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 https://myffpc.com/cms/public/play/footballguys-playoff-challenge/ or $200 https://myffpc.com/cms/public/play/ffpc-playoff-challenge/ upfront, but lots of entertainment and a big payoff on the tail end.

The simplicity of the rules is the beauty of the contest:

  • Each team will consist of twelve (12) NFL players in the following starting roster format: 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 4-Flex, 1-K, 1-D (Flex can be RB, WR, or TE)
  • Each team will choose twelve (12) players from any of the 14 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.

Last year’s winning lineups were very similar:

QB: Patrick Mahomes II
RB: Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara
WR: Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins
TE: Mark Andrews
Flex: Raheem Mostert, DK Metcalf/Tyler Lockett
K: Stephen Hauschka/Dan Bailey
DEF: New England/Buffalo

Notice that the winning lineups had Mahomes, not Kelce or Hill. Getting Raheem Mostert in instead of George Kittle was the curveball. Alvin Kamara was in both winning lineups even though he only played one modestly productive game. Kicker and D/ST aren’t important other than not picking one from a team that had a deep run. These lineups look very chalky, so don’t get too cute with your choices. With 14 teams to choose from and four flexes, there should be more diversity and paths to winning.

So the task here is to find a configuration of the most valuable players from each team. Ideally, we can create a 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 person out of his peers at his position. Let's get to it.

Quarterback

Josh Allen, BUF

I just pointed out that the winning lineups had Patrick Mahomes II as the Chiefs representative, only to tell you to play Allen. Why? Even if Allen loses to Mahomes in the AFC Championship Game, he can outproduce Mahomes, with both playing three games. The strategy here obviously is to free up a spot for Travis Kelce instead, who should outscore the tight end pack by a much greater margin than Mahomes outscores the AFC quarterback who plays at least three games or the NFC representative quarterback who plays three or four games. Last year that was Ryan Tannehill and Jimmy Garoppolo, who were lousy fantasy options over the course of the playoffs. Unless you think Buffalo only plays one or two games, Allen is the pick.

Other QB Considerations: The reasoning for passing on Mahomes was covered above. Certainly, if you have a strong feeling about an NFC quarterback playing 3 or 4 games and being as productive as Mahomes or just don’t feel Allen and the Bills going deep in the playoffs, they should also be a consideration so you can get Kelce into your lineup. Rodgers is probably the best bet, but don’t overlook Brady.

Other Buffalo Considerations: Stefon Diggs is the only one, but if the Bills play three or four games, it will almost certainly be on the shoulders of Allen, and the stats should reflect that.

Running Back

Derrick Henry, TEN, Alvin Kamara, NO

Henry is a free square. The real debate is between Kamara and Aaron Jones. Jones basically doubled Kamara’s output last playoff season, but Kamara was still the player in the winning lineups because Davante Adams outscored Jones by about as much as Jones outscored Kamara. Kamara also had a six-touchdown game in Week 16, which balances out the possibility that he doesn’t play in a one and done scenario.

Other Running Back Considerations: Aaron Jones, who was discussed above. Guys like Chris Carson, J.K. Dobbins, and Ronald Jones II are all still in play for one of the four flex spots, so don’t fret if you like them better. This is just my opinion of the two best options at running back, but by no means are they the only good options at running back.

Other Tennessee Considerations: A.J. Brown could outscore Henry, but the wide receiver pool is deeper than the running back pool, so the advantage might not be as important unless he is putting up truly massive fantasy games, which is tougher to do in the Titans low volume pass offense.

Other New Orleans Considerations: Michael Thomas isn’t 100% entering the playoffs and if the Saints make a run deep enough into the playoffs to put Brees on a level with Mahomes, etc, then Kamara surely will feast in a PPR format.

Wide Receiver

Davante Adams, GB, Chris Godwin, TB

Adams, like Henry, is a free square. Godwin is my pick at the other wide receiver position because he’s playing well, Mike Evans is banged up, the Bucs have a prolific pass offense, and they have the potential to play three or four games.

Other Wide Receiver Considerations: Note that as with running back, we’ll have ample opportunity to plug these guys in at one of the four flex spots. Last year’s winning lineup included a Seattle receiver and this year’s might too. The Steelers receivers all have high weekly ceilings and should play two games. If you like the Ravens to make a deep run, Marquise Brown played his best football at the end of the season. We discussed A.J. Brown above. Terry McLaurin will likely only play one game, but it could be one of the top wide receiver single-game outputs of the playoffs.

Other Green Bay Considerations: Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones, as discussed above.

Other Tampa Bay Considerations: Tom Brady was discussed above and if the Bucs go to the Super Bowl, a lineup with him in it will likely be the winner. Mike Evans would be the pick here if he was healthy. Antonio Brown could end up being the right pick but he only came alive when Evans was out. Ronald Jones II has been too mercurial to trust in a contest like this.

Tight End

Travis Kelce, KC

It’s wild that a Kelce lineup didn’t win last year as he was 60+ points better than Mark Andrews, who was in both winning lineups. Patrick Mahomes II' sheer output was higher and the odd confluence of the only other two quarterbacks to play three games being in low volume pass offenses made him a better choice last year, but this year that is unlikely to be repeated.

Other Tight End Considerations: Mark Andrews was a good luck charm last year and he has a great matchup on wild card weekend. I won’t talk anyone out of a Mahomes-Andrews combo with Diggs as your Buffalo representative over Allen-Kelce.

Other Kansas City Considerations: Mahomes was discussed above. Tyreek Hill is an elite wide receiver option, but Kelce and Mahomes offer larger advantages over their peers and Hill is the most likely to miss a game because of an injury.

Flex

Diontae Johnson, PIT, Mark Andrews, BAL, Tyler Lockett, SEA, Cam Akers, LAR

The easiest way to approach this choice is to start with the teams most likely to play more than one game. That means we’re definitely taking a Steeler. The Tennessee-Baltimore and Seahawks-Rams games are both very tough calls, and either team has a better chance of winning than Cleveland, Washington, Indianapolis, or Chicago. The exception to this approach would be if we see a player set up for a massive output in his likely only game, but no one is compelling enough to fit that bill. The Steelers' choice will be a receiver. Johnson is the most consistent, which is important for this kind of contest, although he does come with injury risk. Andrews is the best Ravens option because of the tight end premium scoring. Lockett is the Seattle choice because DK Metcalf will be facing Jalen Ramsey in the wild card round. Akers is the choice as the clear lead back for the Rams in what should be a conservative game.

Other Flex Considerations: Let’s look at only the four teams left here. Cleveland has Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt, but Chubb could be a game script victim and the Steelers run defense is tough, and Hunt hasn’t been playing as well as Chubb lately. Washington has Terry McLaurin. He could easily have a double-digit catch game, but he’s also not 100%. The Colts have Jonathan Taylor, who is red hot, but he is another potential game script victim against the Bills. The Bears have David Montgomery, who is facing a tough Saints defense. Obviously, if you see any of these teams pulling off an upset, replace Lockett if you are picking the Rams and Akers if you are picking the Seahawks.

Other Pittsburgh Considerations: Chase Claypool is too up and down and Juju Smith-Schuster has a limited ceiling, but either could end up being the better option than Johnson. James Conner and the Steelers running game has been too lackluster to trust.

Other Seattle Considerations: Metcalf will face Ramsey as pointed out above, although he could more than make for it in a divisional-round game. With the Rams-Seahawks game projected to be low-scoring and conservative, Chris Carson could also end up being the best choice.

Other Baltimore Considerations: J.K. Dobbins is playing well but will share with Gus Edwards. Marquise Brown has big-play potential but doesn’t get enough volume to trust.

Other Los Angeles Rams Considerations: Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods ceilings are too low with John Wolford or Jared Goff plus a banged-up thumb at quarterback.

Kicker

Rodrigo Blankenship, IND

The Colts-Bills game should be high scoring and Blankenship had the best season of the remaining kickers.

Other Kicker Considerations: Cody Parkey is a band-aid and the Browns could decide to go for it on fourth down and for two over trusting him. Dustin Hopkins is solid, but Washington needs touchdowns to keep up. Cairo Santos is a Bears kicker in the playoffs.

Defense/Special Teams

Washington

If the Football Team has a chance to pull an upset it will be on the strength of their defensive line forcing turnovers and harassing Tom Brady.

Other D/ST Considerations: The Browns get Myles Garrett into your lineup, but they’re less attractive after losing Olivier Vernon to a torn Achilles. The Bears defense has been more Teddy Graham than Monsters of the Midway lately.

No Players Chosen

Cleveland: The Browns are going to be without their best offensive lineman and a lot of their coaches, and they are missing important prep time for the game. Stay away.

Chicago: Who wants to depend in any way on Mitchell Trubisky in the playoffs?


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