Fantasy Football Playoff Streaming Options: Quarterbacks, Defenses, and Tight Ends
It’s never too early to begin looking ahead at the fantasy football playoff matchups, especially if you’ve already secured a playoff spot or expect to do so this week.
With that in mind, here’s an early look at some possible streaming options at quarterback, tight end, and defense that might just help you win a fantasy championship.
Keep in mind that many good streaming options come from unexpected opportunities presented by injuries or other circumstances. This list may look very different come Week 14, but if not, you’ll already have these options stashed on your bench when your opponents start scanning the waiver wire.
Jameis Winston (26.5% ESPN, 24% Yahoo) vs. New Orleans
As you’re well aware, the Saints' pass defense has been dreadful this year. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 24.1 points per game against the Saints in standard scoring leagues. After a rocky start, Winston has improved as the year has progressed. He’s averaging 15.1 fantasy points per game and has scored at least 12 in every game. Winston provides us with a reliable floor and a pretty high ceiling if Austin Seferian-Jenkins can rejoin the Buccaneers offense in the coming weeks. Winston should have no trouble carving up the Saints with Seferian-Jenkins and Mike Evans as his primary targets.
Jay Cutler (30.7% ESPN, 45% Yahoo) vs. Washington
The Washington pass defense only gives up the 20th most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and sits 15th in pass defense in our schedule-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics.
But since returning from injury in Week 4, Cutler has been able to post successful outings against the St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, and Kansas City Chiefs, all of whom rank better against the pass than the Redskins. It's been an impressive stretch of games for Cutler as he's tossed 11 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions over his last six games. In those games, Cutler has averaged 18.8 points, and he hasn’t posted a point total lower than 17 in standard scoring leagues.
Alex Smith (37% ESPN, 26% Yahoo) at Baltimore
Week 15 isn’t shaping up as a great option to stream quarterbacks, and Smith appears to be our best option in a road date against Baltimore.
Smith may not be an exciting option at quarterback as his ceiling is typically limited, but like Winston, he offers a reliable floor, which is reassuring come playoff time. Smith is averaging 16.1 points per game on the season. He’s had one terrible game -- a 4-point outing in Week 2 at home against the Denver Broncos -- but outside of that, Smith has not scored fewer than 13 points in any week. Here, he’ll face the Ravens' pass defense, which allows 20.8 points per game to opposing quarterbacks, 31st in the league, better than only the New Orleans Saints. According to our schedule-adjusted metrics, the Ravens' pass defense is middle of the road, ranking 18th.
Brian Hoyer (16.5% ESPN, 14% Yahoo) at Indianapolis
After he was benched after Week 1 for Ryan Mallett, Hoyer has since emerged as a solid streaming quarterback over the middle of the season. Hoyer suffered a concussion in Week 10 and may miss Week 11, but if he’s back in the Texans' lineup by playoff time, he’s worth a look in Week 15. The Colts are giving up 16.9 points per game to opposing quarterbacks on the season, and their pass defense ranks 28th per our schedule-adjusted metrics. In a Week 5 game against the Colts, Hoyer threw for 312 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, good enough for 19 fantasy points.
Others to keep in mind: Matthew Stafford is owned in 63.1% of ESPN leagues and 72% of Yahoo leagues, so there is a slim chance he may be available in your league. Stafford plays at New Orleans in Week 15.
Jay Cutler (28.8% ESPN, 43% Yahoo) at Tampa Bay
In a slightly ironic twist, you may remember that Cutler was benched in Week 16 last year for Jimmy Clausen. As of this writing, it’s looking good that we’ll avoid a repeat of that.
By Week 16, Cutler will most likely not be eligible for this list -- his ownership percentages should be well over 50%. But as of right now, he’s exactly what we’re looking for. Cutler gets to square off against the Buccaneers' 26th ranked pass defense per our schedule-adjusted metrics in Tampa Bay. The Bucs have allowed 17.2 points per game to opposing quarterbacks, 10th most in the league.
Alex Smith (37% ESPN, 26% Yahoo) vs. Cleveland
Smith makes our list, yet again. While Smith isn’t a flashy option, he gets a third exploitable matchup, and we’ve already discussed his safe floor earlier. On the season, the Browns are allowing 18.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, ranking them as the fourth most generous unit in the league. According to our schedule-adjusted metrics, the Browns' pass defense ranks 24th.
Others to keep an eye on: If you’re desperate, Hoyer gets Tennessee on the road. In their first matchup, Hoyer threw for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns, good enough for 17 fantasy points.
Jacksonville Jaguars (7.5% ESPN, 6% Yahoo) vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Jaguars rank 23rd in total defense, according to numberFire’s scheduled-adjusted metric, but they have a plum Week 14 matchup at home against the Colts.
If Matt Hasselbeck remains under center for the Colts, look to target the Jaguars defense, which is surely available in your league. In Week 4, the Jaguars lost in overtime 16-13 against a Hasselbeck-led Colts team. The Jaguars defense posted eight points in that game, recovering two fumbles and sacking Hasselbeck three times. If Hasselbeck remains under center, expect another low-scoring tilt between these two.
Kansas City Chiefs (32.2% ESPN, 54% Yahoo) vs. San Diego Chargers.
This pick is based more on the quality of the defense rather than the quality of the opponent. The Chargers rank 21st in fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses, but with a nonexistent running game and a banged up receiving corps, look for the Chiefs' defense to have some success at home.
Of their nine games, the Chiefs defense has posted double-digit fantasy points five times, including two against the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs defense has posted two negative scores on the season, but since Week 5, the Chiefs' defense hasn’t scored fewer than seven points. According to our schedule-adjusted metrics, the Chiefs' defense ranks ninth in the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers (42.3% ESPN, 42% Yahoo) vs. Denver Broncos
The Steelers own the league’s eighth best defense, according to our metrics. In the second round of the fantasy playoffs, they have a home date against the Denver Broncos, who are yielding the seventh most points to fantasy defenses on the year.
Now, this writing is coming before Brock Osweiler's first start on the season, but unless Osweiler can transform the Broncos offense into a juggernaut, the Steelers defense looks like a nice option with either Osweiler or Peyton Manning under center. On the season, the Steelers defense has posted double-digit fantasy points three times and have never posted a negative score.
Atlanta Falcons (42% ESPN, 29% Yahoo) at Jacksonville
The Falcons defense has been difficult to project this year. They have posted three weeks of double-digit fantasy points, but in what looked like a great matchup at San Francisco in Week 9, the Falcons only posted five fantasy points.
In Week 15, they travel to Jacksonville, who has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. Blake Bortles is fourth in the league in interceptions with 11 and the Falcons have collected 10 interceptions through their first nine games. According to numberFire’s schedule adjusted metric, the Falcons defense ranks 19th.
Kansas City Chiefs (38.8% ESPN, 54% Yahoo) vs. Cleveland
The Chiefs have already made one appearance on our list, but this is shaping up as their best matchup in the fantasy playoffs. As we noted above, the Chiefs defense ranks ninth in numberFire’s schedule adjusted metric and have posted double-digit fantasy points in five of their nine games.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns are giving up the third most fantasy points per game to opposing defenses. Johnny Manziel has been named the Browns' starting quarterback for the rest of the season, but he may struggle to get anything positive going against a Chiefs defense that ranks fourth in the league in interceptions and is tied for sixth in the league in sacks.
Houston Texans (45.5% ESPN, 55% Yahoo) at Tennessee
Look to stream the Texans defense on the road against the Titans, who give up the most fantasy points to opposing defenses. In the first matchup between these two, which was started by Zach Mettenberger, the Texans defense scored 19 fantasy points in a 20-6 win. Even with Mariota at the helm, the Titans have allowed opposing defenses to score double-digit fantasy points in three of Mariota’s seven starts. The Texans defense ranks 13th in our schedule-adjusted metrics.
If you’ve been streaming tight ends all season, then you know your goal is to target the Raiders. The Raiders and Saints are tied in surrendering the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.
Daniels is averaging 5 targets a game in the Broncos offense and has scored 3 touchdowns, but he’s averaging a measly 4.2 fantasy points a game and has only scored double-digit fantasy points in one game this season. Additionally, in a previous matchup with the Raiders, Daniels posted a goose egg -- yup, zero points -- on five targets in Week 5.
Meanwhile, Davis is still getting up to speed on the Broncos offense since being traded to the team two weeks ago. Depending upon who emerges as the primary tight end option for Denver in Week 14, give either of these guys a look, as they are as good a bet for a touchdown as anyone.
Coby Fleener (30.1% ESPN, 17% Yahoo) at Jacksonville
This is a slight hedge since I recommended the Jaguars defense above, but in Hasselbeck’s two starts earlier this year, Fleener saw 15 targets, 12 of which came in a Week 4 victory over these Jaguars. In that game, Fleener caught 9 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Hasselbeck is expected to still be starting in Week 14, and along with new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s expected focus on the tight end and a Jaguars defense that’s yielded the 12th most fantasy points to tight ends on the season, be sure to give Fleener a look.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (14.1% ESPN, 29% Yahoo) vs. New Orleans
Seferian-Jenkins has been a curious case this year. After going down in Week 2 with a shoulder injury, Seferian-Jenkins has returned to practice in the last month, but he’s reportedly not yet cleared for contact. If Seferian-Jenkins returns to the field before season’s end, give him a look in Week 14 against the Saints' defense, which is tied with the Raiders for most fantasy points-per-game allowed to opposing tight ends. In one-and-a-half games with Winston, Seferian-Jenkins caught 7 passes for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Eric Ebron (40.1% ESPN, 38% Yahoo) at New Orleans Saints
The Detroit Lions offense has certainly been a disappointment this year. With that said, Week 15 looks like a good time to get back on the Detroit offense as they make a trip to New Orleans. Ebron is seeing 6 targets per game from Matthew Stafford and although he has only turned that into 27 receptions for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns, the Saints' defense, as we mentioned above, has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Richard Rodgers (53.6% ESPN, 47% Yahoo) at Oakland Raiders
Rodgers may not be available in your leagues, but if he is, he has a promising matchup in Week 15. Rodgers is seeing five targets per game from Aaron Rodgers and has emerged as a prime red zone weapon for the Packers. Rodgers has secured five touchdowns on the year, including three in the previous two weeks. As mentioned above, the Raiders are tied with the Saints for most fantasy points allowed per game to tight ends.
Coby Fleener (30.1% ESPN, 17% Yahoo) at Miami Dolphins
As we’ve already mentioned, Fleener was heavily involved in Hasselbeck’s first two starts and could become even more involved moving forward with Chudzinski as offensive coordinator. In Week 16, Fleener has a date with the Miami Dolphins, who have allowed the 14th most points per game to opposing tight ends.
Crockett Gillmore (16.2% ESPN, 21% Yahoo) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Gillmore missed the Ravens' first matchup against the Steelers in Week 4 with a calf injury and sat out Week 5 as well. Since returning in Week 6, Gillmore has seen five targets per game from Joe Flacco. He’s turned that into 14 receptions for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns in four games. In a Week 16 game against Pittsburgh, Gillmore gets his first chance to go up against a Steelers defense that has allowed the fifth most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.