Last Week's Question
Last week's column featured a question from Gordon, who wrote
in to request an explanation of how multiple-conference leagues
work. I'll begin with an explanation of what multiple-conference
leagues are for readers who are unfamiliar with the concept.
The ordinary (single-conference) fantasy league has room for
something like eight to fourteen teamsoften separated into
two or more divisions. An eight-team league might look something
| West Division
|| East Division
Similarly, a twelve-team league might look something like this:
| West Division
|| Central Division
|| East Division
The scheduling for the eight-team league will obviously differ
from the scheduling for the twelve-team league, but the leagues
are similar in that both will (in most cases) draw on the same
pool of NFL players. Obviously, there will be a lot more depth
in the eight-team league than in the twelve-team league, but you
would expect to find Shaun Alexander on only one team in the eight-team
league, just as you would find him on only one team in the twelve-team
In most circumstances, the key difference between the traditional
single-conference fantasy league and the more elaborate multiple-conference
set-up is that different conferences each draw on a separate pool
of NFL players. The multiple-conference league in which I participate
includes forty-eight teams broken into four conferences of twelve
teams. Each conference is further divided into three divisions
of four teams. Each of the four conferences has its own draft/auction,
with the result that Shaun Alexander plays for four different
teams in my league. Theoretically, it would be possible for two
teams in different conferences to have identical rosters, but
anyone who has ever experienced the vagaries of a draft or auction
firsthand will realize that the chances of that happening are
Although it is entirely possible that there is a 100-team league
out there somewhere featuring ten conferences of ten teams each,
I want to keep things simple, so I'll use an example of a two-conference,
sixteen-team league. It's easy enough to imagine how such a league
would evolve. It starts as a ten-team league in an office somewhere.
But one player has a friend who wants in, and another has a father-in-law
who's interested, etc. The league grows to twelve players and
then fourteen, and then two more people want in, but the others
who already belong to the league are already complaining about
how thin the talent has been spread. So the league reorganizes
itself into two separate conferences with two separate drafts.
One of the beauties of this arrangement is that the two different
conferences do not have to organize themselves along identical
lines. One conference can have an auction; the other can have
a traditional serpentine draft. Between waiver wire activity,
injuries, and the unpredictability of the NFL, both conferences
will end up sending competitive teams to the playoffs. I speak
from experience on that point. Even if all the best FFers are
concentrated in one conference and all the neophytes are in the
other, both conferences will send competitive teams to the playoffs.
Here is a model:
| West Division
|| East Division
| North Division
|| South Division
If you play in a points-only league, then your difficulties are
pretty much over once you've organized the conferences. But since
Gordon asked about the way to handle scheduling in head-to-head
leagues, I'll say a bit on that point.
For the sake of this example, let's say that our sixteen-team
league intends to have its Super Bowl (rightly or wronglythat's
a different column!) in Week 17. In that case, a simple way to
arrange the schedule would be to have all the teams in each division
play each other twice (six games); they would also play each team
in the other division in their own conference once (four games);
and to round out their regular season, they would play all of
the teams from a single division in another conference once (four
Each conference would send two division champs and one wildcard
to the playoffs. The team with the best record from each conference
would sit out the first week (Week 15) with a bye. In week 16,
the teams with the bye would face the winners of the preceding
week's match-up from their own conferences. The winners of those
games would advance to a Super Bowl in Week 17.
To clarify, let's follow Team A through a season in a multiple-conference
league. In Weeks 1-3, Team A plays divisional rivals B, C, and
D. In Weeks 4-7, Team A plays intra-conference rivals E, F, G,
and H. In Weeks 8-11, Team A plays inter-conference rivals I,
J, K, and L. Then, in Weeks 12-14, Team A plays divisional rivals
B, C, and D once more. Having gone undefeated, Team A sits out
in Week 15 while Team E (the conference champ from the East Division)
dukes it out with Team F (the wildcard team in the American Conference).
Team E wins that game and goes on to play Team A in the conference
championship in Week 16. Team A wins that game and advances to
the Super Bowl to play Team M (a club that Team A never saw in
the regular season). As it turns out, Team M winsbecause
I hate happy endings, and Team A was starting to get on my nerves
Obviously, that's just one way of arranging the season and the
playoffs. You might want to have your Super Bowl in Week 16; you
might want to send more than six teams to the playoffs. If you
find that you can't squeeze in as many games as you would like,
then you can always schedule double-weeks (weeks in which teams
face two different opponentsoften one from their division
and one from another conference). You might need to have just
three double-weeks in the course of your regular season, or you
might want to have teams play two games each week. Figure out
what you wantand make it happen.
So to answer Gordon's questions one at a time:
Q: How do your playoffs work?
A: Much like the NFL playoffs, with teams playing other teams
from their own conferences at first and then moving on to face
other conference champions.
Q: How do you distribute your payouts?
A: Pretty much the same way we did back when we were a single-conference
league. Roughly 65% of the kitty goes to the Super Bowl winner;
roughly 25% to the Super Bowl loser; and roughly 10% is divided
between other teams that make the playoffs (with a little more
going to those that advance the furthest).
Q: Do you only play teams in your
A: Heavens, no.
Q: What is a league-hosting service
that can handle a 48-team league?
A: We use RTsports.com,
though presumably there are other choices.
I hope my answers help, but I did receive feedback from a couple
of other readers on this question. The first response comes from
I have participated in a 24-team, 2-conference league for the
past several years. Each conference is broken into three divisions.
Each divisional rival is played twice while six of the remaining
eight teams from the other two divisions are played once. Additionally
each team plays one inter-conference game per season. In those
instances, duplicate players simply cancel each other out. Our
play-offs seed the top eight teams in each conference with the
top three teams (division winners) selecting their opponent for
the play-off game. The highest remaining seed again selects their
opponent for the second round. All pay-out is maintained within
the conference as it allows for easier accounting; however, the
two conference champions (super bowl winners) then play in week
17 for two things: 1) bragging rights; and 2) as a means of determining
which conference rules will be used for the following season's
inter-conference games. There are not many significant differences;
however, for next year we plan to incorporate home-field advantage
for the inter-conference games. By having the home-field advantage,
the visiting team will have to have a line-up submitted no later
than 12 hours prior to kick-off and the entire line-up is cemented;
while the home team will have the ability to change their line-up
right up-to kick-off. The number of times that a wrinkle like
this will actually effect play is very minimal, which is good;
however, when it does, it makes winning the game between the conference
champs much more meaningful!
A reader named Junior wrote in to point out that multiple conferences
are the only way to address the problem of player talent being spread
The league I run was originally established ten years
ago with ten teams. It grew to 11, then 12, then 15. When we hit
15, drafting depth became a problem, and we needed to find a solution.
The answer: We converted to a salary cap league. There are plenty
of publications available that rank every NFL player, and
it allows multiple teams to draft the same player. If every team
wants to spend half their salary cap on Priest Holmes . . . good
luck. We have 28 teams now, and every team is unique. Sure, everyone
has scooped up dirt cheap studs like Ruben Droughns, but our league
has a hard cap. So if you spent 95% of your cap on draft day,
you don't have much money for free agents throughout the season.
Plus, if you cut someone, you're on the hook for his entire salary--even
if that player sustains a season-ending injury. It becomes more
a game of cap management strategy than a race for players. I like
it because it brings an added dimension to fantasy football. I'm
in my league, plus three others. They are all salary cap leagues,
and I'll never do a non-cap league again.
This Week's Question
This week's question concerns the simple matter of how to resolve
ties in playoff games in head-to-head leagues. Brian poses this
question in a very general way:
I was wondering how other leagues handle ties in their playoffs.
We haven't switched to decimal scoring which would reduce the chances
of ties, but I was wondering how other do it to be fair.
But Jay writes in with a very specific gripe concerning the same
My league's rules are very simple concerning ties. We don't recognize
them. If two teams tie in the regular season, then their game
is simply pushed to the next week, and whichever team scores the
higher points that week gets the win. It sounded reasonable enough
to me when I started.
Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt)
But now it's created a huge problem. Our playoffs started in Week
13, and two playoff teams tied. I don't think they have any problem
with the push, but I sure as heck do, since I manage the team
that is supposed to play the winner of their match-up. I don't
know which one of them I'm playing until after the Week 14 games
have been played, and then I'll be playing against whichever one
scored the most points. From their perspective, it's business
as usual, but from my perspective, I have to play two opponents
this week instead of one.
I think I'm getting hosed here, but the commish says this is what
the rules stipulate. I think it's pretty clear that since the
rules only make sense when applied to the regular season, there
should be another way of implementing them in a single-elimination
playoff scenario. Why should I have to play against two teams
this week when I did nothing to make them tie? It's crazy.
If you can get your readers to brainstorm for a more reasonable
solution to this problem, I would appreciate it. But please tell
them that there's no point in saying that our rules should have
been clear on this point before the season began. That really
won't help me! I need something I can take to the commissioner
that we can all live with.
Trap Game: Tampa Bay over San Diego:
No one in their right mind would have said that this would be an
upset pick earlier this season. However, San Diego's defense is
not playing at the level it was earlier this season. In recent weeks
they have given up 17, 31, and 17 points since their bye week. They
are 3-0 over that time period, but that haven't faced a defense
that has created 7 turnovers during that same time period. The Chargers
do have an advantage in that they have two weapons, Gates and McCardell
that go down the seams against the Cover 2 defensewhich might
just be enough to pull out the victory.
#3: Dallas over New Orleans (7-5 This
Does anyone doubt that the Cowboys might have a chance at the Wild
Card? Julius Jones alone can beat New Orleans by running the ball
up and down field against one of the worst defenses in the league.
Aaron Brooks has been inconsistent and might be fortunate to have
some garbage yardage, but if the Cowboys play the Saints the way
that they played the Seahawks, it should be a laugher by the 3rd
#2: Arizona over San Francisco (10-2
San Francisco is demoralized and Arizona is still in the hunt. Although
the Cardinals lost the last game in overtime to the 49ers 31-28,
they should be able to win this game at home. The only concern would
be if Maurice Hicks is the starting running back. Last week the
Cardinals gave up 196 yards to Kevin Jones, and it looks like the
Cardinals run defense has now sprung a very big leak.
#1: Green Bay over Detroit (8-4 This
The Packers were embarrassed in Philadelphia last week against a
team that most likely will represent the NFC in this year's Super
Bowl. Fortunately for those same Packers, they face the Detroit
Lions at Lambeau field. The early forecast for this game is cold
rain changing over to snow, perfect conditions for the Pack at home.
Kevin Jones may have run for 196 against Arizona on the turf, but
conditions will be less than optimal for the rookie. Look for Favre
and company to bounce back this week and keep pace in the NFC North.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football