Choose Wisely

As many of you have noticed, I have been out of the limelight for the first several weeks of the season.  Changes in employment and a corresponding move to a new state have played a role in my absence.  I have also chosen to dedicate time to compete in high-stakes fantasy football, namely the National Fantasy Football Championship, and in daily (weekly) contests, such as Fan Duel.  These ventures have proven incredibly educational to me, both as a fantasy writer and as a fantasy consultant.  It is my hope that the time taken to broaden my fantasy football horizons will make me a more valuable asset to many of you going forward.

So all that said… here we are ten weeks into the season.  Some of you have teams that are in great shape.  Others are wondering why you even opted to play this season or how it could have gone this badly despite all of your preparation for the draft.  It happens to the best of us – just ask my colleagues in the office league I’m in (ugh…).  Whatever your fantasy team’s situation may be, many of you should be at a crossroads right now: how much effort will you put into winning each game going forward, and how much effort will you put into preparing for your league’s playoffs?

In some cases, the answer is simple – you just need to focus on winning enough games to qualify for the playoffs.  There are no playoffs to prepare for if you can’t  get there.  But in many other cases, you are either pretty well-assured of making the playoffs or you are in a league where everyone qualifies for the championship run.  The priority becomes landing the highest seed possible, right?  This is where I have seen many-a-fantasy-owner choose poorly.

You might be the top seed in your fantasy playoffs, but you could lose in the first round because your players have terrible matchups on the field of play that week.  Or you could easily make your way to your league championship, only to find your star quarterback is sitting on the sidelines that week, a victim of his own success, as his team has nothing left to play for during the NFL regular season.  Not a great way to top off a season’s worth of effort as a fantasy owner, is it?

Preparation for your fantasy playoff begins now, if not sooner.  The extent to which you focus the playoffs depends on a number of factors: the league standings, the potential benefit of improving your playoff seeding (earning a bye or weak opponent), your players’ upcoming matchups in the playoffs, the list of available free agents in your league, and the amount of injury risk you are carrying on your roster – to name a few.  As is usually the case in fantasy football, the answer to these questions largely depend on your situation.  However, if you are not even thinking about playoff preparation at this point, you may be missing a key opportunity – and that could cost you down the road.

So what should fantasy owners be doing to prepare for the playoffs?  Aside from checking their players’ matchups, they should consider other potential hiccups such as bad weather and the benching of key players on NFL teams that may have little left to play for at the end of the season.  Is Andrew Luck going to play a full game during your league’s championship game, or will he sit after two quarters, leaving your high-powered fantasy team to fall short during the most crucial game of the season?  What are you doing now to account for that possibility?

To be sure, I am not suggesting you drop your top tier players to make room for second-level guys who have upside in Week 15.  Be smart about it.  But maybe now is the time to consider dropping Reggie Bush to pick up Allen Hurns as a sneaky stash that could help you in Week 15.  And if trades are still permitted in your league, why not try to make an even exchange of players – or one to your slight disadvantage – that could pay high dividends for you in your league playoffs?

Many fantasy owners don’t consider their team’s playoff needs until the week before Round One.  By that time, all of their fellow owners are addressing similar needs, making it near-impossible to gain any kind of decided edge on anyone else.  So as you are tinkering with your team this week, make sure you ask yourself: should I be preparing for Week 11 or for my league playoffs?  Take everything into account, and choose wisely….

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