I’m not here to tell you if and when Christian McCaffrey or DeAndre Hopkins have good or bad matchups, because they’re going to be starters every week. While it’s good to know the strength of matchups for all of your players, it’s much more valuable with the fringe starters and high-end bench players than it is for your studs. Matchups should be one of the final components in making roster decisions, whether drafting for season-long strength of schedule or making a starter decision in Daily Fantasy.
It’s a piece of the puzzle, but it should not be a primary consideration.
This series looks at borderline start/sit players and identify particularly good or bad matchups that could influence the decision. These are not specifically start/sit recommendations, as the alternative options are always relevant and this advice needs context, but this can be used to upgrade or downgrade players in your priorities each week.
Good matchup: Josh Allen (@ NYG) – Allen comes in as the 15th ranked passer according to expert consensus, but I’m higher on Allen entering Week 2, ranking at QB12. The New York Giants ranked just 24th in the NFL in 2018 in Net Expected Points (NEP) per Play allowed on defence, and slightly worse at 25th against the pass, with 0.16 Adjusted NEP/Play allowed via passing.
Allen is not the ideal quarterback in most ways, as he actually hurt the offence in 2018, tallying just -0.04 Passing NEP/Play on his throws with a 39.08% Success Rate — both extremely poor. Allen looked to be an improved passer in the preseason but struggled mightily in Week 1 with four turnovers. Thanks to his rushing ability, though, he still posted a respectable fantasy outing, and he’s sitting pretty in Week 2 against the lowly Giants, who were just gashed by Dak Prescott in Week 1 for 0.99 NEP/Play through the air.
Bad matchup: Aaron Rodgers (vs. MIN) – Most of the high-end quarterbacks have positive or neutral matchups in Week 2, and Rodgers still slots in at QB6 in my rankings for Week 2. He can still safely be started against a Minnesota Vikings defence that isn’t the nightmare of some years past (and certainly not the nightmare of the Week 1 foe Chicago Bears). The Vikings posted an impressive -0.03 Adjusted NEP/Play against the pass in 2018 and started off 2018 with a strong showing against what should be a good Atlanta Falcons offence, allowing -0.04 NEP/Play against the pass in Week 1. The matchup is certainly worse than many others near the top of the quarterback rankings, but Rodgers is still certainly a viable starting option for Week 2.
Good matchup: Kerryon Johnson (vs. LAC) – Johnson ranks 21st in my Week 2 running back rankings, which is marginally lower than consensus, but still well within the starting ranks. This piece is partially to let owners know that if it doesn’t happen this week against the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s bad news for Johnson. Johnson’s usage in Week 1 was concerning, as was his -0.17 NEP/Play via rushing and his 25.00% Success Rate, but the Chargers are fresh off a game where took them to school to the tune of 0.31 NEP/Play allowed to the run (all rushes, not just Mack’s).
Johnson also made out well with his two targets for 0.80 NEP/Target. The Chargers fared better against the run in 2018, finishing 9th with a 0.01 Adjusted NEP/Play allowed via rushing. While Denzel Perryman continues to deal with an injury, this week could stack up nicely for Johnson to get back on track.
Bad matchup: Phillip Lindsay (vs. CHI) – This will likely be a theme this year when a borderline starting-level player plays against the vaunted Chicago Bears defence. Lindsay slots in 26th in my Week 2 rankings, making him a prime candidate for a tough start/sit decision. Linsday saw just 11 carries in Week 1, but posted an impressive -0.02 NEP/Play on the ground with a 54.55% Success Rate, albeit against a much softer Oakland Raiders defence. Lindsay did not fare well in the passing game despite six targets — he caught four of them but totalled just -0.70 NEP/Target. Lindsay will likely have a tough day against the Bears, who shut down Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in Week 1 with a punishing -0.28 NEP/Play on the ground. Lindsay will likely need a big play or a score to return value in Week 2.
Good matchup: Tyrell Williams (vs. KC) – With no Antonio Brown, Williams was able to seize a nice chunk of the passing pie, so to speak, as he saw seven targets in Week 1. Williams, who has always been an underrated receiver, turned those targets into six catches for 105 yards and a score against the Denver Broncos. In Week 2, Williams gets a relatively soft matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, who will very likely be in the lead, requiring Oakland to throw the ball. The Chiefs allowed 0.39 NEP/Play (10th-most) against the pass in Week 1 against mostly Gardner Minshew, and they were league-average in 2018, so the efficiency projection looks nice for Derek Carr and company in Week 2. Add in likely high volume, and Williams could see enough targets to have a field day, especially after an excellent showing of 1.51 NEP. Williams slots in at WR29 in my weekly rankings.
Bad matchup: Robby Anderson (vs. CLE) – Unfortunately, this is going to be a theme for several weeks with Anderson, who faces an impossible slate of shutdown cornerbacks across the first half of the season. After getting shut down in Week 1 by Tre’Davious White, Anderson draws primary coverage from Denzel Ward in Week 2. The Cleveland Browns as a team were average against the pass on a per-play basis in Week 1, but Ward held Corey Davis without a catch, and it would be hard to argue that Anderson is a definitive upgrade on Davis. Anderson was targeted seven times in Week 1 but caught just three balls and posted a measly 0.02 Receiving NEP/Target. Ward’s blanket coverage will likely mean tough sledding for Anderson in Week 2. Anderson is down to WR38 for Week 2 in our weekly rankings.
Good matchup: Mark Andrews (vs. ARI) – Andrews is in a prime spot after capturing a significant target share in Week 1 during the blowout win over the Miami Dolphins. The Arizona Cardinals were gashed in Week 1 by rookie T.J. Hockenson, who was admittedly an excellent, if not elite prospect, but he was still playing in his first NFL game. Andrews is all the way up to TE6 in my weekly rankings, and just TE11 for the rest of the season, so this is a great week for Andrews to stay hot. Andrews posted 1.77 Receiving NEP/Target in Week 1, which trailed just Marquise Brown (of course) and Miles Boykin (who had one target) on the team. Arizona ranked below average against the pass in Week 1, so look for Lamar Jackson to come out firing through the air.
Bad matchup: Vance McDonald (vs. SEA) — McDonald’s matchup isn’t terrible on paper, but when combining the usage in Week 1 (which was concerning) and a solid Seattle Seahawks linebacker group, McDonald’s outlook for Week 2 is lukewarm at best, hence the TE17 ranking on our weekly ranks. McDonald’s four targets in Week 1 tied him for just sixth on the team, though his 0.65 Receiving NEP/Target ranked fourth on the team. Seattle ranked best in the league against the rush in Week 1, so it’s possible that Ben Roethlisberger will be forced to throw. However, McDonald is certainly a risky option and a strong fade candidate for Week 2.