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NFL players know that you are not playing to win the Super Bowl; you are playing to win the Lombardi Trophy.

Vince Lombardi is synonymous with winning. A two-time Super Bowl winning coach with a career winning percentage well over .700, he is the originator of a multitude of quotes about winning. He is often misquoted as well.

He never actually said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” His actual words were that winning is “is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing,” but his words were condensed and revised for posterity. However, the multitude of Lombardi quotes about winning, whether accurate or not, hold true.

Which brings us to you winning your league. At this point of the season your respective teams are in one of three places:

  • You are in the playoffs.
  • You are out of the playoffs.
  • You are not in the playoffs yet, but still got a shot.

Let’s go through each of these.

Strategy Sessions: Playing To Win Or Playing Not To Lose

In the Playoffs

Congratulations, you are in the playoffs.

But I don’t care if you got a three win lead. Continue playing to win. Another Lombardi quote is that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Continue to work.

 

I’ve been playing Fantasy Football since before Ezekiel Elliott was born. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a number one seed, an absolute juggernaut, get bounced from the playoffs. To paraphrase my favorite Frank Drebin quote—like a midget at a urinal, you need to stay on your toes.

You need to start looking at match-ups right now and there are two things you need to consider.

1) Defensive Matchups

Look at your particular playoff schedule and see if any of your players play any of the following teams:

32. Atlanta
31. Indianapolis
30. San Francisco
29. Cleveland
28. Green Bay
27. Detroit
26. Carolina
25. New Orleans
24. Oakland
23. San Diego
22. Tampa Bay

 

If not, your skill players might have some tough match-ups on their hands, as the above are the 10 most generous teams when it comes to giving up Fantasy points.

However, dig a little deeper. Inclusion on the list above does not mean your player has a cake matchup. The Carolina Panthers for example might give up the fourth most TE Fantasy points or the sixth most Fantasy points to quarterbacks. Yet when it comes to RBs, not only are they not in the Top 10 most generous teams, but they are actually the 10th most stingiest in giving up points.

Looking for good matchups for your defense? Check out the this article by bossman David Gonos.

But there is one other piece of the matchups you need to look at…

2) Weather

The Past

During the infamous “scorched earth F-U Tour” that Tom Brady and Randy Moss went on a few years ago, Brady and Moss were absolute studs, often winning weeks for their owners single-handedly. And I’m sure when their owners looked at the schedule and saw a date with the weak Cleveland defense the first week of the playoffs, they were licking their chops.

But remember, the Fantasy playoffs are in December which means weather can be a huge factor. The aforementioned Pats visited Cleveland during an absolute white-out making any long pass play a near impossibility. Brady and Moss ended up giving their owners maybe a dozen points combined, not the multiple dozen that each had regularly provided their owners.

The Future

You know the stadiums where weather can be a factor—Foxboro, nearly the entire NFC North, Denver etc. but even places a little farther south like Kansas City or Baltimore can be hazardous to your studs Fantasy player output.

Make sure you have some back-ups in case weather strikes or you might find yourself wanting to “Escape” unless you “like getting caught in the rain.” Trust me, it is not a situation that will call for drinking pina coladas.

Trying to Make the Playoffs

Playing to win, of course, is easier when you are a top seed and loaded with talent. But what if you are not?

I’ll allow Herm Edwards to get us started.

 

So if for example you are in keeper league, consider “pushing in.” Consider trading future draft picks or young prospects for immediate studs.

Furthermore, keeper league or not, you might need to gamble on some low floor high ceiling players to make it there. Here are a few at each position to give you an idea what to look for.

 

WR

If you’ve got a “TY” sound at the start of your name, good chance you are what we are looking for. Guys like Tyler Lockett, Taylor Gabriel, and Tyreek Hill. All three have very low floors and could easily give you a big fat donut. But desperate times call for desperate measures and each of these players is capable of putting up 30-plus Fantasy points in one week. Take heed, as I’m not simply saying they can do it, but they actually have.

QB

Colin Kaepernick is only the 30th ranked QB, so he is probably available in your league. But he was probably the #1 QB in your league last week and he’s put up some monster games from time to time. I know I’m not the only one who thinks last week’s three passing TDs and 113 rushing yards might be possible when he ventures to Atlanta in week 15.

RB

Hopefully you have shallower options, but one extremely deep option is Bobby Rainey who put up over 30 points once by scoring three total touchdowns.

TE

TE in general is often a “hit or miss” position. Hunter Henry, for example, already had a week of over 20 points in a PPR league. Don’t be surprised if he does it again before end of the season.

 

Out of the Playoffs

Of course playing to win is tough when you are mathematically eliminated. I hate to go all Gus Sands on you but…

 

Of course, one of my favorite lines from the Last Crusade is applicable here too…

 

And you don’t have to like it. But like Indy, take something away from it. What you need to do is learn from your mistakes and make sure you are not in the same place again next year. Look at the winning teams—what did they do right? Look at the other losing teams—what did they do wrong? And of course, look at your team.

But don’t stop there. If you are playing in a keeper league and can still acquire players for next year, do so. One of my favorites to acquire for next year is Kenneth Dixon, who has seen his rushing yards rise each of the last four games. He recently outsnapped Terrance West and saw a season high 17 touches. He could probably even help you this year. Of course you would have to be playing to win though.

Whether you are playing to win or not, try My Playbook for help

Mark Strausberg

Mark Strausberg remembers making Jerry Rice his first round selection as well as taking a flyer on a young pitcher named Doug Drabek. His Fantasy analysis has spanned multiple sports including football, baseball, basketball, and even golf. A FSWA finalist, his fantasy analysis has been featured in various outlets including but not limited to SI.com, USA Today national magazines, Yahoo! and RotoExperts.

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