As we enter Week 12 of the NFL season, we also enter the final week of most fantasy league's regular season. Maybe you're fighting for your life to grab a playoff spot, but most likely you know where you stand, either in or out. If you're in, congratulations. Don't celebrate too long though, because this is where the real work begins. It's time to prepare for the playoffs. The past 12 weeks of effort you put in don't mean anything if you choke in week 13. Don't worry, you came to the right place, because I'm here to help. It's time to prepare for the playoffs. Sure, in most cases you can probably keep trotting out the same guys who got you this far, but there are some players who are teetering on the edge of relevancy that you need to take a deeper dive in to. So let's go position by position, looking at some players who you may want to consider picking up for the playoff run, or maybe even benching.

The stats I used for determining strength of schedule were from Yahoo. Other formats may be slightly different, but for the most part a tough schedule is a tough schedule and so on.

Quarterbacks

Hardest Playoff Schedule

32. New Orleans - Drew Brees (Carolina, St. Louis, Carolina) - Tough draw for Brees, but even with the tough schedule, you can't bench one of the best in the game.

31. Arizona - Carson Palmer (St. Louis, Tennessee, Seattle) - He's been mediocre this season, and now it's time to abandon ship.

30. Carolina - Cam Newton (New Orleans, NY Jets, New Orleans) - Newton has feasted on mediocre defenses this year, and in the playoffs he'll have his hands full. Most people probably don't have a better option, but be cautious. If he throws up a dud against New Orleans in Week 14, you'll probably want to look elsewhere in Week 16 if you're lucky enough to make it that far.

29. Indianapolis - Andrew Luck (Cincinatti, Houston, Kansas City) - Luck has been solid this year, but gets a tough test in the playoffs. Some of the top options may be a better place to turn if available in your league.

Easiest Playoff Schedule

1. Chicago - Josh McCown/Jay Cutler (Dallas, Cleveland, Philadelphia) - Cutler was initially targeting a Week 13 return, but now there are thoughts that he may have some serious ligament damage. McCown has proven plenty capable, and gets the worst and second worst QB defenses in Dallas and Philadelphia. Go scoop up McCown if he's available, this is a no brainer.

2. Baltimore - Joe Flacco (Minnesota, Detroit, New England) - Minnesota's banged up secondary should be a cake walk in Week 13, and Detroit and New England are just middle of the road. Flacco may very well be a free agent in your league and worth an add.

3. Tennessee - Ryan Fitzpatrick (Denver, Arizona, Jacksonville) - Fitzpatrick has been solid since taking over for Jake Locker in Tennessee, torching Jacksonville and playing a good game against Indianapolis. Arizona won't be a pushover in Week 15, but Denver and Jacksonville are both awful against opposing QB's. And oh yeah, he's only 7% owned right now.

4. Houston - Case Keenum (Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Denver) - Keenum gets a very favorable schedule here in the playoffs, however the danger lies in his job security. Gary Kubiak was quick to pull the plug on him last week, but then named him the starter going forward. If he can play the entire game, Keenum could be a fantasy playoff savior.

5. Detroit - Matthew Stafford (Philadelphia, Baltimore, NY Giants) - There's not really much to be said here. He's been one of the best fantasy QB's all year, and he gets an easy playoff schedule to top it off. There's an outside chance he ends up as the top scoring QB at year's end.

Additional Waiver finds: Buffalo - EJ Manuel (9th easiest schedule), Kansas City - Alex Smith (10th easiest schedule)

 

Running Backs

Hardest Playoff Schedule

32. Oakland - Rashad Jennings/Darren McFadden (NY Jets, Kansas City, San Diego) - Jennings has been a nice story since filling in for McFadden, but the fairy tale will end in Week 13. Find someone else to go to war with.

31. Carolina - D. Williams/J. Stewart/M. Tolbert (New Orleans, NY Jets, New Orleans) - Hopefully you don't have to rely on anyone in this mess.

30. St. Louis - Zac Stacy (Arizona, New Orleans, Tampa Bay) - He's been stellar since Week 6, but unfortunately runs into a tough lineup for your playoffs. He's turned in good games against a tough Seattle and Carolina run defense, but it's going to get even tougher. Proceed with caution.

29. Indianapolis - Trent Richardson/Donald Brown (Cincinatti, Houston, Kansas City) - As if you needed another reason to avoid this clusterf^&%, here it is.

28. New York Giants - Andre Brown (San Diego, Seattle, Detroit) - Brown has looked good since his return 2 weeks ago, but the playoff run won't be easy. One thing he has going for him is that he has pretty fresh legs. Still, these playoff matchups are not favorable.

Easiest Playoff Schedule

1. Green Bay - Eddie Lacy (Atlanta, Dallas, Pittsburgh) - Atlanta gives up the 8th most points to running backs, Dallas gives up the most, and Pittsburgh gives up the 12th most. Translation: Lacy is playoff gold.

2. Chicago - Matt Forte (Dallas, Cleveland, Philadelphia) - For all the reasons Lacy is a good play, the same goes for Forte. Philadelphia gives up the 9th most fantasy points to running backs, and Cleveland gives up the 14th. Don't hesitate to deploy Forte in the playoffs. It would be nice to think there's enough to go around for Michael Bush, but I wouldn't dig that deep.

3. Arizona - Andre Ellington (St. Louis, Tennessee, Seattle) - Seattle is a tough matchup in week 16, but St. Louis and Tennessee are both awful against the run. The only danger to Ellington's value here is how much work Rashard Mendenhall vultures.

4. Buffalo - Fred Jackson/CJ Spiller (Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Miami) - Jackson has been the better of the two backs this year, so he would be my first choice out of this backfield. Tampa Bay isn't an easy run defense, but Jacksonville and Miami have both been very poor this year.

5. Tampa Bay - Bobby Rainey/Brian Leonard (Buffalo, San Francisco, St. Louis) - Rainey appears to have taken over the starting role, so he would be the pickup recommended here. Buffalo is the hardest matchup out of the 3.

Additonal Waiver Finds: New Orleans - Pierre Thomas (10th easiest schedule)

 

Wide Receivers

Hardest Playoff Schedule

32. New Orleans - Marques Colston/Lance Moore/Kenny Stills (Carolina, Tampa Bay, Carolina) - Carolina gives up the second fewest points to wide receivers, and unfortunately the Saints see them twice in the playoffs. No one on the team has been reliable all year, so avoiding the whole group is probably your best bet.

31. Arizona - Larry Fitzgerald/Michael Floyd (St. Louis, Tennessee, Seattle) - Tennessee gives up the fewest points to wide receivers, and St. Louis and Seattle are also both in the bottom half. Fitzgerald has only been slightly better than Floyd this year, but neither one is likely to produce much in the playoffs.

30. Seattle - Golden Tate/Percy Harvin/Doug Baldwin (San Francisco, NY Giants, Arizona) - This trio is going to have a real gauntlet to face in weeks 14-16. Harvin has the most upside because of his explosiveness, but you may want to look for better options.

29. Indianapolis - T.Y. Hilton (Cincinatti, Kansas City, Houston) - The standout Colts wide receiver will face three tough tests in the playoffs, with the easiest being against Cincinatti. He's virtually unplayable in weeks 15 and 16.

28. New England - Danny Amendola/Aaron Dobson (Cleveland, Miami, Baltimore) - The New England duo really hasn't done much this year, and this is another reason why you shouldn't rely on either in the playoffs.

Easiest Playoff Schedule

1. Kansas City - Dwayne Bowe/Donnie Avery (Washington, Oakland, Indianapolis) - One of the toughest calls to make in the playoffs comes down to Dwayne Bowe. He's been decent in his last two games after a poor start, but any fantasy owner would have a tough time feeling confident starting him with the season on the line. Regardless, the schedule couldn't be much easier.

2. Baltimore - Torrey Smith/Marlon Brown (Minnesota, Detroit, New England) - Smith is a no brainer start in the playoffs this year (New England is the toughest matchup of the 3), and you could even reach for Marlon Brown if he's healthy. He's been spotty at best this year, but if you really need a wide receiver, he's not a bad option.

3. Minnesota - Greg Jennings/Jerome Simpson/Cordarrelle Patterson (Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cincinatti) - Another tough call here. Out of the 3 Vikings receivers, I can't even recommend one. In week 15 they get the Eagles pass defense, which gives up the most points to wide receivers in the league. That would be the one place to take a flyer on one of these guys if you have to. I'd go with Patterson, but your guess is as good as mine.

4. Philadelphia - DeSean Jackson/Riley Cooper (Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago) - If you have Jackson, you've been starting him all year with no problem and you should continue to do so. Cooper has come on since Nick Foles took over under center, and this playoff schedule should help keep his productivity up.

5. Chicago - Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffrey (Dallas, Cleveland, Philadelphia) - If you own either of these guys, you're starting them no matter who they're playing. This schedule is a nice bonus.

Additional Waiver Finds: Oakland - Rod Streater (6th easiest schedule), Detroit - Nate Burleson (7th easiest schedule)

 

Tight Ends

Hardest Playoff Schedule

32. Tampa Bay - Tim Wright (Buffalo, San Francisco, St. Louis) - Wright was a nice surprise around mid season, but has tailed off in the past couple weeks. His playoff schedule is as bad as it gets. Buffalo gives up the 6th fewest points to tight ends, San Francisco the 3rd fewest, and St. Louis the 2nd fewest. Time to find another option.

31. Indianapolis - Coby Fleener (Cincinatti, Houston, Kansas City) - Fleener has been inconsistent all year, and this playoff stretch isn't going to help turn that around. Kansas City gives up the fewest points to tight ends, and Cincy and Houston are both in the bottom half as well.

30. Minnesota - Kyle Rudolph (Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cincinatti) - Rudolph falls in that middle tier of tight ends, and has been mostly inconsistent this year. Don't count on him for your playoffs.

29. Carolina - Greg Olsen (New Orleans, NY Jets, New Orleans) - New Orleans gives up the 4th fewest points to tight ends, and Olsen gets them twice. You may be able to play him in week 15 against the Jets, but certainly not against the Saints.

28. Miami - Charles Clay (Pittsburgh, New England, Buffalo) - He's been one of the surprise tight ends this year, but this playoff schedule is a really tough one. Looking for another option might be a good idea.

Easiest Playoff Schedule

1. Tennessee - Delanie Walker (Denver, Arizona, Jacksonville) - Walker could quite possibly turn out to be a pickup who wins people their leagues. Yes he's only a tight end, but his matchups in the playoffs are that good. Denver has given up the 5th most points to tight ends, Arizona has given up the most, and Jacksonville has given up the 2nd most. If Walker is available in your league and you need tight end help, go grab him now.

2. Buffalo - Scott Chandler (Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Miami) - Chandler is nothing special at the tight end position, and even the week 14 matchup against Tampa Bay isn't great, but he then gets Jacksonville (2nd most tight end points allowed) and Miami (6th most tight end points allowed).

3. Dallas - Jason Witten (Chicago, Green Bay, Washington) - Witten hasn't been his usual consistent self this year, but if you stuck with him, it may pay off in the playoffs. Green Bay is the toughest on his schedule, and even they're not anything great, allowing the 11th most tight ends points. Keep rolling with Witten if you have him.

4. Philadelphia - Brent Celek (Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago) - Celek has been mostly a disappointment this year, and Nick Foles doesn't seem too interested in getting him the ball, but his playoff matchups are decent. Detroit isn't favorable, but Minnesota (4th most tight end points allowed) and Chicago (7th most tight end points allowed) are places you could possibly use him if desperate.

5. Houston - Garrett Graham (Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Denver) - Graham had a breakout week against Oakland in Week 11, where he caught 7 balls for 136 yards and a touchdown, and the road gets even easier from here on out. In week 14, Graham will get Jacksonville's abysmal defense, and then Denver in week 16. He faces a tough Indianapolis team in week 15, but he may still be usable there.

Additional Waiver Finds: Zach Miller (12th easiest schedule)

 

Eric Cooper is an NFL and MLB writer for TJRSports. When not watching or writing about sports he enjoys spending time with his wife, son and dog. He's also starting to side with A-Rod in this whole debacle. Go figure. Give him a follow on Twitter @Eric_TJRSports.