Fantasy Football PLAYOFF Schedules to Target and Avoid in 2019

by Noah Pires June 18, 2019

Fantasy Football PLAYOFF Schedules to Target and Avoid in 2019

Josh Allen - Buffalo Bills

Current ADP: QB16, 129th Overall

What a treat, another article/video featuring one of, if not the best quarterback of all time, Joshua Allen. This time around, though, I'm not focusing as much on why I think he's #elite, rather, we're taking a look at how his early season schedule may allow the GOAT to get off to a hot start, making him a viable piece in kickstarting your 2019 szn.

Obviously, we all love Josh Allen's rushing upside. He showed he can put up big numbers on the ground against virtually any team; whether it be jumping over Anthony Barr en route to a 600 point win against the Vikings, or stomping the yard against the Dolphins like Chris Breezy, JA made money moves. A part of his game that was still lagging, though, was his accuracy, which, when your job is to throw the ball, isn't optimal. It may even be detrimental, who knows. That's like being an accountant but having to use your fingers to add 3 + 7. Anyways, his struggles with making throws in tight windows may be somewhat alleviated to begin 2019, as the Bills play three straight sub-par pass defenses in the Jets, G-Men, and Bengals. Each of these opponents ranked top-7 in rushing yards allowed to QBs last season, and none of them were "above-average" in halting QB production, as the Jets allowed the 6th most fantasy points to quarterbacks, the Bengals ranked 4th, and the Giants (surprisingly) were 16th. This potential of a hot start, paired with his elite finish to 2018, where he was the QB1 from weeks 12-17 (after returning from injury), could make him a sell high early on. 

If nobody's taking the bait after week three and you can find a replacement for the next three weeks, drop Allen and let him be somebody else's headache as he plays a New England team who held him to just 30 rushing yards last season, then heads to Tennessee, a squad who let up less than 20 points per game (and allowed the 6th least fantasy points to QBs) before going on bye in week six. If you have enough depth, pick him up during that bye (after somebody inevitably sends him to the wire like McNulty on a cold case) as he gets Miami twice over the next five weeks, a team which Allen totaled a 18/230/2 rushing line against in a couple of games in 2018, the Eagles (10th most points allowed to QBs), and the Skins (13th most). The only "tough" game over that span is the Browns, who he faces in week 10, so if you can find a replacement there off waivers, you can hold Allen for his Week 11 game against Miami, one where he should eat. 

All in all, JA only has three tough games through the first 11 weeks of the season, and if he puts up numbers anywhere close to what he produced at the end of 2018 in just 5/8 of his "easy" opponents, there's a real chance he could be a heavily sought after player. Currently being picked as the QB15, people aren't 100% sold on his ability as an NFL talent. Sure, he ended 2018 well, but did so because of his ability to create yards on the ground. If he takes the Bengals, or the Jets, or the Dolphins, or whatever terrible defense he faces over the first half of the season, for 300+ yards through the air and a couple of tugs, people will begin to believe in Josh. We saw last year just how much one performance could sway the opinion of the masses when Mitch Trubisky torched the Bucs, so if Allen does 80% of what Trub totaled, that, combined with the fact he may well have won a leaguemate of yours a fantasy championship due to his otherworldly run down the stretch a year ago, he could be flipped for valuable pieces. If not, you're still getting a QB who can easily put up top ten numbers at the position over the first half of the year not only because of his legs or his upgraded receiving corps, but also because the defenses he faces are softer than Julio Jones' hands.

After week 11 though, send Allen away with a scarlet letter, as he gets the Broncos, @ Dallas, Baltimore, @ the Steelers, and @ the Pats. The last two games aren't all too tough, but I'm not too sure Allen or anybody on the Bills will have anything left in the tank after getting shitpumped by top tier defenses three straight weeks, only to head on the road in back-to-back games in the most important matchups during a fantasy football season. If Allen was serviceable up until week 11, count your blessings and get rid of him before it's too late.

Kyler Murray - Arizona Cardinals

Current ADP: QB7, 97th Overall

Kyler Murray virtually has one bad matchup over the first 11 weeks of the season, then it hits the Cardinals bye week and it gets real tough. That matchup comes in Week 2 when they play in Baltimore. The other tough opponents, their first game against Seattle is at home and Seattle wasn't the pass defense they used to be. Week 8 they play in NoLa but that's going to be a high-scoring game regardless of if the Saints win by 42. 

The rest of the games include San Francisco twice, Cincinatti, Atlanta, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Bucs, Carolina (bottom 12 in both coverage and pass rush last year) - this schedule is cake.

After their Week 12 bye, however, the play the Rams, luckily the away game is in Week 17 outside of fantasy szn, Pittsburgh, at SEA, CLV - So no real easy matchups there.

But, I have someone that you can pair Murray with. Out with the new, in with the old. How about Tom Brady.

Week 2 - he gets Miami when Kyler plays at Baltimore. Miami was really bad in both coverage and pass rush last year. Over the last 3 seasons, in the five games Brady has played against his in-division rival, Brady has averaged 275 passing yards and 2.8 passing touchdowns/game. 

Then you look later in the season, it's not a perfect fit, but when Kyler plays PIT in Week 14, Brady's at home versus Kansas City... gotta love that matchup. Week 15 - Cincinnati another really bad pass defense last year and in Week 16 they're against BUF which definitely isn't an easy matchup, but you can find someone else.

Dak Prescott - Dallas Cowboys

Current ADP: QB15, 128th Overall

If you don't know how much I/we love Dak Prescott at his current ADP (QB16), you ain't listening hard enough. We all know his splits with and without Amari last season, but if you want a refresher, here goes nothing.

Obviously having a playmaker like Coop will help a QB when your former top-options were a rookie from a small school (Michael Gallup) and a five foot three inch slot receiver that has had more success as a soundcloud rapper than a pro receiver (Cole Beasley). Along with the addition of Amari, the departure of Beasley was matched with the arrival of Randall Cobb, who, when healthy, should be just as good, if not better, than Beasley. Now, with viable weapons all over the field (okay, maybe not tight end) and a new OC in Kellen Moore, the Cowboys may actually be able to match the passing volume which they displayed with Cooper over the second half of the year (Dak's near-36 attempts/game).

Now, as is the theme of this whole piece, the icing on the cake; Dak's early season schedule. Up until Week 11, Prescott does not play one "good" defense. I use quotation marks because there are some units who may be deemed "good", but overall, every single one allowed quarterbacks to produce fantasy points last season. The only defense who fell outside the top-13 in points allowed to the position in 2018 is the New York Giants, who the Cowboys draw in both Week 1 and Week 10, so if you want to fade that matchup (not a must-sit), either don't start him week one and drop him Week 9 (during his bye), or simply don't draft him (as he is currently the QB16, this is a viable option) and pick him up for his Week 2 - Week 8 run. Over that span he gets the likes of Washington, Green Bay, the Jets, the Saints, and a few other bottom of the barrel defenses who are susceptible to being exposed.

After his week 9 bye, though, Prescott is tasked with a handful of tough matchups, namely the Vikings, the Bills, and also having to travel to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears. These were the top three defenses in terms of least fantasy points allowed to the position in 2018, and although defenses aren't carbon copies year after year, I'd be willing to bet these three squads have as good a shot as any of repeating their dominant performance. Along with this trio, Dak faces the Rams in Week 15, which, although may be a spot where the Boys are playing from behind, may not be as fruitful as presumed due to LA's ability to limit running quarterbacks' effectiveness, allowing less than 18 rushing yards per game and not a single score to the position in 2018. Dak isn't a running QB in the sense that he looks to use his legs whenever given the chance, but his six rushing touchdowns each of the past three seasons helps his floor, so against a defense who can nullify that, the Rams may not be a team to target for Prescott.

My sentiments for Dak are much of the same I shared about Josh Allen; take him late in drafts/off waivers post-draft and use them early when their schedules are plush. Also similar to Allen, both men ended 2018 on an extremely high note, so a strong start to 2019 could make either one a coveted asset, one which can be flipped for a fairly valuable position player on a QB-needy squad. I'd venture to say Dak is a bit more of a trusted fantasy option than Allen due to his perennial QB1 finishes, so he'd be more likely to net you a valuable piece in a trade package in a sell-high situation. If not, you get a QB at the end of your draft who has a real shot at putting up top-10 numbers over the first eight weeks of the season which I'll take seven days of the week and twice on Sundays.

Jared Goff - Los Angeles Rams

Current ADP: QB12, 115th Overall

Jared Goff is being taken slightly ahead of both Allen and Prescott, currently being selected as the 12th QB off the board. Though I'm not the biggest fan of Goff at his price, it's hard to deny that he has one of the easiest starts to 2019 in the NFL.

Before his bye in Week 10, Goff gets to play six defenses who ranked inside the top 11 in fantasy points allowed to the position (CAR, NO, TB, SF, ATL, CIN). In fact, the only above-average defenses he plays are both in matchups that could potentially be shootouts, facing the Browns (in Cleveland) in Week 3 and the Seahawks (in Seattle) in Week 5. Despite Seattle being a solid pass defense, in their two matchups against them last season, the Rams topped 30 points in both with Goff surpassing 300 yards in each, but more than one tug in just one of them. Even if you believe it to be the case that both Seattle and Cleveland are defenses you want to fade for "fringey" QBs, you're still getting primo matchups in six of his first eight weeks.

After that, though, he gets straight heat for nearly the rest of his season. In weeks 10 - 15, Goff plays just one defense who was inside the top 20 in fantasy points allowed to QBs (the Steelers) while facing the likes of Chicago, Baltimore, Arizona, Dallas, and the Seahawks, again. Outside of maybe Seattle, I'd avoid each of these games since Jared hasn't shown the ability to overcome difficult matchups despite being on an elite offense, seen in 2018 where he finished a week as a top 12 QB just three times against "above-average" (ranked isnide the top-16 in least fantasy points allowed to QBs) defenses. This was all while attempting the 2nd most red zone passes and over 35 attempts per game. Sure, maybe the volume improves with a now banged up Todd Gurley, but I wouldn't bet on an already generationally productive offense to improve enough for JG to be a stone-lock against top-tier defenses.

Because of this, I offer the same advice as I did with the previously mentioned QBs: sell high. His QB12 ADP indicates fantasy players have a bit more confidence in Jared that both Allen and Dak, which should make him an easier sell. Another point you can bring up in trying to sell Goff is Cooper Kupp, who, if not yet dead by Week 9, could provide a narrative for Goff to continue his dominant stretch (assuming he takes advantage of easy matchups).

 

When Kupp is on the field, Goff is a hell of a lot better, and if you can convince somebody that, following their bye, Kupp will finally be back to 100%, it'll just be another argument in his favor when trying to broker a deal.

If you're trying to use this method to select a QB (targeting early season schedules), Goff would likely be my last pick simply because of his price. Sure, he may be easier to sell high because of name-value and the offense he's in, but personally, I'm not banking on drafting a player solely to use them as a trade chip. Instead, I look at it as if I'm using a free piece (late round pick/waiver grab) that will bring value to my team for a good portion of the season, and if someone wants to take him off my hands, I'm not going to say no. If this opportunity doesn't arise, throw him back into the wasteland from which you grabbed him. Why Goff doesn't quite fit this mold is because he isn't necessarily "free" or "cheap" because he's being taken as a QB1, so unless he falls well outside of this range, I'm not actively trying to draft him. You do you, though, and if you believe a healthy Kupp will allow Goff to overcome these tough games over the final stretch, then you're drafting Goff near his floor.

Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons

Current ADP: QB6, 90th Overall

Matty Ice has had his ups and downs, but recently, the guy has been on fire. After winning MVP in 2017, Ryan nearly matched his career year last season, throwing for nearly 5,000 yards and accumulating 39 total scores. Although he has had two dominant years in recent memory, we can't forget the valleys he's hit along the way, as just a year prior to last, he threw for a pedestrian 20 tugs and barely topped 4k like a cheap TV. No bueno. Now, heading into 2019, as the 6th QB off the board, I would personally pass on him and try to acquire Matt at a discount halfway through the season, and here's why. 

Prior to his Week 9 bye, the Falcons play just ONE below average defense (in terms of fantasy points allowed to QBs). ONE. He gets the Vikings, Houston, Arizona, and Indianapolis on the road, so, although Indy has shootout potential, it may not be so easy for Ryan on the road. The only game he plays in which I would target is in week two against the Philadelphia Eagles, a matchup where Ryan gets to play in the comfort of him own dome against a team that may be able to keep up and make it a high scoring affair. Other than that, though, for any "streaming" quarterback, none of the Falcons' opponents are ones I'd want to target. Obviously, Ryan could overcome these obstacles as he is one of the league's best, but even last season where he was absolutely dominant, against defenses that ranked outside the top 16 (upper half of league) in terms of fantasy points allowed to the position (PIT, ARZ, DAL, BAL), Ryan averaged just 234.5 passing yards and 1.25 passing touchdowns per game. Three of these four were at home, so the narrative of Ryan being elite indoors was at play,

yet he couldn't produce a reliable end-of-week finish. Much of the same could occur in 2019, where, although he gets to play each of his first 11 games indoors, the defenses which line up against him could pose a threat bigger than outdoor weather conditions. If this happens to be the case and #2 does struggle against a handful of these squads, heading into his week nine bye, people may view him as nothing more than a sunk cost.

IF this all works out, and that's a big if, then it would be time to pounce on Ryan as a value heading into the final stretch. After Week 9, Atlanta has one of the most favorable QB schedules in the league, as they don't play a team outside the top 11 in fantasy points allowed to the position until championship week when they draw the Jaguars. Their 10-15 slate is littered with divisional opponents, ones which have defenses that might as well have "Welcome" plastered in their end zone, as well as a bout with the 9ers. If Matt Ryan happens to stink it up over the first half of the season despite playing in domes, you may be able to convince whoever owns him in your league that Ryan is washed up and can no longer take advantage of those indoor games. Art of the Deal type shit. People will eat that up. If they take the bait and sell low, you'll have a QB who has as good of a chance as any to be THE QB1 from Week 10 on. Also, don't even worry about him playing outdoors after his bye week, he only gets three games where the sun will be exposed with one coming in Week 17 (doesn't matter for fantasy football), and the other two coming against San Fran (nice weather, shitty defense), and the Panthers, who Ryan has historically smashed no matter the playing conditions.

IF Ryan struggles against top-tier defenses to begin the season despite playing conditions, and IF you can convince his owner (or if he convinces himself) that we won't be seeing a repeat year out of the Falcons' QB, his asking price will be a lot less than the eight round capital you'll need to spend on him in August. Instead of Matty two shoes, you can grab a wideout with top-24 upside (Kirk, Shepard, Marvin Jones) and acquire a trade chip QB later in the draft (Dak and Josh Allen due to early season matchups) that you can flip for him when the walls start caving in on the team who decided to draft MR. That's not to say and 8th round selection to acquire a QB of Ryan's caliber is terrible, but I think I'd rather shoot for upside at a skill position rather than having to feel iffy about matchups for a good portion of my season. That's just me, though, and if you can rationalize Matt performing no matter the condition so long as when he looks up he doesn't see the sky, then he's going to be a value at his draft position. For me, though, I'll wait it out in hopes I can finesse my way into a top five player down the stretch with sweet talk your eyes have yet to be exposed to, telling the Ryan owner everything under the sun (which is a reason in and of itself since he plays outdoors) as to why I'M the one taking on the risk by trading for him.

    Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints

    Current ADP: QB8, 99th Overall

    Holy shit. I do love me some Breezus, but that early season schedule is tougher than a regular at the Salty Spitoon. Similar to the aforementioned Matt Ryan, Brees gets ONE favorable matchup prior to his bye, coming against the Buccaneers in Week 5. Outside of that game, he's tasked with a three game stretch against the Jags, Bears, and Cardinals, with the former two playing outside of New Orleans, and has other tough matchups peppered throughout the first eight weeks (@LAR, @SEA). Again, none of these are teams I'd be wanting to target if I'm streaming QBs, and with Brees being near that tier (currently QB8), I'm not so sure I'm going to be drafting him as highly as he's going (pick 97.9) due to schedule implications. Other than Tampa, the "easier" defenses he faces over this span, Seattle and the Rams, come on the road, which Brees is a situation where Brees struggles to produce in last year.

    Similar to my advice with Matty Ice, heading into Drew's bye, or even slightly before then when his owner has given up all hope, try to make a deal for the aging QB. An argument you could make, one which was used for Brady last season (and probably the 10 before that, too) is that age is catching up with the Saints' QB (40 years old) and he just doesn't have any juice left. Also, if you look at how he finished 2018, he totaled just three passing touchdowns over the final four weeks of the regular season, a point which could persuade the owner into believing Brees may not be able to recover as the season drags on. Try to sell that YOU'RE the one taking the risk by acquiring him, even though you know the big facts, because after his bye, things start looking up for Drew.

    Through Week 16, there is just one game where you can't rationalize a top five week out of DB. He gets ATL twice, Tampa, Carolina, and San Fran directly after his bye, all defenses which QBs dominated last season, and in Week 15, draws the Colts, who, although aren't ideal, gets to play them at home in what could be a shootout. Other than championship week playing in Tennessee, there isnt a single matchup I'd fade Brees in, even if he shows signs of wear over the first half of the season. I mean, we're talking about a guy who threw for less than 32 touchdowns just ONCE since 2008 and failed to reach 4,000 yards (played just 15 games so he would have topped it in a full season) in 2018, something he had come short of most recently in 2005. He truly is an elite option at the position, and although he died down a bit to end 2018, he had a three game stretch in that span where he had to play on the road, so conditions weren't optimal.

    All in all, much of the same for Ryan goes for Brees: try to buy him low. Obviously, if either man tears it up despite these unfavorable matchups, you might as well kiss your chances of acquiring them goodbye, but there's a more than real possibility that they struggle. Don't let recency bias overwhelm you, especially down the stretch when you NEED consistent production, and go for these players despite their potential mishaps. In the end, they could win you your league simply because of the price needed to acquire two elite options at the position after their owner has completely given up on them.

    Jimmy Garoppolo - San Francisco 49ers

    Current ADP: QB21, 147th Overall

    Jimmy G is an enigma. Last year, with less weapons, the guy was being taken as a QB1, and now a year later, after having George Kittle break out, a healthy Jerick Mckinnon returning, and new receivers added in the draft, he has fallen all the way down to the 22nd QB off the board. Because of the cheap pricetag and his few stretches of elite matchups, Garoppolo makes for the perfect streaming option this season.

    Taken outside the top 20 at his position means you can wait until the last round to grab him, or even wait until the draft is over and finagle the waiver wire. If you do so, you can get two extremely solid weeks out of the QB off the bat where he plays Tampa and the Bengals, two atrocious pass defenses. After this point, his schedule shows inconsistency, as for every good matchup he gets, there's a terrible one, or a bye week, just around the corner. This will make him hard to roster for a good portion of the season, so because of this, I have three really solid options for you.

    1. Trade him. I list this first because it's probably the least realistic. Maybe people will forget just how hyped Jimmy G was last year and they will be reminded of it after two cakewalks to begin the season. Maybe that run down the stretch in 2017 where he showed he could lead a(n awful 49ers) team to victory resurfaces and he once again becomes a coveted asset. Again, though, this may be tough to pull off for the simple fact that soon after these two games, he gets teams like Cleveland and Pittsburgh, a couple of formidable opponents, and a bye week in between, a scenario which may make other owners skeptical. Even though this is the least likely to occur, I'd still try to deal Garopoolo, and if there are no takers, just send him back to where you got him from: the waiver wire. If (and when) this fails, though, the second option arises.

    2. By taking/picking up Jimmy, you were already committed to streaming the position. Because of this, you probably have a few players targeted who could provide valuable performances in the wake of JG's departure. If this is the case, then you should have no problem turning back to the 9ers' QB late in the season where he quite possible has the easiest schedule for your fantasy playoffs. Only one game from weeks 14 to 16 is on the road, and it comes against the forgiving New Orleans defense. Other than that, he draws an equally soft Falcons team, and in the fantasy championship, matches up with the Rams. Sure, the Rams aren't an ideal opponent, but playing at home, in a divisional game, I think it's reasonable to assume it will be a spot where San Fran will need to score, opening the flood gates for Garoppolo to throw the ball a ton. Hell, Nick Mullens dropped three tuddies on this team last season, and with upgraded weapons on the outside at GQ's disposal, it isn't a far reach to believe he can do the same. What I'd recommend if this is the option you are favoring is to grab Garop prior to Week 13 where he plays the Ravens. Why I suggest this is because NOBODY will be trying to roster him a week prior to a dreadful matchup, but after his game in Baltimore, people will begin to notice he has a beautiful playoff skate. Get there a week early and you'll be rewarded.

    3. Lastly, and this may be my favorite scenario, if you don't mind rostering two QBs, pair Jimmy with Philip Rivers (QB19), a similarly undervalued QB who you can get at the end of drafts/off the wire. Why would I do this, you may ask? Well, their schedules match up preeeetttttttttttyyyyyy nicely.

    The only portion of the season where you can't rationalize starting either is Week 13 where both men play elite defenses and are on the road. In this place, you can drop Phil, who is coming off a bye and has three straight terrible matchups, for a waiver QB like Sam Darnold, who plays the Raiders and Bengals in weeks 12 and 13. It'll work to perfection. For the other weeks I highlighted in red (4th column); Week 6 could be a shootout for either team, Week 7 and Week 9 both QBs play defenses who fell just outside the top 11 for fantasy points allowed to the position, and week 12 Garop gets a middling defense in a likely shootout. What's not to like? Just look at that playoff schedule when combining the two QBs: New Orleans, Atlanta, and Oakland.

    If you don't mind having two QBs on your roster and your league settings allow for it (ample bench space), why not try it out?

    Also, if you're into best ball, take all three QBs (Rivers, Garoppolo, Darnold) in the double digit rounds instead of passing up on a high-end skill position player earlier in the draft where you'd need to select a guy like Luck or Watson. I get it, it's still early and things could change, but are we to expect these bottom-of-the-barrel defenses to all of a sudden become elite? I know I'm not, which is why I'm pulling the trigger on this combo whenever the opportunity arises.

     



    Noah Pires
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