How can we reduce the "luck factor"
in head-to-head (H2H) leagues?
My column for
Week 7 featured a description of Bob's "electoral college"
scoring system, which is designed to reduce the "luck factor"
inherent in most H2H leagues. If you have the second-highest score
in your league every week, but just happen to be consistently pitted
against the team with the highest score, you could finish the regular
season with more points than anyone else and yet no wins to show
for it. Bob's system is just one way of trying to level the playing
field in leagues that strive for the balance of a "total points"
formula without giving up the excitement of the H2H model.
I've addressed this topic in the past, so I wasn't expecting as
much feedback as I received. Clearly, the "luck factor"
in H2H leagues is something that commissioners keep sinking their
teeth into year after year. I received a number of notes from folks
rehashing scoring methods that have been detailed (in this column
and elsewhere) in the past, but four responses stood out as being
distinct from the kinds of hybrid models addressed by Q&A over
the years. I'll start with Brett's because it's the most straightforward:
We have implemented a rule to [offset] the hard
luck losses. We are a H2H league with 6 teams making the playoffs.
The top two teams have byes for the first round with the remaining
4 teams facing off in round 1. Seeding is managed by W-L record,
but the 6th team is chosen as the remaining team available with
the highest total points regardless of record. This stemmed from
a year where one team continually got brutalized from the schedule
each week, but would have won a significant number of games had
their schedule not been so difficult. Everyone has been on board
and happy with the rule.
Bill's solution is a slight modification of Brett's proposal in
that it stresses wins over points:
After several years of teams having “bad
luck” and [losing playoff spots] to teams that clearly were
inferior but had the luck of the schedule draw, we made the following
In our 10-team HTH, the top 5 teams make the playoffs based on record
and standard tiebreakers. The final playoff spot is awarded to the
team with the best “overall” record. Most sites keep
track of your record as if you played every team every week. This
overall record is likely the best indicator of a teams’ strength
and consistency. We considered total points as an option but this
can swing off one great week.
In fact, we currently have a team sitting at 1-5 having scored the
2nd most points, in a loss, three times already this season. Thanks
to this special rule, he is 36-18 in overall record, only two games
behind the 6-0 league leader and in a great position to make the
Those who want to tackle this problem with a bit more mathematical
precision may want to consider Dan's suggestion:
I think there exists a happy medium which could
take much of the luck out of the picture, but continues to make
the head-to-head match-ups meaningful. My solution would be to weigh
the H2H record (13 games in our league) 50% and then the breakdown
record (139 games in our 10-team league) at 50%. You would then
base the playoffs on the highest averages of the two winning percentages.
7-6 H2H Record = .538 W
81-58 Breakdown Record = .583 WP
Average WP = (.538+.583)/2 = .561
A weekly note from the commish with the playoff standings could
suffice in tracking this and could also help keep up interest throughout
the league. We use CBS Sports for our league and they track the
breakdown records as well as the H2H. We send 1st & 2nd from
each of two divisions plus two wild cards to the playoffs each year.
I could see letting H2H determine 1st place and / or 2nd and this
system for the rest. We currently pay out a small token at the end
of each year to the team with the most points scored against for
Even if Dan's general idea doesn't grab you, there's something to
be said for the last point he makes about offering some kind of
token compensation to the team with the most points scored against
it in the regular season. A simple gesture (such as refunding the
owner of that hard luck team half of his entry fee) may go a long
way towards minimizing the grumbling that commissioners must endure
concerning lucky/unlucky scheduling.
The most unusual proposal of all came from Andy:
We're trying something different this year [in
my 14-team league].
We have a 13-week regular season where everyone plays everyone else
once, but at the end of the regular season, we will award 3 extra
wins, losses, or ties based solely on points scored, thus giving
each team a 16-game record.
The top two teams get 3 extra wins, the next three highest scoring
teams get 2 extra wins and 1 extra loss, the next four teams each
get 1 win, 1 loss, and 1 tie, etc. all the way to the bottom. The
net effect is that an 'unlucky' team that finished 7-6 despite being
2nd overall in points finishes 10-6, while a lucky team that finished
8-5 despite being 3rd or 4th from the bottom in scoring finishes
9-7, and the 'unlucky' team gets the playoff spot they probably
deserve. I suppose this would qualify as a hybrid.
My thanks to everyone who wrote in (whether I had the space to include
your remarks or not) and to Bob for raising the question.
This Week's Question: Does your league
have any special provisions for quarterbacks (especially when they're
This week's question comes from Ryan, who knew he was toast the
second Jay Cutler went down in Week 7:
Cutler got injured with -.9 pts. As a result
I lost my matchup (albeit only by 4 pts thanks to Gore, Forte, and
Reed), but it is nearly impossible to win with an injured quarterback.
I was wondering if you knew of any sort of "injured qb"
rules that help teams who have a qb that gets injured during the
game. Something like "If a QB is injured during the course
of the game they get to have their current points or that of the
lowest other starter if they played less than one quarter"
or something along those lines.
The first thing I want to say to Ryan is that in one of my leagues,
I lost to a team that had Jay Cutler as a starting QB. (Notably,
I had Nick Foles as my only viable QB option in that league, so
we both lost our signal callers to injury.)
The second thing for me to say is that I have encountered a number
of different league mechanics concerning injured players. Not all
of them are restricted to QBs (though I suppose any of them could
be). I think the most common solution I've encountered to this problem
is usually referred to as the "team QB position." This
rule allows owners to draft a team quarterback (such as the Eagles
quarterback, no matter who that happens to be) rather than an individual
named Michael Vick or another individual named Nick Foles.
I have also encountered leagues in which the bench QB is automatically
substituted for an injured starter. In such leagues, if you had
Jay Cutler as your starter and Andy Dalton on your bench, then if
Cutler has to leave the game at any point due to injury, Dalton's
score would be substituted for Cutler's. (This mechanic comes with
all sorts of wrinkles. Some commissioners will only take the bench
player's score if the starter misses more than half a game. Some
will take whichever score is higher regardless of how much time
the starter missed, etc.)
A number of leagues handle injuries for all players (not just QBs)
by awarding the owner whatever score the player had in his previous
contest. If Cutler had 25 points in your league in Week 6, then
he gets credit for 25 points in Week 7 if he misses a certain amount
of time in that game (one quarter, one half, or, in some leagues,
more than a half) in Week 6. I have only ever heard of this rule
being used for the game in which the injury occurred. I don't know
of any league that allows owners to start players who are listed
as "Out" with the intention of receiving credit for points
earned earlier in the season.
As for Ryan's claim that it is "nearly impossible" for
a team to win if the QB goes out with an injury in the first quarter,
I'm not sure how seriously he expects to be taken. He tells us that
he came within 4 points of winning a game without Cutler, so losing
a QB hardly seems like an insurmountable obstacle.
Still, I take Ryan's point that QBs are (in most scoring systems
at least) responsible for a disproportionate amount of offensive
productivity. Maybe they do warrant special consideration (especially
where injuries are concerned).
If your league has any special rules concerning quarterbacks, quarterback
injuries, or just a peculiar way of handling injured players at
any position, I hope to hear from you.
Survivor Picks - Week 8 (Courtesy of
Trap Game: N.Y. Jets over Cincinnati
I only offer this up as a trap game for those who have already used
ALL three selections below (since they are no-brainers). Geno Smith
did a much better job against the Pats in his second game against
them (in Week 7) than his first (back in Week 2). Much of his success
may have stemmed from a burst of productivity by Chris Ivory, who
racked up over 100 yards last week. When the Jets travel to Cincinnati,
look for Rex Ryan to chew up the clock with his own running game
and to shut down the Bengals' rushing attack with a defense that
is ranked fifth against the run. The Jets will defy Andy Dalton
to beat them through the air, and I wouldn't want to bet on whether
the streaky Dalton (with a weapon as awesome as A.J. Green) will
rise to the challenge or not. Steer clear of this one if you can.
#3: Green Bay at Minnesota (5-2: KC, NEP,
MN, NO, SF, DEN, MIA)
The Vikings were in such a hurry to showcase Josh Freeman's lack
of familiarity with the Minnesota offense that they essentially
forgot about Adrian Peterson in Week 7. They will need Peterson
to do much more with the Packers coming to town. Green Bay's glaring
weakness right now is injury, and it looks as if Aaron Rodgers may
be airing the ball out to such targets as Jarrett Boykin (WR) and
Andrew Quarless (TE), two players unknown to most NFL fans. Those
new faces might be cause for concern if the Packers were playing
another team, but the Vikings appear to be in complete disarray.
It's usually a good idea to avoid divisional games; and it's always
risky to pick the visiting team, but the gap between Green Bay and
Minnesota is huge enough to warrant overlooking both of those factors
for this contest.
#2: Seattle at St. Louis (5-2: DEN, PHL,
SF, IND, STL, HOU, GB)
If the Rams thought playing against division leader Seattle was
difficult with Sam Bradford under center, just wait until Kellen
Clemens lines up to take on the #2 defense in the NFL (behind Houston).
It's true that the Seahawks don't travel well when going east, but
this week they only go as far as the Central time zone and should
be just fine against the 30th-ranked Rams offense. Look for Russell
Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to continue their winning ways against
a Rams defense that has yielded the 9th most points in the league
(184) and will easily overmatch a Rams defense that will be spending
a lot of time on the field.
#1: San Francisco over Jacksonville (6-1:
IND, OAK, SEA, DEN, ATL, CHI, SD)
Jacksonville is ranked last in total offensive points scored as
well as total defensive points given up and will be facing the
3rd-ranked rushing offense in the NFL anchored by Frank Gore (who
should shred a Jaguars rushing defense that has yielded an average
of over 153 yards per game). Colin Kaepernick and Vernon Davis
may have a quiet stat line this week, but it will only be because
49ers won't need any more points after the second quarter. Justin
Blackmon should have over 100 yards receiving, but the only people
on hand to see it will be the 'Niner fans that make the trip to
Jacksonville (since the locals have largely given up on a team
that has already packed it in for 2013).
Mike Davis has been writing about
fantasy football since 1999. As a landlocked Oklahoman who longs
for the sound of ocean waves, he also writes about ocean colonization
under the pen name Studio Dongo. The latest installment in his science
fiction series can
be found here.