Fantasy owners are looking at the playoffs and trying to put their best lineups forward. It’s a tough task, but they should consider matchups as well. Looking at matchups for running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends may not be quite as beneficial as quarterbacks and defense/special teams (DSTs) as fantasy owners don’t usually stream those positions compared to the others. However, this factor is still valuable for fantasy owners to keep in mind, especially when looking at flex options.
Best Running Back Matchup
With Royce Freeman banged up, fantasy owners should look at Phillip Lindsay for the fantasy playoffs. The Broncos have the best schedule in the league for running backs. All three teams that they face are in the top five in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs. Look to start Lindsay (and Freeman if healthy) in Weeks 14 (at Houston), 15 (at Kansas City), and 16 (vs. Detroit).
Good Running Back Matchups
Dalvin Cook is insisting he will play in Week 14, which bodes well for his fantasy owners. The Vikings face the Detroit Lions, who allow the third-most fantasy points to RBs. The other two weeks of the playoffs are against the Chargers (eighth-most fantasy points) and the Packers (sixth). If Cook does miss time or is limited, be sure Alexander Mattison is owned and started.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unfortunately, it’s hard to say which Bucs running back will benefit from the playoff schedule. Ronald Jones is deemed the starter, but Peyton Barber is the one who was the clear No. 1 in Week 13. The Bucs have a tough matchup in Week 14 against the Colts, but Weeks 15 and 16 feature teams allowing the third- and fourth-most fantasy points to running backs in the Lions and Texans. Watch in Week 14 to see if a running back emerges as the leader and then start him in Week 15.
Worst Running Back Matchup
Devin Singletary owners should be aware that he has a brutal playoff schedule. The Bills face the Baltimore Ravens (seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs), the Pittsburgh Steelers (fifth-fewest) and the Patriots (fewest) in the fantasy playoffs. That’s not to say that he should be benched but just lower expectations. Frank Gore should only be used as a desperation option.
Bad Running Back Matchups
The Colts have two brutal matchups for running backs before having a great matchup in Week 16. However, in order to get to the fantasy championship, Marlon Mack (assuming he’s healthy) is going to have a rough schedule. First up for Indianapolis is Tampa Bay (third-fewest fantasy points to RBs), then New Orleans (fourth fewest). Try to keep your Colts RBs on the bench.
The Lions face the Vikings (eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs) and the Buccaneers (third-fewest) in Weeks 14 and 15. Bo Scarbrough has been the running back, and while he did have a decent game in Week 13 (83 scoreless yards), he isn’t a recommended fantasy option in the playoffs.
Best Wide Receiver Matchups
While the Lions have a tough schedule for their running backs, their wide receivers should fare better, if the quarterback play is there (and it hasn't been since Matthew Stafford was sidelined by a back fracture). But the schedule looks great for Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and company. The Lions face the Vikings (fourth-most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (most) in Weeks 14 and 15. The Week 16 matchup against the Broncos is tougher, but use the Lions wide receivers until then.
Week 14 is not a good matchup for the Redskins' wide receivers (at Green Bay), but Weeks 15 and 16 are great. The Redskins face the Giants and Eagles in the fantasy semifinals and finals. Those teams are allowing the second- and fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Keep Terry McLaurin on the bench if possible in Week 14 (his Week 13 stats were abysmal), but use him in the last two weeks.
Good Wide Receiver Matchups
Seattle Seahawks & New York Giants
Both teams have one matchup against a team in the top five of most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and another against a team in the top 10. The Seahawks wide receivers should be used in Weeks 15 (Panthers) and 16 (Cardinals). The Giants receivers should be used in Weeks 14 (Eagles) and 15 (Dolphins). However, a note of caution: the Giants will have Eli Manning for Week 14 at least, which does downgrade the pass catchers.
Worst Wide Receiver Matchup
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have the worst matchup for all wide receivers in the playoffs. They face the Patriots in Week 14, who allow the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. In Week 15, Kansas City faces Denver (sixth-fewest) and in Week 16, it's the Bears (fifth-fewest). Tyreek Hill still should be started as he is a WR1, but proceed with caution when it comes to the others (Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, etc.).
Bad Wide Receiver Matchups
After playing Dallas in Week 14 (a game in which Mitchell Tribusky threw three TD passes), the Bears have two tough matchups for Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. In Week 15, Chicago is at Green Bay, who is giving up the ninth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, and then it's home vs. Kansas City (third-fewest). Dallas was seventh in this respect before Thursday night, which saw Robinson and Miller both find the end zone. So you never know.
New England Patriots
The Patriots face the Chiefs in Week 14 (third-fewest fantasy points allowed to wide receivers), followed by the Bengals in Week 15 (10th-fewest), then the Bills (eighth-fewest) in Week 16. Julian Edelman will still have good games in PPR formats as he gets plenty of targets. However, the other Pats receivers (Phillip Dorsett) should be kept on the bench.
Best Tight End Matchup
Unfortunately, the Bears don’t have a solid tight end in order to take advantage of the great matchups they have during the fantasy playoffs. Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen are on injured reserve. Rookie Jesper Horsted has been playing tight end for the Bears. He had four receptions for 36 yards against the Cowboys. Next up are the Packers (fourth-most fantasy points allowed to tight ends) and Chiefs (third-most). Horsted is worth a look in deeper leagues based on this schedule.
Good Tight End Matchups
The Texans face the Titans (eighth-most fantasy points allowed to tight ends) in Week 15 and the Buccaneers (fifth-most) in Week 16. Jordan Akins and Darren Fells have been playing tight end for the Texans. It’s going to be hard to trust either, but those in deeper, two-tight end leagues can look at starting them.
Finally, a team with tight ends that are utilized with a good playoff schedule. Both Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert should have fantasy value in Weeks 15 and 16. They have a tough matchup against the Giants in Week 14, but after that, they face the Redskins and the Cowboys. Both of those teams are in the top 10 for most fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Ertz owners are going to start him regardless, but if Goedert is available, he may be worth adding for the fantasy semifinals and finals.
Worst Tight End Matchups
Mark Andrews has a tough playoff schedule, for Weeks 14 and 15 at least. He faces the Bills and the Jets, who allow the second- and fifth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, respectively. Andrews’ receptions have gone down in the past few weeks, but he does have four touchdowns in the past four games. Fantasy owners should still start Andrews but look at him more as a TE2 than the must-start TE1 he has been at times this season.
In the past two games, Mike Gesicki has seven targets in each. He also has scored a touchdown in each. Perhaps it was a result of the matchup, the connection with Ryan Fitzpatrick or game script, but it is going to be tough to trust Gesicki in the playoffs. In Week 14, he faces the Jets (second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends) and in Week 15, he faces the Giants (third-fewest). He may not be a league winner for fantasy owners.
Bad Tight End Matchup
After a great matchup in Week 14 (the Cardinals allow the most fantasy points to tight ends), the Steelers face the Bills (second-fewest) and the Jets (fifth-fewest) in Weeks 15 and 16. Vance McDonald has been a TE2 for parts of the season and he should be streamed in Week 14, just to be sent back to the waiver wire for the rest of the season.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.