Fantasy Football Strength Of Schedule: Why Chigoziem Okonkwo Could Be A League-Winner
As we approach the fantasy football playoffs, Ted looks at some players with good and bad matchups in the most crucial weeks of the season.
Early in the fantasy football season, strength of schedule doesn't matter. For one, matchups are often nowhere near as important as they sometimes feel. Good players can perform regardless of their opponent, while even the best matchup won't turn fantasy duds into superstars. Just as importantly, the NFL is constantly changing, and we have no idea in Week 5 (let alone before the season) which matchups will actually be good when the fantasy playoffs roll around. Just look at Derrick Henry's two playoff matchups with the Texans, which were discussed constantly during the fantasy offseason. Those aren't looking as juicy now that C.J. Stroud has brought hope to Houston; the Texans currently allow the seventh-fewest yards per game rushing yards to running backs.
However, now is the time of year when matchups truly can matter. With must-win games in fantasy leagues every week, getting even the smallest edge can be the difference between being a champion and an also-ran. Luckily, the FantasySP Strength of Schedule Tool is here to help us find players with the best (and worst) matchups in these all-important weeks. Let's take a look at some particular players to target and avoid.
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Best Fantasy Football Playoff Matchups
Najee Harris & Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers
According to our matchup tool, the Steelers are one of just two teams with A+ matchups the rest of the way for the running back position. When looking at their schedule, it's easy to see why. Of their remaining matchups (not counting Week 18, as all sensible fantasy leagues will have ended their seasons before then), the Steelers don't face a single team that is even a below-average matchup in terms of Half-PPR points allowed to RBs. They have three top-eight matchups (Arizona, Seattle, and Indianapolis) as well as two matchups with teams that are currently playing even worse than their already-below-average rankings in the Bengals and Patriots.
This all means great things for the Steelers' pair of running backs, Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. While things have been up and down (to say the least) for the Steelers' offense this season, this duo already looked a lot more dynamic in Week 12, their first game under interim Offensive Coordinator Eddie Faulkner, combining for 161 total yards and a touchdown. With their soft schedule coming up, they should be able to finish the season strong and belong in lineups the rest of the way.
Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans
According to our model, six teams have A+ matchups for tight ends the rest of the way: the Panthers, Browns, Broncos, Lions, Chargers, and Titans. Of those six, only the Titans have a tight end who has some fantasy upside while still being available in the majority of leagues. While Okonkwo has been largely disappointing after being a popular breakout pick coming into this season, he could finish strong thanks to his cake schedule. If you're struggling to find a Mark Andrews replacement in a deep league, he may your the best bet.
Brandin Cooks/Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have an A+ matchup grade for wide receivers the rest of the way. Obviously, CeeDee Lamb is going to be in lineups in every single league every single week, but Cooks and Gallup may not be. However, with the way Dak Prescott is playing and some very soft matchups, both should be able to contribute down the stretch. Check your waivers for Cooks in shallower leagues, while Gallup should be available almost everywhere.
Worst Fantasy Football Playoff Matchups
James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
Our Strength of Schedule Tool gives the Cardinals a straight-up F in terms of running back matchups to finish the season, which is bad news for the veteran James Conner. Pittsburgh this week is an okay matchup at best, and then he will likely be unplayable in three of the next four matchups (a Week 14 bye, vs. San Francisco, and at Philadelphia). A Week 16 matchup with the Bears is some saving grace, but even that matchup is worse than it appears: Chicago is 11th in defensive DVOA against the run. Especially given that he played just 39% of snaps and saw a 46% RB rush share in the Cardinals' last game, both by far his lowest healthy marks of the season, things are looking very dicey for Conner's ability to provide any meaningful fantasy production down the stretch. If his usage doesn't bounce back this week, I don't hate dropping him in shallow leagues during the Cardinals' Week 14 bye week.
Jalin Hyatt/Darius Slayton/Wan'Dale Robinson, New York Giants
The Giants' remaining wide receiver schedule grades out with just a C according to the Strength of Schedule Tool, but that's enough for me to avoid this rag-tag bunch. Tommy DeVito is arguably the worst quarterback to have played significant snaps in a season full of terrible QB play, ranking second to last in two different models of EPA per dropback and EPA per play. I don't trust him and this offense to do enough to make any of these guys fantasy relevant in difficult matchups. Once you factor in that it's even harder to pick which of this group will perform in any given week, they can all be safely left on waivers in all but the deepest of leagues.
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
Howell's matchup this week is solid, as he will likely be dropping back early and often against the high-powered Dolphins' offense; the Rams in Week 15 is also a fine position. However, Howell has the terrible luck of having his two worst matchups of the season, the Jets and the 49ers, in the two most important fantasy weeks of the season, Weeks 16 and 17. Both of those teams are allowing fewer than 15 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Even though Howell is currently the QB4 on the season, you will likely have to find someone else to bring your fantasy team over the finish line.#fantasy-football #schedule