Commish HQ: Two Ideas That Could've Helped You in Week 17

By Reginald James
Reginald James
NOTE: Let’s be clear, I recognize the real-life event that caused the Buffalo-Cincinnati game stoppage. I’m not dismissing what happened in any way, but the following is going to focus on the gaming aspects of what happened because of it.


Anyone who is reading this at this moment is quite aware of what has gone down NFL Week 17, 2022. An NFL game was suspended, which meant that scoring in fantasy leagues came to a screeching halt. For commissioners, the question became how they were going to deal with, or navigate around whether (1), the NFL would reschedule the game or not and (2), in turn, what would the platform commissioners ran their league on, would do as a result.


I’m not going to continue with the “week in review.” What I am going to do instead is point out that this is another situation where commissioners have to be ready to take action, when something like this happens. Moments like this gives commissioners a choice. They can either learn from the moment at hand, and look to make their league better at being able to respond to something out of the ordinary, or they can go “Whew!” and continue on their merry way not learning anything at all. This is what I’m going to talk about.


During Covid Year One, a lot of leagues introduced some form of an IR (injured reserve) slot to rosters for the first time. While some leagues already had that set up in their leagues, the pandemic was the reason many more leagues adopted and now still have IR slots. This is an example where some commissioners had to come up with a solution for a situation that they might not have envisioned. They made changes in their league, and most would suggest for the better.


We’ve also had games suspended before. During Covid Year One, for example, games that were originally slated for Sunday, had to be rescheduled sometimes for Monday, or even Tuesday night. Players played, and fantasy points were scored. The Buffalo-Cincinnati game was suspended for the night. Days later, when the NFL decided that they were going to scrap the whole game, were commissioners ready? Were they ready when Sleeper said they were going to be “scoring Week 17 as is”? How many commissioners took a stand, and added the points back when, unlike Sleeper, Yahoo zeroed out the points for all players involved? Let’s look at some of the scenarios that commissioners had to deal with.


Playoffs? Playoffs?


I’m going to get this one out of the way first. Anyone who has followed my advice column throughout the years know I have a personal preference for non-playoff fantasy football leagues. I’ve written enough about that in the past, and will not go into details here, except to say, that anyone who runs a league that plays the whole season where the team with the best head-to-head record wins, had far less to worry about regarding Week 17, 2022.


Issue: For leagues without a playoff, the only question, was what would the commissioner do if the platform they used zeroed out the scores as if the game never happened? The big problem with this particular game stoppage is how it affected the scoring. The game had barely started. Yes, it was going to suck that teams that had players like Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase and Josh Allen (who had only thrown six passes at that point), who were very likely to score a lot of fantasy points as they had done all season long if the game continued. Some of these managers lost by two points. There was nothing anyone could do about that. However, this would turn out to be one game, part of a full seasonal record with one more week to play.


Solution:  Not a lot of moving parts with this one. A commissioner who disagreed with the complete erasure of stats could at least add back whatever points players had accumulated. If their platform was Sleeper, the points weren’t removed in the first place. On to Week 18.


Lesson: If you run a league with a playoff, it’s your call, no hating over here. However, it wouldn’t hurt to think about how different this season could’ve ended for those in your league. How may people in your league stopped playing fantasy two weeks ago? Do you think they’d like to be playing against their friends or family right now? When you started the league, did you include a playoff for no other reason except “that’s what everybody does”? Everybody doesn’t.


Championship Week!


This is the scenario where leagues suffered the most collateral damage. The point issue was the same as above: either the points that were scored remained, or they were zeroed out (but could be added back). However, fantasy matchups that were close and relying on a game that ended with around six minutes left in the first quarter, were greatly affected.


Commissioners with leagues that had their championship game (with two weeks left in the NFL season) in Week 17, and wanted their respective fantasy finals to reach a completion, had little recourse in finding a solution. Some were upset because they couldn’t extended their season one more week. What a lot of them wanted to do was take the points scored from Buffalo and Cincinnati’s Week 17 game, and use them for the Week 18 game instead. I’m not aware of any major platforms that allowed that.


Issue: As a result, an acceptable completion of these league finals were not going to happen, and yet commissioners had to decide how to declare a winner. The players involved in the NFL game still had almost three and a half quarters left to play. In instances where the fantasy matchups were close, anything could’ve happened as a result.


Toss in money payouts, and the stakes were even higher.


I read that in some leagues where the score was close, the commissioner declared the two finalists as co-champions and the pot was split between the two of them. Meanwhile, some commissioners declared that the person who was in the lead when the NFL game was suspended was the winner. Some commissioners left it up to them whether or not to split the pot. Imagine how that played out in some leagues.


Choosing a winner based on a platform’s game projection was the worst scenario I came across. Lots of us would agree that the projections don’t really mean anything. I think platforms use them as some sort of eye candy for less experienced players to ogle. That’s just my opinion, but the point is, any commissioner who thought using scoring projections (based on what parameters?) was a proper or appropriate way to choose the league winner, should’ve just flipped a coin instead.


Solution: Have a two-week championship series. Commissioners combine the totals of two games to determine the champion: Weeks 15 and 16, Weeks 16 and 17, or Weeks 17 and 18. Your choice. If you are a commissioner who wants a playoff in your league, consider this option. This allows for less moaning about “the best team” having a “bad day” and losing. It will provide insurance against something like what happened with the Buffalo-Cincinnati game. There will be less, or no need to blame Sleeper or Yahoo for something that you can control yourself as commissioner. It’s your job as commissioner to protect your league, not them.


Lesson: You can have your playoff league, but you can also offer your league a better version than what the status quo is getting at the moment. You can better protect your league members from real-life incidents that may disrupt any given week leaving you with few options of remedy. The close of Week 17 brought on a failure to suitably finalize the championship game in lots of leagues. There would’ve been far less angst for commissioners and league members if  Week 17 was the first week of games for a two-game series.



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