Happy New Year!
We are excited so many of our members are emailing and tweeting their championship testimonials and stories to @FFChamps. There were a few leagues playing their championships in Week 17 and it once again proved that if you're in one of these leagues, you should urge your peers and commissioners to change the schedule to a Week 16 championship format as fantasy football studs and first round picks such as Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson were healthy scratches in the season finale. My son was one of those who escaped with a league championship despite having Peterson in his lineup while Giovanni Bernard sat on his bench. Most were not so lucky. Fantasy football GMs invest a lot of time in their teams from August to December and it doesn't make sense to earn a berth in the finals on the back of a player like Charles, only to lose because he rests in the final week of the season.
Playoff fantasy football has become more and more popular, so we will end the Thoughts from the FFChamps column for this season with some hard-hitting, brief thoughts and strategies. Playoff fantasy begins with a draft just as traditional fantasy leagues do, but as teams lose their NFL playoff games, the players on that team are out of the playoff fantasy football competition.
FFChamps preaches to draft, pick up, and trade for players from the next great offense and once the season is underway, the offenses that are humming. In playoff fantasy football, it is most critical that you draft players from the teams that will play multiple games, and ideally make the Super Bowl. It is still important to focus on the player as well, but the team becomes just as important in this format. In 2008-09, I rode Kurt Warner to the Super Bowl with the Cardinals, and in the process ran away with the playoff fantasy title. It's important to remember that the best teams like the Broncos and the Seahawks need only play three games to win the Super Bowl, while a team like Green Bay, that is suddenly healthy, would play an extra game as they don't have a bye week. It's still smarter to go with the three game team than risk taking a team that has a good chance to be one and done.
If you have the first pick in your playoff draft this season you'll make it faster than you can say Peyton. Manning is on the NFL's best offense, a team with home field advantage, and is coming off shattering the NFL record for TDs thrown. He finished the fantasy football season a Secretariat-like 30 lengths ahead of the rest of the NFL field in fantasy points. Most of us reading this are Patriots fans and would trade a playoff fantasy football disaster in the form of a Broncos upset loss for home field advantage and a Patriots Super Bowl berth but Manning is the first pick in every fantasy football playoff draft being held in the world.
Now that the obvious is out of the way, the better question is, "Who is the right second pick in round 1?" Since the Broncos are such a strong favorite, it makes sense to look at the NFC. Clearly, Seattle is the best team in the conference and also rarely loses at home. Russell Wilson is a safe pick as is Marshawn Lynch, although unlike your traditional season-long league, QBs tend to be the most important player in playoff fantasy football. I actually believe that Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are really good picks, as you need to take some risks (such as Kurt Warner in 2008) to win. My advice is to take one of these QBs with your second pick, whomever you believe has the best chance of winning that first game. Green Bay is healthy at the right time and has home field advantage but their defense is banged up. Since I need to commit here, I am rolling the dice and going with Brees.
Lynch is still the best choice at RB as it will be tough to knock off the Seahawks, who should be playing in New Jersey on Super Bowl Sunday. Moreno is the next logical choice but can you trust the Denver coaching staff to not pull a switcharoo and play Monte Ball inside the 5 yard line, where he has a knack for the end zone? We also like Eddie Lacy as Green Bay has a great chance to advance and if the Packers do, Lacy will be a force in each game he plays. Frank Gore will also be a strong pick if the 49ers emerge this weekend.
We like tight ends in the playoffs in the order of Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, Vernon Davis and Greg Olsen. The Seahawks Zach Miller will also have a good playoff run.
At WR, Golden Tate is a strong sleeper you may be able to get in a later round. Seahawks wide receivers are undervalued and the surprising news that Percy Harvin will play will lower Tate's value. He is a stronger pick than Harvin. All Broncos receivers are great picks, but we expect Eric Decker, who has been outstanding down the stretch, will be shunned for Demaryus Thomas and Wes Welker. Take Decker; he will score TDs.
Kickers are critical in the playoff fantasy format and Matt Prater is the easy and obvious first choice but Stephen Gostkowski has been solid and while unlikely, the Patriots could upset the Broncos and we love Patriots kickers in Super Bowls.
As noted in this column all season, the Patriots have been a tough team for fantasy football points. Brady ended up as the 10th ranked QB and Edelman was the highest scoring positional player finishing as the 22nd ranked WR. Blount obviously put up a game for the ages in Week 17 but like the Broncos, the Patriots will almost surely do something different each week to make any of their four RBs a risky fantasy play, especially with more depth available in a playoff format. We do believe Edelman is still worth a later round pick, as he caught over 100 passes this season and Brady trusts him and knows where he will be in the end zone.
For all the playoff rankings front to back, become a FFChamps member before Wild Card weekend at http://www.ffchamps.com/p/inSeason.rankings/.
Below are the odds to win the Super Bowl. They can serve as your guideline to draft players that will play into February in your playoff fantasy leagues. Note the Saints are the longest shots to win the NFC but I like 'em!
Seattle Seahawks: 12/5
Denver Broncos: 14/5
San Francisco 49ers: 7/1
New England Patriots: 17/2
Carolina Panthers: 10/1
Cincinnati Bengals: 20/1
Green Bay Packers: 20/1
Philadelphia Eagles: 20/1
Kansas City Chiefs: 30/1
Indianapolis Colts: 30/1
New Orleans Saints: 30/1
San Diego Chargers: 50/1
ODDS TO WIN 2014 NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
Seattle Seahawks: 10/11
San Francisco 49ers: 18/5
Carolina Panthers: 6/1
Green Bay Packers: 10/1
Philadelphia Eagles: 10/1
New Orleans Saints: 14/1
ODDS TO WIN 2014 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
Denver Broncos: 2/3
New England Patriots: 7/2
Cincinnati Bengals: 13/2
Indianapolis Colts: 12/1
Kansas City Chiefs: 15/1
San Diego Chargers: 25/1
Good luck and see you all in August 2014. You can follow us @FFChamps and on www.FFChamps.com all season long for fantasy coverage of the Combine, Draft and Training Camp. The 2014 fantasy draft will be here before we know it!