the sole reason for adding a defensive component
to scoring in fantasy is to reduce luck, then I tend to think that
the treatment is disproportionate to the symptom. There are simpler
ways of minimizing luck, and Rus has done a fine job of explaining
In my head-to-head league, winning seems to be more correlated to
the number of points scored by your opponent than by yourself. The
problem with this is that unlike "real" sports, there
is nothing you can do to prevent or limit the number of points scored
by your opponent. Have you ever heard of any Fantasy rules that
will allow you to play defense against your opponent?
One idea that I have come up with is allowing each to target
1 player on his opponent's roster and therefore cut that player's
points in half or something.
What we are talking about here is the age-old debate involving
luck in fantasy football. Yes, there is an element of luck in
head-to-head competition. Some leagues have opted to go to a
total points format where only season total points are considered
and there is no head to head competition. I find that this eliminates
the luck factor a bit, but at what cost? Head-t- head competition
is fun. You have close games, blowouts, rivalries and, most
importantly, trash talk. Counting points is boring. A compromise
my league and many others have come up with is the following.
In a 12-team league, 6 teams make the playoffs. Without getting
into divisions, Seeds 1 to 5 are the teams with the best records
and team #6 is the seed with the most total points during the
season regardless of record. This rewards that owner with a
losing record that got unlucky and had the most points scored
against during the season. Playing "defense" by choosing
a player on the opposing team for a point reduction is just
too much. The beauty of a good league
is the simplicity of the league's rules. Once you get specialized,
idiosyncratic rules like the one suggested, the league becomes
less like football and more like a game of chess. If
you want to play chess, grab a board and go to the park. Otherwise,
sit yourself in front of the TV for some football.
However, I don’t think the point of adding a defensive
component to scoring is only partly about luck—and primarily
about adding a level of intricacy that some players may enjoy.
Consider Burton’s response:
I love the idea of playing real defense in fantasy
football. Some of the guys in my league have been messing around
with something close to what your reader describes (but a little
Our playoffs start in Week 11, so we have broken the season
into two 5-week cycles. In each cycle you have to focus on defending
one time each against an opponent’s 1) quarterback, 2)
running back, 3) wide receiver, 4) tight end, and 5) kicker.
Whichever player you play defense against has his points cut
in half, but it’s really tricky because you have to weigh
the strengths of your various opponents against upcoming matchups
and possibilities for injury. You can only defend against a
quarterback once in the first five weeks, so if you have to
go up against the teams Brady in Week 3 and Manning in Week
4, you have to make a hard choice.
We’re only testing it out this season; it doesn’t
have any impact on the way we keep actual score. Some owners
don’t want to bother, so I’m making their defensive
choices for them just so we can see how the numbers work out.
But so far everyone who is playing along is having a lot of
As I’ve said before, let a thousand fantasy leagues bloom.
I suspect that something less than 10% of fantasy players would
actually go for a system such as the one Burton suggests, but
if your in a league of folks who like intricacy, more power to
The pragmatist in me can’t help wondering how one would
program this scoring wrinkle into my league-hosting websites,
and my gut says that scoring systems that can’t be automated
aren’t likely to become terribly popular, but the game-player
in me has no difficulty seeing how much fun it could be to play
by Burton’s rules.
Kent wrote in with a much simpler system that has to do with
the actual defensive performance of players:
I play in a league where we draft IDP's. You get four
starters, 1DL, 1LB, 1DB and 1 of any position. Their points count
against your opponent’s offense. We used to use IDP's as
an add-on of points to your total score. It has turned out to
be very thrilling way of playing and we won't change back.
This model is completely in keeping with the mimetic impulse
behind the organization of most fantasy leagues. It also sounds
like a lot of fun, though there are many casual fans who remain
reluctant to go the IDP route.
Paul’s answer is only tangentially related to defense,
but he explains why his league has adopted the “home team
My thanks to these readers for their widely differing responses
to the question. I’m afraid no one wrote in to explain which
league-hosting service was best suited to automating such scoring
systems, so it seems that those who want to explore anything along
the lines of what Burton suggests will need to do some independent
Have you ever heard of any Fantasy rules that will allow you
to play defense against your opponent?
One common rule is Home Team Advantage. If the scheduling is
done correctly, you should play people once as a home team,
once as away. That should give you an extra point or two or
5 or 10. That's an option that's simple and usually available
across the boards.
Otherwise, that's kinda like double-jeopardy. You have
the bears D and Hester runs it back for a couple TD. Nice! Now
you also get to take points away from your opponents kicker?
Nice Nice! Or another scenario: your kicker kicks a 53 yarder.
you get 3 points, plus a 2 point escalator (50+ yards). Otherwise,
it seems to random. I'm going to pick the highest player and
take 50% off his points. every time. Predefined perhaps counts.
But I've never been in a league like this. Anything can be done,
just has to be agreed upon at the start of the season. No making
up new rules, especially during playoff season.
This Week’s Question
Every year around this time, I get questions from readers who want
to know about when the fantasy season should end. Most leagues shy
away from Week 17 (since so many personnel decisions are compromised
by the fact that many teams will have locked up their post-season
seeding by then). Even Week 16 is too dodgy for some leagues, such
We hold our playoffs (12-team league, 6 playoff spots, 2 first-round
byes) from Weeks 14-16. This year, with some teams having wrapped
up their playoff seeding, the prospect of holding the championship
in Week 16 poses some real problems, as it seems as though some
teams are likely to rest their stars, at least in the 2nd half (the
Colts and Chargers are likely the most problematic teams in this
regard). Have you ever [asked] whether weeks 13-15 make more sense?
There are lots of good reasons for stopping the fantasy season
before the regular NFL season ends, but there’s also an excellent
reason not to: fun. The NFL regular season only spans a third of
the year as it is—and to make the fantasy season any shorter
than that unnecessarily is, of course, a shame. Readers who share
my attitude on this subject might be interested in Jason’s
I wonder what your readers will think of the way our league has
figured out to make the fantasy season last all 17 weeks. We have
our Super Bowl in Week 17, but it’s more like the Pro Bowl
than the Super Bowl. We are broken into two conferences of six teams
each, and the Super Bowl pits the two conference champs against
each other. They have to advance to the Super Bowl on the strength
of their own teams, but they can draw on the rosters of other owners
in their conference in Week 17 to replace any of their players.
If you have Willie Parker and you think the Steelers are going to
rest him in Week 17, you can use any other running back in your
conference in his place. You don’t even have to think the
player is going to be benched. You can just grab any old wide-out
from your conference because you like his matchup that week. It’s
actually led to conference pride and a lot of fun trash talk.
Trap Game: Detroit over Kansas City:
There are whispers coming from KC that Larry Johnson might actually
play this week. This is probably true because Detroit’s
rushing defense was crushed last week by Ladanian Tomlinson and
company, and LJ is salivating for the chance to rack up the yardage.
Even though the Lions are favored at home, The Chiefs may be more
than the Lions can handle now that they have been formally eliminated
from the playoffs after a great start to the season.
#3: New Orleans over Philadelphia (11-4):
The Saints are still alive in the playoff hunt, but they need
some help. Meanwhile, the Eagles are going to be playing without
Takeo Spikes on defense, and this should help the short passing
game of New Orleans. The Saints hope to pull this one off and
remain alive in the playoff hunt as they wait for the Redskins
to play the Vikings on Sunday night. It might just come down to
the final game of the year to determine if they are in or out
of the playoffs.
#2: Arizona over Atlanta (7-8):
Okay, okay, okay. Maybe I should just leave my #2 pick out of
this column. But like almost any team (except Baltimore) who plays
the Dolphins, any team that plays Atlanta should win. The Cardinals
had a really good shot of making the playoffs, but they fell short.
While they may be on the outside looking in, the Cards may be
a good team for years to come. The good news for them is that
the Falcons are coming to town, so for the fans, Christmas comes
a little early with a huge win at home during the holiday season.
#1: Minnesota over Washington (13-2):
The Vikings are on the verge of qualifying for the playoffs with
this year’s NFL rookie of the year, a first-time starting
quarterback, and a defense the still is a little suspect when
facing a quality offense. The Redskins, however, must win to remain
in the hunt. This may be a stretch as your lock of the week, but
now is the time to separate yourself from the rest of the people
that are left in your pool.
I think there are 4 types of teams that will emerge in the last
two weeks of the season.
1. Teams that have solidified their playoff position and will
likely rest their starters.
2. Teams still fighting for playoff spot or position.
3. Teams just fighting for pride. These are the most difficult
4. Teams that have packed it in for the season.
Ideally, we want to find a category 2 team against a category
4. Hopefully you have already used the category 1 teams.
#1. TEN over NYJ (12-3, Used
SEA, CHI, BAL, IND, DAL, SDC, WAS, NEP, TBB, nos, pit, nyg, CAR,
The Titans are coming home after thumping the Chiefs and are still
fighting for a playoff spot. The Jets kept it reasonably close
in a snowstorm with the division rival Patriots. The Jets have
been eliminated from playoff contention for several weeks and
have a miserable 1-6 road record.
#2. ARI over ATL (12-3 Used
IND, DEN, NEP, sdc, TEN, sea, DAL, NYG, ATL, PIT, GBP, JAX, was,
Both of these teams are coming off road losses and have been eliminated
from playoff contention. That makes this pick a little tricky.
However, the Falcons are a category 4 team. Interrim head coach;
issues with Vick; a 1-6 road record. Atlanta just wants to get
this season over and move on to 2008.
#3. MIN over WAS (13-2 Used
SDC, JAX, PIT, NEP, HOU, GBP, NYG, IND, WAS, SEA, DAL, ari, phi,
The Vikings slipped past the Bears on Monday Night Football while
the Redskins upset the Giants on the road last week. That was
a rivalry game for the Skins. I don’t think they will play
with that much intensity against the Vikings. Minnesota is still
playing for a wild card spot.
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