December, 2010

NFL Ensures Ri-Vick-ulous Fantasy Finish to 2010

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

When the NFL moved the Eagles and Vikings away from Sunday night, there’s no reason to doubt safety as the motive. The unintended consequence: fantasy aggravation.

You can call it ramping up the excitement if you want, but the point is that fantasy players around the country are waiting at least a day longer to find out who wins — a situation only magnified by the inclusion of the Eagles and their multitude of fantasy resources. In many cases, significant money hangs in the balance.

The World Championship of Fantasy Football, for instance, had six teams among the top 10 entering Week 16 that await Eagles-Vikings results. Leader Jeff Schinker may need some help from Philly receiver Jeremy Maclin to hold off a second-place squad relying on Vick and Adrian Peterson. Holding on will mean a difference of $250,000 in prize money.

At, Week 16 began with Michael Vick quarterbacking eight of the top 10 teams in the race for $100,000 and a few others such as Eagles kicker David Akers and the Philadelphia defense in position to come into play. With only the Tuesday night game to go, however, it appears that leader Jeff James — with Vick at quarterback — is safe.

The inaugural season of the Footballguys Players Championship also sports a $100K grand prize and plenty of Vick, as seven of the top 10 entering the final week employed the Philly passer. As it stands, Ryan Strickler’s second-place team can claim victory with just 13 points from Vick, well below the quarterback’s per-game average this season.

Similarly, the Fantasy Football Players Championship — the main event put on by the company that partners with Footballguys on their contest — has Tuesday night players breathing down the neck of the current leader. Richard Risinger clings to a mere 7-point lead, with the second-place HOGS sporting Maclin and the Philadelphia defense and the third-place Syracuse Slappers running out Vick and Peterson. The winner there takes $100,000 as well.

The National Fantasy Football Championship has to look a little further down the leaderboard but finds Tuesday-night intrigue nonetheless. As pointed out by founder Greg Ambrosius on the site’s message board (with help from some other members), the sixth-place team could overtake the current leader with a big combined performance from Vick and LeSean McCoy. On top of that, the ninth-place team remains alive despite a 75.38-point deficit because it has Vick, DeSean Jackson and Percy Harvin yet to go.

With another $100,000 targeted for the NFFC winner, that’s a total of $700,000 in fantasy winnings with at least some tie to tonight’s game … and that’s only a snapshot of first-place money for five national contests. Imagine the scenarios when you extend to all paying spots in these competitions and the rest of the leagues and contests out there.

Whether the NFL realized it or not, moving the Eagles-Vikings primetime game two days back promised to make the finish to this fantasy football season more interesting and memorable.


Hey, Mendenhall Owners: Still in Fantasy Title Game?

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

The NFL and the Elias Sports Bureau decided to slap on their Grinch masks this week and potentially take a gift away from some fantasy owners.

The league announced Thursday a stat change from Week 15 in which Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall lost a yard from his total. That might not seem like a big deal, but the alteration dropped his yardage from 100 to 99.

As fantasy football guru Michael Fabiano pointed out, that still might not impact leagues such as those on his site that use fractional scoring. There probably weren’t too many fantasy teams that lost by 0.1 points last week.

However, if your league eschews decimal scoring, the 1-point difference could be a bit more significant. Also, as Fabiano points out, those leagues that award scoring bonuses to 100-yard rusher have seen more points disappear.

Whatever the case, the announcement basically means that anyone who owns Mendenhall or played against his owner last week should recheck Week 15 results just to make sure nothing changed. On the broader scale, I can’t help but see a bit of laziness from the league.

Putting on a Thursday game each week through roughly the second half of the NFL schedule already throws a wrench into the fantasy week. If the NFL is going to choose to proceed that way, though, then it’s incumbent upon the league to iron out any scoring, stat or player-discipline issues comfortably before the next week’s games begin. This only becomes more important as the end of the NFL season takes most fantasy players into their playoffs — many with significant amounts of money on the line.

Long ago, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for any major league to have no regard for fantasy players, but the NFL obviously realizes our impact with the way it has embraced this pastime/business. Now it needs to keep in mind the interests of those funding the Sunday Ticket and trafficking the league website so heavily.


NFL Thriving on TV; Fantasy Says ‘You’re Welcome’

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Ask anyone in the fantasy sports industry if our games help the real sports on which they rely, and you’ll hear “Of course.”

It’s a no-brainer, really. The nature of fantasy inherently adds value to the actual sport, necessarily assigning more meaning to games and meaning to more games. It’s important to growing the overall status of fantasy sports and their marketing power, however, to make it a brainer as well, and this NFL season appears to be presenting the strongest evidence yet.

According to a weekend feature from the Los Angeles Times, 2010 is shaping up to deliver the best TV ratings in the league’s history, and the NFL can address thank-you cards to fantasy folks.

Nielsen ratings declare that 35 TV programs had garnered 20 million viewers or more in the fall season heading into the weekend. Twenty-six of those were NFL games. (And for those curmudgeons who still think fantasy a waste of time, seven of the other nine were episodes of Dancing with the Stars … which, by the way, makes sure to add an NFL player to the cast every season.)

The story features a women’s fantasy football league from California and offers some anecdotal evidence of fantasy’s impact, such as the previously casual NFL fan who estimates that her viewing has tripled since she started playing fantasy football.

Beyond that, though, there is harder evidence as well …

- According to CBS’ David Poltrack, ratings for non-home-team games in 2007 sat at 58 percent of those for home-team games. That climbed to 62 percent in 2008 and 63 percent in 2009.

- 70 percent of respondents to an ESPN survey of fantasy football players said that fantasy led them to watch NFL games they might not have otherwise.

- Viewership at the start of the third quarter of the Patriots’ recent Monday Night Football blowout of the Jets dipped just 2 percent from the game-opening audience, despite New England’s 24-3 halftime lead in a game it won 45-3.

The home team vs. non-home team data isn’t necessarily driven by fantasy players, but Poltrack’s hypothesis that fantasy play leads to more viewership of out-of-town games certainly makes sense, and the trend coincides with fantasy’s rise.

The past few years have seemed to produce more understanding of this nature, and we should expect to continue seeing studies and surveys such as those mentioned here that help to map the impact of fantasy games and the behavior of its players. Hey, maybe we’re not that far from seeing Dr. Kim Beason on Outside the Lines.


‘Tis the Season for Fantasy Awards

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Those of us in the fantasy sports industry don’t do our thing for awards. We do it for the sake of our customers.

And awards.

These last couple of weeks on the calendar can be a particularly busy time for everyone — except maybe for Jehovah’s witnesses who don’t follow the NFL? I don’t know — so we thought it helpful to toss out a quick reminder on awards deadlines.

The Fantasy Sports Writers Association has had it’s submission process open since the middle of November, with the deadline approaching on Dec. 24. (That’s this Friday, for those of you who prefer to make your Christmas shopping as hectic and uncomfortable as possible.) You must be a FSWA member to be eligible for all but the Newcomer of the Year award, and nominations can be submitted here (in 15 categories):

FSWA nomination form

Those awards will be handed out at the January FSTA winter business conference in Las Vegas, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s Industry Recognition Awards.

The FSTA submission process has also begun, and is similarly open only to FSTA members. Whereas the FSWA honors focus primarily on individuals, the FSTA awards center on companies, contests, etc. Nominations can be entered for the nine categories here (through Jan. 5):

FSTA nomination form

In each case, non-members can become eligible for awards by joining the appropriate organization.