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The fantasy football regular season is over, but opportunities to test your predictive acumen against others abound in the playoffs. Our friends at the FFPC are again offering The Footballguys Playoff Challenge. It's just $35 per team to enter with a $476,250 prize pool and a $100,000 Grand Prize. They also offer the FFPC Playoff Challenge, the sister contest in the exact same format that has a $200 per team entry fee with a $1,400,250 prize pool and a $500,000 Grand Prize.
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
- FFPC scoring rules are in effect, so 1.5 PPR for tight end, 1 PPR for other positions
- Super Bowl points will count as DOUBLE the points toward each team’s total
Last year’s winning lineups
QB: Josh Allen
RB: Aaron Jones/James Conner, Joe Mixon
WR: Cooper Kupp, Mike Evans
TE: Travis Kelce
Flex: Mike Evans, Deebo Samuel, Dallas Goedert/Davante Adams, Dalton Schultz/Amari Cooper
K: Nick Folk/Daniel Carlson
DEF: Arizona Cardinals/Philadelphia Eagles
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.
Josh Allen, BUF
This one basically comes down to Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts, with Patrick Mahomes II ruled out because Travis Kelce is a free square at tight end. With Super Bowl points counting double, this comes down to which team you believe is more likely to make it to the final game, and since the NFC bracket doesn’t feature a team as formidable as the Chiefs as an obstacle, the Eagles have an edge. There’s an argument for Allen because he would play four games on the way to the Super Bowl, but if he gets stopped in the AFC title game and Hurts plays in the Super Bowl, then Hurts gets the equivalent of four games (2x Super Bowl + divisional and NFCC rounds), while Allen gets three (WC, Div, AFCC). On the other hand, if the Super Bowl ends up being Buffalo vs. Philadelphia, then Allen would play the equivalent of five games and give Allen lineups a big leg up over Hurts lineups, especially if the Eagles don’t make the Super Bowl. Unless you have a dog in the AFC fight, rooting for the Bills and Allen is fun, and if the Bills make the Super Bowl, getting the equivalent of five games out of the highest-scoring position will make up for any mistakes at other positions.
The thinking behind Hurts is covered above. If your Super Bowl pick is Chiefs/Eagles, you should probably go Hurts here. If you think the Bengals will return to the Super Bowl, then the five-game + highest-scoring position bonus applies to Burrow too. By all means, putting Burrow at quarterback makes this a “Bengals make the Super Bowl” ticket. Mahomes is an interesting lineup diversity pick because Kelce is going to be on the majority of teams. Mahomes would only get four games worth of points (like Hurts) if the Chiefs win the AFC, so you would need four games of Mahomes to outscore any other quarterback (root for the Eagles to get knocked off before the Super Bowl) by more than Kelce outscores any other tight end (and with the equivalent of four games). Basically, you need an ace in the hole at tight end. Dallas Goedert might apply, but if he plays in the Super Bowl, then the gap between Mahomes and Hurts might not be enough to outscore Hurts/Kelce teams. George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, and Dalton Schultz have the chance to play in the equivalent of five games if their team makes the Super Bowl, so if you have a strong feeling about the 49ers, Vikings, or Cowboys making the Super Bowl and think the tight end will be a big part of why they make it, pairing Mahomes with one of those tight ends instead of going with Kelce and the quarterback from your most confidence Super Bowl team pick makes sense. Of course, if you think the Cowboys are going to the Super Bowl, Prescott should be your pick here, and the same goes for Herbert and Brady.
Diggs is the chalky Bills pick if you don’t go with Allen, although if you see the Chiefs only playing two games and the Bills playing four, and you feel confident in the Eagles making the Super Bowl and pair Hurts with Knox (who is on a four-game touchdown streak), it could work.
The two best fantasy running backs in the playoffs. This is pretty simple. There are going to be a lot of Ekeler/McCaffrey/Kelce lineups.
McKinnon has scored in six straight games and could work as a Chiefs pick if they are upset in the divisional round, and one of the 49ers or Chargers are upset in the Wild Card round (therefore, McCaffrey and Ekeler might not outscore McKinnon by much if at all), and you use your quarterback slot on a team that makes the Super Bowl. However, if you take McKinnon over Mahomes or Kelce and the Chiefs play multiple games, chances are you will be giving up a big gap to other teams. Mixon, Sanders, and Cook are all key parts of their offenses. If you have confidence that one of their teams will make the Super Bowl with them playing a lead role and you don’t like the Chargers/49ers chances in the Wild Card round, they could easily outscore the more ballyhooed options. Still, it’s probably best not to overthink this. McCaffrey and Ekeler both have the potential to outscore two games of any other running back in a one-and-done scenario, and both have the potential to go deep in the playoffs from a wild card game start. If you are going to go away from one of the chalk picks, Ekeler is the one less assured of victory and multiple games in the playoffs.
Other LAC considerations: Justin Herbert
If you’re picking the Chargers to go to the Super Bowl, the delta between Herbert and any other quarterback score might be larger than Ekeler and the next running back not named McCaffrey.
Other SF considerations: George Kittle
If you have the 49ers playing four games and the Chiefs playing only one or two, then the delta between Kittle and Kelce could be larger than the gap between McCaffrey and the next running back not named Ekeler.
Justin Jefferson, MIN, JaMarr Chase, CIN
Much like the running back choices, there’s not a lot of nuance here. Jefferson finished the season on a down note, fantasy-wise, but he has the ability to outscore 2-3 games of most wideouts in one game. The Vikings aren’t assured of beating the Giants by any means, but Jefferson posted 12-133-1 in the regular season matchup, which is enough to justify him in any event. You’re likely to pick even if you see them as one-and-done, and Jefferson should be our highest projected Viking. Chase should be our highest-projected Bengal RB/WR, which makes him a simple pick.
Other Wide Receiver Considerations: We’ll deal with these in our flex picks section.
If we are going to cite the NYG-MIN game from the regular season, then we have to consider Hockenson’s 13-109-2 line, which would make him the better pick than Jefferson. There will be at least one wide receiver in our four flex picks, and with tight end premium scoring, Hockenson may end up being the best Vikings pick if you are putting in multiple entries, it’s worth considering him on at least one for lineup diversity. Cook was discussed above, but he has been very cold for fantasy in the second half of the season, and it’s difficult to see him coming alive enough to justify the pick.
Burrow and Mixon were discussed above. It’s not outlandish to have Higgins outproducing Chase, so like Hockenson, it might be worth it to swap out Chase for Higgins in one lineup if you have multiple entries.
Travis Kelce, KC
What else is there to say? He was so far ahead of the pack at tight end that there was no need to hesitate when making this choice.
If you have the Chiefs playing only one or two games, and you have any of these other tight ends playing three or more, they could end up outscoring Kelce, although you’d still have the question of your Chiefs pick, which would likely be Mahomes or McKinnon, and it could hurt you having a QB/RB that doesn’t make the Super Bowl more than having a tight end that does. None of these tight ends have flashed a high enough weekly ceiling combined with a high enough probability of going to the Super Bowl to justify deviating from the most obvious pick on the sheet.
As discussed above, you’re probably going to want to play the #1 receiver from whichever of the Eagles and Bills that you don’t use their quarterback (or both if you try the Mahomes over Kelce gambit). So this could just as easily be Stefon Diggs with Jalen Hurts at quarterback if you’re more confident in the Eagles than the Bills and not worried about Hurts' shoulder.
Lamb is the easiest pick from the Cowboys, especially considering the strength of the Buccaneers run defense and Lamb’s production as of late. We’re also certainly picking a player from the Cowboys with the team still having a legit shot at going to the Super Bowl.
The Jaguars/Chargers game is much closer to being a coinflip than SF/SEA or BUF/MIA, so we’re going to pick a Jaguar. Kirk finished strong against the Titans and had a strong game vs. the Chargers in the 38-10 Jacksonville romp back in Week 3, when we really had to start considering the team as a playoff contender.
The Vikings/Giants game is also much closer to being a coinflip than SF/SEA or BUF/MIA, so we’ll take our favorite RB/WR/TE from the Giants too. That has to be Barkley. The Giants wide receivers have been a fun underdog story, but none are truly trustworthy for fantasy, and Barkley had 133 total yards, eight receptions, and a score in the narrow loss to the Vikings in Week 16.
Hurts and Sanders are discussed above. Smith outsourcing Brown wouldn’t be a surprise in the least bit, and again, if you are entering multiple lineups, you might want to include Smith on one.
Both are discussed above. It’s possible that Lamb is still the best Cowboys pick over Prescott even in the event that the team goes to the Super Bowl because of Prescott’s lower weekly ceiling than many of the other quarterbacks in the playoffs.
Other JAX Considerations: Travis Etienne, Evan Engram
Etienne over Kirk could be the right call. The Jaguars had a great day on the ground in the 38-10 win over the Chargers, although it was James Robinson who had the bigger day. Engram has some allure with the tight end premium scoring, but he was quiet in the first matchup and has been quiet again lately after a big outburst in Weeks 14-16
Other NYG Considerations: None
Justin Tucker, BAL
The best kicker in the game, and if the Ravens can upset the Bengals, it will probably be a low-scoring game with a lot of defensive stops and field goal attempts.
If you think the Dolphins or Seahawks are poised to pull an upset, consider their kicker, but then again, if you think they are going to pull off an upset, you might want to change some of the picks above. Tampa Bay, like Baltimore, is one of the two teams left after using ten players with the best chance of advancing, so Succop is a consideration, but he’s not as compelling as Tucker.
Other BAL Considerations: Mark Andrews, BAL
If you like the Ravens to upset the Bengals, plugging in Andrews at flex over Kirk, Lamb, or Barkley (whichever you are least confident in to advance on Wild Card Weekend) would make sense, especially if Lamar Jackson is going to be back, which is the only way you could pick the Ravens over the Bengals.
If the Bucs can win as a home dog against the Cowboys, it probably won’t be on the back of their offense, which is one of the worst in the league. The defense will have to force some turnovers and otherwise swing a game that could hinge on the Cowboys being tight, considering their recent playoff history and Mike McCarthy’s record of playoff failures.
Other D/ST Considerations: Miami, Seattle
If you like the Dolphins or Seahawks to pull an upset, you could plug their D/ST in here over the Bucs, but again, if you felt that way, you’re likely putting in Ken Walker or Tyreek Hill in one of your flex spots.
If you see a magical run coming for this team, consider Brady at quarterback or one of the receivers as a flex. Godwin is the safer pick, but Evans did win leagues for folks in Week 17.
No Players Chosen: Seattle, Miami
Seattle wasn’t even close to San Francisco in either matchup. The chances of Tua Tagovailoa don’t look too good, so Miami is going to have trouble hanging with Buffalo.