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Week 17

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I shared some questions from readers whose tiebreaking systems for the regular season turned out not to work so well in the post-season. (I also asked for readers to supply me with stories of the dumbest rules and lamest policies their leagues had ever formulated, but I got so much feeback on ties that I will save the examples of boneheadedness for the summer of ’07—when they’re more likely to be helpful to leagues anyway).

Scott wrote in with both an answer to the question and a question of his own. His league has no trouble settling tie games, but ran into a little difficulty dealing with ties in team records at the end of the regular season. I’ll start with Scott’s response because I think he establishes an important general principle with his question:

In our league, we use the standings from the regular season to seed the playoff teams (I assume this is a common practice). In our playoffs, the higher seed in each matchup is given a "home field advantage" of 2 1/2 points. The 1/2 point eliminates the ties.

On the subject of ties, we had a big problem in our final standings this year (first problem like this in the 11 year history of the league) with multiple ties; teams had 2 and even 3 ties! With no rule in place, our commissioner wanted to award a playoff spot to a 7-7 team over a 6-6-2 team AND a 6-5-3 team. Of course, the commish was the 7-7 team, and his argument was "more wins." We finally made him defer to the NFL rules (tie=1/2 win and 1/2 loss) as we do with all rules not covered by our league rules. This turned out to be a bigger bugaboo than the usual trading and collusion issues that seem to pop up every year. Any ideas on breaking ties without scrapping our fairly standard scoring system?
Jim’s answer to Scott’s question applies the first paragraph of Scott’s response to the regular season:

Regarding your playoff tiebreak question, I would like to offer up how our league handles it. Plainly put, the playoff seeding determines the winner of the tie. Think of it as a half point advantage to the "home" team. That .5 points only gets factored in when there is a tie and thus gives the higher seeded team the win and advancement into the next round of the playoffs. The reasoning is that teams work hard during the regular season to earn homefield advantage throughout the playoffs in the league. If Team A was the better team throughout the course of the regular season and then equal to Team B for 1 game during the playoffs, then Team A was the better team and should advance. On a related note, we have eliminated ties during the regular season also, by having home and away games on our schedules. The home team wins the tie. Every team plays an equal number of home and away games so it is simple and unbiased and effective.

Many leagues award “home-field advantage” to the higher seeded team in the playoffs. However, not all leagues are savvy enough to award a half-point to the higher-seeded team as a built-in tiebreaker. I hope the policy of Scott’s and Jim’s leagues on this point is helpful to some readers, but I want to focus on bold section of Scott’s remarks. The NFL may have some pretty crazy ways of settling nitpicky questions, but the fact is that whenever one is in doubt, it is far better to try to follow NFL policies than to try to make policies up out of thin air. The problem with any tiebreaking policy that is formulated after the tie has occurred is that it is likely to appear to the loser of the tie to have been unfair—particularly if the tiebreaker is something that already happened in the past (so that the winner of the tie could be known in advance). The reader named Mike who submitted the initial question wrote back with this point:

I personally don't like your [suggestion of] looking back at the previous week because I now believe it should be something that your players did [in the week of the tie that should] determine the winner.

Mike was not alone in his thinking that the “reverse push” I suggested in last week’s column misses the point of fantasy football. Juan addressed this point and threw in a suggestion for Lou, another reader whose question I quoted in last week’s column:

We break playoff game ties in our league by naming a tie-breaker captain before any of the games are played. People may argue that this is dumb because you don’t do that during the regular season, but this isn’t the regular season and clearly someone must move on. Naming a tie-breaker captain keeps to the spirit of FF in that your guy has to perform THAT WEEK for you to win. Who cares if you lost a head-to-head game in Week 7 to the guy you are playing? Who cares if the team your up against had Palmer and CJ the week they combined for 700+ yards and ended up with 10 more points than you in cumulative scoring? What if you were 10-4 and they were 7-7? These are rotisserie-style statistics. And if you aren’t in a rotisserie-style league, why break a tie that way? Now I know you are thinking, “what if your tie-breaker captains tie?” Well, then we go to the next highest scoring player on each team’s bench. Would not be pretty, but in 11 years we have never had to do that.

As for Lou, who is in a league with no criteria, I imagine it is too late, but please forward this suggestion: Add your total yardage (Pass, Rush, Rec) for starting players. Get what each category is worth as a whole team. Then add them up.

Just as Juan suspects, his response does come too late for Lou, who followed up by explaining that he resorted to a decimal scoring approach (another fairly standard way of breaking ties in FF):

Part of the issue was that I am the commish, and my team was involved in the tie. So initially, I was trying everything I could to make sure that the other owner did not feel slighted or cheated in any way. Someone suggested that we both draft a team from the Monday night game and that would decide the tie. Each of the other options resulted in a win for my team.

So, after several helpful posts in the FFtoday message board and a suggestion from another owner in our league, I came up with the only fair way to deal with the tie. Our scoring system is 1 point per 10 yards rush/receive and 1 per 25 yards passing. So to keep the outcome based solely on the players that both teams fielded, we went to decimal point scoring, .1 points per yard rush/receive and .04 points per yard passing. When the numbers were recalculated, my team came out on top by 1.5 points. And since we technically did not have a rule to deal with this, any money that I win, I am splitting with the owner that I tied with. I think we all want to win, but it’s not worth losing owners over.

In my opinion, that was the fairest way to handle it (although the losing owner would disagree). And the truth of the matter is, if I personally were not involved in the tie, I would have made the decimal call right away and been done with it.

We are planning on instituting that scoring system for the next year. I think we will also have each playoff team designate a QB, RB and WR from their bench in case we have another tie in the playoffs.

Again, I’ll draw readers’ attention to the bolded section of Lou’s remarks. If everyone has the patience for the sort of approach Lou took here, then I think it’s an excellent way of dealing with the problem so that there are no hard feelings going forward.

There are lots of other great ways of settling ties, and Jake has provided a nice list from his league.

The following criteria shall be used to settle in the case of a tie game.

a) The team amassing the most total yardage (not including defense nor returns) will win.

b) Should the result still be tied, the team whose kicker hit the longest field goal will be declared the winner. If both kickers' longest field goal is the same, the second longest and so on shall be compared.

c) Should both kickers hit an equal number of equally distanced field goals, the defense with the most kick and punt return yardage will be the determining factor.

d) If both return teams are equal, the three highest scoring bench players from each team will have their scores added to the final score.

e) Should the score remain tied, the owners of the deadlocked teams will predict the winners--against the spread--of all NBA and NHL games played on the Tuesday following the tied result.

f) If both end up with an equal number of correct guesses, the owners will continue to pick NBA and NHL results every day until the deadlock is resolved.

I know that some readers are likely to wonder what the heck the NBA and NHL have to do with fantasy football, but of course making predictions about sporting events has a lot more to do with fantasy football than flipping a coin has to do with advancing in the playoffs, so I can understand why Jake’s league has adopted this ruleset. Sam has a less esoteric way of breaking ties:

If you do not want to use the past to break ties, then use as a tiebreaker who scored the most at the first position on the top of the roster and work your way down or the bottom and work your way up ( which ever way you state in the rules). Ex if Qb is listed first (usually is) then which teams Qb scored the most? He wins. If still tied continue down the roster until the tie is broken. If all of the players are exactly the same; award it to the team with the most TD's.

Thomas thinks along same lines as both Sam and Mike. Like Mike, his problem is with the idea of letting the tie that happened today be settled by something that happened last week; and like Sam, he thinks the solution is to look at individual performances on the day of the tie:

With respect to the question of playoff tiebreakers and your proposal of a "reverse push," I think this proposal (as well as each of the others suggested) are unnecessarily random. It seems more desirable to me to pick one position (e.g. QB), and have a pre-defined rule that whosever QB scores higher that week breaks the tie. At least with this approach, there is some modicum of strategy (albeit very little - would someone really draft or trade for a higher-quality QB over another skill position just to increase strength in the event of a tiebreaker?).

Even if the answer to Thomas’ question is, “Not bloody likely,” I appreciate his focus on allowing a strategic decision to settle the tie to the extent that it is possible for it to do so. I can understand why all those who wrote in reached the conclusions they reached, and I hope the many responses are helpful to readers who are struggling with ties in their fantasy playoffs. However, I trust that no one will lose sight of the obvious fact that the easiest way to avoid these sorts of problems is to anticipate the ways in which your regular-season tiebreakers might not function properly in the post-season—in which case you should formulate your special playoff tiebreakers in advance.

Next Season’s Question

What’s the dumbest rule or lamest policy your league ever implemented? How did the rule/policy come into being? What were its effects?

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt & Michael)

Michael’s Picks

Even if Matthew had to knock off a week early, the mighty Mike (aka NatchyrBoy) has stuck things out to the bitter end. I want to thank Mike on behalf the many readers who consult this column each week for their LMS pools, and I’ll wish Mike and the people he’s helped all season long a happy holiday season.

3 - (7-9) - Rams over Vikings - The Rams are scoring points again, and I don't think Minnesota will be able to put enough on the board to keep pace. Their defense will put up a valiant effort, but it won't be enough.

2 - (11-5) - Texans over Browns - If Houston can beat the Colts, they can beat anybody, right? Well, probably not. But this one is against Cleveland. Someone has to win and it won't be the Browns. Ron Dayne should have another strong game this week.

1 - (14-2) - Jets over Raiders - The Jets have a shot at the playoffs - something few would have predicted before the season. After making the coast to coast trip, the Raiders just want to punch the time clock and get their horrible season over with.

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.