Harsh Reality, Playoffs Edition: The worst fantasy matchups, Weeks 14, 15 and 16

Stacy Revere

You've made it this far! But can you got much farther? The worst players to have for the fantasy playoffs... maybe.

There it is. Or maybe, "There it was!" You waited for months and months for the NFL season to start, and then it was finally preseason, you had your fantasy drafts after hours and hours of exhaustive research. You got some of the players you desperately wanted, you missed out on some others.

Then Week 1 came and it was so exciting you could barely stand it. You wanted this feeling to last forever, you wanted to savor it.

Then it was Week 4 and hey, that's still pretty early in the year!

Then it was Week 9, pretty much the midpoint for almost every team. Oh no, the midpoint! But also, yay, because I can't wait for the playoffs!

And now we're here. The end of the season? No. Still four games left for that. But many fans these days are "fantasy football fans" moreso than they are actual football fans. So, end of the regular season for fantasy? Mostly. And the playoffs begin now.

It can be a tricky time to navigate, what with the Seahawks all but clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Also, the Broncos and Patriots may not be far off from getting positioned in the AFC. By the time Week 16 rolls around and you're prepping for your championship -- if you've made it there -- the NFL may have an entirely different landscape. Some of the best players may not be good plays in Week 16.

For this week's harsh reality, I compiled the five worst plays at each position, based on the entirety of their remaining schedule. If you've zigged and zagged your way through 13 weeks to make the fantasy playoffs, and you play these players, it's possible you won't be zagging for much longer.

Here are the worst cumulative fantasy players for the next four weeks:


32. Kellen Clemens, Rams

Opponents: Cardinals, Saints, Buccaneers, Seahawks

If you've made this far, there's certainly a chance that you're now hanging on for dear life and might have to use someone like Clemens to pull off a miracle if your starting QB used to be Aaron Rodgers. Sorry, I don't think there is a miracle coming for you.

In the final quarter of the schedule, the Rams face four of the top 13 passes defenses in the NFL by Football Outsiders' DVOA measurement. Though most leagues won't include Seattle in Week 17 (game will likely have the Hawks resting their starters anyway, not that they'll rest) that's not much of a relief.

The Cards are fighting for a playoff berth, the Saints absolutely need a win over St. Louis sandwiched between their two games against the Panthers, and the Bucs are trending upwards. There won't be no sweet Clemens time.

31. Carson Palmer, Cardinals

Opponents: Rams, Titans, Seahawks, 49ers

With 11 touchdowns over his last five games (including no less than two in each), there's a chance that Palmer has actually helped get you this far when you were in a pinch. He's certainly been one of the most underrated performers in the NFL over the last month.

But he might not do much over the final month of the year.

St. Louis has a good defense. Tennessee is ranked 12th against the pass by DVOA, but cornerback Alterraun Verner is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Seattle is ranked first against the pass and just delivered Drew Brees perhaps the worst start of his career. Without Brandon Browner.

If you had to make it that far with Palmer, San Francisco won't offer any relief.

30. Mike Glennon, Buccaneers

Opponents: Bills, 49ers, Rams, Saints

If Glennon saves Greg Schiano his job, he'd be doing himself a service by saving his own. The bad news is that it's going to have to come against an increasingly-difficult schedule for a team that has had the toughest schedule in the league.

Buffalo boasts the fifth-best defense in the NFL by DVOA and is fourth against the pass.

The Niners are sixth.

The Rams are 17th. The Saints are eighth.

Schiano has to go with Glennon. Do you?

29. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

Opponents: Dolphins, Bengals, Packers, Browns

If you had Roethlisberger and made it to your Week 16 fantasy championship, you could start him against Green Bay (30th against the pass) but if you tried to start him before that, you may not get that far. The Dolphins are seventh against the pass and Cincinnati is only bested by Seattle.

The Bengals have allowed just 15 touchdown passes in 12 games, with an opposing QB rating of 74.5.

28. Andrew Luck, Colts

Opponents: Bengals, Texans, Chiefs, Jaguars

Luck's numbers are trending down recently and he has just two touchdown passes in his last four games.

He'd be a good play in Week 15 or 17, but is avoidable this week. Can you afford an avoidable QB this weekend?

Surpriser of the Playoffs: Drew Brees, Saints

Opponents: Panthers, Rams, Panthers, Buccaneers

Carolina is either the first or second best defense in the NFL and Brees gets the pleasure of facing them twice in a 15-day span. The Rams also aren't slouches on defense.

Brees got you this far, and you aren't going to ditch him. But we did just see one team find a way to dismantle New Orleans. And if there is a team with a better defense than Seattle, it's the Panthers.

Running backs

32. Pierre Thomas, Saints

Opponents: Panthers, Rams, Panthers, Bucs

The same would also apply to Mark Ingram, if you're really in that much of a bind as you enter the playoffs.

Thomas has scored two rushing touchdowns, and he will probably stay at that number. Carolina is ranked third against the run by DVOA and the Rams are ranked eighth. If you had to play him in Week 17 against the Bucs, you'd find the team ranked ninth.

New Orleans is terrible running the ball as it is, but they might hit new lows (as Brees does his best to take control over the final four games against some tough defenses, see above) as they try to win the NFC South or at least a wild card.

31. Chris Johnson, Titans

Opponents: Broncos, Cardinals, Jaguars, Texans

If you can make it to Week 16 with Johnson, you're probably safe. But getting there with him will be difficult.

Denver and Arizona both ave run defenses ranked in the top five and both of those teams went without their star player on defense to open the year. With Daryl Washington and Von Miller back, it'll be even harder for players such as Johnson to score points over the final month of the season.

30. Ryan Mathews, Chargers

Opponents: Giants, Broncos, Raiders, Chiefs

In case you weren't disappointed in Mathews enough, there's also the fact that you'd have to get through the Giants and Broncos run defenses to get to championship week if you started Mathews.

29. Frank Gore, 49ers

Opponents: Seahawks, Bucs, Falcons, Cardinals

Another big name that could be kept rested in anticipation for the playoffs this season but also faces a difficult schedule. San Francisco can't do much resting in December as they try to hold off Arizona, or possibly the loser in the NFC East, from the final wild card spot, but Gore has been spelled in recent games by Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon and LaMichael James.

He has just 121 yard in his last three and hasn't carried it 20 times since Oct. 20. He has just one touchdown in his final four.

The Seahawks are ranked 11th against the run, the Bucs are ninth, the Falcons are 27th and the Cards are fourth.

28. Zac Stacy, Rams

Opponents: Cardinals, Saints, Bucs, Seahawks

Stacy's mom? Just give me Stacy, please! Not right now, though.

Zac Stacy has been a revelation for the Rams this season, rushing for 692 yards in his last eight games. However, he now faces the run defenses that are ranked, by DVOA: 4th, 22nd, 9th and 11th.

He's had 86.5 yards per game as the lead back, but he's probably looking more like 40-60 yards per game and maybe a score or two over the final month of the season. Not the best time to be using him, though you may have no choice.

Surpriser of the Playoffs: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks

Opponents: 49ers, Giants, Cardinals, Rams

Is this some sort of joke? Lynch is sixth in the NFL in rushing yards, second in touchdowns, tied for first in total touchdowns with 11. But there are a number of factors going against him in December? Unlike Lexus, this may not be one to remember.

The Niners, Giants and Cardinals all have run defenses in the top 13. Plus, Seattle has all but clinched the top seed in the NFC. A win on Sunday in San Francisco and they can almost certainly coast for the final three weeks and not put too much pressure on their Pro Bowl back. It actually might be a good time to sneak Christine Michael on your roster just in case.

Wide receivers

32. Cecil Shorts III, Jaguars

Opponents: Texans, Bills, Titans, Colts

Step one was to check which players were facing off against Verner at least once in the final month and then see if they had another difficult assignment on top of that. Check/double-check for Shorts.

He faces Verner in Championship Week and also has to deal with Buffalo the week prior. Shorts has just two touchdowns so far this year and may finish with two touchdowns.

31. T.Y. Hilton, Colts

Opponents: Bengals, Texans, Chiefs, Jaguars

As noted above with Luck, there are a couple of good opportunities and a couple of bad ones. The problem is that the final game almost certainly doesn't matter to you and that the other game won't matter if you don't win this week.

Cincy locks down basically every position on offense and Hilton could have trouble finding space this week.

30. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

Opponents: Rams, Titans, Seahawks, 49ers

He gets to face off against St. Louis at home this week, but then it's on the road to see Verner and up to Seattle to face Richard Sherman. Fitzgerald doesn't have the yards of Michael Floyd, but he's got twice the number of touchdowns.

There may not be any scores left for Larry, though.

29. Kendall Wright, Titans

Opponents: Cardinals, Broncos, Jaguars, Texans

The good news for Fitzgerald on the Cardinals is that he doesn't have to face the Cardinals. Thanks to the elite play of Patrick Peterson, Arizona is ranked number one in the NFL against number one receivers, by DVOA.

That means that Wright has to face off against Arizona this week and then Denver (12th against No. 1 receivers) the next.

28. Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Patriots

Opponents: Browns, Dolphins, Ravens, Bills

Definitions start to get murky with New England, so let me just throw out some names and some facts and you decide.

Here is what we know for sure: Cleveland is No. 2 in the NFL against number one receivers, because of Joe Haden. Miami is number six. Baltimore is 15th. Buffalo is 24th, but they are second against a number two and 13th against a number three.

Is Thompkins the number one? Is Amendola? Edelman leads the team in catches and yards. And, really, Brady is going to favor Rob Gronkowski for as long as he is healthy. Working out of the slot, Amendola might be the safest play, but he hasn't come close to matching the production of Wes Welker.

Play it as you must, but the final quarter of New England's season is one of the toughest in the NFL.

Surpriser of the Playoffs: Calvin Johnson, Lions

Opponents: Eagles, Ravens, Giants, Vikings

I'm willing to concede that it's a stretch, but that's why it's a "surprise" as well. I also know that Johnson doesn't abide by normal human laws, but hear me out.

You've let Johnson, your first round pick, will you to the playoffs. Then he wills you past the Eagles (17th against number one WRs) then the Ravens (15th.) He's also led Detroit to two wins and the Lions are 9-5 with two games left, having clinched the NFC North for the first time in franchise history. They've beaten the Cowboys and the Eagles, so no matter what, they are locked in the three seed by the time Week 16 against the Giants roll around.

New York is ranked fifth against a number one receiver, and Johnson is without question the most valuable player on Detroit by 8 Miles.

Jim Schwartz allows him to play for a quarter in each of the final two games. He still catch four passes for 60 yards in each of the last two games, but that doesn't help you win a fantasy title, does it? Not with your MVP. It could definitely happen that way.

Megagreat for him. Megabummer for you.

Not-so-tight ends

Vernon Davis, 49ers

Opponents: Seahawks, Bucs, Falcons, Cardinals

Seattle is second against tight ends and the Bucs are seventh. Colin Kaepernick may need to get right back to targeting Michael Crabtree for the next couple of games.

Coby Fleener, Colts

Opponents: Bengals, Texans, Chiefs, Jaguars

It's been a nice little breakout for Fleener with Dwayne Allen sidelined all year. He has over 200 yards in his last three games. It might have been a good chance for him to accumulate yards while he could.

The Bengals and Chiefs are two of the best defenses in the NFL against tight ends.

Surpriser of the Playoffs: Jimmy Graham, Saints

Opponents: Panthers, Rams, Panthers, Bucs

Worth bringing up again. It's not like I expect New Orleans to tank in the final quarter, but it's just a really tough schedule, highlighted by two games against one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. Carolina is ninth against tight ends and St. Louis is sixth.

Graham was keyed in on against Seattle and held to three catches and 42 yards. Still got a touchdown, so that's good, but I'm just saying ... if you have Brees, Lynch, Johnson, and Graham in Week 16, you might have a stacked team that falls just short.

And this is not the right time to fall short.

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