In a large number of fantasy football leagues, the playoffs begin this week, meaning that after scratching and clawing your way into postseason position, it could all be over in a flash.
There are some small things you can do, however, to increase the chances that your opponent is the one heading home before the holidays.
In the regular season, you likely pay little to no attention to your opponent's lineup before kickoff, outside of perhaps a passing glance to see what you're up against. During the playoffs, however, taking a closer look at the opposing roster could pay dividends.
Do you have a toss-up lineup decision that's driving you crazy? Perhaps your opponent's quarterback holds the key. If, for example, you're torn between Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton or Michael Crabtree of the 49ers as your flex, you might make the decision based on the fact that your opponent has Andrew Luck of the Colts at quarterback.
If you feel like you're a solid favorite to win the game, go with Hilton. This can limit Luck's ability to hurt you because when he scores, Hilton may well score. If, however, you're a significant underdog, you might want to instead go with Crabtree. If you think you'll be playing catch-up, Hilton scoring won't help you as much because your opponent will score as well.
In addition, take note of your opponent's situation at kicker and defense, a position where many fantasy owners make changes almost weekly.
Perhaps your opponent picked up the Panthers defense last week to face a Kansas City team that ranks last in the NFL in scoring, but this week the Panthers face the high-scoring Atlanta Falcons. If the Seahawks defense is somehow available for their matchup with the struggling Arizona Cardinals, consider picking up the Seahawks to block your opponent.
Along the same lines, let's say you've ridden the Texans defense all season, but they visit the Patriots this week. Maybe you should be picking up the Seahawks not simply to block your opponent but to play them yourself. Never be afraid to play matchups with defenses and kickers.
While paying close attention to your opponent's lineup could gain you the slightest of edges that could make a big difference, never turn your eyes too far from home.
Be more vigilant than ever about your players' injury situations, and especially later in the playoffs, make sure you know as much as possible about a playoff-bound NFL team's playing-time plans for its star skill players. If you have Falcons running back Michael Turner, now might be the time to pick up running mate Jacquizz Rodgers for possible use in a week or two.
Once a fantasy team fights its way into the playoffs, anything can happen in the postseason. Just remember to do everything in your control to come out as the victor rather than the victim of a better-prepared fantasy opponent.