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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Reader Feedback on Doubleheaders

In my July column, I focused on a question from a reader named Dan. Dan wants to schedule "sporadic doubleheaders" (occasional Sundays when the owners in his head-to-head league will play two games instead of just one), but he does not want the scheduling of the doubleheaders to give some owners an unfair advantage over other owners simply because of the way the NFL schedules byes during the regular season.

If you just read that first paragraph and have no idea what I am talking about, you may want to review my July column for a slower and more detailed explanation of Dan's problem. I see no need to repeat that explanation here because the overwhelming amount of feedback to my July column suggests that "sporadic doubleheaders" are fairly common in head-to-head leagues and that a lot of people are unhappy with the perceived problems in fairness they can cause.

The angriest response I received came from a reader who asked not to be identified. I'll call him Mr. Pink, and here is what he had to say:

Doubleheaders suck. In H2H leagues, they make 1 week count twice as much as a "normal" week.

In my league our doubleheader is usually early before the bye weeks start & most injuries occur, which [puts owners who draft for depth and consistency at a disadvantage]. Also, when using total points for the year as a tie-breaker, the doubleheader week can unfairly separate teams [by arbitrarily doubling the score in certain weeks].

In a 12-team league (as mine is), my suggestion has been to have 4 divisions with 3 teams in each. It may seem a little small for a division, but it gives the team in 1st a reason not to get complacent & a team in 4th usually loses interest by mid-season (so this completely eliminates that).

[If we got rid of doubleheaders and used my model, all owners would] play each division opponent twice & every other team once for a 13-week regular season. The top 2 teams get byes in the 1st round of the playoffs, and the championship is played in week 16.

Unfortunately, some of the owners in my league aren't smart enough to grasp a well-thought out concept. Feel free to quote me so that the morons in my league finally get the picture.

Mr. Pink does not mind if I quote him, but he doesn't want me to use his name. Come to think of it, Deep Throat might have been a better alias.

There is nothing unusual about Mr. Pink's frustration with the sporadic doubleheader system his league uses. A number of readers responded to my July column not because they had an answer for Dan, but because they wanted to let me know how unfair they think sporadic doubleheaders are.

According to Keith, "If you have doubleheaders on some weeks but not other weeks, you are just making fantasy football into a stupid contest between the people who get lucky at the right time and the people who don't. It's bogus."

Let me say to Keith and Mr. Pink and the many FFers for whom they speak that the purpose of my July column was not to promote the sporadic doubleheader. Dan had a question about how to schedule sporadic doubleheaders so that they are as fair as possible, and I am simply making an effort to collect the best possible responses for him. I am neither an advocate nor an enemy of the sporadic doubleheader, though I do participate in one fantasy league that uses such a model.

JD went to the root of Dan's problem--the question about how concerns over tiebreakers spurred him to consider scheduling sporadic doubleheaders in the first place:

My suggestion for Dan would be simple: Use total points as the playoff tiebreaker instead of the win-loss records of owners who are tied. If he is set on the idea of doubleheaders, this obviously won't work...but I find the total points tiebreaker to be very fair. Also, it almost makes sense to play your division twice and the other one just once too. Why have 2 divisions if you play everyone twice and divisional records don't matter for playoff spots?

If he wants more games, I suggest adding a side tournament sometime during the season for fun. I do this in my league, and it keeps everyone involved! Even if someone starts 0-5...they have a side tournament or competition to look forward to and still want to make their team better.

Any commissioners who first learned about doubleheaders from my July column and may be interested in exploring the idea should proceed with caution. A crude simplification of the dialogue between Dan and the first three readers quoted in my column goes like this:

Dan: Would sporadic doubleheaders be fair if I worked them like this?
Mr. Pink: Don't use sporadic doubleheaders.
Dan: Hmm, but do you think they would be more fair if I worked them like this?
Keith: Don't use sporadic doubleheaders.
Dan: Okay, but what if I tried it like this?
JD: Doubleheaders are exacerbating your problem, not solving it.

JD makes an excellent point. If you are resorting to sporadic doubleheaders in order to address a perceived issue of fairness in your league, you may only end up making things worse. However, some FFers look forward to Sundays when they play two games instead of one. For better or worse, sporadic doubleheaders are an integral part of the scheduling question that many commissioners face each year, and the readers of the July column had a number of suggestions that might be helpful to such commissioners.

Andrew speaks hypothetically (not from experience):

If I were Dan, I would just play doubleheaders for the first 11 weeks (everyone plays everyone twice which kind of nulls the importance of divisions), then start playoffs that 6 teams make and are 2 weeks per round. (Rd 1 weeks 12/13, Rd 2 weeks 14/15, Championship Weeks 16/17). I like the 2 week playoffs so it's not just one bad week that loses it.

The nice thing about Andrew's suggestion is that if everyone plays doubleheaders all the way through the NFL's regular season bye schedule, the problem of being double-punished or double-rewarded because of certain teams being out of action in certain weeks disappears. Of course, if you are willing to consider playing two games every single week, then you might want to go whole hog and consider imitating Stephen's league:

Two years ago I completely revamped my fantasy league and set it up where every team plays each other every week, in essence playing 9 games a week in a 10-team league. I have yet to find anything negative about this approach. This is the most accurate way to ensure the 4 best, most consistent teams make the playoffs each year. I honestly can't imagine going back to the old 1-game-a-week setup. Not only does it prevent people from lucking their way to the playoffs through an easy schedule, but it keeps everyone interested that much longer since there are such big swings from week to week. I recommend it to everyone; you will not be disappointed.

Commissioners who want their owners to play more than one game per week but still want to cling to the intense individual competition that is hard to find outside of traditional H2H leagues may want to consider Adam's odd but fascinating model:

I play in a H2H league with 14 teams, so we play every team once prior to playoffs starting in week 14. I am thinking about making every week a double header, but not against 2 teams.... 1 game will be the normal H2H game; the other will be to score in the top 7 for total points for the week. So if you have a great week, but get beat by your H2H opponent, you can still finish in top 7 and go 1-1 for the week. If you squeak out a lucky win because your H2H opponent has a poor week also, you would go 1-1 for the week by finishing in bottom 7 for the week etc. So it would make our league a H2H and total-points hybrid.

Alan's response may have been the most relevant of all because his league uses consistently scheduled doubleheaders after Week One to avoid the tiebreaker problems Dan complained about:

I am a commissioner of a 10-team league. We have always played a 14-week schedule with 2 divisions. We had a real problem last year with our playoffs because of the exact scenario Dan threw out. If you use H2H as a tie-breaking criterion with an unbalanced schedule, you are destined for trouble. This year, we are using a new system:

14 weeks;
every team plays each team 3 times;
double headers every week except week 1.

I hope this helps you. I sure hope it works for our league. We voted on this, and there was an overwhelming desire to try it.

We also changed our standings criteria to the following:

1. overall winning percentage
2. total points scored
3. victory points
4. power ranking
5. head to head

We lowered head to head as the last tie breaker. Our league feels this set up would eliminate any ties that might cause extreme hard feeling as it did last year with using H2H as our second criterion.

Chris does not see a tidy mathematical solution for scheduling doubleheaders for a 10-team league in a 13-week season, but he suggests that Dan can achieve fairness if his owners play 27 games instead of just 18:

In the scenario Dan proposed in your article, his objective is that each team plays every other team an equal number of times, and he is open to the idea of double-headers. For each team to play every other team twice, this would require each team to play 18 games, which has the scheduling difficulties you outline in your article.

One simple alternative would be to have each team play every other team three times. This would require each team to play 27 games. With 13 available weeks, you could have a double header in weeks 1-12, and a triple header in week 13.

This solution solves the bye-week problem because it has a double-header every bye week. It also avoids the front-loading problem that you discussed in your article so that an owner can recover from an 0-4 start in the first two weeks. And it has the added "benefit" of making week 13 count 50% more than previous weeks for the "playoff atmosphere".

SteelerJim's league LOVES doubleheaders. You might say they build their fun entirely out of doubleheaders. He acknowledges that Dan's 10-team league with a traditional 13-week regular season is nothing like his own 18-team league with a 17-week season and no playoffs, but commissioners who like SteelerJim's model should be able to come up with something analagous in their own leagues:

We have an 18-team league (head to head) split into two nine-team divisions that hold completely separate drafts (same location, 18 guys at the draft is a no holds barred train wreck and the best day of the year for me). We then play the entire 17-week schedule with doubleheaders every week for a total of 34 games. No play offs--the best record wins. Since we hold separate drafts we play against teams that have some of the same players.

I play and have played in leagues with play offs, and for me, the 17-week doubleheader league is the best. You get to play the entire 17-week season, two games a week with a lot of strategy involved when it comes to playing teams with some of the same players and weeks 16 and 17 when teams rest their players. The 18 guys in our league all work together and are friends so it is easier to ensure no one tanks the season, plus we’re all cops so tasering would not be out of the question.

Any one of these models could be just the thing Dan needs to solve his problem. I am especially fond of the suggestions from Adam and SteelerJim. The only flaw in most of the suggestions is that Dan's league may not want to have doubleheaders every week. Dan wants to schedule eighteen games in thirteen weeks, which presumably entails scheduling five double-headers at some point between Week One and Week Thirteen. He wants those extra games to be scheduled as fairly as possible--with every owner suffering to the same degree from scheduled byes in the NFL.

Andy's answer came closer than anyone else's to addressing Dan's core concerns:

My league actually mirrors the NFL. We have 32 teams that play 16 games; we even use NFL team names. And because we also use the NFL playoff model, we only have 12 weeks to get those games in.

I started out trying to schedule the the DHs so that they wouldn't conflict too much with bye weeks, but as you said, it creates a weirdly unbalanced schedule.

What I've decided to do now (and presumably forever) is to give each team one DH in each three week period. Thus, each team plays 4 games every 3 weeks.

The biggest part of this, which most goes to the point, is that where these DHs occur for each team is done randomly, like this:

Each team has a generic 12-game schedule for 12 weeks. The other 4 games are then added to that schedule. I set it up saying, for instance, in week 5 AFC Team #1 plays NFC Team #1. Then, I publish our schedule for the league with AFC Team #1 in it, and then I use MFL's random generator which will tell the league who is actually AFC Team #1. This way if any team happens to have a DH when their best guys are off, at least it's all random for everyone. Fortunately for me, the first year I did this my team had both MJD and CalJo on byes when I had a DH, so everyone could see it was random.

If I were Dan, I would just schedule the normal 13-week schedule as he usually does. Then, he's got to get 5 more weeks of games in over the course of the season. Since each of his 'weeks' is just 5 games, here's how I would randomly spread them out:

Weeks 1-3 (five extra games are placed in these weeks - same for all below)
Weeks 4-5
Weeks 6-8
Weeks 9-10
Weeks 11-13

The benefits of putting his normal 13 game schedule in first is that his normal schedule includes all the divisional matchups, so he ensures that no team will ever have a DH against two teams from his division. And if he finds a way to randomly place these games, everyone in his league should be fine with it. And, if it's not a keeper league and he does it before the draft, teams will know which players to avoid.

In the middle of July, when barely anybody was paying any attention at all to football, a random generous guy named Andy took a chunk of time out of his life to write this extremely detailed and presumably helpful answer for a stranger named Dan. This is why I like writing articles for FFToday; the community rocks.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in concerning Dan's question. Some of the answers went off on tangents about scheduling or about doubleheaders or about tiebreakers, so if you did not see your response included in this month's column, keep an eye out for my weekly Q & A column that starts at the beginning of the regular season.

I will be addressing other gripes, quibbles, questions, and concerns--especially those related to scheduling as space in this column permits. If you have something important to say about doubleheaders, tripleheaders, or the scheduling of fantasy contests in H2H leagues, please email me before the season kicks off.

For responses to this month's fantasy question please email me.