I look forward to the playoffs every season. Not only is the best football played at this time, but for obvious reasons, my workload dwindles significantly, so I have more time to actually enjoy the football.
But I always have another itch to scratch… because fantasy football isn’t over.
Every year, I use MyFantasyLeague to run a one-and-done playoff contest for me and my friends (many of whom you know through Fantasy Points).
The rules are simple.
You pick a starting lineup of 10 players every week: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 2 RWT FLEX, 1 PK, and 1 DST. PPR scoring with 4 points per TD and -2 per INT. You get 3 points per field goal and 1 per XP, and return TDs (but not yards) count.
You can pick any player from any team for your lineup every week… except you can only use a guy ONCE throughout the playoffs. So if you use Josh Allen this week, you can’t use him again. So you want to both maximize your score any given week… but make sure you have enough good players left for each subsequent week. And we dwindle from 14 teams available in Playoff Week 1… to just 2 for the Super Bowl.
And for a bonus, THIS YEAR, I AM MAKING SCORING IN THE SUPER BOWL 1.5X… SO IT’S MORE IMPORTANT TO HAVE PLAYERS WHO ADVANCE.
In other words, you have to predict both this week’s games and next week’s games. So there’s a lot of strategy involved.
I also pay out weekly prizes in addition to the playoff-long grand prizes.
So I figured I’d talk through my strategy in this contest for a quick article, for those of you doing something similar.
For posterity, here is last week’s article, where I talked through my strategy.
I had a really strong lineup…
QB Kirk Cousins
RB Saquon Barkley, Austin Ekeler
WR Justin Jefferson, Keenan Allen
TE TJ Hockenson
FX JK Dobbins, CeeDee Lamb
K Justin Tucker
I finished with 176.94 points, tied for 5th place out of 42 and just 2.78 points back from the leader, so I am live. And of the players I used, only Saquon Barkley and CeeDee Lamb were on teams that advanced, so I have basically the entire player pool available to me.
The leader, though, had a great lineup of his own… despite using Brett Maher (4 missed XP). Like me, he used Cousins and Dobbins, but also got big performances in elimination games from DK Metcalf, Kenneth Walker, Tyreek Hill, and Mike Evans. So despite our scores being similar, the lineups were not, at all.
But now comes a dilemma. I felt overall very confident in my picks last week — I went 5-1 straight up, with only Tampa Bay representing a blemish. I have a choice to make this week to attempt to maximize my score while also ensuring I have players left for the next two rounds, which is key.
Quarterback (Start 1, Max of 1)
Off the bat, I have decided that I am going to trust Vegas. I am not using any players from the two biggest favorites of the week — Kansas City and Philadelphia. Is this risky? Of course! Both of those teams should score a lot, but it’s also the NFL… both of them can lose any given week against a playoff-caliber opponent. So I’ll acknowledge that while understanding I can’t play scared in this contest and try to get a piece of every pie.
So I’m using Josh Allen. I predict the Bengals will win this week, but if they do not, it will come on the heels, likely, of a huge Allen game. I can swallow that next week, because I have all four of the remaining NFC QBs at my disposal, as well as both Patrick Mahomes and Trevor Lawrence in the AFC. So I know I’ll have a quarterback available for the Super Bowl.
Already Used: Kirk Cousins
Also Considered: Trevor Lawrence
Running Back (Start 2, Max of 4)
I used Saquon Barkley last week, which was smart. Not only did he have a strong game against Minnesota, but I knew if the Giants won, they’d have a tough matchup with the Eagles looming. I don’t regret using Saquon.
At this spot, I’m going with two players I predict will lose this week. One is obvious, from the biggest underdog of the week, Travis Etienne. I simply wish the Jaguars would throw him the damn ball every now and again, especially since this game is projected to be of the high-scoring variety (53 total, highest of the week). But Etienne gets almost all the work in this backfield, and I don’t think I’ll be able to use him next week.
If Dallas is going to keep pace with San Francisco, I think Tony Pollard needs to rip off a big play. I already used CeeDee Lamb last week, so there goes one of Dallas’ two biggest offensive threats. Pollard is the other, and though Dallas is the shortest underdog of the week, I’m still predicting the Niners to bring this one home.
Already Used: Saquon Barkley, Austin Ekeler, JK Dobbins
Also Considered: Joe Mixon, Devin Singletary, Ezekiel Elliott
Wide Receiver (Start 2, Max of 4)
This is the spot where I might be attempting to “have my cake and eat it too.” As stated above, I’m projecting the Bengals to beat Buffalo. But I’m the least confident in that call of all my others (which should be obvious, as Buffalo is the lone point-spread favorite I’m projecting to lose).
I think if Buffalo wins, Stefon Diggs will be the biggest factor, outside of Allen. So I’m stacking the two. If Buffalo does advance, I’ll likely fade all of their secondary weapons next week to ensure I have some options for the Super Bowl, which is 1.5X scoring.
But since I’m not at all confident in my prediction, I’ll use a Tee Higgins comeback here… strategically saving Ja’Marr Chase for myself for next week. Unfortunately, there’s a chance I burn myself here if Cincy loses, but there are risks you have to take in these contests.
Christian Kirk was an easy WR3 choice for me, and I am using two WRs in my FLEX spots. Let’s allow Graham Barfield to explain, from his DFS slate breakdown: “The Chiefs got destroyed by slot WRs this year, allowing a league-high 21.6 FPG. Kirk had 9/105/2 vs. KC in Week 10 while [Zay] Jones had a respectable 8/68. The Chiefs allowed 22.9 FPG to outside WRs (11th-most), so this is far from a bad matchup for Jones. It’s just that the Chiefs are that bad vs. slot wideouts. Kirk ran 85% of his routes lined up in the slot last week, while Jones was outside 75% of the time.”
I’m also using Brandon Aiyuk. While I do think the Niners win this week, they’re the shortest favorite on the slate. Moreover, Dallas is a fantastic matchup for Aiyuk. As Graham points out, the Cowboys have allowed a whopping 195 yards per game to WRs over their last six weeks with 8 TDs to outside WRs in this span.
Already Used: Justin Jefferson, Keenan Allen, CeeDee Lamb
Also Considered: Ja’Marr Chase, Gabe Davis, NYG WRs, Zay Jones, Michael Gallup
Tight End (Start 1, Max of 3)
I initially wanted to use Dalton Schultz here because he went bonkers last week, but Graham reminded me that the 49ers absolutely crush the middle of the field defensively — call it the Fred Warner Effect. So instead, I’ll pivot to Evan Engram in an underdog spot in the highest projected total on the slate.
Already Used: TJ Hockenson
Also Considered: Dalton Schultz, Dawson Knox
Kicker and DST (Start 1 Each)
I’ll use Riley Patterson as the total is high and I think the Jags go down this week.
Already Used: Justin Tucker
At defense, I used Miami against Josh Allen last week, knowing that Allen could get sacked and turn it over and still win the game. Miami was a smash play, but so was Cincinnati against Tyler Huntley. And I’ll use the Bengals against Allen this week, despite also starting Allen.
Already Used: Miami