Why pay $1 billion for an NFL team? With a handful of friends, colleagues, or total strangers, plus an app or two, you can form a fantasy football league and draft players, make trades, and grumble about your commissioner as you pace around your owner's suite (aka your den).
In fantasy football, you draft players, set a lineup for the week's games, and win points based on how your roster performs -- points scored, yards gained, sacks made, and so on. Depending on how everyone else in your league did that week, you move up or down in your league standings over the season.
The Web is teeming with fantasy football sites that can take on the heavy lifting of running a team and a league. You should be able to easily find one that lets you draft and manage players, track your roster, and supervise your league in a way you like. Many fantasy leaguers find it easiest to manage teams from a PC or a Mac because of the larger screen, and then monitor their teams on game day from a mobile device. So look for a companion mobile app when considering a fantasy league platform. And find a good fantasy football news site, such as Rotoworld, which can be extremely useful when making player decisions.
Yahoo Fantasy Football
Yahoo does a nice job of getting you up and running and then helping you manage your season-long league and team. It's easy to start or renew a league if you are commissioner, and join a league if you just want to play. Set your league type (head-to-head or points) and then invite friends to join through email, Facebook, or Twitter.
ESPN Fantasy Football
As you'd expect, ESPN's fantasy football website is chockablock with news, advice, and guidance, some of it free and some available with an ESPN Insider subscription. Join an existing league or start or renew your own league. ESPN offers plenty of league options, and once the season starts, it's easy to set your lineup and bench, add, and drop players.
CBS Fantasy Football
The sports division of CBS offers a solid collection of fantasy league tools, tips, rankings, projections, blogs, and news. (Disclosure: Download.com is part of CBS Interactive, a division of the CBS Corporation.)
With the CBS Sports Fantasy app (iOS, Android), you can run mock and live drafts, manage your team, and view player news and season projections. Use the Fantasy Football Commissioner to customize your league's rules and settings.
The National Football League has wrapped both arms around fantasy football. It hosts weekly and season-long contests with tons of supporting information, including a draft kit; player rankings; and Fantasy Genius, a community forum where you can ask and answer fantasy team questions.
It doesn't have hooks into fantasy football, but the NFL Mobile app (iOS, Android) is a solid source for football news. It offers articles, video highlights, and team and player stats. If you are a Verizon customer, you can watch prime-time and locally broadcast games as well as the NFL and RedZone channels.
Weekly fantasy football
If you've watched a sporting event on TV recently, you've probably seen a commercial for short-duration fantasy sports. Daily and weekly fantasy contests are big, with hundreds to thousands of entrants in a contest competing for thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings skip the season-long leagues in favor of daily and weekly fantasy contests where you draft just for one match, compete against other players, and start over the next week.
Websites such as CBS's SportsLine have emerged to help short-duration fantasy players make decisions on daily and weekly contests, combining game news with stats-driven predictions and analysis for a range of professional and college sports, including professional football.