This is the point of the year where you are either debating who to start for the fantasy playoffs – or you are looking ahead to next year. It is also at this point in the year where waivers are barren. We only have the stars that got us here and some debates on who to throw in the FLEX spot. Since the fantasy playoffs will last two weeks for most leagues, I will also go over the most opportune matchups to be played and the ones to avoid. For example, we are at a point where it is clear that the Dolphins’ and Panthers’ run defenses are far from the excellent matchups we expected. Last year both were close to being historically bad actually at run defense and at the beginning of the year they were continuing that trend. In the last 3 games, the Jaguars are averaging over 200 yards per game for rushing statistics and have now taken that place. Yardage is known as the best indicator for future success as touchdown percentage will be averaged out through a year. Let us dive into the analysis for the playoff picture.
Matchups to Take Advantage of
The Raiders Run Defense
In the last three weeks, the Raiders are the 3rd worst team in terms of rushing yards allowed with an average of 181 yards per game. In those three weeks, they have played the Falcons, Jets, and Colts. None of these teams have a running quarterback and only one has an elite run offense. This week, it is obvious that Austin Ekeler is a must-start. Next week, the Dolphins will come into town and the starter for that team may be on waivers. Salvon Ahmed is on many waivers and is worth a bench spot in case the others are injured. Myles Gaskin is still on the Covid-IR list so the door is open.
The Entire Texans Defense
This is not too much of a surprise to many but it must be quantified just how opportune it is to attack this defense. They are averaging 152 rushing yards allowed per week throughout the season. They are also averaging 260 yards per game given up to quarterbacks the last three weeks. Houston is in the bottom-10 in passing and rushing yards per game over the last 3 weeks too. It is more impressive when you consider they played the Lions (without Swift), Colts, and Bears (with Trubisky). Let us also look at the performance of the top receiver and running back these weeks against the Texans. Mitch Trubisky this past week just had the 7th best fantasy performance of the week with 25 fantasy points. Even Adrian Peterson was able to score two touchdowns and rush for 55 yards in a negative game script. For receivers, Allen Robinson and T.Y. Hilton had over 110 yards and a touchdown. Both were in a slump before the game. Hilton plays them again along with Jonathan Taylor and both are in a smash spot. The Bengals are next so we will have to watch the target distribution next week. A.J. Green might actually end up as a fantasy option afterall.
The Lions Defense
This is one option in terms of streaming quarterbacks. Ryan Tannehill has the privilege of playing the Lions defense this week and Tom Brady will play them next week. Detroit just allowed over 10 yards per completion to Mitch Trubisky and 18 yards per completion to Deshaun Watson. P.J. Walker passed for 258 yards even. Detroit is the 5th worst in passing yards allowed per game and top-5 worst for rushing defense throughout the year. The rush defense has been better in recent weeks though. The Titans enter a smash spot in the upcoming week and many experts have Ryan Tannehill rated as a top-10 quarterback this week. Corey Davis has a chance to rebound too. Tight ends have a bad matchup against this defense though so steer clear.
Under the Radar New Matchups to Avoid
The run defense has been one to avoid all year as they are still ranked 4th on the year in terms of yards per game. The scary part is now the pass defense has massively ascended to the best in yards against over the last three weeks. Remember Week 2 when even Cam Newton passed for 397 yards on this defense? Well, the last two quarterbacks have not passed for over 140 yards. Yes they had some easy matchups in the Jets, Giants, and Eagles. Each of these quarterbacks though was completing barely over 50% of their passes. Nick Mullens completed 72% of his passes just a few weeks ago with two touchdowns. Chris Carson is also back to allow opposing offenses to average fewer plays and wind the clock down. The Washington Football team and the Rams are coming up next. These players should be downgraded in this matchup until shown otherwise.
Washington Football Team and Carolina Panthers Run Defenses
The Football Team (weird to say) is not too much of a surprise here as their whole defensive line is stacked with talent. Over the last 3 weeks though, they have been giving up just 63 rushing yards per game. The 49ers leader had 65 yards. The Steelers leading rusher had 15 yards. And Ezekiel Elliott just had 10 rushes for 32 yards. Everyone on this defense is healthy now. Chris Carson should not be avoided but he comes with some massive downside in this matchup.
The Panthers used to be the team to attack for rushing. Even early in the year, Leonard Fournette rushed for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns. Josh Jacobs even looked like he could be a PPR stud with 4 catches for 46 yards in Week 1. Recently, they have been just brutal to face. They are the 4th best with 77 rushing yards per game. Adrian Peterson had 7 carries for 18 yards. Dalvin Cook then had 18 carries for 61 yards and just 21 yards receiving. Then the Broncos just averaged 3.2 yards per carry on 30 total carries in a very positive game script. They did not allow a rushing touchdown to any position over those three weeks either. Aaron Jones and Antonio Gibson (if healthy) have a major uphill battle for production if this continues. If you are thinking the Dalvin Cook game could be explained easily, look at these stats. He ran for 100 yards the game before the Panthers game and the two weeks after. Cook even just had 102 yards (4.6 YPC) against the number one ranked Buccaneers run defense.