Matchups to target and avoid in the Fantasy playoffs
In this column, I will discuss which teams have the best and worst schedules when it comes to quarterback and tight ends during the Fantasy playoffs. I will not be including Week 17 in this column, as most leagues don’t include the last week of the NFL regular season.
When it comes to QBs, the best advice I can give is to not get cute. You’re always starting your studs, but for those a little lower on your list, maybe this list can help you make up your mind in a coin toss situation. As always, injuries to can change these rankings on a week-to-week basis.
As for the tight end. It has been a brutal season for this position. It seems each and every week we lose one or two starting tight ends. For example, Greg Olsen has been lost for the season now due to a rupture in his plantar fasciitis. The schedule may not matter; you may just be happy to have a starting TE available.
Best Schedule (QB)
- Carolina Panthers: @Cleveland, New Orleans, Atlanta: Yes, Cam Newton has a great schedule during the Fantasy playoffs, but something seems to be amiss. Cam threw four interceptions Sunday against a struggling secondary, to say the least, in the Buccaneers. Then, after failing to reach the end zone on a Hail Mary pass from the 50-yard line, he was replaced on the next try. Cam is likely to continue to play, but there is an injury here that is robbing him of his normal arm strength.
- Cleveland Browns: Carolina, @Denver, Cincinnati: I get it: starting Baker Mayfield over an Aaron Rodgers-type would seem to be a huge gamble. Or is it? We can’t just go by name recognition in Fantasy. Mayfield is throwing the ball all over the field. Will he throw some of those passes to the opposition? Yes, but the reward seems to be greater than the risk right now.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: @Oakland, New England, @New Orleans: Ben Roethlisberger has negated his home/road splits this season. The Steelers have a top offense, and if James Conner is forced to miss time due to his leg injury, they may have to throw the ball even more than normal. Big Ben will continue to be a Top 10 Fantasy QB.
- Baltimore Ravens: @Kansas City, Tampa Bay, @Chargers: This is a bit of a mess. As of right now, and maybe right up until game time, we do not know who will be the starting QB for the Ravens this week. Joe Flacco will be healthy enough to return from his hip injury, but Lamar Jackson has won three straight games and has added an exciting element to the offense. The bottom line is this: LJax will likely just miss QB1 status if he were to start, while you’re not starting Flacco no matter what. The biggest fear, however, is that there will be a package of plays for both players, which would make neither one startable.
- Dallas Cowboys: Philadelphia, @Indianapolis, Tampa Bay: The Cowboys are certainly playing better since the arrival of Amari Cooper, and so is Dak Prescott, but there is still very little here that would make you think he’s anywhere near a starting QB in Fantasy leagues. The Cowboys will continue to rely on Ezekiel Elliott to win games and if that defense plays anywhere near like it did against the Saints last week, this team won’t take many chances in the pass game.
Worst Schedule (QB)
- Detroit Lions: @Arizona, @Buffalo, Minnesota: What is left on offense for the Lions? Golden Tate was traded to Philadelphia. Marvin Jones is on IR. Even Kerryon Johnson is out with an ankle injury. There just aren’t any offensive weapons for Matthew Stafford to throw to outside of Kenny Golladay, and teams will scheme him out.
- New York Jets: @Buffalo, Houston, Green Bay: Sam Darnold will likely return as the starting QB for the Jets on Sunday after missing several games due to a foot injury. His schedule really doesn’t matter, as there really isn’t anyone outside of Isaiah Crowell that you should be considering starting in 10- or 12-team leagues.
- Arizona Cardinals: Detroit, @Atlanta, Rams: Another rookie QB that you shouldn’t be thinking about starting here. Josh Rosen may be usable in time, but that time is certainly not now. Rosen does have some weapons at his disposal in Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, but you should certainly be able to do better than starting Rosen on your Fantasy team.
- Washington Redskins: Giants, @Jacksonville, @Tennessee: One thing about Colt McCoy is that he isn’t afraid to take chances. McCoy will throw the ball down the field and take his shots, but he’s still playing behind a broken OL and has limited weapons available at his disposal.
- New England Patriots: @Miami, @Pittsburgh, Buffalo: Tom Brady looked like the old Brady on Sunday. Brady was throwing with accuracy and looking spryer in the pocket. Perhaps the reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. I’m still not sold, he’ll be a borderline QB1 for the ROS.
Best Schedule (TE)
- Los Angeles Chargers: Cincinnati, @Kansas City, Baltimore: The Chargers may have a great schedule for TEs, but that doesn’t mean you should be starting Antonio Gates. He will need a TD in order to be Fantasy valuable and that’s way too risky to rely on week in and week out in Fantasy.
- Cleveland Browns: Carolina, @Denver, Cincinnati: Bigger things were expected from David Njoku this season, but after a slow start he has played better of late. The Browns aren’t afraid of throwing the rock and due to all of the injuries, Njoku is a Top 10 play at the position every week.
- New Orleans Saints: @Tampa Bay, @Carolina, Pittsburgh: Theoretically, bigger things should in store for Ben Watson. The Saints have great players in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, players defenses will need to account for. Watson should be a forgotten man by defenses. The problem is that Drew Brees also seems to forget about him, as there is rarely any kind of game plan to get him the ball.
- Baltimore Ravens: @Kansas City, Tampa Bay, @Chargers: This ranking may not matter at all. Yes, we love the matchups, especially the next two weeks, but if Lamar Jackson remains as the starting QB, then all of the receiving weapons should remain either on your bench or the waivers. Let’s face it: even if Joe Flacco does get the starting job back, you shouldn’t be rushing to get any Raven TE in your lineup.
- Philadelphia Eagles: @Dallas, @Rams, Houston: What can I really say here? You’re starting Zach Ertz week in and week out. If he’s not the best TE in the NFL right now, he’s second to Travis Kelce.
Worst Schedule (TE)
- Los Angeles Rams: @Chicago, Philadelphia, @Arizona: This is just in case you were thinking about claiming Gerald Everett, especially after his big game against the Chiefs in Week 12. We all want a piece of this offense, but I wouldn’t want to drop a more reliable TE for Everett. Like Watson in New Orleans, he’s not always a part of the game plan, as the Rams have plenty of other offensive players they need to get the ball to.
- San Francisco 49ers: Denver, Seattle, Chicago: You likely have to start George Kittle and he’s no worse than a Top 5 TE for the ROS regardless of the schedule. Nick Mullens is far from the answer at QB for the 49ers, but he did throw for 400-plus yards Sunday. The 49ers have no weapons they can truly rely on at WR and Matt Breida hurt his ankle once again. It’s Kittle or bust for this team.
- New York Giants: @Washington, Tennessee, @Indianapolis: Evan Engram was barely startable coming into Sunday, and that was before he had to leave the game (he did return) with a rib injury. The Giants have decided to go with a heavy formation on offense. This has required a two-tight end set, one that can block for both the run game and keep Eli Manning upright. Engram hasn’t been a part of this set.
- Detroit Lions: @Arizona, @Buffalo, Minnesota: Every Lions’ fan must be throwing up just a little (okay, maybe a lot) at the success Eric Ebron has had with the Colts. Well, even if he was still playing with the Lions it really wouldn’t matter; you should be worried about starting any Lions’ offensive player.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: @Tennessee, Washington, @Miami: Were you really thinking about starting James O’Shaughnessy anyway? Actually, with Cody Kessler at QB, you shouldn’t be starting any Jaguars’ offensive players outside of Leonard Fournette.