Fantasy Football: Strategies for the Playoffs

It’s officially time for the fantasy football playoffs! Congratulations if you are still alive in your fantasy football leagues. Personally, 2020 has not been my best year. I made the playoffs in three of my nine leagues and am still alive in two of them. Usually that number is closer to five or six out of nine or ten. I did better in the DFS and sports betting side of things, though. You win some, you lose some, every year. Anyway, I’m going to do this article a little different than previous ones. By now, your teams should all be set. In the following paragraph, I’ll briefly list some names to look at if you’re in trouble. Hopefully, you’re just looking for that extra depth to help if someone gets COVID-19 or hurt. Instead of going into detail for two players at each position, I’ll list three strategies to help you advance further.

If you really need waiver wire pickups for Week 15, the “BEST AVAILABLE PLAYERS” for the playoffs for QB are Jalen Hurts and Baker Mayfield. At RB, there’s not all that much. I’m not seeing a ton of new injuries and thus not a ton of new pickups, but Lynn Bowden, Rashaad Penny, and Jeff Wilson could be worth a look. Bowden is actually a WR/RB hybrid type, but DeVante Parker left the game as well as Jakeem Grant, so the Dolphins are thin at both RB AND WR now. Penny might be a stash and hope type, because even if he returns, no guarantee he’ll get playing time over Hyde or DeeJay Dallas this late into the year. Wilson might be the better pickup at least for this week, as his team faces the Cowboys and Raheem Mostert is getting his injury evaluated. At WR, Nelson Agholor with Henry Ruggs on the COVID-19 List, and Gabriel Davis are worth looking into. KJ Hamler is someone to look at if Agholor is owned. Just ride the hot hand at TE, seeing if Cole Kmet or Dawson Knox are available if need be. LAR DST is a fine add this week.

This week, I wanted to go more into how to put yourself in the best situation to advance into the next round. I’ll give three different strategies that I personally use to help me get there, most of the time.

My biggest advice is, don’t get too clever for your own good. What I mean is, if you have a player that’s been doing well all season long and is in a really tough matchup, do not over think it. Just start the best players you have. There’s a time and a situation for everything, though, so keep that in mind. For example, let’s say you have someone like Chris Carson this week versus the Washington Football Team, and someone comparable on your bench has a great matchup, like Nyheim Hines versus Houston. To me, this isn’t even a debate, I’d start Carson every time. He’s a very solid game-script proof RB2 (or better) even in a brutal matchup. Someone like Hines, who is actually ranked two spots ahead of Carson at the moment, might not be the best play this week. Hines’ teammate, Jonathan Taylor has come along well lately, and the game script is not going to be in the pass-catching RB’s favor this week. What I mean by that is, I’m expecting the Colts to handle the Texans with ease, leaving less third and long opportunities for Hines to catch passes. Just simple things like that. Could that happen regardless of game flow? Sure, anything is possible. Though, I’d rather just start players who are definitely going to have a role.

Another strategy is, we want to start players who have incentives to play until the end of the season. Analyst Jeff Mans taught me this one. We want to be invested in playoff teams, guys looking for new contracts, teams trying to secure byes, or someone trying to hold on to a position for the future. As of right now, the AFC Playoff teams are KC, PIT, BUF, TEN, CLE, IND, and MIA. BAL, LV, and NE are the next group of teams that could make it if things go their way. In the NFC, those teams are GB, NO, LAR, WAS, ARI, TB, SEA, MIN, CHI, and NYG. We want to invest in QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs and K’s from those teams. Seems simple, right? Sometimes we overlook the fact that a player like Christian McCaffrey, who is currently on IR, and has not played since Week 9, and only played in three games all year, does not have a whole lot of incentive to return this season. Do fantasy owners need him back for their title runs? Absolutely. Will he be back? Possibly. Is it smart for Carolina to bring him back? Well, the Panthers are currently 4-9, and in last place of the NFC. McCaffrey has a contract locked in for the next few seasons. Carolina is not in contention for a division title or wild card spot at all. It would be foolish to rush their face of the franchise back. So, what I’m trying to say is, don’t hold your breath for a McCaffrey return. If it happens, great. Just be prepared for the worst-case scenario. I’d rather be invested in teams that are trying to win now.

The last piece of advice I have is, when you are setting your lineups, try to think about the story of the matchup, and how it could go in your opponents’ favor. Then, if your roster calls for it, counter that. For example. Let’s say your opponent is starting Tom Brady at QB, and Tampa Bay has a fantastic matchup against the Falcons this week. You think you’re in trouble, right? What if you have TB WR Antonio Brown on your roster, and a comparable WR3 like Tee Higgins or Brandin Cooks. I would try to start Brown, to at least give yourself a chance. If Brady goes off, you get some of that production if you start AB here. Context matters, though. Don’t go bench some star player for a scrub just because your opponent has a quarterback. Be smart about it. The players have to be comparable. Like FLEX plays, and WR3 types. Also, a bonus tip for you all, always keep your players in the late games in your flex. You never know what can happen. This strategy should be used all season, but especially in the playoffs.

That’s all I have for right now. Some of these are very basic, easy to follow strategies. Just be smart. Every point matters. If someone on your bench goes off, be grateful that it is on YOUR BENCH and not in your opponent’s starting lineup. Just be smart, don’t overthink it, and put yourself in the best situation to win now!

Good luck everyone. I’ll have my starts and sits article with more player analysis in Saturday’s article. That’s all from me. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to help you guys, just reach out to me on Twitter, @JoeyColonna. Thanks!

(Cover Photo: Mike McCarn/AP)

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