As fantasy football managers head down the home stretch of the 2012 season, weekly matchups play a big factor in success or failure in qualifying for and advancing in the playoffs. Here are five quarterbacks who have optimal schedules for the rest of the season.
For the sake of this article, I'll assume that your fantasy football playoffs take place during Weeks 14 through 16 and that your league uses scoring settings similar to those in public Yahoo! fantasy football leagues. All rankings in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks are those entering Week 9 of the NFL season.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Assuming the rookie out of Texas A&M can recover from his leg injury quickly, he has a nice schedule down the stretch, facing the Indianapolis Colts (No. 15), Tennessee Titans (No. 4), Buffalo Bills (No. 2), Seattle Seahawks (No. 25) and New England Patriots (No. 5).
Tannehill's fantasy playoff schedule consists of the San Francisco 49ers (No. 31), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 17) and Bills (No. 2) again.
In Week 17, the Dolphins face the Patriots (No. 5) for the second time.
It takes some stones to count on a rookie quarterback to lead your fantasy football team to a championship, and that Week 14 game against the Niners is brutal, but if you're juggling QBs like I am on a couple of my teams, there are some great games throughout Miami's remaining schedule that fantasy managers can exploit.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
For the remainder of the fantasy regular season, Ryan and the Falcons are up against the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 21), Dallas Cowboys (No. 29), New Orleans Saints (No. 1), Arizona Cardinals (No. 30), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 13) and the Saints (No. 1) again.
In Weeks 14-16, Ryan has to navigate the Carolina Panthers (No. 23), New York Giants (No. 9) and Detroit Lions (No. 19).
If you're in a league that continues its playoffs through Week 17, Atlanta faces the Buccaneers (No. 13) during the final week of the NFL season.
The risk--right now, at least--with Ryan is that the Falcons are so far ahead in the NFC South that they may be tempted to rest starters in the final couple of games if nothing is at stake.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Yes, the Eagles offense is in shambles right now, and yes, there is some talk of rookie Nick Foles seeing some playing time if things don't improve, but Vick has a schedule that makes his fantasy football (and real life) comeback this season a distinct possibility.
Philly finishes up the fantasy football regular season against the Saints (No. 1), Dallas Cowboys (No. 29), Washington Redskins (No. 3), Panthers (No. 23) and the Cowboys (No. 29) again.
Then for the fantasy football playoffs, Vick faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 13), Cincinnati Bengals (No. 18) and the Redskins (No. 3).
The Eagles' Week 17 opponent is the New York Giants (No. 9).
Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Keep in mind that the Texans are a run-first team, so Schaub isn't putting up the gaudy stats this season that he's flaunted in years past, but Houston's schedule is simply delightful nearly every week.
Schaub takes on the Bills (No. 2), Chicago Bears (No. 32), Jaguars (No. 17), Lions (No. 19) and Titans (No. 4) through Week 13.
Then starting in the fantasy football playoffs, the Texans battle the Patriots (No. 5), Colts (No. 15) and the Minnesota Vikings (No. 8).
Week 17 brings the Colts (No. 15) again.
As with Ryan, the risk is there that Houston will be so far ahead of the overachieving Colts and the hapless Titans and Jaguars in the AFC South that they'll choose to protect their starters if nothing is on the line late in the season, but Schaub certainly has the matchups to excel during the most important part of the fantasy football season.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Manning throws a whole bunch of wobbly passes nowadays, but the old guy--by NFL standards--is still getting it done in Denver. With several games left against weak pass defenses, Manning is likely to make a lot of Broncos fans and fantasy owners alike very happy down the stretch.
Denver has the Bengals (No. 18), Panthers (No. 23), Chargers (No. 11), Kansas City Chiefs (No. 7), and Buccaneers (No. 13) left on tap through Week 13.
In the fantasy football playoffs, Manning should dissect the Oakland Raiders (No. 10), Baltimore Ravens (No. 27) and Browns (No. 6).
If you need Manning in Week 17, he'll face the Chiefs (No. 7) again that week.
The Week 15 game against Baltimore doesn't look great on the surface, but the Ravens' ranking has been buoyed by slamming the door on Andy Dalton and Matt Cassel. Mike Vick, Tom Brady, and Brandon Weeden have all thrown for over 300 yards against Baltimore this year, so Manning should do just fine.
Injuries have also decimated the Ravens defense lately. As a result, they've allowed four passing touchdowns in the past two games after allowing just two in the first five contests.
The author has played fantasy football in more leagues and for more years than he can remember, winning a number of league championships along the way. He is a Featured Contributor in Sports with the Yahoo! Contributor Network, and you can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.