Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football Playoff Challenge strategy

Wait, you thought the fantasy football season was over? Nothing is over until we say it is! Okay, that's not totally true. Eventually, we'll run out of games in the 2020-21 season. At that point, the fantasy football season will be over. Fortunately, we still have a few more weeks until we reach that dead end. So why not fill it with more fake football games?

To that end, I introduce (or reintroduce?) you to the NFL Playoff Challenge. For the low, low price of free, you can play fantasy football through the NFL Playoffs. That's good news for anyone wanting a do-over from an -- ahem! -- unprecedented season or who is just too addicted to the game to give it up.

Here's how it works: Players earn points in the playoffs via standard fantasy scoring for NFL.com, with a little twist. The fantasy points accumulated by each player during one weekly scoring period will be multiplied by the number of consecutive weeks in which the player has been in your lineup, assuming his team progresses through the playoffs. A player can earn bonus-point multipliers of 2x, 3x or 4x for a given week based on the number of weeks they were on the fantasy team roster. Therefore, you want to build your lineup around players you think will be on the field in Super Bowl LV. You can swap players out each week based on the matchups, but the multipliers reset with every change, so take that into consideration.

You build a squad that features one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defense/special teams. Standard, non-PPR fantasy scoring rules apply for this game.

Now, let's get to some strategies:

Ride team playing on Super Wild Card Weekend

This has become a popular strategy in recent seasons. The risk comes from having those teams play more games – some likely on the road – which means more chances to get knocked out. The risk is lessened somewhat this year with only one team in each conference earning a first-round bye. That guarantees that at least one "wild-card" contestant will make it to the conference championship game. But the reward for taking a team playing over the first weekend remains mighty, since managers can maximize their point accumulation if the players from those teams make the Super Bowl.

For instance, if you choose Patrick Mahomes as your quarterback, you get the multiplier each week he advances, but you take 0 points during the Wild Card round because he's not playing. But if Alvin Kamara is your running back and the Saints go all the way, you get all of the same multipliers plus those wonderful Wild Card points. So, which Wild Card teams are worth targeting this year? Let's look ...

Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen placed himself among the top-flight fantasy quarterbacks this season by adding elite passing numbers to go along with his rushing prowess. A big reason for the Bills' improved aerial attack was the addition of Stefon Diggs. The former Viking finished the season as fantasy's WR3 while leading the NFL with 127 receptions. The speedy John Brown returned from injury for the regular-season finale and gives Allen another dangerous weapon. Throw in a defense that rounded into form over the final month of the season and the Bills could be a tough out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The more things change, they more they stay the same. Tom Brady is in a new location but he's still in the playoffs. The future Hall of Famer was red-hot over the final four weeks of the season and enters the postseason with the deepest group of pass-catchers he's ever had in his career. Defenses will be forced to pick their poison between Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. In the event Tampa's passing game sputters, the two-headed running back attack of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette has had its share of explosive moments.

Full list of NFC Wild Card teams: Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Football Team

Full list of AFC Wild Card teams: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans

Stack players on teams with a first-round bye

Now, if you go this route you will (obviously) miss out on fantasy points from Super Wild Card Weekend. The upside, however, is that you lessen the risk of having your team wiped out early while still receiving the 2x multiplier in the Divisional Round since these players are in your lineup from the get-go. Since only two teams have a bye this year, that makes your choices pretty easy.

Kansas City Chiefs: They're the defending Super Bowl champs and have one of the most high-powered offenses in the game. Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce all finished the year within the top four at their respective positions. Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn't have the type of season many projected, but he could still see a heavy workload if healthy and back as Kansas City's RB1.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams put together the best seasons of their respective careers while helping lead the Packers to the best record in the NFC. Aaron Jones might not have duplicated his 19-touchdown campaign from 2019 but 11 total scores is nothing to sneeze at. This season also featured the emergence of Robert Tonyan at tight end with occasional flashes from Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. A leaky run defense could be a problem, but Green Bay has enough offense to compete with any team in the NFL.

There you have it. Good luck setting your own Playoff Challenge lineup and enjoy the postseason!

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