The entirety of your fantasy season revolves around making the playoffs. No matter if you went undefeated or squeaked in with a .500 season, being there is all that matters. But it all changes once the playoffs start because of those three magic words – “one and done”. Doesn’t matter how you got there. Doesn’t necessarily matter what happens next week. All that matters is winning every game. The schedule becomes a crucial component when deciding who to start.
Leagues of eight or ten teams generally use weeks 15 and 16 when four teams battle for the championship. Larger leagues tend to start in a week earlier and involve six teams. While it is not possible to switch all your players to gain the best match-ups and avoid tough defenses, you should at least be aware of what to expect. Here’s a quick rundown of the best and worse positioned players for the playoff run.
QB Nick Foles, WR DeSean Jackson – A star was born in Philly and he’ll continue to ride high facing the Lions, at the Vikings and then hosting the Bears. All offer above average fantasy points per game and are already familiar as divisional opponents.
QB Joe Flacco, WR Torrey Smith – The reigning Super Bowl champs have stumbled this year but facing the Steelers, Browns and Bengals twice doesn’t help. But starting in week 14, The Flacco-Smith combination hosts the Vikings, plays at the Lions and ends up home versus the Patriots. Those first two games face two of the weakest teams versus the pass.
QB Tony Romo, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jason Witten – A lack of a decent defense alone makes every week a shootout but the Cowboy stars start out at the Bears, then host the Packers and finally end up at the Redskins. Romo is a lock for big stats and getting Bryant and Witten more involved is job #1.
QB Matt Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson – This duo needs no help in generating fantasy points but facing the NFC East is always a positive. The Lions spend week 14 at the Eagles, then host the Ravens and then Giants. Megatron is already producing another monster season and that won’t stop right when you need him the most.
QB Case Keenum, WR Andre Johnson – Assuming that Matt Schaub doesn’t get called off the bench again, Keenum and Johnson have a great shot at posting big stats at the end of the fantasy season and the better they play, the less reason any quarterback change would be considered. The Texans begin with trips to play the Jaguars and then Colts before ending up hosting the Broncos. Week 16 will be at home against the most generous secondary in the NFL. Not a bad thing.
RB Eddie Lacy – Running backs are also a premium starter in the bad weather of December and the possibility of frozen tundra only makes Lacy look even better. He welcomes the Falcons for a tremendous way to start the fantasy playoffs, and then plays at the Cowboys before returning home to face the Steelers. Injuries to the Packers receiver corps only make Lacy even more important.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew – No arguing that he’s been a disappointment and that his decent performances are outweighed by weeks of mediocrity. But Jones-Drew still has something left in the tank and is the only running back that plays all three weeks at home. A schedule quirk sends the Texans, Bills and then Titans to Jacksonville and there won’t be any snow to slow anyone down.
RB DeMarco Murray – Another back with more bad than good, at least the Cowboys rusher doesn’t share much and ends up playing at the Bears, host the Packers and finally ends up at the Redskins. He might not be a monster in those games but at least he should be better.
RB Ben Tate – He’s playing through broken ribs and remains effective. He’ll be even healthier in week 14 when he plays at the Jaguars, then again on the road to face the Colts before returning to face the visiting Broncos. This is a contract year and Tate is about a month away from being a free agent. He’s ending 2013 showcasing his talent to the league while enjoying an above average schedule.
RB LeSean McCoy - Already a fantasy star, McCoy continues to benefit fantasy owners when he’ll tour the NFC North by hosting the Lions, then a trip to play the Vikings is followed by welcoming the Bears in week 16. An improved passing game for the Eagles only helps McCoy receive lesser attention by the opposing defense.
QB Carson Palmer, WR Larry Fitzgerald - The Cardinals have already been saddled with disappointing results from the offense. The fantasy playoffs won’t improve matters when they host the Rams and then end the fantasy season with two road games to visit the Titans and then the Seahawks. Doesn’t sound like fantasy gold.
QB Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton – The Colts offense is still trying to replace the irreplaceable Reggie Wayne but at least Luck is a definite up-and-comer who should enjoy a long and productive career. But an injury-marred 2013 now sends the Colts to play at the Bengals, and then host the Texans before winding up with a forehead-cringing week 16 in Kansas City. That’s not likely to help anyone to a fantasy championship.
QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski – A few players are always bigger than their schedule and certainly Brady fits that group. But 2013 has seen him much more subject to the schedule while sorting through an ever-changing set of receivers in what has to be considered a “down year”. When you need them the most they will host the Browns, then hit the road to play the Dolphins and then the Ravens. Most years that would not be a major issue but this has already been the season of muddled expectations.
QB Drew Brees, TE Jimmy Graham – He’s been THE premier fantasy quarterback for several years and this season is no different. Brees and the rest will be instrumental in many teams reaching their playoffs. But once week 14 rolls around, the schedule is no friend and even the mighty Brees is likely to see at least a slight downturn. Any average quarterback and his receivers would be in trouble if they hosted the Panthers, then visited the Rams before ending up playing the Panthers again only in Carolina for week 16. You have to play both Brees and Graham every week regardless. But you cannot be shocked if the results are less than what you wanted.
RB Reggie Bush – The schedule seems bad and considering what these defenses have allowed, Bush should be in for a tough stretch. He’ll play at the Eagles, and then spend the last two weeks at home against the Ravens and then Giants. Not to worry though since Bush doubles as a receiver to preserve fantasy value and he always plays better in Detroit on the home carpet.
RB Trent Richardson, RB Donald Brown – This is already a liability of the offense and Richardson in particular is a major disappointment. Don’t expect any positive developments during fantasy playoffs when the duo has to play at the Bengals and then host the Texans before winding up in Kansas City. No matter that he cost you a first round pick, it will be impossible to click “start” on a player you thought would be your best.
RB Lamar Miller, RB Daniel Thomas – The mediocre production from the Dolphin’s backfield gets split up in an apparent random fashion every week. That already makes both backs unattractive to start in all but the easiest of match-ups. And those will not be happening when fantasy playoffs kick off and the Dolphins start out at the Steelers. Then they host the Patriots before ending up on the road again in Buffalo. The combined stats from Miller and Thomas barely register as relevant to fantasy leagues and split up during a bad stretch of the schedule means hands off.
RB Andre Brown, RB Brandon Jacobs – His first game back and Brown was a delight. The next week he was good and yet watched Jacobs steal his touchdown. After holding on to your crafty waiver pick a month ago, Brown may not pay off as well has hoped or even that his first two games suggested. The Giants spend week 14 in San Diego and then host the Seahawks. The final week is playing at the Lions where the pass will rule and neither Brown nor Jacobs act as a receiver.
RB Darren McFadden, RB Rashad Jennings – The only good news is that Jennings played so well while McFadden was out that now he’ll remain a part of a backfield committee once McFadden plays. That waters down what either can do and it might not matter much anyway. The Raiders spend the fantasy playoffs playing at the Jets, and then hosting the Chiefs before finally traveling to the Chargers. McFadden once again muddles through a lost season and won’t even end well.