Building the Perfect Playoff Challenge Lineup

A look at the FFPC/Footballguys Playoff Challenge and an attempt to build the perfect lineup

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 $35 (Footballguys) or $200 (FFPC) upfront, but lots of entertainment and a six-figure payoff for first place 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.

Quarterback

Lamar Jackson, BAL

Jackson was the clear #1 quarterback this year, so he is the favorite to be the best scoring quarterback. Four-point passing touchdowns only help Jackson’s case as the most valuable quarterback, and the Ravens should play at least two games, with conventional wisdom installing them as the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Other Quarterback Considerations: Drew Brees, NO, Patrick Mahomes II, KC, Russell Wilson, SEA

Brees has the best chance of playing four games and is the hottest passer in the league. The only reason he’s not the shoo-in quarterback pick is the presence of equally it not more attractive Saints options in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Mahomes has a reasonable chance to play 2-3 games and still has a lot of theoretical upside, but it hasn’t been actualizing it on the field lately. The Chiefs also present multiple attractive alternatives. Wilson is the second-best bet at quarterback behind Brees to play four games, but he has been an anemic fantasy quarterback lately. Wilson does have added potential with the Seahawks backfield destroyed.

Other Baltimore Considerations: Mark Ingram II is coming into the playoffs hurt and Marquise Brown has failed to be a consistent producer. Mark Andrews is a consideration because of the tight end premium, although he has also been a resident of the injury report. The deciding factor here is that Jackson is more attractive at quarterback than the quarterbacks on teams that have more attractive tight end/flex

Running Back

Derrick Henry, TEN
Aaron Jones, GB

If the Titans make a run in the playoffs, it will be on the back on Henry. The Patriots aren’t going to run away from the Titans, so even if he’s one and one, he should have a strong game after he looked to be in prime form last week following a week off. Jones has been the best thing about the Packers offense this year and if they can advance, he should play a large role. Both of these backs were every-week RB1s with a ceiling as high as any back this side of Christian McCaffrey.

Other Running Back Considerations: Damien Williams KC, Alvin Kamara, NO, Mark Ingram II, BAL

Williams came alive the last two weeks of the season and he could repeat last year’s performance as one of the best fantasy running backs in the playoffs, but the tight end premium format makes Kelce a higher priority. Kamara could well be the right call from the Saints (as could Brees), but I’m reserving a spot for Michael Thomas. A healthy Ingram would be a strong consideration here, but alas, he’s coming into the playoffs banged up.

Other Tennessee Considerations: Ryan Tannehill, QB, AJ Brown, WR

Tannehill has been as hot as any fantasy quarterback in the second half, but there are more strong alternatives at quarterback than there are at running back, and he and Henry’s fortunes are tied together. The risk of Brown being blanketed by Stephon Gilmore in a one and done scenario is scary and wide receiver has more top options than running back.

Other Green Bay Considerations: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Davante Adams, WR

Rodgers has been quiet as a fantasy quarterback except when playing bad defenses and the Saints are not one. The Packers need to root for the Vikings to knock them off in the wild card game. Adams is a strong option, but he could face Marshon Lattimore in a one and done scenario.

Wide Receiver

Michael Thomas, NO
DeAndre Hopkins, HOU

This is maybe the most difficult decision of the contest. Thomas is easy to pick on the heels of his record-breaking season, but will his advantage over the pack at wide receiver equal or surpass the advantage that Kamara creates over the running back pack or Brees over the quarterback pack? Chances are all three can fit in a contest-winning roster build. Hopkins has the ominous possibility of Tre’Davious White shutting him down in a one and done scenario, but if the Texans play even two games, he can be a top 4-5 wide receiver in total playoff fantasy points.

Other WR Considerations: Tyreek Hill, KC, Tyler Lockett, SEA, Davante Adams, GB

Hill may well be one of the best two wide receiver picks, but I’m reserving my Chiefs spot for Kelce because of the tight end premium. Lockett is a strong consideration for our Seahawk representative but he’s not one of the top two receivers. Adams has a similar outlook to Hopkins, but Houston doesn’t have a running back alternative as strong as Aaron Jones.

Other New Orleans Considerations: Drew Brees, QB, Alvin Kamara, RB

Discussed above.

Other Houston Considerations: Deshaun Watson, QB

If Will Fuller V was healthy, Watson would be a much stronger consideration, with a real shot at 50-70 points in a two-game scenario and 80-100 in a three-game scenario, with an outside shot at playing four games. Perhaps Fuller will surprise us by playing at top form and staying healthy, even outscoring Hopkins, but I’m not staking my entry on that possibility.

Tight End

Travis Kelce, KC

One of the easiest choices in the contest because of the tight end premium aspect and his consistency. There’s an argument for George Kittle if you think San Francisco will play more games than Kansas City, but the two flex structure of the contest makes that moot.

Other TE Considerations: George Kittle, SF, Mark Andrews, BAL, Jared Cook, NO

It won’t be surprising to see Andrews or Cook outscore Kelce with the potential for Cook to play four games and Andrews being Jackson's top option, but if the Saints play four games or Ravens play three, it’s probable that other options will be more valuable to a lineup than the tight ends. Andrews also has some injury worries and Cook’s lower target share and inconsistency make him riskier.

Other Kansas City Considerations: Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Damien Williams, RB, Tyreek Hill, WR

They are all viable choices. Kelce provides the best bang for your buck among the Chiefs quartet because of the tight end premium.

FLEX

George Kittle, TE, SF
Tyler Lockett, WR, SEA

Kittle is a slam dunk flex or tight end choice. He should have among the highest ownership of any player in the contest. Lockett is my shot at the low-owned player who posts top points at his position. This can come via his high weekly ceiling intersecting with a matchup against the Eagles secondary to open, and via a three- or four-game run if the Seahawks can dispose of the Eagles and then win at San Francisco like they did earlier this year.

Other Flex Considerations: Any Bills, Patriots, Vikings, or Eagles player.

The problem is that these are not potent offenses and some of the best names aren’t healthy. That rules out Dalvin Cook, Zach Ertz, and Julian Edelman. John Brown and Cole Beasley have high ceilings against the Texans, and they are viable choices for a potential low-owned flex that can post 40-50 points if the Bills can win at Houston. Dallas Goedert or Boston Scott could hit if the Eagles upset the Seahawks.

Other SEA Considerations: Russell Wilson, QB, DK Metcalf, WR

It won’t be shocking to see Metcalf outscore Lockett, but he doesn’t have Lockett’s sky-high weekly ceiling. Wilson may outscore all of the quarterbacks and be the right call if the Seahawks play four games, but in that scenario, Lockett should also be a top-scoring receiver.

Other SF Considerations: Raheem Mostert, RB, Deebo Samuel, WR

Mostert has been consistent and running back is a tough position to choose, but Mostert’s low volume introduces more risk than Kittle’s high ceiling outlook in a tight end premium league. Samuel has been playing well but the tight end premium gives Kittle the edge.

Kicker

Steve Hauschka, BUF

Other K Considerations: Nick Folk, NE, Jake Elliott, PHI, Dan Bailey, MIN
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 Bills and Patriots top that list but the Patriots have more potential as a fantasy D/ST. The Eagles and Vikings are our teams that will be left out of our lineup.

Other BUF Considerations: Devin Singletary, RB, John Brown, WR, Cole Beasley, WR

Swapping out Lockett for John Brown or another Bills RB/WR and Hauschka for Jason Myers makes sense if you see the Bills with a better chance of making a Super Bowl run than the Seahawks.

Defense/Special Teams

New England

The fantasy defense all season might be a chalk play, but if the Patriots make a run, it will likely be on the back of their defense, not their offense.

Other D/ST Considerations: Philadelphia, Minnesota

These are the only other teams left without a player chosen. Both D/ST’s are wild card underdogs. Neither defense has been particularly strong for fantasy this year in matchups against good quarterbacks.

Other NE Considerations: Julian Edelman, WR

As discussed above, the Patriots defense has actually been one of their most consistent performers this season. The offense has been anemic and Edelman is coming into the playoffs banged up.

No players chosen

Minnesota: The Vikings are the most likely loser in wild card weekend coming to the Superdome to face a team just as good as the NFC bye teams.

Philadelphia: The Eagles could rally as an underdog yet again, but the Seahawks are just as battle-tested and Philadelphia is one of the most undermanned playoff teams in recent memory.