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Many factors determine a player’s weekly fantasy production, and the strength of his opponent is certainly one. While the fantasy points allowed by an opposing defense is a helpful projection device, many fantasy gamers overvalue its significance. Game plan, volume, opportunity share, player efficiency, supporting cast, game flow, and luck are often more determinant.
Last night, Lamar Miller faced Buffalo’s elite rush defense, which allows 5.1 less fantasy points to running backs than the average defense. Indeed, by most measures, the Bills have a top-3 run defense. This factor alone helped push Miller to many fantasy benches last night in favor of Anthony Dixon, Montee Ball, Tre Mason, Charles Sims, Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Bishop Sankey, Steven Jackson, and Joique Bell, even though Miller has been a high-end fantasy RB2 this season. Spoiler Alert: Lamar Miller posted 86 rushing yards Thursday night. Meanwhile, Anthony Dixon posted 35 rushing yards, and neither Ball nor Sims nor Mason nor Jackson nor Stewart nor Sankey nor McFadden nor Bell has eclipsed 86 rushing yards one time in 2014.
Fantasy gamers love to over-think their lineups, and over-weighting the matchup when making a start/sit decision is a classic weakness. Yet, we are not satisfied with information merely about next week’s opposing defense. Take this tweet, for example.
@Fantasy_Mansion You got anything I can read on best/worst players for the playoffs?
— Neal (@Tilersdad) November 12, 2014
Neal wants to examine fantasy match-ups weeks into future, inevitably over-thinking his immanent playoff roster. Predicting how the Bills team defense will perform against a particular player next week is wrought with uncertainty, and spinning the exercise forward by a month significantly lowers the data’s predictive qualities. Buffalo could lose a keystone defensive player like Marcell Dareus to injury next week, just as the Browns could be without Joe Haden for the fantasy playoffs. In the NFL, today’s elite defense or offensive line is just an injury away from being exploitable. Pontificating on a player’s strength of schedule a month from now equates to a fool’s errand.
But who am I to judge? I analyze fantasy football. I am the exotic dancer of sports media. For 20-bucks, I give the customer what they want. Come on baby, let’s review three quarterbacks and three tight ends with particularly juicy playoff schedules.
PlayerProfiler.com provides Upcoming Schedule data, which aggregates fantasy points allowed to the player’s position above/below the mean by opposing defenses for weeks 11 through 17. This exercise, however, only reviews quarterback schedules for weeks 13 through 16, which encompasses most fantasy playoff formats.
Tony Romo has the best quarterback schedule for the fantasy playoffs. He is No. 11 ranked fantasy quarterback this season and is playing through a cracked vertebrae. Given his good-but-not-great productivity and ongoing injury concerns, he may be acquired for a bench RB or WR in one-quarterback leagues.
Matthew Stafford is the No. 15 ranked fantasy quarterback, but his perceived value has risen with Calvin Johnson back. Even with the return of Megatron, fellow league competitors may not fully appreciate how valuable Stafford can be down the stretch given he possesses the second easiest fantasy playoff schedule. Stafford has top-5 fantasy QB upside moving forward.
Robert Griffin III
Griffin also has one of the top-5 easiest fantasy playoff schedules. As long as the mainstream sports media continues to feed on the “square peg in a round hole” nonsense-narrative that Robert Griffin III is ill-equipped to excel in Jay Gruden’s offense, he can be acquired for a low-end position player. Better get him now, before he plays against Tampa Bay’s bottom-5 pass pass defense.
If you are a former Dennis Pitta owner streaming out of necessity, or a member of C.D. Carter’s purposeful tight end streaming minion army, calculating fantasy points allowed to tight ends becomes all-the-more important. Tight end fantasy output is also particularly elastic depending on the strength or weakness of the opposing defense. With this in mind, here are three productive fantasy tight ends with friendly schedules in weeks 13 through 16.
Though Jared Cook is No. 13 overall fantasy tight end through ten weeks, Cook has only eight receptions in the last four games. No one is banging down the door to get their hands on Cook in fantasy leagues, but they probably should. In addition to an ideal fantasy playoff schedule, Shaun Hill‘s presence should provide a production boost, and Brian Quick‘s former target share remains up for grabs.
Andy Reid eluded to expanding Travis Kelce‘s role this week heading into a juicy match-up against the Seahawks who have already allowed ten touchdowns to tight ends. The clock is ticking. Fantasy gamers have less than two days to get their hands on a Greek god for the fantasy playoffs before he becomes untouchable. Kansas City has the fourth best fantasy tight end playoff schedule.
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Jordan Cameron was a consensus top-5 tight end before the season started, but shoulder and head injuries have derailed his 2014 campaign. Surprisingly, he is now available on many league waiver wires. Already working out with trainers at practice, Cameron is a good bet to return to the field on or before week 13. The Browns have a top-10 fantasy tight end schedule in the weeks ahead making Cameron a sneaky, high upside fantasy playoff stash.
Next week, we review juicy running back and wide receiver playoff schedules. Stay tuned.
Matt Kelley (@fantasy_mansion) is an XN Sports contributor and founder of RotoUnderworld (@rotounderworld) and PlayerProfiler.com, which distills a wide range of advanced metrics into a single player snapshot.
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