Most owners look one week ahead, putting in waiver claims for skill players, defenses and kickers they want to use in a few days. The sharper owners go deeper. 

Whether you’ve earned a bye in your league’s playoffs or not, it’s worth thinning out your bench depth in favor of streamers and handcuffs right now. We are no longer fortifying for the marathon of a fantasy football season – we are getting our rosters ready for a sprint.

 

DEFENSIVE CHESS

There’s merit to carrying as many as three defenses through the playoffs. Most importantly, we can look ahead to Week 15/16 and add the units that will be in the best matchups. For example, the Bucs aren’t a defense I’d use against the Saints this week, but I would hold them for a potential fantasy semifinal game against the Rams’ inept offense. The same can be said for the Bengals, who take on the Steelers’ juggernaut this week yet get the fighting Blaine Gabberts in Week 15.  

 

RELATED: Why this ugly stretch will help the Patriots in the playoffs

 

HANDUFFING OVER MEDIOCRITY

Part of getting ready for the playoffs is preparing for worst-case scenarios. Ask yourself what would happen if X stud on your team got hurt this week while you’re on a bye? Is his backup better than an option you currently have on your bench? There’s far more value in Doug Martin owners holding Charles Sims than keeping someone like LeGarrette Blount on the bench. If Martin got hurt, Sims would immediately leapfrog Blount in value.  

 

BLOCKING THE GOAL

As we dive deeper into game theory, we can start to think about our opponents’ lineups. If they have a hole at running back following C.J. Anderson’s injury or tight end thanks to Martellus Bennett, we should add as many options at that position to block them. The same can be said for defenses – I wouldn’t be opposed to adding as many as four as a simple ploy to drain the free agent pool of any reasonable options. Take no prisoners during playoff time. 

 

RELATED: Hot Instagram pics of ESPN First Take host Molly Qerim

 

NFL PICKUPS OF THE WEEK

1. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Titans – Even with Kendall Wright back, freak talent DGB has 10 targets across the last two weeks.  

2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Bucs – Healthy and involved in the pass game heading into a dream matchup with the Saints.  

3. Ryan Mathews, RB, Eagles – Returning from concussion to find DeMarco Murray finally banished to the bench. 

 

NFL Matchups

Fire up these borderline wideouts in Week 14:

1. DeVante Parker vs. NYG – No Rishard Matthews (ribs) again, leaving Parker to roam free against the Giants’ league-worst pass defense.   

2. Marvin Jones vs. PIT – The Steelers’ underrated run defense will force Andy Dalton to take to the air, where Jones can beat the likes of Ross Cockrell and William Gay.  

3. Vincent Jackson vs. NO – Expect the Saints to put Delvin Breaux on Mike Evans a lot, giving V-Jax the best matchup he’ll see all year. 

 

NFL NEWS

In Week 13, Allen Robinson set season-highs in catches and targets while Allen Hurns (concussion) watched from the sidelines. Hurns was cleared on Monday, setting up a potential reversal in Week 14. Robinson will see more of top Colts CB Vontae Davis, giving Hurns a chance to reprise his explosion from Week 4. In that game, Hurns put 11-116-1 on the Colts while Robinson was held to 4-80-0.