It All Comes Down To This

If you’re still playing fantasy football this weekend, I’d like to congratulate you for making it to the championship in a real man’s league. No offense to the leagues that only go through Week 16 because the commissioner got screwed over by starting Peyton Manning in Week 17 one too many times, but playing through the entire regular season is one of the things that makes a fantasy league great. In fact, in honor of the end of the season, here’s my list of the 10 things (in no particular order) that every fantasy league should have:

#1. Week 17 Playoffs

I understand the major argument against it, and that the majority of the complaining this year will come from owners who relied heavily upon Eagles and Patriots to lead them to the championship, but Week 17 should be a requirement in all fantasy leagues because it actually makes you think about your options. I also love Week 17 Championships because it allows everyone in your league one extra week of regular season action. No matter how bad your team is, you should get to play for 14 weeks.

#2. Live Auction Draft

If you’re still doing online snake drafts, you’re missing out on the best part of fantasy football. If you don’t believe me on the Auction part, just try an auction draft next season and see if you don’t refuse to ever do a snake draft again. As far as the Live part is concerned, this past season I got my league set up with the draft day package at Dave & Buster’s, and it was amazing.

No guarantees their deal will stay the same next season, but for a grand total of $25 (less than $2 per person!), we were given our own over-sized room to draft in, a fantasy draft magazine for each person, a 10% discount on all non-alcohol purchases, a $10 game card which you can use at a later date, and probably more than I can’t even remember. I guarantee they make back their money on your alcohol purchases, but look into it for next season. If your draft day isn’t one of the 10 most memorable days of your calendar year, you need a new commissioner.

#3. Free Agent Acquisition Budget

Similar to my auction draft argument, if you don’t believe me, just try it out in one of your leagues next season and see if you don’t get hooked. In the league that I’ve been running for the past 5 years, we’ve tried just about everything with the waiver wire, and FAAB is clearly the way to go. A waiver wire based on inverse order of league standings unfairly benefits owners who get off to a slow start. Having no waiver wire unfairly benefits the people in your league who can wake up or stay up until 4 AM on Tuesday morning. FAAB is by far the fairest free agent acquisition process, especially if your league manager allows FAAB to be incorporated into trades, because someone will inevitably use up all their money by Week 5 and desperately want some more.

The only downside to FAAB is that you can’t make emergency pick-ups at 12:55 on Sunday afternoon if one of your key guys ends up not playing, but if you spent the entire season waiting until Sunday afternoon to find out whether or not you needed to replace Antonio Gates, you probably didn’t make the playoffs anyway. I set my league’s FAAB up so that it processes every Wednesday and Saturday at 11 PM EST, and we didn’t seem to have any problems.

#4. A Fair and Dedicated League Manager

You don’t need someone who writes a weekly several thousand word blog post about the NFL, but trying to play in a fantasy league with a commissioner who doesn’t know or care what he’s doing is like trying to ride a ship without a captain. It’s also crucial that you don’t have a douche bag for a league manager. With the position comes a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. If your commissioner changes league rules mid-season or vetoes trades for no good reason, it’s time to overthrow the dictator.

#5. 12 or 14 Teams

Anything less than 12 teams results in everyone having an all-star team; anything more than 14 teams results in someone having to play Carson Palmer on a regular basis. This rule transcends football and applies to all fantasy sports: the number of teams in your fantasy league should equal roughly 40% of the number of teams in the actual league your scoring is based upon. I have no idea how fantasy Nascar, Golf, or Soccer works, but I’m willing to bet this rule applies to them as well.

#6. Fractional Points

There’s no good reason why 9 rushing yards should count for 0 points while the 10th counts for a full point. In my league this season, we had multiple games decided by less than half a point. Every single yard should matter, even if it’s the negative rushing yard or two that your quarterback tallies in the box score by taking knees at the end of the game.

#7. A Group of Friends

Having a close knit group of friends in your fantasy league makes it more fun, usually means more communication/trading, and it keeps everyone in the league honest. I usually end up playing in at least half a dozen leagues each season, but the only one I ever pay more than 5 minutes of attention to per week is the league I’m in with my college buddies. It’s just more enjoyable when you play against people you know.

#8. Keepers

The number of keepers and the price for keeping them is open for debate, but if you want to keep your league together for multiple seasons and if you want more than 25% of your owners to care about the league beyond Week 10, you need to have keepers. The solution I’ve come up with for an auction keeper league is that you keep guys based on the price they were drafted at the previous season with a tier-based tax imposed to keep guys from drafting Peyton Hillis for $1 and then keeping him for that price for the next 8 years. It’s a bit complicated, but that’s the joy of being a commissioner with a BS degree in Mathematics.

#9. Stat Categories That Make Sense

I highly doubt we’ll ever agree on a standard scoring system, but it’s important that your league doesn’t have ridiculous stat categories. Yes, it is every owner’s responsibility to understand the scoring system before the draft, but there’s no reason that a guy like Devin Hester or Jacoby Ford should be a top 10 option at WR. If you want return yards to count, then petition ESPN to add the option for a KR/PR roster spot next season.

#10. Money on the Line

It’s a simple fact of life: if you want people to care about something, make them put money on it. I prefer to have 60% of the pot reserved for the league champion and the other 40% rewarded throughout the season for highest score each week, best regular season record, and a few other random things determined before the season begins. It gives every owner something to play for every week.

Bonus: Negative QB points for INT Returns

If this ever becomes an option, you have to make it part of your league. There’s no way an end-of-the-game-hail-mary-interception should count against a fantasy QB just as much as a Pick Six does. I’ve been arguing this point all season to no avail, but I will continue to fight the good fight.

Week 17 Rules to Live By

If you haven’t yet figured it out, setting your fantasy roster is all about playing the odds, and this is true in Week 17 more so than any other. I have 5 rules to follow in Week 17. Undoubtedly, there are a few guys who will break these rules, but I would rather play it safe than try to find the outliers.

Rule #1: Don’t play starters from teams that have clinched a specific playoff spot.

Usually this applies to much more than 2 teams, but as much as you can help it, you don’t want to play Eagles (NFC #3) or Patriots (AFC #1), so if I have options, I’m avoiding McCoy, Maclin, Celek, Brady, Law Firm, Woodhead, Welker, and Gronkowski.

Rule #2: Don’t play banged up guys from teams that have nothing to play for.

This applies to Eagles, Patriots, and players from the 16 teams that are eliminated from the playoffs. If I have other viable options, I wouldn’t want to play the following guys who are questionable or doubtful as of Thursday: Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Owen Daniels, Jonathan Stewart, Knowshon Moreno, Jermaine Gresham, Malcom Floyd, Deion Branch, Jahvid Best, Jon Kitna, Aaron Hernandez, Peyton Hillis, Anthony Dixon, Antonio Gates, DeSean Jackson, Michael Vick, Darren McFadden, Anthony Fasano, Brett Favre, Ben Watson, Roy Williams, Drew Stanton, or David Nelson.

Rule #3: Play as many guys fighting for a playoff spot as you can.

If there were still several weeks to be played, you maybe consider benching Aaron Rodgers against the Bears, but in Week 17 he’s easily a top 5 option at QB along with the Manning brothers, Joe Flacco, and Sam Bradford. Yes, Week 17 fantasy football is a completely different ball game. If I extend it to the 10 best options at QB, it would include Brees, Rivers, Grossman, Freeman, and Big Ben, so I’m not necessarily suggesting you play Bradford over any of those guys, but I propose you have to think about it because of the urgency with which my Top 5 are playing against poor pass defenses. When in doubt, go with the guy you absolutely know will be in the game in the 4th quarter (barring injury).

Rule #4: Don’t bank on guys who have been back-ups all season.

Rashad Jennings didn’t do a damn thing last week against a terrible defense, and I consider him one of the better back-ups in the league. I know it’s somehow tempting to get cute with guys like Chaz Whitehurst, Trent Edwards, or more likely Kevin Kolb, but it’s much safer to play a guy who has been taking snaps all season. Maybe Michael Vick’s back-up outscores a guy like Jason Campbell or Chad Henne, but I’d rather have the guys with 300+ pass attempts playing in grudge matches with division rivals.

Rule #5: Don’t Over Think It.

I’m sure you have money on the line, but your hair is much more valuable than your league’s grand prize, so don’t tear it all out trying to decide which Mike Williams you should play (Tampa Bay’s, for the record). Celebrate the New Year with a loved one and just sit back on Sunday and see what happens, knowing that you never had any control over the number of touches Matt Forte gets.

Eliminator Suggestions

There are 562 people left in ESPN’s Eliminator Challenge, and I don’t even have that many readers, so I highly doubt any of you are relying upon this for survival, but I’ve come this far, so I might as well give it one more week. I went 1-3 last week. I legitimately think that’s the first time I was below .500 since the beginning of last season. How terribly disappointing. I’m now 47-17 for the season and would need to go 4-0 this week just to get back to 75% on the season. Doesn’t seem overwhelmingly promising when you consider this is historically the 2nd most unpredictable weekend of the entire season.

#4. New York Jets over Buffalo

Despite recently winning a game in Pittsburgh, the Jets are limping into the playoffs on legs and feet so badly crippled that even Rex Ryan wouldn’t touch them. They need this game for the sake of their own confidence.

#3. Indianapolis over Tennessee

Peyton Manning hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2001. He isn’t exactly the most clutch playoff QB of all-time, but he almost always gets them there, and won’t fail to do so in this game.

#2. Baltimore over Cincinnati

The Bengals beat the Ravens back in Week 2. You probably don’t remember that, but I guarantee Ray Lewis and company do. There’s no way the Ravens come out flat at home in a revenge game with a shot at a first round bye.

#1. Atlanta over Carolina

It’s rather amusing that because Atlanta lost on Monday night, they’re now favored by at least 10 more points than they would have been if they won. Win a game at home against the worst team in the NFL and you clinch home-field advantage through the NFC championship? I’ll take that team any day.

The Commish’s NFL Upset of the Week

Chicago (+10) over Green Bay

Okay, I don’t actually think the Bears will win this game, but I just wanted to point out how absurd this line is, and the fact that I’m still not going to put any money on it because Week 17 is that unpredictable. Good luck to all in your Championship games and in your favorite teams’ playoff games, unless your favorite team is playing against my Chiefs. Happy New Year!

 

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