Fantasy Football

2021 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football Primer

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The 2021 NFL playoffs are starting! However, that doesn’t mean Fantasy Football season has to be over. For those unaware, Fantasy Football can continue to be played during the NFL postseason.

If you haven’t played postseason Fantasy Football yet, give it a try. Or perhaps you have played before, but are trying a new postseason league this year. Of course, what format you play dictates what strategy you should employ and which players are the best bets to maximize that strategy. That’s my cue to enter stage right, given my experience in playing postseason Fantasy Football.

Yet just as there are a myriad of seasonal formats, there are infinite types of postseason fantasy football options. For example, I know a league that will use the 2021 NFL playoffs to determine the order of next year’s draft, but you can only use players on your roster at the end of Week 16. Obviously, that’s a unique twist!

However, I will go through three of the most popular formats. I will discuss what strategy works best for that format and what players need to be considered for this year’s NFL Playoffs to maximize your chances.

Feel free to disagree with me or hit me up with questions in the comments section. You can start a discussion with me on Twitter too, @markstrausberg

Because playing a little postseason fantasy football can help lessen those regular season bad days…so let’s get to it!

2021 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football Primer

Format matters. Here are three that are the most common:

One and Done

In this format, you get absolutely no benefit if your player plays four games or one. You just want to make sure you nail the one big game he has!

In fact, you are better off if he has three touchdowns that day and doesn’t play another game this postseason.

As long as you get to the Super Bowl with a viable roster, that’s all that matters. Well, that’s assuming you have maximized player production to that point. Which of course is easier said than done.

Player Recommendations

Chase Claypool WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

If you are looking for the huge ceiling game, look no further than Chase Claypool. It seems like ages ago, but back in Week 5, Claypool had his “big break-out” game, and I do mean big. He only caught seven of 11 targets for 110 yards, but three of those went for six. But wait, we’re not done! He also carried the ball across the stripe that day to give him four touchdowns on the day. That is exactly the kind of day you want in a “one and done” pool.

I will be honest with you, I really don’t know who is going to win the Steelers-Browns game. So it is possible, Claypool could be used the following week. What I do know however is that the Browns will be the best match-up that Claypool will see this playoff season. The Browns gave up the eighth-most fantasy points to WRs this season. Even if the Steelers win, Claypool’s match-up is not going to get any better. Grab this chance will you can.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Expect J.K. Dobbins and the Ravens to run the ball this weekend. I know, I’m really going out on a limb with that prediction. But you might not be aware, however, actually how much support there is for that statement. In the pass-happy NFL, the Ravens are one of just three teams that run the ball more than they pass. But nobody runs the ball more than the Ravens do as they had the lowest passing percentage (44.11%) of any team and that’s four percentage points than the next closest team.

But the good news continues. The Green Bay Packers are the only team left in the playoffs who gave up more fantasy points to RBs than the Titans. And it’s not like that number is weighed down by early games. Tennesee has allowed 90 or more rushing yards in their last five games. In fact, just twice this season were they able to hold a team under that mark. I’ll let you look up the results yourself, but running backs from Dalvin Cook down to AJ Dillon saw some of their best games this season against Tennessee.

And Dobbins is absolutely rolling right now. With his two TD day against Cincy last week, he now has seven straight weeks with a rushing touchdown. Since missing week 12, he has averaged 85 rushing yards a game. Should the Ravens win, they’ll be forced to go to KC or Buffalo (or fine, Pittsburgh, who gave up the third-fewest RB fantasy points) and the probable game script alone says the Ravens won’t be able to give Dobbins as many carries. Ride Dobbins this week while you can.

Jared Cook TE, New Orleans Saints

Travis Kelce will be on bye this week, so he is not an option. Mark Andrews is tempting, but I think the Ravens win this week and I like his match-ups next week even more. When you start looking at the TE options available, all you are hoping for this first week is a TD. And only five TEs scored more than the seven TDs Cook scored this year.

I am sure the Saints will try to establish the run, but Chicago has a pretty good run defense. Against TEs however, they’ve been quietly just absolutely horrendous. They have given up the fourth-most fantasy points to Tight Ends this season. Drew Brees targeted Jared Cook five times last week including one that led to a TD. I expect Brees to target Cook again this week.  

Ascending Multipliers

This format was made popular by NFL.com and rewards you for having the best players still playing during the Super Bowl. The difference however this year is that there are a total of 12 teams that could theoretically earn your player 4x multipliers and only two teams that have byes this year. It’s a little bit of a wrinkle, but nothing that changes your basic strategy.

Essentially each player’s score is multiplied by the number of weeks they have been on your roster. So it’s 4x the points for those players that are on your roster during the Super Bowl that were there from the start for playoffs.

Again, this strategy depends on your format.

For example, I have played this format many times but the commissioner of the league had payouts each week. That would change the strategy a little bit.

Let’s assume the league rewards the same as NFL.com does which is winner-take-all. Therefore, making it to the Super Bowl with the best players and being rewarded for doing so is far more important than any player’s one single game.

First, you have to decide which teams you think will make reach Super Bowl LV.

You could always choose plenty of players from the #1 seeds, but you need to know that the last time both top seeds made it to the Super Bowl was 1993.

What I actually like to do is figure out who the popular options are and then intentionally fade those players.

Player Recommendations

I can promise you that in this format that the Packers and Chiefs will be very popular picks, especially at the lower scoring positions. However, I think many will also choose Justin Tucker, one of the most reliable and best kickers in fantasy football. Let’s say I decide to roster Mason Crosby this week and you wait until next week to do so. And let’s say Crosby scores eight fantasy points during the Super Bowl. You might get 24 for Crosby (3-week multiplier x 8 points) but I will get 32 points. Are you so sure the kicker you choose for this week will give you eight points to make up the difference?

I think both the Ravens and Bills are going to be very popular picks in general for this format. But there’s a far sneakier pick I like more: Drew Brees.


There are quite a few whispers that Drew Brees is retiring:

And there are reasons to think he isn’t of course. But the injury he suffered this year might have been the last straw. Or as I like to say, the anvil that broke the camel’s back. And you know Brees wants to finish on top. I remind you that New Orleans is actually the number two seed in the NFC. Should the Packers get tripped up next week, New Orleans will actually host the NFC Championship Game. And we all know what kind of games Brees can have at home playing in the Superdome.

Shhhh.

Traditional

This format is a blend of the first two and has been around the longest. It’s actually the most similar to regular fantasy football.

Invite a bunch of friends together. My recommendation is at least eight, but no more than 12. Have a draft like you would for the regular season.

I know, scheduling can be a challenge, but since your rosters are not even ten players deep, it should only take an hour.

Suppose you each select 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 DST. If you want, include a couple of bench spots. You can be done drafting in less time than it takes Philip Rivers to get his kids up and ready for a family outing!

In this format, you have to weigh output versus the number of games. Sure, Tyreek Hill or Davante Adams might each have three great games, but a wide receiver that plays four playoff games could easily outproduce either.

Similarly, one “typical” game out of Derrick Henry might far surpass what any single Chiefs RB does in three games.

Nailing a team that plays four games is key in all three of these formats, but correctly nailing it in this format is the most critical.

The first pick is likely to be Alvin Kamara. F6P Head honcho Joe Bond certainly thinks so  as indicated in his Playoff Rankings. But Joe is not just a BMOC here at the site–he is also one of the most accurate rankers out there:

That’s him at number three, out of more than 200 rankers throughout the industry. So when he makes a recommendation, you might want to listen. So if both Joe and I tell you something, you better believe there’s some validity to it! In that article above, Joe recommends that in a traditional playoffs fantasy football league you should take a QB early. I couldn’t agree more. And that’s where I will start with my player recommendations.

Player Recommendations

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Yes, Jackson has yet to win a playoff game. We get it Steeler fans. I wouldn’t talk too much smack if I were you. The 2021 NFL Playoffs Fantasy season might be an even better year to grab him than years past. Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes might even be picked before him this year, and that’s a mistake. For starters, I think Lamar leads the Ravens to a win this week.

And that’s not just my purple blood talking. The books have the Ravens favored by 3.5 points over Tennessee which also means on a neutral field they would like the Ravens to win by a TD. And that means that Jackson should win and advance. But not before he racks up a ton of fantasy points. The Titans gave up the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year. That is by far the worst of any playoff team. Seattle is the next closest and that is imbalanced by some of their miserable days before the Carlos Dunlap acquisition.

Recall that the Ravens hung with the Titans and it wasn’t until a Derrick Henry TD in overtime that gave the Titans the win. That Titan game was also the last one that Jackson lost. Since missing the Steelers game in week 12 for Covid-19 reasons, last season’s MVP has gone on a tear, throwing 11 touchdowns the last five weeks. That of course is in addition to the four he ran in himself.

Avoid Jackson at your own peril. But there is another player I’d also grab before Jackson.

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

There will be a debate this upcoming offseason as to how early you should grab Travis Kelce. However, there should be almost no debate as to how early you should grab Kelce if you are playing in a traditional postseason fantasy football format. Others might choose someone else, but few will argue that Travis Kelce is the wrong pick, even first overall.

Kelce finished with over 312 PPR fantasy points. That is 10% more than the next closest which was Darren Waller with nearly 279 points. And remember, Waller is not available for the postseason. Over ONE HUNDRED points behind Waller is our next closest TE, Logan Thomas. I like Washington to upset Tampa Bay, but he’s not playing more than two playoff games. And even then, I can’t see Thomas coming even close to matching Kelce. Those same 312 PPR fantasy points would have made Kelce the number four WR this year!

Let’s just say that most of the tweet below is factual, but I 100% agree with the one opinion included:

Other 2021 NFL Playoffs Player Recommendations

Finally, one other difference is that I would not necessarily wait until the last rounds to pick a kicker or DST.

If you like Justin Tucker to play four games as the Ravens go to the Super Bowl, you can’t wait until the last round to do so.

The same goes for any DST who gets four games during the playoffs. I wouldn’t count on them getting four games, but a lot of people are down on the Rams chances. Yet they still finished the season as the NFL’s number one defense, allowing the fewest yards and points per game.  You can’t just wait and hope you get them.

I’m not saying grab them in the third round, but if you like the aforementioned Lutz or the Rams, I’d pick them before I pick my 5th offensive player.


One last thing: Whatever format you choose to play for the 2021 NFL Playoffs, be sure to enjoy yourself and good luck!


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About Mark Strausberg

Despite his youthful appearance, Mark has aged hundreds and hundreds of years due to soul-sucking and crushing near misses over his decades of both playing and writing fantasy sports.

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