Wild card weekend gave us outcomes that hinged on any number of questionable decisions by both players and officials. The kind of outcomes that give you pangs of regret if you entered the FFPC/Footballguys Playoff Challenge and made teams that contemplated a longer run by the Chargers or Vikings or an upset of the Bills or Bengals in the first round that was narrowly avoided. It might make you want to have a do-over for the rest of the playoffs in a similar competition.
Voila! Life doesn’t give you do-overs, but fantasy football does. You'll be able to pick eight players to form a lineup that will (hopefully) cash a $25,000 grand prize after the Lombardi Trophy has been awarded.
The main details of the Footballguys Playoff Challenge Divisional Round
- Entry fee: $35 per team
- The contest is capped at a maximum of 4,000 entries
- $25,000 Grand Prize
- $122,750 in guaranteed prizes paying down to 600th place
- The contest runs from the start of Divisional Weekend through the Super Bowls
- Teams consist of 8 players in an FFPC lineup (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 2 FX)
- Each team chooses from 8 playoff teams but only 1 per team
- IMPORTANT: Points for Super Bowl are DOUBLED
- All rosters will be locked on Saturday, January 21, at 4:30 pm ET
- No roster adjustments will be allowed, even for games starting later
- For more details, see the full rules and payout structure on the contest page
And if you'd like a shot at a larger prize pool with a larger entry fee. The FFPC Playoff Challenge 2.0 features a $100,000 Grand Prize with a $200 entry.
What we’ve learned to this point:
- San Francisco had the best team performance but will have to face a formidable Dallas team in the second round, while the Eagles will get a green Giants upstart with Daniel Jones hitting a new career peak. Since the Giants are familiar with the Eagles, playing them close with Davis Webb just two weeks ago, the Eagles will have a test to advance.
- The Chiefs dodged a third game with a Chargers team that played them very close twice this year and instead will get a Jaguars team that just pulled off an all-time playoff comeback. Kansas City’s path to the AFC title game got a little easier.
- Buffalo and Cincinnati both had way-too-close-for-comfort wins against division rivals with backup quarterbacks. Josh Allen was under constant pressure. The Bills can’t beat the Chiefs if they allow as many giveaways and sacks. The Bengals offense stalled out in the second half against a very good Ravens defense. They’ll need more than 17 offensive points to win in Kansas City.
- Dallas smoked the Buccaneers and looks primed to make a better showing than they did when the 49ers dismissed them from the playoffs last year.
When you sit down to attack the puzzle of your Playoff Challenge Part 2 lineup, one truth quickly emerges: With only eight teams, we have to think more about lineup diversity.
The candidate list here is clear: Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes II, and Jalen Hurts. Joe Burrow and the Bengals offensive performance wasn’t that inspiring, and while Daniel Jones was, Saquon Barkley gives us big upside at a tougher position to fill. Brock Purdy, Trevor Lawrence, and Dak Prescott generally don’t offer enough upside to take them seriously as choices, but we did just witness Dak Prescott put up a legendary line on Monday night that plants the seed of a possibility of a Jarrett Stidham-esque performance in a win over San Francisco next week. Or you may think Trevor Lawrence has pulled the sword from the stone and can beat Patrick Mahomes II next week. Picking any of the three will give your lineup uniqueness, as will Daniel Jones. Burrow won’t be quite as unique and did make it to the Super Bowl last year, so if you think it was just the Ravens defense and Burrow and the Bengals offense will break out in Buffalo next week, consider Burrow.
Quarterback is the highest-scoring position, so having a player who makes it to the Super Bowl is really important. If you think Buffalo is going to the Super Bowl, Allen is the pick here. If you think Philadelphia is going to the Super Bowl, Jalen Hurts is the pick here. If you think Kansas City is going to the Super Bowl, and you think they will be playing someone other than Philadelphia (say, San Francisco), then Patrick Mahomes II still might not be the pick. Travis Kelce is the clear #1 tight end, and the FFPC scoring with 1.5 PPR increases his gap from the pack. He’ll be the chalk pick as the Chief in your lineup, and for good reason. For now, let’s assume we are going with Kelce at tight end.
It’s certainly possible Mahomes outdistances QB2 by a larger margin than Kelce outdistances TE2, and we should be on the lookout for lineup diversity. Let’s leave this question for the tight end section, but if you have a line on a tight end who you think will make it to the Super Bowl and be a big reason why his team makes it, then that could open the door to a pairing with Mahomes to make a lower ownership percentage lineup.
We’re down to Hurts and Allen. The tiebreakers for me are this Buffalo team having more recent playoff experience and Hurts not looking the same as when he played in Week 18 against the same Giants. I’ll go with Josh Allen knowing that if the Bills lose to Cincinnati, my ticket will be hurt more than if I went with the other strong Bills option - Stefon Diggs - along with a quarterback that makes it to the Super Bowl.
My Choice: Josh Allen
Bottom Line: This is not a clear-cut choice. If you’re not feeling good about the Bills after the near miss against Skylar Thompson, Stefon Diggs should be your Bills pick, not Allen. If you have a tight end up your sleeve that you think will have three big games, Mahomes makes sense. If you think Philadelphia has a significantly better chance of making the Super Bowl than Buffalo does, Hurts is the call. The same goes for the quarterbacks of any of the other five remaining teams (except San Francisco because McCaffrey is the 49ers' pick in any event). So if you have a strong feeling about Cincinnati, the Giants, Dallas, or Jacksonville, making a lineup with their quarterback will probably put you in a very small pool of potential winners. There should be a healthy amount of diversity in the second round because Allen doesn’t have the advantage of an extra possible game over Mahomes and Hurts that he had in the initial Playoff Challenge contest.
This is going to be the most boring position. Christian McCaffrey is a free square, and Saquon Barkley probably is, too, after his big wild card game.
We can rule out the Buffalo and Dallas committees right away. Joe Mixon, Miles Sanders, and Travis Etienne haven’t been consistent enough lately to merit a choice unless you have high confidence that their team is going to the Super Bowl. If you do, then putting one in over Barkley, who could be one and done, will give you lineup diversity.
That leaves Jerick McKinnon. He’s certainly been hot enough to open up the possibility that he is RB1 if San Francisco doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl, and with a decent gap between him and any other running back. Maybe even enough to be larger than the gap between Mahomes/QB2 and Kelce/TE2. I can’t dismiss the possibility that McCaffrey/McKinnon is the combination on the winning ticket, but a lineup that has Kelce and a Super Bowl quarterback or Mahomes and a Super Bowl tight end with a strong postseason will probably be better off.
My Choices: Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley
Bottom Line: McCaffrey will be almost universally used, and he should be. Don’t overthink it. Jerick McKinnon could keep up his hot streak and be the right Chiefs choice, but that’s a long shot. Barkley is coming off of a strong game, and even as a player more likely to be one and done than his counterpart Miles Sanders or McKinnon, he’s an easy second choice because we have to put a Giant somewhere, and the opportunity cost of putting him here is lower than wide receiver or flex, which will have players with a higher weekly floor than any back not named McCaffrey or Barkley
I’ve eliminated Buffalo, but again, if you aren’t feeling the Bills as a Super Bowl team, Stefon Diggs should be one of your choices here. I’m not feeling any heartburn about skipping over the 49ers and Giants wide receiver groups after taking their running back either. And no Chiefs receiver would give me pause before selecting Kelce at tight end, as I plan to.
Of the remaining teams, Ja'Marr Chase and A.J. Brown are the most obvious choices. We don’t have to get too in-depth about the Jaguars or Cowboys choices at wide receiver because that’s where our flexes will come from.
There’s a lineup diversity angle here by going with another Bengals or Eagles receiver. Higgins has outproduced Chase at times. But Burrow has leaned on Chase lately, so that’s probably overthinking it. Devonta Smith outproducing A.J. Brown is more plausible but still a clear underdog.
My Choices: Ja'Marr Chase, A.J. Brown
Bottom Line: Even if you take the Bengals or Eagles quarterback, this isn’t too complicated; just swap in Stefon Diggs. There are other wide receivers worth considering, but they will just become one of your flexes. It’s not impossible that Smith > Brown or Higgins > Chase, but putting them in your lineup probably unnecessarily lengthens your odds.
The winning lineup may have a tight end other than Kelce if the Jaguars can upset the Chiefs, or even in the less remote possibility that the Bills or Bengals do, but two games of Kelce is probably roughly equal to four George Kittle, Dallas Goedert, or Dalton Schultz games. So Kelce will likely lap the field if the Chiefs go to the Super Bowl, and as long as they beat the Jaguars, he probably won’t cede much, if anything, to the field at tight end, unlike Mahomes, who will likely be far behind any remaining quarterback that gets the equivalent of four games.
My Choice: Travis Kelce
Bottom Line: Unless you think George Kittle, Dallas Goedert, or maybe Dalton Schultz or Evan Engram are about to go on a historic postseason run to the Super Bowl, a la Larry Fitzgerald, Kelce is the pick here.
The Dallas pick will come down to Lamb or Dalton Schultz. Lamb probably would have been the pick before the Cowboys win at Tampa, but Schultz leading the team in catches, yardage, and adding on two scores makes him too hot to pass on with the tight end premium scoring bump.
Jacksonville comes down to Christian Kirk, who had a huge game in the regular season loss to the Chiefs, and Evan Engram, who was the top scorer among Jaguars pass-catchers last week, even without the tight end premium bump.
My Choices: Dalton Schultz, Christian Kirk
Bottom Line: Your flex choices are simpler than QB/RB/WR/TE because you’re just picking your favorite to be the highest-scoring RB/WR/TE on the team for the remainder of the playoffs, and you don’t have to weigh teams chances of advancing in the decision.
QB - Josh Allen
RB - Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley
WR - A.J. Brown, Ja'Marr Chase
TE - Travis Kelce
Flex - Dalton Schultz, Christian Kirk
How to Achieve Potentially Contest-Winning Lineup Diversity from My Chalky Lineup:
QB - QB from Super Bowl team with Allen not making it
RB - RB from Super Bowl team with Barkley getting shut down in loss to Eagles
WR - Smith outproduces Brown
TE - Just pick Kelce, don’t get cute with it
Flex - Lamb outproduces Schultz, Engram outproduces Kirk