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FFPC Playoff Challenge Strategy

By Kevin English 9:54am EST 1/13/22


If you thought your fantasy season was over ... think again.

The FFPC will award $500,000 to the winner of their Playoff Challenge. You can find all of the details here, but here's the cliff notes version:

- $1.29 million prize pool

- $200 buy-in

- Entries capped at 7,250 teams

- FFPC scoring (1 PPR for RBs and WRs; 1.5 for TEs)

Your mission: Pick the highest scoring team with the following roster:

The catch? You can only select 1 player per NFL team. So there’s no stacking here.

Before we get into player selection, let's look at some macro factors that should weigh into your lineup building.

Note: For more discussion on the FFPC's Playoff Challenge, visit the Draft Sharks YouTube page.


Consider the Odds

Here are the odds for each team reaching the Super Bowl, per DraftKings sportsbook:

AFC

Kansas City Chiefs (+175)

Tennessee Titans (+330)

Buffalo Bills (+350)

Cincinnati Bengals (+700)

New England Patriots (+1000)

Las Vegas Raiders (+2000)

Pittsburgh Steelers (+3500)

NFC

Green Bay Packers (+160)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+350)

Los Angeles Rams (+450)

Dallas Cowboys (+600)

San Francisco 49ers (+1000)

Arizona Cardinals (+1200)

Philadelphia Eagles (+3000)


Predictably, we’re looking at the Chiefs and Packers as favorites. Green Bay, the NFC’s top seed, just posted the league’s only 8-0 home record. Kansas City might as well be a #1 seed given their 1st round matchup vs. Pittsburgh. K.C. beat the Steelers 36-10 back in Week 16. (Please, if PIT pulls off the upset, let me hear about it on Twitter.)

Now, here’s a look at postseason odds from analytics site FiveThirtyEight:

Compared to the DK numbers, the differences here include: Tampa Bay over Buffalo, Cincinnati over Los Angeles and New England over San Francisco. Generally, though, there's a lot of overlap in projection -- as you'd expect.


DVOA

Next, let’s check in with Football Outsiders and their DVOA metric. Per FO, “DVOA measures a team's efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent.”

Weighted DVOA is listed below, as it puts more of an emphasis on late-season performance.

1. Dallas Cowboys (34.8%)

2. New England Patriots (31.2%)

3. Buffalo Bills (26.2%)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (25.8%)

5. San Francisco 49ers (24.8%)

6. Kansas City Chiefs (24.3%)

7. Los Angeles Rams (21.2%)

8. Green Bay Packers (15.1%)


12. Philadelphia Eagles (3.3%)

13. Tennessee Titans (2.2%)

14. Cincinatti Bengals (1.8%)


16. Arizona Cardinals (0.8%)


20. Las Vegas Raiders (-2.4%)


26. Pittsburgh Steelers (-12.5%)


The Draft Sharks View

We project a Bills-Packers Super Bowl with the following number of games played for each playoff participant:

Buffalo Bills: 4

Green Bay Packers: 3

Dallas Cowboys: 3

Cincinnati Bengals: 3

Kansas City Chiefs: 2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2

Los Angeles Rams: 2

Tennessee Titans: 1

Arizona Cardinals: 1

San Francisco 49ers: 1

Las Vegas Raiders: 1

New England Patriots: 1

Philadelphia Eagles: 1

Pittsburgh Steelers: 1


Given our projections, the following matchups beyond this weekend would be:

AFC Divisional Round

Bills at Chiefs

Bengals at Titans

NFC Divisional Round

Cowboys at Buccaneers

Rams at Packers

AFC Championship

Bengals at Bills

NFC Championship

Cowboys at Packers

Super Bowl

Bills vs. Packers

If you have your own belief on how the postseason will unfold, find a playoff bracket and fill it out. Consider games played and matchups when filling out your FFPC roster. Don’t worry too much about building a contrarian-heavy lineup — especially if you make a big-time fade (say, of a particular Rams WR).

More on that below.

Now, I’ll apply all of the above into practice when setting a Playoff Challenge lineup.


QB selection

Getting your QB to the Super Bowl obviously looks favorable on paper. Among playoff participants, here’s how the top-5 fantasy scorers by position fared in FFPC points per game:

Josh Allen: 27.0

Tom Brady: 26.1

Patrick Mahomes: 24.9

Kyler Murray: 24.8

Aaron Rodgers: 23.6


RBs

Derrick Henry: 23.4

Leonard Fournette: 18.3

Joe Mixon: 18.1

Najee Harris: 17.7

James Conner: 17.2


WR

Cooper Kupp: 25.7

Davante Adams: 21.5

Deebo Samuel: 21.0

Ja’Marr Chase: 18.0

Tyreek Hill: 17.5


TE

Travis Kelce: 19.4

George Kittle: 16.7

Rob Gronkowski: 16.6

Darren Waller: 14.6

Dalton Schultz: 14.5


Expect Allen to be the chalkiest QB given his skill set and to-date performance. Buffalo’s Super Bowl odds (+350) are decent, too, but the road to the AFC Championship game isn’t easy.

Allen at least went off in a win at K.C. back in Week 5 (315-3). And his last matchup vs. New England — the one NOT played in a borderline Category 1 hurricane — turned up 314-3 (plus a win).

Beyond Allen, I’m narrowing my player pool to just Mahomes, Rodgers and Prescott. You could make a case for Brady, but his depleted pass-catching corps has me a bit worried. Call it hunch, but I just don’t see a return trip to the Super Bowl.

In the interest of full disclosure: I’m planning to run out only 1-2 teams in this contest. So a “sleeper” type like Kyler Murray is off my radar. You have to determine the amount of risk you want to take, but I’m really not trying to get cute at QB.


RB Selection

Joe Mixon and Leonard Fournette profile as popular options.

Mixon for his workhorse role (~22 opportunities per game) and opening round matchup vs. Vegas. Fournette for his pass-catching/TD upside on a Bucs squad in great shape to get past Round 1.

Derrick Henry supplies name value, but we will see the same guy that torched the league pre-injury? My guess is no — at least not right away.

Here's what HC Mike Vrabel had to say on Monday, per The Tennessean:

With A.J. Brown supplying a high-ceiling alternative, I’ll pivot to the WR.

Damien Harris carries some intrigue. He’s combined for 214 rushing yards and 4 TDs across 2 matchups with Buffalo. He’s Pro Football Focus’ 5th highest graded RB. The 24-year-old also ranks 5th among RBs in rushing yards over expected per carry (0.86).

So there’s no doubting his ability on the ground. Yet the presence of Rhamondre Stevenson and a lack of receiving volume puts a major emphasis on Harris finding the end zone.

Zeke Elliott and Aaron Jones figure to fly under the radar given the alternatives on Dallas/Green Bay. Banged up backfields in Kansas City and Arizona provide contrarian opportunities, but I’ll look elsewhere.

UPDATE: Fournette was ruled out on Saturday afternoon.

WR Selection

Your decision-making starts with Cooper Kupp.

You know about his 2021 accomplishments. You probably know the Rams are 4-point home favorites vs. Arizona.

There’s even this salivating nugget, courtesy of DS colleague Jared Smola:

So we have fantasy’s #1 WR with a pretty good shot at 2+ games. Plus, there’s just not much of an opportunity cost on the Rams offense.

However… if you’re purchasing, say, 8-10 teams, I’d position myself for a Kupp fade. Recall that Arizona went on the road and beat L.A. earlier in the season. The Cardinals enter in poor form with 4 losses over their past 5, but we’re talking about a 3rd divisional game here that I project as a close one.

Kupp’s also matched season lows in targets (7) over the past 2 weeks. He’s still delivered — of course. Still, it’s food for thought...

A.J. Brown, Davante Adams, Deebo Samuel, Stefon Diggs and CeeDee Lamb pop as go-to options beyond Kupp.

Odds are, Brown will get either the Bengals or Raiders in the Divisional Round. Both present favorable DVOA matchups vs. #1 WRs. And it was just a few weeks ago that we saw Brown’s true upside vs. San Francisco (31.5 fantasy points).

Adams has scored in 5 of his past 6 games in which he’s played into the 4th quarter.

Deebo’s role is nearly bust-proof, and his upside is such that he can deliver for you in the event that San Francisco loses. Diggs looks like the play on Buffalo if you’re fading Allen, and his history vs. New England only helps. Over his past 4, Diggs is averaging 6.5 catches, 93.25 yards and 1 TD vs. the Pats.

Lamb is more of a gut call and a play towards low(ish) ownership, as his recent form isn’t anything special. Starting with San Francisco and (likely) Tampa Bay doesn’t scare me away, though.


TE Selection

You can play multiple TEs in a single lineup, and remember, the position receives 1.5 PPR.

As for top targets, I’m really focusing on 4 guys: Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, Darren Waller and Zach Ertz.

Kelce notched 34 or fewer yards in 4 of the last 5 games — noteworthy for sure. But c’mon. He’s still one of the league’s best TD bets. And despite a hip injury, the 32-year-old has been a full participant in practice. No concern from me.

Gronk gets a boost with Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown out. In Gronk’s lone game without both WRs, he posted 7-137 on 10 targets (last week vs. Carolina). Gronk also went off against the Jets (7-115 on 10 targets) without Godwin in Week 17.

Ertz’s targets have stabilized with DeAndre Hopkins sidelined. (Hopkins will miss the Wild Card Round and potentially more.) Ertz’s 47 targets over the past month rank 2nd among TEs, behind only Mark Andrews.

Waller returned from a knee injury last week to run 37 routes on 39 Derek Carr dropbacks (95%). That’s elite, pre-injury usage. While Waller remains on the injury report, there was no sign of a setback in the Chargers game. Opening vs. an inexperienced Bengals squad, Vegas carries a sneaky shot at playing 2 games. It's just not an outcome I'm betting on.


Kicker Selection

Not much to say here. Just take a kicker from a team you expect to play only 1 game.

That means someone like Daniel Carlson, Robbie Gould or Nick Folk. Matt Gay — fantasy’s 3rd highest scoring kicker — is a sneaky alternative if you’re brave enough to fade Kupp.


DST Selection

Take the same approach at kicker and apply it to defense. New England is likely the chalk with the Bills favored by 4 in a game that’ll feature temps around 5 degrees.

And the opportunity cost on the Pats — save for Damien Harris — doesn’t look too worrisome.


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