This is a feature Chet started using to help me out over at thefakebasketball.com in our daily fantasy basketball matchups. It proved highly effective for us on the NBA side of things, so we adapted it to the NFL. You will see a writeup on some of the more fantasy-intriguing NFL Matchups, then a chart examining exactly which players have the easiest defensive matchups each week.
DAL @ NYG:
In the opening game of the season we see a fairly elite, but banged up Dallas passing game led by Tony Romo take on a banged up, but improving Giants secondary. Romo should easily provide QB1 numbers in this game while I see Dez Bryant as a Top-5 WR option this week with Jason Witten out, he could easily provide 1-2 scores. Miles Austin, if healthy, is always a must-start, look for him to have added value in PPR with Witten out, as he will log some slot snaps, so the Cowboys can get some snaps for their young outside receivers.
Eli Manning has flown under the radar in most drafts because many prefer the upside of Matt Ryan and Michael Vick to Eli’s stone cold fantasy consistency. Hakeem Nicks says he will play and I generally believe him when he says that. He will be a force in the red-zone all season. Victor Cruz needs to play in the slot as much as possible in order to continue to provide elite value, so a lot will be known after we see how he is utilized in the Giants first game. I, like many, am a big fan of David Wilson’s talent, but Ahmad Bradshaw isn’t going anywhere and is now the clear favorite for goal-line carries. Both will split extra 3rd-down work due to the release of DJ Ware, however I think Bradshaw actually picks up more knowing Tom Coughlin’s blocking preference. Bradshaw should be a dependable RB2 as long as he is healthy, while I would only use Wilson as a low-end flex with upside in most leagues.
NE @ TEN:
Jake Locker opens the season as the Titans stater against the most giving secondary in the NFL last year. Some of their woes can be attributed to injury and inexperience, but much of them are due to the Patriots tendency to get out to early leads. Not much is expected to change this year and Locker will have plenty of opportunities to air it out to his duo of Nate Washington and Kendall Wright this week while posting back-end QB1 numbers. With Kenny Britt sidelined by suspension, Washington makes a solid WR2 play and Wright is a viable flex option. Also, look for Jared Cook to make a play or two in the redzone. Chris Johnson may not get his 20 carries in this game, but he should find running lanes while the Pats gear up to stop the pass and he should be utilized heavily in the screen-game making him a rock-solid RB1.
TEN was a middle of the road pass defense last season, but Tom Brady generally chews up and spits out middle of the road defenses. He and the Patriots offense may not be clicking on all cylinders yet, but Brady should easily be able to get the ball to Welker, Hernandez, Gronk and Lloyd enough to make them all solid starts. I expect the Patriots to get up early and do at least a little clock killing with Stevan Ridley, who makes for a quiet RB2 play with Vereen still not practicing.
JAX @ MIN:
Jacksonville was the least inspiring offense to watch last season and while not much has changed personnel-wise outside of Justin Blackmon, they should take a step forward this year once Jones-Drew gets up to speed. I would stay away from starting Jones-Drew for a week or two, but this may be the only start you get out of Rashad Jennings, so you might as well use it. Blackmon could provide WR3 value in a matchup with the 31st ranked pass-defense from last season.
Percy Harvin is going to be the most useful Viking for at least the early part of the season. Harvin racked up over 100 touches once Christian Ponder took over last season and they will look to build that chemistry. Toby Gerhardt is another guy that if you drafted him you might as well use him this week. Adrian Peterson is Questionable and likely not in for a big workload even if he is active. I love Kyle Rudolph for the season and in this great matchup. He is a playmaking tight end that should get a ton of work in the redzone, I like him as a back-end TE1.
CAR @ TB
Cam Newton begins his second season with a great matchup against a struggling Bucs defense that ranked 32nd overall (30th v pass, 32nd v run). Newton should expose them via the run and pass hooking up with his recievers downfield all day. I liked Steve Smith as a WR1, Brandon Lafell as a WR4 and Greg Olsen as a low-end TE1 in this game. Deangelo Williams gets a big boost even Jonathan Stewart (Questionable) misses the game, he would have high-end RB2 appeal.
Tampa Bay is one of the offenses I am least excited about this season despite the additions of Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin. Vincent Jackson will remain relevant in both this game and the season due to his boom or bust type performances due to inconsistent deep balls from QB Josh Freeman. Doug Martin will open the season getting more touches than most expect making him a high-end RB2 with an even higher ceiling in PPR.
WAS @ NO
This game has the highest over/under of all the week’s games right now by a full field goal. I expect any Mike Shanahan led offense to put up yardage, but the problem in the backfield is that you will have no idea where it is going to come from. I would still put my money on Helu for the season as the most talented and versatile back, but Alfred Morris could easily lead the backfield in touches this week. The Saint defense is so shorthanded and banged up that Robert Griffin should easily approach 300 total yards and 2-3 scores, providing tail-end QB1 value. His top target, Pierre Garcon, should see a heavy dose of looks; making him a solid WR3 play. I want to see what kind of chemistry Fred Davis and RGIII have together before I count on Davis for TE1 production. The rest of the Redskins pass-catchers will probably rotate enough to make none of them all that useful.
Drew Brees should lead the Saints to buckets of fried chicken… I mean yardage in every game this season. However, outside of Jimmy Graham we really have no idea how the targets will stack up week to week. Marques Colston remains a solid WR play and Lance Moore could definitely provide some PPR value, but I don’t see this offense giving us any RB1s or WR1s once again this season. Sproles may not approach his TD or catch totals from last season, but should still maintain RB2 value, especially in PPR.