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The ultimate playoff fantasy football rankings

If you believe the Bills have a great chance of reaching the Super Bowl, you’ll want to prioritize Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs in playoff fantasy formats. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
6 min

The funny thing about putting together an NFL playoffs fantasy football squad — assuming, as we are here, that your roster is locked through the entirety of the postseason — is that your best route to victory is by guessing right on which teams will get to the Super Bowl.

That makes this a very different exercise from regular season fantasy football leagues, in which you can expect different players to compete in more or less the same number of games. In that case, you are simply — okay, it’s never all that simple — trying to decide which player’s expected range of outcomes you prefer, factoring in perceived talent levels and team environments.

In the playoffs, some drafted or selected players will compete in just one game, while others will get as many as four chances to take the field. That discrepancy has a major effect on how many fantasy points they will score.

Analysis: The most likely teams to reach Super Bowl LVII

The issue, of course, is that no one knows which teams will advance or how far. Historically, though, the two highest-seeded teams in each conference have reached the Super Bowl at much greater rates than squads seeded third or lower. The rub there, for this exercise, is that most fantasy formats either won’t allow or will make it very difficult for you to grab a bunch of players from any one roster. You’ll probably have to identify a couple of lower-seeded teams that you think can advance at least one round, so you get two or more games from their players.

My money this year is on the fifth-seeded Dallas Cowboys and the sixth-seeded New York Giants, who look like good bets to win their NFC first-round matchups against the No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the No. 3 Minnesota Vikings. To use one well-regarded data point, by Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA (which takes into account recent form while comparing every play from every team to a baseline standard), the Cowboys rank seventh and the Giants 18th — while the Bucs are 25th and the Vikings are a woeful 28th.

The NFL playoffs are set. Here’s what you need to know.

The analytics-driven website’s weighted DVOA also has the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills ranked first and second and well ahead of the competition, which jibes nicely with my sense that the second-seeded teams are poised to make deep postseason runs. Did you know that since the NFL went to a playoff seeding system for the 1975 season, only one Super Bowl (the 2018 season’s matchup of the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams) has featured a showdown between No. 2 seeds? I’d say it’s high time for that to happen again, and the Bills, in particular, would benefit from the fact that, should they reach the AFC championship game, they are assured of playing at home or at a neutral site.

Those predictions will be baked a bit into my rankings, as is a lean toward 49ers and Bills players over their counterparts from the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs because San Francisco and Buffalo, lacking a first-round bye, have a chance to play an extra game. Also of note: I am defaulting to half-PPR scoring. Now on (finally) with the rankings!


Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa are out and their backups, Teddy Bridgewater and Tyler Huntley, are dealing with injuries. In fact, the Dolphins appear set to start a third-stringer, Skylar Thompson. Those situations negatively affect the outlook for the Dolphins’ and Ravens’ other skill position players.

1. Josh Allen, Bills

2. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

3. Jalen Hurts, Eagles

4. Joe Burrow, Bengals

5. Brock Purdy, 49ers

6. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars

7. Dak Prescott, Cowboys

8. Justin Herbert, Chargers

9. Tom Brady, Buccaneers

10. Daniel Jones, Giants

11. Kirk Cousins, Vikings

12. Geno Smith, Seahawks

13. Tyler Huntley, Ravens

14. Skylar Thompson, Dolphins

15. Teddy Bridgewater, Dolphins

16. Anthony Brown, Ravens

Running backs

Christian McCaffrey is an obvious top choice here, but Jerick McKinnon ahead of Austin Ekeler? I’m just that much more confident in McKinnon playing multiple games, and Kansas City really leaned on him in last season’s playoffs.

1. Christian McCaffrey, 49ers

2. Joe Mixon, Bengals

3. Jerick McKinnon, Chiefs

4. Austin Ekeler, Chargers

5. Saquon Barkley, Giants

6. Miles Sanders, Eagles

7. Isiah Pacheco, Chiefs

8. Tony Pollard, Cowboys

9. Dalvin Cook, Vikings

10. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

11. Travis Etienne, Jaguars

12. Devin Singletary, Bills

13. Elijah Mitchell, 49ers

14. Jeff Wilson Jr., Dolphins

15. James Cook, Bills

16. Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers

17. Kenneth Walker III, Seahawks

18. J.K. Dobbins, Ravens

19. Rachaad White, Buccaneers

20. Kenneth Gainwell, Eagles

21. Samaje Perine, Bengals

22. Boston Scott, Eagles

23. Gus Edwards, Ravens

24. Salvon Ahmed, Dolphins

25. Joshua Kelley, Chargers

Wide receivers

Minnesota can really stick it to me here, but given my playoff forecast, I just can’t see placing the uber-productive Justin Jefferson any higher, let alone the likes of Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn.

1. Stefon Diggs, Bills

2. Ja’Marr Chase, Chiefs

3. A.J. Brown, Eagles

4. DeVonta Smith, Eagles

5. Deebo Samuel, 49ers

6. Justin Jefferson, Vikings

7. Tee Higgins, Bengals

8. CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys

9. Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers

10. Keenan Allen, Chargers

11. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chiefs

12. Mike Evans, Buccaneers

13. Chris Godwin, Buccaneers

14. Gabe Davis, Bills

15. Kadarius Toney, Chiefs

16. Christian Kirk, Jaguars

17. Tyreek Hill, Dolphins

18. Tyler Boyd, Bengals

19. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks

20. DK Metcalf, Seahawks

21. Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins

22. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Chiefs

23. Zay Jones, Jaguars

24. Richie James, Giants

25. Joshua Palmer, Chargers

26. Isaiah Hodgins, Giants

27. Adam Thielen, Vikings

28. K.J. Osborn, Vikings

29. Mecole Hardman, Chiefs

30. Darius Slayton, Giants

31. Michael Gallup, Cowboys

32. Demarcus Robinson, Ravens

33. Russell Gage, Buccaneers

35. Noah Brown, Cowboys

36. Marvin Jones, Jaguars

37. DeAndre Carter, Chargers

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Tight ends

Travis Kelce towers above this group, with George Kittle also deserving of his own tier before a sharp drop to the rest.

1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs

2. George Kittle, 49ers

3. Dallas Goedert, Eagles

4. Dawson Knox, Bills

5. Dalton Schultz, Cowboys

6. T.J. Hockenson, Vikings

7. Mark Andrews, Ravens

8. Evan Engram, Jaguars

9. Hayden Hurst, Bengals

10. Gerald Everett, Chargers

11. Cade Otton, Buccaneers

12. Daniel Bellinger, Giants

13. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins

14. Isaiah Likely, Ravens

15. Noah Gray, Chiefs

16. Noah Fant, Seahawks


I’m lumping these positions together because, in this exercise, the value of both strongly derives from how many postseason appearances you think they’ll make. Sorry, Justin Tucker and guys named Jason.

1. Bills/Tyler Bass

2. 49ers/Robbie Gould

3. Eagles/Jake Elliott

4. Chiefs/Harrison Butker

5. Bengals/Evan McPherson

6. Cowboys/Brett Maher

7. Jaguars/Riley Patterson

8. Chargers/Cameron Dicker

9. Giants/Graham Gano

10. Vikings/Greg Joseph

11. Buccaneers/Ryan Succop

12. Ravens/Justin Tucker

13. Dolphins/Jason Sanders

14. Seahawks/Jason Myers