If you want to win a championship in a normal, managed fantasy league, your team needs to get hot for the fantasy playoffs. You’ll need to win three head-to-head matchups in a row Weeks 15, 16, and 17 to be crowned champion. Easy enough, right?

But to win a big prize in large-field best ball tournaments like Best Ball Mania IV, not only will your team need to be good enough to make the playoffs, you’ll also need to get hot in Week 15 (finish first out of a group of 16) and Week 16 (again finish first out of a group of 16) to advance to the finals.

At which point, your team will need to get scorching hot in Week 17 to become a best ball millionaire (finish Top 2 out of 441 teams):

BBMIV prize breakdown

If you finish in the bottom forty teams of the Week 17 finals (401-441st), you’ll return $1,000 for your efforts.

Let’s repeat that again for added emphasis: you could perform better than 677,336 other teams in the tournament and still only 40x your buy-in.

This isn’t to turn our nose up at $1,000 (lord knows I could use it to buy some shirts with sleeves), but rather to illustrate that making it to Week 17 is not enough

Even with the expanded regular season prizes, the $10 million playoff prize pool ensures that Week 17 is *still* all that matters.

This means that we must be drafting teams that have a chance to finish Top 10 in Week 17 to make playing this contest worthwhile.

When Ricky Bobby said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” he could have easily been talking about Best Ball Mania IV.

So how do you go about actually building teams that can compete in Week 17? Here are 5 tips…

Draft your team like a DFS lineup

Here’s a thought exercise: What if a Best Ball genie hit you up on December 28th (the start of Week 17) and said, “I'm granting you a team in the Best Ball Mania IV finals. You can bypass the playoff gauntlet and hand-select the 18 players you’d like on that team to compete with the other finalists for the $3M top prize in Week 17.”

What would your team look like? Sure, you’d pick some top RBs. You’d probably select an elite TE too. And then you’d build out some game stacksa couple QBs with a few of their pass catchers, and then a player on the opposing team in hopes of capturing a shootout game environment.

That exercise isn’t even entirely a hypothetical. In fact, it’s something DFS players do every week during the season. They stack their QB and target specific games in hopes of using correlation to vault their team to the top of the leaderboards.

So even though we don’t get the benefit of building our teams days before Week 17, we can still reverse engineer our best ball teams to perform like Week 17 DFS lineups. 

Jaylen Waddle

Dec 11, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) catches a pass ahead of Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Ja'Sir Taylor (36) during the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In last week’s stacking course, we spotlighted Pat Kerrane’s winning $2,000,000 lineup as an example. Despite drafting the team on July 18th, 2022, Kerrane devoted TEN of his 18 roster spots to two Week 17 games:

  • Tom Brady to Chris Godwin (D.J. Moore bring back)
  • Tua Tagovailoa to Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki (Rhamondre StevensonJakobi Meyers, and Tyquan Thornton as bring backs), as well as Raheem Mostert

In that Week 17 Dolphins/Patriots game, Mostert scored 19.1 for his lineup, and both of his Patriots WRs cracked his lineup, with Meyers scoring 13.8 and Thornton scoring 13.5.

Not a single one of those stacked players mentioned was a league winner, but they all contributed in a correlated fashion in the same game environments when it mattered the most.

Be open to stacking every game

We all have teams and games we prefer in Week 17, but we shouldn’t ever go into a draft specifically targeting or fading a game. 

Leaning into Week 17 correlation is actually an act of humility. 

We know a lot can change between now and when these games kick off at the end of December. Injuries, depth chart re-shuffling, and weather conditions are all impossible to accurately predict months out, but we do know two things for certain:

  1. Which teams are playing each other in Week 17
  2. When players access a ceiling game, it often means their teammates and opponents are coming along for the ride

So with that being said, we should be flexible in drafts and open to stacking up any game. I don’t personally love the potential outdoor weather conditions for Jets @ Browns in Cleveland Week 17, but if I take Garrett Wilson in Round 1 and stack him up with Aaron Rodgers, I’m wanting to think through ways they win me $3,000,000. 

And one of those ways is their Week 17 game going bonkers, which means I should also think about prioritizing some Cleveland pieces later in the draft like Jerome Ford or Donovan Peoples-Jones.

Donovan Peoples-Jones

Dec 11, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (11) makes the catch during the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

If you have concerns about a team or game environment, apply that concern over your entire portfolio and tilt your exposures accordingly, but don’t remove entire games, teams, or players from your player pool in a single draft.

Every draft is unique and even the “grossest” teams or game environments should be explored in certain builds depending on what value opportunities a draft room presents to you.

Focus on correlation more as the draft progresses

Once you taste the forbidden fruit of correlating Week 17, it legitimately becomes addicting. 

It’s impossible to look at a draft board and not want to take CeeDee Lamb and Amon-Ra St. Brown at the 1-2 turn and enjoy that potential Week 17 shootout between the Cowboys and Lions (Just ask Ian!).

But it’s important to remember that correlation becomes more critical as the draft progresses, and it isn’t something you need to force at the top of drafts.

Think about it this way—the top 30 players in the league are stars. The reason you take Ja’Marr Chase in the top 3 picks is because he can drop 30 in any game environment. You want to get as many of those guys on your roster as possible and then start thinking about correlation.

It’s the fringe players who benefit the most from correlation because they will need the right game environment to contribute a score to your starting lineup (like Thornton on Kerrane’s team).

When I get to the double-digit rounds of drafts, I’m thinking exclusively about two things:

  1. Roster construction needs (which positions do I need to make up for lack of quality with quantity)
  2. Correlation with the rest of my roster

By the time I get to the final round of a draft, I’m almost exclusively focused on correlation. 

Week 17 stacks to prioritize (weather, team totals)

While I am open to stacking any game in Week 17 within a single draft, I’d like to tilt my exposures across my entire tournament portfolio toward teams who play in good weather environments (warm weather or dome) and also toward games where there are projected to be a lot of points (using Vegas totals).

While Bengals at Chiefs projects to be a very high scoring game with a 48.5 game total, it isn’t my favorite game to target because it will be outdoors in Kansas City and it is very expensive to stack based on current ADPs.

Romeo Doubs

Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Romeo Doubs (87) runs with the ball against the Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

These are two games that check all of the boxes for me:

  • Lions @ Cowboys
    • In a dome
    • Highest game total on the slate (50)
    • Cheap pieces to stack late: Brandin Cooks (85), Jameson Williams (100), Michael Gallup, (135), Sam LaPorta (157), Jake Ferguson (204)
  • Packers @ Vikings
    • In a dome
    • Third highest game total on the slate (45.5)
    • Cheap pieces to stack late: A.J. Dillon (101), Romeo Doubs (122), K.J. Osborn (146), Jayden Reed (174), Ty Chandler (200), Luke Musgrave (208), DeWayne McBride (215)

For more Week 17 matchups to consider, check out Chris Allen’s rundown of the slate.

How to execute it

It can feel overwhelming to layer in Week 17 matchups as part of your drafting process, but if you think about it as a tiebreaker throughout your draft, it isn’t daunting.

There are so many spots in a draft that feel like flipping a coin that I’d argue thinking about Week 17 correlations actually simplifies some of those decisions.

Debating between Cooks or Elijah Moore on a St. Brown team? Take Cooks because he plays St. Brown in Week 17.

Can’t decide between Jaylen Warren or Tank Bigsby on a Tyler Lockett team? Grab Warren for his Week 17 matchup vs. the Seahawks.

The key is to remain flexible and let the draft room dictate the correlations you prioritize later in the draft.

It’s the same idea that we spoke about with roster constructions. Don’t go into a draft trying to execute one specific construction (or correlation), but let your draft room and ADP values determine your early selections and then use correlation and positional needs to drive future decisions.

You can start targeting your Week 17 stacks on Underdog Fantasy, where you can also get a 100% deposit match of up to $100 when you sign up with promo code LIFE! Simpy sign up below to start drafting today!

Week 17 correlation in best ball