For some of you, the playoffs start this week. For most of you, they start next week. For the select few who earned a bye, your path to the championship likely begins in two weeks. The rest of you who didn't make the playoffs, it must've been an injury or series of injuries that derailed your chances. Hopefully you have other leagues that fared better. For those of you with your eye on the prize, here's a few factors that reveal what it takes to win in the playoffs.
How to win in the playoffs
key factors for advancing in the playoffs and winning a championship
1. Balace - Have a balanced team where multiple players provide a consistent double-digit point total every single week. Most teams in the playoffs have three or more of these players who consistently provide these numbers. Consistency is the key for the stretch run. The big game point performances are important, but it's the steady barrage of points from multiple players that will keep you alive each week.
2. Talent - Almost equally important as balance is having talented players who will give you that big point total that puts you over the top, even if you suffer a down week from one or two other players. A 30 or 35 point game from any given player is sometimes all that is needed to advance. Those performances tend to come from players ranked in the Top 5 at their position. Players like Antonio Brown, Tom Brady, Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, DeAndre Hopkins, etc can win a week for you by themselves. If your lineup includes two or more of these stud players, your chances improve dramatically.
3. Opportunity - You may not have one of the highest scoring running backs or wide receivers in the game, but you can still get ample production from players who are thrust into action, due to an injury, recent success, or both. Players like Thomas Rawls, Scott Chandler, David Johnson, Steve Johnson, Danny Amendola, Charcandrick West come to mind here. They are primed for success simply because they are the right man for the job at the opportune time.
4. Game script - There is a degree of luck involved with game script, because it's difficult to accurately predict how a game will go from quarter to quarter. Will there be garbage yards in the second half of a blowout? Will the game be a back and forth battle involving two strong offenses or perhaps two teams who are known for having horrible defenses, like the Saints and Giants? Remember that game, where Drew Brees had seven touchdown passes while Eli kept pace with six? It's difficult to have multiple players on your roster who have pristine match ups, so those that do, better come through when you need them.
5. Lineup decisions - Play your studs, but also play match ups. Often times, your third wide receiver will be the one who saves your team, thanks to a big game that likely was the result of a game script in his favor. Take last week for example. The Seattle offense looked like a great angle against a reeling Steelers defense that has struggled to keep opposing wide receivers in check. The sharp move was to exploit that weakness and consider starting a guy like Doug Baldwin. He finished the game with three scores and over 100 yards. The decision to play Baldwin over someone else who had more fantasy points but had a poor match up this week, ultimately put you in the catbird seat. In the same game, the Steelers took advantage of Cary Williams, the second cover corner behind Richard Sherman who has played poorly against opposing team's second or third wide receivers. As a result, Markus Wheaton had a career high game.
6. Exploit weak match ups - Knowing who to play and which teams to exploit is a big advantage. Players who are matched up against teams like the Saints, Giants, Steelers, Eagles, Jaguars, Browns, etc are the ones you want to target. Do your homework and play the right match ups. Look at the Vegas over/under totals and target players in games where the point total is expected to reach 48+ points.
7. Target players at home, especially running backs - Running backs at home tend to score more fantasy points than on the road, especially backs on winning teams. Winning teams often have a point cushion later in games where they will tend to lean on their back to control the clock. Winning teams at home also have a tendency to have an advantage on the snap count and therefore the offensive line is quicker to control the line of scrimmage. This all benefits the running back as well as the quarterback. The match up I like best for a quarterback is a home game against a team with a similarly effective quarterback. You want that back and forth battle of offenses where the majority of each team's possessions result in a score.
8. Follow Vegas lines, especially over/under point totals - Many sportsbook sites like VegasInsider.com have NFL lines and over/under totals. The games with higher point totals tend to lead to higher fantasy production games. Usually games forecasted to exceed 48 points or more are the ones you want to target for making lineup decisions.
9. Luck - There's a certain degree of luck involved in a successful championship run that can swing both ways for or against you or your opponent. You may advance because your opponent's quarterback gets hurt in the first quarter and it was enough of a deciding factor that propels you to a victory. Your opponent's receiver might miss a touchdown by a yard and therefore miss out on six points that kept him from winning. You may have scored a touchdown but it's called back due to a costly penalty leaving you with less points. You may have picked the right player as your last decision for your lineup. Conversely, your opponent picks the wrong player while someone on their bench scores big. Talent can only take you so far. Sometimes, we need that little extra push that puts us over the top. Call it what you want, but in my book, it's luck.
10. Consistency and Momentum - It is defintely good to have momentum on your side. A winning streak is what you need when it counts. Entering the playoffs on a streak is definitely in your best interest. Even if you hit on all of the aforementioned factors above, you still have to do it again at least two weeks in a row, if not three. Having a winning streak means your lineup has had consistent success in consecutive weeks. Your roster probably possesses some studs and those who have risen to the occasion as a result of opportunity. You probably had at least one or two players exceed expectations and it's safe to say your opponents couldn't compete. Teams with a recent winning streak tend to excel in the playoffs. The team who led the league in points, who recently suffered a big injury to one of their studs is limping into the playoffs and isn't as big of a threat as they once were. Ride your streak and momentum to a championship.
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