(CBS) The NFL season is half over, but the Fantasy Football season is about three-fourths of the way finished. It is about time to prepare your team for playoff domination. In most fantasy leagues, the playoffs are in weeks 14, 15 and 16. This blog will give you names of players at each position that you should aim to acquire, or avoid/dump before week 14 based on their projected performance in the fantasy playoff weeks.
Note that these players named are realistically acquirable via trade and they are players that carry enough weight now that can be dumped. For example, I’m not going to tell you to try to trade for Arian Foster or Aaron Rodgers because it is assumed they will have a good fantasy playoffs. I assume you know that already, and I assume those players are not up for grabs, anyway. The disclaimer is out of the way, and here we gooooo.
BUY Eli Manning (NYG) – Not only will Eli Manning help you in the playoffs, but he will help you actually get into the playoffs. In week 13, Manning passes against the worst pass defense in the league, Washington, who has given up 314 yards per game in the air, and a league-worst 19 passing touchdowns. Once in the playoffs, Manning faces a Saints defense in shambles in week 14, ranking 29th against the pass, and falling. Week 15 he sees a stingy Falcons defense, but in championship week 16 the 23rd-ranked, injured and depleted Baltimore Raven defense will attempt to stop a clutch Eli Manning, and will fail, helping you to a fantasy championship. Eli is the type of quarterback that is acquirable right now via trade because of his poor performance last week against Dallas. He wouldn’t even have to be the focal point of the trade if combined with the right running back or wide receiver.
Notable Buys: Joe Flacco (BAL) – WK 14 @ WASH (32nd vs pass) WK 16-VS NYG (25th vs pass), Peyton Manning (DEN) – WK 14 @ OAK (19th vs pass) WK 15 @ BAL (23rd vs pass) WK 16 VS CLE (24th vs pass). Cam Newton (CAR) – WK 15 @ SD (20th vs pass) WK 16 VS OAK (19th vs pass)
SELL Philip Rivers (SD) – Philip Rivers has been worse than expected this year, but if you drafted lots of talent before picking up Rivers late, and are now lucky enough to get to the playoffs with him as your starting quarterback, you’re in trouble. In week 14, Rivers will be on the road and face the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have allowed only 183 yards per game passing, and only 13 times this year a team has completed a pass for more than 20 yards. That ranks second in the NFL. In week 15, Rivers hosts a stingy Carolina defense, ranked in the top half against the pass, but championship week 16, in the meadow lands, Rivers will throw against the 6th-ranked pass defense in the New York Jets. That will be a Sunday night no championship contender wants to watch.
Notable Sells: Jay Cutler (CHI) – WK 14 @ MIN (12th vs pass) WK 15 VS GB (bad career vs GB) WK 16 @ AZ (4th vs pass), Andy Dalton (CIN) – WK 14 VS DAL (3rd vs pass) WK 15 @ PHI (14th vs pass) WK 16 @ PITT (1st vs pass)
BUY Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – If healthy, Ahmad Bradshaw has the cushiest playoff schedule a running back could ask for. Week 14 the Saints are in town, and they will bring their 31st-ranked defense against the run. In seven games, the Saints have given up nine scores on the ground. Week 15 the Giants travel to Atlanta, and while the Falcons are undefeated, it is no thanks to their run defense which ranks 25th in the NFL giving up eight scores on the ground in seven games as well. The Baltimore Ravens will be gracious hosts in championship week 16 as the 29th defense against the pass will roll out the red carpet for Ahmad Brandshaw. He is an injury risk, so trade cautiously. He is a fantastic RB 2/FLEX play in the playoffs.
Notable Playoff Buys: Marshawn Lynch (BUF) – WK 14 vs AZ (20th vs run) WK 15 @ BUF (32nd vs run), Jamaal Charles (KC) – WK 14 @ CLE (23rd vs run) WK 16 vs IND (26th vs run), Reggie Bush (MIA) – WK 15 vs JAX (24th vs run) WK 16 vs BUF (32nd vs run)
SELL Frank Gore (SF) – Frank Gore has held up nicely so far. Fantasy owners of Gore should be pleasantly surprised at the top-tier production they have gotten from this veteran back. Use Gore to put yourself into the playoffs, but know that once you are there, tough matchups await. In week 14, Gore will see a Miami team that has stopped such backs as Darren McFadden, ranking third in the NFL in rushing defense. Miami has only given up three scores on the ground this year. Week 15 Gore travels to New England, who makes up for their horrible pass defense by stopping the run. The Patriots are eighth against the run this year, and I believe it is because teams would simply rather throw against that no-name secondary. Alex Smith should have fun, but Frank Gore wont. In championship week 16, Gore is in Seattle, the toughest place to play. Seattle ranks 5th in rush defense, also only giving up three scores on the ground. Gore has some trade value because of his production and his name. Deal him for someone from above.
Notable Playoff Sells: Steven Ridley (NE) – WK 14 vs HOU (4th vs run & 0 TD’s given up on ground) WK 15 vs SF (7th vs run), Adrian Peterson (MIN) –WK 14 vs CHI (1st vs run) WK 15 @ STL (14th vs run) WK 16 @ HOU (4th vs run & 0 TDs given up on ground)
BUY Eric Decker (DEN) – This will be a very solid buy for a team who knows his/her team will make the playoffs and wants to add a solid playoff piece without making it obvious what he/she wants to do. Demaryius Thomas is the man up in Denver, but Eric Decker has enjoyed the side car roll, scoring eight less fantasy points than Thomas. Facing Oakland in week 14 (19th vs pass), Baltimore in week 15 (23rd vs pass) and Cleveland in week 16 (24th vs pass), Decker will benefit from facing CB 2’s on each of those bad defenses.
SELL AJ Green (CIN) – AJ Green faces Dallas in week 14 who has held receiving groups to 201 yards per game combined and only seven touchdowns. In week 15, Green’s task doesn’t get much easier, facing Philadelphia’s corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, part of the 14th-ranked pass defense. Pittsburgh has given up the least amount of yards per receiving core at 192, and the Bengals must travel to Pittsburgh in week 16.
BUY Dustin Keller (NYJ), Jermichael Finley (GB), Jacob Tamme (IND) -All these tight ends face a Tennessee team that is very susceptible down the seam and at the linebacker position. Tight ends feast on this team, and will in weeks 14, 15 and 16 as well.
SELL Antonio Gates (SD) – It has been a disappointing year for Gates, ranking 19th among fantasy tight ends, behind the likes of Anthony Fasano (MIA), Brandon Myers (OAK), Dennis Pitta (BAL), etc. Gates is in the same boat as Rivers (read above).
BUY Green Bay (vs DET, @ CHI, vs TEN), Seattle (vs AZ, @ BUF, vs SF), Denver (@ Oak, @ BAL, vs CLE), Pittsburgh (vs SD, @ DAL, vs CIN)
SELL Baltimore (@ WASH, vs DEN, vs NYG)
These tips are helpful for teams in the playoffs already. Do not plan ahead for the playoffs if you are not very certain you will make it. Do not sell a player that will help you into the playoffs, but will hurt you in the weeks to come.
Thank you to Intern Kyle Rada for help on the statistical analysis of this article.
Follow Adam Harris on Twitter @AHarris670 and ask him Fantasy Football questions. Also, listen to the Friday Fantasy Nerd Herd Hour on Friday nights/Saturday mornings from 12am – 1am with Joe Ostrowski.