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2024 Fantasy Football Playoff Schedules to Attack

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders

The NFL just released the 2024 schedule meaning best ball sickos and home league grinders alike can obsess over the fantasy playoffs for a few days before deciding to just draft the players they wanted to anyway. The list below has the entire fantasy playoff schedule (Week 15-17). The two columns to the right are the 2023 average EPA per play of the opposing defense and offense (in that order) for a team’s playoff matchups. The opponents that are listed in bold and italics indicate the game will be played indoors.

Team

Week 15

Week 16

Week 17

DEF EPA per play

OFF EPA per play

Dallas

@ Carolina

Tampa Bay

@ Philadelphia

0.023

-0.030

New England

@ Arizona

@Buffalo

LA Chargers

0.02

-0.009

Minnesota

Chicago

@ Seattle

Green Bay

0.017

0.018

Indianapolis

@ Denver

Tennessee

@ NY Giants

0.016

-0.078

New Orleans

Washington

@ Green Bay

Las Vegas

0.015

-0.032

Chicago

@ Minnesota

Detroit

Seattle

0.013

0.021

Denver

Indianapolis

@ LA Chargers

@ Cincinnati

0.012

-0.031

Atlanta

@ Las Vegas

NY Giants

@ Washington

0.009

-0.112

Carolina

Dallas

Arizona

@ Tampa Bay

-0.004

0.025

Tennessee

Cincinnati

@Indianapolis

@ Jacksonville

-0.007

-0.019

Seattle

Green Bay

Minnesota

@ Chicago

-0.012

-0.001

Green Bay

@ Seattle

New Orleans

@Minnesota

-0.012

-0.003

Tampa Bay

@ LA Chargers

@ Dallas

Carolina

-0.012

-0.036

Washington

@New Orleans

Philadelphia

Atlanta

-0.014

-0.024

Arizona

New England

@ Carolina

@ LA Rams

-0.014

-0.102

San Francisco

LA Rams

@ Miami

Detroit

-0.018

0.065

Philadelphia

Pittsburgh

@ Washington

Dallas

-0.019

-0.009

Los Angeles Chargers

Tampa Bay

Denver

@ New England

-0.019

-0.076

Los Angeles Rams

@ San Francisco

@ NY Jets

Arizona

-0.024

-0.035

Cleveland

Kansas City

@Cincinnati

Miami

-0.026

0.039

Cincinnati

@ Tennessee

Cleveland

Denver

-0.034

-0.065

New York Jets

@ Jacksonville

LA Rams

@ Buffalo

-0.034

0.036

Baltimore

@ NY Giants

Pittsburgh

@ Houston

-0.034

-0.084

Detroit

Buffalo

@ Chicago

@ San Francisco

-0.042

0.075

Jacksonville

NY Jets

@ Las Vegas

Tennessee

-0.044

-0.113

Pittsburgh

@ Philadelphia

@ Baltimore

Kansas City

-0.048

0.050

Las Vegas

Atlanta

Jacksonville

@ New Orleans

-0.056

-0.045

Buffalo

@ Detroit

New England

NY Jets

-0.059

-0.120

New York Giants

Baltimore

@ Atlanta

Indianapolis

-0.062

-0.015

Houston

Miami

@ Kansas City

Baltimore

-0.078

0.062

Miami

@ Houston

San Francisco

@ Cleveland

-0.08

0.010

Kansas City

@ Cleveland

Houston

@ Pittsburgh

-0.083

-0.071

The list is sorted by opponent defensive EPA and color-coded so good matchups by opposing offense and defense are red. Green is bad. There are a few caveats to the EPA data before we dive in. We want to target bad defenses, but defensive production year over year is not nearly as sticky as offensive production. Even offensive production fluctuates, though it is more stable than defense and some of the changes—a team getting a quarterback upgrade—are easy to see coming. With that out of the way…

Playoff Runs

Las Vegas Raiders

Starting an indoor/outdoor split, the Raiders are the only team to play all three of their fantasy playoff games in a dome. I don’t have a ton of faith in Gardner Minshew holding down a starting job for the entire season, so I’m hesitant to include him in best ball stacks, but Brock Bowers is an interesting bet on a late-season run. His role is likely to grow as the season goes on and then he gets to play in optimal conditions to close out the year. Bowers having a modest regular season could make him hard to advance to the best ball playoffs, but then he hits the jets to close out his rookie campaign.

This list has all of the other indoor/outdoor splits worth noting, some of which we’ll get to later.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys end their fantasy season with three defenses that ranked below average in EPA per play allowed in 2023. I expect some of these units to improve—looking at you Philly—but both the Panthers and Eagles have a long way to go to be even average on defense. Dallas’s offensive schedule is middle of the pack before factoring in a likely improvement from Carolina. Dak Prescott and CeeDee are the obvious way to play the Cowboys but don’t forget about Jake Ferguson. He led all tight ends in red zone targets (23) and finished second in end zone targets (nine). Lamb ranked top-two in both metrics as well. If you want to stack touchdowns on the most efficient offense from 2023, this trio is how you do it.

Pittsburgh Steelers

I get it. None of us want to stack the Steelers. It’s simply worth noting that they have a fun stretch of games to end the season. They face a total of four MVP trophies and one runner-up in their final three outings. Given their uncertainty at quarterback, I’m not fully stacking this team. However, rookie wideout Roman Wilson has a clear path to WR2 duties for the Steelers and was a strong deep threat at Michigan. If Pittsburgh is forced to pass a little more and play faster in their final three games, he could be in line for plenty of splash plays, as could George Pickens.

New England Patriots

The Patriots were a team I wanted to target before doing this exercise, so it’s nice to see my priors confirmed. New England faces the second-weakest defensive schedule in the playoffs and an above-average offensive run. While it’s more than fair to assume these defenses will regress toward league average, the offenses they face should be better in 2024 by a significant margin simply by having their star quarterbacks—Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert—available for the entire season. In a perfect world, Drake Maye sits for a few weeks, tanking his advance rate in best ball leagues, only for him to explode in the most important rounds.

Speaking of important rounds, getting two good games at the end of the season matters even more this year compared to Week 17 alone when looking at Underdog’s Best Ball Mania V contest.

When looking at playoff matchups, we want to be cognizant of how important simply making the final round is (ie. advancing out of Week 16).

Marquee Matchups

Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans

I expect this to be the most stacked game in every best ball format. If you’re truly deranged and want to get the matchups memorized for drafting SZN, Pat Kerrane has already created a system.

C.J. Stroud struggled against the Ravens twice last year, but Lamar Jackson was lights out in their second meeting, rushing for 100 yards and two scores while throwing an additional two touchdowns. With the addition of Stefon Diggs to the Houston offense and another offseason under Stroud’s belt, I see the Texans’ offense holding up their end of the bargain in this potential shootout.

Because these teams plus the Steelers and Chiefs play on Christmas Wednesday, the NFL aligned their schedules with a Saturday game in the previous week. If you want a highly correlated group of players for the final two weeks, you can mix and match players from those four teams.

Of note, the Texans and Ravens share a bye week.

Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers

The Lions and 49ers get the two best playoff schedules from an opposing offense perspective. Detroit opens with Buffalo and then gets an upgraded Chicago offense while the 49ers face the Rams and Dolphins. These two teams faced in the NFC Championship last year and 65 points were scored including six total rushing touchdowns.

One of my favorite ways to play this matchup will be through the ancillary receivers. Players like Jameson Williams and Ricky Pearsall can go weeks without a big game before blowing up, seemingly out of nowhere. Williams just needs one big play while Pearsall may need an injury ahead of him to become a full-time player.

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

Both the Packers and Vikings rank top-12 in opponent offensive and defensive EPA for the final three weeks of the fantasy season. The Vikings also open the playoffs with a dome game and then close with a dome game versus Green Bay. Minnesota’s target distribution should be straightforward in 2024 with Justin Jefferson playing the alpha role and Jordan Addison complementing him with frequent splash plays. T.J. Hockenson is recovering from a torn ACL and isn’t likely to play early in the year.

The Green Bay side of this matchup is far more interesting. They have four receivers who could start on most NFL teams and it’s not clear what their primary three-receiver set will look like. Given Christian Watson’s elite efficiency when healthy, I’m inclined to fade the injury-prone narrative and bet on his weekly upside. Dontayvion Wicks was first on the Packers in PFF receiving grade and second in yards and targets per route run last year. He is the cheapest of the bunch and worth taking some fliers on.

As a bonus, the Seahawks face both the Packers and Vikings in the playoffs. Their other opponent, Chicago, faces Minnesota in Week 15. This is another spot where you can get creative by stacking a few teams for an entire playoff run.

Fade Spots

Miami Dolphins

The playoff schedule is just one piece of the puzzle and there is plenty to like about both the Dolphins and Jags. Their stretch runs just aren’t one of those things. It’s more concerning for the Dolphins, who clearly struggled as teams got more tape on them throughout the year. Tua Tagovailoa averaged 290 yards and 2.1 touchdowns over the first half of the season compared to 252 yards and 1.3 scores in the second half. Tua was worse on the road last year and has been dreadful in cold temperatures. He gets both of those factors for his Week 17 matchup in Cleveland.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags have a bottom-10 playoff schedule by defensive efficiency and the second-worst run of games based on the opposing offenses. That will rise with Aaron Rodgers healthy, but their games against the Minshew/Aidan O’Connell Raiders and Will Levis Titans are likely to be low-scoring affairs. Will Levis struggled as a rookie and the NFL let him fall into the second round.

The most probable outcome for this game is far from a shootout. Jacksonville should be favored at home versus the Jets and Titans. They could also be favorites versus the Raiders, even on the road. That stretch could be perfect for Travis Etienne to see a large workload throughout the fantasy playoffs.