The Matchup Machine – Week 4’s Best and Worst

Dan Schneier breaks down the best and worst fantasy football matchups for Week 4.

| 4 years ago

The Matchup Machine – Week 4’s Best and Worst

torrey-smith-cowherd-1121For 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, 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.

Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options for Week 4. I am looking to rebound strongly after my first bad week in Week 3. Editor’s note: a lot of experts had a bad 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: Eli Manning – 31st-overall QB 

What Happened: An unwillingness by the Giants’ offensive coaching staff to adjust to consistent pressure on the interior and outside was combined with the atrocious blocking of an overpaid offensive line and Manning had no time to throw as the Giants continued to call for long and intermediate routes.

Peyton Manning vs. Eagles

For the second week in a row, a Manning heads up our “best” matchup section. Hopefully, this week goes better than the last. Of course, it is not very difficult to predict that Peyton Manning will shine given his start to the season and the weapons he has around him. Having said that, I believe his outlook based on this matchup gives him a real chance to come close to matching his Week 1 numbers. This is the week to consider paying him the premium and buying him in FanDuel. For starters, Manning is likely to see more plays and get more snaps off because he is facing the Eagles’ up-tempo approach on offense.

My colleague Pat Thorman does a great job of explaining that in more detail in his weekly column , “Snaps, Sets & Stats”. More importantly, Manning draws the Eagles pass defense which ranks fifth-worst in pass coverage (-14.0) and third-worst in pass rush (-10.6). These stats have come against a Griffin in his first game back, Phillip Rivers and Alex Smith. In other words, they haven’t faced any premier passers yet. The rating would also be a lot worse if Reid’s game plan last Thursday involved having Alex Smith even attempt a pass longer than 10 yards downfield. Want more? Eagles slot cornerback Brandon Boykin has struggled to guard slot receivers as showcased by Eddie Royal and Donnie Avery on a few key third downs and touchdowns.

Brandon Boykin, meet Wes Welker.

Machine Readout: Start him! Manning should finish as the first-overall quarterback and he is locked in as an obvious QB1.


Last Week: Matt Stafford – eighth-overall QB

What Happened: The Redskins sieve of a defense played its best game in 2013, but it wasn’t enough to stop Stafford for very long. No one was able to contain Calvin Johnson.

Tony Romo @ Chargers

This matchup call is all about the Chargers pass coverage, which has plummeted to second-worst in the NFL (-21.7) behind only the Redskins. After allowing Matt Schaub to torch them in the second half of Week 1, things only got sadder for this unit last week when they made Jake Locker look like a pro bowler. Locker threw for 299 yards and looked better than he has in any game in his entire career. Ouch. The Chargers are essentially rebuilding the entire secondary besides all-pro safety Eric Weddle. Blame comes in bunches for this group.

Shareece Wright has been flipped to both sides at cornerback and nothing has helped. He has graded out as the sixth-worst cornerback in pass coverage and has yielded 13 catches for 219 yards on only 84 snaps! Johnny Patrick has played a little bit of outside cornerback and a little in the slot. Wherever he has gone, he has failed grading out as our 13th-worst cornerback in pass coverage. Weddle can’t save the Chargers by himself. Romo might be without Miles Austin and that the Cowboys might get out to such a large lead that they will rely on the run game. While the second concern is real, Romo should have already racked up two or three touchdowns by that point.

Machine Readout: Start him! Romo is a great value play regardless of how the game unfolds. If the Chargers can keep it close, Romo has a good shot to put up big yardage numbers and touchdowns and finish as a top five quarterback.


Last Week Ryan Tannehill– 18th-overall QB

What Happened: Tannehill had a middling QB2 game throwing for 236 and two touchdowns. However, he still managed to throw for the exact same amount of points as Matt Ryan, who I suggested you bench for Tannehill last week.

Tom Brady @ Falcons

Amendola is looking less likely to suit up this week and the most recent report has Rob Gronkowski looking thinner than ever before and gives him only a 50/50 chance to play this week. So why do I have Tom Brady here? The matchup! People have already abandoned ship on Brady. I just saw him get traded for Tony Romo in one league. If you own Brady do not panic—things will only get better. Brady needs more time to gel with his new receivers and he will get that. Soon, he will also see the return of the aforementioned Amendola and Gronkowski.

This week, he will benefit simply from not having to face the Jets defense in the rain or the Bucaneers defense that in 2013 features all-pros Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldston in the secondary. Instead, Brady matches up with a Falcons pass defense that has graded out as the sixth-worst in pass coverage. Only ten other teams are generating less of a pass rush than the Falcons so far and they haven’t exactly faced the best offensive lines. This is a Falcons defense that is clearly not the same without Brent Grimes and Daunta Robinson. They consistently get burned over the middle as well with strong-side linebacker Stephen Nicholas who is an absolute sieve in pass coverage. No one likes to throw over the middle more than Tom Brady.

Brady has a real chance to finally break out this week and prove himself worthy of your early selection.

Machine Readout: Start him! I would buy Romo over Brady in FanDuel based on value. Brady has failed to produce like a high-end or even mid-level QB1 so far in 2013 but his matchups have been difficult. He should be able to get going against a weaker Falcons pass defense.


The Worst

Last Week: Matt Ryan– 18th-overall QB

What Happened: The Falcons tried to move struggling tackle Lamar Holmes over to the left side and he was bombarded by a combination of Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan. Surprisingly, journeyman Jeremy Trueblood did an outstanding job on the right side and it helped save Ryan’s day from being a complete bust.

Matt Schaub vs. Seahawks

Matt Schaub is a popular pick in two quarterback leagues as someone who is seen as a safe mid-level QB2. Unfortunately for those owners, they have skipped over Schaub’s eroding skill set. These days, Schaub has more trouble moving and throwing on the run, something he was never great at anyway. His arm strength is not where it once was and with a weaker offensive line than he has previously played behind, his timing has been off. These are all problems for Schaub as he sets to match up with a relentless Seahawks pass defense.

The Seahawks have graded out as the third-best team in pass coverage and the fifth-best in pass rush. They even took off an entire half off last week against the Jaguars and it negatively skewed those stats. Free agent Michael Bennett has been wreaking havoc at left end and last week he had two sacks, two hits, two hurries and two defensive stops in the run game. He matches up with Texans right tackle Derek Newton who is off to another horrible start (-6.8) after grading out as one of the worst tackles in 2012.

The Texans are likely to be without all-pro left tackle Duane Brown again, which means constant pressure from both sides. Right end Chris Clemons made his 2013 debut last week and in just 15 snaps compiled a hit and two hurries. Did I mention that Andre Johnson’s health is a question mark and he might not suit up? Schaub could put together an all-time career worst performance this week.

Machine Readout: Bench him! Don’t even consider him. I think Schaub is very likely to finish outside the top 20 and top 24 rendering him bench-worthy in even the deepest of two quarterback leagues.


Last Week: Phillip Rivers – 26th-overall QB

 What Happened: Rivers couldn’t get anything going and threw for just 184 yards and one touchdown. The Titans defense proved stingy again. I hope you didn’t let his first two weeks sway you, the matchups are king.

Eli Manning @ Chiefs

I really do want to think that things will get better for the Giants. The offensive line can’t possibly play as bad as they did against Carolina’s front four after some post-game adjustments to the scheme. That’s what I tell myself. Then I stop to think and realize that their scheme won’t change at all, because it has not changed since Tom Coughlin has took over as head coach of the Giants. Regardless of scheme, the Giants offensive line simply can’t handle the front seven of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have graded out as the best team in pass coverage and the third-best team in pass rush.

Outside linebackers Justin Houston (+10.9) and Tamba Hali (+5.7) has been the best 3-4 outside linebacker tandem in the NFL. What makes them tick is the exponentially improved play of nose tackle Dontari Poe (+4.1) who is penetrating double-teams and eating up interior offensive linemen. With the improved play of 3-4 defensive end Tyson Jackson (+6.8) to go along with inside linebacker Derick Johnson (+4.9) and a secondary that has three of four starters “in the green” of our rankings, this is a stacked defensive top to bottom. Their defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, is a disciple from the Jets staff and he runs a similar man press man coverage scheme with exotic blitz packages. Eli Manning has struggled in the past dealing with this scheme in previous meetings with Rex Ryan’s Jets and Rob Ryan’s Cowboys.

The scheme will give them trouble, but the real problem is how the Giants offensive line matches up with the Chiefs defensive line. The Giants may be without right guard Chris Snee who injured his hip and center David Baas is questionable as well. Snee has graded out as the third-worst guard in pass protection (-7.1). The Giants starting right tackle, rookie Justin Pugh, has not been much better. He has graded out as the 13th-worst tackle in pass protection. It could be another long day for the Giants offense.

Machine Readout: Bench him! Adjustments should be made but the personnel that the Giants have upfront on the offensive line does not come close to matching the Chiefs defensive line.


Last Week: Joe Flacco – 29th-overall QB

What Happened: This one wasn’t too hard. Last time I allow myself to resort to the Jaguars quarterback in one of these columns.

Phillip Rivers vs. Cowboys

I promise you that I am not picking on Phillip Rivers just because I list him here two weeks in a row. Rivers’ Week 4 is shaping up to be even worse than last week against the Titans. Let’s look at the offensive side of the ball first. His offensive line is starting to fall apart due to injuries, much like it did in 2012. Left tackle King Dunlap, who was concussed last week, did not practice Wednesday and is a game time decision. Left guard Chad Reinart has been ruled out already and right guard Jeromey Clary hasn’t practiced yet this week.

Who would step in to match up with DeMarcus Ware if Dunlap can’t play? Tackle Mike Harris would. In case you were wondering, it is the same Mike Harris who gave up ten sacks in 2012 and countless penalties. On the other side of things, the Cowboys have graded out as the fourth-best team in pass coverage in 2013 so far. The way to beat them through the air, as the Giants proved in Week 1, is to challenge their safeties with deep and intermediate throws. The theory behind head coach Mike McCoy’s offense is to challenge the defense with quick-hitting and short timing throws. Check mate, Cowboys.

Machine Readout: Bench him! This is another week to leave Rivers on your bench. There are better options.

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


    Should I start Santonio Holmes over Hopkins? That’s really my only option.

    • Dan Schneier

      Hey Mchawking,

      Holmes is a very shaky option against a very underrated Titans pass defense, as I alluded to in the article. I think a better option would be to take a flier on Marlon Brown, likely dropped again to your waiver wire–he will draw Bills’ Justin Rogers a lot.

      Another option, though somewhat riskier, is to start Dallas rookie Terrance Williams. Williams will likely draw Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright who I also mentioned in the piece. That is another great matchup. This is only possible if Miles Austin sits which is seeming more and more likely to take place.


        You are right brown is available. Thanks for the advice.

        • Dan Schneier


          My colleague Ross Miles pointed out to me that Rogers has been playing exclusively at left cornerback. For most of the game I do believe Brown will line up as flanker–matched up with him. However, the Ravens coaching staff is likely to test the Bills early by lining up Torrey across from Rogers. If the Bills stay true, and keep Rogers at left cornerback in those scenarios, then it is highly possible that Smith will line up at flanker for the rest of the game.

          I think more than likely, the Bills will adjust however.

  • Gary Levine

    I love how you put Chris Johnson in the sit section of this column. I’m a die-hard Jets fan and I can tell you for sure, the Jets run defense this year is DOMINANT. Like Darrelle Revis used to shut down your WR1 level of shut down (Revis still is amazing, but the Bucs don’t use him properly to shadow the WR1 therefore allowing fantasy owners to still start Wrs against Revis), where regardless of how good your RB is, if he’s playing the Jets you have to suck it up and bench him. You noted Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson, but the revival of David Harris and emergence of Demario Davis both are playing big factors in the Jets D, as well as Kendrick Ellis being a solid 2nd half of the Jets NT/DT to Damon Harrison.

    I really like the rest of your advice, and I hope that starting Lynch won’t come back to hurt me, but my only other option would be Ryan Broyles, and I know that that’s not worth. So I will be hoping for one of those touchdowns that you mentioned.

    A flex matchup question for you, pick two of the following to start: Mike Williams vs ARI, Chris Givens vs SF (answer quickly!), Daryl Richardson vs SF (again answer quickly!), Emmanual Sanders @ MIN, DHB @ Jax or McGahee vs CIN. So those are 6 options where I need to start two. My current thoughts: Start Mike Williams and Givens. SF D right now I think is strong against the run, add in Daryl’s injury and the now present Pead and I’m scared of him. McGahee I would like to see have a solid start first before moving forward with him, especially against a good Bengals D. My questions though come down to choosing 2 of my 4 WRs, DHB has in my mind a good matchup vs Jax, and I don’t know much about the Cards or Vikings Pass D’s.

    Thanks! Keep up the good work.

    • Dan Schneier

      Hey Gary,

      Thanks for the kind words and thanks for reading as well.

      Those are tough decisions. To start, I agree with you on McGahee– let’s see what we can get out of him first this week. Benching him agains the Bengals front seven is a smart move. Second, I haven no idea what to really make of the Richardson situation. He is practicing again, but how healthy is he really? There is no way to know that and because his matchup is more difficult, I would advise to bench him. I will caveat that by saying this; the 49ers run defense has not played nearly as well as it had in past seasons. The main culprit for that has surprisingly been defensive end Justin Smith–age may finally be catching up to him.

      Mike Williams would normally have an OK matchup against a Cardinals pass defense that takes chances, especially when matched up with Patrick Peterson who is a gambler. However, Williams missed his second straight practice this week with a hamstring injury. I am personally a conservative guesser when it comes to injuries and I would always start a healthy receiver over a questionably injured one.

      Chris Givens will likely draw 49ers right cornerback Tarrell Brown, as Givens lines up as split end for almost all of his snaps and Brown is the 49ers right cornerback. Brown graded out as PFF’s fourth-best cornerback in pass coverage in 2012. However, he has gotten off to a rocky start in 2013 so far (-4.0) and he struggled with Reggie Wayne last week. I think what is hurting Brown so far is that he lost FS Dashon Goldson over the top in coverage. When you also factor in the less effective Justin Smith and the absence of top pass rusher Aldon Smith, there may be some time for Bradford to hit one or two big plays to Givens over the top of the defense.

      Overall, I would opt to play Givens and Sanders. The decision between Sanders and DHB is a tough one, but I like that Sanders lines up as a split end on the opposite side of Vikings left cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes has started off strong in coverage. DHB faces a beat up Jacksonville secondary but I think the game is much less likely to turn into a shootout.

      • Gary Levine

        O wow, I completely missed this Mike Williams injury, well now that I’m aware of that my decision definitely needs to be thought through further. With you saying positive statements about Givens in addition to the added fun of having a Thursday Night player, he will be slotted to take up one of my flex’s (A two flex league! It adds a cool element of additional flexibility of building your roster. I’ll say that it was a great idea by me and hope that my league’s commish doesn’t see this). But now I will have a tough decision between DHB/Sanders, I will take into consideration your input and will let you know how it goes, thanks for your help.

  • Brett

    Are you high on what Dallas has done so far? Do you love the matchup vs the terrible San Diego pass D? Or is it a combination of both?

    Lastly, what do you make of Spiller’s matchup with the Ravens?

    • Dan Schneier

      Sorry I missed this one, Brett. Thanks for reading!

      This matchup has much more to do with the Chargers pass defense and overall secondary problems. The Cowboys can move the ball with the weapons they have even without Austin.

      Spiller, of course does not have a great matchup–no one will when they run into a team playing a 3-4 with Ngata at the nose. After grading out last season as our fifth-best run defense, the Ravens have only graded out as the 11th-best so far. However, they have had to deal with some strong lines across the board–Broncos, Browns, Texans.

      Spiller is chunk yardage/big play type back. He will need to hit a few of those to make things happen.

  • Chris

    Will Spiller ever justify my picking him RD1?

    • nathan

      no. round 3 yes. But RBBC is a tough sell in Rd 1

    • Dan Schneier

      Hey Chris,

      Sorry I missed this one yesterday. Unfortunately, a lot of the reason why Spiller had value as a first round pick had to do with his role in the offense. Going into the season, we were led to believe that the backfield would not at all resemble a timeshare situation. All of the sudden, Fred Jackson is seeing work inside the opponent 15 and he is getting series to himself.

      The good news is that the Bills offense as a whole looks like it should be able to generate points and yardage better with Manuel at quarterback. He will only get better as he plays more games and as their matchups get easier (Patriots run defense, Panthers run defense and Jets run defense). He has faced three run defenses likely to finish in our top 10 or 15.

      I think that eventually he will become a high-end RB2 with big games against weaker matchups.

      • Chris

        Yeah, was some what of a rhetorical question. I knew the first few weeks would be tough sledding but not to this extent. My 12 team league has left very slim pickings at the RB position so I have no choice but to ride it out.

  • [email protected]

    In 2012, A Peterson started out slow, gaining <500yd, in his first 6 games. He was noticeably less explosive, especially in weeks 1-4. However, his ridiculous final 10 games simply proved that no matter how much rehab work you do, only playing in NFL games can really get you into game shape. If Revis' knee is at all similar, and already rated as the 3rd highest cover corner, he's going to be scary good…mama's don't let their WR visit Revis Island….

    • Dan Schneier


      Great point. I was actually discussing this with a friend last night. Not only is he going to get stronger as an overall player and cover corner, but he will also be asked to do more. They have used Dashon Goldson over the top of coverage some so far, but it is only a matter of time before they let Revis isolate one-on-one with a team’s best receiver and play 10-on-10 vs. the rest of the team.

      • [email protected]’s just too bad he won’t really be playing for anything. I’m a big Jet fan. I fully get why they had to trade him, but I also can’t help imagining how ridiculous their defense would be with his otherworldly talents. I mean he was leaps and bounds better than any other CB when the NYJ front 7 had average, at best, front 7 talent. With these young studs getting after the QB, he could afford to A-take more risks and B-really allow Rex to dial up some fun blitzes. Ah…to dream.

        • Dan Schneier

          As a Giants fan with a best friend who is a Jets fan, I feel like I have a pretty good grip on both teams as well. I told him at the time that while I understood the trade, I didn’t agree with it. He was not big on the Jets going into this year–but as someone who follows it closely and LOVED Sheldon Richardson coming out of college–it seemed very likely to me that the Jets would have a top 10 defense again this year. With a defense like this, it was stupid to predict that they would be the worst team in the league–cough cough ESPN.

          I think that the move was driven by their salary cap issues. By trading him essentially for Dee, they are able to save about eight million in cap space. Unfortunately, early signs make it seem like Dee was a product of that Alabama squad–I never liked him that much in college. Didn’t see Joe Haden from him or even a Janoris Jenkins-type cornerback.

          • [email protected]

            We’ll see on Dee. I certainly think the CB position is very hard to forecast. With the situation in Tampa, if they spiral out of control, I have to think Dominik will be out, and possibly Schiano. In that scenario, I don’t think it is out of the question that a new regime comes in and thinks: “Do we really need a $16mm/year CB? History tells us, that Revis is not likely to be open to a more cap friendly salary, unless he gets a HUGE guarantee, up front. Add his performance illustrating he’s as good as ever, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on the move again…maybe…just maybe…it would be great for NYJ to be using TBs 3rd round pick, and having ’24’ back on the team.

  • Everything’s Bigger

    Great article! If you have time I need a suggestion with Flex this week … Steve Johnson, Kenbrell Thompkins, or Jason Snelling? Standard format, 14 person league. Also have R Mathews and W McGahee but didn’t think they were relevant.

    • Dan Schneier

      Hey man,

      Thanks for reading. To start, you sir are correct about Mathews. As for McGahee, let’s wait a week to see what is going on with him especially against a stout Bengals front seven.

      I would start Kenbrell Thompkins even thought it is not a PPR league. Snelling is splitting carries against a stout Patriots run defense and Stevie Johnson has a more difficult matchup than Thopmkins. Johnson’s talent may be better but I will take Brady’s receiver against a much worse secondary.

      • Everything’s Bigger

        Thanks Dan I appreciate it and agree. Think I just needed to hear someone else say it. Most of the rankings have Johnson ahead thompkins which was making it difficult.

        Given its 14 teams and solid rbs are in short supply how long would you suggest waiting before making a move for Shane Vereen ( available on waivers)? I realize this depends on strength of my lineup which is – A Morris, MJD, Mcgahee, Mathews, Snelling. FYI I took Calvin j with 2nd pick which is why I don’t have a more solid rb2.

        • Dan Schneier

          The move for Vereen is a difficult one that is made much more difficult but the size of your roster which you I would probably need to know. The way I see it, you have two solid running backs and an unknown in McGahee. Earlier in the offseason, I wrote Mathews in on my “Avoid in all drafts” article and I am standing by that statement. He doesn’t play passing downs or in hurry up mode. I think that you can wait longer on Vereen but again, this is not something I can consider myself an expert in haha—as far as knowing when the rest of your league will act on that.