Welcome to Week 5 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 football-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 four weeks right now and will get more effective as the season goes on and we can add more data.
ATL @ WAS
Matt Ryan continues to produce at an elite level in the Falcons new offense, he is locked in as an elite fantasy QB at this point. Much to the chagrin of Julio Jones owners though, the target numbers have not shifted as much from Roddy White to Jones yet. White is still a rock solid WR1 and Jones is teetering between a WR1 and a WR2 at this point for me. All of the Falcons passing game options are elite plays this week versus and burnable Washington secondary. Tony Gonzalez keeps producing despite his age, no reason not to roll with him here. Michael Turner will continue to be a touchdown dependent RB2 most weeks unless he gets injured.
Robert Griffin III made things look easy on his final drive to win the game last week. If he scored 0 points this week and Aaron Rodgers scored 30, he would still have the edge in fantasy points. The Redskins love to call the quarterback draw in the red zone and Griffin just missed having 2 rushing touchdowns. Alfred Morris appears to be the real deal, he runs with ridiculous power and is picking up a majority of his yards after contact. Both guys are locked in as every-week starters at this point. The one question about the Redskins is what receivers are going to produce every week. The ones I would trust are Pierre Garcon, Fred Davis and Leonard Hankerson in that order.
DEN @ NE
Peyton Manning looked awfully good last week, but the Raiders are awfully bad. Peyton is a low-end QB1 heading into this new look Manning v. Brady matchup. The Broncos have one of the best receiving unit’s in the league. Both Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are high-upside WR2s at this point. Most of the rest of the unit is hit or miss, but they contribute to Manning’s numbers well. Willis McGahee has looked fantastic so far and John Fox is doing a great job of keeping him fresh with Ronnie Hillman as a change-of-pace lately, Willis is locked and loaded as an RB2 again this week.
Wes Welker now has 10 targets two weeks in a row. It remains to be seen what his role will be after the return of Aaron Hernandez, so this may be a great time to sell high. Rob Gronkowski missed a huge day by a few inches a couple times last week and is going to go nuts one of these weeks. Ditto for Brandon Lloyd, he has easily been Tom Brady’s most targeted receiver thus far. Stevan Ridley remians the main man in the Patriots backfield, but the usage there will depend on gameplan from week-to-week. Brandon Bolden is merely an overvalued semi-handcuff at this point, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen are still in the backfield picture as well.
SD @ NO
The Chargers running back usage was interesting to say the least last week. Jackie Battle is a decent short-yardage back, but I think the “new Mike Tolbert” claims are overblown. Tolbert is a much more versitile and talented player. Look for Ryan Mathews to retake control of this backfield sooner than later. Phillip Rivers continues to struggle and its not helping any of his receivers. The best bets in that group are still Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates. Robert Meachem has shown nothing thus far and don’t be surprised if he loses his job to Vincent Brown when he returns.
Drew Brees is on pace to set the NFL record for pass attempts right now, so the volume is cancelling out the drop in efficiency at this point. Look for him to get the ball to Jimmy Graham early and often this week and see if that improves the Saints productivity. The backfield is a total mess when they are playing behind. The only one I would really want to own is Darren Sproles and even he is a risky start week-to-week. Marques Colston busted out last week despite his bad wheel. I would try to sell high, but make sure you are selling high-enough. Lance Moore has become a force in PPR leagues and is approaching every-week WR3 status in standard leagues as well.