Scramble for the Ball: Let's Get Ethical
by Bill Barnwell & Ian Dembsky
Ian: For starters this week, Bill and I are going to touch on some ethics questions that affect all of us Rotoheads now and then. We encourage you to weigh in with your thoughts in this week's forum. By the way, we repeatedly refer to fantasy football owners as "he" or "him." This is to save space, but is not intended to say that you female Rotoheads don't deserve mention. If you're willing to break the male-Rotohead barrier, more power to ya!
Issue #1: The first place team in your league has just completed a trade with a team that is already out of playoff contention. The trade does help both teams, but is it fair for a "lame duck" team to help out one still fighting for a title?
Ian: My opinion is absolutely yes. As long as the season's still going, if the manager of a team that's already been eliminated wants to improve his chances of being a spoiler, who's to tell him he can't? Let's not forget that fantasy football is also about having fun, and the owner of the dead team signed on for that fun when the season started. If he wants to help his team so he can enjoy trying to win the few weeks he's got left, then more power to him.
Issue #2: Marques Colston is listed in your league as tight end-eligible, in addition to wide receiver where he actually plays. Is it fair for his owner to line him up as a tight end?
Ian: My default answer is definitely "yes." Sure, the guy's a wide receiver, but he was originally thought to be a tight end, hence the label. This kind of thing happens in other fantasy sports as well -- especially baseball and basketball. In baseball, an unusual substitution can leave you with a first baseman's bat at your catcher slot. In basketball, center eligibility is as coveted as just about anything else. We're subject to our league websites, but can certainly take advantage of what's offered.
One caveat, however. If your league's commissioner saw Colston unowned after his big first week, and also saw he was allowed at both tight end and wide receiver, it would have been reasonable for him to email the league before that week's waivers to say that whoever picked up Colston would only be allowed to place him at wide receiver. Establishing this before anyone tries to pick him up makes it a timely ruling. Once someone already has him though, it would be highly unfair to change his status at that time.
Bill: Doing so would open up a whole boatload of Pandora's Boxes. Hey, LT's great at quarterback! Let's allow him to slide in there!
Issue #3: A top team is matched up against one of the weaker teams in the league. In fact, the owner of the weaker team hasn't even noticed that his quarterback and two of his wide receivers are out injured. He also doesn't seem likely to care at this point. Is it ethical for a different owner in the league to email the guy and ask him to set his roster straight, so at least he's got a chance to take down the other team?
Ian: This seems to me to be one of the more debatable points out there. I'm a little undecided on this one, but I tend to lean toward "no, you shouldn't email another owner and tell him to set his roster properly." I know some people think it's very O.K., and do it all the time. I think it's clearly bad form on the part of the delinquent owner, but one team's idiocy is another team's gain. Telling that other owner to fix his roster just seems to be headed into the territory of conspiracy to take down another team. I guess I can't fault other owners for doing that if they feel it's O.K., but I can't say that I do.
Bill: I disagree, and this is coming from someone who does occasionally do this. In fact, I feel even stronger about this than Ian does. If a person has forgotten to set their roster for a week, or neglected to care about his roster altogether, the Commissioner (and no one else) should be able to insert his highest-drafted guys at each position who aren't on a bye at 12:00 PM EST on Sunday. If their kicker or defense are on a bye, the Commissioner should be allowed to waive them temporarily for the highest-rated active kicker/defense on waivers, with the understanding that the replacement will be waived immediately after the week is over for the previous kicker/defense. If you need this three times, you probably shouldn't be participating next year.
Issue #4: You're in a rotisserie league, battling for the top spot. You noticed that a team lower in the standings has a chance to pass the team one spot ahead of you in passing yards, so you basically give away to him one of your extra quarterbacks who happens to be better than his current starters. He passes the better team in passing yards; you gain in the overall standings. Is this fair?
Ian: Admittedly, rotisserie-style football is pretty rare, and this tends to affect other fantasy sports more. But it's an interesting issue that comes up now and then. The owner that pulls off this shrewd move is certainly proud of the creative steps he would take to move up in the world. But is it reasonable? I say no. The issue here is that you just "gave away" the player. It's clear that you're conspiring to take down the higher team, which I'm not a fan of. On the other hand, if you can find a deal where you get reasonable talent back for what you've given up, and it happens to help the other team so that it helps you, then more power to you.
Bill: So, in other words, pretend to get value. This seems eminently reasonable to me as well. Fantasy football is cutthroat, people. If you can get an advantage, do it -- even with the trade above.
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Ian: Now, back to the gridiron. My, how things can change. The Colts have gone from potential undefeated team to seriously flawed in a rather short span of time. (Actually, they were always seriously flawed, but now people are realizing it.) Injuries are once again besieging the New England Patriots, but this time they're having trouble filling in the gaps. Carolina, thought to be a "good team with a bad record," is now pretty much officially a "bad team." Jeff Garcia could very well be leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a playoff berth. The Titans are a scary team to face. The 49ers' run at a division title fell waaaaaaay short. Denver's dominating defense is now getting dominated. The New Orleans Saints will probably have a first-round bye in the playoffs. And LaDainian Tomlinson is scoring touchdowns like crazy. O.K., so the last one has been going on all season long. It's never a bad time to mention what he's been accomplishing, though. But all the other instances are why ya gotta love the NFL. Nothing can be taken for granted. Not even my failures at picking games; I not only went 3-0 with Best Bets, but somehow managed to win my local picks pool. What's going on?
Bill: Tomfoolery? Chicanery? I have spun downward into an embarrassing mess. My picks suck. The Giants are terrifying. The sad thing is that the mediocrity has nothing to do with Ian picking before me; the only game I've wanted to choose was the Patriots-Packers game, which I was right on; it's just everything that was going right before is now going wrong.
Loser Leaguers of the Week
QB: Even the mighty can fall when they don't hold onto the ball. Tom Brady's mighty 3.1 yards per attempt and two fumbles earned him a -1 for the week. Rumor has it that each time Brady is the Losingest Loser of the Week, Bill Belichick cuts a Patriots wide receiver at random. This week, it was Doug Gabriel. Next week, Troy Brown might be lining up across from Ken Walter. David Garrard really does just win! Unfortunately, he doesn't appear to be much of a quarterback. 79 yards and an interception while beating up on Indianapolis works when you have some MJD to chase it with, but that's not going to happen every week.
RB: Where have you gone, ye of high success? Brandon Jacobs takes this category down this week with a single point -- ten yards on eight carries is a Ron Dayne day. On the bright side, he didn't fumble, blow any blocking assignments, or tip any swing passes to the opposing team with hands of stone, so he was slightly better than Dayne. I think the operative word for Ron Dayne catching passes when he got to the NFL was "groping." The NFC South comes up slightly behind, as Cadillac Williams and DeShaun Foster both finished with two points. I feel bad for Cadillac at this point -- every time I see him run, he looks powerful and for the half-second of free space he has, he's even majestic; it's just he gets swallowed up after two yards because Tampa Bay has no passing attack to speak of.
WR: Five guys, one point each. Roddy White, Peerless Price, Reggie Williams, Bobby Wade, and, yes, Chris Chambers. I'm not going to press the Chambers issue anymore. Roddy White would be a Loser League MVP if he could just manage to get two catches a week.
K: Shayne Graham tried. He really did. Missing an extra point is almost guaranteed to earn you a feature in this column -- unfortunately, he had to kick four extra points as well to sully his name. That leaves him with a -1 and ties him with Phil Dawson (who missed a field goal and scored a lone extra point).
Keep Choppin' Wood Award
Ian: There are plenty of worthy candidates for their overall effort this past week. The Indianapolis "run defense" surely deserves mention. Glad they gave up a second-round draft pick for Booger McFarland! New England's offensive line was atrocious against the Dolphins. Jon Kitna's four turnovers were rather detrimental to his team's chances against Minnesota. In Tampa Bay ... Who knows what's going on there. Maybe the managers from "Major League" decided to give them a series of fines for good play, or offered a bonus to the guy named Least Valuable Player this season. Regardless, they pretty much all stink.
Anyways, this week's Keep Choppin' Award winner is none other than ... Deion Branch. In what was one of the very few close games this weekend (only three were decided by less than 10 points), Deion cost the Seahawks a chance at a key divisional victory when he caught a 19-yard pass on fourth-and-20, and instead of diving forwards for a probably first down, instead ran sideways towards the middle of the field before being tackled a yard short. As Aaron mentioned in this week's Audibles -- and I agree -- it seemed pretty clear that he could've had the first down if he just caught the ball, then ran straight ahead. Instead, the Seahawks lost a pivotal NFC game that seriously hurts their chances for a first-round bye in the playoffs. Well done Deion; you're this week's Keep Choppin' Award winner!
Best Bets are BACK!
Ian: (3-0 last week, 17-22-3 overall)
After a 3-0 week last week, I'm feeling good, as I am about this week's bets. On to the picks.
CHICAGO (-13.5) over Tampa Bay
This might the biggest line ever where I'm surprised at how low it is. I thought it would be in the -17.0 range. Tampa Bay's offense has been inept against pretty much everyone; now they head to Chicago where the Bears will feed off their fans and end up eating the Bucs alive.
SEATTLE (-10.0) over San Francisco
Seattle just seems to play so much better at home. Total scores on the road: 131-173. Total scores at home: 150-117. The 49ers are headed in the wrong direction fast, and I don't see that slowing down in Seattle.
BALTIMORE (-10.5) over Cleveland
I guess I'm especially big on home favorites this week. The Ravens can just about lock up their division with a win, so expect them to be relentless in devouring the Browns offense and cruise to an easy victory.
Bill: (1-2 last week, 24-17-1 overall)
If Ian actually beats me this season -- and it's possible at this rate -- I may swear off gambling forever.
NEW ENGLAND (-11) over Houston
I'll follow Ian's lead. David Carr on the road? Bill Belichick is going to have to wash his hoodie to get all the saliva off. Call me crazy, but I don't think Ron Dayne will be able to run as effectively this week.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-6) over Philadelphia
In much the same vein. Jeff Garcia (who I like more than pretty much anyone else at FO but can still understand the criticism of) on the road! It's a simplistic betting style, sure, but there's obviously more to it than that. In fact, the more I think about it, the more similarities these teams have -- speedy running back who loves catching balls out of the backfield, lanky, perpetually underachieving #1 wide receiver, injured star defensive end... I think the home field here will tip the scale in the Giants' favor and a late touchdown will give them the spread. And by think, I really mean hope.
ATLANTA (+3) over Dallas
Now, Tony Romo on the road? Am I crossing a line here? Atlanta's pass defense is acceptable if not incredible, and if Dallas has a weakness, it's their pass protection (23rd in the league according to Adjusted Sack Rate). In addition, Michael Vick is fast enough to freeze Dallas' outside linebackers on blitzes, which means he'll either burn them or create holes to pass into (theoretically, of course). I like Falcons here and -- gasp -- I'm bringing it back. She is 3-2 after the Giants game but she'll be 4-2 after the Falcons beat the Cowboys.