Best, Worst Fantasy Football Playoff Schedules: Amari Cooper, Lamar Jackson and More
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Amari Cooper and Lamar Jackson
- The fantasy football playoffs are almost here. Which players will be helped and hurt the most from their remaining schedules?
- Lamar Jackson's rushing upside and friendly remaining slate should help him maintain a decent fantasy floor.
We are mere weeks away from the fantasy football playoffs. Hopefully you’ve made some savvy moves over the past 12 weeks to position your team for a playoff run. But perhaps injuries, bad luck and/or poor decision-making has your squad facing the brutal reality of simply trying to avoid your league’s last-place punishment.
Either way: It’s time to re-evaluate the landscape and figure out the players who have the easiest matchups for the most-critical stretch of the fantasy football season.
Let’s take a look at the easiest and hardest schedules for each position group to identify potential trade targets and waiver wire adds who could blow up in the playoffs, along with players you might want to consider selling while you can.
The following charts feature each team’s respective remaining opponents’ rank in fantasy points allowed (PPR scoring) to that position per game.
Quarterbacks to Buy or Sell Before Fantasy Playoffs
- The quarterbacks best positioned to dominate during the stretch run are Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Case Keenum, Derek Carr and Lamar Jackson.
- Newton, Prescott and Jackson are the safest bets for continued excellence thanks to their enhanced rushing floors. The former two quarterbacks are the only signal callers in NFL history with at least five rushing touchdowns in each of their first three seasons, while Jackson has an absurd 37 rush attempts in his first two starts.
- Additional quarterbacks who are set up fairly well include Josh Rosen, Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield, Phillip Rivers and Russell Wilson.
- Mayfield has taken a major leap forward under new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.
Baker Mayfield Weeks 1-8:
58.3% completion rate
6.59 yards per attempt
Mayfield Weeks 9-12:
73.9% completion rate
8.76 yards per attempt
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 25, 2018
- Quarterbacks with the toughest remaining schedules include Josh McCown/Sam Darnold, Patrick Mahomes, Matthew Stafford, Nick Mullens and Andrew Luck.
- The Jets, Lions and 49ers aren’t exactly the types of teams you should bet on beating the odds, but it’s tough to call Mahomes and Luck anything but matchup-proof at this point. They’ve each thrown for at least three touchdowns in a league-high eight games this season.
Running Backs to Buy or Sell Before Fantasy Playoffs
- Running backs with the best schedule moving forward include: Gus “The Bus” Edwards, Phillip Lindsay/Royce Freeman, Christian McCaffrey, Doug Martin/Jalen Richard and Joe Mixon.
- The Ravens appear to be 100% serious about making Edwards their featured back. His 23 carries in Week 12 were the most in a single game by a Ravens running back since Terrance West in 2016.
- The Broncos have finally moved away from their three-back committee: Devontae Booker played a season-low six snaps in Week 12. Lindsay out-snapped and out-touched Freeman 36-to-15 and 14-to-6, respectively.
- McCaffrey’s ridiculous Week 12 performance might be the start of a truly special end-of-season run.
Christian McCaffrey is just the 9th RB with 100+ rushing and receiving yards in the same game over the last 25 years
Pierre Thomas pic.twitter.com/rccZNQWah7
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 25, 2018
- The likes of Lamar Miller, Dalvin Cook, David Johnson and Aaron Jones are also positioned well considering their bell-cow status and cushy schedule.
- The running backs who have the toughest schedule moving forward include Peyton Barber, Saquon Barkley, Frank Gore/Kenyan Drake, Josh Adams and Marlon Mack.
- The return of Ronald Jones (hamstring) should strip Barber of featured-back duties during this difficult end-of-the-season stretch.
- Adams has seized control of the Eagles backfield by setting new season-high snap totals in each of his past six games.
- Barkley is perhaps the league’s most matchup-proof back considering his plethora of targets from noodle-armed Eli Manning and game-breaking open-field ability.
- Drake is dealing with a shoulder injury, while Mack is in the concussion protocol. Be sure to monitor our Week 13 Injury Report for daily practice participation along with estimated and official games statuses for every fantasy-relevant player.
- Nyheim Hines out-carried and out-targeted Jordan Wilkins 24-to-20 and 25-to-5 in Weeks 3-5 with Mack sidelined. Hines averaged 54 snaps per game compared to just 22 for Wilkins during that stretch.
Wide Receivers to Buy or Sell Before Fantasy Playoffs
- Wide receivers from the Panthers, Cowboys, Texans, Packers and Cardinals have the best combined schedules in Weeks 13-16.
- The continued absence of Devin Funchess (back) could continue to lead to plenty of work for D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel.
- Amari Cooper is already the most Dak-friendly receiver the Cowboys have employed. Cooper ranks among the league’s top-10 wide receivers in targets (32), receptions (22), yards (349) and touchdowns (3) since being traded to the Cowboys.
- Keke Coutee is dealing with another hamstring injury, so DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas are locked in as Deshaun Watson’s top-two options. Still, consistency could be hard to come by behind Nuk, as Watson has throw 25 or fewer passes in six consecutive games.
- Davante Adams is locked in as Aaron Rodgers’ No. 1 targets. Neither Equanimeous St. Brown nor Marquez Valdes-Scantling have scored or caught more than three passes in a game with Randall Cobb (hamstring) sidelined over the past two weeks.
- Josh Rosen has thrown 20 or fewer passes in back-to-back games, making it tough to trust Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk despite their cushy matchups.
- Additional wide receivers rooms that are set up particularly well include the Rams, Giants, 49ers and Bears.
- Wide receivers from the Colts, Dolphins, Patriots, Chiefs and Lions have the toughest remaining stretch.
- T.Y. Hilton will have to deal with shadow coverage from Jalen Ramsey in Week 13, but he gets the Texans, Cowboys and Giants after that, all of whom should be exploitable from the slot considering none of those teams has made a habit of moving their No. 1 corners inside this season.
- Josh Gordon will likely have to deal with shadow coverage from Xavier Rhodes, Xavien Howard, Joe Haden and Tre’Davious White to end the season. Gordon is capable of winning these battles, but sheesh.
- Kenny Golladay will continue to work as the Lions’ No. 1 receiver with Marvin Jones (knee, IR) done for the season. Golladay has historically shined when given a prominent role in the Lions offense.
Kenny Golladay's 9 career games with more than 5 targets:
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 27, 2018
Tight Ends to Buy or Sell Before Fantasy Playoffs
- Tight ends who are set up particularly well entering the fantasy playoffs include David Njoku, Ben Watson/Josh Hill, Jared Cook, Antonio Gates/Virgil Freen and Matt LaCosse.
- Njoku has all the talent in the world, but consistency could still be an issue considering he’s had just 11 combined targets over the last four weeks.
- Blocking tight end Josh Hill has out-snapped Watson in every game since the Saints’ Week 6 bye.
- Cook (70 targets) joins Eric Ebron (72), Jordan Reed (78), George Kittle (83), Travis Kelce (101) and Zach Ertz (111) as the league’s only tight ends with at least 70 targets this season.
- Gates and Green have each had one game with more than three targets since the Chargers’ Week 8 bye. There’s an outside chance that Hunter Henry (knee, IR) will return sometime in December.
- Jeff Heuerman (knee, IR) is done for the season. LaCosse converted four targets into a 3-34-1 line against the Steelers in Week 12.
- Additional tight ends who are set up well to end the year include the Ravens’ committee, Eric Ebron (especially with Jack Doyle done for the season), Zach Ertz, C.J. Uzomah and Cameron Brate.
- Tight ends who have a rough stretch to end the season: Tyler Higbee/Gerald Everett, Jimmy Graham, Chris Herndon, Jordan Reed and Evan Engram (hamstring).
- George Kittle also isn’t set up particularly well, but his aforementioned targets and lack of competition in the 49ers’ passing game should help him overcome this difficult stretch.
Defenses to Buy or Sell Before Fantasy Playoffs
- The Titans, Broncos, Redskins, Rams and Lions are facing the easiest group of offenses during Weeks 13-16.
- The most fantasy-friendly offenses to target with defenses and special teams this season have been the Bills, Cardinals, Jets, Raiders and 49ers.
- The Titans will play at home in three of their final four games, while the Broncos will either face a rookie, backup, or Derek Carr under center in each of the next four weeks.
- The top-five defenses in pressure rate from Weeks 1-11 were the Eagles, Rams, Jaguars, Vikings and Packers. The Rams are expected to welcome back Aqib Talib (ankle, IR) as soon as this Sunday.
- The Bills, Packers and Patriots also stand out as defenses with exploitable end-of-the-season schedules.
- Defense and special teams units that you might want to avoid to end the year include the Chargers, Ravens, Raiders, Buccaneers and Steelers. The Panthers, Cowboys and Saints also aren’t set up particularly well.