Another fundamental complaint that I have with fantasy football, aside from the WR/RB flex position, is the way your win-loss record is determined. In “standard leagues” you are pitted against another team each week – score more points than your opponent and you win; score less points and you lose.
The flaw with this system is that you have almost no impact on what your opponent scores. You aren’t really playing against the other team – there’s no interaction whatsoever. In the long run, this system might work out. If you put up good numbers, then over time your record will reflect that. But there is no long run. The fantasy football regular season is 14 games – not enough time for the numbers to average out.
I’m in a three-division, 12-team league where the average team score is 83.9 fantasy points (FP). Right now we’re ten games into the season. If I tell you that a given team is scoring 83.7 FP/game, then you might guess that they have about a 5-5 record. Well no, they are 7-3 and leading their division, ahead of two teams that are scoring 89.4 and 87.7 FP/game. Yeah, 7-3 isn’t so far from 5-5; you’d even expect it given such a small sample size, but as I’ll get to, that’s kind of the point.
Oh, and the aforementioned 87.7 FP/game team is 2-8 and has faced a ridiculous 103.0 FP/game. CBS Sports (better than Yahoo) has a great stat called “Breakdown” where you can see how a team would have fared if they had played all opponents. This team that is 2-8 (20% win pct) would be 63-47 (57% win pct) if they played all teams each week.
That’s a perfect illustration of the absurdity of the system. A random scheduling fluke made the difference between this guy being a playoff contender, and being all but mathematically eliminated from the post-season. Meanwhile, the team with the league’s best record (8-1-1) has faced a pathetic 74.3 FP/game, though their weekly average of 97.5 FP/game means that they don’t need an advantage like that. The fact is, these two teams have played nearly the exact same opponents, but there is a difference of about 30 FP per game in the scores they have to beat. That’s wrong.
Performance in fantasy football should be directly related to how well you draft, trade, acquire free agents, and set your roster. Plenty of randomness is already introduced through the game of football without adding in this luck ‘o the schedule. I would say that I’m observing a fluke in this 2008 season, but I’ve been on the receiving end of this crap in 2006 and 2007 so I know it’s nothing new.
Lately I’ve been hearing about some interesting hybrid systems. They keep the head-to-head aspect, but add in an overall component. For example, teams who place in the top half of scoring for the week might get an extra win. This is the sort of system I might look for in 2009.