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Fantasy Football: Why Your League Should Be With 12 Teams In 2021

Green Bay's Aaron Jones remains a consensus top-five overall pick in most formats.

With the National Football League Draft and Schedule Release finally in the rearview mirror, it is never too early to think about your fantasy league's prospects for 2021. That would include preparing for the league's 18-week schedule to accommodate 17 games played for the first time. Note that the 17th game will consist of a NFC team traveling to face an AFC counterpart. So we know AFC teams will have nine home games in 2021, those undecided on certain players can use this as a tie-breaker and select AFC players. The extra game itself comes to the joy of most fantasy players simply as there is an additional week - NFL players themselves do not share that love. The old 17 week/16 game format worked perfectly with most fantasy formats.

  • Eight team leagues played each opponent twice and used Weeks 15 and 16 for the playoffs.

  • 10-team leagues split into two five team divisions, playing divisional opponents twice during a 13-game schedule, typically six teams qualified for a three-week playoff run in Weeks 14 through 16.

  • 14 team leagues simply played each of the 13 other teams once

There are intriguing workarounds with the 18-week schedule.

  • An eight-team outfit can continue to play a 14-game schedule while increasing the playoff field to six, extending the playoff season for Weeks 15 through 17.

  • A 10-team league can increase the playoff field to eight, with a conference basketball tourney twist. The fifth through eighth seeds can play in Week 14, the winners face the third and fourth seeds the following weeks, those winners play the top two seeds (who will have double byes) in Week 16 with the championship game in Week 17.

  • 14-team leagues can conduct a stepladder double-bye format as well. Another option involves placing the top four seeds in a 'qualification bracket' with the fifth through eight seeds in an 'elimination bracket'. All eight teams play their playoff openers in Week 14. No. 1 squares off against No. 4 along with No. 2 versus No. 3 - the winners earn byes into the semifinal round (Week 16) while the losers get kicked to the elimination bracket. No. 5 also plays No. 8 along with No. 6 v. No. 7. Those are elimination games, the winners play qualification bracket losers in Week 15, the winners take on the qualification winners in Week 16 culminating with a Week 17 Championship.

Here is where the 12-team format now makes sense. Three divisions with four teams each. Divisional rivals face off twice and everyone else once in a 14 week schedule. Division champs along with three to five wild cards advance to the playoffs. As a commissioner, do not feel obligated to automatically award the top three seeds to division winners. In the case of a NFC East-like division where the champion finishes 7-7, but with only the sixth best record overall, give that team a No. 6 seed instead of the No. 3. One does not need to follow the same insanity as the actual NFL. There is nothing wrong with simply adding an extra game to the fantasy regular season. In a 10-team league, Week 14 can consist of intra-divisional play with the first place team in one division facing off with their first-place counterpart. Same concept with the second, third, fourth and fifth place teams against comparable opponents from the other division. There are plenty of new scheduling options for 2021 in fantasy football, it all adds to the excitement. Best of luck to all those participating!

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