Playoff Challenge 2015: Divisional Round

Well, that was an exciting slate of wild card games, not just for the action on the field, but for the numbers generated from those actions that either helped or hurt your Playoff Challenge lineup. I know a lot of folks who had Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray in their lineups were holding their breath when Detroit got up big on the Cowboys, but they’ll live to see another day (thanks in part to the referees). Just as in previous years, though, the round was known just as much for the unsung heroes who stepped up and scored points for nearly no one. Here are the best at each position in the wild card round:

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As you can see, some strange names populate this list, and not the big names like Murray, Bryant, and Brown. And who exactly is Crockett Gillmore anyway? This happens quite a bit in the wild card round, where someone busts out, but it’s not just in the wild card round. Last year in the second round LaGarrette Blount busted loose for the Patriots while everyone else was running out alternatives (I’ll admit, I didn’t have him in my lineup either).

There are two takeaways from this when thinking about the divisional round:

1) Don’t go chasing points. If you have Dez Bryant in your lineup (and he was massively underwhelming in the wild card round) don’t swap him out for Terrance Williams. Those numbers probably won’t be duplicated, plus Dez can get you double points while Williams cannot. And if you had a receiver like Brown who is now out of the playoffs your odds are better going with a viable name like Demaryius Thomas or Julian Edelman than farming for points in Williams.

2) Play the percentages when trying to pick the next “unknown” who will go off. For example, almost no one is going with Davante Adams from Green Bay, but he has picked up the pace lately, and has definitely caught Aaron Rodgers’ eye. If he goes off for a big game against Dallas (who has struggled to defend #2 and #3 receivers) he could differentiate you from all the others who didn’t go with him. Other examples include Emmanuel Sanders and Torrey Smith (if you believe Baltimore will advance against New England).

Remember that the best way to win the whole thing is to play the long game, so don’t fret too much about where your point total is right now. Think ahead to the teams you think have the best chance of representing their conferences in the Super Bowl and put your eggs in those baskets.  For example, in the Playoff Challenge group I am in there are several entries who are going with a mix of exclusively Seattle and New England players because they believe those two teams have the best shot at getting to the big game.

In the end, though, you’re the one who has to live with the outcome. Do you want to follow the crowd or forge your own path? I’m doing a variation on the selection process by choosing all Denver players. If they reach the Super Bowl I should be in good shape, and if they win it I should win the Playoff Challenge because no one else has gone all in on the Broncos like that. By doing that, I give myself a good shot at catching lightning in a bottle too because guys like Sanders or Hillman could indeed go off, and not many others are choosing them.

Here are other players from the divisional round who I think are worth selecting for the possibility of getting big points for your team and not many others (just remember only pick them if you think their team will win, so you can get bonus points from them in following weeks):

  • Doug Baldwin, SEA
  • Kelvin Benjamin, CAR
  • Cole Beasley, DAL
  • James Starks, GB
  • Shane Vereen, NE
  • Owen Daniels, BAL
  • Hakeem Nicks, IND
  • Wes Welker, DEN

If you’re daring and you go with Benjamin, if the Panthers win you will be probably the only player in your Playoff Challenge who has him for double points in the conference round, and you’ve also got a serious leg up on all those who picked a plethora of Seahawks players. My money would be on Vereen for New England because if the Patriots get down early (which is certainly a possibility against the suddenly hot Ravens) Brady will be getting the ball to his security blanket in Vereen.

Of course you can see what “Boom” Herron has left in the tank against the number 3 run defense in the NFL, or you can play the odds instead of overreacting because of wild card surprises.

The Fantasy Ace

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