Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Staff Writer
Email Mike

Mike's Articles

Week 17

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I shared questions from Noah and Jason about how/whether to incorporate the Week 17 games into the regular season. Noah’s league already stops play in Week 16 (in response to the likelihood of key NFL players being benched in Week 17), but Noah thinks that these end-of-season benchings are creeping forward to Week 16 with enough frequency to warrant wrapping up the fantasy season in Week 15. I know that many (perhaps most) fantasy leagues have already crowned their champs because there are a lot of folks who think that Week 17 is statistically unreliable. But my sense (based on responses from readers over the years) is that few leagues actually conclude the fantasy season in Week 15 (though it is not unusual for leagues to feature a 2-week championship matchup that starts in Week 15 and concludes in Week 16).

My summary of the responses to Noah’s question is that fantasy enthusiasts do not appear to be keen on the idea of discarding Week 16. Craig even went so far as to question the wisdom of giving up Week 17:

The main problem with having week 17 as the fantasy championship game is that by this time (and possibly earlier) some stars on the best NFL teams are being benched and therefore can hurt a fantasy team’s chances of winning.

To this I can only say tough luck and put some better planning in your team for next year. Ask yourself this question. When choosing rosters for a certain match-up, do you just randomly pick your QB or RB or do you look who has byes, injuries, what defenses they are playing against? If your answer is no, then you shouldn’t have any problem accepting that players could possibly be benched late in the season. This is all part of the strategy of the game, starting from the draft picks. You don’t draft 2 QBs with the same bye week, and just as importantly if you have picked Brady or Manning, then you should always keep in mind that they might secure the first round bye early and be benched late in the season. They might take you to the playoffs but you better have a backup ready in case they won’t be there for the final games. This doesn’t have to be just in the draft. If you can see that halfway through the season your star players are on undefeated teams that demolish their competition (‘07 Pats), then you better start looking for some backups in the free agency, or possibly trades.
I understand both Noah’s and Craig’s positions. I play in some leagues that continue through Week 17 and some that stop in Week 16—for differing sets of reasons that appeal to the differing sensibilities of the participants. There’s obviously no “wrong” approach here. As long as everyone is playing by the same rules (and the rules are clear before the season begins), I see no problem with either approach.

However, readers should bear in mind that some people who are new to fantasy football will not appreciate the significance of scheduling a championship for Week 17. Braden wrote in to share excerpts from angry emails that he is receiving from an owner in his league who insists that only “an incompetent commissioner” would schedule a championship for Week 17. The outraged owner has Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai on his team and is apparently concerned over Tony Dungy’s remarks about doing what’s best for the Colts.

I know that there are many players in analogous situations in leagues all over the world, and I can see why they might think that this is the time to raise the question of whether to schedule championship games for Week 17, but I wouldn’t expect many commissioners to take their complaints seriously. If the league charter calls for the championship to take place in Week 17, then that is when it needs to happen regardless of what various NFL coaches decide to do with their personnel this week.

I did not receive much feedback concerning Jason’s Pro Bowl style championship model. Jason wrote in to explain that championship contenders in his league don’t have to worry about benchings in Week 17 because the two conference champs are allowed to include any players in their conferences for their championship lineups. It sounded like an interesting idea to me, but I suspect the lack of enthusiasm for it was best explained by Carl:
If I tried to explain Jason’s idea to any of the guys in my league, they would just look at me funny. I think leagues with those kind of complications are dying out. Everybody I know plays on sites that pretty much run themselves with cookie cutter rules.
I think Carl is over-generalizing, but I can’t say to what extent. The face of the fantasy football community probably is changing. Those who recall the days before internet league-hosting services appear to be outnumbered by those who can’t imagine that the game was ever played by people who wrote rules together and kept scores by hand—but I have to doubt that the population of these “old-timers” has become statistically insignificant (as Carl seems to think). Maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe I’m just old. Well, after my experience on a nephew’s Wii this Christmas, there’s no maybe about my being old.

This Week’s Question

Since this is my last column of the year, there’s not much point in my asking readers to respond to the question sent in by Craig. However, it’s such an interesting question that I can’t resist the urge to share it (along with my own response):
2 teams are almost dead even after the weekend games are done playing. Team A has 60 points, and Team B has 61. The only player left is Team B’s QB who plays on Monday. Is it considered a good strategy move by B to bench his QB to avoid negative points and guarantee his win, or unethical considering it would make no logical sense for a team to enter a game without a QB? I’ve seen this situation come up a few times in the few years I have been playing with mixed response from everybody in the league.
I don’t know that I’ve seen this exact situation come up, but I have seen similar developments. I’ve certainly had players finish games with negative points (due to fumbles, lost yardage, interceptions, missed field goals, etc.), and it isn’t hard to imagine situations along the lines of what Craig describes (though they are presumably rare).

Some people may not play in leagues that allow lineup changes after kickoff for the first game in any given week, but most leagues appear to allow this sort of flexibility. If you like the idea of submitting lineups by a certain deadline (say noon on Thursdays) and sticking with those decisions regardless of what information becomes available between then and the time your players start, then you simply won’t encounter the situation Craig describes.

However, I think that in most leagues (including the ones I play in), it is possible for owners to bench players while Tony Kornheiser is delivering his little spiel about why we’re in for a great match-up this Monday night.

Craig points out that in his league, opinions are split about whether it’s right for an owner to bench a player out of fear of a negative performance. Those who contend that such a benching is unethical are entitled to their opinion, but I happen to disagree with them. I’ll paint a hypothetical picture to explain why.

Let’s say that the Pats are beating the Cowboys 25-20 in the Super Bowl. Tony Romo leads the Cowboys down the field in the final offensive drive of the game. New England’s secondary has been riddled with injuries, and in a freakish turn of events, Randy Moss has been called upon to fill in as a cornerback. The last play of the game is a pass. There’s no time left on the clock as Terrell Owens sprints towards the end zone, where Moss is waiting for him. Romo throws a beautiful spiral to Owens—and it’s clearly a jump ball. Owens needs to catch it for the Cowboys to win, but Moss only needs to bat it down.

Now if Moss intercepts the ball in the end zone, he could possibly run it all the way to the other end of the field and upstage Owens in an incredibly memorable way, but that would be the wrong thing to do from a strategic standpoint. The Pats are already ahead, so the only right thing for Moss to do is to bat the ball down. I don’t care how easy the catch is for him. I don’t care how clear his path to the opposite end zone is. His team already has the win, and he needs to be a team player and ensure that win for his team.

In my opinion, if 1) you go into the Monday night game with a marginal lead over your opponent; 2) your opponent’s players have all played, so his score his final; and 3) you have one player active in the game who could conceivably fumble the first time he handles the ball, be injured on the same play, and cost you the win—if you find yourself in this situation, then the only right thing to do is to bench the player. When a quarterback takes a knee to let time expire because that will guarantee the win for his team, he isn’t being “illogical”; he is simply being competitive. Sometimes competition takes the form of inaction. Or, as Milton put it, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matthew and Paul)

Matthew’s Picks

Congratulations to those that are still in your Survival Pool. You have accomplished a major feat. Now for the final and most important pick of the year.

#3: Cleveland over San Francisco (11-5):

The 49ers may have found their quarterback of the future in Shaun Hill, but the Browns will be playing at home looking to win their game and praying for a Tennessee loss later on to the Colts. This game is no lock for the Browns considering their porous defense and the patience of Hill at quarterback, but the combination of Jamal Lewis, Derek Andersen, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow should be enough to squeak by a dangerous San Francisco squad.

#2: Cincinnati at Miami (8-8):

The Bengals finally finish off a season of disappointment against a team that has been even more disappointing. Supposedly Marvin Lewis’ job is safe, but the same may not be true of Cam Cameron with Tuna on the prowl. Ocho Cinco and company should have a good day against a weak Miami secondary, and Cleo Lemon will continue his education at the quarterback position while probably playing his last game as starter. The only people watching this game will be the GMs of each of these two teams, and even they will spend the time wishing that they could be somewhere else.

#1: Chicago over New Orleans (13-3):

Upset Special. The Saints have every reason to play hard and win this game, but they will need a lot of help from the Cowboys and Broncos to make the playoffs. Combine that with the fact that it could be very cold and snowy in Chicago and this team just might roll over while watching the scoreboard for the Redskins game. Since the Bears are not going to the playoffs, they would like nothing more than to eliminate the Saints, thus having both 2006 NFC Championship teams miss the playoffs. This game is a big risk-reward game but because there are so many what unknowns this week, this just might be what you need to win it all.

Paul’s Picks

If your LMS pool is still going and you are still alive, this can get tricky. There will be several teams that have their playoff position locked up and will likely rest several starters for part of the game--much like a preseason game.

#1. GB over DET (13-3, Used SEA, CHI, BAL, IND, DAL, SDC, WAS, NEP, TBB, nos, pit, nyg, CAR, JAX, MIN, TEN)
How have I made it this far in the season without taking the Pack? Oh yeah, I’ve got three losses. Green Bay beat the Lions 37-26 on Thanksgiving. Five weeks later and they are still battling for the top stop in the NFC. The Pack should beat the reeling Lions if only for the sake of taking some momentum into the playoffs.

#2. TB over CAR (13-3 Used IND, DEN, NEP, sdc, TEN, sea, DAL, NYG, ATL, PIT, GBP, JAX, was, DEN, CLE, ARI)
The Bucs beat the Panthers 20-7 in week 4. Unfortunately, they have already secured their playoff position. Tampa with their 6-1 home record will want to give the home fans one more win. Carolina will probably just be going through the motions.

#3. CLE over SF (14-2 Used SDC, JAX, PIT, NEP, HOU, GBP, NYG, IND, WAS, SEA, DAL, ari, phi, BUF, TBB, min)
The Browns are still fighting for a playoff spot and have a 6-1 home record. The Niners, on the other hand, are 2-5 on the road and have packed it in for the season.

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.