Imagine if the Chiefs reach the Super Bowl this year, only for someone to tap Andy Reid on the shoulder and tell him Patrick Mahomes can’t play (please COVID-19 don’t you dare). It’d be totally out of Reid’s control, and it’d immensely reduce Kansas City’s hopes of a ring.
Welcome to season-long fantasy football leagues that play into Week 17. Why do that to yourself? Important players sit out every year when the final week of the NFL regular season comes around, and 2020 is no different. You’ve relied on certain players all season to reach your championship game only for them to be out. It stops becoming a game of skill at that point and grows into a game of luck and timing.
In this particular Week 17, at least Mahomes is an easy call for his fantasy owners. Reid has announced he’ll rest the reigning Super Bowl MVP. But take Josh Allen, who through 16 weeks leads the NFL in fantasy points. The Bills almost certainly won’t play him very long, but how can you know? Buffalo seems intent on keeping its plans close to the vest.
Mahomes and Allen aren’t the only two examples this year, with Ben Roethlisberger coming to mind, as well, along with a handful of top skill players. But they’re the two biggest, and it means at the grandest stage of your fantasy football season, you’ll be without your proverbial ace.
Can you replace Patrick Mahomes?
With only two teams still playing in your 17-week fantasy season, finding someone else to sub in for Mahomes won’t be impossible. Maybe people stopped paying attention and Jalen Hurts is available on the waiver wire. There are still 14 teams trying to secure various playoff seeding or positions in Week 17, and other non-contenders who have a stable QB situation, too.
That’s not the point. Mahomes had the best fantasy QB season ever in 2018, was great again in 2019 and has the third-most fantasy points entering Week 17 this year (behind Allen and Kyler Murray). On paper, there’s no replacing that with some guy on the waiver wire or whatever passer you might have stashed on your bench and never played because you have Mahomes.
Unless the opponent in the championship has Allen or Roethlisberger, it’s likely they’ll get to continue relying on the quarterback that carried them to the title game while the Mahomes owner has to change it all up at a crucial moment. The same thing happened with fantasy superstar Lamar Jackson in 2019, and it’ll keep happening every year moving forward.
Folks might make the case that that’s the type of thing that happens in real life — COVID-19 has certainly increased such a scenario. But fantasy football is meant to be fun. It’s a game. It’s a dumb idea that you should have to play someone other than Mahomes because his real-life team decided to rest him because their record (which is essentially inconsequential to your fantasy league) is so much better than everyone else’s. It’s not that nothing crazy happens in Week 16, but at the very least, the top quarterbacks should still be playing.
The Josh Allen dilemma
The Allen owner in your 17-week fantasy league is envious of the Mahomes owner. At least Mahomes is for sure, 100 percent resting in Week 17. Bills coach Sean McDermott doesn’t want to announce any such news. It would be logical for Buffalo to rest Allen, but unlike with Mahomes, it’s technically still up in the air.
A year ago, the Bills let Allen throw five passes in Week 17 before sitting him down. That could be the case again, and most Allen owners in a championship this week should sit him down. But unlike with Mahomes, there’s going to be that doubt in the back of your head. “What if the Bills play Allen for a half to try and lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC for sure? Could he get 20 fantasy points in a half?”
Who needs that sort of stress in their life on the first Sunday of 2021? Wouldn’t you rather be sitting back having won your championship last week when Allen balled out against the Patriots on Monday night? That sounds so much nicer right about now.
The thing is, there are players out there who will also sit for much of Week 17 that haven’t occurred to anyone. Allen’s role as a star QB for a playoff team without much seeding incentive at least puts him in the speculation spotlight. But non-contenders could choose to play veterans sparingly without anyone knowing before lineups are locked and it’s too late.
Fantasy football is a hard enough game as it is. A football is oddly shaped, and fantasy players draft other fallible human beings in the hope that they perform well statistically in the right combination of weeks to outperform a randomly scheduled assortment of opponents playing the same game. Why make it harder on yourself by having to be a mind reader?
Here’s a New Year’s Resolution for fantasy football in 2021: Stop playing season-long leagues that last 17 weeks. It’s almost never worth the trouble.