Welcome to Week 3 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. Please note that these stats only include the first two weeks right now and will get more effective as the season goes on and we can add more data.
NYG @ CAR
Once again we have one of the projected high scoring games of the week staring at us on Thursday, but if you started guys in last week’s preview game, you weren’t doing much else expect staring in disgust. The Thursday Nighter should bounce back this week as two teams with solid passing offenses and weak passing defenses square off. Cam Newton proved last week that his Week 1 struggles weren’t a sign of more bad things to come. He is a rock solid QB1 this week. It’s hard not the love the Panthers receivers this week also. Steve Smith is the only WR with 2 100-yard games so far, he remains a high-upside WR1, while Brandon LaFell has clearly taken over the No. 2 target role in this offense from TE Greg Olsen and can be deployed as a WR3 in the primetime matchup. Clearly when Ron Rivera put Greg Olsen in the category of Jimmy Graham and Gronk in the preseason he hadn’t spoken with Rob Chudzinski yet, stay away from Olsen until his role expands. As for the Panthers running game, Jonathan Stewart is looking questionable and DeAngelo Williams has yet to take advantage. I would continue to avoid it if possible.
The Giants are nursing quite a few injuries right now, but the guys that make their offense go are expected to be out there on Thursday. Eli Manning is proving to be a solid QB1 value for the 987th year in a row, so keep rolling him out there. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are going to be Manning’s main targets all season and should have no problem providing WR1 value again this week. Martellus Bennett black unicorned (it’s a verb now) his way to a solid game last week, but will there be as many scraps leftover behind Nicks and Cruz when Manning doesn’t throw for 500 yards? Maybe, but he’s still a low-end TE1 in the Rudolph and Cook range for me. Andre Brown surprisingly picked up most of the work after Ahmad Bradshaw‘s injury last week, keeping explosive rookie David Wilson in the doghouse. Bradshaw is still very iffy for the game and Brown may be worth a look, but I wouldn’t trust any Giants back if Bradshaw is out.
KC @ NO
I expect this game to be more blowout than barnburner, but with the way New Orleans has played so far this season, it could still be a crazy one. The Chiefs have gotten significantly more production out of Matt Cassell than anyone expected so far, but haven’t been able to get the running game going. The wonders of football. Jamaal Charles had some tightness in his knee last week that earned him an early seat on the bench. This week will be a very telling week for JC of KC. The Saints aren’t anything special against the run and you can make their secondary miss if you get to that level. Peyton Hillis is still the clear goal-line back and is playing a lot on passing downs as well. He is a pretty good stash right now as his value would skyrocket with a Charles injury or if the Cheifs get the running game going. Cassell is still a low-end QB2 for me, but he is easily showing enough to make Dwayne Bowe a solid start as a WR2 every week. There’s not much else I would touch on KC’s offense outside of possibly Dexter McCluster as a WR3 in PPR leagues.
Drew Brees is going to explode one of these weeks, so don’t go selling even a little bit low on him. Marques Colston will bounce back to the solid WR2 he’s always been, he is getting targeted a lot still and is by far the most consistent receiver on this team that isn’t a TE. Not much to say about the Saints from week to week, you know who is a must-start (Brees, Sproles, Colston, Graham) and I would avoid most of the rest. Pierre Thomas is outplaying Mark Ingram, but when hasn’t he? The Saints will keep using their three backs in a rotation and the rest of the wideouts are going to be risky all season.
NE @ BAL
The Patriots lost a big part of their offense last week when Aaron Hernandez went down with the high-ankle sprain that wasn’t a high-ankle sprain. That should open production up for the rest of the offense. Brandon Lloyd is getting his targets, but hasn’t connected on a big play yet. That should change soon and Lloyd is going to become a steady WR1 while Hernandez is out. Rob Gronkowski will continue to be Gronk. Stevan Ridley is playing his way into the weekly RB1 conversation and a solid week against the Ravens defense would plant him there firmly, but he’s just a low-end RB2 for this matchup. Wes Welker came on after Hernandez went down despite not starting or playing early and made an impact. He is still a risky WR3 outside of PPR leagues until his usage improves.
Baltimore has been a more high-flying offense this season, but Ray Rice is still definitely their best player. The Hoodie has done a great job of taking out team’s top options (The Ghost of CJ2K, Larry Fitzgerald) and will likely try to do so with Rice this week. That should finally open things up down the field a bit for Torrey Smith, who I expect to finally break out this week and can safely be started as a WR2. Dennis Pitta has gotten plenty of looks so far this season, including 15 targets last week. He is in the low-end TE1 equation as well now and should find some room over the middle in this game. Joe Flacco has absolutely owned the Patriots for some reason the past 3 meetings, with over 20 fantasy points in each outing, he is a solid QB1 start this week.