Last Week's Question: What Models Work
for Fantasy Leagues during the NFL Playoffs?
column featured commentary from a reader named Alan, who has
run a postseason fantasy pool for the last seven years. Participants
in his pool create a fantasy squad of twelve players--one from
each team that makes the NFL playoffs. As the playoffs progress,
players are eliminated from the rosters of participants. The result
is that all participants only have two players available in the
Super Bowl. The winner is the participant whose players generate
the most total points from Wild Card Weekend through the Super
I should apologize to a reader named Dave who contacted me for
my Week 15 column in 2005 about a strikingly similar setup for
a postseason fantasy pool. Alan's model is so similar to Dave's
that I should certainly have made a reference to Dave in last
week's column. I regret that oversight.
I appreciate the trouble that Alan took to write in with his suggestion
for a postseason fantasy pool, but the feedback generated by last
week's column was limited to people who already do something similar
and are happy with their results.
I did not receive suggestions for additional postseason fantasy
models. Nevertheless, readers who are curious about the approaches
taken by various fantasy leagues that like to remain active in
the NFL postseason should consult my
Q&A column from Week 15 of 2005 (available in the FFToday
This Week's Question: Can the "Team
Player" Designation (or any other Model) Salvage Week 17
of the Regular Season for Fantasy Purposes?
Some readers will need background information to understand the
question I received from Tim this week about "team players."
In most fantasy leagues, owners start specific players at specific
positions. If you designate Michael Vick as your starting QB in
Week 15 and his rib injury keeps him from playing, your quarterback
score for the week is a big, fat zero.
However, some leagues use a "team quarterback." These
leagues are much more forgiving when it comes to injuries because
an owner who starts the Philadelphia quarterback gets credit for
all the points generated by whichever player is under center for
the Eagles. When Vince Young steps in to relieve Vick, the owner
using the Philadelphia "team quarterback" continues
to earn fantasy points. If Young is injured and replaced by Mike
Kafka, the owner of the Philadelphia quarterbacks still manages
not to have a hole in his roster.
The best argument for the "team player" concept is that
no owner of an NFL team would simply go into a game without a
player at a key position simply because of one injury. If Jerry
Jones says he looks forward to seeing what Tony Romo will do in
Week 15, but Romo slips and breaks his ankle on the way out of
the locker room, Jones doesn't have to send his team onto the
field without a quarterback. Leagues that rely on the "team
player" concept ask why their owners should be incapable
of responding to player injuries any more than the coaches and
owners of the NFL are.
The strongest argument against the "team player" concept
is that it essentially eliminates backups from the pool of available
players and only works well for positions that are not duplicated
on NFL teams. In leagues that use the "team quarterback"
concept, the owner who drafts the Philadelphia quarterback position
drafts all of the Eagle QBs. There is no waiting to pounce on
Vince Young at the end of the draft. Moreover, it is far more
difficult to implement a "team running back" or "team
receiver" because teams may have two or three players at
that position--all of them viable as independent draft picks,
and all of them backed up by the same pool of second- and third-stringers.
The Giants, for example, have three receivers who are all desirable
in fantasy leagues (Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham).
Since most fantasy leagues (even those that use the "team
quarterback" concept) want to allow owners to draft high
caliber RBs and WRs separately from each other, it is tricky to
use a "team receiver" concept to cover all contingencies.
What if Cruz gets dinged while blocking for Nicks on a long run?
Nicks takes the next play off to catch his breath, and Cruz steps
into the locker room for a quick examination by the trainer. They
are replaced by Ramses Barden and Devin Thomas for the next play,
but Tom Coughlin isn't going to issue a press release specifying
that Thomas is filling in for Nicks and that Barden is filling
in for Cruz. It is easy to use a "team quarterback"
or a "team kicker," but when fantasy starters at the
same position share the same pool of backups, it is tricky to
score "team players at position x."
With that (admittedly complicated) background information in mind,
consider this question from Tim:
I know a lot of leagues avoid Week 17 of the regular season by
having their championships in Week 16. I guess it makes sense
to them to cut their season short just because teams that cannot
change their playoff destiny may not play their stars for more
than a quarter or so in Week 17.
My own initial response to this idea is that Tim is asking for trouble.
In a league that doesn't start out with the team quarterback concept
in place, how do you handle owners of backups when you switch to
the team QB model? Would the owner of Kevin Kolb have been allowed
to start the Philadelphia team QB even if Vick had been active for
the Week 17 game in 2010? The second obvious problem is that QBs
aren't the only stars who get benched early in meaningless Week
17 games. I cannot see an easy way of imposing a Team RB or Team
WR designation on a league just for the end of the regular season.
It doesn't make sense to me. Some of the games in Week 17 are
hugely important. Teams that need to win the last game of the
regular season just to get a chance at a wildcard spot can turn
in surprising performances that make for really dramatic fantasy
My problem is that not everyone in my league agrees with me, and
it looks like we are going to change to a Week 16 championship
If I want us to continue using Week 17, I am going to have to
figure out special rules that we can use for that week that will
keep all the owners happy. The owner who lost the Super Bowl last
year is still bitter about Michael Vick not playing, but he says
the real source of his frustration was how hard it was for him
to figure out whether he should start Vick or not. With all the
travel people do between Christmas and New Year's Day, I guess
I understand the stress of trying to keep up with whether Andy
Reid is going to start an injured star player with nothing to
gain from a win. (Although if you just read that last sentence
all by itself, it was kind of obvious all along that Vick wasn't
going to start, no?)
Anyway, what I am hearing from the guys who want a Week 16 championship
is NOT that they mind star players being benched. What they mind
is that coaches are so evasive with the media about their intentions.
It's not so much that Vick didn't play [as that Vick's owner had
to spend days agonizing] about whether Vick was going to play
So I was wondering if you know of any leagues that use a team
quarterback just for the last week or two of the regular season.
We don't use team quarterbacks ordinarily, but it really would
have been the perfect solution for Vick's owner last year. He
could have just started the Philadelphia QB in the hope that Vick
would play. Then, if he didn't get a chance to check the news
or reset his lineup while traveling for the holidays, he wouldn't
have had to lose any sleep over it. What do you think?
None of which is to suggest that the idea cannot work. There may
be a league that has figured out how to pull something like this
off. If so, I hope to hear from them. But since the chances of
getting an answer to Tim's very specific question seem slim to
me, I will pose a more general question:
Does your league have a special way of handling Week 17 that enables
you to schedule your championship at the end of the regular season
without worrying too much about last-minute benchings?
Please do not write in
with an explanation of why it is better to schedule championships
for Week 16. Most leagues already schedule their championships for
Week 16 (or perhaps a double-header in Weeks 15 and 16) because
the problems associated with roster management in Week 17 are widely
understood. The question isn't, "Should you have a championship
in Week 17?", but rather, "If you are determined to have
a championship in Week 17, do you do anything special to make it
less stressful for owners?"
(Courtesy of Matthew
#3: ATL over JAX: (10-4, PIT, SD, GB, BUF,
HOU, CIN, NO, CAR, NE, DAL, DET, NYJ, BAL):
Jacksonville is no pushover, but on the road on Thursday night,
look for them to wilt against the balanced attack of Matt Ryan
and company. Jacksonville's fourth-ranked defense has not played
against many offenses that can score at will. And as long as the
Falcons can hold MJD under 100 yards, the Falcons can continue
to keep their playoff hopes alive.
#2: TEN over IND (11-3, SD, AZ, DET, GB,
NYG, PIT, JAX, NO, DAL, MIA, NE, CIN, SF, BAL):
Tennessee all of a sudden seems to have found a running game
with a reinvigorated Chris Johnson at tailback. While Matt Hasselbeck
might be out this week, don't think that CJ2K and company won't
have enough to beat Dan Orlovsky and his Colts. Look for Indy
to continue its losing ways as they guarantee the Andrew Luck
pick with a loss at home to divisional rival Tennessee.
#1: ARI over CLE (11-3 SD, PIT, TN, PHL, CIN,
GB, DAL, NYG, OAK, BAL, SF, ATL, NE, NYJ):
The Cardinals are playing good defense, which should be more
than enough to offset any offensive woes they might have with
Kevin Kolb ailing at quarterback. Look for Beanie Wells to break
100 yards against the Cleveland defense even though the Browns
are ranked 9th overall in yards allowed this season. The Browns
have played some good defense, but they are a young team that
has hit the professional wall (and appear likely to finish the
season with numerous hiccups). This is not going to be a pretty
game, but if you need a home pick that is "safe," this
is a good option.
For responses to this month's
fantasy question please email