The Matchup Machine – Week 3’s Best and Worst

Dan Schneier breaks down the best and worst fantasy football matchups for Week 3.

| 4 years ago

The Matchup Machine – Week 3’s Best and Worst

lynchx-largeFor 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.

I find that this column can best be used for fantasy football day gamers. In leagues set up on websites like, 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 #FantasyFootball Championship  here.

Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options for Week 3.

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.



The Best

Last Week: Aaron Rodgers – first-overall QB

What Happened: Not my boldest call ever for sure, but Rodgers took advantage of an easy matchup and scored the most points of any QB.

Eli Manning @ Panthers

Eli Manning and the Giants will travel to Carolina this week with a sense of desperation as they hope to avoid falling to 0-3. At this time last season, the Giants were also heading to Carolina for a Thursday night game that they won 36 to 7. Eli Manning threw for 288 yards at will almost entirely in the first half of this contest. What has changed from then until now? In that game, Eli’s starting split end was Ramses Barden and his flanker in three wide receiver sets was Jernel Jernigan. Now, he has Hakeem Nicks and Reuben Randle to replace them.

For the Panthers, they still have the same scheme under former Giants defensive boss Bill Sheridan. Sheridan was run out of town in New York and last week his defense allowed rookie E.J. Manuel to drive 80 yards and score a game-winning touchdown on a simple corner route that confused the Panthers secondary. Speaking of the Panthers secondary, they will be without their leader, free safety Charles Godfrey, who was placed on injured reserve this week. Injuries had forced struggling cornerback Josh Norman to play a lot last week and he continued to struggle—he got injured last week however and will also be out this week. Slot cornerback D.J. Moore will also be out with an injury. Starting strong safety, Quinto Mikell, is also very likely to be out. The Panthers will be starting up to four new players in their secondary. Update: The Panthers just resigned Drayton Florence as of Wednesday night—can you guys think of a more washed up cornerback? This is a dream matchup for any quarterback.

As Dion says… “I belieeeeeve in Eli”.

Machine Readout: Start him! Manning will produce like a mid-range at worst with top-end QB1 potential this week. It is likely the Giants get out to an early lead, which could cap his scoring, but Eli should already have multiple touchdowns and over 250 yards through the air by then.

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

  • Neal

    Hey Dan,
    Thanks for the help last week and the continued great insight. I got quite a predicament this week, especially when considering Reggie Bush’s injury. I need to fill a WR, RB, and Flex spot with the following: Bush (who’s questionable), Decker, Joique Bell, Chris Givens, Gio Bernard and Eddie Royal. It’s .5 PPR if that helps.
    If Bush plays, I was leaning towards Bush, Decker and Bell but your love for Givens and hate for the pack D this week has me unsure.

    • Dan Schneier

      Neal, thanks again for reading and commenting. I appreciate the support. To start, whenever a player is not practicing and enters a week with his role “undefined” I generally bench that player (Reggie Bush). I am not going to sit here and tell you that is the correct approach, but I try to avoid the potential of starting someone who only compiles 10-12 touches. I am entirely unsure what to do with Royal at this point, but I hate his matchup agains the Titans secondary, so I would stay away from that. It’s all about monitoring the Bush/Bell situation for me – if the roles are undefined, I would likely go with Bernard, Givens and Decker BUT if there is a clear news blurb that Bush is fine and will get the majority of snaps or he is out entirely then I would start Bush OR Bell respectively. Having said that, this may be the one week where it is OK to start both because they face the Redskins –but you have to think the Redskins will be going for blood at 0-2 at home with their season on the line. I like Bernard in this matchup because I think BGE will have trouble getting going early and the Bengals will use Bernard to get the offense moving.

      So final verdict for me would be Bush if he is playing with a full load, Bell if he is playing with a full load AND Givens OR Decker (i think they are both close this week, I would suggest Givens but it is riskier) AND Bernard.

  • Chris

    Sit Matt Ryan and start Alex Smith?

    • Dan Schneier

      Hey Chris, thanks for reading! Alex Smith just missed my “honorable mentions” section. I love his matchup against an Eagles pass defense that just gave up 400+ yards to Phillip Rivers! It is tough to advise benching Matt Ryan because the Falcons are likely to pass 50 times and bulk stats will help you. If your league gives negative 2 for turnovers, I suggest Smith but if they award just negative 1 it makes it almost even to me. In the end, I would start Smith over Ryan.

      • Dan Schneier

        Also, as my colleague Pat Thorman does a great job of pointing out here, the Chiefs offense will very likely see an increased number of offensive snaps tonight as a result of facing the Eagles. Last week, the Chargers had the most offensive snaps.

        • Chris

          Rolling the dice on Smith, just hope I’m not over thinking it, but I see Ryan having a tough go of it with Miami’s pressure and his leaky tackles.

          Thanks for the feedback Dan.

          • Dan Schneier

            I feel terrible after that backfired. This was honestly the first I have gotten to see of the Chiefs offense. It might be best to stay away from them in games that they will control the clock on. Smith does not look to throw it downfield at all or at least did not in tonight’s game.

          • Chris

            No regrets, luckily my opposing QB was Vick so it didn’t hurt too bad.

            I was surprised to see an Andy Reid QB with the handcuffs on. Smith wouldn’t throw the ball unless his target had 2+ yards of separation.

  • Keith

    Ty Hilton or Antonio Brown?

    • Keith

      Obviously one is considered a WR2 and one is considered a WR3 with upside but I want to gauge how convinced you are in Ty Hilton’s potential this week.

      • Dan Schneier

        Hey Keith, this is a great matchup call. Given the injury to Duane Allen, I think Hilton becomes an even bigger part of the Colts offense. He will find himself lined up in the flanker position across from Nnamdi for a majority of the game. Nnamdi doesn’t have the pure speed to stop him on deep routes and the quickness to stop him on the shorter and intermediate routes. The 49ers will not devote extra attention to HIlton so it will likely be a one on one matchup with safety help depending on down and distance. The negative is that I believe the 49ers will control the clock against a soft Colts front seven that I think will finish as one of the worst in the league in 2013 by our grades. Brown complained about his role and often that leads to big games immediately following it (see Mike Wallace Week 2), but the Bears do a good job in coverage especially when they don’t have to stack to defend the run. My verdict? I would take the gamble and bench Brown for Hilton (especially in standard scoring) — I hope I’m right!

  • [email protected]

    I agree with you on Spiller he is going to have a rough week. In fact, as I responded to Tyler’s article, I don’t think you can, or should use last year’s games when forecasting Spiller. First the Jets had big lead in the first game of the season. Spiller was bottled up for the most part and had 2 huge runs (yes, they count for fantasy). The 2nd game, was the last game of the season and the NYJ were a total no show, so hard to rely on any stats from that game.
    More, I think you need to look at who was playing last year for the Jets. Sione Pouha graded out as PFF 2nd best interior lineman, and top run stuffer (I think) in 2011. He injured his back, was out for the 1st game and never played to his 2011 level last year. Kenrick Ellis was raw, and wound up injured. MIke Devito was playing out of position as an undersized NT. Quinton Coples was a rookie and Wilkerson was still developing. Further, David Harris was awful last year (I put much of that on the fact the line didn’t free him up to make tackles). Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace all showed age. Their lack of speed allowed nearly everyone to run on NY, espeically early in the year. Fast forward to this year: both Harrison and Ellis have made NY’s NT as stout as any in the leauge. Richardson’s athtleticism has created havoc for offensive lines. Wilkerson has had a slow start, but I think the extra attention OLines give him is a major reason for Richardson having so much success. Pace and McIntyre aren’t scaring anyone, on the outside, but D Harris is much improved (interesting how that happens when you’re not trying to shed a C, or G all the time) and Demario Davis’ speed, and overall improvement, have made the Jet ILBs very effective.
    If Coples comes back healthy, this unit will be a top 3 front 7 by year’s end. One no RB will have much success against unless they have a QB who can expose a much weakened NYJ secondary (but that’s another article).

    • Dan Schneier

      I couldn’t agree more with literally everything you just typed there Stephen. Just to clarify, I was referring only to the Jets run defense on outside and edge runs. The game that game to mind for me was last season when they played the Oakland Raiders. McFadden terrorized them on the edges and that was basically the only team he had much success against all season under the zone-blocking scheme–save for a few big runs here or there. Like you mentioned, Davis makes a big difference by adding speed to their linebacker corps. Of course, on runs between the tackles, the Jets are far more stout than 2012 with the additions and improvements that you mentioned.

  • [email protected]

    One question: I am in a shallow (10 teams, 19 rosters spots, only 1QB, 2RB and 3WR) league with a funky scoring system. My 4 QBs are RG3, Cutler, Rivers and a flier on Pryor. Now, garbage time stats count, but watching RG3 have 0 and 1pts the first 2 weeks has been unsettling. Who would you start here (I know it’s not Rivers)? I’m wondering why most pundits have Cutler rated so low. Yes, I know he has a proclivity to the TO. However, Pittsburgh doesn’t cause TOs. Watching Monday night, I thought had Dalton been just average (for him), he would have had a big night. He was so inaccurate and made a ton of bad, uncontested throws. I, like you, think Forte is going to have a big game, and part of that will be catching passes out of the back field. I think this opens up the middle for Bennett who should be a match up nightmare for Pittsburgh’s ILB. Plus, I see Pittsburgh bracketing Marshall, freeing up Jeffry, creating more room for Forte. Ok, I’m trying to talk myself into this (Detroit has put a ton of pressure on the QB, and so far RG3 seems reticent to run off of scrambles), but am I crazy to think Pittsburgh’s entire D is overrated?

    • Dan Schneier


      I’m not sure how to answer this because I don’t know what your funky scoring system is. If you could outline that I can do a better job giving advice here. How did RG3 only score zero and one point in weeks 1 and 2?

      I need more time with this Steelers defense before I come to a conclusion as a whole. I do think that age and lack of talent along their three man defensive line –namely starter Ziggy Hood in addition to a much weaker pair of ILBs plus Jones at OLB will mean that the Steelers will be a weak run defense all season long.

      As far as their pass defense goes, I believe just having Dick Lebeau alone will keep them in the top 15. Trust me, as a Giants fan, I have learned the hard way about how important a defensive coordinator is. Perry Fewell has decided that rushing four and never coming up with any creative blitzes is the way to go. The Giants have given up game-changing third and longs the past two seasons. Yes, the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011–but it was in spite of Fewell. Having said that, I agree with you that the talent is starting to wear out there and agains their blitzes you can hit a few big plays a game. There were plays to be made by Dalton but as you said, he had a bad game. Also, Trestman’s offense so far has been quick-hitting and the Steelers to me are more prone to giving up chunk yardage on big plays.

      I think it is a VERY close call between Cutler and RGIII given the improvement so far that we’ve seen from the Lions pass defense. Push comes to shove, I opt to go with Griffin though in a must-win game for the Redskins, at home.

  • Early Draft

    Dan, Would you start Palmer over Alex Smith? Great read as always!

    On a side note, would you trade, Josh Gordon+Spiller for David Wilson? Have Trent and AP now Moreno as RBs

    • Early Draft

      Sorry I meant Sproles not Spiller! lolol!! talk about one sided trades :p

    • Early Draft

      Sorry, I meant Sproles not CJ spiller.

    • Dan Schneier

      Sorry I missed this – I hope that you did start Palmer over Alex Smith the way that Chiefs pass offense looked tonight.

      As for the trade, are the scoring settings PPR or standard? If it is PPR, is it 0.5 or a full point? Josh Gordon I will remain high on until I know for sure what is going on with the Browns at quarterback. He will need Weeden to be his best. Sproles on the other hand is a very steady and solid player in PPR formats.

      With David Wilson, all I can really do is sigh. The Giants played Da’Rel Scott, fresh off his 2012 on the practice squad, for a ridiculous 39 snaps. Jacobs stole another 14 and Wilson got just 24 snaps. 24 out of 77 snaps. That HAS to change. The Giants aren’t going to win big games unless Wilson gets about 50-55 of every 77 snaps. So to trade for him you have to put your faith in Tom Coughlin to give him another shot. For the record, my best guess is that he will regain his confidence and starting job and he will finish the year a stronger back than Sproles.

      That’s my best analysis of it but this a close call/ high risk, high reward type deal so I’ll leave you to the decision.

  • DutchFootball

    Hey Dan,
    I’m in a tough spot with my WRs this week and I’m facing a divisional rival (who will start AP, run DMC, Kaepernick and has some nice options at TE/WR as well :( )
    But who should I start from: Eric Decker, Chris Givens, T.Y. Hilton (tough matchup in 49ers?), Marlon Brown, Roddy White (not gonna start him as long as his ankle isn’t fully healed) and Kenbrell Thompkins?

    And I’m even doubtfull over my QB’s… Matt Ryan or Russel -last name- Wilson? Jacksonville sounds tempting, but their D isn’t that easy of a matchup is it?

    I’m in a 1p. PPR league btw (only dutch guys haha)

    • Dan Schneier

      Hey Dutch,

      Pretty easy ones here I think. You don’t really give me a number of receivers you needed to start but here goes: Hilton actually has a great matchup, he would be seeing Nnamdi all day as I wrote. However, Hilton got injured in practice yesterday and now he might not play. You should monitor that. Definitely bench Brown against Kareem Jackson and Roddy White for the reason you said. Thompkins should see a lot of Revis, so bench him. Start Decker, Givens and Hilton if he plays.

      Matt Ryan has an extremely difficult matchup, bench him for Russell Wilson. The Jaguars are in fact an easy matchup.

  • Alon Shapiro

    i have a gold account and this article still glitches and cuts off abnormally… any idea what i’m doing wrong? i tried in two browsers

    • Dan Schneier

      Hey Alon,

      Definitely don’t want that to be happening. Can you tell me exactly what you mean by glitching and cutting off? Is it a matter in the middle of a paragraph or just on a page?

      Also, at the bottom this article is broken up into three different pages for the different positions.

      Let me know some more details and then I will talk with my editor and get this fixed for you.

      • Alon Shapiro

        Oh shit nevermind I don’t have a gold account I only have the “Fantasy Guide” i didn’t know the difference. Sorry to bother.