It’s NFL Week 14, which means there’s only 4 more official weeks left of regular season football until playoffs. However, for many fantasy football leagues the postseason begins this week. Many leagues only allow 6 or 8 teams to qualify for a postseason birth and a chance at the championship; which unfortunately leaves close to half the competition out of the hunt and in the fantasy realm of irrelevant for the next few weeks of the regular season.

So in this week’s rundown we show love to the loser’s bracket, the ones who missed out on the playoffs. It’s not only insightful for those who didn’t perform well this year but also for those who are still in it or atop the standings because we all make mistakes. For those who finished atop the regular season, you should realize that fantasy football involves skill but also quite a bit of luck (yes the points against column is a helpful indicator) so please keep reading. Here is a look at some lessons we learned and mistakes that we will try to avoid at all costs next season to grind your way back into the playoffs.

Prepare for Draft Day

Some of the first lessons stem from the original fantasy football draft that occur preseason. First, if Adrian Peterson is on the board then you take AP. That’s the very first lesson of fantasy football and if there is one takeaway to be remembered, then please recite that one to memory.

The next drafting lesson is to pre-rank players based on projections and areas of depth/need prior to the draft. More importantly, you want to remember to show up for the draft. Auto-draft is for the birds, no matter if ESPN or Yahoo! grade out your picks an A+ because they automatically drafted your team for you.

The recent strategy with the fantasy draft has been to grab running backs in the first two rounds, unless your team has a late round pick, in which case going running back then quarterback are trendy strategies. That still holds true, but other player options that should be taken seriously are: Jimmy Graham, Calvin Johnson or an injury-free Rob Gronkowski next season. While running backs are important, don’t blind yourself from selecting other players at various skilled positions with either your 1st or 2nd round pick. Additionally, dual threat quarterbacks like Kaepernick and RGIII are not top round picks either, so wait to grab those guys in later rounds.

Play the Matchups

Do you like to play matchups? You should, so herein lies a defensive lesson that applies to your squad. The lesson is to try and hold onto two defenses on your roster as your team heads down the stretch around week 10. A defenses’ output can sway the outcomes of these matchups, so it’s important to play favorable competition that will allow your defense to post big points and also prevent your competition from playing favorable matchups against you.

Cut the Fat

Don’t be afraid to drop a player that you never plan to start unless it’s your stud running back handcuff. For instance, don’t hold on to Trent Richardson unless you have a complete lack depth at running back at this point in the season.

Another common mistake is to have multiple running backs from the running back by committee offenses. Examples include the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. Players like Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart come to mind. Not only as these players unreliable since they are part of a committee that is at least 3 deep, but you are not going to play both in one week. Pick one and go with them, but if they get benched or inconsistent and ineffective drop them right away. Certainly don’t draft anyone of them in your top 3 rounds of your fantasy draft next season.

Negotiate Trades

Don’t be a sucker for trading away your blue chip fantasy players. Many times the first trade attempt is the worst one to accept since both fantasy owners are feeling each other out. Thus the old trick of rejecting and countering a trade is typically a better option in many cases. Negotiate and always look for depth and areas where your team needs most improvement.

Check Injury Reports

Remember to check the injury report on Sunday mornings for the questionable players on your roster. Don’t forget to stash away injured players on your bench or in IR if you can afford to like Crabtree, Harvin, or Andre Brown. They can become fantasy relevant at some point later on in the season and provide quality depth.

Get Lucky

The final lesson that can be taken away from this fantasy football season is that no matter how many ways you play the game, lady luck plays a great deal in winning a championship or even becoming playoff eligible. So while your team can dominate the regular season, it’s more difficult to run the table and win the championship. It takes the right combination of skill, strategy and luck to be crowned the league champ.

Rosters of the finest fantasy studs do not guarantee the trophy, money or even the bragging rights at the end of the day. So if you are done for the season, completely locked out of the fantasy promised playoff land, then learn from those mishaps and take solace that you are not alone my friend.

Tip of the Week

Avoid playing the opposing team’s quarterback to the Seattle Seahawks defense for the remainder of the season. If any player was going to have success, then it was going to be the air it out Saints and Drew Brees’ offense on Monday night. That prognostication went horribly wrong and this contributor admits fault.