Going Deep: Roster Strategy in the Fantasy Playoffs
If you’re reading this article you’ve most likely made the fantasy playoffs, so congratulations to you! After managing your roster more or less the same way throughout the first 13 weeks of the fantasy regular season, be prepared to quickly shift gears and make decisions that would seem insane just a few short weeks ago.
All fantasy football leagues are unique, and you know your specific league way better than I do. But the following strategies will improve your odds of advancing to the next round of the playoffs, and ultimately taking home a championship.
One Game At A Time
The number one priority for all fantasy owners in the playoffs is to win the current week (or next week for teams with a playoff bye). You may not believe this, but you can’t win a fantasy championship if you lose in the first round of the playoffs. If there is a player on waivers that would be an upgrade over one of your starters, you have to get them in your lineup, even if it costs you important depth on your bench or leaves you with a worse matchup at a position in upcoming weeks. More options may present themselves later, solving whatever roster problem you have waiting for you in the next round. While considering the strategies listed below, always make sure you are prioritizing the current week over the upcoming weeks.
Blocking Your Opponent
One part of doing everything you can to win this week includes blocking your opponent from improving their team through waivers. Most playoff teams are going to be full of stars and have depth on their bench, but that isn’t always the case. Maybe your opponent is dealing with WR T.Y. Hilton‘s injury and thought they would have WR Adam Thielen back by now. In this case, make sure to check the waiver options, and if there’s a standout replacement like WR Cole Beasley or WR Anthony Miller available, add them to your team by any means necessary. The fact that you might never start them yourself is irrelevant if it lowers your opponent’s projected score this week.
If you are sitting on a high waiver priority or a lot of FAAB dollars, it probably makes sense to use them to block your opponent, since you can’t take them with you if you lose this week. Blocking can be very successful against teams that stream defenses, as they may be stuck with a defense from last week that is unplayable this week. This strategy is only viable when there are one or two options available that stand out from the alternatives; if waivers are full of five or six similar options for your opponent to add, then you won’t be able to block all of them and this strategy is unnecessary. And remember that players you drop can be used against you by your opponent, so make sure not to drop anyone that helps them this week.
Once your starters are set to give you the best chance to win this week, and you’ve blocked your opponent whenever possible, it’s time to look ahead to future weeks. You may need to cut some players in the playoffs that you would never consider cutting during the regular season to make room on your roster. Here are some offenses with especially tough schedules during the fantasy playoffs (weeks 14-16):
Someone like RB Damien Williams, who many owners are stashing in hopes of a return from injury, may not have a spot on your roster in the playoffs. Do you really want to start Williams against any of those defenses? With little news about his injury, owners can only wait so long. Make sure to check the upcoming schedules of your fringe players, and if they have a tough schedule, there may be better uses of your roster spots.
Doubling Up On Defense
During the regular season, I would never advise rostering two defenses, except in rare circumstances. In the playoffs, it’s almost mandatory. Look ahead to weeks 15 and 16 to see if there’s a defense available that projects to be better than your current defense. If there’s a top-end defense in week 15 available and you don’t grab them this week, you will competing with the remaining teams next week and may need to rely on waiver priority or FAAB. It’s usually much easier to grab them a week ahead of time when no one else is looking. Here are the defenses with more than one startable week (projected in the top 12) from weeks 14-16:
|Team||Week 14||Week 15||Week 16|
Watch Your League’s Transactions
As we get closer to the end of the year, priorities change, and startable players may get dropped that wouldn’t during the year. Maybe you’re in a keeper league and a team out of contention is adding players to stash for next year. Maybe a team in the other playoff matchup is employing the blocking strategy from above and drops a player that is a starter for you. Keep an eye on the transactions, make sure you know when players clear waivers, and add anyone who helps your team or blocks your opponent. Knowing your league’s waiver and free agency rules are especially important this time of the year.
Now is the time of the year where handcuffs start to make more sense. There aren’t many bench stashes that still have the possibility to breakout, it would have happened by now if it was ever going to happen. If a starting running back is injured (or suspended), however, his backup gets a massive boost depending on the situation. Handcuffs are a good way to fill out the end of your roster even if you don’t own the player that they are handcuffed to. Top-end handcuff options include Alexander Mattison, Gus Edwards, Rashaad Penny, Ryquell Armstead, Latavius Murray, Chase Edmonds, Royce Freeman, Tony Pollard, and Wayne Gallman. You want to target players on productive rushing offenses, don’t waste your time stashing backups on Miami or Chicago, for example.
(Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)