Unwritten Playoff Challenge rules favored the Patriots

I don't like to be one to say "I told you so," but -- well, scratch that. I LOVE being the guy to say "I told you so." But I did.

Right now, if you filled your roster with players from the Packers or the Saints in the NFL.com Fantasy Playoff Challenge, you're looking at zero chance of winning your pool. Way back when, I warned against getting caught up with those two offenses and instead urged you to load up on the Patriots. If you did, you're welcome. If you didn't, there's always next year. But why was the strategy to take Green Bay or New Orleans flawed?

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Let's deal with the Packers first. They were a very sound selection. The defending champs who rolled through the regular season, it was easy to roll out their best weapons in your lineup and daydream of three 40-point games and a Fantasy Playoff Challenge title. But they weren't the best "three 40-point games" team. Because the NFC is much more loaded with good teams than the AFC is. You have to make sure you're maximizing the amount of games your team plays, and while the Packers were the best on paper, you also had the Saints, Giants and 49ers to contend with. There were many more stumbling blocks in the NFC than the AFC, which could see the Patriots waltz to the AFC title game. Admittedly, I'm a little nervous about the Ravens, but I was more than OK with that risk compared with negotiating the mine field in the NFC. Always go with the path of least resistance, and that was New England.

Now to the Saints. On the surface, they were a sound pick: A team peaking on offense, who was going to play in the first round and could make it all the way to Indianapolis. Plenty of times in recent history have we seen a team play in the first round of the playoffs and roll to the Super Bowl: The Giants in '07, the Cardinals in '09, and the Packers last season. So when you hear the advice that says "Identify that team and you'll win your pool" it's really enticing. But what's not said is the flip side of that:

You have to be sure you can identify that team before anyone plays a game in the playoffs.

It's easy to look BACK and say, "Oh yeah, those teams were hot and they rolled," but picking them beforehand is really hard. Would you have picked any of those teams I just mentioned if you were doing playoff pools in those seasons? Of course not. Why? Because none of them gave you any indication they could make it to the Super Bowl. Even New Orleans this season -- they were going to be on the road where they have NEVER won a playoff game, and still haven't.

The bottom line is this -- the teams that usually make it are the ones with the byes -- three out of the four teams still alive right now all found a way to get past the bye and win. Picking a wild-card round team to go all the way is too much of a risky play -- it might turn out for you but for the most part it doesn't. So when you go forward, remember: path of least resistance, and stick with the heavyweights.

Jason Smith writes fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com regularly. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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