AFC Fantasy Playoff Breakdown 2019
Playoff fantasy football is an entirely different beast than regular-season fantasy football. In a normal season, every team plays the same number of games and, barring injuries and suspensions, you don't run the risk of not having players on the field. In playoffs, that's the bulk of the strategy. I'm going to refer to the projection of games played by a player as their longevity. This will be a crucial metric. Find players on offenses that score points and make it to the Super Bowl. Simple enough, right?
Which Seeds Have Historically Done Well
Winning the Super Bowl isn't nearly as important as getting there for our fantasy players. We just want guys who will be scoring until the final snap of the post-season. So which seeds typically get there (over the past 18 years)?
1 Seed - 20 appearances
2 Seed - 8
3 Seed - 2
4 Seed - 3
5 Seed - 1
6 Seed - 2
The No. 1 seed has had an unreal chance at making the SB when compared to every other team. Over half the team's in the SB have been 1 seeds. Stack these offenses (Baltimore and San Francisco) with reckless abandon.
No. 2 seeds haven't had it as easy. They're still the second-most likely to make the SB but they do so less than a quarter of the time. They're likely still going to be undervalued (Green Bay and Kansas City) but I'd be less willing to go all-in on these offenses because they miss the first round of the playoffs and haven't given you a massive chance at a full set of games beyond Wild Card Round.
The next two seeds don't have a great chance at making the SB but they do give you a chance to maximize the number of games played you get from your players. In large-field tournaments, stacking one of these teams could give you a big edge. In 12-team leagues, getting more than a couple of players to bridge you through the first round is as much as I'd take from here.
Finally, the 5 and 6 seeds have accounted for less than 10% of the SB teams. If the previous two seeds were already thin, these two are imperceptible to the human eye. Get your kickers from these teams if you have to.
Let's look at each AFC team a little closer.
Be sure to check out the NFC breakdown as well.
No. 1 Baltimore Ravens (-110 Odds to make the SB)
This is the premier team for the fantasy playoffs but you already knew that. The big question will be how high to take Lamar Jackson. He owns the greatest fantasy season for a passer in NFL history and didn't even play in Week 17. Taking quarterbacks in the first round is the most taboo act you can commit in a draft but it's fantasy playoffs and the Ravens are favorites to go all the way. Plus, Jackson has broken the QB position. After Michael Thomas, it's hard to argue anyone else above Jackson.
Jackson's weapons are intriguing as well. Because of Mark Andrews' longevity, he's almost certainly the No. 3 tight end after Travis Kelce and George Kittle, who will both be taken well before him.
Mark Ingram has said he'll be on the field for the Ravens' first playoff game. As long as he is, Ingram is another player who has been great this year and gets a massive longevity edge. He barely crested 1,000 rushing yards but Ingram found paydirt 15 times. If touchdown variance swings his way, Ingram could crush the playoffs. If it doesn't, the yardage floor he brings isn't bad either.
Marquise Brown averaged 43.8 yards per game through 13 games but managed seven scores. He's a boom/bust player who may end up with more hype than he's worth if he can't find the end zone multiple times.
No other Raven has over 21.1 receiving yards per game and that's unlikely to change in the playoffs.
No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs (+200)
Removing the game he missed most of with a knee injury, Patrick Mahomes averaged 21.5 fantasy points per game, second in the NFL. That's 5.8 points per game more than Jimmy Garoppolo. Lamar Jackson went for 6.2 per game more than Mahomes. The point is: if you're not getting Jackson, just wait for whoever falls to you and has a chance of making a run to the SB.
Tyreek Hill hasn't gone over 100 yards in seven games and the Chiefs' most likely opponent is New England. Even if they get past Pats, it could be in an ugly game, like their 23-16 win earlier in the year.
Travis Kelce will likely be the first tight end taken in fantasy playoff drafts and for good reason. He leads all tight ends in receiving yards (1,229), receptions (97), and PPR points per game (15.9). He's done all of this while only scoring six times.
As far as ancillary pass-catchers go, there's really no one worth noting. No Chiefs receiver (not named Hill or Kelce) has topped four catches in a game over the past six weeks.
That brings us to the backfield. When Damien Williams is healthy, he's been the guy. He was given 12 carries and caught four passes on Sunday. Willams posted 154 yards and two scores. Recency bias may push his cost up higher than he's worth but he's gone over 90 yards in four of his past five games.
No. 3 New England Patriots (+650)
The Patriots have been a disaster in the second half of the season. They're 4-4 over that stretch and have scored more than 24 points once...and that was against the Bengals. In their four wins, the Pats have averaged 22 points. Even if they make a run, it will likely be on the back of a stellar defense, not via scoring points.
Week 17 was a perfect microcosm for the devolution of the Patriots offense. No player caught more than three passes or went for more than 50 yards. Sony Michel got 18 carries, scored, and still didn't top 15 fantasy points. Tom Brady averaged 7.6 yards per attempt against a horrid Miami passing defense.
Whether it's a result of the offense as a whole, injuries, or something else, Julian Edelman has also sputtered down the stretch. Edelman has 10 catches for 107 yards over his past three games. The Patriots dynasty is on its last legs. Remember it for what it was, not the monster it's become.
No. 4 Houston Texans (+1900)
If we're not high on the Bills' odds of making it to the Division Round, we have to like the Texans' odds. They're an incomplete team with the offense doing most of the legwork in the relationship. They have allowed 30 or more points six times this year. Because of this, it's unlikely that they get past the divisional round. However, two games of the Texans offense is something we can work with.
Will Fuller is unlikely to play in the first or second round of the playoffs and that means fire up Deandre Hopkins.
- With Fuller this year: 6.5-73.5-.5
- Without Fuller: 8.3-89.3-.5
That's an extra 4.1 PPR point per game.
Kenny Stills operates as the second receiver when Fuller is out but hasn't done much. He has one 100-yard game and four scores. Stills would be nothing more than a flyer.
Darren Fells opened the year as the go-to tight end in Houston but Jordan Akins has seen his role increase recently. Neither gets the ball enough to be a reliable fantasy player.
The Texans open the playoffs versus the Bills, at home, as favorites. That's the perfect scenario for Carlos Hyde and the Bills have been susceptible to running backs but defended the pass very well. Hyde is a very solid sleeper for the playoffs.
Because the Texans' longevity seems pretty small based on their Vegas odds, I'd limit your Houston exposure to one player.
No. 5 Buffalo Bills (+2800)
The Bills have played against a team that currently holds a winning record five times this year. They are 1-4 in those games and their only win came against the Titans while they still had Marcus Mariots under center. Josh Allen's play has been too erratic for the Bills to consistently win versus quality opponents. They'll have to reverse that trend every week if they want to keep playing.
Allen's rushing ability gives him some serious upside on a weekly basis but I want to get players from teams that I could see rattling off multiple wins before getting knocked out. Vegas is saying that no team is less likely to do that than Buffalo.
No. 6 Tennessee Titans (+2500)
As far as the AFC Wild Card participants go, the Titans are the true diamond in the rough. They are 7-3 since making the switch to Ryan Tannehill. With Tannehill under center, they've averaged 30.4 points per game. That would be second to only the Ravens over the entire season.
The best part about the Titans is that they have three players worth rostering:
- Derrick Henry - stole the rushing crown with 211 yards on Sunday
- A.J. Brown - went over 1,000 yards with his fifth 100-yard game and ninth touchdown
- Ryan Tannehill - led the NFL in yards per attempt (9.6) and Passer Rating (117.5)
The Titans have been trending in the right direction ever since benching Mariota and get a dying New England team. They're a sneaky stack in the playoffs.
The AFC is enormously top-heavy with Baltimore 50/50 to make the SB and Kansas City at +200. In leagues where you can only take one player per team, lock in your quarterback and top running back or tight end in these teams. Then pivot to the NFC as every team has better odds to make the SB than the bottom-three in the AFC.
Avoid stacking too much of 1 and 6 seeds or 2 and 3 seeds within the same division. Those seeds are guaranteed to play each other should the 3 or 6 advance, no matter who else wins.
Look to get players on teams that could play a lot of games at discounts (mostly NFC teams like the Seahawks and Saints) as that's one of the biggest keys to upside.