Peyton Manning (4,659 yards passing, 37 TD) and the top-seeded Broncos are reasonable bets for three games during the NFL playoffs.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression...unless we're talking about fantasy football. In this realm, sweet redemption comes in the form of dominating the NFL postseason league of your choice.
Before you blindly accept the scoring rules, terms of competition and entry fee of any random league, though, allow me to break down the fundamental and strategic differences of standard postseason (or "longevity") leagues and weekly one-and-done (or "survivor") leagues.
For a listing of my standard-scoring positional rankings for Wild Card weekend, click here:
**You MUST pick your entire team before the Wild Card games begin on Saturday.
**Your lineup shall remain unchanged throughout the playoffs.
**The goal is to maximize the number of playoff games for each starting slot.
Rules to Live By
1. It's all about the three-game quest
Before choosing a starters-only roster (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 Flex, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 D/ST), ask these crucial questions:
Are my preferred targets solid favorites to reach the Super Bowl or conference championship round? Is each one a healthy lock for two, three or even four games?
If the answer for either one is no, then it's probably wise to ignore these short-term assets in longevity leagues. Regardless of how some superstars may look on paper (like Adrian Peterson or Indy's Reggie Wayne or Andrew Luck), it's essentially a wasted pick if they're not locks for two or three playoff games.
Case in point: Six years ago, I correctly pegged the Colts and Bears for the Super Bowl and subsequently loaded up on stars like Reggie Wayne, Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai and Chicago's Thomas Jones and WR Bernard Berrian (18 TDs from 2006-08). All told, the quintet produced 18 combined playoff games—easily enough to provide yours truly with a welcomed fantasy crown.
2. The 'opposite' strategy can be a difference-maker with quarterbacks
A large segment of longevity-league owners will choose Manning, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. On paper, it's one of the few no-brainer moves in this crapshoot-like process of building a playoff fantasy roster.
But here's one concern: With everyone riding Manning, Brady or Rodgers during the playoffs...the potential to break free of the pack in overall QB points could be nonexistent for the first two rounds.
Thinking out of the box, it might be beneficial to pursue passers like Matt Schaub, Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson, while taking the chance that Houston, Washington or Seattle will advance to a conference championship (and beyond)...and that New England or Denver falls in the divisional playoffs.
The upshot: No owner outside of Texas or Washington state would have Schaub or Wilson advancing three times.
The downside: The potential to miss out on Brady, Rodgers or Manning points could be your club's ultimate failure.
3. Don't be left holding the bag on Super Bowl Sunday
If you believe Brady and Colin Kaepernick will be the starting QBs on the first Sunday in February, it's imperative to keep one of 'em on the sidelines during the AFC/NFC playoffs.
In other words, don't be stuck with Ryan Mallett (Patriots) or Alex Smith (49ers) as the only QB options for Super Sunday. Budget your assets in this crucial slot.
4. Always factor in the elements before securing lineups
At the risk of sounding like a broken record from the regular season, weather should always play a role in starting picks.
All things being equal, I'd rather have a QB performing in a warm, comfy dome (Matt Ryan or Matt Schaub) over one struggling in the wind, cold, rain and snow for one or two games. And yes, I'm including Rodgers and Brady into that rationale...although I'm (slightly) more confident in Rodgers' capacity for 320 yards/three touchdowns in wretched weather.
Bottom line: Check the NFL Weather Map before signing off on strategies involving cold-weather quarterbacks, receivers or kickers.
'Longevity' Dream Team
Rationale: Aim for assets who'll likely appear in three playoff games. In my view, that entails stars from the Broncos, Patriots, Packers and 49ers.
QB: Peyton Manning
RB: Frank Gore, Knowshon Moreno
WR: Demaryius Thomas, Greg Jennings
RB/WR: Stevan Ridley
TE: Rob Gronkowski
K: Matt Prater
**You can pick a new set of players before all four playoff rounds.
**However, you can only choose a particular player once during the playoffs.
Rules to Live By
1. Stay one step ahead of the competition
Hypothetically speaking, let's say the Bengals (@ Houston on Sunday) are the first ones bounced from the Super Bowl tourney. Consequently, this week serves as the only chance to use RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis or WR A.J. Green.
Or, if you think this round shall be Andrew Luck's seasonal swan song...then by all means, play him over Robert Griffin—and save RG3 for another playoff day. (In that scenario, the Redskins knock off the Seahawks.)
2. Maximize your opportunities
Fantasy owners should shoot for the moon in every playoff round. Try to maximize your scoring at every turn. Treat every Sunday like it's the last stand of fantasy glory for a notable asset.
'Survivor' Dream Team—Wild Card Round
Rationale: If a player can only be used once during the playoffs, why not go with a stud who'll come up big during Wild Card weekend (attractive matchup)? Why not side with a rushing wiz whose club might get ousted this week?
QB: Andrew Luck
RB: Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris
WR: Reggie Wayne, A.J. Green
RB/WR: Sidney Rice
TE: Jermaine Gresham
K: Blair Walsh
At some point before Saturday, I recommend sitting down for five minutes and brainstorming the playoff winners, game by game, round by round. Something like this (my picks):
Houston over Cincinnati
Green Bay over Minnesota
Seattle over Washington
Baltimore over Indianapolis
Denver over Baltimore
Green Bay over San Francisco
Atlanta over Seattle
New England over Houston
Denver over New England
Green Bay over Atlanta
Denver over Green Bay
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.