You’ll read a lot of fantasy football draft tips this time of year preaching that there is only one way to win, one quarterback worth grabbing in the first round, or one player that could change the outcome of your championship game. While there may, in fact, be one quarterback this season who could win it all for you, that’s not the only way to win.
Your fantasy football draft strategy is only the beginning, and it’s quite possible that the one player who contributes the most to your championship might not even be on your roster the day after you draft.
In this time of absolutes and must-haves pre- and mid-fantasy football draft, consider this a quick reminder that there’s more to it than the players you draft. It’s how you play the game.
Here are five ways to win that you must master to take home a championship this season. It’ll be hard to win it all unless you manage to top your league in more than one.
1. Draft the best team
Listing the draft as just one out of five ways to win your league might seem a bit ridiculous. But the draft is only the beginning, and even if you have a horrible team when you look up at that draft board, your season is not over.
The perfect roster doesn’t guarantee you’ll win, and there’s no way to predict injuries.
I’ve looked at draft boards after every draft I’ve ever completed, and the team that “wins” the draft rarely gets the championship trophy.
2. Win the waiver wire
Early in the season, there’s a ton of talent on the waiver wire. Some of the best players will go undrafted in most fantasy leagues, and they’ll be saviors for those who snag them up and start them the rest of the way. How many people won a league last season with Peyton Hillis or Michael Vick?
If you don’t draft a perfect roster, all is not lost. Just make sure you pay attention each week, and keep your eye on improvement.
Whether you’re in a league that uses a waiver wire or not, it’s also not a bad idea to put some thought into your free agent system so that you don’t reward the lazy or punish the strong. Not too severely, at least.
Every good league has a solid system in place to award free agents.
3. Make a great trade
Some fantasy players never trade. They never trust a deal, even if it improves the quality of players they put in their starting roster each week. The truth is that almost every trade involves someone losing at least temporarily. You’re taking a chance that what you’re given ends up being more valuable than what you gave up.
If a trade can make the team you start each week better, it’s often worth the risk, even if you have to overpay. That upgrade at receiver could be the difference between a win or loss in the playoffs.
Don’t be afraid to let go of your most expensive assets. Your top quarterback or stud running back might seem like they’re carrying your team, but if you can cash them in for a more balanced roster, do it. Just make sure you get the return you deserve.
4. Play your matchups perfectly
No owner gets 100 percent efficiency out of their rosters. It’s just impossible to know when your players will have their best performances. But you can try.
There are always more factors at play (injuries, coach doghouses, trades, breakout performances) than we can predict, but if you follow the news on every player on your roster, you can maximize what you get out of them to take advantage of their best games and avoid their worst.
5. Get lucky
Finally, yes, you can just get lucky. Maybe you have the easiest schedule of all your leaguemates and a clear road to the championship game. Maybe the one guy you held onto all season comes back from an injury and destroys other teams during the playoffs.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and fantasy football is one playing field that can always be leveled with a little good luck.
So why did I waste a post on this? I have to agree that it’s pretty basic. But why give you such a simple reminder (or primer) on how to play the game?
For one, a lot of people never understand all that goes into playing fantasy football each season, or they lose sight of options when their team starts to fade down the stretch.
Maybe by reading through this quick list, you’ll find a little more creativity and/or work harder this fantasy football season, even if the team you draft doesn’t immediately blow everyone out of the water. Maybe you’ll focus more on using your waiver wire pickups, even when your team is strong, or seek out trade opportunities when you need to improve your roster rather than phoning it in the rest of the way.
As you sit down at your draft table, remember that you won’t win a championship in one day. But if you manage to keep a handle on all five of these pieces to winning, you’ll have a good chance to take home a trophy.
If your head’s swimming with stats and rankings this morning deciding who to start with playoff implications on the line, here’s a study aid.
PlayThisGuy.com has provided us with their consensus rankings for Week 13 quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. You may not have these top 10 players, but dig deep to see what the fantasy ranking masses recommend.
If it came down to a coin flip or a consensus rank…I’d choose the rankings.
No time for a full start/sit post this week, but if you’re struggling to make a call for you lineup this morning, I do have lots of wonderful links for you.
Fantasy Football Librarian’s Consensus Start/Sit: When it comes to Brett Favre, I’m firmly in the “sit him” camp until he proves that he’s worth starting on the field this season. That might never happen the way the Vikings have looked in the last two weeks.
FF Toolbox’s Start ’em and Sit ’em: Dwayne Bowe is going to be a risky start until Matt Cassel improves, and Josh Morgan is a lesser noticed gem that could be worth a start this week, especially in deeper leagues.
It’s that time again. Time to dust off the old lineups and see what you’ve got for Week 2. Lucky for us, we now have one week of games to look at and make judgment calls, but it’s still pretty hard to tell whether the Bucs and Chiefs are good…or whether the Browns and Chargers are just that bad.
If you got your hands on Brandon Jackson this week off the waiver wire, you’re sitting pretty with his too tempting matchup with the Buffalo defense. Gotta love it. Start that hot hand.
And I’m giddy that Ahmad Bradshaw gets a chance to go up against the Indy run defense that just surrendered 3 TDs to Arian Foster in Week 1.
But it’s feeling pretty chilly in Miami for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, whose cold shoulders have to face the stout Minnesota Vikings D/ST.
Chad Henne doesn’t quite provide the same threat to pass as Drew Brees. Without a substantial threat, the Vikings will be able focus on stopping the run and keep Brown from unleashing the Wildcat in Week 2.
I really want to like Cadillac Williams like TMR does this week. I really do. But I’m having a hard time. Something about not scoring against the Browns just rubs me the wrong way, and this talk of getting the other running backs more involved from Bucs’ coach Raheem Morris doesn’t help.
It’s Week 2, but even though I own him in one league, I don’t see myself starting him (That’s what Brandon Jackson is for). I’d rather have more than 8-9 points out of my RB2.
Jabar Gaffney is another hot hand in Denver. He faces the Seattle Seahawks this week, and I’m not convinced that the Seahawks played the real 49ers in Week 1.
Strangely enough, I want to give the Chiefs D/ST a chance this week. That Monday night performance against the Chargers was miraculous. Dexter McCluster looks like a touchdown waiting to happen everytime he’s in the game. With him returning kicks, what’s not to like? I like it all, especially against the Browns.
KC’s defense might just outperform expectations as long as you have a sub for them when they visit the Colts and the Texans in back-to-back weeks. That won’t be pretty.
I am doubting the Vikings this week. As I said earlier in the week, they haven’t shown me anything in the passing game that excites me. I have no confidence in them.
So why am I going to start Brett Favre over Jay Cutler? I just fear the Dallas pass rush vs. a Mike Martz offense that much. Favre is the safe play, and I guess I am playing it safe. I hate it when I do that.
FFXtreme loves DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart while they be hating on Cedric Benson. I am not part of the DeAngelo Williams fan club, but there is a lot to like about anyone facing Tampa Bay’s run defense.
If you want to play the Williams and “The Daily Show” (Jonathan Stewart) game, this week is as good as any to play it. Fingers crossed the one you pick gets the TDs.
On the Benson front, I know he tore up the Ravens last season, but I think they’ll remember him for that. The Ravens weakness is in the secondary, where they are without Ed Reed and have suffered a lot of injuries this preseason. The front seven will have to compensate, and priority No. 1 of that compensation plan is accounting for Benson. Much like the Jets-Ravens game last week, this game will probably come down to who capitalizes on their possessions and takes care of the football. Look elsewhere if you have any more exciting options.
Fanhouse’s got some sleepers for you like Mike Bell and Seneca Wallace, and I’m seriously considering starting Legedu Naanee.
USA Today’s Fantasy Joe is one of the few places I see recommending Todd Heap. If he can stay healthy, I tend to agree with them.
I’VE BEEN TYPING IN ALL CAPS FOR THE LAST 12 HOURS. I CAN’T STOP. TONIGHT IS FOOTBALL. THE NFL IS BACK…BACK, BABY!
OH, THERE IS A BUTTON TO TURN THIS OFF? Ahhhh, well, that is better. I just thought it was an adrenaline thing.
Welcome to Week 1. Tonight, the Saints and the Vikings play for the honor of being the first explosive, on-top-of-it-all team and battle the letdown of being the first surprising loser of the season. I don’t think the Vikings will appreciate being the first team to disappoint.
As a fantasy GM, I’m sure you’re sweating who you’re going to start, so let’s have a mini-“Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders” huddle up.
You can start your studs. That’s perfectly acceptable; in fact, I highly recommend it.
Even though Ray Rice and Michael Turner don’t have the best matchups on paper, I have a hard time benching either one of them. You used a first round pick to get these guys, so one would assume they are the best you have.
Look at the positive side. Rice is fairly matchup-proof with his involvement in the passing game, which is why you drafted him, and Turner could, at the very least, get to the goal line for you. That’d be sweet of him.
But if you are one of the lucky few who drafted a stacked team, which you are because you followed my advice, and you have a phenomenal matchup on your bench this week, don’t be afraid to take it.
Cadillac Williams is this week’s golden boy. He faces an unproven Cleveland defense with his young quarterback, Josh Freeman, nursing a broken thumb. I’m guessing the passing game might suffer as a result. If Freeman does pass, expect the fact that he threw less than 10 passes this preseason to show a little bit.
All of this makes Week 1 a perfect week to test the Cadillac experience. Get the leather interior. Worth it.
On the sleeper side of things, Arian Foster gets to start his breakout campaign against the Colts poor run defense, and Ryan Mathews sees the Chiefs, who won’t hold him back much this week as one of the worst defenses in the league. These two were high on plenty of radars during the peak of fantasy football drafting, so I’d expect that you drafted them to start if you got ’em.
I really dislike Shonn Greene and Pierre Thomas more than I dislike Turner and Rice this week. Baltimore and Minnesota’s run defenses are stingy. Since Greene and Thomas may not have been first-round picks for you, you may not feel as risky starting Cadillac/Foster over them to see what your bench depth can do. I’d take that chance this week.
It also might be nice to give Greene and Pierre a chance to show you how they are going to split up the carries in New York and New Orleans. L.T. is old, but he could touch the ball far more than he needs to if Rex Ryan allows it.
Other than Rice, I’m not a big fan of the Baltimore offense this week. Revis Island and the rest of the Jets’ defense is no place to go for broke passing the ball, which will keep the Joe Flacco “sleeper” train in the station for one more week. They may open things up, but not enough for me to embrace him as a good start. He’s definitely a cold shoulder. And that means Housh, Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin will start quietly as well.
Chicago gets to play Detroit. You know what that means. They’re all superstars. No matter how good the Detroit offense has become, their defense still has a lot to prove.
If you’re really digging deep, there are sleepersout there. But come on, are you really going to go digging for a starting roster in Week 1? Not a good sign if you are. Not a good sign.
For the most part, I’d stick with the studs who you drafted this week. Have faith that you built a good team, and enjoy the fact that FOOTBALL IS BACK TONIGHT.
NOW I NEED ONE ORDER OF WINGS AND A TV REMOTE. STAT!
I really hope that the scoring change on Kurt Warner’s touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin didn’t burn you. That has to be the worst kind of pain in the world.
It’s exciting to pull out your semifinal game by just a few points, and it’s exciting to have a chance at the championship. Having that pulled out from under you by a scoring change on a Wednesday, two days after scores are supposed to be final, is rough. Too rough for most mortal fantasy footballers to handle.
So let’s move on and not dwell on it? Okay?
I’ve already said how I feel about starting studs and sleepers in last week’s Fourth & 1 debate fantasy football roundtable. You can only reasonably take a chance on a sleeper if your stud is in a bad spot and if the sleeper has proven himself on more than one occasion in the recent past.
That’s when you do it. Otherwise, start your studs.
But I find myself in a situation this week — and no, not that kind of situation. I have Ray Rice and Steven Jackson at running back but could potentially play Jamaal Charles and/or Beanie Wells in their place. Considering Steven Jackson’s health and Ray Rice’s challenging matchup, I’m tempted to put Beanie Wells in for one of the two, probably Jackson. But it’s hard to put a guy I haven’t started all year in for the championship game.
I’ve watched Wells strengthen his role in the Cardinals offense late in the season, but…is he ready to be trusted in a championship game? Tell me what you would do in the comments.
For your more pressing playoff questions, you should read up at the FF Librarian for plenty of start or sit opinions. She’s got plenty of goods for you and your post-holiday needs.
Jason Snelling, Cedric Benson, and Jonathan Stewart are all looking good in Fantasy Joe’s studs and duds this week. I like Snelling’s chance to take advantage of a good matchup, and Benson should get back on track against the Chiefs. Even the Browns were able to do that.
KFFL offers some potential help on the waiver wire for you this week, but I’d only sub in Alex Smith and Mike Sims-Walker into your rosters if you’re in a critical playoff game. Both of them are likely to already be on a roster in your leagues this week unless someone gave up on Sims-Walker already or unless no one took any interest in Alex Smith’s schedule to end the season.
My bust in that debate is a little more out there, Jerome Harrison. You’ll have to read my input in the debate to see why I doubt the Week 15 fantasy football superstar.
I know many of you may be afraid of your players sitting this week, especially your Colts, but Reggie Wayne is the only player I’m very worried about. He might sit at halftime if the Colts are able to put up a lead, and even when he is on the field, he’ll be blanketed by Darrelle Revis.
I’m considering starting Josh Morgan over Wayne, but I haven’t made the call just yet. Me thinks a half of Wayne facing Revis might still be better than taking a chance on the third receiving option in San Francisco, but I could be wrong. The aggressive player in me wants to make the switch.
The FF Geek Blog adds to be my reasoning behind benching Jamaal Charles this week in their Hits & Misses. They also hit on most of the other possible sits this week. Alongside ESPN’s rankings, they just might have me convinced the Steven Jackson is my best start.
But there’s still the matter of Beanie Wells. The TMR is a Beanie Wells lover this week, and it’s hard not to side with him against the St. Louis Rams.
So I’m still torn. I wish you all the best of luck this week as you set your lineups. Please feel free to weigh in on my dilemma in the comments below. Pick two: Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, or Beanie Wells?
As your set your rosters this week, you can enjoy the smooth jams of the holiday season: the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Canon Rock
I just like to say that name. I like to imagine they live in some sort of strange compound in Siberia, only emerging to play music at Christmas in large orchestral settings.
It makes every YouTube video of them so much more interesting to watch.
I thought we’d do things a little differently this week. By this point, I expect that most of you know who you are starting and sitting during these critical weeks of the fantasy playoffs. As such, I don’t think you’ll need as much help deciding which players to start and sit.
Trust is as important a factor as any, and you have to go with your trustworthy guys.
So rather than give you a few players with good games and a few players with bad games this week, we’d be better served just talking about what you can expect from those studs this week and what chances are worth taking for the playoffs.
And it’s especially good if you need a sub for Peyton Manning in Week 16, when he is likely to sit out the second half, denying you those fantasy points you need in the championship.
Fanhouse lays out a very strategic plan to attack the playoffs, and a nice set of players to help you do so. I agree with most of their adds, but don’t jump all over the young guns they recommend. Sure, they look good now, but will they really be trustworthy enough to start? I doubt it. Fantasy Joe’s Mike Gilbert doubts waiver wire studs Devin Thomas and Louis Murphy, too.
So if you need the depth or just want to keep them out of the hands of your opponent, go get ’em. Otherwise, keep your most trusted fantasy cogs close at hand and on your roster.
As FF Toolbox points out, Joe Flacco gets the Lions, Mike Wallace may get a chance to start against the Browns tonight (Joy!), and Kevin Boss faces the tight-end-friendly Philadelphia Eagles defense. On the other hand, dark days look to continue for Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. I wouldn’t want to trust DeAngelo Williams if he plays this week either after what Michael Turner did to fantasy owners in his first game back (He immediately got hurt again, as if you didn’t know).
Fantasy Football Xtreme’s Smitty cautions against Kevin Smith and Steven Jackson, and I would agree. As great as Jackson’s been on a bad, horrible, terrible, and atrocious St. Louis Rams (did I mention they were bad?), he may hit the wall this week with Kyle Boller at quarterback against the Titans.
Not a lot of surprises from Fantasy Joe in their start or sit recommendations this week. Among the names, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice look poised and ready to do some damage. I’m sure many of their fantasy owners would appreciate it in the first rounds of the playoffs, me included.
Also noted, Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson would seem like good starts if it weren’t for Matt Cassel’s struggles and Jackson’s recent cooling off period. I’d hate to have to rely on them, but you may be forced to start them.
Unlike Fantasy Joe, I’m not as afraid of Donovan McNabb against the Giants. He may be able to put two good games together against them this year, especially if he gets top target DeSean Jackson back this week.
By the way, in one of my leagues, the owner of Chris Johnson didn’t make the playoffs… in a 10-team league in which six, and let me say that twice, SIX teams made the cut. Do you realize how bad you have to be to not make the playoffs with Chris Johnson? Bad. So very, very bad. Rams bad.
Davone Bess and Chris Brown are two intriguing names in the sleeper pool. I’d pass on starting them over someone who got you to the playoffs, but they aren’t bad flex plays this week. Brown more so than Bess. Fanhouse likes Bess as well.
The FF Geek Blog predicts some struggle for the Land Baron and some promising returns on Jamaal Charles as he goes in against Buffalo, but my favorite note thus far was their take on Antonio Bryant’s bad situation this week: “Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers vs NYJ — Darrelle Revis.” That pretty much says it all.
In keeping with the theme of starting the guys who got you there, ESPN’s rankings look pretty familiar. Fanhouse doesn’t stray from the path of the studly either.
If you’re current options are a little sketchy, Fantasy Joe recommends trying the Titans and Cardinals defenses over the Steelers this week, but I can’t fully support the Cardinals defense as an option when they are facing my pick to be an explosive fantasy force this week, Alex Smith. I’m just glad I have the Saints D/ST to set and forget.
Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups
Now, since I know you can’t set your rosters without musical accompaniment, I give you your very own “Choose Your Own Adventure” of songs to set your roster to this week.
If you’re awesome: Three Days Grace – Animal I Have Become
Rage? Yes. Awesomeness? Completely. Playoff-worthy? Most definitely.
But if you’re hurting and little worried about your game this week, I offer the more melodious but still awesome: Kings of Leon – Use Somebody
If only your stud players were still showing up. Will that one waiver wire claim you picked up this week save your team? Alex Smith? Jamaal Charles? Only time will tell. Good luck with that one.
And with that, I leave you to your games this week. Best of luck to those of you in the playoffs, and sorry to hear about those of you who are not. If you have any questions, you know what to do. Hit us up in the comments or get in touch.
This week either means the world to you or doesn’t matter at all. It’s an interesting part of fantasy football. Few will panic over their lineup this week unless they are on the edge of a playoff seat. Those of you who have secured a playoff birth are probably just riding most of the same players you started last week. No tricks. No sleepers.
Those of you who are on the fence of being relevant next week are hunting through every article on the Interwebs, looking for that nugget that gives you the edge. I’ll try my best to contribute as much as my cold medicine inhibited brain can handle.
Hot Hands Starts of the Week
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers vs. Raiders — Mendenhall has proven that he is worth that first-round pick the Steelers used on him. The Raiders have proven that there is no reason to pass against them since they can’t stop the run. I could see the Steelers taking it easy on a recently concussed Big Ben this week and giving Mendenhall a lot of work.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys vs. Giants — Last week, I was saddened by Austin’s explosive performance since I benched him as my WR3 against Oakland. Never again. You’re starting, Austin, and you’ll stay there. The Cowboys and Giants have had offensive showdowns in the past, and I see this week’s NFC East battle as another chance for Austin to shine.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Rams — Despite his terrible season thus far, a soft matchup against the Rams would be the perfect time for the Bears to work on fixing that running game they talked about so much this past week.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos vs. Chiefs — Moreno had a long week to prepare for the Chiefs after running over the Giants Thanksgiving night. Coming off a streak of solid performances, the extra prep probably wasn’t even necessary. Expect big things.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles vs. Falcons — Rounding out a list of starts with plenty of young running backs, McCoy seemed like an appropriate mention here. He’s been handling the starting job well since Brian Westbrook got his second concussion, and the Falcons have hit a slump. The Eagles won’t hesitate to get out to an early lead and then let McCoy protect it for the rest of the game.
Cold Shoulders Sits of the Week
Roddy White, WR, Falcons vs. Eagles — I am not a fan of any Falcons this week outside of Tony Gonzalez, and that’s only because the Eagles have been weak against tight ends this season.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills vs. Jets — Buffalo has become a confusing situation since Dick Jauron was fired. Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken over as quarterback, and the new coaching staff may now be starting Fred Jackson ahead of Marshawn Lynch, even after Lynch’s shoulder completely heals. In this critical week, I think you have to sit Lynch until he shows that he will get a significant amount of carries.
Terrell Owens, WR, Bills vs. Jets — Darrelle Revis should be making sure that T.O. isn’t able to continue his hot streak tonight.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants vs. Cowboys — With Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware injured, one would expect Jacobs to get more carries and glorious piles of fantasy points, but the Giants have lost their mojo in the running game. The Cowboys shutdown the Giants’ running game the last time these two teams met, and they shouldn’t have much trouble doing it again this time around.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions vs. Bengals — The Bengals have consistently locked down the No. 1 receiver on opposing offenses with their young cornerbacks. They should have no trouble keeping Megatron from the ball with no other legitimate threats to cover in the Lions’ passing game.
Snooze-Button Sleeper Pick of the Week
Antonio Bryant, WR, Bucs vs. Panthers — Bryant is back in action and posted 91 yards and a touchdown last week. This week, he faces the Panthers’ passing defense, which does its best to make up for the Panthers’ terrible run defense.
While the Bucs may opt to run all day, Bryant could also get involved this week if the Panthers score early against the Bucs struggling defense. He got hot at the end of last season, and last week’s strong performance may be the start of this year’s hot streak.
Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups
The Doors — The End
Since this week is most likely the last week of your fantasy regular season, I thought “The End” would be an appropriate listening treat, especially featured in the beginning of Apocalypse Now.
Let that inspire you to do some damage this week and make those fantasy playoffs.