The ultimate goal in fantasy football is to win a championship. Not only do you usually win the prize pool, you also get something to brag about until next season. The first step to enjoying this ultimate success comes in the regular season. It comes by drafting and maintaining a team that is capable of carrying you into the playoffs. By this point in the season, you may have a good idea if that’s something you have accomplished this year. However, getting there is only half the battle.
It’s not good enough to just get into the playoffs. I have seen plenty of great fantasy teams get taken down by bad match-ups or under-performing players. To counteract this, some owners will make trades or use the waiver wire to find players that have tantalizing playoff schedules. Of course, your ability to do this depends entirely upon how strong your roster is. If you’re a comfortable 6-0, you can probably count on making the playoffs. If you’re 3-3, your mind is going to be located more in the present.
So, which players can make the difference for you in the playoffs this year? Read on to find out. Playoffs will be considered weeks 14-16 for this article.
Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Rivers is currently tied for the QB5 spot with Matthew Stafford with 91 points on the season. He has found success despite losing his top targets on offense, Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen. However, this isn’t an article about players overcoming adversary. You want to know why he’ll win you a championship. Rivers playoff schedule is as follows: Carolina, Oakland, Cleveland. That’s the 27th, 32nd, and 28th ranked teams in passing yards allowed. That’s about as juicy as it comes.
Unfortunately for Rivers, he has a pretty bad schedule leading up to the playoffs. Not only does he have a bye coming up, but he also faces Denver, Tennessee, and Houston. As a result, now may not be the right time to buy him. Wait until he has a couple low scoring weeks, or until he faces his bye.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
Taylor is another interesting option for a championship winning quarterback. Starting in week 14, he faces the Browns, Dolphins, and Steelers. That’s currently the 28th, 15th, and 31st ranked passing defenses. Tyrod also has a slightly softer of a schedule leading up to the playoffs, and faces Oakland in week 13. He would be a solid option for the rest of the season for a team that’s already in good standing.
Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers
Although he has been inefficient to this point, Gordon is the running back by default in San Diego. Those inefficiencies may give you a chance to buy into Gordon, as he’s a hot name on most sell high articles (including my own). Like Rivers, he doesn’t have a great schedule leading into the playoffs, but if you can get there in spite of it, Gordon faces Carolina, Oakland, and Cleveland. While Carolina is far from a desirable match-up, Oakland and Cleveland rank 30th and 27th in rush defense thus far.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
Most of the running backs with decent playoff schedules are guys that are going to be tough to get a hold of. Lamar Miller and LeSean McCoy both have solid schedules, but good luck acquiring them at this point. Jonathan Stewart, however, should still be acquirable, although his matchups aren’t nearly as tantalizing. He faces the Chargers, Redskins, and the Falcons. None of those teams are particularly adept at denying running backs fantasy points.
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints
This pick is kind of scary, as I would be hesitant starting a boom/bust player in the 3 most important games of the season. However, Cooks faces the Bucs, Cardinals, and then the Bucs again. Cooks specialty is generating big plays and it seems fitting that an 80-yard catch and run by Cooks would seal the championship for a team this year, and he will have plenty of opportunity to do so against the weak Buc’s defense (twice).
DeAndre Hopkins/Will Fuller, Houston Texans
I know Hopkins is a big fantasy name, but if you can get someone to sell low on him, it could make a huge difference for you down the stretch. Following his week 7 match-up with the Broncos, Hopkins will not face another strong pass defense again. His playoffs consist of the Colts, Jaguars, and the Bengals. None of those teams should scare you, and it seems likely that Hopkins will get his chemistry going with Brock Osweiler as the season goes on.
Will Fuller is the cheaper option on this team, but scares me for the same reasons that Brandin Cooks does. It’s nerve-racking playing a boom/bust player in the most important games of the season. The upside is high enough that he’s worth adding in case of injury to another of your receivers prior to the playoffs. His price will be especially low following his week 5 and 6 goose-eggs as well.
Zach Miller, Chicago Bears
Tight ends are a little tougher to predict their strength of schedule, so I will trust FantasyPros rankings for these guys. Miller faces Detroit, Green Bay, and Washington in the playoffs. FantasyPros has these teams giving up above average fantasy points to the tight end position so far. Miller also appears to be one of Brian Hoyer’s favorite targets. It also looks like he plans to keep the starting job in Chicago. It seems likely that he will have a few solid performances in the playoffs this year.
Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers
There’s a running theme of Chargers players thus far in the article. They have arguably the juiciest all around fantasy schedule for the playoffs. So, it should come as no surprise that I would tell you to start their tight-end. In case you forgot, they play Carolina, Oakland, and Cleveland in the playoffs. All of these defense have been giving up solid numbers to tight ends. Assuming Gates doesn’t take his job back, Henry should be a solid stash play for your playoffs tight end.
The Texans have been a top 10 fantasy defense thus far. However, they are going to be going up against some higher octane offenses over the remainder of the season. This will likely result in them being dropped prior to the playoffs. They play the Colts, Jags, and Bengals in the playoffs, all of which are turnover-prone and have the ability to put out bad games.
Defensive units are usually undervalued by fantasy players. However, you may still have a hard time picking up these guys. If they get dropped over their bye week, or you can work them into a trade as a throw in, pick them up for your playoff run. They play the Steelers, Browns, and the Dolphins in the playoffs. If “Big Ben” is still sidelined by his knee injury by this point, the Steelers are a much less intimidating team.
Questions, Comments, or need lineup advice? Find me on Twitter @MikeTFR