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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Q&A – A Battle Royal Phase in H2H Playoffs
12/13/18

Last Week’s Question: Does your tournament seeding formula punish the top team?

My column for Week 14 featured a question from David, who asked whether fantasy leagues should seed playoff teams according to total points scored on the season rather than H2H records or divisional titles. In a 12-team league with 3 divisional champs and 1 wildcard spot, it’s not unusual for the wildcard team to be much stronger than 1 (or even 2) division winners.

Why should the top-seeded team have to play against that strong wildcard instead of one of the weaker divisional champs?

Kilpatrick replied by pointing out that even though this may not seem ideal, it’s par for the course in the NFL:
The 2nd best team in the AFC can still be the 5th seed in the playoffs. Sometimes (a lot of times) life isn't fair; make do with what you have.

Also, most of the time, the point differential isn't that crazy where you should be complaining. 300 point difference? Sure. But a 50pt differential in a 13-game season is roughly 4pt/game. That's not much.
Kilpatrick is obviously correct about the NFL. The Chiefs and the Chargers are both better than any team in the AFC North, but one of them will be seeded lower than the AFC North champ whether that’s fair or not—even if it turns out to be Cleveland (still technically possible). Kilpatrick’s second point (that the difference in the average weekly score of the “weak” divisional champ vs. the “strong” wildcard is likely to be much more than a TD) is also worth noting. Does anyone really want to overhaul an entire seeding system based on a statistical sense of justice that falls to pieces with every vultured goal line carry?

Another reader, Mark, defended his seeding system is a different way. He conceded that it can be inherently unfair (as David suggests), but argued that as long as the top seed gets a bye during the first week of the postseason, there shouldn’t be any whining:
What we did in our league was to expand to 7 playoff teams and give the top seed a bye in the first round (we do not use divisions as they are too arbitrary). So the other six play in week 14, and then we reseed for week 15 when we have our final four. Yes, the top seed might still face a high-scoring team in the semis this way, but our take after 23 years in this league is that if you deserve to win it all, you don’t get a free pass to the finals regardless of your regular season record. Sometimes the top seed is 8-5 or 9-4 instead of 12-1, and we all know the regular season W-L record is a bit of a crapshoot because you don’t always win when you should and lose when you should. So, we’re not going to reward a weak top-seeded team with an easy path to the finals when a team that goes 12-1 is going to be strong enough to take on all comers anyway.
There’s a lot to be said for Mark’s attitude about a true champion being “strong enough to take on all comers anyway.”

But if the point of winning the first seed is to earn the easiest path to the championship, then there’s a good argument to be made for ensuring that the path taken by that team is the easiest one available. If that’s your position, then your problem comes down to defining what the “easiest” path should look like. Jim’s solution is to have the top-seeded owner choose his own path:
For several years now I have pondered what it would be like if the top seed in our league (after their 1st round playoff bye) got to pick their opponent from the remaining teams.

That is sort of a way of avoiding the type of punishment of facing the ultra hot wild card winner in any particular year. On the flip side, the punishment is that if they lose to the team they chose to play it is extra crushing. Pick your poison playoffs.

I have not yet pulled the trigger on it. But I do think I will eventually… if only temporarily. I am not sure if this is done elsewhere, but I have not seen it in any leagues.
I’ve never heard of a league doing this either. But I have heard of leagues using such a system for draft picks. (It’s customary for a league’s worst team in 2018 to get the first overall draft pick in 2019, but some leagues with serpentine drafts allow owners to select the draft slot of their preference.) If anyone out there is already using a method like Jim’s, please let me know how well it’s gone over in your league. Thanks to Jim and everyone else who wrote in.

This Week’s Question: Would you consider a battle royal approach to the playoffs in a H2H league?

One response to last weekís question resonated with me because of what happened in my own league this week. I won my quarter-final matchup 172-106. (Yes, I had Amari Cooper.) Another contest was settled 79-61. (Yes, those owners had Todd Gurley and Antonio Brown.) The team that I crushed in my matchup would have crushed either of those teams. But in our single-elimination tournament, the team with the 79-point victory advances to the semi-finals, while the team with the 106-point loss is kaput.

This was in the back of my mind as I read Bobís note about structuring the first 2 weeks of the playoffs so that ďthe top half scores would move on and then face off in the championship.Ē Interesting. In a league with 6 playoff spots and byes for the top 2 teams, Week 14 would feature 4 teams competing for 2 spots. The 2 teams with the highest scores would then join the 2 bye teams in Week 15 for another competition for the 2 spots in a H2H championship game in Week 16.

I can see how that would be sort of thrilling. It would also dramatically streamline the playoff tournament structure. More to the point, thereís good reason for thinking that such a model would have done a better job of determining which teams most deserved to advance to the semifinals in my league.

Iím sure a lot of readers will wonder why a H2H league would stray from the H2H formula, but I can still see some appeal here. Do you? If your league has tried (or is considering) an approach like this, please comment below or email me.

Survivor Pool Picks

Pick #3: Ravens over Buccaneers

(8-6; GB, NO, CHI, LAC, CIN, car, TB, IND, oak, phi, ari, jax, KC, car)

I know. You stopped watching the Ravens back when Joe Flacco was still the starting QB because the team looked, in a word, flaccid. Youíve heard that Lamar Jackson has done a great job of claiming the starting job. Perhaps youíve even used Jackson as a streaming QB because rushing QBs are a cheat code in fantasy. But have you watched the Ravens lately? Did you see them take the Chiefs to overtime in Arrowhead Stadium? Baltimore isnít just playing better on offense with Jackson under center; in the past 3 games, the Ravens have scored 3 TDs on defense and special teams. Despite the heartbreaking loss in Kansas City, the Ravens are heading in the opposite direction of the Bucs, who have won just 2 of their last 7 and only 1 road game all season. I donít buy the idea of the Bucs getting their second road win of the year against a team that is just hitting its stride.

Pick #2: Rams over Eagles
(10-4; no, LAC, hou, GB, CAR, MIN, IND, PIT, KC, atl, tb, BAL, TEN, DAL)

The defending Super Bowl champs are double-digit dogs as they travel to Los Angeles to face a Rams team that only scored 6 points vs. Chicago, which means that the Bears would have needed to score -5 for the Rams to have covered this same spread last week. And yet this week, those same Rams are heavy favorites against the Eagles. Is that because the Rams are that good or because the Eagles are that bad? The answer is yes. The Rams struggled to get Todd Gurley going against the Monsters of the Midway, but they should fare far better against an Eagles defense has only held 1 opponent (Washington) to fewer than 22 points since their bye in Week 8. The last elite offense that Philadelphia faced was New Orleans in a 48-7 route. It probably doesnít help that Carson Wentz (back) is likely to miss this contest. I was right to pick against the Eagles last week in Dallas, and Iím doing it again.

Pick #1: Falcons over Cardinals
(10-4; BAL, LAR, min, JAX, NO, GB, LAC, CHI, dal, KC, car, IND, HOU, pit)

As disappointing as the Falcons have been in 2018, they still have Julio Jones and Matt Ryan, who remain among the top 5 players at their positions. (I know thatís hard to believe about Ryan right now. Look it up.) The Cardinals, on the other hand, have virtually nothing to offer offensively. Rookie QB Josh Rosen has yet to pass for more than 252 yards in a game this season, and he seems unlikely to improve on that number behind an offensive line that is falling apart more quickly than the trainers and coaches can gauze it back together. David Johnson looked like he was coming back to life vs. the Chiefs and Raiders in Weeks 10 and 11, but has been held to 79 total yards or less in the 3 games since. The Cardinals appear to be lost, and it will be very hard for them to find their way against a team with as much raw talent as the Falcons (even if that talent hasnít consistently translated to wins for Atlanta).


Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can be found here.