9 Players to Target for the Fantasy Football Playoffs
"What’s that? Playoffs?! Don’t talk about...playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?"
Plenty of fantasy teams are in better shape than where Jim Mora's 4-6 Colts were in November of 2001, and owners are looking forward to the playoffs. Nine games can be enough to secure a spot in fantasy football - especially in leagues where six or more teams get in - so it's time to start planning for them accordingly.
Let's take a look at eight guys you should be targeting in fantasy football to optimize your playoff run.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
If you've been streaming quarterbacks all season, the man you may want to try and target now is Eli Manning.
Though he hasn't played exceptionally well this season, ranking 18th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), we've seen him post high-end weekly QB1 numbers (ranking first, fifth and fifth) in three of his eight games, with each of those performances coming over the Giants last five contests.
He's now owned in roughly 55% of ESPN.com leagues, and will face Tennessee (15th against the pass according to our metrics), Washington (29th) and St. Louis (27th) in Weeks 14 through 16 (I'll be referencing this time frame as the fantasy playoffs throughout the article). The last time he faced the Redskins, he, you know, threw four touchdown passes and scored over 30 fantasy points.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Speaking of the Redskins, their quarterback doesn't have it all that bad come fantasy playoff time, either. In Week 14, Robert Griffin III will face the Rams and their 27th-ranked secondary. The following week will feature RGIII against Eli's Giants, who rank 14th against the pass but have allowed three top-seven performances to quarterbacks this year. The Redskins then get Philadelphia in Week 16, a team that can create turnovers, but one that tends to allow a high number of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Just ask Ryan Fitzpatrick.
It's not an ideal situation to be playing someone like RGIII when the championship is on the line, but his schedule makes for a nice high floor throughout the fantasy playoffs.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
I've written a lot about Matt Ryan's potential down the stretch, so naturally he finds a spot on this list. With games against Green Bay, Pittsburgh and New Orleans - three bottom-half pass defenses that generally play in games with high over/unders - it's hard to not like him for the fantasy playoffs.
The beautiful thing about Ryan is that he hasn't played very well over his last five contests, ranking 14th, 19th, 21st, 23rd and 16th in quarterback scoring. Savvy fantasy players will recognize his schedule is nearly perfect from here on out, and snag him from owners who have been generally frustrated with his play this season.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
Though Ingram will more than likely lose a little volume once Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas return from injury, he should still see the majority of touches in the Saints backfield. And that could come in handy, as the Saints get Carolina in Week 14, Chicago in Week 15 and Atlanta in Week 16. Those are three bottom-10 teams against the run, per our schedule-adjusted metrics.
The issue right now is that Ingram owners are likely not ready to part ways with him. I wouldn't give up the world either, despite the nice schedule, because there's still some ambiguity surrounding the team's backfield split when all backs are indeed healthy (they'd be idiots to not get him touches though). Just don't be surprised if he dominates the fantasy playoffs.
Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets
Chris Ivory is fantasy football's 16th-best PPR running back, but is still out there in over 14% of ESPN.com leagues. I'm sure he's rostered in yours, but if you can find a way to get him on your roster for the playoffs, do it.
He's been by far the best Jets running back this season, and now has a 12 Net Expected Point advantage over the not-very-good-at-football Chris Johnson. In the fantasy playoffs, Ivory and the Jets take on the Vikings (27th against the run), Titans (28th) and Patriots (25th). He's been fairly touchdown dependent, but that may not matter during his three-week playoff stretch.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers
Like Matt Ryan above, I can't stop writing about Kelvin Benjamin's potential in the fantasy football playoffs. The rookie wideout is seeing loads of volume, dropping below the eight target mark in a game just twice this season. Though that didn't exactly translate to fantasy production against the Saints last week, Benjamin was this close to scoring a pair of touchdowns.
He'll seek revenge against New Orleans in Week 14, then face bottom-tiered secondaries in Tampa Bay and Cleveland to close off the fantasy season. Given his poor Week 9 performance, you may be able to get him cheap now.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Another rookie wide receiver makes the list, as Davante Adams continues to create a role for himself in the Packers passing attack. Though he only had one target against Carolina in Week 7, Week 6 and 8 saw Adams combine for 17. As a result, he was the 35th- and 25th-best PPR wide receiver in those weeks.
The Packers get Atlanta, Buffalo and Tampa Bay in the fantasy playoffs. Atlanta and Tampa Bay are awful at defending the pass, while Buffalo ranks sixth according to our metrics. However, the Bills still have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, making it a not-so-ugly matchup.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Though Nick Foles will be out for an extended period of time, Mark Sanchez should be strong enough to sustain a high enough level of offense under Chip Kelly's direction. Even if he doesn't, Ertz's matchups in Weeks 14 through 16 are too good to pass up.
The Eagles will face Seattle, Dallas and Washington over these three games. None of those teams really rank high against the pass, but they're especially bad at defending tight ends - all three rank in the bottom-10 in fantasy points allowed to the position.
The Houston and Tennessee Defenses
Everyone streams defenses, but most owners don't usually look more than a week ahead of schedule in order to optimize their defensive position's output. And while this recommendation may be a little too far in advance for some owners, having it in your back pocket is what matters most.
The Texans are owned in 62% of ESPN.com leagues, but have a bye this week. Owners may end up dropping them - especially in leagues with short benches - because of this. But if you have enough space, stashing them is a smart move. They'll face Cleveland, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Jacksonville after their Week 10 bye, with that Jaguars game coming during the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
After you're finished with the Texans, head on over to the waiver wire and snag the Tennessee Titans. In Weeks 15 and 16, the Titans will face the Jets and the Jaguars, who currently rank as two of the four best matchups for fantasy defenses this year.
It won't feel right, but the Titans could be the defense that wins you a fantasy football championship this season.