The final week of the fantasy regular season is upon us, so it’s a good time to examine the strength of schedules NFL teams face the rest of the year.
Thanks to NFL.com, here are the teams with the easiest strength of schedules: Cleveland, New York Jets, Kansas City, Carolina and Indianapolis. The teams with the toughest schedules the rest of the way are Seattle, Minnesota, Arizona, Baltimore and Chicago.
With that in mind, here’s a fantasy take from each team as you prepare for the postseason:
Cleveland — Rookie running back Trent Richardson has been a workhorse, getting at least 24 carries in each of the Browns’ past four games. He’s produced over that time, with at least 13 points in each of those four games, in standard-scoring ESPN leagues. The Browns’ next three weeks look like this: at Oakland, Kansas City and Washington.
Cleveland’s top receiver is rookie Josh Gordon, but he hasn’t found the end zone in the past month. The matchups, though, suggest Gordon is a good flex play during the fantasy postseason.
New York Jets — It looks like running backs Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell are going to split carries down the stretch, which kills the fantasy value for both players. The only Jet potentially worth starting down the stretch is receiver Jeremy Kerley, and that should be in a flex role.
Kansas City — Running back Jamaal Charles has topped 100 yards in two of his past three games and is the Chiefs’ best fantasy option. With Carolina, Cleveland and Oakland ahead of him in the stretch, Charles should put up No. 1 running back numbers in the postseason. The only other Chief to consider, receiver Dwayne Bowe, is a victim of atrocious quarterback play. Bowe hasn’t reached the end zone since Week Four and is starting based on name recognition only at this point. You should be able to find better options than Bowe right now.
Carolina — No surprise here: Running back Jonathan Stewart has an ankle injury that may keep him out Sunday against Kansas City. That would give DeAngelo Williams one-week flex appeal. The big fantasy news with the Panthers, though, is Cam Newton’s resurgence in Week 12. Four touchdowns against the Eagles has given hope to Newton owners that he’ll start living up to all of his preseason hype at just the right time. That could also be big news for receiver Steve Smith, who’s had a disappointing fantasy year.
Indianapolis — Three of the Colts’ next four games are on the road, where they haven’t been nearly as good. But one of those games is at Kansas City, and another is at Houston, which has seemingly forgotten how to play defense in the last two weeks. Quarterback Andrew Luck is a low-end starter each of the next few weeks. Top receiver Reggie Wayne is a must start, while rookie T.Y. Hilton is a good sleeper play at the position.
Seattle — Marshawn Lynch has to face the No. 1 defense against fantasy running backs this Sunday in Chicago. He follows that with a meeting against the Cardinals, who are in the top half of the league in points allowed to RBs. If Lynch can get through those two weeks, he has an inviting game with the Bills in Toronto in Week 15.
Minnesota — Outside of Adrian Peterson, the Vikings’ fantasy prospects have been thrown into question because of injury. Receiver Percy Harvin sounds unlikely to play in Week 13 against Green Bay because of an ankle injury, while tight end Kyle Rudolph has a shoulder strain. Health and the upcoming schedule should make you shy away from any Vikings for now.
Arizona — Two long road trips (at the Jets, at the Seahawks) are on tap and the Cardinals still don’t have a quarterback to throw the ball to receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Although it kills fantasy owners, he should sit.
Baltimore — The good news is three of its next four are at home, but another potential problem could pop up for the Ravens. They’re close to clinching the AFC North, and the sooner they do that, the quicker they’ll be ready to rest players like Ray Rice.
Chicago — Running back Matt Forte is hurt and quarterback Jay Cutler does not have any proven weapons to throw to outside of receiver Brandon Marshall.
Analyzing the Bills
This is one of those, “if you’ve got ’em, play ’em” weeks for Buffalo players. C.J. Spiller is a No. 1 running back against a team that’s given up nearly 20 points per game to opposing runners. Receiver Stevie Johnson should also be in the lineup coming off his first 100-yard game of the season.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and tight end Scott Chandler can also be used if you’re in a pinch.
On the Jacksonville side, running back Maurice Jones-Drew is out again, so that means the Jaguars will turn to Rashad Jennings again. The Bills’ run defense has been strong the past two weeks, however, so Jennings is just a flex play.
The Jaguars’ top receiving option isn’t first-round pick Justin Blackmon, but rather Cecil Shorts. He’s got at least one 50-yard catch and one touchdown in each of the past three games.