Last season, NFL.com introduced a new tool to help fantasy owners in their quest for a league championship -- the fantasy points allowed (FPA) ratings. These ratings are based on the strength of a player's schedule using the average fantasy points their opponents allowed against the six major fantasy positions the previous season. For example, the Houston Texans allowed an average of 19.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2010. As a result, any signal-caller who faces the Texans in 2011 is rewarded 19.6 points. Peyton Manning, who faces them twice as a divisional opponent, is rewarded 39.2 points. The larger the overall point total, the easier the schedule.
We've already covered the overall FPA ratings for each of the top four fantasy positions (which you can find in the links above) but now it's time to look at who faces the best and worst matchups during the most vital part of the season -- the fantasy football playoffs (Weeks 14-16). As you'll find, a number of top-name players will have even more value on draft day based on the relative ease of their schedules when you need them to perform the most.
Top five quarterbacks
1. Eli Manning, Giants (49.7 points): If you land Manning as your No. 2 fantasy quarterback on draft day, it could turn into quite the valuable move. He faces the Cowboys, Redskins and Jets in the fantasy postseason -- the two divisional opponents were in the top four in allowing the most points to quarterbacks.
2. Peyton Manning, Colts (46.2 points): Not only will Eli help fantasy owners win a title, but his big brother should also be a star in the postseason. The veteran will go up against the Ravens, Titans and Texans in Weeks 14-16. Houston allowed more fantasy points to signal-callers than any team in 2010.
3. Tom Brady, Patriots (45.8 points): As if you needed another reason to draft Brady, his schedule during the fantasy postseason is especially attractive. He'll face the Redskins, Broncos and Dolphins -- the former two teams surrendered the fourth- and fifth-most points to quarterbacks last season, respectively.
4. Jay Cutler, Bears (45.6 points): While it's true that his value has fallen since leaving Denver, Cutler is still a viable matchup-based starter in fantasy leagues. A Week 16 matchup against the Packers is tough, but the veteran also faces much easier tests against the Broncos and Seahawks in the previous two weeks.
Bottom five quarterbacks
1. Colt McCoy, Browns (35.5 points): McCoy isn't likely to be drafted in most standard fantasy football leagues, so the fact that he has a dreadful slate of matchups in the postseason won't have much of an effect. The Texas product will go up against the Steelers, Cardinals and Ravens in Weeks 14-16.
2. Joe Flacco, Ravens (36.4 points): Flacco, a borderline No. 1 fantasy quarterback in most leagues, has some difficult matchups in the postseason against the Colts, Chargers and Browns. The game against San Diego in Week 15 is especially tough -- no team allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2010.
3. Matt Schaub, Texans (37.4 points): Schaub faces matchups against the Bengals, Panthers and Colts in the fantasy football postseason. Those defensive units don't seem that formidable on the surface, but none of those three teams allowed an average of more than 14 fantasy points per game to opposing field generals last season.
4. Matt Ryan, Falcons (38.1 points): A low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback, Ryan faces a great matchup against the Jaguars (Week 15) but also has much tougher games against the Panthers (Week 14) and Saints (Week 16). Neither of those units allowed an average of more than 11 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.
T-5. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (38.8 points): Fitzpatrick was surprisingly productive for fantasy owners during a number of starts last season, but he can't be leaned on during the 2011 postseason with games against the Chargers and Dolphins. A Week 16 matchup against the Broncos is extremely favorable, however.
Top five running backs
1. Cedric Benson, Bengals (56.8 points): Benson will be drafted as a No. 2 fantasy runner, but he could be a top-10 option during the postseason. The veteran faces three great matchups against the Texans, Rams and Cardinals. Only the Rams allowed an average of fewer than 16 fantasy points per game to backs.
3. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (56.0 points): The No. 1 overall fantasy player on NFL.com for the 2011 season, Peterson faces matchups against the Lions, Saints and Redskins during the postseason. All three of those teams allowed an average of at least 16.9 fantasy points to running backs during last year.
4. Matt Forte, Bears (55.6 points): Forte had a nice season from a fantasy perspective in 2010, finishing in the top 10 in points at his position. Though a game against the Packers and their top-notch defense in Week 16 is clearly difficult, Forte should absolutely feast on the Broncos and Seahawks in Weeks 14-15.
5. Arian Foster, Texans (55.2 points): The top-scoring player in fantasy football last season, Foster could find it tough to duplicate his immense 2010 totals. However, he's almost certain to be a stud during the fantasy playoffs with very attractive matchups against the Bengals, Panthers and Colts.
Bottom five running backs
1. LeSean McCoy, Eagles (38.5 points): McCoy's value won't be altered a ton due to tough matchups against the Dolphins and Jets in the fantasy postseason, simply because a good portion of his production is as a receiver out of the backfield. He does have a much easier matchup against the Cowboys in Week 16, however.
2. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (41.6 points): One of the most explosive running backs in the entire league, Charles will be a first-round pick in most fantasy drafts. While his Week 16 matchup against the Raiders is very attractive, Charles must also go up against the Jets and Packers during the previous two games.
3. Peyton Hillis, Browns (42.6 points): Hillis will have a difficult time duplicating his 2010 success, especially when you consider his upcoming fantasy postseason schedule. He does have a great matchup against the Cardinals (Week 15), but Hillis also faces the Steelers (Week 14) and Ravens (Week 16).
T-4. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks (42.7 points): Outside of his incredible touchdown run against the Saints in the wild-card round, Lynch had a mostly forgettable season in 2010. He's not going to rebound and put up big numbers in the 2011 fantasy postseason, either, as tough matchups against the Bears and 49ers await.
T-4. Mark Ingram, Saints (42.7 points): Ingram is clearly the most talented runner in the Saints imminent backfield committee,but he faces tough matchups against the Vikings and Falcons in Weeks 15-16. The rookie out of Alabama shouldn't be considered more than a high-end flex starter in most 2011 drafts.
Top five wide receivers
1. Hakeem Nicks, Giants (71.4 points): Nicks has a chance to be the top-scoring wideout in fantasy football in 2011. Part of that reasoning centers around a great full-season schedule that includes playoff matchups against the Cowboys and Redskins. Nicks will face Jets CB Darrelle Revis in Week 16, though.
2. DeSean Jackson, Eagles (67.7 points): Though he does need to be more consistent in the stat sheets, Jackson is one of the league's most explosive wideouts. And with games against the Dolphins and Cowboys in the fantasy playoffs, he should make an impact. Be aware, though, that Jackson will face Revis in Week 15.
3. Steve Smith, Panthers (66.2 points): If the Panthers add a reliable quarterback, Smith could turn into a nice draft value this season. He has some good matchups in the fantasy playoffs, facing the Falcons, Texans and Buccaneers. The Falcons and Texans allowed an average of at least 22.6 points to wideouts in 2010.
5. Reggie Wayne, Colts (65.9 points): One of the most consistent players at his position in recent years, Wayne and his fellow Colts wideouts face favorable matchups against the Titans and Texans in Weeks 15-16. Wayne also goes up against the Ravens in Week 14. Baltimore's defense struggled to stop opposing receivers in 2010.
Bottom five wide receivers
1. Roddy White, Falcons (50.0 points): White is going to be one of the first wideouts drafted in every fantasy league, and the fact that he has tough matchups against the Panthers (Week 14) and Saints (Week 16) isn't going to change that. The superstar veteran does face a vulnerable Jaguars pass defense in Week 15, though.
T-2. Steve Johnson, Bills (51.7 points): Was Johnson a one-year wonder? Time will tell, but the schedule isn't going to do him any favors. In Weeks 14-15, he'll go up against the Chargers and Dolphins -- both teams were tough on wideouts in 2010. Of course, Johnson also faces a very questionable Broncos unit in Week 16.
T-2. Anquan Boldin, Ravens (51.7 points): Boldin's status as an elite fantasy wideout appear to have ended as a member of the Ravens, and playoff matchups against the Colts and Chargers won't help his cause to re-emerge into a star. On a positive note, Boldin will be hard to sit against the Browns in championship week.
4. Kenny Britt, Titans (52.6 points): An ultra-talented wideout, Britt could be a breakout candidate in 2011. However, off-field issues and a tough fantasy playoff schedule that includes games against the Saints and Colts won't help his cause. Britt does have a great matchup against the Jaguars in Week 16, however.
Top five tight ends
1. Anthony Fasano, Dolphins (23.8 points): Fasano won't even be drafted in most fantasy football leagues, but he could be someone to keep in mind off the waiver wire if you don't land a reliable tight end on draft day. The Notre Dame product faces great matchups against the Eagles and Bills during the fantasy postseason.
2. Matt Spaeth, Bears (22.6 points): Spaeth has no real fantasy value, and playing in Mike Martz's offense isn't going to make him more attractive for owners. He does face some great matchups in the playoffs, however, as games against the Broncos, Seahawks and Packers are all favorable based on their 2010 totals.
T-3. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers (21 points): A veteran out of Miami (Fla.), Winslow has some nice matchups against the Jaguars, Cowboys and Panthers during the fantasy playoffs. He won't duplicate his final 2010 fantasy ranking at the tight end position, but Winslow still has low-end starting value in most leagues.
T-3. Tony Moeaki, Chiefs (21 points): Moeaki has some low-end sleeper value for the 2010 campaign, and games against the Jets, Packers and Raiders could make him a viable starting option in fantasy leagues. The latter two teams were in the top nine in allowing the most points to opposing tight ends in 2010.
T-3. Scott Chandler, Bills (21 points): Unfortunately, a great schedule based on our FPA ratings is destined to be wasted on Chandler in 2011. He'll face the Chargers and Broncos, who both ranked in the top 10 in surrendering the most fantasy points to tight ends. Where are you when we need you, Jay Riemersma?
Bottom five tight ends
1. Zach Miller, Seahawks (14.9 points): Miller was a potential draft bargain for fantasy owners, but that changed when he signed with the Seahawks. He now faces a brutal slate of games during the playoffs, as the Rams, Bears and 49ers were all extremely tough on opposing tight ends during the 2010 campaign.
2. Heath Miller, Steelers (16.1 points): A veteran tight end out of Virginia, Miller is almost certain to improve on what was a disappointing 2010 season. However, difficult matchups against the 49ers (Week 15) and Rams (Week 16) will make him tough to start. A game against the Browns in Week 14 is favorable, however.
3. Benjamin Watson, Browns (16.4 points): Watson was a viable fantasy starter at times during the 2010 campaign, but his lack of consistency made him a risk-reward option. He'll be hard-pressed to help fantasy owners in the postseason, as games against the Steelers and Ravens are far less than attractive.
4. Todd Heap, Cardinals (16.5 points): Heap's value rises in Arizona, though he shouldn't be considered more than a No. 2 fantasy tight end in 2011. He faces a tough slate of postseason games against the 49ers (Week 14) and Bengals (Week 15) with an easier matchup against the Browns (Week 15) in between.
T-5. Chris Cooley, Redskins (17.1 points): Cooley will be well worth a middle- to late-round selection in fantasy drafts, but he does have tough matchups against the Patriots and Giants in the playoffs. Neither team gave up an average of more than 5.7 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends during the 2010 campaign.