FFPC Playoff Challenge Strategy Guide
Someone’s gonna take home half-a-million bucks in the FFPC Playoff Challenge. So why not you?
It’ll take some serious skills to beat out the 6,499 other entries, though. That’s where this article comes in. Let’s talk some strategy — and then work through how to build a winning roster.
The 1st step to taking down this contest is understanding the rules. You can read ‘em all here … but these are the important points:
- Select a 10-man roster of the following positions for the entire playoffs:
- 1 QB
- 2 RBs
- 2 WRs
- 1 TE
- 2 Flex
- 1 K
- 1 DST
- You’re only allowed to choose 1 player from each team
- FFPC scoring rules (1 PPR for RBs and WRs, 1.5 PPR for TEs)
- Points are doubled for players in the Super Bowl
The fact that you can select just 1 player from each team diminishes the importance of figuring out who will advance in each round of the playoffs. Even if you think Baltimore will win it all, for example, you can’t load up on multiple Ravens.
But that doesn’t mean figuring out who will advance isn’t important at all. We want to prioritize the highest-scoring players from the 2 teams we think will make it to the Super Bowl. The next highest priorities should go to the teams we project to play the most games. We’ll also need to choose 2 teams to not pick any players from.
To help with our Super Bowl pick, let’s take a look at the current Vegas odds to win each conference (courtesy of the DraftKings sportsbook):
The Ravens and 49ers are the favorites to win their respective conferences — but the Chiefs and Saints aren’t far behind. The safe bet is to prioritize 2 of those 4 teams.
Those 4 teams also figure to be the most popular Super Bowl picks in the FFPC Playoff Challenge, though. So you might opt to differentiate your roster by looking elsewhere.
I don’t believe in the Packers, but Vegas has them as the 5th most likely team to reach the Super Bowl. I think the Seahawks and Eagles are interesting options to make a run. And you’d get 4 games out of their players if they do.
Beyond your Super Bowl pick, you’ll want to decide who will advance in each round to determine how many games each team will play. To help with that, let’s look at how the playoff teams stack up in a few different analytics-based rankings:
FiveThirtyEight’s Elo Rating
Football Outsiders’ DVOA
Football Outsiders’ Weighted DVOA (more emphasis on recent games)
The metrics agree with Vegas: The Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers and Saints are the best 4 teams in football.
The Patriots fare well in the season-long metrics but interestingly drop to 6th in Weighted DVOA. The Titans, New England’s 1st-round opponent, jump up to 5th in Weighted DVOA.
Once you decide who will advance in each round and ultimately meet in the Super Bowl, it’s time to start selecting your players.
In a vacuum, you want to select the highest-scoring player from each team. But you also need to fill each of those rosters spots. This is where prioritizing the teams you expect to advance comes into play. For example, you’ll likely want to choose your K and DST from teams you’re projecting to play just 1 game.
You should also be factoring in the opportunity cost of each selection. For example, maybe you believe Drew Brees will out-score Lamar Jackson. But is picking Brees and missing the chance to use Michael Thomas or Alvin Kamara worth passing on Jackson for a guy like Mark Ingram or Mark Andrews?
Now you start to get an idea of the strategy involved here.
With all that said, let’s run through the potential selections from each team. To help with that, here’s where each defense ranked vs. each position in Adjusted Fantasy Points allowed through 16 weeks.
I’ve listed the teams below in rough order of how I’ll be prioritizing them and ranked the players on each team.
1. Lamar Jackson
He averaged 6 more FFPC points per game than any other QB in the playoffs. Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes are the 2 QBs who seemingly have a shot to out-score Jackson — but the opportunity cost of passing on other Saints and Chiefs is greater than the opportunity cost of passing on other Ravens. The best reason to NOT to Jackson is that he figures to be super popular.
2. Mark Andrews
He finished 4th among playoff TEs in FFPC points per game. The schedule could set up nicely for Andrews, who might open against the Texans’ 19th-ranked TE defense and then get the Chiefs’ 21st-ranked unit.
3. Mark Ingram
He’d be 2nd on the list if it wasn’t for that calf injury. Ingram is tentatively expected to be ready for the Divisional Round, but using him instead of Jackson feels very risky.
New Orleans Saints
1. Michael Thomas
Like Lamar Jackson at QB, Thomas is easily the top producing WR in the playoffs. He averaged 5.7 more FFPC points than any other WR still playing. Thomas opens in a smash spot at home for Minnesota and would then get a middling Packers WR defense.
2. Alvin Kamara
The best argument for going with Kamara over Thomas is that the RB pool feels thinner than WR. Kamara averaged 5.5 fewer points per game than Thomas this season, though, and opens in a tougher spot vs. the Vikings’ 10th-ranked RB defense.
3. Drew Brees
He’s a good bet to lead QBs in fantasy points if he plays 4 games. But that might not be enough to make up for not having Thomas or Kamara.
Kansas City Chiefs
1. Travis Kelce
The 1.5 PPR for TEs gives Kelce the edge over Tyreek Hill. Kelce averaged 3.4 more FFPC points per game than his teammate this season. It’s worth noting, though, that Kelce is most likely to play his first 2 games vs. the Patriots and Ravens, who rank 4th and 2nd in adjusted fantasy points allowed to TEs.
2. Tyreek Hill
Could Hill out-score Kelce over a 2- or 3-game span? Of course. And he’ll likely be lower-owned than the TE. But like Kelce, Hill will likely face a tough schedule. The Patriots finished 1st in adjusted fantasy points allowed to WRs. The Ravens rank 16th but were better after adding CB Marcus Peters.
3. Damien Williams
Here’s a spot where it might make sense to be contrarian. Williams totaled 59 carries, 391 yards and 3 TDs — plus 14 catches, 92 yards and another score — in his last 4 healthy games. We have him 3rd among RBs in our Playoff Rankings, behind only Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.
4. Patrick Mahomes
Like Brees, Mahomes comes with a big opportunity cost of passing on Kelce and Hill. Plus, he’ll likely face the Patriots and Ravens, who finished 1st and 2nd in adjusted fantasy points allowed to QBs.
San Francisco 49ers
1. George Kittle
The only good reason to NOT use Kittle is to be contrarian. His 18.9 FFPC points per game trailed only Travis Kelce among TEs and would have ranked 3rd among WRs. And remember that with the 2 flex spots, you could use both Kelce and Kittle in your lineup.
2. Raheem Mostert
If you’re going off the board and passing on Kittle, use Mostert. He averaged 90 total yards and 1.4 TDs over the last 5 games of the regular season.
New England Patriots
1. Julian Edelman
Clearly bothered by his knee injury, Edelman totaled just 18 targets, 10 catches and 107 scoreless yards over his last 3 games. So he’s not a slam-dunk play. But this guy has been money in the playoffs, averaging 8.2 catches and 103 yards over his last 13 games. Plus, Edelman opens against the Titans’ 21st-ranked WR defense and would then get a Chiefs secondary that struggled against slot receivers this year.
2. Patriots DST
If you think New England wins 2+ games, you probably don’t want to use the DST. Otherwise, it might be worth using that spot on the unit that led the league in FFPC points.
3. Sony Michel
We saw the Patriots lean on Michel down the stretch. He carried 19, 21 and 18 times over the last 3 games, totaling 259 rushing yards and a score. Michel was a monster last postseason, racking up 336 yards and 6 TDs in 3 outings. He opens vs. the Titans’ 21st-ranked RB defense and would then get the Chiefs’ 22nd-ranked unit.
4. James White
White’s usage went south late in the season. He averaged just 3.5 carries and 4.8 targets over the last 4 games, as Rex Burkhead got more involved. What makes White worth considering, though, is that the Titans and Chiefs ranked 30th and 29th in catches allowed to RBs this year.
1. D.K. Metcalf
He’s the play over teammate Tyler Lockett because the Eagles rank bottom 2 in fantasy points allowed to both outside WR spots but #1 vs. slot receivers. Metcalf ran 88% of his routes from the outside this season.
2. Jason Myers
If you expect the Eagles to knock off the Seahawks, consider using Myers. Philadelphia ranks 26th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to Ks.
1. Eagles DST
The Seahawks rank 19th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to DSTs — worst among the 12 playoff teams. The Eagles DST is your best play if you expect Seattle to win the Wild Card game.
2. Jake Elliott
He’s an option if you’re projecting the Seahawks to beat the Eagles.
3. Miles Sanders
He was surprisingly a full-go in practice on Friday and not listed on the final injury report for the Wild Card game vs. the Seahawks. There's still plenty of risk here after Sanders' Week 17 ankle sprain -- but he could pay off big if he's close to 100% and the Eagles knock off the 'Hawks.
4. Dallas Goedert
Former NFL head team Dr. David Chao is skeptical that TE Zach Ertz will play against Seattle with his lacerated kidney. If that’s the case, Goedert will be in for big volume vs. the league’s 26th-ranked TE defense. Update: There's now "optimism" that Ertz plays vs. Seattle, so Philly's TEs are better off avoided altogether.
1. DeAndre Hopkins
He finished 3rd among playoff WRs in FFPC points per game this season. The concern for Hopkins is a 1st-round date with Bills stud CB Tre’Davious White. And if Houston wins that one, Hopkins would likely get a loaded Ravens secondary.
2. Ka’imi Fairbairn
Fairbairn is worth considering if you think the Texans fall to the Bills. Note, though, that Buffalo ranks 1st in adjusted fantasy points allowed to Ks.
3. Carlos Hyde
He’s on the radar mostly because the RB pool is relatively weak. Hyde also opens with a Bills defense that’s tougher vs. the pass than the run. Buffalo ranks 18th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA and 17th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to RBs.
1. Devin Singletary
He’s 1 of the few 3-down backs in the playoffs. Singletary averaged 17.2 carries and 3.2 targets over his last 6 games. The rookie opens against the Texans’ 23rd-ranked RB defense. A win there would likely pit Singletary against the Ravens, who Football Outsiders rates just 19th in run defense.
2. John Brown
He has big upside in the Wild Card Round against a bad Texans secondary that finished 25th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to WRs. Round 2 would bring a tougher matchup against a Ravens defense that held Brown to 26 scoreless yards in their Week 14 meeting.
3. Stephen Hauschka
Houston ranks 11th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to Ks.
Green Bay Packers
1. Aaron Jones
He gets the edge over Davante Adams because the WR pool is deeper than RB, giving Jones more relative value. He’d likely open in a tough matchup, though, against the Saints’ 5th-ranked RB defense. If we get word that RB Jamaal Williams (shoulder) is expected back for the Divisional Round, knock Jones below Adams.
2. Davante Adams
His 17.7 FFPC points per game rank 2nd among playoff WRs. Adams will likely get the Saints’ 18th-ranked WR defense in the Divisional Round, but his individual matchup would be tough against CB Marshon Lattimore.
3. Mason Crosby
He’s in consideration if you think the Packers will be one-and-done.
1. Derrick Henry
If you’re using a Titan, it should be Henry. He finished the season on fire, averaging 149 rushing yards and 1.7 TDs over his final 6 games. Of course, he draws a Patriots defense that ranks 3rd in adjusted fantasy points allowed to RBs.
1. Stefon Diggs
His receiving lines in 3 career games vs. the Saints: 7-93-2, 10-119-1 and 6-137-1.
2. Dalvin Cook
He’s a risky play after exiting 2 of his last 3 games with shoulder injuries. Of course, Cook also led all playoff RBs with 21.2 FFPC points per game.