The 2023 regular season has set for us, which gives us two options: Wait for next season or play 2024 playoffs fantasy? Playoffs fantasy is a must for anybody looking to keep the juices flowing. We have a primer about where and how to play 2024 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football, so I won’t spend much time on that.
I will say, however, please make sure you check your league settings! Every league does it a little differently (roster settings, best ball or not, scoring settings, etc.), so you want to ensure you are drafting optimally.
Onto the analysis and 2024 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football strategy. Also check out: The Wolf’s 2024 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football Rankings.
How Should I Draft My 2024 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Team?
Your team build should depend on how your league pays out. If you are in a league where only first place gets money, then you must take a different approach than a league that pays multiple places. If you are in a large contest, you need to approach that differently. There are two main ways to build a roster: All In and Spread.
NFL Playoffs Fantasy Strategy #1: ALL IN
The All In approach is the approach that I generally recommend and prefer. It is the only real option if you are in a large-field contest, like Underdog’s The Gauntlet, where you are up against 67,200 other people vying for the $150K grand prize. (Side Note: get $100 Matched for FREE by clicking here / below!)
The All-In strategy is also the only real option if you are in a league that only pays out the winner.
The idea behind this approach is that you choose a team to go “all in” on and try to stack as many of the best playmakers as you can on that team. This can also work with a secondary team if you can only get a couple of good players from your first team and you have to pivot to a secondary team for your second set of good players.
The bottom line, though, is that your goal is to back a team(s) and hope they make it to the Super Bowl (they do not need to win; they just need to get there). Or, alternatively, you still might be able to hit the points you need if your main playmakers play on Wild Card weekend and make it to the Conference Championship game. Still, it requires some big performances (like the Gabe Davis multi-TD game a few years ago).
The big risk with this method is that if you choose your team(s) wrong, you are in danger of falling out of the competition as early as the first week or two. Again, if you are playing to win and only 1st place will do, then it’s okay to fail spectacularly rather than end up in the middle of the pack.
Your best move with this type of strategy is to enter the draft with a plan on which teams you think are most likely to be in the Super Bowl (along with your next best two choices) and load up on players from one or two of those teams; ideally the AFC and NFC teams you see making it all the way. Obviously, others in your draft will likely be looking at similar players (unless you are all in on a dark horse team), so you may have to be ready to jump off of your first-choice team to one of the others if the talent isn’t there when it’s your turn to pick.
NFL Playoffs Fantasy Strategy #2: Spread
As I indicated already, I prefer the All In move as it gives you the best chance to destroy the competition if you guess right on your team. However, some leagues do reward 2nd or even 3rd place (again, not contests, those are strictly the all-in method), and for those, you may want to leave yourself with some options beyond one team.
The idea of the spread plan is to identify again which four teams you think will be in their respective Conference Championship games and try to get one of the top two playmakers from each of those teams. The goal here is that you should still get players who are likely to play deep into the playoffs and rack up stats. This strategy gives you less upside if one of your teams makes it to the Super Bowl, but it also makes you less dependent on that one team or bust. There is certainly a scenario where you might have Lamar Jackson as your only player from the Ravens and still be in better shape than another owner who has Zay Flowers, Gus Edwards, and Isiah Likely as an example.
The key to this strategy is to get one of the top two-point scorers from those teams. As we’ve seen, you don’t always know who those guys might be when randos step up. Either way, if you are squeamish about putting all your eggs in one basket or feel like others have already scooped up the best players from your top team choice, this is an alternative option.
2024 NFL Playoffs Team Rankings for Fantasy
As you can probably tell from the information above, it is super important to have an idea in mind of which teams you think are going deep in the playoffs. If you feel strongly about a team – great! Roll with that feeling and do what you need to do.
If you do not have strong feelings on any teams, that’s what this section is for!
Quick caveat: this season seems like one of those seasons where there could be any number of scenarios. Maybe the spread option does end up being better after all, with the 2024 NFL Playoffs being so unpredictable, but here are my best-educated guesses.
Tier 1: The Big 4
My big four teams are chalky as hell. They’re the #1 and 2 seeds, respectively, in each division. As I said, I can see any number of upsets coming with some of the lower seeds. I can also realistically see any of these four teams in the Super Bowl. I just think we’re a little top-heavy on these four, so I’m choosing them as my top options, in this exact order: Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens.
The following is my reasoning for each:
1) Buffalo Bills: 3.5 games played
I have the Buffalo Bills as my top team because I think they have a 50/50 shot to beat the Ravens and they have to play during the first weekend of games. The 3.5 games played represent them winning in the first two rounds of the playoffs (i.e., 2 games played), then playing a 50/50 game with the Ravens (i.e., 1.5 games played with a loss representing 3 games and a win representing 4 games).
There are some solid playmakers at every position for the Bills, and they’ve been a hot team lately. They could lose to the Ravens in the AFC Championship game and still end up playing the same number of games (3) as the Ravens do because of the first-round bye for the Ravens. That is why I lean towards the Bills as my top pick despite the fact that I think the Ravens might be the better overall team.
Wolf Note: I agree 100% with Tim that the Bills are the best team to target. Between the upside for four games, Josh Allen‘s cheat-code weekly ceiling, and an easily stackable group of explosive weapons in Stefon Diggs, James Cook, Dalton Kincaid, and possibly Gabe Davis or Khalil Shakir (pending Davis’ health), and you’ve got the recipe for a deep run with tons of fantasy goodness attached.
2) San Francisco 49ers: 3 games played
I’m just coming out and making the declaration that the 49ers are the class of the NFC. Obviously anything can happen (and I have two teams in the NFC I like as upside picks to sneak into the Super Bowl). However, if I’m playing likely odds, the 49ers seem to be the most obvious NFC representative by a fair margin.
The positive to selecting 49ers players is also that they have the most stud-ly players at the widest variety of positions and you can bank on their bye week and draft accordingly. This allows you to take players who you think are studs on one and done teams as long as you have the 49er at that position for week two.
3) Dallas Cowboys: 3 games played
This pick is shaky based on past production. The Cowboys always find a way to shank it in the playoffs. That being said, they seem to be playing at a higher level this year than in the past. Maybe it’s finally the year for them? I recognize the risk of choking here, but hell, Josh Allen always chokes it for the Bills, and yet I still have them ranked as my top option, so I had to be fair to Dallas here, too.
The reason Dallas gets the third spot for me is that they play Week 1, and I think they have a real shot of being in the NFC Championship game (and losing there), which still gives them three games played. They also have more overall explosive playmakers than my 4th place choice. When in doubt, I’d rather have one less game of a flat-out stud than one more game of a decent but not game-breaking option.
4) Baltimore Ravens 2.5 games played
Remember, this is just my personal opinion. If you love the Ravens and feel sure that they’ll be in the Super Bowl, then grab up all the Ravens you want. I just think they have a better chance to be knocked off by the Bills than the 49ers do by the Cowboys. As such, when considering their first-round bye and their lack of explosive talent, I’m inclined to fade most Ravens players.
This could be my biggest regret, certainly if the Ravens ball out and make a Super Bowl run. I also might still be a little bitter from the last Ravens Super Bowl when John Harbaugh cost me $1,000 on my Super Bowl square by taking an unnecessary safety at the end of the game. Either way, I just have other teams I’m a little more interested in investing in at the top end.
Wolf Note: While the Ravens looked like the NFL’s best team to close out 2023, I still am hesitant to buy in. We’ve seen Lamar Jackson choke in the playoffs every time he’s been in, and even if they don’t, they just don’t have a ton of intriguing firepower to stack with the QB. Zay Flowers is certainly coming on, as is Isiah Likely. Still, the upside of three games from this cast vs. the upside of 3+ from Buffalo definitely favors the Bills. Hell, I could see the Browns and Joe Flacco pulling the upset over their divisional foe.
Tier 2: If Things Break Right…
The next 4 teams on my list are the teams that I can see making the Super Bowl, if things break right for them. Sometimes, the hottest team at the right time can make a splash, but 75% of these teams are colder right now than hot, and the hot one has the worst defensive situation by far.
5) Philadelphia Eagles: 2 games played
This is the first of my upside-pick teams to make the Super Bowl. About a month and a half ago, Philly was my favorite team to win the Super Bowl. Since then… they’ve just kept losing! Undoubtedly, they have the talent to get to the big game. They were there last year. They also have huge playmakers on both sides of the ball. At their best, this is a very difficult team to beat.
The downside with Philly is that they have been playing like crap. It’s hard to remember the last time they had a decent win. Jalen Hurts has an injured hand, AJ Brown has an injured knee, and Super Bowl hangover seems real from last year.
I can see this team making a run, or they can almost as easily lose week one to the Buccaneers. I’m erring on the side of winning week one against an inferior opponent but losing week two to one of the big two in the division. Either way, this is a team I won’t totally ignore in drafts.
Wolf Note: I see the Eagles and Dolphins going very, very cheaply based on their late-season collapses. Given the humongous upside and playoff experience of Jalen Hurts, AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, and co, I love buying low on them right now at their reduced price tags.
6) Kansas City Chiefs: 1.5 games played
This is another Super Bowl hangover team that is playing some of its least-inspired balls lately. Would anybody be entirely shocked if Patrick Mahomes and company made it into the Super Bowl this year? Probably not shocked, but it certainly would be a surprise. It just doesn’t look like they have it this year. However, keep in mind that Mahomes has found ways to win in the past, and the defense is solid, so a few timely turnovers and the Chiefs could make some noise.
On the flip side, Travis Kelce somehow looks slower running than I do right now. After Rashee Rice, a rookie, there is nobody else to throw the ball to right now consistently. Isaiah Pacheco runs hard but seems to keep getting banged up. They also have, in my mind, the toughest first-week matchup of any contending team, as it only takes a few explosive plays from Miami to send the Chiefs home early this season. I think it could be a coin-flip matchup in Week 1, and it will be a tough test in Week two if they get there, so I can’t invest too heavily in the Chiefs based on name alone.
7) Miami Dolphins 1.5 games played
The other side to the KC game is the Dolphins. This is yet another team that I don’t think quite has “it” to make it all the way to the Super Bowl, but it certainly has an explosive enough offense to make a serious run. As we’ve seen all year, as Tyreek Hill goes, so will the Dolphins. It is absolutely conceivable that the Dolphins could win week one (in what I believe to be a 50/50 matchup), but that would almost certainly give them the Ravens week two.
I think a strong and disciplined defense like the Ravens is likely to keep Miami in check even if they do get past the Chiefs so I can’t give them more one or two games expected. Like the two teams above them, Miami could get there, I just think they’re a step below the top end teams.
Wolf Note: As mentioned with the Eagles, the Dolphins are going extremely cheap, yet just two games of Tyreek Hill, De’Von Achane / Raheem Mostert, and even Jaylen Waddle would likely yield huge results. I also agree with Tim that the Chiefs are ripe for an upset, even against a reeling Miami squad.
8) Los Angeles Rams 1.5 games played
The Rams are the final team in this tier for me. They are playing the best lately in this tier and at least enter the playoffs hot. There is also no shortage of talent offensively on this team with a top-end RB and, in theory, two top-end WRs. The defensive side of the ball? They have Aaron Donald. And… they have Aaron Donald.
I can absolutely see a situation where the Rams upset the Lions. The Lions may be playing without Sam LaPorta (spoiler alert, I feel very strongly that we won’t see LaPorta in week one). There’s also that whole fun narrative of Matt Stafford finally playing a playoff game in Detroit (for the other team)! While the team looked very different a few years ago, there are still some mainstays from the Super Bowl Rams a few years ago, while Detroit doesn’t have playoff winners yet on their roster.
On the downside for the Rams, the Lions do have a solid overall team. The Lions are one of those scrappy teams that could take one win in the playoffs (and the Lions are the higher seed and home team here). Even if the Rams skate by the Lions, they’re still stuck dealing with the 49ers (most likely) the following week so it’s hard to see a long run here. Judging just on momentum, though, I feel like if there’s a surprise team in the Super Bowl this year, the Rams could be it.
Wolf Note: I absolutely LOVE the Rams. I agree with everything Tim said — that this team will pull the Round 1 upset, and has the goods to be a surprise Super Bowl team. If they go on a run, we’re looking at a highly concentrated, highly-explosive attack with fantasy monsters galore in Kyren Williams, Puka Nacua, and potentially a Cooper Kupp resurgence. I’ve been loading up on Rams throughout the Playoffs Best Ball seasons.
The 49ers pose a tough Round 2 hurdle, especially since Kyle Shannahan historically owns Sean McVay. Still, Stafford has the battle-tested track record and veteran savvy to make a sneaky run.
Tier 3: Might Win A Game
The next three teams are in the might-win-a-game category for me. Unlike the teams in the tier above this, I do not see any realistic way one of these teams will make a Super Bowl run (I think the cap is at two wins, which would still be three games and great value if it happened). The most likely scenario for these teams is one-and-done or spiking one win and a solid loss in week two, but this is why they play the games.
9) Detroit Lions 1.5 games played
Like I was saying above with the Rams, I think the Lions have a scrappy enough team that they could absolutely win this week. I don’t think they’re scrappy enough to win beyond Week 1, and even week one is in question.
There are absolutely playmakers on this team, but I just don’t think this is quite the year. I do think this is a team to watch for next year, though. Any Lions I take are players I expect to get one week out of, and anything else is gravy.
Wolf Note: I think the Rams vs. Lions winner might be the “skeleton key” to fantasy playoff leagues. They will likely all rack up points in bundles in a shootout against each other this Wildcard Weekend. Then, they are well-equipped to keep the fantasy goodness pouring in with explosive but concentrated attacks. I side Rams, but if they are going early or I land Amon-Ra St. Brown in Round 2, I have no qualms stacking up Detroit.
T10) Cleveland Browns 1.5 games played; Houston Texans 1.5 games played
I think the Browns have a solid chance to win against the Texans in week one. I also think the Texans have a solid chance to win against the Browns in week one. This is the game that I’m honestly least sure about and least interested in.
I think the winner of this game is shown the exit in week two no matter who wins here. I also don’t love most of the skill position players here (unless Amari Cooper looks like he did a few weeks ago and/or the Texans get to play in week two against a non-Cleveland D).
Wolf Note: I actually disagree with Tim. I think the Browns handle their business vs. the Texans, and pose a real threat to their divisional foe in the Ravens. I also think Amari Cooper, David Njoku, and Jerome Ford have flashed plenty of fantasy goodness with Joe Flacco at the helm, making this a team I love targeting as a late AFC offense to pair with a Cowboys or 49ers start.
Tier 4: One And Done
11) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1 game played
12) Green Bay Packers: 1 game played
13) Pittsburgh Steelers: 1 game played
The final three teams are the one and dones for me. I don’t see any real chance of a solid run and only minimal chance of a week one win. You can maybe take a stud player or two from these and hope for a big week if you’re heavily invested in the Ravens and 49ers, but don’t expect them to be around long.
The Buccaneers probably have the best chance of spiking a win because the Eagles are banged up, playing in Tampa, and have been on a cold streak. The problem is, I still think the Eagles are better than Tampa Bay even with all of those issues.
The Packers have the most talent to spike a win but a very hard draw at Dallas. If I’m taking a shot on any team here, it’s the Bucs because of how the Eagles have been playing, but Green Bay could at least provide a back-and-forth scoring show with Dallas for week one production only.
The Steelers… nah, I’ll pass on that.
Wolf Note: I agree with this assessment. I do love taking a stab on Mike Evans in the later rounds, just because he could still net you 30+ FPs even in a one-and-done. Yet, as Tim points out, the reeling Eagles might even get you two games of Evans (and maybe even a Rachaad White stack), making the Bucs a top late team to go after.
I also don’t hate finishing a draft with Aaron Jones and/or Jayden Reed. The upset is unlikely, but we’ve seen Mike McCarthy and Dak Prescott choke plenty of times. Both those weapons can rack up points in a hurry, so even just one game could give you a nice boost. Multiple would be robbery.
NFL Playoff Strategy: Which Positions and Players to Pick First
Another difficult decision is which position to draft first. There is not necessarily a right or wrong way to handle this, but I would lean in one of two directions: either get your QB early or focus on WR early.
The one exception I would make is for Christian McCaffrey. I would consider CMC as high as the first pick overall. I think he’s far and away the biggest cheat code at RB, and he plays for a team that has a high likelihood of going deep in the playoffs. Otherwise, shoring up a QB on a top team should be a priority as should getting the best talent at the WR position.
In the past, taking Travis Kelce was a great option early as you were getting a potential Super Bowl TE and a top player on the board. For any of you who haven’t watched Kelce this season — don’t do it! He just hasn’t been that same explosive playmaker and the Chiefs just haven’t been the same Chiefs. I wouldn’t even take Kelce as my top TE this playoff season.
As a bit of a bonus before I sign off, I will leave you with my player rankings for the playoffs leagues below. You can also check out The Wolf’s 2024 NFL Playoff Player Rankings, as well.
As I’ve said throughout, feel free to move players around based on your read of the playoffs. Many of these individual players are ranked higher on my board because of team context than talent. Also, if you are trying to do the all-in strategy, move players from that same team up your rankings list.
- Josh Allen, Bills
- Lamar Jackson, Ravens
- Dak Prescott, Cowboys
- Brock Purdy, 49ers
- Jalen Hurts, Eagles
- Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
- Matt Stafford, Rams
- Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins
- Jared Goff, Lions
- CJ Stroud, Texans
- Jordan Love, Packers
- Joe Flacco, Browns
- Baker Mayfield, Buccaneers
- Kenny Pickett/Mason Rudolph, Steelers
- Christian McCaffrey, 49ers
- James Cook, Bills
- Tony Pollard, Cowboys
- D’Andre Swift, Eagles
- Gus Edwards, Ravens
- Kyren Williams, Rams
- Raheem Mostert, Dolphins
- De’Von Achane, Dolphins
- Isiah Pacheco, Chiefs
- Jahmyr Gibbs, Lions
- David Montgomery, Lions
- Rachaad White, Buccaneers
- Jerome Ford, Browns
- Aaron Jones, Packers
- Devin Singletary, Texans
- AJ Dillon, Packers
- Najee Harris, Steelers
- Jaylen Warren, Steelers
- Dalvin Cook, Ravens (might be a surprise, could be a total dud)
- Latavius Murray, Bills
- Elijah Mitchell, 49ers
- Kenneth Gainwell, Eagles
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs
- Dameon Pierce, Texans
- CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys
- Stefon Diggs, Bills
- Deebo Samuel, 49ers
- Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers
- Tyreek Hill, Dolphins
- AJ Brown, Eagles (watch the injury report)
- Devonta Smith, Eagles
- Zay Flowers, Ravens
- Puka Nacua, Rams
- Cooper Kupp, Rams
- Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins
- Rashee Rice, Chiefs
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions
- Amari Cooper, Browns
- Gabe Davis, Bills
- Brandin Cooks, Cowboys
- Nico Collins, Texans
- Mike Evans, Buccaneers
- Odell Beckham Jr., Ravens
- Chris Godwin, Buccaneers
- Jayden Reed, Packers
- Noah Brown, Texans
- George Pickens, Steelers
- Diontae Johnson, Steelers
- Jameson Williams, Lions
- Elijah Moore, Browns
- Michael Gallup, Cowboys
- Khalil Shakir, Bills
- Rashod Bateman, Ravens
- Dontayvion Wicks, Packers
- George Kittle, 49ers
- Isaiah Likely, Ravens
- Dalton Kincaid, Bills
- Travis Kelce, Chiefs
- Dallas Goedert, Eagles
- Jake Ferguson, Cowboys
- David Njoku, Browns
- Tyler Higbee, Rams
- Dalton Schultz, Texans
- Sam LaPorta, Lions (may not get a single point but if he plays…)
- Dawson Knox, Bills
- Luke Musgrave, Packers
- Pat Freiermuth, Steelers
- Noah Gray, Chiefs