Fantasy squads in playoff contention usually depend on a few stud players to hike up the score each week. However, certain factors can make players slow down in the second half of the season, forcing fantasy owners to adjust their expectations. SI.com's fantasy football experts discuss which players are at risk of tapering off come fantasy playoff time.
Michael Beller: Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals -- I’m concerned about Ellington’s production without Carson Palmer under center. He has had fewer than eight points in two of the four games started by Drew Stanton this year, and needed a fluky 81-yard touchdown reception to post starter-worthy numbers in a third. He’s going to get plenty of volume so I still expect him to be an RB2, but he’s the No. 8 running back in standard-scoring leagues to this point of the season, and I don’t think he will be able to keep that up. The Cardinals draw the Chiefs, Rams and Seahawks during the fantasy playoffs, all of which are, at best, neutral matchups for a running back.
Kevin Casey: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks -- Wilson has been a bit maligned in NFL circles as of late, but his significant contributions in running the ball help keep him considered a highly productive fantasy quarterback. However, Seattle's schedule just gets too tough during the fantasy playoffs, especially in Weeks 15 and 16 when the Seahawks must face the 49ers and then travel to the Birds Nest for the Cardinals. Despite injuries, San Francisco still boasts an intimidating defense, and we don’t have to tell you the magic Arizona has pulled off on that end. Adjusted for competition, Wilson’s play will be just fine, but not quite the fantasy quarterback owners need him to be.
Ben Eagle: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks -- Lynch remains the Seahawks' bellcow back, but their schedule is brutal. After a middle-of-the-road matchup with the Eagles in Week 14 (a playoff week in some leagues), Lynch faces two of the toughest run defenses in the league: 49ers in Week 15 and the Cardinals in Week 16. You're not going to bench him, but you need to temper expectations accordingly.
David Gonos: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles -- Through Week 11, Maclin ranks as the third-best wide receiver in fantasy behind Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson. But in Weeks 14 and 15, he’ll face the Cowboys and the Seahawks, two defenses ranked in the top three against wide receivers, although, his Super Bowl week is against a Redskins team he killed in Week 3. With Mark Sanchez as the quarterback, Jordan Matthews has received more attention, especially near the red zone. Matthews has four red zone targets in the past two weeks, compared to five over the first six weeks. Maclin, meanwhile, has just two red zone targets in two games Sanchez has started.
Bette Marston: DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys -- It’s no secret that the Cowboys running back has been on a blistering pace this season, currently sitting at 1233 rushing yards and seven rushig touchdowns, but I think he will come back down to Earth during the fantasy playoffs. Murray gave us a hint of what that will like in Week 9 when he only ran for 79 yards and caught four passes for 11 yards. Not bench-worthy, but not fantasy matchup-winning either. The Cowboys face the Bears, Eagles and Colts in Weeks 14-16 respectively, all of which are mid-ranked rushing defenses but plenty capable of slowing Murray. His crazy workload this season won't help either.
Eric Single: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles -- Maclin has nine touchdowns in 10 games so far and will likely top the 1,000-yard mark in Week 12 against the Titans, but the last two games suggest the Eagles may be moving away from a clear No. 1 target down the stretch. Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews and tight end Brent Celek have put up big numbers since Mark Sanchez took over for Nick Foles, and five Eagles had at least six targets against the Packers last weekend. Maclin will still get his catches, but owners counting on him to keep finding the end zone do so at their own risk.