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Playoff Extra: Playoff Challenge strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The regular season may have ended, but your Fantasy fix can continue for a few more weeks. You can still build a team, set a lineup and watch your guys rack up stats all the way through the playoffs.

We're talking about the CBSSports.com Playoff Challenge, which is a Fantasy game you can play all the way up to Super Bowl XLVIII. It's a fun way to watch the playoffs and still compete.

After you sign up here for a team, you can compete for a cash prize or against your friends for free. You can also try and challenge the CBSSports.com Fantasy staff by joining our group, where you will play against me, Dave Richard, Nando Di Fino, Adam Aizer and others for bragging rights.

The rules of the game are simple. You have a lineup of QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, TE, K and DST with 300 units to spend on your roster. Throughout the playoffs you are allowed eight transactions, and the more you have at the end the better.

Your first objective in setting a lineup should be to pick your Super Bowl matchup and figure out how the teams will get there. You want players on your Playoff Challenge roster who will play at least two games with the chance to make it three or even four.

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Picking the right team from the Wild Card round -- last year Baltimore played four games to win Super Bowl XLVII -- and hoping they get hot is crucial. History tells us that at least one team that played on Wild Card weekend has made the Super Bowl in each of the last three postseasons and seven of the last eight. I like the 49ers and Eagles from the NFC and the Bengals from the AFC as teams that could make a run.

From there you can set your lineup, and hopefully the players you choose can continue on through the Super Bowl. Below is a look at a few different teams to help you with some lineup suggestions.

For my playoff predictions, I expect Indianapolis and Cincinnati to win the Wild Card round in the AFC and San Francisco and Philadelphia to advance in the NFC. Then it gets interesting. Denver should beat Indianapolis, but the Bengals already beat the Patriots once this season and could be a surprise winner in the Divisional Round at New England. Whoever wins should lose at Denver, and the Broncos should advance to the Super Bowl.

In the NFC, San Francisco could pull off the upset in Seattle in the Divisional Round, and Philadelphia might be able to win at Carolina. Most likely, the Seahawks will win at home and advance to the Super Bowl, but I'll take the early gamble on the 49ers and Eagles based on the upside for the overall Fantasy production.

It should be a fun postseason, and we hope you can enjoy it as a Fantasy owner. You might be able to win some money along the way or just bragging rights against your friends or even us at CBSSports.com.

My potential Team 1

My Team No. 1
Andy Dalton, QB, CIN 49
Donald Brown, RB, IND 48
Frank Gore, RB, SF 55
Anquan Boldin, WR, SF 36
T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND 30
Vernon Davis, TE, SF 38
Alex Henery, K, PHI 15
Bengals DST 28
Total: 299

Here's an example of one team I like based on the 49ers. Vernon Davis is the first player I picked because of his potential and recent postseason success -- along with wanting a dominant tight end. Last year he had 12 catches for 254 yards and a touchdown in three playoff games, and the year before he had 10 catches for 292 yards and four touchdowns in two postseason outings. He's also dominated Green Bay in the past three meetings with 10 catches for 185 yards and three touchdowns, and the Packers have allowed a tight end to score in three of their past four games.

Frank Gore, like Davis, has a good history against the Packers. In his past three meetings with Green Bay, Gore has at least 12 Fantasy points in a standard league with a touchdown in each game and two 100-yard outings. The Packers have also allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in three consecutive games and five of the past six.

Anquan Boldin also did well against the Packers in Week 1 with 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown on 17 targets. He has at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in six of his past seven games, and Green Bay has allowed a receiver to reach double digits in Fantasy points in three consecutive games.

Andy Dalton actually finished the season as the No. 3 Fantasy quarterback behind Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. He comes into the playoffs with four games in a row with at least 23 Fantasy points, and the Chargers have allowed five quarterbacks to score at least 21 points on the road this season. They held Dalton to 11 Fantasy points in Week 13, but that was at San Diego.

T.Y. Hilton was held to five catches for 52 yards at Kansas City in Week 16, but he's coming off a monster game in Week 17 against Jacksonville with 11 catches for 155 yards on 15 targets. He has at least seven Fantasy points in five of eight home games, and the Chiefs have allowed a receiver to reach double digits in Fantasy points in three of their past four road games.

Donald Brown just dominated the Chiefs in Week 16 with 10 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 31 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City has allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in seven of the past eight games, and Brown has scored in consecutive games and reached nine Fantasy points in three of his past five.

Potential transactions for the Divisional Round: eight

My potential Team 2

My Team No. 2
Andy Dalton, QB, CIN 49
LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI 64
Donald Brown, RB, IND 48
Anquan Boldin, WR, SF 36
T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND 30
Vernon Davis, TE, SF 38
Alex Henery, K, PHI 15
Eagles DST 20
Total: 300

This team has a little bit more of an Eagles feel to it with LeSean McCoy, Alex Henery and the Eagles DST. I'm counting on Philadelphia to stay hot offensively against New Orleans in the Wild Card round with the Saints continuing their road woes.

McCoy had double digits in Fantasy points in six of eight home games, and he closed the season with 70 points in his final three games in Philadelphia against Arizona, Detroit and Chicago. It's a great scenario because the Saints have struggled to contain running backs on the road. New Orleans has played road games at Tampa Bay, Chicago, New England, the Jets, Atlanta, Seattle, St. Louis and Carolina, and Doug Martin, Matt Forte, Stevan Ridley, Chris Ivory, Steven Jackson, Zac Stacy and DeAngelo Williams each scored at least nine Fantasy points. Only Marshawn Lynch failed to have a productive game against this Saints defense when they were on the road, but McCoy should come through.

The benefit of this team is if the Eagles and 49ers win as expected, then I'll have more options moving on to the next round with a better variation of guys on the roster.

Potential transactions for the Divisional Round: eight

Team Peyton Manning

Team Peyton
Peyton Manning, QB, IND 76
Montee Ball, RB, DEN 21
Donald Brown, RB, IND 48
Eric Decker, WR, DEN 45
Wes Welker, WR, DEN 41
Greg Olsen, TE, CAR 24
Mike Nugent, K, CIN 17
Broncos DST 27
Total: 300

This team is an example of building around the No. 1 quarterback in Peyton Manning, and I used a heavy Broncos slant with Montee Ball, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and the Broncos DST. If you believe Denver will make it to the Super Bowl then why not go all in. The only downside with this roster is getting minimal production from the Wild Card round with only Brown and Mike Nugent playing this weekend.

If you don't want to use Manning you can substitute any quarterback since he's the most expensive at 76 units. Drew Brees (73 units), Aaron Rodgers (70), Nick Foles (68) and Tom Brady (66) are the next quarterbacks in order, and if you downgrade from Manning you'll have more units to upgrade at other positions. But Manning only had two games at home with fewer than 21 Fantasy points, and the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Denver.

Ball obviously struggled down the stretch, but his price fit with this roster. The Broncos will lean on Knowshon Moreno in the postseason, but Ball could still get goal-line touches. One different running back duo I considered for this roster was BenJarvus Green-Ellis (37) and Danny Woodhead (34) instead of Ball and Brown, but there are a number of combinations you can come up with if Manning is your guy.

Decker was a star to close the season with eight touchdowns in his final five games, and he scored at least 17 Fantasy points in three of those outings. Welker (concussion) was absent for three of those games, and he's expected back for the playoffs. But we don't see any of the AFC teams slowing down Denver's passing game in the playoffs barring something unforeseen. And Decker and Welker scored at least nine Fantasy points in the same game three times during the season.

When you go big on someone like Manning, you'll have to sacrifice at a spot or two, and we downgrade at tight end from Davis to Greg Olsen. The Panthers wouldn't surprise me if they were one-and-done in the playoffs or went to the Super Bowl, so Olsen is somewhat of a gamble. But after Davis he's the next best thing, especially for the price, since he scored at least eight Fantasy points in eight games during the year.

Potential transactions for the Divisional Round: two

Team Running Back

Team Running Back
Andy Dalton, QB, CIN 49
Marshawn Lynch, RB, PHI 65
LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI 64
T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND 30
Anquan Boldin, WR, SF 36
Zach Miller, TE, SEA 14
Alex Henery, K, PHI 15
Broncos DST 27
Total: 300

Many of you like to load up on running backs in any Fantasy format, so here's the team for you. McCoy clearly has a great opportunity for at least two games, and Lynch could lead Seattle to the Super Bowl. So let's build a team around these two elite options. You can also swap out McCoy for Jamaal Charles since they are same price at 64 units. You can also get Moreno at 62, which might give you more value at a lower price, and the Broncos definitely have a great chance to play in the Super Bowl.

Lynch could have a tough road to the Super Bowl with potential matchups against San Francisco and Carolina (we'd love to see him face New Orleans in the Divisional Round), but we'd still gamble on him if you believe in the Seahawks going all the way. After all, he scored 43 Fantasy points against the 49ers in two games this season and has double digits in points in five consecutive meetings with San Francisco. As for the Panthers, they held Lynch to 17 carries for 43 yards and two catches for 9 yards in Week 1, but that was in Carolina. Lynch averaged 16 Fantasy points at home this season, and we wouldn't shy away from him in any matchup, especially if he faces the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.

I'm sticking with Dalton, Hilton and Boldin here based on their Wild Card matchups, and we'll go with Zach Miller at tight end with this team based on value. He only scored double digits in Fantasy points three times, but he could give you three games if Seattle makes it to the Super Bowl. He also scored four touchdowns at home this season.

Potential transactions for the Divisional Round: five

Team Wide Receiver

Team Wide Receiver
Andy Dalton, QB, CIN 49
LeGarrette Blount, RB, NE 41
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, CIN 37
Randall Cobb, WR, GB 36
T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND 30
Greg Olsen, TE, CAR 24
Alex Henery, K, PHI 15
Bengals DST 28
Total: 300

Now that we showed you a team with two top-tier running backs, we'll go with a team slanted toward two upper-echelon receivers. Demaryius Thomas is the No. 1 receiver at 47 units, and to get away from using Decker or Welker, we went with A.J. Green here as the second option.

I was able to pair those two with Davis and Dalton, which I like, and the running backs have potential based on value in LeGarrette Blount and Green-Ellis. Blount closed the season with 40 carries for 265 yards and four touchdowns in his final two games against Baltimore and Buffalo, and he scored double digits in Fantasy points in three of his final five outings. He's clearly the running-downs rusher to use for the Patriots over Ridley right now.

As for Green-Ellis, he sets up as a nice sleeper in the first two rounds based on potential opponents. He had 13 Fantasy points at San Diego in Week 1, and if Cincinnati faces New England in the Divisional Round as expected, he also had 12 Fantasy points against the Patriots in Week 5.

Thomas doesn't get enough credit for being an elite Fantasy receiver, but he had double digits in Fantasy points in 11 games with six 100-yard outings and 14 touchdowns. He finished the year 92 catches for 1,430 yards, and he should be a beast in the playoffs.

Green also had double digits in Fantasy points in 11 games with six 100-yard outings and 11 touchdowns. He finished the year with 98 catches for 1,426 yards, and he had five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown at San Diego in the first meeting.

Potential transactions for the Divisional Round: five

Team Green Bay

Team Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB 70
Eddie Lacy, RB, GB 58
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, CIN 37
Randall Cobb, WR, GB 36
T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND 30
Greg Olsen, TE, CAR 24
Alex Henery, K, PHI 15
Bengals DST 28
Total: 298

I expect the 49ers to beat the Packers this weekend, but if you like Green Bay then here's a team for you with Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb. The Packers, like the 49ers, can easily make a run now that Rodgers is back after his seven-game absence from a broken collarbone.

Rodgers played well at Chicago in his first game back in Week 17 with 20 Fantasy points, and he has a good history against the 49ers. He had 30 Fantasy points in Week 1, and he scored at least 22 points in both meetings in 2012. The 49ers have allowed 755 passing yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions in their final two games against Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer this season, so Rodgers could have the chance to shine.

Lacy also is worth consideration since he had a touchdown against San Francisco in Week 1, and the 49ers have allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in two of their final four games. Lacy has scored double digits in points in four games in a row to close the season.

Cobb, like Rodgers, was a key cog in the win against the Bears. Playing in his first game back after being out 10 games with a knee injury, Cobb had two catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns. He had seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers in Week 1, and he had 14 catches for 101 yards in two meetings with San Francisco last year.

Aside from the three Packers, we'll stick with Green-Ellis, Hilton, Olsen, Henery and the Bengals. If Green Bay wins, you'll be in good shape with three of the Packers best players moving forward.

Potential transactions for the Divisional Round: seven

Team Seattle

Team Seattle
Russell Wilson, QB, SEA 60
Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA 65
Shane Vereen, RB, NE 45
Julian Edelman, WR, NE 38
Golden Tate, WR, SEA 26
Zach Miller, TE, SEA 14
Mike Nugent, K, CIN 17
Seahawks DST 31
Total: 296

We gave you a team slanted toward the Broncos with Manning, so we'll focus on a team here with the NFC favorite in the Seahawks. We'll supplement Russell Wilson, Lynch, Golden Tate, Miller and the Seahawks DST with a couple of Patriots in Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman since New England can also reach the Super Bowl as the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

Wilson struggled to close the season with 17 Fantasy points or less in four consecutive games, but he did have four home games this year with at least 22 Fantasy points. If you believe in Seattle then hopefully he can get hot for the playoffs and overcome his lackluster play down the stretch.

I went with Tate over Doug Baldwin since he's two units cheaper at 26, but you can roll with either Seattle receiver here. I still view Tate as the No. 1 option, and he had eight catches for 129 yards and a touchdown on nine targets in the season-finale against St. Louis. Baldwin had just one catch in his final two outings, but he scored in three of his final five home games this year.

Vereen came back from a broken wrist in Week 11 and finished the season with at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in four of seven games. If the Patriots get pass-happy in the playoffs, Vereen will play a prominent role.

The same goes for Edelman, who had double digits in Fantasy points in four of his final six games, with at least seven points in each outing over that span. He's clearly Brady's go-to receiver with Rob Gronkowski (knee) out.

Potential transactions for the Divisional Round: one

Team Dave Richard

Team Dave Richard
Nick Foles, QB, PHI 68
LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI 64
Giovani Bernard, RB, CIN 46
DeSean Jackson, WR, PHI 41
Riley Cooper, WR, PHI 34
Brent Celek, TE, PHI 11
Alex Henery, K, PHI 15
Eagles DST 20
Total: 299

Without getting into specifics on the players, I wanted to show you a strategy my colleague, Dave Richard, plans to use for the Playoff Challenge. He's going all in on the Eagles making a run, but he has a backup in case they lose.

He loaded up on Philadelphia with Foles, McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Brent Celek, Henery and the Eagles DST. He used Giovani Bernard to round out his roster, and if those teams advance he's in good shape for the Divisional Round.

But if the Eagles and Bengals get upset in the Wild Card round and he has to use all eight transactions then he plans to go all in on Denver. His Divisional Round lineup would be Manning, Moreno, Thomas, Decker, Jacob Tamme and the Broncos DST supplemented with Brandon Bolden and Graham Gano to make the units work.

Dave would be in great shape if the Eagles make a run to the Super Bowl, but he would be done after the Divisional Round if the Eagles and Broncos are eliminated. This is one boom or bust strategy to follow if you like one team, like Dave does with the Eagles, to go all the way.

Potential transactions for the Divisional Round: eight

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg .

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Player News
Report: Chargers hold workout for Austin Pettis
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Chargers held a workout for former Rams wideout Austin Pettis, according to ESPN.

Pettis was cut by St. Louis in October, and hasn't hooked on with a team just yet. The Chargers are dealing with a number of injuries at the receiver position, and are looking to sign Pettis as depth. Pettis caught 12 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown before he was cut. 


Report: Chargers punter Mike Scifres could end up on IR
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Chargers punter Mike Scifres could wind up going on injured-reserve, according to FoxSports.

Scifres is progressing from a shoulder injury, but the team is pressed for roster spots. Scifres has already missed two games due to the injury, and was ruled out of for the team's regular season finale. The Chargers need to add a center to the active roster, and Scifres could be in danger of losing his spot so the team can add another lineman. 


Saints' Marques Colston reflects on down year
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Saints wideout Marques Colston reflected on his less than stellar season on Friday, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

Colston, who rarely gives interviews, expressed his frustrations with the season. He's currently on pace to register his second-lowest yardage total in his nine seasons, and needs one touchdown in order to avoid setting a career-low in the category. Colston admitted the struggles got to him during the year. "It’s not a secret I didn’t play up to my own standards," he said. "I’ve got to live with that." He added, "I pride myself on trying to be part of the solution. Instead this year, I feel like I was part of the problem at times."

Colston did not want to address his future in New Orleans, instead opting to look forward to the team's final game this Sunday.


Marshawn Lynch among Seahawks' probables
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is listed as probable for Week 17 against the Rams.

Lynch was listed on the injury report with a back injury, but has been able to battle through the issue all season. He did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but was able to put in a full practice on Friday.

The team should also have Tony Moeaki and Russell Okung. Both players were listed as probable on the final injury report. 

Cooper Helfet, Chris Matthews, Tharold Simon and Max Unger are listed as questionable, and will be game-time decisions. 

Both Demarcus Dobbs and Jermaine Kearse have already been ruled out for the contest. 


Report: Saints' Jimmy Graham to have MRI on shoulder
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will have an MRI on his shoulder next week, according to the New Orleans Advocate

Graham initially injured his shoulder back in Week 5, but has been able to play through the injury all season. While his touchdown total has remained solid, Graham's yardage is down this year. It's possible he's more injured than he's let on all season, and the injury is serious enough that the team will send him for the MRI. Once the team has a diagnosis, Graham will evaluate with team doctors.


Rams list Scott Wells, Janoris Jenkins as probable, E.J. Gaines doubtful
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Rams have listed center Scott Wells (back) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (back) as probable for Sunday's game against the Seahawks after both were able to participate fully in practice Friday.

Cornerback E.J. Gaines, who is dealing with a concussion, is considered doubtful for the game. If he is unable to go, rookie Lamarcus Joyner or Marcus Roberson could see an uptick in playing time.

The Rams 12 1/2-point underdogs against the Seahawks Sunday.


Cardinals list four as questionable for Sunday against San Francisco
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) With quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) already declared out, the Cardinals listed four players as questionable for Sunday's game against the 49ers including Deone Bucannon (knee), John Carlson (calf), Johnathan Cooper (wrist) and Dan Williams (foot).

Linebacker Larry Foote is also listeed as doubtful for the game with a knee injury. Foote has not missed a game this season, totaling 84 tackles and two sacks.

The Cardinals have also listed the following players as probable: Lorenzo Alexander (knee), Jaron Brown (toe), Calais Campbell (hip), Larry Fitzgerald (knee), Rashad Johnson (ankle), Ted Larsen (shoulder), Tyrann Mathieu (thumb) and Matt Shaughnessy (shoulder).


49ers rule out three for Sunday against the Cardinals
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The 49ers have deemed running back Carlos Hyde (ankle), wide receiver Steve Johnson (knee) and safety Eric Reid (concussion) as out for Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

It is the second straight game out for both Hyde and Johnson. Hyde finishes his rooke season with 83 carries for 333 yards and four touchdowns while Johnson had 35 catches for 435 yards and three touchdowns this year.

Wide receiever Bruce Ellington (hamstring), cornerbacks Tramaine Brock (hamstring) and Perrish Cox (shoulder) and linebacker Ahmad Brooks (thumb) are all listed as questionable.

Michael Crabtree (knee), Chris Culliver (knee), Brandon Lloyd (groin), Marcus Martin (illness) and Justin Smith (back) are all listed as probable.

The 49ers are currently 6 1/2-point favorites against Arizona Sunday.


Lions' Dominic Raiola loses appeal, remains suspended for Week 17
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) Lions center Dominic Raiola's one-game suspension was upheld by the league following his appeal. Raiola received the one-game suspension earlier in the week after stomping on the leg on Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson in Week 16.

The Lions are currently 7 1/2-point underdogs on the road against the Packers in Week 17.


Raiders list seven player on Week 17 injury report
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12/26/2014) The Raiders listed seven players on its final injury report for Week 17 against Denver. Wide receiver Vincent Brown (groin), cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), and wide receiver Denarius Moore (knee, ankle) were ruled out for for Sunday. Cornerback T.J. Carrie (ankle), linebacker Khalil Mack (hamstring) and tackle Menelik Watson (foot, ankle) were labeled questionable.

Meanwhile, defensive back Ras-I Dowling (hamstring) got the green light after being a limited participant all week. He was deemed probable for the final game of the season.


 
 
 
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