A look at the 2011 fantasy playoff schedules for all 32 NFL teams
Some say you have to make the playoffs before you can even consider what the schedule for your fantasy playoffs may be. I whole-heartedly disagree. You need to at least have an idea of what kind of teams your players may be facing come playoff time, and that may be the deciding factor between drafting Player A and Player B. So here's a look at the three teams all 32 NFL teams will face during Weeks 14-16 of the 2011 NFL season — normally the playoff weeks for most fantasy leagues.
Weeks: 14-16: SF, CLE @CIN
Larry Fitzgerald was third in targets (173) and fourth in catches (90) without a QB and now gets Kevin Kolb. Fitz should have a strong stretch run as he goes against the pass defenses of the 49ers (24th), Browns (18th) and Bengals (14th). All three opponents surrendered at least 96.7 yards rushing per game, as well.
Weeks 14-16: @CAR, JAC, @NO
So we’re all expecting the aerial game to improve for the Falcons, and the fantasy playoff schedule should cater to that. Matt Ryan threw a combined six TD passes and averaged 210 yards in the four meetings against the Panthers and Saints in 2010, and the Jags’ 28th-ranked pass defense is sandwiched in between. The porous run defenses of the Jags (22nd) and Panthers (23rd) are also inviting for Michael Turner and Co.
Weeks 14-16: IND, @SD, CLE
OK, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice owners, you have a solid chance at winning your opening playoff round, and if you make it that far your title game looks good, too. The bugaboo is San Diego, on the road, in the middle (No. 1 vs. the pass and No. 4 vs. the run last season). But you get the Colts’ 25th-ranked run defense and the Browns’ 27th-ranked run-stoppers on either side; Cleveland’s pass defense also ranked 18th.
Weeks 14-16: @SD, MIA, DEN
First, the good news: Get to your title game with Bills players and you get a Denver defense ranked 31st vs. the run and 25th vs. the pass in 2010. Now the bad news: You have to get through a Chargers D that was No. 1 vs. the pass and No. 4 vs. the run and a Dolphins D that was No. 8 vs. the pass and No. 7 vs. the run. In your favor: Two of the three playoff games are at Buffalo.
Weeks 14-16: ATL, @HOU, TB
Cam Newton is a wild card. Houston will have never seen him, and Tampa Bay will have seen him just three weeks earlier. And let’s pray the RBs are healthy. If so, they get a Texans D that has switched to the 3-4 and a Bucs D that was 28th vs. the run last year.
Weeks 14-16: @DEN, SEA, @GB
If you’re a Matt Forté owner, you have to like these three numbers for your fantasy playoffs — 31st, 21st and 18th. That’s where the Bears’ three fantasy playoff opponents ranked in run defense last season. And if you’re a Jay Cutler owner, the first two weeks aren’t too shabby either, as Denver (25th) and Seattle (27th) were both in the bottom eight in the NFL in pass defense.
Weeks 14-16 HOU, @STL, ARI
Even if a small child is under center for the Bengals for the three fantasy playoff weeks, they should have success. Cincinnati draws the Texans (13th vs. the run, 32nd vs the pass in 2010), St. Louis (17th vs. the run, 19th vs. the pass) and Arizona (30th vs. the run and 23rd vs. the pass).
Weeks 14-16: @PIT, @ARI, @BAL
The Browns are the only team with three road games in the fantasy playoffs, with trips to Pittsburgh, Arizona and Baltimore. Cleveland’s strength — it’s rushing attack — will face the No. 1 (Steelers) and No. 5 run (Ravens) defenses in the league during this stretch. Not a good omen for owners of Peyton Hillis and/or Montario Hardesty.
Weeks 14-16: NYG, @TB, PHI
Two familiar NFC East opponents (Giants and Eagles) make for a tough playoff draw. Add in an up-and-coming Tampa defense at its place and you’ve got a difficult fantasy playoff schedule. All three defenses were in the top 14 against the pass, but perhaps one of the Cowboys’ running backs can do some damage against the Bucs (28th vs. the run).
Weeks 14-16: CHI, NE, @BUF
Two of the first three playoff games are at home, and then Broncos owners get to travel to the 32nd-ranked rush defense that resides in Buffalo. Granted, the Bills drafted defense with their first four picks, but they still allowed 15 yards more per game than the 31st-place team (Denver). Knowshon Moreno, Willis McGahee and whoever else is driving the offense should be good title-game matchups.
Weeks 14-16: MIN, @OAK, SD
Let’s be honest — we’re all looking at the Lions as a passing team. With that said, the playoff schedule is not friendly. All three opponents were in the top 10 against the pass last season — in fact, San Diego and Oakland were first and second vs. the pass, respectively. So maybe the Lions can run. Well, the Chargers (fourth) and Vikings (ninth) possessed top-10 rush defenses last year.
Weeks 14-16: OAK, @KC, CHI
Does it really matter what the Packers’ playoff schedule is? The Packers are so potent and their weapons are so consistent, that you are advised to take whatever matchup may come their way. Just for the record: Once the Pack gets past the No. 2 pass D that is Oakland, they will face last year’s Nos. 17 and 20 pass defenses, Kansas City and Chicago.
Weeks 14-16: @CIN, CAR, @IND
Gone are the days when we used to wonder only what pass Ds were going up against the Texans (for the record, they get the 14th, 11th and 13th pass Ds from a year ago). Need anymore of a reason why Arian Foster is the No. 1 player overall? The Texans take on the 19th, 23rd and 25th run defenses during their fantasy playoff run.
Weeks 14-16: @BAL, TEN, HOU
Get past the Ravens and it could be smooth sailing for Peyton and Co. The Colts get two home games during the playoffs, and they are against AFC South rivals, Tennessee and Houston, which both ranked in the bottom 10 in points allowed to QBs and WRs. Manning averaged 321 yards and combined for nine scores with no picks in the four meetings last year against Tennessee and Houston.
Weeks 14-16: TB, @ATL, @TEN
Just make it to the end, MJD. Waiting for you are two teams (Tampa Bay and Tennessee) that were in the bottom 12 in fantasy points allowed to RBs in 2010. MJD went for 186 yards on a bum knee in Week 13 vs. the Titans last year. Marcedes Lewis owners can rejoice if you make it to your title game as he gets a Tennessee team that ranked 26th against TEs the last two years.
Weeks 14-16: @NYJ, GB, OAK
This is not the schedule you want to see when you’re debating between Jamaal Charles and other top backs. The Jets and Packers were Nos. 2 and 3 against fantasy RBs last season and in the top five the last two years. Division rival Oakland surrendered just 140 yards on the ground, 60 through the air and one score to Charles in the two meetings combined last season. All three opponents were top six vs. the pass as well.
Weeks 14-16: PHI, @BUF, @NE
If the Fins want to run, they’ll do so against last year’s 15th-, 30th- and 20th-ranked fantasy defenses vs RBs. Of course, they managed just 287 yards combined in the four meetings vs. Buffalo and New England last season. Philly’s and Buffalo’s pass defenses were in the top half vs. fantasy WRs, but Marshall went 29-for-306 and a score in the four meetings with the Bills and Pats, while Bess was 26-for-260 with two scores.
Week 14-16 @DET, NO, @WAS
All three rush defenses were in the bottom half of the league against RBs last year, allowing at least 20.8 points per game to backs. So that has to excite Adrian Peterson owners. A word of caution, though: Two of the three playoff games are on the road, where Peterson’s average dropped by 15.6 yards per game, and he scored only four of his TDs last year away from home.
Weeks 14-16: @WAS, @DEN, MIA
Tom Brady owners, feast your eyes on this: He starts the fantasy playoffs against defenses ranked 27th and 28th in points allowed to fantasy QBs a season ago. And if you can't decide between Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, use them both, as the Pats face defenses that were 19th, 27th and 18th against TEs, all allowing over 9.3 points per game to the position.
Weeks 14-16: @TEN, @MIN, ATL
Get it while you can in that opening round against a Titans team that ranked 22nd vs. QBs, 19th vs. RBs, 26th vs. TEs and 23rd vs. WRs in fantasy points allowed. The Vikings are a little tougher with the sixth-best fantasy run D, 16th vs. QBs and 13th vs. WRs. The Falcons game could be a tough title round for Saints owners as their fantasy points allowed were 12th-best vs. QBs and fifth-best vs. RBs (but 28th against WRs).
New York Giants
Weeks 14-16: @DAL, WAS, @NYJ
Opening round and semifinal wins with Giants seem doable according to last year's numbers — the Cowboys (28th) and Redskins (26th) were bottom seven in fantasy points allowed across the board. Then there are the Jets. But here’s a silver lining for a Giants team loaded with receivers: The Jets were 19th against WRs last season (26.7 ppg) and 18th against QBs (17.6 ppg).
New York Jets
Weeks 14-16: KC, @PHI, NYG
The Chiefs, the Jets’ Week 14 opponent, were middle of the road against basically all positions. The Eagles, however, gave up the eighth-most points to QBs (19.6 ppg) and the most points to TEs (12.4 ppg). Expect little on the ground in your title game with Jets players, but the Giants gave up 18.0 points per game to the QBs and 26.3 to WRs.
Weeks 14-16: @GB, DET, @KC
Not the best news in the world to see Darren McFadden heading out to Green Bay and Kansas City, sandwiched around a home date with Detroit, in the fantasy playoffs. The Lions and Chiefs each allowed at least 21 points per game to the RB position but should be improved. And Kevin Boss will have to face off against the fifth- and second-best defenses against the TE in Detroit (7.7 ppg) and Kansas City (7.5 ppg).
Weeks 14-16: @MIA, NYJ, @DAL
Miami and New York were both top-10 defenses in fantasy points allowed, while Dallas was 28th. The Jets did surrender 26.7 points per game to WRs and 17.6 per game to QBs last season. So if Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy can get hot vs. the Jets, a trip to Dallas is enticing, since last year’s matchup saw Vick throw for 270 yards and two TDs, McCoy rush for 149 and Jackson catch four balls for 210 and a TD.
Weeks 14-16: CLE, @SF, STL
Well, the matchups are nice, but the scheduling isn't. All three fantasy playoff weeks see the Steelers playing on a day other than Sunday, including starting the playoffs on a Thursday. That's not an enviable place to be when you have to commit to a player that late in the season with it all on the line. And the matchups are all middle of the road, save for the 49ers giving up the second-most points to WRs last year (31 ppg).
Weeks 14-16: BUF, BAL, @DET
Two games at home against teams coming from the East coast is a good start to the fantasy postseason. Rivers is a spectacular December QB, throwing for over 5,200 yards, 40 TDs and only 14 interceptions in his seven-year career during the month. Gates owners should be a little wary as Baltimore and Detroit were sixth and fifth against TEs last season. He opens against a Buffalo team ranked 31st against the position.
Weeks 14-16: STL, @CHI, SF
All three opponents were in the top 12 in defending fantasy RBs last season. The matchup with the 49ers during the fantasy title game weekend is interesting for the Seahawks WRs, as San Francisco ranked 31st in the league in points allowed to WRs (31.0 ppg). All three opponents were in the top half against TEs as well.
Weeks 14-16: @ARI, PIT, @SEA
Seeing Pittsburgh on the schedule in the fantasy postseason is always scary, and even scarier when the key guy from this team is RB Frank Gore and the Steelers consistently shut down the run. Arizona (26.5 ppg) and Seattle (24.0 ppg) gave up the second- and sixth-most points per games to RBs, however, and at least 9.0 points per game to TEs.
Weeks 14-16: @SEA, CIN, @PIT
Something to consider when deciding whether to gamble on Steven Jackson: He draws the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the fantasy title game. You know, the defense that surrendered 63 yards per game on the ground in 2010 and rarely gives up a 100-yard game. Seattle gave up the third-most points to QBs (21.1 ppg) and sixth most to RBs (24 ppg) and WRs (30.4 ppg). The Bengals were middle of the road in most categories.
Weeks 14-16: @JAC, DAL, @CAR
This couldn't line up any better for the Bucs. Two games in warm weather and a Carolina defense 27th against QBs and 28th against WRs last season. The Jaguars and Cowboys were miserable against the QBs and WRs as well last year, finishing in the bottom eight against both. So if you are leaning on playing Josh Freeman and Mike Williams, this schedule says go for it.
Weeks 14-16: NO, @IND, JAC
It's hard to say what this offense is going to be like come Weeks 14-15-16. All three opposing defenses were in the bottom half against fantasy RBs last season, including the Colts (24.5 ppg) and Jags (23.7 ppg), who were in the bottom eight. Good news for Chris Johnson. But we expect the Saints, with former Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams calling the defensive shots, to improve, and the other two are AFC South rivals.
Weeks 14-16: NE, @NYG, MIN
The same could be said for the Redskins as the Titans: What will this offense look like come fantasy playoff time? Will it be back to the RB du jour for Mike Shanahan? Who will be QB by that time? All three defenses are respectable against the areas Washington may be good at: RB and TE. So for this fantasy playoff, simply run away.
More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams