Last Updated: Jul 15, 2014 1:11 PM
Fantasy Football University – Class IX
Planning for the Playoffs
Half way through the season you are going to have a good idea as to the direction that your team is going. There are three basic possibilities.
1. Your team is a shoe in for a playoff spot.
2. Your team is in a dogfight for a playoff spot.
3. Your team has a snowball's chance in Hell of making the playoffs.
Hopefully none of our championship hopes have been dashed at the midpoint and we all fit into the first two categories, preferably the first category, right? The only way we will be in that third category, assuming we all used the secrets of Fantasy Football success (taught to us through FF University and the 10 Commandments for Winning at Fantasy Football), is if we are decimated by injuries. If that's the case there is little you can do other than be sure to compete every week to ensure the integrity of the league. Some leagues have a high weekly point total for some extra incentive to keep everyone interested.
If you're in a keeper league you could look to trade some decent players for future draft picks to playoff bound teams and start preparing for next year.
If we haven't been decimated by injuries we have to start preparing for the second season, The Playoffs. I call it the second season because making the playoffs is only half the battle. We want to win. BRAGGING RIGHTS, and maybe some change is what this is all about, right?
Strength of Schedule in Weeks 14-16
Strength of schedule, in this case, applies to weeks 13-16, or whenever your playoffs are. We don't use any special formula to figure this out. We are all Fantasy Football junkies. As junkies we know halfway through the season who the bad defenses are who who you'd rather not have your core guys playing and we know who we are rooting for our guys to be playing. H
ow excited did we all get when our running backs played against the Bills or Raiders last year? Their rush defenses were horrendous. And wouldn't it suck to have your top WR going against the Jets in your fantasy playoffs when you can count on All World CB Revis neutralizing him?
What you want to do is take some time at mid-season, whether it is Week 7 or 8 really doesn't matter, and write down the 5 or 6 defenses that are just awful against the run and or against the pass. Last year the Lions or the Chiefs were two of those teams that were just awful on defense. They were on my list. Then, we get a schedule and we circle those team's games in the weeks that our playoffs are played. If some team plays two or more of the defenses on our list, we immediately evaluate the possibility of a trade involving one of the players on that team. If not we look at all the teams and the possibilities of pulling off a trade involving one of the solid players on that team.
Here is the key - you are not necessarily trying to get the stars from that particular team that plays a weak defense, that may take too much work. You are trying to get the solid players that are going to have big weeks during the playoffs, yet may be more affordable or even available.
If you used this strategy last year, the Chiefs would have been on your weak defense list. In week 15 the Browns played the Chiefs. You could have been proactive and tried to make a trade for Jerome Harrison. They wouldn't have been your regular starters but in Week 15, when you were in the Championship game, or in the semifinals you would have used them. By the way, Harrison broke loose for 286 rushing yards and three touchdowns in that game. You would have dominated your competition with him in your lineup, while also looking like a genius.
Target Players from Playoff Teams
Good players are going to play better when their team is in the playoff race and fighting for the best seed. Take this example for instance. Derrick Mason averaged 86 receiving yards with two trips to the end zone from Week 14-16 last year while battling for a playoff spot with the Ravens, who ultimately got in with a 9-7 mark. Would Mason have stepped up his game and performed quite as well if Baltimore did not have a playoff spot to play for? Probably not.
Trading Players with Tough Stretch Run
Again, we are not saying to trade your studs if they have a tough second half slate of games. We are just saying to consider moving solid players who could be limited by tough defenses in crunch time of the fantasy season. A player like Donald Driver comes to mind. The 35-year-old vet can still do damage against a weak team, but you really don't want to trust him in your lineup when he plays a defensive juggernaut like Baltimore late in the year when one subpar performance could end your bid for a league title. To drive home our point (no pun intended), Driver hauled in seven balls for 142 yards and a touchdown with a great match-up against Detroit in Week 12 last year –- but was held to just two catches for 11 yards in a tougher match-up at Chicago in fantasy playoff Week 14.
Trading for Players with Favorable Second Half
This sums up the gist of the course. Target SOLID players who could see a nice performance boost with favorable match-ups in the second half of the season. Again, do not trade your STUDS. Going back to Jerome Harrison, he averaged 187 rushing yards per game from Week 15-17 last year, while exploiting match-ups against Kansas City, Oakland and Jacksonville. Trading for him would have increased your odds of hoisting the league trophy. We will provide you with a Strength of Schedule chart when the time comes.