Fantasy Football Playoffs Fix

I don’t like fantasy playoffs. It probably has nothing to do with “fairness” and everything to do with my lack of success in them.1

Maybe it’s also a product of being an American sports fan. All of our major professional sports emphasize post-season championships at the sacrifice of regular-season success. No one cares how many times you had the best record in the NBA (or what your scoring average is in the BagLeague), it’s all about the RINGS.

The BagLeague post-season is pretty standard.2 The structure is simple and elegant. Win your games and your champ, nevermind how thoroughly you dominated everyone during the regular season. Or how feces or lucky you were.

Basically my proposal is that the six post-season teams score in each of the weeks, with the highest average taking the championship. By using three weeks it takes some of the random element out of the one-and-down playoff system. Randomness and chance are a great part of the fun of sports in general and particularly fantasy. But if you’re really trying to decide who the best team is, one-and-done sucks. That’s why there are multi-game series in baseball, basketball, and hockey. It’s why the semi-finalists in the UEFA Champions League play “ties” (one home game, one away game, with an aggregate score).

But if you let the top six teams in the post-season and then say “good luck everyone, you’re all on an even playing field..” tsk tsk.. that’s not fun. There has to be reward for high seeds and there needs to be consequences for playing poorly. That’s why there are some additional rules:

1. The #1 and #2 seed get to throw out their lowest score when calculating their average.

These are just deserts for regular-season domination. It should have to be an uphill battle for a lower-seed to win. This ensures just that.

2. The lowest-scoring team in Week 14 is OUT of the competition and finishes in 6th place. The #1 and #2  seeds are exempt.

#1 and #2 are exempt because they can choose to negate their Week 14 score if necessary. It also acts as a “bye” for them. There needs to be something real and significant at stake for the other four teams. This provides that onus.

3. The team with the lowest average in Week 15 is OUT of the competition and finishes in 5th place.

That’s it. Then it’s a four-way battle for the Ship in Week 16.

Here’s how it would have shaken out in the BSA League this year:

Dark blue to light blue are the top three averages including all scores. Andre’s Johnson greatly benefited from being the #2 seed and dropping his lowest score bumped his average up considerably (see the mustard yellow). thisleagueisrigged fell victim to the first round of the playoffs and would place 6th despite having the 5th-best average (a minor injustice). Most of the 3-week averages were very close to their regular season averages.. the outlier being ghetto Bill Parcells who greatly improving his scoring.3

Here’s a table of five measures of success: Power Wins4, Regular Season Wins, Regular Season Points, Playoffs, and then my proposed formula.

My formula compares pretty favorably with the average of all five. The biggest difference between the two is highlighted in pink. As if it needed pointing out, the current playoff system produces the most inconsistent results, highlight in red.5

I am aware of the hypocrisy in admonishing the Div I NCAA football bowl system and convoluted BCS formula (which I do) while at the same time throwing away a perfectly good playoff system in fantasy football and suggesting a convoluted formula.

The biggest problem with my system is that it might not be exciting enough! You need a spreadsheet to track it — you can’t just look at a score and see who’s ahead. There isn’t as much hanging on a single week, or a Monday Night, because you can always make up for it next week. If the #1 or #2 seed score huge in the first two weeks the Ship could be decided before week 16. And most importantly, there’s no Head-to-Head. Head-to-Head is what makes regular-season fantasy football so exciting. And here I am trying to get rid of it during the most exciting part of the season.

I would love to hear what you, my dear readers, think of this system. What improvements would you make to it? It’d be nice to give the #1 seed a little something extra, but I can’t think of what it should be. Should the 3/4 seed also get a leg up on the 5/6 seed?

  1. 8 years in the BagLeague, 5 times with the highest win total, 6 times with the highest point total, only 2 post-season championships
  2. There are six entrants with the top two teams getting a bye. #4 plays #5 and #3 plays #6 in week 14. In Week 15 the #1 seed plays the 4/5 winner, the #2 seed plays the 3/6 winner, and the two Week 14 losers play to decide who ends fifth and sixth. In Week 16 the winners of the semis play to decide the champ and the losers play to decide third and fourth place.
  3. And rode his luck to the Silver
  4. How many games you would win if you played every team every week. Basically it’s an inverse of weekly scoring rank. In a twelve team league the highest score each week gets 11 power wins.. the second-highest gets 10 power wins… the lowest gets 0 power wins
  5. Guess who manages Bad Ash.

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Jimmy D
Jimmy D
12 years ago

really interesting point…. in my swim league the first year the semi finals and finals were over two weeks, 14-15, and 16-17. I’m not sure if that Commisioner did that so he could include the last week of the regular season or what, but it’s another way to do it. In our league, theoretically we could have a 11-week season (you wouldn’t play anyone twice, or have one ultimate rival you play twice). Then all rounds of the playoffs are two weeks (or one for the wild card round.)

Chris Baggiano
12 years ago

Technically what might be the truest playoff situation would be a strict 1 v 2 championship game where scores are either taken from one week or two. I have other fantasy sports and I do believe that, at the very least, the championship matchup is a two week affair (although that may be due to the second week being abbreviated due to the real sports league ending). The main problem with the playoffs just consisting of one championship game is that players that don’t have a shot may just start tanking (by not checking their team) once they have been eliminated. Whereas in the current format they are still fighting for a chance to be in the tournament (i.e. a lower seed than 2).
If, however, you were to change the format of the playoffs to any of Joe’s ideas then how exactly is it fair for the regular season to continue as it is? If the playoffs all of a sudden become a curved rotisserie-style system then that brings into question the entire head-to-head formatting of the league and complaints could arise as to why you can’t throw out your lowest score of the regular season which could have helped you leap frog someone in the playoffs.
In any case I love to see Joe whining because his team always blows it in the playoffs. It is that much sweeter when you win your own league.

12 years ago

agreed that just 1 v 2 is kinda shitty. but that’s how the world series used to work, right?

re: changing formats from regular to postseason — yeah i agree it’s a little sketch. but that’s kinda what happens in nhl / nba when you start going series instead of individual games.

re: whining about getting to drop a low regular season score — quit your bitchin’. you had your chance to dominate and you sucked.