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Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Updated: January 25, 11:27 AM ET
How to make sure that fantasy title is yours

OK, ladies. It's that time of year. We're not talking about celebrating the holidays, making New Year's resolutions or generally wishing for peace on earth and goodwill towards all.

We're talking cutthroat, die-hard, win-at-all-(well, almost all)-costs fantasy football playoff time. If you're in contention right now, you can almost sense a championship in your grasp, as long as you can perform as well as you did in the first 13 weeks and don't let the title slip away to some far less deserving league-mate.

That's why we're here. There are strategies that can give you a competitive edge in these critical playoff weeks, and we want to make sure you are one step ahead of your opponents. With that in mind, here are five tips to guide you towards sweet victory. We want you to be able to exercise those hard-earned bragging rights& at least until next season rolls around.

1. First and foremost, know your league's playoff rules. Many final trade deadlines are this week. If you've already clinched a playoff spot, use this week to try to fortify your lineup and improve weak spots. Seek roster help if you need it, especially from someone who might be overstocked at a particular position. Do you have two consecutive weeks facing the same opponent? Procure your opponent's top handcuffs, and leave that team unable to easily fill holes that may arise between playoff weeks.

Hint: Pick up Toby Gerhart. If your opponent's Adrian Peterson goes down, you've got the replacement. Ha!

2. If you're looking at sneaky pickups for your playoff roster, start with players on NFL teams that are fighting for a playoff spot. They need to have their best players on the field to score, and so do you. They won't be "saving" someone for the playoffs when they're just trying to get in.

Hint: Grab any good player in the NFC West, except for an Arizona Cardinal.

3. Weather is now a factor. This might seem obvious, but while weather has not influenced many games yet, it's now December and that could change. Heavy precipitation favors the running game. Indoors (no wind, no water) favors the kicking game.

Hint: At least check the weather before game time.

4. Avoid running backs who appear to be in a timeshare situation. Exhibit A: Washington Redskins. Ryan Torain is nearing a return from injury. Keiland Williams had a couple huge games while Torain was hurt, but recently James Davis has been added to the mix. Torain's return potentially means a three-way split. Ugh.

Hint: Also avoid the Detroit Lions' and Indianapolis Colts' RBs.

5. Last but not least (and near and dear to my heart), be cautious about guys returning from injury. It's not just whether a player is active or inactive. Inactives are easy to deal with: Sit 'em. But an active guy who is less than himself can sink your team. Many players returning from injury are either limited in their first outing or end up re-injuring themselves. Players are pressing to get back at this time of year, often before they're fully healthy, and can easily suffer setbacks especially when the injury in question was a muscle strain (hamstring, quad, calf). Pick up a guy nearing return and stash him away for a week to see how he fares first.

Hint: Avoid Pierre Thomas, Ryan Torain, Steve Smith in their first games back -- but pick them up if you have room and save for later.