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Q&A - What do commissioners plan to do with their leagues if the NFL moves forward with an 18-game season?
Week 11

Last Week’s Question:

Should I think twice about starting a receiver if his quarterback is playing for my opponent?

A reader named Mike wrote in with a question that was probably a little too hypothetical for most of the readers of this column. The part of his question that got the least attention was this sentence:

If I had to choose a starter from two wide receivers who were exactly equal in all ways EXCEPT that one played on the same team as my opponent's QB and one did not, should I be more or less inclined to go with the player who my opponent's QB throws to?

Jason was one of many readers who wrote in with a response that I think most of us would agree with—even though it does not take Mike’s hypothetical situation seriously:

The long and short of it is that it doesn’t matter what your opponent is playing. The point of FF is to garner the highest score and hope you play against a team that scores lower. So you should always pick the team that you think is going to give you the highest score as that is the only thing you have control over.

To me the only “situational” comes in looking over your opponent’s team and determining whether you are expected to lose by a large difference. Under that circumstance, you may want to switch to another player so long as that new player has a high enough upside. But the realities are that if you are expected to lose by a large difference you should be playing your highest upsides in any case – unless your league has penalties for low scores.

For those that are expected to win by a large difference or if the game is expected to be close, just play your best team.

Jason speaks clearly and articulately for almost everyone who bothered to write in. No one disputes that FFers should start the players likely to give them the greatest number of points regardless of who may or may not be starting for their opponent.

That answer, however, doesn’t address the hypothetical situation that Mike seems to be curious about. It’s easy enough to imagine a fantasy team with both Brandon Lloyd and Terrell Owens as receivers. It’s also easy to imagine that the owner of that team has reason to expect both players to score about 20 fantasy points in an upcoming game against an opponent who will be starting Carson Palmer as his QB.

In such a situation, Mike seems to be wondering whether he should hedge his bets by playing Owens (who will presumably benefit from a stellar performance by Palmer or suffer from a weak performance by Palmer) or Lloyd (whose performance will be completely unrelated to that of Palmer).

None of the responses that I received took this situation at all seriously—perhaps because almost anyone who owns both Lloyd and Owens will be starting both whenever they are active. Many fantasy leagues allow owners to start 3 receivers, but almost all of them allow owners to start 2. That may be why none of the readers who wrote in had a genuine answer for the hardest part of Mike’s question.

The dozens who wrote in with a variation on the refrain “always start your stud” did not have to think through choosing between Lloyd and Owens because there aren’t many leagues or lineups in which activating one of them would entail benching the other.

I tend to use marquee players in my examples because they are the ones most readers are likely to be keeping up with, but the only way for me to construct a plausible example for Mike’s situation is to go to some 2nd- or 3rd-tier players. So I will imagine a team with 3 receivers in a league that only allows owners to start 2.

If Mike’s team has to start 2 receivers out of Andre Johnson, Lance Moore, and Mario Manningham against an opponent who will be starting Eli Manning at QB; and if Mike’s fantasy projection service expects 11 points out of both Moore and Manningham in the upcoming week, then Mike wonders whether the fact that his opponent will be starting the QB who will be throwing to Manningham can somehow help him to choose between Moore and Manningham as his secondary receiver.

I am frankly not sure how “always start your studs” answers this question, but if I had to read between the lines of the responses that I received, I think the consensus is that Eli Manning’s presence in the lineup is irrelevant in the opinion of most readers. Mike has a hard choice to make between Moore and Manningham, but he has to make that choice (in the implicit opinion of most readers) based on what he expects from those receivers—whether Eli Manning is involved in the match-up or not.

This Week’s Question:

What do commissioners plan to do with their leagues if the NFL moves forward with an 18-game season?

This week’s question comes from Evan, who is already thinking about the changes that he will have to make in his league if the NFL moves to an 18-game season. As Evan himself points out, this is the kind of question best suited to being addressed over the summer—and I will return to it over the summer if the NFL does extend its schedule. However, since this column receives far more attention during the regular season than in the summer, I would like to collect a few ideas from readers who are still caught up in FF so as to be prepared for that contingency. Evan has already formulated a tentative plan:

My current league has a 13 week regular season, with a 3-week, 6-team postseason (two 1st-round byes in first week) from Weeks 14-16. We have 16 roster spots for 9 weekly starters. I think I would make the following changes:

1. Expand the regular season by one week, keep trade deadline the same.

2. Expand the playoffs by one week. This extra week will be used to make the championship and third place matches stretch over two weeks, letting good teams duke it out a little longer for the top spot.

3. I may add one more roster spot, or maybe an IR spot to help owners cope with the increase in injured players.

There is no reason to sink too much thought into this question until we have official word from the NFL, but I look forward to hearing from any other commissioners who, like Evan, cannot help thinking ahead.

Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of Mark Den Adel)

#1 San Diego over Denver
This has the appearance of a shootout with San Diego having the top offense in the league and Denver having dismantled the Chiefs last week. San Diego will be getting back Malcolm Floyd and is ready to make a run at the divisional title. The Chargers are 3rd in passing defense and 4th in rushing defense. Their Achilles heel has been special teams, so if they spent their bye week (as they should have) getting things buttoned up, they will be able to slow down Denver and put up enough points to win.

#2 New Orleans over Seattle
New Orleans is coming off their bye week, and Reggie Bush will be back. Drew Brees will take his 5th-ranked passing offense to Seattle, where he should have his way against the league’s 28th-ranked passing defense. With two defensive lineman hurt for Seattle, it is hard to imagine how the Seahawks will put together an effective pass rush. The Saints might show up jet lagged, but that won’t be enough to even out this lopsided contest. Whether Bush is active or not, Brees should have no trouble getting the win for the visiting Saints.

#3 Kansas City over Arizona
What happened to KC in Denver? Did the thin air get to them? Did they just forget to pack a defense for the trip? At home they are a much different team as they feed off of the energy of their fans. The Chiefs’ rushing defense has been poor lately, but Arizona doesn’t have a runner capable of exploiting that weakness. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones on the other hand, are licking their chops as they bring the top-ranked rushing offense home against the 28th-ranked Arizona rushing defense. Expect big doses of both backs; they may both break 100 yards.

Upset of the week – Cleveland over Jacksonville
I’m on a 6-game losing streak after correctly predicting 3 consecutive upsets at the beginning of the season. Whether I am right or wrong about an upset, the games that draw my attention almost always end up coming down to the wire. This contest could easily end up the same way. Cleveland has fought hard through a challenging season, and I’ve been particularly impressed by Colt McCoy. Jacksonville was fortunate to win against Houston on a jump ball and won at Dallas the previous week more because of what the Cowboys failed to do than because of what the Jaguars were capable of doing. I don’t see this inconsistent Jacksonville squad winning three in a row—particularly not when the third game is against a hard-working Cleveland team that is due for a win. The key to the game, in my opinion, is how seasoned a QB McCoy has become against pass defenses much stouter than Jacksonville’s. McCoy’s four starts have been against Pittsburgh, New Orleans, New England and the NY Jets, so he’ll have a much easier time throwing the ball against the Jaguars.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me.