The Fantasy Football Playoffs: You Can Make It – So Never Give Up!

Although I would never recommend it, I participated in 46 Yahoo! public fantasy football leagues (39 standard leagues and seven auction leagues) in the 2012 season. Why would I do such a thing? Well, why not? If playing the game and trying to get to the playoffs in one league is fun, then playing in 46 leagues must be that much more fun. And it was!

The only drawback was the time commitment required during the season. Keeping up with the demands of roster management with regard to injuries, free agents, bye weeks, and early “start/sit” decisions due to Thursday night games, became a daunting task. Just monitoring the roster moves of the other 394 team owners (46 leagues x 9 other teams) was a full-time job in itself.

So what did I learn from playing in so many leagues? First, there is a similar rush for the same free agents on a week to week basis across all leagues. If a player was considered a hot waiver-wire pick-up in one league, then he was just as hot in all the others. Why is this so? It’s because team owners tend to read the same articles, see the same televised games and watch the same highlights on ESPN with its associated commentary. And just like sheep to the slaughter, the vast majority of team owners follow what they see and hear. But that is fodder for another article at Fantasy Football Impact entitled “Free Agents – the Hype of the One-Week Wonder.”

Second, it became clear that there was a certain number of wins required to secure a spot in the championship bracket of the playoffs, but once that position was secured, playoff seeding had little effect on whether success was achieved.

How Many Wins Does It Take to Make the Playoffs?The Fantasy Football Playoffs: You Can Make It - So Never Give Up!

Unlike the three licks it took Mr. Owl to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, it takes more than three wins to get to the fantasy football playoffs. But you may be surprised how few wins it actually does take.

In Yahoo! public leagues, the regular season is comprised of the first 14 weeks of the NFL season. The playoffs are held during weeks 15 and 16. The top four teams, based on their win/loss record, earn a position in the championship bracket. The next four teams earn a position in the consolation bracket and the bottom two teams are eliminated from post-season competition.

Once in the playoffs, the teams are seeded by their win/loss record. The team with the best record is the #1 seed and the team with the worst record is the #4 seed. In the first week of the playoffs (week 15), the #1 seed plays the #4 seed and the #2 seed plays the #3 seed. The two winning teams from week 15 play for the championship in week 16. The two losing teams from week 15 play for 3rd place in week 16. A similar process is followed in the consolation bracket except those teams are vying for 5th through 8th place.

The following table identifies, by regular season wins, how many teams made the championship and consolation brackets of the fantasy football playoffs as well as those that were eliminated. Note: The total number of teams equals 460 (46 leagues x 10 teams).

Playoff Bracket Assignment as Determined by Regular Season Wins

Regular
Season
Wins
Number
of
Teams
Percentage
of
Teams
Teams in
Championship
Bracket
Teams in
Consolation
Bracket
Teams
Eliminated
Total460100.0184 (40%)184 (40%)92 (20%)
1400
1320.42 (100%)
1240.94 (100%)
11143.014 (100%)
105010.850 (100%)
95812.657 (98%)1 (2%)
87315.949 (67%)24 (33%)
78017.48 (10%)72 (90%)
65612.253 (95%)3 (5%)
55612.226 (46%)30 (54%)
4337.28 (24%)25 (76%)
3173.717 (100%)
2112.411 (100%)
140.94 (100%)
020.42 (100%)

This next table demonstrates the seeding of the 184 teams in the 46 leagues who earned a place in the championship bracket of the playoffs based on regular season wins.

Championship Bracket Seeding Based on Regular Season Wins

Regular
Season
Wins
# 1
Seed
# 2
Seed
# 3
Seed
# 4
Seed
Total46464646
132
124
11113
1022208
97202010
831828
78

The following table identifies, by regular season wins, the final standings of the 460 teams at the conclusion of the playoffs.

Final Standings by Regular Season Wins

Regular
Season
Wins
1st
Place
2nd
Place
3rd
Place
4th
Place
5th
Place
6th
Place
7th
Place
8th
Place
9th
Place
10th
Place
Total46464646464646464646
14
1311
121111
113632
101510169
916129201
81115121161035
724223182110
6101414153
563710246
41161411
3512
211
14
02

Upon just a cursory examination of the tables above, the following is observed:

14-win Teams – None of the 460 competing teams had a perfect record at the end of the 14-week regular season.

13-win Teams – Only two teams were able to achieve a record of 13-1. Although these two teams should be formidable opponents and favored to win their respective league championship, neither team could even advance to the championship game. In fact, both teams lost their first-round game in week 15 and were relegated to the game for 3rd place in week 16 – which only one team won. The other 13-win team lost going 0-2 in the playoffs.

Some say there is no shame in coming in second, but there is plenty of shame for a team owner whose team went 13-1 in the regular season only to choke in the playoffs, limping home with a 4th place finish. Hopefully, there wasn’t a lot of trash-talk coming from either team owner prior to the playoffs because it is just so humiliating to be caught writing checks that your fantasy team just can’t cash.

The collapse of these two 13-win teams provides the first example of why a team owner should never give up. Fantasy football is a volatile game and consistency is difficult to achieve. Player performance cannot be accurately predicted or guaranteed and injuries seem to occur at the worst possible time. (Is there ever a good time?) Both 13-win teams lost to an 8-win, #4 seed team in the first round of the fantasy playoffs. So if you are an owner of a team with a record of 0-6, don’t stop playing! 67% of 8-win teams in this 46-league example made it to the championship bracket of the playoffs. Who knows, your team may be the one to knock off a 13-win team and even capture the league title. It has been done before. You’ll find even more evidence of fantasy success below in the section on 8-win teams. So never give up!

12-win Teams – Twice as many teams finished the regular season with 12 wins as those with 13 wins, but that still amounted to only four teams or less than 1% of all teams (4/460 = .009). All four teams were eligible for the championship bracket of their fantasy playoffs. Once again, one might assume that teams with such a strong regular season record would be very successful in the post-season. However, the observed results deviated from expectations just as they had with the 13-win teams. Of these four teams, only one was able to win in both weeks of the playoffs to proudly take home the title of fantasy football champion. One team finished in 2nd place while another took 3rd place. And just like the example from the 13-win teams, one team lost both playoff games to shamefully end up in 4th place.

The 12-win teams also provide an example of why a team owner should never give up. As stated above, all four 12-win teams were eligible for the championship bracket of the fantasy playoffs. In fact, all four were also #1 seeds. As #1 seeds, their opponents were the #4 seeds. In this case, the #4 seeds were comprised of one 9-win team, two 8-win teams and one 7-win team. So why not give up? Because the 9-win team and one of the 8-win teams not only beat the #1 seed, 12-win team, but went on to win their league’s championship. Never give up!

11-win Teams – 14 of the 460 teams (3%) earned a record of 11-3. All 14 teams were eligible for the championship bracket of their fantasy playoffs. After the previous examples of mediocrity in the playoffs from the 13 and 12-win teams, it would seem implausible to anticipate much success from the 11-win teams. However, three teams (21.4%) were able to claim their league’s championship. Six teams (42.9%) took 2nd place while three teams (21.4%) finished in 3rd place. Only two teams (14.3%) lost both games in the playoffs taking ownership of 4th place. Interestingly, the largest percentage of teams (9/14 = 64.3%) to reach the championship game came from the 11-win group. Unfortunately, only one-third of those teams were able to win that most important game in week 16.

10-win Teams – More teams (50) finished with 10 wins than all the 13, 12 and 11-win teams combined (2+4+14 = 20), but still comprised only 10.8% of all teams (50/460). This is also the last group of teams to have a 100% participation rate in the championship bracket of the playoffs – an appropriate reward for any fantasy football team that can reach double-digit wins. A full 30% (15/50) of 10-win teams won their league’s championship – the largest percentage of any group of teams. Ten teams (20%) took 2nd place while 16 teams (32%) finished in 3rd place. Only 9 teams (18%) lost both games in the playoffs to wind up in the championship bracket’s basement – 4th place.

9-win Teams – 58 of 460 teams (12.6%) won nine games and all but one team earned a ticket to the championship bracket of the playoffs. For the 57 teams in the championship bracket, 16 (28.1%) fought their way to the league championship. 12 teams (21.1%) finished in 2nd place while 9 teams (15.8%) took 3rd place. 20 teams (35%) lost both games in the playoffs and finished in 4th place.

The 9-win group of teams is the only one to populate all four seeds in the championship bracket of the playoffs. As one can probably begin to ascertain, playoff seeding does not seem to carry any significant advantage.

8-win Teams – Of the 73 teams (15.9%) who earned an 8-6 record, 49 (67%) qualified for the championship bracket of the playoffs and 24 (33%) participated in the consolation bracket. Of those 49 teams that competed in the championship bracket, 11 (22.4%) were strong enough to win their league’s championship. 15 teams (30.6%) finished in 2nd place while 12 teams (24.5%) took 3rd place. 11 teams (22.4%) did not win a game in the playoffs and finished in 4th place.

The group of 8-win teams provides ample evidence to convince team owners to never give up. Just reaching the 8-win level gives a team a 67% chance of participating in the championship bracket of the playoffs. And a little closer look at the numbers is even more encouraging. Although seeded #3 or #4 94% of the time, 8-win teams in the championship bracket of the playoffs managed to overcome this disadvantage to reach the championship game over half the time (26/46 = .565). And for those 26 teams that reached the championship game, 11 (42.3%) won their league’s title. This is even more impressive when one looks at the path these successful 8-win teams took to win it all as shown in the table below:

Championship Path of the 8-win Teams

Example
Number
8-win Team
(Seed and Record)
Team Defeated in
First Round of Playoffs
(Seed and Record)
Team Defeated in
Championship Game
(Seed and Record)
1#4 Seed (8 - 6)#1 Seed (12 - 2)#3 Seed (9 - 5)
2#4 Seed (8 - 6)#1 Seed (11 - 3)#3 Seed (8 - 6)
3#4 Seed (8 - 6)#1 Seed (10 - 4)#3 Seed (10 -4)
4#4 Seed (8 - 6)#1 Seed (9 - 5)#3 Seed (8 - 6)
5#3 Seed (8 - 6)#2 Seed (10 - 4)#4 Seed (8 - 6)
6#3 Seed (8 - 6)#2 Seed (10 - 4)#4 Seed (8 - 6)
7#3 Seed (8 - 6)#2 Seed (9 - 5)#1 Seed (11 - 3)
8#3 Seed (8 - 6)#2 Seed (9 - 5)#1 Seed (10 - 4)
9#3 Seed (8 - 6)#2 Seed (9 - 5)#1 Seed (9 - 5)
10#3 Seed (8 - 6)#2 Seed (9 - 5)#4 Seed (8 - 6)
11#3 Seed (8 - 6)#2 Seed (8 - 6)#4 Seed (8 - 6)

Even if your fantasy football team has the chance to only get to 8 – 6 by the end of the regular season, don’t give up! As long as a team gets into the championship bracket of the playoffs, it has just as much of a chance of winning the league title as any other team.

7-win Teams – This group has the toughest row to hoe in that only 8 of 80 (10%) 7-win teams earned a spot in the championship bracket of the playoffs. This is also the last group of teams to be represented in the championship bracket. (No teams with six or less wins was eligible for the championship bracket as 5th place was the highest regular season finish for that group.)

None of the eight 7-win teams were able to pull off the upset and win their league’s title. However, two teams (25%) did finish in 2nd place while four teams (50%) took 3rd place. Two teams (25%) did the expected by going winless in the playoffs and left with a 4th place finish.

Even if your team is 0 – 7 and can only get to 7 – 7 by season’s end, don’t quit! If your team can’t win the championship, then be a spoiler. I’d rather be the villain than a quitter. A win is a win, except when a cocky team owner is knocked out of the playoffs. Then it is so much more!

In this article, it has been demonstrated that regular season wins merely qualify a team for the championship bracket of the fantasy football playoffs, but have little effect on how far a team may go in that bracket. The following tables demonstrate this by breaking out the final standings of all 368 (46 leagues x 8 eligible teams) by playoff seeding.

Final Standings by Seeding (Championship Bracket)

Seed1st
Place
2nd
Place
3rd
Place
4th
Place
Total46464646
# 11214155
# 21451215
# 31410814
# 46171112

The only pattern of any significance with relation to seeding and performance in the championship bracket of the playoffs shows that 4th place is the least common finish for the #1 seeded teams and that 1st place is the least common finish for the #4 seeded teams. Ironically, the opposite is not true. 1st place is not the most common finish for #1 seeded teams (3rd place is) and 4th place is not the most common finish for #4 seeded teams (2nd place is). As it is fairly obvious that seeding and final standings have little, if any, correlation, team owners should neither take comfort nor be discouraged by their seeding in the playoffs. Once in, all bets are off and any of the four teams could win the league championship and with it, all the bragging rights.

The results of the consolation bracket of the playoffs, the results are demonstrated in the table below:

Final Standings by Seeding (Consolation Bracket)

Seed5th
Place
6th
Place
7th
Place
8th
Place
Total46464646
# 51511146
# 6161389
# 78151013
# 8771418

As with the championship bracket, there is no significance relationship between seeding and performance in the consolation bracket of the playoffs. 8th place is the least common finish for the #4 seeded teams and that 5th place (tied with 6th place) is the least common finish for the #8 seeded teams. The consolation bracket does indicate, however slightly, that 5th place is the most common finish for #5 seeded teams and 8th place is the most common finish for #8 seeded teams.

It could easily be argued that the poorer performance of the #8 seeded teams is due to the lack of motivation in the playoffs. The reason most teams find themselves with a #8 seed is likely due to low involvement during the season. If data were available, I would bet that most #8 seed teams are not very concerned about their participation in the consolation bracket of the playoffs and likely had lost interest in their team much earlier.

Thank you for reading this detailed article. I hope you have come away with a sense of hopefulness. Just know that even if your team can just get to 8 – 6 and squeak into the playoffs, anything can happen – including a fantasy football league championship. Keep playing. Never give up!

Related articles at Fantasy Football Impact:

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The Fantasy Football Playoffs: You Can Make It - So Never Give Up!

Disclaimer: Fantasy football is a game of speculation; therefore, Fantasy Football Impact disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, regarding player performance or results associated with its opinions or advice.