When normal people watch playoff games, they're rooting for their favorite team, or maybe against a hated team. Maybe they like a specific player or storyline. Maybe they're checking out who their team will play in the next round. Or maybe they're just bored and want to see an entertaining game.
When we watch, it's all of the above, and then some. We have our scouting hats on and want to see how players are (or aren't) progressing, and maybe gain a little insight for next season. And if you do that during the playoffs, you stand a good chance of hurting your team before you even draft it.
Watching the Saints defeat the Bears, it was clear which team has a legitimate shot at reaching the Super Bowl, and which team is a long way from contending. Chicago "earned" the NFC's seventh playoff spot, and looked very much like a team that backed into it.
But what did you learn from a fantasy perspective? Little chance Mitchell Trubisky stays in Chicago. Allen Robinson looks iffy as well. And if so many offensive skill players change, how will that change David Montgomery's role? The Bears are a big question mark. Nothing you saw last weekend will mean much in September.
Even the Saints have their own uncertainties. If the reports are true, this is Brees' last season. Will Jameis Winston re-sign to compete for the top job, or will it be Taysom Hill? Or someone else? The answer will definitely impact how the team uses Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. The truth is, it was an okay playoff game, but pretty useless from a fantasy perspective.
Who will the quarterback be in Washington next season? How about Indianapolis? Will Tom Brady come back in Tampa? And if he does, who will his teammates be? Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin will all be free agents. Oh, Rob Gronkowski, too. So however things shake out for the Buccaneers, they could look very different in 2021.
I know it's like that every season to a degree, but it seems more prevalent this year. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams could both be back in Green Bay, or neither could. The Steelers might have Ben Roethlisberger throwing passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2021, or both could be out of the picture in Pittsburgh. Who knows?
And right now, who cares? The uncertainty makes for a more compelling story in the playoffs, since the championship window for some of the league's best players (and their respective teams) is closing. Not for everyone, of course. Of the remaining teams, Kansas City, Buffalo and Baltimore might not change too much. But many playoff participants will undergo significant changes. I'm sure you'll able to evaluate how that affects their remaining skill players, but you can't do it in January.
Our best bet is to simply enjoy the games for what they are and root for our fantasy playoff lineups. Leave next season discussions for the summertime. Now that we're thinning out the also-rans, the league's very best teams will get to compete for the title. And isn't that how all playoffs should be, fantasy and real? Let's just appreciate the competition.
I admit that it's easier said than done. It's hard not to imagine J.K. Dobbins with that backfield to himself for an entire season. And if Devin Singletary excels with Zack Moss out, does that make him a viable mid-round steal?
So now is a good time to remind myself: Who cares? Dobbins and Singletary have a chance to wear championship rings. There will be plenty of time to estimate what round they might be chosen this August. Too many things will change for too many teams to get any valuable insight during the playoffs.
So my advice: Just enjoy them. Hopefully you have a team to root for, or against. If not, maybe you win some extra cash with a strong fantasy playoff lineup. Next season can wait. Good luck this week.
Do you get any valuable information for your next fantasy season by watching playoff games? Can you watch them without giving a thought to your next draft or auction? Share your thoughts below.