Fantasy Playoff Guide: The Strength of Schedule for Every Running Back

Matt Hicks, Staff Writer

This is part 2 of 4 for our Fantasy Playoff Guide Series. You can read part 1, on quaterbacks, here

It’s playoff time and every decision counts. That’s why we’re bringing you an in-depth look at the strength of schedule for every fantasy relevant skill position player. To get a real look at strength of schedule we looked at the schedule of every player from Weeks 14-16.

When looking at the defense, we ignored their overall rank and instead looked at how they’ve performed specifically against the position being evaluated. We totaled their three match-ups together to get their total strength of schedule (SOS). For example, LeSean McCoy faces the Colts (29th in points allowed to opposing fantasy running backs, meaning they give up the 4th most amount of points) then Miami (25th) then New England (22nd). If you add up those ranks it equals 76, which equals the weakest strength of schedule for any fantasy running back.

In this case, the higher the number, the easier the schedule. Note that the statistics being used reflect Week 1-12 of the 2017 regular season and reflect ESPN standard scoring. To help put strength of schedules into context, we also include their overall season rank, by position, for each player. This is also based on ESPN standard scoring.

To see players’ individual strength of schedules, we’ve provided the excel sheet which we use to calculate SOS here.


  1. LeSean McCoy (SOS 76*, Rank 7*)

Shady has been up and down all season, but he has the potential to be a difference maker in your playoff run. He has the easiest playoff schedule of any running back, facing the Colts (29th in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs), Miami (25th), and New England (22nd).


  1. Kareem Hunt (SOS 74, Rank 4)


Hunt may be limping into the fantasy playoffs, but his schedule makes him a must start throughout them. Hunt faces his toughest defense in Week 14 against Oakland (21st) and in Week 15 he faces the Chargers (28th). Have faith in Hunt, it will pay off.


  1. Jay Ajayi (SOS 72, Rank 30), LeGarrette Blunt, Corey Clement


  1. DeMarco Murray (SOS 70, Rank 17), Derrick Henry


  1. CJ Anderson (SOS 69, Rank 28), Devonte Booker


  1. JD McKissick (SOS 66, Rank 54), Eddy Lacie, Thomas Rawls


  1. James White (SOS 63, Rank 22). Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead


It is increasingly difficult to see which running back will be featured on any given week in Bill Bellicheck’s mad scientist offense. Regardless of who gets the carries and targets this will be the most potent running back by committee (RBBC) in the fantasy playoffs. Both Lewis and Burkhead are must starts against the Dolphins in Week 14 (25th) and Week 16 against Buffalo (30th).


  1. Kenyan Drake (SOS 61, Rank 64), Damien Williams


  1. Jordan Howard (SOS 59, Rank 15)


  1. Ameer Abdullah (SOS 58, Rank 25), Theo Riddick


It’s time for the Abdullah and Riddick truthers to give up the dream; and no I don’t care whether or not your league is PPR. The Lions backfield has been mediocre all season and their tough SOS in the fantasy playoffs means they need to stay on your bench.


  1. Lamar Miller (SOS 57, Rank 12)


  1. Frank Gore (SOS, 57, Rank 23)


  1. Duke Johnson Jr. (SOS 54, Rank 14), Isiah Crowell


The Cleveland backs have both shown potential to be solid fantasy starters this season. I like both of them as streamers (Johnson only in PPR) in Week 14 against Green Bay (23rd) but proceed with caution as they play Baltimore (16th) and Chicago (15th).


  1. Adrian Peterson (SOS 52, Rank 42)


  1. Danny Woodhead (SOS 50, Rank 85), Alex Collins


I don’t like the Ravens backs nearly as much as everyone else seems too, however, it needs to be pointed out that Woodhead or Collins could win you your championship when they face the Colts (29th in fantasy points allowed to fantasy running backs this season).


  1. Melvin Gordon (SOS 49, Rank 5), Austin Eckler


  1. Matt Forte (SOS 49, Rank 33), Bilal Powell


  1. Christian McCaffery (SOS 48, Rank 11), Jonathan Stewart


I’d look other places in Week 14, when the Panthers take on a Minnesota (1st) defense that shutdown Todd Gurley, and just about everyone else this season. After that, however, Carolina plays Green Bay (23rd) in Week 15 and Tampa Bay (24th) in Week 16. CMC is a must start in both standard and PPR formats in those weeks.


  1. Jerrik McKinnon (SOS 46, Rank 18), Latavius Murray


It’s been difficult to decide which Vikings running back to start on any given week this season. Their difficult schedule, highlighted by Carolina (4th) in Week 14 and Cincinnati (19th) in Week 15 makes it easier to opt-out of playing either back if you have comparable options.


  1. Samaje Perine (SOS 46, Rank 48)

The red-hot Samaje Perine remains a must start against a weak Chargers (28th) defense in Week 14. After that, things don’t look so clear; he faces Arizona (7th) in Week 15 and Denver (11th) in Week 16. He’s still a solid flex start in those weeks, but explore other options.

  1. Alfred Morris (SOS 46, Rank 76)


Morris has done well since he began filling in for Zeke. With over 5 yards/carry, Morris remains a potent option whenever he gets the volume he deserves. He’s a solid flex start when he plays the Giants (20th) in Week 14 and Raiders (21st) in Week 15. Have another option in mind, however, for Week 16 when Morris faces off against Seattle (5th).


  1. Tevin Coleman (SOS 44, Rank 16), Devonta Freeman


  1. Joe Mixon (SOS 43, Rank 20)


  1. Doug Martin (SOS 43, Rank 55), Jaquizz Rodgers


  1. Le’Veon Bell (SOS 41, Rank 2)


Bell owners shouldn’t panic with his tough SOS. He faces off against the tough but beatable Ravens (16th) in Week 14 and the weaker Patriots (22nd). What should make owners nervous is his tough championship week match-up against the Texans (3rd least fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs this season). Bell, of course, is still a must start.


  1. Leonard Fournette (SOS 40, Rank 10)


  1. Alvin Kamara (SOS 38, Rank 3), Mark Ingram


I’ll preface this by saying, you’re not benching either one of these guys in your playoffs; if you have Kamara on your roster, he’s probably the reason you’ve gotten this far. That being said, The New Orleans backs have to face Atlanta (12th) in both Weeks 14 and 16 and take on the Jets (14th) in between them.


  1. Marshawn Lynch (SOS 29, Rank 29)


  1. Orleans Darkwa (SOS 27, Rank 38)


You already shouldn’t be touching any New York Giant with a ten-foot fantasy pole, however, you should definitely be avoiding Darkwa in your fantasy playoffs. He faces the Eagles (2nd) in Week 15 and Cardinals (7th) in Week 16. You don’t want your fantasy hopes to come down to someone taking handoffs from Geno Smith.


  1. Carlos Hyde (SOS 26, Rank 9)


Hyde is not a must start in your fantasy playoffs. Although he’s been consistent this season, he has a tough road ahead of him. He faces the Texans (3rd) in Week 14, the Titans (6th) in Week 15, and his best match-up is in championship week when he faces off against the Jaguars (17th).


  1. Jamaal Williams (SOS 18, Rank 52)


I’m a big Jamaal Williams fan, however, expectations need to be tailored for him in the playoffs. Not only does he face off against Carolina (4th) in Week 15 and Minnesota (1st) in Week 16, he also has to compete with the now healthy Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery. He’s still worth consideration in your flex spot, but pay attention to how much work Jones and Montgomery get moving forward.


  1. Todd Gurley (SOS 13, Rank 1)

Gurley owners should be concerned. The top-ranked running back has the hardest SOS in the fantasy playoffs; he faces off against the Eagles (2nd) in Week 14, the Seahawks (5th) in Week 15, and the Titans (6th) in Week 16. He’s absolutely still a must-start running back, however, temper your expectations. If you’re in a re-draft league where trades are still allowed, consider trading him for a good package.

Follow us on Twitter @Top2Sports for daily fantasy advice and everything you need to know to win your fantasy championship.

Published by

Matt Hicks

Matt’s writing is focused on dynasty and devy fantasy football. He loves blending his experience writing research in the field of education with fantasy football stats. Matt currently lives in Baltimore, MD and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You can follow Matt on Twitter: @TheFF_Educator

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