Heads Up: Forecasting for the Fantasy Playoffs

by Tyler Strong ·

For most seasonal leagues, the fantasy playoffs take place during Weeks 14-16. While it’s usually a fool’s errand to factor fantasy playoffs into our drafts due to inconsistent play from both offenses and defenses year to year, this is the time of the season to pay special attention to those crucial match-ups now that we have ample data to work with. Let’s take a look at the advanced stats, metrics, and analytics and pinpoint playoff schedules to target.

New England Patriots (KC, @CIN, BUF)

The Patriots locked up their 19th consecutive winning season in Week 11. That being said, they face real competition for playoff seeding this year, especially from Baltimore, who now owns a tiebreaker over them. They face the Chiefs in Week 14, another team they’ll need to beat to secure that all important first round bye.

Check out Sony Michel on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Weekly Rankings and Projections:

Cincinnati will be more than willing to lay down for New England in Week 15, being well on their way to securing the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. The Bengals have showed little ability to stop anyone this year, and their putrid run defense contributes to New England holding the stone easiest rush schedule for the playoffs, per Sharp Football Stats. The offense as a whole for the Patriots has been a little hit or miss, and the defense has carried the team through much of the season. If there was a stretch for Sony Michel to go off, this is it. The Pats call 28 run plays per game, ninth-most in the league, and Michel’s 30 (No. 8 among qualified running backs) red zone touches means he will continue to be the beneficiary of New England’s frequent trips into scoring position.

Cleveland Browns (CIN, @ARI, BAL)

Cleveland finally looked well put together against an upstart Steelers team in Week 11. Baker Mayfield turned in a season-best performance, and the addition of Kareem Hunt (who saw 17 targets in the two weeks since his return) and David Njoku (returning soon from a wrist injury) should only improve their offensive productivity. Fire off some trade offers for these under-the-radar playoff studs while you still can.

David Njoku Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

The Browns’ opponents make for a combined bottom-5 in both rush and pass defense efficiency for the Weeks 14-16 run, and matchups against Cincinnati and Arizona should spell banner days for a team finally coming around. Baltimore’s pass defense has tightened up of late, but Nick Chubb demolished them on the ground for 165 yards and three touchdowns back in Week 4. With the Ravens sure to pour it on as they vie for a first round bye, look for Cleveland to play catch-up on their way to three spike weeks in a row.

Jacksonville Jaguars (LAC, @OAK, @ATL)

Nick Foles returned to the lineup and immediately got back to work feeding D.J. Chark, who has seen 19 targets from Foles through two games. He’s turned them into a scorching 12-150-3 line, showing that this will be a crucial connection heading into the fantasy playoffs. The AFC South is the tightest division in football, with two wins separating first from last. This means we’re heading for a photo finish to see who makes it out of the division and wild card berths are very much up for grabs.

D.J. Chark Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

The Jags have the second-easiest pass schedule for the playoffs per Sharp Football Stats, meaning D.J. Chark and the rest of the Jacksonville pass-catchers may provide blow-up weeks for those all-important matchups. Chark is top-12 in fantasy points per game, yards per target and receiving yards, and Foles is clearly locked onto him. Chris Conley has come on hot lately, so both he and Dede Westbrook are sneaky trade targets after a tough loss to the Colts in Week 11. Leonard Fournette‘s usage has been top tier, with an 88.6-percent (No. 2) Opportunity Share. Touchdown variance should snap back positively for Fournette soon, which will keep him on pace to finish as a top-10 back in fantasy this year.

Honorable mention: Miami Dolphins (@NYJ, @NYG, CIN) and Minnesota Vikings (DET, @LAC, GB)