Fantasy football isn’t over until the football is over. Simple as that. We are ballers out here. Gamers. If there’s a way to get involved, we are getting involved. Wildcard weekend DFS? We’re in. Single lineup contests like the FFPC Playoff Challenge? We not only have an article on general strategy but a second one with specific players we like. We’re getting down on playoff best ball contests like Underdog too. When there is one game left in the Super Bowl, you better believe we’ll be smashing prop bets and Prize Picks. And we’ll also be playing the toughest playoff fantasy football format of them all. The “One and Done” playoff league. 

The Basic Rules for One and Done Playoff Contests

The idea is simple but it doesn’t hurt to hit the basics quickly. For leagues like FFPC,. you are picking one lineup and riding that out for the duration of the playoffs. Here, we are picking a new lineup each week. This applies to sites like, RTSports, or tournaments like Rob Norton’s Baby Bowl (if you aren’t in that one, simply message Rob Norton on Twitter telling him you want in, make a donation, and you’re in!) The twist of course is that, once you use a player, you can’t use him again. So, if you use Josh Allen Week 1 then he goes to the Super Bowl, you better hope you have the other quarterback left playing in that game.

Building a Winning One and Done Playoff Contest Strategy

Our strategy is going to be a combination of three things. Playing the odds, playing the matchups, and game theory. If you create a narrative and things break just right for you, you can take it home. Let’s get into it. 


Playing The Odds When Building One and Done Lineups

“Playing the Odds” is one of three main focal points here and it’s split into two parts itself: the long game and the short game. For the long game, you need to make sure you have players to use in the final weeks of the contest (especially the Super Bowl). That means predicting which teams will make deep runs and leaving yourself options for the big game. That is especially true at the “onesie” positions like quarterback and defense. Obviously, you want to lean into your own gut feelings and predictions but Vegas odds can tell you how “out there” your gut feelings are. For instance, the 49ers (+225) and Ravens (+320) at this moment are heavy favorites to make the Super Bowl. Teams like the Packers (+6600) and Steelers (+12500) wild underdogs. If you truly think either of those teams even make it to the big game, you should probably just bet on that alone rather than try to incorporate it here.

For the short game, we want to use the good players immediately on teams that are very likely to lose. There are only 14 teams here and six will be eliminated this week so you really need to take advantage of these guys before their season ends. Last year on Wildcard Weekend, Christian McCaffrey and JK Dobbins both put up about 20 PPR points. In a normal week you’d consider it a wash. If you look at the odds though, it’s obviously who you should have picked.



WC Round Spread


JK Dobbins




Christian McCaffrey





Christian McAffrey put up 17-20 points in all three games so you could have used him every week. With JK Dobbins you had ONE week to use him then he was gone. So pay close attention to the odds. It’s absolutely okay to go against the grain in some spots - we’ll even talk later about why it might be encouraged. But try not to get TOO crazy or you'll ruin your set up. 

Playing The Matchups When Building One and Done Lineups

Matchups absolutely matter. It’s not just about saying “I think the Texans lose to the Browns so I’m going to use Devin Singletary here”. The Browns are a top four team in DVOA against the run. There are six teams that are going to lose this week and you can probably find at least one guy that is expected to lose with a better matchup. I’m still posting my weekly rankings throughout the playoffs for PPR, half PPR, and standard over here so that’s a good reference for that.

You also shouldn’t be afraid to play amazing matchups even if you expect a team to win. You do need points after all. For instance, the Packers are 26th in DVOA against the run. If the Packers lose, you don’t get to start another RB against the Packers again. You might just want to take those ones while they are available, especially in games where the spread is close. Because you probably won’t pick every game right. That’s all a part of the most important aspect of this contest - game theory. 

Game Theory for NFL Playoff One and Done Contests

There are a number of different ways to use game theory to gain leverage so we’ll lay them out.

Positional Game Theory

The tight end position is deeper right now than it’s ever been. And most formats only call for one tight end. You have four weeks of playoffs. You have George Kittle and Isaiah Likely in your pocket to use next round. Then you have Travis Kelce, Jake Ferguson, Dalton Kincaid, David Njoku, Dallas Goedert, Dalton Schultz, Pat Freiermuth, and, hopefully, Sam LaPorta at some point at your disposal. So there’s two ways to look at a position like that. One, you can use high end guys now knowing you only need one a week. Or, since I just named 10 guys and you need to use four max, maybe using one strategically in the flex at some point can help you out. You should do this math with all positions. 

Conference Game Theory

We mentioned this earlier but you need to strategically “save” guys for the Super Bowl. If you use all the tight ends up, you won’t have one left for the big game. One way to handle that is to add up the players you like at each position in each conference. If one conference is loaded, you can lean into that early and save guys from the other conference. This is a popular strategy, especially at quarterback.

This year I especially look at the wide receivers in the NFC. Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, CeeDee Lamb, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Puka Nacua, Cooper Kupp, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Jayden Reed etc. Every team has viable options and all the matchups are pretty good this week. I plan to load up some NFC WRs this round for sure.  At the bottom of the article, there is a grid that gives a better picture of this.

Team Game Theory

As you can see in the grid at the bottom, some teams are also more loaded at singular positions than others as well. The Dolphins, Lions, and Steelers have multiple viable fantasy running backs. We just mentioned that the 49ers, Eagles, Rams, and Buccaneers have multiple good wide receivers. If you use Cooper Kupp this week and the Rams win, you can still use Puka Nacua. Or vice versa. An interesting one to note is the Dolphins where Raheem Mostert is banged up a little bit. You might not get a better opportunity to start De’Vone Achane, even if the Dolphins win.

Uniqueness Game Theory

This is the last piece of the puzzle - it’s the most dangerous but also creates the most leverage. If you correctly zig where others zag, you can differentiate yourself. I mean, no one wants to split the pot. Let’s say your bold prediction is that the Bills lose to the Steelers in a shootout. If you use Josh Allen while everyone else is saving him and he gets a bunch of points, those are points you get that no one else does. And they don’t get to use Josh Allen while you have every QB left. Just know that doing too much of that can leave you smoked. If you use Josh Allen and Dak Prescott this week and the Super Bowl is Bills vs. Cowboys, there is virtually zero chance you win your pool. Many pools even have bonus points as the rounds go on so always keep that in mind. 


NFL Playoffs Wild Card Weekend Example Lineup

Playoff fantasy is the ultimate game since it involves predictions, matchups, and game theory rolled into one. Not everyone is going to have the same predictions of who wins even so the lineups will be all over the place. Here is an example of a basic lineup I might use based on these concepts.

QB: Matthew Stafford: This has a little bit of everything. The over/under for this game is 51.5 meaning potential shootout.  You can throw on the Lions. You can stack him with either Kupp or Nacua (and have the other in your back pocket). And the Rams have the 6th worst Super Bowl odds. 

WR: Puka Nacua: He’s been the best WR on the Rams as of late. We mentioned you still have Kupp but ideally the Rams would go down here in a blaze of glory scoring you a bunch of points. 

WR: Mike Evans: We mentioned that the NFC is loaded with wide receivers. We mentioned that they also have Chris Godwin so it’s not the end of the world if they win. The Eagles are also quietly 29th in DVOA against the pass. If Darius Slay does return this week, I might make a big move and pivot to Chris Godwin against James Bradberry who has struggled mightily. That would add an element of uniqueness as well. If Slay is out for the fifth game in a row though, give me Evans. 

RB: De’von Achane: We mentioned the theory on this one already. Mostert is banged up and the Dolphins could get eliminated. The time is now. 

RB: Jahmyr Gibbs: I mentioned Tony Pollard against the Packers but I’m going to hold onto Pollard for the stretch. Sam LaPorta is banged up so Gibbs could potentially get extra looks in the short pass game this week. Even if the Lions make the push to the NFC Championship or Super Bowl, I’ll have David Montgomery available. 

TE: David Njoku: Tight end is deep. Anyone could win the Browns vs. Texans game. And I have plenty of tight end options available to me if the Browns win. 

FLEX: Tyreek Hill: We need to score points don’t we? Jaylen Waddle will be available to me if they do win but I’m honestly scared that the Dolphins could get eliminated this week by the Chiefs and I might not be able to utilize one of the best WRs in football. Go big or go home. 

Rankings Grid

You’re still going to need to incorporate everything above but I wanted to include something to help visualize some of the concepts. Here are the teams sorted by conference, team, positions, and Super Bowl odds. I then color-coded the players based on my “rest of playoff” feelings for them. You can see clearly in this grid that the NFC is loaded at wide receiver and that some teams have a lot more viable players than others. Use that to your advantage!

SB Odds23035065075990014001600
QBBrock PurdyLamar JacksonJosh AllenDak PrescottPatrick MahomesJalen HurtsTua Tagovailoa
RBCMCGus EdwardsJames CookTony PollardIsaiah PachecoD'Andre SwiftRaheem Mostert
RB Justice Hill    De'Von Achane
WRDeebo SamuelZay FlowersStefon DiggsCeedee LambRashee RiceAJ BrownTyreek Hill
WRBrandon Aiyuk Gabe DavisBrandin Cooks DeVonta SmithJaylen Waddle
TEGeorge KittleIsaiah LikelyDalton KincaidJake FergusonTravis KelceDallas Goedert 
KJake MoodyJustin TuckerTyler BassBrandon AubreyHarrison ButkerJake ElliottJason Sanders
DST49ers DSTRavens DSTBills DSTCowboys DSTChiefs DSTEagles DSTDolphins DST
SB Odds210031005000500055001000013000
QBJared GoffJoe FlaccoMatthew StaffordC.J. StroudBaker MayfieldJordan LoveMason Rudolph
RBJahmyr GibbsJerome FordKyren WilliamsDevin SingletaryRachaad WhiteAaron JonesNajee Harris
RBDavid Montgomery     Jalen Warren
WRARSBAmari CooperPuka NacuaNico CollinsMike EvansDontayvion WicksDiontae Johnson
WR  Cooper KuppNoah BrownChris GodwinJayden ReedGeorge Pickens
TESam LaPortaDavid Njoku Dalton Schultz  Pat Freiermuth
KMichale BadgleyRiley PattersonBrett MaherKa'imi FairbairnChase McLaughlinAnders CarlsonChris Boswell
DSTLions DSTBrowns DSTRams DSTTexans DSTBucs DSTPackers DSTSteelers DST