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

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) hands off to running back Zonovan Knight (27) during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

  • Figure out your lineups: Decide which players you plan on starting each week to know which ones on your roster still have value.
  • Cut unused players: If a player will no longer help your quest to a fantasy championship, get rid of them.
  • Replace them with future starters or high upside risks: If anyone off the waiver wire can help you in any of the next three weeks, pick them up.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

1. Figure out your lineups for the next three weeks

It’s important to go week by week and figure out who you are currently planning on starting given what you know about the matchups your fantasy team's players have each week.

  • If you have a first-round bye, then this only needs to be done for Weeks 16 and 17.
  • Make a note of potential contingencies you know you might need. 
  • For example, there is a chance Deebo Samuel is ready to play for Week 17, so it’s good to have a plan in the case that he doesn’t play.
  • This will give you a sense of the players who are on your roster that are important for a championship run in addition to which ones are now expendable.

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 who could potentially be cut. He’s no longer a top-12 fantasy tight end without Matthew Stafford, and he doesn’t have any great matchups remaining.
  • Similarly, running backs and wide receivers who are 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 of a player on the 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 or players that could start if an injured player isn’t ready to return as soon as expected, as they could start given the right situation.

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 in any week.

  • 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 Minnesota Vikings are an option for someone looking for a defense this week. They play the Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, who rank first, 14th and 11th in fantasy points allowed to defenses.
  • The Los Angeles Chargers are a great option to pair with them, as they play the Titans, Colts and Los Angeles Rams, who rank 15th, first and third for fantasy defenses. 
  • Both defenses are available in over 75% of leagues at ESPN.
  • The Packers (Week 15), Titans (Week 16) and Giants (Week 17) are also defenses to consider for a particular matchup that are readily available.
  • It’s not out of the question to roster three 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.
  • The New York Jets offense, in particular, has a number of good options that could be available in your league, which includes quarterback Mike White, running back Zonovan Knight and tight end Tyler Conklin.
  • New York plays the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks during the fantasy playoffs. They rank first, 18th and second respectively in points allowed and are all in the top six in yards allowed.
  • There are plenty of other good players to target off the waiver wire depending on your league size.

4. Add high-upside handcuffs

If fantasy managers have any roster spots left, then it’s best to use those spots on players that have a chance to be a fantasy starter if something unexpected happens. 

  • For the most part, this pertains to running backs that have a chance to be a fantasy starter 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 got injured.
  • It’s also OK to sign a wide receiver like Jameson Williams or T.Y. Hilton. It’s unlikely either player is a fantasy starter this season, but it’s a possibility they become full-time starters next week with a big game, enabling them to be potential fantasy starters by the end of the season.
  • If you don’t like either of those plans, you could look at your opponent's roster, see what they might need and take players they might try to pick up.

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

  • Monday Night Football was a great example of big-name players getting injured. It’s important to adjust those plans in case you need to replace a player.
  • The fantasy football recaps will keep you up to date on any changes in a player's usage that could impact their future fantasy performance.

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