A Fantasy Streamer's Guide to the Playoffs

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It's almost time, y'all: the fantasy football playoffs are just around the corner. Maybe you've already secured your way into them, or maybe you're still fighting for that final spot, or maybe you are having a terrible year but your league has a prize for winning the loser's bracket and you are PUMPED about trying to win that prize. The playoffs can be a tough time for players who stream at any position, because the uncertainty you feel on a week-to-week basis is amplified. I streamed quarterbacks in one of my leagues last year and I made mistakes at times, but I always felt like those mistakes could be made up for, and often they were--a bad week was often balanced out with a good one a week later. But then, facing a must win game to make the playoffs, I decided to go with Colin Kaepernick (who was on a hot streak at the time) in that game where he played Chicago on the road and in the snow. Needless to say, I missed the playoffs.

Streamers know how that feels, which is why I'm here to give you a look ahead at some quality streaming matchups during the fantasy playoffs (I'll be focusing on Weeks 13-16 for this. If you play a Week 17 championship game... I don't know, cross your fingers and hope for the best, because Week 17 is impossible to really predict and next year you should just not play in that league or ask for the rules to change. Or if you're super addicted to fantasy sports then just stick to DFS that week.

If you're streaming quarterback, tight end, defense, or kickers, and need help making the best decisions down the stretch, then read on to see who you might want to pick up. Note: In each category, players are listed in the order that I personally would feel comfortable using them. All players listed here are currently 50% owned or less on Yahoo. 

Editor's note: Purchase any NFL Lineup Optimizer pass (including daily DFS cheat sheets), and you also get access to NBA and NHL Optimizers and DFS cheat sheets.

 

Quarterback Streamers

Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars, 31% owned) - Weeks 13, 15, & 16

DING DING DING WE HAVE A WINNER. Bortles has been somewhere between bad and mediocre all season (aside from that weird London game where he threw four touchdowns and single-handedly let the world know that Marcedes Lewis still played in the NFL), but he gets the following teams in this four week span: Indianapolis, Seattle, Houston, and San Francisco. You don't want him Week 14 if you have a better option, but those other three teams all rank among the worst in the league at defending quarterbacks and all have defenses that are dealing with injury concerns, talent concerns, or some terrible combination of both things. Bortles has only thrown ten touchdowns, but he also has only thrown five interceptions! This could be your streaming lottery ticket--just ignore the part where he isn't a great real life player.

Jay Cutler (Miami Dolphins, 16% owned) - Week 14

If you do decide to stream Bortles, you need someone for Week 14, because--repeat after me--can not pin your fantasy season on Blake Bortles against Seattle. That someone? Jay Cutler, who gets a home game against a Patriots defense that has given up the most average points to quarterbacks so far. Believe it or not, Bortles/Cutler could be a pair that gets you solidly by, which is really all you need from a quarterback if you've chosen the streaming life.

Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens, 12% owned) - Weeks 15 & 16

Mr. Elite gets a juicy slate of games in Weeks 15 and 16--Cleveland and Indianapolis are both in the bottom 10 against quarterbacks. Is it tough to trust a quarterback who has thrown for less than 150 yards three times this year and thrown multiple picks four times? Yeah! But with the Ravens run game seemingly vanished, Flacco threw the ball 52 times against Tennessee. He could post similar usage numbers for you during the fantasy playoffs.

Drew Stanton (Arizona Cardinals, 4% owned) - Week 16

There are worse things than trusting your championship week game to Stanton. (Really, this isn't a joke!) The Giants give up the second most points to opposing quarterbacks. Stanton just faced a 49ers team that gave up the fourth-most and finished with 15.24 points. Stanton isn't a great quarterback, but he has a slew of solid receivers, including Larry "Legend" Fitzgerald and should provide a good floor for owners who take the risk on him.

Mitch Trubisky (Chicago Bears, 5% owned) - Weeks 13 & 16

When you're streaming, you're putting a lot of faith in playing the numbers. You sometimes have to ignore a player's own past performance and instead look at what the defenses are giving up. Trubisky has looked like a mediocre game manager through his first four starts, but two things are trending in his direction: he finally was asked to throw the ball last week against the Saints (okay, it obviously didn't go well, BUT...he threw it 32 times) and his Week 13 matchup is with San Francisco, plus his Week 16 is against the Browns. I wouldn't play him for that last one if anyone higher up on this list is available, but I don't hate him as a dart throw against a 49ers defense giving up an average of just-over twenty points a game to quarterbacks.

 

Tight End Streamers

Julius Thomas (Miami Dolphins, 23% owned) - Weeks 13 & 14

Thomas is coming off his best game of the season and could see his involvement in the offense trend upwards in the wake of the Jay Ajayi trade and Jay Cutler looking competent again, two things that should lead to Miami throwing more. Thomas plays Denver Week 13, who are second-worst against tight ends, and New England in Week 14, who are 10th-worst. I'm especially intrigued by that New England game. Thomas clearly isn't the player he was when he played in Denver and had Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, but he's a solid player and a potentially  good streaming option when the matchups work out. We'll know more after Week 12, though, because Miami plays New England then.

Jesse James (Pittsburgh Steelers, 13% owned) - Weeks 15 & 16

Like Thomas, James has a Patriots game on the schedule (Week 15). He also gets a championship week game against the Texans, who are allowing about 9.3 points on average to tight ends. James has a yardage total that seems to be capped at the low-40s, but he's a touchdown threat against the right teams. These could be the right teams.

Jermaine Gresham (Arizona Cardinals, 1% owned) - Week 16

I'm not sure how long we can keep counting on the whole the Giants allow a touchdown to a tight end literally every week thing, but if it keeps up going into Week 16 then a tight end streamer almost has to go with Gresham, right? His own numbers are pretty weak, but there are some streaks that you just keep putting your faith in.

Coby Fleener (New Orleans Saints, 23% owned) - Week 15

Make no mistake: Fleener has been bad this season. But the Saints play the Jets, who give up 9.5 points to tight ends. That's really the only reason I'm recommending him, and even then he'll probably burn you, but I can't base a whole article off PLAY THE MATCHUPS and completely ignore this matchup.

 

Defense Streamers

Chicago Bears (41% owned) - Weeks 13, 14, & 16

The Bears defense has seen their scoring averaged bolstered by the two games where they scored touchdowns and looked fairly mediocre in the majority of their other games, but Week 13 against San Francisco and Week 16 against Cleveland provide the Bears with a real chance at forcing more turnovers and finding the end zone, plus a Week 14 game against the Bengals doesn't hurt either. The Bears are my top streaming defense during the playoffs because they play three teams who are in the bottom third of the league against opposing fantasy defenses.

Buffalo Bills (44% owned) - Weeks 14 & 15

The Bills defense looked really strong at the start of the season, but they've given up twenty or more (real life) points in three of their past four games and just got pretty soundly beaten by the New York Jets offense, which is a little bit of an embarrassment. They've also got upcoming games against New Orleans, Kansas City, and New England too, which will likely drop their stock even more. But then? Week 14 against the Colts--who fantasy defenses score the most points against--and Week 15 against Miami--who fantasy defenses score the fifth-most points against. Both of those are home games as well for Buffalo.

Tennessee Titans (28% owned) - Weeks 13, 14, & 15

A major risk because we've seen them get burned this season--three times they've scored two or less fantasy points--but they do get Houston, Arizona, and San Francisco, so if they above options are gone then you can definitely do worse. Just make sure you don't hold them for Week 16, when they play a Rams team that allows the fewest points to fantasy defenses.

New York Jets (11% owned) - Week 14

One deep cut here for anyone in a larger league. The Jets play the Broncos in Week 14, whose quarterback will either still be Brock Osweiler, will finally be Paxton Lynch, or will somehow be Trevor Siemian again. Whoever it is, expect turnovers.

 

Kicker Streamers

Dan Bailey (Dallas Cowboys, 24% owned) - Weeks 13, 14, & 15

Bailey is going to miss his third consecutive game this week, but he should be back in time for the fantasy playoffs. I don't think experienced fantasy owners need an introduction to Bailey, but for those that don't know: he is good. He gets Washington, the Giants, and the Raiders before a Week 16 game against the Seahawks. He isn't your traditional streaming option because he's likely to be picked up and kept once healthy, but he could provide you late season stability from off the waiver wire!

Josh Lambo (Jacksonville Jaguars, 19% owned) - Week 16

Lambo plays San Francisco in Week 16. I've said enough above about how bad the 49ers' defense is already. Lambo hasn't missed a kick since signing with the Jaguars and was a reliable kicker in his days with San Diego.

Robbie Gould (San Francisco 49ers, 16% owned) - Week 15

I am finally going to say something good about the 49ers! They play Tennessee in Week 15, who are giving up the third-most points to kickers. Gould was really strong from Week 2 through Week 6--the offense has struggled since then, scoring exactly 10 points in each of the team's three games. There's a quarterback change on the horizon, though, and that could get Gould back to the heights he reached earlier this season.

Ka'imi Fairbairn (Houston Texans, 28% owned) - Weeks 13 & 14

There's some risk here because the Texans offense doesn't look very good now that Tom Savage is quarterback, but Tennessee and San Francisco give up lots of points to kickers and Fairbairn has only missed one field goal attempt.

 

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