Just when your family thought they would be getting you back from fantasy zombie-land, there’s even more reason for them to wish football was truly over by January. But we know the real NFL still isn’t over for 12 teams, which means your chances for fantasy football glory aren’t over either. It only means that now you’re faced with a different kind of fantasy animal — the Playoff Challenge.
Quickly, for those of you not familiar with the playoff challenge (which I will be doing on NFL.com for the third 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 a regular fantasy lineup, doesn’t it? But each round is a separate entity, and you can re-pick your entire roster, if you’d like to, in the second round, in the third round, and even in the Super Bowl round. The key, though, 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 Randall Cobb in the wild card round he gets me standard points for that round. But if the Packers win and I keep Cobb 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…
As you can see on the above graphic, a lot of players on NFL.com are betting on the Seahawks to win this week in Minnesota. The problem with the choices above is that if Seattle does win then this person will have to pick a new running back (to replace Peterson). But if the Steelers and Redskins also win then the majority of their lineup will remain intact and gain them double the points for next week.
One more thing… you can pick players from teams not playing during the Wild Card round, and they will get their bonus multipliers next week, so if you’re dying to put Rob Gronkowski in your lineup this week he will get you no points, but next week he will get you double. You might do that if you’re not sold on any of the tight ends playing this week, or if you want to get a jumpstart on the big points you think Gronk will get you next week and going forward. It’s about betting on the team to advance past next week’s divisional round.
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.
Here’s my Wild Card lineup:
As you can see, my money is on the Chiefs and the Seahawks to advance to the Super Bowl, so I loaded up on players from both teams to get me there along with them. While I thought about Russell Wilson, because he was the top choice of QBs this week I went the other way. Now, if the Chiefs do get to the Super Bowl I’ll be one of only 2% of people who can count on four times the points from the Chiefs’ signal caller. The rest of the lineup pretty much decided itself.
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. 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.