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21 Dec 2011

Scramble for the Ball: Rethinking the Machine

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

This is the New ****

Mike: Far be it to bite the hand that feeds me, considering my history of general fantasy football success, but head-to-head matchups are really, really stupid.

Tom: It's bad enough that the NFL uses it to decide games, but when you may have hundreds of dollars riding on your fantasy team and it costs you games, then it's serious business. Especially because you might actually have the power to make a change.

Mike: I tried willing the NFL to switch over to DVOA, but sadly the force is not strong enough in me.

Tom: I didn't even try.

Mike: Probably for the best.

Tom: But I may have the power to adjust the structure of a fantasy league I play in next year.

Mike: Next thing you know, you'd be killing younglings and me and my awesome beard would cut your arm off.

Tom: Do me a favor and make it my right hand. I'm a lefty.

Mike: It's the least I can do.

Tom: So how would you organize your league if you wanted to minimize head-to-head results?

Mike: I would probably give out something like "quality" points every week. Instead of matching up teams, go by raw scoring and give points based on a baseline, while perhaps taking points away if they are below the baseline.

Tom: How exactly, though? Do all teams get quality points, or just good teams? Just good teams that lose, or all good teams? My idea is a hybrid model, where teams get a binary X/0 score based on head-to-head results, and then X to 1 points based on their ordinal rank in scoring among the league.

Mike: Teams don't lose. That's the point. There are no head-to-head matchups.

Tom: Oh, you want to abandon head-to-head completely?

Mike: Yes.

Tom: I think it actually adds some interest level.

Mike: The main problem with rotisserie is that eventually the bottom half of the league loses interest. My solution to that problem is to allow a team that gets hot late some extra method to garner points and thereby get into contention. I would probably keep head-to-head for the playoffs because I still think it works very well for that.

Tom: I think that's kind of unavoidable, though.

Mike: Well, let's say that quality points are some multiplier added on to your score. So even if you're near the bottom if the standings, if you crush the rest of the league for two-to-three weeks, it could be calibrated so that moves you back into the pack and thereby into contention.

Tom: Well, one of the issues with standings, in general, is that you want there to be late-season drama without completely devaluing the early season.

Mike: The problem with pure points is that eventually you're stuck behind, due to having fewer games to gain points on relatively slim margins.

Tom: So you need to end up giving out as many points the first half of the season as you do the second half of the season.

Mike: A team could build up a huge lead early by this system, but it's unlikely the entire top half of the league does so. You get to reward overpowering teams at all phases. It just makes more teams contenders than otherwise would be.

Tom: I feel like my system does the same, and also makes each individual week more interesting. I think your idea of abandoning head-to-head completely reduces the sheer competitiveness.

Mike: I might agree if rotisserie weren't a very popular format in hockey and baseball.

Tom: Winning my first head-to-head championship the way I did, on the play that ended Monday Night Football, was awesome.

Mike: And I like head-to-head for the playoffs, as I said. If anything, making the playoffs special in that fashion would help.

Tom: I also submit that the NFL game schedule, which is much more compact than NHL or MLB's, makes it inherently more head-to-head friendly.

Mike: Not really. How many teams have finished the season out of the playoffs but near the top in points? That's just frustrating.

Tom: There are a few.

Mike: Tons, in my experience. And you still have a head-to-head aspect. How many weeks have we mentioned our points total compared to the rest of the league, win or lose? Nearly every week. In fact, you're competing against everyone, every week under this scheme, and outperforming your fellows makes your points count for more.

Tom: Well, I've mentioned it a lot only because I've been at or near the top of the league so often. I really like my hybrid system.

Mike: I don't like giving points based on ordinal rank. If the top and bottom team are separated by five points, the top is unjustly rewarded and the bottom is unfairly punished for basically identical performances.

Tom: See, I think ordinal rank will create enough variance to make the league interesting while still allowing relatively wide fluctuations in the standings. The ability to add 18-20 points to your rank in any given week makes the standings more dynamic.

Mike: I also think you're just adding another thing to complain about. People already feel cheated when they score second-best but get a loss.

Tom: There will always be something to complain about, and if not we'll invent something.

Mike: My point is that you're compounding the problem rather than solving it.

Tom: If nothing else, my system would create more randomness.

Mike: Exactly.

Tom: Or at least perceived randomness.

Mike: And randomness is bad. The game is already absurdly random.

Tom: I don't really mind randomness in my trivial pursuits, and think this randomness is based on interesting things.

Mike: All the developments over the years, particularly PPR, have been to undercut that randomness.

Tom: Alternatively, give X/2 points for head-to-head wins, just so they’re less overwhelming.

Mike: It might be interesting to you, but I just see it as another frustration on top of loads of random frustrations for players. Players who, in many cases, are putting up money on the game.

Tom: One man's feature is another man's bug. I suppose I should mention at this point that I've never played in a league where I had a financial stake riding on the outcome.

Mike: My league has been extremely low-stakes, when there have been stakes, but I'm not playing fantasy football to gamble. I'm playing a game at least partially based on skill, so adding randomness to it is, in my mind, going in the wrong direction.

Tom: Wait, I thought you didn't like teams in the bottom half of the league being out of it and getting bored? The only way to keep them interesting is to allow for wild fluctuations that look like randomness.

Mike: No. I just explained how amplifying success compared to the norm can allow them to stay in it. You can go on a late-season tear and work your way into the playoffs.

Tom: That's what I'm trying to do, too. I just don't quite understand how you're trying to do that.

Mike: No you're not, you're doling out points based on ordinal ranking, not actual relative performance. You're also simply adding points to the total instead of, as I suggested, using some multiplier, which means that you still hit a wall where it becomes so improbable that you could score enough points to overcome an early-season deficit.

Tom: Fine, here's an example for you. Team X gets 100 points every week. Team Y scores 50 or 150 points every week. Which team is better? Assume the average team scores 90 points.

Mike: They're basically equal.

Tom: I think that's where we disagree. I think the more consistent team is better, and I'm happy rewarding them for that.

Mike: Why is the consistent team better?

Tom: They're an above-average team all 14-ish games. The other team is only above-average seven-ish times.

Mike: But you like head-to-head systems, and Team X is probably going to lose just as many as Team Y. I'd go so far as to say more.

Tom: I like both. That's why I proposed a hybrid system.

Mike: Which would reward Team Y more than Team X, because it will get many more points for being well above-average every other week than X will get from being consistently above-average every week.

Tom: I see Team Y as very likely to end up at .500, whereas Team X is likely to end up over .500.

Mike: I think you're wrong there, and I don't think your system really does what you want it to do, anyway

Tom: I think we're now starting to see why fantasy leagues end up head-to-head: because they can't agree on a separate system that diminishes its importance.

Mike: Almost certainly.

Tom: Like democracy, it may be the worst form of determining the standings, except for all others that people have to agree on.

Fantasy Football Update

Tom: Highlighted by Matthew Stafford's good game, my fantasy opponent exceeded his projection for this week by 60 points. Unfortunately for him, I had Reggie Bush. And Drew Brees. And LeSean McCoy. I exceeded my projection by 55 points, and he still lost by 50. I love having a great fantasy team, and I am taking my rightful spot in the finals.

Mike: Yes, you finally are living the life.

Tom: And the good news, for dramatic purposes, is that my final opponent is the person who tried to trade me Matt Ryan and Roddy White for Brees earlier in the year, so the championship will be decided by Monday Night Football.

Mike: Dun dun duh DUUUUUUUUUUUUN.

Tom: My other fantasy team won as well, so I'm in the loser's bracket finals in that league.

Mike: Have we discussed how lame losers' brackets are, yet?

Tom: More or less, and I freely admit it's lame.

Mike: As long as we're clear on that point. My nemesis Norv Turner attempted to derail my fantasy dreams.

Tom: I thought your nemeses were Devin Hester and particularly Rex Grossman.

Mike: Hester is not actually a nemesis, and Grossman has been vanquished, languishing as ironic starter in Shanahan's Washington debacle.

Tom: Grossman, then, and NOOOORV is more of a whipping boy.

Mike: Fair enough. Anyway, Norv isn't even reliably useless. I expected the Ravens defense to clamp down and San Diego to enjoy its usual level of futility. Instead, the Chargers blew the place up.

Tom: Yeah, that was weird.

Mike: Which put me in the unfortunate position of having my WR1 playing on the winning side of a blowout and my RB1 playing on the losing side. And, of course, due to Ben Roethlisberger's well-intentioned-but-quite-stupid heroics on Monday night, the upset didn't really mean anything. But that is neither here nor there.

Tom: So did Norv actually succeed in his attempt to derail your fantasy dream?

Mike: No, but it was close. I also suffered the wrath of the Lions. 76 of my opponent's 150 points came from Stafford and Calvin Johnson, so a game that should have been a blowout ends up with me sweating David Akers on Monday Night Football. This, I should note, is a kicker-friendly league.

Tom: 3/4/5/7 friendly, or the more standard 3/4/5?

Mike: Three points per field goal up to 29, four for 30-39, five for 40-49, and six for 50-plus.

Tom: I presume that made you the only Steelers fan rooting for the 49ers to actually score a touchdown in the red zone.

Mike: Nah. I would take the fantasy loss if it meant the Steelers won. Unfortunately, the Steelers lost. Fortunately, my team eked it out, 156.48-150.34.

Tom: Congratulations on your glorious triumph.

Mike: Thank you, thank you. The other league was a laugher.

Tom: In your favor, I presume?

Mike: My lowest score was Rob Gronkowski's 7.3, and seven of my 10 slots put up double digits. Even with Chicago's abysmal showing, I won 144.88-120.5, and set up a rematch in the finals with the team that temporarily usurped my place at the top of the standings during the regular season. Interestingly enough, both of my teams next week will feature Jacksonville and Tennessee, so I'm betting on a really terrible game!

Tom: There's a chance you'll get what you're looking for.

Mike: Oh, I do not doubt it.

Tom: That said, the Titans did allow a season-high 27 points to the Colts this past week, and have the sort of anemic pass rush that even the most skittish quarterback might not find bothersome.

Mike: Jacksonville has the worst passing offense in the league by a mile. St. Louis is second at -22.1% DVOA. Jacksonville is at -40.7%.

Tom: Blaine Gabbert's name appears elsewhere in this column. I've also seen the Jaguars play a number of times. I'm well aware of what they (can't) do.

Mike: The Jaguars have a merely slightly below-average rushing attack, but Tennessee has a decent run defense.

Tom: You're just not falling for my evil scare-mongering.

Mike: Haha. I like how things are going, but we'll have to see.

FO Staff Fantasy League

Reverse Jinxes (No. 4, Elias, 6-5) 88 def. Dyscalculia Plus Ones (No. 1, Will, 8-2) 77

The only upset of the playoffs thus far! Elias did a good job of picking his starters, considering all but one of his bench came it at zero points or below, principally James Starks and Davone Bess at 0 and Green Bay DST at -3. Overall, though, this was a very underwhelming game, involving 10 single-digit slots out of the teams' combined 20. The difference was largely Tom Brady for Elias. Even so, the Jinxes need to up their game, because their championship opponent is in incendia.

That's Great Hustle! (No. 2, Sean, 8-3) 139 def. Known Chumpsky (No. 3, Rivers, 6-5) 71

It's not enough that Sean put up one of the highest points the league has seen, take a look at his bench: Matthew Stafford, 29; Aaron Hernandez: 19; Pierre Thomas, 14; and PHI DST, 20. His bench, as a team, would have defeated Elias' entire squad with just seven players! There really wasn't anything Rivers could have done against this buzzsaw, but disastrous performances by Eli Manning (four points), Shonn Greene (seven), Larry Fitzgerald (six), and Mason Crosby (one) certainly did not help.

(Editor's note: Thanks for the kiss of death last week, Mike!)

In the Square/Cats are Screamin'

Mike: This is like a rejected Conan O'Brien segment.

Tom: Personally, I'd say that should be virtually all of them, but that may be a little extreme.

Mike: Yes, consider what is rejected while thinking about what actually gets through.

Tom: I haven't actually watched Conan more than once since my sophomore year of college. Then, I think my roommate may have watched Conan partly because he knew I didn't like it, but I woke him up every morning with my alarm because nothing wakes me up, so that probably just made us even. (Sorry, Steve, I know I sleep like the dead.)

Mike: I'm amazed you actually had a roommate for more than a few weeks.

Tom: I may talk about things like shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, but I never do them. Plus, I've never been to Reno.

Mike: A likely story. Anyway, why does this cat need a human mouth? Cats already have mouths! With a little CGI, you can even make them move in vaguely speech-like ways!

Tom: This commercial is just a terrible idea from start to finish.

Mike: Instead, Wal*Mart decided to replace the entire mouth with an extremely creepy human mouth with human teeth. I'm not sure it's the worst idea we've seen turn into a national commercial -- It is definitely the worst execution that we have seen from a major player. Again, why the human mouth? Why?!

Tom: Why the cat? Why the yodeling? Why the human mouth? Why not verbal mention of what the commercial is for?

Mike: The cat also does a weird eye ... thing ... halfway through the commercial which isn't helped by the weird mouth -- it makes it look like a sloppy drunk. But yes, that warrants further consideration.

Tom: I spend little enough time around cats I don't know their normal eye movement when they're yodeling, but that does indeed seem unusual.

Mike: Why yodeling? Why would anyone associate yodeling with Christmas, much less the carol performed in this commercial?

I just noticed there is a "click here to get the ringtone" link underneath the video. My brain asploded.

Tom: R.I.P. Mike Kurtz, 1982-2011.

Mike: This commercial is so terrible there's no real reason to continue. Even Friskie’s World of Wonder was awful in a whimsically screwy kind of way.

Tom: I have a kind of soft spot for Friskie's acid cat food.

Mike: Oh, yeah. It's insane, but it was trying. And mostly failing, but there was some real (awful) thought that went into it, whereas this is a transparent attempt to manufacture a meme.

Tom: I guess. No chance it works, but whatever.

Mike: You cannot manufacture memes. They spring forth like a terrible Diana from the head of Anonymous.

Loser League Update

QUARTERBACK: Blaine Gabbert might have been a successful NFL rookie quarterback on a different team. Unfortunately for him, he's on the Jacksonville Jaguars. 5 points.

RUNNING BACKS: In the blowout win over those Jaguars, Jacquizz Rodgers somehow got enough carries to avoid the penalty but not enough yards to gain more than 1 point. Behind him at 2 were LeGarrette Blount and Joseph Addai, who had fewer successful carries than Delone Carter did despite eight more attempts.

WIDE RECEIVER: Pierre Garcon and Percy Harvin each put up 0 points. Yes, somehow Percy Harvin had three receptions for eight yards.

KICKER: Mason Crosby and Billy Cundiff both earned their 0 points not by being on bad offenses, but by making two extra points and missing on a field goal.


KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Is it unfair of us to mention players in this space like Jaguars cornerback Ashton Youboty and Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie when they’re backups playing in adverse situations? Maybe a little, but they still didn’t play well and contributed to their teams losing this week.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: The Oakland Raiders scored a touchdown to take a 26-14 lead with 7:47 to play in Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. Coach Hue Jackson then decided to kick the extra point and take the 13-point lead despite it being overwhelmingly beneficial to go for two and the 14-point lead. He did not, and the Lions scored two touchdowns and two extra points to win.

COLBERT AWARD: There are obvious bold calls, like Belichick’s fourth-and-2, and less obvious bold calls, like running a shotgun draw from your own end zone against the league’s best rushing defense. Whether Mike Tomlin or Bruce Arians made the unconvential playcall, Mewelde Moore picked up 21 yards and the Steelers moved out of the shadow of their own goalposts, giving themselves a chance to get points at the end of the first half.

Scramble Mailbag

jipanick: Championship week is coming up and I have a chance to beat the highest scoring team and win a first title after playing with the league six years. Scoring is 1 point per ten yards from scrimmage (fractions retained), half that for passing yards, 4 points for passing tds, 6 for rush/rec tds, and -1 per turnover. No ppr. Start QB, 3WR, 2RB, Flex, TE, K, DEF. I'm set with no questions at QB, K, and DEF. So, for WR, I get three of Marques Colston (v ATL), Jeremy Maclin (@ DAL), Brandon Lloyd (@ PIT), Percy Harvin (@ WAS), Torrey Smith (@ CLE). I think Colston and Maclin are automatic, but the third slot is a problem. All three matchups are brutal.

Technically, Jason Avant is still on my bench but I have no intention of playing him. At RB, I get three of LeSean McCoy (@ DAL), Willis McGahee (@ BUF), Ryan Mathews (@ DET), Reggie Bush (@ NE). McCoy is a no-brainer, and I'm leaning towards McGahee for one other slot, but Mathews/Bush is tricky. Mathews is on a hot team that is likely to win, but is on the road against a solid fantasy run defense and has Mike Tolbert the touchdown vulture lurking. Bush has been red hot but I have a sneaking suspicion that NE is going to blow Miami away and they may not run much. Technically, I could start a fourth receiver instead. I also have Lance Ball handcuffing McGahee.

At TE, I have Jason Witten. However, the Cowboys could conceivably have nothing to play for. I can ditch my backup quarterback or Avant and grab Tony Scheffler just in case, but honestly I'm not sure that a full game of Scheffler would be better than a pre-season type of effort for Witten. There's also no guarantee Garrett will sit his starters even if NYG wins. Thoughts?

Tom: Lloyd, Harvin, or Torrey Smith? Ouch. Lloyd is out to me because of matchups. Flacco's too up and down, but I like Smith's upside potential. Cleveland's secondary is Haden and a bunch of things I think you can exploit. I think you're clearly better off with three running backs, and personally would go with McGahee and Mathews in addition to McCoy.

Mike: I'm actually going to suggest Bush, here.

Tom: Over who?

Mike: Probably over Mathews. New England's defense in general is so bad that it would take a lot of points by the Patriots offense to take the running game away, and it's just too tempting a match-up. And you know I would never recommend Bush lightly. I would go with Witten.

Tom: I can see that, but I'm always worried about him in non-PPR situations. I wouldn't think too hard about not starting Witten.

Mike: It's been a rough year for the Cowboys, so even if they are out of contention, Garrett needs his players to play hard for appearance's sake.

Tom: Yeah.

Flores: I somehow survived a terrible week by Wes Welker, Gronkowski, and Eli Manning to make the championships! So.... Q1) QB dilemma is killing me. Eli vs Jets is terrible, but he is playing well (of course his receivers hate him, so....). Ben Roethlisberger is hurt, STL is bad but their run-D is so awful PIT might just run it all day. Trying to get Matt Moore off waivers - NE pass-D is atrocious, so if I get him, would he be better than Eli or Ben? If I don't, who do I gamble on?

Q2: 2 RB and flex spot. I have no idea who to play. Choices are: Darren Sproles (ATL made him disappear last time), Steven Jackson (that whole team is terrible but he somehow manages productivity, when not vs SF), Mike Tolbert (keeps losing snaps to Mathews even at goal line, though I'm sure Tom is happy), Santonio Holmes (ugh. Even against a bad bad Giants D, Mark Sanchez. Ugh.), Donald Brown (my team is The Goddamnit Donalds, and starting him last week was great - is a repeat possible?), and Kahlil Bell (Caleb Hanie is horrid, but Packers are bad vs run and RBs as receivers).

Q3. SEA DEF vs SF or TEN vs JAC? SEA DEF is better, but JAC offense is atrocious. Thanks again for all your help this season. Seriously, if you guys are ever in NYC, I'll be happy to buy you guys a round of drinks!

Tom: Ben should not play. The Steelers can probably run the ball successfully against the Rams. Trust him at your own peril, even with Eli's lousy matchup.

Mike: If Ben is healthy and plays then I see no reason to avoid him. The Steelers are a pretty bad running team, so they need to throw enough passes to keep the opposing defense honest. This means Mike Wallace, and Mike Wallace has the potential to make St. Louis' secondary look silly.

Tom: Will he be healthy? I think they'll try to hide him some.

Mike: I think he will be healthier than he was on Monday, which should be enough.

Tom: If you get Matt Moore, I think I'd play him. I think he could be reliable.

Mike: I see Moore and Roethlisberger as equal propositions. I suppose Moore might be a slightly more reliable play, but he has lower upside.

Tom: I'd agree with that.

Mike: Ben could just come out firing to prove Monday was an aberration and hang four touchdowns, so we'll have to wait and see.

Tom: Start Sproles, and uh?

Mike: Jackson. Pittsburgh is merely average against passes to running backs and only slightly above-average against the run. St. Louis will stick with the run because it's the only reliable method they have to matriculate the ball down the field, and if things get hairy, there will still be a lot of dumpoffs to Jackson because Pittsburgh's secondary is lights-out.

Tom: True. Given the other options, Jackson was clearly my second choice among his options. Brown is actually first in rushing DVOA. Houston is not great against the run, and the Colts are a surprisingly effective running team at times. I was favorably impressed by what I saw Sunday, so I'd take a flier on him.

Mike: Brown is great at getting successful plays, not touchdowns. "Great."

Tom: He's a boom-or-bust back. Great DVOA, lousy success rate. I hate the other options.

Mike: Yep. Go with Tennessee DST.

Tom: I'm guessing you didn't watch Thursday Night Football: Thursday Night Edition. Play Tennessee DST.

Mike: I would've gone with them in my other league if my opponent hadn't preemptively grabbed the defenses with good matchups two weeks ago.

Aaaand we're spent. Mostly. Some of you crazy kids have Week 17 championships, and your scramble writers are here to help you with your rosters and to tell your commissioner what a fool he is. Send your questions to scramble-at-footballoutsiders.com or our handy dandy forum thread!

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 21 Dec 2011

50 comments, Last at 31 Jan 2013, 7:55am by Luciarssix


by Ivarsson.se :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:02pm

As for keeping fantasy football interesting for all teams late in the season, I've thought about that as well. If you're betting money, you could set aside part of the pot for the weekly high scorer, giving every team an incentive to at least maximize their chances to get a highscore each week, avoiding pushovers when you face that abandoned team with 3 starters on IR and John Beck as starting QB...

by MJK :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:31pm

Our solution is simple. The league's prize money comes from the membership cost. And that cost is calculated per loss. So even the non-winners have incentive to try to win every game. Plus, the last place owner gets their name on a trophy of shame...

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 7:17pm

So an undefeated team wins the prize and doesn't pay any buy-in. Thats actually pretty clever.

by MJ (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:02pm

Thanks for the comments guys! Just one slight quibble - I am female. So he = she. :) Yes, that's right, girls play fantasy football too and read Football Outsiders religiously. ;)

by MJ (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:03pm

*by comments, I meant advice.

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 7:14pm

Our sincere apologies.

by Theo :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 9:00pm

Now you know guys. Your columns are even read in the kitchen.

by jackofarcades (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 6:06pm

Ohhhh original and funny. Cut this shit out.

by White Rose Duelist :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 10:32am

There were three females in my fantasy football league this year. Two are playing each other in the semifinals (yes, we have week 17 finals).

by Adam B. :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:05pm

Simplest solution (which I'd nevertheless reject): head-to-head matchups produce one set of wins per week, plus all teams scoring in the top half of the league get a second win that week.

Randomness is part of FFL. It's not always going to be perfectly "fair." It isn't always fair in real football either.

by The Powers That Be :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:59pm

I always liked the system they use at AntSports. Winning team gets 2 points. Top scoring teams get 2 points, middle scoring teams get 1 point, lowest scoring teams get 0. Same total number of points each week awarded for winning and for scoring.

by dk240t :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:05pm

I'm going to cut right to the chase - your suggestions are moronic.

All of my leagues play for money, and all of them have money available for the weekly high, and for the consolation bracket winner (except one where 8/10 teams make the playoffs, which is silly and needs to get fixed). Those leagues have something to play for, and it isn't additional arbitrariness topped onto the current level of abitrariness.

by Phrim :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:07pm

One thing I'd really like to see in fantasy leagues is awarding points for first downs. It's a simple stat that everyone understands, and way more correlated to a player's success than receptions/completions/rushes/etc. It baffles me that I haven't even seen this as an option. Yards, first downs, touchdowns--that's what football's all about, right?

by tuluse :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 6:19pm

I think ESPN has 1st downs as a scoring option.

by JIPanick :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 6:26pm

Yeah, 1st Downs are on my wishlist, along with giving WRs credit for DPI's they draw.

by Rich Arpin (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 6:29pm

I can't really remember all the scoring from my custom league that I ran a few years ago but I tried to pattern it off some things that I had read.

A possession is worth approximately 4 pts in real game scenario's, that makes all turnovers +/- 4 pts (it was IDP).
All yardage was worth 1 pt for 10 yards, even for qb's. This I think I patterned off the fact that drives that result in touchdowns go between 60-70 yards.
To show that Qb's do waste downs though I penalized incompletions fairly hard, I think it was -0.5 per incompletion.
To show the value of first downs I set all receptions to 1, though I would've rather had it a bit lower but then it makes it nearly impossible to calculate stats when at a bar or restaurant.
But that really left running backs who we're closers, the guys that could just get fed the ball and really control the tempo and the clock. I think to even that out I had a +.25 per carry, with bonuses for a couple pts at 125, 150, and 200 yards.

Really, I thought it worked out pretty well. I thought it had a really good feel for matching what your eyes would tell you about player value into actually contributing to a team win. I just remember that I faced off against Vick on one the the nights he exploded and he made I think 90 pts for his team, I lost something like 220 under 240.

The other fun thing with my league was the roster, almost everything was flex.
Three RB/WR/TE
Having these combinations allowed managers to run all they wanted. I was initially reluctant to allow 3 RB's in addition to a QB but with the scoring being what it was possession WR's and TE's were better options than RB's buried on committees. Some weeks you'd face off against someone running the spread with a bunch of WR's and some games you were playing the guy who built his team like a pro style team.
K was the standard, I had penalty's for missed kicks as you give the other team field position but scrapped this as it was just too punishing to kickers.
and then with D I had
One DL (DT or DE)
One DT
One LB
One DB (S or CB)
and One CB.
Having this kind of defensive set up allowed players to favor D line or LB's or secondary. It also allowed them to play two DT's if they wanted or two CB's but allowed a max of one DE or Safety.

Man, just talking about the league makes me wish for something more than the standard scoring league I'm in at the moment.

Really, what I'm trying to figure out is how to integrate a salary cap structure onto teams and have a bidding draft, where you bid on a FA for x number of years at a certain $value per year. Something like having $200 per week, where 180 goes to players, 20 goes to you're profit bank, and then having a large profit allows team profit, but only at the risk of team profit from wins/popularity. I'd also hope to build a system of Free agency before each season as well as rookie draft as well as having wins and championships tie to team profit, and then team profit turns to payout from league membership fees.

by random pats fan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:24pm

Caleb Hanie is a quarterback, not a cornerback.

by MJ (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:28pm

I guess he's *technically* a quarterback. He may very well play cornerback about as well as he plays quarterback.

by MJK :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:33pm

A QB's job is to try to make sure the WR's to catch the ball. A CB's job is to try to make sure a defensive player catches the ball.

So I can see why there could be confusion regarding Caleb Hanie.

by JIPanick :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:44pm

Thanks for taking my email, guys. However, the Dallas situation isn't quite what

"Mike: It's been a rough year for the Cowboys, so even if they are out of contention, Garrett needs his players to play hard for appearance's sake."

would imply. The Dallas/Giants game week 17 is worth 1.5 games in the standings due to tiebreaker concerns. If New York wins at 1 PM, then the Cowboys would be in a scenario where either they win and are up one game going into the finale, or lose and are tied. In either event, the week 17 game would be a win-and-get-in-lose-and-you-are-done game for Dallas. A lot of Cowboy fans are speculating that in that scenario Garrett could pull his starters early to prevent injury in the meaningless 4:15 Philly game before the de facto playoff game against New York next week.

If NYG loses, the point is moot because Dallas can put the Giants away by beating Philly.

by The Powers That Be :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 5:55pm

The Cowboys can still win a wildcard if they beat the Eagles and lose to the Giants. They can't be knocked out of wildcard contention before they play. So there's no scenario in which the Eagles game is meaningless to the Cowboys.

by JIPanick :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 6:16pm

Technically true, but that scenario is an extreme long shot. The Playoff Odds Report gives the Cowboys a 0.6% chance at the wildcard. Since NYG win and DAL win this week both have to happen, we can quadruple that to 2.4% for purposes of this discussion.

In terms of playoff chances, I could see Garrett deciding that avoiding the chance of a major injury to, say, Tony Romo increases his chances of beating the NYG by enough (~2.5% or more) to make it the safer overall play. Is he likely to? Absolutely not. It's very unlikely. However, since the chances of that scenario are better than the chance I will be starting Josh Freeman (0% exactly), it's worth asking if Scheffler would be a better play than Preseason Witten, just in case.

Frankly, I think the answer is no, but I find the convoluted playoff situation that even lets me ask hilarious.

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 8:35am

Last season the Seahawks actually had a 100% meaningless Week 16 game followed by a "win-and-you're-in" Week 17 game (I believe the Rams were in the same boat). I wondered if they'd rest starters but instead played them, got blown out by Tampa Bay anyhow, and managed to injure Hasselbeck, leaving them relying on Whitehurst to get to the playoffs.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 7:14pm

Great advice last week, fellas! I won, so it's on to the final.

I basically have to pick one of the following: Felix Jones, Laurent Robinson, Miles Austin vs. PHI, C.J Spiller vs. DEN and C. Johnson vs. JAC. (My other starters on WR/RB are McCoy @DAL, Wallace vs. STL and Welker vs. MIA)

My reacurring Gates/Finley conondrum is in full effect. Gates seem to be the better player overall, but Finley had a monster day against Chicago in week 3, and he got a lot of targets last week.

Also D/ST: Bears @GB or DET vs. SD.

by JIPanick :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 8:05pm


by Danish Denver-Fan :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 4:45am

Sorry. NFL.com standard; 6pt/TD no PPR.

by JIPanick :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 11:58am

I'd rank the RB/WRs:
1. Chris Johnson (gambling a bit on whether he'll want it this week, but best talent, best matchup, and most likely to be ahead and getting carries).
2. C.J. Spiller (Denver defense has some vulnerabilities, but I kind of expect Buffalo to get way behind and not run much).
3. Felix Jones (Dallas has 30 passing TDs vs 5 rushing. Their goal-line "running" game consists of Romo running around until someone gets open. More likely to get 100 yfs than Spiller, but don't expect any scores).
4. Laurent Robinson (Austin is still banged up, so Robinson's your better ticket on the Dallas Red Zone Target Lottery).
5. Miles Austin

At TE, I start Finley. Stat wise they've been about equal, and he has the better matchup (DET is #5 in DVOA vs TE, CHI #12). The main concern is that GB may get way ahead and stop throwing, but they don't strike me as that kind of team.

At DEF, goto the wavier wire. If you can't (or if the options are somehow even worse), start the Lions.

by Dennis :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 7:23pm

I think the fairest way to do it is total points. But I like having the weekly wins and losses, so for that, the fairest way IMO is the top half of the teams each week get a win and the bottom half get a loss.

by Arkaein :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 8:53pm

Fantasy Football is, at its core, pretty unfair in how matchups work. However there would be a lot less drama without them, since it's a lot more exciting when a single play can mean the difference between winning and losing than it is to have a single play make the different of a single spot in the weekly standings.

Additionally, you could never be fully satisfied with your results in a given week if points are cumulative. In normal FF a player heading into the final game of the week with a 30 point lead and one flex player can rest easy knowing the win is locked up. If points add up throughout the season then everyone will be obsessing over every player, regardless of how well their team has done in the early games of the weekend. That sounds more like work than fun to me.

Dennis' suggestion in comment 21 isn't a bad compromise, though. Fairer than traditional rules, but maintaining the weekly drama for teams with average performances.

I also like rewards that keep the games interesting even for teams out of the title hunt. Weekly awards and losers brackets (at least for 3rd place, which we have an award for in the league I play in) do a pretty good job.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 9:57pm

I'll throw my two cents in here since this is an issue that's come up in the past two seasons of my medium-stakes league among friends (for which I'm the commissioner). Basically, our issue has boiled down to this: After 13 seasons of using NFL-style standings tiebreakers with no hiccups, the last 2 have seen seemingly deserving teams miss the playoffs because of head-to-head records trumping total points.

In general, my philosophy is that, if you want total points to be the #1 tiebreaker at all times, then it's illogical to play weekly head-to-head games whatsoever. If I beat someone twice during the season, and we finish tied in the standings, then my head-to-head sweep should settle the tie. Otherwise, what was the point of playing those two games head-to-head? On the flip side, I think there is definitely something to be said for total points being paramount in fantasy because, unlike the NFL or whatever sport you're talking about, a fantasy team has absolutely no control over what their opponents score. Basing the standings on total points, then, does make sense in that it eliminates randomness, with "randomness" meaning "uncontrollable events."

So, I think both sides have merit, but I think it's best implemented as a black-and-white proposition. Either you play head-to-head, and those matchup results determine the standings, or you don't play head-to-head at all, and total points determines the standings. Unfortunately, that's not an option most of the time because people are wedded to head-to-head, especially in friendly leagues where bragging rights are more important than the money.

My solution to this whole thing is, as far as I know, only automated in CBS's fantasy platform: breakdown record. Kind of a compromise between what Mike and Tom wrote about here, a team's breakdown record is determined by how they finish among all teams in a given week according to points scored. So, in a 10-team league, the highest-scoring team gets a breakdown record of 9-0, the second-highest gets 8-1, and so on. This is done for every week such that, at the end of the season, a team will have accumulated an aggregate breakdown record based on 9x13=117 "games." In essence, it replaces one head-to-head matchup against one opponent each week with nine "head-to-head" matchups against the rest of the league.

This method has the benefit of being points-based, and the larger sample size of "games" eliminates a lot of the randomness associated with "any given Thursday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday." Also, it gives the feel of head-to-head insofar as what you end up determining the standings with at the end of the season is a record rather than a point total. If two teams are tied in breakdown record, and then total points is the tiebreaker, there's absolutely no way (as far as I can see) that the loser of the tiebreaker has a legitimate beef.

I've found that breakdown records are highly related to total points (Yes, I'm a nerd). For instance, in the league I referenced, the #1 scoring team, which finished with a 6-7 traditional record (#5 playoff seed) finished with the second-best breakdown record at 80-37. The #2 scoring team finished 12-1 as per the schedule, and 81-36 as per breakdown. I was the #3 scoring team, finished 9-4 overall, and 79-38 in breakdown. After the three of us, the rest of the league wasn't close in total points (next-best was 106 behind me), breakdown record (next-best was 17 games behind me), or traditional record (next best two games behind me).

Basically, the entire season was the three of us dominating the league, with the 12-1 guy and I having that reflected in our traditional records and total points, whereas the #1 scorer unlucked himself into 6-7. His breakdown record fixed that random anomaly.

by James B (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 3:18pm

"On the flip side, I think there is definitely something to be said for total points being paramount in fantasy because, unlike the NFL or whatever sport you're talking about, a fantasy team has absolutely no control over what their opponents score."

I believe this is the key point to the argument and you draw the exactly wrong conclusion. Why not allow your choices to influence your opponent's scoring? The most obvious choice would be to break down your defense's values, convert them into multipliers and apply those multipliers to the relevant opposing players.
For example:
0 sacks=x1.4, 1 sack=x1.2, 2 sacks=1.0 etc. applied to the opposing QB
0-50 rushing yards allowed=x0.4, 51-75=x0.6, 76-100=x0.8 applied to the opposing RBs

This way, you don't necessarily play the best defense in every situation, if your opponent has stud RBs but a mediocre QB situation, it may be wise to play a D that is terrible rushing but beastly at stopping the run, versus a D that is decent at both.

You could also have each player choose one of several "game plans" along with his line up that gives similar, offsetting multipliers to different types of players, for example "defend pass" gives x1.2 to RBs and x.8 to WRs, "defend run" is vice versa, and "balanced" does nothing.

Note that all numbers are likely terribly off.

by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 4:47pm

This is a really cool idea, and wish I had thought of it.

by unknown_user (not verified) :: Wed, 01/11/2012 - 7:52pm

I too have been a long-time commish who's tinkered with different scoring systems after several years in which our best regular-season team didn't even get to the playoff finals. I've also added some scoring tweaks based on FO insights (such as ALL fumbles are -2 and lost fumbles are only an additional -1).

Anyhow, last year's bright idea for the playoffs was based on trying to reduce variance (and give an edge to the legitimately "better" teams) by using cumulative multi-week scores for the playoffs. So we had 3 playoff weeks for 6 teams setup like this: top 2 get byes into semi-finals while bottom 4 play 1st week elimination game. Semi-final results based on 2-week scoring totals (so bye-week teams still play their best lineup during the first week, they just can't be eliminated). And then Finals results based on 3-week totals.

Well, I got a lesson in the law of unintended consequences when our playoffs were basically over in week 1. Our second-best team had a ridiculous point total during his bye week -- he basically doubled the 2nd-best score of the week. We went through the motions of weeks 2 & 3 (in which he was soundly outscored by his opponent both weeks) but he rode his week 1 cushion to the championship.

After much thought, this year I put in a system to try to balance the fairness of a "breakdown record" with the competetive fun of head-to-head wins. I ended up giving 1 pt for every "breakdown win" based on ordinal ranking, but also gave out an additional +3 pts for winning the week's head-to-head matchup. In total, that's 4 pts to beat your scheduled opponent, 1 pt each for every other team you outscore that week. (You might also earn an additional 1 or 2 pts for "dominance" depending on how much you outscored the next-ranked team by. This was done to give a little extra reward/penalty for particularly awesome/awful weeks.)

Then I simply doubled the pts during playoff weeks and continued to track the cumulative total. This way, the playoffs would allow for more volatility than the regular season, but they wouldn't entirely negate it.

(As an experiment, I also tracked a normal single-elimination playoff with "point-spread" bonuses. For example, a playoff game matching a team that averaged 118.8 pts against a team that averaged 112.5 would have a point spread of 6.3. These 6.3 bonus pts were awarded to the team that earned the bonus by scoring more in the regular season.)

So my second lesson in unintended consequences happened this year, when all that elaborate work through the season turned out to be completely unnecessary. For the first time in 6 years, the top regular season team also won the playoffs. Both with the breakdown wins system and also with the elimination tournament (either with or without the point-spread bonus). Figures.

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 9:59pm

Question about my starting QB in the championship game:

Eli v. the Jets, Sanchez v. the Giants, or Ryan v. the Saints? It's a 6-point per passing TD league, so it's a big call...

by JIPanick :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 10:15pm

I'd start Ryan. New Orlean's pass D is bad, and they'll force ATL to keep scoring.

by Tim R :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 11:48am

I would probably go with Ryan.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 12:33pm

Ryan and it's not close.

I'm struggling with Ryan vs. Newton. Our league has somewhat wacky QB scoring, which makes Newton less of a clear choice than he would be in a standard league:

0.5 point per completion
-0.5 point per incompletion
1 point per 20 yards passing
6 points per passing TD
1 point per 10 yards rushing
6 points per rushing TD

Actually, this being Newton, I should probably note that it's 0.5 PPR . . .

And I won't be taking advice from Tim R (#38), because he's my opponent in the final . . .

by JIPanick :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 5:20pm

I'd still play Newton. On the year, points from the comp/incomp should only have been about 3 in Ryan's favor if I read this right, rush yards are still valuable, and he's at home against a worse defense.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 8:21pm

My concern with Newton is that he may just end up handing the ball off in a blowout, whereas I think the Falcons-Saints game should be close and high scoring. Newton's been far superior over the season as a whole in our league, but Ryan clearly better in recent weeks. Ach, I'm still really torn on this one.

by Nathan Forster :: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 11:26pm

One idea to keep a rotisserie fantasy football league interesting for players near the bottom of the standings is to award the non-winning team with the most points from weeks 14-16 with the number one overall pick in the following year's draft. I implemented something similar in a traditional head-to-head league a year or so back, where there was a losers' bracket with the winner getting the number one pick. It was successful because the number one pick is a big deal in fantasy, and the winner of the losers felt that they had some success that season because they were setup so well for the next year.

Sorry JPP!

by DGL :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 12:06am

I do a similar thing in my league. Draft order is determined by the results of the "consolation bracket" (eight of 12 teams), with the four playoff teams getting the last four slots in reverse order of finish.

by Jonadan :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 1:09am

On the fantasy football thing: I play in one league with weird scoring that, since its inception three years ago, has gotten progressively weirder. While I can't figure out how to check the past seasons on Yahoo, the one thing that is glaringly true this year (and I remember as possibly being the case previous years) is that PA is a much greater indicator than PF. In other words, I'm sympathetic to the problems with H2H leagues.

The difficulty is that I'm not sure how to fix those problems short of the switch to full-on points-only play (whatever the technical term might be) which I don't think anybody really likes.

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

by Danny Tuccitto :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 1:35am

See above. The solution is to switch to CBS, and go with breakdown record for your standings.

by sswoods (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 2:35am

I want to figure out a way to play defense against my opponent. Haven't figured out how to do it yet.

We keep all teams interested in our league by having a 3rd Place Bracket. It works like this for our 12 team league: The top six teams make the Championship Bracket, where they play for the Championship, in a typical 6 team format weeks 14-16. Meanwhile, teams 7-10 make the 3rd Place Bracket, while the bottom two teams sit it out. A loss in the 3rd Place Bracket and you are out. A loss in the Champs Bracket and you move down to the 3rd Place Bracket. (Except for the Championship Game, the loser is automatically 2nd place.) Highest remaining seed plays lowest remaining seed, 3rd place game takes place week 17. The bottom of the league stays active so that they have a shot at 3rd Place - 3rd place wins their money back - and the top teams that lose in an upset in the Champs bracket still have a shot at 3rd Place as well. It's hard to bracket it out on the site, so we just input the games each week on the schedule. Haven't had a team just disappear since we started doing it this way.

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 9:26am

it comes down to how much you value 1. Having the best team win the championship, vs. 2. Having dramatic "any given Sunday" potential for upsets. It should immediately be clear that these two are at odds.
If you want the former, do a 16-week total points league with no playoffs (it makes no sense to complain about lesser teams winning out over better ones and then have playoffs, which exist essentially only to allow this to happen).
If you like the latter for the playoffs (as I do), I have no idea why you wouldn't want it the rest of the season.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 10:08am

I lasted 19 seconds into the cat commercial. I'm betting no one topped me.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/22/2011 - 5:38pm

Hasn't been that much bad yodelling since Lillethfair ended.

by ctpatsfan77 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/23/2011 - 4:36am

For KCW, I nominate Quan Cosby.

Had he just let the punt go, it probably would have eaten up all the time on the clock. Instead, he tried to field it, muffed it, and gave New England a freebie FG attempt with three seconds to go.

When you KNOW that the last thing you want is to get into a track meet with GRONKnandez et al., that was about as stupid as it gets.

by Whatev :: Fri, 12/23/2011 - 7:13am

The thing about Hue Jackson's decision is that while it might not have been the right decision, normally you would think it WOULDN'T MATTER.

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