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Week 11

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I asked readers to chime in on the injured reserve category in fantasy football. As I indicated in that column, different leagues have very different ideas about which players should qualify for the IR designation.

Ted spoke up for the simplest designation (which isn’t terribly useful in most redrafter leagues):

I don’t understand how there can be any confusion about which players belong on IR in fantasy. If they are on IR in the NFL, then you can put them on IR in your league. If they aren’t, then you can’t. I don’t see how suspensions or bye weeks come into the equation.

Dan is of the same mindset:
I think the IR spot on a fantasy roster is to only be used for that exact NFL interpretation, which is a season-ending injury in which a player is out for the year.

My general rule for keeper leagues would be that each team gets 1 IR spot in a 10-team league, and 12 to 14-team leagues get 2 because of the obvious lack of free agents available.

If you use the IR spot for anything but that, then you should call it an extra “Reserve” spot because that’s exactly what it is.
During my draft this year, I had to decide whether B. Marshall & S. Smith were worth drafting knowing their suspensions would severely limit my options the first 2 weeks. Now I took that chance, and so far it’s working out. The point is, sometimes you know a player might be an injury risk, or have poor conduct history, so you draft them taking that chance. Of course injuries fall on any type of player, so that’s unfortunate, but again, that’s football. So you just have to prepare the best you can with backups—and be ready to make trades.

Otherwise I think it would be easy to take advantage of “collecting” or hording players on teams with multiple player suspensions or bye weeks. Like I said, most of that should have been taken care of in advance during the draft, or throughout the year as injuries come up.

If you want to incorporate some other rule to help with injuries, then maybe you should look at having a Fantasy Budget to bid on free agents. [Theoretically, this system works such that] the owner who loses his star player will have a chance to bid on a replacement, giving him better odds to secure a backup. No team should have an option of “reserving” a suspended player. Either drop him or trade him, or just suck it up and play with what you have.

As Dan points out, this approach to IR makes a lot of sense in keeper leagues. If you own Tom Brady in a keeper league, you shouldn’t have to cut him to make room for another QB just because of a season-ending injury. Of course you will want to have dibs on Brady next year, when he will presumably return to action. However, there isn’t much point in using the NFL’s definition of IR in redrafter leagues because players that are placed on IR in the NFL won’t be returning to action until you have had a chance to draft again.

Remember Jamal Anderson? I had him in a redrafter league back in 2001 (when he tore his ACL in Week 2). I could have paid a $2 fee to put him on IR in that league, but there would not have been any point in doing so because he was done for the year. Redrafter leagues that allow owners to put players on IR because they are on IR in the NFL simply puzzle me. I can’t see the percentage in protecting a player who will sit on my bench until someone else has the opportunity to draft him.

Since players on IR in the NFL can be safely cut in most redrafter league scenarios, it is unsurprising that many redrafter leagues do not even have an IR category. As Anthony writes,

I have never even heard of an ir category. If a league does have one it should be strictly for people that are injured only not for suspended or players on a bye. My feeling is you should have enough roster spots where if player is injured suspended or on a bye you have enough reserves to fill in for those players. For instance, I had Willie Parker who we all know has been injured for several games, but since I don’t have an IR category I went and picked up Moore and dropped one of my other reserves. If bye weeks are an issue for leagues, they should look at expanding their roster next year so they don’t have this issue. You need to plan accordingly when you draft and look at the bye weeks and make sure you don’t have to many players on the same bye week.

For IR to make sense in most redrafter leagues, it needs to be available to owners who have players who will miss a game (or several games) due to injury—but not the remainder of the regular season (since most fantasy leagues have their Super Bowls in Weeks 16 or 17). In redrafter leagues that have an IR category, the usual approach seems to be to allow owner to put players on IR as long as the players are listed as “doubtful” or “out” on the official injury report. (Some leagues are generous enough to let “questionable” players qualify; a few require that players be listed as “out.”) This seems like a reasonable approach, but it can lead to abuses, as John points out:

I have played in a 14-team league for a decade now. We start 8 players and have a 5-man bench. When I first joined the league, we had an IR. Each owner had 2 IR slots, and the rule at the time was if a player was on the injury report, questionable or worse, he could be placed on IR, where he had to remain for at least 3 weeks.

This led to a number of problems. For one, it was almost impossible to regulate for our poor commissioner. Keeping track of when guys went on IR and when they were eligible to come off was a logistical nightmare, and there were frequent mistakes.

This led to abuse by savvy owners, myself included.

The waiver wire, which was already extremely thin, was worse as a result. It took me two years of hard core lobbying to get the system removed. I think the commissioner really just finally decided it was too much work. He also needed to finally shut me up. Removing the IR was the best thing we ever did. My argument was that if you have a player that is hurt, and you choose to keep him on your bench, that is your decision. Keep him stashed on your bench for the whole year. Who cares? If you want another player, then drop someone, whether it be the hurt player, or someone else. No more stashing!

Abolishing the IR category is one of the great advances we have made over the years in our league. In my opinion, IR has no business in fantasy.

One other thing that we do that might be of interest to you is our system for bye week pickups. We have free agent pickups on Sat (and this year on Sunday as well for the first time) in reverse order of standing.

If you have a player on bye, you get a "free" bye week pickup for them.
1) player you pick up must be same position as the one on bye;
2) you have use of him for that one week, though you do not need to start him if you do not wish; and
3) Tuesday morning, he goes back into the free agent pool.

I realize that the bye week content of the last two paragraphs from John aren’t exactly relevant to a discussion of IR, but the idea was simply too good for me not to share it with other readers. Kent stuck strictly to the point in his brief response to my question:

In our league, IR players can only go on IR if they are listed as OUT or on the actual NFL IR. As far as suspensions go, we don't allow that on the IR. You wouldn't allow a guy suspended for drugs to go on IR in the NFL, [so why allow it in fantasy]?

Dave wrote in to explain things from the other end of the spectrum:

IR in our league is exactly what you describe in your column. People can use the IR tag for anything. In my opinion, it’s gotten a little crazy. One guy put his whole defense on IR for one week because one starting linebacker was listed as doubtful. I figured if he could do that, then I could put my kicker on IR for his bye. Nobody had any problem with it, but I think they should have. When you think about what IR means in the NFL, it’s sort of a joke in fantasy.

I think Dan’s “reserve” category is the answer to Dave’s frustration. If I could wave a magic wand over the fantasy world, I would make IR disappear from redrafter leagues (since it only makes sense in keeper leagues). Why have a category in fantasy that bears so little resemblance to its NFL analogue? You can define “reserve” however you like. Make it apply only to players who are listed as “out”—or allow it to apply to players on a bye if you want. Either way, you will spare owners the confusion of dealing with a category that makes perfect sense in the NFL and is bound to seem rather arbitrary in a redrafter league. My thanks to all who wrote in (and my apologies to Dan, since I stole his soapbox.)

This Week’s Question

Is there something about your fantasy website that is worth showing off?

Many of the folks who write to me send me links to their fantasy websites so that I can study some particular detail about how their league works. It used to be that they had to give me a password to access their sites, but I find that more and more hosting services are allowing visitors to access webpages devoted to private leagues.

If you meet the following criteria, I look forward to hearing from you:

  1. I can access your site simply by clicking on a link (no registration or password required);

  2. There is something about your site that other FFers might want to emulate or learn from; and

  3. You can write a paragraph or two explaining what you expect visitors to get out of visiting your site.

I’ve received notes from commissioners who organize material from the bulletin board on their website into a newspaper format. I’ve received more links than I can count to scoring systems that people take great pride in. I’ve heard from FFers who swear by the way that statistical data is organized on their website (and only their website!).

Over the years, I suspect that I have learned more about fantasy football by visiting readers’ websites than by participating in my leagues. I would like to share that experience with the readers of this column to the extent that it is possible to do so (though I realize that some of the very best sites are password protected).

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Last Week’s Bust: None, although both the Arizona and Miami games were a lot closer than anticipated.

Trap Game: Chicago over Green Bay
To me, this game boils down to one question: Can Green Bay stop Matt Forte? The answer is no. They are currently 28th in the league in rush defense, allowing over 150 rushing yards per game, and that number will only rise given the recent injuries this defensive unit has had to deal with. Combine this with the fact that pass-catching backs like Forte pose major problems for the Packer defense (see Chris Johnson in Week 9 and Dominic Rhodes in Week 7), and this one doesn’t look good for Green Bay.

On the other side of the ball, the Packer offense, particularly Aaron Rodgers, has struggled recently, even with a slowly improving Ryan Grant. They won’t fare well against a Bears defense that held the Titans to a grand total of 20 rushing yards. To show you how momentous an accomplishment that is, the Titans, even after that debacle of a rushing attack, are still ranked 6th in the league in rushing with 134 rushing yards per game. Ryan Grant is going to have a lot of trouble moving the ball. If Green Bay’s defense and special teams don’t score two touchdowns (like last week), this could be a long game for Packer fans.

Pick 3: Carolina over Detroit
Jake Delhomme threw four picks last week. Get over it. It won’t happen again this season. I would bet my future first-born child that it won’t happen this week against the woeful Detroit defense. Even after giving up 4 interceptions, Carolina still beat Oakland by 11 points—on the legs of a very effective DeAngelo Williams. This week should be another easy win for the Panthers, probably much easier, in fact, as Detriot doesn’t have anyone that plays even remotely as well as Nnamdi Asomugha (if you don’t know who he is, find out).

Carolina’s passing game is completely one-dimensional: Jake Delhomme passing to Steve Smith. It is successful enough against most teams, because nobody can stay with Smith. Nobody, that is, other than Asomugha. Oakland totally exposed how you shut down the Carolina offense. Unfortunately, if you told Detroit what play Carolina was going to run on every single down, the Panthers would probably still put up 28 points. The Lions have been showing signs of life recently, with Kevin Smith playing well, and Daunte Culpepper at least offering a semi-credible QB threat, but they will be lucky to put up 20 against the stingy Carolina defense. This one might not ever be a blowout, but likely won’t ever be within reach for the Lions.

Pick 2: Philadelphia over Cincinnati
(TENNESSEE, dallas, CHICAGO, new york giants, TAMPA BAY, san francisco, Jacksonville, CAROLINA)
The Eagles are far better than their 5-4 record would indicate. They have lost to 3 strong division opponents and to the Bears, perhaps another team much better than their 5-4 record indicates. Donovan McNabb seemed a bit out of sync with his receivers on Sunday night, and Brian Westbrook only managed 59 yards from scrimmage, but credit the Giant D for those performances. Even against the Giants, DeSean Jackson looked like an absolute speed demon; no one in the Giants’ secondary could stay with him.

This week, Philly gets the privilege of heading out to Cincinnati to play the Bengals, who have actually been playing better ball as of late. However, the last time they played a punishing defense like the Eagles was Week 7 against Pittsburgh, a contest in which they managed to put up 10 points (with 212 yards of total offense). In contrast, the last time the Eagles played a Swiss cheese defense like Cincinnati’s was Week 6 against San Francisco, when they scored 40 points. Bad news for the Bungles.

Pick 1: New York Giants over Baltimore
Hosting a hot Baltimore team is certainly not the best matchup that the Giants have this year, but it very well may be the easiest game left on their schedule. The next 6 weeks for the G-Men include home contests with Philadelphia and Carolina, and away matchups with Arizona, Washington, Dallas, and Minnesota. The Vikings are a good matchup for New York, but they have always played the Giants tough (see Eli Manning’s 4 picks against Minnesota late last year), and by this point, the Giants may have clinched a playoff spot already.

Baltimore has been playing very good ball lately, but should struggle to put points on the board. In fact, I think the best chance Baltimore has to score touchdown may be an INT returned for a TD, followed somewhat closely by a 70 yard bomb to Yamon Figurs, assuming the Giants’ secondary blows coverage (a fair assumption). Its very unlikely that they will get the running game going, and Joe Flacco throwing the ball 25-30 times is not a recipe for success. On the other side of the field, the Raven D should be able to keep the New York offense in check for at least part of the game. Look for a similar performance from the G-Men as in Week 8 against the Steelers – a modest point total, and a W.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.

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