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Fantasy Playoffs Targets, Avoids - Playing the Schedule


Week 14 is here. With that, comes the fantasy football playoffs that we all live for when we start doing the first bit of research each season. As the year has gone on, we've seen players, such as running backs Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams and Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, carve out set roles for themselves as consistent fantasy producers. We've also seen players that will show consistency for a few weeks, then they will fall off the face of fantasy relevancy.

In addition to those rock-solid players, every week has those breakout stars that can win you a week. Big games like we saw last week from San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis and Buffalo Bills wideout Zay Jones could have been targeted by looking deeper into the matchups. This week, those possibilities are still available, and we just have to look in the right places to find them.

The playoffs are when the little decisions matter the most. Looking at the points-against matchup data doesn't cover it anymore, as you need to take that extra effort this week. Luckily for you, I'm going to do that extra work for you. We're going to find a few players at each position to fade this week, as well as, a few players to consider playing in their place.

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Quarterbacks

Players to Fade

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles draw the Dallas Cowboys this week, which is a defense that seems to be hitting their stride at the right time. Additionally, the Eagles haven't looked like the world-beating offense that they were last season. The Cowboys just got done shutting down the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees. Wentz should be avoided this week on the road in a tough divisional matchup that figures to be low scoring.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Newton has shown flashes of his MVP-winning form this season, but he has been inconsistent at times as well. This week, against the Cleveland Browns, Newton faces a surprisingly tough matchup. The Browns are top five in QB rating against, and they are tied for the third most interceptions in the NFL. Newton has shown his struggles with turning the ball over, and that could very likely happen again this week.

Players to Target

Case Keenum, Denver Broncos

Keenum and the Broncos have a matchup against the 49ers this week - and while he hasn't been lighting the NFL on fire like he did last year with the Minnesota Vikings, Keenum has played well over the last few weeks. Additionally, the 49ers are the fourth-worst defense in the NFL for opponent QB rating this season. The Broncos could be hitting their stride right now, and Keenum could be poised to have a strong Week 14.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Prescott had a quiet week against the New Orleans Saints, but he is poised for a rebound performance this week against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have been giving up a lot of yardage in the air this season, and a lot of that has had to do with their banged-up secondary. They have been missing nearly all of their starters for the past month, and things don't look much better against an improving Cowboys offense.

 

Running Backs

Players to Fade

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks backfield is a committee right now, but Carson is the lead back in that bunch. In addition to splitting carries, Carson has been inconsistent at times this season, and he has a tough matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings defense has been getting better and better as the season wears on, and they cause a lot of fumbles. Carson doesn't seem like a strong option this weekend.

Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts

Mack flashed his big-play ability earlier in the season when he returned from a hamstring injury. He is the clear lead back for the Colts, but he also doesn't receive the team's full workload. This week he gets the Houston Texans defense that ranks tied for second in the NFL in yards per carry, and fifth in yards per game allowed. Unless Mack is able to bust a big play this week, he won't be achieving the fantasy value expected of him.

Players to Target

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens

Edwards burst onto the scene a few weeks ago with the emergence of rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. This week, their defense will be attempting to slow down the Kansas City Chiefs offensive juggernaut by running the ball more. This plays right into Edwards' hands, as he has shown effectiveness in being a volume running back. Against a soft Chiefs defense, Edwards is in line for a big game this weekend.

Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins

In Week 13, Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen had a field day against the New York Giants defense catching passes out of the backfield. In Week 14, Thompson has the ability to have a similarly big game. Thompson has great big-play ability, and he is great at catching passes out of the backfield. With quarterback Mark Sanchez running this offense and looking for check-downs regularly, Thompson could be in line for a heavy workload.

 

Wide Receivers

Players to Fade

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals

Boyd was a strong WR2 earlier in the season. However, most of that was due to the presence of fellow wide receiver AJ Green taking the heat off of him. When Boyd has been the team's number one receiver, he has struggled mightily. Well, Green and quarterback Andy Dalton are both out for the year which downgrades Boyd - not to mention, the Los Angeles Charges have a great passing defense.

Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans

Davis has been quarterback Marcus Mariota's favorite target this season. Unfortunately for him, that paints a bright target on his back that lures in Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Every week, Ramsey shadows the opposing team's top wideouts. The Titans offense can look solid at times, but the Jaguars defense will likely make them rather pedestrian this week and neutralize Davis in the process.

Players to Target

Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Humphries has been on a role as of late. Quarterback Jameis Winston has looked his way often, and against New Orleans Saints cornerback PJ Williams he has an excellent matchup. Due to the presence of fellow wideout Mike Evans, Humphries gets a lot of the attention taken off of him. The Buccaneers could easily get into a shootout this week that will lead to more chances for Humphries to score points.

Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos

Sutton has gradually taken on more and more of a workload in the past few weeks since the Demaryius Thomas trade, and he took full advantage last week when he caught four long passes including a touchdown against the Bengals. Like his quarterback, he has a great matchup against the 49ers. Sutton doesn't have the same name recognition as his teammate Emmanuel Sanders, but he has a great opportunity to put up fantasy points this week.

 

Tight Ends

Players to Fade

Trey Burton, Chicago Bears

Burton came into the season with a ton of hype in the Chicago Bears offense. He has yet to truly capitalize on that hype despite the elite production put up by the offense. This week, they have to play against the Los Angeles Rams, who are not an elite defense - but Burton doesn't figure to be an important piece of the offensive scheme, and I don't expect him to have a strong fantasy performance this week.

Players to Target

Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers

Thomas slotted right in after the loss of fellow tight end Greg Olsen. He finished the team's Week 13 matchup with five catches for 46 yards. Olsen is a major piece of this offense when healthy, which gives Thomas a huge opportunity to fill in and become a major threat at the tight end position. Against the Cleveland Browns, with fantasy tight end at a brutal level of talent, Thomas has a fairly easy path to fantasy relevance.

 

Defense/Special Teams

Players to Fade

Houston Texans

Last week, the Colts offense put up no points against an elite Jacksonville Jaguars unit. While the Texans are not an easy bunch to score points on, the Colts are a much better offense than what they showed last week. Quarterback Andrew Luck can move the ball against this group, and the offensive line has done a great job of keeping him upright this year. This game has shootout potential, which is bad news for defenses in fantasy.

Players to Target

Buffalo Bills

The Bills defense started the year slow, but they have been coming along stronger as the season has gone on. This week they have a matchup against the New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who has struggled to take care of the ball this season. This isn't the same elite unit that helped carry them to the playoffs last season, but it's solid. This group has the ability to put up a decent amount of points this week.

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