The most heartbreaking tweet I saw about fantasy football after
the Monday night game went something like this: “I lost in
the semi-finals because Christian McCaffrey is a better QB than
Ouch. (But as a McCaffrey owner, I have to smile.)
Last Week’s Question: Do any leagues
allow top seeds to choose their opponent?
My column for Week
15 featured a question from Jim, who wondered about allowing
the top-seeded owner to choose his opponent from the rest of the
field rather than having to face “the ultra hot wildcard”
that seems only to be gathering steam as it charges into the fantasy
I was therefore delighted to receive this response from Keith via
In my 20 year+ league we have had the #1 seed pick their opponent
for several years and everyone seems to love it. It’s a 10-team
league; 4 teams get in; and often the #1 seed (and theoretically
the best) faces a #4 seed that’s red hot and been frequenting
the waiver wire for the latest hot pickups. We thought collectively
that the reward should be for the #1 to pick their foe. This year
a team has been ravaged with injuries and the #1 selected him. It
has sometimes backfired (as in the #1 should have stayed with their
original #4 opponent) and that’s what adds to the fun to giving
the #1 seed this opportunity.
So at least 1 league out there has adopted this practice and enjoys
the results. Since I would like to see this approach become a little
more commonplace, I want to share some follow-up commentary (along
with a question) from Jim:
Having the ability to actually pick an opponent among the teams
that qualified for the playoffs should not be an easy thing for
any top seed. We all know that even the team that seems like they
have the toughest matchups for the players “on paper”
can still be the wrong choice in the end. The playoff owners would
be wondering who the top team will choose, adding some intrigue
and drama. Stories would be told of the eventual team that gets
picked by the top seed and then pulls the upset and goes on to win
it all, when if the top seed had just picked the lowest seed the
championship team would’ve been eliminated.
[Still, I wonder about other details, including] when the choice
needs to be made by, if there are more than 4 seeds if the 2nd
seed also gets to choose their opponent, etc. The more I think
about it, the more I think it would be an interesting addition
to a league.
I agree that it would make for additional intrigue (and opportunities
for smack talking) in most leagues. My initial response to the
question about how to handle the selection process in a league
with more than 4 teams in the playoffs would be to say that after
the top-seeded team selects his opponent (even if it turns out
to be the second-seeded team), the next highest-seeded team in
the remaining field gets to make its selection. In other words,
the only way the 2nd-seeded team would be deprived of the opportunity
to select an opponent in a 6- or 8-team playoff scenario is if
the 1st-seeded team chooses the 2nd-seeded team as an opponent.
If you have other ideas about how to handle that situation (or
additional responses for Jim or Keith), please comment below or
email me. My thanks go out to all readers who participated in
This Week’s Question: Does your
league reshuffle divisions each year?
As I’ve explained in the past, my money league is a mega-league
with multiple conferences of twelve teams each. At our largest,
we had 4 conferences (48 teams). Back in 2015, when I last won
the championship, we were down to 3 conferences (36 teams). Another
conference has folded since then, and we’re down to just
2 conferences (24 teams).
But wait. Here we must pause for a gratuitous aside about how
well my team has performed this season. I had a fabulous draft,
landing Melvin Gordon and Christian McCaffrey in the first two
rounds. By the third round, all the elite receivers were gone,
but I still managed to grab T.Y. Hilton, Amari Cooper, and Emmanuel Sanders in rounds 3-5. I later gambled (wisely, it turns out)
on Andrew Luck in the 9th round. It was painful to lose Sanders
for the entire post-season and Gordon for the quarter- and semi-final
contests, but fortunately I had a bye in Week 13, a great performance
from Coop in Week 14, and a solid day from CMC in Week 15. Now
I expect to have Gordon back just as my opponent (who has Todd Gurley, of course!) appears to have lost Keenan Allen and possibly
Aaron Rodgers as well. [Here endeth the gratuitous aside. Wish
The injuries on my opponent’s team are less important than
the fact that he was the wildcard runner up in my own oxymoronic
division: the Atlantic West. (Our conferences are always named
for time zones; each includes three 4-team divisions named East,
Central, and West. Yes, there used to be a Pacific East division.
Go figure.) The point is that no matter who wins the Super Bowl
in our fantasy league, the title will go to someone in the Atlantic
In 2017, another team in our division won the title. In 2016,
the title went to another team in our conference (though not from
our division). In 2015, as I already mentioned, I won the title
(thanks to an unbelievable zero-RB draft that landed me OBJ, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins).
So in a league with 24-36 teams, the 4-team Atlantic West has
claimed 3 out of 4 fantasy titles from 2015-2018. Our oxymoronic
division is ridiculously competitive compared to the rest of the
league. All 4 teams scored over 2000 points during the season;
3 out of 4 racked up double-digit wins (despite the damage we
did to each other head-to-head). No other division in the mega-league
matched us on either front. The guy who finished last in our division
this year won the Super Bowl last year and still made the playoffs
this year thanks to one wildcard spot being awarded based on total
So my question is simple: Shouldn’t it be a disadvantage
to be in the Atlantic West? I mean, anyone with any sense would
run from the division based on the idiotic name alone. But why
would anyone want to play 2 games each season against the strongest
(or perhaps the luckiest) owners in the league?
The folks in the Mountain Conference (our sister conference) reshuffle
their divisions every season so that owners don’t have 6
games against the same 3 teams year in and year out. Our commissioner
is considering adopting such an approach for the Atlantic Conference
and asked my opinion.
Shouldn’t I have said yes?
Wouldn’t I be much happier in a divisional situation like
that of the Patriots—with 3 cellar-dwelling opponents that
I can count on dominating every season?
So why did I say no? Why do I like being in a division that reminds
me of the NFC East of the 80s, with Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells
routinely challenging Tom Landry for dominance in a single division
that often translated to dominance of the NFL.
Part of my opposition to reshuffling divisions is that we have
had years of stable rivalries in the Atlantic West. Even though
my division mates are better at beating me than any other owners
in the league, I look forward to playing them. I can’t help
it. Consistent rivalries create opportunities for smack talking
and emotional highs & lows that will be lost if we reshuffle
divisions every year. I grew up as a fan of the Oakland Raiders
and their opponents in the old AFC West, including the Seahawks.
I was used to caring about the Seahawks even when they were playing
the Broncos, Chiefs, or Chargers because of the impact it had
on my Raiders. I’ve had years to get used to Seattle as
part of the NFC West, but I just don’t care about their
matchups (now with the Cardinals, Rams, and 49ers) in the same
way that I used to. In fact, those rivalries seem pretty tame
and lame in comparison to the AFC West era.
What’s your opinion on divisional reshuffling in fantasy
leagues? Do you see it as an effective tool for leveling the playing
field or an impediment to the development of rivalries?
Please let me know your thoughts by commenting below or emailing
Survivor Pool Picks
Bonus Pick: Colts over Giants
The Colts aren’t available to me this week because I’ve
used them in all 3 slots below. (Note that they won each time
I picked them.) Indy’s shutout of Dallas in Week 15 should
have persuaded you that Andrew Luck & company are very serious
about making the playoffs, a dream long since abandoned by the
Giants. Don’t sleep on the improvements the Colts have made
defensively (especially in the speed department); they had no
trouble containing Amari Cooper (who exploded for Dallas in 2
of the previous 3 weeks) as well as Ezekiel Elliott. The Giants
have an analogue for Elliott in Saquon Barkley, but no analogue
for Cooper (with Odell Beckham Jr. injured), so this matchup should
be even easier. If the Colts are available to you, use them.
The Pats are favored by 13 points in this game for good reason.
They have better players & coaches; they’re poised to
set an NFL record by clinching their tenth consecutive playoff
berth; and they’re playing at home. It doesn’t hurt
that Bill Belichick is 32-5 vs. Buffalo as New England’s
head coach. For all these reasons, you should probably feel comfortable
taking New England, but this is only my 3rd choice because divisional
games always make me nervous; AFC East games make me especially
nervous; and effective rushing QBs like Josh Allen scare the bejesus
out of me.
The Rams are coming off back-to-back losses vs. the Bears and
Eagles, and yet they are 14-point favorites over the Cardinals.
Is Arizona really that bad? Yes. I don’t care that the Rams
are on a skid; I don’t care that this is a divisional matchup;
I don’t even care that the Cardinals are playing at home.
The Rams are one of the best teams in the NFL; they’re jockeying
for a bye in the postseason; and the latest news reports confirm
that they continue to have a player named Todd Gurley. Gurley
alone had 3 TDs vs. Arizona in Week 2. As a team, the Cardinals
have only scored 3 or more TDs twice this season.
The Titans and Redskins are both still alive in the playoff race,
but the Titans are surging whereas the Redskins are dangling by
a thread. Both defenses are capable of crunch performances, but
there’s a huge difference between the offenses, especially
in the running game. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry has showcased
his patience (not to mention an other-worldly stiff-arm capability)
over the past 2 weeks. No one expected him to follow up his 238-yard
rushing performance vs. the Jaguars with a 170-yard explosion
against the Giants. But that didn’t stop him. Washington’s
Adrian Peterson, by contrast, has been held to 67 rushing yards
in the same two-week period and is nursing a shoulder injury.
The quarterback situation only widens the gulf between these teams.
Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota is inconsistent, but he is a
seasoned, dangerous QB who is comfortable with his role in the
Titan offense. Washington’s Josh Johnson is a backup to
a backup who will be playing in his third game of the season vs.
the ball-hawking Titans. He played well against the feckless Giants
and did just enough to win against the phoning-it-in Jaguars,
but is in for a long day against resurgent Tennessee.
Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and
playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning
a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms)
can be found here.