Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: 5 league winners for the fantasy playoffs

2T9XD6R Houston Texans tight end Brevin Jordan (9) runs against the Jacksonville Jaguars during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

• QB Brock Purdy might carry fantasy managers and the San Francisco 49ers to championships: With two matchups against bottom-three defenses to close out the season, Purdy is bound to be on plenty of championship rosters.

Kansas City Chiefs rookie Rashee Rice is in his WR1 era: Rice has emerged as a focal point for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ passing offense since their bye week, and he has a favorable schedule that could make him a WR1 over the rest of the season.

• Whichever Houston Texans tight end is healthiest: A favorable schedule to close out the season, paired with Houston's injuries at wide receiver, could put Dalton Schultz or Brevin Jordan in a position to win managers a fantasy football championship.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

WR:CB Matchup Chart

The fantasy football playoffs have finally arrived, and fantasy managers will be forced to make some challenging decisions in the coming weeks as they look to advance to the championship. Analyzing trends in usage and which fantasy options have the best schedules will be key to that.

Here are five players who are set to win you a fantasy football championship thanks to favorable situations and upcoming schedules. 

QB Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

REMAINING SCHEDULE: at Cardinals, vs. Ravens, at Commanders and vs. Rams

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy is in a position to potentially win the NFL MVP award, Super Bowl LVIII and maybe,  just maybe, your fantasy football championship.

Purdy’s play on the field has translated well for fantasy managers this season. He enters Week 15 as the overall QB5, having finished as a top-seven quarterback in four of the past five weeks.

While the 49ers continue their pursuit of the No. 1 seed in the NFC, they’ll have a couple of favorable matchups that project Purdy as a top-five fantasy quarterback, particularly in Weeks 15 and 17 when they face the Arizona Cardinals and Washington Commanders.

The Cardinals and Commanders are allowing 0.44 and 0.32 expected points added (EPA) per dropback, 32nd and 30th among NFL defenses, respectively. They each rank among the bottom six defenses in passing touchdown percentage allowed, passer rating allowed and yards allowed per pass attempt, which could give Purdy a chance to produce two of his most efficient outings of the campaign.

The biggest uphill battle for Purdy will, of course, be the Baltimore Ravens defense in Week 16, but helping his cause to some degree is the fact that they’ll be playing this game at home, where he has yet to score fewer than 18 fantasy points in any outing this season.

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RB Ezekiel Elliott, New England Patriots

REMAINING SCHEDULE: vs. Chiefs, at Broncos, at Bills and vs. Jets

Take this league-winner with a grain of salt, as Ezekiel Elliott’s viability as a league-winner depends on the health status of Rhamondre Stevenson, who’s managing a high-ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 13.

In Stevenson's absence, veteran Ezekiel Elliott has flourished, particularly in the passing game, which could tab him as an easy league-winner in PPR formats as long as Bailey Zappe is under center. Without Stevenson in the mix, Elliott hasn’t just held a workhorse role; he’s been the only horse in the building, having been the only running back (besides Stevenson, before injury) to have played a single snap for the Patriots over the past two weeks.

With Zappe under center in Weeks 13 and 14, Elliott has notched a whopping 50 total touches for 232 scrimmage yards and a score. His true upside has been in the receiving game, having led the team with a 26% target share, totaling 11 receptions on 13 targets as Zappe's go-to guy amid a slew of injuries that the Patriots are working through at the wide receiver position.

In those games, Elliott has finished as the RB15 and overall RB1, which should give fantasy managers a look at his potential production down the stretch if Stevenson remains out with injury.

Three of the Patriots' four remaining matchups will come against teams that rank bottom-12 in fantasy points allowed per game (full-PPR) to the running back position since Week 8, including the Chiefs, Bills and Jets, which should help only his cause.

Patriots skill players: Targets and touches since Week 13
Name Pos. Snaps Total touches Touch rate Rush Atts. Targets Adj. target %
Ezekiel Elliott HB 93 50 53.8% 39 13 31.7%
Rhamondre Stevenson HB 16 10 62.5% 9 1 25.0%
Bailey Zappe QB 117 7 6.0% 7 0 0.0%
Hunter Henry TE 94 5 5.3% 0 7 17.1%
JuJu Smith-Schuster WR 111 5 4.5% 0 9 18.8%
DeVante Parker WR 53 4 7.6% 0 9 45.0%
Tyquan Thornton WR 102 4 3.9% 1 6 13.3%
Ty Montgomery WR 9 2 22.2% 1 2 33.3%
Pharaoh Brown TE 59 1 1.7% 0 1 5.9%
Jalen Reagor WR 25 1 4.0% 0 2 14.3%
Mike Gesicki TE 23 0 0.0% 0 0 0.0%

WR Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

REMAINING SCHEDULE: vs. Steelers, at Falcons, vs. Raiders and vs. Texans

The Indianapolis Colts have surprised most around the league with their offensive production under quarterback Gardner Minshew, averaging just over 333 yards and 25 points per game since taking over as the starter. A big part of that production has been thanks to veteran wide receiver Michael Pittman, who’s established himself as one of Minshew’s go-to guys and one of the best values in 2023 fantasy football drafts.  

Since Minshew officially took over at quarterback in Week 6, Pittman has averaged 11.5 targets, eight receptions and 85.9 receiving yards per game, ranking as the overall WR7 in that span. His floor has been incredibly safe, having totaled eight or more receptions in all but one of those outings while posting 80 or more receiving yards in all but two.

The Colts will play the remainder of their games indoors, limiting any potential for nasty December weather, meanwhile facing several middle-of-the-pack secondaries.

Michael Pittman Jr.: Fantasy stats since Week 6

WR Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs

REMAINING SCHEDULE: at Patriots, vs. Raiders, vs. Bengals and at Chargers

The further the Kansas City Chiefs dive into the 2023 season, the more it becomes clear how desperate this team has been for a contributor at the wide receiver position, and the more it becomes clear that the answer is right in front of them.

Rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice has officially emerged as a go-to option for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, having recorded nine or more targets and seven or more receptions in each of his last three games. 

In that span, Rice has ranked as the overall WR9 (half-PPR), averaging 81 receiving yards per game with two touchdowns. His production has finally started to match the overall efficiency we’ve seen all season.

Rice’s uptick in target volume, efficiency on those increased opportunities, and a favorable upcoming schedule that ranks as the easiest remaining, according to PFF’s strength of schedule tool, could pave the way for a WR1 finish over the rest of the season.

Rashee Rice: Receiving metrics and rank among qualifying wide receivers (2023)
Metric Rank
Yards after the catch per reception 7.9 3rd of 100
Yards per route run 2.35 14th of 100
Passer rating when targeted 125.4 8th of 100

The Houston Texans tight end room (Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan)

REMAINING SCHEDULE: at Titans, vs. Browns, vs. Titans and at Colts

This might be painting with an overly broad brush, but for anyone who hasn’t yet secured an every-week, no-questions-asked starter at the tight end position, the Houston Texans might just be your opportunity to find some upside.

The Texans offense has been a pleasant surprise this year under rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, and the tight end position, particularly Dalton Schultz, has been a big part of his success.

Schultz has averaged 41.4 receiving yards per game while tying for the fourth-most receiving touchdowns among tight ends this season, sitting as the overall TE10 in fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, he’s missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, with his status in question for Week 15 (and beyond) … which is where teammate Brevin Jordan comes in.

Whether it’s Schultz or Jordan who gets the start at tight end for the Texans in the week to come, they’ll be in a position to make a splash in the receiving game. Having lost rookie wide receiver Tank Dell to a season-ending leg injury and Nico Collins managing a calf injury aggravated in Week 14, Schultz and/or Jordan could be integral to their game plan moving forward. In the past two weeks with Schultz inactive, Jordan has totaled six receptions for 99 receiving yards, which could provide enough volume for TE1 consideration for the rest of the season.


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