Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
So I got pretty excited last year when in week 17, Houston's Jonathan Wells ran for 1 yard in 13 attempts. I covet Cardinal receivers for my fantasy roster. And I pray really hard that Neil Rackers of the Bengals doesn't lose his kicking job. Am I insane? Perhaps. But I'm also a hard-core player of the Loser League. The Loser League puts a fun twist on traditional fantasy football: Instead of trying to pick the top performers and score the most points, the object is to pick the biggest fantasy losers and score the fewest points possible. You don't want Michael Vick, you want Ray Lucas. You want the guys that just plain suck... And here's how you can play:
Object: The object of the Loser League is to, each week, draft the players that you believe will score the fewest total fantasy points.
Number of Players: Ideally 4 or 5. Everyone should be available to participate in a weekly draft, as new players are drafted each week of the regular season. (We do ours via e-mail, and unless all four or five of you live in the same house or something, I'd suggest using that method.) You can hold these drafts further in advance if you wish, but doing so usually creates problems figuring out substitutions, as players tend to get injured or (especially these losers) benched.
Rules: Each week, your league must hold a snake-draft* to select players for that weekend's games. The first week the draft order should be decided randomly. Each person must select a team consisting of 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR and 1 K. After the draft, just watch your losers suck on Sunday... root for them to play poorly, but not "pull a penalty" (more on that in a second). At the end of the weekends' games the scores are tallied, and the weekly totals determine next week's draft order (the person with the highest score gets to pick first). Repeat this fun nonsense for 17 weeks, and whoever has scored the fewest points throughout your season is the grand-loser-champion!
Sounds easy, right? Why not just draft the third-string quarterback? Well, it's more challenging than that... you have to pick players who are expected to play in the game, or you'll incur a hefty penalty. For each quarterback that attempts fewer than ten passes, runningback that rushes fewer than ten times, or wide receiver that catches fewer than 2 passes, you're penalized 15 points. The full scoring rules are as follows:
It's best to pick a "commissioner" for your league (usually the biggest stats geek and/or the guy with the most time on his hands will do it). This person can be the master scorekeeper, weekly draft instigator, etc. We here at Football Outsiders are so damn into this league that Al created a very handy Excel spreadsheet that will do all the math for ya. (Sorry, you still have to type in the stats.) Download it here.
Two more notes...
One: Tiebreakers: Whichever person's players incurred fewer total penalties wins the tiebreaker. If still tied, whichever person's players scored fewer total touchdowns wins the tiebreaker.
Second: In addition to keeping track of weekly point totals, you can also keep a running tally of who's winning the league each week. In a league of four, each week's winner (lowest scorer) is awarded 4 points, second place gets 3 points, third 2 and fourth 1. (If you have five players, I'll let ya use your wonderful powers of intuition to figure out how to modify this system). We have dubbed this scoring method the MDSS.***
Up next: I'll provide you with a few basic strategies for Loser League drafting. Then throughout the season I'll be posting the ongoing results of our own "Outsiders Loser League '03." (I bet you're just tingling with excitement already.)
'So why dontcha kill me,
-Jason A. Beattie
* OK, here's how a snake draft works: Person 1 selects a player first, then person 2, person 3, person 4 makes two picks, person 3, person 2, person 1, rinse, repeat 'til done. See, so it snakes back and forth.
**This is only a penalty if another kicker on that team makes an attempt and the selected K does not. If a kicker's team makes no kicking attempts in a game, there is no penalty.
*** Modified Dembsky Scoring System. Don't ask.