Crush this season's fantasy football playoffs (Weeks 15-17) with this guide from Josh Larky and Ryan Reynolds.
From game environments to target; to schedule analysis for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends; to sneaky flex plays; to weighing the top fantasy defenses compared with streaming options each week — we have you covered and ready to dominate your leaguemates.
What to Know to Win Your Fantasy Football Playoffs
The Best Game Environments in the Fantasy Playoffs
If you’re a daily fantasy player, you build your lineups around the games with the most scoring potential. When practical, we should take the same approach in the fantasy playoffs.
|BUF vs. DAL
|MIA vs. DAL
|BAL vs. MIA
|SEA vs. PHI
|SF vs. BAL
|DAL vs. DET
|LAR vs. WAS
|CHI vs. ARI
|PHI vs. ARI
|ARI vs. SF
|ATL vs. IND
|IND vs. LV
Premium Fantasy Quarterback Schedules
Patrick Mahomes — at NE (MNF), vs. LV (Mon.), vs. CIN
The Kansas City Chiefs’ offense has underwhelmed this year, even with Patrick Mahomes, but the team is positioned to win all three of its games during the fantasy playoffs by distance. All three of these games will be played outdoors in cold weather climates.
Josh Allen — vs. DAL, at LAC (Sat.), vs. NE
If the Buffalo Bills are going to make a playoff push, Josh Allen will have to put this offense on his back. Buffalo has two potential shootouts in Week 15 and 16, while they could beat New England by distance. Both home games come with weather concerns for Allen.
Jalen Hurts — at SEA, vs. NYG (Mon), vs. ARI
Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles' Week 15 matchup in Seattle and Week 17’s against Arizona have some high-scoring potential. The Eagles will likely be two-score favorites against the New York Giants in Week 16.
Dak Prescott — at BUF, at MIA, vs. DET (Saturday night)
The Bills and Miami Dolphins have good defenses, but those matchups — and one against the Detroit Lions — come with major upside for Dak Prescott.
Lamar Jackson — at JAX (SNF), at SF (MNF), vs. MIA
Week 15’s matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars will likely be a blowout by Baltimore if Trevor Lawrence misses that contest. Lamar Jackson’s games against the 49ers and Dolphins both have high-scoring potential, but both matchups involve two quality defenses.
Tua Tagovailoa — vs. NYJ, vs. DAL, at BAL
Week 15’s matchup with the New York Jets will likely be a decisive win for Miami. The games against Dallas and Baltimore both come with shootout potential. However, the Ravens and Cowboys also have top-five defenses. Tua Tagovailoa has a massive ceiling against anyone, but his floor is concerning through this stretch.
C.J. Stroud — at TEN, vs. CLE, vs. TEN
C.J. Stroud gets two potential smash spots against the Titans in Week 15 and 17. You may want to consider a streaming option over Stroud when he faces Cleveland in Week 16. Stroud is in danger of missing Week 15 due to a concussion. Further, he could be without his two best wide receivers down the stretch. Tank Dell will miss the rest of the season, while Nico Collins is out because of a calf strain. Collins at least has some chance to return for their Week 17 matchup with Tennessee.
Justin Fields — at CLE, vs. ARI, vs. ATL
Justin Fields’ matchup in Cleveland comes with considerable downside against a premium defense. But Fields has considerable upside in both his Week 16 and 17 matchups. All three of these games come with weather concerns.
Kyler Murray — vs. SF, at CHI, at PHI
Kyler Murray hasn’t been an elite — or even a reliable — producer since his return from injury. However, he does have three fantasy playoff matchups with considerable upside.
Matthew Stafford vs. Commanders: The Washington Commanders' pass defense is one we go out of our way to target. Here, we get Matthew Stafford, who has thrown for 300 yards three times this season, in a late-season, indoor game.
Geno Smith at Titans: Geno Smith is unreliable, especially when he faces consistent pressure like he could when he faces Tennessee. That said, we just saw Smith torch a far superior Cowboys defense. If Seattle can keep Smith clean, he has tremendous upside in this matchup. Smith also has some Week 15 viability against the Eagles.
Matthew Stafford at Giants: Wind could be a factor in this matchup, but Stafford gets a solid draw against New York’s beatable secondary.
Russell Wilson vs. Chargers: The Los Angeles Chargers’ defense has played well the last few weeks, but it is giving up the most passing yards per game, so Russell Wilson has some potential here.
Running Backs with Best/Worst Playoff Schedules
In Weeks 15-17, D’Andre Swift faces the Seahawks, Giants and Cardinals, who rank sixth, 11th and second-best, respectively, for fantasy points allowed to running backs after adjusting for schedule.
The only time we’ve seen Swift’s workload come into question is when the Eagles are trailing, and we’d be surprised if the Eagles weren’t at least one-touchdown favorites in these three matchups.
Bijan Robinson faces the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and Bears in Weeks 15-17. All three teams rank in the top five in most fantasy points allowed to running backs after adjusting for schedule and opponents faced.
Robinson’s workload has increased in recent weeks, too — he has at least 22 combined carries plus targets in each of his past three games.
Steelers Running Backs
We’ve seen both Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren operate efficiently during the past month. This duo has totaled 137 PPR points since Week 9 — the highest in the NFL during this stretch.
The Pittsburgh Steelers face the Colts (fourth-best), Bengals (16th-best) and Seahawks (sixth-best) in Weeks 15-17, and the Steelers' defense should keep all these games at least reasonably competitive.
Josh Jacobs faces divisional foes in the Chargers and Chiefs in Weeks 15 and 16. Los Angeles is a defense to target for all positions. And Kansas City's defense has been a run-funnel one, allowing the fourth-fewest yards per pass attempt (6.3) yet the second-highest yards per carry (4.8) to opposing offenses.
In Week 17, Jacobs faces a Colts team that ranks as the fourth-best matchup for fantasy running backs.
Week 15 Update: Jacobs is unlikely to suit up due to a knee/quad injury. Assuming this injury doesn’t keep him out of Week 16 or 17, he remains a strong fantasy start in those weeks. The expectation for Week 15 now is a committee approach with Zamir White on early downs and Ameer Abdullah on passing downs.
Chuba Hubbard had a stranglehold on the Panthers' backfield in Week 13, the team’s first game without coach Frank Reich. Hubbard out-carried Miles Sanders 25 to eight, and Hubbard topped 100 yards on the ground. Hubbard also scored two touchdowns, garnering both carries in the red zone and all three carries at the goal line.
His playoff schedule is difficult, though, and Carolina's offense is not reliable each week. Matchups against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 (second-worst matchup) and a Week 17 road game against the Jaguars (10th-worst matchup) don’t inspire much confidence.
David Montgomery has a less versatile skill set than Jahmyr Gibbs, and Montgomery generally needs a good matchup and positive game script to succeed in fantasy.
In Week 16, the Lions face the Minnesota Vikings (seventh-worst matchup) on the road, followed by a road game in Dallas (eighth-worst matchup) during the fantasy championships. The game against Dallas will likely feature a trailing game script, which should benefit Gibbs.
Wide Recievers with Best/Worst Playoff Schedules
CeeDee Lamb should finish the season strong with three potential shootouts against the Bills, Dolphins and Lions to close out the fantasy season. Miami and Detroit both rank top-11 in fantasy points allowed to receivers when factoring in opponents faced.
Chris Olave faces the Giants at home in Week 15 (a dome game), followed by the Rams in SoFi Stadium (another dome game) in Week 16. In Week 17, the New Orleans Saints travel to Tampa Bay to face a Buccaneers team that ranks fifth-friendliest in fantasy points to opposing wideouts.
Tank Dell’s broken leg should open the door for talented third-year receiver Nico Collins. While Week 16 against the Browns should render Collins a lower-end fantasy WR2, bookended matchups in Weeks 15 and 17 against the Titans' pass-funnel defense could result in 250-300 total receiving yards — and two fantasy WR1 finishes.
Week 15 Update: Collins has a calf strain and is unlikely to suit up in Week 15, at minimum. Stroud is in the concussion protocol but should be ready for Week 16. Assuming Collins returns from injury by Week 17, he will be a very strong start in Week 17. Unfortunately, fantasy managers need a game plan without Collins these next two weeks.
The Dolphins close out their fantasy season with the Jets (worst matchup), Cowboys (12th-worst matchup) and Ravens (third-worst matchup). While Tyreek Hill is the one wide receiver who is truly matchup-proof, the same cannot be said for Jaylen Waddle, who is 21st in the NFL with 67 receiving yards per game.
The hope for Amari Cooper is that veteran QB Joe Flacco starts the remaining games for a Browns team with playoff aspirations. Even still, the Browns face the Bears (11th-worst matchup) in Week 15 and Texans (league-average matchup) in Week 16, neither of which is a plus matchup.
However, the real kicker for Cooper is a Week 17 Thursday night game against the Jets, the NFL’s stingiest defense to fantasy wide recievers. Fantasy managers are likely benching Cooper when all the money is on the line.
Sneaky Flex Plays
Think of this section as one-week, matchup-based plays that can help cover up an unfortunate injury situation in Weeks 15-17. These are not normally players who most fantasy teams would be starting in an average week.
Odell Beckham Jr. at Jaguars
Odell Beckham Jr. and the Ravens face a Jaguars team allowing the fourth-most passing yards per game (276), and Beckham is one big play away from 15 fantasy points in this matchup.
Jerome Ford vs. Bears
Jerome Ford has been solid since Nick Chubb's injury, averaging more than 13 fantasy points per game since Week 2. Ford is worth mentioning in this section as a midrange fantasy RB2 against a Bears defense ranking fifth-best for running back fantasy points.
Tyler Allgeier at Panthers
Teams are running at an incredibly high rate — and with great success — against Carolina this season. The Falcons' run-heavy offensive scheme should lend itself to eight to 12 efficient carries from Tyler Allgeier, and the Panthers have allowed an NFL-high 1.7 rushing touchdowns per game this season.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba vs. Eagles
The Eagles are the absolute best fantasy matchup for wide receivers, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba has averaged six targets, 51 yards and 11 PPR fantasy points per game since Week 7.
Gabe Davis at Chargers
Teams are averaging an NFL-high 290 passing yards per game against the Chargers, and Gabe Davis is a threat for 20 fantasy points this week. In 12 games this season, Davis has reached 20 points in four and has been under 10 in six of them. He’s a boom-or-bust option, with the arrow leaning toward in the boom direction for Week 16.
Roschon Johnson vs. Cardinals
Prior to the team’s Week 13 bye, Roschon Johnson dominated the snaps and touches in the Bears backfield against the Vikings. The Cardinals are the second-best matchup for fantasy backs, and Johnson should be on the high-end RB2 radar for this game.
AJ Dillon at Panthers
Aaron Jones should return by Week 16, but AJ Dillon likely garners 12-15 highly efficient carries against a Panthers defense allowing a league-high 1.7 rushing touchdowns per game to opponents.
Zay Jones at Buccaneers
Lawrence should return from his ankle sprain by this game, while Christian Kirk (core/groin) should still be sidelined. Zay Jones faces a Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass defense that’s struggled all season, and him getting five catches for 80 yards and a touchdown is very much on the table here.
Jonathan Mingo at Jaguars
Jonathan Mingo has quietly led the Panthers in targets in each of the past two weeks. The second-round rookie could continue heating up in Week 17 against a pass-funnel Jaguars defense in a game where Lawrence and company should force Carolina to pass early and often.
Jerry Jeudy vs. Chargers
The Chargers allow a league-high passing yards per game, and while Jerry Jeudy has disappointed this year, a signature shootout at altitude could be in store for him in Week 17.
Elijah Mitchell at Commanders
This game could be over in the first half, and Elijah Mitchell has the potential for serious rushing yards against the NFL’s worst overall defense. Twelve carries for 70 yards and a touchdown is well within reach for him here.
Cardinals WRs at Eagles
It’s unclear how injury situations will shake out by Week 17, but Marquise Brown is probably not the only Cardinals receiver you could start against the most fantasy-friendly pass defense of 2023. Rookie Michael Wilson and/or Greg Dortch could be in play here for your flex, if desperate.
Jayden Reed at Vikings
Jayden Reed totaled 83 yards in the Packers' first encounter with the Vikings in Week 8, and there’s a chance Christian Watson is still sidelined for this game with his hamstring injury. Minnesota is the eighth-best matchup for fantasy wide receivers, and the Vikings' run defense has stymied opponents all season.
In what could be a game with serious wild card implications, Reed should deliver double-digit fantasy points.
Ranking the Top Fantasy D/STs Based on Playoff Schedule
When you’re looking for a fantasy defense, you’re looking for:
- Matchups against volatile quarterbacks.
- Pass rush advantages against weak offensive lines.
49ers Defense — at ARI, vs. BAL (MNF), at WAS
San Francisco is viable against anyone, but its Week 17 matchup at Washington is an absolute smash spot.
Chiefs Defense — at NE, vs. LV, vs. CIN
Kansas City’s defense has the best fantasy playoffs schedule — they’ll face three backup quarterbacks. If the Chiefs’ defense gets dropped, grab it, even if it’s just to block your opponents.
Eagles Defense — at SEA (MNF), vs. NYG, vs. ARI
The Eagles are viable in all of these contests, but Week 16’s date with the Giants is the best matchup on this slate.
Browns Defense — vs. CHI, at HOU, vs. NYJ
The Browns have a good matchup against the Bears, and Cleveland could potentially shut out the Jets in your fantasy championship.
Ravens Defense — at JAX (SNF), at SF (MNF), vs. MIA
If Lawrence misses Week 15, the Ravens’ defense becomes the best option on that slate. Baltimore’s Week 16 and 17 matchups both come with considerable downside.
Cowboys Defense — at BUF, at MIA, vs. DET (Saturday night)
The Cowboys’ defense is the top scorer this season, but its fantasy playoffs schedule is pretty brutal. That said, all three quarterbacks the Cowboys face aren’t immune to multiple-turnover games.
Colts Defense — vs. PIT, at ATL, vs. LV
Indianapolis is the second-best fantasy defense through 13 weeks, and they get three strong matchups in the fantasy playoffs.
Steelers Defense — at IND, vs. CIN, at SEA
Pittsburgh is the third-highest scoring fantasy defense to this point in the season. The unit will face three volatile offenses, but the Steelers won’t have a major trench advantage in any of these contests.
Jets Defense — at MIA, vs. WAS, at CLE (TNF)
New York’s offense has been so bad that it’s been a genuine problem for its defense. That said, Week 16’s matchup against the Commanders comes with massive upside.
Broncos Defense — at DET, vs. NE, vs. LAC
Justin Herbert’s season-ending injury gives the Broncos’ defense two premium matchups in the fantasy playoffs. Its Week 16 matchup against the Patriots remains an absolute smash spot. We just saw Denver beat the Chargers 24-7 in Week 14. Herbert and Easton Stick took a combined six sacks, with an interception from Herbert and two fumbles from Stick. Denver could now be a top-five option in championship week.
Texans Defense — at TEN, vs. CLE, vs. TEN
Houston is not an elite defense, but it has made a difference in several games. In the fantasy playoffs, the unit plays three games against extremely volatile quarterbacks.
If Stroud misses Week 15’s contest, we'd be less interested in Houstons’ defense. In that scenario, Houston is less likely to play with a lead, which reduces the upside of the Texans’ defense in that matchup.
Dolphins Defense vs. Jets: Miami may not be available, but just in case it is, this is an absolute smash spot against the Jets.
Saints Defense vs. Giants: The Saints are a good option against the Giants in Week 15.
Broncos Defense vs. Patriots: Simply put, we want to stream defenses against this Patriots offense as often as possible.
Packers Defense at Panthers: Through 13 weeks, the Panthers have only one win, which is largely on their ineffective offense. Green Bay’s pass rush will have a trench advantage against Carolina’s underachieving offensive line.
Seahawks Defense at Titans: Tennessee has a below-average offensive line and a volatile quarterback. To this point in the season, the Seahawks are the ninth-highest-scoring fantasy defense.
Bills Defense vs. Patriots: Once again, we want to stream defenses against New England whenever possible.
Seahawks vs. Steelers: If Mitch Trubisky is still playing quarterback for the Steelers, Seattle has considerable upside. Even if Kenny Pickett returns to action, the Seahawks’ defense is still playable in this matchup.
Every Team’s Fantasy Playoffs Schedule
For your convenience, we give you every team’s Week 15 through 17 schedule.
|at JAX (SNF)
|at SF (MNF)
|vs. NYJ (TNF)
|vs. NE (SNF)
|at MIN (SNF)
|vs. BAL (SNF)
|at NE (MNF)
|vs. LAC (TNF)
|at LV (TNF)
|vs. NO (TNF)
|vs. GB (SNF)
|vs. KC (MNF)
|at DEN (SNF)
|at LAR (TNF)
|at CLE (TNF)
|vs. Bal (MNF)
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