The Stretch Run

This is it.  The stretch run leading to your league’s fantasy playoffs.  For some, it’s pretty clear whether they will make the playoffs; it’s only a matter of determining their seeding at this point.  But for others, playoff qualification will come right down to the last week.  In a nutshell, unless you are 1-9 in a 12-team league, you probably have something to play for.  And the next three or four weeks could go a long ways towards determining your shot at winning your league championship.

All-too-often, fantasy owners get caught up in the here-and-now, focusing on adding and dropping players to pull off another win as they jockey for position.  In the meantime, their preparations for the playoffs fall to the wayside, sometimes until the week the playoffs begin.  At that point, it can be too late to make the key moves that will propel their team into the championship game and win it all.  Fantasy owners would be wise to balance their efforts to win now with their need to bolster their team’s chances in the playoffs.  So how do you go about it?

1. Know Your Playoff Schedule

If your league playoffs run from Week 14 through Week 16 of the NFL season, then look ahead to those weeks and figure out which players are due for good match-ups and bad match-ups.  That’s a lot of games to look at, so you might want to take notes as you do this.

For instance, the Chargers host the Giants in Week 14, travel to Denver in Week 15, and host the Raiders in Week 16.  That makes for some great production from Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead in all 3 weeks.  Hopefully you have some of them on your team.  Those that aren’t are probably already taken in your league.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a trade now, before the trade deadline, to ensure your roster is ready down the road.

The players on your roster don’t need to have a rosy schedule every week of your league playoffs, but it certainly helps if they do.  If you have a three-week playoff, 2 out of 3 good match-ups for a player still tends to work well, especially if other players on your roster can make up for those tough weeks.  So take note of who is out there that might help see you team through the playoffs.  But before you act…

2. Take Stock of Your Situation

If you have Drew Brees, then there may be no reason to pursue Philip Rivers.  And if you are loaded at wide receiver with a WR1 and some high-end WR2 players, it may not make sense to chase after someone like Keenan Allen.  You also don’t want to make big moves to prepare for the playoffs if these moves weaken your chances of making the playoffs.  If you are 4-6 right now, you need to place more emphasis on getting what you need to win in the near-future than the owner of a 7-3 team needs to.  Balance is the key here.

3. Take Stock of the NFL Situation

You also want to be sure you look at what’s really going on in the NFL.  Do you have Peyton Manning?  How comfortable are you with the beating he is taking?  Do you believe he will still be on the field during your fantasy playoffs?  Or will he be recovering from an injury or sitting on the sidelines to avoid further injury once the Broncos lock up a playoff spot?

And if you own Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch or Drew Brees, how confident are you that they will play a full game in Week 16 or Week 17?  Or will they have NFL bye weeks locked up and take a rest?  Are you prepared to replace them during those weeks, if necessary, and still be able to win?

Those are the kind of questions you need to be asking yourself right now.  You won’t necessarily know all of the answers, but this type of analysis will help you decide whether you need to make a move.

4. Make Your Moves

Finally, back to the heart of the discussion.  Once you’ve gotten a good feel for the favorable and not-so-favorable playoff match-ups and you’ve bounced them against your situation and the NFL situations, act sooner rather than later.  The closer you get to your fantasy playoffs, the more your fellow owners will begin making their preparations.  And once you get to your league’s playoff weeks, it can become very difficult to get what you need to win the championship.

The Bottom Line

Success during the stretch run involves more than just working your way into the playoffs and getting a good seed.  You also need to prepare for your league playoffs.  Strike a balance between the two by assessing your situation and that of your players and those that might be available.  Then, act accordingly before your fellow owners get a jump on it.  Using the stretch run to your advantage can pay huge dividends later during the final steps in your quest for the league title.

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