Did your fantasy football season end before you were ready to hang up the helmet and pads? Were you one of those poor souls who rode Matt Forte all the way to the postseason, only to have him crush your championship hopes and dreams with a 5.4-point stinker against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16? Well, NFL.com has the perfect solution for your fantasy blues.
The NFL Fantasy Playoff Challenge takes all of the thrills and excitement of the postseason and wraps it into a fantasy football package that could take you all the way to Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona!
Once you sign up (and let's be honest, why wouldn't you?), you'll need an overview of the game. The rules for this competition are simple. There are four postseason rounds: Wild Card, Divisional, Conference and Super Bowl. You'll set a starting lineup that consists of one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defense/special teams unit from the postseason rosters for each of the four rounds. Keep in mind that there is no draft, so you can select your ultimate team every round.
If your player's team wins in the wild card round, you have the option of keeping that player in the divisional round or starting another player. If you retain that player from the wild card round, you'll receive double points in his divisional round game, triple points if that player reaches the conference championship round and so on. Should you replace a player you had active in the wild card round, however, that new player isn't eligible for double points until the conference round (if his team advances). You're also allowed to start players in the wild card round that have byes (Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks and Panthers).
Why would you do this?
Well, it's all part of the strategy. If you think the Denver Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl, for example, you can start Peyton Manning and his teammates in the Wild Card round. While they will receive no points in that round, those players would be eligible to have their points doubled in the divisional round and tripled in the conference round. And if Denver does reach the big game, you would get quadruple points. The ultimate goal, of course, is to select the most productive players who will advance the furthest in the postseason. It's also very important to accumulate points with the same players from round-to-round if possible. As a result, starting someone like LeSean McCoy, who is a fantasy superstar, is more of a risk because the Philadelphia Eagles could be one and done in the NFC postseason.
If you're not sold on a team like the Broncos going all the way, starting Andrew Luck or some of his Colts teammates make sense. They'll be favored to win a home game in the opening round against the Chiefs in what could be a shootout. Luck and the Colts will enter the postseason pretty hot, winning four of their last five contests while the Indy QB has eight TD passes in his past four games.
Keep in mind, should the team of a player you have selected in the wild card round be knocked out, you're allowed to replace him with a player whose team is still alive. Your new starter would not be eligible to have his points doubled until his team wins a game, however. So throughout each round, you will be able to field a complete fantasy roster. That's very important to remember.
Now it's time to take a look at the scoring system. The NFL Fantasy Playoff Challenge awards four points for passing touchdowns, six points for all other touchdowns and one point for each 25 passing yards and 10 rushing and receiving yards. It also rewards two points for all two-point conversions, three points for all field goals regardless of length and one point for all extra points.
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On defense, points will be rewarded for touchdowns on returns by punt, kickoff, fumble and interception. Other categories include interceptions, fumble recoveries and sacks. Points will also be handed out for shutouts and holding opponents to 17 or fewer points. If your defense allows 22 or more points, it will be penalized (up to 10 points if it surrenders 46-plus points in a game). In a twist that could tack on extra points, defenses will also be rewarded an additional five points per game if their team wins.
The NFL Fantasy Playoff Challenge is all about your prowess and skills as a fantasy football general manager, not to mention your abilities as a pro football prognosticator. And we all know, picking games in the NFL can be more than a little difficult.
Since 2000, nine different teams (Ravens -- 2012, Giants -- 2011, Packers -- 2010, Cardinals -- 2008, Giants -- 2007, Colts -- 2006, Steelers -- 2005, Panthers -- 2003, Ravens -- 2000) that played in the wild card round have reached the Super Bowl. A total of seven of those teams won it all. Several members of one team that didn't win the title, the 2008 Cardinals, were still very valuable in the NFL Fantasy Playoff Challenge.
Kurt Warner and his talented offense rolled up a ton of fantasy points in three postseason rounds en route to Super Bowl XLIII. Larry Fitzgerald was a stat-sheet monster, posting 100-yard performances in the first two rounds, a 152-yard, three-touchdown explosion in the NFC Championship, and 127 yards with two more scores in the Super Bowl. If you combined Fitzgerald's totals, along with the bonuses you'd receive for keeping him active in four straight rounds, he'd have easily been a fantasy MVP candidate.
So there you have it -- you now know the rules and some of the strategies involved in finding success in the NFL Fantasy Playoff Challenge. Now it's up to you to join and accept the challenge!
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to **@Michael_Fabiano** or send a question via **Facebook**!