Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Playoff Primer: Fantasy Football Player Strength of Schedule Analysis

This week’s focus will be all about gearing up for the fantasy playoffs. Generally, this will run from Week 14-17. While the first 13 weeks are important to get you a top spot in the playoffs, once that time rolls around, everyone starts back at 0-0. So getting ready for this event is a must.
The following post is going to tell you everything that you need to know about starting quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers in the fantasy playoffs. We have an in-depth breakdown of the strength of schedule for each one of these positions from Week 14 to Week 17. When making a trade offer or thinking of accepting one, always come back to this post.
Some of you are likely great with your teams, and I believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Any team that is on the bubble or really struggling to make a top spot will need to make some splashes in the coming weeks to get into the playoffs. For the next week or two, study these charts, take a look at the other teams in your league and ask any question you have on GHL. By the end of Week 11, it will be high time to start making the moves that you need to solidify your playoff performance.
While injuries will lead to some decent Waiver Wire pickups from here on out, your best bet to improve your team is through trades. There are a lot of factors to look at here, but the one that we will be focusing on today is fantasy football playoff strength of schedule.
There is a fine line that you shouldn’t cross when considering this statistic. While the defense teams are facing has a good amount to do with the success that they will see, you need to keep the players talent level in perspective. For example, the Chicago Bears’ receivers will have the easiest schedule from Week 14-17, but starting Knox, Bennett or Hester over a top performing receiver is absurd. So use the following statistics wisely.
These tables are meant to be used in evaluating your trades. The first thing you should look at is the past. The history of the particular player says a lot more about them than the future. But if you are in line to give up a running back who has very similar statistics compared to the running back you will receive, these rankings will certainly help make your decision easier.
Let’s being by looking at how the defenses rank up. In the following chart you will see each team, and how their defense ranks in terms of fantasy points given up at the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions. Defenses are ranked from 1-32, with 1 being the least points against and 32 being the most points against.
(All research done in the following charts was conducted on
Atlanta Falcons19721
Arizona Cardinals251728
Baltimore Ravens319
Buffalo Bills161822
Carolina Panthers17323
Chicago Bears222017
Cincinnati Bengals786
Cleveland Browns2151
Dallas Cowboys9146
Denver Broncos323232
Detroit Lions5513
Green Bay Packers301130
Houston Texans4614
Indianapolis Colts272429
Jacksonville Jaguars10105
Kansas City Chiefs212720
Miami Dolphins29324
Minnesota Vikings281827
New England Patriots312531
New Orleans Saints181215
New York Giants112925
New York Jets1284
Oakland Raiders262316
Philadelphia Eagles12308
Pittsburgh Steelers6162
San Diego Chargers14410
San Francisco 49ers20223
Seattle Seahawks12918
St. Louis Rams232625
Tampa Bay Buccaneers243119
Tennessee Titans152212
Washington Redskins81311
Knowing the strength of the defense is pivotal in predicting which players will be able to turn on the burners during the fantasy football playoff season.
Fantasy Football Playoffs: Quarterback Strength of Schedule
Next, we break down the quarterback position. This chart shows you the strength of the defense that each quarterback will face from Week 14 to Week 17. They are ordered based on the overall total of the four week span.
QuarterbackWeek 14Week 15Week 16Week 17Total
Ryan Fitzpatrick14322931106
Jay Cutler32123028102
Matt Stafford2826143098
Tim Tebow2231162190
Tarvaris Jackson2322202590
Matt Cassel130263289
Tom Brady829321685
Blaine Gabbert2419152785
John Beck3111281282
Drew Brees1528191779
Aaron Rodgers262122574
Mark Sanchez2112112973
Carson Palmer305211470
Matt Ryan1710182469
Matt Schaub717271566
Alex Smith256122366
Cam Newton194241865
Matt Moore121631160
Matt Hasselbeck182710459
Tony Romo1124121158
Andy Dalton42325355
Josh Freeman109171955
Christian Ponder51882253
Philip Rivers16352650
Joe Flacco27142750
Ben Roethlisberger22023247
Michael Vick2919847
Sam Bradford12720645
Kevin Kolb20271241
Colt McCoy6253640
Curtis Painter31541032
Eli Manning981927
Again, make sure you note the players past performances when deciding who is worth getting rid of and who is worth acquiring. While Ryan Fitzpatrick has the easiest four week schedule, trading Aaron Rodgers (11th best schedule) for him is not a great move to make.
However if you have been starting Matt Ryan (a player with very similar stats to Ryan Fitzpatrick) all year long, then based on the strength of schedule, this would be a good trade to make to put you in the position to get the most out of your playoff roster.
Also, if you have a quarterback who has been disappointing this year, you might find that someone like Jay Cutler, who has a great schedule for Week 14-17, is sitting in free agency just waiting to be owned.
Fantasy Football Playoffs: Running Back Strength of Schedule
The effect of a player’s strength of schedule is most easily seen when you are looking at the running back position. There is a massive difference between the yards, touchdowns and fantasy points given up by a top five team like the Baltimore Ravens in comparison to a low ranked team like the Carolina Panthers or even a mid-ranked team like the Cleveland Browns.
The following chart breaks down which running backs will have the easiest road ahead once the fantasy playoffs roll around. The top performing 40 running backs are listed in strength of schedule order.
Running BackWeek 14Week 15Week 16Week 17Total
DeMarco Murray29313029119
Roy Helu25291830102
Reggie Bush30182528101
Daniel Thomas30182528101
Willis McGahee2025182790
Shonn Greene273029389
LaDainian Tomlinson273029389
Arian Foster832242286
Ben Tate832242286
Michael Turner3210123185
Maurice Jones-Drew317222484
Jackie Battle2811232183
Darren Sproles221873279
Pierre Thomas221873279
James Starks232720575
Ahmad Bradshaw1413281469
Brandon Jacobs1413281469
Frank Gore171692668
Marshawn Lynch262021765
LeGarrette Blount101432763
Matt Forte219111859
LeSean McCoy328141358
Rashard Mendenhall152261558
Jahvid Best182341156
Jonathan Stewart76311256
DeAngelo Williams76311256
BenJarvus Green-Ellis132131855
Fred Jackson43212553
Chris Johnson122410652
Ray Rice24415851
Adrian Peterson512132050
Cedric Benson62617150
Peyton Hillis161711650
Darren McFadden11527447
Ryan Mathews18152347
Mike Tolbert18152347
Michael Bush11527447
Joseph Addai12261039
Steven Jackson9816235
Beanie Wells2158934
These numbers you just saw will tell a great deal in the future of running backs when we get to the end of the season. Mostly the big names that we see at the bottom of the list.
If you have a running back who is near the top of the rankings now like Darren McFadden, Ryan Mathews, Steven Jackson or Beanie Wells, the next few weeks would be fantastic time to think about selling them. All have name value right now and are seated in the top 15 in running back scoring. By making a move on a back with similar stats (or packaging your RB with a low receiver) you can easily move up the rankings with your running back and find one with a more favorable schedule.
Even looking at RB2s and bench running backs, we can see that mid-ranked RBs like DeMarco Murray, Shonn Greene, Daniel Thomas, Roy Helu and Willis McGahee all have very favorable schedules. You will be able to spend much less for them, getting rid of one of you RB2 or a couple good bench players to boost your starting running back position.
Fantasy Football Playoffs: Wide Receiver Strength of Schedule
Receiver is generally the most up-and-down position. Outside of a handful of consistent guys, the stats of the remaining players changes greatly from one week to another. Some players will have great performances against good defenses, some will have awful performances against bad teams. Receiver has a lot more to do with luck than quarterback or running back do.
That being said, we can still use this chart as a prediction tool to find the most beatable matchups. The top 48 receivers are listed here in strength of schedule order.
Wide ReceiverWeek 14Week 15Week 16Week 17Total
Devin Hester32183027107
Earl Bennett32183027107
Steve Johnson1024323197
David Nelson1024323197
Doug Baldwin2517232893
Sidney Rice2517232893
Jabar Gaffney312527891
Eric Decker1731222090
Wes Welker1132242289
Deion Branch1132242289
Calvin Johnson2716103083
Dwayne Bowe430163282
Jason Hill1921122981
Dez Bryant251982577
Miles Austin251982577
Plaxico Burress208252477
Santonio Holmes208252477
A.J. Green142528976
Denarius Moore3013201073
Darrius Heyward-Bey3013201073
Michael Crabtree282182573
Steve Smith2114191569
Greg Jennings1620171366
Jordy Nelson1620171366
Brandon Marshall82231465
Marques Colston122721363
Nate Washington152951463
Lance Moore122721363
Vincent Jackson229131660
Percy Harvin1315111756
Andre Johnson73291251
Mike Wallace12325150
Brandon Lloyd18722350
Antonio Brown12325150
Larry Fitzgerald23171849
Early Doucet23171849
Anquan Boldin29101747
Torrey Smith29101747
Jeremy Maclin24461145
DeSean Jackson24461145
Roddy White35151942
Julio Jones35151942
Joshua Cribbs2289241
Pierre Garcon91214540
Reggie Wayne91214540
Mike Williams5632135
Victor Cruz6114627
Hakeem Nicks6114627
It is very important to keep individual talent in mind here. Chicago receivers have far-and-away the easiest schedule of any team, but they are an inconsistent bunch right now. Unless we see major strides in one individual’s performance, they might be worth leaving alone. Same can be said for Seattle receivers.
A good way to increase the value of your team is by packaging a receiver with a running back to increase the talent where you need it. Remember to keep in mind the Trade Math that I posted a month ago.
For example, if you are in need of receiver help, but have two solid starting running backs and a great running back on your bench, you should find a team that needs running back help. Use this chart (and keep talent in mind) and offer them your WR2 or WR3 plus your great bench running back. In return ask for their two high receivers. It is likely that the math will add up, you will only be sacrificing one starter and gaining two better ones!
If you have been having great performances from Victor Cruz or Pierre Thomas this year, their fantasy value is likely as high as it will get, meaning that you can sell them and get the most in return. You can see that their fantasy playoff schedule leaves them weak, so you can easily go out and find a receiver much higher on the list with a similar point total.

In closing, always remember:
  • Consider the past before looking at Strength of Schedule.
  • For one-man trades, try to find a player with similar fantasy points but a better strength of schedule.
  • Now is the time to start shopping around that great performer that is just wasting on your bench for someone that will upgrade your starting lineup.
  • Packaging two players together is a great way to get the most out of your trade.
  • Always, always, always do the math.
GodHatesLosers is always here to weigh in on your trade and hand out advice. If you want to contact us about any trade ideas that you have or any proposals that you receive, feel free to do so on this post or any Advice Time post that you see.
Now get out there and start scouting. With a little research and patience, you will be able to create the best playoff team in your league and walk away with the title.


  1. Interesting that this comes out today. I made a trade today with the playoffs in mind. Traded Nicks and Tolbert for Big Ben and Boldin. I didn't like Nicks vs Jets in the finals (wk 16) And I don't like Romo vs philly that same week. Although I think the cowboys bounce back from that embarrassment in week 8. Good trade for the future?
    Only problem is now I have to decide between Romo and Ben week to week. Which one of the 2 would you start this week?
    Also for my flex who would you start out of Helu, Battle, Jacobs, L.Robinson?
    One last question is Lance Moore dropable for Jacoby Ford? Moore is consistently the receiver with the least snaps on his team..

  2. I love this list! What an awesome tool to help those of us planning more then a week in advance. After the playoff picture starts to become a little clearer you should supplement this list with a list of starters likely to play the full 4 quarters come week 17

  3. great list helpful for planning. I have mathews and nicks, both sitting at the bottom of those lists; advice on where to go w/ these two players?

  4. Yeah. This does seem to be a solid trade. Nicks is on par with Boldin for the time being, but his schedule is pretty tough. Tolbert is shaky at best as long as Mathews is healthy. I think its a smart upgrade.

    I have Romo this week. Cowboys are getting more balanced, but he still has Witten and Dez, plus he is getting along swimmingly with Austin’s replacement, Robinson. I have Romo and Roeth back to back at 8 and 9 this week, but Romo by a hair because the matchup is easier. Both could have good days though.

    Flex is tough. I have tons of love for Robinson this week, but he is a big gamble. Jacobs is a smart play if Bradshaw is out, which he likely will be. Battle is a good matchup, but I think he is the weakest play of the four. Helu had a good game receiving, but didn’t impress on the ground. Torain might sneak in this week too, with Washington no one really knows how its going to shake out.

    If you have a PPR system, then I’d probably actually favor Robinson. I think I’m the only person that would feel that way on this point. I’m going to make this question my poll for the day and see if that can help you out!

    I’d like one more impressive game from Jacoby Ford before I say that you can drop anyone for him. Lance Moore might not get the snaps, but he is still the second best WR on the team. He gets along great with Brees. If Ford can put up big numbers again then I would say go for it. Ford’s playoff schedule is better than Moore’s as well.

  5. Looking at the playoffs now, it honestly feels like all divisions will be down to the wire (minus the NFC West). I would imagine that we see a lot of teams play all their starters in week 17.

    But once we get closer and see a better picture, I'll make something like this. You might have to shoot me a reminder though. Great idea. Glad you liked the article!

  6. Mathews has made a name for himself this year, and Nicks is already a great player that will gain ground after recovering from injury. I would probably wait a week or two before making an actual trade, but you can start planning right away.

    Just look for some players with similar stat lines who have a good schedule in the playoffs.

    Best bet would probably be to make it a package deal and trade them for a RB and WR combo. Find a team that is hurting at WR and work some magic. The key will be to make it look as even as possible or even giving them the edge slightly. They will not be considering the playoff schedules here. Shoot for upside.

  7. Sitting in 4th at 5-4 (2 others are 5-4 and another 2 are it's pretty tight)

    Looking to trade for my week 11 bye replacement. Thinking of asking for either Reggie Bush or Chris Johnson for Mendenhall. Does either one sound fair? Appealing? Do I need to sweeten the deal so they don't say no? Keep in mind the guy with Johnson is in first at 7-2, other guy is in 8th. Also, I put a claim in for DeAngelo Williams who was dropped the other day. Thanks!

    QB - Vick
    RB - L.McCoy
    RB - Sproles (wk 11 bye)
    WR - VJax
    WR - Nicks
    WR - Antonio Brown
    TE - Hernandez
    K - Baily
    DE - PHI

    Mendenhall (wk 11 bye)
    David Nelson
    James Jones
    Sidney Rice
    Greg Olsen

  8. Whatsup man, 6-3 and tied atop my division with the third place teams tied at 4-5. I've been trying to figure out a way to get Arian Foster from his 2-7 owner who knows his team is dead. He's starting Cassel/Kolb and Hillis alongside Foster in our 14 team league, so I've offered CJ, Freeman and Maurice Morris for Foster straight up. If he accepts out of carelessness, great. Hopefully other owners won't protest conspiracy (I'm the commissioner but league majority can veto a trade), which isn't really the case.

    If he turns it down, fine. I'm willing to offer more: Fred Jackson, Freeman, Manningham and Greg Little for Arian Foster and Stevie Johnson. That one is obviously more fair for both sides. While FJax has been great for me, Foster's schedule is just too tasty after his bye, Mario doesn't have a great schedule himself (and as a Giants fan, I'm afraid Cruz has passed him in Eli's eyes) and Freeman is useless to me with Newton. What do you think? I know I've asked you a bunch about getting rid of CJ, but he at least looked decent early against a tough Cincy front.

  9. I think a straight up trade for either of them could work for you. I'm sure that whoever owns CJ is looking to get rid of him anyway. CJ is matched up with Atlanta in Week 11 though, which is not a stellar matchup. Bush is playing against the Bills, which is better, but Daniel Thomas should be back in full swing and stealing carries.

    So I would say that you best bet would be to make the dual trade. Trading Mendenhall and Nicks should be able to get Steven Jackson and Branch. It would leave you set at Running back for Week 11, but leave you pretty weak at WR for the rest of the season.

    Trading Mendy and VJax could get you S Jax and Boldin, but again, because you would only use Steven Jackson for one week, it really just seems like a downgrade.

    What you could try instead is to trade Sproles instead of Mendenhall. That way, in a one-on-one trade you would be able to get a RB with better value than you could for Mendy. Or if you paired Sproles with Nicks, you could get a much better combo than SJax and Branch.

    Think about trying a Sproles/Nicks for SJax/Boldin (or SJax/Marshall).

  10. I'd say either of those trades are good decisions. You really arent losing anything in either of them. And you are getting considerable upgrades.

    Your reasoning is sound, I couldn't have said it better myself. I would imagine that the first one gets turned down, its hardly fair. Second one could definitely fly though. Would improve both teams.

  11. So I am currently 8-1 in my league so I feel good about that, but I don't think my team will survive the playoffs. Here is my lineup:
    QB: Stafford, Tebow
    WR: Fitzgerald, Nicks, V. Jackson, Colston, Simpson (thinking of getting crabtree)
    RB: Rice, Foster, Bradshaw, Blount
    TE: Olsen, F. Davis
    K: Hanson, Novak
    D: Houston, Minnesota

    Any thoughts on how to improve?
    The opponent I am worried about has:
    QB: Schaub, Freeman
    WR: C. Johnson, Maclin, Austin, Lloyd, Laurent Robinson
    RB: Peterson, McCoy, F. Jackson, Best
    TE: Fates, Graham
    K: Lindell, Crosby
    D: Cincinatti, Dallas

    12 tam non-ppr

  12. I'll be honest. I like your team quite a bit. You do have a couple tough playoff matchups, but you are definitely 8-1 for a reason.

    Your opponent looks good too though. I have to say that.

    On your team right now, you really have three great players on your bench at any given time. Usually (I would assume) Colston, Bradshaw and Blount. Since you are rarely using these players, they are really just gathering dirt on your bench. So why not sell them. Find the middle of the road teams, the ones that are fighting for a playoff spot and offer one of them or a group of them. If a team is struggling at WR, give them a Colston/Bradshaw combo, and get an elite receiver or running back out of the deal.

    In my mind, you have those three players to mess around with. Especially at RB where you have Rice and Foster and won't be using anyone else. So, after Foster's bye week, make the moves. Clear out the bench. You are going for superstars now. If you have to give up two good bench guys for just one great starter, do it.

  13. Not sure if you're still checking this thread, but I just pulled off a trade that I think will help me out for the playoffs. In this particular league, I'm 7-2 (soon to be 8-2) and in 3rd place overall. I clinched a playoff spot last week and will move into 1st place if I can beat the #1 team next week (also 8-2 but has more overall points for me). That team is my biggest concern because of his RB tandem of McCoy and FJax, the #2 and #3 RBs in this league's scoring.

    I just had an offer accepted by a 4-6 team where I ship out SJax, Finley, and Antonio Brown in exchange for Sproles and Whitten. That may not sound like much, until I remindyou that this is a return yardage league, which makes Sproles the #1 RB in the league with 199.5 points so far on the season. I threw in the Whitten/Finley part because I wanted something more stable than I've had with Finley. SJax has brought in 14-15ppg since he got healthy (if you don't count the one 30pt game in that stretch), but Sproles is reliably averaging 20ppg and has only twice scored less than 14pts all season. Brown has been great for me all year, especially when you add in his return yards, but he's usually on my bench, so I decided to move him.

    So after the trade, here's my line-up for the playoffs:
    QB: Tebow (Fitzpatrick just became available today, but I can't pick him up until the trade goes through.)
    WR: Megatron, Wallace, Bryant, Garcon, Bennett
    RB: Rice, Sproles, Murray, F. Jones (Not sure what will happen in Dallas once Jones is healthy.)
    TE: Whitten
    D/ST: NYJ, SF
    K: Hanson

    My competition:
    QB: Stafford, Freeman
    WR: AJ Green, DJax, Cribbs, Breaston, Hester, A. Johnson
    RB: McCoy, FJax, Gore
    TE: Graham
    D/ST: Detroit, Chicago
    K: Kasay

  14. I check'em all.

    That looks awesome man. Honestly, as scared as I am of McCoy/FJax combo, I think youve got it beat here. Could be tough to decide on a lineup each week, but any combo of RB and WRs you put in, you are golden. Love the upgrades. This is how a playoff trade should be done.

  15. Thanks! It was one of my more ambitious moves, and I'm a little surprised it was accepted. (People in this league aren't generally keen on trades, especially large scale ones.) The McCoy/FJax guy could be in a spot if Stafford's hand becomes more of an issue, and he's going to have to figure out who to drop to fill in his TE slot next week (he already dropped Breaston to get a kicker, but is hanging on to Kasay as well). I went ahead and picked up Fitzpatrick because, with the news about Schaub today, I didn't think I could wait. I dropped Jones for now. Hopefully, that big red "O" next to his name will discourage anyone from grabbing him tonight and I can get him back in the morning when the trade goes through.

  16. What's up I'm wondering what the best trade to make would be for my team. My current roster is:

    QB: A. Rodgers, T.Tebow
    RB: D. Murray, S. Jackson,
    WR: AJ Green, M.Austin, Julio Jones
    TE: R. Gronkowski

    I either wanted to trade S. Jackson and M. Austin for Calvin Johnson. His team (5-5) looks like this:

    QB: P.Rivers, R.Fitzpatrick
    RB: M.Morris, R.Helu, R. Matthews
    WR: M.Colston, C.Johnson, V.Cruz
    TE: V.Davis


    T.Tebow and M.Austin for Willis Magahee. His team (6-4) looks like this:

    QB: M.Schaub (gone for the season)
    RB: R.rice, S.Greene, W.Mcgahee
    WR: R.Wayne, S.Breaston
    TE: D.Kller, G.Olsen

    Am I giving too much? Should I just stick with my team? Anyway thanks for reading and thanks for any advice you can give!

  17. Cool man. Hope it worked out for you!

  18. You are definitely giving too much in both. If you take the first trade, you are screwed at RB.

    I would do the second trade, but get more out of it.

    He is definitely hurting for a QB, and Tebow is better than anyone he would get in free agency. Austin is out for a few more weeks, but will be back and is always a factor. You need more than Willis McGahee for this trade though. Get a RB and a WR to replace Austin. No need to replace a backup QB on your roster.

    With McGahee hurt, I would honestly try to make it Tebow and Austin for Greene and Breaston. His receivers are pretty awful though, and this might get turned down because of Austin not being able to start right away. In that case, make it Tebow and Austin for Ray Rice. He needs the help at both positions, and should be willing to pay the price for it.

    If that doesnt work, then don't make any of these trades.

  19. Thanks for the advice! He bit on the Tebow/Breaston deal!

  20. Hey need some help on trade advice,


  21. What do you think of Alex Smith for Hasselbeck? (assuming Hass's arm is OK). They're pretty close in points and strength of sched.


  22. BTW those guys would both be backups for me-- I have Brady, but after the flashbacks I got watching chiefs rolling all around his ankles last night, I feel like I need to make sure I have the best backup possible.

  23. Hope I'm not too late for you. Your obvious upgrade needs to be at WR. I'd have tried to sell McFadden and/or McGahee for an upgrade at WR3.

  24. Scraping the bottom of the barrel. I'd rather have Hasselbeck than Smith. More weapons and not as reliant on the run game.

  25. With the injury to Cutler it is hard to say anything about Earl Bennett. I stand in saying that you need to get Austin on your team immediately though.

    At this point, you need to solidify your flex and then your team will be golden. a couple ways to do this.

    If trading is still an option in your league, you can combine really any two of your bench players and try to upgrade at either WR or RB, either one you can get.

    Find a team that is hurting at two positions and is on the playoff bubble. If someone is hurting at QB and TE, trade them Palmer and Celek/Davis for someone that you will start at flex.

    If trading is done for, then you are just fishing on the Waiver Wire. Smith is the best you listed. I’m not very impressed with Gerhart. Spiller is still iffy, but could be alright here. McKnight looked strong. Lots of question marks surrounding these guys. Personally, I’d probably choose Spiller.

    Once you get Austin though, you should really be set in your starting lineup after this week when he comes back. Foster, Murray, Fitz, Lloyd, Davis, Austin is a very solid starting lineup.

    Don’t get too nervous or antsy. Your team is looking good, and Austin could be the missing piece here.