Week 17 championship games are treated like eight-team leagues or a point system without decimal scoring: Why would your league still do that? We look at them like archaic leftovers from a time when commissioners tallied scores out of a newspaper and you'd find out how your team did by catching a sports recap show after the games had been played. I've been playing fantasy football for so long, I remember actually faxing scores to interested owners. Not quite a carrier pigeon, but not too far off.
And still, years later, I have some appreciation for week 17. Here's why.
The most obvious benefit is that you get another week of football. You know that, of course, but do you realize how much you're really missing? If your league offers six playoff spots and bye weeks to the top teams, you're looking at a 13-week regular season. Factor in bye weeks, and you're actually getting just 12 games out of your players before playoff time. That's without injuries, suspensions or holdouts. A dozen games is your best-case scenario. A week 17 championship puts a little more football in your fantasy football.
And for all the fretting about players resting, parity has ensured the vast majority of guys are going to be out there in week 17. Aside from the Saints, Seahawks and Cowboys, the other teams in contention are either battling for home-field advantage, byes, division titles (and the accompanying home game) or playoff spots. Sure, that affects some fantasy teams. But is it really that much more disturbing than an untimely injury to James Conner or Todd Gurley? Is it worth losing an entire week of football?
Besides, some folks like the extra wrinkle of strategy. Week 17 won't upend your entire roster, but it requires some forethought on the waiver wire, and tough choices on the bench. You don't get to coast with a dominant lineup. There will be viable starters on the waiver wire, and the lower-seeded teams might get first crack at them. A couple of curves before the finish line can make for an interesting playoffs in your league.
All of those are good reasons for a week 17 championship. But let's not pretend there aren't great arguments on the other side as well. With a couple different outcomes last weekend, a few more teams would have been eliminated, making week 17 look very different. And while the league tinkers with the schedule so contending teams usually play at the same time, that outcome isn't always the case. An owner might have to figure out whether a late-game starter will actually play. If their best replacement is an early-game starter, that decision could determine the league title. Is gambling on an early game's outcome really the best way to crown a champion?
Besides, it's not just playoff teams that rest starters. After setting a record for receptions at his position, Christian McCaffrey carried plenty of fantasy teams to championship games. Unfortunately, the Panthers are indicating they want to look at other players since he has the record and the team is eliminated. What happens to those fantasy teams? How do you replace a guy like that?
For some teams, week 17 is almost like a fifth preseason game. They'll evaluate young talent and let minor injuries keep a starter out of the lineup. You've seen a bunch of guys go on injured reserve recently, and many of them could have stayed on the roster. It just wasn't worth it. Would a couple of them have earned a spot on a fantasy team if they were still playing?
With players sitting out the last week for different reasons, is that the right atmosphere to settle the season-long battle for the league title? At what point does an interesting wrinkle become a major handicap for great owners who did the right things all season long?
If it sounds like I'm arguing both sides, I guess you're right. I play in leagues that have week 16 championships, and leagues that extend it one week longer. I'm fine with both. I just think that the week 17 championship gets criticized as being a relic of a past era that holds no value. And I think that, aside from nostalgia, there are good reasons to keep the game going a little longer. It's still fun and it's still fantasy football. And if your league has a week 17, I hope you're a part of it. After all, there is no week 18. Good luck this week.
Does your league play through week 17? What are the positives and negatives? Do you prefer a week 16 title game? Share your thoughts below.