All fantasy owners understand that team context affects player value. All things being equal, Player X is going to be more valuable on the Chiefs than he is on the Cardinals. Invest in strong, prolific offenses, and the fantasy points should follow.
Team context still matters in the playoff version of fantasy football. It manifests itself, however, in a different, yet related, way. Once a player’s team is eliminated from the playoffs, he’s no longer scoring points for his fantasy owners. Above all else, racking up games played is what wins playoff fantasy leagues. The most important question to ask before a playoff fantasy draft is, “How many games will each team play?”
Here’s a real-world example for this season. No one would argue that Allen Robinson is a better fantasy player than Keenan Allen, at least not this season. Robinson’s Bears, however, are 5.5-point favorites over the Eagles in the wild card round. Should they win, they’d face in the divisional round a Rams team that they beat in the regular season. Allen’s Chargers are 2.5-point underdogs to the Ravens this week. Let’s assume that the chalk holds. The Bears beat the Eagles, but lose to the Rams. The Chargers, meanwhile, go out of the playoffs this week with a loss to the Ravens. Would you rather have two games of Robinson or one game of Allen?
This is just an illustration. You may think that the Eagles will beat the Bears, and the Chargers will take down the Ravens, both of which could very well happen. The point, however, is that the number of games a team plays drives playoff fantasy value more than any other. Before you figure out where every player is in your rankings, you must first estimate how many games the 12 postseason teams will play.
For the sake of full disclosure, my Super Bowl pick is Saints over Chiefs, with the Bears and Texans joining them in the championship round. You’ll see my projected success for those four teams reflected throughout the SI.com playoff fantasy football rankings.