Mixing fantasy with reality…

I love to watch football because of the sharp intensity of each snap that follows the overall flow of a good drive. I also love it because it is a sport where numbers are reported all the time and seem to dominate how commentators assess a players performance. You know, “so and so caught x passes for x yards averaging y yards per carry” or something similar. As some of these numbers (or statistics as they are commonly referred to) are used to create points in fantasy football, it got me wondering: does fantasy truly mirror reality?

This has already caused some debate amongst the Gentlemen and so I thought it was time I visited the topic properly. My long term aim is to do some full on statistical analysis and report with graphs what I find. Really this will be done at the end of the season, after I have collected all the data, but for now, after 6 weeks and 5 or 6 games for each team, let’s see how everything corresponds.

What I did was I calculated the total fantasy points for each team based on the following: QB, 2xRB, 2xWR, TE, W/R/T (which ever position was highest), K and Def/ST. I then ranked the scores according to division. I compared this outcome to the actual divisional standings as they are at week 6.

Here is how they compare (here follows a list of tables):



Team Division Rank Fantasy Rank Fantasy Points
NE 1 2 415.3
MIA 2 3 367.72
NYJ 3 4 352.2
BUF 4 1 443.54


Team Division Rank Fantasy Rank Fantasy Points
CIN 1 1 441.98
BAL 2 2 424.18
CLE 3 3 421.7
PIT 4 4 317.2


Team Division Rank Fantasy Rank Fantasy Points
IND 1 1 473.22
TEN 2 2 425.58
HOU 3 3 424.18
JAC 4 4 280.1


Team Division Rank Fantasy Rank Fantasy Points
KC 1 2 491.8
DEN 2 1 722.06
SD 3 3 483.68
OAK 4 4 388.82




Team Division Rank Fantasy Rank Fantasy Points
DAL 1 2 516.62
PHI 2 1 534.38
WAS 3 4 361.52
NYG 4 3 361.84


Team Division Rank Fantasy Rank Fantasy Points
DET 1 2 501.98
CHI 2 1 539.2
GB 3 3 473.34
MIN 4 4 367.8


Team Division Rank Fantasy Rank Fantasy Points
NO 1 1 529.92
CAR 2 2 414.98
ATL 3 3 405.66
TB 4 4 265.98


Team Division Rank Fantasy Rank Fantasy Points
SEA 1 1 482.22
SF 2 2 437.34
STL 3 3 398.88
ARI 4 4 384.82


Before we explore this further, I will state now that none of fantasy rankings significantly differed from the reality rankings (based on a chi-square test, other tests are available just not trialled yet). Half of the divisions match up exactly and in only two do we see a right jumble (both East in AFC and NFC). In the other two, AFC West and NFC North do we see 1st and 2nd standings appear to switch. So overall 20/32 (62.5%) of teams match there fantasy divisional rankings, a with a Pearson rank correlation of 0.75 (1 equals a perfect fit) and this supports the idea that fantasy football mirrors reality pretty accurately. Can the mismatches be explained? Well yes, especially if you consider the discussions on our posts on www.gridirongentlemen.com such as our power rankings.

Let us consider the NFC North with the Lions/Bears mismatch: the consensus is that the Bears rank higher than the Lions (13th compared to 15th) and the fantasy points support this view. At the moment, as things stand, the Lions  have a better Conference record and more net points than the Bears (3-2, 2-2 and 22 to 11 respectively) and so the standings in reality differ. The fantasy scores are close, only 37points between them and so it is likely that this division will remain tight but I would expect the Bears to come out on top.

Onto the AFC West mismatch of the Chiefs and Broncos. The Broncos are ranked as the number 1 team at the moment, pretty well across the board. The fantasy point rankings agree and suggest this. But before I delve back into reality, a look into the fantasy points may give a clue why the Chiefs appear top: their defence out scores the next closest by 39 points! When we look in reality the Chiefs have only allowed 64pts where as the Broncos have let in 158pts (though the Broncos still have a better net points score). In addition the Chiefs, having played more games on the road and won them all have the better score on that account. I can only hazard that this is why fantasy ranks and general opinion differ from the current standings.

Ok now for the complete mismatches, starting with the AFC East. The Bills are completely mis-ranked as 1st by fantasy points compared to 4th in divisional standings. This shifts every other team out by 1 place. I think the reason is because the Bills have scored 14 touchdowns, 3 more than the Patriots, and with touchdowns having the greatest influence on fantasy points, this will explain the disparity. In Dan’s latest rankings, he has the Bills above the Jets, with the Pats and Dolphins 1st and 2nd respectively (in terms of the division). I believe that this probably will hold true and the fantasy ranking will shuffle to match reality, eventually.

Why was it the two Easts that were the mismatch? Anyway, the NFC East is a case of two separate switch arounds. Starting off with the bottom, what is important to note is the difference is 0.3 2pts, nothing at all. The only explanation I can give is that the Giants have played one extra game and that has been enough to create the difference. I would expect after next week, for the correct order to be restored.

The Eagles/Cowboys mismatch is intriguing (especially as the Cowboys are considered Superbowl contenders). The first thing to note is, their fantasy points are very close, within 20 points of each other and so likely to change next week. This difference is mainly the result of the Eagles scoring more rushing touchdowns at quarterback (combined Foles and Vick have scored more points than Romo). In fantasy, a QB scoring a rushing touchdown is worth six points compared to the four for a passing touchdown. This seems the most likely explanation. What it does show is that the only two teams in contention in the NFC East are the Cowboys and the Eagles and that the division is the Cowboys to lose.

In summary, fantasy football does match the real thing, to some extent. Statisticians would say fantasy football and specifically the points system, is a good fitting model of the real thing. So generally, good fantasy points scoring players are genuinely good players, the points they score a fair reflection of their performance. This last point I do hope to explore at a later date.

Don’t forget to think of setting your fantasy team for week 7, remembering bye weeks for the Saints and Raiders. Keep checking www.gridirongentlemen.com for our latest posts as well as our facebook page¬† and our twitter feed @GridironGents for our latest updates.

Toodle pip.