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How to prepare for the playoffs in your fantasy football league

Don't we all want to feel like a football genius?
Don't we all want to feel like a football genius?
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, it's Week 13 of the regular season, which means the playoffs start next week in most fantasy football leagues. Like a real football team, all the preparations for the playoffs started back in the summer, but even now there are plenty of final adjustments to make before the stakes get higher.

Over the years I have picked up a number of different techniques, which I believe can help increase your chances of having success in the fantasy playoffs.

Elite talent reigns supreme...

Don't let yourself think that an average player with a great matchup will always be better than a great player with an average matchup. Sure, in some cases, it'll work out benching your superior talent, but more often than not, you should go with the better player.

You could potentially overthink and end up making a devastating mistake if you do that. You could end up benching Frank Gore (vs. SEA) in favor of Andre Ellington (vs. STL). Could it work? Yes, but probably not. Go with the player that is consistently productive, instead of one that could be great based only on the matchup.

...but don't be afraid to take a calculated risk

On the other hand, there are plenty of quality players that decline as the fantasy playoffs approach. Andrew Luck is the perfect example in 2013, as he is averaging a subpar 15.27 points the past three weeks. With an incredibly tough schedule in the playoffs (@CIN, vs. HOU, @KC), it isn't a bad idea to look elsewhere for quarterback.

Is it unreasonable to think about signing a player such as Matt Flynn or Ryan Fitzpatrick? Well, maybe, but it's something to think hard about if they have a much more favorable matchup. For example, in Week 14 would you rather have Flynn versus a terrible Atlanta defense, or Luck on the road against Cincinnati? If Flynn remains the starter that week, you could arguably give him the edge.

Plan ahead, streamers

Over the years I have always carried two defenses during the fantasy playoffs. Why does that make sense? Matchups! Instead of carrying that sixth position player on your bench, who will probably never get a start, drop him for a defense that will start if you advance in the playoffs.

For example, right now, I have my Week 14 defense, Houston, on all of my rosters. They face the Patriots this week but that doesn't matter to me, because I am holding them for a juicy playoff matchup versus the Jaguars. So, after this week, I will drop my other defense for the best matchup in Week 15. Instead of getting into a bidding war for them, or relying on my waiver, I have them ahead of time. I highly recommend the defenses on the right, as all or most of them should be available in standard 12-team leagues.

Don't rely solely on TDs

Owners of Maurice Jones-Drew know what a pain it is to own him. I traded for him late in the year and he has actually had three productive weeks since (15.4, 11.5, and 23.4 points respectively), but there's one problem: He is reliant on touchdowns in order to have a productive week.

Only once this season MJD has cracked 10 points without scoring a touchdown. He doesn't get enough yardage each week to warrant starting him over a player that does. The past three weeks he has been great, but how reliable will he be going forward? If you have other options at running back (or flex), lean towards a player that gets consistent yardage every single week.

Go for 2-for-1 trades

In all of my leagues the trade deadline passed in mid-November, but you might be fortunate enough to be in a league that still allows trades. If you are, do what you can to deal two players for one. In the fantasy playoffs, having players on your bench is relatively worthless. They aren't scoring for you, so if you're able to trade two "B players" and get one "A player," then I call that a win.

Don't worry about the other team

This is philosophical advice more than anything else, but don't think about what your opponent is doing. Wasting even a moment thinking about who they'll start or who they'll drop only takes away valuable time from you. Sorry, but you can't control a single thing they do in the playoffs, so don't worry about it. Control what you can control.