Fantasy Playoff Preparation: Strength of Schedule, Part 2

By Alex McCarthy
Alex McCarthy If you missed the first part of the article you can find it (and a longer description of what is about to follow) here, but the gist of it is this: over the course of the fantasy playoffs in weeks 14-16, some players have two out of their three matchups against top-10 or bottom-10 defenses (against their respective positions). These players can be the reason you win or lose in the playoffs, and should be bought or sold as such. The quarterbacks, tight ends, and defenses that satisfy those criteria and are worth buying (or selling) are as follows.

Notes: Playoff opponents are listed next to players in chronological order from weeks 14-16, and the numbered ranks in parentheses are in terms of favorability for “buys” and unfavorability for “sells” (so the team giving up the most points to RBs would have the number (1) next to it in the “buy” section, and the team giving up the fewest points to RBs would have the number (1) next to it in the “sell” section). Also, rankings are done according to standard scoring.

Quarterback Buys

Ben Roethlisberger: Baltimore (31), New England (1), Houston (4)
Big Ben has an always-challenging matchip against Baltimore in week 14, but if you have a bye week he couldn’t be more ideal as a playoff QB. In week 15 he plays the defense giving up the most points in the league to quarterbacks, and in week 16 he has the most dangerous pass-catchers in the league to throw to against a defense that can only defend the run. His relative inconsistency should also make him fairly cheap to obtain, so for QB-needy teams he could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Tyrod Taylor: Indy (10), Miami (19), New England (1)
Tyrod is particularly notable for playing against the worst defense in the league during championship week (in most leagues), but a matchup against a weak Indy defense in week 14 is also tempting and Miami, while not especially weak against quarterbacks, is not particularly frightening in week 15.

Marcus Mariota: Arizona (5), San Francisco (3), LAR (24)
Mariota has had his struggles this season due in large part to an injured or underperforming supporting cast, which means he could be available for relatively cheap. With the health of his receivers improving and matchups against Arizona and San Francisco in weeks 14 and 15, Mariota has the best schedule to *get* you to the championship. Though the Rams, his week 16 matchup, have been unfriendly to QBs in the past, their explosive offense could lead to game script that sees Mariota airing it out a lot in championship week.

Philip Rivers: Washington (12), Kansas City (6), NYJ (9)
Rivers has the most consistently friendly schedule of all quarterbacks throughout the playoffs, although none of the matchups are against teams in the bottom-five. Still, if you are looking for a QB who won’t cost you a fortune and can game-manage an otherwise solid roster to a championship, Rivers could be your guy.

Quarterback Sells

Russell Wilson: Jacksonville (1), LAR (9), Dallas (20)
Wilson has already struggled this season, and he is unlikely to help owners advance in the playoffs due to the worst possible matchup against the Jaguars in week 14. Even in the unlikely event that someone starting Wilson wins that matchup, they would still have a top-ten QB defense to look forward to the following week in the Rams. Long story short, Wilson is not going to be the guy to take you to the championship game this year so sell him if you can.

Andy Dalton: Chicago (5), Minnesota (4), Detroit (11)
Yes yes I know, it’s not like there are a lot of Andy Dalton buyers out there at the moment anyway. But it is worth noting now that if Dalton is your primary quarterback, you need to start looking hard for another one. His talent plus AJ Green is generally enough to make him a replacement-level fantasy QB and he could potentially lead teams to a championship in a Flacco-esque scenario some years, but with two consecutive top-5 QB defenses in weeks 14 and 15, this is not that year.

Tom Brady: Miami (14), Pittsburgh (3), Buffalo (6)
Ya, you heard me. I’m calling out the GOAT himself. I fully realize that somehow Tom Brady will find out that someone, somewhere, recommended selling him and will go off for three straight fifty point games in retaliation. However, Brady is one of the few QBs who can fetch solid standalone value, so if you could ship him off for someone like Roethlisberger + a needed WR/RB/TE you should do it. Tom Brady will always put up points, but matchups against two top-6 defenses in weeks 15 and 16 are reason for pause.

Tight End Buys

Hunter Henry: Washington (4), Kansas City (19), NYJ (5)
I. Love. Hunter. Henry. Not only is he going to continue to develop and blow up into a perennial top-6 TE, but he plays against two bottom-5 defenses against tight ends in the playoffs this year. His week 15 matchup against Kansas City is only middling, but a championship week tilt with the Jets could provide him with the opportunity to be the guy who puts you over the edge.

AJ Derby: NYJ (5), Indy (12), Washington (4)
Derby has not been particularly impressive yet, but he catches the most passes of Denver TEs and his worst playoff matchup is against the still-relatively-weak-against-TE Colts. He also plays the Redskins in week 16, meaning he has one of the best championship week matchups for TEs.

Charles Clay: Indy (12), Miami (7), New England (8)
Before his injury Clay was showing excellent chemistry with Tyrod Taylor, and like Derby his worst matchup in the playoffs is against the Colts. His lack of recent production means he should probably be relatively cheap, and a combination of talent, chemistry, and favorable playoff matchups make him a solid investment.

Tight End Sells

Ed Dickson: Minnesota (11), Green Bay (1), Tampa Bay (7)
Dickson has been an extremely pleasant surprise so far for those who picked him up off the wire, but his magic is going to run out come playoff time. He plays three of the worst eleven TE matchups in weeks 14-16, including worst overall Green Bay in week 15.

Kyle Rudolph: Carolina (12), Cincinnati (9), Green Bay (1)
Kyle Rudolph has the name recognition and history of production to garner some real trade value, so he should absolutely be moved now by teams who are certain or near-certain that they are making the playoffs. His matchups for weeks 14-16 all fall within the worst twelve in the league, and he plays the worst overall Packers in championship week. Try and unload him for one of my TE buys+ if possible.

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins: Denver (31), New Orleans (8), LAC (2)
ASJ surprised everyone this year just by tying his shoes correctly, let alone running precise routes, but as with Dickson the pleasant surprises will stop come playoff time. His matchups in weeks 15 and 16 against the eighth and second-toughest TE defenses make him a weak option for teams looking to bring home a championship.

Defense Buys

Baltimore D: Pittsburgh (16), Cleveland (3), Indy (1)
The Baltimore defense has been staggeringly inconsistent this year, sometimes looking like world beaters and other times getting stomped into the dirt. However, this could work in your favor as it means they are probably still attainable and they have absolutely fantastic matchups in weeks 15 and 16. You’ll probably have to stream someone else in week 14 unless you have a bye, but in the semis and championship there’s no defense I’d rather have than the Ravens.

Washington D: LAC (26), Arizona (8), Denver (2)
Like Baltimore, if you grab the Washington D you will have to stream someone else in week 14 unless you have a bye. However, matchups in weeks 15 and 16 against two teams that essentially have no quarterback is a recipe for pick-sixes and just turnovers in general. If the Redskins D is available, grab and stash them now.

Chicago D: Cincinnati (7), Detroit (12), Cleveland (3)
Week 15 against Detroit is only a decent matchup, but week 14 against a mess of a Bengals offense and week 16 against the annual Cleveland garbage fire make the Chicago D a solid stash if you can grab them off the waiver wire.

Detroit D: Tampa Bay (14), Chicago (4), Cincinnati (7)
The Lions are an opportunistic defense that plays an offense with a rookie QB in week 15 and the aforementioned Bengals mess in championship week, making them an attractive option for playoff contenders (especially to Lions homers such as myself). Like Chicago and Washington they are not worth trading for, but they are a solid stash off the wire.

And that’s it! Best of luck to all of you in your trading endeavours, and if any advice I had to offer leads to you winning a championship this year, please feel free to feed my massive ego and drop me a PM on Reddit (u/JanMichaelLarkin). May the Gods of Fantasy be with you all.