Jun 22, 2009
I realize SOS is only one factor to look at when considering players for fantasy and that you can find something negative, like a tougher schedule, about any fantasy prospect. But if there’s one thing to be very concerned about for an upcoming season, it’s a brutal schedule for your fantasy playoffs.
This game is still about matchups, and if they’re bad for the playoffs for your key players, it may be too much to overcome, so I’ve gone through the schedules to find the top-10 RBs who have challenging schedules for the key playoff weeks. Not all of these guys have brutal overall playoff schedules, and many have favorable matchups mixed in with bad ones, but here’s what I got. I’m not suggesting you should avoid any of these players, but if you’re looking for a tie-breaker for one of them against another comparable player, the playoff week SOS could be it.
DeAngelo Williams (Car) – Williams could easily come through again with big numbers in 2009; he was clearly playing at an insanely high level last year, and his overall situation is still very good. However, he is bound to fall back from his extremely high production level from last year, and Jonathan Stewart, if healthy, should take away more touches. But perhaps most disconcerting is his playoff week schedule. Williams may get you to the big dance this season, but he might then kill you, since he’s facing TB, NE, MIN, and NYG Weeks 12-16. That is a really tough schedule, so keep that in mind when making that oh-so-tough call on Williams this year.
Marion Barber (Dal – I’m not nearly as high on Barber in ’09 as I was last year. Although I realize they will likely run the ball more, I also know that Tashard Choice is a damn good player who commands some action, and Felix Jones is much more dynamic and will get plenty of touches. Another strike against Barber: his schedule is challenging for the playoff Weeks 12-16: NYG, SD, NO, and WAS. The Saints shouldn’t be a big problem (although they are improving), but the other three teams should each be top-10 against the run this year. And keep this in mind: Barber’s faded for the fantasy playoffs three of the last four years. Even if they use him a little less to keep him fresh, this schedule could make it four out of five.
Ryan Grant (GB) – Grant’s a decent back who should be more than serviceable, but it’s hard to find too many reasons to target and to try to make it a point to take him. I’m concerned about the shaky state of their OL, the presence of backup Brandon Jackson, who’s a better receiver, and his overall lack of special qualities, which should continue to limit him at least somewhat. Also of concern, of course, is his playoff week schedule. He gets Seattle in Week Sixteen, which isn’t very scary, but if you own Grant, will you even make it that far? Possibly not, since he’s facing off against BAL, CHI, and PIT Weeks 13-15. The Ravens may fall off a little, but this is still three of the top-10 run defenses in 2008, and they will be good again this year. The good news for Grant, at least, is that his schedule is cake-like earlier in the season.
Michael Turner (Atl) – Turner’s schedule is challenging the whole season, and while it’s not brutal down the stretch, he gets PHI and NYJ Weeks 13 and 15, and these could be two of the top-5 defenses against the run. It will also be interesting to see how he reacts in 2009 to the 377 carries he got in 2008, his first season carrying the load in his career. If there is a residual effect, it may show up late in the season, so the schedule is a concern.
Ronnie Brown (Mia) – Long time readers know I have always been a Brown supporter, at times to a fault. However, I didn’t love him last year coming off the knee injury, and I don’t love him this year for a few reasons. First and foremost, there are no indications the team will make him more of a focal point of the offense, even though they probably should. The fact is he’s yet to truly carry the load in the NFL or college for a full season, so at this point he may never. Brown should be handy this year, but I’m not going to be proactive with him and make it a point to snap him up. NE, JAC, TEN is a challenging run Weeks 13-15.
Jamal Lewis (Cle) – He’ll get the rock this year, no doubt, but it remains to be seen if he can hold up at his advancing age, and behind an OL that isn’t as good as it was just 1-2 years ago. He never gets any favors schedule-wise in his division, and if you’re playing for your playoff life Weeks 13-14, note that he gets SD and PIT those two weeks. Unless things go surprisingly well in Cleveland, those two matchups should be problematic, to say the least.
Clinton Portis (Was) – He’s a warrior, but he’s also been wearing down late in the season recently, and in 2009 he plays a pair of tough defenses Weeks 15-16. He gets the NYG in Week Fifteen and DAL in Week Sixteen. He’s had some success against both defenses in the past, but he’s been a little up-and-down against them. Another year older, he might have a tough time coming through against a pair of strong run-stuffing defenses so late in the season.
Willis McGahee/Le’Ron McClain (Bal) – Before you invest too high of a pick on either one of these guys, keep in mind we could still be looking at a committee this year, and that the Ravens get CHI and PIT in Weeks 15-16. If it’s still a committee situation here – and keep in mind Ray Rice looks much improved this off-season – these two challenging matchups could mean that neither of these guys will be good starts for the fantasy semis, championship, or wherever your league is those two weeks.
Matt Forte (Chi) – Tough call here, since he’s clearly a desirable player, and he does have a pair of good matchups Weeks 12-13 (STL and GB). But if you get beyond that, Forte may come up small for you against MIN and BAL in Weeks 14-15. A saving grace for Forte is how he can make up for a tough go on the ground in the passing game, but he merits inclusion in this article based on those two matchups.
Steven Jackson (Stl) – For some reason, I feel the need to use the word “horse” when I describe Jackson, but while he has had some injury issues, he definitely is. When you take a close look at the RB landscape, there are few players who have his combination of youth, size and strength, and explosiveness, so he’s certainly intriguing. Behind a revamped line he should be pretty strong this year, but if your fantasy playoffs are underway Weeks 13-14, he might not go off for you against CHI and TEN, a pair of high-end RBs.
Weeks 13-16 Schedules