The fantasy football regular season is over, but opportunities to test your predictive acumen against others abound in the playoffs. In addition to traditional playoff fantasy football and DFS, the FFPC is offering a playoff challenge that requires only a little time and $200 upfront, but lots of entertainment and a big payoff ($200,000 for first place and $750,000 in prizes in all) on the tail end.
The simplicity of the rules is the beauty of the contest:
* Each team will consist of ten (10) NFL players in a FFPC starting roster format: 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 2-Flex, 1-K, 1-D (Flex can be RB, WR or TE)
* Each team will choose ten (10) players from any of the 12 NFL playoff teams but ONLY ONE PLAYER PER TEAM
Note that FFPC scoring means that tight ends will get 1.5 points per reception and carry a premium.
So the task here is to find a configuration of the most valuable players from each team. Ideally we can create lineup where there are no better options from each player's team and no better options at each position, but of course without the luxury of doubling up on players from one team. We'll also have to leave two teams completely unrepresented. I'll touch on my thought process of why this player from this team, and why this people out of his peers at his position. Let's get to it.
Lamar Jackson, BAL
Jackson has been consistently performing around a low QB1 level and he broke out as a runner in the season finale. The Ravens look like wild card weekend’s second best bet for multiple games.They should match up well against the Patriots and Harbaugh has a good history against Belichick in the playoffs. Baltimore is the most likely team to play four games. There is a risk of the Lamar Jackson offense being easier to solve the second time around for the Chargers.
Other Quarterback Considerations: Patrick Mahomes II, KC, Drew Brees, NO, Andrew Luck, IND, Russell Wilson, SEA, Deshaun Watson, HOU and really any of the other 11 if you believe their team will go the Super Bowl.
Mahomes offers the most per game bang for your buck and he could outscore two games of most quarterbacks in one. Brees has been a boom/bust weekly option, but is the most likely to play in the Super Bowl. Luck, Wilson, and Watson all have four game and high weekly potential. There’s a case for Trubisky’s theoretical high weekly ceiling and four game potential, for Goff or Brady and their position in quality offenses with byes, or Prescott, Foles, or Rivers if you see a Super Bowl in their futures. This is one of the most level brackets in recent memory.
Other Baltimore Considerations: Gus Edwards, RB
This is why you’re taking Jackson. There aren’t any other players in Baltimore’s offense that can harvest a Super Bowl to the same extent that Jackson can. Every other top offense offers a strong or elite alternative at at least one other position. Getting one mediocre game out of your quarterback pick is a killer to your lineup, so this choice is based on confidence in a productive three or four game run. If you just don’t feel Baltimore or Jackson, it makes sense to pivot to another quarterback and make the Ravens one of your two teams with no players.
Kamara and Elliott are elite, healthy options. Both can be a top five running back scorer even in a one and done scenario and the top running back scorer overall with only two games. These choices are more by process of elimination of the other top options than zeroing in on Kamara and Elliott as clearly superior options.
Gurley would be a shoo-in if his knee was healthy and he could be one and done against a Bears defense that shut him down in Week 14, and he still deserves strong flex consideration. Williams is a strong pick, but he’s the lowest caliber starter in an offense that features excellent options at all four positions. Gordon is facing a tough road matchup to start and he left Week 17 with an injury. Carson, Edwards, and Howard are all ways to put a chip on their teams to make Super Bowl runs. If the Seahawks, Ravens, or Bears play four games, those backs should be top five options by virtue of their roles that generally grow when their team is in the lead.
Brees is discussed above. Thomas is obviously a top wide receiver and fits in potentially winning lineups as well as Kamara. Any of Brees, Thomas, or Kamara are valid picks to get the best value from your Saints selection. It could come down to how much you like the options at other positions that you end up with when slotting a Saint in elsewhere more than how much you like the Saint you end up with.
Other Dallas Considerations: Amari Cooper, WR
Cooper has been too inconsistent to trust over Elliott in this kind of contest.
Edelman has emerged as the top target in New England with the suspension of Josh Gordon and sad long death scene of Rob Gronkowski. He should be a frequent target for Tom Brady in crunch time and the most reliable piece of the Patriots offense. Hopkins can put up a top five wide receiver score for the whole playoffs in one game, if the Texans play two, he can be the #1 receiver of the postseason.
Thomas and Hill may well be the #1 and #2 scoring receivers of the playoffs, but are they the most attractive options on their teams? The Saints were discussed in the running backs section, and the Chiefs have the best option at a more scarce position. Hilton just missed the cut and will come up again later. Woods and Cooks are also flex considerations, although they have to be weighed against Todd Gurley. Cooper was eliminated when Ezekiel Elliott was chosen at running back. Allen hasn’t been at the top of his game heading into the playoffs and this lineup basically predicts the Chargers will lose to the Ravens in the first round.
Other New England Considerations: Tom Brady, QB
Brady finished with a bang, but had been fizzling out for fantasy. He's a reasonable quarterback choice if you think the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl
Other Houston Considerations: Deshaun Watson, QB
If you see the Texans going to the AFC Championship or Super Bowl, Watson makes as much as sense as Hopkins in your lineup, and he has been coming on as a runner.
Travis Kelce, KC
The easiest choice in the entire contest. Kelce can outscore the tight end field in one game, and of the three strong fantasy options in the playoffs at the position, he has the best chance of going to the Super Bowl.
Both are more inconsistent than Kelce and more likely to play only one game.
They are all viable choices. The separation factor for Mahomes and Hill is the presence of other options that can be just productive. The separation factor for Williams is the presence of more productive backs on a per game basis. Kelce provides the best bang for your buck among the Chiefs quartet.
Todd Gurley, LAR
TY Hilton, IND
This is where it gets trickier and the contest will likely be won or lost. Gurley hasn’t played in two weeks, but one would think that three weeks off should be enough for him to reasonably resemble his regular season self, and that player was the most valuable in fantasy football. Hilton is carrying various injuries into the playoffs, but he can put up two weeks worth of productive in one game against the Texans. If the Colts make a three or four game run, he’ll be the most valuable receiver in the playoffs.
Other Flex Considerations: Chris Carson, SEA, Jordan Howard, CHI, Keenan Allen, LAC, Melvin Gordon III, LAC, Zach Ertz, PHI, Any number of offensive players from teams with players already chosen above.
Carson and Howard are both viable choices over Gurley here with an expectation of multiple games and the possibility that Gurley only plays one game. It’s still within the range of possibilities that either of them play only one game or get outscored by Gurley (and Elliott, who was chosen for the RB2 slot) in one game despite playing multiple games. The PPR bump for Gurley and Elliott was the tiebreaker over Carson. Howard is easier to leave out because he has bust risk even when the Bears win. Leaving the top two Chargers out really comes down to predicting the Ravens over Los Angeles in the wild card round. Gordon could pile up PPR points in a loss, but he is also coming in banged up. Allen was lackluster in the recent loss to the Ravens. Ertz can be a massive scorer even in a first round loss, but he has been a boom/bust play with Nick Foles. He’ll be a popular flex because of the 1.5 PPR boost for tight ends. He’s a difficult player to project because the Bears have only faced one elite tight end this year (George Kittle, 7-74, Week 16)
Woods has been more consistent, Cooks has a higher weekly ceiling, but neither usually outscore Gurley. Pivot to a Rams receiver if you think Gurley’s knee will keep him from being productive. The possibility of the Rams going one and done while being shut down by the Bears for a second time in a month is a reason to go with no Rams at all, which would unorthodox, but could pay off if you replace your Rams slot with a player from a losing wild card team that has a strong performance in the loss.
If you think the Colts are going to the Super Bowl, or even the AFC Championship game, Luck could be the top quarterback scorer. Ebron is a viable choice at tight end if you use someone other than Kelce from the Chiefs.
Sebastian Janikowski, SEA
This pick is a remorse choice for not finding a slot for a part of the Seahawks offense. Like the Ravens, the Seahawks have a chance to play four games, so choosing Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, or Doug Baldwin could end up being a better choice. Janikowski will collect some of the value of a Seattle run.
Other Kicker Considerations: Cody Parkey, CHI, Michael Badgley, LAC, Jake Elliott, PHI
At this point we are playing the kicker with the most expected games from the teams that haven’t been used in your core eight offensive players. The Seahawks and Bears top that list, but the Bears have more potential as a fantasy defense, so Janikowski gets the edge.
Swapping out Wilson for Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker for Janikowski makes sense if you see the Seahawks with a better chance of making a Super Bowl run than the Ravens. Carson or Baldwin for Gurley and Zuerlein in this slot makes sense if you see the Rams with a high probability of one and done or worry about Gurley’s knee.
The fantasy defense all season might be a chalk play, but if the Bears make a run, it will likely be on the back of their defense, not their offense.
Other D/ST Considerations: Philadelphia, Los Angeles Chargers
These are the only other teams left without a player chose. Both D/ST’s are on the road wild card weekend and lack the punch of the Bears.
As discussed above, the Bears defense has actually been one of their most consistent performers this. The offense has gone into winter hibernation, and Robinson is coming into the playoffs banged up.
No players chosen
Los Angeles Chargers: As mentioned above, this is based on a prediction of a first-round loss against a top defense, which would likely mean a quiet offensive performance. Melvin Gordon III would be the obvious first choice, but the last time we saw him, he left the game involuntarily.
Philadelphia: Like the Chargers, the Eagles appear to be likely to go one and done and in a hostile environment against a vicious defense. Zach Ertz could still rack up enough catches to make leaving him out a mistake. Replacing the #1 receiver from the expected loser of the Houston-Indianapolis wild card game is a reasonable to get him into your lineup.