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HTH Mailbag
Week 14
12/10/04

I received absolutely nothing by email this week for my normal HTH Mailbag column except lineup questions. I don't mind answering lineup questions, and I guess I shouldn't have expected much else at this time of the fantasy season (playoffs, baby!), but as for re-writing them here, I thought I could make things a little more interesting with some random fantasy football thoughts swirling around my head recently (a.k.a. The Inner Workings of MacGregor's Brain). Here we go...

Tie Breakers

I don't agree with using head-to-head in fantasy football as a first tie breaking method to decide standings and ultimately, playoff spots. A lot of leagues use it, but I have always felt it was more apt to create an unfair result than other methods such as total points.

My biggest beef with head-to-head tie breakers stems from the fact we already use head-to-head matchups all season. I wouldn't suggest changing this format in fantasy football (although, AntSports' Victory Points System has A LOT going for it) because head-to-head is one of the major characteristics of fantasy football that makes it fun. However, we know head-to-head scheduling inherently escalates the luck factor. How many times have you scored the 2nd, 3rd or 4th most points in your league only to take a loss? How many times have you seen the highest scoring team not end up being the team with the best record? Or perhaps even, miss the playoffs all together?

The reason this luck factor exists is because there is no method of limiting an opposing team's score (i.e. playing defense). It matters who you play on what week, or, the luck of the draw. For that reason, since we already incorporate all this luck into the season play, why oh why would we compound the luck factor by making it the first tie-breaking method? That makes little sense to me.

The second problem with head-to-head tie breakers that I see is they can get extremely complicated as soon as more than two teams need a tie broken. Did all teams play each other? Did all teams play each other the same number of games? Should the head-to-head tie breaker still apply? Are we using head-to-head number of wins, or winning percentage? There are tons of scenarios that could be drawn up which seem straight forward until you ask, oh, three people to figure out how to break the tie and they all come back with a different answer.

Of course it is too late to do anything for this season, but here are some ideas to alter your tie breakers and/or make sure the best teams that earned a spot in the playoffs qualify for the playoffs:

  • The first tie breaker for everything is Total Points. There is rarely a tie at the end of the season in total points, so you would rarely go past this first tie breaker. It is simple to apply. I also think it is fair, as it measures the owner's ability to accomplish what we set out to do in fantasy football - score the most points.

  • If you don't like Total Points, consider the "All-Play Record". This is one that just came to me recently. My Fantasy League.com tracks this on their Franchise Power Rank report. I'm not suggesting the power rank formula, but just the all-play record. I think this is pretty cool. It basically gives you a win or loss as if you played every team each week all season. I think even better than total points, it measures consistency from week to week relative to the rest of your league.

  • Okay, off the tie breakers, I highly recommend adding this to your league next year. For the last playoff spot, typically the 2nd, 3rd or higher wild-card team, do not go by record. Give the last wild-card to the team with the highest total points scored for the year who did not already qualify on record. We've been using this in my Ironman league since it's inception 4 years ago, and no one can ever really complain about getting the shaft from the playoffs because the last team always gets in for posting a good point total.

  • This may not be feasible with a lot of league management systems, but strong consider AntSports' Victory Points system. There is still head-to-head play, but the standings are based on a point system rather than strictly record. In a 12-team league, you get 2 points for a win in your head-to-head match. Then you get an additional 2 points if you score in the top 4 teams for the week. You get 1 point scoring as the 5th-8th highest team for the week, and 0 if you were in the bottom 4. No matter the divisions, the highest Victory Point teams at the end of the year qualify for the playoffs. This is a good, fair system. Nicely done Steve.

Wow, this has gotten longer than I anticipated, but it took this many words to get all the thoughts out. Anyway, consider these things and get the best teams in the playoffs!

Tatum Bell vs. Reuben Droughns

There is endless banter on the forums about Bell vs. Droughns. It was natural to occur. People drafted Bell way back in the preseason and have been waiting to earn some returns on this guy in the plug-and-play Denver running game. Others picked up Droughns and have been riding his strong stats for the last 8 weeks as one of this season's major diamond in the rough finds.

Everyone in the forum threads are very defensive towards their guy. Droughns owners shoe away the Bell owners saying Bell might get a chance next year. Bell owners shake their head Droughns is still getting so many carries because Bell is "obviously" better as Droughns is barely a poor man's Mike Anderson.

Not that you asked for it, but here is my opinion: Droughns owners had better wake up, smell the coffee, and get a Plan B ready OR if it is too late for that cross your fingers and pray to the fantasy Gods things stay status quo. At any time Shanahan could pull the plug on Droughns and insert Bell, and he won't care it is your fantasy playoffs - even midway through a crucial game.

Droughns pounds out the yards, but barely ever breaks a decent run by making defenders miss. The TD last week against the Chargers wasn't bad. Perhaps a little extra motivation after Bell's earlier TD? Droughns almost goes looking for contact. He seems like a great guy, a great character and team player, but he is not the RB solution Shanahan is looking for.

Bell on the other hand, is quick and fast (that's acceleration and breakaway speed). I thought the play was on fast forward when he shot through the line and into the end zone. This is the home run threat. This is the guy who given 20-22 carries will accomplish what takes Droughns 30 carries to do.

The only caveat here is can Bell stay healthy and not fumble? At this point I can only give him the benefit of the doubt.

While you think this thought might be biased, it is quite the opposite actually. I own Droughns in one league and am making a run at the championship in an 8 team playoff. I need him to perform. I don't own Bell in any leagues. I'm just making this observation from what I've seen watching Denver the past couple weeks, and strongly feel the writing is on the wall. A change this season by Shanhan would not surprise me in the least. At this point there is nothing I can do though except hope for the best.

A Couple Bets This Week

I haven't bet very much on football for two season now, but occasionally I like to throw a little money on the line. Very small stakes mind you (so much is tied up in fantasy football already). When I do bet I tend to favor the underdogs.

This week I'm taking the JETS +6 parlayed with the Jets-Steelers UNDER 35.5. My buddy says I'm just looking for an excuse to pick against the Steelers. Perhaps. I was on Jacksonville the prior week to pull the upset which was a 32 yard FG miss or a couple yards on the 60 yard attempt from happening. I just think the Jets matchup well in this game as both teams look to pound it out and keep it low scoring, settling it in the 4th quarter. The Jets have only lost by scores of 6 to the Patriots, 5 and 3 this season.

The next one I took the RAIDERS +7.5 parlayed with the Raiders-Falcons UNDER 45.5. I typically don't have a lot of confidence in the Raiders, and the Falcons should have gotten a wake up call from last week's poor result against the Bucs. However, in the case of the Falcons I'm not ready to give them that much credit, instead thinking, these guys are going to look past the Raiders and right into their next matchup with the surging division rival Panthers. The Raiders on the other hand have played 4 solid teams their past 4 games resulting in 2 wins and 2 losses by a TD or less. Their running game still stinks, and the loss of Ronald Curry worries me, but I don't want to put too much stock into a single player being out. Looking for an off game by Vick and a close game by the Raiders where both teams score, but don't go crazy collecting points.

My Lineup Decisions

So I didn't want to publish other people's lineup questions, but how about my tougher decisions this week. By the way, I competed in 7 head-to-head draft format (although some dynasty) fantasy football leagues this year and qualified for the playoffs in 6 of them (toot, toot). Three of them I earned a bye finishing 1st or 2nd, one I finished 2nd but 8 teams qualify so I play this week, and the others I qualified as a wild-card team. So, three games this week, two showcasing for FF Today so it's important to me to do well here.

Red Eye Masters:

  • Pick 3 of Isaac Bruce, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Lloyd, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Amani Toomer, Joey Galloway. I'm going with Bruce, Fitz and Galloway with Housh getting strong consideration. I'm certainly not confident in this trio as Bruce has Chris Chandler throwing to him, Fitz has been feast or famine all season and Galloway I just picked up this week. Housh did not make the cut because of the New England matchup compared to matchups for the others, even though he has been the hottest receiver the past 2 weeks.

I'll just add at this point, thankfully I have Julius Peppers who might just outscore all 3 of my WR combined. He did last week.

  • Pick 2 of Clinton Portis, Derrick Blaylock, Kevin Jones. I'm not crazy about the matchup by any means, but in a big game like this I have to go with who is supposed to be my main man, Portis. At least his good game last week, which I benched him for, eases the decision. As for number 2, Jones has been very good lately, but Blaylock gets the call. I don't like Jones' matchup at all against the Packers off their terrible loss. If Detroit keeps it close, I think Jones still runs into Grady Jackson all day. If the more likely scenario, Detroit falls behind, Jones' opportunities will be limited. Although Blaylock is sharing carries, I think he gives me a better chance to produce points.

Dirty Dozen:

  • Pick 2 of Shaun Alexander, Kevin Jones, Chris Brown. Oh, here we go. Chris "Gametime Decision" Brown playing a great matchup against the Chiefs at home on Monday Night Football. That's right, Monday night, so the choice must be made before that gametime decision is known. I'm taking the risk and starting Brown. He says he will play. He played last week. I don't like the Jones matchup so I'm playing aggressive here and giving Brown the call. Hopefully it's not a goose egg creating the difference in my outcome on Tuesday morning.

Well, time to wrap up. I think it would have been easier to just publish the emails after all... Good luck to all in your fantasy playoffs this week!



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