NFL Playoff Fantasy Football Strategy Primer

by Mark Strausberg
2021-22 NFL Playoff Fantasy Football Strategy

It's playoff time! This means it is time for the NFL Playoff Fantasy Football Strategy Primer.

Although it's also possible that this annual article is out of date again soon given that the NFL has at least three different playoff formats in the last ten years. Let's just simply hope that doesn't happen.

Because I'll give you general strategy recommendations for traditional, escalating multipliers, and "one and done" formats.

Allow me to repeat one of the big takeaways from previous editions of my playoff primers. Nailing the success or failures of the various NFL teams is one of the most important elements no matter what format you play. If not, you at least need to at least identify what teams survive/get knocked out more accurately than your opponents.

Perhaps you have a particular vision of how the playoffs will play out. Maybe you like the chalk and see Conference Championships of 1-seeds vs 2-seeds? And then the top two seeds advancing? Or perhaps you see those two preseason picks you made who disappointed but snuck into the playoffs making a surprise run?

It's cliche, but it's true--"any given Sunday". The top two seeds in each conference rarely end up playing one another and more often than not we have at least one three-seed if not lower crashing the Championship Game Weekend party. Given the choice between taking the top team or the field to win the Super Bowl, I will take the field every time. Does that mean the chalk is a bad play? Hold that thought....

Playing Chalk?

There is a good chance that if you're reading this, I've already made some kind of wager on the top couple of AFC seeds to be the AFC representatives. But I've also made another bet or two banking on them getting knocked out before the Super Bowl. On the NFC side, I've probably made a bet on the top seed already. I hate doing it. (This is now being updated in January of 2024, and I am simply looking at my betting habits over the last couple of years. I don't see it changing).  But I do think we see an upset or two before that.

And it wouldn't surprise me to see upsets everywhere, but that's all part of putting together your strategy!

NFL Playoff Fantasy Football Strategy

Escalating Multipliers

Embed from Getty Images

This format is the one typically found on NFL.com. A player's score is multiplied by the number of weeks that a player is in your lineup. For example, assume you have a player in your lineup since the first week of the playoffs. He then scores a TD in the Super Bowl. Instead of just six points for the TD, you will get 24 points!

There are two ways to play this format. You can go conservative and play each week as it comes, or you can try to predict the Super Bowl and load up on the two teams you think will be there at the end. The latter is very risky. Plus, if you grab the chalk, you will have a lot of company. But if you have a lineup of all the best players in the Super Bowl that you have had for weeks, it will pay huge dividends.

And yet...

However, you could also have a player in your lineup who plays in the Super Bowl but does diddly in the big game. Therefore, I prefer a bit of a hybrid strategy based on the particular position. I like to grab a few of the chalkier options to play in the Super Bowl, especially WRs that see a huge lion's share of their team's targets. Think Davanate Adams or Stefon Diggs types.

And for similar reasons, I'd grab any TE that puts up WR production consistently that you believe has a high chance of playing in the Super Bowl. The best example of this is Travis Kelce. However, I have less confidence in him this year than I do in years past. Blame Taylor Swift if you want. I think it's probably something else, but whatever it is, he's far from the automatic play he annually is.

So, a player like David Njoku of the Browns, whose team is not typically favored to be in the Super Bowl, can be a high-leverage pick should they make it. The number of weekly targets alone that he sees can make him a valuable chip in this format.

RB strategy?

But my strategy for running backs in this format is going to be week to week. Between injuries, RBBCs, and all the other uncertainties at the position, it just feels like a smarter way to play. If I can find players that play week 1 of the playoffs but I think might also be playing in the Super Bowl, I am likely to lock them into my week 1 lineup, especially if they are a workhorse back.

Workhorse backs who also see lots of passes however are going the way of the dodo. Each year will come with its own specific nuances. In the 2021-22 season, I successfully rode Joe Mixon to the Super Bowl.  In the 2022-23 season, with Christian McCaffrey likely to get four games, I locked him into my lineup. You get the idea.

However, this particular postseason, I don't see any workhorse RB getting four games. Plan accordingly.

One and Done

Embed from Getty Images
One and Done is a more difficult format to play. You are only allowed to use a player for one game during the playoffs. Thus you want to use that player when he has his best performance. However, you don't want to get to the Super Bowl having used all of the key players on the two Super Bowl teams already. It's a very delicate balancing act.

It is very tempting to play stud RBs in some of the earlier games against some of the softer defenses of the teams that made the playoffs. However, I often like to holster those players if I think their team can make a run. I prefer to start my team off with RBs whose team I think might depart early. So if you like the RBs on some of those say sixth and seventh seeds before they get knocked out, lock them into your playoff-opening lineup.  Just like seasonal football, if all your RBs each week can see 20+ carries, you should be golden.

TEs and QBs?

I would not get cute here at TE. There are typically several underdogs who have great fantasy TE options. In 2021-22 for example, Pat Friermuth, Dallas Goedert, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz were four quality options. Yet all four of their teams were not favored to advance to the next round. I suspected at least one of them would make it to the next round. But I advised choosing the one you thought wasn't going to make it past the first week but would have the best opening week.

At QB, I almost always avoid playing any of my top three choices to play in the Super Bowl the first week. My favorite thing to do is to play a QB who is coming in hot playing against a questionable secondary. However, that assumes said QB is not one of my favorite top three choices to make it to the Super Bowl.

Much depends on the options each year. But one strategy you will often see implemented for the "single-position options" like quarterbacks and TEs (plus Ks and DSTs if your league uses them) by players in this format is "Three and Flee". What this simply means is that you only select options from one conference for the first three weeks for one of the single position options, but then flip conferences for the Super Bowl.

A 2022-23 example

In 2022-23, you might go with George Kittle in the opening round against a questionable Seattle defense. Then go with either Dalton Schultz from the Cowboys or Cade Otton from the Buccaneers. It would depend on which team advances, as neither team is expected to be in the NFC Championship. Then in the third round, go with Dallas Goedert as the Eagles are a huge favorite to play in the NFC Championship. Should the Eagles be knocked out beforehand, so be it. You can roll with Daniel Bellinger or TJ Hockenson, whichever one's team is still alive.

And then for the Super Bowl round, you flip over to the AFC. You use the starting TE for the AFC representative in the Super Bowl. If you used this strategy in 2022-23, you were kind of hoping it's Travis Kelce, but Dawson Knox, Mark Andrews, and Evan Engram are not horrible options if necessary.

For 2023-24, I think applying this strategy is more difficult than usual. But there is some merit of playing say Joe Flacco or CJ Stroud this week, playing say Josh Allen the following week, followed by Lamar Jackson. That assumes of course you think Buffalo and Baltimore both win their respective games until they meet. And yes, then in the Super Bowl week, you'd flip to the NFC quarterback, whomever it is, but the odds say it's Brock Purdy. Even if it's not, being forced to roll with Dak Prescott or Jalen Hurts, both of whose teams are favored this week, is not so horrible.

Traditional Draft League

Before I jump into this checkout Joe's NFL Playoff Rankings for this specific format.

What I always like about the traditional format is that it is that "happy middle" between the two other alternatives. In this format, I'll be trying to get myself some chalk, but my focus will be even more on drafting from those teams with a chance of playing four games. But it's going to take a first-round pick to do so, as a 2021-22 in-house draft here at F6P clearly showed:

No Zero-RB or Heavy RB Debate Here!

This might come as a shock to many, especially those who haven't played postseason fantasy football before. But depending on your format and how many people are in your league, you can probably wait on RBs. In the above example, Joe Mixon was the first RB off the board at 13. I was the last one to grab a RB, with the 29th overall pick, and still ended up with a pretty good stable of RBs. Devin Singletary, Eli Mitchell, Josh Jacobs, and Jordan Howard were a pretty nice set to have that year.

But you should expect to see plenty of RBs taken in the second and third rounds.

You can see me playing my 49er hunch in the draft and the 49ers needed to advance for me to win. But you can see how popular the Chiefs and the Packers were in that draft as they were the favored to go to the Super Bowl. And had the Chiefs and Packers met in the Super Bowl, I would have been toast. However, if you recall neither did (it was the Bengals and the Rams). And that put me in a very advantageous position. It's a risky play, but given how rarely the top two popular picks make it, it was a risk I was willing to take. And last year was one of the few times that both number-one seeds made it.

And I would have coasted had the 49ers been in the Super Bowl. But take caution as I finished in second place as I had very few Bengals and Rams as well. There are lots of ways to skin this cat, just like in seasonal fantasy football. But like the other formats, nailing the final two teams is key.

A word on Ks and DSTs

Also, while we are not playing this league with kickers or DST, plenty of leagues will. Teams with byes however lower the value of the options on those teams as they will play a maximum of three games. Depending on the number of teams in your league, I would advise first taking an option that could play four games. Then back them up with one of the favored who might only have three games total but are good bets to play in the Super Bowl.

More often than not, however, I will likely wait and grab perhaps a DST who might not have started well but looked strong over the final three weeks of the season. The Cincinnati Bengals were a great example in 2021-22. Three DSTs that had a far better last month than the first month of the season in 2022-23 were the Chiefs, Packers, and Bengals. A good example from the 2023-24 season is the Houston Texans who averaged about three more points per week over the last three weeks versus the rest of the season.

 

That wraps it up. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@MarkStrausberg). I hope my NFL Playoff Fantasy Football Strategy recommendations help bring you a title. Good luck!


Check out more Fantasy Football content from the F6P Team.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

F6P Badges Banner

Follow us on social media

f6p-logo-footer

A Six Pack of Fantasy Sports

Copyright © 2024 Fantasy Six Pack.