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How to Play Fantasy Football


The league is comprised of 8, 10, 12, 14 or 16 fantasy team owners. Each owner will select a roster of players, choose a starting lineup for each game of a 13-15 week regular season, and perhaps sign replacement players or make trades. At the end of the fantasy season (during the final weeks of the NFL season) a playoff tournament will determine the league champion.


(Those using a draft need only determine a draft order and select players, with the order reversed for even-numbered rounds). Each franchise is given a $100 payroll, to be used to sign exactly 16 players - any combination of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and defenses (which include special teams). Defenses consist of entire NFL teams. A nominating order is randomly determined (perhaps the order of finish the previous year), with teams taking turns opening the bidding on players. During the auctioning of each NFL player, the owner opening the bidding also serves as the auctioneer. Bids must be made in even dollar amounts. Trades are permitted during the auction, but teams may not release purchased players until after the auction.


Owners shall, by majority vote, decide on players' positions prior to the auction. These positions will apply for the entire year, even if the player switches positions during the NFL season (such as Steeler "wide receiver" Kordell Stewart switching to quarterback late in 1996). Positions not agreed upon prior to the auction will be determined by NFL team lists, as represented at


Owners submit a starting lineup of exactly 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 kicker and 1 defense prior to the kickoff of the first NFL game of each week (even if it's a Thursday game between NFL teams of no fantasy significance). If an owner fails to submit a lineup by the deadline, it remains the same as the previous week. If the unchanged lineup rule doesn't apply (perhaps because of a trade) then the commissioner shall determine the lineup (using the judgment of a reasonably prudent person). The commissioner should make every effort to decide on the lineup (in such rare cases) prior to the games.


For each fantasy game, starters generate points in the following way: 6 points for touchdowns (including kick returns), 4 for TD throws, 3 for field goals, 2 for any role in a 2-point conversion, 2 for safeties and 1 for PATs. Special Teams/Defenses score 6 points for any kick or turnover return, including returns of blocked punts and missed field goals. One exception for defenses: No points are awarded when an offensive player returns a teammate's or opponent's fumble for a touchdown (such as a stripping a defensive back after an interception). Touchdowns scored on fumble returns by the kickoff and punt teams count. (Note: We choose here not to allow Special Teams points for points scored on fake field goals and fake punts because they are hard to define).


(The following rules apply to those using drafts, but teams simply make claims for players, rather than submitting bids). Players not on a 16-man roster are considered unrestricted free agents. Each team may extend sealed bids for players any time prior to the Wednesday 8 p.m. deadline each week. At that time, bids are revealed and players are awarded to the highest bidder. If two teams bid the same amount, the player goes to the lesser team (see tiebreakers). Simple conditional bids are allowed ("I want to sign a kicker for $2, my choices are ..."). Complex bids are not ("I want to bid $1 more than the Boise Noise on ..."). Teams are obligated to honor winning bids, and waiver pickups can't be released or traded until the following week. When an owner wins a bid, he must - by trade or waivers - get his team down to the $100 and 16-man league limits prior to the kickoff of the first game of the NFL week (otherwise, the commissioner makes those cuts). From 8 p.m. Wednesday until the kickoff of the first NFL game of the week, unrestricted free agents are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Released players become restricted free agents, not available to any team until the following week, and then only for at least their existing salary (for the entire week). If a restricted free agent goes unsigned, he becomes an unrestricted free agent when NFL games start the following week.


Two or more owners may exchange players any time prior to the kickoff of the first NFL game on week 10. A trade becomes valid only after all parties involved have contacted the commissioner and verified the terms of the deal. Each team involved in a trade must stay under the league maximum of 16 players and $100. Leaving salary behind in trades is acceptable, but that money becomes guaranteed, and isn't removed from a player's original team if he is later released. (Example: Team A trades $13 Corey Dillon to Team B for $10 Drew Bledsoe but agrees to pay $4 of Dillon's salary. Dillon is now listed as a $9 player for Team B, while $4 of Team A's salary cap is now filed under "guaranteed contracts"). Trades including contingencies for following weeks are not allowed, and traded players are not eligible to return to their initial team's roster. During the auction, it is legal to trade a player for a salary cap figure -- including $0 (example: a team buys Steve McNair for $11, then later in the auction doesn't want him when it captures Peyton Manning for $33). During the season, it's legal to trade players for any cap figure other than $0 (since the team could simply cut the player at that point).


The following is the tiebreaking scheme should two or more teams have identical records at the end of the regular season. Ties inside divisions shall be broken first (with the winner of that tiebreaker advancing to the next tie, if applicable). Tied games count as half wins (7-5-2 is the same as 8-6-0).

  1. Most points scored.
  2. Winning percentage against all other teams in the tie (applies only if one team beats or losses to all of the other teams).
  3. "Mercator" Projection (Winning percentage if team had played every other team every week).
  4. Point difference (points scored minus points allowed).
  5. Coin flip.

(Note to those preferring official NFL tiebreakers: Break ties within divisions first. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record between all teams in the tie -- applicable only if one team beats or loses to each and every other team in the tie. Following tiebreakers are winning percentage in divisional, conference, then common games (minimum of four). If the tie still remains, then go to net points in divisional, then all games. Strength of schedule is the 7th NFL tiebreaker).


All rules continue to apply, including those regarding waivers. If two teams tie in a playoff game, the team finishing with the better record in the regular season advances.


The league's two worst teams shall play in a "Toilet Bowl" game the first week after the regular season. The Toilet Bowl champion (the team that is outscored in the Toilet Bowl game) shall provide refreshments for all other franchises at the following year's selection meeting.


(This section applies only to leagues preferring to allow teams to keep players for more than one year). All the same salary cap rules apply, but a new variable is added -- length of contract. Players bought at the August auction are under contract for three years (though they can be cut at any time). Contracts of free agents signed during the season are good only though that season. On July 1 each year, owners must make a decision on each of their free agents -- tender the player an offer equal to the previous year's salary (guaranteeing the player will get a raise) or allow the player to become an unrestricted free agent (clearing salary cap space for the auction). Players offered tenders become restricted free agents. At the auction, restricted free agents are auctioned first (with the nominating order the same as the order teams finished the previous year). For restricted free agents, the owner holding that player's rights need not bid; he simply announces, when the top bid is finalized, whether he'll keep the player by matching the highest offer. If a team must renounce a player by rescinding a tender offer following the restricted free agent bidding round, that player is ineligible to join said team until October (example: an owner protects $8 Steve McNair but no other team is interested in McNair at $8, and the original owner loses interest in McNair after signing restricted free agent Brett Favre for $38. That owner then loses the right to even bid on McNair in the unrestricted free agent auction).


A majority vote of the league shall apply if any team violates any of the above rules.


The editors of Fantasy Football Index will gladly rule on any dispute not covered by these rules. Please e-mail any dispute to or call 206-527-4444.

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