I like to think of the fantasy season beyond week 11 as a camping trip…and not just an average trip to the RV-park with your plasma hooked up above the electric fireplace. I’m talking about a rough and rugged trip into the middle of the wilderness amidst the bees, bears and Bigfoot. The only gear you can pack with you on this trek is what fits on your back, and the same goes for your fantasy team. You will march beyond the trade deadline and into the wild world of the fantasy home stretch with only the players on your team, and the buzzard scraps left on the waiver wire. The next day or two are the precious moments as you decide what to pack along your journey, so don’t be afraid to make a move at the deadline…and be sure to pack extra underwear and bug spray.
Let’s discuss a few strategies to bolster your team and make sure not only your starting lineup, but your entire roster is prepared to smash on your opponents all the way through the week 16 finish line.
Future Plays: This strategy is garnering a lot of attention right now, as the Green Bay Packers are taking no prisoners on their parade to a perfect season. The looming question is, “Will the Packers rest their star players in week 16 or 17?” Interesting question, but leave the stress of this query to your league mates, as the potential to take advantage of the Pack resting their stars is limited. Matt Flynn may be a nice backup, but I’m certain that if you are playing in weeks 15 and 16, you have a better option at QB. While the rest of your league is caught in the glow of Green Bay’s 9-0 record, shift your focus over to the team with the biggest division lead, the San Francisco 49ers. The 8-1 49ers have a five game lead in the abysmal NFC West and will certainly be looking for a chance to rest their bruising RB, Frank Gore. Gore’s injury-riddled past is well documented, and the chances of him missing a game due to an injury, or due to risk of an aggravation, with the NFL playoffs looming is very high. Take this opportunity to snag the speedy Kendall Hunter and tuck him away in your playoff emergency kit.
Try this: If Hunter is milling around on your waiver wire, drop Mike Thomas and add him, pronto. If Hunter is on another roster in your league, get to work. Send out a quick inquiry with the owner who is currently letting Hunter rot on his/her bench, and see what positions they need help with. Once you find that they are thin at WR or TE, try to shed some of your depth to acquire Hunter. What are you going to do with seven pairs of boots on a 3 day camping trip? Same applies in the fantasy playoffs….the players on your bench wont score you any more points. Send out some offers of currently “startable” WR’s and TE’s and see if you can land yourself this young and potentially impactful rookie. When Gore sits out weeks 15 and 16, you will have yourself an impact running back to help your team win.
Defense Stack-Up: This is something I like to do as my team, Fantasy God willing, heads into the post-season. However, if you are in desperate need of weeks 11/12/13 wins like I currently am, this strategy can be implemented at this very moment. I am generally a dedicated team defense streamer, but the “defense stack-up” is a great way to get that D/ST advantage in your matchups down the stretch.
Try this: Dump the last position player on your bench. I know, I know, DHB is really fast and I’m sure you love Robert Meachem, but go ahead and cut one of them. Now go ahead and pull up the week 12 NFL schedule. Scroll down and check out the matchup for the Carolina Panthers. Yes sir, that says: Indianapolis. Go ahead and click “add” and stack up those defenses. The idea here is to stream one week ahead of your opponents to ensure that you always have the best possible defense to play from the waiver wire. Those of you who stream starting pitchers in fantasy baseball may be familiar with this “advanced streaming” technique, and it is a fantastic way to gain an edge in the late stages of the fantasy football season. In this case, the Carolina Panther defense has not been great this season, but the latest word out of Indianapolis is that head coach Jim Caldwell has yet to commit to Curtis Painter as the Colt’s starting quarterback after their week 11 bye. That statement only means one thing: Dan Orlovsky. Those two words alone should put a little pep in your step as you cruise over to your waiver wire and add the Panthers.
Know Thy Standings: The week 9 Smash Back touched on the concept of knowing your own schedule as you make trades at the deadline, as helping a team that could knock you out of playoff contention in week 13 is counterproductive. Now, as we head into the final three regular season weeks, this theory must be expanded. If you are clamoring for every win possible and chasing down teams in your league’s standings, make sure you are well aware of your position, and those ahead of you.
Try this: For example, if you are in 7th place right now, make sure to be familiar with each and every team within striking distance. As the deadline quickly approaches, make sure you analyze all ramifications of a potential trade. If the deal somehow benefits one of the teams directly impeding your path to the playoffs, then it is probably best to avoid the situation. If you have two potential deals you are choosing between, scan through the week 12 and 13 league schedule and analyze which trade could affect a critical game that impacts your race to the playoffs. Remember, anything can happen in the fantasy playoffs. Our job, as fantasy players, is to gain access to this post-season tournament any way possible.
Go get yourself a win this week. I will see you back here next week to discuss strategies on preparing your team for the playoffs once the trade deadline has passed. Good luck!