10 Rules to Follow to Make It to Your Fantasy Football Playoffs

Cedric Hopkins@FieldandCourtContributor IOctober 31, 2011

10 Rules to Follow to Make It to Your Fantasy Football Playoffs

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    Week 8 of the fantasy football world is coming to a close. If your team is finding new depths at the bottom of your league, then you may think your chance to make the playoffs has passed.

    Not so.

    Every year, in almost every fantasy football league, a team that is circling the drain finds its way back to the top of the league and makes the playoffs. 

    Follow these 10 rules and watch your team go from the bowels of your league to the playoffs over the next five weeks or so.

Rule No. 1: Don't Panic, Ever

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    The only time you have permission to panic is if you are the running back facing the guy to the left. That's it. No other time.

    Not even if your fantasy football team is 3-5 after this week's slate of games. 

    In a typical 12 team league, with the playoffs being held in Weeks 14-16, you can make the playoffs with seven overall wins, generally. While it will be tough, you can pull it off over the next five weeks.

    Again, don't panic.

    If you own a player like Calvin Johnson or Aaron Rodgers, don't panic and trade him away for a couple of low level guys that aren't a sure thing to produce each week.

    Panicking would also encompass dropping guys like Chris Johnson or Brandon Marshall. While they haven't performed as expected this year, they still have great potential—especially considering their playoff schedules, but we'll get to that in Rule No. 5.

Rule No. 2: Look to Trade

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    In Rule No. 1, I said not to trade while you're in panic mode. That doesn't mean you abandon all trade possibilities. 

    Scan the top teams in your league. If one of them has Andre Johnson, or maybe Chris Johnson, then look to execute a low level trade for one of those guys. Andre Johnson has been riding that guy or girl's bench for weeks—doing nothing to help get wins. Chris Johnson has lost almost all of his value based on his performance, or lack thereof.

    In times like these—when you're staring fantasy football oblivion in the face—you swing for the fences. 

    When Andre Johnson comes back from his hamstring injury he'll bring with him the potential to carry your team. Chris Johnson has the same capability, believe it or not.

    Yes, it's risky. But you shouldn't have to give up too much for these guys.

    Other guys to target on the cheap: Mario Manningham, Stevie Johnson, Torrey Smith and Philip Rivers. These players have the ability to put up double-digit points each week, but have a clearance price tag on them. 

Rule No. 3: Get Wired!

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    I firmly believe that fantasy football championships are won on the waiver wire. Often times it is difficult to make a trade with a colleague because owners tend to overvalue their players and devalue your players.

    If you stay up to date on the news in the NFL each week, find out who's hurt and who's being demoted, you can find fantasy gold on the wavier wire each year.

    This year, if you picked up Jackie Battle, Jordy Nelson, Nate Washington or Eric Decker, then you can skip to Rule No. 4. Good job. Keep it up.

    If you didn't pick those guys up, then you need to pick up your game. 

    Open another window in your browser and go grab Javon Ringer, Christian Ponder or Steve Breaston—all three are owned in less than 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Check to see if someone in panic-mode dropped Mario Manningham—grab him too. Before this week, he was being dropped more than freshman algebra at Compton Community College.

    Got him? Good. On to Rule No. 4.

Rule No. 4: Cut Bait on Dead Weight

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    We're going to keep Rule No. 1 in mind (don't panic) while we examine our rosters and cut those players that have been pulling us down to the fantasy football abyss each week.

    These are the guys that sit on the waiver wire and tease us each week. The "nanny-nanny-boo-boos" they throw our way just make it impossible to leave them on the wire. This is their week, you just know it.

    No, it's not; and it never will be.

    Some may throw Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson in this group. I understand, but I wouldn't. These are more like the Ochocinco's, Austin Collie's, Mike Sims-Walker's and Dustin Keller's. 

    You know, the guys that had all the preseason hype, only to fizzle out quicker than that lame sparkler you lit for the 4th of July.

    This little light of theirs is not going to shine—put them to rest, back on the waiver wire. Make room for the Rule No. 3 guys.

Rule No. 5: Scan Playoff Schedules

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    In case you forgot, the guy in the picture to the left is Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush. He's pretty much been a disappointment this year based on the preseason hype he received after his arrival in Miami. 

    Bush stepped up today and rushed for over 100 yards against a legitimate New York Giants defense. When you follow Rule No. 5 and scan his playoff schedule, you see that he faces the Eagles, Bills and Patriots in Weeks 14, 15 and 16, respectively. There's not an easier playoff schedule out there.

    So, keep in mind Rule No. 1 (don't panic), follow Rule No. 2 (look to trade) and utilize Rule No. 5 and land Reggie Bush. Phew—so many rules.

    Others with favorable playoff schedules: Javon Ringer, Cedric Benson, Arian Foster (you're probably not getting him), Jay Cutler, Mark Sanchez, Jabar Gaffney, Sidney Rice, Eric Decker, A.J. Green and Ed Dickson.

Rule No. 6: Keep Up with Injuries

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    Which player to sit or start each week can be a daunting task in fantasy football. One of the major factors in your decision is if a player is hurt. 

    Obviously, if a player is ruled out and won't suit up in a given week, you sit him.

    The harder choices are guys like Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells who was a game-time decision with a bum knee this week. It's hard to determine if game-time decision players will produce at a high level because of their injuries.

    The first step is to find out what part of their body they injured and the name of the injury. How many of you know what plantar fasciitis is because of Antonio Gates? Yeah, me too.

    Next, use Google to learn about the injury and find out more about the pain they may experience during the game. Often times, the internet has a great deal of information about a player's specific injury that won't get reported in the news. 

    Don't listen to the coach. They hardly ever tell you anything useful. It's always, "He's doing everything he can to play this week," or "He had a good practice today and we'll see where he is tomorrow." Such coach-speak tells you nothing. Plug your ears, avert your eyes. 

    Instead, listen to the player; check their twitter accounts, read the local newspapers for interviews and see what the player is saying about his injury. 

    This week Andre Johnson made it clear that he wasn't going to play, while Beanie Wells was determined to hit the gridiron. 

    Keeping up with injuries can be a time-consuming task, but a necessary one.

    In case you were wondering, Beanie Wells survived the fall in this picture, despite landing squarely on his head. 

Rule No. 7: Read Local Newspapers

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    Yes, I'm telling you to read the local newspaper. No, not your local newspaper; the local newspapers of the players on your fantasy football team. 

    And no, I'm not telling you to start a subscription of 10 newspapers and have a bunch of smelly, black ink on your fingers. It's all on your computer. 

    The beat writers for each local team are usually plugged in with players and coaches and offer invaluable insight into the team they cover—usually the superstar players on the team, which would be the players on your fantasy football team. 

    You getting this? Keep up.

    Some of the best beat writers—Kent Somers in Phoenix, Brad Biggs in Chicago, Kevin Acee in San Diego—have a pipeline right to the heart of their local teams. You need to connect yourself to that pipeline and read what they have to say...eh, write. 

    And I'm sure more of you would read the actual newspaper if it was delivered by the girls in this picture—but it's not, so you won't. Either way, the local newspaper is filled with gold that you should get your hands on that will help your fantasy football team. 

Rule No. 8: Meteorologists Are Your Friend

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    Checking the weather on Sunday morning is not just about that fun picnic you have scheduled with the family, or with your girlfriend. More importantly, it's about your fantasy football team.

    If there are gusty winds, heavy rain showers or a blanketing snow storm in the city where your wide receiver or quarterback is playing, that may affect your decision to sit or start that player.

    As Old Man Winter enters our lives, we need to pay him the respect he's due. He will no doubt wreak havoc in the upcoming weeks by way of freezing rain and snow storms. It's best to avoid pass catchers those weeks and seek shelter from their often abysmal scores.

    Snag a few guys who play in domes—Robert Meachem, Harry Douglas, Titus Young—or play on the West Coast—Michael Crabtree, Malcolm Floyd, Early Doucet—to have as a warm blankie on those cold Sunday mornings.

Rule No. 9: Talk Trash, but Don't Overdo It

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    Trash talking should be a part of every fantasy football league. It's in mine; I make sure of it. But there's a right way, and a wrong way to trash talk.

    When a team is playing the caboose of the league, don't brow beat them too much. That guy wanted to win as much as you. While I don't have the experience, I hear that it's no fun to be at the bottom of a league.

    Whether you're playoff bound, or wondering when mock drafts will be up and running, keep it clean and no hitting below the belt with your trash talking. 

    But, by all means, talk trash.

Rule No. 10: Never Quit

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    The picture to the left is Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. He's just about to score a touchdown on his 91-yard run against the St. Louis Rams. That's not important. Well, at least not to Rule No. 10.

    The important part of the picture is the other two guys—Justin Bannan (No. 95) and James Hall (No. 96) for the Rams. Those two guys are defensive linemen and probably run about a 6.0 40 time with the wind to their backs. Murray is about 40 yards ahead of them. Still, they pursue.

    Never quit.

    You should model your fantasy football team after Bannan and Hall. Even if you're 0-8 right now, don't quit. 

    You can play spoiler to a team trying to make it in the playoffs, or have bragging rights after beating the No. 1 team in your league.

    Based on pride alone, you shouldn't quit. Either way, never abandon your team. Just think of Bannan and Hall. 

    Well, okay, don't actually think of them because there's no way they were going to catch Murray, but you know what I mean.