Fantasy Football Strategy: Playoffs Vs. Regular Season

Buddy SmithSenior Writer IDecember 7, 2008

As we enter the playoff season, I thought it would be interesting to discuss how fantasy football strategies differ in December from other months. Weather will play more of a factor, the structure of the game itself has changed, and the NFL schedule needs to be considered as well.

December brings weather challenges—baby it's cold outside. The Northeast and the Great Lakes are going to see snow; we just don't know exactly when it will come.

Running backs who are going to play in these areas should be priced with a little bit of skew to the upside—if major snow falls, they should see more carries and point production.

Quarterbacks and wide receivers playing in these cities should be priced with a little bit of skew to the downside for the exact same reason. Some of these players could see their roles eliminated if old man winter blows into town.

The win-or-go-home nature of single-elimination tournaments changes fantasy football strategy dramatically. In all games, one who is able to properly adjust his thinking to the current environment will often reap big rewards.

I’ve written previously about how point volatility can be detrimental to the long term health of your franchise during the regular season. Now that we are playing a single elimination tournament that theory goes right out the window.

During the regular season if you score a consistent amount of points throughout the year, you can take advantage of the volatility that exists on your opponent’s rosters and win more games over the long haul. Like a poker player playing in a cash game: The antes never change, so you can wait around and only play premium hands.

When a poker player enters a tournament, the whole game changes. Now there is no long haul, it’s a short sprint. The antes are rapidly increasing, and a player serves himself better by picking a few spots to make a stand. The same holds true for fantasy football. This is the time to make your stand.

While I hate playing quarterbacks and wide receivers from the same team during the regular season, I seek this position out in the playoffs. The logic here is simple: If your quarterback doesn’t throw touchdowns this week, you can probably start thinking about next year anyway. In the event that your QB does throw touchdowns, you want to give yourself the opportunity to put up an unbeatable number.

Ask yourself this question: What lineup gives me the best chance to score the most points in the league? This is the lineup you want to play. That a very different question from: What lineup will have me in the top half of the league the most times out of 100?

When you know what your goal is, you’re a lot more likely to get you mission accomplished.

The last wrinkle that the NFL throws at us this time of year is the prevalence of division rivalry games. The NFL, for the sake of drama, schedules more of these games now than they have in the last two months.

These division games will be the second time these teams have met as well, asking them harder to handicap. We don’t know exactly what the coaches learned from the first meeting. They may have seen a weakness that they can now exploit to their advantage.

You’ll see teams who have scored a ton of points all year suddenly stymied by a division rival who has learned their offensive tendencies. You may see a guy who got very few touches all season explode for a big day because an offense wanted to avoid being predictable.

This puts a major premium on players from teams who are playing a weak opponent from outside their division. These players should have predictably higher numbers.

To wrap it all up, because you’re now involved in a single-elimination tournament, you want to increase the volatility of your team’s score, while using as many players who are playing outside of their division as possible.

Finally remember that it’s all a crap shoot. The goal of your fantasy season was to get here, now just make the best decisions possible and hope for the best. Good luck!