With only one week left in the NFL regular season, nearly every fantasy owner is now watching the playoff action from the sidelines. Whether that entails calmly cursing yourself for the trade that didn’t go through, vehemently verbalizing disgust with the one stupid scoring rule that “ruined” your season, or simply silently accepting defeat, there isn’t one among the legions of owners who have lost who wouldn’t want another chance at the title. Welcome to the NFL playoffs.
The postseason is a brilliant opportunity for redemption. A chance to wipe the slate clean and chalk up some new plans for glory after a regular season that went sour. Fantasy Football’s second season is usually a true scoring affair. Gone are the afternoons of head-to-head competition. Replacing that emotional grind is a contest to accumulate the most points, throughout the entire playoffs. A bonus is that most of the players who helped you bomb in the regular season with wasted opportunities and injuries at inconvenient moments have not made it into the postseason. Gone are duds like Nate Burleson, Jamal Lewis, Andre Johnson and Kevin Jones.
In postseason fantasy football, you construct a starting lineup of players just like a regular season matchup, but this time you will start them for as long as their pro teams keep winning. There is no bench, and no substitutions. If your player gets injured, tough luck. Once your player’s team is eliminated from the playoffs, you don’t get points from him anymore. Until then, the total a particular player gains for you is cumulative. If you take Tom Brady as your quarterback and the Patriots run the table, humbling the Colts yet again in the postseason, then you’ll have some fat stats on your hands.
Every owner can choose any player they like to fill these positions, but you can only select one player from each team. That means you can’t have both Chad Johnson and Rudi Johnson on your team, even if you think the Bengals are going all the way. You’ll have to satisfy yourself with one of them. Since theoretically everyone can choose Shaun Alexander, the prize usually goes to the person who correctly hits on a few underrated players, those guys who materialize in the playoffs and whose teams go a long way. Picking the right underrated players is tough though, and it’s hard to ignore superstars.
Here is a sample lineup to show you what a postseason fantasy roster might look like, taking into account known or likely playoff participants:
QB Peyton Manning
RB Shaun Alexander
RB Corey Dillon
WR Chad Johnson
WR Steve Smith
WR Joey Galloway
TE Jeremy Shockey
K Jason Elam
Flex Thomas Jones
Strong Plays this postseason
Tom Brady – Brady has his team peaking at the right time. He has the moxie and skill to take the Patriots farther than most were expecting just a few weeks ago.
Corey Dillon – Dillon is healthy and scoring touchdowns in every game again.
Peyton Manning – What’s not to like, especially in the home dome fast track all the way, and another dome in Detroit?
Edgerrin James – A resurgent year for James, who has been an underrated fantasy performer all year, as hard as that might be to believe.
Marvin Harrison – Harrison took back sole possession of “stud receiver” status on his own team this year from Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley. After resting for a few weeks, he’ll be ready to roll.
Carson Palmer – The only quarterback to top 30 touchdowns so far this year, which has him as the only one to throw for more than Manning, too.
Rudi Johnson – Johnson has been playing well late in the season. Can it translate to postseason success?
Chad Johnson – At season’s end, Johnson is third in receiving yards and one score short of 10 touchdowns.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh – With nearly 1,000 yards and sporting seven scores of his own, Houshmandzadeh is playing well.
Rod Smith – Always a competitor in big games, you know Smith will get looks in the passing scheme.
Should the Steelers gain access to the playoffs, which seems likely, Hines Ward would be a good play from that team. If it is Kansas City that sneaks in, Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzalez are great choices, even if they play only one game.
Eli Manning – Erratic as he has been this year, Manning still has 23 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards passing.
Tiki Barber – Two 200-yard games this year has been very impressive.
Jeremy Shockey – Shockey posted the statistics this year that owners felt he should have been gaining the last two seasons.
Thomas Jones – Even with Grossman in the pocket, the Bears’ offense goes with Jones right now.
Shaun Alexander – Mr. MVP
Matt Hasselbeck – Impressive is the raw number separating his touchdowns from interceptions – 15, on the positive side of the ledger.
A few teams are vying for playoff spots in the NFC. If Carolina wins and gets in, Steve Smith makes a fantastic play. If Tampa Bay wins, they offer both Carnell Williams and Joey Galloway as potent plays. Dallas could offer up Julius Jones, who is obviously now healthy, and Washington presents strength from Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley.
As I mentioned before, some sleeper players will rise to the occasion. Pick the right one and you will be better off. Players like Deion Branch, Tatum Bell, Mushin Muhammad and Joe Jurevicius come to mind.
Overall, you will want to choose players who will play in more games. To determine this, look at all of the teams and matchups once the playoff field is set this coming weekend. Decide for yourself who will win each game, all the way through your Super Bowl winner. Then take a look back and find teams that you decided will play at least two or more games. Concentrate on picking players from those teams first. More games equates to more opportunities for great statistics.
If you would feel fitter letting someone else predict the playoff outcomes, then go with their teams, and simply make choices about the players themselves. Either way, you can’t lose. You get renewed excitement just when you were sure you were hitting the doldrums of the fantasy football season, and a new chance to topple the regular-season champ, by making a chump of him or her on your way to the top.
Hire Joe Levit for corporate or client appreciation events at fantasyfootballspeaker.com. His fantasy football columns appear on SI.com and thehuddle.com. Joe, a PFWA and FSWA member, writes about the NFL for patriotsinsider.com and is a fantasy football analyst on radio. He is the creator of the Sleeper League and FF Hold ‘em League concepts.