Long after the Philadelphia Eagles had put the game out of reach, and long after most people had turned their television sets off knowing the NFC Championship was no longer in doubt, Bob Platte was still watching as intently from Michigan as he had when the game kicked off. Holding a slim lead in Yahoo Fantasy’s Champion of Champions contest, he was just minutes away from being $1,000 richer. The game clock simply couldn’t move fast enough
Though his eyes were glued to the game, his body couldn’t stay glued to one chair.
“I get a little superstitious,” he said with a laugh about his penchant to switch chairs. “I was glued to the TV, a sweaty mess.”
The short completions to Zach Ertz didn’t initially worry him until he realized his closest opponent had the Eagles stud tight end. The short passes to Jerick McKinnon may have been meaningless regarding the outcome of the game, but for Platte, each one narrowed his lead. The late-game Philadelphia interception may have put a final stamp on a resounding Eagles win, but it also brought his nearest competitor closer again. What had been a double-digit lead just minutes ago had turned to under three points.
Only when the Eagles took a knee, mercifully ending the 38-7 thrashing of the Vikings and the building tension in the Platte household, could he celebrate.
“When they started taking knees, that’s when I could finally celebrate a little bit,” he said. “I definitely drank a couple of beers after that and celebrated that night.”
The three-week stretch started after Platte won his eight-team fantasy league he plays in with his in-laws. That crown led him to the Champion of Champions tournament, where he, along with roughly 130,000 other league champs, played three separate rounds where you draft a new team each week with scores carrying over from one round to the next. It started with the wild-card round and concluding with the conference title games.
Wild-Card Weekend, Platte started out running back-heavy, spending heavily on Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley and slotting Derrick Henry into the flex. That group combined for three scores and over 52 points. In a savvy move that paid major dividends, he paired Cam Newton with teammate Greg Olsen. Newton passed for nearly 350 yards and two touchdowns; Olsen was on the receiving end of over 100 of those yards and one of those scores. A big performance from Ted Ginn Jr. bolstered an otherwise-quiet receiving corps.
After one week, Platte found himself inside the top 1800 and advanced to the divisional week, where he made his biggest move.
“I kinda loaded up with Big Ben [Roethlisberger] and [Antonio] Brown and [Le’Veon] Bell from Pittsburgh, and all three of those guys went off.”
And as with any great fantasy player, he got, in his own words, “kinda lucky” as well. Having spent big on the Pittsburgh trio, Platte nabbed Corey Davis at the flex position. Davis, in turn, produced his best week as a professional by pulling in five receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns, the first scores of his career.
Elsewhere, Platte found great value with Dion Lewis (who produced over 19 points with Rex Burkhead out) and once again turned to Ginn Jr.
“New Orleans is gonna throw the ball around quite a bit and you’re hoping he’s gonna break one of those 60-yarders that he’s done so many times in the past. At that point, you’re hoping he hits one of those.”
Though the former Ohio State star didn’t produce any huge plays, he was a key part of the gameplan, catching eight passes for 72 yards and adding an 11-yard rush. For the second straight week, he outscored his projection. Platte won the week and jumped to first place in the overall standings.
That’s when the pressure finally hit him — that he could take home the grand prize.
“The championship week was pretty stressful,” Platte said. “I set my lineup Monday or Tuesday — kind of went with my gut — and then second-guessed it all week.”
He picked the brains of his friends and family. He even looked at Vegas lines — something he had never paid attention to before — to try to gain any little edge. “I put a little faith in Vegas: that they know something I don’t.”
In the end, he played it safe with the big names at key spots including Tom Brady at quarterback and Leonard Fournette — who had carried his regular-season fantasy team — at running back.
“I was gonna take Tom Brady regardless of price because I wanted him on my roster. I wasn’t gonna go down gambling on one of the other three quarterbacks and watching Tom Brady do what he does in the playoffs.”
He added three of Brady’s favorite targets — Lewis and wide receivers Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks — aiming to maximize the Patriots’ output. He had originally wanted to add Rob Gronkowski, too, but Brady’s price knocked the superstar tight end out of the conversation. As luck would have it, Gronkowski left early with a concussion and Platte’s replacement choice, Kyle Rudolph, scored the Vikings’ only touchdown.
And despite the late scare, Platte held on, thanks to a couple of chunk runs from Jay Ajayi. Though he’s now $1,000 richer, he doesn’t have any huge plans for the money. It’ll help him pay his car insurance. He’ll bring his family to the water park when it warms up in his home state of Michigan. The rest of the money will simply go where it can be used best.
Just like his fantasy strategy, playing it safe is working for Bob Platte, Yahoo’s 2017 Champion of Champions.