Playoff Push Strategies For Fantasy Football

By Ari Gilberg

Early Tuesday morning I received a text from my friend Justin, who said he’s considering benching all of his players in our hometown fantasy football league this week. He’s not benching his players out of spite, or frustration, or malice – he said he’s benching them in a strategical move in order to alter his playoff seeding, which, after further research, actually makes a lot of sense.

If Justin were to lose this week, he’d enter the playoffs as the sixth seed, and most likely play the third seeded team, Josh K’s Team, that has only averaged 90.85 points the past three weeks. However, if Justin decides to start his players, and wins, he’d be a five seed, and go up against the fourth-seeded team, Bloom. Despite a worse record, Bloom has averaged 105.19 points over that same three-week span, and is clearly the more dangerous of the two.

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While throwing games may seem immoral to some, in certain cases like Justin’s, it’s a bold strategic decision, and just one of three things you should keep in mind as you (hopefully) make your playoff push these next few weeks.

Seeding Matters: As stated above, playoff seeding is extremely important. Every year, for every fantasy football manager, the goal should be to win a championship, not just make it to the playoffs. And while you should always try to construct the best team possible in order to score the greatest amount of points you can, you now also need to consider trying to position yourself so you’re playing against the weaker playoff teams.

Now, here’s what some people fail to realize, a weak playoff team isn’t necessarily the playoff team with the worst record. This may come as a shock to some but, in fantasy football, your record isn’t the best way to actually “rank” the teams in your league – it’s points for/points scored.

By looking at how many points a team has scored, you can see how good that team truly is – the more points the team has, the more dangerous they are. The goal is to score more points than your opponent, so even if your opponent squeaked into the playoffs at 7-6, if that same team led the league in points, but just got unlucky in certain weeks, then they’re still a dangerous team – maybe even more so than some of those 9-4, 8-5 teams.

Plan Ahead in Free Agency: Good managers pick up players that could potentially help them in their upcoming matchup. Great managers pick up players that could potentially help them for the next several weeks. Chances are everyone that makes the playoffs in your league is at the very least a pretty good manager, which means, if you want to win, you need to be great.

Thus, you need to plan ahead when it comes to working the waiver wire/free agency and target players that have promising matchups in the coming weeks, rather than suffer from tunnel vision and only look at who can help you this Sunday. A perfect example in deeper leagues, or for teams with weak receivers, would be to target someone like San Diego Chargers wide receiver Dontrelle Inman.

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Inman may be going up against a tough Denver secondary this week, but, following the Broncos, his next two opponents are the Chiefs and Dolphins – two teams who give up the second-most and sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year, respectively, according to ESPN. Then, in Week 16 – which is championship week for most leagues – Inman gets the Raiders, who have given up the fourth-most passing yards-per-game with 283.

Don’t Overthink It: Sometimes the worst thing you can do is overanalyze a situation. You try to think of all the different variables, and weigh all the different outcomes, and you end up starting a third-string running back you picked up 10 minutes ago over Adrian Peterson – trust me, it’s been done.

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A lot of times I’ll see a few ridiculous questions on Twitter, people asking if they should bench Ben Roethlisberger for Blake Bortles, or Dez Bryant for Brandin Cooks. While your stars may have poor games every now and then, you need to refrain from getting “too cute,” especially come playoff time.

One mantra I always try to stick to is, “Play the guys that got you there. If that may seem overly simplistic, it’s because it is. These are the players you spent your early-round draft picks on, or the players you picked up early in the season and have come alive, so stick with them. They’re the reason you made it to the playoffs and have a shot at the championship, simply step aside and let them be the reason you win it.

* Facts and figures taken from ESPN and ESPN Fantasy Football

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