The Case for All-Play + Head to Head Leagues in Fantasy Football


I can’t contain my excitement on sharing a Fantasy Football League setup known commonly as All-Play with you all.Even crazier? I have a league setup, I tried personally in my home league and it was a resounding success and fun for everyone. So, now is as good of a time as any to do it. The playoffs have begun and hopefully most of you are participating, already advancing or I suppose worse….you are looking back and wondering where it all went wrong. Perhaps your team had a destructive suspension like Adrian Peterson or Josh Gordon, or devastating injury early on which hurt your squads. Under performing players are also rampant this season, and for whatever reason players who at one point were locks for double-digit performances are not even coming close in 2014 (I am looking at you LeSean McCoy).

Either way, if you aren’t riding the back of a few studs like DeMarco Murray, Antonio Brown or late Waiver Wire darling C.J. Anderson and sitting atop the heap, you are more than likely cursing your waiver wire, start/sit, and trade decisions. Everyone knows luck is a part of every game, and if you are like me, believe that Fantasy Football is largely dependent on it. There is Daily Fantasy Sports to ease the pain, but if you are like me it can’t replace seasonal leagues. The thrill of playing league-mates, and hopefully taking their money at the end of the season because of your efforts and Fantasy brilliance is hard to match anywhere.

That’s why I am here now writing this. It is time for some of you to look forward to next year, and in fact consider making a few changes. It may not be for every one of course, and long-standing leagues have history and comforts with their league set-up that likely shouldn’t be tweaked. HOWEVER, if you are in a relatively young league, or one with plenty of turnover each season then you must consider switching to an All-Play + Head to Head league. There are plenty of fears, and hesitations to do it, but I will explain how to make it work, how it works, and why it is a great option. I will also address why it may not be for everyone. So, let’s get in to it and even if your team is in the stink-hole this season, now you may have something to look forward to next season.

Ladies and Gentleman Let Me Introduce…..All-Play Leagues

Well, maybe I shouldn’t be so dramatic but I am so endeared with this format I just have to share it. In fact I am positive I have said at least a dozen times to different people “Well, too bad it wasn’t an All-Play league your narrow defeat wouldn’t have been as painful”. Sounds arrogant, but you know what? It is TRUE! After another season in Fantasy Football in 2013 of 5 losses, 4 of which were as the 2nd or 3rd highest scoring team I had enough. There must have been a way to balance out the standings in some way to account for points scored. There is power rankings and they may be truly the most fair, but they seemed meticulous and difficult to calculate easily, and each and every week. Most sites also don’t allow this kind of standings calculation. We will get into this more later.

There are also double headers, which is a nice middle ground option for most, but I still like the appeal of the next option more.

Enter All-Play. A simple concept most of you have heard of. Each week you play everyone in your league. Depending how your team scores that week determines your record for that week. So, if you are in a twelve team league, and you were the 4th highest scoring team you would finish the week at (8-3). Not bad, especially if you were in Head to Head and faced the top scoring team. Rather than one heartbreaking loss, you still lose three games, but accumulate a win for burying the rest of your league mates that week. Can anyone argue that this isn’t fair? I think not.

I know, fair isn’t always fun right? You may like the intense stress of having a win or loss hanging in the balance each week and you would most certainly lose that by having to face everyone, each and every week. As much as I dread that feeling I also love it. In Fantasy Baseball you have the whole week, the slow grind to determine your outcome, and although it always seems to come down to Sunday it is nowhere near the intensity of Sunday football.

So there lies the issue. How can you keep that importance, and ever so stressful Sunday battle feel when you are in All-Play? Well…..

Let’s Make This Interesting Shall We?

This one is simple. You KEEP the head to head matchup. Simple right? Kind of yeah, but if you are already are playing someone in all-play and  getting wins for beating everyone else in the league why would a head to head matchup matter. That is where you can make it interesting.

You add an extra win, and an extra loss depending on the outcome. So, if we go to the above scenario again in your 12 team league and are the 4th highest scoring team in all-play alone you would be 8-3. So let’s say you won your head to head match. Now you are 9-3. You lose? You are 8-4.

If you look on the other side of the spectrum, let’s say you are the third lowest scoring team for the week, but you win your head to head matchup. Then you would be 2-9 in all-play but with the win you’d eek out another win in all-play + head to head. 3-9 isn’t great, but it may not be as bad as an 0-1 record.

To All-Play or Not to All-Play, That is the Question

So if you value overall team performance, want to reduce luck based victories, reduce the pain of Bye weeks, and make it so no one can complain about being the fifth highest scoring team but missing the playoffs. All-play adds fairness and if you toss in head to head you still have the heated rivalry, the importance of the matchup remains every Sunday. There is just more at stake.

As I mentioned earlier, this may not be for everyone. Some like simplicity. Some like tradition, and others are, no offense stubborn and lazy. If however, you have an active league which meets each season, makes adjustments you need to give All-play + head to head a try. If anything try doing it alongside your regular season for one year just to show everyone how it works. You may be surprised how interested even the most bull-headed owners may be after seeing it in action.

What About the Playoffs?

The key question is if this is a regular season only concept, or does it include playoffs? I guess that is up to the league. For me, I prefer the complete randomness and fate being in the Fantasy gods hands come playoff time (as cruel as it may be). If you like the All PLAY + Head to Head concept you could definitely carry it over into the playoffs. Take the top overall records and let them advance to the next round.

This is something the entire league should be on board with and be aware of prior to the season starting. An owner knowing they could advance, even with a loss will make far less risk based decisions than an owner who has the all or nothing perspective.

So How Do I Do This?

That is the trick I suppose. I happen to be using myfantasyleague.com (which is the best and most customizable site for leagues) and they actually don’t have this option. They have either Head to Head or All-Play. You will need to set the league up as a head to head league to create the schedule, and then after each week is complete calculate the All-Play standings. You should then be able to adjust the standings (Or the commissioner can).

I am not sure if sites such as ESPN, CBS, or Yahoo allow these sort of customizations. If they do I am sure it would work the same as MFL. however, if they don’t you can always use a Google Doc, spreadsheet, or even the league message board to keep the league updated on the standings.

There is no denying it is more work, but once you get used to it is pretty easy, and it will be worth it.

I realize all-Play leagues have been around a long time, and this concept may not be original or new, but it is something I am shocked to find so many oblivious to. I don’t want to take credit for an innovative new format, but want to spread the word on it, and make it a little easier to understand. Who knows, if you switch your league(s) to it, you may never go back. Just for kicks, I am posting the link to my Leagues site, feel free to follow along, and see how the league is going with this format. I had a horrendous final two weeks and just missed the playoffs! I am “Crows Before Hoes”.

You will also notice the team who finished on top was actually 13-0 on head to head matches! That is impressive. The All-Play losses took some of the shine off, but he still ended up with the best overall record prize and a Playoff Week 1 Bye.

Thanks as always for reading, and feel free to leave any questions, comments, arguments in the comments section. Or of course you can find me on Twitter too @fantsychillpony.

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