NFC 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 NFC team a little closer.
Be sure to check out the AFC breakdown as well.
No. 1 San Francisco 49ers (+175)
The 49ers are a difficult team to gauge because, outside of George Kittle, they spread the ball around a lot. They operate a three-back committee with Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Breida. I don't see it being a profitable venture to decide which back you want to roster. Their receiving options are more condensed but Emmanuel Sanders Deebo Samuel both cut into each other's workload.
Samuel topped 950 yards from scrimmage in his final game and now has size scores on the year. He leads the 49ers in targets, receptions, and receiving yards since Sanders joined the team. Both are good plays but I lean Deebo.
The best way to attack this team is with a passing stack. As the 1 seed, San Francisco gets a big longevity edge and Garoppolo is going to be undervalued with a wealth of QB talent in the playoffs. I'd look to stack Jimmy G with Deebo and Sanders or Kittle (at the right price).
No. 2 Green Bay Packers (+350)
It's business as usual with Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers has gone over-drafted in season-long leagues for years and he'll likely get overdraft in the playoffs. His 17.4 points per game are outside the top-five passers in the playoffs.
Aaron Jones and Davante Adams are killers. Since returning from a toe injury in Week 9, Adams has averaged a 7.3-77.4-.6 line. He's the only receiver on Green Bay Rodgers seems to trust and he's a touchdown machine.
Jones is also a touchdown machine. His 19 scores lead all non-quarterbacks this year. Jamaal Williams should be healthy for the Packers' first game but Jones scoring has nullified that threat. Williams is a solid pivot off Jones in larger fields. He's been given 8.4 carries and 3.5 targets per game in the contests he's finished this year. If he gets a few long runs or goal-line looks, the leverage over Jones would be massive.
Allen Lazard has seven games over 40 yards since Week 6. He appears to be in Rodgers' inner circle and has touchdown upside as the No. 2 wideout on a high-scoring offense.
The Packers have the lowest SB odds of any top-two seed. An interesting case can be made to fade them in favor of their projected opponents, the Saints.
No. 3 New Orleans Saints (+250)
If Vegas is right and the Saints do have second-best odds to make the Super Bowl out of the NFC, they're a goldmine of fantasy value. That would mean they have the highest projection of games played in the playoffs.
Michael Thomas set the NFL record for receptions in a season with one game left. He should be the most-coveted fantasy player in the postseason.
Alvin Kamara has scored four touchdowns in two weeks after putting up six just twice through 15 weeks. He looks healthy and should be the most-coveted playoff running back.
Jared Cook has also been a beast since returning from an injury earlier this season. Since Week 10, Cook has averaged a 3.5-66.8-.9 line. He's the most undervalued tight end heading into the playoffs.
Outside of them, Latavius Murray and are touchdown-dependent flyers for deeper leagues.
No. 4 Philadelphia Eagles (+1200)
The Eagles face Seattle for their first (and probably only) playoff game. Earlier this year, Seattle traveled cross country and held Philly to nine points. Although I expect more scoring this time around, it's hard to see Philly getting a different outcome, especially while Zach Ertz deals with cracked ribs and kidney damage.
Miles Sanders was injured in Week 17 and did not return. Ertz is optimistic that he can play through a brutal set of injuries. Vegas has this team as the least likely to make it the Super Bowl out of the NFC. I'm siding with them on this one and leaving the Eagles for my competition.
No. 5 Seattle Seahawks (+1000)
When Seattle plays real opponents who can score points, it forces them to unleash Russel Wilson. That version of Wilson may be the scariest fantasy player not named Lamar Jackson.
On Sunday night, Wilson threw for 233 yards, two scores, and added an additional 29 yards on the ground. He was six inches from another score. Seattle's most-likely playoff bracket would be Philly, San Francisco, and Green Bay. They've beaten the former two teams this year and have yet to face Green Bay. If a lower seed were to make a run, this would be it.
D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jacob Hollister are the three easy stacking options with Wilson. The receivers each have very high weekly upside and Hollister has consistently been targeted since entering the starting lineup.
The only difficult decision in Seattle is Marshawn Lynch or Travis Homer. Lynch out-carried Homer 10-12 and that split will probably grow wider the more Lynch gets back into the offense. The key difference is Homer's receiving work. He caught five balls on Sunday while Lynch caught zero. As long as Seattle plays a few close games, Homer should be on your radar.
No. 6 Minnesota Vikings (+1600)
Much like the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota has struggled against good teams this year. They are 1-4 against teams with winning records and their lone victory came against the Eagles.
Unlike the Bills, Minnesota has some serious offensive firepower that's worth looking into, even if they're unlikely to make a playoff run.
Dalvin Cook will have three weeks of rest behind him entering the playoffs and should be fully healthy. Cook's 20.9 PPR points per game were second for a running back. If the Vikings can pull off the upset, Cook will be a steal.
Adam Thielen has two games played in the past month and has three catches for 27 yards on seven targets. The Week 17 rest might be what he needs to get right. He may have the widest range of outcomes for playoff receivers.
Stefon Diggs ended the year strong with 225 yards in his final three games. Much like Thielen, Diggs has a wide range of outcomes but would instantly payoff if he makes it to the divisional round.
With under 40 catches and 400 yards on the season, the only reason Kyle Rudolph's name is remembered anymore are his six scores.
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.