Engel's Mailbag: Final decisions
Engel: Both Warner and Bulger are good starts this week in what should be a high-scoring affair between the Cardinals and Rams. The Cardinals are more of a pass-first team, and Warner has been playing so well recently that there is no way you can justify benching him unless you own Tom Brady. Warner has thrown three touchdown passes in each of the past three games, and he has been a must-start during the second half of the fantasy season, with a total of 18 touchdown passes from Week 10 on. The Rams have a more balanced offensive attack and will likely rely more heavily on Steven Jackson to help them control time of possession. The St. Louis pass defense has also dropped off recently and allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw for three touchdowns last week. Bulger threw for three scores in that game also, but he has not been as consistently outstanding as Warner. Use Warner for sure. Defensively, you don't want to go with Tampa Bay in a meaningless game against Carolina in which the Buccaneers may rest many top starters. Minnesota needs to win this week and is a highly recommended option, but Washington is also facing a must-win scenario, and the Cowboys will likely rest many of their top players for most of the game. I definitely prefer Washington's defense against the Dallas backups.
Engel: Dayne could be limited by an ankle issue again this week, and you may see more of Darius Walker again, so Dayne is not in the running. Norwood could see more action against some Seattle second-stringers this week and is worth consideration as a flex option, but not as a No. 2 running back if you have better options, which you do. That does not include Henry, a risky pick as he winds down a disappointing season, or Rhodes, who ran well last week but figures to be less effective against the Chargers. Your best option is Watson, who will get the start again in the season finale. He's an excellent choice this week against a Miami defense that allows more than 158 rushing yards per game, the most in the NFL.
Engel: Rivers may not play a full game against the Raiders, and Oakland's opponents tend to focus on running the ball. San Diego can easily build a comfortable lead against Oakland and wrap up the No. 3 seed in the AFC without any major contributions from Rivers. Croyle has apparently gotten past a hand injury and will start against the Jets, but he has been mediocre as a starter, and I would not want to use him in a fantasy championship game. Collins has settled in nicely as a starter for Washington and has already thrown two touchdown passes in two of his past three games. He will be playing against a Dallas team that will likely rest many of its top defenders for an extended period, and he has the edge in experience over Croyle. Collins has a good matchup, the Redskins have to win, and he is the best of your three choices.
Jason: I wanted to tell you about my 16-team league format and ask your opinion on our scoring and playoff positioning. We have a scoring system that is almost one of a kind, and I think it's cool. Here's a quick rundown: All touchdowns are worth six points. Quarterbacks get three points for 300 yards passing and three extra points for a passing touchdown or 50 rushing yards. Interceptions are minus-one point. Running backs get three points at 100 and 125 rushing yards and three points for 50-plus receiving yards. Wide receivers get six points for a 100-yard game and tight ends get three points at 50 receiving yards. Special teams play no part in our league.
We start one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end and a kicker and defense. We have four divisions of four teams each, which are randomly drawn after the draft to prevent teams from blocking each other in the draft. The top two teams from each division make the playoffs, even if there is a team with a better record finishing third or fourth in another division. The commissioner in this league defends the top-two-from-division format because it keeps teams in the hunt longer. We had a team start 0-7 this year, and it was not officially eliminated until Week 10. Also, our first and last three games are divisional games.
Do you agree that since this is a game for fun that this format works better? Or do you feel that if a team has a better record they should go to the dance no matter what? For example, we had a 6-8 team make the playoffs over an 8-6 team. To further touch on the scoring, my commissioner says with this format, our scores come out more like football scores than basketball scores. Instead of games being 120-135, they are usually more like 35-24.
Engel: First with your scoring system, it's not something I would endorse or participate in, but if you guys enjoy it, that is really what matters. Many fantasy owners prefer different scoring formats, and some even still play in rotisserie or total points leagues. I think your scoring system does render a lot of performances useless. If a quarterback doesn't throw for 300 yards or a running back doesn't reach the 100-yard mark, he is next to invisible for that week unless he scores. If a running back reaches 80 rushing yards, that's a decent performance that should be reflected in the numbers. This is especially true in a large league like yours, where such bonuses are not reached very often by a lower-tier starter, and some players just deliver zeroes.
At quarterback, it's not easy to reach 300 yards, so I would personally at least like to see one point for every 100 yards in this type of system. Adding another three points for a passing score "overweights" the quarterbacks when all other touchdowns are worth six points. I like rewarding running backs for receiving yards, but there should be at least one point awarded for 50 rushing yards. The same should be true of wide receivers, who seem to get a rather lopsided bonus at 100 yards. Special team scores should not be completely ignored. As for final scores being like "basketball scores," that doesn't matter to most fantasy players. I think most standard scoring systems more accurately reflect player performances than yours does. Good scoring is about reflecting a player's full value, not to reach a certain final score.
As for divisions, I am totally against it unless the teams in divisions have a unifying theme. In the NFL, divisions are mostly based on geography. If you are the NFC West champion, you are the best in the West. To randomly assign divisions makes no sense to me. If you are a division champion in that format, that only means you lucked out to a certain degree. You're only the best of a random group.
Division teams should be unified by some common theme, whether it's geography, years of experience, past records or any other thread that makes sense. A six-win team should simply not make the postseason over an eight-win team just because of a random division assignment. That's just not right. If the goal is to keep teams interested for longer, reward teams every week with bonuses for high scores or base the following season's draft picks on best records of non-playoff teams first. The team with the best record that doesn't make the playoffs gets the top draft choice next season. Teams that start injured reserve or bye players should get fines.
Again, I may not agree with your scoring, but if no one is complaining, let things be. As for divisions, though, I strongly believe your format doesn't accomplish anything positive, and there are other methods of keeping teams interested for the full season.
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.