Fantasy football league champion solutions if Bills/Bengals game is not rescheduled

Editor’s note: This column will explore options for fantasy leagues that might remain in limbo in terms of deciding their final standings if the NFL chooses to not reschedule the Cincinnati/Buffalo game that was suspended on Monday night after the serious injury sustained by Bills safety Damar Hamlin. Obviously, Hamlin’s health is our foremost concern, and to that end, the Bills offered us some encouraging news on Thursday morning.

In the event that the NFL decides not to reschedule the suspended Week 17 matchup between Cincinnati and Buffalo, which sounds like a reasonable possibility at this point, many fantasy football leagues are going to be tasked with coming up with their own solutions for resolving their league championships. In many cases, it’ll be commissioners (perhaps like yourself) who will be tasked with leading the way to a resolution.

I’m a commissioner in two leagues, and in one of them, I’ve reached out to the two teams playing in our Week 17 finals to devise a plan in the event of no rescheduled Cincy/Buffalo game. Here’s what we’ve agreed to do:

This particular league is played on ESPN. And we pay out 140 “units” to second place and 240 to first place. So we started with the fact that each manager was guaranteed no worse than 140 units, the payout for finishing in second. So, that leaves 100 units still on the table to be awarded. ESPN runs projected chance-to-win percentages throughout the matchup process. On Monday, before the CIN/BUF game began, one manager was listed with a 65% chance to win — he was down by 10, but had Stefon Diggs, Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins and Dawson Knox to play — while the other manager, who was listed with a 35% chance to win, still had Joe Burrow to go. We ultimately chose to use those percentage chance to win projections as the way to distribute the remaining 100 units — 65 going to the manager with the 65% chance to win, and 35 going to the other manager.

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I thought it was a reasonable solution, but I asked my The Athletic colleagues if they had gone through any similar thought exercises regarding this dilemma, and Michael Beller shared the resolution plan for his league — I have to admit, I really like his plan too.

Michael Beller: I’m in the championship in my home league. I was up about 26 points going into the Bills-Bengals game. I had Evan McPherson, my opponent had Joe Mixon and Gabe Davis. I was favored, but it was certainly possible for my opponent to win.

We’re going to play it out in Week 18 in a way I haven’t seen suggested anywhere else. The Bills and Bengals both still have real stakes to play for, so it seems likely both teams will treat their games as they normally would from a competitive standpoint. As such, we’re going to take the stats accumulated by Mixon, Davis and McPherson in Week 18 and add them to our Week 17 scores.

This is a league consisting entirely of lifelong friends, so we could easily go back and forth on potential solutions. I grant that this won’t work for every league. There is no definitively right way to handle this. Any path forward that the people playing in the championship can agree on is the right path for your league.

Michael Salfino emailed me to say his league was doing the same as Beller’s. As for the rest of my colleagues, here’s the responses I received:

Jake Ciely: First, the answer depends on your league, and whatever everyone agrees on is best. Second, I believe there are three “decent” options in descending order of preference…

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If you like any of the three options — or none — it’s all up to you.

Gene Clemons: I am in an ESPN league where I was competing for third place. The championship game was so lopsided, it was easy to declare the winner. In our case, third place was not so simple. I was leading 109.45 to 82.4. We both had two positions still alive. I had Josh Allen and the Bengals defense, while he had Joe Burrow and Devin Singletary. We decided to go to our tiebreaker. I earned the best record in the league and I was also the points leader. Both were worth 12 points in our 12-team league. My opponent finished seventh in the league and scored the sixth most points. I beat his total 24-15, so I was declared the third place winner.

Adam Hirshfield: I’m in the final in two leagues (1 Yahoo, 1 ESPN), neither of which has been cleared up yet. But one sort of crazy option I might consider is this:

For players who already played in their Week 17 games, those numbers count and are binding. For Bengals or Bills players, what about allowing the fantasy team manager to effectively pick one player at that position to use in Week 18? If, say, you had Joe Burrow slotted as your quarterback, they can use Burrow’s stats (or the stats from another QB on their roster, or even one they pick up normally through the FA process) from Week 18 to count toward their championship game total. Does that sound fair?

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Dan Santaromita: I’m in a Yahoo league final with Josh Allen, Ja’Marr Chase and the Bills D/ST and was losing entering MNF. Similar to the league you referenced, I was favored (I don’t remember exactly but I think it was 74% in my favor before kickoff).

It’s not a pay league so that obviously changes the motivations and stakes. But even just for pride, it feels unacceptable to give me (or either of us in the final) a loss if this game doesn’t happen. In my spot where I was likely to win, I’d even take it as a tie/split. I like your percentage payout a lot. It’s a good compromise because I think in almost any scenario, having one team declared the definitive winner feels unfair. This isn’t baseball where postponements and doubleheaders are part of the game.

While the solutions my colleagues offered were varied, the moral of the story is that, while there may be many possible ways to determine the end game of your fantasy league, there is no wrong answer so long as your league mates deem it acceptable.

Meanwhile, here are the links to what Yahoo and ESPN have said, thus far, for those who will have their fates decided by either of these game providers:

  • Yahoo’s need-to-know page
  • ESPN’s need-to-know page

Do you have any thoughts/opinions/takes on how leagues should handle a canceled CIN/BUF game? If so, please share them in the comments below — we’d love to hear them!

(Top photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

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