Running back strength of schedule for the Fantasy Football playoffs

Scott Pianowski
·5-min read

Time to break out the fantasy strength of schedule. Today, we’ll focus on running backs, and the Week 14-16 slate. Normal disclaimers apply; be sure to read the brief introduction before digging in.

I don’t think much of fantasy strength of schedule before the season starts. Too much is unknown or unknowable. And I definitely think looking at a fantasy playoff schedule in the summer is a fool’s errand.

And even when it’s time to logically examine strength of schedule, I accept how delicate the exercise is. Every football unit is a Jenga tower, capable of collapse at any moment. The weather could come into play. Injuries are a constant part of NFL life.

And for the most part, when it comes to scheduling, I only care about outliers. Tell me which defenses give it away, and tell me which defenses are lockdown units. Offenses primarily control outcomes. So many defensive matchups in the middle simply don’t mean that much.

[Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | FLEX | DST | Kickers]

And maybe you don’t need all of the playoff weeks. Maybe you’ve locked up a bye, don’t need to play in Week 14. You’ll obviously have to season this list to taste; something I’m encouraging you to do, anyway.

Below is how I rank the Rushing Schedules for the Fantasy Playoff Weeks — Weeks 14-to-16. It’s part math, it’s part scouting, it’s part special sauce. A good set of matchups probably won’t make a mediocre player into a league winner. A bad set of matchups won’t make you want to bench Dalvin Cook.

It’s something to keep in mind, along with a bunch of other things. And if you want to ignore this exercise completely, that’s your prerogative. I can’t say you’re wrong. The rankings are not adjusted for home and away venues; to be fair, home field has never meant less than it does in 2020.

Enough hedging for now. This is what came out of the blender. The teams and schedules are listed from easiest to hardest for running backs.

Green Bay Packers: (@DET, CAR, TEN)

The Packers haven’t gone heavy on Aaron Jones since the injury, but the closing schedule is delicious.

Tennessee Titans: (@JAC, DET, @GB)

Just get to the playoffs — Derrick Henry can drive you home.

Carolina Panthers: (DEN, @GB, @WFT)

It’s not too late for Christian McCaffrey to partially justify his summer ADP.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (MIN, @ATL, @DET)

Ronald Jones deserves a shot to be the dedicated feature back.

Denver Broncos: (@CAR, BUF, @LAC)

With Phillip Lindsay dinged up, Melvin Gordon could see a heavy workload.

Buffalo Bills: (PIT, @DEN, @NE)

Josh Allen remains the goal-line back.

Miami Dolphins: (KC, NE, @LV)

Injuries have turned this backfield into fantasy quicksand.

Washington Football Team: (@SF, SEA, CAR)

Antonio Gibson, league winner.

Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson
Antonio Gibson gets Scott Pianowski's stamp of approval. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

Arizona Cardinals: (@NYG, PHI, SF)

Kenyan Drake still has a lousy success rate, and Chase Edmonds remains in secondary role.

Oakland Raiders: (IND, LAC, MIA)

Give them a mulligan for the Atlanta no-show, but right now Josh Jacobs is not healthy.

Jacksonville Jaguars: (TEN, @BAL, CHI)

James Robinson seldom comes off the field and isn’t hurt by team’s mediocre QB play.

Detroit Lions: (GB, @TEN, TB)

D’Andre Swift likely back in Week 13, can be a December difference maker.

Dallas Cowboys: (@CIN, SF, PHI)

Ezekiel Elliott still drawing targets despite a paltry 4.7 YPT.

Indianapolis Colts: (@LV, HOU, @PIT)

Underreported story: Colts offensive line has not played well.

Los Angeles Rams: (NE, NYJ, @SEA)

Sean McVay likes a different game plan every week, which makes it difficult for anyone to get fantasy traction.

Atlanta Falcons: (@LAC, TB, @KC)

Maybe Ito Smith is the speculation play after Todd Gurley.

Pittsburgh Steelers: (@BUF, @CIN, IND)

Despite an undefeated season and threats on the outside, James Conner has not been productive.

Chicago Bears: (HOU, @MIN, @JAC)

David Montgomery just had his best career game in 2020 (25.3 in full PPR).

New Orleans Saints: (@PHI, KC, MIN)

The Taysom Hill/Latavius Murray run is crushing Alvin Kamara’s fantasy value.

Cincinnati Bengals: (DAL, PIT, @HOU)

With all the injuries and that makeshift offensive line, no Cincinnati options are trustable.

Cleveland Browns: (BAL, @NYG, @NYJ)

They can support two backs, as Baker Mayfield is being managed week-to-week.

Los Angeles Chargers: (ATL, @LV, DEN)

Austin Ekeler set a new high for touches in Week 12 (25).

Houston Texans: (@CHI, @IND, CIN)

Sometimes, a backfield has no right answers.

New York Giants: (ARI, CLE, @BAL)

Wayne Gallman Jr. is a lock for double-digit carries every week, and goal-line opportunity.

Baltimore Ravens: (@CLE, JAC, NYG)

OL injuries, Lamar Jackson regression, and backfield crowding have combined to sink this group.

New England Patriots: (@LAR, @MIA, BUF)

Usage is always splintered, and Cam Newton remains a rushing factor.

New York Jets: (@SEA, @LAR, CLE)

Frank Gore’s reliable volume has him startable in medium and deeper pools.

San Francisco 49ers: (WFT, @DAL, @ARI)

Kyle Shanahan will always use multiple options, but Raheem Mostert has the highest plausible upside.

Seattle Seahawks: (NYJ, @WFT, LAR)

Chris Carson looked good in return, though Seattle made him share with Carlos Hyde.

Philadelphia Eagles: (NO, @ARI, @DAL)

Offense lands on 17 points far too often, shipwrecked by Carson Wentz.

Kansas City Chiefs: (@MIA, @NO, ATL)

Given what’s around him, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been stunningly mediocre as a receiver.

Minnesota Vikings: (@TB, CHI, @NO)

Dalvin Cook can beat any setup, but this is a cruel finishing kick.

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