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Bracket Busting: Survive and Advance

High-stakes writers Monty Phan and John Lapinski chronicle their entry in the FFPC Super Bracket contest.

There are few activities more exhilarating yet ultimately meaningless than the rollercoaster of rooting for specific scenarios during the final game of the final week of playoff qualification in high-stakes leagues. Nothing made this clearer to me than when Chargers kicker Mike Badgley lined up for a field goal attempt in Monday’s game against the Chiefs as my dad and I watched.

Me: “I need him to make this.”

My dad: “Why? Is he on your team?”

Me: “No. We need a team to lose and he’s on the opposing team playing that team.”

My dad: [Rolling eyes emoji.]

Yes, it was absurd. At that point, the FFPC Super Bracket team I run with fellow writer John Lapinski had already qualified as one of the top four teams in our 12-team league. But we had our eyes on one of the top two seeds, each of which came with a $2,000 prize. The only way that could happen was via two improbable scenarios: Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins would have to combine to score much less than what they average per game, and Patrick Mahomes, Melvin Gordon and Travis Kelce would need to be held in check while Damien Williams and Badgley put up big scores.

But then Badgley led off with a field goal. Then Hill left the game with a hamstring injury. Then Watkins remained his usual ineffectual self.

Despite John’s outrageous accusation – I no longer practice voodoo – our favorable luck continued. The Chiefs ran for two scores, keeping Mahomes’s score low, but LeSean McCoy got the touchdown over Williams, who later left the game with a rib injury. By the half, which ended with a 49-yard Badgley field goal, we had a real shot.

And then what I predicted came true.

The rug got pulled out, all right. Mahomes hit Kelce for a TD, locking us into the fourth seed and causing John to curse me out for making him invest emotionally in such a futile endeavor. It was a dark moment in our fantasy football relationship.

But the important thing is we qualified, something I’d never done in six other previous Super Bracket entries. For the postseason, the top four teams in each of the eight leagues are divided into four groupings according to their seed, then ranked within those groupings by total points. So the top seed with the most points plays head-to-head against the fourth seed with the fewest points, and so on. It’s possible that both teams in a matchup have one or more of the same players, since they could have originated from different leagues.

In order to qualify for more cash, we have to finish in the top eight, which means winning our next two games. First up is a team decimated by injuries and byes, which has us feeling confident.

Our opponent is forced to start a questionable Mitchell Trubisky with an injured Matthew Stafford and bye-week Kyler Murray on his bench, as well as roll the dice with a possibly inactive Evan Engram because his other two options, Kelce and Kyle Rudolph, are also on bye. With James Conner also in doubt, he has to hold his nose and start Kalen Ballage.

Meanwhile, when John and I figured a playoff berth was likely, we planned weeks in advance for a starter to cover the Week 12 bye weeks of David Johnson and Kenyan Drake, and the best we could do was … Ryquell Armstead. That’s how barren the wire was. We even blew our remaining free-agent bidding cash on Jay Ajayi. But if a Week 12 victory depends on choosing which of Armstead, Ajayi or our other option, Rashaad Penny, will score the most, then perhaps we’ve already lost.

Or perhaps we’ll just succumb to hubris. With both T.Y. Hilton and Will Fuller active on Thursday night, we reasoned that Hilton’s floor and importance to the Colts’ offense would be safer than Fuller coming off a hamstring injury or a still-hurting Amari Cooper versus Stephon Gilmore and the Patriots. Hilton barely played, grabbing three passes for 18 yards, and Fuller went seven catches for 140 yards.

Looks like our match could be a lot closer than we thought. Where did I put those voodoo dolls …

Image Credit: Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: T.Y. Hilton.

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