Fantasy Football: 5 steps to propel your team to a fantasy championship 2.0

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss (21) runs the ball while Philadelphia Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo (56) defends in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

• Figure out your lineups: Decide which players you plan on starting each week in the playoffs so as to know who on your roster still has value.

• Cut unused players: If a player will no longer help your quest to win a fantasy championship, get rid of them.

• Replace unneeded players with future starters or high-upside risks: If anyone off the waiver wire can help you in any of the next two weeks, pick them up.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

1. Figure out your lineups for the next two weeks

It’s important to not only figure out your lineup for this upcoming week but also who you plan on starting, assuming you make the fantasy championship round.

  • Make a note of potential contingencies you know you might need. 
  • For example, Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert will hopefully be ready to play this upcoming week, but there it's no guarantee. It’s good to have another tight end option ready just in case.
  • This will give you a sense of which of your players are important for a championship run in addition to which ones are now expendable.
  • If you read this article last week and followed this exercise, there could be a few players who were fantasy starters this past weekend but are no longer needed on your roster.

2. Cut players with no shot at cracking your starting lineup

Any player who was a borderline starter but has a series of bad matchups, or just isn’t as good as a player who emerged over the course of the season, can be released.

  • There are no more bye weeks, so there isn’t much need for a backup quarterback or tight end unless they are similar players in terms of fantasy value and upcoming matchups.
  • Tyler Higbee is a good example of a player to potentially cut. He’s no longer a top-12 fantasy tight end without Matthew Stafford at quarterback, and he doesn’t have any great matchups remaining.
  • Similarly, running backs and wide receivers on your bench can be cut if there is little to no reason to think they could improve this year, even if there is an injury to a teammate.
  • Robert Woods is a good example. He is on top of the Tennessee Titans depth chart, but he hasn’t played like a fantasy starter all season. Even if he plays well next week, it would be hard to trust him to end the season.
  • It is OK to hold onto handcuffs, but only if they have the right Week 17 matchup.
  • Jeff Wilson Jr. is an example of a cuttable player. He was once a starter but is now a backup. There is little reason to trust starting him this week, assuming he’s ready to come back from injury. 
  • Even if he regains the starting job after Week 16, he has an unfavorable matchup against the New England Patriots in Week 17. New England has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs, and the Miami Dolphins struggled to run against them the first time around.
  • Someone like Wilson is unlikely to be a fantasy starter even in the best-case scenarios and can be cut.

3. Add players who can improve your lineup at any point in the fantasy playoffs

Look at the players on the waiver wire to see if any can upgrade your fantasy team down the stretch.

  • Streaming team defenses is a common strategy, and plenty of defenses that aren’t typically on rosters have particularly good matchups during the playoffs.
  • The Los Angeles Chargers are a great option for both weeks, as they play the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams, who rank first and second for fantasy defenses. 
  • Both defenses are available in over 80% of leagues at ESPN.
  • The Tennessee Titans (Week 16) and New York Giants (Week 17) are likely available on the wire and can be considered for a particular matchup.
  • It’s not out of the question to roster two defenses right now for each week if you have a strong starting lineup and your league settings allow it.
  • A similar strategy can be used at quarterback or tight end, depending on where the weak point of your team is.
  • This week’s waiver wire article largely focuses on players who have particularly strong matchups in one or both weeks.

4. Add high-upside handcuffs and blockers

If fantasy managers have any roster spots left, then it’s best to fill those openings with players who have a chance to be fantasy starters if something unexpected happens or players your opponent or future opponent could want. 

  • For the most part, this pertains to running backs who have a chance to be fantasy starters if another back on the same roster suffers an injury.
  • JaMycal Hasty is someone who’s proven to be a full-time player if Travis Etienne is injured, and the Jaguars play the Houston Texans in Week 17. Houston has allowed the most fantasy points to running backs. Hasty could be a league winner if Etienne suffers an injury.
  • An alternative plan is to pick up players other playoff teams could want. Look for a weakness and pick up players at those positions.
  • If other teams are streaming defenses, then use your bench spots on defenses.
  • Several fantasy managers have been hurting at tight end, and there are some good options at the position who are readily available. It could be worthwhile to pick up those players even if you are fine at tight end.
  • Zack Moss is the top waiver wire pickup in general this week with Jonathan Taylor unlikely to return this weekend. Even if you don’t need a running back, it could make sense to get him so that no one else can.

5. Keep up with all injury and player usage news

While it’s great to have a plan now, don’t be afraid to change those plans as more news comes out.

  • Even this late in the season, we saw a number of players with a slightly different role compared to earlier in the season. Don’t be afraid to use this information and change your plans.
  • The fantasy football recaps will keep you up to date on any changes in a player's usage that could impact their future fantasy football performance.

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