The Matchup Machine - Week 17'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 17.
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.
For those of you with leagues running through Week 17, please use this statement as a reminder to push your commissioner to change the settings next season. With that said, hopefully you don’t own Jamaal Charles.
Last Week: Jay Cutler – ninth-overall QB
What Happened: The Eagles were dominant and Cutler got off to an extremely slow start in the first half.
Andrew Luck vs. Jaguars
With a chance at the bye seed in the balance, the Colts are fully expected to approach this week’s game full throttle. Andrew Luck’s sophomore campaign has not lived up to the hype of his rookie season under Bruce Arians’ tutelage. His season serves as a great example of why it is vital to fully evaluate offseason offensive scheme and coordinator changes. I plan to do another full evaluation piece, like this one from this past offseason, again this summer.
However, for those owners who had made it this far with Luck, he has a favorable matchup for this week’s finals matchup. In Luck’s first battle with the Jaguars this season, he put up a healthy 19 fantasy points while throwing for 257 yards passing and two touchdowns. Luck has managed to put together some of his best games against some of the weaker pass-rushing teams, to no surprise given the state of the Colts’ offensive line. The Jaguars have graded out as our sixth-worst pass rush (-24.6) over the course of the season.
Inside the dome, in December, I expect Luck to take advantage of a plus matchup that could vault the Colts into a first round playoff bye.
Machine Readout: Start him! Luck presents a great value for daily fantasy football leagues.
Last Week: Colin Kaepernick – fourth-overall QB
What Happened: In a great matchup, Kaepernick finally delivered during championship week.
Jay Cutler @ Packers
Last week, Cutler proved to be a very disappointing play in this column. He never found a comfortable and clean pocket against an Eagles’ pass rush that started the game off firing and only picked up a greater head of steam with a big lead. This week, Cutler gets his easiest matchup by far since returning from injury—the Packers’ pass defense. Behind an outdated scheme and questionable pass rushers, the Packers have consistently graded out as one of our worst pass defenses every week of the 2013 season. The Packers’ pass defense has graded out as our ninth-worst in pass rush (-21.7) and 11th-worst in pass coverage (-29.4).
With a cleaner pocket, Cutler should be able to find his many weapons in open space and deliver them the ball from a set base. This, in reality, is often what determines whether Cutler is successful or not. He is a completely different quarterback when given functional space. I expect him to light up this Packers’ defense.
Machine Readout: Start him. Cutler makes for a great value in daily fantasy football games.
Last Week: Phillip Rivers – 21st-overall QB
What Happened: The Raiders defense held Rivers to 201 yards passing and just one touchdown.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Jets
Tannehill has not been a frequent flyer in this column and he hit rock bottom as a quarterback last week after mysteriously being benched for Matt Moore when the Dolphins were only down two scores in the fourth quarter. Head coach Joe Philbin would be a lot better off if he realized that the Bills’ defense, in particular their pass rush, is a lot better than talking heads give it credit for. Tannehill struggled behind his porous pass protection, but he is a great athlete and emerging passer in this league. A final week matchup with the Jets’ sorry excuse for a pass defense is just what Tannehill needs to build momentum for the 2014 season, which will be just his third in the NFL.
Tannehill should find it easy to connect with both Wallace and Hartline for chunk yardage. The Jets’ have graded out as our third-worst team in pass coverage (-51.4) and they are susceptible to big plays due to their questionable talent at the safety position combined with the play of their cornerbacks. The Jets’ pass rush is just a little better, grading out as our eighth-worst (-24.0).
Machine Readout: Start him and feel comfortable investing in him in daily fantasy leagues. Tannehill will be a surprise top play for Week 17.
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.