Todd Gurley has been one gigantic bust of a first-round pick this season, but he may be worth the wait in the fantasy playoffs
Fantasy owners that have made the playoffs are now looking ahead to the main prize –the fantasy championship. At this point, the season consists of three wins. That's it. Teams likely need at least eight wins in order to make the playoffs in their respective league, so what's three more? Everything!
In order to be sure your fantasy team can win three more games, here is some position-by-position analysis of the upcoming Week 14, 15 and 16 schedules. Below you can find the breakdown on quarterbacks and running backs.
Best: Philip Rivers, San Diego
The Chargers will face Carolina, Oakland and Cleveland in Weeks 14-16. All three of those defenses are in the top 10 in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. While two of those games are road games (Carolina and Cleveland) and require a west coast team to travel east, the matchups are great for Rivers. Currently, Rivers is in the top 15 in scoring at his position. He is a great backup option for Tom Brady (who faces Denver in Week 15) or Aaron Rodgers owners (see below). Admittedly, the chances of Rivers being available at this point are probably slim to none.
Good: Matt Barkley, Chicago; Brock Osweiler, Houston; Sam Bradford, Minnesota
Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the quarterbacks that have good fantasy matchups in the playoffs are the ones that no one wants to start. Barkley plays Detroit and Green Bay, both of whom are among the most generous defenses in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Osweiler faces Indianapolis in Week 14, which is a great matchup. Bradford plays Indianapolis in Week 15 and Green Bay in Week 16. It's going to be hard to trust any of them, but if fantasy owners are desperate – or willing to take a gamble, they're out there.
Bad: Ryan Tannehill, Miami; Blake Bortles, Jacksonville
Most fantasy owners didn't get to the playoffs because of Tannehill or Bortles, however, if they did, they should be on the lookout for better options to finish the deal. Tannehill faces Arizona, the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in Weeks 14-16. The Cardinals are in the top five and the Bills are in the top 10 in terms of fewest fantasy points given up to QBs. In tough matchups in the past, Tannehill has struggled (186 yards, no touchdowns against Seattle; 204 yards, one touchdown against Buffalo earlier this year).
Bortles faces the Vikings, who have shut down quarterbacks, in Week 14, followed by the Texans in Week 15. While Bortles does excel in getting fantasy points in garbage time, he's going to be hard to trust, especially in Week 14. Fantasy owners that have used Bortles to get into the playoffs should be thankful, but look for another quarterback to take over.
Ugly: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Unfortunately for Rodgers owners, the Packers have the worst playoff schedule. Rodgers draws Seattle in Week 14 and Minnesota in Week 16, two of the stingiest teams in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Both of those games are in Green Bay, which is a plus for Rodgers, but fantasy owners should be a little nervous, especially if the weather becomes a factor and his hamstring injury lingers. The last time he played Minnesota (Week 2), he threw for 213 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Rodgers is second in fantasy points among all players, but his owners should be a little wary heading into the playoffs.
Best: Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati
The Bengals play Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Houston in the fantasy playoffs. All three are in the top ten in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. The Browns and the Steelers are among the top five most generous, depending on league scoring. Hill has been maddeningly inconsistent, but those who have stuck with him and are in the playoffs may have their patience rewarded.
Good: Jonathan Stewart, Carolina; Todd Gurley, Los Angeles; Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland
Good matchups are music to fantasy owners’ ears, especially those who have suffered through Gurley's struggles. The Rams, as well as the Panthers and Browns have good fantasy matchups over the next three weeks.
In Stewart’s case, Carolina will face San Diego and Atlanta in Weeks 14 and 16. Both teams are in the top 10 in terms of fantasy points given up to opposing running backs. Stewart hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game yet, but he’s shown somewhat of a knack for getting into the end zone and should continue to see plenty of opportunities.
A consensus first-round pick, Gurley has been a gigantic disappointment this season. But if his owners were able to get into the fantasy playoffs in spite of him, the investment may finally pay off. Los Angeles has games against Atlanta and San Francisco on top in Weeks 14 and 16. Both of those defenses have struggled against the run and are among the top five in most fantasy points allowed to running backs.
As for Cleveland, it's not clear that Crowell will be the lead back moving forward. Duke Johnson may have a bigger role as the Browns are at the end of a lost season. Those who own Crowell or are looking for some depth at RB may want to consider picking up Johnson. The bottom line is that whoever gets the touches will be in a good position to do some damage, especially in Week 16 when Cleveland faces San Diego. Will a Brown lead your team to a fantasy championship? Probably not, but someone like Crowell or possibly Johnson may be able to contribute to that goal.
Bad: Rob Kelley, Washington; Rashad Jennings, New York Giants
Both of these backs are probably not starting running backs for playoff teams, but if they are, their schedules are tough. Kelley had a three-game stretch of great games, but that is likely probably it for the season. He has struggled since and still has games against Carolina and Chicago on tap for Weeks 15 and 16. While both of those matchups may not appear daunting on paper, both defenses have among the 10 teams that have given up the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Jennings has been disappointing for fantasy owners all year with injuries one of the reasons, and the playoffs should be no exception. The Giants face Dallas in Week 14, which is a tough matchup. They then face Detroit in Week 15, which isn't much better. If Jennings is on a playoff roster, he probably should stay on the bench.
Ugly: Theo Riddick, Detroit; Thomas Rawls, Seattle
Riddick isn’t exactly a top-flight fantasy RB to begin with, although he’s more valuable in PPR leagues, and his production may take a dip over these next few weeks. The Lions will play both Chicago and Dallas, both of which have been among the stingiest defenses for running backs this season. And while Rawls is coming off of a monster game (106 rushing yards, 2 TDs) that his owners have been waiting all season for, the upcoming schedule didn’t do him any favors either. The Seahawks will face NFC West foes Los Angeles and Arizona in Weeks 15 and 16, two brutal matchups. The last time Rawls faced the Rams was in Week 2 when he rushed for negative seven (-7) yards. That’s not the type of production you can afford in the fantasy playoffs if you hope to win a championship.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.