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Re-Evaluating Strength of Schedule for the Playoffs

We're just days away from crossing the halfway mark of the season. It sucks, I know, but we fantasy owners can't lose time crying and lamenting about what we can't fix. We have to look forward and always be one step ahead of our competition. And that, my friends, means we need to start thinking about the playoff stretch.

I know your teams are good enough to be already in post-season positions, and if they're not, I know you are capable enough of making amends to reverse the situation. That is why in this article I'm going to be looking at the four offensive positions (QB, WR, TE, RB) and how their fantasy playoffs strength of schedule affects each position.

The premise is simple: take the three teams with the easiest games from Week 14 to Week 16 (both included) for each of those four positions, and highlight some names to take into consideration from this point on. Some of the players will be almost impossible to get given their talent, but others will be abe to be reached either via trade or waivers, so take advantage of this information!

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Softest Playoff SOS: Quarterbacks

The most-favorable schedules during the playoffs stretch in terms of the quarterback position belong to the Tennessee Titans, New York Giants, and Jacksonville Jaguars. I know this might strike you as a really bad situation, given how none of those teams seem to have a solid player at the helm, but that is, in fact, what should make this scenario very appealing to you.

Let's go team-by-team assessing their situations at the QB position:

  • Tennessee Titans: Just this past weekend the Titans benched Marcus Mariota and ran with Ryan Tannehill as their play-caller. Through seven weeks and six games, Mariota was averaging 16.6 fantasy points per game (QB24). Mariota is surely not locked into any roster and is waiver wire meat, so keep an eye on him because you'll find him there almost every week. Tannehill is in a similar situation. He's by no means even a 2QB-league player at this point, but if he keeps the Titans afloat he will keep logging starts. I wouldn't stash either of them at this point, and in the future would lean toward Mariota as I think he'll get the starter role back eventually.
  • New York Giants: Things are way clearer in New York. Eli Manning is done for good and this is Daniel Jones' team now. After a great debut, Jones has been providing fewer and fewer points to his owners in a bit of a disappointing run through seven weeks of play. He's currently QB25 in points per game (15.5) but has had to deal with injuries and suspensions among his receivers, and he also had to deal with the backfield missing Saquon Barkley. Although his schedule ranks behind Tennessee's (Houston and New Orleans might have already clinched), both Miami and Washington are true cupcakes and Philadelphia's secondary is a mess. Jones is the safest bet for the playoffs given his situation and his matchups.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: Same as in Tennessee, Jacksonville will face the decision with their starting QB. Do they go with Gardner Minshew or Nick Foles when the latter comes back from injury? Foles was signed to a massive contract not long ago and Minshew has shown some flashes but is nothing more than an average rookie quarterback at the end of the day. While Minshew is averaging 20 points per game and has been pretty solid, I, as most experts are predicting, expect Foles to take on the starting role once he is back. No matter what, none of the two are sure-things at the position and you will find them weekly on the waiver wire. Wait a bit to stash either of them (at least until Foles comes back and the situation gets a bit clearer) but don't hesitate when it comes to getting one later.

 

Softest Playoff SOS: Running Backs

The most-favorable schedules during the playoffs stretch in terms of running backs belong to the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, and Baltimore Ravens. Although each of those teams has solid players at the position hard to find and get for free, they also have some options on their roster that could be acquired at a moderate price.

Let's go team by team assessing their situations at the RB position:

  • New England Patriots: The Patriots are featuring mostly two RBs this season: James White (13 points per game) and Sony Michel (11.5). Their other two options have been Rex Burkhead (10.7) and Brandon Bolden (7.1). James White has been the best and most solid back on the team so far, and while he's rostered in almost every league you could definitely try and get him not only for the playoffs but ROS (in all of his games he's scored between 12 and 14 points). Michel would be the second target to consider. He doesn't have a great receiving game but he's improved on it a bit lately. If you're playing in any kind of PPR-league, go after White, if not, try to get Michel. Both Burkhead and Bolden shouldn't enter your plans as they have very limited workloads, and are hard to judge week-to-week.
  • Chicago Bears: Although it didn't look like it at season's start, the Bears appear to have committed to playing just two running backs now. They have produced the same fantasy points (54, 9 per game) in six games but have two very different profiles. David Montgomery is the no. 1 rusher on the team and is limited to running with the ball (71 rushing attempts to 15 targets), while Tarik Cohen has become a rusher-receiver hybrid of sorts (20 rushing attempts, 43 targets). With both disappointing a bit this season, this might be the best time to acquire them via trade at a palatable price. Obviously, Montgomery's value comes on the ground while Cohen provide upside in PPR leagues. These two might be the most acquirable-yet-producing rushers in the list.
  • Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have a one-man-backfield manned by Mark Ingram. That, I'm sorry to say, is a bad situation. Ingram is owned in almost every league, is producing as the RB14 (16 points per game) and a lock to be featured on every lineup from this point to the season's end. The only path to acquiring Ingram is via trade. Some names that have been exchanged for him in Yahoo leagues recently include Derrick Henry, Amari Cooper, Cooper Kupp, Todd Gurley, and Marlon Mack. I'd advise against trading any of them for Ingram at this point, as you'll be losing too many points in the long run. But if you can pull something off in the Week 12-13 span definitely consider it. Baltimore's other back worth mentioning is Gus Edwards. He's a good handcuff to Ingram, but only playable if Ingram goes down injured as he's only averaging 4.3 points per game and all of his production comes on the ground.

 

Softest Playoff SOS: Wide Receivers

The most-favorable schedules during the playoffs stretch in terms of wide receivers belong to the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Indianapolis Colts. Here we come back to two of the three teams introduced in the quarterback section, which makes sense given the link between the two positions. There are a few interesting players that should be acquirable from each of the three teams featured here, so take advantage of it before it's too late.

Let's go team by team assessing their situations at the WR position:

  • Tennessee Titans: At the time of writing none of Tennessee's three-best receivers are owned in more than half of Yahoo leagues. Corey Davis and A.J. Brown are mimicking each other so far as both are averaging 9.4 points per game. Davis has 22 receptions and 34 targets to Brown's 20 and 31, while Brown leads in yardage with 337 to Davis' 317. Both have also scored two touchdowns so far. The third receiver in the pecking order has been Adam Humphries. He's seen similar volume (31 targets) but produced way less (229 yards on 25 receptions, no touchdowns, 6.9 points per game). If you can get either of the first two through waivers from Week 8 onward, you shouldn't doubt it that much. The Titans felt revitalized with Tannehill at quarterback and 10 points per week are solid for a flex player.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars have much better receivers but they'd also be much harder to acquire. You can probably forget about D.J. Chark unless you're willing to send a monster player the other way (which you probably should anyway, as Chark is averaging 17.6 points per game, has scored five touchdowns and has been targeted 48 times already). Dede Westbrook's upsetting season might open a door for a good trade. He's averaging 11.2 points and with 54 targets and 32 catches, and he has only one touchdown to his name (expect some positive regression). Finally, Chris Conley might turn into a league winner without anyone noticing. He's the no. 3 of Jacksonville's offense and he's averaging 8.2 points per game. He's getting good volume though, having already been targetted 33 times as well as having almost the same yardage as Westbrook (326 yards to Dede's 383). Conley is available in virtually every league. If you have a spot on your roster, give Conley a serious thought because his average is that of a flex-play and he's shown a 20-point ceiling already.
  • Indianapolis Colts: Same as in Jacksonville, the Colts have a clear go-to guy and then a bunch of role players around him. T.Y. Hilton, even having played only five games, ranks WR23 overall and is averaging 18.1 points per game. He's one of the most reliable receivers out there (30 catches on 41 targets), and although he doesn't have mindblowing numbers in yards (306 through seven weeks), he's already scored five touchdowns. His price is and will remain quite high, but with Jacoby Brissett tossing touchdown effortlessly you might want to trade for him (similar scenario to that of D.J. Chark). The no. 2 weapon of Indianapolis has been Zach Pascal. He's currently averaging 9.4 points per game on low volume (19 targets in six games, 13 receptions, 239 yards, three touchdowns) and he's truly efficient. Even with all of that, he's only rostered in 10% of leagues, so you might want to acquire him before the buzz gets louder. The other options featuring on the Colts are Parris Campbell (5.7 per game) and Chester Rodgers (3.9), but neither of them are potential game-changers.

 

Softest Playoff SOS: Tight Ends

The most-favorable schedules during the playoffs stretch in terms of tight ends belong to the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, and New York Jets. This scenario isn't very appealing again, right? We have teams with injured tight ends and not-so-sure situations at the position, but again, all of that should work in your favor!

Let's go team by team assessing their situations at the TE position:

  • Cleveland Browns: The Browns have already featured four tight ends this season, after being forced to do so due to injuries. No matter his current status, Cleveland's no. 1 player at the position is and will always be David Njoku. In his two 2019 games, he logged 37 yards and a touchdown on 4 receptions averaging 6.9 fantasy points. Nothing great, I know, but once healthy he'll be the second or third receiver in this offense, only behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Definitely stash him no later than Week 11, as from that point on the Browns enter a soft stretch. The other options you have available are way more volatile. Ricky Seals-Jones is the current go-to tight end, and in five games he's averaging 6.7 points, has caught seven passes and racked up 143 yards while scoring two touchdowns. On super limited usage (six targets, three receptions) Demetrius Harris has been able to score a touchdown, but neither he (1.9 fantasy points per game) nor Pharaoh Brown (0.9) are rosterable.
  • Buffalo Bills: As I said in last weeks' article about streaming TEs, Dawson Knox can be a league-winner hidden in plain sight. Knox has everything going his way. He's currently averaging 6.1 points but in a low-volume environment. He has been able to put up 178 yards on just 12 receptions to go with a touchdown. Josh Allen is an undervalued and more than capable quarterback that will only help Knox get better with more playing time. Tyler Kroft played his first game last weekend against Miami but wasn't even targeted. Had he not started the season injured we might be seeing a different situation going on in Buffalo, but at this point, it looks like Knox will retain the TE1 role going forward. Knox is not a weekly play given how randomly tight ends perform, but consider him a stash with high upside come playoff time.
  • New York Jets: The Jets, like the Browns, have had their best tight end on the sidelines so far. Chris Herndon IV already started the season as a stash until his ban was lifted, but just after coming back he suffered a hamstring injury and has yet to play this season. No matter what, he keeps being the Jets tight end to target, and much more so with Darnold back at the helm. Get him while you can as he could even turn into a weekly playable tight end ROS. While waiting for Herndon, the Jets have played Ryan Griffin but his performances have been middling at best. His average of 3.3 points per game (46 yards and a TD in six games) makes him un-rosterable, so don't consider picking him up.

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