Last Week’s Question
I knew when I asked last week’s
question (which concerned bizarre/unique scoring rules in leagues
around the world) that I might not get very many responses. The
question came from a reader whose league awards bonuses to players
who break rushing records in a single game (something that comes
up so rarely that it’s hard to justify keeping track of).
Even so, I thought I would hear from some readers who were itching
to explain how they score fantasy punters or why they give bonuses
to head coaches who win a certain number of games played away
from home. What I mainly received, however, were criticisms of
the bonus for breaking rushing records.
Mike wrote in to point out that we have to draw the line somewhere—and
that the line falls a LONG way short of the record-breaking bonus:
I have to qualify my opinion as being "old school"
about Fantasy Football, dating back to the Terry Bradshaw era,
when FF scoring consisted of 6 points for TD's, 1 or 2 for PAT's,
and 3-point FG's, all tracked manually by tireless commissioners,
and that was it. [Nowadays], the popularity of Fantasy Sports
of all kinds, coupled with internet stats tracking, mandates
more sophisticated systems and expanded scoring opportunities,
to include bonus yardage and defensive points. That's all fine,
but enough is ENOUGH! Your writer-in even admitted that his
League Commissioner may have had a personal agenda, because
one of his own players was setting new NFL records that year.
I think he answered his own question. What's next? Bbonus points
for the most flamboyant end-zone dances by the NFL's growing
population of self-serving WR's? I hope not.
I think Mike speaks for a substantial portion of the fantasy
community. Computerized scoring has made it easier for us to develop
increasingly complicated scoring systems, but the fact that these
systems can be easily implemented and maintained does not make
them desirable for most players. Every year since 2002, I’ve
been thinking that the following year will see an explosion in
the popularity of IDP leagues, but I’ve been wrong year
after year because the majority of fantasy players seem to want
to keep things simple.
One of the reasons it’s freakish to see leagues awarding
fantasy points to offensive lines is that it’s hard to figure
out a fair way of assigning blame for quarterback sacks or of
assigning credit for total rushing yards in a game. But I think
that difficulty is only a secondary concern. The primary reason
the vast majority of fantasy leagues overlook offensive linemen
and punters and individual defensive players is that folks want
to keep the game as simple as the traditional 6-position format
(QB, RB, WR, TE, K, Defense) makes it. Scoring-only leagues may
be a bit too simplistic for most of us (particularly given our
access to computerized scoring system), but it’s generally
enough to add yards, fumbles, interceptions, and sacks. Once we
start throwing in bonuses for breaking records, the game is probably
becoming a bit too complex and intense for the average participant.
Mike’s philosophical objection to last week’s question
was balanced nicely by this mathematical argument from Steve:
I understand special bonuses in TD-only leagues, for instance,
or in other specialty formats that usually don't reward some
aspect of the game.
But it seems to me that a record-setting performance is
pretty lucrative in and of itself. I'm an Adrian Peterson owner,
and that day he scored 51 points for me. Do I really need 10
more on top of that?
(In my case yes, because I still lost that week. But I
Our league has minor bonuses for long TD throws/catches/runs
-- a max of 3 extra points for an 80+ bomb. And we still have
grumbling from some players who point out that an 80-yard TD
catch is worth 14 points all by itself (8 points for yardage,
6 points for the TD). Isn't that enough?
I agree, which is why our bonuses are half what they were
a few years ago. I still think a small bonus worth having, to
recognize (and emulate the game effect of) the spectacular play
that wows fans and energizes a team. But a game-swinging bonus
(like the 10-point bonus under discussion) feels like piling
Steve is clearly sensitive to both sides of the argument about
fantasy bonuses. I play in leagues that give bonuses as well as
leagues that don’t. I think both are a lot of fun, but I
can certainly understand the argument against bonuses. A running
back who scores on a 60-yard run is already getting points for
the score and the yardage, so why give him additional points?
Your answer to the question probably comes down to your own sense
of how important momentum is in football and whether “big
plays” are the huge momentum boosters or breakers that some
analysts make them out to be. But it’s hard to apply the
argument of “momentum” or “psychological demoralization”
to records. If your league awards points for sacks, should Michael
Strahan have gotten extra points when he broke the sack record?
Did he demoralize the Packers by taking Favre to the ground? Did
Peyton Manning give his team a special boost by breaking the passing
TD record? The effect of these record-setting performances isn’t
as clear as the effect of a 102-yard kick return for a TD, so
I can understand the logic for awarding big-play bonuses and not
recognizing record-breaking performances from a fantasy standpoint.
One of the more counterintuitive responses I received on this
question came from Kim, who points out that the very technological
advances that have made lots of extra scoring wrinkles possible
have, in some cases, become obstacles to such wrinkles:
Our league used to do some of that when we calculated the
scores by hand. Each week the highest scoring player at each
position would get a 3 point bonus provided he was in the respective
owner's starting lineup. Most of the time it didn't have a bearing
on the outcome but once in awhile it tipped the scales but aside
from that the league liked it because it was a source of bragging
rights. Now that our league is online though there's no mechanism
to include that scoring (at least there's not on any of the
3 different sites I've used) so we've since dropped it.
I don’t know whether the record-setting bonus is automated
or not, but none of the league-hosting websites that I’m
familiar with would support such a feature (to my knowledge),
and I can understand why commissioners would shy away from anything
that might require a manual override of the existing scoring mechanisms.
Craig decided against using the NFL records (such as the one
mentioned last week), but brainstormed a possible fantasy adaptation:
In reality this issue probably wouldn’t come up often, since
it’s not like records are an every week (maybe season) occurrence,
but when they do happen its not going to be pretty. How would
you feel missing out on the playoffs because in week 14 against
the worst team, you wound up losing because he happened to have
Brady breaking the passing TD record? While there is a lot of
luck involved in this hobby, it is similar to Poker in that there
is skill involved, and I’m sure most if not everybody considers
it more of a game of skill. Adding this will just take some of
that away, and maybe even ruin the hobby for some.
Since we started with Mike’s objection to over-complexification,
I’m not sure how many commissioners will want to run with
Craig’s idea, but the idea of tracking fantasy records is
something that might appeal to some leagues.
I probably would be against adding it, just to avoid ay controversy
and pissed off friends in what I like to do for fun.
What might be more fun would be to have these bonuses apply to
records in your fantasy league (pass TDs, points in a game, points
in a season, etc.). This is something that at least the guys in
your league could have some control over, and it becomes more
personal. It would be kind of cool if I had Adrian Peterson and
LT on my team, and in one game they both amass 450 yards rushing.
That’s a record not likely to be broken, but if it did it
would be mighty impressive. Their own fantasy points would probably
guarantee a victory, but even if they didn’t I think the
extra bonus points would be more forgiving than if was awarded
for an NFL record.
This Week’s Question
In head-to-head scoring leagues, we are only partly in control of
how we perform. I make it to the playoffs not simply because of
how well I do, but because of how poorly my opponents play when
we face each other. This obviously introduces an element of luck
into fantasy football that is analogous to what we see in the NFL.
(Every year, we see at least one team in the playoffs that doesn’t
seem to belong—and only made it to the post-season because
of an extremely soft schedule.) Kim wonders whether fantasy leagues
really need to emulate this aspect of NFL play:
Many of the different sites I've employed over the years
break down wins versus every team on a weekly basis and keep track
of this information for the season. Sometimes this is simply referred
to as "breakdown" (CBS Sportsline) or in some cases
it is called "power ranking" (Fanball). At any rate,
I'm the commissioner in one of the leagues I'm in and have considered
using this system to determine which teams get into the playoffs
and the seeding in the playoffs, thereby eliminating head-to-head
W-L records or at least ignoring them. Every league I've ever
been in uses a head-to-head matchup and the W-L record stemming
from those matchups to determine who makes the playoffs. In many
leagues (including the one of which I'm the commissioner) the
breakdown or power ranking breaks ties for the purposes of the
bubble teams as well as for seeding. I'm wondering what you and
some of your readers think about just using the breakdown system
right from the start. It is the truest way to determine the best
teams for the playoffs and eliminates the "luck" inherent
in head to head scheduling (Ex: playing a team who has Tom Brady
this week while the Pats are on a bye).
Kim’s question actually ties in nicely to a question I received
from Brian, who asks, “How much is success in fantasy football
attributed to luck?”
The easy response to these questions
is that luck plays just about as much a role in fantasy football
as we allow it to. When we choose to go with a head-to-head format,
we are obviously introducing the luck of the draw into the contest.
We could just keep track of points all season long and declare
the team with the most points the winner (as some leagues do),
but my own sense is that luck is part of the fun.
Some people think the phrase “games of skill and chance”
refers to two different kinds of games. Chess is a game of skill,
and roulette is a game of chance. But fantasy football is like
real football and contract bridge and a host of other games in
that it blends skill with chance in a way that most of us find
enjoyable. It’s fun to win the games you should win, but
it’s a lot more fun to steal the games you shouldn’t.
When you look at your opponent’s roster all week and reflect
on your own injuries and byes and think that you don’t stand
a chance and nevertheless pull out a win, you get a thrill that
wouldn’t be the same if you were simply accumulating points
from one week to the next.
So my own answer to Kim’s question is that we use the head-to-head
format because it’s more fun. And my answer to Brian’s
question is that a good deal of success in fantasy football can
be attributed to luck—and most of us like it that way. But
I’ll be happy to share other responses to these questions
in next week’s column.
Trap Game: NY Giants over Minnesota:
This game plays to the strengths of the Minnesota Vikings—and
with the Giants’ running game in question as well as Kiwanuka
being injured last week, Chester Taylor might be able to loosen
up the linebackers so that what receivers they have can find the
holes in the Giants secondary that seem to be there but few are
noticing. Both of these teams seem to be winning games with smoke
and mirrors, but it will come down to which Eli Manning shows
up for game time, the one that has the pedigree arm and head or
the one who has looked lost and makes bad decision when the pressure
#3: Kansas City over Oakland (9-2):
This game is scary since the Chiefs will be playing their first
game in almost 7 years where Priest Holmes and/or Larry Johnson
is not in the backfield. The last time that happened was when
Marcus Allen was back there pounding the ball. Kolby Smith will
get the start if Priest Holmes is truly out this week, and Brodie
Croyle will need to rely on Tony Gonzalez a lot to move the ball
but that should be enough against the a Raiders team that is better
than it was last year but not by much.
#2: Cleveland over Houston (6-5):
The Houston Texans are almost healthy, and Andre Johnson and company
should have a good day against the 31st-ranked passing and 32nd-ranked
defense overall in the league. Still, the Browns keep putting
up points and seem to slug it out against their opponents each
and every week. This week’s pick relies on the fact that
the Browns put up 33 points against the 11th ranked scoring defense
in Baltimore and Houston is ranked 26th in that department. This
won’t be an easy game for them, but Derek Andersen seems
to have good command of this offense and team.
#1: Arizona over San Francisco (10-1):
The Cardinals are on the verge of making the playoffs for the
first since the 1990’s—while the 49ers are just trying
to get healthy. No one wants to admit that the loss of Norv Turner
as the offensive coordinator was huge for the 49ers, but it is
easy to see that Frank Gore and company are lost without him.
Meanwhile, Russ Grimm has got his offensive line playing great,
and they should be up to the task of being a double digit favorite
against a perennial favorite in the NFC West. Look for the passing
game to light up the score board as the Cardinals stay close to
the Seahawks for the NFC West Division title.
Last week I went 2-1 and completely whiffed on the trap game—the
same stats I put up in week 10. Pittsburgh wasn’t able to
hit the road and take care of the Jets, so I’m getting back
to basics and playing by the cardinal rule of LMS: No more road
teams! No more road teams! Non-division home favorites were 8-1
last week (55-17 for the year). I’m sticking with home cooking
for the Thanksgiving week.
(Capital letters indicate correct predictions; lower-case letters
indicate incorrect predictions)
#1. NYG over MIN (9-2; used
SEA, CHI, BAL, IND, DAL, SDC, WAS, NEP, TBB, nos, pit)
The Giants (7-3) return home after a tough battle with the Lions.
This week the Vikings come to town after holding off the Raiders
last week. The Vikings are not very impressive on the road (1-4).
Even with Jacobs hurt, I think the Giants will take care of the
#2. JAX over BUF (9-2; used
IND, DEN, NEP, sdc, TEN, sea, DAL, NYG, ATL, PIT, GBP)
Buffalo didn’t have any chance against the Patriots last
week. They are playing better than most expected, but 3 of their
wins are against the JETS (twice) and the Dolphins. Garrard is
back under center for the Jaguars, and they looked strong last
week. As long as Garrard doesn’t get hurt, the Jags will
roll over the Bills.
#3. ARI over SFO (11-0; used
SDC, JAX, PIT, NEP, HOU, GBP, NYG, IND, WAS, SEA, DAL)
Don’t look now, but Arizona is on a 2-game winning streak,
having beaten Detroit and Cincinnati. This week the woeful 49ers
stagger into town with their 8-game losing streak. They did beat
the Cardinals (20-17) earlier this year, but that was Week 1.
has changed since then. San Francisco’s losing streak will
stretch to 9.
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
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.