Last Week's Question: Has Your League Found
an Effective Way to Mix Point Tallies with Head-to-Head Matchups?
question sprouted from the commentary of a frustrated FFer
named Ben who clearly dislikes the fact that that his league splits
the pot between the winner of a single-elimination head-to-head
playoff tournament and whichever team generates the most points
during the playoffs (whether that team makes the playoffs or not).
Ben clearly enjoys the head-to-head structure more than the point
tally structure used by some leagues, but not all people share
this preference. Pat wrote in to explain his frustration with
the head-to-head approach:
A major drawback of head-to-head leagues is the "I'm toward
the top in points but toward the bottom in the standings"
complaint, which I'm sure you've heard often. I'm in a head-to-head
league where I'm first in total points and in fourth place. The
girl in second place has 250 points fewer than me. Aggravating.
I suppose I can live with this, but a friend of mine in another
league is first in points and might not make the playoffs. That's
enough to make a guy stop playing for good. I know there are times
I lose the desire after a string of tough losses. Or a few seasons
A "mix" or "hybrid" league is exactly what
I'm after. Head-to-head is the most fun, but it needs just a little
tweaking to eliminate some of the "luck." Hopefully
somebody out there has a solution.
Good news Pat! I received answers from participants in leagues
that take a number of different approaches that blend the head-to-head
and points approaches. Sean reminded me of a points-oriented practice
that already exists in many head-to-head leagues:
Our league champion is based on wins. He takes 70% of the pot.
The rest is split between the other playoffs teams depending on
where they finish. However, in weeks 7 thru 13 we award a $25
weekly prize to the high scorer for that week, which keeps people
in the game.
The practice of awarding weekly payouts to high-scoring teams, particularly
at the end of the season, is a time-tested method of keeping owners
who are behind in the standings from leaving their teams on auto-pilot
after concluding that they have no realistic shot at the big prize.
I understand why this might seem like a hybrid approach to some
FFers, but it really does very little to address the concerns of
people like Pat. It's nice to see a prize awarded to the high-scoring
team in a league each week, but the simple fact of the matter is
that the team with the highest score in any given week will also
have won the head-to-head match in which it participated. Pat's
concern is for teams that consistently deliver high scores, but
uncannily end up playing against other teams on their best day.
If a team in Sean's league scores the second-most points each week
from week 7 to week 13, it never wins a prize even though it would
probably finish that stretch with more total points than any of
the other teams. Some of the other responses I received do a better
job of addressing this problem. Brian's league includes payouts
based on head-to-head records as well as points performance:
Regarding our scoring, we have always gone by total cumulative
points in determining our overall champion. We have had many discussions
about this through the years, but the “majority” of
the league thinks this is the best way to determine the champion.
We have one owner who is adamant about wanting to use HTH record
as the determining factor, but he ends up caving to the rest of
By offering payouts to some teams based on their head-to-head records
and other teams based their total points, Brian's league clearly
qualifies as the sort of hybrid I was looking for. Some head-to-head
leagues would be reluctant to base the league championship strictly
on points, but it would not be hard for leagues that want to keep
their current structure mostly intact to continue to award the trophy
to the winner of a traditional, single-elimination tournament while
offering significant payouts to the teams with the highest point
tallies (regardless of their head-to-head records). Roger's league
uses a very simple formula for this sort of modification:
I look at it this way…..you have 2 owners who match up against
each other and both score over 200 points for the week. And you
have 2 other owners who match up and score in the 150s. You mean
to tell me the one owner who lost say 202 to 211 has a worse team
than the other owner who won his matchup at 155 to 150?
I don’t see it that way…..it’s all about scoring
points……that’s the reason you draft a team,
to score points, not to get a HTH win….plus you still have
a shot with total points, depending on how large or small the
lead is heading into the closing weeks of the season.
We have payouts for the end of the year for the following catagories:
Weekly High scorer (17)
Best weekly high score
1st and 2nd place HTH record
1st and 2nd coaching % (actual score vs what you could have scored)
Top 4 total points…..with the top point scorer being crowned
champion AND getting to take home the champion’s trophy
for a year (winner gets his name engraved on the trophy….similar
to the Stanley Cup)
8th place finisher (total points) get the “Horse’s
Ass” trophy and is responsible for supplying 3 pizzas and
a 30 pack at the following year’s draft…..keeps those
at the bottom from throwing in the towel.
In our league we base the season, and playoffs, on head-to-head
matchups. That creates the most competition and talk throughout
the year and provides a traditional feel to the playoffs since
“any given Sunday…”. But we do also recognize
points through the regular season as we feel that is a pretty
strong measure of a successful fantasy squad. The pot is split
roughly with ¾ going to the Super Bowl Champ and ¼
going to the Points winner through the end of the regular season
in Week 13. I don’t believe we have ever had a Points champion
miss the playoffs, though most of the time we have two different
winners. We feel this system rewards a quality team, even if that
team did not have a great record due to matchups, and still gives
the biggest payout to the real Super Bowl champion.
In leagues that split the pot between a head-to-head winner and
a points champion, the percentage of the pot awarded to a points
champion will obviously vary based upon how strongly the league
values head-to-head competition. But I did hear from one person
with a league similar to Ben's (with a 50/50 split between the teams
with the best records and those with the highest point totals).
According to Dan:
Our league splits the total purse between the playoffs (head to
head) and total points for the year. We also have a token prize
for the “toilet bowl” and also for most points scored
against through Week 13. We have a ten-team league and offer payouts
to the top four in playoffs and the top four in points.
However, payouts need not be affected at all. David's league has
come up with an extremely interesting way of using point tallies
to determine playoff seeding in a league that stresses head-to-head
My longtime league is experimenting with a new playoff seeding
system this year that mixes in points a bit more, although our
playoff qualifiers have always been a mix of both. In our 10-team
league (a pair of 5-team divisions), 8 teams make the playoffs
(no bye weeks). In the past the top 6 seeds were determined by
the top 3 teams in each division, seeded 1-6 according to record.
Then, the 2 highest scoring teams of the "bottom 4"
would get in, seeded 7 and 8 based on points. This was a decent
system, and kept bad schedule luck (a high scoring team that scores
enough most weeks to win against anyone...except who they're playing)
from keeping a team out of the playoffs. The problem was, the
1 and 2 seeds (for each division winner) weren't very prestigious
because seeds 7 and 8 were usually high scoring teams with bad
luck, whereas seeds 5 and 6 were usually mediocre teams with "good"
schedules. So this year, the same 8 teams qualify but we're then
seeding 3 through 8 by points. Right now, the highest scoring
team has a 4-8 record and is in the bottom 4 with no hope of a
top-3 division finish. In the past this team would be the #7 seed,
but now they'll be the #3 seed. We (of course) voted in the offseason
and felt this was still a nice mix of points and record while
rewarding the top seeds (since we don't have playoff byes).
Nathan's league also uses point tallies to determine playoff
seeding according to a slightly different formula:
Our 14-team league plays doubleheaders each week, and the top
8 teams make the playoffs. By top 8 I mean the 6 best H2H records
and the top 2 remaining scoring teams. Once we get those 8 teams,
the first 4 are seeded by record and the next 4 are seeded by
points. Then it's straight H2H from there. This keeps more teams
in the mix if their H2H record is bad.
As the responses quoted above indicate, the problem that leagues
face in choosing between head-to-head and point tally approaches
is that even though most FFers agree that the point tally approach
is the more accurate indicator of a fantasy squad's quality, the
head-to-head approach is more enjoyable for most owners and results
in a more sustained and satisfying sense of competition (perhaps
because the element of luck adds a thrill that is somehow missing
in points-only leagues). The single most unorthodox suggestion
for a resolution of this problem came from Darren, whose league
relies on power rankings to sidestep the head-to-head/points quandary:
One of the great things about the league is how well it’s
adapted with the times. Among the changes: A move to an auction
and a move away from being a pure head-to-head league to something
like the hybrid which you discuss in your column. We agreed several
years ago that head-to-head records proved a poor judge of what
were the best teams in the league, given that ‘playing defense’
was largely impossible in fantasy football and that the quality
of your opponent’s performance in any given week was a matter
of pure luck. Obviously, total points was a much better indicator
of a team’s overall strength. Still, we agreed that head-to-head
matchups were a main source of the fun of fantasy football, so
we didn’t want to abandon the concept entirely.
My thanks to everyone who took the time to write in. There was too
much feedback this week for me to include every response, but I
have attempted (as usual) to represent every perspective with as
little redundancy as possible. If your league is interested in blending
the head-to-head and point tally approaches, you should definitely
be able to use one of the responses above as a launch pad for the
So what we ended up doing was using the ‘Power Rankings’
system calculated by CBS Sportsline, which hosts our league. It’s
a rather ingenious way to judge overall scoring strength AND consistency
(an important factor that many points-only leagues overlook),
and would be fairly easy to calculate even if your site was on
another service. It basically ranks your team on three different
criteria: 1/3rd Head-to-Head Record; 1/3 Total Points Scored;
and 1/3 Breakdown Record, which is basically what your record
would be if you played every team every week (ie if you scored
the highest score on the first week in a 12-team league and the
third highest score the second week, your breakdown record after
week 2 would be 20-2).
At the end of the season, the 6 teams at the top of the power
rankings make the playoffs.
Now for some reason, we still have it so the two division winners
in the head-to-head portion of our league automatically make the
playoffs and get a bye (that was kind of a nod to the folks who
were more reluctant to abandon the old way) – we haven’t
yet had a division winner not be in the top 6 in the power rankings,
but I suppose it could be theoretically possible (in which case
the #6 power ranked team would get screwed).
I’ve been advocating for the past several years to try and
incorporate this hybrid system into our playoff season, which
for now remains purely head-to-head. But even though I still think
it’s unfair that a team gets kicked out of the playoffs
because of one poor week or even if it outscores every other team
except it’s actual opponent, I understand why most of the
owners in our league want to keep it as is. The appeal and excitement
of head-to-head matchups, especially in the playoffs, is tough
to deny, even if it will never be the best way to determine the
best team in a league. After all, it’s not like the best
NFL team always wins the Super Bowl either.
This Week's Question: Do You Have Fantasy
Plans for the NFL Playoffs?
This week's question stems from a note that I received this week
I have run a playoff pool/league for 7 years now, and it is very
popular. You would think that more than a few people would pick
the same players, but it has never happened, and we get around
40 entries every year. It really helps fan the fantasy flames
after the standard season ends.
Thanks Alan for sharing the rules for your postseason fantasy
pool. If any other readers out there have fantasy plans for the
NFL playoffs, I look forward to hearing
about them for next week's column.
Here are the rules and such from last year:
1) One player—and only one player—from each of the
12 playoff teams must be selected by each fantasy team.
2) The same players can be selected by multiple owners, so it’s
more a selection process than a draft.
3) The rosters must consist of the following:
2 QBs (Team QB –all players playing the QB position); 3
RBs; 2 WRs; 1 TE; 2 D/STs; 2 kickers (Team Kickers – all
players kicking FG’s/XP’s)
4) Regular-season scoring rules apply as far as points and such
6 points per TD (passing, rushing, receiving, DST)
1 point per 25 yards passing
1 point per 10 yards rushing
1 point per 10 yards receiving
-2 per lost fumble (A "muff" on a punt return is not
-2 per interception thrown
3 points per FG 49 yards and less
4 points per FG 50 yards and up
1 point per XP
2 points per successful 2 point conversion (passing, rushing &
2 points per Fumble and/or INT recovered (DST only)
1 point per sack (DST only)
20 point bonus for shutout, 19 points for giving up 1 (even though
that is impossible), 18 for giving up 2 and so on… (DST)
5) There is no head-to-head competition, but rather a total points
calculation. The owner with the most points after the Super Bowl
6) $20 per team fee
Basically every team will have 2 players in the Super Bowl and
the same number of players being knocked out each week.
Here is the winning entry last year...
QB: Green Bay
QB: New England
RB: Matt Forte
RB: Michael Turner
RB: Rashard Mendenhall
WR: Marques Colston
WR: DeSean Jackson
TE: Jacob Tamme
K: Kansas City
D/ST: New York Jets
(Courtesy of Matthew
#3: Dolphins over Eagles (10-3, PIT, SD,
GB, BUF, HOU, CIN, NO, CAR, NE, DAL, DET, NYJ, BAL):
At the beginning of the season, this game was penciled in by Eagles
fans as an automatic win. But the Eagles have played flat for
most of the season, and Andy Reid may have lost the locker room
(though hopefully not his job because there are not many better
than him). Miami Coach Tony Sporano, on the other hand, seems
to have his team competing at a high level in spite of their 4-9
record. When the Dolphins do lose, it is usually in heartbreaking
fashion at the end of the game after leading for most of it. While
Michael Vick will probably be back under center to try and exploit
the attacking defense of the Dolphins, it will be Reggie Bush
who causes fits for an Eagles Linebacker crew that has been torched
by rushers that have rushed for over 100 yards 10 times this season.
Combine that with a Dolphins defense that is ranked 5th against
the rush and the formula for beating the Eagles is in the works.
This game between two 4-9 teams is not genuinely lopsided, but
if you have used all of your LMS picks on the teams that are “expected
to win," this is probably one of your best options this week.
#2: Ravens over Colts (10-3, SD, AZ, DET,
GB, NYG, PIT, JAX, NO, DAL, MIA, NE, CIN, SF):
By now you should see a recurring theme in your LMS picks. Pick
against the Colts and against the Browns. No brainer, right? Maybe
not. Indy gave the Patriots a fight for most of last week’s
game and even fought back to within a touchdown at the end (which
makes one pause). Maybe the Colts aren’t dead. And now that
they are in pretty good shape for the Andrew Luck pick in April,
maybe the team puts players on the field who, because they are
fighting for their jobs for next year, will make something happen.
Last week, Dan Orlovsky did just that. He was able to move the
Colts' 29th ranked offense over 475 yards against a Patriots defense
that is ranked dead last. But the Ravens (ranked 3rd overall)
are no pushovers like the Patriot defense. Look for the “new
Colts” of Baltimore to beat the “old Colts”
of Baltimore in a game where Art Modell returns again with his
team to the city he once left in the dead of night.
#1: Jets over Chiefs (10-3 SD, PIT, TN, PHL,
CIN, GB, DAL, NYG, OAK, BAL, SF, ATL, NE):
This game scares me. Rex Ryan has publicly stated that he needs
to put some “wrinkles” in his offense because Mark
Sanchez and company are predictable. They are 26th in overall
offense going up against a Chiefs defense that is 2nd in the league
with 17 interceptions. Shonn Green should have a pretty good game
as well based upon the Chiefs' tendency to allow opposing rushers
over 130 yards per game. But Kyle Orton may come in and play for
a Chiefs team that still has slim playoff hopes and seems to be
going in the “right” direction in spite of injuries
to key players. While all the stats say that the Jets should win
at home, there are intangibles that make this game a risky lock
of the week.
For responses to this month's
fantasy question please email