All right, with the Wild Card round in the books, it's time to turn our eyes (and lineups) to the Divisional Round. This weekend features a great slate of games loaded with fantasy potential. Below, I break down each of the NFL Playoff Challenge lineups for the NFL Fantasy staff, offering insights into the strategy each analyst is using in crafting their roster. And if you haven't joined NFL Playoff Challenge, it's not too late. You can get started in just a few seconds RIGHT HERE.
Fabiano's lineup really kicks off this weekend, as he's loaded with Patriots who are heading into a prime matchup with the likely overmatched Houston Texans. He got a nice outing from Antonio Brown last weekend and will get twice as many points this time around. Brown figures to see a fair amount of Marcus Peters, but the Steelers move him all around the field so he should find opportunities to get open. Ezekiel Elliott ripped the Packers for 157 yards when the Cowboys traveled to Lambeau Field in Week 6, so we'll see what he can do in the rematch on his home turf.
Franchise's lineup got off to a stellar start with big performances from Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and especially the Steelers defense. His Falcons picks will make or break his lineup this round, as they face the tough Seahawks defense on Saturday. If the Falcons can keep up their high-scoring ways and advance to the NFC Championship game, then Franchise will be in really good shape. He'll lose out on at least one 3x multiplier, though, as Travis Kelce and the Chiefs play the Steelers. Whoever loses will get bounced from Franchise's roster.
I'm the first one in this column who is faced with the Jordy Nelson dilemma. Nelson suffered at least two fractured ribs in the Wild Card round and appears to be a longshot to play against the Cowboys. And this is where the strategy of Playoff Challenge comes into play. I could swap out Nelson for Randall Cobb or another player, but that resets the point multiplier for that player. This is why I'm going to keep Nelson in and hope he plays. Even if he doesn't, I'll take the zero points (times two!) and hope the Packers win and Nelson returns to action later in the postseason. I bet big on the Packers making the Super Bowl with my lineup, and the triple and quadruple points from Nelson (if the Packers make it there) could be a difference-maker. Most people will probably pivot away from Nelson after his injury, which makes keeping him in your lineup a more unique (but risky) strategy.
Harmon tweaked his lineup for a Fantasy Hipsters segment (which you can enjoy at the top of this article), and thus was the recipient of good fortune as he replaced Jordy Nelson with Doug Baldwin at the last minute. That sets him up nicely for what could be a high-scoring game between the Falcons and Seahawks, as he has all of the top members of the Falcons offense in his lineup as well. If the Chiefs and Falcons manage to advance to the championship games, he'll be in great shape with a unique lineup.
While I stuck with Jordy Nelson, Marcas made the quick change to Randall Cobb, who is coming off of his best game in two years. Marcas will be counting on LeGarrette Blount and Ezekiel Elliott to stack up points for him in this round, as both carry that nice 2x multiplier. Marcas will have to make some changes for next week as the Cowboys and Packers face each other, but right now his lineup is positioned pretty well despite the loss of Nelson.
Like me, Rank is riding with Jordy Nelson even though he might not play this weekend. However, even if Nelson is out Rank has a lineup loaded with high-scoring potential with bonuses for Aaron Rodgers, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Travis Kelce. Ty Montgomery suffered a knee injury last week but later returned to the game and should be good to go. He's Rank's ace in the hole, as his 13 percent ownership helps this lineup stand out a bit from the pack.