Few things are as important to fantasy owners destined for postseason play than to have great matchups during the crucial fantasy playoff weekends.
Fantasy studs will be started no matter the opponent. Guys like Adrian Peterson, Clinton Portis, Anquan Boldin, Tony Gonzalez, and Drew Brees are must-starts this year no matter what.
But it is the guys in the non-stud tiers who have great playoff matchups who could make the difference between a win and a loss during the postseason.
By this time of year, the most favorable opposing fantasy defenses have established themselves. Everyone and their mother could post a double-digit fantasy day against the Detroit Lions or Kansas City Chiefs.
But what happens when your second-tier players go up against the Pittsburghs and Baltimores of the NFL?
What happens is your hopes of winning a fantasy championship hang in the balance. Making a tough decision to sit a typically consistent player against a tough defense could make or break a fantasy team’s postseason. Knowing which players to bench during this year’s fantasy playoffs could be the key to winning it all.
- Marion Barber @ Steelers: Barber could show up on this list for almost the entirety of the fantasy playoff schedule, because it is brutal: Steelers in week 14, Giants in week 15 and Ravens in week 16. All are top units against the run this year. Barber has not been that effective lately against bad defenses, so I would not expect much from him in these either.
- Donovan McNabb @ Giants: McNabb kept his job for at least another week with a great performance on Thanksgiving night against the playoff-bound Cardinals. Things could come crashing back to earth for the leashed McNabb against arguably the best team in the NFL.
- Santana Moss @ Ravens: The Ravens now have an offense to go with a defense that is flying around the field dominating offenses of all shapes, sizes and colors—except the Giants a few weeks ago. But the Redskins are not the Giants, which they proved for the second time this season in week 14. If Clinton Portis is too banged up to contribute next weekend, the Redskins’ passing game could be in for a long day.
- Willie Parker/Mewelde Moore @ Ravens: If your name is not Brandon Jacobs or any of the New York Giants’ running backs, good luck against Baltimore’s run defense. Parker and Moore have developed into a nice one-two punch for the Steelers, but this game will be on Big Ben’s shoulders from the outset.
- Matt Ryan v. Buccaneers: Ryan continues to impress by keeping the Falcons in the hunt for the NFC South and in the thick of the wild card race in the NFC. But this game will mean everything for the Bucs chances at taking the NFC South and we all saw what they could do against one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Drew Brees in week 13.
- Andre Johnson v. Titans: With or without Matt Schaub, Johnson will draw the blanketing coverage of Courtland Finnegan most of the afternoon. The Titans are out for home-field advantage, so there is no way they will call the dogs off a struggling Houston team. And that means a lot of attention on the Texans’ biggest threat in the passing game.
- Chris Johnson/LenDale White v. Steelers: Yes, the Titans get Pittsburgh at home. But until the Detroit game on Thanksgiving Day, the Titans’ dynamic duo had struggled against some of the better run defenses in the league. Those struggles could rear their ugly head once more against a team that is extremely sound against the run and will focus almost all of its attention on the Tennessee ground game.
- Jake Delhomme @ Giants: If Delhomme’s elbow is getting tired, this could be the game that puts it to sleep. The Giants, despite a great record, are still trying to fend off some of the other division leaders in the NFC for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, including Carolina. This also is a potential preview of an NFC playoff game, and we all know how New York comes to play in those games, no matter the consequences of doing so.
- Vincent Jackson @ Buccaneers: Jackson’s productivity has slowed down in recent weeks with the return of Chris Chambers and the emergence of Malcolm Floyd in the passing game. Tampa Bay’s suffocating defensive scheme will make it hard for VJax to get open on the edges, which means most of the work will be done by Antonio Gates and Floyd across the middle of the field.
- Braylon Edwards @ Steelers: Now down its best two quarterbacks, Edwards and the rest of the Browns’ offense could be in for some bad days down the stretch. There is no way to tell how Ken Dorsey will fare as the leader of this offense or if Derek Anderson will return by week 17, but neither may matter. The Steelers defense will come to dominate anybody on the Browns offense to keep this one-sided rivalry that way for yet another season.
- Maurice Jones-Drew @ Ravens: MJD gets the unfavorable match up with the Ravens’ rushing defense in week 17, and this is a game that could matter greatly for Baltimore’s playoff seeding. Jacksonville has been inconsistent in the run game all year long and pretty bad against good defenses. A disappearing act by Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor is probable in this game.
- Peyton Manning v. Titans: Remember last year in week 17 when this game mattered so much for the Cleveland Browns’ playoff hopes? This game may matter even more for the playoff-bound Colts and Titans this season, which means the Tennessee defense could be on full tilt trying to secure home-field advantage and keep the Colts out of the playoffs if possible.