Many Fantasy football owners, feeling a bit of a letdown once the regular season ended, have now started playing in playoff leagues. Whether you had a draft and the structure is similar to the regular season or you are playing in a salary cap league, playoff leagues are available to all, but some take more strategy than others.
For example, NFL.com offers their version of a playoff league that involves quite a bit of strategy. For those unfamiliar with this league, it does not have any salary values. Rather, you can pick any player on any team and you get points for the week. The catch? Each week you hold onto a player you get a multiplier. For example, those who started Drew Brees last weekend got 30 points from him. If you keep Brees on your roster this week and he puts up another 30 points, he now has a 2x multiplier, earning you 60 points. If the Saints win and Brees plays next week and puts up 30 points, that 30 turns into 90 points.
|Marques Colston may help your Fantasy playoff team this week. Photo Credit: Icon SMI|
The concept is fairly simple, the strategy is not. Do you fill your roster with players that you think will do well in any given week without looking at the multiplier factor? It’s a tough call because while banking on Calvin Johnson to have a good game (33 points last week), but figuring the Lions will lose and then you’ll need another receiver is a good strategy, it may not always work. Perhaps you thought Michael Turner would have a good day against the Giants, the Falcons would win and then you’d get his multiplier. Unfortunately, you ended up with four points and a spot to fill for this week.
Here’s the problem with just picking the best players: they won’t necessarily win. Not to mention, it is quite difficult to pick a roster of eight positions from two teams that you’re hoping will make it to the Super Bowl. While the ultimate winner of the contest probably took a gamble on two teams and picked the best players from those two teams only; that’s not the way to win your friends league.
Some strategies to keep in mind: never get negative points from your defense. Look at the settings in your league. Some are very quick to take points away from your defense if the opposing team scores just three touchdowns. Others don’t give points for defensive touchdowns. Others give bonus points if the team your defense is from wins the game. For the NFL.com league, you do get points for a D/ST touchdown. However, once your defense has let up between 18 and 21 points, they earn you zero points (and it goes negative from there). If your defense’s team wins, you get five points. You do get one point for a sack and two points for interceptions and fumble recoveries. Typically, outside of the harsh scoring for points against and the extra five points if your team wins, the NFL.com scoring settings are likely similar to your regular season Fantasy league. Beware of the multiplier, however. Because it is easy to earn negative points (Pittsburgh D/ST gave owners -2 last week), the last thing you want is the multiplier on a negative number.
Just, for example, say the Giants/Packers score is 45-42, that’s -7 points for either team right away. Granted, the winning team will get five points back. However, do you want to start in the negative? Pick a defense each week that you think will allow the fewest points. You cannot rely on a defensive touchdown, and while you can hope for an interception or fumble recovery, that’s not a given either. Look at the matchups. The Giants/Packers game looks to be high scoring. New Orleans puts up points fairly consistently. In order to stay in the game, the 49ers are going to have to score as well. That leaves Denver/New England or Baltimore/Houston. It’s a tough call – New England’s defense is one of the worst in the leagues, but even Denver put 23 points up on them when the two teams met in the regular season. Are you that certain the Patriots are going to win? I’d look at the Ravens D/ST this week. While it might be the Arian Foster show, Houston still has shown signs of struggling when playing from behind.
In terms of quarterback, if you started Aaron Rodgers last week (with the intent of the guaranteed 2x multiplier) or Drew Brees, you’re all set. However, if you started the highest point-getter, Matthew Stafford, you need to search for a new QB. The key here is who do you think is going to win AND get you points? Alex Smith, T.J. Yates and Joe Flacco all may lead their team to victory, but typically they aren’t the top Fantasy point-getters. Eli Manning is going to throw a ton against the Packers, but do you believe the Giants will win? Tim Tebow almost always comes through for Fantasy owners (ahem, thanks for the negative points in Week 17, Tebow), but is Denver going to beat the Patriots? The safest best at this point may just be Brees. I like the odds of the Saints winning this week, and then you’ll have the multiplier for him next week. Who knows, they may even end up in the Super Bowl.
For running back, the top options are Arian Foster and Ray Rice. Odds are that they’ll put up the most points out of the group that also includes James Starks, Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore and Darren Sproles. Sproles did do well last week, but he’s no guarantee to repeat his two-touchdown performance against a team that didn’t allow a rushing touchdown until the last two weeks of the regular season. While he does have value as a pass-catching back, note that the NFL.com playoff league does not award points per receptions. You could gamble and start both Foster and Rice – one of them is guaranteed to move on for you. Plus, the potential benefit of one week of a stud’s points is better than a riskier option who might end up rewarding you with a multiplier. In my lineup, I have Ray Rice and Darren Sproles. I do see Baltimore coming out of the AFC and I like Rice to continue his end-of-the-season success. Out of his six 100-plus yard rushing games, four of them were in the last seven weeks of the season. In the last five weeks of the season, he had over 100 total yards. He’s peaking at the right time, and that can only help your playoff team.
For wide receiver, there are more options, making your pick a gamble. Again, when all else fails, go by the team you think will win. Is it possible Denver wins and Demaryius Thomas has another 26-point day? Sure, especially against New England’s horrific pass defense. But is that the safest option? Probably not, when you can pick guys like Hakeem Nicks, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Victor Cruz, Marques Colston, Wes Welker and Andre Johnson. I’d avoid guys such as Anquan Boldin, coming off injury and having a less-than-spectacular season thus far, Michael Crabtree, who is just as likely to put up a 45-yard game as he is to put up a 95-yard game, and guys that are simply a guess (Robert Meachem, Donald Driver, Torrey Smith as examples). If you don’t have a salary cap to play with, go with the guys that are the closest things to a sure thing as you can get. While Cruz had a rough week last week (two points in the NFL.com league), look for a bounce-back week as Green Bay focuses their coverage on Nicks. You know that Brees will be out throwing, and Colston has done well toward the end of the season, scoring five touchdowns in the last four games of the regular season. He almost had a touchdown last week and managed 120 yards. He’s someone to look at for this week.
At tight end, it’s hard to not pick Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. They are far and away the top two tight ends in the league, you just have to decide if you think the Saints or the Patriots are going to make it to the Super Bowl. Both tight ends will likely put up solid numbers, and hopefully, you already picked one or the other last week. If you went with someone like Owen Daniels, ignore the multiplier, dump him and his broken arm, and grab a stud. In a non-salary league, there really is no reason not to have either of these guys on your team.
Last but not least, you will need to pick a kicker for your team. While it might be a good strategy to try to pick a kicker that is playing in a dome or is playing for a high-powered offense, at this point, pick a kicker on a team that you think will be playing in the Super Bowl. Avoid Billy Cundiff if possible. He is healthy for now, but it is too much of a risk to have your kicker cost you a multiplier.
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