It’s getting to that time to examine playoff schedules and look for trade targets that will increase your bottom line chance to win if you’re off to a good start. The buy low portion of this week’s column will focus on playoff additions.
Carson Palmer, QB, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd, J.J. Nelson, WR, ARI - I’ve documented this once already in buy low, sell high just two weeks ago, but the Cardinals have a nice run of pass defenses between Weeks 12-15 - Atlanta, Washington, Miami, New Orleans. Palmer is an afterthought in some leagues after his slow start, Fitzgerald is probably available for WR2 prices, Brown and Floyd are mere toss-ins in trades, and Nelson is on the waiver wire. This passing game should come alive this weekend against a Panthers pass defense that has already given up two games over 450 yards passing this year. It could be your last chance to get pieces of this sleeping giant cheap.
Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, RB, CIN - Hill may be a bit of a buy high after his Week 7 performance. He also comes with the risk of a lingering chest/shoulder injury combined with a power running contact-inviting style. Bernard is probably the better overall buy with those factors in mind, but both are set up for a strong fantasy playoff run with Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Houston up in Weeks 14-16. Last week against Cleveland showed us that both can be good starts in the same week, so don’t be afraid to solidify your position in the Bengals backfield if you own one.
Dion Lewis, James White, RB, NE - Lewis is practicing again, so it’s time to get him from the waiver wire, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to kick White to the curb. We’ve already seen Jamaal Charles have trouble coming back from his ACL tear, and Lewis’s absence is due to a complication from his recovery. Another issue could easily come up in his return. Either way, the passing back for the Patriots will have value in the fantasy playoffs as New England gets Baltimore, Denver, and the Jets. Baltimore and the Jets will encourage the Patriots to go away from heavy sets, and Denver’s defense was exposed by Tevin Coleman as having trouble covering dynamic running backs as receivers out of the backfield.
Philip Rivers, QB, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, WR, SD - This is a perfect time to trade for parts of the Chargers passing game heading into a matchup with Denver. If the other owner is 3-4 and needing a win this week, they could sell them for a discount to improve their Week 8 lineup. The Chargers have Carolina, Oakland, and Cleveland up in the fantasy playoffs, which might be the best trio of passing matchups for a quarterback in the entire league. Williams and Benjamin are lined up for a higher than average outlook in December.
Matt Asiata, RB, MIN - Jerick McKinnon is banged up, and he hasn’t decisively outplayed Asiata since Adrian Peterson went down. Asiata already has flex value as the goal line back, but he is also a good receiver and rugged enough to hold up for the long haul under a huge workload. He’s not necessarily a league winner, but Asiata can be a low RB1 if McKinnon goes down or if he seizes the backfield with some strong performances.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, NE - It’s certainly possible that Blount is not garnering the RB1 value he has earned when he is dangled in the trade market. However, if he is, it’s probably best to sell unless he is essential because you are thin at running back. New England’s schedule is riddled with defenses like Seattle, the Jets (twice), Baltimore, and Los Angeles that will likely push the Patriots into using more of James White and Dion Lewis to create better matchups and personnel sets.
Matt Forte, RB, NYJ - Forte’s big week 7 vs. Baltimore and the great matchup against Cleveland this week created a small sell high window if you don’t want to deal with trying to time his good weeks in this inconsistent offense. The Jets do have favorable run matchups against Indianapolis and San Francisco in Weeks 13 and 14, so you might still get RB2 value for the boom/bust flex play.
Jay Ajayi, RB, MIA - Ajayi is for real as a talent, and the Dolphins are for real as run-blocking offensive line, but they won’t get many favors from a run of Baltimore, Arizona, and the Jets in Weeks 13-15. If Ajayi isn’t one of your top two backs, or if you need wins the next two weeks, you also might want to cash him in at his peak value with the Jets up after the bye.
Melvin Gordon III, RB, SD - Gordon is seemingly in another sell high moment after a three score game, and his low efficiency running the ball is another sell high indicator. A look ahead to the Chargers playoff schedule of Carolina, Oakland, and Cleveland paints a different picture, as there should be a lot of touchdown opportunities against all three defenses, not to mention the weak run defenses of Oakland and Cleveland maybe giving up more than Gordon’s paltry 3.4 yards per carry average to date.
Spencer Ware, RB, KC - Odds point to Jamaal Charles not returning to 100% after swelling and an order for MRIs in both knees last week. Even if he was going to return to form, Ware has done more than well enough to hold down half of this backfield for the rest of the season, and the Chiefs’ penchant for going run heavy would give Ware a big weekly opportunity. Kansas City’s defense will get a boost with the return of Justin Houston, and Ware’s receiving ability makes him game script proof. A playoff schedule of Oakland, Tennessee, and Denver - most importantly all in Arrowhead - is the cherry on the sundae for the surprise RB1.
Devontae Booker, RB, DEN - I’m not sure Booker owners realize what they have in him - a fantasy RB1. He can handle the workload after being the centerpiece of the offense at Utah, with only potential fumble worries with a hitch in him being a league winner going forward. The Broncos running game is getting on track, and they have Oakland and New Orleans up in Weeks 9 and 10, making Booker an ideal get if your running backs need a boost to get a 3-4 team out of the doldrums.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Davante Adams, WR, Ty Montgomery, WR/RB, GB - This one hinges on assumption of rational coaching as the Packers offense looked as good as it has since 2014 with Aaron Rodgers in the spread getting the ball out quickly to Adams and Montgomery, who are consistently getting good separation early in their routes. Randall Cobb would be on this list if it wasn’t for his hamstring issue. The hamstring problem limiting him in practice this week could actually make him a buy low. His fit and ability to add value with running back snaps makes him a WR1 when healthy. The only potential pitfall here is Mike McCarthy going back to the boring balanced offense.