The National Fantasy Football Championship Post-Season Hold ‘Em Tournament ($200 entry) and Mini Playoff Hold ‘Em ($50 entry) begin with the first Wild Card games and continue through the Super Bowl. Points are accumulated throughout the playoffs, and the team with the most total points wins the grand prize. These tournaments feel like the most complicated I’ve ever played in, not only because of the roster requirements but because there is a point multiplier each week.
Each week the number of points an NFL player earns will be multiplied by the number of consecutive weeks he has been on your roster. This rewards those who can correctly predict and roster the players in the early rounds and score the top points in the championship game. Players selected with first-round byes automatically earn twice their total points during the second week of the playoffs. Players MUST be in your lineup in consecutive weeks to earn the multiplier.
Owners must manage a team of 12 players throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs and roster eight players for the Super Bowl. Transactions (adding and replacing players) are unlimited each week. After the first week of the playoffs, you can pick up new players to fill out your playoff roster.
In the first round (Wild Card round), managers will complete their roster by selecting one player from 12 of the 14 teams that qualified for the playoffs. From the second round onward, as teams are eliminated from the playoffs, managers can have as many as two players from the same team on their team’s roster with a minimum of one per eight remaining playoff teams.
In the third round (AFC/NFC Championship), managers will use three players from each remaining playoff team on their team’s roster. Finally, during the Super Bowl, managers will use four players from each Super Bowl team on their team’s roster (for a total of eight players).
Players from each NFL playoff team must be locked into our lineups before their team’s scheduled kickoff time each weekend. We don’t have to lock in our entire roster before the weekend’s first playoff game, but NFL players from each team must be locked in before the kickoff of their scheduled game.
Rosters are much different than most other formats. We are playing two (2) QB, three (3) RB, four (4) WR/TE, one (1) flex player (RB/WR/TE), a kicker and a D/ST. Quarterback scoring is a bit different, as well. Passing touchdowns are worth six points as opposed to four points in most formats, and we are awarded one point for every 20 passing yards. The running QBs are somewhat nullified in this scoring format, but the running QBs tend to win, so we want our QBs to be playing in the Super Bowl.
Build Your Bracket
When constructing a lineup, it’s most valuable to know who you believe will make it to the Super Bowl, especially with the multiplied scoring in this format. I’ll be building multiple lineups in the Mini Playoff Hold ‘Em so I can strategize with multiple scenarios. It’s good to try to be a bit contrarian, but we need to be careful not to galaxy-brain our way to making a simple mistake. You will have to assume you are right about your playoff and Super Bowl predictions, that you will run as pure as the freshly fallen snow. It is just as important to pick the teams that will lose in the first round, so we have openings to add players on advancing teams to maximize their multiplier in subsequent rounds.
Because your team build will be very dependent on your bracket, you may not need to be contrarian in your players if you are picking a few upsets. I will approach this strategy as if the favorites will win each round and build a pretty chalk construction.
Choosing Your QB
You probably want a QB in the Super Bowl since they are usually the highest-scoring, and we are starting two of them. We need to factor in opportunity cost at other positions, but the multiplier really gives the highest average scorers the smartest way to lean.
If we think Kansas City and Philadelphia are in the Super Bowl, we probably should still start both QBs during Wild Card week. Even though they are on bye, they will 2x, 3x, and 4x the final three rounds, equating to nine games worth of their scoring as opposed to 1x, 2x and 3x if we begin rostering them in the second round.
If we are saying Kansas City and Philadelphia go to the Super Bowl and don’t start Patrick Mahomes or Jalen Hurts in the Wild Card round, we probably still need to roster at least one of them. We are then looking at using Travis Kelce or A.J. Brown so we get nine games worth of points from them and still get six games worth of whichever QB we fade in the first round, and one game worth of whichever QB we do start in Week 1.
If we choose Mahomes at QB, we are most likely adding Kelce, Jerick McKinnon and JuJu Smith-Schuster in subsequent rounds. If we start the opening round with Hurts, we will add A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert or Miles Sanders later. If we assume we want Kelce and A.J. Brown in our Round 2 lineup, we then need to make sure we have two players from the WR/TE/Flex positions so we don’t bypass any players that could double their value in Round 2. If we have players from every team that wins, we could want to double down on those players AND an additional player from their team. It gets really messy; I wouldn’t recommend following me down that rabbit hole.
Josh Allen and Joe Burrow will be other popular plays, mainly because they both play in the Wild Card round. We will get a total equivalent of 10 games of scoring compared to the nine-game total from the bye-week QBs. I feel like builds using these QBs are much easier, but if you are going in this direction, you are probably benching Mahomes for the entire tournament. If you start two QBs from the same conference, you are automatically forgoing at least four games worth of scoring.
Choosing Your RB
Choosing Christian McCaffrey eliminates George Kittle (TE), Deebo Samuel (WR), and Brandon Aiyuk (WR) from Round 1 and from 4x in the Super Bowl. Still, McCaffrey has substantially better average points per game. Kittle has been super hot, but you will have to decide whether the difference between McCaffrey and a replacement is better or worse than the difference between Kittle and other choices. Samuel is amazing in short bursts and could be better than McCaffrey, who could surrender touches to Elijah Mitchell, who returned from injury last week.
Austin Ekeler has been the top-scoring RB all season (third to McCaffrey and McKinnon over the past five games). We are only missing out on Keenan Allen or Mike Williams, who is out with an injury. I will start Etienne in any lineup I start Ekeler to hedge my bets for the next round. Whichever one loses will be replaced by an RB I expect to see in the Super Bowl.
There were 276 individual 70-yard rush games in the NFL this season. The 49ers allowed none of them. I won’t be playing Kenneth Walker III in this format.
Choosing Your WR and TE
Sticking with the assumption that we are starting Mahomes and Hurts at QB, it probably means we will be looking to roster Kelce and A.J. Brown in Round 2. So we might want to game-stack our receivers, so we are sure to have a couple of openings. Although the more I go through scenarios, the more I realize it’s going to be easier to play the best players and possibly drop them in their 2x multiplier week.
We will likely start Stefon Diggs at WR; we could bring it back with Tyreek Hill for the Buffalo vs. Miami game. We will probably also want to start Ja’Marr Chase, but game-stacking Chase means starting Mark Andrews without Lamar Jackson; I’m not going to do that. Buffalo and Cincinnati will likely play each other in the second round, so one of them will never hit their 3x multiplier.
We are going to run into a similar conflict when it comes to deciding whether to roster Justin Jefferson. There is no real bring-back WR/TE from the Giants, but we could put RB Saquon Barkley in the flex position so that we can add Deebo Samuel for the second round. We could also consider starting Samuel over McCaffrey, or we could be contrarian and consider the Seattle receivers, DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett.
Starting CeeDee Lamb and either Chris Godwin or Mike Evans leaves us a clear path to add A.J. Brown for Round 2, but we might also have our eyes on Tony Pollard if Dallas wins and a few Tampa Bay players if it wins.
As I build these lineups, I find that the flex spot is a good place for Tyreek Hill or the Seattle WRs. I don’t think either team will make it to the second round, but I believe each of these players will have substantial points scored during the Wild Card round. They also are great placeholders for the WR I want to stack with my QB in Round 2.
Over their past five games, Jefferson, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, and CeeDee Lamb are all in the top-6 of PPR scoring.
Ja’Marr Chase was the WR4 this season in PPR points-per-game and the player I believe will be leaned on at the most critical moments in each game. In most of my brackets, Cincinnati loses to the Bills in Round 2, but the only roster I don’t have Chase in is the one I’m starting Burrow.
Philadelphia’s WRs, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, have been the WR2 and WR3 over the past five games in PPR points-per-game, and that’s without Jalen Hurts at QB in two of those games. I have Hurts on most of my opening-round rosters, but I feel like I MUST get one of these WRs for Round 2.
Choosing Your K
My instinct is to put in Justin Tucker because I initially thought the kicker was replaceable each week. They can be erratic game-to-game, so I’ll just fill the spot with a dome kicker the following week. But as I begin to think about next week, I want to hedge my bet against an upset from the Wild Card round. Let’s just say the Giants upset the Vikings in the first round. There are plenty of WR/TEs to fill in for my Justin Jefferson slot, but if I don’t start a Giants player in the first round, I’m missing the opportunity to 2x two players.
Choosing Your D/ST
The same philosophy we had for kickers rings true for defense. I want to choose a defense that has the potential to be a safety net in case there is an upset. I will avoid putting Miami, Baltimore, or Seattle players in these positions because I don’t think there is any chance at all they will win.
Winning It All
This is not a best-ball (draft only, lineup optimization) format. We will be adding and dropping players after each round. I have a feeling the best teams will be making moves in Round 2. It feels more important to set the right path in Round 1 and not be overly concerned about our point total. As another twist, the Super Bowl round will consist of four players from each team, and positions do not matter (QB, RB, WR, TE, K, D/ST). If there are upsets, we could be crossing our fingers for pick-sixes and kick returns in the final game.