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Fantasy Football -- Week 11 Strategy Topic

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Strategy topic of the week: which teams have the most favorable schedules during the fantasy football playoffs (i.e. -- weeks 14-16)?

As we discussed last week if your team is likely to qualify for you fantasy league's playoffs, you should already be looking ahead to ensure that the players on your roster have as many favorable match-ups as possible during the playoff weeks.

For the purposes of analyzing match-ups it makes sense to look at four aspects of your team: (1) rushing offense, (2) passing offense, (3) defense, and (4) kicking. Rushing match-ups can best be evaluated by looking at the opposing team's average rushing yards allowed per game. Similarly, use the opposing team's average passing yards allowed to get a handle on the match-ups for your quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. To evaluate defenses look at the opposing offense's average total yards per game (rushing plus passing).

Evaluating kickers' match-ups is a bit more challenging. One possible approach is to look for opposing defenses that allow a low percentage of touchdowns on drives that reach the red zone. Another is to look for defenses that are better against the pass than the run, figuring it will be more difficult for opposing offenses to pick up big amounts of yardage (say 10 or more yards) with one play, which is usually a necessity for a sustained drive that results in a touchdown. I prefer to keep things relatively simple and judge kicker match-ups based on the opposing defense's average total yards allowed per game.

While analyzing playoff weeks' match-ups for the four categories described above, I classified each match-up as favorable, neutral, or unfavorable, then looked at the results across the three weeks for a given team-category combination. For example, Baltimore has the most favorable schedule for running backs; their three opponents in weeks 14-16 are Cleveland, Indianapolis, and San Diego, all of whom are fairly "generous" to opposing rushing offenses. "Ties" in my rankings were broken by selecting the team(s) that had the more favorable match-up in the first playoff week, the theory being if your team loses in the first week of the playoffs, you won't care what your team's match-ups look like for subsequent weeks.

Without further ado here are the rankings:

Rushing offenses
1. Baltimore
2. Green Bay
3. Minnesota
3. New York Jets (tie)
5. Jacksonville
5. Pittsburgh
5. San Diego
8. Dallas
9. Cincinnati
9. Detroit
9. Houston
9. Oakland
13. Atlanta
13. Buffalo
15. Miami
15. Tennessee
17. Kansas City
18. New Orleans
18. Seattle
18. San Francisco
21. New England
22. Arizona
22. Cleveland
22. Indianapolis
25. New York Giants
26. Carolina
26. Denver
26. Tampa Bay
29. Chicago
30. Philadelphia
30. Washington
32. St. Louis

Passing offenses (use for QBs, WRs, and TEs)
1. Chicago
1. Denver
1. Kansas City
1. New England
5. Dallas
5. Jacksonville
7. Green Bay
7. Washington
9. Miami
9. New Orleans
9. Seattle
12. Detroit
13. Carolina
13. San Francisco
15. New York Jets
16. Buffalo
17. Pittsburgh
18. Oakland
18. Philadelphia
20. Tennessee
21. Cincinnati
21. Houston
23. Arizona
23. Baltimore
23. San Diego
23. St. Louis
27. Atlanta
28. Cleveland
29. Tampa Bay
30. New York Giants
31. Indianapolis
31. Minnesota

1. Arizona
2. Pittsburgh
3. Seattle
4. Chicago
4. St. Louis
6. New Orleans
7. Baltimore
7. Houston
7. San Francisco
10. Jacksonville
11. Cincinnati
11. New York Giants
11. Tennessee
14. Indianapolis
14. Philadelphia
16. San Diego
17. Minnesota
18. Cleveland
18. Green Bay
18. New England
21. Buffalo
22. Oakland
23. New York Jets
24. Tampa Bay
25. Carolina
25. Denver
27. Atlanta
28. Detroit
29. Dallas
29. Miami
31. Washington
32. Kansas City

1. Denver
1. Green Bay
1. Washington
4. Dallas
4. Denver
4. Seattle
7. Chicago
7. New York Jets
7. Oakland
10. Buffalo
10. Kansas City
10. Miami
10. New England
14. Tennessee
15. Jacksonville
15. Philadelphia
17. Atlanta
18. Minnesota
18. New Orleans
20. Cincinnati
20. Houston
22. Baltimore
23. San Diego
23. San Francisco
25. New York Giants
26. Carolina
27. Pittsburgh
27. Tampa Bay
29. Cleveland
30. Arizona
30. St. Louis
32. Indianapolis

Please keep in mind that these rankings are based on a team's opponents only, not on a team's skill in that particular category. For instance no one would argue that given a choice between starting Aaron Rodgers and Tim Tebow in your quarterback spot that you ought to start Tebow (or at least I hope not). Still, based on match-ups against opposing teams' pass defenses, Denver has a slightly more favorable schedule during the playoff weeks than Green Bay.

Players you'll wish you hadn't started this week
QB: Jay Cutler (vs. San Diego), Joe Flacco (vs. Cincinnati), Andy Dalton (@ Baltimore)
RB: Chris Johnson (@ Atlanta), Chris Benson (@ Baltimore), Frank Gore (vs. Arizona)
WR: Anquan Boldin (vs. Cincinnati), Steve Johnson (@ Miami), Jerome Simpson (@ Baltimore)
TE: Visanthe Shiancoe (vs. Oakland), Jared Cook (@ Atlanta), Marcedes Lewis (@ Cleveland)
DEF: NY Giants (vs. Philadelphia), Chicago (vs. San Diego), Minnesota (vs. Oakland)
K: Jason Hanson (vs. Carolina), Matt Bryant (vs. Tennessee), Billy Cundiff (vs. Cincinnati)

Players you'll wish you had started this week
QB: Rex Grossman (vs. Dallas), John Skelton (@ San Francisco), Matt Moore (vs. Buffalo)
RB: Kendall Hunter (vs. Arizona), Chris Ogbannaya (vs. Jacksonville), DeAngelo Williams (@ Detroit)
WR: Vincent Brown (@ Chicago), Doug Baldwin (@ St. Louis), Preston Parker (@ Green Bay)
TE: Ben Watson (vs. Jacksonville), Zach Miller (@ St. Louis), Brent Celek (@ NY Giants)
DEF: St. Louis (vs. Seattle), Philadelphia (@ NY Giants), Oakland (@ Minnesota)
K: Sebastian Janikowski (@ Minnesota), Nick Novak (@ Chicago), Alex Henery (@ NY Giants)

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