In the immortal words of Jim Mora ... PLAYOFFS?!?!?. That's right, it's playoff time in the NFL, and while the regular fantasy season is over, the playoff fantasy season is just getting started. NFL Playoff Challenge offers users a chance to keep their fantasy season going a few more weeks, AND have a shot at winning a trip to Super Bowl LI. I broke down the rules of the game and basic strategy here, if you care to read. Below, I've compiled the Playoff Challenge lineups from our group of analysts to help you try and figure out the winning combination. If you'd like to join in on the fun it's not too late. Sign up to partake in the NFL Playoff Challenge RIGHT HERE.
Marcas has made it clear in the fantasy stronghold that he's fully behind the Cardinals making it to the Super Bowl, so it's no surprise to see his roster filled with Red Birds. Of the Cardinals wideouts, I like that he opted for John Brown, who is the healthier of the big play threats on the outside, as Michael Floyd continues to battle leg ailments. The Cardinals defense has played well of late (throwing out Week 17), and found a pass rush as well. They could feast on either the Packers, Vikings or Redskins in the divisional round. Like it or not, the future of Marcas' roster hinges on the health of Andy Dalton, as he picked up the top pass-catchers from Cincy with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. If Dalton can recapture some of his midseason form, with the rest of the AFC in flux, the Bengals very well could wind up playing in Super Bowl 50. They just have to get past their old rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the Wild Card round first.
Harmon's lineup is unique, in that it features the most teams of our analysts with five. Still, it's easy to make sense of his selections on a player-by-player basis, as he chose many of the most explosive playmakers at their given position from the playoffs. His running back duo of David Johnson and C.J. Anderson could rack up massive points for him in the Divisional Round, while he's also hoping to ride the dynamic combo of Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. Factor in Antonio Brown in the Wild Card round (and potentially beyond) to pair with big-play threat John Brown, and Harmon's fantasy point ceiling is sky high. Of course, he's also setting himself up for a letdown if any of these teams go one and done, but that's the risk you take when diversifying your Playoff Challenge roster. There's much more risk, but also a MASSIVE potential reward if you make the right calls.
Franchise even titled the screen shot of his lineup "YOU LIKE THAT?" when he emailed it to me Monday morning, so I should have expected to see several Washington players peppered throughout. It's an interesting gamble to make, but Kirk Cousins is clearly playing confident football, throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions over his last 10 quarters of football. Jordan Reed is an absolute nightmare to defend at the tight end position, and DeSean Jackson has game-changing big-play ability. It's also no surprise that Franchise filled out a few of his other spots with Steelers. They're his favorite team (HOMER!), but also a good bet to get out of the Wild Card round. No wide receiver is playing the position better than Antonio Brown. Franchise is likely hoping the Panthers players in his lineup give him some added insurance in case Washington or Pittsburgh falter in the first frame of the playoffs.
Normally, I like to load up on the playmakers from a team with a first-round bye, as that sets me up for double points with a team playing at home with a better shot at winning. However, this year I like the way the Seahawks are playing, and how their schedule shapes up in the postseason. They travel to face a Minnesota team that was just carved up for 291 yards by Aaron Rodgers and his lackluster group of pass-catchers. After that, they'd head to Carolina for a bout with a Panthers team that has lost two of its top cornerbacks -- Bene Benewikere and Charles Tillman -- in the last month. From there, the Seahawks would most likely get a rematch with the Cardinals, a team they played close at home in loss, and then dismantled in Week 17 on the road. All told, I like the way this Seattle team is playing heading into the postseason, and think they could be the latest sixth seed to reach the Super Bowl. As for the AFC, even with Tom Brady's high ankle sprain I grabbed the two most consistent scorers from that squad, as it's never a bad strategy to trust Bill Belichick and Brady in the playoffs. David Johnson seems to have the safest workload and highest ceiling of the remaining backs, so I used him to help round out my roster and (hopefully) build a nice scoring lead heading into Super Bowl 50.