Navigating the NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football Style 2018

By Kyle Dvorchak
Kyle Dvorchak The NFL playoffs have arrived and that means a chance to redeem all of our terrible season-long teams with some playoffs fantasy football. Here I’ll look at the chances of each team to make the Super Bowl and whether or not you should be investing in the players on those teams.

The Stay-Aways

Seattle Seahawks (+1400 to make the Super Bowl)

The Seahawks have the tied-lowest odds of any team to make the Super Bowl. They also lack any difference makers for fantasy teams. Russell Wilson, who finished as the 9th quarterback, is their closest player to that.

With how stacked the offenses are this year, the defense position will be a minefield. Seattle gets the friendliest offense to opposing defenses in Dallas.

Outside of a sneaky defense matchup, this team is likely best left untouched.

Dallas Cowboys (+1400)

The Cowboys are in a similar situation to the Seahawks with one major exception: Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke finished the season as the RB5, leading the league in rushing yards and attempts. The only problem is that two of the running backs who outscored him will suit up in the second round of playoffs with better odds to make the big game.

In drafts, Round 1, Zeke is the best bet out of the players active this Sunday.

Amari Cooper has been held under 40 receiving yards in three straight weeks. With a wealth of receiver talent in the playoffs, Cooper might not be worth the cost to get him.

Philadelphia Eagles (+1000)

Another team with one playmaker, the Eagles are mostly in the playoffs for the Nick Foles narrative and to give fans one last chance to watch Zach Ertz. Unfortunately, they get the Bears this week: The Bears haven’t allowed a tight end into the end zone since Week 8 and have yet to allow a 100-yard game a the position.

Ertz has a bad matchup and the Eagles are 7-point underdogs in the first—and likely only—games of the playoffs.Let someone else pay up for Ertz.

Indianapolis Colts & Houston Texans (+1000)

These two teams have faced each other twice this season. The totals of those games were 71 and 45. The total of their game currently sits at 47.5, 4.5 points higher than the next closest game in Round 1. If a player is going to get bounced from the playoffs in the first week, you’ll want him to at least play in this game.

That means Deandre Hopkins and T.Y. Hilton—both have a game over 35 PPR points this season—are firmly in play.

Houston also leads the league in field goal attempts which makes Ka'imi Fairbairn the best kicker outside of the elite offense’s kickers.

The quarterbacks are more risky options, as getting stuck with a zero at the position after Round 1 is a near-death sentence, but there are worse options.

Marlon Mack and Lamar Miller are at risk of getting lost in a pass-heavy game but both are dominating their team’s backfields. Both saw at least 85% of their team’s carries in Week 17 and are viable choices for the RB2 slot.

Eric Ebron is the best tight end option in Round 1. The Texans allow the second most points to tight ends and he has a better chance to advance to the next week than Ertz.

Cinderella Hopefuls

Los Angeles Chargers (+700)

At +700, the Chargers would be much more interesting if they didn’t face the Ravens this week. In Week 16, the two teams played and the Ravens defense suffocated the Chargers. No one outside of Melvin Gordon, who scored their lone touchdown, had anything resembling a good game.

The Ravens give up the second-fewest points per game (17.9) and should the Colts win, the Chargers would face the Patriots in Round 2. The Pats give the seventh-fewest points (20.3).

Keenan Allen, Philip Rivers, and Gordon are unquestioned studs at their respective positions but the deck seems stacked against them to make waves in fantasy playoffs.

The Ravens have been most-susceptible to tight ends which makes Hunter Henry (who is expected to return from his ACL injury Sunday) a high-risk, upside play.

Baltimore Ravens (+600)

Lamar Jackson is the rushing option to own in Baltimore. Since his start in Week 11, he has four rushing scores. Kenneth Dixon and Gud Edwards have three combined touchdowns on the ground.

Against the Browns, Jackson showed off his rushing upside, going for 95 yards and two scores. If he doesn’t get it going on the ground he will be a bust for the week but if he does, Jackson has the upside of an elite back.

Dixon and Edwards both carried the ball 12 times in Week 17. In his past two games, Dixon has more targets than Edwards has on the entire season. The risk of a committee makes Edwards a bad bet and Dixon is only viable because he’s likely the cheaper option.

Since Jackson’s first start, the Ravens are last in the league in pass attempts. John Brown leads the Ravens in targets (30) but is sixth on the team in receptions. If Brown can finally connect on a deep ball he’ll pay off his cost but there’s no guarantee that happens especially if the Ravens fall to the Chargers.

Mark Andrew leads the Ravens in receiving yards making him the final tight end option in Round 1.

Chicago Bears (+550)

The Bears have the best odds to make the Super Bowl in Round 1 and that makes this team full of value. They are the best bet to play four games in the playoffs and have shown the capacity to take down the NFL’s best with a win against the Rams.

Mitchell Trubisky has three games over 30 points and the highest scoring fantasy game of the season to his name. With an extra game to work with, he has the highest ceiling of any playoff passer.

The Bears expect to have the entirety of the receiving unit available which makes Trubisky and any one of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, or Anthony Miller a worthwhile stack.

With how loaded the playoffs are with offensive talent, it’s possible that the Bears are in shootouts as early as Round 2, where they’ll travel to LA to play the Rams should they beat the Eagles. This game-script makes Tarik Cohen the preferred Bears back over Jordan Howard.

The Bears defense is the easy chalk as they have been the best defense from start to finish and have beaten even the best offenses.

The Obvious Plays

Los Angeles Rams (+250)

The Rams are likely to be facing the Bears and their defense that is allowing the fewest points in the league (17.7). This defense also held them a season-low six points when they met previously. Even if the Rams pull off a win in the rematch, it may come with another low total.

That eliminates two weeks for Rams fantasy player but they are projected to face the Saints in the NFC Championship then the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Both of these games are rematches of some of the best outing 2018 had to offer.

However, Todd Gurley carried the ball 12 and 13 times in these games and scored just once, despite the Rams going for 89 points between both matches. Gurley is undoubtedly the best fantasy back in the NFL, but the playoffs make him an interesting option to fade.

If you can stomach the likely Bears matchup, all Rams passing game weapons are a go afterward. Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks topped 70 and 100 yards respectively in the previous iteration of their projected playoff games.

Jared Goff threw for seven touchdowns through both games.

The lowest odds of all bye-week teams, the Rams are an sneaky choice to fade entirely, but if you want a piece of this team, get in through the air.

With playmakers like Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh wreaking havoc on opposing lines, the Rams defense is viable even against elite offenses. They scored twice in their previous game against the Chiefs.

New England Patriots (+225)

The Brady-led Pats are 27-10 in the playoffs and have lost directly after Round 1 bye just once in his career. They’ve gone 0-1 in the playoffs twice in 15 tries.

Like the Rams, the Pats first game is projected to be against a stout defense in the Ravens. However, the Pats have a history of playoff success.

They have also beaten the Chiefs who is their most likely opponent in the AFC Championship. The Pats may have the highest floor of games played out of any team.

Despite scoring, Rex Burkhead touched the ball just six times last week. If this volume holds, the backfield tandem of James White and Sony Michel are both high-floor plays.

All of the Patriots receiving options are viable plays as well.

Kansas City Chiefs (+150)

I don’t need to tell you to play the Chiefs. They have the best fantasy quarterback in Patrick Mahomes plus the best tight end in Travis Kelce. Both are worth taking at the top of their position for the playoffs. Tyreek Hill is also the second-highest scoring receiver left in the playoffs.

Given the bye-week, Spencer Ware and Sammy Watkins should return to their previous roles in this offense come round two.

The only thing holding the Chiefs backs from being the best offense to stack is the potential for a rematch with the Ravens. If the Texans and Ravens win, the Chiefs will host the Ravens, who held them to 27. This is the second-fewest points the Chiefs have scored in the 2018 season. The Saints cannot play the Bears in Round 2.

New Orleans Saints (+110)

The Saints have scored fewer points than the Rams or Chiefs but the likelihood that they make the Super Bowl is worth the slight scoring discrepancy. Should they make it, they will get to play in Atlanta, where they play twice per year.

Another team that is loaded with obvious plays (Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara), the only additional advice here is not to overlook their secondary weapons as well.

Ted Ginn Jr. was active against Pittsburgh two weeks ago and hit 70 yards. He was rested in Week 17.

Mark Ingram averaged 12.1 carries and 2.7 targets in games with Kamara this season. That’s just one carry and 2.2 targets fewer than Kamara. Favoring Thomas and Ingram over Kamara may end up the best way to leverage the potency of this offense.