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Week 12

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I solicited feedback from readers on the question of roster lockdowns. Some readers may be unaware of this fairly common practice, so a word of explanation is in order. Lots of leagues ban trading as they approach the playoffs because teams that are out of the running might otherwise make under-the-table deals with teams that are poised to make a run for the title. However, some commissioners have observed a passive sort of trading that occurs via the waiver wire. Let’s say that Team A is heading to the playoffs and Team B is heading to the consolation tournament. Team A wants the Baltimore Raven defense from Team B, and offers something (a split of the pot, a draft choice next season, sexual favors, etc.) to induce the owner of Team B to cut the Ravens at a specified time. The owner of Team B (who isn’t really playing for anything anyway) obliges by cutting the Ravens at 4:55 a.m. on a Thursday morning. Lo and behold, the owner of Team A claims that he just happened to be awake and scouting the waiver wire at that time—which is how he ended up acquiring an elite defense for his playoff run. Other owners cry foul, and the commissioner of the league puts a new rule into the books for next season: Rosters will be locked from Week ____ through the end of the season to prevent such collusive activity.

How early do you lock the rosters? That depends on the league, but I heard from one reader last week who said that his roster was locked as of Week 9. Let’s say that he was going into the playoffs with Donovan McNabb and Damon Huard as his QBs. Doh! All of a sudden, he can’t start a QB—and can’t pick up a replacement on the waiver wire because his roster is locked. Different leagues handle this problem in different ways; I hope that one of the many varied responses that I received to this question will be helpful in your league if you are wrestling with this problem.

A reader named Lou speaks most fiercely against the idea of locking rosters:

First off, there is NO WAY a league should lock rosters at any point. The NFL is not like that, so fantasy football should not be like that. Injuries happen all the time, and a team should be allowed to add a player when they do, no matter what.

In our league, which is a money league, I have set things up so that waiver acquisitions cost more during the end of the year. In our league, weeks 1-6 cost $5, weeks 7-10 cost $10, and weeks 11 thru championship cost $15 per player. (We also escalate the cost of trading players as the season progresses) So if a team that is 2-8 wants to help his buddy out, he’ll have to pay $15 to drop/add a player and the new owner will have to pay $15 for his add/drop. We have yet to have a problem (our league is in its 9th season). I guess an owner who was benefiting from the deal could pay for the other’s transaction fee, but that has yet to happen.

I also have a pay out for weekly high scores. So even if a team is out of the playoff race, they can win some prizes for a high scoring week. And if they dumped their best players for another team, they would be out of that. Not to mention that the other league owners would be all over an owner who gave up his good players.

Now I realize that if someone is in a league that is strictly for fun these incentives go out the window. But if you’re in the league strictly for fun with a bunch of guys, most likely you know all of them, and the ridicule would be much worse if you sold out your players.

If you aren’t as emphatically opposed to lockdowns as Lou, you might want to consider the delayed approach that Scott takes in his leagues:

I am the commish of a couple of leagues. We don't allow trades after week 12. All season long & during the playoffs when a player is dropped, he is locked out until his team plays their next game. That way the waiver wire can stay open, no rosters are locked, and Team A can't drop a player and Team B pick him up immediately.

A reader who identifies himself as Warden has settled on another compromise:

Our playoffs start week 14; all team-to-team trades stop week 12, and there is very limited free agent pick ups after that. There is no free agent pick ups in the playoffs or championship unless you have every player from one position injured in a week. If you have guys to start, you ain't making no moves, period. We have been running it this way for 4 of the 7 years we have been running the league and have had very few problems from any of the 10 teams in the league!

I can imagine some readers objecting to Warden’s solution for at least two reasons. The first is that it appears only to cover injury (not benchings or suspensions). Of course, you could easily alter Warden’s proposal to have it apply to any player who is known in advance to be unavailable for a game. But the second objection takes us right back to the heart of the problem. If all of my tight ends are injured this week and the team with Todd Heap is out of the playoffs, I might still collude with Heap’s owner to have him cut the TE so that I could pick him up. Anthony’s league, however, has a very elegant solution to this problem:

After week 12 we can still pick up free agents. However, once an owner drops/releases a player, that player is frozen—and no one else is able to pick him up.

If you are looking to solve the locked roster problem as fairly as possible, I think Anthony’s solution is probably the most practical for the greatest number of leagues. But there is something to be said for a more draconian approach, and Tim says it quite well:

In our 12 team league, the regular season ends after week 13 with trade deadline Friday nite before week 11 games. Playoffs are weeks 14 thru 16. The last FA, waiver wire move is before week 13 games begin. Rosters are then locked for teams playing in playoffs.

I find it unfathomable any league would allow waiver wire pickups during the playoffs. To those who would complain about injuries etc., I say too bad. Everyone in the league understands the rules, and I always post a heads up late in the season to all owners to consider this issue. It's part of team management to pickup say a backup QB for Peyton Manning—just in case the improbable happens and he gets hurt.

Although most casual FFers would probably prefer Anthony’s solution to Tim’s, I suspect there are many commissioners who appreciate the unforgiving simplicity of Tim’s approach. As he points out, as long as everyone knows the rules before the playoffs begin, there’s no reason to complain about being unable to start a player at a certain position. Maybe an injury to one of my players will keep me from advancing into the playoffs, but then again, maybe an injury to one of my opponent’s players will be the key to an unlikely victory. That sounds plenty fair to me—and it is just a game, after all.

I also heard from Al, who reports that his league doesn’t lock rosters—and has never had any problems:

I just read a reader’s response to roster lockdowns after a specified week. I am in a 10-team league that runs 16 weeks (2 weeks for playoffs). We simply have a rule that states once a team has 8 losses, that team can no longer trade. At that point they are out of playoff contention. Also, no trades are allowed after week 12. If that doesn't eliminate any shady moves, the commissioner has to the right to negate any nefarious trade. Any team can do add/drop to pick up free agents any time during the season (Thursday til 10:00PM). Our league runs smooth.

Did you notice how Al’s response was focused almost entirely on trades—not waiver wire acquisitions? That’s probably because his league hasn’t had any experience with the shady waiver wire activity that so many other leagues are concerned about. And I want to point out here that most leagues don’t need to worry about such shady activity because most FFers aren’t the collusive, manipulative, underhanded sneaks that many rulebooks make them out to be, which leads us to this week’s question.

This Week’s Question

It can be tiresome to be forever on the alert for ways in which FFers might exploit or abuse their various scoring systems, and last week’s column prompted Robbie to write about the frustration that fantasy football is beginning to cause him:

I just had a general comment after reading this week’s Q&A. From what the readers say, this is a prime example of why this is my last year in any kind of fantasy league. After participating in baseball/football/basketball leagues for the past 5 years, I've won a couple of each and am currently in 2nd in both leagues now. But more importantly, the reason for [opting out of fantasy sports] is because of all of the ridiculous rules and people you have to deal with. We all have the guy who doesn't keep up with anything, the ridiculous trade that always happens, the trash talk that makes people mad, the dropping of players by people who don't care anymore, etc. A couple of years ago fantasy was cool; now it's becoming more of an inconvenience, a friend-breaker for some, and way overrated; it's almost like a cult really. Plus I'm tired of hearing Tony K. every Monday night say: "I have so and so in fantasy tonight and blah blah blah." Each time I hear that makes me want to just quit even sooner. The one positive thing I can say I took from it was getting more into football. I used to hate it and was a major basketball/baseball fan, but now I love football.

I’ve long contended that fantasy football makes for better, more educated football fans, and I’m sorry to see that the hobby appears to be turning some folks off. Although I suspect that Robbie overstates his case by likening fantasy football to a cult (as if there’s something wrong with the fact that I often visit the airport wearing white robes and passing out flowers with the names of football players inscribed on each petal), I think he may be onto something with his remarks. I see The Fantasy Show on ESPN and hear Kornheiser referring incessantly to his fantasy team on MNF—and I think that American popular culture may have reached its saturation point concerning fantasy football. Readers, what do you think?

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt & Michael)

Matt’s Picks

Upset Special: Tennessee over NY Giants – The Titans are 3 ½ point underdogs on Sunday facing the NFC East leading Giants. The G-Men come into this game after losing the last two to the Bears and Jaguars, and Eli Manning looks very flustered. If you look at his mechanics, he is throwing off his back foot, over-throwing receivers and causing most of the three and outs that they have had. While Tennessee’s defense is not nearly as good as the ones that the Giants have faced in the last two weeks, odds are pretty good that the trend will continue until Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan return on defense to get the G-Men offense the ball more often. Vince Young is getting comfortable, and if the Titans can keep the Giants’ defense on the field, sooner or later good things will happen for them. Look for this to be a close game.

#3: Miami at Detroit (8-3 Season): This will be one of the three games that everyone will be watching on Thanksgiving Day and as such, I felt it necessary to at least include one of those games in my picks this week. Dallas shouldn’t have any problems with Tampa, but with Miami’s defense playing so well, Kevin Jones being out and Jon Kitna struggling while trying to get the ball to Roy Williams, the Lions will be hard pressed to win on Turkey day. Look for Joey Harrington to make a triumphant return to Motor City with his new teammates.

#2: Seattle over Green Bay (8-3 Season): The NFC Champions are starting to get healthy, and the Green Bay defense can be shredded by a good quarterback/running back combination. Look for the Seahawks and Holmgren to welcome his old team with a hardy Pacific Northwestern beating as they make a statement that they are still the team to beat in the NFC.

#1: San Francisco at St. Louis (9-2 Season): This is a big stretch, but I think that Alex Smith and Frank Gore are going to be able to silence the crowd in St. Louis very quickly. The Rams defense is not as good as the Seahawks, and Gore ran for over 200 yards against them. Combine this with the fact Orlando Pace is out and the 49ers defense should have some success getting to Marc Bulger and this has upset written all over it. Oh and by the way, did you see that the 49ers are a viable playoff team? Mike Nolan has, and he plans on taking advantage of his opportunity.


Michael’s Picks

3 - (5-6) - Titans over Giants - I'm going out on a limb here, but if you're desperate for a team this week this could work out for you. The Giants are not playing well right now while Tennessee has shown improvement. The Giants are coming off of a Monday night road game to go back on the road in this one. The Titans finally have a running back they trust, and Travis Henry has produced. If he can keep that up this game and help take pressure off of Vince Young, this offense can put up some points. Eli Manning's confidence has to be low, so I am going to go against him until he can show he's out of his slump.

2 - (8-3) - Panthers over Redskins - Washington is already playing for next year, with a rookie QB starting and Portis out. Carolina has the defense to cause all kinds of problems for the Skins. DeAngelo Williams is healthy to provide depth at running back and can carry the load if Foster is out with his injury. If you still have the Panthers available, this could be their easiest remaining game.

1 - (10-1) - Cowboys over Bucs - Just looking at this matchup, Dallas should be expected to win in a normal week. But throw in the short week for the traditional Thanksgiving Day game, and I think Dallas has the huge advantage. They won't have to travel, and are used to preparing for this week each year. Plus they are playing well lately, so I'll take them.

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 season.

Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live, on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived programs are also available.