Last Week's Question
Last week I asked readers what to do with Week 17, when teams that
have either locked up their spot in the playoffs or locked themselves
out of playoff contention routinely opt to keep their superstars
healthy by keeping them off the field. Obviously the coaches who
make these decisions have the best interests of their teams at heart,
but the consequence of such developments for many fantasy leagues
is that championship match-ups scheduled for Week 17 are thrown
out of whack. I wasn't surprised to receive a number of different
answers to my question, but I confess I didn't expect to encounter
such a wide range of responses. To illustrate that range, I want
to begin with two diametrically opposed answers.
The first, from Simon, gets straight to the point of view of at
least one FFer:
Mike, you and the other crybabies who play FF need to get a grip.
The only fair way to arrange the season is to have your championship
in Week 17. If some stars are riding the pine, so be it. Real NFL
owners have to deal with injuries, holdouts, suspensions, and other
unexpected developments, so why shouldn't we have a little unexpectedness
in our leagues? Ordinarily, only the very best players on the very
best teams will be sitting out in Week 17, and these players already
gave their owners plenty of bang for the buck. A goose egg from
a super-stud just helps to bring that player back to earth. Since
there's no way to tell who will be going to the playoffs before
the season starts, everyone takes the same chance of a star player
being benched in their fantasy football championship. Take your
chances like a man and quit whining.
Although I acknowledge that Simon is entitled to his opinion, I
will say that the overwhelming majority of those who wrote in shared
the feeling that Week 17 is, at the very least, problematic for
most head-to-head fantasy leagues. Ron and Matt do a great job of
articulating the opposite point of view. Consider Ron's colorful
The answer [for what to do with Week 17] is to treat it like a Pauly
Shore movie - avoid it like the plague. Here's why:
Matt skips the (admittedly entertaining) Hollywood references to
get straight to his point:
In the end, the best use of week 17 is to get your league together
for brats and beer at the guy's house that has NFL Sunday Ticket
- and see if you can win your money back from the league champion
by betting on the point spreads. If things get boring, I'm sure
the local Blockbuster has a copy of Bio-Dome...
- There is potential for fantasy owners to be left with a bad taste
in their mouths should their potentially solid team be reduced to
mediocrity because their stud players are scoping cheerleaders on
the sideline rather than opposing defenses. Out of fairness, let
the best fantasy team win (or at least have that opportunity) -
championship in week 16.
- After 13 weeks of regular season and 3 weeks of playoffs, most
fantasy league owners have probably had their fill. If they haven't,
they should seek therapy. As a commissioner, you owe it to your
league members (and their families) to help them transition calmly
into the fantasy off-season.
- Consistency is key to fantasy league success. Gimmicks such as
combining weeks 16 and 17 throws a monkey wrench into a scoring
system. If you spent 15 weeks playing/scoring one way, what sense
does it make to change your method for the title game? It would
be like having the Patriots and Panthers play Canadian rules football
in the Super Bowl.
As far as Week 17, we have our championship in week 16. While there
are still some issues that week with star players, for the most
part everyone is playing. I can't see any other way of reasonably
Of course, many FFers who hold their championships in Week 16 hate
to see Week 17 going to waste. Ron may think that such folks need
therapy, but since I myself qualify as one of these imbalanced individuals,
I was interested in responses such as Tim's:
I am the commissioner of a 12-team dynasty league. We have 2 conferences
with 2 divisions in each conference. . . . Our playoffs start in
week 14 (all 4 division winners and 2 wilcard teams per conference).
Our super bowl is played in week 16 (both conference winners playing
in the championship). In week 17, we have a free-for-all tournament
for a small cash prize from the league pot. We create our line-ups
by starting players from any team in their respective positions,
with scoring based on our regular league scoring system. This practice
has worked out well so far. It keeps guys interested in week 17,
as they find themselves rooting for players that week that they
spent the rest of the season rooting against.
Like Tim, Bobby's league has its championship in Week 16, but
they put Week 17 to use in a slightly different way:
My friend came up with a great idea. We created two Pro Bowl teams,
one from the Championship bracket and one from the Consolation
bracket-and pitted them head-to-head against each other for the
final week. This was fun because we allowed the winners of the
championship bracket and the consolation bracket to choose their
final team from the pool of players in their bracket, but also
allowed input from the other managers. I think this was a fun
way to end the season on a good note, because even though the
Championship Pro Bowl team beat the Consolation team, the match
was quite close and gave us all a reason to visit our fantasy
website on Monday!
Bobby's solution mentioned nothing about how much "input"
the other owners had in the Pro Bowl, but the decisions probably
didn't need to be regulated because it sounds like his league
went this route simply for fun (and not for any kind of stakes).
Other leagues put Week 17 to work in ways that can have significant
consequences (either in terms of payouts or of the way the leagues
will play out the following year). Another Tim (I'll call him
Tim2 for the sake of clarification), clearly isn't sold on just
trying to have fun with Week 17:
In our 14-year-old league, we have 10 teams and 2 divisions. Currently,
we play a 13-week regular season with the playoffs in weeks 14-16.
Week 17 is an all-star game in which the division winners must
pick at least 1 player from each team in their own division. The
winning division wins $10 each. [Some might like such an arrangement,
but] I hate it. I prefer having week 17 mean something.
One of the more innovative suggestions for Week 17 came from Lucas,
who turns FF on its head by competing with his league-mates for
the lowest score:
I hold my championship in Week 16 and use Week 17 as "Golf
Week." Every owner must submit a starting lineup to me of
players they drafted on draft day [whether those players are still
on their roster or not]. I use the same scoring format as in the
regular season, and the lowest-scoring team takes home a fairly
significant amount of money. This helps owners that drafted bums,
busts, and injured players. It is also interesting to cheer against
players that you were convinced on draft would take you to the
I think Lucas' idea is quite interesting, particularly if he allows
owners to start stars who are expected to be on the bench because
of their teams' playoff scenarios. All of a sudden, having a player
who leads his team to assured home-field advantage in the postseason
prior to Week 17 would turn into an advantage!
Yet another suggestion comes from Marty:
In our league, we have the championship and chumpionship week
16. Week 17 we have a free-for-all. Each team must submit a lineup
with the following 3 catches.
Everyone stays involved in our league for 3 reasons. First, we
only give prizes for weeks 9-13. Second, we have two championships.
Third, we have a Week 17 free-for-all.
- You cannot use any player from your own team. This helps the
teams that didn't fare well during the season to possibly win
a prize at the end of the season.
- You can only use 1 player per NFL team, so you cannot have
Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss on your team.
- You have to use players from other people's rosters. We close
drop/add after week 12.
I'll stop with Marty's response only because I don't want to
overwhelm readers with too much information. In next week's column,
I'll share a few more of the creative suggestions I've received
on how to handle Week 17-as well as some of the responses that
point to Week 17 as one of the reasons that head-to-head leagues
should be done away with. In the meantime, I'll leave you with
what Jim had to say:
I would encourage everyone to find some way to keep playing through
to the bitter end. Again, it might be just for a few bucks and
bragging rights, but [those who didn't win the championship in
Week 16 will look forward to playing against the league winner
in Week 17.] If you topple the champ in the final week of one
season, it makes you that much more hungry for the next season
This Week's Question
Gary wrote in to suggest this week's question in his roundabout
response to last week's column. When I initially posed the question
of how to handle Week 17, I mentioned in passing that it seemed
to be early enough in the season for us to consider the question
objectively. Gary wasn't so sure.
I'm writing in response to your question about what
to do with Week 17-not because I have a suggestion, but because
I can already see my league having a problem with any suggestions
that we might encounter in your column. The way our league is
set up now, we have our championship in Week 16 and leave Week
17 alone. But suppose we see a suggestion from one of your readers
that we really like. There's not really anything we can do about
it now, is there? I mean the rules that we agreed to can't be
altered until next season, right? I guess if all of us agreed
to the change, that would be okay. But even then I'm not sure.
Rules are rules.
I can only answer the second part of Gary's question by saying
that even though the summer would have been the better time to ask
the question, it would not have been the better time to receive
answers. Fantasy diehards read my columns in June, July, and August,
but the majority of FFers don't pay attention to sites like FFToday
until the season is underway. As for the first part of his question,
I leave that to the rest of you.
Then again, suppose 11 of us wanted to reduce the championship
purse by 10% just to have a little money left over for a small
contest in Week 17? If the twelfth guy didn't want to, we really
couldn't just say the majority rules, could we? I guess my real
question is two questions. The first one is how late is too
late to change the rules for your league, and the second is
why didn't you write this article in the summer?
LMS Picks for Week 4 (Courtesy of Matt)
Mark this as the week that the Last Man Standing Pools have their
biggest attrition rate. So many games could go either way, and only
a handful of them might be true locks.
Trap Game(s): Miami Over NY Jets:
How many of you last week said, "Matt's crazy not to go with
the Titans over the Jags"? Well, now everyone knows why you
should avoid divisional match-ups for Survival Pools. Not only
did the Jags know the tendencies of the Titans, but they caught
a team that was not healthy on offense with an extremely good
So who should you avoid this week? The J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets.
The Jets have always had problems with the Dolphins in Miami.
Forget that the fins have no running game. Their defense was built
to stop two teams, the Patriots and the Jets. On the other side
of the ball, the Jets' defense is young and can be exploited with
the pass and that is all Miami has. Look for McMichael to have
a big week in the seams and Miami just might steal one.
#3: New Orleans over Arizona (2-1 This
Arizona's defense is better than you would think, but New Orleans
should be able to go into the desert and win a close game. While
Aaron Stecker is no Deuce McAllister, the offensive line should
be able to open some holes for him to squirt through. As for the
Cardinals offense, they're just not good enough to take advantage
of the Saints.
#2: Washington over Cleveland (3-0 This
With Cleveland both physically and morally beaten, Washington
has a good chance of going into the Dawg pound and winning this
game. Clinton Portis should be able to put up enough offense alone
to beat Cleveland, and the Redskins' defense should have more
than enough to beat the Browns. Just watch for any late injuries,
as they could change the outcome of the game.
#1: Baltimore over Kansas City (3-0 This
Last week I said that the Chiefs needed a win against the Texans
and picked them (my first misstep in 9 picks so far). This week
you will see exactly why Kansas City has no chance to make the playoffs.
The Chiefs' defense will make the Ravens' offense look like the
St. Louis Rams of 1999, and Jamal Lewis should run for over 150
yards. Sprinkle in some defensive turnovers by the Ravens, and this
should be over by halftime. Too bad ABC, most people will be watching
the CSI on CBS.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football