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Fantasy Football 2021 Playoff Matchups Analysis

The fantasy football season is drawing to close. For some of us, it’s already over. That’s especially true if you drafted one of these guys. With the playoffs coming in three weeks though, for those fortunate to have their playoff spots locked in, it’s time to think about going out and winning those playoffs. One way you can do that is by going after players that have cake playoff schedules. Cake schedules meaning the player has a few good matchups in the playoffs (weeks 15,16 and 17 now) and therefore are likely to score more. There are probably some desperate guys out there that need to make a deal. You could offer “better players” with tougher playoff schedules. Here are the five teams with the best playoff schedules, and players from those teams that could be great targets. 

All stats shown on a per game basis from FootballReference.

The Philadelphia Eagles

Week 15: Washington Football Team

The WFT, who they face twice, are ranked 24th in YPG allowed and 28th in PPG allowed. They have been terrible this year, which is a shame for them because the defense was supposed to be a real strength for the team. Getting them twice is a major boon, although that second one is away for the Eagles. For a specific breakdown, they are 27th in passing yards given up per game and dead last in passing touchdowns allowed per game. Being so terrible in the air does mean that their rushing defense is much better in comparison. They are sixth in rushing yards allowed per game, 10th in rushing touchdowns given up and 10th in yards per rush.

Week 16: New York Giants

The Giants are also pretty bad. They are 26th in total yards allowed, 16th in yards per play and 24th in points allowed. For passing defense, they are 26th in yards and 25th in touchdowns allowed. Unlike WFT though, they aren’t much better against the run. They come in at 22nd in yards allowed and 22nd in yards per carry, but they are tied seventh in rushing touchdowns allowed. That probably isn’t a product of a stout defense. Touchdowns can definitely fall under the sway of simple variance with this low of a number and sample size. 

Week 17: @Washington Football Team

See above.

Who to Target?

Obviously, the three most impacted players are Jalen Hurts, who will probably cost a fortune to get at this point, Dallas Goedert, who could be flying under the radar as a cheap TE, and DeVonta Smith, who shouldn’t cost much at all. Goedert and Smith are prime buy candidates. Miles Sanders won’t be quite as good because WFT is pretty good against the run. He should be cheap, though, and he gets a matchup against the Jets next week if you get him now. All these guys might also be easy to get because they all still have a bye. A team fighting for a playoff spot most likely cannot handle that. 

San Francisco 49ers

Week 15: Atlanta Falcons

Overall a fantastic set of matchups for the 49ers, who face two of the worst five teams in the league on defense. They begin with the hapless Atlanta Falcons, who are giving up 28.8 points per game, 31st in the league. Surprisingly, they are only 20th in yards per game and 19th in points per play. That plays out in the passing defense. They are 14th in yards per game, but also are giving up the third most passing touchdowns per game. As for rushing, they are 25th in rushing yards per game (but 12th in yards per carry) and tied-18th in rushing touchdowns allowed. The Falcons have recently been getting blown out early. This is leading to teams running a lot, so even if it’s not efficient, they are piling up yards. 

Week 16: @Tennessee Titans

Next they draw the Titans, who are 19th in points per game allowed. Not a terrible matchup, but still bottom half of the table and they’ve looked worse and worse as time goes on. They are worse against the pass than the run, ranking 24th in passing yards allowed and tied-17th in touchdowns allowed. They are actually the fourth best defense in terms of rushing yards against, but are tied-19th in rushing touchdowns allowed. Their 4.1 yards per carry ranks eighth best as well, so clearly not a team that you can run on very easily. 

Week 17: Houston Texans

Finally, the 49ers take on the Texans who’s 26.7 points allowed per game is ranked 29th. Their yards given up is even worse, ranking 30th and their yards per play allowed ranked 27th. They are terrible at defending the run and pass, which makes sense given their dearth of overall talent. They are 27th in passing yards allowed and 21st in passing touchdowns allowed. Their rush defense is 30th for yards and 31st in touchdowns while giving up 4.5 yards per rush (25th). 

Who to Target?

Overall it’s a solid slate of games for the whole 49ers offense, but particularly the passing offense. Jimmy Garopollo could be a good streaming option if you got that far doing it, while Deebo Samuel’s value (already one of the best WRs in fantasy) gets even higher. The biggest beneficiary that might be reasonable to get is George Kittle. He’ll still probably be expensive considering he’s scored three straight weeks. The high cost will be worth it with his cake playoff matchups, though. Brandon Aiyuk has also started being more involved, and might be worth a flier because of said easy schedule. 

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have been really struggling on offense recently. They could all be quite cheap if you believe Russell Wilson’s finger will heal more as the season goes on. That’s a good thing because they have a fairly tame schedule for the playoffs. If they are fighting for a playoff spot, they’ll be playing those games extremely hard. Their matchups get progressively easier through the playoffs. 

Week 15: @Los Angeles Rams

They start with the Los Angeles Rams, who are actually solid on defense. They are 16th in points allowed per game, 12th in yards. The Rams also rank 16th in passing yards allowed per game, and are actually third in passing touchdowns allowed with the fifth most interceptions. The running defense isn’t quite as stiff but is still only 11th in rushing yards allowed. Nevertheless, they are tied for 25th in rushing touchdowns allowed. At the same time, their 4.0 yards per carry allowed is fourth best in the league. It’s a mixed bag.

Week 16: Chicago Bears

It gets easier though, as the Seahawks take on the Bears, whose 24 points allowed per game is 21st. They don’t allow that many yards, ranking 11th in that category. They are also 11th in passing yards per game allowed, and tied-15th in passing touchdowns. The Bears are worse at defending the run. They’ve given up the ninth most rushing yards per game and the tied-10th most rushing touchdowns.  

Week 17: Detroit Lions

Finally, the best part is their championship week matchup, where the Seahawks take on the Lions who are giving up the third most points per game and are ranked 27th in yards allowed. Not only that, but they are also giving up six yards per play, the fourth worst mark in the league. As for their passing/rushing defensive splits, they actually aren’t doing that bad against the pass, only 13th in yards per game, but they are tied-20th in passing touchdowns, and their 7.5 net yards per attempt is the second worst in the league, ahead of just the New York Jets. That means it’s actually not difficult to pass against them, but because it’s so easy to run on them they don’t give up many attempts (second least in the league).

Their run defense on the other hand is truly atrocious, surrendering 140.5 yards per game, ranked 31st and are tied-25th in rushing touchdowns allowed. Their 4.4 yards per carry isn’t actually that bad, tied-19th in the NFL, but still this team can’t really stop anything.

Who to Target?

Overall, the best players to look for here are the Seattle running backs, who should be fairly cheap. Alex Collins is the default starter, but he hasn’t been playing that well and could be gotten for cheap. Secondly, Rashaad Penny could be worth an interesting look. He started the last game, but was injured early on and should be dirt cheap if not on the waiver wire. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 15: Houston Texans

See above. As a reminder, terrible at both but especially at defending the run.

Week 16: @ New York Jets

It took us a while, but we finally made it to THE worst defense in the league. They rank 32nd in points allowed, and are the only team letting up over 30 points per game. Unsurprisingly, they are also giving up the most yards and most yards per play as well. Passing-wise, they are again, dead last in yards allowed, and although they rank a slightly more receptacle tied-20th in passing touchdowns allowed they rank dead last again in net yards per attempt. It is not difficult to throw on this team. Nor is it difficult to run on them, as they rank 28th against the run in terms of yards allowed, dead last in rushing touchdowns given up and tied-27th in yards per attempt. The Jets defense is pretty much a magnitude worse than everyone else’s, and they are terrible at rushing or passing. It’s an absolutely incredible matchup.

Week 17: @ New England Patriots

Finally though, the Jaguars do end with a really bad matchup actually. The first two being so good carries the Jags to their top-five place, but the Patriots in the championship is a major downer. The Patriots actually rank first in points allowed and are third in yards and yards per play. They’re sixth in passing yards allowed, second in touchdowns and actually have the most interceptions per game. It is ever so slightly easier to run on them, as they rank eighth in rushing yards allowed but are still second in rushing touchdowns given up and tied-sixth in yards per carry. The Patriots defense has a good argument for best in the league right now, which puts a rather large damper on things.

Who to Target?

James Robinson, or if he gets hurt, Carlos Hyde, are the major gets here. Trevor Lawrence and Marvin Jones Jr. could be alright as well. Robinson however isn’t that sexy of a name right now and has only been solid the past few weeks. It might not be crazy to offer a seemingly better back like D’Andre Swift or James Conner who have tougher schedules for Robinson. The Patriots are also slightly worse against the run too, so if the Jags are going to get anything done versus them it’s going to be through Robinson on the ground. 

Denver Broncos

Honestly, after the Eagles and 49ers, who possess the two clearly easiest playoff matchups, there are quite a few teams that could have been in here. The Jaguars represent one archetype, where they have two matchups that are really easy and one pretty bad one. Also in this group are the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos, the Texans and the Jets. The other group consists of the Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, who face three mediocre to bad defenses, but don’t really have amazing matchups or terrible ones. I went with the Broncos because they end with two bad teams and their weak matchup isn’t TOO bad.

Week 15: Cincinnati Bengals

The Broncos start off with their toughest matchup, and if you can make it through this week it should be smooth sailing. The Bengals rank ninth in points allowed, but are a more pedestrian 16th in yards allowed and 20th in yards per play. Their passing defense is actually pretty mediocre, as they are 25th in passing yards allowed and tied-15th in net yards per attempt but do only allow 1.3 passing touchdowns per game, tied-fifth best in the league.

Their rush defense has been much better this year as they rank fifth in rushing yards allowed, tied-12th in yards per attempt and tied-13th in rushing touchdowns. As you can see, the Bengals defense is fine but nothing too intimidating, and they’ve been struggling more recently. They’ve given up 30+ in two of their past three games, which are also the first two times anyone scored over 30 on them. Were those to games flukes, or a sign of things to come?

Week 16: @ Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders aren’t bad on defense either, but they definitely have their weaknesses. First, they give up 26.2 points per game, tied-25th with the Jaguars. They are a better 15th in yards allowed though, and are actually tied-fourth best in yards per play. They are also top-10 in passing yards allowed, but are tied 25th in passing touchdowns allowed. Their net yards per attempt is actually pretty good though, sitting at fourth best in the league. Their rush defense is sort of the opposite story. They give up a lot of yards (29th in rushing yards allowed) and are tied-25th in yards per attempt, but are just tied-18th in rushing touchdowns allowed, giving up one per game. 

Week 17: @ Los Angeles Chargers

Finally, the Broncos get their easiest matchup in championship week. The Chargers currently rank 27th in points allowed, although similar to the Raiders their yards per game is a better 17th, which is also their rank in yards per play. Their passing defense looks good, as they are fifth in yards allowed and 14th in passing touchdowns, but that could be because their rushing defense is so bad there is no reason to try and throw it on them. They are currently ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed and their yards per carry is tied-29th. That is also their rank in rushing touchdowns allowed. This team can be run on for days, and that’s what almost all teams are doing as they have the second most rushing attempts per game against them.

Who to Target

Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams are clear winners here. The Raiders and the Chargers will call for a healthy dose of runs, enough to get both involved a lot. They are also probably fairly cheap, as they are in a timeshare and are currently RB 17 and 29 respectively. Jerry Jeudy is also a decent option. Again, he should be fairly cheap, but the Bengals allow a lot of passing yards and the Raiders have allowed a lot of passing touchdowns, which means he could be in line for solid days. I wouldn’t give up anything huge for him, but you probably wouldn’t need to either as he’s missed most of the year and hasn’t had any amazing games yet either.