I think I enjoy fantasy playoffs leagues and competitions almost as much as the regular season ones. Probably because this year I got hooked on the one-game or late- or early-start only competitions that limit the number of games you can choose from. I don't want to go broke on these things so I don't want to have to pick from all 14 Sunday games; I like picking from just 4, or 1. And that's all you get in January.
Consequently, I'm in three different playoff leagues and a number of daily competitions. I'll discuss them as we go. One I'm not doing this year is the FFPC Playoff Challenge. I did it last year, but opted not to this season. It's a $200 price point, which is a little rich for my blood, and I don't feel it favors those who make just one entry.
(Rules work like this: pick one 10-player lineup, with no more than 1 player from each playoff team, for the entire postseason, and most total points after the Super Bowl -- from which you can obviously have no more than 2 players -- wins. I don't feel confident about which two teams are going to make it to Atlanta, so I'm not keen to throw away $200 only to watch Baltimore meet Seattle.)
I like throwing away my money in smaller amounts. Anyway, here are the four games we get this weekend.
Indianapolis at Houston: Anything can happen, but this feels to me like it should be the highest-scoring game of the weekend. By far: over-under is nearly a touchdown higher than the other games, or was last I checked, and I think it should be even more. The two best fantasy quarterbacks playing this weekend are in this game (maybe Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson are better, maybe, but Rivers isn't going to run and Wilson probably isn't going to throw for 300-plus, and these guys might). I believe the Colts are the better all-around team and are going to win, but I might be underselling the Texans defense some; they're pretty good. Both teams should pass more than run, so I think any lineup going this week needs to have Hilton, Hopkins, Ebron, and one of the quarterbacks. Low-priced options that are appealing include Keke Coutee (though you have to make certain he's active) and either Dontrelle Inman or Mo Alie-Cox as a TD-dependent flier. I'm shying away from the running backs. I've got it as Colts 27, Texans 23.
Seattle at Dallas: Who among us doesn't remember the classic playoff game from some years back with Tony Romo's botched hold on a field goal that could have won the game? Good times. I'm actually a little surprised Dallas is favored in this one. I understand they've been playing well, especially at home, and have a really good defense. But Seattle definitely has the better quarterback and probably the superior (certainly more accomplished) coaching staff, and that stuff is kind of important in January. If I were betting, I'd be betting on Seattle, and in a way I am; in my league where you pick your roster before the postseason I have three Seahawks and no Cowboys. I'm tempted to use Ezekiel Elliott, just to get one good week out of Dallas' offensive centerpiece and perhaps a second if Dallas does win. But I don't think they'll win, and if they do win, I don't think he'd do anything in New Orleans next week (where they'll go if the Bears win). I think in general I'm basing Seattle winning on faith in Russell Wilson -- I'm not investing heavily in Seattle's ground game and not sure either Baldwin or Lockett will have big games. I think Wilson will make the clutch plays necessary to get a win. Seahawks 24, Cowboys 20.
L.A. Chargers at Baltimore: This feels like the weekend's most important game, reason being I think either team is capable of going on the road and winning a game or two. But one will be done right here, and I'm very conflicted about which it will be. Emotionally, I'd like it to be the Chargers. I've got a soft spot for Philip Rivers, there's a throwback appeal to the guy, he had a great season, and obviously has no playoff success to speak of (compared to the other top quarterbacks from his 2004 Draft, Roethlisberger and Manning). Sadly though, the reality is he's facing the AFC's best defense, on the road, and one that really shut him and his offense down in Los Angeles just, what, 14 days ago? So to pick the Chargers, you have to basically ignore that. I think Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon in PPR are basically the options here, but touchdowns from both teams should be down. For the Ravens, there's essentially Lamar Jackson. With his running and passing (mostly running) he's the likely fantasy star, and if the Ravens win this one, it could be the start of a deep playoff run; I think they can win on the road. But too much of a coin flip game for me to chance my playoff entry on anyone from this one. Chargers 21, Ravens 20.
Philadelphia at Chicago: Everyone pretty much agrees the Bears are going to win this game. They're the biggest favorite, at home against an Eagles team that only stumbled into the playoffs, led by its backup quarterback, due to the good fortune of a favorable closing schedule while the Vikings collapsed. Now personally, I'm wary of playoff games where everyone knows or thinks they know what's going to happen. The Eagles are defending Super Bowl champs, after all. Nick Foles is highly capable of playing out of his mind football in leading an upset. And this is a Bears team which hasn't proven anything yet, beyond some impressive regular-season wins. I'm making a case for the Eagles, though I don't really feel it. Bears have a great defense, and it's hard to see how the Eagles are going to consistently move the ball. They're definitely not doing anything on the ground, and passing the ball gives the Bears opportunistic defense plenty of chances to make plays. I'm figuring the Bears to invest in are Trubisky and their defense, maybe Tarik Cohen (certainly more than Howard) and just maybe Trey Burton. But I'm not expecting big numbers from either team; I'm betting the under (despite this having the lowest over-under of the week. Bears 23, Eagles 16.
My 360-degree overview of the playoffs is that next week -- assuming I'm right on all four games from this week, which I probably won't be -- both NFC bye teams will win, and only one AFC team will. Forced to choose, I'd go with Kansas City knocking off the Colts, and New England stumbling (at home, unlikely as that may sound) against the Chargers-Ravens winner. And then a Kansas City-Saints Super Bowl...yes, both No. 1 seeds making it. Hey, it happens these days.
Good luck in your challenges, and enjoy the games.