Ranking the RB Schedules for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

Fantasy Football Playoffs

It is time to start planning for the fantasy football playoffs. Week 7 is on the horizon and teams are in panic-mode looking to salvage their season as a result of poor performances, injuries, or both.

With almost two months of games in our database, we can start to project which players will have the best (and worst) opportunities when we enter the most critical part of the fantasy football season.

Here are my rankings for the running back fantasy schedules (Weeks 13-16) for all 32 teams, starting with the least favorable.

RB Fantasy Football Playoffs Schedules

32.   Buffalo Bills
RBs:  Devin Singletary, Zack Moss

The Bills have the most difficult running back schedule by a landslide. Their Weeks 13-16 schedule is San Francisco, Pittsburgh, at Denver, and at New England. Buffalo faces all four of the top defenses in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. They face the NFL’s top two rushing defenses in the 49ers and Steelers in consecutive weeks. The Bills will really need to improve their league-worst rushing DVOA offense, and neither Buffalo back has performed anywhere near a true RB1. Singletary is undersized and Moss is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. If the Bills are going to perform during the fantasy football playoffs, it will be mainly on the arm of quarterback Josh Allen.

31.  Dallas Cowboys
RB:  Ezekiel Elliott

The Dallas offense has suffered season-long injuries to quarterback Dak Prescott and both starting tackles, La’el Collins and Tyron Smith. If that wasn’t enough, Elliott face a brutal fantasy playoff schedule including games at Baltimore and home to San Francisco. The Cowboys also battle Cincinnati, and have a Week 16 against rival Philadelphia. The saving grace for Elliott is his increased passing game work, which has seen 33 targets and 24 receptions through five games. Hopefully, Andy Dalton can improve on his abysmal Week 6 performance, to keep defenses off-balance enough that Elliott can produce during Weeks 13-16 on sheer volume.

30.  Houston Texans
RB:  David Johnson

The lumbering veteran unfortunately will face the stingy Indianapolis run defense twice during Weeks 13-16. The Colts rank second in schedule-adjusted fantasy points against (aFPA) per 4for4, and have allowed the ninth-fewest rushing yards to running backs on the season. A Week 14 road game at Chicago will be challenging, as will the Texans Week 16 home game against a Bengals team that just returned defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Johnson will need to increase his passing game involvement in order to even approach RB2 production during the fantasy football playoffs.

29.  Washington
RB:  Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic

Gibson has been one of the most exciting newcomers to the NFL, but his fantasy owners should taper expectations during the fantasy playoffs. The Memphis rookie draws three of the top five running back fantasy defenses in Weeks 13-15 with road games at Pittsburgh (first) and San Francisco (second), followed by a home game against Seattle. If fantasy owners can survive to the championship week, Gibson draws a plum matchup at home against Carolina. The hope for Gibson is that he can continue to produce in the passing game, where he tallied another five receptions in Washington’s 30-10 loss to the Rams. McKissic has seen an increase in targets, but Gibson should find success against a Seattle team that allows halfback receptions at an alarming rate. However, Gibson will be unlikely to find big rushing totals before Week 16.

28.  Pittsburgh Steelers
RB:  James Conner, Benny Snell

Head coach Mike Tomlin always uses a one-back system, which has been great for fantasy players. That volume is what will be needed to carry the Conner or Snell to fantasy playoff production. The Steelers host a strong Washington front seven in Week 13 and then travel to Buffalo in Week 14th in their “easiest” game during the fantasy playoffs. The clincher is a Week 16 home game against the surprisingly stiff Indianapolis defense. Conner should hopefully find some success in Week 15 at Cincinnati, but there isn’t one soft rush defense on this list, even against a Bengals team that has only allowed 29 receiving yards per game to opposing running backs.

27. Arizona Cardinals
RB:  Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds

Drake broke out with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Arizona’s 38-10 win at Dallas. Unfortunately for Drake, he will face a difficult fantasy playoff schedule against the Rams, Giants, Eagles, and the formidable San Francisco run defense in Week 16. The 49ers have injuries throughout their defense but still have only allowed 23 total running back receptions through the first six games. Drake’s big Week 6 performance gives hope to fantasy owners, but they must hope Edmonds remains as strictly a third-down receiving back and keep this touch share at least 60-40 or better. With stiff competition in the fantasy football playoffs, Drake’s volume is essential for production.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars
RB:  James Robinson

Continue to doubt James Robinson at your own peril. The Jacksonville UDFA from Illinois State was been one of the top success stories in the 2020 season. Robinson is currently the PPR RB7 for a Jacksonville team that ranks 10th in rushing offense DVOA. He is a true three-down running back with the fifth-most receptions (23) at the position.  Robinson will need that passing game work because his fantasy slate of at Minnesota, Tennessee, at Baltimore, and Chicago will provide stiff resistance for the Jaguars ground game. However, Robinson’s combination of volume and negative game scripts makes him one of the best fantasy values of the season.

25.  New York Giants
RB:  Devonta Freeman

Freeman is trying his best to fill the massive void left by Saquon Barkleys season-ending injury. He filled in admirably with a solid PPR RB14 performance against the Cowboys in Week 5. His fantasy playoff bookend weeks are rough, with road games at Seattle and at Baltimore. However, Freeman is a solid RB2 option in the middle two home games against Arizona and Cleveland. The Cardinals have allowed the ninth-most rushing yards to opposing running backs while the Browns have allowed seven rushing touchdowns. As a 28-year old halfback on a 1-5 Giants team, he is probably not someone you want to rely on during the fantasy football playoffs.

24. Carolina Panthers
RB:  Christian McCaffrey, Mike Davis

Both of these running backs contribute so much in the passing game that the impact of their opponents rushing defense is marginalized. However, it is worth noting that the Panthers face the Broncos in Week 14 who allow the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Carolina also travels to Washington in Week 16, who have allowed the second-fewest receiving yards to opposing rushers this season. Fortunately, McCaffrey should feast on the Packers in Week 15. Currently, the Panthers have a bye in Week 13, which could change due to the COVID postponements.

23. Los Angeles Chargers
RB:  Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson

This backfield has been a timeshare all season, with Ekeler and Kelley giving way to Kelley and Jackson. Hopefully, Ekeler will be fully healed in time for the fantasy playoff drive with three home games. The Chargers host the Patriots, Falcons, and Broncos with just a Week 15 game at the Raiders away from home. Very few teams have more favorable consecutive opponents than Atlanta and Las Vegas, who rank second and first in running back receiving yards allowed respectively. The crowded depth chart causes confusion, but the Week 14 and 15 matchups couldn’t be any better. 

22.  San Francisco 49ers
RB: Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson Jr. 

San Francisco is committed to the run, ranking second with 144.1 rushing yards per game last season. Due to injuries this season, they have been forced to throw more than normal, currently sitting just 11th with 127.8 rushing yards per game. Jerick McKinnon is having a career season, but Raheem Mostert is now hurt again. The 49ers will face a moderate schedule in Weeks 13 and 14 with home games against Buffalo and Washington. Both teams rank in the middle of the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. Weeks 15 and 16 bring two road games, but against defensively challenged Dallas and Arizona who both rank inside the top nine teams in most rushing yards allowed. The most critical piece to the 49ers future running success will be to improve their offensive line performance. San Francisco allowed 10 sacks to the Eagles and Dolphins combined, but none to the Rams in Week 6.

21.  New England Patriots
RB:  Sony Michel, Damien Harris, James White

It is easier to solve a Rubik’s cube than figure out who will be the lead New England running back during the fantasy playoffs. The ground work is still Sony Michel’s when he returns from the injured reserve, and the passing game work will always be dominated by James White. New England will need to produce outside of Foxboro, as they have three straight road games against the Chargers, Rams, and Dolphins. There are passing game opportunities against the Rams and Dolphins, but they will travel to Buffalo to play their AFC East rival Bills in Week 16. That game could determine the AFC East crown. There is always solid fantasy production in the Patriots backfield, but it remains to be seen which running back will benefit the most.

20. Los Angeles Rams
RB:  Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson

The Rams feature the NFL’s most efficient rushing attack per DVOA, but have one of the most difficult backfield to handicap for fantasy purposes. Cam Akers was drafted to be the leading rusher, and was given the start in Week 2 before abruptly leaving with a rib injury. Darrell Henderson has performed well in his absence, but Akers returned in Week 5 to lead the team in rushing yards. Whichever player is the lead running back will face an alternating difficulty fantasy schedule. Los Angeles travels to Arizona in Week 13, followed by a tough trip to Foxboro against the Patriots. The Rams have a respite against the Jets before a rough NFC West showdown at Seattle. At least the Seahawks have been vulnerable to running back receptions, allowing an average of seven backfield receptions over Seattle’s first five games. If you rely on either player for weekly RB2 production during the fantasy football playoffs, the key is hoping head coach Sean McVay gives one of them at least 60% of the backfield touches.

19. Atlanta Falcons
RB:  Todd Gurley

Gurley may not be the sexy fantasy play, but he remains one of the few healthy lead running backs. His lack of passing game usage is buoyed by his five touchdowns, but Gurley still ranks eighth in total rushing yards. He will need to increase his passing game work if he wants to maintain fantasy relevance during the playoffs. Atlanta faces the Saints, Chargers, and Buccaneers consecutively from Weeks 13-15. Those teams all rank in the top four in fewest schedule-adjusted PPR fantasy points allowed to running backs. As one of the few (seemingly) healthy RB1s, Gurley might just find a way to positional Top 12 production during the fantasy football playoffs.

18. Kansas City Chiefs
RB:  Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Le’Veon Bell

There is plenty of fantasy production to go around in Kansas City. Clyde Edwards-Helaire broke out with a huge Week 6 fantasy performance, tallying 161 rushing yards as the overall PPR RB5. However, with only one total touchdown, he only ranks 16th in running back fantasy points per game. Le’Veon Bell’s presence should help Kansas City at the goal line, but Edwards-Helaire’s role will still be significant. His 67.7% snap share entering Week 6 was higher than Chris Carson, Aaron Jones, and Todd Gurley.  After a challenging Week 13 game against AFC West rival Denver, the Chiefs travels to Miami to face a Dolphins team allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Kansas City also has a mouth-watering Week 16 RB passing game opponent in Atlanta, who always gets shredded by pass-catching running backs. Edwards-Helaire and Bell should both find fantasy relevance during the critical Weeks 13-16.  

17. Minnesota Vikings
RB:  Dalvin Cook

When healthy, Dalvin Cook is one of the NFL’s top all-around running backs. The injury concerns are always present, as Cook missed Week 6 against Atlanta. He should flourish in Minnesota’s Week 13 home game against Jacksonville, but things get significantly harder in Weeks 14-16. Road games at Tampa Bay and New Orleans sandwich a tough NFC North battle against Chicago. Fortunately, Cook can attack a Buccaneers front seven through the air, as Tampa Bay has allowed the third-most receptions and fourth-most receiving yards to opposing running backs. Cook’s fantasy schedule isn’t spectacular, but certainly solid.

16. Las Vegas Raiders
RB:  Josh Jacobs

Jacobs started the season strong, with four receptions, 139 total yards and three touchdowns en route to the overall RB1 PPR performance. However, he failed to produce a touchdown or even an RB2 performance in each of the following three weeks. Even Week 5’s RB5 stat line was greatly buoyed by two touchdowns against a vulnerable Kansas City run defense. Things will not get easier during the fantasy playoff drive with two tough home games against the Colts and Chargers, who rank eighth and fourth in running back aFPA. Jacobs Week 13 game at the Jets is decent, as his Week 16 home game against Miami. Fantasy owners can take some solace in the fact that Jacobs will not leave his home stadium for the final three weeks of the fantasy football playoffs.

15. New Orleans Saints
RB:  Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara is such a focal point of the Saints offense, that his fantasy value is schedule agnostic. Regardless, the New Orleans fantasy playoff schedule provides little reason for concern. The Week 13 game at Atlanta and Week 16 home matchup against Minnesota set up for ideal fantasy production. The Vikings have allowed the seventh-most rushing yards to opposing running backs and the Falcons have allowed the second-most running back receptions in the league. The middle two matchups at Philadelphia and home Kansas City also have positive outlooks in both the running and passing attack. Kamara is a volume magnet for a team averaging over 30 points per game. Don’t overthink it.

14. Seattle Seahawks
RB:  Chris Carson

There are few runners tougher than Seattle’s Chris Carson. Battling through several injuries, the Seahawks multi-purpose rusher ranks sixth in fantasy points per game. While the eventual return of Rashaad Penny from the injured reserve will limit his rushing upside, Carson is the clear passing game option for the Seahawks. Three home games, including two against the Giants and Jets, provide Carson with one of the highest fantasy floors. The Week 14 matchup with the Jets allows Carson to face the seventh-most generous defense against opposing running backs. Seattle does not face any of the ideal fantasy defenses such as Detroit, Las Vegas, or Carolina, but the Seahawks have one of the best situation for a fantasy running back as possible.

13. Detroit Lions
RB:  D’Andre Swift

Swift finally had the fantasy performance we were waiting for in Week 6 with 116 rushing yards, two touchdowns, and the overall PPR RB3 performance. While the presence of Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson still clouds the touch share, Swift owners should have confidence in Detroit’s schedule during the fantasy playoffs. The Lions face the generous Green Bay rushing defense at home in Week 14 followed by another favorable game at Tennessee. Week 16 against Tampa Bay will be tough on the ground, but Swift’s pass-catching ability is buoyed by the Buccaneers 41 receptions allowed to opposing running backs. All Swift needs is more touches, and he will be a top running back producer in the fantasy football playoffs. 

12. New York Jets
RB:  Frank Gore, La’Mical Perine

With Le’Veon Bell now released, the lead running back for the Jets is currently unknown. Regardless, the upside exists with New York’s decent fantasy playoff schedule. Week 13 at Las Vegas is a gift, with a Week 14 road battle at Seattle as the most difficult test. Both the Rams and Browns will provide multiple production avenues with a likely heavy does of negative game scripts.  The Jets schedule isn’t difficult, it’s the offense that remains the biggest hurdle for any consistent running back fantasy production. 

11. Cleveland Browns
RB:  Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb

Assuming Nick Chubb returns, both he and Kareem Hunt have opportunities for quality fantasy performances during the fantasy stretch drive. Facing the winless Jets in Week 16 is certainly a positive. The only difficult matchup is an intra-divisional Week 14 battle against Baltimore. It’s worth noting Cleveland is one of the few teams with three road games during the four week period, and the touch share between Chubb and Hunt always limits the respective fantasy upside. Cleveland remains the most run heavy team in the league at 51.7%. From a scheduling perspective, it is better than average even with some challenging matchups.

10. Cincinnati Bengals
RB:  Joe Mixon

Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon has started to get going, and the Bengals fantasy schedule should allow for some big performances, especially at the bookends. Cincinnati’s ground game should have huge success in Week 13 at Miami and Week 16 at Houston. The Texans and Dolphins rank second and ninth in fantasy points allowed per game to running backs. Facing the Steelers in Week 15 is never easy, but a home game against the Cowboys the week prior softens the blow. Mixon is set up to be a high-end RB1 during the fantasy football playoffs.

9. Denver Broncos
RB:  Melvin Gordon

Gordon remains as one of the few three-down running backs standing as we enter Week 6. Gordon ranks a solid 12th in running back PPR fantasy points per game, and is the clear goal line back for the Broncos. Denver always provides the high altitude advantage for the Broncos, but Gordon will only have one home game during Weeks 13-16. He hits the running back lottery with a trip to Carolina in Week 14, and hosts a vulnerable Bills rush defense in the only game at Mile High Stadium. His bookend games are tough road battles against AFC West opponents Kansas City and Los Angeles. However, Gordon’s duo-threat volume and goal line work will secure a high floor against an above-average schedule. 

8. Miami Dolphins
RB:  Myles Gaskin

Gaskin remains one of the underrated values in all of fantasy football. His 64% snap share ranks among the Top 15 at the running back position, and he is sixth at the position with 29 targets. The upcoming Week 8 quarterback change to rookie Tua Tagovailoa brings uncertainty, but is just a buy-low opportunity for RB-needy fantasy players. Gaskin will enjoy three consecutive home games in Weeks 13-15 against the Bengals, Chiefs, and Patriots. In the Week 16 fantasy championship, the Dolphins face the extremely generous Las Vegas run defense, allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing backfields. As one of the few versatile running backs in the league, Gaskin may just parlay Miami’s easy schedule into a championship for his fantasy owners.   

7. Green Bay Packers
RB:  Aaron Jones

The demise of Aaron Jones’s fantasy value has been greatly exaggerated. The lead Green Bay back is currently third in PPR fantasy points per game (25.5), and has a fantastic schedule for the fantasy playoffs. After a comfortable Week 13 home game against Philadelphia, the Packers have a very friendly running back matchup at Detroit and a mouth-watering home game against Carolina. Their culminating Week 16 battle against Tennessee is also reasonable. If you have Aaron Jones, your only late-season concern is an injury. 

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RB:  Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette

The fantasy community remains divided on the Ronald Jones vs. Leonard Fournette debate, but should be united on the Buccaneers schedule during the fantasy football playoffs. After a Week 13 bye week, Tampa Bay faces one of the most RB-friendly schedules in fantasy football. The Buccaneers host Minnesota and then have consecutive road games at Atlanta and Detroit. The Falcons have allowed the second-most running back receptions to opposing backs and Lions have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. This would be particularly potent for Leonard Fournette, who has proved to be a more dangerous pass-catcher than Jones. Similar to many backfields, the touch distribution remains the biggest concern. However, Tampa Bay’s fantasy playoff schedule provides both running backs with a robust fantasy opportunity.

5. Baltimore Ravens
RB:  Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins

The touch split is maddening for fantasy owners of any of these running backs, but the Ravens remain one of the leaders in fantasy rushing production. Each of the these trio of rushers average at least 4.5 yards per carry, with the explosive Dobbins leading at 6.2 yards per attempt. It is just hard to project any one specific back for consistent weekly fantasy production, especially with quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the team in rushing yards (346). Baltimore’s schedule remains one of the most fantasy-friendly on this list, with three home games against bad run defenses during Weeks 13-16. Dallas, Jacksonville, and the Giants all rank in the Top 10 in most fantasy points allowed to opposing backs, and the Ravens Week 14 road game at Cleveland is not impossible. If one running back could simply take hold of this backfield, you are looking at the structure of a fantasy league winner. 

4. Philadelphia Eagles
RB:  Miles Sanders

Due to a hamstring injury, Sanders started the season slowly, while facing a difficult slew of opponents. Philadelphia was faced the 49ers and Steelers the past two weeks, one of the difficult pairs of consecutive opponents. Things will open up in the fantasy playoffs, facing the Packers, Saints, Cardinals, and Cowboys. Whether on the ground or through the air, there is a major vulnerability in three of those defenses. Green Bay allows the most halfback fantasy points per game, while Dallas and Arizona have allowed the second and ninth-most running back rushing yards respectively. The only negative is that three of these games are on the road, but Sanders has one of the best four-game fantasy football playoffs schedules imaginable.   

3. Indianapolis Colts
RB:  Jonathan Taylor

The Colts had the easiest strength of schedule entering the 2020 season. Based on Indianapolis’s fantasy playoff schedule, running back Jonathan Taylor should also be able to enjoy a very advantageous running back schedule. The Wisconsin rookie will face the Texans twice, providing Taylor the opportunity to face the defense that has allowed the most rushing yards to opposing running backs. The Colts also have a Week 14 trip to Las Vegas to battle a Raiders team that is allowing the third-most fantasy points to the position. If not for a rough Week 16 battle at Pittsburgh, Taylor would have the definitive best schedule for fantasy backs. Owners should temper their Week 16 expectations, but can rely on Taylor to help get them to that fantasy championship.

2. Chicago Bears
RB:  David Montgomery

David Montgomery often draws the ire of fantasy owners, but he has one of the most favorable running back schedules in the league. He has an even two-game home/away split, and all four opponents ranks 21st or worse at limiting opposing fantasy running backs. The first two home matchups against Detroit and Minnesota are as favorable as possible. The Lions are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game per game to running backs, including a 145 rushing yards per game (fourth-most). In the fantasy championship, the Bears face a Jaguars defense allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to the position. With Tarik Cohen out for the season, the volume and schedule make Montgomery an attractive trade target in all formats.

1. Tennessee Titans
RB:  Derrick Henry

The NFL rushing leader also has the best fantasy playoff running back schedule. Derrick Henry always gets stronger as the season progresses, and the Titans schedule for the fantasy playoffs will help facilitate that again. Henry has the easiest schedule of opponents for a running back during Weeks 13-16. During Weeks 14-16 he faces the 27th, 28th, and 30th ranked teams in fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs. The only challenge is the Week 13 matchup against Cleveland, but Henry will at least face them at Nissan Stadium. For a running back who gets stronger as the season progresses, this schedule is ideal for fantasy production. 

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