Fantasy Football Playoff Preview: Analyzing the Top 10 Schedules and Breakdowns

Keet Bailey@@KeetBaileyCorrespondent IIDecember 8, 2010

It’s fantasy football playoff time, and it’s even more crucial now to make sure you’re getting the right players in your lineup. The biggest thing fantasy football players look for is matchups. How does the opponent defense rank in stopping particular areas of the offense, etc.

It’s important to see trends, and also look at home/away splits, as well as what a player did in a game earlier in the season. But just because a receiver was shut down in Week 1 doesn’t mean they haven’t improved and can’t make plays in Week 15. That’s a lot of time to improve as a player.

NFL Soup brings you the Top 10 players in each position, and how their schedules rank, as well as including a few fantasy sleepers.

(Just as a note, this include the Top 10 of each position in ESPN standard scoring leagues. The Top 10 is then graded by ease of schedule.)


Philip Rivers- San Diego: Kansas City, San Francisco, @ Cincinnati, @ Denver

Rivers has about as favorable a playoff schedule as you could wish for. The highest ranked passing defense he goes up against is Cincinnati who ranks 15th in the league against the pass. Schedule Grade: A+

Peyton Manning- Indianapolis: @ Tennessee, Jacksonville, @ Oakland, Tennessee

Despite Manning’s recent struggles, he will end on a good note for 2010. His toughest pass defense to face is on the road against Oakland, but the good news is that he doesn’t face another 3-4 team in the regular season. Schedule Grade: A

Joe Flacco- Baltimore: @ Houston, New Orleans, @ Cleveland, Cincinnati

Flacco has a tough home game against the Saints, but he also gets favorable matchups against the Texans, Browns, and Bengals. He’s a low end QB1 for the rest of the season. Schedule Grade: A-

Kyle Orton- Denver: @ Arizona, @ Oakland, Houston, San Diego

Orton gets gifts against Arizona and Houston. Oakland and San Diego could cause some problems, but he still finds ways to make plays. Schedule Grade: B+

Michael Vick- Philadelphia: @ Dallas, @ New York Giants, Minnesota, Dallas

While Vick has to face a very good Giants pass defense, and a decent Minnesota pass defense, he gets the Cowboys twice, which bodes well for your fantasy team. Vick is a solid start the rest of the way, but don’t expect any more six touchdown performances. Schedule Grade: B+

Drew Brees-New Orleans: St. Louis, @ Baltimore, @ Atlanta, Tampa Bay

Brees should breeze through St. Louis’ pass defense. He may struggle on the road against Baltimore, but he gets a favorable road game against Atlanta’s pass defense, and faces a Tampa Bay defense prone to giving up touchdowns. Schedule Grade: B

Aaron Rodgers- Green Bay: @ Detroit, @ New England, New York Giants, Chicago

Rodgers has tough Week 15 and 16 matchups against the Patriots and Giants, but Chicago and Detroit should be very solid games for him. Schedule Grade: B

Tom Brady- New England: @ Chicago, Green Bay, @ Buffalo, Miami

While Tom Brady is hot, he finishes the season against three Top 10 pass defenses. However, Buffalo does give up quite a few touchdowns, and Chicago can be passed on. Not to mention, it is Tom Brady. Schedule Grade: B

Matt Cassel- Kansas City: @ San Diego, @ St. Louis, Tennessee, Oakland

Cassel  has two good matchups and two worrisome matchups. San Diego and Oakland could cause problems, but St. Louis and Tennessee should be solid performances for Cassel, who has been fantastic in 2010. Schedule Grade: B-

Matt Ryan- Atlanta: @ Carolina, @ Seattle, New Orleans, Carolina

You see Carolina and you immediately think to start anybody against them, but they haven’t been terrible against the pass, only giving up 15 touchdowns in the air. Seattle is a great matchup, but New Orleans won’t be easy to throw the football on. Schedule Grade: C+


Matt Schaub- Houston: Baltimore, @ Tennessee, @ Denver, Jacksonville

Schaub really has a nice schedule. Baltimore is solid against the pass, but he ends with Tennessee, Denver and Jacksonville to go up against. Schedule Grade: B+

Ben Roethlisberger- Pittsburgh: Cincinnati, New York Jets, Carolina, @ Cleveland

Big Ben has a pretty favorable schedule to end his 2010 campaign that started slowly because of the four game suspension. Schedule Grade: B


Maurice Jones-Drew- Jacksonville: Oakland, @ Indianapolis, Washington, @ Houston

MJD doesn’t face a defense that can stop the run at all in his final four weeks. He’s a great start to finish the year. Schedule Grade: A+

Chris Johnson- Tennessee: Indianapolis, Houston, @ Kansas City, @ Indianapolis

Johnson goes up against Kansas City in Week 16, but he gets Houston, and Indianapolis twice to finish the season. He should be started regardless, against those defenses. Schedule Grade: A+

Arian Foster- Houston: Baltimore, @ Tennessee, @ Denver, Jacksonville

Baltimore is stingy against running backs getting in the end zone, but Tennessee, Denver, and Jacksonville are completely different stories. Schedule Grade: A

Michael Turner- Atlanta: @ Carolina, @ Seattle, New Orleans, Carolina

Carolina is one of the worst teams against the run, and the Saints are just mediocre. Seattle has given up around 5.0 yards per carry against teams since losing Red Bryant. Schedule Grade: A

Darren McFadden- Oakland: @ Jacksonville, Denver, Indianapolis, @ Kansas City

McFadden is another running back with a cupcake rush defensive schedule. Jacksonville, Denver, and Indianapolis struggle against the run, and Kansas City can be run on as well. Schedule Grade: A

Rashard Mendenhall- Pittsburgh: Cincinnati, New York Jets, Carolina, @ Cleveland

Mendenhall’s schedule is cake with the exception of the New York Jets game. That could be the game that puts you in the Championship, so be careful. Schedule Grade: B+

Peyton Hillis- Cleveland: @ Buffalo, @ Cincinnati, Baltimore, Pittsburgh

Hillis is a very good start until Week 17. He showed that he has no problem running against Baltimore, and Cincinnati and Buffalo are weak. Schedule Grade: B+

Jamaal Charles- Kansas City: @ San Diego, @ St. Louis, Tennessee, Oakland

Charles has to go up against San Diego, and an improving St. Louis run defense. He finishes with Tennessee and Oakland, however, who can be run on with ease. Schedule Grade: B

LeSean McCoy- Philadelphia: @ Dallas, @ New York Giants, Minnesota, Dallas

McCoy gets Dallas twice, but faces two tough run defenses in Week’s 15 and 16. He is usually good to make plays out of the backfield as well, however. Schedule Grade: B

Adrian Peterson- Minnesota: New York Giants, Chicago, @ Philadelphia, @ Detroit

Peterson faces three tough run defenses in the next three weeks. The Giants and Bears are both Top 10 run defenses, and the Eagles aren’t too shabby either. But… he’s still Adrian Peterson. Schedule Grade: B-


LeGarrette Blount- Tampa Bay: @ Washington, Detroit, Seattle, @ New Orleans

Like Moreno, Blount has a very favorable schedule. Although, he doesn’t face one Top 15 run defense, and could be the sleeper you need in your lineup the rest of the season. Schedule Grade: A+

Knowshon Moreno- Denver: @ Arizona, @ Oakland, Houston, San Diego

Moreno has been on fire lately, and he doesn’t have a tough defensive matchup until Week 17. Get him in the Flex at the very least. Schedule Grade: A

Wide Receivers

Mike Wallace- Pittsburgh: Cincinnati, New York Jets, Carolina, @ Cleveland

Wallace is a big time play maker, and he gets good matchups against the Browns, Bengals, and Panthers. While the Panthers have been solid, they give up a lot of yardage to slot receivers, and the Jets struggle to cover guys in the slot as well. Schedule Grade: A+

Reggie Wayne- Indianapolis: @ Tennessee, Jacksonville, @ Oakland, Tennessee

Wayne’s toughest matchup comes against the Raiders. Othewise, he gets Tennessee twice and Jacksonville once, making for one of the best schedules among the top wide receivers. Schedule Grade: A

Brandon Lloyd- Denver: @ Arizona, @ Oakland, Houston, San Diego

Lloyd gets a pretty solid schedule the rest of the way. He ends with San Diego, who he still produced against, but Oakland held him to just one catch in Week 7. Arizona and Houston won’t stop him either. Schedule Grade: A-

Calvin Johnson- Detroit: Green Bay, @ Tampa Bay, @ Miami, Minnesota

Green Bay is tough, but he has found ways to produce against them. Tampa Bay, Miami and Minnesota all have underachieving secondary play. Schedule Grade: B+

Hakeem Nicks- New York Giants: @ Minnesota, Philadelphia, @ Green Bay, @ Washington

If Nicks is healthy, his schedule isn’t terrible. His toughest games will be against the Eagles and Packers being covered by Asante Samuel, and Charles Woodson, but he still finds way to produce regardless of who is covering him. Schedule Grade: B

Dwayne Bowe- Kansas City: @ San Diego, @ St. Louis, Tennessee, Oakland

Bowe’s seven game touchdown streak is over, but he can still produce against St. Louis and Tennessee especially. He could see problems with San Diego and Oakland, however. Schedule Grade: B

Greg Jennings- Green Bay: @ Detroit, @ New England, New York Giants, Chicago

Jennings gets Detroit and Chicago for favorable matchups, but the Giants and Patriots could cause problems. He is Rodgers number one target, and has been golden with Jermichael Finley out of the loop. Schedule Grade: B

Terrell Owens- Cincinnati: @ Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego, @ Baltimore

Owens has found ways to score all season long. He gets a mediocre Pittsburgh defense to go against, and then faces Cleveland. Although he’ll go up against Joe Haden most likely in this matchup. San Diego is stingy at times as well, but Baltimore isn’t too shabby against the pass. Schedule Grade: B-

Steve Johnson- Buffalo: Cleveland, @ Miami, New England, @ New York Jets

Johnson will have a tough matchup against Joe Haden, but he does get to go against Miami. He’ll struggle against Revis, however. He made a few nice plays against New England earlier this season, but he could be shut down this time around by an improving Devin McCourty. Schedule Grade: C+

Roddy White- Atlanta: @ Carolina, @ Seattle, New Orleans, Carolina

Roddy White is easily a Top 3 receiver in the NFL. But Carolina gets him twice and has done very well against No. 1 receivers. Seattle will struggle against him, however, as that is a very favorable matchup. New Orleans could struggle with him, but their secondary has fared well this season. Schedule Grade: C+


Wes Welker- New England: @ Chicago, Green Bay, @ Buffalo, Miami

Welker seems to be back, and that’s a great sign. He gets four favorable matchups against teams that struggle against slot receivers. Schedule Grade: A

Malcom Floyd- San Diego: Kansas City, San Francisco, @ Cincinnati, @ Denver

Floyd could struggle against Kansas City again, but he gets very favorable matchups in the last three weeks of the season. Schedule Grade: A-

Santonio Holmes- New York Jets: Miami, @ Pittsburgh, @ Chicago, Buffalo

Holmes gets a nice schedule to finish the season. Miami could be the best secondary he faces, but it won’t be easy playing well in Pittsburgh. Schedule Grade: B+

Tight Ends

Defensive rank against tight ends in parentheses.

Marcedes Lewis- Jacksonville: Oakland (22nd), @ Indianapolis (25th), Washington (sixth), @ Houston (30th)

Lewis’ toughest task will be against Washington who seems to shut down tight ends. Other than that, he’s golden. Schedule Grade: A-

Todd Heap- Baltimore: @ Houston (30th), New Orleans (27th), @ Cleveland (eighth), Cincinnati (19th)

Heap hasn’t been lights out this season, but his schedule to finish 2010 is very favorable, especially in Week’s 14 and 15. Schedule Grade: B+

Antonio Gates- San Diego: Kansas City (13th), San Francisco (second), @ Cincinnati (19th), @ Denver (29th)

Gates could find problems against San Francisco, but he always makes plays and should always be started. Schedule Grade: B+

Vernon Davis- San Francisco: Seattle (fourth), @ San Diego (24th), @ St. Louis (23rd), Arizona (10th)

Davis gets Alex Smith back, and has a couple favorable matchups against San Diego and St. Louis. He could be a non-factor against Seattle, however. Schedule Grade: B

Jason Witten- Dallas: Philadelphia (15th), Washington (sixth), @ Arizona (10th), @ Philadelphia (15th)

Witten is seeing increased targets with Kitna in, and Dez Bryant’s absence will help also. But he goes up against a solid array of defenses against tight ends. Schedule Grade: B-


Rob Gronkowski- New England: @ Chicago (11th), Green Bay (20th), @ Buffalo (21st) , Miami (28th)

You have to love Gronkowski’s matchups in the last four weeks. Chicago could keep him in check, however. Schedule Grade: B+

Benjamin Watson- Cleveland: @ Buffalo (21st), @ Cincinnati (19th), Baltimore (fifth), Pittsburgh (16th)

Watson looks to finish a solid 2010 campaign well with a few solid matchups. He’s been seeing an increased amount of targets over the last few weeks. Schedule Grade: B

Brandon Pettigrew- Detroit: Green Bay (20th), @ Tampa Bay (12th), @ Miami (28th), Minnesota (third)

Pettigrew could still make plays, but I’d be hesitant to start him if you’re still playing in Week 17. But Detroit loves throwing to their tight ends. Schedule Grade: B

Jacob Tamme- Indianapolis: @ Tennessee (9th), Jacksonville (18th), @ Oakland (22nd), Tennessee (ninth)

Tamme has to face Tennessee twice, but Tamme is also more of a slot receiver than he is a tight end, so these stats may be rendered useless. I’d still keep starting him. Schedule Grade: C+

Have a fantasy football question? Send your question or concern to and have your question answered live on the NFL Soup Weekly Dish Radio Show!

Don't forget to check out our 2011 NFL Draft coverage as well!

Follow us on Twitter at     @NFLSoup,     @NFLSoupTaylor,     @NFLSoupKeet and     @NFLSoup_Kevin.


    Report: NFL Mulling Penalty for Kneeling

    NFL logo

    Report: NFL Mulling Penalty for Kneeling

    Tyler Conway
    via Bleacher Report

    TE Henry Suffers Season-Ending ACL Tear

    NFL logo

    TE Henry Suffers Season-Ending ACL Tear

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Predicting 2018 Breakout Teams

    NFL logo

    Predicting 2018 Breakout Teams

    Zach Kruse
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Eagles Declined Foles to Browns Trade

    NFL logo

    Report: Eagles Declined Foles to Browns Trade

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report