We are five games into the season and it's not too early to make some moves in your league. Plan for the future, prepare for the postseason. There are a few waiver gems still out there, but for the most part the "start now" players are already scarfed up. Who should you be targeting for the stretch run? I'll give you some options that you can look to acquire at each position, some of which may not break the bank.
- Strength of Schedule - The NFC South plays the AFC East and NFC North this season, but they also play each other twice, which fuels their ranking among in the Top 10 going forward. The strength of schedule numbers at quarterback for the rest of the season put Carolina 2nd overall, Atlanta 3rd, New Orleans 6th and Tampa Bay 9th. Visit Custom Strength of Schedule in the MyFBG section to see more. You'll see the NFC South is represented well in all positions going forward.
- Bye Weeks - Thanks to early season weather cancellations, every team in the NFC South has had their bye except Carolina (Week 11). Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay are free and clear to start their respective quarterbacks from here on out and you don't have to worry about a replacement for Cam Newton until Week 11. There are several good streamers that week such as whoever Miami starts against Tampa, the Pittsburgh quarterback vs Tennessee (Ben Roethlisberger/Landry Jones may be on the waiver wire by then), Blake Bortles at Cleveland, Joe Flacco at Green Bay, etc.
- Fantasy relevant receivers - Rankings don't do this justice, because Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay have all played only four games, compared to the vast majority of teams who have played five. The NFC boasts several top receiver talents in Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram II, Christian McCaffrey, Devonta Freeman and Doug Martin. All are either inside the Top 20 for their position or figure to be there soon. Strong quarterback play brings productive receivers and the NFC South has no shortage of talent.
- Playoff Weeks - There are excellent matchups for the NFC South in Weeks 14, 15 and 16.
Week 14 ATL vs NO, NO at ATL
Week 15 ATL at TB, TB vs ATL, CAR vs GB, NO vs NYJ
Week 16 ATL at NO, NO vs ATL, CAR vs TB, TB at CAR
Other quarterbacks to target
Tyrod Taylor - Buffalo has only two negative matchups agianst the pass in the remaining 11 games at LAC and at KC Weeks 11 and 12. Their Week 13-17 schedule has three straight home games with strong matchups throughout. Starting with Week 13 NE, IND, MIA, and closing the regular season with games at NE and at MIA.
NYJ, MIA, JAX - Blake Bortles is the only quarterback in this group who is engrained (for the most part) as the starter. The Jets and Dolphins could have somoene else under center by the time the playoffs start, or even before. The Jets play ATL, NO, TB, NE twice and MIA in their schedule. All games that favor the pass. Miami has games against ATL, OAK, NYJ, TB and NE twice. Jacksonville will play against these favorable opponents: IND twice, CLE, ARI, SF and TEN. If a quarterback emerges in New York or Miami it might be worth it to target them for the stretch run, or at the very least look to stream quarterbacks from this trio.
In case you're wondering about Andrew Luck - The strength of schedule has the Colts second to last with only the Browns having a worse schedule. Indianapolis only has two favorable passing matchups for the rest of the season - and both are against Tennessee.
LeSean McCoy, BUF - Aside from a road game at Kansas City in Week 12, the Bills have the best schedule for running backs going forward. Now is the perfect time to trade for McCoy with the Bills on bye this week. He has a Top 10 PPR ranking, despite failing to find the end zone yet. Plus the Bills have only one tough game on the schedule from here on out. McCoy's 27 receptions is tied for third most among running backs. As mentioned, he has yet to score a touchdown which might have some people disappointed in his performance and are fearing more of the same in the coming weeks. Now is the perfect time to strike a deal.
Doug Martin, TB - Martin had an impressive first outing in Week 5 after serving his suspension that didn't allow him to practice with the team. He looked confident and agile running the ball and surprisingly well-conditioned. His 13-74-1 performance against New England was impressive, especially considering he had very little practice time with the team. Martin looks like he's capable of being an RB2 going forward and remember, he's already had his bye week. Tampa Bay is the number two ranked team in strength of schedule against the run for the remainder of the season. In their 12 games left, they have only three games on their schedule where the running matchup is not favorable.
Devonta Freeman, ATL - You already know how impressive Devonta Freeman has been in the early part of the season. I fully expect his strong play to continue. He is one of six running backs with four rushing touchdowns this season, and he's only played four games. He had 54 receptions last year and only has 9 so far this season. He may see a spike in receptions while his touchdown numbers drop off. Like the rest of the NFC South, Freeman and Atlanta have one of the better schedules in the league going forward, including a home and home series against New Orleans in Weeks 14 and 16.
David Johnson, ARI - If Arizona is still in the playoff hunt, look for them to bring back David Johnson around Week 12 or 13. The Cardinals play TEN, at WAS, NYG for Weeks 14, 15 and 16. When healthy, Johnson is among the best backs in the league, if not the best. Arizona completely forms their offense around him and they'll be looking to lean on him once he's ready to come back from a wrist injury that has sidelined him since Week 1. If you have the depth at running back, trade your least strong back to acquire Johnson. He could come in handy in crunch time. In the meantime, Andre Ellington should continue to be a force for Arizona, even with the news of the Adrian Peterson trade.
Devin Funchess, CAR - Since Greg Olsen went down with a foot injury at the beginning of Week 2, Devin Funchess has catapulted himself into the #8 PPR wide receiver ranking. He and Christian McCaffrey are tied for the team lead in targets (36) and Funchess has three of Cam Newton's 8 touchdown passes. Through five games, he has 24 receptions, 269 yards and 3 touchdowns. Some people may think he is a flash in the pan, but the numbers suggest otherwise. He's in the pivotal third year and he's starting to learn what it takes to be a wide receiver in the league. Cam Newton is targeting more passes closer to the line of scrimmage and it's improving his completion percentage. Funchess, among others are benefiting. As long as Newton is playing well, Funchess will have a fantasy relevant role this year. Even after Greg Olsen returns.
Jermaine Kearse, NYJ - The 3-2 Jets have surprised thus far and their schedule is favorable going forward with two games against New England and the NFC South still on tap. Kearse has blossomed into the Jets leading receiver with better games ahead. He is currently ranked #22 in PPR format and could wind up being a flex starter come crunch time. The Jets play at New Orleans and vs. Los Angeles Chargers Weeks 15 and 16.
DeSean Jackson, TB - The Buccaneers WR2 has started off slow, but so has his quarterback Jameis Winston. Jackson has been open deep on several occasions this year. Eventually Winston is going to find him and the schedule is going to get better for Tampa Bay. His trade window is wide open right now.
Corey Davis, TEN - It's a long season, but Corey Davis (and Marcus Mariota) will be back to give Tennessee an offensive boost. Davis will be returning soon from a hamstring issue that has given him problems since preseason. Davis flashed in Week 1 with a 6-69 performance that included 10 targets. Tennessee will use his ability and talent when he's able to return. He's a great buy low candidate for the stretch run. Tennessee will play at ARI, at SF and vs LAR in Weeks 14, 15 and 16.
Here's a few tight ends to target that you may be able to get fairly cheap.
1. Hunter Henry, LAC - The torch is finally being passed from Antonio Gates to Hunter Henry. Last week Henry out-snapped Gates 59 to 41 and appears to be trending in a positive direction. He has scored in each of the last two games and is third on the team in targets in that span, behind Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon III. Henry's time is coming and his trade window is getting smaller, especially after back to back games with a score.
2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ- Since Austin Seferian-Jenkins arrived to the 2017 season in Week 3, he leads the team in targets (18), receptions (15) and receiving touchdowns (1). He has five, four and six catches in those three games and appears to be a big piece of the Jets offense with games against New England at Miami and Atlanta coming up.
3. Tyler Kroft, CIN - Tyler Eifert has been out since Week 3 with a back injury that will likely keep him shelved until Week 7 (after the Bengals bye), if not longer. Eifert has had difficulties with his back before, as well as his elbow and shoulder. Injuries have taken a toll lately and it's possible they will continue to do so when he returns. There's whispers that Eifert may opt for another surgery on his ailing back. If so, it would put him out for the season. Such a move would open things up for Tyler Kroft to benefit. There's no guarantee that Eifert will be back to his regular form if he opts out of surgery. Kroft appears to be the player to target for the rest of the year.
4. David Njoku, CLE - The Browns rookie tight end is starting to see more snaps and he already is seeing action in the red zone and clutch passing downs. He is scoring a touchdown in one of every four receptions. I can see him becoming more of a fixture in the offense as the year goes on. If and when that happens, he'll be a fantasy relevant tight end just in time for the playoffs.
5. Greg Olsen, CAR - As previously mentioned, Carolina has a favorable schedule against the pass the rest of the way. Olsen (foot) is expected to return to the Panthers sometime in mid-November. Chances are, there's a team in your league who has found a valid replacement for Olsen and might be willing to part with him for a bargain that looks good now. the longer you wait, the higher his price tag gets.
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