We’re finally here... playoff time.
The best three weeks of the Fantasy Football year.
Congratulations if you’ve advanced into your league’s postseason, and for those lucky enough to have earned a bye, get ready to watch this week’s games in all their unadulterated glory — sans the nail-biting or hair-pulling that accompanies the fantasy playoffs.
Tough luck to those fantasy owners who didn’t advance, and now have three weeks of somewhat meaningless football to watch. I’ve been there and understand your pain as your buddies compete for bragging rights and, in most cases, prize money. Better luck next season.
Unlike the NFL or NBA playoffs, season rankings mean very little in the fantasy football playoffs.
More akin to the NHL, these next three weeks are a total crapshoot. Anything can happen because this is often the quirkiest time of the year.
Inclement weather can negatively impact some offensive players; schemes change a little bit; some teams get a cupcake schedule; guys start to wear down as we get into the backstretch, and some players emerge as championship winners.
A few tips fantasy owners should keep in mind these next few weeks:
Stay active on the waiver wire
This is not a time to relax on the waiver wire. If you’ve been wheelin’ and dealin’ all season, stay with it. There are plenty of players that are free agents in a lot of ESPN leagues that will emerge this weekend.
Cam Akers and T.Y. Hilton are a pair of names that come to mind considering both are owned in just about 50% of leagues and are coming off two straight double-digit performances.
Play the matchup over a name
It sounds counterproductive, but in a single-elimination playoff format, it is always better to start the player with the best matchup over the bigger name.
There are some exceptions to this with top-five running backs and receivers, but by and large, you want to start the guy that’s going against the 32nd-ranked defense than the bigger name who’s facing a top-five defense.
Don’t overthink it; trust me on this one.
No excuses, play like a champion
No matter what happens, remember it’s just a game. We’re all competitive and some of us have a lot of money riding on these next three weeks but if you lose, don’t be a sore loser. Take it on the chin and deal with it.
In 14 years of playing fantasy football with my buddies, I’ve only won once — though I’ve made the playoffs most years. Sore losers who come off bad-tempered after a loss might find themselves bounced out of the league come August. The same goes for those who boast too much after winning the championship.
Give the rest of your buddies that Sunday/Monday night to soak everything in and accept the loss.
You’re allowed one victory lap text to the rest of the league. And then it’s time to collect — or in my league’s case, engrave the trophy.
Quarterbacks to Start
Justin Herbert, Chargers: Herbert is coming off an abysmal four-point performance against the New England Patriots this past weekend, but I think he bounces back for the first round of the fantasy playoffs. Atlanta is allowing an average of 23 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, the most in the league, and has given up over 300 passing yards in all but one road game so far this season. Herbert should be looked at as a Top-5 quarterback this week. Start him with confidence.
Ryan Tannehill, Titans: Owned in just 71% of ESPN leagues, Tannehill is an excellent fantasy option this week against the Jaguars. While he’s not flashy, Tannehill is one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league with 25 TDs and just five interceptions. He’s underrated because the offense is so dependent on Derrick Henry, but if the big man gets going, so does Tannehill, who’s averaging 22 fantasy points over his last three games. The Jaguars rank 29th against the pass and Tannehill already dissected them for four TDs in Week 2. Give me Tannehill this week.
Quarterbacks to Sit
Kyler Murray, Cardinals: Three weeks in-a-row now I’ve put Murray on my sit list, but this is honestly more due to matchup than anything. The Giants have a very underrated defense and just held Russell Wilson and the high-flying Seahawks to 12 points. Since Week 8, the Giants have been the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL and are starting to play well under first-year head coach Joe Judge. Murray is still a top QB option because of how dangerous the Cardinals’ offense is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they struggle in MetLife Stadium.
Taysom Hill, Saints: At this point, I think Hill has locked up the Saints QB job once Drew Brees retires, which could as soon as this offseason. But he’s got a tough matchup this Sunday in Philadelphia. As anemic as the Eagles are offensively, their defense has been exemplary. Aside from last week against MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers, the Eagles have allowed just one passing TD since Week 7. Hill has been fairly reliable given his running ability, but I think he might struggle this week. It feels more like an Alvin Kamara-type game, so sit Hill.
Running Backs to Start
David Montgomery, Bears: Since returning from a concussion, Montgomery has been a Top-5 running back. He’s coming off a 26-point performance last Sunday against the Lions and I think the Bears will continue to ride him this week against the Texans, who rank 31st against the run and have allowed a rushing touchdown in all but one game. Montgomery is one of those running backs that could win you your fantasy championship; I would expect no less than 20 points this week. Get this man in your starting lineup.
JD McKissic, Washington Football Team: With Antonio Gibson ruled out with a toe injury, McKissic becomes a must-start this week. The 49ers rank fifth against the run and have allowed only one 100 yard rusher, but where McKissic makes his hay is in the passing game. He’s going to get the lion’s share of rushing attempts and I would expect close to double-digit targets out of the backfield. McKissic might not go over 100 rushing yards, but he has the potential to score over 20 fantasy points if he remains one of Alex Smith’s favorite targets.
Running Backs to Sit
Miles Sanders, Eagles: It will be interesting to see how the Eagles offense looks with rookie Jalen Hurts making his first career NFL start. He could provide a spark to an Eagles offense that has looked like a JV team at times, but at the same time, the Saints are not one of the most forgiving defenses in the league. New Orleans owns the No. 1 rushing defense and hasn’t allowed a rushing TD since Week 4. Avoid Miles Sanders at all costs this week. Unless Hurts plays extremely well, he won’t have any room to run.
Raheem Mostert, 49ers: Since returning from a knee injury Mostert has been … meh. Nothing special. He’s averaging less than four a carry and the 49ers’ backfield is foggier than a fall morning on the San Francisco Bay. Mostert is (probably) the lead back, but against Washington, it doesn’t really matter. Say what you want about the Washington offense, their lack of name or laughable division, Chase Young and the Washington defense can ball. Washington is allowing less than three yards per carry over their last three games and has relinquished just one rushing TD since Week 5. It’s going to be tough sledding for any 49ers running back this week.
Wide Receivers to Start
Chris Godwin, Buccaneers: Godwin finished last season as one of the top receivers in all of football. But he’s been hampered by several injuries this season and has yet to top 100 yards in a game. Even with all of the other weapons at Tom Brady’s disposal, I think this is a signature game for Godwin against a Vikings defense that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers. Godwin should get close to 10 targets out of the slot; if he can reel in seven of them, he should be in for a big day.
Diontae Johnson, Steelers: Even though he has way too many drops, Johnson has clearly been Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite option, drawing a whopping 62 targets over the last five weeks. Johnson has scored over 20 fantasy points in three of his last four games and I think he has a good shot to produce another 20 against the Bills. The weather expects to be bad, but Buffalo has been picked apart through the air the last four weeks. Johnson should be in line for another big day.
Wide Receivers to Sit
DeVante Parker, Dolphins: Parker missed out on some opportunities after getting tossed from last week’s game for fighting in the fourth quarter, but he still had a modest day with seven points. He’s been Tua’s go-to option down the field, and therefore has a fairly high floor, but the Chiefs are a tough matchup. Kansas City is deceptively good against the pass with Tyrann Mathieu roaming the middle of the field. I think the Chiefs key on Parker and force someone else to beat them.
Keke Coutee, Texans: Coutee was one of the hottest waiver-wire adds this week after putting up 22 points against the Colts. And with Brandin Cooks still questionable with a neck injury, Coutee is listed as the lead receiver. No matter. Coutee has been in the league for three years and that was only his second game where he scored double-digit fantasy points. Even as the top option, Coutee doesn’t have the pedigree to trust him against the Bears’ No. 4-ranked pass defense in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Keep him on the bench