Tips for Playoff-Bound Fantasy Owners
Week 11 of the fantasy football season is in the books as it ends in style with potentially the game of the year. The 54-51 Rams win over the Chiefs on Monday Night Football had fans on the edge of their seat. Those who squeaked out wins in their league thanks to any of the star players in this shootout contest are going to be feeling the pain next week, as both the Rams and Chiefs have a week 12 bye.
If you’ve clinched the post-season in your fantasy league, the pressure is off… for now. You can spend your days leading up to the playoffs picking out a soon-to-be fantasy trophy or design your teams custom hoodie for the big win. There’s nothing wrong with being confident about your chances for winning a fantasy championship, as long as your prepared heading into it.
The following are some quick playoff tips to get prepared for the post-season.
Upgrade Personal: Trade Tip (if it’s not too late)
If your trade deadline hasn’t already passed, this is where to start first.
If you have significant depth, and one of your starters is mediocre, try trading a for a positional upgrade. This is a common strategy, but it’s surprising how often people will hold onto assets on their bench, who they can’t start, solely because they perceive their value to be higher than it is or are sentimentally attached.
A good example of a trade like this in my 0.5 PPR league was Player A trading Player B Julian Edelman and Nick Chubb for Odell Beckham Jr.
With Joe Mixon and James Conner starting at RB, Player A couldn’t start Chubb. Moving Chubb, who is certainly a stud in his own right, for an (at the time) underperforming OBJ solidified Player A’s WR spot at no cost to their starting lineup. Of course, if Mixon or Conner get hurt, Player A may miss Chubb, but taking risks like this wins championships.
Several high-upside, low risk targets to consider for this strategy: Kerryon Johnson (great ROS schedule, value is still potentially low because of the perceived committee in Detroit), Mike Evans (cake secondary schedule going forward, best production this season was with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball), LeSean McCoy (Bills are still horrible, frustrated owners may be looking to cash in on one good game from him).
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Pro-Active Waiver Wire Hunting
If the trade deadline has passed, you’ll need to look to the waiver wire to solidify your playoff roster. A crucially undervalued aspect of this strategy applies to defenses (assuming your league uses them, as most do). The thing to remember, here, is that during Weeks14-16 stud defenses are not necessarily worth holding and conventionally bad defenses may be great pickups. Think of the playoffs as though you’re streaming for three straight weeks, where the overall stability of stud defenses throughout an entire season is less important than week-to-week matchups.
Two good examples this phenomenon are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions. The Steelers are the #4 overall defense in ESPN standard leagues and have a great matchup Week 14 against Jon Gruden’s Raiders. After that, though, the Steelers have steep matchups against the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints, two of the most potent offenses in the NFL. Conventional wisdom says to drop the Steelers and pick-up the Lions, the #26 defense, who have mouth-watering matchups against Buffalo in Week 14 and Arizona in Week 15.
Another good defense you can pick up for the playoffs that’s likely on your wire: the #8 overall Denver Broncos (Week 14 against SF, Week 15 against Cleveland, Week 16 against Oakland). Conversely, one defense that’s performed well so far but should be dropped is the Buffalo Bills, who have produced in spite of their historically bad offense but have difficult match-ups against gun-slinging offenses in the form of Detroit and New England Week 15 and 16.
For skill positions, several waiver wire options stand out. Peyton Barber has come roaring back to life in Tampa Bay and boasts double-digit touches in his past six contests. He faces unimpressive rush defenses in his next three games. Chris Thompson is a worthy bench stash who can’t stay healthy during an entire season but paced the league in reception yards when he was healthy at the beginning of the season. Tre’Quan Smith is coming off of a ten reception, 157-yard game – make no mistake, Smith is the real deal and the Saints’ offense is not going to revolve around Brandon Marshall as the number two opposite of Michael Thomas. Keke Coutee is back from injury and commands the slot in Houston. Demaryius Thomas is playing injured and had zero receptions last game; look for Deshaun Watson to target Coutee when defenses key in on DeAndre Hopkins.
Looking Ahead Post-season Matchups
Several strong QBs have intimidating playoffs schedules. Tom Brady has turned in three mediocre performances in a row. He plays Pittsburgh in Week 15 and Buffalo in Week 16, both of which present very stringy secondaries. If Gronkowski, who has battled injuries all season and is contemplating retirement in 2019, doesn’t play, Brady will have an even more imposing task during fantasy playoffs. Matthew Stafford has also performed poorly in recent games and plays Buffalo Week 15 and Minnesota Week 16. Stafford threw for under 200 yards and no touchdowns in his last outing against the Vikings, and just lost his two best weapons in Marvin Jones (injury) and Golden Tate (trade). Carson Wentz hasn’t looked the same since tearing his ACL and plays Dallas, the Los Angeles Rams, and Houston back-to-back. Look elsewhere if you’re counting on Wentz in your championship.
If you need playoff streamers at QB, there are several good options who are likely available on your wire. Andy Dalton is owned in under 50% of ESPN leagues but plays Oakland and Cleveland in Weeks 15 and 16. Dalton should have A.J. Green back from injury by then and has developed strong chemistry with Tyler Boyd in recent weeks. Dak Prescott has already developed a rapport with Amari Cooper and has favorable matchups against the depleted secondaries of Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Tampa Bay during the playoffs. Dak won’t give you 30+ points, but his rushing ability and new offensive weapons give him a high and consistent ceiling.
Remember, the playoffs are all about individual matchups. That doesn’t mean you should ditch all of your studs with difficult matchups, but it does mean you need to make calculated moves ahead of time. At the very least, picking up strong defenses and streaming options limits the options available to your opponent – that could be the difference between victory and defeat.