It's the most exciting time of year in fantasy football and do-or-die time for every team.
No more risky plays allowed. No more chances to make it up next week. No more trades in most leagues.
I'm pretty happy with my 2010 fantasy play. Last year, I won the championship in one of my leagues with an undefeated season. In my other league, I lost the last regular season game, dropping me to the third seed and a first round elimination.
This year, I took my championship strategy and applied it to both of my teams. It worked well. I go in as the top seed in one league and the second seed in the other.
Today, I will share some of my tips for play over the next few weeks. Hopefully, it can help some of you avoid the mistakes I see many managers make each season which eliminate them from the playoffs and into those goofy consolation games.
Fresh Legs Win Championships
Regardless of what any injury reports claim, by this point in the year you would be hard pressed to find any regular starter who isn't beat up and tired. That running back or wide receiver who you leaned on all year might be slowing down.
This time of year always sees players who seem to come out of nowhere and rip banged up defenses late in the year. These players are healthy, fresh and fired up. The trick is identifying these players and picking them off the wire before your opponents can.
Players showing the potential to be these kind of guys in 2010 include Tashard Choice, LeGarrette Blount, Jacoby Ford, Brian Westbrook, Anthony Dixon and James Starks.
Watch the Match-Ups
While it's generally a good idea during the regular season to avoid one-and-two-week wonders and stick to your studs, don't be afraid to start these short-term potential players during the playoffs if they have a good match-up.
It can also pay to plan ahead if you are in a league with weak early round opponents. A good example would be the suddenly resurgent Dallas Cowboys, who take on the horrid Arizona Cardinals in Week 16. Most fantasy leagues hold their championships at that time, making it a decent idea to stock up on players such as Choice, Felix Jones, Roy Williams and Jon Kitna if they are still on your wire, or guys like BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead if they are still available, as the Patriots play the Bills that week.
Handcuffs and Back-Ups
This is NOT the time of year to risk the chance of losing a key starter to injury. Ensure you have the best back-up available to your key players.
You can do this by either grabbing a handcuff or a good starter in that position for another team.
Good examples of necessary handcuffs would be Jason Snelling for Michael Turner and Derrick Ward for Arian Foster. These are solid players for key people in any fantasy lineup.
For good examples of backups to key positions, I'll note my own quarterback depth. In both of my leagues I start Michael Vick. In one league, I was able to pick up Jon Kitna today for my bench and have been holding on to Joe Flacco in my other.
If Vick gets hurt in coming weeks, I still have solid QBs with good schedules to plug-in.
The Betting Window Is Closed
You simply cannot risk players who have run hot and cold all year on your starting roster right now.
The tight end position comes to mind here. Which New England Patriots TE will get numbers this week? Nobody has been able to figure this out as of late and the last thing you need to risk is starting Aaron Hernandez in a playoff game, during one of those weeks where Rob Gronkowski gets all the looks.
Names like Brett Favre and Randy Moss carry a long history, but neither has been reliable in 2010 and are not worth betting your season on right now.
It's also not worth betting on fantasy studs like Tony Romo and Vincent Jackson being healthy enough to give you some play late in the playoffs, unless you are in a mega-deep league and/or have a large bench.
Playoff Teams That Might Rest the Starters
This is often THE fantasy playoffs killer and the biggest reason why so many fantasy leagues wrap up in Week 16 rather than Week 17.
That being said, this finds a low spot here in 2010, since there are not really any teams locked into a playoff position. The Atlanta Falcons might be the only real risk of this, as of this writing, as they are in a prime spot right now to clinch playoff positioning with time to spare.
Teams with star talent that will be forced to fight until the end to try and stay alive or will be playing for pride, always show some upside this time of year.
If making roster decisions you will want to lean toward keeping or obtaining players on teams like the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
These teams are loaded with fantasy numbers and are unlikely to shift out starters, as they play until the very last weeks.
Going Against Yahoo!'s Advice
I read an article on Yahoo! this week that encouraged dropping players on your bench at this point and deciding on who your guys are for the playoffs.
Not only is that risky given the chance for injury or a foot of snow making players produce poor numbers, but, by this time of year, the waiver wire is likely very weak in even shallow leagues. There is no reason to give your opponents a shot at picking up a decent player unless, you can get an obviously better player off the wire.
I tend to go the opposite way during the playoffs. I've been known to pick up sudden waiver wire gems even if I don't need them, assuming I have space on my bench, and especially if it's a back up to a key person on the other team.
No sense in letting your opponents have a shot if you can help it.
Feel free to post comments with questions or comments about your fantasy playoff situation. How did you do? What is concerning you?
I'll answer every post left below.
Best of luck to everyone!