• Daniel Butler

The Fantasy Football Playoffs - A Guide to Glory

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

You did it. You soared to the highest of highs and fought back from the lowest of lows. At times it felt like nothing and no one could defeat you, and other times it felt like there was no hope...but you never gave up. You pushed through and got where few (but really like 60% of your league) could go. The Fantasy Football Playoffs.

As Week 13 of the 2020 NFL season comes to a close, there is more chatter in the fantasy football community than any other time in the season because it is the final week of the regular season. For each person who got their heart broken by barely missing the playoffs, there is another who is glowing with excitement and hope for a championship. These emotions aren't just from those with bubble teams. Many squeaked out a much needed win to get a 1st round bye (perhaps with mere tiebreaker points) while others plummeted to the bottom seed and now face the league's undefeated team in Week 14. Other teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention for weeks, but simply won in order to avoid their league's harsh last-place punishment. You, however, are on the road to victory.

This may be new terrain for you, possibly leaving you unsure of how to handle a high-stress playoff situation - which is why I'm here to help. As an eight-year, avid fantasy football manager with multiple championships under my belt, I offer you my seasoned knowledge on navigating the fantasy football playoffs. I'll tell you the story of the wildest few weeks of my fantasy football career, which will give you tips along the way that ensure you are ready for the final stretch of your team's season.

December, 2017- I was continuing my push through a nerve-wracking season for my team. It began with a 30-point game (ESPN standard scoring) in Week 1. After many waiver moves throughout the year, my improved record was 5-7 heading into Week 13, but I needed a lot more than a single win to make the playoffs. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. I put up 160 points to win and outscore two other 6-7 teams by 70+ margins for the tiebreaker. [Tip 1: Never give up, because anything can change. Always do your research and set the best lineup. In a situation like I was in, always throw in the players with the highest ceiling regardless of the risk].

Then, I found myself in the exact situation that you are in now: sliding into the playoffs on a wild high with sights finally on a trophy. I had the Chiefs high-flying trio of Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce carrying me along the way. I needed to make some savvy plays to get my team through round 1. I decided to start two late-blooming RBs, Kenyan Drake and Dion Lewis, as my RB2 and FLEX. My plan worked flawlessly, so I continued to inch closer to the finals by knocking off the 3-seed 87-80. I decided to stick with the same lineup in the semi-finals, a decision which helped me take a commanding win over the 2-seed. Granted, he only put up 41 points, so I didn't need THAT much help... [Tips 2 & 3: No matter the matchup, stick with your top guys in the playoffs, they almost always come through. When it comes to the RB2, WR2, or FLEX spots, I tend to favor the late-bloomers as I did here. They perform with a lot more gas than guys who have been playing for 13+ weeks].

The time had finally come - my first appearance in the fantasy football championship. I was up against the best team in the league (who just demolished his opponent in the week prior by putting up 153 points). I was certainly an underdog in this matchup but I didn't let this get to me. I did my research on player matchups, going as in-depth as noting specific cornerbacks that my wide receivers would face. By Sunday afternoon, my starting lineup was locked and loaded. I was confident. I ended up making all the right plays and my guys went off. I was putting up season-high numbers through Sunday evening; however, my opponent had reached 121.7 and the only player I had left was Steelers kicker, Chris Boswell, during Sunday Night Football. I only needed 11 points for the win. [Tip 4: While there's a lot of luck in fantasy football, there's a lot of skill too. Do in-depth research, especially when there's a championship on the line].

It was Christmas (and despite being in the middle of my family dinner), my eyes were glued to the TV. I watched as the game went on for hours as the Steelers put up huge numbers against the Texans. I winced each time they scored a touchdown from field goal range...each time watching two points slip away. I slowly inched closer to winning my first championship, and finally, my prayers were answered. Chris Boswell lined up for his third field goal of the night and nailed it to secure my glorious victory...

...At least, that's what I wish had happened.

Ben Roethlisberger got sacked out of field goal range on the Steelers' last drive of the game and I lost by .4 points with a final score of 121.3 to 121.7. [Tip 5: Luck can only last for so long, and bribe your league manager to remove kickers next season].

The moral of this story is that the playoffs are a wild ride - filled with the highs and lows of the regular season, but stressfully condensed into 3 weeks. Remember these tips and never stop fighting for that ultimate goal. I wish you the best of luck on your pursuit of victory, and if you end up like me...you'll finally win two years later against the same guy who beat you the first time.