Welcome to Week 7 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 six weeks right now and will get more effective as the season goes on and we can add more data.
BAL @ HOU
The Ravens lost two main pieces of their defense last week in Ladarious Webb and Ray Lewis, so it looks like Joe Flacco and the offense are going to have to carry Baltimore for the time being. Flacco usually is much more efficient when the Ravens feature Ray Rice and let him manage the game, but they won’t have that luxury this week. Look for Flacco to aggressively target Torrey Smith downfield, which he still hasn’t been doing enough. He should also continue to check down effectively to the combo of Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. I expect Flacco to produce low-end QB1 numbers if not better the rest of the way unless the Ravens defense really surprises us.
Houston got absolutely manhandled by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week, so they are no doubt looking to take it out on Baltimore. Arian Foster had a “down” game, but still managed to score 2 TDs, the guy is the most matchup proof player I’ve seen because of how much they feed him in the red zone every week. The rest of the Houston offense is much more hit or miss. Andre Johnson can still get the job done, but he’s lost the elite skillset that made him so special. He’s a much better play in games that should be competitive. Owen Daniels is quietly a solid tight end this season and should be started in almost every matchup. Matt Schaub should continue to provide high-end QB2 numbers as one of the more consistent QBs in the league, he just lacks elite upside at this point.
NO @ TB
New Orleans looks likely to be without top pass catcher Jimmy Graham this weekend, which opens up quite a few targets for Drew Brees‘ other friends through the air. There is no true handcuff to Graham at tight end and I would expect to see a bump in targets for each of Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson this week, making them all solid starting options against a fairly weak Tampa defense. I would continue to do my best to stay away from the Saints backfield in this one, but as usual, if I had to pick one it would probably be Darren Sproles.
The Buccaneers offense finally put it all together last week and they will continue to try to build on that success against a poor Saints defense. Josh Freeman has been able to find Mike Williams more consistently this season and Williams has been able to pull down more of his targets due to the defensive attention that Vincent Jackson has been drawing so far. This has allowed Freeman to build more and more confidence every game and is now starting to allow the run game to succeed. Doug Martin needed a solid performance last weekend to continue to hold off LeGarrette Blount and he got it. The problem with Martin is that he isn’t scoring touchdowns and disappointing owners that drafted him in the early rounds. Look for him to build on last week and the touchdowns will come.
WAS @ NYG
There isn’t a fantasy quarterback I would rather own at this point than Robert Griffin III. His rushing and passing stats alone would make him a solid fantasy starter and when you combine them you have the ultimate recipe for fantasy success. He could use injured WR Pierre Garcon back though, as most of his targets have been in the short area range to the rest of his receivers. Look for Leonard Hankerson to continue to pick up the slack for Garcon, but with how well the Redskins running game is clicking with Alfred Morris looking matchup proof, I would expect any miracles from any of the Redskins pass catchers. Fred Davis looks to be the most consistent of the bunch at this point, but he also appears to be allergic to the end zone so far. If teams start keying even more on the running threat of RGIII, Alfred Morris could start having even bigger games as the season rolls on. Last week, the Vikings defense stayed with Morris and let RGIII run wild, there will be a lot more weeks like this as it is impossible to defend both in Mike Shanahan’s creative offense.
The Giants have been riding Ahmad Bradshaw the last two weeks as he totaled over 300 yards over those games, but they should have a field day letting Eli Manning air it out versus the Redskins swiss cheese pass defense. Hakeem Nicks finally appears to be getting healthy and both he and Victor Cruz make for elite WR plays in this matchup. This may be a make or break week for Martellus Bennett and his black unicorn loving owners. He hasn’t been much of a factor the last two weeks and another dud may signal the time to cut bait. Andre Brown has been cleared for contact making both he and rookie David Wilson unusable as long as Bradshaw remains healthy.