Last Week's Question: What about "no-lineup" leagues?
My Week 7 column
featured a question from Michael (aka Lilprincesskoopie) about an
important change that his league is considering. As things stand
now, the owners in Michael's league have to set their lineups every
week (like most FFers). If the change that Michael describes goes
into effect, then he will not have to choose which of the QBs on
his roster to start. He can simply wait until the games are played
and then have the score from his most productive QB credited to
In most leagues, setting the weekly lineup is probably the second
most important thing that owners do. My guess is that the weekly
lineup choices are slightly less important than the decisions we
make during the initial draft/auction, but slightly more important
than any waiver wire/trade transactions we initiate during the course
of the season.
I could easily be wrong about this. I suspect there are a lot of
FFers who would argue that the weekly lineup decisions are the most
important choices to be made in fantasy football. Some might say
they are the heart and soul of the competition.
To illustrate the importance of lineup decisions, we can take a
quick look at the 2012 performance of Shonn Greene. I picked up
Greene as an alternate back in one of my leagues this year. I started
him in Week One and was pleasantly surprised by his performance
(94 yards rushing and a TD).
Based on that promising performance, I started him again in Week
2 (when he amassed a grand total of 23 rushing yards against Pittsburgh)
and was disappointed.
I started him in Week 3 against Miami because nobody knew who the
Dolphins were, but most of us thought they probably weren't up to
much. Greene had a paltry 40 yards rushing and 9 yards receiving
in that game.
He rode the pine for me in Week 4 vs. San Francisco. Why would I
start an unproductive RB against a great defense? I wouldn't. And
I was glad I didn't. He finished with a dismal 34 yards rushing,
no receptions, and no TDs.
I might have been tempted to cut Greene after his awful Week 5 performance
vs. Houston (26 yards rushing; 19 receiving), but the bye schedule
for my other RBs was such that I simply could not risk dumping Greene
before Week 9.
Greene was not in my lineup when he exploded against Indianapolis
in Week 6. I managed to win my game without his 3 TDs and 161 yards.
But I definitely took notice.
After Greene's statistical eruption in Week 6, I looked long and
hard at him in Week 7. I had a hard choice to make thanks to other
developments in the NFL.
After the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray sustained an injury in Week 6,
it seemed clear that he would miss at least one game, and I had
pounced on Felix Jones on the assumption that he would be the unchallenged
starting RB in Dallas for one week (maybe longer).
Without getting into the bye nightmares I faced in that particular
league in Week 7, I will just say that my 2nd RB was going to have
to be either Shonn Greene or Felix Jones.
Greene was coming off a monster performance against Indianapolis,
but his Week 7 matchup was against the Patriots. I looked at his
2011 stats against New England. I saw that he had not broken the
century mark against Belichick and company in either game and that
he had only scored one TD in the two contests.
Jones may not have had a monster game in Week 6, but he certainly
looked strong in relief of Murray. His 92 yards rushing and 13 yards
receiving against Baltimore seemed like stats from a starting RB,
not a backup.
So would I rather have Greene vs. New England or Jones vs. Carolina?
The question was difficult to answer.
And I answered wrong. I went with Jones, who had a disappointing
day: 44 yards rushing, 30 yards receiving, and no TDs. Greene had
slightly better yardage totals both on the ground (54) and through
the air (34), but Greene also found the end zone.
The moral of the story is that even though Shonn Greene is on my
roster, I did not get credit for his two best performances so far
in 2012 (in Weeks 6 & 7) because he was on my bench in both
Who's to blame here? Shonn Greene? Felix Jones? DeMarco Murray?
Rex Ryan? Jason Garrett? Bill Belichick? The Panther defenders who
shut Jones down?
None of the above. The person to blame is Mike Davis, who failed
to take Greene seriously after his stellar performance in Week 6.
I made the wrong call, and I lost my fantasy matchup as a direct
In the "no lineup" model advocated by Michael, I would
not be annoyed with myself for that poor decision because I would
not have been forced to choose between Greene and Jones. The three
running backs on my roster who were active for Week 7 were Ray Rice,
Shonn Greene, and Felix Jones. In a "no lineup" league
I would simply be awarded the points for whichever two RBs were
most productive in Week 7.
Viewed somewhat negatively, this arrangement is sort of like allowing
"slop" shots when playing pool. The players are balls
on a table; the owner simply stirs them up with a cue ball each
week to see which ones land in pockets.
Viewed more positively, the roster is like a slot machine in a casino.
A machine is going to do what it is going to do no matter who sits
down to play it, but the owner does get to choose which machine
he will play for the evening. Choosing a machine is like setting
up a roster. Once the initial choice is made, the winning and losing
happens according to a pattern that is entirely beyond the owner's
Most of the responses I received concerning Michael's question tended
to focus on the more negative aspects of the "no lineup"
model. According to Charlie:
A league that does not require owners to set
their own lineups is probably perfect for people who love to spend
their summers doing mock drafts. I always wonder why people waste
their time building teams that they will never manage, but I guess
some folks think that building the team is all that matters. Maybe
they think of managing a team as a chore.
To me, the draft is fun, but the main reason to do it is that it
gives me a really interesting toy to play with for the next four
months. I don't think owners "play" in "no lineup"
leagues. They just watch.
John's dismissive attitude goes even further:
I had to read your article to remember that
I was in a league with no lineups a few years ago. I never found
out if I won. I forgot I was in the league halfway through the season
because there wasn't anything for me to do.
I suspect that John is either joking or lying. The fact that a league
does not require owners to set lineups does not imply that it leaves
them with nothing to do. Owners in such leagues still need to pay
attention to the waiver wire and to trade offers from other owners.
They still need to make adjustments to their rosters for bye weeks
and injuries. Some FFers (like Hank) consider such leagues a godsend:
I usually have to work on Sunday mornings[,
so it is hard for me to] make last-minute adjustments to my lineup.
I finally found a league with no lineups, and I have never looked
back. Some people think that the only injuries that matter are the
ones for [their own players, but] injuries on opposing defenses
matter too. (Just ask any WR about Darrelle Revis if you don't believe
me.) When I'm making deliveries during NFL Countdown, I can't keep
up with which defensive linemen, linebackers, and DBs are ruled
out of a game at the last second, so I have always been at a huge
disadvantage. Not having to set a lineup makes fantasy football
fun for me again.
There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to going with a
"no lineup" approach, but the most balanced response to
Michael's question came from Andy:
The AFFL League I referenced last week works
EXACTLY as [Michael] says. I've been playing since the late 80s,
and I started the AFFL this year for almost exactly the same reasons
he says in his email.
The AFFL has 16-man rosters, and we're required to have 14 active
each week. Of those 14, the computer (once again, MFL is GREAT!)
will choose the highest scoring players for our starting lineup
- in our case it's one QB, two RBs, three WR/TEs, a kicker, and
two flex spots.
If you go back to the AFFL, you'll see on our rosters page we have
two IR spots. Those spots are not scored. The reason we do it this
way is that we want the owners to at least be required to show up
and click a few things at least once per week. If you didn't have
to make at least some minor decision, you'd have a few guys who
would just simply not log on to check their teams.
One other interesting thing about this type of league is that owners
think it's great because they don't have to make the agonizing decisions
each week. But, you quickly realize that that's the case for every
team. For instance, Danny Amendola likely wasn't in many starting
lineups when he had his huge game, but in our league, of course,
an owner who probably would have never started him got credit for
his big game.
The last thing is this: This type of league isn't quite as much
fun as regular leagues, it's more for the hardcore types. In a regular
league if you're up against Rodgers, you are watching the Packers
game on pins and needles thinking he'll destroy you. When he does
poorly, you're literally ecstatic. But, in this type of league,
you stop Rodgers [in the early game], you feel great, and then Ryan
Fitz goes off for your opponent [in the late game] and you're sunk.
Like I said, it's not as fun on a game-by-game or week-by-week basis,
[so I would] recommend it as an additional league for those that
want to try it, not as the main league. The AFFL practically runs
by itself, and every owner in the AFFL is in at least one of my
other leagues which are more standard.
My thanks to everyone who wrote in. I hope the responses are
helpful to Michael as he decides what is right for his league.
This Week's Question: Does your league have
a separate roster category for rookies?
A reader who identified himself as Burbs (which is almost as colorful
as Lilprincesskoopie) wrote to me about rookies in fantasy football
last week. His league has a special draft for rookies each year
in which owners are required to participate, and the owners are
allowed to protect their rookies for their first three years in
the league. Apparently this feature of the league was easier for
Burbs and Co. to manage before they moved their league to an automated
[Have you] ever seen an online fantasy site
that [allows for special treatment of] rookies? We have run a keeper
league for 25 consecutive years where we have 2 drafts every fall.
We have a free agency draft where we pool a certain number of players
that each manager must release and trim their rosters into this
pool. We also hold a rookie-only draft that is determined by the
previous season's records.
This worked very well over the years when all accounting was done
first by handwritten mailings and then by spreadsheet. The last
couple of years we have gone to the ESPN format, but we are having
issues with the rookies. In the past we would "protect"
our rookies and allow the owners to keep them for up to 3 years
on this list as long as they didn't start them. ESPN's system will
not allow us to keep the rookies separate from the main roster,
which can create a nightmare for the Commish to monitor. If you
have ever heard of a system that would work for us, please let me
I would love to give Burbs a recommendation, but since I have never
participated in a league that distinguished rookies from other players,
I cannot speak from experience.
This question may be a little too specific to generate a lot of
feedback, so I will open
it up to any commentary that readers want to share about treating
rookies as a special category in FF. However, anyone who has specific
recommendations for Burbs (especially which website would be most
useful for leagues in which rookies are protected for up to three
years after being drafted), I'm sure that he will be grateful for
the information. I look forward to hearing from readers with any
insights to share.
Last Man Standing - Week 8
(Courtesy of Matthew
Trap Game: New Orleans at Denver (4-2, Wash,
CLE, TB, Den, ATL, NYG):
This is going to be a great game. New Orleans brings the number
one passing offense into Mile High for a prime time showdown against
Peyton Manning and his new team (ranked 4th overall in passing yardage).
Each team averages about 29 points per game and can move the ball
at will, so this game should come down to the defenses, right? Probably
not. Except for the fact that New Orleans is almost dead last in
yards allowed, these teams are an even match (even down to the number
of touchdowns the teams allow – 11 and 12 respectively). The
only difference is that the Broncos allow 7 points less per game
as they allow fewer field goals. While the odds makers have Denver
winning this by almost a touchdown, this will be a lot closer because
the Broncos are vulnerable to the deep ball and the Saints are VERY
good at that. Things are changing in the Bayou, and New Orleans
might just steal this one on the road.
#3: San Francisco over Arizona (6-1: PHI,
TB, CHI, AZ, HOU, BAL, GB):
Everyone knows that this is going to be a low scoring affair, right?
These two teams are ranked second and fourth in points allowed (14
to 17), and first and seventh for total yards allowed. But the Cardinals
are not healthy and hardly scare most average defenses, let alone
the best defense this season. Alex Smith may be the Achilles heel
of this team, but he is much better than John Skelton (who is still
filling in for Kevin Kolb). On top of that, Larod Stephens-Howling
will now get the start this week, the fourth running back to start
for Arizona this year. No doubt he hopes to repeat his 100+ yard
performance against a team that allows almost 100 rushing yards
per game. This game is not going to be exciting and may be determined
by a “fluke” turnover, but the 49ers should win it on
#2: New England over St. Louis (4-3: CHI,
Wash, NO, HOU, SF, PIT, MIN):
This is the second week that I am picking the Patriots as a Survival
Pool choice. Last week they proved that they could win a close divisional
game (in overtime), and this week should find that the Rams defense,
while improved, may still yield enough to allow for the victory.
The Rams are 10th overall in total defense, much better than the
23rd ranked defense that the Patriots have. On top of that, Stephen
Jackson has been able to stay healthy and has been used sparingly
with Daryl Richardson getting about 1/3 of the carries, which may
prevent Jackson from getting his eighth consecutive 1000-yards season
as a rusher (since he is on pace for 860 yards as of this week).
In spite of these St. Louis "improvements," Tom Brady
should still win this game with his number one overall offense.
The Pats have a balanced attack and should be able to overcome anything
that the Rams defense throws at them.
#1: Chicago over Carolina (6-1: HOU, SF,
IND, BAL, NYG, ATL, NE):
Da Bears are probably playing the most “complete” football
of any team in the NFL today. While they haven’t lit up the
scoreboard, they have a defense that has allowed only 78 points
all year (1st overall) and is ranked 6th in total yards from scrimmage.
They have created 21 turnovers on defense, and their only weakness
is in the passing game, where they are squarely in the middle of
the league (16th) yielding over 220 yards per game. Cam Newton and
company, however, have failed to rekindle the magic from last year
and have turned the ball over 13 times while ranking 24th in total
yards and 29th in scoring (an average of 17 points per game). Look
for Chicago to win this by more than the spread this week as these
teams are not equally matched and the sophomore year jinx continues
for the Cam cadre.
For responses to this month's fantasy question please email