It’s playoff time, baby! Congratulations on managing your team to the Promised Land! Nothing is more exciting than watching every move your team makes these next couple of weeks, especially if said team is dominating. And since we here at FST enjoy dominating the competition, we thought the timing apt to share some some of our best fantasy football playoff strategy insights to consider setting your playoff rosters. Good luck, and I’ll see you all in the forums!

Know your matchups

I’ve rambled on and on about individual and playoff matchups in this column space all season, and specifically these past few weeks because it really is that important. You must be aware of the team your players are playing against, and how good of a matchup that team presents fantasy-wise. In some cases the matchup is irrelevant – You’re not benching Calvin Johnson unless he loses both arms in a tragic smelting accident, and even then I’d be tempted to start him. But when considering my RB2 / WR2 / WR3 options, in many cases the degree of difficulty between two matchups will be the tiebreaker in deciding which player I’m going to start.

Trim your bench fat

We’ve previously been engaged in the multi-month marathon that is the fantasy football regular season. The game now changes into a series of single week win-or-go-home sprints. As the game changers, your roster management strategy must change. This applies in two huge ways, the first being that you can easily now cut vastly underperforming “big names” if you need the roster space for additional handcuffs, defenses, etc. I’m looking at you, Reggie Wayne and Michael Crabtree. There just isn’t any further reason to hold these guys, especially if they’re looking at a couple of poor playoff matchups. The other kind of cut is the “upside stash” type of guy. You just don’t need the guys like Doug Baldwin, Eric Decker, or Pierre Garcon during the playoffs. Basically, maximize your roster slots, because from here on out, all bets are off. Seeya! Cut ‘em and help your overall chances to win.

Start your studs

I wanted to follow that first point up with this one because they’re both true, and you shouldn’t lose either in translation. I’ve seen way too many people go matchup crazy (myself included) and end up benching legitimate studs who blow up on your bench, mocking you for your lineup shenanigans. You know who your studs are. If you have to ask if a player is a stud, they probably aren’t. These guys have killed it for you for multiple weeks, paving the way to the playoffs, and have earned trust. Speaking of studs, with the playoffs on the line this week in a league, I had the pleasure of facing a squad that started DeMarco Murray, Tre Mason, Alshon Jeffrey, and Kendall Wright (!). Lovely. Better luck next year.

Know your enemy

I believe that knowing your opponents team is equally as important as knowing your own. Understanding the enemy’s matchups, good and bad, can be critical to roster and lineup decisions. You want to know if he’s starting the WR’s your QB is throwing to, or vice versa. If you’re projected to win by a ton, this might influence you to set a more conservative but dependable lineup. Conversely, if your opponent is heavily favored, you’ll want to look at putting together a riskier lineup with higher upside. You want to know the positions where he is strong, and others where he could use some help, which leads us to…

Win the waiver wire

Once your know your opponent, you need to be aware of a couple key pieces of waiver wire information. You’ll want to know the waiver positions of all the playoff teams (specifically your opponent) so you can see where you stand as far as waiver pickups. If you’re the highest, keep that in mind. Since you know your opponent so well at this point, if you think he has a weak point at WR3, you’ll also want to know if there’s a hot pickup out there that will help him. If so, you can potentially block that move by picking up the player he could use. You may be playing your friends or family in the playoffs, but this is dog-eat-dog competition time, and you need to make use of all available resources to ensure a playoff win.

Stockpile defenses

Since you’ve trimmed your entire bench fat to the minimum, your starters are at the absolute maximum, and you have a spot or two left. Your mission is now to play keep-away and stockpile defenses. You do not want to leave your opponent with D / ST options that could potentially blow up win it for them / lose it for you. You want to evaluate your opponent’s team, size up any weaknesses, and then make sure to not release any players who play that position. If you can do this and add a D / ST in such a manner that you opponent cannot ‘swing for the fences’ as it were, you’ll be increasing your chances of moving on to the next round.

Enjoy the ride

Take a quick moment to give yourself a pat on the back for being playoff relevant. It isn’t easy to get to the second season, and nobody always makes it. You played the waiver wire, made key trades, and navigated around injuries, suspensions, and terrible weeks by key players to get here. You probably can’t win ‘em all, but FST will do our best to make sure you win more than your fair share. With Thanksgiving so recently in the rearview mirror, we’re thankful that you chose to spend at least a part of your season here with us. Post your tough lineup questions in the forums, and most of all, good luck!