Playoff leagues: Keeping the fantasy football season alive to the bitter end

I’ve never paid much attention to playoff fantasy leagues. They’re missing just about everything I love about fantasy football – trades, waivers, a three-hour draft that largely determines the team you have to live with for an entire season, and so on. I tried out NFL.com’s playoff challenge a couple of years back, forgot about my team after the first week, and that was pretty much that.

This year, I’m giving it another shot. The prizes up for grabs on a few websites are pretty enticing, which hopefully will keep me interested enough to remember to set my lineups each week. I’m only going to invest my time in the leagues with the best prizes, which means that SportingNews Playoff Fantasy Football, with a decidedly unexciting top prize of $500, is out. After scoping out the schwag being offered up around the Web, I wound up signing up for teams in three leagues:

NFL.com Playoff Challenge

Top prize: Two tickets to Super Bowl XLIV, plus airfare and a four-night stay at a Miami hotel. Estimated total value is about $5,000.

Other prizes: None.

How it works: Each week, you set a lineup (QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, K, DST) by selecting from the players in games that week. You can change your lineup at any time, so there’s no need to choose a player in week 1 who you think will still be playing next week. You have a total of 300 points to work with, and players are worth up to 100 points each.

If you’re interested in giving this one a try, you might also want to check out the Fantasy Football Librarian’s buddy group.

ESPN Gridiron Playoff Challenge

ESPNs grand prize

Top prize: Weird but kinda cool: You win the following two “prize packs”:

  • The Dream Seat Pack (ARV $2,000): A $500 Best Buy gift card, an XBox 360, and a “Dream Seat” featuring your favorite team. I had no idea what a Dream Seat was, so I googled it, and it seems comfortable, but not in any way wife-friendly. At least, not unless I can get them to build me one with leather that matches our sectional and a way to cover up the Bills logo when company comes over. Which, frankly, is something I’d want too after this season. And all the other ones in recent memory. But I digress.
  • The Ultimate Fan Pack (ARV $500): Kinda vague. From the official rules: “Ultimate Fan Pack includes authentic helmet and authentic jersey (specific to the winner’s preferred pro football team) and an autographed football signed by a pro football player (to be determined by Sponsor).” So I guess that means I could wind up with a J.P. Losman jersey (raaaAAAAGGE) and a football signed by, say, Joey Harrington?

Other prizes: The first loser also gets an Ultimate Fan Pack.

How it works: Pretty much the same as NFL.com, except that you can’t change your team after the conference championships, so the third time you set your roster, you’re setting it for two games and banking that all the players you pick will make it to the Super Bowl. Personally, I like the extra intrigue and strategery, but your mileage may vary.

CBS Sports Playoff Challenge

Oddly enough, this is exactly the same as NFL.com’s Playoff Challenge, except with a different prize ($5,000 cash instead of a trip worth $5,000). I signed up via the CBS Sportsline website and even used the exact same team name as I did on NFL.com’s Challenge, and had no problem registering. Kinda weird, but no complaints when I get double the odds at winning a $5,000 prize.