It's Super Bowl season! And that means it's Puppy Bowl season! And that means it's Fantasy Puppy Bowl season, because if there's one thing more fun than watching cute baby dogs playing with each other, it's worrying about the statistical ramifications of their on-field puppying!
And that's why you've turned to me, Rodger Sherman, the Internet's No. 1 Fantasy Puppy Bowl expert. Now, I know what you're thinking. You probably remember last year's horrendous Fantasy Puppy Bowl predictions, in which I called people who would pick eventual Puppy Bowl MVP Cara "literal human garbage" and said that Falcor, who would tie the record for most Puppy Bowl touchdowns, had "bust written all over him."
Well, after last year's disaster, I did a complete overhaul of our Fantasy Puppy Bowl rating processes. We did some soul-searching, thinking about what truly makes Puppy Bowl great and why we do what we do. We retooled everything, from top to bottom, truly considering every aspect of the Puppy Bowl process to ensure that this year's Fantasy Puppy Bowl predictions would be up to standards.
I've thought hard about how to avoid making the same mistakes this year, and I've got advice for you below. But first, a reminder of the rules.
How it works
How to watch the Puppy Bowl: It's on Animal Planet, starting at 3 p.m. ET and rerunning throughout the day.
Can I look at pictures of all the puppies? YES! Here.
Where to play Fantasy Puppy Bowl: Here!
How to play: Pick three puppies!
How is it scored? Different puppy activities in the game are worth different points.
Touchdowns: Seven points. This is when a puppy brings a ball across the goal line. It's six in fantasy football, but this is Fantasy Puppy Bowl. This is the most important Fantasy Puppy Bowl stat, so look for speedy pups who might be curious enough to wander off to the edges of the field.
Field goals: Three points. There have only been two field goals, scored by a puppy kicking a toy under the uprights, in the history of Puppy Bowl. These are hard to predict. Don't think about it too much when selecting your puppy team, unless a puppy's paws are particularly noteworthy in your eyes.
Takeaways: Three points. When a puppy takes a toy away from another pup. Look for tenacious pups!
Tackles: Two points. When a puppy knocks down another puppy. Big, strong bruisers get the most tackles on the football field, and they'll also get the most tackles on the Puppy Bowl field, but this category isn't worth as much as the other categories, so don't seek out tacklehounds.
Penalties: Minus-two points. Penalties are handed out at the discretion of the Puppy Bowl ref for stuff like humping and pooping.
Last year I tried drafting bigger dogs, assuming their power would allow them to tackle other pups and power into the end zone. Although bigger breeds can be clumsy and slow as adults, I figured their baby puppy jauntiness would be enough.
I was wrong! All the big dogs I championed played poorly, while some of the littlest pups racked up TDs.
Bijoux might have the world's floppiest ears and big paws that look like baseball mitts, but I'd stay away from drafting her.
Look for diamonds in the ruff
The Fantasy Puppy Bowl web site allows you to see how many people have drafted the various pups. That means you can see which pups are sleepers. You know, besides the fact that all puppies sleep like 14 hours a day.
Magic hasn't even been picked a thousand times! If you search for underselected puppies, you've got a better chance of stunning the world.
Meanwhile, stay away from puppies who have been picked a lot, like -- awwwww, Timber!
Timber is a very good pup. I guess you don't have to stay away from Timber.
Remember: the Puppy Bowl is not actually a live sporting event. As our Matt Ufford discovered in his behind-the-scenes look at the Puppy Bowl, the producers film puppies running around a stage for three days in October, then spend months editing it into something that looks like a sporting event.
That's important for our purposes because, well, everything has already happened.
USA Today also made a behind-the-scenes video, and in it, you can see referee Dan Schachner award a touchdown to a pup, lift him up, and congratulate him.
THAT'S DARBY. THAT'S DARBY THE ADORABLE JACK RUSSELL PUP.
If you pass on Darby, you're saying, "I don't want a player on my team who is guaranteed to score a touchdown." And if that's the case, why are you even playing Fantasy Puppy Bowl? Stick to human sports, idiot.
Rolling Stone also went behind the scenes with a photo gallery, and one of the pictures shows a player who got "flagged on several occasions for unsportsmanlike humping," a penalty that costs your fantasy team two points, and ... crap, that's also Darby.
Clearly, Darby is a boom-or-bust pick. Either he's going to score dozens of touchdowns and guide you to victory or hump your team to defeat. Too risky. Avoid, IMO.
Remember to stay 100 percent analytical even when faced with incredibly cute puppies
It's easy to get distracted when confronted with a slew of unbelievably adorable puppies. This is where I went astray last year. I let the puppy cuteness get in the way of rational decisions.
To make up for this, I've spent the last 340 days holed up in a poorly lit room for at least 13 hours a day, analyzing the Puppy Bowl. I've been breaking down tape, compiling notes, putting together spreadsheets, etc. And I've put together an unbeatable formula I call the Puppy Algorithm for Winning (PAW.) PAW is an all-encompassing formula that takes into account breed tendencies, scouting reports, analyses of the pedigree of each puppy, adjustments for the pace and style of recent Puppy Bowls and much more.
So, let's make this easy. Follow PAW, and you will win. You just can't let the cuteness of the puppies get in the way of evidence-based decisio-
Look at Cooper!
Draft Cooper! Draft Cooper! Oh my goodness you have to draft Cooper! Look at that smile! Look at his floppy tongue! And those PAWS! HE'S GONNA BE SO BIG WHEN HE GROWS UP! Cooper is the best dog in the world. Draft Cooper! I'm gonna draft Cooper, and then I'm gonna go down to the dog shelter and adopt a hundred puppies and give them all belly rubs and neck scratches!!!!!!!
Here's my squad:
They're adorable, and I want to pet them forever, and I guarantee they beat your non-expertly picked team.