Last Week’s Question
In last week’s column, I
shared questions from two readers about league structures and how
they pertain to playoff scenarios. One reader seemed particularly
frustrated by the fact that his league uses a “divisional”
structure—but doesn’t require teams in the same division
to play each other any more often than they play other teams in
the league. I can certainly see why one would wonder whether there’s
much point in having divisions at all in this sort of situation.
The answers from Brian and Al neatly link this question to an
earlier question about the distinction between points-only and
head-to-head leagues. Brian writes:
Our league started as a points-only league and now has
evolved into a head-to-head league. We still use overall points
for one of our wildcard spots in our playoffs to benefit the
guy who constantly scores high but seems to always lose his
head-to-head matches. Our 12-team league has four divisions,
with everyone playing each other once and their division opponents
twice. The top two teams get a bye while the other two division
winners play the wildcard teams. One wildcard is from the next
best record, and the other is from the highest point total.
This has worked out well for us for the past five years.
Al’s 10-team league takes essentially the same approach:
We have what I call a "mixed" playoff structure. We're
a 2-division, 10-team league. Our playoffs consist of the 2 division
winners plus the 2 highest non-division winning teams.
We can and have had 3 teams from the same division make the playoffs.
I think it's worked well because those owners that like wins and
losses (not me personally) can focus on winning their division.
Those of us that believe that points are more important have the
satisfaction of being able to make the playoffs simply by having
the best teams over the course of the season.
Craig’s league is imitative of the NFL in its divisional
structure for games played as well as tiebreakers:
Our league is similar to Jeff's (6 of 12 make playoffs
- 3 divisions - 2 byes) with a couple of exceptions. We are even
closer to the NFL model. Each team plays 6 of its 13 regular-season
games (you don't play 1 team/yr) against its own division so that
being in a division means something. Our tiebreakers are as much
like the NFL as possible.
Mathew wrote in to describe a very elegant playoff structure.
He says that this same structure is used in all of the leagues in
which he participates, which suggests that it should be fairly common.
However, I would be surprised to learn that the majority of fantasy
leagues allow only one-third of participants to advance to the playoffs.
(Please correct me if you think I’m wrong.) Whether this structure
is common or not, the logic for structuring things the way they
are structured is clear and easy to follow:
2) Division record
Both of these are considered before total points. Two-way or three-way
ties are broken within the division just as they would be in the
NFL. This year it makes my job as co-commissioner more difficult
as only 3 of the 12 teams are eliminated going into the last week
but it keeps owners active throughout the season. I have we haven’t
had to resort to those yet.
I am involved in several 12-team redraft leagues, and all of the
leagues use the same format for the playoffs, as follows:
Based on the responses I received, I think leagues that invite
half the teams to the playoffs are more common than those that invite
only a third of the teams. Whether this tendency is better or worse
is not for me to say, but the single most representative response
I received came from Kevin, who writes:
The leagues are structured into 3 divisions of 4 teams each. Each
team plays the 3 other teams in its division twice throughout
the season, and every other team once. Playoffs begin in Week
15. The 3 division leaders and 1 wildcard go to the playoffs.
Seedings are determined according to standings (W-L record). Ties
are broken as follows: division record, points for, points against,
coin flip. Seed 1 plays Seed 4 (wildcard), and Seed 2 plays Seed
3. Winners go to the Superbowl in Week 16.
I think that only having 4 teams go to the playoffs makes it extremely
competitive. It forces owners to do a better job of staying on
top of things, especially in a cash league. In a 12-team league
where 6 teams go to the playoffs, you tend to see owners not trying
as hard after studying the playoff picture for a few minutes.
The balance of power in each division pretty much defines itself
after about 6-7 weeks. Oh, and by the way, the scheduling in my
leagues is such that every team plays the last 3 weeks vs. division
opponents. That keeps things interesting right to the end, because
any slim lead in a division can be lost pretty quickly.
I feel our league has done a decent job of imitating the NFL format
and creating as fair a system as possible.
Although divisional structures are common in fantasy leagues,
conference structures appear to be uncommon—if not quite rare.
Shane’s response is representative of what I received concerning
the way that leagues broken into conferences operate:
We have a 12-team league, with four divisions of three teams each.
Similar to Mike’s league in this week’s column, each
team plays each other once, with division foes playing each other
twice. The division winners each clinch a playoff berth, and the
best two non-division winners advance, regardless of which division
they are in (we do not use conferences). The top two teams earn
byes, and the playoffs are held during weeks 14-16. Much like
the NFL, there are occasions where a team wins their division
with a mediocre record and the wild-card teams may have better
Ties between division foes are settled by division records: ties
between non-division foes are settled by head-to-head records.
Three-way ties are settled by total points.
In order to keep things competitive between the non-playoff teams,
we have a “toilet bowl championship” that includes a
small buy-in, but a cash prize equal to 2/3 of your regular season
buy-in, so everyone plays to try to recoup some of their losses.
In our league we have 20 teams in two conferences which have two divisions
of five teams. We allow four out of the 10 teams in each conference
to make up an eight-team playoff field. During the season, we
play our divisional opponents twice, three teams from the other
division in our conference and one team from each of the two divisions
in the other conference. For each conference, the team with the
best record in each of the two divisions automatically makes the
playoffs as the division champ. Then, of the remaining eight teams,
in each conference, the team with the most overall points gets
a wildcard. After that team is added to the field, there are seven
teams left in each conference. The team with the best record of
those seven gets in as a wildcard. We like to think [the points
wildcard] sort of take a little bit of the head-to-head luck out
of the equation that would normally leave a high scoring team
out of the playoffs. Teams are then seeded by record, 1-4 in each
conference. Each conference has its own playoffs in weeks 14 and
15, then the two conference champs meet in the Superbowl in week
If you suspect that I finished with Shane’s comment because
it brought us back to the way that playoff structures can respond
to concerns about points-only leagues vs. head-to-head leagues,
This Week’s Question
This week’s question comes from Mick, who used “Integrity”
as the subject heading in the email that he sent in:
I am an avid reader of FFToday, but I do happen to play fantasy
football on another site (not my choice). Anyway, I have a question
for you concerning integrity.
I’ll be happy to share my own thoughts (along with any that
readers may have) next week.
Several of the players in my league have recently discovered that
one of our fellow owners is benching all of his top players this
week (he has already qualified for the playoffs) so that a player
in another division can lock up a first round bye (the owner of
the latter team gave him $50 to throw the game). The owner of
the latter team is in a dead heat with another owner for the top
As far as I can understand there are no rules against this sort
of play, but by my calculations it is pretty unethical. I would
love to hear your thoughts.
Over the last few weeks my percentages have been going down,
but if you are still in your survival pool, congratulations. This
week you have some teams that are favored that you may or may
not have used, but beware—the trap game this week may catch
a lot of people.
Trap Game: Denver over Kansas City:
Anytime division rivals line up against each other, you have to
assume that there is going to be a battle. These teams do not
like each other, which is sufficient reason for the Chiefs to
prevent the Broncos from making the playoffs. Kolby Smith will
be starting again at tailback, and he has proven that he can run
the ball against a porous defensive line. In light of how Adrian
Petersen lit up the Broncos, you can bet the Chiefs will try to
do the same. In addition, the Chief defense is better than what
most people think, and this game will come down to a late field
#3: New Orleans at Atlanta (9-4):
This is a really risky pick because you never know which Saints
team is showing up on Sunday. And because this is a divisional
game there is that X factor. However, the Saints are desperate
to stay in the playoff chase, and as such this is a MUST win.
Look for Bush to create some matchup problems this week and Drew
Brees to find some passing lanes. The only question here is whether
the Aints defense can shut down Warrick Dunn and company.
#2: St. Louis at Cincinnati (7-6):
Avoid this pick. I chose this game because as anyone can see from
my record in picking my second favorite game, I have had no luck.
The Bengals are favored in this game because they are at home
and playing on grass. So this should favor the Bengals. However,
this team is lost right now. If nothing else, Linehan is having
his team play for his job security. I’m not sure that will
be enough the Rams, but Stephan Jackson and company are getting
healthier and that may be the difference here.
#1: Buffalo over Miami (11-2):
The Buffalo defense is salivating waiting for this game that
will be played in typical cold Lake Erie wintry conditions. Their
visitors from Florida will be thinking about how quickly they
can get back on the bus and fly home to some warm weather. With
the hope of post season play still awaiting the Bills, Trent Edwards
simply must find a way to lead this team past a division rival
so that the Bills can find themselves playing some very meaningful
games again late in the December snow.
The last few weeks have not been good. Non-division home favorites,
the usually predictable games, went 4-2 last week (67-20 overall)—and
I picked the 2 losers (Philly and Washington).
#1. JAX over CAR (10-3, Used
SEA, CHI, BAL, IND , DAL, SDC, WAS, NEP, TBB, nos, pit, nyg, CAR)
The Jaguars vs. the Panthers will be the battle of the big cats.
The Panthers finally won a game at home last week against the
punch-less Niners. The Jags are 6-1 in non-division games. They
just can’t get by the Colts. Jacksonville shouldn’t
have any problems getting a win this week.
#2. DEN over KC (10-3 Used IND
, DEN, NEP, sdc, TEN, sea, DAL, NYG, ATL, PIT, GBP, JAX, was)
I’m going against my non-division rule on these next two
picks. The Chiefs are in freefall and struggling with a lot of
injuries. Their highlight play last week was a touchdown by their
defensive end. And that was their only touchdown. The Broncos
beat the Chiefs 27-11 in week 10 and should be able to take care
of them again at home.
#3. BUF over MIA (11-2 Used
SDC, JAX, PIT, NEP, HOU, GBP, NYG, IND, WAS, SEA, DAL, ari, phi)
Miami’s chance to win a game may have come and gone. The
Dolphins were competitive with the Jets last week, but then came
half time. The Bills slugged it out with the Redskins and benefited
from a penalty on consecutive time out calls from coach Gibbs.
The Bills beat the Dolphins 13-10 four weeks ago in Miami and
swept them last year. Now, Miami will have to try in the frozen
tundra. Good luck.
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
Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live,
on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio
on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived
programs are also available.