The Matchup Machine - Week 16's Best and Worst
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 16, championship week!
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: Peyton Manning – 14th-overall QB
What Happened: Manning tore apart the Chargers’ secondary on all but two drives, however, the Chargers controlled the clock and kept Manning’s fantasy numbers down.
Jay Cutler @ Eagles
Cutler returned from injury last week to face a middle-of-the-road Brown’s defense in snowy and windy conditions. Given the circumstances, Cutler threw for 265 yards passing and three touchdowns. In Cutler’s absence, Alshon Jeffrey has emerged as a true weapon and Cutler proved that he understood the power in Jeffrey. In the second half, Cutler launched a jump ball into double coverage and of course the next thing we see is Jeffrey’s huge mitts secure the catch for a touchdown. With a host of weapons surrounding him, Cutler has proven over and over this season that he deserves to be taken seriously as a safe QB1 in fantasy football.
In this week’s matchup, with the Eagles, Cutler will have the opportunity to take advantage of a weaker than advertised Eagle’s pass defense. Although they have been granted many headlines on their defensive improvement, that success has really been limited to the run game. In the pass game, they grade out as our eighth-worst overall defense in pass coverage (-33.7) and 13th-worst in pass rush (-9.1).
The flow of the game, driven by the Eagles and their pace on offense, should lead to an up-tempo attack by the Bears. I expect Cutler to be throwing early and often in this one. The Eagles have been vulnerable to deep shots over the top of their defense. Neither of their two starting safeties, Patrick Chung (-7.3) and Earl Wolff (-5.0), have graded out positively in pass coverage. Cutler can be started with confidence in this one.
Machine Readout: Start him! Cutler presents a great value for daily fantasy football leagues.
Last Week: Cam Newton – 15th-overall QB
What Happened: In a great matchup, Newton struggled to get much going on the ground in his scrambles, as he rushed for just 12 yards. He easily threw for 273 through the air but his rushing combined with his total touchdowns kept him in the QB2 range.
Colin Kaepernick vs. Falcons
In the last three weeks, Kaepernick has performed as nothing more than a low-end QB2. Owners have given up on him and they relegated him to the bench. Keep in mind, these stat lines came against the Rams, Seahawks and much-improved Buccaneers’ defense. This week, Kaepernick draws a home game against the Falcons’ lowly defense. Last week, backup quarterback Kirk Cousins torched the Falcons with 381 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Looking at the numbers, the Falcons grade out as one of our worst combined defenses in pass rush and pass coverage. In pass coverage (-27.6), they grade out as our 10th-worst team. In pass rush, the Falcons struggles have continued to get worse—they are our worst team in generating pressure (-37.5). This week they decided to bench Osi Umeniyora. Ironically, Umenyiora had led the defense in sacks.
The Falcons, much like the Saints in 2012, are a gold mine for opposing passing games. You should confidently utilitze the 49ers and all of their weapons in your fantasy championship game.
Machine Readout: Start him. Kaepnerick makes for a great value in daily fantasy football games.
Last Week: Tony Romo – 19th-overall QB
What Happened: The Bears controlled the clock and Romo’s numbers suffered.
Phillip Rivers vs. Raiders
Rivers enters this matchup with all the intangibles pointed in his favor. He has had 10 days to rest and prepare, he plays this one at home and his team is fighting for their playoff hopes in a must-win game. It certainly helps that Rivers’ draws the Raiders defense that just surrendered 56 points to the Chiefs. The Raiders, having been hit with a major rebuild and so much dead money on the salary cap, have become unable to put together a deep roster. Their defense, or what is left of it, is poor at tackling and showing inexperience on a weekly basis.
The numbers tell the story best. The Raiders have graded out as our fifth-worst team in pass coverage (-40.6). They have also fallen to fourth-worst in pass rush (-25.2). They are one of only two teams to grade out in the bottom five of both our pass rush and pass coverage grades.
Machine Readout: Start him and feel comfortable investing in him in daily fantasy leagues.
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.