Don’t let the biases of your mind influence your playoff lineup choices

If you’re reading this here, chances are you’ve entered the Fantasy Playoff before Week 15. Congratulations! All season we’ve been working on how to appropriately respond to recent achievements, not letting common cognitive biases trip us up as we head into this championship run. This week I’ll go through some common scenarios that cause people to exit the playoffs earlier than they need to.

Avoid these mistakes, and with the normal amount of luck required at this time of year, you’ll celebrate more than the holidays in three weeks.

Don’t take your foot off the gas

It’s been an exhausting season for some of us. We continually negotiated injuries, made carefully considered waiver claims and trade offers, and studied stats until our eyes bled. Only to make being in the playoffs feels like winning. Maybe you’re tired of working so hard (and/or your partner is tired of you being obsessed!) and you let fate take over your fantasy team – the chips fall where they may. With the holidays just around the corner, it’s easy to lose focus on which teams are tanking and who’s giving their rookies a chance to play the stretch in the later round. Injury effects are there, but you’re no longer searching Twitter for player updates or stalking beat reporters to get the latest hint on what might happen in Week 15.

In short, you have become lazy.

Taking time out of fantasy football “work” can be fine if your team is really rolling out – and it may be what you need to do to take care of yourself and your loved ones – but it usual means trouble for fantasy managers who ultimately want the trophy. Making the playoffs is an accomplishment, but not one you want to think about in the off-season. You have to dig deep and put in more effort for two to three weeks to give yourself a chance to win it all.

Study your opponent(s)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking winning your league is about scoring the most points. But in head-to-head competitions, which most are, it’s all about beating the person opposite you in the matchup series. Scoring loads of fantasy points is great, but it often pays to be strategic about your matchup. If you’re someone who doesn’t spend time studying what they’re up against during the regular season – this can be really hard to keep track of when you’re in multiple leagues – now’s the time to focus on the enemy .

You can make a tough decision between two otherwise similar receivers if one of your picks is quarterbacked by your opponent. You could use a running back on the same team as your opponent’s QB or top WR, reasoning that a high tide lifts all boats. Study their matchups – will the main players face San Francisco? Buffalo? Dallas? How can your timetable benefit from this? Can you really go a high floor/safely with your starters? Or is it the opposite?

You may be the one who needs to think about upside and high ceilings when making those sit/start decisions. Just don’t do it in a vacuum. You only need to beat one person to progress, so spend some time this week figuring out how to do that particular thing.

(Don’t) Start your studs

This is not a time to set it and forget it. Anyone who started in doubt Saquon Barkley against the Eagles or Tee Higgins vs. Cleveland in week 14 can attest to that. You want healthy players who, aside from in-game injuries that can’t be predicted, give you 60 minutes of fantasy chances. I’ve said before that I tend to believe players and coaches when they say they’re ready to return to play, especially for “hard tissue” injuries, but there’s no room in the playoffs for errors. Players I would put in better situations include Kenneth Walker Jr.Steelers receivers (more QB questions than matchup), Chiefs receivers (Houston’s pass defense is legit), Browns receivers (Deshaun Watson won’t come close to my playoff rosters), Tua Tagovailoa and Saquon Barkley.

Kenneth Walker III #9 has fantasy value

It might be best to leave Kenneth Walker on fantasy benches with his health status up in the air. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I can’t expect to hit anyone’s exact decision points, but before week 15, I’d upgrade and start JK Dobbins against the Browns, Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon against Houston, along with the Jets’ pass game against Detroit. It’s time to ditch the regular season rules, get flexible and take advantage of every edge whenever possible.

Don’t panic – or overthink it

While I just advised you to think carefully about many factors in your decision making process, there is such a thing as going overboard. Matthew Berry coined the phrase “Don’t get cute” years ago, which is just another way of saying don’t overthink your basic decisions. For me, this mostly boils down to building a plausible, or at least possible, scenario in my head where a brilliant coach plots the entire offensive offense on some rando the defense doesn’t see coming, and yes, I do not really. have a crystal ball, so this way of overthinking is kind of useless.

Basically it comes down to trying to predict who week 15 is Evan Engram will be.

Engram was a pretty good fantasy prospect heading into a season where we expected better things from coach and quarterback. But until Week 14, he was unstartable in fantasy competitions of virtually any size. It’s safe to say that Week 15 Engram will not his Engram or Jerry Judy, though Jeudy’s week 14 big game was easier to watch. But trying to reap those unexpected week-long wonders is a fool’s errand.

A guideline to not overthink or get too cute is to look at each player on your roster and come up with two different reasons to start them. This could be matchup, highly implied team total, player stats (never less than 10 PPR), weather/dome, historical splits, whatever so you don’t count on “He might” or “Maybe he will” scenarios.

You don’t have to win with the most daring, outrageous fantasy squad, you just have to beat that one other person with the best lineup you can put down. The selection that brought you to this point is good; all you have to do is make small adjustments to optimize for matchups, take into account the opponent’s correlations and don’t give up the effort!

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