Fantasy Football Finals/Championship Solutions After Bills vs Bengals Game

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Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bengals helmet.

Monday night of Week 17 was supposed to mark the end to the 2022 fantasy football season for most leagues. Unfortunately, Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a tragic injury in the first quarter of the game against the Bengals that sent shockwaves across the NFL. The game was suspended, and has not been rescheduled as of writing this on Wednesday evening.

Our sincere thoughts and prayers remain with Hamlin, as well as his family and teammates at this time. Hamlin's health and recovery are of paramount importance over the trivialities of playoff seeding or fantasy championships.

This unprecedented situation has left many fantasy football leagues in a state of limbo — especially in light of the sheer number of impactful players in this game. The matchup could still be rescheduled, though that may not be feasible given the advanced stage of the season.

Most platforms have now left the burden of deciding how to proceed on commissioners. Whatever decision is made should have buy-in and agreement from league members — especially any involved in potential payouts. Given that entry fees have already been tied up for a minimum of 17 weeks, it does make the most sense to wait until an official announcement is made.

Each "solution" feels imperfect, though some are better and more equitable than others. Below are eight potential ways to settle your leagues — assuming the Bengals-Bills game is not rescheduled — as well as the pros and cons of each.

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Option 1: Allow One Manager to Concede 

Pros: This is a relatively simple solution. It would just require the commissioner to manually name a champion. This option would only work if a matchup was incredibly lopsided and gave the favored manager more than a 80-90% chance of winning entering Monday Night Football.

For example, all of Manager A's players had finished playing prior to Monday night. Manager B had only Bills kicker Tyler Bass in the contest and was trailing Manager A by 30 points. Since it is highly unlikely that Bass would score anywhere close to 30 points, Manager B concedes and Manager A is named the champion.

Cons: Monday night miracles are always possible, and unless scoring was completely decided before the game, there always exists some outside chance of a miraculous comeback. The scenario in your league could be much less egregious than the one mentioned above.

This option also requires one manager to voluntarily bow out, which may or may not happen organically and without resistance.

Option 2: Leave the Scores As Is

Pros: This is the easiest solution given this is the default setting on many platforms. It requires minimal lift from commissioners, and losing a player 10 minutes into a game, while frustrating, is not a terribly infrequent event (due to injury or otherwise).

Cons: This option would likely result in a number of angry managers who were impacted, and the situation, as mentioned above, is unprecedented and has large-scale effects.

On the Bills side, Josh Allen had 33 passing yards and 14 rushing yards on Buffalo's lone drive (2.72 fantasy points). Stefon Diggs caught two passes for 26 yards (3.6 points in half-PPR scoring). James Cook rushed for 18 yards (1.8 fantasy points) and Devin Singletary rushed for three yards (0.3 fantasy points). Gabe Davis and Dawson Knox did not register any stats (0 fantasy points).

On the Bengals side, Joe Burrow threw for 52 yards and a touchdown and rushed for two yards (6.28 fantasy points in four-point per passing touchdown scoring). Joe Mixon rushed for 12 yards (1.2 fantasy points). Tee Higgins caught one pass for 13 yards (1.8 fantasy points in half PPR). Tyler Boyd caught a 14-yard touchdown (7.9 fantasy points). Ja'Marr Chase did not register any stats (0 fantasy points).

Personally, this would be one of my least favorite "solutions" — especially if a manager vying for the championship had some sort of stack of players from either team.

Option 3: Replace Week 17 Scores With Week 18 Scores

Pros: This solution also requires a relatively low level of effort. The Bengals and Bills are both still vying for something, whether it be the No. 1 seed in the AFC or the AFC North title. Therefore, neither game would be completely devoid of meaning. As such, most fantasy relevant players would still be as incentivized to play at their highest level in Week 18.

Cons: Using the Week 18 scores does not account for matchups. The Bills are slated to face the Patriots at home, while the Bengals face off against the Ravens at home.

The Patriots (No. 3 overall in defensive DVOA) are a considerably tougher matchup defensively than the Bengals (No. 12), while the Ravens (No. 8) are a slightly easier matchup than the Bills (No. 4).

One factor that could also impact Week 18 scoring is the emotional toll of the incident on players. Players could even elect to sit out in light of Monday's events.

Still, this would be one of my preferred options.

Option 4: Replace Week 17 Scores With Original Week 17 Projections

Pros: This option is another low-effort solution that would only require a commissioner to look up how many points a player was originally projected for and replace the actual values with those.

Cons: We, as fantasy players, know how wildly inaccurate automated platform projections can be. Projections also vary widely from platform to platform.

I personally do not like this solution due to my mistrust of platform projections, but I understand how it could be considered fair.

Option 5: Replace Week 17 Scores With the Highest-Scoring Bench Players Or Free Agents

Pros: This option feels slightly more authentic, as it reflects actual play/production that occurred, as well as roster tactics of managers. It would function in the following way:

Manager A started Joe Burrow and has backup quarterback Brock Purdy on the bench. Burrow's points are simply replaced with Purdy's.

Manager B started Josh Allen and does not have a backup quarterback. Allen's points are replaced with the highest-scoring quarterback available on waivers.

Cons: This is a high effort option and would require significant lift from commissioners. It could also disproportionately benefit someone who started Dawson Knox, for example, and now gets to replace him with a widely available, one-hit wonder like Trey McBride or Brock Wright.

Option 6: Split the Pot 50/50

Pros: The commissioner would simply divide the sum of the first-place and second-place prizes equally between the two managers. Rinse and repeat for third place and so on.

Cons: This option does not actually name a champion, which could carry implications if there are non-monetary incentives to winning, such as a physical trophy or seeding for next season. It would also require both teams to set aside competitive spirit and would certainly bring the fantasy season to an unceremonious end.

Option 7: Split the Pot Weighted On Points Scored

Pros: This is similar to the option above, but more equitable than splitting 50/50 — especially if the matchup was lopsided (but perhaps not enough to have one manager outright concede). Additionally, a "champion" could still be named, which eliminates one of the cons listed above.

Cons: This option would require more significant effort and calculation on the part of the commissioner, as well as further agreement from all parties of how to handle Bills and Bengals players — replace them, use projections, leave as is, etc. — to determine fair weights.

Option 8: Donate the Prize Pot To Damar Hamlin's Charity

Pros: Charity is a beautiful thing, and The Chasing M's Foundation Toy Drive on GoFundMe has already raised close to $7 million over the original goal of $2,500 (as of Wednesday night). This form of giving back would directly honor the philanthropic efforts of Hamlin, as he faces a serious battle and road to recovery ahead. It would also benefit a cause much bigger than fantasy football.

Cons: This option could potentially carry major financial implications in high-stakes leagues and would not reward any managers for 17 weeks of scoping out the waiver wire, setting lineups, making trades, etc. This would require managers vying for a financial payout to agree to give up prize money, which may have been guaranteed entering a 1st/2nd place matchup. Furthermore, it does not address a technical "winner," which could carry implications as mentioned in Option 6.

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