Favorable Fantasy Football Playoff Schedules, Sleeper RBs To Roster, More Fantasy Football Playoffs Advice
Jason Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Cardinals RB James Conner (left), Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins (right)
Want personalized fantasy football advice? You can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured in my weekly mailbag(s) and on the Fantasy Flex podcast each Thursday.
Best Fantasy Football Playoff Schedules
Johnson from Wisconsin writes: “Which teams/players should I be targeting for playoff run based on favorable schedules?”
Previte: Great question. I’ve identified five teams with favorable schedules during the fantasy playoffs.
1) Cardinals: Their rest-of-season schedule is as follows: at Chicago, vs. LA Rams, at Detroit, vs. Indianapolis, at Dallas, vs. Seattle.
The Cardinals already had their bye week and are on track to get Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins back. Facing the Lions, Colts and Cowboys should offer high upside for the passing game. Therefore, I would target Murray, Zach Ertz, DeAndre Hopkins and James Conner (who is involved in the passing game).
2) Cowboys: Their rest-of-season schedule is as follows: at New Orleans, at Washington, at NY Giants, vs. Washington, vs. Arizona, at Philadelphia.
The Cowboys already had their bye week and will get CeeDee Lamb and potentially Amari Cooper back this week. Playing in the NFC East lends itself to some nice matchups to finish out the year. I would target Dak Prescott, Lamb, Cooper and perhaps Tony Pollard or Ezekiel Elliott, depending on how panicked you are about Elliott’s injury and subsequent workload.
3) 49ers: Their rest-of-season schedule is as follows: at Seattle, at Cincinnati, vs. Atlanta, at Tennessee, vs. Houston, at LA Rams.
The 49ers already had their bye week and face the Falcons, Titans and Texans in the fantasy playoffs, which is pretty ideal. The team just lost Deebo Samuel for at least the next week or two. I love targeting George Kittle as a buy-low, as well as Elijah Mitchell and even Brandon Aiyuk.
4) Eagles: Their rest-of-season schedule is as follows: at NY Jets, BYE, vs. Washington, vs. NY Giants, at Washington, vs. Dallas.
The Eagles do have a late Week 14 bye, so I would only target Philly players if I knew I had a playoff spot secured. After the bye, they face Washington twice and the Giants during the fantasy playoffs, which is great. I would target Jalen Hurts (in spite of his struggles last game), as well as DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.
5) Jets: Their rest-of-season schedule is as follows: vs. Philadelphia, vs. New Orleans, at Miami, vs. Jacksonville, vs. Tampa Bay, at Buffalo.
The Jets have already had their bye and face the Dolphins, Jaguars and Buccaneers in the fantasy playoffs. There aren’t a ton of fantasy-relevant targets on the Jets, but I would target Elijah Moore — he has sky-high upside and has performed well in spite of the Jets’ quarterback carousel.
Rostering Backups For Fantasy Playoffs
Mark writes: “Which of the top running backs will likely be shutdown during the fantasy playoffs, and are their backups worth stashing now? Najee Harris and Saquon Barkley come to mind.”
Previte: This question is super interesting. There are a few categories of players who could be “shutdown” late in the season:
- Players whose teams are no longer competitive;
- Players whose teams have locked up a playoff spot/seed;
- Players with higher injury risk.
The two names you have mentioned fall under the first category (with a bit of the third for Barkley). Benny Snell Jr. is not worth rostering, but Devontae Booker could be intriguing.
Other names that come to mind are Alvin Kamara, David Montgomery, Cordarrelle Patterson and James Robinson. Mark Ingram (if healthy) or Tony Jones Jr. could be nice stashes, as could Khalil Herbert. Robinson’s backup, Carlos Hyde is not enticing and Patterson doesn’t really have a true backup.
The second use case would likely only result in players sitting out one game — or at most two — so probably not relevant for fantasy purposes.
Players that come to mind who might fall under the third category include Ezekiel Elliott, Darrell Henderson Jr., Aaron Jones and Elijah Mitchell. Each have dealt with injuries this season and may not be at risk of being shut down entirely, but could see a decreased workload looking forward to the playoffs. Tony Pollard is already an incredibly valuable insurance policy, as is A.J. Dillion. Sony Michel and Jeff Wilson Jr. are nice candidates to stash as upside plays if something were to happen to either Henderson or Mitchell.
Running Back Sleepers For The Playoffs
Steve writes: “Hi Sam. Every season it seems there is that random RB that makes it into a lineup in the semis and finals. Who are some targets that might be worth looking at that have high upside if called to duty but have a low ownership? Everyone knows about Hubbard, Hilliard etc. Is it someone like Ronald Jones?”
Previte: This is a great question, especially for those managers with deep leagues. While I cannot see into the future, I will try my best to list some names at various rostership percentages who could emerge as viable starters for the semifinals and finals.
1) Running backs available in at least 70% of leagues: Jeff Wilson Jr. (33% rostered), Ty Johnson (31%), Brandon Bolden (23%).
Wilson stands out in this group and is the most rostered. He could easily be a RB2 in the 49ers’ offense if Elijah Mitchell — who has been banged up — misses any time.
Johnson is in a time share with Tevin Coleman, but strikes me as the more talented and versatile player of the pair. He could emerge as the alpha while Michael Carter is on injured reserve.
Bolden has had his moments stepping into the James White role and could play an even bigger role if Damien Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson went down, both of which have been injured this year.
2) Running backs available in at least 85% of leagues: Tony Jones Jr. (11% rostered), Rex Burkhead (7%), Samaje Perine (5%).
Jones was a popular add over Thanksgiving with both Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram sidelined for the game. Jones didn’t do much in the contest, but could still offer some upside if one (or both) is injured again, especially with mobile quarterback Taysom Hill likely taking over for Trevor Siemian.
Burkhead led this backfield in touches ahead of David Johnson and saw a whopping 35 snaps in Week 12, though he has a lower ceiling as a member of the Texans’ anemic offense.
Perine would be an ultra valuable backup if anything were to happen to Joe Mixon, who has been on fire this year.
3) Running backs available in at least 95% of leagues: Ameer Abdullah (4% rostered), Jaret Patterson (1%), Jermar Jefferson (<1%), Ty Montgomery (<1%).
Abdullah may see some work out of the Panthers’ backfield alongside Chuba Hubbard with Christian McCaffrey done for the year and would have standalone value if anything happened to Hubbard.
Patterson could see additional carries if the oft-banged up Antonio Gibson were to end up back on the injury report since J.D. McKissic isn’t exactly a traditional running back.
Jefferson will back up Jamaal Williams with D’Andre Swift out with a shoulder injury and could ascend to an even bigger role if Williams — who has been a frequent fixture on the Lions’ injury report — were to ever miss time.
Montgomery has dual eligibility as a receiver and running back and could have deep, deep league value for similar reasons as Tony Jones Jr.
Buccaneers’ Run Game
Rich writes: “Will the Buccaneers run the ball more in December and January?”
Previte: Tough to say, since head coach Bruce Arians is notoriously mercurial, but have you seen Leonard Fournette this season? It would make sense for Arians to ride the hot hand, though after this week in Atlanta, the Buccaneers’ schedule gets significantly tougher for the run game. Over Weeks 14 through 18, the team faces the Bills, Saints, Panthers, Jets and Panthers — only one of those matchups looks good on paper for running backs.
That said, Fournette scored four times in Week 12 against a tough Colts’ run defense, so it’s possible “Playoff Lenny” arrived a bit early this year.