NFL injury report rule change creates fantasy football nightmare

Aug 14, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; A gold-painted NFL logo on the field before the start of a preseason NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. The logo is part of the NFL's "On the Fifty" campaign, to promote Super Bowl 50 next February. The Jacksonville Jaguars won 23-21. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football players were dealt some bad news Sunday. Whether playing for money, bragging rights or just purely for fun, there’s nothing more frustrating to a fantasy football than seeing a questionable next to someone’s name.

Unfortunately, we’ll all be seeing more of them. The NFL has done away with the “Probable” classification, meaning more players than ever before will be listed as questionable.

How fun.

The first question to ask here is a simple, why? The NFL has rampant off-field controversies like the powers of the commissioner, PED use and domestic violence. On the field, the NFL deals with an ever changing rule book on hits, as well as what is and is not a catch.

Those issues can’t be dealt with in an even remotely satisfying way, but we can get rid of something like “probable?” Come on!

Now, who does this hurt?

It hurts every team. If a player is listed as “questionable,” coaches don’t really know if he needs to be game planned for. But theoretically, that won’t help or hurt any one team more than the other 31. The group that really suffers here is the fantasy players.

Anyone who plays fantasy football understands something. While we all construct our rosters a certain way, the coaches and players aren’t particularly concerned with our fantasy matchups. So, if the New England Patriots are up by three touchdowns in the final seconds of a “Monday Night Football” game, they’re probably going into victory formation.

If that means you lose because Tom Brady (or Jimmy Garoppolo) didn’t try to connect with Rob Gronkowski one last time, you deal with it.

But that just speaks to the randomness that is football.

The removal of the “probable” tag almost seems like a direct shot at fantasy football players. If anything, this is a group of people that the NFL should be trying to appeal to.

About 20 years ago, fantasy football players made up a relatively small portion of the NFL’s fanbase. Times have changed. In 2015, an estimated 75 million people played fantasy football.

That number is not going down any time soon. This is no longer just a small minority of your fans, NFL. Fantasy football players make up a large section of the people who watch your games every week, subscribe to your network and buy the premium TV packages.

More than the raw number of 75 million, fantasy football players are largely in the younger demographic — the demographic that every league (and every business) should be trying to appeal to.

Certainly, the NFL knows the numbers. So, why are they doing something to antagonize the fantasy players?

Well, we can’t ignore the NFL’s constant hesitancy to even remotely embrace anything betting related. How many “Sunday Night Football” games have we watched with Al Michaels saying something subtle like “And that field goal is over in more ways than one?” The NFL would have a fit if any announcer said anything like “And that kick puts this game in the over column.”

Fantasy football — as we’ve learned a lot through the last year — has ties in the world of betting. When a fight starts between bettors and non-bettors, the NFL is going to side with the latter group.

That’s how stuff like this happens. The NFL would never do away with fantasy football. First of all, there are too many outlets that the league has no control over. Secondly, they wouldn’t want to alienate such a big section of the fanbase.

But they can do things like remove the “probable” tags on players, leaving more players listed as “questionable,” which only serves to frustrate fantasy players even more. It’s not a knockout blow by any means, but it is an annoying jab.

Could this be nothing more than a conspiracy theory with little to no truth to it? Sure. But thinking about this logically, there’s no reason for the NFL to do this.

This doesn’t benefit anyone. It may be that the NFL doesn’t only want to inconvenience fantasy players. But if we’re asking if that entered into its consideration at all, it certainly seems probable.