NFFC Playoff Challenge

It’s been a while.  My last Outside the Box column was posted back on March 3, 2010.  In that column, I wrote about, among others, Michael Bourn, Raul Ibanez, Nyger Morgan, and Nate McLouth.  I also wrote, “Dustin Pedroia is drafted higher than he should be, due to a variety of reasons, none of which help you win your fantasy league.”  Parenthetically, some things don’t change, even in eight years.

I decide to take a short sabbatical, a sabbatical that lasted almost eight years.  I’m rested now, and ready to get back into it.

I’m penning the first of three columns about the NFFC Post Season $150.00 Hold ’Em Competition.  The NFFC Post-Season Competition has a 12 man rosters, with two quarterbacks, four running backs, four wide receivers, one defense/special team and one kicker.  In the politically correct environment we live in, the NFFC Post Season Competition doesn’t allow exclusion, as you are required to take one player from each of the 12 playoff teams.  This includes fat and pimply Buffalo and smelly and uninspired Tennessee.

Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is credited with the quote, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.”  Today, I’m dealing with statistics, so take it for what it is worth.

But first, let me digress for a brief diatribe.  I’ve listened to, and read, countless pundits advocating that you avoid chalk, or in their words, “fade chalk,” players that are likely to be taken by a large percentage of the competition playing population.  Frankly, I don’t get it.

I like chalk.  Often.

The purpose of any competition is to score more than your opponents.  I’ve not seen a competition that gives extra points for taking unpopular players, or avoiding popular ones.  In fantasy football, you win by accumulating the most points possible.  If the best player happens to be chalk, why in the world avoid him?  If the best player is likely to score more points than the second best player, by what form of new math does it make any sense to avoid the chalk and take the lesser earning player?

I expect that more than 75% of the players in the NFFC Post-Season Competition will take Todd Gurley.  Gurley is chalk.  When Gurley scores, you aren’t going to pick up much ground on your competition, as they most likely have Gurley as well.  That’s ok, it’s better to share Gurley than being on the outside looking in when Gurley scores and you are cursing that they didn’t throw the ball to Robert Woods.

Gurley is chalk because he is far more likely to out earn Jared Goff, Cooper Cupp, Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins.  So, please explain to me why I should pass on Gurley and take a lesser earning, less popular player?  If you can make a cogent argument for such a move, then you are far smarter than I am.

Before we get into the rest of this column, it is important to understand the basic scoring rules for the NFFC Post Season Competition.  It’s a PPR league, with running backs and wide receivers/tight ends earning 1/10 of a point for every yard, 1 point for every catch, 6 points for every touchdown, and 2 points for a 2-point conversion.  Quarterbacks earn 1/25 of a point for each yard, 6 points for every touchdown and 2 points for a 2-point conversion.  Defenses/Special Teams earn points for touchdowns, safeties, sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries, and by keeping the opposing team’s score down. Kickers earn points for extra points and field goals, with a premium based upon longer field goals.

The competition features a multiplier earning players additional points for as long as they remain in the competition and on your roster, as follows:

 Wild Card Round

Players on your roster earn their actual points for The Wild Card, round one.

Divisional Round

Players on your roster from the Wild Card Round have their points multiplied by two (the multiplier effect).  Players added to your roster after the Wild Card round earn their actual points.

Conference Championship

In the Conference Championship round, players remaining from your original roster have their points multiplied by three.  Players on your roster added after the Wild Card round have their points multiplied by a factor of two.  Players added to your roster after the Divisional Round earn their actual points.

Super Bowl

In the Super Bowl, players remaining from your original roster have their points multiplied by four.  Players on your roster added after the Wild Card round have their points multiplied by a factor of three. Players added to your roster after the Divisional Round have their points multiplied by a factor of two.  Players added to your roster after the Conference Championship earn their actual points.

The fantasy team with the most aggregate points after the Super Bowl gets $100,000.00.

If this were a one-week competition, the team with the highest average points/position would look like this:

Quarterback                            Alex Smith, Kansas City        25.9 points

Quarterback                            Cam Newton, Carolina           22.6 points

Running Back                         Todd Gurley, Los Angeles      25.6 points

Running Back                         Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh        22.9 points

Running Back                         Alvin Kamara, New Orleans   18.1 points

Running Back                         LeSean McCoy, Buffalo         16.2 points

Wide Receiver/TE                  Julio Jones, Atlanta                14.9 points

Wide Receiver/TE                   Rob Gronkowski, NE             17.4 points

Wide Receiver/TE                   Adam Thielen, Minnesota      14.3 points

Wide Receiver/TE                   Zack Ertz, Philadelphia           14.2 points

Kicker                                     Ryan Succop, Tennessee           9.7 points

Defense                                   Jacksonville                             13.8 points

Assuming McCoy’s health, this team would give you the best chance to lead the competition after the first week.  If this were a one-week competition based upon league average points, I’ve just done all the work for you.  But it isn’t.

Due to the multiplier effect, to succeed in the NFFC Post-Season Competition, not only must you identify the players who will earn the most points, but you also must be able to predict which teams will play the most games.

Vegas Insider provides the following odds for teams to win their respective league championships:

New England 10/13

Minnesota       9/5

Pittsburgh        5/2

Philadelphia    3/1

Los Angeles    5/1

New Orleans   5.1

Kansas City     8/1

Jacksonville    10/1

Atlanta            10/1

Carolina          12/1

Buffalo            40/1

Tennessee       40/1

League championship odds are far more important than Super Bowl odds, as for the NFFC Post-Season Competition, you should be more interested in which teams make it to the Super Bowl as opposed to which team wins the Super Bowl.  It’s the multiplier effect, again.

Naturally, the teams playing this weekend need to win to have a chance at getting to the Super Bowl.  For this upcoming week, Tennessee and Buffalo are both 8 point underdogs, with Atlanta and Carolina both checking in between 6 and 6.5 point dogs.   Vegas anticipates that Atlanta, Carolina, Buffalo and Tennessee’s participation will end this weekend.

Teams that go “one and done” are of little help in the NFFC Post-Season Competition.  Not only do you have to identify which teams will go one and done, but also which positions to assign to those teams.

Quarterbacks on the twelve playoff teams averaged 21.5 points per game, with Alex Smith, yes Alex Smith, leading all playoff quarterbacks with an average of 25.9 points.  Not surprisingly, running backs were next in line with an average of 16.2 points, led by chalk Todd Gurley at 25.6 points per game.  Wide Receiver/Tight Ends were next with an average of 14.2 points per game, with Antonio Brown setting the pace at 22.1 points per game.  Kickers and defenses were far less valuable, coming in at an average of 9.5 and 8.3 respectively.

Let’s look at Kickers and Defenses.  The top kicker, New England’s Stephen Gostkowski, averaged 10.9 points per game.  The second most effective kicker, Chris Boswell of the Steelers came in at 10.7 points per game.  The least effective kicker in the playoffs, discounting the Rams’ Sam Ficken who hasn’t kicked enough to establish a reasonable average, is the Panthers’ Graham Gano averaging 8.0 points per game.  Clearly, there really isn’t any significant difference between the top and the bottom kickers, so choosing a kicker shouldn’t be your top priority.

Defenses showed a bit more variation, as the Jaguars lead the playoff teams with an average of 13.8 points per game, almost three points better than second place Los Angeles at 11.1 points per game.  There’s a significant drop off to third place Philadelphia at 9.8 points, and a precipitous drop near the bottom, with anticipated one and done teams Tennessee (6 points per game) and Atlanta (5.5 points per game) bringing up the rear.

Jacksonville faces Buffalo this week.  This is little doubt that Jacksonville will advance.  There’s doubt, but not much, that Jacksonville will then lose to Pittsburgh in the Steel City next weekend.  As a result, one can reasonably assume that Jacksonville will play two games and Buffalo will play one game.

Based upon season averages, a team with a healthy LeSean McCoy (one game) and Jacksonville’s defense (two games) would actually outpoint a team with Leonard Fournette (two games) and Buffalo’s defense (one game) by a score of 57.6 to 56.4.

However, while the multiplier is dramatic, it isn’t the end-all.  Jacksonville earned its 13.8 points per game average on defense by amassing 32 points against Houston (week 1), 28 points against Pittsburgh (week 5 when Roethlisberger threw five interceptions), 22 points against Indianapolis (week 7) and 29 points against Cleveland (week 11).  Over the past six weeks, Jacksonville is averaging just 9.2 points per game.  During the same time span, Buffalo’s defense averaged 8 points per game, a fairly insignificant difference.

So, due to the multiplier, it is hard not to take a defense from a team that is likely to be heading to Cancun on Monday.  With McCoy’s health in question, and with Tennessee still searching for an offense of any sort, Buffalo and Tennessee need to be your defense and kicker.  But, what to do with the other two anticipated one and dones, Atlanta and Carolina?

A case can be made for both Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman from Atlanta.  Carolina’s situation is more convoluted.  Newton is by far the best offensive player, but due to the multiplier effect, taking a quarterback from a one and done team can be competition suicide. That leaves Christian McCaffrey, Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen as potential picks.

Here is my team, barring any last minute changes:

 

QB                  Tom Brady

QB                  Case Keenum

RB                   Le’Veon Bell

RB                   Todd Gurley

RB                   Leonard Fournette

RB                   Karim Hunt

WR/TE            Michael Thomas

WR/TE            Julio Jones

WR/TE            Zach Ertz

WR/TE            Greg Olsen

Kicker             Ryan Succop

Defense           Buffalo

I strongly considered Alex Smith (yes Alex Smith) but the allure of a huge game from Hunt swayed me.   With Minnesota having two quality receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and two serviceable backs in Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, I opted to punt trying to figure out who was going to lead, and went with former Ram Case Keenum.  Yes, I have a bad feeling in my stomach on that one.

Olsen is certainly a reach, and a strong argument can be made for Devin Funchess at receiver, or going to RB Christian McCaffrey.  I’m still uncertain, as New Orleans is the 11th toughest defense against opposing tight ends, but the 17th toughest defense against wide receivers.  Olsen has been poor since his return, with just one decent game against the Packers.  By Saturday, I may just have Funchess.

I chose to pass on McCaffrey as I like the Olsen/Le’Veon Bell combo over Antonio Brown/McCaffrey, the Olsen/Karim Hunt combo over Tyreek Hill/McCaffrey, and the Olsen/Fournette combo over Marqise Lee/McCaffrey.  I’m keeping Chalk Gurley. Call me crazy.

Best of luck to you. With 1,500 teams competing, we all will need it.

Buster

 

 

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