Monday - Jun 17, 2019

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Ben Franklin Would Be Good At Fantasy Football

“Luck favors the prepared.”

I have no clue who should get credit for this quote.  Some say it is an old Chinese proverb; some pay homage to Ben Franklin; I last heard it in the kids’ movie “The Incredibles.”  Whatever.  I just know it’s true.

As any respectable fantasy football player knows, touchdowns are the key to fantasy success; yet most people, when analyzing a particular team, give far more credence to said team’s yardage total.  It is also common to overvalue good passing teams over good rushing teams — the former are more exciting and leave a larger impression, and folks remember that which is more exciting.

The issue here is reality versus perception, and when one bases his analysis on perception, it leads to subpar results. A wise fantasy owner should seek to have rock solid analysis, and it needs to be rooted in reality.

The best way to rate the effectiveness of any offense is by looking at their offensive touchdown totals — no returns, just offense.  (The same is true of defense, of course, and the numbers there are surprising.)  As an example of this truism, I present the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team most consider to have an average, mediocre, or “okay” offense.  The numbers say otherwise, and since fantasy football deals with lots and lots of numbers, we should take notice.

The average NFL offense, over a 16 game regular season, scores 34-36 touchdowns. Last season four teams scored in that range: Houston, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Minnesota (the Vikes scored 34, the others 36). They all had vastly different schemes, yet scored in the same range. An above average offense scores 37-40 TD’s; in ’07, Seattle and the Giants were the only teams to reach that mark. A good offense scores 41-46: Jacksonville (46), Green Bay (43),

Pittsburgh (43), New Orleans (42), Cleveland (42), San Diego (41), and Arizona (41). Elite offenses score 47 +, and the truly special offenses, which arise every couple of years or so, score in the high 50’s into the 60’s — the Patriots netted 67 in ’07; other notables of recent seasons include the ’06 Chargers (56), the ’04 Colts (61) and Chiefs (57), ’03 Chiefs (56), ’01 Rams (57), and ’00 Rams (63). As you can see, it is very rare for two teams in the same year to reach uber-elite status. 

Going the other way, the mediocre offenses will score 30-33 TD’s — Tampa Bay and Washington (33), Detroit (32), and Denver(31); the poor offenses, 26-29 — Oakland (28) and Chicago, Miami, Tennessee, and Carolina (26); and the horrible, 20-25 — Atlanta (25), Baltimore and St. Louis (24), Kansas City and San Francisco (23), the Jets (31), and Buffalo (20).  (While High School offenses will score about 18 touchdowns against NFL competition, the ’06 Raiders could only muster 12.)

A team that out of nowhere jumps into the 41-TD Good category one season but isn’t really that good usually falls back to the pack the next year, and was back in the pack prior. Is that the case with the Steelers? Not at all. The last four years the Steelers have gone 36,42,39,43. They had already reached that Good thresh-hold when they hit 42 in ’05, but people didn’t notice it because of their run-oriented philosophy.

The purpose of an NFL offense is to score TD’s, and the Steelers have been in the top 10 of that category three years running. Top 10 is not mediocre, nor just “ok.” 

If you further analyze last year’s TD totals, and especially if you look at the last several years, you’ll notice trends developing with certain teams. For instance, the Chargers are perceived to have an elite offense, but their ’07 production didn’t warrant such praise. Jacksonville is like Pittsburgh, undervalued due to their run-based nature, but have been in the same class for a couple years now. Seattle is further along in decline than San Diego is, and should drop to average or below this season (hence my lukewarm attitude towards Matt Hasselbeck). And two teams are poised to jump into that 41-TD Good category this season: Houston and Minnesota.

The wise fantasy player will place heavy emphasis on this kind of information.  Having a good idea which good offenses are perceived to be less productive than they are by the experts, and to a greater degree popular opinion, is an invaluable tool in being prepared for the upcoming fantasy season, and indeed during the season as well.  If you are lucky, it might even bring you a Championship.  And as the Incredible Chinese Ben Franklin once said . . .

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