When I got the email from Quin Kilgore almost four years ago, I knew immediately.
Quin, you see, was writing to tell me about his league. It was a normal 10-team fantasy football league out of Omaha, Nebraska, with only one small twist.
Last place in the league has to get a permanent tattoo ... chosen by the winner. Hilarious, I thought. Deranged, but hilarious and awesome. Quin and I quickly started talking. They told the story after the first year to a local paper, but ultimately, no one really knew about them and they had since done another tattoo.
So I made a request to the league. "Guys, I love the story. I am writing a book and I want you guys to be a big part of the book. Problem is, the book doesn't come out for another year. But if you can keep this story to yourselves for another year, I think it'll be worth it. Because I love you guys and I wanna blow your story up."
Well, they agreed, another year came and went, another tattoo was placed on a loser, this time Adam Palmer. Adam was forced to get a tattoo on his leg of Justin Bieber's face, with the words "Fantasy Loser #YOLOSWAG" across the top and the bottom. Chosen by Dusty Carter, the Bieber tat seemed to really strike a chord. The "tattoo league," as it became known, was one of the big things people wanted to talk about out of the book, and video of Adam getting the tattoo got almost 200,000 views on YouTube. "Sunday NFL Countdown" followed the league for the year, the guys appeared in a promo for Countdown as well and they were interviewed and discussed by tons of blogs, websites, local news, even appearing on Jay Leno's show.
The battle for the fifth tattoo comes down this weekend with some intrigue, as there's a chance Dusty Carter will have to get the tattoo. Dusty is a former two-time champ, the guy who chose both the Bieber tattoo and the Care Bear "Tebowing" in Year 2. Dusty is also the loser from Year 4, and he now sports a tattoo of ... wait for it ... myself as Miley Cyrus in the "Wrecking Ball" video, with Jay Leno's face in the actual ball. It's insane.
So yes, there is a chance Dusty has to get a second tattoo! In addition, there's a chance that the guy who gets to choose the tattoo will be Adam Palmer, owner of the Bieber tattoo, which was chosen by Dusty. No doubt it will be a tense weekend in Omaha.
I love it of course, and not just because I don't have to worry about a tattoo. Week 16 is the official start of the annual tradition of fantasy leagues sharing stories of how they punish their losers. I had heard of punishments for losing before, of course, but these tattoo guys took it to the next level. And since the book came out, I've been flooded with tons of stories of leagues coming up with creative punishments for the unfortunate soul who ends up at the bottom of the standings. There was enough that, when the paperback version of the book came out this year with three new chapters, one of the chapters was dedicated only to new punishments and pictures, as I had been inundated with them.
They're (almost) always hilarious. Every league (every good league, at least) has a punishment for last place. It can be extreme like the tattoo guys or just mildly embarrassing, such as wearing a team jersey of the winner's choosing at the next draft; it just has to follow these three rules.
1. Everyone has to be on board with it at the start of the season. Everyone. No one wants to be forced to do something and it's no fun if everyone isn't into it.
2. It has to be humiliating. How humiliating is up to the league, but it needs to be humiliating.
3. It can only be humiliating to the loser; it can't involve making innocent people uncomfortable or worse.
So, to inspire some leagues out there who may want to step it up, here are some of my favorite punishments that were tweeted at me this past year. I find that most league punishments tend to fall into one of a few categories.
Public humiliation, either by what you have to wear and hold ...
- emiäj (@PickingNamesSux) December 9, 2014
- Cheeks Marx (@CheeksMarxiGras) December 7, 2014
Sometimes it involves doing something to your body.
- Morris Kassin (@MoKasss) September 2, 2014
And sometimes it's about what you have to do at the draft.
- Gary (@GIPezy) August 27, 2014
Of course, sometimes the draft isn't about what humiliating thing the loser has to do, it's about humiliating the loser.
- Matt Sayler (@mjsayler) August 26, 2014
But lest you think the tattoo league guys are the only hard-core guys out there when it comes to this, think again. Dan Panton's league from Florida is pretty hard-core. Losers in that league have had to get branded like an animal, get their belly button pierced and yes, get a tattoo.
Wait. There are two tattoo leagues? Yep.
This is a tattoo of a Pokemon battle, in case you were worried it wasn't terrible enough. So as we head into Week 16, maybe your season won't turn out the way you want, but think of it this way. At least you aren't these guys.
So, you're in the championship, we're here to help. Tune in to "Fantasy Football Now" this Sunday at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2 and the WatchESPN app as we'll get you ready for Week 16, whether you are in the finals of your league or play in a daily league. There may even be some punishment talk. ... And finally, shoutout to a guy who never deserves a punishment, Zach Rodgers of ESPN Stats & Information.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 16
Matt Ryan, Atlanta: Oh, right, that's what a Matt Ryan stats line is supposed to look like! I'm expecting Julio Jones back for this one, which fits my definition of fantasy goodness. As does two good offenses facing off against two bad defenses. This is a matchup that Ryan traditionally plays well in: In his six career games in New Orleans, Ryan has averaged 320 yards and 1.7 passing touchdowns per game, and he had 30 points against them in Week 1. The Saints have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season and, over the past five weeks, Ryan is the fifth-best QB in fantasy, averaging more than 19 points a game.
Tom Brady, New England: Speaking of guys who play well against certain teams, since 2010, Brady has averaged 275.6 yards and 2.1 passing touchdowns per game in the regular season against the Jets. And that was when the Jets were good! Or at least better than they are now, where they currently allow the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season.
Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia: Tough game last week, but, lord help me, I am back for more. More the matchup than Sanchez, specifically. Since Chip Kelly became the Eagles coach, Philadelphia quarterbacks have averaged 24 fantasy points per game against Washington with at least 21 in each game. Sanchez is an interesting daily play this week as Washington has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season.
So you're saying there's a chance: Don't look now, but over the past four weeks, Alex Smith has averaged 16 fantasy points per game and, during that span, no team has allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks than the Steelers. His upside is limited but so is his downside. ... Kyle Orton is averaging over 16 points a game on the road this year and if you're truly desperate, you could do worse than playing a quarterback facing Oakland.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 16
Joe Flacco, Baltimore: Had solid 23-point efforts in Weeks 13 and 14, but averaged just 11 points in the six games surrounding those two (since Week 7, not including Weeks 13 and 14). Meanwhile, turns out it's hard to pass when J.J. Watt is in your face. Texans have limited opposing quarterbacks to 12.2 fantasy points per game over the past five weeks. In fact, the only quarterback to score more than 18 fantasy points against the Texans this season was Andrew Luck. Coming off a 12-point game against Jacksonville and on the road against a Texans team that is likely to slow down the game and run the ball a ton (given their own QB situation), Flacco is merely a middling QB2 this week.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: There's only so much Odell Beckham Jr. can do. On the road against the hottest defense in the NFL -- it has allowed a total of 33 points to all wide receivers the past three weeks combined -- and with no run game to speak of, expect Eli to become one-dimensional. And that dimension is not good. Don't chase last week's points, just be grateful for them and move along.
Philip Rivers, San Diego: First, I don't think he's healthy. He just doesn't look right to me. And he just lost Keenan Allen. Over the past five weeks, Rivers has completed only 46 percent of his passes under pressure, a lower amount than Geno Smith and Shaun Hill. Since the return of Aldon Smith in Week 12, the 49ers' defense leads the league in pressure percentage.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami: December has not been kind to Mr. Tannehill, who has averaged just 9.2 fantasy points per game in his past five December games. He tends to play better at home, so maybe, but in a championship week, I'm not risking him against a Vikings defense that has limited opposing quarterbacks to 12.7 fantasy points per game in its past three games.
Running backs I love in Week 16
Tre Mason, St. Louis: Better at home this year (4.9 yards per carry) than on the road (3.6), Mason should get a heavy workload against a Giants squad that has given up the most yards per carry in the league this season.
Lamar Miller, Miami: Over the past five weeks, the Vikings are tied for 27th against the run and 14th against the pass, and the Dolphins know it. Expect a heavy dose of Miller, who is third in yards before contact per rush this season and now gets a Vikes team that struggles not only against the run in general, but specifically in giving up yards before contact, allowing the sixth-most such yardage over the past five weeks.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans: As good a bet to get a rushing touchdown as any running back this week, they prefer him at the goal line, even with Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson back. The Falcons have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, including a crazy 21 total scores to opposing running backs.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo: This is me, not worried about C.J. Spiller. Since returning in Week 12, no running back has been targeted more than Jackson. In addition to being 20th against the run the past five weeks, the Raiders have allowed the second-most touchdown receptions to opposing running backs this year.
So you're saying there's a chance: Matt Asiata has averaged basically 15 carries a game the past three weeks and you can certainly run against the Dolphins. ... With Cam banged up, expect Carolina to continue to lean on its run game and Jonathan Stewart, facing a Browns squad coughing up the fifth-most rushing yards in the league over the past five weeks. Just keep an eye on DeAngelo Williams' status because if they have to split this run game, you just can't trust any of them. ... Expect at least 15 touches for Steven Jackson against a Saints defense that has allowed the most rushing yards before contact the past five weeks.
Running backs I hate in Week 16
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland: I am a Johnny Manziel fan and I have high hopes for him in the long term. Long term is not this week. He looked completely overwhelmed last week and while it wasn't all on him, it certainly doesn't make you feel good about Crowell, who has averaged only 2.6 yards per carry, 41st among 42 qualified players. The Panthers have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs over the past five weeks.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati: Not convinced they can run the ball as effectively as they did last week against Cleveland, not against a Denver team allowing the second-fewest rushing yards in the league this season. And struggling to run means a lot fewer touches for Bernard than last week, because what carries the Bengals do dole out will go to Jeremy Hill.
New York Giants running backs: Even if Rashad Jennings were ruled out of this game, which I don't expect him to be, I'm not crazy about Andre Williams against the Rams' third-ranked run defense. Hard to read how the touches will go here, they want it to go to Jennings but he keeps pulling up lame; this is a situation to avoid if at all possible.
San Francisco running backs: Another situation that, as I write this Wednesday night, is very unclear. Does Frank Gore play? What about Carlos Hyde? Is it Bruce Miller? Ugly situation and whoever it is will likely be splitting touches. Short week for the struggling 49ers off the Seattle game (teams playing Seattle this year have struggled the following week) and not a great matchup, actually. Over the past five weeks, the Chargers have allowed the fifth-fewest yards per carry in the league.
Wide receivers I love in Week 16
Kenny Stills, New Orleans: A top-20 wide receiver since Brandin Cooks went down with injury, Stills has averaged almost 10 points a game since Week 12. Leading the Saints in receptions over that time frame, stop me if you've heard this one before: The Falcons are not a good secondary, giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers the past five weeks.
Jarvis Landry, Miami: It's all about the short game. Landry has 66 of his 71 receptions (93 percent) within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, and the Vikings allow the highest completion percentage in the league on such passes this season.
Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia: I know. I know, I know. If you somehow survived his zero last week, I'm back on him this week, as despite last week's goose egg he still leads the Eagles in red zone targets (including four touchdowns) with Mark Sanchez at quarterback. And I think my feelings on Washington are fairly clear. Over the past five weeks, no team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. That won't change this week.
Julian Edelman, New England: Another quiet and underrated year for Edelman, who, over the past five weeks, has more targets than every NFL wide receiver not named Odell Beckham Jr. or A.J. Green. The struggle is real for the Jets secondary, especially against slot receivers, having given up the fourth-most touchdowns to them this season.
So you're saying there's a chance: I have no idea which Robert Griffin III shows up Saturday, but he will take shots toward DeSean Jackson and, make no mistake, Jackson wants to burn his former team again. ... Dwayne Bowe had seven targets last week and this is as good a matchup as he'll see all year. Over the past five weeks, the Steelers have allowed the most fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 16
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo: I think people see the Raiders and automatically think pushover, but Oakland is not terrible in the secondary. They're actually 11th against the pass the past five weeks (and have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wideouts in that time frame) and yes, some of that is due to game flow and how easy it is to run against them, but the fact remains, teams and players in the passing game aren't putting up huge numbers here. Yes, I do think volume and dump-offs to Fred Jackson could make Kyle Orton usable, but I'm not sure Watkins is a fantasy starter in a championship week. Watkins has caught only 51 percent of his targets, 30th among the 31 wide receivers targeted at least 100 times this season.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland: All-world talent, no question, but that's where the questions end. Or start, rather. Manziel appears to be a mess and Gordon has been held to fewer than 50 yards in two straight. The Panthers are second against the pass over the past five weeks. Not a top-20 play for me this week.
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh: Three points or fewer in three of the past four games, he's basically big-play dependent these days, which makes me nervous. Maybe he has a 94-yard score like he did in Week 14, but odds are against, as Kansas City is fourth against the pass over the past five weeks. In addition, only four teams in the NFL have allowed fewer 20-plus yard completions and 20-plus yard touchdowns. The way to beat the Chiefs is on the ground, so this should be another heavy Le'Veon Bell game.
Tight ends I love in Week 16
Delanie Walker, Tennessee: They gotta throw it to someone. And against a Jags team giving up double-digit fantasy points to opposing tight ends in their past five games, they'll throw it to Walker.
Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis: You know what Andrew Luck likes to do in the red zone? Look for Dwayne Allen. Because it leads to a score. Dude has been targeted in the red zone in seven games this season and Allen has five touchdowns in those games. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have allowed the most receptions and the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City: Rob Gronkowski, Delanie Walker. There. Those are the only tight ends with at least 50 receptions this season who are averaging more yards per reception than Kelce. Good matchup here as the Steelers are banged-up on defense and have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends, including 10 touchdowns.
Antonio Gates, San Diego: Gates and Greg Olsen are the only tight ends with at least five receptions in each of the past three weeks. With Keenan Allen out, I expect Rivers to look Gates' way even more this week, especially as the 49ers have given up six scores to tight ends in their past four games and given up over 100 yards a game to the position in two of the past three.
So you're saying there's a chance: In my weekly ESPN Insider article this week, I asked Peter King to give me one sleeper this week . He picked Larry Donnell ... Scott Chandler is very much boom or bust (eight-point games in two of the past four, two games of two points or less), but as per player card notes, he's definitely got a chance to go boom this week against an Oakland team that has given up eight touchdown passes to tight ends, including five in the past six weeks.
Tight ends I hate in Week 16
Jordan Reed, Washington: Sigh. In the five games in which RG III has played this season with Reed, Reed has averaged two receptions and 16.2 yards per game with no touchdowns. The Eagles have allowed only one touchdown to an opposing tight end this season (in Week 2), by far the fewest in the league.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh: Been on a nice little roll here, but feel it ends here, as I see him needing to stay in to block more against the Chiefs' pass rush. Meanwhile, Kansas City has allowed the fewest yards to opposing tight ends this season.
Defenses I love in Week 16
Tennessee Titans: You know who the No. 1 fantasy defense is this year? The team playing the Jaguars. Jacksonville has allowed 197 fantasy points to opposing defenses. That's 29 percent more than the next-closest team. The Jaguars have allowed at least seven fantasy points to each opposing defense this season.
Philadelphia Eagles: So, this might not be pretty. The Eagles pressure opposing quarterbacks on 34 percent of their dropbacks, the highest rate in the league. Over the past five weeks, the Redskins have allowed the most sacks and fantasy points to opposing defenses. In case you haven't noticed, Griffin tends to hold onto the ball a little too long.
Detroit Lions: Jimmy Clausen? Jimmy Clausen.
Carolina Panthers: You know I am not a Manziel believer this week, the Panthers have played pretty good defense recently, both in fantasy (21 points the past two weeks) and in reality (the No. 12 scoring defense over the past five weeks). At home against a reeling Browns team, they are available in about 80 percent of leagues and are my streaming defense pick of the week.
Defenses I hate in Week 16:
Kansas City Chiefs: Struggling away from Arrowhead (only 3.9 points on the road this season, never reaching double digits) and as I said, I expect this to be a big Le'Veon Bell game, limiting chances for turnovers and sacks. Steelers have limited opposing fantasy defenses to just 1.2 points per game in Pittsburgh this season.
Cincinnati Bengals: I know, cold game, Bengals are at home in a nationally televised game, they're the fifth-best scoring defense over the past five weeks, Peyton Manning is looking mortal these days ... you might be tempted. Don't be. The Bengals have played six games this season against opposing quarterbacks ranked in the top 10 in Total QBR this season (as Manning is). The defense has averaged only 1.8 fantasy points per game in those games. Don't forget how bad Andy Dalton plays in national games. Could be a lot of short fields for Peyton. Don't get cute.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- would love to get to pick the punishment for a league. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. You also may have heard: He has written a book.