Welcome to the wonderful world of fantasy football on NFL.com!

Congratulations on your decision to play fantasy football right here on NFL.com!

What took so long? Seriously. Millions enjoy fantasy football each year, was it on your to do list after finally watching Return of the Jedi?

Just kidding, and welcome aboard.

Here's some advice: Place some photos of your loved ones around the computer because you aren't going to see them again until late December. Waiver-wire transactions, trade requests, cursing Frank Gore for ruining your team -- that's your new family now.

You may never look at football the same way again, and here's a perfect example.

Patriots fans weren't the only ones bemoaning Tom Brady's injury last year. Brady was a first-round fantasy pick last season and he didn't make it through one game. While the Patriots turned to Matt Cassel, many fantasy leaguers were forced to scramble for Plan B. The only problem is, it's not like the Patriots had to deal with other owners trying to snake Cassel away.

This is what your life is going to be like now. Welcome to the club!

The first order of business is to create an account on the NFL.com fantasy page. (And ladies, be sure to use your correct birthday because we will know if you did not.)

NFL.com offers two types of games, Fantasy 2009 and League Manager 2009.

Fantasy 2009 is NFL.com's basic free game that allows you to join as individuals to play against other like-minded enthusiasts, or you can join as a group of friends.

This game uses the NFL's basic scoring system which rewards six points for all touchdowns, one point for every 25 passing yards, one point for every 10 rushing yards and receiving yards and basic points for field goals, extra points and defensive statistics such as touchdown returns, fumble recoveries, sacks interceptions, safeties and yards allowed.

League Manager 2009 allows owners to customize nearly everything in the game. Want to draft and play AFC players only? No worries. Would you like to use Team QBs? We have you covered. Do you want Jerry Jones to come down and personally supervise your own fantasy football league?

OK, well you're probably out of luck there.

League Manager allows your more serious fantasy football players to tweak rosters, add points per receptions and more. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

The next big step is the establishment of a commissioner. Think it's unheard of to have an owner serve as a commissioner? Think again.

Al Davis served as managing general partner of the Raiders and commissioner of the AFL. But your league commissioner needs to be a man or woman of integrity. The commissioner will preside over trades, squash any trade shenanigans (you know who you are), and settle any other disputes that may arise. Like when somebody tries to trade Steve Smith for Peyton Manning.

The Giants' Steve Smith that is!

The next big step, and probably the most fun, is the player draft. The fantasy draft runs similar to the NFL Draft, except fantasy drafts typically run in "serpentine" or "snake" style.

Though I can't imagine Ralph Wilson making fun of William Clay Ford, the way fantasy owners trade barbs. And that was just the NFL.com magazine draft!

Drafts can be held either offline and added to the league manually, or held via a live online draft. Offline drafts can typically run long, mainly because a lot of owners aren't prepared, drink too much or just don't want to go home to their significant others.

And hey, maybe it's just a combination of the three.

Online drafts run smoothly here at NFL.com, typically with a minute or two between picks. No matter which draft you use, make sure you are prepared. To take a look at some draft strategies, we've outlined some of the basic draft strategies.

Once the draft is complete, owners are then required to set a starting lineup each week. The basic league will start one quarterback, two running backs, two or three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defensive team. Teams in our League Manager can customize their own minimum starters for those of you clamoring to start two quarterbacks. Or four kickers.

The waiver wire is another important component, and something many players will ignore.

Don't be that guy.

There are many players who fall through the cracks each season. WR Lance Moore went from undrafted nobody to reliable fantasy receiver last year when Marques Colston went down.

Trades are another thing to keep an eye on, but don't feel like you have to make a deal just for the sake of making a deal. Also realize that most owners are out to fleece you in most deals, so be careful when looking for potential trade suitors. But also realize the flip side, you have to give up value to get value.

If all of that seems overwhelming, don't despair because NFL.com has you covered for all of your fantasy football needs. The NFL.com fantasy page has a current listing of player news, columns and positional rankings.

And for more in-depth analysis, be sure to checkout the NFL.com fantasy football blog and weekly fantasy chats.

And hey, don't feel like you need to thank us when you end up taking the title. After all, it's our job to help you reach the top of the fantasy football mountain.

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