Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Liberty and Peace? The Thanksgiving Beat Down

"You are hereby pardoned!"
As you may have gathered from today's news, Liberty and his understudy Peace were pardoned by the President of the United States of America for release from captivity to live out a life of tranquility at Mount Vernon. But for some Brothers Keeper fantasy football players it will be anything but peace and liberty this weekend. Only three teams have clinched a playoff birth while the seven remaining teams haven't.

Just when you thought you had heard the last of the 3 - 7 teams, ThePunchin Munchkins and Points ON the Bench, we were all surprised to see their new lease on life. These turkeys were given their own pardon when they won their week 11 contests. In conjunction with their wins, the two 4 - 6 teams, Simba's Buttkicker! and Yer X-MOM lost. Plus, both 5 - 5 teams lost, that is, Rmmm's Golden Eagle and Forever Tide.

If the past two weeks weren't exciting enough in Brothers Keeper they will now become a distant memory to the excitement of the next two weeks when the regular season standings are finalized for playoff placements. Every single one of this week's games/matchups features a team vying for entrance into the playoffs. No one is mathematically eliminated yet and the race is even tighter than last week. Even MOTHERSHIP RUSH has yet to clinch despite his 6 - 5 record. He could continue his second half collapse and with two more losses he could miss the playoffs like three others.

Let's look at this week's matchups to see the potential standings going into the final week. The first matchup of importance is between Rmmm's Golden Eagle and Yer X-MOM. If Yer X-MOM wins he will have a tied record with Rmmm's Golden Eagle. As of now, Rmmm's Golden Eagle is leading in total points scored this year by 63.64 FP. Yer X-MOM's poor week 11 performance put him at a further disadvantage in that category. But the win is important first for these two teams. Without a winning percentage tie the total FP scored is of no concern at the end of the regular season.

The second most important game is the matchup between MOTHERSHIP RUSH and Forever Tide. While both are currently in a playoff spot they both could easily lose it. Both teams are the lowest scoring teams of the current playoff contenders. Two of the  4 - 7 teams have comparable fantasy point totals and will be difficult to overcome if MOTHERSHIP RUSH or Forever Tide loses this game. It is more important that Forever Tide wins than for MOTHERSHIP RUSH due to the one win more advantage.

The final three matchups this week will pit one team that has clinched a playoff spot against a team that is 4 - 7. Simba's Buttkicker!, Points ON the Bench, and ThePunchin Munchkin all have the difficult position of being on the fence against formidable foes. If they all three lose their chances will be diminished significantly. If this scenario plays out and Rmmm's Golden Eagle and Forever Tide both win all four of the 4 - 7 teams will be mathematically eliminated. So it is still important to the 4 - 7 teams to see one or both of the 5 - 6 teams falter this week to their foes. If all the 4 - 7 teams win and Forever Tide loses to MOTHERSHIP RUSH we could have 6 teams all at 5 - 7 once week 12 ends. All teams will still have to fight on for the last two playoff seeds.

Seven of the ten Brothers Keeper teams have yet to learn this year's fate. As of now, there is no telling which turkeys will be set free to roam the playoffs or which ones will suffer a life threatening beat down. Hopefully it will be less convoluted after the Thanksgiving weekend games. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Updated Look at the Standings Going Forward

With an exciting week 10 of Brothers Keeper matchups behind us, the current standings are thus:

Now let's make a few observations about the future. Ghost has clinched the playoffs. He cannot miss the playoffs. He still can and should attempt to maintain one of the top two positions in order to gain a week 14 bye and guarantee an appearance in the semifinals in week 15. With his record of playoff collapses he will need everything he can to help himself succeed at that critical juncture.

With three weeks remaining in the regular season and with five remaining playoff spots yet to be confirmed it is anyone's guess as to what will happen. If we were to assume that all three teams currently at 6 - 4 win one of their next three remaining games, they will be at a minimum of a 7 - 6 record. While this does not guarantee a playoff spot as the four teams with either the 5 - 5 record and 4 - 6 record could also achieve this (although I have not considered the matchups at this point either to see if this were possible), it does put them at a much higher probability of making the playoffs. It would be hard for them to miss the playoffs because they would not only have to lose two games but also be beaten out by total points for the season. So let's skip to the lower probability bunch of teams vying for the 5th and 6th playoff seeds. That's where the action is and where the more important fight is on, namely, to enter the playoffs or be disgraced.

Rmmm's Golden Eagle and Forever Tide currently sit in those 5th and 6th playoff seed positions. In order to give them the best chance to make the playoffs they need to win their next three games giving them an 8 - 5 record. Obviously. Does this seem likely? Let's take a look at their upcoming matchups.

Rmmm Golden Eagle's remaining matchups are against ThePunchin Munchkins, Yer X-MOM, and Yankinfowlsandfeline. On first appearance this looks to be one easy matchup, one neutral matchup, and one difficult matchup. ThePunchin Munchkins can play a spoiler role for Rmmm's Golden Eagle in week 11. Yer X-MOM is just as tough as Rmmm's Golden Eagle and is playing for a playoff spot of his own. Then Rmmm's Golden Eagle plays a difficult final game of the regular season against Yankinfowlsandfeline. Rmmm's Golden Eagle's chance at the playoffs is probably right about 50%. The game with Yer X-MOM will be the most crucial but week 11 against ThePunchin Munchkins is no gimme either since a number of important players on Rmmm's Golden Eagle will be on their bye. Regardless, Rmmm's Golden Eagle probably has the best chance to keep the 5th playoff seed spot he currently resides in.

Forever Tide's remaining games are against Ghost, MOTHERSHIP RUSH, and Points ON the Bench. Forever Tide has one difficult matchup and two opponents he is more evenly matched with. The key to Forever Tide's success as a fantasy team is his two main RBs. Unfortunately, both R Mathews RB and S Jackson RB each have two very difficult run defenses to play against on week 11 and week 13. Forever Tide will need to focus on winning week 12 against MOTHERSHIP RUSH to give himself the best chance to at least be in mix for the 6th playoff seed going into week 13. Otherwise losing three games may seal his fate if Yer X-MOM wins one game. Points ON the Bench could very well be this rookie's spoiler at a playoff berth come week 13.

What about Yer X-MOM and Simba's Buttkicker!? Do they have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs while currently at 4 - 6? In theory they would need to win at least two of their next three games and have one or both of the 5 - 5 teams lose two of their next three games, just to tie them in wins. Obviously then it comes down to total points thereafter for any ties. But let's look at their schedules for clarity.

Yer X-MOM will play Yankinfowlsandfeline, Rmmm's Golden Eagle, and TheSloppyButts. From a pure total fantasy point perspective Yer X-MOM has the hardest remaining schedule of the four teams competing for the 5th and 6th playoff spots. Plus, Yer X-MOM has A Foster RB, B Roethlisberger QB, M Wallace WR, and R Mendenhall RB on a bye in week 11. That is one unlucky bye week disadvantage. The odds for Yer X-MOM making the playoffs may be better than Simba's Buttkicker! but definitely not as good as Rmmm's Golden Eagle and Forever Tide. He will definitely need to take it one game at a time and hope for the best case scenario. It will come down to the depth of his bench players covering the week 11 byes.

Simba's Buttkicker! is scheduled to compete against TheSloppyButts, Ghost, and MOTHERSHIP RUSH. Simba's Buttkicker! by far has the most difficult road to attain the playoffs on account of three things. First, he has the league's worst total fantasy points scored. Second, he plays two of the top three fantasy point scorers in the league this year. His "easiest" opponent will be MOTHERSHIP RUSH who has outscored Simba's Buttkicker! by 75.95 points this season, a mere 7.595 FP per game. The third factor that will be detrimental to Simba's Buttkicker's downfall is the potential season ending Lisfranc injury to QB Matt Schaub.

So who will play this year's spoiler? Who will hold on to their playoff spot? Who will catch the winds of chance and make the improbable happen? We shall see as it continues. So play hard till the end. There's no fat lady within sight yet.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Evaluating the Current State of the League Standings

At Brothers Keeper we are at an interesting crossroads in the 2011 campaign. With ten teams contending for six playoff spots a completely competitive weekend of matchups begins tonight with the start of Thursday night NFL games. So let's take some time to look at the current state of the league's standings and where it could end up after week 10.

The current Brothers Keeper standings:

Let's begin with a few observations. The first place team is the leading point scorer. The last place team has scored the least amount of fantasy points. This is usually expected but not always true. It should be noted that 267.98 fantasy points separate the top team from the worst team which averages out to 29.76 points per week. This is a significant advantage.

To break it down more broadly, four teams have scored more than 1000 FP with two of those over 1100 FP. Four of the five teams that have scored over 900 points only have 17.01 FP separating them.

However, if we were to consider the league as a whole the average fantasy points scored is 996 with a standard deviation of 84 points. Spread out over nine weeks and the average score is 110.67 fantasy points with teams winning by about 9.34 points. It is remarkably competitive this year as evidenced also by a number of games decided by less than 1 fantasy point. If week nine's results were different, Brothers Keeper could have had two teams at 5 - 4, six teams at 4 - 5, and one team at 3 - 6. That is nine teams vying with a significant chance for the last five playoff spots with four weeks of play remaining.

Because of this week's matchups the standings could potentially be more compact:

1. Ghost could be 8 - 2 or 7 - 3 (plays Points ON the Bench)
2. MOTHERSHIP RUSH could be 7 - 3 or 6 - 4 (plays Yankinfowlsandfeline)
3. Yankinfowlsandfeline could be 6 - 4 or 5 - 5 (plays MOTHERSHIP RUSH)
4. TheSloppyButts could be 6 - 4 or 5 - 5 (plays Forever Tide)
5. Forever Tide could be 6 - 4 or 5 - 5 (plays TheSloppyButts)
6. Rmmm's Golden Eagle could be 5 - 5 or 4 - 6 (plays Simba's Buttkicker!)
7. Simba's Buttkicker! could be 5 - 5 or 4 - 6 (plays Rmmm's Golden Eagle)
8. Points ON the Bench could be 4 - 6 or 3 - 7 (plays Ghost)
9. Yer X-MOM could be 4 - 6 or 3 - 7 (plays ThePunchin Munchkins)
10. ThePunchin Munchkins could be 4 - 6 or 3 - 7 (plays Yer X-MOM)

Obviously not all three teams currently at 3 - 6 will be 4 - 6 since two of those teams play each other. This was just a scan of each team's win - loss records if they won or if they lost. By using fractional points, it is hard to imagine a tie will occur in any of this week's matchups. But this should be a quick guide for you to consider what the potential standings will be after week 10 if you think through each matchup's winner or loser.

Moving from the bottom to the top of the standings, what we can affirm for sure about the standings after week 10 is as follows:

1. There will be at least one team at 3 - 7, possibly two at most.
2. There will be at least two teams at 4 - 6, possibly three at most.
3. There will be at least two teams at 5 - 5, possibly three at most.
4. There will be at least one team at 6 - 4, possibly three, but not two.

This means that there is a ton of potential for most teams to still fight for the playoffs in the final three weeks of the regular season. In the most competitive week ten standings eight teams could be within two wins of one another. That would be three teams at 4 - 6, two at 5 - 5, and three at 6 - 4. It ain't over until it is over folks.

So how did it get this way? My guess, the new 3 Factor Power Ranking Draft Order, better drafting (although we will need to see if this is true after the season is completed), better team building (keeper declarations), and possibly better sit/start decisions has helped the parity. These will have to be explored at a later date, but the fact remains that Brothers Keeper is healthy in its competition this year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Success Cycle of Fantasy Football

I love to watch a professional sports organization be smart.

Having had the good fortune of living in Dallas, TX the past decade it was more enjoyable for me to watch the process of how the Texas Rangers built their team than to merely see them attend the World Series in consecutive years. The youngest General Manager in MLB history, Jon Daniels, began his work in 2005. When he initially landed the GM position he had pieces at the Major League level that he could use to grow lasting success in the future (e.g., Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, R. A. Dickey, Edison Volquez etc.). He wasn't cavalier about it, he just knew it wasn't the right time for the organization to push for a championship when he began. So he built a farm system envied by the rest of baseball. He drafted high upside prospects and even did moves to gain extra earlier draft picks. Daniels signed talented players from foreign countries too. He built the organizations strong foundation.

But that's not the only thing. Daniels also knew when to trade away the future talent for a chance at the playoffs. At a certain point an organization can only hold on to so much talent in the farm system before it bottlenecks into stunted or unusable talent. Jon Daniels knew that was the scenario early in 2010 and has been able to extend the Texas Rangers' success by not selling the entire farm in just one year. What I was able to witness and enjoy over the course of 6+ years has been dubbed "The Success Cycle." There was a time to buy and a time to sell and the organization has produced success in ways it never had before and Jon Daniels was the smart one who knew where on that cycle the team was at any given time.

In annual redraft fantasy football leagues you don't have this Success Cycle that keeper or dynasty fantasy leagues offer. Your team is largely based on how good your draft goes. However, for keeper or dynasty leagues we get to think about building our teams all year long. We make waiver wire pick ups and drops and trades with this constantly in mind. The hesitancy to move is much more evident. Trades get analyzed for years. They will either help or haunt you for a long time. Knowing where your team is on the Success Cycle will help you go a long way in preparing for next year.

First, you need to know your league's rules. How many teams enter the playoffs? How many keepers will you be able to retain and what will be their future draft value? How many fantasy points has your team totaled over the course of the season compared to other teams in the league. How many fantasy points have been scored against your team during the course of the season thus far? Have you had a hard schedule or a difficult schedule? Were you plagued by injuries or bye week collapses? These and other factors will help you figure out your team's current status on the Success Cycle.

Second, once you know your team's status on the Success Cycle you need to plan and execute the actions that you deem helpful to advance the way you want your team to advance. Otherwise you are remaining stable sticking to the original plan, whether it will be successful or not.

By the end of week 10 you know where your keeper or dynasty fantasy football team is in the standings and whether or not it has a chance to make the playoffs this year or not. Some leagues, like this year's Brothers Keeper standings remain competitive far into the league year by curbing parity through the 3 Factor Power Ranking Draft Order. While perennially successful teams like P Smith's Yer X-MOM and M Peltonen's ThePunchin Munchkins have never missed the playoffs in Brothers Keeper league history, both currently share a 3-6 win-loss record going in to week 10. They both happen to be playing one another in week 10. The loser of the week 10 matchup will likely miss the playoffs despite the fact that there are currently three teams at 5-4, two teams at 4-5, and three teams at 3-6. The same can also be said of Point ON the Bench if he loses in week 10 to the first place team, Ghost (currently 7-2). He is the third team with the 3-6 win-loss record. So, depending on the week 10 results Brothers Keeper should begin to see teams either trade for a better chance to win the championship or begin the planning for 2012 thus entering the second step. Where some teams are in the Success Cycle will be readily apparent.

Where your team is on the Success Cycle matters and keeper or dynasty league teams should be encouraged to buy or sell accordingly with the impending trade deadlines nearing quickly (for Brothers Keeper that is, Friday November 18th). Whether you are buying or selling any keeper or dynasty league owner should take an honest assessment of where their team is on The Success Cycle, create a plan that you think will advance you and try to execute the plan. Good luck!