Week 2 in NFL.com Fantasy Playoff Challenge

Ryan McKee delivers roster strategy for Week 2 of NFL.com's Fantasy Playoff Challenge.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Week 2 in NFL.com Fantasy Playoff Challenge


LeGarrette BlountThis article is part of a playoff series based on NFL.com’s Fantasy Playoff Challenge. If you missed my article from last week, you can catch it here. I recommend at least a rough skim of it to brief yourself on the rules of the game as well as an overview of the strategy that I’m employing.

The purpose of this article is to determine how best to set your lineup to maximize your points. We have one week of data, eight teams remaining and some multipliers in effect, so let’s look at the three possible scenarios you are in at each position and the best strategy to use going forward.

SCENARIO 1: You rostered players who were on a bye last week

This is the simplest scenario. In this instance, you’re keeping these guys no matter what. Remember that thesthey will accumulate 2x their fantasy points this weekend. Making a switch now would require you to pick up someone at a 1x multiplier and considering that the bye teams were and still are the favourites, you’d be wise to sit tight.

SCENARIO 2: A player you rostered last week has been eliminated

Another simple scenario, as you have to pick up somebody else and they are all on 1x multipliers. Here are the breakdowns of each position with their season average multiplied by their likelihood of advancing (based on Vegas lines).

QUARTERBACK

 Player Season Avg Round Total Probability Weighted Value
  Conf Semis (1x) Conf Final (2x) Super Bowl (3x)      
Rodgers 22.17 22.17 44.34 66.51 133.02 0.313 41.64
Luck 22.05 22.05 44.1 66.15 132.3 0.133 17.60
Wilson 20.51 20.51 41.02 61.53 123.06 0.714 87.86
Manning 19.61 19.61 39.22 58.83 117.66 0.400 47.06
Romo 17.79 17.79 35.58 53.37 106.74 0.278 29.67
Brady 17.41 17.41 34.82 52.23 104.46 0.714 74.58

At QB, you’re still best to go with the favourites in either Russell Wilson or Tom Brady. What is interesting, however, is how both Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s value have dropped considerably, as Vegas appears to be giving added credence to the play of Baltimore and Indy.

RUNNING BACK

Player Season Avg Round Total Probability Weighted Value
    Conf Semis (2x) Conf Final (3x) Super Bowl (4x)      
Murray 18.44 36.88 55.32 73.76 165.96 0.278 46.14
Lynch 16.58 33.16 49.74 66.32 149.22 0.714 106.54
Lacy 14.44 28.88 43.32 57.76 129.96 0.313 40.68
Forsett 12.74 25.48 38.22 50.96 114.66 0.133 15.25
Anderson 12.7 25.4 38.1 50.8 114.3 0.714 81.61
Anderson wk 10+ 20.78 41.56 62.34 83.12 187.02 0.400 74.81
Blount 7.98 15.96 23.94 31.92 71.82 0.400 28.73

Again, Marshawn Lynch is the obvious choice for your first RB slot. As I stated in week 1, it’s worth riding with CJ Anderson to see if he can maintain his frenetic pace and take Denver to the Super Bowl. However, one notable absentee from this list is a Patriots running back. With such a high likelihood of making the big game, surely there’s value in rolling with LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Grey or Shane Vereen, right? Well I’ve almost answered my own question there in that we just don’t know who will  be the lead back for the Pats week to week.

Player Snaps Touches Yards Fantasy Pts PPO
Blount 107 64 299 47.9 0.54
Gray 40 21 87 14.7 0.43
Vereen 229 43 168 26.5 0.15

This is the distribution among New England RBs since week 12, when Blount was acquired (I’ve left out Brandon Boldin as he’s clearly fourth on the totem pole). Vereen is on the field almost full time and thus is capable of big games, but you’re probably better off hoping Blount can replicate last year’s playoff run when he totaled 41.2 fantasy points, good for second overall amongst playoff RBs.

Now although we can’t be certain Blount will be the lead back, let’s at least consider under what conditions he would be worth adding. Blount would have to average 11.7 fppg in order to be of greater value than CJ Anderson’s numbers as a starter (from week 10+). That seems fairly doable – 6o yards and a score – so if you want to take a bit of a contrarian approach, I have no issue with you rostering Blount as your RB2. For what it’s worth, we had the same consideration last year between Knowshon Moreno as your RB2 or one of Blount, Vereen or Stevan Ridley. Twelve months ago, Blount finished as the second best RB and about 14 points more despite  playing one fewer game than Moreno.

WIDE RECEIVER

Player Season Avg Round Total Probability Weighted Value
    Conf Semis (1x) Conf Final (2x) Super Bowl (3x)      
Thomas 14.43 14.43 28.86 43.29 86.58 0.400 34.63
Nelson 14.4 14.4 28.8 43.2 86.4 0.313 27.04
D. Bryant 14.28 14.28 28.56 42.84 85.68 0.278 23.82
Cobb 12.65 12.65 25.3 37.95 75.9 0.313 23.76
Sanders 12.58 12.58 25.16 37.74 75.48 0.400 30.19
Hilton 11.93 11.93 23.86 35.79 71.58 0.133 9.52
Edelman 9.33 9.33 18.66 27.99 55.98 0.714 39.97
LaFell 9.24 9.24 18.48 27.72 55.44 0.714 39.58

Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell are the best options in terms of weighted value but their point potential is lowest on the list and is it wise to roster two from the same team in case they get eliminated? In order to diversify your portfolio a little, I’d suggest grabbing Demaryius Thomas (or Emmanuel Sanders, who has a similar fppg but a much lower standard deviation and is thus more consistent with his scoring) and be fairly well assured to have one of them in the final game. But the values are all close enough that if you really believe in the Packers or Cowboys, you can roster one of their WRs and have a nice return with a chance for some upside.

One more point on the Edelman/LaFell decision: I took the standard deviation of their game-by-game fantasy points and Lafell rates slightly higher at 6.47 to 5.66. So if you’re looking for a little more upside in your team, take LaFell, who also has an average depth of target advantage of 11.4 compared to Edelman’s 7.6.

TIGHT END

Player Season Avg Round   Probability Weighted Value
    Conf Semis (1x) Conf Final (2x) Super Bowl (3x)      
Gronkowski 12.29 12.29 24.58 36.87 73.74 0.714 52.65
J. Thomas 10.2 10.2 20.4 30.6 61.2 0.400 24.48
Olsen 8.58 8.58 17.16 25.74 51.48 0.083 4.27
Fleener 7.9 7.9 15.8 23.7 47.4 0.133 6.30

Again, Rob Gronkowski is by far the best value. Even if you know all your competitors are rostering him as well, it’s better to take the value at least for this format.

SCENARIO 3: Keeping an underdog from Wild Card weekend vs flipping him for a favourite

Here is where things get interesting. If you happen to choose a winning player from last weekend, you’re now faced with deciding whether to keep him or drop him for a player on a better team. It’s a difficult decision as keeping the guy on your roster gives you a 2x multiplier. But what good is it if he’s an easy out in the conference semis? Let’s look at each position individually.

Note: there are far too many combinations of players to consider so for the purposes of this article, so I’ll only look at players you are most likely to have rostered from last week (sorry if you masterfully rostered Dan Herron). I’ll incorporate their points last week but for future weeks’ projections, I’ll revert back to their season averages.

Finally, to determine the alternative player, we’ll choose the best case scenario player – so Wilson at QB, Lynch at RB, etc.

QUARTERBACK

In this case, you either rostered Andrew Luck, Tony Romo, Cam Newton or Joe Flacco. I’ll use Luck since he has a high fppg. So let’s see what the numbers show if you kept them for this round, they lose and you take Wilson next week.

Player Season Avg Round   Total Probability Weighted Value
    Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (2x) Conf Final (1x) Super Bowl (2x)      
Luck/Luck/Wilson/Wilson 22.05/20.51 24.6 44.1 20.51 41.02 130.23 0.714 92.98
Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (1x) Conf Final (2x) Super Bowl (3x)
Luck/Wilson/Wilson/Wilson 22.05/20.51 24.6 20.51 41.02 61.53 147.66 0.714 105.43

If you knew Indy would lose this week, you’re better off cutting bait on Luck now and rostering Wilson. Of course, if you think there’s a chance Luck wins this week and even makes the Super Bowl, you may find the slight drop in weighted value to be a worthy gamble for the chance at a 3x AFC Championship and a 4x Super Bowl.

RUNNING BACK

Player Season Avg Round   Total Probability Weighted Value
    Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (2x) Conf Final (1x) Super Bowl (2x)      
Murray/Murray/Anderson/Anderson 18.44/20.78 15.7 36.88 20.78 41.56 114.92 0.400 45.97
Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (1x) Conf Final (2x) Super Bowl (3x)
Murray/Anderson/Anderson/Anderson 18.44/20.78 15.7 20.78 41.56 62.34 140.38 0.400 56.15
Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (2x) Conf Final (1x) Super Bowl (2x)
Murray/Murray/Blount/Blount 18.44/7.98 15.7 36.88 7.98 15.96 76.52 0.714 54.64
Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (1x) Conf Final (2x) Super Bowl (3x)
Murray/Blount/Blount/Blount 18.44/7.98 15.7 7.98 15.96 23.94 63.58 0.714 45.40

Running back is a little trickier because we have two spots to fill and one of the recommended players – Anderson – has a big discrepancy between his starter stats and his backup stats.

So rather than get too convoluted, I’m going to assume that Lynch takes up your RB1 spot and we’re debating on only your RB2 spot. DeMarco Murray is the highest fantasy producer in the field so we’ll consider him versus Anderson (as a starter) and also Blount (using his numbers since joining the Pats).

The numbers are all relatively close so you can choose based on your own personal predictions. If you believe strongly in the Broncos and that Anderson will play a major role for them, then switch to Anderson now because the potential points are so strong . Personally, I have the Cowboys and Broncos at roughly similar odds to advance, so I’m more inclined to give Murray one more week (in the hopes that Dallas wins and you have a 3x game next weekend) and then swap for either Anderson or Blount next week if Dallas doesn’t advance.

WIDE RECEIVER

Player Season Avg Round   Total Probability Weighted Value
    Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (2x) Conf Final (1x) Super Bowl (2x)      
Bryant/Bryant/LaFell/LaFell 14.28/9.24 4.8 28.56 9.24 18.48 61.08 0.714 43.61
Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (1x) Conf Final (2x) Super Bowl (3x)
Bryant/LaFell/LaFell/LaFell 14.28/9.24 4.8 9.24 18.48 27.72 60.24 0.714 43.01
Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (2x) Conf Final (1x) Super Bowl (2x)
Bryant/Bryant/Thomas/Thomas 14.28/14.43 4.8 28.56 14.43 28.86 76.65 0.400 30.66
Wild Card (1x) Conf Semis (1x) Conf Final (2x) Super Bowl (3x)
Bryant/Thomas/Thomas/Thomas 14.28/14.43 4.8 14.43 28.86 43.29 91.38 0.400 36.55

Again, there are many scenarios to consider, but I’m just going to look at owning Dez Bryant in week 1. You may own TY Hilton or even Terrance Williams but their numbers will come out lower than Dez due to Hilton’s lower chance of advancing and Williams’ lower season average.

Similar to the RBs, if you believe the Broncos can advance to the Super Bowl, your best bet is to switch to Thomas now. If you’re looking for a more conservative approach, then go for LaFell. Again, because I’m not personally convinced Denver wins beyond this week, I would probably stick with Dez for a potential 3x next weekend. Particularly if you’re also rostering Edelman, I may not want to have both Pats receivers the rest of the way.

TIGHT END

Broken record here, but if you somehow didn’t take Gronk beginning last week, make the swap now. He’s too valuable and has too high a likelihood of advancing for any other scenario to compare.

We should have some great games to watch this weekend and then we’ll do this all over again with new stats and considerations next week. Enjoy the football.

____

A Canadian living in Australia and writing about American football, Ryan McKee might be the only person on the planet to work in all three forms of football. In addition to writing fantasy football articles for Pro Football Focus Fantasy, Ryan works for the Aussie Rules football club Essendon FC in Melbourne and previously worked for Vancouver Whitecaps FC of Major League Soccer. He is the author of Trade Wins: The Final Untapped Advantage in Fantasy Football. He cannot understand why he’s still a Cowboys fan after all these years and can be followed on Twitter @ryanmckee.

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