Welcome to Week 11 of the Matchup Machine. 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 and fantasy football. 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. Please note that these stats only include the first nine weeks right now and will get more effective as the season goes on and we can add more data.
MIA @ BUF
Miami hasn’t been helping fantasy owners out at all lately. Ryan Tannehill struggled in a cupcake matchup last week and that has caused Brian Hartline to all but disappear as well. I wouldn’t go out of my way to own anyone in the Miami passing game at this point outside of maybe Hartline. He is lucky to be a WR4 at this point. The Dolphins run game is something that needs to get going, and should against the Buffalo defense, but the question is who will be the beneficiary. Reggie Bush had been entrenched as the starter and main back, but the Dolphins have been working in Daniel Thomas more weekly. Perhaps the Dolphins want to see what they have in Thomas before letting Bush walk as a free agent. Bush also put the ball on the ground last week and played sparingly after that. I expect a pretty even split in the workload once again here, but I would choose Bush if I had the decision.
The Bills haven’t given us much more than the Dolphins, but that is as much due to their crowded backfield as anything. Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller are both excellent running backs and have been effective even with their touches limited in a committee. With Jackson out this week with a concussion, Spiller immediately becomes a top 3 back in fantasy. Spiller has as much or more upside than anyone in the league when he gets 18+ touches because much like Chris Johnson, he can turn his day around or put an exclamation on it with just one touch. Ryan Fitzpatrick should do just fine against a Dolphins secondary that hasn’t been very good this season, but I wouldn’t touch anyone outside of Stevie Johnson unless you want to gamble on another TD from Scott Chandler at TE.
GB @ DET
Aaron Rodgers comes out of the bye facing a divisional team and needing a win for playing seeding. Not to mention that team is the Lions who haven’t exactly been great on defense this year, he’s my No. 1 quarterback the rest of the way and the receiving core getting healthy can only help him. Jermichael Finley hasn’t been himself in a while, but if he can get healthy that gives Rodgers another target in the red zone. I would still avoid Finley as my TE until we see something. Jordy Nelson reportedly “looks like himself”, so he appears safe to get into lineups, but takes some of the shine off the James Jones hype train, but all 3 of Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones should provide at least WR2 value until we see Greg Jennings on the field. James Starks is probably going to get most of the totes coming out of the bye for the Pack, but I can’t start him until he is getting at least 75% of the touches due to lack of talent and lack of volume combined.
Matthew Stafford needs to be more aggressive early in the game to be successful in this one. Early in games he dinks and dunks to his backs and tight ends a lot when they aren’t even that open. As the game progresses he starts taking shots deep down the field and that opens up the dink and dunk passing game for big gains. For comparison, 8 of Stafford’s 11 passing touchdowns have come in the 4th quarter or overtime. Calvin Johnson showed last week while he is still the top WR in football. Titus Young had a fairly slow day outside of his late TD grab, but he is back practicing this week and gets the Packers secondary that is burnable by speed, expect him to bounce back. I like Joique Bell significantly more than Mikel LeShoure in this one as I expect the Lions to be trailing the majority of the game. Brandon Pettigrew should also see his usual steady dose of 8 yards and fall down targets.
NO @ OAK
The Saints took down the Falcons last week and they should continue to cruise in this one. The over/under is very high for a game that should no doubt be high scoring, so start Drew Brees if ya got ’em. Jimmy Graham firmly reestablished himself at the top of the tight end totem pole last week with a huge game. Marques Colson remains a WR2 and should actually see softer coverage with Graham proving he is back to full strength. None of the Saints backs can be trusted by fantasy owners at this point. We don’t know if Darren Sproles is playing and we don’t even know which back will be inactive, if any, when he does come back. Lance Moore should continue to be a solid PPR WR3 even when the Saints get fully healthy.
The Raiders aren’t expecting Darren McFadden or Mike Goodson back this week, so expect a healthy dose of Carson Palmer‘s ariel circus once again. As I stated last week on the Raiders backfield, Marcel Reece will play every down either at FB or RB, making him the play every week that McFadden is out. Denarius Moore is a must-start WR every week even if the world hasn’t realized it yet. Brandon Myers suffered a concussion last week, but is back practicing already and he was solid with 5 catches for over 50 yards before leaving the game. I think he is a viable TE1 against a porous Saints defense in a game the Raiders will be trailing. Darrius Heyward-Bey is a roll of the dice WR3 if you are having bye-week or injury issues for many of the same reasons I like Myers.