If there's a downside to the many affordable Web sites that do all the work of managing fantasy leagues for you, it's that you end up with lots of cookie-cutter leagues with little uniqueness.
Sites such as Yahoo.com allow leagues to tweak their scoring system and adjust to rules of their own, and with so many owners keenly interested and involved in their leagues, now is a good time to get creative and float potential changes for next season.
If owners are complaining about your scoring system, seeking more points for yards or fewer for touchdowns, it's a good time to act on such frustrations while they're fresh in everyone's minds. In August, when you're trying to track down 12 guys for another year, they'll barely remember the gripes they had this season.
Here are some referendums to consider in this postelection era:
* Playoff byes. You don't see them often in fantasy leagues, but it only makes sense to reward regular-season success the same way the NFL does. The most common fantasy playoff system is a 12-team league that puts eight teams in the postseason, with the No. 1 team opening against No. 8 and so on.
Why not cut the field to six and give two teams a first-round bye? The traditional system gives two more owners a shot at winning, but the switch would more accurately reflect the reality of NFL postseason play, and there's heightened interest in Weeks 13 and 14 as teams vie for the byes.
* Utility spots. In addition to two RBS and two WRs, the league I'm in has a fifth spot for a back or receiver, a cool twist that forces a little more thinking into each week's lineup. There are enough quality NFL players that you're not dredging the bottom of rosters to fill this spot, and it brings your bench into play more often. Better still, give owners the option of playing a second tight end in the extra slot.
* Tiebreakers. Make sure you have one in place, and the best one is always bench scoring. My league already has had five ties this year, which makes our standings look more like the NHL's.
If you insist on something other than bench scoring, go with total yards or touchdowns, but don't put the tiebreaker on any one position, such as quarterback. It's arbitrary and doesn't use anything that wasn't already factored into the scoring that created the tie.
* Reward your league's top scorer. Total points over a 17-week season is a more telling sign of fantasy success than win-loss record. Have your owners pony up an extra buck and buy a cheap trophy for the regular-season scoring champion.
START HIM, NOW: Until Sunday's three-touchdown, 128-yard outburst against the Chiefs, the Bucs' Michael Pittman has been an iffy fantasy option, generally worth starting only in leagues that use three running backs.
In the next month, however, the Bucs face Atlanta (twice), San Francisco and Carolina, all of which rank among the NFL's four most generous defenses when it comes to giving up rushing touchdowns. Add in two more weak opponents against the run in New Orleans and San Diego, and Pittman is poised for a huge second half, loaded with 100-yard and multitouchdown games. THIS AND THAT: After three touchdowns Sunday, San Diego tight end Antonio Gates has eight this season and is easily the league's biggest fantasy surprise. He's on pace to break Mike Ditka's 43-year-old NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end (12). Only Philadelphia's Terrell Owens has caught more at any position. ... Of the new short-term starting quarterbacks this week, I'd put the Jets' Quincy Carter ahead of Jacksonville's David Garrard, but there's almost no reason to start either. ... Over the past four weeks, Buffalo's Willis McGahee is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards. Anyone who squirreled him away on a roster has to be excited about his prospects in the second half.
- If you have a fantasy question or comment, send an e-mail to staff writer Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org