Fantasy Football Strategy: How To Properly Prepare for Your Fantasy Playoffs Right Now
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images. Pictured: Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins
With no Thursday Night Football game tonight, we have extra time to sit back and reflect on our fantasy football season, and more importantly, what lies ahead.
Sure, if you’ve dumpster-fired your way through the first 12 weeks with no chance at a playoff berth, then there’s not much to think about — except for why you didn’t sign up for an Action PRO subscription and ride preseason draft and weekly player rankings from Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon and Matthew Freedman to fantasy football glory.
And if you’re in the midst of a playoff battle, then maximizing points (and wins) over the next few weeks should be your only concern.
However, if you’re one of the fortunate few who have already stamped your ticket to the playoffs, then the remainder of the regular season isn’t all that important.
Now, there is an argument to be made that fantasy football owners should try to secure the best possible playoff seed as well, and I’m not saying you should necessarily give up on the final regular season games either.
Always setting your optimal lineup each week is important, but you can start to eye the playoffs and use your bench spots to prepare, especially the positions you typically stream.
Please let me get this out of the way now: I’m not a fantasy football expert, so leave that to Koerner, Raybon and Freedman.
I’m just a guy, standing in front of a fantasy football roster, asking it to win a title.
Fantasy Football Playoff Strategy
I’m a proud member of Team Quarterback Stream, meaning that I don’t select a quarterback any sooner than the final rounds of my draft, if at all.
Last season I hit the jackpot by grabbing undrafted Lamar Jackson (after not drafting a quarterback) as a free agent prior to Week 1 and steamrolled my way to a fantasy title.
I still believe in the strategy of quarterback streaming, but it has been quite ugly for me this season, especially over the last six weeks that have gone like this:
- Week 7: Cam Newton (2.82 points)
- Week 8: Teddy Bridgewater (13.04 points)
- Week 9: Matt Ryan (23.36 points)
- Week 10: Derek Carr (7.16 points)
- Week 11: Ryan (7.28 points)
- Week 12: Carr (1.6 points)
Other than Ryan in Week 9, I’ve consistently struggled to find sufficient quarterback production, especially for a shallow 10-team league.
Luckily I’m loaded at skill positions, which is the benefit of not using an early pick on quarterback, and have weathered the storm via my depth.
But there’s no way I can expect to win my fantasy playoffs with that kind of quarterback production.
With this in mind, I’m taking a hard look at Weeks 15-16 (my fantasy playoffs) to determine the best possible QB starters that are free agents now, and snagging them immediately.
Tua Tagovailoa (available in 75% of Yahoo leagues) has a juicy Week 15 matchup with New England’s 30th-ranked pass defense according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
Tua also gets Las Vegas in Week 16, a defense that ranks 16th in pass DVOA and just 21st overall.
I also found a little gem on my waiver wire — Drew Brees is available and eligible for my IR spot. Surprisingly, Brees is rostered in only 66% of Yahoo leagues, so there is a chance he’s free in yours as well.
The latest reports have Brees targeting a Week 15 return against the Chiefs. And while Kansas City and Minnesota isn’t an idea schedule for the fantasy playoffs, there’s literally zero downside to stashing him on your bench (if you have room) or ideally in your IR slot, which is exactly what I’m doing.
And in the name of transparency, I also picked up Ryan Tannehill, who has a delightful date with Detroit’s 28th-ranked pass defense per DVOA in Week 15.
Tannehill is available in only 25% of Yahoo leagues, but there’s a pretty good chance there are some valuable quarterbacks on your waiver wire that aren’t available in others.
I similarly stream my team defense position, so I’m also taking a hard look at which defenses have the best matchups those two weeks.
In my league, both Arizona and Houston are available. The Cardinals get the Eagles at home in Week 15, while the Texans play the Bengals in Week 16. Considering the Eagles currently rank 30th and the Bengals 29th in offensive DVOA, there are both very enticing matchups.
Since I’m already locked into my playoffs, I snagged both this morning and will play whichever defense is ranked higher in The Action Network’s weekly fantasy football rankings for the rest of the regular season.
Is it optimal to win the rest of my games? Not particularly.
Does it put me in the best position to win my league title? Yes.
Additionally, I’m using available bench space to handcuff my top-tier options, assuming there is a clear handcuff who is also startable if called upon.
I’m thinking specifically about Dalvin Cook, who got banged up last week against the Panthers.
Alexander Mattison would be in line to take over the reigns should Cook suffer an injury, or even potentially get shut down for the season if the Vikings are eliminated from playoff contention and want to protect their $63 million investment.
And finally look at your kicker situation. If you have a kicker you love, then great!
I don’t spend more than 30 seconds on my kicker position each week because the position is so volatile and unpredictable, but all things equal I try to find a kicker who will be playing in some combination of warm weather/indoors in Weeks 15-16.
The point of this article isn’t to convince you to claim specific defenses, quarterbacks or to automatically handcuff your best running back while sweating over the kicker slot.
However, if you’re in the fortunate position to be able to look forward to your fantasy football playoffs, then why worry about a mostly meaningless win in Week 13?
Instead, turn your attention to what matters most: winning the whole F’ing thing.