The Matchup Machine: Week 1’s Best and Worst

Dan Schneier breaks down the best and worst fantasy football matchups for Week 1 using Pro Football Focus's unique player grades and statistics.

| 3 years ago
matt-ryan-atlanta-falcons-covered-in-fire

The Matchup Machine: Week 1’s Best and Worst


matt-ryan-atlanta-falcons-covered-in-fireFor 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. For Week 1, we can base things off of how players fared for the entirety of their 2012 season along with 2013 coaching changes and increased roles.

Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options for Week 1.

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.

 

Quarterbacks

The Best

Matt Ryan @ New Orleans

In what sets up to be a shootout and Vegas’ highest predicted over/under point total, Matt Ryan faces a Saints defense that is dealt with transition and injury in Week 1. The Saints are transitioning from a 4-3 defense to Rob Ryan’s 3-4 and in the process they have dealt with injuries to their front seven with Victor Butler and Will Smith. The remaining starters on the Saints defense will struggle to pick up the scheme by Week 1 and the front seven is going to struggle to get pressure off the edge. Even in last year’s 4-3 scheme, the Saints struggled to get any pressure from anywhere and finished with the second-worst pass rush grade (-34.5). Their pass coverage was the worst in the entire NFL (-41.0) and first round rookie safety Kenny Vacaro has looked good in preseason but is more of an in-the-box type. Expect Matt Ryan to pass with ease in a matchup that is likely to turn into a shootout.

Recommendation: Start Ryan in all leagues as a high-upside QB1.

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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.



              
                                



Dan Schneier is a staff writer for PFF Fantasy, a former FOX Sports NFL scribe, and an auction format enthusiast.

  • Brine Crow

    Hmm.. would you start Broyles (vs MIN) instead of S. Smith (vs SEA)?

    • Dan Schneier

      I would not. Steve Smith is matching up with Brandon Browner and not Richard Sherman. While Browner is no slouch, Smith can beat him. Plus, Smith is more likely to draw several more total targets. Hope that helps.

      • Brine Crow

        Thanks, it helps. Wasn’t comfortable starting Broyles in week 1 in almost any case, but still good to get a 2nd opinion.

        • Dan Schneier

          I understand. After I wrote this, I read a report that Broyles might be eased back into the offense for the first game or two. Nonetheless, there will be big games to come for him in the slot..keep in mind he will draw Josh Robinson in the slot one more time!

  • RyneJordan23

    One question: why won’t Haden be covering Mike Wallace at all this weekend instead of Hartline?

    • Dan Schneier

      In his rookie season, Haden often shadowed number one wide receivers. However, last season, he played over 90% of his snaps at LCB. The LCB lines up against the flanker, a position that Hartline lined up almost every snap in 2012. Is it possible that new Browns DC Ray Horton decides to use Haden to shadow #1’s? Yes. But based on 2012, and all of his snaps so far this preseason, Joe Haden is likely to line up at LCB — in the preseason he has only served at LCB. Having said that, Wallace lined up at flanker (matching up with LCBs) for the first time in the last four games of the year for Pitt in 2012. Also, with Hartline sidelined, he got snaps there this preseason. It makes the situation hard to predict, but considering Wallace is better suited and with more experience at split end, and that Hartline has a poor skill set for split end, I would guess that Hartline is the flanker this week.

      • RyneJordan23

        Dan, I just started as a PFF subscriber this year. Your answer to my question validated my choice. I truly appreciate the depth and reasoning behind your response.

        • Dan Schneier

          Thank you for your kind words and response! The best part about what we have to offer here is the grades, matchups, and statistics I haven’t found in many other places. We’re always here to help. If you have any other matchup questions that I might miss in the comments section feel free to Tweet them at me @PFF_DanSc. As the season evolves, these matchup predictions will become even more accurate I presume.

          • RyneJordan23

            Agreed. I watched a fair amount of the Browns/Dolphins game, and it looked like Haden shadowed Wallace quite a bit, especially in the first half, which might explain Hartline’s line (as well as Wallace’s). Hindsight is always 20/20.

          • Dan Schneier

            Definitely ended up wrong – as it looks like Haden will be shadowing ones again this season (under new defensive boss Ray Horton)…predicting a great game out of Haden wasn’t too bad though ha ha…also I didn’t too shabby on the other picks

          • RyneJordan23

            Agreed, Dan. It’s not about the result, but more the process that led you to your statement regarding which Dolphins receiver would be the good matchup vs. CLE. Your analysis of the situation is what resonated with me more than anything, and having a well-thought opinion is more important than if it turns out right or wrong. That part is out of your control. Thanks for your hard work putting everything together! You probably hear more about what you get wrong than what you get right; shouldn’t be that way.