By: Brian McCormick @WaiverWiredFFB
The Best and Worst Matchups – Playoff Edition
The playoffs are here. Week 14 kicked off with what looked like it should’ve been a shootout in Atlanta with the Falcons and the Saints. Instead, we saw another mediocre day out of the Falcons offense, and Alvin Kamara left early with a concussion. Not exactly a hot start to the playoffs, but nonetheless, it is as exciting as ever. Here we take a look at some of the players with the best and worst schedules for the playoffs.
The Best Matchups
Marcus Mariota – You may need to forget about many of his recent sub-par performances versus some of the league’s worst defenses, but Mariota without a doubt has the best playoff schedule among quarterbacks. You can fire him up and cross your fingers, as he has the opportunity to burn the Texans, Cardinals, and 49ers, also known as two thirds of defenses allowing the 5th most points to the quarterbacks.
Phillip Rivers – If you feel confident with your week 14 lineup, Rivers is your guy to throw you to the promise land. After playing Washington’s mediocre 15th ranked pass defense, his eyes will become wide against the Chiefs and Jets. In case you scrolled by Allen, they don’t play defense very well.
Kareem Hunt – The once public fantasy savior has not cracked 100 yards rushing since week 5, and has not found the end zone since week 3. Even Josh McCown has more rushing touchdowns this season. Despite all of those eye-catching stats, he has one of the easiest running back playoff schedules in the league, especially for owners currently enjoying their bye weeks. This week, he faces the Raiders’ run defense that ranks 15th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Although the Raiders’ rank is not terrible, keep in mind that they have only faced three top 10 running backs all season – Kareem Hunt (ironic here), LeSean McCoy, and Melvin Gordon. The following weeks, Hunt will lick his chops against the Chargers (6th) and Dolphins (9th).
LeSean McCoy – Already the workhorse in a run-heavy offense, McCoy has the easiest schedule to carry you into your week 16 championship round. This week he will stroll through Indianapolis, who rank 5th in points allowed at a whopping 20.2 points per game. He then faces the Dolphins (9th) and the Patriots (16th). Sit back and relax with him in your lineup.
Mike Davis – Like Hunt, Davis offers friendly matchups for the final two weeks. After playing the dominant Jaguars defense, that has allowed the fewest points per game to running backs, he has beautiful dates scheduled with the Rams (3rd) and the Cowboys (17th). Although he played in a mere two games this season, he looks to be trending into a 20+ totes per game back.
Kenyan Drake – This is contingent upon Damien Williams returning before week 17, but Drake has a nice road ahead of him as he holds the starting role. The former Crimson Tide, who has broken off for three 40+ yard runs since Jay Ajayi was traded to the Eagles, will have plenty of opportunities to please fantasy owners. He will face the Patriots (16th), the Bills (ranked 1st, allowing nearly 23 points a game), and the Chiefs (18th). Look for Drake to build off his brilliant performance last week against Denver (19th), who he torched for 120 yards and a score.
Keenan Allen – The league’s hottest player will continue to stay on fire through the playoffs, with very enticing matchups, especially close to the championship. He will be tested across from Josh Norman in week 14, which can easily put a bad taste in your mouth, but Phillip Rivers will continue to pepper Allen with all of the targets he can handle. Upon completion of that challenge, Allen will have the opportunity to feast on the Chiefs and Jets, who both rank in the bottom 8 for points allowed to receivers.
Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper – Cooper’s status is uncertain for this week, but fantasy owners would fall in love if he plays, given the upcoming matchups. Last year’s dynamic duo will breeze into weeks 14 and 15 with matchups against the Chiefs and Cowboys, who allow the 2nd and 3rd most fantasy points at the position. They will finish up against the Eagles, who ranked right in the middle of the league. Derek Carr’s performance this season is a far cry from last year, but he will have the opportunity to feed his outside receivers heavily throughout the next three weeks.
Devin Funchess – Cam’s primary target should make a big impact throughout the playoffs, as he also has a comfy road after the opening round. After playing against the stingy Minnesota secondary, he will breeze through the Packers (3rd worst) and Buccaneers (who are the worst, in case you haven’t watched them) “defenders.” Funchess, like Keenan Allen, will help owners win fantasy titles this month.
Jason Witten – His performance depends on whether the Cowboys offense can wake up, but his schedule looks spectacular if you’re an owner. Witten plays against the league worst Giants (who allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends through their first 10 games) followed by the Raiders (8th) and Eagles (13th).
Russell Wilson – Similar to Baldwin here. Fantasy owners will think twice or maybe even three times before sitting 2017’s fantasy scoring leader. Wilson’s talent is undeniable and he extends plays better than any other quarterback that has ever stepped foot on the gridiron. On the other side of the coin, his first two playoff weeks are undesirable, with the Jaguars and Rams looking to contain him.
Todd Gurley – Although he is a must-start, Carl’s Jr. (google this if you did know his nickname) will have the toughest playoff stretch on the ground. Let me rephrase that, his schedule is brutal. Gurley will be up against three of the top five fantasy run defenses in the league: Eagles (28th), Seahawks (31st) and the Titans (32nd). Combined, they allow an average of 84.2 rushing yards a game, whereas the NFL average is 110. By the way, at the start of the season, who thought Tennessee would be a run-stopping power-house?
Leonard Fournette – If you survive long enough to make it to the championship round, great for you. Fournette will help you hoist the trophy as he plays the 49ers, who allow the second most points per game to running backs. What is his road to the championship like? Fournette will run against the Seahawks and Texans, who sit in the top 4 for fewest points given up. Owners can hope for numerous goal line opportunities.
T.Y. Hilton – Who has the worst playoff schedule for receivers? Look no further. Mr. Boom-or-Bust has been aggravating owners all year and it will not become any easier this December. His fate will be in the hands of Buffalo (31st), Denver (28th), and Baltimore (31st). It is worth noting that Denver has given up the most touchdowns through the air at this point in the season. Maybe T.Y. finds room in that game? Handle with caution, as Hilton has a single top-15 finish against the best 30% of passing defenses in the league this year.
Doug Baldwin – Slippery and smooth, Doug has a tough start for the playoffs, beginning with Jacksonville’s elite secondary (32nd) followed by the Rams (26th). Championship players can reap the rewards of his dream matchup against Dallas’ horrendous secondary, if they make it that far.
Greg Olsen – He has an abundant amount of upside and his talent has no question. As if owners are not already hesitant towards his health, Olsen’s schedule is quite daunting for a tight end. Looking to return to his pro-bowl form, his road will go through the Vikings, Packers, and Buccaneers, who all rank in the top 6 for fewest points allowed to tight ends.