Best fantasy football scoring system: head to head vs. points

There are multiple ways to determine a winner in your fantasy football league. But which is the best fantasy football scoring system?

I tend to prefer total points rather than head to head. But in this post, I will make the case for both scoring systems.

Then I’ll let you be the judge to determine what is best for you.

Head to head scoring system explained

Head to head is the most commonly used scoring format in fantasy football. This is because it is the most reflective of real football — and all other real sports.

A schedule is generated prior to your season. Matchups can vary from league to league. But in general, you’ll play each team in your league at least one time.

If your fantasy players score more points than your opponent’s during a given week, you get a win and your opponent gets a loss. This continues for the duration of your league’s regular season schedule.

At the end of your fantasy league’s regular season schedule, playoff participants are determined (typically) by win percentage. The top 6 or 8 teams with the best records advance to your league’s playoffs, where again you’ll be pitted in head to head matchups based on seeding.

The case: why you should choose head to head scoring

If you’re considering a head to head scoring system, here are arguments to support your decision.

  • Head to head scoring is more realistic
    It seems to be the ultimate contradiction. You’re playing in a “fantasy” league, but want it to somewhat reflect “reality.” But in the case of a scoring system, it make sense. Each week your team goes to battle with another and you try to be the superior team on that day. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you live to fight another day.
  • Head to head scoring supports equality
    Let’s face it: finding 12 equally-qualified and intelligent owners is nigh impossible. To me, that’s life. But to others, that’s a source of frustration. A head to head scoring system levels the playing field. For example, an owner with a less talented team can pull off an upset if his players have favorable NFL matchups.
  • Head to head scoring keeps your team’s playoff hopes alive longer
    In total points scoring, a bad September can eliminate your team from championship contention. But in head to head scoring formats, you can recover from 1-2 or even 0-3 records to start your season.
  • Head to head scoring provides more ways to succeed
    It is entirely possible to make the playoffs even if your team has a bad week here or there. In total points scoring, a bad week or two can kill your championship aspirations. In head to head, playoffs remain possible. Additionally, you might lose a crucial Week 13 matchup, but a team with whom you’re contending for a playoff spot might lose his game to some other team that week, too.

Total points scoring system explained

Total points scoring is a format that values player production during the course of an entire season. You’re competing against the entire league each week, rather than just one team.

The objective is simple: play your best lineup each week and hope your players score as many points as possible. Over the course of the season, your weekly points accumulate, and standings reflect that metric.

There are multiple ways to determine a champion in total points formats, but here are the most common.

A champion can be crowned by accumulating the most points over the duration of the NFL’s regular season schedule. After 17 weeks of NFL action, whichever team in your league has scored the most points is the champ.

Alternatively, you can have a playoff format and make it a survivor-style system.

Let’s say that you have a 12-team league. After 14 weeks of point accumulation, the highest-scoring 8 teams will advance to the playoffs. Of those 8 teams, the 4 highest-scoring in Week 15 will then advance to the next round of the playoffs. Of those 4 teams, the 2 highest-scoring in Week 16 will advance to the “championship” in Week 17, where the higher-scoring of the 2 will be crowned champion.

The case: why you should choose total points scoring

If you’re considering a total points scoring system, here are arguments to support your decision.

  • Total points scoring is most indicative of team strength
    Simply put: if you assemble a team that scores the most points for an entire season, that means your team is the best. Period. All excuses are eliminated from conversation (except major injuries) because all teams have bad matchups and scoring anomalies over the course of a season.
  • Total points scoring alleviates bad matchups
    Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost a fantasy football game because one or more of your players faced a tough defense in the NFL. Meanwhile, your opponent had a subpar player or two score an obscene amount against a lousy NFL defense. I should see about a million hands in the air, and this happens all too often.
  • Total points scoring offers correction from anomalies
    Perhaps more frustrating than one or two “off” weeks from your players is anomalies in matchups. For example, let’s say on a given week your team scores more than 90% of your league. That should be a success. But if you’re in a head to head scoring format, you might have the unfortunate luck of playing against one of the only few teams that scored more than you. You get a loss for that week, despite your team’s dominance.
  • Total points scoring prevents collateral damage
    Everybody likes control. In fantasy football, you have none. You’re at the mercy of how your players perform in their respective NFL games. However, you at least have control over picking and starting players. In total points scoring formats, your success hinges on how well you constructed your team. Meanwhile, in head to head formats, you’re at the mercy of other teams, too. Let’s say you’re on the fringe of making the playoffs and you need another owner in your league to beat a team with whom you’re competing for the last playoff spot. But, oops, that owner forgot to set his lineup, basically giving a win — and the last playoff spot — to the other guy.

My verdict: total points scoring system is the most indicative of success

Although I can see the pros of a head to head scoring system, I much prefer playing in a league that awards the championship to the team that scores the most points for an entire season.

There is nothing more frustrating in fantasy football than bad luck. Whether it be injuries, poor NFL matchups, or anomalies in your league’s schedule, luck plays too big a role in fantasy football.

I prefer to mitigate luck as best and efficiently as possible. A total points scoring system will do just that.

Although teams are bound to have a few dud weeks here or there, generally “points scored” is the most accurate metric for determining the best fantasy football teams in a given season.

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