Fantasy football 101: Playing in the postseason

Jonathan Daniel

Already missing fantasy football? There's still time to keep playing. Start up a postseason league; we'll tell you how.

Typically, fantasy baseball ends in mid/late September, near the end of the baseball regular season. It's a pretty natural transition, then, from that into fantasy football, which starts in early September and carries on.

Basically, true fantasy junkies can go from mid-March to late December with a constant fix. And then, depending on your level of success in football, the plug is pulled some week in December, and you're left to suffer withdrawals until whenever fantasy baseball can roll back around again. (No, I'm not considering fantasy basketball or hockey. They just aren't as popular, and, for me, aren't as good. Sorry, those who disagree.)

So if you, like me, are a junkie who is in the throes of withdrawal after Sunday's end of the regular season, take a hit on playoff fantasy football.

Playoff fantasy football? Playoff fantasy football.

If you're new to it, playoff fantasy football is a nice little five-week, four-game fantasy setup. It is a new strategy to work on, and it fills a big chunk of the gap between our regular fantasy games.

OK, so you're intrigued. Don't lie, I know you are. Dude, you found this on a fantasy football website at least two days after the regular season ended; you're clearly on board. So how does it work?

STEP THE FIRST: The quirk

Obviously, the difference between playoff football and regular-season football is that there are teams (and players) removed from the pool every week. A.J. Green is great and all, but if the Bengals lose on Sunday, you only get one game to enjoy his numbers. If the Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl, you would probably prefer Golden Tate and three games' accumulation to A.J. Green and one. Which presupposes you can predict who lasts how long, but hey, isn't fantasy all about projecting to begin with?

STEP THE SECOND: The setup

Regular-season fantasy football is all head-to-head; you play against your buddy in a week, higher score gets a win, lower score gets a loss. That's out the window in the playoffs. For playoff fantasy, you're just an accumulator. If you have a disaster Week 1, you can totally make up for it with a big Week 2. It's a sum total.

STEP THE THIRD: The roster

Here's where it gets tricky. There are several ways to construct your postseason fantasy roster. I've seen two that are most common:

  1. No draft. You pick 16 players (two each at quarterback, tight end, kicker and defense; four each at running back and wide receiver). The only restriction on your roster is that you are limited to only two players from any given team for your roster. Want Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas? Sure, go ahead, but you won't get Eric Decker or Knowshon Moreno or Matt Prater. With 16-man rosters, you are guaranteed to have players from at least eight of the 12 different playoff teams, so you've got to balance accumulators who might make it deep into the playoffs against guys who could lose quickly but put up big numbers in the process. And, since there's no draft, you and your buddy could both have Manning and Thomas — heck, could both have 15 of the same 16 guys. Since multiple owners can own the same guy, your league could theoretically have infinite owners. The downside of this is that guys like Andy Dalton, Danny Woodhead, the Colts defense — players or units who aren't likely to be powerhouse producers or be eliminated quickly — can functionally be ignored altogether in this setup. It's a stars-only sort of league.
  2. A draft. Roster makeup varies based on number of participants, but ideally, you want to account for as much of the playoff pool as possible. So if you have six owners, the rosters would look basically like the rosters in Option 1 — twos and fours. If you have 10 or 12 owners, it's a smaller roster — one quarterback, tight end, kicker, and defense; two wide receivers and running backs; a flex. That can be negotiated pretty easily. But your draft is conducted just like a traditional snake draft. You can own as many guys off one team as you want, but, of course, players on the favorites — various Seahawks and Broncos and Patriots — are going to go quickly in the draft. The upside of this system is that it forces you to dive in on guys like Alex Smith or Donald Brown you might not get to in Option 1. Also, if you successfully identify the big sleeper playoff team ("I think the Bengals will make a Super Bowl run"), you can load up on guys from that roster and accumulate all month long. On the other hand, it's always tough to get a big group gathered for a draft with less than a week's notice between Week 17 and playoff Week 1, and the guy who picks 10th or 12th in the first round might be at a significant disadvantage if the favorites win out.

STEP THE FOURTH: Scoring system

Well, this part's easy. By and large, there's no change in playoff fantasy scoring and regular-season scoring. Prefer a point-per-reception league? Play playoff PPR. Go with five points per passing touchdown, just because? Do that in the playoffs, too. Keep your scoring system and enjoy.

If you're relatively new to fantasy football, or you're just lazy, here is a sample set of rules to apply to your game:

Points are awarded based on performance, here is the breakdown....

Offensive Touchdowns

Passing (regardless of length) = 4 points
Rush/Rec (regardless of length) = 6 points
Two Point Conversion = 2 points

Offensive Yardage/Turnovers

1 yards passing = .04 points
1 yards rushing/receiving = .1 point (combined yardage)
Reception (regardless of position) = .5 points
(NOTE: There are fractional and negative points possible)
Interception Thrown = (-2) points
Fumbles Lost = (-2) points

Kickers

PATs = 1 point
Missed or Blocked PATs = (-2) points
Field Goals Made (18-30 yards) = 3 points
Field Goals Made (31-59 yards) = distance x .1 (i.e. a 46 yd FG = 4.6 points)
Field Goals Made (60+ yards) = 10 points
Missed or Blocked Field Goals (18-20 yards) = (-2) points
Missed or Blocked Field Goals (21-39 yards) = (-1) point
Missed or Blocked Field Goals (40-44 yards) = (-0.5) points
Missed or Blocked Field Goals (45+ yards) = 0 points

Defensive/Special Teams

NOTE:  One team represents both defensive and special teams units.

Sack = 1 point
Safety = 2 points
Interception = 2 points
Fumble Recovery = 2 points
DEF/ST Touchdown (regardless of length) = 6 points*
* If an offensive player scores on a punt or kick return, that player and the DEF/ST are awarded the 6 points

Blocked Field Goal = 2 points
Blocked PAT = 2 points
Blocked Punt = 2 points

Zero points allowed = 15 points
2 to 3 points allowed = 12 points
4 to 7 points allowed = 9 points
8 to 10 points allowed = 6 points
11 to 14 points allowed = 3 points
15 to 27 points allowed = 0 points
28 to 34 points allowed = (-3) points
35 to 41 points allowed = (-6) points
42 to 48 points allowed =(-9) points
49+ points allowed = (-12) points

STEP THE FIFTH: The winner

Again, easy. There are four playoff rounds over the next five weeks. Sit down on Monday, Feb. 3, and add everything up. With no in-week matchups, no roster moves, nothing like that, you can figure your totals whenever you want.

So that's it. To me, playoff fantasy football is a great combination of regular fantasy football (the scoring, the multiple players on multiple teams, etc.) and, say, a March Madness bracket challenge (with the quick eliminations and the like).

Remember, between now and mid-March, you're out of the fantasy game. There's a period of withdrawal that just sucks. But the Super Bowl is Feb. 3. And pitchers and catchers report a week later. Want to bridge the gap? Here you go.

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