Roster strategies for the fantasy playoffs

Winning a fantasy championship is not an easy thing to do. It takes a lot of work from the time you start preparing for your draft in the late summer to building depth on the waiver wire throughout the season to ensuring you have the best possible lineup heading into the fantasy playoffs.

Since there are only a few weeks of the regular season left here are some tips to help ensure success when your league's playoff matchups begin.

Handcuff your studs

This is a strategy that can be used all season long, but sometimes due to bye weeks and roster crunches even the most savvy fantasy owners have to cut one of their handcuffs midseason to make room for a plug-and-play bye week pickup.

But if you own a clear-cut RB1 workhorse back like Jamaal Charles or Arian Foster the best thing you can do is pick up the players who you know are their direct backups and would slide right into a featured role should anything happen to said featured back.

When Charles missed some time earlier this season, Knile Davis (25.1 percent owned) became a top-10 fantasy running back for two straight weeks. The same goes for Arian Foster. When he sat out in Week 11 with an injury, Alfred Blue (4.8 percent owned) had 36 touches for over 156 yards and was the featured back for the Texans.

This same strategy can be applied to wide receivers. I'm sure by now you've heard of rookie receiver Davante Adams (6.7 percent owned) of the Green Bay Packers. All season he's played as the third option behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb who are both currently top-five fantasy wideouts. If either Nelson or Cobb had to miss time for any reason (let's hope they don't), Adams would immediately be a candidate for WR2 numbers or better. He just scored his third touchdown of the season in Week 11.

Add a solid backup QB, just in case

So your guy is Andrew Luck. That's probably one of the main reasons you're looking at the fantasy playoffs right now since he's been a beast all season.

Not to be a negative Nancy, but Luck actually is a human and not a robot as his ridiculous football play suggests. And just like a real NFL teams, you'll want to make sure you have a solid backup quarterback for your fantasy playoff run just in case Luck twists his ankle or nicks his throwing hand on a defender's helmet at some point.

Guys like Mark Sanchez (17.8 percent owned) or Josh McCown (2.2 percent owned) are viable options and both have some tasty matchups coming up so grab one of them before it's too late.

Pick up a second or third defense and play the matchups

Some fantasy owners think there's no need to roster more than one defense at any given time. And if you've been reading my buddy Alex Gelhar's streaming defenses article, you've probably been able to do a good job of mixing and matching with a new defensive unit each week. But when it comes to playoff time, you can't take any chances. Stock up on defenses with good matchups in Weeks 14 - 17 now. Here are some decent options to stash away:

D/ST options for the playoffs:
HOU: (vs JAX Week 14, vs JAX Week 17 -- yes, that's the Jaguarstwice)
TEN: (vs NYJ Week 15, vs JAX Week 16)
BAL: (vs MIA Week 14, vs JAX Week 15, vs HOU Week 16, vs CLE Week 17)
GB: (vs BUF Week 15, vs TB Week 16)
IND: (vs CLE Week 14, vs TEN Week 17)

Build depth for a potential Week 17 championship matchup

Be sure to check out the rules of your fantasy league to see if your playoffs go through Week 17, which is the final week of the regular NFL season. If you find that your fantasy league's championship matchup is set for Week 17 you will need to do some real strategic planning.

Why?

Well in this final week of games, teams that have clinched home field advantage for the real world playoffs, or are already in but the outcome of the last game has no influence on their status, will sometimes rest their star players to give them a breather before the postseason commences. Often times the stars might start the game but might only play for a half or a quarter -- sort of like a preseason game.

Obviously, it's too early yet to tell which teams have clinched anything but after Week 16 you might start hearing rumors about certain guys playing limited roles or veterans being out altogether in their final regular season bouts.

There's nothing worse than thinking you have Calvin Johnson to lead you to fantasy glory and then seeing him ride the pine for three quarters.

Many fantasy leagues have done away with Week 17 matchups to avoid this kind of situation since its sort of anticlimactic and a little bit unfair to have your championship decided on a week that not every fantasy stud will play a full game.

Just make sure you (discount) double check the rules of your league, make sure you have a backup plan and keep an eye on the NFL standings and player news after Week 16.

Drop busts that you won't start anyway

Let's get real. You're not going to start any of these guys in the fantasy playoffs. Too much is on the line and you can't risk a potential championship on these 2014 fantasy busts. All of these players can be dropped (if you haven't done so already) to make room for higher-upside players, extra defenses, handcuffs and backups as mentioned above.

It's time to break up with:
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR: He was nothing more than a summer fling, only time can heal a broken heart.
Vincent Jackson, WR:Mike Evans is taking over in Tampa Bay.
Keenan Allen, WR: His lack of production has led to a receeding hairline at age 22.
Justin Hunter, WR: He clearly is just another guy.
Chris Johnson, RB: Nice try, Jets.
Ben Tate, RB: Poor guy, can't get past the rookies. Even McKinnon is ahead of him.
Doug Martin, RB: The Muscle Hamster is no longer flexing (pun intended).
Reggie Bush, RB: Just stop.
Darren McFadden, RB: Horrible matchups the rest of the way, plus Raiders.
Vernon Davis, TE: Someone send a search party.
Zach Ertz, TE: We've been duped, y'all.
Jordan Cameron, TE: He hasn't played in weeks due to a concussion.

Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @m_franciscovich.

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