I am going to take a quick aside from college basketball to tell you about the easiest fantasy league I ever won, and how you could have too. Most people are familiar with your standard formats of fantasy football, baseball, or basketball. Those who follow hockey or soccer also have regular fantasy leagues. However, one in particular, is less popular but provided perhaps the easiest opportunity to win I have ever participated in. Enter, NFL Playoff Challenge.
The brief synopsis is you play for four weeks, following the NFL playoffs. Each week you choose a lineup consisting of a QB, 2 WR’s, 2RB’s, a TE, K, and DEF. There are no salary caps, no draft, you can choose a new lineup each week. Scoring follows standard fantasy football formats (non PPR) with one exception. The multiplier. Each week you start the same player at the same position, you gain a multiplier to that persons score. For example if you were to start Aaron Rodgers in the wildcard round, when they won he would have scored 2X points in the divisional round, and 3X points in the NFC Championship, and had they made it all the way, 4X points in the Superbowl. One thing to note, is you can select players not playing in the wildcard round, and they will automatically advance to a 2X multiplier in the next round (although will not net any points in the wildcard round). If a team is eliminated, you can choose a new player next week, however the multiplier will be reset.
NFL Fantasy Playoff Challenge Strategy
Lets look at some simple strategy. Assuming we know nothing about the teams being played. If we look at the odds of a team playing in the wildcard round to reach the Superbowl, assigning a 50% chance to win each game, they have to win 3 games to advance which gives them a 12.5% probability. Note we don’t care whether they win the last game, just get to it, as there are no games beyond that so advancing is no longer a concern, other than the winning team will likely yield more points. A team with an opening round bye, only needs to win 2 games to reach the Superbowl, giving them twice the odds of a team playing in the wildcard round. So we now know that choosing a team that gets a bye, will give us twice the chance of reaching the 4X multiplier we want. The goal is to maximize our points, so what would you rather have?
1X + 2X + 3X + 4X = Max points possible (10X) if reaches Superbowl but half the odds of doing so.
First round bye player:
2X + 3X + 4X = 90% of Max points possible, but twice the odds of wildcard player.
Under these assumptions, it seems obvious it is in our best interest to pick players given the first round bye. Yet few people will do so, with names like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell available in the wildcard round, its hard to pass up, even though they are not as likely as advancing to the fantasy league finals where the coveted 4X multiplier comes into play.
Thus far we have assumed all teams are created equal, which we know is not the case. This year in particular all the favorites won the wildcard games, if we assume that was the case going in, we could justify taking the big names players on those teams. The problem though, is picking which of the teams that advanced to the divisional rounds would make it to the Superbowl. On the NFC side, we had Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, and Green Bay. Any one of which had a legitimate shot at winning. How do we know which one we want to pick players from? Do we guess, pick a sampling from various teams and hope for a more balanced approach?
No, absolutely not! While the NFC was a crap-shoot, the AFC this year was a different story. Enter the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders. One team with no business being in the playoffs with a QB throwing more picks than he did touchdowns. The other team an offensive powerhouse who lost their starting and backup QB’s. Who does the winner get to play? None other than Tom Brady and the Patriots in the divisional round. Chalk this up to a free win for New England, boosting their odds of reaching the Superbowl to at least 50%, assuming they are the favorites to win the AFC championship since they will host it at home. See where I am going with this? While the NFC is going to be a toss-up, I can fill my NFL Playoff Challenge team with Patriots, who have a better than 50% chance of advancing to the final game, and thus receiving the 4X multiplier.
There lies the secret of my fantasy playoff strategy this year. Load up on Patriots. Had New England lost to Pittsburgh, I would have no chance of winning. However I weighed that risk, vs the riskier scenario of having to pick which NFC team would advance and the choice became simple. I filled 6 out of the 8 positions with Patriots. I could have chosen all 8, however it is hard to predict if a #2 WR or RB are worth it even with the multiplier given the lack of opportunities as their #1 counterparts. Lucking out with Julio Jones as my other WR was an added bonus (originally had Jordy Nelson, but after he got hurt, I switched to Julio). My other RB slot was reserved for E. Elliot, who didn’t advance, but having a player from the 1 and 2 seeded teams in the NFC gave me a good shot of getting one in the Superbowl for the 4x bonus. While I was trailing the first 3 weeks of the playoffs, I can assure you my fantasy league opponents were horrified to see 6 out of 8 players with a 4X point multiplier next to their name, as well as Julio with a 3X. Although they did talk some smack after a dud of a first half by New England, Tom Brady answered and turned it around. Check cashed, easiest fantasy league I ever won!