This is the time of the year when I'd normally encourage you to play fantasy football responsibly. There will be plenty of playoff fantasy games, and they're fine, as long as you don't lose sight of the actual contests themselves. We're about a month away from a Super Bowl champion, so fantasy football should take a backseat to the real game and how the playoffs will unfold.
That's what I'd normally write. But this hasn't been a normal season, so all that goes right out the window.
Never mind that a 6-10 team almost hosted a playoff game (a 7-9 team will take its place). Never mind that the most versatile running back in the playoffs is iffy to suit up in New Orleans, and we have no idea who else might be sidelined in the postseason thanks to the virus. Never mind that the "playoff atmosphere" will be empty stadiums, fake crowd noise and whatever broadcast team I've been ignoring for years. Even if you took all that away, it's been an unusual season. I think you should feel free to add all the diversions you can. That means several more weeks of active, intense fantasy football.
You can play free games on major websites. You can jump on the daily fantasy carousel. Your league might have an annual contest for a few bucks. Whether it's a new draft, a daily contest tournament or Super Bowl squares, add as much spice to the festivities as you can handle.
You don't have to pack January with your own games, of course. If the postseason is plenty of fun on its own (fans in Buffalo, Cleveland, and Tampa don't need anything else to get them excited), enjoy it. I understand that position. But it's a weird year, and adding a little something to the games might make them more fun to watch. Don't deny yourself any opportunity to field a team.
While I think the best teams in the league are represented, something feels off. Maybe it's the extra playoff spot, which didn't add much to the field in the NFC (8-8 Chicago), while it seemed to work out for the AFC (11-5 Indianapolis). It seems strange that only one team in each conference earns a bye from now on. In other years one would have gone to the Saints in the NFC, who could have used an extra week to get Alvin Kamara ready. I don't like seeing a smattering of fans (at best) in the stands during the most important games. Don't get me wrong; I understand why things are different, and I'm glad we actually had a complete regular season. It just has a different feeling this year.
Enter fantasy football.
Fantasy games are familiar. I know how the scoring works, I know which plays make me look like a genius, and which make me look like a fool. Win or lose, they'll be run pretty much like they always are, and I appreciate that stability more than ever. If everything else requires an adjustment, at least fantasy will be its normal, exciting, maddening self.
It's also a good opportunity to get involved in something different if you're so inclined. If you never play daily games, give them a try (even the free ones). Some games want you to choose a roster of any players you want, while others have a separate playoff draft. In some games you can redraft every week, while others require you to pick your winners at the beginning of the tournament and ride it out with whoever survives into February. Whatever is new to you, give that one a try. You might want to keep it in the future.
We've all had to adapt this season, and I'm continuing that with regard to playoff fantasy football. I was never against it (obviously) but I didn't see the point in getting too involved in it, and risking missing the pageantry of the playoffs. But this time it's different. The "pageantry" feels a little hollow. We don't even know how many fans will be allowed to attend the Super Bowl. We can't change the reality of the situation, but we can supplement the game with our own fun. I hope you find a way to do just that as the playoffs start.
Are you as excited about the playoffs this season as other years? Will fantasy football be more or less a part of your plans than normal, or about the same? Are you trying any different formats? Share your thoughts below.