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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Putting the Weekly Average to Work
Q & A: Week 9

Last Week's Question: Does your league have any special provisions for quarterback injuries?

Oh sure, you've all been paying attention to Michael Vick. But have you been paying attention to me? In the offseason, I concocted a brilliant plan for FF domination that involved Vick and his backup (Nick Foles). I made a series of predictions that, taken individually, seem pretty accurate. Collectively, however, they have resulted in a bleak outlook for my team in Week 9.

Prediction #1: Vick will start the season hot because he is an immensely talented athlete in a new offense. It doesn't even matter whether Chip Kelly's offense is any good or not because until opposing teams have film that they can study of Vick in action in his new set up, he will be lights out.

Consequence #1: If I'm really willing to put my money where my mouth is, I will go into the season with Vick as my starting QB. In my main league, I wasn't even tempted by the likes of Brees and Manning or Romo and Stafford. I waited until the tenth round to pounce on Vick as my first QB selection, and I was delighted with myself.

Prediction #2: Vick will get hurt. There's no if about it. He will miss at least three weeks this season, and I need someone to cover my QB position for those weeks.

Consequence #2: Nick Foles is a great choice at backup, and it doesn't even matter whether he is all that great because the defenses that study film of the Vick version of Kelly's offense will be completely unprepared for the Foles version. I don't even have to draft Foles. I can pick him up on waivers after Vick (inevitably) gets hurt. This is exactly what I did.

Prediction #3: At least one top-twelve QB will get off to a slow start and be cut by his owner before Week 6. This happens every year. If I can just scrape by until Week 6 with Vick & Foles, then I will be able to snap up a quality starter (someone who got drafted in the top 6 rounds or so) to replace my tenth-round QB for the balance of the season.

Consequence #3: Two quarterbacks who met this description became available to me on the waiver wire. The first, Matt Schaub, was cut by his owner after his third consecutive pick-6. I thought, "Wow, Schaub is mired in a rough patch, but there's no way that his past success is a fluke. He's the real deal. He'll snap out of it." I picked him up just in time for him to throw his fourth consecutive pick-6 before sustaining the ankle injury that sidelined him. The other high-profile QB who ended up on waivers was Jay Cutler, whose response to being snapped up by my team was to tear his groin.

When I started Vick in Week 1, he put up 31 points for me, which more than justified the tenth round pick I burned on him. When he earned me 45 points in Week 2, I felt like a genius. I came back to earth with no complaints in Week 3 (just 21 points). Weeks 4 & 5 were a bit rough, but I started Nick Foles with confidence in Week 6 and felt like a genius once again as he racked up 40 points vs. Tampa. Who wouldn't have given Foles the nod again in Week 7 after that gangbuster performance in Week 6? Of course, Foles had a terrible day against Dallas before leaving with a concussion. I'm not used to seeing single-digit performances by a QB, but that's exactly what I got from Foles vs. the Cowboys. I lost that week's fantasy matchup. It was as if I didn't even have an active QB in my lineup.

Week 8 felt the same way--only worse. I started Vick, who got exactly one point for me before leaving the game with an aggravated hamstring. For two weeks in a row, two different starting Eagles QBs were responsible for gaping holes in my lineup. I know that I have to take the bad with the good, and this was the bad part of the Michael Vick experience that I had prepared for by targeting alternate QBs on waivers.

Still, I never expected to be in this position in Week 9. I can't start Vick (who is out with a hamstring), and I don't trust Foles (even though he has been cleared to start). I certainly can't use Cutler (who will miss a chunk of the season with that torn groin) or Schaub (who probably wouldn't be the starter in Houston even if he was healthy, which he isn't). All I know is that when I submitted my waiver wire claim for Jake Locker yesterday morning, I didn't feel like quite the genius I was when Foles was destroying Tampa in Week 6 or when Vick tore apart San Diego in Week 2. Go Titans!

Thanks to injuries, I've had virtual no-shows at the QB position for two weeks in a row. I lost both of those contests, so perhaps I was a little more sympathetic to Ryan's question about how certain leagues might handle QBs who are essentially MIA at their position thanks to injury.

To be clear, most leagues don't do anything at all. Most commissioners will simply say, "So you lost a player in the course of the game due to injury? Who hasn't?" My commissioner didn't even have to say that to me. I silently swallowed both of my losses with the appropriate blend of bitterness and alcohol.

Steve's league, however, is more merciful than mine--and he isn't happy about it:

We have this rule in my league and it drives me mental. It was introduced one year after an owner lost his QB early in the first playoff game. According to this rule, when you start a QB, you also start his back-up. If the injured QB goes down, the back-up comes in, and everything is gravy.

I see a whole host of things wrong with this.

1) What ever happened to tough luck? I don't get this luxury if my RB goes down.

2) What if the QB has a bad day and is pulled? What about a good day and is sat in the 4th quarter? Back-up comes in and you can continue to collect points?

3) How about a play where the back-up comes in under center for a play and the starter splits out wide as a receiver and then catches a touchdown? Double points?!

4) There's could be a trade/cut to a QB and they end up starting on a new team. (Josh Freeman for example) If I had Ponder and another had Freeman, who gets the Minnesota QBBC?

Sometimes guys get hurt during a game. Welcome to fantasy football.

(I'm up to a 6-6 vote to get rid of the rule. Just need one more owner on my side for next year's vote. Here's hoping.)

It sounds like Steve wants to get rid of exactly the kind of rule that Ryan is hoping to institute, so obviously this is a question that can be quite divisive. It might be better left alone in your league, but if you want to tinker with special rules for injured QBs, then it may be worth pondering over the various solutions that Eric has considered in all their complexity:

I've thought about this problem a lot over the years and the two most popular solutions are less than satisfactory to me:

1) Team QB - yuck, boring; I enjoy the strategic/tactical aspects of FFL and, frankly, part of the fun of FFL is deciding whether it is worth taking up a roster spot with a QB who is either the backup to your starter or the backup you determine is most likely to shine if/when he starts.

2) Automatically substitute bench QB if starter injured - What happens when your starter is injured but has a better day than your bench guy? And where do we draw the line on when the substitution occurs - can I sub the bench QB if my starter is pulled because he's ineffective? What about when the starter leaves the game for a period of time and returns? Frankly, if you're going to institute this rule you might as well make the league a "best ball" league where every team gets their best possible starting lineup from all players on their roster.

My solution is a middle ground between these two: if a team owner elects to carry both a starting QB and his backup, then the owner gets the production from both players in the event that they both play in any particular week.

So, for example, if I had Jay Cutler *and* Josh McCown on my roster last week and started Cutler, my final score would reflect individual stats from both players. I like this solution because it involves a cost benefit evaluation by each owner about the value of a roster spot versus the likelihood of your starting QB getting hurt.

My main 14-team league doesn't have maximum roster limitations on positions, so in theory I can carry as many QBs (or any other position) as I want; in my secondary 16-team league, we can carry max 2 QBs, so the rule may not work as well in leagues with positional max roster limitations.

For the record, we do not currently have this rule in any of my leagues; I've proposed the rule several times in the 14-team league but, frankly, ownership is relatively apathetic about change and getting *any* rules changes has proven painfully slow.

I appreciate Eric's honesty in underscoring the point that his solution is something he would like to try--not something he has been able to test. I also like the point Eric makes about weighing the value of a roster spot. The way my league is now, I had zero incentive to pick up Nick Foles until after Vick was injured. With Eric's rule in effect, I might have ended up drafting Foles with my last pick.

I want to close this section of the column with Joe's response because it leads to this week's question:

I don’t believe in the idea that something should be done for injuries whether it is to the quarterback or not. In head-to-head (H2H) formats, both teams could be hurt by the unfortunate occurrence of an injury. Part of the "value" of a player is his injury history, his probability for injury, the strength of his offensive line (for QBs), running-style (RB and QB to some degree), etc.

I am a Michael Vick owner and know I am playing with fire each and every week. This past week in that same league, I was hurt by Arian Foster's early exit. Did I lose because of that? No. Eli disappointed as a replacement for Vick and my opponent's players simply had better days.

Maybe what I am about to rant about is warranted for another week's discussion or a combination of last week's, this week's, and a future one.

I am NOT a fan of H2H leagues whatsoever. I can understand the novelty of H2H, but one team's success has zero effect on the success of the other team's players. In fact, fantasy football is all about making the correct choices for YOUR team for THAT week. So, in essence, you're battling yourself. Not as much fun, but that's the reality of it. For example, I happened to play the best team (record and points-wise), but the owner has 2 of his 3 best players on bye. Does that make my team better? No. Did it put me in a better position compared to the rest of the league? Yes. Is that fair? Not really. That's luck and has nothing to do with my team other than [the fact that] I wasn't hurt the same week by byes.

Alternative to H2H:

Everyone plays against the league average. If the league average for your league is 85 points, your team must score more to get a win. If your team scores less, you receive a loss. This gives teams beset by early injuries to their players the chance to overcome them by simply beating the league's average. Is this being done in any league I am in? No, the set up is not available and would need to be done manually. However, I am a programmer and just might have to do it myself to get what I want.

This Week's Question: Does your league put the average weekly score to work as a category?

If you have a strong reaction to Joe's proposal concerning an average weekly score (which appears in the final block quotation above), I would like to know whether that reaction is positive or negative and why.

However, in order to make Joe's question about a weekly average score relevant to as wide an audience as possible, this seems like a great opportunity for me to ask if there are any leagues out there that are already using the weekly average score as a meaningful part of their contest. I've been in plenty of leagues whose commissioners make a note of the weekly average. I remember one commissioner who dedicated a section of the newsletter to the weekly average and a list of the teams that failed to beat the average score (called "The Wall of Shame" if memory serves.)

If your league does anything with the weekly average score (beyond simply calculating it), I look forward to hearing from you. And my thanks to everyone who wrote in concerning injured QBs.

Survivor Picks - Week 9 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: Philadelphia at Oakland
If you think you know what the Raiders are, think again. Their quarterback is capable of running the entire length of the field for a TD in just a few seconds, but he is also capable of spending entire quarters doing almost nothing. The most impressive thing about Terrelle Pryor's 93-yard run is also the most unsettling: He generated more rushing yardage on that one play than passing yardage (just 88 total yards through the air) in the rest of the game. Sure, he's capable of making that one play that breaks a game open. But he's also capable of doing, as Jim Mora might put it, "diddly-poo." And this week he and the Raider nation are up against an Eagles team that will have to rely on Nick Foles (who has apparently recovered from his concussion). But will it be the awesome Foles we saw vs. Tampa or the bumbler who showed up against Dallas? Who knows? Don't try to figure it out. Just steer clear of this one.

#3: Seattle over Tampa Bay (6-2: KC, NEP, MN, NO, SF, DEN, MIA, GB)
Pete Carroll was once the hot new college coach who had just made the jump to the NFL and was on the hot seat with the Jets before returning to the college ranks to take USC to a National Championship. But Carroll has since returned to the NFL and proven that not ALL college coaches lack what it takes to coach in the NFL. Greg Schiano, on the other hand, has yet to win a game in 2013. On top of that, his players are talking out of turn and there is a real sense that he has lost his locker room and will soon lose his job. Coach Carroll empathizes with his situation, but in this battle between two teams clearly going in opposite directions, don't look for any miracles for the Bucs. The Seahawks win this one running away against an offense that is 31st in yards per game (297), 9th in fumbles given up (11), and 31st in touchdowns scored (10). If you aren't quite sure what to do and haven't used the best defense in the league, this is a perfect matchup for you.

#2: Dallas over Minnesota (6-2: DEN, PHL, SF, IND, STL, HOU, GB, SEA)
The Cowboys lost last week on the old Dan Marino fake spike play that was perfectly executed by Matthew Stafford for a one-point victory. On paper their matchup against the struggling Vikings seems like one of those no brainers, but anytime you face an offense that has Adrian Peterson in it, there is always a possibility that he will break an 80-yard run for a touchdown that puts Minnesota on top. Combine that with the fact that Monte Kiffin's defense has now given up a record number of 400-yard passing games to opposing quarterbacks in a season (not to mention a 300+ receiving day by a receiver) and you have to wonder whether Jerry Jones is ready to fire Kiffin after this game if the Cowboys don't pull this one out at home this week. The Cowboys defense is dead last in yards allowed, but thanks to a 4th-ranked offense, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant should have one of their best days ever against the league's 30th-ranked defense and atone for the one that got away.

#1: Carolina over Atlanta (7-1: IND, OAK, SEA, DEN, ATL, CHI, SD, SF)
With Jacksonville on a bye and most of the heavy favorites this week probably burned already in survivor pools, only one game really stand outs as a legitimate candidate for consideration. The Carolina Panthers find themselves above .500 after eight weeks for the first time since 2008 on the strength of their third-ranked defense in total yards per game (301). But the Falcons' aging running back Steven Jackson is anticipated to return for his first game since week two to take some pressure off of Matt Ryan. Even so, without a healthy Roddy White (hamstring) and Julio Jones (season ending IR - broken foot), the Panthers second-ranked scoring defense should be able to limit last year's NFC South Champions to less than two touchdowns at home as they establish themselves as one of the favorites for an NFC wildcard spot.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999. As a landlocked Oklahoman who longs for the sound of ocean waves, he also writes about ocean colonization under the pen name Studio Dongo. The latest installment in his science fiction series can be found here.