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Fantasy Football: Advice for playoff leagues

Pete Davidson
January 03, 2019 - 12:40 pm

Fantasy football takes on a different feel when you’re playing in playoff leagues, because it’s not just about scoring points. You also need players whose teams will advance. The fantasy team that leads your postseason league in total games played will likely be at or near the top of the standings. So, when you draft, you want to target players who, you think, can play multiple games and who, ideally, can play three or four times.

The strategies that help us win over the 16-week fantasy season don’t help us much here. Loading up on RBs early will not lead you down a winning path. And waiting on your QB isn’t a good idea either unless you have a really bad draft position. So just throw out all of those embedded fantasy tropes. They won’t help you in a postseason league. You need a different mindset now.

Winning post-season leagues is a little bit like winning in daily fantasy football in that your choice at quarterback is best when stacked with one or more of his teammates. The basic logic is that you won’t get far without your QB, so there’s no reason to not just lean in and embrace your choice rather than spread risk around as you might in a regular season league. I like to make sure that, if my QB of choice is successful, then I’ll be successful too. Getting a few of your quarterback’s “hookups” makes a lot of sense. You want to get both ends of as many touchdowns and big plays as possible. For example, if I land Tom Brady in round one, I will be looking for Julian Edelman in either round two or three. If I can’t land him, I’ll hope for Rob Gronkowski or James White. Getting two of three or even all three is outstanding. And don’t stop. Keep drafting as many hookups as you can.

What team your quarterback plays for should have a huge impact on what players you draft from that team’s conference.  And, as I mentioned, finding those hookups is your top priority, but I also like to “adopt” a team from the opposing conference if possible. The logic being that I want my players playing each other as infrequently as possible, because when they play, somebody is getting knocked out. So try and stay away from drafting players on teams that are likely to meet up in round two and for sure avoid players who are playing each other this week.

This article is about how to strategize and how to see this year’s field. If you’d like to get into my rankings of each individual player, just follow this link to my full playoff rankings at Rotobahn.

Download the PDF cheatsheet and you can be drafting in five minutes. My rankings list every relevant skill player on every playoff team plus kickers and team defenses. It’s all free with no registration required.

Now let’s try and figure out which teams are the most attractive in terms of advancing. It’s also important to remember that only teams who play this week have four game potential. It makes players like Russell Wilson, Mitchell Trubisky and DeShaun Watson more appealing. Think about it. If Wilson or Watson or any other player playing this week advances to the league championship game, that’s the same as a team with a bye getting to the Super Bowl. They’d have played the same number of games. And, if your guy wins in the championship game, you get a rare 4-game player.

Good players who play four games are often league-winners in this format.

What I am going to do here is combine my take on each team with the odds of them winning the Super Bowl. My advice is to give the Vegas odds more weight.\If you are looking for a good site that will host your playoff league for free, check out Fantrax.

I use their site for my hometown league every year and it’s reliable.

The odds listed below were sourced from Vegas Insider.

Each team listed is followed by their odds of winning it all and then by their round one status.

New Orleans Saints, 5/2 odds, Bye

They have home field throughout and for fantasy purposes Drew Brees is worth more at home. Brees should go first or second in most drafts. The most desirable hookups for Brees are Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara but Mark Ingram and Ted Ginn are solid middle round fits.

Kansas City Chiefs, 9/2, Bye

The Chiefs will play at home for as long as they stay alive in the AFC playoffs. The thing is, while I’d favor them in any game they host, there are no easy outs in the AFC in my view, so they definitely could get knocked out. Still, Patrick Mahomes has been a revelation and his upside makes him a sensical choice at the top spot or in the two hole. The Chiefs have a lot of players involved in the passing game, which is great. If you fail to land either Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill as a hookup, you can target Damien Williams or Sammy Watkins, who should be back by the time the Chiefs play. In the later rounds, you can add guys like Chris Conley or Demarcus Robinson.

Los Angeles Rams, 11/2, Bye

Vegas likes the Rams but I’m not feeling it to the tune of 11/2. They are not the same without a healthy Todd Gurley and Jared Goff has left me wanting lately. I’m unlikely to target Goff unless he falls to me late in round one, but he does offer some positives in terms of hookups. The Rams have three main receivers in Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and to a lesser extent Josh Reynolds. If you strike out there, you can look to add TE Gerald Everett later on in the draft.

New England Patriots, 6/1, Bye

I think all of you folks know what you think of the Patriots’ chances at this point, so I could just leave this one blank, but I’ll take a swing and you can take from it what you will. There’s no denying that the Patriots feel more vulnerable than we’ve seen in a while, but they’ve also handled a lot of the teams that are still alive, with wins over the Chiefs, Texans, Bears and Colts. They may not be a typical Patriots juggernaut, but they belong and they’re plenty dangerous. That being said, if you are playing in a locally based league—a league with a lot of Patriots fans, you will pay extra for all Patriots talent. For those who want to win it all, that could be a path best left for your competition. If your league is not comprised of Patriots folks, then I like taking Tom Brady just fine in the middle of round one. As I say often in August, know your league.

Chicago Bears, 8/1, vs. Eagles

The Bears are the kind of team I like to target in these pools. They have a strong shot at advancing and, along with the Chargers, are among the strongest teams with a chance at four games. Of all the teams playing this week, the Bears have the best chance at playing in the Super Bowl according to Vegas. So maybe Mitchell Trubisky is a good quarterback to target. He scores a lot of fantasy points, plays for a team that can advance several times, and has a lot of stackable skill players you can target throughout the draft.

Baltimore Ravens, 14/1, vs. Chargers

The Ravens certainly have a chance at making a run, but they also have plenty of one-and-done potential as the Chargers are a tough round one opponent and are a far more complete team than the Ravens. They’ve also already played against Lamar Jackson back in Week 16, so there will be no shock value for Baltimore’s heavily ground-based attack. It’s also problematic trying to stack Ravens as the targeting is not consistent with any one player and they throw relatively infrequently. I am lukewarm on rostering Jackson with a top six pick.

Los Angeles Chargers, 16/1, at Ravens

The Chargers are most definitely one of the more attractive teams available. They are an elite team that’s playing in the first round because they played in the Chiefs’ division. They performed at a higher level than the Patriots and all of the AFC teams playing at home this weekend. If there’s a team that can make a 3-4 game run out of the AFC, it’s the Chargers in my view. Philip Rivers has plenty of ceiling on a weekly basis and you have some good options to stack with him. They use all their RBs in the pass game and you have four receivers you can target at various points in your draft. You should also keep tabs on Hunter Henry’s status. The stud tight end tore his ACL back in the spring and could conceivably return to the field in round one.

Dallas Cowboys, 25/1, vs. Seahawks

Dallas feels like a decent play at those 1 in 25 odds. They have a lot going for them because they can run and play defense while also possessing a big play passing attack. Dak Prescott is far better fantasy quarterback than he is an NFL quarterback. You get passing juice but you also get foot-points and he’s very active as a ball carrier in the red zone. If you take Dak, the obvious stacking choices are Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. Landing Dak and Zeke in a 12-team league will be tough. You might be able to swing it near the end of round one and you might need to take Zeke first.

Houston Texans, 25/1, vs. Colts

Now we are getting a good feel for the depth of this year’s playoff talent pool. Houston is an appealing team for sure and look how far down the line they fall. Seattle and the Colts fit the same mold. This is a good year to have a late pick, because there will be quality options available throughout. I love the idea of nabbing Deshaun Watson and then getting DeAndre Hopkins with my second pick.

Seattle Seahawks, 25/1, at Cowboys

This is a dangerous team. They have a quarterback who is battle tested in the biggest of spots and who knows how to play in tough road situations. The defense has tightened as the season has progressed. The Seahawks are a slight road underdog this week and that feels about right. I give them a fifty/fifty shot at advancing. If they do move on, it will be to New Orleans, which may be the biggest negative for them as far as getting that coveted third game.

Indianapolis Colts, 25/1, at Texans

Andrew Luck has been on an interesting ride this year. He came out with guns blazing and attempted 40 or more passes in five of the Colts first six games. The thing is, he only hit that mark three more times over the next 10 games. Don’t get me wrong, Luck was a pretty good option, even when his volume was down. However, when his volume was up, he was often a fantasy monster. If you think the Colts are going to open up the offense, Luck would be a very attractive way to start your team. He’s got several nice stacking pieces in T.Y. Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron.

Philadelphia Eagles, 25/1, at Bears

Here’s where my enthusiasm wanes. I am fine with the Eagles’ offense, but their round one matchup could lead to weak numbers and their advancement opportunity feels limited going up against a strong Bears team in Chicago. The Eagles have done some remarkable things with Nick Foles at the helm, but last year’s run was done with home field advantage and then on a neutral field. This is a very hostile environment and the Bears defense is nasty. I’m avoiding the Eagles and Foles as much as I can.