There has not been much talk lately about the NFL increasing the regular season by adding one game to the season. Frankly, I think this is a big deal for the NFL players and us fantasy players. In this article, we will cover how the 17 game NFL schedule will impact your fantasy leagues.
The first thing I want to touch on is the fantasy football schedule implications. With the additional games added to the regular season, the fantasy football regular season will have an extra game too. Regardless if you play in a 10-team or 12-team league or send four or six teams to the playoffs, the NFL changes will impact your fantasy schedule.
I am not a massive fan of divisions in twelve-team leagues, and I don’t see a need for them. I started a new league this year and I switched to divisions. Since I am not a fan of divisions, why did I do a new startup with them?
2021 Fantasy Football: The impact of a New Schedule
The fantasy schedule, in my opinion, is often problematic from year to year. For example, in a typical twelve-team league with six playoff spots, the regular season currently runs through week 13 for fantasy. That means every team plays two teams twice and everyone else once. There are a few different options to help make the schedule more “fair” by doing things like victory points, adding scoring against the week’s median score (sleeper app offers this), or playing the first two weeks of the season against the league. The last example is where the top half of the league gets a win for the week, and the bottom half gets losses.
I play in a league where I play the same two teams twice every year. Which is fine, but frankly, the two teams I play twice-yearly typically are some of the better teams in the league. Annually I usually have one of the most challenging schedules in the league. In contrast, a couple of other teams always seem to play teams at the bottom of the standings. I think we all experience this at some point.
Given the previous paragraph’s information, is why you see some leagues go to things like victory points. The whole goal is to try to remove the random luck of the scheduling and put all the teams on a level playing field. Again not all leagues do this, and things like median scoring and victory points won’t change with the NFL schedule change. That said, if you don’t use anything like those tools I mentioned, you now will have a schedule where everyone will play three teams twice.
I am just not a fan of that, and it could be because of my experience with having the same schedule yearly, which most platforms don’t automatically rerandomize the league schedules. I wish they did, especially for the 2021 fantasy football season.
I did find a program I liked for a 12-team league. I went with three divisions with four teams each. You play everyone in your division twice and every other team in the league once. All the same division teams have the same schedule difficulty or close to it, which was the goal. I also added a form of victory points.
Regardless of what you want to do, keep in mind that the regular season for fantasy will run through weeks 14 or 15 in most cases. Historically it’s been week 13 and 14. If you don’t want to mess with the schedule and add that extra game, don’t, it is a personal preference.
Injuries Are Still a Concern With 17 Games
The next item that is a big deal is injuries. The more wear and tear the players take, the more we will see injuries. It’s just a natural progression. The more plays you play, the more likely you could get hurt.
This year was noticeably different, for example, even without the extra games. There was little to no off-season, and with covid, we had a lot of players sitting one to three games. We had players going on short-term IR last minute. Injuries were probably the most significant thing to navigate for the fantasy season.
The NFL added the three-week short-term IR designation, allowing teams a lot more access to add players to the roster as needed. I have not seen any reporting on what to expect this year. My gut feeling is, the teams are going to ask for this change to continue.
With the additional game added to each team’s schedule, the NFLPA’s concerns on players’ safety, and the fact that the short-term IR worked well last year, I think even the players will push for this. As a fan, I loved it. I prefer teams that can let a player fully recover instead of forcing them on the field. The short-term IR gave the teams more flexibility in that regard.
The other thing the changes in IR did for us fantasy players was it gave us more roster options. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of IR spots for redraft leagues. The reason, I believe you shouldn’t have the option of placing or leaving a player on IR that the NFL doesn’t designate as being on IR. With players being placed officially on IR for three weeks, having IR spots for redraft leagues matters. This could be a nice improvement to redraft leagues for the 2021 fantasy football season.
In years past, one and eventually two players would be eligible to return from IR after eight weeks. While that is reason enough to add one or even two IR spots to a redraft, the impacts were minimal. Very few players each year would be eligible to return. With the change to three weeks, we saw players on IR constantly.
I was in one redraft league, and we went from zero IR spots each year to adding two IR spots. I used all my IR spots through most of the year and really could have used the third spot. Granted, I used those spots to grab free agents that weren’t on my league mate’s roster planning for later in the season.
Side note, this is why I am not a fan of IR spots for redraft leagues; using it to manipulate rosters isn’t the IR design. The reason to have IR spots is so you don’t have to drop a player on your roster that is injured and not playing. Thus, I suggest you mandate no players can be on IR that are not IR designated by the NFL.
Young Players Will See More Opportunities
The last concern I want to mention regarding how the 17 game schedule impacts the 2021 fantasy football season, is player development or evolution. Let us look at Cam Akers as an example from last year. Cam Akers wasn’t buried on the depth chart per se, but his role with the Los Angeles Rams evolved throughout the season.
There is always a balance in all leagues, but especially redraft leagues regarding young players with upside. Akers went from a part-time role to bell-cow by the end of the season. By the time that happened this year, it was week twelve of the NFL season. The last two weeks of the regular fantasy season are often do-or-die weeks for us fantasy managers. Those teams that held Akers put themselves in prime situations for the playoffs.
The point of bringing this up is that we should always be aware of up-and-coming players and understand that sometimes it’s just a matter of the opportunity to be available to that player. With the regular season now being 17 games, it’s one more game or one more opportunity for these young players. Playing time and playing reps matter, and there will now be more reps for all players potentially.
I was surprised this year to see the running backs taking a little more time to develop than they had in the past. Meanwhile, for wideouts, it was the exact opposite. My opinion is, the receivers got more playing time on the field during games due to more injuries we saw, while the running backs never got those off-season reps, and they weren’t on the field as early in the season as years passed.
Why this matters is that to win at fantasy football, you have to succeed in the playoffs. Fantasy rosters frequently look much different at the end of the year than at the beginning of the year. It’s common, but I would advise you to make sure you diversify your roster construction to include late-blooming upside players.
I realize it’s only one extra game taking the schedule to 17 games, but I think we better prepare ourselves because this will impact us. After all, 17 games is a long NFL schedule. The schedule may not be your concern, but so far, I have heard from a few folks frustrated with how to set up the regular-season schedule. Plan accordingly, talk to your leagues but understand how the new NFL schedule changes your fantasy league schedules.
Wear and tear on players is a real thing. One extra game may not seem like much, but it does add up. We all know successful NFL teams want to be healthy heading into the playoffs. I don’t think teams are just brushing off an extra game as no big deal.
Don’t be surprised to see veteran players less often in the regular season to keep players fresh for a playoff run. Also, don’t be surprised to see teams use the three-week IR spots if available this year to make sure players are shut down long enough to heal properly.
The bottom line here is what we will be dealing with in the 2021 fantasy football season this year regarding the 17 game NFL schedule, which shouldn’t be ignored. The extended season could lead to more injuries, and as such, we should plan accordingly. The expanded season also gives young players potentially more reps to play, thereby seeing more breakout players at the end of the season.
The impacts to our fantasy schedule won’t be insignificant either, but frankly, how much it matters to you or your league is personal. There are multiple ways to adapt the fantasy schedule including, just adding another game and moving on.
What will I be changing with my approach this year running leagues and playing in them? First, if we still have the three-week IR designation in the NFL, there will be two to three IR spots for redraft leagues. Second, I will be changing schedules in the leagues I run to avoid either arbitrarily playing three teams twice or avoiding playing any team more than once before the playoffs. Lastly, I will be targeting more younger players to add to my roster at the end of drafts. I usually target younger players, but I will be holding onto players much longer than I have in the past. Cam Akers is a prime example of this.
Thanks for reading my article on the new NFL schedule and its impact on the 2021 fantasy football season! Please check out more articles from me at overtimeheroics.com, along with the rest of the team, as we cover all things sports-related.
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