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Tie Fighter

A forced choice between two comparable players for a regular-season fantasy football matchup is difficult. A similar decision during the do-or-die fantasy playoffs is gut-wrenching. If you are wavering between two (or more) players for your next playoff round, the following tips may help you break the tie:

1.  Good Touches, Bad Touches

Call me “old-fashioned,” but if forced to choose between a comparable running back and wide receiver in a critical game, I will choose a back almost every time. Even in a PPR league, which should close the gap between the two positions, I still lean towards a running back. This preference comes down to one thing – touches. I want my chosen player to get the ball as much as possible, because it gives him more opportunities to score points. Only a small selection of wide receivers, such as Wes Welker and Brandon Marshall, get a steady number of passes thrown their way each week. In contrast, most receivers, such as Hines Ward and Jerricho Cotchery (who both caught only one pass in Week 14) are less predictable.

If you are fortunate enough to have an “every down” back who carries the ball 20 or more times for his team, chances are you aren’t spending much time puzzling over whether to start him. Less obvious, though, I would argue, is the proposition that, even if your back is involved in a time share, such as Jonathan Stewart or LenDale White, your back can still usually be counted on to be a steady point producer.  Further, even running backs saddled with a heavy passing game, such as Ronnie Brown and Leon Washington, who usually won’t put up stellar point totals, will rarely shut you out. Without question, a player at any position can stink without warning, but relying on your running backs is a safe and smart way to prepare for the playoffs.

2.  Hedge Your Bets

Playing two studs from the same team can be a risky move in the postseason, especially if you are riding a tag-team quarterback and wide receiver duo (like I am with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall). If your team has the depth, I would use caution before putting so many of your eggs in one basket. For instance, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald owners won’t give their bench a second thought, but Brett Favre and Cotchery owners might. Further, although starting a QB and WR from the same team would make me nervous, playing a quarterback-running back team is a nice way to cover your bases. While you are unlikely to hit the jackpot (twice) starting both Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant, a scoring team like the Packers should give you a nice average between the two. Keep in mind that, if you are a heavy underdog, the above advice may not apply, because you are going to need to risk a bit more if you want the reward of advancing to the next round.

3.  If It Ain’t Broke …

It’s hard to believe, but not too long ago, both Matt Hasselbeck and Derek Anderson were relevant fantasy players. In fact, last season, I traded for

Anderson to serve as my quarterback during Hasselbeck’s bye week. For the remainder of the season both quarterbacks put up solid, consistent numbers, but

Anderson’s were slightly better.   I grew tired watching my “backup” outscore my starter. So, even though Matty boy led my squad to a fourth seed, I decided he would have to ride the pine in favor of the hot hand. Naturally, Hasselbeck went off for four touchdowns during the first round of my playoffs, and even though

Anderson’s numbers were decent, the point difference was enough to cost me the game and ultimately an opportunity to win the league’s championship. Despite the fact that past performance doesn’t guarantee future success, my experience suggests that, unless significant upgrades are available, we should play the guys that helped us get this far. After all, it’s the least we can do to thank the players who carried our teams to the playoffs on their shoulders!

Before you go too crazy applying these suggested strategies, remember – these tips should only be considered when you are making a difficult choice between two or more comparable players (in other words, if the choice is clear, you should probably go with the obvious answer!) In the end, remember to play your best guys and follow your gut (hopefully those two don’t contradict each other).

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