Most playoff fantasy leagues involve a very limited number of teams, and the strategy revolves as much around picking the right teams as it does picking the right players. An owner who correctly predicts one of the eight teams playing on wild card weekend to go to the Super Bowl will get a whopping four games out of those players, which obviously makes them incredibly more valuable than any one player on a one-and-done squad.
People participate in playoff fantasy football in a variety of different ways – the preferred method at LeagueSafe HQ is to gather six people and have a snake draft in which every team has to fill out the following roster: 2 QBs (team QB), 4 RBs, 4 WRs, 2 TE, 2 K (team K).
Others simply play more of an office pool style league, in which an unlimited number of participants are asked to choose one player from every playoff team, filling out a roster that might look like this: 2 QB, 4 RB, 4 WR/TE, 2 K.
The cheat sheets below can be used for either style, but is based more directly on the first type of league in which you draft players at the beginning and don’t get to change rosters throughout the playoffs. The strategy is obviously to both choose the teams that play the most games, and get the best players on those teams. If you think the Redskins are going to run the table en route to the Super Bowl, stack your squad with Redskins. If you believe the favorites will win the games they’re supposed to, you might have a more balance roster filled with the best players on the best teams.
What follows is a look at a few different playoff scenarios that might play out, with corresponding cheat sheets depending which scenario you prefer.
Scenario #1: The Chalk
Okay, so let’s assume everything goes according to plan. That would mean the Vikings, Redskins (the Seahawks are favored by Vegas, despite going on the road against the ‘Skins), Bengals, and Colts all get eliminated this coming weekend, with the Falcons moving on to beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship, and the Broncos taking down the Patriots in the AFC.
Here’s your cheat sheet if you believe the bracket will play out according to the Vegas lines in Round 1, then according to seed in the rest of the bracket:
Scenario #2: The Wild Card
A Wild Card qualifier has played in the Super Bowl in three of the last seven years, and a team that played on Wild Card Weekend has played in the Super Bowl six times in the same span. In other words, recent odds suggest at least one of the teams playing on the first weekend will could make it to the Super Bowl. The most obvious examples this season seem to be the Packers, Texans, Ravens, and Seahawks. Let’s go ahead and eliminate the Seahawks since they have a lot of trouble winning on the road, and the Texans because I believe the Broncos and Patriots are the two strongest teams in the playoffs, so a deep AFC run for anything other than one of the top two seeds feels unlikely. In this scenario, then, let’s assume the Packers beat the Vikings at Lambeau this weekend, take care of the 49ers in Round 2 and polish off the Falcons in the NFC championship. The AFC goes according to seed.
Here’s how your cheat sheet looks if you believe the Packers can make a three-game run into the Super Bowl:
Scenario #3: Havoc
Then again, over the last 10 years, only 12 No. 1 seeds have managed to make it to their conference championship games (only one time have the top two seeds from each conference reach the conference title game), while No. 3 seeds or worse have appeared in their conference championships 15 times. Twice in the last four years, neither No. 1 seed made it (in both years, the No. 6 seed from each conference made it to the title games of their respective conferences). In fact, in the last four seasons, more No. 6 seeds (four) have made the conference championship than No. 1 seeds (three).
So let’s have some fun. Perhaps Adrian Peterson can’t be stopped by the Packers or the Falcons, and the Vikings advance to the NFC title game against the 49ers before falling just short (again) of making it to the Super Bowl. In the AFC, A.J Green catches fire and single-handedly leads the Bengals past the Texans in Round 1 and dispatch of the Broncos in a shootout to face the Patriots before running out of gas. In this scenario, the Pats face the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
Here’s the off-the-wall cheat sheet: