The Winner’s Guide To Fantasy Football Playoff Glory

Football | 11/20/19

With fantasy football playoffs just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking less about the regular season and more about the bigger picture. Are you bound for the playoffs? Is your team on the fringe looking for the sleeper waiver to set you over the edge? There’s a lot that goes into the end of the fantasy football season, and we’re hoping to make life just a little bit easier for you with this guide. Here is everything you need to know to help give you the fantasy football edge heading into the playoffs!

Start Stashing Players

robby anderson of the new york jets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This rule applies if you’re in a prime position in your league to make the playoffs. Sit back and relax the rest of the season and stash waiver pickups on your bench. You never know who might break out big the last few weeks of the regular season, so take advantage.

Did you know that in 2018, Robby Anderson of the Jets was the highest scoring wide receiver for the last four weeks of the season? In each slide, we’ll name someone like Anderson you might want to look out for this year!

Target Players On Teams Still Contending

derek carr throwing a pass for the raiders
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

As the real NFL season winds down, teams that have secured playoff spots will begin resting starters or giving them fewer snaps in games. This can spell disaster for your fantasy playoffs. What if Lamar Jackson is suddenly asked to be a pocket passer for the last four weeks of the year? There go all the points he gives you running!

Instead of relying on that, see if there are any available players on team fighting for their playoff lives. Derek Carr has slowly gotten more fantasy viable every week and the Raiders need to pretty much win every game. If you’re struggling at QB, he could be a good option to target on the waiver wire.

Review Your Season So Far

juju smith schuster of the pittsburgh steelers
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Do you have a player on your fantasy football team every week who is projected to get 15 points but it never feels like they do? Review your rosters’ performances for the first half of the season to see who has, or hasn’t, been living up to expectations.

Along the way, you might find that the player you drafted first overall has scored below their projection every week. It might be time to move on from Todd Gurley or Juju Smith-Schuster if that’s the case.

Trust Your Gut — It’s Gotten You This Far

nick chubb of the cleveland browns
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Jason Miller/Getty Images

It’s easy to wake up on Sunday morning and start tinkering with your line-up, especially as you reach the playoffs and every win matters. Before you make that last-minute change, however, stop and take a deep breath. If Nick Chubb has started every game for you so far, don’t bench him now because Kareem Hunt is back!

Manage your team like you have all season. Have you always played the match-ups? Did you fill your line-up every week with your best players regardless of what defense they were playing? Do what’s worked for you, or we promise you will lose.

Plan Streaming Options Two Weeks Ahead

josh allen of the buffalo bills
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Depending on how you’ve constructed your fantasy football roster, you could be streaming anywhere from two to five (we hope not!) positions. It’s common to stream defenses and kickers, and some more modern strategies even call for streaming QBs.

If you are living in a world of streaming, it’s time to start planning two weeks ahead. After a breakout match-up against the Dolphins, who’s to say that Josh Allen will still be waiting for you on the waiver wire the week you need him.

Don’t Hold Onto Players You’re Not Using

james washington of the pittsburgh steelers
Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Have you been holding onto Frank Gore all season even though he’s sat on your bench every single week? If you’re not going to start him, why keep him? Replace him with a free agent stash option.

Is James Washington available? With Mason Rudolph under center in Pittsburgh, he’s quickly becoming the go-to target over Juju Smith-Schuster. And now that Juju is injured, his targets should only go up. That’s the kind of bench player you need right now.

Your Starting Defense Could Make Or Break Your Season

san francisco 49ers defense
Norm Hall/Getty Images
Norm Hall/Getty Images

At this point in the NFL season, we know which teams are good and which ones stink, which defenses are punishing and which ones are revolving doors. Streaming defenses in fantasy football is a great strategy, but remember to pay attention to the match-ups.

The 49ers, for example, have one of the highest turnover rates in the NFL, which is great for fantasy teams. Except for one thing — they play the Ravens, Packers, Saints, and Seahawks down the stretch, all teams that score a lot of points and don’t give the ball away.

The Right Kicker Could Save Your Bacon

daniel carlson oakland raiders
Justin Casterline/Getty Images
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The 2019 season has not been forgiving to kickers, so it might seem like streaming your kicker just doesn’t matter. What’s the point if Eddie Pineiro is just going to miss all the opportunities he gets?

While that’s true to an extent, we have one tip that can give you a kicking advantage. Don’t pick a kicker from a team with a high scoring offense, choose one from an average offense who is playing in warmer weather down the stretch. As much as you don’t want to admit it, opportunities do matter, and these kickers tend to get more of them.

If You’re In A Two Week Match-Up, Go High Risk In Week One

calvin ridley of the atlanta falcons
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Some leagues have playoff match-ups that last two weeks. If this is you, consider this strategy: use your highest ceiling players in week one instead of your most reliable. The good news sometimes these players will overlap!

There’s nothing wrong with trying to get your opponent in a big scoring hole week one. Maybe you’ll get lucky with Calvin Ridley and he’ll have a 150 yard, two-touchdown performance! Now that you got those points out of way, put your more PPR-friendly option in the second week of the bout.

Play To Your Opponents’ Strengths

marquise brown of the baltimore ravens
Bryan Woolston/Getty Images
Bryan Woolston/Getty Images

This strategy is one that might not have thought before. If you’re going up against an opponent with an elite quarterback, try and neutralize that position if you can. For instance, if the person you’re playing has Drew Brees, and you’re lucky enough to have Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, you don’t have to worry anymore.

The same idea can be applied to Lamar Jackson. Jackson has proven to be a stud this season, so instead of hoping he has a bad week, start his favorite targets — Hollywood Brown and Mark Andrews.

Keep An Eye On Your Opponents’ Injuries

marlon mack of the indianapolis colts
Justin Casterline/Getty Images
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

In the same way you would want to neutralize a team’s QB by starting his go-to targets against him, you also want to do this. Look at who on your opponents’ team is injured, and pick up that player’s back-up.

If you do this successfully, then you’ll make it really hard to lose. Are you playing someone with Marlon Mack? A recent injury means he’ll miss extended time, so make sure you pick up Nyheim Hines before your opponent can.

Find Which Players Are Hot Now

dak prescott of the dallas cowboys
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Leon Halip/Getty Images

This point is going to be similar to another point we made earlier, but stick with us. This isn’t about stashing players, this is about trends. Are there any players getting hot at the right time? Not the Deebo Samuels of the world, the Dak Prescotts.

Prescott has been starting for the Cowboys all season, but his fantasy value might be hitting its peak right now. He’s not a “boom or bust” player, he’s elevated his play, so maybe it’s time to elevate him to your starting quarterback position.

Grab Your Best Player’s “Handcuff”

ross dwelley of the san francisco 49ers
Ralph Freso/Getty Images
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

During your fantasy football draft before week one, you probably drafted the back-up to your best player. Then, during the season, maybe you dropped them as bye-weeks necessitated the need for other players. Bye-weeks end after week 12, so now it’s time to grab those players again.

Some “handcuffs” you might not have even considered. Why draft Ross Dwelley when George Kittle is so good and you don’t want to waste two roster spots to the TE position? Now Kittle is hurt, and Dwelley is probably available in your league and being used the exact same way.

Prepare A Plan B At QB

brandon allen of the denver broncos
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Once you have a QB you like, it’s easy to start them every week and not think twice. What happens if that QB gets hurt just before the playoffs, though? Start looking at who is available in your league right now so you’re not stuck scrambling for a mediocre QB at the worst possible time.

Josh Allen’s star is on the rise. Jacoby Brissett has been solid in Indy. Brandon Allen has been a pleasant surprise for the Broncos. Play it safe and grab another QB to add to your roster.

Anything Can Happen, No Matter What You Do

aaron rodgers of the green bay packers
Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Never forget, no matter how well you plan or how lucky you’ve been, anything can happen at any time. In 2011, the Packers were undefeated and Aaron Rodgers had thrown 45 touchdowns heading into a week 14 showdown against the Chiefs.

Fantasy football players didn’t think they could lose. Then Rodgers got stopped and only scored one touchdown with 235 yards through the air. Can you imagine how many teams got knocked out of the playoffs? Part of postseason prep is understanding that literally anything could happen, so don’t get too cocky.

Pick Up Players Coming Off Injuries

derrius guice of the washington redskins
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

At this point, there are probably injured starters around the NFL who are about to come back. Take a chance by picking up one or two of them on the waiver wire. The good news is you know they’ll be starting when they get activated.

As for what players will be available, probably only ones that have been injured or an extended period of time. Their owner might have dropped them to make roster space for another player. If Derrius Guice was dropped early in the year, see if he’s available. He just returned but has probably been forgotten by most managers because he plays for Washington.

Consider Dropping Players Who Can’t Stay Healthy

tyreek hill of the KC Chiefs
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

This piece of advice is going to be controversial, but hear us out. You want to be sure that once the playoffs start, your players will deliver. That means you need to trust that your players can stay healthy. Can they?

Tyreek Hill is unquestionably one of the most explosive players in the NFL, but how many games has he missed this year because of injury? How many has he left because he got hurt? If you’re going to start him, you need to be able to live with the fact that he might pull his hamstring before scoring any points.

Target Players On Teams With Easy Remaining Schedules

sam darnold of the new york jets
Will Newton/Getty Images
Will Newton/Getty Images

One key to fantasy football glory is getting lucky enough that your starting players have easy match-ups at the end of the year. You might have the three highest-scoring players on Yahoo!, but if they come up against the Ravens, Patriots, or Niners D, they could underperform.

With that in mind, look for players in FA who are on teams with easy remaining schedules. The Raiders have one of the easiest schedules left in the NFL. Are any of their stars on the waiver wire? The same question can be asked about the Jets.

Double Up On Kicker And Defense

jason sanders of the miami dolphins
Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This might sound like it’s going to take up unnecessary roster space, but the truth is you already know who on your team is starting or not. Because of that, go ahead and add a second kicker and defense to your roster.

What’s the point? If you play in a league that doesn’t allow waiver claims come playoff time and you stream defenses, this is the only way to do it. You also don’t want to lose 10 points if your kicker randomly gets hurt. Robbie Gould might be one of the best in the game, but he’s also missed multiple weeks this year with a hamstring injury. Don’t let yourself get “hamstrung!”

Trade Away Your Bench, If You Still Can

terry mclaurin of the washington redskins
Will Newton/Getty Images
Will Newton/Getty Images

Most fantasy football leagues will have a trade deadline that has already passed. If you’re somehow, magically, not in one of these leagues, it’s time to trade away your bench. Swapping assets could allow you a huge advantage come playoff time.

Package high ceiling back-ups for roster spots or handcuffs you may need. That way you have players on your bench you can actually rotate into your starting lineup. What’s the point of having a bench if you’re not going to take advantage of it?