It's Week 13 of the 2012 season, and that means that by the time the dust settles after this week's action the regular season will be a done deal in many leagues and it will be time to move on to the fantasy playoffs.
If you've punched your ticket to the playoffs, then congratulations, but there's precious little time for a pat on the back. After all, getting to the postseason is only half the battle, and now the real work begins against some of the best teams in your league.
Here are a few pointers that can help give you an edge once the tournament to crown your league's champion begins.
There's no such thing as a bye week
If you're one of the top two teams in a fantasy football league where six teams advance to the postseason, then the playoffs will be starting without you, as your prowess in the regular season has earned you a first-round bye.
However, now is not the time to rest on your laurels. All too often the top teams in fantasy leagues cruise through the regular season, get complacent, and then pull an Atlanta Falcons and go one-and-done in the playoffs.
Hit the waiver wire every bit as hard as you normally would, even if it's to grab a player a week in advance. For example, given that the Detroit Lions visit Lambeau Field in Week 14 to face the Green Bay Packers, there isn't apt to be great demand for their defense's fantasy services, but the Lions follow that game up with a delicious Week 15 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.
Know the matchups
It's always important that fantasy owners do their homework, but in the playoffs, where every game is a must-win, the more information you have at your disposal the better your odds of moving on instead of going home.
That makes knowing as much as possible about your players' opponents a very good idea, both from an NFL and fantasy perspective, as this information can be invaluable in helping you choose between comparable options.
Check out the defensive statistics on NFL.com. Find out which teams are allowing the most fantasy points to each position (many providers tailor this information to your league's scoring). Check out the fantasy strength of schedule tool at Fantasy Sharks, which will show what players have the easiest (and most difficult) schedule from here out.
Knowledge is power, and right now you need it more than ever.
Go big or go home
Usually, when it comes to examining my opponent's fantasy lineup, I spend slightly less time on that than I do making sure that my duvet and dust ruffle complement one another in a way that brings out the subtle nuances of the taupe in my drapes.
In other words, I don't.
With that said, the playoffs are a different animal. Every week is win or go home, and at the very least you should take a look at who your opponent is rolling out there in an effort to get a feel for whether you'll be a "favorite" or "underdog" that week.
If it's the latter then it's time to throw caution to the wind. Sure, sitting a star player such as Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green in your league's championship game may sound absolutely insane.
However, the Pittsburgh Steelers shut Green down when the teams played earlier this year and the last thing an underdog needs is an egg, so a matchup play such as Cecil Shorts of the Jacksonville Jaguars becomes a very interesting alternative.
Granted, those sorts of decisions are risky, but if you're staring at a one-week winner-take-all uphill struggle, sometimes risky is exactly what you need.