Happy Fantasy Football Playoff Season, dear readers! Tis the season for second guessing and over-thinking; where hindsight is always 20/20. “If only I picked up Keenan Allen when I had the chance.” “Why did I drop Shane Vereen in Week 4?” “Should I bench Peyton Manning for Nick Foles this week?” Questions like these might be coursing through your stat-filled mind as we enter Week 14 and Round 1 of the Fantasy Football Playoffs. To help add some velocity to your already spinning head, the Matchup Machine performed some quick calculations and identified a few teams with the best and worst schedules over the next three weeks:
• Good schedules for Passing: Tennessee, Washington and Chicago are facing defenses that are allowing an average of 280+ passing yards and 1.8+ passing TDs per game to opposing teams.
• Bad schedules for Passing: Arizona and New Orleans are facing defenses that are allowing an average of <245 passing yards and <1.1 passing TDs per game to opposing teams.
• Good schedules for Rushing: Green Bay and Dallas are facing defenses that are allowing an average of 110+ rushing yards and 0.9+ rushing TDs per game to opposing RBs.
• Bad Schedules for Rushing: New Orleans and the New York Giants are facing defenses that are allowing an average of <81 rushing yards and <0.5 rushing TDs per game to opposing RBs.
With just three weeks left, the championship in sight, every single roster decision is magnified: over-thinking today, second guessing tomorrow! The Matchup Machine identified the games below, where there will be temptation to make a lineup decision you wouldn’t normally make in the regular season. The Matchup Machine isn’t discouraging these decisions, just pointing them out and advising additional thought before putting Peyton on the pine…
Cleveland @ New England
• Is benching Josh Gordon, an option? He has done some incredible things these past few weeks with sub-par QBs, but his greatest challenge may be in Week 14. As of mid-week, neither Jason Campbell nor Brandon Weeden was cleared to practice due to concussions. That leaves Alex Tanney and Caleb Hanie as the potential starters. New England certainly can be passed on: they are allowing an average of 178 receiving yards to opposing WRs over the last four games. But their star CB, Aqib Talib (who will likely shadow Goardon) has been quite good. According to ProFootballFocus.com, QBs targeting WRs covered by Talib have a QB rating of just 55 – third lowest of any CB.
• On the other hand, if you are a Tom Brady owner, things are looking good for you this week. Not only has Brady had back to back 300-yard passing/2-TD weeks, but his opponent this week, Cleveland has allowed 2+ passing TDs for seven consecutive weeks.
Detroit @ Philadelphia
• No team has allowed stats to opposing WRs as consistently as Philadelphia. Opposing WRs have averaged 210+ receiving yards and 16+ receptions in four of the last six games against Philadelphia. That sits just fine with Matthew Stafford who averages 200+ passing yards to his WRs each week.
• Before Matt Flynn ruined Thanksgiving, Detroit was giving up 299 passing yards and 2.7 passing TDs per game to opposing QBs. In comes Nick Foles who has 19 passing TDs to zero interceptions. It will be hard to keep him on the bench this week, regardless of your starting QB.
Minnesota @ Baltimore
• Baltimore isn’t known for having a particularly fierce run defense, but ever since their bye week, five weeks ago, they have allowed just 1 rushing TD to an opposing RB, and haven’t allowed opposing RBs to combine for more than 100 rushing yards in any game during that span. Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson is coming off back to back 140+ rushing yard games.
• Minnesota is coming off back to back games in which they allowed 300 total passing yards to opposing QBs. The QBs responsible for that damage are Josh McCown, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn. Joe Flacco hasn’t cracked 300-passing yards since Week 4, but he is licking his chops this week.
Tennessee @ Denver
• Denver has allowed 100+ yards rushing and a rushing TD to opposing RBs in four of their last five games. They are also allowing an average of six receptions to opposing RBs over the last four weeks. Tennessee may be playing from behind in this game, but Chris Johnson should have his opportunities.
• Tennessee has not allowed a 300-yard passer all season, and has allowed just two passing TDs in the last eight games! Does that mean you are benching Peyton Manning? Well, I’m not, but don’t think its not making me a little nervous, even after that 5-TD performance in Kansas City last week.
Carolina @ New Orleans
• In their last five home games, New Orleans has not allowed an opposing team to throw for more than 300 yards, or allowed an opposing team’ s RBs to rush for more than 100 yards. In a scheduling quirk, these teams will meet again in Carolina in two weeks.
• Carolina has yet to allow more than one passing TD to an opposing QB all season. Last week, Drew Brees had a single passing score in Seattle. This week, he is back in the dome, but the defense he is facing will be just as tough as what he saw on the West coast.
Below is data produced by the Matchup Machine. A quick reminder of how the Matchup Machine works: the higher the score, the better the matchup. Scores are calculated using data from the first thirteen weeks of 2013. The data only takes into account the strength of the opponent, not the strength of the player. For example, Joe Flacco has highest QB score this week. That does not mean he is the best QB, it means he is playing Minnesota who offers the best matchup for QBs. Minnesota is allowing opponents an average of 300+ passing yards and 2+ passing TDs per week. Take a look and good luck in Week 14!