It’s hard to believe the NFL season is halfway over and the fantasy football regular season has just… Five. More. Weeks until the the playoffs. It’s a critical time of the year for teams hovering around that .500 mark. Do you ride it out and hope to go on a run or is it time to start making moves to improve your team for 2016? For teams better than .500 the answer is clearer. It’s time to start targeting players you want to acquire for the playoff run in Weeks 14-16 (none of you have your title game in week 17 right?).
Some of these targets I recommend may not do much for you long term, but remember, the goal is to win championships. Any team can win once they get to the playoffs where anything can and will happen. Some of these targets are not “dynasty friendly” but I’m here to help you win a title in 2015. If you are in the playoff hunt you owe it to your team to give them real shot at the title. Sometimes you have to unload future assets to make that happen. Be willing to make bold moves to get you the championship.
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Let’s start the process with looking at which defenses give up the most points per game to opposing players at each of the four major fantasy positions. For this exercise we will use 4for4’s excellent schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) metric and select the top five defenses for each position. This will give us plenty of trade targets for those all important week 14 – 16 games.
We want to target quarterbacks playing against those teams in weeks 14-16. Here are our options for those weeks.
Unfortunately there is not a quarterback who plays a top five option all three weeks and there’s no quarterback from week 16 who plays in either week 14 or 15. To assemble the perfect fantasy playoff quarterback you will have to target either Drew Brees or Nick Foles and then an option for week 16 as well.
I don’t know about you guys, but the likelihood of me resting the hopes of a single-elimination playoff victory on the shoulders of Nick Foles, is about as likely as Nick Foles winning the MVP trophy. That means Drew Brees is the guy we really want to target. As an added bonus, the Saints play the Jaguars in the Superdome in week 16 who are outside the top 10 (14th) in terms of aFPA. They gave up 358 yards and two touchdowns to Tom Brady in week three so that kind of production is in the realm of possibilities for Brees.
Ideally he is on a team out of contention and thinking about rebuilding for 2016 and beyond. This makes a deal for a future pick almost a slam dunk considering how much time he likely has left in the tank. You may have to give a little more than you want to get it done but remember the goal is to win championships and Brees’ matchups the last three weeks of the fantasy regular season are too good to pass up. It also won’t hurt too bad for in future terms because while Brees won’t be around for much longer, it’s not likely he retires after the 2015 season. At a bare minimum, this gives you a QB for 2016, and an opportunity to trade him after bringing home a title.
Looking at the running backs playing these teams during the playoffs we get the following options:
Charcandrick West is our top target since he plays in the week 16 championship game as well as the first week of the playoffs. West has a tough matchup in Baltimore Week 15 so you’ll likely want to have a better option there. He’s also the best long-term dynasty option at just 24 years old. West will likely be difficult to acquire but there is always the chance a rebuilding team will want to turn their waiver wire gem into a better asset. Jamaal Charles will be 29 next season coming off an ACL tear and while I do think Charles should be able to return fully, there is the possibility West will have a role as well. This makes it a bit easier to stomach giving up an asset you might not want to in order to win now with West.
Frank Gore comes in at a close second having two games against the teams we have targeted. Like Brees, he should be an easier buy given his advanced age. That of course depends on the state of the team that currently owns him. By December, the Colts offense will hopefully be back on track, but even if it isn’t I’m betting Gore has good to great games in Weeks 14 and 15.
I think it’s completely within reason to target both of these players if you don’t feel good about your running back options during the playoff weeks. It gives you two RBs with great matchups in week 14 and one in both Week 15 and 16.
It makes sense that three of these teams are the same as the ones we are targeting for our quarterback matchups.
For the wide receiver position we unfortunately do not have any double or triple matchup weeks. My recommendation here goes back to the Saints receivers. While they don’t have a top five matchup in Week 14 like their quarterback, they do have a top-six matchup against Tampa Bay who just missed the cut, allowing 41.3 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Remember, their Week 16 matchup against Jacksonville (14th) isn’t too bad either.
Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead may be difficult to acquire but both are great options for this year due to the schedule and in future years because of how young they are. Don’t be afraid to overpay a bit for these two receivers. Marques Colston is a much less appealing option but he should be basically free if you can’t get the other two. I’ve seen him on plenty of waiver wires over the last couple of weeks. How willing you are to risk a championship with him in your lineup is another story.
The Giants get the distinction of being the only team we are targeting for all three of the primary passing game positions. The Saints make our list twice.
Greg Olsen is the only player at any position who has a top five matchup all three weeks of the fantasy post-season. Olsen is likely going to be a very tough target to acquire as the top five or so tight ends are very valuable in dynasty due to the volatile nature of the position. He is however on the wrong side of 30 so there is a chance the Olsen owner in your league is willing to move him for youth or another position of need. If you happen to have another elite option at the position who is younger like Travis Kelce or Tyler Eifert they may even consider a one for one swap.
If he is healthy then Julius Thomas makes for an interesting target. His owner is likely frustrated with him at this point and may be willing to sell him cheap. He has two plus matchups to end the season. The Saints game in week 16 could be particularly high scoring.
You have to take a look what your team is facing these final four weeks and decide where your strengths and weakness lie before deciding which players to target. In a vacuum, without knowing the construction of your team, I would first prioritize getting a piece of the New Orleans offense. The Saints have great matchups at all position groups during Weeks 14 – 16.
Secondly, I would look to acquire Greg Olsen. It might be hard to get him but the kind of consistency he offers at an otherwise roller coaster of a position makes it worthwhile to at least give it a shot. Other than Rob Gronkowski there is no tight end that I would rather have for the remainder of the fantasy season.
Third on my list would be contacting the Charcandrick West and Frank Gore owners about obtaining their services. Both have two top five matchups over the final weeks. I have a feeling that West in particular will be a key component of championship lineups.