Playoff Schedules to Target in Underdog Fantasy’s Best Ball Mania Tournament
Underdog Fantasy’s Best Ball Mania Tournament is a unique best ball tournament that requires you to reach the top 1% of outcomes in order to take home the title and $1 million. Similar to DraftKings’ Milly Maker tournament, the odds of winning it at all are quite low, so it’s important to gain an edge any way possible. Before we dive into strategy around this tournament, it’s important to understand the structure.
- Weeks 1-14: Qualifiers
- Week 15: Quarterfinals
- Week 16: Semi-Finals
- Week 17: Championship
Before even considering the playoff rounds from Weeks 15-17, you have to finish inside the top two of your 12-man league, which takes place from Weeks 1-14, just like the regular season of any standard season-long league. If you finish top inside the top two, you move onto Week 15, which actually consists of 18-team groups, and from there, it’s a one week tourney. Again, you need to finish inside the top two to move onto Week 16. From here, you’re matched up against 17 other players, but in order to move onto the finals, you need to finish atop the leaderboard of this 18-man group. Then, in Week 17, 160 lineups from a total of 155,520 total entries at the start of the year will compete for a chance at the “milly”.
Clearly, everything, and I truly mean everything needs to go right for a lineup to make it to Week 17 in Best Ball Mania. One way to gain an edge in this tournament is to target teams and create a stack with teams who either have a favorable Week 15-17 schedule, and/or target Week 17 matchups that could turn into a high flying shootout with tons of fantasy points, just like we would any given week in DFS.
Now, it’s extremely important to understand that optimal best ball strategy trumps this small edge in the tournament. Simply only targeting the teams I’m about to discuss won’t make this a print fest. We still need to be mindful of best ball win rates, optimal roster construction, stacking principles, and opportunity cost. For a deep discussion on these concepts, be sure to check out the Fantasy Footballers DFS Podcast, where Kyle Borgognoni and I walk through best ball strategy.
Additionally, in the DFS Pass we offer Best Ball Rankings and a Best Ball Primer as a one-stop shop for best ball analysis for every NFL franchise. Get the DFS Pass as part of the 2021 Ultimate Draft Kit+.
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Arizona has a juicy playoff schedule, getting a cake matchup in Week 15 against one of the league’s worst projected defenses in Detroit. This game is unlikely to turn into a shootout, considering the Lions offense isn’t projected to be very prolific, but we’ve seen plenty of examples where the favored team still gets there without a shootout just based on the matchup being extremely easy. Last year in Week 16, Tom Brady and the Bucs embarrassed the Lions 47-7. Brady only played three quarters, and he still finished as the QB2 that week. Vegas expects the Cards to put up four TD in Week 15.
Indy’s matchup doesn’t seem all that amazing on paper, but they’re a team who have shown to be involved in shootouts in the right matchups. Last year, Colts games hit the over at a 58.8% clip, 7th highest in the NFL. With the Cardinals ranking 1st in no huddle rate and neutral-situation pace of play last year, they would force Indy into a Week 16 shootout.
The real reason to target Cardinals’ stacks in this tournament is their Week 17 matchup against Dallas, which features a 52.0 point total and a 2.5 point spread in favor of Dallas. With this game being played in a dome and Dallas projected to play fast and be a prolific offense, this Cardinals and Cowboys game could produce fireworks. Prior to Dak going down with injury in Week 5, the Cowboys ranked first in pace, first in plays per game, second in no huddle rate, and third in points per game. As we’ve already established, the Cardinals want to go fast as well. This game could turn into the track meet needed for best ball rosters to take home the tournament in 2021.
San Francisco 49ers
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Before we dive into these three specific matchups, one thing to point out with San Francisco is that they have by far, the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL, and it’s not particularly close.
The 49ers should be successful on offense all year, but they should absolutely feast in the fantasy playoffs. They kick off the playoff weeks with a Week 15 date at home against the Falcons, who posted the following defense ranks in 2021:
- Yards per game: 28th
- Yards per play: 29th
- Points per game: 19th
- Passing yards per attempt: 28th
With a Vegas-implied total of 27 points, look for the 49ers to find the end zone with regularity against Atlanta’s Swiss cheese defense.
In Week 16, the Niners get a date with the Titans defense, which quietly was one of the worst in the league last season. I would rattle off stats to show how bad the Titans were on defense, but the real reason to be excited about this matchup is the rate at which Titans games went over the Vegas total last year. Tennessee was 12-4-1 in terms of hitting the over, good for the 2nd highest rate in the entire league. We could see a Titans/49ers shootout in Week 16.
Finally, in Week 17, the 49ers get the pleasure of taking on the NFL’s JV team, the Houston Texans. As of mid June, the 49ers are favored by 13.5 points at home against one of the league’s worst rushing defenses. Best ball teams that feature Trey Sermon or Raheem Mostert could benefit from the fact that the Niners are very likely to play with a positive game script. We should see the 49ers run all over the Texans in Week 17.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Bucs are fresh off a Super Bowl and return all 22 starters on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, the first time that’s happened since the 70s. Now, TB12 gets the benefit of not only playing in his second season in Bruce Arians’ system, but he’s got extreme continuity with his pass catchers and appears ready to yet again to wreak havoc on the NFL in his age 44 season. The Bucs have the NFL’s fifth easiest strength of schedule and gets what could be a high scoring matchup against New Orleans in Week 15, with the Bucs featuring a healthy 29.5 team total.
Then, in Week 16, Tom Brady and the Bucs travel to Carolina to take on a defense that’s still extremely young and inexperienced. Last season, Carolina got wrecked on the ground to the tune of 4.7 yards per attempt, 28th in the NFL. Week 16 could be a big Leonard Fournette or Ronald Jones week if 2020’s trend continues.
Finally, in Week 17, Brady takes on the Jets who were clearly one of the worst franchises in the league last year. Of course, there’s a new coaching staff in town so things could certainly improve on the defensive side of the ball for Gang Green, but that could be wishful thinking. They spent their first four NFL Draft picks on the offensive side of the ball, though they did add some talent to the defensive side of the ball via free agency. We’ll see how it pans out, but regardless Vegas expects Tampa to score 4 TDs in the Best Ball Championship round.