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Well folks, we are about halfway through the football season. The fantasy playoffs are fast approaching, and the time to make sure you are prepared is now. If you have at least 3 wins, you might still be in a position to be able to sneak into the playoffs in your league with a strong finish. All hope is not lost!

Many owners will say “anything can happen in the playoffs.” That’s not false, but counting on a series of  flukes isn’t likely what got you to the playoffs. You’ve played the matchups, made the trades, and picked up the right free agents. I am a huge advocate of drafting for depth before the season starts to get you to this point. This depth accounts for the sometimes many casualties you incur over the course of a season. If most of your team is still intact, however, now is the time to start looking to trade away some of that depth to give you a beastly starting lineup that can run train through your playoff opponents. You may get lucky with a free agent pickup or two from here on out, but in all likelihood, you aren’t getting much help off the waiver wire at this point if you are in playoff contention.

My best suggestion is to make trade offers for players with great playoff matchups.  There are a certain group of players who range from average to elite who have excellent matchups in weeks 14 to 16. In this article, I will outline some trade targets at every position, and give my “all fantasy playoff team.”


    Quarterbacks

     

    • Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccanneers
      • Matchups: New Orleans, Dallas, New Orleans
      • Dallas isn’t that terrible against the pass, but when you sandwich it between two matchups against the Saints, you start to drool a little bit. Here is a little secret: Winston is still only owned in a little over 70% of ESPN leagues. What’s more, before that enticing playoff set, he plays Atlanta, Kansas City, San Diego, and Chicago. I see him being an upper-echelon QB1 for the rest of the season, and especially in the playoffs. Grab him now before it’s too late
    • Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
      • Matchups: Kansas City, San Deigo, Indianapolis
      • Carr has almost as enticing a schedule as Winston does. Kansas City and San Diego are average matchups, but Carr has at least 199 yards and a touchdown through the air in every game this season. With either Crabtree or Cooper open seemingly every play, Carr always has a great option downfield. He gets great protection as well. The Raiders QB may be harder to acquire than Winston given his early-season play, but if you are sitting in your fantasy championship game with Carr facing off against a god-awful Indianapolis defense, you should be grinning from ear to ear.
    • Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
      • Matchups: Carolina, Oakland, Cleveland
      • Rivers feasts off of sub-par matchups, and he has three in the fantasy playoffs. Carolina’s defense sorely misses Josh Norman and Bene Benwikere. Oakland and Cleveland have been equally as porous against opposing QBs. It would be nice if Rivers had an elite receiving option to work with, but it really doesn’t seem to matter with him. No matter who he has on the receiving end, he makes weaker opponents pay. He might have the best matchups of any QB, and may also be difficult to acquire based on his early-season play.
    • Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
      • Matchups: San Diego, Washington, Atlanta.
      • Newton has faced some tough matchups early this season, and his team has struggled to replicate their dominating 2015 campaign. Despite this, Newton has some sneaky-good matchups in the fantasy playoffs. With the points he gains off rushes, he can be at minimum a QB2 pretty much every week. The former Heisman Trophy winner is a safe QB, and one that may be easier to acquire than you think. He is still capable of the monstrous stat lines he put up last year. Try and see if you can grab him now while he is cheap.
    • Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
      • Matchups: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Carolina
      • The best fantasy quarterback so far faces three defenses in the playoffs that have struggled to defend the pass? Sign me up! With the way Ryan has been playing, it may be damn near impossible to trade for him at this point, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

    Quarterbacks with bad matchups in the fantasy playoffs that would be a good idea to try and move: Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson

    Running Backs

    • Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers
      • Matchups: Carolina, Oakland, Cleveland
      • Carolina isn’t the greatest matchup for Gordon, but if you can make it past the first round you get Oakland in the semi-finals and Cleveland in the Championship game. It really doesn’t get that much sweeter when it matters most. Gordon’s entire fantasy season has been buoyed by touchdowns and volume because he is averaging only about 3 yards per carry. If Gordon is getting almost 20 carries per game, and he gets those great matchups, it doesn’t matter how he scores fantasy points. You want the guy with the hot hand in your lineup, and as long as he doesn’t cool down by then, he has been as good as anybody in the first half.
    • Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
      • Matchups: Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Cincinnati
      • We all saw what Miller did against Indianapolis in week 6. When the former Dolphin has a good matchup, he can produce fantasy points. He gets Indy again in week 13, followed by an underrated Jags defense, and then an overrated Bengals defense. Miller makes this list because he is getting good volume, and you may be able to pry him away for a decent price tag after struggling early this season. With how awful Brock Osweiler has looked, the Texans have little choice but to force-feed Miller, and that should be a recipe for success moving forward.
    • Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
      • Matchups: Cincinnati, Buffalo, San Diego
      • Unless you are a Crowell owner, this is a player that may have slipped under your radar. Crowell is quietly having a very nice season under new head coach Hue Jackson. He has some tough matchups between now and the playoffs, so my best advice would be to wait a week or two and let his stats fall. Then, buy him at his lowest price and reap the rewards come playoff time. Despite a difficult semi-finals matchup vs. Buffalo, Crowell has ample opportunity to be a stud in weeks 14 and 16.
    • Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders
      • Matchups: Kansas City, San Diego, Indianapolis
      • Just as Derek Carr makes a bonafide option in the playoffs, so does Murray. After the Raiders discovered that neither DeAndre Washington nor Jalen Richard is capable of much more than change-of-pace roles this year, it seems they have re-solidified confidence in Murray as the feature back. The time to buy is either right now, or after he plays Denver in week 9. His pre-playoff schedule isn’t great, so he is a great trade and stash candidate. The safe bet is to try and get him as soon as you can before owners realize that he has such a great playoff schedule.
    • LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
      • Matchups: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Miami
      • McCoy doesn’t have infallible matchups, but none of the defenses he faces in the fantasy playoffs would make you consider taking him out of your lineup either. For one of fantasy’s best early-season stars, he should be a top-10 running back in the playoffs. McCoy is currently dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. If you can wait a couple weeks to acquire him from a frustrated owner, that may be the best option. He will cost a lot to acquire regardless, but if you have the depth and a willing trade partner, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

    Running backs with poor playoff matchups: LeGarrette Blount, Christine Michael, Jay Ajayi

    Wide Receivers

    • Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
      • Matchups: Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Carolina
      • There may not be a better option in football now and in the fantasy playoffs. Julio Jones has been torturing defensive backs this season, and it doesn’t seem to matter who covers him. He will be almost impossible to trade for, but if you can get him, he won’t let you down.
    • Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
      • Matchups: New Orleans, Dallas, New Orleans
      • Ditto everything I said about Jones. There has only been 1 game this year where Evans hasn’t scored a touchdown. New Orleans and Dallas are just the last victims on the list of teams he dominates. No further explanation needed, if you can get him, get him.
    • Tyrell Williams, San Diego Chargers
      • Matchups: Carolina, Oakland, Cleveland
      • For all the reasons Phillip Rivers is a great playoff asset, so is Williams. Every week, Williams’ rapport with Rivers grows stronger. The big target has been on my fantasy radar since the pre-season, and now that he is seemingly entrenched as the top target for the Chargers, he is a must-own and a must-trade-for before the playoffs roll around and he wins you a championship. He can be had for fairly cheap right now, so go make that trade while he is still cheap!
    • Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins
      • Matchups: Philadelphia, Carolina, Chicago
      • Carolina and Chicago are obviously great matchups in weeks 15 and 16, but Philadelphia has been pretty darn good vs. the pass this season. Why am I optimistic about Crowder in crunch time? Because Philadelphia’s slot cornerback Ron Brooks is out for the season. Crowder caught a touchdown against Philly in week 6, and I could easily see him repeating that feat in week 13. Washington has made Crowder a focal point of the offense, and he should be a focal point of your post-season strategy.
    • Odell Beckham Jr, New York Giants
      • Matchups: Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia
      • This pick is banking on the fact that Eli Manning and the Giants offense will start clicking by the post-season. Owning Beckham has been disappointing this year, but the Giants have a lot of cake defensive matchups going down the stretch to get things going. I have faith, Odell is one of the best receivers in the league, and no cornerback on any of those 3 teams is going to slow him down in the playoffs. The idiot who traded him away for Will Fuller in one of my leagues will forever be in my fantasy doghouse, but there are people who panic in fantasy. If a panicking fantasy owner has OBJ, trade for him and watch the fantasy points roll in.

     

    Honorable Mentions: A.J. Green

    Wide Receivers with poor playoff matchups: Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb,

    Tight Ends

    • Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
      • Matchups: San Diego, Washington, Atlanta
      • You would have to pull off a heist to get the top overall tight end in fantasy football. However, if somehow you can pull it off you will get one of the best tight ends in the league against 3 of the league’s worst defenses. If you have him, you have no reason to give him up for anything short of a king’s ransom.
    • Zach Miller, Chicago Bears
      • Matchups: Detroit, Green Bay, Washington
      • Spoiler alert: Zach Miller is a top 5 tight end in fantasy football right now. He is only owned in 64.5% of ESPN leagues at the moment, which is just asinine. Detroit has been the team to stream tight ends against, so he could propel you out of your first round matchup….and he may also be free. If he is available, go scoop him up right now.
    • Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
      • Matchups: Oakland, Tennessee, Denver
      • At first glance, you may not see the appeal of Travis Kelce’s schedule. Tennessee and Denver have underrated and elite defenses respectively. However, none of these teams are in the top-20 vs. opposing tight ends. Kelce just came off his biggest performance of the season, but it is doubtful that owners outside of Kansas City are going to be extremely attached to Kelce. If you have extra depth at WR or RB and your tight end situation is lacking, make the trade to get a quality starter with a great schedule into your lineup. Streaming works in the regular season where you can afford a loss here and there, but it is much nicer to rely on established players with great schedules when it counts.

    Tight ends with poor playoff matchups: Delanie Walker, Jesse James, LaDarius Green, Zach Ertz

    Defenses

    • Cincinnati Bengals D/ST
      • Matchups: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston
      • The Bengals get two of the better matchups in Cleveland and Houston around a bad matchup vs. the Steelers. 2 starts from a defense that is owned in less than 40% of leagues is an easy stash D if you have the roster spot, or you can just pick them up a week or two before playoffs start.
    • Buffalo Bills D/ST
      • Matchups: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Miami
      • Like Cincy, the Bills get Pittsburgh, but also like Pittsburgh, they get Cleveland. The only difference is they get Miami in the last week of the season. Divisional matchups can be hard to predict, and the Dolphins are one of the most unpredictable teams in the league. The Dolphins are one injury to a starter away from being unable to even move the football. This makes the Bills a sneaky option to scoop up right before the playoffs
    • Arizona Cardinals D/ST
      • Matchups: Miami, New Orleans, Seattle
      • Arizona is one of those units that it almost doesn’t matter who they play because they are really that good. In the playoffs, they get Seattle and Miami, two teams who have trouble moving the football. Tyrann Mathieu should be back by this time, giving the Cards an added boost. Just temper your expectations against the Saints.
    • New England Patriots D/ST
      • Matchups: Baltimore, Denver, New York Jets
      • It remains to be seen what New England looks like without Jamie Collins, but against these 3 squads, it may not matter a whole lot. All 3 times are in the bottom-10 in the NFL in terms of total offense. Many teams become predictable against the Patriots after Tom Brady puts up a ton of points, which makes the Patriots a solid matchup play throughout the playoffs.

    D/ST’s with poor playoff matchups: Vikings, Panthers, Texans, Ravens

    Kickers

    Kickers are all just about picking high-scoring offenses against bad defenses. Here are 3 great post-season kickers:

    • Josh Lambo, San Diego Chargers
      • Matchups: Carolina, Oakland, Cleveland
    • Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons
      • Matchups: Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Carolina
    • Graham Gano, Carolina Panthers
      • Matchups: San Diego, Washington, Atlanta.

    Kickers with poor playoff matchups: Steven Hauschka, Mason Crosby, Jason Myers

    All Fantasy-Playoff Team

    QB: Phillip Rivers

    RB: Melvin Gordon

    RB: LeSean McCoy

    WR: Julio Jones

    WR: Mike Evans

    TE: Greg Olsen

    FLEX: Odell Beckham Jr.

    D/ST: Arizona

    K: Matt Bryant

    All Fantasy-Playoff 2nd Team

    QB: Derek Carr

    RB: Lamar Miller

    RB: Latavius Murray

    WR: Tyrell Williams

    WR: Jamison Crowder

    TE: Travis Kelce

    FLEX: Isaiah Crowell

    D/ST: New England

    K: Josh Lambo


I currently reside in Denver, Colorado. I am from Philly so I am a diehard Eagles fan. When I am not writing about fantasy football, I am probably skiing, hiking, rock climbing, or playing hockey.

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