Thanksgiving week is upon us, and in our fantasy football universe, that means the end of the regular season and the fantasy playoffs are nigh.
And with only one more weekend of play – and only two more waiver-claim periods – remaining in the majority of leagues before the postseason kicks off, it’s time to take stock of the fringe starters and streamers at each of the five main fantasy positions (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and team defense) who are trending in the right directions while also owning favorable postseason slates, according to one of most useful and invaluable resources at your disposal as a Huddle member: the fantasy Strength of Schedule tool.
As a bonus, we’ll point out one potential starter at each of the five positions with a decidedly unfavorable fantasy postseason schedule to be very wary of. (Note: To correlate with the majority of leagues, we’re treating Weeks 14-16 as the fantasy postseason, and we’re utilizing non-point-per-reception Huddle Performance scoring).
Ryan Tannehill (Titans)
Stat to know: Since taking over from Marcus Mariota as Tennessee’s starter in Week 7, Tannehill has been nothing less than fantasy’s third-best QB with 133.9 points and 13 total touchdowns, including three rushing, in five games through Sunday.
Fantasy postseason schedule: at Oakland, vs. Houston, vs. New Orleans. With the Titans owning the easiest fantasy postseason QB schedule, all three of Tennessee’s foes rank in the league’s top half in terms of most points surrendered to opposing quarterbacks, including the Raiders and Texans who are among the six most charitable.
Quick thought: Most were only expecting a slight improvement over Mariota, but Tannehill has gone above and beyond, topping 20 or more fantasy points with multiple TDs in all five of his starts and should be starting until further notice, regardless of matchup.
Baker Mayfield (Browns)
Stat to know: The Cleveland sophomore has passed for multiple TDs in each of his last three games after failing to do so even once in his first eight contests.
Fantasy postseason schedule: vs. Cincinnati, at Arizona, vs. Baltimore. The Ravens’ rapidly improved D will be tough in Week 16, but Mayfield can definitely extend his roll with tasty plus-matchups against the Bengals and Cards in Weeks 14 and 15.
Quick thought: Drafted as a QB1 following a strong second half of his rookie season, Mayfield likely was found on more waiver wires than starting lineups after tossing only seven TD passes and 12 interceptions over his first eight games, but it’s been a seven-to-one ratio since with a rushing TD thrown in. Ride the wave of redemption.
Jameis Winston (Buccaneers)
Stat to know: Winston has thrown for at least 300 yards and a TD in eight of his last nine games, including six straight.
Fantasy postseason schedule: vs. Indianapolis, at Detroit, vs. Houston. If Winston’s impressive numbers weren’t enough, the Bucs own the seventh most-favorable fantasy QB playoff itinerary with no minus-matchups.
Quick thought: Even with Winston continuing to pace the league in interceptions with 20 after tossing six over his last two outings, he’s more than making up for it with the help of two elite wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and hasn’t finished with fewer than 19.5 fantasy points in a game since Week 3.
QB to be wary of: Josh Allen (Bills) – Coming out of Sunday and his third straight 22.5-point-plus game, the second-year Allen ranks sixth among fantasy QBs in terms of total points, but the Bills have famously feasted on one of the league’s easiest schedules so far. However, looking forward, the Bills’ fantasy QB postseason slate ranks as the second-most unfavorable in the league with matchups against the Ravens, Steelers and Patriots awaiting.
Phillip Lindsay (Broncos)
Stat to know: In the two games since the Broncos’ bye in Week 10, Lindsay has been instilled as the team’s clear lead back, logging 32 touches to Royce Freeman’s 13 and out snapping him 78-51.
Fantasy postseason schedule: at Houston, at Kansas City, vs. Detroit. With two very favorable matchups (K.C. and the Lions) and another green-light game (vs. the Texans), it projects as the easiest fantasy RB playoff itinerary in the league.
Quick thought: The Broncos’ offense, as a whole, is among the league’s worst but you can bank on Lindsay to keep running with fearlessness, and he’s gained at least 60 total yards in every game but one this season with five rushing scores.
Sony Michel (Patriots)
Stat to know: Michel has largely underwhelmed this season, but in each of the Pats’ 10 wins this season, he’s totaled at least 12 touches and/or scored a TD, averaging 10.04 fantasy points per contest.
Fantasy postseason schedule: vs. Kansas City, at Cincinnati, vs. Buffalo. The Patriots possess the third-friendliest fantasy playoff running back schedule with K.C. and Cincy both ranking among the five teams allowing the most RB fantasy points per game.
Quick thought: Even though Michel hasn’t scored a TD since Week 7, he remains the team’s clear lead back, accounting for 20 of the team’s 25 running-back rushes in Sunday’s win over Dallas. Similar to last postseason when he averaged a whopping 23.6 rushing attempts per game, the Pats could once again lean heavily on Michel down the stretch with Tom Brady and the passing game currently struggling.
Kareem Hunt (Browns)
Stat to know: Since debuting for Cleveland in Week 10 following the end of his eight-game suspension, Hunt only has 9.9 fewer PPR points than lead back Nick Chubb and ranks second on the team with 15 receptions over those three contests.
Fantasy postseason schedule: vs. Cincinnati, at Arizona, vs. Baltimore. The Browns have the seventh most-favorable fantasy RB playoff schedule.
Quick thought: Of course everyone is still going to be starting Chubb, but don’t overlook Hunt as a RB2/flex play, particularly in PPR leagues.
Running back to be wary of: Bo Scarbrough (Lions) – Scarbrough has rushed for 153 yards and a TD on 32 carries in two games since making his Detroit debut in Week 11, but the Lions own fantasy’s second-toughest fantasy playoff RB slate with matchups against the Vikings, Bucs and Broncos – all of whom rank among the 13 teams surrendering the fewest fantasy points to opposing backs.
D.J. Moore (Panthers)
Stat to know: Since Week 9, no player has been targeted more than Carolina’s Moore (45 in four games) and only Saints stud wideout Michael Thomas (31) has caught more passes than Moore’s 30 during that stretch.
Fantasy postseason schedule: at Atlanta, vs. Seattle, at Indianapolis. None of three matchups are daunting in the least, making for the ninth-easiest fantasy WR slate.
Quick thought: Moore is sixth among wideouts in both targets (103) and receptions (68) on the season and has emerged as a must-start WR2 – even with uneven QB Kyle Allen at the helm.
DeVante Parker (Dolphins)
Stat to know: Since Ryan Fitzpatrick was reinstated as Miami’s starting quarterback in Week 6, Parker has totaled the 11th-most fantasy points (PPR) among all wide receivers, reeling in 36-of-59 targets for 494 yards and three TDs.
Fantasy postseason schedule: at N.Y. Jets, at N.Y. Giants, vs. Cincinnati. This trio of opponents comprises the fourth-easiest fantasy wideout playoff schedule.
Quick thought: Parker has averaged 9.2 targets and 5.5 receptions with at least 11.9 PPR points over his last six games as the top target on a team that’s going to have to continue to pass early and often in an attempt to keep up with one of the league’s worst defenses.
Terry McLaurin (Redskins)
Stat to know: The talented rookie was tied for third among all wideouts Sunday with a season-high 12 targets, and his 638 receiving yards on the season are 393 more than any other Washington wide receiver or tight end.
Fantasy postseason schedule: at Green Bay, vs. Philadelphia, vs. N.Y. Giants. It’s the sixth easiest fantasy WR playoff slate, with the Week 15 and 16 matchups against the division-rival Eagles and Giants looking particularly promising.
Quick thought: Fellow rookie (and McLaurin’s Ohio State teammate) Dwayne Haskins is learning on the fly, and with Washington figuring to have to air it out frequently to try to keep up on the scoreboard, McLaurin looks to be a solid WR3/flex option.
Wide receiver to be wary of: Allen Robinson (Bears) – After catching only 11 passes for 107 yards and no TDs over the previous three weeks, Robinson came up big Sunday against the Giants, snaring six passes for a season-high 131 yards and a TD. It’s exactly what any team’s No. 1 wide receiver should do against one of the league’s worst secondaries, but the matchups for Robinson and struggling Chicago QB Mitch Trubisky will be infinitely tougher in the fantasy postseason with the Cowboys, Packers and Chiefs on the docket, making for the third-toughest fantasy wide receiver itinerary.
Jacob Hollister (Seahawks)
Stat to know: In three games since Week 9, Hollister has caught 14-of-20 targets for 121 yards and three TDs, while averaging 14.7 PPR points per outing – the seventh-best average at the position.
Fantasy postseason schedule: at L.A. Rams, at Carolina, vs. Arizona. This projects to be the second-easiest playoff schedule for tight ends, and playing a TE against the Cardinals is a sure-fire winning fantasy strategy in any game, let alone in fantasy championship week.
Quick thought: Tight end is so thin that matchups don’t matter as much once you latch on to a reliable one, but they certainly can point you in the right direction if you’re deciding between similar options at the position in shallower leagues.
Kyle Rudolph/Irv Smith Jr. (Vikings)
Stat to know: Minnesota had a bye in Week 12, but in the five previous weeks (7 through 11), Rudolph and the rookie Smith both ranked among the top 12 tight ends in terms of total fantasy points (PPR), combining for 40 receptions (20 apiece) for 347 yards and six TDs (five for Rudolph) on 48 targets (24 each).
Fantasy postseason schedule: vs. Detroit, at L.A. Chargers, vs. Green Bay. It’s the sixth-easiest projected schedule for tight ends.
Quick thought: The Minnesota tight ends’ spike in production has coincided directly with the hamstring-injury absence of WR Adam Thielen, who could be returning in Week 13. It’s also coincided with a 4-1 run for the Vikings, who are now tied for the NFC North lead, and it’s worked so well that it’s hard to imagine Minnesota not keeping them involved in the offense.
Tight end to be wary of: Mike Gesicki (Dolphins) – The second-year Miami tight caught his first NFL TD pass Sunday and has posted a 16-169-1 combined stat line on 19 targets over his last four games. However, the third most unfavorable projected fantasy tight end schedule looms in the playoffs, so keep that in mind if you’re weighing Gesicki against similar options at the position.
Stat to know: Coming out of Sunday, the J.J. Watt/Jadeveon Clowney-less Texans rank 26th among fantasy defenses on the season and rank 28th with 23 sacks in 11 games.
Fantasy postseason schedule: vs. Denver, at Tennessee, at Tampa Bay
Quick thought: Unless you have one of the elite fantasy defenses (i.e. Patriots, 49ers and Steelers), it’s all about the matchups, and the Texans possess the second-most favorable fantasy postseason slate, which includes a game against the always-charitable Winston on championship weekend.
Stat to know: Entering Monday night’s game against the Rams, the Ravens had come away with two or more turnovers in five of their six previous games while allowing an average of 16 points during that stretch. Even more impressive, Baltimore had scored five defensive TDs over their last four games heading into Week 12.
Fantasy postseason schedule: at Buffalo, vs. N.Y. Jets, at Cleveland
Quick thought: The Week 15 home game against the Jets is the only extremely-favorable matchup during the stretch, but it’s not hard to imagine the Bills and Browns and their young QBs pressing and struggling to keep up with Lamar Jackson and the league’s hottest offense in the other two games.
Team D to be wary of: Chicago Bears – Chicago was fantasy’s defense to own in 2018, but as is the annual lesson that’s so tough to learn, one season’s gem is the next season’s most overdrafted and underwhelming fantasy defense as the Bears currently rank 19th overall at the position. And now looms a fantasy-playoff stretch with not one, not two but three negative matchups in the Cowboys, Packers and Chiefs? No, and thanks.