With the fantasy football regular season rapidly coming to a close, it’s time for teams to start preparing for their run in the playoffs. Many owners factor in fantasy playoff matchups as early as a draft day, long before the season even begin. I am not one of those people. Although I do support the concept as a tiebreaker if you just can’t decide between two players during your draft, November and December matchups are not very important in July and August. So much changes throughout the NFL season due to injuries and coaching changes without even mentioning players who just flat out under (or over) perform. This makes it’s nearly impossible to predict with any level of confidence what players and teams are going to look like at the season’s end with any degree of certainty.
With 10+ weeks in the books, we have a good idea of what teams are good and bad, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. We can use this information now to see what players we might want to target or fade as the playoff picture comes into focus. One of my favorite tools to use when I start preparing my weekly rankings and setting my lineups is ESPN’s fantasy points against data.
Using that information, I looked at the matchups of all NFL teams during the traditional fantasy football playoffs of weeks 14, 15 and 16 (if you play in a league that uses week 17, your commissioner is a monster, and I’m sorry for you). I didn’t bother messing with teams in the middle of the pack or what I viewed as neutral matchups; focusing on the handful of teams that were either strong or weak against each positional grouping regarding fantasy points allowed. Hopefully, you find this useful and wish you success in the fantasy playoffs, unless of course, we’re in a league together, in which case I wish only bad things for your fantasy team.
When looking at fantasy points against at the wide receiver position, five teams are by far the most friendly to opposing wideouts: Tampa Bay, Kansas City, New England, Houston, and Tennessee. To a lesser extent, Dallas and Indianapolis aren’t too far behind the top 5 and might be worth exploiting in the playoffs. Five teams play two of these porous secondaries during the playoffs.
The Raiders, Dolphins, 49ers, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, but these teams all come with some questions too. With the Raiders, Michael Crabtree has been reliable most of the season, but Amari Cooper is totally untrustable, though, these are the types of matchups that Cooper does occasionally thrive on. (Editors note: Cooper will need to pass the concussion protocol and has a leg injury. Crabtree has serves a 1 game suspension this week.) I do not trust him at all but in the playoffs its win or go home, and if you’re playing it like a GPP contest, he has as high a ceiling as anybody in football.
Miami has questions at quarterback. As in which terrible QB will they roll out there in the coming weeks? Either way, Jarvis Landry gets the volume he needs to be productive and Kenny Stills has shown more than Devante Parker. With a couple of juicy matchups including the Chiefs in championship week, they’re all in play.
The 49ers are awful, but, that means they should be trailing often and with plus matchups come playoff time. Marquise Goodwin might be a valuable player down the stretch, but keep in mind, he gets the Jaguars in week 16 following exploitable matchups against Houston and Tennessee in weeks 14 and 15. The Steelers are a bit of a head-scratcher as mentioned in the QB edition of this series, aside from Antonio Brown, I can’t trust any receiver on the road with Big Ben at the helm.
The Bills are dealing with injuries to Kelvin Benjamin and some sort of morale killing controversy at QB, but if you’re desperate Zay Jones might actually end up being a key piece to a few playoff bound teams. If you’re looking to throw a dart, the Falcons’ Justin Hardy and Carolina’s Russell Shepard can be usable in a flex spot during your playoff run and both should be on waivers at this point.
Only two teams face the top five fantasy defenses against receivers; Jacksonville, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Denver. Fortunately, it’s no significant loss for fantasy purposes; those two teams are the Colts and the Texans. T.Y. Hilton has been boom or bust all year and based on his playoff matchups; he’ll probably be bust more than boom. Donte Moncrief has only had one game all season with more than 3 receptions so he should have been out of consideration already.
The Texans have Tom Savage at the helm and have tough matchups in week 15 and 16 against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. This should rule out any upside with Will Fuller or Bruce Ellington, although DeAndre Hopkins might still be a safe play due to the sheer volume he gets. Savage might be bad at football, but he will pump the ball to Hopkins 10+ times a game regardless of coverage, and Hopkins has been making the plays. Other top players that will see a single tough playoff matchup include AJ Green, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen. Although you’re never benching them without a roster stacked full of studs, it’s a good to keep in mind.