Welcome to Week 2 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. 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.
CHI @ GB
This is one of my favorite rivalries to watch in all of sports. Stats and records coming into these games are generally thrown out the window, especially in late-season meetings. This early in the season with both teams being legitimate Super Bowl contenders, we should be in for quite the game. Aaron Rodgers struggled a bit in Week 1 versus a predictably stingy 49ers defense and should easily rebound to top-tier QB1 status this week in what is expected to be a shootout considering the 51.5 point, league-leading, over-under. That makes all of the Packers pass catchers great options as well. Jordy Nelson, despite a fairly quiet Week 1, is a rock-solid WR1, while Jermichael Finley should be a solid TE1. After that it gets a little trickier. Randall Cobb caught 9 passes against the Niners, but will he see less backfield snaps against a team much easier in run defense? He remains a WR3 with upside, while Cedric Benson is a low-end flex play with little upside until we see differently. Greg Jennings tweaked his groin late in Week 1 and missed practice Tuesday, making him highly questionable for the Thursday Night tilt. The Packers have said Wednesday will be a “big day” for him suiting up, if he goes he will likely be on limited snaps making him a risky play. James Jones is a WR3 of Jennings suits up and a WR2 if he doesn’t, but offers solid upside in either scenario.
As for the Bears, I think we are going to see the usual ridiculously large dose of Cutler-to-Marshall. Brandon Marshall was the 3rd most targeted receiver in the NFL last week and I don’t see that changing. Jay Cutler is a low-end QB1 with upside while Marshall is locked at loaded as a WR1 as long as Cutler is staring him down. Last week might be Michael Bush‘s best game of the season barring a Forte injury, stay away in this one. Matt Forte was the most electric player on the Bears offense, but will consistently lose goal-line and clock killing carries to Bush, making him a low-end RB1. I would avoid the rest of the Bears as more solid options abound in Week 2.
NO @ CAR
This is the other game expected to be a shootout this week with the line at 51 right now. I expect Drew Brees to come out with a vengeance in this one after completing under 50% of the passes for the first time since before Disney World was the most magical place on earth. If the Carolina secondary can make Josh Freeman look good, then be afraid of what can happen this week. I would stay away from every member of the Saints backfield if at all possible outside of Darren Sproles in a PPR. Jimmy Graham is my prediction to lead TEs in scoring, so I will roll with him as my top option every week. Lance Moore‘s game last week was a little flukey, but with Devery Henderson banged up and Meachem now in San Diego he is going to see enough snaps to be a decent WR3 producer this year.
The Panthers had to be as disgusted as most of us were in their performance last week. With Jonathan Stewart out, they barely ran the ball and when they did, it wasn’t effective whatsoever. Cam Newton is my top QB option this week despite his slow start. We saw what RG3 did to the Saints defense last week and I see no reason why Cam can’t do that and more. The Saints secondary makes Steve Smith a WR1 and Brandon Lafell an upside WR3. I’m not sure if the Panthers are committed to running, so I would avoid their RBs like the plague until further notice.
ARI @ NE
This game is going to be high scoring because of the Patriots on both ends. As for the Cardinals, they should take advantage of the Pats still fairly weak secondary, but be wary of Larry Fitzgerald as The Hoodie demonstrated once again his ability to take out the other team’s best player again last week by shutting down Chris Johnson. Look for Fitz to get the treatment that Antonio Gates got on the Chargers in the Bolts/Pats matchup from late last season. The only other soul besides Fitz I would touch on the Cardinals offense right now is Andre Roberts, who I expect to be the beneficiary of the triple coverage on Fitz and post solid WR3 numbers, with upside in a PPR.
Just start all your Patriots skill players like usual. Tom Brady is a QB1, while Gronk and Hernandez are elite TEs. I saw some concern about Brandon Lloyd‘s quiet Week 1, but he led the Patriots in targets with 8 and is locked in as a WR1 for me in most matchups. Lloyd and Brady are going to hook up downfield early and often in this one. Stevan Ridley was the surprise that wasn’t really a surprise last week, as we all knew that if the Pats gave him a full load he would produce, making him a must-start running back at least until Shane Vereen gets healthy.
DEN @ ATL
This is going to be a fun game to watch. Peyton Manning proved he can make all the throws Sunday Night against a tough Steelers defense, so I think we can safely start him week in and week out. He also quieted concerns about Demaryius Thomas, who should help him all year with his run after the catch skills, as well as Jacob Tamme, who caught all 5 of his targets including a touchdown. Tamme is a fairly safe low-end TE1. Both Thomas and Eric Decker are WR2s with Peyton looking this good and it is really only bad news for Willis McGahee, who looked fairly average and will only see his attempts decrease as the season drags on.
Atlanta has the look of an offensive powerhouse as we expected. Matt Ryan has top 5 QB potential every week and should find Julio Jones early and often much like last week. Roddy White will still be bolstered by high target numbers because Ryan trusts him, but he is clearly the second best WR on this team. Michael Turner just looks flat out in the wrong place in this offense, most of his runs last week looked like they totally took the foot of the gas to give him the ball and he was even pulled with the lead, there is no upside here outside of TD-heavy leagues. Look for the backfield to slowly shift away from the veteran to Jacquizz Rodgers as the year goes on.