Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition. Weighing Rivers versus Winston in an all-important playoff matchup. Reducing luck in scheduling. Whatever happened to Jacksonville's defense? Doubling down on the Chargers backfield. And is Jarvis Landry ready for a big game?
I'm choosing between Jameis Winston and Philip Rivers at QB in my playoff game this week. You seem to be high on Winston vs. NO, and lukewarm on Rivers vs. the lowly Bengals. Seems opposite of what I've read elsewhere. How strongly do you feel Winston will out-produce Rivers? I'm thinking the NO defense will be angry this week, and Winston makes me nervous - even at home.
JEFF POWERS (Coral Springs, FL)
If we’re looking at just touchdown passes, I will take Rivers. He’s thrown multiple touchdown passes in every game, and I think he’ll keep that going. If we’re looking at passing yards, I will give Winston a slight edge. The Bucs aren’t putting up the kind of monster yards they were early in the season. They opened the season with over 360 passing yards in seven straight games, but they’ve thrown for only 312 and 249 in the last two – I think they’re being more careful with the ball. But Winston is still a much safer choice for passing yards than Rivers. The Chargers aren’t as wide open as you might think. Rivers has finished with fewer than 260 passing yards in over half of his games. They’ve run for more than 140 yards in four games, and Rivers has had lesser yardage games in all four of those games. This week they’re at home against a Bengals defense that might be the worst in the league against the run this year. So even with Melvin Gordon out, I think they’ll run it plenty, with Rivers not throwing it all over the yard. Looks like one of those games where he easily could finish with 230-240 yards and 2-3 TDs. The third stat category I think we need to look at is rushing production. Rivers doesn’t run at all. Winston has only average mobility, but he’s strongly embracing that portion of the game right now – if guys aren’t open, then take off and pick up some scramble yards rather than forcing passes. He’s averaged 35 rushing yards in the five games he’s started. That’s like him getting a head start of 70 passing yards per week when compared to Rivers (who has run for minus-1 yard in his 12 games). When I put together my numbers, I’ve got Winston as the better of the two quarterbacks in standard scoring. Rivers in TD-only.
We are having a pretty heated discussion about "lucky" League Schedules. We are in a 12 team head-to-head league, playing a different team every week, and in Weeks 12-14 playing the teams we played in Weeks 1-3. One of owners has been sending out emails showing how each team would do if they had another teams schedule (he is an actuary). What is the typical schedule format? And what other types of schedules are being used? We voted down using a Breakdown Schedule, where you play everyone each week, which I feel would be most fair, but not as much fun as head-to-head. There is discussion of using head-to-head, but giving the top 6 scoring teams each week an extra win, and the bottom 6 scoring teams an extra loss.
GEORGE CHURCHFIELD (Phoenix, AZ)
When you’re in a 12-team league with three divisions of four teams, you’re playing everyone once, and you’re playing those three teams in your division a second time. I like to see those divisional games separated (open with three in the division, then play those same teams in the last three weeks of the season). That way if a team loses a key player, it’s more likely to have a more even effect on the other teams in the division. Also by having the divisional games early and late, they aren’t affected by byes. I like that. The divisional games are more important (that’s your sub-league, and you want those teams to be at full strength for those games).
When you go with head-to-head, there is a luck component. Almost every year one of the top 4 teams won’t make the playoffs. That’s the nature of the beast. It’s part of the fun. Nathan the actuary can complain that he’s had the highest-scoring or best team in three of the past 11 years but has never actually won it. And you know that even if you have a lesser team, you just need to get hot (or have an opponent have an off game) to come up with a key win. If you want to turn down the luck factor, you could give a bonus win each week to the top 6 scorers. I’ve never tried that, but I think it would work nicely. So then each week, you would have a mixture of teams going 2-0, 1-1 and 0-2. In our league about 10 years ago, we changed our playoff format. It’s hard to make the playoffs when only four are getting in. So we changed to a six-team playoff field. The top 2 teams get byes, of course, so there’s an advantage if you can have a really good regular season. The bottom 2 teams have to play in the Toilet Bowl, so typically every team enters the final week of the regular season with something to play for. With an extra week for the playoffs (and not wanting to use Week 17), we have to play the 14-game regular season in 13 weeks. So on the final week of the regular season, each team plays a double-header.
Can we trust Landry again? I hear he was dealing with a injury but is now 100 percent.
David Kennedy (Steamburg, NY)
In Baker Mayfield’s first eight starts, Landry averaged only 44 receiving yards, with 2 TDs. Pretty ordinary, and I don’t recall hearing anything about him being hurt. I don’t remember seeing him limping around in any games or taking any big hits. But Landry came up with a big game at Houston, catching 6 passes for 103 yards, with a one-handed catch that was very impressive. I would be comfortable using him this week. The Browns are at home, and they’re playing against a Carolina defense that’s struggled against the pass all year. The Panthers have allowed multiple touchdown passes in 11 straight games, and if not for an unlikely comeback at Philadelphia, they would be 0-6 on the road.
The Chargers have a great matchup this week vs. the Bengals D. Given that we're not sure how the workload will be split between Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, would you start both of them this week over Spencer Ware and Marlon Mack, who have tough matchups? Starting two running backs on the same team seems risky, but you'd be getting all of the backfield points.
Mark Christie (Fairport, NY)
Makes sense to me. On my board, I’ve got both of the Chargers backs ranked higher than both Ware and Mack. In that offense, lots of passes go to the running backs, which much be factored in. The tendency is to think of Mack as more of a full-time, starting running back – a guy who’ll play a lot more than Ekeler and Mack. But that might not be accurate. In the Jacksonville game last week, Nyheim Hines was on the field for almost twice as many plays as Mack. As poorly as Cincinnati has been playing against the run, I would roll with Ekeler and Jackson.
The Jacksonville Defense was ranked #1 in the preseason but is in the bottom half for the year. What went wrong? Injuries? Stronger schedule then thought? Coaching?
Jim Backstrom (Henderson, NV)
It’s still a good defense. They’ve got a bunch of great players on that side of the ball – Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Myles Jack, Calais Campbell, Telvin Smith, Yannick Ngakoue. They shut out Indianapolis last week, and they had a similar game going against Pittsburgh a few weeks back before falling apart in the fourth quarter. The defense has allowed more than 2 TDs in fewer than half of the games. Yet sacks have fallen from 55 to 25. I can’t explain that. Some can be attributed to scheduling. When the Jaguars played Indianapolis and Houston last year, it was with Jacoby Brissett, Tom Savage, T.J. Yates and Deshaun Watson (in his first game) at quarterback. They had 28 sacks in those games (over half of their total). If we do nothing more than remove those games, the Jaguars last year were on pace for 36 sacks, which is more of an average total. The Colts this year have Luck at quarterback, along with a better offensive line and a cleverly re-worked offense – they’ve allowed only 14 sacks in 12 games. Some of the blame can probably fairly be placed on the offense – if it were doing a better job of gaining yards and scoring points, it would create more opportunities for the defense to get after opponents. Time of possession is down over a minute this year. Probably some can be attributed to coaching, and probably some to opponents being more aware of the need to be careful against this pass rush. But it’s complicated, and beyond my level of expertise to adequately explain.
I was wondering, in your leagues, what different kind of methods do you use for determining draft order? Do you have a favorite? In my main redraft H2H league, we have a team that is 2nd in points scored, yet is 5-7 and about to miss the playoffs. I was thinking about proposing a rule that we use total points against (in reverse) as a way to determine next year's order to throw a bone to the teams that simply ran into meat grinders each week.
Scott Anderson (Lakewood, CO)
I am the commissioner of only one league. We use an auction, and I really like that format – gives everyone a fair chance to get that player that they really want to have. But reading about your league got me thinking. Maybe you could take all of the teams that didn’t make the playoffs and put them a consolation tournament. The winner of that bracket, perhaps could be given first choice of where he wanted to draft the following season. (Just that one team – it would be more controversial and require more discussion to have all of the non-playoff teams getting the preferred draft spots.)
What is your take on playing an opponent where you have the WR of a team and they have the QB? Who does that benefit and is that a scenario one side or another should avoid? An example is if I play a certain team in Week 15; they have Keenan Allen and I have Rivers. Is that a reason to start Ben or something that shouldn't factor in?
Bill Petilli (Harrison, NY)
It’s not something I pay much attention to. Typically I’m just trying to put my best eight guys on the field. (That’s the downside, I suppose, of having to submit lineups for five different fantasy teams each week – I usually don’t look at the lineup being submitted by an opponent.) I suppose you could use your opponent’s lineup to try to reason out the best starting combination, but I doubt that you could successfully implement a strategy that would ultimately result in you winning more games over the next 10 years. I try not to overthink it – I just put together a viable lineup and see what happens.
Are there ethics in fantasy football? I'm out of the playoffs in a couple of leagues, but with a decent shot at the title in a couple of others. If I'm picking up players just to grab a final week win and make myself feel good about my crappier teams, am I doing any real damage to the teams that are trying to get ready for the playoffs? I just lost Green on my best team and it would kinda suck if a 6-7 team outbid me on a decent receiver just to have a good showing in the consolation games. I see both ways here.
MIKE HERNANDEZ (Yakima, WA)
Compete. That’s what we do. I don’t care if my team is 8-5 or 5-8. I’m approaching the games the same way. I’ll be bidding on all the key free agents and putting together the lineup that gives me the best chance to win on Sunday.
Heard you on the podcast talking about running marathon and half marathons. Would you be able to please share your training regimen? Would love to get into that myself and interested to see what someone with lots of experience does in preparation.
Mike Bayless ()
The last four years, I’ve been using a program from Hal Higdon’s website (www.halhigdon.com). He’s got a wide variety of options. I think they’re all 18 weeks long. If your goal is simply to complete your first half marathon, they’ve got programs for that. If you’ve run some of them and you’re looking to go faster, you pick one of the more ambitious options. Basically, get yourself in reasonable shape, then be ready to run six days per week for 18 weeks. I’ve been doing the “Advanced 1” program, which calls for about 720 miles of running over the 18 weeks. I did the same program this year but ran the half rather than the full, and I liked the change. For me, the half is more of a race. You’re still out there for a fair amount of time, but you have more ability to open it up and run. You don’t have to worry about conserving your resources so you don’t run out of steam in the last few miles. I very much enjoyed the half a few weeks back, and that’s the one I’ll be running next November.
I see the rankings but which one of these players do you think has the biggest upside this week Lamar Miller, Curtis Samuels, Marquise Goodwin? From a TE prospective are you a believer in Ian Thomas or should I just continue to start Kyle Rudolph. I am in a PPR league.
Tom Clark (Camas, WA)
Goodwin isn’t in the discussion. It’s Miller or Samuels, and you’ll have to pick one. If it were standard scoring, I would roll with Miller. He’s gone over 100 yards in four of his last six. With it being PPR scoring, I see the projections work out to those guys being worth the same amount. Miller doesn’t catch a lot of passes. With Samuel now being (I think) a starter, he’s definitely going to catch some balls. With the tight ends, I wouldn’t make a change unless I had some confidence I was getting better. When Greg Olsen got hurt earlier in the year, Thomas caught 2-3 passes in four straight games.