Playoff Challenge 2015: Wild Card Round

What seemed like a long season came down to the very last weekend in order to clear up the playoff picture, and teams like Carolina and Arizona made it in but look like ultimate long shots to take home the big trophy, while the Patriots and Seahawks come into the playoffs being favorites to make the Super Bowl. Last year the favorites made it all the way, but that is rare, and I don’t see it happening two years in a row. But that’s what the playoffs are for, to take us on that journey, and for fantasy purposes we still have a shot at redemption. It’s called the Playoff Challenge, and here we go again…

Now the time has come. Quickly, for those of you not familiar with the playoff challenge (which I will be doing on NFL.com for the second time this year), it’s a simple system where you can pick a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, and a defense. I know, it sounds like regular fantasy football, doesn’t it? Each round is a separate entity, though, and you can re-pick your entire roster if you’d like in the second round. The key is to pick the players who end up with the most points during that week to set you up for the following week with the most points in your league.

Throw in the multipliers that NFL.com mixes in, and it complicates matters even more, turning the whole thing into a chess match. A multiplier is a bonus given to players who go deeper into the playoffs. For example, if I pick Antonio Brown in the wild card round he gets me standard points for that round. But if the Steelers win and I keep Brown in my lineup for next week’s divisional round he will get me double the points he earns next week. If they win that contest he will get me three times the points he earns in the conference round, on up to a possible four times bonus in the Super Bowl.

The key to a win in the Playoff Challenge is to guess right from the start. Here is the “most picked” lineup on NFL.com right now…

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As you can see, a majority of Playoff Challenge participants are convinced that the Cowboys’ major players will do well not only this week, but into future rounds. And if they’re right then Romo, Murray, and Bryant will earn them multipliers for next week and possibly beyond, but if they lose to Detroit this week those same participants will be forced to roster different players in those slots and lose multipliers for three positions.

Therein lies the gamble. These same participants are sure that the Steelers will handle the Ravens this week, and that Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will continue in the playoffs for multipliers. The same applies if the Steelers lose in the first round. If both teams lose then this “most popular” team is likely to be a bottom feeder come Super Bowl time.

Even with Rob Gronkowski.

So, what should you do when trying to set your lineup for Wild Card week? Play the odds, but remember the statistics as well. For example, only two teams will actually get to the Super Bowl and be able to reward you with the four times multiplier at that time. If you can hit on those two teams from the start and you load your Playoff Challenge entry with them you have a more than legitimate shot to take home the top prize.

Maybe you’re sold on the Seahawks to repeat, or at least to make it back to the big game, so you select Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, and Russell Wilson from that squad. And you think they’ll meet the Ravens there, so you choose Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, and Owen Daniels from Baltimore. If they both make it you’re looking like a genius and you should win big.

That’s the strategy I suggest, because while you can get close by choosing players from across many teams, the best way to actually win is to play those odds and put your faith in two specific teams to get to the Super Bowl. For what it’s worth my money is on Green Bay and Denver to advance and end up in Arizona when it’s all said and done. And don’t fret about what the score is after Wild Card week. Only focus on which of your players are going to be playing for bonus points in the divisional round. And get ready to reap the rewards.

P.S. If Dallas and Pittsburgh meet in the Super Bowl then the above entry is set. I just don’t see it happening.

The Fantasy Ace

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