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Every year it happens. At least to me it happens every year since I play in a number of leagues. You think that you have a flawlessly constructed Fantasy juggernaut that has romped through the regular season and is poised for a playoff run. Then IT happens. The 8 (or 6 or 4) seed outscores their best regular season week by 40 points and you are knocked out in the first round. At that point you know that there has to be a way to remedy this by lowering the luck involved.

No matter how much foresight, research and intuition you might have about players, no force can overcome the luck factor of a weekly head-to-head game. It is the ultimate river card of a Texas Hold ‘Em game. Your dominant force of Aaron Rodgers, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery and Rob Gronkowski just got their butts spanked by Matt Ryan, Jonathan Stewart, Andre Williams, T.Y. Hilton, Vincent Jackson, Julian Edelman and Mychal Rivera (he plays tight end for the Raiders by the way).

Seriously, look it up. That team of all first or second round Fantasy picks lost easily to a team without a single guy taken in one of the first two rounds 197.8 to 160.08 in PPR. The juggernaut had an awesome week too, but it did not even matter. The question is: what can be done to avoid this unlucky break?

One of the most under-rated parts of Fantasy Football is that every league can be altered and adjusted to whatever the majority wants. Do you want to start 3 Flex’s and only 1 RB/WR? Put it to a vote! Do you want to bump the PPR from 0.5 to 1? Put it to a vote! Do you want to lower the bench from 8 to 6? Put it to a vote! With the right web platform, almost anything can be adjusted.

So with this uniqueness and variance between leagues, certain stipulations have been added in some leagues that help take luck out of the equation just a little bit. I mean there will always be a luck factor, just like in real football (I’m looking at you ball-boy in Seattle who rubbed Vaseline on the kicking ball in 2007!!). However, as long as the majority of the league is in agreement, any stipulation imaginable can be added to the league settings.

2 Weeks Per Playoff Matchup

This has become somewhat common as far as non-standard playoff settings go. The idea is that if you play a team over two weeks and accumulate points for both, then the better overall team will more likely prevail.

PROS: One bad week or one opponent’s good week does not end your entire season. It also adds excitement in the anticipation between the weeks.

CONS: If more than four teams make the playoffs, it is nearly impossible to accomplish unless you want an 11 week regular season. It also brings Week 17 into play, which most leagues do not use since there is so much variance between teams resting guys and other teams tanking.

No Seed (Matchup) Playoffs

Instead of the top team from the regular season playing the last playoff qualifier, there are no set head-to-head matchups. The top half in scoring of the playoff field for the week qualifies for the next round and the bottom half is eliminated.

PROS: Even more so than the 2-Week Matchups, this system really helps a team avoid getting undone by a monster week (at least until the championship). There is no whining about seeding or matchups from sore losers (I consider myself a champion at this… whining that is).

CONS: The excitement of the head-to-head matchup is nullified until the final week. There is also still no way to lower the luck in the championship round.

Average Score Starting Point

I really need a better name for this one, but it is basically starting each playoff week with your average weekly point total for the season. Consider it like a home field advantage (another possible tweak in which the higher seed starts the week with 10 or 15 points) except the higher seed does not always have the benefit.

PROS: The value of each and every regular season week is boosted in that every point throughout the season matters. The luck-factor is diminished in each round by either carrying over the previous week’s score, or starting back with the team’s average weekly output.

CONS: Win-Loss records can get diminished if a team goes 13-1 and has to play the highest scoring team in the first round, starting in the hole 20 points or so. You can still get knocked out by an unlucky matchup if the top two scoring teams happen to face each other in the first round.

Getting Into The Playoffs

There are also ways to help get the best teams into the playoffs. These adjustments help balance bad luck from the regular season and can more accurately depict which teams were the best throughout the year.

 Two (or more) “Matchups” Per Week

Every person has played Fantasy and been there: you score your high total for the season and second most for the week, but lose the matchup because your opponent had the week-high in points. What multiple matchups per week means is that you are playing against your head-to-head opponent, as well as the rest of the league.

One of the main ways to do it are the head-to-head matchup plus the top half of the league gets a “Win” while the bottom half gets a “Loss”. The other route is what I call the Breakdown because CBS.com has its own section of power rankings that include a “Breakdown” of your team against the rest of the league, every week. In effect, you are playing against every team, every week, and it results in 11 (or 13/9/7) wins or losses combined. So if you have the high week, you finish 11-0.

PROS: The second best week gets you a 10-1 or 1-1 record rather than an 0-1 mark. This method really shows how strong and consistent each team is, rather than who got the luckiest with matchups.

CONS: It devalues or eliminates the head-to-head concept that has made Fantasy Football so great. It also can seem a bit convoluted at the end of the season when your team’s record is 18-10 or 104-65.

Total Points Playoff Spot (s)

Instead of only the best records getting into the playoffs, the total points scored is a factor as well. I actually play in quite a few leagues where there is some sort of total points factor. One route is the division winners, by record, get the top seeds while all of the rest of the playoff spots are determined by the most total points.  Another way to factor in the total points is to split the remaining playoff spots after division winners between the best records and the most total points scored.

PROS: If you score the most points during the season, you are guaranteed a playoff spot, which is vital to my personal strategy. Most importantly, any route with total points as a factor gives everyone in the league a chance through the last week. No matter if you have not won a game all season, if your team goes off the last few weeks you can still make the playoffs. This keeps everyone involved and interested.

CONS: As I just said, you could theoretically have an 0-13 team make the playoffs. This, once again, diminishes the head-to-head weekly drama. It also means that a 12-1 team could miss the playoffs, should there be a 13-0 team and their own points were low.

Lowering the Luck

All of these adjustments can be made to your own leagues and help in lowering the luck factor. Just as it is impossible to get completely accurate predictions in the pre-season, there will never be a way to eliminate luck during the year. By adding some of these provisions into your league, you can really make your hard work and research count more as the more prepared Fantasy owner will more likely prevail. If you have any other unique routes as well as draft order selecting methods that are distinctive, please leave them in the comments.

Photo Credit: Alissa Murphy

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