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Week 9

In last week’s column, I asked a question that a man my age should have known better than to ask. I asked about the uncomfortable situation of having to throw someone out of a league not for cheating, but for failing to live up to unstated expectations.

It should have been easy for me to see that I was opening the floodgates through which recriminations and vituperations would flow.

I was primarily interested in hearing about the clever way in which Commissioner X figured out how to persuade his brother-in-law or his sister’s boss to leave a league without hurt feelings. Clearly, I did a poor job of communicating that idea. The messages I received were primarily from people who did not succeed in throwing out people gracefully—though I also heard from a number of folks who felt they were thrown out of their leagues unfairly. I have no way of verifying this, but the details in two of the messages I received suggest that one commissioner who thought that he did a good job of getting rid of an unwanted player years ago is still bitterly hated by the player in question, who appears to have contacted me with a very different version of the same league eviction.

I can only extend my apologies to those who responded to last week’s column, as my opinion is that the only thing I would accomplish by including much of what I received would be to open up old wounds for some folks who take their leagues as seriously as their church membership.

Rarely does any good come of he said/she said arguments in real life. And the only difference between real life and a website, in this case, would be to give persistence (in documented form) to events that are probably best moved beyond by all parties concerned.

I will therefore move entirely away from the realm of human conflict back into the safety of numbers with a thoughtful question from a reader named Craig.

This Week’s Question

Should scoring systems make some effort to balance productivity across positions? (In other words, should TDs be worth more for tight ends than they are for quarterbacks because quarterbacks are bound to get more of them in the course of a season?)

Craig’s question is actually more complicated than I make it out to be in the paragraph above, but readers should feel free to grapple with it in my oversimplified form or in its complexity as I received it, verbatim, from Craig:

What would you consider a fair scoring option for players in a league with a roster of at least 1 QB, RB, WR, TE, K, DEF/ST?

In one of my leagues we’ve had some discussion by owners who are not happy with the breakdown (passing TDs worth a couple points less than every other TD; yardage scored differently for rush/pass/receiving).

Do you try to be equal in saying that a TD is a TD no matter who is involved, or that 1 yard earned is 1 yard? Do you try to balance out positions? For example, if QBs are the top scoring positions by far in your league (top 15 players are all QBs), then should it matter that the guy who has ‘07 Brady wins every game because no other QB—and not even ’07 Adrian Peterson—can help his opponents win?

It may not be possible to answer with tons of scoring options, but it came up in my league, mainly due to someone losing by a point or two, so I figured it has to be universal (or more likely losers who complain for the sake of it are universal).

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

In exactly half of the weeks thus far, I have been a perfect 3 for 3. In the others, however, I have been far less prescient; in those 3 weeks my combined record is 4 out of 9, which is abominable by any standards. I constantly come out of weeks like this feeling like I need to answer for my follies, and that’s exactly what I am going to do. This column could use an injection of accountability, and that’s exactly what it’s going to get.

I’m going to review any awful picks from the week before (see below – Last Week’s Bust) and at a minimum, try to isolate the error in my analysis that made me get the game so dead wrong. In addition to this, if any of you intrepid readers feel like one of my picks is off base, feel free to shoot an email (before the game, of course) explaining why, and if I am wrong and you have A) predicted the game correctly, and B) analyzed it well, I’m going to post it right here so all the world will know that you, at least for a couple hours, are God’s gift to LMS Prognostication—and that I am useless.

Last Week’s Bust: San Francisco over Seattle (Seattle, 34-13)
I wasn’t watching this game on Sunday. I was too enthralled by my Giants pulling out a big win over Pittsburgh. When I looked at the score of this NFC West contest, I thought to myself “Seattle put up 34? Did San Francisco play with 10 on defense, or did J.T. O’Sullivan throw four picks and fumble twice?” Well, I checked: The Niners played 11 on both sides of the ball, and J.T. only had 1 pick.

Can someone explain to me what happened in this game? Here’s a look at some stats:

 Week 8: Seattle 34, San Francisco 13
  San Francisco Seattle
First Downs 21 14
Total Yards 388 261
Rushing Yards 124 39
Time of Possession 34:02 25:58
Turnovers 2 0
Fumbles (Total) 4 0
Fumbles (Lost) 1 0
Penalties 7-65 3-15

Top Fantasy Performer: Seattle fullback Leonard Weaver racked up 4 receptions, 116 yards, and 2 TDs?

It would appear from the first set of stats that San Francisco dominated the football game. It seems they were careless with the ball, whereas Seattle was uncharacteristically efficient (major props to Seneca Wallace). Even given the two turnovers, one would guess that this would at worst be a very close Seahawks victory. Shaun Hill even came in and performed exceptionally well: 15/23 (65%) passes completed, 173 yards, 1 TD and no picks. How these stats turn into a 21-point Seattle victory I have no clue. And who on earth is Leonard Weaver!?

So, where did I go wrong? I certainly overestimated San Francisco’s ability to put pressure on the QB and force turnovers. They couldn’t come up with a single interception or fumble, and only registered one sack. They couldn’t stop the pass at all. Seattle was ranked last in the league in passing, and backup Seneca Wallace threw for 222 yards and two scores. Aside from this, I just don’t know – the 49er offense wasn’t the problem, as 388 yards is more than respectable, but unfortunately it only led to 13 points. Can anyone who watched this game offer an explanation that doesn’t come through on the stat sheet?

Trap Game: Pittsburgh over Washington
If I could call myself a man, I would go with my gutsy call and pick Oakland over Atlanta. Unfortunately, I’m “playing scared” at the moment, given that even my “safe” trap game pick of Tampa over Dallas didn’t work out (Dallas won 13-9). Washington comes into this week at 6-2, and a 2.5 point favorite at home against the Steelers (5-2). The Skins looked superhuman a couple weeks ago, taking out Dallas and Philadelphia, both on the road. Since then, they have had a couple of disappointing performances, even trailing to Detroit at the half this past weekend. Clinton Portis is still a man among boys, but he could struggle this week against the third-ranked Pittsburgh rush defense that held the Giants’ league-leading rushing attack to 83 yards. Washington could have trouble putting points on the board, as the Skins had to settle for 4 field goals against the lowly Lions. On the other side of the ball, the Pittsburgh offense has been struggling as of late, but could rebound and play Washington very tough this week. Mewelde Moore has been arguably more effective than Willie Parker, and Nate Washington has performed admirably in place of resident pot smoker Santonio Holmes. Even with all of the injuries, Pittsburgh has only lost to Philadelphia and New York – two very strong teams. Based on the matchup, I strongly advise you to avoid Washington this week in your LMS pool. If Holmes ends up playing, avoid Washington like the plague.

3. Philadelphia over Seattle
Even though Seattle clearly pummeled San Francisco (and me) last week, I feel compelled to pick against them again. Take another look at the stats from the Niners’ last game (see above). Seattle’s stats are less than impressive against an apparently awful defense. Take away the two huge Weaver passing plays and you have a very ugly game, with the only bright spot being no turnovers. Don’t expect lightning to strike twice in this respect, particularly against a very difficult Jim Johnson defensive scheme. The Eagles will get pressure on Seneca Wallace, and will certainly be able to stuff the run. SF held Seattle under 40 yards rushing, and the Eagles are much better, holding their opposition to under 90 rush yards per game (9th in NFL). To give that statistic more context, take a look at the list of opposing RBs Philadelphia has faced: Steven Jackson, Marion Barber, Willie Parker, Matt Forte, Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, and Michael Turner. That list includes 5 of the top 6 fantasy backs, and 6 of the top 10 (only exception: injured Willie Parker). On the other side of the ball, I have two words for you: Brian Westbrook. He’s back, he’s rested, and he embarrassed Atlanta last week. Look for more of the same on Sunday.

2. Jacksonville over Cincinnati
(TENNESSEE, dallas, CHICAGO, new york giants, TAMPA BAY, san francisco)
In the interests of full disclosure, this was going to be my number 3 pick until I realized that I had already taken Jacksonville at #3 in Week 4. They almost burned me back then, and I really can’t recommend them with a whole lot of confidence, as the Jaguar offense and defense have both been wildly inconsistent this year. You just don’t know what team is going to show up. In that week 4 matchup with Houston, the defense was absolutely pitiful, whereas in week 6 the Jaguar D held an explosive Denver offense to 17 points and forced them to yield 3 turnovers. Perhaps the Jaguars just play down to the level of their opponents. If that’s the case, this could be a very ugly game in Cincinnati. The Bungles are ranked dead last in points scored and yardage gained. Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t get the job done. Jacksonville should lean heavily on its running game, which struggles mightily against good and average rush defenses, but pummels bad rush defenses (see games at Indy and Denver, in contrast with all other games). Cincinnati is giving up 147 rush yards/game, so we should expect Jacksonville to control this game early with the run. So long as the Jags don’t let the Bengals WR tandem go off for huge plays, they should win this one handily.

1. Chicago over Detroit
I hope you have been saving Chicago for this week in anticipation of their home matchup against the woeful Lions. In fact, I am sure that many of you have. This game is a no brainer #1 pick, featuring a well-rested Chicago squad led by the new and improved Kyle Orton, at home, against Dan Orlovsky and the 2008 model of Rudi Johnson. To be fair, and perhaps so as to not categorically offend Lions fans, Calvin Johnson is a very dangerous weapon, and Detroit almost gave Washington a run for their money (they led at halftime) until Santana Moss took a punt return to the house and put the game out of reach. The fact remains that in most basic statistical categories (offensive and defensive) the Lions fail to break out of the bottom five except for passing yards per game, a category in which they rank a disappointing 22nd. They’re dead last in points given up and total yards allowed. Chicago put up 48 against the Vikings two weeks ago; the Bears won’t hit that number this week, but this should be very close to Chicago’s victory at Ford Field in week 5 – a 34-7 romp.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.