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 8: Can We Keep Apathy At Bay By Scheduling A Season Of Sixteen Side Bets?

Last Week’s Question: Do you have tips for writing FF newsletters?

In last week’s column, I called upon readers to send me tips for writing FF newsletters. I asked everyone who sent newsletters (or sections of newsletters) to provide a brief explanation of what other potential newsletter writers could learn from their samples.

Although a few inattentive participants simply mailed me newsletters that were cut-and-paste jobs into the body of an email, most of those who responded took the time to provide explanations. As one might expect, most FF newsletters tend to do the same kinds of things, so instead of barraging readers with excerpts that repeat each other, I will focus on the briefest and most clearly explained samples, such as Tom’s. Instead of a newsletter, Tom writes a weekly matchup report spotlighting key games:

[In my matchup report, I try] to be mildly humorous (e.g. Steve Smith is suffering from H1Delhomme), but also to do a little analysis. In the last couple of years when I've been a little late with my picks (getting towards Friday, Saturday), I've gotten emails from other owners: "Are you going to post your picks this year?"

In the picks, I usually say something about key roster moves or last week's big starts or risk/reward lineup decisions, and when the matchups start over, I review the last game between the two teams. So it's sort of newslettery. I also use the picks to nudge (via mocking) owners who forgot to make bye week roster moves, so they don't do it again.

It's fun, and I'm usually only mildly successful (I think I'm just over .500 for the year, which is typical), but I think I probably do it for the same reasons others do newsletters.

Here are a couple of shorter picks from Week 4 as an example:

Enforcers (2-1) vs. Syndicate (2-1)
Two weeks ago, Enforcers and I squared off both here and in the All-Defense league, each of us winning one matchup. This week Enforcers and Syndicate match up in both leagues. The game here looks like a good one. Do I recall anyone snickering when I picked Cedric Benson for Syndicate in the draft...? Syndicate has some bye issues, but it looks like he'll be able to handle them nicely. Even Garcon won't be able to save the day ("Garcon means 'boy'"..."alright everybody cool it, this is a robbery!") Syndicate by 10

Dudmonkeys (1-2) vs. Nixers (1-2)
Both teams have enough talent to be better than 1-2 (well...barring that thing that Cutler tried to call a game in week 1...and which my crew was sadly unable to take advantage of). Dudmonkeys has WRs who you'd think would be hit or miss, but are most often hit, but RBs who are underwhelming so far. The Jones brothers are running well for Nixers, and if Welker is back, that should seal the deal. Nixers by 15

Tom has my thanks for giving us an overall sense of his weekly reports as well as some deftly chosen excerpts. Todd, by way of contrast, moves from a quick outline to two categories that are staples of the newsletter:

I do a weekly newsletter in the league I run. I include marquee matchups, a quick standings update, highlights/major happenings (e.g. a team’s 1st win of the season, the point when there are no more undefeated teams, and any off-the-charts performances by teams or individual players).

I also hand out two weekly awards: 1) Pansy of the Week and 2) You Gotta Be Kiddin' Me!

Pansy of the Week is basically busting the team's stones when they perform poorly. YGBKM goes to the guy that somehow got screwed over (e.g. outscoring every team in the league EXCEPT the team he faced—or facing a Tier 4 WR who goes for a career day, and gives the guy a loss.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that Todd’s first category isn’t quite named Pansy of the Week, but the first word does start with a P and end with a Y. I made a slight editorial change in the interest of keeping FFToday a family-friendly website.

Of all the tips I received for newsletter writing, no one managed to put more useful information into a single paragraph than Michael, who wrote:

I've always had a short newsletter with roughly the same 3-part format. First, we give a quick recap of last week’s games, making sure to point out both the really good moves and the serious blunders made and how they affected the games. [I don’t bog down in details, but] I make sure that every owner is mentioned. The second part touches on anything happening that week in the NFL or in our league that could affect the upcoming games. The third part is a quick preview of all the upcoming games, with a special in-depth preview of whatever is that week's best matchup. This week's Game of the Week, for example, pits the #1 (6-0) and #2 (5-1) team in the league, who also happen to be in the same division. I try to keep the whole thing under a page in length, but it's something fun that everyone looks forward to reading.

If I were to train new FF newsletter writers, I am not sure I would do anything but drill them on Michael’s key points.

  1. Have a limited number of sections that will repeat themselves every week. (If you think about the format of this column for the past 5 years, then you can well imagine that Michael was preaching to the choir with his note.)

  2. Keep the newsletter to a single page. If you have a lot of time and printer cartridges to spare, it could be double-sided 11X17 with photos and charts, but there is no need to be that elaborate. Most newsletters can fit everything necessary on a single 8.5X11 sheet of paper (though whether the writer wants to use both sides of the page will be determined by how much information the other owners actually care to absorb on a weekly basis).

  3. Find at least one interesting thing to say about each team each week. Even if the only interesting thing you can say about Roy’s Boys is that Roy should have stopped playing Chad Pennington once he went on IR, then at least Roy will know that someone is paying attention to his team—and that perhaps he should pick up an active quarterback.
Newsletters should primarily be fun, but they also serve the quite useful purpose of reminding everyone every week that someone is watching the entire league—as long as the writer of the newsletter says something about every team in the league.

Of course, not every newsletter is actually printed on paper. Many are distributed electronically, and some commissioners manage to achieve the effect of a newsletter without doing anything like writing a newsletter. As Chris wrote:

I am the commissioner of a 14-man league, and I work a lot on the site to ensure everyone checks it daily. Every day, I update the site with a new "Hottie of the Day" with 3-5 pictures, a new poll to vote in, and a new YouTube video of the day. Of course, ESPN allows you to do this.

If the purpose of a newsletter is to keep everyone interested in and informed about the league, then I suppose Chris’ method achieves those objectives without his having to produce a document each week. Some of us are computer-oriented—and some of us aren’t. It’s up to the commissioner to decide whether polls on the website and pictures of “hotties” will be enough to get people to stay on top of the league. Anyone trapped at a desk all day is probably going to end up checking on the league website to see Chris’ latest YouTube selection, but other people might be more inclined to read a newsletter that they can hold in their hands—even if only because that way they can take it to the restroom.

This Week’s Question: Can we keep apathy at bay by scheduling a season of sixteen side bets?

Once we approach the halfway point of the season, I invariably receive notes such as this one from Jeff (who contacted me last week):

Our league incorporated a new rule this year that works very well. We call it the "weekly high points award." Each week the team that scores the most points gets a cash prize. If you win it three times it just about covers your entry fee. It's great for several reasons:

- keeps interest high all year even for teams not likely to make the playoffs because they can still win money and are motivated to keep managing their teams even if they are doing crappy or having bad luck early in the season.

- every team is playing every other team every week for the high points title, so it's like you're playing several matchups per week instead of just one

- interest is high each week all the way through the end of the Monday night if you blow your opponent out on Sunday and they have no more players, you still get to pull for your stud to do well if he's on Sunday or Monday night because you're playing for the high points.

I have written in the past about precisely this method for keeping apathy at bay. If you start 0-4, it is nice to have a cash incentive to keep playing, and Jeff does a great job of explaining the benefits of providing a weekly award to the high point scorer.

However, I cannot help trying to connect the high-point award mentioned by Jeff to Paulie’s idea of a “Commish’s Challenge” (covered in last week’s column) and Todd’s suggestions for spicing up a league:

We do weekly pools. $100 is our entry fee, and we set $10 per week aside for the pools. The categories range from Longest TD pass to fewest points allowed by a DEF. I also throw in Highest Score with a loss. No one wants to win that one...bittersweet.

Paulie and Todd handle their weekly awards differently than Jeff in that the contested category changes each week (instead of simply being “high points” all season long). If awarding a small payout to the highest scoring team each week is working for your league, then by all means stay with it. But if you are looking for a little more variety, then you might want to take the approach of Paulie (who dedicates one week to quarterbacks and another week to running backs, etc.) or that of Jeff (who provides some sample categories in the snippet above).

Since most fantasy leagues steer clear of Week 17, I would love to see a 16-week schedule of special categories for weekly awards. Since the byes occur in Weeks 3-10, I would probably want to see positional contests in the other weeks. Weeks 11-16 would make perfect sense for high-point awards to kickers (Week 11), defenses (12), tight ends (13), receivers (14), running backs (15), and quarterbacks (16). But what about the first 10 weeks? If we take a cue from Todd and give an award for the longest TD pass in Week 1, then what do we do with Weeks 2-9? I would love to hear from any commissioners who already have a season’s worth of categories in place—as well as anyone who feels like doing a little wishful thinking.

Wk 8 - Last Man Standing - (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Illness prevents me from handling this section of the column as extensively as I would like, so I am keeping things short and sweet.

Reader’s Week 7 Picks

 Top Prognosticators - Week 7
Player Last Week's Picks Overall Win % Point Differential
Scott Goldschmidt IND, GB, NE 21/21 100 334
Mark Den Adel NE, IND, NYG 20/21 95 419
Marc Mondry IND, NE, NYJ 19/21 90 349
Supernewper NE, IND, GB 19/21 90 275
Paul Moore NE, IND, NYJ 18/21 86 355

Remember to email your picks to me by noon on Sunday! The leaderboard has been shortened due to lack of submissions. Please remember to send your picks in, and remember you can join the competition at any time. The leaderboard is by percentage, not point differential.

Trap Game: Minnesota over Green Bay

Favre’s visit to Green Bay is intriguing. There, I said it. I don’t want to hear another word about it from anyone—not the CBS announcers; not the beat writers in the Post; not Terry, Jimmy, Howie, and Cris. Enough!

Phew. Now that that’s over with, we can talk football. This one is very likely to be close. However, if it isn’t close, Green Bay will most assuredly be the team trailing. The Vikings are just too well rounded to be left behind. Adrian Peterson is an animal; the defense is absolutely stellar; Percy Harvin has proved to be dynamic in multiple facets of the game; and Brett Favre’s numbers reflect now nice it is to play QB with the best tailback in the league lining up behind you.

Green Bay is a tough opponent, but I just don’t have the faith in the Green Bay defense that I do in Minnesota’s. That’s the bottom line. I also think Ryan Grant is going to struggle against the Minnesota front seven. If the Vikings can keep pressure on Aaron Rodgers and force him into bad throws, this could be a long game for the Cheeseheads.

3. Dallas over Seattle

The Cowboys don’t seem to be on anyone’s LMS radar this week even though I think they make for a great pick. The last time this happened, Dallas was losing at halftime and squeaked out a 10-point win. I am hoping history won’t repeat itself.

It shouldn’t. The Dallas offense should prove too much for Seattle to keep up with, even if Seattle finds a way to put some points on the board. The three-headed beast of Barber, Jones, and Choice is very difficult to contain for 60 minutes, and with Miles Austin emerging as a real threat at wideout (and gaining more of Tony Romo’s trust each week), it would surprise me if Seattle holds Dallas under 30 points.

That said, the verdict is still out on the Cowboy defense. They might absolutely shut down the Seahawks, or they could give up 27. Frankly, I’m not sure what will happen, but if you notice, both are less than 30. That’s all that matters to me.

2. Chicago over Cleveland

You just don’t get much worse than this Cleveland team. Heck, generally speaking you don’t get much worse than Cleveland’s teams (except for LeBron’s Cavs).

Back to football – this is a team that cannot run the ball, has zero weapons in the passing game with the departures of Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards, and whose defense is at best, middling.

Chicago, on the other hand, is probably more like a .500 team, held back by defensive inconsistency, terrible interceptions thrown by Jay Cutler, and in my mind, a departure from the strong running game they put on display last year.

Just because you have a QB with an arm like Jay Cutler’s doesn’t mean you need to throw the ball 40 times a game.

But I digress again. Chicago has to be motivated by the terrible loss they took last week at the hands of the Bengals, and should take out some frustration on the lowly Browns. The Bears’ situation makes them a very strong pick this week, even a #1 if you need one.

1. San Diego over Oakland

This was a trap game in week one, but not this time. This should be a massacre.

San Diego is just a better team. They may not be heading to the Super Bowl (and obviously you don’t have to be to crush the Raiders – see Giants, New York) but they are in a different class from this struggling Oakland team. Oakland lost 38-0 last week to the Jets behind the unflinching leadership of Bruce Gradkowski.

And I still think he’s better than JaMarcus Russell.

The Chargers should also be motivated by their near loss to Oakland in week one, and should get a boost from LaDainian Tomlinson, who last week remembered how to run the football. They need him to be a weapon. Sproles is as explosive as anyone, but he cannot handle 20-25 carries a game. LT needs to be the man in San Diego; this week, I think he is.

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