Playoff Schedule Outlook
By Sigmund Bloom
November 9th, 2011

As trade deadlines approach in most leagues, teams with seven or more wins right now are starting to think playoffs while many of their opponents are trying to improve their chances of extending their season. We also have nine weeks of data to judge now what the best and worst defensive units are against the run and pass. With that knowledge and a look ahead at the week 14-16 schedule, a clearer picture of the best players/teams to trade for and trade away emerges.

The Matchups

First we take stock of the best and worst matchups for the run and pass:

Run - Good

  • Indianapolis - They showed up vs. Pittsburgh and made Chris Johnson look bad, otherwise, everyone has taken advantage of this undersized defense and the whole team is losing its nerve. Power backs like LeGarrette Blount, Jackie Battle, and Peyton Hillis all had outstanding games vs. Indy. 31st in rush yards allowed and tied for 32nd in rush TDs allowed.
  • Carolina - Only the Redskins failed to run for 100 yards against this depleted front seven. Matt Forte and Michael Turner destroyed the Panthers, and James Starks almost ran for 10 yards a carry even though the Packers trailed for a lot of the game. 27th in rush yards allowed and tied for 32nd in rush TDs allowed.
  • Cleveland - Throw out the week Marshawn Lynch was scratched at gametime and the underwhelming Indy running game and no #1 RB has ran for less than 91 yards against them. Their offense is terrible so teams also milk clock against them. Only Seattle failed to get 25 carries, and half of the time, teams run the ball more than 30 times against them. 30th in yards allowed and dropping.
  • Oakland - Another team susceptible to power running, the Raiders made Willis McGahee look pre-injury Miami McGahee, and even when they sold out to stop Arian Foster, he still burned them with a long screen pass. 29th in yards allowed, 31st in YPC, 28th in rush TDs allowed.
  • Arizona - Middling in yards allowed because of solid games vs. Baltimore, Pittsburgh, the Giants, and Carolina, the Cardinals have still failed where it matters most - in the red zone, allowing a league-leading 11 rushing TDs.
  • Tampa (Road) - Tampa at home vs NO - 17 RB carries for 49 yards. Tampa at NO three weeks later - 27 RB carries for 175 yards. They bottled up Michael Turner and contained Jahvid Best at home, but gave up big games to Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore away from the pirate ship. With Gerald McCoy gone for the year, this could turn into a good matchup no matter where the game is.
  • NY Giants - They had the good luck to miss Steven Jackson, and the Patriots running game didn't get on track playing from behind last week, but otherwise, lead backs have flourished against the G-men. The lead back in the six other games has had at least 12 fantasy points against them (non-PPR), and that includes a three-TD game by Beanie Wells.
  • Buffalo - Only a thrashing of the Redskins when they held them to 24 rushing yards keeps the Bills from being one of the league worst statistically. Curiously, they have given up zero rush TDs in four of their games, and eight in the other four.
  • New Orleans - Giving up over five yards a carry and the best fantasy days of the year to Steven Jackson, Earnest Graham, Delone Carter, and DeAngelo Williams shows you that this is a bad run defense despite a middling yards per game average.
  • Not included despite poor numbers:

  • NY Jets - Massive games to the LawFirm and Run DMC, but otherwise, at least adequate against the run.
  • St. Louis - Still league worst in yards allowed because of Demarco Murray, the Rams have stiffened and played inspired run defense as of late.
  • Run - Bad

  • San Francisco - Fear the 49ers. About 70 yards a game on the ground allowed and ZERO rush TDs. The next teams on the list are 84.5 and three. No RB over 64 yards this year.
  • Baltimore - 86.8 yards per carry and only three rush TD. MJD had the only 100 yard game, and it took him 30 carries. The only other decent game by an RB came when special teams and defense staked Arizona to a huge lead, allowing Beanie Wells to score. Even Arian Foster was held to 101 total yards, only 49 on the ground.
  • Green Bay - A bit of a Jekyll and Hyde, as Adrian Peterson and Willis McGahee ran well against them, and Mike Tolbert just had a nice game, the Packers still held the likes of the CAR RB combo, Matt Forte, Michael Turner, and the NO backs to weak numbers, and there's the added risk that Aaron Rodgers shuts down the running game by jumping out to a big lead. Top 10 in rush yards and rush TDs allowed.
  • Dallas (if Sean Lee returns) - With Sean Lee, the Cowboys allowed two rush TDs and no RB over 70 yards in six games. Without Lee, two 100-yard rushers and three rush TDs. The word is Lee might return from his dislocated wrist this week.
  • Pittsburgh - They stumbled early against Ray Rice, Arian Foster, and Joseph Addai (?), but usually elite run defense has recovered to the tune of 168 yards allowed to RBs in the last three games.
  • Minnesota - The Williams Wall is missing one half, but they have still haven't allowed a 100 yard rusher this year despite being a losing team.
  • Seattle - The second ranked 3.4 yards per carry allowed tells the story more than their yards allowed, which reflects a few bad losses and being part of the Demarco Murray breakout story.
  • Not included despite good numbers:

  • Cincinnati - Haven't looked overpowering and faced poor offenses. Still allowing rush TDs in most games.
  • Houston - Faced some poor running games, although they have performed better than anyone else against Darren McFadden.
  • Pass - Good

  • Green Bay - I wish I could remember who said the Packers hand out 300 yard passing games like a bank hands out pens. Some of that is teams playing from behind and opening up the offense to match Aaron Rodgers, but that is unlikely to change. They have picked off multiple passes in six games, so beware of them in leagues that punish turnovers heavily. 31st in yardage, 30th in TDs allowed.
  • New England - Everyone has thrown at least one TD against them, and all but Mark Sanchez threw for 250 or more yards. Five of the eight passers they've faced have gone over 350 yards. They've given up three receiving TDs and four games over 67 yards to TEs even though they have only faced one top 10 fantasy TE (Jason Witten). 32nd in yards, 27th in TDs allowed.
  • Indianapolis - 18 pass TDs allowed to lead the league and fading fast. Big receivers beat them, fast receivers beat them, and three of the last five weeks they have given up at least three pass TDs, including a four and a five.
  • Denver - 16 pass TDs allowed and lots of guys with targets on their back for opposing QBs. Andy Dalton, Matt Hasselbeck, and Carson Palmer have all thrown for over 300 against this unit that would be a league-worst if it wasn't for Champ Bailey.
  • Minnesota - Only Kevin Kolb failed to throw a score against them, and five of the eight QBs they faced threw multiple TDs. They have allowed 90 yards or more to a wide receiver in all but one game this year.
  • Arizona - They are lucky to have faced Donovan McNabb and a pre-no huddle Tarvaris Jackson, or this would be the worst unit in the league statistically. No other QB has thrown for less than 250 and four of the six have thrown multiple TDs.
  • Kansas CIty - The Chiefs own the Raiders QBs and Philip Rivers - holding them to a 0-10 TD/INT ratio. The other five QBs they have faced combined for 15 TDs, with no throwing less than two. That illustrious group includes Matt Moore, Curtis Painter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Donovan McNabb.
  • Seattle - Inexperienced corners and a tough run defense means it's in the QB's interest to test the secondary. Multiple passing TDs allowed three of the last four games.
  • Not included despite poor numbers:

  • Miami - Tom Brady's 500-yard game skewing their totals.
  • St. Louis - Like the run defense, not bad once they started really trying.
  • Pass - Bad

  • Cleveland - They've faced mostly bad QBs, but only Matt Hasselbeck lit them up and they haven't allowed more than one TD to any other QB, and over 200 yards to only one other QB. Plus, they are so poor against the run and on offense that you don't need to pass much to beat them. Tops in yards allowed and fifth in TDs allowed.
  • Pittsburgh - Joe Flacco has hurt them, but they held down Tom Brady and they're getting healthier on defense. Third in the league in yards allowed.
  • NY Jets - Revis Island. Five pass TDs allowed in eight games. 'Nuff said.
  • Philadelphia - Major lapses early against Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, and Eli Manning, the Eagles have recovered to match their gaudy names at cornerback with six INTs in the last three games before the MNF tilt with the Bears.
  • Baltimore - Six pass TDs allowed, only the Jets are better. Under 200 yards a game allowed. No QB has more than one pass TD against them.
  • Not included despite good numbers:

  • Cincinnati - Best QB they've faced is Ryan Fitzpatrick or Alex Smith.
  • Houston - Matchups against McCoy, Collins, Henne, and Gabbert fattening their numbers.
  • Schedules

    AFC EAST

  • NE - @WAS @DEN(+P) MIA - one great matchup for Brady and three very winnable games in cold weather locales which is good for BJGE.
  • BUF - @SD MIA DEN(+P) - A great pass matchup in week 16, but possibly in poor weather.
  • NYJ - KC(+P) @PHI(-P) NYG(+R) - one good, one bad vs pass and one good vs. run. Outlook unchanged.
  • MIA - PHI(-P) @BUF(+R) @NE(+P) - Finish with a good run matchup and then a good pass matchup, but not an offense you want to rely on.
  • AFC SOUTH

  • TEN - NO(+R) @IND(+P, +R) JAX - If Chris Johnson can get on track, you love the week 14/15 matchups, another reason to buy low if you are desperate at RB, but winning through the pain.
  • HOU - @CIN CAR(+R) @IND(+R,+P) - Massively good run matchups in week 15/16 - Arian Foster and Ben Tate are outstanding trade targets for playoff teams.
  • JAX - TB(+R) @ATL @TEN - One good matchup for MJD vs TB at home.
  • IND - @BAL(-R,-P) TEN HOU - Nothing to see here.
  • AFC NORTH

  • BAL - IND(+P.+R) @SD CLE(+R,-P) - If you can't land Arian Foster, shoot for Ray Rice with two outstanding home matchups in weeks 14 and 16.
  • PIT - CLE(+R,-P) @SF(-R) STL - one great run matchup, one horrible run matchup, one horrible pass matchup, and one matchup that could be great or horrible against both. Unchanged outlook.
  • CIN - HOU @STL @ARI (+R,+P) - Week 16 could give you a Cedric Benson spot start, and if St. Louis collapses again, maybe week 15 too. Great schedule for Andy Dalton.
  • CLE - @PIT(-R,-P) @ARI(+R,+P) @BAL(-R,-P) - Two horrible matchups, one good, but it doesn't matter, the Browns offense is a sinking ship on fire.
  • AFC WEST

  • SD - BUF(+R) BAL(-R,-P) @DET - Not loving the idea of playing Chargers in week 15, but week 14 should be great for their RBs. Outlook unchanged.
  • OAK - @GB (+P, -R) DET @KC(+P) - Yes Carson Palmer, Jacoby Ford, and Denarius Moore could be keys to your championship with two outstanding pass matchups, including the Chiefs in week 16.
  • DEN - CHI NE(+P) @BUF(+R) - One good run matchup, one good pass matchup. Don't fear Tim Tebow as your #1 QB.
  • KC - @NYJ(-P) GB(+P, -R) OAK(+R) - One horrible pass matchup, one bad run matchup, one good pass matchup, one good run matchup. Outlook unchanged.
  • NFC EAST

  • NYG - @DAL(-R*) WAS @NYJ(-P) - Will you have the guts to bench Hakeem Nicks and Eli Manning in week 16?
  • WAS - NE(+P) @NYG(+R) MIN(+P, -R) - Two great pass matchups and one great run matchup and no one to take advantage of them.
  • DAL - NYG(+R) @TB PHI(-P) - Hard to like Tony Romo and company in your championship week.
  • PHI - @MIA NYJ(-P) @DAL(-R*) - Tough matchup week 15 vs the pass, but otherwise manageable.
  • NFC NORTH

  • GB - OAK(+R) @KC(+P) CHI - A good run matchup in week 14, but Mike McCarthy doesn't care.
  • DET - MIN(+P,-R) @OAK(+R) SD - A good pass matchup for Stafford in week 14 and week 15/16 aren't bad either. Trust him as a QB to take you to the promised land, great trade target if you are hurting there.
  • CHI - @DEN(+P) SEA(+P) @GB(+P, -R) - A great pass schedule for Jay Cutler, potential buy low QB to plug in if he gets hot.
  • MIN - @DET NO(+R) @WAS - One good run matchup for Adrian Peterson.
  • NFC SOUTH

  • NO - @TEN @MIN(+P, -R) ATL - A good week 15 pass matchup, but Brees produces even through bad ones.
  • TB - @JAX DAL(-R*) @CAR(+R) - LeGarrette Blount is a great RB to have for the championship week, and semi-final bonus if Sean Lee ends up out for the year.
  • ATL - @CAR(+R) JAX @NO(+R) - A terrific schedule vs. the run, aim for Michael Turner if you can't land Ray Rice or Arian Foster.
  • CAR - ATL @HOU TB(+R) - One good run matchup in week 16, but Cam Newton is their goal-line RB.
  • NFC WEST

  • SF - @ARI(+R, +P) PIT(-R, -P) @SEA(+P) - One great matchup vs run and two vs. pass, and then a couple of rough run matchups for Frank Gore, who is getting nicked up. Alex Smith a good sleeper to tuck away.
  • SEA - STL @CHI SF(-R) - Marshawn Lynch is on your bench in week 16.
  • ARI - SF(-R) CLE(+R, -P) @CIN - Beanie Wells would be a great play in week 15 if he wasn't nursing a knee injury that will likely affect him all year.
  • STL - @SEA(+P) CIN @PIT(-R, -P) - Steven Jackson won't have it easy against three good-to-great run defenses.
  • Shopping List

    Quarterback

  • Matthew Stafford
  • Tim Tebow
  • Jay Cutler
  • Carson Palmer
  • Andy Dalton
  • Alex Smith
  • Running Back

  • Arian Foster, Ben Tate
  • Ray Rice
  • Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers
  • LeGarrette Blount
  • Chris Johnson
  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis
  • Wide Receiver

  • Andre Johnson
  • AJ Green
  • Jacoby Ford
  • Denarius Moore
  • Earl Bennett
  • Michael Crabtree
  • Tight End

  • Fred Davis
  • Vernon Davis
  • As always, thanks for reading. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome to bloom@footballguys.com.

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