Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition. Do offenses score fewer points when playing the same opponent for a second time? Ideal rules for kickers and defenses. Trading out seven-letter kickers. And when to bench Patrick Mahomes. (Spoiler alert: never.)

Question 1

I’m interested to know if points scored on offense tend to fall off in the rematch of divisional foes within the same season and if the second game results in fewer touchdowns and more field goal attempts.

Eric Degerman (Columbia Valley, Wash.)

I played around some with the numbers. They have some nice sorting tools at Pro-Football-Reference.com. There are 48 of these series each year (6 per division), and I looked at the last 10 years. So that’s 1,920 games – if the tendency was for offenses to tail off, it would show up in the big picture. But it doesn’t. Those offenses averaged 21.99 points in the first games of those series; they averaged 21.93 in the follow-up games. Of the 960 offenses, 472 scored more points in the first game, while 442 scored more in the second (with 46 hitting the exact same totals) – not a significant difference.

I remember looking at something similar a few years ago, when there was a lot of complaining that Thursday games were lower scoring. I looked at a lot of numbers and concluded that earlier kickoffs weren’t causing lower scores. Instead, scoring tending to be lower for divisional games. There tend to be more divisional games on Thursdays, and that was creating the false impression that offenses were struggling with the earlier kickoffs. When there are teams from different divisions playing, those games tend to feature a little more scoring, whether they were played on Thursday or Sunday.

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Question 2

I am in the final 4. I am starting Herbert, Adams, Hill and Ridley. I have Butker and Steelers def. My problem is RB, I need 2. Ekeler? I have M Davis; is McCaffrey playing? Bench David Johnson, Gaskin and DeAndre Washington. Who are your 2 RBs?

Jim Venettis (Farmington, MI)

Ekeler has a quad injury, but he’s playing. The Raiders most recently have had the worst run defense in the league. Two weeks in a row they’ve allowed over 200 rushing yards, and one of those opponents were the Jets. With Ekeler also being maybe the most productive pass-catching back in the league, I’m expecting him to be a top-5 back this week. For the other spot, I would be planning on Mike Davis. I think McCaffrey is looking pretty certain to sit out at this point. Like Ekeler, Davis is a catch-run guy. He’s averaged 55 rushing and 26 receiving yards in 10 starts, with 7 TDs.

If Gaskin is cleared off COVID-reserve, we can start mulling whether he should be elevated ahead of Davis. Maybe. He’s also got nice run-catch ability, and the Patriots sure looked awful last week against Cam Akers. But I’m thinking Davis will be your guy.

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Question 3

What is the fairest reflection of points awarded for field goals and defenses? Our 25-year-old league has always awarded the standard 3 points for field goals, with an admittedly wacky 10-point bonus for 50+ yard field goals. We get 3 points for each DEF sack and fumble, 10 points for allowing less than 7 points against, and a similarly wacky 15 points for a defensive safety. Team owners are split between those who like the fun of kickers and defenses occasionally scoring 30-40 points, and those who say, "but it's not fair!" If we wanted to take out the fun settings (you can see I'm on the side of tradition) what do you think are "fair" points settings for field goals and DEFs?

Steven Schipper (Brampton, ON)

We’re completing our 35th season of the DFL. With only a rough idea of what fantasy football even was, we put together our scoring system from scratch back in 1986, with no careful thought to the rules. Ours is a TD-only system, with all scores from 50-plus yards doubled (including field goals). And we’re still mostly the same system today. The most notable changes along the way included separating tight ends in their own position, adding a third wide receiver position and eliminating defenses entirely.

But mostly, it’s my experience that owners don’t like to change rules. They prefer to leave things as is. Any changes we make tend to be of the incremental variety. It’s pulling teeth trying to get people to alter the rulebook.

If I were starting a league today and wanted to go the more complex route on kickers, I think I would use 3 points for field goals, with an extra 1 for every 10 yards (starting at 30 yards). A 40-yarder would be worth 4.0 points, a 45-yarder would be worth 4.5, a 53-yarder would be worth 5.3, and so on. And to add a wrinkle in there, let’s also subtract 1 point for every missed field goal and extra point (regardless of distance).

With defenses, I’d like to see points allowed become a larger factor in the score. That’s the most important factor of a defense, isn’t it? Not sacks or takeaways but keeping opponents out of the end zone. And I think it’s more predictive than hoping for sacks or takeaways. Each week, I think we can in with a good expectation of which defenses should be shutting opponents down. So I like the idea of making 24 points the baseline for defenses. If you allow fewer than 24 points, you get a half point for every NFL point (that is, 20 NFL points = 2 fantasy points, 17 = 3.5 pts, 10 = 7.0, and so on). If you prefer to think in touchdowns, than make 3 TDs the baseline. If a defense allows 2 TDs (pass-run TDs only) it would get perhaps 6 points. Allow only 1 TD and that would be 12 points. And keeping an opposing offense out of the end zone would perhaps be worth 18.

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Question 4

What’s with Wil Lutz lately? He’s not getting many field goal opportunities the past few weeks, and he’s missing a lot of those. You still have him ranked highly; how come? I’m in the finals despite Lutz’s performance, but wonder how long my luck can hold. Hopkins, Parkey, Gay still available in my league.

Eric Pryne (Vashon, WA)

I’m not opposed to switching to Matt Gay. It won’t even cost you any additional letters or syllables under the cap. With an easier matchup (home against the Jets) there are no concerns about the Rams falling way behind and having to go for touchdowns. But you would be giving up a little in terms of accuracy and range. Gay has been there only four games, and he’s missed a couple of kicks. And you’ve got to hope that the struggling Jets and come up with a couple of stops at some point, creating some field goals. With Dustin Hopkins, he’s scored 11 points three games in a row, but I worry about that offenses being able to move the ball at all. And I saw Parkey miss a couple of easy kicks on Monday night. To me, it’s either Gay or Lutz. Lutz has missed a few kicks recently, but I wouldn’t worry much about those – he’s been very accurate over the last five years.

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Question 5

Week 15 semi final game, my season rides on two position choices. At QB, Mahomes or Jared Goff? I picked up Goff for this game because I wasn't crazy about Mahomes' matchup. At WR, I play two of DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Brown, JuJu, Brandon Aiyuk and Brandin Cooks. Keep up the great work, thanks!

John Lasky (Madison, WI)

I can’t think of a matchup where I would be thinking about maybe starting Goff instead of Mahomes. That is, you put Goff on any field against any defense (and he’s got a pretty choice matchup this week), I and would be going with Mahomes. With the wide receivers, I think Smith-Schuster and Cooks can be eliminated. The Steelers have a deep group of pass catchers. With the Texans, they’re on the road against a good defense (when these teams played two weeks ago, Houston had two 100-yard receivers, and Cooks wasn’t one of them). The choice, I think is either Brown or Aiyuk. Aiyuk is just a rookie, but he got a ton of targets last week. Brown has better scoring potential. I’ve got Brown slightly higher on my board.

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Question 6

Have to start 2 QBs and hopefully next week if I advance past this round. Taysom Hill, Big Ben, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, could also pick up Jalen Hurts.


If Taysom Hill is starting, then he should be one your guys. He’s got his flaws (he doesn’t have the accuracy, experience or decision-making ability of Drew Brees). But he’s an active runner, and fantasy scoring system tend to slanted in favor those guys. For your second starter, I think it’s Roethlisberger. You roll him out there and hope he puts up his 260 yards and a couple of touchdowns. I don’t think Stafford is going to play, so if we get down to where Hill isn’t starting and you need another quarterback, it will be Mayfield or Hurts. Mayfield is the better real-life option, but with Hurts being another quarterback in the Taysom Hill mold, I think his numbers will be better.

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