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SALT LAKE CITY — As week 13 of the NFL season gets underway, most fantasy leagues are within a week or less of the money rounds — it's playoff time, folks.
The postseason is the time where fantasy football really raises blood pressures across the country. For leagues with big money or bragging rights on the line, a single performance from one or two players can mean the difference between glory and frustration. Let's run through a few tips you can use to maximize your chances on the big stage.
You might think teams who have made the playoffs have no further use for the waiver wire, and you would be wrong. In fact, particularly in a year as crazy as this one has been with injuries and demotions all over the board for key players, there may not be a single time where it's more vital to stay on top of your waiver claims.
Think of someone like David Johnson in Arizona, who will be available in a number of leagues this week — as a backup until recently with Chris Johnson's season-ending injury, many wouldn't think twice about him. But he'll be the presumed lead back in a potent offense, and the owner who snaps him up could have a leg up in the playoffs.
Another element of the wire is more important for league managers. Most leagues don't involve prizes (or punishments) for owners who miss the playoffs, and in these leagues, managers should be reminding said eliminated owners to stay off the wires. There's nothing more frustrating than badly needing an injury replacement on the wire for your playoff matchup, only to see him snapped up by someone ahead of you in line who isn't even playing for anything. Commissioners, make sure this sort of thing isn't happening in your league.
Changing roster configuration
One element that does change come playoff time, and really over the latter part of the year, is optimal roster configuration. At the beginning of the year, depth is everything — you only want one defense, one kicker, and hopefully just one quarterback and tight end unless your starter here is injury-prone. Conversely, you want to stock up on as much depth as possible at the tougher positions of running back and wide receiver.
As it gets later in the year, though, depth becomes slightly less vital at the skill positions. You still need a bit, of course, but the simple fact is that if you haven't ironed out a firm starting roster by this point in the year, you might be in some trouble. There's no longer nearly as much need to hold onto injury handcuffs or deep sleepers.
Stocking up in other areas can be quite advantageous, though. A good owner might roster multiple defenses weeks in advance of a playoff matchup, both in the way of preparation and to keep a solid starting D away from a potential opponent. You could stock multiple QBs easily at this point, with the intention of picking between matchups. If there are any open slots on your bench, these are savvy ways to fill them that can both help your team and deprive others.
Don't be afraid to tinker
There's a common phrase about "riding your studs" in fantasy sports, but there are times this can be misleading. You're not sitting Adrian Peterson on a hunch, of course, but just because you drafted a guy high or rolled with someone most of the year with success doesn't mean you automatically have to stick with them when the games matter most.
Don't be afraid to tinker a bit. Think of someone like Eddie Lacy in Green Bay — a consensus top-five pick in nearly all formats this year, Lacy has been curiously quiet in some games while at his usual form in others. His pedigree might suggest he's an auto-start for teams in the playoffs, but this is no guarantee whatsoever. Don't be fooled by his name value into making a bad decision; if there's a guy you feel is a better option, trust yourself.
Trust your gut
In the end, sometimes this is all you can do. In many cases, your raw gut will be what got you to the playoffs in the first place. Don't go too nuts and sit Todd Gurley for Charles Sims, but if you have a sneaking feeling about a close decision, don't be afraid to go for it. That's what the game is all about anyway.
Good luck to all those fortunate enough to make it this far! May your playoffs be filled with glory.