Last Week’s Question
In last week’s column, I
shared questions from Noah and Jason about how/whether to incorporate
the Week 17 games into the regular season. Noah’s league already
stops play in Week 16 (in response to the likelihood of key NFL
players being benched in Week 17), but Noah thinks that these end-of-season
benchings are creeping forward to Week 16 with enough frequency
to warrant wrapping up the fantasy season in Week 15. I know that
many (perhaps most) fantasy leagues have already crowned their champs
because there are a lot of folks who think that Week 17 is statistically
unreliable. But my sense (based on responses from readers over the
years) is that few leagues actually conclude the fantasy season
in Week 15 (though it is not unusual for leagues to feature a 2-week
championship matchup that starts in Week 15 and concludes in Week
My summary of the responses to Noah’s question is that
fantasy enthusiasts do not appear to be keen on the idea of discarding
Week 16. Craig even went so far as to question the wisdom of giving
up Week 17:
The main problem with having week 17 as the fantasy
championship game is that by this time (and possibly earlier)
some stars on the best NFL teams are being benched and therefore
can hurt a fantasy team’s chances of winning.
I understand both Noah’s and Craig’s positions.
I play in some leagues that continue through Week 17 and some that
stop in Week 16—for differing sets of reasons that appeal
to the differing sensibilities of the participants. There’s
obviously no “wrong” approach here. As long as everyone
is playing by the same rules (and the rules are clear before the
season begins), I see no problem with either approach.
To this I can only say tough luck and put some better planning
in your team for next year. Ask yourself this question. When choosing
rosters for a certain match-up, do you just randomly pick your
QB or RB or do you look who has byes, injuries, what defenses
they are playing against? If your answer is no, then you shouldn’t
have any problem accepting that players could possibly be benched
late in the season. This is all part of the strategy of the game,
starting from the draft picks. You don’t draft 2 QBs with
the same bye week, and just as importantly if you have picked
Brady or Manning, then you should always keep in mind that they
might secure the first round bye early and be benched late in
the season. They might take you to the playoffs but you better
have a backup ready in case they won’t be there for the
final games. This doesn’t have to be just in the draft.
If you can see that halfway through the season your star players
are on undefeated teams that demolish their competition (‘07
Pats), then you better start looking for some backups in the free
agency, or possibly trades.
However, readers should bear in mind that some people who are new
to fantasy football will not appreciate the significance of scheduling
a championship for Week 17. Braden wrote in to share excerpts from
angry emails that he is receiving from an owner in his league who
insists that only “an incompetent commissioner” would
schedule a championship for Week 17. The outraged owner has Reggie
Wayne and Joseph Addai on his team and is apparently concerned over
Tony Dungy’s remarks about doing what’s best for the
I know that there are many players in analogous situations in leagues
all over the world, and I can see why they might think that this
is the time to raise the question of whether to schedule championship
games for Week 17, but I wouldn’t expect many commissioners
to take their complaints seriously. If the league charter calls
for the championship to take place in Week 17, then that is when
it needs to happen regardless of what various NFL coaches decide
to do with their personnel this week.
I did not receive much feedback concerning Jason’s Pro Bowl
style championship model. Jason wrote in to explain that championship
contenders in his league don’t have to worry about benchings
in Week 17 because the two conference champs are allowed to include
any players in their conferences for their championship lineups.
It sounded like an interesting idea to me, but I suspect the lack
of enthusiasm for it was best explained by Carl:
If I tried to explain Jason’s idea to any of the guys in my
league, they would just look at me funny. I think leagues with those
kind of complications are dying out. Everybody I know plays on sites
that pretty much run themselves with cookie cutter rules.
I think Carl is over-generalizing, but I can’t say to
what extent. The face of the fantasy football community probably
is changing. Those who recall the days before internet league-hosting
services appear to be outnumbered by those who can’t imagine
that the game was ever played by people who wrote rules together
and kept scores by hand—but I have to doubt that the population
of these “old-timers” has become statistically insignificant
(as Carl seems to think). Maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe I’m
just old. Well, after my experience on a nephew’s Wii this
Christmas, there’s no maybe about my being old.
This Week’s Question
Since this is my last column of the year, there’s not much
point in my asking readers to respond to the question sent in
by Craig. However, it’s such an interesting question that
I can’t resist the urge to share it (along with my own response):
2 teams are almost dead even after the weekend games are done
playing. Team A has 60 points, and Team B has 61. The only player
left is Team B’s QB who plays on Monday. Is it considered
a good strategy move by B to bench his QB to avoid negative points
and guarantee his win, or unethical considering it would make
no logical sense for a team to enter a game without a QB? I’ve
seen this situation come up a few times in the few years I have
been playing with mixed response from everybody in the league.
I don’t know that I’ve seen this exact situation come
up, but I have seen similar developments. I’ve certainly had
players finish games with negative points (due to fumbles, lost
yardage, interceptions, missed field goals, etc.), and it isn’t
hard to imagine situations along the lines of what Craig describes
(though they are presumably rare).
Some people may not play in leagues that allow lineup changes after
kickoff for the first game in any given week, but most leagues appear
to allow this sort of flexibility. If you like the idea of submitting
lineups by a certain deadline (say noon on Thursdays) and sticking
with those decisions regardless of what information becomes available
between then and the time your players start, then you simply won’t
encounter the situation Craig describes.
However, I think that in most leagues (including the ones I play
in), it is possible for owners to bench players while Tony Kornheiser
is delivering his little spiel about why we’re in for a great
match-up this Monday night.
Craig points out that in his league, opinions are split about
whether it’s right for an owner to bench a player out of
fear of a negative performance. Those who contend that such a
benching is unethical are entitled to their opinion, but I happen
to disagree with them. I’ll paint a hypothetical picture
to explain why.
Let’s say that the Pats are beating the Cowboys 25-20 in the
Super Bowl. Tony Romo leads the Cowboys down the field in the final
offensive drive of the game. New England’s secondary has been
riddled with injuries, and in a freakish turn of events, Randy Moss
has been called upon to fill in as a cornerback. The last play of
the game is a pass. There’s no time left on the clock as Terrell
Owens sprints towards the end zone, where Moss is waiting for him.
Romo throws a beautiful spiral to Owens—and it’s clearly
a jump ball. Owens needs to catch it for the Cowboys to win, but
Moss only needs to bat it down.
Now if Moss intercepts the ball in the end zone, he could possibly
run it all the way to the other end of the field and upstage Owens
in an incredibly memorable way, but that would be the wrong thing
to do from a strategic standpoint. The Pats are already ahead,
so the only right thing for Moss to do is to bat the ball down.
I don’t care how easy the catch is for him. I don’t
care how clear his path to the opposite end zone is. His team
already has the win, and he needs to be a team player and ensure
that win for his team.
In my opinion, if 1) you go into the Monday night game with a marginal
lead over your opponent; 2) your opponent’s players have all
played, so his score his final; and 3) you have one player active
in the game who could conceivably fumble the first time he handles
the ball, be injured on the same play, and cost you the win—if
you find yourself in this situation, then the only right thing to
do is to bench the player. When a quarterback takes a knee to let
time expire because that will guarantee the win for his team, he
isn’t being “illogical”; he is simply being competitive.
Sometimes competition takes the form of inaction. Or, as Milton
put it, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Congratulations to those that are still in your Survival Pool.
You have accomplished a major feat. Now for the final and most
important pick of the year.
#3: Cleveland over San Francisco (11-5):
The 49ers may have found their quarterback of the future in Shaun
Hill, but the Browns will be playing at home looking to win their
game and praying for a Tennessee loss later on to the Colts. This
game is no lock for the Browns considering their porous defense
and the patience of Hill at quarterback, but the combination of
Jamal Lewis, Derek Andersen, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow
should be enough to squeak by a dangerous San Francisco squad.
#2: Cincinnati at Miami (8-8):
The Bengals finally finish off a season of disappointment against
a team that has been even more disappointing. Supposedly Marvin
Lewis’ job is safe, but the same may not be true of Cam
Cameron with Tuna on the prowl. Ocho Cinco and company should
have a good day against a weak Miami secondary, and Cleo Lemon
will continue his education at the quarterback position while
probably playing his last game as starter. The only people watching
this game will be the GMs of each of these two teams, and even
they will spend the time wishing that they could be somewhere
#1: Chicago over New Orleans (13-3):
Upset Special. The Saints have every reason to play hard and win
this game, but they will need a lot of help from the Cowboys and
Broncos to make the playoffs. Combine that with the fact that
it could be very cold and snowy in Chicago and this team just
might roll over while watching the scoreboard for the Redskins
game. Since the Bears are not going to the playoffs, they would
like nothing more than to eliminate the Saints, thus having both
2006 NFC Championship teams miss the playoffs. This game is a
big risk-reward game but because there are so many what unknowns
this week, this just might be what you need to win it all.
If your LMS pool is still going and you are still alive, this
can get tricky. There will be several teams that have their playoff
position locked up and will likely rest several starters for part
of the game--much like a preseason game.
#1. GB over DET (13-3, Used
SEA, CHI, BAL, IND, DAL, SDC, WAS, NEP, TBB, nos, pit, nyg, CAR,
JAX, MIN, TEN)
How have I made it this far in the season without taking the Pack?
Oh yeah, I’ve got three losses. Green Bay beat the Lions
37-26 on Thanksgiving. Five weeks later and they are still battling
for the top stop in the NFC. The Pack should beat the reeling
Lions if only for the sake of taking some momentum into the playoffs.
#2. TB over CAR (13-3 Used
IND, DEN, NEP, sdc, TEN, sea, DAL, NYG, ATL, PIT, GBP, JAX, was,
DEN, CLE, ARI)
The Bucs beat the Panthers 20-7 in week 4. Unfortunately, they
have already secured their playoff position. Tampa with their
6-1 home record will want to give the home fans one more win.
Carolina will probably just be going through the motions.
#3. CLE over SF (14-2 Used
SDC, JAX, PIT, NEP, HOU, GBP, NYG, IND, WAS, SEA, DAL, ari, phi,
BUF, TBB, min)
The Browns are still fighting for a playoff spot and have a 6-1
home record. The Niners, on the other hand, are 2-5 on the road
and have packed it in for the season.
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