Are You Ready for Some.....Misinformation?

If you're like me -- and I already know that you are in at least one way -- the words "Are you ready for some football?" stir emotions deep within you. You've been conditioned to, upon hearing Hank Junior's voice, pull from your pocket a well-worn fantasy scoresheet (or three) with scribblings all over it.

Somewhere in there, it says something like this:

Good guys:    95 + Freeman + Hoard
Bad guys:     82 + Moss
That's right, it's Monday night, and you've got 3 hours of football bliss ahead of you (plus the extra hour of commercials). You decided to start Hoard instead of Warrick Dunn, who scored 9 fantasy points yesterday. Was that the right call? In general, should you lean toward Monday nighters when filling out your starting lineup?

There seem to be many schools of thought here. For the record, here's mine: given a choice between two players whom I view as completely equal, I'll start the Monday nighter. Why? My reasons are purely psychological, rather than strategic. For my own peace of mind, I'd rather be behind but gaining as I watch the Monday night matchup, rather than ahead but squirming.

There are people out there, though, who believe that players involved in the Monday night game should be chosen for another reason. Namely, they believe that players tend to "get up" for Monday night football. They're motivated by the bright lights and the millions of eyes upon them, and hence are more likely than usual to have a huge game.

If I had one more drop of psychological expertise, I'd be able to fill a medium-sized thimble, but I do know enough about the human mind to be suspicious of claims like the one above. You see, when a player has a big game on Monday night, it's more likely to stick in your mind than if he has a big game on a Sunday. Why? Well, first off, because it's more likely that you were actually watching it. Second, because the Monday night game is unique. It's notable. You'll frequently hear people say, "I remember this one Monday night game where Rice had 4 touchdowns!" You never hear people say, "Terrell Davis was absolutely huge in that one Sunday afternoon game." There's no reason to mention that it was a Sunday afternoon game, because Sunday afternoon is not an notable time to play football. Monday night is, so it sticks in your memory.

Or something like that.

The point is: our brains are very good at finding patterns, even patterns that aren't really there. Before running the numbers, I had a feeling that players "getting up" for Monday night was an illusion -- a trick that our minds play on us.

Let's check the facts.

Below, you'll find a list of all RBs, WRs, and TEs who played at least three Monday night games between 1997 and 1999 (I don't have QB data at present). Along with that, you'll see how many fantasy points they scored (per game) on both Monday and Sunday. For example, the best Monday nighter was Tim Dwight.

                              --MONDAY--  --SUNDAY--
LastName     FirstNm   POS      G  FPPG     G  FPPG   DIFF
----------------------------------------------------------
Dwight       Tim       wr       3  14.6    14   6.5    8.1
As you can see, from 1997 to 1999, he averaged 14.6 fantasy points per game on Mondays and only 6.5 per game on Sundays. That's a difference of 8.1 points per game. The worst Monday nighter?
                              --MONDAY--  --SUNDAY--
LastName     FirstNm   POS      G  FPPG     G  FPPG   DIFF
----------------------------------------------------------
Freeman      Antonio   wr       8   5.1    37  13.3   -8.2
Freeman appeared in 8 Monday night contests over the last three years, and has been quite ordinary in them.

The complete list is attached below for your perusal, but here is the punchline: out of 132 players on the list, 53 played better on Monday, and 79 played worse on Monday. There are some bigtime fantasy performers at the bottom of the list, too. Antonio Freeman, Terrell Davis, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Robert Smith, and Ricky Watters, among others, have been better on Sundays than on Mondays over the past three years.

In conclusion, go ahead and opt for the Monday nighter if it makes you feel better, but don't delude yourself into thinking that he is any more likely than usual to have a huge game.


                              --MONDAY--  --SUNDAY--
LastName     FirstNm   POS      G  FPPG     G  FPPG   DIFF
----------------------------------------------------------
Dwight       Tim       wr       3  14.6    14   6.5    8.1
Hearst       Garrison  rb       5  21.0    24  13.2    7.8
Moss         Randy     wr       4  20.1    26  12.4    7.7
Dudley       Rickey    te       3  12.3    43   6.2    6.1
Mathis       Terance   wr       3  14.3    45   8.7    5.5
Thomason     Jeff      te       3   7.2    17   1.8    5.4
Thomas       Lamar     wr       6   9.3    22   3.9    5.4
Rison        Andre     wr       4  10.6    37   5.3    5.3
McPhail      Jerris    rb       3   7.8    11   2.7    5.2
Williams     Sherman   rb       3   8.8    19   3.9    4.8
Harris       Raymont   rb       4  14.1    15   9.5    4.6
Kirby        Terry     rb       5  11.2    36   7.4    3.9
Perry        Ed        te       5   4.8    17   1.1    3.7
Taylor       Fred      rb       3  18.6    22  14.9    3.6
Bradford     Corey     wr       4   7.6    16   4.1    3.5
Konrad       Rob       rb       3   4.8    11   1.6    3.2
Drayton      Troy      te       8   6.7    32   3.5    3.2
Ward         Dedric    wr       4   6.3    36   3.2    3.1
Johnson      James     rb       3   9.0     9   6.2    2.8
Stewart      James     rb       3  13.4    29  10.6    2.7
Smith        Irv       te       3   5.3    33   2.8    2.5
Anders       Kimble    rb       4   8.3    27   5.9    2.4
Johnson      Charles   wr       4   8.1    34   5.7    2.4
Hughes       Danan     wr       3   3.2    10   1.0    2.2
Hilliard     Ike       wr       3   8.1    31   5.9    2.2
Barlow       Reggie    wr       4   3.1    27   1.1    2.0
Edwards      Marc      rb       3   4.4    30   2.6    1.8
Gadsden      Oronde    wr       5   8.9    25   7.2    1.7
Levens       Dorsey    rb       7  15.7    29  14.3    1.4
Levy         Chuck     rb       3   3.7    12   2.4    1.3
McDuffie     O.J.      wr       9   8.1    35   6.8    1.3
Solomon      Freddie   wr       3   3.9    25   2.8    1.1
Martin       Tony      wr       3  10.0    42   9.0    1.0
Chmura       Mark      te       6   6.3    23   5.2    1.0
Chamberlain  Byron     te       5   4.1    13   3.1    1.0
Carter       Tony      rb       4   2.4    29   1.4    1.0
Byars        Keith     rb       4   4.0    23   3.0    1.0
Chrebet      Wayne     wr       3   8.4    39   7.7     .6
Hawkins      Courtney  wr       6   5.0    33   4.5     .6
Pritchett    Stanley   rb       6   3.2    28   2.6     .5
Griffith     Howard    rb       6   2.4    32   1.9     .4
Hanspard     Byron     rb       3   4.0    24   3.6     .4
Fryar        Irving    wr       3   6.2    42   5.8     .4
Irvin        Michael   wr       6   8.6    28   8.2     .3
Hoard        Leroy     rb       5   7.4    36   7.1     .3
Loville      Derek     rb       6   3.7    17   3.4     .3
Blackwell    Will      wr       4   2.2    31   1.9     .2
Harris       Mark      wr       3   1.2    14   1.0     .2
Jefferson    Shawn     wr       7   6.4    39   6.2     .1
McCardell    Keenan    wr       5   8.3    41   8.2     .1
Toomer       Amani     wr       3   5.7    41   5.7     .0
Williams     Stepfret  wr       3   2.8    15   2.8     .0
Bettis       Jerome    rb       6  12.2    36  12.2     .0
Lester       Tim       rb       5    .5    13    .7    -.2
Bruener      Mark      te       4   2.1    30   2.4    -.3
Jones        George    rb       3   2.2    21   2.5    -.3
Purnell      Lovett    te       4   2.0    16   2.4    -.4
Ogden        Jeff      wr       3    .9    14   1.3    -.4
Reed         Jake      wr       5   6.7    37   7.1    -.4
Johnson      Keyshawn  wr       4   9.5    43  10.0    -.5
Davis        Tyrone    te       6   3.3    22   3.7    -.5
Parmalee     Bernie    rb       7   1.8    33   2.4    -.5
Shelton      Daimon    rb       4   1.0    18   1.5    -.5
Anderson     Richie    rb       3   2.1    30   2.6    -.6
Clark        Greg      te       4   2.0    22   2.6    -.6
Brown        Troy      wr       6   4.9    28   5.6    -.7
Bjornson     Eric      te       4   2.1    28   2.8    -.8
Cullors      Derrick   rb       4   1.2    15   2.0    -.8
Carter       Cris      wr       4  11.2    40  12.0    -.8
Barber       Tiki      rb       3   5.5    40   6.3    -.9
Henderson    William   rb       9   2.6    34   3.4    -.9
Brooks       Robert    wr       6   7.2    19   8.0    -.9
Schroeder    Bill      wr       6   5.0    26   5.9    -.9
Coates       Ben       te       7   5.2    37   6.1    -.9
Dunn         Jason     te       3   1.1    15   2.1   -1.0
Smith        Emmitt    rb       8  12.3    35  13.4   -1.1
Abdul-Jabbar Karim     rb       8   8.6    36   9.7   -1.1
Uwaezuoke    Iheanyi   wr       3    .4    15   1.5   -1.1
Floyd        William   rb       3   2.5    41   3.7   -1.2
Brown        Tim       wr       3   9.2    43  10.4   -1.3
Moore        Dave      te       3   2.4    37   3.7   -1.3
Turner       Kevin     rb       3   1.9    33   3.2   -1.3
Sharpe       Shannon   te       7   6.7    30   8.0   -1.3
Gonzalez     Tony      te       4   4.1    38   5.4   -1.3
Martin       Curtis    rb       6  12.6    37  14.0   -1.4
Rice         Jerry     wr       7   7.5    26   8.9   -1.4
Early        Quinn     wr       5   2.9    29   4.3   -1.4
Carswell     Dwayne    te       6    .4    23   1.8   -1.4
Kaufman      Napoleon  rb       3   8.6    41  10.0   -1.4
Mayes        Derrick   wr       5   5.1    31   6.6   -1.5
Owens        Terrell   wr       9   8.6    36  10.1   -1.5
Edwards      Robert    rb       3  12.3    13  13.8   -1.6
Johnston     Daryl     rb       3    .6    15   2.2   -1.6
Brisby       Vincent   wr       5   1.7    24   3.3   -1.6
LaFleur      David     te       7   2.0    28   3.6   -1.6
Stokes       J.J.      wr       9   4.7    38   6.3   -1.7
Mills        Ernie     wr       6   2.4    23   4.2   -1.8
Popson       Ted       te       4    .8    17   2.6   -1.9
Watters      Ricky     rb       3  11.0    45  12.9   -1.9
Jurevicius   Joe       wr       3    .6    19   2.7   -2.1
Patten       David     wr       3    .2    29   2.3   -2.1
Smith        Robert    rb       4  10.9    35  13.0   -2.1
Hatchette    Matthew   wr       4   1.0    15   3.2   -2.2
Ismail       Raghib    wr       4   6.2    39   8.4   -2.2
Green        Willie    wr       5    .8    19   3.0   -2.3
Calloway     Chris     wr       4   4.6    38   6.9   -2.3
Tucker       Jason     wr       3   1.1     9   3.4   -2.3
Gash         Sam       rb       3    .1    38   2.4   -2.3
Christian    Bob       rb       3   1.2    42   3.7   -2.5
Mitchell     Pete      te       4   1.6    43   4.0   -2.5
Glenn        Terry     wr       6   7.0    26   9.6   -2.6
McCaffrey    Ed        wr       9   7.4    34  10.1   -2.7
Moulds       Eric      wr       3   6.1    38   8.8   -2.7
Ward         Hines     wr       4   2.7    20   5.5   -2.8
Avery        John      rb       4   1.5    17   4.3   -2.8
Garner       Charlie   rb       6   6.4    35   9.3   -2.9
Vardell      Tommy     rb       3   1.7    28   4.7   -3.0
Smith        Jimmy     wr       5   8.1    42  11.0   -3.0
Way          Charles   rb       3   2.7    39   5.7   -3.0
Jones        Damon     te       3   1.0    23   4.1   -3.1
Warren       Chris     rb       4   4.5    34   7.5   -3.1
Glover       Andrew    te       4   1.1    36   4.7   -3.6
Smith        Rod       wr       9   7.6    37  11.1   -3.6
Anthony      Reidel    wr       3   2.0    40   5.6   -3.6
Bennett      Donnell   rb       3   3.4    34   7.1   -3.7
Reed         Andre     wr       3   2.7    42   6.6   -3.9
Davis        Terrell   rb       7  16.5    28  20.5   -4.0
Jett         James     wr       3   2.9    43   7.4   -4.4
Smith        Antowain  rb       3   4.0    41   9.1   -5.2
Allen        Terry     rb       3   5.4    33  10.7   -5.3
Alstott      Mike      rb       3   5.0    43  10.4   -5.4
Freeman      Antonio   wr       8   5.1    37  13.3   -8.2