You've just spent the last 3 months battling the people in your league to make it into the fantasy football playoffs. Unlike the regular season where a single loss can be overcome in the standings, a single loss in the playoffs can be the difference between cashing in on a championship or being the guy who is left muttering "there's always next year." Here are five of my favorite tips for this time of year.
1. Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
If you drafted a bust, there's no reason to hold onto him any longer. Yeah, that means you Vernon Davis, Doug Martin, Reggie Bush, Cordarrelle Patterson, Zach Ertz, and Darren McFadden. Brand names mean nothing. The 2014 Reggie Bush is not the same as the 2011 or even 2013 Reggie Bush. It's time to admit that Charles Johnson is the better WR in Minnesota than Patterson. If you have an injury during the playoffs, these guys are not reliable enough to make it happen for you. Seriously - the Muscle Hamster has only seen the endzone twice this year and is still averaging a paltry 3.0 yards per carry for 273 yards...TOTAL. Don't be afraid to drop one of these guys if they're not starting for you and there's a better backup on the waiver wire with a better schedule. There's no need to be carrying dead weight at this point.
2. You're Not Iggy Azalea - Don't Get Fancy
Leave the cute stuff to someone who is better looking than you. Unless there is a really compelling case, play the guys who got you into the post-season. Sometimes I've heard it phrased as "You dance with the person you came with." Regardless of your chosen cliche, you're not going to sit Andrew Luck because he's playing Houston and start Eli Manning in his place simply because Eli has a better matchup. Let's say that you just found out that Johnny Manziel is going to start for the Browns this week. Would you rush out to start him if this was week 13 and you needed the win to get into the playoffs? If not, then why would you think to do it in Week 15? While they're important, put more emphasis on the favorable matchups for your backup players, defenses, or the flex spot. Now's not the time to get fancy with your lineup.
3. Depth No Longer Matters
If you were going to dive headfirst into a swimming pool, it's in your best interest to make sure the deep end is deep enough. The fantasy playoffs are fought in the shallow end of the pool my friend. You no longer need to have 5 running backs because you no longer need to plan for a season of byes and potential injuries. It's no longer a marathon. There's a good chance that the top 2 or 3 running backs on your team are the only ones who even have a chance at starting. Use one of those spots to draft another defense so that you can play the matchup. Take a chance on a wide receiver or tight end who has bigger upside. The point here is that you can open up roster spots. Doing so allows you to strategize for the final sprint to the championship. Of course, this only applies to skilled positions and not kickers. You only need 1 of those. Seriously...just one.
4. Keep an Eye on the Touches
Guys like Carlos Hyde, Darren Sproles, Roy Helu, and Bernard Pierce might have some really tasty matchups, but they're in running-back-by-committees (RBBC) and will only see a handful of touches. Fantasy football can be thought of as a sales game. The more opportunities you get to sell something - the more likely it is that you'll increase your sales numbers. Skilled position players are the same. If a guy is only going to play 20% of the snaps or is only going to see half a dozen carries, he will have a statistically more difficult time putting up decent numbers. Give me the guy who will be on the field for 80% of the snaps or who will see 15-20 carries over the 3rd-down back every time. If all we need is for him to break off 1 big run or catch 1 big pass, I'd rather have more opportunities to close that sale.
5. Injury Reports Matter Now More Than Ever
Like Apollo Creed says in Rocky III, "There is no tomorrow!" You've got to keep up on the NFL injury report. If you're a premium member of FFN and have your teams in the Lineup Analzyer, we'll watch your players for you, but you still need to make those sit/start decisions yourself. Those decisions matter more now. For example, Julius Thomas was technically active last week, but he didn't play. He's a gamble again this week. As much as we all like him, the fact of the matter remains that he plays in the late game. If there's a chance that he'll repeat the goose egg from last week and I have a comparable option (guys like Martellus Bennett, Dwayne Allen, Larry Donnell, or perhaps even Jordan Reed), I'm giving serious consideration to starting the healthy guy. If Cam Newton (car accident) seems doubtful or unlikely to play, I'm giving serious consideration to another QB. It seems obvious enough, but if your guy isn't on the field, he's not putting points on the scoreboard.
BONUS: Who Cares If They Face Each Other
If death and taxes are two things that are certain in life, I'd like to add one more. It is a statistical certainty this time of year that I will get asked whether someone should bench his DST because they're playing his QB or another skilled position. The answer is no. You play the best player. If Philip Rivers is your QB and he's playing the Denver defense, you don't sit the Denver DST simply because you have Rivers at QB. They're facing off in real life - not in fantasy. If Denver is projected to score more than your backup DST, then who cares who the QB is that you have starting on your fantasy team. If Denver gets you 8 points and your backup DST gets you 4 points, you're going to want the team giving you 8 points right? Don't worry about who else you have in your starting lineup. It sounds so simple and it really is - put the best man in each slot. If you're in the playoffs, you likely know what you're doing. Now's not the time to start over-thinking it.
Good luck in the playoffs!