Did you start the NFL season with hope and high interest, only to find yourself here, nine weeks in, wishing desperately for the return of Downton Abbey on Sunday nights?
The NFL season always starts with big hype and expectations—maybe this will be the year that the Detroit Lions make it to the Super Bowl! Perhaps Eli Manning will finally step out of Peyton’s shadow and lead the New York Giants back to greatness!— But before you know it the aspirations fizzle out; the Lions lose wide receiver Nate Burleson to a freak pizza accident, and the Giants go 2-6, and the season starts lose its shine. If you’re anything like me, you start to wonder why anyone ever wanted to extend the professional season to 18 games; 16 was painful enough.
That’s where fantasy football comes in. If you’re not in on it, you might still be wondering why so many football fans remain immersed in every detail of the game, while you’re in a midseason slump. It’s because many fans today aren’t just rooting for regular NFL teams. They’re pulling for a fantasy team.
For some, fantasy football may seem pointless. Isn’t it just an excuse for men to live out long-dead dreams of pro-sports careers?
Maybe. But that’s the thing; fantasy football makes the game personal. I’ve found that, once you join a fantasy league and draft a team of your own, you can enjoy the entire NFL season. Then, even if your home team lets you down, your fantasy team may statistically be heading to a championship.
While the opportunity has come and gone to play in a fantasy league this season, there’s no reason not to ride the coattails of a friend, family member, or significant other’s team. Watching closely and learning the game now will prepare you to be next season’s Fantasy Girl.
To have a fantasy team of your own, here’s what you need to know:
1. Join a League and Draft a Team
A typical league is comprised of 8, 10, or 12 teams, with a 16-player roster. Nine of the roster spots are for starters, while seven spots are reserved for the bench.
Before the official season begins, you and your league members will conduct a draft. You’ll end up with a roster of players from all different NFL teams whose combined individual performances will be pitted against your league rivals. Points are awarded based on things like touchdowns and field goals.
At its core, fantasy football is a game of statistics and betting—team owners choose whom to put in their lineup based on the theoretical performance of each player.
2. Play the Season
Traditional fantasy teams play in head-to-head matchups each week with a point system to determine the winners. This means that fantasy teams have something at stake every week. It also means smack talk.
*Pro tip: A girl with football knowledge can be extremely attractive in the dating pool, and well-placed smack talk can be a great flirting mechanism. Asking about and then politely degrading a man’s fantasy football team tops my list of successful pick up lines (although requires caution).
3. Know the Jargon
Jargon is the best way to sound official in any capacity, particularly in sports.
Sleeper: A late-round pick that exceeds his statistical expectations and becomes a strong option in fantasy leagues. Asking about fantasy sleeper picks is a great conversation opportunity because everyone has an opinion.
Flier: A gamble on a player who has good potential, but also carries a high risk. Again, a great conversation starter—also a great opportunity for smack talk.
Projections: A player's predicted stat, which are used to help determine that player's fantasy potential. Weekly projections help owners make decisions, so keep an eye on top performers each week if you want to be in the know.
While not initially a believer, I now embrace fantasy football as the cure to the midseason slump. Not only has it rekindled the spark during the football season, it has increased my common interests among friends.