Lineup Advice: Week 14 – Playoffs Edition

Jeff Haverlack

Bye:  Cardinals, Commanders

We’re on the doorstep to the playoffs!

It’s been a brutal season for many teams and, if I’m being honest, this year it seems to be far more based on luck as opposed to the level of skillful maneuvering I’d like to think ultimately makes the difference. If anything, those teams with the greatest depth have performed better, but that’s arguable. In more than one league, I’ve lost my three starting quarterbacks and have nothing in the cupboard. One of my best performing teams is a shallow-roster superflex format and to have more than three quarterbacks is dangerous. But, having lost all three of my starters, the third being Trevor Lawrence in week 13, maybe having a fourth quarterback wouldn’t have been so bad. Ah, the benefit of hindsight. I’ll have to chew on that. I’m now left scrambling for Aiden O’Connell or C.J. Beathard as a 10-3 team.

When chatting with many of you either in this article, on my work at The Athletic or even email, I often answer questions about playoff strategy. After studying this game for a long time, I have found when starting a new dynasty season, my only focus is on making the playoffs. Sure I’d love to dominate along the way, lead my division wire to wire and simply cruise to the championship game, but that rarely happens. Once you reach the playoffs, all bets are off and anything can occur. In most cases, unless the injury bug bites on the approach to the playoffs, all playoff teams are capable of beating one another. It’s for that reason I very much like the inclusion of bye weeks for the top two teams. They should be protected from getting bounced early in a game wrought with much randomness and chance.

I’ve had the benefit of winning many championships over the years and I’m thankful for every one. But even in recent years where I sent what I consider to be a ridiculous percentage (40%) of my teams to championship games, I have to acknowledge that some of those teams were the benefactor of Lady Luck favorably touching them at just the right time. In some cases, I was in awe that the team even made the playoffs, let alone winning the championship. Sometimes you just have to be honest that your team shouldn’t have been there.

But that’s why we play the games as they say. Anything can happen.

It’s for that reason that my goal remains making the playoffs, simply because – anything can, and does, happen. Don’t get too wrapped up in success being defined by only winning the championship. Not making the big dance, or losing in it, isn’t an indication that your team needs to be rebuilt or that addressing a deficiency is an offseason must. We should all be addressing roster deficiencies and adding depth at every opportunity, but realize that in one-and-done playoff formats, bad beats and bad weeks happen. It can be difficult to sit on your hands in the offseason after a disappointing finish but, in many cases, that is exactly what needs to happen.

Week 14

Only two relatively relatively benign teams on bye this week. Neither suggest massive impact and, in some cases, missing those players can help. Over the last couple of weeks, my lineup advice seems to be featuring some of these problematic players. It makes sense that these players make an appearance in lineup advice more often because you are wrestling what to do with them as well. To be completely honest, I shudder when I see advice mentioning some of the top inconsistent players:  Terry McLaurin, Gabriel Davis, Diontae Johnson, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Lockett, Marquise Brown, AJ Dillon, Javonte Williams, Najee Harris, etc. And this year, previous studs like DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, Austin Ekeler and even Patrick Mahomes have now entered that territory.

In fact, I’ve started using the lineup advice questions as a way to categorize players myself. If I can’t pinpoint a player’s probability to score well when compared to other players, then is that player a worthwhile investment/asset on my own fantasy team(s)? It’s a fine line between a player’s scoring inconsistency and his status as a top player on his team.  To a large degree, when you find problematic players like this, you’ll also find that their dynasty value/ranking is already reduced and you can’t  get a good return on the player in trade. In these cases, I find myself siding with the player and his role over moving him for what amounts to a lesser draft pick and a 20% chance of success with that corresponding pick.

How does that impact week 14? I’m not sure that it does. But, as we teeter on the brink of the playoffs, with some leagues starting their playoffs this week, steel your resolve to not make kneejerk trades or drops based on one week of performance. Identify where your win or loss truly came from. Did your team just get beat by players across from you having a better week? Did your players just lay down at the wrong time? Did your victory come at the hands of scoring that you likely won’t see again? Or, perhaps, do you simply have too much mediocrity on your squad, requiring too much luck needed week-over-week to advance. The latter is what I zoom in on if I see it. In this game, mediocrity kills and must be avoided. The problem is that its identification isn’t always so clear.

Team Tracking

Week 13 saw my teams go 10-4. Normally I’d be happy about this but two of the teams that lost REALLY needed to win, and three of the teams that won REALLY needed to lose. I’m committed to playing my best roster every week to make sure I do my part to maintain a fair league, but I still want high draft picks for my poorly performing teams. Sometimes the teams are so bad, they win when they shouldn’t. These teams are basically the NFL equivalent of the Cardinals.

Overall, I’m 106-76 on the season. Not horrible, but a 58.2% winning percentage is less than the 65% I like to see. I have a couple of stellar teams including one that is 12-1 and three teams sitting at 10-3. But beyond those three performers, I have a lot of mediocre records. 7-6 and 6-7 seem to be “in” for me this seaosn. In looking at the roster construction of those teams, there’s just not a lot I can do and much of the this year’s poor performance comes down to injury. Can’t do much about that except ride it out.

Good luck this week! Play your best roster and do your part to keep your league competitive regardless of the state of your team.

Let’s get to the advice!

Lineup Advice Rules & Format

DLF continues to see growth in our membership and each year I continue to wonder how I’m going to keep up with all of your questions while also holding to a level of service and quality you’ve all come to expect from me. I’ve been VERY happy with my level of accuracy but, for that to occur, I need your help. Each question can take up to 10 minutes for me to research as I research up to a dozen different variables and trends. I do everything I can to get my answers correct. For that reason, I need you to read the following rules and guidelines to help me maintain efficiency:

  • Please don’t ask me to set your entire lineup
  • Put “TNF” as the top line for any question involving Thursday Night Football games
  • Please also make sure to tell me who YOU would be starting if not for my advice. It helps me to understand your gut feeling(s).
  • Include your scoring format  (PPR, Non-PPR, etc.)
  • Keep your questions as brief as possible – Story questions add a lot of time
  • I prioritize questions involving the earliest (Thursday, etc.) games first. If I skip over your question, don’t worry, I’ll be back to it.
  • It’s easy to miss responses to my responses in thread. When in doubt, always post a separate new question

Lastly, I work very hard to get my advice correct and I do not mail it in. When I’m wrong, I feel every incorrect answer so, go easy on me! That said, the DLF community has been absolutely fantastic to work with which is why I’m still doing this after so many years.

Have a great week! Have an even better season!

jeff haverlack