Cards, Bucs have favorable fantasy playoff schedules

Ryan Grant and the Packers have a tough fantasy schedule late in the year with games vs. the Bears, Steelers and Seahawks in the fantasy postseason. (Morry Gash / Associated Press)

Ryan Grant and the Packers have a tough fantasy schedule late in the year with games vs. the Bears, Steelers and Seahawks in the fantasy postseason. (Morry Gash / Associated Press)

With so much player movement and parity around the National Football League these days, looking at how the schedule might affect fantasy player values is no longer as effective a tool as it once was for owners.

Still, it makes sense to at least take into consideration which teams have the easiest or hardest schedules during the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).

With that in mind, I’ve examined the opponents of every NFL team in those weeks and come up with the five best and worst schedules based on the final 2008 ranking of each defense.

For example, the Detroit Lions ranked 32nd agains the run last season. So any team that faces the Lions during those three weeks were given 32 points. On the flip side, any team facing the Minnesota Vikings, who ranked first against the run, received one point.The higher the overall point total, the easier the schedule.

Five teams with favorable pass schedules

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (84 points) — The Bucs face the Jets, Seahawks and Saints in the fantasy postseason. None of those teams finished better than 23rd against the pass last season.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (77 points) — Fantasy leaguers who think Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco will be solid value picks have to love postseason games against the Vikings, Chargers and Chiefs.

3. Indianapolis Colts (76 points) — We all know that Peyton Manning can help lead you to a championship. Games against the Broncos, Jaguars and Jets make him even more attractive in drafts.

4. Tennessee Titans (75 points) — The Titans won’t throw the football a ton, but a favorable slate in the fantasy postseason could help make Nate Washington and Justin Gage better options.

5. Arizona Cardinals (66 points) — As if you needed another reason to like the Cardinals’ pass attack, matchups against the 49ers, Lions and Rams will make fantasy leaguers salivate even more.

Five teams with favorable run schedules

1. Arizona Cardinals (74 points) — Whether it’s Tim Hightower, Chris “Beanie” Wells or a combination of the two, fantasy leaguers have to like their cupcake schedule in the postseason weeks.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (71 points) — Larry Johnson is soon to be 30 and has a lot of wear and tear on his body, but you have to love a three-game slate against the Bills, Browns and Bengals.

3. Buffalo Bills (70 points) — The value of Marshawn Lynch takes a hit due to a three-game suspension, but late-season games against the Chiefs, Patriots and Falcons are attractive overall.

T-4. New York Jets (68 points) — The Men in Green will run the ball a lot between Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and Shonn Greene, and the schedule down the stretch is favorable.

T-4. Seattle Seahawks (68 points) — Julius Jones isn’t a huge name in fantasy football, but he could help lead you to a title with games against the Texans, Buccaneers and Packers.

Five teams with unfavorable pass schedules

1. Denver Broncos (19 points) — As much as I like Kyle Orton as a sleeper candidate this season, he could really struggle in the fantasy postseason against the Colts, Raiders and Eagles.

2. Washington Redskins (23 points) — Jason Campbell isn’t going to be starting for most fantasy owners, and contests against the Raiders, Giants and Cowboys make him even less attractive.

3. New York Giants (26 points) — Eli Manning lost his top option in the pass attack, Plaxico Burress, and a tough late-season schedule hints to yet another poor performance down the stretch.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (28 points) — The Steelers offense will lean on the run quite a bit, and games against the Packers and Ravens in the fantasy postseason won’t help the pass attack at all.

5. San Diego Chargers (29 points) — The Chargers showcased Philip Rivers in the offense last season, but tough games against the Cowboys and Titans could hurt his numbers late in 2009.

Five teams with unfavorable run schedules

1. Green Bay Packers (24 points) — The Packers and Ryan Grant have an especially difficult schedule down the stretch, facing the Bears, Steelers and Seahawks in the fantasy postseason.

2. Carolina Panthers (25 points) — DeAngelo Williams might have led all runners in fantasy points last season, but games against the Patriots, Vikings and Giants will be extremely tough down the stretch.

3. Chicago Bears (30 points) — Matt Forte’s status as a top-five fantasy back is strong, but keep in mind he’ll face two teams (Ravens, Vikings) that finished in the top three against the run in 2008.

T-4. Detroit Lions (32 points) — Despite his status as a fantasy breakout candidate, Kevin Smith could be hard pressed to produce in the fantasy playoffs against the Ravens, Cardinals and 49ers.

T-4. New York Giants (32 points) — Brandon Jacobs is a solid fantasy back, but closing out against the Eagles, Redskins and Panthers will be no easy task for the big rusher.

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