How to Draft the Ultimate Puppy Bowl Fantasy Team
After five grueling months of tweaking your lineups, pilfering from the waiver wire, cursing game-time decisions, and eventually finishing dead freaking last in your fantasy football league, Sunday offers a shot at redemption. From the frozen tundra of Lambeau field to the sizzling bleachers of Sun Life Stadium, all eyes will be on the big game. The battle for the whole enchilada. The final tilt for all the marbles.
Yes, Puppy Bowl XII is nearly here. And for the third consecutive year, you can draft your own Puppy Bowl fantasy team. It works pretty much like you’d think it would. You pick any three dogs. You get seven points each time one of them scores a touchdown, three points each time one of them kicks a field goal (Don’t laugh. It’s happened twice.), three points each time one of them steals the ball, and two points every time one of them makes a tackle. You get docked two points each time one of them is flagged for a penalty.
Like any fantasy football game, there’s much intel to parse before locking in your lineup. We’re not talking raw stats here. All of the participating puppies are between 12 and 20 weeks old, so there isn’t much performance data to go on. But as the Puppy Bowl enters its 12th year, some best practices and big patterns have emerged.
1. Draft With Your Head, Not Your Heart
Look, all these players are adorable. You’ll be tempted to just pick the three cutest pups on the draft board and call it a day. That’s a one-way ticket to loserville. If you pick solely on cuteness, please join my fantasy puppy league so I can pick up an easy win against your bozo squad of micro-hounds. Certain breeds are built for the big game. Others are built for lounging at midfield or falling asleep next to that goal-line water dish. This isn’t a napping contest, it’s a championship football game for tiny dogs. Respect the process.
2. Definitely Draft At Least One Terrier
Four of the 11 Puppy Bowl MVPs have been terriers or terrier mixes. Two of them—Puppy Bowl I MVP Max and Puppy Bowl IV MVP Abigail—were Jack Russell terriers. No other breed has more than one MVP under its collar. That makes Darby, the lone Jack Russell playing this year, a must-draft. You may even want to stack your squad full of terriers, which is a pretty solid strategy. If that’s your plan, Miss Sassy and Timon are on the board, too.
3. Know the High-Scoring Breeds
Three dogs have scored four touchdowns in a single Puppy Bowl: Henry (an English springer spaniel mix), Falcor (a clumber spaniel), and Aberdeen (an Australian shepherd mix). There are no clumber spaniels or Australian shepherds in this year’s draft pool, but Ranger is an intriguing pick. He’s a 16-week-old springer spaniel with a Rob Gronkowski vibe.
4. Go Full-On Belichick Spygate
The Puppy Bowl isn’t a live broadcast. It’s taped each October in New York, which means the results are already known. If you know anyone working at Animal Planet, now’s the time to hit them up for inside information. As for the rest of us, there are some lineup-optimizing hints online. Rolling Stone published this gallery of photos from the taping, and they offer valuable pre-draft cheating insight. The photos appear to show Miss Sassy scoring a touchdown, Wrinkles the shar-pei lying aimlessly at midfield, and Darby winning a takeaway battle with Timon. Key penalties are also revealed: Darby catching a flag for humping Wrinkles, and something about Magic the chihuahua being penalized for excessive celebration.
5. Consider the Underdog
There aren’t any beagles in this year’s draft pool, which is a shame: In Puppy Bowl V, MVP Matilda ran the greatest play in Puppy Bowl history, scoring several touchdowns on a single rushing attempt. With no beagles on the board, you may want to draft another kind of scent hound. Dachshund/chihuahua mix Stella looks like the runt of the 2016 draft class, but don’t be deceived. Dachsunds and chihuahuas are the two most aggressive dog breeds, and the combination yields one hellish competitor. Stella has major upside in the takeaways and touchdowns categories, making her a high-ceiling RB2 or FLEX play.
6. Avoid These Lazy Dogs
Some puppies just aren’t built for the big game. Bulldogs, Havanese, and Great Danes are all super-chill, making them awesome pets but awful draft picks. That means Countess, Boris, and Bijoux almost certainly are fantasy-roster duds. They probably won’t have that competitive fire. Evidence: Boris wouldn’t even get up for his team photo.