Whether you’re building playoff lineups with your existing Owners Club NFTs or you’re diving into our brand-new playoff best ball contest, you have to look at things much differently than you did during the regular season. The most successful lineups will be built around teams that play at least three games. There may be some exceptions where a position group on a losing team posts a slate-breaking score, but by and large it’s in your best interest to zero in on options from a few teams that you expect to get to their conference championship game. First, we’ll discuss some general strategies and then I’ll dive into each playoff team’s path to playing multiple games.

 

General Strategies

 

When it comes to playoff-based contests I build my process on two core questions: who gets to the big dance and how do they get there. I begin my process by clustering teams just like this:

 

The Favorites: Green Bay and Kansas City

My Bold Fade: Tampa Bay

Who Do I Like: Buffalo, Dallas, Los Angeles

No One is Going to Play: Tennessee

Dangerous Upstarts: Cincinnati and San Francisco

The Rest: Arizona, New England, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

 

Since this is the first year of The Owners Club’s playoff options, I’ll discuss some of my process in playoff drafts from this year while applying the same concepts to what I plan to do in our format.

Stacking the primary options for Green Bay or Kansas City has not been easy in drafts, but I wanted exposure to those types of lineups whenever it was reasonable to acquire them. In The Owners Club best ball contest, I will be somewhere between underexposed to about even with the field on these options.

Stylistically, I always have limited exposure, if not outright fade, something that is logical chalk. Right now, I think Tampa Bay is the fourth best team in the NFC and if they were playing anyone other than Philadelphia, I think they’d be in genuine danger of getting knocked off in the first round. Them getting Philadelphia in the first round has softened my stance some where I’ll now make more hedge lineups than I originally intended.

Buffalo, Dallas, and Los Angeles were the three teams that I was pounding in early playoff drafts because they are all high-end rosters, that are capable of winning games in several ways, that have a very real chance of playing in four games this postseason.

My enthusiasm for Tennessee in playoff formats was reduced by them ending up with the top seed. With that said, we’ve already seen these guys beat Buffalo and Kansas City in back-to-back games, which means that we know they can go on a run of beating elite opponents even though they won’t have to play both Kansas City and Buffalo in the playoffs. Tennessee’s bye will likely lead many users to passing on Tennessee options.

Weeks ago I had Indianapolis alongside Cincinnati and San Francisco in the category that essentially means these guys could win a playoff game or two and I wouldn’t be stunned. In early drafts whenever I took Mahomes or Rodgers (who I expected to get the first-round byes) I was consistently finishing my drafts with a Burrow and Chase stack.

I would separate Arizona and New England from the rest of the final group, as I think both teams have a shot at winning one game while not drawing dead at winning two. The rest of this group I’d be looking at their options for Wild Card round spike game viability. Since those last three options will widely be considered (and likely be) one and done in the playoffs, if someone on one of those teams has a big game in the Wild Card round that could be a way to get a real difference making score in a unique lineup. To be clear, I wouldn’t recommend doing this often, but if you’re in a position to play a lot of lineups I’d consider dipping my toe in to get different.

 

In The Owners Club my strategy will be similar, as I’ll be focusing my builds on two, sometimes three teams that I think can get to the Super Bowl. As an example, if I built a Buffalo, Dallas, Los Angeles (National) team what that essentially means is I’m playing that one as if Buffalo gets to the big dance while Dallas hosts Los Angeles in the NFC Championship. If I’m playing a Kansas City foundation, which as we’ll discuss could be the highest played options by a landslide in these contests, I might throw in a wrinkle like Las Vegas tight ends (since I’m already “set” with the Kansas City tight end long term) in the hopes that I get a spike game in a unique lineup. If I’m going Kansas City heavy and they lose before championship week, those lineups are dead anyway.

A final lineup concept that I’m going to discuss is something more advanced like Los Angeles QB/ WR/ D, Green Bay QB/ WR, Tennessee RB/ D, Cincinnati RB. That is a Green Bay or Los Angeles vs Tennessee Super Bowl lineup. The Cincinnati RB card effectively fills in for Tennessee’s Wild Card round bye, while having some Divisional Round viability. Los Angeles Defense is the bye Week fill in for the Wild Card round, where I’m also playing them as if they could get to the NFC Championship against Green Bay, which would require San Francisco or Philadelphia to win this week. That aspect could make this a pretty unique lineup as Green Bay plus Los Angles is an odd foundation as they likely play each other in the second round. This lineup might be dead if Green Bay hosts Los Angeles in the second round, but it also has a path to being what you need to win a tournament if there is an upset in the first round. At tight end maybe you play the Kansas City option with one of the teams you’re playing to get to the title game, or maybe you play the Los Angeles option (since they don’t have a bye) with either Green Bay or Tennessee at the position. If you’re looking to get different while still having a pretty logical lineup, this is a good blueprint to get your brain going down some more contrarian roads.

 

Analysis for Each Playoff Team

 

1. Green Bay

Record: 13-4

Super Bowl Odds: +380

Wild Card Round Opponent: Bye

Since Green Bay is the top seed in their conference, you’re going to need them to get to the Super Bowl for their fantasy options to truly pay off during the playoffs. When they come off their first-round bye, they will be hosting Los Angeles unless one of the three Wild Cards gets a win on the road. Green Bay beat Los Angeles back in Week 12 with a 36-28 score, primarily behind a strong effort from Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s wide receivers.

If Arizona ends up knocking off Los Angeles or San Francisco upsets Dallas, Green Bay beat both of those teams on the road, by three points or less, during the first half of the season. Philadelphia is Wild Card weekend’s second biggest underdog in Tampa Bay. If Philly stuns the defending champs on the road, they would then face Green Bay in the divisional round for the first time this season. Out of Green Bay’s four potential opponents in the divisional round, Los Angeles and San Francisco would give me the most concern.

Since Tampa Bay’s offense won’t be at full strength during this season’s playoff run, I’d be more concerned about Dallas as a conference championship game opponent if I’m stacking Green Bay. Outside of quarterback and defensive tackle, you could make a very strong case that Dallas is better than Green Bay at every other position group. When Aaron Rodgers has been knocked out of the conference championship in each of the last two years, it was against two similarly superior rosters in San Francisco in 2019 and Tampa Bay last season. Ultimately, Los Angeles and Dallas strike me as the two most dangerous opponents for Green Bay over the next month.

Kansas City or Buffalo would be the most threatening opponents if Green Bay gets to the big dance. A scenario where Green Bay plays Los Angeles, then Dallas or Tampa Bay in the conference championship, followed by a Super Bowl matchup with either Kansas City or Buffalo would be a run that would involve three potential shootouts. If you’re planning to use Green Bay options as the foundation of your playoff lineup, that’s your best-case scenario.

Something else to keep in mind is that Green Bay will be playing at home in January, which means that subzero temperatures and other unpleasant weather that doesn’t exactly help passing offenses are very much in play.

 

2. Tampa Bay

Record: 13-4

Super Bowl Odds: +800

Wild Card Round Opponent: vs Philadelphia

 

Something that isn’t talked about too often because offense puts asses in the seats is that Tampa Bay’s defense drove their Super Bowl run last season. After lighting up 7-9 Washington in the Wild Card round last year, Tom Brady didn’t breach 200 yards passing in New Orleans, he threw three interceptions in Green Bay, and while he was very effective in the Super Bowl against Kansas City, he only threw for 201 yards. Considering that Tampa Bay will be down two of their three best receivers heading into this year’s tournament and they’ve only played five games against playoff teams this season (four of those matchups came in the first six weeks), I expect that I’m much more bearish on their chances of getting deep into the playoffs this season than most.

With that said, January and February comprise Tom Brady season. While there are a number of reasons to be concerned about this team heading into the playoffs, that simple fact shouldn’t be ignored. Their Wild Card matchup against Philadelphia is a very winnable game as Philly’s offense is driven by their rushing attack and Tampa Bay has had one of the best run defenses in the league over the last two years. It’s also a good matchup for the Tampa Bay tight ends card, as you may have noticed I routinely discussed playing quality tight ends against Philadelphia throughout the year. When Tampa Bay visited Philadelphia for Thursday Night Football back in Week 6, they won 28-22 with Philadelphia scoring a late touchdown making the game look closer than it was.

As the second seed, if Tampa Bay beats Philadelphia they are most likely going to face Dallas in the divisional round, who Tampa Bay narrowly escaped on opening Thursday night. If San Francisco beats Dallas, Tampa Bay would then face the winner of Los Angeles versus Arizona. Tampa Bay lost to Los Angeles on the road in pretty decisive fashion earlier in the year, though Brady threw for over 400 yards while playing from behind through most of that contest.

Perhaps my strongest stance in other playoff formats to this point is that I have built the majority of my teams as if Tampa Bay doesn’t get out of the second round. With that said, the NFC has four exceptional teams and Tampa Bay is one of them.

 

3. Dallas

Record: 12-5

Super Bowl Odds: +1200

Wild Card Round Opponent: vs San Francisco

 

You could argue that Dallas has the most talented roster in the sport, which is the primary reason I bought a 30:1 Super Bowl ticket on this team back in May. With that said, they are also maddeningly inconsistent at times. Their defense ended up being the top scorer at the position in The Owners Club this season, while all of their offensive options were in or around the top five at their respective positions throughout the year. Teams that can win a game in a number of ways usually do the best during the playoffs, and we’ve seen throughout the year that Dallas is highly capable on both sides of the ball with the ability to hurt you on the ground or in the air.

On the other hand, Dallas has gone 3-4 against playoff teams with two of those wins coming against Philadelphia, including last Saturday’s matchup when Philly sat their starters. That broad data point is a little misleading, since Dallas also lost three of those four games by three points or less while they went 3-0 against fringe playoff teams (Los Angeles (American), New Orleans, and Minnesota). At the end of the day, Dallas is capable of beating anyone, the question is can they string together four high-quality performances in a row?

Their Wild Card matchup with San Francisco is one that they could potentially lose, as we can reasonably count on Kyle Shanahan to have a strong game plan that will mitigate the strength of the Dallas defense: their pass rush. That thought of a potential upset is backed by oddsmakers, as Dallas is only a 3-point home favorite against San Francisco.

If Dallas wins this week, they are most likely heading to Tampa Bay for an opening night rematch. Dallas outplayed the defending champs on their home turf on opening night, despite losing 31-29 primarily due to missed field goals. If Tampa Bay loses to Philadelphia, Dallas would host the winner of Los Angeles versus Arizona. Dallas has not played Los Angeles this year and they recently lost at home to Arizona 25-22.

As alluded to in the Green Bay section, if Dallas gets to the conference championship and they end up facing Green Bay, I like their chances of pulling off an upset. In other playoff formats, Dallas is one of the teams that I’ve been purposely overweight on since those contests were released.

 

4. Los Angeles

Record: 12-5

Super Bowl Odds: +1000

Wild Card Round Opponent: vs Arizona

 

Los Angeles is the other NFC team that I’m overweight on in other playoff formats. The reasons for that are: they are well coached, they have a fringe Hall of Fame quarterback, they aren’t entirely reliant on one skill position player to carry them, they have a solid offensive line, and they have a highly capable defense. In other words, this is a team that’s capable of winning games in multiple ways that has a very realistic path to being consistent over the next four games.

On the downside, I’m a little concerned that they just came off an overtime loss to San Francisco last week where they were largely dominated in the second half. Further, all five of their losses were against playoff teams and three of those were by two scores or more. While going 3-0 against fringe playoff teams in Baltimore, Minnesota, and Indianapolis evens out their record against quality teams to some extent, you could frame Los Angeles as a team that destroyed cupcakes while going 5-5 against relevant opponents.

Los Angeles split against Arizona this season, most recently toppling them on Monday Night Football in Week 14 with a 30-23 score. If Los Angeles beats Arizona this week, they are heading to Green Bay in the divisional round unless San Francisco upends Dallas or Philadelphia shocks Tampa Bay. One of the reasons I’m overweight on Los Angeles in playoff formats to this point is that I view them as one of the best equipped teams to knock off Green Bay.

 

5. Arizona

Record: 11-6

Super Bowl Odds: +2500

Wild Card Round Opponent: at Los Angeles

 

Arizona went 2-4 to finish the year after their Week 12 bye while going 4-6 overall after their 7-0 start. Their win in Dallas two weeks ago was encouraging, and Kyler Murray is the sort of talent that is capable of carrying a team to victory against virtually anyone, but they are going to have to transform into a much different team than they’ve been over the past two months to have any shot of winning the next three or four games in a row.

With that said, that also makes Arizona an interesting contrarian option because just about everyone expects them to be an early exit in this year’s playoffs. If you’re looking to make a bull case for Arizona, during that 7-0 stretch they blew out Tennessee and rival Los Angeles, they beat San Francisco and Minnesota, while their Week 8 loss to Green Bay was by three points on Thursday Night Football.

As of last week Arizona stars Deandre Hopkins and J.J. Watt were both still questionable to return to action for Wild Card weekend.

 

6. San Francisco

Record: 10-7

Super Bowl Odds: +2000

Wild Card Round Opponent: at Dallas

 

First, San Francisco’s comeback against rival Los Angeles last week was a herculean effort given the stakes. Few see more football than I do, and I thought San Francisco was dead nearing the end of the second half last week. Factor in that they finished the year 7-2 after a 3-5 start while beating Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Los Angeles twice while losing by 3 in Tennessee on Thursday Night Football during that span, and Dallas has a very dangerous Wild Card opponent here. Further, San Francisco is well coached, they have a pretty unconventional offense, and they have a strong defensive front with a quarterback that led them to a Super Bowl appearance just two years ago.

The downside here is that Jimmy Garoppolo is a solid, but limited quarterback that could be in trouble if Dallas’s high-performing front plays to their capabilities. If San Francisco gets past Dallas, they already gave Green Bay a game this year and they beat Los Angeles twice. Even if San Francisco loses this weekend, their wide receivers and tight ends are interesting options with a realistic chance to end up as the top scorer at their position in the Wild Card Round.

 

7. Philadelphia

Record: 9-8

Super Bowl Odds: +6000

Wild Card Round Opponent: at Tampa Bay

 

Philadelphia is a different team than they were back in Week 6 when they lost to Tampa Bay at home on Thursday Night Football. They are now playing to their strengths, which is a run-heavy, physical team who wins games primarily through high-end line play on both sides of the ball. Outside of a Jalen Hurts spike game, the blueprint for an upset here would be close to New Orleans’ primetime, Week 15 victory in Tampa Bay. In that contest New Orleans’ defensive front derailed Tom Brady’s offense, and that kind of effort has been Brady’s kryptonite throughout his career.

 

1. Tennessee

Record: 12-5

Super Bowl Odds: +850

Wild Card Round Opponent: Bye

 

Something that I often say privately about team building is that if you have one of the dozen or so high-end quarterbacks you should be building your roster around those centerpieces. If you don’t have one of those guys, and most teams don’t, your best chance of being successful is to become an uncomfortable matchup. That’s exactly what Tennessee is, as they are a hard-nosed, physical team that has shown us over the last several years that they are capable of taking anyone out.

If everyone beats who they are supposed to this weekend, Tennessee will be hosting Cincinnati in the divisional round after enjoying their bye this week. If things get a little crazy instead, Tennessee will be hosting the lowest remaining seed out of Las Vegas, New England, or Pittsburgh in the second week of the playoffs. Their path beyond that likely involves hosting the winner of Kansas City vs Buffalo in the AFC championship. Tennessee beat Buffalo, blew out Kansas City, and upset Los Angeles (National) during a six-game winning steak where they also knocked off playoff contenders in Indianapolis and New Orleans during that span. The week off will help them (it may even give us the return of the Big Dog), we’ve already seen them go on a run against high-quality opponents, and Tennessee is only a year removed from an AFC Championship appearance against Kansas City.

 

2. Kansas City

Record: 12-5

Super Bowl Odds: +450

Wild Card Round Opponent: vs Steelers

 

Kansas City has become the mountain to climb in the AFC over the past several seasons, winning one title, losing last year’s big dance, and narrowly losing in the conference championship game over the last three years. Since getting blown out by Tennessee back in Week 7, Kansas City went 9-1 the rest of the way with their only loss coming in Cincinnati by 3 points just 2 weeks ago. Kansas City beat Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay, Dallas, rival Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas twice over that span. Combine those factors with Kansas City having a game during Wild Card weekend, and their options will be the most popular in The Owners Club.

If this was three years ago, Big Ben could conceivably lead Pittsburgh to a straight up victory in Kansas City this week. As things are right now, Kansas City beat Pittsburgh 36-10 three weeks ago and that wasn’t a massive surprise. If Buffalo beats New England, Kansas City will host Buffalo in the divisional round. Buffalo beat K.C. back in Week 6 by a score of 38-20. We should consider that possible game as close to a coinflip with some shootout potential. If Kansas City wins in that outcome, we’re looking at a conference championship where Kansas City either heads to Tennessee or hosts the winner of Cincinnati and Las Vegas (who would then have to beat Tennessee). While easy outs are hard to come by in the playoffs, Kansas City has a reasonable path to coming out of the AFC and they are the favorite to come out of the conference for a reason.

 

3. Buffalo

Record: 11-6

Super Bowl Odds: +750

Wild Card Round Opponent: vs Patriots

 

Buffalo is similar to Dallas or Los Angeles in the sense that they have a very talented roster that is capable of beating anyone. On the other hand, they have been pretty up and down which is best exemplified by blowing out Kansas City early in the year and then a month later losing 9-6 in Jacksonville. Similarly, quarterback Josh Allen is supremely talented and that’s a big reason why the Buffalo quarterbacks card was the top performer at the position. On the flip side, Allen’s also the primary reason for that loss in Jacksonville.

I’d suggest to you that Buffalo has struggled with more old school, physical teams this season with losses to Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Indianapolis, and New England. Speaking of New England, unless there is severe weather in Buffalo this week, I’m throwing out that Week 13 wind-assisted loss to New England as being any kind of effective barometer for this contest. But that cluster of opponents that Buffalo has lost to this season has jumped out at me since the loss to Indianapolis, and New England is capable of beating them as a road underdog.

If Buffalo beats their division rival this week, they will likely head to Kansas City in the Divisional Round for a potential shootout. If they beat Kansas City for the second time this year, Buffalo would then either head to Tennessee or host the winner of Cincinnati versus Las Vegas (who would then have to knock off Tennessee).

 

4. Cincinnati

Record: 10-7

Super Bowl Odds: +1600

Wild Card Round Opponent: vs Las Vegas

 

How to handle San Francisco and Cincinnati are the two biggest question marks for me heading into Wild Card weekend. From a macro sense, this seems like the year that Joe Burrow wins a playoff game or two further announcing himself as a factor going forward. Cincinnati has a fairly reasonable path to getting to the conference championship. They beat Las Vegas on the road 32-13 back in Week 11 and Vegas is coming off a very emotional overtime win to get into the playoffs last week, while Cincinnati rested their starters against rival Cleveland. In the Divisional Round, Tennessee’s defensive front could give Cincinnati big problems. If you’re bullish on Cincinnati, having to beat only Kansas City or Buffalo is a bonus for everyone in the conference, but I’d argue that it could potentially help Cincinnati more than anyone.

 

5. Las Vegas

Record: 10-7

Super Bowl Odds: +4000

Wild Card Round Opponent: at Cincinnati

 

First, Derek Carr was one of the most impactful players in the league this year. His exceptional play was primarily behind the three early wins against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Miami as well as the 36-33 overtime victory on the road in Dallas as a two-score underdog on Thanksgiving. Few things surprised me more than Carr’s white-hot start to this season. When you think about the situation that led to Jon Gruden’s in season departure paired with the Henry Ruggs nightmare it is absolutely remarkable that this team is in this position, and that’s not even mentioning some of the injuries and other situations that Las Vegas had to overcome to get here.

I see this matchup in Cincinnati as being a near parallel with the game in Dallas on Thanksgiving, with the core differences being Las Vegas is coming off an emotional overtime win while Cincinnati rested their starters last week and has been playing some of their best football of the year down the stretch. Additionally, Las Vegas lost at home to Cincinnati 32-13 while getting blown out by Kansas City twice since Week 10. Vegas seems more like a team that has a chance of playing up for one game (which I’d suggest they did last week to get here) rather than one that’s capable of going on a four-game winning streak against high-end opponents. Having said that, a Las Vegas build would be very contrarian and Derek Carr has shown that he’s capable of legitimate spike games.

 

6. New England

Record: 10-7

Super Bowl Odds: +2000

Wild Card Round Opponent: at Buffalo

 

New England has been a scrappy, defense-driven team all season and if they go on any kind of a run in the playoffs, it will be because they are an uncomfortable opponent that has a strategic edge on virtually everyone. New England’s running backs plus defense could be part of a pretty interesting contrarian build, as New England would have to win road games against two teams they’ve already beat this year in Buffalo and Tennessee over the next two weeks. While I wouldn’t frame that as likely, it’s doable.

 

7. Pittsburgh

Record: 9-7-1

Super Bowl Odds: +6000

Wild Card Round Opponent: at Kansas City

 

Pittsburgh lost in Kansas City 36-10 just 3 weeks ago and they are coming off an overtime win against injury-ravaged Baltimore where Big Ben’s offense could only muster 16-points with their playoff lives on the line. Pittsburgh is the biggest underdog of Wild Card weekend for a reason, and their path to victory here is pretty narrow.

 

Happy Hunting