The Matchup Machine - Week 14's Best and Worst - The Playoff Edition
For those subscribers who were active readers in 2012, you might remember that last season I wrote a weekly column breaking down the best and worst matchups for running backs. Using PFF’s grading system I was able to breakdown and pinpoint matchups along the offensive/defensive lines and between the fullbacks and tight ends/ linebackers. However, there is more to a running back’s weekly matchup including coaching tendencies, what direction a running back has success rushing to and the likelihood that a team is rushing based on the score of the game. All factors considered, I was able to predict the worst matchups at a highly successful rate while also targeting some of the breakout backs of the week.
This season I will be trying something a little different. Instead of just focusing in on the running backs, I will look into all of the different matchups in fantasy football including quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends in an attempt to pick the overall best and worst matchups of the week. Fortunately, PFF has all the tools to break down each individual matchup. Want to know how your wide receiver is going to do? Well if he lines up as a split end on 90% of his snaps, we can pinpoint which cornerback he will be matching up with for those snaps.
Of course, as was the case last season, this column will become more accurate as the season goes on and we compile more grades for the players and get a feel for tendencies and overall strengths/weaknesses of the 32 teams.
Before each new matchup projection for this week, I will revisit my prediction from last week so you all can get an idea of the process and its results. All the results will show how a player scored in a standard scoring system and in a 12 team league. The only difference is that by “standard” I am referring to what the majority of leagues have moved to – 0.5 points per reception. If you are a reader at PFF, it is likely that you are playing in this scoring system.
I find that this column can best be used for fantasy football day gamers. In leagues set up on websites like fanduel.com, you can choose from the entire player pool and must assemble a team based on a salary cap format. You can get a 100% deposit bonus & chase the dream of the $1 million 1st prize at the FanDuel Fantasy Championship.
Speaking of daily fantasy football leagues, in my advice section I will tailor the different matchup advice based on each player’s price that week.
Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options for Week 14.
Also, please feel encouraged to tweet questions at me on Twitter @PFF_DanSc or post them in the comments if you want to know any specific cornerback/wide receiver matchups for your players or if you want an idea of how your running back’s offensive line grades out or the rush defense that he faces.
Last Week: Matthew Stafford – 11th-overall QB
What Happened: The Falcons offense controlled the clock longer than expected and Brees couldn’t crack the top three.
Matt Stafford @ Eagles
Stafford has continued to be one of the best overall value picks this season at any position. With the aid of one of the greatest wide receivers of all time, Stafford consistently puts up big enough yardage and touchdown totals to make up for a few turnovers here and there. While Stafford, Johnson and Bush get a lot of the credit, and rightfully so, the most underrated factor for Stafford’s success has been the play of his offensive line and his overall pass protection. The Lions have graded out as our sixth-best team in pass protection (+16.7). They have consistently kept Stafford upright for the entire season in an offense that likes to take deep and intermediate shot plays that require prolonged protection.
The Eagles on the other hand have disguised their weak play against opposing passers with their improved run defense and current winning streak. Those people who have jumped on the Eagles’ bandwagon want to subscribe their success to a balanced attack. In reality, the Eagles have competed in the top-third of our run defense rankings (+25.5), but they have struggled against the pass. The Eagles grade out as our 10th-worst team in pass rush rating (-7.4) and 11th-worst in pass coverage (-23.8). With a lacking pass rush, Stafford should be able to pick apart a secondary that lacks the right pieces.
Machine Readout: Start him! Stafford is the high-priced daily league quarterback to own this week.
Last Week: Andy Dalton – 26th-overall QB
What Happened: Dalton had a horrific first half and never recovered from a fantasy standpoint.
Matt Ryan @ Green Bay
The weather certainly won’t be pretty in Green Bay, Wisconsin, this Sunday. However, Matt Ryan owners should fear not. With the return of a healthier Roddy White, Ryan has really turned up his production in recent weeks. In the past three weeks he has thrown for an average of just under 280 yards passing against the Bills, Saints and Buccaneers. Although none of those teams are in the bottom ten of both our pass rush and pass coverage grades, the Packers certainly are. The Packers are running an outdated defensive scheme, at least two years overdue for change, and opposing passing offenses are teeing off weekly. The grades are consistent with what I see on the field—the Packers rank as our eighth-worst team in pass coverage (-28.6) and second-worst in pass rush (-21.9).
Aside from the incredible matchup, Ryan also has a great projected “game flow” ahead of him. What I mean by game flow is that there is a strong likelihood that this game turns into a shootout based on how poorly the Falcons have rushed the passer and defended the run and pass. Ryan should rack up attempts, yardage and hopefully also throw for at least two touchdowns.
Machine Readout: Start him. Ryan has fallen to a QB2 in some circles but this is a matchup where he can finish as a safe, back-end QB1 with upside.
Last Week: Josh McCown – sixth-overall QB
What Happened: McCown destroyed his Fanduel price tag of 30th most expensive quarterback.
Tony Romo @ Bears
In a week where Manning and Brees face top five pass defenses, Romo might just be the safest quarterback play. Romo draws a Bears defense that is on the verge of a complete collapse. Last week, following an injury to Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel entered the game for the Vikings and proceeded to torch the Bears for 243 yards on 20-of-33 pass completions. The Bears’ losses among their front seven have been well documented in this column previously, but those injuries have extended to the secondary where they no longer have their best cornerback, Charles Tillman.
The Bears’ pass defense has fallen to seventh-worst in pass coverage (-24.3) and 10th-worst in pass rush (-13.6). These grades have consistently gotten worse as the seasons has progressed. Overall, they have been much worse in recent weeks.
The Cowboys have been one of the most successful teams when it comes to protecting their quarterback in 2013. They grade out as our seveth-best team in pass block (+14.6) and have been in the top ten of these rankings since Week 1. Romo should have time to survey the field and make a few big play throws into soft coverages.
Machine Readout: Start him and feel comfortable investing in him in daily fantasy leagues. Romo is the 10th-highest priced quarterback on FanDuel this week and he should have no problem beating out that projection.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @PFF_DanSc. If you have any recommendations or complaints feel free to voice them and I will do my best to accommodate them.