Playoff Fantasy Football: How To Play, Rules, Strategies, and More

Playing playoff fantasy football has become a fun way to extend the season while introducing new people to the game. Here's how to get started.

Like many of you, the end of the regular season used to mean the end of fantasy football until September. But the prospect of going nine months without fantasy football isn’t all that appealing.

So why not extend the fun by another four weeks with NFL playoff fantasy football? Learning the various ways to play fantasy in the NFL playoffs is becoming an intriguing way to keep the season going a bit longer.

How To Play Playoff Fantasy Football

Regular season fantasy football has its fair share of formats and variations, but the overwhelming majority of people play the same game — head to head with a 14-week regular season and a three-week playoff.

Playoff fantasy football comes in a number of different iterations. There are best ball, head-to-head, weekly, and total points formats. And then, within those formats, there are multiple ways to select rosters and set lineups.

The vast majority of fantasy aficionados are already likely familiar with all of these concepts. After all, fantasy is a somewhat simple concept. If you’re a veteran of the game but haven’t really dabbled in postseason fantasy, there are some important changes you’ll need to make.

Perhaps the most pronounced is league size. In regular-season fantasy football, the optimal league size is 12 teams. 10-team leagues are also quite common and good for beginners. There are plenty of 14-team leagues out there as well.

In the playoffs, you really have two options:

  1. You have a large-scale pool with no limit on entries where everyone gets to pick whatever players they want, knowing that there will be overlap.
  2. You have a traditional league with a draft, which forces you to a limited league size of 6-8 teams.

MORE: PFN’s FREE NFL Playoff Predictor

There are roughly 200 fantasy-relevant players at any given time during the regular season. That is, of course, also across 32 teams. In the playoffs, we start with 14 teams, and the number is reduced each week. That results in less than 100 fantasy-relevant players.

If your entire 12-team league is interested in playoff fantasy football, an easy solution is to split into two six-team leagues. With there being 14 teams in the playoffs now, seven-team leagues are also a great idea. Having an odd number of teams is not a problem in playoff fantasy because there are no head-to-head matchups.

Choose a Roster Size That Won’t Be Overly Difficult To Fill Based on League Size

The next step in setting up your playoff fantasy football league is to decide on starting rosters. A 14-player roster is a solid starting point in a six-person league, but much like seasonal fantasy, there’s plenty of wiggle room.

The same applies to roster construction. Anything around your usual format should work fine.

Going with something similar to 2 QBs, 2 RBs, 4 WRs, 2 TEs, 2 Ks, and 2 D/STs will have you on the right track (I would suggest leaving out kickers and defenses, though — it’s more trouble than it’s worth).

This is probably intuitive, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. There’s no trading and no waiver wire. A bit more on this critical strategic component later on.

The main difference when learning to play playoff fantasy football comes with the scoring.

A Total Points Scoring Format Will Likely Be Your Best Bet When Setting Up a League

This is easily the most significant departure from regular-season fantasy football. Fantasy managers see this format most in best ball. If you do any drafts on Underdog Fantasy, you know the final standings are based on an accumulation of total points across the 17 weeks of the fantasy season.

Of course, these leagues do exist for non-best ball, weekly managed leagues. They’re just not particularly popular, but they do exist.

For those unfamiliar, there is a format of fantasy football where you draft a roster and set a lineup as normal, but there are no weekly matchups. Your team scores points each week, as in any fantasy league, and that’s all that matters. The team with the most total points after 17 weeks wins.

If you want to ensure the best teams always win your fantasy league, total points is a great idea. It’s fair. It’s balanced. And it doesn’t overweigh random things like matchups and individual weeks at specific points in the season. It’s also not particularly exciting, which is why head-to-head is so popular.

In playoff fantasy football, the balance of power shifts. It’s actually more exciting and beneficial to everyone to utilize total points. The NFL playoffs are only four weeks long. Specific head-to-head matchups just aren’t conducive to either fun or fairness.

If your league selects rosters through a draft, there’s far more nuance to the strategy than drafting the best players. Your players only accumulate fantasy points for each game they play.

Whereas in regular season fantasy football, your focus is on what players you think will score the most points. In playoff fantasy football, you need to consider whether the players that score the most points will be on teams that win. It requires a bit of prognosticating.

Managers have to decide at the draft what teams they think will advance deep into the playoffs and try to select the best players on those teams. Sometimes, it’s better to take a lesser player on a better team because he’s more likely to play multiple games.

These playoff contests extend all the way to the Super Bowl. Choosing players on teams who can make deep playoff runs is crucial to securing enough points to win it all. When learning how to play playoff fantasy football, this is what can make or break your team.

This is also why trading and waivers do not need to be part of playoff fantasy football. It’s a four-week mini-season more directed at fun than anything else. The challenge of playoff fantasy football is more predicting what teams will advance further because, let’s be honest, we already know which players are good at this point.

It nearly defeats the purpose of the draft if you can replace the players you lose along the way.

What Are Some Key Strategies To Know When Learning Playoff Fantasy Football?

The most important strategy is drafting players on teams that will play multiple games. Tyreek Hill is absolutely an elite WR1. He is the best wide receiver in fantasy football.

But if he’s only playing one game, you will get more production out of someone like Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has a shot at playing as many as three, if not four, games.

MORE: Fantasy News Tracker

Another aspect of playoff fantasy that is different is the value of quarterbacks. Now, to be fair, we are going to see Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts in the second round of 2024 fantasy drafts. But we won’t see them in the first round. And we certainly won’t see them taken with fantasy managers’ first picks.

In playoff leagues, the elite quarterbacks are the first picks every time. Quarterbacks score the most fantasy points, and unlike in the regular season, they are a very scarce commodity. If you don’t have a good quarterback on a team likely to advance far into the playoffs, your chances of winning decrease greatly.

Don’t Concern Yourself With Bye Weeks When Drafting

We are now in the third year of the NFL’s expanded playoff. With only one team in each conference on bye, it actually makes navigating the bye weeks a bit more difficult.

Unlike in the previous format, there is a 100% chance a team playing in the Wild Card round will be playing in the Conference Championship. Ideally, that’s the quarterback you want. That player is guaranteed to have at least as many starts as either of the No. 1 seeds’ quarterbacks and has the best shot at advancing to the Super Bowl outside of the top seeds.

Learning how to play playoff fantasy football introduces a new, fun way to play without the commitment of a 17-week schedule. It could make for a fun introduction to the game to get new players interested in this sport we love, thus growing the game to even larger heights. 

Looking to make a trade in your fantasy league? Having trouble deciding who to start and who to sit? Setting DFS lineups? Check out PFN’s Free Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer, Start/Sit Optimizer, and DFS Lineup Optimizer to help you make the right decision!

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