Fake Footballers: It is time to shift gears!
Draft season is coming to an end and the official fantasy season is about to begin! To help you along the way, I will consult with the Matchup Machine each week and provide you with a breakdown of which players have the juiciest matchups and which players you may want to avoid. Chet outlined the nuts and bolts of how the Matchup Machine calculates its data, which is shown in the chart at the end of this column. When reviewing the chart, keep in mind: the higher the number, the better the matchup.
Since this is the beginning of the season, the Matchup Machine is based on data from the last 8 weeks of 2012, and much has changed in that time. For example, Tampa signed Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson to its secondary, while also drafting a CB. On paper, their secondary should be much better than the Matchup Machine suggests. As the season progresses, more recent data will be loaded.
Below, I’ve put together some situations to monitor during Week 1…
3 Matchups the Machine will be Watching…
Philadelphia @ Washington
Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense will finally be revealed to a nation of salivating fake footballers. The potential of 80 plays per game makes the likes of EJ Manuel look appealing; imagine what it can do for an athlete like Michael Vick. I’m not sure Vick can improve his stats from the last time these two teams played on Monday Night (300+ yards passing, 80+ yards rushing and 6 total TDs), but you never know. And, I don’t know if you heard, but some guy named RG3 is expected to play his first game in nine months on the same field where he tore his ACL. Execs at ESPN are surely salivating like fake footballers.
Situations to keep an eye on:
• So what is this up-tempo offense? Kelly ran the ball quite a bit at Oregon, so how will the division of labor work for his two new RBs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown? And what about TEs? Kelly inherited Brent Celek who teased us by saying he will be heavily involved in the offense. The team also traded for James Casey and drafted Zach Ertz. Will there be a Philly TE worth owning in fantasy, and who will that be?
• Philly’s defense has not been terrific this preseason, so don’t go “hogwild” for the hogs if they put up some incredible offensive numbers this week.
• Every year he is labeled a potential breakout, and every year, he lets us down. If Leonard Hankerson is going to have a big game, this is as good a time as any.
Oakland @ Indianapolis
This is the Survivor League special. 45% of those in Yahoo! Survivor Leagues are picking Indianapolis at home vs. Oakland. While most are expecting this to be a one-sided affair, there is still a hint of doubt. Could Terrelle Pryor raise his team’s level of play in Tebow-esque fashion? Will this new, mobile QB make the running easier for Darren McFadden? Or will Indianapolis easily live up to expectations by setting up camp in the Oakland backfield, while passing and running at will on offense? The signs point to a Colts win, but in the back of your mind, you are wondering what your Survivor League will look like with 45% less people. A part of you is rooting for the Raiders!
Situations to keep an eye on:
• It’s almost beyond belief, but this preseason, Oakland’s first-team defense allowed scores on 16 of 18 possessions. This could be a good week to start your Colts. One “off-the-beaten-path” name to consider is their kicker, Adam Vinatieri.
• In February, Ahmad Bradshaw was released by the Giants, he was a free agent until June and he didn’t play a snap with Indianapolis in the preseason. With an easy game on paper, don’t be surprised if we see more Vick Ballard than Bradshaw. Until proven otherwise, Bradshaw remains the back to own long-term.
• Signs are pointing towards Pryor starting and that in itself is worth monitoring. Drafting Pryor was a Fake Football, Real Questions topic on TFF, and Phil wrote a full length piece on Pryor that is definitely worth a read.
Cincinnati @ Chicago
Looking at the data from the Matchup Machine, this has the potential to be a very ugly game for fantasy football. You may have the opportunity to scoop up a Giovanni Bernard or a Matt Forte at a discount if this game turns out to be a defensive showdown. Hopefully, the defenses will give us a chance to see how the two offenses are evolving. With the addition of Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati appears to be positioned to take the next step, as long as Andy Dalton plays like he did at the beginning of last year and not like he did at the end. Chicago hired the barrister Marc Trestman to revamp the offense, specifically to get Matt Forte more involved.
Situations to keep an eye on:
• The emphases for both teams this offseason has been improving their offense; but will the defenses in this matchup overshadow those improvements? The Chicago Defense was downright legendary last year, attracting the attention of fake footballers everywhere, but they lost Lovie Smith and Brian Urlacher. On the other side of the field, Cincinnati has an up and coming defense centered on its newly signed lineman, Geno Atkins.
• The Marc Trestman offense will finally be unveiled. With all the recent hype surrounding Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offense, Trestman’s RB-focused offense has gone under the RADAR. This will be our first glimpse to see if Forte is the new Charlie Garner and if Trestman can convince Cutler to show a little more love to Alshon Jeffrey and Martellus Bennett?
• The big fantasy question for Cincinnati revolves around RB. Will BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Giovani Bernard be the RB to own? And similar to the Philadelphia matchup, will there be a Bengal TE worth owning?
Matchup Machine Parting Thoughts…
• A couple key fantasy players are suspended this week: Justin Blackmon and Josh Gordon. Keep an eye on the #2 WRs (who will be #1 WRs this week) as well as the backups for these guys – they could be useful this week and next.
• In their two games against San Francisco last year, Green Bay RBs had a total of only 20 rushes. Don’t be surprised if Eddie Lacy does not have a great opening game. And be ready to pounce if Lacy’s owner is looking to get out of the Lacy business.
• As you switch gears, don’t forget the weeks (or maybe even months) you spent vetting the right players to draft. Week 1 is the easiest time to overreact to outcomes on the field. Don’t do it. Don’t let one week of bad play change your mind about a top draft pick; and be ready to take advantage of owners who adopt that mindset and cut bait on players after just one week.