This is a good time to take a look at team schedules for the fantasy postseason: Weeks 13, 14, 15 and 16. If your league plays Week 17, there’s no forecasting it, because who knows which backups will be playing on both sides of the ball or what kooky results will come out of it (Matt Flynn, anyone?). Don’t play Week 17.
So you already know to start guys on high-powered offenses on teams gunning for playoff positioning. But here are some anemic offenses that could get healthy in a hurry, with the right match-ups. All three are currently BOTTOM 10 in total offense. And yet, due to the vagaries of scheduling, all three have a good shot at scoring some serious points during your postseason push…
These cats have been big pu—shovers this season (thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?), much to the chagrin of fantasy owners. (Don’t even get me started on Jonathan Stewart.) But the schedule sets up nicely for you, assuming Carolina doesn’t give up on scoring points. Generally, it’s the defense that starts mailing it in late in a season – offensive players have too much individual scrutiny on them to dog it. Maybe someone will step out of bounds when there’s an extra yard or two to be had, but I think guys like Cam Newton and Steve Smith have too much pride to phone it in. They won’t let their teammates do it, either.
Week 13: at Kansas City Chiefs
I don’t know, you think the Chefs could be cooking up their off-season plans by Week 13? The game is at Arrowhead, but talk about defenses who might be mailing it in late in the year… The K.C. defense played Pittsburgh tough, but this unit is currently a Top 10 match-up for QBs and RBs, top 20 for WRs and TEs. It’s reasonable to expect good things from the kitty cats.
Week 14: home vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Birds have been dropping from the sky in defensive rankings and are now No. 20 overall (19th vs. the pass, 25th against the run). Carolina actually put up 28 points against their division rivals Week 4 in Atlanta, back when the Falcons were playing better D. The Panthers will get up for this game, so it’s another green light match-up.
Week 15: at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have been tough against the run, but you probably aren’t relying on a Carolina RB anyway (Oh, J-Stew; what happened to you?). How teams beat the Bolts is by chucking the ball around the yard. Only the Browns and Chiefs have failed to register at least one passing TD against the Chargers, and remember that Cleveland was a bad-weather game. Greg Olsen might be a sit, though — San Diego has handled tight ends pretty well this year.
Week 16: home vs. Oakland Raiders
Ah, my beloved Raiders. Unfailingly generous to opposing offenses of late, Oakland can scheme to take away the run or the pass, but not both in one game. Don’t ask them to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. West Coast team almost certainly out of the playoff race, going East for an early game… This is probably a lay-down-and-die situation for the Raiders’ “stoppers.” Start your Panthers!
Cleveland is a team with a guy you start every week (Trent Richardson), a perpetual flex play (Josh Gordon) and an emergency backup (Brandon Weeden). If Greg Little shows any consistency in the next couple of weeks, he might be back on the radar too. Regardless, due to injuries or other factors you might be an underdog looking for upside potential in your lineup. The feisty Brownies should surprise with their cupcake match-ups late in the year.
Week 13: at Oakland Raiders
Well, lookie here, it’s my Raiders again! This should be a competitive game, but the Browns have always given us trouble – Oakland has dropped four out of the last seven vs. Cleveland. Trent Richardson is not exactly a big step down from Doug Martin, so he should be a high-end RB1 here. This also looks like a great spot start for deep threat Josh Gordon, and even Brandon Weeden. Oakland is the 5th kindest match-up for quarterbacks and only the Chiefs’ receivers failed to hit double digits against the Raiders. Oakland surrendered 34 points to Baltimore WRs in Week 10, including two deep shots to Torrey Smith.
Week 14: home vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Yes, I’m targeting the hapless Chiefs the way a rookie nickelback gets worked in the slot. They’re giving up 28.4 points per game, so what do you expect? With their tendency to turn the ball over (30, most in the NFL), K.C. often gives offenses a short field. You can use your Browns here.
Week 15: home vs. Washington Redskins
The ‘Skins tend to get lit up by opposing passing games. No team has given up more TD passes and the defense’s average yards-per-reception is 12.4. Only Tampa Bay and New Orleans allow more yards per catch. They’ve allowed 8 completions of more than 40 yards, second most in the NFL. It’s go-time for Gordon! Washington isn’t bad against the run, but you’re still gonna play Richardson.
Week 16: at Denver Broncos
Okay, so maybe sit the spunky Browns in your league championship game (except for T-Rich). Denver’s defense is no joke.
The Titans are a little tough to figure right now, given their three-headed monster at wide receiver and Jake Locker’s inconsistency early in the season. But it does seem like Chris Johnson and his o-line really have it going again. I expect the Titans to be a pretty high-scoring team late in the year. I also put some credence in Tennessee’s talk about making Kenny Britt the focal point of their passing attack. We’ve seen what he can do when healthy, and he’s only now all the way back from his various maladies. If he stays in tip-top-shape and doesn’t tear one of his tissue-paper-thin hammies, look out!
See if the Titans shred Jacksonville like a scratching post in Week 12, coming out of their bye. If Locker looks good, you’ll like the playoff matchups to come…
Week 13: home vs. Houston Texans
…Except this one. Chris Johnson has come through in bad matchups before, including the first Houston game (141 rushing yards, Week 4). I think you hold your breath and plug him in as a low-end RB2. The other guys are probably benched, if possible.
Week 14: at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts’ D has been occasionally scrappy, but in the Vick Ballard Midair Pirouette Game, Chris Johnson gained more than 100 total yards and the receiving trio of Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Kenny Britt divvied up 150 yards (Wright scored). The Colts’ secondary has a lousy TDs allowed to INT ratio (15 to 4) and Andrew Luck is always dialed up at home. This one seems like a shootout and a good opportunity for Britt and Wright to go off. I’m less trusting of Washington, but he’s a deep-league play.
Week 15: home vs. New York Jets
Whoever Antonio Cromartie shadows (probably Britt) is going to suffer but this one could turn into a laugher. Sometimes the Jets’ D can be scary, but is there a team in the NFL more likely to have quit by Week 15? I would take their temperature before you go all in on your Titans here, but the Jets do have a 12-7 TDs allowed to INT ratio. Only 7 teams have executed fewer sack dances.
What about Chris Johnson? Well, the only two running games not to steamroller the Jets this year are Pittsburgh Week 2 (back when they couldn’t run the ball to save their lives) and Indy Week 6, when the Colts fell behind 21-6 at halftime and their backs totaled just 12 carries. If C.J. is rolling, he will keep rolling here.
Week 16: at Green Bay Packers
Cold weather game, relatively small possibility that the Packers will be resting starters in the highly competitive NFC playoff race. Hmm. I predict that Jake Locker will be chasing points! Green Bay gets a lot of sacks (assuming Clay Matthews will be healthy) but amazingly, they’ve only played two quarterbacks currently inside the TOP 20 in fantasy points scored. Those guys (Drew Brees and Andrew Luck) lit up this secondary. Green Bay is also a favorable match-up for wide receivers. Temper expectations for Johnson, but start Britt, Wright and possibly Washington.
Well, there you have it. You might not need components of the Top 10 offenses to get playoff production from your fantasy lineup. Good luck!